BOOK TEN: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. After reading high praise for this recently published novel on a blog I love, I ordered it on (thanks, family, for Christmas money!). I wasn't disappointed. It asks big questions: What would happen if a flu epidemic swept over the world? How do we survive and rebuild society? What part do we play in the functioning of society? What is our relationship to the world--technology, land, resources--around us? How do we relate to others--are we leaders or followers, and who do we trust? And it gives a fascinating possibility for an answer. It made me think, and I could hardly put it down. I highly recommend getting a copy and curling up in your favorite chair with it and some tea (or coffee, or wine) this weekend.

BOOK ELEVEN: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingIf you've read Harry Potter, you know where I am in the journey. And if you haven't read Harry Potter, you need to go to the library, and put your "but" list aside: it's time you entered this magical world. I'm planning to start book seven--the final one!--in the near future.

BOOK TWELVE: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. I'm going to make a bold statement, and I don't mean this lightly. Ready? The Bean Trees is one of my (newest) favorite novels. I read it for the first time last week, and I'm adding it to my mental "Favorites" list. I already knew that I liked Kingsolver's witty, down-to-earth writing after reading The Poisonwood Bible last year. I picked this one up at the library last week (much shorter than The Poisonwood Bible) and read it in two days. Her characters found an immediate place in my heart, and it didn't hurt that her writing has a way of making me laugh out loud, even on the bus. For example: "She rubbed her neck and turned her face to the sun again. Lou Ann's face was small and rounded in a pretty way, like an egg sunny side up. But in my mind's eye I could plainly see her dashing out the door on any given day, stopping to say to the mirror: 'Ugly as homemade sin in the heat of summer.'" Maybe it's just my sense of humor, but she has a way with words. The themes of home, adoption, family and deep friendship set against the backdrop of Arizona and Oklahoma, with some from-the-hills-of-Kentucky accents thrown in there made for a beautiful novel.