Rss Feed

Best of 2011

Well, it was inevitable. I knew I'd be compiling a Best of 2011 post, and I knew it'd be ridiculously long (no way I can confine myself to 5 or even 10 books!), and here it is: Best of 2011, Super-Long Edition, in roughly chronological order with excerpts from reviews.

The Space Between The Trees by Katie Williams. Beautiful, gorgeous, and completely different from any other book I've ever read. This is one that you read slowly and savor along the way, and it's not something that will appeal to every reader.

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales. A fun and hilarious read! Leila Sales is fast becoming one of my favorite authors for a pick-me-up with deeper messages than a 'typical' chick lit book.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. I mean, seriously, it's Divergent. Who didn't absolutely fall in love with this book? I honestly haven't read a negative review yet.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. A brilliant book that's guaranteed to put you in a good mood. This is teen romance at its best, and I loved every page of it.

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers. Beautiful writing, beautiful story, what more is there to say?

Where the Truth Lies by Jessica Warman. Raw, gritty, and honest. This is dark contemporary that's hard to swallow and hard to bear but so completely worth it.

This Girl is Different by J. J. Johnson. This book is different. In a good way. No, scratch that, in an amazing, incredible way.

Jersey Tomatoes are the Best by Maria Padian. A heart-warming story about two best friends that still manages to stand out from stories with similar themes.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford. A masterpiece that has absolutely earned its place in my top five all-time favorites. Even the print book itself is beautiful.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard. Words can't even describe how gripping, how deep, how real and beautiful and amazing I found this book to be. This is the rare book I want to read over and over again.

Nothing But the Truth by Justina Chen Headley. Love, love, love this book and I would recommend it to everyone but especially fellow half-Asians.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales. Well, I already said why I love Leila Sales' books, and rest assured, the same applies to this one!

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King. Beautiful, wrenching, and honest contemporary novel. Anyone who loves YA or wants to get into it should pick this up.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. My new favorite book of all time. It was slow and atmospheric, and worth every single beautiful word.

King Dork by Frank Portman. Refreshing, unique, and just an immense stand-out on the shelves. It has some profanity and isn't a good book for more conservative readers, but it's definitely something I would recommend to everyone else.

Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King. I loved King's first book and now I love the second. A. S. King is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack. I love ballet books, and this one really stands out by showing the gritty side of it. It was honest, perceptive, and an absolute pleasure to read.

What were your favorite books of 2011? Do you agree/disagree with any of these?

Follow Friday (32)

This week's question is...

What are your 2012 resolutions for your blog?

Well, I touched on these in an earlier post this week, but my main resolutions are simply to read more, review more, and spend longer on reviews to make sure they're all consistent in terms of quality. I'd like to reach more followers by making sure I follow memes like this one more frequently so I can meet more bloggers.

If you're new to my blog, welcome! :) Drop your link in the comments so I can return the favor.

Ship Breaker: Review

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Release Date: May 2010
Published By: Little, Brown
Pages: 326
Goodreads Rating: 3.79 stars

Review: In a future shanty town on the Gulf Coast, Nailer works light crew, stripping copper wire from grounded oil tankers in harsh poverty. But when he finds a beached clipper ship with a lone survivor - a beautiful girl - he has a decision to make. At great risk to himself, he rescues Nita from the ship in the hopes that it'll lead to a better life, and everything changes.

One of SHIP BREAKER's best aspects is immediately obvious: the originality. Many dystopian novels deal with very similar settings, but this book breaks the mold and goes for a frighteningly realistic approach. Apart from a few minor details, I could easily see this book taking place in, say, a third world country, so the idea that conditions like these could occur on the Gulf Coast in the future is certainly a possibility.

Just like many dystopian novels, there were both elements of action and emotion interwoven skillfully through the story. The plot bounced back and forth from heart-pounding moments to emotion so tender I may have teared up in a few places, and it worked wonderfully. It's difficult to pull off a good balance, but the author was clearly able to do so here.

My only complaint about this book is that it just wasn't extremely hooking. It didn't always maintain my attention consistently throughout, and there were times when I found my mind drifting in the middle. I wish it kept me at around the same level of engrossment throughout, but unfortunately this just wasn't really the case.

Overall, SHIP BREAKER is a unique dystopian novel perfect for both those who are fans of the genre and those who find it a little too generic. There's both fast-paced action and introspective emotion, even if there are places where my attention faltered. This is an original, solid book that is well-deserving of all its awards.  

I got a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. This in no way affected my review.

Waiting on Wednesday (28)

This week, I'm waiting on...

The Thing about the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt. Goodreads did not supply a synopsis, but hey, it's Lauren Barnholdt. What more could you need to know? It even excuses the less than attractive cover. (Seriously, though. Why the kissy faces?)

What are you waiting on this week?

2012 Reading Resolutions

I always fail at these, but it's worth a shot every year! I resolve to...
  1. Make an effort to read more, like on the bus or when I'm just sitting around, bored.
  2. Review more books! I put way too many aside and decide not to review them after reading.
  3. Make a greater effort to obtain ARCs.
  4. Keep all my reviews at the same consistent quality.
  5. Don't slack off in blogging.
What are your reading resolutions?

Dancergirl: Review

Title: Dancergirl
Author: Carol Tanzman
Release Date: November 2011
Published By: Harlequin
Pages: 248
Goodreads Rating: 3.84 stars

Review: Alicia's friend posted a video of her dancing online, and suddenly she's famous on the Internet. But that fame comes with a price. Someone is watching her, taking pictures, and uploading videos of her dancing alone in her bedroom. What once was an activity she lived and breathed for is now sullied, but it's not just dancing she could lose. Alicia might lose her life.

I looked forward to DANCERGIRL because I love a good suspenseful novel, but unfortunately, I never really felt the fear amped too high in this book. I wanted to have my skin crawling and my heart pumping, but instead I felt only interest as I read along. There was never any worry I felt over the characters, which is due in part to the fact that it could be hard to relate to their occasional immaturity and also because Alicia's situation just never came across as incredibly urgent in tone.

The romance also never really worked for me. It felt more like the author felt obligated to bring the girl and her best friend together, when really their relationship would have been better preserved as a friendship. Their feelings for each other felt platonic for so much of the book that when their new-found love was suddenly thrown at the readers, it was sudden and jarring, and not really exciting.

However, this is not to say that the book was all bad or even bad at all. I did enjoy the unique plot and how it kept you guessing all the way to the end. When the culprit was revealed, I was honestly surprised and yet it made so much sense, which is the hallmark of a great ending, especially since I'm normally decent at determining who the villain is.

All in all, DANCERGIRL has an intriguing plot full of originality as well as twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. The book would have been better off without the romance and with some more suspense, but it was still a decent read that I would recommend to people who want dancing novels that are different from the typical hardcore ballerina ones.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. This in no way affected my review.

Merry Christmas

and happy holidays to all the non-Christmas-celebrating people out there! This is pretty much me today :)


Lola and the Boy Next Door: Review

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: September 2011
Published By: Dutton
Pages: 338
Goodreads Rating: 4.23 stars

Review: Anna and the French Kiss was one of the most hotly anticipated books of last year and certainly lived up to the high expectations; now here's it's sequel. Budding designer Lola lives and breaths costumes, and her life is pretty much perfect, what with her rock star boyfriend - that is, until the Bell twins, Cricket and Calliope move back to town. Suddenly everything changes and she must reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Well, I mean, it is Stephanie Perkins, so of course LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR was absolutely incredible. Somehow she manages to slap words on a page and they become ridiculously addicting, weaving a gorgeous story that has you satisfied and entertained with quite a bit of depth to go along with it. I had such a hard time putting this book down, and I was always looking forward to picking it up again.

One aspect I especially loved was just how realistic the romance felt. Usually in books when the girl has to dump the current boyfriend for the shiny new (or in this case, old) boy, it's painfully obvious to everyone but the protagonist just how awful the boyfriend is. However, here, while it was still clear that Max was a jerk, I could definitely understand why she still felt lingering emotions for him for part of the book.

As for Cricket, well, he's no St. Clair. He was still sweet and adorable, but I wasn't feeling it for him that much, which may be due in part to the name and the pin-striped pants. (Sorry, but I don't dig a guy in circus pants.) He's still better than most love interests, but just didn't live up to the expectations I had set up after meeting St. Clair in the companion novel. However, I will say that by the end of the book, the romance was just so freaking adorable that I even teared up a little in a certain scene.

And speaking of St. Clair, he and Anna made a cameo appearance that was totally welcome. It was interesting to see them through the eyes of a new set of characters, and it added that little extra fun element the novel. And really, that's how I would describe this book: fun. There was, of course, plenty of emotional happenings to beef up the plot and depth, but this is the kind of book you enjoy so much that you wait forever in line get your hands on the next companion novel - and that's exactly what I'll be doing.

The Kneebone Boy: Review

Title: The Kneebone Boy
Author: Ellen Potter
Release Date: September 2010
Published By: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 288
Goodreads Rating: 3.84 stars

Review: When their father accidentally sends them to London to stay with an aunt who's actually on holiday, the Hardscrabble children have two choices: return home... or go on an adventure. Of course, they choose the latter. What follows is a wickedly dark and unusual adventure beginning with the seedy streets of the city and ending with a legendary creature who is reportedly half monster, half boy: the Kneebone Boy.

If you love the Series of Unfortunate Events, THE KNEEBONE BOY is definitely for you. It's the same time of charming middle grade novel that I absolutely loved in my younger years, and still enjoy now. From the mature humor to the wild and unique characters, this is a book made of pure awesome that will no doubt top my list of recommended middle grade lit.

Given that the synopsis mentioned that this is an adventure book with a mysterious Kneebone Boy, I expected a much faster pace than what actually happened. However, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, especially since the voice was just so readable. The narrator is supposed to be a secret (so you're not told which of the Hardscrabble children it is), but I thought it fairly obvious who it is, and he/she (in keeping with my no-spoilers policy) was delightfully funny.

Just like any charming middle grade novel, the characters were brilliantly dimensional. Each one clearly had a lot of thought put into him/her with a fully fleshed out personality and interesting traits. Their actions were at times unexpected (in a good way!) and this was true for the story overall; the ending was shocking and completely unanticipated, which made it all the more amazing.

All in all, THE KNEEBONE BOY is an excellent example of middle grade literature with well-rounded characters and a fascinating premise. The narration was humorous, the pacing was even, and the depth of the story was wonderful. This is truly a book I would have absolutely loved when I was younger, so I recommend it to any fans of MG lit or any one in the MG range.

Waiting on Wednesday (27)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini. Here's what Goodreads has to say: Life altering mistakes are meant to alter lives…

When Elliot dies for the third time, she knows this is her last shot. There are no fourth-timers in this afterlife, so one more chance is all she has to get things right. But before she can move on to her next life, Elliot will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the mistakes of her past, Elliot must earn the forgiveness of her best friend and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

Seriously, how awesome does this sound? I can't wait until it comes out!

Book Trailers

More and more, I see trailers being made for books, and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about them. On one hand, they can often be very interesting and it's just always nice to see film interpretations of novels. For example, the "Shatter Me" trailer was very cool, added a lot to the book, and was just an intriguing portrayal overall.

However, I'm not convinced that trailers actually do much to heighten excitement for a book. I rarely watch them, and when I do, it's only for books that I'm already excited about. I guess overall book trailers don't really help or hurt - if I saw a really good one, I probably already plan to read it anyway, and if I saw a bad one, I'd assume it's just poor marketing because I'd already be appealed by the synopsis or cover.

What do you think about book trailers?

Everybody Sees the Ants: Review

Title: Everybody Sees the Ants
Author: A. S. King
Release Date: October 2011
Published By: Little, Brown
Pages: 282
Goodreads Rating: 4.33 stars

Review: Lucky Linderman is certainly not lucky, with his disappeared grandfather, struggling parents, and the relentless bullying of Nadar McMillan, and the only things that give him comfort are his dreams. At night, he visits his grandfather in the jungle in an alternate reality, the only place he feels safe. But how long can he stay there until reality forces its way in?

For some reason, when I first picked up EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, I didn't realize it was by A. S. King, who is quickly becoming one of my top five favorite authors, but I don't think I could possibly have enjoyed this book any more. Honestly, the only word to describe this is "incredible". Everything about this somewhat offbeat story is emotional, honest, indescribably real, and just so stunningly well-crafted.

I do mean "stunning" literally. When one aspect of the story was revealed, all I could do was put down my Kindle, stare into space, and think "wow" over and over again. Because honestly? Wow. My heart literally ached for Lucky, and it's been a long time so I was emotionally invested in a character to this level. The bullying he suffers is horrific yet all too commonplace in today's world.

A. S. King added some very unique elements to the story - namely, the jungle and the ants. Lucky has shockingly real dreams with his grandfather and he wakes up from them with objects he found while asleep. It's never fully addressed whether or not these are actually "real", which makes it all the more enigmatic and beautiful. I'm not going to describe the ants because it's hard not to make it sound just weird, but trust me when I say that it's a wonderful layer to the story that truly deserves to be there.

What more can I say? EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS is absolutely one of the top books of 2011. I adored the author's debut novel, and this is one is just as amazing, if not better. From the rich characters to the fascinating layers to the hard-hitting emotional core, this is a novel absolutely everyone should read, regardless of whether or not they read King's first book.

I received a free copy of this book for review. This in no way affected my review.

In My Mailbox (38)

It's been a busy week but I did get some fantastic books!

For Review:
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
Ruthless by Sara Shepard
Slide by Jill Hathaway
Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness.
The Unidentified by Rae Mariz.
Wildthorn by Jane Eagland.
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont
Cracked up to Be by Courtney Summers
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

That's it for me! What did you get this week?

Anna Dressed in Blood: Review

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Release Date: August 2011
Published By: Tor Teen
Pages: 316
Goodreads Rating: 4.13 stars

Review: Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother, spirit-smelling cat, and his father's legacy to kill the dangerous dead, with his future and friends at bay. They arrive in a new town in search of a ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood, but there's something different about her. Her past and present are irrevocably intertwined with her murder and curses, and she kills everyone who steps into her old home. Everyone, that is, except Cas.

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is, in a word, refreshing. From its unique premise to rich cast of characters, this is a novel that reads like a breath of fresh air. The idea of ghosts themselves and their desire for revenge isn't entirely new, nor is the idea of killing them, but the fact that the ghost-killer falls in love with the ghost is a fascinating concept.

I did feel, however, that the romance itself was not as good as it could have been. It wasn't bad in any way and didn't make me cringe, but I just felt like it was a bit lacking and not very developed. There was potential for it to grow into something more and I kept waiting for that to happen, but it didn't.

Still, I greatly enjoyed reading this book. The male point of view was authentic, and Cas's voice in general was strong, real, and humorous. While the novel isn't exactly a comedy, he made remarks that were quite funny and lightened up the atmosphere at times. Because of this, the story wasn't spooky, but I don't feel that's necessarily a bad thing.

All in all, ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is a gripping, impossible to put down book with a well-shaped world and intriguing concept behind it. All the characters are fully formed, and the narration is on the funny side, which is always a plus. The romance could have been developed a lot more although it had potential, but I would still recommend this to anyone who loves a good ghost story.
I got a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. This in no way affected my review.

Follow Friday (31)

This week's question is...

When you've read a book, what do you do with it?

If it's a library book (as it is 90% of the time), I return it, hopefully on time. If it's an ARC/finished review copy, I store it in my bookshelf, although that's quickly becoming far too crowded for me to shove more books in there.

If you're new to my blog, welcome! Please drop your link in the comments so I can return the favor :)

Under the Mesquite: Review

Title: Under the Mesquite
Author: Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Release Date: October 2010
Published By: Lee & Low Books
Pages: 144
Goodreads Rating: 4.01 stars

Review: Lupita is a budding actress and poet in a close-knit Mexican immigrant family, and her future stretches out brightly before her. That is, until her mother contracts cancer and everything falls apart. Lupita and her siblings' college savings are all decimated to pay for the medical bills, and suddenly children can not be children any more. She has to grow up, and fast.

UNDER THE MESQUITE is written in verse, and McCall's poetry here was impeccable. With sparse but seamless writing, she wove a tale out of a mere handful of words on each page. This book is short at 144 pages, but the story is painted in broad brush strokes and conveys the powerful emotion and resilience of Lupita during her mother's struggle with cancer.

However, there's a downside to the broadness of the story as well. Many smaller plot points were barely touched upon and lacked development that would have truly propelled the novel. Verse novels often have a fine balance between too little and too much detail, but in this case, it rested firmly in "too little". While intense emotion was definitely present, it was difficult to truly connect with the characters.

All in all, UNDER THE MESQUITE is a lovely little verse novel with beautiful writing but not enough story development. The author clearly demonstrates a talent for poetry with some turns of phrase that resound across the pages, so while I would not necessarily recommend this particular book, I look forward to other novels by her.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. This in no way affected my review.

Waiting on Wednesday (26)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Here's what Goodreads has to say: Seventeen-year-old Greg has managed to become part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without having any friends, but his life changes when his mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl he once knew in Hebrew school who has leukemia.

The synopsis sounds appealing by itself, but you honestly can't look at the cover and not want to pick it up. It's not physically possible.

Have you heard of this book? Do you want to read it? What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Dealing with Embarrassing Book Covers

I am not ashamed to read YA, but I do admit that I am ashamed to read YA books that have covers featuring, for example, a girl and a guy with their lips glued together, or covers that look like they are meant to appeal to four-year-olds.

In general, when I'm reading a book with an embarrassing book cover like that, I just don't take it out in public. I'll read it at home, and when I want to bring a book with me somewhere, I just grab another one.

However, some people I know aren't afraid to walk around with their books, no matter how odd or embarrassing the covers are. I admire the bravery but unfortunately, I lack the courage to do so.

So what do you do with embarrassing book covers?

Some Girls Are: Review

Title: Some Girls Are
Author: Courtney Summers
Release Date: January 2010
Published By: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 246
Goodreads Rating: 4.07 stars

Review: Regina used to be part of the all-girl clique that ruled the school until rumors about her and the queen bee's boyfriend started spreading around. Now she's fallen to the bottom of the social ladder with only fellow misfit Michael Hayden as a friend - except he doesn't think of her as even that while she feels something more for him. But can anything even happen between them before her ex-best friends break them both?

Be honest: that summary doesn't sound really appealing, does it? It seems like a regurgitated plot formula spat out of every chick lit book ever and almost overflowing with cliches and unoriginality. A clique? The "Fearsome Fivesome"? Fallen queen bee? Romance with an outcast? Check, check, check, and check. And yet, even though this sounds like it's shaping up to be a stale book with a terrible plot and boring characters, we're forgetting one thing: SOME GIRLS ARE was written by Courtney Summers.

And everything she writes is a masterpiece. This book is no exception. I don't know how she does it, but each word that comes from her fingers is beautiful and lovely and sad. I found myself fully empathizing with Regina's situation, and Summers' words weaved a net around me that kept me completely entranced in the story. Every time I put the book down, I still felt a hollow ache in my chest for the characters and couldn't wait to pick the book back up again.

The plot sounds almost superficial, yet this book was anything but. The bullying going on was horrifying and raw, because while everything going on was so bad as to almost be unbelievable, there was an air of reality about it. You know as you read it that things like this can and do happen in real life.

SOME GIRLS ARE is a paragon of raw, painful, and beautiful contemporary YA. It's pretty much impossible to pick up this book without getting completely sucked in for as long as it takes to finish, because even though it hurts to read, you just can't put it down. The ending was a bit on the weak side, but the strength of the rest of the book more than makes up for it. If you're a fan of Courtney Summers or just never got started on  her books, this is for you.