2008, The Year In Review

I was holding off on writing my end of the year review thinking that I would finish the three books that I’m reading now, but it looks like I won’t. I’ve just been so busy lately at work that I haven’t had time to do much reading. So those three will be the first books of 2009. 

It’s been one hell of a year! There have been many ups and downs. On the good side, I read more books than I read last year (only by 1!) and the quality of the books was pretty damn good. I’ve made even more amazing blogging friends throughout the year whom I cherish. I’ve continued the dear friendships that I made during my first year of blogging and many of those have grown into wonderful relationships. I moved the blog over to WordPress which I think was an overall good decision and got my own domain. Depending on if you look at it as a good thing or not, I’ve added quite a few new books to my personal library :p I finally got a job in May after being laid off at the end of 2007! And I’m hosting my very first challenge! Which kind of crosses over into a few not so good things.

I experienced the loss of a dear friend this year as we all have. I just miss Dewey so much. She was an amazing blogger and her death is certainly an event that will stick with me as a memory of 2008. But so will many other great things that she brought to us such as Weekly Geeks, my very first 24 hour read a thon!, the carnivals, and her wonderful presence that’s sorely missed. I also ended a long term relationship with Megan and while we still remain the best of friends, it was still an upsetting event. And we had the drama over the summer with my Dad’s triple bypass surgery and all of the complications. I think I experienced my first severe bout of depression during this past summer, but that’s happily past me now. I’ve been feeling much better.

As they (the proverbial “they”) say, With the good comes the bad. I think the good certainly outweighed the bad though this year, so I’m calling 2008 a success! Here’s hoping that 2009 is even better. So lets look at some reading stats for 2008! I totally stole all of these categories from Nymeth by the way :p 

Total Books Read: 79 – One better than last year’s 78!
Total Pages Read: 20,287
Comics/Graphic Novels Read: 7
Non-Fiction: 7
Novels: 60
Short Story Collections/Anthologies: 4
Children’s & Young Adult: 27
In Translation (that I know of): 6
By Women: 24
By Men: 52 (These stats are embarrassing…I really need to read more books by women next year!)
Featuring both Men and Women authors: 3
New to me authors: 47 (wow!)
Classics: 7
Chunksters (450+ pages): 8
Favorite New Authors Discovered: John Green, John Lawson, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Lynn Flewelling, Bill Willingham, Martin Millar, Simon Van Booy, Cherie Priest, Mary Roach, Keith Miller, Terri Windling
Best Reading Month: March – 9 Books, 2,420 Pages
Worst Reading Month: January – 4 Books, 1,262 pages

And now for the top er…16 books of 2008! It was incredibly hard to limit it down so I didn’t very much :p, but here are my favorite books of the year in no particular order. You can click the title of the book for my review of it.

Four Letter Word ed. by Joshua Knelman & Rosalind Porter – This was the first book of the year that truly WOWed me. In fact, it was a library book and I loved it so much that I had to go and buy a copy. It’s a collection of short stories written by an amazing group of author’s that are all written in the form of a love letter. Doesn’t sound all that incredibly exciting, but trust me, it is. Favorites were Neil Gaiman’s and Audrey Niffenegger’s stories…they stand out to me still. 

Witch Ember by John Lawson – This one was a wonderful surprise. I was contacted by John and asked if I would like to review his two books. When I saw the size of them, I thought “holy shit!” But as I turned the first few pages, I quickly realized that the books just couldn’t be long enough. Witch Ember is one of the best fantasies I’ve read in a long time that really belongs in a class of it’s own. It’s part high fantasy, part historical fiction, somewhat urban fantasy, but at it’s heart it’s just an extremely engaging, captivating novel full of some amazing characters and imagination.

Tamsin by Peter Beagle – One of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. This was another one that I just didn’t want to end. I loved the feel of the house that Tamsin haunted, the mythology that the book presented, the characters, the country side. Beagle has fast become a favorite writer of mine and if I was finished A Fine and Private Place, it would most certainly be on my list for favorite reads of the year…but that would be cheating…but notice I worked it in anyway :p

The Book of Flying by Keith Miller – Seriously, I can’t say enough about this book. I think it has some of the most beautiful language that I have ever read in a novel. The book had  a wonderful, melancholy feel to it and constantly gave me a sense of nostalgia despite it taking place in a time that I never could have known because it doesn’t exist. If I had to paint a picture of this novel, it would all be in sepia tones. It was a gorgeous book from cover to cover and one that I miss dearly and wish I could discover it for the first time all over again. Thanks to Carl for recommending this one to me.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling – I still think about this book constantly and I’ve been wanting to visit the desert again ever since reading it. I’ve always been a fan of myth/folklore but had never read anything about Native American folklore until I read this book. I never expected to enjoy it as much as I did. I wish Ms. Windling would write some more novels 😉 She has an absolutely incredible talent with all things art related.

The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling – Wow wow wow. If you enjoy fantasy even remotely, you need to read this book. Even if you don’t like fantasy, I think you’d like this. It’s very atypical of a lot of fantasy out there. A lot of people see fantasy as a type of genre where the characters come secondary to the plot…the task that has to be accomplished. Flewelling does an amazing job at building some of the most incredible fantasy characters I’ve read. I’m addicted to this book and can’t wait to read the next one in the series which is waiting for me on my shelf!

Looking for Alaska by John Green – As far as Young Adult books go, I don’t know if it gets much better than John Green. With Looking for Alaska, he took me right back to my teenage years and made me long for them. Alaska is a character that will haunt my mind for years. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship indeed. John Green has quickly been added to my list of favorite authors.

When Twilight Burns by Colleen Gleason – This was by far my favorite book in Colleen Gleason’s Gardella Vampire series. This one presented twists and turns and revelations that just blew my mind and I loved seeing the books begin to come together. At the same time, it made me sad as I realized that there’s only one book left in the series 😦 But I’m really looking forward to it. Colleen Gleason is solely responsible for reawakening my love for vampire literature that I hadn’t had since reading Anne Rice’s books as a teenager. In fact, Lilith, one of her vampires…the queen if you will…reminded me of Anne Rice’s Akasha – a character that I loved but was evil at the same time.  And yeah, that’s totally me modeling on the cover of the book. You believe that one, right?

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach – I think Mary Roach may be my new favorite non-fiction author 🙂 This book was fantastic and one of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a long time revealing some of the odder sides of sex out there. It’s written in a manner that’s extremely enjoyable to read, educational, and hilarious. I have Stiff (no, that’s not another sex book…this one’s about cadavers) waiting for me on the TBR shelf.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest – I’m ready to call Cherie Priest the new priestess of Southern Gothic Lit. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s another one that reminded me of Anne Rice in a way, but this one reminded me of the Mayfair Witches series. I think it was the long family history and supernatural gifts of the main character. And it had that great southern feel to it. I was overjoyed when I found out that this was the first book in a series of Eden Moore books. I totally thought it was a standalone at first.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Ah, what fond memories already. One of my favorite authors and now one of my new favorite books. This one was actually a little of a surprise for me. I didn’t expect it to be half as touching of a story as it was, though I should’ve known better. I always become attached to his characters…but possibly never more so than with Bod Owens. I enjoyed watching him grow up and felt a sense of connectedness with him despite the fact that he grew up in a Graveyard. This was one of the few this year that brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat when I think of it. Fantastic new addition to the Gaiman library.

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy – I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile now and when I finally read it, it was so much more than what I had been expecting. Van Booy’s language is just gorgeous and he connects his readers to his stories in a short time, but with a strong punch. Can’t wait for his next collection!

Nation by Terry Pratchett – I still haven’t done a proper review of this book! But you can click on the link to see my immediate thoughts on it. This was more than I ever expected out of Terry Pratchett and that’s saying something. I didn’t expect this book to be as touching as it was and it was another one with fantastic characters. How this man thinks of all of these wonderful things, I’ll never know. But I’m glad he does 🙂

Dream Homes: From Cairo to Katrina: An Exile’s Journey by Joyce Zonana – I raved about this book after I read it and I’ll rave about it some more. And I swear I’m not biased because the author was one of my favorite professors. There’s a reason she was one of my favorite professors and it’s because of the passion, love, and history that she shares with people. This is never more evident than in this fantastic book about her life as a Sephardic Jew who immigrated from Cairo as a child and grew up learning to embrace her culture in a foreign land that she came to call home. I’m giving this the award for best non-fiction of the year.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett – If you love to read, then you have to read this little novella…’nuf said.

Paper Towns by John Green – John Green is the only author that gets the privilege of being on this list twice! Another fantastic YA book with amazing characters. It amazes me how Mr. Green manages to capture the mind of a teenager so well and create such smart, witty, engaging and quirky story lines. I think Green may get the author of the year award 😉

Anything on here surprise anyone? I’ve found that my taste in books is becoming more and more eclectic. When I started this blog, it was geared towards mostly just Sci-fi and Fantasy, but it’s become more and more general. Though I’d still say it has a very fantasy centered theme to it. I’m going to do a couple of things differently with my reviews next year. The biggest thing is, I’m going to add a ratings system. I’ve been avoiding this for a long time, because knowing me I’ll just want to give everything 5s :p So I’m going to do like Carl and break it down to 1/4 stars. That way if something’s better than a 4.5 but not quite a 5, I can give it a 4.75, lol. We’ll see if it sticks. I’m also going to list my books a little differently in the “2009 reads” tab than I have in previous years. The way I do it now just takes up too much room, so it’s really just a matter of appearance. I’d like to also divide my books into an alphabetized list by author and by title so all of my reviews are easily accessible. That’s going to involve going back into all of the archives though and labeling everything, so we’ll see if that happens. 

Finally, I’m going to keep a detailed written log of everything I read this year. I miss writing in a journal by hand and I love Bellezza’s idea of filling up a journal with all kinds of book stuff. So I’m going to do that. I got a new fountain pen for Christmas and it’s brought back my love of writing stuff by hand. It just feels right when you’re writing with a fountain pen. 

To all of my readers, all of my friends, I wish you the happiest of New Years. After 2 years of blogging, I’m still amazed by the amount of traffic this site gets even though it’s not near as much as some blogs. You all mean the world to me and it’s been a pleasure reading, reviewing, and sharing life with you guys. And here we go on year 3! Happy Reading everyone 🙂

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35 Responses

  1. Wow. Not a single title in common…

    Not that we should necessarily be reading the same things.

    And, now that I think of it, we do have Colleen’s book in common.

    Anyway, here’s hoping we both have more time to read in the coming year!

    cjh

  2. […] 1. Nymeth, and Nymeth Part Two 2. Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist 3. Chris (Bookarama) 4. Becky 5. Vasilly 6. Chris (Stuff As Dreams) […]

  3. CJ, That’s crazy! No titles in common? I guess we do read fairly different genres. I’m glad we both agreed on Colleen’s book 😀 It was a fantastic one. I hope we both have more time to read next year too CJ. Working nights takes away quite a bit of that time, doesn’t it? Have a great 2009!!!

  4. Aargh, this list just makes me wish for more reading hours in a day!

    I’m adding the same ratings system next year with quarter stars and hoping I can stick to it! 🙂

  5. Wonderful year in review post, Chris. You certainly had a year filled with some pretty massive events. I am glad that you came through everything well and it says a lot that you can experience personal tragedy, stress, and so many other things and still look at the year as a success. That is the kind of outlook we should all have on life but it isn’t always easy. Kudos to you my friend.

    Top 16…you crack me up! Only because I am exactly the same way. Certainly some great books on the list. I really need to read Peter Beagle sometime as I have yet to experience him but have heard nothing but wonderful things. I’m also going to finally finish my first Pratchett this year, excepting Good Omens, as I have neglected Stephanie’s wonderful gift of Thud! for far too long now.

    I’d like to be better about hand journaling. I have so many journals that I love just sitting empty and I really feel like I am missing out on something by not writing in them. Maybe I’ll get some motivation to do that this year.

    Looking forward to another fantastic year of reading and sharing books with you my friend.

  6. I know you had a year full of changes and ups and downs, Chris, and it really makes me happy to see you end it on a positive note despite everything. I could tell you had been feeling better (you blog more, for starters :P), but it’s great to actually hear you say it.

    Like I was telling Bart, I stole the categories from several other bloggers last year too 😛 And one thing I’ll totally steal for 2009 is the page count. I can’t believe I forgot to keep track of that!

    I love your list! The ones I’ve read I loved too, and the others I really want to read. And yes, I’d give John Green the Author of the Year award too! As for what you said about your taste becoming more eclectic, I definitely noticed that about myself too.

    Happy New Year, Chris!

  7. […] Chris (Things Dreams are Made of) […]

  8. Great review post Chris. You mentioned on mine how many books we had in common, and now after reading yours we may end up having more if I’m not really really careful about adding to my wishlist 😛

    Although it looks like I’m going to have to succumb to Colleen Gleason’s Gardella Vampire series, considering how highly you and Carl rate it.

    Have a fantastic 2009 and I look forward to watching you fight with those 1/4 points in your reviews. 😀

  9. Wow, you did good baby boy!.. i never break down my reading into so many catagories, but I tried to list a few this year.

    Now.. for a new years resolution, Chris will get his TBR pile to dwindle to one half of what it is today… (laughing hysterically!.. yeah right ! h ahahahaha)

    Here’s to a happy and healthy new year Chris!

  10. Great list, Chris! There’s a couple that made it on mine. I really need to read some more Pratchett. It has been a couple years since I read anything by him! Good luck with the rating system. That just does not work at all for me. haha I really should start again, though. The anniversary for my third year blogging was December 16th, but with the Advent Calendar I totally forgot about it! Oh, well…

    Happy New Year!

  11. Great list! I wish I had the time to make one myself. I have much to be thankful for and have also experienced and read great things, but cannot wait for 2008 to be over. Had an annus horribilis this year where things which were beyond my control happened and I am looking so much forward to 2009 which I am determined shall be better. I will definitely work for it to be a better year than 2008.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR AND SEE YOU IN 2009!

  12. I was so happy to see that Four Letter Word made your best of the year list – I picked it up Boxing Day because your review was so great. I may not always comment (working on getting better with this) but your reviews have caused my TBR list to grow significantly! I truly value and appreciate your opinions.

    Happy New Year and all the best for 2009, my friend 🙂

  13. Love this post Chris, although I know have even MORE books on my TBR!!! :p

    I’ve had a high/low year too, and I love how my blogging buddies help me through it.

  14. Top er….16?! Way to go, Chris! I liked your stats. Every time I read a review of 2008 post on someone’b blog i’m so impressed by the information included. (I think I wrote mine too soon!) Anyway, it’s been a great pleasure to blog with you this year, and I’m so glad you’re hosting Dewey’s challenge. You’re a wonderful friend. Happy New Year!

  15. Happy New Year to you, Chris!! How bad is it that I didn’t read one book on your top 16??? I have many on my list of “books that I must read….someday!” though.

    I still haven’t signed up for your challenge, but I will. Later on this week. Just an fyi!

  16. Amy, I really like the idea of the star rating system! I think it’ll work well…at least I hope! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were more hours in a day to read? :p

    Carl, I cracked myself up with a top 16 :p Really, it’s not hard to do. Last year it was a top 12…I just have no discipline. I had no idea that you haven’t read any Beagle! I really think you’ll enjoy him. Everyone says his masterpiece is The Last Unicorn and while I liked it enough, it’s probably my least favorite of what I’ve read of his. Tamsin was amazing and the book I’m reading now, A Fine and Private Place is really wonderful. And ditto to your last sentence!

    Nymeth, I’ve actually noticed the same thing. The other day I was thinking, I must be feeling better because I’ve been blogging all of the time again! lol..Yeah, it was a rough year, but there were so many good things too! Like all of you guys that helped me through it. As for the page count thing, I find it’s a lot of fun…It always blows my mind when I see that I read something like 20,000 pages….I’m sure you’re right around the 50-70 thousand word mark!

    Bart, I hope you do get around to reading some of these next year! I think we’re all doing horrible things to each others’ TBR pile right now :p Oh, you really should read Colleen Gleason’s books! The first one blew me away and then they just kept getting better after that! Happy New Year to you too Bart!

    Deslily, Thanks! I don’t think I broke mine down into so many categories last year either, but it was fun to do this year. I like seeing all the different stuff I read like that :p Psht…yeah right, lol. I wish I could get my TBR pile down to half but that’s REALLY not going to happen. My only wish is that it doesn’t increase even more next year!

    Kailana, Three years now?! That’s awesome! Congrats. I’m hoping the rating system works out for me…I’ve always really liked ratings on other people’s blogs, but I’ve never been able to do them all that well. Happy New Year to you too!!

    Lou, I’m sorry that 2008 was such a pain for you 😦 Those out of control things can really be a drag and I had quite a few myself this year. I hope that 2009 brings all kinds of wonderful things and experiences into your life! It’s been great getting to know you this year Louise!

    Joanne, I saw that you picked up 4 letter word and I was so excited!! I know you’ll enjoy it..I thought it was a fantastic book. Totally understand about the commenting…I have the exact same problem. I read your blog daily, but don’t comment near as much as I should. But know that you too are responsible for quite a few on my TBR 😉

    Eva, I know you have had a high/low year! I hope that 2009 is a much better one for you (on the high count that is!) Isn’t it great to be a part of this wonderful community during stressful times. Couldn’t ask for better friends 🙂 And I cannot even begin to tell you how comforting it is to hear that you have an even bigger TBR pile than me! lol

    Bellezza, Yeah, I know…I lack discipline totally, lol! I can never do a top 10…last year it was a top 12! I stole most of my statistical information from Nymeth, so I can’t take credit for that :p And I really can’t wait to follow in your footsteps and keep a written journal of everything next year! It’s been wonderful blogging with you too this year Bellezza. You’ve been a great friend to me too…Happy New Year to you and the family!!

    Steph, That’s not bad at all! It just means that you now have 16 new books to read next year :p I know you’d enjoy many of these though…like The Graveyard Book! I’m going to go ahead and just add you to the blogroll now since you plan on signing up for the challenge. Anyone who’s signed up by tomorrow has the chance to win a chocolate monkey! So I want to make sure you’re on there 😉 If you change your mind about the challenge later, it’s no big deal!

  17. What a wonderful reading year for you, Chris! There are so many on your list that I’d like to read. I hope 2009 will be a great year for you! Happy New Year!

  18. Thanks for the mention, Chris! I’m glad my book held up over the year. I hope you continue to enjoy my work.

    Here’s to a new year and wishing you more good things!
    John

  19. I have this weird thing about waiting till the month or year has completely ended before I do a review post, so I haven’t even looked over my calendar. But, John Green is a given. Colleen’s books are always terrific and, of course . . . Simon. I believe his next book is to be released in the spring. I can’t wait to read it!!

    And, I’ve got to get my mitts on The Graveyard Book.

  20. Forgot to say . . .

    Happy New Year, Chris!!!!!

  21. Well, I’ve read one of them (the totally rockin’ Graveyard Book), but I’ve got a few more in the tbr pile. I’m looking forward to getting acquainted with John Green.

    Happy New Year…may it bring you loads of happiness and oodles of books!

  22. Happy New Year Chris! May 2009 be filled with lots more reading 🙂

  23. That’s an impressive list. I also enjoyed The Graveyard Book and The Uncommon Reader. Hope 2009 bring nothing but good health, prosperity and peace!

  24. Happy New Year, Chris! I’ve read two on your list, The Uncommon Reader and Tamsin, both superb. I’ve also got several of them on my tbr mountain, one of which – Four and Twenty Blackbirds – I got because of your review. I also *must* get to Colleen Gleason’s vampire books this year because I know I will love them. So many wonderful books and not nearly enough time…

  25. Happy New Year to you too.

    Of your list, I read Bonk this year. while I did enjoy it, I liked Stiff better.

  26. What a wonderful post, Chris!!! And that truly is a wonderful pile of reading you got done!

    I sincerely hope that 2009 is a much better year for you! I love your positive attitude about taking the hard parts of life along with the good parts. But truly Chris, there is no one more deserving of a fantastically wonderful 2009 than you…and I really hope you get it!!!

  27. Great post Chris! Your reviews have caused me to add many books to my TBR pile. I know resolve to read them in 2009. I picked up The Book of Lost Things and Bone Doll’s Twin after reading your reviews of them. I really need to read them this year. Hopefully during the OUT challenge. I also want to pick up The Wood Wife as well and I missed The Four Letter review so it looks like another book to add the my wishlist. I wish you the best on year 3 of your blog as well.

  28. Robin, Thanks! It really was a good reading year and I’m looking forward to 2009! Hope you have a wonderful year as well.

    John, Happy new year to you too! Hope it’s a great one. Can’t wait to see what we have coming from you 😉 I’ve really really enjoyed reading your work.

    Bookfool, I’ve already added the Van Booy book to my wishlist! Can’t wait to read it. And if he comes anywhere near us, we really should meet up to go see him 😀 So now that it’s 2009, we can expect your best of post, right? 😉 Happy New Year to you too!!

    Softdrink, Same to you!! I can’t wait to see your reaction to John Green! If you enjoy his books even half as much as I do, you’re in for a real treat!

    Kim, Same to you!! Have a wonderful new year!!

    Lisa, I wish the same for you 🙂 Thanks. Wasn’t The Uncommon Reader and the Graveyard Book great? Loved them both!!

    Cath, Oh, you’re going to LOVE Four and Twenty Blackbirds…I think that it’s just your type of book! And Gleason’s series really is fantastic…you’ll enjoy it as well. Happy New Year to you!!

    Lisa, Happy New Year to you too! I have Stiff on my TBR shelf, so I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it even better than Bonk!

    Debi, Well thank you 🙂 You’re so incredibly sweet Debi. I could always dwell on the negative if I chose to, but it ends up getting nothing accomplished and just makes me depressed :/ So I’m trying to stay focused on the positive these days!

    Jeff, Thanks! I’m sure if you kept a blog it would put my TBR pile over the top too! Not that it’s not already over the top :p You have some great reading ahead of you!! The Bone Doll’s Twin is absolutely amazing….I know you’ll love it. And Four Letter Word was a real surprise that I just loved.

  29. 2008 has been a crazy year for a lot of people. But I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. I just read (and loved) the Graveyard Book and I’m already delving into the wonderful world of John Green after reading everyones fabulous reviews of Looking for Alaska! You also convinced me to get The Book of Flying and the Wood Wife. Dang you bloggers and your great reviews!

  30. wow, 79 books read, excellent!
    I have Witch Ember in my TBR pile, glad to hear you liked it.

    Glad to hear you are feeling better. I wish you a Happy and Healthy 2009 “)

  31. Wow! What great company you’ve placed me in! Thanks so much Chris!!! I’m flattered to no end!

    (And thanks for your help with the cover. We couldn’t have done it without you and your pecs!)

  32. I read Looking for Alaska this year, too, and I think I need to read Paper Towns.

    The Saturday Review at Semicolon this Saturday is dedicated to book lists. You’re invited to share a link to yours.

  33. Great, my TBR list just grew by 16 books! LOL. Well, maybe not-I think I already had a couple of these on my list. 😉 I’ve never been a big-sci fi/fantasy reader, partly because I have no idea where to start-I don’t know what’s good, what’s not, what’s dependent on the 15 other books in the series…now I feel like I have some good recommendations. Thanks!

  34. Wonderful post! It looks like you had a great year of reading, and I’m glad the year ended on a positive note after the other personal ups and downs.
    I’m looking forward to reading The Graveyard Book this year and I really need to try John Green and Peter Beagle this year too, after hearing you and Nymeth rave about them!
    Congratulations on your second year of blogging and I wish you all the best for a fantastic year in 2009!

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