Posted in blogging

My Top 5 Blogging and Reading Goals for 2020

Not gonna lie, I’m a little afraid to write this post. Last year was the first time I’ve ever put a clear list of goals “on paper” and I achieved exactly… ZERO!!

In my defense, last year was a year of the unexpected. How’s that joke go…? If you wanna make God laugh, tell Him your plans? Well, God was doing some serious belly laughing at me in 2019!

When 2019 started, we were something similar to empty-nesters. My oldest daughter was away at college, my youngest was living with her father in another county, and it was just my husband and me in an eerily silent home, figuring out life without any kids begging for our attention 20+ hours of the day.

By the end of 2019 we had six kids – Four of which were under four years of age and I honestly can’t remember the last time it was quiet here for more than 5 minutes except for nap and bedtime!!

In the “calm” before our home became something resembling a 24-hour daycare, I set up my recording studio in a closet under our stairs and began earnestly working on my audiobook career. After the youngest four of our tribe moved in, I found myself with more work than I could handle and keeping up with my blog was impossible! Plus, I just didn’t feel like it.

Even thinking about writing a blog post began causing anxiety attacks. So, for the sake of my mental health and the general well-being of everyone around me, my online life became close to non-existent while we were all adjusting to a new “normal.”

It took quite some time, but I’ve figured out how to continue narrating and producing audiobooks amidst the chaos. Every day brings at least three unexpected twists, but I don’t think I’ve ever been happier…which, now that I’m thinking about it, is pretty freaking odd. I mean, I’m probably more stressed/worried on a regular basis, but in some ways I’m more calm and laidback and…well… Happy.

And that happiness has finally extended to a desire for my website as well. I’m feeling excited about connecting with other book lovers and sharing my life and thoughts with my online peeps again. Which is something I haven’t felt since I first started blogging a couple years ago.

But that’s not really the point of this post. The whole topic is supposed to be what I want to accomplish on my blog and combing through the pages of my TBR in 2020. Instead, I once again managed to create a whole other post within a post.

Moving on…

Here are my goals for 2020:

1. Read and review at least 52 books! I wasn’t able to get much reading accomplished last year. Even when I did, I didn’t have it in me to jump online and review them. But I pretty much transformed into a reading and knitting machine in the last month or so and I’m looking forward to continuing that throughout the year!

2. Post at least 5 times a week. I’ve managed to put together a blogging planner for January that includes a post every day except Sundays! Not sure if I’ll be able to keep up that level of planning and writing the entire year, but I feel like I’m off to a great start.

3. Reestablish links with other book bloggers. One of the best parts of talking about books online is that there are so many incredibly supportive people in the community. I’ve really missed that as my “real” life took me farther and farther away from my life online. I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone again!

4. Promote my audiobooks. So I’m pretty much the worst when it comes to self-promo and marketing. I don’t know if it’s because I hate talking about myself or that I worry too much about coming across as pushy or what, but everytime I think about mentioning I’ve narrated a new book, I literally get itchy! Like right now…my left arm feels like I’ve managed to get chicken pocks! Ugh.

Anyway, I plan on dedicating one post a week to talking about what I’m working on in my studio, what’s already out, and what I’m planning on doing next.

5. Giveaways!!! I only got to do one giveaway last year. It was so exciting and much more fun than I’d expected. I really want to do at least three in 2020, and more if possible!

So there you have it. My top 5 blogging/reading goals for the year 2020. What are your goals? If you’ve posted a 2020 goals post, leave me a link below so I can check them out!

Thanks for visiting and Happy New Year!

Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald

BOOK REVIEW: Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonaldBehind Every Lie by Christina McDonald
Published by Gallery Books on February 4, 2020
ISBN: 1501184040
Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Synopsis

If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?
Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.
Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.
Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.


This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

I received this book for free from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

If you read my review of The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald then you know why I was excited to read Behind Every Lie. I absolutely loved the way McDonald portrayed the mother-daughter relationship in The Night Olivia Fell. It was emotional, complicated and made the characters come alive for me. I expected the same kind of emotional thriller novel in Behind Every Lie, but it was much more of a straight-out suspense/mystery than being emotionally driven.

Normally, I talk about what I loved about a novel first, but this time I want to get what didn’t work for me out of the way first – mostly because it has a lot to do with how I’ve reviewed the book. I enjoyed the story itself and the characters, but there was a lot that was just hard to believe. I’m a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan so my ability to suspend disbelief is pretty high up there. Behind Every Lie requires that you believe in a series of consequences that, taken by themselves may not be that unbelievable, but when combined just ruined my ability to pretend what I was reading was anything other than make-believe.

Another problem I had with this story wasn’t so much to do with the writing itself, but because I had recently listened to the audiobook Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil. While the plots of the two stories are nothing alike, the characters and their relationships are essentially the same. The result was that I figured out almost every plot twist just because I knew how the relationships were going to play out.

All that being said, I still really enjoyed this book. I’m definitely a fan of the way Christina McDonald writes and this would probably be a full 4- or 5-star book for me, if not for the issues I pointed out above.

I’ve become a fan of books written from different perspectives, but it’s hard to pull this off well and so there are few stories I can even read like this. But Christina McDonald has perfected this way of storytelling. In Behind Every Lie, the story goes back and forth between Eva and her mom, Kat. Kat has been murdered and Eva is suspected of being the murderer. The relationship between Kat and Eva had recently become more strained than usual and we’re slowly let in on the reasons for this most complicated of mother-daughter relationships.

It’s hard for me to say much more about the events or people in the novel itself because SO MUCH happens and is interconnected that this entire review would just be spoilers. So I’m gonna go ahead and wrap this up…

This book is worth the read for anyone who enjoyed The Night Olivia Fell. I know I’ll definitely be picking up the next novel Christina McDonald writes.

I’m curious… has anyone else read both Behind Every Lie and Silent Child? If so, did you see the similarities like I did?

If you’ve read Behind Every Lie, what were you’re thoughts? Agree with me? Disagree? Leave a comment below!

three-half-stars
Posted in WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday – New Year’s Day 2020!

Happy New Year!!! 🎉 Another year has come and gone and I’m very excited to start this year off with a fresh new excitement and vision for my little space on the internet here at Combing Through the Pages. I’ll be posting more about that another day, but right now…

It’s time once again for WWW Wednesday ! WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
Don’t know what WWW Wendesday is or how to participate??? All you need to do is answer the following three questions and link back to Taking on a World of Words, or you can put your answers in the comments on her blog! (You can also leave your link in my comments to be sure I don’t miss your post!)

The three WWW questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So let’s get started, shall we?

What am I currently reading?

Veritas

Veritas by Ariel Sabar. I gotta be honest, this one hooked me hard with the description on NetGalley, but so far I’m just not that into it. It’s taking everything in me not to DNF it already and I’m only about 9% in. I’m gonna give it another 20 pages or so and we’ll see what happens. I’d give some kind of explanation on what’s not working for me, but I can’t even put my finger on what I don’t like.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, …

City of Bones by Cassandra Claire. I felt like I was the only person in the book blogger world who hadn’t read this book yet. So I was super excited when I saw it’s the January book in the Book Hoarders United Group on Goodreads! I literally JUST started it, so no opinion yet… I’ll definitely let you guys know what I think later though!

What did I recently finish reading?

Behind Every Lie

Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald. I was invited to review this on NetGalley because I’d previously reviewed The Night Olivia Fell. I’m happy to say, it didn’t disappoint! My review will post tomorrow so come back for my full report then!

The Socialite

The Socialite by J’Nell Ciesielski. Gotta be honest… I picked this one mostly because I loved the cover. But I absolutely loved it! I’ll be posting the review next week.

God of Manna

God of Manna by Daeus Lamb. I meant to read this novella forever ago, but got distracted by kids, life, and well…other books. I wish I’d read it sooner now that I’ve finished it. It’s one of those that took me a minute to get into it, but once I did I really enjoyed it. A review for this one will be posting next week as well.

What I’ll be reading next:

Posted in book reviews

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen – Ultimate Blog Tour Review

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen – Ultimate Blog Tour ReviewThe Devil's Apprentice (The Great Devil War, #1) by Kenneth B. Andersen, Kenneth Bøgh Andersen
on October 8, 2018
Pages: 311
Source: The Write Reads
Goodreads
five-stars
Synopsis

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?
The Devil's Apprentice is volume 1 in The Great Devil War-series.


I received this book for free from The Write Reads. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It’s my day on the Ultimate Blog Tour hosted by The Write Reads and I’m so excited to finally be able to scream at the top of my lungs (or tip of my fingers, really) about how much I loved The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen! After reading the description, I was intrigued. It sounded like something I’d enjoy, but to be honest, I expected to be disappointed. I haven’t had much luck lately in the sci-fi/fantasy genre (I’ve DNF’d the last 3 – and I HATE DNFing a book) and worried this would be the latest let down. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED this book! I’m gifting it to at least three people for Christmas!

Now, where do I even begin…?

The Story

In the beginning, we’re introduced to goody-two-shoes Philip being bullied by another child whose nickname is “Devil Sam.” If one of these kids was destined to end up running hell after the devil kicks the bucket, Philip is definitely NOT who you’d choose! But through a crazy turn off events in which Devil Sam’s bullying somehow saves himself and confuses Death, Philip winds up in hell, studying as the devil’s apprentice.

When Philip was alive and walking the earth, he was about as close to being an angel as a human can be. He didn’t even lie when his best (and only) friend needed him to – and he lost his only friend as a result. Because for Philip, being honest and good was more important. Yet, before this honest boy even makes his way fully into hell, he begins to give in to sin and lies to spare the feelings of a demon.

Emotions run high throughout the entire book, but overall it’s a very humorous tale. Even in moments where my heart was pumping hard with fear, I found myself laughing out loud and getting funny stares from those around me.

The Characters

The Characters in The Devil’s Apprentice are incredibly well developed and real. I found myself cheering for demons and even the Devil himself at different points in the story and felt as if I knew every single one of them. These aren’t cookie-cutter characters! Each one has their own unique personality. Some are funny, some are serious, but all are now in my heart.

Philip himself goes through huge changes as his journey unfolds. The longer he’s in hell, the more sins he falls prey to. Soon, he realizes (after it’s pointed out to him) he’s committed all but one of the deadly sins. This would have devastated the old Philip, but by that time he no longer seems to care much. He’s changed forever.

I think it’s a great parallel to real-life – simply allowing ourselves to constantly be exposed to what we know is wrong, we will eventually be de-sensitized and fall prey to it ourselves.

Conclusion

This will be on my best books read in 2019 list and I definitely recommend picking up The Devil’s Apprentice and reading it ASAP! I can’t wait to start on the next book in the series!

Have you read The Devil’s Apprentice? What did you think? Leave me a comment below!

About The Author

Kenneth B. Andersen is Danish author who has written over thirty-five since their debut novel in 2000, ranging across multiple genres. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and his film on Netflix based on his book “Antboy”, with an animated TV series currently in development.

He currently lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo and spiders in the basement.

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five-stars
Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl in White Gloves: A Novel Of Grace Kelly by Kerri Maher

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl in White Gloves: A Novel Of Grace Kelly by Kerri MaherThe Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher
Published by Berkley on February 25, 2020
ISBN: 0451492072
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Synopsis

A life in snapshots…

Grace knows what people see. She’s the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

A woman in living color…

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real. Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks--her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back.


I received this book for free from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Yes, I’m actually posting a book review. You can close your mouth now!

It seems 2019 has been the year of reading books about things I know little to nothing about and The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher continues that theme. I knew the name Grace Kelly and had seen some old movies with her in them but I knew absolutely nothing about her. For instance, I didn’t even know she married the Prince of Monaco!

I thoroughly enjoyed this peek into the life of Grace Kelly. It’s written in such a way that you actually feel as if you’re spying on this icon. The story felt intimate and almost too real. I loved every page of it!

The story goes back and forth between Grace’s struggle to make it on Broadway and her life after she’s left Hollywood behind for life in the palace in Monaco.

Grace spends so much time chasing after approval and dreams. Unfortunately, the two don’t always compliment each other. Her family, and more importantly, her father, don’t approve of her ambition to be a Broadway star. But she’s determined to have it all… Family, friends and a successful acting career. If only the men in her life would agree to let her have them!

If I was going to sum up this book in one word, it would be “brilliant.” Like all great historical fiction, it blurred the line between fact and fairytale and has made me hungry to read more about it’s subject. In this case, I want to watch every movie referenced in the story and find out more about the real life of Grace Kelly.

I recommend The Girl in White Gloves to anyone with even a passing interest in Grace Kelly!

four-half-stars
Posted in about me, family, foster care, Note to Self

And then there were EIGHT!?!?

This year has been FULL of surprises! Big ones, small ones, happy ones, sad ones, and even strange and almost unbelievable ones (possums in the toilet?). Now, here we are. It’s almost November and I have no idea where the year has gone. But when I look back, it seems like too much has happened for less than a year to have gone by. (Such is life, I guess.)

Unfortunately, I’m a super goal-oriented person. I LOVE setting both small and big goals for myself and the feeling I get when I meet or exceed those goals! So far this year, with all the unexpected happenings, I’ve failed to hit almost every goal I’ve had, especially blogging goals. 

I’ve tried so hard to keep up with blogging but it’s been nearly impossible. So my new goal (as far as blogging is concerned) is to get used to using my phone to write and post and get caught up on reviews. Using my phone, in theory,  I “should” be able to stitch together some posts in short bursts of free time throughout my days.  So say a prayer, wish me luck, and sacrifice a chicken under the light of a full moon that this is one goal I’ll be able to stick to!

Actually, maybe don’t do that last one?

No… Definitely don’t do the last one.

Seriously, DON’T DO IT! If you have a chicken, I need the eggs!!!

It takes a whole dozen eggs just to make enough for everyone at breakfast now because one of those unexpected happenings that’s occurred this year was a previous foster placement coming back into care and back into our home, bringing our current family size to eight!!! (Note to self: you need to Google when it becomes cheaper to just raise chickens and dairy cows.)

Having 6 kids, my studio time has been cut short, but I’m finally get a bit set aside most days to work. I should get my audiobook page updated this weekend so please be sure to check that out and use the links found there to view & purchase from Audible! (As always, reviewers can contact me for promo codes.)

I’m also getting some quilting and crochet time in so I’ll try to post about those projects soon.

And, of course, I’ll be posting reviews!

I pre-apologize for any funky fonts, misspellings, or other craziness that occurs as I figure out this whole WordPress phone posting thing and appreciate any suggestions on how to keep my blog going and staying connected with the blogging community with small children! Leave me a comment below or shoot me a message through the Contact Me page. Thanks for visiting!

~Jess