Sammi Loves Books – Year in Review 2016

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2016 has been a great year for books.  The over-riding theme for the year was “read, review and recycle,” (by recycle, I mean donating to charity or giving away to friends and family).  The reason for this: I have finally realised I have an addiction to books; when you have bookshelves in front of bookshelves and piles of books on each step of the stairs, you know you have a problem…That’s not to say that every book I read and review was removed from the house, only the books I couldn’t imagine reading again.  It’s a start at least, and something I will carry with me into 2017.

I’m once again surprised that I only read and reviewed 56 stories / books this year, exactly the same as last year, which I am more than a little disappointed with.  Next year I am determined to have written at least 57 reviews.  However, my Goodreads reading challenge only reckons I’ve read 8, but then my goal was 72.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get to grips with updating Goodreads on a regularly basis, something I have failed to do since I signed up there years ago…

A Few Highlights

  • Getting a signed paperback copy of Vastian Lore by S.C. Gregory from the author via a giveaway on her blog.
  • Receiving a paperback copy of The Devil’s Chalice by D.K. Wilson from the publisher.

Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2016

This is how my top ten list stands at the end of the year:

  1. The Ambassadors’ Mission (Trudi Canavan)
  2. One Corpse Too Many (Ellis Peters)
  3. The Devil’s Chalice (D.K. Wilson)
  4. Venus in Copper (Lindsey Davis)
  5. The Raven’s Head (Karen Maitland)
  6. A Clash of Kings (George R. R. Martin)
  7. Just Breathe (Sarah Doughty)
  8. Glass Houses (Rachel Caine)
  9. The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
  10. Death of a Cad (M.C. Beaton)

Reading Challenges

Indie Only Month 2016:

My favourites were “Just Breathe” and “Vastian Lore” – I adored them both.

Historical Fiction Month 2016:

My favourites were “The Devil’s Chalice” and “Venus in Copper”, closely followed by “The Raven’s Head” and “Dissolution”.

Festive Reads Fortnight 2016:

So that is my year in books summarised.  I hope you all had a great 2016, and wishing you a 2017 filled with good books!

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Sammi Loves Books – Year In Review 2015 Part 2

In Part 1 I looked over the reading themes and challenges I set myself for the year.  In Part 2 I shall look over the books I read and reviewed in 2015…

2015 stats

The figures were less than I was expecting…

  • I read and reviewed 56 stories this year – which is less than 2014, whose total was 63 😦
  • 35 of the reviews were for full-length novels
  • 21 of the reviews were for short stories

My Favourite Books of 2015

This is how my list of favourite reads of the year ended up:

  1. Shadows In Bronze (Lindsey Davis)
  2. The Silver Pigs (Lindsey Davis)
  3. A Morbid Taste for Bones (Ellis Peters)
  4. The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland)
  5. The Apothecary Rose (Candace Robb)
  6. Cocaine Blues (Kerry Greenwood)
  7. Except the Dying (Maureen Jennings)
  8. The Devil in the Marshalsea (Antonia Hodgson)
  9. Nefertiti (Michelle Moran)
  10. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind) / The First Horseman (D.K.Wilson)

I must say that towards the end of the year it became harder and harder to add books to this list because I hated the idea of displacing other titles that were already there, and I do believe a number of them also deserve a mention:

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Aberystwyth Mon Amor by Malcolm Pryce
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn
The Duchess and The Doll by Ellis Peters (Short Story)
Death of A Gossip by M.C.Beaton

Books I read but have yet to get around to reviewing…

I read much quicker than I review, so there are always books that slip through my review-net.  There is no reason for it, only that there are not enough hours in the day.  That being said, the books will remain on my desk until I have reviewed them…no matter how long it takes…

So which books are still waiting to be reviewed:

  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  • Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwall

The most popular reviews of the year were:

  1. The Sphinx Without A Secret by Oscar Wilde – Short Story Review
  2. The Black Veil by Charles Dickens – Short Story Review
  3. The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side by Agatha Christie – Book Review
  4. The Judges House by Bram Stoker – Short Story Review
  5. The Necklace by Guy du Maupassant – Short Story Review

Hope you all had a good 2015, and wishing you all a 2016 full of good books!

Sammi Loves Books – Year in Review 2015 Part 1

So, with my final reading challenge concluded on Christmas Day, I thought it would be apt to begin a look back over 2015 by reviewing the themes and challenges I set myself…

Quoting the Classics

This was supposedly a year-long challenge, the aim of which was to find 52 quotes from classic books that I really liked or found inspiring.  Posting every Monday was the plan, but it slipped.  I think I was all right until I hit the three month mark, where I fell behind and began posting the quotes to play catch-up.  I finally gave up in October after posting week 32, which was of course, late…

So, out of the 32 quotes I posted, here are my top five favourites:

(To see the full list, click here)


Wuthering Heights Quote


The Wind in the Willows


Dracula quote


Peter Pan quote


Eleonora quote


Shall I be setting myself such a challenge again?  I am not sure.  Certainly not for 2016.  This year has made me realise that I need to be smarter with the time I have available for this blog, and the most important thing is that I write book reviews.  Perhaps when I have more time on my hands…

Indie Only Month

I really enjoyed some of the books that I read for 2015’s Indie Only Month.  July is a time when I allow myself to only read Indie authors and review Indie books.  This year I posted seven reviews for this challenge, my favourites being:

Xoe: or Vampires and Werewolves and Demons, Oh My! by Sara C. Roethle

Lost Cause by JL Simpson

These were two great reads, one being a paranormal YA and the other being a modern murder mystery staring a woman sleuth.

(To see the complete list of titles that were read and reviewed during Indie Only Month 2015, click here)

Historical Fiction Month

Hot on the heels of Indie Only Month is a month completely dedicated to historical fiction.  This year, although I read all the books during August, a number of the reviews were not posted until September…

For this challenge I posted seven reviews, and I can honestly say I loved each and every one of those books, hence it would be difficult for me to name by favourites.  Five of the books were written by some of my favourite authors, Karen Maitland, Ellis Peters, Lindsey Davis and Candace Robb.  However, the other two books were written by authors I had not read full-length novels by before, Elizabeth Elgin and Edward Marston, and I was not disappointed.  The majority of these books found their way into my top ten reads of the year.

(To see the complete list of titles that were read and reviewed during Historical Fiction Month 2015, click here)

Festive Reads Fortnight

To end the year, I realised that I hadn’t read that much festive fiction and I decided to remedy that and I am really glad I did.  I think this challenge was a great way to end the year, and makes a great addition to my yearly read and review schedule.

In the two weeks leading up to Christmas, I read five festive reads, ranging from historical fiction to modern romance to a Christmas classic.  Again I was introduced to authors I had never come across before, which is one of the reasons I love these reading challenges so.

My favourite festive read was definitely Home for Christmas by Melissa McClone as it just inspired such festive feelings as I read it.

(To see the complete list of titles that were read and reviewed during Festive Reads Fortnight 2015, click here)

And so, that brings to a conclusion my reading themes and challenges for another year, and I can’t wait for them to come around again. 🙂

Author Spotlight: Carol J Forrester

These days I find I am really enjoying short works of fiction, something that I discussed in Musings…Short Stories and Flash Fiction (click here), and which in turn introduced me to the work of Carol J Forrester…

* * *

Carol J Forrester writes beautifully.  If you check out her site, you will find plenty of poetry, short stories and pieces of flash fiction to keep your inner reader content for…well…a long time 🙂  There is so much to choose from I hardly knew where to begin.

So I took my time exploring…What I quickly came to realise as I began reading was that her writing style is both elegant and versatile, often leaving you wondering what happened before and after the piece you have just read, drawing you in.  She also has an amazing ability to get a lot of detail into her short pieces and each one is very readable.  Great for when you want to read something but don’t have much time on your hands.  Some pieces are thought-provoking, some will make you smile but all are well-written and evocative; I found as I read the stories they immediately came to life…

Short Stories and Flash Fiction

Under this section I came across so many short pieces that really captured the imagination and covering a number of differing subjects and genres.

Some particular favourites from the “5 Sentence Fiction” included: The One, Alley Blades and Our Secrets.  The author really knows how to make good use of those five sentences!


Our Secrets by Carol J Forrester

(used with permission)

Even when the sun found its way to England, her aunt kept the summer house boarded up and bolted shut.

“It isn’t safe.” she’d say, hands resting on Tanya’s shoulders as she steered the child back towards the main house where the rooms were filled with blooming flowers and climbing plants that wove around banisters.

When the cancer set in, years later, stripping Tanya’s aunt of everything that had made her beautiful… they found the papers.

The black and white photos which held more colour than the sunken cheeks of her aunt; a thousand smiles scattered across feet worn floorboards in a summer house Tanya had though the key was lost to.

Untouched, the summer rooms held more dust than furniture and upon the master bed lay her aunt, breath gone, clutching the photo of a woman Tanya could not recognise and her mother refused to look at or name; “she was no one, a mistake, distraction, a ghost your aunt could never let go.”


And from “100-150 Word Stories” I loved The Haunting, which is my favourite read of the day, closely followed by Our Secrets (see above).  Other favourites from section included Bliss and Shadow Twists.


The Haunting by Carol J Forrester

(used with permission)

They rattled around the house at all hours of the night. A three AM door slam then hurried whispers and broken plates. You could hear their footsteps from cellar to attic; not a single room was spared their clamour, but she’d be damned if she let them get the best of her.

When she summoned the Reverend, he simply shook his head of perpetually thinning hair and gave a blackened grin.

“I’m afraid this is a little out of my league my dear.” he said. “This is beyond your everyday exorcism. Students are somewhat trickier to evict than ghosts.”


In my opinion, this is definitely flash fiction at its best!

Headquarters

“Headquarters” is Carol’s online fiction series.  These longer pieces centre around Sasha who runs Headquarters, an international organisation set up by her grandfather to promote world peace.  Since his death however, things haven’t exactly gone to plan…

To begin reading Headquarters, check out the story’s table of contents here.  I have only read the first few chapters so far, but I am already hooked and eager to know what happens next…

And did I mention she has published a book of her poetry, Before the Words Run Out…

To read some of Carol’s fabulous writing – and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed – why not check out her site: caroljforrester.wordpress.com