Happy New Year Everyone!

Greetings from Texas! Just wanted to pop in a quick post to wish everyone a very happy New Year!! 2007 has certainly had it’s ups and downs for me, but one of the biggest ups of all has been starting this blog and getting to know all of you. Hope that you enjoy your night whatever you decide to do and have a wonderful 2008! Look forward to spending it with you all talking books and all that other good stuff.

I did manage to sneak in a visit to Half Price Books today while Megan is at work and pick up a few bargains! My last book buys for a while hopefully as one of my big resolutions is to read what’s on my shelf at home and not buy so many books. It really is sinful how many books I bought last year! So my last book buying splurge consisted of Gifts by Ursula LeGuin, The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri (which I had never heard of, but looks great), The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak, and the second Varjak Paw book by S.F. Said. Not bad, eh?

Sorry I’ve been a stranger on everyone’s blogs lately! I’ll be playing catch up when I get back if not sooner. See y’all then!


2007 In Review!

It’s that time of the year. The first time for me, time to do the blog wrap up for the year in books! This will most probably be my last post for the year. I’m going to Texas on Saturday to see Megan and I’ll be there until January 4th. Though I’ll have my laptop with me, so I may squeeze some posts in.

So without further ado lets start with the totals. I’m not quite finished Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, but I only have 60 pages left, so I’m adding it in to the totals. I’ll probably finish it tonight and may squeeze a review in, so you may see another post from me yet 😉 Then I’ll start George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings but definitely won’t finish that in time for the end of December which means that I won’t complete Joy’s Second’s Challenge 😦 But I still plan on reading the book!

So, Total books read in 2007: 78
Total pages read in 2007: 22,235
Non-Fiction: 4 books
Short Story Collections: 5 books
Graphic Novels: 2 books
Picture books: 1 book
Novels: All the rest! 66 books

I’d like to try to balance that out a little more next year though that probably won’t happen. I’d just rather read novels than anything else. Though I will certainly read more Graphic Novels next year thanks to the Graphic Novel Challenge! You can find a more detailed list of all the books I read over at my other blog, A Pile of Books.

Challenges Completed: 5 (Banned Books Challenge, Once Upon A Time Challenge, RIP II Challenge, Classics Challenge, Newberry Challenge)
Favorite Challenge: Once Upon A Time Challenge!

And now for “the list”. I had every intention of making this a Top Ten list but I honestly could not cut this down any smaller! I just couldn’t throw out any more books. So it’s a Top Twelve list :p It was a top 16 list, lol. Here they are (Click on the book title for my full review):

12. Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason: The second book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles. Who would’ve ever thought that I’d be putting a romance series in my top list! I loved Colleen’s first book and I was lucky enough to get an ARC of her newest book in the series which is coming out in February. The new book is great too and I’ll have a review up closer to the release date, but it’s this book that really grabbed me and will keep me reading through the rest of the series. You definitely don’t have to be a fan of the romance novel to enjoy her books. My heart was beating a mile a minute during some of the suspenseful moments of this book!

11. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline: I was just captivated by this book. DiCamillo has a true gift when it comes to writing books for children. Her books handle real issues head on, but handle them in a way that is relatable and truly touching. She’s undoubtedly offered hope to millions of kids and grown ups around the world. This story of an elegant and prudish doll learning what it means to love and care for another is heartbreaking and heartwarming and is beautifully presented.

10. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy: I hadn’t expected this one to turn up on this list at all! This is a very short novella and my first experience with Tolstoy. I read it for the classics challenge and was blown away by it. It’s a remarkable meditation on death and the introduction gave some very interesting insights into Tolstoy’s life.

9. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: Many of you have read this one and I’m sure you understand why this one is on my Top 12 list. More than anything, I loved the landscapes of this book. Kostova painted a wonderful, eerie picture throughout the entire book and I wanted to visit every place that her characters did. It was a fascinating spin on an old tale and I found myself looking out of the corner of my eye for shadows while reading this one.

8. The Kesterwood Trilogy by P.A. Neal: I’m sure that many of you are saying “what the hell is that?” right now. P.A. Neal is an author that many of you may know simply as Deslily 🙂 I thought I had to keep this one under wraps for awhile, but we’ve been talking openly about it. Deslily asked me if I would read a fantasy trilogy that she wrote and I was honored. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with this epic fantasy adventure as much as I did. I wish it was published so that others could enjoy it like I have. It has the endearing feel of The Hobbit in my opinion and there’s dragons and wizards and so much more! Her characters have stuck with me for months now and I find myself thinking of them quite often. One of the best experiences of the year 🙂

7. Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell: I’ve just recently reviewed this one and it took me by surprise! I wish Carole all the success in the world because she deserves it. It’s rare that you come across a story as well-written and as beautiful as this one. Her characters were so unique and the world and the cultures and tribes that she created were just phenomenal. This book reminded me what I love about high fantasy as I hadn’t read a true fantasy novel since George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Throne’s in May. Carole is another author that I’ve had the privilege to talk to over email and she has an extremely kind soul. I can’t wait to see where her career takes her.

6. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly: Another one that was much more than what I was expecting. I picked this one up on a whim mostly because I liked the cover. I knew instantly that I would like it when it began “Once upon a time” and then books starting whispering to the main character. By the end of this novel I had experienced every emotion possible and was recommending it to everyone I knew!

5. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier: I guess this was the year of being surprised. This one took me by surprise too! I got lost in this book and didn’t want it to ever end. I was enjoying this one so much and then when the twist came started enjoying it even more which I didn’t think was possible. I definitely plan on reading some more Du Maurier in the future. She had a gift for creating vivid images in her readers’ minds. At least in my mind, she did. I almost don’t want to see a film version of this book because I have my own picture of Manderley and the wall of Rhododendrons.

4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I read this one on a whim and enjoyed it, but didn’t realize how much I truly loved it until a few days after I finished it and it had sat on my mind. I started thinking back on the beautiful Columbian landscapes that Marquez had painted in my mind and the scent of Almond trees. It was a beautiful love story set in a perfect setting. This one will stay with me for a long time as well. I love the closing scene of this one.

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: The storytelling aspect of this book won me over from the beginning and it was written just perfectly. Setterfield invented some of the most bizarre yet loveable characters and I just want to revisit this one again and again. I see this book in shades of gray with hints of color if that makes sense…kind of like a Tim Burton film. Definitely one of the best books I read this year and one of the best books I’ve read of all times. Can’t wait to see where her career goes.

2. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: I found a new favorite fantasy series with this one. I wasn’t sure about it at the beginning. I would get hooked and then I’d be a bit iffy, but eventually I was so immersed in it that I was infatuated with every characters story line. This book is phenomenal and I recommend it to any lover of fantasy, even if you don’t think you like “high fantasy” books. I’m getting ready to start A Clash of Kings and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that!

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: There are no words to aptly describe how I feel about this book. I wrote a lengthy review to try, but you just have to read it to see how phenomenal of a book it is. Niffenegger achieve what few author’s achieve with this book and really captured the essence of her characters’ souls in this book. Simply amazing and easily in my top books of all time. I’m so glad I read this one and can’t wait to read her next novel. She can take all the time she wants to write it! I’ll still be here waiting.

Can’t wait to read everyone else’s lists. I’ve had the best time blogging my books with you all this year and it really has been the greatest pleasure in the world to meet everyone. I would’ve never read half of these books if it wouldn’t have been for you guys! Happy reading in 2008!!!

A Few Of My Favorite (Christmas) Things

I love these posts that people do, so I figured I’d do my own! A post all about cool Christmas gifts 🙂 Here’s a picture of all the cool gifts I got, but I just remembered that I forgot to include two of my favorites…duh! First not pictured is the new Nintendo DS Lite Zelda Triforce edition! Yes, it’s gold with the triforce on the outside of it and comes with the new Zelda game and it rocks! And the second not pictured is Lynne Fleweling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin which I’ve been wanting to read forever! I’ll be reading that one for the Cardathon Challenge. Here’s my other faves:

From top left to right:

What Therapists Don’t Talk About and Why: This book’s been on my wishlist for a long time now. It’s all about the taboos of therapy that you just don’t see discussed in textbooks and in other places. Looking forward to this one!

Book’s I’ve Read, A Reader’s Journal: I’ve always wanted one of these journals! I think I’m going to start getting one of these for each year. It’ll be fun to keep all my books for ’08 in here. It asks questions about each book that you read. Very cool!

Eternals by Neil Gaiman: 😀 I’ve been dying for this one! This will most certainly be a late addition to Dewey’s Graphic Novel Challenge. Big surprise here that I got a Neil Gaiman book, right?

The 2008 Barnes and Noble Desk Diary: I love their desk diaries…they’re the best and I always try to get one. Top notch and in my opinion at a great price! Great gift for readers.

Where’s Neil When You Need Him CD: I’ve been wanting this one for awhile too! This is such a cool CD. It’s all songs written by artists (lots of goth/industrial bands) that pay tribute to Neil Gaiman’s stories and characters. Closed off by a Tori Amos track!

Planet Earth DVD set: I was thrilled when I opened this one! This is one of my favorite TV series to be produced in a long time. Discovery Channel does amazing things and this is one of the best they’ve done in a long time.

The Little Prince: Another book that I’ve been wanting for ages. Can you believe I’ve never read this one? I’m glad to finally have it in my library!

A beautiful leather journal!: My sister got me this journal and it’s gorgeous. It’s made of sueded leather and it’s just perfect. Love it!

And there were giftcards to book stores and coffee shops. I was overwhelmed! I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas. The gifts were nice, but better than those was the time spent with family and the smiles shared throughout the day. I could’ve done without the migraine last night, but that’s gone now, so it’s all good. Now it’s time to lose the 10 pounds that I no doubt gained yesterday! And start reading these books!

Merry Christmas To All!

The past few days have been busy, have they not? It seems that everybody is tied up in Christmas festivities, be it shopping, get-togethers, reading, wrapping, etc. and I’m definitely one of those people! I doubt that I’ll squeeze in another post before Christmas, so I wanted to take the time to wish you all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays! Each and every one of you who I’ve gotten to know through this blog over the past year has come to mean more than you know to me and you’ve shown me that friendship moves beyond physical barriers. To me, a big part of the holidays is celebrating that friendship and connections made throughout the year, and you’re all in my thoughts 🙂 I look forward to another wonderful year with y’all and hope that all of you have a wonderful Christmas with your families!

Of course, I can’t write a post without mentioning books! I read Cornelia Funke’s When Santa Fell to Earth today and it was such a magical book. I wish I would’ve read it a few weeks ago because I would’ve gotten it for all the little kids that I know so that they could’ve read it before Christmas. It was a very different Christmas book and so endearing. I loved it!

Niklas Goodfellow is the last real Santa. Christmas has been hi-jacked by an evil-Santa by the name of Goblynch who is all about making money and giving kids video game consoles. The old Santas (the kinds with elves who make old fashioned, endearing wooden toys) have been um…obliterated…and turned into chocolate (killed in a not so scary way for kids I guess :/) and Niklas is the only one left. Niklas is young and scruffy looking, not what you’d picture a Santa to look like at all. But he has a heart of gold! During a storm, his reindeer Twinklestar (who loves marzipan) becomes afraid and breaks away from Niklas’ caravan leaving him abandoned in the middle of a suburban town. Niklas befriends a couple of children by the name of Ben and Charlotte and they work together to keep the true meaning of Christmas and the last Santa alive. The cast of characters is completed by 2 endearing angels, a slew of hilariously grumpy elves, and some terrifying nutcrackers! Such a great little book!

This will probably wrap up my Christmas posts. Well, I’m sure you’ll get a full report on which books I managed to scoop up for Christmas 😉 And then I should have the year in review post up soon! Have a great one everyone!

A Very Christmas-y Post

Well the weather outside sure is frightful…the temperatures have gone back up again and I’m back to shorts and sandals. It’s officially 75 degrees right now in New Orleans and that’s a cool down from earlier. But we’re supposed to get some cool weather coming on Sunday night and it’s supposed to be down right cold again for Christmas Eve and Christmas! Yay! But the heat has not spoiled my Christmas mood! No indeed!

I awoke this morning…er, or noonish, to a package waiting on my doorstep from Santa in the form of Robin from A Fondness of Reading, one of my absolute favorite bloggers who is my Secret Santa 🙂 I was overwhelmed by the package she put together for me! She had a great little card to accompany this set of gifts wishing me and my family a Merry Christmas. All of the gifts come from her region of the US, up in the Northwest in Washington and they’re just perfect! I love candles and all things Eastern, so the little glass Lotus flower votive candle holder is just perfect. It’s beautiful and made by a local artisan. She included some delicious goodies like dark chocolate covered cherries, a set of 3 delicious sounding jams and preserves, and these great sounding coffee tins! All stuff I love. There’s a book that sounds great called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by a local author named Sherman Alexie with some really cool illustrations! You know I love that 😉 And then there’s a wonderful Christmas CD that I’ve been enjoying all day and the best thing about the CD is that the proceeds from it go to the Children’s Hospital which is near and dear to my heart as I’ve always worked with kids with disabilities and mental illness. Thank you so much Robin for this amazing gift and for the thought put into it and thank you Nymeth for creating such a wonderful experience!!

I also fit in two Christmas books today! The first was The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon with illustrations by Jill Weber. It’s a short read at just 118 pages, but filled with love and joy! Perfect Christmas read. The story’s focus is on a nun by the name of Sister Anthony and her dear friend who happens to be a Norway Spruce named “Tree”. The head gardener of Rockefeller Center is given the job every year of finding the perfect tree to be the Christmas Tree that we all know so well. While flying in a helicopter searching for it, he spots “Tree” at the convent that Sister Anthony lives at and goes to visit her to ask if he can have the tree for Rockefeller Center. The two form an unlikely friendship as Sister Anthony recounts her past from her troubled childhood through her times as a horticulturist up until now. This was a beautiful story and the story telling actually reminded me quite a bit of The Thirteenth Tale as strange as that may sound. Squeeze this one in if you can before Christmas! I’ve seen it on bargain shelves at Barnes and Noble.

The other book I read today was Kate DiCamillo’s new picture book with Bagram Ibatoulline, the artist who did the paintings for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. The book is called Great Joy. It’s short and sweet and packs a powerful punch in it’s few pages. Leave it to DiCamillo to deliver a touching story like few can. And the paintings are just gorgeous. An organ grinder and his monkey stand on a street corner playing sad music every day for change while young Frances looks down from her lush apartment window wondering where he goes at night. Her mother tells her not to worry about such things, but rather to worry about her line in the Christmas play the next night. But with a child’s innocence Frances can’t help but worry and wonder about the man and his monkey. Quite a nice little story here.

And of course after Debi and Nymeth’s reviews, I had to go out and buy Cornelia Funke’s When Santa Fell to Earth! Haven’t read that one yet, but I’ll get to it before Christmas!

Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell

Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell is undoubtedly one of my favorite books of the year. As I sit down to write this review I find myself faced with the same problem I had earlier this year when reviewing The Time Traveler’s Wife…How do I do this book justice? Wind Follower is a complex yet very readable book; an epic story that tells a powerful tale that imbibes the soul and is filled with passion in each page.

The story is set in a wonderfully unique world that’s not often seen in fantasy literature. I’m not totally certain you’d classify this as fantasy, but it has the epic feel of a high fantasy novel and certainly has some fantastic aspects to it, so that should work. The world as I pictured it is a rich desert-like landscape somewhere in the African region. Three tribes abide in this region: The Theseni, the dark skinned original natives of the land; the Doreni, the lighter brown skinned people of the land who conquered the Theseni 500 years ago, and the Ibeni who I took to be people of Asian descent but I could be way off there. With each tribe, McDonnell has created a rich history and beautiful customs. Each tribe is wholly believable as a tribe that actually existed in our Earth’s past as McDonnell so skillfully and masterfully describes their ways.

Loic is the son of Taer, the head of a Doreni clan. At the age of eighteen, Loic lays eyes on Satha, a Theseni woman who is 26 years old, and wants her for his wife. It’s an unlikely marriage. Satha is beyond normal child bearing years and comes from a poor family. She is dark skinned and from a different tribe than Loic. But Loic has eyes only for her and swears to take her as his only wife and so he weds her and makes her part of his powerful household.

This unlikely union has many obstacles to face just in being what it is. But there are many other things that it will face. Loic has “the falling sickness” or epilepsy as we know it and he is considered weak for it, though few talk about it. This is one of many things that he must overcome to prove himself a strong leader. He must father a child to show his strength. And with that the couple faces more issues.

I really don’t want to go much more into the plot because the book tells such a strong and gripping tale, a powerful tale that is so emotionally engaging. McDonnell takes on issues of rape, race, slavery, war, religion, and so much more and nothing is held back. She faces these issues head on and handles them in a way that is raw and honest yet leaves the soul satisfied.

It leaves the soul satisfied because one of the major themes of the book is spirituality. There is plenty of Christian allegory in this book, but you certainly don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it. The tribes in the novel are all steeped in their individual religious practices, some of them very raw, some very beautiful. They reminded me of Native American and Mayan religious practices. Loic and Satha go through quite a bit of trauma in this book. I’m not going to go through it because I don’t want to spoil the plot, but they are separated and endure a lot. But there is an enduring spirit there and it comes from a power higher than man. It’s truly beautiful and Carole has a true gift in being able to write such touching prose.

I can’t say enough about Carole McDonnell’s writing. It just blew me away! She created a world that was so incredibly complex with it’s own slang, scenery, caste system, races, etc. and made it feel so comfortable. I fell into it easily. I fell in love with her characters instantly. Loic and Satha will both stay with me for a long time. They are both incredibly strong, amazing characters and I’m glad to have met them. Her use of language is just phenomenal. I found the novel painting a picture in my head as I read it, her words are chosen so perfectly. She certainly has a career ahead of her that I look forward to following.

Wind Follower was published through Juno Books which is a very cool publisher. I had never heard of it before finding this book, but Juno publishes books that focus on strong female characters! How cool is that?

Anyone else read this one? I’d love to discuss it. If not, please do! It’s a great one!

Christmas Time Is FINALLY Here

It’s been a little rough trying to get into the Christmas spirit down here in New Orleans this year. I’ve tried everything. I’ve bought crap loads of presents, submerged myself in Christmas songs, surrounded the house in Christmas lights, baked cookies, watched all the specials, but it just doesn’t happen when it’s 85 degrees outside. Well this weekend temperatures finally dropped down here and I’m happy to announce that I awoke this morning to a temperature of 41 degrees! Yes I know that many of you are laughing hysterically now, but that’s freezing down here :p Literally, my teeth were chattering in the car, lol. So, with that being said, it feels like Christmas now with still a week to enjoy it!

And Santa passed for me this weekend disguised as Carl! Well Carl didn’t actually come over, but a package came! As you all know, Carl has to be one of the most kind and giving people out there. He’s a genuinely good guy and he’s taken care of me as far as reading material over the past year. So I mailed him a gift of my favorite book, Speaker for the Dead, for Christmas as well as a little cigarette case thingy with the cover of one of his favorite books, The Stainless Steel Rat, on the front of it. In preparation for Speaker for the Dead, he finished Ender’s Game which sparked a discussion of how it reminded him somewhat of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War which I immediately added to my wish list! Well, a few days later, I get Old Man’s War in my mailbox wrapped in some of the coolest wrapping paper I’ve ever seen (I should’ve taken pictures). He also included a card that made me laugh that showed that he pays close attention to my blog. As I opened it, it began singing “I’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas” to me :p Thanks Carl!

And finally, it’s not Christmas without football, and if you hate football, you can stop reading now! Drew Brees has been wonderful to us New Orleanians and Carl this weekend! Now if he can only take us to the Super Bowl like he has done with Carl. Stephanie will be my best friend tonight as I will be cheering on the Bears to beat the Vikings. In order for us to make it into the playoffs we need to win both of our last games and the Vikings need to lose one of their next two. So Go Bears!!! Of course, in two weeks, you’ll be my worst enemy Steph 😉