Merry Christmas Everyone!!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday that’s filled with exactly what you need it to be filled with. Love, hugs, and merriment to you all 🙂

Advertisements

Wrapping Up The Year – 2010

Well it’s that time of the year already! Good lord, 2010 flew the hell by! I doubt I’ll finish anymore books this year, so I figured I’d give my list of favorite books of the year.  I read 70 books this year. That’s the least I’ve read since I’ve started book blogging in 2007, but the quality of the books I’ve read was just as good as any other year. So no complaining at all! I can’t believe this is the 4th annual wrap up I’ve done already! Doesn’t feel like I’ve been blogging that long, but at the same time, it feels like I’ve known some of my blogging friends forever. Without further ado, here are my favorite er… 13 books in no apparent order. I’ve never been known to have an even 10 books :p Click on the links for my reviews.

1. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan – What can I say about this book that I haven’t said already. This is one that I continue to talk about. This book moved me so damn much and it continues to do so every time I think about it. Ms. Lanagan wrote a true masterpiece here that dealt with rape, incest, and abuse in a very realistic way through the medium of a fairy tale. And she did it beautifully and painfully. This is an instant favorite of all times…not just of this year.

2. Blankets by Craig Thompson – One of the best graphic memoirs I’ve ever read. Well the only graphic memoir I’ve ever read really…I should say one of the best books in the graphic format I’ve ever read. I read this ginormous book in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book that talked about relationships as perfectly as this one did. Or a book that made me cry so much for so many reasons.

3. Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banarjee – This book took me completely by surprise. I didn’t know what to expect from it, but was completely enamored by it and just fell instantly in love with it. With the Indian culture, with the young narrator, with the universal family dynamics, with the writing itself. Just an amazing book that I couldn’t shut up about and I still can’t recommend it enough.

4. Mare’s War by Tanita Davis – Another one that truly took me by surprise. I became obsessed with this one too. I learned so much about this book. About the history of African American women during war time. And was completely entertained by Ms. Davis’ writing throughout. The storytelling was just amazing in this one.

5. Push by Sapphire – Whoa. Powerful doesn’t even really begin to describe this book. There are scenes in this book that I don’t think will ever leave me. I can’t believe that I waited so long to read this book but I’m so happy that I finally did read it. What an amazing, strong, book full of beauty, triumph, pain and strength.

6. The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer – This one is perhaps the surprise of the year. It was pitched to me as a review copy and I decided to accept it. I was blown away by this one. I’ve never read anything like this before. Part steampunk, part dystopian, but even if those things are not your thing, I think you would love this book. Because at it’s heart it’s just full of good story telling and amazing characters.And so unique.

7. Transformations by Anne Sexton – This book is like a little treasure. I like to just take this book off of my shelf sometimes and hold it and thumb through it. With the beautiful drawings throughout and Anne’s amazing transformations of old fairy tales into modern poetry classics. Love this one.

8. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness – The sobfest of the year. Surprise surprise that this one is on the list, huh? :p This one was just OMG Amazing!!!! Just the absolute perfect ending to the Chaos Walking series and I couldn’t have asked for more. Well yes, I could ask for more Chaos Walking, but I doubt that I’ll get it :p

9. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – This book had more of an impact on me than any other book has in more years than I can remember. This is the book that made me decide to start living as sustainable a life as I could. I’ve always tried to, but this one made me decide to go full fledge into gardening…to start composting…to do many other things. And on top of that it was an AMAZING read.

10. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – I. Loved. This. Book. Seriously, such a weirdly amazing book that I just could not get enough of and I still want to just read everything that Bender has ever written. You just have to read this one for yourself. Such a very cool book.

11. Room by Emma Donoghue – Jack may be one of my favorite characters of the year. I just thought he was such an incredible little boy. And what Donoghue did with this book was so damn amazing. To write from the point of view of a little boy and to stay in that voice throughout couldn’t have been an easy task…but she did it so well!

12. The Bells by Richard Harvell – I think this may be my favorite book of the year. If there were one book that I recommended that everyone read, it would probably be this one. Just loved it.

13. The Armless Maiden and Other Tales For Childhood’s Survivors edited by Terri Windling – My other favorite read of the year. And probably the most important book that I’ve read this year. Just absolutely amazing.

Any surprises for anyone? Anything you were expecting to make the list that didn’t? Or anything on there that you didn’t think would make the list? There were about 5 or 6 more that I wanted to add, but I thought that since I only read 70 books, I’d stop there :p Why 13? Because I just couldn’t limit it any further, lol.

Stats for the year are as follows:

Total Books Read: 70

Total Pages Read: 17,434

Comics/Graphic Novels Read: 17

Non-Fiction: 10

Short Story Collections/Anthologies/Essay Collections: 9

Poetry: 6

By Women: 27 (T_T OMG I’m so ashamed of that…note to self…read more deliberately next year!!!)

By Men: 42

By Both Male and Female: 1

Chunksters (450+ pages): 5

And that’s a wrap for 2010!!! Usually I make some sort of reading goals for myself at the end of these posts, but I’m not doing that this year. The only goal I’m setting for myself is to READ MORE FEMALE AUTHORS NEXT YEAR!!! That stat really is awful. And I’d like to read more poetry as well next year. I’ve been loving poetry lately. But mostly I just want to have fun and enjoy my reading. How was your year of reading? Happy with it? Happy reading in 2011!!!!!!!

Thank You Secret Santa!!

My secret santa for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap was SO FREAKING SWEET!!!! But I don’t know who it was or who to thank because my card was just signed “your secret santa” :p Whoever you are though, you have lovely handwriting!!!! In addition to the lovely card with the lovely handwriting, my santa also gave me some lovely chocolate balls and santas from See’s, which is one of my favorite candy companies! An awesome little journal and not one, not two, but THREE books!!! I got In Mike We Trust, a graphic novel version of The Alchemist AND the hardcover of Good Omens which I’ve been wanting for ages!!! Thank you SO MUCH!!!! You totally rock 🙂 And you’ve helped me to get in the Christmas mood a bit more 🙂

The Armless Maiden edited by Terri Windling

I haven’t read a collection like this in quite some time. Scratch that…I haven’t read a book as a whole that I felt this way about in quite some time. Sadly, this book is out of print now which upsets me more than I can even say. Though there are numerous copies out there still for very little money. And I highly suggest scooping it up while you can! Books like this make me want to start a grassroots movement to get it republished. Seriously, if there was anything at all I could do to republish this book, I would do it. The Armless Maiden is subtitled: And Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors and seeing as it’s edited by Terri Windling, you can bet that it’s centered around fairy tales.

It’s topic is abuse, rape, molestation, incest, and neglect in childhood. The collection is a series of short stories, essays and poems. Each one filled with absolute beauty. Each one told in the form of a fairy tale. Often as a retelling of a traditional tale. There are several reasons that I fell in love with this collection.

One, it’s a topic that’s close to my heart. A topic that I think needs to be talked about so much more than it is, not swept under the rug. Not something that we need to be ashamed of. I think shame is a natural reaction to abuse. The abused thinks that he or she must have done something to deserve the abuse or if not that, thinks that they had some part of the abuse…which leaves this feeling of shame. And if it’s not talked about, that feeling just perpetuates over the years and it’s more than unhealthy. It can create more problems than one person can deal with alone. But we’re raised in a hush hush society and that’s just wrong on SO MANY levels. Terri Windling is a godsend for giving us this collection to open up the lines of communication through storytelling…through relatibility. Through ending the collection with sharing her own story of her own abused childhood.

Another reason I loved this collection was for the writing itself and for the variety represented here. There literally wasn’t a single story that I didn’t love. Everything in this book was amazing. I described this book as beautiful, and it is. Just because something hurts or causes tears doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful too and this book is a prime example of that. The list of contributors in this book who gave their essays, poems and stories is amazing. To name a few, Terri Windling herself, Anne Sexton, Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip, Jane Yolen, Midori Snyder and Ellen Steiber…and that’s just naming a few.

As I said, these are all takes on traditional fairy tales, or new fairy tales offered by the authors. Fairy tales are anchored in dark times when we look at them in their original form. They are almost something we can look at as children (and as adults as well) and say (as Neil Gaiman said in his intro to Stories) “and then what happened?” They are a wonderful tool for life that we shouldn’t forget when we grow up. There’s a reason we’re drawn to them so much. And I don’t think it’s for “escape”. I think it’s more so for the truth that fairy tales tell us. That life is not always pretty. That sometimes the mermaid gives up her fins and doesn’t get a happy ending. That sometimes the wolf wins. I think the true “escape” is the blanket that we as a society have put over our eyes…the pretending that the monsters don’t exist. That things don’t go bump in the night. When in fact they monsters and the bumps are there. And the only way to truly find happiness again…to waken again and be happy and to have the Disney version of the fairy tale is to start talking. Even then, we may not have the Disney version, but it’s better than living in a nightmare that we’ve created ourselves.

Thank you Ms. Windling for creating this amazing book. I’m just so sorry it’s not readily available anymore. But please search it out…read it…share it….talk about it. You should be able to find it at your library. There are used copies all over the internet. Some for just 99 cents. Get it. And experience it.

Advent Calendar 2010 – Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Hey everyone!! Welcome to my 2010 Advent Calendar tour post! I’m super excited about my post this year 🙂 I’m reviewing Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan with my dear friend Ana from Things Mean A Lot. Well we’re not exactly reviewing it together so much as we each asked each other three questions about the book and we’re both answering all six. So head on over to Ana’s blog to see all of her answers to the same six questions below and see if we felt the same about the book!

A short synopsis of the book: Dash and Lily are two teens in New York who are both spending Christmas alone this year. Dash, because he has told both of his parents that he is spending Christmas with the other so they have both gone out of town and Lily, because her parents are on a honeymoon. The two form a friendship after Dash finds a red moleskine notebook in The Strand bookstore that sends him on a dare if he so chooses to accept it. In turn, he leaves the notebook for Lily and they communicate this way for awhile going on little mini-adventures and getting to know one another through the notebook and getting to know themselves as well all during Christmas time and New Years in New York.

1. Did you have a favorite narrator? If so, why?

I swear this isn’t a chicken shit answer, but honestly, no….I didn’t have a favorite narrator. I LOVED both Dash and Lily…which doesn’t happen enough for me in novels. Whether this is because authors just don’t often create two likeable characters or because it’s my own personal thing, I don’t know…but these two characters were incredibly awesome. I looked  forward to both of their chapters equally. They were both very real characters. Flawed and all. They were both smart kids who weren’t too smart for their own good…I felt like I could relate to them a lot actually…the whole beating themselves up at times thing and being skeptical of the world at times :/ I liked their ideals….I liked the way they thought…I liked how they loved music and books…the both of them in their own individual ways. And that’s big kudos to Cohn and Levithan’s writing.

2. Without giving too much away, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares does *not* play out like the traditional heart-warming romance you might expect at first. What do you think Cohn and Levithan were going for when they made the protagonists first meeting so different from anything readers might have imagined?

This question has personal meaning for me, doesn’t it Ana? >> What are you trying to tell me????? :p In all seriousness, I think it was perfect the way that they first met. The only communication done before their meeting between the two is in a notebook. And through that notebook, they are able to show only what they *want* to show of themselves….even if they choose to show themselves at a weak moment or when they were at a weak moment in their lives, they still show just what they want of that moment. I think Cohn and Levithan chose to show us a very vulnerable moment…without the notebook there is no choosing what each wanted to show to the other. And *if* they survive that then the relationship has a chance at surviving…whatever it will be afterwards. It’s sort of a deer in the headlights moment…do you avoid the collision or crash into the deer? :/

3. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have a hard time writing about this book without the phrase “perfect Christmas story” no matter how cliched that sounds. What do you think (Other than the fact that it’s set around Christmas and New Years) makes this such a great Holidays read?

OMG, everything??? LOL. No, seriously, it’s just so warm and filled with love and joy. And a bit of melancholy too which always floats in this time of year for me. It also has that magical feel to it that accompanies this time of year. That “if it can happen at anytime, it can happen now” sort of feeling to it. And it just has one of my favorite scenes in the world in it when Lily bakes Dash Christmas cookies. I don’t know why, but that scene made me want to make Christmas cookies so badly!!! Some people may be sick of hearing about that >> It was just sweet. And it made me crave cookies >>

4. What did you think of the journal as a means of communication between Dash and Lily? Obviously it was central to the plot, but for them getting to know one another?

I LOVED the journal!! Absolutely loved it. And I loved what it became for the two of them. At first it was a game for the two of them. *Sort* of a matchmaking device for Lily, but it quickly became more than that. And while it remained a game and the scavenger hunt continues between the two, we see it evolve into a tool where these two people who have never met share their innermost feelings with each other. And when they feel alone they write to each other. They become important people in each other’s lives. And what I love more than anything is that neither one knows what the other looks like. They don’t know the other’s skin color, weight, height, dress style, etc….Lily just knows that Dash is “snarly” :p But they still form a wonderful bond. I thought it was beautiful.

5. Do you have a favorite secondary character? I know…tough one, right? :p There were so many great ones!

Why did I come up with this question T_T There really are SO MANY fantastic secondary characters in this book. I know who I didn’t like and that was the Santa Claus :/ You’re just going to have to read it to find out why :p But I think my favorite secondary character was Lily’s aunt. She was so fantastic!!! She reminded me a lot of an aunt that I had growing up who passed away when I was nine and I often wondered what our relationship would be like had she lived and I think it would be much like Lily and her aunt’s. She’s a woman that Lily can be open with, is quite liberal in her thinking, respects Lily and doesn’t look down on her because “she’s young”, and respects and cherishes the feelings of others….really liked her.

6. Share a favorite passage from “the moleskine”

“We believe in the wrong things, I wrote, using the same pen Boomer has used on his arm. That’s what frustrates me the most. Not the lack of belief, but the belief in the wrong things. You want meaning? Well, the meanings are out there. We’re just so damn good at reading them wrong.

I wanted to stop there. But I went on.

It’s not going to be explained to you in a prayer. And I’m not going to be able to explain it to you. Not just because I’m as ignorant and hopeful and selectively blind as the next guy, but because I don’t think meaning is something that can be explained. You have to understand it on your own. It’s like when you’re starting to read. First, you learn the letters. then, once you know what sounds the letters make, you use them to sound out words. You know that c-a-t leads to cat and d-o-g leads to dog. But then you have to make that extra leap, to understand that the word, the sound, the ‘cat’ is connected to an actual cat, and that ‘dog’ is connected to an actual dog. It’s that leap, that understanding, that leads to meaning. And a lot of the time in life, we’re still just sounding things out. We know the sentences and how to say them. We know the ideas and how to present them. We know the prayers and which words to say in what order. But that’s only spelling.

I don’t mean this to sound hopeless. Because in the same way that a kid can realize what ‘c-a-t’ means, I think we can find the truths that live behind our words. I wish I could remember the moment when I was a kid and I discovered that the letters linked into words, and that the words linked to real things. What a revelation that must have been. we don’t have the words for it, since we hadn’t yet learned the words. It must have been astonishing, to be given the key to the kingsom and see it turn in our hands so easily.”

An Overdue Bad Bloggers Post

I’ve let the books pile up again….23 of them to be exact (due largely in part to a bookcloseouts.com order :/), so this may be a bit long :/ Sorry about that…I’ll try to be brief, I promise…..here we go!

1. Half Minute Horrors by Various Artists – The blame for this one is placed solely on Debi. When I went to visit her in August, we took turns reading stories from this book with the whole family and it was one of the best memories I’ve made!! So glad to have this book now 🙂 (Bought it)

2. Drood by Dan SimmonsPat aka Deslily is getting the blame for this one! It was Susan that turned me on to Dan Simmons with The Terror and it’s Pat that’s keeping me hooked :p Now I just have to actually READ one of his books :p (bought it)

3. How Beautiful the Ordinary by Various – I’ve just been wanting to get this one for ages….it’s subtitled twelves stories of identity and I just really like that 🙂 It has a story by Julie Anne Peters, David Levithan, Francesa Lia Block, Emma Donoghue AND Margo Lanagan, among others…so it’s gotta be good 😉 (Bought it)

4. A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans – I can’t even remember where I first heard of this one!!! I know someone is to blame though!!! But it just sounds super cool…and I’m excited about it \o/ (bought it)

5. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett – Well the goal has been to read this one quickly so that I can read Wintersmith before Christmas, but that hasn’t happened yet and I don’t know if it will. But I so loved The Wee Free Men and had to get this one. Oh yeah, and Ana is totally getting a point for this (Bought it)

6. Better Off by Eric Brende – This is a book about a guy who goes a year living completely off of the grid! I thought it sounded really cool and I bet you anything that Debi had NO IDEA that she was getting a point for this book! One day I was spying on her paperback swap wishlist and found it there :p (bought it)

7. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – The oh so sweet Pat sent me her copy of this book!!! I was so freaking excited!!!! Heather is getting the point for it though after making me absolutely crave it!

8.Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden – Here’s another one that Ana made sound too good to pass up…one of the pioneers of lgbt literature..particularly lesbian YA. (paperback swap)

9. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – I still have absolutely no idea what this book is about :p But Debi assigned it to me for our book swap!! So she’s getting a point for it :p (Paperback Swap)

10. A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’EngleZach gets a point for this one!!!! That would be Renay’s boyfriend 😀 I was on twitter one night and learned that his twitter name, echthroi, comes from this book! And I haven’t read any more than A Wrinkle in Time in the time quartet…what made me most excited is that this is the same cover series as my edition of A Wrinkle in Time from when I was like 9 😀 😀 (Paperback Swap)

11. Tales of Terror From the Black Ship by Chris Priestly – I loved the first Tales of Terror books SO MUCH!! It was just fantastic. I learned about these from Carl so he’s getting a point for this one too! (bought it)

12. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by Andre Jordan – I’m actually shocked that I haven’t read this one yet. I’m dying to. From the Smiths reference to the adorable drawings to Ana’s great review, I know I’ll love it. Point to Ana. (bought it)

13. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett – Well despite the fact that Ana has been pushing me to read this one lately, it is actually DEBI that gets the point for it :p She reviewed it awhile back and I’ve been just dying to read it ever since!!! (bought it)

14.Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card – Yeah it’s a new series by Orson Scott Card…I had to get it. I started it and I’m enjoying it so far, but life has kept me occupied so I haven’t gotten too far! (bought it)

15. The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor – An unsolicited review copy!! Which I’m very excited about because this book looks TOTALLY up my alley!! I would be over the roof about getting unsolicited review copies if magic books that I love just showed up at my door all the time! (just showed up)

16. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft – For the women’s studies readalong that is going on next year!!! I’m so excited about it 😀 (paperback swap)

17. The Subtle Knife by Phillip PullmanAna’s fault again!! She assigned me this book after Debi assigned me the Golden Compass for our readalongs :p (Paperback Swap)

18. The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill – Another one for the women’s studies readalong! (paperback swap)

19. Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal – I’m super excited about this one!! Colin over at The Book Pirate gets a point for it. About a little Indian boy coming to terms with being gay. (paperback swap)

20. Saturday by Ian McEwan – I’ve been curious about this one for a long time now and the person that I requested Blue Boy had this in her inventory too! So I requested it 😀 (paperback swap)

21. Matched by Ally Condie – Believe it or not, Amanda gets the point for this one, lol. I didn’t know if I wanted to read it or not! but then she read it and said that she truly loved it. And I figured that if she did then it was truly good! Looking forward to it!! (bought it)

22. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacdonaldEva made me want to read this one immediately a couple of weeks ago in her sunday salon post! Sounds excellent! Point to Eva 🙂 (Paperback Swap)

23. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – LOVING THIS BOOK!!!! This is my current read right now! I wanted the perfect Christmas book and YEAH this is it…GO GET IT IF YOU WANT THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS BOOK TOO!!! (bought it)

Holy shit, that’s it *wraps hands in ice packs*

*peeks from behind curtain*

I am still here! I don’t know what’s been going on with me lately when it comes to blogging…well I do know :p It’s partly due to not reading ANYTHING at all really and partly due to some big life changes lately. Good life changes though…new introductions into my life that have made me really happy. It’s funny how something like that can make everything else in life like work and other stressors so much more tolerable.

Usually when I disappear from blogging, it’s bad…it’s because I’m not doing so good or I’m in a funk, or something like that. It’s rare that I disappear from blogging because things are going good. But things really are going good right now. But I really want to come back to blogging. I miss it. I just haven’t had much to talk about over on this space unfortunately. I haven’t gotten much reading done lately, though I definitely plan on doing some Christmas reading soon!! And I have an Advent tour post coming up.

Speaking of Christmas, anyone else finding it hard to get into the Christmas mood this year? Could have something to do with temps in the 80s here in New Orleans for a few days :/ We’re supposed to drop into the 30s though starting Monday!! I’m just worried about my poor garden 😦 None of my tomatoes are red yet, though they are big….I may end up with a whole bunch of green tomatoes from my fall/winter season…oh well, I can just have fried green tomatoes and green salsa :p

Today after work I wrapped a bunch of Christmas gifts and that helped a bit with getting me into the Christmas mood..something’s just missing though…just not there yet. I’m hoping to do some shopping this weekend though and sort of dedicating this weekend to getting into the Christmas mood!! I hope it works!! Hope to get back into this blogging thing too 🙂 So hopefully I’ll be seeing more of everyone!!