Sunday, February 18, 2018

2017 Wrap-Up (yet another year with a reading catastrophe)

Yes, yes I know I'm terribly late with this but better late than never, am I right?  You know those years where you have all the best intentions to fix all the mistakes of the previous year but then it doesn't really work out?  Yeah, that was 2017.  I didn't even get around to posting my resolutions so I don't really have anything to compare myself with.  Mostly, I just know I failed epically at the two challenges I set for myself in the beginning of the year.  But let's stop with all the doom and gloom; the year wasn't all bad.  I had a great rereading stint (even if it meant I wasn't reading new-to-me books...) which was really great and December was an awesome month for reading.  But let me stop talking at you and show you some stats!

For starters, I read about 5,000 more words than last year which is really great!  Granted, I reread a LOT this year...

I also have a bunch of charts for you!  (but mostly for me because I'm lost without charts...)

I'm kind of disappointed in myself that I didn't tackle longer books although it was a crazy busy year for me.  I only read a small, small fraction of books over the 500 page mark (and 500 pages isn't even that bad!).  I'm hoping to do better this year.

The formats are mostly the same as last year.  I still haven't gotten around to trying an audiobook yet and I mostly read on my kindle.

As for the series', I feel like this is an ongoing problem.  I constantly start new series and then I never finish the series' that I start!  I get sidetracked by another series and it's just a horrible cycle.  I have a whole list of series' that I'm hoping to finish off this year.  I just don't like finishing series' and closing off the world for some reason.

I'm glad to see I have a bit more diversity in my genre selection last year although there's still a lot of fantasy in there (but how can I abandon fantasy??  It's the best!).  Overall, I'm satisfied with that spread and I'm going to try and keep up the trend.

The target audience percentages aren't surprising at all to me.  I love YA and I think I'll continue to love it for at least the next five years.  I am slowly introducing more Adult books into the mix too.

The author spread always surprises me.  I don't know how I tend to read books by female authors but that's just how it ends up.  I have no qualms with it, though.  I do want to read some books by an androgynous author sometime though!

My average star rating for 2017 was 3.97 which I'm kind of happy with.  I've been trying to work it down mostly because I feel like I'm always really generous with stars and I rarely ever rate anything 1 star.

But this is exactly what I'm talking about with trying to get my average star rating more balanced!  I tend to rate most books with four or five stars which could mean that I'm just really good at picking books that I know I'll like, or it could also mean that I always strain to see the good in everything.  I've rated a grand total of two books with one star in my entire reading career which is ridiculous.  I'm not sure if I'm committed enough to change this though.  I feel like that would mean changing my whole attitude on life which I don't want to do.
As you can see, the reading catastrophe occurred from June to September.  That's also about the time that I randomly disappeared from the blogosphere and stopped posting 50/50 Friday's.  My summer was just insanely busy with trying to keep up with my summer job and taking care of the house while my parents were away.  And then there was preparing for fall semester and then actually transitioning back to uni which was a little rocky.  So those months were not good months.  I think I redeemed myself a bit in December although it wasn't enough to make my Goodreads challenge (68/100 without counting rereads).

The Books:
If you'd like to see the whole list of books I read for 2017, you can see it HERE.

Some notable ones include:
Caraval - Stephanie Garber

Caraval #1

Rating: 4.5 stars (Review HERE)

This was one of the most atmospheric books I read during 2017!  I remember laying on the floor of my room for hours reading this, not even taking a break for food because I was so enraptured.  The sequel comes out at the end of May and I'm so excited!

A Court of Wings and Ruin - Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

Rating: 4.5 stars (Review HERE)

Ah yes, this year marked pretty much the end of Feyre and Rhysand as protagonists and I'm sad to see them go.  Of course, I'm so excited for A Court of Frost and Starlight (that title though!!) but we won't be seeing them as main protagonists in full-length books anymore.  They're final full episode went off almost without a hitch (except for that fake death at the end... what the heck, SJM?  While I didn't want them to die, I almost would have preferred an actual death.  This is the perfect time for an Allegiant moment if you know what I mean!).  I'll definitely be rereading this series (and hopefully actually writing a review for the middle one, ACOMAF)!

18 Hours to Us - Krista Noorman

Standalone to date

Rating: 4 stars (Review HERE)

I've been reading and reviewing Krista Noorman's books for the better part of four years and it's been such a pleasure working with her.  I'm never disappointed in her books and she writes such lovely, fluffy (but with a hint of spice) contemporaries that I adore.  This is her newest book that I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of.

Among the Flames - Shelby K. Morrison

Legend of the Liberator #2

Rating: 5 stars (Review HERE)

I've also established a relationship with this author and I've read the first book in the series as well and I have to say, I immediately fell in love.  This is one of the hidden gems that you always dream of finding.  The second installment didn't disappoint and it's one of the newest additions to my fantasy favorites.  This is also one of my few solid 5 star books in 2017 (books rated 4.5 stars are rounded up in the statistics and many of my rereads are 5 stars).

The Fate of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling #3

Rating: 4.5 stars (Review HERE)

This is one of those series' where you either love it or hate it and I absolutely loved it.  This is the final book of the trilogy and I have to applaud the author for a perfect ending.  It's far from picture perfect and takes a turn you wouldn't expect but strangely, it's rather wonderful.  Kind of like the ending of The Handmaid's Tale where it's not the ending you were hoping for but it's perfect all the same.  I loved this trilogy so much I bought a hardcover copy of it and I'll be rereading it very soon!

And there you have it!  I'll be posting my 2018 resolutions and challenge wrap-ups/goals (I know, I'm so late!!) in about a week.  I already have them written in my notebook so I'm a little more organized than last year.

How did your 2017 pan out?  Did you meet your Goodreads goal?  Do you tend to read more male or female authors?  Do your reading tastes focus on a few genres or are you like me with basically everything?  Are you also intimidated to start large books?  How do you feel about having a high average star rating?  What's your average star rating?  And do you have my same problem with starting ALL the series' and then never finishing them?  Let me know down in the comments!

Friday, February 16, 2018

50/50 Friday (72): Favorite/Least Favorite Family in a Book

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Favorite/Least Favorite Family in a Book

The Weasely's from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter #1

"Harry Potter's life is miserable. His parents are dead and he's stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he's a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry's first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it's his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come."

I feel like this is pretty universal but I just had to include the Weasely's!  They became such a great surrogate family for Harry Potter after his parents died and they really took him under their wing.  And, of course, he also officially joined the family by marrying Ginny!  They care so much about each other and I love all of the scenes that take place in their house with the family.

Least Favorite:

The Queen of the Tearling #1

"An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her."

Kelsea's family in this series is just horrible.  Specifically, her mother's side of the family (the Raleigh side).  They're just a bunch of vain, power-hungry, money-hungry, weak-minded people which partly the reason for Kelsea to take her father's last name: Glynn.  Despite this, she manages to overcome the temptations of her bloodline because of her upbringing by the two servants who took her away from the castle when her mother died.  Suffice to say, Kelsea's 'surrogate' family is so much better than her actual family.

Have you read either of these series?  What did you think of the families portrayed?  What are your favorite and least favorite families portrayed in books?  Make a post and link up down below!

Next Week's Topic: First/Last ____ Book Read (specific genre, etc)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review Wednesday: In Search of Gods and Heroes by Sammy H.K. Smith

Children of Narowyn #1

"Buried in the scriptures of Ibea lies a story of rivalry, betrayal, stolen love, and the bitter division of the gods into two factions. This rift forced the lesser deities to pledge their divine loyalty either to the shining Eternal Kingdom or the darkness of the Underworld.
When a demon sneaks into the mortal world and murders an innocent girl to get to her sister Chaeli, all pretence of peace between the gods is shattered. For Chaeli is no ordinary mortal, she is a demi-goddess, in hiding for centuries, even from herself. But there are two divine brothers who may have fathered her, and the fate of Ibea rests on the source of her blood.
Chaeli embarks on a journey that tests her heart, her courage, and her humanity. Her only guides are a man who died a thousand years ago in the Dragon Wars, a former assassin for the Underworld, and a changeling who prefers the form of a cat.
The lives of many others – the hideously scarred Anya and her gaoler; the enigmatic and cruel Captain Kerne; the dissolute Prince Dal; and gentle seer Hana – all become entwined. The gods will once more walk the mortal plane spreading love, luck, disease, and despair as they prepare for the final, inevitable battle.
In Search of Gods and Heroes, Book One of Children of Nalowyn, is a true epic of sweeping proportions which becomes progressively darker as the baser side of human nature is explored, the failings and ambitions of the gods is revealed, and lines between sensuality and sadism, love and lust are blurred."

Thank you to the author, Sammy H.K. Smith, for gifting me with a copy of In Search of Gods and Heroes through a common connection.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Before I say anything else, let me tell you I spent a good hour agonizing over this book and what to rate it.  I've never felt constrained by my rating system before but I definitely do now!  I'm just so conflicted.  On one hand, the complexity that this author built up in 420 pages is astounding but on the other, there are clear areas of improvement kept this from perfection.  If you couldn't tell, I have a lot to say about this book so strap in!

1.  The characters.  This is the area that I was most conflicted by.  There is a healthy cast of characters that each have their own feelings and perspective.  I loved getting to hear from each of the characters and their interactions are spot on.  The issue I had, though, is the lack of backstory.  It's hinted at (and briefly explained) in various portions of the novel in a broad, sweeping sense, but not on a personal note which kept the character's themselves feeling slightly vague and shadowy.  The characters were anything but flat (Nathan especially!) but they are very murky which really bothered me.

2.  The romance.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  There's a very clear love square defined by about the first third of the book (and by love square I mean three guys interested in one girl).  I'm very much not a fan of love triangles that are done in the wrong way but if they raise good questions for the characters, then I'm all for it.  In this book, I don't see that happening very much (the two closest guys are both doing the typical 'I want to love you but I'll corrupt your soul/I swore an oath of protection and not love' deal which isn't very valuable.  There is a question of lineage brought into play, though, that makes it more valuable for the MC (Chaeli).  So overall, the romance is a meh for me.

3.  The setting/world.  I have a complicated relationship with this aspect as well.  While the world is lush and rich, it isn't terribly well-defined, like the characters.  There's a map in the beginning which was truly appreciated but I do wish there was a little more of an introductory period or a bit of help from the internal dialogue of the characters to explain some things (like the orientation of the different countries and which ones were countries and which ones were just cities and what land forms are where; that sort of thing).  It's all included in the map, but it's nice to be reminded of these things now and again so you don't have to keep flipping back to the map.  This is entirely personal preference but I'm kind of an impatient reader.  Despite this, I think the world-building is the author's strength in this novel.

4.  The POV's.  This is one of my favorite parts of the book (along with the world building).  We are given so many different perspectives that reveal our unreliable narrators and their personal lenses that they see the world through.  The perspectives aren't labeled but you're able to figure out who is speaking within a paragraph.  The voices are distinct although some of the character vagueness does carry over.  Mostly, I enjoyed how many angles of the story we were able to see.  I'll talk about this in the next section, but it also helped move the plot along and keep the tension up.  If you just saw the story through only a few of the perspectives, the plot wouldn't be as engaging because there is so much happening behind the scenes.  The book is slightly political which means there's plenty of backstage maneuvering.

5.  The plot.  And last but not least, the plot.  As I said above, once you get past the halfway point, the urgency seems to die down from a couple of the POV's but it picks up in others which keeps it going.  There's the typical action plotline, the political plotline, the romance plotline, the godly plotline, and the list goes on and on.  The author does a stellar job of keeping them all in balance and weaving them together so you don't get too overwhelmed and everything ties together nicely.  You have to use a little brain power and surmising but take it from someone who enjoys mysteries on a regular basis: it isn't too hard to keep up and any inferences you make are carefully guided by the actions of the characters.  It may not seem like the author is leading you in a certain direction until you realize that you ended up exactly where she wanted you to be.  I admit, it sounds strange, but it's exactly what mystery writers do when they write their endings.

The Final Verdict:
While I do have a complicated relationship with this book, the plot, POV's, and world-building are stand-outs with their complexity and finesse.  I do wish the characters and the overall orientation of the world were a bit more defined.
3.5 stars

Friday, February 9, 2018

50/50 Friday (71): Favorite/Least Favorite Ships

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Favorite/Least Favorite Ships

Friday, February 2, 2018

50/50 Friday (70): Best/Worst Book Read in January

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst Book Read in January

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Agatha Christie Review Round Up: Part Seven

For my birthday last year, my parents gifted me with about 35 Agatha Christie mysteries of which I've made it my mission in January and February to read!  I've done six other parts to this series, all of which I've linked below.

Friday, January 26, 2018

50/50 Friday (69): Favorite Book Set in Winter/Summer

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Favorite Book Set in Winter/Summer

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