2012 Reading Resolutions

Dec 31, 2011

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1. Slow down and enjoy what I'm reading.
I set a goal to read 100 books this past year, and I loved having a goal to motivate my reading. However, I realize now that the only downside was that I was rushing through some of the books I read. Instead of savoring a book, I often found myself thinking about what I was going to read next and how close I was to meeting my goal. This year, I am making a promise to myself to give every book I read the time it deserves.

2. Read what I already own. 
I am a self-confessed book hoarder. A major bookaholic. I'll buy books that end up sitting on my shelves for a month or two before I ever get around to reading them. While I'm not completely banning myself from buying books in 2012, I am putting myself on a book-buying diet. I'm making it my goal in 2012 to limit myself to only reading books I already own. I just got a ton of books for Christmas, as well as numerous books that I've bought this year and years past, that are still sitting around waiting to be read. In 2012, I am going to read what I own.

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3. Re-read some of my favorites.
Along with my goal to read what I already own, I want to re-read some of my old favorites. I always plan on re-reading some of my books, but it rarely happens. I get so caught up in buying new books that I forget about all the ones I've already read that deserve some more of my time. Here are some of the books I'd like to re-read:
  • The Anne of Green Gables series - L.M. Montgomery
  • A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Running Out of Time - Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  • Persuasion - Jane Austen
  • Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers
  • The Opposite of Love - Julie Buxbaum
  • The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak
  • The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
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4. Keep a reading journal.
I have just started writing book reviews, but I really want to continue in 2012. Part of that plan involves keeping a reading journal. All the great thoughts I have about book while I'm reading it suddenly vanish when I try to write a review. My hope is that taking notes will help me improve my reviews and recommendations.

5. Get to blogging.
I'm just getting started with this blog, and I already love it. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I'm so excited to be able to share that love here. In 2012, I want to really build this blog. Hope you enjoy!

My Favorite Books of 2011

Dec 30, 2011

1 - 3. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I was a little late to this series, which I'm blaming on the fact that I read the description for the first book and swore I wouldn't like them. I think my exact words were, "I'm just not into this kind of book." After noticing that the first was $5 in the Kindle store, I finally caved. It actually sat on my Kindle for a few months before I started reading it (confession: I have a terrible habit of buying a book and not reading it for months). Then, when I finally started, I was addicted. I mean, seriously. I read all three books in three days. I won't waste my time trying to convince you that they're awesome - just trust me. I loved these books!

I was actually more than a little late to this series. I never read these books until this year. When I married the handsome one, he finally convinced me to watch the movies (I had never seen those either). I really enjoyed the movies and knew that I had to start the books. Why? Because the book is ALWAYS better than the movie! Sure enough, I have loved reading these books. The first five are the only ones that made the list this year because that's all I've read so far. I probably don't need to tell you to read these because chances are you've already read every single one many times over. I'm late to this cultural phenomenon, but better late than never!

9. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis & Beth Clark
Oh, this book. I started reading this on an airplane when I headed to Chicago, and I could not put it down. I also had to catch myself several times because I had the "I have tears in my eyes but I can't cry because I'm in public" dilemma. This is the story of Katie Davis, who has a desire to make a difference in the world. She forsakes her comfortable life here in the US, moves to Uganda and lives her calling. This book is probably not for everyone, but I was in love. I was almost in tears several times, which rarely happens for me. I walked away from this book convicted and with a new heart for serving others.

10. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Cornelia Brown's life is changed forever when Martin Grace walks into the Philadelphia coffee shop she manages. Little does she know, it is only a sign of things to come. I absolutely adored this book. The author is an award-winning poet, and the words just flow so beautifully on the pages of this novel. With numerous references to classic movies and Anne of Green Gables, I was 100% sold on this novel. This book had mixed reviews, so you may not share my love, but it definitely makes my list of best books I read this year.

11. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Josey Cirrini is a sorry excuse for a Southern belle. With a stockpile of sweets hidden in her closet, she lives in the shadow of her mother's demands. Then, she finds Della Lee Baker hidden in her room, and her world slowly starts to expand. I loved this book's blend of food and magic. This sweet story is one you'll want to savor, but chances are you'll devour it quickly. I read Allen's three other books this year, all equally wonderful, but this made the list because it was my absolute favorite.

12. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
Georgette Heyer is the author of over fifty books, best known for her historical romances set in the Regency period. This is the only Heyer novel I've read, and I absolutely loved it. I am obsessed with all things Jane Austen, and I think my love for this book stems from the fact that it reminded me of Austen.  After I finished this book, I learned that it was voted one of the 400 best novels to come out of the 20th century (chosen to represent the best of Heyer's work). Sounds like I picked a good book! Sophy was a delightful heroine, and I spent most of the book laughing at her antics and schemes.

13. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
I'm obviously late to this book, too. I hate to say it, but this was another book I didn't want to read because the circus aspect turned me off. Another confession: I only wanted to read it after I saw the preview for the movie. Thankfully, I finished the book before the movie came out and can say with certainty that the book was better. You've probably read this book (who hasn't?), but I highly recommend it if you've been living under a rock and haven't heard of it.

14. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
I started reading this book in Target's book section one day, curious about whether I'd find Mindy's memoir funny. I had just finished Tina Fey's Bossypants and was feeling slightly let down. When I laughed, out loud, in the middle of Target, I knew this had a good shot of winning me over. Sure enough, I was giggling the whole way through this collection of essays. Mindy is charming, adorable and spot-on with her observations. What are you waiting for? Go read this book!

15. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
I'm getting really embarrassed about the number of books on this list that have been out for ages. I had only heard a little bit about this book until my cousin recommended it to me. She told me I wouldn't be able to put it down. Well, she was right. The story of Jeanette's odd upbringing was fascinating. I think my favorite thing about this book was the tone with which Jeanette described her childhood. Rather than play the victim or throw her parents under the bus, Jeanette remembers her childhood with love. She finds the good things in the horrible situations, and I respected her for that. While I didn't "love" this book, it still makes my list of best books I read this year.

Now I want to hear from you! What was the best book you read this year?

Books For Christmas?!?!

Dec 28, 2011

If you haven't seen the Youtube video of the little boy opening books on Christmas day, you need to look that up. Ever since I showed it to the handsome one, he's teased me about the fact that I LOVE getting books for Christmas! Here is a round-up of the books I got this year:

From my best friend: The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly and Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

From the handsome one: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen, The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingkay by Suzanne Collins

From my precious new* grandparents: The Kitchen House by Katherine Grissom, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, The Violets of March by Sarah Jio and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

From my brother and sister in-law: Next to Love by Ellen Feldman, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

With an Amazon gift card from my new* cousin: Destined by Jessie Harrell, Camille by Tess Oliver, Remembrance by Michelle Madow, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle

*New = Nick's family members that I'm also now related to and claiming as my own!

Review: 'The First Husband' by Laura Dave

Dec 23, 2011

The First Husband by Laura Dave

Release Date: May 2011
Publisher: Penguin | Viking Adult
Pages: 256 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Amazon | Goodreads

Annie Adams finally has her life in order. She travels the world writing for her syndicated travel column, “Checking Out,” and lives with her boyfriend of five years, Nick.

Then, Annie tempts fate. She watches Roman Holiday – a movie that has been closely linked to all the bad events in her life. And, sure enough, she’s left reeling by Nick’s unexpected decision to “take a break” from their relationship. After mourning the end of five years of memories, Annie puts on her “magic dress” in search of a drink. Annie meets a charming chef, Griffin, and finds herself married within three months. Faced with an entirely new future, Annie must come to grips with who she is and where she belongs.

Thoughts on The First Husband
This is my third Laura Dave novel, and I can honestly say it was my favorite. As an avid lover of any and all things Audrey Hepburn, Annie’s fascination with Roman Holiday had me hooked from the very first chapter.

I started reading this book on my lunch break, and it was hard for me to put it down and get back to work. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I absolutely adored the way Dave describes Annie and Griffin’s first meeting. From that point on, I was invested in the characters.

None of Dave’s characters are perfect. They’re flawed and problematic, but it makes them more real. Nick makes a decision that changes everything. Annie doesn’t really know what she wants out of life, and her indecision hurts people along the way. Griffin doesn’t quite tell the whole truth. But that’s what happens in real life! You withhold one small bit of truth, you make one decision, and things shift. Sometimes the shift is minor, but sometimes it changes everything.

What I really loved about this book was the way Dave addressed somewhat standard chick-lit fare (woman coming to terms with her identity) in a fresh way. I just finished Dave’s first novel, London is the Best City in America, and I think her writing has improved. The novel is light and funny, but it also seriously addresses some real questions.

Why does one relationship succeed when another fails? How do you what it means to be home? What do you do when everything you thought you wanted isn’t living up to your expectations?

The First Husband is, ultimately, about “what we choose to live with, and what we choose to live without.” In coming to terms with these lessons, Annie finds her home.

This was a quick read, but I was still thinking about it for a while after I finished it. And that, in my opinion, is the sign of a good read.

So Quotable
“[Annie had] a growing sense that maybe just once in this life someone loves us for the us we don’t even know how to be yet. And if we lose him too early—in the name of all the promises in the world: a new job, a new city, an old love offering us happily ever after—we may just lose that chance to be our best self.”

A Girl Who Reads

Dec 22, 2011

written by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.
A Case of Obsession.

A Case of Obsession.

Dec 15, 2011

The handsome one and I were laughing recently about how I suffer from a case of obsession. What's that, you might ask? Well, when something strikes my fancy, it hits me hard. This little case of obsession sparks a furious need for me to read/find/do/make/buy/etc. whatever it is that's crossed my mind. But when the wind blows something else my way, I'm off on another adventure.

Some recent obsessions include, but are not limited to: anything by Marisa de los Santos, William & Kate, Pilates, Marie Antoinette, DIY bracelets, Bon Appetit cookbooks... I think you get the picture.

I don't mean to suggest that I am flight. It's actually quite the opposite - loyalty and I are BFFs. In fact, reading has been a lifelong obsession. I can't remember a time when I didn't love to read. I just love words. And stories.

So, I thought to myself, what better way to chronicle the books that strike my fancy than in this little corner of the world? It's my hope you'll be swooning and sighing right alongside me. It's actually quite nice suffering from a case of obsession.
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