2017 End of Year Book Survey

Jan 30, 2018

Created & Hosted by Jamie from Perpetual Page-Turner
I always look forward to these end of year recap posts because there's something I love about reflection. It's nice to stop, think back over what's happened this year and gather my thoughts before starting the new year! I intended to finish this poster sooner, but alas... life happens. Hope you'll indulge me as I chat once more about 2017!

1. Number of Books You Read: 151 books
2. Number of Re-Reads: 15 re-reads
3. Genre You Read the Most From: Contemporary

1. Best book you read in 2017?
I CAN'T CHOOSE JUST ONE, but if I have to narrow it down to one book per genre:

CONTEMPORARY | The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

FANTASY | A Court of Wings & Ruin (and Tower of Dawn) by Sarah J. Maas

SCI FI | Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

HISTORICAL | The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

MYSTERY | Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

ROMANCE | The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

NEW ADULT | No Limits by Ellie Marney

NON-FICTION | Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Honestly, there are so many I could have mentioned! Check out my top twenty of the year. But just keep reading...

A Note: I challenged myself not to repeat any books in the answers below so that I could highlight a great variety of books. It was difficult, but it helped me avoid using my twenty favorite books for every question!

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't?
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I couldn't wait for more from this favorite author, and then I just didn't click with the characters in this one. Everyone was so unlikeable, and nothing about it felt like a TJR to me.

3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book of 2017?

IN A GOOD WAY | The Mothers by Brit Bennett. I hated the cover and wasn't intrigued by the summary, but Cassie convinced me to try it. I ended up loving it, which took me by surprise. I'm so glad I tried it!

IN A BAD WAY | I didn't hate it by any means, but I was surprised by how meh I was on Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. Maybe I had too high of expectations based on the hype + didn't have the nostalgia factor?

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read in 2017?
I don't know how many people have actually read it, but I've tried my best to push The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson on everyone I know. I adored this book on so many levels, and I think it's so relevant right now.

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best sequel of 2017? Best series ender of 2017? Best series overall in 2017?

STARTED | I started so many excellent series in 2017, but I've got to go with Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I didn't these would work for me, but I'm obsessed! They're so creative and compelling.

SEQUEL | I've got to hand it to Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh, the third book in the Westcott series. I wasn't sold on the series after the first book, but I found myself more interested in the second. Then, the third just swept me away!

ENDER | There were a lot of wonderful series enders in 2017, but I'd say Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. I didn't think the second book was necessary, but now I'm glad it became a trilogy. This one was excellent!

OVERALL | With so many series binges to choose from (and keeping in mind that I'm trying not to duplicate books), I think my favorite overall was the Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins. I read all five in a weekend!

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
Without a doubt, it's Kristan Higgins. I read my first book by her in June, and by December I'd finished 15 titles from her backlist. I'm obsessed! Here's the rest of my list of favorite new-to-me authors I read in 2017.

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read?
I haven't read many parenting books yet, though I'm sure I'll get there by the true toddler years, and I definitely reach for psychology books. That's what makes it so surprising that I read (and loved!) Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour. And I don't even have a daughter!

8. Most action-packed, thrilling, unputdownable book in 2017?
After obsessing over the first book, I had high hopes for Corruption by Jessica Shirvington. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint! I couldn't put it down once I'd started it, and I loved the way Shirvington brought everything to a close.

9. Book you read in 2017 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
Aside from books in a series that I might re-read prior to the next release, I'm leaning towards The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie. This is the book that really sold me on her historical romances, and I'm already dying to revisit this couple!

10. Most memorable character in 2017?
I've got to highlight Yael from Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin. She's a survivor driven by her need for justice and revenge against the people who've taken everything from her. Her story was unforgettable!

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?
Here are four of my favorites: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?
I don't think it's necessarily the most beautifully written, but this seemed like the best place to talk about Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta. No matter what she's writing - mystery, contemporary, fantasy - and whether it's for adults or teenagers, the writing always stands out. It's so intelligent and intentional!

13. Most thought-provoking book in 2017?
It's been almost a year since I finished it, and I still think about Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. A book about our justice system wouldn't normally be on my radar, but I'm so glad I read -- even thought it absolutely broke my heart.

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read?
I bought The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon around the time it came out -- August 2013 -- and there it sat on my shelves until this year. I'm so glad I finally picked it up in time to attend Samantha Shannon's signing in Atlanta!

15. Book that shocked you the most?
There were definitely some twists and turns in Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams that I didn't see coming. I loved that it was shocking but still somehow felt so right. You'll see what I mean if you read it!

16. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2017?
I only chose passages from books that aren't otherwise mentioned in this post:

“Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.” -- Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

“I might have my own ideas on what I think is the best way to help other people, but until I know who other people are, I also have the potential of disempowering them or recklessly hurting them in the process. And that takes time, time spent together and time spent building a solid relationship. That takes forgetting the goal of becoming a helper to the helped and focusing on a deeper compassion that is found in mutual friendship.” -- Here Goes Nothing by Kendra Broekhuis

“That is the motto women should constantly repeat [...] -- Good for her! Not for me.” -- Yes Please by Amy Poehler

17. Shortest & longest book you read in 2017?
The shortest was Lift by Kelly Corrigan at 96 pages, and the longest was A Court of Wings and Roses by Sarah J. Maas at 706 pages. And that's what I would have guessed before I checked Goodreads, too!

18. OTP of the year?
OBVIOUSLY, it's in A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. The only reason I didn't use this book for a million other answers was because it belonged here -- just like Feyre and Rhysand belong together.

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?

CO-WORKERS | A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn featured a feisty heroine, Veronica Speedwell, and her crotchety sidekick, Stoker. There's enough banter and tension to signal a future romance, but it's not there yet.

FRIENDSHIP | Emery Lord excels at writing strong friend groups, and that was certainly true in The Names They Gave Us. And I enjoyed the fact that it featured friendships formed at summer camp rather than at school!

SIBLINGS | Oh man, the siblings in Far from the Tree by Robin Benway just brought me to tears. I loved this story about finding your roots, and it felt like a love letter to families in all their imperfection.

PARENT-CHILD | Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan was a memoir that explored the relationship between a mother and her daughter, and I absolutely loved it and immediately bought a copy for my mama to read.

20. Favorite book you read in 2017 from an author you've read previously?

ADULT | I couldn't wait to get my hands on Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley because I adored her debut! This one was just as wonderfully written, featured such memorable characters and had one of my favorite opening lines (ever).

YOUNG ADULT | What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum was another fantastic read from one of my all-time favorite authors. I loved her adult fiction and have been so thrilled to see her popularity growing with her YA!

21. Best book you read in 2017 that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else?
I read On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins because Estelle recommended it to me on Goodreads, and I'm so thankful she did! I have no idea if I would have ever tried Higgins without that push, and now she's a favorite.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?
Major Caspian Harrison in Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams was one of my favorite parts of that book. He's a photographer, war veteran and all-around handsome gentleman. What more could you want?!

23. Best 2017 debut you read?
I really loved The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn. It could have easily been gimmicky since it combines Jane Austen and time travel, but I thought it was so well researched and written in such a thoughtful way.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2017?
I've got to go with Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas here. I wasn't sure what to expect, and Maas just blew me away -- particularly when it came to the world. I loved getting to experience the Southern Continent, and now I want MORE.

25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2017?
Despite the drama and emotional angst, I had the most fun reading Beatriz Williams' entire backlist. They weren't "fun" in the expected sense, but I binged them at the same time as Kelly and that made the experience unforgettable.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2017?
I can still remembering bawling in bed at 1 a.m. after I finished The Memory Book by Lara Avery. Even though the beginning makes no secret about where the story is headed, it absolutely broke my heart into a thousand pieces.

27. Hidden gem of the year?
I'm shocked that No Limits by Ellie Marney only has 111 ratings on Goodreads. WHAT?! That's such a travesty! I loved Marney's Every series, but I thought this spin-off was even better. I adored everything about it!

28. Book that crushed your soul?
This was a tough one, but I've got to say that The Alice Network by Kate Quinn totally broke me -- but still managed to put me back together by the end. That's was the best kind of soul-crushing read, in my opinion!

29. Most unique book you read in 2017?
It probably isn't that unique when compared to other books in its genre, but Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequest wasn't something that I'd typically read. I loved this food-centric memoir and the recipes that corresponded to each essay.

30. Book that made you the maddest?
It's 100% The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I wish it didn't exist, and it made me hate the entire series. I got rid of those books so fast... It didn't help that I re-read the first two, so I feel like I wasted so much time

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?
I've really enjoyed The Ardent Biblio, which is run by Rikki and Michaela. From gorgeous photographs to thoughtful posts, there's something for everyone here. And I'm loving with See You in a Porridge, which I'm semi-convinced I've visited before 2017 but can't remember for sure. I get so excited when I see a new post from Kristen!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?
My favorite full-length review that I wrote was for The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn, but I also really loved my Will You Be My Valentine? post where I reviewed seven swoony books for any mood.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
That would definitely be my post 5 Ways to Find Time to Read! I got so much great feedback on the post, which I really appreciated because the topic was something I'd been thinking about for months before I sat down to write it.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I got to see a number of fabulous authors in 2017. In January, I got to see Deanna Raybourn and Joshilyn Jackson. In February, I met Beatriz Williams and Karen White (and again in July). In March, I saw Colleen Oakley and then Samantha Shannon. But continue to the next question for the event that was at the top of my list!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017?
In August, I received an email asking if I wanted to moderate Sarah J. Maas' Tower of Dawn tour event in Atlanta. I read it fifteen million times to make sure it was real! The event took place in September, and I cannot describe how incredible it was to chat with Sarah and get my book signed to commemorate the evening. I'm so grateful for the opportunity!

6. Most challenging thing about your blogging or reading life this year?
Maybe realizing that I can't do it all? I knew it before this year, but 2017 reminded me that doing the hobbies I love requires me to be intentional with my time. And it's always going to involve me figuring what is and isn't a priority! I came to the realization that this space, which I still love, will probably never have the reach that it did when blogging was my focus. I'm not putting in the same amount of work on it now, and that's okay because it's what's right for me.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog?
There were three that definitely stand out from all the rest. The most popular was Five Reasons to Read Beatriz Williams, the first post in my Bestie Beatriz Binge blog event with Kelly. Next up, my review of the Haven Point series by RaeAnne Thayne received a lot of traffic -- which delights me! I hope more people find those adorable books. And finally, the Creating a Capsule Library collaboration that I did with Kelly, Alexa and Rachel was a hit! I absolutely adored how that post turned out. I loved that my three most popular are three of my personal favorites, too!

8. Post you wished got a little more love?
I'd probably wish for more feedback on any of my reviews (that age old book blogging complaint). But to focus on something more specific, I was hoping for a little more love on the 2017 recap series I shared: My Year in Music, Movies & TV, Beauty, Books, Obsessions and Adventures. It's my favorite type of post to read, so I'm always a little sad that it's not more popular. Maybe it's partly because that time of year is so busy for everyone?

9. Best bookish discovery?
I fell in in love with book darts ($9), book sleeves from Story Time Sleeve ($15), this Hunger Games-inspired tee ($18) and the app Hoopla, which allows me to borrow digital items from my library.

10. Did you complete any reading challenge or goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Yes, I completed three reading challenges! For my Goodreads Challenge, my goal was to finish 52 books -- and I ended up reading 151 total. For the Picky Pledge Challenge, I read twelve books from my TBR that fit the twelve categories we listed. And finally, I finished the {Reading for Fun} version of the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge.

1. One book you didn't get to in 2017 but will be your number one priority in 2018?
I still can't believe that I haven't read Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I even own it in all formats!

2. Non-debut book you are most anticipating for 2018?
I can't pick just one! Here are just a few I can't wait to get my hands on:
But there are so many more, especially in the later half of the year!

3. 2017 debut you are most anticipating?
On the adult side of things, I'm currently most interested in Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman (our February 13 and set in Hawaii during WWII) and My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan (out April 24 and all about falling in love in Oxford).

As for young adult, I'm definitely curious about Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Peréz (out June 5 and inspired by Tristan and Eseult!) and Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (out May 22 and set in the world of high school theater).

4. Series ending you are most anticipating in 2018?
Without a doubt, the final Throne of Glass book by Sarah J. Maas.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2018?
Honestly, I really just want to blog more consistently! It's not always my priority, but there are definitely ways I could find more time do it. I'll never post five days a week like before, but I'd love to aim two posts per week on average.

6. A 2018 release you've already read and recommend to everyone?
At the end of 2017, I'd only finished one 2018 release - The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. But, thankfully, I truly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to fans of contemporary romance!

WHEW! If you completed the survey, leave a link below.
I'd love to see what made your list for 2017!

Quick Lit: December 2017 (Part 2)

Jan 26, 2018

I read 16 books in December, and I'm reviewing 14 of them in December's two-part Quick Lit post. If you missed it, yesterday's Part 1 featured reviews for six individual books. Today's is focused on the two series I binged during December. If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy

And with this post, I'm now (almost) caught up on reviewing what I read in 2017! There are three exceptions: a review book that isn't out yet, a series I binged that deserves a little something special, and a new addition to an all-time favorite series that I loved so much I've dragged my feet on writing about it. But they'll happen soon, I'm sure!

My Goodreads goal was to finish 52 books in 2017 because I had no idea what my reading life would look like with a toddler. So, you can imagine my surprise that I read 151 books! I had a great year, but here are my 20 favorite books. 

SECRETS OF A SUMMER NIGHT, IT HAPPENED ONE AUTUMN, DEVIL IN WINTER, SCANDAL IN SPRING AND A WALLFLOWER CHRISTMAS BY LISA KLEYPAS | I've heard nothing but praise for this series from all of my historical romance loving friends. When Kelly saw how much I was enjoying Anne Gracie's books, she begged me to give these a try. She warned me they'd probably be a little steamier than I'd like (they were, so I skimmed/skipped some) but that I'd fall in love with the female friendships (and I totally did). They were on my mental "maybe someday" list until Alexa's recent re-read + the appearance of like-new copies at my local used bookstore prompted me to pick them up. 

Secrets of a Summer Night introduces the Wallflowers, a group of four unmarried women who band together to help each other find a husband. I immediately loved the girls and their scheme, so everything was off to a good start. Kleypas' writing just pulls you in! Annabelle is beautiful but poor, so she needs a wealthy husband to save her family from disaster. Of all the girls, she was my least favorite -- she was such a snob! She gets better, but still... I was annoyed by all the men in this book who just wanted to make her their mistress, but the hero proved himself in the end. I So Liked It overall.

I couldn't wait for It Happened One Autumn because Lillian is clearly the best Wallflower. I mean, who can resist an outspoken, headstrong, brash American?! Her story was just as delightful as I expected. And the fact that it was a hate-to-love romance basically solidified this book's spot as my favorite in the series. I can never resist an arrogant, uptight, rich man falling for someone "beneath" him, and I blame it all on Pride and Prejudice. I couldn't wait for these two to admit their love for one another! I So Enjoyed It and was in shock at the ending...

How could the hero of Devil in Winter redeem himself after the events at the end of the previous book? I honestly wasn't sure it was possible. Well, I should have trusted Kleypas because she made me believe that he could be redeemed. Plus, Evangeline caught me by surprise. I totally underestimated her! Of all the books, this was had my favorite story. I loved the elopement, the casino, the threat to Evie and, most of all, the character growth for both of them. I do love when a rake meets his match! I just couldn't put this book down and So Enjoyed It. 

Next up was Scandal in Spring with Daisy, Lillian's younger sister. I think Daisy always faded into the background when Lillian was around, so I didn't realize what a delightful heroine she'd be! I loved that she always had her nose stuck in a book and was such a dreamer. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie tells Darcy, “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” That's how Daisy feels about the man she's supposed to marry, and I loved every second of watching her realize she was totally wrong! I So Enjoyed It

And finally, there's a little bonus book: A Wallflower Christmas. Rafe Bowman, Lillian and Daisy's brother, is at the heart of this novella. He's come to England in search of a bride and, of course, the Wallflowers plan to get involved in his love life. It's what they do best! I wanted a little more development in the romance because it felt like it all happened so quickly, but I was still pretty swept up in it. But my absolute favorite thing about the book was catching up with all four women -- it was like a bonus epilogue that just made me so happy. I So Liked It and was sad to say goodbye to the Wallflowers!

SOMEONE TO LOVE, SOMEONE TO HOLD AND SOMEONE TO WED BY MARY BALOGH | I'll be honest: I totally bought these books because I liked the covers. Yes, sometimes I'm that kind of reader. Thankfully, it paid off in this situation! These are the first three books in Balogh's new Westcott series. The Westcott family is in turmoil when they learn that the recently deceased Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, had been keeping a devastating secret regarding his marriage. I'm a sucker for a good series focused on a single family!

Someone to Love introduces the family and reveals that secret. The book is confusing in the beginning (too many characters) and has uneven pacing, so it took me some time to get drawn into the story. I liked the heroine immediately, but I was less sure of the hero. He's unconventional -- in looks and actions -- which made him unique but also really interesting. Both characters are reserved in their own way, so it was challenging for me to get invested in them. I didn't feel like I knew them that well! I So Liked It but a lot was going to hinge on my reaction to the second book. 

I knew the heroine of Someone to Hold was a character I didn't really like in the first book and that the hero was originally in love with the heroine of the first book. I mean, hello, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. And yet, somehow, Balogh completely won me over! There was such great character development in this book, and I think that's what made fall in love with this story. I enjoyed the hate-to-love vibes (one of my favorite tropes) and the way the romance grew out of their blossoming friendship. It was just so good, and I So Enjoyed It! It sealed the deal on my investment in the Westcotts.

And finally, we come to Someone to Wed. This is definitely my favorite in the series so far! I liked the hero from his appearances in the previous books, but I just fell in love with him in this one. He's so honorable, kind and thoughtful! There are so many rakes in this genre that it was delightful to read about someone quite different. And the heroine broke my heart with her past and low self esteem. It was so amazing to see her finally realize her value! Balogh excels at depicting the emotional lives of her characters, and it gives me ALL THE FEELS while I'm reading. I So Loved It.

What have you been reading lately?

Quick Lit: December 2017 (Part 1)

Jan 25, 2018

I read 16 books in December, and I'm reviewing 14 of them in December's Quick Lit post. Since it was quite long, I split it into two parts. Tomorrow's Part 2 features reviews for the two series that I read in December. With one exception, everything I read during the month was something I bought or was gifted in 2017. So, I finished a lot... but it didn't really help my TBR. Oops? If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy

On the blog in December, I posted four reviews. The first was for The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, a book I read over the summer and loved so much that I could barely put my thoughts into words. Then, I shared a review Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (for October's Picky Pledge prompt), for Illuminae and Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (for November), and The City Baker's Guide to County Living by Louise Miller (for December). 

THE PERFECT STRANGER BY ANNE GRACIE | After I finished my binge of the Chance sisters series, I found myself craving more from this author. So, since I'd already read the first two book in the Merridew series, I dove into the third. I was immediately hooked by the opening and couldn't put it down! Faith was a really enjoyable heroine, and I liked Nicholas (though he spent far too much time keeping secrets from Faith "for her own good"). The change in setting was fun, too, since they're traveling together. It's not the most memorable Gracie that I've read, but I still So Enjoyed It.

THE PERFECT KISS BY ANNE GRACIE | I was nervous before starting the last Merridew book because I knew Kelly wasn't a huge fan. Now that I've read it, I can see why. It's definitely my least favorite in the series - though it isn't completely awful. I just really didn't like the dynamic between the hero and heroine, primarily because the initial power imbalance made consent questionable. The romance got a little better by the end, but not enough to fully win me over. There were things I liked, so I'd say I So Liked It (as long as I don't think too hard about the beginning). 

SUGAR PINE TRAIL BY RAEANNE THAYNE | If you're a regular reader of my blog, you may remember me gushing about the Haven Point series last summer. Thankfully, the seventh in the series came out just in time for Christmas! I absolutely adored this one, which was exciting because the fifth and sixth were just okay for me. I was swept up in the holiday vibes, totally swooned over Jamie, cheered for Julia as she came out of her shell, and fell in love with the two little boys in her care. This was the perfect book for the season, and I So Enjoyed It! Now, I can't wait for the next...

THE TROUBLE WITH MISTLETOE BY JILL SHALVIS | I've never read anything by Shalvis before, but I started this book with high hopes. I'd heard such good things! Unfortunately, this was a major letdown for me. I really didn't like the writing style. It's hard for me to pinpoint what didn't work for me, but it just felt clunky. I wasn't invested in the couple, the chemistry fizzled, and I found myself skimming at times. Sadly, I was So Over It. I picked up a different Shalvis after this one, read two chapters and realized that she's probably just not for me. But I think I'm the black sheep here!

THE VISCOUNT NEEDS A WIFE BY JO BEVERLEY | Jo Beverley was a new author for me, but I couldn't resist giving her a try when I spotted this for $1. It's apparently #17 in a series, but I had no problem diving right in. I loved the heroine, a widow longing for freedom, and the hero, a spy and reluctant Viscount. It felt a little long at times, and I was hoping for just a bit more development between the couple. But I loved how Beverley brought the time period to life by packing it with historical details + a storyline involving the royal family! It was a fun introduction to this author, and I So Liked It

MARRY IN HASTE BY ANNE GRACIE | I couldn't wait to start this book - the first in a new series by Gracie! I didn't pay close attention to the summary since I was primarily reading it because of the author, and I ended up cracking up at how similar it was to my previous read (by Jo Beverley) in almost all respects. But the one thing that set it apart is that I was more invested in the characters. It took a long time for the romance to develop, but I didn't mind at all because I was majorly swooning by the end! I So Enjoyed It, and I'm so excited to see where this series goes next. 

What have you been reading lately?

Quick Lit: November 2017 (Part 2)

Jan 23, 2018

I'm two months behind on my Quick Lit posts, so I'm finally catching up this week. Because I had 17 books to review for November, I split the post into two parts. If you missed it, here is Part 1 with the three series I binged that month. Today's post features 8 standalones! I read two other books that aren't included in this post: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, which I'll be reviewing that separately, and another book that I just skimmed (so I don't feel right reviewing and rating it). If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy

THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY BY KATJA MILLAY | I read this book for the first time a few years ago (click the book title for my original review!) and fell head over heels in love with it. I was swept away by Millay's writing, the heartbreaking pain, the amazing characters -- all of it. I'd been meaning to re-read for ages and finally listened to the audio. While I didn't love the male narrator (my one criticism), everything else about this story was just an amazing the second time around. It was still an emotional rollercoaster, and I'm So Obsessed With It. And that last line? I DIE.

ALL IN PIECES BY SUZANNE YOUNG | I saw Andi talking about this book, and she piqued my interest. When I spotted a copy at the library a few days later, I couldn't resist! I loved that Savannah wasn't the traditional YA heroine. She's at an alternative high school due to "anger management issues" after she stuck a pencil in her ex-boyfriend's hand. School is miserable, but her home life is even worse. I was so invested in Savannah's story -- and in her blossoming romance with a new student. It was an emotional read about heavy issues, but I read it in one sitting and So Enjoyed It.

UNTIL THERE WAS YOU BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | I was nervous about this book because Kelly read it before me, and she wasn't a huge fan. I don't know if it's because I went in with low expectations, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the humor, the plot, and the heroine (though I wanted her to stand up for herself). But I will agree with Kelly that the romance was my least favorite aspect. I didn't get what made the hero so special -- and didn't fully believe the couple belonged together. I So Liked It for everything else but probably wouldn't re-read this in the future.

MY ONE AND ONLY BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | I really enjoy second-chance romances, so I was looking forward to this book before I even started it. The addition of a a cross-country road trip got my hopes up even higher, and, thankfully, I wasn't disappointed in the least! There's a lot of background info in this one since the couple has a history together, so it took a while for the story to move forward. But I was so invested in the couple, even when they did things that annoyed me, and I have a feeling that the snarky humor helped. I'm happy to say that I So Enjoyed It

IF YOU ONLY KNEW BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | This is one of my favorite books from Higgins! It focuses on two sisters, Jenny and Rachel, which is always a draw for me. I was a little nervous beforehand because one storyline involves cheating, but I thought it was handled it really well. I loved that the book felt more like women's fiction than contemporary romance, and I think that contributed to the fact that the book felt a little more serious and sad than what I'd expect from Higgins. But there was still a nice amount of humor and the bond between the sisters meant I So Loved It.

FOOLS RUSH IN BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | After loving If You Only Knew, I was so excited to pick up this one. Unfortunately, it's my least favorite Higgins so far. But with an extensive backlist, there are bound to be a few misses! I think this was her first book, so I can see some of her trademarks -- and how she's grown. My biggest issue with this one was the heroine. She was so annoying and a little too clueless. Plus, the stalking her crush thing was creepy and not funny to me. The romance didn't redeem it either because I hated that it involved a sibling's ex. I was So Okay With It

YOUNG JANE YOUNG BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN | I own but haven't read another book by Zevin, but I had to grab this from the library after seeing several trusted readers raving about it. And when I first started, I could see why they recommended it. I immediately loved the writing and the voice! But as the story went on and shifted perspectives, I started to lose interest. The last section was my least favorite, and I was bummed to end on a lackluster note. The story and message are very timely in today's world, but I was just So Okay With It because it felt unfinished.

ALL I EVER WANTED BY KRISTAN HIGGINS | This was a sweet story from Higgins with a heroine that I was rooting for. I loved the secondary characters, especially the grandfather, which is often the case when I pick up a book from this author. I disliked a few things about it (the ridiculous devil/angel on her shoulder long-running joke) and was meh on a few others (namely the romance, which felt like it took forever to develop). But there were enough good things about it, including a sweet ending, that I felt like I So Liked It overall. Not a favorite, but still fun for a pick-me-up.

What have you been reading lately?

Quick Lit: November 2017 (Part 1)

Jan 22, 2018

I'm two months behind on my Quick Lit posts, so I'm finally catching up this week. November was my most active reading month, but my slowest blogging one. I'm sure the two things were related! I finished 19 books, and I'll be reviewing 17 of them. To cut down on the length of the post, I decided to split it into two parts. This post has reviews for the three series I binged in November. You can find reviews for the other books I read in November in Part 2. If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU AND ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN BY JENNY HAN | Oh man, where do I even begin with these delightful stories? I fell in love with Lara Jean a few years ago, and I'm so delighted the intended standalone became a trilogy. I will never turn down more time with this heroine (and her sisters)! I don't want to spend too long talking about the first two books since I've read and reviewed them before, so click those titles for more of my thoughts on them. Here's all I will add this time around: 1) I re-read via audio and loved the narrator, so I can highly recommend that format and 2) the second grew on me even more after re-reading, partly because the ambiguous ending is now followed by the third and final book. So, let's chat about the last one!

Always and Forever, Lara Jean was everything I hoped it would be and more. At one point in the book, I thought I saw where the story was headed and appreciated the fact that it was realistic (if a little sad). But Han surprised me, and I loved that it was ultimately so sweet and hopeful. Very fitting for a heroine who is a true romantic! I loved the new developments with the family, but you'll have to pick up the book to find out what I mean. I appreciated the college search, the disappointments, and Lara Jean's realization that she has to do what's best for her. But most of all, I loved that her journey came full circle. Peter once told her, “You'd rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.” Well, this finale gives us Lara Jean embracing life in all its messiness. I'm So Obsessed With It

THE KISS OF DECEPTION, THE HEART OF BETRAYAL & THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS BY MARY PEARSON | I'd been meaning to read this series for ages and even purchased all three books in the hopes that it would motivate me to get started. It was nice that owning all three made it easy for me to binge the series, but I'm not entirely sure I would have read past the first if I'd only owned that one. Ahhh, the consequences of being a book hoarder.

Of the three books, The Kiss of Deception was the weakest for me. I wasn't very invested in the romance at that point, but it seemed to be the only thing happening in the first book. Instead of a story of personal growth, I was immersed in a love triangle that was somehow boring. Nothing happened! The world building seemed weak, and I was honestly debating quitting the series at that point because I was just So Okay With It. But the last quarter convinced me to keep going...

The Heart of Betrayal, thankfully, was lightyears better. The world was fleshed out, there was a gripping plot, and I was finally interested in the conflict. I don't know if it's because the stakes felt higher, but I know that the introduction of more secondary characters helped me feel more invested in what I was reading. The romance improved, too, with identities finally being revealed and choices being made. I raced through this one, So Enjoyed It, and excitedly picked up the third.

The thickness of The Beauty of Darkness didn't intimidate me, but the saddest thing happened: it felt as long as it looks. I liked the story, but there was SO MUCH build up for a conflict that's resolved in a few pages. Plus, the relationship drama got old. There's only so many times you can have the same conversation about a situation that hasn't changed! I'd still say I So Liked It, but the series overall was uneven (though I'm more of the black sheep with this opinion). 

THE WINTER BRIDE, THE SPRING BRIDE AND THE SUMMER BRIDE BY ANNE GRACIE | I read the first book in this series, The Autumn Bride, back in August. It was a gift with Kelly and was my third read from Gracie. When I reviewed it, I talked about how I loved the friendship between the four girls but felt the romance needed more development because it took such a backseat to the other storylines. But I liked it enough to pick up the next book in the series, The Winter Bride, and hoped that I'd enjoy it more since it wouldn't have to spend as long setting up the backstory.

Well, y'all, I wasn't prepared for what happened next. I was swept away by The Winter Bride and am now obsessed with Anne Gracie! I was immediately invested in Damaris and wanted to learn more about her past. As for Freddy, I think Gracie specializes in very lovable rakes. I adored the marriage of convenience storyline and the way they brought out the best in one another. I can still vividly remember my favorite scenes, and that's rarely the case for me months after I've finished a book. This was definitely a So Loved It that just might be bumped up to Obsessed when I re-read it. 

After falling in love with Freddy and Damaris, I immediately moved on to The Spring Bride. Jane was an interesting heroine. She's probably my least favorite of the sisters, but I did love that she wasn't ashamed of the fact that her past made her want a safe, sensible marriage. But, of course, running into a mysterious stranger upends her best laid plans. I think the drama lasted just a bit too long in this one (and felt a little contrived), but I'm generally not a fan of storylines that hinge on people keeping secrets from one another. But I still So Liked It in the end!

And finally, it was time for The Summer Bride. I'd been eagerly anticipating this one because I had such a soft spot for Daisy! She was so different from the other sisters (primarily because of her upbringing), and I loved her passion for making beautiful clothes. She dreams of being a business owner, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her pursue that goal. The hero was quite dashing and exactly what I'd want for Daisy, which made it a delight to read. And the best part of it? Seeing all the different couples happily settled in the end! *sigh* I So Enjoyed It - and loved the series overall!

What have you been reading lately?

The Picky Pledge 2018

Jan 8, 2018

Today, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and I are talking all things Picky Pledge! We're recapping a few 2017 reading statistics, reflecting on what we learned the past year, and sharing our plan for 2018. The Picky Pledge 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. If you're curious, here's how it got started

For the past three years, Alexa and I have shared a long post packed with charts and graphs analyzing our year in books. From what we read to what we acquired, we took a look at our stats and used them to identify what we wanted to change in the year to come. This year, we're doing things a little differently. It's all about simplifying! 

We've learned a lot since starting The Picky Pledge in 2015! We've changed some of our bad habits -- and noticed there's one we just can't seem to break. This year, we're focusing on doing less but hopefully accomplishing more. So, in that spirit, we're just sharing three statistics from 2017 today. We'll address review books and books bought later in this post.

Interestingly enough, this chart looks very similar to last year! I read more books in 2017 (151 vs 93 in 2016), but the percentages stayed about the same. I re-read and borrowed the same percentage of books. My review reading decreased just a bit, which doesn't surprise me. Since I blogged less consistently last year, I was more cautious to request things for review. I didn't want the commitment! I read just a bit more from my TBR in 2017, so that's a Picky Pledge success. However, my reading life is still dominated by the books I'm acquiring rather than what I already own. 

There was a decent amount change in this category! In 2016, I rated 59% of what I read 4 stars or higher. In 2017, it was up to 70%! I'm pleased that I had such a great reading year and hope it's a sign that I'm getting better at identifying what books work for me. I also read more 3.5 star books (15% up from 7%), fewer 3 star books (11% down from 26%) and fewer 1 and 2 star books (4% combined vs. 8% in 2016). Those statistics all speak to the fact that I'm reading the right books for me. Becoming more in tune with my reading taste (and being less influenced by other people) is a good thing! 

I love reading series, but I noticed last year that I hadn't read as many as usual. So, I was looking forward to seeing this statistic. I love that almost half of what I read in 2017 was in a series! I did a bunch of series binges, said goodbye to some favorites, got caught up on a few and started several others. I can't wait to see what 2018 holds in store!

I mentioned earlier in this post that my charts didn't address Review Books or Books Bought, but I'll be talking about those things here. When we kicked off Picky Pledge for 2017, Alexa and I set three personal goals. Mine were:
  1. Read no more than 24 review books.
  2. Buy no more than 80 books.
  3. Complete the Picky Pledge Reading Challenge.
So, how'd I do? 
  1. I read 17 books for review. SUCCESS.
  2. I... have no idea how many books I bought. I documented them all in monthly recaps but didn't keep a spreadsheet of purchases and am now too lazy to go back and dig into the numbers. But based on the fact that 69 of the 151 books I read were purchased or gifted to me in 2017 (and I bought more that I still haven't read), I think it's safe to say this was a total FAIL. I'll talk about this more in a minute.
  3. I read 12 books that fit the 12 categories in our Reading Challenge, so this was a SUCCESS. In fact, this was my favorite part of the Picky Pledge and has inspired our new goals for 2018.
I definitely feel like I've got a handle on review books now. As for buying books, I don't think this habit will change anytime soon. I've gotten better during the past three year, though there's obviously still room for improvement, but I'm not setting a purchasing goal anymore. I always lose motivation while trying to keep a running list of what I bought, where I got it, and whether it adds to my TBR or not! I'm considering Christine's book budget idea, which seems more realistic.

As for the Picky Pledge Reading Challenge, here's what I read for each category (with links to reviews):
Now, let's talk about 2018.

The Picky Pledge will look a little different in 2018, and I don't just mean the updated colors in the graphics. After reviewing our progress and discussing our goals, Alexa and I have decided that our only plan for this year is to complete another round of the The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge! We've updated two categories, but everything else has stayed the same. We loved that this made us look a little differently at our TBR, and we primarily want to focus on staying on top of that in 2018. Instead of monthly reviews, we'll share a recap at the end of the year detailing what we read for each category. But throughout the year I'll track my progress!

Here's to being intentional - and simplifying - in 2018!
What are your reading goals for the year?
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