100 Book Challenge? – It Definitely Was!

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!

Review: Vanessa Diffenbaugh – The Language of Flowers

vanessa-diffenbaugh-the-language-of-flowers-e1333792231461Okay, I know I say this after pretty much every book that I read, but this was seriously the best book I’ve read in a long time, and definitely the best book of my 100 book reading challenge so far.

The book centres around Victoria, a young girl in San Francisco who is forced to leave her group foster home at the age of 18 and starts living rough in a park. She finds a job at a florist, and we find out that she has a natural talent for flowers and a talent for knowing the meaning of each flower, enabling her to create perfect arrangements for her customers. It’s with the help of the owner Renata that she finds a home and starts to come out of her shell.

The book goes back and forth between 18 year old Victoria and 9 year old Victoria. When you are first introduced to her at 9 years old, she is taken to live with a woman called Elizabeth. The home seems perfect, Elizabeth seems perfect, and Victoria seems to be thriving in her new home. However this is where the book gets really intriguing, as you know that Victoria was in a group home and therefore did not stay with Elizabeth, so you spend all the time waiting for something to happen which will tear Victoria away from her perfect mother. Each time you think something is going to happen, it’s not what you expect and it leaves you on edge until almost the very end of the book.

Meanwhile, 18 year old Victoria meets a man she recognises at the flower market, and you find out that it’s the son of Elizabeth’s sister. At first Victoria pushes him away, but he shares her love for flowers and their special language, and gradually they become closer and closer. That is, up until Victoria finds out she is pregnant and she runs away again, returning only after the baby is born to leave the baby in his house and disappear from their lives. Eventually, Victoria comes clean to Grant about the truth of what happened to separate her and Elizabeth, and is reunited with Elizabeth again after over 8 years apart.

The ending of the book was great, I won’t spoil the entire book here by giving away the ending, but it was simultaneously not what I expected and perfect for the story. The book was so beautifully written that you become involved in Victoria’s life and feel every emotion that she is feeling. This is made even stronger by the gradual unravelling of her young life and the struggles that she has gone through.

A final surprise when I’d finished the book was a dictionary of flower meanings at the back of the book – the author really did her research. For example, my favourite flowers are Tulips (A declaration of love), Daffodils (New beginnings), Buttercups (Ingratitude) and Pink Carnations (I will never forget you).

Now Reading: Vanessa Diffenbaugh – The Language of Flowers

vanessa-diffenbaugh-the-language-of-flowers-e1333792231461This was an impulse buy at Waterstones last time I went to Meadowhall with Vicky. She hates being in book shops with me because I tend to spend quite a long time looking through books deciding which one to buy. I’d already picked one and they were buy one get one free, but she was fed up of waiting for me so I just picked the one off the table that had the nicest cover, and it ended up being this one. It actually looks pretty interesting, so we’ll have to see how it goes…