Favourites of 2008

One of my biggest faults is my indecisiveness (okay, shush to those of you who know me in person, I don't need any more suggestions!). I've spent the entire month trying to decide on my 'Best of 2008' list and just stressed myself out about it far more than necessary. SO! instead I've decided to share with you my top ten favourites from the year. I'll try a 'Best of' list again next year.

I hope you'll find something you'll enjoy!


10

Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
James Boyne


9
Song of the Sparrow
Lisa Ann Sandell


8
Storm Front
Jim Butcher



7



6
Good Omens
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman


5
Cloudstreet
Tim Winton


4
Twilight
Stephenie Meyer


3
The Book of Joby
Mark J. Ferrari

2

March
Geraldine Brooks

1
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

The Lady of Shalott

Song of the SparrowLisa Ann Sandell
394 pg; published 2007

What place does a woman
have here, in this
realm of men?
I wonder.
But I do have a place.
I belong here, with these men.
They are my family.
I mend their clothes,
I mend their bodies.
I grew up wild like a boy
here.
How could she possibly belong here,
to this camp?
Her clothes are far too
clean for these dusty soldiers,
dusty tents.
Yet, I always dreamed of a girl
coming to live here, of a girl
who would be my friend. (182-183)


Sixteen year old Elaine, with a temperament as fiery as her red hair, is the only female in a battle camp of over three hundred and fifty men. Growing up with this band of brothers and no mother to guide her in the ways of ladyship, Elaine has lived and grown as a boy, wild and free.

Now that she is older, however, things aren’t quite as they used to be… and she’s not even sure that she wants it to be. While her ‘brothers’ look to her for friendship, advice and, and always, the mending of their clothes, they leave her behind when they go off to war. She is quick, fast, and knows medicine – she could be of help to them, she’s no longer the little sister they coddled.

She does not want her friends to get hurt while she’s not there to help them, especially her best ‘playmate’, the brave and handsome Lancelot. She yearns to tell him how she fells, to have him tell her she’s beautiful and loved. Her plans for love are interrupted, however, when Lancelot returns to the camp with Arthur’s new bride: the beautiful Gwynivere, with whom he is already “enchanted”.

Elaine’s hopes for a new friend are crushed when Gwynivere’s haughty, almost cruel nature is made clear. And her presence does nothing to help her plans where the war, and her involvement, is concerned.



I’d admit it, I got sucked in entirely by the cover on this one – it was just too pretty to resist. As such, I was surprised to get it home and actually realise that it a verse novel; not what I had expected. I’ve read a few verse novel’s this year, but I’d have to say that this one is my favourite. Sandell’s verse swung between absolute straight forward practicalities and beautiful descriptions.

As a character somewhat overlooked in most tellings of Arthurian legend, I was looking forward to seeing Sandell’s treatment of Elaine. She was an honest and endearing character, and this came through quite strongly through her voice. Sandell took a few liberties with Tennyson’s poem, but it was done respectfully and, I feel, to great effect.

Overall, a lovely book that I’d recommend to any fan of Arthurian legend. 4.5/5



Other Reviews
Have you written a review for this book? I would love to include it, comment below and I'll add your link!

Musing Mondays (Dec. 29)

How often do you recommend books to others, and who do you recommend them to? Do you only recommend books to your “reading friends” or to anyone you think might find the book interesting? What does it take for a book to make it to your ‘recommendation’ list?


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks.

I recommend books every once in a while to friends but usually only if I REALLY loved the book or if it was one that I particularly thought would be of interest to the particular person I'm recommending it to.
For the most part I only recommend books to my "reading friends", but as I don't have a whole lot of those, the recommendations sometimes flow over onto my "non-reading friends"... and they don't always appreciate it. Then there are those who I get stuck in a recommendation rut with. My sister, for instance, who is only a sometimes-reader often freaks out when she sees the piles of books I've stacked on her desk. Apparently I've given her too much recently.

Casual Classics 2009

Guidelines:
  • Read 4 “Classics” between January 1st and December 31st, 2009
  • Overlaps with other challenges ARE allowed
  • eBooks and Audiobooks ARE allowed

1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

2.

3.

4.

Read and Review Challenge


For the 2009 READ & REVIEW CHALLENGE, you need to:

  • review each book you read between January 1st and December 31st, 2009
  • PLEASE keep your reviews clean & respectful ~ these books we read are the hard work of an author, and we don’t need to be mean. Even if you didn’t like the book, please try to find something you can say that would be encouraging to the author.
  • reviews can be as short, or long, as you wish
  • you MAY overlap with other challenges eBooks and Audiobooks ARE allowed


Okay, it's entirely possible that this challenge may kill me well before I complete it - but I'm gonna give it a go anyways... wish me luck.

Wishing everyone a very happy and safe Christmas!


I hope you all have a wonderful day, that you enjoy the time with your families, and that Santa brings you lots of books under the tree!


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Lights... Camera.... Vampires!

Twilight: The Complete Illustrated Movie Companion
Mark Cotta Vaz
141 pages; published 2008



The mantra of the movie makers was to be faithful to the novel. Meyer, who approved the final screenplay … also saw the advantage of the old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words – long passages of text where Bella describes the beauty of Edward’s face could be summed up in a single shot, for example. “We just took the book into film language,” Hardwicke [the director], explained. “The novel had to go through the condensing machine for a movie; we had to boil it down to its essence…”






Having an obsessed 18 year old “Twilighter” in the house, this book has been sitting around for about a month now and, seeing how I went to see the movie last week, I was finally able to read it.

The book mostly covered the finding the various locations and the actual shooting of the film - though every once in a while an interesting piece of information (such as the mechanics of Edward dinting the truck) or the invention of a Cullen family crest, would find it’s way through.

Interviews with the director and producers were all smoothly integrated into the behind-the-scenes information. However, I would have liked to see more interviews with the cast and Stephenie Meyers if possible. Also, further information on the writer’s translation from the book to movie would have been good.

For the most part, I’d have to say that it’s aimed more at a fan of the movies than a fan of the books (it is, after all, a movie companion). And with it’s beautiful glossy photographs and clean easy layout it’s sure to be a top seller for Christmas. 3/5







Other Reviews
Have you written a review for this book? I would love to include it, comment below and I'll add your link!
Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen
422 pages; published 2008



“And finally,” Jamie said as he pushed the door open, “we come to the main event. Your room.”

I was braced for pink. Ruffles or quilting, or maybe even appliqué. Which was probably kind of unfair, but then again, I didn’t know my sister anymore, much less her decorating style. With total strangers, it had been my policy to expect the worst. Usually they – and those you know best, for that matter – did not disappoint. (1)









When Ruby’s mother disappears she doesn’t exactly panic. Her mother’s been gone before, and always returned sooner or later. Besides, she’s nearly eighteen, plenty old enough to look after herself, right?

Perhaps not.

Coming to the attention of social services, the courts place the seventeen year old Ruby under the care of her elder sister Cora and her husband Jamie. It has been ten long years since she has seen her sister, and the last thing Ruby wants is to be dependant on anyone, let alone the emotionally distant Cora (whom she still blames for abandoning her so long ago) and the super cheery, extra-enthusiastic Jamie. Their impressive house in an exclusive neighbourhood is a far cry from the lifestyle she is used too – and she doesn’t intend to stick around too long.

However, her plans for escape don’t go precisely to plan and, before she knows it, Ruby is entangled in this new life. So used to being alone, Ruby is now surrounded by people she not only comes to depend on, but who depend on her – Nate, her oh-so-perfect swimmer neighbour; Harriet, her control-freak boss; and Roscoe, a dog with a multitude of issues. And with her mother now missing from her life, the only remaining link to her former world is the cold key to her old house hanging around her neck.

But her new life and those who inhabit it aren’t all as shiny and perfect as they might seem. There are now people to disappoint, people to support, and even people to protect… and perhaps, a unlikely as it may seen, it is Ruby who holds the key to unlocking happiness in all their lives.

I’ve seen reviews for Sarah Dessen books pop up here and there and I got the impression that she was quite a popular YA author. Lock and Key is the first of her books that I’ve read but based on this book I’d have to say that that the reputation was probably deserved.

I liked Ruby as a main character – I felt that she had the perfect blend of almost-eighteen-arrogance and battered little girl fragility. Her interactions with those around her as she makes the change from isolation to being part of a family were genuine and moving – even humorous in parts. 4/5



Purchase Lock and Key here.





Other Reviews

Musing Mondays: Christmas Book Buying (Dec. 22)

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about Christmas book buying…
In these last few days before Christmas, I'm sure there are plenty of us scrambling to get our last minute shopping done. Are you buying any books for friends or family (or even yourself)? Do you expect to recieve any bookish gifts from others - books, or book-related?


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks.



I don't tend to buy books as gifts for others - I don't have a lot of bookish friends, and even for those, I usually buy gift certificates for the book shop so they can get something they want. This still applies at Christmas time where, accept for the very occasional (none this year) book that I KNOW someone has been looking at and not purchased yet.


For much the same reason I don't usually receive book gifts (book-related, sometimes) for Christmas as my family isn't a reading one and they have often said that they don't know what to get, what I already have, or what I'd like. This year, however, my sister said that she wanted to buy me a book and I had great fun writing up a 'wish list' for her!


I have, in the past, bought myself a book for Christmas and put it under the tree - there is ALWAYS something to me, from me under the tree - but no books this year I'm afraid. I bought some, but they didn't quite make it to the wrapping stage.

RYOB Challenge

The rules for this challenge are very simple…
* set a goal for how many of your OWN books you’d like to read in 2009
* read from your own collection between January 1st and December 31st, 2009



And, that’s basically it! You don’t have to create a list beforehand (’cause we all know that our reading preferences change as the year progresses), and you can even read books that come into your possession (that will be yours to keep) during the year!
Some other helpful hints…
- you CAN overlap with other challenges
- eBooks and Audiobooks count AS LONG AS they are from your own collection



I think I'll aim for 25 and see how I go. I really want to make my way through my ever-growing tbr pile, and I think 2009 is the year to do it.

1. House of Cards (Star Trek: New Frontier, Bk 1) - Peter David

2. Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult

3. Tithe - Holly Black

4. Inkheart - Cornelia Funke

5. Capture the Flag (Starfleet Academy #4) - John Vornholt

6. Flitterwig - Edrei Cullen

7. Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

8. Coraline - Neil Gaiman

9. Mr. Popper's Penguins - Richard and Florence Atwell

10. Paper Towns - John Green

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

A - Z Challenge

I didn't manage to complete the A-Z Challenge for 2008, I think this time I'm going to get in and try to do all those difficult letters early on.





Title
An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
City of Ember, The - Jeanne DuPrau
Dead and the Gone, The - Susan Pfeffer
Escape to New York (Runaways, Vol. 5) - Brian K. Vaughn
F
Graveyard Book, The - Neil Gaiman
House of Cards - Peter David
Images of Movie Stars - Tim Hill
J
Knit Two - Kate Jacobs
Looking for Alaska - John Green
March - Geraldine Brooks
N
O
Pippi Longstocking - Asrid Lindgren
Q
Ruby the Red Fairy - Daisy Meadows
Sucks to Be Me - Kimberly Pauley
This Lullaby - Sarah Dessen

U
V
Wonder Woman: Love and Murder - Jodi Picoult
X
Y
Z



Author
A
sher, Jay - Thirteen Reasons Why
Black, Holly - Tithe
Cullen, Edrei - Flitterwig
Downham, Jenny - Before I Die
Eugenides, Jeffrey - Middlesex
Funke, Cornelia - Inkheart
Gaiman, Neil - Angels and Visitations

Hale, Shannon (et al) - Rapunzel's Revenge
I
J
acobs, Kate - The Friday Night Knitting Club
Kanamori, Miyako - Sock and Glove
Larbelestier, Justine - How to Ditch Your Fairy
Magenta, Emma - The Origin of Lament
N
O
P
icoult, Jodi - Change of Heart
Q
R
esnick, Mike (ed.) - Nebula Award Showcase 2007
Stewart, George - Earth Abides
Thompson, Craig - Blankets
U
V
ornholt, John - Capture the Flag (Starfleet Academy #4)
Wilcox, Rhonda V. and Tanya R. Cochran (ed.) - Investigating Firefly and Serenity
X
Y
Z

2nds Challenge

This is a great way to combine 1st in a Series with this one. The only thing with 2nds is doesn't have to be a series book. It can be a book from an author you've just read one book from before.


Here are the guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need to have a blog to participate.
2. Read 12 books by authors that you have only read once. It doesn't have to be a series.
3. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009. Don't start reading until January.
4. You may list your chosen books any time during the year. Change the list if needed.


I know it says that I don't have to, but I'm going to use this challenge (mostly) to catch up on the seconds in series. I've read a lot of first in 2008 and would like to catch up a bit.



1. The Dead and the Gone - Susan Pfeffer

2. Rainbow Magic, Vol. 2: The Weather Fairies, Books 8-14 - Daisy Meadows

3. Betrayed - P.C. and Kristin Cast (House of Night, Book 2)

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.



Fool Moon - Jim Butcher (Dresden Files, Book 2)
Resistance - Gemma Malley (sequal to The Declaration)
Speaker for the Dead - Orson Scott Card (Ender Series, Book 2)
Peter and the Shadow Thieves - Dave Barry and Ridley Pearse (Peter Pan series, Book 2)
Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse series, Book 2)
Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next series, Book 2)
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya-Sisterhood - Rebecca Wells (Ya-Ya series, Book 2)

Support Your Local Library Challenge

Since we are all different, there will be three sizes of challenges.

** The first is to read 12 books from your local library in 2009.
** The second is to read 25 books from your local library in 2009.
** The third is to read 50 books from your local library in 2009.

You decide which one of the three challenges is best for you.

Here are the guidelines:

1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.
2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.
3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.
4) Our goal is to read 12, 25, or 50 books checkout from our local library in 2009. Please decide which when you sign up and don’t change it.
5) These can be audios, downloads, children’s, YA. As long as it’s a book, format and target age group does not matter.



Seeing as I get most of my books from the library, I was going to go for the big 50 challenge ... but I promised myself that I'd read a lot of books from my own shelf next year. 25 it is.



1. The Origin of Lament - Emma Magenta

2. Blankets - Craig Thompson

3. An Abundance of Katherines - John Green

4. This Lullaby - Sarah Dessen

5. The City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau

6. Angels and Visitations - Neil Gaiman

7. Red Spikes - Margo Lanagan

8. Before I Die - Jenny Downham

9. Looking for Alaska - John Green

10. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

11. The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen

12. Sucks to Be Me - Kimberly Pauley

13. The Dead and the Gone - Susan Pfeffer

14. Wonder Woman: Love and Murder - Jodi Picoult

15. Book Lust - Nancy Pearl

16. Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier - Rhonda V. Wilcox and Tanya R. Cochran (ed.)

17. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren

18. Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy - Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona

19. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

20. The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose -Diana Janney

21. Betrayed (House of Night, Book 2) - P.C. and Kristen Cast

22. Catwoman: It's Only a Movie - Will Pfeifer and David Lopez

23. Starry Night - Martin Waddell

24. Runaways, Vol. 2: Teenage Wasteland - Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona

25. Runaways, Vol. 3: The Good Die Young - Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona

Challenge Sign Ups

I've been trying to decide on my challenges for 2009, so I apologise for all the challenge sign up posts that should come up over the next few days.

If you're signed up for something really fun and I'm not let me know, I don't want to miss out on all the excitement :)

Books Read in 2009

I made it to the 100 mark for this challenge in 2008 (phew!) and enjoyed it so much that I've signed up for 2009 as well!

You can join anytime between now til 31st December 2009, so go to J. Kaye's blog and sign up if you want to play too!


Total: 85/100

  • Asher, Jay - Thirteen Reasons Why
  • Atwell, Richard and Florence - Mr. Popper's Penguins
  • Bassom, David - Anderson and Duchovny: An Extraordinary Story
  • Baum, L. Frank and Charles Santore - The Wizard of Oz
  • Black, Holly and Ted Naifeh - Good Neighbours, Book 1: The Kin
  • Cast, P.C. and Kristen - Betrayed (House of Night, Book 2)
  • Collins, Suzanne - The Hunger Games
  • Cullen, Edrei - Flitterwig
  • David, Peter - A House of Cards (Star Trek: New Frontier, Book 1)
  • Dekker, Ted - The Circle Trilogy, Book 1: The Birth of Evil (Black)
  • Dekker, Ted - The Circle Trilogy, Book 2: The Heroic Rescue (Red)
  • Dekker, Ted - The Circle Trilogy, Book 3: The Great Persuit (White)
  • Dessen, Sarah - The Truth About Forever
  • Eugenides, Jeffrey - Middlesex
  • Friedman, Michael Jan and Pablo Marcos - Star Trek: The Next Generation, Book 1: The Hero Factor
  • Gaiman, Neil - Coraline
  • Gaiman, Neil - The Graveyard Book
  • Gaiman, Neil - The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
  • Gaita, Raimond - Romulus, My Father
  • Green, John - An Abundance of Katharines
  • Green, John - Looking for Alaska
  • Green, John - Paper Towns
  • Grogan, John - Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog
  • Hagerty, Taylor - Miniature Scrapbooks: Small Treasures to Make in a Day
  • Janney, Diana - The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose
  • Jones, Carrie - Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend
  • Kanamori, Miyako - Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Soft Friends from Cast-off Socks and Gloves
  • Lanagan, Margo - Red Spikes
  • Larbalestier, Justine - Liar
  • Lindgren, Astrid - Pippi Longstocking
  • Meadows, Daisy - Rainbow Magic - Hannah the Happy Ever After Fairy
  • Meyer, Stephenie - Twilight
  • Pfeifer, Will and David Lopez - Catwoman: It's Only a Movie
  • Resnick, Mike (ed.) - Nebula Awards Showcase 2007
  • Thompson, Craig - Blankets
  • Tsiolkas, Christos - The Slap
  • Waddell, Martin - Starry Night
  • Whedon, Joss and Georges Jeanty - Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8; Vol 2: No Future For You
  • Wilcox, Rhonda V. and Tanya R. Cochran (ed.) - Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier
  • Teaser Tuesday (Dec 16)

    TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
    • Grab your current read.
    • Let the book fall open to a random page.
    • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
    • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
    • Please avoid spoilers!



    For a week or two, Jo behaved so queerly that her sisters were quite bewildered. She rushed to the door when the postman rang, was rude to Mr. Brooke whenever they met, would sit looking at Meg with a woe-begotten face, occasionally jumping up to shake and then to kiss her in a very mysterious manner; Laurie and she were always making signs to one another, and talking about "Spread Eagles" til the girls declared they has both lost their wits. (143)

    Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

    Have you ever...

    Saw this over at Nite Swimming and I shamelessly pinched it.


    It's not at all bookish, but I just couldn't help myself. Why don't you all play along so I don't feel so bad for ruining my bookish-posts-only streak.



    The things I have done are in BOLD: (and I coloured them for good measure and easy viewing)


    1. Started my own blog

    2. Slept under the stars

    3. Played in a band (...concert band counts, right?)

    4. Visited Hawaii

    5. Watched a meteor shower

    6. Started a book club

    7. Been to Disneyland/world

    8. Climbed a mountain

    9. Held a praying mantis

    10. Sung a solo

    11. Bungee jumped

    12. Visited Paris

    13. Watched lightening at sea

    14. Taught myself an art from scratch (well, a craft, but I'm taking it)

    15. Adopted a child

    16. Had food poisoning

    17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

    18. Grown my own vegetables

    19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

    20. Slept on an overnight train

    21. Had a pillow fight

    22. Hitchhiked

    23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

    24. Built a snow fort

    25. Held a lamb

    26. Gone skinny dipping

    27. Run a Marathon

    28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

    29. Seen a total eclipse

    30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

    31. Hit a home run

    32. Been on a cruise

    33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

    34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors

    35. Seen an Amish community

    36. Taught myself a new language

    37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

    38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

    39. Gone rock climbing

    40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

    41. Sung karaoke

    42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

    43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

    44. Visited Africa

    45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

    46. Been transported in an ambulance

    47. Had my portrait painted

    48. Gone deep sea fishing

    49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

    50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

    51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

    52. Kissed in the rain

    53. Played in the mud

    54. Gone to a drive-in theater

    55. Been in a movie

    56. Visited the Great Wall of China

    57. Started a business

    58. Taken a martial arts class

    59. Visited Russia

    60. Served at a soup kitchen

    61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

    62. Gone whale watching

    63. Got flowers for no reason

    64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

    65. Gone sky diving

    66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

    67. Bounced a check

    68. Flown in a helicopter

    69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

    70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

    71. Eaten Caviar

    72. Pieced a quilt

    73. Stood in Times Square

    74. Toured the Everglades

    75. Been fired from a job

    76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

    77. Broken a bone

    78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

    79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

    80. Published a book

    81. Visited the Vatican

    82. Bought a brand new car

    83. Walked in Jerusalem

    84. Had my picture in the newspaper

    85. Read the entire Bible

    86. Visited the White House

    87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

    88. Had chickenpox

    89. Saved someone’s life

    90. Sat on a jury

    91. Met someone famous

    92. Joined a book club

    93. Lost a loved one

    94. Had a baby

    95. Seen the Alamo in person

    96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

    97. Been involved in a law suit

    98. Owned a cell phone

    99. Been stung by a bee

    100. Rode an elephant



    27/100 ... that's pretty sad really

    The Importance of Being Jo

    *NOTE: This post may contain spoilers for Little Women... but if you haven't already read it then that's just too sad to contemplate.


    When I was eight years old my grandparents bought me a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I don’t remember receiving it – in fact I only know that I was eight because of the inscription in the front of the book – but I do remember reading and loving it. It became a quick favourite, the favourite, in fact, for I love it still, and read it each and every Christmas, preferably while sitting under the tree.

    I’m sure this comes as no shock to anyone who reads my blog, as I've mentioned it already this year (here and here) and most definately comes to no surprise to anyone who knows me in person, as it is about this time that I go into my 'Little Women haze: reading, crying, and giggling happily. My house is usually filled with people who bounce between rolling their eyes at me and taunting me into telling them whether or not Beth is dead yet. Yes, they're that heartless and mean.

    Because I'm certain that I'm not the only one who considers Little Women to be one of their favourites, I'm not actually going to review the book (I promise I'm not making a habit of this). Instead, I'd like to share something from the afterword of my new edition (written by Susan Straight).

    Meg was lovely and mannered, and we saw her burned hair, her gloves, her mended dresses and pretty cheeks clearly, liking her immensely. Beth was saintly and devoted, her long fingers on the piano keys, her eyes always searching her sisters and mother even when her lips didn't move, and we loved her without reserve. Amy was pretty and pretentious, and we laughed at her mispronunciations, saw the lovely pickled limes lying in the snow, even understood how hard it must have been to follow those three with their places in the house firmly etched.

    But even now, when many of us who read Little Women as children and teens are finally the age of Marmee, all the girls I've ever talked to wanted to be Jo [...] rough and galloping across snowy fields and tree-lined roads, wearing her writing cap in the attic, her fingers tinted blue with ink, her hair shorn awkwardly, Louisa May Alcott's legacy to millions of readers.

    I have been thinking about this statement all week and, while looking forward to thinking it out here myself, I'd love to hear others thoughts on this. So! If you're inclined, I'd love it if you'd give it some thought yourself and let me know.

    Growing up I always loved Beth as my favourite, and who wouldn't? Quiet, unassuming Beth; shy and homely, yet always ready with a smile and a kind word. I loved her gentle treatment of her poor Joanna, her devotion to all her sisters (her "wild, brave Jo" most of all), and her relationship with crotchety Mr. Laurence (the chapter where he gifts her with the piano remains my favourite even today).

    I suppose I always fancied myself a bit of a Beth for, despite my faults (which Beth was not in possession of), I was a child who preferred to stay home, staying close to mother and family. This was definately a romanticism on my part, for a Beth I am not.

    While I never was, and never became, the rough and tumble "wild girl" that so characterised Jo (I did, at least, maintain Beth's calm homeliness), I do remember actually thinking, as I came out my shell a little, that I was become more of a "Jo". As my bookish tendencies became more and more consuming and my hand turned to literary pursuits (though never with the dogged confidence or talent of Jo) I, with each consecutive reading of Little Women, longed to be more and more like the character I loved.


    Her temper I would have happily left behind, but I admired her unfailing loyalty to friend and family. I respected her strongly held ideals and often think of her when I get on my own soapbox from time to time. I loved her generosity of spirit and openness of heart.

    Throughout the years, and countless rereadings, Jo has shared much with me and, though she not know it, I with her. I have laughed with her, loved with her, and cried with her. And in return, she has cheered me, championed with me and comforted me. Most importantly she has lived with me. More so than any other character - a strong statement for a reader, I believe - Josephine March has touched and impacted me.

    Despite my moments of wanting to be like her, I'm not sure if I ever wanted to BE her... but I certainly wanted to be her friend.



    So come on, tell us, who did YOU want to be?

    Musing Mondays: Reading on the Go (Dec 15)

    Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading on the go…


    I always like to have a book with me at all times – call it a nerdy grown-up security blanket – and rarely do I leave the house without slipping one into my bag (even if I KNOW I’m not going to have a chance to read it). Do you take a book with you? Do you take whatever book you’re currently reading, or do you have a special on-the-go book? And do you have a preference for a these types of book (paperback, hardback; short stories; poetry etc)?


    PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog).




    Like I said, I always have a book with me. When I was younger I'd often read more than one book at a home and so would usually just pick up whatever one caught my eye that moment to take with me. Later I had a 'home' book and an 'out' book - with the out book usually being decidely lighter.


    Now, though, I'm usually only reading one book (and find that I actually read a lot more that way) and so I just pick it up off my nightstand and take it with me where ever I go. I like this, as it usually results in quite a few "and what are you reading today...?" questions from friends and means that I can easily recommend (or not) a book that I have on hand.


    My preference of hard back or paper back usually doesn't come into play much. However I do prefer a paperback when I have a long day at uni as it takes up less room in my bag, and I prefer a hardback when I'm going shopping or out with friends as there isn't as much in my bag (some back) and hard back affords it a bit more protection when being knocked around.


    I usually take novels with me - but mostly because this is what I read more than anything else. Short stories are good too, but I don't like to take poetry with me, as I much prefer to read that at home.

    House of Night

    Marked (House of Night, Book 1)
    P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast
    306 pages; published 2007


    So the good news is that I wouldn't have to take the geometry test tomorrow.

    The bad news was that I'd have to move into the House of Night, a private boarding school in Tulsa's Midtown, known by all my friends as the Vampyre Finishing School, where I would spend the next four years going through bizarre and unnameable physical changes, as well as a total and permanent life shake-up. And that's only if the whole process didn't kill me. (6)


    Zoey wants nothing more out of life than to feel like she really belongs… well, that and her vintage VW beetle. Ever since her mother married the People of the Faith Elder, John Heffer, Zoey’s life has been miserable. Her new step-father (the step-loser) is both clueless and controlling, and her mother is growing more distant every day. The routine dramas of school (the self-centred gossip of her best friend and drunken exploits of her almost-ex-boyfriend) have become her refuge in life, her only escape.

    Until the day the very dead – sorry, ‘undead’ – man, a vampyre Tracker, turns up at her locker and flips her life upside down. She’s been ‘marked’. She’s now a ‘fledgling’ vampyre and, as such, has two choices: die, or move into the prestigious vampyre boarding school, House of Night, and possibly die anyways.

    Informing her parents of her fate didn’t go so well and, feeling abandoned yet again, she heads to her Grandmother’s lavender farm for comfort. While there she falls and hits her head, during which she sees a vision of the goddess Nyx, beloved goddess of the vampyres. She tells Zoey that she has chosen her to be her eyes and ears in the new world she is about to enter.

    Coming to, she finds herself at her new school, her new home. How well is she about to fit in a new school where she knows nothing about the students?


    Do vampyres play chess? Were there vampyre dorks? How about Barbie-like vampyre cheerleaders? Did any vampyres play in the band? Were there vampyre Emos with their guy-wearing-girl’s-pants weirdness and those awful bangs that cover half their faces? Or were they all those freaky Goth kids who didn’t like to bathe much? Was I going to turn into a Goth kid? Or worse, an Emo? I didn’t particularly like wearing black, at least not exclusively, and I wasn’t feeling a sudden and unfortunate aversion to soap and water, nor did I have an obsessive desire to change my hairstyle and wear too much eyeliner. (3)


    Things are made all the more difficult when Zoey realises that the mark indicating her new vampyre status indicates that of a fully-fledged vampyre, not of a fledging. She’s a freak amongst freaks.

    Turns out that the House of Night isn’t all that unusual, however: dorms, cafeteria (oops, ‘dining hall’), weird teachers, dorks, cool kids… but if everything’s so ordinary, what is it that Zoey’s supposed to be keeping her eye on? and what is it that makes her so special?

    I picked up P.C. and Kristen Cast’s Marked, the first in the House of Night series, as I was leaving the library last. They had a ‘If you like Twilight…’ display in the YA section and the cover looked interesting (tsk, tsk, cover picking). When I started reading it, the first couple pages repelled me instantly – it was full of teenage jargon, all gossipy friends and football boyfriends drinking on the back of a pick up truck. And then the vampire turned up, all imperial and old-world threatening in his speech and I started to gag. There was no way I was going to get through this book. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, however, I decided to keep going to the 50-page mark. Next time I looked up it was 3:30am and I was about 200 pages in. Wait? What just happened? Apparently I was hooked and I read it all in one sitting (well, lying, I was supposed to be asleep, after all).

    Vampire books are all the rage at the moment, so when reading (yet another) one, I’m really on looking at three things: the writing, the characters, and something that makes it different.

    Written by a mother/daughter team, the authors have created an attention-grabbing Twilight-meets-Harry Potter world. As the first book, Marked introduced an interesting – if somewhat clichéd – set of characters, and setting (the school) that should pave the way for the next few books. Their treatment of vampyres (spelling aside) had great potential – a genetic process bought on by the hormones found in a teen body, one that not everyone survives – but could have benefited from more than just a couple throwaway paragraphs. I hope they look into it further in the succeeding books.

    All in all, Marked was a good FIRST book, it set up a lot for the series and left me wanting to read the next one. 3.5/5

    Purchase Marked here.


    Other Reviews
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    Teen Reads

    Right Book, Right Time: 500 Books for Teenagers

    Agnes Nieuwenhuizen
    353 pages; published 2007


    Read! Read! Read! Read for pleasure, for thrills, for escape, for ideas. Read books that make you laugh and cry and wonder and think. Read for yourself and not for others. (viii)


    Yes, that’s right, it’s another list book. I have a sickness. Therapy didn’t work, I’m looking into medication. This was an early Christmas present I bought for myself and my sister, who, as a new ‘reader’ likes recommendations for books. This book was a winner, if the little post-it note taggies popping out the top are any indication.

    After having read a few of these books, I’ve decided to change how I review them, focusing on just a few central points, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I iron out the kinks.


    THEME: Books for Teenagers.
    The premise was a book for every occasion, mood, phase, experience. As the book is aimed at teachers/librarians as well as teenagers, I thought it was a particularly good idea. Teenager or not, you often have to be in the right place for the right book.


    FORMAT:
    The book is broken up into twelve chapters/sections:

    • Action, adventure and crime
    • Been and gone
    • Extreme and edgy
    • Fantastic worlds
    • Life, love and loss
    • My place in the world
    • Not such ordinary lives
    • Outside the square
    • This sporting life
    • War and conflicts
    • What if…?
    • When you want to laugh

    These chapters are broken up by the occasional mini essay or editorial on a variety of topics from “pink books” to graphic novels.

    Within chapters are, and this was the best part, full page reviews for each novel/series with the occasional author bio/review.

    Each book was classified with its country of origin and reading age:


    Y = Young Reader
    YA = Young Adult
    A = Adult


    but then goes on to show the primary audience and the audience who may be interested. For example: a book marked YA/A indicates a YA novel that may be of interest to an adult reader.

    In between these reviews were shorter topical lists (“grand love stories”, “extraordinary international lives”, “recent Australian YA books with Shakespearean connections”) with shorter paragraph reviews.

    This format made this book not only extremely easy to read and navigate, but also quite pleasing to look at.


    SELECTION OF BOOKS:
    Here’s where the list book can potentially fall down. You don’t want a generic list of books which you’ve seen a hundred times, but at the same time, you don’t want a list so out there that it’s unrecognisable or unrelatable.


    Right Book, Right Time: 500 Great Reads for Teenagers focuses mainly on recent YA novels which, considering the discerning teen audience, is probably a good idea. However, it still includes (in the topical lists mostly) more traditional or enduring teenage and children’s’ classics. The range of books was impressive and very well selected, catering for all tastes and interest. 5/5



    Other Reviews
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    Musing Mondays (Dec 8)


    How long do you wait after finishing a book before you pick/start another one? How many books do you have planned ahead or do you pick up random books from your tbr pile (if you have one)? Do you review right away or keep reading and come back to it later?



    Please leave a comment with the link to either your own Musing Mondays post, or share your answer here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!




    I'm a bit of a lazy reviewer, no matter how much I promise myself that I won't let it be, my tbr(eviwed) pile is often bigger than my tbr(ead) pile.

    Once I've finished whatever I've read, it goes into my reviewing pile and I usually pick a new one right away. I used to just pick randomly from the little stock pile of new books I've built up (which explains the 'book buying ban' I'm currently on) but now that I spend more time at the library, and have my shiny new gold membership, I usually pick up whatever is on the top in my library bag.


    I wouldn't say that I necessarily 'plan' ahead, though I do have a rough idea of a couple books that I want to read. I mean, right now, the next few books I want to read are Little Women (my Christmas book), Middlesex by Eugenides (book club), and Gaiman's American Gods and Anansi Boys (currently glaring at me from my bookshelf).

    Battle of the Sexes!

    Olympic Games
    Leslie What
    234 pages; published 2004



    Hera could practically smell the seduction on his breath; the way Zeus offered her a goblet of sweetened wine, how he plumper her feather pillows and tenderly slid them beneath her back. He rubbed her feet with clove-scented oil, then performed her favourite little trick: lighting the clouds on fire to leave warm, moist trails of smoke. Delightful. Oh, her husband was an expert at seduction when he wanted to be.

    There was only one problem and it was a big one.

    Zeus was not seducing her. (12)



    Since the beginning of time, Zeus and Hera have been King and Queen of the Gods: greatest of the Olympians and supreme overseers of mortal beings. This hasn’t changed, though the times certainly have. Thing is though, what is a god without anyone to worship them?

    In the hustle and bustle of modern life, worship of the Greek Gods has all but disappeared, and many of the Olympians (all but Hera and Zeus, in fact) have elected to do just that themselves, simply fade out of existence rather than continue in an unworshipped state.

    For Hera and Zeus, however, it’s life as usual: Zeus charms and philanders while Hera gripes and deals with the consequences of having such a husband. This is all well and good until, as prophesised by a street oracle, a flame from Zeus’ past comes back to wreak havoc on their newly re-established alliance.

    Penelope was a water naiad Zeus seduced and trapped inside a tree back in the “old country.” When freed by a love starved hermit named Possum, her human presence alerts Zeus, whose interest is immediately reinflamed.

    Meanwhile, Hera’s abandoned and genetically curious son, Igor, (half Greek God, half common bar beetle) mourns the absence of his ‘father’ in his life. Despite Hera’s, admittedly somewhat indifferent, wishes he sets out to seek Zeus out.

    What will happen when all characters collide? Will Zeus accept his ‘son’ and, by extension, his long-suffering wife? Or will he go onto disrupt the happy life of Penelope and Possum, claiming what he thinks of as his own? And what of Hera? Will she learn to love her son as she should, or is everything simply lost in her unending task of reigning in Zeus?

    Leslie What’s Olympic Games was an ‘almost’ book for me. By that I mean that the characters, story, writing, humour, everything, was ALMOST right. I enjoyed the book, but it left me with a feeling of falling short, as if it had potential that it didn’t quite meet.

    Zeus was nothing more than a hedonistic womaniser and Hera a bitter, self-centred prima donna. While I accept that, as gods of a central idea of concept, these characters may become very focused, What’s interpretations were, in places, almost two dimensional. In all fairness, I am a long-time fan of shows such as Xena: the Warrior Princess and Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, whose visions of the gods are much more rounded; I already had high expectations.

    Secondary characters (Possum, Igor) were a little more interesting, but it’s redeeming character was that of Eddie, the mentally retarded shop assistant, whose chapters were heart-wrenchingly honest. He made me laugh and he made me cry. For me, he saved the book.

    I was interested to read that it was a short story that had been rewritten into a novel. That cleared up a lot for me. I think that, for me, it would have been more satisfying as a short story. 2.5/5



    Purchase Olympic Games here.



    Other Reviews
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    BTT: 5 for Favourites

    1. Do you have a favorite author?Aw, come on, you can't really expect me to answer that, can you? If I had to narrow the list down, I'd have to go: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Jodi Picoult.
    2. Have you read everything he or she has written?
    I've read everything Jodi Picoult has written up till her very latest novel, Change of Heart - and even that's only for completely anal reasons. I can't bring myself to buy the book (or borrow/read) until it is rereleased in the same edition as all the others that I have... I can't help it, they need to be the same.
    As for Gaiman and Pratchett - no I haven't, but they're reasonably new 'favourites' and I'm working my way through them gradually.

    3. Did you LIKE everything?
    I haven't come across a book of hers that I haven't liked, but there are some that I'm not as fond of as others. Harvesting the Heart and Mercy are the ones I like the least.

    4. How about a least favorite author?Didn't particularly like Patrick White (though I've only read the one book, Voss), and am not a huge fan of Bryce Courtney (though I liked Sylvia)... hmm, I suppose I'm not really one to go to extremes; again, I have ones that I don't like as much as others, but none I particularly dislike.
    5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t?
    I'm pretty boring today, I'm afraid - I can't really think of one for this question either.

    Challenges Update

    Seeing as I've only got a month left on some of the 2008 challenges I signed up for, I thought I'd do a bit of an update to see what I had to read this month... why, oh why, did I do that? All it did was point out how easily I go off on reading tangents.

    *sigh*

    Initials Reading Challenge - FINISHED 30/11

    'Zokutou'Zokutou
    3 / 5
    (60.0%)
    whoops


    A-Z Reading Challenge - 2008
    'Zokutou'Zokutou
    41 / 52
    (78.8%)
    Any suggestions for:
    Title: J, Q, U, V, W, Y, Z
    Author: N, O, Q, X

    Mythopoeic Award Challenge - 2008
    'Zokutou'Zokutou
    2 / 7
    (28.6%)
    hmm, I'll see how I go

    100+ Reading Challenge - 2008
    'Zokutou'Zokutou
    98 / 100
    (98.0%)
    I'm not worried about this one, at least

    Arthurian Challenge - March 31, 2009
    'Zokutou'Zokutou
    11 / 12
    (91.7%)
    Hmm, that one's okay too.

    Book Awards Challenge - June 1, 2009
    'Zokutou'Zokutou
    1 / 10
    (10.0%)
    A bit, okay more than a bit, behind
    42 Challenge - DEC 3, 2009
    'Zokutou'Zokutou
    22 / 42
    (52.4%)
    I'm loving this one, though.