Friday, January 27, 2012

Holiday books

Seeing as the season for Christmas books is well behind us (at least if you are like me and insist on reading Christmassy books only in December), I thought I'd do a quick summary post of the books I read last month.

The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley
Sam Gardner admits that his history as a gift giver is abysmal. Determined to redeem himself, he has enrolled in a scrapbooking class. His artistic enterprise, however, ends in disaster. Meanwhile, wife Barbara sees through his lame ruse of a Wednesday night "men's group," but suspecting the worst, she begins to search for a romantic rival.

This charming little tale is part of the Harmony series, which centers around Sam Gardner, who's moved back to his hometown to work as minister. I love the series; it's humorous, touching and being from a small town myself I can definitely relate. At less than 100 pages it's a quick read. I found myself chuckling throughout the story, while sympathizing with Sam and shaking my head at the quirky inhabitants of Harmony. I've been reading the other Christmas story in the series, Christmas in Harmony, every December for a few years, and I see the same thing happening with The Christmas Scrapbook (plus, I think I have a small crush on Sam Gardner).

The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere
Christine Eisley is the mother of seven-year-old Zach and five-year-old Haley. Her ex-husband provides little, if any, child support and makes life difficult for Christine by using the children as pawns. She works long hours as a waitress to make ends meet, but her job is in jeopardy because she’s often late to work due to the unreliable teenaged sitters she’s forced to use. When Christine saves the life of a woman who works in Wilson’s department store, the owner of Wilson’s wants to find her, to thank her, but Christine has disappeared, losing another job once again. He sets his grandson, Jason, to the task of finding the mysterious “Christy.” Jason, an accountant by trade who has lost his job to downsizing, thinks he is “above” working at Wilson’s. Soon, he discovers that this new task gives him more than he bargains for. The Christmas Secret is a novel for anyone who wants to see how love is a gift that keeps giving back; that hope is a treasure that never runs dry, and that faith is a miracle that is reborn with each new day.

The Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere
Gretchen Daniels has recently moved into a condo with her two children to be closer to her mother, Miriam. As they build a life together in their new community, they notice a mysterious young woman, Melissa McCreary, who lives next door. She has few possessions, little personality, and keeps to herself. One day a local landlord who is looking for Melissa knocks on Gretchen’s door for assistance. Melissa’s mother has died and in the coming weeks the landlord needs Melissa to empty her mother’s apartment. Gretchen reaches out and offers to help Melissa, but the apartment is a gut-wrenching shamble of a home. There is little worth saving except for a few photos and a note that is discovered on the crate beside the bed. It is unfinished, but in the two scribbled lines, Melissa discovers secrets about her family that she never could have imagined. Can two very different women embark on a journey that explores a long-buried need for forgiveness, hope, and redemption?

Donna VanLiere's Christmas books are another Christmas tradition of mine and I usually buy one every year in time for Christmas. Yes, they are all rather cheesy and predictable - just what I want for the season. These latest two in the series were both just as heart-warming and sweet as I have come to expect. Although all books in the series are stand-alones, some of them share a few characters, like these two books. They are set in the same small town and both feature young women who have gone through some tough times and are struggling to get ahead. VanLiere is very good at describing human relations and creating strong and likeable characters. These books provide a good story combined with a little bit of holiday magic.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

It was impossible to ignore all the great reviews going around the blogosphere when this book was first released, but not being a huge fan of most YA books and romance novels, I didn't think it was for me. I only picked up the ebook version because it was on sale - and it turned out to be one of the best buys I made last year. Frankly, I loved it. It was fun, interesting and sweet and I couldn't wait to see what each new challenge would bring. Dash and Lily are very different characters but I was rooting for them from the beginning. The secondary characters are also great, especially Lily's great-aunt (I think?). My only concern is that both main characters, Dash especially, sounded and acted much older than they are, but it didn't ruin the experience for me in any way. Another Christmas favourite!

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

My first read of the year was The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan. I've heard so many good things about the Riyaria Revelations series, and now that all six books are out I decided to start it. This first installment was fast-paced, action-packed and fun, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

I've also read The Shadow Project by Scott Mariani, which is the fifth book in a thriller series featuring ex-SAS Major Ben Hope. I have a weak spot for daring heroes, and Ben is one of my favourites.

After reading Stella @ Ex Libris' excellent review of Master of None by Sonya Bateman last year I added it to my wishlist and was RAKed it by Bookaholic Does Blogging soon after (thanks, Ashley!). This is the first book in an urban fantasy series (with a male protagonist, I might add!), and after it had been waiting on Pickwick (my Kindle) for a while, I'm so glad I finally started it. I'm 1/4 in and so far I've cringed twice and laughed out loud a lot more times. I'm enjoying it very much!

As usual I have no idea. I like to pick up whatever fancies me at the time. However, I do have a list of books I want to get to soon so I'm sort of organised. ;)

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2011

I reached my goal of 40 books in 2011, the highest number I've managed in a year since I was a teenager. I thought I'd share my favourites from last year with you here. I'm not including re-reads (but if I did, you'd find some Harry Potter books and a certain Locke Lamora on this list as well).

10. Tripwire by Lee Child
Third in the Jack Reacher series. This kind of action series is my guilty pleasure (though I don't really feel guilty). I do love a good action hero, and Reacher is one of the best.

9. Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis
This first book in a new paranormal series really impressed me. I was invested in the characters and the story, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

8. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
It was impossible not to notice all the buzz about this book when it was released but at the time I didn't think it would be my cup of tea. I picked it up late last year because the price was reduced, and decided to read it over Christmas. It turned out to be the surprise of the year and I loved it.

7. Heat Wave by Richard Castle
I'm a big fan of the TV show Castle, and this book was just like reading an episode of the show.

6. The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley
I love Gulley's Harmony series with its small-town setting and its quirky characters. This will most likely be an annual Christmas read for me.

5. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
The Spellmans are one of my favourite fictional families and this second book in the series was just as hilaroius as the first.

4. Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
I don't know why I waited so long to read the sequel to Incarceron, because this YA series is very, very good.

3. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
I absolutely loved this magical, whimsical story about love, belonging and cakes. (And how pretty is that cover?)

2. The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
If you've been reading my blog the past year, chances are you've heard me rave about this book before. I just had so much fun reading it, and the characters and the story have stuck with me almost a year now.

1. A Scottish Ferry Tale by Nancy Volkers
I'm not usually a fan of romance novels, but this wonderful love story went straight to my heart. I could identify with the main character on several levels, and the magical Scottish setting captivated me.

Are any of these on your favourites list as well?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book recommendation: Music Listography Journal

Music Listography: Your Life in (Play) Lists
By Lisa Nola
Chronicle Books 2009 | The Book Depository | Goodreads

Do you like music? Do you like making lists? Then this is the perfect book for you.

I have been using to make lists for a while and love it. I finally decided to check out the related books, and Music Listography seemed a good choice to begin with. It arrived in the mail today, and I've just spent an hour flipping through the pages and filling out some of the lists. I absolutely love this book. There are all sorts of list topics about music, ranging from List Your Top Twenty Favorite Bands to List Your Summer Time Road Trip Mix and List the Saddest Songs in the World. And if the list you want to make isn't included in the book, there are several blank pages in the back where you can make your own list topics.

I foresee many more hours of fun, going through my music library and filling out the lists. This is a great gift for the music lover in your life, or something special for yourself. Just remember to use a pencil, so you can update the lists as your music taste changes. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

End of Year Book Survey

This awesome survey is hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner.

I had a few ups and down last year when it came to reading and blogging, but I reached my overall goal of 40 books, which is the most I've read since I started keeping track in 2005. I could have made it to 45 if it hadn't been for a reading slump over the summer, but I did read some great books so I'm very happy with 2011 bookwise.

1. Best book you read in 2011?
Hmm... I reread a few old favourites, but if I'm not counting them then it's A Scottish Ferry Tale by Nancy Volkers. It's a heart-warming love story with a beautiful setting and I didn't want it to end. And I obviously can't answer this question without mentioning The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell. Technically it's a novella, but I had so much fun reading it that I simply have to include it.

2. Most disappointing book / Book you wish you loved more than you did?
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. It sounded like a lot of fun and adventure, and while it certainly wasn't boring, I just felt, well, way too old for it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way) book of 2011?
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. There was a lot of buzz about this book when it was published and to be honest I didn't think it would be my cup of tea, being a teenage romance and all. But I ended up loving it so much I sat up reading until 3 in the morning because I didn't want to put it down.

4. Book you recommended most to people in 2011?
The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale. I just want everyone to read it. :)

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?
The Bloody Jack series by L.A, Meyer. The first book was chock-full of adventures on the high seas, and I can't wait to read more books from this series.

6. Favourite new authors you discovered in 2011?
Sarah Addison Allen, Lawrence Block and Nancy Volkers.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis. Not sure what to call this genre - supernatural crime, maybe? Anyway, it was a new experience for me, but one I really enjoyed.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?
I have to say The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, even though it was a reread. I guess it's a testament to the author when the book is just as good (maybe even better) the second time around.

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?
The Devil Colony by James Rollins (number 7 in the Sigma Force series).

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2011?

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. It's blue and shiny and whimsical and I love it.

11. Most memorable character in 2011?
A few spring to mind: The afore-mentioned Stormy Gale and Locke Lamora, and Keiro from Sapphique by Catherine Fisher.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?
A Scottish Ferry Tale certainly created beautiful images in my mind.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?
Again, A Scottish Ferry Tale. I related quite strongly to the main character and the book lingered for days after I had finished it. I still wish I could go to Scotland and find my own little ferry tale.

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2011 to finally read?
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher. I should have read this sequel to Incarceron the minute I had finished the first book, while the story was still fresh in my mind.

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2011?
From A Scottish Ferry Tale:
"Here's what I think," she said. "You love him. The two of you are amazing together. And that scares you. You are sure that because it's so good, something will go wrong, and instead of enjoying it, you're on guard, waiting for the bad thing to happen."

16. Book that you read in 2011 that you would be most likely to reread in 2012?
The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley. I love the Harmony series and I think this one will be a Christmas tradition just like Christmas in Harmony.

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it?
Frequently during Dash & Lily's Book of Dares!

And that was my 2011. Here's to 2012!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I'm Excited To Read In 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature / weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week we make a top ten list from a given topic.

This week's topic is

Top Ten Books I'm Excited To Read In 2012

After a long period of not reading or blogging last year I have finally found my love for reading again, and I've already started making lists and lining up books. I'm excited about a lot of books this year, but most of them are books I've had on my shelf for a long time and which I now really want to read. But I'm excited about some new releases too, so here's my list of books I can't wait to read this year.

1) From the Logs of Bacon Frogs by Christine Bell (working title)
I've mentioned The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale before, and it turned out to be one of the best books I read in 2011. Christine is working on the sequel, and I really hope it will be out this year because I can't wait to read it!

2) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince & Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
This will be the year I finish the Harry Potter series. I swear.

3) Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
After delay upon delay it looks like the third book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence will finally be released, and even though I haven't read book 2 yet, I just know this will be good (after all that waiting it has to be!).

4) Scotland by Starlight by Nancy Volkers
Another sequel to another favourite. I didn't get a chance to read it last year, but I want to return to beautiful Scotland as soon as possible.

5) Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick
This fantasy novel sounds very promising.

6) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
This one has been on my radar since it was released, and I think it might be right up my alley. Sounds perfect for dark winter nights.

7) Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful
I bought the hardcover edition as a Christmas present to myself because I'm a huge fan of Bon Jovi, and I can't wait to delve into the story of the band (and drool over gorgeous pictures).

8) Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn
I read Dash & Lily's Book of Dares over Christmas and loved it, so I can't wait to read more form these two authors.

9) Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

10) Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
I've heard only good things about her books and I bought this one because I loved the cover.

What books are you excited to read in 2012?
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