Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year In Review

Mouse, December 2014

Two thousand fourteen has been an ordinary year for the most part with its ups and downs. Our senior cat, Parker, continues to have health issues, although both he and our younger cat, Gracie, are as playful and affectionate as ever. My husband, daughter, and I saw each other through work, financial and life stressors, and several illnesses, including my recent surgery which put me out of work for several weeks. The doctor has lifted most of the restrictions as of now, thank goodness. It was months of pain and worry as I waited for a diagnosis, deliberated over my options and then the surgery. I am glad to be on the other end of all that now. I know my family is too.

I cannot thank my mother enough for all the help she provided us this year. It is not always easy for me to ask for help, even from family. We are so lucky to have her in our lives. I really need to express that to her more often.

It was a good year in many ways. The happiest moments were often the most simple: cuddling on the couch, reading a good book, playing dominoes, the feeling at the end of a good workout, finally winning that computer game, playing hide and seek or playing house, that first smile or kiss of the day, tackling a family project, work accomplishments, warm hugs, recounting our favorite parts of our day, singing along to a favorite song on the radio, making silly faces at each other, and just being together. There were extended family visits and trips to Disneyland. Lots of laughter and love. I have the best husband and daughter. And my cats are pretty special too. Oh, and good books. I can't forget those.

I enjoyed answering Jamie's (The Perpetual Page TurnerEnd of the Year Survey in past years and decided to join in again this year.  I did alter some of the questions and subtracted a few to make it my own.

1. Best books read in 2014?

Seven books stand out above all the others I read this year. Three were part of a trilogy and I could not separate them out, hence seven instead of a top five like I initially intended. Each of these books made my list for a variety of reasons: rich character development, beautiful writing style, and a great story for starters. Every one of them touched me deeply in some way. Ben H. Winters' Hank Palace is my new literary crush; Yangszee Choo wowed me with her imagery and mystery of the afterlife; my heart ached for Susan and Maud in Fingersmith; I was swept away by Ann Leary's writing and depth into the heart and mind of Hildy; and just how much Sandra Hunter's heart-wrenching story spoke to and moved me. It was more than that, of course, with each book. If you haven't, I hope you will consider seeing for yourself.

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

The Good House by Ann Leary

The Ghost Bride by Yangzee Choo

The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters (all three books in the trilogy were awesome)

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

I had high hopes for Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, but ultimately was disappointed. There were parts I loved. In the end, however, I was left feeling I missed something and was not completely satisfied with the ending.

And Isabel Allende's Ripper was another one I found disappointing. I had heard such wonderful things about the author's work, and so my expectations were high.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014?

I had avoided reading anything by Jennifer Crusie for years because I did not think her books were for me. I read Fast Women for an online book group in early 2014 and was pleasantly surprised. The characters were well drawn, the story intriguing, and, despite its length, I raced through it, not wanting to put it down.

After being sorely disappointed with Beautiful Creatures, I was leery of Veronica Roth's Divergent. I ended up loving it.

4. Book you read in 2014 that you recommended to people most in 2014?

There were quite a few books that I read this year I have recommended to people (and given away as gifts), The Last Policeman Trilogy being at the top of the list.

5. Best series you discovered in 2014?

The Last Policeman Trilogy, of course!  I also read the first book in the Dead Witch Walking series by Kim Harrison and am excited to read the rest of the series.

Michael Robotham is a new to me crime fiction author I discovered just this year. I read three of his books and enjoyed each one.

6. New authors you discovered in 2014 and hope to read more by?

I read books by several new to me authors this year who are now on my "must read again" list.  I also finally got around to reading books by authors I have been wanting to read for years.

Jennifer Robson
Jennifer Crusie
Liane Moriarty
Michael Robotham
Ann Patchett
Max Austin
Kim Harrison
Ann Leary
Sandra Hunter
Heather Gudenkauf
Margaret Atwood
Ben H. Winters
Heather Graham
Yangszee Choo
Marc Krulewitch
Joshilyn Jackson
Rebecca Chastain
Malinda Lo
Deanna Raybourn
Sarah Waters
Rachel Caine
Sarah Jio
Sara Morgan
Cara Hoffman

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone?

While Science Fiction is not a new to me genre, it is not one I read often. I read a surprising number of books with science fiction elements in 2014. Among those was Liz Strange's novel, Erased. Erased was an intense and enjoyable book. It made me wonder why I do not read science fiction more often.

I read a surprising amount of romance novels this year, which was a huge shift in my reading as compared to past years. I have always enjoyed romance as a side dish in the novels I read, but as a main course . . . Well, this is new for me. At least new in the last two decades or so.  I had burned out on the genre long ago, but the last couple of years I have been venturing back into it.

It would be easy to point to novels I thoroughly enjoyed such as Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson and The Ghost Bride by Yangszee Choo, Deanna Raybourn's Night of a Thousand Stars, or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I feel like that's cheating because I do not think of any of those books as being strictly romance novels. Even so, they each have strong love stories which moved me in some way. But if I were to choose one, separate from those that was more strictly romance, I would have to say Sarah Jio's The Look of Love.

8. Top five favorite covers of a books you read in 2014?

9. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2014?

I related to Sandra Hunter's Losing Touch on a deeply personal level. Even though my father died three years ago, I still find myself trying to know and understand him. I saw my father in Arjun, one of the main characters in the book.  And that final scene in the novel . . . I still cannot get it out of my head, and my eyes still well up with tears when I think of it.

Heather Gudenkauf's Little Mercies  also had a big impact on me. I was not sure I would be able to stomach the subject matter, but it was a book that reminded me how, as I stated in my original review, the "little mercies in our lives [...] help us get through even when we feel at our most helpless."

10. Shortest and longest book you read in 2014?

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon - 131 pages

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin at 768 pages

11. Favorite book you read in 2014 by an author you’ve read previously?

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. I also really enjoyed Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.

12. Genre you read the most from in 2014? 

I was disappointed to learn that I read no nonfiction this year. Zip. I am not sure how that happened. Admittedly, I am not a prolific nonfiction reader, but I usually fit something in now and then.  I need to remedy that in 2015.

Some fun meaningless statistics:
(Much of what I read was falls under more than one genre. Here, I count them under the genre I most identified with the book).

Crime Fiction (mysteries & thrillers) - 19
Urban Fantasy - 15
Paranormal Romance - 5
Contemporary Romance - 10
Historical Fiction - 7
Contemporary Fiction - 17
Science Fiction - 5

Of those, 9 were labeled as Young Adult.

62 of the 78 books I read in 2014 were written by women.

I rated:
5 Paws (Outstanding) - 1
4.5 Paws - 9
4 Paws (Very Good) - 21
3.5 Paws - 34
3 Paws (Good) - 8
2.5 Paws - 4
2 Paws (Fair) - 1

Month I Read the Most Books: December - 10
Month I Read the Least Books: April - 4

13. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting?

Despite my disappointment in the book Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, the world building was amazing. I could feel the freezing cold as I read and I loved the author's descriptions of his various settings, especially New York.

Dare I mention Ben H. Winters' The Last Policeman Trilogy again? The premise of the novel, an asteroid on its way to destroy a good part of the earth and possibly wipe out civilization may sound out there, but the the author was very meticulous in detail with the impact such an event would have on society from an individual to a more macro level.

14. Which book made me smile and smile and smile?

Deanna Raybourn's Night of a Thousand Stars.

15. Book that made you cry?

The better question is what book didn't make me cry. I am such a cry baby when it comes to books. Losing Touch by Sandra HunterThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam were among the worst offenders (in a good way, each of them).

16. Most unique book you read?

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke - This is one of those books I hesitate to talk about in depth with someone who hasn't read it. Just about anything I might say would be a spoiler.

17. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of 2014?

I participated in several challenges, each of which I completed.  I also read three books alongside Carrie in her "I've Always Meant to Read That Book!" Challenge (State of WonderA Prayer for Owen Meany and Blind Assassin), although not as many as I had hoped. I joined Jennifer of Literate Housewife in her Fingersmith Read-A-Long, which was a lot of fun.

I had hoped to make 2014 the Year of Re-Discovery, which did not happen.  So, in that, I failed. Perhaps this will be a goal I will work on this coming year.

Here is a summary of the challenges I completed:

I came close to not finishing the What's In A Name Challenge hosted by Charlie from The Worm Hole. When I began the year, I was not intentionally reading books to fit the challenge categories. Luck was with me. That changed when the end was in sight and I had two to go.

A reference to time in the title ~ Labor Day by Joyce Maynard 
A position of royalty in the title ~ Duke City Split  by Max Austin 
A number written in letters in the title ~  Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn
A forename or names in the title ~ A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A type or element of weather in the title ~ Ill Wind by Rachel Caine
A book with a school subject in the title ~ The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard

I challenged myself to read at least 5 historical fiction novels in 2014 for Historical Tapestry's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, and I ended up reading nine that qualified. Both Irving and Atwood's books take the reader into the past as the characters remember in their present times. There is enough history included for the books to count towards this challenge, fortunately.

1. Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson
2. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection  by Michael Chabon
3. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
4. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
5. Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
6. The Ghost Bride by Yangszee Choo
7. Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn 
8. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
9. The Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden

The Book to Movie Challenge hosted by Katie of Doing Dewey and Sergio of Tipping my Fedora was a lot of fun. I committed to read/watch six for the challenge. I had expected to exceed my goal, but it wasn't meant to be.

1.  Beautiful Creatures  by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl 
2. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard  
3. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
4. Divergent  by Veronica Roth
5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
6. A Prayer for Owen Meany  by John Irving

I was hesitant to join the Chunkster Challenge hosted by Vasilly of 1330V, but I could not resist.  Chunksters are defined as being 450 pages or more. I agreed to read 5 chunksters this year. Some were fairly quick books to read given the type of book and subject matter (the challenge allowed YA books). A few others took me a while to work my way through. I ended up reading eleven chunksters in 2015.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin - 768 pgs
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - 640 pgs
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - 582 pgs
Beautiful Creatures  by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - 577 pgs
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness - 561 pgs
Insurgent by Veronica Roth - 544 pgs
Allegiant  by Veronica Roth - 544 pgs
Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood - 521 pgs
Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie - 496 pgs
Ripper by Isabel Allende - 496 pgs
Divergent  by Veronica Roth - 487 pgs

I also participated in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril.  I challenged myself to read four books for the event, and I ended up reading six.

The Betrayed  by Heather Graham 
A Penny for a Hangman by Tom Savage 
A Fistful of Evil  by Rebecca Chastain 
Ash by Malinda Lo
Confessions by Kanae Minato
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

18. Looking ahead to 2015, do you have any goals for reading or your blog? Or life in general?

I have no plans as of now to join any reading challenges, but I have said that before. They can be so hard to resist! Let's see . . . Goals for the New Year. As long as we don't call them New Year's Resolutions, I am good. Semantics, I know. Still.

Reading Goals:
Read more nonfiction
Read more diversely
Re-discover favorite authors
Catch up on at least three favorite series
Read a book whose author's surname begins with an X.

Blogging Goals:
Make Mouse's Corner a more regular feature on my blog, including guest posts from authors, fellow bloggers and readers on topics related to children's books and reading (if you are interested, let me know!).

Life Goals:
Live more in the moment and less in my head
Continue to improve my health through exercise and eating right
Write more letters
Be a better wife and mother

I do not know what 2015 will hold for any of us, but I look forward to another year of blogging and sharing my life with you. Thanks to all of you, whether you are a long time reader, a sporadic visitor or visiting for the first time.  I hope your New Year is filled with love, laughter, good health, and the makings of many good memories. And may you read many wonderful books!

Happy New Year!

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Thank you for sharing your year in review! I love reading these type of posts of course they are a bit dangerous as I end up adding more books to my list :) I didn't read any non-fiction this year either and hope next year will be better but whatever the case I just hope for lots of good books. Happy New Year and here's to a great 2015!

    1. Iliana - I sure am long winded, aren't I? I probably should have done two posts.

      I like these kind of posts too. It's fun to see what everyone as reading and add to my own wish list.

      Yes, here's to lots of good books in the New Year--and hopefully some nonfiction. :-)

  2. I enjoyed reading this post. I'm glad that your health has improved, even if you have had some tough times. And your post has reminded me that the simple little moments are the best, so I'm going to be sure to look out for these in 2015.
    Happy New Year!

    1. Sam - Thank you! I truly believe that it's often the simple moments in life that offer us the most comfort and joy. Happy New Year to you too!

  3. Happy New Year Wendy. I'm sorry I've been so bad about commenting this year but I've been reading your blog all year.

    1. Kathleen - Same to you, Kathleen! I hope you have had a good year. I catch you on You-Tube when I can. :-)

  4. Wonderful list! I"ve looked up the Ben Winters trilogy and will keep it on my radar. I always love finding a new 'find'.
    All the best to your family in health and happiness in the new year, and I look forward to staying in 'blogging' with you.

    1. Elizabeth - I think you might like the Winters' trilogy. :-)

      Thank you and may you have the same this New Year!

  5. Great post! I agree that the most important moments are often the simplest. Happy New Year, Wendy.

    1. Irene - Than you. :-) I hope you have a Happy New Year too!

  6. Happy New Year, Wendy! Hope 2015 will be a great year for you and your family! I'm glad to see the Last Policeman trilogy on your list. I do need to read the second book soon - I enjoyed the first one a lot!

    1. Athira - Same to you and your family! I hope you like the second and third book in the trilogy as much as I did.

  7. It sounds like your recovery is going very well! You have a wonderful family!!

    1. Kathy - It is, thank you. I am fighting a cold right now (we all are in the house, actually) and those created some interesting complications, but I'm guessing they are temporary. :-)

  8. Love that picture of Mouse reading! What a great way to wrap up a year of reading too. Here's to another awesome one in 2015. Happy New Year!!!

    1. Alice - I really like that photo too. :-) Isn't she getting big? I hope you have a wonderful New Year too.

  9. That's a great list and I love reading lists like that. Looks like 2014 was a great reading year to you! Hope 2015 will be a better reading year for us all.

    Happy New Year, Wendy!

    1. Melody - It was a good reading year. :-) I read more than I thought I did. Being off for several weeks at the end of the year helped too.

      Here's to a great reading year in 2015!

  10. Happy New Year Wendy! I've been so out of touch lately that I didn't even realize you had your surgery. I'm sorry. I'm glad you're recovering well and that your mom is so awesome. You're lucky to have that.

    Love this post on your books. I wish I had done something like this. I loved Ghost Bride and Little Mercies as well.

    I wish you all much health and happiness in 2015 my friend!

    1. Darlene - Thank you. I'm just glad the surgery is behind me finally. :-)

      I am glad you loved Ghost Bride and Little Mercies too. They were such great books.

      Have a wonderful New Year!

  11. I remember loving A Good House on audio a couple years ago - I think the movie is coming out soon, maybe?

    I also love all the covers you picked!

    I hope that 2015 will bring more health and just as many wonderful moments with your family. Happy New Year!

    1. Carrie - I have A Good House on audio, but I was reading it along with a book group and knew I'd get to it fast if I actually read the print book. I heard there was a movie coming out.

      Thank you, Carrie, and I wish the same for you and your family. Happy New Year!

  12. Frankly... I find that Isabel Allende is one of those authors that is getting WORSE instead of BETTER. So, you should try her again... House of the Spirits... Daughter of Fortune... Eva Luna... I think she got caught up in what is 'popular' and lost herself. I still wind up getting everything she has written, but I haven't loved a book by her in a while. :(

    1. Kelly - I do want to give Allende another try and read one of her older books. I have heard great things about House of Spirits.

    2. I totally agree with Kelly! Anyway, great post and happy, happy new year.

  13. Well, The Last Policeman is certainly on my list of series to read in 2015! Especially if the whole series is now available! :-)

    1. Aarti - Often times that's the best way to read series with overlapping story lines. :-) I hope you enjoy the trilogy if you read it.

  14. Bless, I only have one kitty as she too has health issues. Glad you have had so many positives in 2014 and here is hoping 2015 has many for you and good health. I love year recaps like this and highlighting the stand out books but I just haven't had the time to do one like this since I started blogging, well done.


    1. Lainy - I am sorry to hear your kitty has health issues too. I hope it is something fixable or manageable, at least. Thank you for the well wishes. :-) I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  15. You had a good reading year. I really liked Losing Touch a lot, too. I have The Last Policeman trilogy and need to get to that.

    1. Lisa - I hope you will like The Last Policeman. It wasn't quite what I expected at first, but I ended up loving it.

  16. Happy New Year! I'm glad to hear that your doctor has lifted most of the restrictions. It sounds like you a wonderful reading year. I didn't end up reading nearly as many books as I had wanted to read this year, but I exceeded my writing expectations. I find it hard to maintain both hobbies equally well. I'm hoping to find a better balance in 2015.

    Good luck with your 2015 goals! Have you started developing a list of nonfiction to read?

    1. A.M.B. - Happy New Year to you too! It is a relief to be able to do some of my more routine things again. Like some of the household chores. While it was nice to NOT have to do them, having to rely on others to take care of it for me was difficult at times.

      I imagine finding a balance between your writing and reading would be a challenge. I'm still trying to find one for everything in my life. Some days are easier than others. Hopefully we will both find that balance we are looking for. At least a more manageable balance.

      I don't have a nonfiction list per say, but I have two shelves of unread nonfiction books I've wanted to get to for some time. I have Quiet on my Kindle and am sure that will be one I read this year.

  17. Wendy, I am so, so glad to be here commenting on your blog again! I have missed it and your little Mouse is adorable. She is so big! Can't believe it. Hope you are recovering well (I've been trying to catch up on what's been going on with people). And a very happy new year to you and your dear ones.

    I am stepping back into blogging again and wanted to stop by and invite you to visit me - kay's reading life. I want to keep things easy and read whatever whenever and talk books again. You take care and I'll be around. Big hugs!

    1. Kay - It is so good to see you around again! I am glad you are coming back to blogging. :-) Yes, Mouse is growing way too fast. She's such a sweet girl (most of the time). She reminds me every day how precious life is--especially the simple things we all take for granted. I hope you have a Happy New Year too!

  18. Wow, what a year in review, Wendy! I really enjoyed seeing all your thoughts on the books you read, what you liked, what disappointed you. I have to say that I have just come across The Ghost Bride so earlier today so I have already requested it from the library. I am delighted you loved it so much. I have The Last Policeman on my shelf waiting to be read (this month I hope), and The Fault in Our Stars too. Mind of Winter was such a good book, wasn't it? I didn't expect the ending, and the book has haunted me all fall. I didn't blog about it yet as it was one of the last books I read before my breakdown in October. If you want you and I can email about it or chat on Facebook so we don't give anything away to anyone else!

    You had a very good reading year. Look at all those new to you authors you discovered! Wow. And yes, like me, a gaping hole - classics for me, non-fiction for you. Funny how those happen even though we are keeping track of what we read, isn't it? I still don't know how I didn't read any classical fiction this year.

    Happy 2015 to you and your family, Wendy, and many good new books to read!

    1. Susan - I hope you will like The Ghost Bride. A friend of mine who has similar tastes as I do couldn't finish it--so obviously we were at polar opposites on that one. You must read The Last Policeman!

      The Mind of Winter was so well done! I had an inkling as the story went on, but was never completely sure. I'd love to talk about it when you get the chance!

      I hope you have a happy New Year as well!

  19. It's great to look back on what you read, I really enjoyed reading your post, I nearly put Fingersmith in my 2014 top reads too,

    1. Lindsay - Thank you! Fingersmith was my one 5 paw review all year.

  20. I hope your health concerns are behind you and you have a very healthy 2015! I have the Last Policeman on my wish list so it's nice to see you rave about the trilogy.
    As for Crusie, she writes some really fun stuff. I read Maybe This Time this year and it almost made my top 5 list. It's different (and has ghosts) but it is fun.
    Here's hoping for a fabulous 2015!

    1. Stacy - Thank you. I hope so too! I hope you get a chance to read The Last Policeman trilogy. If only there was more time to read . . .

      I will have to check out Maybe This Time. I love ghosts.

  21. It sounds like you had a great year of reading in 2014!! I too am hoping to actually read a nonfiction book or two this year since I didn't read any last year either. I have so many on my TBR list that this is a bit ridiculous. And the Winter's trilogy is now a must read for me after seeing it listed on so many of my favorite blogger's lists of best of. I hope that 2015 is a great year for you as well filled with good books. Good luck with all of your goals!

    1. Samantha - It was a good year, looking back. :-) Like you, I have quite a few nonfiction books I want to read--now I just need to read them!

      Thank and I hope you have a wonderful 2015!

  22. What a fun post to read! And, of course, love the pic of Mouse! :)

    I have The Last Policeman Trilogy and hope to get to it this year. No promises from me though. :) I've wanted to read it since the first one came out!

    Hope your year is filled with health and happiness! :)

    1. Joy - Thank you! I hope your year is filled with the same. :-)

      I hope you like The Last Policeman Trilogy when you read it. I admit I expected more mystery when I first went into the books, but that's really not what they are about.

  23. The Ghost Bride caught my eye! You certainly had a great year in reading. Thanks for sharing!


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