Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 In Review

In just a couple of hours, 2009 will be over.  For the first time, I kept a list of all the books that I read this past year.  I'm disappointed in that I read only 65 books this past year (I got distracted with a Lost rewatch.  I also started Battlestar Galactica this year and have been consumed with watching that series).  In looking over the books I read the past year, I see books by old favorites such as Michael Connelly and Janet Evanovich (what is a year without Harry Bosch and Stephanie Plum).  I started dabbling in graphic novels which I am enjoying.  Plus, I had my yearly reread of the Harry Potter series (this  year I listened to every book and that was a huge undertaking).  I didn't start this blog until a couple of months ago, so there were some fantastic books that I read but haven't mentioned before that I'd like to say just a few words about.

For any fan of Twilight, I suggest that you try Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series.  Now, don't get mad at me Twilight fans (because I'm one of you also - go Team Jacob) but the Vampire Academy books are awesome. The characters are better developed than Twilight and the story is much more compelling.  Plus, one of my biggest problems with Bella of Twilight is that she's not very strong as a woman.  Rose, the heroine of Vampire Academy, lets nobody walk over her.  I love that about her.  Richelle Mead also becomes a stronger writer with each book.  By the time I got to Blood Promise, the fourth book, I couldn't believe the difference in the writing from book one.  So, if you're not too impressed after the first book, keep going.  It gets impressive.

For science fiction fans, I recommend you give Kristin Kathryn Rusch's Retrieval Artist series a try.  I listened to this entire series this year and enjoyed it a lot.  The series takes place in the future when humans have colonized other planets.  They're basically detective novels but they take place in outer space with aliens, interspecies laws, and space ships. 

One my favorite books this year was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.  This is a straight up mystery novel that follows eleven year old Flavia de Luce as she solves a murder in 1950s England.  Flavia is a chemist who has a fondness for poisons.  One day, she finds a body in the cucumber patch outside her family's kitchen. Flavia decides that only she has what it takes to solve the murder.  This book is highly engaging.  What amazed me most about it is that Alan Bradley sold his character so well that I had absolutely no difficulty in believing that an eleven year old was capable of solving this murder.

Those are just a few of the books from 2009 that I really enjoyed.  Now let's see if we can  make some progress on my To Be Read pile in 2010.  Happy New Year!


Catching Fire

Catching Fire is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  The book picks up after the events of The Hunger Games.  Katniss and Peeta have returned home after winning the Hunger Games and are attempting to adjust to life back in their District.  But everything is far from good in Panem.  There are rumors of a rebellion against the Capitol and Katniss has become the unwilling face of the rebellion which makes her and Peeta and everyone they love enemies of the Capitol. 

I loved The Hunger Games and had very high hopes for Catching Fire - and Suzanne Collins did not disappoint.  It was odd.  I bought this book off Audible as soon as it came out but I kept it letting it sit on my iPod and never got around to listening to it.  I had no problems postponing it while I listened to other books.  But, once I started listening to it, I found it impossible to turn off.  (Carolyn McCormick does an excellent job narrating this series by the way.)  There were plenty of things that I saw coming in the story but that didn't detract from it all.  I highly recommend this series to everybody. I eagerly anticipate the release of the third book in August 2010; however, the release will be bittersweet.  Once I read the third book, I'll have reached the end of the series. Like Harry, Ron and Hermoine, I'll only be able to visit Katniss and Peeta in rereads (or fan fiction!)

Also, if you would like to explore more of Suzanne Collins' work, I advise you to give The Underland Chronicles a try.  They're fantasy books also but have a very different tone than The Hunger Games.  There's a lot of humor in them and they're good reads.  The Underland Chronicles are also  more suitable for younger audiences than The Hunger Games.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ink Exchange

Ink Exchange is Melissa Marr's follow up to the book Wicked Lovely.  This book follows Leslie, one of Aislinn's best frinds, as she struggles to deal with her personal demons.  Leslie decides to get a tattoo to sybolize the changes she wants to have in her life.  When she sees the tattoo of a beautiful pair of wings in the tattoo shop, she knows that it's the one for her.  Little does she know the changes it will bring to her life.  For after she gets the tattoo, Leslie is bound to the Dark Court of the fearie that world that she knows nothing about.

Although Ink Exchange does move over and follow Leslie's introduction to the Fearie world, Keenan, Seth and Aislinn from the first book are there also in the background.  Marr also gives us new characters and allows the readers to see things from the point of the view of the Dark Court.  She allows us to see that the Dark Court isn't all evil and that there are shades of grey in everything. Now I'm off to read the next chapter to the series, Fragile Eternity.

This was book 1 in the 101 Fantasy Reading Challenge.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waiting for Columbus

I had been hearing people talk about Thomas Trofimuk's book Waiting for Columbus every time I turned around so, I finally broke down and bought the audiobook from Audible.  The book is narrated by Grover Gardner and he does an excellent job.  (I think I might end up doing a search for him on Audbile to see what else he has narrated).  So what's the story about?  This mysterious man is found in the Straits of Gibraltar and is taken to a mental hospital in Spain. He insists he is Christopher Columbus.  Throughout the story, Columbus tells stories to Nurse Consuela (who is falling in love with the storyteller).  These stories tell about the loves of Christopher Columbus, of Columbus' struggle to get his ships and sail around the world, Columbus' fear of the Inquisition and his relationship with Queen Isabella.  The stories are beautiful fantasies that have details of modern items interspersed in them (such as telephones) so that you never quite believe they are true but you desperately want them to be true.  As Columbus tells his stories, Nurse Consuela and the doctors at the institution are trying to figure out who this man is and what has made him disappear into this fantasy world. 

Overall, this was one of the best books I've read in a long time.  At times, the story would slow down a bit but I didn't really realize it because Trofimuk uses language so well.  His descriptions, his word choice, his sentence structure are all unique and enchanting. Numerous times I found myself thinking "I would never have thought to use that description" or "what an odd way to write that sentence."  Plus, there was a very interesting point of view change in the book that I still haven't quite figured out the reason for but I can tell it was deliberate.  On top of that, it's not often that a narrator reads a story to where I can feel the sentence structure and nuances of the language and Grover Gardner did that. 

I definitely recommend this book to anybody who loves a good story.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx

A Jury of Her Peers is a comprehensive look at the history of American women writers from the founding of America to the modern times. It examines women writers and gives a thorough study of each writer but Elaine Showalter never overdoes it.  She seems to know that line between not enough information and too much information.  The book is basically a textbook but it makes very good reading.  I love reading about the history of women and the marks that women have made on history.  The stories of amazing things that other women have done over the years inspire me to do more with my life and make me feel that if they can do it, so can I. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Extras is the fourth novel in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. It takes place after the events in Specials.  I was a bit concerned when I saw that Westerfeld was introducing readers to a new set of characters and leaving Tally, David and Shay behind.  But, it didn't take long for me to get enchanted with the new world.  Extras follows the adventures of Aya Fuse and takes place in Japan.  In Aya's world, people are given a face rank by how popular they are.  Everybody has their own cameras that follow them around and the city system monitors how often they are being talked about. If you're being talked about, your face rank gets higher and you're more famous. In this world, the famous people have everything.  The other people have to do good deeds and behave well in order to earn merits to get things. Aya's face rank is so low that she's just an "extra" in her world.  She longs to be so much more and when she stumbles upon the story of her life, her dreams of being famous come true. The only problem is the people trying to kill her for what she's discovered. 

Extras is just as fun as the other three books in this series.  It is packed with action and has strong underlying themes about what it means to be famous and how much is it worth to be famous.  Is it worth betraying your friends?  Plus, Westerfeld keeps everybody happy with appearings from our old favorites Tally and the other Cutters. Westerfeld also gives a nice twist on the name of the book at the end. I highly recommend this series.  Who knows, maybe Westerfield will keep the Uglies series going.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Specials is the third book in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy.  In this book, Tally and her best friend, Shay, have been transformed into Specials and made a new division of Special Circumstances called Cutters. This is a task force intended to hunt down and eradicate the New Smoke - their former friends.  But try as she might, Tally can't completely get rid of her fondness and love for the people in New Smoke or their cause.  So she is left to decide: embrace her new life as a Special and kill the New Smoke people or find away to take down the regime in charge of her City and start a new way of life for everybody.

I keep expecting the novelty of these books to wear off but it never does.  These books are well written, fast paced and intriguing.  Tally is a girl that is easy to identify with and to want to be.  I  had seen these books around the bookstores for a long time and thought they looked good but I never made that leap to picking them up and reading them.  Thanks to the Books on the Nighstand reading challenge and the Bart's Bookshelf reading challenge for giving me the incentive to finally pick them up and read them.  I'm glad I did.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Dead and The Gone

The Dead and the Gone is the follow up to Susan Beth Pfeffer's follow up to Life As We Knew It.  This book takes place in the same post-apocalyptic world as Life As We Knew It except that it's in New York City.  Seventeen year old Alex Morales and his two younger sisters, Briana and Julie, are left to survive on their own as both of their parents go missing on the day that the asteroid hits the moon.  Alex feels the pressure of having to fight to keep both of his sister's alive and safe.  New York City becomes a wasteland - people are fighting for food, getting sick, and dying in the streets (from hunger, riots, suicide and the elements).  As Alex and his sister go to school, they fight to get around rats that are eating the bodies on the streets. 

This book was just as enthralling as Life As We Knew It.  I couldn't bring myself to stop reading it once I started.  Pfeffer makes it impossible not to identify and feel for the characters.  The world she writes is believable.  Also, it doesn't seem like some distant future.  It could be tomorrow or tonight and we could be in the same situation as her characters.  I highly recommend both of these books.  And, although they both take place after the same event, they involve different characters so you can read them in any order. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So, I just finished reading Pretties by Scott Westerfeld.  I think it just might have been better than Uglies, book one in the series.  In this book, Tally has become a pretty.  She has everything she ever wanted - beauty, fun clothes, a boyfriend, and the world at her fingertips.  Tally is very popular because of her previous life of crime with the Rusties.  But, underneath it all, Tally feels like something is missing. She gets even more confused when her memories of her time in the Smoke start coming back to her and she begins to feel a longing for that life.  This book was very engrossing.  Every time I was forced to put it down because my lunch hour was over or it was time to go to bed, I felt a slight sense of loss.  Why, oh why, didn't I go ahead and put the next book on hold with the library?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Soul to Lose

My Soul to Lose was a complete surprise for me.  Audible offered it as a free audiobook to their members and I downloaded it and listened to it.  It was short - only two hours; however, it was captivating.  Kaylee Cavanaugh is a teenager who lives with her aunt and uncle.  Kaylee suffers from what she calls panic attacks.  In reality, she has the ability to tell when someone is about to die.  This ability causes her great pain and lands her in a mental institution when she has a breakdown at the mall. 

I enjoyed listening to this book a lot and found myself wanting more at the end.  I felt like the story was just getting started good when it ended.  Luckily, there is a sequel! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Syren, Septimus Heap, Book 5

Syren is the fifth book of the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage.  Before I get into Syren, I'd like to say just a bit about the series in general.  For those of you that have never read these books - get them and read them.  You won't regret it.  The Septimus Heap books are about a young orphaned boy who finds out when he's about ten that (1) he's not really an orphan and (2) he's a wizard.  Septimus is actually the seventh son of a seventh son so, according to legend, he's supposed to be a powerful wizard.  Septimus becomes the extraordinary wizard's apprentice and from that point on the books focus on Septimus' "training" and the scrapes that he gets into as he grows. 

At first, I thought the series was going to be a lot like Harry Potter (young orphaned boy who finds out that he's a wizard) but they ended up being completely different.  Yes, both series involve young boys and magic but the Septimus Heap books are more humorous than dark.  Also, they are obviously geared towards a slightly younger audience.  Angie Sage does an amazing job of using words.  These books make me laugh out loud.  I have listened to every one of them on audiobooks narrated by Gerard Doyle.  Doyle is one of the best narrators out there and does a wonderful job of making the characters come alive.

In Syren, Septimus finds himself stranded on one of the Islands of Syren with his best friend, Beetle, and Princess Jenna and his dragon, Spitfyre.  Septimus' brother Nikko and Snorri also end up on the island.  Septimus learns that the Syren is involved in a plot to take over the castle and the Wizard Tower and sets out to rescue everyone.  This story involves syrens, djinn, cat men, and evil pirates - so there is plenty of adventure for everyone.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Caring for Our Parents

Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to  America's Most Urgent Health Care Crisis is a book that I've been reading in bits and pieces here and there.  I picked it up at the library because I, myself, am taking care of my parents.  I found this book inspiring even though I cried nearly all the way through it.  It is made up of stories about families mostly like mine who have rearranged their lives in order to care for elderly or disabled parents.  It also goes into the difficulties in dealing with Medicare, Medicaid, long term care, private pay insurance and other things that most people don't realize go into caring for someone at home (such as how at times just getting a loved one up and to the bathroom can be an adventure).  It was a well written and moving book and it helps to know that other families are dealing with the same issues mine is.

Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix takes place in a not distant future.  About twenty years ago, the government became worried that the population was outgrowing the food supply; therefore, they enacted a law that outlawed families having more than two children.  This creates a world of third children that live hidden within their homes.  Luke is one of these Shadow Children.  His family is a poor farming family but because they are farmers and have no neighbors, Luke is able to spend some time outdoors playing with his brothers and the farm animals.  Then, one day the government takes their land to build a subdivision.  This forces Luke to have to hide even more carefully in his home.  He is no longer allowed to eat at the dinner table or to go into any room with a window.  Luke is confined mostly to his attic room and the stairwell.  Then, one day, Luke notices another face in the window of the house next door - a house where he already knows two other children live.  Luke meets the girl next door, Jen, and she introduces him to a world of other third children via the internet.  Jen and her friends are planning a rebellion to give third children the freedom to live.

Again, this book was a very easy read but I enjoyed it a lot.  Peterson does a great job of character development and, as a reader, I felt Luke's fear as he gained the courage to meet Jen or hid from the Population Police.  Unfortunately, this adds six more books to my "to read" stack as I definitely need to know what happens to Luke in his bid to become a free third child living his life and not hiding in the shadows of the attic.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bart's Bookshelf YA-Dystopian Reading Challenge

So it turns out that Bart's Bookshelf is also doing an YA dystopian fiction challenge.  In that one, you need to read between 1 and 4 books between October 15th and the end of the year.  This one works so nicely with the Books on the Nightstand challenge that I can't help but do both!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick is the third book I read for the Books on the Nightstand DystopYA Reading Challenge.  Actually, I listened to this audiobook - on actual cassette tapes!  I hadn't done that in forever but it was the only audio format that my library had it in.  It was a decent audiobook although the narrator's voice bothered me a little bit but I think it was just her attempt to speak like a young girl.  Please forgive me for any misspellings in this post but I'm guessing as to how the names of people and places are spelled.  Since I listened to the book, I didn't actually see the spellings. 

In Floodland, the seas have risen to cover most of the land in the world due to global warming.  The story follows Zoe, a young girl who has lost her family and is by herself in Norridge - a small island off what I think might have been England.  Zoe finds a boat and escapes from Norridge but ends up on an even smaller island that was very Lord of the Flies-like.  She meets characters with names like Doobie, Spat and Munchkin (I kept think of The Wizard of Oz every time that name was said). On this island, Zoe struggles with other inhabitants over her possessions and her mere autonomy as she tries to escape and find her parents on the mainland.

I enjoyed the story but at times I found myself drifting from the audio.  It didn't keep my attention as well as most books do.  I had a hard time empathizing with Zoe because she would jump back and forth from being an ingenious girl to acting like the child was.  Her character wasn't consistent.  I had guessed the ending partially through the book. Yet, at the same time, I wanted just a little bit more at the end. 


Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is the second book I read for the Books on the Nightstand reading challenge.  Fifteen year old Tally lives in a world where people are separated by whether they are ugly or pretty.  In this world, every person starts off as an Ugly.  On their sixteenth birthday, they receive an operation that turns them into a Pretty.  At this point, they're able to move over to New Pretty Town and begin of a life of fun and partying.  Tally can't wait for the day she gets to become a Pretty.

However, Tally's new friend, Shay, isn't quite so ready to be made "pretty."  She likes her face as it is. Shay runs away just before hers and Tally's sixteenth birthday.  Tally is then forced to choose between turning her friend in or never turning pretty. 

This book is a very easy read and it's a good story. It's well written and manages to be entertaining and thought provoking at the same time.  It challenges our ideas of how we define pretty.  Through Tally, we also see what it means to be a person that challenges society's conventions and beliefs.  I am curious to see how Westerfield continues his ideas through the remaining books.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It  by Susan Beth Pfeffer was the first book I read for the Books on the Nightstand DystopYA Reading Challenge.  Somehow I had never heard of this book. I ordered it from the library and rushed down to pick it up when it came in.  The first thing I thought when I got was "What a cool cover!"  Life as We Knew It follows a young high school girl, Miranda, and her family as they deal with the fallout from an asteroid colliding with the moon.  The world is thrown back into the 20th century as schools are closed, gas prices soar, the weather changes and choas ensues.  Families are left scrounging for food in freezing winters with no heat. 

The story is told in the form of a journal kept by Miranda as events unfold. The first person point of view allowed the author to pull me in very quickly.  I felt connected to Miranda.   I started reading the book at 10:00 at night intending to read just the first chapter or two before I went to bed.  Four hours later I put the book down after reading the last page.  Imagine my surprise when I learned there's a second book in the series.  I can't wait to read that one.

Reading Challenges

For the first time in my life, I'm going to do some reading challenges.  I first got interested when I heard about the DystopYA Reading Challenge over at Books on the Nightstand.   Since I read a lot of dystopic fiction as it is, and young adult fiction is a favorite, I thought what could it hurt to combine the two?  I'm afraid I got a little carried away though.  I ordered every book I found on the BOTN website and over on Goodreads.  And now I have a pile of books as tall as my nightstand to read. 

On the recommendation of a good friend of mine over at the Swimming in Books blog, I am also going to make an attempt at the 101 Fantasy Reading Challenge at A Bibliophile's Bookshelf blog.  I've already read a lot of the fantasy books but there's a lot on the list that I've always wanted to read and never got around to them.  So, hopefully this will inspire to read them. 


Since this is my first post, I figure I should tell you a little bit about me.  I'm 33 years old and live in northwest Georgia.  I majored in English in college.  Mainly, I studied English because I love to read and figured that line of study would give me plenty of opportunity to read. I just didn't realize that I would end up spending all my time reading stuff that I didn't really care about and my "to be read" stack would just keep getting taller.  Now that I'm out of college and in the real world, I find that life interrupts my reading but I this past year I made a concentrated effort to read and try to get through some of the fascinating books out there. 

My guilty addiction is sci-fi/fantasy - both in literature and TV shows.  I love the classics like Lord of the Rings, The Dark is Rising, and The Chronicles of Narnia; but I flock to a lot of YA fiction series, too:  Harry Potter, The Inheritance Trilogy, The Inkheart Series, the Septimus Heap books, the Vampire Academy novels  and, yes, even Twilight is on that list.   Often times, I find myself sitting down and watching whole seasons of Lost or Supernatural or Stargate: Atlantis or X-files (the show that introduced me to science fiction).  The show with the absolute most rewatchability is Firefly.  (Browncoats forever!)   

I've never done this kind of thing before but I hope you guys will stick with me as I learn.