Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books of 2013

In 2013 I set a goal via Goodreads to read 25 books during the year. I had never really set a goal like this before and wasn't sure how high to set my goal. As a kid, I read a ton, but it has scaled back a bit as an adult. So I figured an average of two books a month sounded doable. I am proud to say that I blew my goal out of the water. I read 39 books (and reread about five books that don't count in that total).

I thought it would be fun to review the books I read in 2013.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Simply magical. If you liked the movie, if you like fairy tales, if you like The Princess Bride, you'll love it.

Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. It took me quite awhile to read this behemoth but I really enjoyed it. A classic sci-fi novel for fans of the genre.

The Selkie Spell by Sophie Moss. It was a fun an easy read and not what I expected. There are two more books in the trilogy and I need to read them. I am a sucker for legends and for all things Irish and this book combined both. It was great fun to discover a mystical creature/legend I was unfamiliar with. Yet this book doesn't really feel like a paranormal/fantasy story to me, just a new angle on a romance.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Anyone who appreciates Tina's humor should read this. Every woman should read this. Every man who loves a woman should read this. Pretty much everyone.

Lust, Money, & Murder #1 by Mike Wells. I'm an indie author and feel like it's my duty to read other indie books. This one didn't pan out so well. Very short and incomplete. But, hey, it was free.

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch. This was an impulse buy on the Kindle Daily Deal and I struck gold. Fascinating historical fiction. Anyone who loves Europe in the middle ages or has a curiosity for the macabre, this story of a town executioner is simply a gem.  There are more books in this series that I need to explore.

The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Clare. LOVED this series. My new favorite books. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I loved the demon-hunting half-angels and as a historical fiction buff, I loved the Victorian setting. And as a romantic, the love triangle in this series is the epitome of all love triangles EVER. Good stuff.

The Mortal Instruments #1-5 by Cassandra Clare. These were a frustrating and inferior companion series to The Infernal Devices, but I read them all anyway, mostly because I was killing time waiting for the third book of The Infernal Devices to come out. They hardly seem written by the same author.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I'm a fan of her humor blog. The book was a lot more serious than I expected, but more life-affirming and insightful than I expected. Still funny.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I listened to this audio book and only sort of liked it. I am kind of burned out by dystopian fiction. This premise wasn't enough to keep my attention. Even though it ended on a cliff-hanger, I wasn't interested enough to seek out the next book. To be fair, I always struggle with audio books.

Motherhood - the Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck. I love me some Ms. Bombeck. I didn't think this was her strongest collection of essays but they were all new to me and I giggled through it all.

Charly by Jack Weyland. I'd read this as a teen and found it again. Even cheesier but still has a place in my heart.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. An interesting story. The narrator's voice and the writing style of the book will stay with me. The climax of the book wasn't life-changing for me. I haven't seen the movie, but was somehow disappointed a bit by the book. I thought it would be more powerful. Still worthwhile.

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer. I read this as a form of research as I was writing my seafaring novel. There isn't really any comparison between this book and mine except they both happen at sea. This book is so fun and colorful. There are more in this series that I need to read.

Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I started Divergent with a bad attitude - I was sick of dystopian fiction. It started out so similar to The Giver by Lois Lowry which is dystopian at its finest, but after a few chapters, I was sucked in and could not longer compare it to The Giver. I loved the first two books and the love story was fresh and engaging. I feel the third book jumped the shark.

Looking for Alaska by John Green. Loved this book. I haven't recommended it to too many people because of the language and the frustrating ending. Some people I know can't stand endings like that. I sort of relish them. This book made a great impression as a reader and as a writer and I won't ever forget it.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. While I don't feel that it is as powerful as Looking for Alaska, it is more accessible and sweeter. I think it sits better with the audience. I've recommended this one more. I also really love the title.

A Song of Ice and Fire #1-5 by George R. R. Martin. These books are powerful and fantastic and I loved every single word of them. I haven't been so engrossed in a series since maybe Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. They are meaty and visceral and real and so multi-faceted. True brilliance. I am careful about my praise and recommendations though as they are full of bad language and bad deeds. I am infinitely frustrated that there is no real timeline for the rest of the series. Write swiftly, Mr. Martin!

The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass. While I thought these books were sorta cheesy, I also devoured them and couldn't put them down. The Hunger Games meets trashy Bachelor reality TV. A perfect indulgence. A great series for traveling or a beach read.

Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly. A nonfiction book about pirates in the Caribbean. Very interesting subject matter. Very engrossing for nonfiction. I'll read it again.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I needed to read this classic. I think it will stay with me a for a long, long time. I am glad I read it before watching the movie. I very much liked it (though not loved) and will recommend it to others.

Dead Sea Games: Adrift by J. Whitworth Hazzard. I read this as part of an indie reading challenge. The zombie genre doesn't appeal to me and I doubt I would've picked up this book without be "assigned" to read it, but it was really great and I am so glad I read it. Very fun.

Minstrel by Marissa Ames. Another indie book. Meatier than I expected. And for "fantasy" it didn't really feel fantastical. Very accessible and real. Looking forward to the next in the series.

Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris. I read this indie gem yesterday in about two sittings. Surprisingly poignant and gripping. If you're bothered by shady morality, you might not get past some of the motivations of the characters to see the great storytelling.


And in case you are curious, my 2014 goal will be 45 books. Read on!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Picture Catch Up

It's been a few months since I've downloaded pictures from my cameras. Here are some pictures from the last few months.



Cousin sleepover

Cute Noelle rocking the shades

Zoo with cousins

Yellowstone




Elk rut at Yellowstone

Yellowstone

32! 

Joci was in charge of decorating my cake

Halloween - 20's flapper

Joci did a cheer camp earlier this December. She loved it and had a lot of fun learning the cheers and performing at a local high school basketball game half-time. 


One of my SD cards had this old picture of my parents and nephew from 2011 at Nielson's Frozen Custard.

Another older photo of cowgirl Joci playing with Lincoln Logs

Look how tiny Noelle was. And how bald!

Christmas 2013

Noelle enjoying her loot

Joci admiring her favorite gift



Monday, December 2, 2013

Will It Always Be Like This?

I am still very sad about losing my mother last December. I am in denial about it many days. I think back to that day in the hospital, holding her hand as her fingernails turned blue and the beep-beep-beep of her machines sped up rapidly then stopped and it doesn't seem real.

I am dreading December 7, 8, and 9th. How can I relive those days? The day I heard she had gone into the hospital...I was sick with worry...texting furiously with my siblings and the news kept getting worse. I couldn't sleep and decorated my Christmas tree in the middle of the night to keep my mind busy. It worked in the moment but at what cost? Will I ever be able to decorate a tree again? December 8...flying to see her and learning, realizing that I would never speak to her again. I would never know her last words. I would be motherless. And December 9, the date on her stone. The date she died. That day was actually easier than the previous two, strangely.

And I get to go through it. And the holidays. People say the first year with all holidays and milestones are the hardest. That's probably true. But that implies that it gets easier, that it gets less. I am also dreading the year mark because it somehow puts an expiration date on my grief. Even now...if it somehow comes up in conversation and I say, "My mother recently died" and a person asks when and I say, "Last December," the sympathy I get is so much less than when when the answer was, "Last month." But the truth is that the pain an emptiness isn't easier now than it was a year ago. Not at all. Not at all. And I am not supposed to suffer from it any more. People don't want to hear about it anymore. I shouldn't be crying like this anymore.

It's why I haven't blogged much in the past year. I used to blog several times a week. I just don't anymore because anytime I scratch away the superficialness of my life, all there is is this gaping grief over my dead mother. People don't always get that either. They ask about details, how old she was. They are sympathetic when they hear her death was unexpected, but that sympathy wanes when I say she was 70. Like, that's sort of expected, it's not all that tragic.  I get it. Logically, I get it. But I can't move on from it. I still feel like her death was this giant injustice. I feel like my father remarrying was a shattering betrayal. And why do all these thoughts come at 1:33 in the morning so I'll have a crippling "cry hangover" in the morning?

My sweet Jocelyn, my sweet baby who carries my mother's name, speaks of Grandma Normandie daily. She says and asks the most beloved things. After praying about Grandma to God one night, she turned to me and said, "When will Grandma be done being dead and come back?" Those moments just turn to me mush and make the tears flow because I feel the same way. Today I mentioned that I was worried about the weather because it looked like it might storm. She told me she was worried, too, it might rain, and Grandma Normandie would get rained on because Joci was pretty sure there weren't houses in heaven.

This tidal wave of emotion just slammed into me today when I switched the calendar to December. Is it always going to be like this? I hope not because wow this hurts...and I hope so because if it ever stops hurting, does it mean I've started forgetting?

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