Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 reading recap

Cover of "The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps ...

Cover via Amazon

In 2011, I read 70 books. My goal was 75. Yes, I fell short. I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of George R. R. Martin. I waded into A Song of Ice and Fire books, reading the first two: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings.

Those are some long books, y’all. I’m not sure if I’ll tackle the next in the series in 2012 or not. Long, epic fantasy is a mood read for me. So, if I’m in the mood, I’ll search out the next in the series. If not … I’ll read something else.

But it wasn’t just a year for quantity. A large majority of those 70 books were four and five star reads for me. A few of the best:

Writing book:

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, John Truby


Rival, Sara Bennett Wealer
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern


Please Ignore Vera Dietz, A.S. King
Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly

Middle Grade

Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo
The Magician’s Elephant, Kate DiCamillo


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel, Helen Simonson
A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

War Through the Generations challenge books (Civil War)

Two Girls of Gettysburg, Lisa Klein
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, Tony Horwitz
And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart, Jamie Malanowski

Last book read

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness (a five-star read–bring tissues)

But really, if the book is on my list, I more than likely enjoyed it. I’m putting my 2011 list below the cut (70 books makes for a very long blog post). If you’re interested in my take on any of them, let me know. I love to talk books!

Continue reading


Filed under 50/50, Books, Reading, Reading & Writing, War Through The Generations, YA

Review: And The War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart

So yesterday, I sat down and finished the last book I wanted to read for the War Through the Generations Civil War reading challenge.

For my third (and last) book, I picked And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart by Jamie Malanowski, published by Byliner. I purchased this copy and read it on my Kindle Fire.

Product description (from Amazon):

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Jamie Malanowski, lead writer of The New York Times’ highly acclaimed Disunion blog, masterfully recounts the origins of America’s greatest national tragedy in real time.

Drawing on diaries, speeches, and newspaper accounts of the six months leading up to the first shots fired on Fort Sumter, And the War Came chronicles the events that tore the nation apart, and delves into the hearts and minds of the men and women who tried in vain to avoid a conflict on American soil.

From the controversial election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 and the failed Crittenden Compromise to the secession of seven Southern states and the election of Jefferson Davis, Malanowski draws indelible portraits of the politicians and soldiers who controlled the country’s destiny. And by unfolding, week by week, the major issues and emotional nuances that led to the Civil War, he sheds new light on the darkest period in American history.

And the War CameAs Malanowski writes in the forward: The way we learn about history is strikingly at odds with the way we experience current events and life in general.

In the following pages, he does an excellent job of remedying this by presenting the six months that leading up to the Civil War in “real time.” In a combination of verbatim source material from diaries, speeches, editorials along with narrative written in mostly present tense, the era really comes alive.

I was immediately drawn into the narrative, which begins seven days before the election of 1860 and ends with the surrender of Fort Sumter. Each section, whether narrative, a diary entry, or an editorial, is fairly short. This makes the book fast paced and very easy to follow.

What it reminded me of is reading political blogs, news sites, and personal blogs. If you’re a news and political blog junkie, I think you’ll enjoy the way this book is written. Malanowski really does achieve his aim in putting us right there. A couple of times while I was reading, I had to pause and remind myself that the events described weren’t happening right now.

This is another one I recommend. It’s short, but packed with both information, attitude, and even humor (much of it at the expense of President Buchanan). If you’re looking for a quick, insightful way to round out your Civil War reading challenge, And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart by Jamie Malanowski would be a great choice.


Filed under Book Review, Books, Reading, War Through The Generations

What I wrote in 2011

I’m sure you’re all curious about what I’ve been writing in 2011. So I give you my middle grade novel, Speechless:

Word cloud courtesy of Wordle.

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Filed under Reading & Writing, Writing, YA

2012: 50 books, 50 movies + me

I may be crazy, but I’ve signed up for a second reading–or should I say, reading and watching–challenge for 2012. So here’s the deal. In 2012 I will read at least fifty books and attempt to watch fifty movies.

Clearly, I’m more confident about the books (just finished book 67 last night for 2011) than I am movies (um … last movie I watched … yeah, I’m drawing a blank, unless you count the last part of Aquamarine that I watched with Kyra).

But after really thinking about it, I realized that a challenge where you sit back and relax for ~ 2 hours each week is probably a good thing. Between the stack of DVDs I have and streaming on my Kindle Fire, I am pretty much set for this.

Plus, I can totally combine this challenge with the War Through the Generations one. All in all, it looks like I will be thoroughly entertained in 2012.

So, anyone else with me? For more info, click on the image above. Or here. That works too.


Filed under 50/50, Books, Movies, Reading

Review: Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz first caught my attention when it was offered on the War Through The Generations blog as a prize, one of three books generously donated by Macmillan Audio.

Alas, I did not win a copy of the book, but I went searching for it at my library. And there it was, in all its audio book glory. I put myself on the waitlist and hoped my turn would come up before the end of the year.

My turn did come up. And I’m happy to say it was worth the wait.

From Amazon:

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown’s uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict.

Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America’s founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy.

On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown’s capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”

Tony Horwitz’s riveting book travels antebellum America to deliver both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a nation divided—a time that still resonates in ours.

The book covers John Brown’s life and provides enough information on those around him (of both personal and historic importance) that I came away with a better understanding of this single-minded man and the time in which he lived.

While I enjoyed the entire book, the section that covers the raid and the summer build-up to it were especially interesting. I was particularly taken by Annie Brown and the summer she spent in the company of her father and his men at the Kennedy farm in Maryland (not far from Harpers Ferry).

Annie and her sister-in-law Mary (wife of John’s son Oliver) spent the summer at the Kennedy farm as camouflage, to help make it look like a real working farm–because a group of men doing nothing but moving and hiding large crates looks suspicious.

I really enjoyed the camaraderie as described by the author between Annie and the men at Kennedy farm. There are hints (or at least, the author speculates) that among those killed at Harpers Ferry was a young man Annie had fallen in love with. (And there’s a novel in there, I’m sure. It ends tragically, of course.)

The above illustrates what I enjoyed about the book. The narrative is rich with historical detail, while at the same time, makes for compelling reading.

In all, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz is a detailed and fascinating look at a very important event in US history. I highly recommend it.


Filed under Book Review, Books, Reading, War Through The Generations

You can find anything at Macy’s

The other day I was strolling through Macy’s*, enjoying the (Frango) mint-scented air, when the woman in front of me stopped so suddenly, I nearly crashed into her.

She stared at the display bed. I stared at her. For a moment, I couldn’t tell the two apart. The pattern on her dress matched the one on the display bed’s comforter almost exactly, right down to the same flowered print and the colors.

The woman gave the bed a withering glare, then continued on. Curious, I peeked at the price tag. Let’s just say I have electronics that cost much, much less. To be fair, the set did include sheets, comforter, pillowcases, bed skirt, and enough pillows to outfit a brigade.

Really, I was beginning to think it was one of those credit card commercial moments: Coordinating your wardrobe and bedroom? Priceless. For everything else (like the Frango Mints) there’s MasterCard.

It was a very nice bed set. I’m not sure the woman’s glare should’ve been quite so withering.

No Frango Mints on the sample table however?

Now that’s worth a glare. Or at least a harrumph.

*By “strolling” I mean cutting through Macy’s on my way back to work in hopes that they were handing out samples of Frango Mints.

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Filed under Misc, Musings