Favorites of 2012, in no particular order

2012 is almost behind us (thank every star in the sky!), so I thought it was an apt time to do a list of favorite things from the past year.  Here are some books, movies, and music I recommend (in no particular order)…


Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams.  This nonfiction gem is part travelogue, part history, part humor, and 100% delightful.  The book follows the efforts of the author to retrace the steps of the “discoverer” of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham III. His journey takes him on strange paths, both real (through jungle, mountains, and beyond) and historical. My favorite nonfiction this year.

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson.  This YA fantasy is about an American teenager who discovers her Norwegian heritage on a summer trip to visit her preternaturally young grandmother.  With a likeable protagonist, beautiful setting, and realistic romance, this one pretty much captivated me from the start.  The book jacket sums the story up better than I ever could: “Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s unexpectedly epic coming-of-age.”

City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore.  A noir fantasy set in modern day Los Angeles, City of the Lost takes the recent zombie craze in an unexpected (and awesome) direction.  Ride along with the book’s antihero as he struggles to find out why he’s suddenly gone from alive to undead and how he can fix his problem before he eats another hooker.  Yup, you read that right.  Funny, but (obviously) dark too.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  This is probably one of the best things I read all year.  Vividly imagined, beautifully written, and utterly gripping, Daughter of Smoke and Bone tells the story of a devil who fell in love with an angel.  What more can you ask for?  Read this one right away.

Necromancer Chronicles by Amanda Downum.  This trilogy includes The Drowning City, Kingdoms of Dust, and The Bone Palace.  All follow the (mis)adventures of necromancer Isyllt Iskaldur.  Dark, brooding, unexpected, and beautiful.  Best fantasy I’ve read in a long time.


I saw very few movies in 2012 that I liked well enough to recommend, let alone remember long enough to want to put them on this list.  In fact, there are just two:

Safety Not Guaranteed.  This little charmer tells the story of a depressed, cynical magazine intern who goes undercover to do a story on a man who has put out an ad seeking a companion with whom he can travel through time.  It sounds predictable to suggest that, as a consequence, her life will never be the same…and this movie is anything but.  Safety Not Guaranteed made me happier than I can say.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  So, yes, this movie is about the end of the world, which seems depressing.  And to claim I didn’t cry would be the fattest of lies.  Still, I wouldn’t call a movie about two unhappy people discovereing that life is worth living (even if they won’t live for long) a downer.  Loved this one, a lot.


I “discovered” a few new bands this year, much to my delight.  Some of these you all probably know, but maybe some are new to you too.  Hope you enjoy them.

fun.  Their first album, Some Nights, is full of great, anthem-y songs, like this one: Carry On.  I had a kind of rough year, and fun.’s music always makes me feel happy.

Brandie Carlile  Her latest album (Bear Creek) is lovely, singer-songwriter stuff.  She has a pretty, throaty voice that’s both soothing and moving.

Of Monsters and Men.  This Icelandic band sounds just like you might imagine a group of hipsters from Iceland would (read: kooky and twee).  Here’s a video of them performing one of their bigger hits Little Talks.

And, that’s it!  What stuff did you LOVE in 2012?  Please share your favorites in the comments!

Now, bring us some figgy pudding!

Well, we’re almost there.  The world did not end this morning. 2012 is almost over.  Just a few more days and we can let the door shut behind it and ring in a new and, hopefully, better year.

It has, undoubtedly, not been the best 12 months on record for the Suri household.  My father-in-law died very unexpectedly in July, my grandmother (less unexpectedly, but with no less sadness) passed just a few days ago.  Sid and I have been sick off and on for nearly 2 months.  There was a hurricane, a vacation partially spent in a doctors office, and plenty of other, smaller annoyances.  This is all just to mention the unhappy things that have befallen my family.  Plenty of my friends have also had a particularly difficult year, too.

So, as much as I’m tempted to say good riddance to 2012, I think it’s also important not to let the bad overshadow the good.  This year wasn’t all tears and heartache.

Here are 7 things from 2012 that are worth celebrating and remembering.

1. My husband was offered (and accepted), along with every other member of his research lab, an amazing job at a brand new Microsoft Research facility right here in New York – one opened up just for them.  This definitely qualifies as 2012’s best.

2. We had two amazing (dare I even say “magical”?) trips this year – one to Napa back in January and one to Spain in May – that I will remember forever.  We also traveled to France with my family this year, and I’m fully cognizant of how lucky we are (in so many ways) to be able to take these kinds of trips.

3. I got to spend my friend Melania’s 40th birthday with her, celebrating in serious style in her adopted home of London.  She is one of my dearest, oldest friends and we don’t see each other nearly often enough, so this was pretty great.

4. Though it wasn’t always easy, I spent a long weekend in June with my brother-in-law helping him take care of my two nieces while my sister took a safari in Africa with our mom.  I don’t always get to hang out with just Jeff or spend such hands-on time with the girls.  It was fun, and I came away with a new-found respect for how much work parenting is!

5. I got offered (and accepted) a temporary full-time teaching position for the spring semester.  More work, but more money — and, in a profession where “no” is so much more common than “yes” (guess that applies to academia AND writing) it’s always nice to be chosen.

6. Sid and I have faced some real challenges this year, and we’ve come through them with our relationship even stronger than it was before.  Not that I needed any confirmation, but this year has shown me just how much I won the husband lottery 5 years when Sid proposed.  Whenever I hear this song, I think: damn straight.

7. Friends.  2012 has brought new friends into our lives and returned old ones to us.  It’s an old (but true) adage that going through hard times shows who your real friends are.  We have found ourselves rich in true friends, and I’m thankful for it.

So, though I won’t be sorry to see 2012 turn into 2013, there’s still plenty to be grateful for.  Not the least of which is that I’ve finished submitting my grades and a plane is waiting to carry Sid and I out to Seattle for Christmas with my family.

So, entertain me while I sit at the airport and tell me what YOU are grateful for about 2012.  Share some happy thoughts in comments and maybe, just maybe, I’ll share my figgy pudding!

The calm before the storm

All remaining midterms, quizzes, and research papers have been graded.  All final exams have been written.  There are no more lectures to prepare and nothing left to do but wait.  160 final exams will come rolling across my desk next Tuesday, but until then…I am freeeeeeeee!

What to do with this wonderful little lull, this calm before the storm?

Well, of course, I shall write.  That goes without saying.  I have a new short story I’m working on, and the poor characters in ABSENT have been stuck in the Ices Ages for months and months freezing their patooties off – some of them are in limbo just waiting to be killed before the third act.  How cruel of me!  Obviously something must be done.

Also, we’re having our annual Holiday Party this weekend.  So cookies and candy will be happening in Miranda’s Kitchen of Culinary Delights and Disasters.  Today I will tackle 2 types of bark: chocolate toffee with sea salt and chocolate macadamia nut.  I’ll also be trying two new cookies — a Finnish brown-butter sandwich cookie with blackberry jam filling and a Welsh griddle cookie.  Tomorrow, the Great Eggnog Caper begins, in which I make my famous (at least in my mind) homemade eggnog and then attempt to refrain from drinking it all before the party on Sunday.  Oh, and fillings for tea sandwiches are on the docket, and Christmas music, and a few last gift purchases, and…well, you get the idea.

So, that’s my next four days.  What have you all got brewing?

Book Review: Marianna

Marianna by Susanna Kearsley (Fiction. 384 pages. 2012)

Marianna starts with a girl and a beautiful, creaky old house in the English countryside and it ends with a love story spanning more than 500 years.  This is a very particular type of novel, in which two stories are told in an interleaved fashion — one set in the present and one in the past.  In this case, the stories belong to modern day illustrator Julia Beckett and the titular 17th century Marianna Farr.

And, of course, they’re linked (in ways I don’t want to reveal lest I spoil the delights of the novel).  These delights (and, yes, surprises) are many.  In fact, this is one of the first books I’ve read in awhile where I really didn’t see the end coming.  I even felt compelled to go back and reread the novel to ferret out all the clues I’d missed the first time around.

While Marianna holds a twist, much of the novel reads like a meandering stroll through the English countryside on a particularly fine day.  It’s pleasant and charming, but it lacks a little urgency.  No one’s life is stake.  The world doesn’t need saving.  Armies of darkness are not about to destroy all happiness and joy and extinguish light from the universe.  Rather, the story explores the connections between our past and present, the real nature of love and friendship, and the role of destiny in our lives.

So, if you’re looking for riveting action, this is not the book for you.  But, if you’re looking for a lovely holiday read — one you won’t be upset to be pulled away from when the spiked eggnog comes out but will be happy to pick back up once you’re snug in bed — Marianna is just the thing for you.