Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 2013 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on the 100 Best Novels goal, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

December News

What started out as a slow month, quickly accelerated. I hope the holiday season has brought you as much joy as it has to our families. I also hope you got to enjoy some great time reading. I always start with the greatest of intentions, but there is so many seasonal activities, that somehow my books get pushed aside. I am anxious to start the new year and some new books!

If you are still searching for a belated holiday gift for a book lover, make sure you see the list I posted before Christmas. Just think, you could get started on next year's shopping already! I promised I would share with you if I got any books. Shockingly, I just got one this year - Radical by David Platt. Kevin and I both received copies and are anxious to read it together sometime in the next year.

If you missed out on Movie Monday this month, you will definitely want to go back and read my thoughts on Catching Fire. It was, after all, one of the biggest movies this season. I also reviewed 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice, starring Lana Turner. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Books of 2013

Welcome back to regularly scheduled programming! I hope you had a delightful holiday week last week. Kevin and I had the whole week off and spent it traveling around to our families. Delightful to see everyone, but we are exhausted and very glad to be home. 

As we wrap up 2013 and start 2014, I have a full week planned for Read.Write.Repeat. Make sure you check in every day this week for a new post!

To kick things off today, I'm covering some literary highlights of 2013.  I have so much fun doing this post each year. It reminds me of all the things I read this year, good and bad. If you just started reading the blog in the last year, I really recommend going back and checking out the 2012 version of this post. You will find some good stuff there as well!

I have brought back a few "awards" from last year, as well as created some new ones. If there's something I missed, just leave a comment and I'll be happy to let you know what book would have topped your category. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas today! 

I hope that you are blessed with a relaxing day with family and friends. May the season truly be merry and bright for you.

I hope you find some great books under the tree with your name on them. I can usually count on my parents for one or two, so I'll have to let you know if I get lucky.

I hope that you are warm, well-fed, and safe this Christmas. It's easy to get caught up in our own celebrations and forget the less fortunate. Take time to remember them in some way this year.

Most of all, I hope that this Christmas will be full of love for you. Not only the love of those around you, but also the love of God. After all, that's what Christmas really is all about. God loved us so much that He sent the most precious gift we could ever dream of: redemption through His Son.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Movie Monday: The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Just a quick post today! I hope you are all out celebrating the holidays with your loved ones. In between cookies and carols this week, make sure you swing by the blog. I have posts planned for the whole week and you won't want to miss them!

I read The Postman Always Rings Twice back in July. I found the little thriller delightful, albeit dark. While I Stanley Tucci could have starred in an adaptation (he read the audio book I listened to), I had no such luck. Instead, I found this classic version from 1946 starring Lana Turner and John Garfield.

There is a more recent adaptation from 1981 starring Jack Nicholson. It, however, is decidedly more graphic. Just like Lolita, I have opted to steer clear of that one. I am sticking with this classic rendition on this one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

10 Gifts for Book Lovers

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Also known as the time of year to stress out trying to find the perfect gift for each person on your list. Thankfully, the good ol' Internet helps an awful lot these days when you are trying to find just the right thing. 

I have no doubt you have seen countless lists out there lately for all sorts of people. Outdoorsmen, dads, tech-lovers, pet-lovers, cooks, girlfriends...the list goes on.  These are always fun to peruse, especially when you are trying to avoid buying everyone on your list sweaters (a crime Kevin and I nearly achieve most years). Unique gifts are fun, for the giver and the recipient. They are often high risk, but they can be very high reward as well.  

In the spirit of the season, I though I would provide ten gift ideas for the book lover in your life. I've included links to a few lists from other websites, but also some of my own ideas. If you have not finished your shopping yet, you still have a (very) few days! Finish up now, or put some last minute items on your own wish list!

Have a fun-filled, festive weekend, no matter what you are celebrating!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Allegiant - Veronica Roth

Yesterday, I mapped out all my posts for the rest of the year. This will be the last formal review of 2013, but I have a lot of other exciting things planned! Make sure you are subscribed in some form so you don't miss anything! I promise it will be worth it.

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Do you remember way back when I discovered Divergent? It has been almost two years now. Veronica Roth's debut novel was one of the very first books I blogged about. 

If you go back and read the post, you'll have to forgive, well, just about everything. I was very new to this game. I've come so far and still have so far to go...

A few months after I wrote about Divergent, I covered its sequel, Insurgent. Feel free to go read that post. It's lengthy, but I it sums up a lot of things I feel about the series as a whole.

After reading Book Two, I waited over a year for the release of Book Three: Allegiant. Roth, as all series authors, understands the value of a good cliff hanger. The end of Insurgent was no exception. Thousands of fans subsided on movie news alone for months while we waited for this release in October of this year.

I bought the book in early November and have been picking away at it since.  The fact that it took me over a month to finish....that fact alone should say as much as the words in this review. (WARNING: Spoilers Ahead)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club - Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club
This book has been On Reserve for a long time. If memory serves, I found it on a list of books for book lovers not long after starting the blog.  

I finally picked it up a few weeks ago. I needed something to read as my family sat vigil around my dying grandmother. It seemed both the best and worst time to venture into a book entitled The End of Your Life Book Club.

Will Schwalbe's memoir chronicles the last years of his mother's life. After a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer rocked their family, Will spent many hours accompanying his mother to doctor's appointments, chemotherapy sessions, etc. In those waiting rooms, the mother-son duo turned their shared love of books into the world's smallest book club. Together, they shared dozens of literary works before Mary Ann's eventual passing.

While at times the book slips into a list like rehashing of what they read, its driving force is the journey this family took alongside Mary Ann in her final years. It is more a story of family and faith and hope. In some ways, it's a story of survival.

Schwalbe writes through the lens of the books he read with his mother. Each chapter is titled after a book they read. He recounts the passage of time by recalling what they were reading then and how it affected their conversations and their outlook.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Monday: Catching Fire

Catching Fire
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Ok, I think I have given you sufficient time to see this movie. It's been out a few weeks now. If you haven't gotten around to it yet and don't want any spoilers, bookmark this page, run to your nearest theater, see the movie, then come back and read this post.

Another, perhaps less obvious, prerequisite for reading this post is the Movie Monday installation for the end of November. I took the opportunity to write about the first Hunger Games movie. A lot of my thoughts about the Catching Fire adaptation align with my thoughts about the first movie. I highly recommend reading that one before you read the following.

To begin, I really cannot express how much we enjoyed this movie. Kevin and I went to see it with four of our very closest, most Hunger Games-loving friends. Afterward, we went out to dinner and had a great discussion about the film and the books. I cannot take credit for all of the thoughts in this post. Some of them originated in the minds of others and were reaped from that conversation.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quiet - Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a
World That Can't Stop Talking
A lot of the nonfiction I read is memoir or biography. At the base, it's about someone's story. Very rarely do I pick up a nonfiction that is more informational than story-driven.

What can I say? I am obsessed with story, real or fictional. It takes a special book to break that barrier. This book did so with ease.

When I first saw Susan Cain's Quiet advertised, it caught my interest. I find this kind of thing terribly interesting. Cain's premise is that introverts are undervalued. She studies how the trait develops and how it manifests in schools, workplaces, and even whole areas of the globe.

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of introverts and extroverts, Cain briefly touches on definitions at the beginning of the book. As she describes them,
"Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling...extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts needs to recharge when they don't socialize enough....Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussion."

Of course, throughout the book, Cain recognizes that there are no solid line between introvert and extrovert. Personality is nuanced and most people exhibit traits from both sides of that line. She reiterates this in every section. Yes, most people follow general rules, but, just like the English language, there are always exceptions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Down to the Wire - David Rosenfelt

Down to the Wire

In the past month, Kevin and I have spent almost 50 hours in the car. A series of family crises have had us driving all over the Midwest. We've caught up on all of our podcasts (we're avid podcast listeners) and argued about the best Christmas music.  Per usual, I also snagged a book at the last minute before one of the trips.

I've talked about this before. Audiobooks we listen to together really have one requirement: be riveting enough to keep Kevin's attention. At this point, I just go straight for the most popular, currently available thrillers on our library's website. 

Thus, the story of how we listened to David Rosenfelt's Down to the Wire

I have never read anything by Rosenfelt before, so I was definitely flying blind. The publisher's description made it seem exciting enough to keep my dear husband interested: