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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

100 Book Challenge? – It Definitely Was!

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Well I set my self a lofty total of 100 books in 2012, which turned out to be a little too high. I made it to 67, but I’m still quite happy with that. I started off the year with the best intentions and I managed to keep up until about June. And then Cameron moved back from Huddersfield and I was round at his house or going out more often, and the books kind of stopped flowing (I only read one book in July). I managed to pick it up again a bit later in the year but it wasn’t enough.

I’ve really enjoyed it though, I’ve tried a lot of books this year that I would never have thought to read thanks to recommendations from awesome people, sci-fi and fantasy are two genres that I’ve never really read before but will definitely be trying again.

I saw this ‘Best of Books 2012’ survey on one of the book blogs I read, so I’ve pinched it for my challenge review.

Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)
I think this comes down to two. For pure magicallity and captivation, I’d pick The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It was completely different to anything I’d ever read, but the story of little Faina was both mesmerizing and heartbreaking at the same time. In terms of hard-hitting plots and something that stuck in my head for long after I finished reading, I’d pick When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. The plot wasn’t easy to read, but extremely well written and brilliantly thought provoking.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen would definitely qualify for this. It was the first book I read this year and didn’t really set the tone right for the other 99 books I planned to read. Since I’ve read it I’ve heard a lot about Franzen and how good he is supposed to be, but I found this book way too long and I just couldn’t get any connection to the characters. I’d had high hopes for the book but it left me feeling very disappointed.

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
This would definitely be Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds. I was leant this book with the assurance that it was really good, but I’d never read any sci-fi before and I had no idea what to expect. But it was amazing, fast paced and full of nail biting moments that kept me gripped until the end. I’ll definitely be reading more Reynolds this year.

Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
This would probably be The Hunger Games (I, II and III). I loved it when I read it and a few people I know have also read it and enjoyed it too, including my dad who usually reads sci-fi and crime books, but loved how easy to read the trilogy was.

Best series you discovered in 2012?
This would probably be The Hunger Games too. I loved it when I read it, and the only other series I have read this year were by Charlaine Harris (Lily Bard and Aurora Teagarden), which were less enthralling that I expected.

Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
I’ve discovered so many new authors this year that it’s hard to pick just a few, but I would probably say Kristin Cashore, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, S.J. Watson and Hillary Jordan.

Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
There’s two books that I would pick for this. Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Both new genres, but both completely amazing and left me definitely wanting to read more sci-fi and fantasy.

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
This was definitely When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. The plot was so shocking and so different from what I’ve read before, but also so heart-wrenching that I just couldn’t put it down once I’d started reading.

Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year
Considering the length of my ‘to-be-read’ list, I don’t think I’ll be re-reading any books next year. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve got so many more books waiting for me!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?
If we’re talking about favourite appearance of a book, I’d say either The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, with it’s lovely black-edged pages and beautiful artwork, or When She Woke by Hillary Jordan with it’s striking picture of a girl staring at you, combined with the bright red-edged pages.

Most memorable character in 2012?
This would have to be Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, although this is probably combined with the fact that the film has just come out too. But I loved that I got to know the character before I saw the film, whereas I’ve already got a fairly good picture of The Lord of the Rings, so when I read it earlier it won’t be my own creation.

Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
Definitely The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, absolutely enchanting.

Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
This is a hard one. I’d say it was probably The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. It made me think a lot about the impact you can have on other people with even the smallest actions.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
Definitely A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’ve really got no idea why I’ve never read this before but it was great to finally read it.

Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?
This would definitely be from The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: “Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?
The Longest books was Century Rain by Alistair Reynolds at 640 pages. The shortest was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at 104 pages.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
Not much really springs to mind for this question, but I did have to talk to my friend straight away at the end of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, because it didn’t end how I expected it to!

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
This would definitely be the relationship between Victoria and Grant in The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Favourite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously
Definitely Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris – one of my favourite authors and the latest book in the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series did not disappoint.

Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?
Two books: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds and The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

So that’s my 2012 reading challenge over, not quite as successfully as I hoped but I’ve discovered some amazing new authors and tried books that I never would have dreamed of trying. Next year, I’m not going to aim for a specific number, but I do have in mind a lot of books that I want to read. Some longer ones that I couldn’t read this year (like LOTR and Anna Karenina), and some classics that I want to try, like Little Women etc. I’ve got a list of the top 200 books as voted by BBC readers. The list was voted in 2003, but it contains a lot of books that I do want to try, so my aim is to fill up this list a bit. I’ve read 49 from the list so far, so lets see how far I can get!

If you had a reading challenge last year, or you’ve set yourself one this year, let me know in the comments below!

Now Reading: Evan Mandery – Q: A Love Story

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q-a-love-story-evan-manderyOkay, it’s an addiction. I MUST stop buying books, although I blame this one on Cameron for not stopping me. On the plus side, I’m 60% towards getting a £10 Waterstones gift card, unfortunately that means I’ve spent a little too much this year…

The reviews on this one say that it’s great for fans of The Time Travellers Wife, which is one of my favourite books. Unfortunately, the review from the New York Times says:

“A word to the tear-prone: don’t attempt to read the ending in public”

Unfortunately, I’m like the teariest person ever, I cry at the smallest thing, so I don’t hold out much hope for staying tear-free at the end – I’d better get my tissues ready…

Review: Paulo Coelho – Veronika Decides to Die

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veronika-decides-to-die-paulo-coelhoThis is a pretty delayed review because I’ve been quite busy this week (including seeing the Blues Brothers at the cinema for the first time on Thursday and seeing the Olympic Torch in Huddersfield this afternoon), so I’m still slipping further and further behind on my reading challenge. Lacking a bit of motivation at the moment I think…

But onto the review: I don’t really know how to write it without completely spoiling the book for anyone else that wants to read it, but I’ll give it a try.

The book is about a young woman called Veronika who decides to commit suicide. (Un)fortunately, she doesn’t succeed and ends up in a psychiatric hospital called Villette. Even though she doesn’t succeed with her suicide attempt, she finds out that she made a good enough attempt at it to give herself only a few days to live.

However, while she’s in the hospital she meets a few people who have been classed as ‘insane’, but when she learns their stories, she realises they’re not mad at all, and that she’s missed out on a lot of experiences and things she should have done in her life. Of course by this time it is too late, but by listening and talking to these strangers, she ends up helping them to get over the problems they’ve been having and help them to leave the hospital.

Because she has nothing left to lose, she is willing to try more things and to experience new relationships and emotions. There’s a huge twist in the last 2 pages of the book, which bring the book to an amazing ending, but I won’t say any more about that because it really will spoil the book for you if you decide to read it. I think the main message of the book was really that sanity only means that we’re all mad in the same way, so is anyone really mad?

4-5

I’ve been reading The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks for the last day or so, and enjoying it so far. I think this week is going to be less busy than the last, so I’ll have some more time to just chill out and read.

Now Reading: Paulo Coelho – Veronika Decides to Die

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veronika-decides-to-die-paulo-coelhoThis book doesn’t sound like the most fun book I’ll ever read, but it was recommended at Waterstones and was only £2.99 so I thought I’d give it a go. I found it when I was browsing the Religion section at Waterstones (which is a dismal collection of books), and the description of the book does make it sound like it will be pretty interesting. I know that my Dad and my cousin have both read Paulo Coelho before and quite liked him, so I have high hopes for this book.

I know that I’m about 6 books behind on my reading challenge now. I was planning on catching up on the beach in Scarborough last week, but the constant rain put the brakes on that plan. I’ll catch up though in the end, I still think it’s an achievement to have read 40 books so far this year!

Now Reading: C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity

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cs-lewis-mere-christianityUntil recently, I wasn’t aware that C.S. Lewis had written anything but children’s books, having only ever read the Chronicles of Narnia books when I was younger. But while I’ve been browsing blogs on WordPress I’ve seen this book mentioned quite a lot, so I decided to buy it while I was a Waterstones with Vicky today, along with Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom and Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho.

The book is a series of lectures that Lewis was asked to give by the BBC during the second world war. The lectures apparently ‘brought comfort to millions in times of war and uncertainty’ and ‘remind us of the truly important things in life’.

I’m not sure yet what to expect, but I’m looking forward to seeing Lewis as more than just the creator of a magical world like Narnia.

Now Reading: S.J. Watson – Before I Go To Sleep

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sj-watson-before-i-go-to-sleepThis book seems quite intriguing – I was stood in front of my bookshelf pulling random books off the shelf to decide which one to read next and this one jumped right out at me. From the back of the book:

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.

Sounds fairly average so far right? Then the last two sentences:

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

Sounds thrilling – I can’t wait!

Now Reading: Jane Green – The Beach House

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the-beach-house-jane-green-e1338152306643After spending over a week trying to read The Hobbit and finding it really hard to get involved in, I fancied a quicker, easier read. With the recent spell of hot weather (which is great if you’re not stuck in an office), I wanted something summery to read, and this Jane Green book jumped out at me.

Jane Green is one of my favourite authors, and one that is really easy to find in the charity shops in Pudsey, hence why this one looks a bit battered and old. I quite like books like this though, books that you know have been read and loved by the people who have read them before. And when they only cost 25p, can you really complain? I think not…

Now Reading: Dr Benjamin Daniels – Confessions of a GP

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confessions-of-a-gpThis book was one that was included in a 3 for £5 deal at Tesco, and it looked like it could be a bit of a laugh, easy reading for a weekend. It looks like a collection of stories rather than a novel so it will be easier for dipping in and out of, good for a busy weekend when it’s hard to concentrate for too long, especially after a long weekend when I’m rather tired!

I never anticipated how hard it would be to read 100 books in a year, but it’s turning into quite a challenge! I’ve read 35 so far, but I’m still one book behind where I should be at this point. I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to get there though!

Now Reading: Nicholas Sparks – The Lucky One

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the-lucky-one-nicholas-sparks-e1336408994993It’s no secret that I love Nicholas Sparks, I don’t think I’ve ever read one of his books that I didn’t like. Although I said that about Charlaine Harris and I’ve been disappointed with the last books I’ve read. This is one of the few Nicholas Sparks books that I’ve not read yet, and when I saw a trailer for it at the cinema I knew I needed to read the book before I go see the film.

The only bad thing about buying a book so close to the film coming out is that it is hard to find one with a nice cover. Instead, I’ve had to settle for one with Zac Efron and generic blonde woman (whatever her name is). I am a sucker for a book with a nice cover, but it’s whats on the inside that counts, so lets hope the book is good! Then I can drag Cameron to see the film with me (or at least I can try)! 🙂

Now Reading: Charlaine Harris – Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden #1)

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charlaine-harris-aurora-teagarden-e1335464844842It’s no secret that I love Charlaine Harris, but for some reason I’ve had this book on my shelf for a long time and never read it. I think it’s probably something to do with the fact that it’s an omnibus, so it’s actually four books in one and it weighs a ton! It’s a good job I’m using a big handbag at the moment!

I wouldn’t be able to decide which Charlaine Harris series is my favourite so far (Lily Bard, Harper Connelly or Sookie Stackhouse), but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed by this one.