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.