Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School review

I love a good memoir, especially when it teaches me something, and I definitely loved this one. I learned more about simple recipes, cooking techniques, and kitchen etiquette in this book, than I ever would have expected and the only thing that could have made it better was videos illustrating some processes. 

Author Flinn takes nine at-home cooks (or non-cooks as often is the case) and just teaches them the basics of food and cooking. No more processed junk, we can make those same dishes ourselves. No more poor knife skills, we can do it properly, FASTER. Everyone learns a few basic recipes and how to spin off of those into a more complex dish or meal. Everything from salad dressing to bread baking is covered, including making the perfect scrambled eggs, something I definitely needed help with. 

My husband and I have been into eating "healthier" for the past few years and I've tried to eliminate a lot of the processed foods from our house. We haven't bought salad dressing in probably a year and have completely done away with "boxed" dinners that ruled our house in the early years of our relationship. We definitely have a few processed staples hanging around, like bread, parmesan cheese, and bbq sauce, but Flinn has definitely inspired me to learn to make my own. Or at least buy fresh parm instead of the shelf stable grated stuff. 

Another huge push I've been giving after reading about these women and their lives is to buy quality knives. We have a moderately priced knife set in a block that sits on the counter. 5 dinner knives and 6 assorted others. Flinn really impresses upon her students and the reader that a cook really only needs 2 or 3 good knives, but they need to be a nice quality. Ours are most definitely not. We won't even talk about the fact that the biggest knife in the set can't easily slice through a tomato. Sigh.

Finally, the most important point I think Flinn makes, is the idea of less waste. We all waste SO MUCH FOOD, whether it be forgetting about the lettuce in the crisper drawer and having to throw that away, or buying too much at the grocery store and not being able to eat it in time. I've been incredibly conscious about using all of our produce before it goes bad, after reading this. That alone is saving us money and reducing the perfectly good food that gets thrown in the garbage.

If you're a reader of fun memoirs or at all a foodie, I would highly recommend checking this one out. It was inspiring, enjoyable to read, and completely easy to relate to. Loved it! I'm going to be purchasing my own copy just to reference from time to time!


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
Kathleen Flinn
304 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
Penguin
9780670023004
September 2011

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Picture Book Saturday

We've started trying to establish a bedtime routine with Elliott, though since he's only a few weeks "adjusted" age, it may be pointless. Either way, we've been making sure to have family storytime each night and this one made an appearance in our reading stack tonight! 

Bunny tells the reader all of the things he loves about bedtime, including taking a bath, reading a story with Dad, and talking about his best moments of the day. Dad has a special saying for Bunny that he says every single night, making him feel very special and then Bunny gets to dream, all night long.

It's a short story with soft illustrations, great for encouraging toddlers into their own routine. Taking a bath, putting on pajamas, reading a story, etc. Elliott is obviously a bit young, but it certainly can't hurt to start, right?

A nice bedtime read. 


The Things I Love About Bedtime
Trace Moroney
Board Book
Scholastic
9780545290166
January 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don't Breathe a Word review

Joy is fleeing her life. Leaving behind her parents, always hovering because of her asthma, and her abusive boyfriend, Asher. She flees the comfort of her suburban home, her friends, and virtually her entire being, headed for the streets of Seattle, hoping she can find the boy who once offered to help her. 

On the streets, Joy finds a new family, but with that sole comfort comes a price. She's dirty, has no money, winter is coming, and the fear of being beaten up, robbed, or raped is an every day reality. A harsh reality that so many teens in Seattle and all over this country, face every single day. 

Joy's story is fictional, but it gives a voice to the thousands of teens on the streets that no one speaks for. So many of us would think that Joy's comfortable, middle/upper class home, caring parents, and kind friends would be enough to keep her happy. No one sees what's underneath...what causes pain for so many and forces them to run away. I loved the honesty in the story and in Joy's emotional state and how her feelings are still that of a teen girl's, even after being forced into adulthood so quickly. 

Written on a tough subject, this one won't be for everyone. Rape, abusive relationships, drug use, prostitution...they all make appearances. The amount of cursing is definitely up there, though realistic in its use. I'm typically not a fan of lots of f-bombs being dropped unless that type of speech is actually a true part of the story and I really felt it fit here. That being said, I would still advise parents to possibly screen this book to see how comfortable you are with your teen reading it. Mature subject matter, but IMPORTANT subject matter. 

I've never read a book by Cupala before, but I'm thoroughly impressed. Can't get Joy and her story out of my head. 

Don't Breathe a Word
Holly Cupala
299 pages
Young Adult
HarperCollins
9780061766695
January 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy review

10-year-old Gemma Hardy has not had a great start in life. Both of her parents are dead and her Uncle, the only one left that shows her any kindness at all, is also now dead. Stuck with an Aunt that hates her and cousins who could care less about her, Gemma is pretty much alone in the world. Strong and determined though, Gemma is not one to be easily pushed around and is often in trouble for defending herself against her Aunt's verbal tirades. 

Thinking she's escaping her cruel family, Gemma ends up at a boarding school with teachers that are just as cruel. As a scholarship student, she's not much more than a servant, with the occasional study session on the side. Still, Gemma's determination doesn't falter. 

The book continues to follow Gemma as she grows into an intelligent young woman, fiercely set on becoming something in her life. She takes jobs, forms relationships with a variety of different people, some kind, some not-so-kind, finds love and continues to search for her rightful place in the world. 

The beautiful writing is so nice to read and something I wanted to make sure to read slowly, taking in all the words. Though often filled with sadness, Gemma's story also has a lot of underlying humor, as no matter what horrible thing is brought her way, she manages to keep a fairly positive, upbeat attitude.

I loved the Scottish setting and the descriptions of the Orkney Islands...a place I don't think I've previously read about. I loved Gemma from page one and between the writing, the setting, and the great characterization, this is definitely a book I will be recommending to a lot of readers. I'll also be looking into more of Livesey's books.


The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Margot Livesey
464 pages
Adult Fiction
Harper
97800620646
January 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week in Review

This week flew by! Between appointments and hanging out with friends, I feel like the husband, the boy, and I haven't been home at all. We're finally home and relaxing with football on the tv. Not sure if that's a good thing, or not.

I had my 6 week postpartum appointment and have been cleared for exercise...good news, since I started going to the gym again like 2 weeks ago. Oops. Couch to 5K is going well so far, though I desperately need a recommendation for some new running shoes. I don't run outside (walk a lot), so it's really only treadmill running, but MAN do my knees hurt right now. Running with old shoes is a bad idea.

Elliott is doing great...gaining weight like crazy and acting like a real newborn. Screamed his head off after he scratched his precious little face the other night and nearly broke my heart. Does that ever go away? Hearing this boy cry just makes me so sad! Ooh and I think I forgot to mention last week that 1/15 was his due date, so he's officially born now! hehe  Developmentally, he's not really considered "on the charts" until his due date, so when he's 4 months old, he'll really be only 2 months old in terms of what milestones he's hitting. I'm SO anxious to get my first real smile!

Considering all the time I spent away from the house, it's no wonder I didn't get a whole lot of reading completed. I did finish Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala, which was fantastic. Review of that to come this week. I had to, sadly, give up on the audio I was listening to, Once Upon a River. The writing was beautiful and the story totally intriguing, but I had only listened to not even four discs and there had already been four descriptive sexual encounters. I'm no prude, but these just made me uncomfortable, being that the main character is only 15. After #4, I decided I was done. Bummer.

I started Survive by Alex Morel, which totally sucked me in after the first couple of pages and my small group started a new study, using The Hole in Our Gospel as a guide. I think it's going to be fairly eye-opening.

I reviewed Far From Here by Nicole Baart and am giving a copy away. Be sure to enter before 1/31!

I also featured Kelly from Stacked, with a guest post about books she's excited for in 2012, via their covers.

And that's it for me! Anything exciting happen to you this week?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Guest Post: Kelly from Stacked and 12 Titles by Their Covers


12 x 12: Twelve Titles by Their Covers (Then 12 More)

When Amanda asked if I'd write a guest post, my first thought was to showcase 12 books I'm eager to read in 2012 based on their cover alone. But as I started going through my personal list, I realized some of the books I'm really looking forward to either already have covers or, you know, I wanted to read for less vapid reasons. So instead, I offer 6 in 2012 I'm looking forward to reading based on their covers, then 6 more I'm eager to read just because.
Drowning Instinct by Ilsa Bick (January 28, 2012)
I haven't read either of Bick's other titles yet, but it's this cover that compels me to start. I'm not a fan of the girl drowning cover nor the girl with the messy hair cover, but there's something about the composition here that draws me in. Maybe because it's unexpected. The black profile against the bright blue background totally captures my attention, and the book doesn't at all look juvenile (not that that usually stops me, but it's a huge plus here). Bonus: it sounds like an intense and dark contemporary title, my cup of tea.


Cinder by Marissa Marr (January 3, 2012)
This cover gives off EXACTLY the vibe I want it to – science fiction, slightly creepy take on a well-known fairy tale. It stands out to me because it is eery. I'm not a big fantasy reader, but give me a fairy tale that's being spun into something science fiction, and I'm sold.


Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn (June 12, 2012)
This is a busy cover and it excites and exhausts me when I look at it, and I mean that in the best possible way. This mystery/adventure story takes place in Tokyo, and I kind of feel that vibe is completely appropriate in the cover. And the police tape? Checkmate. This sounds like the fast-paced sort of criminal-filled read I really dig.


Catch & Release by Blythe Woolston (January 28, 2012)
I think this might be one of my all time favorite covers. It's deliciously simple: a few fish hooks and a font that mirrors the idea of moving water. Intentional understatement in a cover works for me, and if there aren't people on the cover, even better. This is a story about a MRSA outbreak – a topic I have not read – and knowing how much I dug Woolston's first title, I have a feeling her sophomore effort will be as satisfying, if not even more.


This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (June 19, 2012)
I think the color du jour this year is this blue green color, meant to represent water without necessarily being water. Alas. This cover has everything I hate on it: the broken girl! The jagged collar bone! The wind-swept hair! But you know what it has that makes me happier than it should? Blood. Not only are there blood splatters at the top, but if you look at the girl's face, it has blood on it, too. The font is splattered, as well. I dig it a LOT. And surprise: this is a zombie book. But really, this one's about the blood splatters.


Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (March 13, 2012)
Talk about a contrast, right? What I love about Kirsten's sophomore cover is how simple and clean it is. Yes, there's a girl on the cover, but she doesn't look sullen or sad or broken. She looks like a teen girl who is – wait for it – happy. But more than that, what I love is that this cover features Kirsten's art (right there in the “o” of love). The book has her original art within the story, a concept I don't think has been utilized a lot in ya novels marketed to girls. Plus, this novel takes place outside the US and is a travel story and romance. Bonuses all around.

Now that you've seen six I want to read by their covers alone, here are six more I'm eager for (some have covers and some don't):


Survive by Alex Morel (August 2, 2012)
When Jane decides she needs to end her life, she's got a plan. But it doesn't go off quite as she planned and now her desire to end it all might just become a struggle to live.

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (November 20, 2012)
Camden's girlfriend's died, and he's grieving deeply. But then he discovers she's alive – it's just in a parallel universe. But disturbing the universe might be dangerous. The novel sounds romantic with the right elements that work for me in a fantasy novel.



The List by Siobhan Vivian (April 1, 2012)
Confession: I've read this book already. I'm excited for other people to read it, as it is by far Vivian's strongest work to date. It's a story of 8 girls who find themselves on their school's infamous prettiest/ugliest list, and through each of their voices (all written so, so well), we learn what the repercussions of those labels are. Any girl will relate to these girls – each of them.

Level Two by Lenore Appelhans (Fall 2012)
Felicia occupies Level Two, a space between earth and heaven, and she's happy in it. That is, until she's broken out by Julian, who she'd met on earth. This science fiction title has dystopian elements to it, though it certainly sounds different than a lot of what's out there already.

Live Through This by Mindi Scott (Fall 2012)
There's not too much about this one yet, but, it follows the story of a girl who is finally learning how to fall in love while dealing with the repercussions of being a victim of sexual abuse. Scott's first book impressed me with its strong voice, and I suspect this one will do the same, while taking on another dark topic.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (June 19, 2012)
I'm a sucker – total sucker – for homecoming stories. That is, the ones about soldiers returning, not the high school dances. Trish's debut follows Travis as he returns home from Afghanistan to a family in pieces and to a girl whose reputation he hurt in middle school. While she carries that grudge, the two of them find out that maybe, just maybe, there's something deeper between them. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Far From Here review and giveaway

I've been a fan of Nicole Baart's for years and was really excited to get my hands on her latest. I really love her trilogy (beginning with After the Leaves Fall) and The Moment Between was quite the quiet thriller. Now, with Far From Here, we just have pure emotion and resiliency on the pages. I wish my she could write quicker...

In Far From Here, we meet Danica, a young wife to Etsell, a pilot. Quite ironic, as Danica is scared to death of flying. On a remote flying job in Alaska, one Danica begged him to not take, Etsell's plane disappears without a trace and the aftermath that follows for Danica is filled with confusion, grief, and so many questions. Did Etsell's plane crash and he's dead?  Did he just leave her? And most of all: is it better to know or not to know?

Danica's character is written in a heartfelt way and leaves a lasting impression. I've thought of her story often in the weeks since I've finished the book and in the beautiful way that Baart manages to portray a potentially tragic situation. She wrestles with trying to understand exactly what has happened to her life in a completely believable manner and I definitely connected with her.
The ending...oh the ending. I won't go into it, obviously -- no spoilers here -- but I immediately wanted to call up the author and beg her to fill me in on some things. Please?! Nicole...if you're out there...I want to know!

If you're looking for a good, deep read where you'll end up immersed in the characters' lives, I would highly recommend a Nicole Baart book. Thought provoking, with lovely prose, I've never been disappointed.

Lucky for you, I have a copy of Far From Here to give away! To enter, just leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm on 1/31 and I'll use the random number generator to choose a winner. Lots of time to enter! U.S. only.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Week in Review

What is it about having a baby that makes reading so hard? Oh...the diapers, feedings, changing clothes, spit-up, no sleep you say? Well, yes, I'm smack dab in the middle of all that and getting a chance to read is pretty difficult. And even when I do have a minute, lately I've been at the gym or organizing closets. Life has become incredibly domestic in the past couple of months, but we're definitely trying to get into a semi-routine.

Despite the craziness, I AM reading, just slowly. I finished a couple of books: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Klinn and Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed and helped in my "quality over quantity" method of reading this year. I'm also in the middle of an audiobook, Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell and though it's super heavy, it's written really well. It's definitely a way to keep myself awake at 3am when I'm feeding Elliott. Pop in the earbuds and I listen without stimulating him.

This week I also reviewed Finding Somewhere by Joseph Monniger and The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar and gushed over John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, as well as started up my Picture Book Saturday feature again with a review of Homer the Library Cat by Reeve Lindbergh.

As for Elliott, he hasn't done much this week, except eat, sleep, and be cute. He has finally progressed into most of his newborn clothes and has started to love looking at black and white books. He stares at the pages with huge eyes until I turn the page. I'll admit, made me a little teary the first time he focused on that black and white fish! I'll be purchasing some others here pretty soon. 

Hope you all had a great week and are enjoying this holiday!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Picture Book Saturday

It's been a long time since I've done a Picture Book Saturday post, but I'm hoping this means I'm back in the swing of things. Planning and scheduling posts with a newborn around has been a lot more difficult than I imagined, but we're all getting into somewhat of a routine, so with any luck, I'm back to regular Picture Book Saturday posting.

Here's my favorite from this week:

Homer the Library Cat by Reeve Lindbergh and illustrator Anne Wilsdorf

Fun, cozy illustrations help to tell the story of Homer, a cat that simply wants a quiet place to take a nap. He's used to his quiet house and the quiet woman he lives with, but one day everything is just noisy! He not only cannot find a quiet place to curl up and take a nap, but he cannot find the quiet lady either. Homer ends up going on quite the adventure trying to find the perfect quiet place and the perfect quiet person for his quiet personality. 

The rhymes flow perfectly, making this a really nice choice for a read aloud. Read it one on one with your child or to a small group at storytime. The illustrations are beautiful and contain just the right amount of silliness that they don't distract from the "quiet" mission. I think kids will get a kick out of all the different places Homer tries out before he finds the perfect one. I really liked it!

Homer the Library Cat
Reeve Lindbergh
32 pages
Picture Book
Candlewick Press
9780763634483
November 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, January 13, 2012

The World We Found review

Armaiti, Laleh, Nishta, and Kavita were best friends while attending university during the 1970's in Bombay. They were incredibly progressive for their time and place in the world, attending rallies and political protests, determined to see change in their country.
Fast forward 30 years and each of their lives has taken a different path, leaving them virtual strangers, except for the memories of the past. When Armaiti, now living in the United States, receives a devastating diagnosis, she wishes for nothing more than to have all of her friends back together again, one last time. A wish much more difficult to accomplish than one would expect. 

I loved that the very rights the four women fought for in their university days become the main focus of their thoughts again. The novel, filled with gorgeous writing and lovely descriptions, brought the reader full circle, from protests on equality to a woman living in a virtual jail in her own home. 

Each woman has to face the truth of what her life has become and what that says about her future. Though not told in alternating chapters as some books are, we still are given an equal look at each woman's situation and her determination to have what she once had. The characters are deep and thoughtful and the settings, both in India and America, are perfect for the plot. 

I've never read Umrigar's work before, but I was definitely impressed with what I read. I learned a lot about India and it's political turmoil, as well as different religions, all while being totally involved in the story. A great read!

The World We Found
Thrity Umrigar
320 pages
Harper
9780061938344
January 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars...my experience.

You know how sometimes you pick up a book, not sure what to expect, and rather than simply reading it and getting a plot and characters and a setting, you realize that someone out there...the author presumably...has stolen your heart? It hasn't happened a whole lot for me, though there are plenty of fabulous books out there that I love and am passionate about, but it has most definitely happened with two books. The Book Thief and now, The Fault in Our Stars.

I read The Book Thief in 2006, before ever starting this blog, and after just having made a cross country move to New Mexico. I read it in two days, sitting on our old, hand-me-down couch. When I finished it and as I was sobbing for the three hours it took me to recover from the last few chapters, I realized I had an experience. An experience which my husband now refers to as "The Book Thief moment in time," meaning: he thought I had really lost my marbles for a while there. Markus Zusak, though writing about a different time period, country, subject matter than anything I had personally experienced in my life, had gotten into my soul and stolen my heart. He UNDERSTOOD things and was able to put them into a book, that happened to fall into my hands.

Well, I've had another "Book Thief moment in time." John Green, an author I already loved reading, has now done this with The Fault in Our Stars. This one I read on my screened-in porch, 5 years after The Book Thief, with rain pouring down outside, pregnant with our son (yes, I was one of the few that got to read it waaaay back in September). Totally different subject, at a different point in my life, and still, I had an experience.

With Hazel and Augustus, Green left me feeling as if I were reading parts of my life in book form. In fabulous, hilarious, heart-wrenching book form. I felt he had placed the love I have for my husband into these two teens and wrote our love story, as weird as that may sound. Neither of us has ever had a terminal illness or anything like that, but he got how everyone has this feeling of being robbed of time at some point in their lives, as well as how you can just know someone so intensely that you simply cannot picture your life without them. And, in fact, the thought of them being gone kinda wrecks you.

This quirky teenage romance, filled with books and nerdiness, and awesome amounts of wit and cleverness simply stole my heart. It is easily in my top 5 books read of ALL TIME. I want to write long ridiculous fan letters to John Green, thanking him for connecting me with Hazel and Augustus and their crazy worlds. Instead, I'm just going to go back and read it again.
You must get this one if you haven't already. Order one for yourself, your sister, your brother, your mom, your neighbor. Everyone. Do it!

And just as a quick sidenote, John Green rocks. His videos with brother Hank, are hilariously entertaining and his desire to "decrease world suck" is both impressive and inspiring. He's one every teen -- and adultfor that matter-- should know about.

(I was sad I didn't get a Hanklerfish when my finished copy arrived yesterday, but I'm happy with my red signature!)

Buy from Powells
Buy from IndieBound

The Fault in Our Stars
John Green 
256 pages
Young Adult
Dutton
9780525478812
January 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, January 9, 2012

Finding Somewhere review

Hattie loves horses. She's grown up around them and now works at a stable in her free time and feels completely alive while she's there, especially when spending time with her favorite horse, Speed. When the owners of the stable decide that the elderly horse needs to be put down, Hattie knows she can't allow that to happen. 

Hattie and her best friend Delores, a girl with serious problems of her own, set off on one unique road trip. Mission? Set Speed free and allow him to be a real horse for whatever time he has left. They meet several different people along the way, horse lovers themselves, each taking a place in Speed's ultimate story and in the girl's lives.
I LOVED the writing. Not really a "horse book" person, I wasn't sure how into the story I would get, but the emotion just pours off the page. It's one of those books that just oozes heart and I'm a sucker for those. You know instantly that Hattie isn't simply some crazy kid determined to have an adventure, but that she wants the best thing for a horse that has given her so much. She's also fairly realistic, a quality I appreciated, and realizes that Speed is elderly and knows she's taking a big risk for the possibility of a very small amount of time for him. 

Not just a horse story, each of these girls are dealing with some serious personal demons, adding to the reasons that neither were sad to leave home. Those "issues" are blended seamlessly into the road trip/horse plot and left me loving both girls and wanting to see them both succeed in what they set out for.

I would hand this to those who love horse books, but are a bit more mature and ready to deal with the tough subjects discussed between Hattie and Delores. Obviously, non-horse lovers are also able to enjoy the story, myself being a prime example, especially if a great character-driven novel is what you're after.

Finding Somewhere
Joseph Monniger
240 pages
Young Adult
Random House
9780385739429
November 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pure...an adrenaline rush

Pressia lives in a world filled with danger and the fear of not making it through the day. After the Detonations, most people are deformed, fighting for their lives, and wishing everything could go back to Before. She's about to turn 16, the age a person is required to turn themselves over to the militia to be trained as a soldier, but Pressia knows she can't possibly do that. She can't leave her grandfather and she can't fight for something she doesn't believe in. 

When the Detonations occured, some lucky people escaped without a mark on them. They live in the Dome and are referred to as "Pures." Partridge is a Pure, but rather than feeling grateful for living in a world where food, clothing, and safety are abundant, he feels lonely and lost in his search for love from his father. 

As Pressia fights for her life and Partridge decides to leave his, the reader is a given a heart pounding story of survival and hope, told from both of their perspectives. There's a whole lot of action, mixed with beautiful, insightful writing that will make the reader take pause and think about the characters and the storyline. 

I couldn't put the book down! I wanted to race through it, but savor it at the same time, knowing book 2 won't be out for quite some time. The first page will easily hook you and though most of us have read plenty of dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels, this one is definitely unique. Pressia was a wonderfully strong character and Partridge showed how growing up in a life of privilege does not necessarily mean a life of happiness. 

I believe this is being marketed as an adult novel, but I would have no problem handing it to teens. Definitely a crossover that will appeal to dystopian fans. One of my favorite reads of the 2011. 

Pure
Julianna Baggott
448 pages
Adult Fiction
Grand Central Publishing
9781455503063
January 2012 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

Despite having a crazy year, I did fairly well in 2011 book-wise, I think. I read 49 books less than I did in 2010, however, I also had an almost-full-time job (definitely full-time with hour+ commute each way), lots of traveling, and a baby on the way. Not to mention, delivering E. 2 months early, spending lots of time in the NICU, and now being on baby duty 24/7. 

I read a lot of good books, but definitely not a whole lot of GREAT books. I had a few standouts in different genres: Picture Books, Middle Grade, YA, and Adult. Still, nothing like The Book Thief level or anything (though John Green's The Fault in Our Stars came fairly close...review of that next week). 

Here are the "stats:"

Total books: 135 (does not include picture books or NF picture books)
Library books: 46
Review books:  89
Female authors: 111
Male authors: 24
Non-Fiction: 9
Audiobooks: 14

I definitely read a lot of review books, but don't be fooled...those don't ALL get sent to my house. Working in a small indie bookstore, reading ARCs is a part of the job, so a lot of my review copies came from there. 

After looking at the books I read, I did set a few goals for 2012, though I use that term loosely. The chances of my actually sticking with something are slim to none, considering my new busy life, but I'm really going to give it a shot.

1. Read more non-fiction. In 2010 I read a lot of non-fiction and with this year's count only coming in at less than 10 books, I definitely would like to up that.

2. Read more male authors. I'm one of those women drawn to women authors and what they write about. Can't help it. I would, however, like to at least double the amount of male authors I read this year. 

3. Continue my 2011 goal of reading quality over quantity. I'm fairly good at just putting a book down if it's not holding my attention, but I really want to not only keep that up, but not even bother picking up books that I know I'm just not going to really like. For example, continuing a series I'm not loving, just because I feel like I should finish the series off. This means I probably won't be reading the prequel to "The Maze Runner" series. Sorry James Dashner.

4. Re-read one of my own books per month. I have a ton of great books that need attention and I think one book a month is doable.

I also set a Goodreads goal to read 130 books, but I don't know that I'll reach that. It would be nice to read about the same amount as I did last year, but realistically, it probably won't be happening. I am, however, making it one of my personal goals to watch less television (again, quality over quantity), so hopefully that free time will be spent with my books. Sorry, Say Yes to the Dress/Amazing Race/XFactor...you've been deleted from the DVR schedule.

I think all of my goals are reachable. Can't wait to see what everyone else comes up with!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week in Review and Cybils love

We had such a lovely Christmas holiday, finally being home from the hospital with E. and just relaxing with our new family of three. On Christmas Day we actually did almost nothing, not even turning on the tv. Just opened presents, read a lot, Aaron fixed my (always) broken computer, and we snuggled with the dogs and the boy. Perfect day!

It's hard not having a lot of family in town, and though we do have a great small group from our church and plenty of other friends who invited us to share in their day, we chose to not take E. out anywhere. We're still super cautious about germs, with him being a preemie and as small as he still is, so we kept things quiet. Fine by me. Even dinner was courtesy of Wegmans and it was fabulous! If I can help it, I'm never cooking a holiday meal again. A nice thought.

I didn't receive a whole lot of "bookish" things for Christmas, as my family is one of those that refuses to buy me books (even if I give a list), but I did get this:


It's a Light Wedge I've already used it several times and I love it! No more bulky light sticking out of the top of my book, falling on the ground, where I have to crawl around on the the floor at night trying to find it. Perfect size and the perfect amount of light for reading. A great invention that I'll end up using a lot, especially with late night feedings still happening. 

I also received these:
So pretty! They're from SuJinBiJoux, an Etsy shop that I'm becoming quite the fan of. I have a tendancy of losing/breaking jewelry, so I prefer to keep mine on the inexpensive side. And these are the first pair of gold-anything I've ever owned. Nice job to the husband!
The in-laws arrived on Friday to spend New Year's with us and E. Another round of present opening and lots of fun pictures taken.

that was a yawn, not a scream, promise. 
Books have dominated this last weekend, with my finishing of Finding Somewhere by Joseph Monniger, a book I loved and totally underestimated. Review of that will be coming this week. I also plan to do one more round-up post of my year of reading before diving into 2012 book reviews.

And, of course, the Cybils finalists were announced this morning! I'm on the 2nd round panel of judges, meaning I get to assist in choosing the final winner from these books:
Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger
The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson
Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman
Warp Speed by Lisa Yee
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

This is my first time serving on a 2nd round panel and I'm excited to actually help make "the decision." So official sounding! I've read 4 of them already, though I'm sure I'll be rereading to give myself a refresher. Should be fun!

Elliott:

Our little guy is growing like crazy! He's a bit over 5lbs now and starting to outgrow his preemie clothes. He's going to be like his dad...long and lean...so his long little legs are pushing out the bottom of his sleepers, while they're still baggy around the middle. I have feeling I'm going to need to learn how to take in clothes at the waist.

He's eating well and slowly starting to stay awake longer, focus on things, and enjoy a tiny bit of play time. He's still not even to term (38 weeks today), so we won't be seeing most of the typical newborn/1 month old behavior for awhile, but it's fun to spend time with him doing something other than feeding/changing diapers/watching him sleep.

Big doctors appointment this week. He failed his initial hearing test in the NICU and although not uncommon in preemies to fail, he definitely does not display typical reactions to loud sounds, so we have that little twinge of worry that he may have a hearing issue. Follow-up is this Wednesday and we'll find out more then. We're fairly certain he'll be fine, the audiologist who did his initial test gave us nothing except confidence, but just not knowing is nerve wracking!

Look for my final 2011 round-up post tomorrow and a couple of new guest posts in the coming week. Hopefully everyone had a safe and happy holiday!