2013 – A Year In Review

fireworksIt’s totally cliché, but where the hell has this year gone? With today being the very last day of 2013 I figured I’d do a quick “Year in Review” post to talk about my progress with reading challenges and also to discuss my favorite books of the year!

Quick rundown on how I did with my reading challenges: I successfully read 120 books this year. In fact, as of the time of writing this post I am at 199 books for the year! (WOOT!) You can see all the books I’ve read with links to their reviews here. Now, a bit of bad news. I utterly failed (for the second year in a row) the audio book challenge. I didn’t listen to 1 audio book this year (read: pathetic.) I also didn’t do so great with the Book to Movie challenge either, with only 2 out of 12 read. Now, to the good news: I completed 78% of the Color Coded Challenge, or 7 out of 9 reads. I actually had a blast doing this challenge. You don’t realize how many books use colors in their titles until you do a challenge like this! Additionally, I unsurprisingly completed the Historical Fiction Challenge as well as the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary challenge with no trouble at all.

And now for the difficult part: Picking my favorite reads of 2013.

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  2. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley (look for my review next week!!!)
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers/Making It Last by Ruthie Knox
  5. Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  6. Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
  7. Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander/Easy by Tammara Webber
  8. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
  9. Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
  10. The Secret of Ella and Micha/The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

Having read almost 200 books this year, choosing 10 (really 12) of my favorites almost killed me. So, in the effort of easing my conscience I’m giving you some of my runners-up (in no particular order)!

  1. Pride, Prejudice, and the Perfect Match by Marilyn Brant
  2. The Edelstein Trilogie by Kersin Gier (Book one, two, & three)
  3. The Westfield Wolves/Regency Vampyre Series by Lydia Dare
  4. Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow
  5. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. Losing It by Cora Carmack
  7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  8. Bittersweet by Noelle Adams

This was hands down the hardest year yet to pick my favorite books. When you read almost 200 books in a year I guess that should be expected, no?

Ok, the burden is being passed to you. What did you love reading this year?!? Please let us know below. And finally, enjoy the rest of your New Year’s Day, hopefully with a great book. See you in 2014!

What Are You Reading This November?

With Thanksgiving approaching in a little over a week, I figured I’d publish a quick “What Are You Reading?” post! I’ll be traveling with Todd out to Ohio to spend the holidays with his mom’s side of the family.  We have a 12 hour drive out, so you can be sure I’ll be getting my read on.

So what’s on the agenda to read during the trip? First up is book three in Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series (my reviews on the first two books, The Secret of Ella and Micha & The Forever of Ella and Micha, can be found by clicking on their titles.)  Also on the list is Jane Odiwe’s newest release, Project Darcy.  I’ve been a fan of Odiwe’s Austenesque novels for a while now, so I’m looking forward to adding this title to my completed reads list for the Pride and Prejudice reading challenge I’ve been taking part in.  My most recent of her reads was Searching for Captain Wentworth).  And last, but certainly not least, is Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.  Drums of Autumn is the fourth book in her Outlander series (see reviews for book one, two, & three.)  My goal of reading one a month didn’t exactly pan out so well, huh…..

wayrnAnyway, I’m sure I’ll read more than just these three over the holiday, but they have my top priority.  How about the rest of you? Any special Thanksgiving plans/books you’re planning on reading?  Share them in the comments below!

The May Roundup!

20130512_115645May was a month of big accomplishments here in the Ryder household.  Staffer Todd (also known as my darling husband) received his Master’s degree in molecular and cell biology from Quinnipiac University (our undergraduate alma mater).  Not only did he earn that, but he defended his thesis which delved into how carbon dioxide affects cells (that’s the super simple explanation).  Todd’s graduation wasn’t the only one our family witnessed this month.  My sister-in-law Ellen also received her Master’s degree from Lehigh University in secondary education, specializing in math.  And thirdly my brother-in-law Jason completed his MD/Ph.D. program at NYU!  (So many smarties!)

IMG_20130520_181607Besides graduations, we also had a month filled with other fun trips and events.  As you may or may not know, I’m OBSESSED with the Fast and the Furious franchise.  After reading about an opportunity to see the newest installment, Fast and Furious 6, at an advance screening, I immediately signed up.  It was awesome, as well as free!  The following weekend, Todd and I traveled down to Staten Island to visit my Aunt Judy.  After many many days and weeks of cleaning and various workers coming to her basement to rebuild it after Hurricane Sandy, we were able to put on the finishing touches!  We helped install a few small items, as well as two in-ceiling speakers (I learned how to wield a drywall saw!)

20130525_153055Finally, we took a trip into the city to visit Todd’s aunt, uncle, and little cousin Sarah at the Natural History Museum!  We had a great time exploring all the exhibits with Sarah and checking out the new additions to the museum since our last visit a couple of years ago.  After this, we found a great little Mexican restaurant near the museum, and sat down for some dinner and margaritas (and lemonade for Sarah).  In all, it was a ton of fun and something we can’t wait to do more often as we don’t get to see Todd’s extended family too often.

On the reading front I read another 23 books, bringing my year-to-date total to 93.  It’s difficult to pick my favorite book of the month (since I read so many good ones), but if I had to pick I’d nominate The Secret of Ella and Micha and The Forever of Ella and Micha both written by Jessica Sorensen.

On the radar for June are some more new adult books I’ve been reading, as well as some historical fiction, paranormal, and action books.  June should be a diverse reviewing month!  Todd’s got a few fun things up his sleeve too, so keep an eye out!

So, there you have it, another exciting month behind the scenes here at Reflections.  What did you do during May?

As always, happy reading!

Kim’s Review of The Forever of Ella and Micha (The Secret #2) by Jessica Sorensen

tfoeamjsDark and angst-filled characters struggling to face their demons are like my kryptonite (well, that and rakish men).  Something about the act of redemption and making it against all odds just gives me the warm and fuzzies.  With that being said it’s not a surprise that Jessica Sorensen is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I loved loved loved loved loved her book The Secret of Ella and Micha when I read it last month, and couldn’t wait to jump into book two in the series, The Forever of Ella and Micha.

Now that they have survived the events of the first book in the series, both Ella and Micha have settled into a long distance relationship.  Ella has gone back to college, and is attempting to get away from her family problems, as her father is battling with alcohol addiction and has been in and out of rehab for the past few months.  Micha, on the other hand, is traveling across the country performing with his band.  He is finding it much more difficult than he originally thought to be away from Ella, and Ella is missing the safety and security that she feels with Micha.  Nonetheless, she knows that Micha is perusing his dreams, and she refuses to stand in the way of his accomplishments, no matter how much she misses him.  Fortunately they do get to spend brief interludes together, but these moments only serve to highlight how hard it is to let each other go.  Will they be able to keep up their relationship with the distance mounting between them?

Gahhhhh I am in so love with this book and with Sorensen’s writing and with this series in general.  After all the hell that Ella and Micha went through in the last book you’d expect a bit of a reprieve, right? Wrong!  I’m actually glad that Sorensen didn’t just take the easy way out and write them a completely normal happy ever after.  It’s unrealistic to imagine that suddenly all the problems they have with themselves, their families, and each other would magically disappear the minute they admitted to loving each other.  That sugar-coating you find in a lot of romance novels doesn’t exist here.  Ella and Micha are raw, emotional, passionate people.  In other words, they’re real.  At one point in the book Micha tells Ella that since they know all of each other’s flaws, their relationship is stronger than most.

“It will, and you want to know why?” I ask and she nods. “Because most people go into this blind.  They don’t know the bad side of the person they’re with.  But we know each other’s flaws and cracks- we know what we’re getting into and that makes us stronger.”

SO TRUE.  How many people dream of a fantastical relationship where everything is gumdrops and roses? A perfect partner who knows your every thought, dream, wish, etc.  A person who will never disagree with you and will never have any problems dealing with anything life throws at them.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t happen that way.  Nervous breakdowns happen. People lose their jobs, money, homes, family members, etc.  Grief happens. So does depression.  All of these problems can change a person.  Going in to a relationship with your eyes open, knowing the emotional susceptibility your partner could have because of any of these things is the best possible “relationship strengthener” there is.  There will be times when you need to be the strong one while your partner is weak.  This is exactly what happens in The Forever of Ella and Micha, and it’s because of this that I love this book so much.  It’s an incredibly realistic love story that has tons of parallels to real life.  It doesn’t make any false promises, but at the same time is spontaneous and fun.  In short, it is as varied and unpredictable as life is, and because of that it makes a great read.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 336 pages
ISBN: 9781455574872

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!