12.30.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2013

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Books I Read in 2013" you know, just to keep things easy. I didn't read a TON of books that were actually published in 2013, so I'm going to include a couple that I've only read part of but not finished. They'll be at the bottom.

Here goes nothing!

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I can't recommend anything by Rainbow Rowell enough. Such beautiful writing!

2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This was such a sweet, touching story. It's not an all-time fave, but I'm glad I read it.

3. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This was like a YA version of my favourite show, Criminal Minds, so for that alone I'm a fan. But I was also totally into the premise, and can't wait for #2 to learn more about the characters!

4. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

I enjoyed this book - it wasn't uber deep, and was full of things I didn't quite buy, but the character development was good and the story was cute and entertaining. It was a quick read, too, so good if you're looking for a light afternoon of reading!

5. Agent 21: Codebreaker by Chris Ryan
I liked this best out of the Agent 21 series so far. Less plot holes and inconsistencies, set in London (my FAVE place in the whole world) and smacked of my favourite British espionage TV show, Spooks (aka MI-5). Pageturner, edge-of-your-seat thriller.

6. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
 I didn't like this as much as the first book in the series, The Name of the Star, but it was still an enjoyable read, and I'll definitely be first in line for The Shadow Cabinet.


7. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

To be totally honest, this book would have been higher up on the list if it weren't for the (vague spoiler alert) dog incident. If that had happened earlier in the story, I would have DNFed it. Gratuitous animal violence that doesn't even advance the plot? NOT COOL, ROBYN. Not cool.
Also? Why on EARTH change from the original title and cover (above right), both of which were much, much better? I really don't understand people sometimes.

That's only seven,  because I only got back into reading in June and only got into YA books around the same time and have been playing catch-up. So here are a couple other 2013 releases I've started and enjoyed so far.

1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This I read about 100 pages of and it has me intrigued but also vaguely confused and possibly a little bit creeped out. So we'll see how it progresses - I like the writing so far, and it certainly has done a good job of ramping up the suspense so far!

2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I started this a couple of days before Christmas and got about 150 pages into it in a day. I decided to set it aside until after Christmas, though, because it's so well-written and draws me into Theo's experiences so expertly that it was just too much around the holidays. But I'd say that's more of a reason to read it than not - writing that good is worth the pain, right?

3. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

I'm becoming a huge fan of this author. I loved Silver Linings Playbook, and from the beginning of this book I'm going to be just as blown away. I love that he tackles weighty topics (like mental illness, loss and suicide) but that he manages to do so with a sort of cock-eyed optimism that leaves the reader actually feeling better, not worse. It's a rare gift, and one I value immensely in my reading materials.

So that's it, my best books of the year! Did you read any of these? What books did you love in 2013? Share in the comments!

12.29.2013

OBSIDIAN - Jennifer L. Armentrout


Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I'd pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring.... until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something...unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon's touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don't kill him first, that is.
- Goodreads description


------

I picked this up after hearing the author's name bandied about all over Twitter by fellow bloggers. Apparently they're really into this Daemon dude. Obviously, I got curious.

This book was a remarkably quick read - I finished it in just over a day. The plot definitely had me on the edge of my seat in places, and the writing flowed well enough to keep me interested all the way through. 

But I found the teen love drama a bit tiresome - all the blushing and pretending not to realize their attraction to one another - I nearly sprained my eyeballs I rolled them so much. 

 
The lust between Daemon and Katy is pretty intense - but also frustratingly on-and-off. By the end of the book I wanted to just throw them in a room with a bed and not let them out until they got busy. 


The story itself was like a cross between the Twilight saga with its constant danger, girl who needs rescuing and over-the-top love drama and that TV/book series about teen aliens, Roswell. The basic premise is that Katy's neighbours (twins Dee and Daemon) are actually Luxen. Luxen are alien beings made of light who traveled to earth in search of a new home when theirs was destroyed.



Sound familiar?

For the most part they pass for humans, having somehow taken on human form (really hot human form, I might add) when they arrived on earth. Though how this happened, exactly, isn't clear. They live like normal teens, they go to school, but they tend to avoid involvement with humans. This is, in large part, because when a Luxen uses their powers (stopping time, healing, amazing strength) near a human it leaves a "trace" on them that attracts shadow-aliens called arum who are hunting the Luxen.

This leads to a predictable and very familiar (to those who've read Twilight) situation where Daemon has to deny his feelings for Katy and push her away to protect both her and his sister. So it's this constant "I'm being a douche for your own good" situation that makes me stabby. 

When does that ever turn out well for ANYONE?

The mechanics of how aliens work, how they look like humans, how their powers work, and how their impact on humans happens aren't really clear, there's a lot the reader has to just accept at face value. There's also a fair amount of contradictory plot points - like the aliens can bend time and move at the speed of light, yet have trouble beating cars places. They're supposed to be uber-powerful, but seem to get worn out in battle pretty quickly. The government knows about them, but instead of imprisoning them or killing them, it provides a house, nice cars and has them.... go to high school pretending to be super-hot humans. Yeah. I'm sure that's how it'd really happen.

This book really tested my suspension of disbelief - not to mention challenging my need to smack the characters repeatedly - but it was entertaining enough and a fast enough read that it was worth a day of my reading time just for some fluffy brain candy. 

I'll probably keep reading the series when I need something that's both easy to get into and finish, but I'm definitely not going to be adding it to any lists of "serious" reading anytime soon. Or, you know, ever. 

If you're a Twilight fan, a Roswell fan or just looking for some predictably tedious teen romance with a supernatural twist, this'll be perfect. But if you're looking for something deeper or more meaningful, look elsewhere.

------

Book Title: Obsidian
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Entangled Teen
Released: May 8, 2012
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Supernatural
Pages: 335 (+ bonus material)
Date Read: December  17-19, 2013
Rating: 4/10

Stacking the Shelves #1


Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews!

This week I got a fair few new books - partly books I've put off picking up from the bookstore over the holidays and partly because... well, it's Christmas week! Here are the books I added lately (in no particular order):



 










Have you read any of these? What did you think? And, of course, what books did you add to your own shelves this week? Share in the comments!

12.28.2013

Bookish Survey: Cast an HP Spell - Part 1


I came across this bookish survey on Flip That Page and it totally appealed to me - partly because I just love surveys, and partly because... well, Harry Potter. Because there's no way I can explain it better than the creator of the meme, here's what Jasmine had to say about it:

"So how does it work? Basically, it’s a survey of sorts, where I give you a certain spell from the Harry Potter series, and you answer with the title of a book you’d like to cast the spell on.

The first one, Reparo, for example, is all about… well, repair. So you answer me with a book you’d like ‘repaired’ in a way—a book that you thought could have had more potential if it was just tweaked up a bit here and there."

Simple, right? Right. Here we go.


REPARO
fixes damaged objects

A book that needs some serious fixing: The entire Hunger Games trilogy. Yeah, I know, most of you are gasping in shock and wanting to stab me in the left eyeball. It's not that I don't love the story. I do. It's the plot flow that really bothered me. I've talked about this all before, but in a nutshell, they were badly edited and the climaxes were all frustratingly lacking - mainly because Katniss ends up unconscious for the climax of every book, and it's written from her first person perspective, so we all miss it. Just bad writing.

LUMOS
creates a narrow beam of light

A book that deserves more attention: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Seriously. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Also I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins.

NOX
counters the effects of Lumos

An overhyped book: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I cannot even tell you how frustrated I was after reading this book.

ACCIO
summons an object from a significant distance

A book I'm anticipating: Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Ever since reading Eleanor & Park I've been rationing my Rowell books. I waited around 6 months before reading Fangirl, and am still sitting on Attachments until I just can't take it anymore. July feels like a really long way away.

ALOHOMORA
opens locked doors unless bewitched

A book I want to be more open about: I'm not really sure what this means. A book I wish I'd been more honest about in a review? A book I wish I could be more open-minded about? No idea. But if it's the latter, I'd say Leigh Bardugo's The Grisha series. Everyone's talking about it, but the synopses don't really grab me. I definitely feel like I should at least give it a try, though.

EXPECTO PATRONUM
conjures an incarnation of positive feelings

A book that made me cry, or at least want to: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, hands down. MAN did this book hit me in the feels.

MORSMORDRE
conjures the Dark Mark

A book I wish to mark as one of my favourites: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I loved the writing style, character progression and story arc. I got to the end feeling like the world around me was a little sweeter.

PETRIFICUS TOTALUS
petrifies victim

A book I wish to keep forever: The entire Harry Potter series. And Good Omens. These are the books I most frequently re-read.

PROTEGO
shield charm

An intimidating book I keep putting off: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Also War & Peace and Les Miserables, but I'm pretty sure I'm just not going to read those.

RIDDIKULUS
used against a boggart

A book with a deceiving synopsis: Eleanor & Park. The synopsis nearly made me pass it by, which would have been a tragedy of epic proportions.

"Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under."

It makes it sound like a boring, cookie-cutter teen love drama who's only interesting element is that it's set in the '80s. When in fact it's a beautifully tragic, heart-rending epic that takes your emotions hostage. Fangirl also under-played in the synopsis and had much more depth and range than I had expected.

LACARNUM INFLAMARAE
shoots fireballs

A book I wish to burn out of my mind completely: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I couldn't even finish it, it was that terrible.

WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA
levitates objects

A book I wish to read: Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I've heard so many good things and have started it and was transfixed by the imagery. I'm looking forward to savouring this one.

AVADA KEDAVARA
causes instant death

Worst book EVER: Hmmm. I don't tend to read a lot of books that aren't well-reviewed and don't grab me in the first few pages. So let's maybe amend this to the worst book I remember reading at least half of in awhile, in which case we're back to Fifty Shades of I-Don't-Give-A-Fuck.

Phew! That was long! A lot of fun thought. Check out Part 2 - Spells Cast On You and share your own answers or links to your HP Spell post in the comments!

12.26.2013

THE RAVEN BOYS - Maggie Stiefvater


“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
- Goodreads description


------

As you'll already know if you follow me on Twitter, I picked this book up as a reward for spending 2.5 hours in the dentist's chair. I figured I deserved some kind of treat, and what better treat is there than a book?

I've never read a Maggie Stiefvater book, but I'm a big fan of her on Twitter. She's hilarious, witty and watching her exchanges with Maureen Johnson is highly entertaining.

Her best-known work is the Shiver series - you know, those books with the different coloured ink? (Which is SUCH an awesome gimmick, btw.) I started reading Shiver but hadn't gotten around to finishing it, and for some reason I just felt like this book was the one that would begin my Stiefvater literary fandom.

The first thing I HAVE to say about this book right up front is my gawd, the writing! 


This is one of the (very) few Young Adult books I've read where I actually had to stop and re-read a line - or a whole section - just because the words were so perfectly put together. I even highlighted. Which I NEVER do. Here are some examples of lines I loved:

"The church enveloped Gansey in an incense-scented pocket of air, a rare enough smell that it instantly evoked half a dozen memories of family weddings, funerals, and baptisms, every one of them summer. How strange that a season should be held captive in one breath of trapped air. 'Ronan?' The word was sucked into the empty space. It echoed off the unseeable ceiling far overhead so it was only his own voice, in the end, that answered him." - p.92

"He was good at staring. There was something about his stare that took something from the other person."  - p. 115

"All at once, he, too, missed Ronan's charismatic father. But more than that, he missed the Ronan that had existed when Niall Lynch had still been alive. This boy in front of him now, fragile bird in his hands, seemed like a compromise." - p. 159

"As Adam stared at his lap, penitent, he mused that there was something musical about Ronan when he swore, a careful and loving precision to the way he fit the words together, a black-painted poetry. It was far less hateful sounding than when he didn't swear." -  p. 238

I have so much appreciation for a perfectly-crafted sentence. One that not only conveys its meaning concisely, but that does so with elegance and a hint of poetry.

So the writing was what impressed me the most about this book. But I also ended up feeling quite fond of the main characters - Ronan, full of anger without an outlet, but also capable of tenderness. Gansey, whose single-minded obsession and charisma make everyone around him part of his quest. Adam, whose story automatically makes the reader root for him (though his stubbornness is a bit infuriating). And Blue, daughter of a psychic whose energy augments the supernatural phenomena near her but who cannot allow herself to fall in love.

***SPOILER ALERT***
 
I had a bit of a hard time with the plot, though. This is the first book in a series, so it stands to reason that there'd be overarching plot points that aren't resolved in the first book. Also that mysteries would begin to unfold without resolution. But I like a series that has this but also provides a balance of resolved plot per installment. A perfect example of this would be the Harry Potter books, or even the Hunger Games trilogy or the Divergent series. Yes, there are huge, ongoing storylines that endure throughout the entire series. But each book has its own sub-plot, its own story arch and a satisfying conclusion.

Unfortunately, though technically this book had a plot arch, climax and resolution, it didn't feel resolved to me. I got to the end feeling confused and a bit let down. They solve the mystery of Noah, sure, but the clues and details relating to the larger quest are even more obscure than they were at the outset. We don't get any closer to understanding Blue's curse, nor do we learn anything about Glendower. Not his location, how to wake him, what exactly his power is or even if he exists. We also learn nothing further about Gansey's future.

All of these major things have been left more or less untouched throughout the book, and if anything I felt like I knew less at the end of the book, not more. I'm sure that if I read the entire series from beginning to end without pause, it would work much better. But reading the books one at a time or as they are published, if the others follow this model, will be unbearable. Not only because of the lack of resolution, but because I'll forget all the little clues that went nowhere in this book, one assumes because they will become significant later. Which will make the point where they finally come together much less impactful. Because of this, I feel no desire to pick up the next book, knowing that the rest of the series isn't published yet. My reaction at the end was, more or less:

***END SPOILER***

To sum up: This book had a strong start. The writing is excellent, and the characters really came to life. There's a good amount of intrigue and mystery, and you want to find out more. It's an entertaining read. I am curious and want to read the rest of the series, but I don't want to do so until they're all published. So I'd recommend waiting on this one and devouring the books when you can read them back-to-back.

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Book Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Scholastic Press
Released: July 30, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Supernatural
Pages: 409
Date Read: November 28-December  4, 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

12.17.2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is going to be easy, I think. Though that'll probably end up being the proverbial famous last words! It's the top ten new-to-me authors I read in 2013. So let's just start out with the obvious, shall we?

1. John Green


The Fault In Our Stars is the book that started it all. Okay, well not all, but it definitely kick started my reading, and got me into reading YA books, which has turned out to be pretty awesome.

2. Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park... it is the kind of book that will echo in your mind for months after you read it. Rowell's writing is unique. Her voice is unlike any other writing I've read before, but it is hauntingly evocative and will make you feel like she tapped into your feels and hijacked them. Fangirl was equally awesome, in case you're wondering.

3. Matthew Quick
I absolutely loved this book. It has an innocence about it, a certain way of looking at the world... and seeing its silver linings. It is beautiful in its simplicity, and it stole my heart.

4. Maureen Johnson

I'm a huge fan of Maureen's on Twitter (go follow her @maureenjohnson) so I knew I'd like her writing. Which I did. Though I have to say I didn't enjoy The Madness Underneath as much - I'm hoping The Shadow Cabinet is more awesome!

5. Ernest Cline


I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. My husband was a huge fan of it, but then again, he's a gamer, and he grew up on a lot of the pop culture that is referenced (I technically grew up in the same generation, but was brought up by hippie parents and didn't have a TV. Yeah, I know, right? Scarred for life.) so it had that awesome nostalgia for him. But I loved it. The story drew me in, I understood enough to not be lost in the plot. And while I think my enjoyment would have been much deeper had I got all the references, I still enjoyed every minute of it without, so don't be put off by that. Excellent read.

6. Maggie Stiefvater

I'm still working on my review for this one, because I have conflicting feelings about it. But one thing I can tell you is the writing is excellent. Which definitely earned a place on this list. Also Maggie is another person worth following on Twitter, because she's hilarious.

7. Veronica Roth


I only got as far as Insurgent, because I'm scared of Allegiant. But I really enjoyed Divergent, and I would definitely recommend checking it out if you're suffering from Hunger Games withdrawal!

8. Leila Sales

I was a bit apprehensive about this book - I mean come on, it has LOVE spelled out in pink on the cover - but I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't perfect (the storyline wasn't all that realistic), but it was sweet and encouraged those who don't fit in with the "in" crowd to find a new crowd. Which I'm always a fan of.

9. Graeme Simsion



I absolutely loved about the first three quarters of this book. I liked the rest, too. Again, not the most realistic story ever, but I found the perspective intriguing and the characters relatable and likeable. For the most part.

10. Armistead Maupin

I went to San Francisco for the first time ever this year, so of course I had to read this series. I've gotten as far as book three do far, and though book two was a bit over the top, I loved the depiction of '70s San Francisco, the feel of the city and the pace of life in it. Definitely an easy and enjoyable read.

So that's my list - which authors made it onto yours? Do we have any in common? Share in the comments!

12.11.2013

INSURGENT - Veronica Roth


One choice can transform you, or destroy you.

Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love
. - Goodreads description


------

**WARNING: This review contains Divergent spoilers!!**

This book picked up exactly where Divergent left off. It also didn't do a lot of that annoying recappy stuff some series do. It just assumes you've read #1 and gets on with it. You know, kinda like I'm doing in this review.

The first section goes like this:

"I wake with his name in my mouth.  
Will
Before I open my eyes, I watch him crumple to the pavement again. Dead. 
My doing. 
Tobias crouches in front of me, his hand on my left shoulder. The train car bumps over the rails, and Marcus, Peter, and Caleb stand by the doorway. I take a deep breath and hold it in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure that is building in my chest. 
An hour ago, nothing that happened felt real to me. Now it does. 
I breathe out, and the pressure is still there." - Insurgent, pg. 1

And the book pretty much continues along that vein. Tris and Tobias seem to jog from one near-death experience to the next, with pretty constant momentum, which is great. But throughout the entire book, Tris takes every possible moment to go on about how awful she feels, the guilt that's eating her up over what happened to Will, how she doesn't know why Tobias even wants her (gotta say, by the end of this book, neither do I) and her desire to sacrifice herself and die a death her parents would be proud of. 

There were times when Tris smacked too much of Bella in pretty much all of the second movie of the Twilight Saga. Other times she's a total badass - but I couldn't really enjoy the badass-ness because the whole time she's thinking about how she can't possibly beat whatever it is and she's not strong enough. Way to ruin it for us, Tris. 

Yeah, yeah, whatever. I DON'T CARE.
 
Not only that but she keeps lying to Tobias for no good reason, or just pushing him away when she has the opportunity to get over herself and show him that he matters. Yeah, I get that they're teenagers. But I'd imagine facing death on a daily basis would somewhat mature a person. Possibly even make them realize that they should be honest with those they care about. If for no other reason than they might not get another chance.  

And the constant inner monologue... geez, girl. I mean, yeah, I get that what she went through was traumatizing. I am sure I'd be a blubbering mess if I were in her shoes. But I'm not, and I don't have millions of people in my head experiencing my thoughts. 

I basically spent the whole book wanting to do this:




That said, I was impressed that the pace of the storyline kept up pretty evenly throughout. So many series and trilogies have this lull in the middle where action abates and you feel like you're slogging through an endless quagmire of tedious nothingness to get to more action. Roth managed to avoid this pitfall, making this book just as easy and quick to get through as the first one. If slightly more gloomy.

Even though Tris annoyed the pants off me on several occasions, I'd still recommend this book as part of the larger whole. And I was particularly pleased to hear that the final book splits narrative between Tris and Tobias. That'll be a wonderful change of pace. (Assuming, of course, that he's not as much of a wet blanket as Tris.)

By the end of the book a lot of the ends have been tied up, but the story is by no means over. This'll cause a whole new set of obstacles for our duo to tackle in book three. And hopefully Tobias' voice will be both believable and a helluva lot less annoying than our original narrator!

Time to tackle Allegiant, the one everyone went apeshit over. Still terrified Roth is going to kill EVERYONE. Okay. We're good. I can totally handle this.


I'm ready. I think. Uh oh.


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Book Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Edition: Hardback
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Released: May 1, 2012
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopia, Conflict
Pages: 525
Date Read: November 19-22, 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

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