Best of 2011 – Books of the Graphic Kind

Better late than never, right? I hope so, because I am sooooo late with this post. Put I had to get it out there, because, despite the decrease in number, the increase in quality of graphic novels I read last year just has to be put out here. I only read 23, 11 of which are from one series, but I seriously loved them all. Where do I begin?

I know exactly where I begin. With Bone.

Bone came to me early last year. On a whim, I picked up the first in the series, not really knowing what to expect. Next think I knew, I was buying the rest of the series (nine books total) and devouring them in less than a week. Here is my complete review of the series, with a bit of a highlight here:

That is just at tiny taste (and an inadequate one at that) of the awesomeness that is Bone. I loved Bone. I adored Bone. I want to marry Bone and have it’s children. Okay, that’s a little too far, but seriously, I loved it. It has been over a month since I plowed through all nine books and I find still find myself thinking about the story, the characters, the in jokes (Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures!!!), the gorgeous gorgeous art, and more. This story is so many things. Adventure. Coming of age. Road trip. Love. Loyalty. Destiny. Friendship. Finding yourself. Trust.  It’s dark. It’s funny. It’s epic.

And the art, again, is gorgeous. Seriously.

Other highlights include Anya’s Ghost, the Brian Selznicks and The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt. I hope to read many, many more graphic novels this year, to make up for last year. At least there was a lot of quality, if not a lot of quantity. And hopefully I’ll review them better too!

The rest:

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (review)
Shivers, Wishes and Wolves, ed by Donald Lemke (review)
The Stuff of Legend, Vol. 1
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
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
Little Red Riding Hood by The Brothers Grimm, Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus (review)
Bone 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith
Bone 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith
Bone 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith
Bone 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
Bone 5: Rock Jaw by Jeff Smith
Bone 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith
Bone 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith
Bone 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith
Bone 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith

Best of 2011 – Best of the Rest and a few goals….

So I’ve posted my best reads in audiobooks, YA/MG, and (soon) graphic novels. Now it’s time to do the best of the rest. I managed to fit in a couple more slim volumes  before I kissed 2011 good riddance, so I finished with 102 books read. Now that I have weeded out the audio, the YA/MG and the graphic (I swear, it’s coming, I have to polish) I can get down to the best of the rest. And my favorite book of the year is, for me, a no-brainer. I knew as soon as I closed the book that it would be my favorite and it hasn’t changed in the 6 months (give or take) since. The Name of the Wind captured me unlike any book I read this year and, honestly, I think the last few years. The next book in the series, which I have been holding off on simply because I don’t know how long it will be until the third book comes out, will be read this year, I’m sure. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (review) – Favorite book of the year!

From my review:

It seems like it’s been forever since I fell so completely, so totally, so helplessly in love with a book. Or, rather, with a character. It has happened though. With this book. The Name of the Wind is my latest book crush and I hope I can do it some measure of justice as I attempt to tell you why you need to go out, buy this huge, mammoth, monster of a book and give it a chance. Now, yes. It’s huge. It is gargantuan. It is, like, the biggest book in the whole known universe. At least it looks that way, right? Believe me though, it’s worth every minute it takes… every hour… every week! The narrative is so strong, so quick, so amazing… oh heck, I need to stop or I’ll just gush on and on. 

I’m sad to say most of my review is like that-gushing. I couldn’t help it. Still can’t. I could start gushing right now. Please don’t fear it because it is fantasy. It transcends its’ genre into something I think anyone who loves a good story can enjoy.

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (review)

This, and my next book, practically tie for second. Never has setting so completely enthralled me, as it did in this book. And it is heavy with the atmosphere, so it’s a good thing I loved every word of it.

I feel like this book was made for me. I don’t normally like circuses, mainly because I detest clowns, but this circus…this circus is special. It’s unlike anything I have ever encountered in my life, be it in real life, or in print. And oh, how I would love to encounter it in real life.

You see, this circus is special. Magical. Morgenstern’s imagination, it was set free, let run wild, and the things it came up with…just breathtaking. 

Special indeed. If you haven’t taken the plunge into Morgenstern’s world, do it. Ignore the hype, bite the bullet, and just try the first chapter.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (review)

This book, even now, gives me chills of delight, just thinking of it. It’s books like this that make me wish I had a book club. I would LOVE to discuss this!

There is so much to discuss in this book, it would be impossible for me to even chip the surface. I’m not even sure where to begin; mainly because I don’t want to give to much away. There is much food for thought; issues of race, religion, feminism, and rights. This is one of the more elaborate coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read, for even though Hannah is in her 20s, she is so naive, she feels like a teenager. Her sheltered, religious, upbringing has left her with a very limited world-view. Her world has been small, her relationship with God limited by the teaching of others, and she has a long journey towards finding her true self. And what a journey it is. Watching Hannah find a new inner strength she never dreamed she had is empowering. This story is powerful, it’s upsetting, it’s gripping…it’s almost impossible to put down until the last page has been turned, with the satisfaction of a tale well told. Book clubs will love this book and should provoke interesting discussion.

American Gods: The 10th Anniversary; Author’s Preferred Text by Neil Gaiman

I don’t normally count rereads, but AG is special. And he added text, so part of it I hadn’t read before! It was also the first time my hubby and I read a book at the same time (he listened to the audio), so that makes it doubly special. I enjoyed talking with him about it every night after the kids went to bed.

I didn’t review this book and that is a shame. American Gods introduced me to the magic that is Neil Gaiman 10 years ago. As soon as I heard about this edition, I knew I had to have it. As it was 10 years ago, I raced through this book with bated breath and a wondering eye. His brilliance captivated me as before, and probably even more so now that I am older and maybe slightly wiser. I will be rereading this for years to come.

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand (review)

Thank you again, Ana, for introducing me to Elizabeth Hand. I will definitely be reading more by her this year. This book of two cousins, descendants of a famous stage actress, who fall in love with each other and the stage, is not to be missed by anyone who once flirted with the desire to perform, to force oneself to conform to ones own desires like Maddy, and perhaps even flamed out or knows someone who did, like Rogan.

Illyria is set in late 1970s New York and tells the story of Madeleine and Rogan Tierney; first cousins, best friends, soul-mates and first loves. Or, in plainer terms, young, innocent Maddy falls for the wild and James-Dean-wannabe Rogan.They are descendants of the original Madeleine Tierney – a famous stage actress – and part of a huge extended family who all live within a defunct housing development. It’s just recipe for disaster, all that family (and I mean a lot of family) all living within a 5 mile radius of each other. When the original Madeleine Tierney married and started a family, she quit the stage and never looked back. And neither did any of her descendants, it became something of a no-no, until Maddy and Rogan came along. They do all kinds of secretive things together, in a hidden room in Rogan’s attic bedroom. Where there is a magical secret that I think is best left for you to discover should you choose to read the book.

Just a gorgeous, gorgeous book.

The rest of my 5:

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (review) – Still one of the creepiest stories I read this year!
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (review) (discussion) – Yes, more vampires. But this vampire, he’s a little bit…different.
Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World by Signe Pike (review) – A modern woman’s search for faeries who finds a little something more….
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl – The former Gourmet editors’ look at how she came to love food so much, with fascinating glimpses at her life growing up. I love how she actually worked her way up; seems like you can’t do that any more.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson – My first Persephone and just plain fun.

Reading Goals for 2012

– I want to read more classics this year. At least one a month, with having one month this year dedicated to them. If I wasn’t reading a YA book at the moment, one that I want to finish, I might would even do it this month. I may do it anyway.

– I want to read more with the kids. We read, don’t get me wrong, but I want to do it more. We don’t read every night like I would like and I think it’s time to move on to some more… interesting… books. I plan to pull out my grandmother’s classic literature for kids collection (includes Heidi, King Arthur, Tom Sawyer, Arabian Knights, etc) and tackle a few of them this year

– This years’ motto is Quality, not Quantity. I’ve read over 100 books for two three (!) consecutive years. I’ve proved it to myself at this point. Now it’s time to slow down and enjoy the ride a little  more. That said, I’m instituting a zero tolerance policy. If the book isn’t grabbing, I’m not going to feel guilty about putting it to the side. If I can tell it will get better, I may try to push through a bit, but I’m not going to force myself to read something that is making me miserable.

– Review better, more often, and continue to do my own thing. I tried it the other way and it made me miserable. I’m also going to make more of an effort to get around and comment more. My feed reader is about to take a huge hit. I love all the blogs I follow, but sadly, I just don’t have time to follow them all. If you follow me and comment here, I will be following you and a few other favorites, but the rest, well, *finger across throat.*

– Work on getting back into shape and into healthy life habits. I managed to loose 22 pounds last year and make my goal of weighing 125. I’ve gained a bit back over the holidays, which was fine since I wanted to enjoy them fully, but now it’s time to get back to business. Now that we have a dog, that means more exercising opportunities and I can’t wait for the gardening season and fresh vegetables again!

So that’s it. What was your favorite book of the year? What reading, blogging, life resolutions have you made? Do tell all!

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)

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.

*sigh*

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.

Um…melt?

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.

icon
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

 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

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In 2007, I read a new to be author by the name of Brian Selznick. His book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, came to be in my top 10 for that year. I loved it. With the movie out, I knew I had to see it. I also knew I had to reread it. In 2007, I said:

Combining excellent narrative, beautiful illustration, and a high dose of imagination, Brian Selznick has created a bittersweet and touching story, among other things, a 12-year-old orphan, a heartbroken old man, a little bit of magic, and an automaton.

Personally, I have never quite seen a book so stylistic and original.  As you open the book, you are invited to follow a young boy, Hugo Cabret, as he moves stealthly through a train station.  As you turn the pages, you are greated by a rising sun and soon flying through Paris until you land beside Hugo, and are immediately swept up into his story.  It has a movie feel to it as you move through the pictures.   Poor Hugo; he lost his beloved clock-maker father in a fire at the museum where he worked.  Because of that, he has to go live with his drunk uncle at the train-station, where he keeps all the clocks running.  Hugo becomes his apprentice; but soon he is doing all the work on his own.  Not long after he comes to live with his uncle, the man disappears, leaving Hugo alone and scared.

Before his beloved father died, he found an automaton in the attic of the old museum.  While visiting the site, Hugo found the automaton, and smuggles it back to the train station.  I don’t want to give too much away to the story, for I want you to discover it for yourselves.  But what follows is a journey full of magic and rescue; for the orphan Hugo and the old man Papa Georges (from whom Hugo steals toys for parts for his automaton and also a real man, Georges Melies, who lived in France and whose life this book is loosely modeled around).

Don’t be discouraged by the size, this 534 page tome is a fast read.  I started and finished it yesterday.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that I could not put it down.   And I will definitely reread it over and over again.  This novel is written for kids, but adults will find much to love in his heartwarming story of loss, love and redemption.

I am very happy to have found that The Invention of Hugo Cabret lived up to my memories of it and then some. I love that identified early with the movie feel of the book. Rereading it only built my anticipation for seeing the movie. And this time, I really appreciated the skill Selznick used in telling his story. The combination of words and pictures in this particular book is really extraordinary. The mystery and magic of the words are amplified by the truly stunning pictures and vice versa. And stunning they are. The detail involved in such a simple pencil drawing, it takes the once-upon-a-time wannabe artist’s heart of mine’s breath away. I only wish I could capture half the emotion and intensity Selznick captures in such a simple drawing as a human eye. The boy’s loneliness is tangible and something I think many children, orphaned or not, will be able to identify with. The fact that the boy learns to make his own way in the world, while still taking help from friends, is a valuable lesson as well.

 

And I don’t think I fully appreciated that one of the characters in the book was a real person. Georges Méliès was an early French filmmaker and an early user of special effects. I confess I’ve never seen one of his films (but I really want to do so!) but I am familiar with an iconic image from one of his movies; Le Voyage dans la Lune.

The life Selznick writes is mostly fictionalized, but Méliès was (in real life and in the book) an important figure in cinematic history. And may I say, I think the casting of Ben Kinsley as Méliès was genius. He looks just like him!

 

 

Perfect yes? I hope to get to the theater to see this movie soon. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this truly marvelous book, I hope you will take the opportunity soon.

icon
iconThe Invention of Hugo Cabret

By Brian Selznick

Reading level: Ages 9 and up

Hardcover: 533 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (January 30, 2007)

ISBN: 978-0439813785

Thankfully Reading Weekend Post

11.24.11 / 11:04 PM

I’m going to keep all my updates for Thankfully Reading Weekend 2011 in this one post. And woot! I’ve already finished a book! I was trying to fight my way through The Son of Neptune all week, and I finally forced myself to sit down and focus on it. And I plowed through the last 150 pages or so of it in a couple of hours.

That. Felt. GOOD.

Let’s keep going! I’m going to start Chime by Franny Billingsley now. Keep your fingers crossed!

Books read: 1
Pages: I’m going to estimate 150.

11.25.11 / 11:37 AM

Not doing so good. I’ve been trying to read Chime all morning and, well, I don’t know. It’s not clicking. I’ve read 53 pages of it so far and, well, it’s not that I don’t LIKE it… I don’t know. I’m going to set it aside for Daughter of Smoke and Bone I think. I may come back to Chime later.

Of course, having the 8YO and the 4YO and the 34YO at home isn’t helping either.

I’m going to go hole up in my bedroom.

PLUS I almost finished my Christmas shopping online this morning. Man, are there a lot of deals out there! We’re down to the hard-to-buy for people now. *sigh*

Books read: 1.25
Pages: 203

11.25.11 / 12:31

A strange thing happened on the way to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I started reading page one and realized, I wanted to know what was happening in Chime. Bugger me, but isn’t that weird? So yes, I’m back to Chime!

11.25.11 / 10:06 PM

The book I’m most thankful for:

I’m going to cheat and say a whole series. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I believe I’ve blogged about their affect on me before, but it’s been awhile. They pulled me through a very rough spot in life and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them. I lost myself in those books countless times as a child. I hid from the bad things, the sad things, the impossible to ignore things. They were my lifeline and I am eternally thankfully for them.

Where things stand. I am 67% through Chime (by Franny Billingsley) and, while I can’t say I love it YET, I am very invested in the story. I definitely want to see where this is going. It’s really starting to get good. I wish I didn’t have such a hard time remembering that some books take a little WORK. *sigh*

Books: 1.67
Pages: 393

11.26.11 / 9:52 AM

I finished Chime! Yes! That’s two books in one week! It’s a miracle! It was totally worth the work too. I can’t say that I love it more than Shine (by Lauren Myracle) as that holds a special place in my heart, but it was really quite good. I know the more I think on it, the more I’ll love it.

I read a few stories in Stores for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory to ease the transition to another book. What a delightfully odd collection of stories that is. Now I’m rereading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick because I am dying to see the movie. My goodness, I adore this book.

Books: 2.3
Pages: 663

11.26.11 / 2:11 PM

Another book down! The Invention of Hugo Cabret was everything I remembered and more. What a beautiful book. I can’t wait to see the movie; it is sure to be beautiful as well. I think I’ll follow it up with Wonderstruck, also by Hugo Cabret. I do think I’ll read a few more stories in  Stores for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory first. You know, to cleanse the palate. 😉  This brings me to 3 books finished.

Books: 3.3
Pages: 1,051

 11.27.11 / 7:07 AM

Just finished Wonderstruck. What a magnificent book! Brian Selznick can officially do no wrong in my eyes. I’ve read a couple more stories in Stores for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory. Now, I’m not sure what I’m going to read next… probably some more stories from Stores for Nighttime, etc. Then, who knows! Another from my list most likely, or maybe another graphic novel.

Books: 4.3
Pages:  1718

11.27.11 / 6:02 PM – C’est fini!

That’s right; I’m done! I just finished my fifth book and I’m pooped! I decided to finish Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory, since I was so close anyway and I’ve been reading it FOREVER. It is… an… odd… collection of short stories. Very odd.

This has been a fantastic reading weekend for me and something this reader desperately needed. I don’t know if I’m “back” yet, but it feels promising. Will have to take it one day at a time. For now, I’m off to take a long, hot, steamy bath and will either take Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lanin Taylor or No Name by Wilkie Collins with me. Heck, I may take both! Happy Reading!

Ending stats:

Books finished: 5
Pages: 1830

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusI know I’ve said this in the past, but it holds true; I do not know how to review a book I loved. And boy howdy, do I love this book. I love it hard. I love it long time. There is such a fine balance I strive to find. I want it to sound as irresistible as I found it, but not so much that it won’t live up to the hype. And boy howdy, is this book getting hype. 

I feel like this book was made for me. I don’t normally like circuses, mainly because I detest clowns, but this circus…this circus is special. It’s unlike anything I have ever encountered in my life, be it in real life, or in print. And oh, how I would love to encounter it in real life.

You see, this circus is special. Magical. Morgenstern’s imagination, it was set free, let run wild, and the things it came up with…just breathtaking. 

Ah, but I’m gushing a bit. Let me tell you what the book is about.

Two old magicians have, for many, many years, pitted magicians against each other in a contest of skill and, well, it’s a contest of nature vs. nurture, in a way. Celia is a young lady born with talent. Marco is a young man born with the aptitude to learn. Each magician takes his charge and trains their young charge so that one day, they will compete in a battle of magic until there is only one left standing.

The circus is the stage for their battle.

Le Cirque des Rêves. The Circus of Dreams.

Yet, the trick is on the old boys, for Celia and Marco go and do the unexpected. They fall in love.

How will they survive this contest of wills between their masters with their love, and their lives, still intact? What will become of the circus, a symbol of their love and fascination with each other.  For true love or not, the game must be played. It must be completed. The fates of everyone involved and many of the circus’s fans, depend on the outcome of this deadly game. 

You may be surprised when I say it wasn’t the circus, it wasn’t the characters, it wasn’t even the story that made me fall in love with this book. They played a huge part, but it was the writing. The sheer joy of reading the words as Morgenstern laid them out. The beautiful language, the evocation of senses her words evoked in me, the descriptions, the adverbs, the nouns, the letters…all of it combined to create what was, for me, a magical experience all it’s own. I don’t think I’ve ever read another book quite like it. I know I’ve never read another book that made me feel quite like how The Night Circus did. No, I take that back, it is akin to how The Graveyard Book makes me feel. It makes me feel like I’ve come home. The Graveyard Book replaced The Princess Bride years ago as my absolute favorite book. After a few rereads, I’m not sure that The Night Circus won’t push it aside.

That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its problems. They are just so few and far between that I didn’t care. You know how when you read, or watch, or do something, things jump out at you that bother you, but then when you look back, you don’t remember them? You only remember the good and that’s what you loved, so it becomes something you loved? That’s kind of how I feel. I don’t even remember what the few, infinitesimally small problems I had with this book. I’m sure someone has catalogued them somewhere. I mainly mention it to perhaps assure those on the fence that The Night Circus isn’t a perfect book and that you shouldn’t expect it to be so. Anyway, I hope I haven’t over hyped the book. I have really tried to hold myself back. I’m not even going to tell you to read it. I’m sure you know at this point whether you want to or not. 

So, I have to ask, if you have read the book; which tent was your favorite? I think this is probably a question many readers are asking each other. I know I want to know. Mine? It was the tent of scents. It doesn’t hurt that I absolutely adored Poppet and Widget., but that tent. It spoke to me.

Oh, and I am so making myself a red scarf as soon as I finish a few other projects on my knitting needles and crochet hooks.

Favorite quotes:

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their book and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.

“Stories have changes, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need to recue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficulty to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there in no telling where and of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”

“He goes directly to the ballroom, making his way to the center of the dance floor. He takes Celia’s arm, spinning her away from Herr Thiessen.

Marco pulls her to him in an emerald embrace, so close that no one distinction remains between where his suite ends and her gown begins. To Celia there is suddenly no one else in the room as he holds her in his arms. But before she can vocalize her surprise, his lips close over hers and she is lost in wordless bliss.

Marco kissed her as though they are the only two people in the world. The air swirls in a tempest around them, blowing open the glass doors to the garden with a tangle of billowing curtains. Every eye in the ballroom turns in their direction. And then he released her and walks away. By the time Marco leaves the room, almost everyone has forgotten the incident entirely. It is replaced by a momentary confusion that is blamed on the head or the excessive amounts of champagne. Herr Thiessen cannot recall why Celia has suddenly stopped dancing, or when her gown has shifted to its current deep green. “Is something wrong?” he asks, when he realizes that she is trembling.”

icon
iconThe Night Circus: A Novel
By Erin Morgenstern
Pub. Date: September 2011
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Format: Hardcover , 400pp
SBN-13: 9780385534635
The publisher provided my copy of this book, but my opinions are definitely my own. Plus I’m going to get my own hardbound copy as soon as humanly possible.

They read it too: S. Krishna’s Books | Fyrefly’s Book Blog | The Book Lady’s BlogAlison’s Book Marks | Book Monkey | Fantasy Book Critic | Good Books and Good Wine | Hooked on Books | Fizzy Thoughts

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

You may remember awhile back I mentioned wanting to read Simon Pegg’s new memoir, Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid. It didn’t take me long to get it out of the library and I hunkered down to read. It did not take me long to see that something wasn’t quite working. It wasn’t the book really, it was me (as we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks; I couldn’t seem to get into anything [this has been remedied, thank you The Night Circus]). I was undaunted because I knew, I had to read this book!

Then I saw that Simon Pegg read the audiobook.

Sold!

My love for Simon Pegg goes all the way back to Shaun of the Dead, one of my favorite comedy parody horror movies ever. Hot Fuzz was just as great. Then I saw him in Run, Fat Boy, Run and he stole my heart. An appearance as The Editor in Doctor Who just sealed the deal. His humor, his wit, his poignancy all go into what makes me love him. So I was excited to read where all that came from. Especially seeing as he is all, well, more than slightly British.

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.

I definitely recommend the audiobook version for this book. There’s nothing like letting a good reader read a book to you and it’s even better when the book is their own. Simon Pegg is a great performer and that includes this book. He is down-to-earth, damn smart, and a genuinely likable guy.

Jen over at Devourer of Books collects audiobook reviews every Friday. Be sure to check out her review as well as others and submit your own as well!

 

What Momma Left Me vs. Bleeding Violets – The NerdsHeartYA Showdown

What Momma Left Me

Serenity Evans and her brother Daniel have not had an easy life. Their father was abusive emotionally and physically and their mother, while loving and attentive, allowed it to continue – up to the point where it finally cost her her life. After her murder, their father abandons them to fate. Now, Serenity and Danny live with their grandmother and grandfather, who is pastor of theRestorationBaptistChurch. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, Serenity has to move to a new school and start afresh. New friends, new (bad boy) crush, and new dangers are in store for her. Serenity finds her faith in God, in herself, and her family challenged in new, unexpected ways.

Bleeding Violet

Hanna Jarvinen is a beautiful, biracial teenager who is a bit of an enigma. Her loving (white, Finnish) father, who she clearly adored, has passed away. She has been living with her aunt who barely tolerates her. Having had enough, Hanna runs away to live with the (black) mother whom she has never met and by all appearances wants nothing to do with her. As if that wasn’t enough, Hanna has been diagnosed as manic-depressive, bipolar, and when she doesn’t take her meds? Well, things get kind of crazy, with hallucinations being one of the tamer of her symptoms. Soon she discovers that she will actually fit in quite well in her mother’s home town ofPortero,Texas, a town where the strange and unusual are actually pretty commonplace.

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.

Hanna is a lot like Serenity in that she is struggling to find a place where she can feel safe, stable, and loved. Unlike Serenity however, she does not have an adequate support system to help support her in her journey. She is left to fend for herself. Her father has died. Her mother wants nothing to do with her. She is in a new, strange town, where she has no friends or even acquaintances. And she has a mental illness that she is not mature enough to manage on her own. After making a bargain with her mother to fit in within two weeks or move out, she has to make friends and make them fast. All of this makes her a very unreliable narrator.

I read What Momma Left Me first, followed by Bleeding Violet. Upon finishing Bleeding Violet, I immediately said What Momma Left Me was the better book.  I had a hard time with Bleeding Violet. When I first started reading it, I just wanted to put it back down. I couldn’t connect with Hanna. There were many scenes in the book that I had a very large aversion to, and still do in some ways. It is a violent, graphic book. There is violent death, sex, torture, and I could find very little to love about it.  Yet, as I’m writing my review, I realize there is something to love about this book. And it’s Hanna. She’s had a hard life, something I can identify with, and she’s just trying to survive. A lot of fantastical things happen to her in the course of the story and I don’t know how much of it I can reliably believe of her. It could all be in her head. And I delight in narrators like that, always have. And I love a book that makes me think, which Bleeding Violet certainly did.

But then I have Serenity to think of. And Serenity is awesome. The things she goes through in the course of What Momma Left Me left my heart aching for her. Serenity stands up to so much, she stood strong, and she survives. There is something so admirable about someone who can face the things she faces; the death of her mother, the abandonment of her father, a new school, new friends, drugs, the death of a friend, and questioning her beliefs in God with such strength and grace.  And that’s only what I’m telling you; she goes through more. She’s a plucky girl, is Serenity, and her story is so real, so genuine, so vitally something that should be read.

And that’s why I’m picking What Momma Left Me to go through to the final round of the NerdsHeartYA tournament. What Momma Left Me is a book everyone can read, that everyone should read. Bleeding Violet, in the end, is a book I only feel comfortable recommending to older teens and adults for its graphic violence, sex, and torture scenes and how they are all handled with a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders. The lack of care that the 16-year-old characters are engaging in an active sex life, that death is just a matter of course, and the torture of a 16-year-old boy at the hands of an adult and teenager (together) and then narratively forgotten, never to be dealt with again, were just too much for me. Both books are great reads, but What Momma Left Me is the stronger book, for me.