Sunday, December 30, 2012

My favorite books of 2012

(not my favorites this year - just some random books I photographed)

I like to wait until the very last second of the year to decide what my favorite books I read this year were. Not all of them were written this year, that is just when I read them. That being said, my favorites in no particular order are:

11/22/63 by Stephen King: Who knew that King could write such a beautiful love story? I loved this book so much.Viva la Stephen King!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: I couldn't put this book down, and it blew my mind. Amazing and brilliant. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed:  Inspiring. I have never so actively read a book in my life.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick: I stumbled upon this author thanks to my stepmother. Wow, I am glad she introduced us.

Looking for Alaska by John Green: I wanted to live within these pages.

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick: Yes, this was year of Goolrick love for me. 

The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life by Noble Smith: Everyone should read this book and live the Hobbit lifestyle. 

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn:  Flynn writes the scariest, craziest, smartest books. 

And for some YA love:

The Diviners by Libba Bray:   You have to love a book you learn from. Bray really researched this book well, and it had a little of everything for every reader.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: I just really loved these characters

What about you? Did you read any of these? What did you think? What books did you love best this year?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday Snapshots

Saturday Snapshot
It's easy to participate- just post a picture that was taken by
you, a friend, or a family member, and add your link
on Alyce's site. (no pictures from the internet!)

Marlow Meepers says Merry Christmas!
 And "Get this hat off my head!" 
(He only had that on for the photo, I immediately took it off.)  

Mini Reviews to Wrap Up

 Looking for Alaska - John Green

I read this book right before Christmas, amidst all the gift wrapping and making and buying. It is the first book by Green I have read, and I have to say, I am in love. It was love at first sight, really. Every word, every sentence was perfect.  I don't feel I can say anything about this book that hasn't been said a million times before. The only thing I will say is that everyone should read it, and immediately, if they haven't already.

His Mistress By Christmas by Victoria Alexander

It is tradition that Santa leaves me a Christmas romance in my stocking every year. And really, is there anything happier than a Christmas romance?  This year I received His Mistress by Christmas, and the main character woman was pretty different than most of the books that I have read of this type. Outspoken, adventurous, risk taking, not afraid to go after what she wanted, Veronica was an interesting character.  I liked the inclusion of the Adventure/Exploration Club, and this book was just fun and enjoyable.

I got the idea for little mini reviews from Jennifer at The Relentless Reader. Sometimes I just don't have much to say about a book I read, so this format is perfect.

Friday, December 28, 2012

December Book Club

Hostess: Mary
Book: An Angel for Christmas by Heather Graham
Food: Pizza, Cheese Tray, Veggie Tray, Hummus and Pita, Milano Peppermint Slices, Lemon Bars
Month: December
Wine of the night: Island Winery- Shipwreck, which is local wine. And it was good!

Mary chose An Angel for Christmas and it was the perfect book for the season. It was festive, short, and an easy read escape, all things that are appreciated in such a stressful time.   The book was more religious than I had anticipated, I guess I thought the angel would be more figurative. Jennifer and I disliked the main character Morwenna, but liked the rest of the characters.  It was a thriller-mystery type book, and I found the mystery itself interesting. Overall, it was a fun holiday read.  

Every Christmas for the past few years we have been doing a handmade Christmas gift exchange, and every year it is so fun to see what everyone has created.  Alyssa and Jill were unable to attend this month, but here are the gifts from the rest of us. 

From the left: The painted pink horse was from me (this is Jill's that I have to take to her house tonight). It is a planter idea I got from this blog. Chrissy made the purple ornament with the snowflake (my favorite color!), Mary made us the Bottle of Wine Book Club ornaments, Kelly commisioned her mother-in-law to  make us fabric book covers, and Jennifer made us homemade caramel, from The Pioneer Woman's recipe.

We always have a great time, drinking and eating and chatting.  I can't even tell you how loud book club gets, its crazy! 

Next month is Alyssa's month to host.

Closer look...  

Chrissy's ornament

Mary's Ornament

Kelly's cover

Jennifer's Caramel

My painted plastic animal planter


Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Blogger Holiday Card Exchange #1

The Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange was a super fun event to participate in.  It was easy - you were assigned three bloggers that you were to send a card to, with some sort of bookish message inside.  If you wanted to include something in your card, you were not supposed to spend more than $5.00, and the the card had to stay flat. 

The cards and gifts I have received have been so creative!! I don't think I was as successful in the department, but I hope they enjoyed my cards and gift as well. 

Suey at Sueys Books made me the most adorable card, with words from my blog on the star. So cute!I also love the laminated Read bookmark. Suey told me about some of the best books she read this year, and crazily I haven't read any. But I am definitely going to read The Scorpio Races very soon!

Ashley of Book Labyrinth sent a super cute snowman card and 5 bookmarks! 2 that she made and laminated (on the tree) and 3 advertising different books. I will have to check the books out!  Ashley also included a few titles that she has loved, and I haven't read them but I am going to read them for sure in 2013.

I am going to have to come up with some cute ideas for next year! I am really enjoying this fun little blogger holiday treat.

Friday, December 14, 2012

TBR Pile Reading Challenge for 2013!


 I have a large leather journal. It looks like this:

It has at least 300 pages, and I write the names of books I want to read in it. A true TBR list.  I seem to just keep adding titles, and never going back and reading some most of them.  This challenge gives me the incentive to read them, I am looking forward to participating! I don't know which books I plan on reading yet, but I do know I am aiming for the "Friendly Hug" level, which is 11-20 books. I am excited to cross a few titles off of my huge list.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars~ Review

Title: Jepp, Who Defied the Stars
Author: Katherine Marsh
Source: The Library

Goodreads Summary:

Is it written in the stars from the moment we are born?
Or is it a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands?
Jepp of Astraveld needs to know.
He left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakable fate. If the humiliations were his alone, perhaps he could endure them; but it breaks Jepp's heart to see his friend Lia suffer.
After Jepp and Lia attempt a daring escape from the palace, Jepp is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Now, spirited across Europe in a kidnapper's carriage, Jepp fears where his unfortunate stars may lead him. But he can't even begin to imagine the brilliant and eccentric new master--a man devoted to uncovering the secrets of the stars--who awaits him. Or the girl who will help him mend his heart and unearth the long-buried secrets of his past.

My thoughts:
I read everything and I read for every reason.  Some books I read as a distraction, others I read to a distraction. Most books I learn from, some I just have fun with. Some books are boring and I use them to help me fall asleep. And then sometimes I read a book so beautiful, I don’t want it to end. Jepp Who Defied the Stars was such a book. 

I took an astronomy class in college.  I did terribly, for the most part. I am an awful math student, and for some reason it never occurred to me that astronomy was a ton of math and formulas. I thought I would just be learning about constellations and planets and astronomers. I imagined it like an elementary version of astronomy I guess. And the history of astronomy, about all the famous astronomers, was the only part of the class I did well in. I was fascinated with Tycho Brahe. We learned in class the story of how he died – that he was at a dinner party at a noble’s house, and had to go to the bathroom. But he didn’t want to interrupt dinner, because that was rude and disrespectful, and so his bladder exploded and he died. I had no idea this could happen to people and it freaked me out. I never forgot that story. I recently learned (after reading Jepp) that this is more of a story, not true fact. Nonetheless, Tycho Brahe had become a huge reference for me, and when I saw that Jepp, Who Defied the Stars was in part about Brahe, I had to read it.

And this book was so beautiful. And heartbreaking. At times I had to put it down and walk away because the story was bumming me out. Jepp went through so much in his journey. He began life as the dwarf son of a hotelier, and lived in the tavern happily.  His mother was always there to protect him from those who would make fun of him, and he knew he was loved and safe.  Then one day, a fine nobleman came to town, for the purpose of taking of Jepp with him to Coudenberg Palace, to live with the Spanish court of the Infanta.  Don Diego, the nobleman, spoke of a good life for Jepp there, where he would be cherished. I didn’t know this, but dwarves were part of court life back then- sometimes as beloved members, most of the time as court jesters who were treated cruelly. It was here that Jepp’s life takes a turn, which begins his quest for the truth of his life and to change his stars.

Interestingly, royal horoscopes were procured for nobles, and in this book, for the dwarves at Coudenberg. Astronomers not only studied the stars, they were also astrologists. And in a twist of fate, Jepp is sent to live with Tycho Brahe, who is in charge of the royal horoscopes Don Diego had ordered. Tycho lived on the island of Hven, in Uraniborg Castle, which also served primarily as a research institute/astronomical observatory.  Jepp’s fortune changes yet again, as it does throughout the course of this book
Jepp’s life is filled with questions, and uncertainty, even though on the surface his life seems to be mapped out. The variable is always Jepp.  (math reference! I hope I used it right! Lol)  He knows what his life is supposed to be like, but can he change it? Can he change his destiny? Can any man?
I really loved this book – it was gorgeously written, with rich characters and settings. I lived the ups and downs with Jepp, and sometimes I even cried.  It will make you think about life, its twists and turns, its hills and valleys. It was amazing, and I believe everyone should read it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week. 

It has been cold and rainy here this week! I am so ready for snow!! I just feel more in the spirit with snow on the ground. 

Read Last Week:

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: NetGalley book. I loved this book!! The ending was a little weak, but everything else was wonderful!

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh: I am super close to finishing this book, so I am listing it as done. ;) Review will be up this week. 

Reading This Week:


An Angel for Christmas by Heather Graham: Our book club book for this month. I love a happy Christmas story.

Looking For Alaska by John Green: I am finally getting to a John Green book! 


Thursday, December 6, 2012

November Book Club

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #1)Hostess: Kelly
Book: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
Food: Pizza, Salad, Tiramisu, Wine
Month: November
Wine of the night: I am not sure, I was getting over a cold and was only drinking tea.
This was a very low key book club - no dance party this time! Lol.  Everyone was super relaxed, and most of us had read the book. We compared book covers.  Mostly people had the book cover pictured on my blog; Kelly and I however had a very risque cover. I was embarassed to read my version in public, honestly, so I only read it at home. 

The book itself wasn't terrible.  I didn't really like the main characters too much.  Kelly loved them, Chrissy thought Lord Ian Mackenzie was a serial killer, and Jennifer thought the whole book was funny. I had a couple of laughs over it myself, especially when Beth's eyes were described as "heart breakingly blue".  I was more interested in reading about Ian's brothers, Mac and Cameron. I think I will read their books, but skip the brother Hart's book.

We also commented on the foot wear we were all wearing. 3 out of the 5 of us were wearing boots, 2 of the 5 were wearing Converse. Ahh, the things we discuss at book club. :) We also talked about autism, psychics, and the upcoming holiday.  It was a very mellow book club, which was nice.  
Boot Club!


Next month is Mary's month, and she picked the book An Angel for Christmas by Heather Graham.  We will also be exchanging our handmade gifts. I am so excited to see what everyone is making this year! I know that I am super excited to hand out what I am making. :)

Out of the Easy - Review

Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

My thoughts:

I have been obsessed addicted to reading any book that is set in New Orleans for a very long time, since I was in high school and I discovered Anne Rice.  I have been to New Orleans numerous times, the last time being the week before Katrina. And I have a very good friend who is a transplanted New Orleanian, and New Orleans is a place I would totally move to if I could.  I had been waiting patiently for this book to be published, so when I saw it on NetGalley I had to request  it. I was so happy when I was approved. 

I downloaded this onto my iPad and started devouring this book like a beignet at Cafe du Monde, just less messily.  I read at night until my eyes were closing, and took the book with me to work, where I read during my lunch and break. Then I read a little bit in the afternoon, but I only had ten more pages to read and I couldn't stop there, I had to know what happened.  

Needless to say, I really enjoyed 99% of this book. The characters were all such different personalities, all of them endearing. Your heart went out to Josie - her life wasn't easy, but she had hopes and dreams, even though she didn't think she was good enough to achieve them. Willie Woodley reminded me of Belle Watling from Gone with the Wind, a sort of take no prisoners attitude, a tough as nails madam, but who had a soft spot for Josie.  Josie's mother was useless and pitiful, but much of your pity evaporated with her continued horrible treatment of Josie. Josie's boss Charlie and his son Patrick formed the rest of her little family, along with Cokie, a taxi driver and driver for Willie. They all assist in helping Josie, (with the exception of her mother) who desperately wants to go to college and get out of the Big Easy, away from her mother and those who know her as the daughter of a prostitute. Josie's mother makes this nearly impossible, and her presence threatens to ruin her daughter's life at every turn. But Josie is resourceful, and has good friends behind her, and her story is captivating. You can't help but root for this girl.  However, the ending was too neat and tidy and convenient. I thought it was a cop out, the easy way out of the story, a way to wrap it up quickly. I feel so much went into this story, that it shouldn't have ended so abruptly. 

I loved the writing in this book - I felt like I was walking the streets of the Quarter with Josie, I saw what she saw and felt what she felt.  Sepetys can certainly set a scene. My only complaint is the throw away ending, and that is not enough to stop me from wanting to read Between Shades of Grey. I think this book is worth picking up, even if it is just to enter the world of New Orleans Sepetys has visualized. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

As 2012 draws to a close, I am beginning to look ahead to the reading challenges of 2013. I know that I want to participate in more next year, so I am busily finding the ones that appeal to me.  This challenge is hosted by Historical Tapestry, a blog that I stumbled upon the other day and instantly wanted to read the whole thing. Like a book. (Is that weird? Can you even read blogs that way?)

I am a history buff - my degree is in History, and I have always loved it.  But over the years I have noticed I have been reading less and less historical fiction, and I want to renew my interest in it. I think this challenge is perfect for helping me to rediscover my love of history and historical fiction.

There are many different levels you can choose from -

20th century reader - 2 books
Victorian reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History -25+ books

I am going to start off slowly, and aim for the Victorian Reader level. If I read more and become a Renaissance Reader, then that is even better.

I am excited to take part in this challenge, and have a few books already in mind to read.  I am more drawn to books about Medieval history, Egyptian history, Irish and Scottish history, and early United States history. And does Regency romance count? Lol. This will be a fun challenge, and one that I will learn from as well.

The Wisdom of the Shire ~ Review

Title: The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life

Author: Noble Smith
Source: Library - but I am going to buy it!

Goodreads Summary:

In The Wisdom of the Shire, Noble Smith sheds a light on the life-changing ideas tucked away inside the classic works of J.R.R. Tolkien and his most beloved creation—the stouthearted Hobbits.

Drawing on The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and other tales of Middle-earth, Smith shows how a snug Hobbit-hole is actually just a state of mind and how even the smallest person can have the valor of a Rider of Rohan. He explores subjects dear to a Halfling's heart, such as beer, food, and friendship, as well as more serious concerns, such as courage, living in harmony with nature, and good versus evil.

How can simple pleasures such as gardening, taking long walks, and eating delicious meals with friends make you significantly happier? Why is the act of giving presents on your birthday instead of getting them such a revolutionary idea? And how can we carry the burden of our own "magic ring of power" without becoming devoured by it? The Wisdon of the Shire holds the answers to these and more of life's essential questions.

My thoughts:

You know those conversations you have with close friends and family, late at night or on a long car ride, where you start talking about everything and anything? Like the one you might have had with your brother and husband, about what race of character would you be from The Lord of the Rings? Would you be an Elf, a Hobbit, a Dwarf, or a Human? Well, I always thought it would be cool to be an elf in Middle Earth, while my husband and brother always chose Hobbit. I would laugh and ask why. Why Hobbit when the elves had that cool language and had that communion with trees thing and lived in forests? Well, after reading Noble Smith’s book, The Wisdom of the Shire, I would like to take back my answer. I would definitely choose Hobbit.

The movement to eat local and organic, to simplify our lives, live in a sustainable and responsible way is huge right now. Thoreau knew it all those years ago, and wrote about it in Walden. But that seemed like a meager and hard existence. It appears Tolkien had a similar idea, but he shaped this idea, warmed it up, made it cozy and homey, and gave this life to the Hobbits in the Shire.   Smith interprets this way of life for us, and the when I finished his book, I really wanted to move to the Shire. Although I can’t do that, I certainly can take his lessons and apply them to my life.  

The Wisdom of the Shire implores us to take more walks, eat local, plant a garden, get enough rest, make your home a refuge, a place filled with love you want to go back to. To “eat like a Brandybuck, and drink like a Took, “with simple, delicious, nourishing food and, yes, beer. Lol. We learn to love like a Hobbit, and about courage and joy. We learn about giving gifts on your birthday instead of receiving. Smith had a Hobbit birthday once – Hobbits find gifts for others among their own belongings, and wrap them up and give them away on their birthdays. Smith did this one year and he loved it. I think this is something I would like to try next year. 

I really enjoyed this book. I loved all the Hobbit life lessons, and feel that I am going to implement this way of life into my own life. I think it is a worth a read, even if you are not familiar with The Lord of the Rings. And I am totally going to plant a Party Tree and a Hobbit garden.