Monthly Archives:: December 2008

Another Year Gone…

December 31, 2008 Book Reviews, Books 13

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It’s so hard to believe that 2008 is winding down. Now is the time to look back over my reading year and catalogue the good and the bad. I think I had a pretty remarkable reading year; lots of great books were read and not too many bad ones. Of course, I think my tendency to set aside books I don’t care for may have something to do with that! The biggest surprise of my reading year is how many non-fiction books I read, and enjoyed! So here is the break down:

Books read: 66
Fiction: 57
Non-Fiction: 9
Young Adult: 16
Children’s: 9
Graphic Novels: 9
Classics: 2 (oh that’s bad)
Short Story books: 2 (definitely less than I meant to read)
Books by women: 40
Books by men: 26
Audio books: 5
Rereads: 12 (another surprise)
Challenges finished: 1
Challenges attempted: 5; RIP III, Once Upon a Time, My Year of Reading Dangerously, and the Short Story Challenge.  Oh, and the 24-hour-readathon.

It was hard to pick out ten, let me tell you. But these all got top marks from me, so I went with them. I am honestly shocked by how many non-fiction books are on here. Here are my Top Ten Favorites:

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Spiritualist by Megan Chance
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
West With the Wind by Beryl Markham

Here are a few Honorable Mentions, because I just couldn’t bear not to mention them.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by AJ Jacobs
The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs
Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost

Wow, I really need to review better!  I will make a better effort to review in 2009. 

So, there you have it.  May 2009 be a wonderful year for all of you!

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The Truth About Forever

December 30, 2008 Book Reviews, Books 6

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever
By Sarah Dessen
Author Website and Blog

I really needed a break from review books and this one sounded good. I’ve been meaning to try Sarah Dessen’s writing for a long time. Little did I know; this one hit a little close to home.

Macy is like most regular 17-year-olds. She has a boyfriend. She makes good grades. She’s on the student council. She has a summer job.

Only difference, she witnessed her father’s death and hasn’t figured out how to mourn. But she’s fine, just fine.

She does what everyone tells her to do so that they will be happy. She takes over her boyfriend’s library job for the summer, while he goes to Brain Camp. She comes home every night and studies for the SATS. She fixes the salad to her mother’s chicken for supper. She covers for her sister when she sneaks out at night. She gives everything she’s got, just to be perfect.

But then she meets the Wish Catering crew, her boyfriend decides he wants a ‘break’ and her life is turned upside down. Suddenly, it’s okay to go to a party of Friday night. It’s okay to see her friends and spend the night. It’s okay to be human. And then Wes, gorgeous, compassionate Wes, teaches her how to mourn.

My mom took off when I was about 3 and my dad died when I was 8. I was raised by my grandparents and I never really learned how to mourn for my dad. Even at 8, I felt I had to be, maybe not perfect, but *fine*. So you can see where this book hit a little close to home.  

So, what was so great about this book? All of it!  The characters were amazing. I felt a little bereft when I read the last page. They are still in my mind, days later and it’s made it somewhat hard to read another book. Dessen is a great writer who seems more than capable of writing for the Young Adult audience. The dialogue feels natural and honest. The story rings with humor and some of the more lighthearted moments serve as a nice contrast to the darker subjects of death, fear and loss. Macy’s shift from fragile perfection to poignant grief and renewal is nothing short of mastery.

There were a few problems.  A few of the characters were barely two dimensional.  Monotone Monica has a repertoire of, maybe 5 words.  She has like 2 complete sentences throughout the book.  Her sister Kristy has a tendancy to wear the loudest, most colorful outfits and their descriptions can get tiresome.  And, yes, while everyone isn’t perfect, sometimes it felt like Dessen was trying a little too hard to make sure every-single-character had a very pronounced fault. 

All in all though, a must read for anyone who appreciates a good story with good, well-written and honest characters. I can’t wait to get my hands on more by this author.

A few favorite quotes:

“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”

“It’s all in the view. That’s what I mean about forever, too. For any one of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. You never know for sure, so you’d better make every second count.”

“It’s just that…I just think that some things are meant to be broken. Imperfect. Chaotic. It’s the universe’s way of providing contrast, you know? There have to be a few holes in the road. It’s how life is.”

“I knew, in the silence that followed, that anything could happen here. It might be too late: again, I might have missed my chance. But I would at least know I tried, that I took my heart and extended my hand, whatever the outcome.

“Okay,” he said. He took a breath. “What would you do, if you could do anything?”

I took a step toward him, closing the space between us. “This,” I said. And then I kissed him.”

Also reviewed by:

Teens Read Too | Chicklish | Avid Book Reader |  

If you have reviewed this book, just let me know in the comments and I will link you here.

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Austenland

December 18, 2008 Book Reviews, Books 7

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland
By Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury, 2007
Author website

A few days ago, I felt I needed a pick me up in the form of a light, fluffy, easy-to-read book. I’ve had this one for awhile, so I thought I’d read the first couple of pages to see what it was all about. Well, I finished it the same day. 

So, here’s what it’s all about:

Poor Jane.  She is 33-years-old and she just can’t seem to find the right guy. She blames her obsession with Mr. Darcy. And she means Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy from the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, thankyouverymuch. A wealthy aunt takes pity on her and leaves her an unexpected present in her will. A trip to an English resort dedicated to Jane Austen and literally living the Jane Austen experience. Suddenly Jane is meeting dashing young aristocrats and lowly gardeners, wearing Regency dresses (down to the corset!), and eating plain, boring foods. But will this Total Immersion Therapy cure Jane of her obsessions and finally bring her the love she so desires?

I loved this book. It was exactly what I was wanting; light, fluffy, chick-litish romance. I thought the premise adorable, Jane a delight, and the various Austenish men wonderful. Ms. Hale definitely knows her Austen men. And women too, for that matter.

I think in the wrong mood this would not have been such a great hit with me, but as it was I found it very enjoyable and would highly recommend it to those looking for the same thing I was.

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Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

December 17, 2008 Miscellaneous 9

Sweet, eh?

Sweet, eh?

Today was one of those days where I felt very much the Grinch.  Or Scrooge.  No, that’s not true.  I don’t begrudge anyone their holiday cheer, nor do I want to cheat them out of their last farthing.  But I definitely feel a sincere lack of the usual excitement that comes with this magnificent holiday.  One would think I’d be feeling it a little more.  I have a 5-year-old who is beside herself with excitement.  A 15-month-old who is terrified of Santa and screams whenever he sees him yet is still entranced by the displays of Christmas lights, presents, and trees.  Dozens of beautiful Christmas cards with their depictions of Santa, Christ, and general Christmas cheer have flooded into our house and I have sent an equal share back out again.

So what gives?

Well, one, this time of year, more than any other, I miss my grandparents.  (In case you didn’t know, they raised me, so I might as well say, my parents.)  They were never ones for big displays at Christmas, but still, I keenly feel their loss right now.  It’s so hard to believe my Papa has been gone almost 7 years and my Mama just barely 3. 

How to cheer up then?

Well, for starters I am very, very, very much looking forward to having next week OFF work!  Monday will be spent wrapping all the presents and putting them under the tree.  I’ll even help out Santa and wrap his presents too!  And I’m going to watch lots of Veronica Mars, which I recently discovered thanks to Netflix and am now totally addicted to. Which really sucks, since it was cancelled and all.  And I’m going to knit some more presents.  Tuesday will probably be my annual shopping trip with my uncle (another father figure).  Wednesday, I will cook.  And then Thursday and Friday will be devoted to family and presents and foooooood.   And of course I’ll try to fit in a few more good books before the end of the year.  So I’ll get straigtened out.

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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

December 5, 2008 Miscellaneous 5

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
By E. Lockhart
Hyperion, 2008
352 Pages
Author Website

What led you to pick up this book?

I’ve often see Lockhart’s books discussed in YA forums and wanted to try her out. I read book flap and thought this one sounded like a good place to start.

Describe the book without giving anything away.

Oh, that will be hard! There is so much I don’t want to leave out! So I’m going to let Publisher’s Weekly do it:

Lockhart’s (Dramarama) witty novel about boarding school high jinks of a most cerebral order receives winning treatment from Sirois-her slightly nasal voice for the heroine, 16-year-old Frankie, seems in character and is somehow endearing. Frankie starts her sophomore year with elevated social status thanks to having become the main squeeze of Big Man on Campus Matthew Livingston, but confides her conflicted feelings about being “arm candy” to roommate Trish, who responds with sweet but Valley Girl-esque befuddlement befitting someone who stays home making fruit crumbles while the boys go out partying. Sirois goes to a deeper register for heartthrob Matthew, leader of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male secret society Frankie plots to infiltrate, and affects a surfer-dude patois for Alpha, Matthew’s sidekick. Sirois preserves the fun in Lockhart’s talky novel, largely fueled by the intelligent repartee among its principals. Ages 12-up. Simultaneous release with the Hyperion hardcover (Reviews, Jan 7).(June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

What did you like most about the book?

There is this one section where Frankie is thinking to herself about neglected positives, as she calls them. Frankie thinks about these sort of things a lot, which is very entertaining, but this was the best. A “Neglected Positive” is basically the opposite of a word as it should be, not necessarily what it is. For example: immaculate. The opposite is obviously something along the lines of dirty, nasty, etc, etc. But to Frankie, it’s maculate. See, she dropped the beginning. Other examples: disturbed and turbed; incriminate and criminate, etc. I found this very amusing. After this section she continues to talk this way through out the book.

Is there anything you didn’t like about the book or topic?

Not really. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head.

What did you think of the characters?

Loved them. Frankie was one in a million. The boys felt like a very accurate portrayal to me in their attitudes towards not only their girlfriends, but how they act towards girls in general and how they treat each other. Frankie’s big sis Zada was pretty cool and felt just a little underused – I would have liked to have seen more of her. There were times when Frankie felt very alone, but I don’t think she minded.

In general:

Great read. It was very thought provoking. There were lots of interesting thoughts about social order and trying to break out of the boundaries society imposes on, not just females, but on everyone in general. The roles of females and males in relationships and how sometimes one can come to be more in love with one’s partner’s lifestyle more than the person for their selves. And I liked learning about the Panopticon. That was particularly fascinating to someone like me, who always does feel like they are being watched, even when all alone.

And I love that cover. (Yes, I am a sucker for a great cover!)

Recommended?

YES!

Preview it here.

Also reviewed by:

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast | Teens Read Too | Teen Reads | Becky’s Book Reviews | The Virtual Loft | The Reading Zone | Library Queue | A Patchwork of Books | Books & other thoughts | Teen Book Review | Presenting Lenore | reading is my superpower | casual dread | Eva’s Book Addiction | Reading Keeps You Sane | Not enough bookshelves | Abby the Librarian | Page Numbered | bookshelves of doom | Michele One L |

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to it, just let me know in the comments.

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The Man in the Picture

December 4, 2008 Book Reviews 8

The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill

The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill

The Man in the Picture
By Susan Hill
Overlook Hardcover, 2008
144 pages
Author website

What led you to pick up this book?

When Andi mentioned picking this up from the library, I just knew I had to read it.  I loved Hill’s book The Woman in Black and it sounded as if it were in the same vein.

Describe the book without giving anything away.

Oliver has come to his alma mater for a visit with his old professor.  As they sit around the fire talking late one night, the old professor, at one time an art collector, decides to tell his young friend the secrets of one of his more eerie paintings.  A dark Venetian scene of a carnival, strangely beautiful and sinister, possesses the power to entrap the lives of any who dare stare to long into it’s depths.  It’s hand has touched many; will it now touch Oliver and his loved ones as well?

What did you like most about the book?

I find it amazing what Hill can do with such few words.  In less than 150 pages, she creates a world where love, betrayal, and loss come into stark focus.  The story, with shades of Dorian Gray, was fantastic, as were the characters. 

Is there anything you didn’t like about the book or topic?

As with most wonderful stories, it ended all too soon.

What did you think of the characters?

I thought they were wonderful.  They came alive; all their hopes and ambitions, fears and desires.  Even the characters who only appeared for a couple of pages were made into complicated and fully realized. 

In general

This is a fantastic little story.  Well crafted, each word chosen with care.  Reminds me of Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens… but maybe don’t read it late at night.

Recommended?

Definitely.  To any one who likes to get a little spooked every now-and-then.  It would have been perfect for RIP III.

Also reviewed by:

One Minute Book Reviews | Overlook Press |

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to it, just let me know in the comments.

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Estella's Revenge

December 2, 2008 Books 0

Estella's Revenge
Estellas Revenge

The newest issue of Estella’s Revenge just hit the net.  It’s our fantasy issue, and while small, it still packs a pretty good punch.  Go check her out!  Go enter to win a signed copy of The Stolen Child!

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Ho Hum…

December 1, 2008 Books 6

Ho hum. Bummer.

Ho hum. Bummer.

So, I guess you can tell by the lack of OMG I finished my NaNo novel today that I did not, in fact, finish my NaNo novel.  I petered out last week.  I did make it almost halfway through.  Now I can go back to my usual method of writing – letting that damn editor in my brain take over every few hundred words or so.  I will shoulder on!

So, now that we’re back to our regularly scheduled program, how is everyone?  Good I hope.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and ate lots of turkey.  I know I did.  I also got lots of reading done.  I finished Susan Hill’s WONDERFUL little novella The Man in the Picture (review forthcoming).  It was SO GOOD.  And very short.  It’s only like 140 pages.  You should read it.  Really.  Read it.

What else…hmm…started The Disreputible History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.  This is my first book by Lockhart and I am enjoying it immensely.  I have missed reading YA!

Hmm…I guess that’s it.  Must go work on getting Estella together!  Happy Monday!

Oh yes, I guess maybe you noticed I decorated for Christmas around here.  I gifted myself with the CSS upgrade, so I can do more with my template.  I hope you can stand it!

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