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Reading List/Movie List: 2009

The Guidelines:
Both fiction and non-fiction (NF) count, provided I read all the way through and didn't toss it aside in boredom or only read select chapters, but I only include books I'm reading for the first time.

Bold means I absolutely loved it, italics mean I enjoyed and would recommend it, plain text indicates that it was average to just okay, and strikethrough means I hated it; emphasis is subject to change throughout the year as I re-evaulate. Links go to Amazon (or similar pages), and for the first time this year, I'm adopting dollsome 's style and adding brief annotations. Which might prove unwise given my penchant for exceeding LJ post limits.

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BOOKS

January (2)
1. The Crumb - Jean Slaughter Doty. 122 pg/1976.
Just a quick juvenile pony book from the batch I got off eBay in September, read while waiting for computer access. Unexpected bit of heartbreak in otherwise predictable mystery plot, but a good story of the showjumping world all the same.

2. Top Horse of Crescent Ranch - Howard L. Hastings. 248 pg/1942.
From a similar batch, I love old ranch stories where the people raise not only cattle but maintain a herd of range horses too. Bygone era. Nobody even writes stories like this anymore, much less lives them.

February (8)
3. Magic Carpet Ride - Audrey McClellan. 240 pg/2005.
Um, this book and I had some issues. Despite that, it was a relatively aesthetically pleasing romp through idealized romantic nonsense. The experience of which I shall never repeat again.

4. Don't Kiss Them Good-bye [NF] - Allison DuBois. 224 pg/2005.
A bit repetitive and couldn't seem to decide if it was a memoir, anthology, or how-to guide on interacting with psychics, but a bit fun, after watching "Medium," to read a little about her real-life family members. I swear I can still distinguish between fiction and reality!

5. How NOT To Be Popular - Jennifer Ziegler. 239 pg/2008.
Pretty quirky, with some perfectly cringe-worthy moments (namely her outlandish parents), but otherwise ended up being one of the more accurate reflections of high school society. Would have made a good summer read.

6. Fix - Leslie Margolis. 241 pg/2006.
Actually a pretty absorbing story about a shallow world, daughters of a former Hollywood actress considering plastic surgery - one all for a boob job after getting her nose fixed; the other not so sure her nose needs fixing at all. Author packs a lot of angles into a fairly small book.

7. Go Figure - Jo Edwards. 271 pg/2007.
"Overweight girl trying to be happy with her life" stories would be so much more compelling if said girls had more interesting thoughts than "I want a boyfriend. Sex would be good."

8. Girl of the Moment - Lizabeth Zindel. 283 pg/2007.
Faux-reality "tell all" novel about the world of celebrity as seen through the eyes of a high-school aged personal assistant...these novels are all kind of the same, but I still find them highly enjoyable, and this was no exception. I maybe imagined the anonymous young starlet as Miley Cyrus; is that bad?

9. Or Not - Brian Mandabach. 404 pg/2007.
Show me a public school in real life where the liberal, Bush-administration-and-church-questioning girl is the oddball outcast, and I'll turn back time and go there instead. Difficult to swallow the premise and overly long, but once you get past that it's a decent read.

10. Doctor Who: Shining Darkness - Mark Michalowski. 249 pg/2008.
The Doctor/Donna banter? Excellent. Donna's character as a whole? Pretty good. The plot? Somewhere between a coffee grinder and American Idol on the scale of annoyance. I was tempted to bounce the book off the wall a few times reading the endless debates about whether or not robots "mechanicals" were truly sentient and capable of feelings like "organics."

March (15)
11. The Secret Life of Cowboys [NF] - Tom Groneberg. 272 pg/2003.
Really cool memoir of an inexperienced suburban college grad finding home in ranching out West. Not enough about horses, considering it was shelved with the equine books, but cows are good too.

12. Doctor Who: Ghosts of India - Mark Morris. 256 pg/2008.
The setting & story were considerably more interesting than the other novel, but again, the Doctor and Donna are what really made it worthwhile. Although seriously, one more reference to the Ood Sphere in these books, and I'm writing angry letters. THEY HAD OTHER ADVENTURES. REALLY.

13. Dirty Work - Julia Bell. 181 pg/2007.
For a book about European girls sold into prostitution, I could have done with more details and less of the kidnap/ransom half of the story, but the writing was solid & quality either way.

14. Hurt Go Happy - Ginny Rorby. 261 pg/2006.
I think this should have been marketed more towards juvenile fiction than YA, despite its length, but I'm not gonna lie - it made me cry no fewer than three times by the end. Stupid signing chimpanzee!

15. Escape from Botany Bay: the true story of Mary Bryant - Gerald & Loretta Hausman. 220 pg/2003.
Needed a historical novel in my life, and haven't read too many that deal with the conditions of convicts shipped to Australia. Kind of blah, but unique.

16. Total Constant Order - Crissa Jean Chappell. 278 pg/2007.
OCD stories = win. But this one dragged as result of her befriending the stoner outcast with ADD. Not horrible, just inferior to "Multiple Choice." I need more details about her compulsions!

17. Eggs in the Coffee, Sheep in the Corn: My 17 Years as a Farmwife [NF] - Marjorie Meyer Douglas. 247 pg/1994.
I love hearing about raising a family amidst the rural life in my home state, especially circa 1943-1960. It's everything you'd imagine in nostalgia from that time period. Although it didn't blow me away, it's endearing enough that I want my own copy.

18. For the Love of a Dog: A Memoir [NF] - Elizabeth Rose. 272 pg/2001.
NEW RULE: Unless your dog(s) lived a long and happy life with you before dying peacefully, don't write a pet memoir. Ugh. I physically wanted to punch this woman multiple times, especially after I got to the last chapter.

19. Alive and Well in Prague, New York - Daphne Grab. 256 pg/2008.
Cute book - I may just have been enchanted by the compact size & cover art - with blessedly less snobbery than I expected from a "teenage girl moves from NYC to small town" story. I mean it existed, but wasn't too permeating; great focus on family & best-friendship instead. Bonus: no sex. (it's so sad I have to award points for that these days...)

20. Frost in May - Antonia White. 221 pg/1933.
"A girls' school story, written for grown-ups." The ending sucked (though moderately less now that I know there are multiple sequels), but otherwise it had all the nostalgic detail and charm of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," only from the perspective of an 8-12 year old girl at a strict Catholic convent school. It's amazing.

21. The Last Dog on Earth - Daniel Ehrenhaft. 234 pg/2003.
How could I not read a title like that? Definitely more towards the youngest end of YA, but didn't stop it from being ridiculously compelling and well plotted. Also, I have to go cry now at the thought of entire towns being emptied of dogs due to unstoppable, incurable, infectious and rabies-like disease.

22. The Unrivalled Spangles - Karen Wallace. 219 pg/2005.
I ask you, how many novels have been written about circus families in 19th century England (with heavy focus on animal acts, and featuring girls on horseback)? NOT MANY. How awesome was this? Pretty darn awesome.

23. Secrets of my Suburban Life - Lauren Baratz-Logsted. 225 pg/2008.
Right now I'm just kind of speechless that the online sex pervert wasn't who I expected it to be. THIS FACT WAS SOMEHOW MORE UPSETTING.

24. White Girl - Sylvia Olsen. 235 pg/2004.
On an Indian reservation in Canada. Fun times.

25. Cheating Lessons - Nan Willard Cappo. 234 pg/2002.
You know the person you didn't expect it to be in #23? This book had a lot in common. -.- Anyway, I was too busy being dazzled by the notion of a prestigious academic competition whose questions were about nothing except classic literature. Hey there, high school dream! Plus, Bernadette was me, only smarter & more well-socialized than I could ever hope for.

April (16)
26. Sun Moon Stars Rain - Jan Cheripko. 160 pg/2006.
Mostly I was really really bored, probably due to the fact that this book is 90% pure dialogue with no further embellishments. Whatever didn't bore me was irritating.

27. Invincible Summer - Jean Ferris. 167 pg/1987.
I checked this out for no other reason than the fact that it was the only 80's book I saw on the shelf. And then I ended up swooning and sniffling over the tale of teens in love & saddled with leukemia.

28. Breathe My Name - R.A. Nelson. 320 pg/2008.
Wooo, for not having anything supernatural whatsoever (just a crazy mother who killed 3 of her 4 daughters a decade ago), that gave me chills. I meant to read two chapters and then I got sucked right in until I'd finished. Really hit me.

29. How To Ruin My Teenage Life - Simone Elkeles. 281 pg/2007.
I had high hopes that the protagonist would be less whiny than the title suggested. Good news: her mother & stepfather's pending baby is legitimately annoying, and she's less self-absorbed than relatively goofy. Bad news: she's annoyingly naive and oversimplifying, best demonstrated by her refusal to neuter her dog because that's oh-so-mean. Or signing her dad up for an online dating service. With his credit card.

30. Lost: Endangered Species - Cathy Hapka. 208 pg/2005.
I did not know it was possible to write published fanfic for Lost, but apparently you can take one of the random extras and turn them into your original character, complete with flashback chapters. Throw in the smoke monster and cameo appearances by the cast, and there you have it. The results are terrible.

31. My Sister's Bones - Cathi Hanauer. 258 pg/1996.
Strike #532 on the "RS tries to like adult fiction" list. I found at randomly when I just glanced at a shelf, and it was about a high school girl whose older sister develops anorexia when she goes to college! 90% amazing and tailor-made for me, except that I won't forgive it for having the main character dole out two kinds of jobs, along with her virginity just for the hell of it.

32. Savage Sam - Fred Gipson. 214 pg/1962.
I have a Disney anthology with an abridged version of this, which I've always loved, but having finally gotten to read the original, it's everything I want out of a dog/Old West/Indian raid story.

33. Girl With a Baby - Sylvia Olsen. 203 pg/2003.
Your standard teen pregnancy fare, with a First Nations twist.

34. Model Student: A Tale of Co-eds and Cover Girls - Robin Hazelwood. 390 pg/2006.
Adult fiction that doesn't suck. *beams* I feel like I sh/could have issues with it, but they were too minor and eclipsed by the fast-paced fun. Mom claims it was darker than expected, but if so, it's dark in ways that are fun to read, like screaming catalog photographers and drugs and the pressure to do racy shoots.

35. Remember This - S.T. Underdahl. 288 pg/2008.
Nice, safe, quick, engaging, good. I do believe I like this author a whole bunch.

36. Waiter Rant [NF] - Steve Dublanica. 320 pg/2008.
I've been enjoying snarky blogs lately, and customers_suck has always been a favorite place, so I thought this would be amusing. It was fairly interesting, but I spent far too much of it thinking how pathetic and joyless this guy was - I never figured out why he didn't quit after a month.

37. What Erika Wants - Bruce Celements. 224 pg/2005.
Meh. It took a really long time and an overdue library visit to convince me to finish it; it never really solidified its parallel plot strands.

38. The Wish House - Celia Rees. 272 pg/2006.
A unique introduction & format (also: set in the 70's!), but more risque and therefore not as compelling as I expect from one of my favorite authors. Decent summer story, though, and some beautifully described scenery. I sort of want it to be made into a film just for that.

39. First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover - Mitali Perkins. 192 pg/2007.
The word that comes to mind is DELIGHTFUL. Points for being the teenage daughter of a Republican who doesn't fight her father's ideals every step of the way, and more points for featuring a normal teenager who makes smart decisions which do not revolve around boys. And for not getting bogged down in PC crap or making me loathe its every allusion to diversity, which is hard to do.

40. Starlet - Randi Reisfeld. 289 pg/2007.
Boo for being the unexpected start of series, boo! I want the mystery blogger revealed now! Otherwise, excellent use of pop culture references; a new Hollywood actress is the only acceptable context in which to name-drop like mad.

41. Click - David Almond et. al. 209 pg/2007.
"Stories within a story - one novel, ten authors." And what an incredible puzzle it makes, fanning out 50+ years in either direction from the opening chapter, each author creating a self-contained chapter that also fits into the framework of what's introduced at the start, revealing the stories behind and around photographs and the ripples they make. So innovative and clever I don't know what to do with myself.

May (6)
42. Baby - Joseph Monniger. 173 pg/2007.
Nice quick read, featuring delinquent foster-care kid and sled dogs.

43. Last Chance for Paris - Sylvia McNicoll. 204 pg/2008.
*ADORATION* Perfect juvenile summer story. Complete with remote BWCA setting and a tame wolf cub.

44. Waiting for Sarah - Bruce McBay & James Heneghan. 170 pg/2003.
Oooooh. That was unexpected and left me shivering! Plus, beautiful exploration of high school library archives for yearbook nostalgia piece. I love that stuff.

45. Pictures in the Dark - Patricia McCord. 288 pg/2004.
Did not trample over 1950's suburban nostalgia anywhere near as much as I thought it would! Instead, actually made a good story out of having an unpredictable, neglectful/abusive mother.

46. Chloe Doe - Suzanne Phillips. 188 pg/2007.
Spanish words all over the place hurt my brain (that's only okay when it's French), but it was cool. I'm all for stories from inside reforming institutions.

47. Everything Beautiful in the World - Lisa Levchuk. 203 pg/2008.
Aside from being randomly set in the 1980's for no reason at all except to mention how various teachers related to Vietnam, this was WAY better than a story about an adulterous high school teacher/student relationship should be. In fact, I'm very fond of it! I don't know why! I wanted their love to somehow triumph in the end!

June (15)
48. The Iceberg Hermit - Arthur Roth. 219 pg/1974.
See, now that's how you write an adventure story! Bonus points for a tame polar bear.

49. Baby-Snatcher - Susan Terris. 234 pg/1984.
This just made me laugh, a lot.

50. One Step at a Time - Deborah Kent. 198 pg/1989.
By contrast, this was a much cuter (if still juvenile) book about dog training and gradual blindness.

51. Blind Faith- Ellen Witlinger. 280 pg/2006.
Ohhh, what a lovely story you are! Perfect summer fare: angsty themes of death and divorce counterbalanced by bright themes of quasi-sisters and the sweetest young romance ever, with a SHOCKINGLY POSITIVE outcome. This book knew exactly what I wanted at every turn, and delivered it as such.

52. Forever In Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood - Ann Brashares. 384 pg/2007. ♥♥♥
After two increasingly depressing installments full of change, this brought back all the appreciation I once had for the first novel. Fast-paced and fascinating and overwhelmingly absorbing, I cried and/or wanted to punch the book no fewer than ten times, and it was far from perfect and yet still so brilliant. I had almost forgotten what it was like to love a book so much it feels like your heart is going to explode. Incredible series conclusion.

53. A Year in the Merde - Stephen Clarke. 304 pg/2004.
Picked up on a whim. He spends entirely too much time looking for sex, but it's not explicit so I'll try and overlook that part and focus on the fact that it was a really fast, light, and engaging story. I couldn't put it down.

54. Street Pharm - Allison Van Diepen. 306 pg/2006.
Damn, this be fun, yo! (I apologize). Normally dialect-heavy books wear on my brain, but this plunged me straight into the world of inner-city drug dealing and it was all uphill from there. I can't even explain why, but it's the most sheer fun I've had reading in a long time.

55. Going for the Record - Julie Swanson. 217 pg/2004.
I used to pass this all the time on the college library shelves, but was never compelled enough to check it out. Finally picked it up at the public library, and HOW THE HELL DID I NOT READ IT SOONER. High school soccer player, a father with fast-acting cancer. I pretty much bawled my way through the second half but wanted to hug the book's incredible story for comfort afterward.

56. Creepers - Joanne Dahme. 232 pg/2008.
One of the most amazing books I've ever read, although I am least as enchanted by the sheer work of art the physical book as much as I am by the (still incredible and captivating and brilliant; ignore the endorsement from R.L. Stine) historical ghost story.

57. Bowery Girl - Kim Taylor. 223 pg/2006.
Sometimes I get disillusioned by historical novels and start to believe they are boring. Then I find something like this, and it so completely sucks me in that I forget I live in the 21st century. Oh, and pay attention to how the title is in the singular; it's not a mistake.

58. Last Kiss - John Ripslinger. 268 pg/2007.
Fascinating mystery, but that's about it.

59. Ivy - Julie Hearn. 351 pg/2008.
I might not have checked it out if the author hadn't previously stunned me with two other historical novels. And she did it again, writing a book I literally could not put down because every time I tried, I'd be spurred on to see how all the clues came together. And along the way, there was so much gorgeous description of 19th-century England and so many compelling characters that YES, book jacket: Ivy is a character "destined to take her place alongside Dickens' Pip and Oliver Twist." I can has own copy?

60. Brooklyn Bridge - Karen Hesse & Chris Sheban. 240 pg/2008.
Around the same era as Bowery Girl, but from a boy's perspective and generally somewhat less interesting. It didn't help that I was exceptionally confused as to why they kept switching back and forth from the main character's 1st-person POV to a 3rd-person description of homeless children sleeping under the bridge. You find out why at the end, but at the time it was just maddeningly frustrating.

61. Silent Echoes - Carla Jablonski. 288 pg/2007.
I do not know why I came upon a rash of historical novels all at once like this; it wasn't a conscious decision. Anyway, this split its time between 1882 and 2006 New York, alternating chapters between two girls who can mysteriously hear one another's voices when they're in the same building. The ending was thrilling, but the whole thing was masterful and suspenseful and just, giddy joy, giddy!

62. Dirty Laundry - Daniel Ehrenhaft. 227 pg/2009.
I think Ehrenhaft should give up on boarding school novels, as this didn't offer anything new. I almost returned it unfinished, annoyed by the format and the constantly flip-flopping between Fun & Carli's voices, but stubbornness kept me going until the slower-than-molasses mystery picked up enough for me to be interested in the answer. Seriously, I was 1/3 of the way through the book and still couldn't figure out why I was supposed to care that Darcy was missing.

July (19)
63. In the Merde for Love - Stephen Clarke. 400 pg/2006.
See previous Clarke book. It's like Wonder Bread - low quality and of no nutritional value, but you can't stop (reading) them anyway. And maybe I'm slightly invested in Alexa now because I'm inexplicably picturing her as Alexis from the Fans vs. Faves season of Survivor.

64. Artichoke's Heart - Suzanne Supplee. 276 pg/2008.
Not the best for motivation, since Rosemary essentially diets by drinking SlimFast, but aside from that? This is how you tell "overweight girl trying to be happy with her life" stories. Sure, there's still a boy involved, but there are so many more important focuses in her life with which to identify.

65. Broken Days (Quilt Trilogy #2) - Ann Rinaldi. 273 pg/1995.
Good, but I felt a little awkward and out of sorts because it's been so long since I read the first book. Did I read the first book? Or did I just always want to but never get around to it? The books are set so far apart that I don't think it really matters, but still. And I was disappointed that it never went back to the Shawnee girl's perspective.

66. Planet Janet - Dyan Sheldon. 223 pg/2002.
A fun diversion, if you were looking to read what sounds like a moody British girl's blog, which I was. But not in a way where I'll read any further books about it.

67. Painting Caitlyn - Kimberly Joy Peters. 189 pg/2006.
I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been able to tell how hard the author was working to show naive teens how easily an abusive relationship can happen, while disguising the lesson in the syntax of an innocent freshman. The end result was something that simultaneously felt didactic and watered down. So no points there - but props for compelling characters and good details; I wouldn't say no to this book at a garage sale. Despite its shortcomings, it's endearingly like someone's creative writing thesis.

68. Hacking Harvard - Robin Wasserman. 320 pg/2007.
Didn't really like the ending. The rest of it ended up being an exciting adventure, but it took me about a hundred pages to really feel the excitement of that adventure, rather than confusion over the format and the abruptly switching points of view.

69. Enthusiasm - Polly Shulman. 198 pg/2006.
Ahhh, delightful! Things are almost always delightful when you have an Austen book (usually, as in this case, P&P) both staging the plot and being name-dropped a lot.

70. A Girl Named Disaster - Nancy Farmer. 293 pg/1996.
FASCINATING. How have I not even heard of this book before? To paraphrase from one review, it is the best thing since Julie of the Wolves or Island of the Blue Dolphins. I opened it up and there was just no stopping as the adventure sucked me in with more strength than a tornado.

71. Same Difference - Siobhan Vivian. 287 pg/2009.
In many ways, it was like watching Pam (The Office) go to art school. Except VASTLY LESS ANNOYING. Not only was this book very conveniently set during the same summer months in which I read it, I recognized all sorts of familiar character types - it was like reading about people I knew in real life. Excellent recipe for cozy familiarity! [however, cover designers? Fail. That girl looks about 10 years old, not 17]

72. Saving Grace - Katherine Spencer. 246 pg/2006.
It is not often that you have completely neutral feelings about a book. This is one of those times.

73. The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies - Lizabeth Zindel. 288 pg/2008.
Haha! You could see the trainwreck coming in this plot from a mile away, and yet did that make the journey any less fun? The answer is no. Two for two, Miss Poor Author Who Is Continually Overshadowed By Her Father's Name In All The Blurbs Even Though I've Never Read His Stuff!

74. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen. 488 pg/1814.
I think this is possibly my favorite Austen novel to date! It started out being that way just because Fanny is Billie Piper in my head, but then I slowly realized that FANNY = ME, what with the stern judgment of moral conduct, the shyness, the self-deprecation, and the frequent tendency to start crying. What is your deal, world? I love this book.

75. Merde Happens - Stephen Clarke. 393 pg/2007.
And now for a 180-degree spin in classiness & respectability... This is set in America, so it's better than the last book, and that's really all I can say about it. See previous Wonder Bread reference on #63.

76. Chanda's Wars - Allan Stratton. 377 pg/2008.
The sequel to a book I've been touting for years as a gold standard of how to write books set in modern-day Africa, it got a bit less realistic at the conclusion of one plot point, but mostly it lived up to the standards of its predecessor. Good stuff.

77. Killing Britney - Sean Olin. 234 pg/2005.
Ooh, it's like Harper's Island in a YA novel! EXCELLENT. And try as I might, I could not figure out who the killer was - it helped that I didn't have an internet full of horror movie junkies speculating after every couple of chapters.

78. Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance [NF] - Martin Gurdon. 155 pg/2003.
Chickens are fun to read about. Especially chickens kept solely as pets who are never eaten for any reason.

79. The Winter Road - Terry Hokenson. 175 pg/2006.
Decent survival/adventure story.

80. Notes on a Near-Life Experience - Olivia Birdsall. 257 pg/2007.
I like the format of dozens of brief, almost self-contained chapters. Good concept for a surviving-parents'-divorce story, although I could have done without the massively irritating existence of Paloma, even if that was the point.

81. Violet & Claire - Francesca Lia Block. 169 pg/1999.
What can I say? In the presence of her writing, I just swoon and get swept away by the thrill. But I really like both of these girls; I was captivated by their stories and think this might be my favorite book of hers.

August (16)
82. December Stillness - Mary Downing Hahn. 181 pg/1988.
Ahhhh, blissful 80's nostalgia. *wraps self up in cocoon* When "being current & relevant" meant addressing Vietnam war vets and/or their untreated PTSD. :)

83. Vidalia in Paris - Sasha Watson. 282 pg/2008.
Not only is Marco obviously a complete and incorrigible sleaze, Vidalia is quite literally one of the stupidest main characters I have ever met. >:( The only reason I am not striking it through is because the subplots arranged around the main storyline were fairly decent.

84. Gone - Michael Grant. 588 pg/2008.
This was a good story. Good premise - a small town is cut off by a mysterious barrier, inside of which everyone age 15+ disappears - that kept me reading for hours, but it is still sci-fi. By virtue of being sci-fi, it is automatically less interesting than most regular YA novels, not this "one of the best books of the year" nonsense. You know why Lord of the Flies was better? Nobody had superpowers.

Another thing about sci fi? It doesn't know how to write solid, conclusive endings. FIVE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-EIGHT PAGES I read, racing through, desperate to know how how they fixed this, or at least explained it. Do I get any sort of solid conclusion? No. I get the set-up for a damn sequel. (Except apparently even the sequel ends on a cliffhanger, because this is like a never-ending series of books that gets published at the rate of one per year. DEAR AUTHOR: You should ask Scott Westerfield how "never-ending series burnout" works, because I stopped reading after Specials. Or was it Pretties? The point is, in your case, I'm not even going to bother going past the first book)

85. Everything You Want - Barbara O'Shoup. 207 pg/2008.
By contrast, this is awesome. I can't even point to specific reasons why, just, you know sometimes you get a book in your hands it feels like all-around resplendent, solid, QUALITY? This is one of those books. Plus, it's one of those rare YA novels featuring a college freshman! Who even somewhat resembles me! WIN. If I wrote YA novels, they would look like this.

86. The Slave Dancer - Paula Fox. 176 pg/1973.
Newberry Honor, Paula Fox, and I hadn't read it before now? How odd. Anyway...this was probably deserving of its award, but I just couldn't get into it.

87. Runaway - Wendelin Van Draanen. 245 pg/2006.
This is my new favorite book about a homeless kid EVER. Loved the format.

88. Itch - Michelle Kwasney. 236 pg/2008.
Aww, one of the few modern, not-precisely-historical novels that actually feels like it could have been written when it was set; extremely comparable to any 60's book. This is a good thing, and hard to accomplish.

89. Half-Breed - Evelyn Sibley Lampman. 261 pg/1971.
Well! Seeing as I can't find a picture of this book's cover anywhere on the internet, I'm glad I bought it for a dime at that garage sale. Very enjoyable, as these types of 19th century half-Indian stories tend to be.

90. Heart's Delight - Per Nilsson. 155 pg/2003.
That was just weird. The description sounds cool, and if executed properly it would be, but from the second he starts repeating variations of how "the phone. Is sitting there. Silent." at the end of every chapter, you want nothing more than to slap the author. Hard. This is one of those books where you don't understand why they bothered translating it into English, because it doesn't work at all. I got 25 pages into another book of his (You & You & You) before tossing it aside in disgust, so it's not an isolated incident.

91. Bad Tickets - Kathleen O'Dell. 232 pg/2007.
Unlike "Itch," this is a 60's novel that would never have been written in the 60's. At least not in a book marketed towards teens. Surprisingly, it manages to brilliant in spite of itself - it really captured the rebellious feeling of the end of the decade for me. I really, really want it to have a sequel - even though you can see where Jane's story is heading, I'd love to read about the details, and see what Mary Margaret does as well. Also, needs more Elizabeth!

92. Hippie Chick - Joseph Monninger. 156 pg/2008.
Ignore the misleading title. Rescue manatees!!

93. Strange Relations - Sonia Levitin. 298 pg/2007.
It's hard to decide which culture I hated more - the super-orthodox Jews who think bare legs are scandalous & turning on lights constitutes "work" on the holy day, or the modern teen world of their niece, who thinks booze & "safe" pills are totally okay at a summer beach party just because her best friend gave them to her. And this was after she'd spent half the summer actually coming to appreciate her relatives' way of life.

94. Bringing the Boy Home - N.A. Nelson. 211 pg/2008.
It involves an abandoned young native boy being adopted by an American research scientist named Sara in the Amazon. If you thought my brain wasn't going to drum up an AU Sara Sidle out of that, you are sorely mistaken! And that...was pretty much my favorite part of the novel. Not that the rest wasn't good, it was just different and a little hard to maintain perspective between the parallel stories.

95. The Dogs Who Found Me [NF] - Ken Foster. 177 pg/2006.
I prefer his original idea of writing solely about the dogs and leaving people on the sidelines - I bet it is possible. But at least it was mostly about the dogs, except for the dull lists that interrupt every few chapters, and all in all a sweet anthology.

96. Plague - Jean Ure. 218 pg/1991.
One day, I will stop reading post-apocalypse-type novels about how everyone keels over from super-deadly illness and freaking myself out in the process. Today is not that day, as I'm thoroughly freaked out. Despite the lack of closure on several plot strands or that the novel feels unsatisfyingly half-finished.

97. Phoning A Dead Man - Gillian Cross. 252 pg/2001.
I'm pretty sure I only loved this because of how beautifully it told the story I've been trying to write in my head. Honestly! I had this idea but didn't know quite how to develop it in words, and then BAM! Here's a ready-made book with at least half the specific details I was looking for - namely the "amnesiac Englishman lost without papers in a somewhat corrupt European country" bit. And as I was only writing for my own amusement, not planning to share it with anybody, the fact that now I can just read this instead is amazing, and wipes out my ability to actually make comments on the book in general.

September (3)
98. Love You, Hate You, Miss You - Elizabeth Scott. 276 pg/2009.
I don't even know how I finished this. It took me about ten tries and a lot of page-flipping while eating dinner. Most of the characters blended together, but this main character is the most godawful, unpleasant, stupid, petulant and sulky character I have ever met. She makes Vidalia up there look like a choir girl. When you start feeling the most empathy for the parents in a first-person YA novel, that's a problem.

99. The Patron Saint of Butterflies - Cecilia Galante. 292 pg/2008.
Ack! Escape from crazy commune land! Well, if it takes cults to get boyfriends out of the discussion, bring it on, because Agnes & Honey are the best story of best friendship I have seen in years. I adore them both.

100. Waiting for Normal - Leslie Connor. 290 pg/2008.
I cried my way through this entire book, but it was so, so perfect. It doesn't matter that it features a 12-year-old and is written for the juvenile set. All the characters were so rich and real, and Addie and Dwight (I have such a thing for stepfather/stepdaughter bonds!), and basically, I never wanted it to end. I fell in love with everything.

October (4)
101. Cassandra's Sister: Growing Up Jane Austen - Veronica Bennett. 229 pg/2007.
If she wrote such fantastic novels, how do depictions of her real life always turn out so dull? This one in particular suffered from periodic bursts of awkward, overly forced feminism.

102. Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies - Erin Dionne. 243 pg /2009.
What a cute story. It gives me hope that not all preteens in the current generation will have to suffer from utter drivel in their literary selections after all.

103. Wherever Nina Lies - Lynn Weingarten. 316 pg/2009.
Whoa. That was suspenseful, even after I cheated and glanced at the ending first when I was debating whether or not I actually wanted to check it out.

104. What Happened to Cass McBride? - Gail Giles. 211 pg/2006.
This was good too - less developed characters, but three converging points of view made up for it.

November (4)
105. Nailed - Patrick Jones. 216 pg/2006.
Meh. I think the premise was better than the story. That, or teenage boys really are incredibly stupid with thoughts to match. This book would have worked better in the 80's - I couldn't shake the retro feeling forced into modern writing styles.

106. Zero - Diane Tullson. 178 pg/2006.
Not a bad anorexia intro novel, if you're in middle school. I found the whole book well-structured, but too simplistic for a high-school-aged character. I don't know; there was something missing. It had all the right ingredients - compelling side plots, very specific restriction/binge/purge scenarios, and a particularly idealistic sweet spooning scene - but like its title, seemed empty underneath.

107. Feral - Bev Cooke. 197 pg/2008.
It took me three weeks to finish this book because I couldn't stop being amazed by how much it sounded like me. This is how I write. This kind of dreamy, descriptive and yet somewhat vague, present-tense language - and someone managed to publish it! And even though by the end, the importance of the cat's perspective kind of fades beneath the less interesting gang conflict, I still love the writing style.

108. The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose - Mary Hooper. 334 pg/2006.
I'm not sure why I liked this so much - the snappy title? the girl on the cover art looks like Kat McPhee? the fact that I have not been reading enough lately? - but for whatever reason, it was AWESOME. I love this heroine, 17th century London is a far more exciting place than I gave it credit for, and there was an exactly perfect blend of "OMG what??" and "oh good!" sprinkled among the various characters and their capers to make for a satisfying adventure indeed. I need to remember that I love historical fiction starring teenage girls, preferably set in England.

December (1)
109. Teach Me - R.A. Nelson. 264 pg/2005.
Established author cred + high school student/teacher relationship = excellent tale! Amazingly vivid, not even half as squicky as #47 up there (fairly chaste and decidedly vague when it does cross the line, this is by and large a suspense story, maddening desire to know why he broke it off and what crazy things Carolina will do next). Lesson learned: I can never read one of these stories again, as probably none of them will handle it this well.
-------
SUMMARY: This being the first year I've counted by calendar rather than academic year, I don't technically have anything to compare it to, so I guess it's my new baseline. I told myself it was okay if I didn't hit 100 books this year, but of course I did, thanks to a marvelous streak from March-August (and, er, maybe some juvenile books I shouldn't have counted), before reading went out the window along with half my TV in order to concentrate better on real life.

Statistically speaking, the average length of a book was 252 pages. Of 109 total, 83% were juvenile or YA novels (9 & 73%, respectively), 11% were adult fiction (highest ever!), and just 6% went to memoir/non-fiction. The ratio of male to female authors is at its possibly highest ever, a perfect 1 : 3. This is probably because all the YA novels I read are about average high school girls, and men don't usually write those. But still. I never, ever want to hear again that men dominate the literary world, because clearly, in my corner they do not.




=======
MOVIES

January
February
March

1. License to Wed, 2007, PG-13, 1:31 (whatever! I am awarding it a bold right off the bat, HATERS TO THE LEFT)
I watched this movie solely because of one screencap featuring pajama-clad John Krasinski looking rumpled and sleepy in bed. It was completely worth it. I spent most of the film giggling and "awww"-ing and being generally delighted by everything, except the parts I fast-forwarded for awkward embarrassment. I still watched it three times in the space of a week.

April
2. Georgia Rule, 2007, R, 1:53
Or as I like to call it, "the one where Lindsay Lohan plays herself." But skipping past any reasons it might be rated R, it's a really good daughter-mother-grandmother summer story about family in small-town Idaho. It managed to be charming in spite of itself.

3. The Nanny Diaries, 2007, PG-13, 1:46
Sometimes, when movie selection at the library is dismal, I brave Scarlett Johansson for movies that turn out to be genuinely fun and/or heartwarming.

4. Casanova, 2005, hard R, 2:52
I don't care if this is Masterpiece Theater; it was shelved with the regular movies at the library SO IT COUNTS. My feelings are yyyyyyeah, this involves a lot of fast-forwarding, but the love story is heartbreaking and poignant and also, I don't know if you've heard, but David Tennant owns my soul.

5. Shopgirl, 2005, R, 1:46
*squints* Sorry, why was this labeled "comedy"? Dear God, that was slow. And dull. You don't need an extended musical transition between every scene! And there was way more naked time in bed than I even imagined possible, blech. I feel baited and switched by this movie's cute cover.

May
6. Fool's Gold, 2008, PG-13, 1:50
Hee! That was fun. Treasure hunts and comically inept bad guys FTW!

7. Becoming Jane, 2007, PG, 1:52
Way to ruin an otherwise decent movie, James McAvoy. Geeze, even Mr. Darcy gets attractive at the end, but you've got some kind of preternatural gift for unpleasantness.

8. Elizabethtown, 2005, PG-13, 2:03
Like I've always suspected - God, if only they hadn't cast Kirsten Dunst, this movie would have been perfect. Small-town suburbs! Road trip! Orlando Bloom!

9. The Painted Veil, 2007, PG-13, 2:05
I wish this had been promoted more, because it's a truly spectacular and gorgeous and utterly captivating film set amidst 1920's China.

June
July
10. Away We Go, 2009, R, 1:37
There are a lot of things wrong with this movie, despite its promising premise. However, John Krasinski can kiss and cuddle and work the teary eyes like nobody's business, so I can find no actual fault with it.

11. 10,000 B.C., 2008, PG-13, 1:47
I've wanted to see this ever since the first preview in theaters in 2007. I am excellent at picking movies that are great fun to watch! Though let's be honest, when ISN'T something with woolly mammoths fun to watch? I am not really one for action/adventure movies, but this was the best adventure ever.

12. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, 2008, PG-13, 1:32
Amy Adams. Lee Pace. That is all you need to know. (That, and this delightfully charming little story moved along at a right clip and did not particularly offend my sensibilities in any way, WHICH IS RARE.)

13. The Wedding Date, 2005, PG-13, 1:30
I know I judge all these movies largely by who's starring in them, but it's a very accurate measure! Case in point: Debra Messing is so charming and adorable that she did the same for this silly story. BONUS: Surprise!(blonde!)Amy Adams!

14. A Dog of Flanders, 1999, PG, 1:35
Gosh, I need to check out the kids' movies more often. The non-animated ones are still great! And sometimes they feature animals! This movie looks like it was made about 30 years ago, and there wasn't as much focus on the dog as the title implied, but I enjoyed it. And hey, maybe now I'll finally stop confusing this story with the title "Moll Flanders." (well, no, probably not)

15. Definitely, Maybe; 2008, PG-13, 1:52
"How does it have a happy ending?!" adorable little Maya wails at one point. "You and my mom are getting divorced!" Which sums up my personal feelings, because the previews led me to believe that Hot Dad Ryan Reynolds was a single father whose daughter had never known her mother, or had lost her a while ago. FALSE. It put a slight damper over this otherwise sweet "How I Met Your Mother: Cinema Edition" story, not least because sometimes I hated all three women and sometimes I loved them all but no matter what, at best one was the mother and one was the true love, or one was both, and either way at least one got left with nothing. ARRRRRGH, MY CONFLICTED HEART. And yet...I think I loved it anyway?

16. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, 2005, PG-13, 1:55
Oh, Sisterhood, I wish I knew how to quit you. But I don't. And it's been a long time since I read the book, so I didn't really notice the changes being made; I just thought it was one of the best book-to-movie adaptations ever, at least as far as capturing the spirit of the book. They're a far better foursome than the women of Sex and the City, at any rate. I want to be part of a magic group like that!

17. Crin Blanc: Le Cheval Sauvage (White Mane: The Wild Horse), 1953, G, 0:47
How do you fail at a horse movie? I don't know. But 1950's France manages; god, that was the most boring thing I've ever seen in my life. You know what's good to have sometimes? Words. In more than 10% of your movie. Another good thing: A PLOT.

August
18. Apocalypto, 2006, R, 2:18
10,000 B.C., meet Apocalypto. NOW GET ALONG. You were both good, okay?! This one was a lot darker, but at the same time, I can't tell you how great it is to watch a film rated R simply for violence and partial non-sexual nudity. Not that I didn't grimace & shut my eyes from time to time, or barely attempt to stifle my laughter at the improbable ending or fake-looking animals, but once I adjusted to the fact that it was all in Mayan I could concentrate on important things, like the visual splendor - it's gorgeous. Attractive lead actor included. Verdict: positive! Well-done!

19. Pan's Labyrinth, 2006, R, 1:52
What! The previews in no way indicated that it was a) in Spanish or b) the crazy underground monsters made up only a small percentage of the film, as opposed to being set in 1944 Spain, post-Civil-War. Baited and switched, baited and switched! I don't like being misled! Also, Ofelia, "fairy" =/= huge flying stick insect. That being said, I thought *most* of it was well-done (seriously. Less torture would have been nice). I originally thought it even looked worthy of a cinema viewing; can't say for sure whether I still believe that, but I don't think I would have regretted it if I had.

20. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 2005, PG-13, 2:02
Let me sum it up for you: long stretches of dull talking followed by long stretches of dull shooting. It's a much better idea to just watch the theatrical trailer, which will give you all the best parts anyway.

September
21. Secret Smile, 2005, R, 1:30
Brilliant - I can't believe I was afraid to watch this for so long. So Tennant's a mildly psychotic/obsessive control freak. Whatever! He punctuates it with a combination of ostentatious PDAs and being the most seductively charming gentleman ever. I'd totally invite him up to my flat the first night or run off with him to get married too.

22. Music and Lyrics, 2007, PG-13, 1:44
I cannot remember the last time I actually loved both starring roles in a romantic comedy. Win! Additional win: an amazing supporting cast that could do no wrong. Plus a joyful soundtrack. Best rom com ever? Possibly! Largely because Alex & Sophie had such AMAZING snippy banter during the songwriting process. I had to take a break halfway through the movie, because it was so fun that I wasn't ready for them to fall in love yet - you can't condense awesomeness like this into 100 minutes; come on!

October
November
23. A Dog Named Christmas, 2009, G, 1:35
Look, once in a great while, Hallmark produces something brilliant. Like a heartwarming family story about fostering shelter dogs over the holidays. Set on a farm. With all kinds of animals everywhere. I wanted to live inside this story and never come out.

December
24. Live!, 2007, R, 1:36
To paraphrase myself: now THAT is how you do a great thriller. Intense, scary, and with the power to reduce you to a nervous, nauseated, shaking wreck. I don't even - my brain is broken. This blew my mind; cannot be coherent about it yet. Or ever. And I think David Krumholtz was only responsible for like 45% of why I loved it.
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SUMMARY: Are statistics even worth it for two dozen movies? I'd say no. Let's just take a moment to bask in the fact that my extremely discriminating taste in movies means that when it is up to me, 90% of the time I pick a winner. The only ones I really misjudged were 5 and 17, and if I were the kind of person who watched 300 movies a year, there would be even more bolding and italicizing on this page. I only toned my emphasis down for diversification purposes. Without school mucking up my list, this has been the best year in movies ever. Even if only one of them was actually out in theaters this year.

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