2013 Books and 2014 Reading Goals

An analysis of books consumed in 2013. This year, I read 68 new books with a total of 19800 pages.

Memorable Books from this year: This is not a definitive list by any means:

Longest Book: Game of Thrones with 811 pages.

Most Challenging Books: Walden by Henry David Thoreau

New-to-me Authors I look forward to reading more: Robin Sloan, David Mitchell, John Green

Classics Club update: I’m up to 17 books now, and I am quite behind.

Most Read Author: Georgette Heyer and Neil Gaiman.

Poetry: None! Sad.

Month Read the Most: August

Total number of books read: 68 out of projected modest goal of 65.

2013: 68
2012: 65
2011: 50
2010: 67
2009: 20
2008: 83
2007: 52
2006: 61
2005: 83
2004: 71
2005: 66
2002: 66

2014 Reading Goals:

As I am spending less time online and more time in the real world, I have decided to simplify my reading goals a little bit more. As much as I enjoy joining reading challenges, I am going to make one definitive list of goals I’d like to accomplish and review it at the end of year.

  1. Read 70 books – This is simple enough as I have been reading in the high 60s ever year, but I would like to push myself a bit more. I think the most I ever read as 83 at one point. As I have a lot of hobbies already, I don’t think I’ll be a hundred books a year kind of girl anytime soon.
  2. Focus on the Classics Club – I am running behind on the challenge so will aim to read 5-10 from my list.
  3. One French language book – At least one French language is good enough for me.
  4. One Poetry book – One does not sound like a lot, but since I did not even manage one in 2013, it’s a good way to start.
  5. Read more from my cookbook collection – I have a lot of lovely cookbooks, many of which I can actually read as well as try out. I should read and review them more.
  6. Continue reading more nonfiction – I’m quite proud of the amount of nonfiction I’ve read this year.
  7. Read things out loud more – I wish to speak slower, more clearly, and enjoy the joy of reading out loud again.
  8. Authors to read more of because of series an and other reasons: George R. R. Martin, J. K. Rowling, and a slew of other classic authors

Finally, a complete list of books for 2013 which can all by accessed via the 2013 Books tag: Continue reading “2013 Books and 2014 Reading Goals”

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Yet another young adult novel set at boarding school! I’ve been attracting them this year. I’m starting to wish I could have gone to boarding school. Apparently, they make for interesting and intense upbringings. Of course, being a teenager is an intense and weird experience. I must say that young adult fiction is better now than when it was when I was a teenager. I read more adult novels from age fourteen onward than young adult novels.

This novel is very similar to Winger, and if I were to pick the two, I think Winger got to me more. It had more humour, but this one had some light moments too. I felt the rawness of youth with it. I also questioned mortality a lot when I became a teenager. A lot of the questions on religion an the after life posed in this novel affected me when I was thirteen and fourteen.

This was my first John Green novel and I chose to read this before his even more acclaimed The Fault in Our Stars. I liked the experience even though I find it a bit too dark and intense for me at times. I definitely think Green can write.

Recommended if you enjoy raw and honest young adult fiction.

Read December 29-30, 2013.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When I was around the age of Sara Crewe, I had seen the 1995 movie adaptation of this book and liked it. It was magical. I really adored the message about every girl being a princess and the sense of magic in the work. I didn’t know how true the movie was to the book until now.

Continue reading “A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett”

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

This is novel’s setting tone and style is highly reminiscent of “Downton Abbey”, Edith Wharton, andHenry James. If you enjoy any of those three like I do, you’ll at least find this novel mildly interesting.

Like DA, this novel has several elements of soap opera. It has many predictable moments, public humiliation, men and women with mother issues, love affairs and love squares. Most of the characters are not well drawn. The writer has just enough about each of them, but not enough for me to find it remarkable or anywhere near a character study.

I really only liked Cora the protagonist towards the end. I identified with her because even with her spoilt upbringing, she is straight forward and frank. I felt bad for her as well. As a result, the ending left me dissatisfied. It reminded me about how I felt with the ending of James’s A Portrait of a Lady. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic or pleased with how it ended. It just ended almost abruptly.

It did make me reflect how the rich in those days had such insufferable lifestyles where you had to host so many parties, live in idleness and all the gossip and the social machinations that goes with it. It really makes you think how things are better without such foolishness especially for women.

This was a decent debut novel, and it got better as the somewhat predictable plot progressed. I started to care for the characters as it went on, but I don’t think this is an outstanding work. It suited my day of recovering from illness. It was a fine read for my mood.

Read Dec 22 2013.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

I had somewhat high expectations for this novel given how much I liked Agnes Grey and the style of Anne Bronte’s writing overall. I found my expectations were not quite met. In general, this is a good novel and like Grey, it is a very interesting view about Victorian marriage. As a proto-Feminist novel, I can appreciate it as well.
Continue reading “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte”

Winger by Andrew Smith

The last young adult I read set in an American boarding school fell short, but this one is much more interesting.

It is funny and has a few hand drawn comics done by the protagonist, Winger aka Ryan Dean West. There is this sense of timelessness in the book too. There is actually very little technology mentioned in the book, but it’s focussed more on the rawness and alienation of being a fourteen year old boy. The author captured the craziness of that time well or from what I vaguely remember as a teenager.

The book has some random, funny and poignant moments. The ending was particularly intense. It did make me cry a little. I thought it was moving and a big testament to the characters and the various forms of friendships. Friendship and loyalty were big themes in this novel and Smith drew that out well. The characters were well developed in a short period of time and there was a lot of pathos without being preachy or sanctimonious. The ending was handled well.

Read Dec 15-16, 2013. This was my 65th book of the year which was my GoodReads reading goal. I was well ahead of my reading up until the busy October-November I had. In any case, I will do my best with my next goal of 70. I haven’t raised it the last couple of years, but I think it’s time that I should.

Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher

I would consider myself a romantic. Perhaps more practical and analytical than some others, but one none the less. This is not the first book I have read on the scientific and anthropological reasoning behind romance, love, and sex.

I quite enjoy anthropology and social science books. Indeed, I did some of my graduate work on social epidemiology. This book is a bit outdated as it was published in 2004, and in the world of science, it’s not news. There is a lot of interesting information about the science of our brains when we are in love or when we are rejected in love.

The author has an easy and understandable style. She uses a lot of literary quotations and examples which other bibliophiles would appreciate. It’s not a self-help book by any means, but from the studies, the author and the reader does consider how to best deal with a heartbreak and try again.

For those with an interest in romance from an anthropological and sociological perspective, I’d recommend this book.

Read Dec 1-2, 2013.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Another captivating novel from Neil Gaiman. I think my favourite Gaiman work will always be the Sandman series, but I do love his novels. I continue to love them more and more. As a novelist and following his career over the last decade, I feel his writing has improved.

This novel was dark and twisty similar to his recent works such as Coraline and The Graveyard Book. There is always a theme of children and adults, growing up and magic. There is a deep theme in this book and others about the thin line between children and adult and who we are really.

He’s improved more and more as a writer. His writing has become more beautiful over time, and definitely one of my new favourite novels of his.

I think Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli could make a great adaptation of this work. I can dream.

Read October 6, 2013.

Make Good Art

This is little booklet is a speech Gaiman delivered at the University of Philadelphia in 2012. It’s been designed by a graphic artist so there is a strong visual element. I found the speech quite inspirational and it reminded me of things I’ve been thinking about. While it focuses on art specifically, you can apply some of the principles to every day life. I am considering getting it for my best friend who is an artist and would appreciate the speech.

Read October 6, 2013.

The Darcys and the Bingleys by Marsha Altman

It’s rather funny that there is an actual a niche fanfiction industry from Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read a few of these novels now, and even more so, fanfiction. I saw this come up on my GR and I thought, why not?

This novel is, in fandom words, mostly fluff. It’s many happy moments between the two families. Lots of people being happily married after. The “Darcy is a cheap drunk” trope is employed and there are babies. New characters are introduced toward the end with a plot with a Scottish tint, but most of this story is happy Darcy times.

As far as published fanfiction goes, it was alright. It had cute moments and most of the canon characters were in tact. I did find issue with some anachronisms and the original characters. Also, the second half of the novel focussed a lot on Miss Bingley, one of my least preferred supporting characters.

There are sequels, but my library does not have them. It was a nice P&P sequel, but I don’t think I would commit to it as a series.

Read September 21-30 2013.

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite graphic novel authors. I have read Sandman and 1604. When I found out, he wrote a Batman novel, I knew I had to try to read it.

I grew up watching “Batman: The Animated Series” and the DC Animated Universe. I am very fond of “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited”. As a result, Batman is one of my favourite fictional characters, and my Batman will always be Kevin Conroy’s. I have read some of the Batman popular novels, but I have never been a true comic book reader.

This review is mostly about things that aren’t this graphic novel. There is not much to say about it really. It’s not bad, but it’s the kind of work you have to read for yourself.

This is a “last” Batman story. There won’t ever be one of those really, but it’s an interpretative work about the life and legacy of the Batman. I liked some of the moments and it was metaphorical at times. I think some true Batman fans will understand appreciate the sentiment behind it.

Not an essential Gaiman work, but interesting Batman appreciators.

Read September 21 2013.

Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer

Well, this was a bit of an annoying read. I started this novel a awhile ago, but then it languished. I always have a problem finishing a book if I don’t consistently work on it in a couple of sittings.

In a rare Heyer situation, I did not like the female protagonist of this novel and I grew to dislike the hero too.I found her impertinent, proud, and arrogant. Even when she was shown a softer side, the first impression the reader gets of her is a beautiful tease. She even takes it to the next level by manipulating more than one man in this novel. I did not understand her plan to revenge herself on Ravenscar. It just seemed way over the top even for Heyer.

I did not like the pairing. Deborah and Ravenscar hate each other at the beginning and they play a dangerous game with each other. I know this is a romance novel and all’s well that ends well, but it’s a bit uncomfortable to read how much they treat each other in the beginning. They keep proclaiming how much they hate each other; it’s not really enjoyable watching them avenge themselves.

It is often fun in romances when there tension and two different (or similar rather) people meet and dislike each other. These two just play one game too many. I don’t find such duplicity romantic especially when they are playing with someone else’s affection.

All in all, one of my least favourite Heyer novels even though I think the supporting characters are mildly amusing. Now I need to read another book quickly to get over it.

Read September 12-21 2013.

Naked by David Sedaris

I prefer listening to Sedaris, but I could not track down the audiobook for this at the library. Now that I’ve read most of his collected works, I do think I prefer the later ones. This one was still good and it made me fascinated again with the character of Sedaris’s mother Sharon.

A lot of Sedaris’s stories are really strange, but I feel they are stranger than fiction. It’s hard to make some of this up, and I can see some weird and nasty side of people when reading these stories.

I would not recommend Sedaris for everyone. Actually, I am becoming less snarky as I get older it seems. I am still amused by his way of looking at the world and in the later stories, he is quite genial and mellow compared to the younger version of himself.

Still think he is a unique humorist and a good reader to boot.

Read September 8-9th 2013.