Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Year-End List of Lists (2009) - Music and Books

I'm sure, dear faithful reader, that you clicked over here today, thinking this would be a LOST post. (Patience, dear one. That post is arriving next.) Maybe you're wondering where the Musical Interlude Mondays went? Or perhaps you have waited so long for the second-half of my 2009 year-end list, you'd figured I'd lost interest and given up on writing it, or updating the blog itself, for that matter?
Well, let's just say that 2010 did not arrive gently for me. In fact, it hit me square in the face and knocked me down like a sumo wrestler with a bad attitude. I just now feel like I've come around and have been able to catch my breath. My personal life took a big hit with a couple of health scares. (It turns out I'm fine, thank you.) Combine that with some serious family drama and it almost put me in the loony bin. I couldn't concentrate on anything, let alone writing. But never fear! The good news is, I have not given up on my blog. In fact, I'm inspired to write even more now. But more on that later. For now, I want to thank you, gentle readers (all two of you) for hanging in there and being patient with my sporadicness. Secondly, I need to close out my long-overdue discussion on my favorites from 2009. So, without further ado...

In my last post, I discussed my favorite television shows and movies of 2009. Today, I'll review the music and books I enjoyed in 2009, and conclude with what was really important to me.

Favorite Music:
I enjoyed more acoustic goodness from the Once pair of Glen and Marketa under their band name Swell Season (album name - Strict Joy). Depeche Mode put out a new album called Sounds of the Universe and, even if you're not a fan, I suggest you check out the haunting yet catchy song called "Wrong" from that album. After a long wait, 30 Seconds to Mars finally released a new album called This Is War. I was so excited to get it... only to be disappointed. All the things I loved about the band were, for the most part, completely absent from the new album. Elvis Costello's album Secret, Profane and Sugarcane was unusual and interesting, as he always is. Beauty Will Rise by Steven Curtis Chapman made me cry (in a good way) and inspired me. Rock supergroup Chickenfoot rocked it old-school.

However, there were four albums that stood out for me in 2009. I practically wore out The Resistance by Muse. I love the unusual sound they have going for them. The same goes for the album No Line on the Horizon by U2 - I played that album over and over again. You can always count on U2 to deliver consistently good rock/pop music. They are one of the few, in a sea of mediocrity. Another long-awaited album for me was Memento Mori by Flyleaf. They changed their sound up a little, becoming more complex, more lyrical, and I liked it a lot. They still rock! The first two singles are "Beautiful Bride" and "Again" but my favorite song is "Chasm." However...(drum roll please) very favorite album would probably have to be Approaching Normal from Blue October. The song "Jump Rope" might as well have been my theme song for 2009. Each album from Blue October sounds completely different from the last one. You never know what you're going to get (even within one album) - rock, pop, techno, alternative, blues, country. What you do know, is that it will be a powerful journey with Justin Furstenfeld's haunting voice leading you all the way. (As an aside, I just wish they wouldn't drop the F-bomb so much. It's completely unnecessary and detracts from their songs. I recommend purchasing the "clean" version of the album.)

Albums that were released in 2009 that I still haven't checked out yet: Awake by Skillet, Leave This Town by Daughtry, Hello, Hurricane by Switchfoot, Raditude by Weezer, Kris Allen's debut album, Innocence and Instinct by Red, Black Gives Way to Blue by Alice in Chains and Your Songs by Harry Connick Jr. (Now, tell me, where else on the web can you find Alice in Chains and Harry Connick Jr. mentioned in the same sentence? I'm weird. I know.)

Favorite Books:
This year, I read more books than I have in a very long time. Since I'm now a member of two different book clubs, that has consequently ramped up my reading quantities, and I love it. Books that I read and enjoyed this year were: The Soloist by Steve Lopez, Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (of course), and Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. I sadly waved good-bye to Harry, Hermoine and Ron as I read the satisfying final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, indulged my inner comic book geek with The Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. (I enjoyed The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite more than this series.), discovered a new favorite heroine in The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, (I must seek out and read the rest of the books in this series), educated myself about The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums and Psychic Phenomena by Ron Rhodes, which was enlightening. (I highly recommend it.) and was enchanted by The 13 Clocks by James Thurber.

I've read Dracula by Bram Stoker too many times to count, but this year, I was able to read and experience it in a completely different way. I read it in real time, through a blog feed that posted segments of the book in real time, corresponding with the dates in the book. It added a whole new level of suspense.

In way or another, I enjoyed everything I read last year, however, there were four books that stood out from the rest as my favorites. I absolutely laughed myself silly over The New Vampire's Handbook: A Guide for the Recently Turned Creature of the Night by the Vampire Miles Proctor. As a horror-aficionado, this book knew exactly where to reach my morbid little funny bone. The Secret History by Donna Tartt was a beautifully-written tragedy that enveloped me in a terrible sense of dread throughout the whole book, gave me nightmares, and proved that ideas have consequences. (It also made me rethink my intense interest in Greek mythology.) I never thought I would sympathize with, let alone root for and find a hero in the lead character in Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin - an unattractive, oafish, crass Mississippi steamboat captain. Nor did I ever think I would cry over the demise of the riverboats as time pressed on and made them obsolete. What a terrific specimen of writing and a brilliant new twist on the vampire myth (it was like Dracula meets Mark Twain). It was a twist that, although new, keeps vampires firmly rooted in the monster category. (Ahem...unlike Twilight... but I digress...)

The most exciting thing I read was Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge. It's a small novella that I bought on a whim from the Halloween table display in the bookstore, because I liked the cover art and thought the synopsis on the back of the book was intriguing. I had no idea what I was in store for. I purposely stalled on finishing this book, because I didn't want it to end. I've never encountered a writing style like this, or a narrative style like this that literally makes you a part of the story - an active participant. Wow. I can still smell cinnamon, gunpowder and burning sugar...

Books that I read which exposed me to other genres (which is always a good thing) and made for interesting reads, but that I really didn't care for: Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski, Last Light by Terry Blackstock, Night Light by Terry Blackstock, Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell, and Into the Wild by John Krakauer.

Favorite Moments:
I hope you enjoyed my quick (albeit a late-in-coming) stroll through the artistic media that I encountered in 2009. I feel passionately about the arts (thus my discussion of them on this blog). However, they are not the most important elements from my year, but rather time spent with friends, time spent worshiping God and studying his word, time with my husband - these are the things that matter.

In 2009 we witnessed a miracle, as my very ill mother-in-law received the precious gift of an organ transplant. In fact, we spent the majority of 2009 sitting bedside in the hospital, both with my mother-in-law and for my brother and a very dear friend. We are still singing praises for healing of all three of them! We survived my husband being laid off from work. I was introduced to a mentor at work and she gave me some hope that what is left of my neglected career might be salvageable. I threw a big milestone birthday party for my husband, embarked on a massive decluttering/organizing project from one end of the house to the other (it's taken over a year and I'm still not done.) and for the first time in my life, I participated in a grassroots movement and wrote my first letter ever to the White House.

My husband and I went on a long-overdue vacation, or more like an adventure, in Las Vegas. I helped start a book club at work, made some new friends, got more involved with the youth group at church (love you guys!), assisted with our church's Sunday morning Bible class for pre-K kids, and continued to work with the Care Ministry. I was challenged and forever changed by the Truth Project. Overall, I was humbled, challenged, given opportunities to learn patience, sacrifice and loving the hard-to-love, and hopefully grew in my Christian walk. These are the things that really matter to me.

Many thanks to you, my Loyal Readers, for following my blog and leaving comments. Even though my 2009 supposedly "year-end" post spilled over into 2010, and I'm kinda lurching out of the starting gate, I have high hopes for the new year. I know it might seem a little bit past the moment to ask this, but what were your favorite things of 2009? Leave me a comment and let me know. :-)


Anonymous said...

Yeah! Good post. I almost crank-called on Lost night when I thought it was on so I could bug you. But then, I thought, I'd rather keep a friend. I'll keep book recs coming. Glad two worked out. Right now, I've had a string of "what not to reads" but I might strike gold soon. Thanks for sharing. A good way to start a monday morning.

Laura said...

I didn't really have anything that stood out as the "best" of the year with the exception of my re-introduction to Rock Concerts by attending U2 with you two great friends. (corny, I know!) :D

I can't think of any better way to celebrate the break in an 11 year fast from concerts than with U2! For that, I thank you again. I feel less like I'm all mommy and more like my old self. That was and is quite a gift. :)

BTW, I wouldn't describe you as weird but rather a "renaissance (wo)man" in that you appreciate a wide variety of genres in all areas of life. That makes you an interesting and mature friend and interesting to be around. So with that, here's to attending the Renaissance Faire with you! Huzzah!

D.L. White said...

@Chad - You were very wise not to act on that idea... (not that I would have answered my phone anyway! Ha!) As far as your book recommendations go, I'm looking forward to reading "Sunshine" in between all my book club reads. I'll let you know if they're any good. (I really want to re-read the Dark Tower series... have no idea how I'd work that in with the other stuff I have to read, but I feel the need to visit Mid-world again...)

@Laura - Awww... I'm glad the U2 concert lifted you up (in more ways than one). And thank you for telling me I'm not weird. :)