2017 Books Recap

Tell the truth: was everyone dying because it took me a MONTH to get this written and posted? I’m sure. Obviously everyone loves this post. Oh, wait, is that just me? Too bad. My blog, my rules and I love this post. I get geekily excited about it year after year. Also, this is the fifth anniversary of the book blogging recap, so I feel like there shall be some fun ahead.

Alrighty, I could blather here for a while, but what’s the point? We all want the dirty deets, so let’s get right to it.

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2017 Statistics

Total number of books read in 2017: 225(!) (25% increase over 2016)

Average number of books read per month: 18.75

Average number of books read per week: 4.32

Month with the most books read: This goes to September and her 36 books. The most books I’ve ever read in a month is 37 (August of 2016) so this is a perfectly respectable, impressive total.

Month with the least books read: This is a tie between November and December and 3 books each.

Best book I read in 2017:

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner. Wow, I really struggled with this. When I read this book and finally put it down, I said out loud “that was the best book of the year” and it held for months, but then, along came Brigid Kemmerer and I was torn. I almost said a tie because they were both so good but I don’t want to start that. So I made the tough choice. And this book is incredible. It is so brilliantly written and incredibly moving and supremely touching. I love everything about it. And the fact that I met the author and he’s an awesome guy and signed my book doesn’t hurt either. He’s now on the must-read/auto-buy list. He’s that good. He is also the very first male to win in this coveted category, so cheers, Jeff Zentner, and thank you for this unbelievably good book.

Runners up for best book in 2017: (in not much order)

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer. I seriously love this book so much I am disappointed it did not win, and wanted to create a second place category just for this book. Instead I am listing it first among the runners-up so it doesn’t get lost. This book blew me away. It is equally as good as this year’s champion and I am sad I read them both in the same year. Love this book.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne if you haven’t heard of this book I’d be surprised. It is everywhere and deservedly so. This book is amazing and funny and smart AND it is her first book ever! Imagine how great she’ll be in a few years. I bet she takes this category in a couple of years.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay is another very strong contender and if not for the three previous books could have won best of the year.

180 Seconds by Jessica Park, I sincerely loved this book. It is so well done and beautiful. Again, in a different year, this could easily have won.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. This is my dark horse pick. It isn’t romance but a swashbuckling adventure and I loved it. The sequel comes out this year and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein. This story, my first by Charlotte Stein, really stuck with me. It was a dark and sometimes difficult read, but it ended up being a beautiful story.

The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn. I talk more about this historical romance in the most surprising category, where it did win, but what a great, fantastic book (and I just noticed that the first in this series, Because of Miss Bridgerton, was in this same category last year, I guess if you want historical, you cannot go wrong here.)

Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne. This book is an installment in a series, the third and I loved every word. This is not a book I would expect to find on this list but it hung in there and I just couldn’t NOT give it a nod.

Wish You Were Here by Renee Carlino. She appears in several categories this year and this is the only one that’s a good one. She also made this category last year with two of her books. And supposedly she has one coming out this year so I wouldn’t be surprised to find her here (or winning) next year.

The Knocked-Up Plan by Lauren Blakely. This is another book I wouldn’t have expected to see on this list. 1. Because the romantic comedy, while fun and easy to read aren’t typically stellar stories and 2. because I don’t like pregnancy storylines but, boy this book was awesome. And beating the stereotypes is reason alone to make the list.

Trust by Kylie Scott. I love Kylie Scott. I loved her rock star series, I love her bartender series and this was her first foray into YA. And you know what? I loved it, too. She’s just awesome. As long as she stays away from zombies (yep, tried those too, not even Kylie Scott could get me on board with zombies) she’s tops in my book.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. Like the pirate king, this is a different sort of book. This one is about time traveling on a ship, through maps. It is an odd premise, but such an engrossing read. I loved it. I also liked its sequel but not quite as much as this one.

Worst book I read in 2017:

Thoughtless by SC Stephens. I have to say that this was on several lists as one of the best YA stories around. And I could not believe it. This is not only the worst book of the year but truly one of the worst books I have ever read. I mean, who did they pay off to get this title on so many lists?

Runners up for worst book in 2017: (in no order)

American Queen – Sierra Simone (This lost the crown by the very slimmest of margins)

The Way We Fall – Cassia Leo

Lucian Divine – Renee Carlino

Retrieval – Aly Martinez

Off-Base – Annabeth Albert

Some Kind of Hero – Suzanne Brockmann

The Story of Us – Tara Sivec

Total number of NEW books read: 219 (97.3% of books read this year, 2.6% increase over 2016)

Total rereads: 6 (2.7% of books read this year, 2.6% decrease from 2016)

Total number of standalone books (do not occur in a series): 74 (32.9% of books read in 2017, 2.2% increase from 2016)

Best series:

Hellcat Canyon Series by Julie Anne Long. This was a hotly contested category this year and I went back and forth, but ultimately, JAL won out because there is so much to love in the three books in this series but the thing I loved best is that each got better and I liked the third the most, which is rare enough in series writing. Plus, they are super funny, which I adore in a good romance.

Runners up for best series: (in no order)

Openly Series by Bill Konigsberg, I was very tempted to pick this as the winner as male authors don’t win much around here (although, best book of the year, Jeff Zentner!), and there was nothing to dislike in this series. If I had to rank, this would be my second favorite series of the year.

Love Unexpectedly Series by Lauren Layne, this could easily have been a winner as one of its books (Walk of Shame) made the best list this year. The final two books were excellent but the first two were just good, which is why it did not win.

Game On Series by Kristin Callihan, as a whole these are not books that will rock your world, but they are enjoyable books and I liked this series (which is ongoing) very much.

Royally Series by Emma Chase, a few years ago, I read a book by Emma Chase and hated it. Not just disliked, but hated, which crossed her off my read list. Then I kept reading about this series, it just kept dogging me until I finally gave in and tried the first, boy am I glad I gave her another chance! This is a great series, especially if you are (as I really, really, am) a fan of royalty in your books.

Most surprising book:

The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn. What surprised me about this book is how very much I loved it. I mean, it’s Julia Quinn, and she has long been on my must-read list, as a matter of fact, she is the only historical author I still read religiously, but in general, I’m pretty much over the whole historical romance thing. Yet, this book is one of my favorites of the year. It is on the best list. I’ve gone so far as to recommend this series just to give people a chance to read this book. It is utterly delightful.

Runners up for most surprising book: (in no order)

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, surprising mostly for the fact that I don’t read this sort of book but it crossed my path and caught my attention and I liked it. Enough that I will read the sequel this year. For the curious, it is about assassin nuns. Truth.

The Rule Book by Jennifer Blackwood, this was a surprise because of how I found it. It was my friends at Amazon who said “based upon your choices, try….” and this was at the top of the list. Unfortunately, I had recently just gotten some really bad books from Amazon and the list was based off that. And I’ve tried Amazon recs before and been disappointed. But in this, I was pleasantly surprised. This was a great read. Kudos Amazon.

Biggest disappointment:

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover, oh how I struggled with this. If you follow my reading habits at all, you know Colleen Hoover is at the top of my must read list. In fact, she is an auto-buy for me. That’s rare. I don’t buy that many books. Anyway, this came out and a year with a new Colleen Hoover book is always a good one. Until this one. I just couldn’t connect with this one. It’s not that it’s bad. It isn’t. She couldn’t write a bad book. But I couldn’t connect to the story and it didn’t, in my opinion, deliver the same oomph her other books bring. So while it is weird to list a book that I said was 3/5 stars as my biggest disappointment, every other book of hers has been 5/5 stars, without hesitation, so I guess that’s why. I wanted the oomph and was disappointed I didn’t get it.

Runners up for biggest disappointment: (in no order)

Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren; so one of my favorite things to do is at the end of the year start looking at best of lists and read the best romance books of the year, if I haven’t already. Once those lists came out, they virtually ALL listed this book as the best romance of 2017. I had already read it and was just…meh about it. It’s not bad, but it certainly isn’t great. If you’re going to do office/hate-to-love romance, I feel that everyone will now compare you to The Hating Game (see best list) and this does not come close.

Lucian Divine by Renee Carlino, note this book also appears on the worst of list. It’s that simple, this was not a good book. And Renee Carlino is on my must-read list, she is amazing…this was not.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I loved her Gods and Monsters trilogy and I was so excited for this new series, but I was left feeling a little blah. It’s not bad, there is certainly potential but it fell a little flat for me.

Total number of print books read in 2017: 40* (17.8% of books read this year, 1.2% INCREASE over 2016. *However, with the MN Book awards books, I read what I was given and this accounts for 23 of those print books and two electronic books, so this stat is slightly inflated)

Total number of electronic books read in 2017: 185 (82.2% of books read this year, 1.2% decrease from 2016 see note* above)

Most surprising statistic: I don’t see how I don’t go with “Total number of books read” I mean, TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE books. That is so surprising to me.

5th Anniversary Stats:

(in honor of this being the 5th Anniversary of the recap, here’s some fun stats.)

Total number of books read in 5 years: 879 (Wowza! that means for sure by the end of this year I’ll have read more than 1,000 books, in just over six years. That is nuts!)

Average number of books read per month: 14.65

Average number of books read per week: 3.38

Total number of NEW books read: 769 (87.5% of books I read are new books)

Total number of re-reads: 110 (12.5% of books I read I have read previously)

 

The five worst books I’ve read since 2013:

Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

The Professional by Kresley Cole

Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

The Sassy Belles by Beth Albright

Thoughtless by SC Stephens

The five best books I’ve read since 2013: (this is some good company right here!)

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O’Keefe

Endless Knight by Kresley Cole

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Honorable mentions (five selected books from all the runners-up):

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Five Stages of Falling in Love by Rachel Higginson

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Monthly lists:

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Annual recaps:

2016 recap

2015 recap

2014 recap

2013 recap

And there you have it. My fifth annual recap of the books I read. Still love everything about it, including how long it takes me to prep and write this post (but I got it in before January ended!). Congratulations to all the winners. If you found yourself in a less than stellar category this year, don’t worry, just ask Kresley Cole who I think has charted in every single category, it’s easy to recover. She’s still aces in my book. For now, my fair readers, go forth and read!

 

 

Decadius Disseminatus

That’s Latin for “Ten Years of Blogging” (no, it’s really not, please don’t think that’s true, I totally made up the words of the sentiment. It’s not Latin for anything.)

But the gist is this: today, December 9, 2017, is the 10th anniversary of my life as a blogger. Ten YEARS I’ve been writing. On this very day an entire decade ago, I started out as a blogger. My friend Meg said, “You should write a blog” and so I did. Okay, there might have been more to it than that, I’m not that susceptible. I was going to repost my original blog, but, as it turns out, that site has shut down. Which means the first (just over) 500 blogs are lost forever. All that genius, gone in a wash of technology. (insert sad face smiley here)

I’d say it’s sad (see sad face smiley note), but I don’t know that it is (dammit! confused smiley). I don’t know if I need this to be permanent. The memories I’ll have either way but the granular details, I’m not sure we’re meant to carry those always. Maybe they are there just to color in the picture before it slowly leaches over time.

The point is, the stuff that matters we keep forever. but the rest of it, the stuff that seems so important in the moment? I don’t know that we’re supposed to keep it. I think part of life is letting go and moving forward. Hm, that is not a lesson I ever expected to learn through blogging, an exercise that by its very nature should show the opposite, but there you go.

This post, at the moment of publication is my 812th post. 812 times I’ve set out to tell you a story (at least here). My writing rate has slowed considerably. Five years ago, at the half decade mark, I wrote this post. In it, I told how it was my 1,000th post, 483 on this site and 517 on my first, now defunct site. If we include those 517 lost posts, then this is my 1,329th post.

(Remember my thing about numbers? This is a great place to demonstrate.)

I’ve technically written one thousand three hundred and twenty-nine posts (see? numbers are always more impressive if you write out the words.)

Over ten years, that is nearly 133 posts a year or a post every three days. Can you imagine? Every three days for a decade I wrote down my thoughts and published them on the internet for the world to read.

What was I thinking?

Just kidding, I like it. And I’m okay with it. I’m honored and touched and surprised that people actually do read it. People, that is, that are not my family or my friends. Since 219 people actually follow this blog and I’d guess less than 15 of them are the aforementioned friends and family, color me grateful and pleased.

What’s the point?

Well, there isn’t one, really. I just happened to stumble across my five year anniversary post only a couple weeks ago and it struck me, forcibly that I was dangerously close to this major anniversary. I knew then I had to take a moment and honor this date with a post, but as I thought about it in the days leading, I never found my story. Instead, today, without cleverness or guile, you get my thoughts. Just random scatters of notions sprinkled here for your enjoyment. Because I’m awesome like this, I’m going to link ten of my favorite posts.

Nope. Not favorite. Popular. I went to the site statistics and I found a list of all my posts ranked by number of views. So here we go, the Top 10 most popular posts on Livlife.

10.  Blog Crack

9. Buddy Coke

8. 35/35 (Kel, can you believe one of your birthday posts is in the TOP TEN? Of the 178 times that has been viewed, how many were you?…tell the truth!)

7. All About Me (Huh, that’s my intro page, which makes sense I suppose, but feels a bit like a cheat. But I did write it….)

6. Cheese and Macaroni

5. Christmas Letter

4. Magic Necklace

3. The Danger of Brushing Your Hair (in that post I am talking about something that happened 16,000 times and I spell out the words sixteen thousand and comment on how much more it seems. In 2011. Clearly I’ve believed this theory for quite some time).

2. Christian Kane Concert (this could well be MY favorite post I’ve ever written. Certainly it is to reread. I’m probably half of the page views (though I don’t think I count) and I’m both oddly pleased and disappointed it is number two)

1.  Purple Stripes – Never in a million years did I think this would be the most popular post on my site. Not sure what I thought WAS, but I wouldn’t have thought this, that’s for sure.

I’m adding one more: The Universe Wants Me to Listen to David Gray because I have always liked that post. And I think of it whenever a David Gray song comes on the radio or my iPhone. It’s number 33 overall which is still pretty high, so I’m including it as an honorable mention.

Ooops, make that two more. Wouldn’t Time Be Out To Charm You? This is another all time favorite of mine, the detailing of one of my life stories, a defining life story at that. I had to search for this one, only to find it is #73 on the list overall. But to me, this one would absolutely be top ten of my favorites, so I’m leaving it here as a second bonus.

What else can I say after ten years of being a blogger? Let’s see how long it lasts and where it goes, I guess. I certainly never thought I’d be writing a blog still after a decade.

Hm, how do you end these things? You’d think after doing this more than thirteen hundred times I’d have a foolproof system for getting out once the work is done (twss) but, unfortunately, I do not. Sometimes I’m pithy, sometimes it’s natural, sometimes I think I just stop typing.

This will be one of those times.

 

Twenty Eight

Happy Birthday, Kelly Jo. No suspense here, this one’s for you. I started out with a grand plan to make you a video, I even got up early this morning to do it. I did several takes and finally got it right. Then as I stood up, I dropped the phone and somehow, in the picking it up, I deleted the freshly completed video. Which is how my celebration of your day started out with a giant Fuck You to the universe. Man, oh man, that made me crabby. I didn’t have time to re-record the video because I’d done more than one take to try and get it perfect.

Then I spent the entire day stewing over it, because I was annoyed my plan had failed. I had every intention of heading home tonight and doing it again, except that it is dark when I get home now and the lighting in my house is terrible and I knew it would look better in natural light.

Then it hit me. Kelly likes words. Specifically, she likes it when *I* write words for her (feels like there is more than one meaning to that sentence!) And in days gone by I used to write sonnets to our friendship or post montages of photos glorifying our BFF status and post them to my blog. I don’t use the blog much anymore, at least not for things like that.

But I could.

I did.

I am.

I’ve spent all day thinking of you. I was in a meeting this morning (that I was NOT late for, despite my tech snafu, thank you very much) at the University of MN and the woman was talking about the children’s picture book digital art collection and I thought of you and how you’d be able to use that for your art unit.

I thought about you in the parking ramp when the person in the next spot parked so close to me that I could not fit between our cars and that was the driver side. And I ended up climbing in the passenger seat and over the console and contorting my body to squeeze into my driver’s seat. And even though it pissed me off, as I drove away I thought how funny it was and wished you were there because we’d laugh about that craziness for YEARS to come.

I stopped at Subway and thought of you and how much you enjoy Subway and how much you enjoy eating out, and that time you called me on the phone to tell me that Subway started offering breakfast and it was awesome.

I drove past Peppers & Fries and thought fondly of our lunches there, with and without your children. Then I thought of all the other lunches we’ve had and how much you enjoy going out to lunch. More than anyone I know.

All day today, every little thing I do, my mind has found a way to relate it back to you. Given the two very different lives we lead, this should seem a difficult task. But it isn’t. I can connect almost anything to you. And the reason is that we’ve been friends for twenty-eight years. 28. Our friendship is old enough to vote, buy cigarettes, lose money at a casino, drink alcohol and rent a car.

The Civil War lasted four years. World War I lasted four years. World War II lasted six years. The Korean War lasted three years. The Great Depression lasted ten years.

Our friendship outlasted all of these major events….added together. We have been friends longer than it would have taken to fight in four major wars and survive the greatest economic hardship our country has endured. With a year to spare.

I’ve spoken many times on my blog about you and our friendship. I’ve listed those if you wish to reread my words about you.

25 Birthdays

35/35

Lent Letter

Brecken’s Ultrasound

The Wonder (I think this is my all-time favorite Kelly post)

Chicago Trip (Although this is a close contender, still makes me LOL, literally)

The Right Stuff

33

First Sleepover

One of these posts contains a different list of posts about Kelly (there are a LOT to choose from) and in that one I put four and mention specifically that I stop at four just for Kelly. In this one I stopped at nine. It killed me to do it, but I did. Only nine lovable posts about my BFF. Because she likes lists that don’t conform. It’s me who doesn’t.

But here’s the crux of the thing. I love you, Kelly Jo. I’ve been loving you forever since 1989 and fully plan on that being the case forever. It’s a remarkable thing to know someone that long. Outside of blood relatives, there is no one I’ve known longer, and I know it is the same for you.

When we met, we didn’t have boobs. We didn’t shave our legs, we’d never gotten our first periods. We’d never kissed a boy. Our lives were small and sweet and innocent, as a child’s should be. The size of the world has grown immeasurably since we met, but it is in keeping with our friendship. More succinctly, the older we get, the better friends we become.

I know this is your first birthday since losing your dad and I know how hard that has been, and still is, on you. I think of you every day hoping, praying, that today will be a better day than yesterday. Also, I think of him, his warmth and his laughter and how very, very, very much he loved you. He is responsible for us, he moved you from Woodbury to St. Paul, and if he hadn’t done that, in 1989, you and I would never have met, never become friends, and what an immense loss that would have been. Nearly as awful as losing your dad. I hope that brings you comfort. Of all the things he’s given you, and Heaven knows that is a lot of things, he helped give you my friendship. And I’m still here, always.

Sometimes, Kel, sometimes it is hard to write to you because there is literally nothing I don’t say to you. I love that about us, our openness, even on the rare occasions that we fight, we always communicate our every thought. So many times I’ve set pen to paper (okay, fine, fingers to keyboard, but whatever, pen to paper is more poetic, and alliterative) to talk about you, about friendship and about how incredible it is that we are still forever friends.

Or BFF. As you like to say.

You are never far from my thoughts, and today, well, you are my favorite thought.

Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy birthday.

39 happys. Really. Count them.

Love you always, BFF.

kel

P.S. even though I never specifically mention NKOTB, I do reference them in the post. And because it felt weird to write to you, on your birthday and NOT mention them, I felt compelled to at this postscript to point that out, thus sneaking in a mention of your favorite band. I’m clever like that. Happy Birthday #1 Fan!

Long Live Livlife

My friend Elena recently had someone reach out to her on Facebook. As most of you know, I don’t do FB. But this person, Katie, reached out to Elena asking for my contact info because they wanted to send a yearbook.

Um, what?

Elena asked me and I asked who this person was. You see, I don’t really remember high school. But Elena does. So I figured she would know who this was and if it was worth sending along my contact info. She said, “I think she went to HS with us.” Well that’s strange. If Elena doesn’t remember her, then who is this person? More importantly, how does this person know that Elena and I are friends?

So I gave Elena permission to pass along my contact info, but not my regular email, my junk email, the one I use to sign up for stuff, and, apparently, pass along to people I may or may not know from Elena’s FB page. Obviously, I was curious. Then, Elena emailed me, “there is more to this story.” GAH! Tell me. Tell me NOW. She said she’d tell me in person, fortunately, we were seeing each other last night.

We went to a concert and Elena slipped in just as the lights were dimming, so there was no time to talk. After the show, after hours of waiting, she gave me this.

Katie Whatsherface reached out to me on FB about a yearbook. Apparently, she learned that you had died and wanted to send a copy of the yearbook to your family.

WHATTHEEVERLOVINGWHAT?!?!?

I’m not dead.

I’m really not. This is not a ghostly memoir. I’m a real, live girl, who reads a lot of books.

Now, of course, I have so many questions, so.many.questions, and I am just waiting to see if Katie Whatsherface reaches out. She’s had my email for two days and I’ve heard jack, with a side of squat. I’m wondering if she’ll even bother now that Elena confirmed that I am, indeed, still among the living.

Also, if I were dead, why would my family want my high school yearbook. Which is especially weird because I have a high school yearbook. One from every year (which I plan to use to look up Katie Whatsherface tonight, I forgot last night after hearing the story.) Junior high as well. And one from sixth grade. All on my bookshelves. So if my family wants them they are free for the taking when they clear out my house.

So odd. So, so, SO odd.

But I am here to state, firmly, that despite the fact that I am not a member of the Facebook community, I am, as a matter of certainty, alive and kicking. (I even just did an air kick just to prove it.)

I am alive.

Long Live Livlife.

Reading in the Rain

I know I’ve talked ad nauseum about how much I love to read outside. I LOVE it, it’s just the best thing in the world. I’m honestly surprised I don’t go into depression when I can’t for nine months out of the year.

At my house, I have a three season porch off my living room, which is on the second floor, that means my patio has a roof, the floor of the porch. I have my swing  hanging from the porch and that’s where I spend 99.99% of my outdoor reading time (once it was too sunny and I sat on the bench for 15 minutes, that’s the other 0.01%). Because of the way the three season porch is designed, it doesn’t get wet underneath. The rain has to be blowing virtually sideways to get rain underneath. The same is true inside the porch, so I’m lucky I can leave those windows open day and night, from April to October.

Okay, so this means I don’t have to stop reading when it is raining. This is a HUGE plus for me, especially this summer when it has been super rainy. And since rainy days are prime reading days, it’s basically heaven on earth for me.

Cut to Tuesday night. I was out reading and it rained a bit. No big deal. Then it got dark and a storm blew in. It was rapidly cooling off outside and I was considering heading in (I was reading on my iPad, so the dark didn’t matter) but it was a good part of the book and I was enjoying the sounds and smells of the storm, so I stayed put.

Suddenly, something wet and slimy landed on my bare leg. Okay, I just got a chill typing that. Truly. It was dark outside, so I couldn’t see it. Instead, I just freaked. FREAKED. Remember this? It wasn’t quite that bad, because I wasn’t naked, but still, I was in capri pants and it was on my bare skin.

So I freak out and start kicking both legs, which were previously resting on a footstool. Kicking like a maniac with one hand holding my iPad to keep it from crashing to the ground, I felt whatever it was leave my skin.

I calmed down and finally brought my legs to rest on the footstool when whatever it was touched my other leg! Again with the freaking and kicking and not knowing what the hell was happening. So I removed my feet from the footstool, but I was so freaked out I didn’t want to put my feet on the ground because I didn’t know what was happening and I was barefoot (my sandals were under the footstool where I had slipped them off) so I simply stuck my legs straight out. And, naturally, because I was on a swing, I start swinging wildly about in the dark with nothing to anchor me. During this time I was chanting, out loud, pleasebealeaf, pleasebealeaf, pleasebealeaf.  After maybe 20 seconds, my legs were starting to hurt, but I was calming down and I realized I needed to figure this out. On the heels of that thought was the reminder that I was holding an iPad IN MY HAND and it emits light. Um, duh?

So I flipped the screen toward the ground and, obviously, saw nothing, since the fear of the ground was all in my imagination, and finally put my feet down. As I stopped moving I was able to turn toward the footstool and I aimed my iPad again.

There it was, the source of all this drama.

A tiny green tree frog. Okay he wasn’t tiny, like maybe 1.5″ long. Which is sizeable, but by no means terrifying. Frogs do not bother me in the least. Except when it is storming, and dark and they are wet and land on my skin, uninvited, then, I guess, they bother me plenty. But I was laughing as I saw him, and I leaned forward and pushed him off the footstool with my hand. Because frogs don’t bother me. I touched him, he hopped off, I resettled in my spot and dove back into my book.

But something was bugging me, niggling in the back of my brain…

Finally, I switched over from the book to my browser and googled how high tree frogs can jump. I mean, I see frogs and toads frequently and they hop a bit, I’ve seen them jump great distances, forward, but never have I seen one jump high. Maybe and inch or two off the ground, but that’s it. However, this particular frog landed on my leg, on the footstool, which I am guessing is close to four feet off the ground when all is said and done. Four feet in the air! So my brain was wondering if he was on a tree or something and got blown onto my leg? I mean, it sounds crazy, but how else did he get there.

And then Google told me that tree frogs can jump up to 7 feet in the air, or 50 times their own body length. Wowza. I mean, that’s impressive, but also strange that I never knew that. Now I’m a little creeped out. Before I saw frogs and thought nothing of it, but now, knowing that if I am walking and see a frog on the ground, he could literally leap up and land on my head. That’s a little creepy.

Anyway, I filed that information away for later and finished my book. I was so close that even though I was cold and living in my own private dramedy, I wanted to finish. So I did. As soon as the book was done, I shut off the iPad and lifted my feet to the ground. I stuck my left foot under the stool and slid it in my flip flop. Then my right, but I couldn’t quite reach it, it may have gotten moved in the frantic flailing of the aforementioned dramedy. So I stood up on my left foot and reached further and my toe caught the edge of my shoe. I scootched it toward me and finally slid my foot in…and my toes met something slimy!

Again with the instinctive reaction, my foot kicked and the sandal went flying. Not far, mind you, just off my foot. STILL standing my my left foot, I leaned backward and grabbed my iPad, turned it back on and shined the light. My flip flop was about a foot away and now sole side up. I leaned forward with my hand and picked it up and that little frog was sitting underneath. Apparently, he thought he could make himself at home in my sandal.

Not true my freaky, jumping, little nemesis. This time I picked up the shoe in my hand, put it on, and grabbed my iPad to head inside. I kept the light pointed at the ground the whole time so I didn’t accidentally step on this frog, or worse, he didn’t hop right inside with me. As I stepped across the threshold, I turned back for one last look and the dim light from the screen could barely touch him several feet away, but it was enough to see the gleam of mirth in his froggy eye as he sat there mocking me.

Damn frog.

2015 Books Recap

When I realized I hadn’t blogged my monthly book lists since last March, I was so disappointed because I need those lists to write THIS POST. I love this post. I so look forward to tallying and creating statistics about my reading habits. I mean, could I be a bigger nerd?

So, as to the winning….it was actually Elena (who is on a winning streak lately! Quick, Lane, go buy just one more PowerBall!) Who guessed 178. Everyone else was over 200. My personal goal was 175, but I can’t win my own contest, so Lane…congrats!

This year, forget it. If you’d still like to guess in the comments, just for fun, go ahead, but it’s more about the excitement, than a contest.

And….on to the tallying!

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2015 Statistics

Total number of books read in 2015: 136 (30% decrease from 2014)

Average number of books read per month: 11.3

Average number of books read per week: 2.6

Month with the most books read: This goes to July and her 29 books

Month with the least books read: Tie! February and May both with only 4 books read

Best Book I read in 2015: This was a challenge. Lots of truly great books this year. But ultimately, the winner went to a book that moved me and hasn’t left my head since I read it.

Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O’Keefe.

This book was a surprise, a delight, and just blew me away. I’m waiting for it to fade from my brain so that I can read it again.

Runners up for best book in 2015: (in no order)

The Truth About Him by M. O’Keefe – the sequel to the best book, nearly as good as the winner this year.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – this was a sweet and fantastical little tale that I did not expect to like as much as I did.

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – This one was hugely talked about after it debuted, and I had already read and loved it. Amazing dystopian story with a new twist.

Confess by Colleen Hoover – I loved this book a lot and it probably would have won except I’ve already read her new book this year and it’s so much better than this one that this one dropped a little in my estimation. Not really fair but since she may well win next year….

The Heir by Keira Cass – boy, did I not expect to like this as much as I did. Spinoff series are a tricky thing and making this about the CHILD of the couple we loved in the previous series? That’s a bold move. And yet, I liked this more than the first series.

Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole – I wonder if I year could go by that she doesn’t make this list? Her IAD books have been such a disappointment lately, I feel because she splits her focus too much, and then she smacked me with this. My second favorite in the series behind Lothaire.

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid – This won best series and deservedly so, but this was easily a contender for best book of the year.

First & Then by Emma Mills – This was not a book I expected to love, and yet, I adored it. These runners up are not in any order and truly, this might have been my second favorite book of the year.

Worst Book I read in 2015: Would you believe that there was only one contender? The dishonor goes to Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas. I mentioned in the monthly post that this is the final book in a four book series. The first three being Sugar Daddy, Blue-Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger….which are FANTASTIC stories. Then she let SIX years go by before she finished the series and somehow gave us a completely crap book. This book makes me sad to think about. I waited so long and ended up wishing she’d just left it alone and never finished it.

Runners up for worst book in 2015: None. Really. I could only come up with one truly bad book this year, which is pretty awesome, actually.

Total number of NEW books read: 101 (74.3% of the books read in 2015, 9% decrease from 2014)

Total Rereads: 35 books (25.7% of the books read in 2015, 9% increase over 2014)

Total number of standalone books (do not occur in a series): 18 (13.2% of books read in 2015, 1.2% decrease from 2014)

Best New Series: This was surprisingly challenging this year. I ended up giving the title to the Neanderthal series (Neanderthal Seeks Human and Neanderthal Marries Human, by Penny Reid). This made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Ask Kelly’s kids, I was reading it the morning they stayed over, I was laughing out loud and they kept asking me what was so funny in my book.

Runners up for best new series:

Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott. I read the fourth and final in this series and it was another stellar installment.

Original Heartbreakers by Gena Showalter, for a series where all four installments were released in the same year (YAY! LOVE that!) this was surprisingly well written and engaging. I loved them all.

Off Campus by Elle Kennedy. I loved these books and the next installment is due out this year so it could win this category in 2016.

Most surprising book: I struggled with this category. Too many surprises this year. But the final honor goes to Reflected in You by Sylvia Day, as the second in the Crossfire series. I read the first, it was fine. Then I read this one and it was about the same people! Huge surprise. I assumed the second was about a new set of characters, as is commonplace. Turns out, the whole series is about this one couple. Unfortunately, I didn’t like them enough to read more, so I stopped at two.

Biggest Disappointment: Rogue by Julie Kagawa, this was a sequel to a book I really liked from an author I really like. I hated this book. It was just awful. Huge disappointment, enough that I won’t read any further in this series.

Runners up for biggest disappointment: Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne, this was touted as a terrific love story. It was so boring, a big letdown.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, this makes the list, not because it was bad, but because it was underwhelming. The Percy Jackson series, one of my all time favorite series, and the Heroes of Olympus series, are amazing books and stories. I expected so much more from this book.

Total number of print books read in 2015: 39 (28.7% of books read in 2015, 10% decrease since 2014)

Total number of electronic books read in 2015: 97 (71.3% of books read in 2015, 10% increase over 2014)

Most surprising statistic: Runners up for Worst book. There were NONE! I only read ONE bad book in the whole year, how surprising is that!

My final thoughts? I think it is super rare that I like so many books and dislike so few in a year, that’s usually a more balanced stat, but perhaps because I read so much less this year I was more selective? I don’t know, but it’s nice to look back on a year with so many books that I loved and would like to read again.

Monthly lists:

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Annual recaps:

2014 Recap

2013 Recap

2014 Books Recap

For some reason, I’ve been so excited to write this post. Actually looking forward to it since I wrote last year’s recap. There’s something about the tallying of scores, books, picking favorites, it’s just a fun, fun post to write. So here we go.

First off, what everyone wants to know, who won?

Well, as it turns out, it was a super close race! The actual winner is one of Kelly’s students from last year, initials RL, who guessed 200, being off by only 6 books. However, since I don’t actually know this child, I’m bypassing that for guesses from people I do know. In that case, Mark was the actual winner, with a guess of 203, being off by only 8 books. He pulled that off by the slimmest of margins over his daughter Victoria, who at 180 was only off by 14 books. Therefore, Mark and Victoria, you get to be the 2014 winners (1st and 2nd place). I decided (and I hope that others think this is fun, too) that the prize is a guest blog, anything about books. So, Mark and Victoria can each write a post of any length about books. They can write about their favorite books, or books they don’t like, how how much they read, or whatever they like as long as it is book related. Email them to me and I’ll post them!

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Okay, moving on to the tallying.

Here are the 2014 statistics. (* denotes new categories for 2014)

Total number of books read in 2014: 194 (25% increase over 2013)

Average number of books read per month: 16.2

Average number of books read per week: 3.73

Month with the most books read: Tie! June and July (32 books each) (23% increase over 2013)

Month with the least books read: December (2 books) (60% DEcrease from 2013)

Best book I read in 2014: Endless Knight by Kresley Cole. This is actually a bit of a cheat, because this book came out in 2013 and I read it in 2013 AND chose it for the winner in 2013. But, I REread this book TWO times in 2014 (yes, it is only one year old and I’ve read it three times) and I honestly did not read a book that is better than this one in this year. So I am picking it again. My list, my rules. And this has quickly become one of my favorite books of all time, which is impressive when you consider all that I read. (Caveat: if you want to read this, and you should, you need to read the first one in the series first, Poison Princess.)

*Runners Up for Best Book of 2014:

Talon by Julie Kagawa. Talon was a book about dragons that I did not expect to like, but I loved. Kagawa wrote the Iron Fey, one of my all-time favorites, evidently she can do no wrong in my world. Writing about Puck and Faeries or about dragons, it doesn’t seem to matter, she sucks me into her stories and doesn’t let go.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. Laini Taylor had the runner up for best book two years running, both from the same series. The middle book was a little lacking, but the first and this, the third, were brilliant and make this a favorite series of all time. Another contender for best series; it was probably 6th or so on the list, primarily due to the slower middle title, but overall, an incredible teen fantasy series.

Pivot Point by Kasie West. Pivot Point was the first in a duo that I adored. I have now read everything Kasie West has written and have discovered a new favorite author, though this book remains my favorite of hers. Actually this series, was next on my list, but I stopped my runners up at three, so it didn’t quite make the cut, but it is amazing.

Worst books I read in 2014: The Professional by Kresley Cole, while this was probably not the actual worst book of the year, because she is one of my favorite authors, the fact that she can make this list at all easily qualifies her for the title. Please note she also wrote the book I chose as best of the year two years running. Kudos, KC. And I just found out this horrible book is a series. Dear God, KC, what were you thinking? Please stop writing these immediately and focus all your energy on the Arcana Chronicles.

*Runners Up for Worst Book of 2014: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Knight by Kristen Ashley, Last Hit by Jessica Clare

Total number of NEW books read: 161 (83% of the books read in 2014, a 1.4% increase over 2013)

Total number of rereads: 31 (17% of the books read in 2014, a 1.4% decrease over 2013)

Total number of standalone books (does not occur in a series) read (including rereads): 28 (8% decrease over 2013)

Best new series: Bad Boys and Wallflowers by Maya Rodale, simply because of the innovative nature of the stories. Telling parallel stories across two genres, it was just brilliantly done. The books are not the best, but this idea was amazing and I couldn’t stop reading them.

*Runners Up for Best Series: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A Nielsen,The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Most surprising book: Broken by Megan Hart. There were no runners up here, this was easily my most surprising book of the year, so surprising, in fact that I wrote a whole blog post dedicated to this book.

Biggest disappointment: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This is by the slimmest of margins over Dark Skye. I might have actually been more disappointed in Dark Skye, but Outlander was over 900 pages of disappointment, so I am giving it the crown.

*Runners up for Biggest Disappointment of 2014: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole (boy, she had a big year on my list, didn’t she?), Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

*Total number of print books read in 2014: 76 (39% of books read in 2014)

*Total number of electronic books read in 2014: 116 (61% of books read in 2014)

*Most surprising statistic: I have to go with the grand total 194 books, and knowing that I read 25% more books in 2014 than in 2013. That’s pretty amazing.

My final thoughts? I recently read a quote from the Pew Institute that the average American reads 5-7 books a year. I read almost 4 books a WEEK in 2014, so clearly I’m above average. Way above, but I think we already knew that. I was actually astonished by that. I know I read way more than anyone I know, but 5-7 a year seems so low to me. For some reason, I didn’t find the books quite as gripping this year as the previous year. That could be because an all-time favorite came out for me in 2013, but it could also be because I read more. Reading more tends to lend itself to quantity over quality. And with such a huge disparity between the years, for me, it means there is no rhyme or reason to it, I have no idea how much I will read in 2015, but we surely will find out.

Monthly lists:

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Congrats again to Mark and Victoria, please send me your blog posts whenever you get them done and I’ll post them. Here’s to another great year of reading!

P.S. Don’t forget to hit the comments with your guesses for 2015!

A Year of Movies

One year ago, December 2013, my mom and I went to see “Saving Mr. Banks” the story of Mary Poppins. It was terrific. We were both off of work and were talking about how much we love going to movies together. Then we came up with a plan. What if we go to a movie together every single month of the year. I loved this idea. And so we began.

January: “American Hustle” This was probably the worst movie we saw. It was a big deal when it came out and it was terrible. We both wanted to leave before it was over.

February: “Monuments Men” This was in honor of her birthday, she picked the movie. I wasn’t that in to it, but it wasn’t too bad. She really liked it.

March: “Divergent” I got to pick in honor of my birthday. I had read this book series and really liked it. Mom had never read it, but she enjoyed the movie as well. I thought it was great, a strong retelling of a great book.

April: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” No doubt in my mind we were seeing this. I’d been looking forward to this movie for two years. (For the record I’m already looking forward to the next installment, due out in April of 2016) Of the Marvel movies, Captain America is my favorite character and my favorite movies. This did not disappoint. It was phenomenal. Best movie of the year, IMO. But mom also wanted to see “Draft Day” and I did, too, so we broke the rules and doubled up in April. Draft Day was pretty good, but it’s hard to go wrong with Kevin Costner, especially in a sports movie.

May: “Maleficent” We both wanted to see this and were glad we did. Much better than anticipated. Arionna’s pick for best movie of the year.

June: “The Fault in Our Stars” Another movie we both wanted to see because the movie looked good. I’d been avoiding the book for a while, but decreed we both had to read it before we went. We both did and we both liked the book. In a rare surprise, I thought the movie was better. Terrific movie.

July: “Jersey Boys” I had zero interest in seeing this, but with no better options, I agreed to go, since Mom really wanted to see it. We brought my sister as she seemed excited to see it. It was better than I expected. Quite enjoyable, really.

Then August hit and we were preparing for family vacation. We didn’t get to a movie. We talked about sneaking out on vacation to see something in Brainerd…but then Mom got sick and that pretty much took care of that. Our year ended in July, which was disappointing, because we were both enjoying it so much. It’s nice to do with someone else, because then you see movies you might not have, otherwise. We have decided, even though she is having her next surgery in February, we are going to do this again this year. Well, attempt it again, I suppose. We’ll just have to get our February movie in before the 17th, and hope she’s feeling well enough to go before the end of March.

I’ll be back next December to report how we did, let’s hope we did better than 9 movies in 7 months. Here’s to another year of movies!

A Christmas Eve Tale

In the wee dawning hours of Christmas Eve (really, it was 1 am) I was leaving Kelly’s house after a lovely evening celebrating the holiday with her and her sweet family. I was just starting my drive and wanted to hear some Christmas music, being as it was finally Christmas Eve. I put on KOOL 108 (the local oldies station that plays holiday music from Thanksgiving to Xmas) and it was on commercial. None of the other local stations play Christmas music until about 6pm on Christmas Eve. Now, there’s always my iPod, but I was having trouble finding it in the bottom of my bag. (Turns out, it was in my coat pocket the whole time, which is why I couldn’t find it in my bag, derf.)

So, with no other options, I began scanning channels to see what I could find. I could not have been less in the mood to listen to pop music or country or anything. I wanted Christmas songs. With one final preset station left, I was feeling hopeless. No way was KQRS (the local classic rock station) going to be giving me what I need. Or so I thought.

I depressed the button and there was silence for a brief moment. Then, the opening piano chords. A Christmas song? No, not even close. Turns out, something much better. Somehow, in that moment, I was hearing the opening strains to my favorite song of all time. I couldn’t believe it. It is incredibly rare to hear that song on the radio. I mean, other than IN 1992, I can’t imagine I’ve ever heard it on the radio. And suddenly, here it is. We’ll leave the fact that a song from 1992 is now suddenly considered classic rock for another day, but it was my song. And it was exactly from the beginning. I got to hear every single note. I was driving home in the wee hours of Christmas Eve, belting out the lyrics, singing along with Axl Rose and thinking to myself that this was a Christmas present to me. From the universe, I guess. They played the full version, so it lasted the full 8 minutes and 57 seconds. Nearly nine minutes. That is half the time it takes me to drive home, and since I’d already been in the car for several minutes searching for a song, it drove me nearly to my front door.

When the final notes faded out and I was turning onto my street, I had a goofy smile on my face and I just felt so good. It is amazing how a song can do that, can make you feel so strongly. I rarely listen to KQRS, but this night, taking a chance became a wonderful story and a moment to remember. November Rain on Christmas Eve. Thanks, Universe, that was a magical Christmas gift.

About A Dog

I seem to have a lot of stories about dogs, (see here and here and here) considering the fact that I don’t have any pets. Not anymore. I used to have a bird, but that was a long time ago. Her name was Sloopy, but she is a story for another time.

Last night I was driving home. As I turned onto my street, there was a pickup truck pulled over on the side of the road, with his flashers on. It was strange. I have never seen anyone stopped on my street, it’s just not that kind of street, poor visibility, et cetera. I swung wide to pass him and turn into my upper street, and I glanced over as I passed, just to make sure no help was needed. Well, there was a guy, out of the truck, crouching down to pet a dog. Lily. Her I know. She belongs to George, who lives a few houses down from me, and she is the world’s friendliest Yellow Lab. I didn’t see George, but it was dark out and I wasn’t really looking.

I pulled in to my garage, got out, grabbed the packages outside and carried them in the house. I then went back out and walked to the mailbox. As I was grabbing my mail, I heard George yelling for Lily. Immediately, I got a pit in my stomach and I headed in George’s direction. I called out to him to ask if Lily was missing. Sure enough, he couldn’t find her. They came out to do something and she took off chasing something. He called for her but she didn’t come back. He then went inside to put on his warm coat and grab her leash to hunt for her.

In the minute or so that he was inside I came in and saw the truck and Lily. I kid you not, from the time I saw the truck to my conversation with George, was under two minutes. In that time, someone actually picked up his dog. I explained what I saw but I didn’t have much detail. Pickup truck. Dark color. Where he pulled over and that it was a guy and definitely Lily. That’s it. But I may have seen this dog get kidnapped.

It happened to me once, long ago. I had a dog in college. Thunder. A beautiful Husky mix, pure white with blue eyes. Someone stole him right from my parents yard. I know that feeling. It makes you sick. George was visibly upset. I didn’t know what to say, certainly there was nothing I could do. I asked if she had tags and she does. She is also microchipped, which is good. But as George said, if he wanted her, he could just keep her and no one would ever know.

I fell back on all I could offer him. I said “George, it’s the holiday season and it is raining and about to turn cold tonight, perhaps we are dealing with a Good Samaritan who saw a loose dog and picked her up to keep her safe. Maybe he will get home, read her tag, and call”. There was nothing else to say or do. I apologized for not being able to do more and headed for home.

About 20 minutes later, my phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number, but it was local and I just had a feeling. I picked up and it was George. He was calling to tell me I was right. That guy saw Lily running in the road. He pulled over and she was friendly so he picked her up and drove home. At home, he checked her tag and called George. Then he drove her home, safe and sound. He really was trying to be a Good Samaritan even though he kind of made it worse as he picked Lily up right in front of her own house. But, she is safe in her happy home.

George just wanted me to know and thank me for letting him know what I saw. I was glad to know that she was safe and that there are still kind strangers out there in the world. It’s a good reminder any time, but I love it even more this time of year.

And, yes, Mom, this is cranky George from the pool. He must have mellowed since retiring from pool duty. And he seems to love me. He talked my ear off for ten minutes during that call! He also told me he loves my bells-Christmas decor for those who haven’t been to my house this time of year. They are motion activated and musical. He said he heard them one night and wandered around to find the source and loves them so much he makes a point to walk by and set them off each evening on his walk with Lily.

Who knew? There is my holiday tale of Good Samaritanism and Christmas bells. All starring Lily the lab.