Best of 2011 – Books of the Audio Kind

Ah, audiobooks. Where would my reading life be without you? Besides approximately 23 books less than what I read? Seriously, I don’t think I could live without audiobooks now. I love them so much.

Here are my top five favorite audiobooks this year.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, read by Anthony Heald (review)

Oh, how I loved this book. It stayed with me a long time and, actually, some of the thoughts on land, farming, and what we hand down to our children really stayed with me. So much so that it made me add some garden space for the kids last year, which was great. My daughters tomatoes were just about the best thing we had! Anyway, I adored this book. Here are my thoughts on the audio production, from my review:

I listened to the audio production by Blackstone Audio. Anthony Heald read The Good Earth and did a marvelous job. I have never listened to him read a book before, but I will definitely seek him out in the future. I loved the way he did the old man, Wang Lung’s father. And he was able to feminize his voice for the women, despite having quite a deep voice. All in all, he made it a pleasure to listen to this book.

A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

As I said yesterday, I haven’t reviewed this books simply because I do not know how to put my love of Terry Pratchett into words. This series (which starts with The Wee Free Men, which I actually read myself and therefore is not listen here) is just a delight. Terry Pratchett can do no wrong in my eyes. And Stephen Briggs is fantastic. I completely adore his narration and I swear there is nothing funnier than the way he reads the Nac Mac Feegles. Oh geez, now I want to listen to it again, starting with the first book. I know these will be well read, or rather, listened to books around this house.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwhistle

I never did get around to reviewing this one. I have a half written blog post in my draft folder, so I’ll give you a little of what I wrote there:

And read by Jayne Entwhistle. Who made the book for me, hands down.

Yep. That’s all I got. Yet it says a lot, I think. I did adore Jayne Entwhistle’s reading of the first book in the Flavia de Luce series. Her reading of Flavia was fantastic and I need to get on with the next book in the series already!

Nerd Do Well written and read by Simon Pegg (review)

I thought I could like Simon Pegg no more, but then I listened to him read his book and it kinda became love. He’s just so funny and down to earth and such a fanboy himself, I just couldn’t help it! From my review:

There is something very lovely and down-to-earth about Mr. Pegg and I think listening, rather than reading, to his book amplified that. Pegg is a great reader, for one thing, and his enthusiasm comes across brilliantly. Beginning with a childhood that showed early signs of his comedic talents and he shows how he came to be obsessed with science fiction, we learn how he met Nick Frost, and, I like how he put this, “journey from ordinary nerd to nerd participating in the world that made him nerdy in the first place.” Adding to the fun, Pegg offers up a “fake biography” of his alter-ego, a James Bond-esque debonair secret something like an agent that I found just hilarious.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, read by Kate Burton

With each reading, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn inches up my all-time-favorite-books list.  Watch out Princess Bride! Oh, if only you had a decent unabridged audiobook…. *sigh* Anyway, ATGiB is such a wonderful, cozy, comfort read for me and the reading by Kate Burton was superb. It appears I have never formally reviewed this book (I know! I can’t believe it either!) but I did mention it in a post from 2007 where I said:

Ah, this is my comfort book. I discovered it later than most people; most seem to have read it when children. I didn’t first read it until I was in my 20s. I have read it several times since. It was the book I took with me to the hospital when my beloved Papa went in for the last time. I think I may be due another read soon.

It says a lot about a book, when you take it with you to the hospital when your, well, father-figure is dying, yes? It truly is a comfort to me and this audiobook production just added to the love for me.

Here are the 23 audiobooks I listened to this year:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, read by Tim Curry
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, read by Roxana Ortega
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, read by Kate Burton
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, read by Paul Ansdell
All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin, read by Ilyana Kadushin (review)
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, read by Teri Clark Linden
Blood Rites by Jim Butcher, read by James Marsters
Wildwood by Colin Meloy, read by Amanda Plummer
Dracula by Bram Stoker, read by Christopher Lee (review)
Nerd Do Well written and read by Simon Pegg (review)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwhistle
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, read by Davina Porter
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, read by Campbell Scott
A Study in Emerald, written and read by Neil Gaiman
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, read by Jeremy Irons
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, performed by Stephen Briggs
The Great Gatsby by F, Scott Fitzgerald, read by Tim Robbins (review)
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson, read by the author
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, read by Nick Podehl
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, read by Anthony Heald (review)
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, read by Peter Jeffrey

There are so many audiobooks I hope to get to next year!! How about you? Did you listen to any fantastic audiobooks this year? What do you plan to listen to next year?

Best of 2011 – The Books for the Younger Ones

I’ve read 100 books this year. I didn’t expect so many of them to be YA and MG, so I was so surprised when I pulled the titles out to see I read 54 YA/MG books! That’s over half what I read! And so many were fantastic. I am finding it very hard to pick a top ten! I have three who could easily tie for number 1. So I’m going to do this in no specific order, but here are my top favorites:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd. (review)

I still can’t think about this book and not feel the tears well up. From my review:

Every so often, a book comes into my life that leaves me utterly speechless, speechless in wonder, in awe, in tears, and in stupidity. This one certainly went in directions I didn’t expect, it went in directions that moved me, that rattled me, that made me sit up and think and, yes, sob out-loud at the beauty, the pain, the very gravity of this powerful story. I just don’t know what to say, because what I want to say-I want to say it in a way that it to makes you run out and devour this book, and love it as much as I did.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (review)

John Green can do no wrong in my eyes. I have adored everything he’s written and am waiting with bated breath by for my copy of The Fault in Our Stars to arrive in January. John Green, in my opinion, completely captures what it is like to be a teenager and all the angst, pain, love, misery, perfect turmoil, and amazingness it is to be that age, what it’s like to grow up, to mature, to become an adult and he it does it with such a considerate, “I’ve been there myself my friend” feel that it somehow feels like it lessens the overwhelming fullness of it. He’s magic.

Shine by Lauren Myracle (review)

Such a great, wonderful, marble-less (that’s the boy speak for marvelous) book. From my review:

This is the first book I’ve read by Lauren Myracle but I know it won’t be my last. Her writing is tight, honest; she doesn’t pull punches with her characters. She’s not afraid to push them. And she has a great way with dialogue. Just hearing these characters “talk” I would have known they were from the South. She’s great with the little details (something I always appreciate), she paints a picture of a dying mountain town on the bring of combustion when something happens to one of their own, a something that many want to ignore. And she’s dealing with issues that are so important. Issues that people are ignoring just as hard as the people in this book and we need to stop ignoring them. People should NOT be hurt or persecuted or made to feel inferior for who. they. love. The characters are so wonderfully written. I dare you not to adore Cat by the end of the book. Months later, I still find myself thinking about this book and to me, that is some of the highest praise I can bestow.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor  (review)

There came a point sometime this year, where it felt like all YA was starting to read alike. Like they all had the same formula. Upon reading this book and Cinder however, I have hope that publishers are starting to take notice and are taking some new things. As I said in my review:

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t go down easily. I’ve read quite a bit of YA in the past few years and, like most genres that become super popular, formulas begin to pop up. There is the beautiful, unattainable yettotally attainable guy. Self-conscious, unbecoming-feeling, but totally capable girl (with the exception of Bella) who is actually quite beautiful, smart, etc. She just. doesn’t. know. it. She needs HIM to tell her. There is always some sort of paranormal element. And (all together now) it’s LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. And Daughter of Smoke & Bone, when starting out? Feels a LOT like this.

But then DoS&B takes some unexpected twists and turns that had me on the edge of my seat by the end. I seriously cannot wait for the next in this series and Laini Taylor has, I’m pretty sure, found a fan for life.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

I cannot believe I didn’t review this book. Bad, bad Heather. I read it during my beach trip this year and it was spectacularly good. Hate List is a in depth look at survivor’s guilt and how tragedy affects not only the families of those affected, but also those who (in this case, somewhat unwittingly) played a part in a high school shooting. Jennifer Brown wrote a tight, well written story about a a girl, Valerie, all the complex emotions she feels prior to, and after, the shooting. A very powerful book.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (review)

Geez, but I loved this book. From my review:

This book wrapped it’s sweet little Gothic arms around me and held me tight until the very last page. I could not put it down. I did not WANT to put it down. Something about Jacob, and the kids at the Home… they just spoke to me. They are all so extremely different, different in ways I can’t comprehend, but at the same time…I just know. I know what it’s like to feel different. And how it feels to find someone who is different too and the… just… homecoming of that.

What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson (review)

One of the books I had to read for Nerds Heart YA this year, the book I picked to go on in the tournament, and the book that eventually won.

Serenity Evans is a fantastic character. She is a strong African-American teen who is not only a great example for other African-Americans; she is a great example for all young teenage girls. She faces extraordinary challenges with an inner-strength that, while faltering in a typical way for her age, is enviable. She acts like a typical teenager in her struggle to do what’s right while staying true to herself. When her brother gets mixed up the wrong crowd, Serenity is torn between wanting to help and protect her brother or keep silent like he so desperately wants her to. Her story feels, sadly, true to life and I can see this book being a valuable resource to teens living through similar experiences.

The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett (Includes The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight), read by Stephen Briggs

I haven’t reviewed any of these books. Basically, I don’t know how to put my love into words. I say that a lot, I know, but this time it is completely true. I just don’t know how to say it. I fill up with love at the thought of Terry Pratchett and my brain goes dead. Stephen Briggs kills the audiobooks, I highly recommend.

If ever you need a laugh, a light hand with parody, and feeling of… there, see… I’m at a loss for words again. Just… love.

Geez, now I want to listen to them all again.

That brings me to 11, if I count all four Tiffany Aching books separate.  Gosh, I had a great reading year in the YA/MG section! Did you read any great YA or MG books? Do share, you know I love recommendations!

Here are all the YA/MG books I read in 2011, in reverse order, since I’m too lazy to type it all up backwards. 🙂

Cinder by Melissa Meyer (coming out in 2012)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, read by Kate Burton (review)
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor  (review)
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (review)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (review)
Chime by Franny Billingsley
The Son of Neptune: The Heroes of Olympus Book 2 by Rick Riordan
All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin, read by Ilyana Kadushin (review)
The Dead of Night by John Marsden
Deadly Little Secret: A Touch Novel by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Wildwood by Colin Meloy, read by Amanda Plummer
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (review)
What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson (review)
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Looking for Alaska by John Green (review)
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (review)
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden (review)
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (review)
Graveminder by Melissa Marr
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd (review)
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
Hare Moon by Carrie Ryan
Bone: Tale Tales by Tom Sniegoski and Jeff Smith
where i live by Eileen Spinelli and Matt Phelan
Bone: Rose by Tom Sniegoski and Jeff Smith
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, performed by Stephen Briggs
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
Bumped by Megan McCafferty
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis (review)
Shine by Lauren Myracle (review)
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
Darkest Mercy: Wicked Lovely #5 by Melissa Marr
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, read by Nick Podehl
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (review)
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
The New World by Patrick Ness
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Bone 1-9 by Jeff Smith (review)
Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (review)
Illyria by Elizabeth Hand (review)
The Lost Hero: The Heroes of Olympus Book 1 by Rick Riordan
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (review)

Merry Christmas! A little…late.

I swear, every time I thought to post a Merry Christmas post, I had to go do something else. Last week was crazy. This weekend was busy. Just when I think I have time to take a breather, I need to clean up Christmas from the house. I hope you and yours had a wonderful, magical, fantastic Christmas and you were blessed with lots of love, good food, and good books. I got the love, the good food and a couple of books (1 cookbook, 1 crochet book, and 1 YA book, pretty good for me!) I also got this:

Come on everybody, squee a little with me! I got a Nook Tablet!! And, even though I really liked my first Nook, this is a vast improvement. It’s so much easier for me to read on this one. AND, considering my goal is to read more classics next year and I have like, almost 100 on here, I think it will help me with that goal. I’ve already started a reread of Pride & Prejudice, which is just as wonderful as I remember.

The kids were spoiled, the hubby kid was spoiled, the new puppy and the old kitty were spoiled, I was spoiled. And we were all together and happy. So it was a wonderful holiday for all.

How was your Christmas? Get any good books? Do tell all, I want to hear!

Advent Tour 2011

I had a completely different intention with my post today. I was going to show you all the ornaments I’ve made this year, to replace all the ones I lost this summer, when they decided to take a nose dive from the attic, but something so huge, so amazing, so completely LIFE CHANGING happened, and I had to change my plans.

We decided to give the kids their Christmas present early.

Mainly because he would be very hard to hide.

Meet Castiel. Blue. We had a family discussion. And we changed his name. Whew.

He’s an Australian Shepherd-Terrier Mix and he is super adorable. And some one is SUPER happy.

We had to give him a little early, since we can’t hide him. So far, I’m pretty sure this is the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER for one little girl.

Happy Holidays everyone, I hope you’re holidays are wonderful.

Other stops on the tour today:

Shannon @ The Savvy Reader

Quotable Monday

I finished a reread by audio of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (read by the amazing Kate Burton) last week and as always, I was captivated  by the way Smith regards books and reading. One of my favorite quotes ever is from this book:

The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She pushed open the door and went in. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste, and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at mass.

This is another favorite:

“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere-be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is every lost.”

After this new rereading, I think ATGiB has moved up on my all-time-favorites list. Watch out Princess Bride. 🙂

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

Hi there. So. Here we are again. You wondering what I think of a book. Me, tongue-tied, totally not knowing how to convey just how much I adore a book. Thank you for trusting me to tell you this.

Same story, different book. And oh, what a book.

Karou is seventeen, living by herself in the city of Prague. She goes to school, she’s an artist, and she collects teeth. Yes. Teeth. Not for herself, but for her foster “father” Brimstone. What Brimstone does with the teeth she doesn’t know and really doesn’t seem to care. She does it for the wishes. Small things, these wishes, powerful enough to color her hair to blue, turn the beautiful-yet-horrible girl in her class into a wooly eyebrowed thing,

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t go down easily. I’ve read quite a bit of YA in the past few years and, like most genres that become super popular, formulas begin to pop up. There is the beautiful, unattainable yet totally attainable guy. Self-conscious, unbecoming-feeling, but totally capable girl (with the exception of Bella) who is actually quite beautiful, smart, etc. She just. doesn’t. know. it. She needs HIM to tell her. There is always some sort of paranormal element. And (all together now) it’s LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. And Daughter of Smoke & Bone, when starting out? Feels a LOT like this.


But then. Oh, then. It comes down to character for me. In particular, Karou. I just love this quirky, blue-haired, artist of a girl. This orphaned girl raised by monsters, who moves seamlessly between worlds. Who knows how to defend herself against, well, almost anything. Who would burn a wish on something as vindictive as turning a beautiful but horrible girls eyebrows into wooly worms (oh come on, you know you’d do it if you could) yet supports her best friend in the wild endeavor of a street performance as a puppet ballerina.

I know I’m making this sound strange, it is strange, but in Laini Taylor’s hands, it doesn’t feel at all strange. It feels right. It feels beautiful. Her writing. It’s like…reading velvet. That sounds corny. Very corny. Here. I mean, listen, lines like this?

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.

And this?

Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.


More? Okay. I have lots.

It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.

The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Motzart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.

Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.

See? See what I mean? I. Love. Her. Writing. I’m so glad I have Lips Touch, Three Times. I will be reading it very, very soon. Last one, I swear:

Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world. It was like stepping into the pages of a book — a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos — and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seemed to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place was a story about her.

Okay, I lied. Last one. I can’t help it, I wrote down so many!

She had a sadness that was so deep, but it still could turn to light in a second,and when I saw her smile I wondered what it would be like to make her smile. I thought…I thought it would be like the discovery of smiling.

It comes down to this. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is different. It’s unique. It’s worth your time. Come meet Karou. Come meet her maker, Laini Taylor. I promise, you will not regret it.

iconDaughter of Smoke & Bone

By Laini Taylor
ISBN-13: 9780316134026
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication date: 9/27/2011
Pages: 432

Source? Barnes and Noble dudes. That cover grabbed me as I walked by the display.

They did it better:

Bookalicious  | The Book Bind | Bewitched Bookworms | A Novel Source


Stuff I Love Saturday (8)

I’ve shown you all the crafts, food and other goodies you can find on Pinterest, but I haven’t really shown you the books. I myself pin book reviews that compel me to want to read a book and so do many others. Here are the books I’ve pinned in the last few weeks that I just can’t wait to read.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It won’t be long now!!!!! 2. Ana (of things mean a lot) guest posted on The Booksmuggler’s Website about books she can’t wait to read next year. Reflections by Diana Wynne Jones was one of them. I haven’t read Diana yet (I know, I know) but I know how beloved she was. A book on her thoughts on writing sounds magical. 3. Rebecca from Rebecca Reads recently reviewed Ragnarok by AS Byatt and damn, but I can’t wait to get my hands on that. I should have put it on my Christmas list. 4. Booked All Week reviewed a book I wanted to read but kinda forgot about: The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. I’m glad I was reminded! 5. BethFishReads posted about what sounds like a great foodie book: The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik. 6. This book, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, has already kicked my butt one time. Eva just makes it sound so fantastic though, I think I may have to try again. 7. Ana again: The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen. 8. Melissa, The Book Nut, has me ready to run out and buy the new Chris Van Allsburg Right. Now. 9. Lastly, Vasilly got me, (almong with others, but hers is the one I pinned) wanting to read The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt. And look at that, I am!

Thanks guys!

Is there anything you’ve been dying to read, thanks to a book blogger?