January 6, 2017

December 2016: Recap + On My Shelves

  
Just like that, 2016 has come to a close. It felt like a roller coaster of the year, but I will always be thankful for it because it brought me my sweet baby boy. I look forward to seeing what 2017 has in store!

1. New Earrings + Scarf - Although you can't see them very well in this photo, Cassie gave me a new pair of earrings for Christmas. I'm obsessed - they're actually the ones I included in my 2016 Holiday Gift Guide! And I told my mom that I wanted a new scarf, and she gave me this one. It was exactly what I had in mind!

2. Alexa Adds to My ACOMAF Obsession - I seriously have the best friends in the world! They gave me such thoughtful gifts for Christmas, and I'm so thankful for them. Alexa gave me this A Court of Mist and Fury-themed surprise, and I freaked out when opening it! The print, bookmarks, candle and pouch are beyond perfect.

3. Christmas with Family - While I always love the holidays, this Christmas was even more special because of our baby. He's still too young to really understand it, but he made everything more fun! I hosted a Christmas Eve brunch for my in laws and spent Christmas with my family - and made so many memories!

4. Visit from My Best Friend - My best friend was in town for the holidays, and she came to visit me while she was here. It was one of the best gifts of all! She hasn't seen my boy since this summer, and he's grown so much since then. But the most amazing part was catching up with her over coffee - talking as if I got to see her every day!

Read 11 Books | Favorites:
Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne
Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne
Evergreen Springs by RaeAnne Thayne
My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
“A good book with chase away the dark.”
Miss Moon by Janet Hill

“In my experience, we tend to see our own mistakes and weaknesses
far more vividly than other people do.”
Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

“You never became ordinary to me, my love.
You were electric shocks and fire.”
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
December was actually a pretty good blogging month for me! I shared my Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2016 and a round-up of mini reviews for five contemporary YA books. My 2016 Holiday Gift Guide highlighted five types of gifts (Beauty, Decor, Books, Entertainment and Fashion) that usually show on my wishlist every year.

December 15 marked my fifth year of blogging, so I decided to celebrate by looking back at the past five years. Five Years of Favorites: The Obsessions chronicled the things I've been so obsessed with during the past five years. Five Years of Favorites: The Books let me highlight my five favorite books from each year that I've been blogging (+ five honorable mentions for each because #struggle). In Five Years of Favorites: The Blog, I picked five favorite posts from the five main categories you'll find on my blog (Reviews, Discussions, Features, Collaborations, and Top Ten Tuesdays). Five Years of Favorites: The Memories was a tribute to the incredible people I've met and amazing things I've been able to do through blogging. And finally, Five Years of Favorites: The Lessons gave me the opportunity to share five things that blogging has taught me over the years.

1. Must Have Apps: Productivity and Travel by Rachel from Hello, Chelly - I don't have a ton of apps on my phone - just a handful that I use almost every day - but I really enjoyed this post from Rachel. I ended up with a few new ones that I'm going to try, like her favorite package tracker and notes app!

2. Book Blog Post Ideas and Discussions by Lauren from Bookmark Lit - Ever find yourself in a blogging rut and just don't know what to post? Lauren's got you covered! I loved her extensive list of discussion post ideas and walked away inspired to write a bunch more for this year. Now, I just have to figure out where to start...

3. Words Have the Power to Change Us: Mhairi McFarlane by Kelly from Belle of the Literati - I always look forward to a post from Kelly in this series on her blog! I'm a little biased with this one (because I recommended the book that inspired it), but I could relate to her realization that people who care will make the effort.

4. Alexa's Best of 2016 by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books - My favorite thing about the end of the year is reading everyone's "Best Of" lists and recaps. From favorite books to cherished memories, I love it all. Alexa had a fun series of posts that were right up my alley - and gave me a few new things to check out!


Favorite Album: Hamilton: An American Musical by The Original Broadway Cast
I finally caved to the hype and listened to Hamilton in full in December.
And you can probably imagine what happened next... #obsessed

The Crown, Season One (2016), starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith - I couldn't wait for this show to come out and binged it with my parents in early December! It wasn't what I was expecting, though I still liked it. It sent me off a number of Google searches to learn more about Elizabeth (and to find out if Philip really is awful).


My Christmas Love (2016) starring Meredith Hagner and Bobby Campo - I watched a bunch of holiday movies, mostly on the Hallmark channel, the week before Christmas. While they're all pretty cheesy and predictable, this one was my favorite of the bunch. Maybe because I'm a sucker for best friends becoming more?


Grantchester, Season Two (2016), starring James Norton and Robson Green - This is one of the few "old-timey" shows that Nick will watch with me without complaint. I love James Norton as the clergyman who helps solve local murders and mysteries. We watched the season on the last day of 2016 - the perfect end to the year!

Book Outlet Black Friday: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker, Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, The Penderwicks and The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall, The Interrupted Tale and The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood

Goodwill: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Book Outlet Boxing Day: The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan, The Fixer and The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Sharing the Bread by Pat Zietlow Miller, Bunny Roo, I Love You by Melissa Marr, The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin and Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio


Folio Society from My Parents: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery and Persuasion by Jane Austen

Clothbound Classics from My Parents: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

From My In-Laws: Dinner: A Love Story and How to Celebrate Everything by Jenny Rosenstrach


From Kelly: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, The Perfect Waltz by Anne Gracie & AWESOME travel mug!

From Cassie: Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

From Betty: The Prayers of Jane Austen by Jane Austen




Caved to Kindle Deals: I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi, The Memory Book by Lara Avery, The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron, Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


For Review: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman, The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell and No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien

January 5, 2017

The Picky Pledge 2017

On Wednesday, I shared my 2016 reading statistics with you. And yesterday, I reflected on the past year of The Picky Pledge - what I learned, where I improved, and how I still need to make some changes! I'm so thankful thatAlexa from Alexa Loves Books wanted to continue The Picky Pledge again this year. I'm avoiding most blogging commitments again this year, but this was one that I knew I wanted to keep.

The Picky Pledge an idea that was born out of our discussions about our reading choices and book buying habits. Alexa and I wanted to be more intentional with the books we read, but we weren't sure how we wanted to go about it. But what better way than to become accountability partners? It paid off in 2015, hit the sophomore slump in 2016, but I'm looking forward to continuing in 2017. Here are my goals for the new year!

We, Alexa and Hannah, hereby pledge to return to the reading days of old - to browse the backlist, to revisit old favorites and to remember that it’s not ALL about acquiring more books to read. With this pledge, we commit to reading a limited number of review books this year, to being more selective about what books we buy and to holding each other accountable when bright and shiny things tempt us to stray from this course. And now, by the power vested in us, we declare 2017: “The Year of The Picky Pledge.”
My Goal: 24 Review Books  
  1. Any review book published in 2017 counts in the overall total - no matter when or how it was acquired. 
  2. When given the opportunity to read something for review, we must consult with one another before:
    1. accepting a publicist/publisher review request. 
    2. hitting the “Request” button. 
    3. borrowing an ARC with the intention to read for review prior to the book’s publication.* 
  3. Review books procured at an event, such as BEA, will only count if you read the book. 
  4. If you do not finish a review book, you may remove it from your overall total. 
  5. Exceptions can be made for books in a series if we have already reached the review book limit. 
* Exceptions may apply, and borrowed ARCs will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
My Goal: Buy No More Than 80 Books
  1. Any books we personally purchased count towards our monthly book limit. 
  2. When faced with the urge to purchase books, we must consult one another. Alternatively, we may also consider the use of 2015's handy book buying chart
  3. Books procured via gift cards do not count towards the overall total. 
  4. Exceptions can be made for books we've already read if we've already reached the monthly book limit. 
  5. If we exceed the monthly limit, we must cull the same number of books we went over off of our shelves.
And in 2017...

As we discussed 2017, Alexa and I kept coming back to the same goal: we both really wanted to spend more time reading books that were already on our TBR piles. Buying books may be fun, but what good is it if we never take the time to actually read what we've acquired? That led us to the idea of incorporating a reading challenge into The Picky Pledge! So, we'll be reading at least one book per month from our TBR that corresponds to a category in the graphic below. While we hope to read even more books from our TBR, we thought this would give us some direction and add an element of fun to the commitment.


I've definitely learned that specific goals (like read at least 12 books from my TBR) is more motivating than a general intention to spend more time reading things I already own. Plus, it usually makes me want to work harder and surpass my goal. I'm hoping to get back on track in 2017! As with last year, we both have pages on our blog tracking our progress, so you can see how we're doing throughout the year. And if you're feeling the same way about your reading choices, maybe you'll be inspired to make a pledge or find a partner of your own. Sometimes all it takes is writing it down or telling someone else.

Here's to being intentional in 2017!

January 4, 2017

The Picky Pledge: 2016 Review

What is The Picky Pledge? Well, it's a partnership between me and Alexa from Alexa Loves Books where we held each other accountable for the books we acquired in 2016. For more details on The Picky Pledge, be sure to visit the introduction post. We tracked our book acquisition stats throughout the year - focusing specifically on the books we bought and books we read for review. We loved making more intentional reading choices! 

We both created a page to track our progress... or a place to shame ourselves when/if we failed to stick to our goals. We shared our 2016 reading statistics yesterday, but it's time for a more general review of our successes and failures today. We're reflecting on the past year and highlighting our biggest improvement and the ONE thing we need to work on as we move into the new year. We'll share our specific 2017 goals tomorrow.
Setting a specific goal and avoiding NetGalley/Edelweiss 
helped me read less than 20 books for review in 2016.

As I look back at 2016, my biggest improvement was with review books. They used to make up a significant portion of what I read every year, and I wanted that to change. There's nothing wrong with reading books for review, but I often found myself finishing books that I wasn't loving solely because I got them for review. In 2014, review books made up 31% of what I read during the year. In 2015, I was able to get that down to only 22%. And in 2016, review books made up 17% of what I read. Honestly, I'm so pleased with that progress!

I've truly learned to ask myself WHY I was requesting/accepting a book for review and given myself permission to set review books aside if they're not working for me. The ones I read in 2016 were books that I enjoyed and would recommend to other readers. You know what else helped? Having a specific goal that forced me to ask myself - "Do I want this book to be one of the 20 review books that I read this year?" Unsurprisingly, removing NetGalley and Edelweiss from my Bookmarks Bar helped keep them out of sight and out of mind. 

I need to significantly curb my book buying 
and read more of the books I already own.

I'm disappointed with myself because I made progress in this area in 2015, but I undid a lot of it in 2016. And I don't even have a good excuse for why it happened! As I stated last year - buying books wouldn't be bad if I didn't own so many unread books. Honestly, it's embarrassing to look at my TBR. I was hoping to end 2016 with significantly fewer unread books on my shelves than when I started, but the opposite happened. I'm starting 2017 with a larger-than-ever TBR (and less time to read than ever before). 

So, I'm truly challenging myself to spend more time in my personal library this year. I have plenty of books available to me - ones for every season, every mood and in every format. There's no reason for me to continue acquiring books at my current pace. And there's a whole world of books outside of the ones being hyped or newly released. I need a strive for balance - supporting authors and books with my dollars while still being wise and showing restraint. It's more important than ever for me to be intentional about what and when I read.

Check back tomorrow for all the details on The Picky Pledge in 2017!
Were you more intentional with your reading choices in 2016?

January 3, 2017

Statistically Speaking of 2016

Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and I knew that we wanted to continue to be pickier about what we read for review and what we added to our shelves in 2016. Those goals are how we originally came up with The Picky Pledge! First, it's time to look back at my reading stats for the year. Our accountability project continues!

Creating this post for 2014 is what helped me initially realize I needed to make some changes, and doing it again for 2015 enabled me to see where I was improving and where I still needed work. This year is no different! I've learned so much about my reading habits in 2016. Tomorrow we'll talk about what we learned this past year, and on Thursday we'll introduce our goals for 2017. Check out Alexa's stats here.

SOURCE BREAKDOWN

I read 93 books in 2016, which is a decrease for me. As with last year, I wanted to decrease the number of books I read for review - one of the main reasons Alexa and I launched The Picky Pledge. I set a goal to read no more than 20 review books for the year and finished the year having read only 16! I'm so glad I continued to make progress in this area and hope it will continue in 2017. However, I wish I'd spent more time reading books I already owned. As you'll see in a section below, I acquired a lot of books this year - so I just kept acquiring books and barely made a dent in my TBR! I read even fewer owned books than I did the year before. Fail.

FORMAT BREAKDOWN

I'm not surprised that e-books and audiobooks experienced an increase this year. I had a baby in May, and I've found myself grabbing my Kindle a lot more frequently. I still prefer physical books - and read that format most often! - but it's definitely easier to sneak in a little reading time on my Kindle or phone. I wondered in last year's post if this change would take place, and I like that I predicted it correctly!

AGE BREAKDOWN

I was interested to see these stats, and I love that I read more Adult and Non-Fiction this year than I did in 2015. I read a lot less Young Adult (down from 51% in 2015), which pleases me. I love Young Adult, but I prefer having more variety in my reading choices. I continued to explore Middle Grade - and included a few Picture Books that I read over and over again to my son (I figured they counted as a 2016 read if I practically had them memorized). I hope I can continue to have this balance in the books I read this year!

GENRE BREAKDOWN

Rather than break this down into every genre that I read from in 2016, I decided to combine a few (like Humor, Memoir, and Biography into Non-Fiction) so it wasn't too messy. Once again, Contemporary made up the majority of what I read last year. And I'm not shocked that Historical and Fantasy came in second and third! Those three genres are my favorites, and I'm sure they'll dominate my 2017 reads, too.

SERIES VS. STANDALONE

I find it interesting that I read fewer books in a series this year. I need to look back and see if there were more series finishing in 2015 than in 2016. Either way, I loved so many of the series that I did read this year. I had a few complete series binges, devoured the newest installments in a few series that I'll be sad to say goodbye to and started several series that seem very promising. And I know I've got a number of series on my TBR for 2017!

RATING BREAKDOWN

There's an increase in 3-star reads compared to last year, and I think I had more 5-star reads in 2015 because I was re-reading more frequently. I noticed an increase in my 2-star reads, too, so hopefully I'll remember to just quit reading books I'm not crazy about and leave them unfinished. I'd rather spend the time on books I'm enjoying! (Note: Goodreads may not match this breakdown because I sometimes adjust ratings later.)

AVERAGE RATING BY SOURCE

Unsurprisingly, I have the highest average rating for re-reads. That makes sense since I'm typically re-reading my favorite books (or refreshing my memory before continuing a series). My average rating for Review Books and Borrowed Books increased - a sign that being pickier is paying off! And yay for continuing to have high averages for Bought and Owned. I'm pretty good at choosing the right books for me!

AVERAGE RATING BY PUBLISHER

As with last year, I read books from more publishers than the ones listed here but decided to highlight only the ones that were my most read. Bloomsbury was also a winner in 2014 and 2015 (#sarahjmaas) and Scholastic has claimed a new spot at the top this year. But the averages are pretty high from all of the publishers! I generally don't pay attention to the publisher when choosing a book, but I like taking a look at this stat.

REVIEW BOOK OVERVIEW

I received 27 review books in 2016 (a little more than half the number I received last year), and this is what I did with those books! The majority of the books I received were unsolicited or ones I accepted based on a publicist's pitch. I only requested a few books this year, which I'm proud of. I'm trying to be careful about requesting books so I can avoid DNFs. Four of the books on my TBR are 2017, which I've been waiting to read.

REVIEW BOOKS BY SOURCE

Last year, I noticed that I could significantly cut down on the number of books I read for review if I stopped logging on to NetGalley and Edelweiss. And guess what? I did it! I removed both websites from my Bookmarks Bar, which helped me "forget" about them. I will be interested to see how this evolves in 2017!

BOUGHT: PRINT VS. KINDLE VS. AUDIO

I prefer reading physical books, so that continues to make up the majority of what I bought in 2016. However, there was definitely an increase in the number of e-books and audiobooks I bought this year. As I mentioned above, having a baby made me gravitate more towards these formats out of convenience.

BOOKS BOUGHT BREAKDOWN

Last year, I was feeling pretty good about this section of my post. And this year? UGH, I TOTALLY FAILED. First of all, I bought 160 books in 2016 - up from 100 in 2015. Why did I let my book buying get out of hand again?! I made so much progress the year before! And secondly, most of them weren't books that I'd already read (or ended up reading in 2016) so they just made my TBR pile grow exponentially. My two goals for The Picky Pledge have pretty much always been to read fewer review books and buy fewer books, and I've accomplished the former but definitely need to work on the latter!

What does this mean for 2017? I think you can probably tell what my main goals will be. Additionally, I hope I'll still read from a variety of genres and use different formats to find more time to read. I'll share my specific goals on Thursday, but I've copied and pasted the two things below from last year's post because it's still my focus.

There are two changes I want to make this year: 
1) buy fewer books
 2) read more from my TBR

January 2, 2017

My Year in Books {2016}

I always enjoy the end of the year, from a blogging perspective, because I love looking back at the past year. Whether it's reflecting on lessons learned or sharing my enduring obsessions, it's so fun to recap the past twelve months. For the next few days, I'm highlighting some of my favorite things from 2016. Today, it's books!


HISTORICAL

1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - I made reading this book a priority in 2016. What a great decision! The concept was confusing at first, but the writing and characters won me over in the end. I found myself completely immersed in this world, which was so gripping. I read all 500 pages of the book in a day!

2. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell - I picked this up at the library solely for the cover and ended up adoring the story inside. The writing is so lyrical, the heroine is so feisty, and the setting was a favorite. I've never read a lot of Middle Grade, but this book sparked a newfound interest in it.


CONTEMPORARY

3. Results May Vary by Bethany Chase - I really enjoyed Chase's debut, The One That Got Away, but this book solidified her spot on my go-to authors list! The heroine finds herself in an impossible situation, and I was so invested in her journey and its resolution. It was a hard read emotionally, but so worth it.

4. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella - I haven't read anything by Kinsella in a long time, but I couldn't resist this cover + summary. And I'm so glad that was the case because it ended up being such a delight! I loved the workplace drama, the swoony romance, and the heroine's struggle to find her way.

5. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson - This was the perfect late spring read for me! The book felt a tiny bit long at times, but I was still so engaged in this story about close friendships, falling in love and repairing family relationships. And the love interest might be my favorite one from Matson yet!

6. Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane - Is anyone surprised to see Mhairi McFarlane on my list? She has established herself as one of my all-time favorite authors - each book just gets better and better. I loved this heroine, experienced a whole range of emotions while reading and found myself dying for more at the end.

7. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I'm convinced Taylor Jenkins Reid can do no wrong. She writes such relatable characters and engaging plots with so much emotion. This story is no exception! No matter how you feel about the heroine's dilemma - or how it's resolved - you'll be thinking about it long after you're done.

8. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne - I randomly requested this book for review because the cover caught my eye, and I had no idea I was in for such a treat. I'm a sucker for hate-to-love romances, so this book won me over very quickly. And the banter cracked me up! I wanted to re-read it all over again the moment I finished.


FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION

9. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo - I read Six of Crows this year, too, but decided to just include the second book on my list. I'm not usually a fan of multiple POVs in books, but it worked so well in this duology. I fell in love with these characters and was a huge fan of the action-packed plot and imaginative setting.

10. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas - Maas raised the stakes in this installment, and I was hooked. I loved getting to see different sides to familiar characters - and falling for new ones! The world was enchanting, and the twists and turns blew me away. (But I definitely skipped over some parts - this is not YA.)

11. Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas - I can't believe it's almost time to say goodbye to my favorite assassin and her squad! While I really disliked the mature aspects of this book, especially since that's not how this series started, I still loved the story overall. I can't wait to see what's next after that gut-wrenching ending!

12. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski - This is one of my favorite YA series, and I just haven't talked enough about my love for it! I adore these two main characters, find the plot and the politics so compelling and think the world is so fascinating. This conclusion was everything I could have asked for and more!

13. Disruption by Jessica Shirvington - I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! I got (mostly) burned out on dystopian novels a few years ago, but this book reminded me of what I love about the genre. The world was creative but still felt realistic, the heroine was so tough, and the hint of romance was amazing!


NON-FICTION

14. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker - I grabbed this from the library and ended up reading it at the perfect time! I laughed so much at Hatmaker's sarcasm, related to her reminder that no one can do it all, was motivated by her calls to action and found myself longing for the type of community she described.

15. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes - This book was nothing like I imagined it would be, in the best way possible. I really enjoyed Rhimes' look back at her year of saying yes and found it pushed me to think about fear and the ways it holds me back. I loved the writing, too, which isn't a surprise since I'm a huge Grey's Anatomy fan.

16. Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf - You know those stories that will stay with you forever? That's what you'll find in this book. Their story of "overwhelming loss and an overcoming love" was so moving. Their hope, love, humor, grief, and faithfulness made this an unforgettable read and gave me so much perspective.

What was your favorite book of 2016?
Are on these on your list? Or on your TBR pile?
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