2010 In Review

2010 is nearly over and can I just say that I’m really looking forward to 2011?!! It was kind of a crazy and rough year for me and I even had to take a break from blogging toward the end of this year. I decided that despite my challenges, life must go on and I miss my blogging friends too much to just give up blogging altogether.

I had hoped to do much better with reading in 2010 than I actually ended up doing. I managed to read or partially read 53 books (not all of which I reviewed and listed—some of them were smutty free books from Amazon that to be honest, weren’t worth reviewing. Yes, I’m admitting it. I read a few smutty romance novels to try to expand my horizons). My spreadsheet total says I read 21,000+ pages and averaged 465 pages per book I read. I am not sure that count is completely accurate because some of the books I haven’t finished yet.

What I learned about myself
I did learn that overdoing challenges really bogged me down in 2010. I didn’t enjoy reading as much because I felt obligated to hold to the challenges I had joined. So, toward the end of the year I gave up and just read what I felt like reading. It worked much better for me and I felt much more satisfied.

I did REALLY enjoy doing read-a-longs though. I finally trudged through Middlemarch with Lydia from The Literary Lollipop and Ellie, a friend from Shelfari. It made the experience enjoyable and we are all reading The Count of Monte Cristo together right now and through the first part of 2011. Instead of joining tons of challenges, I am going to concentrate more on joining read-a-longs from now on because I feel like I get more out of them.

I will however be doing two challenges in 2011:

Rikki from The Bookkeeper’s Steampunk Challenge
I have already started this one and plan to read a total of five books for the challenge.

Zee from Reading in the North’s Nordic Challenge
I am planning on reading at least one book from each Nordic country in this challenge. I have already chosen a book for Sweden called The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlöf. I still have to choose books for Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. I can’t wait to start this one because I have a love affair with Scandinavia (and now Iceland too after reading The Tricking of Freya).

So I guess to make it official, I am going to make every effort to start blogging again. I miss all of my blogging friends too much to stay away. You guys have all been so supportive of me through my blogging break. I especially want to thank Amy from Amy Reads, Rachel from And the Plot Thickens, Rikki from The Bookkeeper, and Sarah from Bookworm Blues for being my sounding boards. All my blogging friends are great, but these ladies have really listened to me through some chats and are probably sick and tired of me moaning and groaning about life! I love all of my blogging friends though. You are all very special to me! Thank you all for being there in my time of need.

I am not sure that I’ll be posting three or more times a week, but my goal is to post one to two times a week and get my rear in gear for 2011. I am going to read where my heart takes me this year and not limit myself in any way other than these two challenges. I also may host a read-a-long of The Three Musketeers later this year when things settle down in life.

  • What are your plans for 2011?
  • Are you going to challenge yourself in any way this upcoming year, reading or otherwise?
  • What things will you change in your blog and/or reading habits from 2010 for the upcoming year?

Have a Happy New Year everyone!
Hope it’s a joyful year for all of us!

The Distant Hours–Kate Morton

Book: The Distant Hours
Author: Kate Morton
Publisher: Atria
576 pages (Hardcover)
My Rating:
4h stars

Edie has never had a close relationship with her mother, Meredith, but she does have a love of books that helped her through her youth. When Edie is on assignment for her job, she detours to Milderhurst where Raymond Blythe, the author of her favorite book lived. There she visits his castle and meets Raymond Blythe’s daughters who are all strange and unique in their own way. Little does she know that her visit will begin to unfold a mystery that involved her mother’s relocation to Milderhurst during WWII.

A few years ago I read Kate Morton’s previous book, The Forgotten Garden and really enjoyed the mystery she wove in it. When I found out that Morton was coming out with a new book I was more than excited to read it. It’s one of the few books that I knew I had to have as soon as it came out. I was not disappointed. The Distant Hours has the same mysterious build to a historical fiction story, but is told just as beautifully as The Forgotten Garden was.

The Distant Hours is not a typical mystery or thriller. There isn’t a psychopathic killer or kidnapper running around town. It involves family secrets that affect numerous people throughout the years. The story is about Raymond Blythe’s famous work, The True History of the Mud Man and the mystery surrounding it. The Blythe family has a mysterious history including a house fire that killed Raymond Blythe’s wife and a daughter that wanders around aimlessly and appears emotionally disturbed. Edie decides to visit the castle and is later commissioned to write the introduction to a new edition of The True History of the Mud Man. While visiting the castle to interview the two sisters that are well, she finds the family dynamic interesting and discovers so many things about the family.

The thing I really enjoy about Kate Morton’s writing is that there is something very calming and introspective about her mysteries. There is always some sense of self-discovery for the characters that make them reflect on who they are. The Distant Hours is no exception. Edie learns a lot about herself and her family through her work with the Blythe family. The writing is excellent and Morton knows how to delve into both her characters and her plots. 

I definitely recommend this for anyone who enjoys literary mysteries. Kate Morton is now one of my favorite writers and I will gobble up everything she writes!

*Notice of Disclosure: I received The Distant Hours for review from Atria Books.

**I am a Book Depository and IndieBound afilliate so If you purchase any of the books I have featured through the links I posted or from the banners in my left hand sidebar, I get a small commission from them. I am in no way compensated for the reviews I post of my books.

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

This year I have been having a lot of trouble getting in the Christmas Spirit. To make an effort, I decided to make a list of my favorite Christmas movies. Some of these I watch year round while others I only watch as part of my Christmas tradition.

White Christmas
This is one of my favorite movies of all-time. I admit it. I had a huge crush on Bing Crosby as a kid and developed a huge crush on Danny Kaye in my teen years. I love how Vera Ellen danced and Rosemary Clooney sang. I especially loved their dresses at the end of the movie and secretly wish I had one exactly like theirs to wear EVERY Christmas. I grew up with musicals because my mom liked them and this movie resonated with me. The songs in this movie are so good. Everytime I see snow I sing, “Snow…snow…snow….snow,” just like they did in the movie. I know I’m a dork, but wouldn’t life be more fun if sometimes we all sat around and sang like they did in the movies?

Love Actually
This movie is also among my favorites and isn’t only a Christmas tradition. I enjoy watching this film all year long. Hugh Grant is so loveable as the British PM and is just classic when he calls Margaret Thatcher a “saucy minx”. Or how about Billy Mack becoming a beloved Christmas figure by being utterly vulgar. All the characters in this are so loveable and it is one of my favorite movies because it has such wonderful actors like Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, Colin Firth, Andrew Lincoln, and Liam Neeson. It’s such a feel good movie that personifies the new love, unrequited love, love of family, love on the rocks, and love of friendship.

While You Were Sleeping
This is another favorite movie of mine that I watch all year round. Sandra Bullock is one of the sweetest actresses and she is so wonderful in this movie. She plays Lucy, a young woman who is a booth operator at the “L” (Chicago Transit Authority) that is hopelessly in love with one of the regular riders, Peter. When he falls onto the tracks, Lucy saves him and is taken in by Peter’s family while he lays in a coma. They mistakenly think that Peter and Lucy are engaged and lots of hilarity ensues. Because Lucy doesn’t have family she is reluctant to tell Peter’s family the truth about her not being engaged to Peter. Peter also has a brother named Jack that Lucy begins to realize might be the one she is actually in love with. I really love this movie. Some of it really resonates with me which is maybe why I love it so much.

What is funnier than Will Ferrell as an elf? I can’t really think of anything. I love this movie! Zooey Deschanel is SO amazing in this as well. When she and Will Ferrell sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” I was taken aback at what a lovely voice she has. It has this really old-timey quality to it that is just soothing to listen to. The movie also features another favorite actor of mine, Peter Dinklage! He’s so funny even though he doesn’t have an overly large part in the movie. Will Ferrell has this very innocent and hilarious quality in the film that I really enjoy and it is possibly my favorite movie of his.

The Santa Clause
OK…I’m not gonna lie. I might be a little embarrassed to put this one on, but you know what? I love this movie. Eric Lloyd was a super cute kid and Tim Allen was pretty darn funny in this movie. I also wanted to put a movie about Santa Claus in this list because I can’t leave the jolly fellow out! It’s been several years since I’ve seen this film, but I really like it and if it came on TV I would be sure to sit and watch it!

Scrooged is one of the first Christmas movies I remember seeing and absolutely loving besides White Christmas. Bill Murray does the unlikeable but eventually loveable Scrooge character and the cast surrounding him in this movie is awesome. Honestly, who doesn’t love Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim? She was my hero as a kid! I also remember thinking how hilarious Murray was when he told the production crew to staple the antlers on the reindeer mice—he was so ruthless! Glad he learned his lesson in the end!

So there you have it. My favorite Christmas movies of all-time. I know I left off the classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street but honestly, they are not among my favorites.

What are some of your favorite Christmas or Holiday films?

Guest Post #7–Judith from The Netherlands shares her Book Read ‘Round the World Experience

World Map 4 (LoPC)

Lost on Planet China = Purple Pin
Journeying from Utrecht, The Netherlands to Ringgold, Georgia, USA
Distance Traveling = 4370 mi. / 7033 km.
Distance Traveled to Date = 16400 mi. / 26393 km.

Guest Post #7
Judith from The Netherlands

Judith from Leeswammes’ Blog in The Netherlands has sent her package off to Julie from Book Hooked Blog in Georgia, USA but since there are no spoilers in Judith’s guest post, it’s time to share her Book Read ‘Round the World experience. Judith has a regular feature called Book Bloggers Abroad that she has been running for a good portion of 2010. She is also hosting the Book Bloggers Abroad 2011 Challenge in which people will choose from a list of favorite books her featured guests mentioned in their posts. Julie from Book Hooked Blog has some AMAZING things on her blog. Besides being a Hunger Games fangirl, she is rather crafty and has two gorgeous Great Dane puppies that I love to read about. Please check out both these ladies’ blogs when you finish here. They are great bloggers and I love reading their blogs!


I’m Judith from Leeswammes. My blog is mainly about books but sometimes I post a recipe too. I read a lot of different types of books  but especially contemporary fiction, literary fiction, mystery, chick-lit, and anything else I get my hands on.

About the package:

The package arrived on an evening when I’d been to a book reading at a book shop, and I’d forced myself not to buy anything. A good thing too because when I came home, Carina’s package was waiting for me.

When I opened the package, I found a neat pile of books and cards. When I unfolded and opened all this I found:
  • A nice smiley card with a personal message (and 3 questions, which I will answer below)
  • A very old book called Twenty Five Ghost Stories by W. Bob Holland. This looks as if it’s from the 1930s or so. Very current, with Halloween just behind us.

  • The book: Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost. The book looks in perfect state after having been read by Carin, Carly, and Carina and having travelled from the USA to the UK to Canada to The Netherlands. I tried to be careful to keep it nice. By the way, I was the first one to read this book whose name doesn’t start with “Ca”!
  • A bookmark with the text “Books Leave a Mark”.
  • A doorhanger with the text, “Shhhh…..I am reading for the MS Read-a-Thon!” and on the other side “Shhhh….. Je lis pour le Marathon de Lecture SP!”

  • A small children’s book: Pigs by R. Munsch who, Carina writes in her card, is one of the most famous and most prolific kids authors in Canada.
  • A Ride Guide. This is a public transit map of Toronto.
  • A book about Toronto, with lots and lots of pictures.
---After these two presents I just have to go to Toronto, it looks so nice!
  • A newspaper article about Word on the Street and a booklet about this event: a national book and magazine festival. I’m sure I’m going to be jealous after reading this!
  • A really nice poster saying “Freedom to Read Week”.

I was overwhelmed!

The Questions
The questions Carina asked were well thought-out, I thought.

What books would a Dutch child typically read (what books would be in the “collective knowledge” of most adults who grew up in The Netherlands)?

There are two series that are very popular. The first one is Nijntje (Miffy) which is also known around the world. This is for the smallest children. For the slightly older ones there is Jip and Janneke. In addition, when I was young, me and many other youngsters read a lot of Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author of Pippi Longstocking.

Are there as many multilingual Dutch as they tell us over here?

Yes, a lot of people know several languages but not necessarily very well. Everyone in The Netherlands will get 4 years (or more) of secondary schooling in which English is required as a subject. Most also learn some French and German (I had 6 years of French and English and 4 years of German at school).

Also, we have a lot of English and American shows with Dutch subtitles. So, we are exposed to the original language and bound to pick up some words here  and there.

So even people who are not highly educated are likely to speak basic English. And if you get to the more touristic places, yes, then everyone will know their English and German.

What do most Dutch really think about pot smoking in Amsterdam?

Hmm, I don’t know what most Dutch think, but pot smoking isn’t something we all do. Some people seem to be into it a lot, especially 20-somethings with nothing better to do all day. Also, it’s very popular with tourists, as you can imagine.

I hate the smell. When I walked to work in Amsterdam I had to pass several “coffee shops” where they sell the stuff, and I really hated the smell. I can’t imagine any of my friends (in their 30s and 40s) smoking pot, but who knows? It’s not something that is happening in my circle of friends and family. I only notice the coffee shops in Amsterdam and other cities, but otherwise, it has nothing to do with me.

[I don’t think I got any information on Canada, so no “snippets of information”]

Shopping for Julie in Georgia, USA

I found it quite hard to find local things for Julie. I myself can’t stand very touristic things that you can find in many shops that only tourists ever visit. So I only bought from shops that I normally frequent.

A few items I got really early on, even before I got the book because I was keeping an eye open for something nice all the time. I was quite worried not being able to find enough nice goodies to go in the package.

When it was almost time to put the package together I combined this with shopping for the Great Grocery Bag Exchange. Combining the two made shopping a lot easier. Although I bought one item exactly the same for both packages, I was more inspired to buy local goodies this way.

A problem I had was that it was very hard to find anything in English that was still local. I didn’t succeed there  and included only items without text and one item in Dutch.

I also could not find a book in English by a Dutch author (which I had planned to include) so at the very last minute I found a novel on my shelves that takes place in the Netherlands but is written in English. I hope Julie will like it.

One Sentence Review of Lost on Planet China:
Initially a very lost traveler in China eventually becomes an expert China traveler compared to newbies.

Thanks for the great gifts, Carina. It was great to get your package. Thanks to Carin for organizing. A great idea and I loved reading the book. (Click HERE for Judith’s review of Lost on Planet China.)
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