bestest books 2009

Can you hear that sound? The death knell of 2009?  Strange year, this year of 2k plus 9. I know a lot of people had worse years than I did but it was still an odd sort of year and I’m not entirely sure I liked it.

What I did like, however, were a great deal of the books I read this year. “Best” is probably not exactly what I mean, “Favorite” would likely be more apt. But regardless, here is a year-end list-esque thing:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I know, I’m the last person in the world to read it but I loved it and I think I appreciated it more now than I might have had I found it years ago.

The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. It takes a lot for a book series to turn me into a flailing fangirl. I flail for this series. I have already reserved August 24th 2010 for reading book 3.

The Likeness by Tana French. I read In the Woods last year and loved it, but I think I loved this one more. It reminded me a bit of The Secret History, so I guess it was that kind of year.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. I am an atmosphere junkie but I very rarely find a modern-set fictional world that I want to live in. This one is an exception.

The to-read pile for 2010 is already building up, and I’m going to attempt to read more next year than I managed this year.

reading is fundamental

Did I babble here about how The Hunger Games is one of the best books I’ve read in ages and I loved it to little bits? I can’t remember. I babbled about it a lot, though, and forced it upon a great many people. Have you read it? Get off the internet and go read it if you haven’t yet. Seriously. Go. Now. Shoo.

Back? Wasn’t it good? Book two, Catching Fire, came out yesterday and I ran out to get it at the bookstore, something I haven’t done with a book on its release day since the last Harry Potter came out.

I am trying to pace myself. I’m about a third of the way through right now and I’m going to try to get to the halfway point before the husband gets home and I have to hand it over. We’re sharing, and being pretty good at it. He started it last night, I started it today.

It’s actually very good timing, since I figured out the last of my revisions yesterday and wanted to take a break before tackling the actual writing. I’ve still been jotting down notes and such but mostly I’ve just been curled up reading with pushy kittens who want to sit in my lap.

I am trying not to think about how long I’ll have to wait for the third book. Once, probably post-Harry Potter, I considered having a rule about not reading series until all the volumes were published.

That hasn’t really worked. Excuse me, I have to go read more now.

books & cats

I just got a box of books from Amazon, most of what I bought with my birthday Amazon certificates, though a couple more are arriving separately. Amazon is tricksy like that. And one can never have too many books.

But yay, books! I decided to stack up most of my to-read pile, consisting of this order, my last Amazon order, and another birthday book.

Mmm… books. This is probably pretty indicative of my taste in books, too. And it pleases me that this pile is oddly color-coordinated. Not sure what order to tackle them in, though. I’ve started Tam Lin but haven’t gotten very far, and I’ve wanted to read Graceling & The Hunger Games for ages. I might make tea later and read the first few pages of things and see if anything refuses to be put down.

(Also in this photo: several Nick Bantock postcards, Little Miss Sunshine, a Treasury of Victorian Designs & Emblems, the Tarot of the Magical Forest & a stack of happy-face Post-its. Cause this is the kind of stuff that collects on top of my printer. Except the postcards, the wall is their natural habitat.)

And of course, since I have a now-bookless Amazon box, it is currently full of cat:

Though since I took that photo Tessa has curled up to the point where her head is no longer visable and it looks like a box full of fur.

the secret history

I have been trying to distract myself this week. I managed to do a rather impressive job of it by perusing my to-read shelf and choosing The Secret History by Donna Tartt for no particular reason beyond the fact that it was on the top of the pile.

I fell into this book hard and did not want to come out of it. Spent the better part of the last two days curled up reading, letting cups of tea go cold nearby.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t read it before. I’ve been aware of it for years, I think I even flipped through it in a bookstore more than five years ago. I bought a copy a couple of months back and added it to the to-read shelf. Maybe it was waiting around for me to be able to give it my full and rapt attention.

I loved it, really. For two main reasons.

One: I’m a sucker for a good, interesting mystery that isn’t self-conscious about being mysterious. That likely makes no sense but just the idea of a murder mystery where you know the victim and the murderer from page one makes me happy, where the mystery is in the details and not the broad strokes of the crime.

And two: I went to a small, New England college. Certain sequences and details reminded me very much of Smith. Even the weather was beautifully familiar. Memories of classes studying Greek theatre I’d all but forgotten brimmed to the surface of my oft-senile brain. In a way, it’s evocative of my own collegiate experience, but pushed to extremes and placed in a blender with a Greek tragedy. Whipped up on high volume to a frothy Bacchanalian frenzy.

I can see how this can be a mixed-reaction book. I’m still not entirely sure I found the epilogue satisfying, but then I’m not entirely sure it was meant to be satisfying at all, really.

It earned a spot on my tier of most favoritest books quicker than anything I’ve read in quite awhile, that’s for sure.

books & links

I am in more of a reading mode than a writing mode lately, though I am attempting to switch back and forth. Reading often puts me in a writing mood, which is helpful.

This is my current reading pile, more or less. I have some random nonfiction things floating around but this is the fiction stack, all in various levels of just finished, mid-way through or haven’t started yet. It is both YA heavy and entirely female authored, huzzah.

Here, links and info since books are fun to press on other people. From bottom of pile to top which is essentially in no particular order:

  • The Season by Sarah MacLean. I stumbled upon this by accident, through the wonders of the internet. I actually knew Sarah when we were both at Smith, oddly enough. I found her through a collection of Smith Alum blogs and picked up her book shortly thereafter. I just finished it last night, it’s a lovely, frothy Regency era romance meets murder mystery with a wonderful, spunky heroine. I’m happy to have found it, and Sarah again, through the wonderment that is the internet.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I’ve wanted to read this since I first saw the cover over on the Absolute Write forums months ago. Yes, I do judge my books by their covers, but only when they also have excellent titles and zombies. Haven’t started it yet, but am very much looking forward to it.
  • Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link. I am almost finished with this one, I have a few more stories to go. I’ve been savoring them, like a box of fantastically oddly flavored chocolates. This is my second Link collection (I read and loved Pretty Monsters a few months ago) and I really love her stories. She apparently teaches short story writing at Smith, too. Wish she’d been teaching when I was there.
  • The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King. I found this one through Sarah’s blog, and was sold on the cover blurb alone (and the cover itself didn’t hurt) because, you know, pirates. Haven’t started it yet, either. May have to have a pirates vs. zombies imaginary death match to figure out which to start next. (Do zombies win by default, being undead and all?)
  • Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente. I’ve mentioned Cat before here, there & everywhere, of course. I’m only a few chapters into Palimpsest and taking my time with it, not quite in the same chocolate-savoring way but more like wading slowly into it, letting myself adjust to the water before it inevitably pulls me under.

The ampersand I found in the clearance corner at Pottery Barn this weekend. I may paint it, though the orange is growing on me. It is also begging to be photographed in the wild, combining all manner of unsuspecting subjects.

Am mostly drinking tea and trying to write, now that I have my painting obligations out of the way. I’d ideally wanted to finish my edits by the end of the month, which now seems unlikely. But I needed some mulling time, and it’s spring and there’s a new moon in a few days, so it is probably a good time to be getting things done.