write meg!’s 2013 reading honors

Reading honors


So this was a big year for me.

Planned two weddings, moved out of my childhood home, married the love of my life. All that fun stuff. There were a few getaways, some serious weight loss, new friendships and lots of photography.

What there wasn’t much of?

Reading.

I could make excuses all day, y’all, but the long and short of it? My reading was really down this year. Like, really down. Last year I read 71 books, then correctly predicted wedding planning would occupy much of 2013. In 2011, I read 83 books, and finished 2010 with 85 books read.

This year? Fifty. Fifty even.

Still nothing to snort at, I guess, but I feel like I’ve failed literature somehow. Realistically speaking, I was often too consumed with errands to hunker down with a story. And when I radically changed my eating habits in 2013, I stopped going out for lunch — my former devoted reading time — entirely.

But I want to get back on track next year. When I’m not emotionally invested in a story (like now), I really miss that feeling. I love looking forward to the end of the day, when I’ll curl up in bed with my current read and lose myself for an hour or so. I’ve been too tired to do much more than collapse at the end of the day, so . . . I guess I hope to catch up on sleep in 2014, too.

Even with a smaller list than usual, there were some stand-out reads in 2013. Some were recently published; others are from a few years back. All of them were awesome. And so, without further ado . . .


Meg’s Top Five Reads of 2013

Cascade1. Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

Gripping, moving, absorbing, fantastic . . . all terms I’d use to describe O’Hara’s novel, set in a Massachusetts town slated for ruin. From the atmosphere and setting to the rich, complicated romantic life of Dez, our heroine, I was entranced from the start. It’s a story that has lingered with me long after I turned the final page, and it’s my favorite read of 2013.


The Rosie Project2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Fans of “The Big Bang Theory” may see shades of Sheldon in Don, our main squeeze, but Don is determined to succeed where his counterpart has failed (or has little interest): finding a “perfect mate” who satisfies his exhaustive criteria. A geeky love story with tons of heart, this was an incredibly fun read that had me cheering for Simsion’s rag-tag group of characters.


Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures3. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures
by Emma Straub

Described by yours truly as “part family saga, part cautionary tale, part love story,” Straub’s novel of an aspiring small-town actress is as engrossing as it is heartbreaking. I really wasn’t sure how it would pan out — and stayed glue to the narration to find out. Though long, it was a memorable and worthwhile read.


Yes, Chef4. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

One of two audio books to crack my Top 5, Samuelsson’s memoir of working hard and rising in the culinary world was an eye-opening, interesting experience. Born in Africa and raised in Sweden by adopted parents, Marcus relies on his tenacity and diverse background to gain traction as a chef. He’s humble, devoted and honest — and I loved learning his story.


Wild5. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Strayed’s memoir — another audio — found me at just the right time. Her story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo was very moving, even if the twists and turns in her adventure made my stomach turn. I can’t imagine walking in her footsteps . . . which was what made her introspective, challenging journey so engrossing.


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Most Moving Family Story

As part of my personal goal to read more non-fiction each year, I picked up Kelle Hampton’s Bloom, a memoir about welcoming her daughter Nella — who has Down’s Syndrome — into the family. Knowing readers could judge her, Hampton honestly recounts the difficult days surrounding Nella’s birth and how the family has moved forward and thrived in the years since.


Book That Made Me Grateful For My Relationship With My Sister

Lucina Rosenfeld’s The Pretty One. Ladies be crazy!


Book Most Likely to Make You Miss ‘Gilmore Girls’ Like Crazy

Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday, Maybe, of course! With the trademark wit that made Lorelai Gilmore such a heroine for many of us, Graham’s debut novel follows a young woman trying to make it as an actress in ’90s New York. Funny, poignant, fresh.


Most Inspirational Read

Bank of BobI dare you to pick up Bob Harris’ The International Bank of Bob and not make a mad dash for your wallet. A travel writer who visits some of the most lavish resorts on Earth for a living, Harris can’t help but be affected by the great disparity between the world’s wealthy and its desperately working poor.

He makes microloans, has great success helping others, travels to meet some of them, writes an awesome and influential book to tell us all about it. Bob is humble, funny, self-effacing and hugely inspirational. Loved him, loved the book. Go change the world, y’all.


Most Scandalous — Both In Its Day and, Like, Now

Sex, drugs, discontent . . . just another day in the world of Pamela Moore’s Chocolates for Breakfast. Courtney is a total mess, and it totally works.


Strangest Storyline — In a Good Way,
I Think?

Shine Shine ShineLydia Netzer delivers Shine Shine Shine, a book about astronauts and baldness and young love and abuse and aspiring to more and . . . probably some other things, but I can’t puzzle them all out. Months after finishing, I still can’t decide if I really liked this book or was completely confused by it. Maybe both. Regardless, it’s memorable and certainly different — both excellent qualities in a novel!


Most Confusing and Totally Too Cool for Me (and You)

Choire Sicha’s Very Recent History. Seriously, what the heck was going on? I’d tell you, but I’m still not entirely sure. It was occasionally interesting but often rather dull and disjointed and just . . . not my cup of anything.


Best Use of Bees as Characters

. . . That would be Sarah-Kate Lynch’s Wedding Bees, my friends! As you might have gathered, this modern-day fairytale incorporates honey and its creators in a lovely story of redemption and love. Perhaps a little sticky-sweet at points, but that’s part of the fun.


Happy Reading (And New Year), Friends!


See past reading honors: 20122011201020092008


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Book review: ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ by Stephanie Perkins

Oh, this book. This book. I spent half of it pacing around; another half getting weepy and silly and emotional; another half clutching it to my chest and swooning like a 16-year-old.

Wait — was that three “halves”?

I’m losing my mind. But that’s what Anna and the French Kiss will do to you.

Seventeen-year-old Anna is the daughter of a famous schmaltzy writer who wants to give his daughter the chance to broaden her horizons — at a boarding school in France. Far from her home in Atlanta, Ga., Anna arrives at School of America in Paris without friends or the boyfriend she’s hoped to have by now: Toph, a former coworker at the movie theatre where they both worked.

It’s not long before Anna settles in, though, and begins to get the lay of the land at SOAP — with the help of new buddies, of course. Meredith, Rashmi and Josh welcome her into their circle of artists and athletes, but it’s the group’s wayward member — Etienne St. Clair, friend to all and hot as can be — that really grabs Anna’s attention.

Of course, she’s not interested in St. Clair. He’s sweet, funny and gregarious, plus he has a British accent and amazing hair, but Etienne has something else, too: a girlfriend. And Anna is missing Toph and her best friend stateside, Bridgette, so she has no time to worry about him. Or does she . . .

Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss really is as awesome as everyone claims. Like the colorful macarons Perkins describes, I couldn’t help but devour entire passages of this book whole. It’s funny, entertaining, witty, realistic and oh, so romantic. So romantic. I’m telling you now, I was swooning from here to the Atlantic with this novel clutched to my chest.

Etienne is so my new book crush. (But you’ll always be my first love, Marcus.)

You know when your best friend falls for a guy and talks about him so much that you start to think, “Hey, you know what? You’re right. That dude is awesome.” That’s totally Anna and me, BFFs: in love with the same man. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Etienne St. Clair, so I didn’t even try to stop myself. It would have been like putting out a house fire with a bottle of water. Smokin’.

Ahem.

So yes. This book. This book. I loved Anna and her occasionally clueless self. She felt like a real teen, a real friend — a young woman who was both intelligent and adorable, eager to please her family but struggling under the weight of her parents’ divorce. She was so linked to her little brother, Sean, that it tugged at my heartstrings. And even though she had all sorts of Big Stuff going on, it didn’t bring her down. She just kept moving forward, learning and experiencing as she went.

Anna and St. Clair’s friends were all well-drawn and believable, too. There when you needed them, but with their own difficulties to figure out. Again: realistic. I think that’s what I loved so much about this book: it was like I could have stepped right through the pages and sat with them at lunch. It made me — a 25-year-old — feel like I belonged at SOAP, too.

France came alive under Perkins’ fingertips, and I haven’t wanted to visit this bad since finishing French Milk last year. There is so much to love here — I could go on and on. But rather than encourage you to keep reading a ridiculously long review, just go get Anna and the French Kiss. Perkins has crafted a young adult book that readers of all ages will enjoy, relate to and, like me, want to hug after the final page has closed.

I totally hugged this book.

And I think you will, too.


5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0525423273 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

write meg!’s 2010 reading honors

At the end of another year come all the mandatory reflections. Did I keep any of my new year’s resolutions? Am I happier now than I was last year — smarter, wiser, kinder? Did I make an effort to change my life in some positive way?

Or, you know, did I read enough books?

This year marks my third annual recap of the books I devoured in one year’s time, and this year’s tally stands at 85. Last year I awarded top honors to Justina Chen Headley’s North Of Beautiful; Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter Of Maladies; Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief; Megan McCafferty’s Second Helpings; and Eva Rice’s The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets. I think I chose well — especially since the details of each of those novels are still crisp, clean and accessible to me — more than a year later. I loved them now as I loved them then.

I can only hope I’ll choose so well moving forward.

In 2010, my reading diet expanded greatly to include many advance reading copies and other novels I might not have picked up on my own — and I’m grateful for their appearance in my life. One of my top choices, Margaret Dilloway’s How To Be An American Housewife, was a review copy sent from Goodreads. As I’m often stingy about buying hardcovers, I might not have grabbed this one on my own . . . and I would have missed out on one of the most compelling reads of the year. I’m grateful that it landed in my mailbox.

This year, I read less young adult fiction than I did the year before — and more historical and women’s fiction, two of my favorite genres. Though I became busier in 2010 and felt like I was making less time to hunker down with a good book, I still managed to finish 86 novels — down only three from 2009.

In 2011, I want to concentrate on reading more of what tickles my fancy and less what I feel “obligated” to crack open. It will be The Year I Read Whatever I Want — within reason, of course! I have plenty of review copies in the queue and am looking forward to serving on the literature panel for the Indie Lit Awards. Beyond that? Well, I’m going to be completely subject to my own whims and fancies.

And without further nonsense from me, I bring you . . .


Meg’s Top Five Reads of 2010

1. Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes

As I wrote in June, “Every now and then, a novel like Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes finds its way into my life, and it’s moments when I’m reading a book like this — where I feel like my own face is reflected back at me — that I experience what I can only call literary magic.”

Six months later, those words are still true — and Rowley has only further endeared herself to me with her fresh, realistic dialogue and a protagonist with whom I could so sincerely relate. For all her quirks and craziness, I love Quinn — and I have the distinct impression that Life After Yes will be a book that I will grow to love more with each re-read. And it’s definitely one I’ll be opening again in the future.

Tell your sister, tell your girlfriends, tell your coworkers — for me, this is The Book. I loved it, pure and simple. It’s my Top Read of 2010.


2. Margaret Dilloway’s How To Be An American Housewife

There aren’t too many books that reduce me to tears in the middle of public places, but Dilloway’s glowing, masterful How To Be An American Housewife was one such book. I

In July, I divulged: “If it’s any further proof of my love, too, I completed Housewife on a long lunch break from work. I desperately wanted to finish it just as much as I didn’t want it to end. I wound up returning late to my desk, shame-faced and tearful, after the conclusion of an exquisite story.”

That’s right, friends: this book made me late for work. If you’re seeking a story about love and loss, the identity we create for ourselves and the one others craft for us, family, hope, grief and hope . . . well, it’s all here. I’ve shared this book with almost everyone I know.


3. Kathryn Stockett’s The Help

I suppose the inclusion of this best-seller comes as a shock to no one, but all the glowing items written about The Help are, in fact, true. Despite its size and weight, I couldn’t put this one down — and actually carried it everywhere for days, including on my way to a blind date in the spring. It occurred to me that my would-be love interest might think it was strange to see me walk up with a fat hardcover, but I figured that if he didn’t get just how into books I was, he probably wouldn’t be for me. (He wasn’t, and I met Spencer a few days later — everything works out.)

Maybe it was because Skeeter, a writer and woman who dreams beyond her world right now, reminded me of the best possible parts of myself — or the parts I hope to be. Maybe it was Stockett’s colorful, memorable characters, or the flawless way in which she wove so many alternating stories and voices together. Perhaps it was the compelling arc of this storyline — and the painful reminder of America’s less-than-just past.

Whatever the reason, The Help has earned a forever spot in my heart — and in my bookcase. Share it and discuss it, then see what changes for you. It’s an inspiration and, for Stockett, a triumph.


4. Robin Brande’s Fat Cat

It’s hard for me to believe I read this book back in February; the details are still so sharp. For all her struggles with weight and her feelings about Matt, the “object of Cat’s ire (and secret desire?),” Cat was someone I would have loved to chat with, walk with, learn from. She’s a realistic, compelling and positive role model — a truly awesome character to get to know.

Fat Cat is one of the most original and memorable young adult novels I’ve ever read, and one I hope to share with my own kids someday. It’s also a great example of the amazing work that can come from the YA community — and the perfect book to hand to a skeptical adult questioning why you, a full-fledged adult yourself, would be reading books “for kids.” It’s not about what’s “for kids” — it’s about books that strike a chord, are well-written, change lives. And this? This is good writing.


5. Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

For as much as I enjoy eating, books and hot guys, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School satisfied me on all levels — plus, I got the happy ending I so crave in stories. With each new novel, Melissa Senate proves to me again why she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors — and I closed her latest book with a hankering for a steaming bowl of pasta and a kitchen of my own.

As I wrote earlier this month, “Since beginning this warm and engaging novel, I’ve been dreaming of tiramisu, spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, lasagna and ricotta cheese. As someone who feels she must have been Italian in another life (pasta, I love pasta!), the odd stains scarring the pages of my copy may or may not be drool. The prose was just . . . scrumptious. And Senate describes Holly’s creations so well, you’ll want to throw this one down and make dinner every time you finish a chapter.”

I couldn’t agree with myself more.


Most Surprisingly Awesome

Julie Hearn’s Rowan The Strange

When I first learned I’d be reading Rowan for the Nerds Heart YA tournament earlier this year, I was pretty much horrified. I mean, look at that cover. It’s so creepy and awful. And when I read the synopsis — a story about a disturbed teen sent to live at a mental hospital during World War II — my wariness only increased. What had I gotten myself into?

Well, I’d gotten myself thick into Rowan Scrivener’s world — and what an amazing place that turned out to be. While this wasn’t always a pleasant or feel-good read, Rowan The Strange is definitely a book that will go down in history as Proving Meg Wrong About First Impressions. We’ve all been advised to “not judge a book by its cover,” but I’d never realized how true that was until this book. Though hard to find in the U.S., I promise it’s worth the hunt. And Nicole, my partner in the competition, agrees.


Most Overhyped

David Nicholls’ One Day

Oh, expectations: they can really ruin you on books. Like The DUFF, my runner-up in this category, I went into this novel with such high expectations for greatness. In the end? Well, I wound up angry, disappointed and borderline disgusted. I felt like I’d wasted my time and money, to be honest, and the only reason I didn’t score this one lower than a three — my lukewarm rating that should be accompanied with a shoulder shrug — is because Nicholls is, for better (Starter For Ten) or worse (One Day), a brilliant writer.

And the reason I chose this title as my “Most Overhyped” over, say, Kody Keplinger’s book? Well, at least I could see where other readers were coming from with The DUFF and why they enjoyed it while I loathed it. When it comes to One Day, I seriously missed the boat. I’ll be frank: I just don’t get why people love this book. I truly don’t. (And if you’re in the “rah rah, this book is awesome!” camp, I hope we can still be friends.)


Book I Enjoyed In Spite Of Myself

Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart New York

Reading the first 30 pages or so of Kelk’s debut novel, I thought, “Okay . . . here we go with this again.” It seemed implausible to the point that it was ridiculous, and it never really got any better. Everything about it felt cliche and over-the-top, including the effortless way in which the main character achieved her wildest dreams . . . and landed a hot guy, of course.

But as much as I wanted to dislike this one, I really couldn’t. It was wildly entertaining and good for a few laughs, plus I really identified with Angela’s personal column and attempts at making it in the city. Plus, having gone to New York in May, I really loved seeing the city again — and through the eyes of a Brit. It wasn’t a perfect book by any stretch, it was still a good read. And I’ve been conducting a clandestine love affair with that cover since October.


Book That Awakened An Obsession

Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Day The Falls Stood Still

So I’m a teeny bit obsessed with Niagara Falls. I visited for the first time when I was in college, then again in August with Spencer. It’s a place I think about often, dream about, read about — and one I’d nearly forgotten until I read The Day The Falls Stood Still,  a moving and melancholy look at a woman’s life on the shores of the famed waterfalls. After I finished, I was eager to consume anything I could find about the natural wonder . . . and when I found out that my new boyfriend was from the Niagara area, you can bet I was plotting a way to find myself up there soon. I loved it — and this lyrical novel.


Book That Made Me Glad I’m Out Of High School

Katie Finn’s Top 8

Back in the stone ages — or, you know, the ’90s and ’00s — email and the Internet were still a relatively new concept. No one had ever heard of Facebook or MySpace; in fact, neither had been invented yet. If we wanted to get in touch with our friends, we had to join an after-school club or group, like drama or cheerleading, then call home to talk to our buddies on our families’ land lines. I got my first cell phone when I was learning to drive at 15, but I never even turned the thing on. We were all safe in the bubble before texting and Twitter. And as much as I love those things, I consider that “the good ol’ days.”

Reading Finn’s Top 8 was enough to make me writhe in awkwardness. The opportunities for humiliation online are endless — especially when you’re communicating with tons of people you actually “know.” I’m glad I avoided all that, let me tell you. And darn if my kids will be all up on The Facebook (or its 2027 equivalent) someday.


Most Likely To Get You In Your Car En Route To Anywhere

Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

The perfect summer (and beach) read, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour had me wanting to sit around making mix tapes and traveling the country with a good-looking stranger — all while crafting a new life apart from the lonely one I may have led on a different coast. “Engaging, touching and ultimately hopeful,” it’s a book I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a fun story to remind them about the restorative powers of travel . . . and true friendship.


Biggest Heartbreaker

Craig Thompson’s Blankets

If ever there were a book perfectly capturing the obsession, euphoria and eventual debilitating loss of first love, it’s Thompson’s Blankets, a hefty graphic novel that cracked my heart in two. Though rarely one to read a graphic novel in the past, it’s the sort of book that really makes you change your misconceptions about other genres. At least, it was definitely that way for me.

Even now, a year later, looking at the cover makes me happy and sad at the same time. Much like thinking about love we’ve lost and learned from — even when it hurt.

Not to be all melodramatic, but you know — losing your first love sucks. And Thompson knows that. And then sketched it. I cried and cried.


Other books I loved in 2010 . . .

The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn
Friday Mornings At Nine by Marilyn Brant
I Remember You by Harriet Evans
Lost by Jacqueline Davies
The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek
Get Lucky by Katherine Center
The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek
The Evolution Of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

More book fun

It’s quite the dreary, rainy day in Maryland . . . and I have a few cheery soundtracks on repeat to help me cut through the darkness! And, of course, lists always make me feel better. :) Like lots of other bloggers, I’ve seen this meme making its rounds — and it looks fun. Here we go!

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?  Definitely trade paperback! I’m fine with mass markets, too, but definitely don’t like hardcovers. Not only do they cost more, thereby limiting my desire to get them when they’re first out, but they’re just . . . clunky. And awkward. Not easily transported.

bordersBarnes & Noble or Borders? Definitely Borders! Okay, as a contingent employee, I’m biased . . . but I genuinely prefer the laid-back vibe of Borders stores over B&N.

Bookmark or dog-ear?  Bookmark — I can’t stand to dog-ear books. Unless I’m out, need to highlight a passage for myself and don’t want to write in the book! I usually just go ahead and run a pen beneath the words anyway, but I try to behave and keep the pages clean.

Amazon or brick-and-mortar? Brick-and-mortar. I love doing online research for books but, if I figure the cost with shipping will be the same as just going over to get the book at Borders, I’ll drive over. I’m there all the time, anyway.

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random? My own shelves are organized by subject matter, more or less, but I would love to have everything alphabetical by author and subject, like we did at the store! Just not enough space for me to be that controlling.

Keep, throw away, or sell?  I keep the books I love, and then pass on the books I’m finished with and don’t have any strong feelings about. They go on BookMooch or are donated to friends or the library!

hp_chamberKeep dust jacket or toss it? I keep it, but I always take it off when I’m reading the book. Though the only hardcovers I’ve read in years were probably the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series!

Read with dust jacket or remove it?  Remove!

Short story or novel? Definitely novels! I do love Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories, though. But that’s a big exception to the rule.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? Oh, Harry! I haven’t read any of the Lemony Snicket books.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? If I’m reading during the day, I wait to finish a chapter. But if I’m reading before bed, I literally read until my eyes shut and the book falls! It’s way more effective than a sleeping drug! :)

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?  “Once upon a time.” Can’t pass up a good fairytale-like story!

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write meg!’s 2008 reading honors

write meg!
2008 reading honors

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Another fabulous reading year has come and gone, and it’s always great to reflect on times past and present! I found some great new authors this year, spent a ton of time with Edward Cullen and Bella Swann, discovered the simultaneous awesomeness and craziness of BookMooch and LibraryThing, started my little book/life blog and have stayed up way too late wrapping up novel after novel.

And in honor of the overall bookishness that was 2008, I now present the write meg! 2008 honors! Yes, I know — incredibly exciting! I should have made some little graphics or something, but unfortunately time has been scarce. Perhaps for 2009?

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Fastest Read

Cracked Up To Be, Courtney Summers

A fast-paced, surprising and poignant young adult read, I finished this one in a matter of hours.

Runner-up: The Solomon Sisters Wise Up, Melissa Senate

This chick lit book had me captivated from day one: three sisters, a lifetime of distance and a few weeks to make up for it. Great read.

Funniest Read

Marley & Me, John Grogan

Grogan’s story of the wily, “worst dog” in the country and his tender family had me laughing — and crying — the whole time.

Longest Read

Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

The fourth tome in Meyer’s Twilight series packed in the plot — and page count. It totaled nearly 700 pages but had me running through it like water.

Brain-Hurting Read

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, Ann Herendeen

This historical romance couldn’t keep my brain from going into overdrive — the language was antiquated, the plot quite disorienting. I wanted to like it — and tried valiantly to — but couldn’t quiet my headache long enough to really enjoy it.

Most Poignant Read

The Longest Trip Home, John Grogan

Any child will relate to Grogan’s story of rebellion and redemption — and the ultimate power and grace of family. Grogan appears on my list twice — lucky man!

Best Read Outside My Comfort Zone

Maus, Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman’s classic graphic novel following his parents’ experience and ultimate escape from the Nazi regime was spell-binding. As a total graphic novel newbie dating a graphic novel expert, I was hesitant to try this one — but was very pleasantly surprised.

Most Addictive Book Series

The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer

Okay, no real surprise here. They might not be the most eloquent, well-written books around (yeah, they’re not), but the story of a difficult, brooding vampire and his mortal lady love had me carrying the books around in my beach bag nonstop. Great books to get lost in — and continue to enjoy discussing after the fact. My sister’s on Eclipse right now!

Biggest Disappointment

Remember Me?, Sophie Kinsella

After enjoying Kinsella’s Shopaholic series and other works, I expected something more than the trite and unappealing Remember Me? Good thing it was an ARC.

And, finally . . .

write meg!’s Top Read of 2009

Belong To Me, Marisa de los Santos

An absolute master of language, De los Santos penned two fabulous books in Love Walked In and Belong To Me. I actually enjoyed this sequel more than the original, though Belong To Me can certainly be enjoyed on its own. Boiling over with beautiful imagery and caricatures as well as love, grief and ultimately hope, I had a difficult time putting this one down — and never wanted it to end.

Washington Post’s Best Books of 2008

christmas_bookAs we’re all busy getting ready for Christmas and talking about buying books for the holidays, I came across The Washington Post‘s Best Books of 2008 this past weekend. Well, my dad probably left it out in plain sight for me, to be honest. Like other year-end lists I’ve come across as of late, I haven’t read a single tome included in the guide — but I enjoyed checking out this year’s hits.

These books are complied from the Post‘s “most favorable reviews” of ’08. I’m including just the general fiction category, as this one is already long enough! As part of Book World’s holiday gift guide, though, tons of other genres are listed, too. Check out the original article for the complete list and snippets of staff reviews.

And here we go:

Alfred & Emily, by Doris Lessing

America America, by Ethan Canin

Beet, by Roger Rosenblatt

Beijing Coma, by Ma Jian, translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew

Breath by Tim Winton

A Case of Exploding Mangoes, by Mohammed Hanif

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More bookshelf fun

The Bookshelf Meme — taken from A Striped Armchair:

The Rules
1. Tag 3-5 people, so the fun keeps going!
2. Leave a comment at the original post at A Striped Armchair, so that Eva can collect everyone’s answers.
3. If you leave a comment and link back to Eva as the meme’s creator, she will enter you in a book giveaway contest! She has a whole shelf devoted to giveaway books that you’ll be able to choose from, or a bookmooch point if you prefer.
4. Remember that this is all about enjoying books as physical objects, so feel free to describe the exact book you’re talking about, down to that warping from being dropped in the bath water…
5. Make the meme more fun with visuals! Covers of the specific edition you’re talking about, photos of your bookshelves, etc.

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest:

wheres_waldoThis honor would probably have to go the hardcover editions of Where’s Waldo? my sister and I received as children, many of them from our grandparents. I know we’ve had them since I was probably around eight years old and have read through them many, many times — especially when my cousin Ciara finally became old enough to read and enjoy them, too! I know I have several other children’s books and Bernstein Bears books that have been hanging around since before I was literate.

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time, etc.):

sight_houndWow! This could be a massive list stretching on forever. A few: I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones on summer vacation a few years ago, and every time I see the cover peeking out on my bookshelf I think about curling up at our beach house, listening to the rain pounding the roof as we all hunkered down from off the beach. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway takes me right back to my British literature class from my junior year of college, plunking me down in those hard-backed chairs in that cold classroom with an equally cold professor. I adored the book, though. I poured through Pam Houston’s Sight Hound the summer I interned for a daily newspaper in D.C., looking forward to climbing aboard the commuter bus so I could pick up where I left off. When I started crying toward the end of the novel, I was crying for a lot of reasons that summer — and not all of them had to do with the passing of a pet. Some of them did, though. Sight Hound is totally warped now — my sister accidentally dropped it in the Atlantic Ocean! It’s okay, though; I think it has more character this way. And I once dropped one of her books in the ocean, so that’s fair enough.

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