Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Books of 2011

To whittle down a list of 33 Grade A books to a top 5 favorites list from the year was making me pull my hair out! I read so many different categories of books and I have favorites from the year in all of them that I couldn't do it. After reading 97 books I would think you might have more than one favorite too! So I've mixing up my favorites list this year and doing it my genre!

Here are my favorite books of 2011:

Shown above from left to right we have (click on titles for my reviews):

Historical Fiction: Small Wars by Sadie Jones; The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin; The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark; Chick-LitThere's Cake in my Future by Kim Gruenenfelder; Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler; She's Gone Country by Jane Porter; Women's Fiction: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty; Literary FictionThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown; Her Sister's Shadow by Katherine Britton; The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse; Faith by Jennifer Haigh; Wrecker by Summer Wood; Contemporary Romance: Already Home by Susan Mallery; Just for Fun: 29 by Adena Halpern; Memoir: Bossypants by Tina Fey; Classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Mystery: Sister by Rosamund Lupton; Nonfiction: Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield.

Have you read any of these? What are your favorites of the year?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top Five Favorite Covers of 2011!

In case you couldn't tell by my Cover Lust feature at the bottom of ever book review I love covers! So, it would seem natural that the end of a year of book reviews I would need to analyze which of the last year's books that have come across my desk (ok let's be honest, bed or couch) have been my favorite. Perhaps they weren't published this year but I read them for the first time this year so therefor I am going to shout them from the rooftops that I loved them for the first time here.

In alphabetical order, here are my top 5 favorite covers of 2011 based on eye-catching beauty (click on covers for me reviews)!

What do you think of my choices? What are your favorite covers of 2011?

Related Posts: My Top Five Favorite Covers of 2010

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winner of From Notting Hill With Love ... Actually!

Thank you to all of those who entered to win the fabulous and fun book: From Notting Hill With Love ... Actually by Ali McNamara! Using the winner of a new paperback copy of this novel is: Meg!

Don't forget, you still have time to enter my December Review Book Giveaway

Reflections on a Year of Reading: 2011

I can not believe another year is about to come to a close. 2011 has been a year of many milestones for me. On the blogging front it was my second full year of blogging and it found me far surpassing my goal of reading 80 books, reading the most books I've ever read in one year, with 97 books total read! I also got to make it to the Book Blogger Convention in New York for the first time which was wonderful to get to enjoy meeting a bunch of other book bloggers and trade stories. On a more personal front, I turned 30 this year which was a big milestone for me and I celebrated that by going to Bali. I also got engaged to the love of my life, Rob, and we will be enjoying planning a fun wedding next year which I am really looking forward to!

So, now, without further ado, here are my reading stats for 2011:
In total I read: 97 Books!
Most Books Read in One Month: March, April, May, July, and August all tie for 9 titles each!
Total Number of A and B rated books: 74 (woohoo!)
Total Number of C, D, and F rated books: 23
Total number of pages read: 26,144 (1,801 more than last year!)

I am pleased with the above because this means I really achieved my goals from last year. One of the big ones was to continue to get to know myself as a reader. This blog and keeping a reading journal was supposed to help me better pick out the books that I love over and over again. Seeing that I enjoyed 76% of the books I read this year as compared to 68% last year means I am definitely improving my hit rate! 

My other goal for this last year was to have fun with blogging and I most certainly did, and I have you to thank for that!

My Reading Goals for 2012. I can pretty much guarantee that with planning a wedding I won't be able to read as many books as I did in 2011. However, what I do hope is that I have continued success with the books that I read being books that I love. I want to be able to share books that are wonderful with you and to make the time that I do have for reading as enjoyable as possible. 

Additionally, I hope to focus on the genres that I know I love and have always brought me enjoyment: women's fiction and historical fiction. 

In the coming days you will see my top picks for covers of the year and books of the year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review: More Than Words Can Say

'More Than Words Can Say'
Author: Robert Barclay

Format: ARC
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks; Dec. 2011
Pages: 400
Genre: Women's literature
Grade: A
Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: From the author of If Wishes Were Horses comes a novel of long-buried secrets and self-discovery, showing us that sometimes what goes unsaid is more powerful than words. . . .
Chelsea Enright never expected to inherit her grandmother's lakeside cottage deep in the Adirondacks—a serene getaway that had been mysteriously closed up decades ago. This is no simple bequest, however, because when Chelsea finds her grandmother's WWII diaries, she's stunned to discover that they hold secrets she never suspected . . . and they have the power to turn her own life upside down.
Even more surprising is the compelling presence of local doctor Brandon "Yale, and Chelsea soon finds her "short stay" has stretched into the entire summer. She cannot put this cottage and her family's past behind her easily—and the more she learns about the woman her grandmother truly was, the more Chelsea's own life begins to change . . . and nothing will ever be the same again.

My Take: When this book was pitched to me, honestly I saw the words WWII and I was sold. I've said it before and I'll probably say it here a dozen more times but if a book has even a flicker of a setting during WWII than I want to read it. And this one really did only have a flicker and it was enough for me to thoroughly enjoy it!

More Than Words Can Say intertwines two love stories into an easy to read novel that really made for some delightful reading during this often incredibly hectic time of year and I really loved that! In the modern day we have Chelsea who is suffering from the loss of her beloved grandmother. She soon realizes that she has come to inherit her grandmothers cottage on Lake Evergreen way up in the wilds of New York. Having never been there and being told that there are secret journals her grandmother wants her to discover while there Chelsea readily starts on her adventure up north.

Once at the cottage we begin Brooke's journey. Brooke is Chelsea's grandmother who as a young woman escaped to this cottage while her husband was off fighting in WWII. She wrote down all of her thoughts in a journal only to hide it and run away quickly one day leaving her friends there and her family back home knowing nothing of her quick leaving and always wondering why she never went back.

As the story unfolds we get to follow both Chelsea and Brooke on oddly similar, yet sometimes heartbreaking journeys through love as they both live in the beloved lakeside cottage. 

Honestly, as melodramatic as this book sometimes was, I got totally swept up in it and loved just escaping in this story. I highly recommend More Than Words Can Say!

For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!

Cover Lust: This cover certainly fits what's inside. It doesn't wow me but I can't fault it either!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I want to wish you all a fabulous holiday season! We are off to Colorado tomorrow to celebrate with my future in-laws so I am busy packing all of my largest sweaters! I hope you all have a wonderful time celebrating with you and yours.

I'll be back Tuesday with a wonderful book to review and then my yearly wrap-ups! See you next week!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Reading Challenges Wrap Up!

I'm going to apologize in advance, this is a long post and anyone who reads is all should win a prize! I signed up for 15 Reading Challenges in 2011 and enjoyed them all! I've posted a couple that I have completed so far throughout the year but as I have one more book review to come before year's end and it doesn't make or break any of these challenges, I am going to wrap these up now!

First for the positives! Here are the challenges that I completed successfully in 2011!

Hosted by The Book Vixen, the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge was a raging success for me! My goal was to read 5 more books than I did in 2010 or a grand total of 80 books in 2011. I blew that number out of the water, reading 96 (it will actually be 97 when the year is over, but who's counting!). 

I will read 5 more than I did in 2010, for a grand total of: 80!
1. This Christmas by Jane Green, Jennifer Coburn and Liz Ireland
2. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
3. Awkward Two: Brevity by Various Authors
4. She's Gone Country by Jane Porter
6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
8. Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven
9. Small Wars by Sadie Jones
10. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
14. Take a Chance on Me by Jill Mansell
15. Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
17. The Bird House by Kelly Simmons
18. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
19. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
20. Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster
21. The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney
22. Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
23. Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan
25. Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares it's Grief Letters, November 1963 by Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis
26. Table of Contents by Judy Gelman and Vicky Levy Krupp
27. The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle
28. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
29. Heart of Deception by M. L. Malcolm
30. The Heights by Peter Hedges
32. A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei
34. Skinny by Diana Spechler
35. The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
36. The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark
37. Wrecker by Summer Wood
38. The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner
40. Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip
42. The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell
45. There's Cake in my Future by Kim Gruenenfelder
48. Faith by Jennifer Haigh
49. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
50. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs
51. The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
52. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
53. By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
54. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
55. The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block
56. The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
57. The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice
58. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
59. One Day by David Nicholls
60. 29 by Adena Halpern
61. The Alchemy of Chance by Peter S. Brooks
63. Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
64. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
65. Life from Scratch by Melissa Ford
66. The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
67. Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
68. Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
69. Sister by Rosamund Lupton
71. Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg
72. Bossypants by Tina Fey
75. Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
76. Already Home by Susan Mallery 
77. The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner
78. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
79. Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson
81. The First Husband by Laura Dave
82. Her Sister's Shadow by Katherine Britton
84. How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche
85. Sherry and Narcotics by Nina-Marie Gardner
86. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brow
88. Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
89. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
90. Leaving Parma by Angie Sarich
91. The Mistress's Revenge by Tamar Cohen
92. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
93. The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier
95. Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
96.  Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald

Since these were all of the books I read this year, you'll have to wait until my top reads of 2011 to be published next week to find out what my favorite read from this list was!

Hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner, I signed up for the Addictive Level in the Audio Book Challenge which set a goal of reading 12 audio books last year. I had a great audio year and ended up reading 17 audio books total!

1. Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven
2. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
6. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
7. The Heights by Peter Hedges
10. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs
11. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
12. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
13. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
14. The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
16. Bossypants by Tina Fey
17. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

If I had to pick a favorite audio book from last year, well, you'll have to wait for my yearly wrap up because there will for sure be an audio feature as this was such a big part of my reading year!

Hosted by Splash of Our Worlds and My Love Affair with Books, the Into the Old World Reading Challenge asked us to read any book that was published before 2009. I love reading older books throughout the year and not just focusing on new books. My goal was to read 5-10 books that fit this bill and I did by reading 9!

1. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (2007)
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)
3. Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster (2003)
4. The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell (2002)
5. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (2007; org. 1976)
6. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs (2008)
7. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (2008)
8. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (1991)
9. Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright (2005)

If I had to pick a favorite from this list, I would have to choose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Hosted by Betty and Boo Chronicles, Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge was an obvious choice for me because of my love for memoirs! There were no levels so of course I knocked this one out of the park by reading 16 memoirs this year. Man, I love memoirs!

4. Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares it's Grief Letters, November 1963 by Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis
6. The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner
10. Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
12. Bossypants by Tina Fey
14. Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson
16. Leaving Parma by Angie Sarich

I think my favorite memoir of the year was Bossypants by Tina Fey!

Hosted by Journey to the End of the TBR Pile, the Chick Lit Challenge was an obvious choice for me because of my undying love for Chick Lit! The goal for this challenge is to read at least 8 chick lit books in 2011. I read 15, so yeah I like chick lit!

1. This Christmas by Jane Green, Jennifer Coburn and Liz Ireland
2. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
3. She's Gone Country by Jane Porter
4. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
5. Take a Chance on Me by Jill Mansell
6. Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
7. Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan
8. The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle
9. There's Cake in my Future by Kim Gruenenfelder
10. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs
11. The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
12. Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg
13. Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
15. Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald

If I had to pick a favorite chick lit book of the year, it would have to be There's Cake in My Future by Kim Gruenenfelder!

I consider myself to be a bit of an Anglophile so for the second year in a row, I participated in the British Books Challenge hosted by The Bookette. I challenged myself to read 12, and I did great on this one by reading 16!

1. Small Wars by Sadie Jones
2. Take a Chance on Me by Jill Mansell
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster
5. Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
7. The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
9. The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
10. The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
11. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
12. One Day by David Nicholls
13. Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
14. Sister by Rosamund Lupton
15. The Mistress's Revenge by Tamar Cohen

My favorite book from this group would easily be Small Wars by Sadie Jones!

Historical Fiction is one of my absolute favorite genres so I jumped at the chance to join in the fun of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry. My goal was to read 10 books and I am so pleased to announce that I read 21 books as I really wanted to read more historical fiction this year!

1. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
2. Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven
3. Small Wars by Sadie Jones
4. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
5. Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster
6. The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney
7. Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
8. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
9. Heart of Deception by M. L. Malcolm
10. The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
11. The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark
12. The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell
13. The Winter Ghosts by Kate Moss
14. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
15. By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
16. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
17. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
18. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
19. The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner
20. Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
21. The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier

My favorite from this group was Small Wars by Sadie Jones!

Sadly, there were some challenges that I was unable to complete in 1 year's time. Here are the one's that I have marked, Challenge Fail!

Hosted by Book Obsessed , the 50 States Reading Reading Challenge was probably one of my favorites of the year. I loved seeing where my read took me through the US. Even though I was unable to read throughout all 50 states, I will still be signing up again for it next year as it was so interesting to see! All in all I read in 18/50 states, or 36% of the states!

1. Alabama - 
2. Alaska -
3. Arizona - Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald
3. Arkansas - 
6. Colorado - 
7. Connecticut - 
8. Delaware - 
9. Florida - 
10. Georgia - Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
11. Hawaii -
12. Idaho - Leaving Parma by Angie Sarich
15. Iowa - A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
17. Kentucky - 
18. Louisiana - 
19. Maine -
20. Maryland - 
21. Massachusetts - The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
22. Michigan - The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle
23. Minnesota - 
24. Mississippi - 
25. Missouri - The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
26. Montana -
27. Nebraska - 
28. Nevada - 
29. New Hampshire - 
30. New Jersey - Heart of Deception by M. L. Malcolm
31. New Mexico - 
32. New York - The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
33. North Carolina - Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven
34. North Dakota - 
35. Ohio - The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
36. Oklahoma - 
37. Oregon -
38. Pennsylvania - Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani
39. Rhode Island - 
40. South Carolina - 
41. South Dakota - 
42. Tennessee -
43. Texas - She's Gone Country by Jane Porter
44. Utah - 
45. Vermont - 
46. Virginia - 
47. Washington - Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves
48. West Virginia - 
49. Wisconsin - 
50. Wyoming - 

If I was to pick a favorite from the above group of books it would have to be The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. 

I love reading food themed books so I thought the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Joyfully Retired was an obvious choice. Sadly, I just didn't read enough food themed books this year! I challenged myself to read 12 and I only read half that. 
2. Table of Contents by Judy Gelman and Vicky Levy Krupp
3. Skinny by Diana Spechler
5. Life from Scratch by Melissa Ford
6. Already Home by Susan Mallery 

My favorite from this group would easily be Already Home by Susan Mallery!

I realize that this challenge technically lasts until February 2012 but since a new one has been released that starts in January, I am going to throw in the towel for Caribous Mom Chunkster Challenge! My goal was to read 4. I probably would have gotten there but I didn't quite get there. 

1. The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
2. The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner
3. The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier

My favorite from this group would have to be The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift.

Are you still with me? That wraps it up for this year! Phew. I hope you are doing well with yours!
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