Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Books of 2009

As promised, I'm taking my turn and creating my own Best Books of 2009 list. This doesn't include books I'm not finished with. If it did, there would probably be some that would make this list. But I don't think that's fair to the books I did finish. :) This also doesn't include books I've re-read this year. I think it goes without saying that if I'm re-reading something it would probably end up on a list of this type.

Most of these are books I've read earlier in the year. That isn't to say that the ones I've read recently aren't great, but more that I've noticed that my enthusiasm for some books lessens over time. A book I raved about when I first finished it seems, a few months later, to pale in comparison to something else I've read. I think sometimes I like to digest my feelings on a book for a period of time.

These aren't necessarily the greatest literature out there you can buy. Rather, these are the books that, when looking over all I've read this year, stand out as making an impression on me. I enjoyed all of these, although I certainly enjoyed some more than others. But all of these I have thought about multiple times since completing them. So here are my top 20 of 2009 (in alphabetical order).

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale - I'll admit that this was my first Shannon Hale book. I'd heard so many wonderful things about all her books for years, but I'm ashamed to say I hadn't picked one up yet. So this one happened to call out at me from the library shelf and the rest is history. I loved this! All you want in a cute light romance with tons of laughter and of course a lot of great things for those of us who are addicted to Jane Austen.

Babymouse #10: The Musical by Matt & Jennifer Holm - I've never met a Babymouse I didn't like, and they seem to keep getting better as we go along the series. But this one I can say is probably one of my all time favorites, even over my other favorite Dragonslayer. I loved, loved, loved all the references to both old-time and modern musicals. Plus with all the fun of a Babymouse book, this is a classic.

Bloodhound (The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 2) by Tamora Pierce - After three years this book was totally worth the wait. It has all the hallmarks of a good Tamora Pierce book, and I liked it even more than Terrier (which is saying a lot).

Cathy's Key: If Found 650-266-8202 by Sean Stewart - I enjoyed the first book in this series (Cathy's Book) but this installment really took it up a notch. There's much more mystery, intrigue, and suspense than the first book. This is one of those I wouldn't have initially put on this list at all, but I've thought about this so much since I read it that I thought it earned it's place here. I never do any of the interactive stuff the book is kind of famous for, so I can't really comment on that, but the story certainly is stong enough to stand on it's own without all the extras.

Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson - I'm not big on most historical non-fiction. But this really read more like a novel than a history book. I was intrigued enough by this story to want to read Manhunt, the adult book this was adapted from. I haven't gotten to it yet, but I will someday! Plus, the overall design of this book was so perfect. It matched the subject matter in every way possible.

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover (Gallagher Girls) by Ally Carter - I should preface this by saying I love all of the Gallagher Girl books. But this one (the latest installment) is by far my favorite of the bunch.

Dying to Meet You: 43 Old Cemetery Road by Kate Kilse and M. Sarah Kilse - I love many of the Kilse's other books, and I thought this new series was a cute addition to their books. I especially love Olive. She's quite the character!

Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I by Lisa Mantchev - The concept behind this one is so original, I just love it. When I tried to share with my family they just thought it was weird, but that's okay. I can enjoy it by myself. (On a side note, when you read that line "she has stars in her eyes" near the beginning, does anyone else think of "Bella Notte" from Lady and the Tramp? You know: "Look at the skies/They have stars in their eyes". Just me? Okay...)

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine - Ella Enchanted is one of my all time favorite retellings, and so when I heard about Fairest I was very excited about the return to this setting. I'll confess I didn't actually read this one, but I did listen to the audio book version. And perhaps that's why I love it so much. Hearing the songs actually sang was amazing. Plus this is done by Full Cast Audio, so the book truly comes alive as you're listening to it.

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation by Thomas Siddell - I picked this one up for the Cybils and immediately fell in love. Right away I love the shadow character. This a kind of weird combination of science fiction and fantasy in a graphic novel, but I'm eager to find out what happens next. Silly cliffhanger endings...

I Can Has Cheezburger?: A LOLcat Colleckshun by Professor Happycat - How could I live without my LOLcats? I got this for Christmas last year and it's become one of my favorite I-need-a-pickup books. Cats and laughs, what else is there to want in a book?

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (Book One) by Michael Buckley - The nerdy version of James Bond. I loved the humor, the characters, and the development of the main character. This is definitely a series I want to watch out for.

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee - I'm ashamed to admit that although I love retellings, the only version of Robin Hood I'm familiar with is the Disney version. So this graphic novel adaptation of the story was new and exciting for me, which is perhaps why I liked it so much.

Pearls Sells Out: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury by Stephan Pastis - Pearls is one of my favorite comic strips. This treasury happens to feature some of my favorite strips about the crocs. Enough said.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale - You'll notice there are only to authors on here that appear twice. Shannon Hale is one. So go read her stuff! But for this book specifically, its a fairy tale retelling and a graphic novel. And it's Rapunzel as a western. A perfect mix, and totally deserved the Cybil award it won last year.

Runemarks by Joanne Harris - Another book I wouldn't have thought about putting on my list. This one is certainly long, but it's also unique in all that length. It draws on elements of Norse mythology and a post-apocalyptic society where magic exists but has been banned. Definitely memorable.

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante - I don't even know how to describe this one. It's one of those books you have to read yourself to understand. Books about religious communes seem to be going around these days, but this one is by far the most impressive one I've personally read so far.

Wicked History of the World by Terry Deary - I love the horrible histories books, and this is kind of a mash up of a bunch of them. There's plenty of new stuff too, and this one has Deary's signature humor and the series signature illustration plus it's in color. A great historical book for reluctant readers!

Will Of The Empress by Tamora Pierce - This one came out several years ago and although I got it pretty much right away I saved it for a really long time. I liked the previous Circle of Magic books so much I think in a way I was afraid this would disappoint. I'm happy to say that it doesn't. In fact, I think this might be one of my favorite Circle books yet. You'll notice Tamora Pierce is the other author who got mentioned on this list twice.

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew - This is kind of a graphic novel continuation of Disney's Alice in Wonderland, where the main character is Maryanne, that maid the White Rabbit mistakes Alice for when she goes to his house. It was definitely weird, I had to read it a few times before I really understood what was going on. But then again, isn't Wonderland kind of the epitome of weird (I'm talking Lewis Carroll's Wonderland of course, not the Wonderland found in The Looking Glass Wars). Despite the weirdness, I think I like it, if for no other reason than it's Disney. Hey, you should know me that well by now. :)

2009 Reflections

Even though there is still one day left until 2009, I'm taking this opportunity to reflect a little bit about what has happened in this past year. Of course, this wouldn't be complete with out a "top books of 2009" post, which I hope to get up sometime later tonight or tomorrow.

What can I say about 2009? I feel like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities (It was the best of times, it was the worst of times). I had some great things happen this past year (maybe not the best things of my life, but some very good things) and I've had a lot of terrible, awful, horrible things happen too. Many of these you probably don't know about, since I don't blog about them, and I'll just leave it at the fact that this year has been quite the roller coaster. But after all, there must needs be opposition in all things.

I read some great books this year. And I read some not so great ones too. I'm working on updating my Books Completed in 2009 sidebar over the next few days, which you can find all the way at the bottom of the left sidebar. When I do have it completed I'll probably leave it up for a few days before I put a scroll bar on it so it takes up less room as I start a new list.

According to my records, I read 33083 pages this year. I have no idea how that stacks up to previous years, since I stupidly haven't kept records in the past. So that's one of my goals this coming year, to keep just as good records so I have a marker to measure my progress against. Probably 95% of the stuff I read this year I haven't reviewed yet. And many of the reviews I've written this year I haven't posted on the blog because they've been for a local newspaper review in my hometown. I just haven't had the energy to rewrite them for the blog yet. It's on the to-do list. I've been really bad about reviews this year. So that's another resolution. To keep up with my reviews!

I feel like 2009 was the year I came into myself as a blogger. Looking at my archives right now it seems I've written over 400 posts this year, which is more than the other three years combined. I've learned so much as a blogger in this past year, and I've loved connecting with more people than ever through this medium. If you had asked me three years ago when I started if I thought I would be in this spot I would have said no without even thinking. It's been wonderful to come this far.

And yet, I'm still learning too. So as we turn our thoughts from 2009 to 2010, and enter the first complete decade of the 21st century, I hope you'll continue to share this blog with me. Because as much as I enjoy writing this (and I do) having you, my readers, to share it with makes all the difference.

Here's to 2010 and many more bookish and bloggy memories to come!

Waiting on Wednesday: 12.30.09

Last WoW post of 2009. Kind of bittersweet. After today, those 2010 releases don't seem so far off anymore...

Today's Waiting On Wednesday pick is:

Poisoned Honey: A Story of Mary Magdalene by Beatrice Gormley

About the Book (from "This story begins with Mariamne, a vulnerable girl who knows little of the ways of the world. Much as she wants to be in control of her own destiny, she soon learns she has no such power. She must do as her father and brother see fit, and when tragedy strikes, Mari must marry a man she does not love and enter a household where she is not welcome, for the good of her family.

But she finds a small way to comfort herself when she meets an Egyptian wisewoman who instructs her in the ways of the occult arts. In the spirit world, Mari finds she has power. Here, she really is in control of her fate. But is she? Or is the magic controlling her?

This gripping portrait of one of the most misunderstood and controversial Biblical figures is the story of a young girl’s path through manipulation and possession, madness and healing, to a man who will change the world forever."

Not sure why I am so drawn to this, but I am. This same author has a book called Salome that I've been wanting to read too. Guess I'll have to pick up both of them as soon as this one is out. And for risk of cover gushing yet again, don't you just love the cover? At first I thought it was kind of boring because it was monochromatic, but it's kind of grown on me. Has a very ethereal feel to it.

Poisoned Honey: A Story of Mary Magdalene will be released on March 9th, 2010 and is currently available for preorder on

*Waiting On Wednesday is inspired by Jill of Breaking the Spine*

2009 Shelfie Update

You may remember my announcement about the 2009 Shelfie Awards over at Neverending Shelf a few days ago. Well, the nominations are now closed and you have until midnight CST to cast your votes. Head over to the Neverending Shelf to vote.

Good luck to the nominees!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Contest Roundup: December 29

So I know these usually go up on Mondays, but I had an unexpected visit from my grandpa this week, so this is going up today instead.

First off, this is your LAST REMINDER to enter the 12 Blogs of Christmas contests. They will all end Dec 31st, including my contest that will have 11 winners. That means you have two days left to enter! You will find a listing for all 12 days in the right sidebar. Also, don't forget to come back and check here on Jan 1st for the winners, or you may lose your opportunity to win.

The comment contest for Radiant Darkness will also end Dec 31st and you're running out of time to win a book of your choice in the Design a Button contest as well. So hurry and enter!

Now moving on to other things. The contest are slowing down a bit now that Christmas is over, but here's a few more you might want to check out:

Thanks to Book Reviews by Jess, I found out about this contest for an ARC of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. All you have to do it watch the video and subscribe to her YouTube channel. She needs 1600 subscribers by the 31st, so head over to Jess' post for the details.

Fantastic Book Review is having a contest giving readers a chance to win a two book set of Wondrous Strange and the newly released sequel Darklight. Ends Jan 8, 2010.

Another great contest from Fantastic Book Review is to win an ARC of Magic Under Glass, also newly released. I've been hearing some great things about this book, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Jan 7, 2010.

Extreme Reader is having another contest after her huge Christmas one ended a few weeks ago. This time you can win Books 1 and 2 from the Looking Glass Wars books. Ends Jan 24th.

If you like Maryrose Wood's books, you have a chance to win a three book set from Mrs. Magoo Reads. I so need to get my hands on the last one in this series! Ends Jan 31st, US only.

And last but certainly not least, Mindful Musings just hit 400 followers! Congrats! She's having a contest where you can have your pick of books including the 2010 book The Mark. Ends Jan 20.

And that's it for now. Phew! I'm a little contested out. Time to go do some relaxing reading...

Author Interview: Dan Elconin

This month's author interview is with Dan Elconin, author of the newly released Never After. Never After is a dark retelling of Peter Pan, and Dan started writing it when he was 14! Now at 19 he's a published author, and he's kindly agreed to do an interview with me for December. If you'd like to learn more about Dan after this interview, be sure to check out his website. And now, here we are, with my questions in bold:

Where did you get the idea to write Never After?

I honestly don’t remember -- I got the idea like eight or nine years ago. I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast this morning.

What are some of the challenges of being a young author? And some of the great things?

The biggest challenge is trying to juggle writing, marketing, and school (I dropped the social life ball a long time ago). The greatest thing is the relief of having that first book under my belt, because everyone says the first one is the hardest.

The first of several to come, I hope! How is being a published author different from what you expected it to be?

“High hopes, low expectations” has always been my formula for happiness as a writer. I was hoping my book would have outsold the Bible by now, but I was expecting a long, uphill road, and it is.

Okay, so I have to ask this because I’m a California girl. I know you moved to San Diego when you were 8. Do you consider California your home state? Or Wisconsin?

I consider California my home state -- but I am and always will be a hardcore Green Bay Packers fan.

Yeah, go CA! :) Tell us about your writing process/environment.

My writing process is 5% planning, 5% writing, 10% rewriting, and 80% screaming obscenities and breaking things in frustration. My ideal writing environment is any tranquil room; my actual writing environment is a dorm room that’s about as tranquil as a cage of monkeys on meth.

Yeah, I know from experience dorm rooms are anything but tranquil. Do you have any new projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

I am working on another novel. The working title is AFAX and it’s inspired in part by Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, which is one of my favorite books.

Thanks for stopping by Dan! If you'd like to featured for one of my monthly author interviews, please send me an email and let me know.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

When is Christmas Over?

So after typing that title I just realized that could be taken the wrong way. So let me explain myself.

I was doing some thinking today and was wondering what the "official" end of Christmas is. In my house, we never rush around taking the Christmas stuff down on December 26th, although I know some people do. In fact, I'm still reading a few Christmas books I didn't have time to get to before the holidays right now. I'm still listening to Christmas music. Our tree is still up and we still turn on the lights. We sang Christmas hymns in church today.

For me, I guess we really end Christmas on New Year's Eve. My family's not really into the whole partying on New Years thing, but we usually take down the tree on December 31st or January 1st. And that's about the time I put away most of my other Christmas things for the year. I guess that I spend so many days thinking about Christmas that the excitement just seems too big to be contained in the single December 25th day.

So how about you? When does your Christmas end?

LOL of the week: Good morning

One last Christmas-themed LOL for you:

Yeah, I'm a litle grumpy this morning for this very reason. Guess what got me out of bed at 1:00 a.m.?

If you'd like to learn more about LOLcats, you can check out the website, or read my review of the book.

Have a great week!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 Shelfie Awards

I thought I had posted this ages ago, but going through my archives I guess not. Things got crazy with the Christmas stuff I guess. :-)

Kate at The Neverending Shelf has come up with the idea of the first annual Shelfie Awards. To enter your nomination, make you fill out the form located on her blog. Make sure you do it soon, because nominations close two days from today! The following description is copied from her post:

To celebrate what a wonderful bookish year 2009 was, I am introducing the First Annual Shelfie Awards. The purpose of this award is to recognize YA/MG authors and their outstanding contribution to the young adult and/or middle grade genre.

Starting today through December 28th, readers of all ages are welcome to nominate their favorite reads of 2009. Then December 29-30, polls will be posted to allow for open voting for the short listed titles. Winning authors and their respective titles will be announced on December 31st.

To nominate a title please fill out the nomination form with the requested information. Please note that voters are allowed to nominate up to 5 titles per category. In addition, I will be featuring reviewer blurbs of the nominated titles. If you have reviewed a title that you are nominating, please also provide a link to your review so that I can feature you.

Criteria for titles that will be accepted for nomination:
  • Read or Published in the 2009 calendar year.
  • Book is published in English or has been translated into English.
  • Selected from genres that have an appeal to young adult or middle grade readers.
Awards will be given in the following categories:

Best Overall 2009 Young Adult Novel
Best Overall 2009 Middle Grade Novel

Best 2009 Dystopian
Best 2009 Fantasy
Best 2009 Fiction
Best 2009 Graphic Novel/Manga
Best 2009 Historical
Best 2009 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Best 2009 Non-Fiction
Best 2009 Romance/Romance Comedy
Best 2009 Science Fiction

Voters are welcome to write in addition categories. If enough votes are accumulated for a category, it will be short listed for an award. If not, then the title(s) nominated will be fit into one of the already existing categories.

Happy Birthday Bro!

So besides today being the day after Christmas, today is also my brother's birthday. Those of you who are long followers know that I like Star Wars, but my brother is a total Star Wars nut. So in honor of his birthday, I'm sharing with all of you the funniest Star Wars fan film I've ever seen.


Star Wars: Retold (By Someone Who Hasn't Seen It)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and yours from The Shady Glade! If you missed any of the Yuletide cheer from the last 25 days, you can catch up here. I hope you enjoyed celebrating with me.

I leave you with a little thought for the holidays:

During this glorious time of year, there is one message that rings out around the world in every language. "Peace on earth, good will to men" is a wish to hold in our hearts throughout each passing year. A gift of immeasurable value, a treasure being handed down with care, from generation to generation. And so our holiday wish is that everyone, everywhere, share in the spirit of the season, peace on earth, good will to men.

-Narration by Walter Cronkite from Holiday IllumiNations at Epcot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guest Post (sort of): Holiday Catterview

Hope everyone is having a fantastic Christmas Eve! Today's guest post is a collaborative effort between me and Sharon from Sharon Loves Books and Cats. Sharon came up with the idea to do a holiday "catterview" with me and my two cats Brownie and Greysen.

So head over to her blog to check it out. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Secret Santa 2009

Apparently if you give you shall also receive. I just got finished sending off my prizes from 12 Days yesterday and today I got my last Secret Santa present. Yay! I actually signed up for three this year (I know, insane) and so I was waiting to share what I got until the last one arrived, since I have no idea what came from where.

Anyway, here's the lovely things I received this year:

The first package I got was a book from The Book Depository. I was a little confused, since I'd never shopped there before, but I realized after a little bit that it was probably from a Secret Santa. I have no idea who it was, so thank you to whoever sent this! Inside was:

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund and The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibboston. Squee! I've been dying to read both since they came out (so several months) so I was very happy to get this package.

The next package to come was the cutest Christmas tree tin. I loved the tin, and inside it was even better:

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! My favorite! Oh, and the books too. :) The two from the Once Upon a Time Series I was missing: Wild Orchid and the new Winter's Child, both by Cameron Dokey. Totally double squee worthy! On a quick side note, these are my first ones with the redesigned covers, so I'll have to see how they look with the older ones sitting on my shelf. Ha! Thank you to Amanda at A Patchwork of Books, for being my secret Santa!

I was actually a little worried when I got the last package. It came in one of those plastic bags from the post office saying "we're sorry we totally destroyed your package, here's what's left of it, and have a nice time trying to piece it back together". (Okay, so maybe not those exact terms, but you get the idea.) It looked like it had been kicked around in the rain quite a bit, and the sides of the envelope were ripped. Luckily, when I got it home it seemed okay. The presents inside were wrapped which I think saved them from water damage. I opened them up (sorry, couldn't wait) and found this:

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle, a new bookmark for my bookmark collection (YAY!), and some lovely bookplates. I totally love the bookmark, it's so different from any other one I have. Plus, the package had the cutest card too. So thank you to Emily at What Book is That? I'm glad it got here in one piece!

Now I'm all warm and fuzzy inside. I love getting books! Best present ever. :D

Waiting On Wednesday: 12.23.09

We interrupt the holiday revelling to bring you yet another Waiting On Wednesday post:

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

About the Book (from "Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.

Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.

But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?"

I love Maryrose Wood's books, so I was very excited about this one as soon as she mentioned it in my blogoversary interview with her. It reminds me kind of A Series of Unfortunate Events. But better (hopefully!).

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling will be released on February 23rd, 2010 and is currently available for preorder on

*Waiting On Wednesday is inspired by Jill of Breaking the Spine*