2013 – A Year In Review

fireworksIt’s totally cliché, but where the hell has this year gone? With today being the very last day of 2013 I figured I’d do a quick “Year in Review” post to talk about my progress with reading challenges and also to discuss my favorite books of the year!

Quick rundown on how I did with my reading challenges: I successfully read 120 books this year. In fact, as of the time of writing this post I am at 199 books for the year! (WOOT!) You can see all the books I’ve read with links to their reviews here. Now, a bit of bad news. I utterly failed (for the second year in a row) the audio book challenge. I didn’t listen to 1 audio book this year (read: pathetic.) I also didn’t do so great with the Book to Movie challenge either, with only 2 out of 12 read. Now, to the good news: I completed 78% of the Color Coded Challenge, or 7 out of 9 reads. I actually had a blast doing this challenge. You don’t realize how many books use colors in their titles until you do a challenge like this! Additionally, I unsurprisingly completed the Historical Fiction Challenge as well as the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary challenge with no trouble at all.

And now for the difficult part: Picking my favorite reads of 2013.

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  2. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley (look for my review next week!!!)
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers/Making It Last by Ruthie Knox
  5. Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  6. Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
  7. Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander/Easy by Tammara Webber
  8. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
  9. Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
  10. The Secret of Ella and Micha/The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

Having read almost 200 books this year, choosing 10 (really 12) of my favorites almost killed me. So, in the effort of easing my conscience I’m giving you some of my runners-up (in no particular order)!

  1. Pride, Prejudice, and the Perfect Match by Marilyn Brant
  2. The Edelstein Trilogie by Kersin Gier (Book one, two, & three)
  3. The Westfield Wolves/Regency Vampyre Series by Lydia Dare
  4. Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow
  5. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. Losing It by Cora Carmack
  7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  8. Bittersweet by Noelle Adams

This was hands down the hardest year yet to pick my favorite books. When you read almost 200 books in a year I guess that should be expected, no?

Ok, the burden is being passed to you. What did you love reading this year?!? Please let us know below. And finally, enjoy the rest of your New Year’s Day, hopefully with a great book. See you in 2014!

The August, September, AND October Roundup!

Can someone explain to me how today is the beginning of November?  And how I’ve missed posting my last three roundups? So much has happened since August.

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Wine Festival

First and foremost, we moved! Todd got a new job in our home state of New Jersey, so off we went.  Much (if not all) of September (and part of August) was spent packing up our life in Connecticut.  It’s true what they say: you don’t realize how much you have until you need to move it all.  He’s loving his new job.  As hard as the move was on me (I lived in Connecticut from ages 17-27) that simple fact has made the entire thing worthwhile.  I’ve been lucky enough to continue consulting for the company I was working for in CT, and I’ve also begun freelance copyediting!  (The first book I copyedited, Against His Will by Nancy Kelley, is now available and I highly suggest you go buy a copy.)

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My cousin and I at my cousin’s wedding! (I’m in love with our dresses)

Anyway, as packing began so did the goodbyes.  Much of our time pre-October was spent with friends.  There was the Connecticut shoreline wine festival, a trip to Mystic, CT, birthday parties, bridal showers, casino trips, weddings, concerts….you name it we did it.  We went big, then went home.  November 1st marks the end of our first month back in NJ and I have to say…it still feels odd being back.  We’re slowly but surely learning about our new town and getting into our new routines.

Since moving I’ve had a plethora of energy that’s allowed me to get back into the swing of cooking.  Homemade pots of sauce, roasted butternut squash, chive risotto cakes, chicken picatta, meatballs from scratch….you name it, I’ve been making it. (Todd’s in heaven in case you were wondering.)  I’ve always loved cooking, so having the energy and desire to do it again? Major plus.

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Kelly, Me, Tasha, and Col at the Chandelier Bar in The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas

So on to October. Probably the biggest event of my year happened last month.  I finally got to meet three of my very best blogging friends on our trip to Vegas!!! Kelly of Reading With Analysis; Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, & Books; and Colleen of Col Reads all joined me for 3 fabulous days in Las Vegas.  Several months ago I emailed the girls and told them I wanted to “go west” and meet them.  Our trip to Vegas came at the perfect time.  I was stressing over the move (which had happened the week prior), all the unpacking, etc, when I was able to just pack a suitcase and talk books with three of the most intelligent women I know.  We stayed at the Cosmopolitan Hotel (across from Planet Hollywood/next to the Bellagio) which boasts a three-story chandelier bar.  Seriously….you are IN a chandelier.  It was the most extravagant thing I’ve ever seen in my life, which also made it one of the most awesome.  We hadn’t even been together a full 24 hours before we started making plans for our next trip.  NOLA 2014….get ready.  Besides the amazing conversations, we ate incredible food, drank smoking drinks, and people watched!

You’re probably now saying to yourself, “Shut up, Kim! Tell us about what you read!”  Closing out October my total for the year was up to 169 books (20 in August, 10 in September, & 10 in October.)  I’m shockingly still ahead of pace to complete 200 books for the year.  My top reads over the last three months?

  1. Blackmoore
  2. Born of Persuasion
  3. Ride With Me
  4. Emerald Green (No review on this one yet. I only finished reading it yesterday!)

Start looking for our “best of 2013” lists towards the end of next month, as well as the beginning of our 2014 challenge posts.  There may even be a post about a challenge that Reflections of a Book Addict will be hosting!

I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful past three months and are looking forward to calm and stress-free Thanksgivings!  Share what you’ve been doing (and reading!) in the comments below.

As always, happy reading!

Kim’s Review of Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

bjdIf you were to ask me what my absolute favorite genre to read is I’d tell you historical fiction in a heartbeat.  I love being given the opportunity to read about a period of time I’ll never experience.  I also enjoy being given the opportunity to learn what the culture of the period was.  When I learned that Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson offered me these chances and more, I instantly sent in a request to review it.

From Goodreads:

Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart. It is Wuthering Heights meets Little Women with a delicious must-read twist.

I am completely and utterly in love with this book.  There is no simpler way to put it.  The characters, the setting, THE WRITING – it’s all exquisite.  Donaldson’s writing drew me in from page one.  I became completely mesmerized by Kate’s struggle as a woman in the early 1800’s.  Her struggle for freedom, independence, and love was written in an entirely realistic manner.  The anxiety and anger she feels over her lack of independence was clearly laid out before me.  As a reader, I felt the cage she was trapped in just as much as she did.  Kate’s struggle of trying to hide her true feelings for Henry nearly killed me.

Kate and Henry are just fascinating characters.  Henry is this beautiful old-fashioned gentleman with a (in my opinion) modern way of thinking.  He wants Kate to have her freedom and go to India, even at great cost to himself.  Their story is equal parts tragic and romantic.  Heart-warming and heart-breaking.  The journey Donaldson takes us on in Blackmoore is filled with twists and turns, humor, romance, intrigue, and above all, personality.

I highly recommend checking out Blackmoore, especially if you’re a fan of Austen, Bronte, or Gaskell.  I’m so impressed (and in love) with this book that I’m heading out this weekend to get myself a copy of Donaldson’s debut novel Edenbrooke.  

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my twentieth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my sixth completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
Shadow Mountain Publishing (2013)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781609074609

Special thanks to Shadow Mountain Publishing for the review copy I received via Netgalley!