Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

December 31

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2008 in Books, or the Ten Books I’m Glad I Read This Year

by Ann-Katrina

This has been the year where I’ve truly gotten back into the spirit of reading, albeit somewhat late in the year (August), and this short list outlines the top ten books I’m glad I read this year, whether for its emotional impact or its entertainment value. (And choosing only ten was not easy.)

The list is in no particular order and a complete list of the books I’ve read this year also follows.

Sky Burial Cover The Sky Burial by Xinran Xue (review)

As a young girl in China Xinran heard a rumour about a soldier in Tibet who had been brutally fed to the vultures in a ritural known as a sky burial: the tale frightened and fascinated her. Several decades later Xinran met Shu Wen, a Chinese woman who had spent years searching for her missing husband Kejun, after he disappeared in Tibet; her extraordinary life story would unravel the legend of the sky burial. For thirty years she was lost in the wild and alien landscape of Tibet, in the vast and silent plateaux and the magisterial mountain ranges, living with communities of nomads, moving with the seasons and struggling to survive.

In this haunting book, Xinran recreates Shu Wen’s remarkable journey in a grand story of love, loss, loyalty and survival. Moving, shocking and finally enriching, Sky Burial paints a unique portrait of a woman and a land, both at the mercy of fate and politics.

Twilight Cover Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (review)

About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him–and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be–that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Cover Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

HARRY POTTER has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He’s never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him…if Harry can survive the encounter.

The Last Unicorn Cover The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (review)

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone…

…so she ventured out from the safety of the enchanted forest on a quest for others of her kind. Joined along the way by the bumbling magician Schmendrick and the indomitable Molly Grue, the unicorn learns all about the joys and sorrows of life and love before meeting her destiny in the castle of the despondent monarch—and confronting the creature that would drive her kind to extinction.

Coraline Cover Coraline by Neil Gaiman (review)

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wits and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

No Plot? No Problem! Cover No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (review)

You’ve always wanted to write, but…just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

Let Chris Baty, founder of the rockin’ literary marathon National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), guide you through four exciting weeks of hard-core noveling. Baty’s pep talks and essential survival strategies cover the initial momentum and energy of Week One, the critical “plot flashes” of Week Two, the “Can I quit now?” impulses of Week Three, and the champagne and roar of the crowd during Week Four. Whether you’re a first-time novelist who just can’t seem to get pen to paper or a results-oriented writer seeking a creative on-ramp into the world of publishing, this is the adventure for you.

So what are you waiting for? The No Plot? approach worked for the thousands of people who’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and it can work for you! Let No Plot? No Problem! help you get fired up and on the right track.

Into the Land of the Unicorns Cover Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville

As each chime sounds, Cara climbs faster up the steep bell tower. Eleven! She must be on the roof when the next bell tolls. Twelve! With a deep breath, and only half believing she will survive, Cara jumps off the church roof and into Luster, land of the unicorns

In Luster, Cara meets many wonderful creatures, but the most magnificent of all is Lightfoot, a rebellious young unicorn. Cara’s band of friends comes to include a hairy creature named the Dimblethum and the monkey-like Squijim. Together, they set out to reach the Unicorn Queen before the mysterious man who is following them does–to prevent the destruction of all unicorns forever.

Can You Keep a Secret? Cover Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (review)

Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets:

Secrets from her boyfriend:
I’ve always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.

Secrets from her mother:
I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur

Secrets she wouldn’t share with anyone in the world:
I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is.

Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger…. Until Emma comes face-to-face with Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her…

I Heart You, You Haunt Me Cover I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (review)

Girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy.

Girl gets boy back…

…sort of.

Ava can’t see him or touch him, unless she’s dreaming. She can’t hear his voice, except for the faint whispers in her mind. Most would think she’s crazy, but she knows he’s here.

Jackson. The boy Ava thought she’d spend the rest of her life with. He’s back from the dead, as proof that love truly knows no bounds.

1984 Cover 1984 by George Orwell

1984 has come and gone, but Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia”–a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions–a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passing of time.

Complete List of Books Read in 2008

NB: I’ve chosen not to include some unnecessary technical references, to include a number on the subject of writing and publishing. Also, the list is out of chronological order; I listed them as I remembered them and I only reference books read since August. In that vein, this list may not be complete. :)

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (review)
  3. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  4. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  5. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
  6. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
  7. Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
  8. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
  9. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (review)
  10. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (review)
  11. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
  12. Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville
  13. A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young
  14. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (review)
  15. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (review)
  16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  17. No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (review)
  18. The Sky Burial by Xinran Xue (review)
  19. Nightlife by Rob Thurman (review)
  20. Moonshine by Rob Thurman (notes 1, notes 2)
  21. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (review)
  22. The Fantasy Illustrator’s Technique Book by Gary A. Lippincott
  23. Faeries (25th Anniversary Edition) by Brian Froud & Alan Lee
  24. Hell Beasts: How to Draw Grotesque Fantasy Creatures by Jim Pavelec
  25. An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies & Other Supernatural Creatures by Katherine M. Briggs
  26. On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny
  27. Lucinda, Darkly by Sunny
  28. Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott (review)
  29. The Lady Flees Her Lord by Michele Ann Young (review)
  30. Wake by Lisa McMann (review)
  31. Blindness by Jose Saramago
  32. How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
  33. On Writing by Stephen King

In case you want to know what I’ve read on the topic of writing and publishing, I’m planning to get a list up at Today, I Wrote.

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