2020 – the year in review

Are we all glad 2020 is over?

Yes. But at the same time it’s kinda still going on so is 2020 actually over?

Well, we made it through so why not have a look at how my reading goals and things went over the course of the year?

Let’s have a look at how many books I read first

My reading went up and down throughout the year which surprised me a little bit. It dropped when I started a full time job which I anticipated, and then again on and off again throughout the rest of the year as the emotional and mental fatigue of being in Stage 4 lockdown really took hold.

In case you missed it, from early July through to the end of October my city was in Stage 4 lockdown. That meant I couldn’t leave my home for more than 1 hr a day, I couldn’t move more than 5km from my home, I had only 3 (because the 4th didn’t apply to me) reasons to leave my home and I couldn’t even exercise Bones off our property because all of a sudden EVERYONE had dogs and had no idea about basic dog ownership manners.

Come November and December I was trying to meet reading commitments and then just ran out of stamina and needed a break.

What about what genre’s I read?

I’m surprised Contemporary Romance rated to highly, however I’m not surprised a romance genre was the highest. The next highest were:

  • Regency romance
  • Rom Com
  • Sci-Fi romance, and
  • Fantasy.

See?

Told you romance would be up there!

What about my general reading stats?

I’m surprised, but also not surprised by where I get my books from. It’s one of the things I want to try and work on this year. As amazing as all the books Rachael and Dave bring me on their tours, I’d love to be a little more diverse with where I get my books from.

Given the amount of tours that I went on where I got copies of the books (ARCs = Advanced Reader Copies) before they were released I’m not surprised by the number of eBooks, “Sparkly” and ARCs.

Can you see why maybe I’d also like to go back to backlisted books?

They deserve some love too!

When I started tracking my ratings back in 2019 I realised how many books I rated 5 stars and decided to be a little clearer with myself on what constitutes a 5 star read. Basically, if I can’t fault it and I loved it, it’ll get 5 stars.

If something like grammar, spelling, editing, flow etc isn’t hitting the mark, then depending on how bad/much it is it could go down from there.

As you can see though, most of my reads sit at a 4+ rating and are between 200-400 pages long. Does that mean I have low standards or am I getting good at picking what I will or won’t enjoy?

What about the Aussie Author Challenges?

Yea I failed miserably there.

As you can see I didn’t get there with either. Between the tours, my general feelings and COVID I just didn’t get there. I do still have the books I picked out on my TBR pile so hopefully this yr I’ll get to them.

I did record my blog stats, but I’m sure that’s not interesting to you so I’m going to end this post here saying GOODBYE to 2020!

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We’re back!

OMG I’M BACK!

I feel like it’s been FOREVER since I wrote a post sharing what’s been happening in my life and with my blog. The last time would’ve been end of November!

So since then I’ve picked up a new client that’s kept me on my toes, Bones had some major regressions what with coming out of lockdown, suddenly seeing people again and travelling to the holiday house. It was all a bit much for him so things were a little hectic for me for a while there. But we’re finally settling back down which is awesome.

What about on the blog?!

Well you may have noticed that there’s a new look!

I’d had this planned for a while but it wasn’t until I was like “O crap… I’m 3 days out from when I wanted this to go live!” That I finally got off my ass and started moving my reviews over into the new template.

I can confirm that this is now DONE!

All reviews are in the same template, although you’ll notice I’ve yet to refresh the content of the reviews into the new look. That will be a very long, slow and most likely, mentally painful process for me. But I would like everything to have a nice consistent, easy to read look for you. So I will persevere! Slowly…

I may have also updated my About Me page, and I’m secretly (not so secretly) pretty happy with how this is looking.

Well what’s new?

My home page is a little less cluttered with a nice clean look that gives you some info on what I actually write about with easy to access links. I’ve also kept the sign up option on the front page only.

Do you like that? Should I have that option on all my reviews and posts as well? You tell me in the comments!

I’ve removed the header entirely, so you’ll find the menu options in the footer now. Along with links to my socials and a SEARCH BAR!

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure out how to include a search bar but you can now click on the search icon which will open up an overlay over the screen where you’ll type in what you want to search for. Anything (review, post or page) that include that word/term/phrase will then display in the search results.

I’m thinking of including pages dedicated each to my Rach Random Resources, Ultimate Book Tours and Author Requests. Would you like to see those filtered on their own sub-pages? Let me know in the comments!

Have you got anything left to do?

I do actually! I want to have a little box at the end of each review that shows you other reviews for books in the same series. We’re just having some issues getting it to identify and display these correctly, so keep an eye out! Fingers crossed it comes soon!

I also want to create some more fancy headers for my pages, with a kind of similar look to the home page and the actual reviews/posts. Again, for consistency.

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Wrap Up – October

How is it November already?! I got a bit side tracked again this month so my reading was rather low compared to September, but that’s OK.

My Fav

Although The Finders surprised me, I also got to enjoy it in ways I wasn’t expecting!

I went in expecting the book to be focused on the dogs, and found it focuses much more on the murder and the mystery. Yes, the dogs play an important part of the story. But they aren’t the central narrative.

The cool thing is that it’s a series, so I’m hoping I can keep reading them as they come out.

My Least Fav

Legends Rise isn’t a bad book. I actually rated it 4 stars and can’t wait for the next one to come out. It just wasn’t QUITE as good as the others I read in October.

It just had the unfortunate luck to fall in the same month as a few others books that I really enjoyed.

If you haven’t read my reviews of the Venators series, you seriously should!

With the way things are going for me at the moment I’m wanting to hold off on scheduling any more reviews than I’ve already agreed to do this year as I have a few things I want to focus on and more reviews will make this difficult to do.

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Wrap Up – August & September

It’s been two months since I shared a Wrap Up with you and that’s entirely my fault coz I just got way too busy. How’d I get so busy in Stage 4 lockdown? No idea!

August Reviews

September Reviews

I think I made up for July’s lack of romance in these two months… I think they all have at least an element of romance in them. How’d that happen?

My Fav

I’ll be reviewing the Sea Dragons of Amber Bay trilogy in October, and I can assure you. Of the two I’ve read so far, they’re amazing!

I was blown away by this book and was IMMEDIATELY messaging Zoe asking when I’d get the second book, Ensnared, to read.

Please make sure you come back for this trilogy!

My Least Fav

I was actually broken hearted that this one was my least fav. I love Christmas and I really enjoy reading Lucy’s books so it really upset me that I didn’t enjoy this one as much.

I mentioned it in my review, but I do think I didn’t enjoy this as much as I could have because I was in a bit of a funk personally. We’ve all experienced the fatigue that lockdown has on us, and I read this during a period where we weren’t allowed outside for more than 1 hour and it really just got to me.

I honestly think if I tried this again when I’m in a better frame of mind I would enjoy it more. So this is totally on me, not Lucy!

My Goals

Yea can I skip this bit?

Other than having a stellar September (after following a dismal August) reading month, I haven’t really made any progress on any of my goals. This lockdown crap really sucks.

For anyone that might be interested, since July 3rd my city has been in lockdown. For the first 4 weeks it was Stage 3, then our COVID cases spiked so much we went into Stage 4. What is Stage 4 I hear you asking?

Well, that means we can:

  • Only leave our house for work or study if we’re a permitted worker or it’s unsafe for us to stay at home (nice of them to acknowledge the increase in family violence there)
  • Can’t move more than 5km (3 miles) from our homes UNLESS for permitted work or study (noted above)
  • Only 1 member of a household can go to the shops ONCE per day
  • No more than 2 people from a household can exercise together
  • You must remain on your property (curfew) between 8pm to 5am
  • You can only exercise for ONE hour a day (and apparently you were meant to stay near home… not drive to somewhere within your 5km radius and exercise there… not that they told us that bit…)
  • You can’t see any friends or family UNLESS you’re an official carer
  • Restaurants are open for takeaway ONLY and must close early enough to get everyone home by the start of the curfew

Are you beginning to sense why I went a little stir crazy in August and struggled?

Not to mention I swear everyone near me got dogs, don’t care about training them and they all walk their dogs at different times so it’s impossible for me to walk my poor baby at a time where he won’t have to come face to face with his biggest fears on a daily basis. I honestly can’t wait for this to be over.

I hope you’re all travelling safe and not feeling too down about all this. Remember, if we all look after ourselves, get tested, wear our masks etc we can get rid of this damned virus.

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Wrap Up – July

I should’ve had one more review this month, but I didn’t coz I just ran out of time to set it up!

Of the 6 reviews, 3 of them are me finishing off another series review for The Boys of Jackson Harbour. Go me!

My Fav

I really enjoyed this one! I didn’t have to wait long since the previous book which was great. But it also reminded me why I need to go back and read the first 3 book!

I promise, reviews for the full series of First Comes Love is coming!

My Least Fav

You won’t have to wait long for my review of this, it’s coming out tomorrow!

As much as I love Zoe’s books, there was just something about this one that wasn’t as great as the others. It’s not that it was bad, it just felt like it was missing something.

Something that I’ve chosen to do across the month of August is to participate in Pawgust.

Pawgust is a challenge to walk for 30 minutes a day for 30 days in the month of August. The goal is to raise enough money to raise and train 22 puppies to become Guide Dogs in Australia.

I know many of you aren’t from Australia, but if you can spare a few dollars you can donate on my Pawgust Page. You can even follow my progress at Bones’ Instagram page to make sure we actually do walk 30 minutes a day for 30 days!

Pretty please help me raise funds to help those with low or no vision so they can get around independently. Ever dollar really does help go towards the $55,000 needed to raise a single puppy.

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Author Interview: Shami Stovall

Hi Shami,

Thank you for taking the time to do a Q&A with me. I was a little upset I’d already committed to as many reviews as I could handle when Dave told me about your book, Knightmare Arcanist, coming on tour. It sounds fascinating so I wanted to get in the tour in any way I could.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say, so I’ll kick off my questions now!

  1. You’ve released the first 4 books since June 2019, how long was this story in your head
    • First off, thank you for having me!
    • It’s a pleasure to be here! In terms of books? The series is set for 7 books and one spin-off of short stories from the viewpoint of other characters.
  2. What was the inspiration for these characters?
    • Each character is a little part of me, but it’s actually a bunch of archetypes I just love to see. Volke is filled with determination, and clashes with the haughty Zaxis. Illia is resourceful, and helps Volke whenever she can—the dynamics are what I love best!
  3. How did you come up with such a unique take on magic and mythical creatures?
    • I really love magical creatures, I have Pokemon to blame! Anything to do with creature companions as well. These are my jam. As for the magic system, I just thought it would be interesting to have magics based on the creatures themselves. Finding the biggest and best creature—the adventure of growing alongside them. So many possibilities!
  4. Which character is your favourite and why?
    • Volke and Zelfree are tied for me. Volke because of his personality. I adore it. And Zelfree because he gets lost in his own failings sometimes—very relatable, at least to me!
  5. Does this series have a finite number of books, or could it go on forever?
    • The series is planned for 7 (plus 1) but I’ve given thought to a sequel series already. Maybe it could go on forever?
  6. Have you got plans for more books in the series?
    • I’m currently writing the fifth book, World Serpent Arcanist. So, yes! Plenty more!
  7. If you could pick any actor to play Volke, who would it be and why?
    • I would probably go with Alex Landi—but maybe someone younger? I think he might be too old now.
  8. Does the cover artwork represent something significant in each book?
    • Yes, definitely! The cover of Knightmare Arcanist has the phoenix and Volke’s black sword!
  9. What are you currently reading? What do you think of it so far?
    • I’m currently reading A Daughter of Blood by Anne Bishop. I love it! This is the third time I’m reading through it.
  10. If you could sum up this book in one sentence to make people read it, what would that sentence be?
    • Probably: a coming-of-age fantasy filled with pirates, mythical creatures, and a plague most foul!

Thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions! I hope you had as much fun as I did. And I’m looking forward to reading your books in the future.

Anthea – Proud Book Reviews

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Mid-Year Freak Out Tag – the 2020 edition

I discovered this tag last year and the lovely ladies over at The Book Duchesses reminded me it’s time to do this one again. If I’ve reviewed the book the cover will link to the review while you’ll also find links to the series pages for quite a few of them as well. Just in case you’d like to check out my reviews for the rest of the series!

Best book you’ve read so far

This book was so great. So many great characters and such a great story. Camilla did do well with this one that I decided I needed to go back and buy the first few books I haven’t read yet. Reviews for those will be coming once I’ve read them!

Best sequel you’ve read so far

It was a long two year wait for this one but man it was worth it! Sean definitely knows how to write suspense and thriller! The Circle-A Killings title didn’t make sense to me until I read it. But it fits perfectly and such a great follow up!

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

I totally forgot this one was coming out until I saw someone’s review of it! It’s one both my partner and I want to read. Maybe we’ll read it this yr. Maybe not?

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Definitely Our Time! I haven’t even read the second or third book but I’m already looking forward to this one!

Biggest disappointment

I was really disappointed with this one. I loved Kristin’s books last yr, but Rise of Gaia just didn’t do it for me.

Biggest surprise

I’m not really a fan of YA but Devri Walls totally surprised me with Venators! To me it read more like a NA rather than YA which explains why I liked it.

I’ve already read the sequel and the third book is coming out shortly so hopefully I’ll get to read that one this yr too.

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)

I had quite a few new authors this year, but DL Orton tops the cake. So much so I’m planning to read the next 3 books in the series this year!

But I also wanted to give Darryl A. Woods and Devri Walls shout out’s coz I really enjoyed their books!

Newest fictional crush

Jamie Carter from If I Never Met You. He’s what my partner would say is a guy that has “just the right amount of ass hole”. That guy that is nice, friendly, caring etc but at the same time not 100% PC in a way that makes him amazing.

Newest favourite character

This one was so hard!!! I like characters for different reasons. I decided to go with When Adam Met Evie because it’s set in Australia, reminded me so much of our beautiful country and at the same time stayed down to earth.

With everything Adam has going on in his life, he still managed to make his own decisions and do what was best for him. To me, that says a lot about his strength of character.

Book that made you cry

The whole Lisa Miller and AJ Williams series made me cry. Although I read Lisa’s trilogy last year and AJ’s this year so I guess his is the one I’m putting here.

Favourite book to film adaptation you’ve seen this year

I’m not sure I can count Lord of the Rings so I’m going with this. But we also re-watched LOTR a few weeks ago and I do love those movies.

Favourite review you’ve written this year

I loved Of Night and Dark Obscurity and I’m really happy with how I was able to write about it without ruining the story. Because that would’ve been too easy to do!

I might also be super proud of the banner I made for it! I mean, look at how pretty this is! This book’s cover is just amazing and made it so easy to make a pretty banner!

Most beautiful book you’ve bought or received this year

I don’t really buy many physical books so I don’t see many pretty covers. But I did buy this so I could read and review it (eventually) and it is pretty nice.

What book(s) do you need to read by the end of this year

OMG! So many! I’ve committed to the Aussie Author Challenges and I still need to read:

  • The Alchemist’s Key
  • Stray
  • Thief’s Magic
  • Ballarat Character Vol 1
  • The Landing
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife
  • Altered Carbon (need to finish it, I’m about halfway through)
  • Thirty-Eight Reasons
  • And an unknown book that has a main character who’s name starts with “U” (I need help with this one, any suggestions please give them to me!!!)

So I might have totally forgotten how difficult this is! For some of them I felt like I had too many choices, while for others I didn’t have enough!

I hope you had fun playing along with me!

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Wrap Up – June

This month has only been reviews but I’m so glad I was able to keep up with my schedule. I’m slowly getting back on track so hopefully I’ll get back to being about 3-4 weeks ahead so I don’t have to stress soon!

Out of 9 reviews I’m actually surprised only 3 are romance given my penchant for reading romance since blogging. You’ll hopefully continue to see a good mix of genres in the future, but you never know!

My Fav

This was so incredibly close to Crossing in Time but If It’s Only Love only just won out. Probably because it’s the end of the series. It wow’d me in so many good ways and I just loved every minute of it!

My review for this is coming in June so you’ll need to come back then to see all my thoughts. Sorry!

But please also check out Crossing in Time coz I’ll be reading the rest of the series (what’s available) in the next few months so I’ll be sharing those reviews closer to the release date of the next book to be released.

My Least Fav

I’m actually hating that I have to put The Summoned Ones as my least fav book for this month. Like, I gave it 4 stars! That’s not a bad book!

It just happened that I liked the others a smidgen more than this one.

Darryl is a debut author and I’ve given him some feedback above what I’ve written in my review because I really want to see him succeed and continue to publish books. They were all minor things that many authors publishing through publishing houses could improve on too.

Please go and read my review, check out his site and show some support coz I really wanna read the next book and I know a few of you would enjoy this as well.

Bookish Goals Progress

I’m kicking butt at reading more sci-fi. Found a new series so be prepared for the rest of the series coming to you in the coming months!

My GoodReads goal is going well. I’ve read 42 books this year out of the 80 I said I wanted to read. So at halfway through the year I’m just over halfway through my goal! YAY!

My Aussie challenges aren’t going as fast as I thought they would. I really need to make time to read those books! I’ve read 30% of the Aussie Author Bingo (no change since last month) and 72% of the A-Z of Characters challenge (up from 64% last month).

Although I’m almost at the point of asking if I can use a character with U in the name somewhere rather than as the first letter of their first or last name. I just can’t seem to find a book I want to read, or plan to read that fulfils this one!

Personal Goals Progress

Yea these are pretty much on hold. LOL!

Running has stopped for a few reasons. 1, it’s too bloody cold and my treadmill isn’t good for my running program and 2, I don’t trust the morons out with their dogs to keep away from Bones.

Because of said morons I’ve had to pull his walking back all the way to our street and I’m only just starting to venture out to our block. We’ve had a lot of set backs thanks to COVID-19 with his anxiety and stuff. But we’re making progress again so I’m hoping I can keep that forward momentum.

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Wrap Up – April and May

It’s been two months since I’ve done one of these so I’ll be doing a wrap up for both April and May today. In that time I’ve done 14 reviews and 2 posts

I had planned on having a few more come out, but I got caught up in 50+ hour working weeks and… you know… things happened!

My Fav

Song of the Soul was the last book in the series. I enjoyed every book in this series and it was a REALLY close call between this one and Venators: Promises Forged (review coming in June).

I know not every series ends well. But Lisa didn’t let that happen this time!

You can see reviews for all seven books in the series on the Muse Chronicles page.

My Least Fav

Overall, I enjoyed Holding out for a Hero. I just found parts could be improved upon to make it amazing. It just wasn’t quite there enough for me to fully engage with it and love it like I’ve loved other books.

Check out my review to see why I thought it could be improved.

Bookish Goals Progress

Well I FINALLY finished reviewing all the books in one of Tamora Pierce’s books. I think I’ll wait until I’ve actually written all the reviews for the next world before scheduling those reviews. That way you won’t have to wait so long and with random gaps between reviews to see what I thought.

I nailed all the series reviews I had planned (Time for Alexander and the Muse Chronicles) YAY! I even have a few more planned. Some I’ve read most of, some I’ve read a couple and want to finish. But you’ll see those coming over the next few months.

I’ve read 30% of the books for the Aussie Author Bingo and 64% of the A-Z of Characters. I’ve got a few of those planned to be reviewed in the next month or so, so that number will keep going up! I’m slowly getting there!

Other than the fact I’m stuck on a book with a character whose name starts with U. I mean seriously. How have I not come across a single book where a character’s name starts with a U this year?!

Otherwise, I’m not doing so great at my reading goals. Does anyone want to help me with my book database? It’s just data entry! lol…

Personal Goals Progress

Well with this damned coronavirus going around my gym has shut down. And since I have asthma that’s triggered by the cold and we’re coming into winter where I live, I won’t be going back for a bit once it’s allowed to reopen. Coz you know. Compromised respiratory system and respiratory virus isn’t really a good mix.

I have been able to keep up my running though! I’m now up to Week 6 Day 1 (5 mins jogging, 3 mins walk, 8 mins jogging, 3 mins walk, 5 mins jogging) and going strong. I stay on the same day until I feel like I can do it comfortably before moving on.

Otherwise I’ve just been working like crazy for 2 clients. One we’re still working on the prototype (once we’ve got the template nailed they’ll be super quick to make in the future) and one is a contract where I’m employed as an individual. But it’s still doing the same work I do as my business so I’m super happy!

Anyway, assuming I can remember (and feel like looking at a screen) to schedule all my reviews as I’ve got planned, you’ll be getting one or two reviews each week until end of August.

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