12 Best Reads of 2012

Quite a few of my friends have asked me for a “best of” list of books that I read in 2012 and I am happy to oblige!  This year I finally met my 2+ year goal of reading 150 books in a year, I actually surpassed it by quite a few even!  I know many read more than that but I’m quite thrilled with finally meeting a goal!  Ha!

Now for the books – my reading preferences are all over the board so I apologize in advance for it.  I won’t review the plots as some see any info as spoilers, if you want to know what the book is about you can read the synopsis from the link!

The Secret Keeper  by Kate Morton
I had read The House at Riverton series (why are they called a series anyway?) and while I liked them, they weren’t ones that I would rush out to tell the world about.  However, I didn’t dislike them so I picked up the latest novel by Kate Morton and became enraptured.  Some was predictable, some was not and all of it was enjoyable.  This book took me a little over a day to read and I didn’t want to put it down!  I look forward to more from this author.

On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
This book was recommended to me by a few different people and I had plopped it on my “want to read” list.  When looking for a new book to read I decided I liked the cover and the premise and went with it (because I’m sometimes shallow like that).  I really wasn’t expecting to like it much to be honest, but I hoped to be entertained.  This ended up being one of the biggest surprise hits for me this year!   If you like survival-esque stories, I highly recommend this book!

Four Against the Wilderness by Elmo Wortman
Continuing with the survival theme… When I was a kid, I fell in love with this made-for-tv movie called “Anything to Survive” and in later years, I would often think of the movie.  I decided that I wanted to see it again this year and in my quest to find the movie I found out that it was based on a true story and a book that the father wrote of their tale.  While ordering the movie, I also ordered the book.  I loved reading the true story behind the movie that captured my attention for so many years and it wasn’t remotely a let down at all, in fact, like in most things, the book was better than the movie.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
It seems that everyone has recommended this book to me since its release but I kept putting it off.  It just didn’t “grab” me and say read me.  However, I eventually got to it as the to-read pile waned and I am so glad that I did!  This is a beautifully written novel and I couldn’t put it down.  Lisa has since released two novels but IMHO neither compare to the first.

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
I read this book just a a mere few weeks before the tragedy at Newton and it made this book ever more haunting and will be one of the books that stick with me for a long time.   It’s another book that I couldn’t put down.

Seduction and Snacks by Tara Sivec
Oh god, this book had me laughing almost from the first line.  I was sending out some of the quotes from it to my friends and we were all laughing about it.  This may be one of the funniest books I’ve read for females and I’d equate it to a softer, funnier version of something Tucker Max would write.  Definitely read this if you are in the mood for something light and funny… and you aren’t a prude.

The Long Walk by Stephen King
Yet another old book that had been recommended to me a few times that I finally gave in to.  I’ve not met many King books I didn’t like so in preparation for my upcoming trip to Maine I decided to read this one.  It is haunting, beautiful and awful at the same time.  I see this as a more well written version of The Hunger Games.

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March
I got this book from Amazon Vine, not expecting it to be much but the cover was pretty (I’ve mentioned I can be shallow right?).  I imagined it to be a great beach/summer read and being set in Maine was a huge bonus.  It was NOT a light and fluffy read, rather it was the opposite but I still loved it just the same.   Be prepared to have some tissues nearby but for smiles as well.  Your emotions will be all over for this one!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This is another tear jerker and I adored it.  I’m not spoiling anything but that it’s a heart-wrenching book that you will hate to love but you’ll recommend it all the same.

The Rest of Forever by M. Elaine Moore
This book was recommended on an Outer Banks Forum that I read (I adore the Outer Banks) and I was hesitant at first given that it does have a bit more religion than I like in my books.  I went ahead and kept with it though since I adore the Outer Banks and am glad I did.  Pick this one up if you love the Outer Banks or just modern romances.

The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe
This may go down as my favorite beachy read of the year, along with the rest of the books in the series.  The setting is magical and I love how the sea turtles are intertwined with the novel.  If you are looking for a series of beach books to get lost in, these are where you want to go.  SO good.

The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain
I adore Diane Chamberlain and her latest release did not disappoint, in fact it may be one of my favorites of hers to date.  I adored the relationship between the father and daughter in this novel and it brought back memories of me and my Dad growing up.  Make sure you have time reserved for this book, you won’t want to put it down.

What were YOUR favorite reads of 2012?

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Pop Sugar Must Have Box: October

It’s another busy month for me, so I fail at blogging epically.  Whoops!  I’ve been what seems like around the world this month with a wedding, lots of portrait sessions and a trip to Canada and back.  Whew!  October isn’t done yet and I hear we’re ending it with a snowstorm.  Cue the whining from all!  😉

I have been mad stalking my shipment of this month’s Pop Sugar Must Have Box after the delightful surprise last month.  I was kind of worried because I heard some complainers saying this one stunk compared to last months but I was very happy with mine when I opened it (I avoided spoilers because I’m weird like that).  I actually may have wooped a little and done a jig.  While I realize that the Pop Sugar Must Have Box is a bit more than most boxes at $40 or so a month (use REFER5 for $5 off!) I feel OK with it since I LIKE everything in it for two months in a row.  Lately with Birchbox, I’ve been lucky to like even one thing in it.  I keep meaning to pull the plug but I wanted to find something to fill its place.  I’ve also signed up for Ipsy and so far I love it more than Birchbox so I may finally be kicking that habit. I may have added a few other boxes in my quest like the Julibox (COCKTAILS!!), Glossybox and Julep Maven.  I’ll be adding those to the reviews now that I have time to actually breathe with my job (well, when I get them).  I also plan to start throwing in more book reviews!  🙂  Yes, this blog is a mixed bag, just like me.  Ha!

Back to the Must Have box… while it doesn’t have the high value that last month’s had, it’s still awesome and I loved it a lot.

Pop Sugar Must Have Box October

The October box included the following products for a total value of $121.44 (listed in order of excitement)

J.K. Rowling – The Casual Vacancy Hardback Book $35
OPI Pink of Hearts 2012  $14.95
Red Flower Japanese Peony Petal Topped Candle $38
Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy 3 oz Shampoo & Conditioner $3
Dylan’s Candy Bar Gummy Bears $4
Pirates Booty Aged White Cheddar $1.50
Crescent Moon ExerSocks $24.99

I’m a huge reader and although I’ve not read Harry Potter (yes I know), I am excited somewhat to read this new book by JK Rowling.  Since it’s free, I’m definitely giving it a whirl.  I’m OPI-obsessed so the Pink of Hearts is fantastic and straight up my alley, and since I didn’t have to donate to the Komen fund (I support cancer charities, just not Komen) I’m happy to be given it.  The candle smells AMAZING but I definitely wouldn’t buy it at near $40 for that small of a candle!  The shampoo & conditioner is perfect for me since I have long and thick hair – it’s NEVER fun to get the tiny samples b/c I need more than that to wash my hair!  The gummy bears look divine shall  be munching on those during trick or treat!) and the Pirates Booty does too.  The socks are… socks.  I’ll wear them but probably not buy them again.  Unless they totally wow me breathless.  I’ll come back and update with reviews of each items as I use them 🙂

 

 

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Authors Behaving Badly: How I Pissed Off Legions of Emily Giffin Fans

I am a reader.  I read a LOT.  I read so much that I am in Amazon Vine and I’ve often passed up pretty awesome gadgets and gizmos so that I could get a copy of a favorite authors new book.  One of those such books was Where We Belong by Emily Giffin.  I read this while on vacation and enjoyed the read but didn’t love it.  For me, the works since Something Borrowed/Something Blue have not reached the bar set by those works (especially Something Blue) however I did appreciate that this novel did not glorify cheating, which the majority of her other works do.  I handed the book off to friends to read during the trip and we all agreed that it was a decent beach-esque read.  I now regret urging others to read this novel.

Around the time of the launch of the book, Emily had started posting and tweeting people urging them to buy her book to make her number one.  The first post kind of annoyed me because it made the fans seem like they were not good enough if she couldn’t reach #1, then her follow up post when finding out she was in fact #2 was equally as awful.  She had another post or two lamenting about it on her Facebook and on her Twitter and it frankly annoyed me to the point of commenting to friends that it was pretty diva like behavior and that there seemed to be an epidemic of crying over being second place (the Olympics were taking place at the same time).  It really turned me off and I was already starting to be sorry I had reviewed her book for Amazon and possibly helped even one person decide to purchase this novel.

 

 

 

This week, I noticed in my feed a link pop up to her Facebook talking about her husband being in a comment war against a reviewer on Amazon and how it wasn’t a 5 star review.  I don’t know why, but the whole idea of authors or people acting on their behalf (and I consider a spouse to also represent the author) and attacking reviewers make me ill.  Perhaps it’s because I am a part of Amazon Vine (have been since 2007) but I take reviews seriously.  I’ve thankfully (up until now!) never had to deal with an author attack due to my less than perfect review but I’ve been reading more and more cases of this happening online.  I rolled my eyes and shook my head and continued on with my work.  Then a following post appeared talking about how her husband was still at it, as if the first post didn’t get enough attention.  At this point I decided to head over to see what the heck kind of review could start this kind of nonsense.

Well… that doesn’t seem bad at all, certainly not attacking the author, tearing the book apart or even remotely spiteful.  Not at all what I was expecting to see.  I then continued to read to see what Emily’s husband had been saying and my jaw hit the proverbial floor.

*screen capture thanks to Book Goggles as it’s since been removed by Amazon*

One should note that the initial reply from Giffin’s husband was the same day as the review and the activity on the page was slow at best until Emily posted the below on her Facebook.  She did not link directly to the review (although it was linked in the comments by a few of her fans) but it was pretty easy to find, I did so without difficulty.

*screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

Now the claims are that she didn’t know about how awful her fans were being and that she never directed people to Amazon to attack (screen capture of this coming later in the post) but both of these comments got me to go looking for the review as well as many other fans.  Many I should note on her FB page were telling her this wasn’t a good idea and she should delete her posts, so not everyone was raising their proverbial pitchforks against the reviewer but one quick look at the comments on the review showed that an overwhelming amount of people were saying pretty awful things against this legitimate review.

At this point I had had enough.  I couldn’t stand the thought of the fact that my review could even get one person to buy her book so I decided to change the review.  I’ve done so in the past when my mind has changed on a product or book and never have had an issue with this in the least.  I changed my review from 4 to 1 star and stated why I did.  The novel was okay but I couldn’t in good faith support an author whom supports the kind of behavior that was going on with the initial 1 star review.  Since this item was a Vine product, I can’t simply delete the review.  I hit save and figured that while I was only one person, at least I’m not longer supporting an author whom encourages this kind of behavior from her husband and fans.

The first few comments surprised me – I didn’t think about my review being seen but I had forgotten about Emily pointing people to the one starred reviews, which would mean that mine would come up.  Crap.  I then went and looked at the comments on the other low starred reviews and saw that already her fandom was attacking.  I girded my loins and prepared for it to get ugly but initially, the support was mostly positive.  Then someone must have alerted Emily to the post as I was shocked to see my review pop up in my Facebook feed being blasted by Emily.

In the comment section, they were pretty quick to find my review and post it and the shitstorm on my review comment page ensued.  Granted, Emily did sort of attempt to call off the dogs but in the same respect she also pointed out my review and posted her feelings on my changing the rating (again, from 4 not 5 stars) which she is entitled to.  If she didn’t encourage bullying though, she would have deleted my review being linked on her page immediately like she did with any comments that supported her.  By this point there were a few people saying this needed to quit and the comments her fans were leaving were quite horrible.  At this point Emily’s assistant decided to jump in and defend Emily as well leaving quite a few comments that were pretty shocking coming from someone that represents the author on a professional level.

*screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

This is just one of many comments that Katie left on my review (all she or Amazon has deleted).  However, at this point there were still quite a few people thinking that it was pretty crappy what was going on and supporting me and my right to my opinion on the book.  Then more crap hit Emily’s Facebook.

*screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

Personally there is no way that a 1 star review falls under my category of “most unfair things” but I guess that she should consider herself blessed for leading such a charmed life.  Here Emily directly is linking to my review with her assistants plea for fans to comment and defend her against “these” attacks.  Personally, I don’t view my review as attacking the author so much as stating my opinion but I gather that is subjective so I’ll take the “attack” hit.  However, the initial review by AvidReader does not remotely come close to attacking Emily in the least.  With a battle cry like this, Emily’s fans got even more rabid in their attacks against me and her assistant (CrimznTider) continued to do battle.  Most of these have been deleted by Amazon.

So now I’m a stalker, bigot and an infant.  There’s more mudslinging but I think this gives you the overall tone of the kind of comments that I was receiving from the fans of Ms. Giffin after she posted on her Facebook a link to my review. There was also tweets from her account as well regarding this.

 *screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

Finally about 2 or so hours after this whole debacle started, Emily finally attempted to call the dogs off on Facebook.

In short order her husband also offered up his apology to me on my review, I did not see this placed on AvidReader’s review however and she’s the one that truly deserves it.

FINALLY!  Although the apology is not perfect but I appreciated him finally apologizing and it did seem to slow (NOT STOP) the attacks on Amazon.  At this time Emily’s assistant finally stopped her postings as well.  Around 11:00PM I received 3 different calls, all blocked, with one leaving a “delete your review!” voicemail and the second stating that I should just kill myself for being such a miserable person for attacking poor Emily.   REALLY?  And yes, I’m talking with the cops about this already.  I mean that’s Misery kind of fan territory.  Not long after I heard a loud bang on my deck and I was legitimately scared that it was a gunshot.  Far fetched maybe but this was quickly sinking into WTF territory.

I went to bed last night shaking my head and completely baffled and amazed at what a turn this whole day took.   When I woke up I decided to check Emily’s Facebook page to see if she’d posted any sort of apology or whatnot but I found this instead.

I just… I don’t… WHAT?  She has also deleted all of her postings regarding the reviews, which is probably a good thing on her end.  I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed this remotely and it’s pretty unfathomable that you would even begin to entertain the idea that someone would ENJOY the shitstorm I’ve endured over the past day.  For the record, Emily posted a link to my review directly asking for people to come support the attack against her.  That’s not saying gang up but it was all but spelled out

Here’s hoping this dies a quiet death.  I for one will never read another Giffin novel and I am happy to hear that others are doing the same.

UPDATE:

Pipe dreams, they are lovely things to have aren’t they?  The only apology I have received from her camp is on my review, she has not reached out to me other than on that platform and that was her husband, not her, unless the account really is hers.  Again, I don’t deserve what happened to me because I dared to change a review.  I also will not be bullied into changing or deleting my review because that’s what Emily thinks is best.  If she didn’t want the drama to continue, she would stop making posts such as these. Sure, I’m adding to the fire now by posting these screen caps but damnit, I’m furious.  I think most would be too if they were in my shoes.

UPDATE #2:

I started getting negative comments on this blog post and low and behold, Emily is making vaguebook status updates.  It’s interesting how I am always able to figure it out when things have hit her Facebook when there is an uptick in negative feedback.

Also for those asking, yes I have been to the police station today regarding the voice mails and cyber bullying.

UPDATE #3

After thinking on this whole disaster this evening, I wondered how I could turn this into something positive.  I wished there was a charity for me to donate books to children that are bullied as a child I always lost myself in books when I was bullied in school.  I still do it as an escape from reality.  Since such a charity doesn’t exist (anyone want to start one?) I’m donating to the Megan Meier Foundation instead.  Megan Meier is the girl who killed herself after being cyber bullied on MySpace, a story which still saddens me.  I donated $614: a dollar for every downvote I received (278 – is that a record?) as well as AvidReader (78) and another dollar for every comment on the review (201 for me, 57 for AvidReader).  Granted, not every comment was bullying but I don’t care to go in and figure it all out as reliving those comments is not an ideal way to spend my evening.

I hope this is the end of this, I really do.

UPDATE #4

My review has been removed from the book page of Where We Belong.  You can still access it by clicking on the direct link but it is “gone” for all intents and purposes.  I did not do this, it was on Amazon’s end of things.

UPDATE #5 (December 30, 2012)

Ha, you thought it was all done.  Well, it is but I thought that instead of a new blog post, I’d finish up the “resolution” to this whole debacle as well as finally answer the question of what happened to AvidReader.

• Amazon took down my review of Where We Belong completely, however it still counts toward my Vine reviews so I didn’t have to review it again to stay under my percentage goals.  Huzzah.  Although, reviewing it again could have been interesting as I’m sorry but there’s no way on earth that my debacle wouldn’t have influenced my views in the least.  I know some don’t approve but in the same regards I tend to give authors I adore a kinder/better review based on my love of them so IMHO it can go both ways.

• I never had a direct apology in any form from Emily.  The only apology I got was from her publicist, whom did eventually contact me but it wasn’t on her behalf, more or less was trying to get me to take down this blog.  I refused and he was polite about my refusal.  They did release a somewhat public apology in The Atlantic.

• Despite accusations to the contrary, AvidReader is *not* some stalker of Emily Giffin’s, nor a psycho.  Instead she is a college student who used an email she doesn’t check during the school year for her Amazon profile.  When she got home for the holidays and checked her not-often-read email, she was surprised to see what kind of fuss became of her review.  She contacted me to thank me for supporting her and was glad that she missed all of the drama.  I’m SO glad to hear from her and know she is OK.  I was concerned but hoped something like this was the case.

• Finally I want to say a huge thank you to the authors and fellow reviewers that reached out to me during this mess.  I was stunned, surprised and humbled by your overwhelming support.  I’ve gained a lot of respect for you all and I’m glad to know that some of my favorite authors are on my team and I’ve also discovered a few new ones that I want to support.  It was a crazy ordeal and I couldn’t have asked for kinder people to be in my corner.

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Books You Should Read | Outlander Series

I can’t recall when I finally picked up the Outlander series and began reading it, but I want to say in was 2000 or so. A friend whom is also an avid reader had told me about the series and it piqued my interest as I’ve always loved time travel novels.  I think it all goes back to my love affair with Christopher Pike so I’ve always loved anything with a touch of fantasy in it.  I remember going into Walden Bookstores and having a dickens of a time locating this novel because I was under the assumption it was a romance but it was filed with sci-fi.  I don’t miss those days of scouring book shelfs trying to find a novel (or waiting to get the next in a series ordered in to your store!).  Thank god for Amazon and Kindle.  I digress.  When I picked this book up (and the next 2 in the series) I was a bit intimidated by their immense size.  This is NOT a small book by any means.  I am a fairly fast reader but I even was a bit overwhelmed by the mass of this book.  However I quickly found out that the pace is so fast you never feel like this book is dragging.

Outlander is the first novel of the series and sets up the framework quite nicely but I also feel it could easily be a stand alone novel.  Her later novels in the series do leave you hanging a bit at the end but I’ve always loved how this novel finishes and doesn’t leave one completely in the dark.  The series is currently up to 7 books and the next will be released next year (which I am anxiously awaiting for as the last ending was a cliffhanger).  If you start this series, make sure you have time eked out in your reading schedule because I almost promise you that you will not want to stop at one.

This series follows Jamie, a Scottish Highlander from the 1700’s and Claire, a time traveler from the 1940’s.  I will try not to spoil too much for you (a HUGE pet peeve of mine when reading online reviews) but I will say there are a few other people that the story involves as the series progresses.  When someone told me what this book was about I kind of rolled my eyes thinking it’d be too over the top but I must say this is one of the best written fantasies I’ve ever read.  The time travel in this book is completely believable and makes sense in a way.  Since I love history, I also enjoy how Gabaldon intertwines history with Jamie and Claire.  It’s hard to describe but trust me when I say it’s well done and you’ll feel like you were there alongside them for much of the major events.

If you like Outlander, you also may want to check out Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John series which is a series of novels about a minor character from the Outlander series (none but The Scottish Prisoner involve Jamie but he is referenced here and there).  These novels are MUCH quicker reads than their Outlander brothers.  I also would recommend Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness series as well.  There are a few minor characters that are in the Wilderness and Outlander novels and they have a lot of similar elements (I believe the authors are friends).  This series just wrapped up last year and I was so sad to see it go.  That being said, it’s one of my favorite endings of a series ever.

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Reading Like a Fiend

I am a *huge* reader, have been since I was a child.  I honestly can’t remember the last time that I was not beginning, in the middle of or ending a book.  Even before I could read words I remember carrying around picture books and even some non picture books and leafing through them before I fell asleep.  I remember a whole world opening to me though when I learned to read and I found out what the words were in “The Monster at the End of This Book” (no, no one read to be before bed, that’s another story for another day).  It’s a rare night that I don’t at least read ONE page of a book prior to falling asleep.  I think it has a lot to do with the fact that both of my parents read a lot so I grew up thinking reading was essential to life.

Two years ago, I decided for my 30th birthday to buy myself a Kindle.  I had been kicking around the idea but I just did not like the design of the original release.  However after seeing a friend’s Kindle while on vacation, I decided that I would LOVE the new one and preordered it immediately upon returning home.  I really was worried that I would not like it compared to my real books and that I would find it lacking but the idea of being able to download the next book in a series on a whim rather than waiting around for a) it to be delivered or b) it to be in stock at the local bookstore is what sold me in.  I like instant gratification and too often I would think of a book I’d love to read but have to wait days or weeks to get my hands on it.

It was love at first read.

Now I am proud to be a Kindle owner (I now have the Kindle Keyboard which I purchased last year) and I have been known to rebuy books that I own already in paperback because I love reading on the Kindle that much.  It’s SO easy to hold.  I toss the sucker in a Ziplock bag and can take it to the beach, pool or read it in my tub.  I have a cover that has a light attached to it for easy night reading.

My newest found love that has to do with reading is Goodreads.  Are you a member? if so, we should be friends.  I have a problem sometimes remembering if I’ve read a book or sometimes I forget details from a book and it’s driving me crazy.  I’ve been keeping track of books I’ve read since 2008 on here and it’s been fun to not only see how much I read in a year (130 or so, give or take) but to also read reviews and see what my friends are reading.  It’s kind of like Facebook for readers.

I doubt that I’ll ever have any sort of theme here but I think I’d like to share books and book reviews here from time to time.  I read just about everything depending on my mood.  I do tend to stay away from fantasy and sci-fi though (I’m one of those that have not read Harry Potter yet) but it doesn’t mean that I won’t rule it out.  Of course I’m always game for a recommendation so hit me up if you’ve got one!

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