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2011: the year that was

Hey everyone! Remember us? How long has it been? It feels like a year.

Anyway, let’s review – as painful as it may be – my 2011 resolutions.

  • Read at least one book per month. – Failure! So close and yet so far. A review of the books in a bit.
  • Read to Simon at least 3 times a week. – Success! Simon asks me to read him a dozen books every day.
  • Write something (short fictional prose, a poem, an essay) once a week. – Failure!
  • Learn to play the guitar. – Failure! I started, but never got going.
  • Defeat Hunter in Marvel vs Capcom 3. – Failure! I got discouraged.

2012 Resolutions

  • Read a dozen books (again!).
  • Cook a meal once a week.
  • Go to the gym (“regularly”)

Books
I ended up reading 11 books this past year, just one shy of the dozen from my resolution (if you don’t count the Kristin Chenoweth memoir that I listened to on audiobook, which I don’t). Here’s what I read and what I thought about them. What was fun was that Katie read all of these as well (except Outliers).

  1. Water for Elephants – This was actually the first novel I had read in a while, and I really enjoyed it. We were on a circus kick with the PBS documentary Circus, and Water for Elephants felt like a backstage view of the circus while maintaining a fairly good frame story and interesting characters.
  2. The Hangman’s Daughter – This was a translation and a good one. It’s a bit here and there, what with the murder mystery, the mystical elements, and the chase/fight scenes. Still, the story is anchored by a few strong characters that really helped me invest in the novel.
  3. The Imperfectionists – Sometimes, a novel of vignettes works for me, and sometimes it doesn’t. The Imperfectionists was entertaining but wasn’t one of my faves.
  4. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Great characters, though a bit slow at times. Enjoyable enough.
  5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – It’s got a great gimmick and an entertaining plot. What more could you ask for?
  6. The Hunger Games – A super fast read with a great hook. I flew through this and bought Catching Fire immediately.
  7. Catching Fire – Suffers from a bit of more-of-the-same, but managed to pull me back in. I’m glad I read it, but I liked The Hunger Games better.
  8. Mockingjay – Still enjoyable, but probably the least enjoyable of the series. It felt like a necessary evil to finish the series, although I do appreciate some of the storytelling risks this book took in stepping away from what had made The Hunger Games so gripping.
  9. Outliers – The usual Malcolm Gladwell stuff. I like the way he provokes my brain, despite the fact that I never really follow up on the case studies.
  10. The Psychopath Test – A witty and interesting look at psychopathy and what it means to be emotional.
  11. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Short, not as controversial as I thought it’d be, and felt at times like it was straining to be humorous.

I started and couldn’t quite get into Swamplandia! and was about a third of the way through Game of Thrones (enjoying it! But man is it long) as the year ended. I also listened to A Little Bit Wicked over the course of a week of commuting to work, which was a cute little piece of work, just like that Miss Chenoweth.

Games
There was another Batman game this year, wasn’t there? Yeah. It was awesome, just like the last Batman game. It was bigger, had great pacing, and felt familiar and new at the same time.

But as far as AAA sequels go, I’d have to lean toward Portal 2. It was the kind of game that fit perfectly in my life – a short campaign with spectacular, fresh writing and extended replay with the kind of perfected co-op mode that only Valve can deliver.

I’ve also been playing a lot of indie games, and a few that I really liked this year were SpaceChem, Terraria, and – most recently – Space Pirates and Zombies. I’ll get back to you on Bastion, but I think I’m going to like it.

TV
Of all the new shows we’ve started watching, I’d say Revenge is the most satisfying to continue watching. It’s soapy, sure, but it’s really quite good. We’re not quite caught up on Once Upon a Time, but I feel like it holds promise. We also are still watching mainstays like Bones and Glee. We started watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix and Community on Hulu. At some point, I’ll get around to Breaking Bad, The Wire, and The Walking Dead.

Oh, also, I discovered Phineas & Ferb this year, which is perhaps the best kids show I’ve ever seen. Also, Downton Abbey is, well, fantastic. Was that in 2011? I like those two better than Revenge, for certain.

What I don’t get is the accolades being piled on 2 Broke Girls, which I found offensive and not very funny. What’s up with that show?

Movies
I didn’t see many movies again this year, aside from random stuff on Netflix, Transformers: Something Something Moon, Thor, and The Muppets. As you can see, there weren’t all that many super memorable movies. I think I also watched X-Men: First Class and Captain America on the plane to/from China. Man, I watched a lot of superhero movies.

Let’s just say The Muppets, why don’t we? I saw it with Katie while we were up in Portland and the grandparents were looking after Simon, so it was a nice little holiday date. The movie was fun and cute and had songs in it. So, there you go. Movie of the year!

That’s it. See you next year.
Unless I embark upon some other blog writing project halfway through 2012 or something momentous happens.

A word from the wife…
Scott apparently wants me to chime in on this post. I’m not really one for blogging, but I suppose someone should point out that 2011 was actually not JUST a year of books, games, TV, and movies. At the risk of sounding like one of those annoying Christmas letters, I would remind him that we celebrated Simon’s first birthday and the marriages of several wonderful friends, traveled to China and the Pacific Northwest (twice), and finally got to attend a Steelers game.

Oh, and I also read a ton of trashy historical fiction and crime novels. Go ahead and judge. Happy 2012!

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