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!

Armchair BEA: Day 2 – The Favorites!

For the second day of Armchair BEA posts, we’ve been tasked with describing our favorite reads of this year.  Instead of just picking one book and talking about it myself, both Todd and I have picked two of our favorite reads of the year and will share them with you!  Hopefully this will inspire you to seek out new and exciting reads for the remainder of the year.  So, without further ado, here they are:

Todd:  I’d have to say that my favorite book this year is H10N1 by M. R. Cornelius.  Yes, you could say that it was a shoo in because it’s a post-apocalyptic thriller, but I think it’s more than just that.  One of the best parts of novels in this genre is that they are as much a reflection of the people around us as they are a description of the actual apocalyptic event.  Yes, I know the whole genre is pretty popular right now with the likes of The Walking Dead and Resident Evil on TV and the big screen, but I’ve always liked these kinds of books, as they showcase the good and the bad that comes out of a dire situation.  Cornelius definitely achieved that in her work, and it was a thrill ride from start to finish.  I’m definitely glad I gave this one a shot, it was a blast to read.  You can read my full review here!

In second place by a very, very slight margin is the second book in the Across the Universe trilogy, A Million Suns by Beth Revis.  Although I’ve just finished it recently, it’s definitely an amazing follow-up to Across the Universe.  In it, we follow Elder as he attempts to lead the ship through a new host of trials and tribulations following the death of its previous leader, Eldest.  Not only does Revis’ writing show amazing technical detail that is a staple of any good sci-fi novel, but the interpersonal connections she weaves between Elder and his main interest, Amy, are great.  It’s a great coming-of-age novel that explores the difficulties of leadership, and the obstacles one must overcome in being different than everyone else.  Hopefully I can finish my review quickly and post it up for everyone to read!

Kim:  Although it was quite a task to pick just two books that would take the top spot so far this year, I’ve finally managed to do so.  First up is the fifth book in the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander, Dangerous to Know.  Lady Emily’s character is fleshed out much more in this book, as she and Colin must deal with her miscarriage.  Although she was already a strong female character, this tragedy gave her some depth that made her all the more believable and relatable.  We all must get through difficult patches in our lives, so to see Lady Emily boldly carry on and eventually overcome this situation was inspiring.  Alexander did a great job in creating such a wonderful character, and along with the other characters in the novel presented an exciting story that I couldn’t put down!  You can read my full review here.

Seeing as Todd has ranked his two books after choosing them, I’d have to say that I’m saving the best of my two for last.  Orchid House by Lucinda Riley is a stunning tale of love and loss.  As I stated in my review, I was amazed that this is Riley’s debut novel, as her writing is as seamless and fluid as the most veteran writers out there.  The way in which she crosses time and geography in this work is astounding.  Covering three generations and three countries, Riley treats us to a rich world that drew me in from the very beginning.  I’m always a sucker for great character development, but this went above and beyond, teaching us that life is a precious gift that can be taken from us at any time.  Couple this with the amazing backdrop of Riley’s fantastic plot and you have a sure winner.  I don’t give out more than 5 stars often, but this definitely deserved it!  Read my full review here.

Well, that’s it for our favorite reviews of the year so far!  Check back tomorrow for the third day of Armchair BEA posting.

Until then, happy reading!

The May Round-Up!

I’m so sorry for the delay in posts recently, life has been filled with non-stop traveling for weddings, bachelorette parties, graduations, communions, etc.  To say that life has been hectic recently is a severe understatement!

May was kicked off with celebrating my young cousin Daniel’s graduation as well as my cousin Lily’s 75th birthday.  2012 has been a year filled with lots of family celebrations which makes me really happy.  Over the past few years the older generation of my family has been unfortunately been passing away.  Being able to get together to celebrate so many positive events has been a really good thing to help the family heal!

My sister and her awesome PhD get-up

The following weekend of May was spent in Pennsylvania, celebrating the marriage of one of Todd’s best childhood friends.  The wedding was held near Bethlehem, PA at the Blue Mountain Ski resort.  It was an absolutely beautiful location, surrounded by nature.  The weather was beautiful and it was so nice seeing all of Todd’s friends for a whole weekend.  We all live fairly far apart, so a whole weekend in each other’s company unhindered is a rarity.  We had to leave PA early Sunday morning and made our way to NYC for Mother’s Day and for my sister’s PhD convocation.  We made it just in time and headed into the city, hopped on the subway, and headed towards Columbia for the ceremony.  My sister had an awesome PhD get-up (see right) complete with crazy hat and cape.  So so proud of her.  Todd and I were thrilled that we made it on time and were able to see it.  Her smartness knows no bounds.

Pool side view!

The following weekend Todd and I headed back to PA to see my sister-in-law Ellen’s undergraduate graduation from Lehigh.  Unfortunately it rained for most of the ceremony, but we made the best of it!  We headed out for a wonderful tapas dinner to celebrate and drank some of the best blood orange sangria I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. (YUM)

Throw in a bunch of Relay for Life meetings during the month and we’re up to Memorial Day Weekend.  The weekend of my sister’s bachelorette party in Miami!  I flew down all by myself (for the first time ever!) taking two flights down from Connecticut.  I finally made it to our hotel the Eden Roc Renaissance, and proceeded to get my drink on.  Turns out that Memorial Day weekend in Miami is Urban Beach Week, making my pale white skin that much more awkward.  There were pimped out Cadillacs everywhere with insane lift kits; I was definitely impressed.  My sister even witnessed a man “ghost riding the whip” down the street on one leg. (The man physically had one leg and hopped around the car)  Lots of poolside drinks and sun led to a nice relaxing weekend.  All the time I spent on planes led me to finish The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley.

Knowing how behind I was on posting reviews this month I tried to slow my reading roll down.  I successfully completed 11 books for the month of May, my favorite being the aforementioned The Orchid House!  Closing out May I’m completed 83 books for the year, or 75% of my total goal of 110.  I’m super pumped!  I read a variety of books last month: historical fiction, paranormal, novellas, and romances.  June is shaping up to be jam-packed month as well.  We’re participating in Armchair BEA as well as two historical fiction book tours!  Christine, Jess, Todd, Adam, and Charlie are all working on some fun things for the month as well!  Todd is finishing up reading A Million Suns which he will be jointly reviewing with me, Christine is reading The Cottage by Alan Austin, Adam’s working on Part II of Deal With The Devil (his review of part I is here), and Charlie’s working on the first book in the Lost Princess series Blood Sword.  June should be a pretty versatile and fun month for reviews.  Hope you’ll stick around and join in on the reading fun!

As always…..happy reading!!

#56 A Review of The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

Every so often a book comes along that is so lyrically and beautifully written, that it changes you a bit.  The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley is one of those novels.  Taking the reader on an unforgettable journey through England, Thailand, and France, The Orchid House will make readers question how far they’d be willing to go for true love.

World renowned pianist Julia Forrester has returned to her home in England to mourn the loss of her young son and husband in a tragic car accident.  While home she visits Wharton Park, the estate in which her grandparents worked as servants in the 1930’s.  While visiting, she is reintroduced to Kit Crawford, the current Lord of the manor, and long ago childhood friend.  During Kit’s renovations of her grandparents cottage on the estate, he finds a diary that chronicles time spent in the Changi POW camp in Singapore during World War II.  When Julia approaches her grandmother to find out whether or not the diary belonged to her grandfather, she is treated to a tale of love, betrayal, deceit, and loss that in its own way helps to begin her own healing process.

We come to find out the diary belongs to Harry Crawford, former heir to Wharton Park.  Julia’s grandmother tells her his story, stuck in a world of responsibility and expectations that he never wanted to be a part of.  Throw into this his wife Olivia and her unfortunate plight of being married to a man who doesn’t love her, as well as Lydia, the beguiling woman he meets in Thailand, and you’re in for the story of a lifetime.

I’m completely blown away that this is Riley’s debut novel.  Her writing is so fluid and beautiful that it reads like the work of a seasoned author.  She intricately and expertly weaves a plot filled with mystery and intrigue over three generations.  She unveils secret after secret in perfect succession, adding to the stratagem of her storytelling.  Riley’s characters are mesmerizing and captivating and are each put through their own form of hell to test what they are truly able to face.  Not everyone is given happy endings, which adds a realistic feel to the story.  As I said earlier, The Orchid House will definitely question how much you would be willing to give up for the love of a lifetime.  Not only that, but how far and how long does the feeling of true love last in the face of a lifetime of despair?

The Orchid House’s main heroine Julia is one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  Her life has been filled with many tragedies that she’s let cast shadows on the relationships she holds with her family.  She’s also allowed the recent tragedies of her husband and young son’s deaths darken her life into one that she doesn’t think is worth living.  She lives in a constant state of pause –  not moving forward, not moving backward.  It’s a state that most who have lost love ones can relate too.  Not only this, but she feels guilt at the thought of moving forward and at loving and living again.  Julia’s story has made me realize (more than I already did) that life is precious, a gift that can be taken away at any time.  Not only has Julia’s story taught me this, but Lidia’s, Harry’s, and Olivia’s stories as well, all speak to this simple teaching.

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially for fans of the hauntingly beautiful gothic writing styles of  Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and Rachel Hore’s A Gathering Storm.

6 out of 5 stars

This is my thirty-first completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
Atria Books (2012)
Paperback: 464 pages
ISBN: 9781451655780

Special thanks to Atria Press for my review copy!