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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!

Good Friday

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I can’t quite believe that it’s Easter already, this year has gone by so quickly. I have managed to stick to giving up chocolate for Lent though, even if it did mean that I couldn’t eat the gorgeous smelling dinner that my sister cooked earlier this week (who puts chocolate with Turkey?!). I’ve also mostly managed to stick to the two books that I started reading for Lent. I’m not at the end of them yet, but I’m just going to carry on reading until I’ve finished.

As it’s Good Friday, I wanted to share my favourite Good Friday Bible verses with you:

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. —Matthew 26:39

My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. —Matthew 26:42

This verse comes from just before Jesus is arrested, when he goes to Gethsemane to pray. He knows what is going to happen and why, and he is willing to do it to save the rest of us. It’s something that I need to learn, sometimes God wants you to do something and you just need to realise that if it’s God’s will, there’s a reason for it and you just need to get on with it and stop fighting against it.

As it’s Good Friday, I’ll probably watch The Passion of the Christ tonight. I first watched it a few years ago with my parents and we had to stop half way through as we were all so upset by it. I’ve watched it every year since, and it’s always a struggle to get to the end. Seeing everything so brutally on screen just hits home how big the sacrifice was. But it’s not something that should be avoided, in fact, I should make more of an effort to remember it all year round.

 One last thing, seeing as though it’s Good Friday, I’ll share a bit of my good news. My Dad and I have been on a new plan to eat healthily and go to the gym more often, and since Christmas I’ve lost 39 pounds and my Dad has lost 30 pounds. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m very pleased with myself for keeping up with it. Let’s just hope we can avoid too much chocolate after Sunday!!

John 14:27

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I’ve had this in my head the last couple of days, I’m finding it quite comforting. It’s also reminded me that I’m a bit behind on my two Lent reading books, I’m really enjoying those, particularly The Purpose Driven Life, so I need to get back into them again.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Isaiah 49:15-16

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This was the theme of the service at Church a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since. How cool is it that God cares so much about us that we are written on his hands?  No matter what you may think, he doesn’t forget about you.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

(Picture Credit: Kim Bonner)

The Dragonfly

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It was my Aunty Marjorie’s funeral today, and although the service was short, it was beautiful. The vicar told a story about water beetles, which I thought was a lovely way to describe death. We already know that God has promised us eternal life, and this was a great way to interpret that.

“There was once a community of water beetles living in a little pond underneath the lily pads. Every once in a while, sadness would come to the group, when one of the water beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and disappear above the water. The group knew that when this happened, their friend was not coming back.

When this had happened a few times, they made a promise that the next beetle that went up the stem would come back down and tell the others what was above the water.

The next time that a beetle started climbing up the stem, his friends reminded him of his promise to come back. When he reached the top of the stem and climbed out of the water and on to the top of the lily pad, the sun was so warm that he fell asleep.

As he slept, his body changed into a beautiful blue dragonfly.

When he woke up, he remembered his promise to his friends to go back down to them, but his new body would not let him below the water, no matter how much he wanted to go back. At this point he realised why none of his previous friends had come back to them, and that eventually, his friends below the water would make the journey up the stem to join him.”dragonfly-and-water-lily_edited-2-e1301951375644

Isaiah 41:13

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This is the perfect bible verse for when you are feeling a bit alone or maybe not quite sure what to do. A perfect reminder that God has a plan for us, and he will help us to get to where we need to be.

For I am the lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

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I’ve always been quite a worrier, so when Michael Schlact put this quote on Twitter, it seemed perfect! Not much else to say really, other than follow him cos he’s a great guy!

“Worrying is like a rocking chair:
it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Loved Ones

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This is read every year at the Lights of Love service at Wheatfields Hospice. It’s a really lovely poem, with such a beautiful meaning. My Grandad was cared for at Wheatfields and they do such fantastic work. It’s nice to go back each year to support them.

So many Christmas memories,
Now touched by gentle tears
Of Christmas shared with loved ones
Left as precious souvenirs.

The warmth of smiles and laughter,
That extra special wish.
Christmas time reminders
Of how much they’re missed.

If only it was Christmas
In the way it was before
If only we could have a chance
To share in just one more.

There’d be another memory left
Before we had to part.
Where a little Christmas magic
Helped to heal an aching heart.

Remembrance

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I’ve just watched the Songs of Praise Remembrance special, and this poem was read. It’s a poem that is now synonymous with Remembrance day and captures the feelings perfectly.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Extract from For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

This put me in mind of af a poem which I read last year:

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free
I’m following the path God laid for me.
I took His hand when I heard Him call;
I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way;
I found that place at the close of day.

If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss;
Ah yes, these things, I too will miss.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full, I savoured much;
Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seems all too brief;
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me,
God wanted me now, He set me free.

Thank God

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Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God

I heard this quote last year and it really stuck with me. It reminds me that God is with us through everything, and we should be thankful for everything that he does for us.