Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013: A Year in Books

Book of the Year

The Catcher in the Rye
By J.D. Salinger

This book was on the summer reading list for AP English, and I'm really glad it was. It's so full of symbolism, gorgeous writing, and insight into human nature, and I know that it's one of those books that will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

Author of the Year

John Green

I discovered John Green this past spring when I read The Fault in Our Stars, which is without question one of the best books I have ever read. I immediately fell in love with his writing and his video blogs. He was the author I chose to research for my final project in English, and since then I've read two more of his books, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns. All things considered, he was the obvious choice for author of the year. 

Best Classic

The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

We read this book in English class at the end of last year, and I'd been dying to read it since the beginning of the school year. It did not disappoint. This is a beautifully written novel that I could read over and over again, and by far the best classic I read this year. 

Best Collection of Short Stories

The Curiosities
By Maggie Steifvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff

This was a lovely and strange collection of short stories that fully engaged my imagination. The authors' notes on the stories showed a lot about the process of creating them, too, and overall, it was a delightful read. 

Best Dystopian

The Road
By Cormac McCarthy

This was another book on our AP English summer reading list, and it was without a question the best dystopian I read this year. It was bleak, creepy, and terrifying, and I loved every second of it.

Best Fantasy

Clockwork Princess
By Cassandra Clare

I'd been waiting for the last book in The Infernal Devices series ever since reading Clockwork Prince two Christmases ago, and it did not disappoint. The characters were fantastic as always, the writing made me laugh and cry, and I simply could not put it down.

Best Historical Fiction

Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein

Words cannot even describe this book. It was beautifully written, heart-wrenching, and overall just a gorgeous story. Not only the best historical fiction of the year, but one of the best books I've ever read. 

Best Thriller/Suspense

Confessions of a Murder Suspect
By James Patterson

This book was original, fast-paced, and impossible to put down - everything needed to make it the best thriller/suspense I read in 2013. I just found out there's a sequel, and I can't wait to read it - it might be holding this title at the end of 2014.

Best Realistic YA Fiction

The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green

If you've read this book, I don't need to explain. If you haven't, I'll tell you what I tell everyone who hasn't read this book: read it. Immediately. It will make you cry, but it will be one of the most unforgettable books ever. 

That's it for this year. I've read some fantastic novels and discovered some great authors this year, and I can't wait to see what lovely bookish discoveries 2014 brings. 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Reading Room (37)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading or planning to read, posted on Tuesdays.

This past week, I went to a summer writer's workshop at Susquehanna University (it was amazing in every way), and on the last day, the professor teaching my class took us down to a used book store in town. He actually bought two or three books for each of us, then let us browse for whatever else we wanted to get ourselves. I came back with...well, quite a haul. And all for less than twenty dollars!

From top to bottom:

1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (because I've wanted to read it forever)

2. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (because my roommate said it was fantastic and I love historical fiction.)

3. The Liar's Club by Mary Karr (one of the books Tom, the writing professor, bought for me.)

4. The Lost World and Other Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I feel as though this one doesn't need any explanations. I will say, however, that my friend Helen found this for me and I was so grateful that I gave her the last copy the store had of No Country for Old Men, which I'd been planning to buy.)

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Another one of Tom's recommendations.)

6. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (It was Fitzgerald for two dollars, all because someone underlined a few passages. No way to pass up that.)

7. Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald (This one was a little more expensive, but it was the most beautiful edition I've ever seen of this book.)

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (I've wanted to read this one for awhile, too.)

9. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (The other book Tom bought)

10. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas ("Hey, isn't this book by the guy who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo?" someone said, and those words are basically how you summon me. I had to buy it.)


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Reading Room (36)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, and was inspired by On MyShelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

So on Friday I got up at the revoltingly early hour of quarter to six in the morning in order to drive two and a half hours for a college open house that started at nine thirty. But it ended up being worth it in the end, not just because I enjoyed the visit, but because we stopped in the town's bookstore before driving home, and I picked up three new books.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green was on display on the front counter, and I grabbed it without hesitation. I finished it yesterday, and it was absolutely fantastic, which I suppose is a given, considering that it's John Green. I also grabbed City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, the first book in the Mortal Instruments series; I loved The Infernal Devices and have been wanting to start this series for awhile now, especially with the movie coming out in August, but I have not been able to find a copy of the first book at any library anywhere for months. So when I saw it, I couldn't pass it up.

And finally, I bought Sarah Dessen's newest book, The Moon and More - another obvious purchase. One of my friends introduced me to Sarah Dessen several years ago by recommending Just Listen and Lock and Key, both of which I loved. I now own most of her books and have read all of them - except the new one, which I've been dying to get my hands on. I can't wait to start reading it. Sarah Dessen's novels are always perfect summer reads.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Reading Room (35)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, and is posted on Tuesdays.

Let this be a warning to all you bookworms out there: don't be like me and volunteer at a library, even if it seems like a good idea for your required project/volunteer hours for school. Why? Because you spend a whole lot of time putting other people's books away and helping other people find things and entertaining small children and not a lot of time finding and reading books for yourself.

Still, I managed to make a trip down on Friday and pick up a few books. The first thing that caught my eye was Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, which I'm partway through and is one of the best and most inspiring books about fiction writing that I've ever read. I also grabbed Stealing Air by Trent Reedy, which I finished Sunday and was a good way to spend the afternoon, though not the best book I've ever read, and The Innocents, by Lili Peloquin, which I started tonight and can't put down. (Really - I had to pry myself away just to write this blog post.)

Other than that, not much bookish news; I have some birthday money that's just begging to be spent on a Barnes & Noble order, though, so hopefully I'll have some more updates next week. I'll also probably have started on the summer reading list for AP English by then, so be prepared for either gushing or complaining about The Catcher in the Rye. 


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. A new topic is posted each week, and bloggers post their top ten in the category.

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2013

10. My Antonia
By Willa Cather

We read this book for English class during the middle of the year, and I really enjoyed it. The image and description were beautiful - the setting was described with such detail, and it really brought the book to life and made you feel like you were right there with the characters.

9. The Eternal Ones
By Kirsten Miller

I love everything Kirsten Miller does, and this book was no exception. It was beautifully written, haunting, strange, thrilling, and dangerous. I can't wait to read the next book in the series, and I would definitely recommend this one. 

8. The Beekeeper's Apprentice
By Laurie R. King

As a devoted [i.e., obsessed] fan of Sherlock Holmes, I'm always eager to check out an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, but I also spend a lot of time comparing it to the originals - except in this case, where I was too swept up in the story to be critical. It was a flawless version of the well-known detective and a fantastic read. 

7. Clockwork Princess
By Cassandra Clare

I had been waiting for this book ever since I finished Clockwork Prince back in January of 2012, and it did not disappoint. This book was emotional, suspenseful, superbly written and impossible to put down. I bought it a few days after it came out and carried it everywhere with me until I had finished it. It was just so good.

6. The Curiosities
By Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff

The best and most unique and creative collection of short stories I've read in a long time - possibly ever. Every single page was filled with the wonderful and strange, as well as the author's hilarious and insightful comments. If you haven't read it, you need to. 

5. The Help
By Kathryn Stockett

This is not one of those books that you read only to find out it doesn't live up to all the hype. It's one of those books you read and then go out and recommend to everyone you know because it's so powerful and there's so much truth in it. 

4. It's Kind of a Funny Story
By Ned Vizzini

Funny, sad, and heartwarming all at once. It makes you think, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry - all of which is pretty impressive for a novel that takes place over such a short period of time, and in a mental hospital. Every sentence is insightful and perfectly paced, and it comes together to make one fantastic story.

3. The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another one we read for English class that I completely and wholeheartedly fell in love with. The language, the characters, the symbols, the setting - it all blew me away. Much like To Kill a Mockingbird, this is one of those books that I could reread and analyze for the rest of my life, and I can't really remember what my life was like before I read it.

2. The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green

Because with the wise and hilarious John Green ( creating lines like "You gave me forever within the numbered days," and "What a slut time is. She screws everybody" and "It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you"...well, how could it not be at least number 2?

1. Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein 

Any attempt to describe this book would spoil the ending, make me cry, and still would not do it justice. I'll just toss out a friendly reminder that it beat The Fault in Our Stars and leave it at that. 


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. A new topic is posted each week, and bloggers share their top ten in the category.

Top Ten Books Featuring Travel

10. Across the Universe
By Beth Revis

You can't travel much farther than an entirely new world. Though this book didn't quite live up to me expectations for it, I still really enjoyed it. The complex difficulties of life on an isolated ship on a journey that spans hundreds of years were fascinating to read about, and I loved the characters. 

9. Uncommon Criminals
By Ally Carter

The second book in the Heist Society series was just as amazing as the first and had the characters traveling to interesting locations all over the globe. 

8. 13 Treasures
By Michele Harrison

Tania's grandmother's house is the kind of place I'd want to visit every summer - old, beautiful, mysterious, and filled with fairies and magic. I usually reread these books over the summer, because they provide a fantastic escape from normal life. 

7. Pegasus
By Robin McKinley

Sylvaniiel's journey into the Pegasus country was one of the most well-written, beautifully described, magical stories I have ever read. I loved the whole new world she was exposed to and the wonders she experienced.

6. The Tiger's Wife
By Tea Obreht

I loved all the different settings in this book. The entire world was so lifelike, and the journeys described in it were both fantastic and relatable. It remains one of my favorite books, and the way you feel as if you're traveling through the story with the characters is one of the main reasons. 

5. The Thief
By Megan Whalen Turner

There's not much to say about this book other than the fact that I just really loved it. The journey, the myths, the stories - it was all so fun to read about, and perfectly paced. 

4. Along for the Ride
By Sarah Dessen

This is still my favorite of Sarah Dessen's books and the perfect summer read. Auden is exposed to not only a new location but new experiences, new people, and a new way of thinking and living her life, and all of it contributes equally to the changes she goes through. If it weren't for the travel in this book, it wouldn't be nearly as compelling or lovable. 

3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
By Douglas Adams

I feel that I don't gush about this book nearly enough compared to other things I gush about (i.e., Maggie Stiefvater, Sherlock Holmes, The Book Thief.) It's a hilarious whirlwind of adventure, and all you can do is hang on tight, enjoy the ride, try not to think too much about what's actually going on and make sure you know where your towel is. 

2. Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein

This book! I cannot even find the words to describe this book. Maddie and Queenie's journey into enemy territory and the incredible way they handle being stranded far from home is remarkable, and their friendship more remarkable still. I would try to say more, but it wouldn't do the book justice. You'll just have to read it yourself. 

1. The Hobbit
By J.R.R. Tolkien

Obvious choice for number one on the list is obvious. The Hobbit contains one of the most iconic journeys of all time, and it's probably one of my favorite stories in existence. I've reread it at least four times, and am able to recall the plot with significant detail purely from memory. It's a fantastic book, and it would take a lot to knock it out of the number one spot. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

I do still exist!

No, the giant pile of homework and crazy end-of-the-year stuff didn't eat me alive, though at times it felt like it was going to. I'm terribly sorry to anyone who follows me for the lack of blog posts and the general decrease in the quality of my blog. It's something I definitely want to fix, so I'll get back to my regular posting schedule soon, and hopefully try to add in some extra posts to make up for it. If you have any suggestions for how I could improve my blog, be sure to let me know. I welcome any and all suggestions!