Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Year of Reading Recap – 2012

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What would the New Year be without a look back at the old one? Here’s a recap of my year of reading 2012.

I’ve had the opportunity to read so many wonderful books this year. I surpassed my reading goal of 75 and reached an all time high of 117. 1Q84 was the longest book I read, 945 pages. I think that made the all-time high also. I gave mostly 3 and 4 stars with only 14 making the 5 star distinction, which makes me think I’m a bit too picky and hard to please. I had two books that were so terrible I couldn’t finish them and I’m still cursing about wasting my time on them.

I read more memoirs this year than ever. People are truly interesting and in some cases their stories are stranger than fiction. I cried more this year than ever too. Some of the stories were just so heartbreaking. I’m pretty sure I blubbered through more of The Art of Racing in the Rain than I’m willing to fess up to. Dogs dying in books seemed to be a common theme this year. I seriously cannot take anymore of that!

I had a zombie run and it was a great one. Zombies are the new vampires. Super cool! If I were giving an award for best cover it would go to My Life as a White Trash Zombie. As Steven Martin said in Father of the Bride, “Bitchin!” That cover earns the Bitchin award. (if there were such a thing) Patrick Ness is my favorite author of 2012. Reading his book has inspired both my children and me.

Historical fiction is still my favorite genre. Mixing fiction in with a history lesson makes learning fun even at my age.

Out of the 117 books I’ve read this year, here’s my top 10 favorites:

1. Wilderness: A Novel by Lance Weller
2. Chaos Walking: A Trilogy by Patrick Ness
3. The Wild Girl by Jim Fergus
4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
5. Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
9. The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by by Michelle Moran
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My goals for 2013 are much the same. I’m upping my reading goal to 100. I think I can manage it without feeling too pressured. I’m going to do my best not to purchase books this year. I have probably 75 on my bookshelf waiting to be read and they deserve my love and attention. “Try” is the main word here.

I’m going to give a State Challenge a go and will be book blogging my way through the US. I hope you’ll join me along the way! Every book is an adventure and it’s so much more fun when you’re along!

I wish each of you a New Year filled with joy, happiness and many, many great books!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Rip-roaring 20’s style is what stands out in this lengthy novel by Libba Bray.

From Goodreads:

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Not having much luck with my first Libba Bray book, Beauty Queens, I decided to give this popular author another try with her newest novel. Set in the 20’s, Bray has obviously done her homework. She succeeds in creating a world that feels like it’s surrounding you as you read. The visual descriptions and catchy slang make the 20’s come to life.

Her main characters are strong and likable. Evie is so much fun and her youthful exuberance is infectious. All the introduced characters are truly mesmerizing.

Having said that, there are a few things that kept me from loving this book. My main gripe is that the book is too long and too slow. Many things seem to be repeated. A little editing could have gone a long way to making this book something special. To much time is spent on introduction and characters rehashing their inner feelings over and over. It’s just too much. I actually stopped reading it for a while and read a few other books before starting it up again. It felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere which leads to boredom. Cut this down 100-200 pages and it would have been much more enjoyable.

There are too many loose ends making some of the introduced characters seem out-of-place and had me wondering what their purpose is. I know this is a series but I need something to tie these characters to the story in a meaningful way. Hopefully the next installment will shed some light and fit these puzzle piece characters together.

Overall, if you have the time to devote and can overlook repetition, this book is sure to charm you with nostalgia alone.

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Book Review: Best Served Cold: The Unofficial Companion to Revenge by Erin Balser

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If you’re a fan of ABC’s hit show Revenge, you’re going to love this smoking hot guide.

From Goodreads:
A must-have for fans of the hit ABC drama Revenge, this guide delves into the fast-paced world of the character-driven series and sheds light on complicated plot twists and unanswered questions. Loyal viewers will love this intelligent and insightful companion to the show, which includes an analysis of main character Emily Thorne’s master plan. The book explores themes and characters from the series as well as its soap opera, literary, and real-world inspirations.

I LOVE Revenge. It’s one of the few shows that I can truly say I have watched from the beginning and never missed an episode of. At work, this is what we talk about come Monday mornings. It’s sparks conversation and contemplation and gives us camaraderie of sorts. The show is fun, addictive and let’s you take satisfaction in getting revenge without having to do the dirty deed yourself.

This guide provides an in-depth behind the scenes look at the cast, characters and episodes of this hot show. Having watched every episode with what can only be described as complete rapture, there were many things I missed which this guide brought to light. I feel like going back and watching the episodes again just to catch some of the little details I missed.

It gives insight to all facets of the show including how it the idea came about, cast decisions, filming and production and gives you opportunities to extend the enjoyment of revenge though books. Why does Victoria wear those tight dresses? How did Emily’s cold stare come about? Is the Grayson mansion for real? How does the show mirror The Count of Monte Cristo?

If you’re a seasoned Revenge watcher like me, this guide will extend your knowledge of the show. If you have yet to watch the show and plan on catching up on Season 1 (it’s available on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes) get this companion guide to follow along with each episode. It will add to your viewing pleasure!

Revenge on iTunes.

Revenge on Amazon.

Revenge on Netfix.

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This book was provided for review by the publisher.


Quick Reads/Quick Reviews: Patrick Ness, Michael Morpurgo, Anna Quindlen

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

From Goodreads:
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Incredible!

Patrick Ness has a way of conjuring just about every emotion I have when I read his books. His Chaos Walking trilogy was an emotional roller coaster. I must say though, he has outdone himself with A Monster Calls. If this book doesn’t pull at your heartstrings I don’t know what would. It’s a story of love and loss, of dealing with an inevitable death that follows a prolonged illness and all the emotion that comes with it. It’s overcoming not just sadness, but anger, injustice and hopelessness. Yet, the story is oddly comforting.

It’s a book you just have to read for yourself. I don’t think any one persons review could do it justice.

I was fortunate enough to read a hardcover copy. The illustrations in this book are wonderful and really add to the darkness of the story.

When you read this, and I hope you do, remember to take deep breaths, keep a box of tissues handy and look forward to when the monster calls.

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An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

From Goodreads:
With Lizzie’s father fighting in World War II, her mother takes on the job of a zoo keeper to provide for her family. Lizzie, her mother, and her eight-year-old brother Karli have become especially attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene. The bombing of Dresden is imminent and soon, so the zoo director explains that as a precautionary measure all the animals must be destroyed so that they’re not running wild through the city. Lizzie’s mother persuades the director to allow Marlene, the elephant, to come stay in the family’s garden.

As predicted, Dresden is bombed, and the family, including Marlene, is forced from the city. Lizzie and her family aren’t alone. Thousands of Dresden residents are fleeing to find somewhere safe to stay. Lizzie’s mother has to find a different route out of the city to keep the elephant and the children safe from harm. Once they reach the abandoned home of their relatives, they come across Peter, a Canadian navigator who, by putting himself at risk of capture to save the family, gains their trust.

This unlikely grouping of family, elephant, and enemy turned ally come together beautifully to illustrate the importance of love, resolve, and hope.

I have had the opportunity to read quite a few books from the World War II era that have touched my heart with their message of love, hope and survival. This was a wonderful addition to that group. Following Lizzie’s family through their harrowing journey to safety made for an exciting adventure appropriate even for young readers.

If you enjoyed Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys I believe you’ll enjoy this one as well.

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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

From Goodreads:
In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.

As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves.

Anna Quindlen reflects back on her life and the lessons she’s learned throughout her journey. It’s extremely perceptive and often humorous. The book was easy to relate to and I often found myself saying “That’s exactly how I feel!”. She does sometimes go off on a tangent, which made some parts seem repeated. There are lots of good reflections and insight for women whose children are beginning to or have already left the nest.

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Book Review: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

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From Goodreads:

In The Newlyweds, we follow the story of Amina Mazid, who at age twenty-four moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, for love. A hundred years ago, Amina would have been called a mail-order bride. But this is an arranged marriage for the twenty-first century: Amina is wooed by—and woos—George Stillman online.

For Amina, George offers a chance for a new life and a different kind of happiness than she might find back home. For George, Amina is a woman who doesn’t play games. But each of them is hiding something: someone from the past they thought they could leave behind. It is only when they put an ocean between them—and Amina returns to Bangladesh—that she and George find out if their secrets will tear them apart, or if they can build a future together.

This book had such an interesting premise. What appealed to me was that the story was told from Amina’s point of view, one that is new to America and the whole experience of being somewhere new and foreign. Reading about the American experience through the eyes of a Bangladesh women was humbling to be sure. We just don’t appreciate all that we have. We take basic things like running water and constant electricity for granted. Even the weather was totally new to her, having never experiencing freezing temperatures and snow. – I complain when it’s too hot or too cold but I couldn’t be without my four seasons! 🙂 – The author does a great job giving us a personal glimpse of the bravery that Amina needed to make this huge leap of faith.

The book excels at creating a world of discovery for Amina in this new country but falls short on the adventure and discovery that is marriage. George, Amina’s american husband, seems dull and boring. I didn’t get a clear picture of who he really was and why he turned to a marriage of this sort. Often manipulative, Amina uses the means she has at hand to get her way. While the story line seems to want to justify her actions, without the other side of the story, I couldn’t really form an opinion one way or the other which made it hard to relate.

Much of the book revolves around Amina’s quest to reunite with her parents and bring them to the US. The author also adds a story line relating to a cousin of George who befriends Amina. Way too much time is devoted to this character. It irritatingly had no real effect on the story and made it seem like the author was just trying to fill the pages.

This book would have been more enjoyable if the story would have stayed centered on George and Amina and how they bridged the gap between their two cultures. Getting George’s point of view would have added much more depth to the story.

You can view links to interviews and articles relating to this book on my “New to the To-Do” post earlier this year.

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Back to Reading!

I had to take a break from book blogging for a few weeks to concentrate on getting ready for the holidays and seeing to family and work obligations. Being somewhat compulsive with my reading habits, if I don’t go cold turkey and put it aside, sometimes (ok, a lot of times) nothing gets done.  So the food is bought, presents are bought and wrapped, parties have been attended, cookies have been baked and it’s back to doing what I do best….read!

The great thing about books is that they provide an escape from the harsh reality of our daily lives and allow us to inhabit another time and space. I am so ready for that!

 


Amazon.com has 12 Days of Deals for Book Lovers

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Amazon is treating us book lovers to 12 days of deals along with 12 chances to win a $250 Amazon gift card.

Head on over and check out the past 2 days titles and bookmark the page so you can return for tomorrow’s deal and enter the contest.

Happy Holidays!


Book Review: Mac & Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

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Mac & Cheese Please! is book bursting with 50 comforting and fresh macaroni and cheese dishes.

This cookbook does a great job at introducing the novice cook to the basics of cooking pasta and cheese. It includes a run down of all the different kinds of pasta and cheese available and gives hints on the best ways to use each kind.

The book is clear and concise with well prepared directions. The pictures will have your mouth-watering for some cheesy goodness. It includes recipes that use both the oven or stove top methods.

These recipes are main meal fair. They include meat and veggies and are very original and inventive. Usually, my family only considers mac & cheese as being a side or more “picnic” food but this book proves mac & cheese can also be an upscale and gourmet worthy dish.

One caveat, for me, was that the recipes included ingredients that aren’t easily found in a small town grocery store. I can’t just pop over to the local grocery and get truffles or prosciutto. But, there were plenty of recipes that included ingredients I already had on hand.

This is a great cookbook if you really feel like mixing it up and want something totally out of the ordinary.

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This book was provided for review by Netgalley.


Audible.com Daily Deals – The Book Lovers Holiday Now Even Brighter

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Audible just started a Daily Deals! holiday sale that will run through December 23rd!
I was so excited when I found out about this promotion. There are some great titles available today including Ann Pachett’s State of Wonder and Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

Did I mention they’re only $5!!!!

I fly though audio books. I listen to them while I’m doing chores around the house or driving to work. It gets pretty expensive. With deals like this I’ll have some great listening reads to look forward to in 2013.


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