Book review 2013

I managed to get to 70 books for 2013, and yes, the majority of them have been forgotten already.  Logging them on Good Reads has been really useful and I’ve found some great recommendations through it, especially YA books.  Anyway, these are my favourites in no particular order, and largely without spoilers:

Allegiant

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My favourite YA trilogy came to a close with, in my opinion, a very brave move.  There was only one real way for it to end, and I know many people were disappointed, but I loved it.  I bought my copy in Vermont mid-way through my road trip (I had booked a hotel near a Barnes and Noble on the day it was released) and missed the lovely things Bennington probably has going for it whilst I read the whole thing in our hotel room.  I regret nothing!  Hurry up March, I want the film series to start.

Husband's Secret

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Oh holy crap, this was so good.  I really got into “women’s fiction” (ugh at the label) with a mystery element this year, and this book kept me guessing right until the end.  Everything was to tightly wound in grief, love, and betrayal that is almost left me breathless in parts.  I really love fiction set in Australia for some reason – I’m reading another Australian fiction book at the moment – there’s just something different about them.  This story stayed with me long after I finished reading.

Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
I truly didn’t know what to expect from this book when I started reading it, but I was immediately taken in by the warmth of the lead character, Bee.  It’s an incredibly touching and witty tale of family life, with an overly anxious mother (the Bernadette from the title), and a geeky father.  It’s told through emails and diary entries for the first part of the book, and there’s a little bit of a mystery to solve.  And just when you think the end is going to be sad, the author springs a surprise on you.

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I debated about whether to put this or The Fault in our Stars on the list. They’re not similar thematically or anything like that, but both books affected me in similar ways.  Eleanor and Park took me completely by surprise though.  I was expecting The Fault in our Stars to leave me in tears, but I really wasn’t expecting it from this book.  It very delicately hit me right in the feels and I fell head over heels in love with both the characters.  Utterly beautiful.

I’ve also just read that this book is being called obscene by a bunch of crazy Christians in the USA.  THAT’S INSANE.  I’m completely outraged!  This is one of the sweetest books I have ever read, and that some people can find obscenity in it says more about the people then it does about the book.

The moment

The Moment by Douglas Kennedy
This book was incredibly intense to read, I almost couldn’t put it down as I feared for the characters at the end of almost every chapter.  I had just finished reading Five Days by the same author and found his writing style captivating, so I wanted to read more of his.  I was drawn to this book in particular primarily because it was set in Maine and I was about to visit the state, but also because of the Cold War Berlin setting.  It’s not something I would have read before, but I vaguely knew a little about the history of Berlin so thought it would make for an interesting story.  Which of course it did.  The ending was so heart wrenchingly perfect and I loved the whole thing.

Wool

Wool by Hugh Howey
THIS BOOK.  My goodness, this book was amazing.  From the very first page, I was memorised by this rich, dystopian future that the author created.  I honestly don’t think I’ve read anything like it before.  It was another book I didn’t want to put down – I would have quite happily stayed awake until I finished it, if only I didn’t have to go to work.  Curses.  I bought the second book Shift straight away which was a prequel of sorts, and whilst the second book gave some answers, I loved that there were still so many more answers left.  I am waiting for the paperback of the third, only because Shift was a bloody heavy book and didn’t really fit in my work bag (no, really).  February can’t come quick enough.

What’s even more amazing about Wool is it’s told from the point of view of an amazing female character.  I loved Juliette, and it was so nice to see such a three dimensional female character written by a man.

Also, I’ve seen Hugh Howey comment on reviews of the series (on the Guardian for example) and he comes across as a really lovely guy, an absolute sweetheart.  He deserves all the success he’s received, and I sincerely hope that a TV show or film is made of this fascinating world.

Spectacular now

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
I’m including this on the list not because I enjoyed it, but because I was supposed to enjoy it and yet it took me two attempts to get through it.  I really disliked both the main characters, and I would have given up if it wasn’t for the film and for Mild Concern encouraging me to finish it.  Sutter Keely is a douchebag and I hated every single thing he did.  I couldn’t find anything to connect with him and I wanted to punch his fictional face every time he spoke.

I don’t like being negative, but I don’t understand what I’m supposed to like about him, and I don’t get why this has been made into a film, although good for Shailene Woodley for getting herself into three YA film adaptations.  I will see the film when it gets a proper release over here as I’ll be interested to see how they make Sutter ACTUALLY RELATABLE /rant

I’ll continue ‘logging’ the books I read for 2014 on my Good Reads account, which you can find through my little widget on the side of my blog.  I’m already really excited for what 2014 holds.

Day Six: North Conway, NH – Waterbury, VT – Burlington, VT

Vermont roads

Vermont

Miles travelled
142

Where we stayed
Best Western, South Burlington – again, a very pleasant room.

Where we ate
Lunch was ice cream.  Hell yes.
Dinner was at American Flatbread in Burlington, and it was so good – definitely one of my favourite meals.  We shared a massive New Vermont Sausage flatbread, and then I had a brownie for pudding, whilst Husband had carrot cake

Photos
Day Six

No watching the sunrise this morning – the view over the closed mini-golf wasn’t particularly epic – so today started quite ordinarily.  The breakfast room was packed full of French-Canadians and we weren’t used to hearing French, especially not when we were half asleep, so it felt a little surreal.  I had another go at the waffle machine and shared a waffle with Husband, and I was also very thankful for the free fruit (something I had missed at previous breakfasts).

Our drive today would be through the amazing White Mountains, and over the Kancamagus Highway.  Wowsers.  This was a beautiful road with plenty of places to stop for a wander round.  Paying for a parking permit was really quaint – you had to put $3 in an envelope with your license plate number and post it in a box in one of the car parks, then hang the receipt on your rear view mirror.  So trustworthy!  We paid for our permit at the first place we stopped – Lower Falls and made a quick visit to Falls Pond.  It was a little grey and overcast, so no beautiful blue skies for our photos but it was still really pretty.

Falls Pond

On the way to Falls Pond

We stopped again a bit further along at Sabbaday Falls, and had a lovely little walk up to the falls.  Unfortunately, it had started raining at this point, but the mist over the hills were making it look really dramatic.  If not grey.  Back down from the falls, and I decided I would be brave enough to have a drive.  There was no one else on the road, and I knew if I didn’t do it now, I wouldn’t get a better chance.  I drove for about 10 minutes up the highway and I found it so ridiculously frustrating.  Because we were going up hill, I knew what gear I wanted to be in, but the bloody automatic wanted to decide for itself.   I pulled over into a car park, gave up, and left the rest of the driving to Husband.  One last view point, and then on to one of the absolute highlights of the trip – the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, VT.

I.  Was.  Excited.  Despite the pouring rain as we ran across the car park.  Tours are every thirty minutes, and we got there just as one left, so we wandered about the shop and the mini-museum.  First stop on the tour was the Cow Over the Moon Theater where we watched a short film about the history of Ben & Jerry’s, and then our tour guide Blair took us to the mezzanine over the production room.  No photos were allowed (Blair made sure he weeded out the ice cream spies) and we got a little wave from someone on the production line as Blair explained how the ice cream was made.  It was such a great tour, and Blair had a great sense of humour.  Someone asked if there were any new flavours coming out, and Blair said that there was a film tie-in coming out (which was then revealed that very day to be Scotchy Scotch Scotch!) so we got a bit of an exclusive there.

They were making Peanut Butter Cup so I assumed that we’d be getting a sample of that, but instead we got a (quite large) sample of Mint Choc Chunk which was delicious.

Ice Cream

Mint Choc Chunk

But this wasn’t enough ice cream for us, and we went over to the scoop shop – I had Chocolate Therapy and Husband had Maple Walnut which is apparently now only made for the scoop shop in Vermont.  I asked for a small cone and got a ridiculously sized thing – I don’t know if I misunderstood or if this was the small, but I couldn’t finish it!  The rain had died down, so we took a trip to the Flavor Graveyard to pay respects to the ghosts of ice cream past.  The first gravestone we saw was for Peanuts! Popcorn! – NO FAIR, I WOULD HAVE LOVED THAT!!

We took the obligatory comedy photo in the Ben & Jerry’s photo cut-out thingie before driving the extra half an hour to South Burlington, VT for our evening stop.  And one of my most important purchases – Allegiant by Veronica Roth – from the Barnes and Noble across the street.  Yes, I did choose the Best Western based on it’s proximity to a book store the day that Allegiant was released.  You’d all do it too.  I accidentally ended up buying two other (hard back) books as well, which would eventually be a massive pain in the arse when it came to packing my suitcase, but it was totally worth it.

I of course immediately started my read in the hotel, but I was able to tear myself away for some incredibly delicious flatbread in at American Flatbread in Burlington that evening.  This was after spotting a free space in Burlington, driving towards it, then realising it was “Mayor Parking Only”.  HEE!  The restaurant was absolutely buzzing but it took about 5 minutes before we got our table which wasn’t bad at all.  The pizza oven was in plain view, so I spent the evening mesmerised by the two bakers making up the pizzas, then a third baker whisking them into the “earthen oven” to produce a very tasty flatbread.

To walk off the yummy food and because we had free parking (something else I loved about the towns we visited), we wandered around Burlington and soaked in the college town life.  We hadn’t decided what we going going to do tomorrow at this point, but Burlington by night made us want to visit Burlington by day.  With plans decided, we drove the 10 minutes to our hotel where poor exhausted Husband fell asleep in front of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl, and I read a little bit more of Allegiant before sleep called me as well.