Friday, January 31, 2014

REVIEW: No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

No Fond Return of LoveNo Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Format: Real Live Book
Narrated By: NA
Original Publication Year: 1961
Genre(s): Fiction
Series: NA
Awards: None

Recommended subtitle: Techniques for stalking a very handsome man.

I was a bit wrong-footed by No Fond Return of Love. About a year ago, I read and loved Pym’s Excellent Women. Seriously, I went on and on about it and recommended it to everyone I know. I started this book excited and expecting something similar and I got it. Sort of. In many ways it is very similar right down to the vague romantic ending, but it had a very different atmosphere due in part to a cast of thoroughly bemusing characters.

Dulcie Mainwaring is a thirty-something professional indexer who has just been dumped by her fiancé. In an attempt to shake off the bad feelings she decides to attend a professional conference and there encounters Viola Dace, a rather cynical and lackluster middle-aged woman, and Aylwin Forbes, an editor and very handsome middle-aged man. There is something between Viola and Aylwin; in fact Aylwin’s wife has just left him because she caught him kissing Viola. But Aylwin doesn’t seem interested in Viola and by the end of the conference Dulcie’s curiosity about him has been thoroughly piqued. Dulcie and Viola become rather perfunctory friends, not really seeming to like each other much, and Viola even moves in with Dulcie for a time. Dulcie also begins to stalk Aylwin, there’s really no other way to put it; she tracks down his Mother-in-Laws house and makes a point to walk by, she figures out who his vicar brother is and goes to the church gleaning information about him from the housekeeper. The book culminates in she and Viola booking a holiday at the hotel Aylwin’s Mother owns. In the meantime Aylwin thinks he’s in love with Dulcie’s 19 year old niece.

To be frank none of these characters were terribly likeable. Dulcie the main protagonist comes closest of course but even her behavior is a little hard to explain. She has just been rejected and seems destined for a life of utterly boring spinsterhood; her life is rather empty and she also has a disposition for research. Her interest in and instinct to investigate Aylwin can be somewhat understood, but then… she falls in love with him. Throughout the book Aylwin continues to become more and more ridiculous – vain, fickle, emotionally immature and even somewhat cold. He treats Dulcie with indifference. Dulcie developing feelings for him seems utterly bizarre.

However, I was saved from being completely discontented with the book by what I imagine are Pym’s signature strengths. She seems to have a perfect understanding and way of portraying all the foibles of being an imperfect human being. There are so many times in her books as she describes some inane human reaction or interaction that I find myself thinking “YES, that is EXACTLY how it is…how it feels.” The main characters in both of the books that I have read by her are so utterly conventional but not at all uninteresting. They have hidden depths of quirky humor and self-awareness. They are unique and individual without really trying which is I guess why I can forgive Dulcie her bizarre affection for Aylwin. Finally, Pym’s books are full of an understated humor that warms the cockles of my heart. It is hard to provide an example of it because it’s so integrated in the story but here’s one attempt:

Dulcie and Viola having a conversation about Aylwin and his estranged wife Marjorie:
“That’s where Marjorie Forbes has failed - not being able to share Aylwin’s interests.”
“Well she hardly could if the interests were other women,” said Dulcie, suddenly frivolous. “Those are the kinds of interests wives really can’t be expected to share….”

Indeed, Dulcie, Indeed.

Final Verdict: I am still enamored of Barbara Pym’s writing and that made this book enjoyable despite some less than sympathetic characters.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

REVIEW: Middlemarch by George Eliot

MiddlemarchMiddlemarch by George Eliot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Format: Audio
Narrated By: Kate Reading
Original Publication Year: 1871
Genre(s): Fiction, Classic
Series: NA
Awards: None

This book is on my 100 Books Project list and this is my second  in 2014!  Progress is tracked here.

Recommended subtitle: A saga of ill-conceived marriages in mid-nineteenth century Britain.

Its actual subtitle that in fact works really well also: A study in provincial life

I did not immediately appreciate Middlemarch. In fact, if I had been reading it in the traditional way rather than listening, I likely would have given up on it early. It’s very long, it has a rather subtle story and I found it hard to engage with the characters in the beginning (they don’t necessarily improve on further acquaintance but they do develop interesting depth). Listening to it in episodic segments, however, it slowly grew on me until I was looking forward to getting in the car and spending time listening to the crazy shenanigans of the Middlemarchians. It was initially published in a serialized form, so perhaps approaching it in this manner is the best way to enjoy. I would have missed out on a very rewarding reading experience if I had given up on it.

As a literary work, Middlemarch is seriously impressive. On the surface, it is an account of everyday life in a mid-sized town in mid-nineteenth century England. Within this account is also an incisive and well observed critique of many of the social conventions of the time. The roles of women, particularly in marriage, but also in society; politics; the responsibility of the rural landowner; and class issues are all addressed, hidden within the mostly mundane, sometimes sensational happenings in the town and its environs.

The book mostly follows the trials and travails of three couples: Dorothea Brooke /Will Ladislaw, Dr. Lydgate/Rosamond Vincy, and Fred Vincy /Mary Garth.

Early on Dorothea and her crazy antics fill most of the pages. Dorothea is young when we meet her, rigid in her religious zeal and naively idealistic. She’s also very beautiful. In pursuit of her idea of a perfect marriage, her as the dedicated help meet to a man accomplishing a great work, she marries a truly unfortunate choice of mate twice her age. Her husband’s nephew Will Ladislaw quickly decides he worships her. Her husband dies after a short miserable marriage and at that point Dorothea decides she returns Will’s love but her first husband’s will has a provision specifying that she loses everything if she marries Will. Scandalous! Will and Dorothea don’t really make sense as a couple considering that they misunderstand everything each other says.

Seemingly the best match in the book for Dorothea would be Dr. Lydgate, a thoroughly modern doctor with an interest in changing the world with his medical research. Unfortunately he only has eyes for the vain, selfish, manipulative and shallow daughter of a local merchant, Rosamond Vincy. They eventually end up married and it goes about as well as you might suppose.

Finally, the equally selfish and lazy, though maybe not quite as mean spirited son of said local merchant, Fred Vincy, has been in love with Mary Garth since childhood. She is actually a very hardworking, practical and intelligent young woman who doesn’t seem to take Fred too seriously. At the same time one of the only other likable characters in the book, who is much more deserving than Fred of a happy ending, Reverend Fairbrother also has feelings for Mary. So who does Mary choose to marry? It isn’t who you might expect.

There are many other characters and plotlines and the occasional treatise about a political happening of the day. You get the idea. It does bog down in places and, as I think came through in my description, most of the characters and relationships made me want to bang my head against a wall but it is a really impressive description and commentary on the everyday life of the time period.

Kate Reading, besides having the best name ever for a reader, has a lovely voice and does a great job narrating.

Final Verdict: Reading episodically and exercising patience were needed but in the end this was a very rewarding and enjoyable book.

I feel like most of the reviews I read were either effusively positive or hateful but I kind of came down in the middle. Anyone there with me?  Do you think George Eliot actually liked Dorothea?  I wasn't entirely sure...

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

REVIEW: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey (Shades of Grey, #1)Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Format: Audio (electronic from Library)
Narrated By: John Lee
Original Publication Year: 2009
Genre(s): Fantasy, Thriller/Mystery
Series: Shades of Grey #1
Awards: None

Recommended Subtitle: Be careful what you wish for or you could end up being eaten by a carnivorous tree.

WOW! This book really snuck up on me! I was moseying along in it, enjoying Fforde’s signature writing style and humor and then suddenly I couldn’t get enough. It just got better and better as the action heated up. It is definitely now my favorite of his and I can’t wait for the next books in the series to come out.

I consider myself a moderate fan of Jasper Fforde. He’s a distinctive writer who specializes in taking a somewhat gimmicky idea (a detective of fiction who can go into books, crimes involving nursery rhyme characters) and then doing unexpected things with it. He’s imaginative, creative, and clever with a hilarious and quirky sense of humor. Shades of Grey is no exception to this but it is quite different at least from his Thursday Next series. It’s set in a far dystopian future, Jasper Fforde style – i.e. it’s sinister but also ridiculous which in some ways makes it even more sinister. It is definitely the most humorous dystopian book I’ve ever read. Society is made up of a class system based on color perception. People can no longer see in the full spectrum but have “specialized” and the color you can see and the level of your perception determines where you are on the social ladder. Greys are at the bottom of the heap and are almost a slave caste while Purples are practically royalty and so on… Society is also guided by a book of rules written by someone named Munsel (sp?) which dictates everything from the manufacture of spoons to correct social etiquette. The reader's guide through this world is Eddie Russet, a Red, and the book begins as he is being eaten by a carnivorous tree. He begins to tell the story that led him to this point, starting with him and his Father’s travel to the border town of East Carmine four days earlier. In many ways the whole point of the book is to further explain this society so it’s best to go in knowing little. The description on starts with “Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller…” which pretty much sums it up.

For me, the book started out a little abstract and slow because it was a little difficult to understand how things worked in this very different future society. The narrator Eddie, however, is on a journey to find the truth of things and the reader is along for the ride. As he uncovers more and more, the story also became more and more interesting and gripping for me. Eddie is a fantastic protagonist; easy to like, funny, honorable and curious, and he starts off being pretty invested in the "collective". As his world is tossed upside down by the odd little town of East Carmine and he searches for truth, he realizes there is something very rotten about the world he is living in.

The world Fforde has created is fascinating and creative as well as laugh out loud funny at times. I’ve been a little disappointed with Fforde in the past because he has so many clever ideas that I find some of his books seem more like a string of these ideas rather than a cohesive story. This is definitely not the case here. It is a tightly plotted mystery/thriller and the writing is exceptional. While the book doesn’t end on a huge cliff hanger, I have to say I really wish I had waited for the future books in the series to be published before starting. I want to know what happens next NOW!

The reader for the audio, John Lee, was amazing! He was the perfect narrator for a book that likely wasn’t the easiest to read but he captured the humor and tone of the book perfectly.

Final Verdict: This was a fantastic and completely unique dystopian thriller that will likely make you laugh out loud. Definitely my favorite Jasper Fforde book to date (Disclaimer: though I haven’t read all his books). Book 2 please!

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

REVIEW: Except the Dying by Maureen Jennings

Except the Dying (Detective Murdoch, #1)Except the Dying by Maureen Jennings
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Format: Kindle
Narrated By: NA
Original Publication Year: 1997
Genre(s): Historical Mystery
Series: Detective Murdoch #1
Awards: Nominee for Best First Novel for the Barry Award and the Anthony Award

Recommended subtitle: Something seriously ain’t right with 19th Century Toronto’s Toffs.

This book is on my 100 Books Project List and the first I've read this year!  Only 19ish to go!

As a big fan of The Murdoch Mystery series produced by Canadian Television (as I mentioned in this post), I was interested to read the original material that it is based on. Coming to a book after having encountered it in TV or movie form (and vice versa) is always a little dicey. Preconceived ideas can have a significant impact on my opinion of a book. So as much as I’d like to judge this book completely on its own merit, I don’t think it’s possible. I enjoyed the book but I have to say I am a little disappointed.

Except the Dying follows Acting Detective Murdoch of the Toronto constabulary as he investigates the death of a girl found naked and frozen on the street. The girl turns out to be a maid who has run away from the rich family she serves but nobody is sure where she was going and how she got where she was found and without any clothes on. Murdoch is a despised catholic from a humble beginning but his intelligence has raised him to the rank of acting detective and he hopes solving this case will help him move up. And he also becomes emotionally involved in the case by inexplicably developing fondness for a prostitute who is a suspect. He is assisted by his friendly landlady and husband, the Kitchens, and Constable Crabtree. He also has to deal with a grouchy and unsupportive superior, Brackenreid.

The book does a pretty good job of painting a picture of Toronto during the late 19th century time period. Murdoch is a decent character who is easy to engage with though he is, perhaps, not as interesting or complex as he could be, but more on that later. The mystery was reasonably interesting though I felt the solution came out of nowhere. There were very few clues allowing the reader to try and solve the crime and the story was littered with rather clumsy red herrings. In the end the reason for the maid’s death was not well explained. Despite all these issues that popped up, as I reflected on the book, they didn’t actually bother me while reading and I did enjoy the book. It didn’t live up to the promise of the first few chapters, however and I was disappointed by the many differences with the TV series.

So, the elephant in the room; differences with the TV series. In some ways, I hate to include a comparison to the TV show, but if you come to the book series as I did through interest in the show I think it useful to point out the differences. First of all, it’s important to note that this was just book one in a 7 book series, so further character development likely occurs that didn’t happen here. On the show, Crabtree and in many ways Brackenreid are almost stereotypical (but very likeable) comic relief characters. This is not their role here, at least in this first book. In fact, Crabtree is married with several children. This means the book is not at all humorous or light-hearted which is fine but different then the tone of the show. The character of Murdoch was disappointingly a little shallowly drawn and boring, lacking the passion for technology and policing that TV-Murdoch does. I generally expect to get more depth of character from a book then a TV show but this isn’t the case here though to be fair, I’ve been much longer acquainted with TV Murdoch. There is no Dr. Ogden which was a huge disappointment for me. She is my favorite character on the show and I love her and Murdoch’s partnership both professionally and romantically (though this has turned into a bit of a soap opera) and really like the view she provides into the life of women at that time.

Final Verdict: The book was enjoyable despite some pretty significant flaws that came to me upon reflection and differences with the TV show. I will pick up the second in the series at some point in the future.

Anybody else fans of the show and who has also read the books?  Do you think it's fair to compare a book to it's version in another media?

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Things on My Reading Wish List

This weeks Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and the Bookish is all about wishes.  Wishes  for "things"  I'd like to find in a book.  By "things" it could be type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc... pretty much anything.  I feel a bit like a kid in a candy store however I also feel that most of my "wishes" may actually be reality - I just haven't explored or researched enough.  Maybe putting these out there will prompt some recommendations at least I hope they do! 

 1) The equivalent of Firefly in literary form.

 Joss Whedon's Firefly is one of my favorite shows of all time and I know there are a handful of graphic novels in this universe but boy would I love to find a big long series of books with some of the same elements of the show.  A space western with a fantastic ensemble cast of well developed characters, action and adventure with a side of romance.

2) A dreamy and compelling beta romantic hero.

 I get really bored with the Alpha romantic hero that seems to be the norm in a lot of romantic fiction these days.  You know the type, uber macho and bossy, usually emotionally stunted paragon of maleness.  I'm not saying that these types are never appealing but it would be nice if there was a little diversity.  I myself prefer guys that are a little more complicated, perhaps a little nerdy, confident but not arrogant.

3) Wildlife/Natural Resource Conservation

I have a personal interest in this topic and there are a few fiction books that I'm aware of that do have some leanings this way (Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mystery series which takes place in National Parks comes to mind). I would really love it if there was more well written compelling "ecofiction" out there

4) A 40 volume graphic novel back catalogue for Avatar: The Last Airbender

This is the most fantastical of my wishes.  I recently discovered this very awesome television series and was disappointed that it was an original creation and not based on a graphic novel series.  It would be nice to read some more stories in this universe!

5) Books that mesh multiple genres and do it well 

This is a little general and vague but I do relish books (and other media) that do this and do it well.  A little fantasy/mystery/comedy/drama/romance?  Yes Please!

6) An interesting, non-annoying love interest for Harry Dresden

I really enjoy this series but I do think it could use a little relationship drama to spice it up.  I'd love to see a little more tension between Dresden and Murphy.  For all I know this has happened because I am 4 books behind in the series.  I know many would object to this (including probably author Jim Butcher!) but I would sure like it!

7)  For Flavia DeLuce to grow up

This is another one that a lot of folks would find objectionable but I was really disappointed when I discovered that Author Alan Bradley intended to wrap the series up without really aging Flavia at all. I do really like this series and mostly like Flavia but keeping her at the same age and not letting her grow feels like  stagnation and a little repetitive.

8) A Regency Era Mystery Series to Rival Kate Ross' Julian Kestrel Series

 I really love this time period and this series.  I was very sad to learn that Kate Ross had died of cancer at a  young age and this series is only 4 books long.  I've tried a few other Regency era mystery series (notably the Sebastian St Cyr series) and just did not like it as well. 

9) More books in these book series or universes:

A) Harry Potter Universe:  I honestly don't know how this would work.  It would have to be different characters, perhaps the next generation but what kind of conflict could they be facing that would equal Voldemort?  In many ways I think its perfect the way it is but I did so love getting lost in these books.

B) Chalion Universe: This is fabulous fantasy series of three books by Lois McMaster Bujold. She has said that she doesn't think she has any more inspiration or ideas to write in the universe but it feels somewhat unfinished.  The books somewhat revolve around a religion featuring 5 Gods/Goddesses.  Each of the three books explore the meaning behind each of three of these deities which leaves two undealt with.  And basically I'm just trying to rationalize, simply because I LOVE these books and want more.

C) The sequel to Territory by Emma Bull:  I loved this book which I read shortly after publication in April of 2008.  It obviously ends with the story unfinished and I have been keeping my eyes and ears peeled for a sequel.  There doesn't seem to be any news at all about a sequel for this book  - no long in the future projected publication date, no updates from Emma Bull that she is even working on it.  PLEASE Ms. Bull don't just drop this!

I think that's a wrap.  It was an interesting list to think about and I'm sure as soon as it's published I'll think of a million other things I would have included.  I'd love to hear what's on your wish list!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Avatar: The Last Airbender: When did cartoons get so awesome??

I first encountered this show a few years ago when my nephews were into it.  I dismissed it as a silly and probably violent cartoon that wasn't worth much.  Then I ran across a post by Ana of the Book Smugglers on the best of TV she ahd encountered in 2013, and she positively gushed about it.  Having now watched the show, I can say gushing was fully warranted and I plan to do a little myself. 

This show is AMAZING. Beautiful animation, thrilling adventure, characters with substance and complexity and an overall message of love and tolerance for all people.  Yes, there is some violence which I am a little ambivalent about in regards to kids viewership but I think the overall message balances out my reservations. 

It tells the story of a band of kids/teenagers and their flying buffalo and big eared lemur who have the heavy responsibility of saving the world.  The weight particularly rests on the shoulders of 12 year old Aang - the Avatar who has the ability to unite the world in peace. The four elements (earth, fire, water and air) are out of balance and the Avatar is the only being on earth that can control or "bend" all four.  The epic tale is spun out over three seasons of 20ish episodes each. I watched the first season, Water, in one weekend and then had to constrain myself not to run immediately to the library to get and consume the other two seasons.  I wanted to wait until the following weekend where I could indulge myself in watching all the episodes of the final two seasons and relish them.

So what makes it so especially good?

1) Nuanced and well-developed antagonists:  While there is certainly a well-developed vibe of Good vs. Evil in the show, it also recognizes, through the character of Zuko and his uncle, that things are frequently not so clean cut.  Zuko is an exiled Prince, son to the big bad fire lord and for much of the series pursues Aang trying to regain his honor.  But he is also on a journey of redemption that is really well done.  His tea-loving uncle who travels with him is one of the best characters on the show.

2)So Funny:  This show has a fantastic sense of humor that seamlessly combines the goofy slapstick that kids would respond to as well as more sophisticated sarcastic humor that frequently had me laughing out loud.  It's delightfully joyful and hilarious. 

3)Strong Female Characters:  This show is filled with strong, smart and diverse female characters and not in some kind of token way.  Aang may be the center of things but his main female companion Katara is frequently his guide and ultimately serves as his water bending master.  She never needs saving any more than the male characters and frequently is the one doing the saving of Aang and her brother Sokka. 

4)Romance:  I didn't expect to find a compelling romance when the main characters is twelve but indeed the creators pull off a romance that is sweet and touching and quite believable. 

5) So many great messages: Respect for the Earth, Respect for all People, Feminism, Equality for all, Kindness to animals, Peace and unity, the power of the few to affect change and much more.  But it never seems preachy; the messages are just part of the fabric of the story.

This show will definitely be added to my list of favorite shows of all time and I will definitely be re-watching in the future probably more than once.  Like the other shows I love it excels at combining many different genres; fantasy, action-adventure, comedy, drama, romance; into a cohesive whole that is completely satisfying. Well Played, Avatar, Well Played!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Format: Audio from
Narrated By: Jennifer Ikeda
Original Publication Year: 2011
Genre(s): Paranormal Fantasy
Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Awards: None

Recommended subtitle: A discovery of how vampires can make you stupid, immature and insufferable

I’ve thought long and hard about the review for this book. It really should have been a “Did-Not-Finish” but, it wasn’t, for two reasons. One, and most superficially, I paid for it (used one of my credits) on Audible. The more important reason, however was that I started off liking the book and being interested in the character of Diana. It has the bones of a good paranormal adventure story and the main characters are a scientist and a historian, both fields I find fascinating. By the time the book took several turns down paths I did not like, I felt like I was too far in to give it up. As such, I ended up feeling a little betrayed and writing a review that doesn’t turn into a long and bitter rant might be a bit of a challenge. I am going to do my best to lay out the particular elements of the book with which I personally struggled so that folks trying to decide whether to read the book or not can do so based on how they respond to those elements.

So it’s important to note that I am particularly sensitive and …ahem…judgmental of characters who I don’t feel are portrayed realistically in the context of the book. I don’t necessarily have to like them but I do need to be able to recognize something in them to connect to. This reading quirk is at the heart of why I didn’t enjoy the book.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First let me tell you about the story, which I found to be, at its foundation, very interesting. Diana is a history professor at Yale (I think? – one of the Ivy Leagues) studying in Oxford and she is also a witch, though in denial of her heritage. While doing research, she accidentally calls up a super-important, super mystical magical manuscript which she promptly returns and tries to forget about. Suddenly, Oxford is filling up with creatures (witches, vampires and demons), and they all seem to be obsessed with Diana and the manuscript she no longer has. When one particularly sexy vampire sets himself up as her own personal bodyguard, she is at first wary but then through discussing wine and doing yoga with him, she decides she loves him (within a 2 week period) and jumps on a plane to France in order to escape all the creatures and spend some time with his vampire mother. At this point I don’t know what goes on with the story – it goes batshit crazy. Basically, there are a lot of really bad people/creatures that want to hurt Diana and Matthew (the sexy vampire). They want to do this because they are bad and bigoted. Or maybe they want the manuscript Diana lost. Or maybe they are just grumpy from having to twirl their mustaches all the livelong day (read: they are one dimensional and boring). By this point Matthew has become insufferable with the coddling and clinginess and macho male over protective stuff and Diana has fully embraced co-dependency. When things heat up in France, they head to Diana’s family in New England, where they hang out and bemoan that there are bad people after them. They finally make a firm decision to do something, they spend a few days which seem like weeks preparing, and then the book ends in preparation for book two in the series.

Here were my personal struggles with this very popular book:

1)It’s too long and unfocused: So after the description above (sorry – despite my best intentions it got a little ranty and bitter), it is no surprise that I felt like the book needed some serious reining in by a professional. It starts off with an interesting mystery about the origin of the 4 races (human, witch, vampires and demons) and Diana’s ability to call a magical manuscript that had been missing for hundreds of years. What’s in this manuscript? Why does everyone want it? Why can’t Diana call it a second time? Why do the magical races seem to be declining – is the secret to this and the origin of the races in this magical manuscript? But then it launches into a romance section that derails the mystery for hundreds of pages. It felt like it couldn’t decide if it was a romance with a side mystery plot or a thriller, mystery with some romance. To me it felt like the author sat down and wrote out a first draft of a book, sent it to a publisher who immediately accepted it, published it and put it in bookstores without anyone ever editing or casting a critical eye on the story. It just felt like it needed refinement and focus.

2)The Romance: Imagine a story where the head cheerleader/class valedictorian falls in love with the handsome quarterback/class saluditorian. Sound compelling? While it may appeal to the head cheerleaders of the world, it was boring as hell for me. It felt like a fantasy for the 1%. A good romance makes my stomach flutter at the first declaration of love and/or the first kiss but hero and heroine gave me zero flutters. I think it left me feeling cold because Diana goes from being an independent, self-sufficient, intellectual woman to a subservient, hero-worshipping one who is treated like a child by all those around her. She spends so much of the book injured or in emotional despair and so much time is devoted to how Matthew, his family and her family all coddle and over-protect her. It frankly struck me as bizarre considering that she is supposed to be in her early 30’s and to have been on her own for almost 15 years.

3)Diana is a Mary Sue*: This is my biggest character pet peeve in the history of character pet peeves. She even has the insanely overused and clichéd “tragic childhood” which is used as a ploy to manipulate readers into feeling sorry for too perfect characters rather than giving them actual depth. It almost never works for me. Mostly because I don’t need to feel sorry for a character, I need to connect with them and feel like I recognize a little of their human experience. This is impossible with a character whose only trouble is some paranormal hoo ha and who unswervingly, always does the right thing. This is definitely not my experience with life. Relatively speaking, Diana has had a pretty spectacular and successful life up to the point we meet her, and even at this point, when things start to get crazy, she discovers she has every witch power in the history of witch powers and a hot hunky vampire who worships the ground she walks on. Basically Diana can do no wrong and even when she does “wrong” it ends up being right. One example of this to illustrate what I mean: At one point Diana must kill someone with her witch powers to protect someone she loves; she hesitates, with basically fatal repercussions for the loved one. When she bemoans her imperfection, Matthew incredulously and firmly tells her that she should be proud of her hesitation because of course she hesitated not wanting to kill someone. While this has logic to it, I personally would have felt more engaged and interested by the character if she had acted on instinct and killed without hesitation and then had to deal with those repercussions and wondered what she was becoming as threats became direr. I found her completely unbelievable and just wanted her to be awkward and screw up in a way that was recognizable by everyone as a screw up and not because her parents cast a magical spell on her.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t avoid being ranty and I apologize. I think I was especially disappointed because it had so much potential but in the end none of the characters felt authentic or even complex and interesting to me which negated any plot-based acrobatics.

I hope the things I have detailed above will go some way in explaining the specific things I found lacking so you can judge for yourself whether it is worth picking up or not. If you get as aggravated by Mary Sue characters as I do, I think your chances of liking this book aren't good.

I listened to the audio version of the book and the reader was fine. There was something about how she read Diana that bothered me a bit but I couldn’t tell if it was because of her reading or the fact that I’d had about enough of Diana.

Final Verdict: There was definitely the kernel of a good story in there but it grew into some kind of mutant Monsanto-approved monstrosity. It pushed all my buttons – all the ones I don’t like being pushed – and then found some new ones to pound on. I will not continue with this series.

*Mary Sue: The best description I have found of this is from “The prototypical Mary Sue is an original female character … who obviously serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of Wish Fulfillment. She's exotically beautiful, often having an unusual hair or eye color, and has a similarly cool and exotic name. She's exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas, and may possess skills that are rare or nonexistent in the canon setting. She also lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws — either that or her "flaws" are obviously meant to be endearing. She has an unusual and dramatic Back Story. The canon protagonists are all overwhelmed with admiration for her beauty, wit, courage and other virtues, and are quick to adopt her as one of their True Companions, even characters who are usually antisocial and untrusting; if any character doesn't love her, that character gets an extremely unsympathetic portrayal.”

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

REVIEW: The Third Sister by Julia Barrett

The Third Sister: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Sense and SensibilityThe Third Sister: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility by Julia Barrett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

No Top Ten Tuesday this week. Instead here are thoughts on some Jane Austen Fan Fiction.

Format: Real Live Book
Narrated By: NA
Original Publication Year: 1996
Genre(s): Historical Fiction,
Series: NA
Awards: None

Suggested Subtitle: How Margaret Dashwood overcomes her childhood trauma and finds an Austen ending.

I am a huge Jane Austen lover and thankfully not too much of a purist to not, from time to time, enjoy some fan fiction. They come in many shapes: retellings from different perspectives, straight continuations focused on the same characters, continuations focused on other characters, Jane Austen as a Regency era sleuth; there is something for everyone. I haven’t read a ton but I enjoyed the Fitzwilliam Darcy series by Pamela Aidan which re-tells P&P from Darcy’s perspective and I’m a long time fan of the Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron.

The Third Sister is the story of Margaret Dashwood from my favorite Austen book Sense and Sensibility. In Austen’s novel Margaret is young, perhaps 12 or 13, and floats on the very periphery of the story. In fact some of the TV/movie adaptations of the book drop Margaret all together. At the very beginning Barrett includes a quote from Sense and Sensibility that implies that Austen didn’t have much faith in Margaret amounting to much. Barrett attempts to revive her reputation and catches up with the Dashwoods about 5 years on from the end of Sense and Sensibility.

Barrett has decided that Margaret’s character will share a little bit from both of her elder sisters. She’s quite headstrong and outdoorsy like Marianne but she was profoundly affected by Willoughby’s betrayal of that sister and has resolved to be practical and not be taken in by any man with good looks and charm. So, when she meets just such a man who appears to be taken with her, she assumes he is not genuine or trustworthy and instead almost makes a disastrous marriage to a less charming man. It’s “Austen” so you can imagine how it ends. Barrett also gives the reader a peek into Elinor and Marianne’s married lives and tries to provide Marianne with the happy ending she doesn’t entirely get at the end of S&S.

Does it work? I was pretty pleased and enjoyed it. Like Austen, it is not action packed, focused mostly on the everyday comings and goings of Regency era society. We spend perhaps a bit too much time with the despicable Ferrars. The “lesson” for Margaret is perhaps a little too neat and the “villain” seemed closely modeled on another of Austen’s characters. The prose, though I’m no expert, seemed perhaps a little forced but as I mentioned I’m not a purist and I had no problem looking past these imperfect imitations to get caught up in the story. I truly enjoyed Margaret as a character and I was interested to see how Marianne was doing married to the Colonel.

Final Verdict: I did not feel the sparkle that I do when reading an Austen novel but this was an enjoyable visit with some of my favorite characters.

If you are an Austen lover, have you found any "fan fiction"  that you felt was just right?

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

REVIEW: Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels, #4)Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Format: Real Live Book
Narrated By: NA
Original Publication Year: 2010
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels #4
Awards: A few reader's choice awards and nominations

Recommended Subtitle: How to find domestic bliss while avoiding being killed by your extended family

This book is really a turning point in this series. Kate is forced to confront her biological family for the first time and things go about as well as expected (i.e. not well at all). Meanwhile she and Curran finally give up and agree somewhat petulantly, “Fine, let’s do this thing” with the results being surprisingly sweet and mature. It was important, therefore, given all these portentous happenings for the series that things get done well. Ilona Andrews does not disappoint and I must say it is so great to read a series that just seems to be getting better as it goes.

The introduction of Kate’s much alluded to family was sufficiently bat shit crazy. Considering this wasn’t the main showdown that will undoubtedly be coming, Andrews did a really good job I thought in striking just the right level of threat to make the reader realize what may be coming for Kate. Andrews also takes advantage of the situation to perfectly illustrate how Kate and Curran are better and stronger together while not stripping away any of Kate’s strength and independence. I honestly can’t remember if I have ever read a more authentically strong and individual heroine who retains her awesome even in a romance context. Long story, short: Kate is amazing, well rounded and appears to be staying that way after four books. I appreciate that consistency, so much.

I do have some quibbles. Clichés are used liberally and the narrative structure isn’t going to blow any minds if you’ve ever read urban fantasy before. My reading enjoyment is also impacted by the extensive re-capping Andrews does to bring readers just jumping in on book 4 up to speed. This practice annoys me, and if it’s done at all I think it would be more effective as a stand-alone introduction or the like. It probably wouldn’t be bothering me if I wasn’t devouring the books one right after another.

The quibbles are over shadowed, however, by the aforementioned awesome and also the creatively imagined world. This isn’t just a mildly different version of our world with vampires and were-lions running around. It’s got a very unique feel to it with a post-apocalyptic vibe and cycles of technology and magic. Each book explores the world a little bit more and it only becomes more interesting.

Final Verdict: Yipppeee! That was fun! My favorite installment yet!

Anybody else want to vote Kate and Curran on of the best developed couples in Fictiondom?  What are some of your coupling pet peeves in books?

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Eclectic Reader Challenge

I am generally wary of challenges because of my fickle reading habits.  I am actually quite a planner by nature except for when it comes to a few things like books and food.  It is probably some massive lack of discipline due to a lack not enough chores as a kid or something.  But I digress. Because the point is I'm jealous because the challenges look like a bunch a fun.  So I searched the web for a full 10 minutes and came upon this little gem on the blog book'd out  It looks do-able with only twelve books (famous last words) and I do want to make sure I am constantly broadening my horizons. The objective of the challenge is to make the confort zone a little more inclusive.  The mix of genres looks really interesting with some that will be a snap for me to achieve (Cosy Mystery, Alternative History, Gothic) and others that will be a challenge (medical thriller fiction, romantic comedy).  I also like that there's some non-fiction on there.  Here's the full list of categories:


  1. Award Winning Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. True Crime (Non Fiction) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  3. Romantic Comedy  Enchanted By Shanna Swendsen
  4. Alternate History Fiction 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  5. Graphic Novel Y: The Last Man
  6. Cosy Mystery Fiction Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton
  7. Gothic Fiction  The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  8. War/Military Fiction
  9. Anthology
  10. Medical Thriller Fiction The Surgeon
  11. Travel (Non Fiction)
  12. Published in 2014 Cress by Marissa Meyer
I will keep track of my progress in this post.  Here's to branching out in 2014!  Thanks to ShellyRae at Book'd Out for coming up with this lovely idea.  I look forward to branching out! 

NOTES-Possible Books by category


  1. Award Winning
  2. True Crime (Non Fiction)
  3. Romantic Comedy: Bridget Jones' Diary
  4. Alternate History Fiction
  5. Graphic Novel
  6. Cosy Mystery Fiction: Murder on St. Mark's Place
  7. Gothic Fiction: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  8. War/Military Fiction - Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  9. Anthology
  10. Medical Thriller Fiction: The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  11. Travel (Non Fiction) - Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  12. Published in 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

REVIEW: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, #3)Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Format: Real Live Book
Narrated By: NA
Original Publication Year: 2009
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels #3
Awards: None

So I gave the first two books in this series 3 stars and I’ve been pretty nitpicky about some little irritating foibles in the books. But you know what, screw that. I’m giving this one 4 stars even though the foibles are still there. Why? I LOVE what Ilona Andrews does with her characters. All I can say is Bravo!

Kate continues to be a fantastic heroine. She’s strong, and independent and smart, and compassionate but she’s not perfect. She’s too reflexively aggressive, stubborn, and self-sufficient to a fault. Curran is an Alpha Male romantic hero that doesn’t make me want to beat my head against a wall until bloody. He has an actual personality and obviously cares and thinks about other people and is also very compassionate; i.e. he actually has a personality beyond just being a uber macho. The development of the romance between Curran and Kate has also been done just right and I so appreciate Andrews taking the time to let it develop. It’s done in a way that doesn’t make my feminist sensibilities cringe. I have encountered this combination of awesome so infrequently in this genre and I feel like it has continued to get better as the series progresses so 4 stars.

This 3rd installment in the series also has a great and somewhat more cohesive story centered on a gladiatorial tournament called the Midnight Games. Key members of the Pack have started operating outside of The Beast Lord’s radar which is disturbing enough but the worst is yet to come. The introduction of some Indian mythology as well as a ratcheting up of Kate’s own personal mystery adds some spicy goodness. There is also some enlightenment regarding Saiman.

Final Verdict: This series continues to be ridiculously satisfying and this installment exceeds the first two. It’s an imaginative and action packed thrill ride.

Does anybody else love this series?  If so, do you have any similar series to recommend?  What's your favorite kind of romantic hero?

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 2014 Goals and Resolutions

It's appropriate in this first week of 2014 to think about what one hopes to achieve in the coming year.  Those wise folks over at The Broke and The Bookish host a weekly meme to get folks thinking in lists.  I don't know that I could keep a whole ten resolutions straight in my feeble mind but here's a few things I'd like to shoot for.

1) Read 90 books!:  This is the big bookish goal.  I read 86 books this year which was a good 20 books beyond what I had ever read before.  Can I surpass this year?  If I can get past Middlemarch and A Discovery of Witches which are hogging up all my audiobook time, I think I can.  Then perhaps 100 books in 2015....

2) Read at least 20 books from my 100 Books Project list:  I have 5 years to read all 100 of these books and only got through 16 this year. 

3) Continue to explore YA Literature:  I mostly enjoyed the inauguration of my exploration in 2013 and would like to continue.

4) No to very little book buying:  My kindle makes it criminally easy to buy almost any book I want, exactly when I want.  It's a heady brew of power that can quickly go to my head.  One of my personal resolutions this year (and for the next several) will be to get debt free.  Book buying won't help me get there.  Good thing I love my library:)

5) Balance:  This is non-bookish wish though it has some bearing on my reading.    My job sucks up about 90% of my already kind of puny energy reserves.  This leaves only 10% to grapple  I am lucky to have a job that is interesting, mentally demanding in a good way and which works to change the world in positive ways but because of this it is easy to get way sucked in.  I'm going to work very hard to even things out a bit. 

I'm cutting her off at five.  I'd love to know what are you most excited about accomplishing in 2014?

Monday, January 6, 2014

In the Bleak Midwinter, I try to get excited about the Garden

I'm a southerner by birth, now trapped in the frigid Upper Midwest.  Thankfully I'm not as "upper" as I could be, but still this winter is a doozy.  Snow has been sitting petulantly on the ground since early December and they are calling for a high of -5 to -10 today sans wind chill. 

I usually cope with this by complaining, A LOT, and dreaming about the garden.  The most exciting moment is the arrival of the seed catalogs and they have come in a huge wave in the last couple weeks.  Unfortunately, I have to say I am really struggling with getting revved up this year.  I am usually like a kid in a candy shop - poring through the catalogs and making my plans and sorting through my seed starting paraphernalia in preparation. To be frank, however, my garden has been fun but pretty much a complete failure for three years straight now.  The conditions in my yard are abysmal and there is nothing I can do about it besides moving or leading a stealth commando mission against my neighbors trees. Also, I really want to spend as little money as possible which means no seed buying frenzies. No buying of blueberry bushes (although actually I will have to buy at least one because blueberries need to cross pollinate with different varieties and...ahem...back to the topic). Poo.
A small selection of the seed catalogs that have winged their way here to tempt me.

I do have some preliminary plans/vague thoughts about the upcoming year and by putting my gardening resolutions down I hope to rev up my excitement.

1) Hybrids:  I have been a devotee of heirloom vegetables and I still am really attracted to them BUT they can, on average, be less productive than hybrids.  I don't think that's true of all varieties and I've had good luck with a couple but my space already has enough disadvantages without growing less productive varieties.  So, until I get a better space I will incorporate more hybrids.  One that I am already committed to are the Juliet variety of roma tomatoes.  That link takes you to the varieties page, but you can also read them being talked up on A Way To Garden. As one commenter said, they are not the best tasting tomato in the world but they are fine and super prolific.  Sounds like just what I need.  Maybe I can even grow enough to can my own tomatoes?  The last couple years, I've bought tomatoes, corn and strawberries from local farmers to preserve and store and it's super tasty and organic but not terribly cost-effective.  Last year I got 16 pints of diced tomatoes from $35 worth of tomatoes.  I'm not a math whiz but that's over $2 per pint which is more expensive than most canned tomatoes in the store.  sigh....

2) Cut back...again:  Last year I cut back on the number of types of veggies I was trying to grow with the idea of trying to grow a bunch of a few things rather than very few of a bunch. Capiche?  I didn't cut back enough though sadly. My list will be based on what produced well last year:

Green Beans (likely Empress)
Garlic (Music variety - already planted)
Greens: Definitely lettuce and maybe some kale
Peppers:  I saved some seeds from my tomato-shaped pimento and maybe some Tolli's sweet or equivalent hybrid
Tomatoes: My stand by yellow pear (Beam's pear) and the Juliet variety mentioned above
Green Onions:  Fukagawa!
Annual Herbs: Parsley and Basil

And that is it.  No carrots or beets or cucumbers, potatoes.  Only a couple varieties of peppers and tomatoes.  Keep it simple.

3) Blueberries:  I fell in love with blueberries this year and bought a couple of bushes that were north hardy and able to grow in pots.  As I started to babble about above I do need at least one more plant of a different variety to produce fruit.  So dependent on whether my two bushes make it through this insane winter we are having, I will buy a couple of those.

4)  Herb Garden: Last year I re-planted my perennial herb garden in a different location and it thrived well and looked great.  I do still have some plants though that I couldn't get my hands on last year.  I'll fill in these gaps and replace any plants that don't make it through this aforementioned crazy ass winter.  My missing plants are: Mustard, Flax, Elecampane, Betony, St. John's Wort, Angelica, Calendula and Sweet Cicely.  Currently in the Herb Beds:  Rose (which did better than expected last year - hope they survive the winter), Dill, Oregano, Thyme, Tarragon, Chives, Sage, Mint, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm (Monarda), Chamomile, Lavender, Butterfly Milkweed, Echinacea, Hyssop, Yarrow.

5) Seed Starting:  Last year, I accidentally grew HUMONGOUS tomato starts, I think primarily because I used random salvaged planting containers that were a bit bigger than usual.  This gave me the idea, because I always have trouble getting peppers to mature before the frost, that I should perhaps try this purposely with peppers this year.  The idea is to get them as mature as possible before even putting them outside. 

So that's my starting point for this year's planting.  It's actually a little more significant than where I thought I was at and I do feel some excitement creeping in and driving away the winter gloom.  Spring is right around the corner after all....

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I just had to pause for a moment and SQUEAL like a 12 year old.  March 14th can't come soon enough.  This movie looks like it has so much VM goodness and I didn't even realize how much I was missing it.

"Come on, I knew the felonies before I knew the State Capitols."
"I know Logan has his qualities but there is a darkness to that kid."  Oh Logan.  How I've missed your smirk.

And folks if you have not discovered Veronica Mars yet, do it NOW.  It is TV at its best.  There's a reason the Kickstarter to fund this movie set records. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

REVIEW: Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, #2)Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Format: Real Live Book
Narrated By: NA
Original Publication Year: 2008
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels #2
Awards: None

This is one of those series that I just want to curl up with and burn through in a matter of days. In fact I’ve read the first three in quick succession and am halfway through book 4. I will quickly run out of books (there are currently 7 plus some in between short-stories and novellas) and be irritated that I blew through them so impatiently.

This is book 2 in the Kate Daniels series and Kate is dealing with the repercussion of her new situation that came about at the end of book one. She is now a representative of the Order (a formal organization which takes care of magical “issues” for the good of mankind) and official liaison to Atlanta’s Pack of shapeshifters i.e. were-creatures and she is still unsure of her role. To complicate matters it looks like Atlanta is headed for a Magical Flare – a rare and super intense period where magic reigns. Kate must face down a God and Goddess (of the Celtic variety) and their various minions AND cozy up with the witches when she gets hired by The Pack to track down some important maps that have been stolen. She also gets caught up in the search for a young girl’s missing mother which ends up being connected to The Pack’s stolen maps.

In this book we start to see Kate’s soft side as she becomes protective of her foundling Julie. For someone as self-sufficient and independent as she is, she bonds with folks pretty darn fast and quickly takes responsibility for them. In this book she meets her “best friend” Andrea who continues to be a secondary character in future books. If I have any reservations about the books it is that a lot of things happen and the reaction by the characters, particularly Kate, doesn’t always quite compute. Usually the action and general likeability of everybody propelled me right along so I never dwelt on these twinges of “wha..huh” that occasionally popped up.

One other annoyance that I should mention just in case you like me want to consume all the books in one sitting: Andrews recaps everything within the narrative – action from the previous books and the basics and rules etc…of the world. It’s likely a bonus if you’re reading each book a year apart, but when they are a day apart it’s irritating. It’s made me wonder why authors don’t more often do a synopsis at the beginning of a book that you could read or skip as you preferred.

Final Verdict: Continuing fun in a really well constructed Urban Fantasy world. This is definitely an addictive series. Comparable to Book one.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year of Reading: 2013

 Last year (2012) was kind of a banner year reading wise for me.  I read a lot of books I really loved  awarding seven books 5 stars which is high for me as I tend to be a little stingy.  Looking back at my top ten list for 2012 there were some pretty quality, weighty books on there.  Despite really liking a lot of the books I read, I missed my goal of reading 73 books by one.

In contrast 2013 seems like a very different year.  I lowered my goal of books to read to 65 and quickly surpassed it which prompted me to raise my goal to 80. I ended up beating that goal and reading 86 books, a new record!  (Dare I shoot for 100 in 2014?)  I think I was able to read much more for a couple reasons: 1) I read a bunch of YA this year which lends itself to quick reading and 2) I started "reading" many books at a time.  For most of the year I had an audible subscription which was awesome and that combined with the library meant that I always had a couple of audio books going - one in the car on CD and one on my mp3 which I listened to while walking the dogs and doing housework.  I would also then frequently be reading a physical book as well as one on my e-reader.  I know there are a lot of folks out there that easily read 150 books a year or more which is astounding to me. This is almost 3 books a week! I'd be interested to know how they do this!  Is it just being fast readers? Devoting A LOT of time to reading?  or like me reading in multiple formats or a combo of all these things?  Let me know!

About 64% of the books I read this year were by female authors which I'm pretty happy with and they ran the gamut of genres. Looking at my favorite genres (at least this year): Almost half (42) were fantasy, roughly a quarter were Young Adult (23), 13 were romance, 19 were mysteries, 19 were historical, 6 were non-fiction (though I did also read but not review Suze Orman and Dave Ramsay). 

As I mentioned the biggest new thing that happened this year was reading more Young Adult fiction.  I read 23 books in this genre versus 3 in 2012.  I think I will continue to include a stack of these this year even though I felt like my feelings about these books were highly variable; i.e. I really loved some and I REALLY struggled with many.  Basically I think I need to be pretty choosy.  I am well beyond young adult age so I frequently ran into books where I could not relate to the characters or the character's actions.  However, Young Adult books provide what many "adult" books don't  - adventure and fantasy free of baggage or the weight of adulthood.  They don't have to be simplistic but I do feel they are easier to escape into.  Some of my favorites for this year were, in rough order of preference:                                       

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray
Bleeding Hearts (Drake Chronicles #4) by Alyxandra Harvey
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare
The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson

Another place to check in is the 100 Books Project I started this year.  You can find out more about the point of the project on The Fill in The Gaps Blog.  The point is to make a list of the 100 books that you've been meaning to read or feel like you should read and to try to tackle all of them over the next 5 years.  My list is kind of all over the place but for the most part I'm happy with it.  100 books over the next five years means that ideally I should have tackled at least 20 of these this year because I can do math.  Unfortunately, I only read 16 probably because of my whim reading habits.  I gots to be in the mood to read a book and if I'm not it usually doesn't go well. The books I read from the list were pretty awesome though and in fact five ended up on my best of the year list:

Atonement by Ian McEwen
House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Native Star by M.K. Hobson

And a few others got pretty close; Anthony Horowitz's Sherlock Holmes story House of Silk, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn as well as 3 from the Young Adult list above: The Age of Miracles, Shadow and Bone and Ella Enchanted. I had one from the list that was a "Did not Finish" - The Gunslinger by Stephen King.   So all in all I think this has been a good challenge for myself but I'll need to make a concerted effort to read more from the list in 2014!

Finally, I have a list of authors mostly in my head that I've never read before but that I would really like to, mostly because I think they are my kind of authors but also because they are generally beloved and well regarded.  They include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (read in 2012), Stephen King, Ian McEwen, Iris Murdoch, Cormac McCarthy, China Mieville.  I tackled Ian McEwen and Stephen King this year with spectacularly different results.  I suppose I actually started to try and tackle Stephen King in 2012 when I started reading The Stand in November 2012.  I am roughly 950 pages into that book and am determined to finish it but it's gonna be slow because I rarely feel in the mood to pick it up.  I also tried to pick up The Gunslinger and as mentioned above I did not finish it.  I got about 50 pages in and had no motivation to continue.  Obviously Stephen King is a talented writer and storyteller but for some reason he is just not for me.  I talked a little bit about my issues with this in a blog post detailing my shame at not finishing two books.  Ian McEwen, however, I loved and Atonement was on my top ten for the year list. 

 So I think that wraps things up. At least I hope so because that was a serious amount of navel gazing!  How do you feel about your previous year's reading?  Any reading resolutions or general inclinations for 2014?