2012: A Year in Reading

As 2013 draws ever more near, I thought I’d take a few minutes to review the past year. 2012 was a good year for me overall, but I have to admit it was quite challenging at times. Grad school always has its ups and downs, but I felt like I really started to come into my own this year. I published my first paper, and am an author on two more that are out for review. I also passed my qualifying examination, and am now a Ph.D. candidate! It was a rocky year in my personal life (to say the least), but I’m very fortunate to have good friends and family to support me through the tough times. And whatever good or bad comes throughout the year…one thing I always have is my love of reading.

I’m still in my first year as a blogger, but I’ve kept tabs on my reading habits for basically my whole (reading) life. I’m currently in the longest, contiguous set of reading stats I’ve ever kept: 6.5 years and counting! Prior to 2012, my best reading year was 2007, during which I read 36 books. My “worst” reading year was 2011, during which I read only 18 books (although I read both Vanity Fair and War and Peace that year…so I think those should count for 3-4 books a piece 😉 ). So without further ado, here are my reading stats for 2012!

Reading Stats for 2012:

Number of books read: 45

Number of paperback/hardcover: 29

Number of audiobooks: 16

Number of fiction: 34

Number of non-fiction: 11

Average Rating (out of 5 points): 3.61

Most books read in one month: 7 books in September

Longest book read: 11/22/63 by Stephen King at 894 pages

Longest Audio Book listened to: The Passage by Justin Cronin at 29 parts

Number of books from BBC Challenge list: 8

Overall I’m really pleased with my 2012 stats. I felt I had good variety in my reading this year–some fun books mixed with the more serious fiction and non-fiction. I also had some “surprisingly great” reads this year. I call them surprisingly great because I either 1) had low expectations going in (i.e. it was a book I was trying to complete for some kind of challenge) or 2) I happened to come across it, picked it up on a whim, and loved it. These are my favorite kinds of reading experiences–when you can pick up something unexpected and get carried away.

Finally, with some trepidation, I thought I’d list my favorite books of the year. I tried to just pick one from each category, but I just couldn’t. So instead I’ve picked a favorite, and some very close runners up.

Best Fiction Book: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Cold Mountain

I devoured this National Book Award Winner (1997) in a couple of days. With its cast of memorable characters and similarities to Homer’s The Odyssey, this was one of my surprise favorites of the year. I’m going to rent the movie soon!

Runners up: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Best Non-Fiction Book: This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman

9780061958328

Another surprise favorite! I loved this beautiful and haunting memoir.

Runner up: Rez Life by David Treuer

Best Audio Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

If I hadn’t read so many rave reviews for this, I have to admit I wouldn’t have picked it up. I’m not an avid fan of video games, so I didn’t think I’d really be into a book where the protagonist lived most of his life in a game. Boy was I wrong–it was great! And it has lots of great 80’s nostalgia to boot. I think I listened to the whole book in about 24 hours!

Runner up: Bossypants by Tina Fey

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What were your favorite reads from 2012?

My 2013 Reading Challenges

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” –T.S. Eliot

Since I am still relatively new to blogging, I wasn’t aware of the vast array of Reading Challenges (hosted by other book bloggers) that were available to me  until a few months ago. By then it was too late to join most of them, so I decided to make up for it in 2013 by joining several challenges! After combing through the interwebs for several days (whew…so many challenges so little time!), I’ve finally settled on 6 different challenges. I think these 6 challenges allow for good variety in my reading, and will expose me to new and different things. So without further ado…

My 2013 Reading Challenges:

Challenge #1Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Sarah Reads Too Much

BackToTheClassics2013

Requirements to complete the challenge:

  1. A 19th Century Classic
  2. A 20th Century Classic
  3. A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic
  4. A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience – This can be an African-American author, or a book relating to slavery, civil rights, or African-American culture.
  5. A Classic Adventure
  6. A Classic that prominently features an Animal This can feature animal characters or animals in the title (real or imagined)

I’m participating in this challenge to continue my efforts to read more classic literature. Also, completing this challenge will help me knock off a few more books from The Big Read list that I’ve been working through for a long (long) time.

Challenge #2Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge, hosted by Reading with Tequila

BookBloggerRecommendationChallenge2013

To complete this challenge, you must choose your “level” and read the specified amount of books from the Book Blogger Recommendation List.  I am signing up for Level II, or I hope to read 10 books from the list.

The Levels:
Level I – Read 5 books from the 2012 Book Blogger Recommendation List
Level II – Read 10 books
Level III – Read 15 books
Level IV – Read 20 books
Level V – Read 20+ books

I am participating in this challenge because book bloggers are one of my favorite sources for new books and authors. Most of the books on this list have been on my TBR list for awhile, but I plan to check out some of the titles I haven’t heard of before!

Challenge #3What’s in a Name, hosted by Beth Fish Reads

What'sInAName2013

Requirements to complete this challenge:

  1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title–example: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
  2. A book with something you’d find in your kitchen in the title–example: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
  3. A book with a party or celebration in the title–example: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
  4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title–example: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
  5. A book with an emotion in the title–example: Baltimore Blues, Say You’re Sorry, Dreams of Joy
  6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title–example: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches

I think this challenge is really unique, and I’m looking forward to trying to finish it!

Challenge #4Audio Book Challenge, hosted by Teresa’s Reading Corner

2013-Audio-Book-Challenge

To complete this challenge, you must choose your “level” and read/listen to the specified number of Audio Books. I am signing up for Lover, or I hope to listen to 25 Audio Books.

There are five levels to the challenge

  1. Flirting-Listen to 6 Audio Books
  2. Going Steady- Listen to 12 Audio Books
  3. Lover- Listen to 25 Audio Books
  4. Married-Listen to more than 25 Audio Books
  5. You Define the Relationship- Create your own challenge (choose your own name and level starting as low or going as high as you’d like)

I really got into Audio Books this year! If I listen to Audio Books with about the same pace as I did in 2012, I should be able to complete this challenge!

Challenge #5New Authors Challenge, hosted by Literary Escapism

NewAuthorsChallenge2013

I am signing up to read books from 25 new authors.

Requirements for completing the challenge:

  1. The authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels.
  2. Pick to read either 15, 25 or 50 new authors. It all depends on how fast you read and how adventurous you want to be.

I think this challenge is interesting because it will expose me to new authors. It should also dovetail nicely with some of the other challenges I’m attempting to complete.

Challenge #6This Isn’t Fiction, hosted by The Book Garden

This isn't Fiction Reading Challenge Button

Qualifying books for this challenge include any non-fiction book that is over 100 pages. I am signing up for the elementary school level, or  I hope to read 10 books. There are 5 levels to this challenge:

  1. 5 Books – Kindergarden
  2. 10 Books – Elementary School
  3. 15 Books – High School
  4. 20 or more Books – College

Fiction is my one true reading love, but I really like to branch out and broaden my horizons. I find I learn more from non-fiction books, and they give me a different perspective on the world. Looking back at my reading lists from the past several years, I think 10 non-fiction books should be manageable.

Personal Reading Goals:

In 2012 I read 45 books, so for 2013 I will try to read 52 books. Since I’m done with my Ph.D. qualifying examination, it seems like I might actually be able to accomplish this. Of these 52 books, I would like at least 8 of them (one more than in 2012) to count toward The Big Read List. I’ve certainly set the bar high for 2013. Wish me luck!

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What are your personal reading goals or challenges for next year?

This Weekend, I… 2.0

Happy Holidays everyone! I know I haven’t been very good about posting lately–it’s been absolutely crazy! As I have mentioned several times, I was tied up for a few months preparing for my Ph.D. qualification examination. It came, it went, and I passed!!! However, 23 hours after the exam was over, my advisor asked me to write a chapter for a book…with a deadline of less than 2 weeks (geez I didn’t get much time to celebrate!). So needless to say…I haven’t really had time to work on my blog. But my advisor and I submitted the paper yesterday, so it’s time to get back to blogging! Without further ado, here is a look back at my weekend.

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This weekend, I made some chocolate-dipped pretzels with my mom.

Woo pretzels and Santa aprons!

Woo pretzels and Santa aprons!

Mom and I always do some baking around the holidays, and this year we decided to branch out of the usual fare with these pretzels. Also, they were a fun, easy, project that we completed in less than 2 hours (prep and clean-up time included). I think they turned out pretty good…

 prezelsnowatermark

This weekend, I welcomed my sister home to Kansas with a small but colorful sign at the airport.

Holding it loud and proud!

Holding it loud and proud!

Jen’s original flight home was cancelled due to a winter storm (wah wah wah wahhhhh), so she flew home on Saturday morning instead of Thursday evening. Since I had a little time on my hands for once, I decided to make her a sign and greet her at the airport. For those of you who don’t know J, she absolutely LOVES this kind of thing (actually she really doesn’t).

She's embarrassed! Success!

She’s embarrassed! Success!

Nevertheless she was a good sport! Welcome home J!!!!

This weekend, I visited the Kansas State University Campus!!!

Even with no sunglasses she was a trooper!

Even with no sunglasses she was a trooper!

Since Jen flew into Manhappin’ instead of Kansas City, we made a trip to the KSU campus! I hadn’t been to Manhattan or the campus in over a year and half, and I couldn’t believe how much it had changed! I’ve missed it so much, and it was nice to be able to visit!

When we graduated, mom and dad bought J and I a brick on the senior sidewalk. It takes them awhile to get the bricks out there, so this was the first chance we’d had to see our bricks in person!

photo(54)_1-nowatermark

photo(55)_1-nowatermark

Kneeling by our bricks!

We even made it into the same section, which is surprising considering we graduated a year apart! Thanks again mom and dad, we really appreciate it.

This weekend, I made the annual batch of Chex mix

mmmmm

mmmmm

I love Chex mix and look forward to it every year. This year mom bought Christmas tree pretzels so it was even MORE festive.

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Well that was my weekend, and I hope you had a great one too! Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Linking up with Sarah!

TWI

Book Review: Thunderhead

Title: Thunderhead
Author: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Format: Audiobook
Reader: Scott Brick
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publication Date: August 3, 2010
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

Nora Kelly, a young archaeologist in Santa Fe, receives a letter written sixteen years ago, yet mysteriously mailed only recently. In it her father, long believed dead, hints at a fantastic discovery that will make him famous and rich—the lost city of an ancient civilization that suddenly vanished a thousand years ago. Now Nora is leading an expedition into a harsh, remote corner of Utah’s canyon country. Searching for her father and his glory, Nora begins to unravel the greatest riddle of American archeology. But what she unearths will be the newest of horrors..

–From Goodreads

My Thoughts:

When I was in high school I would devour thrillers like they were candy. My appetite for them was seemingly endless…until I went to college. Then it was time to read serious, important, thought-provoking literature (on top of my engineering textbooks) because that’s serious, studious students do. Right? Right. Needless to say, I thought my days of binging on thrillers were behind me. Then, I read Await Your Reply, which was a REALLY good book but was a brutally slow read (well “listen” since it was the audiobook) for me. After that I needed something lighter, something that would “sweep me away” (in a non-romance novel kind of way). Enter Thunderhead.

The story opens with Nora Kelly, a young archeologist who receives a letter from her (deceased) father dated 16 years ago. In it, he details how he has found Quivira, the lost City of Gold. Nora, who is a struggling academic, puts together a team and heads to Utah’s Canyon Country to try to locate it. When they finally arrive at their destination, Nora and the team encounter obstacles, both internal and external, and what they find surprises them all (and me too).

After struggling through Await Your Reply, this novel was a much needed change of pace. The drama/suspense in the story hooked me right away, and I never found myself having those “oh get to the point already!!!” moments like I did with Await Your Reply. Although certain aspects of the story are somewhat predictable, there were a few surprising plot twists I didn’t see coming. Additionally, I have also always really loved the natural beauty of the American Southwest, and I really liked how the authors made liberal use of the setting. Finally, I also enjoyed learning about the history and the culture of the Anasazi people–I like feeling like I’m learning things while I’m reading fiction.

But as usual there were some things I didn’t really like…this is a “dreaded 3 star review” after all. The thing that bothered me the most was the characters–there are just too many of them. I seriously couldn’t keep them all straight!! I’m sure many, many people would be required for the type of archeological expedition outlined in this novel…but I’m not sure I needed to read about all of them. There were so many complicated back stories and people who seemed to have overlapping roles, and for the longest time I found myself asking “now who is he again?!”. Eventually I just gave up trying and went along for the ride. In addition to having too many characters, I  felt like the ones I could actually keep track of were pigeon-holed into stereotypical (and boringly predictable) roles. There was the young struggling academic, the rich girl with a chip on her shoulder and a lot to prove, the shrewd and cunning journalist, the wise financial backer who knows more than he lets on…you get the picture. I just wanted one of them to step out of their prescribed roles and surprise me, but sadly that never happened.

Overall, Thunderhead is an entertaining thriller that mixes history and archeology with some good ole fashioned suspense. While it’s not a great work of literature by any means, I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for something fun to read!

What Others Had To Say:

*Let me know if you have posted a review of this book that I missed!

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The unexpected plot twists and learning about history of the Anasazi people
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: I felt there were too many characters and that they were pigeon-holed into stereotypes.
  4. I would recommend this book for: People who like thrillers or books involving archeology/history

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Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.