Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: Books in Review

It's hard to believe that it's been a year since I really discovered Goodreads and joined the fantastic book club From Left to Write.

Goodreads gives you the option to sign up for a year long Reading challenge-- but I've never kept track of how many books I read in a year, so for 2012, I decided that I'd just do that:  Find out how many books I read on average.

116.  And I'm about to finish the 117th.

Admittedly, I also added children's books (because I read those even when I'm -not- reading them to my kids), so that probably 'pads' the number.

Turns out it's basically the same as the reading goal that my kids have for AR:  a little over 2 books a week.

It's been a delightful reading roller coaster!

So I'm going to share my 5 favorite books for 2012, as well as 5 I -really- didn't enjoy.

(But I'm going to share them in reverse order so this post ends on a high note, as opposed to a downer!)

The books I either hated or thought I was going to like/ love and really, REALLY didn't:

1.  At the top of this list is The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead by Scott Kenemore.  I saw the cover and (being someone known to have a penchant for zombies) laughed and was sure I was going to -love- it!  But 1.  It (very quickly) beats the joke to death.  2.  It starts preaching like a real self-help book.  and 3.  It actually gets offensive.  Bleh.

2.  The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy.  I don't care that it's a classic.  I don't care that it was required reading for my English class.  It's a terrible, terrible (albeit well written), TERRIBLE story.  I may be biased:  I'm both an optimist and alive.

3.  The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman.  This one is getting some serious rave reviews by other people, so feel free to ignore me on this one, BUT in my opinion, it's not well written.  It's a true story-- but it's a poorly written account of that story.  There are so many other exceptional Holocaust related stories to read instead:  Elie Wiesel's "Night".  The Diary of Anne Frank.  or the fictitious I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits.  Definitely read those.

4.  A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  I was -so- sad that this is on this list!  I thought I was going to love this book.  I was certain I was going to love this book.  But I really, -really- didn't.  In fact, I almost stopped reading it.  (That should say a lot coming from a self professed bibliophile.)  I turned to facebook and my friends who were raving about it to convince me to continue reading it-- and they did.  It's an exceptionally well written book.  About horrible things.  ...It's kind of like the unjokey grown-up version of Lemony Snicket...


5.  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.  Yes, I know:  It's another classic.  And yes (as you probably already guessed) it was another assigned reading in English class.  I swear to you that this year they wanted to focus on the depressing, the macabre and the baser of human inclinations-- and they did an excellent job.  But (as you've also already guessed) that is NOT the kind of story that I like.  Real life is full of plenty of very real miseries that often end very badly.  I'd at least like my fictional characters to have a fighting chance at beating those kinds of odds.

And now (thankfully) for the opposite end of the scale:  My Top 5:

1.  At the top of my list, I have to put The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  This was a book introduced to me through From Left to Write.  Even now, months after the reading, I can still clearly visualize scenes from this book because they are so well described.  This is definitely on my keep shelf.

2.  How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue.  It was a light, fun, easy read that I got through Goodreads giveaways "First Reads".  It actually managed to surprise me with its darker plot twist.  I only wish it had recipes for the delicious sounding cupcakes!

3.The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer.  I came across this one while I was researching my Senior Thesis and -loved- it!  The illustrations, the informational tid-bits, the blurbs and excerpts.  All of it came together to create a very informative and interesting introduction to the world of Steampunk.

4. Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillipps.  Yup:  A kid's book made it into my top 5 books of 2012.  (I know!  I'm just as surprised as you are!)  It's a cute, funny, brightly illustrated story with many great messages.  Bonus:  Actually reading it with kids means you can listen to them giggle.

5.  May the Road Rise Up to Meet You by Peter Troy.  This is another book I received through First Reads.  I adore a book that has characters you end up caring about.  Really, isn't that part of the reason we read?  Fictional people who, for a time, become our friends as we travel their journey through the pages?

And now I'm looking forward to the books waiting for me in 2013.  I'm sure I'll stumble through a couple of stinkers...but I'm also certain I'm going to find some unexpected new favorites!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pay It Forward Project 3 2012

I finished my third Pay It Forward project for 2012 today.  This one is for my friend Mary.  She's a friend I met through our shared hobby, the SCA.  And I know she's a tremendous fan of owls.  So for my first post-undergraduate graduation piece of art, I decided to make her a painting.  I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out and will be getting it into the mail for her right after Christmas (:

A variety of prints, cards, skins, phone covers, tshirts, and totes are now available for purchase from society 6.