Friday, December 28, 2012

Best Reads of 2012

Now, I still have a couple reading days left in 2012, so I may end up adding books to my final total (and I'll for sure let you know if I read anything between now and the end of the year that is amazing enough to get added to this list :D), but for now, the 2012 reading stats look like this:

Total books read: 103 (according to goodreads)

Total books reread that didn't end up on my goodreads count: 20ish

Most read genre: YA Fantasy (see chart)

Favorite YA Fantasy novel:

Best Runner-Ups:
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Girl of Fire and Thorns / Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Favorite YA Dystopian:
 Best Runner-Ups:
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Legend by Marie Lu
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Reached by Ally Condie
Partials by Dan Wells
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Best YA Other (Contemporary/Historical Fiction)

Best Runner-Ups:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

 Best Children's Fiction:
 Best Runner-Ups:
Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Best Adult Fiction/Classic/Mystery
 Best Runner-Ups:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie/The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
These is my Words by Nancy Turner
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

It was a fun reading year and really, really, hard to pick favorites! Did you have a favorite book this year that didn't end up on my list?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Minis: 12 - 21 - 12

Happy Apocalypse!

Hmmm... I should have read something apocalyptic today to celebrate. :D

It has been a crazy month! I've been wanting to blog, but my goal with this blog is that I should never do it if it feels like a chore and I'm afraid I've been so busy I just didn't want to add it to my to-do list. Until today! I've just finished getting my music students all ready for their recital and I had a sudden afternoon open. It's glorious. Hot chocolate. Blogging. Making my lists of favorite books of the year and books I'm most looking forward to (those posts coming soon!).

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season! For now, here's a quick batch of minis. I'll be back soon with my lists!

My Rating: *****

I haven't given one of those out in a while! I loved Days of Blood and Starlight. Laini Taylor's writing is incredible, so gorgeous, so lush, so heart-wrenching. This story is much more violent and heartbreaking than the first book (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), but every bit as captivating. I love Karou. And Akiva. And Karou's human friends Zuzana and Mik! I feel like gushing, but I'm sure I couldn't do that without spoiling anything from the first book. Just know that I recommend this story wholeheartedly.
 My Rating: ****

Another sequel (the first book is Blood Red Road). First off, I really don't like this cover. And they changed the cover of the first book too! I hate it when they do that. Ok, so I loved Blood Red Road, completely raved about it last year. This one was a little disappointing. The story was just as intense and fast-paced, but I didn't feel as emotionally involved in Saba. She kept making stupid decisions (WHY couldn't she just trust Jack??????) and I was beyond irritated at the introduction of a love triangle. Also, some weird magical elements got introduced into the story that didn't seem to fit the same gritty, post-apocalyptic world of the first book. Definitely some beefs, but overall this was still a good read.

From Goodreads:
Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same one who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but a fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

My Rating: ****
First off, don't even read the blurb. It is very misleading. If you've just read it, forget it. :D It makes you think that Rachel and Logan escape the city and battle through the wasteland together, right? Doesn't happen. There were about 50 pages of the book left before they'd each finally escaped (separately) finally met up again. This book just wasn't what I wanted it to be. I wanted the romance to be less gushy and have more of a slow build-up. I wanted Rachel to be a little more complex than she was (she was so I-am-warrior-hear-me-roar it was very hard to get to know her and like her). Logan was awesome and I loved his nerdy, inventor side. BUT, I just didn't get how the world could have so much technology but still feel so medieval. No transportation, no modern conveniences, nothing beyond rudimentary weapons, but tracking devices and complicated explosives? Sure!

But, I loved the setting. I'm such a fan of the fantasy/dystopia mix. The story had me hooked from the beginning and pssst... there are dragons!!! I will definitely be reading the sequel, but I just wish this book had been what I wanted it to be.

From Goodreads:
Enter a tangled world of secrets and intrigue where a girl is in charge of other’s destinies, but not her own.

Sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has always been special. When her parents discover her gift—the ability to weave the very fabric of reality—they train her to hide it. For good reason, they don’t want her to become a Spinster — one of the elite, beautiful, and deadly women who determine what people eat, where they live, how many children they have, and even when they die.

Thrust into the opulent Western Coventry, Adelice will be tried, tested and tempted as she navigates the deadly politics at play behind its walls. Now caught in a web of lies and forbidden romance, she must unravel the sinister truth behind her own unspeakable power. Her world is hanging by a thread, and Adelice, alone, can decide to save it — or destroy it.

My Rating: ****

Crewel got me out of a reading funk, where I just didn't want to sit down and read because I was so busy doing other things. Sure, I loved Days of Blood and Starlight, but it took me a long time to read because it's the kind of book that needs to be digested slowly. I read Crewel in a day.

Crewel is fascinating and I flew through it. I loved the idea of being able to manipulate time and matter like threads on a loom! It's so Norse, so mythological. But the story itself is fast-paced and dystopian, very modern and cool. The world-building here is top-notch. Brava to Gennifer Albin!!! Such a complex mix of sci-fi, mythology, and fantasy! But it's well fleshed-out and the confusing things are explained at a very good pace. Enough to keep me from feeling constantly lost, but without info dumping.

And the characters were great. Adelice is geniunely likable and not stupid. I hate it when characters in dystopians are clueless about how screwed up their worlds are. Adelice is clever and sneaky and snarky. She's also a fighter. The romance was good (despite the love triangle) and there were some sweet moments.

But be prepared. Crewel is cruel (haha - except now I'm wondering if that's where the title actually came from). People die. Families are ripped apart. Children face peril. There's no mercy and the story can be relentlessly brutal.

Final word? If you like dystopians but are sick of reading the same plot line over and over, try Crewel. It is refreshingly original and surprisingly unpredictable. And the ending. I just... WOAH... Sign me up for book 2!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Princess of the Silver Woods

From Goodreads:
When Petunia, the youngest of King Gregor's twelve dancing daughters, is invited to visit an elderly friend in the neighboring country of Westfalin, she welcomes the change of scenery. But in order to reach Westfalin, Petunia must pass through a forest where strange two-legged wolves are rumored to exist. Wolves intent on redistributing the wealth of the noble citizens who have entered their territory. But the bandit-wolves prove more rakishly handsome than truly dangerous, and it's not until Petunia reaches her destination that she realizes the kindly grandmother she has been summoned to visit is really an enemy bent on restoring an age-old curse. The stories of Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood get a twist as Petunia and her many sisters take on bandits, grannies, and the new King Under Stone to end their family curse once and for all.

My Rating: ****

Another beautiful fairy tale retelling from Jessica Day George. She's one of my absolute favorites! Petunia was a fabulous heroine, all feisty and brave and handy with a pistol to boot. :D I liked being back in Westfalin and liked seeing more of the kingdom. It makes me love the whole series even more (and just for your information, this is the third and final book about the 12 princesses - the first is Princess of the Midnight Ball and the second is Princess of Glass). All of my favorite characters are back from the other two books, but if you haven't read the other books recently it might make your head spin trying to remember them all and keep track of who's who amongst the twelve. It's an ambitious cast of characters for sure.

The story is a typical fairy tale, but beautifully done. Expect people to fall in love too fast, expect simple good vs. evil battles, expect a very cheery happily ever after. That may not be everyone's thing, but it's certainly mine! The story is simple and sweet and a little juvenile. It's not overly epic or grand, but it's perfect for younger teens and for those days when you just need a nice fairy tale.

Highly recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings and fans of Jessica Day George's previous works.

And many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for providing me with an early copy of this to read. I've been very impatiently waiting to post this review, since I read it a couple months ago. Good news! Princess of the Silver Woods is out as of yesterday and would make a perfect Christmas gift for the teenage girl on your list. They didn't ask me to say that, by the way. I just loved it that much! :D

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mini Reviews: 12 - 4 - 12

Sorry I've been MIA! I was doing Nanowrimo in November (Nation Novel Writing Month, for those of you not in the know), which ate up all my blogging time. My life is settling back into normal (not that my normal isn't still pretty crazy) and I can now get caught back up on blogging. I still did a bit of reading in November, I just didn't have any time to blog. Anyway, here's a quick batch of minis. And look forward to more blogging soon! I'm currently devouring Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight and can't wait to tell you about it.

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

My Rating: ****

I loved Unspoken. So clever and intense and knock your socks off funny. I adored Kami and can't wait for the sequel because her voice is one of the most entertaining I've ever read. I loved the whole speaking-telepathically-to-Jared thing. It was so well done. This isn't insta-love, by the way. This is Kami and Jared, who have been each other's best friends since they were infants. They've been there for each other their entire lives and when they finally meet in person, it completely freaks them out. They are very uncomfortable with the idea of their relationship being romantic. I just thought their entire relationship progressed so naturally; it was perfect.

Two quick negatives. Jared... well Jared is so unlikable. Except when he's talking to Kami in her head. Then he's the sweetest, most trustworthy friend in the world. In person... not so much. AND THE ENDING. I can see why and everything's in character, but it was truly awful.

The other negative is that sometimes the mystery and the magic system and Jared's complicated family (I could never tell his aunt and his mom apart) weren't explained very well. Oh - and one more thing I'd like to mention is that there is a small gay side plot. It seems like every contemporary book has to have the obligatory one these days.

Overall, though, Unspoken is a brilliantly executed piece of magic, mystery, and suspense. It's hilariously entertaining and I enjoyed it.

Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.
At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.
My Rating: ****
A great sequel, and exactly what I wanted it to be. If you haven't discovered this YA time travel series yet, I highly recommend you add it to your to-read list (Ruby Red is first). Gwen is hilarious and the story is mind-boggling (in the very best way). I love a good time-travel story, where people end up in hilarious situations and do horribly anachronistic things (Gwen excells at this - there's a dinner party scene that is SO funny) and where people see future and past versions of themselves and everything goes wrong and happens in a totally non-linear way. Sapphire Blue has all that (plus kissing!) so you really can't go wrong. The mystery and the danger are revving up here and the final book, Emerald Green, should be spectacular.
I got frustrated with Gideon at times because I didn't know what was going on inside his head and he's very on/off with Gwen. Gwen may be ok with that, but I wasn't. I wanted to smack him upside the head. Several times. :D I have hopes that the final book with smooth out their relationship and explain the secrets Gideon is hiding. Also, I recommend you read the first book right before the second. They go very tightly together and Sapphire Blue doesn't give the reader much of a recap. Maybe just wait another year and read all three back-to-back
A great fun and clean read and HIGHLY recommended.

 Inhale. Exhale.
Breathe . . .
The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.

has been stealing for a long time. She's a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she's never been caught before. If she's careful, it'll be easy. If she's careful.

should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it's also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn't every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.

wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they'd planned a trip together, the two of them, and she'd hoped he'd discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days' worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?

My Rating: ***

As dystopians go, this one is kind of unremarkable. It wasn't bad (thus the three stars), but not much originality. Everything here has been seen before (minus the whole world without oxygen thing). Why is it that it takes these teens so long to realize that their whole world is a lie and everything is a conspiracy? It seemed pretty obvious to me...

And that summary makes it sound like there's a horrible love triangle going on, right? Well it doesn't last long at all, which makes me wonder why it was included in the first place.

Sure, when it all comes down to a fight and it's rebellion vs. the big corporation it was kind of exciting, but I wasn't riveted. The book ends in a nicely settled place, so I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel.

My Rating: ***

I got The Perks of Being a Wallflower as a free ebook, otherwise I don't know that I would have picked it up. It's a depressing book full of issues, sex, drinking, smoking, drugs, and messed-up teens. But despite all that, I think it has some merit. It's hard not to like Charlie. Poor Charlie, with all the trauma he has faced and what read to me like undiagnosed Asperger's has not had it easy. He starts high school in this book (something that's not easy for anyone) and manages to make some friends. What follows is a complicated mess, but Charlie grows up and figures things out. Well, some things at least. It's a story about bullying, about reaching out to people who are different, about mental health and the effects of trauma and abuse. I kind of enjoyed the unreliable narrator thing and trying to figure out what was really going on in the world, despite getting all my information from Charlie's perspective.

I think it was an interesting book, one full of discussion possibilities, but it's definitely an issues book, so consider yourself warned by me that it is heavy and with some objectionable content. And now, I'm trying to decide if want to see the movie. :D Anyone seen it? Thoughts?