2013 Book and Movie Favorites and Stats


I read 56 books this year (that’s one more than last year!)  Here they are by the numbers-

Fiction 42, Non-fiction 14

Female authors 35, Male authors 21

Series books- continuing series 6, new series 4 (I only plan to continue one, the Louise Penny series)

Oldest book read? Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit published in 1975

Most read author? Harlan Coben with 3

My 5 favorite books this year

The Winter SeaThe Winter Sea was a romantic delight from beginning to end. I can’t wait to read more!

The Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret had an excellent cast of characters with strong storylines that all came together in a powerful conclusion.

A Gracious Plenty: A NovelA Gracious Plenty had a gritty main character and a cemetery full of dead people and somehow  managed to be beautiful.

The Uncommon Reader: A NovellaThe Uncommon Reader was a light escape with the Queen and her books. Hard to resist.

The Girl You Left BehindThe Girl You Left Behind was a surprise to me because I rarely read wartime books and I found this one addicting.  I want more.


I watched 62 new to me movies this year (that’s up 13 from last year).  I wrote about 3 of my favorite 100 movies (#7 There’s Something About Mary, #46 Chocolat, #62 Yankee Doodle Dandy) and did one Book vs. Movie post (Ender’s Game – still time to vote in the the poll), wrote a few Friday film talks and continued my 5 word movie reviews asking for your participation and help for charity.

2013 was my most watched movie year with 18.

The oldest movie I watched was A Touch of Evil, 1958

Most watched actress- Sandra Bullock with 3 films (Gravity, The Heat, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Most watched actor was a 3 way tie with 3 movies each- Woody Harrelson (Catching Fire, Now You See Me, Game Change)

Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, The Wolf of Wall Street, Boys on the Side)

 Ben Kingsley (Ender’s Game, Searching for Bobby Fisher, Iron Man 3)

My 5 favorite movies this year-

Catching-Fire poster.jpgThe Hunger Games:Catching Fire – I love Katniss even though I’ve never read the books (for shame!)  A

Prisoners2013Poster.jpgPrisoners – A gritty thriller that makes you think.  A

Argo – Another thriller, but this one political and psuedo-true!    A-

Stingredfordnewman.jpgThe Sting – There was not a boring minute in this con film with two handsome legends.     A-

42 film poster.jpg42 – An overlooked baseball movie that hit all the right bases.       A-

December’s 5 word movie reviews with $ for charity – LET’S GET TO $100 by the 1st!!

We finally made it to $100 for charity!!  But you can still add your 5 words to start raising the next $100 for a new charity!  Take a peak through the backlist or scroll through this year’s reviews to see if you missed anything.

You know the drill, add your 5 words to mine and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and to see the other reviews you can add to.  We made it to $100!  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug theatrical poster.jpgThe Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug, 2013 (Cast-Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly)   Grade  A-

Smaug is compelling.  Quality storytelling.

The-internship-poster.jpgThe Internship, 2013 (Cast-Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rose Byrne, John Goodman)     Grade B-

Predictable but enjoyable Google infomercial.

Google overdose with funny guys.   (Sheree)

Admission movie poster.jpgAdmission, 2013 (Cast-Tina Fey, Paul Rudd)     Grade B-

Likeable chracters with decent story

Good; don’t compare to book  (Kathy)

Cute but didn’t stand out.  (Heather)

WallStreet2013poster.jpgThe Wolf of Wall Street, 2013 (Cast-Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler)                                        Grade D

Sex, drugs, depravity. Repeat. Repeat.

Weekends with Gage-Welcome to 2014!

Gage wasn’t on the blog much this year, but that will change in 2014 as I plan on having Weekends with Gage every week.  I will have the usual kid book reviews, kid book activities, some milestones, but I’ve also decided to go back to basics and come out of the closet, such as it is.  I miss blogging about being Gage’s mom and after I read through my posts from that first year I was so glad that I had taken the time because they are all moments I can’t get back.  The coming out of the closet part is a closet that some of you already know about but now one that I am taking public on the blog, last December before Christmas Gage was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (for him the mild side of autism).  Last year I wasn’t up to talking about about it and Jason didn’t think it was fair to blog about Gage when he had no control or say over it, but we’ve come to an understanding 🙂  This past year I have found so many bloggers who have already been through what we are going through and lived to tell the tale and they were a source of comfort and information to me and I think I can add to the conversation.  Gage’s PDD diagnosis is a small part of who he is (some therapists aren’t even sure the diagnosis is correct) but a part I want to acknowledge because otherwise it seems like I think it’s something bad or embarrassing and that’s not true.  I couldn’t be prouder of him.  He is super smart and comes up with some of the best lines.  He is doing well because he’s worked so hard this year and the sky’s the limit for 2014!

Jason’s dad came over the weekend and I had the chance to recreate a photo I took in May 2011.  Oh my how times have changed 🙂  Forgive the quality – I only had time for the camera phone!


2013 Challenge fail but high hopes for 2014 Finishing the Series Reading Challenge

I’d given up challenges a few years ago because they put too much pressure on my reading.  Last year I gave myself a personal challenge of reading 9 books, but failed.  I only had to read these awesome books.. 001I managed to read 6 of them which is still okay.  After I read everyone’s favorites lists this year I may make a personal reading list again.  If at first you don’t succeed and all that.

This year I decided to join one challenge.  I saw that Bookfan Mary was going to make this her one challenge of the year and I thought it sounded like a great idea.  I am a champion at starting a series but not in completing them. Sometimes I don’t care for the first one but often I just get distracted by new shiny books.

So, I’m signing up here and choosing one series, level 1, so that I don’t have to work too hard to feel successful 🙂  I’ll be completing a series that I started back in 2009 when  read the first two of Shirley Tallman’s Sarah Woolson series.  It’s a great historical mystery series set in San Francisco.  I chose this one because I’m only three behind and I have the next two on my shelves already.

#3 The Cliff House Strangler

#4 Scandal on Rincon Hill

#5 Death on Telegraph Hill

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska. Finished audio 12-23-13, rating 4.25, YA, pub. 2005

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

I’d heard all of the hype surrounding John Green almost since I started blogging almost 6 years ago, but this was my first experience with him.  For the first half of the book I was entertained but a little confused about all the fuss, but then when the big event happened it made the book deeper and more poignant.  Lots of great discussion for teens and parents.  This is a great book for a young adult (15 or 16 and older?) and I have found a new YA author to check out and gift 🙂 

I checked the cds out of the library and was actually listening to it when I got into my car accident.  After some consideration I have decided not to hold this against the book or author.  Highly recommended.

Six Years by Harlan Coben

Six YearsSix Years. Finished 12-22-13, rating 4.5/5, thriller, 351 pages, pub. 2013

Six years have passed since Jake Sanders watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.

But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life – a time he has never gotten over – is turned completely inside out.

As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart – and who lied to him – soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.

from Goodreads

I consider myself a Harlan fan, having happily read every one of his books, first falling in love with Tell No One and then the Myron series.  I find his stand-alones hit or miss but this one was one of the most enjoyable of his that I’ve read in a while. 

I liked the premise, the writing kept me turning pages and I really didn’t want to put this thriller down at all.  Jake finds himself in some crazy situations and like all of Harlan’s main characters, he can take a beating, find more clues, cheat death again, find the answer he was looking for, and still manage to come out relatively unharmed.  Considering I’m still suffering from headaches and some dizziness due to my car accident last week I think I’d like some of their durability!

This was from my personal library and I think it was one of his better standalones.

Merry Christmas Card :)

I love Christmas Cards (but I am in no way offended by the ‘holiday’ cards I get from my non-Christian friends)!  I love to send them (well, at least the first 40, after that your personal note may be very brief).  The cards are my favorite decoration.  From my house you yours, Merry Christmas!!

christmas cards

Do you see the two ornaments Gage made this year? So artistic 🙂  We actually received a card all the way from Moscow this year and it was one of our first ones.  Way to be on top of things, Munteans!

The Gazebo by Emily Grayson

The Gazebo: A NovelThe Gazebo. Finished 12-12-13, rating 4.25/5, romance, 275 pages, pub. 1999

Smalltown reporter Abby Reston is hungry for a good story when elderly, but still hale and handsome, Martin Rayfiel walks into her office. Martin tells the young newspaperwoman of his lifelong romance with Claire Swift, and how they have faithfully reunited once every year at the gazebo in the town square. When Abby goes to the gazebo to witness the annual meeting, she finds a briefcase filled with photographs, letters, tape recordings, and mementos. It is a poignant and haunting chronicle of love and devotion that will profoundly affect the life of Abby Reston and touch the heart of everyone who experiences it.

from Goodreads

Even though it didn’t have a Christmas theme it was a nice, easy story to help with December stress.  Martin and Claire were never meant to meet really, but a black eye turns into a chance meeting at the town gazebo and then an invitation home.  Martin is the son of the richest man in town and Claire’s family owns a humble landscaping business.  They must meet in secret, but eventually Martin goes off to college and their promise of meeting every year at ‘their’ gazebo is made and kept until it was no longer possible.  It is a bittersweet romance that extends to Europe and back.

I did have some problems with the story near the end but still really enjoyed it.  Recommended for romance lovers.

I read The Fountain by Grayson a few years ago and liked the easygoing writing style enough that I kept my eyes out for her books.  I thought this one was better than the first and as far as I can tell she’s only written five books but I hope to find them all.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage (Passage Trilogy Series #1)The Passage. Finished audio 12-4-13, rating  3.75/5, vampirish fiction, 766 pages, pub. 2010

Unabridged audio. I listened to the audio and enjoyed it although it took me about four months to get through all 29 cds.

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” 

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

Let me start by saying that I don’t consider my few thoughts on this book to be a review.  I am overwhelmed by the holidays  right now (or maybe it’s just life) and don’t have the time for the review this massive tome deserves.  But I want to start 2014 fresh and that means posting about the books I’ve read this year actually in this year!

Because it took me so long to get through it, it is a little hard to remember  some of the beginning details. I remember meeting six-year old Amy and her mother and agent Wolgast, their early story stuck with me in a way that some of the rest of it didn’t.  The government was trying some crazy stuff to help humans live, if not forever, at least as long as Noah from the Bible (950 years).  But like many things run by the corrupt and greedy there was a problem and they unleashed upon the world Virals.  Virals are vampire-like, but not like your Edward Cullen vampire, think more nasty and ugly.  The United States did not survive and the Virals went international.   This book tracks America after the Virals disrupt life as we know it,

I liked most of it.  The beginning while good, annoyed me because every time I cared about someone they died.  It was better for me once main characters started surviving and I could get more invested.  There were some cheesy parts surrounding the 12 super virals, but I accepted it because I was interested in how humans were going to survive when they were totally cut off from each other.

This is not my usual  reading, but I needed to see what all the fuss was about.   I received the next in the trilogy, The Twelve, last year and I’d like to see what happens but I definitely need a break from the desolate world Cronin created.


Silken Prey by John Sandford

Silken Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #23)Silken Prey. Finished 11-8-13, 4.25/5 stars, fiction, 406 pages, pub. 2013

#23 in the Lucan Davenport series.

Murder, scandal, political espionage, and an extremely dangerous woman. Lucas Davenport’s going to be lucky to get out of this one alive.

Very early one morning, a Minnesota political fixer answers his doorbell. The next thing he knows, he’s waking up on the floor of a moving car, lying on a plastic sheet, his body wet with blood. When the car stops, a voice says, “Hey, I think he’s breathing,” and another voice says, “Yeah? Give me the bat.” And that’s the last thing he knows.    
Davenport is investigating another case when the trail leads to the man’s disappearance, then—very troublingly—to the Minneapolis police department, then—most troublingly of all—to a woman who could give Machiavelli lessons. She has very definite ideas about the way the world should work, and the money, ruthlessness, and sheer will to make it happen.

No matter who gets in the way.

from Goodreads

I have a few series men that make me read them and continue to read them even when they might have an off book or two and Lucas Davenport is one of the them.  I’m not sure when I first discovered him but I am a loyal fan.  His last few have been hit or miss for me so I was happy to see a return to a Lucas story I loved.  It was was political, even more so than the regular politics of Lucas’ job, and just like real-life politics it was dirty and true justice illusive.

I love this series and how Lucas ages and grows.  He is not the same womanizer detective we met in the first book, but he is a man who has found his happiness.  I think to truly appreciate the series you have to start at the beginning with Rules of Prey.