Here’s my 2010 year in reading review. The survey is courtesy of the Perpetual Page-Turner

1. Best book of 2010? The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. As I mentioned in my mini-review, this book had many of the individual characteristics that typically lead me to dislike a book, yet Udall made them work incredibly well.  If you’re a fan of literary fiction or are interested in stories about polygamist culture, definitely pick this one up.

1b. Runners up: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

2. Worst book of 2010? Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela Choi. My brain felt dirty for days after I finished this dark novel.

2b. Runners up: Arsonist’s Guide to the Writer’s Homes of New England by Brock Clarke (apparently I have issues with homicidal narrators), Something Blue by Emily Giffin

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010? The Possessed by Elif Batuman. I had very high hopes for this intellectual semi-memoir, but it suffered from an identity crisis.

3b. Runners up: Adam & Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. Why did I not read this sooner? Oh yeah, my chick lit phobia. Well, this was my year for getting over several of my genre biases, and I’m glad I did.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, How to be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

6. Best series you discovered in 2010? Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (a trilogy counts, right?)

7. Favorite author you discovered in 2010? Brady Udall

8. Most hilarious read of 2010? Didn’t read much in the way of humor this year.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010? The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. Yes, it came out in 2009, but it took a few months for me to give up on the miles long library hold list and buy this one.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010? Oh dear. I don’t pay enough attention to book covers to answer this one!

12. Most memorable character in 2010? Oscar Wao

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? So What Are You Going to Do with That? by Basalla and Debelius because it was a part of the wrestling-with-career-quitting-job-going-to-library-school episode that defined 2010 for me.

15. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read? Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Other 2010 reading details:

I read 79 books this year. This is by far the most I’ve read since I started keeping a reading journal in 2001, though much of that I credit to the speedy reading of graphic novels and fantasy books.

Fiction: 63

Short stories: 2

Graphic novels: 7

Fantasy / Sci-Fi: ~25

Nonfiction: 16

*Image courtesy of bookwoman.org

75. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire – While I didn’t enjoy Son of a Witch as much as Wicked, it was an interesting sequel for those who want more of the story. And a PSA: if you’ve only seen the musical of Wicked and haven’t read the book, you’ve missed out. The well-developed plot and strong, strange characters pulled me into the book but were largely missing from the show.

76. Firebird by Mercedes Lackey – More of Lackey’s fairy tale/fantasy world.

77. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop – The best thing I can say about this book is that it reminded me why I’ve always been skeptical of book recommendations. I think lovely book bloggers have lulled me into a feeling of trust lately because your recommendations introduce me to so many awesome books. Daughter of the Blood (first book in the Black Jewels series) was recommended to me by someone who shared my enjoyment of Lackey’s fantasy books, but our opinions on Bishop’s writing differed sharply because, well, I hated it. My issue was not necessarily the violence or perversion, but the writing itself. The Black Jewels series is wildly popular, so if you’re a fan of paranormal romance, go ahead and give them a try. I’ll file this under “I am most definitely not the target audience.”

78. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – This is the first book of the Uglies trilogy, and I would highly recommend it to fans of the Hunger Games books. While Uglies is not as well-developed or entrancing as The Hunger Games, the story is still interesting and worth a read. I loved that the trilogy is set in a dystopian world that believes it’s a utopia.

79. The English American by Alison Larkin – This is the story of an adopted girl who grew up in a British family who finally meets her birth family from the American south. It was a quick, enjoyable read that I would recommend to others who are curious about the stories of people who were adopted, even if parts of the novel are a bit ridiculous.

68. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – Yes, I’m a couple of years behind on this one. I enjoyed the story, though the reviews were so glowing that the book struggled to live up to them at times. This is the story of a Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey, a “ghetto nerd” who doesn’t fit in anywhere. The book is in turns funny and sad, and I would certainly recommend it.

69. One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey – I’ve written plenty about Lackey this year, so I won’t ramble too much on this one. Her 500 Kingdoms books have been hit and miss, but I would recommend this one to fans of fantasy lit with (surprise, surprise) strong, smart female characters.

70. Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey – Oh look! More Lackey. Her books make such good mid-semester easy reading. Fortune’s Fool is another of the better books from the 500 Kingdoms collection.

71. Adam and Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund – Oh dear. I don’t want to give this one a bad review because I enjoyed Naslund’s earlier books so much, but it just wasn’t good. In Adam and Eve, Naslund tells the story of the widow of an astronomer who has made a discovery that will change how we view religion and the origin of the universe. Sounds interesting, right? Instead Naslund creates a modern day Adam (mentally ill former soldier) and Eve (astronomer’s widow) and devotes much of the book to their time stranded in the middle of nowhere. Meh. To see how lovely Naslund can be, pick up Ahab’s Wife or Four Spirits instead.

72. The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey – You know how I said the 500 Kingdoms books were hit and miss? This would be a miss. She jumped between too many stories in the first half of the book, which left me struggling to get attached to the story or the characters.

73. The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey – This is the first of Lackey’s Elemental Masters books, all of which I have enjoyed. The stories are very loosely based on fairy tales, and it’s interesting to see the elements of the original tale pop up in the narrative. The Serpent’s Shadow is based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but in this version the “Snow White” character is a doctor struggling in turn-of-the-century London society because she’s a female doctor and part Indian, not to mention a mage with a mysterious enemy.

74. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville – Un Lun Dun was a sleeper success for me. I struggled to get into this YA book as I read the first 1/3, but the alternate version of London (ahem: un-London)  ended up hooking me in with its quirky take on language. Recommended for YA as well as not so young adults interested in a fun adventure with a not too preachy environmental message.

Have an incredibly good New Year’s Eve!

 

Happy holidays from our cat house to yours!

58.White Teeth by Zadie Smith – This book wasn’t as good as I had expected it to be based on all of the buzz, but it was an incredibly good first novel. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the mingling (and crashing) of different cultures.

59. Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold – Read this one based on a strong recommendation and wasn’t disappointed. This is the sequel to The Curse of Chalion, but I read it without reading the first book and didn’t feel that I missed anything (though I will go back and read it eventually).  Recommended for those who like fantasy but prefer their queens to be able to think for themselves.

60. This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson – A hit and miss book recommended for future librarians. I nearly threw it out the window because of the incredibly long chapter on Second Life (book was pub’d in 2010, and Second Life became old news circa 2007), but otherwise I found it interesting and informative.

61. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – More than enough articles and blog posts have already been written about this lovely trilogy, so I will just say: believe them! I loved these books (as has everyone I’ve talked to about them), and the story was so compelling and easy to read that I raced through the series at full speed. There are rumors of a movie, and I hope they do the characters justice.

62. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games book 2

63. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games book 3

64. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami – Enjoyable memoir by the author of Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood that talks about far more than just running. Though it will be of particular interest to the niche group of  runners who love literature (like me!), it would also appeal to those who only match half of that group (either readers of Murakami or people who enjoy thoughtful books on running).

65. Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela Choi – I’m trying unsuccessfully to come up with something positive to say about this book. Here’s all I can manage: if you like Chuck Palahniuk or the Dexter books, you may enjoy this. I like Palahniuk’s books and some other darker stories, but I am obviously not the target audience for this book. When I finished it, I felt like my brain needed a bath. I expected girl power and got sociopaths instead.

66. Kick Ass by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr – This is the graphic novel behind the recent movie. I saw the movie first, but still enjoyed this quick read.

67. The Organization of Information by Arlene Taylor and Daniel Joudrey – Yes, this is a textbook, but if I read an entire textbook, it gets to go on my book list! The partial reads (like my reference textbook) are relegated to an end of the year addendum in my reading notebook.

53. Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem – I don’t typically enjoy short story collections, but this book of quirky stories was quite good. Each tale has an element of science fiction that makes it interesting (like a spray the police use that shows the shapes of all the items thieves have stolen from a home), but Lethem keeps the worlds in these stories is still realistic enough to hit close to home.

54. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – Such a good book! If you haven’t read anything by Murakami yet, you really should remedy that as soon as possible. I had already read his Kafka on the Shore and was surprised that Norwegian Wood didn’t include any of the fantastic elements found there, but it is an incredibly well told story. It does have some very depressing story lines, but on the scale of depressing literature (0 = Dr. Seuss; 10 = Andre Dubus) it’s probably only a 7.

55. How to be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway – The plot description sounded trite to me (it’s the story of a Japanese woman who marries an American soldier during World War II and movies to the US with him) , but I gave it a try thanks to the recommendation of assorted book bloggers. And? SO glad I did.  I highly recommend this easy to read and interesting story.

56. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman – I stole this 1970s sci-fi book off Cajun husband’s boookshelves after he mentioned that it was likely going to be made into a movie. For a book that spans thousands of years it’s quite brief, but in that small space Haldeman condemns the military industrial complex in a compelling and effective way.

57. Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold (The Sharing Knife, Book 1) – After hearing all about the loveliness of Bujold online lately, I had to give her a try. I know, I know. For someone who as recent as 2 years ago refused to read fantasy or sci fi, I’m reading quite a lot of it now. And I’m enjoying it! But back to Beguilement: this was the first Bujold book I picked up, and I enjoyed the tale. Bujold’s characters are well-drawn, and the plot is compelling. Beguilement is the story of Fawn, a young woman who runs away from her family only to face mystical malices and be rescued by a patroller. Despite the rescue plot line, Fawn is a strong character who doesn’t just sit around and wait to be saved.

Stay tuned for a full speed tour of the rest of the year’s reads as I catch up on my blogging!

*Photo is property of the author and her lazy cats.

Hey, welcome to my BIRTHDAY!

For the first time ever, I’ve dreaded its approach. Why? Because there is no longer a buffer year between me and 30. Yup, as of today I am 29.

I’m a firm believer in aging gracefully, but for months now this one has been nagging me. I polled friends who are also approaching 29, and they confirmed that this number has gotten under their skin as well. After periodically panicking over the past few months as I counted down my birthday’s approach, during the week leading up to it I’ve finally accepted it. It’s okay. I certainly don’t want to go back to being 21 (ugh) or 25 (ick) again, so I’ll take age if it means I get the life I have now. I’m head over heels for my husband (and our pack of animals), and I feel totally at home in my degree program, which makes me feel so much better about my career and the future in general.

So… Hello, 29. I’m glad you’re here. I may be so glad that I’ll decide to turn 29 again for a few more years, but I plan to age with grace and style. And probably bourbon.

(Image source)

45. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Bryan Lee O’Malley – I’m not going to review every single one of these. See the review for Vol. 1 for all the details. Short version: good nerdcore fun. Read the books. Watch the movie.

46. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall – This! This has been my favorite book of 2010. I was afraid it would fall into my least favorite genre: self-indulgent middle-aged white men. But despite sharing some traits with those “my small troubles are so important” books, it was incredibly good.  If you’re curious about plyg culture (well, a fictional depiction of it) or just enjoy a quirky story about interior crises, I recommend this book. The narration moved between the husband/father of the title, his wives, and one of his many children, and these varied perspectives on a complicated family life were fascinating.

47. You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers – Meh. I’ve enjoyed everything else I read by Eggers, but this book didn’t do much for me. The whiny 20-something guys in this book would some day become the self-indulgent, middle-aged white men I mentioned before.

48. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O’Malley

49. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O’Malley

50. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley

51. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley

52. West with the Night by Beryl Markham – I bought this book for my mother because she loves stories of strong women who travel the world. In West with the Night, Markham tells the story of her life as one of the first female pilots in Africa. Her writing style was far better than I expected from someone who claimed not to be a writer. Recommended for readers interested in women’s history or travel in Africa.

Yes, I forced Bella-dog into a tutu this Halloween. She moped, but at least she kept it on long enough for a photo shoot.

 

When we were in high school imagining the future, it was hard to comprehend where we would be in ten years. What kind of jobs would we have? Would we be married with kids? Would we have been sucked back in to our old hometown? All we knew was that graduation was imminent and that we would escape to college and all its freedoms soon. In that strange time of celebrating and saying goodbye to friends we had seen every day, some of my friends flatly stated that they would NEVER attend a high school reunion. Four years was enough, thankyouverymuch, and there was no need to return. But personally, I knew that I would go back, not to brag or boast but to sate my curiosity. I wanted the captions at the end of a high school movie where you learn which high school sweethearts were still together, which classmate became something unexpected or inevitable.

Despite that incredible certainty, that sureness that I would never miss the chance to see old friends (who I surely wouldn’t have gone years and years without seeing) and check up on old classmates, I’m doing homework and writing to you from my couch in Texas instead of going to a Homecoming parade right now. I’ll probably be doing more homework and watching football instead of attending the reunion tomorrow. It’s been four years since I’ve seen any of my high school friends, and before that it was another two or three years. My parents moved away from that town, and even when I have been in the area I haven’t seen anyone because they spread across the country much like I did. The people I want to see the most aren’t making it back for the reunion either, but even though they’re not there without me, I still feel like I’m missing something big. WE should be there, reminiscing and laughing about our 17 year old selves.

I’m sure I could have found a way to be there despite being a busy grad student who’s trying to save money for a big trip next year, but for some reason – for many reasons – I didn’t. So here I am, listening to the Drive-By Truckers sing about Alabama’s problems, and missing it.

Did you / will you go to your reunion? Why?

P.S. The pic is from our senior picnic and includes me, two very good friends, and the casual friend who got us in SO MUCH trouble  – anonymized via photoshop)

P.P.S. Why yes, we are wearing flower garlands, thank you for asking.

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