You were mighty fine, 2009

2009 has been an unprecedented year in reading for me.  I have been keeping track of my reading since 2001 and I have never, ever, even come close to reading so many books in one year.   And so many GOOD books.  Quality is, of course, the most important thing.  I can only think  of maybe two books I was really disappointed with.  The rest… well… let’s just say it was really hard to pick a top ten list this year.  Here’s the breakdown:

Books read: 125
Fiction: 119
Nonfiction: 6 (I am ashamed. That is terrible.)
Young Adult: 47
Children’s: 16
Graphic Novels: 17
Audio books: 17
Challenges Attempted: 5, I think (Graphic Novel Challenge, Once Upon a Time, RIP IV, and Harry Potter)
Challenges Completed:  2? (Once Upon a Time and RIP IV, I think.  I am one shy of the Graphic Novel Challenge – if I don’t fix that before the end of the year!)

As for my favorites, like I said, it was very hard to pick 10. So I narrowed it down by categories!  These are in no particular order.  I actually think I do know which is my favorite book of the year, well, the top two, but this felt easier. Forgive me for grouping series books together, but most of them I read practically back to back, which made them feel like one, great big, book to me.

Young Adult Favorites

Fiction favorites

Graphic Novel Favorites

Audiobook Favorites

  • Hunger Games/Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, read by Carolyn McCormick
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Heartsick/Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, read by Carolyn McCormick
  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Storm Front, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril) read by James Marsters (Spike!)
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, read by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner

It is easier for me to pick my two favorite books than to pick a top ten.  If I sit still and really think about it (which is actually hard for me, as I can’t be still) the first two books that always come to mind are The Swan Thieves and Tales from Outer Suburbia.  It hasn’t been that long since I finished The Swan Thieves and I won’t know for a few months if it will continue to stick with me like it has, but I’m pretty confident it will.  I already want to reread it, maybe in audio.  I haven’t reviewed it yet, simply because I don’t quite know how.  It was such an amazing book for me and I don’t quite know how to put all my feelings for it into words.  I already loved Kostova – I think I’m pushing more into adoration now.  The Historian is one of my favorite books ever and now, so is The Swan Thieves.   As for Tales of Outer Suburbia?  I can’t remember ever reading a book that married words with art in such an unusual, powerful, and simply haunting way.  These two books will be rereads for years to come; I will get something new from each every time I read it and I will never get tired of them.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2009?  Tell me!

New Year Readathon

Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century is hosting a Read-a-thon this weekend.  And I’m all about readathons!

All the deets:

Now, what is the Read-a-thon all about? Promoting reading in the new year – 2010!

Starts: 5 pm on Thursday, December 31st
Ends: 10 pm on Sunday, January 3rd

You can read as little or as much as you want! Also, I’m planning on having a smaller event called Reading Into the New Year – where us bookworms can read as it turns midnight! I will be posting the sign up for that event next. Please partake in either or both!!!

So, to start off. My goal is to read at least 24 hours. I’m going to see what books I get through closer to the date and then post about the pile of books I want to get through. As you’re thinking about what books you want to read, consider the following:

-Shorter books are easier to push through and you may want to include a few of those
-You don’t have to read a crazy amount of hours – whatever you can fit in!
-This is a no stress readathon, so if you don’t meet your goal – no big.
-Think about any new challenges your starting and what books are on those lists.

Go on over to her blog if you want to sign up.  I’m not sure what I’m going to read yet, since I *just* decided to take part, but I do know I’m going to take a gander at Waiting for Columbus.  And Geektastic.  And The Guinea Pig Diaries.  And maybe Leviathan, Specials, Boneshaker, East of Eden, Hard Times, and more.  I have a huge stack on my desk of books I want to read in January!

Beautiful Creatures by Garcia and Stohl

I am a Southern girl. When I say I have a thick Southern accent, ah meen ah hayve ah theek Suthern axcent, that no amount of education has been able to rid me of. Reading this book brought out some Southern in me I didn’t even know I had and Lawd-a-mercy I loved every minute of it.

Ethan Wate is sixteen, star player on the basketball team and best friends with Link.  He’s never really had a girlfriend.  He’s smart.  He’s cute.  And he has been dreaming horrible dreams for months about a mysterious girl he’s never met.  So when he meets Lena Duchannes, the girl of his dreams – literally – he falls hard and fast.  What follows is an intelligent, modern fantasy and an original tale of star-crossed lovers, one of whom has a dark, dangerous secret that could get them both killed.

Beautiful Creatures is a delicious, lush, and haunting Southern gothic tale of some of the most memorable Southern characters, I’ve ever met.  And I’ve read Faulkner and lived to tell the tale.  Garcia and Stohl draw the reader into a dark world full of magic, voodoo, and create a gorgeously crafted Southern stew of which you will never get your fill.

I really like what Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth said about the book:

“Like a thick, hot Carolina summer, this story seeps into you until it’s all you can think about.”

for while I was reading this book, it was all I could think about, and for several days after.  And if you have ever been in North or South Carolina during the summer, y0u know just what it feels like.  Thick.  And hot.   That feels like an apt description of this book.  Beautiful Creatures stays with you, which in my opinion, is saying a lot about a current Young Adult book. This is what I love about Young Adult literature.  Writers can take the fantastical and make it feel real, feel normal, and feel relevant.  While there is magic and the supernatural here, there are many important issues (not only to teens, but to adults as well either as parents or as suffers themselves) like dealing with the death of one parent, the abandonment of the other one, discrimination, looking for acceptance, and just the growing pains of growing up.  I’m in my thirties, but I’ve already dealt with the loss of both my parents, grandparents and always deal with the pain of growing up!   I highly recommend to anyone who likes YA and especially those who enjoy a little more depth in their YA reads.

I can hardly wait for the sequel.

Beautiful Creatures
Written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (December 1, 2009)

? Purchase from The Book Depostory ?
? Or shop Shop Indie Bookstores ?

I received this book from a kind friend who sent me her copy to read.

Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

It is rare that I have a…hmm….how to put this…a bodily reaction to a book?  Now, I’ll cry over sad parts, sweet parts, and bittersweet parts.  I’ll get mad and throw a book, rarely, but I have done it.  But I can’t ever remember actually getting so freaked out by a book that the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I look around shifty-eyed waiting for something to GET ME.  

UNTIL SWEETHEART STIRRED ME UP so much that I even had a NIGHTMARE about it. 

For reals y’all, I got so messed up over this book that I went home and dreamed about Gretchen freakin’ Lowell.  I listened to this book in my car as I tooled around to work, to shopping, to everywhere when the kids weren’t with me (because hello! I’m not trying to raise miniature serial killers!) and got so wrapped up in the story that I came home and dreamed about it.  Like, the dream PICKED RIGHT UP where I had left off.  Which was a very intense, SCARY part.  

So yeah, proceed with caution.  Don’t read it at night.  Leave the bedside light on if you do. Because Gretchen freakin’ Lowell will mess with your head. 

Honestly, I loved every freakin’ minute of it. Truly. 

So, yes, if you don’t know, and it’s possible you don’t, Sweetheart is the sequel to Heartsick.  Both books follow serial killer Gretchen Lowell, the killer who defies all profiles and, well, pretty much does as she damn well pleases.  Archie Sheridan is the damaged cop, and her victim, out to get her. And, as with most books like this, there is a secondary plot that is no less suspenseful.  In the first book, Gretchen is in jail.  

In this one, she escapes.  

Let the nail-biting begin. 

I felt that Sweetheart was better than Heartsick, and I really enjoyed Heartsick.  Like most first books in a series, Heartsick was about establishing story, finding footing, and setting things up.  Sweetheart begins delivering on the promise. And boy, DOES IT DELIVER. 

I cannot recommend this series enough.  If you like heart-pumping action, heart-stopping action, things to maybe get a little freaky, and caring about the characters, this is the book, no, series, for you.  

Written by Chelsea Cain
Audio CD
Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (September 2, 2008)
Language: English 

? Purchase from The Book Depostory ?
? Your local Indie Bookstore

I received this book from the publisher. Thank you MacMillan Audio!

Classics Read-a-long!

I am so very happy to share a new online book club that I have the honor and pleasure to be helping with this year.  It is The Classic Reads Book Club and it starts in January!  A few of my fellow book bloggers (Jen at Devourer of Books, BethF of Beth Fish Reads, Michelle of Galleysmith, Trish of Hey Lady Whatcha’ Readin?, and bunches of other wonderful bloggers) and I were chatting on Twitter, as usual, and well, one thing lead to another… you know how it goes….  This little book club was born!  We will be reading and discussing one classic book per quarter, starting with East of Eden by John Steinbeck and then A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which I will be leading!!!

Discussion questions will be based on specific sections of the book and will likely be posted 1-2 weeks prior to the beginning of conversations.  The club intends to space the read-a-long and discussion over the full quarter to accommodate all participants busy schedules.   Further information about where discussions will take place will be available on the Classic Reads Book Club blog linked above.  Preliminary start dates for the first quarter discussion of East of Eden is as follows:

  • January 25th – discussion of Section 1 (Ch 1-11)
  • February 8th –  discussion of Section 2 (Ch 12-22)
  • February 22nd – discussion of Section 3 (Ch 23-33)
  • March 8th – discussion of Section 4 (Ch 34–end)

Ongoing discussion (and news about the club) can also be found on Twitter using the hashtag #classicreads so please join us there as we continue to be chatty and bookish.

I hope you will join us all in reading East of Eden in January and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn soon after!!  I mean, it will be LOADS of fun and *whispers* it will help you meet some of those reading challenge obligations you have, right? 😉

All I Want for Christmas…

is a few books.  And, like most readers I know, I didn’t get many at ALL.  In fact, I got two. Less than my hubby, less than my daughter and even less than my son; all of whom are NOT READERS.  *sigh*

I put bunches on my wish list. I can’t understand why they don’t want to get me what I looooove.  They get my hubby movies and games! Lots of movies and games!  *sigh*

However, I did get LOTS of other fantastic presents!!!!! Clothes, coats (which I really needed), a new Lightwedge (Yes!! Finally!!), boots, Julie & Julia (which I have already watched and LOVED), and lots of little doodads in my stocking.  And my kids got me things for the kitchen.  Paula DEEN things.  Like, a new rolling pin!! 

I really need a bread cookbook.

The kids really racked up.  Spoiled rotten, the both of them. And hubby too.

The new books in the house?  Because I am totally jealous of my hubby and may just have to read his books too?

  • House of Mystery Volume 1 by Bill Willingham and others
  • House of Mystery Volume 2 by various authors (These two are mine)
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • The Living Dead by various authors
  • Arkham Asylum by … I’m not sure who, it’s a graphic novel I got the hubby, it’s a 15th anniversary of the original.
  • Locke & Key 2 by Joe Hill (which is sure to be absolutely insane. I have to read it) (Obviously, the last four are the hubby’s loot)
  • And lots of science books for the daughter.  Six years old and she is obsessed with rocks, science, space, animals, and the like.  It’s so… surprising. And very, very cool.

I hope very much that you and yours had as wonderful a Christmas as we did. 

Oh yeah, one last thing.  My MONITOR died on Christmas Day.  So, I may be missing from here and from your blogs for a few days.  I had really hoped to use this weekend to catch up on my blog reading and commenting!  I’m using the hubby’s laptop now (which is why there aren’t any pictures).  My new monitor is SUPPOSED to be here Tuesday. Hubby let me order a new one!  Woot!

Weekend Cooking

weekendcookingWeekend Cooking hosted by BethFishReads every weekend.  It is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Being a snowed in sort of weekend, we stayed in.  And, being a snowed in sort of weekend, I started craving two things; soup and bread.  So I made an old standard around here.  Lasagna Soup.  And a new recipe from King Arthur Flour; Spicy Cheddar Muffins.  The Lasagna Soup was as good as ever, especially on such a cold day and the Spicy Cheddar Muffins were the perfect bread to go with it.  My daughter loved them so much she ate three!  And they were SO EASY to make.  Want to see?


Lasagna Soup

I can’t remember where I found this recipe…I know it was a website, but it was so long ago that I just don’t know!  I can practically make it from memory, but here is the basic recipe I use.  I change it every time I make it.  This time I used linguini noodles, but have been know to use broken lasagna noodles, bow tie noodles, and rotini.  My favorite is simple egg noodles, but I didn’t have any.  I didn’t use spinach this time which was purely by accident. I bought it. I just forgot to put it in.

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I used ground beef this time)
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups sliced mushrooms (fresh)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (I think I used more like 3)
4 cups chicken broth
1 can (15 oz size) Italian style tomatoes (I used two. Can’t have too many tomatoes!)
1 can (15 oz size) tomato sauce
2 cups fresh chopped spinach
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
4 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh basil
1 cup mafalda pasta (or other pasta)

Brown your meat. Add in onions and garlic. Then add in broth, tomatoes, sauce. Get the soup boiling. Add in the pasta. Cook until barely al dente. Add in cheeses and chopped spinach. Turn off stove. Pasta will finish cooking as it cools. This tastes like lasagna in a bowl! Serve with crusty garlic bread.

Spicy Cheddar Muffins adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Recipe

Be sure to use an assertive sharp cheddar. The flavor of mild cheddar doesn’t shine through like extra-sharp does.

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur   Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I omitted this)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I omitted this too. See next ingredient.)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (I used my pepper, garlic and sea salt grinder.)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) extra-sharp grated cheddar cheese, divided (I used more like 2 cups.  What can I say, I like cheese!)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter
1 cup (8 ounces) milk
1 large egg

*To add fiber to your diet in delicious fashion, substitute 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour + 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur All Natural White Whole Wheat Flour (or 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour All-Purpose Flour) for the 2 cups all-purpose flour.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin pan, or grease muffin papers and place them in the wells.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, peppers, and 1 cup of the grated cheese. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat together the butter and milk, stirring until the butter melts. Cool to comfortably warm (e.g., it doesn’t burn your finger when you test it), whisk in the egg, and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir just till everything is thoroughly moistened. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them nearly full. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese, then very lightly with paprika, if desired, for added color.

Bake the muffins for 16 to 18 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool them in the pan for 5 minutes, then serve and enjoy warm; or transfer from the pan to a rack to cool completely. Store muffins wrapped, at room temperature. They’re best enjoyed warm, so when you’re ready to serve, reheat briefly in the microwave (15 seconds or less), or in a preheated 350°F oven, lightly wrapped in foil, for about 10 minutes.
Yield: 12 muffins.

These muffins are cheesy in the best sense of the word! With their slight kick of pepper, they pair beautifully with your breakfast eggs, with a salad or soup, or even as a substitute for garlic bread with pasta. They’re a snap to put together, and can go from inspiration to ready-to-enjoy in less than 30 minutes.


as it has been endearingly called on Twitter, the huge snow storm that has swept the country also made an appearance here.

The view from our window
The view from our window
The backyard
The backyard
The joy of a snow day.
The joy of a snow day.
Not so impressed. Take me back inside!
Not so impressed. Take me back inside!

We’ve had soup and homemade bread and are now hunkering down for nice, long, snug naps.  And some more reading of Beautiful Creatures.  Happy Snowpocalpyse everyone!

Graphic Novel Challenge 2010

graphicnovelbuttonbigYep, another one!  I’m going all ambitious next year!

Nymeth from things mean a lot and. Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made On are oh so graciously  taking on the Graphic Novels challenge in 2010. Which is made of so much awesome.  The rules and guidelines:

  • The challenge starts on January 1st 2010 and ends on December 31st (but we don’t mind you starting early.)
  • You don’t have to make a list beforehand (but you can, of course! Lists are great because they give ideas to people who aren’t sure what to read. And if you do make one, don’t feel forced to stick to it!)
  • We simplified the levels of participation: you can be a Beginner (3 Comics or Graphic Novels), Intermediate (3-10) or an Expert (10+). You’re more than free to adjust your level of participation after the challenge has begun.
  • There will be mini-challenges! Look for a post with more info on that soon.
  • Overlaps with other challenges are totally fine.

I am going to for Expert because I am pretty much confident that I can read 10+ graphic novels next year.  Here are a few that I am hoping to read:

  • Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
  • Legends: The Enchantment by Nick Percival
  • Mouse Guard 1 and 2 by David Petersen
  • The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
  • The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
  • Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • Comic Book Tattoo: Tales Inspired by Tori Amos by Rantz A. Hoseley and Tori Amos

And lots more, I’m sure.  I can’t wait to get started!  You should definitely consider joining as well; there is nothing quite like reading a really well done graphic novel.