This is not a “Best of 2010” post. Every book blogger and their third cousin is posting one of those between the middle of December and the second week of January so I’m not going to add to the pile. If you’re looking for what books I liked best check out the “my highly recommended shelf on Goodreads" widget or go to the ‘categories’ and select 4.5 or 5 stars.
What I am going to do is look back at my reading and blogging year and look forward to my reading and blogging for 2011.
I read fewer books in 2010 than I did in 2009 and you know what? That’s just fine with me. The number of books, pages, and hours of audiobooks really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I liked most of what I read this year. I joined fewer challenges and spent more time reading what I wanted to read whenever I felt like reading it. I did find myself getting sucked into a couple of challenges I hadn’t planned on and what I learned from that experience is that I shouldn’t do that. I enjoy the idea of challenges and find that making reading lists for challenges much more enjoyable to me than actually reading the books once the lists are made. A couple of those unplanned challenges ended up making me feel more structured in my reading than I would prefer to be.
I set a couple of specific goals about books I wanted to read in 2010 and only partially completed those. I did read some of what I’d listed early in 2010, but not all of them. The good news is that some of the books I read instead were great! (Lonesome Dove is a perfect example).
So what are my plans for next year? I’m not setting ‘goals’ because even that is more structured than I want to be in my reading plans. I’m only joining one challenge (the What’s In a Name 4 Challenge) and that one is still on the table only because it’s my absolute favorite.
As for reading plans, I’m not specifying any numbers, hours, pages or even specific books. What I want to do in 2011 is read what I want, when I want, have fun with my blog and the people I've met (whether in person or virtually) because it exists.
In terms of blogging, one thing I am working on is a new template for my blog. I’ll be making that change tomorrow and will have the ‘new look’ up and public on January 1st. I do hope to get an index of books I’ve blogged about in place both by author and by title. I’m not setting a date for that, but I'd like to get that going sooner rather than later. There are a couple of changes with the new template that I’ll talk about when it goes live.
I also hope to be much more regular about my occasional feature “Confessions of a Serial Reader”. I’m still hesitant to call it a monthly feature, but that’s the interval I have in mind.
My bottom line is that this blog is something I do for fun, just like my reading. I want it to remain fun, because the minute it feels like work, I’ll stop.
>> Wednesday, December 29, 2010
>> Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I’m only doing one challenge in 2011 and I’m only doing this one because it’s been one of my very favorites for the past three years. Originally hosted by Annie, it was taken over last year by the lovely Beth Fish Reads. The reason I love this challenge is that it allows for such a variety of books and flexibility while at the same time requiring some thought and creativity to find books that fit all the categories.
Here's How It Works
Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:
- A book with a number in the title: First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why
- A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception
- A book with a size in the title: Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee
- A book with travel or movement in the title: Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife
- A book with evil in the title: Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely
- A book with a life stage in the title: No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.
Other Things to Know
- Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
- Books may overlap other challenges.
- Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
- Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
- You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
- You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.
I’m not going to commit to any specific books at this point, but here are some of the books I’m considering for each of the categories.
A book with a number in the title: Hostage Zero by John Gilstrap, 6th Target by James Patterson, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell
A book with a size in the title: Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith
A book with travel or movement in the title: Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti
A book with evil in the title: A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava
A book with a life stage in the title: The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham
If you’re interested in participating, this is the link to the information and sign up post.
>> Wednesday, December 22, 2010
>> Friday, December 17, 2010
The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope
The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope
Translated by John Cullen
Publication Date: 2010
Source: eGalley provided by publisher through NetGalley
The Short Version:
In the Basque region of Spain at the time of the civil war, two women from markedly different backgrounds come together to help each other and keep a secret.
Why I Read It:
When I read about this book on the NetGalley site it sounded just so intriguing that I couldn’t resist.
The story takes place both at the time of the Spanish Civil war and many years later when the grandson of one of the two women returns to the family home to spend some time in quiet solitude to study for a legal examination. A lowly maid has inherited the home of her wealthy mistress and now plays host to the grandson.
At the same time that the events of the earlier time are revealed and the different circumstances of the two women plays out, the story of the grandson and his conversations with the friendly neighbor doctor are blended in.
To say much more about the plot would be difficult without giving away events that are better read in the way the author tells them.
This story doesn’t jump back and forth between time frames so much as it swirls in and out and back and forth. Even in translation the writing is hypnotic and beautiful. The story seems a bit slow paced and the ending is fairly clear from early on.
Because of the way the story moves back and forth in time it took me a while to adapt to the way it is told. Although I thought it was good, it was also frustrating in the way the reveal was no surprise at all long before it happened. Yet at the same time the writing and the way the story is told is intriguing and poetic. It was a book I took a long time to read because I had to immerse myself in the story whenever I sat down to read it.
Days later I’m still having a difficult time putting my feelings for this book into a concise few words. I both liked and disliked it and found it both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
I think this might be a good book club book because of the way my mixed feelings about it make me want to discuss it with someone else who has read it.
>> Wednesday, December 15, 2010
>> Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross
Series: #10 in the Miss Julia series
Publication Date: 2009
Read by: Cynthia Darlow
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #50
The Short Version:
Lighthearted antics of a Southern ‘woman of a certain age’ who gets herself into a mess while playing cupid and solving a crime.
Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to this series and enjoy the light humor and need to catch up with the most recent books.
This is a series so if you haven’t read the previous books, there might be spoilers of events prior to this one.
Miss Julia as usual manages to get herself all wrapped up in other people’s business while steadfastly declaring that she does no such thing. Miss Julia’s household consists of herself, her longtime housekeeper Lillian, Julia’s kind and charming second husband Sam, and single mother Hazel Marie and her son Lloyd. Hazel Marie is the former girlfriend of Miss Julia’s first husband and Lloyd is his son. If you want to find out how they all end up living happily together at Julia’s, then you’ll just have to read or listen to the earlier books.
After Hazel Marie admits to feeling ill and being concerned that it’s something serious, Miss Julia takes charge (as usual). The doctor’s diagnosis is a surprise to all. On top of that, Miss Julia is distressed to hear that Hazel Marie has broken off her relationship with Private Detective J.D. Pickens. As much as Mr. Pickens drives Miss Julia crazy, she does think he’s good for both Hazel Marie and Lloyd and she’s determined to get the them back together.
Then, Sam’s house that he uses for an office is broken into, vandalized, and burglarized. Julia convinces Sam to put Mr. Pickens on the job and of course, she can’t help getting involved herself.
These are just light enjoyable driving around listening for me. I probably wouldn’t read the books in paper format, but I enjoy listening to them in my short daily driving type of audiobook consumption. The Hazel Marie story is predictable and the outcome is really never in question. The minor mystery of the incident at Sam’s office is less predictable, and a good addition. I was less sure of how that one would play out.
As always I enjoy Miss Julia’s interactions with the other characters, particularly the ladies from her church. Her insistence that she’s not judgmental or a busy body is usually strongest when she is actually being one or the other. Nevertheless her devotion to Hazel Marie, Lloyd, Sam and Lillian show the true kindness in her heart.
Cynthia Darlow does a fairly good job with most of the characters, but I’m not fond of the way she reads Lillian’s character. I think Lillian is much smarter than Ms. Darlow’s vocal characterization makes her out to be.
>> Friday, December 10, 2010
I’ve said many times that I have a ton of series that I’ve either started or wanted to start. I do keep track of them on my “To Be Read Spreadsheet”. Yes, it’s a multipage spreadsheet and not a list – I’m THAT geek. I’ve hesitated to admit just how many series there are on that spreadsheet, but now I have a reason to tell you.
Thanks to Swapna at SKrishna’s Books I have found the most wonderful website for series reading addicts. It’s called FictFact. Registration is free and you can find and follow series easily.
Can't remember what book is next? Want to see how many more are in a series? Want to know when the next one is coming out? This is the site for you.
I bit the bullet and dove in. I have set my list to public so that I can share it. There are (gulp) 62 series that I have either started or wanted to start.
In case you missed that number - here it is - loud and proud
That's right - even if I read a book a week from a current series, I won't hit every series in one year. No wonder I feel like I've neglected some of them. Maybe that's a good subject for next month's 'Confessions'.
You can see my list at this link:
FictFact has some wonderful features. I can get notification of upcoming books for those series where I’m waiting for the next one to be published. I can go to one page and see the list of the ‘next book’ in all my series. There isn’t an iphone app, but I can easily bring this page up when I’m at the bookstore. They're also very responsive. I emailed them yesterday afternoon with a couple of questions and suggestions. I heard back by last night and it turns out that one feature I'd asked about is already in the works and that my other suggestion is under consideration.
Another great future is that I’ve been able to connect with a few of my fellow blogging serial readers and can see what series they are reading or have read. This is great because after all, more series to read is just what I need, right?
What about you? Have you added up your current series? Are you willing to admit to a number?
>> Wednesday, December 8, 2010
>> Friday, December 3, 2010
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Western
Publication Date: 1985
Source: Purchased ebook
The Short Version:
An epic cattle drive from south Texas to Montana, but so very much more.
Why I Read It:
I’ve sort of wanted to maybe sometime read this book for ages and when a readalong with a pace of about 100 pages a week came along I decided to finally take the plunge.
The central story is of two former Texas Rangers who decide to drive a herd of cattle from their little town of Lonesome Dove in the south of Texas to Montana in order to start a ranch in what may be the last untouched frontier in the country.
But oh, the book is so much more than that.
Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call have been friends, co-workers and business partners for thirty years. They’ve got a small group of men who work for them and the group is pretty much family for all of them. When Jake Spoon (another former Ranger) shows up, he’s on the run after accidentally killing a man in Arkansas. His tales of the beauty of mainly unsettled Montana pique Call’s interest and before long their Hat Creek Cattle Company is hiring more men and heading north with a herd of cattle.
Along with the story of the cattle drive are several additional plot lines. Lorena is the local prostitute who just wants to get out of Lonesome Dove and to San Francisco and when Jake Spoon says he’ll take her there, she finds herself trailing along with the cattle drive. July Johnson is a young idealistic sheriff from Arkansas who is chasing Jake because of the man he killed in Little Rock. July’s unhappy wife is searching for her own path to happiness which may or may not include her husband and child. Clara Allen (Gus McCrae’s former love) is now in Nebraska running a horse ranch with her husband.
All of these stories progress individually and intertwined as this magnificent story unfolds.
Why, oh why did I wait so long to read this book? Now, I can’t wait for The Hubster to read it because I have no doubt he’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
If you have avoided this book because you don’t like “westerns” toss that thought right out of your head. This book is an epic historical fiction story of a time and place that hasn’t existed for a long time. It captured me fairly quickly and even though there were a couple of points where I was ready to move along before the author was, it was truly a wonderful experience to read. It’s part adventure, part love story, part western, part heroic myth, part coming of age story and both funnier and sadder than I’d ever anticipated.
There are so many great characters in this book. Both the heroes and the villains are wonderfully written and there are a few who land in both of those categories. The women characters are obviously limited by the real roles of women in the American west at the time of the story. Yes there is the good hearted prostitute, the outlaw, the naïve young boy, the rancher’s wife, as well as the good and bad among both the Indians and the White men.
Gus and Call are like an old married couple. After being friends and partners for thirty years it fits and feels genuine. Call is quiet and a loner, but Gus is quick witted and cares deeply for those he loves. Many of the supporting characters are just wonderfully written and will stick around in my brain and my heart for a long time.
If you like sweeping historical fiction with a bit of danger and adventure as well as a bit of fun, then don’t be intimidated by the size of this book. It’s totally worth the time. Yes, there are some brutal parts, but life on the frontier was brutal at times. There are also parts that are incredibly beautiful, tender and heartwarming too.
Just read it. Trust me on this.