Saturday, September 27, 2008

Weekly Geeks No. 19

This week’s theme: Top books of 2008.

It appears that so far this year I've read nine books published in 2008. My three favorites (with links to my reviews) are as follows:

Monday, September 22, 2008

That Time of Year

Hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days.
September 22 through December 20.

What I'd Like to Read (striving for a two-books-a-week pace):
  • Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

  • Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter

  • The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant*

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  • Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry

  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voight

  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

  • Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
    by Melanie Rehak

  • Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

  • The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

  • In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

  • Interworld by Neil Gaiman

  • Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

  • The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

  • Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

  • The Life You Longed For by Maribeth Fischer

  • The Mercy Rule by Perri Klass

  • Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West

  • Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale

  • A Simple Plan by Scott Smith

  • A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

  • Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers by Erin Gruwell

  • A Train to Potevka by Mike Ramsdell

  • Zombie Blondes by Brian James

  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to change, lengthen, shorten, or otherwise modify this list at anytime!

First Update (no, it didn't take me long!) - Adding the Following as of September 23:
  • Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

  • Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

  • To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel

Second Update - Adding the Following as of October 18:
  • Bronte's Book Club by Kristiana Gregory

Third Update - Adding the Following as of November 1 (in conjunction with the Herding Cats Challenge):
  • Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

*I've already started this one.

My Current Challenge Status

I'm pretty much challenge-addicted and have a hard time resisting a great challenge - although I have been pretty good about not adding much new since the beginning of the year. Now that 2008 is nearly three-quarters of the way over, I wondering what I'm actually going to be able to finish. Here is a summary of my current challenge status (more details, including links, are in my sidebar):

    342,752 Ways to Herd Cats - 0/3 (ends November 30; I haven't even decided what three books I'm going to read).

    Series Challenge - 1/4 (although the challenge doesn't specify the number of books required; ends November 30).

    Chunkster Challenge - 3/4 (ends December 20).

    Fall Into Reading 2008 - list pending (starts tomorrow and runs through December 20).
    I'm quite sure that my list for this challenge will be comprised of books for the other challenges.

    TBR Challenge - 3/12 (ends December 31).

    What's in a Name? - 1/6 (ends December 31).

    In Their Shoes - 2/8 (ends December 31).

    Back to History Challenge - 6/12 (ends December 31).

    Every Month is a Holiday - 8/12 (ends December 31; I skipped April and haven't yet read August's pick, but I've already read October's and November's, so maybe it'll all work out).

    1st in a Series - 2/12 (ends December 31).

    Celebrate the Author - 4/12 (ends December 31; I skipped March, and then I stalled at June).

    Printz Award Challenge - 2/6 (ends December 31).

    Graphic Novels Challenge - 3/6 (ends December 31).

    Man Booker Challenge - 0/6 (ends December 31).

    Reading Full Circle Challenge - 6 completed (ends December 31).

    Triple 8 (or 888) - 31/64, with four overlaps, with 2 of 8 categories completed (ends December 31).

    A~Z Reading Challenge - 34/52 (ends December 31).

    YA Romance Challenge - 0/6 (ends February 28; I've actually read a few things that qualify, but I need to get them labeled and posted to the challenge blog).

    Book Awards Challenge II - list under construction (ends June 1).

    Suspense & Thriller Challenge - 8/6 for 2008 (challenge continues into 2009).

    Cardathon - 3 completed.

    42 Challenge - not even officially begun, but I'm way behind on tracking my progress, so I'll have to let you know; runs January 1 through December 3, 2009.

If I've done the math right, in order to complete the challenges that end on or before December 31, I've got more than 100 books to read by year-end. That includes the overlaps that I know about, although there can likely be a few more than that. Since I've read fewer than 60 books so far this year, 100 more is an impossibility! I guess it's time to start prioritizing what I'd like to finish. Off the top of my head, I'd like to complete both the A~Z Reading Challenge and the Triple 8 Challenge. Those are the two biggest ones I'm involved in - and finishing them would give me a great sense of accomplishment.

I guess I ought to get off the computer and start reading!

P.S. I really didn't realize that I had so many challenges pending. I even said so to Becky on Saturday night. Alas.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Weekly Geeks No. 18

This week’s theme: Catch up on ... something.

Boy, this theme is pertinent! I am behind on my reviews, behind on updating the challenges in my sidebar, not to mention behind on my reading!

I need to get my Fall into Reading list ready for Monday. I've never made a list for the Book Awards Challenge II. And I've not written my "I've Completed the 'In the Pub' Challenge" post.

I'd like to put my "Bookish Blogs I Like to Visit" list into the new Blogger blog list gadget. I need to update my list of sci-fi things for the 42 Challenge. And I'd like to update my "read" list in goodreads to make sure that everything I've read this year is listed and linked to my reviews.

Given that we've only got a little over one-quarter of the year to go, I also need to make a good plan for what challenges I'm actually going to complete and what I should likely abandon now.

Where has the year gone?! Where do I start?

Just thinking out loud here:

The books I've read but still need to review are the following:

  • Anatomy of a Boyfriend

  • Violet on the Runway

  • Eat, Pray, Love

My status in the A~Z Reading Challenge: Of the 52 required reads, I've completed 34 - 15 of the authors and 19 of the titles. That's about 5 books off the necessary pace to complete the challenge by December 31 - and I'm getting down to some of the harder letters.

The authors I have left are F, I, J, N, O, Q, R, U, V, X, and Z. I'm thinking Fforde for F, Jenoff for J, Quindlen for Q, Rehak for R, Unger for U, Voight for V, and Zusak for Z. Does anyone have any suggestions for I, N, O, or X?

The titles I have left are I, M, Q, U, X, Y, and Z. I'm thinking In Her Shoes or Interworld for I, The Mercy Rule or Mermaids in the Basement for M, Zombie Blondes or The Zookeeper's Wife for Z. Does anyone have any suggestions for Q, U, X, or Y?

I wonder if I can complete the eighteen I need for this challenge for Fall into Reading as well.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Originally published in 2002.
Newbery Honor in 2003.
Audio book read by Chad Lowe.

This was my first outing with Hiaasen, but I'm sure it won't be my last. Hoot was his first novel for young people, and, as stated on the audio book case, is "full of his trademark satirical wit, revealing the good, the bad, and the screwy state of Florida." A full synopsis can be found on Hiaasen's website here.


Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Published in 2008. 289 pages.

I like to read Mary Higgins Clark's suspense novels for the same reason I like to eat McDonald's hamburgers: I know what I'm getting. Where Are You Now? is typical Clark: female protagonist, compelling plot, lots of red herrings, happy ending. Just what I expected.


The Plain Janes
by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Published in 2007.
176 pages (according to, as the pages are not numbered).

I first heard about the young adult graphic novel The Plain Janes from Dewey, who reviewed it and then sent a copy to me and my daughters. (Thanks again, Dewey!) Sugar Plum (age 12) read the book the same day it arrived, immediately emailed the author because she liked it so much, and claimed our copy as her own. Last month I happened upon the book in Sugar Plum's bedroom and decided it was time for me to read it. I started it late one Friday before bed and finished it the next morning. Like Sugar Plum, I fell in love with the book!

The Plain Janes is a story about art, fear, belonging, being yourself, and making a difference. I think those are topics to which each of us, regardless of age, can relate. The Plain Janes is Castellucci's first graphic novel, but a sequel Janes in Love is due out soon.

I'm new to the world of graphic novels - but I've so enjoyed the ones I've read so far (two volumes of Fashion Kitty, American Born Chinese, and this one). I'm also going to check out some of Castellucci's novels.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Published in 2006. 183 pages.

First sentence: The day begins in the middle of the night.

Last words: Ready. Set. Jump.

Plot summary (from the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data): High school student Nick O'Leary, member of a rock band, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to avoid his ex-sweetheart.

Why I read this book: In and of itself, the "gimmick" of this book - that authors Cohn and Levithan alternately wrote from the viewpoints of Norah and Nick, respectively - intrigued me. That it's a YA romance with a musical bent sealed the deal. I requested the book from my local library, fully expecting to fall in love with it.

What I loved about this book: Both Norah and Nick are likable characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed their "voices" and their interaction. The alternating viewpoint thing met my every expectation. The romance is sweet; I laughed out loud a few times; and the occasional dips into something more serious were meaningful to me.

A favorite "serious" passage: Nick asks Norah, "What are your favorite things about [being Jewish]?" Norah tells him about the concept of tikkun olam, which, as she explains it, is the idea

that the world has been broken into pieces. All this chaos, all this discord. And our job - everyone's job - is to try to put the pieces back together. To make things whole again.

As they sit and ponder the concept a little, Nick gets a bit of inspiration:
"Maybe we're the pieces," I say.

Norah's head doesn't move from my arm. "What?" she asks. I can tell from her voice that her eyes are still closed.

"Maybe that's it," I say gently. "With what you were talking about before. The world being broken. Maybe it isn't that we're supposed to find the pieces and put them back together. Maybe we're the pieces."

She doesn't reply, but I can tell she's listening carefully. I feel like I'm understanding something for the first time, even if I'm not entirely sure what it is yet.

"Maybe," I say, "what we're supposed to do is come together. That's how we stop the breaking."

Tikkum olam.

What I could have done without: Norah admits to having a "potty mouth" but the continuous profanity from both Norah and Nick as well as other characters in the book - especially their use of the f-word - made me uncomfortable. While I don't object to some "contemporary" language in the books I read - and I will say that it's the characters and plot of the book, not the bad language, that have stuck with me in the couple of weeks since I finished reading - I still don't think that it was necessary. I definitely wouldn't have missed it at all.

Two additional things: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is going to be a movie on October 3. (I'm almost thinking that I might like the movie better than the book simply because of the language restrictions. For example, in the movie, Nick's band is called "The Jerk Offs" instead of what it's called in the book.) Nick and Norah have a website at Random House.

Other book bloggers' reviews of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!