Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I Read In 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books I Read In 2013.  I read more books in 2013 than I expected to (especially since I got off to such a slow start).  August and September were both pretty prolific months for reading, and though I did slow down at the end of the year, I think I read enough books that I can come up with a pretty decent top-ten list.  A few picture books (and one novella) made it into my top 10, but I'm going to stick with full-length novels for the purposes of this post:

10. Beastly (Beastly #1) by Alex Flinn
3.71 out of 5
I do usually enjoy fairytale re-tellings... so I'm not sure why I don't read more of them!  This modernized version of "Beauty and the Beast" incorporates elements of the original story and message and packages them in a present-day, big-city setting.  I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would.

9. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
3.71 out of 5
I'd heard a lot about this book before I decided to finally give it a try.  I'd read Stiefvater's Shiver and sort of enjoyed it.  I liked The Raven Boys a lot more... even though I wasn't crazy about the ending.

8. The Lake and the Library by S. M. Beiko
3.86 out of 5
This offering by a Canadian author may not be very well known.  That's a shame, because it's just as good as (if not better than) a lot of the stuff coming out of the major U.S. publishing houses for young adults.  Fans of contemporary fantasy and paranormal stories will probably enjoy this one; I know I did.

7. Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald
4 out of 5
While I'm not generally drawn to books about the Holocaust, this verse novel based on real events and people really drew me in.  The photographs were a nice touch that really helped bring the story to life for today's young readers.

6. Absent by Katie Williams
4 out of 5
I'd never even heard of this book, and I only picked it up because I was looking for something fairly short.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was a highly enjoyable contemporary/paranormal story.

5. Skellig (Skellig #1) by David Almond
4.29 out of 5
While it's been around for a while, I'd never actually read this one.  I'm really glad I finally got around to it.  Its target audience may be a bit younger than that of most of the rest of the books on this list, but it still provided plenty of enjoyment for this adult reader.

4. Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass
4.29 out of 5
While many of the verse novels I've read have tended to be about serious (often historical) subjects, this was a fun little story in the tradition of It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol.  I really enjoyed it.

3. My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt
4.57 out of 5
Who would've thought that a verse novel about a young prostitute living in one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods would make my top 10?  I certainly wouldn't have guessed it.  And yet, this was probably the best verse novel I read all year with characters that had me thinking about the book long after I'd finished it.

2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor
4.57 out of 5
I'm still shattered by that ending.  I loved this book, but I'm hesitant to read the sequel.  This author really knows how to rip your heart out... and I don't know if I can take it!

1. Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion
4.71 out of 5
This was the book that got the highest rating out of anything I read this year.  It also made the biggest impression on me and had a big emotional impact.  While it's not the best book I've ever read, it's definitely at the top of my list for 2013.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

In My Mailbox (59)

Bought from Amazon.ca:
by Gennifer Albin

“May Arras flourish at her touch.”

For generations, girls known as Spinsters have been called by Arras’ Manipulation Services to work the looms and control what people eat, where they live, how many children they have, and even when they die. Gifted with the unusual ability to weave time with matter, sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys is exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But Adelice isn’t interested. Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

The School for Good and Evil
by Soman Chainani

"The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away."

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are...?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

Under the Never Sky
by Veronica Rossi

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure.

by Cynthia Hand

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees...

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to X Person

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to X Person.  Who's the target of my recommendations?  I'm going to go with Boys (or YA Fans Who Want A Break From Female Protagonists).  There are so many books out there these days, but the YA and MG markets don't seem to reflect the fact that boys make up 50% of the population.  So here are some books I'd recommend that would appeal not just to the female segment of the market:

10. The Thief (The Queen's Thief #1) by Megan Whalen Turner - This is one of my all-time favourites.  Gen is a fun character and a great narrator... and just the sort of fellow you'd want to go on an adventure with.

9. Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion - One of the most enjoyable zombie novels I've read, this one really lets you get inside a male character's head... even if that guy is technically dead.

8. Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick - This is one of the better male-narrator YA novels I've read.  It's creepy and dark, but with an interesting storyline that's a bit different.

7. Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis - While the framing device in this story uses a girl, most of the action in this story revolves around a young man named Farhad and his adventures with a talking white tiger.

6. Peter and the Starcatchers (Peter and the Starcatchers #1) by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson - It's Peter Pan, a bunch of little boys, and some manly sailors!  You can't have much more guy appeal than that...

5. Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones - Quite a few of Diana Wynne Jones's books are suitable for boys, but I remember this story being particularly un-girly.

4. Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1) by Paolo Bacigalupi - This is a somewhat dark, near-future adventure with a strong male protagonist.

3. The Magic Thief (Magic Thief #1) by Sarah Prineas - This was a fun first novel in a series that would appeal to younger fans of Harry Potter.

2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1) by Ransom Riggs - A male narrator, fascinating old photographs that tie into the story, and some really creepy goings-on make this a great choice for boys who may be reluctant readers.

1. The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) by Lois Lowry - There doesn't seem to be a ton of recent YA or MG dystopian fiction that's suitable for boys as well as girls, so I had to include The Giver on this list.  It was one of the first dystopian books I can remember reading, and it whetted my appetite for more in that genre.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get My Hands On

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get My Hands On.  Let me preface this by saying that I'm not really feeling much love for sequels at the moment.  I've been disappointed too many times lately, so I'm not exactly itching to read any second (or third or fourth) books in a series.  That said, here are some sequels that I wouldn't mind reading (and that I hope I would enjoy):

10. The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater - The Raven Boys wasn't the best book I've read all year, but it wasn't the worst.  And I do kind of want to find out what happens, and if a certain plotline will eventually be played out (or if it will continue to be ignored).

9. The New Hunger (Warm Bodies #0.5) by Isaac Marion - Okay, so this is technically a prequel, but I didn't know about it until after I'd already read Warm Bodies.  There is going to be an actual sequel to Warm Bodies, but not for a while; it doesn't even have a title yet!

8. Under the Light (Light #2) by Laura Whitcomb - This one came out back in May, and I've yet to read it.  The first book, A Certain Slant of Light, is one of my favourite books, and Laura Whitcomb seems to be a dependably good writer, so I really want to read this particular sequel!

7. The Fox Inheritance (Jenna Fox Chronicles #2) by Mary E. Pearson - I really enjoyed The Adoration of Jenna Fox, so I'd like to find out what happens in this next chapter, which sounds like it focuses on Jenna's friends.

6. World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee - It was a little cheesy and I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed Angelfall... but I do want to find out what happens next!

5. Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) by Laini Taylor - Do I really have to explain this one?  That was one intense ending in Daughter of Smoke & Bone; of course I have to see how it plays out!

4. Dreamquake (The Dreamhunter Duet #2) by Elizabeth Knox - The first book, Dreamhunter, had a really different feel to it, and I found that refreshing.  I'd like to find out what happens to the characters and the intriguing world that Knox built.

3. Frozen Heat (Nikki Heat #4) by Richard Castle - I'm a little bit behind on my Nikki Heat reading.  I've been hesitant about this one because the ghostwriting seemed to change (for the worse) in the third book, and I don't know if I have it in me to slog through all that mediocre writing.  Probably the main reason why I would consider it is because of how the third book, Heat Rises, left off...

2. Jessica Rules the Dark Side (Jessica #2) by Beth Fantaskey - I have this one sitting in my TBR pile, and I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet.  So many books, so little time...  I found Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side to be a delightful surprise; I hope Book #2 lives up to my expectations!

1. Hollow City (Miss Peregrine #2) by Ransom Riggs - I thought Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was deliciously creepy and pretty unique, so I'm definitely interested in reading a sequel... especially if it turns out to be as good as the first book!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bookish Survey: Cast a Harry Potter Spell - Part 2

This is the second part of a fun-looking survey created by Jasmine at Flip That Page.  This time, instead of casting the spells on books, we're casting them on ourselves.

Here goes!

puts victim in unconscious state
A book with a chapter you couldn’t seem to get over: The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman.  This particular chapter was the reason I needed to cast Expecto Patronum on the book (see first survey).

causes befuddlement or forgetfulness
A book that generally confused you: Salt by Maurice Gee.  I found this book confusing because it had such good reviews, and yet it was so awful.

inflicts unbearable pain
A book that was a pain to read: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer.  I shouldn't have to explain this one.

heals relatively minor injuries
A feel good book that you enjoyed: Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff.  Not all of it is "feel-good" stuff, but overall this book gave me the warm-fuzzies.

temporarily disarms an opponent
A book with a swoon-worthy character: Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury.  Caedmon!  I might be in the minority with this one, but I quite liked that guy...

impedes target’s progress
A book that kept you up all night reading: I don't think I've ever stayed up all night to finish a book.  I do remember, however, staying up "late" so I could finish Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary.  I was around 7 or 8 at the time, and "late" was probably still before midnight!

immediate silencing
A book that left you speechless after you read it: Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick.  And I was not speechless in a good way.  I didn't even finish this one, I was so traumatized by what I did read.

allows you to delve into someone’s mind
A book with well-developed characters: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  So many of the books I read today seem to have characters that are like cardboard cutouts.  That was not the case here, and it was so refreshing.

a spell that turns you upside down
A book that changed your mind about a character from its prequel: Magic Under Stone by Jaclyn Dolamore.  At times, I felt like I wasn't even reading about the same characters.  There were some definite continuity problems, and I did change my mind about some of the characters; after the second book, I really didn't like them anymore!

used to hide memories
A book with a story you can’t remember: The Hollow by Jessica Verday.  Honestly, all I remember about this book is that the main character spent a lot of time baking cookies, making perfume, and taking baths.  What was the plot of this one again?

Peskipiksi Pesternomi
useless spell
A boring book that had absolutely no effect on you: Pivot Point by Kasie West.  I was so bored, I couldn't even finish.  I didn't even care how the story turned out, which shows how little I had invested in it.

breaks through solid objects
A book that convinced you to reconsider a certain genre: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.  I thought I hated zombie novels until I read this one.  I'm still not crazy about all the gore in zombie novels, though, and I think Warm Bodies may be uniquely thoughtful for a book in this genre.

tickling spell
A book that made you laugh: Gump & Co. by Winston Groom.  I don't generally laugh out loud when I read (unless something is really awful).  This book, though, made me laugh in a good way.  I can't remember what was so funny... but I do remember that it made me laugh.  I also found the previous book, Forrest Gump, pretty funny as well.

offensive spell that violently wounds the target
A book that may have scarred you for life: Barefoot Gen, Volume One: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa.  This book was absolutely horrific.  I found it at the university library and it was one of those things that's so awful that you can't seem to look away from it.  Prepare to be traumatized (especially when you realize it's semi-autobiographical).  Now that I think about it, maybe this book is the reason why I've avoided manga like the plague; perhaps there are negative subconscious connotations there.

makes you dance uncontrollably
A series finale that made you feel giddy: The Wyrd of Willowmere by Alison Baird.  This is the only series finale I can think of at the moment that I actually liked.  So often, those final books are disappointing.  This one wasn't.  And while it might not have been the strongest book in the series, I thought it wrapped things up in a great way that made me want to smile.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bookish Survey: Cast a Harry Potter Spell - Part 1

This is a fun-looking survey created by Jasmine at Flip That Page.  I thought I'd give it a go!  I'll let Jasmine explain:
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.
Here goes!

fixes damaged objects
A book that needs some serious fixing: The Lake and the Library by S. M. Beiko.  First, let me say that this is not a bad book.  It actually has an amazing plot, and I quite enjoyed it.  It did, however, have some instances of bad writing and a few characters could have been developed a bit more.  If these issues were fixed, it could be a great book!

creates a narrow beam of light
A book that deserves more attention: Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis.  It's one of my all-time favourite books, and yet I rarely see it discussed; I don't think a lot of people have even heard of it!  Reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights, it has a gorgeous setting and unforgettable characters.

counters the effects of Lumos
An overhyped book: If I Stay by Gayle Forman.  I read this one because everybody said how good it was, and I thought the premise sounded really interesting.  I found it extremely disturbing, yet paradoxically boring, and I thought the out-of-body experience idea was completely underutilized.

summons an object from a significant distance
A book you’re anticipating: World After by Susan Ee.  I'm kind of embarrassed to even admit it, as Angelfall was kind of a fluffy, guilty-pleasure book for me.  I guess I could have also said Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor, but it seems weird to anticipate the third book in a series when I haven't even read the second one!

opens unlocked doors, unless bewitched
A book you want to be more open about: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.  Okay, maybe this is just because I feel I should read it at some point.  I've tried twice already, but I just couldn't get into it.  Maybe the third time will be the charm!

Expecto Patronum
conjures an incarnation of positive feelings
A book that made you cry, or at least want to: The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman.  I must have read it over a decade ago... and I'm still gutted.

conjures the Dark Mark
A book you wish to mark as one of your favorites: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.  My favourite book from one of my favourite authors.  It's not as well known as Howl's Moving Castle, but it's a lovely fairy tale retelling and well worth reading!

Petrificus Totalus
petrifies victim
A book you wish to keep forever: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  It's one of my favourites, and I hope to always have a copy in my collection.

shield charm
An intimidating book you keep putting off: Under the Dome by Stephen King.  Maybe it's not the best choice for someone who's never read a Stephen King novel, but the premise looks really interesting.  However, at over a thousand pages, this one has me running scared.

used against a boggart
A book with a deceiving synopsis: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore.  There was nothing in the book about "Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport"... which is actually kind of disappointing, because that could have been a really interesting subplot.

Lacarnum Inflamarae
shoots fireballs
A book you wish to burn out of your mind completely: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  But if I got rid of the memory of it, I'd still feel like I needed some resolution to the cliffhanger at the end of Catching Fire... and then I'd have to read Mockingjay and be disappointed all over again.

Wingardium Leviosa
levitates objects
A book you wish to reread: The Light Princess by George MacDonald.  It's short and sweet and one of my favourite fairy tales of all time.  I don't generally reread books, but I might make an exception for this one.

Avada Kedavra
causes instant death
Worst book EVER: Basajaun by Rosemary Van Deuren.  Not only did it have a horribly misleading synopsis and a creepy plot, it was also one of the worst technically written books I've ever had the displeasure of reading.  I'm sure it's not the worst book ever, in the history of all books... but it's probably the worst one I've personally ever read.