2014 – A Year in Review

fireworksHere we are again, at the end of another year! As today is the last day of 2014, it’s time for my annual “Year in Review” post.

As of the writing of this post I’ve finished reading 182 books. 13 of those books were ones I read with my 7 month-old niece, so for argument’s sake let’s say 169. My starting goal was to read 130 books, so I’m counting 2014’s reading challenge as a completed success! That means adding another ten books to next year’s challenge for a total of 140 books! (Here’s to hoping I make it!)

And now the difficult part…picking my top ten reads of 2014!

  1. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
  3. Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers
  4. Romancing the Duke/Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
  5. Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid (Really, the entire Knitting in the City series)
  6. The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
  7. Cinder/Scarlet/Cress by Marissa Meyer
  8. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
  9. Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
  10. Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell

With the amount of books I read in a year, choosing a top 10 seems stupid. With that said, here are all my runners-up (in no particular order)!

Ok readers, I’m passing the torch to you. What did you read this year? Any books or authors that stand out? Share them below! Enjoy the rest of your New Year’s Eve! See you in 2015!

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Kim and Sam’s Review of Landline by Rainbow Rowell

lrrSo if you haven’t heard of Rainbow Rowell yet, let staffer Sam and I gush over her for you. She’s an author who writes both Adult and Teen contemporary fiction. She champions the people whose voices aren’t always heard. The voices of the different. The small. The people who sometimes need a push in the right direction. Her stories take you on emotional journeys that irrevocably change you (you can read my gushing reviews of her teen novels Eleanor and Park here and Fangirl here.) Today, Sam and I are discussing her latest adult venture, Landline.

From Goodreads:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Sam: I must start by saying that I have yet to meet a Rainbow Rowell book that I didn’t like (thanks to Kim). That said, there was something about Landline that was EXTRA awesome. What I liked most is that Rowell used her YA formula with a married couple on the brink of big changes and decisions. I found Neal and Georgie more than relatable, they were parts of myself in a way I haven’t seen in a book. Not for a long time at least.

Kim: I think what made this book SO special for us, Sam, is that we’re married, and have been with our partners for several years. So we immediately could relate to the ups and downs of Neal and Georgie’s marriage.

Anyone that’s been in a long-term (read: very long) relationship will tell you that at some point you feel comfortable with your partner. That honeymoon period doesn’t necessarily end, but it evens out. There isn’t a crazy mad dash to spend every second of your day with your other half. You feel comfortable in silences. You can wear your sweats and yoga pants with them. Your love becomes more than that immediate infatuation present with new love. However what keeps a marriage together is making sure that comfort doesn’t become laziness.

For Neal and Georgie their marriage has become a bit TOO comfortable. They don’t talk about their hopes and dreams and wishes anymore. It’s become a focus almost solely on Georgie’s hopes and dreams and wishes. When Neal takes the kids to Nebraska for the holidays and leaves her behind, she is finally faced with what her life would be/could be without them. And when her old landline gives her the opportunity to talk to a young version of Neal, she finds that the person she swore the rest of her life to might be the one with all the answers.

Sam: I think that Young Neal in particular is such an interesting character because to me he represents  a typical 18-year-old faced with the dilemma: “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” So, here is this kid from Nebraska who sets off for the West Coast to study marine life because he has never seen the ocean. (There is something poetic about going too far away to study something so “romantic.”) Then he hates it. Because at 18 who knows what they want to do? BUT he meets this girl. And maybe he doesn’t know who he wants to be, but he knows who he wants to be with. THEN their relationship gets so comfortable that they marry , have children, and still he’s never figured himself out, so he stays home. He falls into the homemaker role, becomes the center of his kids’ universe, a universe that Georgie admits is hard to be part of. I do appreciate that by the simple fact that Present Neal LOVES his kids, he ends up doing exactly what he wants.

Kim: I totally agree with you! Young Neal puts all his faith for his future into his love for Georgie. It doesn’t matter to him early on that he’s unsure of his future. His future IS Georgie, and that’s enough for him. I can seriously relate to Young Neal because when I met my husband I was just like Young Neal. Sure I had dreams for my future, but everything got completely reworked once he entered the picture.

This is another thing married people would probably agree with us on. As important as your dreams and future hopes are – finding a way for your partner to be part of them will always matter more. In this we see how selfish Georgie is/has become. Present Neal is a homemaker so that Georgie can see her dreams come true. But what dreams does Georgie ever help Present Neal accomplish?

Sam: Yes. I agree, though I think the subtlety is that she never helps him uncover a dream. In many ways he’s still lost because his world is so wrapped up in hers. What’s worse: a dream never accomplished or one never found?

Kim: Damn. Good question.

Sam: Then there’s Georgie. She’s been able to pursue every dream she’s ever had and she’s found success in it. With her best (awful) friend, Seth, they have found success in the TV comedy writing world. What I like about Georgie’s relationship with Seth is that you can tell it’s hard. I liked seeing Georgie struggle with him because it amplified the feeling that her moments on the phone with Young Neal were easy.

Kim: UGH Seth. I have SO many thoughts on him.

Sam: I try not to.

Kim: HAHA! My first thought is, “how blind is Georgie that she can’t see that Seth doesn’t have her best interests at heart?” Like HOW can you consistently call someone your best friend who doesn’t care that your marriage is ending? Like Georgie tells Seth that Neal has gone to Nebraska with their kids and he sees her falling apart a little more each day without them. All Seth cares about is writing their show.

At what point do you ask yourself is my dream worth my best friend’s downfall?

Sam: My blood is boiling just reading that. He’s not a good person and his influence on her is sad. He knows how to manipulate her. The way he speaks to and about her is alarming and the fact that she can’t see it despite the lovely things that Neal says and does and draws is baffling.

Kim: Completely agree. Present (and Young) Neal is a complete foil to Seth. Seth provides Georgie with NOTHING that she needs. Neal, on the other hand, is unconditional in everything he offers her. It’s heartbreaking to see how blind Georgie has become to that.

Sam: My heart hurt when Neal’s late dad picked up the phone that first time. How wonderful to get a moment with someone after you thought there wouldn’t be another. I think it’s amazing that Georgie was the one to hear his voice an extra time because it’s that reminder that sometimes the last time you see someone, or talk to them, or tell them you love them is the last time.

Kim: SUCH A GOOD POINT. Georgie takes her comfortable marriage and her comfortable husband for granted. Something I’m sure we’ve all done to a loved one at some point. Talking to her deceased father-in-law is one of those “come to Jesus” moments that really makes Georgie evaluate her present path.

I also think that seeing her younger sister falling in love for the first time with the pizza delivery person is another “come to Jesus” moment. To realize that love can be fleeting and to grasp it when you’re luckily given the chance to….well it all helps Georgie realize how important and necessary Neal is in her life.

Sam: So the pizza delivery person might be the most badass and swoonworthy character in the book (not counting Neal…of course.) Side note: I LOVE the expression “come to Jesus” and will now use it at least twice this month. Double side note: I would really LOVE to read a whole book about sister and said delivery person…

Kim: LOL to your first side note. And YES YES YES YES to your second.

Dear Rainbow,

Sam and I would REALLY love for you write that story. Like omg please do it.

Love,

Kim & Sam

Sam: *whispers* This is where you have your “come to Jesus” moment.

Kim: In the end what makes this story so amazing is its bottom line: True love always offers you a chance at redemption.

Sam: That and the fact that it is so damn magical. To truly rediscover all of the best parts, maybe long forgotten parts, of your person is such a beautiful idea. After reading Landline my eyes were open once again to the amazing, loving, sweet person that I get to spend every day with. That’s a gift. Thanks for the magic, Rainbow Rowell.

Kim’s Rating: All the stars in the universe for this book.

Sam’s Rating: What Kim said.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Press (2014)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781250049377

Where You Been!?

Hello dear blog friends! (If there are any of you still reading this.)

I owe you all a serious apology for the dismal amount of posting that has (not) been occurring on the blog. Since I’ve become a bookseller with a non-traditional work schedule I seem to be trying to spend as much time (as this odd schedule allows) as I can with my darling hubby, friends, and family. Having your working hours occur while everyone else is free leads to missing everyone. And the free time I have while everyone else is working? Well I’ve been spending it on my deck, reading.

So let me give you a quick synopsis of what I’ve been reading/doing, what you should be reading, and what you can expect from the blog going forward.

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Charlotte, Four hours old

First and foremost I have to share my news! On May 1st I finally became an aunt! My niece Charlotte is the darling of my world. I love her to pieces. And having story time with her every time I babysit? The highlight of my life. She is super alert and listens to all the stories I share with her. What are we reading? Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, LOADS of Dr. Seuss, Jane Austen primer books, and Bill Martin Jr’s Brown Bear & Friends series among other things. I like to believe that I’ll be solely responsible for turning her into a bookworm as she continues to grow.

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Charlotte, 10 Weeks Old

Speaking of growing – holy crap has she grown a lot in two months. The picture to the left is Charlotte at four hours old. The picture on the right was taken during story time this past Wednesday.

I barely got any reading done in May, but I can happily say that I ROCKED it out of the park in June. My YTD total (as of today) is 80 out of 130 reads for the year. I am way behind on writing reviews for all of you, but want to give you a quick synopsis of some of my recommendations.

In the “should read” column:

  1. LANDLINE BY RAINBOW ROWELL – holy crap read it read it read it read it read it. Staffer Sam and I are working on a joint review for this one. Let’s just say there was lots of texting back and forth about how fabulous this book was (as if it could ever have been bad.)
  2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – 3 out of the 4 books in the series have been published. They are fairy tales retold with a science fiction/fantasy flare. Book one, Cinder, is Cinderella. Book two, Scarlet, is Little Red Riding Hood. Book three, Cress, is Rapunzel. And book four, Winter, is about Snow White. The series is fantastic, especially for fans of fairy tales. Sam and I are working on a series spotlight post for the Chronicles, so keep an eye out.
  3. Summer Rain – An anthology featuring authors Ruthie Knox, Mary Ann Rivers, Charlotte Stein, Molly O’Keefe, and more! All of the proceeds for the book go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). It’s filled with (mostly) fantastic contemporary romances.
  4. Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell – If you’re in the mood for a mystery, look no further! Maxwell’s got a brand new series that takes place during the Gilded Age, set at the beautiful Newport Mansions.  As a kid my family would vacation for a week each summer in Cape Cod. Halfway between my childhood home and the Cape were the Newport Mansions. Reading a mystery series that revolves around said mansions is brilliant!!!
  5. And on the historical fiction front, I highly recommend The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway! It’s a great time traveling story that weaves in an epic romance. Ridgway’s debut novel is proof she’ll be around in the literary world for a while.

Though I haven’t written posts for my blog, I’ve written some posts that appear elsewhere! Reading BFF Kelly from Reading With Analysis and I reviewed the first book in Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series, The Chocolate Thief. I also did some more reviews over at Austenprose  – the first was for a fabulous paranormal what-if version of Pride and Prejudice by KaraLynne Mackrory. In Haunting Mr. Darcy an accident places Elizabeth in a coma, with her ghost appearing (and haunting) Darcy in his  London home. He has to figure out how to join her mind and body together again. It really was a great book. You can read my review here. The other review was for a contemporary/new adult version of P&P entitled Pride’s Prejudice by Misty Dawn Pulsipher. There were a bunch of editing issues with the book that threw me off for a bit, but ultimately something about the story captured me. My review for that is here.

Keep an eye out for posts from me in the near future. I’m hoping that in the next two weeks I can get finish the plethora of reviews I’ve started. In closing, let me know what you’ve been reading. Have you read anything I mentioned above? What do you think I should be reading? I hope you have all been enjoying your summers and getting in lots of reading time.

As always, happy reading!