Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2012!

I read a lot less this year than I have done in previous years, however much of what I read was incredibly memorable. I gave a positive score to 80% of what I read this year so to pick the best of the best, as always, is difficult. However, it must be done. I was able this year to whittle my list down to my top six books of 2012 and below I will try to plead with you as to why you should read them too!

Here are Amused By Books Favorite Reads of 2012, arranged by category. Click on the title of any book to read my original review.

Best Memoir of 2012

Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson

Memoirs are a perennial favorite genre of mine but it takes a lot for one to actually blow me away and make me want to recommend it to everyone I know. Wilson's Running Away to Home made me long to live a different life, to cash it all in and make my husband and I go live somewhere simpler. I know I have a severe case of wanderlust but Wilson offered more than that. She described getting back to her roots and bringing her family closer together than ever which is a very inspiring story line. I originally described it as "one of the sweetest, most laugh out loud, heartwarming stories I have read in a long time" and that is what I have been telling everyone who asks me for a book recommendation.  

Best Fiction of 2012

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

When I read Walter's Beautiful Ruins this past summer it was so good that it ruined me for other books for awhile. Having earned a place in my Favorite Covers of 2012, I was delighted to learn that what was contained inside matched the lovely facade. If you like old cinema, a little bit of mystery, and some cooky characters, this story will combine to be a novel you will just devour. As I said in my original review, the story takes a while to get set up but once all of the pieces are laid out, you are in for a real treat and a novel that was "unlike anything I had read before."

Best Women's Fiction of 2012


Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Gideon's Wife 22 was one of the most unusual books I've ever read. Many of the chapters open with the leading character's answers to an online survey of her marriage, yet unless you know about it in advance, you won't see the answers until you reach the end. What Wife 22 really does well is get into the mind of the leading lady, Alice, and that of a modern marriage and the troubles that it can face and honestly deals with those troubles. As someone about to get married, I found this novel endlessly fascinating and not at all fluffy like you might consider a women's fiction novel to be. Basically, it's a novel that made me continue to think about it for a long time to come and it's "analyzation of a modern marriage and what exactly cheating is totally fascinated me." Read it, and discuss it with your best girlfriends. You won't be disappointed.

Best Epic of 2012


The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

The first fiction of Trigiani's that I read, The Shoemaker's Wife, just completely knocked it out of the park for me. I love historical fiction with a capital 'L' and when presented with an epic novel that takes your through a family's life from beginning to end and therefor a major time shift in history, I can't help but get totally enamored with these characters. It follows two main characters who eventually get together (and believe me, you can't wait for them to finally get together!) but for the majority of the novel you are enamored with them as separate characters. It makes for a modern take on a historical love story. The love was important but not the central character for the majority of it. If you love sweeping historical fiction, do yourself a favor and pick this one up!

Best Historical Fiction of 2012


The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

As you can see I cheated a little and picked two top historical fiction books this year, but I couldn't help it! McCoy's The Baker's Daughter is set during WWII, a time period in which I will read anything about, and it tells the story in two different time periods which can be a great method to break up the intensity that can sometimes plague books set during this heavy time period in history. Our main character is a leading lady to be proud of and getting to follow her into old age just makes the story have a full ending that makes you happy when you read the last page, knowing you've gotten to read a story in which you can learn and be entertained. 

Best Tear-Jerker of 2012


All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay

Books have made me cry in the past but rarely has a book, especially non-fiction, moved me as much as Isay's All There Is. I read it right before Valentine's Day and during the time I was planning a wedding so perhaps I was slightly more emotional and willing to succumb to a good love story but I do believe this collection would melt even the coldest of hearts. As I said in my original review "this book isn't sad, it just makes you appreciate how wonderful and precious true love actually is." Divided into three sections, each section contains essays from real-life people who found love. And anytime it dealt with older couples or those who found love late in life, I just became a sappy mess. Seriously, if you ever need a good cry or just want to remember why you love the one your with, pick this book up! 

Now, it was really hard to narrow down, but I am really happy with this list of "Best's." So what is on your list of best reads of 2012? 

Hears to a year of fabulous reading in 2013!

Previous Year's Top Reads: 2011, 2010, 2009

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Reading Challenges 2013

I capitulated! After doing horribly in last year's reading challenges that I signed up for I thought that I would take a pass in 2013. However, there a few challenges that I enjoy seeing what I read and charting my progress so I couldn't help it. Even if I don't complete them! I will track my progress throughout the year on the 2013 Reading Challenges tab. Wish me luck!

Every year that I've been a blogger I've participated in Beth Fish Reads: What's in a Name Challenge and I couldn't pass it up this year. The categories are always a little complicated to find a book to match and I love the challenge and sense of completion if I am able to finish it!




Another one that I've always enjoyed doing (even though I NEVER finish it) is Book Obsessed: 50 States Challenge. I just love seeing where in the US I read. My reading tends to be focused on the coasts so if I get closer to finishing each year, then to me, that means I am branching out :)





Last year was the first year I participated in Rose City Readers: European Reading Challenge and I loved it. Just like I enjoy seeing where in the US I read, I enjoy seeing where in Europe I read. I know for a fact that I read a ton of books in the UK so if I can branch out and read some located elsewhere, it's a good year. I am going to sign up for the Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) level which means I will be reading at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

I LOVE historical fiction so I couldn't not sign up once again for Historical Tapestry's: 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. Even though I didn't complete what I set up for myself last year, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and every year I hope to read even more. I will be signing up for the Medieval Level which means I will be reading 15 books.



And finally, I can't get enough of books set in the UK. Yep, I am a certified Anglophile! So, once again, I had to sign up for the British Books Challenge which is being hosted by Feeling Fictional this year. The goal for this challenge is to read 12 books. 






So those are my challenges for this year. I've narrowed it down quite a bit from last year but it's still enough for me to challenge myself. Are you signing up for any challenges? If so, which one's did I miss? 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Top Five Favorite Covers of 2012!

I LOVE cover art! My 'Cover Lust' feature on the bottom of every book review showcase my thoughts on covers throughout the year but one of my favorite posts to write every year is My Top Five Favorite Covers of 2012!

I'd like to say that I don't judge a book by it's cover but I'd be lying ;) If a cover grabs my eye than I am more likely to read it faster than other books in my humungous piles!

So without further ado, in alphabetical order, here are my top 5 favorite covers of 2012 based on eye-catching beauty (click on covers for my reviews)! I think I was attracted to books that harkened back to a former time this year ...



















































































What were your favorite covers of 2012?

Related Posts: My Top Five Favorite Covers of 2010 and My Top Five Favorite Covers of 2011

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reflections on a Year of Reading: 2012


I don't know about for you all but 2012 was probably the the fastest flying year for me in recent memory. I know I wasn't as present on the blog front as I normally am but reflecting back on this past year, I can honestly say it was one of the best years of my life. We spent the majority of the year planning our wedding which happened in September. My new husband and I can both say that it was totally worth it and one of the best, most fun days of our lives! We then got to go on a fabulous honeymoon in Moorea and take some time to just enjoy each other's company and relax. The last third of the year has been far more sane and has seen me return to the blog and pick up my reading pace much more

However, with all that went on this past year, much as I predicted, I didn't read nearly as many books as I normally do in a year. Books this year were my escape. They were where I went when I needed to just to relax from an incredibly hectic life. Last year I read 97 books. This year that number dropped to 60. Some might say that's a dismal number, but for me, it was the perfect amount. I still read a ton and, for the most part, everything I read I really enjoyed. Because that was my other goal for reading in 2012. It was to continue to have success at picking out books that I love to read.

So, now, without further ado, here are my reading stats for 2012:
In total I read: 60 Books!
Most Books Read in One Month: January and November all tie for 9 titles each! I love that it is at total opposite ends of the calendar year. Really showcases the ebb and flow of this past year.
Total Number of A and B rated books: 48 (that is a huge success rate!)
Total Number of C, D, and F rated books: 12
Total number of pages read: 21,146 (4,998 less than last year) 


I am pleased with the above because this means I really achieved my goals from last year. One of the big ones was to continue to get to know myself as a reader. This blog and keeping a reading journal was supposed to help me better pick out the books that I love over and over again. Seeing that I enjoyed 80% of the books I read this year as compared to 76% last year means I am definitely improving my hit rate! 

Also, I just want to take a big moment to thank you all for sticking with me this past year. Your continued support of everything I do here always means a lot to me! My biggest love to you all.

My Reading Goals for 2013:
I am thinking that this next year should bring in uptake in my reading for the year once again because life has calmed down. There are no guarantees what life will throw at you, but I think it should be a bigger reading year for me. Although I am not going to give myself a number to read towards.

Another big goal for me for the year is to read more of my own personal books. I am constantly bringing in books that I buy that I want to read but the guilt of not reading review books always overtakes me. I have drastically reduced the number of review books I take in and I am hoping that as a result I can start to attack the overwhelming bookshelves in my home. 


In the coming days you will see my top picks for covers of the year and books of the year so stay tuned!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reading Challenge Wrap-Up: 2012

I think I was a little overly ambitious in picking reading challenges this year. I really enjoy reading challenges, picking categories I know I love and challenging myself to read more than previous years. However, this year I just plain didn't have time to read as much I normally do and so I had a hard time finishing all of my challenges. I am still debating whether or not I will sign up for any next year. What challenges are you signing up for next year?

Ok, so here's where I embarrass myself and show just how few I completed. And if you stick with this incredibly long post, you should win a prize!

Completed Reading Challenges:

Challenge #4 - Hosted by My Book Retreat - My goal was to read 5 books in this category, and I managed to read 6! 


1. Here Comes the Guide: Northern California: Wedding Locations and Services by Jen Brenner
2. Simpler Living: A Back to Basics Guide to Cleaning, Furnishing, Storing, Decluttering, Streamlining, Organizing, and More by Jeff Davidson
3. Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Work-Horse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules by Pamela Haag
4. FoodTrients: Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life by Grace O
5. San Francisco and the Bay Area: The Haight-Ashbury Edition by Dave Evans
6. Jamie Oliver's Great Britain: 130 of My Favorite British Recipes, from Comfort Food to New Classics by Jamie Oliver


Challenge #5 - Hosted by Rose City Reader  - My goal was to read 5 books in this category and for awhile there I thought I wouldn't complete it but I totally did!




1. Confetti Confidential by Holly McQueen - United Kingdom
2. The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris - France
3. The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy - Germany
4. The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani - Italy
5. Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson - Croatia


Challenge #7 - Hosted by CaribousMom - My goal was to read 4 books over 450 pages and I read 6! I'm seriously impressed with this one.



1. Here Comes the Guide: Northern California: Wedding Locations and Services by Jen Brenner - 900
2. The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris -480
3. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris - 528
4. Simpler Living: A Back to Basics Guide to Cleaning, Furnishing, Storing, Decluttering, Streamlining, Organizing, and More by Jeff Davidson: 456
5. The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani: 496
6. After the Party by Lisa Jewell: 464


Challenge # 9 - Hosted by The Overflowing Library - My goal was to read twelve books in this category (I am a bit of an anglophile after all) and I managed 14!



1. Confetti Confidential by Holly McQueen
2. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
3. Going Home by Harriet Evans
4. Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
5. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
6. Kate's Wedding by Chrissie Manby
7. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
8. There Goes the Bride by Holly McQueen
9. Single in the City by Michele Gorman
10. Abdication by Juliet Nicolson
11. After the Party by Lisa Jewell 
12. Jamie Oliver's Great Britain: 130 of My Favorite British Recipes, from Comfort Food to New Classics by Jamie Oliver
13. The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
14. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly


Sadly when it comes to those I didn't complete, there is one more than those I did complete! So without further ado ...

Incomplete Challenges:

Challenge #1 - Hosted by Literary Escapism - As you can see my goal was to read 50 books in this category and I was just four short! Oh well. 




1. Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
2. Confetti Confidential by Holly McQueen
3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
3. Here Comes the Guide: Northern California: Wedding Locations and Services by Jen Brenner
5. Night Road by Kristin Hannah
6. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
7. The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French
8. All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay
9. Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
10. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
11. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris 
12. Simpler Living: A Back to Basics Guide to Cleaning, Furnishing, Storing, Decluttering, Streamlining, Organizing, and More by Jeff Davidson
13. Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverni
14. The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy
15. The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy
16. Clair de Lune by Jetta Carleton
17. In Search of Lucy by Lia Fairchild
18. The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch
19. Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Work-Horse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules by Pamela Haag
20. This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family's Heartbreak by Melissa Coleman
21. How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre
22. The Queen's Lover by Francine Du Plessix Gray
23. FoodTrients: Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life by Grace O
24. The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri
25. Kate's Wedding by Chrissie Manby
26. Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon
27. So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore
28. San Francisco and the Bay Area: The Haight-Ashbury Edition by Dave Evans
29. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
30. The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
31. As Always, Jack: A World War Two Love Story by Emma Sweeney
32. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
33. The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal
34. Single in the City by Michele Gorman
35. Abdication by Juliet Nicolson
36. The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken by Mari Passananti
37. Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney
38. The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
39. The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe
40. Paris in Love by Eloisa James
41. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
42. French Lessons by Ellen Sussman
43. Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson
44. The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
45. South of Superior by Ellen Airgood
46. Point, Click, Love by Molly Shapiro
47.
48.
49.
50.  


Reading Challenge #2 - Hosted by Book Obsessed - Every year I try this one, knowing that I won't finish it but wanting to see where I actually read. I read books representing 17 different states!



1. Alabama - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Alaska -
3. Arizona - 
4. Arkansas - 
6. Colorado - 
7. Connecticut - Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
8. Delaware - 
9. Florida - The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French
10. Georgia - 
11. Hawaii -
12. Idaho - Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
13. Illinois -
14. Indiana - 
15. Iowa - The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy
16. Kansas - The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
17. Kentucky - 
18. Louisiana - 
20. Maryland - 
21. Massachusetts - So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore
22. Michigan - South of Superior by Ellen Airgood
23. Minnesota - The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
24. Mississippi - 
25. Missouri - Clair de Lune by Jetta Carleton
26. Montana -
27. Nebraska - 
28. Nevada - 
29. New Hampshire - 
30. New Jersey - The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal
31. New Mexico - 
32. New York - A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
33. North Carolina - 
34. North Dakota - 
35. Ohio - 
36. Oklahoma - 
37. Oregon -
38. Pennsylvania - How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre
39. Rhode Island - 
40. South Carolina - 
41. South Dakota - 
42. Tennessee -
43. Texas - The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy
44. Utah - 
45. Vermont - 
46. Virginia - 
47. Washington - Night Road by Kristin Hannah
48. West Virginia - 
49. Wisconsin - 
50. Wyoming - 

Challenge # 3 - Hosted by Beth Fish Reads - I was really bummed I only needed one more book in this category but honestly I don't think I have a single book on my shelf that fits that creepy crawly category and I have a lot of books on my shelf!






1. Book with a topographical feature in the title: Night Road by Kristin Hannah
2. Book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: To Kill aMockingbird by Harper Lee
3. Book with a creepy crawly in the title:
4. Book with a type of house in the title: Little Princes: One Man's Promise to BringHome the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
5. Book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
6. Book with something you'd find on the calendar in the title: Here Comes the Guide: Northern California: Wedding Locations and Services by Jen Brenner


Challenge #6 - Hosted by Betty and Boo Chronicles - Memoirs are one of my favorite genres so I hope to read more next year!




1. Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
2. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
3. All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay
4. This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family's Heartbreak by Melissa Coleman
5. How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre
6. As Always, Jack: A World War Two Love Story by Emma Sweeney
7. Paris in Love by Eloisa James
8. Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson
9.
10.
11.
12.


Challenge #8 - Hosted by Historical Tapestry - Seriously I can't believe I didn't finish this challenge! So disappointed in myself.


1. Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
2. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
3. Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverni
4. The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy
5. Clair de Lune by Jetta Carleton
6. The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
7. The Queen's Lover by Francine Du Plessix Gray
8. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
9. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
10. The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
11. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
12. Abdication by Juliet Nicolson
13. The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
14.
15.



Well that's it, another year in reading challenges. I have definitely done much better in previous years but at least I managed to complete some!
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