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!

Kim’s Review of Making It Last (Camelot #4) by Ruthie Knox

milrkMarriage is tough.  A successful one takes a lot of hard work. It has its up and downs.  It’s filled with highs and lows.  But when effort is put forth for it, it is one of the most rewarding relationships you can have.  Author Ruthie Knox reminds of how incredible marriage can be in the conclusion of her Camelot series, Making it Last.

From Goodreads:

A hotel bar. A sexy stranger. A night of passion. There’s a part of Amber Mazzara that wants those things, wants to have a moment — just one — where life isn’t a complicated tangle of house and husband and kids and careers. Then, after a long, exhausting “vacation” with her family, her husband surprises her with a gift: a few days on the beach . . . alone.

Only she won’t be alone long, because a handsome man just bought her a drink. He’s cool, he’s confident, and he wants to take Amber to bed and keep her there for days. Lucky for them both, he’s her husband. He’s only got a few days in Jamaica to make her wildest desires come true, but if he can pull it off, there’s reason to believe that this fantasy can last a lifetime.

First and foremost I have to say a huge thank you to Ruthie Knox for writing this book.  For sharing with the world that there CAN be romance in marriage.  That romance doesn’t die after your wedding day.

For anyone that’s married, this story will immediately connect.  In my opinion I think every marriage at some point can become affected by the commonplace of everyday life.  Our jobs, stress over bills, making grocery lists, cooking dinner, doing laundry, taking care of the kids etc….these things all become our focus.  The importance of communication with your partner somehow gets pushed to the side and any romance that existed begins to extinguish itself.  Unless you take Knox’s advice, and realize that romance CAN have a place in a marriage if you communicate your want AND need for it.

I have ALL THE FEELINGS for this book.  I was wrecked by the end of it.  Amber and Tony’s journey back to each other is a journey wrought with difficulty, tough confessions, and a love that is truly fathomless.  The pure honesty of this story is what makes this story so beautiful.  If you do one thing today, let it be buying yourself a copy of this phenomenal book then crawling up with a blanket and a glass of wine while reading it.  It’ll be the best thing you do all day.

5 out of 5 stars

Making it Last by Ruthie Knox
Loveswept (Random House Publishing) (2013)
eBook: 136 pages
ISBN: 9780345549297

Special thanks to Loveswept for my review copy via Netgalley!

The June Roundup

June, June, June.  It is unarguably the busiest month of my year, every year.  Amidst a plethora of special events I somehow managed to  finish 25 books last month, bringing me two short of my year-long goal of reading 120 books.  I think I got so much reading done because of all the traveling we did!

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Beatriz Williams with Jess and I

We started the month off with a trip to my favorite bookstore (all together now….R.J. Julia!) to see the incandescent Beatriz Williams, author of Overseas and A Hundred Summers.   What a pleasant presentation we were treated to! Williams’ newest book, A Hundred Summers, takes place in Rhode Island during the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.  Seeing the before and after photos of the destruction caused by the storm was truly astounding.  Knowing how powerful Hurricane Sandy was this past fall, I was amazed that I could still be shocked at the extent of the damage attributed to water and wind.  Williams has some of the photos of the storm she shared with us posted on her website here.  I highly recommend checking them out.

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My delicious grilled artichoke and crème fraîche dipping sauce

Next up on the docket was a trip into NYC with my good friend Jen to see fellow staff blogger Adam!  Our adventure into the city took us to Eataly, where I promptly died from food pleasure.  Seriously, if you haven’t heard of Eataly please click the link above.  It’s an Italian foodie’s heaven.  After eating a ton of food we went for a walk through the city and wound up down on the High Line, a mile long park that was the site of the old New York Central Railroad that delivered goods to factories on the west side of NYC.  There were great views of the Hudson, as well as food vendors and plenty of benches to sit and take in the scenery.  We also threw in a trip to the Strand (my 2nd most favorite bookstore ever) where I picked up the entire Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.  (Staffer Sam’s review of the first book in the trilogy, Matched, sold me and I’ve been anxious to begin it ever since.)  Todd was also excited that we finally bought the second book in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park series.

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Todd and I on the bus for the wedding!

The next few weeks of the month flew by with a wedding for our good friends Greg and Ashley (CONGRATS GUYS!), our five-year college graduation, and our long-awaited Relay for Life event.  The wedding in Massachusetts was a ton of fun.  The bride’s aunt has a huge piece of property that they tented for the wedding.  Instead of a bar there was a boat filled with ice and drinks (SO awesome). They had all sorts of lawn games which created some great competition between the guests.  Not only was it a beautiful wedding, but it was so much fun seeing friends that we don’t see so often.  The wedding was a mini-reunion in itself and only increased my excitement for our college reunion the weekend following.

Unfortunately the time we were able to spend at reunion got cut short when our bathroom ceiling became a waterfall.  Apparently the tub in the apartment above us had a clogged pipe, as well as a rusted connection somewhere that led to our bathroom becoming a tropical rain forest.  5+ hours after the plumber arrived and figured out where the leak was coming from, we were left with a massive hole in our ceiling.  Needing to leave the hole open to make sure the leak was completely taken care, we were left with a cardboard covering across our ceiling.  Over the next two weeks the hole was patched, sanded, and repainted.  In the five years we’ve been in our building this is the first major problem we’ve ever had, so I can’t say I’m really upset about it.  Our maintenance staff was great and left me with nothing to do!

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Todd making liquid nitrogen ice cream!

The last weekend of the month held the event that I look forward to all year-long, Relay for Life.  I wrote a fairly extensive post about Relay last year and why the event means so much to me.  This year, the event meant more than ever.  My aunt, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005, began receiving chemotherapy treatments this May.  I hope for a cure for cancer every year, but this year that hope for a cure is larger than ever.  The event as a total raised over $104,000 so far.  With our fiscal year closing August 31st we still have almost two more months to raise money.  I personally was able to raise just under $2,200 this year!  My team raised just under $3,300.  I couldn’t be happier with the efforts put forth by my team and the teams that make up the rest of the relay.  Todd got in on the day-of event fun this year and made liquid nitrogen ice cream for the kids.  To put it simply liquid nitrogen instantly freezes anything it touches.  So basically you mix cream, half & half, sugar, and chocolate syrup together, add in the liquid nitrogen, and viola! you have ice cream!  The event went over really well and it helped cool the kids down on a super hot day.

On the bookish front I mentioned before that I finished 25 books.  That consisted of books from the following genres: crime, romance, new adult, historical fiction, young adult, erotica, and paranormal.  I really ran the gauntlet last month.  My top read of the month was definitely Making it Last by Ruthie Knox.  I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was announced.  When it popped up on Netgalley (as available to request) I did a massive SQUEEEEEEE and promptly requested it.  The wait for approval consisted of some of the darkest days of my life (this is of course an extreme over-exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying.)  I also discovered two series this month that while not new, are new to me.  Of course, I became obsessed and read all the books in both.  The first is Lydia Dare’s Regency Vampyre Trilogy and the second series is Marie Force’s Fatal series. Damn friends, I was HOOKED.  I’m going to start a “series spotlight” that will discuss all the new series I’ve been finding lately, and eventually I hope to get you guys as into them as I am.

Until next month…..happy reading!