Wrapping Up 2011!

Sheesh! It’s that time of the year already!! I feel like I just did my 2010 wrap up! Though if I look back at this past year, so much has happened. Of course, the immediate thing that comes to mind is my relationship with Matt. This is by far the happiest I have ever been in a relationship. I don’t talk about us all that much on this blog because it’s not a super personal blog, but I will tell you all that I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I see big changes and more happiness coming in that area in 2012 🙂 Definitely grew professionally this year as well with my private practice continuing to expand. There were the downers…like dad going back into the hospital a couple of times…but…well he does it to himself and I’m not going to harp on that. I read some AMAZING books though this year!!!! I’ve also read the least amount of books ever since blogging, but I’m ok with that.

This year was a bit of a blogging funk all around. I’ve felt really shitty about the way I blogged this year. I blog because I love this community so much. I treasure my friendships with each and every one of you so much. And I feel like I let a lot of that slip through the cracks which makes me incredibly sad 😦 I barely responded to my comments. I posted so erratically. And I hit the “Mark all as read” button more times than I care to admit. So I hope to change that in 2012 and get back to the blogger I used to be.

Anyways, lets start the stats with my favorite books of 2011! I always surprise myself with this…when I go back and look at what I read, some of those books that I SWORE would be a favorite don’t hold that same magic and some that I didn’t think were a big deal ended up being favorites. Always happens. So in no certain order and with no certain limit (I’m not good at doing say a “top ten” list :p), here are my favs of 2011:

1. Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block – This collects all of her amazing Weetzie Bat books and wow weren’t these all amazing! For some reason I avoided these books for so long, but I’m so glad that I finally read this collection. Full of love, acceptance, individuality and hope. Just gorgeous books.

2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – This one actually exceeded my expectations, which is saying a lot right there. After the Chaos Walking trilogy, I wondered how he would ever follow it up. But he followed it up with something completely different and completely beautiful. A story of struggling with a truth that you don’t want to see. Beautiful characters, beautiful story and beautiful illustrations.

3. The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson – This one goes instantly onto my list of favorite books ever. Just amazing! The WORDS! OMG the WORDS. Some of the most poetic prose I’ve ever read. And a tale that is full of magic and folklore that is completely engrossing. I literally got lost in this world.

4. Two Weeks With the Queen by Morris Gleitzman – I found a new favorite author in Gleitzman after reading this book. I knew right away that after reading this, I’d need to read everything else that he wrote. Such a sad story but such an uplifting story at the same time with a genuine respect for all walks of life.

5. Wicked by Gregory Maguire – This was another one that I just didn’t think I’d like for so long. I didn’t think I’d ever read this one. And then I met Matt and he told me it was his favorite book. And I can see why! This is another new favorite. I will forever HATE Dorothy after reading this book. Maguire gives us Elphaba, the green witch, and shows her as the revolutionary woman that she is. God I loved this book….

6. Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante – I actually listened to this on audiobook and I think it’s the best experience I’ve ever had with an audiobook. The narrator was amazing, but even more amazing was this captivating story of a surgeon going through Alzheimer’s from a first person point of view as she’s questioned as a suspect in a murder. Incredible book.

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Good lord was this ever an amazing book!!!! I cannot WAIT for Erin Morgenstern to write more books. The circus itself was one of the most amazing characters ever. And it was complemented by the cast of magical humans and the tales of love that accompanied it. If you haven’t read this one yet, what are you waiting for?!

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – Another one that I ask myself why the HELL I waited so long to read! I expected a story of an intersex person…and that’s what I got, but the story was more than just Cal being intersex. It’s about this history of his family and those relationships and how they affected who he is and wow, it’s just an awe inspiring book!

9. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – Best Jack the Ripper tale that I’ve ever read. BOARDING SCHOOL…GHOSTS….MAUREEN JOHNSON! I think that the sequel to this one is currently one of my most anticipated books. It ended in a way that I cannot WAIT to read the next one!

10. Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen – I knew this one was going to be good ahead of time. You see…my dear friend Debi told me that it would be. And I trust her. BUT I didn’t know that it would TEAR ME APART. I’ve NEVER read a thriller that was like this before. McFadyen goes places that most authors just don’t go. I just can’t figure out why I haven’t read book two yet!

11. Kraken by China Mieville – So I’m only 100 pages into this one. And I haven’t even posted it to bad bloggers yet! Renay will be getting the point for this one. But DAMN this book is good and FILLED with WTF. I know know know that it will be a favorite of the year….that is IF I get it finished by the end of the year!!

And now for stats….my beloved stats:

Total Books Read for the Year: 70

Total Pages Read: 18,360

Comics/Graphic Novels: 15

Non-Fiction: 6 (this stat is kind of pathetic)

Short story collections/essays/anthologies: 5

Poetry: 2 (:/)

LGBT books: 16

By Women: 27 (Same as last year…exactly…this needs to improve)

By Men: 42 (Also the exact same as last year…how the hell did I pull THAT off??)

Chunksters (450+ pgs.): 7

Average number of pages per book: 262 pgs. (Which I have to say is about how I like my books :p)

Goals for next year: Read more women, more LGBT books, more nonfic, more poetry. Anyone have any good ideas for LGBT non fiction by women??? Sounds like those are the books I need :p Also, I would LOVE to finally read 100 books in the year, but I won’t make my happiness depend on that. I WILL be a better blogger, commenter, and reader. Hope everyone has an AMAZING 2012!!! Look forward to growing my friendships with you all 🙂

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Bad Bloggers…the Pre-Christmas Post

I figured I might as well get a bad bloggers post out of the way now, because it’s sure to be super overwhelming after Christmas…good lord, where am I going to put all of these books! Hope everyone is having a great holiday season 🙂 Wish I could hug each one of you individually. And can you believe it’s time to start getting our best of lists up already?? Good lord! Alright…here’s the damage:

1. Sonnets From the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barret Browning – I tried Ms. EBB once before and we didn’t get along so well…but I thought I’d try her AGAIN!!! And of course the point for this one goes to Jason (Paperback Swap)

2. Orlando by Virginia Woolf – Well I had to get this one…I’ve been wanting it for a long time. Virginia Woolf playing with gender…it’s gotta be good! (Paperback Swap)

3. The Accidental by Ali Smith – When I was ordering Orlando, I saw the same member had this book too! I’ve yet to read any Ali Smith and I don’t know anything about this book, but she’s just one of those authors that I have a feeling I’ll love. (Paperback Swap)

4. Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth by Chris Priestley – And so begins the bookcloseouts.com pile. Guys, I got like 14 books for $40. Couldn’t pass it up!! And this is one of them. Carl introduced me to this series of spooky tales a couple of years back and I’m hooked! Point to Carl. (Bought it)

5. Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings by Pamela Nagami, M.D. – Saw this one on book closeouts and bought it based on the title. Sounds like my kind of nonfic! (Bought it)

6. How they Met and Other Stories by David Levithan – Debi bought this book when I was with her in New York and after flipping through it I knew I wanted my very own copy. So here it is! Point to Debs. (Bought it)

7. The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard – I don’t even remember what this book is about or who I learned of it from :/ I should really start keeping track of that. My memory is not the most reliable method….But I haz it now! (Bought it)

8. If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous – I don’t know who the blame goes to for this one either 😦 I feel like lots of people have reviewed this one though…so if you want to claim a point for this book OR The Secret Year, just let me know :p (Bought it)

9. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman – This just sounded really good!! (Bought it)

10. Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman – I want to say that Amy recommended this one. Didn’t you Amy? Anyway, you get a point 🙂 I’ve always loved this cover too! (Bought it)

11. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 by Liza Picard – I think this is the book I’m most excited about in this stack!! Ana reviewed this one awhile ago and it just sounds like an incredibly fun book. Point to Ana. (Bought it)

12. The Impostor’s Daughter: A True Memoir by Laurie Sandell – If I recall correctly, Ana wasn’t even that crazy about this one, but she still made it sound like something I need to read…she tends to do that. Point to Ana. (Bought it)

13. Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek – Well first off, I love the title of this book and the cover. I saw it on Debi’s Paperback Swap wishlist and so I stole it from her :p She gets a point for this one. (Bought it)

14. Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner – This is one that Pat reviewed quite a while ago, but it’s been sitting prominently on the wishlist ever since she did review it. Sounds good! Point to Pat! (Bought it)

15. Salt, Lemons, Vinegar and Baking Soda – This is an awesome little reference book that I found in Barnes and Noble’s bargain section…I can see myself using this one a LOT when I get my own house to keep everything clean the natural way! (Bought it)

16. The Best American Poetry of 2011 ed. by Kevin Young – All Lu’s fault!! She said that this was a really good one and I’ve been craving poetry lately. Looks like an incredibly cool collection! Point to Lu! (Bought it)

17. The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2011 ed. by Mary Roach – So this book just sounds like a dream come true. It’s SCIENCE and NATURE edited by MARY ROACH! How could it be bad??? (Bought it)

18. Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country by Suvir Saran – This sounds AWESOME. It’s a book written by an Indian American who moves onto a farm and raises his own food. And as the title suggests, it’s filled with recipes and stories and beautiful pictures! Just found this at Barnes and Noble…hadn’t heard of it before, but it was screaming at me READ ME. (Bought it)

19. Sons and Lover by D.H. Lawrence – Jonathan Carroll tweeted a quote from this book one night and the quote was so beautiful that I had to get the book. I hadn’t had a desire to read it before now. Point to Jonathan Carroll. (Paperback Swap)

20. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America by Lillian Faderman – hadn’t heard of this one before, but saw it on Paperback Swap and had to get it just for the title. I actually started wondering if maybe Ana HAD reviewed this because it sounds like something she would love..hmmmm…I should check! (Paperback Swap)

21. Flood by Stephen Baxter – FINALLY. I don’t know why I haven’t bought this until now. Renay has wanted me to read this for awhile now and it’s really intriguing to me. So I saw a copy at Barnes and Noble today when I was finishing my Christmas shopping and said “screw it, I’m getting it.” Point to Renay! (Bought it)

22. Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Yay surprise ARCs that sound really good!!!! I actually don’t get many ARCs..like pretty much none at all. But every now and then a publisher will surprise me with one and they end up sounding really good. Like this one! I read the first few pages as soon as I opened it because I loved the cover and it looks like it’s a futuristic steampunk retelling of Cinderellla. Awesome. (Review Copy)

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

I went into this book assuming that it was an lgbt book, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a book about differences…a book that questions traditional gender roles and points out stereotypes based on the readers thoughts alone upon reading the title. At least, this reader’s thoughts I should say. We equate boys wearing dresses as being gay, but this is not the case in this book. That’s a stereotype…boys who wear dresses must be feminine and if you’re a feminine male then you MUST be gay. I always say that this logic drives me mad, but here I am, drawing the same conclusions. Let me tell you what this book IS about.

This book is about a boy who likes to wear dresses. The boy in question is Dennis and he’s a delightful character! His mom left the family when he was a young boy and all he has left as a memory of her is a charred picture. He now lives with his brother and father and his favorite pasttime is football…and by football I mean soccer :p But he has another thing he loves too, fashion. Though he is not ashamed of his love for fashion, he keeps it hidden from others because he knows it’ll draw ridicule. But it all comes out when his father finds a Vogue magazine hidden under his mattress.

Dennis feels extremely alone and rejected until he meets Lisa, a girl two years his senior who he has a huge crush on. He comments to her one day on how beautiful her dress sketches are and before he knows it he’s in her room poring over Vogue magazines with her. And then he’s in a dress. A dress that Lisa designed that she thinks he’ll look wonderful in. And once he puts it on, he feels wonderful.

From here, the story takes flight, though I won’t tell you what else happens. I do think the ending was a bit over the top and not probably in reality, but that’s my ONLY complaint about this book! This book was wonderful. It might be the most direct book I’ve ever read at challenging gender checkboxes. Men can love fashion just as much as some women can. Women can dislike fashion just as much as some men can. But society tends to slap us on the wrist for thinking that way. And you’re automatically labeled “gay” if you don’t fit into those norms.

Oh, I need to add that Quentin Blake did all of the illustrations for this book which added an even bigger charm to it. Quentin Blake is the famous illustrator who illustrated most of Roald Dahl’s books. He did an amazing job at capturing the book and the characters. Definitely one to go onto the shelves.

I'll Be Home For Christmas…

I totally failed at the Advent Calendar this year. I was supposed to post yesterday, December 8th :/ I’m so sorry, Kelly and Marg!!! I felt horrible and asked Kelly if I could still join in because I love the Advent Calendar and she gave me the ok 🙂 I’ve been a stranger lately. I’m not going to apologize (again) because I’m sure you all must get sick of me saying “sorry I’ve been a stranger!!” but I really do miss being around more often. Mainly, stress has me bogged down. And I won’t get into all of that because this is a HAPPY CHRISTMAS POST!!! But I will tell you about one stressor. And it’s a GREAT stress, but it’s still stress. I’m looking for a house! As in, a house to buy! While this excites me more than I can say, it’s also sad because this’ll most likely be the last Christmas that I’m here at home with my mom and sister. At least for early in the morning. So I thought I’d talk a little about our Christmas traditions. The stuff I’ll miss.

Christmas has always been a huge deal here at the Howard household for as long as I can remember. There are those embarassing videos of me and my sister opening our gifts in our underwear and a big tshirt and acting like total nuts when we get something really cool. But I love the videos so much. My mom has always spoiled the hell out of us for Christmas. I’m not even going to lie. Every year, our expectations are blown out of proportion when we see the tree on Christmas morning. And me and my sister still get excited on Christmas morning.

When we were kids, the tradition was to sleep in the same bed and try to stay up ALL NIGHT (which never actually happened) waiting for Santa to come so that we could hear him. Eventually, we’d pass the hell out when our bodies crashed from excitement. But as soon as one of us would wake up we’d go jump on my mom’s bed and wake her up. NOW came the real anticipation. And this still happens. Once we woke my mom up, we’d have to wait in the hallway behind closed doors while she brewed a pot of coffee, made some pillsbury cinnamon rolls and put on the Christmas music. Then we could finally charge in and sit by our humongous piles of pressies.

Before we could open up our presents though, we would have to throw the mouse on the floor. Yes, you heard that right. We have this Christmas countdown calendar that we’ve had FOREVER. I think my mom got it from Avon or something. It’s seen better days at this point, but we still hang it every year. It has a little spot to move a mouse forward each day counting down to Christmas. And since there’s no “25” on the calendar, me and my sister would make a tradition of throwing the mouse on the floor on Christmas morning.

We’ve had new traditions over the years. My favorite is the creepy snowman. My mom bought this thing and it freaked my sister out one year. Yes, it looks nice and sweet, but it also looks like it’s freaking ALIVE and staring at you. So me and my sister have made a tradition of freaking each other out with it :p I’ll put it right in front of her door so that when she opens it it’s just standing there and then she’ll put it in my bed under the sheets and then I’ll put it in the shower to freak her out when she goes in there, etc. etc. Right now, it’s standing on the side of her dresser so that when she gets home and lays in bed, it’ll be staring directly at her :p

So yeah…I’m gonna miss a lot of this stuff. A lot. But I know there will be new Christmas memories made along the way too and new traditions formed. Can’t wait to see what they are 🙂

The Misfits by James Howe

Oh this book. It was good. It was really good. But I was sad when I finished it. Though it doesn’t end sad. I was sad because I got this book because of Dewey. And I would’ve loved to be able to talk to her about this book. I used to always go look on Dewey’s Bookmooch wishlist and see what she was interested in reading. And then of course, I would steal those books and add them to my own wishlist :p Well, The Misfits was one of those books. And I have a feeling she really would’ve loved this one. It sums up what Dewey used to embrace and the causes she championed.

The Misfits is about a group of four kids who don’t fit in too well at school and are picked on frequently. Addie is really tall for her age and is really smart too so she gets picked on. Joe is gay and happens to also be pretty feminine most of the time. Skeezie is one of those poor kids (like I was) who’s just greasy all the time. And Bobby, our narrator is a little chubby. All of these kids are WONDERFUL. I loved them all so much. And I wish I could’ve had their initiative as a child.

They take their “problems” and try to make the world a better place because of them. They run together for student council as a new party called the “No Name Party”. Complete with signs all over that say names that they’ve been called with a line drawn through them. Howe does a wonderful job of showing how amazing these kids truly are, though doesn’t hide that they have flaws too. For instance, Addie originally wants a black kid to run for president just because he’s black…she thinks it will help their cause. Which of course is pretty much being just as racist as calling someone a name. It was the one thing that bugged me in the book, but then it didn’t too because he was making the point that it was wrong to single someone out regardless of your reasoning behind it.

I could’ve used this book as a kid. I got picked on for being too girly and for being fat when I was in school. I think bullying is one of the absolute worst problems we have. It affects you for the rest of your life. You never completely recover from being bullied. I see kids come into the hospital all the time because of suicide attempts because of bullying. If there was one cause I could champion, it would be ending bullying. People just don’t realize how horrible it is and the lifelong, catastrophic effect it has on people. I’d love to see this book made required reading in school. Overall, fantastic book.