2014 End of the Year Book Survey

2014 End Of Year Book Survey

I had been planning to do a big year-long wrap up of my reading list already this year, so when I saw Jaime’s survey at The Perpetual Page-turner, it just seemed like fate (note: slightly edited to suit my own reading habits). I don’t talk about it much on this blog, but I do love to read when I can. I read hardly anything the first part of this year due to having to read so many textbooks from school instead, but later in the year I had a lot more time on my hands and was able to read a significant number! Here’s an overall view of what I loved, hated, laughed at, cried at, and thought about.


Number Of Books You Read: 30
Number of Pages Read: 10 622
Genre You Read The Most From: Mystery


1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

Oh gosh. This one’s hard. I will have to say Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. It was between that, When the Day of Evil Comes, and Tuck (all of which I will properly introduce later), but Sacre Bleu was just so well-written and clever. I think it’s a book everyone should try and pick up next year.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. I read The Historian last year (her first book, a tasteful, non-romantic, perfectly mysterious and horrifying account of Vlad Dracul), and found it really interesting. The travel, the main relationship, the weaving of history into the plot and making it all relevant. I thought it was well-researched and engaging. It wasn’t a literary masterpiece or anything, and it was a slow read, but I liked it, and I thought Swan Thieves would be right up my alley with historical painting. I just finished studying paintings on Leda and the Swan, which are beautiful and mildly disturbing once you know the story, and that’s the subject of the main artwork in the book. I thought this was going to be perfect.

Meh. It was… kinda boring. I didn’t really like the main characters, and I felt the plot dragged on. I was bored, and really gutted that I was bored. Someone needs to rewrite a book with the same title about the same kind of painting so I can read it and feel fulfilled!

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. This one started out oh-so-promising. It was a non-fiction book following one of the first highly publicized Victorian family murders of the century, one of the first cases to inspire the whole cozy mystery genre. You know the one. A certain number of people in the house, someone is murdered suddenly, all of the people in the house swear it was “a maniac” but the detective knows it was someone in the house at the time and has to riddle it out of them. The case itself was interesting, as was the detective. It was a country estate in England, where a little boy was murdered. There were suspects and a trial, but the murder was never really solved.

The first fifty or so pages describing the case and the evidence were great. The last 200-odd were nothing short of disappointing. The author clearly did a lot of research and knew her stuff, but never once did she offer up any hints of a reasonable, satisfying conclusion. Who did it? Nobody knows, and clearly, the author doesn’t care to speculate, despite the fact that she has all the evidence. Was it the sister? Was it the mother? Was it the nanny? How did he die? Why did he die? What was the detective’s full theory and how did he explain the gaps? I like my books to have endings, even if we will now never know for sure. It’s like someone left out a few chapters. Surprisingly disappointing.

 4. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

David Tallerman. He’s a refreshing break from epic fantasy series that drag onnnnnnnnnn and onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Sometimes, I don’t want 6 500-pagers. Sometimes, I want a story over and done with in less than 350 pages, and I want it to be funny and heartwarming and not make me think too hard. David Tallerman delivers. His Giant Thief was reasonably short, inventive, and adorably witty- all without being cheesy or forgettable. I think I’ll be reading him in between long, dark books for a bit of brain-bleach from now on.

5. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook landed in my book bag going home from the library one hot day in July. I’m not sure how it really got there. I never ever ever read romance novels. I don’t watch chick flicks, I don’t like going to weddings. I feel like other people’s relationships are nobody else’s business but their own, and quite frankly, I don’t really care about the details. This is probably not helped by the fact that I’m chronically single, either. Romance has never tickled me, really, unless it’s my own.

This book was different, though. It was well-written, with relatively relatable, lovable characters and a conflict that couldn’t be resolved simply by talking it over. Plus, it had explosions! And airships! And zombies! Actually, I probably picked it up just for the airship zombie explosions, but came to really like the book as a whole. It was fun, and didn’t make me roll my eyes with the utter cheesiness of it all. The characters may have been tropes, but they were lovable tropes. And did I mention the zombies? If you like romance novels and/or steampunk-ness, you’d probably enjoy Heart of Steel.

 6. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells. It’s the first in a trilogy, following a slightly quirky professor of psychology as she discovers she has to fight the sudden appearance of a demonic presence. I read it in about three sittings and slept with the night light on afterwards. It wasn’t gruesome, or gory, and there were no ghosts or psychics or hysterics. It was subtle, and awesome and I can’t wait to read the next one.

 7. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

Tuck by Stephen Lawhead was the series ender to the King Raven trilogy that I’ve fallen in love with over the past three years. I finally got around to reading the last book and I am so happy I did. King Raven is a Robin Hood inspired trilogy set in Wales just after the medieval French conquest of most of the UK. It was historically fascinating and well-researched, and enhanced the tales I already love about Robin Hood rather than defacing them as some retellings tend to do (I’m looking at you, Gregory Maguire, who killed it with Cinderella, but then just plain killed Snow White’s story in your retellings). The ending was both satisfying and realistic given the historical context and characters, and I will definitely re-read.

8.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2014?

Shortest: A Study in Scarlett by Sir Arthur C-D. Last Christmas my favorite uncle got me a special edition of the story all told in newspaper clippings and diary entries and cool stuff like that. It included all the materials and clues you would need to solve the mystery for yourself- before Holmes. I really loved it, but it was only about 100 pages or so.

Longest: A Song Of Swords by George Martin. 936 pages, people. I’ve read 3 of the Game of Thrones books this year, and have already started the fifth. I originally got sucked in by peer pressure to read and watch the series, but I’ve come to be just as much a fangirl as everyone who got me into it now. I read the first two books before watching, and am now ahead of the tv series in the fourth/fifth ones again. The books give so much more depth to the stories, and despite their length, they’re easy reads. I had a hard time getting through series like Lord of the Rings (don’t shoot me!) because Tolkein’s writing style just seemed to go on… and on… and on… Mr. Martin isn’t as technically skilled of a writer as Tolkein, but I find I enjoy the books a bit more since he doesn’t dwell on the rolling hills and new species.

 9. Book That Shocked You The Most

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin. We all know he’s the king of shock value, and I did hear myself go “no! really?! no! don’t you dare leave me a cliffhanger like that you bastard!” a couple times. In the interest of protecting people from spoilers I won’t give any specifics, but I’m racing through the fifth book to try and find some answers- knowing I may not get any until the sixth.

10. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

I have a confession to make: I still sometimes read children’s books. Not teen books, just specific ones from my childhood that make me feel all nostalgic. Redwall books by Brian Jacques are in that category for me. It’s an idyllic setting, with predictable but engaging stories and characters, and it’s just satisfying and comforting to read about the good guys winning and the bad guys running away. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows- good guys sometimes die tragically, and not everyone gets what they want- but it’s the kind of book I gravitate towards when I’ve had a really bad day.

So, my OTP is definitely Martin and Rose, from Redwall. They are epic, and nothing can ever break them apart for me.

11. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

In The Proper Treatment of Blood Stains, I fell in love with the relationship between the cook and the protagonist, as well as the cook and the butler. The novel follows a young female private detective in Victorian times (and the novel recognizes outwardly how ludicrous that idea would sound in its respective time period), going undercover as a lady’s maid in a house where the lady thinks her husband might murder her. Downton Abbey fans? This one’s for you.

The cook is just such a lovable creature. Not too warm, not too hard, always smelling of mince pies. And boy, is the cook-butler relationship juicy once you get to the end! I’d definitely suggest this as a good cozy murder mystery for stormy nights.

12. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Will Scarlett from Tuck. He’s witty, got a hot British accent, rippling muscles and isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in. Hell to the yes, please, I would like a slice of that.

13. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. As an art history geek, this excelled in every way that The Swan Thieves failed me. It was incredibly clever and well-researched, following nothing but the personification of a rare colour. It’s set in Impressionist-era France (think Monet, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh…), and it’s absolutely genius how he interweaves historical fact and art with his elements of fiction. It made me think deeply about art, and it was also laugh-out-loud funny with characters you will adore. It’s even educational! Seriously, go read this book. Right now. Do it.

14. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Since I’ve already mentioned my Redwall series addiction, I’ll toss in Victoria Laurie’s books for this category. I read What a Ghoul Wants and Ghouls Ghouls Ghouls this summer, about a paranormal investigator and her team. They’re really quick chick lit reads, and parts of them were laughably bad- but I enjoyed them, and will continue to read her series when I want a break from life.

15. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

I read Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian (no, not the delicious kind of bellini with fruit and vodka, either) early this year. It nearly made me cry on multiple occasions, and not because it was heartwarming. If you’re reading this, Professor Sherman, you suck for making me read the entire thing for that essay- and fractions of about 50 others on the exact same topic.

Here is a pretty picture by Titian, to prove that I learned an appreciation for art (or whatever she was trying to instill in me through force and angry stares). It’s the Venus of Urbino– and yes, she is doing what it looks like she’s doing. That’s some of the most expensive pornography you’ll ever see.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

I’m in the middle of a series by Gregory Keyes. He is a wonderful writer and I love his books and characters, but for some reason, I never pick up his books once I stop reading the last one or I get out of the habit of reading for a month or two. I’m determined to finish the series this year!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015?

I really want to love Never Have I Ever– about a twenty-five year old who’s never really had a boyfriend. I also want to get the next too books in the Melanie Wells series I mentioned earlier. Oh, and Stephen Lawhead has a King Arthur series I want to check out.

So many books. So little time.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?

Book 6 in the Game of Thrones series, anyone?

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

I want to top last year’s reading with 50 books. Almost a book a week! Now that I don’t have to do 300-500 pages of reading a week for school anymore, I think I can definitely beat last year, at least.


Did anyone else read the same books/authors? Let me know in the comments- or link me if you did the book survey on your blog too!


The Ultimate Christmas Music Guide

christmas album guide

Christmas music is hands-down the best part of Christmas (aside from, you know, family). Nothing makes me feel like it’s Christmas more than a good rendition of Carol of the Bells or something from the Nutcracker. They’re easy to sing along to, everyone knows them, and for most people they bring back good memories of Christmases past.

So, in order to help get you into the Christmas mood, I’ve compiled a guide to help you choose the right tracks for a relaxing night in by the fire, your family Christmas get-together, and for creating a generally awesome Christmas atmosphere just about anywhere.

Continue reading

Top 10 Christmas Movies

In case you have somehow managed to not notice, Christmas is coming. “Why, it’s practically here!” If you’re not in the Christmas spirit yet, here are my top 10 favourite holiday movies of all time to get you in the mood to celebrate!

10. Muppet’s Christmas Carol

There are, perhaps, more refined versions of this tale. Great actors have played the parts of Scrooge and the various ghosts over the years, and maybe I should give them more credit. But the fact is, this is my favourite version of the classic Dickens’ tale. I find that the constant retelling of this story makes it fall a little flat at times, but the humour and oddity of the muppets makes the story come alive again for me.

9. Elf

You’d have to be quite a krampus not to enjoy this movie. Buddy the elf is adorable and his blind, unwavering, child-like enthusiasm for Christmas and the wider world is contagious.

8. RED

I know, I know. It’s not strictly a Christmas movie. But like Die Hard, it is set around Christmas, so that counts! Right? It totally counts. Sometimes you just need a break from all the super bright happiness of Christmas movies, and this combines just the right amount of cute with the right amount of explosions. You will want to be Helen Mirren in this movie, guaranteed.

7. Arthur Christmas

This was one I just discovered earlier in the year (thanks Netflix!), and I’ve got to say… I kinda love it. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s about an old Santa’s misfit son who is determined to deliver a gift to a little girl after it was forgotten at the North Pole on Christmas Eve.  Arthur is so relatable, as are his entire family, and the whole operation of Christmas is so uniquely conceptualized. This is one I’ll still be watching in years to come.

6. Christmas with the Kranks

Okay, I’ll admit it, I haven’t actually read the book this is based on. Shame on me. However, if the book is half as good as the movie, I’m sure I’d love it. The message of “Christmas is about the people, not the stuff” is refreshingly uncheesy here, as a couple attempts to get out of Christmas despite the horror of their neighbors at the idea. If you’ve ever been shocked at your credit card statement at the end of December, this flick is for you.

5. The Santa Clause

Involving a reluctant Santa Clause, an ugly sweater-sporting psychiatrist, and that guy from Numbers (remember that show?) cast as a grumpy head elf, there’s a lot to love about this.  And, to top it off, the sequels aren’t even that bad! It’s good for a Christmas movie marathon that just keeps on giving.

4. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

I think this is one of the first Christmas movies I can remember watching when I was little. The music is classic, the stop-motion puppets are kind of awe-inspiring when you think about it, and the characters are still just as lovable. It’s absolutely not Christmas yet, until you’ve rewatched this.

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Did you know that Charlie Brown is supposed to be five years old? He’s too adorably depressed to be five! This film is cute and straightforward in all the right ways. You really can’t beat the dancing scene, or Snoopy in… well, every scene. This is a movie to watch on a cold night to warm up your heart.

2. White Christmas

I don’t know how I managed to get into my teens without seeing this. Starring a lot of the greats from the 50’s, it’s the birth place of the christmas carol of the same name, which has always been a favorite of mine. It’s got fantastic acting, funny subplots and a genuine warmth to it that doesn’t feel too forced or obvious. This is a great one to watch when all the extended family is there- even the old farts have to like this one!

1. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The real life version is not a bad movie in itself, but the animated version is definitely my personal favorite. It’s a classic. It rhymes. It’s heartwarming and clever. It is everything I want in a christmas movie, and more. Don’t skip this one, whatever you do!

Is there a movie I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Tips and Secrets from your Retail Cashier

Like many other unfortunate souls this year, I signed up for a seasonal retail job, just to pick up some hours and holiday cash. It’s not all bad. I work at a shop you probably have been in before that sells mostly scented products, so I don’t have to deal with folding clothes or changing rooms, and I don’t have to stand in front of a hot grill all day. Sometimes, I get to shop with people, which is kind of fun. There are few things more rewarding than the look of relief in a man’s eyes when you find him something his wife/girlfriend/sister/mom will like, after he’s been staring at the same bottle of perfume for a good ten minutes with a bewildered and slightly frightened look in his wide puppy-dog eyes.

On the other hand, it’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life. My feet hurt, My hands and arms are cut to ribbons with papercuts from bags and cardboard boxes. There have been some less than pleasant customers, and my days are pretty repetitive, which makes them feel long. I’m happy to have my job, but I’m glad that there is a definitive end date too.

Why do I care about your minimum wage retail job? You ask. Well, as someone who has gone through the black gates of 10 hours at the mall on Black Friday and come out the other side, and has been there almost every day since, I can give you some tips from the inside about how to make your shopping trips less of a military operation and more of a fun outing.

Make a list. You don’t have to stick to it, but if you know where you’re going, who you have to buy for, and how much you have to spend for each person/at each place, it makes the day a whole lot less stressful. Going in with a few ideas gives you something to work with, and if you know exactly what you want, any decent sales associate can probably run around the store faster than you and cut your shopping time in half.

Ditch the giant purse, big coat and shopping cart. On busy shopping days, you don’t want to be constantly bumping into people or saying “excuse me” 900 times an hour while squeezing yourself through small aisles. Bring a small cross-body bag with your coupons/discount cards, favorite method of payment, your list, and some lipgloss. You probably won’t need anything else for that particular trip, and it will save you rifling through your bottomless pit of a tote bag every time you get to the cash. It’ll also be less of a pain to maneuver through the crowds. Leave the big coat too, if you can. Ditch it in the car or leave it with a buddy (see below). Malls get hot with so many desperate and sweaty people in them. You’ll be comfier and feel less bulky without it.

Another bulk-reducing tip to keep you light, happy, and agile on your shopping mission is to bring a friend and/or man to bag-sit. Buy them a smoothie and a couple of magazines, and get them to sit in the food court while you go about your business. You can stop in for a drink and to drop off your bags when you need to, and then don’t have to worry about carrying your purchases around or forgetting one when you drop them all to pay. If you can’t do that, at least try to make arrangements to put stuff in your trunk periodically. It’s hard to shop when all your hands are holding bags!

Don’t do Christmas shopping for yourself until boxing day. Yeah, the sales are great, and you’re already in the store, and you kind of need that eyeliner- but that’s what the stores are counting on. All of these limited time offers will come around again post-Christmas, and you will likely get a better deal. Big companies know that before the big holiday, you feel obligated to buy their stuff because you’re gifting. After the big holiday, they have to motivate you themselves. Plus, it really cuts back on  having to return things because someone’s gifted you the same stuff. Resisting temptation now is worth it!

I’m not personally offended when you don’t want to share your personal information at cash. Also, I’m not an idiot. I know why you wouldn’t want random companies to spam your email or know your phone number or address. But, if you’re under 30 and have barely put the phone down long enough to let me ring up your purchase, I’m not going to believe that you don’t have an email. My grandma has an email. There’s no way you can convince me that you don’t have a personal email address in this day and age. You would be surprised at how many people try that line. “No” is okay, but if you lie to me, I will judge you just a little.

If you’re in line for more than a minute, use that time. Count your items, take one last look around the store, and get out your coupons. It’ll save both you and me a lot of time. I want to get you out of there as fast as possible, you want to get out and get on with your day, help me help you. When there’s 50 people behind you holding lots of heavy stuff, that’s not the time to realize you don’t know where you put your credit card, or realize you forgot something. It’s definitely not the time to put all your stuff down at the till, walk away, and continue shopping. This happens several times a day at my workplace, and it’s never a cute look on anyone. I don’t expect everyone to always have everything out and ready like you’re boarding a plane, but it helps to use your time in line wisely.

Double check your receipts before you leave the mall. If I’m doing a hundred transactions an hour on an outdated and inefficient point-of-sale system (which is the norm during holiday shopping season), I’m bound to screw up. I have to type in every coupon manually, I have to make sure I didn’t accidentally scan something twice, I have to make sure the sale price rang up right instead of the normal price. A few people a day are going to inevitably have something messed up, and it’s worth it to double check your receipts to make sure. Most reasonable sales associates will understand and be able to fix the problem, especially if you bring it in only a couple hours later.

7 Reasons Why Being Single During the Holidays is Awesome

Christmas is a magical time of year when everyone else seems to be kissing under mistletoe, snuggling near open fires and making snow angels together on magical winter-wonderland-esque dates. You, on the other hand, go to holiday parties solo, simply wink at Aunt Helga when she insists that you’ll never find a soul mate at your age, and are glad you’re being saved from everyone else’s holiday relationship drama. Other people may tell you that being single at this time of year sucks- but here are seven reasons why I am genuinely happy to not have a significant other this December.

1. You don’t have to share your favourite Christmas foods. You know how you felt like you had to share that box of chocolates your coworker gave you, or some of that Christmas baking you just did? No longer. Now, it’s all yours, and how much spiked eggnog you drink in one sitting is just between you and your couch.

2. You get to browse through holiday Tinder profiles from desperately horny hometown-bound hunks. Even if you’re not looking to be someone’s Tinderella this holiday season, flicking through Tinder (without having to worry that your S.O. might think you’re boyfriend-shopping) can be a good way to kill some time waiting for Aunt Helga to get through her fourth cat story of the night. Christmas means that a lot of young bachelors who aren’t normally in town will be traveling to see family, and may be desperate to escape them within a few hours of arriving. Go on, get some giggles out of their bad, mildly creepy pick-up lines.


3. Shopping for boys is hard. With girls, you know what to get them. Jewelry, a nice scarf, a book she likes, a cute phone case… With a guy, you might have a couple ideas, and then you’re just down to socks and ties. It’s not as fun! Now, the only man you have to worry about is your dad, and you know he’s good with a hardware store gift card. That gives you more time to work on your own wishlist!

4. Shopping with boys is even harder.  There are three kinds of male shoppers: the survivalist planner who goes in to get one thing, spends twenty seconds locating that one thing, and gets out as fast as he can manage; the indecisive riddler who has no idea what he wants, and even when he knows what he wants, spends an inordinate amount of time making sure of it and rechecking all of his options several times; the rare and elusive reasonable one who enjoys shopping- but not too much- and takes pleasure in going with you on your errands. I have never dated anyone who fits into the latter, and am starting to think that men like that may be myths. To all girls who have ever gone shopping with men who fit into either of the other two categories, I salute you. Whether you’ve tried to slow him down to show him a pair of slippers his sister would like better, or tried to silently will him into just picking one motherloving toothbrush that is more or less like every other toothbrush he’s been looking at for the past forty-five minutes- you will appreciate how nice it is to not have to relive that scenario again this year.

5. You don’t have to buy or wear any uncomfortable and/or cold (but sexy) Santa/elf/ reindeer/Christmas tree costumes. Yes, your butt looks awesome in that red leather thong, but not constantly feeling like you have a wedgie is so much better. Also in this category: not having to shave your legs (it’s too cold for skirts, and everyone else is doing it), and shamelessly rocking the ugly sweater trend a little more often.


6. There are no awkward family get-togethers with the not-quite-in-laws. Are they really glad to see you at their Christmas Eve party, or are they just happy that you brought their favourite kind of wine?


7. Your Christmas playlist remains uncompromised. Yes, You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch is on your playlist 17 times. The original version from the 60’s, obviously, because you’re cool and you have standards. You don’t have to apologize for that. And no, his favorite folky version of Go Tell It On The Mountain is not included. Life could not be more perfect.

What do you like best about being single over the holidays?