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About one-third of a mile down the street from Le Zoo House, there is an area becoming known as Montavilla strip that is chock-full (That’s right! Full! of Chock!) of local businesses that make this homeowner and her husband very happy. And not just for the really grown-up feeling of increasing property values. Check out the variety of stuff we have a five-minute walk away:

and last but not least,

Doesn’t that all sound super cool? I agree. But do you notice anything missing? Flobbity-jillion places to eat or drink, a “movement” business, basically any service any person could want or need, and NOT ONE BOOK STORE. Why hate to read, Montavilla?

Any used book sellers wanting to open a place up, I have the ideal location for you.

The gauntlet was thrown and I am now attempting to read Ulysses.

Mr. Zoo: Just think of it this way: once you’ve finished it, you’ll always be able to say you’ve read it!

Me: Well, technically I could say that now.

I’ve read 75 books this year. My natural self-effacing inclination wants to qualify that statement up by saying that I don’t have a real job and I have a lot of free time on my hands and I’m a fast reader and yada yada, but honestly, that’s not an attractive quality, so YEAH I read SEVENTY-FIVE books this year. *fist pump* SUCK IT, WORLD. Or, you know, whatever. I looked up my non-resolution post from this past January, thinking that this was the only not-really-a-goal I not only achieved but surpassed, and was pleasantly surprised to realize that I also achieved #9 on the list – acquiring at least five new clients this year. (I think #4 doesn’t count but I guess technically I “achieved” that one as well.) (I came close on a few of the others – I did take care of/stop biting my fingernails twice over the course of the year but that only lasted two months and three weeks, respectively. I also did manage to visit a salon regularly for about five months before giving up and now my hair is a non-style again, and aggravatingly now not long enough to wear in a ponytail. Progress, not perfection.)

So! I can’t write book reviews. I have trouble finding that logical description that is somewhere between a synopsis from the book jacket and giving away too many spoilers. I end up just saying things “I really liked it” and hope that if people take my recommendation and hate the book, they won’t judge my taste. (Sidebar: Again, why do I care? There’s a self-discovery non-goal for 2010, I suppose.) But I do have some books I want to tell you about. And since we’re headed into TV/film award season, my second favorite season after the winter holidays, I’m doing it award-show style.

Best new (to me) series discovered in 2009: Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next is a literary detective in England. In her parallel universe, England is a republic, there is no United Kingdom, and Wales is the independent “Socialist Republic of Wales”. The Crimean War is still being waged in 1985, Russia still has a Czar, and the Whig Party still exists in the House of Commons. Genetic engineering is far more advanced than in our own timeline, and so Thursday has a pet dodo, Pickwick. Re-engineered mammoths can cause damage to local gardens if in their path, and there is a Neanderthal rights movement, given the resurrection of this kindred branch of human evolution. Interestingly, the duck is extinct in this continuity.

In the world of Thursday Next, literature is a much more popular medium than in our world, and Thursday is a member of SO-27, the Literary Detectives or LiteraTecs. The importance that literature has in this alternate England is reflected in the fact that so many people want to change their name to that of famous authors that some must be numbered, by law- e.g. John Milton 432. In addition, the line between literature and reality becomes increasingly thin, allowing characters in the books and those in ‘real life’ to jump in and out of novels. This leads Thursday to change the ending of Jane Eyre; the joke being that the plot we know in our reality is the far superior change caused by Thursday.

(thanks to Wikipedia)

I have to think this series will be appreciated by anyone who loves not only reading, but the idea of a book being its own being. The world that Fforde has created is outlandish and often hilarious, but the characters (even the ones in the books within the book) are very real and likable.

Best book I re-read in 2009: Pillars of the Earth

Technically, this was the only book I re-read this year, so there wasn’t much competition, BUT STILL. I originally read this in 1994 and have since recommended it to anyone I can when given the chance. Of course, thanks to Oprah now I don’t need to (Note to self: Next year have a Book I Knew About Before Oprah award), but I digress. I enjoyed it much more this time around since reading so much more about the history of England in general.

Book I recommended the most in 2009: The Book Thief

There is nothing I love more than an original plot. The Book Thief is about a foster child in 1930s Germany whose foster father teaches her how to read. It’s narrated by Death. It’s  heart-warming and heart-breaking all at the same time. It’s one of those books where I would stay up way too late reading it, but at the same time not wanting it to end. When I did finish it, I just sat there staring it it, holding it, so sad that it was over, but so happy that I read it, if that makes sense.

Best guilty pleasure book or series read in 2009: Deanna Raybourn/Lady Julia series

I stumbled across these, thanks to Amazon’s recommendation feature, after reading the first in Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, which I did not enjoy all that much. It’s the same time period and premise – Victorian-era lady uncharacteristically rejecting the shackles of society’s restrictions. But I found Lady Julia much more likable and interesting. Enough that I was only a smidgen embarrassed by the smutty-looking book covers.

Funniest book read in 2009: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I owe this one to the book table at Costco. I have never enjoyed Jane Austen, and I am not ashamed to admit it, but this book was HILARIOUS. It’s the text of Pride and Prejudice interspersed with zombies. I mean. Really. Enough said, right? I was a little disappointed to read recently that Natalie Portman is trying to make it into a movie, partly because HELLO Hollywood, have an original thought, much? I think it would be an awesome movie if the original cast of the BBC mini-series reprised their roles. Colin Firth fighting zombies as Darcy? YUMMO.

Book read in 2009 that made me want to email my college Lit professor so I could discuss it with him: Daughter of Time

Ah, if only youth wasn’t wasted on the young. I know so much more about English history now than I did in college (okay, okay, I pay attention to what I read so much more now…whatever! I had fun in college, okay?) that I often wish I could go back and fully participate in discussions. It makes me understand the non-traditional students a lot more, but they were still annoying. I may still look up my old professor and see what he thinks about this topic. Did Richard III really kill the Princes in the Tower? Did Henry VII? What does he think really happened?

Dead author I discovered in 2009: Jean Plaidy (real name Eleanor Hibbert) and aka lots of other aliases

She started writing historical fiction in the 1940s, before historical fiction got, well, steamy. Not that steamy is a bad thing (The Other Boleyn Girl that I enjoyed, I am looking at you). Her books are the most historically accurate that I’ve read, but aren’t as dry as straight biographies. It’s a good combination.

Worst book I read in 2009 (that I actually finished): The Red Queen

It’s extremely unusual for me to finish a book I don’t like. I’m not exactly sure why I determinedly plowed through this one, but I did, and that’s time I won’t get back. I think it wouldn’t have been so bad if the author hadn’t written herself into the end. I mean, seriously.

Book read in 2009 that succeeded in totally dropping the ball on an otherwise riveting book with an incredibly lame ending: The Ghost Writer

Ech. Just ech.

Happy New Year everyone!


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