What to read: 2014 Favorites

Books, Holidays, Reviews

I love books.

I love reading them, holding them, smelling them, and… keeping track of them. I avidly keep track of the books I read using Goodreads, and this year I was delighted to find out that they have this wonderful feature called “Your Year in Books.”


Don’t they look so pretty?

You can see all your books together, and check out your stats to find out how many you read and how you rated them.

Looking through my year in books was how I discovered that, of the 29 books I read this year, I gave only three of them a 5-star rating. So really, I didn’t even have to think to figure out which books were my favorites in 2014. It was more of a discovery.


The similarities between these three books are clear. They are all vivid, dark, sometimes creepy historical novels with (no surprise at all given my tastes…) strong female characters.

PUSH NOT THE RIVER by James Conroyd Martin

There’s nothing I love more than learning actual history through a novel, and this one fits the bill.

Based on the true eighteenth century diary of Lady Anna Maria Berezowska, a Polish countess who lived through a turbulent time in Polish history, this is a story of loyalty and deceit, patriotism and treason, love and hate. Anna puts herself in the way of destiny, making herself an indispensable part of the fight to save her country.


I don’t even know where to start with this book. Let’s just say it’s magical, mind-boggling, and not for the weak of stomach.

Two young women — a disgraced seamstress and a mute nursemaid — struggle to survive and thrive in a fictional 16th century Scandinavian kingdom, while a mysterious illness plagues the royal family.

THE LINNET BIRD by Linda Holeman

This 19th century tale is vivid, detailed, and captivating. As a child in London, Linny was orphaned and sold into prostitution, but she reinvents herself and marries a horrid but wealthy man in British India.

In the lush setting of India, Linny learns that money isn’t the freedom she always thought it would be — and that she may be capable of finding that freedom deep within herself.


If you like historical fiction, give one of these a try!

What were your favorite books of 2014?

Happy New Year!

62 Years

Essay, Holidays

My maternal grandparents have been blessed with not only four children and 12 grandchildren but also with five great grandchildren (two more on the way) and a great-great grandchild on the way. They have been married for 62 years.

Since my family was the only one to live in the same state as my grandparents, they were always there when I was growing up. They came to my t-ball games and dance recitals. They were taking care of us when I lost my first tooth on Halloween in third grade.  We woke up to my Grandma’s coffee pot gurgling on Christmas morning. Considering I am the youngest of the grandchildren, I have been given the gift of a lot of time with my grandparents.


Me, my Grandma, my sister, and my Grandpa when I was in preschool.

However, this past Christmas made me realize how quickly time is passing. My grandparents are now in their mid-80s. My Grandma falls often and walks with a walker. My Grandpa has Alzheimer’s and is always tired. They have become so fragile.

Not knowing how many Christmases we have left with them or even how much time, we have been looking for ways to connect. My sister found the perfect gift for them that actually is a gift for us. Little books, one for my grandfather, the other for my grandmother, that asks them questions about their lives. “Tell us a story about your mother.” “Tell us about your first job and how much you made.” “How did you and Grandma meet?” “What are three major events that happened during your lifetime and how did it affect you?”

My Grandma has the best memory of anyone I’ve ever met and is an avid genealogist. My Grandpa has lost his short-term memory but can remember his childhood quite clearly.  We spent hours learning about their families, how they grew up, and what was significant to them. My Grandpa worked at NASA when we put a man on the moon. He is still so proud. My Grandmother can remember everything about how she met my Grandpa. Especially that she gave him an ultimatum. Go Grandma.

This time together showed me how much they loved their family and how proud they were. My Grandma mentioned that when you get older, all your friends pass away, so all you have left is your family. My Grandpa kept cracking jokes which is a good sign.

I came out of this holiday season thinking about the future.

How my grandparents probably won’t ever see me get married or have kids.

How hard Alzheimer’s is going to get.

And how much I am going to miss them.