Blogmas Day Twenty-One: 2020 Blogging Wrap Up

Hi, friends! Today we are here to do a sort of year-in-review kind of thing. 2020 is coming to a close and we thought it would be interesting to have a quick chat about general thoughts of how we think 2020 went for us in terms of blogging and what our goals might be for next year. We think it’s always good to check in with one another and ourselves to make sure were still enjoying this, because honestly we’re just here to do something fun together. So, let’s chat!

Amanda’s Thoughts:
I’m really happy with blogging this year. I had a baby in 2018, so blogging and reading have become sort of my ‘me time’ and I really enjoy being able to share reviews and lists with people that have the same interest as me. Also, Antonia and I have been FaceTiming to work on Blogtober, Blogmas, and Top Ten Tuesday posts and I’ve really been loving that. I love that even after all these years we still have this connecting us (we’re best friends and that’s never going to change, but I honestly didn’t think we’d still be blogging together). I really enjoy making lists, so getting to spend time with my best friend, talking about something we both love, is always the highlight of my week. Sometimes we even just FaceTime and read together. I just miss her a lot and blogging sometimes feels like a tangible connection to her, now that we don’t live seven minutes down the road from one another.
Going into 2021 one of my goals is to chill a little. Toward the end of this year I was posting reviews literally everyday. I think we’re currently on a 180+ day streak of posting on here. I want to calm down and not get so anxious about making sure I write reviews. Not every book I read needs to be reviewed. I definitely stressed myself a bit and I don’t want to continue that in 2021. I do want to incorporate more non-review posts year round in the new year, instead of saving them all for themed months (Blogtober, SciFi Month, Blogmas). I think Antonia and I have a few planned already that we’re excited about. Honestly, I just want to have fun in 2021. Blogging became a bit too much for me at times this year, so next year I just want it to be all fun again.

Antonia’s Thoughts:
I think this year has been fairly productive for me as far as blogging goes. I still haven’t gone back to writing book reviews but I’ve been a lot more involved with the other posts than I have in recent years, especially the last few months. Like Amanda said, FaceTiming regularly to work on blog stuff has been super fun and helps keep us connected when distance and our busy lives can make that so difficult. One of my struggles in the past has been trying to make time a few days a week to fill out posts right before they’re ready to publish but this way we prepare most of our posts weeks ahead of time. Once a week or two, I can take a couple hours with Amanda to get all the posts ready at once and I find it significantly less stressful.
My main goal for 2021 is to read more. It’s been my goal for the past several years because ever since I got married and moved away from home, I’ve struggled to keep reading a regular part of my routine. To make it even harder, this year I moved from Washington to Virginia and the huge change messed with my already terrible routine. I’d like to get back into the habit of picking up a book to settle down before bed instead of turning on the TV; or keeping my kindle charged so I can keep it in my bag in case I have the chance to pick it up. The fact that I read less than thirty books this year is heartbreaking to me when, for a long time, I’d read at least a hundred without even trying. I’d like to continue being more involved with the blog as I have been recently but also try to start writing the occasional review again as well. I think I’ve finally settled into my new life here enough that I’m excited to be a better book blogger and reader next year.

What are you’re thoughts on this past year of blogging? Do you have any specific plans for 2021?

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

GoodReads Summary:
Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can… but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel Marisa Kanter explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.
There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.
He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…
Except who she really is.
Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.
That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.
Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.
If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.
What I Like About YouReview:
The cupcakes were what sold me on this book. I love a book that has delicious treats and What I Like About You was full of cupcakes. This was a sweet and entertaining YA story. Halle and her brother move in with her grandfather for Halle’s senior year of high school while her parents are off filming another documentary. Her grandmother has recently died and they’re all learning how to deal with the loss. At the same time, she’s working on her college applications. Part of that is coming up with new things for her blog. She runs a book blog where she talks about books and also bakes bookish cupcakes. She’s most excited about the possibility of doing a cover reveal for a well-known author that is one of her favorite authors. She wants to work in the publishing industry, like her grandmother, and her first step to that is her blog and college. On her blog and her blog-related social media, Halle goes by the name Kels because she wanted to make a name for herself outside of what her grandmother was known for.
So, when Halle meets her online best friend, Nash, in her new town she doesn’t know how to tell him that she is Kels. This is one of my least favorite tropes, keeping secrets or miscommunication. But I sort of understood why Halle didn’t tell Nash who she was. I definitely think it could have been handled better, but I could see where she was coming from.
Overall, this book was good. There were good family dynamics. Halle’s brother was bisexual. Her friend group was interesting and I liked that they showed they were Halle’s friend and not just Nash’s when the truth came out about her being Kels. I also liked the conversations about religion. Many of the characters are Jewish. Halle and her brother are, but they missed out on a lot while moving around with their parents. So, they learn new things and traditions about their religion. They learn from their friends and from their grandfather. I liked that none of the characters had the same relationship with religion. Much like in real life, they each took something different from their beliefs. This is definitely a story I’ll be recommending, and I have a books & baking post planned for the future!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

2020 Blogging & Reading Goals

Today we are both here to talk a bit about what our goals are for this new year. Most people have new year’s resolutions, but we’re going to stick with goals because goals are something to work toward and resolutions are something to change. Let’s get right into it!

Amanda’s 2020 Goals

  1. I want to focus on reading the books that I already own (mostly backlist) instead of getting caught up in new releases. Additionally, I want to make an effort to read the physical copies of these books instead of checking the ebooks out from my library and reading off of my phone. Reading physical books is my preferred format and I’d like to attempt to get back to reading primarily in that format.
  2. The past year or so I’ve gotten back into GoodReads with rating and sharing my reviews on there. I’m pretty liberal with my ratings and I base them completely off of enjoyment. But in 2020, I’d like to be a little more critical with my ratings, basing them a bit more on my overall thoughts on all the aspects of the book.
  3. I’d like to, by the end of 2020, finish all of the series (that are already completely published) that I’m currently in the middle of. This will include any that I pick up in 2020. I don’t want to enter 2021 with any unfinished series. I’m hoping to pick up books in a series one right after another this year instead of starting a series and slowly reading it with other books in between.
  4. Finally, I’d like to get back to writing my reviews shortly after I finish the book. Toward the end of 2019,  I got in the habit of letting my reviews build up until I have five or six to write. I don’t want that to become a lasting habit. So, I’m doing well with this so far, but I’m writing it down to hold myself accountable.

Antonia’s 2020 Goals

  1. My first and main goal is simply to read more this year. I completely failed my goal for December and really want to start this year better.
  2. I’d like to get a little more involved with the blog this year starting with Top Ten Tuesday. It’s such a fun weekly post (one of the first we got into when we started the blog) and I’m hoping it’ll get me more motivated.

These are some of our goals for the new year! Do you have any blogging goals? Any goals specific to your reading habits? Leave a comment and share!

 

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Goodreads summary:
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Review:
Okay, I totally loved this story. I borrowed this book as an audiobook from my library because I liked the look of the cover. Then I read the book summary and thought it could be something I would like. I had doubts at first because I was really annoyed listening to the narrator reading the email addresses over and over and I almost DNF’d the book about 20% in. But I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t.
I LOVED Jessie. She’s a girl who’s trying to find herself. Her mom died and she’s trying to figure out how to continue living without the one woman that’s supposed to be there for her whole life. On top of all of this her dad has married a new woman, a complete stranger, and totally changed her life by making her move across the country. So this poor girl is still trying to figure out how to keep on living without her mother and also going to a new school where she doesn’t know anyone, living in a new house that doesn’t feel like her own, trying to figure out how to accept all these changes and be happy. I admire the crap out of Jessie for the strength she shows because I would have lost my freaking mind trying to deal with all of that at sixteen.
Enter “Somebody, Nobody.” This mysterious person who starts emailing Jessie with the advice of who to befriend, who to avoid, and how to survive at this crazy new school. I loved the idea of SN keeping an eye out for Jessie and helping her navigate this new school. Though about halfway through the story I just wanted to yell at him to TELL JESSIE WHO HE IS ALREADY. (We sadly don’t find out who SN is until Jessie does.) We are left guessing at the identity of SN for most of the book. I liked this a little because I spent most of the book arguing in my head with Jessie about whom she thinks SN is. That’s all I will say about SN except that I totally knew who it was and I’m SO HAPPY that SN is who I thought they were.
I think the family dynamic was written really well. I come from a pretty dysfunctional family. I have step parents and siblings and know how hard it is to adjust to having a new family living in one house and learning how all the different people work together and around one another. The family dynamic was written and portrayed accurately and I really liked that. I feel like there aren’t enough books that have stepfamilies and crazy broken, makeshift families that are outside of the norm of a mom and a dad or a single parent home.
I ended up really loving this book way more than I thought I was going to. I thought I would like it well enough, but I definitely loved it. There really is nothing negative to say about it aside from the annoyingness of reading the email addresses, but that’s only because it’s an audiobook. I adored the characters. They all played their own parts very well and each added something to the story. I loved the message that the story gave. Jessie learned so much about herself, but she also learned so much about how she treats others and what she deserves from life. I think this is an excellent young adult story and should be read by anyone and everyone.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Please be aware that the book cover on this post is a link to purchase this book through Amazon. Feel free to purchase with our affiliate link (just click on the book cover) to support us!

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

GoodReads Summary:
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.

Review:
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White is a book that I read years ago when the whole series was first released. I remember liking this book so much more than I did this time. Though last time I read the books and this time I listened to the audiobook via my library.
I loved the audiobook honestly. I loved the narrator. She did a great job differentiating between the various characters. She was an excellent voice for Evie. She really kept me interested in the story even when Evie’s actions and some of the things she said had me rolling my eyes.
The story and plot was super interesting. I liked the uniqueness of the paranormals characters. This wasn’t just another supernatural story with the same old characters. There were obviously the usual vampire and werewolves, but they weren’t the typical beautiful vampires and big macho wolves. I like that White made these popular kinds of characters unique and different.
I adored our love interest, Lend. He’s a shapeshifter so he can be whatever hunk we want him to be. He’s also fiercely loyal to those that are part of his circle. He’s funny and sarcastic and sweet. I just loved Lend. I loved how he wanted to look out for Evie and do everything he could to help her in whatever way she wanted, even if that way was getting to spend a day in high school.
As for our main character, Evie.  Honestly, she annoyed me a little. She’s kind of super immature and I can’t remember if that changes in the next books, but I’m hoping that it does. She was super boy crazy until she met Lend. Then she was Lend crazy. She was so focused on wanting to have a ‘normal teenage life’ getting to go to high school and prom and all of the things she would see on her favorite high school drama TV show. I understand it a bit because she’s never had a normal life. She craves the normalcy that she sees on her favorite show, but she just talks and thinks about it to the point where it’s a little annoying. Even after her situation changes, but she’s still getting new information that could help with the craziness that’s part of the story, she doesn’t do anything to help or share her information at first. She tries to just pretend she’s not a part of it anymore and give up any sort of responsibility. She drove me a little nuts for a decent amount of this book, but she got a bit better at the end. She made the right choices and accepted responsibility, her part in all of everything going on.
Overall, I really liked the unique plot. I liked the interesting twists on the typical paranormal sorts of characters. I loved Lend and I grew to love Evie. I’m excited to see where the second book goes. This book was one that I picked for the Transfiguration (a book with a shapeshifter) requirement during the Magical Readathon – O.W.L.s.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Please be aware that the book cover on this post is a link to purchase this book through Amazon. Feel free to purchase with our link (just click on the book cover) to support us!

Overdrive by Dawn Ius

Summary:
Jules Parish has screwed up.
After three years of boosting cars, she got caught. She’s too good to get caught, but she lets her (ex)-boyfriend talk her into a questionable job. Now she and her little sister, Emma, will be kicked out of their foster home, left to survive on the unforgiving streets of Las Vegas alone.
Unless…
Eccentric, wealthy Roger Montgomery wants to open up his mansion to Jules and Emma. The only catch? Jules must steal seven of the rarest, most valuable muscle cars in the world…in seven weeks. Even worse, she’s forced to put her trust in three complete strangers to help her do it.
First, there’s Chelsea, the gorgeous redhead with a sharp tongue and skill for picking locks. Then there’s Mat, who hasn’t met a system he couldn’t hack. And finally, there’s the impossibly sexy car thief Nick, whose bad attitude and mysterious past drive Jules crazy.
With nothing in common and everything to lose, can Jules and her amateur crew pull off what could be the biggest car heist in history? Or will things spin out of control faster than Nevada dust devil?

Review:
I found Overdrive by Dawn Ius at the library when I went to sign up at my new local library. I’ve mentioned in our new feature (Library Book Haul) that each time I visit the library I will be picking one book based on the authors last name – choosing a letter that we don’t have any reviews for on our master review list. This book was that selection for my most recent library trip.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. It was a random find that I thought sounded a bit interesting. I ended up reading the entire book in four hours (whoops). This story is told in the first person point of view, which is my favorite. I like stories that are told like stories by the main character. Our main character Jules was interesting. I didn’t like her at first. She was overly paranoid to the point where it was annoying. She was constantly afraid that everyone else was out to get her and lying to her. She’s a young girl that’s taken to breaking the law so that she can support her sister and try to help them have a better life. It made her relatable, yes she’s doing the wrong thing, but for good reasons. She’s doing what she needs to for those that she loves, that’s something that most people can relate to. The only thing I didn’t like was that Jules was so easily offended and super defensive about everything. I get that she’s had a hard life and doesn’t trust easily, but you’d think that would give her thicker skin and she’d let stuff just roll off her back instead of taking offense to every little thing.
Once we’re introduced to the rest of the characters in our story we start to see their relationships developing. This was probably my favorite part of this book. The character development was phenomenal. Each character played a role in the main story – boosting seven cars in seven weeks for their foster father – but they also each had their own story that was being revealed as we learned about them and they learned about one another. The development of these characters was written very well. We’re given just enough information to understand that they’re just a group of kids that have made some bad choices and are trying to be better and get away from their past mistakes. As we learn the stories of the secondary characters, Chelsea, Mat, and Nick, we also get to see them learning more about themselves from one another. Throughout the pages of this story, they become a family, albeit a dysfunctional one. The group is a well-functioning machine, each member playing an important part toward their end goals. But regardless of their individual end goals that each member is working toward, they all come together to do what’s best for Emma, Jules’ little sister. Emma becomes the surrogate little sister to everyone and they all want to look out for what’s best for her. I liked this aspect of the story. These big bad rebellious teenagers all seem to have a soft spot for a little girl. It’s just a nice touch.
The opening and the climax of Overdrive seemed like they were rushed. I liked them well enough, but I just think they could have been written a bit better, maybe with more detail. The opening scene is when Jules is getting caught boosting a car. It was alright but left the impression that it was a filler scene – something that needed to happen for the story to go to where it needed to. That the author was just giving us the necessary information to keep things moving forward. The climax, however, appeared rushed. Ius told us what was happening rather than showing us (this is something I’m working on myself having recently learned about it in my college writing courses). I liked how she ended the story, I just didn’t love the way that it was written. The idea behind the conclusion was solid, but the writing was not. I feel the same way about the “six months later” epilogue at the end of the book. I definitely could have read more about where they all ended up. I’m not saying it was bad, just that it could have been better.
Ultimately, I liked Overdrive by Dawn Ius. I liked the storyline, it was interesting and unique. I adored the characters, they had excellent character development. This was a good, fun, quick read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Please be aware that the book cover on this post is a link to purchase this book through Amazon. Feel free to purchase with our affiliate link (just click on the book cover) to support us!

milk and honey & the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey Summary:
milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.
The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

The Sun and her Flowers Summary:
From Rupi Kaur, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of milk and honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. A vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.
Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.
Review:
I am not a bookworm that usually enjoys reading poetry. So this will likely be a short and a little unusual sort of review. I don’t have enough to say about these collections to review them as two separate books, but they’re by the same author so I thought it would be acceptable to review them in one post together.
Like I said above, I don’t usually like poetry so these are not books that I would pick out for myself to read or pay money to own. The only reason I read these two poetry collections was that a fellow bookworm sent me the ebooks for free. Even though poetry isn’t a top choice for me, these two books have gotten enough hype and attention to peak my interest. I read these purely because they were free and I wanted to see what everyone was going crazy over.
All of this being said, I was honestly pleasantly surprised with milk and honey as well as the sun and her flowers. I surprised myself by actually liking them. I read milk and honey so quickly, I just couldn’t get enough. I took a little longer with the sun and her flowers so that I could really give it a chance. I liked these poems way more than I thought I was going to. They were honest and meaningful and really hit all the right emotions to be memorable. They spoke of challenging topics in a way that says it’s okay to talk about these ideas that for some unknown reason have become controversial. These words aren’t what you’d expect when you think of traditional poetry and I think that’s why so many people love them, they’re easy to read and relatable. I think they’re a great example of more modern and contemporary poetry.
While I was surprised by the fact that I did actually like these two poetry collections I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m over the moon about them like many others are. I liked them, I didn’t love them. I don’t generally like poetry at all. But some of the poems in these two collections were a bit simple and more like sentences than poems.
Ultimately, I liked (not loved) these two collections. I didn’t think I was going to like them at all, so that’s great. I would love to hear some opinions from those readers out there that genuinely love poetry. What did you poetry lovers think of these more modern ideas of poetry? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Please be aware that the book cover on this post is a link to purchase this book through Amazon. Feel free to purchase with our affiliate link (just click on the book cover) to support us!

Tome Topple Challenge – TBR

tome topple

Hey, bookworms! We discovered the Tome Topple Readathon at the perfect time! Tome Topple round six starts on Friday, June 29th, 2018 (and ends July 12th). If you’re not familiar with the Tome Topple Challenge you can watch the video with a detailed explaination from the challenges creator Samantha on her YouTube channel, Thoughts on Tomes, or read my brief description below.

How Tome Topple Works: We’re going to try to topple some of the tomes that have been hanging out on our TBR lists. Tome meaning any books that are over 500 pages. Books that may be sitting on our TBRs. This is our chance to knock out some of those big books that we haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

Read more than one tome 

Amanda- I just went on a library adventure and got four new books. Three of these books are over five hundred pages and are also part of a series. I’m not going to aim too high, but I would like to read at least the first book in the series. The Diviners by Libba Bray is the first book in the uncompleted series of four books (there’s no release date on the fourth book). It sounds really interesting, so I’m excited to read it.

Antonia- I’ve been meaning to read the Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke for forever. This challenge is the perfect time to finally get into them.

Read a tome that’s part of a series 

Amanda- I’m probably going to finally read the third book in the Shattered Realms series that was released recently by Cinda Williams Chima. I’ve read and reviewed the first two books, Flamecaster and Shadowcaster, but then I got distracted by other books and I haven’t managed to make time to read the third book yet. So hopefully Tome Topple can help with that.

Antonia- The Inkheart series counts for this but if I manage to get through both of those (I don’t have the third book in the series yet), I’m planning on reading The Shattered Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.

Read an adult novel

Amanda- Triangles by Ellen Hopkins is a book that I received in the first of two hauls from Book Outlet during the sale they had a few weeks ago. This readathon challenge is the perfect excuse to read this new book instead of another that’s been on my list for longer.

Antonia- I’ll be skipping this category because none of my adult books right now are long enough for the challenge.

triangles

These are the categories that we will be trying to cover for this book challenge! Are you going to try to topple some tomes for this challenge? If so, what’s your TBR?

Thanks for reading!