December 14, 2011

i have a new blog!

Sorry to interrupt the 2011 Book Review Extravaganza… but I just wanted to let you know that I have a new blog-home.

herlifewithbooks.com

It’s still a little rough around the edges, but I have been working all semester to get my first self-hosted, WordPress.org blog up and running. Watch me turn an assignment for school into something I was going to do anyway!!

Personally, I think it looks significantly fancier. Not that all of y’all reading from your Google Reader will notice… but I hope you will all update said Feed Readers and join me shortly.

Relevant archives will be transported in full, eventually. Posting will continue in the matter to which you are accustomed!

P.S. Not only did my new website earn me an A, I did so well in the class that my professor sent me an email to tell me that I had one of the top 2 grades in my section. Take THAT library school! So, I got an A on my blog, people. Go forth and check it out.

December 14, 2011

Best Re-reads of 2011

Forever… by Judy Blume

Ah, I used to really enjoy some Judy Blume when I was a child. Just As Long As We’re Together. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? I’ve read Summer Sisters more times than I can recall. Mmm. But despite my prodigious love of Ms. Blume, reading Forever still makes me think:

Judy Blume, you are a bad. ass.

This book is a like, no holds barred teenage love. Even 30+ year after its publication, and after countless other sex-fueled YA novels, it still feels kind of racy. And call me a sucker, but even after so many re-reads, I still root for Katherine and Michael to stay together. For Ralph’s sake.

Okay fine, I just like making Ralph jokes. So sue me.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

This book came in the middle of my Spring syllabus, like a breath of fresh air in the midst of a pile of rotting corpses.

Really, though. We read a book about a pile of rotting corpses. Gross.

This is one of my all time favorite books, and it stands up to multiple re-reads, sucking me in every time.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I think I may read this book once a year, every year until I die. I am especially fond of the audio, read by the author – it’s great to listen to in late March, early April. It’s getting a bit warmer, you’re thinking about fresh produce again, you’re walking around out of doors again, enjoying nature…

oh good grief, I am annoying.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

I liked this book the first time around, but I found it easy to pseudo-skim. Not skim-skim… I am not great at skimming. But a pseudo-skim is more like “I’m reading, I get the plot, but I’m not really focusing enough to really get what’s going on.” The nice thing about Going Bovine is that even doing a pseudo-skim, the book is enjoyable. Lots of plot-twists and jokes etc. But on my second read, I slowed down and found the novel to be this labyrinth of mythology and symbolism and weird allegories… so bizarre but so complex.

Hardly anyone in my class liked it though! What is their problem?

The Pigman & Me by Paul Zindel

This was one of my favorite audio books as a child, and I re-listened to it this year for the nostalgia of it. This is Paul Zindel’s autobiography – mostly a tale of his slightly unbalanced mother who dragged Paul and his sister from town to town and engaging in hijinks that ranged from the-stuff-of-sitcoms (getting so obsessed with Lassie she starts breeding Collies, improperly bug-bombing their house, etc) to completely tragic (threatening to kill herself when the kids act up). This is a great tween-age gem, I think: Paul is on the brink of deciding what to do with his life, about to become a teenager, but he’s trapped in a family and living situation that he alternately loves and hates. The rawness and the humor reminded me of Jack Gantos… or rather, Jack Gantos should have reminded me of Zindel.

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

This is my #1 most recommended, most lent, most given away book. We have owned a few copies in my household – all grungy and yellowed, some of them library rejects because we dogeared them so much they needed to be withdrawn – and I think I just bought another because I left them all in Michigan. I recommend it a lot because it’s a solid YA novel that isn’t too whiny, fluffy, or girly, and also because I can trick Veronica Mars fans into reading it by throwing the name “Rob Thomas” about.

This year, I wrote a paper on it! I think this fulfills my lifetime dream of academicizing every book from my childhood that I adored. This paper was for my class all about THE BODY, and it was entitled “The Wildest, Largest Passions: The Male Perception of the Female Body in Young Adult Literature.” Sounds pretty racy, huh?

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

So, I re-read Harry Potters 1-7 in a span of two months.

Once I was done, you know what I wanted to do?

Start reading them again.

So I did.

I’ve been listening to them on audio, when I run/cook/clean. Oh, and when I fall asleep to drown out my neighbors, who have a tendency to choose my bedtime to park themselves in their own bed, directly below mine, and proceed to be noisy noisy noisy.

Harry Potter: Improving Lives Since 1997.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I just finished a paper on this award-winning 2009 book, and while the paper was a fairly painful, convoluted affair, When You Reach Me was not. Mild spoiler: this is a book that once you get to the very end, you realize things about the stuff you’ve already read. So it was nice to read through again having the full picture. Also, Stead is just a fine writer. She can write romance into a tween-y type book that doesn’t seem forced or creepy. She can switch from prose that seem so mind-blowingly true you want to jot down quotes, to pre-teen mother-daughter angst, to goofy friend banter, and you don’t even know how it all flows, but it does. The buzz about this book when it was published was not just faddy chatter – this one has staying power.

December 13, 2011

Best Adult Books of 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

You are all probably sick of hearing about this book, but I will tell you why I liked it on two different levels.

Level One: I just really enjoy parenting memoirs. This one is about as down and dirty as they come: Chua never pretends that her work as a parent is glamorous, even as she shuttles her two talented musician daughters from fancy lesson to fancy lesson. Chua is sure she’s doing the right thing, then she’s unsure, then sure again, and I could never quite figure out how she felt about the life she’d chosen for herself, her family, and her daughters. Parenting choices are cultural, personal, and bound to be wrong. Chua doesn’t back down from telling us the good and the bad.

Level Two: Sometimes, I don’t feel like Western media asks its viewers to do much interrogating of the status quo. Although I think most Americans would like to see parenting as purely a product of their own choices and decisions, I think much of what we think of as “good” or “bad” parenting is determined by American parenting culture. So I liked the way Chua questioned American norms, and I like the way her book creates a conversation about it.

My roommate and my boyfriend also read the book: my roommate was staunchly against some of Chua’s restrictions while my boyfriend, apparently, has Tiger Mother aspirations of his own. I am somewhere in the middle. Which could be potentially… uh… interesting. Check back in a few years to see how this all works out, haha.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Okay. Running memoirs.

I don’t think I am a runner. Not yet. I have been trying to cultivate the skill for a few years now, but I still have trouble convincing myself to run for more than 2 miles, and 9 out of 10 of these small runs require stopping. However, I think my stamina is improving somewhat. I went for a run on Saturday for the first time since Thanksgiving morning; I ran a mile without stopping and without feeling as though I might die. It helped that it was below 40 degrees and I was freezing, I think.

Anyway, people always say that running is more of a mental game than a physical one. I don’t know if I agree, but I do think they are on near equal footing, and not in a way that I expected it. Mental Game, for me, isn’t about being able to shut off pain receptors during a long run, not about talking myself into going farther and faster than my body would like. For me, the mental game is tackling the thousands of things that keep me from running in the first place – managing my eating so I’m not too full or too hungry while I’m running, deciding on a “training plan” that will motivate me enough to keep going, knowing what to wear in what weather so I am comfortable. It’s also about acknowledging my body for what it is – a bit too tall, heavy, and wimpy to push too hard, to run whenever I want how ever long I want… but still capable.

And this book I’m supposed to be talking about? This book greatly improved my mental game. The book is a series of memoir-ish personal essays about Murakami’s life as a runner. And while I’m far from a marathoner or triathlete like Murakami is, he talks about the way running fits into his life in a way that is universal to even the amateur jogger. There’s one passage that I remember almost every time I run. Murakami was getting back to running after taking some time off and finding it difficult on his body. But instead of giving up/finding excuses not to go/taking up knitting/freaking out, he simply says to himself (excuse my god-awful paraphrase) “My body is finding this difficult because it’s not a runner’s body yet. I am asking it to do something hard. But if I keep asking, day after day, it will become easy again. My body will adapt to what I ask it to do, plain and simple.”

Very zen, like the rest of this book. This was definitely a jot-down-quotes-to-remember-for-life kind of book, and I think that even non-runners would like it in a philosophical kind of way.

Good Eggs by Phoebe Potts

I love love love a good graphic novel memoir, and I couldn’t put this one down. This Potts’s story about infertility, but it’s also a story about Potts. About how life, inevitably, meanders – careers, goals, beliefs, etc. About recovering from depression. About falling in love later than you’d like to, but falling in love just as hard as you would have if you were younger. About entitlement, optimism, and growing up.

Oh, and I just love her art. I wish that she would make some more books, post haste.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Like the poor Tiger mother, I am sure you are all sick of hearing about Tina-Fey-Tina-Fey-Tina-Fey.

I however, would like to bore you for a bit. This book is obviously a memoir-ish book by actress/writer/comedian, Tina Fey. I liked it because the humor was so hard to pin down. Fey’s lived an interesting life – a geeky childhood full of hijinks, an adulthood full of awkward jobs and relationships, and a comedy career that led her to a successful sitcom. Reading these stories is like listening to your parents tell you about their childhood – the stories don’t need much embellishment or added jokes, just a deft storyteller to recount them. But then she changes subjects completely, switching to a missive about parenting or a deadpan moment or a silly joke about accidentally becoming a Republican. She’s all over the place, and after a certain point, you can’t exactly tell what is supposed to be funny and what is a joke. It creates this strange feeling that although you are reading a memoir, you still know nothing about the author.

Ah, celebrity. You are so mysterious.

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

Oh, you thought I’d forgot about old Eustace, did you?

I did a bit of a longer review back in June, when I read the book, and you can read that here. Basically, I love Elizabeth Gilbert. You can’t make me not love her. I mean, have you SEEN this TED Talk? Anything Gilbert wants to tell me about is something I want to know more about. Including reclusive, anti-establishment mountain-men who walk the fine line between passionate genius and passionately insane. Can I meet him? Can I meet them both? Can I go on a horseback ride across the country? Have some pet turtles?

One of those was a joke. I’ll let you decide which.

December 12, 2011

Best YA of 2011

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

If you are thinking that sci-fi/fantasy is a little too white, a little too European, a little too hyper-masculine, a little too predictable, then this is the book for you. Okorafor-Mbachu’s novel is set in post-nuclear Africa, where an act of bioterrorism has left many children with supernatural powers and perhaps also created some kind of space-time rift into another world. Protagonist, Ejii, has a supernatural power that calls her to leave her family and follow Queen Jaa – this crazy, wild leader who has 2 husbands and who also beheaded Ejii’s father, years ago – into the desert. The ending was a bit over the top, but I really enjoyed being immersed in the non-Western mythology and navigating the mix of science and fantasy here.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I wrote a nice long review of The Scorpio Races for the Words on Paper book club. You should go read it, if you’d like, but here’s the short version:

Book about two teens who live on an island where every year, man-eating waterhorses rise from the sea… and instead of relocating to a safer home, the islanders capture these horses and race them.

Why I liked it, despite the man-eating-water-horses? Great setting, complex character relationships, and short chapters.

What can I say? I like what I like.

Split by Svati Avasthi

Ah, realism. There you are! This was a syllabus-book from back in March, but I still remember much about the characters and the story that really pulled me in. The novel opens with Jace, knocking on his older brother’s door. His older brother – Christian – isn’t expecting Jace, as they haven’t spoken in a number of a years after Christian left home abruptly, fleeing their father’s abuse. But Jace needs somewhere to hide, so Christian lets him invade his tiny apartment even though Jace isn’t being particularly forthcoming about why he left home. Both Jace and Christian fight some very real demons from the past and present, and basically have to learn how to be family for each other when neither boy knows what that means. I found the relationship between brothers to be so touchingly honest and painful that I wanted to reach out and hug them both.

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

Look, guys. Y’all know I love E. Lockhart. This does not need to be reiterated. But, heck, every time I read these Ruby Oliver books, I feel like they are just some of the most underrated young adult novels of life.

Why do Ruby and her romantic debacles get the short shrift? Is it because Ruby’s books aren’t long enough? They are written in first person? She doesn’t have enough trauma in her life? Because the covers are cute and girly? Because there’s not a “cover plot” to disguise the romance?

I am not sure. All I know is that I was a little heartbroken to realize this was the last in the series. You had a good run, Ruby!

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Álire Saenz

This book has a lot of things I like. Psychological mysteries. Rehab & drug addiction. Emotional triumph. I read this book for my Realism class in the spring, during which we probably read every Most Depressing Book Ever, and Last Night I Sang to the Monster fit right in. But unlike many of our novels that semester, this book had me legitimately concerned about the protagonist’s future. Zach is in rehab, but doesn’t remember why or how he got there. With the help of his friends and therapist, his past starts to reveal itself, but it’s not good. So basically, this poor kid has to deal with addiction, with PTSD-amnesia, and figuring out what the hell to do with the rest of his life. All at the same time.

Poor guy. Great read.

Breath by Donna Jo Napoli

As a child, I eschewed many genres. This included every genre that Ms. Napoli usually writes, so I missed out on her retellings and historical treatments until I read The Smile not too long ago. The Smile – the story of the Mona Lisa – was good. I liked it okay. But Breath? Good God, I have no idea why I liked this book but I ATE IT UP, I really did. Maybe, in my old age, I am warming up to all sorts of genres!

Okay. Breath is a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, set in a German village in the 1200s. The main character, Salz, is a sickly, skinny teenager, which means that his burly older brothers resent him for getting out of chores and he generally feels out of place in his agrarian town. But then, everyone in town starts getting a strange sickness. Salz isn’t so much trying to solve the mystery of this illness as trying to survive and keep his family alive, but part of the fun of reading is trying to figure out the mystery. Salz and his grandmother are also part of this crazy pagan group that occasionally gets together to trip out on drugs and have a little rural bacchanal… so the whole of the novel – the plot, the setting, the historicity – I found completely and unexpectedly enthralling.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

I had mixed feelings about this book when I read it back in May, but the more time I have to stew (see: months), the more impressed I am by McCafferty’s first foray into non-realism.

Bumped is, indeed, Yet-Another-Freakin’-Dystopia. The dystopic premise? Adults can no longer procreate, leaving teenagers to carry out the reproductive responsibility for the entire human race. The subsequent commodification and commercialization of teen pregnancy is fairly horrifying – i.e. prosthetic pregnant bellies are the new skinny jeans – but the story focuses on two particular girls who reside on opposite ends of the reproductive spectrum. Melody and Harmony are twins separated at birth; Melody is a career-bound goody two-shoes who has finally snagged a choice conception contract and is waiting for her reproductive agent to select a fitting partner for procreation. Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep unannounced, on unexplained leave from a religious compound where sex is reserved for marriage and babies are kept in the family (gasp!).

Wacky hijinks ensue. This is a fun premise for a dystopia, but more than that, after reading and thinking about dystopias for my SF/F class this semester, I started to see Bumped as more of a satire of other dystopias. McCafferty writes humor so well that she can pull this off, I think. I am looking forward to the sequel, coming out in April!

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award finalist. National Book Award finalist (after all the nonsense, anyway). Tons of starred reviews and blog buzz. After having renewed this book 5 times (aka an entire semester), I decided to run with my recent tolerance for the paranormal and read Chime.

I have to say, I was pleased.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but the book opens with our heroine, Briony, confessing to crimes unnamed, asserting her inherent wickedness, and asking to be hanged. It doesn’t take too much time to figure out that Briony probably doesn’t deserve to die, but it takes the entire novel to reveal exactly what crimes she committed, which ones she didn’t, and who is ultimately responsible for the lot of bad things that have happened to Briony and her family. But more importantly, to Briony anyway, is the Swamp Cough. The town children are slowly dying from a strange sickness that is baffling the doctors. Briony suspects that it has something to do with the spirits who live in the swamp, but she can’t figure out a way to negotiate with them without revealing that she can speak to them – and if she does that, she’ll be hung as a witch.

The last hundred pages of this book sped by. I predicted the ending fairly well, but not in a way that made me feel like it wasn’t worth the effort to read. More like I felt clever to have solved the mystery on my own.

Also, there is a fairly steamy, but non-cheesy romance, which I totally ate up. Yum.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Another great Sarah Dessen book. I’m not sure she can write anything I don’t like. Some books might be stronger than others, but they are all solid reads, in my opinion.

This chapter is about a girl, McLean, who lives “on the road” with her divorced dad as he fixes up dying restaurants. McLean reinvents herself at every port, doesn’t get vulnerable, remains pissed at her mom for ruining her family, etc. She meets a cadre of unlikely, plucky friends and of course, falls a little bit in love with a boy. There’s also city planning, blended families, and college basketball!

Really, though. Sarah Dessen, you are both my bread and my butter. Keep on keepin’ on.

Hold Still by Nina LaCour

As mentioned, I don’t get a lot of time to try out new authors. With limited time for reading, I usually stick to the especially buzzworthy, the tried-and-true authors, and re-reading favorites. So it’s a rare feeling for me to read a book and say to myself “hmmm… I want to keep an eye on this one.” Hold Still felt like a rare book, and I am indeed keeping an eye on Nina LaCour (new book, The Disenchantments, coming out in February.

Hold Still is about Caitlin, learning to recover from her best friend’s suicide. Caitlin is suddenly filled with regret, doubt, and complicity for being the best friend who didn’t realize her friend needed help. She herself begins to slip into a depressive state as she mourns her loss, but she does, eventually, begin to scrape her way out.

This sounds like a big fat downer of a book. And that’s true, actually. But it’s depressing like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak is depressing: raw, painful, but ultimately reminds you – the reader – that life is a big mess of goodness, badness, beauty, and pain, and we have to handle it all to survive.

Up next… Books for Adults!

December 11, 2011

Best Middle Grade of 2011

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce

I thought I’d start this 2011 Reading Extravaganza off properly with a book that was published in 1958. Nice, huh? To make matters worse, Tom’s Midnight Garden definitely harkens back to another book about gardens, written in 1910. Oh, and it’s a historical fiction time travel book, too! Oh me, oh my.

Tom is your average rambunctious young fellow who loves nothing more but to play outside. So when his little brother comes down with the measles, and Tom is relegated to his boring aunt and uncle’s apartment, the first thing on Tom’s mind is “OH MY GOD! THEY HAVE NO BACKYARD.” City-living, Tom. City-living. I feel ya. Anyway, so Tom is so bereft from his lack of vitamin D, he develops a nasty case of insomnia… but as he lays awake each night, pouting and longing for the sun and worrying about his health, he notices that after midnight, the giant grandfather clock in the downstairs porch strikes 13 each night. Soon, Tom’s investigations reveal that every night, in that extra hour between midnight at 13, the parking lot behind the building becomes a beautiful, well-kept old-fashioned garden.

Okay, so maybe it seems like I am making fun of this book, but I really did enjoy it. I found Tom very likeable – quiet, inquisitive, a little sensitive- and I too became very interested in the hows, the whys, the physics of this “mystery garden.” As Tom becomes more involved with the mystery and the summer draws closer to the end, it’s fairly suspenseful to read along and wonder if he will figure it out before he must leave. I feel like this is a lovely classic-y children’s book that nobody has read, but more people should!

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

After reading this novel, I have determined that I just like Helen Frost. I never feel particularly drawn to the subject matter of her books, and I am quite ambivalent about poetry as a form. But no matter my intentions to not enjoy Frost’s novels, I do. Actually, I feel a little fluttery about how much I like them. That’s rare for this jaded reader.

Willow is a twelve year old living in a small town deep in Alaska, where her family has lived forever. She has the usual smattering of twelve-year-old issues – grasping for friends, boys, and maturity – but what she really wants is to run her father’s sled dog team. She’s especially close to one of the lead dogs, Roxy, so when Willow loses control of the team and Roxy is injured, Willow is devastated.

What I loved most about this book was the way Frost interspersed Willow’s diamond-shaped poems – describing her sled-dog adventures as well as her everyday life – with poems from the point of view of the animals that watch Willow in the woods. These animals, the text quickly reveals, are the spirits of Willow’s ancestors. With this simple narrative decision, Frost places young, impetuous Willow within the context of this vast family unit, that not only encompasses her parents and relatives, but perhaps the entire natural environment where she lives. I find this to be a very compelling concept, and very well realized in this book.

Oh! And on a less abstract level, there’s a fairly awesome twist at the end that I definitely did NOT see coming.

The Old Country by Mordecai Gerstein

This story is one part fairy tale, one part folk tale, one part Holocaust narrative, one part complete nonsense. The story begins when Gisella leaves home on a grudge mission: a fox has been feasting on the family’s chickens, and Gisella is going to kill him.

The story gets weird when Gisella finds the fox, but the other woodland animals insist on a fair trial first, including a testimony from the chicken who has recently been ingested.

The story gets even weirder when Gisella looks the fox in the eyes for too long, and they pull a Freaky Friday mind/body swap.

Despite all the weirdness and talking animals and magic, I think the novel was supposed to, ultimately, provide commentary on warfare, on human oppression, and moral justice. I think the message gets lost underneath the crazy; there were many points in this short text that I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to find a scene completely ridiculous or completely horrifying. But you know what? I liked feeling uncomfortable about what the text was trying to do. I liked the weirdness. I am not sure you could compare this book to anything else out there.

Half Magic by Edward Eager

That was a nice little jaunt into the 2000s. Now back to 1954!

Edward Eager’s Half Magic is a short novel about a large group of siblings who get into adventures together. For those of you stuck in the 21st century, think of a retro version of The Penderwicks! For those of you who prefer things to be logical, think of The Penderwicks as a modern version of Half Magic... which itself is a direct result of E. Nesbit’s work, but that’s getting a little bit TOO logical.

The children in Eager’s Half Magic are somewhat bored. Their widowed mother works a lot to keep the family afloat and their nanny is quite stuffy. When they chance upon a magic coin, their summer vacation takes a turn toward exciting – the children suddenly can wish for anything they want. But they quickly learn that the magic comes with a catch – it seems the coin only grants “half-magic,” meaning the children are constantly having to wish for things doubly and devise clever phrasing to undo their misdeeds.

Maybe I am just a sucker, but I was won over early in the novel when the youngest sibling wishes her cat could talk. The next chapter is filled with this kitty speaking mangled half-words (half magic! remember!), attempting to communicate with the children. Once they figure out how to wield their new powers, they determine that the cat is just plain distressed at its new ability, and they quickly un-speech the poor thing.

What can I say. I was endeared. The rest of the novel continues with similar endearment.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Okay. Clementine. First, I present to you, Marla Frazee:

Marla Frazee is one of my favorite illustrators. She provides seriously impressive full page illustrations to the Clementine series that really do GREATLY impact the reading experience. Together with Pennypacker’s text, I found the first installation in this series to be completely beguiling. Yes, Clementine is Ramona Quimby, Clementine is Junie B. Jones, Clementine is Junie B. Jones… but Clementine is also Clementine. She’s self-consciously artistic, she gets upset at her family and friends, she’s ballsy enough to cut off her own hair.

She’s a little-girl character who is well-deserving of her own series.

Also see: Marla Frazee.

December 11, 2011

Best Reads of 2011

Yes, it is that time of year again. Time for me to spend hours and hours…

  • Gazing on my long list of books read in 2011
  • Placing said list in various spreadsheets, organizing and re-organizing
  • Deciding which ones I like the most
  • Changing my mind about which ones I liked the most
  • And oh yeah, writing up reviews!

This is not one of those “Best Books Actually Published in 2011″ lists, however. You see, I spend much of my life beholden to the syllabus. It is difficult to squeeze in a significant number of new releases while keeping up with the old coursework. Also, I am poor and cannot buy books, and BPL is notoriously bad about purchasing children’s/YA new releases in a timely fashion (You hear that, BPL?? Hire a youth librarian or two already!!) I do what I can, but this is entirely based on the set of books that I have read during the year. Actually it’s more like a “fiscal year” of reading. Dec 1 to Dec 1. This is getting boring. Moving on.

My editorial process for selecting my top 10 goes a little like this:

“Book! I finished you, but I loooooove you and want to squeeeeeeze you and maybe sleep with you under my pillow tonight!”

The rest of the topical lists are books that are awesome, but were ultimately eclipsed by all that loving and squeezing.

The fun will begin later tonight, and continue until Christmas Eve! Which is startlingly close to today! Like, 2 weeks! Oh my gosh! I have no money left to buy Christmas presents! Let’s not get distracted!

Sunday, December 11thBest Middle Grade Reads

Monday, December 12thBest Young Adult Reads

Tuesday, December 13thBest Adult Books

Wednesday, December 14thBest Re-reads (they still count for something!)

Thursday, December 15th through Friday, December 23rdTop 10 Best Reads!

Yay books! Get excited! And at this time, you may place bets as to what percentage of this years mentions are of the sci-fi/fantasy genre. The answer MAY SURPRISE YOU!

December 9, 2011

semester: over

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have successfully completed my Fall semester.

Now that I have some shreds of free time, I can focus my attention on the following more interesting activities:

Cleaning my apartment!

Every finals week, my apartment takes on a state of Unholy Mess. I run out of time to do things like care for myself and my surroundings, and my paper-writing process leaves something to be desired:

Just picture all that, in smaller indiscrete piles in random places around my very-small-pad.

Tomorrow, all I want to do is this:

1) Sleep until I don’t feel like sleeping anymore

2) CLEAN

Reviewing my Reading Year!

Yes, folks, it is THAT TIME OF THE YEAR AGAIN!!!!

Last year, I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to do much posting, but this year I am womanning up to the task. Starting SUNDAY, you will hear more about the books I read this year than you EVER wanted to know.

So stay tuned! Excitement awaits!

Reading MORE BOOKS!

The endless temptation of my precipitous stack of library books… IS OVER!

I am celebrating by wading around knee-deep in as many books as I so choose.



I’m being rather cavalier about it too.

Will I read all of you, book? Eh, maybe not. Maybe I will just read 20 pages and then cast you aside for whichever shinier cover suits my ever-changing fancy. I’m cruel like that, book. I’m cruel.

Playing video games!

Thinking about 2012!!!!

Resolutions. Goals. Schedules. What do I want to do? What do I want to read? What do I want to accomplish?

2012 will be a big year. I have a lot on my plate next semester, work-wise, plus graduation, job searching, planning a move (somewhere… maybe down the street, maybe across the country).

Basically, I have a lot of stuff coming up that requires maximum thinking, and I will have a busy semester that most likely will not allow for maximum thinking. So I best get as much of it out of the way as I can…

Prying my shoulders away from my ears

This is literal and figurative. My shoulder are, in fact, inching upward as every day goes by. I’m in a significant amount of stress-related pain most days. Now I have some time to rest. But even though I have a lot of thinking/tasks to keep me busy, I hope I can… uh… stop being so manic for a little while.

December 4, 2011

last/first

Dec. 2, 20011 – Finished last from-the-syllabus book of the semester

Dec. 4, 2011 – Finished by first not-from-the-syllabus book since August

The Borrowers was okay.

But Where Things Come Back?

Drool-worthy plot-weaving & writing + I-am-jealous-I-did-not-write-this-book + Sufjan Stevens + giant woodpeckers

Yeah, I liked it.

December 1, 2011

end of an era

I just realized that in four hours, I will finish my last MA Children’s Lit class.

I am having trouble expressing exactly how baffling this is. Not only am I growing sickeningly closer to The Future in which I Apply For Jobs, I also have to leave this community of professors, classmates, and scholars who I love so dearly and admire so much. It’s a dream of a life, sitting around and talking about books you love with really smart people.

I need a minute, but I don’t have one.

It’s time to go spend three hours talking about TWILIGHT!

In the meantime, here is a picture of a cookie, courtesy of my Sister Caroline.

November 27, 2011

you finally got me

We students of children’s literature are often called upon to consider what it means to be an adult reader of  books for children.

The classic leading question we are often asked is whether or not we would be comfortable reading a picturebook in a bar.

The answer we adults are supposed to give is, “Oh my, of course, that would be strange! How weird it is for adults to enjoy children’s literature! The rest of the world must think us creepy.”

Me? I think

A) Um. Who cares.

B) Wait… picturebooks are actually almost inherently awesome works of art that regularly render me speechless with my lack of understanding of fine art! Why would I be ashamed of appreciating ART among other ADULTS?

C) Why am I reading in the bar anyway? If I wanted to read, I would buy a bottle of wine and put on more comfortable clothing…

We also occasionally talk about what books we had to read for class that we were embarrassed to whip out on the T. Again, I am so predictably oblivious that I didn’t notice I read a book with a naked person on the cover until I’d finished 50% of it on the 65 bus and 50% of it at a bar.

Today was somewhat notable. Today was the first day I felt inappropriate, under the microscope, like I shouldn’t be reading a YA book in public.

It’s for class! I promise!

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