Final Push – December (a blog)

So here we are at the start of December and I find my Goodreads goal to be lofty, but just, possibly, within reach. Reading 100 books in 2020 would be such an accomplishment if I can just get to the finish line.

December 3, 2020 – 82/100

Goodreads suggests I’m 10 books behind schedule… I suggest I’ve just been issued one heck of a December challenge. Luckily I’ve got some time off work this month, but I’ve still got lots of work to do, house cleaning to accomplish and Christmas to pull off… Good luck… I’m going to count down the last 20 books of my challenge. I’m going to have to read almost a book a day for most of the month to make it. So this may not be a pretty blog, because I’ve got to focus most of my time on reading.

Book #80 (20 to go) – Crashed – K. Bromberg

A cute end to a very “racy” series. Started out strong, and even though it got a little weak by the end of the series, it was plenty entertaining, a quick and easy read, and the companion series on Passionflix was problematic, but distracting. So distracting, however, that it did put a serious speed bump on my reading goals.

Book #81 (19 to go) – Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare

This was a re-read, but was a little difficult to get through in good time. I always love this series, but for some reason it did take a bit to get through. I think these are pretty substantial books to be taking on this late in the year and may have to shelve most of my Shadowhunter reading goals to 2021.

Book #82 (18 to go) – Ghost Story – Peter Straub (finished Dec 2)

This book was disappointing. It took me FOREVER to get through, having started well before Halloween. I did like how everything came together and very much enjoyed the very beginning and very end of the book, but there was a lot of middle ground to muddle through.

September Wrap-Up (it’s been a while, folks!)

Well, when I last posted a wrap-up, it was the end of June and the beginning of Summer… I wish I could say that I just took a summer hiatus, but really, there’s plainly no excuse for why I didn’t post July or August wrap-up blogs. But onward and upward I always say!

A Quick Word about the Pandemic…

For those reading my page and saying “please God! not another pandemic rant!”… feel free to skip to the next heading. Here in Ontario we’ve just been told that we are officially in the second wave and that means more lockdowns, no more close contact with anyone outside of your home, etc.

In the spirit of Canada’s Thanksgiving (which, by the way is next weekend), I’ll start with some gratitude. I am grateful and very lucky to have a good job with a steady income throughout this pandemic. I am grateful that (so far) no one I love has been touched by this terrible illness or by the debilitating recession it has created. I am grateful to have young (not too young) children, that I can cuddle and hug whenever I do feel the need for human contact. And I’m grateful that I’m a natural introvert. There are actually so many things that I would like to hibernate away and do that it would probably fill several pandemics or at least a few more waves of this one. I’d love to read more – oh, so much more, be on here blogging more, exercising more, cooking from scratch more, cleaning my house more, hanging out with my kids more, watching movies with my husband more… so many things… But I acknowledge that these simple pleasures do make it so much easier to give up things like big family outings, vacations, community events. But I truly do feel for those who don’t have those things in their lives. Those who are going through real tragic events during this pandemic or who are feeling isolated and lonely. I do think that the next few months of varying lockdowns, less ability to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, less connection with loved ones as we stumble head-first into the holiday season will take a toll and while I’ve never been very good at expressing empathy, if you are struggling at this time, please take heart and know that I feel for you, am happy to speak with you about what’s going on, either through the comments on this page or more directly, if you need to and that we will get through this and see the rainbow on the other side of it. Hopefully as a more kind and resilient world community.

Back to the Books…

Enough ranting… here’s the goods – the September statistics:

Total Books Read: 12
Total Books Finished: 11
DNF: 0
To Be Continued in October: 1
Total Pages Read: 4,314
Average Pages/Day: 143
Hard Copy Books: 1
E-books: 6
Audiobooks: 5

September saw two 5-Star Reads, four 4-Star Reads, three 3-Star Reads and two 2-Star Reads. It was clearly the month of the audiobook, which after having not listened to any almost all summer long, I started off with “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”, but then totally dove into “A Very Punchable Face” by Colin Jost and was hooked.

Review-Worthy Books

There were quite a few winners this month, some of which, however, were re-reads, which I won’t go over again. My faves were.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

This book is my TOP READ for September and I wish I had the hard copy to lend out to friends and family – might have to be a Christmas plan.

The story follows a group of sisters (and one brother) who are taken from their river-shanty of a home and sold into adoption. It focuses both on the events leading up to and including the adoption and skips to their late-lives and subsequent generations and the discovery of the secret lives of their grandparents. It is a touching and disturbing tale at the same time. Even the picture on the cover of this book just reaches into my heart and squeezes. It’s definitely one to make you want to go into your kids’ bedroom in the middle of the night and squeeze them tight (in a non-stalker way of course)…

A Very Punchable Face – Colin Jost

This book was my second 5-Star Read of the Month. If you know and like Colin Jost or are a fan of Saturday Night Live, you’ll probably enjoy this quirky tale. I listened to it on audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed hearing Colin narrate his own stories. It was just a super-fun read. There were some laugh-out loud moments (and with headphones on, I’m sure I looked a little crazy) and some poignant stories that made me cry. I really enjoyed it and it was the key to my renewed interest in both audiobooks and autobiography / biography content.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

Although this book didn’t quite make it into my 5-Star Category, I couldn’t leave the blog without talking about this wonderful audiobook, the unique letter-writing format of the story and the wonderful stories and insight that this book brought into my life. It was simply a joy to listen to. I did a lot of extra driving around in my car to get through this book in record time, only to find myself wishing I had stretched it out more. It was a joy, especially considering it was about two people that I didn’t really know much about at all. Thank you for this glimpse into your lives and hearts.. It was wonderfully appreciated.

Closing Thoughts

I’m not even going to try to create an October TBR at this point – the draw towards “spooky” tales hasn’t yet taken hold of me (even after last year’s disappointing reads – maybe I’ll expand on that next time) and looking back at my July TBR created at the end of June, I don’t want to jinx my next reads.

I will be trying to get more content on my site and maybe do a site re-vamp over the next month. It has been fun sharing with you and I really enjoy the writing. I truly wish you all the best and hope that everyone stays safe and makes the most of the fall – here’s hoping for a bunch of cozy afternoons watching the leaves fall and the rain come down.

Take care…

Series Tete-a-Tete: After vs. Lux

Recently I started reading both the After series by Anna Todd and the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout at the same time. Initially, I was struck by a number of similarities in the tropes and story-lines followed, but where the After series became an obsession and I couldn’t put it down, the Lux series quickly became a disappointment and I struggled to finish it. It got me thinking… how did one get it so right while one got it so wrong?

First, a Warning About “After”

If you haven’t already read it, fair warning that “After” is a difficult story and deals with disturbing triggers of toxic relationships and emotional manipulation / abuse. I am a grown woman, with two young daughters and I would be very concerned if they were as obsessed with the book series as I was. It’s fine for me to be in love with the damaged boy that is Hardin Scott, but I come from it with an emotionally-mature and self-confident point of view. I would never encourage an impressionable young girl to read this and I can very much understand that for someone who went through that type of abuse, seeing glamourized in print is truly disgusting. It made me question writing this blog, but at the end of the day, I’m not responsible for everyone else’s emotional health and I truly enjoyed the series, so I am unapologetically supporting the crazy, wild and passionate love affair.

After vs. Lux – Story Overview (FYI – spoiler alert)

After is the story of Tessa, a university freshman, away from home for the first time in her life, who meets Hardin, a “rough-around-the-edges” boy. Throughout the series, we see their relationship fluctuate again and again from hot-and-steamy coming of age, to an unforgivable betrayal, to hateful, hurtful screaming matches, to pleading and pledges of redemption and back to hot-and steamy. Pretty much the entire series involves Tessa trying to break free from Hardin’s grasp, only to have him dig his claws into her and then break her heart and her spirit.

Lux is the story of Katy (who is frequently referred to as “Kat” or “Kitten”), who moves to a new town, which is, unbeknownst to her, inhabited by aliens. One of these aliens quickly befriends her and Katy inevitably falls in love with her best friend’s alien twin brother, Daemon. The story of the entire series revolves around Katy becoming a “hybrid”, and involves various forces and factions trying to contain them, use their mystical connection to their own purposes, and a war between alien / hybrid / human beings.

The Female Leads – Tessa vs. Katy

Tessa starts out just like almost any other YA heroine. She is a book-smart, organized “good girl”, innocent beyond anything you would expect of a first-year university student (I mean seriously? doesn’t anybody ever have sex with their high-school boyfriend or was that just me?). Tessa’s greatest qualities are that she loves so deeply that she can forgive just about anything and will do anything to help those she cares about and that she is resilient and somehow bounces back from the terrible, terrible hand life gives her at times. Tessa’s lesser qualities are that she is a doormat and repeatedly allows people to walk all over her and impose undue influence over her decisions. It starts with her mother, then Hardin, then her roommate, then her dad, then this guy she sort of sees in the middle. Tessa is never quite able to say “No” very convincingly. By the end of the series, Tessa’s world has basically imploded and although she goes on to make a life out of it, I would say that the foreshadowed concept that Hardin would “ruin” her is pretty on-point.

Katy pretty much stays status quo throughout the series. She’s very much portrayed as an average girl, just trying to do right by her mom, her man and her friends. She’s steadfast and consistent. Although she arguably becomes stronger throughout the series and certainly shows her own measure of resiliency, basically, she’s the same character at the end of the book series as she was at the beginning, just improved. Unfortunately, this makes Katy pretty forgettable.

The nod in this category does go to Lux, because although there’s not a ton of substance to Katy’s personality, at least she doesn’t throw everything away and at the end of the series, she is at least as well off as she was at the beginning, if not more powerful and stable.

The Male Lead – Hardin vs. Daemon

Anna Todd does a fabulous job of describing Hardin in a way that exudes sex, confidence and vulnerability – a potent cocktail indeed. Hardin is the prototypical contrast between that Uber-sexy, hot guy with all the right moves and lines and the broken, damaged boy who is needy, insecure and very, very vulnerable. He has clung to Tessa as his life-line and there are many times in the story where she is the only thing holding him afloat.

Daemon is portrayed as this sexy, powerful person… I say person, because the descriptions of him and his role in the Lux (alien) society suggest that he is a fully-mature, man while he also is a high-school student and falling in love for the first time… so it’s difficult to type either “Boy” or “man” when talking about him. Like Katy, Daemon is much more consistent a personality than his comparator. He is steady and stead-fast in his love for Katy, but he is not in any way “needy” or dependent on her.

I’m not sure which male lead has a more desirable personality, but for sure the nod goes to Hardin for the writer’s description of him and the many layers of his persona.

The Key Relationship

Tessa and Hardin are on-again / off-again so many times it’s enough to make you dizzy, but the very best parts of their relationship seem to be the in-between. I’ve always been a sucker for will-they / won’t-they (mostly when it ends up that they will) and this book series certainly delivers in that regard. Their relationship is smoking-hot, both in a literary way of describing their early encounters and Tessa’s introduction into various physical activities to the burning down of Hardin’s childhood home in a fit of anger. Is their relationship totally toxic and absolutely doomed? Yes… But something about them and their pure desire / need for each other just has me rooting for them all the more.

Katy and Daemon have a number of ups and downs in their relationship as well, as they fumble towards true love. But there’s a level of inevitability in this love story that makes it certain right from the beginning that these two will end up together. They take two steps forward and one step back for the entire series, but overall the conflicts between them quite frankly just become annoying, since they seem so petty in the overall scope of what they’re dealing with.

One of the interesting perspectives of reading the first book of each of these series at the same time was the parallels… Where both female leads were talking about what a jerk their male counter was and how what he had done was unforgivable and irreversible. But where Tessa’s complaints against Hardin seemed absolutely legitimate and warranted, Katy’s came of insincere and whiny. The only thing that Daemon did was be rude to her one time when she knocked on his door. One time… In the entire series… As far as I can see that’s the only thing he did to push her away and man, oh man, did he ever pay for that one. Hardin did so many terrible things to sabotage his relationship with Tessa.

In fairness, the Lux series has a lot more going on than the After series did in terms of dealing with alien / human / hybrid / origin beings, all of which are in conflict with each other and all leading up to a major battle over world supremacy. But in my reading, the core relationship is always key and the After series just truly captivated me more than the Lux series.

The “Bet”s

One of the parallel features of the first book in each series is the concept of an inappropriate “bet” wagered regarding affairs of the heart between the main characters.

In “After”, the final chapter (seriously, last chance spoiler alert), the “bet” is revealed that Hardin and his friends had a bet, as part of a game of Truth or Dare (of all crazy things), that he would take her virginity. It is a vulgar concept and truly horrifying, especially the details in the book (which aren’t divulged in the movie) about the “bloody sheets”… eeeeeewwwww!

In “Obsidian” (Lux #1), Daemon makes a bet with Katy that she would declare that she is “irrevocably in love” with him by New Years. Pretty tame and innocent stuff compared to the “After” bet. But this bet has two things working against it… 1. the “irrevocably in love” just SCREAMS “Twilight” to me, where I know the line is featured in the movie, even if I can’t quite remember if it’s word-for-word in the book. 2. It just doesn’t have the jaw-dropping, compelling “hand-me-over-the-next-book-in-the-series” drama to it.

Quotable Quotes and Cheesy Lines

The number 1, King of the Ring, terrible cheesy line comes from all the Lux novels, written possibly a thousand times through the series. And that is Daemon calling Katy “Kitten”… OMG! I get that it is sort of a term of endearment as kittens are cute and cuddly, but it is so demeaning… (although maybe not as demeaning as betting to take someone’s virginity – just sayin’). But it grated on my soul time and time again throughout the entire series… I almost giggled every time I saw it and if I had liked Katy as a main character any more than I did or if I had wanted to see her develop into a strong, independent woman, I would have been horrified.

The second cheesiest thing in the first instalment of Lux was Daemon bringing Katy a rose to school… I get that this is a pretty high school calibre move (and maybe I would have swooned over a guy doing it in high school if I could ever stop my cheeks from flaming in embarrassment). But Katy’s response “A fucking rose? really?” killed me…

The last cheese-worthy quote from Obsidian also comes from our heroine, Katy: “Daemon had to prove his feelings for me were real and he did… finally. He hadn’t been the nicest person when we first met and he had to really make up for that. Momma didn’t raise a pushover”… Once again, this had me screaming into my e-reader that he was slightly rude answering the door to a stranger… get over it!

On the other hand, as much as After did have some pretty lame foundations, two quotes I found actually compelling:

“It’s ironic really: the man who hates the world the mot is most loved by it”.

I LOVE this quote… It’s so sweet and poignant. And I do feel that it is a pretty true statement of the way the world works.

“He prays that she will take every single word to heart, and that maybe, just maybe, she will still love him after everything they have gone through. He hopes that she will be able to remember why she loved him, why she fought so hard for him”.

This quote just broke my heart for Hardin. It is a good representation of why even though he is a terrible person and the most horrible boyfriend, I can still hope that it all works out for him in the end.

In Conclusion…

In case I haven’t been abundantly clear, I LOVED the After Series, even though it is definitely problematic and damaged. The Lux Series was well hyped and has lots of books, but the overall characters were mostly cookie-cutter and for all the terrible things happening in their world, they were just too stable and consistent.

If you have read either of these or both of these series, let me know your thoughts… Also, always looking to add to my quotable quotes section. Thanks for reading!

June Wrap Up

Although mother nature let me down most of the spring (note a COMPLETE lack of posts all spring long), June brought with it the lazy, hazy summer days that make me want to curl up on the swing chair and RELAX with a good book.

June reading was mostly a few “romance” themed series, some good, some bad, and only one off-genre read, which turned out to be the best of the bunch. I’m hoping to do a comparison of the romance series for my next installment, so today’s reviews will be pretty basic.

June Statistics

By the numbers, June was a GREAT month.

Total Books Read: 10
Total Books Finished: 9
DNF: 1
To Be Continued in July: 0
Total Pages Read: 4,406
Average Pages/Day: 147
Hard Copy Books: 1
E-Books: 8
Audio Books: 0

June was a month of highs and lows in the reading world. I had two 5-Star reads, three 4-Star reads and then five completely disappointing books. The only consistent thing was all my book ratings were a surprise. The same thing happened with the volume of my reading. I would either plow through an entire book in a day or barely turn a page.

The difference this month for me, was that when I was binge-reading, it was because i couldn’t wait to get through the content, not because I was trying to increase my stats or improve chances at making my Goodreads Goal.

Review-Worthy Books Read in June

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This book is my TOP READ for June. It came recommended by my mother, which is usually not the most reliable source of an endorsement, but man, she hit the nail on the head with this one. Opened this book on a Saturday afternoon when my husband was away fishing and didn’t put it down until the last page was turned on Sunday evening.

The story is about a girl, basically abandoned by her family in the deep south, who learns to fend for herself, is deeply connected with her natural surroundings and tries to connect with the outside world, to mostly disastrous ends. On the surface, it didn’t seem like my cup of tea, but Delia Owens gets you so caught up with this girl’s life and very invested in her well-being and the underlying relationships / romances that you just can’t turn away.

I know this book was highly acclaimed and well-received in the book community, but if you’re going to bypass it because it’s not in your wheel-house, I encourage you to at least give it a few chapters.

July TBR (where do I go from here)

I know that I need to finish the Lux Series so that I can complete my romance series comparison post, but from there I’m a little adrift for real goals. The Lux Series is the most complicated series I’ve ever tried to read (and as a fan of the Shadowhunters Universe, that’s saying a lot). But I think I want to stick to the main storylines and then I’ll consider if any of the sub-books (i.e. books from another perspective, prequel books) are of interest to me.

  • Opal (Lux #3) – Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Origin (Lux #4) – Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Opposition (Lux #5) – Jennifer L. Armentrout

I also have The Happy Ever After Playlist from Abby Jimenez that should be coming off hold from the Library this month.

Closing Thoughts

As life and business starts to come back on-line this month, I hope that that the slower, easier pace of life continues and that i get a nice summer of hanging out with my girls, swinging in the breeze and reading / dozing through many lazy afternoons. Take care and stay safe everyone!

Done with March – Monthly Wrap-Up / April TBR

March by the Numbers

Total Books Read: 6
Total Books Finished: 3
DNF: 0
To be continued in April: 3
Total pages read: 1,787
Average pages / Day: 58
Hard copy books: 2
E-books: 1
Audio Books: 3

I’m sure that my opinion on March is generally shared world-wide, when I say it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month… (thanks Judith Viorest). As this blog is book-centric, I will avoid too much commentary on the pandemic issue, just to say that here in Canada, we’re just getting started, so it doesn’t look like April is going to be much better.

That being said, you would think that with social distancing and stay-at-home initiatives being touted at every turn, that it could have been an excellent month for reading… you could think that… but you’d be wrong. March came with some great weather to start and I was feeling optimistic and very much in the mood to explore outside and enjoy the weather. I had done a bit of a push at the end of February, so for the first week of March, I didn’t even want to pick up a book.

But enough of the excuses…

One way or another, March is now done, my Goodreads goal is still on-target and with April here and not much to do on the horizon, I’m hopeful to get some real numbers in this month.

Review-Worthy Books Read in March

The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary

This book was my TOP READ for March, actual my top listen since I listened to the audiobook, but that’s just semantics.

This book was light and fun and just a good time all around. I enjoyed it very much on audiobook. All in all I gave it 4-stars.

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

This book was definitely a journey. I am very grateful that my library extended all book rentals until April 5 (and probably longer now) because it was certainly not an easy read.

The Starless Sea is the kind of book that even before I finished the last page, I was thinking that I needed to start over again to catch some of the nuances I missed out on the first time.

I give this book 4-Stars. Even though it left me confused as to the actual storyline at times, it was very enjoyable and I very much do want to read it again to see if some of the things I thought were real were actually real. It’s difficult to explain, but if you’ve ready the book, you might understand.

April TBR (a.k.a. “Maybe Baby”)

Sometimes I don’t know why I even attempt a TBR, but in these topsy-turvy days, I find a strong need to exert control over some small portion of my life, so looks like my TBR might be that area.

Firstly, the books that I started in March (and in honestly, almost finished)…

I Found You – by Lisa Jewell

Circe – by Madeline Miller

Becoming – by Michelle Obama

So far I am thoroughly enjoying the latter two books and am excited to write about my experiences with them. Other books I’m looking at for April are…

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – by Jenny Han (this needs to be a quick read because it’s due back at the library in 9 days)

The Bane Chronicles – by Cassandra Clare

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – by J.K. Rowling (an attempt to get more involved with what my kids are into)

Other than that, it will likely be a matter of what I find available at the library.

In Closing…

I wish everyone to stay safe and stay sane in these crazy, trying times. Nothing beats a book for getting you out of a funk (or putting you in one if you pick something sad enough). Take care!

February “Slump”-tistics – February Wrap-Up / March TBR

February by the Numbers

Total Books Read – 10
Total Books Finished – 8
DNF – 1
To be Continued in March – 1
Total Pages Read – 3,301
Average Pages / Day – 114
Hard Copy Books – 1
E-Books – 4
Audio Books – 3

I wouldn’t say that I officially ran into a reading slump in February, but generally for me, February is just an overall slump of a month… Fortunately, for the most part, the books I read were stellar and highly entertaining. I didn’t give out any 5-Star ratings, but I don’t know if that’s just because I’m picky or maybe because I’m still a little slumpy.

Top Reads of February, 2020

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

In a nutshell, The Rooster Bar is a story about three law-school drop-outs who figure out that the education that they’re banking on to get them back in the red from school loans is basically defunct and a dead-end career. From there, the students embark on a series of very questionable life choices, which lead them farther and farther down the rabbit hole.

Now admittedly, I know absolutely NOTHING about law school, becoming a lawyer or having hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt looming over my head, so as far as I know, this story could either be dead on the mark and nearly and expose of the state of affairs… OR…. this could be about as crazy a fantasy novel as flying monkeys… The important thing is that John Grisham SOLD me on the plot being believable. I went on a wild adventure with the three main characters and each time they were faced with a life decision, I was on board saying “yeah, that might work out”, only to be dashed against the rocks again and again.

It was an incredibly entertaining journey… Just glad that I didn’t have my student debts or future prospects riding on it.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This book was the only book that I read in hard copy format in February, mostly because it took the better part of February to read it. This is the first book EVER that I am genuinely glad that I watched the T.V. Series before reading the book. it was a great help in getting through this, because I’m not sure I could have kept all the characters straight without that reference in my head. But the story was very solid, the T.V. Series clearly kept fairly true to the story and format of the books and I found the overall reading experienced enhanced and enjoyable. I’m not sure if March is going to be the right time to take on the second book in the series, but I’ll try not to leave myself hanging as long as I had to wait for the T.V. Seasons to be released.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I borrowed this on a short (7-day) rental from the local library and was just hoping that I could get it done before it had to go back and be put on hold or purchase it. I had heard mixed reviews about this one and wasn’t sure I’d be able to dig right into the plot. The plot, however, was pleasantly surprising. I found that I immediately became invested in multiple characters, on both sides of the many, many disputes / conflicts in this story.

Sitting here, I find myself struggling to describe this book or its plot lines. without crossing into spoiler territory. I guess what I can say is that it’s a lively, fast-paced story about the definition of family and what makes a “family” from many different perspectives.

March TBR

I’m not sure exactly what I’m planning to read in March yet. So far I haven’t got too far down my 2020 TBR, so maybe it’s time to pick up the first Harry Potter book, since I have them in hard copy and ebook, or maybe try out A Curse So Dark and Lonely. I’m nearly finished The Flatshare which is an exceptional audio book, but then I have a big, gaping hole in my TBR shelf. Maybe I’ll give myself a few days into March and see how I feel. Right now I’m just so glad to be done with February, that it’s hard to focus on reading when there are so many other things to do (spring cleaning)…

Book-Nook Call Out:

Looking for a really good “can’t put down” page-turner book to kick off March. Open to any suggestions, but something a few years older that I might find in my local library’s collection would be appreciated…

Thanks for reading this… hope everyone’s out of their February blahs and fingers crossed for an early spring into March!

February is Coming – January Wrap-Up / February TBR

January by the Numbers

Total Books Read – 15
Total Books Finished – 12
DNF – 0
To be Continued in February – 3
Total Pages Read – 4,951
Average Pages / Day – 159.7
Hard Copy Books – 5
E-Books – 4
Audiobooks – 3

January was a stellar reading month. Four 5-Star reads and Zero books that I did not finish or just barely got through. It was a big month for fiction and at least one book that I raced through at a ridiculous pace because I just couldn’t put it down. Just as I’m not going to waste my time reading books that I don’t enjoy in 2020, I’m also not going to waste my time reviewing books that weren’t at the very, very top of my list or that weren’t so compelling I couldn’t resist writing about them. On that note, here are my top / 5-Star Reads of January, 2020.

The Raven Cycle (Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Blue, The Raven King) – Maggie Stiefvater

I actually finished The Raven Boys in 2020, but as I finished the remainder of the series in January, and the details of where one book ended and the next began is a little fuzzy, I am reviewing this as a series more than as individual books. Overall this series was everything I had hoped it would be. I almost instantly fell in love with the various characters and enjoyed following them on their various journeys throughout this adventure.

Strengths of this series definitely were character development and building twists and turns into the story that I never expected, but did follow logic and could be traced throughout the earlier stories. I love a good plot twist, but only if it is something that feels “organic”, not just a twist for the sake of a twist or something that no one EVER could have guessed.

The only weakness of this series is the final book, in that I found that the tension of everything falling apart and going wrong built up so deliciously only to be spoiled by what I thought was an easy way out. I was generally just no satisfied with the ending, but since I was so invested in the characters, I still couldn’t help myself from feeling relief and I certainly would have been devastated if things had just ended in utter devastation.

Series overall gets 4-stars. 5-stars for the first 3 books, 3-stars for the final. That math may not work out, but the end of a series is pretty darn important.

After I Do – Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book had to be my very, very favourite read of January, 2020, which was a little unexpected because I wasn’t too sure if I was up for an adult contemporary romance / un-romance… not sure what the actual category would be.

This was an intriguing story about a married couple who decided to take a “break” from their marriage to see if it would bring them together or let them drift apart. I found myself strongly connecting to both of the main characters’ points of view. This book took me on a whirlwind of emotion and feelings from fierce independence, to escapism, to chasing romance to loving a life-partner. It was a great read and the easiest 5-Star review I’ve given out this year.

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

I never would have come across this book without watching booktube videos from Jesse George, @Jessethereader. This book was completely out of my comfort zone and I couldn’t be happier having gone there… The content just gripped me from the start. I’ve already blogged about this book…

February TBR

From my heading photo, you can probably guess at least one of the books on my February TBR. I started reading A Game of Thrones in January, and fingers crossed I can finish it by the end of the month. That should take up most of my hard copy book reading time. For e-books, I’m currently reading “Time’s Convert”, which is an extension of Dorothy Harkness’ “All Souls Trilogy”. That was one of my favourite series of all time, and I wasn’t aware that they had made more books following this beloved cast of characters, so I’m very invested in that already. On audiobook, I’m currently into a re-read of “Clockwork Prince” and will for sure get done that and “Clockwork Princess”.

Other books I’m hoping to read in February are “The Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern, which I have already taken out of the library, “Glass Sword”, the next book in the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard and “P.S. I Love You” by Cecelia Ahern.

Have you read the “All Souls Trilogy”? I guess with the t.v. series for “A Discovery of Witches”, maybe the series is garnering a second life, but it was one of the first series that I used to painfully wait from book release to book release.

2020 Goals and TBR

Okay, call me a cheater…

Is it fair to write your 2020 goals and tbr post more than halfway through January??? Sure it is… Maybe not a January goals and tbr but there’s no extra points for posting early and at least I’m past the post-new-years-resolution phase of the year.

A Little of my Reading History

I was a cute, young, avid reader… I remember reading the Little House on the Prarie Series in grades 1 and 2, jumping into the Anne of Green Gables Series and buying / reading such literary gems as Sweet Valley High and The Baby-Sitters Club through my middle grade years… I read, I wrote, I loved EVERYTHING literary… Through high school I read a lot of Stephen King and through university I took english and classics classes just to continue on my literary journey while pursuing an engineering degree…

Needless to say, I loved reading… But once I got into a career and motherhood, it was all downhill from there… I can probably count on my fingers (both hands though) the number of books I read in 2018.

Mid-2019, I was perusing youtube looking for new and interesting romance tv-series excerpts I was addicted to watching and I came across a video referring to “booktube”. Now I’m not OLD, but I’m old enough that I wasn’t sure if that was part of youtube or a separate app.

Well I figured that out and watching that lead me to downloading goodreads and I set a challenge to read 1 book per month (which I thought was a lot)… Reading 1 book lead to reading 2, lead to reading quite a few, ending 2019 with a total of 32 books read.

The moral of this very long, unfocused rant, is that I don’t have a ton of context by which to set my 2020 and beyond reading goals.

Finally, get on with the 2020 goals already

I’ve watched a lot of youtube videos and read a lot of blogs about people’s various 2020 reading goals. As much as I like some of the laudable goals of reading more of certain genres, authors, new reads, clearing tbrs, etc., I accept that I don’t really know enough of my own reading style to clearly set such challenges… So for me this year, it really all comes down to the numbers. On January 1 I set my goodread goals at 52 (1 book / week – I know, I’m not all that original)… By the first week, I was 4 books in and knew that I could do WAY better than that… So I changed it to 78 (1.5 books / week)… Now 3 weeks in and I think I can… I think I can… I think I can:

100 Books

Yes, you read it right… I said it… I’m trying to go from less than 10 to 100 books per year in less than 2 years… It will take a lot of commitment, but there are SO MANY BOOKS I want to read, I would be cheating myself if I didn’t try… And I’m certainly not someone who wants to set a goal that is easy / almost certain to be achieved.

So that’s it… there are lots of books that I’m interested in reading. I want to complete Cassandra Clare’s “The Dark Artifices” series, I want to get into “The Diviners” and lots of other books that I have gleaned from all my youtube / blogging watching. By next year I should know enough about what I want to read to be able to established more varied and colourful goals.

Thanks for reading this unending rant… best wishes to everyone for a successful, book-filled 2020… I’d love any reading suggestions for either 2020 released or older books, as I have a lot of years to make up for…

A Monster Calls… Be ready for tears

Just finished “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness. Oh my goodness my heart may never beat the same. I rate it 5 Stars and 1,000,000 tears. Having given this book 5 stars out of 5, makes me re-think my complete rating system because there are not many books that can even come close to holding a candle to how much I was affected by this book.

A Monster Calls is an incredibly poignant story about a young boy who’s mother is ill and how this illness affects all aspects of his life. He is haunted by nightmares / not nightmares of a monster who visits him at the same time each night.

Although the basic plot of this book is pretty straightforward and it is by no means a mystery, the trip to get there is a tangled web of reality, fantasy and delusion. The characters and atmosphere drag you in and won’t let you go.

Fair warning, this story is disturbing… If anyone is thinking that this is a story that might help someone going through a rough time with either their own health or the health of a loved one, I DO NOT recommend this read. I fully admit that I don’t know anything about grief or grief counselling, but I was affected enough being in a very balanced and good point in my life and consider it akin to reading “The Rainbow Bridge” when you have an aging, beloved pet.

It is a dark, dark story (in case you couldn’t tell by the colour scheme of this review), but is beautifully written and full of meaningful messages, such as the one above, in that there’s no harm done in thinking terrible, negative things, as long as you don’t act on them.

After that, it’s time to pull out a light, comedy or romance book to cleanse my palette… thanks for reading!

Top 10 Reads of 2019

When I was younger, I had a vision to have read every book in the library. At some point I realized that that wasn’t going to be achievable so I decided to try to read all the New Releases to keep up on all new matter. Eventually I realized that couldn’t possibly happen even if I read all day, every day, exclusively. Then there were approximately 10 years where I hardly read at all.

Where this history of my reading leads is that when I picked up the reading habit again in 2019, I had a LOT of very excellent material to work through that had been missed in my absence. When I picked books to read in 2019, it was largely based on those books that got me excited on booktube, bookstagram and goodreads. I’ve been working through some of the most recommended reads and those whose reviews sounded like gems. Along the way though, a few surprise finds also made it in to my Top 10. I make no claim that these are the best written books or that they are even solid reads on a larger scale, but these are my Top 10 books I read in 2019, regardless of their actual rankings:

#10 – Carve the Mark – Veronica Roth

This book was a re-read for me. I actually meant to pick up another book, but by the time I realized what book this was, I was invested in the storyline again and couldn’t really remember how the series ended. By the time I got through the second book in the series – The Fates Divide, I remembered why I couldn’t remember the conclusion – because in my opinion it was an unremarkable / forgettable end to this story that started out so strong in Carve the Mark. All in all, this book still makes me feel good and is a solid contended in the Top 10.

#9 – Skipping Christmas – John Grisham

This was the only other re-read on my Top 10 List. I started this book as a selection for the #ohwhatfun readathon, in the midst of all the crazy, Christmas fun, and thoroughly enjoyed it again. Maybe next year I’ll have to forgo all the presents, decorations and mayhem for a carribean cruise.

#8 – Talking As Fast As I Can – Lauren Graham

This was the first audiobook that I listened to, which was read by the author themselves and it was a FANTASTIC journey with Lauren, who really sounded like a best friend in the back of my head…

Obviously, this book is for fans of Lauren’s hit show, Gilmore Girls, and if that wasn’t your thing, really, REALLY, don’t waste your time, but it was a fantastic story and a great trip down memory lane. Well done!

#7 – Roar (Thirty Women, Thirty Stories)- Cecelia Ahren

This book was truly a random pick off the library shelf and clearly has a strong, feminism leaning, so if that’s not your thing, then totally bypass this suggestion, but for the most part I found the stories incredibly cute, funny and insightful. I would say that probably 75% of the stories were gems and fantastic, however there were a few, particularly near the end of the book, that just didn’t do it for me. But for a random pick, I was thoroughly impressed and entertained.

#6 – Kingdom of Ash – Sarah J. Maas

In preparation for this final book of the series, I did a complete series re-read in 2018 / 2019 because I knew that I had skimmed over some parts of the previous stories to get to this point. The re-read and the series conclusion did NOT disappoint!

Probably my favourite part of this book was, let’s say a character “evolution” more than a “development”. So many of the characters ended this book in a different frame of mind / role than I had expected them to at the beginning of the book. The fact that this series featured several different love interests / plot lines that actually made me change who I was hoping would match up is a huge plus for the storytelling, because I am usually very loyal to the first matchings and can’t get away from that… Just typing about this series gives me all the feels again and makes me think about another re-read for 2020.

#5 and #4 – Clockwork Princess / Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare

Although the second book of the Infernal Devices series (Clockwork Prince) didn’t actually make my Top 10 list, it was still a solid read, but I just found myself less invested in that story as the others.

Clockwork Angel, at #5, made me fall in love with the Shadowhunter Universe again, and made me forgive Cassandra Clare for writing about something other than Clary and Jace.

And Clockwork Princess, at #4, was just a wonderful read, that I was completely mesmerized in and couldn’t tear myself away from. I laughed, I cried, I cheered, it was a wonderful experience. And the tie-ins to the “The Mortal Instruments” series, which happens years in the future, were gems that maybe I should have guessed at, but it had been a while since I had last re-read the original series.

#3 – The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Okay, I’ll admit that I had read sooooooooo many great reviews of this book, that I was almost afraid that if I ended up liking it, I would be pandering to the court of public opinion. I had picked it up as an e-book several times and just couldn’t really get into it… until I discovered the audiobook gem that is this story being narrated by death, who apparently has a german accent.

At the end of the day, I know that this was a great read, because parts of it keep coming to mind randomly as I’m thinking or seeing something entirely unreleated, even weeks after completing the story. Also, it taught me a few choice curse words in german that my family doesn’t know so there’s that bonus!

#2 – The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys, and in fact the entire The Raven Cycle series, was a book / series that I was excited to read based on booktube recommendations. I was completely expecting this to be a light, easy-reading, YA romance that would make me feel all squishy inside and get through super-quick.

The truth is, whether you agree with me or not, that this is actually a solid read. The story is very well developed, with captivating characters and just a smidge of romance to keep my heart a-flutter. This being now several days into 2020, I can say that I’ve completed the 2nd book and am now well on my way into the 3rd and the remainder of the series so far is perfectly in-line with my comments of the first book.

So glad that I picked this gem up…

#1 – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

If you had asked me at the beginning of 2019 if my top read would be a hardcover, e-book or audiobook, audio would have been my absolute last choice, however this was an excellent audiobook with a fantastic narrator. I only read this book via audiobook, because it was one of the relevant titles I had heard of that was also available at the library when I was looking for something to listen to. I doubt that I would have picked up either the hardcover or e-book format.

This was a great story, with a great message, even though I do feel like some of Hannah’s antics were problematic and I come from different stock in terms of how I dealt with bullying situations when I was a teenager. This book was so good, I’ve added it to my Netflix listing to watch the series.