A Very Belated Winter Wrap-Up

2023 Winter Wrap-Up image shows a cup of tea on the right next to a stack of books.

A Very Belated Winter Wrap-Up

Spring has (maybe?) sprung, and here I am scraping together my winter wrap-up. It’s been a busy season! Read on to see the best books I read this season as well as my most popular posts. Finally, I’ll check in on the goals I set for the year and how I’m doing in meeting them.

Winter Wrap-Up Behind the Scenes News

Last year, I started working directly with several new publishers, which means easier access to more of the books I can’t wait to read. Which is good and bad? Because yeowza, my calendar has never been so packed.

I used to limit myself to three reviews per week, but last September, I increased that to four. In January, I increased to five reviews per week.

Honestly, this only works because I’ve been sitting on a backlog of about 40 reviews for backlist books I read sometime last year. Sometimes, though, I’ve needed to read four or five new books per week. I don’t think that’s a sustainable pace, so I’m trying to refine my process for deciding which books to review.

Changes in My What to Review Decision-Making Process

For a long time, I was really just reviewing whatever books looked interesting. I had few enough requests that this made sense and still left me wiggle room to add in backlist titles I couldn’t get review copies of or discovered after publication and wanted to read.

I’ve tried to have an eye toward reading diversely as I select which books to read, but there are definitely holes I would like to fill. For example, I don’t read very many books by Indigenous authors. Not on purpose. I just don’t often get asked to review them, and I haven’t been purposefully seeking them out. So I’m working on that this year.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A. F. Steadman

Lately, though, that’s not the case, and I’m finding that I have to say no to books that look really great. The good news is that my blog viewership has grown enough (thanks to all of you!) that I have access to a larger selection of books. The bad news is that I can’t review them all!

One of the new things that I’m considering as I encounter books by authors I’ve read before is how those past reviews performed in terms of the number of views they received. This was super helpful last week when I was asked to review the sequel to SKANDAR AND THE UNICORN THIEF. When I checked the post performance for my review, I discovered it was one of my top ten best performing posts last year, and it’s in the top twenty for this year so far.

So I’d say the data indicates my readers would be interested in the sequel, so I eagerly accepted the book for review.

Winter Wrap-Up: Top Posts

Technically these are the top five best performing reviews for the first quarter of this year. What’s funny to me is that none of these were posted this quarter. I’m guessing people searched for reviews of RUIN AND RISING because of the release of the second season of the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix. The others have been high performing posts for a while, so I guess there aren’t really any big surprises here.

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve heard other bloggers talk about how their reviews don’t perform well over time in terms of clicks and views, but four out of my top five posts are reviews. (The other is this list of middle grade books I was eagerly anticipating coming out this past winter.)

One of the things that I do which probably helps my stats is to use a plugin that helps me strengthen my SEO for each post. (I use a free one called Yoast.)

Now that we’ve discussed what most of my viewers were reading this past quarter, let’s look at what I was reading!

Best Books I Read This Winter

Middle Grade Favorites

I read 26 middle grade books during the first quarter of this year, and there were some really great ones in that list. These four are my favorites. They’re the ones I still think about even weeks after I finished reading them. I loved the sense of community and celebration of amigurumi and boba tea in IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI.

That Gillian McDunn’s latest book, WHEN SEA BECOMES SKY, moved me probably won’t surprise anyone who has followed this blog the last few years. I love her writing and the explorations of deep feelings she brings to the pages of her books.

MIRROR TO MIRROR surprised me with its beautiful celebration of sisterhood and individuality in its spare verse chapters. I loved getting the points of view of both of the twins and seeing the difference in how they viewed each other and themselves.

THE BOY WHO FOLLOWED HIS FATHER INTO AUSCHWITZ is a haunting, true story about a family fractured by World War II and the Holocaust. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book after I’d finished it. It’s definitely worth a read, and does a great job showing the destruction that happened to Jewish families both within and outside concentration camps during World War II.

Young Adult Favorites

I read 39 young adult books from January to March this year. Lots of them were really well done, so it was hard to narrow down to a handful of favorites.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect picking up MY DEAR HENRY, but wow, was it good. Kalynn Bayron really captured the vibe of the original story and delivered complex, tortured characters in Victorian England. It was so good. Definitely made me want to catch up on the books by this author that I’ve missed.

I WILL FIND YOU AGAIN was another wild card for me. The cover copy made me think a bit of WE WERE LIARS, which is one of my favorite books ever, so that was enough to get me to check it out. And let me tell you, I was NOT disappointed! I’ll definitely keep Sarah Lyu on my radar, because what a compelling, twisty story.

I’ve been a long-time Elizabeth Wein fan, so again, probably not a surprise to see STATELESS on my favorites list if you’ve been reading my reviews for a long time. I was really excited to see a book about a female pilot in the 1930s. Wein does an amazing job showing the tension between nations as Europe nears another World War.

Though it’s got kind of an understated cover, MISSING CLARISSA packed some serious punch. The pacing was perfect, and the characters were compelling enough to propel me through this one all the way to the final page. It’s a definite must-read for fans of ONE OF US IS LYING.

Goals Tracking

At the beginning of the year, I wrote this Top Ten Tuesday post outlining a long list of goals for this year. So how’s that going, you ask? Let’s take a super quick look…

Reading Goals

Goal: Read at least 150 books this year. Update: I’ve read 75 books so far this year, so I’d say I’ve made great progress on this one.

Goal: Say no when my calendar is full. Update: Hahahahahahaha! …. Yeah, this one is a work in progress.

Backlist Reading Goals

Goal: Read and review 3-5 timely classics, preferably by BIPOC. Update: I started both THE FIRE NEXT TIME by James Baldwin and THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros, so those I expect to finish this year for sure. I also finally read ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell, which only half-counts toward this goal, because it is definitely timely.

Goal: Read 3-5 backlist TBR nonfiction titles. Update: So far I’ve read one– ALL BOYS AREN’T BLUE by George M. Johnson, so that’s one.

Goal: Read 10-12 backlist TBR fiction titles. Update: I started CLAP WHEN YOU LAND, but haven’t finished it yet.

Bookish List Post Goals

Goal: Post 3-4 Top Ten Tuesday lists each quarter. Update: I posted six TTT lists this quarter. Win!

Goal: Post seasonal most-anticipated lists. Update: I’m on this. Just posted my lists for middle grade and young adult books coming this spring!

Goal: Post lists for monthly celebrations. Update: I did make a list for Holocaust Remembrance Day, but I totally missed both Women’s History month this month and Black History month in February. I’ve got an Earth Day post coming soon. Still a work in progress.

Writing Goals

I listed two writing goals in my original post (publishing another indie book for authors and finishing a novel of my own), and honestly, I haven’t really worked on either of these. Some family stuff has come up that’s made it necessary for me to table both those projects for now. I’m working on a short story currently, and would like to write some essays to sell as well. That seems more manageable right now.

What Would You Like to See More of?

Now that you know what I’m working on and what’s coming soon… what are the things you wish you could see more of on this site? Do you want more lists? More updates like this one? Are you interested in voting on what backlist books I read and review next? Leave a comment and let me know!

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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