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Reading Goals and Changes for 2016

December 31, 2015 4 comments
awesomewolf

Source: yenn87 on DeviantArt

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.

2015 Reading Stats!

December 30, 2015 7 comments

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!)

Formats:
–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%)

New Categories
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!

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I read more female than male authors.  This isn’t a surprise, since I actively seek out scifi and fantasy by female authors.

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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.

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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.

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I mostly read adult books.

Genres:
–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
–Horror: 5
–Contemporary: 4
–Nonfiction history: 4
–Romance: 4
–GLBTQ: 3
–Mystery: 3
–Nonfiction science: 3
–Chick lit: 2
–Alternate history: 1
–Erotica: 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!

 

Giveaway: Porcelain: A Novelette by William Hage (INTERNATIONAL)

December 26, 2015 Leave a comment

cover_porcelainIt’s the sixth and final giveaway of 2015 here at Opinions of a Wolf.  Woohoo!!

There is ONE ebook copy of Porcelain: A Novelette by William Hage (review) available courtesy of the author, William Hage.

What You’ll Win:  One ebook copy of Porcelain: A Novelette (review) by William Hage.

How to Enter:

  1. Leave a comment below stating the second-hand item you own that you think is most likely to maybe be evil.
  2. Copy/paste the following and tweet it from your public twitter:
    Enter to win PORCELAIN: A NOVELETTE by @w0rdvirus, hosted by @McNeilAuthor http://buff.ly/1JAHQcP #giveaway #entertowin #horror #short
    You may tweet one entry per day. The blog comment gets you one entry. Each tweet gets you one entry.

Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL

Contest Ends: December 29th at midnight!

Disclaimer: The winner will have their book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.

Book Review: Porcelain: A Novelette by William Hage

December 26, 2015 1 comment

cover_porcelainSummary:
Out near the Pine Barrens in New Jersey sits the Whateley Bed & Breakfast, home of a wide collection of knick-knacks and antiques for its guests to view, including a beautifully ornate porcelain doll. However, after the Whateley’s latest guest purchases the doll as a gift, a horrifying series of nightmarish events begins to unfold.

Review:
This is the final review for the 2015 ARCs I accepted (6 total).  Woo! This 8,000 word novelette was the perfect way to wrap up my year of ARCs.  Bite sized, it kept me entertained for almost precisely the duration of the public transit portion of my commute.

This short horror involves a father buying a doll for his daughter, only to have the doll wind up to be evil.  I don’t consider that a spoiler, because I think it’s pretty clear from the cover and the description that is what is about to go down.  While some of the evil doll aspects were about what I was expecting, others were not.  The scenes happened at just the right pace to hold interest, and I did find myself hoping I’d have time to finish the novelette without having to stop.  I think the story is helped by reading it in one sitting, so I would advise picking it up when you know you have enough time to finish it in one go.

All of this said, while I enjoyed it and it is well-written, it just didn’t linger with me.  I wound up feeling quite neutral about it.  Perhaps because the novelette is so short that there’s no time to establish an emotional connection with the main character.  It’s also possible that the ending just failed to wow me.  That said, other readers who are more generally into short fiction than I am will probably enjoy it more than I did.

Overall, this is a well-written piece of short fiction that should be read in one sitting.  Recommended to fans of short horror.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Giveaway Winner: Unreal City by A.R. Meyering (INTERNATIONAL)

December 12, 2015 1 comment

cover_Unreal cityThe giveaway winner of one ebook or print copy of Unreal City (review), courtesy of the author A.R. Meyering herself is……..

Entry #1 Helen Adamopoulos!

Helen’s winning entry was for tweeting the giveaway tweet.

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Helen, I’ll be providing your email address to A.R. Meyering, who will send you your ebook directly.

Thanks for entering!

Categories: Giveaway

Giveaway: Unreal City by A.R. Meyering (INTERNATIONAL)

December 3, 2015 Leave a comment

cover_Unreal cityIt’s the fifth giveaway of 2015 here at Opinions of a Wolf.  Woohoo!!

There is ONE ebook copy of Unreal City by A.R. Meyering (review) available courtesy of the author, A.R. Meyering.

What You’ll Win:  One ebook copy of Unreal City(review) by A.R. Meyering.

How to Enter:

  1. Leave a comment below stating how you would design your portion of Unreal City – remember you are not limited by the laws of science! It can be buildings that float in midair if you want!
  2. Copy/paste the following and tweet it from your public twitter:
    Enter to win UNREAL CITY by @ARmeyering, hosted by @McNeilAuthor http://buff.ly/1QhBNj1 #fantasy #giveaway #newadult #na #entertowinYou may tweet one entry per day. The blog comment gets you one entry. Each tweet gets you one entry.

Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL

Contest Ends: December 11th at midnight!

Disclaimer: The winner will have their book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.

Categories: Uncategorized

Book Review: Unreal City by A.R. Meyering

December 2, 2015 2 comments

Book Review: Unreal City by A.R. MeyeringSummary:
Sarah Wilkes can hardly believe she’s going away to freshman year of college without her twin sister Lea–who was discovered dead from drowning far away from any water.  She moves through life in a haze until a cat-like creature shows up on one of her walks through campus.  He claims to be a familiar spirit who can bring her to Unreal City, a place where she can make her dreams come true.  There’s only one catch. The price of permanent admission is drinking her blood.  Unable to resist, Sarah journeys to Unreal City but the dream world soon takes on a sinister tone.

Review:
This book piqued my curiosity when it was submitted to me as a possibility for review last year.  I knew when I read the summary that a plot such as this could only go either well-rendered and touching or flat and ridiculous.  I took a chance, and I’m glad I did.  The book offers a look at grief in the young, but wrapped in a fantastical setting that makes encountering such a big topic more palatable.

The fantastical plot at first seems simple.  A familiar spirit who reads as sinister comes to Sarah and offers her a bargain.  Feed him (preferably with her blood, but her hair will do in the meantime), and he will bring her to a world where she can escape her grief.  It seems that he is targeting her for sinister reasons, but slowly over the course of the plot the reader realizes there is more to it than this.  This is one of my favorite types of fantasy.  One that reads initially as simple but becomes increasingly complex over the course of the book.  The fantastical plot slowly takes the reader first deep into Sarah’s grief then into her trying to solve her sister’s death and finally into forgiveness and healing.  It perhaps sounds heavy-handed when I put it that way, but the book makes it so it is not at all.  The reader realizes initially they are encountering a young person’s grief, but then gets pulled into the fantastical world of Unreal City.  Sarah’s grief process then becomes part of that fantasy, so it is more subtle.

The fantasy world is interesting.  It takes the basic concept of a familiar spirit (traditionally, a spirit that a witch would allow to suckle from her in exchange for its magical service) and expands upon it.  There are a set number of familiars in Unreal city, each of whom is correlated with a certain sector of the city.  They each must find a person from our world to feed them and even give them an identity and appearance.  That person can control their own sector, and I do mean control.  They dictate its appearance and are able to defy all scientific laws.  But they can’t control what happens in other people’s sectors, and that’s where Unreal City becomes more complex.  It’s a mix of parallel universes and familiar spirits.

The mystery of Lea’s death kept me guessing, and its resolution is eloquent.  The only thing holding me back from five stars is that for me, personally, at the time I read this, I did not have the level of experience with the book that is necessary for me to consider a book a five star read.  It needs to be something life-changing or that I know I will think of over and over again.  I am sure I would have felt differently though if I was either younger when I read it or had recently experienced a close loss.  (Interestingly, I read this only a couple of weeks before my father passed.  I am certain I would have had a more powerful experience with it if the order had been reversed).

Overall, this is a relatable rendering of grief and loss in the young, particularly in the late teen years, wrapped in a fantastical world that is engaging and keeps the plot from becoming too heavy-handed.  Recommended to readers suffering from recent loss or looking for a unique fantastical world. Especially those who are interested in a new adult setting.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

Categories: Book, contemporary, Genre, Review, YA