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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Kim’s Review of The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

Tutor'sDaughter_mck.inddAs you may or may not know, I’m a huge Julie Klassen fan.  So far, I’ve reviewed The Silent Governess, The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and last but not least, The Girl in the Gatehouse .  So, as you can see, I’m just slightly into her books.  When I heard she was coming out with a new book, The Tutor’s Daughter, can you guess how I acted? (I do admit, the previous four reviews may be a bit of a giveaway.)

Emma Smallwood, the daughter of a widowed father who ran a now-defunct academy, decides to cheer her father up by agreeing to travel with him to the Cornwall coast.  There, he is charged with instructing two sons of a baronet in their large manor home atop the cliffs.  At first, everything goes according to plan and Emma enjoys being in their new surroundings at the grand estate.  However, things soon begin to change and Emma begins to experience strange occurrences.  She hears the pianoforte playing in another room, only to find that no one is there.  She begins to receive strange notes, and discovers a toy soldier in her room on the floor, even though none of the boys is young enough to play with toy soldiers anymore.  Most chillingly, she finds a bloody hand print on her mirror!  Meanwhile, the baronet’s two older sons, Henry and Phillip, both have secrets of their own, and they struggle to hide them from Emma.  Both have known her since her childhood as they were former pupils at her father’s academy, and one seems to have found a new attraction to her.  Can Emma find out who is behind these chilling pranks?  What will she make of her new love interest?

I’m always impressed with Klassen’s ability to pay homage to classic literature with her novels while also creating unique and fascinating characters in her own right.  The Tutor’s Daughter is definitely an homage to Jane EyreNorthanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice.  Now that’s not to say that those are the only three books that have inspired her work, but the influence that these books had on Klassen is abundantly obvious in this work.  Emma herself is a blend of Jane Eyre and Catherine Morland, with a bit of Lizzie and Darcy mixed in.  She has the seriousness of Jane, the naive and adventurous spirit of Catherine, and a bit of the close-minded attitude that Darcy and Elizabeth have when forming first impressions about people.  It’s not only Emma that bears resemblance to characters of classic literature.  Her father is a bit like Mr. Bennet, Henry is a hybrid between Darcy and Mr. Tilney, and the list goes on and on.  She weaves characters, themes, and tidbits of plot from some of my favorite novels all while making it feel fresh and new.

I literally could not get enough of this book while I was reading it.  The book starts out at a normal pace, and before you realize it, things are happening rather rapidly.  Pieces of a puzzle that you didn’t even know existed begin coming together, and you’re left with a tale of intrigue, shipwrecks, smuggling, adventure, and how far the boundaries of love and family can be pushed and tested.  Of all of Klassen’s works so far, The Tudor’s Daughter feels like her masterpiece.  As much as I’ve loved all of her other books, this one truly shines on a pedestal all by itself.  The writing is crisp, clear, and absolutely mesmerizing, taking the reader to Cornwall and to Ebbington Manor itself.  This is definitely not a work to miss, and for those of you looking to be transported to a world full of rich characters, suspense, and an epic storyline, this is your book.

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers (2013)
eBook 416 pages
ISBN: 9780764210693

New Year; New Challenges, the Third

This is my third New Year; New Challenges post and I have to tell you, I still get excited writing them.  Just knowing that I’m beginning another 365 day period of challenging myself to read an ass-ton of books excites me.  Since I completed the 110 books I set as my goal for 2012, I’ve decided to stick with tradition and add another 10 books to my goal for 2013.  Therefore, my starting goal for this year will be 120 books!  In case you missed all of the reading challenges I’ve signed up for (on top of my overall goal), you can click here to view my progress.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to reading (in no particular order) in 2013:

  1. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  2. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
  3. Sever by Lauren DeStefano
  4. Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt
  5. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
  6. Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
  7. The Mistress by Tiffany Reisz

I know that this is a bit of a short list, but I’m hoping that as the year progresses, more new and exciting books will be announced from my favorite authors.  2012 was a great year for both new books and additions to series that I already loved, so I’m hoping that 2013 will be just as fun, if not more so!

As always, I encourage you to try your own reading challenges!  My biggest piece of advice is to start small.  There is nothing wrong with saying that you want to read 10 books this year.  Make a small goal, meet that goal, then increase it!  Tell me about your own goals, as well as the books you’re excited about reading, below.