2019 Recap and 2020 Goals!

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I can’t believe 2019 is over already! This year absolutely flew by, I feel like I looked up and all of a sudden it was December. This year I spent some time trying to find balance – between my work and home life and my reading and time spent with my husband / family. There’s always room for more improvement but I did the best I could this year. As the year draws to a close there is more than ever developing at work and I’m hoping I’ll be able to overcome the challenges I face there. I’m also hoping to spend time where I can continuing to read – and not only read some great books published in 2020 but also read more off my backlog and from my personal library.

So anyways! On to the meat of this post – to recap on the goals list that I had set for 2019:

  1. Participate in certain reading challenges:
    1. ARC August Check! I participated in ARC August 2019 and got a lot of ARC’s read – see my posts on this challenge here  
    2. Bout of Books Challenges (2)
      1. BOB 24 January 2019 Check! I participated in this one, though I didn’t find it as productive as the May one so I’m cutting it from the list in 2020. See my posts on this challenge here
      2. BOB 25 May 2019 Check! I participated in this one, see my posts on this challenge here
    3. Bookish Bingo challenges! I’d like to participate in bingo challenges for certain months for fun: February, June, September and October Half check – I ended up participating for February and October but couldn’t fit it into the other months 
    4. Bookish 2019 Reading Challenge – 52 Ways to Kill Your TBR! Check! Read a few on the list, though not as many as I wanted. See my posts on this challenge here
  2. Keep reading my backlog list! Check! I used the 52 Ways to Kill Your TBR reading challenge to start tackling some of my backlog lists – hoping to continue hacking at these lists over the next year!
  3. Also read some of the books I own (there are too many) Check! I read probably a handful of books that I own, though I bought a lot more – oh well!
  4. And some personal goals! Lose weight, focus on healthier eating, exercise more often, more time at home, more time with Kris, and finish some house projects! Mostly check – I wasn’t really great with most of these but, again, did the best I could. Hoping to make more progress in 2020.

As I mentioned with finding balance, I think I was able to mete out a good amount of time for myself to read this year. I also discovered PODCASTS this year, which are fantastic and they’ve really helped me develop my knowledge (and my TBR list) within the romance genre. I’m hoping to have a post up within the next week or so on what podcasts I’ve been listening to and what I’ve enjoyed so far. Any readers who have a favorite podcast definitely let me know, I’m always interested in checking out a new one! I also attended a couple book related events this year (including KissCon New England), all of which I enjoyed immensely. I just love being able to talk about books and listen to people talk about books and everything related to that. I’m hoping to make it to an RWA  or other romance writers conference sometime soon.

In looking back on my year of reading this year, I was able to read a comparable amount related to previous years. Below is a chart of the books I read by month this year vs previous years:

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I also really like the functionality of the Goodreads Year in Books summary for giving an overview of what happened during my year for reading. I don’t record 100% of the books I read on here so it doesn’t always match up with my own figures but I love having all the covers in one place, it makes for a neat graphic.

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And just for fun! Here are a few of my favorites from 2019:

Favorite Reads from 2019

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – 5.0 stars
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – 4.75 stars
Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night (OMG IAD IS THE BEST!) by Kresley Cole – 5.0 stars
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – 4.75 stars

Favorite New Series

Pretty obviously this is the Immortals After Dark series. I have mentioned this series in a number of posts, it is bananas (to coin Sarah MacLean’s term) and amazing and a roller coaster of awesome. I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t read it already!

Favorite Podcasts

(Obviously) Fated Mates is great. I love the IAD discussions but also love the interstitial episodes where Sarah and Jen talk about recommended reads. I’ve also really been enjoying Learning the Tropes (Erin and Clayton are hilarious!) and Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club (I love their back and forths and Ellen and her Mom remind me so much of me and my mom!).

Best New Author I Read in 2019

Has to be Helen Hoang – I should have read The Kiss Quotient last year but didn’t get to it til this year after I read The Bride Test. Both are amazing books and I’m so impressed by her writing and her as a person! I can’t wait for the next book!

Here we close out the 2019 year and we look ahead to the New Year!!

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Looking ahead to 2020 I can not help but be less hopeful than I was last year. I have found it hard to find enough time to devote myself to both blogging and reading while also doing everything else I need to do. So I’m hoping to change that this year. Slow down with my tasks and actually enjoy them and expand on them. I’m hoping to rediscover my hope in some areas and create happiness where I’m able. Overall I’m looking to be a little more creative and do a little more writing outside of my comfortable review box I’ve narrowed myself to. I used to really enjoy the “Top Ten Tuesday” posts and the “Waiting on Wednesday” posts I did in the past. My schedule has been squeezed so tight in recent years that I haven’t made time to do them but I’d like to dabble a little more in these again this year. There are so many different fun activities within the land of book bloggers and I’m hoping to find some of that fun again this year!

Looking ahead to 2020, here are some of the goals I plan to achieve:

  1. Participate in certain reading challenges:
    1. ARC August
    2. Bout of Books Challenge – BOB 25 (May 2020)
    3. Bookish Bingo challenges! I’d like to participate in bingo challenges for certain months for fun: February and October. I don’t think that the Bookish site is doing Book Bingo sheets anymore but I’m hoping I can find another site that has one for these two months.
  2. Keep reading my backlog list! At least one book per month
  3. Keep reading from my personal library! At least one book per month
  4. Write at least one non-review and non-blog tour post a month – can be one of the structured posts like Top Ten Tuesday or it can be informative or whatever I feel like!

 

I wish everyone strength and happiness in 2020, Happy Reading!

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UPDATE – October Reading Challenge: Booktober Reading Bookish Bingo!!

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I unfortunately did not get bingo this month. I still had a ton of fun reading – I especially loved the bingo board for this month (see below). I wish I had been able to devote more time to reading – then I’m sure I would’ve been able to get bingo! Maybe next year.

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2019 Monthly Status Update: October

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October was a busy month for me work wise (as per the usual lately if I’m honest). I was doing a reading challenge and I only wish I had been able to devote more time to reading since I missed getting book bingo by only a couple books. Even so, I had a great time reading during October and since Halloween is my favorite holiday I tried to allow myself some spooky reads for the month! So anyways, here are some highlights from October for me:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 7
# pages read this month: 2,501
# books read year-to-date: 82
# pages read year-to-date: 29,217

Favorite Books I Read this Month:

 

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Pestilence by Laura Thalassa – did not post a review on this but it was so different and fun and it was one of my favorite books of the month! (4.0 stars)

Other Posts this month:

October Reading Challenge – Bookish Bingo!
The Widow of Rose House BLOG TOUR!! 

Next Month TBR List:

-The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
-Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher
-The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
-Don’t Close Your Eyes by Christie Craig
-Don’t Breathe a Word by Christie Craig
-The Princess Plan by Julia London

That’s a fairly manageable TBR list for me over a month so i’m also hoping to read something else among either my backlog, my owned books, or the next book from the Fated Mates podcast, which I’m trying to keep up with! Over the next month I’ll be trying to get a lot done at work while also gearing up for the holidays and getting ready for lots of family time, which I love! Here’s hoping you all had a colorful October and are looking ahead to a warm and loving November.

2019 Book #79 – The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

51+pKU74twLTitle: The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox
Date finished: 10/19/19
Genre: Gothic romance, suspense, magic stuff
Publisher: Graydon House
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Pages in book: 368
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:

Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. Also I’m reading this book as part of my October Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge, checking of the “a spell goes wrong” box since Lydia does a spell that goes wrong, even if she doesn’t mean to. I’m also reading this book for my Bookish 2019 Reading Challenge: 52 Ways to Kill Your TBR checking off line #1 – a book you bought (requested) for the cover. Since I’m using this checklist to check off some of my previously requested NetGalley titles, I hadn’t bought any of them but so I changed bought to request. And I had originally requested this book in large part based on the cover – I think it’s so pretty and intriguing.

Even though I mostly requested based on the cover for this book. I also thought the story line sounded really interesting too. Plus I’m trying to read as many spooky books as possible for this month so it was a perfect fit for me to read this one. I’m glad I got to read it too – I really liked it. There were definitely a lot of pieces of the book that I didn’t care for but overall I really liked it! Lydia as a character had a lot of layers but she was a bit too much of a doormat for me. And I loved the whole journey to her discovering she was a witch and her long dead ancestor and what not but I wished that it had happened a little earlier in the book. This was definitely a good read for October – it was super spooky and creepy. I thought it was really captivating, I didn’t want to put it down because I wanted to find out what was going to happen next. At the same time the pacing was a little slow for me. Overall I really liked the book but it wasn’t my favorite. Great read for October though!

Link to author website

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

2019 Book #78 – Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

51Dy0VzNVYLTitle: Twice in a Blue Moon
Author: Christina Lauren
Date finished: 10/15/19
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery books
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Pages in book: 366
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 New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment WeeklyMy Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. Also I’m reading this book as part of my October Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge, checking of the “a book that kept you up all night” box because I was up until 3am reading this book – I didn’t want to put it down until I found out what happened.

I just love Christina Lauren and their novels. There are a number of them that I was absolutely crazy for, including Love and Other Words and Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. They write so seamlessly together that it’s hard to tell that it is two authors composing a novel together. While this novel was still a great read, it was not my favorite of their novels. I just didn’t get as emotionally attached to these characters as I usually do. I think part of my problem was that the whole book was in Tate’s point of view. And while that was relevant to many pieces of the book, it didn’t really allow us to see enough of Sam’s inner thoughts and how wrecked (I’m hoping) he was when he saw her again as an adult. I can understand why he ended up making the decision he did in London but it still was just awful. Only hearing her point of view made it a little harder to forgive Sam later on. And I also had a little trouble with their later life romance since it wasn’t as well developed as their first relationship. I didn’t feel like I knew Sam enough as an adult. When they did come together the chemistry exploded off the page and just set everything on fire but there wasn’t as much of an emotionally connection. I still really enjoyed it and I didn’t want to put it down, it just wasn’t one of my favorites of theirs. I’d still definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

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

2019 Book #77 – The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

41TLd3ldCPLTitle: The Widow of Rose House
Author: Diana Biller
Date finished: 10/13/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martins’ Griffin
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Pages in book: 346
Stand alone or series: This is actually Biller’s debut novel! We’ll have to wait to see if there will be a series
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 “MOST ANTICIPATED ROMANCE” of 2019 (BookPage) **

A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age romantic comedy debut

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time.

However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor Samuel Moore appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life—especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam. Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history—and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. Also I’m reading this book as part of my October Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge, checking of the “set in a haunted house” box because (obviously) much of the book takes place in and centers around the haunted house.

I had read a sample of this book in the Buzz Books Romance collection and liked it. I also really love the cover, though the key that’s featured on it plays an important but much shorter role than I expected. I really enjoyed the book though – mostly because of Sam and his family. Sam was perfectly quirky, funny, and devoted to Alva. He was enchanting and every sort of endearing and I just loved his character. And his interactions with his equally quirky and endearing family were hilarious. Alva’s character was alright but some pieces of it just didn’t work for me personally for a couple reasons. The ghost story was pretty good in this book, I was sufficiently engaged in finding out the ending for it, but I did find that the romance side of the plot wasn’t as well developed as I thought the ghost side of the plot was. Overall though I really liked the book and I can’t wait to read more books by this author!

Link to author’s website

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

October Reading Challenge: Booktober Reading Bookish Bingo!!

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Ahhhhh I love book bingo reading challenges! And combined with my OVERARCHING love for the Halloween Holiday and all things (lightly) spooky, I am so excited about this reading challenge this month. Work will be busy for sure but I’m hoping to get a lot of reading done still. Anyways here is the Bingo sheet for this month, courtesy of Bookish:

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Can’t wait to dig in and get reading! I’ll check back in at the end of the month on how my bingo sheet turned out. Happy October everyone!