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Reading Recommendations

I did not set out to read over 100 books in 2012. At the end of 2011 my dad mentioned he had read 42 books in 2011, which blew me away. I went back and added up how many I had read in 2011 and came up with 24, a number I thought was perfectly respectable. When I started counting for 2012 I kind of had a goal of beating my dad’s number, but it was nothing formal. And then I kept going and never looked back. I’ve liked nearly all of the books (or I wouldn’t have kept reading, I’m not someone who has to finish a book), but there are definitely favorites among them. So, without further ado, I give you Maggie’s 2012 must read list:

Best YA RomancesEasyPushing the LimitsMy Life Next Door, Where She Went I was never a big YA reader before this year, but a few YA comparisons caught me eye from a book we’re publishing at work, I read those, and then I kind of kept going. These three in particular are my favorites because they depict real life situations (I’m not a fan of fantasy) and because they feature strong female characters. The girls have their issues, sure, and they’re not perfect, they’re teenage girls, but they take control of their destinies (eventually) and own up to the things (especially sex) that they want. My roommate Abby pointed this out to me after borrowing My Life Next Door from me; the main character in this book wants sex just as much as her teenage boyfriend, and that doesn’t make her a whore, it’s realistic. Where She Went is a little different, it’s a romance, but it’s from the boy’s point of view. It’s also the sequel to If I Stay, which I enjoyed, but not as much as Where She Went. It’s easily one of my favorite books of the year and I’ve already re-read certain parts of it several times.

Best Story of Friendship: Code Name Verity I really enjoyed this book about two female friends who are a pilot and spy for Britain during World War II. I love spies, I love Britain, I love history, so it’s a natural fit. But what really brought the book home was the friendship between the two girls. If I say too much I’ll ruin it, so I’ll just say you should check it out.

Best Non-Fifty Shades of Grey Erotic Books: I’ll confess, I had never read an “erotica” book before I read Fifty Shades of Grey. I read all three books and thought they were pretty awful. It was like reading a terribly written comedy with really not hot sex scenes (I don’t find sex between a very inexperienced naive girl and an older, more experienced stalker to be hot, but call me crazy). But that didn’t stop me from reading more erotica (judge me, go ahead). My original pick for this was going to be the Crossfire Series. I really liked the first one, but I was disappointed with the second one. In the first one the protagonist is a strong, although damaged, young woman and in the second one I thought she was just too needy and dependent on her boyfriend. Which brings me to my next pick, the Original Sinners series, which I have really enjoyed, but they might be kind of extreme for some people (judge away people, I’m putting it all out there). More recently I got a read an advance reading copy of Release Me, which is part of a new trilogy coming out in January. After Original Sinners I would put this as my favorite, it’s also a lot more mainstream than the Original Sinners series so if you want to give erotica a try I would start with that one.

Best Retelling of a ClassicFlight of Gemma Hardy This is a modern day (well, 1950s) retelling of Jane Eyre. I thought this book was completely lovely. I love the original Jane Eyre and I thought the way the author modernized Jane Eyre and adopted the story as her own was very smart.

Best Chick LitSpin I used to exclusively read chick lit, but then thankfully I got over that. However, I’m still always on the look out for good chick lit. I can’t remember how I came across Catherine McKenzie, but I’ve read two of her books now, Spin and Arranged, and I’ve loved them both. They feature the wacky characters, slightly implausible situations, and romances that are found in normal chick lit, but they’re also smart and well written, which is always a plus.

Best MysteryGone Girl I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but I can’t imagine too many being crazier than Gone Girl. I seriously loved this book, I was riveted the entire time and couldn’t believe the twists and turns the author came up with. Incredibly creative and incredibly creepy.

Best biographyElizabeth the Queen I knew a lot of Queen Elizabeth II, but what I knew came from news and gossip sources. This biography was fascinating and I feel like I really got to know her as a person, and subsequently have a ton of respect for her.

Best Literary BookRules of Civility I don’t know what to call his category, but Rules of Civility was truly a good book, like could win serious literary awards good. It was just a charming, well written, lovely story.

Best Book That was Adapted Into a Movie: Even though I didn’t love the movie I’m saying Silver Linings Playbook. The book is fantastic. I started reading it while waiting to go in for my hand surgery and then read the rest of it while re-cooperating at home. It’s a wacky story, but it’s incredibly sweet. That’s really the only word I can think of to describe it. Sweet. It just makes me happy to think about.

I love hearing what other people are reading. Any books you want to recommend for 2013?

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Workouts

Monday: The plan was to go running, but it was pouring so I did a whole heck of a lot of lunges inspired by Fitnessista’s 10 Ways to Lunge. I also did 3 minutes of a forearms and toes plank (10 seconds of holding the plank, 5 seconds relaxing).

Tuesday: I went for a 3 mile run (alternating 5 mins. running and 1 min. walking) and did another 3 minute plank. The best part about the run was that my Garmin magically started working. It stopped charging about a year ago so it just died. Granted I haven’t really tried to use it in a year, but the other day I randomly decided to see if it would charge…and it did!

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I had been using RunKeeper and and I never felt like it was accurate (which I don’t necessarily blame on RunKeeper, the GPS on my phone isn’t the best). Compared to my Garmin RunKeeper was about .16 off (it was done faster than it should have been).

Wednesday: Plank day! I used another Fitnessista page as a guide. I did 10 seconds of holding a plank and 5 seconds off for the following planks: regular plank, hip twist plank, lifting right leg plank, lifting left leg plank, supermans. I did it once, then I did it again. I also did 50 leg lifts and 50 scissor lifts.

Thursday: All I wanted to do was go for a run. It was supposed to be sunny all day, but it ended up being overcast and rainy all day. It looked like it was clearing up when I left work, but when I got to Brooklyn it was lightly raining. I don’t mind running in light rain (I kind of like it) so I said I’d still go. Then it started down pouring, and kept down pouring until around 8pm. Bye, bye run.

Friday: Tons of walking, but no time for a real workout.

Saturday: I ran 3 miles at my parents’ house (again, 5 mins. running alternated with 1 min. walking). It’s so nice to run somewhere less hilly. But it was humid and I finished a sweaty mess.

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What else I’ve been up to

I went to NJ for work on Wednesday.

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The work part of my trip went really well and then I did some shopping.

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New capris (yay or nay with the coral jacket?)

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New wedges. Super comfy.

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New espadrilles. I actually need to exchange them. I only tried on the right one in the store and when I got home and put the left one on the left one was smaller. I tried to exchange them Friday afternoon but the Michael Kors store by my office (which has super snooty employees, FWIW) didn’t have an 8.5. I’ll try some of their other stores next week.

I actually have these in gold from last year.

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I LOVE them and wore them everywhere last summer. However, after a month the sole fell off, luckily it wasn’t anything crazy glue couldn’t solve.

Then, this year, the whole bottom started falling off.

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Again, crazy glue is a miracle worker 🙂 Now I’m probably crazy for buying the same shoes that fell apart on me, but whatever, I love them, I don’t care.

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I took the train out to my parents’ house yesterday afternoon. That picture shows the crush of people on the platform with the reflection of the train. The confusion pretty much sums up my trip.

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I went to the bank to cash in all my change. When my parents came in for my wrist surgery I had them take the change back with them since it’s so heavy. My bank here has a change machine, but the one in the city doesn’t. The change is actually from the piggy bank I talked about in this old post. I had $61.03!

After the bank I went to Target and the beer distributor.

Then I came home and cooked.

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Green Chili Chicken Turkey Burgers from How Sweet Eats.

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Triple Double Chocolate Puppy Chow from Food, Fitness and Family (couldn’t find chocolate Chex)

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Sweet Corn and Roasted Jalapeno Hummus from How Sweet Eats

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I snacked on all my food sitting on my parents patio all afternoon. I also had an Ithaca Flower Power beer (I think it might be my favorite beer). I finished two books. I highly recommend them both.

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And after dinner my mom made strawberry shortcake for dessert! And then my dad and I took the dogs for a walk.

Whew! That was a big brain dump. Busy week!

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Four 5-Sentence Book Reviews

Here’s what I’ve been reading over the last month or so. My reading list, including what I want to read, what I’m reading, and what I’ve read can be found here.

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The Bolter: I really enjoyed this book about the slutty, infamous, and fabulous Idina Sackville. The author is a descendant of Idina and while at times it can seem like she’s boasting about her family, the slight annoyance is absolutely worth it. The story goes from pre-World War I England, to World War I France, to Africa, and then occasionally back to Europe. There is a ton of history and recognizable names woven in, but this particular story was completely new to me. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in British history, colonial Africa, or biographies of fascinating women.

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Those Guys Have All the Fun: As a huge sports buff I’ve been excited for this book to come out for a long, long time. Luckily I was not at all disappointed by the 700+ page book. The book is full of stories, most of which I didn’t know anything about, from the father and son team that started ESPN to the billion dollar negotiations for Monday Night Football. Oral history can be a bit challenging to read and there were definitely times I wished for a bit more explanation, but overall I was very pleased. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in media history, sports, or even business.

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Maine: I have no idea what to say about this book, I can’t say I disliked it, but I also can’t say I liked it; mainly I just found it incredibly frustrating. It is supposed to be about the different generations of women in one family who call go to a summer house in Maine. Which is what it’s about, but rather than being about what happens to them that summer I would say 90% of the book is spent explaining what happened in the past, leaving the other 10% for the present. But nothing ever really happens in the present; there’s very little character growth and there’s no definitive ending. That said, it’s a very well-written book and the women’s stories are, for the most part, compelling; I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened, I just wish that something had actually happened.

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The Help: I don’t know if there’s anything I can say about The Help that hasn’t been previously said. I resisted reading it for a long time, but after reading about the movie in Vanity Fair I decided I had to give it a shot since I thought the movie looked good and I always like to read books before I see a movie. I really loved the book, I love the south and I love history and who doesn’t love a story of women from different backgrounds coming together to fight injustice? Kathryn Stockett is a great writer and she really made the women come alive through their voices and their world come alive through the descriptions. If you’ve resisted reading this book I highly, highly recommend picking it up.

And if you haven’t seen it here’s The Help movie trailer:

And here’s my five-sentence review of the trailer: It seems too happy! The book is fun, but it’s also really serious. These women put their own lives and their families in grave, grave danger. Hilly Holbrook wasn’t some silly menace, she was a serious threat to these women’s lives. I really hope the movie is more serious than the trailer, otherwise I’m going to be very disappointed.

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