31 December 2011

2011: Later, gator!

Well, 2011 has crept out of my life.  The year was chuggling along smoothly with surprising new reads (I finally hopped on the A Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon and remembered that romance novels aren't quite that bad when I need a reading boost) and surprising talents (I wrote a book - almost done with draft 6 and feeling like I might, just might, let other people read it) when December hit. 

My world shattered into a thousand tiny pieces when my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor December 4.  Things still haven't settled after three weeks of crazy but we are moving forward.  The surgeons did a fantastic resection, Mom is recovering well, and the radiation and chemotherapy schedule is set to start January 4.  The path ahead of her is uncertain but she has good doctors and therapists and we're going to put up one hell of a fight.

In the middle of all this, the poor little book blog gets neglected.  I still haven't caught up with my reviews.  Oops.  Being a reader I was presented with a dilemma.  I could (a) write my reviews (which takes about 30-45 minutes/review depending on what I have to say), (b) read a book, or (c) edit my own book.  It's safe to say that (b) and (c) won out, with (c) taking a bit of an edge because I almost didn't finish the biggest, but simplest, challenge I ever signed up for.

The Goodreads Challenge

I said I would read 100 books this year.  I've wanted to do this for several years now and always fell short.  Goodreads's little challenge seemed well within my reach...until I started writing.  I didn't read a book for weeks unless you count constant re-reads of my own poor manuscript, quibbling over the placement of a "her". 

But I did it.  I read 100 books.  In fact, I read 102 books.  *cue trumpets*

I liked most of what I read (five stars is "amazing", four stars is "I really liked it", three stars is "it was good/ok/readable", two stars is "meh/uninteresting", and one star is "I really wanted to light this on fire" - I have no one star books because those books I usually don't finish reading and don't bother to review most of the time):

According to Goodreads the longest book I read was A Storm of Swords (according to me, I think it was A Dance with Dragons, but that's probably a quibble over format and the ebook format didn't have any pages listed for ASOS so I had to make do with the MM format just to get page counts).  My favorite book this year is either One of Our Thursdays is Missing, Shatter Me, A Game of Thrones (probably that whole series because I went on a serious binge), or The Wierd Sisters.  I never can decide. 

Also, according to Goodreads I read 32,330 pages this year.  Excuse me while I peel my contact lenses out of my dry little eyes.  I actually read faster on my nooks (yes, I said nooks because there are several...pardon me while I go beat down Mr. Collins) - if I don't have to turn a real page then I don't have to move my eyeballs and, somehow, that turns into reading faster.  Craze-balls.

I finally read some Jane Austen off-shoots (thanks to Sourcebooks' wonderful ebook sales during December - JA's birthday month) and remembered that, while I really, really still don't like Austen variations/sequels/straight-up modern re-tellings, I do like clever adaptations (cf: Bridget Jones's Diary and Clueless).  I find that I enjoy stories that use JA as a jumping off point (like A Weekend with Mr. Darcy) rather than one of her novels as a skeleton.  My reading of the collection Jane Austen Made Me Do It added more evidence for that conclusion.

I did some re-reading, too.  I picked up Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks (the NYRB Classics re-issue) and read it aloud to my kitty-boys one evening during a storm.  I pulled out my D'Aulaires (also re-issued by NYRB Classics) when I needed some inspiration from Norse mythology  I turned to Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series (with Eloise and Colin and flowery Regency spies) because Letty and Arabella are good friends in a pinch.  And my beloved Jane bolstered me with Pride and Prejudice when I inclined to insomnia due to worrying over Mom.

Other challenges...well, I sorta failed.  The Booker Challenge?  I had good intentions but barely scratched the surface.  I only read one Newbery book (yet to be reviewed).  Only one Best American.  Boo.  Fail, fail, fail.

My trouble is the writing.  What I read seeps into what I write.  Not a bad thing, necessarily (I generally find that authors who cop to the whole "I couldn't possibly sully my process by reading other people's stuff" attitude have the most ghastly prose), but when one realizes that she has unconsciously appropriated key words and phrases from well-known authors...and those words/phrases are unique to said authors' worldbuilding...one starts to sweat just a little.  And stop reading.  (This is where the romance novels come in...they somehow don't affect the writing and saved my bacon with the Goodreads challenge).

But enough about 2011.  On to 2012!

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