2011 Wrap-Up & 2012 Challenges

Wrap-up

Deciding whether to post a year wrap-up post has been on the back of my mind the past few days. I’ve finally succumbed to peer pressure (not!). I’ll first start with the wrap-up before going on to the challenges I’ll be taking part in 2012.

Some fun stats first:

Total number of posts in 2011: 173
Total number of page hits in 2011: 12,020
Total number of books reviewed in 2011: 56

Top 5 books of 2011:

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – It was such a breathtaking debut novel! Definitely my favorite read in 2011. I did not post a review for it here as my review was published at Lovereading.co.uk.

The DMZ by Jeanette Windle – It is long at 500+ pages, but worth every minute I took to read it. The suspense, mystery, action, and romance were all at the right places in the right amounts.

Along Wooded Paths by Tricia Goyer – My favorite Amish book. I liked it so much, I had its sequel pre-ordered from The Book Depository as a birthday present, although it’ll only be released in April 2012.

Tuesday’s Child by Carolyn Gibbs – This book is proof that a book doesn’t have to be published by a big-name publisher to be good. It wasn’t a relaxing nor a light read, but the issues touched on in this book should serve as important reminders that domestic abuse exist.

The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson – The author played the romance element well. There was no rushing and the fairytale element in the book only served to make it an even better read.

I had many wonderful blogging moments this year. Moments with plenty of firsts – first giveaway, first interview, first guest post, first meme, first vlog. Among the things I’ve learned is how to ask interview questions, put on my thinking cap for creative guest post titles, and create a vlog using iMovie. I’m proud of all those accomplishments, minor they may be. Something I’m not proud of is the fact that I failed my first challenge. I simply did not have time to reread, much less read all the books I received this year. The books I won in giveaways have been put aside as I attempt to conquer my reading pile.

Challenges

But! I’ll be back even stronger in 2012. I have signed up for two giveaway hops and with this post, two challenges. I’ll be joining the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren as talked about in my post about it, and the ABC Challenge hosted by Patricia from Book Exhibitionism.

For the 2012 DAC, I have not yet checked the list of books by debut YA/MG authors, but will soon. I’ll probably pick one or two from the list and doing the rest as time goes by, meaning that I will not be actively looking for debuts, but will give priority to debut Young Adult/Middle Grade books sent to me for review.

As for the ABC Challenge, I have a few books in mind thus far. I aim to read at least five books for the challenge. I’m not setting a high target for myself because I’ll be away for three months next year (you’ll know about it when the time comes). The books I’m hoping to read (or reread, as in the case of a couple of books) are as follows:-

A Billion Reasons Why by Kristin Billerbeck (reread)
Beauty by Lisa Daily (tentative, depending whether NetGalley has it or not)
Crown of Vengeance by Stephen Zimmer (post has been scheduled)
Dark Water by Laura McNeal
Exile by Anne Osterlund (reread)

Final news:

I know this isn’t really news, but I’ll be keeping a book log here in Sugarpeach. I’ll be updating it each time I read a new book so that I can keep track of the number of books I’ve read. I know this is a little late for it, I should have done this years ago, but better late than never. This will in no way affect the posts as I’ll be having it as a separate page that will be listed in the menu tabs above.

Starting from January 1, 2012, I’ll be having a monthly post titled “The Dear Series”. In each post that will go live at the beginning of each month, I will address a certain issue either regarding authors or bloggers. If it is for authors, it would be titled “Dear Author”. If it is for bloggers, it would be titled “Dear Blogger”. Feel free to give me suggestions as to the issues you would like to see me write about.

This isn’t a news related to the entire 2012 year, but I’ll be having my first blog survey in mid-January, 2012. I hope to have as many readers as possible to fill in the survey. The survey is a sort of “feeler” and “touch-base” for me. I need to know whether the direction I’m taking this blog to with my posts is right or not.

I think I’ve said all I need to say here. This post is longer than I expected it to be. Before I end, here’s a fun fact. Did you know… that Sugarpeach had an average of 3 readers a day in December 2010? For December 2011, we had an average of 52 visitors a day. Not much a big jump, but who knows what holds in December 2012? Anyway, I’ve prattled long enough here!

Happy New Year to all Sugarpeach readers! 🙂 Signing off, 2011. Hello, 2012!

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Filed under 2012 ABC Challenge, 2012 Debut Author Challenge, Miscellaneous

Mailbox Month: November and December 2011

in my mailbox icon

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature by Kristi from The Story Siren. Mailbox Month is my adaption of IMM. Instead of posting this feature weekly, I post it monthly. Click on the image above to visit the main IMM page. Ignore the weird fringe haircut I have in the video and the extra black hair color (I did a scan edit through YouTube and the heightened color was the result).

For review:

Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by D. Robert Pease {Amazon | Goodreads}
Bobby Slater’s World by Hugh Centerville {Amazon | Goodreads}
Being Abigail by Kathryn White {Amazon | Goodreads}
Letters Home by Earle Kirkbride {Amazon | Goodreads}
Never The Same by B.C. Fleming {Amazon | Goodreads}
Replication by Jill Williamson {Amazon | Goodreads}
Best Forgotten by Paula Vince {Amazon | Goodreads}
Not In The Heart by Chris Fabry {Amazon | Goodreads}
The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter {Amazon | Goodreads}
The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson {Amazon | Goodreads} (NetGalley)
The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall {Amazon | Goodreads} (NetGalley)

Gifted:

Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble {Amazon | Goodreads}
Dark Water by Laura McNeal {Amazon | Goodreads}

Mentioned in vlog:

Darren at Bart’s Bookshelf
Helen and Jess at Book Review Sisters

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Review: Welcome to Fred by Brad Whittington

welcome to fred book coverPublisher: B&H Publishing Group
ISBN: 978073943625
Pages: 246
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5
Age recommendation: Teens

Mark Cloud is a PK. His father, the pastor, moves his family for the umpteenth time, and to a small backward town called Fred. Mark is no stranger to being treated as an outsider in the various places he has stayed in, but he has never had it this hard to break the barrier and form close friendships. As time go by, Mark assimilates himself as best as he can in Fredonian culture and starts having doubts as to the existence of God. After four years, the family take a vacation to California. Mark can’t wait to meet the hippies and thinks that he will finally feel a sense of belonging with them. Of course, as always, things don’t go as planned. Continue reading

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Review: Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble & Giveaway

Blog Tour Notes

Noah Zarc: Mammoth TroubleOVERVIEW

Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth’s animals from extinction.

Life couldn’t be better.

But the twelve-year-old time traveler learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is kidnapped and taken to Mars; his dad is stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying Earth… for the second time.

Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com (available in paperback or as an eBook) or the online retailer of your choice (more links below).

CASH PRIZES

Guess what? You could win a $50 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $50 too by having the most comments. So tell your friends to stop by and comment on this post too!

GIVEAWAY

Win 1 of 5 copies of the paperback version of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by entering the giveaway on GoodReads.

D. Robert PeaseTHE AUTHOR

D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn’t been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer’s Sirens. It’s not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters.

Discover ways to connect with the author by visiting his site at www.drobertpease.com

BOOK TRAILER

THANK YOU! for visiting. And don’t forget to comment below for that chance to win the $50 Amazon gift card. And of course head on over to your favorite online book store and buy a copy of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, for you or for the kids in your life.

Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Apple iBookstore | Smashwords | Diesel eBook Store | CreateSpace Paperback | Amazon UK | Amazon France | Amazon Germany

Continue reading

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Jesus — The Reason For the Season by Rachel Hauck

Merry Christmas from all of us at Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoyed these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you missed a few posts, I hope you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog over the next few days. If you’d like to keep up with Pearl Girls and our new book project, Mother of Pearl, coming this spring, just click this link and sign up for our newsletter (lower left sidebar).

Also, just a reminder that today is the last day for the pearl necklace and earrings giveaway! Enter now by filling out this {form}. The winner will be announced on 1/1 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

Through the narrow scope of 2000 years, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears to be one lucky woman. Chosen by God to give birth to His son, the Savior of the world? All right, Mary, way to go.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” Gabriel said.

How many of us would like a declaration like that? Highly favored. The Lord is with you. But Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Mary’s seems confident and resolved when she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

She’d just been told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, that God’s power will overshadow her, that she’d become with child even though she wasn’t married, and she said, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let your words be true.”

I find this amazing! A young woman. Ancient Bethlehem. Unwed mother. They stoned women for such things in her day. But Mary believed in God. And submitted to His will. He gave her the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit given to us. If He gave her confidence, He will give us confidence. Even though, like Mary, our situation seems impossible.

Listen to Mary’s song later on in the first chapter of Luke.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me Holy is his name…”

Conceiving a child out of wedlock, by Divine intervention. Not a girl’s every day existence. Yet she had a Yes in her heart to God. She rejoiced. She boldly said, “Generations will remember me!”

How we struggle to trust God with our children. Our finances. Our emotional well-being. We worry. We fret. And wonder why we have no peace.

Christmas is the season where words like joy, peace and love are bantered around like Christmas candy. Let’s not take them as just words, but as truth. Let’s be like Mary and embrace God’s favor on our lives. Boldly declare “He’s done great things for me!”

Out of the grit of our own souls, we can reach His heart, and feel Him reaching for ours. No matter the pain of our past, present or future, God is there for us. He is able. Best of all, He is willing. “My soul glorifies the Lord this Christmas!”

***

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, best selling author who believes God has done great things for her. She lives in Central Florida with her husband and ornery pets. Her next release is Love Lifted Me with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, January 2012. Then in April, look for The Wedding Dress.

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It Is An Extra Special Day Today…

… that warrants a special post.

Sugarpeach readers:

Just wanna wish you a…

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Hope you have a wonderful, blessed day!

‘Tis the season for giving thanks…

Thank you for reading Sugarpeach this year. Without the faithful readership, I wouldn’t be able to continue blogging. I don’t know what next year holds for this blog, but hopefully it’ll be more fun things for you and me! Can I read an affirmative “YES!” to that?

To my fellow book bloggers… thank you for inspiring me. I love stalking your blogs and reading all your fun posts. Keep up the good work! Blogging can be tedious sometimes, but just visiting your blogs is enough to give me the push to continue blogging.

My Christmas post wouldn’t be done if I don’t say a big “THANK YOU” to the authors who have sent me books to review and supported Sugarpeach in one way or another. Thank you for believing that I can write book reviews. Thank you for believing the I can send you good interview questions. Thank you for allowing me to pick the titles of your guest posts.

All the best,
♥ Evangeline ♥

P.s. Keeping this message short and sweet because webpages are growing in girth. I can assure you I’m not joining that trend. No way!

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The Panhandler’s Breath by Robin Dance

There’s a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a meeting; he pressed the “5” without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame…and his stealth entry stiffened the hairs on the back of my neck.

I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of clamorous teens. He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the electric shuttle picks up.

I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next prey.

The four of us were sealed in a four- by six-foot metal tomb. Tomb–that thought really scampered across my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to protect my son. Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was no where to run.

Extreme and ridiculous, these thoughts – and more – flashed through my mind. The Stranger began speaking.

“Yessir, I see you’re a family man with your wife and your son here…” and he nodded in my and my son’s direction.

“…you see I’m homeless and all I’ve got…” and on queue, he reached into his left pocket and pulled out two old pennies blackened with age. Two cents to his name?! It was all too contrived, too practiced, and I didn’t believe a word he was saying.

It was then I smelled it ~ the small space lent itself to that ~ and I doubted my doubt.

His breath.

It wasn’t the scent of alcohol. His eyes weren’t red, his voice didn’t waver; his wizened face matched his graying hair.

His breath was morning’s, zoo breath, the pet name I’d given to the scent inhaled when kissing my children awake when they were little.

He needed to brush his teeth. I wondered how long it had been since he brushed his teeth.

The elevator door opened and I handed him my leftover pizza as my son and I brushed past him. My husband handed him a bill and the Stranger thanked and God blessed him.

The elevator door closed behind us. Conflicted, I was relieved.

We got in the car and blurted first reaction–

“I didn’t believe a word he said.”

“That made me nervous.”

“I wonder if he’ll really eat the pizza.”

In the quiet, we were left to our own thoughts, contemplating the right thing to do. At the end of the day, this is what I decided: It doesn’t matter whether or not his story is true; for an old man to resort to begging, he has to be desperate. The money my husband gave him will never be missed. It was a reminder we’ve been entrusted with much and given much. Materially, yes, but more so spiritually. Loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed, graced, lavished–every spiritual blessing. E v e r y.

There’s a part of me that wishes I would have been brave enough to ask the man his story, made sure he knew he was loved…and bought him a tooth brush.

Later, it occurred to me he could have been an angel. Doesn’t that mean generosity, kindness and hospitality is always the right response? Then it’s not about you or the stranger or the circumstance, it’s about a simple, God-glorifying response.

Had we entertained an angel unaware? We’ll never know.

But it wouldn’t be the first time the Breath of Heaven smelled like a zoo.

***

In a decades-old, scandalous affair with her husband, Robin also confesses mad crushes on her three teens. As Southern as sugar-shocked tea, she’s a recovering people pleaser who advocates talking to strangers. A memoirist, Compassion International Blogger, and Maker-upper of words, Robin writes for her own site, PENSIEVE, and also for (in)courage by DaySpring (a subsidiary of Hallmark) and Simple Mom. She loves to get to know readers through their blog comments and on Twitter and Pinterest. www.pensieve.me

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