Dec 21, 2014

2014: The Year in Review

As usual I'm amazed at how quickly the months roll by and before I know it, I'm saying good-bye to the year and thinking back on the books that occupied my time. Though I didn't read as many books this year as last, I did read more books for my own pleasure rather than ARCs and that was very satisfying to me. There were so many great books released this year and I tried my best to get my hands on many of them. There is one book I started last year and didn't get it finished and that was THE GOLDFINCH by .  The reason I didn't finish doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the book/writing. I have no doubt I will return to it early in the new year because I'm sure I'm going to love it.

There were also some really great movies released this year that were based on books I've read. Though I don't go to the theater, I did manage to see a couple OnDemand and I have a whole list yet to be seen. I'm way behind in watching these movies but I enjoy watching them in the comfort of my own living room. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, THE GIVER and UNBROKEN,  which opens Christmas Day.

There were a few big changes in my reading this past year due to the progression of my eye disease.  I relied on audio books more than ever this year, but thankfully, I've grown very attached to audios and I'm enjoying them more and more. The other big change in my reading this year is that I don't think I read any actual paper books. The ebook is my best friend and even though I miss the smells and the feel of a real book in my hands, the ebook has been a savior to me. My Kindle is like an appendage to my body. I go nowhere without it. That being said, I do understand why some people loathe the ereader but for people like me, they are a life saver.

I read several non-fiction and health related books this year as well.  I also started reading a series by suspense/thriller writer Karin Slaughter this year. The Will Trent series is a spin-off of her Grant County series. The first book, TRIPTYCH, was so intense and kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. It was a great way to start off a series! I'm now on book three and I'm anxious to continue with it.

I thought I'd put together a few lists to summarize the books I read this year..

TOP 5 BOOKS: (In no particular order)


  • A FARM DIES ONCE A YEAR by Arlo Crawford (Non-Fiction)
  • LABOR DAY by Joyce Maynard (I think I'd enjoy the movie better)


  • Fiction: THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir
  • Non-Fiction: STILL FOOLIN' 'EM by Billy Crystal

  • This really surprised me - the two most visited posts didn't have anything to do with fiction books. I did a review of JJ Smith's 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse and then after I completed the cleanse, I posted my results and those two posts were each visited over 1,800 times! I knew that book was special when I finished reading it and I've seen all the recognition JJ Smith has gotten for her knowledge in healthy eating and I couldn't be happier for her.  If you're looking to try a cleanse this year, I would skip all those juice cleanses and try this green smoothie cleanse. Its a smart, healthy way to rid your body of toxins and a proven weight-loss program.  I won't lie to you - it was TOUGH! But it did teach me a whole lot and I lost 12 pounds in 10 days. I'm glad so many other people could benefit from my experience. 


  • Oh Calamity! - from BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty.
This has certainly been a year of great books, even though I didn't get to many that I wanted to and I'm very excited to see what next year brings. More on that next Sunday when I post about goals I have for 2015. Thank you for visiting Southern Girl Reads and Happy Holidays to you all! 

Dec 15, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (Unabridged Audio Version)

One of my favorite types of books to read are books about books and book people. THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY is just that kind of book and more.  Like the title indicates, it is the story of A.J. Fikry's life. A quiet life he lives on Alice Island, off the coast of Massachusetts where he owns a bookstore in the center of the small town. A widower, A.J. keeps mostly to himself and since his wife, Nicole, died in a tragic car accident shortly before the story begins he's become even more withdrawn and even grumpy. He's pleasant enough to his customers but his heart just doesn't seem to be in it any longer.

A.J. Fikry is basically a book snob who thinks Literary Fiction is the only worthwhile genre. He's very set in his ways and doesn't see that changing. That is until two important things happen to him within hours of each other. After a night of self-medicating with alcohol, he awakes the next morning to find that someone has stolen his most prozed possession. A very rare and valuable collection of Edgar Allan Poe's poems.  He always kept it locked in a temperature-controlled glass case in his apartment above the bookstore. He vaguely remembers opening the case in his drunken stupor the previous night - but it is now gone. He literally runs down the street to the local police station to report his theft. Upon returning to the store he is stunned to see that someone has left a baby in his bookstore with a note attached.  The note, apparently written by the child's mother, indicates her inability to care for the child any longer and her wish that Maya be raised around books and by book people for various reasons.   From that moment on, A.J. Fikry's life has new purpose and changes begin to happen that even Fikry himself could not have imagined.


There were a lot of things I liked about this book. but mostlly it was the many book references and wittiness in the dialogue, especially between A.J. and Amelia, the book seller that made me smile while reading. You can only have that with people who 'get' your personality so I liked and appreciated those exchanges.  The characters were fantastic and I loved getting to know each of them and how they fit into A.J.'s life.  I also liked that Gabrielle Zevin managed to keep the surprises coming throughout the book. The transformation of A.J. and the friendships he developed were heartwarming and uplifting. He evolved from being a detached, lonely man to a contented man with friends, love and happiness in his life. I thoroughly enjoyed reading A.J.'s story and I also thought it had an ending perfectly suited to the story.


The narrator of this audio book was the highly acclaimed Scott Brick. Though he has narrated  many bestsellers, this is only the second audio I've heard him perform, the first being Harlan Coban's SIX YEARS. He has a very distinct voice and method in which he reads, which makes him instantly recognizable.  He is a dramatic narrator, which can be a bit distracting at first, however I felt his voice was absolutely perfect for this book. It suited A.J. Fikry's personality to a tea.

I would highly recommend this book, in any form, to other lovers of books and book people. Its a story that will absorb you quickly and you will get lost in it. If you're in a place where you're not quite sure what you want to read next, you should read THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY. It will be a great choice.

THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author:  Gabrielle Zevin
Narrator: Scott Brick
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
Published:  April 2014
Length:  7 hrs 2 mins

Dec 3, 2014

Still Foolin' 'Em by Billy Crystal (Unabridged Audio Version)

Admittedly I don't read many memoirs but I do enjoy them, though nowadays it seems everybody is writing their memoirs, even people who've only been alive half as long as I have been. Let's face it, what could you possibly have done in 25 years that warrants a book written about it? OK, maybe I'm too critical about that, but I am very selective on whose memoir I read.

When it comes to Billy Crystal though, I didn't have to think twice.  I've been a fan of his from way back.  He's always seemed to me to be a regular guy who doesn't put on airs and even though he's had a hugely successful career, keeps a low profile and he's managed to stay married to the love of his life for over 40 years.  I respect that.

STILL FOOLIN' 'EM (Where I've Been, Where I'm Going and Where the Hell Are My Keys) is Billy reflecting on his life now that he's 65 years old and sharing what's important to him. I'll say right off the bat the best part about this audio is that Billy, himself, narrates it.  Another great thing is that several of the chapters are read in front of a live audience! During those chapters there is some unexpected moments that are really funny when he interacts with the audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the real Billy Crystal through his stories and was fascinated by the friendships he made in his early years. One thing is made clear: Billy treasures his friendships almost as much as he treasures his family. Crystal also discusses what its like for him getting older. One of the first things he talks about is turning 50 and having to get his first colonoscopy. Though it was very funny, I was nervous because I was actually scheduled to have my first one done the next week! But Billy reminds you that everyone gets older - the thing is you have to take it in stride and be able to laugh about things.  I was also touched by how sentimental he is.  He is a big collector of sentimental things. I totally relate to this probably because both Billy and I are Pisces which are borderline hoarders. We will hold on to anything if it has a memory attached to it. That is just one of the many qualities I found endearing about this comic.

Its well known that Billy had a long and close friendship with the late great Robin Williams.  Williams is mentioned many times throughout the book but it was especially moving when Billy talked about how they met and the friendship they developed through the years. This book was released shortly before Robin's death, so Crystal could not know that his friend would be gone soon after writing those words.  I had a lump in my throat listening to the affection in his voice for his dear friend.  I'll be honest, tears were present during those moments for me.

If you're looking for an audio book, either for yourself or as a gift to someone this holiday season, I'd put this one at the top of your list. I literally laughed out loud, especially during the live audience readings.  I'm so glad I 'read' this memoir. Its one of the best I've ever read.

STILL FOOLIN' 'EM Where I've Been, Where I'm Going and Where the Hell Are My Keys?)
Unabridged Audio Version
Author: Billy Crystal
Narrator: Billy Crystal
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio
Published: Sept 13, 2014
Length: 8 hrs 6 mins