2016 wrap-up – our top books and reading goals

Aaaaaand that’s a wrap on 2016! Despite all the crapness of this year, reading was one thing that went reasonably well for us. For one thing, both of us met our Goodreads Reading Challenge targets…..

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And really, what could be a better indicator of a successful year, I ask you?

Here’s a rundown of our year in reading:

 

Janelle says…

My top 5 books of the year

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

This was everything I want from a fantasy novel, and there is more to come from this series, which leaves me giddy with gleeful anticipation.

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey

Not your average zombie novel, this had a mix of genre tones, touching on science fiction, thriller, and literary. Very satisfying.

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Speaking of satisfying, this was the bookish equivalent of slipping on your comfiest trackpants, and sinking into your couch with a tub of ice cream, a spoon, and Netflix. Devilish drama.

Fear Is The Rider – Kenneth Cook

Whenever I think back to this book, my pulse quickens a notch. Clear your schedule for a few hours before cracking this one open, you won’t to get off this ride until the end.

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed

I think this will forever be a book I go back to again and again in different phases of my life, and one I recommend and gift to others repeatedly. It should be on everyone’s shelves, liquid gold for the soul.

 

My reading goals

I originally set my Goodreads reading challenge goal at 36 books for the year, but I crept up close to it in the second half of the year so I extended it out to 40 books. And I still managed to beat that too! This is the most I’ve ever read in one year ever, so I’m super happy! Although my final number should be 47, not 46. I read Tiny Beautiful Things again in 2016, but Goodreads only lets you assign one completion date to each book, so it’s stuck on the original date I first finished it in 2015.

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I was also taking part in the Shelf Love Challenge this year, which was basically a pledge to read your own books, in an effort to get through more of the many unread books sitting on my own shelves. My goal was to have read between 11-20 of my own books this year. I was pretty rubbish at this challenge in the first half of the year, being unable to resist the temptation of library books. But I picked up my game in the second half, with a final total of 15 books read from my own shelves. I’m not counting ARCs (advanced reader copies) or audiobooks in this final tally, because both of those types of books are ones that expire after a certain period of time. And my focus for this challenge was the physical books on my shelves. So I achieved this goal, but definitely room for improvement next year!

 

Mel says…

My top 5 books of the year

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series – Ransom Riggs 

This book series was my favourite YA of the year and the entire series makes my top 5, as each book was brilliant and unique. I couldn’t devour all 3 books fast enough, so now I just need to prepare myself for the movies. They better not ruin the bookish magic….

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

I was a little late to the party on this one, but it didn’t disappoint. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and devoured multiple packets of Tim Tams while I greased up the pages of my book, with swift page turning goodness.

Wildflower – Drew Barrymore 

This book was my second favourite read of the year. What’s not to love about Drew, really?! After reading Wildflower, all I wanted to do was make daisy chains and sit in the sun. She is just such a beautiful and pure person. Love her even more, now!

Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

I couldn’t decide between TMG or Moriarty’s other standout, Big Little Lies. But seeings as Janelle included BLL in her top 5, I’ll go with TMG. Another great guilty pleasure, full of suspense, drama and a few LOL’s. This is a great read for any fan of Moriarty, who enjoys her style of writing.

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed

By far my number one read of 2016. This book has CHANGED MY LIFE! I gifted copies of TBT to some close girlfriends, because I loved it so so much. This book is perfect for anyone who has ever said ‘WTF?’ about ANYTHING, so basically, this book is for everyone.

 

My reading goals

I initially set my Goodreads reading challenge at 15 books, as I was due to have my first baby in March and assumed that I would struggle to read much at all. But somehow I found a way and soon bypassed my initial goal somewhere in the middle of the year, so reset my goal to 23, which I achieved with 2 weeks of the year still remaining. Like Janelle, this is the most books I have ever read in a single year, so next year I hope to push myself even more and continue to explore differing genres.

 

How was your reading in 2016? Did you have any goals that you accomplished? What were your favourite reads of the year?

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Ten books I wouldn’t mind Santa leaving under my tree

I’m joining in with The Broke and the Bookish for the first time for Top Ten Tuesday, where a new Top Ten List theme is posted every week. I particularly liked this week’s theme – Ten books I wouldn’t mind Santa leaving under my tree. Very timely for those of you who may not have bought me my Christmas presents yet. You’re welcome.

1. Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf

I saw a re-run of the ABC’s Book Club recently in which they talked about this book, and all of the guests raved about it. I think one of them even claimed it was their new favourite book ever? An elderly man and elderly woman who live next door to each other start to lie in bed together at nights, sharing their thoughts and secrets. I can’t decide whether it sounds sweet, sad, or like a shitstorm waiting to happen.

2. The Sixth Extinction – Elizabeth Kolbert

I’ve got a bit of a non-fiction craving at the moment (and yet I’m currently reading fiction?), so this and the other non-fiction picks in this list are the ones I really can’t wait to get to. This one is about the so-called Sixth Extinction that will follow the previous five in the Earth’s natural history, why it is happening, and what we can or can’t do about it. Terrifying. And awesome.

3. Pandemic – Sonia Shah

Another non-fiction which is bound to scare the pants off me. This one looks at how contagious diseases have formed into deadly pandemics in the past, and the evidence that predicts another major pandemic is on its way. Hold me. Actually no, don’t touch me.

4. The Witches: Salem 1692 – Stacy Schiff

The Salem Witch Trials, through a holistic view of the social and cultural context of the time. Sounds good to me.

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5. The Emperor of all Maladies – Siddhartha Mukharjee

The subtitle is “A Biography of Cancer” – from its first appearances to the modern day race to find a cure. I’ve heard nothing but good things.

6. The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

A young girl is brought up in the woods by a gruff man named Trapper. She sees him on a Wanted poster in town, and then understandably runs away, with the police hot on her heels.

7. The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

When Ann from the Books on the Nightstand podcast said this was probably her favourite book, I just knew I would need to read it. Humans discover extra-terrestrial life, and a religious sect sends a secret mission out into space to make contact.

8. Vengeance Road – Erin Bowman

This just sounds like a delicious Western, perfect for summer. The description makes me think of Red Dead Redemption (my favourite video game ever).

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9. The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer

This sounds like one of those really deep novels where you follow a bunch of characters through the majority of their lives, and you just become immersed in them and their struggles and self-discovery.

10. Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

Given how much I adored both Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I think this would be right in my wheelhouse of books that inspire me, make me feel worthy and fill me with courage.

 

So, if you’re reading this Santa, all or any combination of the above would make me a very happy lady this Christmas!

Have you read any of the books listed above? What books would you like to receive for Christmas this year?

 

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The Littlest Blogger of Books

We have some very exciting news to share with you!

Last Friday at 7am, Mel gave birth to her first child, a beautiful little baby girl called Phoebe.

Everything went well with no complications, and everybody is healthy, happy and feeling good! The little family has settled in at home and are now finding their rhythm.

Mel will be taking some “maternity leave” from the blog, so I’ll be keeping the lights on by myself for a while!

See you again soon for some more bookish stuff.

Janelle

 

Our 2015 in books, and reading goals for 2016

2015 was a GREAT year in books, and for our personal reading adventures! What could be more fun than reliving it, with a little wrap-up and a forward glance at our bookish 2016.

 

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Janelle’s wrap-up

How many books did you read in 2015?

37 – which is teeny in the grand scheme of book bloggers and lovers all over, but it was a huge reading year for me!

Did you complete your Goodreads challenge?

And then some – boom!

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Best book/s you read in 2015?

That’s so tough, what a mean question! Going back through the books I rated the highest on Goodreads in 2015, I’d say my favourites were The Girl Who Slept With God, Tiny Beautiful Things (review on its way soon), A Walk In The Woods, Bird Box, and The Magician King (Magicians Series #2).

Book/s you liked the least in 2015?

Go Set A Watchman. It wasn’t just the book itself, but the disappointment in not liking it after all the hype and excitement in the lead up to its release, I was really hoping it was going to be something. But given the nature of the book and the facts surrounding its release, I can’t blame Harper Lee for my not liking it.

How many books will you aim to read in 2016?

My new Goodreads Challenge is to read 36 books. I would usually try and capitalise on the amount I read in the previous year, but this year I plan to read some books that are more on the chunky side that will take me longer to finish.

What are your other reading aims for this year, or what do you hope to get out of your reading in 2016?

I want to read more of the books from my own shelf rather than giving into temptation and requesting library books on a spur of the moment. I own way too many books that I haven’t read!

I’d also like to finish off or at least continue with some series/collections that I’m in progress with – namely the Stieg Larsson “Girl With The” series (I’ve only read the first book, and I’m not interested in reading The Girl In The Spiders Web, technically it’s not by Larsson and that just irks me for some reason), Dan Brown’s books, and Stephen King’s Gunslinger series.

I’d also like to make a conscious effort to read some Australian fiction, I have some titles in mind already and I can’t wait.

High priority books to read in 2016?

All of the books. All of them! I’m currently reading Shantaram, which is a 930-page giant, so finishing that will be a major milestone for me as that book has been intimidating me from my bookshelf for years! There are plenty of authors who I’ve never read before and would like to try in 2016 – Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, Donna Tartt, Marilynne Robinson, and Liane Moriarty, to name a few.

As for individual books which have my interest piqued right now – The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, The Bone Clocks and Slade House by David Mitchell, The Trees by Ali Shaw, and Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett.

 

Mel’s wrap-up

How many books did you read in 2015?

I read a total of 21 books this year, which was a huge step up from previous years, while I was a full time university student!!

Did you complete your Goodreads challenge?

Sure did! Completed and surpassed it by 1 book! 21/20 *smiley face*

Best book/s you read in 2015?

Oh MAN!! Let me see; Bird Box, The Rosie Project, The Farm, The Magicians, Gone Girl….ok, I’ll be here all day.

Book/s you liked the least in 2015?

The two flops for me were Annihilation and The Fever. I had high hopes for both and was sorely disappointed.

How many books will you aim to read in 2016?

I have set my 2016 reading goal at 15 books, which is lower than last year as I am expecting my first baby in April, so from what I hear, my solo bookish days are numbered….sigh

What are your other reading aims for this year, or what do you hope to get out of your reading in 2016?

I hope to broaden my reading horizons once again, with introducing new genres into my reading and new authors. I am excited to see where I end up, book wise, by the end of 2016.

High priority books to read in 2016?

Ooh….my husband bought me a bunch of books for Christmas (best husband EVER!) and amongst those are The Divergent and Maze Runner series, so I am eager to read both. Also, Illuminae and the newest Gregory Maguire book, After Alice. Watch this space for the reviews!

 

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The end of the Harry Potter era

Janelle says…

I’m surprised that neither of us has really mentioned Harry Potter here yet. It has been such a major part of both of our reading lives. The old HP definitely deserves some word time, and so I remembered this post which I wrote for a now-deceased blog, back when the final Harry Potter movie was about to be released, waaaaaay back in 2011. Harry Potter was mentioned on a podcast I was listening to today, so many years on from its prime, and it made me wonder whether we’ll ever see a literary phenomenon like this again in our lifetimes. Read this post, and you’ll see what I mean.

This post also introduces you to our infamous “reading parties”, of which I’m sure you’ll hear more in the future. Enjoy!

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My Harry Potter books sit on the sacred top shelf of my bookcase, reserved only for my most favourite and precious books, sitting next to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and my beloved special edition of the Chronicles of Narnia (and the kind-of-scary-looking Harry Potter doll, who looks nothing like the real thing and therefore is named “Larry Trotter”).

So yes, I’m a Harry Potter fan, and it seemed fitting to write a little something in honour of the release of the final movie. While I was reading the seventh and last Harry Potter book on the day of its release, I remember saying “It’s the end of an era!“. And it really was. But I also remember saying “At least there are still some movies to come“. Now it’s really all over.

I haven’t yet seen the final movie. But I’m pretty confident it will be a fitting end to the movie series. I’m often not very happy at all with the resulting movies when good books decide to make the transition to screen. But the Harry Potter movies have been a happy exception for me.

Reading about “the end” in the newspaper, I was taken back to my own Harry Potter memories, mainly to do with the release of the last book in the series – The Deathly Hallows.

At the time of the book’s release I was lucky to be working with quite an outrageous, diverse group of people, the majority of whom were mad Potter fans. We decided to start a pool at work, to see who could guess how the series would end (or get the closest to it). The prize – the Gryffindor cup! (really just a plastic wine glass, painted with gold metallic paint and decorated). And you know, glory as well. I think my guess was something to do with Harry dying, but getting to be with his parents in death so really it was a happy ending, or something like that. I lost, but it was fun to bring Pottermania to the workplace nonetheless, and somehow I don’t see any other phenomenon extending in to the office in the near future.

My sister is a huge fan like myself, and really, can be credited with introducing me to the land of Potter. Consuming the books and later, seeing the movies, was something we had in common and would talk endlessly about. When the final book was about to be released we pre-ordered it, and then both took the release day off work (as planned leave, not sickies, relax!). There we were, at the mall at 7:30am or some ridiculous time in the morning, standing in the queue and talking excitedly about the possibilities for the ending of the series, that would soon enough be revealed when we got our hands on the sacred text. We stood in that line for hours, it stretched from the carpark all the way in to the middle of the mall, and up on to the centre stage where you would hand over your pre-order receipt and be presented with your prize. I think I nearly squealed when I was handed the purple enviro-bag with my hardcover Deathly Hallows inside.

We then took our books back to my place, find ourselves a comfy spot on the couch, opened to the first page and began reading in silence. Have you ever sat with someone in silence, reading the same thing? It really is a much stranger experience than it sounds. Our reading was interrupted regularly with gasps as one of us would reach some surprising moment in the story, followed by a narrow-eyed glance from the other one, and then giggles. Occasionally, something along the lines of this-

Oh my God! Have you read page 34 yet?!

Not yet, I’m about to turn on to that page. What’s going to happen? Wait for me!

No way! I’m not waiting, it’s too exciting!

Then we’d do the thing we did to each other as kids to annoy one other while we were reading – in the silence, one would start muttering the text under their breath so it was barely audible, just to throw the other one off, then we’d burst in to laughter.

By dinner time, we were both only about 3/4 of the way through the book, and it was time for her to go home. It had been such a great day, even though not much had been spoken between us since we had opened our books, it was still really fun to share that day with her and probably one of my favourite memories with my sister.

My husband knew to leave me alone for the rest of the night. As long as I had my nose buried in that book, no one and nothing else existed really (sorry darling). So I lay in my spot on the couch and read the book until I was finished, at times exclaiming “Nooo!” and “What?!” out loud. I remember bawling my eyes out in the last chapter, and then when I finally read over the last sentence and closed the cover, I sadly dragged myself in to the room where my husband was, teary-eyed, whining “I can’t believe it’s over“.

But at least I still had the rest of the movies to look forward to.

Harry Potter will always remain on my top shelf, and will always be one of those series that I go back to over and over again. In fact, I might start on them again once I’ve finished my current book!

I look forward to the time when Mia is finally old enough for me to say “Let’s start a new bedtime book, Mia. How about this one, it’s one of Mummy’s all-time favourites – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. You’re going to love it!

A quick bookish interview with your hosts!

Just for fun, we decided to ask each other 5 questions about our reading selves. You can tell so much about a person by their reading habits and opinions, don’t you think? If you’re feeling curious, you can ask us questions too! Leave us a comment below.

Hey Mel…

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Mel and her bookcase

What was your ultimate favourite book/s as a child?

I would read anything by R.L. Stine and the Babysitters Club series. Thankfully my school libraries always had the entire series, so I would work my way through each book during class (don’t tell my teachers!)

If you could be any character from a book you’ve read, who would you like to be?

This is a tough one. I didn’t want to say someone that most would expect, Harry Potter *cough* Hermione *cough*.

As a fellow spouse-to-a-non-reader, how do you cope with that? I find it frustrating, to be honest…

It irks me that I can’t recommend books to the husband, or that he doesn’t recommend reads to me. Also, reading time in bed is so relaxing and then he will climb into bed with the iPad and watch videos which I find really distracting as I’m trying to get into a story. JUST START READING ALREADY!

What reading goals would you really like to kick this year? Eg. A certain number of books read? Experimenting with a new genre?

I would like to get into authors I have never read before. I have begun my first Stephen King novel and am kicking myself that I have never read his stuff before.

Next on your reading list?

I would like to read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. It has great reviews and sounds really different from my normal comfort reading zone. *Janelle says – Ha Ha, I scored the next copy at the library before you :p

Hey Janelle…

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A “shelfie” from Janelle’s house

As a parent of two small children, which book/s are you most excited for your children to read when they are old enough?

Oh, I think you know the answer to this one. I have been daydreaming about reading the Harry Potter series to my children, since before they were even born! It’s hard to hold off considering my eldest, Mia, is 5 now, but in my heart of hearts I still think she’s too young for us to start. Soon, my precious, soon….

If you could live in one book forever, what book would it be and why?

Eat Pray Love? Pretty sure I could handle not working and travelling the globe to “find myself” instead! Plus, there’s food, and yoga. Sign me up! I mean, ideally without the emotionally devastating divorce beforehand.

If you could only read 3 books in a year, what books would they be?

Now that’s just cruel! Why? Why would you only limit me to 3?!

Instead of choosing books that I know and love, I’m going to go with books that I have been dying to read. I would choose Bird Box by Josh Malerman, The Martian by Andy Weir, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

What genre of books do you tend to shy away from and why?

I have turned my back on romance up to this point, which I wrote about here. But I am definitely open to changing that!

When someone asks you for book recommendations, what book/s do you find you tend to recommend more than others?

I don’t get asked a lot for recommendations, but more just get involved in conversations with people about books we’ve read. BUT the book I’ve been telling everyone to read since I read it myself, is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. An instant favourite for me, so good.

What about you – how would you answer some of those questions?

Joining in with The Weekend Rewind over at Maxabella’s

Here we are!

Begin communication!

Hi, we’re Janelle and Mel, and this is our Little Blog of Books. Nice to meet you!

We’re going to get rolling soon with some actual bookish content, starting with a joint review of our first “buddy-read”, and then we’ll each be posting about the books we’ve been individually reading, and along the way we’ll throw in some other random fabulousness.  You know what else would be fabulous? If you kept coming back to visit and talk to us. Let us know if you’ve read what we’ve just read, or if you’re reading it right now, or if you’re planning to read it soon, or if our reviews have turned you off or on to something, or if you’re reading something else entirely and it’s got nothing to do with anything we’re talking about except that it’s a book. If it’s about books, you’ve got our attention!

In the meantime, you can check out our About Us page for more juicy goss on what we’re planning to do here, and who the hell we are anyway. And follow us! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, your blog reader of choice – whatever, we’re in all of those places! Because The Internet! Scroll to the bottom of this page for all the juicy details.

See you again soon.

 

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