Best of 2013: My Favorites

Best Books of 2013

The new year is almost here. Why not start it off with a book list?

This list includes books that I read this past year and that impressed me in some way. There were others that I loved for different reasons, but for whatever reason, I did not include them here. It’s funny what ends up on your list after you’ve had a year to think about it. The real surprise here? The short story collection and that a memoir made the list.

Here’s my list in no particular order:

Life Itself by Roger
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
After Her by Joyce Maynard
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
This Cake is For the Party by Sarah Selecky
Panorama City by Antoine Wilson
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all. Here’s to another year of reading!

Books Reviewed in 2013

This is a list of the books read in 2013. Links take you to the my review of the book.

1. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
2. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
4. The Shining (audio) by Stephen King
5. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
6. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
7. The Adults by Alison Espach
8. The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories – Volume 2, by Jospeh Gordon-Levitt
9. The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
10.  The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver
11. This Cake is For the Party by Sarah Selecky
12. Carrie (audio) by Stephen King, Read by Sissy Spacek
13. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
14. In Between Days by Andrew Porter
15. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
16. Panorama City by Antoine Wilson
17. Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt
18. More Than You Know by Nan Rossiter
19. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
20. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
21. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
22. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
23. In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve
24. He’s Gone by Deb Caletti
25. Benediction by Kent Haruf
26. Joyland by Stephen King
27. Life Itself by Roger Ebert
28. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
29. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
30. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
31. The Slippage by Ben Greenman
32. Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
33. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
34. The Never List by Koethi Zan
35. The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan
36. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly
37. Bait by J. Kent Messum
38. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
39. The Asylum by John Harwood
40. After Her by Joyce Maynard
41. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
42. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
43. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
44. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
45. Cartwheel by Jennifer du Bois
46. This House is Haunted by John Boyne
47. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
48. World War Z by Max Brooks
49. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
50. The Abominable by Dan Simmons

Review: The Abominable

The Abominable

The Abominable
By Dan Simmons
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316198837, October 2013, 672pp.)

The Short of It:

Armchair travelers, rejoice. The Abominable has it all, adventure, mayhem and a little bit of mystery.

The Rest of It:

A group of mountain climbers, hired by Lady Bromley head to Mount Everest in 1925 to find her son who never made it back from his trip to the summit the year before. Jean-Claude, Jake and Richard are hand chosen for their skills but when Regina “Reggie” Bromley-Montfort is foisted upon them as part of the expedition, the men aren’t sure what to think. The summit is not place for a woman and Richard makes his feelings known, but the funding for the trip is dependent upon her inclusion so the men adjust accordingly.

Turns out, Reggie is quite skilled, as is her escort Dr. Pasang. Not to mention her dealings with the Tibetan government which enable them to make the climb in the first place. Grudgingly, the other men accept her, but what they don’t realize is that there is a reason why Lord Percival went missing and when they find out, they are at the top of the summit and it’s too late to turn back.

If you’ve never read Simmons before, you really must. His knack for research and his ability to fictionalize just about anything is what makes me eager to pick-up his books as soon as they come out. He’s an AMAZING storyteller and with this one, I really felt as if I was up there on the summit, using my ice axe and tying off ropes with the best of them. The story is epic and a chunkster at that. At over 650 pages, you are asked to suspend your disbelief for quite a long time, and I did so willingly until the very last pages.

I won’t lie, the title, the blurb and the marketing of the book in general lead the reader to believe that it’s about one thing, but hundreds of pages in you realize that it’s not what you think. After reading another book by him, The Terror, I believed I knew the path this story was taking, but I was way off. At first, this angered the heck out of me. But after finishing the book, I do believe that the path the story took was even more horrifying than what I first expected.

In the end, I ended up liking the book quite a bit. It plucked me right out of reality (what I so badly needed at the time) and took me on an adventure like no other. There is a lot of technical jargon relating to climbing, but having no experience in climbing myself, I had no trouble picking up the terminology.

If you read to escape and like to travel from your armchair every now and then, you’ll appreciate this one. Grab a blanket though because this one left me literally freezing with its sub-zero temps and unpredictable weather. It’s THAT realistic.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sunday Salon: Are You Ready for 2014?

Sunday Salon

It’s taken me until now to realize that it’s Sunday. My clock is off. Always happens when I am off for a long period of time! Well, the day started off lovely but now The Girl is tossing her cookies. I knew something was up after she got up two times last night. She never gets up and when she did, not once, but twice, the first thing I said to The Hub was, “God, I hope she’s not sick.” Oh well! She’s perky. No fever. I have her camped out on the couch right now, just to be safe.

We didn’t have plans today anyway. In fact, my plan for the entire week is to just camp out here, but the kids might have something to say about that. Both the kids and Hub cannot lie low for any length of time. They get antsy. Me? I could hole up on the couch for days on end. Just throw some snacks at me every now and then, maybe some iced tea to go with them and I am good to go.

By the way, it’s like summer here. So Cal can be very unpredictable this time of year. We have a wind warning and man, is it windy! But it’s warm and sunny and so NOT like December. My Christmas stuff is still up and will be until after the new year. Speaking of which, The Teen is going to a New Year’s Eve party at the church he attends. Yes, he attends a different one than we do. Long Story I think we plan to order Chinese food and just hang out at home. New Year’s day will be spent at home as well.

Are you ready for the new year? I enjoy a fresh start and have already cleared out some clutter from the year. Also, between you and me, I really like the even years. I am hoping 2014 is a good year. I’d like to spend more time as a family and not be so stressed from extra-curricular activities and all the back and forth that goes with them. I’d like certain members of the household to be a little more responsible when it comes to schedules. YOU know who you are.

What am I reading?

I took a year off from book club and have been thinking about attending again. The book for this Thursday’s meeting is Canada by Richard Ford. I’ve never read him before but I started Canada yesterday and I am about 60% done. I am enjoying it but the last chunk is not as enjoyable as the first half.

I got my Goodreads year-end report the other day and noticed the numbers were off so then I had to go through alllll of my reviews to see which ones I forgot to add. I HATE that. Now my stats report is off for the year. What can you do? My numbers were down anyway. I hope this year will be a better year for reading. I just wasn’t into reading this past year. Funny, coming from a book blogger.

What am I cooking?

The weather is like summer so we will be grilling these ginormous steaks I picked up. And to go with them? Nothing less than ginormous baked potatoes and buttered green beans. I’ll be careful eating the potato. By the way, my throat is feeling much better. Not sure if The Girl will be able to eat but I’ll fix some soup for her if she can’t.

What am I watching?

We’ve been watching a lot of movies. Mostly, stuff we have on Netflix. We saw The Great Outdoors and Only You (Robert Downey Jr. version) last night. Oh, we also saw Death Becomes Her. Remember that one? It’s so old. I’d like to see a drama tonight but The Girl is all about comedy and rarely lets us see a drama. I’d also be okay watching back-to-back episodes of The Wonder Years. I love that show.

What are you doing today?

The Hot Potato Incident

Did you make it through the holidays okay? I’ve been enjoying all of the updates on Facebook and Instagram and replying when I can to blog posts. From the looks of it, everyone had a pretty good Christmas.

Our Christmas was very nice. We started off with that trip to Disneyland which put me in just the right mood. I needed it. Christmas Eve at the in-laws was very mellow and laid back and Christmas dinner at the 94th Aero Squadron was perfect.

We even managed to see Saving Mr. Banks and if you know anything about me, you know how I detest the movie experience these days. Cell phones and talking drive me nuts and sure enough, a group of teens almost ruined the entire thing until MY teen went over and told them to shut the heck up! That’s right! On Christmas, my teen told those girls off. Surprisingly, they left! Everyone was thrilled. Merry Christmas moviegoers.

By the way, the movie was very good. A little sad, but good.

The only thing that has plagued me since Christmas Eve is the damned hot potato I ate. With the lupus and the food allergies and all, my esophagus is a mess already but a bite of hot potato, that was as hot as say…lava, burned the hell out of my throat and my throat has been swollen ever since. If it wasn’t better by today, I was going to go to the ENT but it seems to be a little better today. Oddly enough, the only thing that distracted me from the pain was cleaning.

Books

So, I have been cleaning. I organized by bookshelves although from this pic, it sure looks as if I am not finished with them. They were horrendous before. I cleaned out drawers and cupboards and tackled The Girl’s room. What a mess! I cleaned out the garage and went shopping for food. I’m set, at least for a few days.

Now that all that pesky stuff is out of the way, my focus is reading. I asked everyone on Facebook if I should take a break or start another book and they told me to start another. Unfortunately, the one I chose was all over the place but a quick read. Now I am wondering what to pick up next. Probably the book my book club is reading right now, Canada by Richard Ford.

Are you reading right now, or just catching up on TV shows and movies? Did you have a nice Christmas? What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? WE are staying in but The Teen is going to a dance at the church. I am perfectly happy with my cozy couch and a good movie.

Merry Christmas to You!

Merry Christmas 2013

Happiness, to you and yours! May your Christmas be filled with the magic of the season.

The Sunday Salon: Christmas Countdown

Hello! My vacation started one day earlier than planned due to a surprise campus closure so I have been off since Thursday. Sigh. Which was great because I had to spend half of the day getting a new phone. I work in IT but when it comes to your own phone, you like things a certain way and I needed to spend time on the process which I just did not feel like doing on my vacation. But, I had no choice and finally got it taken care of. I ended up with a Moto X, in case you were wondering.

Small World

It was nice to have that extra day because the very next day, we headed to Disneyland! Disneyland at Christmas is just the most magical thing ever. The lights, the sounds, the food and smells. I love it. The weather was mild and the crowds weren’t bad. We waited fifteen minutes for most rides and that’s amazing since most rides average an hour or more at this time of year. It was an amazing day, but after nearly fourteen hours, The Teen fell ill. He could not wait another second to begin the trip home so we left and he’s been down for two days now with a horrible cough.

Tonight, we are doing our annual Christmas light tour with friends but I don’t think The Teen will be able to make it. He’s still asleep but we’ll see how he is feeling. I am making cookies for the trip and then somewhere along the way we hit the coffee shop for holiday drinks. We drive around, look at the neighborhood lights and listen to holiday tunes. It’s fun. We have been doing it for over fifteen years if you can believe it.

Tomorrow we are hitting the Christmas Eve service (a day early) and then we’ll spend Christmas Eve with my in-laws. Christmas day, we have reservations for Christmas dinner. This restaurant is on an air field so you get to watch the planes take off. It’s fun. The kids love it, as do I. No cooking and no cleaning! My present to myself.

Sunday Salon

What am I reading?

Not a thing at the moment. I might just call it a year with this last book I read.

What am I cooking?

Just cookies today. I am making Snickerdoodles, gigantic Ginger cookies and Coconut Macaroons dipped in dark chocolate. The Snickerdoodle recipe is new but the other two are the BEST cookie recipes ever. They come out just like the picture and everyone always asks for them. Try them!

What am I watching?

We watched Christmas with the Kranks last night, along with the I Love Lucy Christmas Special that aired on CBS last Friday. It was a little strange and creepy to see Lucy in color. I still need to see Frosty, A Family Stone and a host of other shows/movies but I’m getting there.

What are you doing today? What do you have planned next week?

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