Notebook Collection, part 4

This will be my 4th post about my notebook collection. I planned to put this out several weeks ago, but the holidays got in the way. Of course, I’ve added even more since I realized I had enough to post about. I’m splitting them into 2 posts, but I’ll have to post the 2nd one soon, or I’ll have even more to add to it.

Truthfully, I am trying very hard to cut down on how many I get. The shelf where I keep them is full now, and I’m not exactly using them up quickly. It’s just so difficult when there are so many amazing notebooks out there! It really is an obsession…

Speaking of which, follow these links to see the first, second, and third posts about my collection. And now here are the next 5 additions:

1

I’ve actually had this notebook for years and recently found it on a different shelf. My mother-in-law gave it to me when I was first starting to collect notebooks (before I thought of it as a collection). It’s a cute little journal with a window in the front, inside which are actual dried flowers (well, they might be fake…I haven’t exactly opened it, but the point is that it’s not a 2-dimensional representation, but actual flowers inside).


2

This mini notebook with accompanying pen was a gift from my local library, when I took part in a display at a festival in our town. They had a couple of tables set up for local authors to sell books, promote themselves, and talk to the public about writing or publishing. It was the first time I’d ever done something like this, and paved the way for a slightly larger event at the library in the next city over.


3

My husband got this at a thrift store a month or so before Christmas, and I love the ugly Christmas sweater look. I’m also always happy to add to my collection at a bargain price. It’s a half-sized notebook that is thicker than most of my notebooks of the same size.

 


4a

4bWe have a plethora of places to get cheaply priced notebooks in my area, which I’m afraid is really a problem for me. During the Christmas shopping season, we went to a store that’s only open during that time and sells goods for really cheap. They had several notebooks that caught my eye. I decided to stick to only buying 2 (even though they were super cheap). I chose this one because of the gold fringe and sparkly page edges.


5The is the other notebook I got at the store mentioned above. It’s closer to a normal notebook size and spiral-bound, which will make it easier to write in. I’ve also noticed that I really like notebooks with maps on them, and I do live in Indiana, so it was easy to decide on.

 

 

I’ll have another post next week, and hopefully it will only include 5 notebooks. If there are more than 5, you’ll know how weak I really am…

2019 in Books

To make a long story short, in July of 2019, I made a commitment to read more. And by more, I mean at all. I posted more in depth about this at the time, and won’t re-hash it here, but looking back at what I read in 2019 really means the 2nd half of 2019, since the beginning of July is really when all of this started.

From my Goodreads 2019 in bookspage:

2019 year in books

My total is more accurately 47 books for the year, because one of them is my own soon-to-be-published book, and the other is this super short thing that I read in two minutes.

Below are the books I read in 2019, starting with July. The link is to my review for that book, and a link to the book on Goodreads is at the bottom of each review.

July


Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren (3.5 / 5)
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (3.5 / 5)
The Oath** by Frank Peretti (5 / 5)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (3.5 / 5)
The Novice by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
The Trials of Lance Eliot by M.L. Brown, a.k.a. Adam Stück (no rating given)

August


The Curious Conspiracy on Gamma Ceti* by Nemo West (2.5 / 5)
Light from Distant Stars* by Shawn Smucker (1.5 / 5)
Thr3e** by Ted Dekker (4.5 / 5)
Things You Save in a Fire* by Katherine Center (4 / 5)
Tilly by Frank E. Peretti (3.5 / 5)
Lock In by John Scalzi (4.5 / 5)
#NotReadyToDie* by Cate Carlyle (2.5 / 5)
The Inquisition
by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
Lost and Found* by Orson Scott Card (2.5 / 5)
Illusion by Frank E. Peretti (5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (3.5 / 5)

September


Strands of Truth* by Colleen Coble (2 / 5)
The Yellow Lantern* by Angie Dicken (3.5 / 5)
Swipe by Evan Angler (3 / 5)
Fatal Strike* by DiAnn Mills (4 / 5)
Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell (3.5 / 5)
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (3.5 / 5)
Synapse* by Steven James (3.5 / 5)
Cilka’s Journey* by Heather Morris (4 / 5)
Holes** by Louis Sachar (4.5 / 5)

October

Smoke Screen* by Terri Blackstock (4 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
Mother Knows Best* by Kira Peikoff (3 / 5)
The Battlemage by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
The Dinner Party* by R.J. Parker (2 / 5)
Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone (4.5 / 5)
The Butterfly Recluse* by Therese Heckenkamp (3 / 5)

November

The Martian by Andy Weir (4.5 / 5)
The Passengers* by John Marrs (3 / 5)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (5 / 5)
The Dead Girls Club* by Damien Angelica Walters (2 / 5)
The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal (4.5 / 5)

December

The End of the Magi* by Patrick W. Carr (4 / 5)
Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock (2 / 5)
Skipping Christmas by John Grishom (3.5 / 5)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, adapted by Lucia Monfried (4.5 / 5)
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans (3.5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3.5 / 5)
A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston (2 / 5)
12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep (4 / 5)
Cape Light by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (3 / 5)

This list includes 16 ARCs (marked with a *) and 3 re-reads (marked with a **). My favorite book from 2019 was Illusion by Frank Peretti. I started 10 series and finished 1 of those within the year. I also DNF’d 2 books (not listed anywhere in this post).

I’ve noticed that I seem to give out a lower ratio of 5-stars compared to other book reviewers. I don’t know if I’m too critical, too picky, or what. I do suspect, though, that being a writer has seriously hampered my ability to just enjoy a book and not dwell on plot holes, characterization issues, bad dialog, or even bad grammar, more than others might do.

Here is a break-down of the ratings I gave
1.5 stars: 1
2 stars: 5
2.5 stars: 3
3 stars: 5
3.5 stars: 12
4 stars: 10
4.5 stars: 7
5 stars: 3
Average rating: 3.5

Looking ahead, I’m excited to start a full year of reading. I’ve set my goal for the year on Goodreads at a lofty 100 books. Just based on how last year went, I’ll probably have to push for extra in the summer to make up for the rest of the year, but I’ll give it a try. I also plan to seriously cut down on the amount of ARCs I request, because it got to be really stressful, and I felt like I could never read anything else. I’m looking forward to the ones I have left on my shelf though.

My format for reviewing changed a bit throughout last year, and going forward, I’m going to try to simplify my reviews a bit. I spent way too much time on some of them, and the more I disliked a book, the longer the review tended to be. There’s just no reason to spend so much time detailing every fault I found, so I want to learn to summarize more.

My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here. I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that.

What did you read last year? Let me know in the comments, and even feel free to link to your own summary post!

Book Review: Cape Light

Finished Reading: Cape Light
Book #1
by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Christian romance, drama

Cape Light

Cape Light is a small, very connected, and generally religious New England village. In this first book of 20 (so far), we are introduced to some of the inhabitants of the village–the mayor and her family, who are still somewhat reeling from a scandal in the past; the local diner owner who is very set in his ways and has designs on unseating the mayor in the next election; the reverend and his wife, whose joyful news is overshadowed by a wayward family member. Characters are established and at least one romance blooms, in this book that covers a summer in Cape Light.

Though there are a lot of characters to keep straight, I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I had a few moments that needed clarity, but I followed it well enough. And for the first half of the book, I was interested in the lives and backstories of these people. In fact, I never stopped being interested in that. But what seriously detracted from it was the plight of the main character and her romantic entanglement.

Jessica Warwick, the mayor’s sister, has recently moved back from not-too-far-away Boston, and she intends to return as soon as she can. She’s only in town to help her ailing mother, who is starting to recover well. She has a life back in Boston, and a sort-of boyfriend. Enter Sam Morgan, whom she is immediately taken by, though she refuses to acknowledge it for a long time. But when her boyfriend conveniently gets really busy, she starts dating Sam, even while making it clear that she’s moving back to Boston at the end of the summer. What follows is a ridiculously drama-filled mess that could have easily been solved in multiple ways. I don’t know which of these two irritated me more–the woman who dated a guy in town while knowing that she wasn’t done with the previous boyfriend yet and continued a relationship with a man who was clearly falling hard for her, despite her warning about there being no future, or the man who ignored her warning about there being no future because he held out hope that he could change her mind. Actually, I can safely say it was Jessica who irritated me more, because she was a pretty terrible person in general, and it was clear that her attraction to Sam was mostly physical for a while.

While romance novels are always pretty obvious, in that the two leads are going to end up together, I prefer those that are more in the backdrop to an interesting plot. There was little in the way of plot involving Jessica and Sam that wasn’t directly related to their relationship. The situations that occurred just to make them fall in love and/or add drama to their relationship were so much more obviously contrived than I prefer. By the end, I just wanted the book to be done already, which makes me sad, because I did enjoy unraveling the lives of the others in town.

The Christianity in the book was weirdly both shallow and heavily permeating. Apparently a large amount of the village’s inhabitants go to the same church, and many of them have a strong faith. Several others are seeking, and a lot of the same advice is given by different people. The series starts with 4 not-specifically-holiday books, but apparently by book 5, it continued as a Christmas series, which is what brought it to my attention at this time of year in the first place.

The writing was a bit pedestrian, but it only bothered me at times. I am going to give the series another chance, because just about every plot arc that was started in this book was left hanging, and I really do want to see what happens. Since the main thing that bothered me about this book should take a back seat in the future, I am hopeful about continuing. With proper planning, I can be ready for the first of the Christmas books by November or December.

Find out more about Cape Light

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

December in Review

I read 9 books last month (10 if you count the super, super short one). To be fair, several of them were pretty short books; apparently it’s a bit of a trend amongst Christmas books. Still, I’m happy to have picked up the pace since such a slow November (thanks mostly to NaNoWriMo), even with the holidays eating up my reading time.

I’m also going to do a look back at the past year of reading, which is more like the past 6 months, since I started reading and writing reviews in July.

Here are the books I read in December:
The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr (4 / 5)
Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock (2 / 5)
Skipping Christmas by John Grishom (3.5 / 5)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, adapted by Lucia Monfried (4.5 / 5)
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans (3.5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3.5 / 5)
A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston (2 / 5)
12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep (4 / 5)
Cape Light by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (review pending) (3 / 5)

This list includes 1 ARC and 0 re-reads. My favorite book from December was The End of the Magi (not counting Little Women, which I read with my daughter, so the rating was partially influenced by her). I finished 0 series, continued 1 series, and started 3 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

In what way are you/your character selfish?

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Reads from 2019

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a look back at our favorite books from the past year. First, a quick explanation about my reader-self. I used to read like crazy as a kid, teenager, and maybe the first few years out of high school. I don’t really know when it dropped off, but for most of my adult life, I’ve finished maybe 15 books total.

In the summer this year, I decided that I wanted, and in many ways needed to get back into reading. So I dove in, started building a TBR list that grew scarily fast, started posting reviews on my blog, and haven’t regretted it for one second. I re-discovered my love for reading almost immediately, and enjoy keeping track of what I’ve read, how I felt about it, and what I plan to read.

The following list starts with my favorite 4-star reads from this year, then some 4.5-stars, and finally the only books I gave 5 stars to this year. I’m not including re-reads and am lumping series into 1 entry (even if I haven’t finished the series yet).

10. The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu
I enjoyed this trilogy pretty early on. The Harry Potter meets Pokemon vibe was just too fun. Even with the heavy race and class politics and the inescapable brutal war that was looming, I enjoyed all 3 books in this trilogy. There’s a prequel that is billed as book #4, and I have plans to read it some time in the first half of 2020. (See my full review for the first book in the trilogy here.)

9. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I’m currently almost halfway through my first reading of this series (finished with #3). Though I can tell I don’t love it as much as the majority of the rest of the world, I have been enjoying it for the most part. It’s possible that what makes it even more fun, though, is following each book with my first viewing of the movie, alongside my husband. It’s interesting to me that only 1 of the 3 I’ve read so far got 4 stars from me–the others were 3.5. And yet, when considering books to add to this list, I did decide that Harry Potter as a whole (so far) was worth putting on the list. (See full reviews for the books I’ve read so far here: book #1, book #2, book #3)

8. Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills
This is the first of 2 ARCs on this list. This book was exactly what I wanted it to be, and considering that it seems like a majority of the ARCs I read this year were busts, I was happy to be able to give this suspenseful romance a higher rating. (See my full review here.)

7. The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr
This was another ARC and really surprised me. I loved the idea of reading a book about the advent of Christ from the perspective of the magi that visited Him not long after his birth. This is one that really stuck with me for a while after I read it (probably partly because it was the Christmas season and I saw & heard related things everywhere). (See my full review here.)

6. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I keep recommending this book to people. It was fun and engaging, and I know I will re-read it plenty of times in the future. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think is important to understand, in order to enjoy the book. Also, it’s billed as horror, but it’s not really scary, which doesn’t bother me personally, but may others. (See my full review here.)

5. The Martian by Andy Weir
I’d seen the movie years ago, and more recently a friend strongly suggested that I read the book too. I was so glad that I did, because for as good as the movie was, the book allowed me to feel even more connected to Whatney. Like my friend, I would really suggest that those who’ve seen the movie read the book too. (See my full review here.)

4. Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
Another one where I’ve seen the movie, and didn’t even know it was a book until I happened to see it at a bargain store this summer. With some all-too-real situations and flawed characters, this book is brimming with emotion and depth. I’ll admit that the ending was maybe a bit too easy for the real world, but that’s what fiction is for. (See my full review here.)

3. Lock In by John Scalzi
This was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I remember seeing this book sitting around years ago when my husband was reading it. I thought at the time that I should probably read it, because it was in the same genre as my writing, and even had parallels to my world-building. But being sci-fi, I kinda thought it would be dry and technical (yes, I judged it with a very limited understanding of the literary sci-fi genre). When I finally did read it, I loved it! (See my full review here.)

2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I actually knew nothing about this book or series before reading it. I’ve heard about it practically all my life, but mostly just in name, not with any kind of understanding of what it’s about. I fell in love pretty early in the book though, and by the end, I knew I had to read as much of this series as I could get my hands on, which I’ll be continuing with soon. (See my full review here.)

1. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
I’ve had a lot to say about this book and author recently and don’t want to start repeating myself. This was definitely my favorite book from this year. It was really nice to get a fresh reminder of why Frank Peretti is my all-time favorite author. I’m already looking forward to the next time I read this book. (See my full review here.)

Have you read any of these? What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Christmas Book Haul

Because of the holidays, my reading has slowed way down this week. Normally I post a book review every Friday (and sometimes in between if I read more than 1 book in a week), but I don’t have any new reviews to post today. So instead, I thought I’d do a sort of follow-up post to Tuesday’s post of books that I hoped to receive for Christmas. I actually didn’t directly receive anything specifically listed there, but did get a couple of books, and thanks to cash-type gifts, I bought some more myself yesterday.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

My sister strongly recommended this series to me (amongst several other books/series), and I mentioned it to my daughter, who bought a paperback copy for my stocking.
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Though I normally wait to make sure I like the first book in a series before I buy any others in the series, I found a copy of book #2 at Half Price Books for $3, and my sister continued to extol the series (she was at the store too), so I went ahead and got the second one.

Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope
This was a gift from my husband. Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite shows, and I’ve seen the whole series many times. I’ve already thumbed through the book a little and can tell it’s going to be amazing.

The Martian by Andy Weir
Of the books I read this year, this was one of my favorites. I like owning copies of my favorites, so I was happy to find a paperback copy at Half Price Books for cheap. (See my review here.)

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
I was pretty excited when I spotted a copy of this on the clearance shelf at HPB for a couple bucks. It was written by the founder of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve heard a lot about it from people who use it for NaNoPrep. I’ve done NaNo for 10 years, and I think the book is meant more to help first-timers, or at least early-timers. I’m still glad to have it.

I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
We got an email with a $10 Kindle book credit from Amazon about 2 weeks ago. My husband insisted I wait to use it until after Christmas, and then I could buy something on my wish list that I didn’t get. This book was at the top of that list, and I can’t wait to start reading it!

Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
This was probably my favorite of the books I read this year. My husband and I have all but 2 of Peretti’s adult fiction books, and with this one, we’ll have all but 1. I’ve got a used hardcover copy of this coming from eBay for only a few dollars.  (See my review here.)

Have you read any of these? What books are you excited about recently acquiring?

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

I hope that everyone who sees this is having a great Christmas! In honor of the holiday, here is today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

20191225_112208

What are the animals doing?
Who is hiding here, and what are they running away from?
What happens to the toys on Christmas Day?

(Picture & questions from Story World: Christmas Tales)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is quite fitting with tomorrow being Christmas (I’ll bet that was on purpose!), and I do have a list of books that I’ve been careful to tell my husband I’d like to own, in case he or any others in my family needed ideas for me. I only told him 5 though (technically I only told him 4, but I added one I’d like to own to at least bring the list up to 5).

1. I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
The hilarious producer of my favorite podcast wrote a book about handling PMS as a Christian, and unfortunately, my library doesn’t carry it. So my only hope is to get my own copy soon!

2. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
Related to the previous book, this one is not at my local library either. Of course, his second book is at the library, but that one I already own…and he’s coming out with a 3rd book soon, so I want to get caught up!

3. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
I own most of Peretti’s books, including one I haven’t actually read yet. I didn’t even know about this one until earlier this year, so I definitely need to get my own copy to add to my collection! (See my review here.)

4. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
My family doesn’t have much room for books, not to mention not having a lot of money, so I generally only buy books at used or discount stores. Only when I really, really enjoy a book I got from the library do I consider buying it new, even if I can’t get it at a discount. This is one such book. (See my review here.)

5. Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills
This is the one book I didn’t specifically mention to my husband, but I would be happy to own it. Since I discovered ARCs this year, this is my favorite of all those I’ve read so far. (See my review here.)

6 – ? Amost anything
I’ll be pretty happy to get just about any books, because I’ve been so heavily into reading lately. If I mentioned a book in passing, or someone found a deal or gives me a book that they want to recommend to me, I’ll be thrilled!

Have you read any of these? What books would you most like to get for Christmas?

Book Review: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Finished Reading: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor
Once Upon a Dickens Christmas #1
by Michelle Griep

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian historical mystery, romance, Christmas fiction

12 Days.png

With Christmas 2 days away, this will be my last Christmas review for the year! So sad, and yet, I had so much fun focusing on holiday-related fiction and will definitely do it again next year! Now, onto the review!

When seven people are invited to spent the 12 days of Christmas at Bleakly Manor and offered some sort of reward for staying the entire time, the clash of personalities, not to mention the lack of food and heat, provide the backdrop for the re-igniting of a relationship. Clara Chapman is offered enough money to save her from the poor house. Her ex-fiance Ben Lane is offered his freedom from a prison sentence that he doesn’t deserve. They’ll have the chance to discover the truth behind what broke them up, but only if they can survive the other guests–especially after the revelation that only one of the guests can get the prize.

This is a nice Christmas-adjacent mystery with some romance, set in 1850. I enjoyed the way the guests interacted, for the most part, and while the mystery elements were fairly predictable, I still liked the way it all came together at the end. I liked the atmosphere that was built both with the descriptions and in the writing itself.

One of my biggest disappointments with this book was the way both Ben & Clara were so quick to assume the worst of each other. Even when they began to understand their misconceptions, they still took longer to let go of them than I thought they should. I know that 9 months of believing the worst of someone else can sour the mind, but…in the end, 9 months isn’t really all that long. And even later, without spoiling anything, both of them had opportunity to trust in the other after they have had a chance to get past their issues, and both failed, at least to some degree. It’s not the most solid basis for a relationship.

There was one particular guest that I really didn’t like–both his personality and how he acted, but also how he was described and portrayed in the text. And in the end, he was barely involved in much and left without making much of an impact. There were a few other things here or there that never ended up making much sense for the story, but they were mostly minor things.

Overall, it was a fun read, short and sweet. I liked the old-fashioned traditions involving Christmas that were shown, and there was one particular thing that was revealed at the end that I felt like I should have guessed, and think many would, but I didn’t, which made it better for me. It definitely has some Christian elements scattered throughout, and the romance is clean (there are some physical desires brought up, but not acted upon). I recommend this book for anyone looking for a quick Christmas read, for a historical book with mystery elements, or for a Christian romance.

Find out more about 12 Days at Bleakly Manor

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!