[Reblog] Most Memorable Reads of 2020 #TopTenTuesday

December 29, 2020

2020 Memorable Reads:
The Top Ten List and The Categories

Most Memorable Reads of 2020 (Image: a colorful banner, confetti, and colorful baloons)

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Read in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday (winter) graphic

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

I mostly love the angst of creating top ten lists! Although it can be a daunting task, it’s my most anticipated post of the year! First, let me remind you that this list is subjective. It’s compiled of books I’ve read this year (there are always so many more great ones that I didn’t get to), and each one has made it onto this list because reading it was a memorable, emotional experience and gave me a “book hangover.”

I’m presenting my list this year in two formats: in list form and in categories. The categories part is a bit more comprehensive because I provided some runners up. Titles are links to my reviews or Amazon affiliate links. Although most titles in this post were published this year, a couple were not.

Thanks for sharing great reads with me this year!

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Top Ten Memorable Fiction Reads of 2020

(see categories below for runners up and additional selections)

1

 The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

2

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

3

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

4

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

5

 The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

6

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

7

 Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

8

 The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

9

 The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

10

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Most Memorable Nonfiction

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9-11 by Garrett M. Graff

The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah



* * * * * BONUS *****

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The Chanel Sisters [Book Review] #blogtour

January 5, 2021

The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little

The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little (cover) Image: a close up image of a woman's face...wearing red lipstick, a white fur hat, white bracelet... the image of the Eiffel Tower in the background

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Siblings, WW1

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Pictures of Coco Chanel and products from Wikipedia.

I’m delighted to take part in the Fall 2020 Blog Tours for Historical Fiction From Harlequin Trade Publishing! Thanks for the invitation. Thanks #Netgalley #HarlequinPublishing @HarperCollins for an electronic complimentary copy of #TheChanelSisters for review. All opinions are my own.

Hats…Fashion…Perfume

Raised in a strict convent orphanage, the Chanel sisters, Gabrielle (“Coco”) and Antoinette, know that they are destined for something better. They hide romantic novels and fashion magazines from strict nuns as they envision a different life. When they age out of the orphanage, Gabrielle and Antoinette set out to create a life for themselves, hoping desperately to leave their poverty behind. Finally, they establish a small hat shop on the rue Cambon in Paris. As their fashionable and well made hats gain popularity, WW1 breaks out.  Ultimately, they go their separate ways as they continue to courageously find their own places in the world.

Chanel No 5 perfume

My Thoughts:

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The Wife Upstairs [Book Review]

January 4, 2021

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (cover) Image: a glimpse of a while railing, black text on blue wallpaper with light pink flowers scattered around

Genre/Categories: domestic suspense, psychological thriller

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Thanks, #NetGalley @MacmillanAudio @Macillan.Audio for a complimentary e ARC of #TheWifeUpstairs for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

A twisty, slow-burn, domestic suspense story inspired by Jane Eyre.

Plain but street smart Jane has aged out of the foster care system and is struggling to make it on her own in a small suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. After a brief stint in a coffee shop, she becomes a dog walker in the upscale, gated community of Thornfield Estates. She supplements her income by stealing jewelry and other small items from her clients. One day while walking through the estates, she meets Eddie Rochester, a rich widower, whose wife recently died in a boating accident. Their insta attraction is complicated because Jane is running from her past and Eddie has secrets of his own.

My Thoughts:

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#6Degrees of Separation: From Hamnet to The Aviator’s Wife

January 2, 2021

#6Degrees of Separation: From Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell to The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

#6Degrees of Separation: From Hamnet to The Aviator's Wife (image of book covers talked about in post)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Women Behind Famous Men!

#6Degrees of Separation: from Hamnet to The Aviator’s Wife.

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I’ve seen this meme around for a while and Davida’s posts at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog inspired me to give it a try this year! Making connections between books is challenging, creative, and fun!

Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:

  • Link the books together in any way you like.
  • Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
  • Share these rules in your post.
  • Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
  • Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
  • Share your post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hashtag.
  • Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.

Play Along?

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (cover) Image: head shot of a young boy wearing a felt hat and a large feather lies horizontally across his eyesThis month’s prompt starts with Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and I’m thrilled because it was a favorite, top read for me in 2020.

An important aspect of the story is the woman and the family behind a famous man, so my chain is held together with this idea. Also, all of these books are written by women authors!

My Summary: “Hamnet is set in 1580s Warwickshire, England, and it is the highly imagined story of William Shakespeare’s family, especially his son, Hamnet, and his wife, Agnes (Anne). It’s the story of a marriage and family. Shakespeare and Agnes had three children. It’s also a story of grief as we know from history that Hamnet dies. O’Farrell imagines that he might have died as a result of the 1550s plague. William Shakespeare is “off-stage” for the majority of the story and is never mentioned by name (referred to as husband, father, etc.). This centers Agnes (and the children) as the main character of the story and grief as the main theme. Agnes is a beautiful woman who has some supernatural gifts of healing with herbs, is entirely devoted to family, and frequently experiences glimpses into the future.My review of Hamnet here.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (cover)First Degree. From Hamnet, I continue the central idea of the woman and family behind a famous man with My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, in which the story focuses on Eliza Hamilton.

My Summary: “A general’s daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler meets and marries Alexander Hamilton amid the union’s fight for independence and the uncertainties of war. Eliza and Alexander find themselves establishing their life together at the same time as they are at the center of our nation’s founding. Authors Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to imagine Eliza’s story as a patriot, loving wife, political partner, loyal friend, supportive sister, and devoted mother of eight.” My review of My Dear Hamilton here.

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (cover)Second Degree: Another story by the same authors is America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. This story focuses on the daughter behind the famous man.

My Summary: “A fast-paced read, this well-researched novel draws from thousands of letters and original sources as it tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph. Patsy shares her father’s devotion to their country and becomes his partner, protector, and loyal companion after the death of her mother. As a young girl, she travels with him to Paris when he becomes the American minister to France, and it is here she eventually learns of his relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave girl about her own age. According to the authors, it’s during these Paris years that Patsy falls in love with William Short, her father’s assistant and protégé who is an abolitionist and aspiring diplomat. Patsy is torn between love, principles, and family loyalty, and she questions whether she can be married to William and remain devoted to her father. This is a story of sacrifice and grit as Patsy tirelessly protects her father’s reputation and supports him as he guides and leads the nation he helped found. My review of America’s First Daughter here.

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (cover)Third Degree: The next book to involve the family of a famous man is Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Sons (Middle Grade) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This is a Middle-Grade read that is enjoyable for adults, too.

Goodreads Summary: Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston are Thomas Jefferson’s children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and while they do get special treatment – better work, better shoes, even violin lessons – they are still slaves, and are never to mention who their father is. The lighter-skinned children have been promised a chance to escape into white society, but what does this mean for the children who look more like their mother? As each child grows up, their questions about slavery and freedom become tougher, calling into question the real meaning of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Told in three parts from the points of view of three of Jefferson’s slaves – Beverly, Madison, and a third boy close to the Hemings family – these engaging and poignant voices shed light on what life was like as one of Jefferson’s invisible offspring.

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2020 Reading Stats and 2021 Goals

January 1, 2021

Happy New Year Book Worms!

2020 Reading Stats and 2021 Goals

Reflection: 2020 Reading and 2021 Goals (an open journal, a pen, a book, and a candle)

Image Source: Canva

Brace yourself for a nerdy post, bookaholics!

Have you ever set a reading goal or considered a reading challenge?

Reading in 2020

I’d love to hear from you if you analyze reading data at year’s end. Although I’ve always been analytical, I think my appreciation for using data to plan was heightened during my tenure as a teacher when I poured over student data to inform my teaching. Now, instead of looking at student achievement, I’m paying attention to my own numbers as it relates to reading achievement. I realize that while numbers are not that important in a rewarding reading life, they do reveal some trends and inform future reading choices. It’s important to me that I’m reading diversely, supporting women authors, and increasing my nonfiction percentage. While this post about the numbers is mostly a self-reflection, I hope you find it interesting and possibly motivating toward considering your own reading achievement during the past year and setting some goals for 2020.

If you’ve read ONE book this year, you’re a reader and I encourage you to celebrate that read and accomplishment!

Blog Feedback

I’d also like to know (in comments) what you’d like to see more of or less of on the blog for 2021. Has the variety thhasis year been satisfactory for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! In fact, I may put together a survey in January.

2020 has been a challenging year, but I’m also so grateful for good books and good bookish conversation! Thank you to each of my followers and visitors! Thanks for the views, comments, and shares! I appreciate EACH one!
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Best of 2020

See this post for a list of my most memorable reads in 2020.



Let’s Talk Numbers!

Total Books Read: 131

Remember….it’s really not about the numbers! It’s about the enjoyment of reading.

This is the highest number of books I’ve read since starting a book review blog and retiring….I averaged 25-30 books a year when I was teaching full time and the majority of those were read during the summer. For me in this season of life, 100 books is a comfortable number. I average two books per week and the weeks when I can only read one dense nonfiction or a 500+ page fiction are balanced out later when I can read 3 lighter, shorter books in one week.

Goodreads Challenge graphic



Books Abandoned (DNF): 7

I’m getting better at knowing my reading tastes and passing on books/genres that I know won’t be to my taste. I’m also not reluctant to abandon books that aren’t working for me. There are too many great books waiting to be read to make myself finish something that isn’t right for me at the time. Are you a fearless abandoner or a committed finisher



Women Authors: 120!

WOW! One of my goals in starting this blog is to support women authors writing about strong women and I feel like I’ve had success in this area. We’ve certainly come a long way since the days when women had to publish under a man’s name!



Diverse Reads: 16

For this number, I counted the books that take place in a culture other than my own, whose characters are ethnically different from me, and whose author is an author of color. It was my focus this year to intentionally read and promote authors of color. I have read other books in a broader sense of diversity, and it’s always my goal to read more diversely.

Library Books:

One stat I wanted to specifically track this year is the percentage of books I read that are from the library.

Library = 66 (50%)
ARC = 36 (27%)
Own = 29 (22%)

I feel great that half the books I read are from the library! Between library books and ARCs, 77% of my books are free! Great kindle deals help me buy books to own.



Fiction: (Broken Down by Sub-Genre): 113

The sub-genres add up to a bit more than 113 because a few books fall into more than one category.

Historical Fiction: 36
This is obviously a favorite sub-genre!

Literary Fiction: 4
This is a category that brings about some debate among readers….the most simple definition is that literary fiction is not genre fiction. Also, it’s known as literature written to explore the meaning of life and its issues….for example, most prestigious award recipients and national prize winners are categorized as literary fiction.

Women’s Fiction: 40
Wow! This is the first time I’ve ever read this much “women’s fiction”! There were months when these books were a balm to my pandemic brain! Again, a reader’s definition may vary….for me they are books in which most characters are women and the plot centers around women’s concerns and issues….some in this category are lighter reads that readers refer to as “beach reads” or “vacation reads.”

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense: 9
Clearly, I don’t read too much in this category because real life is scary enough….mainly, the books I read in this category are best sellers that I want to form my own opinion about. However, one of my favorite mystery series that I’ve deemed “just right” is the Inspector Armand Gamache Series by Louise Penny which is set in Three Pines.

Issue Centered: 11
The main purpose of these stories is to focus on a social or health issue. I usually enjoy these books unless they are heavily agenda driven by the author.

Middle Grade: 16
I love a great Middle Grade read! There’s some enjoyable and engaging literature in this category for adults!

Young Adult: 7
A satisfactory number for me this year.



Nonfiction (broken down into sub-genres): 18

This is a definite area for improvement for me in 2021 (although it’s 5 more than last year!) ! My goal is to have a 20% nonfiction percentage.

Memoir: 10
Memoir is a favorite form of nonfiction.

Biography: 1

Narrative Nonfiction: 0
Nonfiction written in story format.

Essay: 6

True Crime: 1
I started another one but it was a DNF after I had a bad dream! Not my fav genre!



Let’s Consider 2020 Goals and New 2021 Goals

Here are my reading goals for 2021 (please share yours in comments):
(for blog recap and goals, see this post)

Goal 1:

Goodreads Reading Challenge (determine how many books you’d like to read and track them through the Goodreads app). This is the easiest of the goals/challenges as it simply involves setting a number. This number can be adjusted throughout the year if you are reading above or below your goal. I recommend setting a reasonable goal and then raising it if necessary. My goal is 100 books. I met this goal in 2018, 2019, and 2020, and it’s reasonable that I will meet it again. Retirement and pandemic isolation help tremendously! The 2021 Goodreads challenge will be available at the first of the year. Are we friends on Goodreads?

Goodreads Challenge graphic

Goal 2:

Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge (very broad, doable categories that might provide some stretch in your reading life). With the number of books I read, this goal is fairly easy for me to achieve. It doesn’t require a sign up (unless you want to receive emails from the site). She has changed the structure of the challenge this year and I may not participate or I may use this one again for 2021. Here are the results from the 2020 challenge:

  1. A book I missed reading when I was younger (I changed this from a book published in the decade I was born because I couldn’t find one to interest me): A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; Bloomability
  2. A debut novel: The Girl With the Louding Voice
  3. A book recommended by a source you trust: Writers & Lovers
  4. A book by a local author: Lovely War
  5. A book outside your (genre) comfort zone (graphic novels): Hey Kiddo; Roller Girl
  6. A book in translation: Anxious People
  7. A book nominated for an award in 2020: Hamnet (Women’s Prize for Fiction winner); The Girl With the Louding Voice (shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize)
  8. A re-read: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (I loved it even more the second time!)
  9. A classic you didn’t read in school: The Bell Jar (modern classic); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  10. Three Books by the same author: Big Lies in a Small Town, The Silent Sister, and Necessary Lies all by Diane Chamberlain; the Harbor series (4 books) by Sheila Roberts

Goal 3:

Participate in other challenges such as:

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (especially great for bloggers and reviewers who want monthly link-up opportunities)….My Goal: read twenty-five histfic books. ***I read 36 books so I met my goal!

NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge (link-up opportunities for members of NetGalley and Edelweiss)..My Goal: read and review 10 Netgalley books (ARCs) ***I read 36 ARCs, so I exceeded this goal!

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge…My Goal: read three nonfiction books from any category. Here are the categories and what I read:

  1. Memoir: Born a Crime
  2. Disaster Event: The Only Plane in the Sky
  3. Social Science: Between Inca Walls
  4. Related to an Occupation: Rust
  5. History: Caste
  6. Feminism: She Come By It Natural
  7. Psychology: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
  8. Medical Issue: The Choice (PTSD)
  9. Nature: The Salt Path
  10. True Crime:
  11. Science:
  12. Published in 2020: Don’t Overthink It

***I almost read in every category! Many of the titles above can be considered Memoir and some were Published in 2020….so if I arrange these differently, I think I’ve read at least three in each of those categories. Shelley @ Book’d Out has created a Nonfiction Challenge for 2021 which I will participate in because of my goal to read 20% nonfiction.

Blog Audit Challenge: In January last year, I decided to participate in Jo Linsdell’s challenge in order to push myself to work on my blog. It was a great year of reflection and practical steps. My monthly posts here:

January Blog Audit Challenge–Mission Statement/Strengths & Weaknesses/Content Schedule
February Blog Audit Challenge–Information Pages
March Blog Audit Challenge–The Trimmings
April Blog Audit Challenge–Design
May Blog Audit Challenge–SEO
June Blog Audit Challenge–Links
July Blog Audit Challenge–Quality Content
August Blog Audit Challenge–Content Gap
September Blog Audit Challenge–Develop Readership
October Blog Audit Challenge–Social Networking
November Blog Audit Challenge–Media Kits and Collaboration
December Blog Audit Challenge–Stats

Jo Linsdell is offering a new blog challenge for 2021. I’m thinking about it!

Goal 4:

Based on my 2020 reading, I know I want to increase my nonfiction reading percentage. Out of 131 books read, 13 were nonfiction (14%). My goal for 2021 is to increase that to 20%.



What reading goals do you have for 2021?

goal make things happen



Happy New Year! I hope you’ve experienced some pleasurable and challenging reading in 2020 and are eagerly anticipating the reading year ahead!

Good Riddance 2020!



QOTD:

Did you meet your reading goal for 2020?

What is your 2021 Reading Goal?

Do you use a method for tracking your reads during the year?

Have you considered your best read of the year? (see my most memorable reads in this post)



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



In Movie News….

Did you see News of the World in the theater this week? Because of the pandemic, all our theaters are closed here. I’ll need to wait until it is streamed somewhere. It’s difficult to wait, though, because it’s my most anticipated movie (book to film adaptation) of the year!



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

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ICYMI

Winter 2020/2021 TBR



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© WWW.ReadingLadies.com

The Map of Salt and Stars [Book Review] #ThrowBackThursday

December 31, 2020

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
#throwbackthursday

The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar (cover)

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Mythology, Folk Tale, Magical Realism, Coming of Age, Syrian, Story Within a Story

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m eager to share my review of the compelling The Map of Salt and Stars.a page-turning story with two inspirational female protagonists.

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

The Map of Salt and Stars is really two stories. One story is contemporary and the other is a mythological folk tale that takes place 800 years earlier. In the contemporary story, Nour’s mother, a Syrian-American, a cartographer and painter of beautiful maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria after the death of Nour’s father. The mother feels a strong desire to live closer to her family. After they arrive in Syria, they experience effects of the civil war evidenced by protests and shelling in their quiet neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s home and neighborhood, she and her family and a close family friend of her father’s are forced to flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety.

The story within the story is a favorite folk tale that Nour’s father told her over and over again as a young girl. Nour loves the main character in the folk tale, Rawiya, who becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the region. Rawiya follows al-Idrisi on a journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where they encounter a mythical beast and fight epic battles.

There are strong connections between the two stories as Nour and her family are forced from their home to travel the identical route that Rawiya traveled eight hundred years earlier. Throughout the journey, Nour remembers and is inspired by the heroine of her favorite folktale as she faces similar challenges and fears.

“I am a woman and a warrior,” Rawiya said, her blade cutting into his club.
If you think I can’t be both, you’ve been lied to.

Continue here for my full review of The Map of Salt and Stars ….



QOTD:

Have you read The Map of Salt and Stars or is it on your TBR?

Blog Audit Challenge 2020: December #blogauditchallenge2020

December 30, 2020

December’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. This is the last month of the challenge.

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is opening up for business and recreation with social distancing precautions. Our area is back to increased lockdowns due to an increase in COVOD-19 cases. Hoping the vaccine will soon turn things around. Stay safe and mask up, blogging buddies!

December’s Challenge Focus: Know Your Stats

What a year this has been!

I’m thankful for my blog which kept me engaged and productive during the most difficult lockdown periods (which we’re in again here).

This is my 479th post! THANK YOU to each one who has followed my blog! I’m grateful for EACH visit, view, comment, and share. It’s a joy to share books and the reading life with you!

giphy

I hope you’ve enjoyed this year-long Blog Audit Challenge series! I’m doing something in this post that I do every month and every year’s end…analyze stats!

Are you a stats nerd like me? As a teacher, I grew dependent on stats (assessments) to inform my teaching, and that habit has carried over into blogging.

Each blogger is on her or his own journey in blogging and some may look at these stats and think mine are paltry while others might be amazed or even jealous. I always hesitate to share stats because I DO NOT want to promote any bad feelings or look like a clueless amateur. I simply share my stats in hopes that it will give you an authentic look at someone’s newish blog (3 1/2 years) and give you a realistic picture of what a blogger can accomplish in that time with a substantial amount of consistent effort. I work hard at writing content and promotion, so that is reflective in my stats.

1

Check Analytics

So far, I’ve only used the WordPress tools to check my blog stats. One of my blogging goals next year is to activate Google Analytics for a more in-depth look. How do you determine success? When I first started blogging, I relied heavily on page views to rate my success. Currently, I look at the number of comments (engagement) to evaluate success. So even though views are progressing nicely, I am especially interested in the number of comments which demonstrate that followers are reading and engaging with my content. After three plus years, I can finally compare year-to-year progress, so below you will see my stats for three years:

2018 (first full year of blogging)
* Views: 13,652
* First Time Visitors: 7,696
* Comments: 605

2019
* Views: 60,910
* First Time Visitors: 35.5k
* Comments: 2,044

2020
* Views: 118.3k
* First Time Visitors: 73.1k
* Comments: 3,422

I think the jump from 2018 to 2019 can be attributed to an increase in more posts per week, participating in more memes (such as Top Ten Tuesday), consistent social promotion, and more discussion posts. Over the 3 1/2 years, my total views  = 196.2k; total visitors = 118.4k; and my best daily view record = 852.

Other interesting stats include:

* Search Terms: One of the most important stats to look at in my opinion! Why or how do people end up on your blog? Overwhelmingly, “book recommendations” in some form are among my highest search terms. Other popular search terms include “book club discussion questions,” other “book club” related searches, a specific “book title,”and  “summary” or “synopsis.” I look at Search Terms every week! First, it’s interesting and Second, they can inspire a post (for example, one search term was “light histfic for women”….I can create a post about that!). Third, these Search Terms can be added to your future blog posts: for instance, I try to remember to include the word “book club” somewhere in my content as it’s one of my highest search terms!

* Average Word Count (important for SEO): my average word count for 2020 is 845 (my shorter meme posts bring down this average). I think my word count is in the acceptable range especially since many of my posts have higher word counts.

* Most Viewed Posts: It’s also informative to look at your most viewed posts. In 2017 (blogged for 6 months): 2017 Really Recommendable Reads (views); in 2018 Where the Crawdads Sing (495 views); in 2019 Where the Crawdads Sing (7,777 views)….I’m certainly happy I read and reviewed that book!); in 2020 The Book of Lost Friends (7, 447 views). My conclusion is that although a discussion post or memes are great for entertainment and variety, my book reviews and book recommendation posts still receive more views. Is this true for you, too? Which post of yours has received the most views?

* Referrers: In 2020 my top referrers are: Search Engines: 62.8k; WordPress Reader: 5,480k; Pinterest: 2,517; Instagram: 897; Twitter: 911; Facebook: 802 (Thus my opinion: it’s beneficial to promote across all platforms! Every view counts!)

* Domain Authority (DA): This is something I look at once a month for free at the MOZ Domain Analysis site. DA is a search engine ranking score that predicts a website’s ability to rank on search engine results pages. The score is from 0-100: 25 is an acceptable score for small bloggers, 40-50 is considered average, 50-60 is good, and over 60 is excellent. To give you an idea, Modern Mrs. Darcy has a domain score of 54 and she’s a HUGE blogging success. I’m not trying to compete with her. If you’re curious, you can type any website into the domain checker and find our their DA! Amazon’s is 96! Our host, Jo Linsdell’s, is 30! Congrats Jo! The free domain checker gives you a certain number of opportunities for free each month. Why do I care about DA? Well, once on Twitter, a blogger was asking for bloggers for a collaboration or a guest post or something….she indicated that she was looking for bloggers with a DA of 20 something (I can’t remember the exact number now. But it sent me down a rabbit hole to find out about DA and if I had it and what my score was. My first DA score was a dismal 13 …. then it went from 16 to 18 to 21 to 23 to 25 (yay!) down to 22 (what?!), up to 23, and currently 22 (again). I have no idea about the algorithms of DA but I do know that SEO is part of it in some way.  In my investigation into DA I have discovered these contributing factors:

  • Quality Content
  • SEO best practices
  • Internal Linking (you want to reduce your bounce rate and encourage readers to stay on your blog and look around)…for example, I linked to my May Blog Audit Challenge on SEO above.
  • High Quality External Links (remove broken links…I update one old post per week and I’m surprised by the number of broken links I find!)
  • (Increase) Publishing Frequency
  • Friendly Website (speed, headings, structure, mobile friendly, etc)
  • A Domain Name That Describes Your Niche
  • Social Promotion

If you are a NEW blogger and feel overwhelmed by this information, choose one thing to focus on this month or next year! It’s taken me 3 1/2 years to work on these items and I still have a list of areas that I need to improve or implement!

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Most Memorable Reads of 2020 #TopTenTuesday

December 29, 2020

2020 Memorable Reads:
The Top Ten List and The Categories

Most Memorable Reads of 2020 (Image: a colorful banner, confetti, and colorful baloons)

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Read in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday (winter) graphic

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

I mostly love the angst of creating top ten lists! Although it can be a daunting task, it’s my most anticipated post of the year! First, let me remind you that this list is subjective. It’s compiled of books I’ve read this year (there are always so many more great ones that I didn’t get to), and each one has made it onto this list because reading it was a memorable, emotional experience and gave me a “book hangover.”

I’m presenting my list this year in two formats: in list form and in categories. The categories part is a bit more comprehensive because I provided some runners up. Titles are links to my reviews or Amazon affiliate links. Although most titles in this post were published this year, a couple were not.

Thanks for sharing great reads with me this year!

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Top Ten Memorable Fiction Reads of 2020

(see categories below for runners up and additional selections)

1

 The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

2

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

3

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

4

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

5

 The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

6

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

7

 Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

8

 The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

9

 The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

10

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Most Memorable Nonfiction

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9-11 by Garrett M. Graff

The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah



* * * * * BONUS *****

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December 2020 Reading Wrap Up

December 28, 2020

December 2020 Reading Wrap Up

December 2020 Reading Wrap Up (collage of book covers)

How was your December reading?

December was a twelve book reading month, but it weighed in heavily on the “meh” side with only one five-star read, four four-star reads, six three-star reads, and one two-star read. Find all my December reads listed below in order of Star Rating. Keep in mind that I normally recommend five- and four-star reads on the blog; three-star reads receive mixed reviews from me for various reasons; and two-star reads are books that were not for me. One-star reads are usually shelved as DNF.

My favorite read of the month is The Girl From the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat (histfic).

Did we read any of the same books?

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Titles are Amazon affiliate links and my available reviews are linked
.


The Girl From the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat (cover) Image: a young woman stands next to a bicycle in a field overlooking a small village as airplanes fly overhead

The Girl From the Channel Islands (ARC) by Jenny Lecoat

5 Stars. (ARC). Compelling and memorable WW11 histfic.
Pub Date: 2/2/2021 Review coming soon.


The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner (cover) Image: blue-toned picture of a woman and young girl holding hands and walking down railroad tracks with backs to camerai

The Nature of Fragile Things (ARC) by Susan Meissner

4.5 Stars. (ARC.)  Histfic (San Francisco Earthquake)/Suspense/Mystery/Family Drama mashup. Pub Date: 2/2/2021. Review coming soon.


The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles (cover) Image: a woman sits on a wall with her back to the camera overlooking the Eiffel Tower in the distance

The Paris Library (ARC) by Janet Skeslien Charles

4 Stars (ARC). WW11 histfic featuring the American Library of Paris. A book about books. Pub Date: 2/9/2021. Review coming soon.


the Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little (cover) Image: a tight shot of a woman's downcast face wear red lipstick, a white beaded bracelet and white feather trimmed hat....the Eiffel Tower in the background

The Chanel Sisters (ARC) by Judithe Little

4 Stars (ARC). Interesting imagined story of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel from her sister’s perspective. Pub Date: 12/29/2020. Review coming soon.


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Merry “Pandemic” Christmas!

December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas to Everyone Who Celebrates!

We are ready here!

Santa's Sidekick

,

Luke Bryan, O Holy Night

Josh Groban, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

(my fav verse)

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Do you love Flash Mobs?

“Hallelujah Chorus”

Merry Christmas