Tying up loose ends

Come tonight at midnight, it will be a new year.  Time to start keeping track of my books in a new spreadsheet, time to officially begin reading challenges.  I have quite a few book reviews to write from books I read in 2009, but I’d like to keep all my 2009 reviews in 2009, so here goes!

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy reading Shiver as much as a I did.  This novel is as much atmospheric as anything; Stiefvater creates the cold, winter landscape beautifully and I loved the sparse prose.   There has been a lot of controversy around this book, though I’m not sure why.  I’m sure those who love Twilight, will love Shiver. Maybe they’ll even appreciate the more skilled writing and beautiful language, which is why I bought this book for my sister for Christmas.  The biggest complaints seem to be Grace’s lack of independence and a couple mentions of Grace’s parents.  It is really convenient that Grace’s parents are never around, but at least Stiefvater attempts to weave this into the story with Grace’s frustration with her parents absence.  After reading the complaints about Grace, I was very prepared to feel the same way, but I was surprised.  I thought Grace was very independent, not perfect, but sometimes I want to read a novel about an all-consuming passionate love.  Okay?  All in all, I thought Shiver was decent, if not perfect.  The plot could have used some cleaning up, the conflict was kind of boring to me.  But I know my sister (14) will love it, so that’s all that really matters.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier is an exercise in form that also doesn’t lose important characterization or plot.  Even though I knew the plot and the fact that Micah is a liar, I was still unprepared for the twists and turns this novel surprised me with.  I literally shouted out loud when certain things were revealed.  It seriously was nothing I was expecting, even though I’ve been following the novel since its release earlier this year.  I really appreciated that!  Highly recommended.  This was also a gift for my sister.  She read it in under 24 hours on Christmas day and really loved it as well.  Over at the blog Fledgling, Zetta Elliot compared this book to works by Octavia Butler and it seems really appropriate (and definitely a high complement) and I completely agree with it.  If that doesn’t get you reading this novel, I don’t know what will.

How to Ditch Your Fairy, also by Justine Larbalestier, was a very enjoyable novel that I gave to my younger sister for Christmas because I thought she would appreciate the sports aspect.  My favorite thing about this novel was the alternative reality that the book is set in.  Everyone goes to a special high school based on your talents.  For example, the main characters attend a sport school, where all of their classes are focused on sports: sport medicine, the economics of sports, the business of sports, the literature of sports.  It’s really a clever idea and one I wouldn’t mind seeing in the real world one day.  Some people even have fairies, though some people just call them luck.  Charlie has a parking fairy, so every car she rides in ends up with the best possible parking space, and she hates it. She hates it so much she hasn’t ridden in a car in weeks in an effort to get rid of her fairy.  In this alternative reality all skin colors, cultures and sexual orientations are normal, but it’s not necessarily a big deal in the book.  And it’s not necessarily a perfect world either, which is just as important.  Highly recommended!

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is beautiful.  There are no words in this story, instead it is told in a series of intricate, unbelievably lovely pictures.  It is the story of immigration, of entering a foreign world and trying to fit in there, told through a fantastic conceit.  Go get this one, you won’t regret it.  Savor it slowly and really appreciate its  beauty.

I loved loved loved this graphic novel.  Everything about it was beautiful.  Ehwa is a young girl who is slowly discovering what it means to be a woman and have a woman’s body.  Set in a timeless Korea, she lives with her widowed mother in their inn.  I can’t wait to read the next in the series because this was really wonderful.  There are so many wonderful scenes that I could have picked  to show you, but I love the melancholy nature of the drawing above.

Well now I’m all caught up and ready to start anew and fresh.  Anyone else trying to pick the perfect book to be their first read of  2010?  I think I’m going to read Anne of Green Gables.  Happy New Year everyone!

Looking Back at 2009

2009 is on its way out and 2010 is about to usher itself into the world.  Things changed a lot in 2009, in the world and in my life and I know that the coming months and 2010 are only going to bring more changes.  One of the  biggest changes in my life was Regular Rumination and my introduction to the book blogging community was on December 28th, 2008, a date that is approaching quickly and I can hardly believe it.  It has been wonderfully enriching to get to know all of you by talking about books and I’m looking forward to another wonderful year!

It’s too early still to put up my favorite books, but there are a few that I know will already make my list.  The Things They Carried was the first novel I read in 2009 and I really can’t think of a better way to start off the year.  It’s not only the best book I’ve read this year, but one of the best books I’ve ever read.  To round off the year, in September I got to meet Mr. O’Brien and see him speak.  It was an incredibly moving experience and one I’m not likely to forget any time soon.

Book blogging brought Young Adult fiction back into my life and like reacquainted best friends who stay up all night catching up, I read a ton of it.  Some of my favorite finds were Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Patrick Ness, Justine Larbalestier, Suzanne Collins, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Olive Kitteridge was a beautiful novel that not only won the Pulitzer but completely won me over, too.  Like The Things They Carried, it has staying power, at least on my top ten list.  2666 might have changed the way I read and my focus of study for my master’s.  The Grapes of Wrath and Something Wicked This Way Comes are two classics I read this year that lived up to their praise and also changed me as a reader.  Even though City of Thieves isn’t perfect, it ended up being one of my funniest reads of the year that still has me chuckling when I just think about some of the jokes included.

Graphic novels were big for me, especially graphic memoirs and non-fiction like Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco and Stitches by David Small.  I made the commitment in 2009 to read more books by women and people of many different colors and nationalities; through that goal, I discovered two new favorite authors that I can’t wait to explore more: Tayari Jones and Octavia Butler.  I hope to make this an even bigger priority in 2010, with authors from around the globe.   Poetry made a comeback in my life and will only continue to become a bigger focus for next year.  I ditched all my challenges a couple months ago, but don’t worry, I’m making up for it in 2010.

Keep an eye out on my blog for a post that looks ahead to 2010 and as we get closer to the New Year, a final year end list that will be nearly impossible to put together.  Thanks everyone for making 2009 spectacular!

TSS – 27 September 2009 National Book Festival Update!

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So, posting the pictures last night was very ambitious!  I thought I would get to do it, but we didn’t get home until midnight!  It was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to do it again next year, though I’m definitely going to have a more concrete plan.  National Book Festival turned into Tim O’Brien day, which is actually perfectly fine with me!  But I would have liked to see a few more people.

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I’m always impressed by events they hold on the Mall.  No matter how many times I go to DC, no matter how many times I see all the monuments, they’re still impressive.  Even on cloudy days like this!  Which means that none of my pictures came out that great, but I have evidence that I was there!  So I really can’t complain.  I loved all the tents, even though they didn’t do much to get us out of the rain.  By the end of the day, I was soaking wet, but I wouldn’t dream of complaining!  I got to meet Tim O’Brien!  And I got to shake his hand!  TWICE.  And it was full of awesome.

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Whenever we travel to DC (every other month or so, during the semester), we take a ridiculous amount of pictures on the Metro.  P1010423Because it’s fun, and even though we technically live in the burbs of DC, it’s nice to just pretend we’re tourists.  Pretend?  Just kidding, we really are.  Metros are still exciting and I’m going to document that excitement.  If some snarky “local” wants to say something about it, go right ahead.  This is me, and She, of A Book Blog.  Period. I told you we knew each other!  I do not lie.   I’m on the right, she’s on the left.  Now you know what I look like!  GASP.  In the blue is my roommate!  She is awesome!  And likes books, but does not blog about them.  Yet.

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Look at those lines!  I totally underestimated how many people were going to be there!  I think most people did.  We did not have our schedules planned out well, so I only ended up being able to meet Tim O’Brien and Mark Kurlansky, but She and our roommate, got to see Paula Deen!  Which I know they were really excited about.  I would have liked to see Paula, but Tim O’Brien was my priority!  And I was FIFTH in line.  Plus, I got to meet some cool people who were numbers 4, 6 and 7 in line. We talked about books and book recommendations and blogging.

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THIS IS THE WORST ANGLE OF ME EVER.  But I am willing to share that with you because LOOK WHO IT IS.  That is TIM O’BRIEN.  Really!!!!!!!!  He is the nicest man, really.  I told him that he was one of my favorite authors and he said that that was a wonderful thing to hear and he shook my hand, TWICE.  And it was really worth it standing in line for two hours in the rain to be able to say, “You’re an amazing writer.  Your stories changed my life.” My first review for Regular Rumination was The Things They Carried, so it is definitely a sentimental thing.  Plus, I’m pretty sure that he’s one of the best authors on the planet, and one of the nicest.

Fortunately we also got to hP1010453ear him do some readings.  He was AMAZING!!!!  At 62, O’Brien is father of two children under the age of 8 and he has began writing a book about his experiences as an older father.  He read us the most beautiful letter to his oldest son.  There was not a dry eye in the audience, including my own.  Then he read excerpts from the last chapter of The Things They Carried which is also a really sad section.  He said that it was a lot harder to read the passages than he thought it would be.  Even though I wish I had met some more authors, I wouldn’t have given up meeting Tim O’Brien and hearing him speak for anything.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m thrilled.  I couldn’t stop smiling after we left the Mall to get some food in Adams Morgan.

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More terrible, touristy pictures of metros!  The Adams Morgan metro stop has this ridiculously tall escalator that is terrifying!  But also fun.  We ate at this amazing Irish pub and had perfect cold, rainy food.  She and I had shepherd’s pie and Werehousecat had fish and chips.  I was pretty jealous of the fish and chips, but the shepherd’s pie was amazing.  I finished it off when I got home for a little midnight snack.

So I’m sure you’re wondering what Glee has to do with my day in DC, but after dinner we met up with a friend from high school and went to see his ADORABLE house.  I’m very jealous of his house.  While we were there, we watched the first two episodes of Glee and I just haven’t had the chance to tell you HOW MUCH I LOVE GLEE.  It’s so campy and wonderful and everyone should watch it.  AND LAUGH.  I think the last episode was the best, with the football players dancing.  Priceless!  I also love Kurt.  And want to hear the football player with the mohawk sing more.

Okay, back to the books.

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Here are all the books I got signed!  I met Mark Kurlansky and, obviously, Tim O’Brien.  My roommates graciously got Paula Deen to sign a cookbook for my mom.  Z, my boyfriend, really likes Mark Kurlansky so I got him a book signed, too, for Christmas.  Tim O’Brien and Kurlansky personalized, but Paula Deen was way too busy.  She had so many people in her line, it looped around three or four times.  We were pretty far back in the line, but most people got in to see her.

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Other than that time when I fell on the Metro and bruised my butt, it was an AMAZING day!  Longest day ever, but still amazing.  I can’t wait until next year, when I will get there earlier and plan out the day so I can see more people speak.  Tim O’Brien!