2012 – A Year in Review

fireworksAnd with it being  January 1st, 2013 we can officially end 2012 and all its reading goals.  I’m very happy to say that I have succeeded in reading my 110 books for the year and exceeded that goal by a whopping 74 books!  With the success of this year I’ll up my reading goal again for 2013.  Keep an eye out for my annual New Year, New Challenges post for a breakdown of what I’m looking to accomplish.

2012 has definitely been a year of eclectic reading for me.  It’s difficult to pick my favorite books of the year since I read so many, but here is my best go:

  1. The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
  2. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
  3. Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander
  4. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
  5. The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
  7. The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
  8. Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer
  9. In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener/The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
  10. Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Damn. That was difficult.

My reading challenges wrap up is as follows: I once again blew through the Historical Fiction challenge (woot woot!).  I also succeeded in my first year participating in the Around the Stack challenge!  Now for the bad parts. The TBR challenge and the Audio challenge both got only one completed review each out of me.  I know I failed the audio challenge because of 1Q84 (AH SO LONG), plus my addiction of reading newer books killed any hope I had of finishing the TBR challenge.  A 50% completion rate for the challenges isn’t terrible, but I’d still liked to have completed 100%.

Even though it’s 2013 I still have some books to review that I finished in 2012, so keep an eye out for them.  You can also see a listing of EVERYTHING I read this year, including review links, here.

Well, there you go folks.  My 2012 year in review.  Enjoy the rest of your New Year’s and join me again tomorrow as we kick off a new year and new challenges!

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The October Round Up!

I can’t believe it’s time to write yet another round up post.  October wasn’t super packed with stuff, so I got a lot of good reading time in.  The highlight of the month though was definitely heading to my favorite bookstore, R.J. Julia, and seeing Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis discuss their newest book Invisible Murder.  The book is the second in their Nina Borg chronicles, the first being The Boy in the Suitcase (which I reviewed here).  Hearing them discuss the research that went into the book, their travels through Hungary, and the tragic stories of what life is like in Hungary for gypsies was harrowing.  I’m excited that I have some background on the real life instances that parts of the book are based on.  It’ll only add that much more to my reading of it.

Me and two of my best friends Kate & Ashley!

We also participated in our second read-a-thon of the year!  Todd and I made it through an hour longer than our first read-a-thon and completed more books as well. We considered it a success and are already looking forward to the next one in the spring.

Besides the read-a-thon our month was spent celebrating our birthdays and Halloween!  Our birthday celebration consisted of Todd, me, and 12 of our friends hitting up downtown New Haven for pizza and beers.  Following dinner we took the group saki bombing!  Those unfamiliar with the term – you take a glass and fill it about halfway with beer (preferably Japanese beer) and then balance a shot of hot saki on top.  You bang the table, let the shot drop in the beer, and then chug down the rest. (Sounds gross but is actually really delicious!)  It was a fabulous celebration and I can’t wait till next year!

Our Halloween party was as always a ton of fun.  Todd’s home-brewed pumpkin beer was a huge smash. (Such a smash all 5 gallons was drunk in one night!)  Everyone went all out on their costumes this year! (Todd and I were newsies) I’m already anticipating how we’re all going to top ourselves next year.

October was a fantastic reading month!  I met my second reading goal of the year of 160 books and have decided to up the goal to 200 books by year-end.  As of today I’m at 176, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it through 24 more before year-end.  I completed 19 books in October with my favorite being The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley (my review is here).  Great great great book.  I really hope y’all will add it to your to-read piles.

The staff has been diligently working on getting through a whole slew of books this month. Adam’s been reading the historical fiction novel Deal With The Devil Part II and recently posted his review for it.  His next review is for a young adult mythology book, Pantheons.  Todd’s been reading a new thriller novel Targets of Deception and the fiction novel Believe Like A Child.  Christine’s been reading a short story/poetry anthology called Everblossom.  Jess is reading the memoir Taking Flak, while Charlie’s been working on a review of the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I do also want to inform all of you about the addition of another staff blogger for the Reflections team, Sam!  Sam’s been working on a young adult dystopian thriller, The Tube Riders.  You can find out more about Sam and her reading tastes on The Staff page!

Let us know what you read last month and what books we should be adding to our to-read piles! As always, happy reading!

#107 A Review of The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley

Back in May I had the absolute pleasure of reading Lucinda Riley’s debut novel, The Orchid House (my review is here).  I still find it hard to explain the complete spectrum of emotions I experienced while reading that book.  Not only was it exquisitely written, but it took the reader on a journey of unimaginable proportions.  When I was offered the opportunity to read Riley’s newest novel, The Girl on the Cliff, I JUMPED at the chance.  The story is pretty complex to explain, so I’m going to let Goodreads do it for me:

The mesmerizing story of two Irish families entangled by a tragic past that seems destined to repeat itself. To escape a recent heartbreak in New York, Grania Ryan returns to her family home on the rugged, wind-swept coast of Ireland. Here, on the cliff edge in the middle of a storm, she meets a young girl, Aurora Lisle, who will profoundly change her life.

Despite the warnings Grania receives from her mother to be wary of the Lisle family, Aurora and Grania forge a close friendship. Through a trove of old family letters dating from 1914, Grania begins to learn just how deeply their families’ histories are entwined. The horrors of World War I, the fate of a beautiful foundling child, and the irresistible lure of the ballet give rise to a legacy of heartache that leaves its imprint on each new generation. Ultimately, it will be Aurora whose intuition and spirit may be able to unlock the chains of the past.

Sweeping from Edwardian England to present-day New York, from the majestic Irish coast to the crumbling splendor of a legendary London town house, The Girl on the Cliff introduces two remarkable women whose quest to understand their past sends them toward a future where love can triumph over loss.

Where do I begin?  Let’s start with the story.  The Girl on the Cliff is a fairy tale, and we all know how much I love them right now.  Now it’s not the stereotypical type of fairy tale where a prince rescues a princess, but one that shares the lessons of living in the now, living with forgiveness, and living wholeheartedly with love.  Choosing Aurora as the narrator was a perfect choice.  She’s an ethereal creature that is above the world of mortals, and she is fortunate enough to understand events and life’s lessons way ahead of her time.  When the story begins, Aurora is still a child dealing with the blow of losing her mother.  By the end of the novel we see a woman with knowledge and grace way beyond her years.  The lessons we’re taught are rough and aren’t dealt with in a “pretty” way.  Real life can be ugly so why shouldn’t these lessons reflect that?  All of the characters are extremely well-developed and are mesmerizing to follow.  Grania and her strengths and weaknesses make her so relatable.  Her hopes and dreams, wishes and fears are so similar to the ones we ordinary people feel everyday, that it’s impossible to not relate to her and become entranced by her story.

Also, the pace of the novel was tastefully done, and it progressed in a manner that was not too fast and not too slow.  It flowed gracefully, much like the changing positions in ballet (which is a major theme in the novel).  I’m still at a loss for adequate words to describe this work, as it was just as enchanting and amazing as Riley’s first work.  Her ability to draw the reader in to a world that is totally unique and such a great story is unparalleled.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to read her works, I guarantee that readers of all types will enjoy what she has to offer.

To learn about Riley’s inspiration behind this novel, click here.

6 out of 5 Stars

This is my forty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
Atria Books (2012)
Paperback: 416 pages
ISBN: 9781451655827

Special thanks to Atria Books for my review copy.

Lucinda Riley and The Inspiration Behind Her New Novel, The Girl on the Cliff

Joining us today is Lucinda Riley, author of one of my favorite books of 2012, The Orchid House.  Riley’s newest novel, The Girl on the Cliff is finally being released in the US on October 30th.  She’s been gracious enough to stop by the blog today to talk about the inspiration behind The Girl on the Cliff. Please join me in welcoming her!

It’s always a location, or a house and the atmosphere surrounding it, that inspires inside me those first seeds which eventually germinate into a book. This was very much the case with The Girl on the Cliff. I was born and lived in Ireland on the West Cork coast and I loved its wildness and isolation. ‘Extreme’ locations are always exciting to me because they are dramatic and of course, romantic. The thought of a vulnerable child, barefoot and alone during the Atlantic storms that used to break with such fury when I lived there with my own small children, gave me the character of ‘Aurora’, the narrator of the book.  I wanted to make her ‘other-wordly’ and ephemeral, almost part of the intense, dramatic scenery which surrounded her when she was born.

I will confess that Aurora is the first character I’ve ever written who is basically ‘me’. I poured my soul into her – something I’ve never done before in one of my books. All my beliefs, hopes and fears;  a lot of my life – I’m an ex-ballerina who got so sick I was bedridden and had to ‘use my mind, not my body, to express myself’ – is in there . Yes, like her, I’ve seen ghosts and angels and believe in the ‘afterlife’. I’ve suffered terrible loss , as most of us have at some point in our lives, but still believe, as Aurora says, that ‘love and faith and goodness and hope’ will win the day. And that human nature, for the most part, is intrinsically ‘good’. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be here on the planet – we’d all have murdered each other thousands of years ago! This book is so personal, it’s painful. Basically, if readers reject Aurora, they are rejecting me!

Some readers may find Aurora’s spiritualism and endless positivity in the face of adversity irritating. But, the US dollar bill itself has ‘In God We Trust’ written on it … yet, to my knowledge, no-one has ever managed to take a photograph or interview him! As Aurora says, ‘just remember, there’s no proof either way. So I choose to believe. It’s much the best option.’

I’m not into any particular organised religion, by the way, I just believe in a power higher than us humans, and am humble enough to realise there is so much we can never understand. Who/what energy created the Big Bang in the first place …? No-one knows.  So, it’s pretty obvious this book is not for ‘cynics’ who don’t believe in a ‘higher level’, or that the world is fundamentally a bad place. Redemption and some level of forgiveness is always a possibility, if not an actuality in some cases. And that is the rock-bed from which all my stories and characters come.

And besides Aurora, there is a huge, intricate family story, spanning over 100 years. There are characters, good and bad, that pepper the plot. Also, in The Girl on the Cliff, I’ve explored the fact that, as one grows older, the seesaw of pain and joy of the human condition become more stark. During the writing of the novel, I became fascinated by ‘the fairy tale , which all modern romantic novels are a derivative of. In particular, the ‘happy ending’, which every fairy tale contains and is in fact, an integral part of their beauty.

Yet, what happens after the ‘Happy Ever After’? And how to write an ending, given the depth of the characters involved in The Girl on the Cliff, in which the conclusion is both satisfying and moving? In conclusion, The Girl on the Cliff has all the ingredients of The Orchid House: the ‘big story’, a dual narrative and locations which fire my imagination, yet I hope I have added a new dimension, a depth and realism in the storyline which isn’t trite or contrived. In this book, more than any other story I’ve written, the characters demanded to be heard and I gave them their voice.