Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in 2013

Hello all and welcome to the first (and hopefully annual) Top 10 Graphic Novels list! I had to do a list of graphic novels as well as my usual one of their pictureless brethren this year as I read so many great ones (thanks in no small part to my Comic Companions challenge). As my re-kindled love affair with comics continues I hope that I can make this list a regular part of my yearly awards to serve as recommendations to any comic-loving Bookbaggers ūüôā

So without further ado here is my very first Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in (insert year here) list:

1.  The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

by Neil Gaiman (writer),
Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Mike Dringenberg, Matt Wagner, P. Craig Russell,George Pratt, Dick Giordano (artists),
Daniel Vozzo, Steve Oliff (colourists), and Todd Klein (letterer)

sandman4I read Volumes 1-4 of The Sandman in 2013, which were all amazing but Season of Mists¬†was definitely my favourite so far. Firstly the story of Morpheus/Dream/The Sandman trying to make amends for the revengeful punishment of his lover millenia ago leading him to being the reluctant new owner of Hell with beings from all over¬†vying to be its new master was epic. Secondly it was really cool to see almost all of The Endless (Dream and his siblings) together, especially the gloriously coloured pages which described them. Thirdly the various beings which gathered in Dream’s realm to petition him for ownership of hell (including Gods from various religions, demons and agents of order and chaos) were so different in their methods and reasons for wanting Hell, making the final scenes riveting and wonderfully suspenseful.
If you are a fan of fantasy graphic novels you really must read this fantastic series ūüôā

2. The Beatles Graphic by Hervé Bourhis

beatles graphicI learnt so much about The Beatles from this comprehensive biographical comic which goes through every significant moment in the band’s development as well as the personal lives of John, Paul, George and Ringo (plus a bit of background on important figures in their lives, such as Yoko Ono). As it’s written by a Frenchman the book also gives a unique perspective on the Beatles influence on Europe which I found really interesting, and as a fan he did short reviews of every album and single released, not only by the Fab Four, but solo and other collaborative projects, and he was very honest with his opinions. Definitely recommended for Beatles fans and people interested in musical bios.

3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

persepolis coverThis was another biographical graphic novel (autobio this time) which taught me a lot about Iran before, during and after the Iranian Revolution of¬†1979, but was also a touching, thoughtful and at times very funny coming-of-age tale. I decided to read¬†Persepolis in honor of¬†Banned Books Week¬†and right away I empathised with the frustrated students who were robbed of this fantastic graphic novel. Yes, it was very confronting which I guess is why people felt it should be banned, but it was well worth it, and I think it would be especially poignant to kids the same age as the author when her story began. If you don’t know much about Iranian history and culture besides what is parroted by the media, or you want a unique perspective on life in a very different world, I would highly recommend¬†Persepolis.¬†

4. Batman: The Killing Joke: The Deluxe Edition

by Alan Moore (writer), Brian Bolland (artist, colorist, writer), Ellie De Ville and Richard Starkings (letterers)

the-killing-joke-deluxe-front-cover1This one is straying into more traditional comic territory, but this spectacular deluxe edition which I borrowed off my friend Scott, is far more than your run-of-the-mill Batman comic. Firstly, let me just say, I use to read any and every Batman comic that came into my local library, and would reread my favourites (namely anything with Harley Quinn) over and over. When I borrowed¬†The Killing Joke¬†it had probably been 10 or 15 years since I’d last dived into a Batman comic and yet it felt like I had never left, and it was even more engrossing than I remember. This may be thanks to the brilliantly twisted mind of Alan Moore, or to Brian Bolland’s amazing art, or maybe just because it delved deep into the past of the Joker like nothing I’d ever read before, but whatever it was made for a gripping read! I would of course recommend this to Batman fans (if they haven’t already read it of course) but also to people who like Batman but don’t really know where to begin in the huge backlog of comics – this one is not to be missed.

5. Clive Barker Omnibus (collecting The Thief of Always ; The Great and Secret Show ; and Seduth)

by Clive Barker, Kris Oprisko, Chris Ryall,  Christopher Monfette (writers), Gabriel Hernandez, Gabriel Rodriguez, Ray Zone (artists),  Robbie Robbins (letterer)

CliveBarker_OmnibusAs a Clive Barker fan I was eager to read this omnibus, especially since I had read The Thief of Always earlier in the year, The Great and Secret Show was one of my first trips into the world of Barker and was starting to become a vague memory, and Seduth had never been published elsewhere. None of them disappointed either in the story-telling/adaptation or the artwork Рhell, even the lettering was stunning and perfectly fit the mood of each story! I read each story on a different day (in fact I think I read The Great and Secret Show over a couple of days because it made up the bulk of the omnibus) so I was fully immersed in each story at the time, and even though I had read two of the three in novel form, I felt like I was experiencing them for the first time. I would definitely recommend this to Barker fans, but also to people who may have wanted to read his stuff before but prefer a graphic novel format.

6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales

by Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson,  Becky Cloonan and others (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug Petrie, Leinil Francis Yu, Gene Colan and others (artists)

buffy talesThis was without a doubt one of the best presents I got on my last birthday, if not the best hands down and it definitely had to go on this list! My lovely workmate Scott gifted it to me around my birthday in October and I was in love from the moment I looked at it. It contained a treasure-trove of stories I never even knew about before, written by former writers of the show amongst a bevy of other talented writers, with each story beautifully, and uniquely brought to life by a cast of gifted artists. There wasn’t a single story I didn’t like (though some of course stood out more than others) and it made New Books November¬†even more fun in its role of Official Mascot. I have already raved about it to my Buffy-loving friends (though I keep forgetting to loan it to my best friend Sarah, a Buffy fan from way back, as its so big and ironically gets missed whenever I give her a bunch of graphic novels to try) but I would highly recommend it to any Buffy fan out there, especially if you love comic art – there’s so many styles on offer here its a veritable sm√∂rg√•sbord for comic-art geeks ūüėÄ

7. The Books of Magic

by Neil Gaiman (writer), John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson (artists)

books of magicThis one was read later in the year, just days before Christmas, but I enjoyed it so much I was willing to push earlier titles off the list in order for it to make my Top 10. Being written my Neil Gaiman, with a somewhat Sandman-esque feel to it and each section illustrated by a different artist to fit the mood of each realm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I loved this graphic novel. It was one of those stories that you just fall into, and for the minutes, hours, or days that you read it you are lost to another world. In the case of The Books of Magic I was gone for about an hour or so as it’s a sort of mini-series kind of graphic novel, with 4 parts. I have since put my brother on to it, and he was just as lost (I watched him read it so I can attest that he was definitely not all there anymore!) and I plan to find and add it to my growing comic/graphic novel collection ūüôā I would recommend this to Neil Gaiman fans, especially if you like the Sandman, and fans of epic, archetypal fantasy.

8. The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

BookofHumanInsectsThis one I have to admit was bought because of its bizarre title (I love me a weird title :P) but I was also intrigued because the author and artist is the mind behind Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, two of my favourite shows from when I was a kid (thanks in part to them being faves of my mum who saw them new, and the habit of Australian TV in the early 90’s playing lots of repeats of classic shows) but I had never read his graphic novels.¬†The Book of Human Insects was worlds away from the cartoons of my youth, but I loved the juxtaposition of Tezuka’s big-eyed, round-faced characters in a world of sex, manipulation, fraud, violence and intrigue. The feel of the story was very film noir, with a classic femme fatale as the main character, and it was a fun blend of absurdity and relatability. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone (I haven’t passed it on to my brother or friends coz I’m not sure if they’d like it) but if you like manga with a lot of depth, and many a dash of odd, or if like me you’re curious about Tezuka’s work beyond adorable kings of the jungle and robot boys with rocket books, give this a try.

9. Nevermore 

by¬†Edgar Allan Poe¬†,¬†Ian Edginton,¬†Jamie Delano,¬†John Reppion, and¬†Leah Moore¬†(writers) and¬†D‚ÄôIsraeli,¬†James (Jim) Fletcher,¬†John McCrea,¬†Shane Oakley¬†and¬†Steve Pugh¬†(artists)nevermoreI read Nevermore at a perfect time, right after my Poe.My.God! Challenge when I still had all the stories fresh in my mind. This anthology took 9 of Poe’s most famous tales (The Raven; The Pit and the Pendulum; The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar; The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Fall of the House of Usher; The Black Cat; The Oval Portrait; The Tell-Tale Heart; and¬†The Masque of the Red Death) and re-tells them in modern (or sometimes futuristic) settings, each illustrated by a different artist in their style, but sticking to a moody black and grey colour scheme. I thought the adaptations were really clever and the black and grey ink work really put me in a dark, gothic, Poe sort of mood ūüôā Unfortunately because this was a library item I couldn’t hand it straight on to my brother (who is a huge Poe fan since he was a kid) but I hope to add it to my collection in the future, and in the meantime if he’s interested, I can always get it out from my work, since that’s the library it came from (albeit a different campus) and make him swear in blood that it returns unharmed. Very fitting for Poe, don’t ya think? ūüėõ I would recommend this to Poe fans, people who like classic tales interpreted into new settings, or anyone who likes a dark, broody graphic novel.

10. Fray

by¬†Joss Whedon¬†(writer),¬†Karl Moline¬†(penciler),Andy Owens¬†(inker),¬†Dave Stewart¬†(colourist) and¬†Michelle Madsen¬†(colourist and letterer)frayThis last one was tricky because I had a bunch of great contenders, but once I discounted parts in ongoing series’ (a rule that made compiling this list easier, but one I don’t think I’ll stick to next year) there was one amongst the final choices that stood out. Fray is another graphic novel loaned to me by my friend Scott, and another one set in the Buffy Universe, but far in the future after magic has left the world and Slayers aren’t even a blip on history’s radar. To me this felt almost like a Buffy reboot as it had some of the great elements of early episodes of Buffy when she was training and coming to grips with her destiny. The difference between Fray and early Buffy though is firstly it is set in a very different time and place complete with amazing futuristic scenery and interesting slang, and secondly Melaka Fray can already kick some arse as she is a sort-of cat burglar by trade. I really enjoyed the story, but what made it stick out in my mind was the art. Wow. The way Karl Moline and¬†Andy Owens drew and inked the characters and backgrounds were stunning, and the colours by Dave Stewart and¬†Michelle Madsen were glorious, especially Melaka’s multi-coloured hair. This is a big recommendation for Buffy fans but even if you’re not really familiar with the show (cue gasps and a look of horror from the author) this is a great stand-alone.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

1. Catch 22 by Joseph Hellercatch22

This was the first book that came to mind when compiling my top books of the year, firstly because I read it for a decent chunk of the year, from mid-January to mid-November, secondly because it was part of my War & Pages challenge, and thirdly because it really was a memorable and affecting book. If you’ve always wanted to read Catch 22, don’t let my slowpokeishness (yes that’s a word now) deter you – sometimes I just take ages reading a certain book, and it has nothing to do with the quality of writing or my enjoyment of it. I recently lent it to my 17-year-old brother whose been in a bit of a reading rut, and he’s zipped through it in a couple of weeks. Granted, he’s out of high-school now and looking for a job so he has some time on his hands, but if a teenage boy who is somewhat out of practice with regular reading can breeze through it, it is possible ūüôā Recommended to people who like war stories but think they don’t address the absurdity of war enough.

2. Kraken by China Miévillekraken-by-china-mieville-UK

This is another book that I read for ages – from ¬†mid-January again to mid-August, because every time I read a bit it was the literary equivalent of a hallucination and I needed a moment for it to sink in. Not only was it a wonderfully bizarre premise – when a giant, preserved squid inexplicably disappears from the Museum of Natural History the young scientist who preserved it in the first place is thrust into an alternative, hidden facet of London with countless cults, magic-working cops, and terrifying baddies with unfathomable abilities – but Mi√©ville has such a unique writing style with fantastical word combos and evocative metaphors (check out the¬†Notable Quotables from Kraken to see what I mean). This one may not be for everyone, but if like me you enjoy books that are a little different (or a lot different!) and a good brain-twister then give Kraken a go. You cannot resist the Kraken! ūüėõ

3. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimananansi boys

This was the first Neil Gaiman title I read last year, in March, and as with every Gaiman book I’d read previously (Good Omens;¬†Coraline; Stardust¬†and¬†American Gods) it instantly became my favourite…until the next one ūüėõ The thing that stood¬†Anansi Boys¬†apart from the others I’d read was it was so funny in a witty, quirky sort of way that I’ve now come to associate with Gaiman, along with his themes of modern mythology, Gods masquerading as everyday people and family relationships. For people who have never read Gaiman, this would be an excellent starting point.

4. World War Z by Max Brooks

world-war-z-book-coverThis was the other book in my War & Pages challenge but that was not the only reason it was a highlight this year. It was, without question the smartest, most realistic, and most chilling zombie book I have ever read, and creepily true to what would likely happen if we were to face a zombie epidemic. On top of that it was a novel that crossed genres in an unexpected way. Yes, it was a zombie book so lumped in with horror and the like, but there were so many moments where it was more like a war-time drama and the zombies just replaced the traditional foes. Also because it was a series of personal accounts that wove together to get the big picture of each stage of the war, it was quite similar to an anthology, but a clever one where all the stories are connected. I would recommend this even to people who aren’t normally fans of the zombie genre, but if the undead interest you this is a must-read!

5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaimanneverwhere

As my comment above with Anansi Boys would suggest, Neverwhere instantly rose to the top of the Neil Gaiman pyramid in my eyes once I started it, and the next one will have to be pretty fantastic to take its place. This book had so many elements that have made Neil Gaiman break into my list of favourite authors in the last few years – humor, heart, glorious descriptions, an immersive world with so many unexpected and interesting details, and a true modern fairytale sort of storyline – but it also reminded me of one of my other top reads of the year, Kraken, in that it was about a hidden London. I would recommend Neverwhere to pretty much anyone with even the slightest interest in urban fantasy, and in fact I have already put my best friend Sarah onto it (she loved it too so huzzah!) and my brother, who read the graphic novel adaptation since I don’t own the book and will likely read the original when he can.

6. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

house of many waysI have talked before about how much I enjoyed the first two books in the Howl/Castle series, and this third and final installment was no different, in fact this would have to be my favourite, which I never expected as Howl’s Moving Castle was so wonderful and the first in the series often outshines the rest. Every moment of this book was a delight, and it quickly became like an old friend that I was happy to see every day after work. While I’m sad that there are no more books in the series I am sure I will find other Diana Wynne Jones books just as magical and I also want to add the Howl/Castle series to my collection so I can revisit them over the years ūüôā I would definitely recommend this for older children, young adults and adults who need a bit of magic and laughter in their life.

7. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

shadesofgreyThis fantastic book I read near the end of the year (over about a week in December, just after the start of my holidays) and in fact, I haven’t even talked about it on here yet, except for ¬†a couple of Notable Quotables.¬†Shades of Grey¬†is one of those books that has such a fascinating and odd world (one in which colours are a precious commodity and you are categorised by what area of the colour wheel you can see) that you are instantly drawn in by all the little mysteries and the sheer oddity of things which are perfectly commonplace to the characters. I became so caught up while reading it that it was pretty much all I could talk about, and when I wasn’t reading it (which wasn’t often) my mind was turning things over trying to puzzle them out. It was also one of those books that I wanted to just read, but I was enjoying it so much that I started to ration it so it wouldn’t be over so fast. Luckily, when I got to the end with a multitude of questions, old and new, still buzzing around my head, I saw that it was the first in a trilogy. Unluckily, despite it being published in 2010 the sequel isn’t expected until about 2015 as Jasper Fforde has been writing up a storm in multiple other series. So really that’s a bit of a lucky point too, because even though I have a bit of a wait, there is heaps of his work out there that I can turn to, plus he has a fabulous website with a page dedicated to Shades of Grey. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a sort-of dystopian story which is clever and has a lot of humor.

8. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

the thief of always

Thief of Always was a bit of a backwards step for me, as I have read a fair amount of Barker before, but pretty much all of it was very adult and quite lengthy, while this is a short children’s book complete with illustrations on some pages. Sarah had recommended it to me for years as it was her first trip into the mind of Barker, so when I bought it at an op-shop I put it on my pile, and as fate would have it, it got picked in January of last year. At first it was odd to be reading a Barker book which didn’t instantly disturb me with his unique brand of creepy (mainly gore and violence mixed in with sexual depravity), but despite the PG rating I quickly discovered that this was just as creepy as his other works, just in a different way. This story got to the heart of childhood fear and once I started it was like I was transported back to that time, and imagining myself at the age of the characters if I were in their position. Plus, maybe because it’s a kids book the story was like a twisted fairy tale, which I always love and unlike many Barker novels, it got to have a happy ending. I would recommend this book to kids and young adults as a perfect entrance into the realm of Clive Barker.

9. The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey

the-amber-amulet

It’s probably no surprise that a Craig Silvey book would be on my Top 10 as his two previous novels are at the top of my Top 10 Books of All Time¬†(which may have changed slightly since writing it, but not for the Craig Silvey books :P) but The Amber Amulet was very different. Firstly, it was originally a short story featured in 10 short stories you must read in 2010, a free anthology given out when you bought a book from Get Reading’s “50 Books You Can’t Put Down” campaign. Itthen got turned into a play toured by the Barking Gecko Theatre Company in 2012, then a short film airing at the Sydney Film Festival in 2012 where it won the¬†Crystal Bear for Best Short. It’s 4th incarnation was this lovely little book filled with drawings, clippings and diagrams to make a beautiful hybrid of children’s literature, short adult fiction and graphic novel which pulls at the heart-strings, makes you think and also makes you giggle. I have already passed this on to several people and I would highly recommend it as a starting point to Craig Silvey’s unique storytelling.

10. The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufmanthe-tiny-wife

I read this around the same time as The Amber Amulet (in fact since they’re so short I think I read them both one lazy afternoon) and it made as much of an impact on me, if not more. A fascinating modern fable, The Tiny Wife starts with a bank robbery in which the thief takes one item of sentimental value from each person present rather than a bundle of cash. Following the event all the people he stole from start to experience highly unusual changes to their lives, some positive, some negative and some in a weird place in-between, including a woman who slowly shrinks each day, hence the title. This book left me with an odd mix of emotions as it was partly uplifting, quite horrifying in parts and overall pretty ridiculous but in a surprisingly believable way. I would recommend this to people who loved fairy tales as a kid, but are looking for something a bit more gritty, plus lovers of short but memorable reads.

Well there you have it – the Top 10 Books I Read in 2013 (finally!). The comics/graphic novels list will be up as soon as possible followed by The 2013 Book Polygamist Awards! ūüėÄ

I’d love to know the best books you guys read last year too, so share away in the comments, especially if you’ve got a link to your own post, and until next time:

Happy Reading!

Happy 2nd Blogiversary to me and all my Bookbaggers! :D

Salutations one and all! Welcome to¬† a very special event: Book Polygamist’s 2nd Blogiversary!!

To celebrate I will be doing my first giveaway competition where one of you will get the book of their choice off my Top 10 Reads of 2012 list plus a bookmark, and two runner-ups will also get a bookmark!! YAY! Bookmarks are fun!!

According to The Wedding Anniversary site the traditional gift for a 2nd anniversary is cotton/straw and the modern one is china O.O hmmm seems like this competition would’ve been more suited to the 1st anniversary (since the traditional gift is paper) but oh well.

In case you haven’t read my Top 10 Reads of 2012 the choices are:

1. The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

2. American Gods by Neil GaimanAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

3. The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadderravens heart

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Leeto-kill-a-mockingbird-by-harper-lee

5. Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbinsstill life with woodpecker

6. Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjaliansecrets-of-eden

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collinshungergames

8. Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCover - Catching Fire

9. Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsMOCKINGJAY-jacket

10. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groffmonstersoftempleton

How to enter/how this will go down:

1. First off if you don’t already follow Book Polygamist please do so ūüôā If you’re a WordPresser then just click the “Follow” button at the top of the page. If not you can follow me on Networked Blogs (via Facebook) by clicking on the widget at the side of the page, or by email subscription (also at the side of the page). You’re also welcome (AKA encouraged; pressured; sad-pleading-puppy-dog-eyed) to Like me on my brand spanking new Facebook page, or subscribe to my RSS feed

2.  Like this post so I know exactly who has entered at a glance

3.¬† In the comments (or if you’d prefer email me at bookpolygamist(AT)gmail(DOT)com) tell me how you follow me (so you’re easy to find ūüôā ); the book off my Top 10 that you want; the reason you want to read/own that book; and a vague subject matter for the bookmark (i.e. I like fairies; something a bit badass; I hate those zodiac ones/I love those zodiac ones [I’m a Leo] etc. etc.). Please include your prefered email address with your comment as once I have announced the winners I will contact them via email to acquire delivery info

4.¬† Inspired by Natalie Dee of STUFF I PUT ON MYSELF: a make-up blog I will be assigning every entrant a number starting at 01, in the order of receiving/reading your comment or email. I’ll then put the numbers through a random number generator with the first generated number being the grand prize winner and the next two being the runner-ups. I thought this was a nice and fair system rather than just picking the ones I liked the most (pretty darn biased) or putting your names in a hat (pretty out-dated and easy to cheat). If the first winner is chosen again for one of the runner-ups I will generate a new number. Even if its random it’s not fair if one Bookbagger gets all the goods

5.  You have from the moment this post goes up until the end of the month to enter. On the 1st of April (according to the Perth, Western Australia timezone) I will not accept anymore entries. The numbers will then be crunched and I will announce the winners in a follow-up post as soon as possible

6.  The books will come from bookdepository.co.uk for a few reasons:
A. I love Book Depository
B. They’re cheap but of good quality
C. They deliver really quickly so I can receive your book and send it out to you nice and swift

7.¬† All books will be paperback and will have the cover shown above, except for Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian because I couldn’t find that cover on book depository. The cover I chose for Secrets of Eden is this. As you all know I am finickity when it comes to covers, and I totally understand if you are too, so If you desire a different cover from the one shown let me know in the comment/email (along with a picture of your desired cover) and I will endeavour to get that one instead

8.¬† Once I have announced the winners I will contact them via email and ask for their best delivery address to send the prize(s) to and they will be sent out ASAP. Estimated delivery times will be discussed, but keep in mind I’ve never done a competition before so I’m just kind of flailing around during this process

So there you go!

I hope that all of that made sense and I look forward to reading your entries ūüėÄ

If you have any questions/queries/concerns/grumbles/funny animal pictures feel free to send me an email at bookpolygamist(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Happy Competition Entering!!!

Top 10 Reads of 2012!

1. The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

I absolutely adored this book (which is clearly apparent in my review ) and even though it was one of my first reads of the year (read from mid-January to mid-February) I knew even a few chapters in (heck, maybe even a few pages in!) that It would be in my Top 10 reads of the year. Since I read The Night Circus I have recommended it to friends and family, and the three that followed my recommendation loved it as well. My mind boggles every time I remember that this is Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel and I look forward to more delights from her in the future. According to her website’s not really a FAQ page, she is working on a book which is a “film noir-flavoured Alice in Wonderland” (squee!!) and she is also painting a black-and-white tarot deck inspired by her work (double squee!!) so I’m sure many delights with be had in the near future, and in the meantime I’m glad I own¬†The Night Circus so I can read it again ūüôā

2. American Gods by Neil GaimanAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

Another book I knew would be on the list early on (I started it at the same time as The Night Circus) because even after a few chapters it blew me away. You can see a succinct summary of what I thought of¬†American Gods in my latest Micro Reviews post, but let me just say this – American Gods now one of my favourite books of all time as well as of 2012. Neil Gaiman is slowly becoming one of my favourite authors (I say slowly because I have only read a few of his books and I personally like to read all of an authors works before they are officially one of my favourites), and American Gods was a big part of this. Unlike The Night Circus I borrowed American Gods from the library, so this year I’ll have to find and purchase it so I can read it again and again!

3. The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadderravens heart

Another debut novel (in fact 4 of the books on this list are debut/only books of their authors and all but one – American Gods – are books by authors I hadn’t read before!) and one by an Australian author too, this book was a gem and the only true Historical novel I read in 2012. As I said in my Micro Review post, it is set in Scotland during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, which I found really interesting as I had never read a book exploring that particular period. I will certainly keep a keen eye out for any other novels by Jesse Blackadder!

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

Reading this classic was a big moment for me this year as I have been meaning to read it for many, many years (unlike many schools mine sadly didn’t designate it as required reading). As I said in my Micro Review (wow a lot of these are on the same Micro Review! O_o) because of the language and subject matter it is sometimes hard to stomach, but nevertheless I am glad I did. Now I just need to tackle the other 9 classics on my list !!

5. Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbinsstill life with woodpecker

I have to say a big thank you to the person who gave this book to me and so introduced me to Tom Robbins – thank you Shayne if you happen to read this! ūüôā I am very glad that Still Life With Woodpecker is not a debut or single-child-novel because of all the “new” authors I have discovered this year, Tom Robbins is the one I most want to read again (ooo spoiler for the upcoming Book Polygamist Awards!). I haven’t yet written a review of this wonderfully quirky little book, because every time I try it’s so hard to fully capture and explain the bizarre story, hilarious characters and thought-provoking prose style. I promise I will get around to it at some point (and when I do it will definitely be a full-length one as a book this unique can’t be summed up in a Micro Review) and I hope to read more of Tom Robbins works this year.

6. Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjaliansecrets-of-eden

This one was a surprise highlight of the year for me. The subject matter (domestic violence; murder/suicide) was quite heavy and the plot wasn’t particularly complicated, but it was the way it was arranged and written, and the distinctly different voices of the main protagonists/antagonists that made it memorable. Because the book was broken up into quarters narrated by four different main characters (the town priest who was close to¬†the abused/murdered wife; the detective¬†investigating the crime; a renowned author who had experienced¬† the ¬†murder/suicide of her parents when she was a teen and took an interest in the couple’s daughter and the priest; and the dead couple’s teenage daughter)¬†a simple and tragic event¬†morphed¬†into a complicated whodunnit, where I doubted the “facts” of the crime and changed my mind over what really happened at every turn.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

hungergames To me 2012 will be the year that I finally read The Hunger Games trilogy, and Suzanne Collins claimed another fan girl for her growing horde! ūüėÄ I had an inkling that I would love this book/trilogy because as I’ve said before I have been meaning to read them for a while following some glowing recommendations from fellow book nerds, and I really enjoyed the film, but I didn’t suspect that I would love it as much as I did, especially considering the fact that I knew the progression of the plot beforehand! In fact I became so engrossed that when it came to key heart-breaking moments (which I won’t spoil here in case any of you are yet to read the book or see the movie) I actually became quite emotional, as if it was a surprise. Bravo Ms Collins, that is a fine feat ūüôā

8. Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCover - Catching Fire

As sometimes happens with a trilogy (at least a good one) I loved this second installment more than the first and devoured it over three days. This may be in part due to the plot being completely unknown to me, as the second film has not been released yet and I managed to avoid the spoiler landmines littered around the Interwebs, or purely because the world and plot were more expanded in this book, and the final setting was amazing! Either way, despite the first and last books being equally amazing, I think this was my favourite of the trilogy, and I am positively bursting to see how they managed to convert it into a film ūüėÄ

9. Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsMOCKINGJAY-jacket

As I said above, this final installment was just as brilliant as its predecessors, and a fitting end as it was extremely intense and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed over the series (whether they were wrapped up positively or negatively I won’t say :P). Of the three this one took the longest to read (in saying that it still was only a little over a week), mainly because of the intensity of most of the scenes, and I will be very interested in seeing how it is adapted for the screen, and more importantly what rating they’ll be able to give it!

10. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groffmonstersoftempleton

This was a last-minute gem as I only started it at the end of the year (November) and finished it a couple of days into January, even though it has been on and off my library To-Read pile for a really long time. Barely a page in I already knew I was going to love it because even the first line was alluring:¬†“The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.” What followed was a beautifully written and ambitious novel (especially for a debut!) which gave me countless delicious lines, some of which I made into Notable Quotables, and a story which was an interesting blend of contemporary and historical novels, including old photographs, a map (you know I love maps!) and other tidbits to deepen the historical parts of the story.

So, there you have it: my Top 10 Reads of 2012! If you have read my recent update post you will know that these books will play a very important role in the 2nd Anniversary of Book Polygamist celebrations – one of my fantabulous Bookbaggers (that would be you guys!) will win the book off this list of their choice!! The competition will officially begin on the date of the anniversary (March 5th) so you have a couple of weeks to think about which book you would want the most, and why and I’m really excited to see all your choices ūüôā In the meantime I would love to know what your top reads for 2012 were – did we have any in common? Did you have a fantastic batch this year or a sort of crummy one? And what books are you looking forward to as 2013 trundles on? Feel free to sound of in the comments, and as always I wish you all:

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Heroes

1. Axis Rivkahson SunSoar

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Axis is the epitome of a fantasy hero – strong, brave, willing to do anything to protect his loved ones and his country/land,¬†surprised¬†and humble about his heroics and of course very handsome with a mane of golden hair, strong features and a muscular form. He was the first hero I thought of when compiling this list because he was the first hero I read about that really made me go “wow, what can’t this guy do?”. Before reading the Axis trilogy (also called the Wayfarer trilogy) I had only encountered the “unlikely hero” (as seen farther down this list) and this was the first really meaty, adult fantasy series I read where the hero knew he had to step up and¬†fulfil¬†his duties. While there were moments in the series where Axis didn’t want to be the saviour of all the land (fair enough)¬†ultimately¬†he stepped up to the plate and lived his destiny. After all he was the subject of a prophecy – why fight it? ūüėõ

Axis on the cover of Enchanter, the second book in the series (he’s the non-female one in the back rocking yellow :))

2. Torkyn Gynt

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

Tor is another classic handsome/brave/strong hero but unlike Axis he must hide the main thing that makes him heroic – his Sentient powers (telepathic and related powers of the mind) – because they are forbidden. Because of this he has a level of caution and humility about him paired with the ego of a man with vast abilities. He embraces his destiny (as The One – an individual destined to defeat the mighty Orlac, a powerful sentient who is close to breaking free of his imprisonment) quite readily and goes to some pretty extreme measures (such as being stoned to death and nearly dying another half-dozen or so times) to fulfil it as well as to save and/or protect his one true love Alyssa. He also manages to attract a bevy of gorgeous ladies (when he is not with Alyssa of course); use his wit and cunning to get out of some sticky situations and come up with some great one-liners.

Tor cutting a fine heroic silhouette on the cover of Betrayal, first book of the trilogy

3. Lyra Belacqua AKA Lyra Silvertongue AND Will Parry

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

I couldn’t choose between these two pre-pubescent¬†heroes as they are equally heroic in the last two books of His Dark Materials (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) so I thought I’d cheat and choose both ūüėõ Through several dimensions Lyra and Will face endless perils from¬†soul-eating Specters to Harpies in the Underworld, to deadly Angels as well as several full-grown adults trying to kill them and take what the possess. In the process Lyra almost has her daemon (an animal companion that every person in her dimension has and are deeply connected to) taken from her; Will looses two fingers and is forced to kill a man; and they both must die to enter the Underworld. Pretty heavy stuff for a couple of 12-year-olds but throughout it all they are brave and¬†determined¬†to do what is right – go Lyra and Will!

Lyra and Will on an old cover of The Subtle Knife

4. Bilbo Baggins

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

Bilbo had to be included in this list as he is the ultimate reluctant hero. He doesn’t want to travel with a bunch of dwarves to face a dragon miles from his home just because a wizard tricked him into it. He’d much prefer to stay in his cozy hobbit ¬†hole, enjoying plentiful teas throughout the day. But despite his reluctance he still goes and survives giant spiders, a creepy cave-dwelling riddle master and a dragon to get the job done, and return triumphant. I can’t wait to see the upcoming movie ūüôā

Martin Freeman as Bilbo in the upcoming movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

5. Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

I know HP related stuff pops up a lot in these Top

Continue reading

Bookbaggers Top 10 vote number 3

Welcome to the final vote for Top 10 themes! ūüôā

As I said in my last post¬†this does not mean the demise of Top 10s – I know you guys like ’em because they are the most viewed posts the majority of the time and I enjoy doing them so they definitely¬†won’t be stopping yet! However, this will be the last poll I’m going to do for Top 10 themes and the posts will go back to being chosen by me and will spring up out of nowhere (well, actually at the beginning of every month so not really out of nowhere) to delight you with their increasingly imaginative themes (until I run out of ideas and start recycling ones :P)

This one is pretty easy because there is only two choices left so hopefully there will be a clear winner which I will post at the beginning of February, and then the loser (aw :() will be posted at the end of March and surprise Top 10 themes will resume in April.

As with the other polls I will be closing this one a few days before the end of the month so I can start working on the winner.

May the last vote commence! ūüėÄ

Top 10 Classics I Want to Read

As I said in my last Top 10 post¬†I haven’t read many Classics, and that is something I want to rectify. Therefore this list compiles the Top 10 Classics I want to read at some point (hopefully soon!).

Feel free to recommend any others in the comments or further rave about/express disbelief that I haven’t read¬†the 10 I’ve listed ūüôā

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This Classic is one that gets the biggest gasps when I state that I have yet to read it and fair enough, it is on many people’s list of favourite books and regarded as one of the most loved books in print. I’m not certain why I have never gotten around to reading To Kill a Mockingbird, as I have known about it and had an interest for many, many years, but it was when I was researching for a presentation on Perth author Craig Silvey¬†that my interest perked up again. In my research I found that Silvey’s novel Jasper Jones (which is one of my Top 10¬†Books of All Time)¬†has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird many times and that intrigued me. Luckily I received the book for my birthday¬†and since Free Pick February is in effect, perhaps I shall read it very soon ūüôā

2. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

This is another unique war novel recommended by my mum, and another one that gets surprised gasps. Like many people I have used the phrase “Its a Catch 22” many times before when referring to a situation that has¬†a series of conflicting and intertwined options that seemingly¬†leaves no positive outcome, but I’ve always felt like a bit of a phony using it without reading the book that introduced the phrase to popular culture. Just like To Kill a Mockingbird I recently purchased a copy of this book so hopefully I will be able to read it soon and have a fuller understanding of the term when I am next in a situation that’s a Catch 22 ūüėõ

3. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

This Classic is one that I may have encountered at school if my path had been a bit different, and at that age it may have had a bit more impact as it explores themes of youthful rebellion, angst and confusion. However, I didn’t read it then which can’t be helped now, and so all I can do is read it in adulthood and reminisce about that strange time that is adolescence (many people would think of me as an adolescent still as I’m only 25, but my 25-year-old self seems a world away from my 13-18-year-old self!). Unlike my first two choices, I have not purchased The Catcher in the Rye yet but I am sure I will have no problem finding it at a bookstore (online or the old-fashioned physical-building-filled-with-books type that seems to be near extinction) or at the many libraries I’m a member of, as since it was first released in 1951 it has been published many times.

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bront√ę

Yes, yes, I’m sure readers especially of the Bookish female variety are probably scandalised by the fact that I have never read this classic love story, and in fact (hold onto your bonnets) I have never read a single book by any¬†Bront√ꬆsister! This is not some kind of Bront√ꬆsister hate on my part, just laziness and distraction and once I have finally read about Catherine and Heathcliff I hope to become more acquainted with the talented sister’s works.

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy is like the Holy Grail¬†to Literary types (in my opinion) as his works are not the easiest (or shortest!) books one could read but the reward is worth the¬†journey. I have heard so many good things about Anna Karenina and I have wanted to read it since I was about 14, but I knew that I would need to develop my reading muscles for a while so I could fully enjoy it, so I stayed away. At 25 I think I have read enough confusing/complex/convoluted/vexing novels (or ones that were a trial in some other way) that I am prepared to tackle whatever this 864 page Russian Epic can throw at me ūüôā

6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

If Tolstoy is the Literary Holy Grail, then War and Peace¬†is a Holy Grail perched atop Mt Everest. I don’t know many people who have been able to read the entirety of this 1444 page behemoth, which Tolstoy himself considered more than simply a novel, quoted once as saying it was “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle.” I consider War and Peace my Everest and if I can read it before I die I will regret less all the many books I never got to experience.

7.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Unlike the preceeding books on the list, I had never heard of Atlas Shrugged until a few years ago when I saw it popping up in a few of the lists of award-winning and otherwise highly regarded literature which were sprinkled through my first Book Lover’s Journal. I didn’t give it much more than a passing thought until I stumbled across an old documentary/interview with Ayn Rand while channel surfing some lazy Sunday. Her personal story and general demeanour and intelligence was fascinating and as soon as she started speaking about her writing process for Atlas Shrugged, I knew I wanted to read it one day.

8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 

I have to admit while I have been interested in Oscar Wilde since I was a teenager and have read bits and pieces of his work (mainly poetry and children’s stories) I didn’t have a desire to read The Picture of Dorian Gray until I saw the recently¬†made film, Dorian Gray¬†last year. Even if it wasn’t the best movie, the story of a young, beautiful man’s descent into hedonism and darkness with the aid of an ominous painting of his likeness, instantly drew me in. If I enjoyed a so-so movie adaptation so much I can just imagine how much I’ll love the original work!

9. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This choice is one of childhood nostalgia. Who hasn’t seen a cartoon as a child that played on the idea of Dr Jekyll and his experimental elixir that turned him into the monstrous Mr Hyde? I can think of at least a dozen times I saw a play on the Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde idea in popular cartoons, from Looney¬†Toons¬†skits to the literary/adventure/fantasy film that I adored as a child, The Pagemaster¬†(does any Bookbaggers who grew up in the 90’s remember that movie as fondly as I do? :)). And yet, even with the story so ingrained in pop culture I realised recently that I never read the original story by Robert Louis Stevenson! I shall have to rectify this on behalf of 10-year-old me don’t you think?

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is another book so ingrained in my popular culture memories and also one that has influenced so many of my beloved books, movies¬†and TV shows (I was a Vampire fan long before they sparkled – ie. Buffy The Vampire Slayer¬†and The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike) that it seemed ridiculous that I¬†have never read it. I actually bought a copy way back when I was 15 via a school book club brochure (for 2 dollars!!) and yet for some reason I didn’t read it at the time and it has stayed unread on my shelf ever since (a fact that my little brother finds very baffling). This year I hope to finally dig out the now old and dusty, yet untouched paperback and read the story that started the Vampire craze.

So there you go, my somewhat embarrassing list of Classics I’ve never read but would like to. As this year is the National Year of Reading¬†I have made an unofficial pact with myself to read at least a couple of the books on this list, so if I keep my word you may hear my thoughts on a couple of them once I have finally achieved my goal ūüôā

After this post goes out I will also be posting the last poll for Top 10 Themes. This doesn’t mean that the Top 10 posts will cease (I still have many ideas in the works) It just means that they will revert back to what they once were – themes chosen by me and a surprise for you the reader every month ūüôā

Happy Reading! ūüėÄ

Top 10 “Classics”

I am somewhat ashamed to say as a book blogger, avid reader and Library studies student/library staff member that I have not read that many Classics in my 25 years. This is partly because my last few years of high school were pretty traumatic and unconventional (I caught Glandular fever in year nine which made me very ill leading many absences and transferring to an alternative school) so I “missed out” on all the enforced Classical Literature; partly because I have always found something new to read and so have neglected the Classics; and partly because I¬†didn’t enjoy¬†the Classics I was made to read (such as Pride and Prejudice) so was hesitant to¬†seek out other books in the genre.

However, even with my limited¬†experience with Classical¬†Literature I have read a few¬†wonderful books that I¬†think of as classics. The Classics genre is a tricky one to define as it is changing all the time. Books that are widely regarded as¬†Classics today, 100 years ago were¬†comparatively modern and new, and books we now consider Modern Classics will one day be a new generation of Classical Literature. Dictionary.com defines a Classic as “an author or a literary work of the first rank, especially one of demonstrably enduring quality.”¬†This is a pretty fitting definition in my mind, but for the purposes of this list (and the reason why it is Top 10 “Classics”) the Classics will be defined by my own criteria:

  1. They have to be reasonably old –¬†not necessarily¬†works from the 1800s or early 1900s but at least novels that are older than I am!;
  2. They have to be works that made an impact on me; and
  3. They have to be works that have stood the test of time and will be influential for generations to come.

I hope you enjoy my list and feel free to list your own Classic favourites in the comments ūüôā

1. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

This is the first book that came to mind when I was compiling this list, because when I read it (at around age 18) It shook me to my core. The Australian version of Big Brother¬†had already been running for a few years and I was curious to see where the idea originally came from so borrowed a battered old copy from a friend of my mum’s. Firstly I was amazed at George Orwell’s vision of¬†the future, writing in 1948 and prophesying what 1984 (a far off future at the time) would be like if the politics and totalitarianism he saw around him was to continue and worsen. The fact that 1984 was two years before I was born but was a futuristic¬†far-off year to Orwell was amazing to my young self and drew me right into the bleak and frightening story. Orwell’s writing is very readable and the plot and character¬†structure is timeless¬†enough to intrigue generations of readers, and especially in this time of reality television, and¬†free-speech being a luxury that Western cultures take for granted¬†it is a Classic that is gaining potency with every passing year.

I am thankful 1984 did not end up like this as I was born two years later and that would've been a sucky world to be born into!

2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I saw the movie adaptation (the 1990 version) well before I read the book because we watched it in my Government and Law class in year 9 and I picked up a second-hand copy of the novel when I was about 19, so I was somewhat prepared for a troubling read, but it was still sickening, distressing and very memorable. I know that this has been required reading in schools for a while and I am in two minds about that. On one¬†hand It is a pretty intense and frightening book for children to read and could be a bit traumatizing (hell, I was traumatized at 19!) but on the other hand it is a cautionary tale for children (especially boys) that illuminated humankind’s primal instincts and how quickly we can revert back to them. Golding’s tale was first published in 1954 and has been a cult favourite ever since, and I think it will continue to have an impact for many years to come.

Bunch of pubescent boys left to turn wild = disturbing

3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I found All Quiet on the Western Front at the same school f√™te as Lord of the Flies and read it the same year, but I had been meaning to read it ever since my mum told me it was a must read (it was required reading when she was in high school). At school we had studied the first and second World War in some form every year since about year 4 or 5 and in year 9 English we read excerpts of different novels that explored war, but I had never read a wartime novel with the unique point of view that All Quiet on the Western Front has. It broke my heart to read the day-to-day trials of the young soldiers – boys who were my age or younger living through a time that could cripple the bodies and minds of men many years their senior. I think it is a novel that should be read by teens of this generation and ones to come¬†because as we move further away from the time of WWI, it’s tragedies and horrors could be forgotten by people too young to even fathom¬†that far in the past and knowing what boys just like them once went through would cast a light of perspective on the privilege they now have.

A beautiful but incredibly sad war novel

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

This one wouldn’t be a surprise at all to regular readers as I have flown my Alice fan-flag high many a time ūüôā From the first time I read Alice in Wonderland (around 7 years old I think) I have been enraptured by the crazy, bizarre and awesome world of Wonderland and all the unique and quirky characters that dwell there. Lewis Carroll wrote his masterpiece of absurdist Children’s Literature way back in 1865, followed by Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There in 1871, and after almost 150 years the story he created is still being recreated and beloved the world over. I know I will always be an Alice fan and I always like to see how it is being reimagined and how it has affected modern literature and cinema. Long live Alice! ūüėÄ

Curiouser and curiouser...

5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

As I’ve stated before The Wind in the Willows is the first chapter book I remember being read as a child and I still have fond memories of snuggling up while mum read me the antics of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad of Toadhall. Kenneth Grahame wrote the classic children’s story in 1908, and the characters were so beloved that they were revisited by William Horwood¬†when he wrote a series of sequels from 1993 to 1998 (The Willows in Winter;¬†Toad Triumphant; ¬†The Willows and Beyond;¬†and The Willows at Christmas) as well as a spin-off Willows in Winter series. Even ‘tho the book is set in the early 20th Century, complete with well-dressed gentlemen (albeit gentlemen that are actually woodland creatures) steamboats and early motor cars, its appeal is timeless and I hope that children will continue to treasure it for centuries.

My first "Classic" ūüôā

6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I was lucky enough to be given a huge volume of Children’s Classics when I was very young, contained Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and Oliver Twist, otherwise I may never have read this great, if quite bleak little tale by Charles Dickens. The first time I remember reading it all the way through, I was 10 and at a Christmas family gathering down south. I had been a fan of the musical Oliver!¬†a couple of years already and was quite eager to read the original story (even if it was devoid of songs and dance numbers!). While the story was a bit heavier and more depressing than the musical (surprise, surprise) I loved how it showed the dark underbelly of¬†London in the early 19th Century¬†which I knew little about at that age. Oliver Twist was originally published under the title Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress in 1838 and was Dickens second novel (following The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club aka The Pickwick Papers).

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

In hindsight I was probably too young to read this book when I did (around age 12 I think), and I was also probably too young to watch the movie adaptation which led me to the book in the first place, but in my Nana’s defence (as she borrowed the video from the library or video store while I was visiting) the film looked like a harmless children’s cartoon and not a retelling of Orwell’s tale of fascism in a farmyard. Even ‘tho seeing the movie and reading the book at a tender age may have been a tad inappropriate at the time, I don’t regret it because it led me to¬†a great Classic. Written a few years before Nineteen Eighty-Four (in 1945) Animal Farm explores a similar theme – totalitarianism – but was specifically a satire on the dangers of Stalinism with common farm animals overthrowing the farmer and creating their own societal¬†structure. While I wouldn’t recommend the book or movie to kids, as images of happy little pigs revolting against people and then lording over the other animals may be a bit upsetting, but once they reach an appropriate age I think it is a great way to explain other forms of government that make democracy seem like a walk in the park!

8. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

This is one of the few books (or play really in this case) on this list which actually was required reading when I was in high school. We had to read in for English Literature in year 12 and I was actually pretty pleased because we also got to watch the musical based on the play, My Fair Lady¬†which I have loved since I was a child. It was great to read the story as it originally was meant to be enjoyed¬† when George Bernard Shaw wrote it in 1913 (as a¬†humorous drama) and I would urge any fans of ¬†My Fair Lady to find a copy, and if you’re dramatically inclined read it aloud with some friends ūüôā

9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I have discussed this fantastic book before¬†in Top 10 lists, and at first I wasn’t certain whether to include it or not as I wasn’t sure if it was a true Classic. Written in 1966 this is the newest book on the list, but even if it hasn’t been beloved for 100 plus years It fits my criteria in that it is older than I am; made a big impact on me; and is timeless. While Flowers for Algernon is not as widely read as most of the other books on this list, it should be as it is a touching and unique story with an evocative writing style. This is the other book which was required reading while I was at school, but unlike Pygmalion¬†it was read to us (us being all senior students, from year 8 or 9 to year 12). This detracted from the impact of the book a little as we couldn’t see how the writing style, spelling and grammar¬†evolved throughout, but I was able to appreciate this technique when I read it a second time a few years ago.

10. Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling

Many years ago my¬†Poppy lent me a beautiful leather-bound¬†first pocket edition of this collection of stories published in 1910, along with an old book of Victorian poetry because I had shown¬†interest in the two little books¬†out of¬†his collection of fat novels. I had never read Kipling before and instantly fell in love with his funny little fantasy tales and witty narrative voice. I loved it so much that Poppy let me keep it, saying that he was going to leave most of his old books to me anyway. While some of Kipling’s works are much more famous (The Jungle Book; Kim; Just So Stories) this was my first pass into the world of Kipling and so will always have a place in my heart ūüôā

A fine likeness of my copy ūüôā

Top 10 Reads of 2011!

I have been making a list of my fave books of the year for a while now, but before now they have only been chronicled in my reading journals¬†or on Facebook last year, so its pretty sweet to have it out in the blogosphere for the first time ūüôā

1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman 

This was the first book I started in 2011 (on the 1st of January and all!) and was also one of a few books I read around that time that were the final instalments in major trilogies I had been reading for a while (the others are Destiny by Fiona McIntosh which is also in this list, and The Reawakened by Jeri Smith-Ready that I finished on January 1st so it missed out being on this list :P). I read the first two of the His Dark Materials series, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass)¬†and The Subtle Knife in 2009 and late 2010 respectively and each one was more gripping and imaginative as the story went on culminating with The Amber Spyglass which was just amazing. Philip Pullman brought everything to light and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed throughout the series and although many of these conclusions were heart-breaking, the ending felt right. I was left with a sense of awe at Pullman’s abilities and it certainly opened up my year of reading with a bang.

2. Destiny by Fiona McIntosh 

Destiny was another wonderful conclusion to a gripping series, but one that I had been invested in for much longer. As I have said before¬†there was a big gap between starting the Trinity trilogy and finishing it as I read the first book, Betrayal way back in 2008, then the second book, Revenge a couple of months later but was unable to acquire Destiny until early 2011! It was lucky that I re-read the first two books before finding it but even still it was at least a year between the end of Revenge (which was quite a cliffhanger) and the beginning of Destiny so it took me a while to understand what was going on. However once I was caught up this final instalment certainly didn’t disappoint¬†with more twists and turns then¬† the most intense rollercoaster and countless moments that made me gasp in shock or burst into tears. There were so many satisfying conclusions to conflicts that had carried through the whole trilogy and the final ending was very emotional and riveting, showing Fiona McIntosh’s ability to weave a great ending that doesn’t shy away from harsh realities and fall into the “happily ever after” trap.

3. The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll 

This was a beautiful, quirky, charming little novel which was a surprise highlight of my year. Andrew Nicoll¬†described¬†the fictional Baltic town of Dot as well as all the unique characters inhabiting it¬†with loving detail that made me eager to read for hours on end. The¬†story was quite simple – a forbidden love story between the Mayor of the¬†town and his married assistant – but it was the execution of it that was so addictive to me, the dancing around the two did, never admitting their¬†feelings for each other¬†and by the end I was quite frustrated with them both (which made me want to read even more just to see if they’d ever get their act together!). Even¬†‘tho it took a really strange turn at its climax this only made me like the book more as it was so unexpected. A great read for someone who loves a good RomCom¬†but one that’s a tad odd ūüôā

4. Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one was a big surprise because as I am a huge fan of Joanne Harris¬†and am use to her usual¬†fare of magic, food and small town politics (or other tight-knit communities like a college or nunnery), or as in her earlier works gothic styled historical novels with a touch of mystery and Blueeyedboy certainly doesn’t fit into those categories. Well and truly in the modern age, this novel tells its story exclusively through LiveJournal posts which gave it a creepy atmosphere of confession and mind games. It was a frightening, disturbing and unsettling book where the lines between fiction and reality and between online and offline personas was very blurred and I was constantly changing my mind about who was the “monster” and who was the victim. The twists were often very unexpected and sudden, so I found myself reeling through most of it, but by the end I was left impressed by Joanne Harris’ talent (to create a fantastic psychological thriller so different from her usual style) and even that early on in the year (I read it over a week in February) I knew it would be on this list as I stayed with me long after the last word.

5. Twilight by William Gay

I almost didn’t read this fantastically atmospheric book because of its title, but I am so glad a bunch of glittery vampires didn’t put me off as it was a fantastic, if quite confusing read. This is the first of my Top Reads that I have reviewed on this blog, and that review can be found here. Since I went into why this book was so amazing in that review I won’t go into it much here, but will just say that this book showed some of the finest writing of my readings this year as well as being one of the¬†more creepy¬†and vividly described novels I read in 2011. Not for the faint hearted or easily confused, but for lovers of language and spooky imagery this is a real treat.

6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This is another book I reviewed¬†this year so I won’t go into too much detail, but as soon as I finished it I knew it would be on this list as it certainly made an impact on me. This is one of those novels that grew on me (like my friend Sarah would say, like a fungus :)) and the second half was read in huge devouring sessions as opposed¬†to the snail’s pace¬†of the first half. If any of you decide to give this little french gem a shot I would highly recommend that you watch the movie adaptation¬†afterwards as it cleverly takes the story from page to screen and was a lovely little film in its own right ūüôā

7. Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

This one is definitely¬†not for those light of heart (or stomach!) as it is a classic Barker tale filled with gruesome¬†creatures, violent sexuality and lots of gore. I have yet to review it, even ‘tho I reached the end on the 20th of October (naughty naughty!) as it has been hard to find the right words to explain it. It is a blend of absolute horror in the craziest supernatural form that Clive Barker excels at, and a tale of the underbelly of Hollywood from its Golden Age of ageless movie starlets in glorious black and white and blissful silence, to the modern age of plastic idols. Not one I would recommend as an introduction¬†to Clive Barker (it would likely scare many away) but once readers are used to his work (maybe starting with lighter novels like Abarat and then moving on to his crazier stuff like Sacrament?) this is an excellent example of his expansive and very warped imagination. He’s a freak but I love ‘im ūüôā

8. The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

This was a more light-hearted read of 2011. Although there was some murder mystery elements and other dark parts It was always easy and fun to read as opposed to some on this list which I dipped into less often. I love a good Historical Saga, especially one that is based on real events rather than just a certain time or place in history, and this little beauty was exactly what I was looking for. More details can be found in my review but be warned, this one may be a bit difficult to find. I was lucky enough to find it at my local library, but since reading and reviewing it a friend and fellow Library student has been trying to find it in bookstores to no avail. My best bet would be an online bookstore such as Book Depository or second-hand and rare book supplier Abe Books.

9. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This book was a fairly recent read (I finished it on the 8th of December) but I knew from a few chapters in that it would be a highlight of 2011. I first heard about it from my mum who saw it reviewed on Australian morning show The Circle¬†and thought I would like it as before my Library studies I was a floral assistant and I have always been intrigued by the Victorian custom of courting lovers communicating through flowers. She then bought it from me as part of my amazingly generous birthday presents¬†and I was lucky enough to choose it out of my To Read pile at the beginning of November. I have yet to review it (I’ll get there I promise!) but it was a beautifully touching story with an interesting and solid background in the meaning of flowers and the effect the foster child/adoption system has on children even into¬†adulthood.

10. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier 

This last book almost didn’t make it on the list as when I started it on the 9th of December, even ‘tho I loved it from the first chapter I didn’t think I would finish it before the start of the new year. But thanks to some marathon reading, mostly due to the fantastic writing skills of Tracy Chevalier and my ardent wish to include it in my Top Reads I finished it the day before New Years Eve ūüôā This was a very interesting and touching novel that amerses you in a historical time and place perfectly. Tracy Chevalier is wonderful at capturing a time and place and inventing believable details surrounding a pivotal artistic (or in this case scientific) movement. I have loved every book she has ever released from the moment I read The Virgin Blue as they were all sound Historical novels with a backbone of facts and a great deal of heart. This one is based on the true story of Mary Anning, a working class girl in 19th century England¬†who discovers the first aquatic dinosaurs and sets the scientific world alight with talk of extinction and the age of the earth, but it is also about the friendship between two women (Mary Anning¬†and Elizabeth Philpot) who are from a different class and background and two decades apart in age but share a love of fossil hunting. I promise I’ll do a proper review as soon as I get through the 8 that are still backed up ūüėõ

Stay tuned for my other highlights of the year in the form of my 2011 Book Polygamist Awards! which I will post within the next couple of days, and I hope to see all my usual Bookbaggers as well as lots of new faces throughout 2012 ūüôā

In case you weren’t aware 2012 is The National Year of Reading in Australia, which libraries around the country are getting involved in with special activities and programs as well as extra storytime sessions, displays and the like, so expect some extra little tidbits this year ūüôā

One idea I had was to post a small quote from one of the books I’m reading every day as part of Project 365¬†but what with my last semester of study being this year as well as continuing casual work at libraries, and hopefully some form of social life, I don’t see myself keeping that up for longer than a few weeks, so maybe I’ll make it something more achievable like a quote once a week?

Let me know what you guys think in the comments and as always, HAPPY READING!!!! (in caps for added New Years emphasis :P)

Bookbaggers Top 10 vote number 2

Hey all! Welcome to the second poll where you can vote for my next Top 10 theme ūüôā Even ‘tho I didn’t get a huge number of votes last time¬†I was still really stoked to see your responses and to do two themes (Laugh/Cry and Book-to-Screen-Adaptations) that you wanted. Because it was so great I’m going to do polls with the remaining themes until they’re all done, which should take us into next year! And just like the last poll, if you have any other suggestions for future themes feel welcome to share in the comments ūüôā