Hello my lovely readers!
As I mentioned in my 2015 reading stats wrap-up, I decided to break out my reading goals into a separate post this year because I also have some changes to announce.
As long-time readers know, I had two big life events in 2015. I married my best friend and my father passed away. You may not know that in 2016 I’m turning 30. These three personal events have combined to make me really evaluate my life, my time, and my goals.
I feel a real sense of both how fleeting time is and how important it is to me to build a good life and family with my husband. I want to live with intention and forethought, while holding on to the new ability I’ve found with my husband to embrace the unexpected and do things that are not planned. That’s a pretty wordy way of saying I want to live mindfully.
My sense of time passing has made me realize that I don’t have forever to write the books I want to write in my lifetime. And that means I need to stop claiming all of my reading time is contributing to my writing. While it’s true that a writer must read, a writer must also consistently write. A writer cannot simply read. I have writer friends who have said before they had to dial back some of their reading to make time for writing, and I now understand why that is so.
This same sense of time passing has made me realize that I no longer wish to spend my time reading books I don’t enjoy. My whole life I have almost always finished not just every single book I’ve started but most books I’ve acquired as well (with a few exceptions that I got rid of when my now husband moved in with me). Since my father passed away, I realized life is too short for that. I went through my books and got rid of any that didn’t make me feel the spark of a happy reader when looking at them or their description. I’ve also started a few books that I simply stopped reading and got rid of. I’ve also finally been honest with myself about certain types of books I enjoy that I was once a bit ashamed of.
What does all of this mean for Opinions of a Wolf? Well, many things, actually.
1) Expect there to be far fewer 2 and/or 1 star ratings.
With the exception of books I accept for review (ARCs), if I start a book and am not enjoying my time reading it at any point, I am going to put it down (for good). I am still not comfortable reviewing books that I haven’t read in their entirety. So I will simply not be reviewing these books. Don’t take the sudden lack of lower star ratings to mean that I am no longer being honest. I am just choosing to spend my time in a different manner. It is still possible for there to be low ratings, though, if a book disappoints me at the end (goes off the rails, as it were) or if I’m reading it because it’s akin to watching a train wreck, haha. I will still finish any ARCs I accept, however. To this end…..
2) Books submitted to me for the annual review were accepted in a different manner this year.
This year instead of setting a number I would accept, I only accepted however many books actually appealed to me. I also required submissions with excerpts, so I could read the first few pages and see how I felt about the writing. I am hoping the combination of these two means that my review of indie ARCs will serve both for me to find more obscure books I will enjoy and to offer good indie authors beneficial reviews. Again, though, if a book winds up disappointing me, I will finish it (since it is an ARC), and I will give an honest review.
3) The genres I read are going to change. Some.
I’ve always had a secret thing for humorous (usually British) chick lit. In fact, the last two books I read this year fit in this category perfectly. I am not just done hiding this genre, I am also done hating on it. I feel a lot of the hate comes from a culture-wide judgment of femme things (because of judging women). I would rather build it up as the respected (albeit silly/not serious literature) genre it should be, rather than participate in ignoring it. Similarly, before I started the book blog, I read quite a bit of self-help. I still read it sometimes but I didn’t want to read it too much, worried about what people might think of me. I’m not going to seek it out, but if one appeals to me, I am going to pick it up and not worry about what people might think. One thing that won’t change is the love of scifi/fantasy, that will stay. However, my husband noticed my growing collection of older scifi/fantasy paperbacks by women authors and commented on how cool that was. I hope to feature these books more in some way yet to be determined on this blog. I’m even going to be dedicating a whole bookshelf in our studio apartment to it. I also will be doing more reading of nonfiction I need to read to research my writing, rather than reading things that I think will help make me look smart or that I think I *should* read. Basically this whole section is saying: I’m done caring about what people think of me. I’m gonna be real. Fuck it.
4) I’m going to be spending more time writing.
Whether this will impact how much I read is yet to be seen, since I tend to read faster when I actually enjoy what I’m reading. I am working on incorporating writing into being a daily habit and, if I have enough material, I may start publishing some shorts or flash on here. Alternatively, there may just be a few more publication announcement posts. Or, I might just do a recap of writing accomplishments in some fashion.
5) I’ve adjusted the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge to be more flexible.
You may now sign up for ongoing or annual versions of the challenge. I realized for me personally reading books featuring characters with a mental illness in a positive light has become just something I seek out in my reading. It’s not a number I strive for annually. I figured, why not add that as a more casual option for folks. You can see more details on the dedicated page.
So that’s what to expect in 2016.
Expect things to be a bit more real around here and hopefully to see more of a mix of reading and writing. I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring.
Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats. You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 by clicking on the years.
Total books read: 52
Average books read per month: 4.33
Month most read: July with 7
Month least read: September with 2. This is no big surprise, since that’s the month I got married!
Longest book read: The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson with 763 pages
Fiction: 46 (88.5%)
Nonfiction: 6 (11.5%) (I read slightly less nonfiction this year.)
Series: 26 (50%)
Standalone: 26 (50%)
(I’m fascinated that this wound up exactly 50/50!)
–print: 13 (25%) (Almost the same as last year.)
–ebook: 27 (51.9%)
–graphic novel: 2 (3.8%) (I successfully read 2 of the graphic novels I already own. I believe I have 2 left.)
–audiobook: 10 (19.2%)
I decided to track a few new categories this year. The author’s gender, whether the book is indie or traditional, the publication year of the book, and the target age-range. Snazzy graphs for all of these!
I read more female than male authors. This isn’t a surprise, since I actively seek out scifi and fantasy by female authors.
You will definitely hear about some indie books if you follow this book blog! ;-) Note that I only accepted 6 ARCs to read this year, so that means I read 7 indie books I sought out myself.
I mostly read books from the 2000s. I did solidly touch upon the 1970s and 1980s. I’d like to read a bit more from older books next year. Maybe up to more like 20% to 25% of my total.
I mostly read adult books.
–Scifi: 14 (26.9%)
The subgenre I read the most of in scifi was dystopian (28.6%).
–Fantasy: 13 (25%)
The subgenre I read the most of in fantasy was urban fantasy (46.2%)
–Historic Fiction: 5
–Nonfiction history: 4
–Nonfiction science: 3
–Chick lit: 2
–Alternate history: 1
–Nonfiction cookbook: 1
–Nonfiction self-help / psych: 1
Number of stars:
–5 star reads: 3 (6%)
–4 star reads: 26 (50%)
–3 star reads: 20 (38%)
–2 star reads: 3 (6%)
–1 star reads: 0 (0%)
This was a slower reading year than last year, but given everything that happened (my wedding and the loss of my father), I’m happy I was able to make my goal of one book a week. Honestly, next year I intend to keep the same goal and focus my energy on writing more. I think a book a week is a good amount for a writer to read.
My new stats I tracked this year show with hard data what I already know. I mostly read adult books and read more female than male authors, although I do still read a strong minority of male authors. I also read a strong minority of indie books. I’m interested to see how this changes with time, and with some of my new reading goals, which are such a big deal I’m going to be making a whole separate post about them.
I’m disappointed I only had three 5 star reads this year. Where were the heart-gripping life-changing books?
The other thing of note is that half of my reads were scifi or fantasy. This blog is half scifi/fantasy and half eclectic, lol. I noticed throughout the year I wasn’t wanting to read thrillers, but I didn’t realize I’d read none. I’ve definitely changed from a thriller reader to a mystery reader.
Normally I would talk a bit more about my future goals, but as I mentioned earlier, those are significant enough this year that they deserve their own future post. So keep an eye out for that!
I hope you all had a good reading year and found my reviews helpful in your pursuit of good books. Sending best wishes for everyone’s 2016!
Hello my lovely readers!
I don’t have any big blog updates this month, but I am happy to report that featuring a book of the month has been going well. It’s been successfully generating new attention for books I reviewed years ago. Yay!
The book of the month for May will be:
How was my reading, reviewing, and writing this month?
April books read: 6 (2 urban fantasy, 2 scifi, 1 erotica, 1 fantasy)
April reviews: 3
Other April posts: 1 giveaway and 1 giveaway winner announcement
Most popular post in April written in April: Book Review: Set Adrift by D. S. Kenn (Series, #1)
Most popular post in April written at any time: Book Review: Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody (The Real Help Reading Project)
April writing: I finally started using the Scrivener software I purchased last November. I’m finding being able to set session word count goals and see a progress bar to be really helping my progress forward. I’ve also started participating in the 1linewed hashtag on my twitter account. This hashtag sets different rules every Wednesday for authors to share one line from their work (usually their work in progress). I’ve been immensely enjoying getting bite-sized feedback on my writing on a weekly basis. Definitely check it out if you are curious about my current work in progress.
Coming up in May: I have two fantasy reads for Once Upon a Time IX to post reviews for. I also have a review of an erotica ARC I received back before I started limiting myself to only accepting review copies once a year. Plus I’ll be reviewing an audiobook. I also bought a Kindle Paperwhite, and I plan to do a post comparing it to my old Kindle Keyboard.
Happy May and happy reading!
Hello my lovely readers!
I just wanted to take a moment to let those of you who subscribe via RSS feed or email that my blog now officially has its own url. It is now opinionsofawolf.com not opinionsofawolf.wordpress.com. Don’t worry, all links to the old .wordpress.com address are set to automatically forward to opinionsofawolf.com. I’m excited to be taking this leap forward.
I have also decided to focus my free time more in on my writing. Long-time readers know I am also a writer (see my Publications page here). In light of this, I have decided to close up my Etsy shop. I enjoy cross-stitching and designing patterns, but I would like to revert it back to being a hobby. However, I have made all the patterns I designed available on my Cross-Stitch page, and I will add more as I design them. At my leisure.
I have also designed and synced an author’s twitter to this blog. There is a link in the sidebar, or you may follow it here. This is a public twitter that anyone may follow. I primarily focus on tweeting about writing, books, and links to things that interest me, as well as retweeting anything I find humorous.
I also hope to start doing a monthly reading and writing reflection post. We will all see how that goes!
Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats. You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 by clicking on the years.
Total books read: 66
Average books read per month: 5.5
Month most read: September with 9
Month least read: Tie between August, June, and April with 4 each
Longest book read: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King with 531 pages
Fiction: 57 (86%)
Nonfiction: 9 (14%) (I read slightly less nonfiction this year.)
Series: 32 (48%)
Standalone: 34 (52%) (This was an exact flip-flop from last year.)
–traditional print: 17 (26%) (Most of these were Bottom of the TBR Pile books.)
–ebook: 34 (52%) (This went up again.)
–graphic novel: 0 (0%) (I really need to read the 3 graphic novels I have sitting on my shelf.)
–audiobook: 15 (22%)
–Fantasy: 23 (I was shocked by this win after 5 years in a row of scifi winning. I can only say that urban fantasy and non-medieval fantasy works for me, and I’m glad I’ve found the type of fantasy that does.)
–Scifi: 22 (A close second!)
–Urban fantasy: 8
–Historic fiction: 6
–Time travel: 5
–Contemporary fiction: 4
–Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge: 4
–Nonfiction history: 4
–Nonfiction lifestyle: 3
–Nonfiction diet: 2
–Nonfiction fitness: 2
–Nonfiction food: 2
–Nonfiction psych: 2
–American classics: 1
–Chinese lit: 1
–Middle grade: 1
–Nonfiction memoir: 1
–Nonfiction relationships: 1
–Paranormal romance: 1
–Short story collection: 1
Aliens vs. Demons vs. Vampires vs. Zombies
–demons: 8 (A tie between demons and aliens! Not really a surprise given that fantasy and scifi were numbers one and two in the genres I read.)
Number of stars:
–5 star reads: 6 (9%)
–4 star reads: 28 (42%)
–3 star reads: 23 (35%)
–2 star reads: 9 (14%)
–1 star reads: 0 (0%)
Glancing at my stats, I am happy to say I succeeded at my goal of getting to at least the lowest level of my Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge. I read four books for the challenge, which puts me at the Acquainted level. I am sorry to say that I totally failed to read a graphic novel again this year, which I find baffling since I have three of them on my bookshelf at the moment.
I am sad to see so few 5 star reads this year. They went down by 8%. Thankfully, my one star reads didn’t increase at all, but my 2 star reads went up by 9%. Looking at it, I can see that most of my 2 star reads were either ARCs or Bottom of the TBR Pile reads that disappointed me. I was working quite hard on getting through both of those piles, and while it’s sad to me that a number disappointed me, I’m still glad I got the piles smaller. By the middle of last year I had set up a cycle of reading one ARC, one Bottom of TBR Pile Book, then one book just for fun. I plan to continue this cycle, as I really need to get through my piles. My piles are smaller each year, thanks to purchasing and requesting fewer books, and I’m hopeful that by next year I will be back to mostly reading just for fun.
As for the genres, I’m glad I still had a wide variety, although I would like to see my nonfiction reads increase to 12 (one per month). Maybe I should enter nonfiction into the official rotation. ;-)
Other than my reading cycle, I have a couple areas of interest I would like to read more on. I’m going to keep these areas a secret for now so you can be surprised by the new genres and information working their way in. Suffice to say, it might have something to do with history and science.
Happy 2015 everyone! I hope you have found fun reading goals for yourself. Remember it doesn’t matter how much or what you read, just that you do!
It’s time for the second gift list here at Opinions of a Wolf (see the first, 10 Non-book Gifts for Book Lovers here). I thought with Hanukkah next week and some holiday parties already happening that it would be interesting to provide a list of cheap ebooks. Ebooks make great last-minute gifts, as you can purchase them literally on your phone on the way to the party and have them arrive in your recipient’s email with them none the wiser that you waited until the last minute. Since you can schedule when the gift email arrives, no one needs to know that you scheduled it only 5 minutes ago. Ebooks are also great because you can find them for very cheap but a reader who loves ebooks doesn’t care how much the ebook cost. A book is a book is a book! I’m not just going to tell you a list of cheap ebooks though. I’m also going to give you a little reader’s advisory–tell you who the book would be best for. Without further ado, here is the list, in order of cost from least to most.
For the lover of YA who enjoys a touch of fantasy:
Initiate by Tara Maya
Dindi is about to undergo her people’s initiation test and ceremony that not only welcomes her to adulthood but also will determine whether or not she is a member of the Tavaedi. The Tavaedi are a mix of religious leader, healer, and warrior who cast magic spells by dancing. Since Dindi can see the pixies and other fae, she thinks she has a chance. But no one in her clan has ever successfully become a Tavaedi. Meanwhile, an exiled warrior, Kavio, is attempting to shed his old life and the haunting of his father’s wars and his mother’s powers. But he slowly discovers a deadly plot that brings him directly to Dindi’s initiation ceremony.
This is a unique piece of YA fantasy set in a tribal world inspired by Polynesia. The romance is light and slow-building, and the focus is primarily on growing up and becoming an adult. See my full review here.
For the urban fantasy reader without a lot of time:
Cursed by S. A. Archer
London works for hire doing investigations mostly for parahumans, and her best friend is a vampire who keeps hoping she’ll consent to being turned. Her life isn’t run-of-the-mill, but it isn’t too bad either, until one day she gets Touched by a Sidhe and finds herself sucked into the Fey world bubbling just beneath the surface of the regular one.
This fast-paced novella is perfect for the reader without a lot of time who still wants to get some urban fantasy into their day. See my full review here.
For the lover of the style of classic scifi:
The Coin by Glen Cadigan
When Richard’s physicist professor uncle dies tragically in a plane crash and leaves him his coin collection, he is shocked to find a brand-new dime from 2012. The only thing is, it’s 1989. A note from his uncle states that the coin is important. Richard thinks the answer to the mystery might be in his uncle’s personal diaries he also left him, but he’s not a physicist and can’t decipher them. As the year 2012 approaches, Richard increasingly wonders what the coin is all about.
This novella is a fun new take on the storytelling methods of classic scifi. The science is strong enough to be interesting but not too challenging, and the result of the mystery is surprising. See my full review here.
For zombie fans who enjoy a touch of romance:
Hungry For You by A. M. Harte
A collection of zombie-themed short stories and poetry with the twist that they all have to do with romantic relationships in some way, shape, or form.
This short story collection is different and fun simultaneously. It will appeal to zombie pans, particularly women. See my full review here.
For the reader of lesbian romance who loves fairy tale retellings:
Braided: A Lesbian Rapunzel by Elora Bishop
A lesbian retelling of Rapunzel. Gray, a witch’s daughter, visits Zelda every day. The witch switched Gray’s fate into Zelda, so now Zelda is the one entwined with the spirit of the tree that the people worship. She must live on the platform and every day lower her hair for people to tie ribbons and prayers into. Gray feels horrible guilt over their switched fates, but she’s also falling in love with Zelda.
this is a fun retelling of Rapunzel, particularly if you’re looking for a non-heteronormative slant or enjoy a more magical feel. Note that this is part of a series entitled Sappho’s Fables, which consists of lesbian retellings of fairy tales. The novellas may be mixed and matched. See my full review here.
For the reader of women’s fiction with an interest in Scotland:
Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
Rose is a textile artist with bipolar disorder who for years found her medication dulled her ability to work. After a stunning betrayal that landed her in a mental hospital, she has moved to a quiet, extraordinarily rural island in Scotland in an attempt to control her illness with as little medication as possible so she may still create her art. Her life isn’t quite as quiet as she imagined it would be, though, with a warm neighbor, Shona, who introduces her to her brother, a teacher and poet.
This is an emotional, challenging, touching read for fans of contemporary fiction with a heart. See my full review here.
For the horror fan:
Gargoyles by Alan Nayes
Amoreena is determined to be a doctor and help people. She’s a hard-working, scholarship student on the pre-med track in her third year of college. Unfortunately, her single mother just got diagnosed with metastatic cancer and lost her health insurance. With no time for a job and no money for the bills, Amoreena is grateful when she is approached by a surrogacy clinic to be a surrogate for $50,000 with payments upon successful insemination and each trimester. But after she’s successfully inseminated, Amoreena becomes increasingly concerned that something is not quite right with her baby.
If your horror fan loves Rosemary’s Baby and is particularly freaked out by evil pregnancies, they will love this book. See my full review here.
For the lover of noir and urban fantasy:
One Death at a Time by Thomas M. Hewlett
Jack Strayhorn is a private eye and a member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. Only, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s one of the vampires who meet in a secret vampire group that exists under the umbrella of AA to learn how to control their urges and feed on humans without killing them. He’s just returned to LA, his death site that he hasn’t been back to since he had to run in 1948 after becoming a vampire. When his current missing person case shows up dead next to a Fae politician, Jack gets dragged into a mixed-up underworld of Faes, werewolves, drugs, and a group of vampires determined to rule the world.
This is a delightful mix of urban fantasy and noir and is a strong first entry for a new series. See my full review here.
For the reader of thrillers and fans of Gone Girl:
I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar
Tom Starks has not been the same since his wife, Renee, was brutally murdered with a baseball bat in a parking lot. He’s been struggling for the last three years to raise her daughter, who he adopted when he married Renee. When Renee’s killer is released after a retrial finds insufficient evidence to hold him, Tom becomes obsessed with dealing out justice himself.
This is a unique thriller, with its choice to cast the opposite of a bad-ass in the role of the main character. This grounds the typical revenge plot into reality, lends itself to more interesting, unique plot twists, and has the interesting aspect of a flawed, nearly anti-hero main character that the reader still roots for. See my full review here.
For readers of multi-generational family dramas and GLBTQ lit:
The Value Of Rain by Brandon Shire
Charles hasn’t been home since his mother and uncle sent him away to an insane asylum at the age of fourteen after he was found in the embrace of his first love–Robert. Now, ten years later, his mother, Charlotte, is dying, and he comes back to take his revenge.
This is one of those genre-defying books. Shire explores the devastating effects of prejudice, hate, secrets, and lies throughout family generations, and that is something that is simultaneously universal and tragic. See my full review here.
I hope this list helps you find a read for yourself or a gift for another. Feel free to ask questions about any of these books or ask for recommendations for books for particular recipients in the comments!
With the holiday season almost upon us, I thought it might be fun to put together some helpful gift idea lists for you all. First up is 10 Non-book Gifts for Book Lovers.
Maybe you have a reader in your life, but you’ve already picked out a couple of books for them and now are stumped. Or maybe you just want a stocking stuffer, and your reader loves chunksters that don’t exactly fit in a stocking. Or maybe your reader loves ebooks, and you want something physical to wrap along with a note about the impending ebooks they’re about to get. If any of these are you, read on for some gift ideas, in no particular order!
Book Lover Magnets
($5.67 plus shipping)
The perfect decoration for an office, dorm, or kitchen. And maybe the recipient will even hang up the holiday card from you with one. This shop also offers a cute bookworm magnet set, for the kawaii readers among your loved ones.
Passage From a Book Phone Case
($19 to $27, depending on type of phone, plus shipping)
The case in the picture features a passage from Frankenstein with the quote “Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful” highlighted. Empowering and literary! If Frankenstein isn’t your recipient’s style, there are many other classics to pick from, including Jane Eyre, Little Women, Dracula, and many more.
Mini Book Locket
($20.19 plus shipping)
Maybe your book lover also loves jewelery. This mini replica of a book that doubles as a locket necklace is an adorable piece that will surely brighten up their day. Other books are also available, including Les Miserables, Harry Potter, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Book Quote Throw Pillow Cover
($16.99 plus shipping)
Give your book lover a book quote themed cover for their favorite snuggly throw pillow. They’ll think of you every time they curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. This cover’s quote is from Louisa May Alcott, “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” Other literary quotes are available too, however.
Handcrafted Literary Figurine
($48 plus shipping)
If you know a few of your book lover’s favorite books, you could get a handmade figurine of one of the characters. This is Inspector Javert from Les Miserables. Isn’t the detailing on him amazing? This shop has many literary characters available, all in exquisite detail, and at a very reasonable price considering all that work!
Author Names Clutch
($26.99 plus shipping)
For the more femme book lovers on your list, this clutch could be ideal. It features over 200 author’s names in a beautiful font. The shop also has clutches for all four Harry Potter houses, as well as clutches themed around individual works of literature.
Book Themed Candle
($15 plus shipping)
A slightly tongue-in-cheek gift that is sure to make a candle-loving reader smile. This candle is made of eco-friendly soy and is designed to smell like a bookstore, mixing the scents of timber, driftwood, hazelnut cappuccino, and leather. Other bookish scents can be found, such as “old book smell” or scents based on literature, such as what the butterbeer from Harry Potter or Sherlock’s study might smell like.
Book Excerpt Fingerless Gloves
($26.00 plus shipping)
If your reader is from a cold climate and works on computers a lot, some literary-themed fingerless gloves might be just the ticket. They feature excerpts from well-loved classics, such as Sherlock Holmes, Picture of Dorian Gray, or Wuthering Heights.
Entire Text of a Book Artistic Tshirt
($34.00 plus shipping)
If you know one of your recipient’s favorite books, you could get one of these awesome tshirts featuring the entire text of a book worked into an image that represents the book. The one in the image above is The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe but many many more are available, and there are many color options as well.
Reading Themed Mug
($13 plus shipping)
No reader likes to be bothered when they’re reading. Many readers sip a hot drink while they’re reading. This mug both tells folks to leave them alone and gives them a mug to sip from. It’s the ideal reading accessory.