Category Archives: 2010-read

2010 Year in Review

I completed Ready or Not by Meg Cabot on December 28, 2010. This marked the 78th book I read that year, and I met my goal of reading 78 books! In celebration I will be highlighting some of my favorite–and one least favorite–of 2010.

Favorite Pregnancy Read

Nominees: Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be by Rebecca Eckler and Baby Bargains, 8th Edition: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More! by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Winner: Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Book Cover for Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields & Alan FieldsI judged this category based on which book I felt prepared me the best for my impending motherhood. These two books are very different from each other, which made it difficult to choose a favorite. Knocked Up was an entertaining and realistic tale about the journey of pregnancy; it is a great memoir. Baby Bargains wins the category, however. This book helped me prepare for the new baby the most. As a first time mom, I know nothing about the products available for a newborn. This book was invaluable in helping figure out which items I needed and which I didn’t. I loved how this information was all in one place for easy reference. This is such a great book that I recommend it for all new parents.

Favorite Series

Nominees: Airhead Series by Meg Cabot, Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter, The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins, and Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Winner: Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Cover of Shadowland (Mediator #1) by Meg CabotI didn’t realize how many great book series I read this year until I tried to pick a winner. All four series were full of five-star books. In order to pick my favorite, it came down to one fact: which series was the most consistent throughout. Two of these series–Airhead and Hunger Games–started off strong but the series’ finales left me disappointed. To some extent this also happened with the latest Gallagher Girls book. This was not the case in the Mediator books. Each book had a consistency that I enjoyed. I picked up the first and finished the last within forty-eight hours. The entire time I was interested and engaged in the plot. I enjoyed how Cabot was able to tell Suze’s story over six books while keeping the plot connected and entertaining. Note: While the Mediator series wins this category, all four series are “Must Reads” in my book.

Favorite Goodreads “First-Read”

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce Feiler, Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Winner: Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Lay The Favorite book cover What I like most about Goodreads giveaways is that they give me a chance to read a book I wouldn’t normally pick up. This is true of all ten books I have won. I appreciated all but one of them, with Lay the Favorite being the one I enjoyed the most. The fact that I had nothing in common with the main character, yet still was still entertained by her story, made the book more interesting for me. The book was a real page-turner that had me interested throughout. I never would have purchased this book, but am really glad that Goodreads gave me the opportunity to read it.

Worst Book of 2010

Nominees: Rich Again by Anna Maxted, The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell, The Gift by Cecelia Ahern
Winner: Rich Again by Anna Maxted
Book Cover of Rich Again by Anna Maxted I previously mentioned that I picked up this book solely based on its cover. The bright colors and shopping bags made me believe the story was a typical Chick Lit plot with a bit more conflict. Instead I found a book with a confusing setup, unlikeable characters, and morbid plot. There was not one enjoyable aspect in this story. I have never before been unable to finish a book and was only able to complete this one because I heavily skimmed it. Such a bad book all around.

Favorite Memior

Nominees: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson, My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto by Jen Lancaster, Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett
Winner: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson
Book Cover of Sliding Into Home by Kendra WilkinsonSo, I have a confession to make. I have a small obsession with all things related to the original Girls Next Door; Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, and Bridget Marquardt. I was very excited when I heard that Wilkinson was going to be releasing a memoir. I figured this book would give me a little extra insight into what went on behind the scenes of the TV show. I was also interested in learning a bit more about what Wilkinson’s life was life before her time at the mansion and what brought her there. Apparently I wasn’t the only one interested, as it was impossible for me to get my hands on a copy of the book until a week after it had been released! Once I was able to start reading, I found myself enjoying the pace and flow of the story. Her truthful tale was the perfect mix of history and humor that defines her. This book may not be on the same level as some of the other five-star books I read this year, but it served as a needed escape. It was the perfect way to get some “guilty pleasure” time in and getaway from the insanity that can be real life.

Favorite Chick Lit Novel

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes, Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Winner: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
The cover of Emily Giffin's now book "Heart of the Matter"Most of the Chick Lit stories I read in previous years were fun and flighty. They involved a single girl shopping her way around town while looking for the right guy. This year I discovered that authors were moving away from this type of story in favor of serious tales. Emilly Giffin was able to successfully tell the tale of the challenges of marriage after writing great “boy meets girl” stories. There was very little about this book that didn’t work. I highly recommend it to all of my Chick Lit blog readers.

Favorite YA Novel

Nominees: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green, David Levithan, Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Winner: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Book Cover of Before I Fall by Lauren OliverIt was a great year for me in terms of YA books. A quick look at a summary of YA books I read least year shows that a high percentage of the them rated four or five stars. It was hard to narrow this list down to the nominees. It was even harder to pick a winner! After much deliberation I picked Before I Fall. I started reading the book with no expectations. Lauren Oliver was a new author who was not from the usual circle of authors I read. I finished the book with a changed attitude. The way in which Oliver discussed the life and death of the main character was inspiring. I find myself often recommending this book to friends and strangers. Such an amazing book.

So, those are some of my favorite books of 2010. What were some of your favorite reads?

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Countdown by Deborah Wiles

I have always enjoyed reading books about American History, yet very few history books make it into my “to-read” pile. I was excited when I won a copy of Countdown on goodreads as it allowed me to read a bit more about the history of the United States.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Countdown by Deborah Wiles It’s 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits in with her family, and look beyond outward appearances. For Franny, as for all Americans, it’s going to be a formative year.

Before starting this book, I knew very little about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Throughout the story I found myself getting more familiar with the topic. The author conveyed the historical information in a way that made it feel like a conversation instead of a lecture. She did this by delivering the facts through the main character; a eleven year old. The details about this past event were seamlessly woven into the story between talks of the daily woes of a seventh grader. This style allowed the author to successfully convey the information she needed about the Missile Crisis and the main characters life in an interesting way.

The young age of the narrator did concern me at first. The intended audience for this book–ages nine to twelve–is much younger than the YA books I usually read. I wondered if I would be able to relate to a character whose daily concerns involved things such as who to play with in the playground. In the end, these types of issues took up little of the story. Instead much of the plot focused on larger issues. I found I could relate to issues such as dealing with family dynamics. The author’s ability to put me in the character’s shoes quickly eased any concerns I had about the age difference between the protagonist and myself.

I was interested to find out that this book is the first in a trilogy. I am very curious to see what topics the remaining two books cover. I am hoping that the author chooses to focus on two historical events for the subjects of the remaining books. Her ability to make history entertaining has me excited for these releases.

Review: This book is one I would love to see any middle school aged student reading. It is a great book that many will find entertaining. The authors ability to keep the story interesting while still informing made for an enjoyable story. I can’t wait to see what topics Wiles tackles next!

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black, Justine Larbalestier

I loved Geektastic; a YA anthology containing stories from some of my favorite authors. I was excited to check out Zombies vs. Unicorns as it contained short stories by many of the same authors. I hoped that I would enjoy this book as much as Geektastic.

From goodreads.com

Zombies vs. Unicorns book coverIt’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths—for good and evil—of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

I have found reading anthologies to bring mixed results. I generally like the stories by authors I know and struggle through the rest. Sometimes I’ll luck out and find a marvelous story by an author I’d not previously read. This often leads to the discovery of some great new books. When this does not happen, I just end up feeling like I bought a book to only enjoy 25% of it.

Short stories–unlike their longer counterparts–are often unable to focus on anything other than the main plot. Anthologies usually focus on one main plot. If it is a theme I am only slightly interested in, it can lead to the book feeling unnecessarily long. When this happens I find myself having to take a break in between stories in order to finish the book. This is another negative I sometimes find when reading anthologies.

This book suffers a bit from both of these negatives. The main issue I had was that I will never be “Team Zombie.” I realized right after I ordered this book that I dislike most things zombie. Why then did I decide to read a book where I hated the topic of 50% of the book? I hoped that some of my favorite YA authors would be able to change my mind. Some authors were able to write stories about zombies that I enjoyed. For the most part, though, I struggled to get through these pages. Eventually I also started to tire of the “Team Unicorn” stories. The theme of this book was not enough to hold my interest. I found myself taking long breaks between the stories. It took me so long to finish this book that my husband actually made a comment about it.

That being said, there were a few great stories in this book. I found the short story by Maureen Johnson to be fantastic. I thought it might even be her best work that I have read to date. I think the darker topic really allowed her to branch out in terms of story-telling. The result was something much more interesting than her usual “girl meets boy” story. I also enjoyed the tales by two of my favorite authors; Meg Cabot and Scott Westerfeld. A story by an author I had not previously read–Libba Bray–inspired me to add some of her books to my “to-read” shelf.

Review: I hesitate to give this book a rating. I did not find much of the book enjoyable due to the fact it was about a topic I don’t really like. This is not the book’s fault. It clearly states it is about zombies, and yet I still decided to read it. I do feel many of my fellow YA fans would read this book and rate it much higher than I have as they would like the topic subject matter. I do recommend this book as there are some great submissions from some of my favorite YA authors. I would suggest this book as a “borrow” instead of a buy.

Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley

Next up for review is a book I think my Harry Potter friends would enjoy!

From goodreads.com

Harry Potter Film Wizardry Book Cover by Brian SibleyImmerse yourself in the world of the spectacular Harry Potter film series, and learn why Yule Ball ice sculptures never melt, where Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts are really “minted,” how to get a Hippogriff to work with actors, the inspiration behind Hogwarts castle, and why Dementors move the way they do. Written and designed in collation with the cast and crew that brought J. K. Rowling’s celebrated novels to the silver screen, Harry Potter: Film Wizardry delivers an enchanting interactive experience, transporting readers to the wizarding world by sharing film-making secrets, unpublished photography and artwork, and exclusive stories from the stars. Full of removable facsimile reproductions of props and paper ephemera from the movies, this collectible volume offers a privileged look at the Harry Potter films and the talented group of Muggles that has made true movie magic.

I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I have read each book numerous times. I own all of the movies, and have watched them several times each. I check my favorite Harry Potter news site–The Leaky Cauldron–daily for all the latest stories on the fandom. This led me to believe that I knew a good deal about the behind-the-scenes going on in the movies. Harry Potter Film Wizardry quickly made me realize I was wrong.

A page from Harry Potter Film Wizardry

The first thing I noticed when opening the book was the amazing graphics. Flipping through the pages leads to many beautiful eye-catching pictures, text, and maps. Upon opening the book, I immediately flipped through it and soaked in all the images. This allowed me to check out the book’s layout. Each section represents a different Harry Potter movie. In each chapter you will find “A Production Designer’s Notebook and Producer’s Diary,” with sections that describe various characters, locations, or creatures from that movie.

A page from Harry Potter Film Wizardry

A page from Harry Potter Film Wizardry

A great example of the layout can be see when looking at the chapter which discuses Goblet of Fire. This section contains information on the Quidditch World Cup (QWC), Miranda Richardson’s portrayal of Rita Skeeter, and the Dark Mark. The pages containing information about the QWC contain an extra pull-out section; something that can be found throughout the book. In this case the bonus material is a program from the Quibbler. Other extras include a Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes product catalog and Marauder’s Map.
 

Review: I found this book to be a readable version of the DVD extras. The format allowed me to take in the images and text at a leisurely pace. The text held details that even I–a rabid Harry Potter fan–didn’t know. I thought this book was very informative and entertaining. I recommend it as a must-read for fans of the Harry Potter books and movies.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

I read this book over a month ago for Banned Books Week. I have tried many times–unsuccessfully–to get my thoughts about it down on paper. Here is my latest attempt.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Boy Meets Boy by David LevithanThis is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it.
The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
This is a happy, meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy, wonderful world.

David Levithan mentioned he specifically wrote this book in a way that would make it difficult to challenge, and I think he was successful He does depicts two romantic relationships; however, neither of them engage in behavior racier than that found in a Disney cartoon. Despite this fact, the book has still been challenged by a Wisconsin mother. Her challenge is based solely on the fact that one of the couples is of the same gender. The description of two boys engaging in the simple act of kissing was enough for this person to ask for Boy Meets Boy to be removed from the library shelves. I am appalled at this.

Boy Meets Boy was an enjoyable book in many ways. Unfortunately there was one thing about this story that lessened my enjoyment. I could not find the world the main character Paul lived in believable. This world featured a drag queen as the star quarterback and the Gay-Straight Alliance as the “must join” club. It’s not that I don’t want to see this type of world exist someday; but that from what I’ve seen, that day isn’t here yet. The unaccepting world in which Paul’s friend Tony lives is much more the norm in terms of high school environments. The sharp contrast between the two worlds–accepting and not–felt too rigid. I could not conceive that these two towns could exist side by side. Perhaps the lack of believability was the author’s aim. This bit of the story just didn’t work for me.

Review: Despite the one issue I had with the plot, I still found the book very enjoyable. The author was able to successfully capture the awkwardness of different types of teenage relationships. Tony’s tense relationship with his parents reminded me of many of the fights I had with my own parents during my senior year of high school. Paul’s clumsy attempts to start a new relationship were realistic and truthful. Even the relationships Levithan depicted between best friends reflect the changes many go through during high school. This book had me thinking that a world where people are accepted despite their differences is within reach.

Good Eats: The Early Years by Alton Brown

In a very strange departure from the usual reviews, I am reviewing a cookbook! This one caught my eye and I decided it was worth a read. Here are my thoughts on Good Eats: The Early Years by Alton Brown.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Good Eats: The Early Years by Alton Brown Alton Brown is a foodie phenomenon: a great cook, a very funny guy, and—underneath it all—a science geek who’s as interested in the chemistry of cooking as he is in eating. (Well, almost.) Here, finally, are the books that Brown’s legion of fans have been salivating for—two volumes that together will provide an unexpurgated record of his long-running, award-winning Food Network TV series, Good Eats.

From “Pork Fiction” (on baby back ribs), to “Citizen Cane” (on caramel sauce), to “Oat Cuisine” (on oatmeal), every hilarious episode is represented. Each book—the second will be published in fall 2010—is illustrated with behind-the-scenes photos taken on the Good Eats set. Each contains more than 140 recipes and more than 1,000 photographs and illustrations, along with explanations of techniques, lots of food-science information (of course!), and more food puns, food jokes, and food trivia than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

I had very little cooking experience before I was married. Since then I have slowly increased my skill in that area. I have been helped along the way by some great cookbooks. I find I am most successful at basic recipes that contain only a few ingredients. These simple recipes help me learn the basics of cooking while still preparing a tasty meal.

I was excited when I discovered the show Good Eats on the Food Network . This show is perfect for me. Each episode deals with the fundamentals of how to cook basic foods such as steak, shrimp, eggs, or potatoes. This show–and its host Alton Brown–explains how the science behind why something should be made certain way. To me this is the best way to learn. The show has helped me master the preparation of the basic recipes. This knowledge then allowed me to move on to more complex recipes. Preparing more complex dishes like pasta primavera was easy once I learned the proper way to cook pasta.

The discovery that this show had been translated into a book series was delightful. The three part series aims to cover the topics and recipes in each episode of the show. Each chapter is broken down into the background information, recipes and tips seen in the corresponding show. Additional information in each section includes behind the scenes tidbits and additional recipes.

Review: I am so glad I found this book! The written format enables easy reference that is not available with the TV show. The extra notes and recipes are very helpful. I found myself reading the from cover to cover. This is book enjoyable even if you already know how to cook. Even my husband picked it up to read!

Everything Christmas by David Bordon, Tom Winters

I am someone who firmly believes that Christmas celebration should not start until the day after (American) Thanksgiving. So why am I reviewing a Christmas book in October? I won Everything Christmas as a goodreads giveaway and wanted to review it ASAP.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Everything Christmas by David Bordon & Tom WintersOpening this book is like opening a box full of Christmas cheer.

Christmas is a time of celebration and wonder, a time to embrace longstanding traditions and establish new ones. It’s a time for meals made of memories and heartwarming stories shared around the fireplace. It’s a time for worship, reflection, and remembrance of God’s greatest gift.

Everything Christmas brings all the best ideas for the holiday season together in one volume. In this book, you’ll find your favorite classic Christmas stories and a few new ones destined to join them. You’ll discover the most delectable holiday recipes, enjoy the words to treasured hymns and carols, be encouraged by inspirational Christmas poems, and find renewed joy in the Nativity story. From decoration ideas to Christmas trivia and humor – it’s all here!

Growing up, Christmastime was a big celebration for my family. My younger sister and I spent the day after Thanksgiving decorating our parents house for Christmas. This was a massive all-day effort. The Christmas festivity continued on throughout the holiday season. These experiences have made me realize how important Christmas traditions are.

My husband and I will soon be starting our own family. This is a chance for us to start our own holiday rituals. We will borrow from our childhood for some customs, while also trying to incorporate new ones. I found Everything Christmas was a great place to start looking for new traditions.

It was impossible to read this book and not start to feel some holiday spirit. This book is set up to be used as an Advent Calendar. There are 24 chapters in this book, one for each day leading up to Christmas. The chapters each center on things such as holiday recipes, crafts, carols, poems, and holiday stories. The stories were so enjoyable that I had a hard time putting the book down.

The book served as both entertainment and a great Christmas resource. In its pages are the words to most of the classic Christmas Carols, as well as stories of their origins. If you are looking for a recipe for your holiday table, this book has you covered. The craft ideas had me itching for a trip to my local Michael’s to pick up supplies. After reading I was left wishing it was December!

Review: I was a bit uncertain about this book when I won it, but am now very glad I had the opportunity to read it. I enjoyed many of the stories, poems, and jokes found in its pages. My husband and I were inspired by the recipes and plan on trying some for the upcoming holidays. Everything Christmas is the perfect book to put you in the holiday mood.