2015 Recap and 2016 Goals

New Year 2015

When I set my goals for 2015 at the beginning of the year, I knew I had a lot to accomplish but I thought that the extra motivation would help me stay focused. My goals overall were more about trying new things and being more open to different types of books. And I can honestly say that I’ve read some books in 2015 that I would not have picked up on my own volition and I think I am a better reader for it. I just had no idea that becoming a book blogger was going to end up as a part-time job for me. I am so grateful to all of the authors and publishers and other media outlets that have allowed my blog to grow this past year and allowed me to grow as a reader.

So to recap how I did for my 2015 goals, I didn’t complete all of them but I think I did a fairly good job and I accomplished some extra things that a) distracted me and b) I never even knew existed. One lesson learned this year is that NetGalley approves most, if not all, of your review requests, so don’t request like 15 that are all being published in the same month (August & September were BIG NetGalley months for me, ha!). Another thing I learned this year is that if you have a blog where you review books, eventually authors and publishers will start contacting you asking you to review something for them. I was very honored to review a number of books for authors and publishers this past year and it was a great learning experience for me. Not only that but I read a lot of books I might not have heard of otherwise and I would have missed out on some great reads! So anyways, my original post about my 2015 goals you can find here. Below I’ll talk about how I did!

1. Read at least 20 different types of the books on the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist – This one I did manage to finish! I read over 20 of the checklist items, you can browse through the ones I used to check off on this list here.

2. Post at least 2 non-book review related posts per month – I think I did pretty darn good on this one, though I have to admit I was better about coming up with ideas at the beginning of the year. Some of my favorite posts from this goal include my post about Gretna Green, post on my annual Reading Retreat, and my Author Interview with Andrea Lochen who is such a sweetheart!! I did end up skipping multiple months on this goal because I just ran out of time but I’m glad I tried writing about different topics and expanding my knowledge on certain areas.

3. Participate in one book reading challenge (on an external site) per quarter – Did this one too! For Q1 I did the Bookish Bingo challenge, Q2 I participated in #ReadingMyLibrary, Q3 I participated in ARC August challenge, and Q4 I am currently doing the Bookish Bingo holiday edition!

4. Post at least two posts per month concerning various book memes – Oh gosh I only missed one on this!!! Ugh if I knew it would end up this way I would’ve just done that one so I could check this one off. Anyways the one I missed was my second October post, monkeys! As you can probably tell by my posts I tend to favor the Top Ten Tuesday posts, followed closely by Friday Finds and Waiting on Wednesday ends in third. If anyone has suggestions for fun book memes that they participate in I am open to new ones!

5. Read at least 5 books from Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime – I don’t think I ended up doing this at all, which is unfortunate but I have a lifetime (ha) still to read them so I’m sure it will happen someday!

6. Participate in Roof Beam Reader’s 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge – I ended up only reading 7 of the 12 in my pile for this challenge, but I am still really glad I participated since I read some books that I had on my book shelf for quite a while! You can see the books I read for this challenge here.

So overall I think I ended up accomplishing A LOT this year, though the things I accomplished didn’t end up all being things I had planned at the beginning of the year as my goals. I had no idea that I would get so involved in NetGalley and also in author/publisher requests, and while they definitely side-tracked me from my original goals, I think that I grew a lot as a reader and a blogger because of these events. Another thing that came into my life this year that I’m really enjoying is joining a book club! I’ve found some great reads so far through my library’s fiction book club and I’m looking forward to the books we’re reading in 2016! You can see the books we read this past year for the book club here.

I ended up reading 125 books during 2015, which was an increase over my last year’s number. And I hadn’t really set a number goal for 2015 since i didn’t think I could read more than I did last year but I ended up doing just that. I’ve summarized the number of books I read per month for not only 2015 but also 2014 & 2013, below is a depiction of the data:

Per month chart for end of year post

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And so on we move to 2016!! Very excited to embrace the coming New Year and continue on my reading journey. I’m going to be trying to consolidate some of my 2016 goals so that I’m more able to achieve them while also tying in requests from authors/publishers and my NetGalley reads. I am also hoping to expand my reach in 2016 in terms of Advanced Reader Copies and hopefully establish a couple contacts/relationships with some of the publishers that I like. Below is a summarized listing of what my goals are for 2016:

  1. PopSugar 2016 Reading Challenge – Read at least 20 books off this checklist. I really enjoyed doing this checklist for 2015 so I decided to participate again for 2016
  2. Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 – I heard a lot about this checklist this past year at the Book Riot Live conference and online and I’m excited to try this checklist this year!
  3. Penguin Random House Challenge Your Shelf: Books A-Z Challenge – This was technically a 2015 challenge but I liked the list so much that I’m going to use it for 2016 just for my own purposes. I’m going to try and read at least 10 books off this list.
  4. Participate in one shorter reading challenge per quarter. And since I’m a planner by nature I’ve already picked out which ones I plan to participate in:
    1. Quarter 1 – I’m currently participating in Bookish Bingo: Holiday edition which runs through end of February 2016 so this one will be my Quarter 1 reading challenge
    2. Quarter 2 – I’ve been wanting to participate in a Bout of Books challenge for a while now but the timing never lined up for me in 2015 so I am planning on definitely participating in the one in May 2016.
    3. Quarter 3 – I really liked participating in the ARC August challenge this past August and I am sure I will have a bunch of ARC’s on my schedule at that point so I am planning to participate again this year.
    4. Quarter 4 – I found this listing of the 24 Best Books About Witches to Get You in the Halloween Spirit and I noticed a lot of the books on the list were already in my TBR list so for Sept/Oct I am gong to work my way through this listing (this will be my own reading challenge hosted by my site).
  5. Other general goals that are less defined but are just overall goals I’d like to work on:
    1. Establishing contacts/relationships with publishers
    2. Continue to review ARC’s from authors
    3. Try doing some shorter reviews on books that I don’t necessarily have as much to say on. I’ve been having trouble keeping up with all the reviews I have to do and I’m hoping to write some shorter reviews this year for the books I’m just reading on my own
    4. Try to wrap up some of the series that I’m in the middle of, I feel like there are just so many and I lose track of the characters. I know its unreasonable but I almost wish authors would release a full series at the same time and be like “ok that’s it I’m not doing anymore.” I’ll start reading a series because the “finale” is out and then there’s somehow another sequel released and while excited it is also incredibly frustrating.

SO! That is everything. Gosh that was a lot of typing but that is my 2015 wrap up and my 2016 beginning. I will also be posting my WordPress summary in a separate post as well. And for anyone interested here is a link to my Goodreads summary for the year. I hope everyone had a successful 2015 and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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ARC August – Check in #4 & Wrap up post

I can’t believe it’s September already! August just flew by but I’m glad I was able to get through my entire list of ARC’s I had scheduled to read in August. I think that my success is in part thanks to my participation in ARC August.  ARC August, which is hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat is a reading challenge that centers around catching up on reading your ARC’s! And I definitely needed the encouragement this month since I had a long list of them to get done.

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My final update: 

1. Awake by Natasha Preston – Read & reviewed during Week 1
2. On The Way: A Working Woman’s Field Guide by Robin Lake – Read & reviewed during Week 1
3. The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield – Read & reviewed during Week 1
4. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner – Read & reviewed during Week 1
5. Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen – Read & reviewed during Week 2 plus an author interview!
6. Steele Resolve by Kimberly Amato – Read & reviewed during Week 2
7. Melting Steele by Kimberly Amato – Read & reviewed during Week 2
8. 33 Cecils by Everett DeMorier – Read & reviewed during Week 2
9. Friction by Sandra Brown – Read & reviewed during Week 3
10. We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – Read & reviewed during Week 3
11. A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan – Read & reviewed
12. Goddess of Suburbia by Stephanie Kepke – Read and reviewed 
Bonus! 13. Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie – Read and reviewed

Books read August 23rd-31st:

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A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan – 4.0 stars

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Goddess of Suburbia by Stephanie Kepke – 3.25 stars

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The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie – 4.25 stars

August turned out to be a pretty successful month! Looking forward to reading some new books in September/October from my favorite authors I’ve been waiting to catch up on. Happy reading everyone!!

2015 Book # 92 – Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

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Title: Sisters of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Date finished: 8/31/15
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.
Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.
Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters—Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne—four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.
Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot—and women—forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters—sweet, naïve Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne—will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.
In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood—of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.

My rating: 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it wasn’t included on my sign up post but it will be my last book for the challenge. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about the five Mailly Nesle sisters, four of whom were mistresses of King Louis XV, the fifth deciding to stay loyal to her husband, which appears to be rare for this time period. Louise is the eldest sister and a couple years after she marries she inherits a position in the Queen’s court. It is there that she meets the King and becomes his mistress. The next two eldest girls, Pauline and Diane, are sent to a convent after the death of their mother. The two youngest, Hortense and Marie-Anne go to live with their aunt after their mother’s death.
I loved this book. I thought it was extremely interesting, it was hard for me to put down. And I think that it is even cooler that it is based on actual events from the 1700’s. Since this is fiction not everything from the story is factual but there were actually 4 sisters who all slept with the same King apparently. I don’t want to give away too much from the story line so I won’t say much about the actual plot but there is enough romance, intrigue, love, revenge, death, and power to make all kinds of readers happy. I thought this was a great book and I can’t wait to see more from this author!

The bottom line: I very much enjoyed this book, it was full of power, intrigue, revenge, and love. I would definitely recommend!!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #91 – Goddess of Suburbia

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Title: Goddess of Suburbia
Author: Stephanie Kepke
Date finished: 8/27/15
Genre: Women’s fiction
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Publication Date: August 10, 2015
Pages in book: 218
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Suburbia meets scandal in this hopeful and honest portrayal of that moment in every woman’s life when it’s time to make a change, even if that means risking losing it all. Goddess of Suburbia by Stephanie Kepke is a must-read for women looking to reconnect with their passions, and live authentically. When pillar of the community and PTA mom, Max, allowed her husband, Nick, to record a sex video of them on his cell phone, she thought of it as simply a way to keep Nick interested and entertained during his frequent business trips. But suddenly, Max is trending everywhere—her video lighting up the blogosphere and Twitter, thanks to the fact that she’s a genuine, imperfect woman. Now the paparazzi are chronicling her every move; her daughter wants to disown her; and her marriage has completely fallen apart. Just as things can’t get any more chaotic, Max’s college boyfriend, shows up two decades after he broke her heart. Now Max must learn to stop going through the motions of her life on auto-pilot and start living authentically, or risk forever being a suburban lemming running towards the cliff of old age.

My rating: 3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #12 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about Max Green, who overnight turns into a local celebrity when a sex tape of her is leaked to the press and spreads in popularity on the internet. Everyone starts being all judge-y, which honestly I felt was pretty stupid since the sex tape was of her having sex with her husband, not some random stranger. I don’t want to go too far into plot and what goes on because there was a lot happening and I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone with spoilers.
Overall I liked the book. It was edging towards fast-paced and it kept my interest throughout the story. Max really grew as a character through the story and it was excellent to see her ending up more sure of her strength than ever. It was hard to watch her suffer in the beginning of the book, she suffered from a lot of self-doubt and it affected a lot of different pieces of her life. She had support from her best friend Andi, who was a little too pushy at a couple points but that was exactly what Max really needed to get her but in gear and figure out what she was doing with herself. One of the things I didn’t necessarily like about this book was that I didn’t think the bad guys really got their karmic punishment in the end. I know everything ended the way it did on purpose for the sake of the children in their family but I really thought that there should have been some kind of punishment served in this scenario. Other than that and the lengthy amount of time that Max suffers from self-doubt, I ended up liking the story a lot and I liked most of the characters. It had a sweet ending and I was happy that Max ended up happy and fulfilled in the end!

The bottom line: I liked this book ok. There was a lot going on and it was a pretty quick read so it was easy to stay interested.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #90 – A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

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Title: A Window Opens
Author: Elisabeth Egan
Date finished: 8/26/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette will cheer at this “fresh, funny take on the age-old struggle to have it all” (People) about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.
In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.
Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

My rating: 4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #11 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about Alice Pearse and her family: her husband, Nicholas, and her children, Margot, Oliver, and Georgie. Alice is a book-lover so I felt an instant connection with her character. I am not a mom yet but I hope to someday be one and a lot of the issues presented in this book are ones I have thought about many times already. When Nick leaves the law firm he’s been working at pretty much his whole career to open his own firm, Alice and Nick decide that Alice should go back to work full time until Nick’s new firm is up and running. Alice finds a job at Scroll, a company that is supposed to lead us into the book stores of the future. Unfortunately, not everything always works out the way we’d imagined at the start.
Alice’s job is time consuming and sometimes (like many jobs, mine included) it runs over into her personal time. And unfortunately (as is the case with many stressful jobs) her time with her family sometimes suffers because of her dedication to her job. I have to say this issue is one of the things that really bothered me about this book. Nick ends up with an attitude through most of the book about Alice’s dedication to her job. When he was working hard at his law firm and she was taking care of the kids, he was a dedicated worker. But when the roles are reversed Nick says that Alice is “obsessed” with her job. Just because she wants to do good work and she’s dedicated why does that make her obsessed? Also why is this a good excuse for Nick to get so drunk he ends up passing out on the couch every weekday afternoon? Alice had to take care of the kids mostly on her own for like ten years and she never had to get drunk every day. And then he has the nerve to ask her if she is the person she wants to be when he was the one who was too drunk at noon to answer the phone and pick up their sick daughter from school? Are you kidding me? So anyway suffice it to say I was not a huge fan of Nick’s character. I wanted to punch him in the face most of the time but Alice seemed to like him overall so I guess he can’t be all bad.
Overall I really liked this book. I am going to warn you there are a couple sad parts but I think those might have been the parts of the story I found the most touching. Obviously I also felt quite a bit of anger for some of the book but there was a lot of tenderness described in the story. Also a lot of the issues Alice faces through the story are ones that I will have to face sometime in the future. Alice is right, you can’t do it all. Sometimes you have to prioritize and those priorities don’t always have to be fixed, actually they shouldn’t be. Your job shouldn’t come first every day but there are days where you might need to put it first and I think that’s ok.

The bottom line: There were just so many feels. And the main character was highly relatable for me so this one really was a good one for me. I would definitely recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

ARC August – Check in #3 – 8/22

Three weeks down now, I’m a bit behind but I’m not exactly panicking at this point (only a little). I got even less done this week than last, hoping to have a little time to catch up over the next week! ARC August, which is hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat is a reading challenge that centers around catching up on reading your ARC’s! And I definitely needed the encouragement this month since I have a long list of them to get done.

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My progress: 

1. Awake by Natasha Preston – Read & reviewed during Week 1
2. On The Way: A Working Woman’s Field Guide by Robin Lake – Read & reviewed during Week 1
3. The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield – Read & reviewed during Week 1
4. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner – Read & reviewed during Week 1
5. Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen – Read & reviewed during Week 2 plus an author interview!
6. Steele Resolve by Kimberly Amato – Read & reviewed during Week 2
7. Melting Steele by Kimberly Amato – Read & reviewed during Week 2
8. 33 Cecils by Everett DeMorier – Read & reviewed during Week 2
9. Friction by Sandra Brown – Read & reviewed
10. We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – Read & reviewed
11. A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
12. Goddess of Suburbia by Stephanie Kepke

Books read August 16th-22nd:

51-iNctMrSLFriction by Sandra Brown – 4 stars

51ETKpUBQzLWe Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – 3 stars

That’s it for this week unfortunately! The Terryville Fair is coming up next weekend so that will be a busy time for me but I am hoping to get some reading done before then so hopefully I can catch up. Have a happy Saturday everyone!

2015 Book #89 – We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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Title: We Never Asked For Wings
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Date finished: 8/22/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.
For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

My rating: 3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #10 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I have seen this book a lot in the last month or two as a must read book for summer so when I saw it was available on NetGalley I thought I would try reading it. This is the story of Letty Espinosa and her two children, Alex and Luna. Letty’s mother has raised Alex and Luna since they were babies while Letty works three jobs. But when Letty’s parents suddenly move back to Mexico, Letty is forced to face motherhood in a way that she has never had to before.
I liked this book. It had an interesting story line and was different from anything I’ve read before. There are some political commentary undercurrents about immigration towards the end but mostly I think this book is about Letty’s character growing and discovering what it means to be a mother. I didn’t end up loving this book because I had trouble forming a deep connection with the characters. It was great to see the characters evolve through the story, especially Letty, but at the same time I couldn’t form a personal connection with the story. When Letty got Alex drunk I honestly couldn’t read the book anymore that day I was so disturbed. I loved how supportive Rick’s character was though, he was like a constant pillar of strength. And Luna is just a little cutie. I couldn’t understand how Letty’s parents could leave them so suddenly but its probably better that they did, it forced Letty to stand on her own two feet. While there were pieces of this story I didn’t love, I liked the book overall.

The bottom line: I thought this story had a sweet ending even if I did get a bit freaked out along the way. It was interesting to see the characters grow through the story. I would recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page