2013 in Books and New Year’s Resolutions

The year 2013 has been a good year reading-wise, even though not writing-wise since I just realized that the only entry I have in this blog for the year 2013 dates back to 4th of January. This post is a lot like that one, except that I’ll do a general overview of my year with less detail and talk about my resolutions for 2014.

In 2013, I have read a total of 51 books. That means I have exceeded my goal of 50 books, which was about a book per week. Only two of them are novellas that were purchased on Kindle, but other than that, they are full sized books. Here are the other statistics:

– 7 of them were Turkish books.

– 5 of them were self-help.

– 1 of them was an autobiography.

– 1 of them was travel writing.

– 22 of them were young adult books. 11 of those were part of a series. 2 of those were novellas.

– The rest of the books were a mixture of other genres, all fiction. I’m not really good at identifying the genres. There were some classics, fantasy and romance.

I have to say that I’m a little bit embarrassed about these statistics. There are changes to be made for 2014. But before I get to my reading resolutions, here comes my top 8 favorite books of the year, in no particular order. I know 8 is a weird number, but I just couldn’t bring myself to choose more and say that I enjoyed it a lot. So here it goes.

1. Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

2. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

3. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

6. Saving June by Hannah Harrington

7. Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Ferguson

8. The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I’m kind of relieved to realize that only 3 young adult books made it to my Top 8. But I’m also kind of ashamed that I have The Book Thief and Gone Girl there, since they are insanely popular and I always hate myself when I love ultra popular books. I know it’s insane to think this way, since they are popular for a reason.

I also wanted to compile a list of my least favorite books, but I realized that I drop a book I don’t like as soon as possible. I don’t torture myself by trying to read books I don’t enjoy. Here is a list of the books I dropped:

Perfect on Paper by Maria Murnane: I wouldn’t go near this. There are really bad jokes, and just the sheer idiocy of the main character made me want to break my Kindle. It’s like a really bad rip off of Sophie Kinsella books.

Dark Prince by Christine Feehan: I dug this book out from my college stash, after reading amazing things about it. I don’t want to say too many bad things since I barely got through 50 pages, but it was not for me.

Taking Chances by Molly McAdams: This book represents a turning point in my life: no more buying inexpensive Kindle books based on Goodreads recommendations. I’m way too old for this nonsense of a book, it’s juvenile in a really, really bad way.

The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window by Kirsty Moseley: What I said about the previous book goes for this one as well. Although I thought this one was a lot worse. It’s the story of an idiot girl who’s put into overly sexual situations. It’s so bad I don’t even want to think about it.

And now for my 2013 Reading Resolutions:

– My goal for this year is 45 books. I kept the number lower than 2013 because I want to concentrate on reading thicker and better books instead of breezing through numerous young adult ones.

– I will read more adult books.

– I will read more non-fiction books.

– I will read more Turkish books.

– I will try to reread some of my favorite books, and also possibly start reading Harry Potter series.

I guess this is it! Happy 2014 everybody!

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2012 in Books

Another year is behind us. The year 2012 was a good year in reading for me since I had a whole summer of nothing to do but read. According to my Goodreads page, I have read 41 books, compared to the 11 read in 2011. Here’s a list of the English titles and a one sentence review:

When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom: Sometimes hard to get through but really good.

The Help by  Kathryn Stockett: Thought provoking and a breeze to get through. 

Blade of Fortriu (The Bridei Chronicles, #2) by Juliet Marillier: The worst thing I read by Juliet Marillier.

The Hunger Games Trilogy: I don’t think a person can actually unlike it. 

Solo by Rana Dasgupta: Different, but good different.

Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore: I wished it would be funnier, like it was supposed to.

The White Queen (The Cousins’ War, #1) by Philippa Gregory: I called it “the book that just does not finish”.

Matched (Matched, #1) by Ally Condie: Mediocre in the beginning but it does pick up towards the end.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler: Classic Anne Tyler.

Havana Salsa: Stories and Recipes by Viviana Carballo: I learned about Cuba in the 1940s, but that’s about it.

Graceling (Graceling, #1) by Kristin Cashore: Amazing in the beginning but just okay towards the end.

Enchanted (Woodcutter Series, #1) by Alethea Kontis: Just a classic fairy tale, nothing more and nothing less.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R. R. Martin: Just the beginning of a very long but very enjoyable journey.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2) by George R. R. Martin: Another gem and not even a little bit less good.

Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry, #1) by Simene Elkeles: Young adult romance at its most typical.

Paper Towns by John Green: I can’t decide if I love it or just like it; somewhere in between.

Fallen (Fallen, #1) by Lauren Kate: Who would’ve thought such a good plot and angels could be boring?

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons: It’s so sad sometimes but also very well written.

Marked (House of Night, #1) by P.C. Cast: It would’ve been a great read if I was, like, 15.

The Magus by John Fowles: Sometimes physically painful to get through but surprises never keep coming.

Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues by Trisha Ashley: I love small town chick lit but it’s not that well written.

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1) by Cassandra Clare: Good beginning to a supposedly great series.

The Consequences of Love by Sulaiman Addonia: Not the best written piece of literature out there, but the story is a must read.

Seducing Cinderella (Fighting for Love, #1) by Gina L. Maxwell: I don’t read much of this genre, so I don’t really know what to say other than it’s blah.

Improbable by Adam Fawar: I don’t read a lot of this genre either, but it’s really fast paced and fun.

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1) by Katie McGarry: Another story of two problematic teens falling in love, but a better version.

Silver Girl by Erin Hilderbrand: I love the story, the characters and Nantucket.

Between by Jessica Warman: Surprising to see a different story line in a young adult book, and it really works.

Groundswell by Katie Lee: Just takes a fairy tale romance and shatters it and your hopes and dreams with it.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie: I like what this book is about, but it’s not that awesome.

Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I adore Marquez and I don’t think I can unlike anything he has written.

I think the best book amongst these was A Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games Trilogy. I hate sounding so predictable, but there is a reason these books are tremendously popular. They are really, really good. 

The worst book was Groundwell because it’s just plain bad. By no means was it the most boring though. The most boring is a tie between The White Queen and Blade of Fortriu

Can’t wait to read even more in 2013!


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The Colorless Queen

One of my current obsessions is make up, and this obsession requires the viewing of certain YouTube channels. These so-called “beauty gurus” usually have a side channel where viewers can watch videos about other things. One of the more famous girls, Elle Fowler, does something called Glitteratures, in which she reviews books. And in one of these videos, she reviewed The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. Since I really trust her views on under eye concealer, I thought that her choice of books might be accurate as well. Also, I haven’t been living under a rock, I did hear of Philippa Gregory, so I decided that this new series could be where I started.

This book is the first book of the Cousins’ War series. They are set a bit before the glorious days of Tudors Philippa Gregory is known for, in the 15th century. This particular book is about Elizabeth Woodville. She married King Edward IV, and the book starts with the moment she decides to seduce and marry him. She is a widower with two kids, and she’s actually older than the king, but she still manages it. She mothers lots of kids (I lost count) and two of those are the famous “Princes in the Tower”, which basically means that these two princes vanished one day from the Tower of London and no one knows what happened to them.

Elizabeth is a clever woman, and so is her mother, Jacquetta. Actually she has her own book out, The Lady of Rivers, which is actually set before this one. And the other book in the series, The Red Queen, is around the same time as The White Queen, but from the point of view of the other side, Lady Margaret Beaufort. We see a lot of her in this book as well. There’s lots of intrigues and subtle games for the throne. The love they feel for one another and her emotions as a mother and sister are of second importance, though I don’t think it’s because of lack of talent as a writer. She does her best to portray Elizabeth as a passionate mother and lover, but I just don’t buy it. I don’t feel it, and that’s why sometimes I felt like reading a nonfiction book. The actual war parts were really a drag to get through. At one point, I called it “the book that never ends”, even though it’s not really long. It just goes on and on and on. On the plus side, there’s  a bit of witchcraft. Plus, I do think the lives of the royal make for an interesting read, but I just don’t love this book. I hesitated about the other books, which are quite easy to buy, but I decided to go back to basics and get The Other Boleyn Girl instead.

So, though I believe this is the best thing that could be written about this particular woman’s life, I give it 3 stars, because there are a lot of better books out there. Plus I don’t see Hollywood fighting for its film rights, so there’s no need to rush to the bookstore to get it.

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Snow White and the Bore

It is no secret that I enjoy Hollywood movies. I am not ashamed of that fact. I enjoy the visual aids, the romantic story lines and the handsome actors. This movie, Snow White and the Huntsman, seemed to provide all that I need from a Hollywood movie. Unable to convince my husband to see it (who, surprisingly, turned out to be a lot more perceptive than me), I went to see it alone. I know. Going to the movies alone is a not a feat for everyone, but it doesn’t bother me much. Anyway. I thought I would enjoy it so much. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed.

The funny thing that happened to me while watching the movie is that I realized that I haven’t at all thought of the storyline of the traditional fairytale. When the seven dwarves showed up, they meant nothing. I didn’t connect it to the seven dwarves of Snow White. I even vaguely thought about why they were such a big part of the movie. Also when the bit with the disguised queen/witch and the apple started (I would warn about the spoiler, but, duh, it is Snow White), and Snow White was handed the apple and actually ate it, I was actually surprised to see her faint. Then I remembered the storyline and went: “Oh, someone’s going to kiss her now!” So I guess it’s been a while since I saw anything about the Snow White. Even watching the trailer a thousand times didn’t make me think of the plot. That’s just plain weird. I also have to point out that the plot is quite loyal to the storyline, so it’s not like it was so different that I actually forgot I was watching Snow White. Everything is there: the evil queen/witch, the pure Snow White, the mirror. Of course they tweaked the concept of the huntsman a little bit, but that was due.

The thing that bothered me was not that this turned out to be a medieval war movie toward the end. It’s not even because, obviously, the queen is, in fact, fairer than the Snow White, which seems to be the general opinion as well (I can’t stop myself from making this joke: maybe the mirror saw Twilight and that’s why she thought Snow White was prettier. I know. I am hilarious). It has a lot to do with what I expected, and how the movie progressed. It started out well enough, and Charlize Theron as the evil queen is quite amazing. Her mother apparently told her that men will always use her, and her beauty is the only way she will succeed in this world, and casts a spell on her. That spell can only be broken by the blood of the pure. So she spends decades taking over kingdoms and consuming the beautiful. Kirsten Stewart is Snow White, and she spends a decade while the queen prospers outside. Then she escapes, and the Huntsman, aka Chris Hemsworth, is forced to fetch her. Having no love for the queen himself, he decides to help her instead.

Now, for those who didn’t watch the movie, I think I know what they would be expecting at this point: The huntsman sees how pretty she is, and while helping her through the wild terrain of the countryside, they fall in love. Or even another plot: He is very reluctant to help her, but she dazzles him with her goodness. So they argue all the time, and bicker, and after the bit with the apple, he realizes he’s in love with her. At least that’s what I expected. But what I got? A love triangle, to start. I mean, a love triangle may be nice in some story lines, like the Hunger Games for example, but Snow White? Really? And not even a very good love triangle. A poorly constructed one. I don’t even want to talk about the lack of affection between the characters, or even the lack of actual conversation. It just doesn’t work. Believe me, it wasn’t because I was so amazed by Twilight that I thought Edward Cullen would step through magically and sweep Bella off her feet either. In a contest between Chris Hemsworth and Robert Pattinson, I’d always support the former.

All in all, I advise by not being fooled by the amazing trailer. I give this movie 3 stars. I am being generous here, because of the beautiful actors and the fact that it started out fine. But other than that, I would go see it only if there’s nothing better, or if you really, really want to see another Chris Hemsworth movie. Remember though: this is not his fairest moment. I would stick to Thor.

The IMDB site

The Trailer

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Dystopian Matching

Apparently, it’s a dystopian world. Everywhere I look, there’s a young adult book that goes on in another world, a dystopian future. I don’t know how long this this has been going on, since I’ve jumped off the young adult fiction wagon with the release of the last Gossip Girl and Princess Diaries books. I haven’t even finished those series yet, even though I have all the books. I saved them, because I loved them so much, but now I’m 26, and it’s kind of late. As I type this, I realize that this is kind of sad, but oh well.

However, no one is too good to read the Hunger Games, so after I read that and enjoyed it, I decided to give Matched by Ally Condie a try. This is the first book of the Matched series. This book is followed by Crossed and Reached (to be released in November).

The idea behind it seemed interesting: that you are matched to the person your genes goes along the best with, and you can only marry him and have kids. The Society, which rule the country through the Officials, decides this match, along with where you work. The Society has destroyed all the cultural heritage, including books, paintings, songs etc. They only kept a 100 paintings and a 100 songs. You cannot create anything either: there’s no writing, no painting, no singing. The saddest of all: there’s no shopping. This just breaks my heart.

Cassia is an ordinary girl in this society, and she’s really happy on her Matching Banquet, which is the day that she’s going to be matched with her match. However, there’s a glitch and when she’s looking at the info chip of her match, another face pops up. This creates a love triangle, and believe me, it’s not simpler when it’s in another world. The beginning drags on quite a bit, while the author tries to paint this world in front of our eyes. There’s nothing ultra romantic about it, she gets closer to both the guys and it’s kind of boring. I almost gave up on it, but then the story picked up after she actually fell in love and really started to question the Society. Another problem for me was that the main male character, at the beginning, was really random. However, he began to pick up after a while.The ending really left me intrigued, so I had to pick up the sequel. Cassia suddenly turned into this other person, who’s brave and romantic. It’s kind of cute.

I give this book 3 stars, because the beginning seriously gets boring. Also because it’s incomparable to the Hunger Games. Although I don’t want to compare too much, since I haven’t read the whole thing in either series. I also strongly believe the Divergent series must be better as well.

You should go check out the website. It includes the funniest trailer.

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Cooking with Vitale

Previously I have mentioned that I have developed some new hobbies. One of them is cooking. I’ve always loved cooking, but was way too lazy to actually do it until I got married. So instead I developed an extensive cookbook collection, saved thousands of recipes online and just ate out. However, since I got married, it’s been necessary to actually cook something, since there was another person in the house, and he just wasn’t going to make a meal out of biscuits and Ice Tea. Plus, there was a horde of people coming over for all kind of meals, especially for teatime and dinner, and they actually expected to eat something, too. And it turns out it adds a certain glamour to say that you actually cooked it yourself. So I decided to enter my fully-equipped kitchen (its newest addition is a crepe maker, don’t ask me why) and actually cook.

However, since my cooking and baking history was limited to some occasional lessons and web browsing, I found myself lacking in the techniques department. This was nothing that an online search couldn’t fix. Some clicking led to my greatest YouTube invention yet: Laura in the Kitchen.

Laura in the Kitchen is a YouTube cooking show starring Laura Vitale. She’s an Italian living in the USA, and she cooks and bakes. I’ve always loved baking, but thanks to Laura, I really get a kick out of cooking as well. She doesn’t usually use ingredients that are impossible to get here, since she believes in keeping everything simple. She has a no-nonsense approach to anything she makes, and it’s really relaxing to watch her cook. It’s really simple to understand, and she explains everything so well. I’m sure people with a lot less experience would get a kick out of it. She has basic recipes, also, like pesto sauce, pizza dough, granola etc. You just can’t go wrong with Laura.

Here’s a bunch of my favorites:

Pasta with Broccoli – Not as simple as boiling pasta and pouring canned sauce over it, but much, much better tasting.

Pesto Baked Chicken – Great chicken dish! I cook it frequently for guests, and it’s simple enough for a weekday meal. It becomes extra special with homemade pesto.

Chicken Francaise – Another great chicken dish. I never cook it for guests, since it requires slaving over the stove, but it’s so simple and delicious that you might just want to.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes – I just realized that I always cook her chicken dishes. Anyway. This is another great one, and it’s good enough for guests, if you don’t mind them wrestling with chicken legs. I don’t mind at all.

Baked Mashed Potatoes – That much cheese in anything would taste divine. Since parmesan is quite pricey here, I make it with a bunch of other cheeses, and it turns out great every time.

Cooking and baking her stuff also lead me to other places and other recipes, since her recipes provide a great starting point. I realized that I just love Italian Cuisine. The wonderful parmesan is now a staple in my fridge. I also began to save breadcrumbs in the freezer for future use, since she uses them a whole lot.

A few things I would watch out for: Laura tends to over-salt everything. If you love your food salty, then that’s fine, but it tends to be a bit too much for my platter. Also, I wouldn’t expect anything on the healthier side. Laura’s dishes have plenty of heavy cream, butter and salt. You’ll be amazed at how thin she stays. She has another channel, called Laura’s Topics, and she addressed this very issue. She says that she works out 6 times a week and eats in moderation. Now, I’m all for moderation, but working out 6 times a week? I’d rather not eat. My point is, just be careful.

Laura also bakes a whole lot, and has lots of nice cupcake recipes and such, but I really prefer her cooking, mainly because I have enough literature on baking. But I would watch a couple of her baking videos, since she gives some great tips like putting cinnamon in chocolate dishes so it will feel more chocolatey. They are worth trying. One tip though: Put a lot less chocolate chips then she tells you to. Believe me.

Now go check it out. I’m sure that even if you are not interested in cooking at all, you’ll feel like heating up that skillet. Laura’s YouTube Channel and Laura’s Website.

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After a Year

I have just been idly surfing the net when I remembered that it’s been ages since I wrote anything here. The last time I wrote was over a year ago. Since than, I have actually gotten married myself, read tons of books, watched tons of movies. been to tons of places and actually developed a few more hobbies. All these things are worth a mention. But instead, I have been doing nothing.

Well, I’m about to tell you that it’s all going to change. Just because I’m not researching flower arrangements on the net anymore doesn’t mean I should stop blogging. It doesn’t matter that I might be the only person who actually reads these posts. It’s just some good practice until I write my book (!).

Tomorrow, I’ll continue writing this blog. The wait is over.

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