The Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2012

heart-bookHi everyone!  I thought that since you all have heard so much about my own personal goals and favorite reads of 2012, it was about time that you heard from the rest of the staff.  I’ve asked them to send me their top reads of 2012, and I’ve posted them below.  I think it’s interesting to see what different readers choose as their favorites, and it’s always a great springboard for opening a discussion too!  So, without further adieu, here’s the Reflections of a Book Addict staff favorites of 2012!

Todd:

  1. Timeline by Michael Crichton
  2. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  3. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  4. A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis
  5. H10N1 by M.R. Cornelius
  6. Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman
  7. The Sounding by Carrie Salo

Adam:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  3. Pantheons by E.J. Dabel
  4. Albino by E.J. Dabel
  5. Deal With the Devil by J. Gunnar Grey

Christine:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Issues 1-6 of Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
  3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  4. The Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
  5. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  6. Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Jess:

  1. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
  2. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  3. Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton

What do you think?  Leave us a comment below!

The October Round Up!

I can’t believe it’s time to write yet another round up post.  October wasn’t super packed with stuff, so I got a lot of good reading time in.  The highlight of the month though was definitely heading to my favorite bookstore, R.J. Julia, and seeing Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis discuss their newest book Invisible Murder.  The book is the second in their Nina Borg chronicles, the first being The Boy in the Suitcase (which I reviewed here).  Hearing them discuss the research that went into the book, their travels through Hungary, and the tragic stories of what life is like in Hungary for gypsies was harrowing.  I’m excited that I have some background on the real life instances that parts of the book are based on.  It’ll only add that much more to my reading of it.

Me and two of my best friends Kate & Ashley!

We also participated in our second read-a-thon of the year!  Todd and I made it through an hour longer than our first read-a-thon and completed more books as well. We considered it a success and are already looking forward to the next one in the spring.

Besides the read-a-thon our month was spent celebrating our birthdays and Halloween!  Our birthday celebration consisted of Todd, me, and 12 of our friends hitting up downtown New Haven for pizza and beers.  Following dinner we took the group saki bombing!  Those unfamiliar with the term – you take a glass and fill it about halfway with beer (preferably Japanese beer) and then balance a shot of hot saki on top.  You bang the table, let the shot drop in the beer, and then chug down the rest. (Sounds gross but is actually really delicious!)  It was a fabulous celebration and I can’t wait till next year!

Our Halloween party was as always a ton of fun.  Todd’s home-brewed pumpkin beer was a huge smash. (Such a smash all 5 gallons was drunk in one night!)  Everyone went all out on their costumes this year! (Todd and I were newsies) I’m already anticipating how we’re all going to top ourselves next year.

October was a fantastic reading month!  I met my second reading goal of the year of 160 books and have decided to up the goal to 200 books by year-end.  As of today I’m at 176, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it through 24 more before year-end.  I completed 19 books in October with my favorite being The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley (my review is here).  Great great great book.  I really hope y’all will add it to your to-read piles.

The staff has been diligently working on getting through a whole slew of books this month. Adam’s been reading the historical fiction novel Deal With The Devil Part II and recently posted his review for it.  His next review is for a young adult mythology book, Pantheons.  Todd’s been reading a new thriller novel Targets of Deception and the fiction novel Believe Like A Child.  Christine’s been reading a short story/poetry anthology called Everblossom.  Jess is reading the memoir Taking Flak, while Charlie’s been working on a review of the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I do also want to inform all of you about the addition of another staff blogger for the Reflections team, Sam!  Sam’s been working on a young adult dystopian thriller, The Tube Riders.  You can find out more about Sam and her reading tastes on The Staff page!

Let us know what you read last month and what books we should be adding to our to-read piles! As always, happy reading!

Adam’s Review of Deal With The Devil (Part II) by J. Gunnar Grey

A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading Deal With The Devil Part I by J. Gunnar Grey. (My review is here)  I became quickly enveloped in the story and was desperate to read part II after the cliffhanger ending in part I.  Life intervened unfortunately, and it wasn’t until recently that I was able to read part II and finally find out what happened to Major Faust, Major Stoner, Jennifer, and the rest of the cast!  (As a side note: the book is being sold as one novel now, so you won’t have to wait on pins and needles like I did to find out what happened!)  In part 2 there are even more twists and turns making for an even more epic conclusion to this tale of allegiance and backstabbing.

Leaving off directly where the first book ends, the story picks up with Major Faust, a German officer, and Major Stoner, a retired British officer, still at odds with each other and unsure of where the other truly stands. There is one thing Major Faust is sure of, however, and that is his growing feelings for Jennifer, Major Stoner’s granddaughter. Through the course of the novel their relationship grows, but at what cost? There are still some questions of motive on both sides, and some uncertainty between all of the parties involved. Through all this is a carefully crafted mystery that leaves the reader wanting more.

I really enjoyed part two almost as much as part one. The story picked up right from the start and I couldn’t stop reading (a real amazement if you know me). I was interested to see how the characters’ stories would end and couldn’t put the book down. I thought J. Gunnar Grey was really good at was not only developing the characters and making them interesting for the reader, but also making the setting seem more accessible. By writing lots of little details about the setting, I felt more like a fly on a wall rather than a reader. Grey makes the story come to life and makes the action jump right off the page. At times I felt like I could see pictures of the scenes; I had such a vision of the characters and of the setting  because I knew all the small little details.  I was able to enjoy the story that much more because of my ability to visualize the action.

One small note I have, and this is all my fault due to the fact that I read part 1 and part 2 so far apart, is that the two pieces are just a continuation of one another.  I read them five months apart, and I found myself constantly going back and forth from the first one, (which I smartly saved) and the second one to remind myself of the characters and of their background. One day soon, I will read this all as one novel and I think it would help me understand the flow of the story more. This comment has nothing to do with the writing style of the author, but because of my own stupidity to read them far apart and not closer together.

All and all I enjoyed reading the conclusion to J. Gunnar Grey’s story Deal with the Devil. I look forward to re-reading it as one full novel in the near future because I think by doing that will only enhance the story and allow me to enjoy it better. Still I have to give it a perfect score because a good story is a good story regardless of your own mistakes.

5 out of 5 Stars

Deal With The Devil by J. Gunnar Grey
Astraea Press (2011)
eBook: 286 pages
ISBN: 2940012608321

Special thanks to Astraea Press for my review copy!

The May Round-Up!

I’m so sorry for the delay in posts recently, life has been filled with non-stop traveling for weddings, bachelorette parties, graduations, communions, etc.  To say that life has been hectic recently is a severe understatement!

May was kicked off with celebrating my young cousin Daniel’s graduation as well as my cousin Lily’s 75th birthday.  2012 has been a year filled with lots of family celebrations which makes me really happy.  Over the past few years the older generation of my family has been unfortunately been passing away.  Being able to get together to celebrate so many positive events has been a really good thing to help the family heal!

My sister and her awesome PhD get-up

The following weekend of May was spent in Pennsylvania, celebrating the marriage of one of Todd’s best childhood friends.  The wedding was held near Bethlehem, PA at the Blue Mountain Ski resort.  It was an absolutely beautiful location, surrounded by nature.  The weather was beautiful and it was so nice seeing all of Todd’s friends for a whole weekend.  We all live fairly far apart, so a whole weekend in each other’s company unhindered is a rarity.  We had to leave PA early Sunday morning and made our way to NYC for Mother’s Day and for my sister’s PhD convocation.  We made it just in time and headed into the city, hopped on the subway, and headed towards Columbia for the ceremony.  My sister had an awesome PhD get-up (see right) complete with crazy hat and cape.  So so proud of her.  Todd and I were thrilled that we made it on time and were able to see it.  Her smartness knows no bounds.

Pool side view!

The following weekend Todd and I headed back to PA to see my sister-in-law Ellen’s undergraduate graduation from Lehigh.  Unfortunately it rained for most of the ceremony, but we made the best of it!  We headed out for a wonderful tapas dinner to celebrate and drank some of the best blood orange sangria I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. (YUM)

Throw in a bunch of Relay for Life meetings during the month and we’re up to Memorial Day Weekend.  The weekend of my sister’s bachelorette party in Miami!  I flew down all by myself (for the first time ever!) taking two flights down from Connecticut.  I finally made it to our hotel the Eden Roc Renaissance, and proceeded to get my drink on.  Turns out that Memorial Day weekend in Miami is Urban Beach Week, making my pale white skin that much more awkward.  There were pimped out Cadillacs everywhere with insane lift kits; I was definitely impressed.  My sister even witnessed a man “ghost riding the whip” down the street on one leg. (The man physically had one leg and hopped around the car)  Lots of poolside drinks and sun led to a nice relaxing weekend.  All the time I spent on planes led me to finish The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley.

Knowing how behind I was on posting reviews this month I tried to slow my reading roll down.  I successfully completed 11 books for the month of May, my favorite being the aforementioned The Orchid House!  Closing out May I’m completed 83 books for the year, or 75% of my total goal of 110.  I’m super pumped!  I read a variety of books last month: historical fiction, paranormal, novellas, and romances.  June is shaping up to be jam-packed month as well.  We’re participating in Armchair BEA as well as two historical fiction book tours!  Christine, Jess, Todd, Adam, and Charlie are all working on some fun things for the month as well!  Todd is finishing up reading A Million Suns which he will be jointly reviewing with me, Christine is reading The Cottage by Alan Austin, Adam’s working on Part II of Deal With The Devil (his review of part I is here), and Charlie’s working on the first book in the Lost Princess series Blood Sword.  June should be a pretty versatile and fun month for reviews.  Hope you’ll stick around and join in on the reading fun!

As always…..happy reading!!

Adam’s Review of Deal with the Devil (Part I) by J. Gunnar Grey

Graduating from college with a degree in history is I guess the most obvious way to tell that I enjoy history.  To say you enjoy history offers a pretty broad spectrum of things to like.  The World War II period has always been my favorite period to study/read/learn about which was one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to review Deal with the Devil.  Written by J. Gunnar Grey, it details espionage, loyalties, and the difference between right and wrong in Europe in World War II. While reading this novel, the reader’s eyes are opened to question of doing what is perceived to be right versus what is actually the right thing to do.

Major Faust is a high-ranking officer in the German army during the start of World War II. After spending some time in England while achieving his college degree from Oxford, Faust found that he liked Britain as well. He tended to believe in British ideology more than the propaganda of Nazi Germany. After allowing some British soldiers to escape from German control, a friend gets Major Faust drunk and throws him over into England near Oxford. There he is captured by Major Stone, a retired general of the British army and his granddaughter Jennifer, whom Faust has an immediate connection with. He must not crack under interrogation as he was one of the architects of a detailed plan to invade England drafted by the German army. He attempts to escape, but during his attempt a local woman is brutally murdered, and he is captured again and made the lead suspect. Thrown into this classic whodunit is a story of loyalty, with twist and turns around every corner.

I will admit, I did not like the book the first three times I attempted to read it. I would read 20 pages and then it would slow down and I couldn’t get myself past that hump, only to give up and start again a week later. However, on my fourth and final attempt I got past the hump and am I glad I did. I couldn’t put my iPad down and couldn’t wait to flick (iPad turning) the page. I kept finding myself gasping at the twist and turns  set in the backdrop of World War II England. Similar to Dan Brown creating mysteries with religious material and legends as a base, J. Gunnar Grey was able to create an excellent mystery with a fantastic historical background.

I was completely blown away with the amount of research Grey put into the book. I kept learning about new facts and was constantly double checking to see if these were actual events and places that were described in the book. It probably took me twice as long to read the book because I kept doing that, but it made for a fuller reading experience. Not only was I reading a mystery, which was the first mystery I truly enjoyed since Angels and Demons, but I was also learning more about a subject I love.

All and all, I think this reading experience goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by the first 20 pages. Even though the beginning may be slower, eventually you will get to an exciting part. My only complaint was that I only read part one of this two-part series, because this first part ends with a huge cliff hanger, I need to get my hands in part two ASAP, so I can continue this great story!

5 out of 5 Stars

Deal With The Devil by J. Gunnar Grey
Astraea Press (2011)
eBook: 286 pages
ISBN: 2940012608321

Special thanks to Astraea Press for my review copy!