Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review of My 2020 Reading Year: The Stats, The Surprises, The Disappointments and the Best of the Best

 I am finally getting around to wrapping up my 2020 reading year.  The start of the new year really snuck up on me this year and I was unprepared for both new reading goals and wrapping up the year's reading.  I did a horrible job of tracking the stats for this year but I did a quick look back and came to these stats. 

2020 Reading Stats:

In 2020 I read a total of 265 books (give or take a couple that aren't on Goodreads)
broken down that is 30,955 pages and
944:26 hours (39 days, 8 hours and 26 minutes) of audio book time

of those books:
19 earned 5 star ratings
137 earned 4 star ratings
75 earned 3 star ratings
26 earned 2 star ratings
0 earned 1 star rating
8 were DNFed

49 were Children's Books/Early Reader/First Chapter Books
27 were Middle Grade Books
45 were Young Adult Books
144 were Adult Books

19 were Graphic Novels
95 were Audio Books
60 were Print Books
91 were Ebooks

74 were Romance
55 were Fantasy
17 were Sci-Fi
11 were Mystery

Things I have discovered in 2020:

~ I took a clear turn in the favor of Adult books over Young Adult and Middle Grade compared to years passed. 
~ I read a lot more in Audio Book format from compared to previous years but not as heavily as I had expected.  I do see this trend continuing based on how busy life is for me, if I am not listening while doing tasks then I wouldn't get as much reading done.
~ I tried a new genre this year, Cozy Mystery, and was completely blown away and dove in head first. Granted I read mostly the same author so I am looking forward to seeing if I enjoy the genre even with different series and authors. 
~ My reading tastes are shifting yet again, I am making a swing back into Romance after several years spent focusing on Fantasy.  I still read the exact same amount of fantasy just added more romance.
~ With Munchkin now reading on his own, I am finding that I am reading less and less Children's books. I still plan to pick some up from the library from time to time but see those numbers continuing to dwindle. 

Biggest Disappointments:
So besides the 8 books I DNFed this last year, there were a few disappointments. It doesn't mean that these were bad books, or even that I hated them, just simply books I felt were going to be fantastic but just didn't live up to my expectations.

I don't think I am alone in my feelings with this one. The Selection is my favorite guilty read and I was so excited for something new but still somewhat similar from Cass.  I didn't connect with the characters at all, nor did the characters have any kind of chemistry between them to pull the story along.

This book sounded so magical and mystical with a bit of romance and a lot of intrigue. I was so excited to receive and ARC but I really struggled with it.  I was confused most of the time both about the characters and the world. 

Biggest Surprises:
I read some books this year that I wasn't sure about or that sucked me in far more than I ever expected. Some pulled me into new genres and others introduced me to new authors and worlds.

While I have been reading more Science Fiction in recent years, it is still a genre I am hesitant about.  This was a short novella so I thought I would give it a shot and I absolutely loved it! The isolation of a research vessel, the new and unusual worlds they travel to and the unknown being lifetimes away from the family and friends they knew. I am definitely going to make it a point to go back and read Becky Chambers series.

This was an interesting year, I never before thought I would find a Mystery I enjoy until discovering the world of Cozy Mysteries, they are a little more light hearted, a little more character focus as opposed to plot focus and oh so bingeable! I discovered Jenn McKinlay through her romance books and then found the Library Lover's Mystery series and quickly either purchased or borrowed every book in the series!

So you never really know what you are going to get with self published books, so while this one ticked all the boxes for me, I was still a bit hesitant. This book made me laugh so hard! It was quirk and funny and filled with crude language, which for some reason (maybe because I read it after being cooped up in the house, working full time and homeschooling full time for 3 months) found to be extremely relatable and comical. I can't wait for more in this series!

This book very nearly made it to my favorites of the year. I loved Neuvel's Themis Files series so was excited to try a novella. I listened to the audio book, it was very quick but so impactful that I actually had to stop what I was doing and just listen. It was terrifying and horrible but so engrossing and unique. I do understand that it has some issues that many readers found to be disrespectful and very off-putting but just based on the story itself and how much it captured my attention it was fantastic.

2020 Honorable Mentions
I don't normally do this but I read so many fantastic books this year that I just had to mention some that just barely missed out on my top books of the year.

I had to add the New Murderbot Novel to this list! After a series of Novellas, I wasn't sure how a full length book would go. I ended up really loving this book, with the addition of ART and some of the human characters from the previous book, it was such a great addition to the series! And even more exciting, there is more to come!

I feel like I waited so long for this book and it was definitely worth the wait! I loved getting back into this book and characters. It didn't capture me quite the same way as A Plague of Giants which is why it didn't end up on my favorites list but it is still so so good with some great plot development and character growth and even growth in the world as it expands even more! I am once again dying for the next book in this series!

I have heard so many other readers talking about this book but it kind of gave me YA vibes, which I am not a fan of YA Contemporary Romance, but this ended up being more of a New Adult Romance. This is a book that started off a bit rocky but you were quickly drawn into the story. You can't help but fall in love with characters and really pull for them as the story continues. This is definitely a book that stands out this year as something I keep thinking about, now I get all the hype.

and finally

The Best of the Best Books in 2020:

So here we go with my top books of 2020! I don't think a single one of these books were on my Anticipated Release List or TBR for the year, so they really came out of the woodwork and blew me away. Again, I have such a variety with my favorite picks, on which is from a genre I don't even read! 

So this was a book that was at least on my radar and I was lucky enough to win a Goodreads Giveaway for an ARC. I wasn't sure how it was going to go, not only was the character unique in the fact that she was transgender but it is also a debut book. But OMG I fell in love with Razia! She is so confident and proud of who she is, she doesn't let anyone take that away from her. The way she grows and proves herself again and again is so inspiring. Then you throw in Arjun and then the amazing setting and the zahhaks and I just loved every minute of it! I am so excited to see another book coming out this year!

This is a backlist book of Jenn McKinlay's that I picked up, it was the second book in a romance series (see above where I gush about one of her mystery series). While I enjoyed the first book I wasn't sure if it was a series I really was going to follow but picked this one up anyway.  I am so glad I did because I think I met my all time favorite book animal! I can't tell you much about the romance or the characters but I can tell you all about Ike the parrot because he totally made this book for me.  He was a bit of an unexpected inheritance, and he has a bit of a foul mouth and tends to spout off at the worst possible times. He added such a light and fun element to the story.  (on a side note: what does it say about me that 2 books on this list are here due to foul language?! LOL)

Finally a book I never expected to end up on this list, or even be read by me for that matter, due to it being a horror book, something I NEVER pick up. There was so much hype around this book and it ended up being a Book of the Month pick so I thought I would give it a try because I do love classic gothic novels.  That is one thing this book got so right, it gave me all the gothic vibes, it was dark, it was twisty and atmospheric in all the best ways. It gave great spooky vibes without absolutely terrifying me. Definitely in a way of screaming at the character 'no, don't go in there. Just leave, something bad is going to happen if you don't leave.'  It was so good and it left you thinking about all the twists and puzzling about it long after you were finished with the story. 

So what were some of your favorite books of 2020? Have you read any of mine? Will you be picking any of these up this year?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Review of Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown


Read for: Borrowed Books/ Medievalathon Challenge

Synopsis: "In this captivating dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband–and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society.

When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home’s basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner–1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages Nellie left clues about her life–including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother.

Soon Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie’s secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister–even dangerous–side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own."

My Review: This book kept catching my eye for some reason, even though it is so outside my normal reading genres, luckily the library had a copy for me to try. This was a interesting read, following women in two very different time periods but finding themselves in some similar situations. I enjoyed both perspectives, but really liked Nellie as a character. I kind of figured out where her story arc was leading but it was still quite a dark and twisty path to get there. Alice also has quite a character arc with a lot of changes and growth as she finds her way in an old suburban home and getting to know Nellie through her letters and history. It was a much darker story than I was expecting but still a really interesting read. I do like to point out that though most of the book makes men out to be horrible and abusive both now and the 50s, there are still many, many good, kind, respectful and supportive men out there who aren't only looking for babies to carry on their lines or pass down successes.

My Rating: I found this to be a pretty dark story but very much so a 'girl power'/ woman's rights type of book. I just wish that we could have a book with strong women taking control of there own lives without making men into such villains.  It was still a very good book and I give it a rating of Three Paws.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Didn't Get to in 2020



Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.  It is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and you can find the list of topics on her page HERE.

So this week's topic is about the books we didn't get to in 2020 and boy are there a lot!  I will limit it down to the 10 I am definitely going to read this year!


So there are a lot of wintery books on this list and a lot of really chunky books too. I may not get to all of them right away but I am definitely going to read them all in 2021!  Is there any one I should really make sure to pick up first?

What are some of the books you didn't get to in 2020 that you want to make sure you read this year?

Not Monday Reading List

      It is not Monday but it is time to update with what I read last week, what I am currently reading and what to look forward to next week.

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review

Cleo Can Tie a Bow by Sybrina Durant (Bedtime Story)
Ever After Always by Chloe Liese (Date Night)

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

One for the Books
Ever After Always
Cleo Can Tie a Bow
A Wealth of Pigeons
Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Currently Reading:
Fire by Kristin Cashore - Print - on page 51 of 480
The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan - Audio - 23%

Pages Read/ Time Listened
49:24 Hours Listened This Year(17:28 listened this week)
1,753 Pages Read This Year (1,033 Read this week)

Books Added to Shelves Recently: TBR
Lives of Saints (Good Choice Reading - 2020 Purchase)


Another great reading week, even though it didn't feel like a great one since I struggled with most of the books I read. I am happy with the reading I am doing, a mix of requested reviews, borrowed books, a re-read and a new book recently added to my shelves. I have been working hard over the past week to finish updating my shelves and I will have a shelf tour coming up on my Instagram stories later this week (@EasternSunset9) if you want to check that out.  I am also updating my Medieval-a-thon reading on Instagram stories as well. I am super happy with my progress so far on that as well. 

It is a short week for me this week so I expect the office to be super busy but I am hoping to get a lot more reading done this week. Once I get through a few more of my Medieval-a-thon TBR books, I need to get going on these newly added books, the leftovers from last year (that got stranded in the mail system) have started rolling in and throwing off my goals for the year already!

Anyway, what new books have you added to your shelves already this year?

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Date Night with a Book: Ever After Always by Chloe Liese

 Date Night with a book is the new After Dark series of posts on my blog, books posted for Date Nights contain Adult  Romance themes and scenes. From now on I will keep my reviews of all books I read that have explicit scenes in them for Date Night posts for those of you who prefer to avoid them or easy to find for those of you who seek them out ;)

Read for: Anticipated Release/ Netgalley/ Requested Review

Synopsis: "Buckle up for an emotional journey of hijinks, heartache, and a hot slow-burn in this marriage-in-crisis romance about going the distance to make love last.


I’ve spent twelve years loving Freya Bergman and twelve lifetimes won’t be enough to give her everything she deserves. She’s my passionate, tender-hearted wife, my best friend, and all I want is to make her happy. But the one thing that will make her happiest is the one thing I’m not sure I can give her: a baby.

With the pressure of providing and planning for a family, my anxiety’s at an all-time high, and I find myself pulling away, terrified to tell my wife how I’m struggling. But when Freya kicks me out, I realize that pulling back has turned into pushing too far. Now it’s the fight of a lifetime to save our marriage.


I love my cautious, hard-working husband. He’s my partner and best friend, the person I know I can count on most. Until one day I realize the man I married is nowhere to be found. Now Aiden is quiet and withdrawn, and as the months wear on, the pain of our growing distance becomes too much. 

As if weathering marriage counseling wasn’t enough, we’re thrown together for an island getaway to celebrate my parents’ many years of perfect marriage while ours is on the brink of collapse. Despite my meddling siblings and a week in each other’s constant company, this trip somehow gets us working through the trouble in paradise. I just can’t help worrying, when we leave paradise and return to the real world, will trouble find us again?

Ever After Always is a marriage-in-crisis, opposites-attract romance about a sensitive, fierce-loving woman and her resilient husband who has anxiety disorder. Complete with island vacation antics, a sibling prank gone wrong, and a steamy slow burn, this standalone is the third in a series of novels about a Swedish-American family of five brothers, two sisters, and their wild adventures as they each find happily ever after."

My Review: I was so excited when I discovered this book, not often do I find romances around an already established marriage that might be struggling a bit. While I love the concept of the story because it is something I could relate to (having been married for 14 years) but it ended up a bit too relatable and was difficult and painful at times to read. With that said, I absolutely loved Freya and Aiden, they are so in love with each other but clearly struggling to connect. I loved their commitment to making things work and overcoming their own personal battles. As someone who struggles with anxiety, this was a bit more eye-opening that I expected from a romance book and there were definitely times I had to put it down and ponder what Aiden's struggle was revealing about myself, maybe not something I wanted to face in what I was presuming was a light rekindle the romance book. I also had not read the previous two books in this series and it is definitely something I would recommend as this is clearly a family series and a very close knit family at that, we spend a lot of time with a group of very involved siblings that we should be familiar with already. I do think I will go back and read the rest of the series because I love the family dynamics of this group of characters.

My Rating: Do not go into this book expecting a light fluffy romance story, this is hard hitting, deep thought, discover yourself kind of book. I was not expecting to dive into anxiety issues, potential fertility issues and more when picking up this book and it was definitely a bit difficult to read at times.  I do think it was all handled rather well though and really appreciated the effort on Liese's behalf.  I give this one a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley, the above is my honest review and opinion. 

You can find out more about Chloe Liese and her books on her Goodreads Page or Website.

Ever After Always was just released on Tuesday, January 12th so you can now obtain your own copy in print or digital format from Amazon  or request it at your local library or bookstore.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Book Tour: Bedtime Story: Cleo Can Tie a Bow by Sybrina Durant & Illustrated by Pumudi Gardiyawasam *Giveaway*

Together we read a story about a bunny with very long ears, whose ears kept getting dirty and dragging on the ground, and a fox who helped solve the problem with a bow...

Read for: Requested Review/ Pump Up Your Book

Synopsis: "Cleo loves bows. She wears her hair in a bow and decorates her room with bows. Cleo is bow crazy.
Learning to tie a bow is very difficult for some people but Cleo remembers how to do it from a cute story she once heard. It is about a little rabbit with very long ears and a very helpful fox who shows her what to do to keep them clean. This is the story of how Cleo learns to tie a “bunny ear” bow.
Exercises in manual dexterity build self-esteem in children. Knowing how to tie shoe-strings, scarves and more into a bow is a useful and rewarding skill.
“Teach a child a useful skill. Build confidence and self-esteem that lasts a lifetime.”"

My Review:  This was such a cute book, a bit of a story and a bit of a lesson wrapped up in one. Cleo loves bows and so she learned how to tie a bow. This book had very cute illustrations to go along with the simple to follow instructions on how to tie a bow. There are also resources and links for a song and video to help teach kids how to tie a bow as well. Durant also has a series of books teaching how to tie a variety of knots, I will definitely be picking up the one teaching how to tie a tie!

My Rating: While this book is leans heavily to the girly side, the portion of the story about Fox and Bunny and learning to tie a bow can be for anyone. There are so many ways to teach tying a bow, but the simple and clear directions and illustrations in this one are great! I give it a rating of Four Paws!

Don't forget to scroll all the way to the bottom for a giveaway!

Amazon →

 Barnes & Noble →

Cleo Can Tie A Bow: A Rabbit and Fox Story is an educational picture book for children written by Sybrina Durant and illustrated by Pumudi Gardiyawasam. Cleo loves bows! All of her shoes have bows, and she always has a bow in her hair. If you look at her dress, you’ll notice that it has a bow and a sash around her waist. Even her fingernails are decorated with little bows. And her bedroom? Yes, you guessed it. There are bows everywhere — on the bed, on the curtains over her windows; even her stuffed bunny’s ears are tied into a bow. Cleo learned all about tying bows from a story about a rabbit with very long, droopy ears and the friendly fox who had the perfect solution.

Sybrina Durant’s Cleo Can Tie A Bow: A Rabbit and Fox Story is two stories within a story. Children are introduced to Cleo who then introduces the story about how she learned to tie a bow. In her introduction to the book, Durant recommends that parents share the story with their children, so they can learn to tie a bow along with Cleo. She suggests using long ribbons to simulate the fox’s moves or shoelaces. Both stories are engaging and fun to read, and the instructions given by the fox work quite well. I was pleased to note the author cautions that, despite the storyline, one must never practice bow tying moves on a real bunny. Pumudi Gardiyawasam’s colorful and fun illustrations work quite well with the story, and the profusion of bows on Cleo’s wardrobe, room, and bunny will entice young readers to try their own hands at tying a bow. The author also provides a link for a video version and the “Cleo can tie a bow song.” Cleo Can Tie A Bow: A Rabbit and Fox Story is highly recommended.

–Readers Favorite

Sybrina Durant is the author of The Rabbit and The Fox Learn To Tie Series of Books which include Learn To Tie A Neck Tie With The Rabbit and the Fox in English, Spanish and Tagalog; Ned Can Knot A Neck Tie; Nellie Can Knot A Neck Scarf and the newest addition, Cleo Can Tie  A Bow. She also the author of The Blue Unicorn Series of books and has an online book store which features, unicorns, rabbits, foxes, and how to tie books plus gift items related to those things plus lots of bow-themed gifts.






One entrant will be selected to win a Cleo Can Tie A Bow Soft Cover Book plus a $25.00 Gift Card plus “My Unicorn Is Kinda Bow Crazy” tee shirt! ($100 including tax and shipping) from Sybrina Publishing in the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Open for entry in the Continental US, 18 years and older from 1/08/21 thru 1/30/2021 at 12:01am EST. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to notification email to claim their prize or a new winner will be selected. See Rafflecopter for official rules. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

2020 Resolution Review & 2021 Resolutions

 Every year I like to take a look back at the previous years resolutions, or goals, whichever you like to call them.  When I made my resolutions for 2020 I, like everyone else, had no clue what the year would hold for me. This was definitely quite the year and it taught be a lot about myself, my family and our strengths and priorities.  Before I put those lessons to use in making this year's resolutions and goal, why don't we take a look back at my reading/blogging resolutions for 2020 and how I did overall. You can look back and see my post last year HERE.

1. Read that TBR: I had set a goal to read 100 books off my physical TBR and I really didn't make that, this was one resolution that when shit hit the fan, so did it.  I did manage to read a few books off my list of purchases over the past 3 years.  I did make myself at the end of the year get very real with my reading abilities and ended up unhauling an extra 78 books from my physical TBR.  I think I may have actually reached my goal of reading or removing 100 books but it wasn't exactly the way I had hoped. 

2.  Purchase Less Books: So this is where I really surprised myself, I thought I was doing really poorly since I wasn't meeting my super strict rules of one book purchase per week for a vast majority of the year. (I may have done some retail therapy to get me through the many months of Covid, and I liked being able to support some of my small local bookshops in any way that I could). Anyway, in 2019 I added 236 books to my shelves, yikes! This year, even though I purchased more than I had planned on, it was still nearly a hundred books less than last year at 154! I guess sometimes you just have to look at the big picture to see the progress you really made!

3. Read Big Books: This is one goal I just manage to keep crushing! Every year I set a goal of reading so many books over 500 pages and some how manage to meet that goal or surpass it.  This year I set a goal of 10 books over 500 pages and I ended up managing to read 13! That works out to be one book over 500 pages for each month! Some of those books were even over 700 pages.  This makes me so happy to keep growing every year. 

4. Interact: This was not the year to make this goal Huh?! Anyway, I had really wanted to reach out into the book world and interact more with my fellow readers. I tried, I really did and I felt like I started making some progress, but then Covid hit and I was left floundering through working full time from home, homeschooling my 2nd grader, having my husband working full time outside the home and the fear and anxiety that came with all of those.  All that while still actively reading and blogging. I barely managed to keep my head above the water.  With that said, I do feel like I started connecting with a few other book worms on Instagram.  Not close enough to call friends or be able to buddy read with yet but enough that we chat in DMs from time to time.

So overall, looking at my 2020 goals and how it all went, once I look at the big picture it wasn't as bad as I thought. I kind of feel like that is what happens when I look back at 2020 as a whole, it was awful in the midst and I couldn't see past individual days, but when I look at it all things didn't go nearly as badly as I thought they did. I know, I am fortunate in that aspect, not everyone was so lucky.


Okay, now on with 2021 goals and resolutions. Normally I start thinking about my reading goals in November and December but quite honestly the end of the year snuck up on me.  I haven't really thought much about them, but after a good clean out of my shelves, a re-organization and a purge, I have a good idea where I want to go with my reading.

1. Read that TBR: I know it is a bit of a cop-out that I will be using many of the same goals as last year but I really do need to get that TBR down.  I am officially out of shelf space; I have no more places to put bookshelves in my house and those shelves are pretty much completely out of room.  I have already unhauled all the books I don't think I will read or that I am no longer interested in reading, so the remaining books, over 250 of them just on my physical shelves, are all books I truly want to read. So I am setting a goal of 70 books off my existing TBR (physical, audio or ebook).  Hopefully I will do better in reading those books already on my shelves instead of bringing more books in.

2. Re-Read More: If I learned anything this year is that there is nothing quite as comforting as an old favorite book. I mean that is why I have over 1,000 physical books in my house is it not?! Because they bring me comfort.  Well after the past year, comfort is definitely needed.  So I plan to push myself to re-read more books this year, at a minimum 15 re-reads but I would really like to reach a number closer to 25.

3. Purchase Less Books & Read More of Them: I know, I keep setting this goal every year, but every year the number of books I add to my shelves gets less and less.  I have a bit of a different way of going about it this year.  I plan to allow myself 4 pre-orders per month (I will allow myself to roll them over if I don't use them all in the months of less releases).  I am making lists of the books I will borrow from the library that aren't at the very top of my anticipated releases list. In addition to this, I have a single shelf available on my TBR bookcase for new incoming books.  If that shelf gets full (meaning I haven't read the new books off it yet) then I get no more purchases until there is room again. In all, I would like to try to get my incoming books to about 100 this year, that is a pretty drastic drop from last year but between 2019 and 2020 I double that drop. I can do it, through more selective purchasing and using my library more. 

4. Explore New Genres More: This year I did something I never thought I would do, I picked up a mystery.  I have quickly been consumed by the world of Cozy Mysteries! I never would have expected them to become so much of my reading in such a short period of time but here we are! So, I want to continue to explore Cozy Mysteries, outside of the authors I have already come to love. I also want to dabble more in other genres I don't usually pick up, more poetry, more memoir, more general fiction. It doesn't have to be a lot just a book here or there to see if my reading tastes are changing more. 

There may be more goals in the future but these are the ones that I plan to focus on this year, reading more of the books I have, bringing in less books and when I do, reading them fairly quickly and trying new things.  I think those are some good goals for this year so far and I am pretty excited about them!

What are some of your reading goals or resolutions for 2021?