Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Book Reads of 2012



During 2012, I started something new to me … I began tracking all of my reading on “goodreads.com” and I TRIED to discipline myself to write a review (or at least jot down a few words) on each book I read.  (Goodreads is basically a social networking site for Book Nerds like me, with the added benefit of book reviews, author blogs and reader commentaries thrown into the mix.)  Now, let me be really clear … this is all my “guilty pleasure” reading.  You will find no biographies or social commentaries or business books here.  No, these are mainly Young Adult books, most with a supernatural or “paranormal” element to them.  I’ve been onto that reading track for a while now, and I am still enjoying it.  I think some of the best new fiction work is coming from Young Adult authors.  And yes, there is a lot of drivel there, too, but that is one reason I have enjoyed “Goodreads” so much.  It didn’t take long to find other readers with my same interests, and we compare notes and recommend reads and “don’t-reads” and it’s nice to have someone to talk to about my latest book obsessions.  :-)
So … Goodreads says I read 66 books in 2012.  I think that will go to 67 or 68 by the actual end of the year, as I am off work and we are in the midst of our second snow-storm this week.  (The weather has put a damper on our plans to visit some folks, but makes for GREAT reading prospects.)  But let’s go with the 66 for now … that works out to just over one and a quarter books per week.  44 of those were audiobooks, 20 were on my Kindle and 2 were, well, actual ink and paper books.  For the most part, I download audiobooks from “audible.com,” which has an iTunes interface, sync them to my iPod, and listen to them during my commute to and from work.  They make that drive go a whole lot better!
I couldn’t manage a “top 10” this year … I got it down to “top 15.”  It was also really hard to settle on any sort of order … I tend to be most excited about whatever I read last, and “best written” often does not equate to “best loved.”  Without further ado, here are my favorites read in 2012:

Top 5 (with links to either the Goodreads descriptions or my reviews, if I wrote one):

1)      Poison Princess by Kresley Cole:  Well, this one is just a love affair for me.  Maybe a fling, maybe a long-term romance, only time will tell.  It was not, by any stretch, the best written book I read this year.  But I loved it most.  Tarot cards.  Apocalypse.  Cajun boy with a rap sheet and a single-minded obsession with a girl.  Jackson wins my “Best Male Lead” award against some stunning competition.
2)      Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta:  Beautiful story, beautiful writing.  An epic quest about a boy becoming a man, his relationship with his father, the kingdom they are fighting to restore, and a girl.  :-)  (Always, a girl.)
3)      City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare:  If you have read any of Clare’s books, then you know why this one is here.  She breaks my heart, every single time, and is one of the best writers publishing in Young Adult fiction today.  This is Book 5 of 6 in her "Mortal Instruments" series.  I’m not sure I will live through reading #6 when it is released.  Book 1 (“City of Bones”) is scheduled to come out next August as a movie. 
4)      Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor:  This book got a lot of press this year for its lyrical writing, and it was well-deserved.  Every word of this book was lovingly selected, every line crafted for maximum effect.  This is a story that engages all of the senses, and the writing projects every scene in vivid color.  A fantastic tale of family, of love in the midst of war, with beautiful Prague as one of the backdrops. 
5)      Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers:  Two words:  Assassin.  Nuns.  Honestly, best historical read in years.  High action.  Lots of poison.  :-)  WAR!!!  A kingdom to save, plots to unravel, people to kill.  And Death starring as “Dad.”  Loved it!

The Best of the Rest (in no real order):

1)      Hallowed by Cynthia Hand:  Love this series.  Hand is a college professor, and her writing is beautiful yet so smart, and the important bits keep sneaking up on me.  She has written a fabulous love triangle in the midst of an amazing story, and I sure can’t choose the winner.  “Hallowed” is Book 2 of a trilogy … Book 3 is out in January 2013, and is at the top of my “I want it NOW” list.
2)      Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare:  From Clare’s “The Infernal Devices,” which is the “prequel” series to “The Mortal Instruments,” which includes all of the “City” books (see the list above.)  TID is set in 19th century London, and Jem and Will are “Best Bromance” winners.  Bring tissues for this one.  Book 2 of 3.  Pretty sure I won’t live through the angst in Book #3.
3)      The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:  You saw the movie.  Enough said!
4)      Third Grave Dead Ahead and Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones:  Ok, I cheated and snuck two in here, but hey, it’s a series.  Read them both.  Laugh out loud and don’t mind people looking at you funny.  Laugh right up until you suck in a breath and realize that the rubber just got introduced to the road.  These audiobooks are fabulously narrated.
5)      Pure and Deity by Jennifer L. Armentrout:  Again with the two, I know.  But have you READ Armentrout?  She has a couple of very popular series going, and she is really making a name for herself in the YA genre.  I like all of her writing, but the “Covenant” Series (these are books #2 and #3) has really captivated me.  GREAT mythology (gods and demi-gods and whatnot), beautifully drawn characters, awesome plot tension.  I can’t wait to see how this series ends … two books to go.
6)      The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead:  Mead is largely responsible for my YA reading habit.  Read “The Vampire Academy” series (6 books) and then read the “Bloodlines” series (of which this is book 2.)  And then we’ll talk.  :-)  I didn't think she could do a worthy follow-up to the VA series, but she is blowing me away with the "Bloodlines" books.  Sydney has earned her spot.   
7)      Rift by Andrea Cremer:  More with the historical setting and the war and the REALLY EVIL MAN.  I was not happy with the way Cremer’s oh-so-promising “Nightshade” series ended, but she redeemed herself here.  Book one of a series … book two will be out early in 2013. 
8)      Starling by Lesley Livingston:  This book was a fabulous surprise.  Norse mythology.  Set in an elite private school in modern-day New York City.  With sword fights.  I’m dying to read the next book!
9)      Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris:  Also a fabulous surprise.  Did you ever watch the old television show “Roswell”?  Well, this is a cross between that, “X-Files” and “24.”  The author did a great job of maintaining the narrative tension, and the plot twists in this were awesome.
10)   Angel Fire by L.A. Weatherly:  This series hasn’t gotten nearly enough notice, in my humble opinion.   I loved Book #1 (“Angel Burn”) and Book #2 was an awesome follow-up.  Make with the mayhem!  Bring on the (gorgeous, sweet, devoted) half-angel boy!  As with the first book, this is a wild ride right to the end.  I can’t wait to see how Weatherly wraps it all up in Book #3 (out late in 2013.)  


So, if you’ve held on this long, that’s my list.  Have you read any of these?  I would LOVE to talk about them!  :-)  And one of my favorite things in the world is to set up a day of scrapbooking while listening to a great audiobook.  That’s my idea of a first-class vacation!  I hope your 2013 is truly blessed and filled with all of the things you love most!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More fun in "Wonderland"



These layouts were part of my project in Tennessee, and use CTMH's "Wonderland" paper pack.  The bottom layout also uses the Wonderland My Stickease Assortment.  I love those snowflakes!

The top layout is the "alternate" pattern from the Wonderland Workshop on the Go (WOTG) kit.  In the top corner of the left page, there are Foundry Pin Clips (Z1612), and the round ends are inset with Clear Sparkles (Z1104).  I love the "mug" stamps, which are part of the WOTG kit.  They make me want a cup of hot chocolate!

Winter Wonderland!



These two layouts use the "Wonderland" paper pack from Close to My Heart's Autumn/Winter 2011 Idea Book.  The top layout is modeled off of art pictured on pg. 58 of the idea book (the pattern is called "Powerful Trio" from the how-to book "Imagine.")  The original pattern only had three pictures on the right page, and I added a second row.

In the bottom layout, I used CTMH's Cricut cartridge, "Art Philosophy," to cut out the letters.  I blinged them up a bit using our "Bitty Sparkles" (Z1263).  The chocolate color almost makes winter look warm!

More "Believe"ing



These two layouts also use the "Believe" paper pack, and the patterns are from the Believe "Workshop on the Go" (WOTG) kit.  The layouts use the Mini-Medley Accents Olive Collection (Z1489) and the Dimensional Elements Stars (Z1680).  I used our Watercolor Pencils (3505) to color the stamped images.  The stamp set came with the WOTG kit.  I really love the way these turned out!

I Believe!



While we were in Tennessee, I was working on Christmas layouts.  These use the "Believe" paper pack from Close to My Heart's Autumn/Winter 2011 Idea Book.  They are very fun, even a bit whimsical.  The blue felt pocket on the top right page is called a "Holiday Pocket," and the card insert has room for hidden journaling. 

Scrappin' Sisters!



The girls and I were in Knoxville, TN for a crop on March 29-April 1, and we had such a good time.  We also debuted our new t-shirts!  (Thanks girls!)  The front says "Scrappin' Sisters" and has our name, and the back is pictured above.  LOVE these (and you will note that my shirt matches my pants!)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Last "Cruise" of the Day ...

(See the two "Cruisin'" posts below ...)

The first two layouts that I made with the Cruisin' paper packet were from the Workshops on the Go Cruisin' Kit (G1039). I love the Bottle Caps (Z1691)! Very fun! The stamped images are made using the stamp set in the WOTG kit.

Layout 1:


This layout is from the WOTG instructional brochure.

Layout 2:


This layout is from CTMH's how-to book, "Magic." It is called "Enchantment," on pg. 78.

This is a beautiful paper packet! I really love it. These layouts are going in my 3-year old nephew's scrapbook. Layout 1 will hold pictures from a car show, and Layout 2 will hold pictures of my nephew and his daddy playing with their toys cars. :-)