Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Year Blogiversary Post: My Top Ten Favorite Books! Look Behind the Scenes at Sharon's Love of Books! and More...Let's Celebrate!

     Welcome to a very special post. Today, I'm happy that you've come to help me celebrate my first year Blogiversary! Thank you, so much, for being part of this milestone for my blog.

     I never dreamed that I would write a blog. It was only after my son, John, and my husband, Carl, nudged me in that direction, that I even considered it. They have watched me with my books, reading, and entering my book lore into my "Reading Journal." They thought it would be wonderful if I could share my love of books with others and told me I should do it. They know that the only thing I like as much as reading is writing, and told me I could do it. So, after giving it serious thought, I began my journey and started this blog. I feel so blessed to have two such wonderful men in my life. Thank you John and Carl.
  Today, you will get to see a lot of what goes on behind this blog. Also, I've promised to renew my original blog post and give you my brand new listing of my Top Ten Favorite Books. So...let's start with that--my Top Ten Favorite Books.

     In the list, to the right, you can see my Top Ten Favorite Books for 2013--the original top ten I gave you one year ago. Just below, in the blue box, you will find the new list.

     A year ago I told you that I do not include the Bible in my list because it is an entity unto itself. Even though it can be looked at as literature, as is often the case in academia, it just doesn't seem right to place it on a list of "likes." The Bible is simply beautiful! How can you compare the Bible with any other book in the world? It really is in a class by itself. A list of a person's Top Ten Favorite Books is personal, can vary greatly depending on how you feel, what education and life experiences you have, how your maturity impacts your reading criteria, etc. As a person ages, our view of the world often changes, as has my taste in reading. And then there are the new books--as you read a book, you can come to love it. So, there are many reasons I keep the Bible off my Top Ten List. It has a place in my life...just not on this list.

The books in bold are the new books
for the book list, this year. 
     Additionally, I want to emphasize that the books on the list are MY top ten favorite books that I have read, so far. I am sure as time goes on the list will, again, change. This is a very personal list, and I realize everyone's list will differ. A year ago, I told you that this list was a way for me to begin discussing books, reading, and all things related. It was, for me, just a beginning point to begin sharing with you my love of all things books.

     For those of you who want to know, of the books on this year's list, I have reviewed the following: Way of Kings (click here to see that review) and Words of Radiance  (click here to see that review); Ender's Game (click here to see that review); Ben Hur (click here to see that review); Winter's Tale (click here to see that review); and The Green Mile (click here to see that review).

     NEAR MISSES: A precious few books were close, but didn't make it to the list. I had a very difficult time removing books from the list to make way for new ones. So, it's not because those books fell out of favor, and more that a new book has captured my heart. The longer a book is on my favorites list, the more staying power--for example, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo has been number one on this list since I first read it in high school. 

     The books just missing the list are these: (11) The Black Prism/The Blinding Knife; (12) The Book Thief; (13) Night; (14) The Da Vinci Code; (15) A New Earth; (16) The Valley of Amazement; (17) The Last Dark; and, (18) Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting. I guess I could make a Top Twenty, but that would defeat the purpose of making the hard choices and actually giving you a top TEN.

     My very first blog post was very short, really only discussing my Top Ten Books. Even so, pageviews never returned to my first month's number of 328. In subsequent months I felt like I was, at last, beginning to connect with people.

Monster Hunter Nemesis
by Larry Correia [3]
     My goal was simply to share my love of books with others, and where I could, encourage others to read. Especially in those early days of the year, I felt a sense of accomplishment by my efforts. Just below, here, is a graphic I created for you to see the growth.

     As you look at the graph, take note of June--it is nearly 800 pageviews up from May. That wildly anomalous high number is due to one VERY popular post about Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia. I have never seen anything like the explosion of interest that the blog post and new book release generated. If you would like to look at the post, you can see it by clicking, here.

You can see that I started out very modestly with only 328 pageviews my first month of my blog.
With only minor fluctuations, the growth has progressively been on the increase. The actual
page views are listed above the chart, itself. For next year, I'm hoping to get Google Analytics
up and going to obtain more detailed information about pageviews.
     I also began feeling connected to my blog readers--I really began, in earnest, to improve my blog, from one posting to the next. For example, my "REFERENCES" section clearly reports sources of information and graphics used in my blog posts, but if you look at the early posts you will see they look quite a bit different. The early format I used was really terrible, in that it was so difficult to see where one source started and ended and the next began. I am really glad I changed the formatting.       

Here is a small sample of the way I used to do "REFERENCES" early on--it is so difficult to see
where the source material begins and ends. On top of that, in an effort to save space,
I made the print way too small. Contrast this sample to the references at the bottom of this page.

Here's another graphic I created for you
showing the top ten most-viewed book
reviews for the year.
     This past year I did a total of 69 blog posts. That number staggers my mind when I think about it. It takes me a minimum of one to two days to do each blog post--not counting the time to read the book. I have to draft the review, search out graphics to fit with the dialog, do the research and draft the source material, insert trailers (where appropriate), and proofread the book review. I try to personalize the book review, where I can, and I try to keep up with what is being published and what movies are coming out that are being created from books. Whew! So, it does boggle my mind that I've done so many.

        If you were to ask me which posts are the most popular, I'd have to give you a qualified answer because it can be viewed in several different ways. The first view is how many pageviews any given book review received. The answer is simple, and is displayed in the chart just above this paragraph--these are the ten most viewed posts.

THE MOST-LIKED POSTS: The most popular of all the posts, not surprisingly, is Monster Hunter Nemesis (given the stats from June). Other books making the Most-Viewed Posts list and Most-Liked Posts list are as follows: 47 Ronin, Endless Love, Words of Radiance, and Divergent. Surprisingly, some books NOT on the Most-Viewed Posts list DID end up making it to the Most-Liked Posts list; they are as follows: Ender’s Game; Edge of Tomorrow; A Most Wanted Man; Hercules; Don’t Die With Your Music Still in You; X-Men: Days of Future Past; and My Top 10 Favorite Books (2013). Since the bottom six slots all have the same, “likeability,” I ended up with 12, not 10 top-rated book reviews for the Most-Liked Posts list.
     Another way I can answer the question is to list the top ten by how highly readers rated the blog post book review (counting popularity by how many Google +s each received). You can see the two charts don't match each other. Alright, alright...I see it, too. Enough of the statistical stuff, already. Let's move on to something less analytical.

These are the countries that are listed as having
had visitors to my blog site.
COUNTRIES VIEWING SHARON'S LOVE OF BOOKS: To the left is the graphic showing you different countries that have viewed posts on my blog. This is not a complete list, because I've only tracked viewing countries for about six months, so I know that there are countries missing from this list.

     Obviously, English speaking countries have the most viewers, since I am posting in English. I am, however, very touched by how many people from non-English speaking countries read my blog by taking advantage of the "Powered by Google" Translate button at the top of my blog (on the right).

     Quite a few of my overseas friends viewing my blog originate in the Ukraine, Malaysia, Ger- many, Singapore, Turkey, China, and India. I'd like to give a shout out to all my friends overseas and a very special thank you to those of you who have shared my blog posts or have given Google +1s to my posts.

Paul Walker [4]
     The beginning of the year I ran on pure adrenaline trying to get the blog up and going. I, of course, didn't know anything about how to run a blog, and learning was sometimes very tough. On the up side of the hard work, though, I felt happy that anyone would take time to read what I had written. It made me happy and humble all at the same time.

     As I got a few months of blogging under my belt, I had less stress, and was feeling more confident, but still didn't feel good about the quality of the blog and worked hard to improve it. I also felt very sad a few times when I felt called upon to dedicate my blog to people we all love and admire who had died.

     My first dedication was to all teachers, especially those who teach reading and Ender's Game as part of their curriculum; also in September, I dedicated a post to the students of Hardin Middle School in Salinas where my daughter is a teacher. Teachers deserve all the support they can get! The first sad post I did was for Tom Clancy who died in October. Then, followed lots of tears when Paul Walker died November 30th in that terrible car crash; just a few short days later, the greatest man of the last century, Nelson Mandela, passed away on December 5th. I dedicated a blog post to him as well as reviewing his book, Long Walk to Freedom. What a remarkable man the world has lost.

     Starting out 2014, the people of the Ukraine were faced with a terrible civil struggle--this becoming the first dedication of the year--to the wonderful people of the Ukraine. Just before Valentine's Day, February 6th, I dedicated a post to Philip Seymour Hoffman; soon after that, on February 10th, Shirley Temple Black passed away, and I dedicated a post to her; also in February, the 28th, I dedicated my blog post to the world's best guitar player, Paco de Lucia (flamenco guitarist) when he died. Next, a happier dedication occurred next I dedicated a post to my friends in India in honor of J.B. Bernstein's Million Dollar Arm and the work he has done to open up baseball to India--and to honor all the people of India.
Robin Williams [6]

Finally, just last Tuesday, August 11th, I dedicated a post to Robin Williams--what a very sorrowful death from suicide. So sad, so sad. God bless you, Robin, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the great gift of yourself to the world in your remarkable appearances on film and in person.

     On a more upbeat note, I felt happy and surprised when several authors contacted me this year to thank me for the book reviews I did on their book(s). Kay Bratt is the sweetest person who works hard to help orphaned children in China; Serena Dyer, daughter of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, wrote me a lovely thank you note and then added me to her Google Circles! She is so wonderful, kind, and down-to-earth-beautiful!
J.B. Bernstein, of Million Dollar Arm, thanked me through the post and also on GoodReads for my book review on his (and Rinku and Dinesh's) behalf.

    In the past few months, I occasionally felt tired and a bit overworked. Sometimes, I've been discouraged. My family, though, has been remarkable. They have been encouraging me to continue on, but just do fewer posts for a while. I am still very committed to give you good blog posts, and as I said, above, I'm hoping to get Google Analytics up and going soon.

This is a children's book
I will be reading as an
Advance Reading Copy
(ARC) for Net Galley.
The target range is for
5-7 grade readers.[7]
TO BE READ (TBR) PILE OF BOOKS: I know, I know...I just said I was going to try and cut back, just a bit, but then, here I am about to tell you: "I am working as quickly as I can at getting through a rather large pile of books that need to be read, and a number of which I have committed to book reviews." Here are the books:

Nest by Esther Ehrlich; This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper; The Maze Runner by James Dashner; A Walk Among Tombstones by Lawrence Block; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst; The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks . . .

Most of you have seen
my blog post about
Dark Places, I am hop-
ing to do a review for
Gone Girl, as well.
(Possibly Sept.) [8]
Guardians of the Galaxy/All New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey by Marvel; The Eye of the World: The Wheel of Time [Graphic Novel, Number Five] by Robert Jordan; Ghoul Goblin: Dresden Files [a graphic novel] by Jim Butcher; Monster Hunters' Survival Guide by John Paul Russ; Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb; The Winter King by C.L. Wilson; City of Heavenly Fire: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare; Knight Avenged: A Circle of Seven Novel, Book 2 by Coreene Callahan; Born of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon; Earth Awakens: The First Formic War, Book 3 by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston; The Physician by Noah Gordon . . .

Card's book, as most
of you know, is sci-fi
--this is book 3 of his
newest trilogy, The
First Formic War
Insurgent by Veronica Roth; Tracker: A Rylee Adamson Novel, Book 6 by Shannon Mayer; Vampire Most Wanted: An Argeneau Novel by Lynsay Sands; Wool by Hugh Howey; Up From the Grave by Jeaniene Frost; The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd; Kicking It by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price; The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan...oh, and there are more, but I think this is enough. I already own all these books (or have them as ARCs), so I really do want to get to them, soon. I guess my TBR list has to stop somewhere---blah, blah, blah. Ok, the truth is, I would read every book I could lay my hands on. There--the truth is out. Ah, me! What? Are you saying I didn't really surprise anyone by that revelation? OK, then...I guess it's time to move on to the....

     To enter the giveaway contest, all anyone had to do was to write 1-2 sentences about what (if anything) this blog has meant to you this past year. That's all you had to do. The giveaway was run by Rafflecopter. In some ways, it was a little disappointing since only a few entries were completed. I had really thought everyone would love free stuff. Anyway, those who entered had little competition and that means the chances were very good they would get something. The contest ended yesterday, in time for me to announce the winner(s) today.
Paperback Ed. [10]
Hardcover Ed. [11]
Hardcover Ed. [12]

     Here are the four prizes. I tried to pick a variety for you: One Outlander Companion book, one nonfiction book, one fiction book, and a bobblehead novelty. I tried to keep the prizes related to reading or a book I've reviewed on my blog. The contest was run through Rafflecopter who keeps track of entries and who also draws the winner. To that end, here is the winner of the Blogiversary Giveaway Free Prizes:

Our winner today is Lisa A. Lisa will be receiving all four prizes for her entry in the blogiversary giveaway, today. In Lisa's prize-winning entry she said the following: "Your blog for me means that I can get a really good in-depth and well-explained review! I love the way there are references which shows how thoroughly you do your research! I really enjoy reading your reviews and look forward to them!"

     Lisa, thank you for the wonderful things you said about my blog. It really does tickle me that you enjoy my blog. So, if you have an author or series, or even a particular book you'd like me to review, just drop me a line to submit a request. I'll see if I can work it in for you.

MY GRATITUDE TO YOU ALL: As I said in my blog post last week, it has been an honor to write for you this past year. I deeply appreciate the time you spent reading my posts, the attentiveness you gave each blog review, and the sincerity of each comment that you gave me. You have all touched my heart profoundly. I feel such a sense of gratitude to you for what you have given me. The sense of validation and appreciation I feel really boggles my mind.

John Milton is one of my all-time favorite authors. When I
was in college, I was privileged to read some of his great
works, Areopagetica [a treatise/speech on Freedom of the
Press and Free Speech], for one...so many beautiful
passages in that work! I also studied, Paradise Lost
--another beautiful work. [14]
     For those of you who are religious or spiritual, know that I keep you in my prayers every day. For readers who are not religious, know that I keep you in my heart and send you my love. I send everyone good thoughts and energy and hope that you all are at peace and know that you are loved. Sincerely, you have all touched my heart; I hope in a small way I can do that for you, too.

      Thank you for joining me this week and for helping me celebrate my One Year Blogiversary. It has been a blast! My gratitude also goes out to every single person who not only stopped by my blog and read posts, but especially to everyone who left comments, and gave posts Google +s. Finally, I also want to thank you for spreading the word about my blog, because my whole two-fold goal is to share my love of reading with you and to encourage everyone to read more. God bless you all.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [15]
...many happy pages of reading!

With gratitude and love,


[1] "It's Our One Year Blogiversary!" blissedoutbelle.com. Retrieved 08-12-14.
[2] "Jason Ludke, The Near Miss Project, The Lorax Project."I seeinggreenartshow.wordpress.com. Retrieved 08-13-14.
[3] "Monster Hunter Nemesis." [Larry Correia] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-13-14.
[4]  "Paul Walker dead at 40: 'Fast and Furious' star killed in fiery car crash." nydailynews.com. Retrieved 08-15-14.
[5]  "No One is Born Hating Another Person." sportunplugged.wordpress.com. Retrieved 08-15-14.
[6] "Robin Williams Depression...." ibtimes.com. Retrieved 08-14-14.
[7] "Nest." [Esther Ehrlich] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-14-14.
[8]  "Gone Girl." [Gillian Flynn] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-14-14.
[9] "Earth Awakens: The First Formic War, Book 3." [Orson Scott Card] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-14-14.
[10] "Triple Your Reading Speed." [Paperback Ed. by Wade Cutler] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-14-14.
[11] "Diana Gabaldon's Outlandish Companion." [Hardcover Ed.] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-14-14.
[12] "Brethren." [Hardcover Ed.] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-14-14.
[13] "Groot Bobblehead Doll." amazon.com. Retrieved 08-15-14.
[14] "WOW October-And The Winner Is..." eventbritecom. Retrieved 08-18-14.
[15] "Pictures From My Garden." sparkpeople.com. Retrieved 08-17-14.