December 31, 2014

My 2014 Favorites List

I mentioned this post would be coming and here it is! My favorite reads from 2014. Looking back over the 44 books I read this year I anticipated struggling to limit my list of absolute favorites. But I surprised myself! I guess it turns out that I read several enjoyable-but-not-fabulous-beyond-reason books this year. I still read some pretty amazing stories though. So the criteria I used to pick this list was pretty simple: the book had to draw me in right from the beginning and keep me anticipating turning the pages, as well as had to be a story that I didn't forget once I closed the final chapter. Some books are fun, but once I finish I kind of forget a lot of the details. The books I've listed are unforgettable! They made me *happy sigh* many, many times and left me wishing the stories would continue forever. The authors all had the knack for sweeping me off my feet and depositing me inside their worlds for a few hundred pages, letting me forget reality even existed. Which is happiness indeed! :)


Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson - I absolutely fell in love with Edenbrooke, so my anticipation for this book was very great. I was so happy when it met my (admittedly high) expectations!


Tap & Gown by Diana Peterfreund - After having heard so many good things about this series, I was beyond thrilled to devour all four books. This one is my favorite though because everything comes to their expected yet hard-won happy ending. I DO love my happy endings! ;)


The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle - I have been searching high and low for a sequel that would do justice for my inexplicable love of Mary Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and I'm quite happy to say that this one snuck up on me. I wasn't expecting much, mainly because I'd been disappointed time and again. But this Mary is sweet and feisty and finding her way, just as I'd imagined her. And her romance is cute, which is a definite plus!


It Had to be You by Susan May Warren - My heart, it swoons! Eden and Jace's story is so wonderful and lovely and swoonworthy. These two had me at hello and refuse still to let me forget them. I just now realized that I never reviewed this one, but suffice it to say that it is definitely worth reading! Which you totally need to do, if you haven't yet.


When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren - The same could be said about this one too! Grace and Max's friendship is one of my favorite relationships of this year.


Random Acts of Murder by Christy Barritt - I don't read many mysteries, so when one catches my attention and keeps me up half the night I know I've found a keeper (either that or I need to stop reading murder mysteries late at night ;). I am decidedly a big fan of Ms. Barritt's!


The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd - Ms. Ladd's first novel was fun, but it didn't quite meet all the expectations I'd had. So I was a little leery of trying this one. Oh how happy I am that I gave it a chance! And now I am eagerly anticipating book three. :) I love when books surprise me like that.


The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien - An epic and sweeping adventure which left me longing for more! What else could a reader ask for?


A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd - Of course you knew this one would be here, right? I've only raved over it a few hundred times. And my happiness with the story is only intensified by the wonderfulness of getting to meet Ms. Lloyd in person! :)


The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - To quote my review "Resonating with sounds and tastes and feelings, it is wonderfully expressive.....It's such a curious mix of so many different things. And it does them all well! When I closed the last page, I immediately turned the book over and started reading my favorite parts again." I absolutely love Ms. Schwab's writing!


Lizzy & Jane by Kathine Reay - This book! So full of relationships and emotions and all the messy chaos that comes with that. And SO wonderful a read. Ms. Reay has risen straight to the top of my list of authors who I'll read anything they write. Which is kind of crazy as this is only her second book! But what a story. I mean, who else could combine food, Jane Austen, and classic literature so well? This one is a must read!!!


Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge - Saved the best for last! This story swept me away and refused to let me go for days after I read it. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'd rush home right after work and devour my favorite scenes all over again. And I did this for at least a week or more! I have no words to tell you how phenomenal this book is. All I can tell you is READ IT!

Honorable Mentions: How a Star Falls by Amber Stokes and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton - Both are wonderfully written stories!

12 favorites out of 44 possibles is pretty great, I must say. I tried to scratch two so I could get the perfect 10, but I just couldn't figure out which two to leave off. So 12 it is! Now tell me. What were some of your favorites from this year?

December 23, 2014

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things......

Please tell me you sang that line in your head when you read it. ;)

I saw this fun post the other day and it inspired me to do something similar. So I'm hoping Suey doesn't mind! I plan to do a post or two about my favorite books from this year, but I thought I'd start with a general post regarding some of the things that just made me happy. Fun, right?! (I sincerely hope you think so.)
:: Making new and awesome friends in VA (As well as renewing old friendships too.)
:: Having a spot to call my very own and piling my books everywhere
:: Reading Natalie Lloyd's debut A Snicker of Magic (I know. I said I wouldn't mention any books, but this one I had to highlight because it leads to my next favorite...)
:: Going to Nashville to the Southern Festival of Books and meeting Natalie Lloyd in person (The biggest highlight of my whole year!!)
:: Spending time with my nieces and nephews (Also getting trounced in any wii sport I tried. My nephew is a whiz at that stuff! And I am so not. ;)
:: Finding a library that is amazing and awesome and words can't even describe
:: Library book sales
:: Several friends had new babies this year and there's still one more to come. Which means I've had lots of babies to cuddle!
:: Time with friends including tea-drinking, book-chatting, hugs, serious convos, crazy and fun convos, laughter, tears, and happiness.
:: Getting The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on dvd and rewatching all the fun again.
:: I'm completely hooked on Call The Midwife. SO good.
:: Also LOVE Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Such a great series.
:: Austenland Enough said.
:: You've Got Mail twitter-quoting parties!
:: Chai tea
:: Bike trips surrounded by beautiful Autumn leaves
:: Hikes and waterfalls and ice-skating and sunrises and sunsets
:: Online friends who welcomed me back after a looonngg absence and make my heart happy with your comments and twitter convos and blog posts. Hugs for all of you!
My year has been full. For all the chaos and craziness, there has been SO much wonderful and happy. Here's hoping 2015 is even better! :)

December 17, 2014

A Happy Moment {Or The Day I Met A Soon-To-Be Debut Author}


What a does this cute cover have to do with my happy moment, you may ask? A whole lot actually. :)

So this past weekend, I had the good fortune to meet Rosanna Huffman through a mutual friend. This lovely lady just happens to be a writer and that book up there just happens to be her debut novel!

And you guys! She loves to read and we proceeded to have a fabulous convo about our favorite books and writers. It was a very happy moment! She's so excited to have her book published and couldn't stop grinning the whole time we talked about it. Which I loved. Enthusiastic writers/readers make the best conversationalists, don't you think? :) The book is being published in March, so keep your eyes out for it. Or better yet, preorder it! (Yes. I am shamelessly urging you to pick up a book by someone I know. Which should totally be reason enough, right?)

Anyhoo, I think the cover is pretty and couldn't help sharing. It's always great to help spread awesome news like new books coming out! :)

December 14, 2014

Bookish {And Not So Bookish} Thoughts :: Edition Two

This is a weekly meme hosted by Bookishly Boisterous where we write about stuff. I happened to see this via Birdie at Lady of the Manor and thought I'd join in.
1. Don't those pies look delicious? I discovered this cute little spot (called Piety-isn't that name perfect?!) that serves mini pies and hot tea and I declare that it may just become my new favorite place to visit! :)

2. The Christmas season is definitely upon us! I had to actually go to the mall this weekend for my dad since he's completely clueless when it comes to shopping for the grandchildren and my was it busy. I was quickly reminded why I don't like to go to the mall in December. (Actually I don't really like to go to the mall in general, no matter the time of year. I'm just not much of a mall shopper anymore. I used to love going, but that was when I was young and silly. Which I'm neither of anymore. Yes. That is sarcasm. Moving on! :)

3. Friendships are wonderful. I had lunch with some old friends this past week and it was so much fun. These are friends that, while we don't live too far apart, our lives are just busy enough and different enough that we don't get together very often. But when we do! Oh my, the laughter, the conversations, the happy just explodes from all of us. It's like no time has passed and we just begin where we left off last time! It's a beautiful thing.

4. As you know, I finally finished The Hobbit and want to read Lord of the Rings sometime. I'm also anxious to watch the movie versions of The Hobbit as well! But I'm thinking I want to wait until the final movie is out (which happens this next week I believe?) and then have a giant marathon of all three movies. And then have a huge-o-matic marathon of all six movies! Not sure when that's gonna happen, but hopefully early next year. (Doesn't that sound awesome?!)

5. Speaking of next year, I cannot believe that 2014 is only mere weeks from ending! Where has this year gone?! I may have mentioned this before, but seriously. I can hardly believe it's been an entire year since my Big Move. It's crazy how fast time flies!

6. Haven't done a huge amount of reading recently. Life's just been crazy busy and reading has taken a back seat. *sadface* I'm wondering if I'm even going to finish my Goodreads challenge. At the moment it's looking doubtful, but who knows? Maybe I'll suddenly read a flurry of books all in a row! Doesn't that sound delightful? :)

7. Kami, Jenni, and Suey are hosting a read-along of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell in January! As much as I LOVE the miniseries, I haven't ever really properly read the book (*gasp* I know, right?!). So I really want to join in. How about you?

8. I haven't been able to watch many of the new Hallmark Channel Christmas movies this year which just makes me sad. But I've vicariously kept up with them thanks to Rissi's awesome reviews, which you should totally check out.

9. Birdie wants to send out Christmas cards, so if you'd like one head over here and give her your address! She's the nicest, plus real mail is fun to receive, so I can promise that it'll be a great addition to your Christmas season.

10. Hamlette and Joanna both wrote fantastic posts about personality types and their favorite fictional characters. Firstly, can I just say that I love not being the only one who analyzes stuff like this? :) And secondly, can I also admit that I haven't actually sat down and analyzed this specific topic? Although I do plan to! Because it's so interesting to think about. Why do I like the characters I like? What is it about certain characters that make me love them immediately, while others I can't stand? Aside from the fact of who is cast as the villain or the hero? Not sure where this analysis is going to take me, but I plan to find out! :)

December 4, 2014

Review: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

(Let me preface this by saying I may get a little longwinded. I have lots of thoughts to share!) (Plus I'll probably spoil some plot points.) (But no more than the narrator does! ;) I've been wanting to read Tolkien's work ever since I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy actually. But when I looked at that series of books, I got a little intimidated. It seemed clear based on just a little skimming through that Tolkien is a very intelligent writer (true!) and would require me to think a great deal while reading his stories (I assumed). When I mentioned this fact to a few friends, I got told more than once that I should definitely start with The Hobbit. It would give me a good taste for his writing and be a pretty quick and easy read. I finally picked up my own copy and when I found the audiobook at the library, I snatched it up as well and proceeded to have loads of fun during my driving time!

Because that's what this story is. A very fun adventure. From the very first sentence we get taken along as Bilbo gets swept into the most incredible adventure of his life. One in which he is unsure whether he'll even come back alive. (Spoiler: he does. But it's what happens between leaving and coming home that makes for a wonderful read.) That first chapter is completely what sold me. The narrator of the story is hilarious! I wasn't expecting to laugh my way through this book at all. But that's exactly what I did! By using a narrator, the reader is privy to loads of little asides and comments and foreshadowing, all told by a sometimes snarky and always fantastic storyteller. The fellow made me grin quite often. I think that was one of my favorite aspects of the story, the narrator and his humor.

Now then, let's talk Bilbo. He's a little hobbit who has lived a good life and is quite happy to settle for just that. A good life. But he has no idea of the huge potential within himself to become something amazing. And that's what made me love him. The fact that he's got such courage and bravery inside and doesn't even realize it until it's forced out of him. I like that he's so clueless, yet never once hesitates to step up and do the brave and right thing every single time. He surprises himself!  He's far from perfect though. He complains a lot and wishes multitudes of times that he'd stayed home. Yet I don't think he truly feels like that, for all the times he mentions it. I kept getting the sense that his inherent fondness for adventure (buried though it was), the Took side of him, was actually his true self. And that every time he was forced to step up and make a deciding choice, his inner self was built up and through this unlooked-for adventure, he became who he was truly meant to be. If that makes any sense at all. His complaining is really just a habit that he created because, wouldn't anyone? If they were so constantly looked down upon by the people they spend their time with (i.e. the dwarves)? Plus he had become quite settled into his boring little life before. ;)

Speaking of the dwarves, they certainly deserve a mention. From Thorin down to Bombur, they all make very interesting traveling companions. I loved how Bilbo kept surprising them! I also loved how they grew to respect and care for him. Especially Balin. (He was my favorite!) They make plenty of mistakes for sure. But when push comes to shove, once they trust Bilbo, their loyalty knows no bounds. One particular moment I enjoyed is just after they get out of the barrels and are feeling all battered and bruised. Thorin makes the statement "And I suppose we ought to thank our stars and Mr. Baggins. I am sure he has a right to expect it...No doubt we shall feel properly grateful, when we are fed and recovered." Proof of how much their initial judgment of Bilbo had been changed. Even in a moment when they're feeling quite put out, they do realize exactly how grateful they are to have Bilbo along after all. It's a nice little bit. And even when other mistakes are made later (particularly by Thorin), it was so good to see their regret as respect for Bilbo once again rears its head. The dwarves have as much to learn as Bilbo does. Plus they tend to add a bit of humor to certain situations. :D

This world that Tolkien has built is magnificent in it's grandeur! Each place the group traveled to was richly described and I could picture every moment and every spot. I am, without a doubt, in awe of his ability to create an entire world that feels incredibly real. Every stop in the journey felt as if those living there had been there forever. And that they are still there, even after we left them, just living their lives and their own adventures. Much of the actual traveling time is quickly spoken about with just a few sentences, yet I could easily picture the days and miles between each geographical area. It all feels huge! Exactly like Tolkien wished, I'm sure.

With trolls and goblins and elves and men and magical rings and spiders and dragons and eagles and wolves and even a skin-changer, there isn't much that Tolkien leaves out of his story! (I confess to skimming quickly through the spider part, as I'm not a fan of even fictional ones. I was just glad when Bilbo once again stepped up to the plate and played the hero. :) I ended the story with just the feeling that a friend told me I would have. I'm now anxious to try The Lord of the Rings! Bilbo's adventure has only whetted my appetite for more of Middle Earth. :)

And I also must mention that Rob Inglis read for the audiobook and he was perfect! With his British accent and low, kind of gravely voice, it felt sort of like Tolkien himself was reading to me. I'm thinking I need my own copy of this particular audiobook. He was wonderful!

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.


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