Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in review : 2010

Instead of a weekly wrap-up, or even monthly wrap-up, I decided to make this a year in review post. What better time for reflecting on 2010 than the very last day of the year, right?

2010 heralded my return to blogging with renewed vigor! I took a hiatus from Reader for Life for pretty much all of 2009 and part of 2010. When I decided to come back, I made a commitment to posting five days a week. The first couple of months were rough, but I've done a pretty decent job of maintaining that since the end of September. I created a calendar to help plan posts and reading, and it's been a huge help. I'm so glad I came back as I'm really enjoying both the blogging and the community of book bloggers I've connected with on Twitter.

Books read
To start blogging again, I needed to get back on the reading horse. I really kicked into high gear over the summer thanks to a few great mystery series - Cotton Malone, the Camel Club, and the Millennium Trilogy. Here's a list of everything I read in 2010.

According to Their Deeds by Paul Robertson
The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry
Etta by Gerald Kolpan
The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry
The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry
The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry
The Paris Vendetta by Steve Berry
The Bellini Madonna by Elizabeth Lowry
No Such Creature by Giles Blunt
The Camel Club by David Baldacci
The Collectors by David Baldacci
Stone Cold by David Baldacci
Divine Justice by David Baldacci (re-read)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
The Death Artist by Jonathan Santlofer
Color Blind by Jonathan Santlofer
The Killing Art by Jonathan Santlofer
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
Stealing the Mystic Lamb by Noah Charney (DNF)
The Forger's Spell by Edward Dolnick
What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Djibouti by Elmore Leonard
Hell's Corner by David Baldacci
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

I posted my top ten of 2010 on Tuesday as part of Top Ten Tuesday.

Bookish events
I made my annual pilgrimage to the Printers Row Lit Fest in June. While there, I saw Charlie Pierce and Amy Dickinson of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! fame (among other things). That was before I got going on the blog again. In Indianapolis, I had the opportunity to see Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, Karl Zimmer, Lorrie Moore, Madeleine Albright, Will Manley, Jonathan Lethem, and Elmore Leonard, all of which I recapped on Reader for Life.

I also attended the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting (January) and Annual Conference (June) where I always manage to squeeze in a little time in the exhibit hall to look for upcoming releases I want to read.

Plans for 2011
I signed up for a number of 2011 reading challenges including my own Edgar Awards Reading Challenge and a personal challenge to read all of Nick Hornby's novels. You can keep track of my challenge progress here. I'm also on the lookout for interesting readalongs to participate in besides those hosted by The Lost Entwife. If you're hosting one, let me know! Between challenges, readalongs, ARCs, and the existing TBR pile, I'm going to be a busy reading bee all year long.

I've already got a few author events marked on my calendar, which I'll be posting soon. I'm most excited about seeing Michael Koryta in February. The ALA Midwinter Meeting is in San Diego this January, and I'm super excited about going someplace warm! If you're going too, let me know. Maybe we can meet up!

I plan to continue blogging in the same way I have been bringing you reviews, bookish events, weekly wrap-ups, and other things bookish as they strike my fancy. See you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reading challenge : Mystery & Suspense

I'm signing up for the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2011 hosted by Book Chick City. This is another challenge with a simple premise - read 12 mystery and suspense novels in 2011! My reading for the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge should make this an easy challenge for me, but I'm sure I'll do some mystery/suspense reading outside of that challenge.

If you're interested in participating in this challenge, head on over to Book Chick City to find out how!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reading challenge : Foodie's

I'm signing up for the Foodie's Reading Challenge created by Joyfully Retired. I'm committing to the Nibbler participation level, which is reading 1 to 3 books. I'm hoping this challenge will help get my Anthony Bourdain books off the TBR pile.

If you'd like to participate, head on over to Foodie's Reading Challenge to find out how!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday : Best Books I Read in 2010

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's list is the best books I read in 2010. That doesn't mean published in 2010, just read in 2010. (Title links are to reviews.)

iubookgirl's list (in no particular order):

The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry. Ballantine Books, 2008.
I have this book to thank for introducing me to one of my favorite series. It's actually number four in the Cotton Malone series, but reading out of sequence wasn't a problem. After finishing The Charlemagne Pursuit, I went back and sped through the previous books. If you like series but aren't familiar with this one, I recommend you pick up The Templar Legacy (#1) as soon as possible.

Etta by Gerald Kolpan. Ballantine Books, 2009.
This is Kolpan's fictional story of the real-life Etta Place, compatriot of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's a wonderful story that I wanted to believe. Etta was my favorite historical fiction read of the year.

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk. Henry Holt, 2009.
Darling Jim is the book that got me back into reading and blogging after a bit of a hiatus. I'd had trouble getting through the somewhat gruesome prologue when I first received this book, but decided to give it a second chance. I'm so glad I did. I hope his other books reach the U.S. (and more importantly, English) soon!

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. Penguin, 2009.
I got on a bit of a "cultural crime" kick this year and still have a few titles on the TBR pile. Of those I read, Provenance was by far the best. Salisbury and Sujo managed to turn non-fiction into a page-turning crime story. The Mystery Writers of America agree with me. It was a 2010 Edgar Nominee for Best Fact Crime.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman. 30th Anniversary Edition. Ballantine Books, 2003.
I've been meaning to read this book forever...well okay, for about ten years, but just never got around to it. Thankfully, Chrisbookarama decided to host a readalong this year. I'm so glad I chose to participate. I think I loved the book even more than I love the movie. The Princess Bride is really a must-read.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Anniversary Edition. Harper Perennial, 2009.
I'm embarrassed to say I'd never read this classic before. I never had to in school and in the years since, I've been afraid that it would be to upsetting. I was surprised to find that it was less about the trial and more about Scout. Please, don't ask what rock I just crawled out from under. Anyway, I thought it was first and foremost a heartwarming story of how one little girl learns not to judge a book by its cover.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. Abrams ComicArts, 2010.
I'm not normally a reader of graphic novels, but the story description combined with the author convinced me I needed to read it. It's amazing how much punch Niffenegger packs into this short format. I can't wait to see further installments of The Library, of which Niffenegger says The Night Bookmobile is part.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. William Morrow, 2010.
I read this as part of Bermudaonion's Okra Picks Challenge, and I'm so glad I did. Tom Franklin is a natural and beautiful storyteller. This novel shows how secrets can eat away at you.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. Atria Books, 2010.
I just posted my review of The Distant Hours yesterday. Even though a week or more has passed, I still love it just as much as the moment I finished it. I can't wait to read Morton's two previous novels, The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010.
This is the best book about reading I've read in awhile. Mr. Conroy fills these pages with heartfelt stories of reading and the people that have influenced his reading and writing life. If you like reading about other people's reflections on reading, I highly recommend My Reading Life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review : The Distant Hours

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. Atria Books, 2010. (published November 9)

[Source : Simon & Schuster]

"This book was amazing!" Those are the first words I uttered after reading the final sentence of The Distant Hours. I woke up that night and immediately began thinking about it again. I kept trying to work out an alternate ending, an alternate path for the Sisters Blythe, before coming to the conclusion that there was no alternative. The story is exactly as it had to be.

The Distant Hours is narrated by Edie Burchill as she attempts to unravel two related mysteries. The first is the story of her mother's life. Edie is shocked to learn that her mother was evacuated from London to Milderhurst Castle during World War II. This, of course, leads her to the second mystery that revolves around the three Blythe sisters who still live in Milderhurst Castle fifty years later. Interspersed with the present day tale are sections set during the war told from the varying viewpoints of the sisters. The past informs the present and fills the gaps that Edie is unable to fill on her own.

Morton brings together these strands perfectly creating an extremely satisfying sense of completion. Everything is connected. Everything comes full circle. Everything is completely believable. The end is stunning. I highly recommend The Distant Hours to any reader. There are elements of mystery, history, romance, and family. There is something for everyone, and I'm sure you'll be delighted.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Weekly wrap-up : number ten

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading this for review.

Q: What was the last thing you read?
A: The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard

Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I received a review copy of this and am trying to get ahead on some January releases so I can jump into reading challenge mode on January 1.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Purchased: Briarpatch by Ross Thomas, Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson by Lyndsay Faye, The Instructions by Adam Levin
From Publisher: The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld, The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reading challenge : Into the Old World

Into The Old World Reading Challenge

I'm signing up for the Into the Old World Reading Challenge hosted by Splash of Our Worlds and My Love Affair with Books. The premise of the challenge is simple - read books published before 2009. Since I've already challenged myself to read a ton of pre-2009 mysteries for the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge and to read all Nick Hornby's novels, it seemed like a no-brainer to sign up for this challenge. I'm hoping the Into the Old World Reading Challenge will also encourage me to read some of the other pre-2009 books sitting on my TBR pile like...

Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The list could go on and on. Suffice it to say, I'm thankful to Splash of Our Worlds and My Love Affair with Books for encouraging me to reach back into the stacks instead of focusing exclusively on ARCs. If you're interested in participating, head on over to the challenge site.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Readalong : A Christmas Carol : Staves IV & V

I'm participating in The Lost Entwife's December readalong of A Christmas Carol. The reading assignment for December 15-21 was to read Staves IV and V, which brings us to the end of the story. I'm reading from the 2006 Oxford University Press e-book titled A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books.

I'm assuming everyone is pretty familiar with this story, so I'm not being cautious about spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

The final spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Future, comes to Scrooge in Stave IV. Scrooge has already absorbed the lessons brought to him by the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, but seeing his possible future really rattles Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Future never speaks, which makes his message all the more menacing. Scrooge knows he must make a change in his life if he and those he affects are to avoid sad fates.

The sadness of Stave IV makes Scrooge's conversion in Stave V all the more heartwarming. I was expecting Scrooge to visit the Cratchit family on Christmas, but he doesn't. Instead he sends them a huge turkey and goes to spend Christmas with his own nephew. Cratchit doesn't learn of the change in his employer until the following morning. I smiled to think of the look of shock on Bob's face when he realizes the difference.

Dickens' A Christmas Carol instructs us all on the importance of being good and giving people. Goodwill towards men is not just a Christmas time catchphrase. It is something we should all practice all year round. I'm so glad I participated in this readalong as it has really put me in the true Christmas spirit. If you have a little time over the holidays, give it a read and be filled with the glow of Christmas.

Related Posts:
Readalong : A Christmas Carol : Stave I
Readalong : A Christmas Carol : Staves II & III

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday : Books I Hope Santa Brings

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's list is Top Ten Books I hope Santa brings.

iubookgirl's top ten (in no particular order):

1. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
I've heard great things about this book on Twitter and have read a couple of reviews from bloggers (S. Krishna's Books and We Be Reading). Bibliomysteries are also among my very favorites to read.

2. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This is another one I've heard nothing but good things about. I read Egan's novel, The Keep, and loved it. I also think she's a really nice person after attending a reading when she was out promoting The Keep.

3. Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley
Jen at Devourer of Books turned me on to this one with her review. It sounds like the perfect complement to my existing collection of Harry Potter books and movies.

4. Room by Emma Donoghue
Though I think it will be really hard for me to read, I know I need to do it. Having it presented by Santa would only increase my sense of obligation.

5. Great House by Nicole Krauss
I'm intrigued by the description of this book. Plus, it has gotten a lot of recognition from critics and bloggers alike. I have The History of Love on my TBR shelf already, and it would be nice to add this.

6. Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg
Being a librarian myself, I always enjoy reading about the experiences of other librarians, especially when they sound as intriguing as this. I was also encouraged by the review is received from The Boston Bibliophile.

7. Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton
Another bibliolit entry. I just can't resist this kind of book.

8. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
This sounds like a fun story about a set of journalistic misfits. I also like the added element about the state of newspapers today.

9. Serpent in the Thorns and The Demon's Parchment by Jeri Westerson
I enjoyed the first entry in Jeri Westerson's Crispin Guest series, Veil of Lies, so I'd like to catch up on the series.

10. The Oxford Companion to the Book
The price tag makes this completely unrealistic, but I would absolutely love to have it.

What books are on your Christmas wishlist?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review : My Reading Life

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010. (published November 2)

[Source : Publisher]

I truly loved this book. Though only one chapter is identified as a love letter, the entire book is full of them. My Reading Life is Pat Conroy's tribute to the people, places, and books that have shaped his reading and writing life. These tributes are sprinkled with beautiful turns of phrase and heartfelt emotions that brought me to tears on several occasions. Conroy's love for his mother is palpable in the opening essay. The first real tears I shed, however, were during an essay titled "The Teacher." The impact one teacher can have on a life is enormous.

It feels as if Conroy hides nothing of himself in this book. He bears all. I've never read a book by Conroy so I was initially shocked by his candor regarding his relationship with his father. Of course, I soon realized he's written an entire book about it (The Great Santini).

You do have to be careful about some literary spoilers if you haven't read all the great classics. I accidentally learned who dies in several books I've been intending to read. There are also essays that talk about Gone with the Wind and Look Homeward, Angel. I haven't read either of these books, and the Gone with the Wind essay goes particularly in depth. It was my least favorite in the entire book, but I blame that on my own ignorance, not Pat Conroy's writing.

I am rarely moved to buy a copy of a book after reading the ARC, but I will definitely be purchasing a copy of this to treasure. I'm also looking forward to delving into Conroy's earlier books. If you share my love of reading, you will most definitely enjoy this book. I encourage you to go get it now.

This is my second read for the Okra Picks Challenge hosted by Bermudaonion. I'm still a Goober!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly wrap-up : number nine

The weekly wrap-up is my way of keeping my loyal readers informed of my bookish activities and holding myself to my bookish obligations. The questions may change slightly depending on the week.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Q: Why are you reading it? Business? Pleasure? For review?
A: I'm reading Tapestry of Love because I received a review copy from the author. I'm participating in The Lost Entwife's December readalong of A Christmas Carol. You can read my first two readalong posts here and here.

Q: What was the last thing you read?
A: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Q: What do you plan to read next?
A: Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

Q: Why do you want to read it?
A: I can't wait to read this new thriller. I requested a review copy and want to have my review ready prior to its release on January 4, 2011.

Q: What books did you acquire?
A: Goodreads First Reads: The Insider by Reece Hirsch
From Publisher: The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming

Q: What bookish events did you attend?
A: The Occasional Reader and I went to see The Santaland Diaries, a play based on a short story by David Sedaris, last Saturday. It was a fun holiday activity.