supercheesegirl: (books - reading addict)
I've been a total slack about posting my favorite books of 2008. Full book list here in memories, or tagged here.

139 total books read in 2008! My highest total yet!
- 38 were nonfiction (a new record!)
- 10 were poetry (roughly keeping pace with my 2007 poetry reading)
- 89 were fiction (I'm not even going to try to break out fantasy or sci fi separately anymore)
- 2 were literary journals (way down from last year, but see the corresponding increase in nonfiction)

Rereads: 4

My favorites for the year, by category:

Best Fantasy: This is hard, because it seems I didn't read a ton of fantasy in 2008. I think The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly wins here, as it was extremely excellent. Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley was great (so much so that I've already reread it this year). Peter Beagle's A Fine and Private Place was very nice, and of course Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Odd that two of the four took place in a graveyard.

Best Fantasy Series (ha): I really liked Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study series. Disappointments were Donita Paul's dragons and the path books by Diana Pharaoh Francis.

Best SciFi: The obvious: In 2008 I happened to read both I, Robot and The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. Of those, I was most floored by The Gods Themselves. Surprise runner-up goes to Eifelheim by Michael Flynn. I also really enjoyed the short story collection YOU AND SCIENCE FICTION--it had some great stuff. And Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre was really good.

Best Vampire-Related: I think the only really vampirey books I read in '08 were the Twilight books. So, um, no winner in this category this year.

Best Mainstream Fiction: Hard to choose! I'll go with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Runners-up: The Sacred Bones by Michael Byrnes (a solid entry in the field of religious artifact thrillers), Claiming Georgia Tate by Gigi Amateau (excellent, excellent YA), and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (a terrific mystery).

Best Nonfiction: There's a lot of nonfiction to choose from this year! Best memoir would have to go to Mark Doty's Dog Years, followed by Haven Kimmel's Zippy books. I also keep thinking about Ben Mee's We Bought a Zoo, even though the writing wasn't as stellar as in the others. In non-memoir nonfiction, I adored Mary Oliver's Blue Pastures. I also really liked The Renaissance Soul. Maybe I should read it again.

Best Archaeological Nonfiction: Justinian's Flea by William Rosen was spectacular and captivating. So well researched!

Best Poetry: Chattahoochee by Patrick Phillips, The Boatloads by Dan Albergotti, Blue Colonial by David Roderick.

Best Literary Journals: Only read two last year, so I'm not going to try to rate.

Best Reread: Um, I reread two Gaiman books and two Kay books, so that's hard. I'll go with Kay, because the Sarantine Mosaic was still incredibly amazing the second time around.

Best Surprise: Snyder's Poison Study series for sure. Also, I was surprised to like the Twilight books as much as I did.

Funniest Book: Zippy for sure.

Best Prostitute-Related Book: Only one prostitute book in 2008: Callgirl by Jeannette Angell. It was only meh, though.

Least Favorite Book: Ooh, there are some good ones this year! There was The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton (which I am linking only so that you can all go back and re-live my snark). There was Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, which definitely sucked, badly enough that my nasty review is also worth linking to. There was The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon, which I just disliked. Oh, and Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory was really terrible. Plus the entire Twilight series! Oh man. OK, The Alchemist's Daughter wasn't a bad book, I just didn't like it, so let's remove it from consideration. The rest of these, however, are all fine examples of awful characterization (or lack of any characterization), plots full of holes, bad pacing, wordiness, poor word choice, and overall appallingly lousy writing. Oh, this is hard. I'm going to go with The Xibalba Murders as my absolute least favorite book of 2008, because it had no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Hooray!
supercheesegirl: (cat)
Full title: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. Nonfiction. It's almost too cutesy-sweet at times, but it's a fun, light read overall.
supercheesegirl: (books - reading girl)
Posting this before I forget--I finished it at the airport while I was waiting for F's plane on Tuesday. It's a rather fluffy girly novel, about a woman who is figuring out what she wants out of life and love while dealing with an autistic twin brother. A decent read, but ultimately forgettable.
supercheesegirl: (books - can't talk reading)
I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed with this one. Read more... ) I feel frustrated that I poured so much energy into reading these books and the ending was so unsatisfying. They were definitely enjoyable to read, and fun, but I'm not really happy.
supercheesegirl: (indy - rare antiquities)
Full title: The Portland Vase: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure. It's sort of a pop archaeology book; Brooks is described on the cover flap as "an actor and author"--he's not an expert in the field. It's well researched, though, with an extensive bibliography, and it's decently written. Brooks describes the (possibly falsified) finding of the vase in a Roman tomb in the 1500s and then follows its story ever since, describing all the crazy people who've owned it, studied it, copied it, or damaged it over its long life. He also goes into all the theories that abound regarding the mysterious figures depicted on the vase. A little slow at some points--I've been working on it since last week--but overall, it was a fun read.
supercheesegirl: (books - reading girl)
Second book in the trilogy. Again, started it at lunch yesterday, read it on the train home and all night last night. I like these! Can't wait to read the third one (starting on the train ride home tonight--I have a work lunch to go to so I can't read through my lunch today!).
supercheesegirl: (books - hero and the crown)
When I saw the author's name, my first thought was, "Oh please." My friend Mike read the trilogy and really liked it, but sometimes his tastes differ from mine. Nevertheless, I picked it up on my lunch break yesterday (bored with the neverending Portland Vase, which hopefully I'll finish today or tomorrow), and actually I really enjoyed the book! It's the kind of fantasy novel where Our Plucky Heroine is chosen by the gods for a great fate she doesn't want, and she has to accept her destiny and save the world. In that sense it reminded me a lot of Kristen Britain's Green Rider books, and indeed, Britain read early drafts of Francis's manuscript, but it's definitely different and worth reading on its own. There are also totem animals that communicate telepathically, and who doesn't love that?? Overall, fun fantasy with a strong female heroine and good woman power energy. I plan to read the rest of the series (possibly today--I'm really kind of bored with the endless Portland Vase).
supercheesegirl: (ieat)
Full title: Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie is Not the Answer. Memoir by Jen Lancaster, proclaimed by herself and assholes on the bus to be a fat bitch, trying to lose weight. I spent most of the book absolutely hating Jen. Here is a chick who doesn't have to go to work--she stays home and writes full-time--yet she can't get her ass to the gym. If I had the opportunity to stay home and write full-time, I wouldn't be wasting all my time looking at videos of sneezing pandas on the internet--I'd be working out or doing yoga every damn morning and writing all damn afternoon. (Just in case, you know, anyone wants to fund that or anything.) So, I hated Jen Lancaster, because she has the time and opportunity to write that I would absolutely kill for and she's wasting it. Her dieting is also totally half-assed and idiotic. And, unrelated to the dieting, a lot of this book reads like an email to her buddies about what she did last weekend (actual email messages are even included in the book), and, uh, I don't need to buy a book to read that kind of thing, so that was a little annoying too.

But then, maybe 2/3 of the way through the book, Jen starts to get it. She realizes that she doesn't need to eat a mountain of food at every meal to be full, and that butter is not a food group all its own. She starts taking her health seriously and working out with a personal trainer, and she's much less damn annoying to read about after that. Good for you, Jen Lancaster. She actually gets her brain into a really healthy place about food, and I enjoyed seeing that in this kind of book. Jen realizes that she hates the "food is evil" mindset and she develops some mindfulness about her eating habits, which I think is full of win.

The book gets two stars. For the first 250 pages I was only giving it one star, but then Jen's turnaround towards the end of the book was worth three stars, so I'm averaging.
supercheesegirl: (legend - gothy)
Oh man. I was so sucked in to this one. Read more... )
supercheesegirl: (legend - gothy)
OK, I hate to say it, but this one was really good. Read more... )I'm really hooked in to the story now.

This book also contained the usual horrific examples of writing: everything happens "suddenly" or "quickly"; no one ever "said" anything because they "mumbled" or "gasped" or "demanded" it instead; Jacob's skin (and fur) are still unavoidably russet, and Edward's eyes are unavoidably topaz. Also, this book made me realize that Edward's always chuckling about something. What the hell? If any dude chuckled at me the way Edward's always chuckling at Bella, I'd freakin' punch him. Chucklehead. This book also contained the most laughably fake and poorly written "news story" I have ever seen in my life. Meyer obviously never learned anything about journalism in college, nor, apparently, even ever read a newspaper in her life.

I know the fourth book is going to be disappointing, but now I'm psyched to read it.

::edit:: I just beat last year's book total. I read 128 books in 2007, and I'm at 129 for 2008 with almost another full month to go! Score!
supercheesegirl: (books - bookworm)
Full title: Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism. This book was terrific. Katha Pollitt is just so smart. The essays in this book were published in The Nation, The New Yorker, and The New York Times in the 1980s and early 1990s. Most of the essays are responses to current events (there's an essay inspired by the Baby M case, for example, and one about Lorena Bobbitt, and another about Hillary Clinton as first lady). Because the essays are so rooted in current events, they lose a little of their power--but not too much, because, depressingly, a lot of things haven't changed for women in the past 20 years. Overall, though, Pollitt tackles all the hardest issues surrounding American women today, and tackles them with wit and wisdom and common sense. I'd like a copy of this book to keep around for reference.

My reading plan for the rest of December: I'm going to finish off my last two library books and the last two Twilight books I borrowed from Kristina, and then I'm not borrowing anything else. I have absolute scads of unread books and literary journals on my To Read shelf--and really good stuff, too. I'm planning to read things I actually own for the next few months, in the interest of purging out those shelves a bit. I'm going to be moving this spring!
supercheesegirl: (legend - gothy)
My friend Kristina lent me the rest of the series. :) Still a guilty pleasure, but now I'm enjoying counting the number of times Meyer uses the word "russet". Earlier today I caught "russet" in the same sentence as some gleaming white teeth, which is totally worth bonus points. And now I see what that dude meant when he claimed that Meyer is incapable of using the word "said"--her characters snicker, grumble, disagree, demand, gasp, mumble, and complain (from the randomly chosen pages 326-327), along with a variety of other creative verbs, but very rarely do they "say" anything. It's actually really hilarious. Still a guilty pleasure, though.
supercheesegirl: (books - star paper)
Poetry, for once. F read this and thought I would like it, and I did! Very much. Roderick grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and so is fascinated by the history of the Plymouth settlers. The poems skip back and forth in time between a modern speaker and the colonial era. The poems are nicely arranged (see, I'm paying more attention to book structure now) so that the modern speaker seems enmeshed in the history. The poems are beautiful narratives, and Roderick is excellent at those glittering perfect last lines we all wish we wrote. I like narrative poems, and I really appreciate poems that are infused with history, so this book really spoke to me. My favorites were the title poem "Blue Colonial" and "Cordwood", but I really liked all the historical poems. Endorsed by Robert Pinsky, James Tate, and Eavan Boland on the back cover, so you don't really need my say-so, but I recommend it anyway.
supercheesegirl: (books - narnia lucy)
Full title: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country.

I love Wrede anyway, and Ebeth recommended this. It started off kind of slow, but after I finished the book I looked back and realized that that's because of how it was written--Wrede and Stevermer each chose a character and wrote letters in that character to tell the story. For the first few letters, it's clear that they're setting the stage and just getting going. Once things started happening, though, I was hooked, and I really enjoyed the book. Looking forward to reading the two sequels at some point.
supercheesegirl: (legend - gothy)
I...

I...

OK, I kind of really liked it. Now, I'm not saying that it's written well, or that Bella is a terrific character or anything--but it was better than I'd expected, and Bella was much less annoying than she was hyped to be. Better than Harry Potter at 15, for darn sure. And it's not a great work of literature, but it's brilliantly done for the audience it's targeting. No wonder preteen girls are wetting their pants over this. Had these books been out when I was 12, I would have wet my pants for sure. I think Meyer captures really well that feeling of being a teenager, in love for the first time, and desperate to spend all your time touching your sweetie. And I think that, in the same way that Buffy-as-vampire-slayer is a brilliant metaphor for the high school experience (her mom just didn't understand!), Bella and Edward's relationship could be seen as a metaphor for how dangerous it can be for kids to be sexually active these days (if they get funky, she could die).

Don't get me wrong, though, this is definitely a guilty-pleasure book. I would really love to see the adult version, in which Bella invests in some heavy duty steel chains so she can tie that boy down and ravage him. Alas, that probably won't get written (except in fanfic--if you've seen that story somewhere, please forward the link?). I plan to see the movie (once the majority of female preteen Pennsylvania has seen it two or three times already and it won't be too crowded) and read the rest of the books.
supercheesegirl: (books - reading girl)
Memoir, full title: The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir. This book was really excellent. It's the stories of the women Harman treated over the years, the stories that really stuck out and made her job worthwhile, or more painful. It's the story of how the healthcare system in this country is ridiculous and is hurting good doctors. And it's the story of Harman and her husband and their struggling clinic, all the problems they experience with accountants and taxes and insurance payments and possible malpractice lawsuits, and with the patients they care for. Harman doesn't really come to any conclusion about whether all the pain and stress they go through is worth it, but it does seem that she finds some peace about the fact that this is the work she is called to do in the world, with all its accompanying miseries and joys. Highly recommended for people who enjoy women's stories and people who have an interest in women's health (Lady_A, you would really enjoy this book, I think).
supercheesegirl: (books - reading girl)
Another sci fi novel lent to me by Mike in thr art department. This was actually pretty fascinating: one ordinary day, the power cuts out--not just the electricity, but every kind of power, all over the world, and everything Changes. Cars won't start, guns won't fire, batteries won't work, and suddenly the US, and probably the whole world, is pre-industrial. The novel follows two plucky heroes in the midwest: Mike, a former military man who knows how to hunt and fish and survive in the wild, and Juniper, a Wiccan renaissance faire musician with a coven full of useful folks like organic farmers and midwives.

The characters were a little tiresome--Mike is a total male Mary Sue (Mikey Sue?), and Juniper is just a little too "blessed be" and keeps spouting random Celtic sayings. Also, after reading the book I looked at the author photo on the back cover and suddenly realized why the SCA pretty much saves everyone. I have never seen a nerdlier man. Clearly he's just waiting for the day when he can whip out his historically accurate broadsword and be very popular. But overall, the premise of the book is really interesting, interesting enough to carry it through its other faults. I had a couple of restless nights laying awake figuring out how I'd get out of Philly if the Change suddenly did hit the world. And Stirling's plot makes sense--it's honestly totally logical that SCA folks would be incredibly useful if such a catastrophe hit, and there are a lot of similar things that you wouldn't necessarily have seen coming. The characters, while being tiresome, are also smart enough to figure out what happened right away and take action, and that makes them worth reading. I'd say three stars, and I might read the second one.
supercheesegirl: (books - can't talk reading)
I can't even remember why I had this on my "to read" list--maybe it was mentioned in Poets & Writers? Anyway, a truly excellent book. It's fiction: four longish short stories (each around 50 pages) in one collection. Each story is told in the voice of a male protagonist who's reached a turning point in his life; each protagonist looks back to see what brought him to his present situation. Really beautifully written and nuanced stories. These guys are going to stick with me, I think. Highly recommended.
supercheesegirl: (books - reading girl)
Third in the trilogy. This series was such a pleasant surprise. I really, really enjoyed these books, and Yelena's developing powers and evolving character was a lot of fun to watch. I'm even happy with the ending.

::edit:: This makes 120 books for the year! And 10 books already for November, and I still have half the month left for reading! Will definitely make my 130 goal by end of December.
supercheesegirl: (writing - postcard love)
Nonfiction. Full title: Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman. I absolutely adored this book. Steinbach has such an honest way about her, and her stories of her travels are fun and interesting and make you want to read more. I may buy this book for my mother for Christmas. Highly recommended.

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