My best (and worst) books of 2012

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If you know me in real life, you know that I am a rather voracious reader. I love books. When I was younger and people asked me what my hobbies were, I would say reading. I still say this. I remember one time when I was 12 and a friend came over and I was finishing up a book. I kept telling her “just give me a couple more minutes, I’m almost done,” and she got so frustrated and tired of waiting that she finally took my book from me and threw it in the pool.

I will admit that I was being rather rude, but destroying my book?!? A bit extreme, if you ask me.

Anyway, I love books and I read quite a bit. I read at least a book a month because of my beloved book club, but I usually read at least one more throughout the month. This year I’ve read some phenomenal books as well as some super waste of time fails. I love getting recommendations from friends, so I thought I’d share my “worth reading” and “don’t bother” books of 2012. Enjoy!

Worth Reading

Next to Love - I loved this book. It follows the lives of three women during WWII, but it’s not a typical war story by any means. It’s a war story told from the voices we rarely hear – what it was like to be left at home alone during this time. What it was like for the women left behind. It’s a beautiful story of love and friendship and loss, and what American society was like before and after WWII. My book club rarely agrees but this was pretty much unanimously enjoyed.

The Language of Flowers - I randomly downloaded this to my kindle, and I unexpectedly loved this book. The story itself is nothing Pulitzer prize worthy, but it’s really good, and more than anything I loved learning about the meanings of flowers. It’s about the foster care system and takes place in SF (which I loved), but mostly it’s about the old language of flowers. However, a word of caution: I read this after my wedding and started to go a little crazy by analyzing what all the flowers I had meant.

For example:

Me: would you call the roses in my bouquet yellow or peach?
Kevin: yellow
Me: are you sure? I think they were more peach.
Kevin: I’m pretty sure they were yellow.
Me: well this is just terrible! Yellow means jealousy! I can’t believe I could walk down the aisle with flowers that meant jealousy! Why would I start off our marriage holding something that represents such a terrible trait?!?!
Kevin: you are crazy.

Or:

Scene: Kevin has just brought me home sunflowers, previously one of my favorite flowers.
Me: didn’t I tell you that we can’t get sunflowers anymore!? sunflowers represent false riches!
Kevin: I hate you.

I Know This Much Is True - A looooong book but well worth reading. A fictional tale that realistically portrays what it is like to love someone who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. The people in this story will stick with you for a long time.

The Sandcastle Girls - I’ve read quite a few books by this author (my favorite being Skeletons at the Feast), and this one is by far one of his better books. It’s historical fiction about the Armenian genocide. It’s moving and heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. It’s also very informative, because after reading this I realized just how little I knew about the Armenian genocide and the repercussions and horrors that still haunt people to this day.

Gone Girl - I’m sure you’ve heard about this book. I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Best writing ever? No. Captivating and compelling? Yes. Definitely worth reading in my opinion.

A Long Way Down - If you are a fan of Nick Hornby (and who isn’t?), you will like this book. I laughed out loud more times than I count. I connected to the characters. I missed them after I finished the book. Perhaps not the most realistic story but overall a good read.

The Happiness Project - I reviewed this book here and here. Overall I really enjoyed this book and I think it provides some great tips and ideas for taking control of your own happiness, but I will say that multiple times while reading I found the author, Gretchen Rubin, incredibly obnoxious and almost unbearably smug. Still worth reading though.

The Marriage Plot - This book had mixed reviews at my book club, but I really enjoyed it. It follows a young couple during their last year of college and after. The constant literary and philosophical references did start to bug me, but I enjoyed following the lives of Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell so much that I was able to overlook that part of it.  It took me a while to get into though.

Unsaid - If you are an animal lover, I think you will really connect with this book. That said, I don’t really consider myself a big animal person, and I still really enjoyed it. It’s told from the perspective of Helena, a veterinarian who has recently died and is looking down on/watching the lives of all of those she loved, including her many animals. It sounds cheesy but it’s really not. Its actually believable and beautiful, and I couldn’t put it down. I cried and I laughed and I connected. My idea of a good read.

Rules of Civility - This was originally on my “whatever” list, not because I didn’t like it, but because I wasn’t left with any sort of lasting impression. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized how much I enjoyed it, and just how beautiful of a story it was. It’s about a group of friends in upper society Manhattan in the 40s. I loved the characters, but I also loved getting a glimpse of what socialite life was like 60 years ago, and how much (and little) has changed since then.

Don’t Bother

The Violets of March - Ehh. I can’t even remember what this book was about it was so unmemorable. I do, however, remember being horribly unsatisfied when it was over. Don’t bother.

Before Ever After - I downloaded this book right before a long flight so I was stuck with it. It was horrible. If I wasn’t trapped on a long plane ride I would have stopped reading after chapter two. Terrible. Stupid. Juvenile.  I don’t know how it got published (or how it has any good reviews on Amazon). It was just… embarrassingly bad. Twilight was better written.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - I wanted to like this but I just didn’t. It was boring. So very boring.

Neither Great nor Terrible

When I was comprising this list I realized that I had also read a lot of books that were kind of in the “whatever” zone. Books that were not necessarily bad but were far from great, and not really worth mentioning. You know, books that you read and finished and kind of went “meh.” However, to pay respect where respect is due, my “whatever” list is below.

The Fault in Our Stars - Most people LOVED this book. I liked it, but it was nothing to rave about. I’m actually surprised by all the hype it’s received.

The Woman Who Wasn’t There - I debated about listing this at all because the book itself wasn’t that great, but the story is completely captivating. It’s a true story about a woman who claimed to be a survivor of 9/11. It’s a really quick read, and it’s so crazy that you really can’t believe its true. I wrote more about this here. 

Fifty Shades of Grey - What can I say about this? It’s so incredibly stupid, and the writing is just horrendous, but… if you are not into porn and are looking for something to help spice things up, this is bound to get your juices flowing, if you know what I mean. I wrote more about it here.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened -  By Queen Blogger Jenny Lawson aka “The Blogess” herself, this book is her personal memoir. It is definitely funny, but by the end I was ready for it to be over. It got to be a bit annoying.

The Tiger’s Wife - I kept waiting to love this book and it just didn’t happen. Most of my book club felt the same. I’m still not really sure what the book is supposed to be about.

Wild - A memoir about a woman’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. I didn’t dislike this book, per say, I just didn’t find the author a very likable person, which kind of ruined it for me.

********

What do you think? Did you read any books I’ve listed above? I’m always on the lookout for good recommendations, so if you’ve read anything lately that I haven’t mentioned, please pass it along!

Happy reading!

LaurenDecember 28, 2012 - 2:35 pm

Serena, I love this post.. takes me back through all the great book clubs this past year. I would also say The Langague of Flowers was one of my favorites!
~Lauren
http:/lalovesblog.com

DJ @werejustdandyDecember 29, 2012 - 5:52 am

I love favorite book posts! Thanks for all of the books to add to my to-read list.

I LOVED Rules of Civility – I actually added it to my favorite books EVER pile. It was just so PRETTY and apparently inspired me to CAPITALIZE with EMOTION, haha. I think I highlighted a quote I loved on nearly every other page.

I’m with you on The Tiger’s Wife. I just didn’t get it, nor did I really care. I was especially annoyed with it because a) it was so hyped up and b) I read it on a plane. Having a bad book on a plane is the worst!

I like the Fault in Our Stars, but I think it was kind of marred by its hype. I didn’t think it was as life-changing as the rest of the world seems to, and I was almost scared to not give it 5 stars on Goodreads.

JessicaDecember 29, 2012 - 8:54 am

Gosh, I love me a good book review. I loved Gone Girl and the Happiness Project. I’m going to read Language of Flowers next! I’ve been wondering about the Tiger’s Wife. I hate when books are so hyped and then they are just mediocre.

MichelleDecember 31, 2012 - 4:03 am

I think we need to start a book club because you and I have very similar tastes and opinions in books!

And thank you for posting this, I’ve been looking for some new books to download!

SerenaDecember 31, 2012 - 8:49 am

@DJ – After reading your stellar review I started to rethink my review of Rules of Civility, and I agree with you. It was so beautifully written, and you connected so deeply to the characters. I’m moving it to my “must read” list. I’m with you on the fault of our stars! I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so hyped up.

NicoleJanuary 1, 2013 - 11:46 pm

Yay! Book recommendations! I was JUST saying this morning I need a new book to read. I’m Nicole btw, I just found your blog from Across The Pond! Looking forward to reading more!!

Aloha!
NeNe Monster

:) Nicole

BrooklynneJanuary 3, 2013 - 1:21 pm

Great list! Downloading Unsaid to my Kindle now.

LesleyJanuary 4, 2013 - 10:40 pm

I’ve been wanting to read Language of Flowers for ages now! (I used to work in a flower shop. hehe) Glad to have your recommendation!

CourtneyFebruary 15, 2013 - 12:04 pm

I am OBSESSED with ‘I Know This Much Is True’ (and any Wally Lamb book I’ve ever read). I read it a couple of years ago in high school, and somehow finished it in three days. I ate. it. up. It hasn’t left my brain since, either!

[...] I share all sorts of random things, such as super awkward experiences like this, or reviews about books I love. Other times I get all serious and write about things that I think matter. Mostly though, I write [...]

Megan C. StroupSeptember 13, 2013 - 11:42 am

I promise I’m not trying to be creepy by commenting on such an old post haha; the last post I commented on had this one as a suggested post at the bottom, and as a huge bookworm, I just had to take a peek. :) I also loved Gone Girl and was very intrigued by The Woman Who Wasn’t There, but you have a lot of books on your “worth reading” list that I haven’t heard of, so I’m going to look them up now! Thanks for giving me more possibilities. :)
Megan C. Stroup recently posted…A Day in Monterey with Any Way the Wind Blows

[…] Last year I posted my best and worst books of 2012, and I thought it was about time to do the same for this year. […]

Christmas in the Desert

So. Christmas. Like every other blogger out there, I figured I might as well jump on the bandwagon and share a bit of my Christmas holiday. Kevin and I spent five days in my hometown of Palm Springs and we had a better time than we usually do. Not because we usually have a bad time, not at all, but because this time we said “we are adults and therefore we are going to do what we want!” So instead of spending our days with obligatory visits as we have so many times in years past, we spent it with who we wanted to spend it with.  There was a lot of family time, for sure, but there was also a decent amount of us time in which we hung out with friends. We ate a ton of delicious food (lobster for Christmas dinner! It pays having an ex-chef as a dad), drank copious amounts of wine, and slept a lot. I even caught up with an old family I used to babysit for. Their oldest son is 16 now, which was/is incredibly surreal. It was wonderful, but also made me feel old as shit.

And now, behold! A short photo recap!

And because we just couldn’t help ourselves…

Happy Holidays to you and yours! Cheers!

How was your holiday?

LaurenDecember 27, 2012 - 3:16 pm

Looks like you had a great Christmas!!! Love the red dress in the first photo…so festive!

JessicaDecember 28, 2012 - 7:49 am

Looks like you had an amazing time in PS. That apron is hilarious!

Conversations With My Mother

Mom: So you are getting a dog?
Me: No, I want to get a dog but our apartment won’t allow it, plus it’s too small.
Mom: What about a cat?
Me: Same.
Mom: Bird?

********

Mom: We have a similar humor.
Me: Huh?
Mom: Our sense if humor. It’s that same sideways kind of humor.
Me: I don’t really know what you are talking about, but I couldn’t disagree more.
Mom: Don’t harsh my mellow.

EllenDecember 26, 2012 - 8:05 am

You should get a pet before you agree to let a guy move in. I made the mistake with Alan, letting him move in before I knew he was a drunk. After a year of him throwing up, I decided enough was enough and made him leave. It was not all bad, but I do not recommend you let a guy into your apartment, even if you do like him.

BrooklynneJanuary 3, 2013 - 12:48 pm

Love it. My conversations with my mother follow a similar tack.

xo
BP

P.S. Time to move. Having a dog is life-giving.

40 day and 40 nights » SpillerenaFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:27 am

[...] my Mom is Catholic, and sometimes she can be quite the riot. She sends me text messages that frequently make no sense, but are hilarious nonetheless. Kevin [...]

We’re Alive!

The world did not end!

Oh Mayans, you were so very smart in so many things but I’m happy you got this one wrong.

Kevin and I are heading to Palm Springs today for the Christmas holiday.

I’m excited to see family and friends and spend some quality time doing nothing.

I am so very good at doing nothing.

Kevin is also very excited because he gets to use his clear membership for the first time.

I, on the other hand, do not.

After signing up, they disqualified me because my passport and drivers license did not match.

You see, I never changed my name on my passport because I didn’t want to pay the money, and I figured i would just wait until it expired at the end of 2013.

Thus, my legal forms of identification do not match.

While Kevin gets to whiz past security, I get to wait in line with the rest of us commoners.

He’ll probably be on his third beer by the time I make it through.

So unfair.

Oh, the things you do for love.

Happy Holidays friends!

Do you have any travel plans for the next few days?

Erin @ Empirically ErinDecember 21, 2012 - 12:39 pm

Haha, that’s funny, I didn’t change my passport until this year when I was headed to China. I had an old New York ID that had my maiden name on it that they never took from me, so I would just use that ID when I had to travel internationally. This time though since I needed a visa for China, I actually changed my passport. China’s probably the last place I wanted to get locked up for some weird reason :)

[...] a few months ago when I wrote about how excited Kevin was to use his clear [...]

How to have a fantastic 30th Birthday

So. I’ve now been 30 for one week and one day.

I have realized that in blog land, that makes me rather old.

Oh well. I still get mistaken for a teenager so there’s that.

(one time someone even asked if Kevin was my dad! But that is a story for another day.)

(he does not particularly like that story.)

Though life at 30 hasn’t really seemed very different than life at 29 (or 28 or 27, for that matter), now that I’ve had time to become accustomed to this new age, I thought I’d share with you my personal guide to turning 30 in style!

How To Have a Fantastic 30th Birthday

Wake up. Have your husband gather bring you coffee and breakfast. Thank him for being the best husband ever.

Sit on the floor and open your presents. Ohh and ahh over fabulous gifts! Declare “I love being 30!”

Go to work. Get little to nothing done for the first few hours because you are too busy responding to birthday wishes.

Have one of your best friends send you the most amazing bouquet of flowers you’ve ever received and feel like royalty!

Let your mom and step-dad take you to a fancy lunch. Order something fattening and delicious.


Have your best friend fly in to spend the day with you. Freak out when you see her and proceed to act like you are 12.

Go back to work. Try to get work done. Fail miserably.

Leave work right at five and head directly to a bar for happy hour. Hope that some of your friends join you.

Order two for one cocktails. Start to drink.

Relive a bit of Costa Rica when your friend Heather arrives and gives you a lovely Avocado birthday cake!

Realize that there are almost 20 people at the bar just for you and do a little jump for joy and have an OMG HOW LUCKY AM I moment.

Have random dudes come up and ask what this party is for. Tell them it’s for your birthday and then smile with pride when they tell you how good looking all of your friends are.


Take lots of pictures and revel in how blessed you are to have so many great people in your life.

Proceed to get intoxicated and close out the bar. Go home with best friends and act like you are back in college by ordering Dominoes Pizza and drinking late into the night.

Wake up massively hungover. Pat yourself on the back for planning ahead by taking the day off. Have your husband go buy some bagels. Make coffee. Pour a massive amount of baileys into it.

Snuggle in bed with your best friend and watch Magic Mike. Rewind the naked scenes multiple times hoping to see some peen.

Do nothing but eat and watch movies for most of the day.

Finally leave the house for some tacos and margaritas.


Put your best friend in a lyft to the airport because of the margaritas.

Fast forward to the weekend. Reserve a private room somewhere so that you can have an official “30th Birthday Party.”


Create your own drink menu featuring your friends drunk nicknames.

Proceed to drink multiple Spillerenas and Mevins.

Once officially toasted, take pictures and sneakily grab your friends boobs.


(side note – when I drink my affinity for my friends’ breasts comes out in full force.You can see evidence of this here and here, among other places I’m sure.)

Be lucky enough to have a friend with a cupcake company so that you are treated to the best cupcakes in San Francisco. Better than Kara’s and Sprinkles, I tell you!

Blow out sparklers.
In the process live up to your Spillerena nickname and drop/break your wine glass.

Dance!


Cheers!

Dance some more!

Close out the bar.

Go home and be thankful for your life and all the wonderful amazing people in it.

There you have it. My guide to a fantastic 30th birthday.

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Erin @ Empirically ErinDecember 20, 2012 - 7:39 am

What a fabulous 30th birthday!!! This was such a funny post. I think next year when I turn 31, I’ll have to follow this guide. :)

CatherineDecember 20, 2012 - 10:58 am

Happy 30th! Looks like a great day. I especially love the avocado birthday cake.

XO,
Catherine
FEST

nancy @ adore to adornDecember 20, 2012 - 3:06 pm

Aw this is so cute!
Looks like it was a blast!
Here’s to the 30s!
xo,
nancy

MoDecember 21, 2012 - 8:31 am

Looks like a great way to spend your 30th! (PS – I can tell you where the peen is in Magic Mike if you really want to know….)

Happy Birthday To Me! | SpillerenaDecember 12, 2013 - 9:44 am

[…] year has just flown by. It honestly feels like yesterday that I wrote these posts on turning 30, and yet here it is already a full year later. It’s crazy to […]