Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

Every once in a while, I get an overwhelming urge to return to the books of my childhood.  Nothing beats that nostalgic feeling when you return to a story you grew up on.  For me, The Phantom Tollbooth holds such a place in my heart.  My mom had a beat up old copy from when she was growing up that we read together.  For whatever reason, when I look back on my formative years, during which I did a lot of reading, most of my favorite books were ones that my mom had worn copies of from her childhood: The Chronicles of Narnia, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and others.  Realizing this now makes me so excited to be able to share my worn copies of books with my future children.  Yet another reason to buy the books I love and not settle for the e-reader version.  Someday, I hope my kids and I can curl up together and open that 50th anniversary edition of To Kill A Mockingbird that Kevin got me last year because the cover of my paperback version had torn and was generally falling apart.  Or, if I have a daughter, we'll pull out my box set of the Anne of Green Gables series.  Or we'll journey together down the road of any number of books I still have in boxes at my parents' house from my early years as a reader.  Or maybe they'll pull my mom's old copy of The Phantom Tollbooth from the shelf and join Milo on his journey through the Kingdom of Wisdom just as I have done multiple times over the years.

The beautiful thing about Tollbooth is that, just like early Pixar movies, it holds appeal for people of all ages. I loved this book as a child, but I think reading it now in my 20s has revealed so much more to me about the message of the book - things which apply to my life now more than ever.  When we meet Milo, the young protagonist of the tale, life has swept him into routine.  He hurries to get home, though without real reason to.  As Norton Juster puts it, "for while he was never anxious to be where he was going, he liked to get there as quickly as possible."  One day, upon returning home from school, he discovers a mysterious package containing a tollbooth and small car.  Milo, who has nothing better to do, sets them up and drives through the tollbooth.  Suddenly, he finds himself in an entirely different world, one which he will eventually discover is the Kingdom of Wisdom.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Happy Monday to you all!

Just a very quick update for you this morning.  Over the weekend, I finally broke down and began to explore Goodreads.  For those of you unfamiliar with the site, it is basically social networking for book lovers.  While some of the features seem redundant to those here on the blog (such as the To-Read/On Reserve lists), I hope to let Goodreads keep me a bit more organized as well as connecting the blog and me to more people. Also, you will now be able to see what I am currently reading over on the right hand side of the blog (under the archives and labels and such).

This certainly does not rank as groundbreaking news, or even important news.  For those of you uninterested in Goodreads, you can ignore this and the blog will continue as always.  For those of you interested in learning even more about my reading habits, have fun!  I hope to hear from some of you and see what you are reading as well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dies the Fire - S.M. Stirling

I think we can all agree that end-of-the-world storylines are having a moment right now.  It's not a new concept; books such as 1984 and Farenheit 451 made waves several decades ago and have now been filed among the classics of English literature. I doubt that most of today's best-selling dystopian novels will stand the same test of time, although they certainly are a thrilling ride. Divergent, though not the most well written book I read last year, was one I recommended frequently. The Hunger Games brought in immense amounts of box office revenue and promises to do the same when Catching Fire hits theaters this fall. On television, Revolution is slowly picking up steam and becoming a show I actually care about (when does that come back already?!) while my husband is newly obsessed with The Walking Dead.  Let's face it; we even brought this genre off the page/screen and into pop culture with the whole Mayan apocalypse nonsense in December.  Apparently we all really want to know the fate of planet Earth (spoiler alert: read Revelation).

It should be no secret by now that I love these stories as much as anyone else.  Not only due to that copious last paragraph, but also the multitude of books in this genre that I read last year.  While most of us have only recently begun to clamor for worlds without technology and devastated civilizations, S.M. Stirling has been roaming the wastelands of literary dystopia for years now.  Dies the Fire was released in 2004, the first book of the Emberverse series.  The Nantucket series, a correlating storyline, dates back to 1998.  Stirling's conception of a world without technology predates even the Y2K scare.  Impressive.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Last Templar - Raymond Khoury

Over Christmas vacation, Kevin and I spent some time in Michigan with his family.  We love spending time with them and the days we spent up there over the holidays were no exception.  Kevin's mom works at a second hand store and we stopped in to visit her one day.  Despite my natural aversions to second hand stores, they had a great book selection - and it was well organized, too!  I snagged a whole stack for less than $10.  Earlier that same day, I'd come across the clearance section of a bookstore at the mall and picked up three best sellers for $6.  Best. Day. Ever.

The Last Templar had been sitting near some Dan Brown books at the second hand store.  As much as I hate to admit it, I definitely bought this based on the cover alone.  How could I resist?  It looked like a Dan Brown knock-off (which it is) and it only cost a dollar.  Now that I'm done with it, it will soon be taking a journey to our local Half Price Books.  (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

And the Winner Is...

When I decided to undertake a minimum of 52 books this year, I never imagined the breadth of what I would read.  If you hop over to the previous post, you will see some thoughts and some stats reflecting my year on a broader scope.  Today, however, I want to highlight some particular books that I read in 2012.  I thought a fun way to do that would be à la John and Sherry Petersik over at Young House Love (if you are not already reading their blog, you should be).  At the end of each month, they round up all their posts from that month and award superlatives.  It's a fun way to recap all they've done.  I thought I would do the same, but overlooking the whole year.  Here goes!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Conclusion - A Year in Review

I find it hard to believe that I began this challenge just over a year ago.  2012 has been such a rewarding year - and not simply because of the challenge.  This year, I started a new job and got married, among other adventures (If you are interested in checking out more our personal life and less about what I'm reading - check out our other blog here).  I could hardly claim that accomplishing this goal beats the things that happened in my personal life, however, I still find it immensely rewarding.

This year, I saw myself becoming a better reader.  I pay more attention to how books are written and I find more inspiration for my future literary aspirations.  I also saw myself branch out significantly in the types of books that I read.  I read books because they were best sellers, books that were recommended because I like other books, books to learn, books to indulge quirky interests, books to challenge my thinking, books to challenge my taste buds, books to cry with, books to laugh with, books to feed my imagination, and books for book lovers.  I cannot say that I loved them all, or even liked them all.  But there were a few I completely fell in love with and spent the weeks after completing them telling everyone I knew to read them.  Next week, I have a post planned to give some "awards" to the books I really enjoyed this year.

I realize that most people reading a blog about books probably process in words over numbers.  There may be a few of you out there, though, who like me, love some good statistics.  For those of you left-brained thinkers, here are some numbers which catalog my year.

Books Read: 54
Total Pages Read: 22,806
Average Page Count (per book): 422 pages
Most Read Author: George R.R. Martin, 4 books (#1, #2, #3, #4)
Average Pages Read Per Day: 62
Most Read Genre: Fiction (38) 
Second Most Read Genre (since Fiction is so broad): Historical (18)
Busiest Months: February, April, October (wedding month even!), and December - 6 books each
Slowest Month: August - 2 books
Books I Started but Didn't Finish: Sophie's World (so close!), several marriage books that were started but abandoned post-wedding, Mere Christianity (too deep to take in more than a chapter at a time)

In the end, this experience has been a challenging, satisfying, growing experience.  I do not plan on repeating this challenge in 2013, particularly since I am considering starting grad school in the fall.  Still, my reading adventures are far from over.  Over the holidays, I picked up 8 new books (for a total of only $12!) in various locations.  I was at least if not more excited about those than any Christmas presents I got.  I have already started into the pile and Kevin says the next purchase for our home needs to be another bookshelf.  At the moment, I am looking for a new challenge to tackle.  I am thinking about finding a "100 Best Novels/Books of All Time" type list and tackling it over the next couple of years.  Or perhaps I will try something completely different.  I am open to anything.  All I do know for sure is that my love of reading has grown this year, which is something I did not imagine to be possible.  

Did you have a reading goal for 2012?  Did you complete it?  How about 2013?  Do you have any suggestions for what my next reading goal should be?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Dance With Dragons - George R.R. Martin

Happy New Year!  Kevin and I rang in the new year with dear friends, but not before I completed one last book.  It has been my goal for the last week or so to finish this bad boy before the end of the year.  I started it in May, took a pretty long hiatus from it in the fall, but had a serious determination to add its name to the 2012 list.  It truly came down to the end; I finished the last page around 8:00pm last night, just a half hour before our company arrived.

One reason I took so long to finish with book, besides its length, is the vast emptiness after its completion.    There seemed to be no point in rushing to the finish when nothing lay beyond.  George R.R. Martin certainly is not known for his speed of writing.  As of now, people have predicted the release of Book Six, The Winds of Winter, to fall some time in 2014.  Any of fan of Martin's work knows that may well be a generous prediction.  Now that I have completed Dragons, only waiting remains. (Spoilers Ahead)