I’ve seen quite a few 2008 wrap-up posts among the other book reviewing blogs. I’m going to add my two cents to the fray and offer up something for you to look forward to this year–2009.
I read 63 books in 2008, which is a personal best for me. I enjoyed many of those books, and some of them wowed me. There were others that didn’t wow me at all, and that’s where I’ll start. You can click on the titles of the books in the list to read my review.
Not Worth Checking Out of the Library:
1. The Art of Fiction by John Gardner–this is the worst book I read this year. I found John Gardner pretentious and not very helpful. Many of the passages repeat common mistakes he finds among amateur writers, which might be helpful. But his prose style left me bored and struggling through this piece.
2. Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson–this book would have been #1 on the list if it weren’t for John Gardner’s condescending prose. While some parts of this book were really interesting, I struggled a long time to finish this one.
Worth the Hardcover Expense:
1. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson–this YA novel was well-written and had a unique plot. It raised a number of moral and ethical questions without preaching to the reader or offering a specific right and wrong answer to the central dilemma. I cannot praise this book enough.
2. Black Flies by Shannon Burke–this tale will stay with you for a long time after reading it. An in-depth look at the lives of New York’s paramedics in Harlem at the time of heavy discrimination provides the reader with both sides of the story. Ollie is a fish out of water in this multiracial community, but he eventually finds his place. Graphic elements of this novel may make it tough to keep reading, but the payoff is worth every page.
3. Testimony by Anita Shreve–Shreve uses her innate skill at alternating points of view to tell readers how one decision made by a group of private school students turns their lives and the lives of those around them upside down. She also shows how the decision impacts those not necessarily close to the teens. While portions of this novel were graphic, they were necessary to help the reader question their fundamental beliefs about certain moral dilemmas.
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy–this tale follows a man and his son after the world is brought to an end and many in society have taken to violence, cannibalism, and other behaviors to survive. The man and his son, who remain nameless throughout the novel, do not stoop to such levels; and while the novel is dark, there is a glimmer of hope.
5. Mr. Thundermug by Cornelius Medvei—a surprising look at how society would interact with and English-speaking baboon and how that baboon would interact with a society that shuns and misunderstands him and his family. A great look at discrimination in a difference sense; This book may deal with some moral issues, but it also uses wit and humor to keep the read light.
1. Pemberley by the Sea by Abigail Reynolds–this modern re-telling of Pride & Prejudice is more than a re-telling. Cassie and Calder have a story of their own, a tale of misunderstanding and timidity when it comes to relationships worth fighting for. Each must learn to love and be loved without condition. Cassie is a marine biologist struggling to get her research funded, and Calder is struggling to become his own man.
2. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips–the modern look at the Greek gods in this novel is humorous and compelling. While there are no major moral or ethical dilemmas raised, this book does provide another look at how far society has evolved or devolved. I love that Aphrodite is a phone sex operator and that Artemis is a dog walker. I’ve never laughed so much out loud while reading a novel, and my transit compatriots must have thought I was loony.
3. Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange–Grange did an excellent job staying true to Jane Austen’s characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, in this diary kept by the famous and misunderstood Mr. Darcy. It was great to read what could have been Mr. Darcy’s inner thoughts.
4. Cold Rock River by J.L. Miles–Adie’s life is harsh at times, but she finds her way to happiness in this well-written Southern novel. I enjoyed the cast of characters, the tension, and especially the slave journal as it is woven into Adie’s narrative.
5. The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James–a tale that provides an insider’s look at what Jane Austen’s real life may have been like in a fictionalized sense. I love the way in which James weaves in historical truth and fiction in this novel to keep the reader riveted and absorbed in Victorian England.
Audio Books to Die For:
1. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore–this audio book had us laughing so early in the morning that I actually got to work wide awake. Charlie Asher’s life takes a bad turn when his wife dies and he’s left to raise his daughter alone, but it gets even worse when he finds out he’s Death. This one will have you laughing all the way through.
2. You Suck! by Christopher Moore–is a hysterical vampire novel set in San Francisco, Calif. New vampires often have a tough time adjusting to life of the undead, but this novel has them stumbling through the dark seeking solace and contentment.
3. A Soldier’s Promise by Daniel Hendrix–is a nonfiction audio book with heart. Not only does it take the listener inside the war in Iraq, but it also illustrates the human side of the war, which many Americans forget about. The language in this book is easy to understand and is not overly militaristic.
Poetry You Must Have:
1. Hip Hop to Children for Nikki Giovanni–a trip down memory lane for many readers who grew up when rap and hip-hop music were just taking shape and gaining in popularity. This book and audio CD will help children gain an appreciation for poetry.
2. Human Dark With Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy–is a mix of dark imagery and content and light humor. Each poem carries a surface meaning as well as a deeper meaning beneath the simple words selected. The sarcasm and bleak language speak to the reader to convey the meaning within each of the three sections.
Ok, now that you’ve got my recommendations from 2008, let’s move onto to something vastly more important–2009.
These are my goals for the blog this year, and I hope some of you will take the time to keep me on my toes.
1. Include more poetry book reviews and interviews
2. Offer personal writing updates on Sundays; I’ll be posting my goal for the new week and whether I achieved the previous week’s general goal, surpassed it, or failed to reach that goal.
I know there are only 2 goals, but with the WWII challenge and blog, I don’t want to over commit myself, which I am known to do from time to time.
My overall goal for 2009 is to complete my poetry book manuscript and prepare it for editing so it can be submitted to publishers in 2010. Anyone willing to give me a kick in the butt, please feel free. I’ll need it.
***Don’t forget about the Gods Behaving Badly Contest, which runs through January 5 at Midnight EST.***