Read One, Skip One: The Sleepwalker and The Futures

January 12, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 23

The Sleepwalker, Chris BohjalianThe Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Fiction – Thriller (Released January 10, 2017)
304 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Doubleday)

Plot Summary: When Annalee Ahlberg, a notorious sleepwalker, disappears from her home in the middle of the night, her husband and two daughters try to piece together what happened.

My Thoughts: Chris Bohjalian’s most recent books are giving him quite a reputation for coming up with mysteries…with more. They have the who-done-it/why-done-it elements of your run-of-the-mill mystery, but he layers on something deeper. In 2016’s The Guest Room, it was sex-trafficking, and in The Sleepwalker, it’s parasomnia. I found the parasomnia angle fascinating…it’s much more than the book’s title suggests. It’s a real thing (thank you, Google) and can cause shame for the sufferer, so Bohjalian’s exploration of an extreme example of parasomnia’s potential disastrous consequences had real-life appeal for me beyond this particular story. And, I liked the psychological exploration of the impact of parasomnia on a marriage and a family.

They both felt shame, but different reasons: he because of what people saw and she because of what she could not control.

All this being said, I would have liked to see the book go in a slightly different direction. I can’t share too many details without ruining the ending, but I would’ve liked the story to explore the legal implications of parasomnia a bit more. Still, The Sleepwalker is a book you can fly through (which I need sometimes) and is going on my Page Turners list.

The Futures, Anna PitoniakThe Futures by Anna Pitoniak
Fiction – Debut (Release Date: January 17, 2017)
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Lee Boudreaux Books)

Plot Summary: When college sweethearts Evan and Julia move to New York City after graduating from Yale, they face a tougher road than they imagined finding their place in the post-college world.

My Thoughts: I quite honestly don’t have a lot to say about The Futures. It’s the story of a quarter life crisis…something I certainly went through and could identify with. The “coming of age in your twenties in the big city” storyline always seems to suck me in, yet has proved disappointing the past few rounds (also Why We Came to the City).

Julia and Evan’s college and immediate post-college experience resembled my own to a certain extent (minus the Ivy League tag). Despite or (possibly because of?) this relatability, the plot was predictable and not particularly memorable. I was disappointed with the lack of “yes, that’s exactly how it is” writing, which could have upped the memorability factor for me. On the plus side, it was a nice, easy Brain Candy book that I never had to force myself to pick up.  

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Ten 2016 Books I Missed

January 10, 2017 Top Ten Tuesday 57

Top 10 2016 Books I Missed


I love putting together this post every year because it forces me to reexamine my TBR list. I decide whether I’m still interested in reading all the backlist books on my list and remove the ones I’m no longer interested in or can’t remember much about. These are some of the books that made the cut…

Ten 2016 Books I Missed

Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry
I was fascinated by the Serial podcast and Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books raved about this follow-up book. I bought the audio during Audible’s holiday sale…I figured I might as well continue this story in audio form.

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
Susie at Novel Visits included this mystery on her Best Books of 2016 list and called it “a dark story about two families in a very small town,” which sounds right up my alley.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
This sci-fi novel is 100% out of my wheelhouse, but Carrie Lippert (a TV host and travel blogger, who is also a big reader with taste similar to mine) said it was a sci-fi novel that would appeal to people that aren’t normally fans of that genre.

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner
I’ve always been fascinated by life behind the Iron Curtain and Eva at Paperback Princess put this true story of a family separated by the Berlin Wall on my radar with her review during Nonfiction November.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Catherine at Gilmore Guide recommended this novel about the effects of depression on a family and then I saw it on numerous Best Books of 2016 lists.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Joann at Lakeside Musing has been raving about this slim novel for months now.

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte
Monika at Lovely Bookshelf‘s review of this novel about college grads living in San Francisco put it on my radar and I’ve since seen it on multiple Best Books of 2016 lists.

Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
I’ve been hearing this nonfiction is a logical companion to Hillbilly Elegy, one of my favorite books of 2016.

The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carre
A memoir by someone who sounds like he could quite possibly be the most interesting man in the world.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
This memoir of a girl who grew up in a polygamist cult has been on my TBR list for a year now.

What 2016 books did you miss?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (1/9/17)

January 9, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 38

Hosted by The Book Date.

So far, I haven’t quite found my 2017 reading groove. Some books have been good, but nothing has been great so far. Hopefully, that will change.

I also signed up for a month’s free trial of Jasyoga (code: WIN2017), a collection of yoga videos for athletes that Tara at It’s Tara Leigh has been raving about for awhile. I tried a couple from the Yoga for Runners collection and it really helped my hips! I’m looking forward to seeing if I’m feeling a marked difference by the end of the month.

I finished reading…

The Sleepwalker, Chris Bohjalian 

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian (January 10, 2017)
This is a book you can fly through and, though it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed it. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Futures, String Theory


The Futures
 by Anna Pitoniak (January 17, 2017)
I’m almost finished with this debut novel about recent college graduates making their way in NYC. It’s an easy read in the brain candy department, but I have mixed feelings about it. I’ll try to work through those for a mini review.

String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis by David Foster Wallace (June 21, 2014)
Last week, I mentioned Wallace’s writing style might be a bit erudite/pretentious/pompous for my taste, but I’m happy to say that it got better as I got past that first essay. I’m almost finished and have mostly enjoyed his unexpectedly funny tennis commentary.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (January 3, 2017)
I’d heard mixed reviews of this debut novel, so decided to give it a try with lowered expectations. I found myself interested, then losing interest, then interested again, and so on…but got the feeling those glimmers of interest weren’t going to be sustained over the entire book. DNF at 17%.

Upcoming reading plans…

I’m finished with my January ARCs, so I’m not sure what I’ll read next. Maybe one of these.

Always Happy Hour, Lucky Boy, Most Dangerous Place on Earth


Always Happy Hour
 by Mary Miller (January 10, 2017)
Roxane Gay (author of An Untamed State and the recently released Difficult Women) said this short story collection made her “jealous and also scared of the competition” in her My 2016 in Reading Tumblr post. Also – that Tumblr post is a fantastic read in and of itself.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran (January 10, 2017)
This story about a Mexican immigrant living in the U.S. sounds promising, but the length (480 pages, which is long for me these days) is making me hesitate.

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson (January 10, 2017)
Debut novel about the hidden lives of wealthy high school students…certainly not a unique storyline, but these types of things always suck me in nonetheless.

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Why Idaho by Emily Ruskovich Didn’t Quite Gel For Me

January 5, 2017 Fiction 29

Idaho, Emily RuskovichFiction
Released January 3, 2017
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House) via NetGalley

Headline

This debut novel has some intriguing story elements, but they never quite gel into a cohesive story.

Plot Summary

Ann Mitchell tries to piece together the details behind the crime that ended her husband, Wade’s, first marriage, and landed his ex-wife (Jenny) in prison for murder.

Why I Read It

This debut novel caught my attention when I reviewed Random House’s Spring 2017 catalog and, later, I heard good things about it from Shannon at River City Reading.

Major Themes

Marriage, family secrets, memory

What I Liked

  • Idaho is a quiet mystery of what happened to a family…and I don’t think I’ve ever used the words quiet and mystery in the same sentence. However, this combination had promise.
  • While the story is built around the crime that destroyed Wade’s family, that’s not really what the book is about. It’s more about the layers on top of the central mystery (Wade and Ann’s marriage, Wade’s illness, living under a cloud that you don’t know much about)…making it feel like more than your average mystery.
  • The writing is gorgeous at times. There are beautiful sentences, but they rarely string together to create a gorgeous paragraph or chapter.

The postwoman in Ponderosa feels entitled; she moves with confidence and knowing, as if because her fingertips have had the privilege of sorting out Ann’s envelopes, she has glimpsed what she thinks is inside them all – lies, pleas, false trails, dirty news, licked closed by the tongues of the past.

What I Didn’t Like

  • This is an odd book. There were times when I couldn’t put it down and others when I found myself skimming just to get through it. I was intrigued at times, but bewildered at others.
  • There are compelling elements to this story…I think the downfall is in the execution. The story construction is clunky and there are a number of sub-plots going on, yet they never converge into a central theme. It’s almost like Ruskovich couldn’t decide whether the book was about Wade and Ann’s marriage, Wade’s illness, the murder itself, or Jenny’s fate following the murder and her experience in prison.
  • There were parts of the story that seemed pointless and confusing (ex: Ann’s imaginings of how the murder might have happened, Elliott’s – an extremely minor character – romantic issues later in life)…but I was sure things would all tie together in the end. They didn’t.
  • The major questions of the book were never addressed. I don’t mind open-ended endings, but this was so extreme that it made me wonder what the point of the book was. For example, one of the things that kept me reading was to find out why Jenny committed the murder she did. There are sections of the story from Jenny’s perspective while she’s in prison where Ruskovich could easily have addressed the why of it all, but never did.
  • While beautiful at times, the writing also veered into “head-in-the-clouds” territory too often for my taste.

The sameness of that prison wall is like a winter spent in a wilderness you can’t hope to matter to.

A Defining Quote

“You know you don’t like me going up there, but you don’t know why. You’re so angry at me and you don’t remember why.”

Get Weekly Email Updates!

My Most Anticipated DEBUTS of Winter 2017

January 3, 2017 Book Lists 24

Most Anticipated debuts of winter 2017

This post contains affiliate links.

A little while ago, I shared My Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2017, but that list did not include debuts. And, thank God, because there are so many debuts I’m looking forward to this year! There’s no way would I have been able to combine everything into one list. Last year, 6 of my top 10 books of the year were debuts, so this crop has extra large shoes to fill!

January

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson (January 10, Random House)
Demented high school books always suck me in…plus, a blurb by Megan Abbott, the queen of demented high school books.

A captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.

The Futures by Anna Pitoniak (January 17, Lee Boudreaux Books)
Another type of book I’m a sucker for: the coming of age in New York City story. And, the publisher claims this book is for fans of Adelle Waldman (The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.) and Maggie Shipstead (Seating Arrangements).

The Futures is a glittering story of a couple coming of age and a tender, searing portrait of what it’s like to be young and full of hope in a city that often seems determined to break us down—but ultimately may be the very thing that saves us.

February

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (February 14, Viking)
This is the only book on this list that I’ve already read, so I can recommend it wholeheartedly. It’s a mind-blowing story and feels like a page turner.

An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive and to reunite.

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz (February 28, Random House)
I’m interested in reading more about South Korea and Kate at Parchment Girl included this book on her Winter 2017 Book Preview.

Two young women of vastly different means each struggle to find her own way during the darkest hours of South Korea s economic miracle in a striking debut novel for readers of Anthony Marra and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

March

The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis (March 7, Hogarth)
I’ve had great luck with debut Southern coming of age stories (My Sunshine Away, Only Love Can Break Your Heart) the past few years…this one is set in North Carolina.

A richly textured coming-of-age story about fathers and sons, home and family, recalling classics by Thomas Wolfe and William Styron, by a powerful new voice in fiction.

Down City by Leah Carroll (March 7, Grand Central)
This memoir was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick and ya’ll know I love dysfunctional childhood memoirs.

Down City is a raw, wrenching memoir of a broken family and an indelible portrait of Rhode Island – a tiny state where the ghosts of mafia kingpins live alongside the feisty, stubborn people working hard just to get by.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo (March 14, Simon & Schuster)
I loved Perabo’s short story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do, despite generally having trouble with short stories.

The suspenseful, breakout novel from the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be and Why They Run the Way They Do—when a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.

The Gargoyle Hunters by John Freeman Gill (March 21, Knopf)
Another Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick and I’m having visions of the movie The Thomas Crown Affair.

Hilarious and poignant, The Gargoyle Hunters is a love letter to a vanishing city, and a deeply emotional story of fathers and sons. […], the novel solves the mystery of a brazen and seemingly impossible architectural heist – the theft of an entire historic Manhattan building – that stunned the city and made the front page of The New York Times in 1974.

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads.

What Winter 2017 debuts are you looking forward to?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (1/2/17)

January 2, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 31

Hosted by The Book Date.

Happy back-to-normal-life-day, everyone! I’ve been visiting family for the holidays, so have been out of my regular routine for quite awhile. I couldn’t manage a Monday update post the day after Christmas, so I’m covering two weeks worth of ground here. But, I have been reading!

I finished reading…

This is the story of a happy marriage, Idaho, Every Last One


This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
 by Ann Patchett (December 11, 2011)
Pat Conroy is one of the rare authors whose fiction and nonfiction I’ve truly enjoyed. Now that he’s gone, Ann Patchett might be taking his place (thanks to his recommendation in A Lowcountry Heart). She covers the gamut of topics in this essay collection: marriage (obviously), divorce, writing, book tours, opera (the only low point for me), friendship, being a caregiver, how to be productive, and the story behind the opening of Parnassus Books. She lives an interesting, yet fairly normal life and I like her outlook on things.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (January 3, 2017)
Early readers have mostly loved this debut novel, but it didn’t quite gel for me. Full review to come.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (April 13, 2010)
This is my second Anna Quindlen novel in the past month (thanks to Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books) and she’s fast becoming a new favorite. This novel showed me she “gets it” and wrapped up my 2016 on a 5 star note. Mini review to come.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

The Sleepwalker, String Theory


The Sleepwalker
 by Chris Bohjalian (January 10, 2017)
Bohjalian is one of my go-to authors and reading his January new release seems to be a new holiday tradition for me. I’m flying through this one and it’s got me thinking he’s the new master of mysteries with…more.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis by David Foster Wallace (June 21, 2014)
My mom was a tennis player growing up, so I got this for her for Christmas (also, it was a wolf present). In the tradition of the wolf present, she’s read it and has now passed it on to me. I’ve only read the first essay, but am not quite sure how I feel about Wallace’s writing style. It might be a bit erudite/pretentious/pompous for my taste.

Upcoming reading plans…

I’m not sure…possibly one of these. Let me know if you’ve read any of them and have any feedback!

History of Wolves, Lucky Boy, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth


History of Wolves
 by Emily Fridlund (January 3, 2017)
This debut novel about a young girl living a somewhat eccentric life in Minnesota has been getting some pre-publication buzz…but some bloggers I trust have been lukewarm on it. I have the ARC sitting here, so I’m going to give it a try with reduced expectations.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran (January 10, 2017)
This story about a Mexican immigrant living in the U.S. sounds promising, but the length (480 pages, which is long for me these days) is making me hesitate.

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson (January 10, 2017)
Debut novel about the hidden lives of wealthy high school students…certainly not a unique storyline, but these types of things always suck me in nonetheless.

How was your reading week?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

My 2016 Reading and Blogging Stats

January 1, 2017 Stats 40

2016 Reading Stats


Happy New Year, everyone! I’m happy to provide you with some hangover reading.

Last year was the first full year I kept reading stats and a Goodreads account, so I actually have a baseline to compare with this year’s stats! Let’s get down to it.

Reading

Though I blew through my goal of 75 books, I felt like this year’s crop of new releases were less successful for me than usual…with eight 5 star books compared to fifteen last year. I was also drawn to lighter books…possibly because I was doing more reading then ever amidst chaos (at playgrounds, sports practices, etc).

Audiobooks: Though not a stated goal for this year, I successfully integrated audiobooks into my reading (comprising 15%), which helped me read more nonfiction (37% of my reading, up from 16% last year) and books in general than ever before. Audiobooks also enabled me to read the lighter memoirs (i.e. celebrity and sports) that I used to read often, but had gotten away from in the past few years.

Backlist (2016 Goal): I read 21 backlist books (22% of my reading) this year compared to 10 last year. 

ARCs: I finished 29 ARCs (30% of my reading) and DNF’d another 17 for a total of 46 ARCs this year. Of the 29 I finished, 41% were “successful” (i.e. books I recommended on the blog). I’d like to see my success rate top 50% next year.

Imprints: For the second year in a row, Knopf, Random House, and Harper are all successful imprints for me. Algonquin and Ecco are both newly successful, while Putnam, Doubleday, and Grand Central weren’t as successful for me this year.

Longest Book Read: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (602 pages). I think I was so traumatized by wasting so much time (944 pages worth) on last year’s City on Fire that I was a little hesitant to pick up chunksters this year. 

Shortest Book Read: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (49 pages)

Diversity Stats

66% of my 2016 reading was female authors (up from 62% last year) and 70% of my Best Books of 2016 were by female authors.

14% of my 2016 reading was by POC authors. This is the first year that I’ve tracked POC diversity and I didn’t overthink it (see this fantastic post on the difficulties of accurately tracking diversity by Andi at Estella’s Revenge), so it’s possible my numbers aren’t 100% accurate. 

Social Media Stats

For the first time, I tracked my social media followers every month. My 2016 goal was to improve my Pinterest presence and I focused most of my effort there, so I’m thrilled it panned out. Since a few of you have asked, here are the two posts I used as guides to improve my Pinterest presence: Can Book Bloggers Be Successful on Pinterest? from These Paper Hearts and How I Increased My Pinterest Impressions by 200% in 30 Days from Ashley Lamar at Far Beyond Love.

Growth in social media network followers from January 1 – December 31, 2016:

Network % Increase in Followers
Twitter 53%
Facebook 46%
Pinterest 142%
Email Subscribers 349%
Bloglovin’ 45%

Percent of traffic generated by social media network compared to last year:

Top Networks 2015 
% Traffic
2016
% Traffic
Twitter 27%  8%
Facebook 36%  17%
Blogger 19%  4%
Pinterest 11%  69%

Blogging

Key Takeaways

  • Like last year, The Girl on the Train Spoiler Discussion comprised the largest chunk of my traffic until December, when A Month of Favorites: Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t took over thanks to Pinterest repins.
  • “Sticky content” performed well (i.e. recommendation lists like Book Club Recommendations and Page Turner Books). These pages reside in my main menu and are constantly updated with new books.
  • My quarterly “most anticipated books” posts performed well. 
  • Top Ten Tuesday lists generated the most discussion, but they were not my best performing posts like they were last year. And, I probably have the most fun writing these, so they’re not going anywhere.
  • Book reviews in general don’t do as well as other types of content. With the exception of spoiler discussions (which do pretty well), only one book review (Fates and Furies) cracked my top 10 posts of the year. All but one of my top 5 book reviews were written in 2015.

Pageviews / Unique Visitors

  • Pageviews increased 43% over 2015.
  • My best months (by pageviews) were December, October, September (in that order).

Best Performing Posts/Pages of 2016

Best Performing Book Reviews of 2016 (all mostly Google search)

Most Discussed Posts (determined by number of comments in 2016)

My Personal Favorites

How were your 2016 reading and blogging stats?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

December 2016 Monthly Round-Up

December 30, 2016 Monthly Round-Ups 21

December 2016 Monthly Round-Up

December Reading

  • This month was all about backlist reading. Every December, a traditionally slow month for new releases, I try to make time to read a couple books from my backlist TBR. This year’s choices (The Book of Unknown Americans, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and Every Last One) were all winners.
  • Thanks to Catherine at Gilmore Guide, I’ve been on an Anna Quindlen kick. 2016’s Miller’s Valley got things rolling and Every Last One was even better!
  • My 2017 releases started with one winner and one disappointment. My friend, Georgia Hunter’s, debut novel, We Were the Lucky Ones, is a fast-moving World War II story based on her own family. Keep it on your radar for February 14 (from Viking)! Emily Ruskovich’s debut novel, Idaho, has gotten some good early buzz, but it didn’t quite gel for me.
  • I was shocked that I didn’t love Michael Lewis’ latest book, The Undoing Project. I’m a huge Lewis fan, but this was a disappointment.
  • I only managed to finish one audiobook (Grit), but it was a winner and it made me more mindful of reinforcing grit in my children.
  • I didn’t write a single book review in December and it was a nice break. I did share my Best Books of 2016 and Best Debuts of 2016. And, check back on Sunday for my 2016 Reading and Blogging Stats.
  • Finally, the blog had its best month of pageviews since inception by doubling its previous best month. This was mostly due to one post (Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype…And Five That Didn’t) that got repinned 362 times.

Best Book of the Month

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (April 13, 2010)
Fiction, 299 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Most Popular December Posts

Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype…And Five That Didn’t
My Most Anticipated Books of 2017
Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2016

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

  • Amanda at Bookshelf Monstrosity‘s If You Like Ann Patchett… post was especially timely considering my recent love of Commonwealth and interest in delving into her backlist (starting with This is the Story of a Happy Marriage this month).
  • Stacy at The Novel Life‘s list of 13 Amazing Author TED Talks includes some authors I’ve read and enjoyed (Susan Cain, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Angela Duckworth) and some that I want to read/listen to (Brene Brown, Shonda Rhymes).
  • Books are my Favourite and Best shared the books that pop up again and again on various Best Books of 2016 lists (Top 3 are Homegoing, The Underground Railroad, and Swing Time). Getting all those lists confused in your head? This is post is for you!

Library Checkout

December was a big library month for me, so I thought I’d sneak in an update here. I’m linking up with River City Reading‘s Library Checkout feature.

Checked Out, Read:
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

 

Checked Out, To Be Read:
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry (audio cheat)

 

Holds:
The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carre
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

 

Returned Unread:
News of the World by Paulette Jiles

 

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Best Books of 2016

December 27, 2016 Annual "Best Books" Lists 53

Best Books of 2016

I’ve given up trying to challenge myself to choose one favorite book every year. Like last year, I’m treating this list like an Olympic swimming final (if 10 swimmers advanced to the finals, rather than 8). And being an Olympic year, this is fitting. The top 3 books are my medalists and the remaining 7 round out my “finalists.” And, I’ve brought back the high school yearbook-style “Superlatives” from previous years (2015, 2014).

2016 was the year of the debut for me, with 6 debuts making my overall list and taking 2 of my 3 medals! For more on debuts, check out my Best Debuts of 2016 list. And, 70% of my Best of 2016 authors are female!

The Medalists

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (review)
Best Dysfunctional Family

Latest Addition to My Favorite Authors List
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Shelter by Jung Yun (review)
Most Nail-Biting First Chapter

Most Brutal
Best Balance Between Writing and Plot
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (review)
Most Gorgeous Writing
Best First Page
Caused My Most Recent Book Hangover
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Remaining Finalists

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review)
Best Nonfiction of 2016

Most Relevant to Current Events
Best Female Heroine (Mamaw)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (review)
Quietest

Best Life Lessons
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington (review)
Best Southern Coming of Age Novel

Most Recommended Book of the Year
Best Narrator’s Voice (Rocky)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (review)
Best Gritty Coming of Age

Best Food Writing
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tender by Belinda McKeon (review)
Most Cringe-Worthy

Most Emotionally Intense
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (review)
Most Thinly Veiled Nonfiction

Most Scandalous
Best Example of Wealthy People Behaving Badly
Biggest Surprise of the Year
Best Recovery Book
Biggest Rating Regret (I rated it 4 instead of 5 stars when I read it)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Most Likely to Emotionally Wreck You

Most Deserving of All the Hype
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What were your favorite books of 2016?

Get Weekly Email Updates!

2017 Reading and Blogging Goals

December 22, 2016 Goals 44

2017 Reading and Blogging Goals


I intended 2016 to be all about “freedom” in reading and “efficiency” in blogging in an effort to feel less overwhelmed with trying to fit blogging into my life as a mom. I accomplished a number of my 2016 goals, including:

  • Reading more nonfiction and backlist – mostly through incorporating audiobooks to my reading routine.
  • Improving my Pinterest presence – improved from my #4 social media network at about 10% of traffic (as of 12/31/15) to my #1 network at about 64% of traffic (as of 12/19/16), probably my biggest 2016 win.
  • Writing more creative features and recommendation lists – continued my Alcohol & Advil feature, created numerous recommendation lists, and expanded my book club recommendations to include Coed Book Club Recommendations and Short Books that Would Spark Lively Discussion.

And, I did feel less overwhelmed by the combination of mothering and blogging. The downside was that I felt like the blog fell into a bit of a rut…it looks and feels much the same as it did at the beginning of the year. Which brings me to next year’s goals…2017 will be about busting out of my blogging rut

2017 Reading and Blogging Goals

Reading

  • Leave More Time for Free Range Reading – I’m pretty sure this will be a perpetual goal of mine. I failed miserably at this during the first half of the year, but recovered in the second half by requesting fewer ARCs. 
  • Read More Backlist Books – I doubled my backlist books total from last year (from 10 to 20), many of which were on audio. However, only two were five star reads (Tiny Beautiful Things and Mudbound), as compared to five last year. I’d like to actually read more backlist (in addition to listening) in 2017.
  • Track Editors and Select Books Based on Them – Last year, I focused on choosing books by imprint, which worked alright, but not great. I’ve recently started tracking the editors of books I love and will attempt to follow their books into 2017. Now I just need to figure out how to track upcoming releases by editor. Suggestions?
  • Delay Requesting ARCs from Unknown Authors – My 2016 ARC success rate was a dismal 41%. I cut back my ARC requests in the second half of the year and waited until I’d started to hear some feedback from trusted bloggers before requesting new-to-me authors. My second half reading felt much better.
  • Continue Using My Library – I started using my library this year (I know…embarrassing) and it got me to read more backlist (since my library’s new release selection isn’t great) and take risks on books that are out of my comfort zone since there is no review pressure or money wasted.
  • Achieve my Goodreads Goal of 90 Books – I blew through my 2016 goal of 75 books (I’m at 92 so far), mostly by adding audiobooks to my reading life. I’m setting the bar higher for 2017.

Blogging

  • Test Out a New Idea on the Blog – a 2016 goal that I did not accomplish was to “Find Creative Ways to Monetize My Blog.” I had an idea, but never followed through because of concerns it wouldn’t work. This year, I’m planning to test out a scaled down version of my idea around Mother’s and Father’s Day. If people seem interested in it, I’ll make plans to move forward with the full version. If it fails, then no harm done.
  • Write More Creative Features and Recommendation Lists – this was a 2016 goal and will probably remain an annual goal as long as I have this blog. I already have some ideas I’m excited about waiting in the wings, one of which is for Friday Night Lights fans.
  • Continue to Improve my Pinterest Presence – build on my 2016 progress by continuing to segment my boards, track analytics, share others’ content, and participate in group boards.

What are your 2017 reading goals?

Get Weekly Email Updates!