Category Archives: Books

Reading Goals for 2013

We’re almost at the end of the first month of 2013 and, hopefully, we haven’t all called it quits on our resolutions already.  I personally set goals for myself for the upcoming year and, usually, kind of fail at making them all come to fruition.  However, one set of goals that I tend to take rather seriously are my reading goals – or, rather, my hopes and dreams – for the year.

As mentioned in my final post of 2012, I didn’t hit my goal of overall number of books to read last year.  I have my reasons for not hitting that number, but I’d like to accomplish my goals for this year as a way to make up for last year’s shortcomings.  But we’re only 26 days into the year and I’ve already tweaked some of my goals.  Oops.

Let us start with the number of books that I would like to read this year.  On GoodReads, I set myself a goal of 35 books.  I think that I can do this.  Two years ago I read just over 40, so my hopes are high.

In conjunction with the total number of books that I’d like to devour, I originally set a challenge for myself to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I was ready to go, high on the excitement of watching (re-watching when it comes to the trilogy) the films, cracking jokes about Gandalf and tricksy hobbitses.  While I read The Hobbit for the second time in my life, however, I realized that it’s exceedingly difficult for me to get into third person narrations.  Especially when the fact that it is written in this manner cannot be escaped.  Basically, if it reads too much like a storybook, I wind up getting bored and struggling.

I haven’t abandoned the hope of reading Tolkien altogether, but I’m not maintaining this goal for 2013.  INSTEAD I want to challenge myself to read primarily historical fiction this year.  So, let’s say, at least 75%.  Pair the fact that I am admittedly obsessed with the Tudors and Anne Boleyn with my never tiring of these books, I think that this is a very feasible (and enjoyable) goal.

What are your reading goals for 2013?

Perhaps while I read these books, I will wear my new Anne Boleyn hoodie, bought from the tartx shop on Etsy.  It arrived last night and is beautiful, comfortable, and warm.  If you’re a fan of the Tudors or anything historical and classy, check out her shop.  You shan’t be disappointed.

Anne Boleyn hoodie from tartx on Etsy

Anne Boleyn hoodie from tartx on Etsy

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

0806_gone_425Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Mystery/Suspense

My final read of 2012 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – is definitely a book to be added to my ever-growing list of “favorites”.  This book was a gift and, while I have seen the title show up in reading lists, bestseller lists, and all over GoodReads, I never took a moment to read the synopsis and decide for myself whether or not I should check it out.  I am incredibly thankful that someone gifted it to me, however, because this is a book that I just could not put down.

Before I read the Millennium trilogy, I never would have considered myself a Mystery/Suspense kind of girl.  My main memories of the Mystery genre from my bookstore days were ridiculous, never-ending series where cats solved crimes or titles that I considered more in the realm of  really terrible “Chick Lit” than a book of substance.  However, thanks to Stieg Larsson, I’ve thrown my old prejudice opinions out the window and am finding some novels that I really, truly love.

Gone Girl is the story of a missing woman (Amy, the wife) and the #1 suspect (Nick, her husband – of course).  Each chapter is told in either the POV of Amy or Nick, laying out both sides of the story/experience for the reader.  The characters are complicated inasmuch as it’s difficult to really love or hate either of them 100%.

Through the entries in Amy’s diary, the reader takes a short journey through the beginnings of her relationship with Nick – the meeting, the inside jokes, the early years of their marriage, but when both of them lose their careers in journalism and then move out of New York City, it appears that their marriage gets rockier and rockier.

From reading other reviews (very carefully avoiding any spoilers), I knew that there were going to be a lot of surprises and I can honestly say that I was not disappointed.  I had this nagging desire to find out what happened to Amy and whether or not Nick really did it.  Needless to say, I am very happy that I had this past week off from work; otherwise, I would have been pretty exhausted each day from staying up late, powering through as many pages as possible before finally succumbing to sleep.

In 2013, I will definitely be checking out Gillian Flynn’s other two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.  If my excitement didn’t sell you on Gone Girl, a professionally written summary is included below:

Marriage can be a real killer.

   One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Check out Gone Girl on Amazon.

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Filed under 2012, American Author, Books, Favorites, Fiction, Gillian Flynn, Mystery, Women Writers

2012: The List of Books

Photo from todayfm.com

Photo from todayfm.com

Thanks to GoodReads.com (one of my favorite social networking websites), I totally embrace setting a goal of “x” number of books to read for the year.  And, also thanks to GoodReads.com, I can actually track my progress!  In 2011, I met my goal of 40 books for the year.  In comparison to a lot of other readers out there, this isn’t really all that impressive, but, as a slightly slower reader, I was ecstatic to hit the goal!

So, for 2012, I upped the ante.  When I set my goal, however, I did not know that my husband and I would trudge through the home buying process, close on a house, move, and then get to work on cleaning, painting, and miscellaneous other projects to make it “home”.  Now, I don’t know how many of my readers have purchased a house (a short sale at that), but it really consumes every ounce of your being.  SO.  I didn’t hit my goal.  I didn’t even meet my 2011 goal.  But that’s okay.  With everything that happened this year, I am still proud of the 36 books (novels, poetry, and graphic) that I completed.  I might just hit 37, too.  I’m currently reading Gone Girl and I totally cannot put it down!

My year-end lists also aid me in figuring out which books I failed to write about due to aforementioned crazy plus the holidays and work!

So, without further adieu, the list of the books that I read in 2012 (in no particular order)…

  1. Grandmother’s Secrets by Rosina-Fawiza Al-Rawi
  2. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  3. Slouching Toward Nirvana by Charles Bukowski
  4. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  5. Seamus Heaney – Selected Poems – 1966-1987
  6. Sarah: A Novel (Book One of the Canaan Trilogy) by Marek Halter
  7. The Maid and The Queen by Nancy Goldstone
  8. The Boleyn Inheritance (Tudor Court, #3) by Philippa Gregory
  9. Living Your Yoga by Judith Hans0n Lasater
  10. Body Double (Rizzoli & Isles #4) by Tess Gerritsen
  11. How to See Yourself As You Really Are by His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV
  12. Do It Herself by Joann Liebeler (a must-have for any lady buying a house!)
  13. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
  14. Defending Jacob by William Landay
  15. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
  16. The Constant Princess (Tudor Court, #1) by Philippa Gregory
  17. Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
  18. The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman
  19. Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates
  20. In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1) by Tana French
  21. The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth About The Tudors by Claire Ridgeway
  22. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (#1)  by J.K. Rowling
  23. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
  24. The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman
  25. The Last Week: What The Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem by Marcus J. Borg
  26. The Covenant (Abram’s Daughters, #1) by Beverly Lewis
  27. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  28. Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream by Kiyo Sato
  29. Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West by Anne Seagraves
  30. Katharine of Aragon: The Wives of Henry VIII (#2)  by Jean Plaidy
  31. The King’s Secret Matter (Tudor Saga, #4) by Jean Plaidy
  32. The Shadow of the Pomegranate (Tudor Saga, #3) by Jean Plaidy
  33. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  34. The Other Boleyn Girl (Tudor Court #2) by Philippa Gregory
  35. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  36. Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom by Yangzom Brauen

My goal for 2013 might be slightly lower than my 2012 goal, but I look forward to trying to read as much good literature as possible.  I have a few books lined up to kick off the year – Game of Thronesand The Hobbit.  If I’m feeling adventurous enough, I might FINALLY read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well.  Those books alone could take me all of 2013, however!

Are you setting any goals for yourself for 2013?  Did you set any for 2012?  If so, how did you do?

Oh, and one other goal that I have for 2013 – more consistent blog posting!!

Happy New Year and happy, happy reading!!

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Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

norwegian-wood2

Title:  Norwegian Wood
Author:  Haruki Murakami
LOVED IT!

Murakami is, hand’s down, one of my favorite authors.  While I’ve only read three pieces by him, all of the works that he has penned are on my “must-read” list.  Entering any of his worlds, the reader must enter knowing that he or she will experience a wide range of emotions.  Norwegian Wood is definitely no exception.

For each of us, there are songs, smells, or places that transport us to the moment of a memory.  Just like that.  “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles is that song in Murakami’s novel by the same name.  The narrator, Toru, experiences love, loss, and life throughout the course of the novel.  The reader journeys with him through friends’ suicides, stressed and struggling attempts at romance, and frustrating friendships that threaten to pull Toru into an empty way of existing.

I can’t do justice to the story through any description.  Here is a summary:

A special movie-tie in edition for the long-awaited film release based on this beloved novel by Haruki Murakami: the story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, a journey to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

Norwegian Wood is  a beautiful, haunting, and emotional story.  I wouldn’t expect anything less from one of Murakami’s novels.  It left me wanting more.

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Books in the News

Happy Friday, everyone!

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Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Title:  Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Author: Shunryu Suzuki
Length: 176 pages

Shortly after moving into the “new” area, I began searching for local Buddhist Temples to resume my study and practice.  Surprisingly, I found a Zen Center in a nearby city and headed out to see if I felt comfortable there and to see if it seemed feasible for me to make the drive on a regular basis.  While there, one of the teachers recommended that I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind in order to familiarize myself better with a branch of Buddhism that I know little about.

The sections are broken up into short lessons or talks by Shunryu Suzuki, a respected Zen Master who moved to the United States from Japan.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it all made complete, crystal clear sense to me on my first read-through, but the parts that did felt like a breath of fresh air to read.

The most important teaching that I walked away with is presented at the very beginning and woven through each section and through to the end:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

It is vital to always approach life with a beginner’s mind – check out this book to allow Suzuki to show you why.  Whatever your faith may be, you will be able to take the lessons from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and apply them to your life.

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In the Woods by Tana French

Title:  In the Woods
Author:  Tana French
Length:  429 pages
Felt a little long (at times), but… LOVED IT!

So, this post would have been written yesterday or the day prior, but I was still wrapping this book up!  I will say that, at times, the book felt as long as the page numbers imply, but, overall, French weaves an excellent, edge-of-your-seat mystery in In the Woods.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones.

I decided that I wanted to read this book after glimpsing the synopsis on the back cover of an edition for sale in Target.  Since I’m trying to save money (!!), I opted to request this title from my local library and was notified a few days later that it was waiting for me behind the counter.  Eagerly, I dove into the story, but it took a little bit for me to feel truly SUCKED into the story and as though I absolutely needed to power through to the end.

The story is told through the narrative of Rob Ryan, a detective who was also once at the center of a case as a child, but has blocked out the memory of what really happened in the woods.  The mystery kicks off with Ryan, the adult, heading into the same woods that were the crime scene from his youth to take on a case of another child murder.

Against better judgment, Ryan and his partner, Cassie, keep the fact that Ryan was involved in a potentially linked case from their superiors, and the reader has a front row seat in Ryan’s extreme triumphs in memory and failure to maintain sanity throughout the life of the present-day case that he is tasked with solving.

French succeeds in making each character seem real, complete with fears, secrets, and countless instances of poor judgment…  you can’t help but be drawn into caring deeply about some and feeling totally frustrated and disgusted with others.  I am also a fan of the fact that everything doesn’t necessarily wrap up nice and clean in the end since, honestly, those types of endings seem to mirror reality more-so than those where everyone gets everything that the want, rainbows abound, and blue birds sing happy songs all around.

I definitely recommend In the Woods to anyone who enjoys mysteries and cop drama.  I’ve always been a fan of cop drama and am currently really into AMC’s The Killing.  Because of this, I pictured Ryan and Maddox as… you guessed it… Linden and Holder:

 

 

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Quotable Monday: Louisa May Alcott

Love is a great beautifier.


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Cat Map – Cats in Libraries

Cats and books (and book lovers!) have always just… gone together.  How many times have you read a book with a cat nestled on your lap? Or your chest? Or, more likely, on the book?  Kitties are the perfect reading companions – most definitely in the winter – and seem to even regularly find themselves in small bookshops and local libraries.

If, like me, you’re fascinated by these cats and love following them around the shop just as much as you enjoy browsing the merchandise, you might like to know WHERE you can find these cats.  Iron Frog Productions has a website dedicated entirely to showing you where these cats are (and have been historically) around the world in their Library Cats Map!

The map is easy to browse by country and state (for those of us here in the US).  Check it out and see if there are any near you!

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What’s happening in the world of books…

It’s time for a weekly round-up of some of the stuff that is happening in the world of books!  Enjoy!

Adrienne Rich 

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