Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Year In Books

If you missed my earlier post, you can find out more about 2011: A Year in Books by clicking here.

A Year in Books

The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern

I'll admit this was a somewhat difficult decision; I've read a lot of good books this year. But The Night Circus definitely stood out as the best. It created a world that was unique and beautifully described, and I was in love with the story and the characters. It was amazingly written, and as soon as I started reading it I couldn't put it down. By the time I finished, I knew it was going to make it onto my list of all-time favorite books. It was so breathtaking and engaging that I can't even describe it - you'll have to read it to find out. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. 

To Kill A Mockingbird
By Harper Lee

This one was a lot easier to decide. I've loved this book since the first time I read it, and when we read it again for English class, I only discovered more to love. There are so many characters, stories, and events, and they're all well-written and tie into the main theme. Plus, there are just so many different nuances and comparisons & contrasts - I discover more about this book every time I reread it, and as I've said before, I could easily spend the rest of my life analyzing this book and be perfectly happy. 

What I've Read:
(Other notable books in the same genre, to show what the winning book was compared to.)
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway
1984 by George Orwell
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemmingway
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemmingway
Our Town by Thorton Wilder

Edited by Sharyn November

This year, I've come to appreciate short stories a lot more than I had before, and so I've been reading more collections of them. I haven't been disappointed by anything I've read so far, but Firebirds was especially awesome. Each of the short stories were unique and I loved every one of them. (Though my personal favorite was Little Dot.) I can't wait to read Firebirds Rising and Firebirds Soaring.

What I've Read
Young Warriors, edited by Tamora Pierce
The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford

You Have to Stop This 
By Pseudonymous Bosch

I'll admit that there wasn't a lot of competition in this area; I haven't read a lot of comedy/humor besides A Series of Unfortunate Events (which is an interesting blend of comic and tragic.) Still, I can't imagine that there's much out there that I would enjoy more than Pseudonymous Bosch's Secret Series. The humor is so similar to my own I almost could have written the books myself, and over the previous four books, I've come to adore the characters. This book was just as hilarious as the others, and I couldn't imagine a more fitting end to the series.

What I've Read
The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket
The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket
The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket
The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket
The End by Lemony Snicket
(I'm sensing a theme here, are you?)

Life As We Knew It
By Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book wasn't a typical "dystopian" novel like Divergent or The Hunger Games, but it still fits the definition, and the fact that it was unique was one of the things I liked about it. Although I enjoyed the whole series, I thought this one was definitely the best, and what made it so incredible was that it was so terrifyingly real. I felt as if I was right there with the characters, more than in any other book I've read. Simply outstanding.

What I've Read
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Dead and Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Wither by Lauren DeStefano

13 Curses
By Michelle Harrison

I read 13 Treasures, the first book in the series, last summer, and adored it. Although I couldn't put it down, I was also sad when it ended, because it was so amazing that I just wanted to keep reading. I hadn't realized there was a sequel until I stumbled upon it in Barnes & Noble while school shopping. I bought it immediately, and it was a lot of work to keep from reading it until school started. I loved it just as much as the first book, and 13 Secrets - the third book - can't arrive fast enough. 

What I've Read
Reckless by Cornelia Funke
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin
Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce
Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce

By Laurie Halse Anderson

Though it might come as a surprise, fantasy's not my only favorite genre. I love historical fiction, and I really need to read more of it. This year, I found several historical fiction books that I enjoyed, but the best, by far, was Chains. When I checked it out of the library, both librarians told me it was fantastic, and they were absolutely right. I loved it, and the sequel, Forge, and once again, I'm left eagerly waiting until the next book comes out. 

What I've Read
Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge
Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

By Kate Cann

I loved the characters in this book. That's one of the main reasons I liked it so much. Then there's the fact that it was just perfectly chilling - unsettling enough to be effective, not so scary that it was difficult to read. I loved the setting, too, and the overall concept of the book. Just - amazing. 

What I've Read
Captivate by Carrie Jones
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Shiver by Maggie Steifvater
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Other Notable Books:
Of course, these aren't the only books worth mentioning that I've read this year. There have been a lot of other amazing books that I've read this year. One that's probably even better than some of the books above but didn't fit into any of the genres is Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor - definitely one of the most unique fantasy books I've ever read, which is why it was impossible to categorize. Another one was The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall. Just as awesome as her previous books - I love the Penderwick sisters. Then there's What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen - I could keep going, but I'll just finish by saying that 2011 was a wonderful year for reading, and I hope that 2012 is just as great. 

Looking forward to a bunch of new books in 2012,


Secret Bookish Project

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope everyone has some exciting plans for tonight. Me, I'm just sitting at home, refining my Big Fun Scary List, possibly making some popcorn, and waiting for 11 o'clock to roll around so I can watch the Coldplay special on PBS. Exciting, right?

One thing that IS exciting is that tonight, I'm finally revealing my Secret Bookish Project. So what is this special-edition-New Year's-post that I've been hinting at for over a week now?

It's titled, "2011: A Year in Books." This year has been a great one for reading. Several of my favorite series have continued, and a few have even come to a close. Having access to the school library has provided me with a ton of books I wouldn't have read otherwise, and the public library has also added some really amazing stuff to their shelves. I've also been able to visit some really cool bookstores and been given awesome books for my birthday and Christmas.

So, in honor of that, I'm dedicating a post to the best of the books that I've discovered and read this year. Think of it as a sort of Grammy awards for books. I'll be posting the best book I've read in a variety of genres, along with a brief list of other books I've read in the same genre, so you can see what I had to compare it to. In addition, there will be a few other special categories that will be revealed in the post itself.

Here's a sneak peak at some of the genres that will be featured:

Classics - Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic - Fantasy - Historical Fiction - Short Stories - Science Fiction

The post itself should appear on the blog sometime later this evening. Until then,


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Reading Room (6)

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

I'd like to start off by saying that I hope everyone's Christmas was as wonderfully bookish as mine was. I've spent most of my break so far reading. I finished Consumed, which I absolutely loved, started Wither, which is about what I expected it to be - not up to par with The Hunger Games, of course, but still pretty good - and I've been marking my page with the beautiful bookmark my boyfriend gave me for Christmas. To top it all off, Christmas morning I found myself the owner not only of a stack of new books, but my very own Nook simple touch eReader.

I know - in my earlier blog posts, I was debating whether I wanted to get a nook. I was still debating at the beginning of December, when my mom found me studying the Barnes & Noble website for the umpteenth time. She told me that I should just get one - she thought I'd enjoy it. A week or so later she and my dad started asking questions about which one I wanted, and I had a feeling that I was getting one for Christmas. And I was kind of excited about it. Now that I've played around with it, all my doubts are gone. It's just - so - epic. No, it's not exactly like reading a real book, but it's impressively close. Plus, it came with free downloads of Dracula and Pride and Prejudice. 

So, what are some specific additions to my reading list after this bookworm's-paradise-Christmas? While a list of every book I received would be unnecessarily long, there are a few that have stood out and made it to the top of my reading list.

The first is Clockwork Prince, the second book in The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. I bought Clockwork Angel last fall when I was supposed to be homecoming dress shopping, and it was really good. I especially love the setting, although the characters are pretty awesome too. The only problem with these books are that they don't come out fast enough. Plus, I just can't see how The Mortal Instruments series could ever measure up.

The second book I can't wait to dive into is Entice, by Carrie Jones.   Need and Captivate are some of the best pixie/fairy novels I've ever read; there's the traditional myths like the pixies' vulnerability to iron and war with were-creatures, mixed with really unique elements like the pixie queens and being pixie-kissed. Plus, I love that the were-creatures in these books aren't just werewolves, but include a were-tiger and a were-falcon. I definitely recommend the series - the first book is Need, the second is Captivate.

Then there's The Warlock by Michael Scott. I had mixed feelings about this series when I first started The Alchemyst, but once I got into it, I was hooked. Although my personal favorite is The Sorceress, I haven't been disappointed by any of the books yet. They're exciting, the characters are intense, they have so much mythology even I don't even recognize all the gods and goddesses, and it's definitely one of my favorite series of all time. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it ends

That's it for this unusually long post. I'm sure more books that I got for Christmas will be showing up in the reading room at least throughout January. And remember to keep watching for the secret new year's project I mentioned last week - it'll be making its appearance soon.

Wishing you a book-filled new year,


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Reading Room (5)


The Reading Room, as the title implies, is a weekly update on what books I'm currently reading or planning to read. This blog feature was inspired by Ren's On Myshelf at the awesome blog, All By Myshelf. 

As you can see by my Shelfari widget, I've finished The Son of Neptune, which only got more disappointing and harder to read as it went on, and started Wonderstruck, which so far is much more promising. I love the way the story is told, and I'm already intrigued.

What else is on my reading agenda? On my last trip to the school library, I picked up Consumed by Kate Cann. It's the sequel to Posessed, which I read over the summer and really enjoyed. I didn't know there was a sequel until I saw it on the shelf, and I'm really excited to start reading it.

And then there's Wither.

I'm fully aware of the current trend towards novels in this genre, and I hate following trends. I promised myself I wasn't going to read it. I told myself over and over that there wasn't any point, that while it might be pretty good or at least decent, the chances of it being something spectacular were slim.

I can't help it. I just love dystopian-society novels so. freaking. much. Even before I read The Hunger Games, I loved books like The Hermit Thrush Sings, The Giver, and 1984. I wasn't going to read Wither. I wasn't! And then I saw the front cover up close, which is pretty cool. I read the inside jacket flap. I skimmed the first few pages. I saw the amazing quote on the page after the title. And I found myself checking it out, right alongside Consumed.

I know. I need help. But I'm glad I've decided to give this book a chance, because judging something just because its genre is popular is almost like judging it by its cover. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

So that's my recent reading activity. I'll be back next week with more. Before I go, I have two pieces of awesome news: one, my blog currently has six followers, which I find amazing since not that long ago I only had four. Two, I'm working on a secret bookish project that I plan to unveil around new year's. It's nothing too big, just something a little exciting. That's all I can say about it right now, but keep an eye out for unusual looking posts for the rest of 2011.

More than ready to spend my Christmas break reading,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Reading Room (4)

The Reading Room, as the title implies, is a weekly update on what books I'm currently reading or planning to read. This blog feature was inspired by Ren's On Myshelf at the awesome blog, All by Myshelf.

The most exciting update for this week is that I am now the proud owner of my very own hardcover copy of You Have to Stop This by Pseudonymous Bosch, the fifth and final book in The Secret Series. I started reading it the second I got home from the bookstore and finished it within a few days. It was awesome, and the perfect ending to the series.

Since I was a little distracted by that and some other books, I'm still working on Beth Revis's Across the Universe. I'm about halfway through, and while it isn't as spectacular as I was expecting, it is coming close to meeting my expectations, and I'm definitely glad I got it from the library. I'm also reading The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan, and I haven't been as happy with that one. Heroes of Olympus isn't nearly as good as Percy Jackson and the Olympians as a series, and The Son of Neptune isn't as good as The Lost Hero, which I actually really liked. It's hard to read about Percy in another setting and really hard to read about him from third-person POV. It's the other characters and the humor that have convinced me to finish the book, but I highly doubt I'll be reading the rest of the series. I prefer to remember Percy and the others fondly as they were in The Last Olympian.

As for books I'm planning to read, today I made another trip to the public library, to return The Night Circus (which I loved, loved, loved, loved) and to check out Wonderstruck. It's a new book by Brian Elznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and...well, okay. It's a 600-page picture book. But that's part of what made The Invention of Hugo Cabret so unique and amazing, and if Wonderstruck is even half as awesome, it'll be a pretty incredible book. I can't wait to start it.

Hopefully, this and one or two other books will be enough to keep me occupied at least until Christmas - which is one of the best book-receiving holidays of the year. :)


Monday, December 5, 2011

6 Degrees Reading Challenge 2012 Participation Post

Yet another awesome thing from Ren at All by Myshelf. If you haven't heard of it, check it out here. It looks pretty awesome, and I've decided to give it a try. Basically, the idea is to read six (or more, depending on your level) books that are connected to each other. The official post has more details, and I highly recommend you take a look. This is the first time I've attempted, so I'm going to be starting small-ish - I'm going to try level 2, connecting and reading 12 books. I don't have my list of books yet, but I'll update this post once I do.

In addition to giving me something to make reading even more interesting in 2012, this challenge has gotten me thinking. So I wanted to ask you, my Few Faithful Followers (there are five of you now! Isn't that exciting?), what do you think? Would reading challenges of my own make my blog more interesting? What about writing challenges/prompts? If you're interested, let me know, and I'll start trying to come up with a few ideas.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reflections on NaNoWriMo 2011

So, December is upon us once again, and that mean not only the beginning of the holiday season, but the end of NaNoWriMo. Although part of me is sad that it's over, most of me is glad; reaching 50k was a struggle this year and required lots of late nights and long writing sprints, and I don't know that I could have taken it for much longer. As it is, I'm definitely going to need a week or so to recover, though I do want to get back to my novel before too much time passes so I can finish it.

So, if NaNoWriMo was so exhausting this year, why am I even a little bit sad that it's over? For many reasons, which I can sum up in one statement: because it's awesome. This is my third year winning NaNoWriMo, and it feels just as good as my first. There's an amazing sense of achievement and accomplishment that only comes from reaching a seemingly impossible goal.

And while reaching the 50k destination feels AMAZING, the process of getting there is even better. In what other month does advice from famous authors arrive right in your inbox? When else do you fully appreciate the amazing team of OLL staffers, who handle the crazy-busy job of running the office, write their own novels, and still make time to shout out encouragement in the form of pep talks, blog posts, and videos? There are teams of designers creating book covers in less than 24 hours, caffeine-fueled word wars at all hours, and some of the best forums on the internet, all in one place. And we all have that writing buddy we barely talk to during the rest of the year but know we couldn't get through November without. (magicx_girl, I'm looking at you! Your messages and challenges were so much help during this novel - I don't know if I would have won without them. Thank you!)

You can summarize NaNoWriMo in one simple sentence: "You write a 50,000 word novel in one month." But really, it's so much more than that. It's being free with your writing, allowing yourself to let go; it's the amazing things that come out of your moments of despair, it's the incredible sense of community in the forums and the comfort of knowing that you're not alone. These are the things that make it such an amazing experience. These are the things that have made me come back every year since 2009, and will keep me coming back for years to come.