December 31, 2013

2013 Resolutions: How'd I Do?

At the beginning of the year, I put up two resolutions posts. The first was a Top Ten Tuesday prompt, Top 10 Books I Resolve to Read in 2013, and the second was the more general 2013 Bookish Resolutions. So, now that we've reached the last few days of 2013, it's time to ask the big question:

How'd I do?

I successfully read The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, my mystery resolution for the year; my review of the book can be found here. I also managed to listen to the audiobook of Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, though I did not review it, and I'm currently reading The Book of Cthulhu II.

However, I failed to read The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Mist by Stephen King, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.

So, as far as books go, I managed 3/10. Pretty pathetic!

On the subject of other resolutions, here's what they were:

  • Read at least fifty books I actually own.
    • Of the 180+ books I read in 2013, only thirty-six were books that I own.
  • Pinpoint the most effect and affordable way to pass along my old books to new owners.
    • Currently, I am donating my books to a local thrift store. It's not the solution I was looking for, but it's acceptable for the meantime.
  • Complete at least the lowest level of every challenge on my 2013 Reading Challenges page.
    • I spent most of the year in a bit of a reading slump, and so I didn't come close to completing my yearly challenges. As a matter of fact, I think the challenges actually contributed to my laziness; this year, I'm not committing to any until I am already back in the swing of consistent reading.
  • Finish three fanfiction stories to put up on Archive of Our Own this fall.
    • My AO3 account is still empty, and I expect it to remain that way for quite some time.
  • Finish a manuscript, even if it's so terrible I never want to see it again.
    • Well, I didn't finish one, but I started one for NaNoWriMo this year that I'm really enjoying and hope to complete sometime between NaNo 2014.
  • Write a cumulative minimum of 350,000 words.
    • I was terribly lazy about keeping track of what I wrote this year, so it's possible that I did in fact reach this goal. Since I failed to properly keep a count, however, I'm going to mark it down as a failure anyway.
  • Focus on reading more new releases and more popular books.
    • Yeah, I tried to do this... and I failed. This is the other main cause of my reading slump, I think; trying to persuade myself to read what other people are gushing about just hasn't clicked with me. In 2014, I hope to reconnect with my own interests and explore genres that I find more entertaining.
  • Try to get ahead of schedule with Amara's Eden by utilizing the schedule post feature.
    • This one was a definite failure, unfortunately.
  • Be more social on Goodreads and the Blogosphere.
    • I think I succeeded with this, to an extent--at least where Goodreads is concerned. I'm no social butterfly by any stretch of the imagination, but I did better in 2013 than I did in 2011, for example--a year in which I don't think I talked to a single person about books.
  • Stop requesting books from the library that I won't be able to read within the check-out period.
    • The giant piles of library books in my bedroom would like me to inform you that I failed dismally, and that they would like to go home.
  • Find my reviewing voice, and get a handle on this whole blogging thing.
    • I honestly have no idea! I think I'm getting a bit better, maybe, but I still don't think I'm a particularly wonderful reviewer; I definitely need more practice, and I hope to keep practicing in 2014.
Stay tuned for my 2014 resolutions! Hopefully I'll have better luck this year!

2013: My Top 10 Most Popular Posts

December 26, 2013

[Book Review] Kevin's Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard

Kevin's family is celebrating the seven days of Kwanzaa! They light candles and learn a special word each day. They talk about working together. On the sixth day, everyone dances at a big feast! Find out the different ways people celebrate this holiday.

Kevin's Kwanzaa is a really cute book about a little boy, Kevin, who celebrates Kwanzaa with his family. The art style is downright adorable--bright and energetic, it's reminiscent of various PBS children's cartoons--and the book's clearly written to both teach and celebrate the holiday, making it a great read for children who celebrate Kwanzaa as well as children who don't.

Highly recommended to any parents who want to introduce their children to Kwanzaa.

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December 23, 2013

[Book Review] Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark

When Catherine Dornan's husband, Tom, is diagnosed with leukemia, she and their two young sons travel with him to New York during the holiday season for a lifesaving operation. On Christmas Eve, hoping to lift the boys' spirits, Catherine takes them to see Rockefeller Center's famous Christmas tree, where seven-year-old Brian notices a woman taking her mother's wallet. A St. Christopher medal tucked inside the wallet saved his grandfather's life in World War II, and Brian beleives with all his heart that it will protect his father now. Impulsively, Brian follows the thief into the subway, and the most dangerous adventure of his young life begins...

For a suspense novel, Silent Night was surprisingly boring. Right from the beginning, it's obvious that the characters are in no real danger, as the "endangered" little boy, Brian, is a definite Thing That Is Good and is of course at no risk of being killed off in a Christmas novel that has faith and parent/child love as its main themes. And since neither of these themes particularly resonate with me--I find the first quite irksome, as a matter of fact--the story had very little emotional impact on me.

It also didn't help that the plot had several almost hilariously contrived moments of attempting to raise the (completely nonexistent) stakes. Characters did and said things that no reasonable, able-minded human would ever do under the circumstances; in the most jarring example, a news reporter broadcasts a report that all but ensures that the kidnapped young child will be murdered by his captor.

Seriously? Even if someone was so desperate to push his/her career forward that they wouldn't care about the life of a child, surely they would understand the legal repercussions they might face if their actions resulted in the child's death? The industry blacklisting they would face? The potential lawsuits? The sheer wrath of the police, the victim's family, and the public at large? Perhaps it's just a case of Reality is Unrealistic, but the whole situation just struck me as so far-fetched and stupid--I mean, isn't there some kind of approval process he has to go through with his boss(es) before he gets to say whatever the hell he wants on camera? So how did that story make it to air in the first place? Everyone at that station's an idiot?--that it marked the point at which I truly stopped caring about the story.

I don' t particularly recommend Silent Night as a holiday read--especially not as a secular Christmas story--but I suppose it might be an emotional book for anyone with whom those aforementioned themes resonate or anyone who has a weakness for stories involving child abduction and/or cancer.

As for me, I can't say it's propelled me to read more of Clark's work. I assume I will eventually, but so far, I am definitely not impressed.

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Best Books I Read in 2013

December 22, 2013

[Book Review] A Cars Christmas by Melissa Lagonegro

Lightning, Mater, and the other residents of Radiator Springs celebrate Christmas in this short, rhyming picture book. It's a great way to get Cars fans to read, but definitely not the most fascinating book in the world for any parents or guardians reading along.

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December 21, 2013

[Book Review] Clifford's First Christmas by Norman Bridwell

Clifford’s First Christmas is just what it sounds like: the story of Emily Elizabeth and her little red puppy’s first Christmas together. As they put up the tree, exchange gifts, and even meet Santa Claus, Clifford gets up to his typical adorable shenanigans. It’s a cute Christmas story for young children—especially those fond of the Clifford franchise.

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December 20, 2013

[Book Review] Franklin's Christmas Gift by Paulette Bourgeois

In Franklin's Christmas Gift, Franklin's entire class is donating new and used toys to needy children. At first, Franklin can't decide which of his toys to donate; everything's so special to him that he can't imagine parting with any one of them! But when he learns that these children might not get more than a single present each on Christmas, he realizes that he needs to make his donation count.

Every time I read one of these Franklin books, I ask myself again why I don't read more of them. They really are incredibly endearing and teach non-cliched morals that I actually agree with; the moral here in particular is downright enchanting. While the obvious way to describe it is "a lesson in generosity," the nuance of it is so much more than that; rather than simply showing Franklin enjoy the act of sharing with another person, Franklin's Christmas Gift goes out of its way to point out another--perhaps more important, one could argue--aspect of holiday charity: that a seemingly insignificant donation might not seem so insignificant to the person who receives it.

I highly recommend Franklin's Christmas Gift to anyone in need of a good holiday read for a young child.

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December 19, 2013

[Book Review] Arthur's Christmas by Marc Brown

Arthur's Christmas is a 1984 Arthur picture book. It's a cute little story, if a bit odd; in the book, everyone's favorite aardvark is getting ready for the holiday season and searching for a gift. A gift to give to Santa Claus.

Why is Arthur giving Santa a present rather (or in addition to) than the more traditional set-up? I couldn't tell you, as the book doesn't say. But it's a cute idea that sets up a sweet, very Arthur plot.

The book should be a great holiday read for any young children--especially those who are fans of the Arthur television show--and I'd recommend complementing the book with a viewing of Arthur's Perfect Christmas.

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December 18, 2013

[Book Review] Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer

Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad is the story of Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter explaining to his parents all the little thing he’s done this holiday season to make their holiday special. Though many of these gestures end in a mess, it’s a sweet story of a young child—er, critter—and his love for his family (not to mention his excitement for Christmas).

It’s a great story for any young children who celebrate Christmas, either secular or religious.

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