Rearview Mirror // June 2017

June settled into a nice routine that is rolling into July (we’ll see how long that lasts!).  I’ve been getting a lot of chores done around the house and painting a LOT of fence.  Paisley the puppy is continuing the grow like a weed, and she and Waylon careen through the house in a way that makes me a little nervous about what will happen when they’re both adults!

Reading-wise, I mostly checked a BUNCH of Dee Henderson off the list, as well as finishing off the Michael Robotham’s Joseph O’Laughlin series.  It’s been good to get back into a good reading groove again, as I’ve also been working on my nonfiction assignments.

Favorite June Read:

Watching You by Michael Robotham – this book was SO intense I could barely put it down.  The pacing was perfect and I was completely engrossed.  I loved the way that I had no idea who to trust.

Most Disappointing June Read:

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson.  An entire book about Perfect Ann.  SO BORING.  And she wasn’t actually perfect, even though everyone goes on (and on and ON) about how perfect she is…  I kind of thought she was selfish and boring.  It was basically an entire book of everyone talking about how awesome Ann is… and then it turns out that Ann wrote all of Henderson’s books, so a whole new level of awkward made it feel like Henderson wrote an entire book talking about how awesome she herself is….  too weird.  And BORING.

Other June Reads:

  • Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham – 4/5 – a solid addition to the series, but the ending left me feeling completely dazed.
  • Reclaiming Christianity: A Call to Authentic Faith by A.W. Tozer; edited by James L. Snyder – 4/5 – a good collection of essays and sermons that are poignant and challenging.
  • Taken by Dee Henderson – 2/5 – Pretty boring, and too much kidnapping.
  • Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson – 3.5/5 – probably my favorite out of this batch of Henderson’s novels – solid story with interesting characters.
  • Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – a good story, but the ending just sort of fizzled out.
  • Undetected by Dee Henderson – 2/5 – Mark.  Ugh.
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – alright read, but dragged in the middle.

In Junes 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.

Back in 2015, I didn’t have a lot of strong feelings about any of the books I’d read,  but I chose Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey as my favorite read – I was really getting into the Pern books at that point – and Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marriner as my least favorite – it just felt too disjointed to really be enjoyable.

Last year, I was getting into the groove of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera (which I LOVED), and Academ’s Fury was definitely my favorite book of the month.  Meanwhile, I really wanted to love The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley, mainly because the cover is GORGEOUS, but ended up kinda hating it, mostly because it made no sense.

June 2016 was also my first time participating in #20BooksofSummer – as of last year’s June Rearview, I had read six of my twenty… I’m actually ahead of that this year as I’m halfway through book #9!

#20BooksofSummer Update

Speaking of the 20 Books of Summer (hosted by Cathy), I’m actually not doing too badly.  Here’s the current list:

  1. Unspoken by Dee Henderson
  2. Undetected by Dee Henderson
  3. Taken by Dee Henderson
  4. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
  5. Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
  6. Watching You by Michael Robotham
  7. Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham
  8. The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
  9. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
  10. Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
  11. Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin
  12. Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey
  13. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  14. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
  15. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  16. The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  17. The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux
  18. Water Song by Suzanne Weyn
  19. What Lies Within by James Morris
  20. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

 

TBR Update:

So I spent my holiday doing what everyone does on a holiday… reorganizing my TBR.  ;-)  I went through the Personal tab on the TBR (books I own) and updated a bunch of stuff.  I’ve actually read a lot of the books on the list already, but it was before I had the list written down.  And, back when I made the list, I didn’t bother putting a bunch of books on it since I had read them really recently.  But now I’ve decided that I want to keep a master list of every book I own with its “last read” date.  All that to say, I added books and checked books off, since the TBR number only reflects the books I haven’t read since I started book blogging back in 2011 (tumblr days!).

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:  785 (up five)
  • Nonfiction:  80 (up five)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  589 (down 34!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  221 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  102 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review:

I’m really working on keeping a post a day going, so right now only The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart is in the pile!

Current Reads:

  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman – I’m actually kinda enjoying this book that is so not my kind of book.
  • Breaking Free by Beth Moore – her writing is so accessible and challenging, like reading a letter from a close friend.
  • Patrick Henry: Firebrand of the Revolution by Nardi Reeder Campion – a middle-school biography of this famous patriot – I’m totally enjoying learning about his life and definitely intend to find a more involved biography of Henry soon.
  • High-Yield Vegetable Gardening by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm – because when I’m not working at a garden center or actually gardening, I love to read about gardening. (I don’t have a problem lol)

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer – actually looking forward to some relaxing Heyer action
  • Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin – so enjoyed his Amanda Jaffe series – we’ll see how a standalone goes
  • Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey – I’ve enjoyed a lot of her fairy tale retellings before, so I’m anticipating this one
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier – I almost read this one earlier this year, except then life happened – I’ve loved both Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, so I’m hoping this one follows suit!
  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain – one of those random books I read a review for a long time ago – no idea what it’s all about!

Rearview Mirror // May 2017

Only one month behind, so I’m catch up, right??  :-D

May was kind of a crazy month, and I worked a LOT of overtime – not a lot of time left for reading (or cleaning, or resting, or thinking…), so I mostly read a couple of children’s series that I already owned, and then started working my way through some of Dee Henderson’s books.

Favorite May Read:

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – it’s kind of rare for a nonfiction book to be my favorite read, but Smith’s  book was just such a delight and encouragement from beginning to end that I feel like it definitely earns this spot.  I actually read this book throughout April and May as I had time, and ended up buying my own copy so I could highlight parts that were important to me, and pull it out again whenever I want.  This was just a wonderful book about contentment, making your house your home, and having the courage to let your house reflect yourself and your family.

Most Disappointing May Read:

The Wings of a Falcon by Cynthia Voigt – this book was just really weird.  I couldn’t stand the protagonist, who was a total jerk and continued to be a total jerk throughout the entire story.  I wasn’t sure what the point of this book was, as it was very long, disjointed, and rambly.

Other May Reads:

  • Before I Wake by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – alright, but kind of a weird love triangle.  The mystery was good until the ending, which was weak.
  • The Extraordinary Education of Nicolas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – 5/5 – a really delightful prequel to the other books.
  • Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt – 3/5 – an alright story with some interesting thinking points, but nothing amazing.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – 5/5 – this was a (multiple times) reread for me, and I love it more every time.  The story is clever and engaging, thought-provoking but not polemic.  A genuinely fantastic children’s book.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4/5 – fun and engaging, but not quite as exciting as the first.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4/5 – lively and interesting, and a solid conclusion to the series.
  • On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt – 3/5 – an alright story with some interesting thinking points, but nothing amazing… kind of exactly like Jackaroo.
  • The Witness by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – Kind of a meh read that started alright but was definitely more romance than thriller, so it got rather boring in the middle.

In Mays 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.

Back in May 2015, my favorite book was one I almost didn’t confess to reading – Forever by Maggie Stiefvater.  Because sometimes the teenage werewolf thing is actually done right.

I had a lot of meh reads that month but nothing I really hated.  I ended up choosing Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen, which was completely unmemorable for me – I can’t even remember what I didn’t like.

Last year, I was still blazing through every Agatha Christie book ever printed, and it’s still amazing to me how many of them made it as my favorite book of the month.  In May 2016 I read the genuinely brilliant And Then There Were Noneone of Christie’s most clever, twisty stories that, despite the fact I had read it multiple times, I read it in one go, staying up until midnight to get to the grand conclusion.

My least favorite book ended up being Todd McCaffrey’s Dragon Harperwhich I ranted about at length.  After spending a year+ reading through Pern, it was really disappointing to end with his genuinely terrible, boring books.

TBR Update:

So I went through and cleaned this spreadsheet up a bit, mostly sorting books to the tabs where they actually belong (a lot of books on the general TBR were actually series) and getting rid of doubles and whatnot.  I also FINALLY caught up on my emails/blog entries.  This means that the general TBR took a stunning plummet…  but the other tabs took a huge jump…

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:  780 (down 118!  Go me!)
  • Nonfiction:  75 (up five)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  623 (up two)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  220 (up 61 because most of the books that I edited out of the standalones actually moved to either this column or mystery series)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  102 (up 26)

Still, my editing did give me an overall net loss of 24, which is pretty good for me.

Awaiting Review:

Basically, Dee Henderson:

  • Full Disclosure
  • Unspoken
  • Undetected
  • Taken
  • Traces of Guilt
  • Threads of Suspicion

Plus Reclaiming Christianity by A.W. Tozer, and the Spring (#53) issue of Slightly Foxed.

20 Books of Summer Update:

I’ve read five of my books, and eliminated Sins of the Past (which was actually a collection of novellas instead of an entire Henderson novel), so I’ll be adding a title someday (if I get that far haha).

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Watching You by Michael Robotham, which I just started today.
  • Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham, which should wrap up the Joseph O’Laughlin series that I started so long ago Robotham may have actually written another book by now…
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

Rearview Mirror // April 2017

Yes, folks, you read that right – I’m rounding up April!  I really do like to write these Rearviews for my own benefit (to be honest, this whole blog is for my own benefit, I just let you all tag along for the ride :-D), so even though we are well into June, I’m going to go ahead and see if I can get this written…

Favorite April Read:

By far and away, The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge.  I still find myself thinking about this deceptively simple book.  It is one of those rare books where every word is perfectly placed.

Most Disappointing April Read:

Paper Towns by John Green, although that may not be entirely true, since my expectations were super low to start.  So in a way, this book actually was the least disappointing, because it was just as pretentious, boring, pointless, and overrated as I expected it to be.

  • A Gentleman of Leisure (AKA The Intrusion of Jimmy) by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – fun and frolicksome, but not particularly memorable.
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – 5/5 – in a month that didn’t include The Scent of Water, this book would have been an easy first place.  Fun and frothy, I enjoyed every page and can’t believe I had never read it before!
  • The Prince and Betty by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – I would have liked this book a lot better if he hadn’t inserted the entire plot of Psmith, Journalist in the middle of it…!?
  • Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham – 4/5 – completely gripping, even if I wasn’t entirely convinced that the villain could be so villainous without anyone noticing…
  • Wild Palomino: Stallion of the Prairies by Stephen Holt – 2/5 – This was a pretty meh Famous Horse Story that just sort of muddled about and had a lot of big jumps in logic.  It may be entertaining to its target age group of around 10-12, but not particularly interesting to a more critical reader.

In Aprils 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 2015 I was going through a bit of a reading slump, so I hadn’t read very many books.  However, my favorite was definitely The Lewis Man by Peter May.  After being blown away by the Lewis trilogy, I’m still determined to get around to reading some more of May’s books… someday…

My most disappointing read that month was Pollyanna in Hollywood by Elizabeth Borton.  The Pollyanna books were written by different authors, and when Borton took over I just couldn’t continue on, as she turned the books into these weird travelogues and turned Pollyanna herself to a strange caricature of her character – in the earlier books Pollyanna was so genuine and kind, and Borton just never captured that in her writing.

Last year, I was enamored with Nancy Bond’s classic, A String in the Harp.  While it isn’t a tale of high action, it’s a beautifully crafted story with memorable and warm characters.  This is a children’s book that deals with grief so, so perfectly.

On the flip side, my most disappointing read was yet another part of a series that I really enjoyed on the whole – Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey.  While Todd’s mother’s Pern books had their ups and downs, they were on the whole quite engaging.  But when Todd took over, it was like he just kept writing the same story over and over again.  His writing is much lazier, with lots of logic gaps and parts where characters just conveniently guess the thing they really need to know in order to save the world (again).

TBR Update:

I’ve actually been slowly working my way through the TBR, trying to weed out doubles and books that should belong on one of the series tabs.  I mostly did this because the TBR had topped 900 and I really needed to bring it back below that mark to make me feel like I wasn’t completely crazy.  ;-)  I still have a ways to go on that project, so I’m hoping to see some more deductions.  Even though I’ve added a few in the meantime, I have managed to eliminate 21 titles in the process…

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:

  • Stand-Alones:  898 (which is weirdly exactly where it was when I posted the March Rearview?!  What are the odds of that happening???)
  • Nonfiction:  70 (up five, and I am once again determined to spend some more time reading nonfiction this summer, despite the fact that I didn’t put a single nonfiction title on my 20 Books of Summer list!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  621 (up four – even though I’ve been reading several of my own books lately, it’s been a couple of series, so they only count as one book down on the TBR)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  159 (up ten… several of the books that got dropped from the Regular TBR actually just got shifted to this area because they are part of a series rather than a stand-alone)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  76 (up four)

Awaiting Review:

I’ve been on a bit of  Dee Henderson kick lately, reading most of her “stand-alone” novels before reading an ARC of her latest book, Threads of Suspicion.  In her independent books she still has a lot of interconnecting characters, so I decided to read a bunch of her other books to get some background on characters, mainly  because I get weirdly OCD about reading series in their entirety and in order…

Point is, the books awaiting review are Dee Henderson novels, and will probably come out in a series of minireviews.

  • The Witness by Dee Henderson  – bit heavy on the romance; everyone was a couple??  So the thriller part felt just kind of wedged into the background, a pattern that seems to be establishing itself in her books.
  • Before I Wake by Dee Henderson – bit more of an actual story, but had a really weird love triangle sort of thing.
  • Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson – definitely my least-favorite of any of her books I’ve read – super boring, and Ann is the worst character ever because she is so freaking perfect and basically the entire book is just talking about how perfect she is.  Be prepared for a rant on this one.
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson – I couldn’t tell if this book was actually a decent story, if it just seemed that way in comparison to Full Disclosure.

20 Books of Summer Update:

So far, Unspoken is the only book I’ve read from my list, although I am almost finished with Undetected.  I’m not completely confident in my ability to make up my 20 this summer, although I did accomplish it last year.  There is a lot going on these days, and I just don’t seem to be reading as much right now as I usually am!  I’m also ten books behind on my Goodreads goal of 160 books this year… whoops!

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probably next five reads…

Hopefully books 2-6 on the 20 Books of Summer list:

  • Undetected; Taken; Traces of Guilt; Sins of the Past; and Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
  • Watching You by Michael Robotham – this book and Close Your Eyes are the only two books I have left in the Joseph O’Laughlin series.  I’ve really enjoyed these books, and am moderately frustrated that I haven’t gotten around to reading these last two yet!

I have two more reviews to write and then I’ll be caught up on May’s books and hopefully get a May Rearview out as well.  I’ve only read two books in June, which is really low for me.  I think part of the problem is that I’ve been reading Henderson’s book as ebooks from the library, and I just don’t tend to grab my Kindle as readily as a hard copy of a book.  I also really struggled to get through Full Disclosure, which really slowed me down on my overall reading.

The husband is off this week, so we are both trying to get caught up on stuff around the house after a crazy spring!  We are also busy housetraining our puppy.  And as an aside, if you’re interested in adorable border collie puppies, please feel free to check on my Instagram account @popcornandbooks15.  She is pretty dang cute!

Happy reading, everyone!

Rearview Mirror // March 2017

Better late than never, right??

And gang, I have BIG NEWS: Waylon is getting a little sister – we’re getting another border collie puppy in May!!!  She’s an adorable blue merle who still needs a name, so I’m accepting suggestions!  I’ll post pictures soon.  In the meantime, rest assured that she is SO FREAKING CUTE.  Getting another puppy is probably a terrible life decision, but hey!  You’ll have that.  :-D

Meantime – books!

Favorite March Read:

Probably The Wicked Marquis by Marnie Ellingson.  It’s a reread, so it’s a bit of a cheat, but this is one of my favorite go-to fluff reads.  It’s just so happy and adorable, even if it’s not remotely deep or thought-provoking.

Most Disappointing March Read:

Dead End Close by Dominic Utton – no contest.  This book was just so depressing and just ick.  Ick.

Other March Reads:

  • 1932 by Karen M. Cox – 3/5 – unique premise but needed a bit more fleshing out to make it a really good story
  • Briar Queen by Katherine Harbour – 4/5 – a book that does not suffer even a little bit from second-book syndrome
  • Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells – 3/5 – would have been much better if the characters didn’t keep devolving into emotional disasters
  • The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar – 2/5 – sooo boring when it could have been so much fun
  • The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams – 3/5 – a pleasant but not super inventive Pride & Prejudice variation
  • Nettle King by Katherine Harbour – 4/5 – great conclusion to a really engaging trilogy
  • Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse – 4/5 and so much fun
  • Still Life by Dani Pettrey – 3/5 – alright, but could have used more thriller and less romance
  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck – 4/5 – beautifully written historical fiction that was hard to read but a gorgeous story nonetheless.
  • The Wreckage by Michael Robotham – 3/5 – solid but not particularly thrilling entry in the Joseph O’Laughlin series

In Marches 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 2015 my favorite read of the month was Peter May’s brilliant thriller The Blackhouse.  I really, really want to reread that trilogy.  It was SO GOOD.

Wild Goose Chase by Terri Thayer was my most disappointing read that month.  I still think about that cozy “mystery” sometimes and am confused by it every time.  What was the point of that book!?

Last year, the classic A Tale of Two Cities won the best book award, and I would say that it’s a solid contender for best book ever.  There is so much to chew on in this book.  It’s a fabulous story with personable and passionate characters.  There’s a great deal of teaching, but it doesn’t feel preachy or condescending.  Brilliant.

Giant’s Bread by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie) was the book that disappointed me the most.  It was just such a dreary story, doubly disappointing because I love Christie so much.

TBR Update:

So these numbers aren’t completely accurate because I have about 200 emails in my inbox that need read, and I’m positive that many of them are going to add to the list.  But here it is as it stands at this exact moment in time…

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:

  • Stand-Alones:  898 (up seven, which isn’t too bad, although I’m a bit terrified about how close I am to the 900 mark!)
  • Nonfiction:  65 (up only one)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  617 (up only one – I’ve actually been reading quite a few of my own books lately!  Brilliant, I know!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 149 (holding steady!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 72 (holding steady!)

Awaiting Review:

  • Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham – this was a completely terrifying addition to the Joseph O’Laughlin series, and I could hardly put it down!
  • A Gentleman of Leisure by P.G. Wodehouse – also known as The Intrusion of Jimmy.  This was a fun little tale, and it was obvious that at this point Wodehouse was beginning to get his “formula” down.
  • The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge – this book has actually changed my life.  So beautiful.  Just wow.  I’m not really sure if I am even going to be able to review it well.

Current Reads:

  • Paper Towns by John Green – my first John Green novel, and so far it’s suuuper boring.

Yeah, weirdly that’s the only thing I’m really actively reading right now!

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • The Prince & Betty by P.G. Wodehouse – my journey through Wodehouse continues!
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – would you believe that I’ve somehow never actually read this book!?  I’m so embarrassed.
  • Wild Palomino: Stallion of the Prairies by Stephen Holt – another “Famous Horse Story” classic.
  • Runaway by Peter May – super stoked about diving into one of May’s stand-alones.
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – the next series I’m going to read (presuming the first book is any good).  I’m a bit late to this game and have heard a lot of mixed opinions, so we will see how it goes!

Rearview Mirror // February 2017

Hey friends!  Well, I am still alive, but quite busy now that I have started back up at my seasonal job at the garden center.  I really do love working there a lot, mainly because I spend all day digging about in the dirt and helping things grow.  (As an aside, I’m a total Hufflepuff anyway, and I realized that I even possess the badger-like quality of enjoying a good dig!)  However, working full time means less time for reading and less time for blogging.  I’ve been super lazy with my reading since I started working two weeks ago, although now that my body is readjusting to the manual labor aspect, hopefully I won’t just come home and go straight to bed.  Plus, it’s almost time for the time change, which I actually hate, but it does mean that it will be lighter later into the evenings!

As far as reading for February goes, as I was compiling the list of reviews and trying to decide what my favorite/least favorite reads were this month, I realized I had a LOT of 3/5 reads.  Kind of a meh month on a lot of levels!

Favorite February Read:

Weirdly, I think that I’m going to go with The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  This isn’t really my usual type of book, but Tan’s writing was so excellent that I was drawn right into this story that is really more a series of vignettes from the lives of four Chinese women (all of whom immigrated to America as adults) and their (now adult) daughters.  This book managed to capture a lot of emotion and insight, and while a little sadder than I usually like my fiction to be, still came through as hopeful and oddly uplifting.

Most Disappointing February Read:

Definitely The Heroic Edge of the Mysterious World by E.L. Konigsburg, and not just because I had some higher expectations, having loved some of Konigsburg’s other works.  This book just made no sense.  The characters were weird, the story was incredibly disjointed, and I never did really get what the author was driving at.  It was a book I really wanted to like – and, from the premise, I should have liked – but ended up not even kind of liking it.

Other February Reads:

  • The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar – 3/5 – an alright YA with a fun premise, but somehow just came through as a bit bland for  me.
  • Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham – 3/5 – the fourth installment of the Joseph O’Laughlin series and a decent read but not quite as smooth as some of the other books.
  • Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey – 3/5 – decent story with some fun characters, but a little too much romance and not quite enough story for me personally.
  • Container Gardening by Suzanne Frutig Bales – 4/5 – informative with lots of pictures.
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer – 3/5 – a dystopian book that really wrestles with a lot of deep questions in a thoughtful manner, but wraps things up a bit too neatly to be completely believable.
  • The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer – 3/5 – a great sequel to The House of the Scorpion, but despite the depth of issues explored, it felt a bit simplistic in its conclusion.
  • Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – a genuinely funny story that also sets up the unlikely friendship between the two title characters, who will go on to appear in future Wodehouse entertainment.
  • Mike at Wrykyn by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – a lively school story with more character development than some of the others.
  • The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux – 3/5 – a decent mystery, but the “hero” was a bit on the obnoxious side for me.
  • The Princess by Lori Wick – 5/5 – reread of an old favorite.
  • Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour – 3/5 – a good start to the Night & Nothing Trilogy, but rather choppy in parts.
  • The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England: A Tale of the Great Invasion by P.G. Wodehouse – 4/5 for a witty and entertaining little tale told with tongue firmly in cheek.

In Februarys 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 2015, I had a favorite read and a so-close-it’s-basically-a-tie read:  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was my official favorite, and still is highly recommended.  It is a book that will emotionally destroy you, but I also found it incredibly healing.  I’ve never read a book that deals with grief so beautifully, and the illustrations by Jim Kay are amazing.  And actually, I think that this book went on to become my unofficial favorite book of 2015.

That runner-up slot was filled by the third Pollyanna book, Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms.  This book is all about Pollyanna and Jimmy when they are first married, and it’s my favorite book out of the series.

I was most disappointed by Dan Brown’s Deception Pointmostly because it was EXACTLY like the first book of his that I read, Digital Fortress.

Last February, my favorite book was a classic Agatha Christie – The Seven Dials MysteryIt’s one of her spy thrillers and is full of fun characters and lively dialogue.

My least favorite book was a novella by William Ritter, The Map.  However, this really doesn’t seem fair because the only thing I really seemed to dislike was that it felt short and choppy.

TBR Update:

I haven’t been blogging much, so I haven’t posted a Tottering TBR episode in a few weeks.  But I’m sure that you will all be unsurprised to learn that the TBR is continuing to grow nonetheless…

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:

  • Stand-Alones:  891 (up ten, which for me is doing really great… we won’t mention the fact that I have 153 unread emails, almost all of which are book reviews from your lovely blogs…)
  • Nonfiction:  64 (up three… again)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  616 (up eleven… curse you, free Kindle books!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 149 (up two)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 72 (up one)

The real problem is that since I started working my brain has been fried, so instead of reading productive books off the literal hundreds on my list, I’ve been reading terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  Whoops.

Awaiting Review:

  • Still Life by Dani Pettrey.  I’ve had this review almost-written for about two weeks, and since it’s actually from the publisher, I really do feel like I ought to get this one out here soon!
  • Briar Queen by Katherine Harbour – I actually enjoyed the second book in the Night & Nothing series better than the first!
  • The Wicked Marquis by Marnie Ellingson – this is a book I bought for a quarter at the Salvation Army years ago, and is one of my favorite go-to books when I just want something happy and fun – very Georgette Heyer-esq.
  • 1932 by Karen M. Cox – this is one of those P&P variations, with they story set during the Great Depression.  This was one of the more enjoyable variations I’ve read lately.
  • The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams – another P&P variation, pleasant but a bit bland.

Current Reads:

  • The Wreckage by Michael Robotham – despite the fact that this book is quite good, I’ve been trying (and failing) to read it for over two weeks!)
  • All Fall Down by Christine Pope – I’m trying to actually read books that are on my Kindle, especially since I spend my lunch half-hour at work sitting in my car (it’s awkward to eat and read a bulky book…  like The Wreckage, for instance…)
  • Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells – obviously not another P&P variation, because that would be just plain ridiculous.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probably next five reads…

Well, since I haven’t been reading from my list at all, who knows??  We’ll just let this section by mysterious for this month…

Rearview Mirror // January 2017

January didn’t really end up being that great of a month on the blog for me.  I spent most of the middle of the month just not feeling like writing anything, which also ended up being coupled with me (re)reading a lot of relaxing fluff.  But I’ve come to realize that I go through phases of just not feeling the writing aspect of life, and that’s okay because eventually I always kick back into it.

On a personal level, January was pretty chill.  I wrapped up my job at the orchard for the year and opened an Etsy shop (I have been having so much fun making adorable notebooks!).  I’ve been teaching myself guitar and bass guitar on Rocksmith on the PS4, and have spent a lot of time hanging out with my family, including my sister who is now living just a few houses down (so convenient!).

Favorite January Read:

2768230-_uy200_I think I’m going to go with Shatter by Michael Robotham.  The third book in the Joseph O’Laughlin series was completely terrifying.  I couldn’t put it down.  The “bad guy” in the story was completely believable, which made the whole story fabulously creepy.

41hym1lb7cl-_sx330_bo1204203200_However, as usual, I do have an honorable mention – The Shapeshifters (by Stefan Spjut) was just the most bizarre yet intriguing book I’ve just about ever read.  I finished it a month or so ago, but I still find myself thinking about it sometimes, and part of that thinking always involves me saying, “What the heck?!”  It was such a weird book but so well done.

Most Disappointing January Read:

Probably Not George Washington by P.G. Wodehouse and Herbert Westbrook.  I don’t know if it’s because it is one of Wodehouse’s earliest books, or because of Westbrook’s influence, but while the story was humorous at times, the main character just wasn’t all that likable.  He completely lacked the charm that nearly all Wodehouse characters possess.  While it wasn’t a terrible book by any means, it just didn’t have that typical Wodehouse sparkle.

Other January Reads:

  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth – 3/5 – a retelling of Rapunzel that was really well done but still just sad and a little too much about sex.
  • Crazy Kill Range by Rutherford Montgomery – 3/5 – a moderately interesting story about a wild horse.
  • Flipped by Wendy Van Draanen – 4/5 – so adorable and happy and actually just an all-around excellent little story about learning to look a little deeper in order to really know someone.
  • The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen & J.R. Fehr – 3/5 – Really interesting premise but a little short on action.
  • The Magician’s Workshop, Volume Two by Christopher Hansen & J.R. Fehr – 4/5 – With the characters in place from Volume One, this book really got the story rolling and was way more engaging.
  • The New Way Things Work by David Macauley – 4/5 – a great nonfiction book that looks at the machines within the machines in order to really understand how machines work…  all illustrated with woolly mammoths!
  • Terms & Conditions by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – 4/5 – such a fun little memoir of sorts that managed to make a very specific aspect of humanity incredibly relatable.
  • The Travelers by Chris Pavone – 3/5 – fun but just not that level of engaging that a really good thriller needs to be.
  • The White Feather by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – one of my favorite of Wodehouse’s school stories so far – fun characters and not quite as much cricket.

In Januarys 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.

downloadIn 2015, my favorite book of the month was Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter.  And I have to say that, for some reason, my reviews of Pollyanna and its sequels are still very high on the list of my most-visited posts, and I have no idea why.  Anyway, Pollyanna is definitely a classic and I highly recommend it.  Porter does a really wonderful job of creating a character who is lovable and kind without being obnoxious.  Also, as usual:  Book > Movie.

I found Catherine Palmer’s A Dangerous Silence to by my most disappointing read that month.  While the book had its moments, overall it was just full of logical gaps too large to be ignored.

209194For 2016, it was an Agatha Christie classic that won the coveted Best-Read spot:  The Man in the Brown Suit.  This book continues to be one of my favorite Christie books, full of adventure, spies, delightful dialogue, and completely unlikely coincidences.

My most disappointing book that month was Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.  While interesting, it just seemed like a total waste of a brilliant premise, as nothing really happened in the story.

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:

  • Stand-Alones:  881 (up fourteen… which is actually fewer than it was up by last month… is this good or just really sad?!)
  • Nonfiction:  61 (up three)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  605 (also up fourteen)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 147 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 71 (holding steady)

I’m going to say that the fact that two categories are holding steady means that I am overall making progress.  :-D

Awaiting Review:

188214Honestly not a lot of titles here.  I read all four books of Nora Roberts’s Bridal Quartet but since those were rereads, I probably won’t bother reviewing them.  I haven’t been hardcore reading lately, although I am starting to find the groove again.

  • The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England: A Tale of the Great Invasion by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

Current Reads:

  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan – I’m about a hundred pages into this and I think that I will like it, despite the fact that it is A Novel.
  • Mike by P.G. Wodehouse – the second half of this book, which was originally published as its own book, introduces Psmith, one of my favorite Wodehouse characters.  So far, despite being full of cricket, this has actually been a really fun read.
  • Reclaiming Christianity: A Call to Authentic Faith by A.W. Tozer; compiled and edited by James L. Snyder – As always, Tozer isn’t afraid to thump you over the head with what you need to hear.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

18505811The probable next five reads…

  • Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour – this is the start of a new series (Night & Nothing), but we’ll see how it goes.  It may be a bit too dark/melodramatic/angsty for me.
  • The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg – I am hoping to read all of Konigsburg’s works, since From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday are two of my all-time favorite books.
  • Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham – We’ll see if the next Joseph O’Laughlin book can hold up after I enjoyed Shatter so completely.
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer – this if the first book in a duology.  Again, it may be a bit too dark/angsty, but it did come recommended from a book blogging friend whose tastes are usually similar to mine, so we shall see.
  • The Intrusion of Jimmy AKA Gentlemen of Leisure by P.G. Wodehouse – continuing with the quest to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, this one sounds as though it may be more along the lines of what I would consider to be “classic” Wodehouse – a convoluted plot and a little bit of burglary.

Rearview Mirror // 2016

2016 was a pretty busy year here at TheAromaofBooks.  While I only reviewed 92 books in 2015, I increased that number significantly in 2016, up to 141!  I think this is mostly due to the fact that I instituted a monthly “minireviews” post of the books that were  basically 3/5 reads and left me feeling a little meh.  Those are books that previously just went completely unreviewed.

This is actually pretty good read/review ratio for me – according to GoodReads, I read 154 books this year!  I’ve really made an effort to stay on top of noting “read” books on GoodReads, so this should actually be a fairly accurate number.  That’s an average of almost three books a week!

133664According to GoodReads (feel free to check out my full annual summary here), Academ’s Fury was the longest book I read, at 704 pages.  William Ritter’s novella, The Mapwas my shortest read at a mere 57 pages.  However, my average book length is 326 pages, so that seems fairly solid.

A Tale of Two Cities has been read by over a million other people on GoodReads (a good thing, I think), making it the most popular book I read this year, but only two other people have read Rutherford Montgomery’s Midnight: Wild Stallion of the West!  

I’ve continued with my monthly Rearview Mirrors.  According to those, here are my favorite books of 2016:

Other 5-star Reads this year:

It’s always funny to me to look at these things – I had no idea that I’d tagged Agatha Christie for three different months’ top reads!  And it’s pretty obvious that I loved Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series – it is genuinely brilliant writing!  I also do have a bias towards books I’ve read before, I think, especially ones that I read as a kid – I’m not going to pretend like nostalgia doesn’t sometimes color my feelings towards a book!

51mjabvuvulOverall, my favorite books are older ones, but that’s partially because I don’t focus a lot on new books because I usually avoid the pressure of reviewing ARCs.  This year, The Domino Effect was my only ARC review, and I’ve realized that that’s actually okay with me.  There are way too many books out there for me to be obsessed with only reading the newest ones.  While I don’t mind reading a few a year, ARCs kind of stress me out.  I’d rather let the rest of you  bloggers do the work, and I’ll just read the ones that sound exciting!

As far as goals for the new year – my main one is just that I would like to read more nonfiction.  This year was really weak in that area.  Even if I can get it up to one nonfiction book a month, that will be progress over last year!  I’ve gotten super lazy about my reading.

My other big challenge for the year is to read all of Wodehouse’s works in published order.  I’ve been working on this for the last month or two, and you can see my progress on the page I have devoted to his books here.  A lot of these will be rereads for me, but that’s okay.  It’s pretty tough to read a Wodehouse book too many times!  :-D

Happy 2017 to all of you – thanks for reading, and keep your reviews coming.  Here’s to many happy books this year!