Regular Rumination

2010, what a wonderful year!*

Posted by in Books, Life

*for reading that is!

2010 seems like the longest year of my life. When I look back to what I was reading at the beginning of the year, I can’t believe that that was still 2010.  You mean I only read Anne of Green Gables this year?!  I only just read and fell in love with Blankets in 2010? That wasn’t last year? Are you sure?

Blogging has had its share of ups and downs this year, but I’m pleased to be ending the year on a strong note, with only more hopes for more excellent reading and blogging in 2011.  Over the past few days I have gone back and reread a lot of my posts from the early days of Regular Rumination and I think that my little blog and I have really come into our own over the last few months.

In terms of reading, there have certainly been some hits and some misses, but for the most part, I would say that my reading of 2010 was great.  So here we are, the 2010 Regular Rumination Awards.  These are the books that struck me as particularly wonderful, that still stick with me all these months later, that I think you should be reading to make your 2011 as excellent a reading year as my 2010 was.

To avoid this just being a normal old top ten list, I’ve added made-up superlatives.

The book that was so good, I had to reread it immediately

Is anyone surprised by this choice?  When I read Blankets back on the 2 of January, I was blown away.  When I turned the last page, I went back and started it all over again.  I stayed up until the wee hours of the night rereading and reliving the relationship between Craig and Raina – in fact, I’m pretty sure I’d like to name a future daughter Raina.

What makes Blankets the best graphic novel I read this year?  The drawings absolutely took my breath away, but so did the story.  Thompson weaves together the story of his relationship with his brother and family with the story of his first love.  It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and changed the way I read graphic novels forever.  I can’t wait for Thompson’s newest, Habibi, to be released.

Honorable mention: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Best Precocious Child Narrator

This book was a total surprise.  I don’t even know how it came into my hands, other than the fact that we all know I’m enticed by a blue cover with adorable pictures on it.  What I wasn’t expecting was one of the most intelligent, endearing middle-grade fiction books I have ever read.  Bapu is Anu’s grandfather and one day, while they are out walking, he collapses.  What follows is Anu’s journey to find his grandfather again after he has passed away.  This book with simultaneously crush your heart and heal it again.  Anu has such great friends and such a great family and such wonderful insights that somehow never seem out of place coming from such a young person.  I want everyone to read this book, it is wonderful.  It deals with such heavy topics, but is also so funny.

Honorable Mention: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Most Underrated Book By A Book Blog Darling

This is a book that I don’t think I ever expected to end up on this list, but here it is: Flight by Sherman Alexie.  Alexie has had his fair share of coverage on a lot of book blogs, especially for his most recent foray into YA with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I loved that book, but this one is better.  Most critics didn’t like it, but I say, they are crazy.  This book is great.

Zits, our narrator, is a homeless and poor Indian boy who, in a fit of desperation, decides to blow up a bank.  Instead of dying when the bomb goes off, he is transported back in time to inhabit some famous historical figures.  Yes, the premise is different, but that is why I loved it so much.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  If I had one complaint it would be that this book is too short.  Probably one of the best compliments you can give a book, now that I think about it.

Honorable Mention: A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle

Best Book Worth All the Hype

Look, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, is my favorite book of 2010, BUT it is a book that I think is worth the hype it received.  Is Franzen the greatest American novelist? Um, no, but he is a great US novelist.  This book so perfectly captures a specific time in our history and has made me even more eager to pick up The Corrections, Franzen’s first novel.  Maybe that will make my list next year?

Honorable Mention: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Best Book I Want To Put in the Hand of Every Girl/Woman I Know

It was tough to choose between the two Robin Brande books I read this year, Fat Cat and Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, and while I thought Mena was such an amazing role model and the combination of religion and science in Freaks of Nature was brilliant, I had to pick Cat.  Maybe it’s because I saw a little bit (okay, a lot) of myself in Cat.  I wish Cat was real so we could be best friends.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I cannot wait for Brande’s next book, because I know it will be amazing.  It’s as simple as that.  Not enough people are reading these books.  Why aren’t you reading these books?  Hmmm?  Why?

Honorable Mention: Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande and Reading Women: How the Great Book of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staal
Best Memoir in a Year Full of Excellent Memoirs

 

I read so many great memoirs this year that I didn’t even get a chance to review them all and going back to pick my favorite was difficult.  I finally decided on Flyaway by Suzie Gilbert because it’s just so unique and I learned so much.  Gilbert is a wild bird rehabber and her journey is just so interesting and full of humor.  I dare you to read Gilbert’s memoir and not be charmed.

Honorable mention: Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli

Biggest Disappointment

I don’t think Great House by Nicole Krauss is a bad book, but I had such high expectation for it and it floundered under those expectations.  I don’t know if that’s my fault or the fault of the book.  It was such an even book that it was even more disappointing.  There was real greatness here, but it was ruined (for me) by the inconsistencies.

Honorable Mention: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

But let’s end this on a happy note…

Favorite Classic of 2010

Mrs. Dalloway is beautiful and contains easily some of the most amazing writing… ever.  I would have quoted the entire book if I could have.  I’m so glad the Woolf In Winter readalong made me read it, because I loved it.

Honorable  Mention: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery (a very close second!)

2010 was a great year for reading, but here’s to hoping 2011 is even better!  Happy New Year, everyone!  I’ll see you next year, lolol.

21

TSS – A little meme for your morning

Posted by in Books, Meme, Sunday Salon

Most recently seen at: I was a teenage book geek & Bart’s Bookshelf.  Answer the questions with book titles you’ve read this year!

In high school I was: Waiting (Ha Jin)

People might be surprised I’m: Born Round (Frank Bruni)

I will never be: The Maze Runner (James Dashner)

My fantasy job is: Flight (Sherman Alexie)

At the end of a long day I need: Love is the Higher Law (David Levithan)

I hate it when: Flyaway (Suzie Gilbert)
I have lots of flyaways. 

Wish I had: A Year By the Sea (Joan Anderson)

My family reunions are: Remarkable Creatures (Tracy Chevalier)

At a party you’d find me: Runaways (Brian Vaughn)

I’ve never been to: Palestine (Joe Sacco)

A happy day includes: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)

Motto I live by: A Good and Happy Child (Justin Evans)

On my bucket list: Mendoza in Hollywood (Kage Baker)

In my next life I want to be: The Great Perhaps (Joe Meno)

7

The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Posted by in Books, review

I have a feeling that this review is going to come across more negatively than I intend.  I read this whole book on an 8 hour car ride and was really into most of it.  I enjoyed it and while I did have problems with The Maze Runner, let me just start off by saying that this book is one I can recommend.

The Maze Runner is about Thomas, a young boy, who wakes up one morning surrounded by other young boys (between 12-19) in a very strange place.  He can’t remember anything about his life, except for information about life in general (ex: what pancakes taste like, but not who made him pancakes).  He slowly begins to learn about this mysterious place he has been dropped into, most of it absolutely terrifying.  The most important thing he learns is that there is a maze, and every night the maze changes, and it is the goal of specific boys called runners to figure the maze out.

Unfortunately, since Thomas knows nothing and the boys decide to be mysteriously ambiguous about the maze, it makes for a slow start.  I had a really hard time getting into the book and even asked She who had read it if it was worth continuing.  Fortunately things picked up and the rest of the book kept my interest, but there were just some aspects that could have been fleshed out much better.

Some spoilers to follow.

The arrival of Teresa was when the book finally got exciting, but at the same time, the whole storyline of one girl in a community full of boys completely fell flat.  There could have been a lot of psychology explored here that was totally left behind in favor of action.  But it was not just the way the plot line about the girl was handled, but all the other missed opportunities to explore the psychology instead of action.  At first I was willing to chalk this up to the fact that it is a YA book that is mostly a thriller, not much else.  Then I remembered when Step Su compared The Maze Runner to Ship Breaker on Twitter.  In a lot of ways, they are similar, but while Ship Breaker had an unrelenting plot that was almost continuous action, it still took time to explore what exactly the main character was feeling.  Most of the time, in The Maze Runner, I just didn’t get that same connection with Thomas, Teresa or the other characters.

My other biggest concern is with the writing.  Take the following passages:

Why do I remember these animals? Thomas wondered. NOthing about them seemed new or interesting – he knew what they were called, what they normally ate, but not where he’d seen animals before, or with whom?  His memory loss was baffling in its complexity. (44)

He returned his gaze to the Deadheads, a glowing disk still floating in his vision.  Blinking to clear it away, he suddenly caught the red lights again, flickering and skittering about deep in the darkness of the woods.  What are those things? he wondered, irritated that Alby hadn’t answered him earlier.  The secrecy was very annoying.  (45)

Well yes, you just spent the last two sentences explaining how baffling it is, no need to explain.  And I too am annoyed by the secrecy, so please, don’t tell me about it.  Either Dashner got better about this or I was too absorbed in the plot to notice it later in the book.

But eventually, the plot won out for me.  I can still give this one a favorable review because I have read a lot of YA dystopian/futuristic society novels and this one still stood out for me.  No, it’s not the best and it has some serious flaws, but I still enjoyed reading it and I will be picking up The Scorch Trials when it finally arrives.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Other reviews: Books And Movies, Devourer of Books, My Friend Amy,  Rhapsody in Books, Reverie Book Reviews, Presenting Lenore, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Steph Su Reads, Fantasy Book Critics, Books By Their Cover, A Book Blog. Period., S. Krishna’s Books,  GalleySmith, Medieval Bookworm, Hey Lady!.

9