Friday, January 19, 2018

Saturday Snapshot - January 20

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
You know what I have after the kids have been sick and we're still trying to get back on schedule?  No pictures, that's what.  I was shocked when I looked at my camera roll and realize that I hadn't taken a single non-book-for-instagram picture this week.  

What to do?  Well, I noticed that my Prime Photos app showed me what pictures were taken on this day (Friday) in years past.  Apparently, January 19 was never a big picture day for me, but I did find a few from 2010 and 2011 of my kids when they were little that I could share.  So, enjoy!

2010 - My daughter was 11 months old

2011 - My daughter was 23 months old and my son was 3.5 months old
I'm pretty sure I'll have something more interesting next week!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: "A Distant Heart" by Sonali Dev

A Distant Heart (Bollywood #4) Sonali Dev
Date Finished: January 4, 2018
Date Published: December 26, 2017
ISBN: 9781496705761
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Source: Personal Copy / Amazon
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Fairy tale retellings, novels set in India, spunky heroines

Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen-years-old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul's deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances. 

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart. 

My Thoughts:
There is always a danger when you are waiting anxiously for a book that it won't live up to your expectations.  Sonali Dev set the bar incredibly high with her previous books and there is always that worry that the next one will be a weak link in the chain.  Fortunately, Dev is better than that and this book is an excellent conclusion to her Bollywood series.

First things first, this is not a standalone novel.  It really is necessary to read the previous book, A Change of Heart, before starting this one as the plot actually begins in that book (and it you really should read The Bollywood Bride before A Change of Heart.  It isn't necessary to read the first book in the series, A Bollywood Affair, before reading the others--but you really should because it is awesome!).

I will say that I had a minor issue, completely of my own making, between these two books.  Rahul is introduced in A Change of Heart, and I pictured him completely differently than he's presented here.  This is not Dev's fault--nothing in her previous book contradicts how his character develops here.  Instead, it was what I put on him in the previous book.  The fact that I recently did an audio re-read of A Change of Heart and the narrator used a much older sounding voice for him didn't help.  Again, this wasn't a problem with the book, but something I had to adjust to.  Once I got used to him, I really enjoyed Rahul.  I found him to be much deeper than we usually see with romance heros.  I have to admit that I fell a little bit in love with him--not that I want Kimi out of the way, mind you!

Kimi, oh Kimi!  I need to start this by saying that I adored her--but I'm not sure I can describe her in a way that doesn't make her sound a little annoying.  She reminded me a bit of one of those overly cheerful people that seem oblvious to others troubles (but in a good way!)  She is more than a bit self-centered (but in a good way!) and she definitely is a bit spoiled (but in a good way!)  I told you--it isn't going to sound like she'd be likable, but she really is!  She is the sort of person who just want to have around you, who would do anything for those she cares about.

While there is a dark central plot here (can you get darker than black market organ theft?), this is one of the lighter books in the series.  It is a retelling of Rapunzel and I loved how Dev allowed Kimi and Rahul's relationship to grow.  Things start as a friendship--and a real friendship  So often, we get "friendships" which are really just precursors to someone wanting to get into someone else's pants.  Kimi and Rahul's, however, seems much more organic.

This is the only book in the Bollywood series to be set completely in India (well, nearly--there is one short foray to Hong Kong).  The description is so detailed that you feel like you are there.  I could almost smell the spices that permeate the air.  Most striking is how well Dev illustrates the differences between the haves and have-nots in this society.  So, while this is a retelling of Rapunzel, it also has strong Dirty Dancing overtones, and there is nothing bad about Dirty Dancing overtones!

I think I say this in every review I've done of Dev's books, but I just love her writing.  Both Kimi and Rahul's personalities are wrapped up in the words that Dev uses.  Plus, there are just some lovely passages.  This particular one hit me so strongly that I marked it in my book (and I never mark up my books!):

"Contrary to what people believed about her, she didn't believe that she was the center of her universe.  She was in fact someone whose entire existence focused on wanting a universe she could be part of."

See!  I told you that Kimi was fabulous, despite everything I also said about her!

I can't recommend this book enough--actually, I can't recommend this entire series enough.  Sonali Dev is the author who got me back into reading romance, and I will be forever grateful to her for that.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Review: "The Life We Bury" by Allen Eskens

 The Life We Bury Allen Eskens
Dated Finished: December 10, 2017
Date Published: October 14, 2014
ISBN: 9781616149987
Genre: Thriller
Source: Book Club
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Crime fiction, slightly gory thrillers, Netflix's Making a Murderer

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same.

Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory. 

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

My Thoughts:
As you can probably tell from the synopsis of this novel, there is some pretty dark subject matter in play here.  I understand how that might turn some readers off, and there are definitely a few tough passages in this book, but this is a surprisingly beautiful novel.

The premise of the book is simple, but also believable.  Sometimes, thrillers lose me at the get-go because the set up is so manufactured, but this is not the case here.  I can totally buy a kid walking into a nursing home to find someone to talk to and being directed to "that" resident.  I also found Joe stepping into Carl's case to make sense for the character Joe was.  "Citizen detectives" are hard to sell, but Joe is one of the successful ones.

Even though the story centers around Carl's case, Joe is the star of the novel--and he's just the kind of character that resonates with me.  He has too much going on in his life, but he's also a typical college kid--completely with a crush on the girl next door.  You immediately root for him and Eskens does an expert job writing Joe so that we acutely feel the stress that he is put under as the novel progresses.

The key to a good thriller, to me, is pacing and this book has that down.  Too many times, I've found myself mired in too-long chapters in thrillers, but Eskens structures his book perfectly.  The chapters are never too long, and they become shorter as the tension increases.  Honestly, the shorter chapters actually make the book harder to put down.

Yes, there are some tough passages in this book, but I didn't feel that any were overly salacious.  This is a crime novel and some boundaries do need to push.  Eskens pushed those boundaries just as far as they needed to go, and that is part of why this book worked so hard for me.

It is hard for me to go too much further into the review, because I don't want to spoil anything (instead, I want you all to read it!), but trust me when I say that this is one of the best thrillers I've read. It is sophisticated enough for those well-versed in crime fiction, but still accessible for those who do not normally read these sorts of books.  I would encourage everyone to give this book a try, I doubt that you'll be disappointed!

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? January 15

Greetings from the germ factory!  As I wrote in my last Saturday Snapshot post, both kids are sick (although one is doing better than the other).  Fortunately, they are having a 4 day weekend from school, so they haven't missed anything...yet.  I'm hoping at least one of them will be ready to go back on Tuesday.

Pretty much, someone has been sick since the beginning of the school year.  Last week it was me, with another bug (which is why I had no IMWAYR post up), and now the kids.  Logic would say my husband is next, but he seems to dodge this bullet every single time.  Can you tell I'm a little bitter?

Anyway, the upside of this is that we are having a very quiet weekend, which gives me a chance to catch up on some reviews, get this post written, and maybe--JUST MAYBE--get some reading done.  Yay for that!

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.  Please visit her blog to link up and join the fun!  Also, if you are participating in the meme, please be sure to link to your blog in your comment so that I can visit!

I have 3 books in "active" mode right now.  The first is The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner.  This one is one of those great female friendship books that probably fell under the erstwhile category of Chick Lit (I'm one of those people who has retired that term.  Instead, I consider them to be either Romance or, like this one, Contemporary Fiction).  I'm not far into it yet, but I'm finding it to be quick read, which is great for 2 reasons.  One, the book I just finished ended up being a more trying read than I expected and needed something that was a change of pace.  Second, I have a lot of books that I need to get through for reviews, so anything that goes quickly is a great help to my schedule.

She Regrets Nothing looks to be one of those rich people in New York novels that I am on the fence about.  When they are good, they are really good.  When they are bad, they end up getting thrown against the wall (which will not happen with this one, but only because I'm reading it on my Kindle).  I'm only 10% into this one, so I'm not sure which way it is going to go yet.  Stay tuned!

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas is a novel I've been meaning to read forever.  I gave it to my father-in-law for a Jolabokaflod book last year, thinking he might pass it back to me--but no!  He loved it so much he gave it to someone else!  Then, my friend mentioned that it was actually better in audio, so I decided to cash in an audible credit to give it a try.  Wil Wheaton narrates it and he is surprisngly great.  It's not a surprise because I thought he wouldn't be very good, but surprising because he does a lot of things that irritate me about other narrators.  He speaks quickly, sometimes forgets to breath, and it sometimes sounds like he's seeing these words for the first time.  However, instead of just being a bad narrator, it comes across as he's just so darn excited to be reading this book!  And, frankly, that is infectious and is keeping me tuned into this story.

So, that is my reading for right now.  I'm trying to be more disciplined about finding reading time, so I'm hoping to have a new slate of books next week.  In the meantime, here is what I posted on the blog since my last update.

Tuesday, January 2 - 2017 in Review and 2018 Goals
Thursday, January 4 - Book Review: "Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life" by Shelley Tougas
Saturday, January 6 - Saturday Snapshot
Tuesday, January 9 - Book Review: "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas
Thursday, January 11 - Book Review: "A Piece of the World" by Christina Baker Kline
Saturday, January 13 - Saturday Snapshot

Friday, January 12, 2018

Saturday Snapshot - January 13

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Well, 2018 has come in with a whimper for us.  Pretty much someone in our house has been sick every day this year.  My kids had the day off from school today--I had planned to get some errands done, but we ended up spending it in the doctor's office where both kids tested positive for Flu--but they tested positive for different strains!  This not only means that my husband and I are now exposed to 2 different versions of the flu, but the kids can reinfect each other!  As a result, I've had to quarantine the kids away from each other.  Luckily, we have 2 TV's in the house--and sickness means unlimited screen time--so at least THEY are happy.

All this is to say that I just don't have very interesting pictures today.  We've had to cancel a lot of plans and activities because of illness, so the best I can do right now are a couple of pictures of Alice.  So, enjoy!

Alice has been hanging out on her new cot during the days.  I think, because it is on a window, it gets too cold for her to sit there once the sun starts to set.  However, she has become much more willing to sit on our laps in the evenings.

Another habit she has is to rid herself of her collar whenever possible.  Well, she did that recently and was not at all happy when I found her collar and put it back on her.  There was, in fact, a fair amount of growling and hissing.  The rest of the day, she tried to kill me with her eyes and I honestly thought she was going to try to eat me in my sleep!

Seriously...this was her ALL DAY!  

I'm hoping to give you all something more interesting next week...otherwise, I'll at least have more Alice pictures!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Book Review: "A Piece of the World" by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the World Christina Baker Kline
Date Finished: December 23, 2017
Date Published: February 21, 2017
ISBN: 9780062356260
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Book Club

You might enjoy this book if you like: Character driven novels, stories about art

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

My Thoughts:
Folks, I was nervous about this one.  I read, and absolutely adored, Orphan Train a few years ago.  But then I had gone back and read some of Christina Baker Kline's earlier novels and my reaction was at best "meh" and, at worst, breaking out in hives.  I was left with this question: had she improved as a writer or was Orphan Train a fluke?  I am oh-so-thankful to say that this book was much closer in quality to Orphan Train than her earlier novels--and I just breathed a sigh of relief as I typed that.

This story is based on Andrew Wyeth's painting, Christina's World, which is both beautiful and, as I've always considered it, pretty darn depressing.  So, I knew going into this that it wasn't going to be a lighthearted romp.  To be sure, this book did deal with Christina's limitations and her struggles, but it wasn't as dark as I had expected. Like the painting, the book paints a picture of a life that most would consider wretched, but in which the subject finds some purpose and redemption.

Christina, a woman afflicted with a degenerative disease (as Baker Kline mentions in her author's note, it is believed that Christina did not suffer from polio, but from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease), who must deal with the limitations of her physical body while also tending to her own family and their infirmities.  Admittedly, she is anything but a Pollyanna, but she also exhibits a notable resolve which more than compensates for her emotional struggles.

This is very much a character-driven novel .  Christina is as fully-developed as a character can be and Baker Kline expertly uses Christina's voice to flesh out the supporting characters.  I was especially interested in getting to know the other women in Christina's life, most of whom were people who inserted themselves into Christina's life and broke through the wall she had built around herself.

Now, here is the problem.  While I love character-driven books, I felt that this book was a little too character-driven.  I had a pleasant enough experience reading it, but I really felt like it needed to leave Christina's head a bit more.  There were times when I felt like the narration just sort of stalled and, when I came to those passages, it pulled me out of the story.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, but not universally.  Readers who enjoys beautiful prose and a character-driven story will have much better luck with this book than those who go in expecting a strong plot.    This is the sort of book that a reader will sit with and savor rather than devour and digest.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book Review: "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
Date Finished: December 19, 2017
Date Published: February 28, 2017
ISBN: 9780062498533
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Library
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Socially conscious novel, books by diverse writers, novels about current events

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. 

My Thoughts:
I have to confess that I went into reading this book thinking that I wouldn't like it.  You see, highly-hyped books rarely, if ever, live up to expectations for me.  There have been countless books I probably would have loved if I had read them pre-release, or a few years after release.  This book, however, was the unicorn--it not only lived up to the hype, it surpassed it.  This book delivered on every single level and touched me in ways that I didn't expect.

The premise of the novel is far too familiar--an unarmed, young African-American man is gunned down by a police officer during a traffic stop.  The narrator, Starr, witnesses it and then finds herself in the center of the storm surrounding the murder.

What I appreciated most about Starr is that she multi-faceted, in a number of ways.  On one hand, she's a typical teenager dealing with very typical teenage issues.  But she's also in a unique place because she straddles two worlds.  Her family lives in the predominately African-American part of town, but she attends a school in the suburbs with a very small African-American community.  A good portion of this book is devoted to her trying to juggle these two realities, and I found it fascinating.  There are plenty of novels who tell of one of these experiences, but Thomas was able to amplify both worlds by putting them side by side.

I will admit that I fell in love with Starr's family.  It's not perfect (and, at times, it's a bit Maury Povich-worthy), but the characters are all so well-drawn, that I found myself feeling their sufferings and frustrations, as well as their joys.  I also loved the fact that it was a family that came together under stress, when usually we see the opposite.

This is not an easy book to read and Thomas does not back down from the difficult issues.  However, it is a necessary book to read.  I do not live in an area where racial unrest is a major issues, so I only experience through news reports covering incidents in other part of the country.  This book brought it home for me and made me feel as if I were part of the action.  For those of us who live in a relative comfort away from these issues, this book will break us out of our ivory towers.

I can think of few books that affected me as this one did and I have recommended it to everyone I've talked to since finishing it (and a re-read will happen later this year, since it is now on the docket for one of my book clubs!).  If you haven't read this book, please pick it up as soon as possible.  It is definitely a critical read.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Saturday Snapshot - January 6

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Happy 2018!  I will admit that I'm saying that as I write this in the waning days of 2017, but I do hope that the new year will be a good one for all.

As promised, here are the rest of our Christmas pictures.  As it happened, I ended up taking more videos than pictures, but I did find a few to share.

In our family, we do the jolabokaflod (or Icelandic "Yule Book Flood.")  No, we are not Iceland--I just like to give books as gifts.  Plus, it is a nice Christmas Eve tradition.  Above is this year's haul: My father-in-law got Artemis by Andy Weir, my brother-in-law got Reckless by Cornelia Funke, I got The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon*, my husband got Pirate by Clive Cussler, my son got After the Fall by Dan Santat, and my daughter got Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas.

*I should probably explain how this works.  It's pretty simple--I buy the books for everyone.  Then, for my book, I give my husband a stack of books that I own but have not yet read and let him choose one to wrap.  Since he refuses to buy me any books, this is the only way I would get a book (unless I wrap one for myself--which I did last year).

Speaking of which, I GOT A READING NOOK FOR CHRISTMAS!  I sort of knew this was coming as we had found this chair at my husband's favorite store (Costco) and, a few days before Christmas, he started rearranging furniture.  The lamp was a surprise, though!  I have spent quite a bit of time in my new nook since Christmas...

One problem with my reading nook set up is that Alice's "spot" was taken away.  She had always hung out on the back of the love seat so that she could look out the window.  Once the love seat was moved up against the wall, she had nowhere to go.  Well, KittyCot to the rescue!  She loves this and we don't have to worry about her hissing at guests who unknowingly sit near her spot (that happened on Thanksgiving).

Happy New Year to all and I hope we all have many photographic moments in 2018!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Book Review: "Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life" by Shelley Tougas

Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life Shelley Tougas
Date Finished: December 10, 2017
Date Published: October 10, 2017
ISBN: 9781626724181
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Source: Library
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Main characters with a lot of personal growth, family stories

A life on the prairie is not all it's cracked up to be in this middle-grade novel where one girl’s mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.

Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived—it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie—until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.

My Thoughts:
Let me just start with the obvious:  You know you wanted to read this book the moment you saw the title.  It's okay, I was in the same boat.  I mean, it did help that I'm a bit of a Laura fan, although the argument can be made that the title is even more appealing to those who can't stand the Little House world.

My daughter in Plum Creek (Walnut Grove) 2014
So, I went into this not knowing anything about it other than the title and having no expectations.  What I found was a delightful book with a strong and dynamic main character.  Charlotte is just fabulous--and really annoying, at least when the book begins.  She has a truly terrible attitude, but that is completely understandable given her circumstance.  For one thing, she's twelve years old and twelve year olds are generally difficult (as any parent, or anyone who had even been twelve can tell you).  More importantly, though, she's a child who has never really had any stability in her life.  Her mother, while not a "bad person," is selfish and her children have to pay the consequences for that.  When Charlotte starts off by bemoaning her fate of having to be stuck in a little town in the middle of nowhere (sorry to Walnut Grove residents--but I've been there.  It's true).

Surrounding Charlotte is a well-developed cast of supporting characters.  Charlotte's two siblings, Freddy and Rose (the names are a throwback to Laura Ingalls' own life), both have their own challenges, which are addressed well without eclipsing Charlotte's stories.  The people of Walnut Grove are interesting and, surprisingly, not typically small-town-quirky.

The heart of this book is Charlotte growing as a person, admitting her faults, and adjusting her attitude.  As a parent, this is exactly the sort of book I want my daughter to read--so much so, that I went out and bought her a copy once I finished my library book.  I think, and I'll check with my daughter once she reads this, that it is the sort of book that speaks the language of a middle grade reader and that young readers will absorb the message of this book in a way that doesn't make them feel they are being preached at.

The one question I would think someone who is considering this book might have is how necessary it is to know about Laura Ingalls Wilder going into this.  Personally, I think just the basic level of knowledge is fine.  However, as someone who has read all her books, I will admit that I think my enjoyment of this novel was heightened by having read all the Little House books, especially On the Banks of Plum Creek (which is the one that takes place in Walnut Grove) and The Long Winter (because...winter).  Still, if you haven't read any of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, do not think that you wouldn't be able to "get" this one.

This was such a delightful book that I not only bought a copy for my daughter but also one for one of her friends.  If you are looking something, either for a young reader or for yourself, I would highly recommend this book.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 in Review and 2018 Goals

Happy New Year everyone!  It's New Year's Day and the Rose Bowl is playing in the background as I type this.  I've already braved the crowds and the gym and am now drinking alcohol (a husband dropped a bottle of cider and the only way to save it was to drink it!), so 2018 is starting off well.

Of course, one thing I do need to do is to look back on 2017. It was...not the greatest year.  First of all, reality was not good to anyone with half a brain in their head and a drop of compassion running through their veins.  On top of that, I lost my mother in April, which made the year especially hard.  I had a horrible reading slump for the majority of the year, which I only started to get out of in the past week or so (truly...even though it won't seem like that when you see my numbers).  In the realm of "things that really shouldn't be a big deal" the Packers had a terrible season once Aaron Rodgers was injured, but at least the Seahawks are out of the post-season, so there will be no, or at least minimal, trash talking between the hubs and I. 

Anyway, let's look back....and forward!

I did some math last night before the ball dropped and have some statistics to share about my 2017 reading.

Total books: 107 (up from 101 last year.  Yep, reading slump....)
Average star rating (on Goodreads): 3.5 (up from 3.43 last year)

My Format Breakdown:
Ebook: 49 (45.8%, down from 49.5% in 2017)
Print: 43 (40.2%, down from 43.6% in 2017)
Audio: 15 (14%, up from 6.9% in 2017)
I'm actually a little surprised at this number. I hadn't realized that I finished so many audiobooks!

Books Read by Gender of Author:
Female: 94 (87.9%, up from 82.2% in 2017)
Male: 13 (12.1%, down from 17.8%in 2017)
That is more female-heavy than last year, but I'm fine with that.

Genre Breakdown:
Contemporary Fiction: 22 (20.6%, last year - 36.6%)
Essays: 1 (0.9%, last year - 3.0%)
Fantasy: 1 (0.9%, last year - 2.0%)
Historical Fiction: 16 (15%, last year - 10.9%)
History: 0 (last year - 2.0%)
Horror: 0 (last year - 1.0%)
Memoir: 12 (11.2% , last year - 5.0%)
Middle Grade: 6 (5.6%, none last year)
Parenting: 1 (0.9%, none last year)
Poetry: 1 (0.9%, none last year)
Romance: 37 (34.6, last year - 27.7%)
Science Fiction: 1 (0.9%, none last year)
Short Stories: 1 (0.9%, last year - 2.0%)
Speculative Fiction: 1 (0.9%, last year - 3.0%)
Thriller: 2 (1.9%, last year - 3.0%)
Writing: 1 (0.9%, none last year)
Young Adult Fiction: 4 (3.7%, last year - 3.0%)
The biggest uptick was romance, which is not surprising.  This is the year when I really just wanted to read books that I knew would give me a happy ending.

I'm not going to list out all the books I read, but you can see a nice visualization of it in the My Year in Books page on Goodreads.

So, let's talk goals.  You can see my goals from last year here.  I'd like to say that I succeeded with all of them, but the only one I actually met was my Goodreads goal.  And I'm okay with that.  I realized this year that I need to take some pressure off myself.  This reading and book blogging thing should be fun, and I'm going to make sure it is.

My only actual goal for this year is my Goodreads goal, which I once again set at 100.  However, here are some things that you can expect from me this year:
1 - More reviews.  Because, honestly, I don't think I could actually do fewer reviews this year.  But, once the fog of my book slump started to life, I got back into reviewing as well.  January and February are already almost completely full.  I will be taking a break from reviews in June, but that is because we won't be home for part of the month.
2 - More instagram and twitterI've been pretty active on these two platforms during this year (although twitter is less books and more complaining about reality).  Neither of these will replace this blog, but if you want more of me--and who doesn't?--I can be found both places as "westmetromommy."
3 - More snarkiness.  When I've written reviews in the past, I've tried to sound somewhat professional (or something like that).  As a result, what I have ended up not sounding like is myself.  My reviews going forward may be shorter, but I think they'll be more personal.

So, onward into 2018!  I hope that it is a great year for all of us, that the right things happen, and society as we know it still exists in 2019!