A Goodbye to 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012


Oh 2012, what a beautiful year you have been! As I say goodbye to this year I can’t help but reflect on the fun adventures it held. Here’s a few great things that happened this year….

- Took yoga classes for the first time
- Let off a bunch of floating lanterns
- Went to my first Renaissance Faire
- Went to the Titanic museum in Tennessee
- Gave my first toast at a wedding
- Saw a play in Chicago
- Saw 26 plays or musicals
- Hosted my first baby shower for someone
- Threw a bachelorette party for someone
- Went to Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota for the first time
- Went White Water Rafting
- Made my very first pie
- Went to a Mad Men party and tried old drinks
- Went to a Superbowl celebration in the city that was hosting the game
- Started working from home a few days a week
- Toured a brewery
- Took a Greek cooking class
- Went to a murder mystery dinner

And of course there were loads of other great things along the way; books read, conversations had, road trips taken, weddings celebrated, etc.

What new things did you guys do this year? What new things do you want to try next year?

Have a fantastic New Year’s Eve and I hope 2013 is incredible for all of you!

Image from here

Pin it and Do It: Pinterest Challenge

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I finally participated in one of Trish's Pinterest Challenges. The goal is to actually complete a few of the things you pin on Pinterest. I decided to dig in an do a bunch of them this month! Below are pictures of the actual Pinterest pin and then my completed version. 

You can find me on Pinterest here

(The Pinterest example is on the left and mine is on the right)


Au Gratin Potato casserole: It was perfect to take to Thanksgiving dinner! 



Apple Pie: This is the first time I baked a pie from scratch. It was really good!


I used photos for Christmas tags this year. 


I made this one as a Christmas gift for my sister-in law. 
She and my brother got married this year and the words 
on the tree are the lyrics to the song played for their first dance. 


Sugar Cream Pie: Also known as Hoosier pie, this was my favorite 
growing up and I made it for the first time for a Christmas get together. 
Very sweet, but great with coffee. 


The one of the right is pepperoni rolls. This was so 
easy and tasted really good for a quick dinner. 

The one on the left was another Christmas gift 
for a friend who is an elementary school teacher. 

Thanks to Trish for hosting this and encouraging me 
to actually do some of the things that I had pinned!

Photos by moi and from Pinterest.

Reading the States: Wyoming

Friday, December 28, 2012


State: WYOMING

Fiction:
- Close Range: Wyoming Stories* by Annie Proulx
- An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg
- The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
- Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith
- Shane by Jack Schaefer

Nonfiction:
- Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg
- The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman
- Rising From The Plains by John McPhee
- The Legend of Colton H. Bryant by Alexandra Fuller
- Wyoming Summer by Mary O'Hara
- Yellowstone Country by Seymour L. Fishbein
- The Solace of Open Space by Gretel Ehrlich 

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- Patricia MacLachlan
- Annie Proulx
- C. J. Box
- Mark Spragg

Authors Who Lived Here:
- George Clayton Johnson
- Lynne Cheney
- Owen Wister
- Kyle Mills
- Caroline Lockhart

Great Bookstores:

Main Street Books

*Books I've Read

Photo by moi.

Just One Day

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Just One Day
by Gayle Forman
★★★★

Allyson just graduated from high school and is touring Europe with her best friend on an educational trip. She’s always been a “good girl” and hasn’t taken many risks in life. At the end of the trip she meets a guy named Willem and decides to throw caution to the wind and head to Paris with him. The consequences of her decision leave her reeling.

I really loved Forman’s last two novels, If I Stay & Where She Went, so my expectations might have been too high for this one. The story felt flat at first for me. Allyson is so self-conscious, I know that’s how many teenage girls are, but her spontaneous decision to take off with Willem seemed too far-fetched considering what we knew about her personality. I understand the desire to try something new, but the Paris trip with a stranger would be extreme even for an incredibly adventurous person.

**A Bit of a Spoilery Rant**

I understand that in the end the story isn’t just about following a guy, but a big chunk of the story is. Not only is she going to a different country with a guy she barely knows, she also lets it destroy her mental health for months afterwards. I understand that she’s learning a bigger lesson about finding your own self-worth, etc., but I feel like that lesson isn’t the main focus of the book. Instead we focus on how she is so heartbroken she can’t function. She treats her parents badly; she’s a horrible friend, she neglects school and all of her relationships, etc.

For example, even when she’s on her journey of discovery in Paris and is supposedly doing better, she still ignores any potential friendships that come her way. Instead of doing something interesting with her new friends from Australia, she turns down every one of their offers to hang out. For days she gives them no explanation of why and once again hurts the feelings of those around her. Being a better person is not just about learning that you can follow your own dreams instead of your parents, it’s also about treating the people around you with respect and kindness.

Also, I know Willem is suppose to be swoon-worthy, but I disliked him the more she discovered about him. I’m not saying he didn’t have some great lines, it’s just he's not that great of a guy and he's not really worth a year of heartbreak.

**Spoilery Rant Over**

BOTTOM LINE: I know I just finished ranting, but I did like the majority of this book. I especially loved reading the travel bits and everything related to Shakespeare. I also thought some of the supporting characters, like Allyson’s Mom and Wren, were really interesting and would love to hear their stories. I think I just needed to lower my expectations for depth and read it just for fun.

“They’re always on strike for something in France.”

Photo by moi of  Sacre Coeur.

Wordless Wednesday: Eger, Hungary

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Eger, Hungary 
 
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Where in the World Are You Reading: Holiday Reading Escape

Monday, December 24, 2012


This month's Where in the World Are You Reading theme is Holiday Reading Escape. Lisa, this month’s host, asks: "what does your Christmas Reading Escape look like? Do you enjoy Christmas themed books? Are you already sick of the Christmas spirit? Do you enjoy a nice glass of spiked eggnog with your books?

The Month of December seems to fly by so quickly and I never seem to have as much time for reading as I would like. One thing I’m trying to make time for this year is a re-read of A Christmas Carol. I don’t think I’ve read it in about 10 years. I’ve see an annual theatre performance of it every December for the past few years, but I’d love to dig back into the original book. I will definitely be enjoying a bit of eggnog or if I need a sugar rush, maybe some hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps!

I’m certainly not sick of Christmas spirit. I tend to be a big sucker for the holiday season. I can certainly get caught up in the madness, but I do love curling up with a good Christmas book or holiday movie. A few of my favorite films, just for fun: Elf, White Christmas, Love Actually and my favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life.


I also can’t remember a year when we haven’t read the passage from Luke 2 about the birth of Christ. It’s a beautiful reminder for me to stay focused on the real reason for the holiday.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!!!

Luke 2: The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Photo by moi, Where in the World from here

BookRiot's Top 50 Books

Saturday, December 22, 2012


 
BookRiot, that wonderful resource for all things bookish, compiled a list of BookRiot reader's favorite books. They narrowed it down to 50 and of course I had to see how I did. I've read 42 or the 50 books and most are ones that I really love. That tells me two things; one is that BookRiot readers have great taste! The other is that I really want to read those final 8 books! I've listed the ones I haven't read at the bottom of this post. Now I don't think I'll be getting to Infinite Jest or Ulysses next year, but I'd like to try to tackle the rest. If you haven't read many of the books on this list I would encourage you to check them out. There are some incredible ones!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
17. The Stand by Stephen King
18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
22. The PIcture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
31. 1984 by George Orwell
32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
40. Ulysses by James Joyce
41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
46. Dune by Frank Herbert
47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Books I haven't read: *updated 2014
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- Ulysses by James Joyce

Check out BookRiot here.


Reading the States: Wisconsin

Friday, December 21, 2012


State: WISCONSIN

Fiction:
- Loving Frank* by Nancy Horan
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle* by David Wroblewski
- Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
- Off Keck Road by Mona Simpson
- Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen
- A Reliable Wife* by Robert Goolrick
- Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwartz
- American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
- A Map of The World by Jane Hamilton
- The Women by T. C. Boyle
- Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr
- Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Shotgun Lovesongs* by Nickolas Butler
- American Gods* by Neil Gaiman

Nonfiction:
- WAU-BUN by Mrs. John H. Kinzie
- The Land Remembers by Ben Logan
- Blankets* by Craig Thompson
- Old World Wisconsin by Fred L. Holmes
- They Marched Into Sunlight by David Maraniss
- Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy 

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- Christina Schwartz
- August Derleth

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Stephen E. Ambrose
- Thornton Wilder
- Tim Cahill
- Peter Straub
- Jack Finney
- David Wroblewski

Great Bookstores:

A Room of One’s Own
Literary Places to Visit:

*Books I've Read
Photo by moi. 

Love's Labor's Lost

Thursday, December 20, 2012




Love's Labor's Lost
by William Shakespeare
★★★★

I’m normally a big fan of Shakespeare’s plays, and while I enjoyed parts of this one, it still fell a bit flat for me. The King of Navarre and three of his friends decide they will swear off women and other temptations for three years while they focus on their studies. Of course they decide to do this shortly before the Princess of France and her friends are about to visit. No sooner is the vow made than all four men are swooning over the lovely ladies.


There are some really funny parts, like when the men try to hold each other to their vow while at the same time writing love letters to their new crushes. As with all of Shakespeare’s comedies, hidden identities and witty dialogue confound the characters as they find themselves unexpectedly falling in love.

**SPOILERS**

The play ends with a bit of an unusual cliff hanger. The lovers are all separated when the Princess must return to rule France after hearing of her father’s unexpected death. There is a theory that a sequel to the play existed but there are no surviving copies. The play “Love’s Labour’s Won” is mentioned in other texts from around the same time and it could have been the sequel that resolved the lovers’ future.

**SPOILERS OVER**

BOTTOM LINE: This isn’t one of the Bard’s strongest plays, but if you’re already a fan then it’s worth reading. If not, start with one of his better comedies, like Twelfth Night, As You Like It or Much Ado About Nothing.

“He hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink.”

“As sweet and musical
As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair;
And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.”

I read this as part of the Let’s Read Plays yearlong event hosted by Fanda. From November 2012 to October 2013 participants will read 12 classics plays throughout the year, at least one each month.

Wordless Wednesday: Baltimore Aquarium

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


A gator at the Baltimore Aquarium

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.
 

Top Ten Books I Wish I Read as a Kid

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie so I picked an old topic, Books I wish I read as a kid. Every book on my list is one I enjoyed as an adult, but I know I would have absolutely adored it if I’d read it when I was young.

1) Half Magic series by Edward Eager

2) Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

3) The Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke

4) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

5) The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

6) The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart

7) The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper

8) The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

9) The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

10) Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Photo of me as a kid (check out that sweet carpet!)

Pairing Books with Movies: Return of the Thin Man

Monday, December 17, 2012


Return of the Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
★★★☆

The Thin Man was a revolutionary novel which paired the detective noir style with comedic dialogue between a husband and wife duo. The books, all of which were turned into movies, were a huge hit. Nick and Nora Charles gained a big fan following and now these two previously unpublished Thin Man stories are available. Both stories were turned into films, but have never been available as a book.

I loved the first section of the book the most. It gives the nonfiction evolution of the books and Hammett’s decision-making process with the characters. The stories read like a movie script, which is essentially what they are. That style doesn’t work as well in book format. It’s hard to read something that goes into such detail about who is standing where and what each person is doing throughout the conversation. Also, the audiobook portrayals of Chinese people were pretty awful; think Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany. That’s reflective of the time in which they were written, but it’s hard to ignore.

BOTTOM LINE: The stories are fun little murder mysteries, but with Nick and Nora it’s always been about the clever repartee, not the whodunit. This book is a must for fans of the films, but if you’re new to the series definitely start with the first novel, The Thin Man.

Pair with a viewing of the original 1934 film The Thin Man. Also check out After the Thin Man and Another Think Man, which are the films versions of the stories contained in this collection.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2013

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The Back to the Classics Challenge 2013 has officially been announced. Each year I pick a very small handful of challenges to participate in and this is one of them. I only pick challenges that align with my personal reading goals (like the TBR challenge for getting to those long-neglected books on my shelves.) This one is perfect because it encourages me to tackle classics in a fun way. Sarah always picks great categories, here’s last year’s list, and this year is no exception.

You can check out the complete list of details here.
There are six categories participants are required to complete and five more optional ones. You’re allowed to change your list throughout the year as you go. I decided to pick one or two books for every single category so I have some options. Then I’ll update the list as I go when I pick a final book to read. All books must be read in 2013. Books started prior to January 1, 2013 are not eligible.  Reviews must be linked by December 31, 2013. E-books and audio books are eligible!  Books can count for other challenges you may be working on.

THE CATEGORIES

The Required Categories:
A 19th Century Classic Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1848) 
A 20th Century Classic – The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway 
A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic – Coriolanus by William Shakespeare 
A Classic relating to the African-American Experience Native Son by Richard Wright
A Classic Adventure Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
A Classic that features an AnimalCat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams 

Optional Categories:

Re-read a ClassicPersuasion by Jane Austen 
A Russian ClassicThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
A Classic Non-Fiction titleWalden by Hendy David Thoreau
Classic Children's/Young Adult titleSwallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Classic Short StoriesA Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
 
Photo by moi, button from here.
 

Reading the States: West Virginia

Friday, December 14, 2012


State: WEST VIRGINIA

Fiction:
- The Madam by Julianna Baggott
- Shiloh* by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
- Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina
- When the Whistle Blows by Fran Slayton
- Strange as this Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake
- The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
- The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas
- Billy Creekmore by Tracey Porter
- Lick Creek by Brad Kessler
- The Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb
- Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon 
- The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock 

Nonfiction:
- The Glass Castle* by Jeannette Walls
- Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam
- Growing up in Bloody Mingo, West Virginia by Andrew Chafin
- Blood Feud by Lisa Alther

Authors Known for Writing in or about the State:
- Pinckney Benedict
- Breece D'J Pancake

Authors Who Lived Here:
- Booker T. Washington
- John Knowles
- Pearl S. Buck

Great Bookstores:

*Books I've Read

Photo by moi.

The Master and the Margarita

Thursday, December 13, 2012


The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov
★★★★

To call The Master and the Margarita strange is the mother of all understatements. The novel covers everything from talking cats, a visit from Satan, an insane author and a disturbing magic show, but the crucial thing to remember when reading the book is context. The book was written in the midst of Russian civil war and it was banned from being released in Russia for more than 30 years. So it seems much of the book is written in code, because at the time authors could be thrown in prison for the slightest offense and writing a scathing review of the current political regime was suicide.

The novel is split into three basic stories. First we have Woland (aka the Devil) and his strange entourage. They visit Moscow in the 1930s and wreck havoc on individuals living there. Particularly affected by their visit are Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, an editor, and Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyryov (pen name Bezdomny) a poet. Woland’s group includes a giant gun-wielding cal named Behemoth and an oddball named Azazello. The vodka-swigging cat is both terrifying and mesmerizing.

The second plot is about the title pair, the Master and the Margarita. The Master is an author who is thrown in prison for his writing. Margarita is his lover and is heartbroken when he disappears. She is soon caught-up with Woland and drawn into his bizarre world of balls and madness.

The final plot is a re-telling on Christ’s conviction and crucifixion by Pontius Pilate. Jesus is called Yeshua in this section we find out that this plot is actually the book that was written by the Master.

I would highly recommend the translation I read (first cover shown above.) It was translated by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor and not only does it provide an accessible text, there’s also a detailed chapter-by-chapter commentary in the back, which explains a lot of what is being said just under the surface. There are jokes that make sense once you have a bit more knowledge of the author’s life and context of the political situation in Russia at that time.

BOTTOM LINE: Honestly, I thought I would hate this book, but there’s something about it that just sticks with you. My translation was really good and I ended up taking a lot away from it. I still don’t think I “got” everything, but the weird world Bulgakov created is sort of intoxicating. If you’re willing to just accept the absurd and go with it, I think you’ll find it an interesting read.
 
“My remarks are far from drivel, they are a series of neatly packaged syllogisms which would win the respect and admiration of such connoisseurs of the genre as Sextus Empiricus, Martianus Capella, or, who knows, even Aristotle himself.” – Behemoth the Cat

“What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?”

"I consider it my duty to warn you that a cat is an ancient and inviolable creature." -Behemoth

Wordless Wednesday: Graffiti in Vienna

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Graffiti in Vienna, Austria 

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.
 

Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for our Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012. Many of these are authors I’d heard of before, but this was the first year I read one of their books. Now I will be on the lookout for new and old books from all of these authors.
 
1) Tana French (In the Woods)

2) Julia Alvarez (In the Time of the Butterflies)

3) Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo)

4) Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter)

5) Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)

6) Joanne Harris (Chocolat)

7) Rainbow Rowell (Attachments)

8) Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (The Yearling)

9) Jess Walter (Beautiful Ruin)

10) Stephen King (The Stand) – I’ve read novellas and nonfiction from King before, but this was the first year I tried one of his massive novels and I absolutely loved it!
 
Image from here.

The Madonnas of Leningrad

Monday, December 10, 2012


The Madonnas of Leningrad
by Debra Dean
★★★☆

Marina works at the Hermitage in Leningrad during World War II. Her fiancé Dmitri leaves to fight at the front in the war, while Marina is trapped in the Russian city during the Siege of Leningrad. She and her aunt and uncle must move into the Hermitage (the art museum seen above) with dozens of others. They are all staving to death, trying only to survive.

The secondary plot deals with Dmitri and Marina’s adult daughter Helen and her struggle with her parents’ declining health. Marina has Alzheimer’s and as she looses her recent memories, those long buried memories from the war come to the surface. The combination of the war story and modern day disconnect between children and their parents works well. Immigrants who survived horrific events during the war don’t often want to rehash their heartbreak, but their children may not understand how their current actions have been formed by their past experiences if they never share them.

I felt like the book was a bit short. There are so many more details that could have been included. I loved learning about the real events that happened during the siege. It’s a fictional story, but the author did some excellent research. I had no idea about this whole part of WWII and I’m still curious about it.

BOTTOM LINE: A short but powerful story of the Siege of Leningrad. Read it if you are interested in learning more about WWII in Russia.

"Hunger has eaten away the veneer of civilization, and people are not themselves."

"Over the years, they have grown together, their flesh and their thoughts twining so closely that he cannot imagine the person he might be apart from her."

2012 End Of Year Book Survey

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I knew when I saw the survey from Perpetual Page Turner that my post would be huge. I can’t seem to help listing multiple books for each question. So I apologize in advance for the massive post, but I promise this will be my only year end summary post. I may update it if I read something incredible this month.

Number of Books read in 2012: 149

I don’t include re-reads in my top books list for each year. Since this year I made re-reading a priority quite a few of my favorites would have been re-reads. I think it’s only fair that a single book isn’t my favorite 3 years in a row or something. Also, the books included in this post are all the books I read this year, so they are not limited to books published in 2012.

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? 
Here’s my top ten (with links to my reviews), because really, who can pick only one?


2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? 

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012? 

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012? 

5. Best series you discovered in 2012? 
The Underdog trilogy by Markus Zusak

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012? 

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you? 
The Master and the Margarita and Mindless Eating; the first is a crazy Russian classic and the second is a nonfiction book dealing with food. Neither is one that’s would normally appeal to me.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012? 
In the Woods and The Likeness

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year: 

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012? 



11. Most memorable character in 2012? 
Edmund Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo; the patience, the heartbreak, the sheer brilliance in planning, I won’t be forgetting him anytime soon.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012? 

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012? 
Cloud Atlas, because it was the first read-along I hosted and also because the book was so complex. It had a huge message, you really had to work for it, but it was very powerful. Also, having the movie come out in the same year gave me the chance to compare the two and think about the details of the book all over again. It’s a book that has stayed with me and my appreciation for it has grown deeper the more I mull it over. Here’s one bit that stuck with me…

“Belief is both a prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind’s mirror, the world. If we believe humanity is a ladder of tribes, a colosseum of confrontation, exploitation & bestiality, such a humanity is surely brought into being, & history’s Horroxes, Boerhaaves & Gooses shall prevail…. One fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself… In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.”

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read? 
The Sign of Four and Hannah Coulter; the first is now my favorite Sherlock Holmes book. The second is by Wendell Berry and I can’t believe I’ve never read anything by him before now!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?  
Just one, sorry I can’t pick just one!

“Reading, I had learned, was as creative a process as writing, sometimes more so." – Jasper Fforde

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.” – The Count of Monte Cristo

“When angry count four, when very angry swear.” – Mark Twain

"Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you." – The Fault in Our Stars

“Be generous in your dealings, but always have something saved for rainy weather.” – Life is So Good

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012? 
Lysistrata – 80 pages and The Count of Monte Cristo - 1,276 pages

17. Book That Had a Scene In It That Had You Reeling and Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? 
Both the end of Gone Girl the end of The Count of Monte Cristo fall into this category.

18. Favorite Relationship from a Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc). 
The friendship between Fermín and Daniel in The Prisoner of Heaven; I loved getting to see those two grow as friends and learn the true history behind how they met. Also the relationship between Hazel and Augustus (sob*) in The Fault in Our Stars.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 from an Author You Read Previously: 

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation from Somebody Else: 

21. Biggest new book blogging thing you did this year. 
I hosted my very first read-along (with Care’s Online Book Club) and it was really wonderful. Also, I joined the team of moderators at the Classics Club Blog and have really enjoyed working on that.

22. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? Yes! I completed the following challenges …
Rereading Challenge – I gave this one to myself. I wanted to re-read at least 12 books this year. It was one of my favorite things I did and I think it really made me appreciation the joy of rereading.

“And there lay the essential differences between reading and rereading. The former had more velocity; the latter had more depth. The former shut out the world in order to focus on the story; the latter dragged in the world in order to assess the story. The former was more fun; the latter was more cynical. But what was remarkable about the latter was that it contained the former.” – Anne Fadiman

23. Best bookish thing you did or event you attended.
The Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series at Butler University, talks by both Margaret Atwood and Jhumpa LahiriAlso, visiting Sinclair Lewis’ boyhood home in Minnesota and Fitzgerald’s birthplace in St. Paul during a road trip with the Huz!

How was your 2012 reading guys?

Photo from here.