2010 Reading Round Up

My reading stats this year won’t break any records. The reading slump months, i.e. the months I read only one book, are especially conspicuous. The thing is, I’ve changed. Whereas in the past years my focus was on quantity (I wanted to read X amount of books and beat some invisible record), this year I find myself slowing down and savoring the story. I guess after two years of speeding I finally realized that reading shouldn’t be rushed. It’s not like I have a stagecoach to catch of anything.

December is conspicuously, shamefully missing. I was lead astray by all these holiday shenanigans and have not managed to finish a single book, though, it should be noted that I am currently reading Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King and enjoying every gruesome moment of it.

Trends:

My moods seemed to swing from the big sweeping epics at the beginning of the year and whittle down to a slew  of retro Christopher Pikes, a result of scavenging my local dollar bookstore in search of those sentimental ’90’s reading days.

The Best of 2010 (in no particular order). Prepare thyself for a lot of nonsensical gushing and uncontrollably sobbing:

The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough: Oh sweet Jesus, I love this book so much I could fall on my knees and say a thousand ‘Hail Marys’ to the author and even that wouldn’t be enough to express my pure devotion to the awesomeness of this book. Reading this tome took the entire month of January and carting it around was like tucking an especially heavy brick under my arm. I’ve never been to Australia but when I finished I felt like I could claim citizenship. This is the epic star-crossed love story between a Catholic priest and the spunky young woman he sort of helped raised. Gross, right? Oh but it is so romantic, not in the slushy way, but a surprisingly esoteric way that makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve read the book and fawned over the prose. Okay, I totally dogearred a few parts of this book for future re-reads. My favorite part: when Father Ralph was all “Tonight there is only Meggie. I have wanted her. She too is a sacrament.” *Descends into uncontrollably sobbing because the simile is so on the nose.* WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!!! *Sobs like the Double Rainbow guy on YouTube* What does it mean????????????????

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard:  When I mini-reviewed this book earlier this year, I gave it a B. As time progressed and the story had like time to age like a bottle of fine wine in the cellar of my mind (don’t puke, I’m listening to Phantom of the Opera on a continuous loop as I’m writing this), it dawned on me that I might have been too hasty in my grading. I claimed this book was sad, bordering on depressing. Now it is sad, bordering on bittersweet.  This YA is about the secret affair between a boy from the wrong side of the tracks and a country club princess. Then she dies and her brother hands him her diary which he reads and weeps over because SOB!!!!!!! she really loves him but never officially told him and now she’s dead and he has to DEAL! This isn’t some paranormal romance where dead means zombie. This is real life where dead means dead and the survivors take long meaningful walks in the snow DEALING.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: This is another historical epic that monopolized a month out of my year. As a loyal fan of the movie, I’ve always been meaning to tackle the book but never got around to it. Boy am I glad I did. Upon finishing, I slammed the book down and sort of had a religious experience.  I even managed to squeeze out a few tears. “Wow,” I said. Just wow. I am also extremely jealous of Margaret Mitchell’s novel writing prowness. From a technical perspective, GWTW has the perfect balance between beautiful prose, compelling storytelling, and deep characterization. Also, Scarlett O’Hara is my hero. In the league of resourceful heroines, I think she’s even cooler than Claire from Outlander. It’s a close race, but Scarlett has that extra ounce of bitchness that speaks to the Melrose Place (circa ’90’s) fan in me.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls: This is the surprise of 2010. I checked this out from the library for lack of anything better to read. I’m not a big memoir reader and I approached Glass Castle with low expectations. Then the story, which reminded me of a more intense, modern day version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, blew me away. I am such a sucker for coming-of-age!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: While I did not find this book as exhilarating as Hunger Games and Catching Fire, the end (minus the epilogue) was so perfect that it almost made me change teams. I remember reading the last paragraph over and over again and sighing.

I Capture the Castle by Doddie Smith: This book has that jolly ole tone that Americans like me find so hilarious. Oh the Brits and their understated witticisms! No seriously, this book, it done warmed my heart and challenged my mind. Plus, it lends itself to quotes.

Books Read in 2010

Jan.2010

The Thornbirds—Colleen McCullough

Feb 2010

1. The Secret Year—Jennifer R. Hubbard

2. Thirst No. 2—Christopher Pike

3. A Woman of Substance—Barbara Taylor Bradford

4. The Sartorialist—Scott Schuman

5. Blankets—Craig Thompson

March 2010

1. Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut interview

2. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

3. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

 

April 2010

1. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

May 2010

  1. Die Softly by Christopher Pike
  2. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  3. Road to Nowhere by Christopher Pike

June 2010

  1. Story by Robert McKnee
  2. Monster by Christopher Pike
  3. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  4. L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad
  5. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

July 2010

1. The Stand by Stephen King (not finished)

2. Remember Me by Christopher Pike (Reissued trilogy includes Remember Me, The Return, The Last Story)

August 2010

1. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

September 2010

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

2. See You Later by Christopher Pike

3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

4. The Secret of Ka by Christopher Pike

5. The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass

6. How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey

October 2010

1. Bury Me Deep by Christopher Pike

2. Spellbound by Christopher Pike

3. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

4. Witch by Christopher Pike

November 2010

1. Dream Man by Linda Howard

2. Thirst No. 3 by Christopher Pike

3. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

4. I Capture the Castle by Doddie Smith

5. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

 

Bookish Eye Candy

I made a collage of Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor! This is my second favorite romance novel. I don’t need to beat a dead horse and tell you that Outlander is #1. Thanks to The Tudors, I’ve finally found my perfect Lord Nicholas Stafford: Henry Cavill. In fact, Henry is now the go-to actor for when I read Medieval/Renaissance Romance! He is also my perfect Gale (Hunger Games). I will refrain from gushing about Knight again and filing subsequent pleas to READ THIS BOOK so you can indulge in the hilarity and hotness that is Lord Nicholas!

I am currently reading I Capture the Castle. I think it’s safe to say I have Henry Cavill on the brain. Now you know that H. Cavill has played a) A rogue hunter from District 12 b) A chivalrous Elizabethan knight c) A considerate stable boy.  He is currently the leading man in my book-related mind movie.

Two years ago Gaspard Ulliel used to hold the coveted title of ‘imaginary leading man.’ Back when I read Twilight, that is, BEFORE the atrocious movie (Damn you R.Patz! You’ve ruined vampires for me forever!), Gaspard was my Edward Cullen. Sigh. Oh guys, I would be so happy if, in the forthcoming Breaking Dawn movie, Edward undergoes a face transplant. When Carlisle unwraps the bandages, Edward becomes Gaspard and starts speaking French.  Apparently, surgery will do that to you! Dear Twilight people, please give Bella a face/personality transplant too. Make her less annoying! At least make her close her mouth… But alas, why do I care? EDWARD IS DEAD TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!

Gaspard used to be the hero in my Novel in Progress. Back in my earliest planning stage, I didn’t have a plot or a fully developed cast of characters. The heroine, who also happens to be the first person narrator, was flatter than my chest at age thirteen. I only had one requirement. The heroine’s love interest must be HOT, ergo, he must look like Gaspard! He’s required to take off his shirt at least twice and shoot meaningful yet sexy glances at the heroine. Allow me to illustrate: one day heroine is walking down the street and she collides into lover boy. In one swift move, he leans against the wall and glares down at her like this:

Or perhaps heroine ventures into the bathroom only to find lover boy sitting in the tub waiting for her. She props her hand on her hips and says “I see you have your suspenders on…”

Don’t laugh at me! Need I remind you this was in the grassroot stage? Three years and a tower of notebooks filled with outlines later, I like to think I’ve improved. Merely describing characters by their physical attractiveness won’t make them hot in the eyes of the reader. A character is crushable because of his DEEDS. Once I fleshed out lover boy’s character, I realized that it’s in the book’s best interest that I de-hottie-fy him. Rather, he starts out ordinary; as the story progresses, he becomes more attractive in the eyes of the heroine as she gets to know him. Character transformation!

Sadly, Gaspard is out. My heroine’s love interest looks like a cross between a clean shaven Ben Whishaw and Anthony Perkins. Imagine Ben’s head on Norman Bates’ body. Or Ben Whishaw’s evil face from Perfume on Sheldon Coopers’ (Big Bang Theory) body. Lover boy used to be a pretty boy, now he needs to a) make a sinister face b) be tall and lanky, wiry and gawky. Apparently, I like making FrankenPeople. It’s really not as creepy as it sounds.

If you’ve ever wondered if I made collages of my WIP… Indeed I did. Several, in fact. Of course, this WIP has been many things. I’ve seen it through one drastic setting change, multiple character relationship alternations, and a de-hottie-fication. This is what it currently looks like in my head. I’ve included some of the characters and random objects/images that defines each character. The setting, as you can guess, is supposed to be spooky in the gothic romance tradition, i.e. lots of fog and rumbling clouds.


Bookshelves and cheap splurges

If you ever invite me into your home, I’ll immediately gravitate toward your bookshelf, scrutinize your titles, and JUDGE you by what you read. That’s because I do not have a bookshelf of my own. My shelves are filled with my mom’s cheap bric-a-brac collecting dust and contributing to my allergies. Mark my words: one day I will severe the umbilical cord and build my own bookshelf! This ideal bookshelf will be awesome and far surpass all the pansy bookshelves out there. I will be the coolest kid in town and the popular bookworms will play in my sandbox!

But all that is in the future. For now I subscribe to I Love Reading and Writing and drool over their sensual bookshelf photos.

Dollar Bookstore Loot!

1. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: Sarah’s fictional world of Southern Fried Magical Realism is the only world I want to live in. I’ve gushed about The Witch of Blackbird Pond but I wonder if I really want to live in a Puritan colony? Or in the lawless Highlands of Outlander? A girl could get ravaged by a band of savage Scotsmen or accused of witchcraft or given dirty looks by beetle-browed Puritans! A quaint town populated by heartwarming characters (one of which concocts mouthwatering dishes) and a 4th of July Fair is the ideal world for me. It’s so very Mister Rogers or vanishing Americana and I want a piece of it. Plus, I have this affinity toward ferris wheels and craft tents, preferably tents where you sell your blackberry preserves and homemade pies. This book gives me the same comfy feeling I get from rubbing my mittens on my cheek.

2. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: A brand new trade paperback. Pristine condition. Unbroken spine! I remember abandoning this book when I was 17 because I just couldn’t get into the story.  Now that I own the book, I’m a firm believer of second chances.

3. Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman: I snagged the first edition hardback in mint condition! The design is top-notch for a novella that is really nothing more than pamphlet. I read this book last year and liked it well enough. I left it unreviewed because I have absolutely nothing to say other than “I like Hoffman’s description of jellyfish.” Alice Hoffman is an author you read for the sake of reading beautiful prose as opposed to reading for the story.

4. The Listeners by Christopher Pike: I read this book twice during 7th grade silent reading (there was a lot of silent reading time during middle school). After a few years the library discarded its copies, it went out of print, finding a copy was virtually impossible. Until now… I only remember the story in vague flashes: Evil twin… sexy twin… great big giant head… and a cool opening line, “David Conner had shot three people in his life, blown up three, and burned another to death.”

And now for some random YA book coveting:


1. Vixen by Jillian Larkin: Reason for coveting is based solely on cover art.

2. Everlasting by Angie Frazier: When I read the synopsis for this book, I nearly DIED OF TERROR!  The plot sounds loosely like the plot to my top-secret-never-told-a-soul WIP, well, minus the historical period, the sinking ship, and the charming first mate. But there IS a stone and a quest and some dead parents who may or may not be recalled to life by said mythical stone! Then I read the first pages on Amazon’s preview and sighed with relief. It’s nothing like my WIP. This book is Quest for McGruffin + Coming of Age for feisty heroine + gentle love story.  My book is Quest for McGruffin + Captain Ahab-like obsessive feisty heroine + Dynasty-esque Dramarama + twisted love story. There are only a few plots in the world:  the only thing differentiating one quest novel from another is the author’s unique voice and perspective. Also, you can’t go wrong with hobbits. I don’t have hobbits, but I have…catfights and a heroine who learns not to be a bitch.

3. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly: Because I’ll read anything by Jennifer Donnelly, especially a YA about the French Revolution. This will tie me over until The Wild Rose, the 3rd book in her Rose Trilogy, is published in 2011.

4. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff: Reason for coveting is based solely on cover art.




I covet…

For all the nostalgic memories of my tween years reading Christopher Pike, it dawned on me that maybe I haven’t read as much as I remembered. Fortunately, a new Pike re-issue is slated for publication in July! After several failed scavenger hunts at my local dollar book store and coming home soul-crushed and Pikeless, I’m rubbing my greedy palms together in anticipation of Remember Me. If only Simon Pulse would ride the money train all the way and re-issue ALL the Pikes, particularly Die, Softly and Masters of Murder (see “Titles Unread by Me”). Consider this an open letter to Simon Pulse: Do. It.

The next title needs no introduction. The Exile by Diana Gabaldon. Outlander Graphic Novel baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Graphic novels aren’t my thing but if Diana wants to milk this cash cow for all it’s worth I will drink the milk and like it. Publication date is near my birthday so —ahem—I hope someone’s taking notes.

How ’bout them tweed blazers with leather elbow patches? Oh what I wouldn’t give to look like a fashionista professor or an equestrian!

Finally, since this post has taken a turn for the random, here are the books I read in Feb and March.

Happy Valentine’s Day

I always forget to post during holidays. This year, however, I’ve amassed quite the ‘making out’ photo collection on Polyvore and must share it with you. I celebrated V Day on V Day’s Eve. Today I work until sunset. Yay me! At least I’ve got…a big box of Junior Mints to keep me warm and refreshed.

Sharp Dressed Men

Flavor of the Week.

How much do I love looking at The Sartorialist’s street fashion shoots of sharp dressed men? Were I a man, I would dress part dandy part East Coast professor. In any event, I’ve got argyle socks and corduroy pants on my fashion wish list. Add tweed jackets with leather elbow patches.

Speaking of men, I direct you to last week’s flavor: David Tennant (pictured here in this Heathcliffian stance).

After watching the BBC’s remake of Hamlet here, I am now officially in love with David T.

And here I thought Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 version was the definitive Hamlet. No more. David T. blew Ken B. out of Denmark. Do yourself a favor and watch Hamlet 2K9. It premieres on PBS in April. You can watch it on YouTube right now. Soliloquize with me!

In other news,  I’m No. 1 on my library waitlist for Thirst No. 2 by Christopher Pike. It’s just a matter of days now… Thirst No. 1 had helicopter chases and people blowing up other people. Here’s hoping No. 2 follows up the helicopter chases with MORE helicopter chases.

Finally. I whittle away a lot of spare time coveting dresses. Drool…

Library Loot and The Thornbirds

1. A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford

2. Falling by Christopher Pike

3. A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Bell

I’ve finished The Thornbirds! That makes 1 book in Jan. All it takes is one good book to break the reading slump. Unfortunately, my book synopsizing muscles have atrophied during my blogging break so if you are unfamiliar with the plot, this make-out montage from the 1983 miniseries should do my work for me.

The Thornbirds has everything I look for in a multi-generational epic: people eeking out a living from the LAND, paternity issues, a manipulative and horny elderly matriarch, and a forbidden love affair with a priest which spawns another paternity issue. After roughly two weeks reading this book, my life has changed in two ways: I started to believe that I was Australian even though I’ve never been down under in the physical sense of the word, I yearned to live on an Outback sheep station and grab a handful of red earth… said dirt will slip through my fingers, my hands will convulse as I stare off into the distance for I have become ONE WITH THE LAND.  Then I remembered that I hate nature and the notion goes poof. Also, I’m on the look out for hot priests.

Speaking of nature, a sparrow flew into my workplace last week and trapped itself behind some cabinets. We could hear it twittering and chirping and flapping its bird wings against the wall. It was a most displeasing sound. Some of us (me) freaked the eff out and stayed far far away from the disease ridden avian demon while the bravest of my co-workers rigged a series of inventions: a bird scoop (a shovel fashioned out of filing folders duct taped to the back of a broom handle), a bird vacuum, etc… All to no avail. The little beast was too bird-brained to see a rescue attempt if it hit it in its simple beaky face. I made a panicked Animal Control call and several hours later, they sent the rescue squad which consisted of one man and a metal pole. I don’t think Animal Control was equipped with nets and whatnot (they deal with dead animals, which would have been the case if the suction on the vacuum was strong enough), so Animal Control guy used our bird scoop and, with prayers and swears, captured the disgusting little creature and shoved it in his pocket. Once outside, Animal Control guy did the Twilight hands and the bird flew away to crap in another office. The end.

One of my co-workers mused that she wished she had a blog to recount this amusing incident. I am the only one with a blog so here it is. If you haven’t already guessed, I hate birds. An arboretum is my idea of hell on earth. Beaks. Talons. Feathers. Beady eyes. Wings. Vile creatures, the lot of them.

I expect a flood of hate mail from falconers and pirates…

Okay. I’m not completely heartless with regards to the avian species, which is to say, I’m not above eating them.