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!

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What Are You Reading This November?

With Thanksgiving approaching in a little over a week, I figured I’d publish a quick “What Are You Reading?” post! I’ll be traveling with Todd out to Ohio to spend the holidays with his mom’s side of the family.  We have a 12 hour drive out, so you can be sure I’ll be getting my read on.

So what’s on the agenda to read during the trip? First up is book three in Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series (my reviews on the first two books, The Secret of Ella and Micha & The Forever of Ella and Micha, can be found by clicking on their titles.)  Also on the list is Jane Odiwe’s newest release, Project Darcy.  I’ve been a fan of Odiwe’s Austenesque novels for a while now, so I’m looking forward to adding this title to my completed reads list for the Pride and Prejudice reading challenge I’ve been taking part in.  My most recent of her reads was Searching for Captain Wentworth).  And last, but certainly not least, is Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.  Drums of Autumn is the fourth book in her Outlander series (see reviews for book one, two, & three.)  My goal of reading one a month didn’t exactly pan out so well, huh…..

wayrnAnyway, I’m sure I’ll read more than just these three over the holiday, but they have my top priority.  How about the rest of you? Any special Thanksgiving plans/books you’re planning on reading?  Share them in the comments below!

The May Roundup!

20130512_115645May was a month of big accomplishments here in the Ryder household.  Staffer Todd (also known as my darling husband) received his Master’s degree in molecular and cell biology from Quinnipiac University (our undergraduate alma mater).  Not only did he earn that, but he defended his thesis which delved into how carbon dioxide affects cells (that’s the super simple explanation).  Todd’s graduation wasn’t the only one our family witnessed this month.  My sister-in-law Ellen also received her Master’s degree from Lehigh University in secondary education, specializing in math.  And thirdly my brother-in-law Jason completed his MD/Ph.D. program at NYU!  (So many smarties!)

IMG_20130520_181607Besides graduations, we also had a month filled with other fun trips and events.  As you may or may not know, I’m OBSESSED with the Fast and the Furious franchise.  After reading about an opportunity to see the newest installment, Fast and Furious 6, at an advance screening, I immediately signed up.  It was awesome, as well as free!  The following weekend, Todd and I traveled down to Staten Island to visit my Aunt Judy.  After many many days and weeks of cleaning and various workers coming to her basement to rebuild it after Hurricane Sandy, we were able to put on the finishing touches!  We helped install a few small items, as well as two in-ceiling speakers (I learned how to wield a drywall saw!)

20130525_153055Finally, we took a trip into the city to visit Todd’s aunt, uncle, and little cousin Sarah at the Natural History Museum!  We had a great time exploring all the exhibits with Sarah and checking out the new additions to the museum since our last visit a couple of years ago.  After this, we found a great little Mexican restaurant near the museum, and sat down for some dinner and margaritas (and lemonade for Sarah).  In all, it was a ton of fun and something we can’t wait to do more often as we don’t get to see Todd’s extended family too often.

On the reading front I read another 23 books, bringing my year-to-date total to 93.  It’s difficult to pick my favorite book of the month (since I read so many good ones), but if I had to pick I’d nominate The Secret of Ella and Micha and The Forever of Ella and Micha both written by Jessica Sorensen.

On the radar for June are some more new adult books I’ve been reading, as well as some historical fiction, paranormal, and action books.  June should be a diverse reviewing month!  Todd’s got a few fun things up his sleeve too, so keep an eye out!

So, there you have it, another exciting month behind the scenes here at Reflections.  What did you do during May?

As always, happy reading!

Kim’s Review of The Secret of Ella and Micha (The Secret #1) by Jessica Sorensen

tsoeamjsAs most of you know, I’m the newest convert to the world of “new adult”.  I can’t get enough of it.  Couple this new genre with a good dose of angst in a novel and you know that you have a perfect storm that is sure to please my bookish needs.  So, when I found out that the first book in Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series, The Secret of Ella and Micha, fulfilled both of these needs, I had to read it.

Best friends since childhood, Ella and Micha know everything there is to know about one another.  They coexist in a comfort that comes from years of friendship, yet this protection is shattered one night in a way which changes everything.  Ella leaves for college, and changes completely.  Once a fearless and bold girl, she became straight-laced and conforms to the rules completely.  Now that she is back for the summer, Ella fears that all her work to hide her old self will be undone when she sees Micha again.  Micha on the other hand is desperate to bring back the old Ella, and uses every trick he can think of to coax her out of her self-imposed exile to return to her former personality.  Ella knows that Micha has a special ability to get in her head like no one else, but will she let him get close enough to her, the girl whom he loves and would do anything for?

I absolutely love books that take characters with dark pasts and who are severely scarred emotionally and help them break through their “darkness.”  Redemption (self or other) is in my opinion a difficult path for an author to walk when developing characters.  I’ve read a lot of books where authors try to redeem their characters, and the plots end up being so simple and unrealistic.  Sorensen has instead given a true depiction of what darkness can do to a person: dangerous behavior, drinking, and drugs.  It’s all there.  Even at the end of this book the characters aren’t perfect.  Their problems haven’t gone away, and rainbows and unicorns haven’t fallen from the skies.  There are still things that have to be worked on and sifted through, and the only thing that will ever truly heal them is time and acceptance.  Sorensen has definitely found a fan in me for life.  Ella and Micha are just so real and raw that they’re unlike anything else I’ve read recently.  If I had to describe this book using pop culture references, I’d definitely say that it’s like a dark version of Fast and the Furious.  The Secret of Ella and Micha will definitely take you on one hell of a ride that will make you feel like you’ve been simultaneously sucker punched in the gut, and engulfed in the biggest, warmest hug of your life.  I’m pumped that book two, The Forever of Ella and Micha, is slated for release next week.  I’ve already read it and can happily say that it was awesome!  Definitely add this to your to-read piles now!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 368 pages
ISBN: 9781455574865