Challenging Year

Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or long lasting.

from My Personal Best by John Wooden with Steve Jamison

I signed up for 5 new challenges this year.  I completed 4 of them easily, but the States Challenge became a bit of an obsession.  I only managed 76 books this year and still visited all 50 states!  In the month of December I had to finish a book every 2.5 days to check this challenge off my To Do list.  The Agatha Christie Challenge is ongoing so I hope to get more done on that in 2012.

I had one challenge holdover from 2010.  I asked you all to choose 50 book from my TBR piles for me to read and I read 36 in 2010 and another 11 in 2011, leaving me with 3 left for 2012.  Weird that I have had no desire in 2 years to pick up the one that garnered the most votes!

Except for those three books and the Agatha Christie challenge I am making 2012 a challenge free year.  I need to take some of the pressure off of myself and have a more relaxed reading year.  I do have a toddler running around here, you know 🙂

Here’s the challenge wrap up…

1. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb – 12 votes (Mary, Marce, Jo-Jo, Amanda, Calico Critic, ‘Nise, Jo Ann, Allesandra, Piroska, Mom, Literary Feline, Melissa)

2. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – 10 votes (Mary, BermudaOnion, Word Lily, Linda B, Em, Literate Housewife, Ms. Mazzola, Jessica, Mille, Margie)

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel – 10 votes (Gofita, Carol, Staci, Ms. Mazzola, Heather, Kerri, Rebecca, Alita Reads, Julie H., Rhapsody)

9. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley – 7 votes (Carol, Staci, FleurFisher, Vasilly, Ms. Mazzola, Angie, Amanda)

11. Emma by Jane Austen – 6 votes (Candice, Jennifer, Ms. Mazzola, Alita Reads, Kathrin, Literary Feline)

14. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire – 5 votes (Shanyn, Jo-Jo, Calico Critic, Donna S, Lisa-Marie)

19. Roots by Alex Hailey – 5 votes (Cee-Cee, Staci, Literate Housewife, Sarah E., Angie S.)

35. Good Grief by Lolly Winston – 3 votes (Staci, Jenners, Margie)

36. Testimony by Anita Shreve – 3 votes (Marce, Allesandra, Mystica)

40. Three Junes by Julia Glass – 2 votes (Golda, Soft Drink)

42. Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins – 2 votes (Carol, Mille)

46. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – 2 votes (Golda, Heather)

49. The Human Stain by Philip Roth – 2 votes (Jackie, Mille)

50. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster – 2 votes (Candice, Jenny girl)

Book Obsessed

Alabama  The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer

Alaska  Emerald Dreams by Caroline Bourne

Arizona  Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay

Arkansas Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris

California The 9th Judgement by James Patterson, Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher

Colorado  The Invitation by Jude Deveraux

Connecticut  Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton

Delaware  Hawke’s Harbor by SE Hinton

Florida  Black Out by Lisa Unger

Georgia  Quicksand by Iris Johansen

Hawaii Kona Winds by Janet Dailey

Idaho  Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson

Illinois The Litigators by John Grisham

Indiana  My Personal Best by John Wooden with Steve Jamison

Iowa Laughing Through Life by Connie Corcoran Wilson

Kansas The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

Kentucky  Foxfire Light by Janet Dailey

Lousiana Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Maine  Carrie by Stephen King

Maryland  Earthly Possessions by Anne Tyler

Massachusetts  Just Above a Whisper by Lori Wick

Michigan  What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage

Minnesota  Buried Prey by John Sandford

Mississippi Third Degree by Greg Iles

Missouri  Little Black Dress by Susan McBride

Montana Work Song by Ivan Doig

Nebraska  My Antonia by Willa Cather

Nevada  The Missing Ink by Karen E Olson

New Hampshire A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

New Jersey  Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

New Mexico  The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal

New York  Hush by Kate White, After Isaactown by Ward Jones, Deadly Vows by Brenda Joyce, Live Wire by Harlan Coben, The Fountain by Emily Grayson, Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon

North Dakota A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor

North Carolina  The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart

Ohio  The Lake Effect by Les Roberts

Oklahoma Six White Horses by Janet Dailey

Oregon  HeartSick by Chelsea Cain, Good Grief by Lolly Winston

Pennsylvania Someone in the House by Barbara Michaels

Rhode Island The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

South Carolina  What So Proudly We Hailed by James Howard

South Dakota  Black Hills by Nora Roberts

Tennessee  The Glass Flame by Phyllis Whitney

Texas  Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Echo Burning by Lee Child, Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Ruth Pennebaker

Utah The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Vermont Testimony by Anita Shreve

Virginia Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Washington  The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts

West Virginia Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

Wisconsin  Afraid by Jack Kilborn

Wyoming Open Season CJ Box

Washington DC  The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

1.  What So Proudly We Hailed by James Howard.  Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

2. The 9th Judgement by James Patterson.  Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

3. After Isacctown by Ward Jones. Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

4.  Third Degree by Greg Iles. Reviewed here. Gave away here.

5. The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer.  Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

6. Testimony by Anita Shreve. Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

7. The Glass Flame by Phyllis Whitney. Reviewed here. Gave away here.

8. Emma by Jane Austen. Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

9. Carrie by Stephen King. Reviewed here. Gave away here.

10.  The Invitationby Jude Deveraux. Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

11. Open Season by CJ Box. Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

12. Skinny Legs & All by Tom Robbins. Reviewed here.  Gave away here.

1.  Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

2. Deadly Vows by Brenda Joyce

3. The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer

4. A Room with a View by EM Forster

5. The Fountain by Emily Grayson

6. Emerald Dreams by Caroline Bourne

7.  Emma by Jane Austen

8.  The Invitation by Jude Deveraux

9. Foxfire Light by Janet Dailey

10. Kona Winds by Janet Dailey

11. Black Hills by Nora Roberts

12. Six White Horses by Janet Dailey

1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles reviewed here.

2. The Secret Adversary reviewed here.

Finish 100 miles in three months, July 1-September 30. I finished my 100 miles on September 14th!!!

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI   September 1-October 31st.

1. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

2. Buried Prey by John Snadford

My Antonia, by Willa Cather

My Antonia (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)Finished 12-30-11, rating 3/5, classic fiction, 266 pages, pub. 1918

“I came to ask you something, Tony.  Grandmother wants to know if you can’t go to the term of school that begins next week over at the sod schoolhouse.  She says there’s a good teacher, and you’d learn a lot.”

Antonia stood up, lifting and dropping her shoulders as if they were stiff.  “I ain’t got time to learn.  I can work like mans now.  My mother can’t say no more how Ambrosch do all and nobody to help him.  I can work as much as him.  School is all right for little boys.  I help make this land one good farm.”

Chapter 17

Let me start by saying that we listened to the first half of this in the car on our holiday travels, but I could not make Jason listen to more.  He hated it.  He told me there was a good chance of him falling asleep while driving if we listened to more.  I had to agree that the audio wasn’t good.  The Bohemian accents were laughable to me and really ruined Antonia.  And it was fairly boring on the Nebraska farm.

Once home, I picked up the book and finished.  I am happy to report that it got better for me.  Jim, the narrator, who had crushed on Antonia since he was a boy on the farm moved to town with his grandparents and Antonia soon followed him, working at the house next door.  Their friendship had its ups and downs, but remained the dominant relationship in Jim’s life even decades later.

This is a great study of early Nebraska and the people who settled there, many foreigners who didn’t understand the land, the language, or the people. Foreigners like Antonia and her family.   Life working the land was hard and it could make people mean, but not Jim’s grandparents.  Jim went there to live with them after his mom and dad died back in Virginia and was blessed with a relatively easy life compared to some.

I thought this was alternately boring and interesting.  Just when something interesting would capture my interest it would be followed by pages of details that didn’t move the story along for me.  I think it’s a good study of one Nebraska farm girl’s life, but it may have been more compelling told from her point of view so that she was not just seen on the fringes of Jim’s life.

I would rate the first half/audio a 2 and the second half/paper a 3.5.  I read this for the states challenge and I do feel like I’ve been there.

This was from my personal library.

My 2011 Book and Movie Favorites

I read 76 books this year and these are my favorites (only 2 of them were published this year)…

Cover ImageGood Grief by Lolly WinstonCover ImageRoots by Alex Hailey

The Chosen OneThe Chosen One by Carol Lynch WilliamsBig Stone GapBig Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Husband and WifeHusband and Wife by Leah StewartLive Wire (Myron Bolitar Series #10) by Harlan Coben: Book CoverLive Wire by Harlan Coben

The Missing Ink (Tattoo Shop Series #1)The Missing Ink by Karen OlsonBuried Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #21)Buried Prey by John Sandford

A Room with a View and Howards EndA Room With a View by EM ForsterHeartsick (Gretchen Lowell Series #1) by Chelsea Cain: Book CoverHeart Sick by Chelsea Cain


I watched 44 movies this year and these are the ones I feel good about recommending…

Bridesmaids (2011) A

The Help (2011) A

Sherlock Holmes:A Game of Shadows (2011) A-

Horrible Bosses (2011) B+

Gidget (1959) B+

Inside Man (2006) B+

Holes (2003) B+

Definitely, Maybe (2008) B+

Desk Set (1957) B+

Strangers on a Train (1951) B+

The Kids Are All Right (2010) B+

In April I asked that you all participate in my 5 word reviews by adding 5 words of your own.  For each review posted I would contribute $1 to charity.  When we reach $100 the person who contributed the most reviews would get to choose the charity.  Well, we are up to $99 and I’d like to get that check out!  So, please contribute your reviews (list here).  Since I’ve still got the holiday spirit I’ll keep contributing $1 for a week, even if we go over $100.

December’s 5 Word Movie Reviews – Join In

Once a month I feature the movies I’ve seen for the first time with a 5 word ‘review’.  Only it’s not really a review.  For that I need your help.  I hope that you’ll add your 5 words to my 5 words and that someone else will add their 5 words and so on until we have a a fun hodgepodge of words that make up a ‘review’.

This month you can give money to charity by contributing your 5 words (Details here).  Please join the fun :)  Past 5 Word Reviews here.  We’re up to $99.

(2011. Cast-Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace)   Grade A-

Smartly done period dramedy. Fun.

Even better than the first. (Michelle)

Downey, still my fave Sherlock.  (Heather)

(2011. Cast-Ed Helms, John C. Reilley, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver)       Grade B

Earnest Insurance Hijinks.  No, really.

(2010. Cast-Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel)                            Grade B

Totally unrealistic but cute romance.

Surprisingly cute but overly predictable.  (Heather)

My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey, by John Wooden with Steve Jamison

My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American JourneyFinished 12-26-11, rating 4.5/5, non-fiction, 202 pages, pub. 2004

Never lie

Never cheat

Never steal

Don’t whine

Don’t complain

Don’t make excuses

Joshua Hugh Wooden’s “two sets of threes” to live by (John Wooden’s father)

John Wooden, a basketball coaching legend, won 10 national championships in his 27 years at UCLA, but it was his honest and positive approach to life that won him a multitude of fans.  This book chronicles some of the biggest moments of his life and how they influenced him, from his father reading poetry to he and his brothers to the death of his beloved Nell in 1985.  He loved his family, respected others, and was always striving for success, on the court and off.

Jason and I read this aloud to each other for a few minutes each night as Gage listened or played, a perfect book for it.  I hope that Jason will read this with Gage when he gets older.  Wooden is role model because of the way he lived his life.  He had success after success and yet he was always trying to learn lessons from perceived failings.  It was so refreshing to read about someone considered the best in their field who was also just a decent human being. He was 99 when he died in 2010.

The book had lots of pictures and lots of basketball talk and is a perfect read for fathers & sons. 

This book was from my personal library.

Six White Horses, by Janet Dailey

Six White Horses: Oklahoma (Americana Series)Finished 12-26-11, rating 2.75/5, romance, 186 pages, pub. 1977

Patty is a trick rider in the rodeo. She travels with her grandfather who helps her handle and train the six white horses Patty uses for her show.  The owner of the rodeo , Morgan Kincaid is overbearing and opinionated and clashes constantly with Patty.  The animosity is hiding a powerful attraction and Patty is the last to realize that not all fighting is bad. 

I rolled my eyes through the first half of the book, but once they arrived in Oklahoma and I learned a little more about the rodeo circuit and the history of Oklahoma I actually enjoyed the story.  Did you know that Oklahoma City is the only state capital with an oil well underneath?  Makes sense, but I didn’t know it.  So, it was melodramatic, but the small historical details made it tolerable.

Okay, this is the last of these small romances that I’ll be reading and complaining about, but I needed a romance and one from Oklahoma, and this one fit the bill.

I had this book in my personal library.

A Christmas Blizzard, by Garrison Keillor

A Christmas Blizzard: A NovelFinished 12-24-11, rating 3.5/5, fiction, 180 pages. pub. 2011

Don’t  you feel it?  Christmas is the force field of heightened possibility.  It’s not about religion, those myths we were brought up with are only tools to direct us toward the mystery of the under self.  It’s about the ecstatic visualization of psychic world is calling us toward balanced consciousness.  Don’t you feel that?  There is a lightness and spontaneity that is struggling to get through all the commercial static and leads us out of our linear consciousness into a global wholeness, don’t you?”

Chapter 17

James Sparrow is a very rich man with a pump handle obsession who hates Christmas.  His wife, Joyce (James & Joyce, cute right?) is a graceful woman who loves all things Christmas and would celebrate all year long if she could.  James is preparing to fly to Hawaii for the holiday when he receives a call from his cousin in North Dakota that his Uncle Earl is dying.  Seeing that Uncle Earl was the only good thing about his childhood, James charters his private jet to Looseleaf for a quick visit before continuing on to the warm beaches of Hawaii.  Only the spiritual powers in North Dakota have conspired to ground this modern day Scrooge until he learns to make peace with Christmas.

Once I looked at this book as a modern take on A Christmas Carol I enjoyed it much more.  At first the talking wolf and dream sequences put me off a bit when I was expecting a nice, sweet holiday read.  I’ve never read Keillor so I didn’t know what to expect and while I enjoyed this holiday story I won’t be rushing out to read more.

Checked this book out of the library.



Work Song by Ivan Doig

Work SongFinished audio 12-22-11, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2010

Unabridged audio 9 hours.  Narrated by Jonathan Hogan.

This is the sequel to The Whistling Season, but is a perfectly fine stand alone novel.

Morrie Morgan shows up in Butte, Montana in the early 1900’s, without friends, a job, or even a change of clothes.  He finds work as funeral crier and a place to live with a widow and two boarders and begins to carve out a life for himself while running from his past. 

Butte is a mining city and Anaconda Copper company owns the city, much to the miners dismay.  Morrie starts working at the library and is mistaken for an instigator by Anaconda goons and is forced to take sides.  He sides with his new friends and goes a step further by helping the union workers find ammunition to use against the company.

There is a nice story and it moves along at a good pace.  I appreciated the lyrcal and humorous writing.  The slyness kept the story fresh.  The story of the big company versus the minions is very topical and added an extra layer of recognition to the story.

I loved the narration.  Hogan had a Steve Martin quality to his voice that I loved.  He really made me think that I could hang out with Morrie for a while.  At least before he took off to parts unknown again.

I enjoyed this visit to Montana.

I checked this audio out of the library.


Black Hills, by Nora Roberts

Black HillsFinished audio 12-21-11, rating 3/5, romantic suspense, pub. 2009

Listened to the playaway narrated by Nick Podehl.  17 hours unabridged.

Lil and Cooper were best friends.  He spent his summers in South Dakota with grandparents and Lil was a local girl and the two of them managed to keep their friendship going through their early twenties.  At that point hormones and pride got in the way and they became distant.  A dozen years later Cooper has returned to South Dakota for good and Lil is there running her rescue habitat in the Black Hills.  It doesn’t take long for the two to reconnect, especially after a serial killer seems to have his eyes set on Lil.

I read Nora Roberts on occasion, in the almost 4 years I’ve had this blog this is the fourth Roberts’ book I’ve reviewed.  I usually like her stories but didn’t really care for this one.  There was no chemistry and the killer provided no mystery.  Lil was an okay character, but Chase wasn’t very charismatic.  They were kind of a boring couple.  It also could have been the 17 hours of listening that bored me.  I did like Lil’s rescue habitat.  I visited one we have in Ohio (post here) and think they are necessary places and labors of love, so that part of the story was interesting.