Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 of 2011 and Goals in Reading, Writing, and Blogging

This aims to be a somewhat lengthy post.  I hope you will forgive me.  I'll try not to be too long-winded! First of all, let's get the best of list taken care of....

Top 10 of 2011 (these are really in no particular order with the exception of # 1)
**you can click the titles to read my reviews**

10.  The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner--truly one of the best historical novels I've read.  Gortner wrote so passionately and poignantly about one of my favorite historical queens, Juana of Castile.

9.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson--Saw the Swedish film version before reading the book.  Couldn't help envisioning Noomi Rapace the entire time I was reading, but man is Lisbeth Salander one of the best characters ever created! A book that I might not ordinarily like because of the various publishing and manufacturing espionage and cogs and wheel descriptions, it is so well-written and the characters, with Lisbeth in the lead, are so real and interesting.  Can't wait to read the next two books.  And yes, I will see the U.S. version of the film.  Daniel Craig?  Who can resist?!

8.  The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber--if you're looking for in-your-face, Victorian historical fiction, then this book is for you.  Faber pulls no punches with his depiction of the relationship between a Whitechapel whore and an upper class gentleman.  Every ounce of action and interaction is so vivid, it's like you're in the book.  This one was on my shelves for many years and I'm so glad I finally got around to reading it.

7.  The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (I did not review this book, so this mini-review will serve as my official review)--I heard that some people compare this book to Harry Potter.  I'm sorry, but I just don't see it.  Yes, he loses his parents and yes, he goes to a school of magic where he excels, but for me, that's where the similarities end.  In the Harry Potter books, Harry doesn't actively seek revenge against Voldemort, at least in the beginning.  It is Voldemort who is always trying to do away with Harry.  In this book, Kvothe's main objective after his parents are murdered is revenge.  And really, he has a far worse hard luck story than Harry did.  Harry at least had a roof over his head.  Finally, the Harry Potter series is meant for the middle grade set.  The Name of the Wind is clearly for the adult crowd.  All this being said, Rothfuss is a new and exciting voice on the fantasy front and I can't wait to continue reading about Kvothe's adventures. 

6.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak--I loved this book! As with any book that gets a lot of thumbs up and hype, I am always a bit skeptical that it is really as good as everyone says.  Well, in this case, the hype was totally right.  Not a typical novel surrounding Nazi Germany, the story is both inspiring and heartbreaking.  Experiencing the joy of a young girl's discovery of the written word is especially poignant.

5.  Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie--my first Agatha Christie novel (I've read some of her short stories)! I was really surprised that I loved this book because while I liked the Tommy and Tuppence stories in Partners in Crime well enough, they were really take it or leave it for me.  Not this book.  It kept me enthralled from page one.  And I'm usually pretty good at figuring out who the killer is, but Agatha, the master, had me fooled and I didn't know until everyone else in the book found out.  I'm looking forward to reading more AC in the future.

4.  The Daugher of Time by Josephine Tey (not previously reviewed, this mini-review will serve as my official review)--another first time author for me.  I picked this one up because I was looking for a good audio book at the library and this one caught my eye because of the portrait of Richard III was on the cover.  This book was so completely interesting because of the main character's in depth investigation into what really happened to the princes in the tower, all while laid up in a hospital bed.  He really puts forth an interesting argument and sheds quite a bit more than a shadow of doubt regarding the guilt of Richard III in their demise.  Being such a huge history buff, the research parts really had me on the edge of my seat (I know...I'm such a geek!).  I will definitely be reading more of Tey's books.  I certainly will not ever look at Richard III, or the princes in the tower, the same again.

3.  My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares--people who read my blog on a regular basis know that I believe in reincarnation and that I'm fascinated by the subject.  I read this book early in 2011, and while I also read another book dealing with reincarnation recently which was a great book (The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose), this is the book that has stuck with me and stands out in my mind.  I just hope there is some news about a continuation, because I was rather pissed about the ending until I found out it's a planned series.  Any news on that front, dear readers?

2.  Blue by Lou Aronica--not a typical fantasy, Blue is a book that I never thought would be so awesome, but it was.  Lou takes the concept of what we will do for our children to a whole new level, in a good way.  It's a slow starter, but I'm so glad I didn't give up on it.  Otherwise, I would have missed out on a wonderful and memorable book.

1.  A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin--here it is! My favorite read of 2011 and one of the best books I have ever read.  Certainly one of the best fantasy novels ever written, in my humble opinion.  I had not picked up such a well-written fantasy novel, with awesome world building and realistic, beguiling characters (some evil, some full of honor and truth), since reading Lord of the Rings for the first time ten years ago.  The HBO series is awesome as well, but the book...what else can I say, it's just...well, it's just IT! I already have the second and third books on deck and I plan to read book two before the second season of the TV series starts.  I can't wait to see where the rest of the books take me.  I know it will be quite an unforgettable adventure.

Honorable Mention and No Need to Mention
I just can't do ten...sorry!

The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward (I didn't list the Christmas books in my top ten because I know some people do not read Christmas novels...this was a five star read and so was the next one)

The Gift by Cecelia Ahern--no official review, but here's a mini:  A bit of A Christmas Carol feel to this one so it's a given I would like it, but told in a new and original way.  No lightly tiptoeing on broken glass here.  A Christmas book that really makes you think, but not the run of the mill Christmas fare. I highly recommend it.

The King's Mistress by Emma Campion

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness--no official review, but here's a mini:  A book that (almost) brought me memories of Anne Rice's best novels, the Mayfair Witches series and the Vampire Chronicles.  One caveat...why is Diana such a wimp and so damn wishy washy?! Anne would never have written a character like that.  So you're probably wondering why this made my honorable mention list.  Well, simply because it's well-written and her creatures--daemons, witches, and vampires--are such an interesting concept.  And, bare bones, it's a really good story.  Let's just hope that Diana turns over a new leaf in the next book.

And what are 'no need to mentions', you say?  These are books that (most) everyone loves and that I knew I would love even before I read them.  They are SO obviously great, there's really no need to mention them on a 'best of' list.  They are...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling--no official review, but here are a few thoughts:  What an ending to one of the most wonderful book series ever.  The Harry Potter books brought me back to that feeling I used to get when I was a kid, when I discovered a truly great book or series.  I had feelings like that when I read The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, or The Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum, as a girl.  It takes one talented writer to bring a woman in her thirties and forties (that is the span of years over which I read the series) back to those childhood days.  Rowling ended the series perfectly.  Although there were some very sad parts, I think it ended exactly as it should.  In making the end happy and poignant at the same time, Rowling lived up to the credibility she displayed throughout the series.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Check out my best of 2011 in horror/speculative fiction over at Castle Macabre. (coming soon)

Just a few New Year's goals...

--Review Books.  I have to make myself be more selective when it comes to review books.  If you saw my backlog, you would understand why.  I had limited myself on this blog to only accepting historical fiction, and I've done well with that, but then I launched Castle Macabre (my horror/speculative fiction blog) and started accepting books for review over there.  I do think I have review requests on hold over there until after the first of the year, but I may need to extend that hold.  I really need to start limiting my participation on book tours as well.  You know who you are, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Bewitching Book Tours, and Crazy Book Tours! But they organize such awesome tours, how can I resist?  So, I'm not quite sure what my solution is going to be, but I will come up with something.
--Reading deliberately.  After (finally) unpacking, organizing, and shelving my 3000+ books, I have determined that I really need to start reading from my own shelves.  To that effect, most (or all) of the reading challenges I sign up for this year will incorporate books from my own shelves.
--Sign up for less reading challenges, as I (again) failed miserably at completing all of them. =O(

Over at my writing blog, The Story Inside Me, I'm participating in NaBloPoMo.  A challenge of daily journaling/blogging in the month of January.  I'm also participating in my second year of the writing challenge, ROW80.  I started my novel in November during NaNoWriMo, but did not finish it so I will be using ROW80 to help me finish it in 2012.  I'm also doing a writer challenge, Change Write Now, that involves getting healthy, breaking bad habits, and adopting new ones.  I've already lost 40 lbs in 2011.  I'm thinking this challenge will not only help me work on losing more, but also help me to improve myself in other areas.

My two goals regarding blogging are to write my reviews in a more timely immediately after finishing the book! LOL! And, most importantly, make a conscious and regular effort to visit my fellow book bloggers and comment on a regular basis.  I really slacked off at the end of the year and I really have to get back on track with it.  After all, that's one of the perks of book blogging...meeting and interacting with people of a like mind.  We're all a bunch of book fanatics.  Only we truly understand the inner workings of a book lover's mind.  We really must stick together!

What's coming up in 2012
Just wanted to mention a couple of things that will be coming up in the new year...

--Many of my friends and followers look forward to my four seasonal read-a-thons, which I started in the Fall of 2010.  My winter read-a-thon is scheduled for next month, A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon 2012 (details HERE).  Since my Frightful Fall Read-a-Thon, which I hosted at Castle Macabre, was such a success, I've decided to make my Spring Read-a-Thon a spooky themed read-a-thon.  That way I'll have two scary themed read-a-thons a year hosted at Castle Macabre.  What do you think?  What about a name...tell me which of these you like best in the comments:

Spooky Spring Read-a-thon at Castle Macabre
Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon at Castle Macabre 
Spring is Scary Read-a-Thon at Castle Macabre

If you have any other suggestions for a name, feel free to leave them in the comments as well.

--Since I have all my books shelved (and stacked and least they're out of the boxes), I can now take pictures and I will be posting them on my home library's own personal blog (yes, my library has it's own blog), A Huge Library in a Small Apartment, as well as finally adding my entire catalog of books to the blog.  Yay!

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you have a prosperous year and are able to achieve all of your goals in 2012. =O)


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Monster Pick Your A Thon

Okay, I was going to do another read-a-thon this week, but decided that I had too much to do other than reading so decided against it.  Then I came across this little gem over at The Book Monsters...the Pick Your A Thon.  How clever! Here are the details:

Kristen and I have been debating and debating... read-a-thon or review-a-thon? After much discussion, we decided: why can't we have our cake and eat it too? I mean we both need to work on something: Kristen with reading. Me with reviewing. And what a better time than now to do it!

Date: December 28th to January 3rd
Goal: You pick! You can participate in a review-a-thon... a read-a-thon.. or BOTH, if you are feeling really adventurous.

To join us, declare yourself! 

Sign up for the Monster Pick Your A Thon by leaving a link to your post in the Linky below. And please feel free to steal the button above for your own post.

Don't have a blog? No sweat. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join. To join, simply leave your name in the Linky and a link to one of your social network sites. 

We have plenty of mini-challenges and prizes also planned! We hope you can join us for a week full of fun!

***Click the button above to check it out and sign-up***

Since I have a lot of reading to do, reviews to catch up on, challenges to update and see which ones I failed at (which I imagine will be most of them *frown*), and I have to pick my 2012 (future fail *lol*) challenges, I am doing a read-a-thon/review-a-thon combo...along with a challenge sign-up-a-thon and New Year's Resolutions-a-thon, and end of year post-a-thon.  I'm crazy like that!

I'll be reading:
The Gingerbread Bump-Off by Livai J. Washburn (finishing)
Next Christmas in Girouette by Michael Welch
Blood of Anteros by Georgia Cates

Plus, finishing up a few books that I never completely finished...ugh...I hate when I do that. =O(

Thanks to Kristen and Kate for hosting this.  Maybe it will give me much needed incentive and keep me organized (doubt it, but fingers crossed). ;O)


Cat Thursday--Happy New Year and Best of 2011

Well, the second year (official two year anniversary is in March) of Cat Thursday has been a success! When I started this little meme/feature, I never thought I would get such a great weekly turnout.  I soon found out that I'm not the only person out there who thinks cats hung the moon and stars. =O)  I would like to wish all of my Cat Thursday participants (and those who visit the posts every week) a very Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to another year of cat fun.

Now, I share with you the best of 2011.  This year saw the introduction as well of 'authors and their cats' every second Cat Thursday of the month, among the other fun weekly cat posts.  Enjoy!



I had to post two from May...these just crack me up!
The very first 'authors and their cats' thursday! Alexander McCall Smith and his cat.
I SO love Doctor Who! Here are all 'The Doctors' as cats.....

The Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory, River Song
An lolcat pic I captioned myself...




Wednesday, December 28, 2011

TuesBookTalk January Selection: The Scarlet Letter

TuesBookTalk Read-a-Longs on Twitter (@tuesbooktalk  #tuesbooktalk) and on Goodreads is reading in the classics genre for January.  We voted on classics that had themes of new beginnings, starting over, diving into something different to coincide with the new year.  Our discussion starts Tuesday, January 3 on Twitter at 10:30pm ET/9:30pm CT.  You do not have to join us on Twitter.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the Goodreads group if you can't make the chat on Twitter.  Get the full reading schedule HERE.  January's read is:


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

TTBA Weekly News and Mailbox Monday

This feature was inspired by It's Monday! What are you reading? hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and by The Sunday Salon.

Well, the day is past, but I'm happy to say that the season doesn't officially end for my family until January 6, on Twelfth Night/Epiphany.  It's a relaxing time because the hustle of shopping, baking, and food preparation is over and I can sit back and read, watch Christmas movies, and actually enjoy the decorations that so much work went into putting up.  I'm going to be doing a lot of catching up this week.  Finishing up some books, updating challenges to see if I completed any (I think I may have only completed one or two), writing reviews that were never written, and choosing my challenges for next year.  Oh dear, there are so many good ones out there, but I have to try to be very selective because I never seem to complete what I sign up for...darn! I am looking forward to the new year though.  My last two years have not been great so I'm hoping 2012 will be my year.

How was your Christmas/holiday?  Do you have big reading plans for the new year?


As I mentioned above, my Christmas goes until January 6 and so do the events over at The Christmas Spirit.  The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge and Sharing the Joy 2011.  If you're doing the challenge, I hope you have been enjoying it.  Be sure to stop by and visit some of the posts from Sharing the Joy this year.  There are several giveaways going on, including my 100+ followers

It's time to sign-up for my winter read-a-thon, A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon.  It's scheduled for January 23 -29, 2012.  Visit the sign-up post HERE.  It's going to be a good start to those new year's resolutions, if they include tackling that ever looming to-be-read pile/stack/mountain.  I hope you will join me!

What I'm Reading
Finishing up:
--The Gift by Cecelia Ahern
--Lost December by Richard Paul Evans
--The Gingerbread Bump-Off by Livia J. Washburn

Will read this week:
--Next Christmas in Girouette by Michael Welch (for review at The Christmas Spirit)
--Blood of Anteros by Georgia Cates (for review on Jan. 2 at Castle Macabre)

Start this week (for group reads/read-a-longs):
--The Secret History by Donna Tartt
--Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
--11/22/63 by Stephen King

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is currently on tour. This month's host is Jenny at Let Them Read Books (want to read a book description? Clicking the book covers will take you to the book's page on Amazon)

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

CHRISTMAS GIFT (from my mother-in-law):

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews...from April at My Shelf Confessions
Battle for Cascadia: The Second Book of the Gaia Wars by Kenneth G. Bennett...from the author or Novel Publicity (not sure which, doh!)

I'm on the Historical Fiction Virtual book tour for The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins, in March.  The wonderful author sent everyone on the tour (if they wanted) copies of her previous books, Midwife of the Blue Ridge and The Tory Widow to read, with no obligation for review (but, of course, I will review them when I can).  She also sent some lovely gifts...two hand-dipped bayberry taper candles, a small bar of lavender soap, and a bag of Sally's Liberty Tea.  Each gift has a gift tag with the cover of each book.  Just wonderful! One of the covers did not show up in the BookBox above so I'm also including them here.

A Question of Guilt by Julianne Lee

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire
The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

'Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.
~Walter Scott

Merry Christmas! May your day be safe, happy, and bright!

- See more at: