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!

Advertisements

Series Spotlight: The Westfield Wolves Series/Regency Vampyre Trilogy by Lydia Dare

This past summer, as I was stalking the Nook sales site, I found several books by Lydia Dare that intrigued me. While I don’t read as many paranormal books as I used to (I’m not sure why), I still like throwing one or two into my reading pile every few months to help me mix things up. The “one or two books” I threw into the mix this year turned into seven, with another two being thrown into my to-read pile. The seven books I read turned out to be two series by Lydia Dare (actually two authors – Tammy Falkner and Ava Stone) that intersect each other. The first four books are part of The Westfield Wolves series, the next three are the Regency Vampyre Trilogy, followed by two more Westfield Wolves books (another wolf book is slated for 2014 release and will be the tenth in this dual series.)

wolf1-4

So why am I telling you to read these books? It’s because of the kick-ass, take no prisoner heroines. You see, all the male characters are strong, powerful, domineering men. They’re werewolves and vampires, so their domineering natures are to be expected. However the women that enter their lives are no simpering misses. These women stand up to their domineering partners, challenging them and effectively wrapping these men around their little fingers. There is nothing they won’t do for their women, especially fall in love, which is something they’ve all sworn never to do due to their wild natures. Yet these fearless women show them how much better life is with someone by their side; they are an equal partner with whom they can share the ups and downs, the good and the bad.

vampire1-3

The books that really stand out in this series are Tall, Dark, and Wolfish and It Happened One Bite. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish follows Benjamin, a werewolf who has suddenly stopped changing during the full moon, and Elspeth, a healer who is part of a coven of witches in Scotland. Ben travels to Scotland in search of a famed healer (Elspeth’s late mother) to help him with his “ailment”.  As Elspeth is the only remaining healer, he finds himself in her company often as she tries to figure out how to get him to turn back into a wolf.  The two have such sharp and witty dialogue that I couldn’t help but fall in love with their story and subsequent relationship.

wolf5-6

In It Happened One Bite, Elspeth’s coven sister Blaire travels to a castle in Scotland that she never knew belonged to her family.  While exploring the castle she finds a man, James Kettering, locked in her cellar.  It turns out that her mother and the four other witches of their coven locked him in the cellar 20 years earlier for reasons unknown to James, Blaire, or the current coven. What I liked about this one was the change in Blaire’s character over the course of the novel.  She’s the battle witch of the coven – she can shoot fireballs, is excellent with a bow and arrow, etc. Her personality is already a bit more hardened and tomboyish to begin with, but to watch her fall in love was great. And James – he’s never threatened by her tough exterior. In fact, he loves her sarcasm and dry wit. He knows deep down inside she’s capable of great warmth, kindness, and loyalty. Their story definitely hooked me and made me extremely excited to continue the series.

I hope that I’ve given you enough reasons to read these series, as they aren’t ones to miss. And for those of you nervous to read something that is a collaboration of two authors, let me assure you that their writing is so flawless and seamless that you truly cannot tell that it was written by more than one author.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. A Certain Wolfish Charm (Westfield Wolves #1) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  2. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish (Westfield Wolves #2) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  3. The Wolf Next Door (Westfield Wolves #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  4. The Taming of the Wolf (Westfield Wolves #4) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  5. It Happened One Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #1) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  6. In The Heat of The Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #2) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  7. Never Been Bit (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  8. The Wolf Who Loved Me (Westfield Wolves #5) – On my to-read list
  9. Wolfishly Yours (Westfield Wolves #6) – On my to-read list

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!

IMG_20130606_200232

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.

IMG_20130608_135904

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.

IMG_20130615_155600

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!

IMG_20130629_134023

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!