Thursday, January 08, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - The Best?

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It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008? (It’s an oldie but a goodie question for a reason, after all … because, who can’t use good book suggestions from time to time?)

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Well, I'll do almost anything to procrastinate writing this week apparently. My plot has diverged and I need to choose which way to go. And I CAN'T decide! LOL So, here you get my list of the books I rated EXCELLENT in 2008.

If I get to the end of a year and I can't remember what a book is about, it really can't be all that excellent, can it? So, I'll write for you a short snippet of why I think the book is worthwhile.

MY FICTION PICKS

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (Young Adult)
Ginny's eccentric aunt leaves her 13 blue envelopes with instructions to travel to England and further.
Ginny is an interesting character and so are the many people she meets on her travels. The premise is unique as well. How many people have an eccentric aunt who would leave them a treasure hunt of sorts as a legacy? As far as it being a young adult novel, I'm not sure. I was quite entertained, but I don't know that I'd want young teens reading it. Ginny makes some choices that I wouldn't want an impressionable young person to imitate.

A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist (Inspirational Romance)
Constance is kidnapped and shipped to the Virginia Colony as a tobacco bride.
Deeanne Gist has the talent to write a Christian novel that doesn't hit you over the head with preachiness. I love historical fiction and I love realistic characters. Gist blends all three qualities here for a novel that was a joy to read. Sensuality was not ignored, discussions of faith are frank but not corny-sounding. And the details about the historical setting excited me - learning about the tobacco brides, seeing the homestead that they were creating, familiarizing myself with traditions. Go read it!

Austenland by Shannon Hale (Chick Lit)
Jane is obsessed with Mr. Darcy as portrayed by Colin Firth in the BBC Pride & Prejudice to the extent that it interferes with her real life. Then she gets the chance to vacation in Austenland.
If you have a love for Mr. Darcy or for Jane Austen's works, then this is a fun read. Jane gets a trip to Austenland from, you guessed it, an eccentric aunt who leaves it to her in her will! LOL (OK, fictional characters have this happen more often than the rest of us, apparently.) She gets to dress up in Regency gear, live like she's on Regency House Party, and fall in love with a Regency guy. But which one? And how does she return to her normal life in the modern world?

Cook's Treasure Jennifer Cooper (Romance)
Reagan Sinclair vacations in Florida and meets a mysterious treasure hunter.
I read it. Loved it! You can't! It's unpublished. So, nyah nyah....

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Historical Fiction)
Claire and Jamie settle on a mountain and their daughter Brianna finds love - 4th in the Outlander series; I listened to the audiobook.
If you haven't read Outlander, start there. I adore all of the Outlander books and hearing them on audio is a treat. The narrator does all of the accents and it's a masterpiece. Gabaldon is a genius at writing. She makes her reader (even me, who does not visualize) see the world she creates, with all the detail she includes.

Finding Hope by Brenda Coulter (Romance)
Hope befriends a rich heartless doctor but his lack of belief in God is a stumbling block to any further relationship.
Another Christian romance novel that doesn't beat you over the head with preachy statements or resort to implausible conversions. Instead we get a happily-ever-after tale with two fairly realistic and quite likable characters.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Classic, Romance)
Fanny Price is sent to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousins at Mansfield Park, but she is never quite part of the family.
This is the 4th Austen I read this year, but the first one (except P&P) that I really enjoyed. I didn't particularly care for the ending, but I enjoyed the characters and the plot.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Classic, Romance)
Elizabeth and her 4 sisters are encouraged to marry well
A must-read for everyone. How could anyone not love Mr.Darcy?

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (Classic, Romance)
Catherine Moreland is na├»ve and prone to romantic fantasy; in Bath she meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney and is invited to visit his family estate – Northanger Abbey
My favorite Austen (or tied closely with P&P for first)! Mr. Tilney is a hero I can really enjoy and Catherine is naive and sweet, but with that morbid streak that makes so many friends fun to be around. The plot is great too! Once you've read it, go watch the newest film version!

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Classic, Romance)
The classic story of two sisters – one who feels everything deeply and the other who keeps her feelings well-hidden
My 3rd-ranked Austen favorite. Again, the ending bothered me, but the characterizations were so sharp that it was a joy to read!

Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright (Childrens)
A sequel to Four-Story Mistake – Mona and Rush are away from home, leaving Randy and Oliver at loose ends, but then a treasure hunt clue appears in the mail.
The Four Story Mistake is one of my all-time favorites and this follow-up is a joy as well. I read it aloud to my kids and they enjoyed hearing the details of the treasure hunt.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver (Suspense)
Lincoln's cousin is arrested for murder, but has he been framed by an identity thief? CHILLING!
This one struck home, as it's a crime that really could happen to anyone. I love how Deaver builds the suspense. The characters are true to themselves, throughout the series, and likable even though they have obvious flaws and foibles, as do the rest of us.

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver (Suspense)
Kathryn Dance, a CBI agent and kinesics expert, interrogates Daniel Pell and then tracks him down in his subsequent escape
This Deaver is not about Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs as so many of his are. Instead, we get Kathryn Dance, who has built a career on knowing things about people by watching them. How do people act when they lie? When they're hiding something? Fascinating - and a great mystery to boot!

My Non-Fiction Picks:
Back for Seconds by Peter Bowerman (Non-fiction)
A second helping of “how-to” for any writer dreaming of great bucks and exceptional quality of life (a companion volume to The Well-fed Writer)
Read it, if you are interested in freelance writing!

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich (Non-fiction) Janet shares tips and tricks on writing – my second read-through of this book. Very practical and easy to read.
I adore Evanovich's writing and she's a successful best-selling author who started out writing genre romance. She answers questions on her website and expanded those into this how-to book on writing. Conversational in tone, amusing often, and always informational, this book has been a great help to me. I've read it twice.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer (Non-fiction)
Chris McCandless was a young college graduate with everything going for him, but he gave it all up to walk into the wild of Alaska.
The movie of the same name is based on this book and I was fascinated by it. It's not a happy tale, but an interesting look into the mind of someone who observed our modern society and rejected it wholeheartedly.

Jane Austen for Dummies by Joan Elizabeth Klingel Ray (Non-fiction)
If you've ever tried to read Austen and gotten confused about historical details or customs of the time, this is the book for you! Conversational in tone and very readable, this guide answered ALL the questions I had – and some I didn't realize I had!
I need to own this book. That's all I can say.

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (Non-fiction)
How to write a novel in 30 days
I had already written a novel in 30 days, almost a year before I read this, but it was actually very very helpful. If you plan to do NaNoWriMo (or write a novel on your own in 30 days), this book will be instrumental in getting you to your goal!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

December Reads

Nine December books! I was booking! (pun intended! lol) This made a 2008 total of 86 books, and that's the 3rd year in a row that I've read 86 - unintentionally!

Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen - 12/07/08
Excellent - Fiction
The classic story of two sisters – one who feels everything deeply and the other who keeps her feelings well-hidden.
I couldn't WAIT to read this, even though my book club won't be discussing it until January 31! I enjoyed it very much even though Marianne tried my patience and I think Brandon ended up with the wrong lady.

Cook's Treasure by Jennifer Cooper - 12/09/08
Excellent - Romance
Reagan Sinclair vacations in Florida and meets a mysterious treasure hunter.
My very good friend Jennifer wrote this book! I was so excited to be invited to read it!

Frontier House by Simon Shaw - 12/13/08
Good - Non-fiction
A behind-the-scenes look at the television series of the same name.
After re-watching this series recently, I wanted to read the insider view!

Northpointe Chalet (The Austen Series) by Debra White Smith - 12/21/08
Good - Inspirational
Kathy Moore, a young bookstore owner, meets Ben Tilman, a local pastor, whose father Kathy suspects of nefarious dealings. Based on Northanger Abbey.
Better than I thought it would be, although I didn't really like the main character all that much. She was much ditzier than Catherine Morland.

Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry - 12/22/08
Good - Mystery
Pitt is called to Buckingham Palace where a prostitute has been found dead.
A very good Thomas Pitt mystery novel!

Third Degree by Greg Iles - 12/25/08
Good - Mystery
Laurel Shields has just ended an extramarital affair and finds that her husband has an unexpectedly violent reaction.
This was more graphic than I prefer in a lot of ways. Also if you know me at all, you'll know that I'm not big on novels (or movies) that make the bad guys out to be the heroes. This was one of those, in my opinion.

The Gift of Christmas Present by Melody Carlson - 12/26/08
Good - Inspirational
Christine found her long-lost grandmother, but will the discovery be traumatic for them both?
I really enjoyed this! I like a nice sentimental novel around Christmas and this was perfect! Put it on your Christmas reading list for next year. Actually it's still the 12 days of Christmas right now, so go read it before Epiphany. I think I'll look for more novels by Melody Carlson.

Heartstopper by Joy Fielding - 12/27/08
Fair - Suspense
Sandy Crosbie moved to Florida with her family and then her husband left her. Now there's a serial killer on the loose.
I only rated this fair because I GUESSED THE MURDERER fairly early in the book. Usually Fielding slaps me between the eyes with an unexpected turn, but I picked up on some clues early on and figured out who it was.

A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist - 12/28/08
Excellent - Inspirational
Constance is kidnapped and shipped to the Virginia Colony as a tobacco bride.
This was an engaging and unusual read. Yes, it's a Christian romance, so you can guess how it ends, but it was a lovely ride and a historical novel with an unusual twist. Put this one on your reading list! Thanks, Mom, for telling me about Deeanne Gist!

What will you read in 2009? Care to join me for the 999 Reading Challenge?