Rearview Mirror // March 2018

Well, this hasn’t been my best month on the blog if I’m honest.  While I’ve still been reading a lot, I’ve been feeling really ambivalent towards blogging.  I think it’s partially because I’ve been doing a lot of updates for my Etsy shop, so I haven’t felt like spending extra time on the computer beyond that.  Maybe it’s also been the weather?  March has been cold and cloudy, with below-average temperatures and even snow!  I enjoy winter when it’s wintertime, but I am very ready for spring!

Anyway, almost all of my March reviews ended up being minireviews, so nothing super exciting.

Favorite March Read

Basically any time I have a month with a Wodehouse book, the favorite book is the Wodehouse book – in this case, Uneasy Money.  But it hardly seems fair to all the other books, since Wodehouse exists in a class of his own, so I also have to give a co-award to This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills.  I just loved all the characters so much that I wanted to book to go on forever!

Most Disappointing March Read

While I didn’t have very high expectations for A Daughter’s Legacy, I also didn’t expect to completely despise it – which I did.  There was a decent premise, but I kept waiting for the explanation as to why Kelli’s mom sucked and treated Kelli like trash… and it never came.  Apparently Kelli’s mom was just a jerk who really did think that her career was so much more important than being a mother that she shipped the recently-bereaved-of-her-father Kelli, as a little child, off to her grandmother.  I mean seriously.

Other March Reads

  • Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman – 3.5/5 – cute chick lit that I would have enjoyed more if Sally’s mom and best friend hadn’t been so obnoxious
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley – 4/5 – an old favorite that I really enjoyed revisiting
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – 4/5 – classic
  • Black Beauty’s Clan by Josephine, Diana, and Christine Pullein-Thompson – 3.5/5 – an interesting collection of short stories about horses
  • Black Beauty’s Family by Josephine, Diana, and Christine Pullein-Thompson – 4/5 – historical fiction through horse stories
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – 3.5/5 – I wanted to like this book but just… didn’t really
  • The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand – 3.5/5 – a bit too horror-y for me
  • Child of Grace by Irene Hannon – 4/5 – a surprisingly gritty little story
  • Curse Workers Trilogy by Holly Black – 4/5 – a really good story that gave me all the feels and left me wishing there were lots more books about these characters.
  • George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – 4/5 – really intriguing nonfiction
  • The Heart’s Song by Winnie Griggs – 4/5 – cheesy and predictable yet somehow enjoyable
  • Hidden Identity Trilogy by Lynette Eason – 3.5/5 – engaging and exciting although sometimes a bit too simplistic
  • I See You by Clare Mackintosh – 4/5 – I was totally clued to the pages of this one
  • The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham – 3.5/5 – a decent thriller, but one I just couldn’t get into all the way
  • The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn – 3/5 – needed a bit more thriller and a bit less love triangle
  • The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald – 3/5 – cute, but kind of abrupt
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald – 3.5/5 – pretty adorable little fairy tale
  • Rescue Dog of the High Pass by Jim Kjelgaard – 3.5/5 – not his best book, but still interesting and entertaining
  • The Road to Forgiveness by Leigh Bale – 3.5/5 – not a bad story except the ending made no sense
  • The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde – 3.5/5 – a fun collection of short stories attempting to make the traditional fairy tale a bit more plausible
  • Sing by Vivi Greene – 3/5 – just a smidge too fluffy to really be good reading
  • Tulipomania by Mike Dash – 4/5 – quite interesting but in desperate need of pictures

Last March…

I read what was one of the worst books I read in 2017 – Dead End Close by Dominic Utton.  Especially disappointing because I quite enjoyed his debut, Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Time.  But Dead End Close was so incredibly depressing and pointless that I could hardly bear it – I’ve rarely read a book so completely devoid of any sense of hope.

TBR Update

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  819 (down EIGHT thanks to some culling!)
  • Nonfiction:  81 (down one!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  695 (down six!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  230 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 109 (up four)

Awaiting Review

I cleared out a bunch with three batches of minireveiws at the end of the month, but still do have some in the wings…

  • The Perfectionists and The Good Girls by Sara Shepard – a lot of mixed feelings on this duology
  • The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge – so adorable I could hardly stand it
  • I’m reading my way through K.M. Shea’s Timeless Fairy Tale collection.  I’m on book #7 right  now.  They’ve had their ups and downs but overall enjoyable, if slightly fluffy, fairy tale retellings.
  • My current mystery series is the Adam Dalgliesh series by P.D. James.  I’ve never read any of James’s books before, and enjoying this foray into her work.  I’m on book #3.
  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge – reading The Runaways made me want to pick this one up immediately afterwards.
  • The Princess by Lori Wick – an old fluffy favorite
  • The Squire’s Tale by Gerald Morris – I can’t believe how long it’s been since I read these books!  Spontaneously reading this (the first in the series) made me want to reread them all.  They are books I’ve been meaning to purchase anyway, so the next three in the series are on their way to me now!

Current Reads

  • The Man Who Made Lists by Joshua Kendall – a biography of Peter Roget, who wrote Roget’s Thesaurus
  • Sleeping Beauty by K.M. Shea – the next Timeless Fairy Tale
  • Unnatural Causes by P.D. James – the next Adam Dalgleish mystery
  • The Darkest Hour by Tony Schumacher – a free Kindle book set in AU 1940’s England where the Nazis won the war

Approaching the Top of the Pile

The probable next five reads…

  • The Frog Prince by K.M. Shea
  • Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James
  • Come On, Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody
  • The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster
  • Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse
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Rearview Mirror // February 2018

I can already tell that 2018 is going to be a year that zooms by.  Although honestly it feels like the older I get, the faster time goes in general, so there’s that.

February was overall a pretty quiet month (thankfully).  Apple season has lasted a lot longer than average because of the huge crop, so I have still been delivering apples and cider throughout the month, but we finally sold the last of them, so Monday will be my last day for the year.  Luckily, spring is on the way, so I will soon be very busy with various gardening plans – I already have some seeds planted in the windowsill!!

Book-wise things have been pretty normal.  I’ve read 50 books so far this year.  On the blog, I’m a bit behind with reviews.  February saw three minireview posts just to try and get things caught up!  (However, I was unsuccessful.)

I’ve subscribed to two different book boxes that send random used books, so those have been fun.  I’ve only gotten a couple of boxes so far, but I really like Yureka – you fill out a book-related questionnaire and they send books they think you will like.   If you’re organized, you can go back and fill out a review on the books later so they can continue to send you books that you’ll like even better.

Used Books Monthly is a little more vague – you just check off genres you like – but really inexpensive: three books for $12.49.  I’ve only gotten one box from them so far, and we will see how it goes.  The first month only had one book that I will probably actually read, so this one may end up getting unsubscribed from if I still feel like most of the books are meh.

Finally, I have an on-and-off subscription to LitCube, depending on my budget!  This is more of a traditional book box that sends you book-related goodies as well as an actual book.  I really like how the book is just completely random each month (I don’t like being tied down to a genre), and how most of the goodies tie in with where the book is set.  I’ve enjoyed both books that I’ve received from them as well (The Viking’s Chosen and Last Christmas in Paris).  You also earn points each month, and can use the points to get additional swag or free boxes, which is fun.  However, it’s more expensive than the others, which is why I don’t do it every month.  Luckily, it’s really easy to subscribe and unsubscribe, but still save all of your information (and points).

Favorite February Read

I had a lot of 4* reviews this month, but none of them were just WOW reads.  Still, I think I’m going with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  This story was an incredibly fun romp with enough intensity to keep me glued to the pages.  I didn’t agree with all the philosophy, but definitely found it entertaining.

Most Disappointing February Read

Weirdly, I didn’t read any terrible books this month!  So I think I’m going to go with Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, mainly because I enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book SO much, and then the ending just sort of petered out.  It felt like the characters all suddenly changed into different people, which was disappointing, as I had really gotten attached to everyone.

Other February Reads

  • Amazing Gracie by Sherryl Woods – 3/5 – chick lit at it’s most regular.
  • The Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmidit – 3/5 – not a bad story, but quite prosy.
  • Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry – 3.5/5 – a nice story (with beautiful illustrations), but not as strong as the Misty books.
  • Dreamtreader Trilogy (Dreamtreaders; Search for the Shadow Key; and War for the Waking World) by Wayne Thompson Batson – 3/5 – interesting and decent for a one-time read, but not really that memorable.
  • Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica 3.5/5 – interesting, but I wasn’t convinced about the motive of the villain.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – 4/5 – beautiful writing, but slow in parts.
  • Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki – 3.5/5 – apparently stepmothers are despised all ’round the world.
  • Lost States by Michael J. Trinklein – 4/5 – entertaining nonfiction about places that almost were.
  • Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich – 4/5 – a really fun place to start if you are looking to become more self-sufficient in steps that are actually doable.
  • Mountain Pony series (Mountain Pony; Mountain Pony and the Pinto Colt; Mountain Pony and the Rodeo Mystery; and Mountain Pony and the Elkhorn Mystery) by Henry V. Larom – 4/5 – fun, although somewhat dated, western adventures with a likable protagonist.
  • The Mystery of the Empty Room by Augusta Huiell Seaman – 3.5/5 – fun children’s mystery wherein the main characters needed to converse with one another more.
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – 4/5 – Engaging children’s fantasy – I need the sequel!
  • An Odd Situation by Sophie Lynbrook – 4/5 – a unique P&P retelling that was fun, although not strong on action.
  • Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5/5 – almost listed as my favorite book this month.  Such a fun romp.
  • Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5/5 – I really love this book, which introduces Lord Emsworth and Blandings Castle.  All the usual Wodehouse chaos.
  • The Viking’s Chosen by Quinn Loftis – 3.5/5 – not the kind of book I would usually pick up, but it ended up being a fun read.
  • Wedding Date Rescue by Sonya Weiss – 3.5/5 – fun chick lit.  I would totally read the sequel if it was actually published yet.

Other February Posts

I participated in my second Shelfie by Shelfie post – hopefully more to come!

Last February…

I really enjoyed reading Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Clubeven though it isn’t exactly my usual type of book, being rather serious and novel-y.  I still haven’t gotten around to reading any of Tan’s other books, but I do have several on the list!

TBR Update

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  827 (holding steady!)
  • Nonfiction:  82 (down one!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  701 (up ten… Mom is still giving me books!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  229 (up two)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 104 (holding steady!)

Awaiting Review

  • Curse Workers trilogy by Holly Black (White Cat, Red Gloves, and Black Heart) – um.  I wanted this series to be like ten books longer.
  • The next set of five Love Inspired books – an overall better batch this time
  • George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – a really engaging nonfiction book about the spy ring in New York City during the Revolution.
  • No One To Trust by Lynette Eason – the first in a trilogy, this one will get reviewed when I’ve finished the other two.  Good so far.
  • Tulipomania by Mike Dash – I really do love nonfiction about random things, and the tulip mania in Holland during the late 1600’s is about as random as it gets!
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – a nice children’s fantasy book, but lacking the magic.

Current Reads

  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – just started this one this morning, and I’m already in love with Sloane.
  • Nowhere To Turn by Lynette Eason – so intense.
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – really looking forward to revisiting this childhood favorite.
  • I See You by Clare Mackintosh – super creepy.

Approaching the Top of the Pile

The probable next five reads…

  • The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham – whenever I finish at least one of the thrillers I’m already reading.  I can handle two at a time, but three??
  • Uneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse
  • Black Beauty’s Clan by Diana and Josephine Pullein-Thompson – long story, but I was lead to remember these Black Beauty sequels recently and immediately found and purchased them on eBay.  Totally ready for a trip down memory lane!
  • Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana – a Yureka book box book – wild card!
  • Beauty and the Beast by K.M. Shea – my sister has been on my case to read these fairy tale retellings FOREVER so I am finally going to do it!

Happy March!!!

Rearview Mirror // January 2018

I can’t believe an entire month of 2018 is gone already!  Time is zooming by.

This month has been much better health-wise, so I’ve actually been getting some things done.  January is always a good time for new resolutions, and I have a housekeeping method that is keeping me on track so far, which is simplifying so many other things in my life!  I’ve also had a very good month selling notebooks on Etsy, which is quite exciting!!

I’ve read a lot of perfectly nice books this month, but nothing that I really fell in love with.  Unfortunately, Mom has been cleaning out a bunch of her bookcases (I come by my book-hoarding tendencies fairly!) and somehow her way of getting rid of books is to give them all to me…

Favorite January Read:

I think I’m going with Kids of Appetite by David Arnold.  While it had its weaknesses, I overall really enjoyed this story, mainly because the characters felt like real people (even though it seemed like they should just feel like stereotypes).  Plus, there was snarky humor throughout, which I always enjoy.  In the end, though, it was the depth and thoughtfulness of this book that really pushed it to the next level.  While not preachy, there were a lot of issues that came up and were dealt with in what felt like a healthy way.

Most Disappointing January Read:

While Thornhill by Pam Smy had a really engaging (and fast) format, I just couldn’t get past the way the story ended.  It felt completely inappropriate for its target age group.  I think the creepiness could have stayed without the suicide.

Other January Reads:

  • The Bees by Laline Paull – 2/5 – what the heck!?
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – 3.5/5 – a good story, but slow in spots.
  • The Cat and Mrs. Cary by Doris Gates – 4/5 – a long-time favorite that is just good fun.
  • The Cinderella List by Judy Baer – 3.5/5 – with a little more fleshing out, this could have been a really good book – the bones were there.
  • Copper-Toed Boots by Marguerite de Angeli – 4/5 – a really sweet children’s book – the main charm is the amazing illustrations by the author!
  • The Cornish Mysteries (Manna from Hades, A Colourful Death, and The Valley of the Shadow) by Carola Dunn – 3/5 – just kind of meh cozies.
  • Deadly Safari by Lisa Harris – 3.5/5 – it’s just really hard to take a book seriously when that’s the title.
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – 3/5 – interesting, but disjointed.
  • The Irish Legacy Trilogy (Irish Thoroughbred, Irish Rose, and Irish Rebel) by Nora Roberts – 3/5 – pleasant for a one-time read.
  • The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes – 4/5 – a gripping read, although a bit rushed at the end.
  • The Mapmakers by John Noble Wilford – 4/5 – a really interesting nonfiction book about the history of maps and the people who create them.
  • Montana Hearts by Charlotte Carter – 3.5/5 – pleasant but predictable.
  • Safe in His Arms by Dana Corbit – 3/5 – alright but boring.
  • A Time to Heal by Linda Goodnight – 3.5/5 – do you think her name really is Goodnight, or did she just make that up?
  • Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor – 3.5/5 – a good book, but not exactly a good children’s book, despite children being the audience…
  • Wrestling Prayer by Eric and Leslie Ludy – 4.5/5 – far too challenging.

Other January Posts:

I posted what will hopefully be the first in a series of Shelfies – a really entertaining book tag created by Bibliobeth.

My sister posted a guest review of Beauty and the Beast by one of her favorite authors, K.M. Shea.

Last January…

I couldn’t put down Michael Robotham’s Shatter.  I really, really enjoyed the Joseph O’Laughlin books, and hope another one comes out this year!  I was also completed weirded out but fascinated by The Shapeshifters by Stefan Spjut.  That book was weird but amazing.

TBR Update:

I’m not even sure we want to do this.  I’m blaming it all on my mom for giving me so many books!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  827 (up 7, probably because I finally caught up on reading everyone’s reviews!)
  • Nonfiction:  83 (down two!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  691 (sigh)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  227 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 104 (down one!  Two months in a row!  Progress!)

Awaiting Review:

  • Last Christmas in Paris by Elizabeth Gayner and Heather Webb – I really enjoyed this book until the last 20-25% when it just fell flat.
  • Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse – I’m in love with Lord Emsworth.
  • I’m in the middle of the Mountain Pony series by Henry Larom and have so far read Mountain Pony and Mountain Pony and the Pinto Colt.  Two more books in this series!
  • I am also in the middle of the Dreamtreader trilogy.  So far, I’ve finished the first book, Dreamtreaders.
  • Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry – enjoyable, but hasn’t aged as well as the Misty series that I reread last year.

Current Reads:

  • Mountain Pony and the Rodeo Mystery by Henry Larom – book #3 in the Mountain Pony series – these are actually quite entertaining.
  • Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich – overall interesting so far.
  • Search for the Shadow Key by Wayne Thomas Batson – book #2 in the Dreamtreaders trilogy.
  • Amazing Gracie by Sherryl Woods – one of those romance books I picked up for a dime somewhere and never got around to reading.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • The Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmid – published by Lamplighter, who really does an amazing job – their books are beautiful!  However, their books can sometimes be a bit to saccharine for me, so I’ve let this one languish on the shelf for years.
  • Lost States by Michael Trinklein – my next nonfiction read… just as geography-based as the last one!
  • Hidden by Karen Olson – the first in the Black Hat Thriller series.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – somehow, I’ve never read this classic, despite the fact that one of Smith’s other books, The Hundred and One Dalmatiansis one of my all-time favorites.
  • Radiance by Catherynne Valente – I’ve heard mixed reviews on this one so I’m not sure if I’ll like it.  But GR describes it as “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood—and solar system—very different from our own” so it should at least be different.

Rearview Mirror // 2017

Happy New Year!  We actually have some real snow around here, which is super exciting.  A white Christmas is always lovely, but there is something about a white New Year that makes me feel like we really are getting a fresh start.

Of course, it’s also unbelievably cold out there – only 3* this morning!  My husband just told me that the average temperature in the US right now is only 11*!

2017 was a solid year on the blog for me.  I basically never look at my stats, but I’m sure lots of people have looked at things, which is awesome.  I really enjoy writing reviews for my own benefit, so I can look back on books that I’ve read and remember what was going on, but it is so amazing to me that there are a few hundred other people who also enjoy reading those reviews, at least from time to time.  Thanks for being there!!

This year was the first year that I really, really focused on marking books on Goodreads.  I’ve been kind of haphazard about it before, but this year I was determined to mark ALL the books, and for the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to update where I am with current reads as part of my morning routine – and actually am enjoying it!  Especially since it means that I get really accurate stats at the end of the year…

Believe it or not, I totally blew through my goal of 160 books, completing 197 titles.  Although I do feel that sheer number of books is a poor way to manage this challenge, since my longest book – Imperative (a P&P variation that I don’t think I even ended up reviewing here!), at 796 pages is worth just as much as my shortest book, Bronco Charlieat 48!  But I suppose it does all level out, as I read an average of 295 pages per book, for a grand total of 58,206 pages!  (What am I even doing with my life?!)

The most popular book I read this year was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, also read by an astounding 2,123,251 people.  In contrast, only two other people have bothered to rate Container Gardeningwhich is a shame, because it is actually a very nice little reference guide.

I am still really enjoying my monthly Rearview Mirrors as a way to sort of summarize what’s been happening.  According to those post, these were my favorite books of the year:

I think 2017’s Book of the Year is going to be The Scent of Water.  There is something about that book – I can’t explain how it is not only perfect, but it actually changed my life.  While I loved Uprooted and The Night Circus, which are both magical and amazing reads, The Scent of Water is the one I feel like EVERYONE should read.

Other 5-Star Reads for 2017:

I feel like I finally have a grasp on my reading goals and am in a good pattern of reading four books at the same time, which is helping me work on multiple points of the TBR at once.  I also realize that it’s basically physically impossible to read all the books that I want to read, but I’m okay with that.  I’m just going to enjoy each book as it comes, and I’m not going to stop adding to the TBR, either.  It’s more of a dream list than a tangible goal.

The huge number of books on the TBR is the main reason I don’t really read ARCs and am not interested in Netgalley or other such opportunities.  I review usually 1-5 ARCs each year, and that’s about right.  I don’t necessarily need free books, because I use the library like a crazy person.  I don’t like the time pressure and (self-imposed) deadlines that arise from reviewing books from publishers.  I like being able to just not finish a book because I don’t like the first page, and not have to feel guilty about that.

I wanted to compare my TBR numbers from December 2016 to now, but realized that I’ve done a LOT of editing on that list throughout the year, so comparing the numbers doesn’t really make sense.  I cleaned up the Standalones tab, eliminating doubles and moving books to the Series/Mystery Series tabs as needed.  I’ve also been working on making sure all the books that I own really are on my Personal list, so that list has gotten a LOT bigger.  I’ve also been way more into getting free Kindle books this year, too, which hasn’t helped.  :-D  But I think that the numbers are straight now, so this time next year I should, theoretically, be able to legitimately tell if I’ve made any progress.

In the meantime, I fully intend to just keep reading, reviewing, and enjoying books.  Books have been such an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always lived surrounded by them.  I don’t really see that changing, especially since my mom sent me home with nine gardening books she was getting rid of today – so nine more books on the TBR and we’re not even 24 hours into 2018 yet.  :-D

Thanks for riding along with me for 2017, and here’s to lots of great books and happy reviews for 2018!

Rearview Mirror // December 2017

What a weird month!  I was still struggling with bronchitis for the first part of it, we had another fairly involved renovation project going on, and then I got another virus that laid  me low with a fever and sore throat for a week – which all added up to almost no Christmas spirit!  I don’t have a SINGLE Christmas decoration in this house!  Ah well.

The good news is, the week of resting from the virus took care of my lingering bronchitis, and I’m back to feeling completely well – with that added awesomeness that only comes after you’ve been low-grade sick for a while.  (I get up every morning and think, “I can breathe!  I can breathe!”)  I’ve got some 2018 resolutions involving various housekeeping and house-painting projects, I’ve given a firm, “I am not working more than three days a week!” answer to my spring job at the greenhouse (which last year ended up more like 55 hours a week for over a month…), and overall things are just feeling good.

Reading-wise, December has been solid.  This has been my best year of blogging so far.  I finally feel like I have a good pattern for reviews – the monthly minireviews have really helped me to get past reviews that just aren’t that involved, and I’ve started taking a few notes every time I finish a book, so even if the review happens several days later, I’m better able to revive my feelings towards the story.  I’m excited about continuing into 2018.

Favorite December Read

I had a couple of really enjoyable reads this month, but nothing that just wowed me.  I think I’m going to put Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore in this slot, as it’s the book I’m most likely to reread.  It was quirky and entertaining, and I really liked all of the characters.

Most Disappointing December Read

I didn’t have any huge bombs this month, but my most disappointing book was probably Son by Lois Lowry.  It dragged on forever and didn’t really seem to have much of a point.  It was especially disappointing because The Giver is so brilliant.  But the other three books just didn’t work for me.

Other December Reads

  • Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry – 4/5 – a really fun children’s nonfiction book with awesome illustrations.
  • A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch – 3/5 – I wanted to like this more than I did.
  • Best Worst Mistake by Lia Riley – 3/5 – Cute story that could have benefited from a lot less sex.
  • Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom – 4/5 – another great children’s book – with more great illustrations!
  • The Burnaby Books by Anne Emery – 3.5/5 – these five books were really enjoyable reads about the ups and downs of high school and college life.
  • The Divine Conquest by A.W. Tozer – 5/5 – don’t read if you aren’t ready to be challenged.
  • A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden – 3/5 – a decent novel, but the ending really aggravated me, as did the romantic emphasis.
  • Gathering Blue – by Lois Lowry – 3.5/5 – Intriguing, but a little strange.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry – 4.5/5 – Brilliant.
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben – 3/5 – a book I wanted to like but just didn’t.
  • A Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer – 4/5 – classic Heyer.
  • Last First Kiss by Lia Riley – 3/5 – formulaic but pleasant.
  • The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne – 3/5 – intriguing premise, but just kind of depressing and boring in execution.
  • The Man Upstairs and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – an alright collection, but honestly not very Wodehouse-y.
  • Messenger by Lois Lowry – 2/5 – What the heck?!
  • November 9 by Colleen Hoover – 3/5 – an engaging read, but Ben was just a bit too creepy for me to get behind the ship.
  • Right Wrong Guy by Lia Riley – 3/5 – nice romance, but a little too sexy.
  • The Rose-Garden Husband by Margaret Widdemer – 4/5 – predictable but so warm and happy.
  • The September Society by Charles Finch – 3/5 – just a bit too prosy to be actually enjoyable.
  • The Wishing-Ring Man by Margaret Widdemer – 4.5/5 – a weird beginning, but overall so happy and enjoyable.
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn – 4/5 – compulsively readable, engaging, but not brilliant.

In Decembers Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

Last year was a toss-up between two very different but both very enjoyable books – A Life in Letters (edited by Sophie Ratcliffe) is a fascinating collection of Wodehouse’s letters throughout his life, with very thoughtful and interesting biographical information to link them.  I still use this book as a reference when I am starting new Wodehouse books, to see if he had anything personal to say about them!  The other awesome book last December was Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton.  It felt like everyone thought this book was amazing, so I was a little scared – but it totally lived up to the hype.  I guessed some of the twists, but definitely not all of them.  I didn’t want to do anything except read this book when I was reading this book!  Just reading my review makes me want to read this book again!

My most disappointing book in December 2016 was Love’s Haven by Catherine Palmer – one of those books that is so terrible that I genuinely have no idea why I finished it!

//published 2010//

In December 2015 I was reading Nora Robert’s Bridal Quartet, which has become one of my go-tos for warm, fuzzy romance without a lot of thinking.  The final book in the series, Happy Ever Afterwas my favorite for the month.

In contrast, I found Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On to be pretty meh fare.

TBR Update:

Sadly, I did a some research and realized that I had a BUNCH of books on my physical shelves – mostly nonfiction – that wasn’t on the Personal TBR list.  Tragically, it increased my number by quite a lot…  but now I feel like I’m on the right track there.  So there’s that.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  820 (DOWN THREE!  DOWN!)
  • Nonfiction:  85 (steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  670 (up by so many)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  226 (down one!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 105 (down one!)

Overall, a good month!  Not counting my Personal tab, which was really just recalculating because I didn’t buy any very many books this month, I actually managed to drop five!

Awaiting Review:

Would you believe… nothing??  All I have in the pile right now are four Love Inspired titles, because I’m reading Love Inspired #5, because I review them in batches of five.  So I’m actually caught up as we head into the new year!

Current Reads:

  • Montana Hearts by Charlotte Carter – aforementioned Love Inspired title.  Actually not that terrible.
  • Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn – first book in her Cornish Mysteries series.  I liked the Daisy Dalrymple series on the whole, so I thought I’d give this one a go, especially since there are only four books!
  •  The Mapmakers by John Noble Wilford – a nonfiction read on the history of maps and their creation.  Now that I’m done with the incredibly lengthy chapter that just whines about how horrible Christians ruined everyone’s lives by hating science in the Middle Ages, the book is picking up in interest.
  • Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor – a children’s book that is actually rather heartbreaking in a not-exactly-sad way??  Hard to explain.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probably next five reads…

  • A Colourful Death by Carola Dunn – the second Cornish mystery, providing the first one isn’t trash.
  • Copper-Toed Boots by Marguerite de Angeli – a beautifully illustrated children’s book that has been on my shelves forever.
  • Wrestling Prayer by Eric Ludy – honestly scared of what I’m sure will be a challenging read.
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – some of her books I love and some I feel really meh about, so we’ll see where this older title falls.
  • The Cat and Mrs. Carey by Doris Gates – an old children’s book that I’ve had for ages about a nice old lady who inherits a house, a cat that only she can hear talking, and possibly some smugglers.

Rearview Mirror // November 2017

November has been kind of a weird month.  I’ve had a lingering cold/cough/general meh feeling that has lasted basically the entire month.  It’s really the longest I can remember ever being sick (besides mono back in the day), and it’s been rather frustrating as there are a lot of things to get done around here and I don’t seem to have the energy for really any of them.  However, that does mean that I’ve spent a bit more time just sitting around with a cup of tea, so it has been a pretty solid reading month.

I have officially achieved this year’s Goodreads goal of 160 books!  As of this moment, the count for the year stands at 173.  I’ve been a lot more committed to making sure I actually mark off read books on GR, and have also been doing my best to update what I’m reading/where I am in reading regularly.  It is rather fun to see the little progress bars fill!

I keep forgetting to mention that back in mid-October my sister and I went to see Maggie Stiefvater at a library program.  She was an absolute delight and it was so fun and interesting to hear her talk about her newest book, All the Crooked Saints.  I haven’t read it yet, but am sure I will eventually.  In the meantime, I had her sign my copy of Shiver.  My sister has never read a single Stiefvater book, but she follows Maggie on Twitter and finds her consistently hilarious (so do I), so she actually had her sign a print-out of a picture of Stiefvater’s old Camaro, which my sister loves.  Maggie had been on tour quite a while by the time she got to our town, and actually seemed quite touched to see a picture of her car (she drew hearts around it after she signed her name haha).  This was actually somehow my first author event.  I don’t have a lot of them that I particularly want to see (and most of my favorites are dead lol).  But if Maggie Stiefvater ever comes back through town, I would definitely go see her again.  She even played the bagpipes!

Favorite November Read:

Oh definitely The Night Circus.  It may even end up being my book of the year.  I loved every page of this book, even though it used so many writing styles and concepts that I usually don’t like.  Every letter was perfection.  ::sigh::  So.  Magical.

Most Disappointing November Read:  

Actually, even though I read several books that received a lower rating this month, I think I’m going to go with  The Dire King by William Ritter.  I was really anticipating this conclusion to the Jackaby books, and in the end felt incredibly meh about this book.  There was a lot of confusion and a lot of answered questions.  There was also a big twist at the end which I personally didn’t like, as I felt like it changed everything about the characters so far.  It was worth the read, but really brought my overall enjoyment of the series down.

Other November Reads:

  • Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater – 3/5 – a fun story, but not my favorite Pinkwater.
  • The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner by Ann Larkin Hansen – 3/5 – informative, but not amazing.
  • Beastly Bones by William Ritter – 4/5 – a fun sequel to Jackaby.
  • The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve – 4/5 – beautiful edition and quite intriguing to read the original fairy tale.
  • Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – 3.5/5 – a good story, but somewhat lacking in focus.  Still looking forward to the final book, though.
  • Cinchfoot by Thomas C. Hinkle – 3/5 – a pretty meh horse tale.
  • Close to Home by Carolyn Aarsen – 3/5 – enjoyable, but the main characters really just needed to use their words.
  • Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder – 5/5 – perfect ending.  Like so perfect.  I couldn’t  believe how perfect.
  • Dreaming of a Family by Arlene James – 2/5 – alright story, but Dixie was SO obnoxious.
  • Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter – 3.5/5 – an engaging story in the Jackaby series, but a little too focused on the Grand Scheme.
  • The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg – 2/5 – Shelby.  Ugh.
  • Heavier Than Heaven by Charles Cross – 4/5 – really well-written and fascinating biography of Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana fame.
  • Jackaby by William Ritter – 4/5 – such a fun and funny mash-up of Doctor Who and Sherlock.
  • The Journey to Dragon Island by Claire Fayers – 4/5 – the second in a series about a girl named Brine and the crew of ridiculous pirates with whom she finds herself traveling.  Fun and lighthearted – a great children’s read.
  • The Little Nugget by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – fun, but not the best Wodehouse ever.
  • Miss Billy, Miss Billy’s Decision, and Miss Billy Married by Eleanor H. Porter – 3/5 – nice stories, but lacking something – not books I anticipate rereading.
  • The Mommy Wish by Kathryn Springer – 3/5 – Nice story, but the Big Reveal wasn’t nearly as tragic as the lead-up anticipated.
  • Night Study by Maria V. Snyder – 4/5 – I couldn’t put this book down.  What even.  So crazy.
  • Only Dead On the Inside by James Breakwell – 4/5 – such a funny book.  Don’t read in public, unless you like having people look at you strange when you snort with laughter.
  • The Pastor Takes a Wife by Anna Schmidt – 3/5 – pleasant, but I wasn’t feeling the chemistry between the lead characters.
  • The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer – 4/5 – classic Heyer froth.
  • Rumours and Recklessness by Nicole Clarkson – 4/5 – a really enjoyable and pleasant P&P retelling.
  • Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder – 4/5 – a little slow in spots, but still fantastic storytelling.
  • Triplets Find a Mom by Annie Jones – DNF – I wanted to like this one, but the writing was just plain terrible.
  • The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers – 4/5 – a really adorable and fun children’s fantasy book that actually had me on the edge of my seat at the end!

In Novembers Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

In November 2015, I didn’t review a single book!  Life was quite busy, and I was working a lot of extra hours.  At the time, that was at a law office, so all those extra hours were staring at computers… which meant I really didn’t feel like doing that when I got home!

Last year, however, I had another bumper month of reading, with three 5* reads.  While I chose Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome as my favorite, both Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher – the conclusion of Codex Alera – were very, very strong contenders.

My  most disappointing book was another example of what expectations can do to make a book work or not.  I had really enjoyed Sandy Hall’s first book, which made Signs Point to Yes even more disappointing when I didn’t like it.  Honestly, I had kind of forgotten about this book, but at the time it aggravated me so much that I actually made a list of the things I didn’t like.

TBR Update:

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  823 (up ONLY two!)
  • Nonfiction:  85 (up four!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  616 (holding steady!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  227 (down one!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 106 (holding steady!)

Also, I’ve recently created a page to keep track of my attempt to read all of my own books.  You can check it out here.  What I really need is for other people to stop writing good reviews.  I mean, I’ve read TWENTY-NINE books in November – that’s almost a book a day! – and yet my net on the TBR is a gain of five?!  How is that even possible????

Awaiting Review:

My little blast of minireviews yesterday really helped clear out the pile.  It’s mostly books that belong together – lately I’ve been reviewing series all at once instead of individually, unless they really jumped out at me as separate books.

  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben – a book I really wanted to like more than I actually did.
  • Senior Year, Going Steady, and Sorority Girl by Anne Emery – the first three books in the Burnaby series, published in 1950’s.  They have been very pleasant and relaxing reads that still have some good life lessons.
  • The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger by Lois Lowry – mixed bag.  We’ll see how Son wraps everything up.
  • A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch – the first book in the Charles Lenox series.  Kind of boring.  I already have the second book from the library, so I am going to give it a chance, but if it’s just as unexciting as the first installment, I’ll probably give the rest of the books a miss.

Current Reads:

  • High Note, Low Note by Anne Emery
  • Son by Lois Lowry
  • The Divine Conquest by A.W. Tozer
  • The September Society by Charles Finch

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Campus Melody by Anne Emery – the final Burnaby book
  • The Wolf’s Hour by Robert R. McCammon – werewolves and World War II??  Or something??
  • Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry – childhood classic
  • Last First Kiss by Lia Riley – one of those free Kindle books I’m trying to actually read instead of just accumulating them…
  • Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom – random children’s book that has been on my shelf forever

Happy December!!!

Rearview Mirror // October 2017

This has definitely been my worst month blogging in quite a while.  I did a LOT of reading, but basically no reviewing except for a couple of minireview posts at the end of the month.  And even those didn’t come close to catching up on my reviews AND never actually covered the books I read this month that I loved!

Things have been quite crazy at the orchard, and also really busy in my Etsy shop, so those things have been taking a lot of my time.  Tom and I also went to Virginia for a long weekend over my birthday – our first ‘real’ trip in the Zeppelin, and it was a resounding success!

Favorite October Read:

Well, my favorite October reads haven’t been reviewed yet: The Night Circus, Only Dead on the Inside, and Dawn Study.  But out of the small, pathetic handful of books I actually managed to review, I would actually go with A is for Arsenic.  I was surprised at how thoroughly interesting I found this book that details the various poisons Agatha Christie used in her novels.  It was science-y and informative, but really readable and engaging as well.

Most Disappointing October Read:

I had a lot of really meh reads this month as well.  Out of the ones reviewed, I think I have to go with Thirty Days to Thirtywhich could have been a super fun little chick lit read, except it just got stupid.

Other October Reads:

  • Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller – 4/5 – the first book on the subject that actually felt legitimately practical for someone like me, who isn’t remotely artsy.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 3.5/5 – there were a lot of things I liked about this book, and it was definitely worth the read, but it wasn’t one I would consider a classic.
  • Indian Paint by Glenn Balch – 3.5/5 – a fun Famous Horse Story about a young American Indian boy and the horse he loves!
  • Lion of Liberty by Harlow Giles Unger – 3/5 – a decent biography of Patrick Henry, but really more of a review of the American Revolution and constitution.
  • Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder – 3.5/5 for the trilogy – interesting books and nice to have some other stories set in Ixia/Sitia, but I just didn’t really like Opal all that well, and the love triangles got ridiculously out of hand.
  • The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye – 3/5 – a children’s book that would have been a lot better if it had actually been about a turtle.

In Octobers Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

//published 2013//

In 2015, I read and loved The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness.  While a lot of times it really annoys me if I can’t figure out what a book is ‘about’, Ness managed to write a book that I felt like would be somehow different every time I read it.  It was a strangely magical book.

I was disappointed by Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels.  I was hoping to get a book that was funny and engaging with a decent mystery, like I did in the Amelia Peabody books, but instead I just got a story about a whiny feminist.

Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – it’s now my favorite book by her.  On the other hand, I was left confused by Magic Below the Stairs by Caroline Stevermer, which added nothing to otherwise beloved Cecelia and Kate books.

TBR Update…

Oh dear.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  821 (up ONLY eight!)
  • Nonfiction:  81 (DOWN one!!!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  616 (up only three!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  228 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 106 (up one)

Awaiting Review:

Quite the pile, actually.

  • Only Dead on the Inside by James Breakwell – quite entertaining even if you don’t have children or believe the zombie apocalypse is imminent.
  • Shadow Study, Night Study, and Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder – so good!  Dawn Study was even more satisfactory than I anticipated.
  • Miss Billy and Miss Billy’s Decision by Eleanor H. Porter – by the author of Pollyanna; Billy isn’t quite as engaging of a heroine, but pleasant books nonetheless.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – what.  This book was so magical.  All the feelings.  Oh my gosh.
  • Still Life by Dani Pettrey – reread of book #2 to gear me up for reading book #3 which I received as an ARC.

Current Reads:

As a side note, I have been trying to do better at keeping up on Goodreads, so feel free to follow me there.

  • Miss Billy Married by Eleanor H. Porter – the final book in the Miss Billy trilogy, and my favorite so far.
  • Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – alright so far.
  • Jackaby by William Ritter – reading yet again, this time so I can get the full build-up to launch in the fourth and final book, that will hopefully bring this series to a very satisfying conclusion.
  • The Pastor Takes a Wife by Anna Schmidt – time to read another lil batch of those crazy Love Inspired books so I can eventually get the pile of 5000 of them out of my house!

 Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Four more Love Inspired books, determined by a random sticking-my-hand-in-the-basket.
  • The rest of the Jackaby books.
  • Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross – part of my goal to read my own books; Tom has had this biography of Kurt Cobain laying around forever.
  • The River Line by Charles Line – not sure what this one is even about.
  • Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater – this one keeps getting pushed down the list by other reads, but I am going to get to it this time!

Happy November!!!