Sunday, December 30, 2012

Books That Didn't Suck in 2012

What. A. Year.

It hasn't been a bad year, by any stretch of the imagination, but it has most certainly been a year of sweeping change. Let's recap, shall we?


  • Left a job I loved in March
  • Entered a job I loathed in March
  • Rented a house in June and Greyson and I moved out on our own
  • Greyson's ear tube surgery in June
  • Laid off from job I loathed in September
  • Gained a job I love in December
  • Looking forward: job I love kicks up another notch in January 2013 with some travel and lots of interviewing/writing for our alumni magazine
No wonder I only read 30 books in 2012. Whew!

Even though it's a small amount, it's been a year of adventuresome reading. Every year seems to develop a "theme" or trend of some variety. This year was largely about genre fiction. That is, books which are easily recognizable as fitting into a genre, though who the heck knows how they're marketed. That's variable. It was also the year of the chunkster!!! I have previously been terrified of ye olde chunky novels, but the Outlander series definitely took away some of that fear this year. 

Since I read so few books this year, I'm simply gushing about some of my faves below -- no certain number -- just the ones that stick out the most. 



Wicked by Gregory Maguire was a sweeping, inventive, epic, political romp! I was so impressed with the depth of this one. I expected something much frothier but I got a masterpiece. 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon took away my fear of chunksters and reminded me that I do like romance, I do love historical fiction, and lit-crushes are fantastic. JAMIE!!! All of the books in the series (I've read the first four) have been highly entertaining.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert is full of flawed, eye-roll-worthy characters. However, it was great fun to read. Heather and I zipped right through it. I thank her SO much for an awesome buddy read. And I'm sorry I've sucked at buddy reads ever since we tackled this one. 



The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman is just lovely and touching and beautifully written. It's also a great choice for people who aren't terribly keen on short stories as they are short stories, but they're all related to the garden. Gives a nice sense of cohesion. Just superb. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness made me cry til my eyeballs nearly rolled across the floor. But it's a good cry (says everyone, including me). 

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake was a total YA surprise. It's nicely written, super scary, and it had a refreshing (not totally formulaic) plot! This one made me jump at the bumps in the night for a while after closing it up. 

Biggest Disappointment of the Year? Because there always is one...



Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. I read Discovery of Witches earlier this year and quickly snapped up Shadow of Night when it was released. I had issues with some of the characters in the first book, and those were only magnified and bogged down by too little editing in the second book. I'll read the third because I want to know what happened, but I don't have very high hopes. :-/

I only participated in a few challenges this year...

1. I totally conquered the E-Books Challenge with 14+ books read. Will do this one again in 2013.
2. I sucked it up at the Reading the Awards Challenge. 
3. I was respectable at my personal Tournament of Books Challenge. Will attempt some of these but with less gusto in 2013.
4. And I surpassed my goal of reading four Chunksters for my personal version of the Chunkster Challenge (I read e-books and they're not officially allowed). Definitely on this one again in 2013. 

And there's always a lot of talk of goal setting this time of year. My one and only goal for 2013 is to read WHATEVER I want, WHENEVER I want. It worked this year with minimal pressure or guilt. I think I've found my groove. 

Cheers to great books in the new year!



Books That Didn't Suck in 2012

What. A. Year.

It hasn't been a bad year, by any stretch of the imagination, but it has most certainly been a year of sweeping change. Let's recap, shall we?


  • Left a job I loved in March
  • Entered a job I loathed in March
  • Rented a house in June and Greyson and I moved out on our own
  • Greyson's ear tube surgery in June
  • Laid off from job I loathed in September
  • Gained a job I love in December
  • Looking forward: job I love kicks up another notch in January 2013 with some travel and lots of interviewing/writing for our alumni magazine
No wonder I only read 30 books in 2012. Whew!

Even though it's a small amount, it's been a year of adventuresome reading. Every year seems to develop a "theme" or trend of some variety. This year was largely about genre fiction. That is, books which are easily recognizable as fitting into a genre, though who the heck knows how they're marketed. That's variable. It was also the year of the chunkster!!! I have previously been terrified of ye olde chunky novels, but the Outlander series definitely took away some of that fear this year. 

Since I read so few books this year, I'm simply gushing about some of my faves below -- no certain number -- just the ones that stick out the most. 



Wicked by Gregory Maguire was a sweeping, inventive, epic, political romp! I was so impressed with the depth of this one. I expected something much frothier but I got a masterpiece. 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon took away my fear of chunksters and reminded me that I do like romance, I do love historical fiction, and lit-crushes are fantastic. JAMIE!!! All of the books in the series (I've read the first four) have been highly entertaining.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert is full of flawed, eye-roll-worthy characters. However, it was great fun to read. Heather and I zipped right through it. I thank her SO much for an awesome buddy read. And I'm sorry I've sucked at buddy reads ever since we tackled this one. 



The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman is just lovely and touching and beautifully written. It's also a great choice for people who aren't terribly keen on short stories as they are short stories, but they're all related to the garden. Gives a nice sense of cohesion. Just superb. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness made me cry til my eyeballs nearly rolled across the floor. But it's a good cry (says everyone, including me). 

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake was a total YA surprise. It's nicely written, super scary, and it had a refreshing (not totally formulaic) plot! This one made me jump at the bumps in the night for a while after closing it up. 

Biggest Disappointment of the Year? Because there always is one...



Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. I read Discovery of Witches earlier this year and quickly snapped up Shadow of Night when it was released. I had issues with some of the characters in the first book, and those were only magnified and bogged down by too little editing in the second book. I'll read the third because I want to know what happened, but I don't have very high hopes. :-/

I only participated in a few challenges this year...

1. I totally conquered the E-Books Challenge with 14+ books read. Will do this one again in 2013.
2. I sucked it up at the Reading the Awards Challenge. 
3. I was respectable at my personal Tournament of Books Challenge. Will attempt some of these but with less gusto in 2013.
4. And I surpassed my goal of reading four Chunksters for my personal version of the Chunkster Challenge (I read e-books and they're not officially allowed). Definitely on this one again in 2013. 

And there's always a lot of talk of goal setting this time of year. My one and only goal for 2013 is to read WHATEVER I want, WHENEVER I want. It worked this year with minimal pressure or guilt. I think I've found my groove. 

Cheers to great books in the new year!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Anatomy of a Christmas Gift

Today has been a supremely lazy day. While there is most certainly MORE I could do around my house in regards to cleaning. I am not. I am in my jammies, under my electric blanket, with a laptop and a book. Imagine my surprise when I heard a knock on the door.

What did I find??? A SUPERB Christmas box from Heather. Follow me along through the process of opening.


Multiple packages, beautiful paper, and a darling family photo card. 


OWL SOCKS!!!! With a note that reads: "I just want you to KNOW I am having a VERY hard time sending these..." 


Books, books, books!!!! Diary of a Submissive by Sophie Morgan (which Heather did not enjoy), and an extra copy of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn since mine was lost in an unfortunate incident. 


A big surprise!!! Rampant by Diana Peterfreund. You can read the note yourself. It made me snort. 


This is the most beautiful thing ever. Read note! Read!


And a close-up of my very own Night Circus crimson cranberry dream cowl. Yum!


The End. 


Thank you, my darling friend. You make me smile all the smiles. :) Hugs!


Anatomy of a Christmas Gift

Today has been a supremely lazy day. While there is most certainly MORE I could do around my house in regards to cleaning. I am not. I am in my jammies, under my electric blanket, with a laptop and a book. Imagine my surprise when I heard a knock on the door.

What did I find??? A SUPERB Christmas box from Heather. Follow me along through the process of opening.


Multiple packages, beautiful paper, and a darling family photo card. 


OWL SOCKS!!!! With a note that reads: "I just want you to KNOW I am having a VERY hard time sending these..." 


Books, books, books!!!! Diary of a Submissive by Sophie Morgan (which Heather did not enjoy), and an extra copy of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn since mine was lost in an unfortunate incident. 


A big surprise!!! Rampant by Diana Peterfreund. You can read the note yourself. It made me snort. 


This is the most beautiful thing ever. Read note! Read!


And a close-up of my very own Night Circus crimson cranberry dream cowl. Yum!


The End. 


Thank you, my darling friend. You make me smile all the smiles. :) Hugs!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Recap

One more Christmas down and let the recovery begin!!! This year has been such a whirlwind. It's kind of nice to sit in bed with my laptop the day after Christmas and reflect.


The most exciting, unusual, and surprising part of Christmas this year was the snow. In Texas. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you've probably seen me ranting about 70+ degree weather this fall and winter. But as we always say in this area, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it'll change." Well played, Texas weather. Well played. 

I spent the afternoon of Christmas day at Chuck's house with his girlfriend Michelle, the Rockets, Michelle's kiddos, and her parents. And Greyson-cutie, of course.  I loaded up the gifts and the broccoli/cheese casserole, and shortly after I arrived the snow started pouring down. I stayed from about 1:00-4:30 when I was afraid road conditions would be going downhill, and by the time I got back to my house--45 minutes away-- the traffic was crawling along at 20 mph on very slick, icy roads. Crazy! I tucked my car into the garage for a change, did laundry, and cleaned. And I even read a little. 

It was nice that the kids got to spend some time outdoors having snowball fights and whatnot. But I tell you, Texans don't get to practice their icy driving skills very often, and I prefer to stay out of that mess. I'm planning to pick Greyson up a little later today, but right now temps are still in the 20s, so I'm holding out for something over freezing. :) 

Greyson had a fantastic Christmas. He enjoyed being cute and showing off. He was enthralled with a pair of gloves he received. He was running around in a Spongebob pajama shirt when I got to the house, and he spent some quality time sitting in my lap watching The Lorax. He has a few more gifts and his stocking to open here at my house, but he certainly made a haul at his dad's. :) The Rockets were in equally good form with some really cool gifts and lots of yummy stuff to munch on. 


Christmas has been a little odd and spread out for me this year. We had our family gathering with my cousins on December 16th. Then David and I spent the weekend in Waco on the 21st and 22nd, and then we had the gathering at Chuck's yesterday. I've had a wonderful time on each of these excursions, but it's been different, for sure! But good different with plenty of time to enjoy good company on each outing. 

Some Christmases are bookish ones, but this Christmas was decided owly! The family has caught on to the fact that I adore owls, and the owl-related gifts are pouring in. 
  • A green owl figurine from "Greyson"
  • A porcelain owl figurine from Mom
  • Owl kitchen towels from Mom
  • Owl coffee mug (Mom)
  • An owl insulated cup and insulated coffee cup (Mom)
  • There's also an owl cell phone cover that didn't make it into the picture, owl recipe cards, and an owl oven mitt. All Mom! Go Mom! 
  • Oh! And Mom's boyfriend Rick gave me a bathroom trash can with an owl on it. Love!
Mom also gifted me a very nice bakeware set (the red and yellow pieces are pictured here and there's a larger green one). David gave me a 10-piece Corningware set that I absolutely needed and love. My cousins-- Kevin and Carol Ann, and their bunch--gave me a large set of assorted teas and a nice heavy mug for my office with a pen and ink on the front. Last but not least, Chuck and Michelle also gifted me some Bath and Body Works soaps and a Starbucks gift card. Antibacterial and coffee -- seriously, every mom needs as many of these things as possible. 


Santa is here!

Relaxing, watching The Lorax in my lap.


And what's Christmas without some books? This year, I bought my own books, but that's the way of things. If I don't receive books, I gift some to myself. :D 

 

I picked up an e-book copy of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. If you haven't read it already, it's on sale for $3.99. Get 'em while they're hot!

I also snagged Howl's Moving Castle for $1.99 in e-book format. I've never read Wynne Jones, so this will be fun! 

With that, I'm off to shower and assess the driving situation outside. The house is very quiet when Greyson is not home, and I miss the little booger something terrible. 

In the meantime, tell me about your Christmas! Any books? Family fun? Harrowing travels? I hope it's all good stuff. :) 





Christmas Recap

One more Christmas down and let the recovery begin!!! This year has been such a whirlwind. It's kind of nice to sit in bed with my laptop the day after Christmas and reflect.


The most exciting, unusual, and surprising part of Christmas this year was the snow. In Texas. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you've probably seen me ranting about 70+ degree weather this fall and winter. But as we always say in this area, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it'll change." Well played, Texas weather. Well played. 

I spent the afternoon of Christmas day at Chuck's house with his girlfriend Michelle, the Rockets, Michelle's kiddos, and her parents. And Greyson-cutie, of course.  I loaded up the gifts and the broccoli/cheese casserole, and shortly after I arrived the snow started pouring down. I stayed from about 1:00-4:30 when I was afraid road conditions would be going downhill, and by the time I got back to my house--45 minutes away-- the traffic was crawling along at 20 mph on very slick, icy roads. Crazy! I tucked my car into the garage for a change, did laundry, and cleaned. And I even read a little. 

It was nice that the kids got to spend some time outdoors having snowball fights and whatnot. But I tell you, Texans don't get to practice their icy driving skills very often, and I prefer to stay out of that mess. I'm planning to pick Greyson up a little later today, but right now temps are still in the 20s, so I'm holding out for something over freezing. :) 

Greyson had a fantastic Christmas. He enjoyed being cute and showing off. He was enthralled with a pair of gloves he received. He was running around in a Spongebob pajama shirt when I got to the house, and he spent some quality time sitting in my lap watching The Lorax. He has a few more gifts and his stocking to open here at my house, but he certainly made a haul at his dad's. :) The Rockets were in equally good form with some really cool gifts and lots of yummy stuff to munch on. 


Christmas has been a little odd and spread out for me this year. We had our family gathering with my cousins on December 16th. Then David and I spent the weekend in Waco on the 21st and 22nd, and then we had the gathering at Chuck's yesterday. I've had a wonderful time on each of these excursions, but it's been different, for sure! But good different with plenty of time to enjoy good company on each outing. 

Some Christmases are bookish ones, but this Christmas was decided owly! The family has caught on to the fact that I adore owls, and the owl-related gifts are pouring in. 
  • A green owl figurine from "Greyson"
  • A porcelain owl figurine from Mom
  • Owl kitchen towels from Mom
  • Owl coffee mug (Mom)
  • An owl insulated cup and insulated coffee cup (Mom)
  • There's also an owl cell phone cover that didn't make it into the picture, owl recipe cards, and an owl oven mitt. All Mom! Go Mom! 
  • Oh! And Mom's boyfriend Rick gave me a bathroom trash can with an owl on it. Love!
Mom also gifted me a very nice bakeware set (the red and yellow pieces are pictured here and there's a larger green one). David gave me a 10-piece Corningware set that I absolutely needed and love. My cousins-- Kevin and Carol Ann, and their bunch--gave me a large set of assorted teas and a nice heavy mug for my office with a pen and ink on the front. Last but not least, Chuck and Michelle also gifted me some Bath and Body Works soaps and a Starbucks gift card. Antibacterial and coffee -- seriously, every mom needs as many of these things as possible. 


Santa is here!

Relaxing, watching The Lorax in my lap.


And what's Christmas without some books? This year, I bought my own books, but that's the way of things. If I don't receive books, I gift some to myself. :D 

 

I picked up an e-book copy of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. If you haven't read it already, it's on sale for $3.99. Get 'em while they're hot!

I also snagged Howl's Moving Castle for $1.99 in e-book format. I've never read Wynne Jones, so this will be fun! 

With that, I'm off to shower and assess the driving situation outside. The house is very quiet when Greyson is not home, and I miss the little booger something terrible. 

In the meantime, tell me about your Christmas! Any books? Family fun? Harrowing travels? I hope it's all good stuff. :) 





Monday, December 17, 2012

This Is My Hair On Fire

Not me. Thank goodness.
WOW! If you smell something burning, it's my hair on fire!

Week One at my new job went swimmingly. Only problem: I have been sick with a ridiculous hacking cough. No other symptoms really, except pesky seasonal allergies (thanks to the wonky Texas weather). I have a doc appointment on Thursday morning, and I'm just hoping it's not bronchitis.

Alas, my hair wouldn't really be burning out of control if it weren't for this absolutely NOT RESTFUL weekend. All of my online grades were due this morning which threw me into hours, days, of research paper grading, spreadsheet making, and general drudgery. But it's done now. *happy dance*

We also had my mom's side of the family's Christmas celebration yesterday which meant a whole lotta cookin' for me. I made Texas Trash (Chex mix on crack), chocolate-dipped pretzels, and peanut butter blossom cookies. Oh! And Meg's super fantabulous almond bars. 

Needless to say, Greyson had a GREAT time opening gifts. He received a set of magnetic blocks, bath crayons, a triceratops monster truck, LeapFrog laptop, a package of five capes (super hero style), and a set of monkey lounge pillow and blanket.

He calls the capes his "Hero-ro." He is IN LOVE with them. Had a full-on toddler meltdown when I wouldn't let him take one of the capes to school today.

Other than that, not a whole lot shakin'. That's enough! Trust me!

This weekend should be fun. I'm heading out to Waco to spend a few days with David, and when I get back it'll be Christmas time!!! Greyson has more presents under the tree with his name on them, and I hope the Rockets like their gifts too.

Reading? Non-existent. *sigh*

What are you up to?  






This Is My Hair On Fire

Not me. Thank goodness.
WOW! If you smell something burning, it's my hair on fire!

Week One at my new job went swimmingly. Only problem: I have been sick with a ridiculous hacking cough. No other symptoms really, except pesky seasonal allergies (thanks to the wonky Texas weather). I have a doc appointment on Thursday morning, and I'm just hoping it's not bronchitis.

Alas, my hair wouldn't really be burning out of control if it weren't for this absolutely NOT RESTFUL weekend. All of my online grades were due this morning which threw me into hours, days, of research paper grading, spreadsheet making, and general drudgery. But it's done now. *happy dance*

We also had my mom's side of the family's Christmas celebration yesterday which meant a whole lotta cookin' for me. I made Texas Trash (Chex mix on crack), chocolate-dipped pretzels, and peanut butter blossom cookies. Oh! And Meg's super fantabulous almond bars. 

Needless to say, Greyson had a GREAT time opening gifts. He received a set of magnetic blocks, bath crayons, a triceratops monster truck, LeapFrog laptop, a package of five capes (super hero style), and a set of monkey lounge pillow and blanket.

He calls the capes his "Hero-ro." He is IN LOVE with them. Had a full-on toddler meltdown when I wouldn't let him take one of the capes to school today.

Other than that, not a whole lot shakin'. That's enough! Trust me!

This weekend should be fun. I'm heading out to Waco to spend a few days with David, and when I get back it'll be Christmas time!!! Greyson has more presents under the tree with his name on them, and I hope the Rockets like their gifts too.

Reading? Non-existent. *sigh*

What are you up to?  






Monday, December 10, 2012

Things Are Revving Up!

Whew! Today is my last day before the new job starts, and I've been running around like a crazy lady trying to do last minute things to make life easier leading up to Christmas! By noon I had...

  • Shopped for groceries, including the ingredients I'll need for Christmas goodies (almond bars, dipped pretzel sticks, peanut butter blossoms, cranberry bread, and Texas Trash). Not to mention some friendly take-to-work items like Greek yogurt cups, cheese sticks, and such. 
  • Shopped for Christmas gifts -- stocking stuffers and some clothes for Greyson. 
  • Shopped for clothes! I had a gift card to one of my fave stores, and I found some hella good deals on shoes and clothes (blouses for work, $6)! 
When I got home, I whipped up some Mongolian beef that I can take for lunch later in the week. I will also be mixing up some bruschetta fixins, and I'd be wise to mix up and freeze some pumpkin pancakes. While I have lots of good plans in my head, I kinda doubt I'll get around to all of these. 

I've also now officially picked out my Return To Work outfit...


Are those shoes heavenly or what? Vera Wang. On sale y'all. 

And did I mention I have a horrible cold? I actually don't feel too bad, but I sound extremely horribly bad. Like Tanya Tucker ate razor blades. Picture that! 

I have every intention of spending my evening on the couch with the heat cranked up since it'll be 29 degrees tonight (in Texas!). Probably with this book...


I've mentioned my slow reading mojo, but this might be the book to break me out of it. Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre -- How We Dignify the Dead by Sarah Murray. Holiday'ish right? Not really, but it's interesting and I haven't read much non-fiction this year. I think it might be the something different I need right now. 

How's your Monday? 






Things Are Revving Up!

Whew! Today is my last day before the new job starts, and I've been running around like a crazy lady trying to do last minute things to make life easier leading up to Christmas! By noon I had...

  • Shopped for groceries, including the ingredients I'll need for Christmas goodies (almond bars, dipped pretzel sticks, peanut butter blossoms, cranberry bread, and Texas Trash). Not to mention some friendly take-to-work items like Greek yogurt cups, cheese sticks, and such. 
  • Shopped for Christmas gifts -- stocking stuffers and some clothes for Greyson. 
  • Shopped for clothes! I had a gift card to one of my fave stores, and I found some hella good deals on shoes and clothes (blouses for work, $6)! 
When I got home, I whipped up some Mongolian beef that I can take for lunch later in the week. I will also be mixing up some bruschetta fixins, and I'd be wise to mix up and freeze some pumpkin pancakes. While I have lots of good plans in my head, I kinda doubt I'll get around to all of these. 

I've also now officially picked out my Return To Work outfit...


Are those shoes heavenly or what? Vera Wang. On sale y'all. 

And did I mention I have a horrible cold? I actually don't feel too bad, but I sound extremely horribly bad. Like Tanya Tucker ate razor blades. Picture that! 

I have every intention of spending my evening on the couch with the heat cranked up since it'll be 29 degrees tonight (in Texas!). Probably with this book...


I've mentioned my slow reading mojo, but this might be the book to break me out of it. Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre -- How We Dignify the Dead by Sarah Murray. Holiday'ish right? Not really, but it's interesting and I haven't read much non-fiction this year. I think it might be the something different I need right now. 

How's your Monday? 






Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Vol. 2

THIS is The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, volume 2. It is edited by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and wirrow and created through art-and-words collaboration from HitRECORD.

I reviewed the first volume of Tiny Stories last year, and I absolutely loved it. It saddens me to say that I was not as pleased with this volume.

One of the things I loved most about the first volume was the wicked sense of irony in some of the stories. The sharp, clever marriage of the images and text. Somehow I found the clever factor lacking quite a lot in this volume. Most of my favorite tiny stories were in the opening pages, which made the rest of the book a bit of a let-down.

Was it bad? No. It had big shoes to fill, and I simply didn't like it as much as the first volume. That said, I've read it twice and marked several favorites (none of them had images available to share).

Let it be known far and wide that I am still crazy in love with HitRECORD and the way they work. They split all their profits with the artists and writers who produced the stories and artwork and submitted/collaborated on the website. They are a great art-and-words collective doing something really unusual and beautiful. Even though I didn't enjoy this collection as much as the first, it's worth having on the shelf, and it's worth supporting such a wonderful ongoing project.

Click to embiggen. 



Enjoy a bit of Joseph Gordon-Levitt talking about this volume.


 



Pub. Date: November 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9780062121639
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Check!


 
Images by Freepik