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Best Books of 2012

It's that time of the year again - that is to say, the last day of the year! Without further ado, here are the best books I read in 2012, even though not all of these were actually published that year.

The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff. THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 quite simply gutted me. Each character outwardly seems unlikable from their initial personality characteristics, but as the author delves deeper into each of their individual points of view, the "true" characters begin to emerge. There's not too much to say about THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 other than that you should absolutely  read it if you haven't already. This book pulls a massive emotional punch, but just the kind you want to receive. Everything is so heart-breaking and so authentic and so heart-breakingly authentic that you emerge from this book feeling almost changed.

 Choker by Elizabeth Wood. The plot is fascinating, grabbing you in from the first page and refusing to let go, and while it's not the most super unique plot to be floating around, it's definitely not derivative. Most importantly in a novel of this genre, there are plenty of plot twists that make you reel in shock at what just happened. CHOKER was a fantastic book and there's not really much more to say than that. From a plot that basically never lets you go to an ending accompanied by many plot twists that makes you want to put down the book and stare at the wall, this is a novel that everyone should read - especially fans of psychological suspense!

 Her and Me and You by Laura Strasnick. This is a book that overall got some rather negative reviews, and I chalk this up to the book's, well, quirkiness. There's something about this plot that's very, very different from what you typically see, and that's the kind of thing that's going to really appeal to some readers and really turn off others. In my case, it was definitely a case of major appeal. HER AND ME AND YOU was disconcerting in just the right way to strike me as completely awesome. It was quirky, it had heart, and it had an amazing romance that honestly ranks among my favorite YA romances ever. If you're fans of quirky books that don't always necessarily get great reviews, I can't recommend this enough.

 Hush by Eishes Chayil. HUSH was truly eye-opening, a novel told through elegant writing that slowly peeled away the layers of this dark, dark story. There are a lot of books out there that cover topics like abuse, ranging from within a family to external forces, but it provided a unique look at this issue by telling a story about the not-so-well-known Chassidim culture. HUSH was a phenomenal story, the rare kind of book that you can only come across once in a while. It is moving and complex, with an emotional beauty that will rock even the hardest of hearts. I cannot recommend this book enough, and encourage everyone, particularly fans of "issues" books, to give it a try.

 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I originally picked up ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL because of how completely gorgeous the cover was, and the actual contents of the book certainly did not disappoint. Every word was just as beautiful as the outside, but not in the way you would normally expect from your average "issues" novel. One of the reasons I really loved, loved, loved this book was because of how refreshingly honest and different it is from other books of its type. It was such a strange reading experience, but so rewarding at the same time.

 Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser. All I can say about this book is wow. Just wow. I didn't expect PIECES OF US to pack the emotional punch it did, and boy, was I ever surprised. This novel hit me on an unexpected level, with its gritty and dark themes striking me so profoundly that there were places in the novel where all I could do was just stare at the pages. The story was raw and painful and absolutely beautiful in every single way. PIECES OF US ripped me to pieces and built me back up again in a thousand tiny little ways, and all I can do is try my hardest to recommend this to you. This book is gritty and dark and thoughtful and raw and honest, and every word strikes like a bullet and stays forever.

 Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It's obvious straight away from the cover that CINDER is a different book, but even so, I was pleasantly surprised by how inventive this story truly is. Though it is clearly based loosely off of Cinderella, Marissa Meyer takes an entirely new spin on the fairy tale that puts all other retellings to shame. This is set in a dystopian world that is far different from any other dystopias I've read about and has a quality that is at once dreamy and gritty, and practically brims with creativity. There's a swoon-worthy prince, creepy aliens, cyborgs galore, a virulent plague, and world-building that will have any writer green with envy. What more persuasion could you possibly read? I'd recommend this book from the top of my lungs.

 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Um, John Green, duh.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. Oh, WHY WE BROKE UP, how I love thee? Let me count the ways. Oh, wait, I can't because there are too freaking many. And you know why? Because this book brims with awesomeness. I mean, you can already tell it's going to be epic because, well, I'm willing to bet everyone of you knows who Daniel Handler is... or perhaps, you know him by his pen name. Lemony Snicket? Ring any bells? Yup, I thought so. So as you can see, it's no surprise that from the creator of A Series of Unfortunate Events came this stunning masterpiece.

Do you agree with any of the books on this list? What are your favorites of this year?


I always see it blow up all over my Reader feed: readathons coming up, readathons that passed, readathons going on right now with everyone frantically reading, reading, reading and blogging, blogging, blogging about it. And in all the years I've had this blog, the same question has always occurred to me: should I participate?

On the one hand, it seems really fun to go in for a long 24 hours or whatever of doing basically nothing but eating, reading, and blogging. Even though it seems like you might get really tired of reading so much after a while, you always have the cheerleaders to keep you going, as well as the knowledge that other people are doing the exact same thing. Plus, it's a great way to catch up on your to-read list for people like me who are so painfully behind on reading challenges it's not even funny.

Conversely, it seems like there's never any time to do it. I'm a junior, which means I have a schedule packed to the rafters and enough homework to make me lose all semblance of a social life and attempt all-nighters (attempt is the key word).

Have you ever participated in a readathon? Is it really fun?

Waiting on Wednesday (68)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Another Little Piece by Kate Quinn. Here's what Goodreads has to say:

A reckless wish taken from the darkest desires of the heart…

A bloody razor engraved with the names of the girls who turned to dust…

An endless cycle that feeds of loneliness and craves destruction…

Together, these pieces form a twisted puzzle that Annaliese Rose Gordon has to solve. Trapped in a body that isn’t hers—with no memory of how she got there—she must unlock the secrets of her past in order to escape the horrors of her future.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Girl of Nightmares: Review

Title: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
Release Date: August 2012
Published By: Tor Teen
Pages: 332
Goodreads Rating: 4.03 stars

Review: It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears. She saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

GIRL OF NIGHTMARES was a thrilling, fast-paced follow-up to Anna Dressed in Blood, but even though the suspense was notched way high and the plot never stopped, I almost wished for, well, less. Not necessarily a slower-paced book, but I did want more development, which I felt the last book had a lot of and this one, eh, not so much. There was plenty of potential to see Cas growing, but it seemed like not all the opportunities were used as much as they could have been. And not just development character-wise - the ending too seemed rushed.

I also had my quibbles with Anna's character. In Anna Dressed in Blood, she was fan-freaking-tastic, but here, she was more torn than strong. I completely understand she's literally in Hell in this book, but I felt like the "pathetic" aspect was overdone. I wanted to see strong Anna cresting over her troubles or at least trying to, and instead I saw weak Anna depending entirely on Cas.

This is not to say I didn't enjoy reading this book, because if there's one thing Kendare Blake is a complete master at, it's narration, and she definitely proves her mettle here. Just like in the prequel, plenty of humor is weaved in with the darker aspects in Cas' voice, leaving the reader to alternately laugh out loud and recoil in fear. At some points it seemed like there were gems of wit on every page, and that was certainly well-appreciated!

All in all, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES was somewhat disappointing but not entirely so. I wanted more in the way of development, both through the characters and in the ending, but Kendare Blake's masterful writing was still present. From Cas' voice to the un-put-down-able thrills of the plot, this book will keep readers on their toes. I recommend this to anyone who read the first book, even if they didn't like it.

Reading Fatigue

This is a problem I've been going through lately, and I'm hoping some of you might be able to help me out. Recently it feels like every book I read is mediocre, and I just went through a string of DNFs that didn't exactly help. It's as if all the amazing books in the world suddenly disappeared and I'm just having bad luck now...

So, what do you do when you experience reading fatigue? Do you have any recommendations for me of awesome books that should burst me out of this?

Waiting on Wednesday (67)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Then You Were Gone by Lauren Strasnick. Here's what Goodreads has to say: Two years ago, Adrienne’s best friend walked out of her life. One week ago, she left Adrienne a desperate, muffled voicemail. Adrienne never called back.

Now Dakota is missing. She left behind a string of broken hearts, a flurry of rumors, and a suicide note.

Adrienne can’t stop obsessing over what might have happened if she’d answered Dakota’s call. And she’s increasingly convinced that Dakota must still be alive.

Maybe finding and saving Dakota is the only way Adrienne can save herself.
Or maybe it’s too late for them both.

Glitch: Review

Title: Glitch
Author: Heather Anastasiu
Release Date: August 2012
Published By: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 308
Goodreads Rating: 3.64 stars

Review: Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, but when Zoe starts to glitch, she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. As Zoe struggles to control her new telekinetic abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitcher, and together, this growing band must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.

GLITCH opened with an interesting enough premise, but there wasn't enough to it that really made it stand out among dystopian novels these days. The concept of a government-extremist-controlled utopia has been around for a while, and there weren't really any new spins on the idea to make it more original. What bothered me a little is that there are enough books like this that reading it makes it sort of blend in with the others.

I also found the love interest in general to be cliche. It's of the insta-love variety with a love triangle that made me groan a bit, and as with the premise, nothing new was really brought to the table. The book would have been better off without the romantic sub-plot because it didn't contribute much to the storyline and in fact I would argue it detracted from the overall experience of reading the novel, especially with Zoe's needless and disturbing toleration of Max's actions.

However, I don't mean to suggest that this book was all bad, because this definitely was not the case. Apart from my frustration regarding her romantic situation, I enjoyed Zoe's character: she was brave and smart, yet still had the same human flaws everyone did. Her emotional scenes were very well-written and allowed the reader to truly experience what she was going through, and I certainly was rooting for her the entire story.

All in all, GLITCH was a decent read that just didn't stand out as much as it could have. When it comes to the mass of dystopian novels being published, it does rather blend in, and the romance is lacking, but the characters were well-written. If you don't like dystopia in general, this may not be for you, but for hardcore dystopian fans, this may be another book for your collection.

Covers: 172 Hours on the Moon

I've seen a couple of these floating around so I thought it'd be fun to examine each of the alternate covers of 172 Hours on the Moon.

This is the final American cover, and I really like this one. It's simple but striking, with the combination of the creepy eye and dusty moon landscape. The black background is perfect, along with the not-overdone text.

The UK cover has nice text and a neat tag, but I don't like much else about it. The girl just looks depressed, and the image along seems a lot more like something you'd see in a contemporary rather than horror/sci-fi-ish novel.

Here are two alternate covers that were ultimately not chosen. I like the landscape with earth on the left but the rest looks too-homemade. The one on the right is very cool, and I especially love the contrast between the "172" and the prints, but it comes across as more science-fiction and less horror.

Two more alternates! The left is simple and neat, and the more I look at it, the more I like it. The only downside is that it's just not as creepy as it could be. The one on the right is a neat concept, especially after you've finished the book, but it's not as elegantly creepy as the original final, if that makes sense.

All in all, my favorite is the first cover. What's yours?

Waiting on Wednesday (66)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell.
We, the Martin family, were like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects. Dad was addicted to beer and bootlegs. Gully had "social difficulties" that manifested in his earing a pig snout mask 24/7. I was surface clean but underneath a weird hormonal stew was simmering....

It's summer in St. Kilda. Fifteen-year-old Sky is looking forward to great records, and nefarious activities with Nancy, her older, wilder, friend. Her brother - Super Agent Gully - is on a mission to unmask the degenerate who bricked the shop window. Bill the Patriarch seems content to drink while the shop slides into bankruptcy. A poster of a mysterious girl and her connection to Luke, the tragi-hot new employee sends Sky on an exploration into the dark heart of the suburb. Love is strange. Family Rules. In between there are teenage messes, rock star spawn, violent fangirls, creepy old guys, and accidents waiting to happen. If the world truly is going to hell in a hand-basket at least the soundtrack is kicking. Sky Martin is Girl Defective: funny, real, and dark at the edges.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

172 Hours on the Moon: Review

Title: 172 Hours on the Moon
Author: Johan Harstad
Release Date: April 2012
Published By: ATOM
Pages: 368
Goodreads Rating: 3.48 stars

Review: Three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever. Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan. Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but in the black vacuum of space... no one can come to save them.

As soon as I read the premise of 172 HOURS ON THE MOON, I knew I was going to like it, and not just like it but like it a whole heck of a lot - which I did. But the entire time I was reading it, I couldn't banish that niggling thought in the back of my mind that this whole novel is based on a completely unbelievable premise. I just can't possibly imagine something like this lottery getting approved, let alone that any set of loving parents would ever agree to letting their child go on a mission alone to the moon.

Apart from my inability to suspend disbelief, though, I did thoroughly enjoy this novel from beginning to end, which I attribute almost solely to the sheer creepiness of the story. From early on, the book had the hairs raising on the back of my neck, and the suspense didn't let up even after the plot twist and result of the ample foreshadowing was revealed. The ending in particular was incredible, the kind that makes you put down the book and look at the ceiling and reel in the delicious shock of what just happened.

Of course, this review wouldn't be complete without a discussion of the way the book was written. First of all, I wholeheartedly approve of the decision to write it in third-person because scary content is so much more suspenseful that way. Secondly, I actually liked the points of view except for the one of the janitor in the nursing home. It wasn't bad but it didn't really add anything special that the other foreshadowing wasn't already taking care of.

All in all, 172 HOURS ON THE MOON is an excellent horror novel (note that's much more horror than science fiction). The writing and the characters mesh perfectly into a suspenseful story that will not let you put it down, and the only quibble I have is the sketchy premise. Other than that, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good thriller with a shocking ending.

Waiting on Wednesday (65)

This week, I'm waiting on...

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney. Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man-death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity.

Danny's mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation-the one day that she was hanging on to see.

Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn't know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.

When he gets a letter from his mom's property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother's memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harijuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.

Quantum Coin: Review

Title: Quantum Coin
Author: E. C. Myers
Release Date: October 2012

Published By: Pyr
Pages: 340
Goodreads Rating: 4.03 stars

Review: Ephraim thought his universe-hopping days were over. But then an old friend crashes their senior prom: Jena's identical twin from a parallel world, Zoe. It turns out that Ephraim's problems have just begun, and they're much more complicated than his love life: The multiverse is at stake—and it might just be Ephraim's fault. The three of them band together to figure out how to save the multiverse, but ultimately, the solution may depend on how much they're willing to sacrifice for the sake of humanity - and themselves.

In general, no one ever likes sequels, but thankfully, QUANTUM COIN was an exception. I thoroughly enjoyed Fair Coin more than I had expected to, and the same is true for this follow-up, except I liked it even more. This has a full kind of story, by which I mean you can really sit down, open this, and get immediately enveloped into the plot. This is the sort of book that can really keep you occupied from start to finish without ever having the desire to poke plot holes or put it down for a bit. It's not that it's suspenseful per se, although there are certainly suspenseful parts, but the book itself is just inherently pleasurable to read.

By far the greatest aspect of this book would be the characters. Ephraim, Jena, and Zoe all feel like living, breathing people, and the character development they all experience is fantastic to read. Even better, all the different versions of themselves, be they "victims" of personality changes or age, have fascinating interactions and make for an entertaining but not confusing read. 

Most notable of all the character interactions would be Ephraim's love triangle with Jena and Zoe. Normally I find love triangles rather hard to believe and endlessly tiresome, but QUANTUM COIN does it differently. Because Jena and Zoe are different versions of the same base person, the fact that Ephraim has trouble choosing between them is actually believable, and the triangle itself is not done too heavy-handedly. I liked it in Fair Coin and it continues to work well here.

All in all, QUANTUM COIN was a superb follow-up to Fair Coin, blending together wonderful character development, an excellent romantic sub-plot, and fantastic pacing to a fast-moving plot to make a novel hard to put down. I look forward to picking up future books in the series, and recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the prequel.