December 31, 2013

2014 Reading Goals

It's the last day of 2013, so it's almost too late to conquer any more than I have this year. Time to look forward to the future!

With each new year comes new goals and resolutions in all shapes and sizes. Usually my reading goals are simply to read more books than the year before, but since starting this blog I'm finding new ways to challenge myself and change the way I select books to read. I am still going to give myself a numerical goal of books to read, but I'm also going to give myself smaller goals to reach within those books.

2014 Reading Goals
  • Read 60 total books
  • Complete the Book Bingo Challenge (more on that tomorrow)
  • Complete the TBR Pile Challenge (more on that Thursday)
  • 10 Re-Reads from school (elementary through college)
  • 5 New-to-Me Classics
  • 5 Book-to-Movie adaptations
    • Overlaps amongst these groups are okay
In general, I would also like to read more books as they come out and attend more author events this year, but I don't know how to anticipate the practicality of enforcing a trackable goal for these. Maybe I just won't be interested in x-amount of new releases or won't have as x-amount of author events available. I'll just monitor these as the year progresses. 

What are your reading goals this year?

Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

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  1. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
  2. Fire by Kristin Cashore
  3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  5. 6 Verses That Can Change Your Life by Joe Barnett
  6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  8. The Second Daughter by J. Jeffrey
  9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  10. Friends of Mine by Elisa Lorello
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    Note: If a book in a series was selected, I purposely did not put any other books in the series on this list. Also, this does not include books I re-read this year.

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    Which books were among your favorites read this year?

    December 30, 2013

    2013 Book Title Survey

    There are just too many fun end-of-year surveys and memes to pick from, but I just couldn't resist this one from Catherine Pope - Victorian Geek.

    Using only books you have read this year, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.
    • Describe yourself: Happier Bride (Minna Sithep)
    • How do you feel: Wanderlust (Karen McQuestion)
    • Describe where you currently live: Priceless (Nicole Richie)
    • If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Where She Went (Gayle Forman)
    • Your favourite form of transportation: I Run (E.L. Farris)
    • Your best friend is: The Elite (Kiera Cass)
    • You and your friends are: Matched (Ally Condie)
    • What’s the weather like: Fire (Kristin Cashore) - {dang southern California winter!}
    • You fear: The Clock of Life (Nancy Klann-Moren)
    • What is the best advice you have to give: Love is a Mix Tape (Rob Sheffield)
    • Thought for the day: You Better Not Cry (Augusten Burroughs)
    • How I would like to die: A Storm of Swords (George R. R. Martin) {not really...}
    • My soul’s present condition: Faking It (Cora Carmack)

    Monday's Reading Recap

    This is why I'm weird: As of last night at 11pm, I have read 68 books this year and I'm not happy about it because I want to get to 70! It's really quite silly when I should calm down and just enjoy the books on my TBR list, but the end of the year makes me all competitive with myself. Anyone else cramming their reading in like it's finals? No, just me? Figures. ;)

    Last Week I Finished Reading: Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, and The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

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    This Week I Plan on Reading: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell as my first book of 2014 (FINALLY!)

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    This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

    What are you reading this week? 

    December 29, 2013

    2013 Best in Books Survey

     Best YA book 2013

    1. Best Book You Read in 2013: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

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               Runners Up by Genre:
    2. Biggest Disappointment Book: Allegiant by Veronica Roth
                 Too aimless considering how anticipated it was for everyone.

    3. Most Surprising Book (in a good way): The Second Daughter by J. Jeffrey
                  I agreed to read this for a book tour and thought it might be slow, but it was far
                  from that! Definitely one of my favorite books of the year, especially being about
                  family baggage.

    4. Book Read in 2013 That You Recommended Most in 2013: The Divergent series by Veronica Roth and A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.

                Runners Up:
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      5.  Best Series You Discovered in 2013: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

                 Runners Up:
      6.  Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2013: Stephanie Perkins

      7. Best Book Outside Your Comfort ZoneA Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

      8. Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book Read in 2013: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

      9. Book Read in 2013 That You're Most Likely to Re-Read in 2014: Fire by Kristin Cashore

      10. Favorite Cover of a Book Read in 2013: The Selection by Kiera Cass and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
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      11. Most Memorable Character in 2013: Cersei Lannister from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I hate to love her and love to hate her.

      12. Most Beautifully Written Book of 2013: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, but I also want to give some credit to Matched by Ally Condie.

      13. Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2013: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

      14. Book You Can't Believe You Waited Until 2013 to Read: SO MANY!! A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, Divergent series by Veronica Roth, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (any John Green, really!), Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield (any Rob Sheffield, really!), Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

      15. Favorite Passage/Quote from a Book Read in 2013: There are seriously far too many and I didn't keep track of a hierarchy of them, so I'm just going to give you two somewhat random ones:

       Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.
      -from A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

      If you love someone, if someone loved you, if they taught you to write and made it so you could speak, how can you do nothing at all? You might as well take their words out of the dirt and try to snatch them from the wind. / Because once you love, it is gone. You love and you cannot call it back
      -from Crossed by Ally Condie

      16. Shortest and Longest Book Read in 2013:
      17.  Book That Had A Scene That Had You Reeling and Dying to Talk to Somebody About It: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin had plenty of them!

      18. Favorite Relationship from a Book You Read in 2013:
      • Romantic: Douglass and Nicholas from A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
      • Friendship: Arya and Gendry from A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
      • Familial: Fire and Cansrel from Fire by Kristin Cashore (not because it's "good" haha!)
      19.  Favorite Book Read in 2013 From An Author You've Previously Read: Fire by Kristin Cashore

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      20. Best Book Read in 2013 Based Solely on Another Person's Recommendation: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

      21. Genre You Read the Most in 2013: Dystopian YA with 25% - I shouldn't be surprised, but I am!

      22. Newest Fictional Crush From a Book Read in 2013: Etienne St Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. 

      23. Best 2013 Debut You Read: The Second Daughter by J. Jeffrey (technically published in late 2012, but shhhhh....)

      24. Most Vivid World in a Book Read in 2013: Fire by Kristin Cashore

      25. Book That Was Most Fun to Read: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins and Cinder by Marissa Meyer

      26. Book That Made You Cry in 2013: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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      27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Was Overlooked: 6 Verses That Can Change Your Life by Joe Barnett

      28. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog: Ugh, still 50 Shades of Grey!

      29. Did You Complete Any Reading Challenges or Goals You Set This Year?  Yes, my original reading goal was 30 books because I felt I would be busier this year than last year when I met my goal of 50. When I reached 30 books by summer time, I increased my goal to 50 and again to 60. I ended up reading 68 books (and counting) in 2013!


      1. One Book You Didn't Get To in 2013 But Will Be Your #1 Priority in 2014: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

      2. Book You Are Most Anticipating for 2014: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello. Also, Cress by Marissa Meyer, The One by Keira Cass and Isla and the Happily Every After by Stephanie Perkins.

      3. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014: The One by Kiera Cass.

      4. One Thing You Hope to Accomplish or Do in You Reading/Blogging 2014: Go to more book events and read more current books!

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      December 27, 2013

      Fictionella Blog Tour: Heartbreak Cake by Cindy Arora

      Cake doesn't lie. It's doesn't cheat on you [sic]. It doesn't have an affair with inappropriate people, and it certainly doesn't leave you. You may leave it, when you have eaten too much of it, but cake will never walk out your front door.
      -from Heartbreak Cake by Cindy Arora
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       I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Fictionella in exchange for an honest review.

      Indira Aguilar is the type of person who you want to buy baked goods from because her heart, soul and powerful creativity is in her baking. So it's no wonder, that Indira's bakery, Cake Pan Bakeshoppe, is becoming the talk of her southern California beach town when it comes to stunningly creative wedding cakes. But there's trouble in paradise when Indira ends her affair with Josh Oliver, who is not only married but the manager of her fiercest competition, Crystal Cove Resort. When Josh's scorned wife begins attacking Indira's business and the community begins to turn on her, Indira must publicly maneuver through her heartbreak and find her way back to happiness with the help of family, friends, and a lot of butter.

      As you read this review, you're probably slowly coming out of a sugar coma from the holidays and the thought of reading a bakery-centered book might not line up with your new years resolutions. But hear me out: I read this book in a day and strongly recommend you indulge in this final week of the holiday season with a book as sweet as its subject matter.

      Ordinarily books about extramarital affairs are off limits for me because I have no desire to read them. But somehow Cindy Arora is able to tell the story of "the other woman" in a way that readers can identify. It also helps that Josh Oliver and his wife were separated and living in different countries with implications of divorce when Indira's relationship with him began. But overall, I got the idea that Indira was not a "home wrecker" by definition and this book encourages the reader to look at angles with which you might not ordinarily empathize. There are many layers to Indira's relationship which ultimately translate to her personal issues and I think Arora did an excellent job of painting the picture of a broken woman putting herself back together.

      As someone who loves to bake, the integration of baking and cooking into the storyline was really fun. I could only imagine what Indira and her business partner, Pedro's, baked goods tasted like. Reading this book made me crave real homemade treats and made me want to pick up a whisk to whip something up of my own. If you enjoy baking and cooking, I think that aspect will make this book even more enjoyable to you. I really want to know if there's a bakery in Long Beach comparable to Cake Pan, because if there is, I'm going there now!

      Speaking of the setting of the story, I was so excited to hear that it takes place in Long Beach, California, the city in which I actually currently reside! I identified with "Retro Row" and really love when authors use a real city as their backdrop (case in point: Lola and the Boy Next Door). However, what shatters this for me is when authors use real cities but don't use them realistically and unfortunately that's what I found with Heartbreak Cake. Those who aren't familiar with Southern California probably don't know this which might be why the author wrote it, but Long Beach and Laguna Beach (where Crystal Cove is supposed to be located), are nowhere near each other. In fact, they're just over 30 miles down Pacific Coast Highway from each other. I can believe that perhaps Crystal Cove would be Cake Pan's biggest competition in the SoCal wedding industry, but that Josh's wife could slander Indira so bad from Laguna to Long Beach, I just couldn't get behind. This annoyed me through the whole story. Call it Local Pride, but it was really hard to suspend my disbelief after being excited at a real location being used and it made me a little less trusting of the author. I know this might be really nit-picky, but what can I say, it affected my read.

      Another thing I didn't love about this book was that it had more than its fair share of typos; I attribute a decent amount of those to formatting errors since most of them contained dialogue by two people in a single paragraph. I hope the publisher and/or author are able to repair these problems nonetheless. I felt like some of the dialogue could use some editing also, but overall the dialogue brought the characters to life along with Indira's strong narration.  Despite the typos (formatting or otherwise) and some of my trouble with dialogue, the characters all pop off the page making for a juicy read that, at the end of the day, really does have a lot of heart!

      Bottom Line: Full of scandal, baked goods, and a lot of heart, Heartbreak Cake is a great way to indulge (so long as you're not a so Cal native unable to suspend disbelief a little bit). 3.5/5 stars, but I'll round up since my major annoyances most likely won't affect you!

      P.S. I wish this book included some of Indira's recipes!! I received so many baking-related items for Christmas that I would love to put them to use with her ideas! ;)

      December 25, 2013

      Angels at the Table by Debbie Macomber

      Oh dear . . . oh dear. It looked like she was too late. 

      Humans surrounded her, hugging and kissing, and there was Will, standing beside two people all alone with their backs to each other. 

      Mercy could see what was about to happen and felt powerless to stop it. With a single nudge of his wing, Will caused these two strangers to stumble into each other.
      -from Angels at the Table by Author

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      {buy here}

      Merry Christmas! I'm posting a bonus review today because this book is the perfect thing to pick up right between Christmas and New Year's Day. I couldn't resist throwing a recommendation your way for the holidays! :)

      I picked up this audio book from the library for a light and sweet holiday read with little expectation other than to read something nice around Christmas. I had never read Debbie Macomber before and was happy to finally read a book from this popular author. What I got was exactly what I expected: a sweet and sentimental read to enjoy during the holiday season. 

      Angels at the Table is a holiday novel from Macomber's Shirley, Mercy and Goodness series of novels about three angels who seem to always be getting themselves into a pickle on Earth. I have not read any of the other Angels novels by Macomber and can recommend this as a stand alone. In this installment, the three angels take their apprentice angel Will down to Time's Square on New Year's Eve where Will accidentally brings two humans together. Lucie and Aron bump into each other at the stroke of midnight, kissing as per tradition and then spending the evening chatting at a diner. They plan to meet again, but a twist of fate separates them from each other. It's up to Shirley, Goodness, Mercy and Will to bring these two back together the following year. But when the angels clumsily interfere more than they're supposed to, they find their task more difficult than expected. 

      This book was happy, wholesome and just the kind of book I needed to read after I was finished with my Christmas shopping, needing some much deserved quiet time. There is nothing outrageous or scandalously entertaining about this book, but the warmth and amount of conflict issued was still just as stimulating in a different way. And even without the outrageous entertainment, this story is anything but predictable. I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of the angels and gasping at times, too.

      Another thing that impressed me about this book was the Christian values and biblical allusions throughout. I enjoyed reading about the angel Gabriel and learning how angels functioned within the pages of this story. Everything I read lined up with the Bible without overcomplicating religion or sounding like it was preaching. I realized that this book would contain some sort of religious agenda what with "Angels" in the title and all, but there was no artificial sounding proselytizing, to which I'm somewhat sensitive. I really loved the message of this book and think it is a wonderfully light read for Christmastime.
      Bottom Line: If you like warm and whimsical, wholesome, romantic stories then this is the book for you! I think it might be too tame for some, but overall it's a solid story with a great message! 3.5/5 stars.

      December 24, 2013

      Top Ten Books I Want Santa to Bring Me

      I cannot believe Christmas is tomorrow. I feel guilty because I feel like I really didn't get into the holiday spirit this year as much as I would have liked, but it's because the year flew by way too quickly! Only one more week to read as much as we can for 2013, YIKES! All I want for Christmas is TIME, does that make me old? Then I'll settle for books. And yarn.

      Most of the fiction books on this list I've already read, but I'm wishing and hoping for copies of my own so that I can read them again and again!

      What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - One of my favorite books, why don't I own this? I even gave away a copy on this blog once before. I should buy it if Santa doesn't bring it!

      Fire and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore - Two more favorites! I found Graceling at my used book store, but I haven't gotten so lucky with these companions. I might just be holding out hope that Cashore writes more in the Graceling realm so that I can eventually purchase a boxed set....

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      The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from my Frontier by Ree Drummons - I actually bought this as a gift for someone this year and I am totally wanting to swap the gift tag or something. ;)

      Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle - I mean, mixed drinks based on literature? SIGN ME UP.

      Made to Crave by Lisa TerKeurst - I've been trying to find this at my used book store for awhile but haven't had luck. Maybe it's because it's so good people keep it instead of reading and giving away! Ironically I put this after the food books. Right.

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      Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Or any Stephanie Perkins, for that matter. Another book I kind of want to hold out in case there's an Anna boxed set someday, but if Santa brought me this now I would be happy! Assuming Santa has access to ARCs, he can also bring me Isla and the Happily Ever After if I've been good enough! ;) 
      Ordinary World, Why I Love Singlehood, and Adulation by Elisa Lorello - I have most of Lorello's books on my Kindle, but I love her so much that I want them all in physical book form as well! Assuming Santa has access to ARCs again, I would name my first born Santa if he brought me She Has Your Eyes! I can't wait for more Andi and David!!!

      Some honorable mentions . . .

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      By the way, whether you celebrate Christmas tomorrow or not, I hope your holiday season has been everything you wanted and more! And for those of you who do celebrate, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

      December 23, 2013

      Monday's Reading Recap

      After I semi-conquered my Fall TBR List and finished my goal of 60 books this year, I finally felt like I could relax and read leisurely whatever the heck I wanted. I picked up some holiday themed reads from popular authors I had never read and have been pleasantly surprised so far!

      Do you find yourself reading holiday stories in December? Do your reading habits change around the holidays?

      Last Week I Finished Reading: Priceless by Nicole Richie and Angels at the Table by Debbie Macomber

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      This Week I Plan on Reading: Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich and probably something else . . .

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      This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Heartbreak Cake by Cindy Arora

      What are you reading this week?