The Best and the Rest of 2008

What do an Afghani woman in a bhurka, the manager of a Red Lobster restaurant in Connecticut, Queen Juana la Loca of Spain, a stroke victim in Paris who can only communicate by blinking one eye, and a family with a magical apple tree have in common? They’ve all ended up on my “Best Of 2008” list!

I’m about 2 weeks late with this wrap up post, but it was surprisingly difficult to pick favorites! I changed my mind several times. Since I don’t do any sort of rating system, no stars or caterpillars, I couldn’t just list the books that got my highest ratings. Hmm.. maybe I should do that this year to make the 2009 wrap up post easier.

I wrote 44 reviews in 2008-quite a slouch compared to some other book bloggers but not half bad for ME! That number doesn’t include the books that I never finished, or books that I was ambivalent about, or books that for whatever reason I didn’t like as much as I’d hoped and was worried about offending the author. I didn’t keep stats on these but I know there were at least 10 books that I never got around to writing reviews for, and nearly that many that I started but didn’t finish.

So without further ado, here are the books I reviewed in 2008, alphabetically within their categories:

The Best:

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan
The Last Queen by CW Gortner
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Rest:

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
And Sometimes Why by Rebecca Johnson
Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers
Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Fires by Alan Cheuse
The Girls by Lori Lansens
The Heartbreak Diet by Thorina Rose
House and Home by Kathleen McCleary
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Keeper and Kid by Edward Hardy
The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood
The Leper Compound by Paula Nangle
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – Book Club Wrap-Up
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Netochka Nezvanova by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski
One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling
Peony in Love by Lisa See
Shrink Rap by Robin Altman

The Sister by Poppy Adams
Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan

Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Summer People by Brian Groh
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

In a category all by itself:

Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon

(I’m driving myself crazy trying to fix the spacing on this post- I’ve finally decided that it’s just going to have to remain wonky. Sorry.)

So here’s to a wonderful new year of reading! I haven’t set any reading goals for 2009 other than to review every book I read. I’ve only joined one reading challenge, and it’s a short one. What are your goals for 2009?

The Sunday Salon

We’ve made it to the last Sunday of 2008! I hope you are enjoying a relaxing holiday season with your families.

Sk8tr Grlz

Sk8tr Grlz

The last week has been a blur for us. Christmas was a wild rumpus of paper and squeals. Suffice it to say that the girls were very happy with their gifts! We’ve been eating too much and lazing around being slothful, then laughing at ourselves and vowing to do better as we discover our BMIs on the Wii Fit.

My kids got Wave Skateboards this year from their grandparents. They are different from regular skateboards in that they have 2 wheels rather than 4, and the board itself isn’t stationery- the two sides move independently of each other, so riding it requires a different motion than a normal skateboard. Watching my kids learn how to use them has been hysterical, but they’re already getting the hang of it.

Our family went to see Wicked at the Pantages Theater in LA the day after Christmas and it was spectacular! This was the “big” gift this year and the kids were so surprised. They were enthralled by the amazing singing, costumes, and sets, and by the splendor of the old art deco theater. We’ve been listening to the Wicked cd for a year so they knew all the songs. I even caught myself singing “I know about Pop uU lar” last night.

No one thought to get me a book for Christmas this year, which I found kind of shocking. Maybe they noticed the giant stack of unread books on the mantel, or the teetering pile on my nightstand. Ah, well.. I did receive two Borders giftcards though, and have already used them up!

A lot of us book bloggers are giving some thought to our favorite books of the year. I’m still working on that list, but I do have another list of books I’m most excited about reading in the coming year. Some are new and some have been out for quite a while, but here they are:

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet

Honolulu by Alan Brennert (March 2009)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (May 2009)

What do you most look forward to reading in the coming year? Is there anything I MUST add to my list?

I hope you’ve all had a wonderfully blessed year and are looking forward to bigger and better things in 2009. We are living in exciting times here in America and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. My wish for the world is peace and love, and lots of books- with plenty of time to read them!

New Years Meme

I’ve been tagged by Kim at KWJ Writes for a New Year’s Meme. She has made some excellent resolutions about her writing and personal growth, which have inspired me to give some thought to how I want this next year to be. Here’s her meme.. play along if you’d like, and leave a link back to your site.

1 – Have you every really committed to a New Year’s Resolution, following through past the month of, say, March? What were the results?

2 – Have you ever made a resolution that turned out differently than what you had in mind when you made it? How was it different and was it better, or worse, than what you expected?

3 – Are you making resolutions this year? (You don’t have to say what they are if you don’t want!)

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1. Believe it or not, I actually have stuck to a resolution beyond the month of March. I’m a planner and have a tendency to be methodical in my actions. A few years ago, I resolved to pay cash for Christmas. I started putting $20 in a box in my closet each week. This came after a rather expensive holiday season full of credit card abuse use. I followed through with it and 11 months later had almost $1000. in cash. Money in a box seems so simplistic, but I know I wouldn’t have put aside $20 in a bank account weekly. Dipping into a savings account to pay for Christmas seems wrong somehow, but using cash in the closet for it’s intended purpose feels ok (I’m so weird! Money is money no matter where it comes from!) I was able to have a credit card-free Christmas that year, and it felt great. I may have to resurrect that resolution for this year.
2. Last year I resolved to read more. Reading is a solitary pursuit, obviously, but I also resolved to be more social and spend more time with friends. I hadn’t planned to, but I ended up combining those 2 seemingly incompatible resolutions by gathering up some bookish people I know and starting a book club. It has been great fun. And then I discovered blogging.. I’m definitely reading more, but a lot of that reading is online, and visiting other blogs is social (kinda!)

3. I am making resolutions this year. I want to add more joy to my life. I want to be more fun. I want to spend more quality time with my friends and family. I want to go on dates with my husband. I also want to declutter certain areas of my home, be better about meal planning, and organize my photos. I intend to become a regular at the gym and, of course, lose 10 pounds (just like last year).

I’m going to tag: everyone!

Happy 2008!

Brand New Year, Same Old Me

I love empty calendars, blank journals, lined paper waiting to be filled with scribbles, notes, appointments, and lists. All the possibilities of a fresh start give me hope for change.

I Like this quote “When you start using senses you’ve neglected, your reward is to see the world with completely fresh eyes”

Barbara Sher (American business owner, career counselor, author)

Fresh eyes, that’s what I want. I want to use those neglected senses. Go more places, have more experiences. I have allowed my life to become too routine, too scheduled. I need to allow for more spontaneity, more fun (even if I have to schedule it!), less “I have to..” and more “I want to..”

So, one resolution that I’m writing down in my new blank journal for the new year is to be more fun. Not just have more fun, but to BE more fun. I want to step out of myself and be silly and free spirited, unpredictable and a whole lot less boring.

As I sit here in my bathrobe, writing on my blog and watching the Rose Parade on tv, I idly say to my husband, “I’ve never seen the floats up close, in all the years I’ve lived in Southern California.” and, in typical Aquarius fashion, he says, “Let’s go! We can be up and back before the game starts.”  My first thought is, “Wait!  That’s not part of the plan.  I was going to take down the tree today and get the house cleaned up.”  Hmmm. I’ve just written about how I want to have more fun.. BE more fun.. and yet I don’t feel like jumping in the shower and getting ready to go to have a fun experience, because it’s not part of “the plan”. Apparently this spontaneous, BE FUN stuff is going to require an effort on my part, and may even require me to throw “the plan” out the window.

Ok, so much for the plan.  Here we go.  I’m going to start being more fun RIGHT NOW. I’ll write again later about our experiences and about my other resolutions (being fun isn’t the only one). So goodbye, from the FUN GIRL (or, more accurately, the girl who is trying to be FUN) and Happy New Year! I’m off to smell the roses!