Well, I didn’t reach my goal of 40 books in 2012 (partially because I read some FAT books), so my goal for 2013 is again 40 books and/or 14,000 pages. Some books I’m hoping to get to include:
Books finished: 21
Approximate total pages: 9,480*
Best Month: March (1,651 pages*)
Kindle version: 20 (95%)
Physical copy: 1 (5%)
New Releases: 7 (33%)
21st Century: 17 (81%)
20th Century: 3 (14%)
19th Century: 1 (5%)
Fiction: 20 (95%)
Non-Fiction: 1 (5%)
Most favorite read: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
I don’t know if I loved it because I read it at the same time as season two of Downton Abbey (they have similar tones), or if it was just really good. Either way, this story of New York upper-class society as told by the daughter of Russian immigrants was exactly my cup of tea. And, of course, it helped that we have the same first name (Katey/Katie).
Book I just couldn’t finish: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
I couldn’t get into this one, no matter how I tried. On the one hand, it had exciting things like a dystopian world, ninjas, etc., but it was also slow, and the grammar bothered me. Plenty of people love it, but I probably won’t get around to giving it a second chance.
Most surprising find in 2012: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Released in 2011, this book was just flat-out entertaining, and it had it all: humor, assassins, jealousy, greed.
Most memorable character: Amy from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
It’s best to go into this book knowing nothing about it, so I won’t elaborate.
Favorite author discovery: Justin Cronin
2014’s release of The City of Mirrors can’t come soon enough!
Favorite cover of a book read in 2012: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
It’s so fancy!
Favorite quote/passage read in 2012: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
“In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.”
Longest: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, 912 pages*
Shortest: Hot Pink by Adam Levin, 207 pages*
Fastest: Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Slowest: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Funniest: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Saddest: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Scariest: The Passage by Justin Cronin
Best Writing: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
* Page numbers from Goodreads.com
Like last year, I didn’t do very well at reading in 2012. There’s only so much time in the day, and most of that is spent at a desk! I only read seven new releases, so again I’m doing a top five list, instead of the usual top ten. There were several additional new releases I didn’t get to, so those are ranked, as well.
Top Five Books I Read:
Top Five Books Still To Be Read:
My laptop died back in March, and while I wasn’t super committed to this blog before that happened, it is definitely part of the reason why I’ve been so radio silent this year. Why does the Tumblr iPad app suck so much for composing blog posts?!
With that in mind, I’m not back entirely, but I do love reading statistics and figured I would continue to use this space as a place to keep track of those going forward. Coming in a couple days, I’ll have my year-in-review posts, as well as my reading goals for 2013.
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Setting: Brooklyn, New York City
Narrator: Third person, focusing mostly on Vaclav and Lena
First line(s): “’Here, I practice, and you practice. Ahem. AH-em. I am Vaclav the Magnificent, with birthday on the sixth of May, the famous day for the generations to celebrate and rejoice, a day in the future years eclipsing Christmas and Hanukkah and Ramadan and all pagan festivals, born in a land far, far, far, far, far, far, far distance from here, a land of ancient and magnificent secrets, a land of enchanted knowledge passed down from the ages and from the ancients, a land of illusion (Russia!), born there in Russia and reappearing here, in America, in New York, in Brooklyn (which is a Borough), near Coney Island, which is a famous place of magic in the great land of opportunity (which is, of course, America), where anyone can become anything, where a hobo today is tomorrow a businessman in a three-pieces-suit, and a businessman yesterday is later this afternoon a hobo, Vaclav the Magnificent, who shall, without no doubt, be ask to perform his might feats of enchantment for dukes and presidents and czars and ayatollahs, uniting them all in awestruck and dumbstrucks, and thus, one day in the future years, be heralding a new era (which is a piece of time) of peace on earth.”
Quick summary: Two nine-year-old Russian immigrants, Vaclav and Lena, become best friends despite their very different circumstances. Vaclav, who dreams of one day becoming a famous magician with Lena by his side, lives with his parents, who came to America so that Vaclav could have a better life. Lena, however, is a skinny, neglected orphan living with her stripper aunt. One day, Lena disappears from Vaclav’s life, but she is never far from this thoughts. Where did she go, and will they be reunited?
How did I feel about the character(s)? These are two kids whose pasts and presents are so well-drawn that you can’t help but feel for them. Maybe it’s not exactly the most plausible thing for these two to have been in love since they were children, but it works within the context of the story.
What did I like most about the book? There are just some flat-out wonderful passages, such as:
“Of course they were with each other the whole time. Even when they weren’t looking, they never had to check. She was always there; he was always there. Outside her bedroom, somewhere in the darkness, like the moon.”
“He is refusing to believe. He is refusing to understand. He is the silence before a bomb explodes. He is the tick, tick tick, tick before the boom.”
Other thoughts? I’ve read other reviews that said the author’s depiction of Russian immigrants isn’t exactly accurate, but I can’t really speak to that. Sure, there are a lot of stereotypes (i.e. the borscht-eating and vodka-swilling father), but the crux of the story is the relationship between the two kids, which I thought was well-developed and sincere.
Also, I heard that the author wrote this while her husband was dying of cancer and that he didn’t live to see it released. Heartbreaking stuff.
Why did I read it? I saw the book on the front table at the local book store, and the cover caught my attention. I thought the overall premise sounded sweet, and thought the disappearance aspect was interesting.
Who do I recommend it to? People who like books focused on precocious kids, maybe like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The very quotable writing also kind of reminds me of Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love.
Will I read the author’s other works? Maybe not solely based on this novel, but if the plot of her future works sound intriguing, I’ll give them a shot.
Do I like the cover? Like I said before, the cover is what initially drew me to the book. In the book, Vaclav makes a magician’s hat out of paper, and I think the cover kind of alludes to those paper craft projects we do as children.
How long did it take to finish? Seven days, but it is a much quicker read than my slow progress would indicate.
Total Books Read in 2012: 4
Genre: Historical fiction
Setting: New York City, 1938
Narrator: Katey Kontent, a 25-year-old Wall Street secretary
First line: “On the night of October 4th, 1966, Val and I, both late middle age, attended the opening of Many Are Called at the Museum of Modern Art—the first exhibit of the portaits taken by Walker Evans in the late 1930s on the New York City subways with a hidden camera.”
Quick summary: After meeting a young successful banker named Theodore “Tinker” Grey on New Year’s Eve, Katey Kontent, together with her roommate and best friend Eve Ross, is introduced to the upper reaches of New York society. In a year that changes everything for the people involved, Katey discovers what wealth and station can bring, but also at what cost.
How did I feel about the character(s)? Katey is awesome. She’s smart, witty, confident, and an all-around great narrator.
What did I like most about the book? As I was reading this and telling other people about it, I just kept saying, “It’s so fancy!” I loved that. I loved seeing the world of the rich and successful through the eyes of someone more relatable. (It doesn’t hurt that we have the same first name, either). The parties, the clothes, the cars…it was just how I’d pictured that era, at least for those who made it through the Depression unscathed.
Other thoughts? They eat a LOT of canapés (but what would you expect). No, but seriously, the writing is wonderful. Take, for example, “In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.”
Why did I read it? I had been watching (so, so much) Downton Abbey, and I wanted to read something where the kind of lifestyle was similar. I know the two are set two decades apart, but both offer a glimpse into the world of privilege and opportunity.
Who do I recommend it to? Other people who watch Downton for the reasons above. Maybe also to fans of The Great Gatsby. It’s really just a great book, though, so I highly recommend it in general.
Will I read the author’s other works? It doesn’t look like he’s released anything else, but his future works will very likely make their way to my to-read list.
Do I like the cover? For sure. “It’s so fancy!”
How long did it take to finish? Six days.
Total Books Read in 2012: 3
Genre: Classic, Gothic, Mystery
Setting: Victorian England
Narrator: Varies, but mainly first-person accounts from Walter Hartright and Marian Halcombe
First line: “This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and of what a Man’s resolution can achieve.”
Quick summary: Walter, a drawing-master from London, finds himself employed at Limmeridge House in the country, where he is to teach his skills to the two young women who live there. Before he departs, however, he has a chance encounter with a woman in white, who has just escaped from an asylum. During their conversation, he mentions the place he is traveling to, and finds that she is familiar with it and the people there.
Did anything surprise me? I’ve heard that this was the first sensational novel, so I suspect many of the plot twists were surprising to readers during the 19th century, but those of us reading today are more accustomed to literary devices, such as foreshadowing. That isn’t to say that I saw where the book was going from the beginning, because I definitely didn’t, but there was only one moment when I was really and truly shocked.
Other thoughts? I don’t know if it’s because my reading time was spread out over so many short sessions or because it really is lengthy, but this book seemed so long. As I was reading it, I just wanted the
Who do I recommend it to? Fans of Gothic or crime literature, as well as people who read and enjoyed Michael Cox’s The Meaning of Night and The Glass of Time.
Why did I read it? This was one of the books I chose for the Back to the Classics reading challenger, for the 19th century category. I’d had it on my shelf for so long, and figured it was time! Plus, I really loved Michael Cox’s books, which several people have said were influenced by Wilkie Collins. I definitely see some of the similarities, as well.
Will I read the author’s other works? I’ve heard good things about The Moonstone, so I will probably read that at some point, but possibly not for a long while.
Do I like the cover? I love the cover of the Penguin hardcover classics edition, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, which a friend gave it to me for Christmas one year. I read the Kindle edition, though, which has a plain, boring cover.
How long did it take to finish? Three weeks, and only because I started taking the bus to work, so now I have that extra reading time. Too many 12-hour work days meant I barely had any other opportunities!
Total Books Read in 2012: 2
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Setting: Present day, Brazil’s Amazon rainforest
Narrator: 3rd person, focusing on Dr. Marina Singh
First line: “The news of Anders Eckman’s death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationary and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope.”
Quick summary: After receiving the news of her co-worker’s death, Dr. Marina Singh is sent to Brazil retrace his footsteps and finish the job he was meant to do: find her former teacher, Dr. Annick Swenson, who is developing a fertility drug in the Amazon, and convince her to move her work back to the U.S.
How did I feel about the character(s)? Marina is clearly a smart and well-respected doctor, but she didn’t always come across that way. Obviously a lot of that is because she was dropped into an environment completely different from her native Minnesota, but the questions she asked of Dr. Swenson and the others she met made her seem naive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the reader is new to most of the details, as well, but her personality seemed to changed a lot as soon as she set foot in Brazil.
What did I like most about the book? I loved Easter. He’s a smart, brave kid who quickly charmed everyone, including the impervious Dr. Swenson. He learned to overcome his disability (deafness) in such a way that it essentially became a non-issue, and he is relied upon heavily by Marina and several others. It was easy to see why they care for him so much.
Did anything surprise me? I didn’t see the ending coming at all, but I won’t spoil that for anyone.
Other thoughts? This isn’t a fluffy book, and the pace isn’t exactly fast, but it was enjoyable, nonetheless. The descriptions of the Amazon, while somewhat repetitive, successfully created a picture of the untamed setting and its native inhabitants. Although the book was largely character-driven, it also addresses several ethical questions. The fertility drug Dr. Swenson is working on would increase the age at which women could conceive, eliminating the “biological clock.” But is it right to put the body through that at those later stages in life? What becomes of the children born to women who conceive at 60, or even 70?
Who do I recommend it to? People who have read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or who like books with determined female characters.
Why did I read it? I didn’t read very many books written 2011, and wanted to try to fit this one in at the very end of the year. I had seen it’s placement on several top ten lists, and thought it sounded like an interesting loose take on Heart of Darkness, which I read nine years ago for a class in high school.
Will I read the author’s other works? I had previously been interested in reading Bel Canto, and I would say I’m more likely to read it now, though I’ve heard mixed reviews about it.
Do I like the cover? The cover is probably one of the reasons I didn’t read the book sooner, because it came across as a typical, serious novel written by a woman.
How long did it take to finish? Six days, although I read more than half of it in one day.
Total Books Read in 2012: 1