Monday, December 31, 2012

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 list their top ten in the category. 

Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2013

10. Steve Jobs
By Walter Isaacson

I've been meaning to read this book for awhile; I downloaded the eBook sample from Barnes & Noble and liked it, and one of my teachers who read it had a positive review. I think I've been a little scared of it because I'm always wary about biographies - some that I've read were good, some were bad, some were difficult to stay focused on, and others were force-fed to me in elementary school. This year, though, I'm finally going to man up and tackle this book. 

9. This Side of Paradise
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Because I've wanted to give F. Scott Fitzgerald a try for awhile now, and really hope I can get into his books, because they all look really interesting and promising. This is one of the ones that jumped out at me. I can't wait to give it a try. If I like it, F. Scott Fitzgerald might end up being the author I research for next semester's English project. 

8. City of Bones
By Cassandra Clare

I love Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series, and although I've wanted to read the Mortal Instruments, I've also wanted to wait until I'd finished the Infernal Devices. Clockwork Princess finally comes out this year, so I'll be able to read City of Bones before the movie comes out. 

7. The Jungle Book
By Rudyard Kipling

I read it many years ago, after I was in a play adaptation of it (I was a wolf pup and had two lines, one of which I had a lot of trouble remembering.) but don't remember much and probably didn't understand all of it since I was only ten. I've wanted to reread it since reading The Tiger's Wife over the summer, but didn't get around to it in 2012. In 2013, it's happening for sure. 

6. The Beautiful and Damned
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another enticing book by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This one looks even more appealing than This Side of Paradise. The title, the plot synopsis, even the cover all just draw me in. I can't wait to give both books a try, and hopefully have another author to add to my favorites list. 

5. The Lost World
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Of course everyone knows Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because of Sherlock Holmes. And of course I love Sherlock Holmes. But he did write other books, one of which is The Lost World. I've wanted to read some of Conan Doyle's other books for some time now, just to see what they were like, and I figure this is a good place to start. I have high hopes for it; after all, we're talking about the genius who created Sherlock Holmes. 

4. The Joy Luck Club
By Amy Tan

There's not much to say about why I want to read this book other than the fact that it just looks like a really amazing story. I'm really excited to get my hands on a copy and give it a try. Plus, I love reading about anything with Chinese culture involved; I find it so fascinating, and always have. 

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By Stephen Chbosky

Everyone at the writing camp I went to over the summer seemed to have read this book, and had nothing but praise for it. And then they made it into a movie. And I, for some ridiculous reason, still have not read it. It's a disgrace. I should be ashamed. So this year, I'm going to read it. Because other than the fact that everyone seems to love it, it has an incredible title. And I want to watch the movie. 

2. Anna Karenina
By Leo Tolstoy

I've wanted to read this book for months. I almost bought it over the summer, but ended up buying Night and Day by Virginia Woolf instead - and have been kicking myself ever since. Not for buying Night and Day, of course, but for not buying Anna Karenina. Because of course they made it into a movie, which looks phenomenal. I mean, it sounds like such an epic story. With Jude Law in it. There's  nowhere to go wrong! So now I'm even more determined to read the book, so I can watch the movie when it comes out on DVD. 

1. Les Miserables
By Victor Hugo

I saw the movie on Sunday and loved it. Loved it. I mean, this movie was too incredible for words. So now, of course, I have to read the book. Here's hoping it's just as epic without being sung. Of course, I could just listen to the soundtrack on repeat while reading it. 


2012: A Year In Books

Last year on New Year's Eve, I had nothing to do except watch Coldplay's New Year's Eve performance, and so devoted my evening to a so-called "Secret Bookish Project", titled "2011: A Year In Books." (full explanation of how it works here I really enjoyed recapping the best books I'd read throughout the year, and so decided to do it again this year. Although it is no longer secret, and technically where I am it is already 2013 (I had plans this year! Gasp!) it is still bookish, and so without further ado...

A Year in Books


I am the Messenger
By Markus Zusak

I read a lot of really amazing books this year, but this one, hands down, was the best. Markus Zusak (The Book Thief) writes books that are incredible, inspiring, gritty, real, and life-changing, and the way he crafts words is absolutely beautiful. This book was perfect in every sense of the word, and the only real candidate for Book of the Year.


Maggie Stiefvater

If there's a blog post that goes by without me mentioning this amazing author, something's wrong. I had read the first book in her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Shiver, in 2011. In 2012, I discovered Lament and Ballad and then proceeded to devour every other book she had written, and loved every single one of them. Plus, based on her blog, she seems like a really cool person. I can't wait to read more from her in 2013. 


The Enchantress
By Michael Scott

A lot of amazing series came to a close in 2012, and they all ended spectacularly. The best one, though, had to by The Enchantress. There was so much going on in this book, and it was all handled beautifully. I could not stop turning pages. The character development was amazing, and the plot was perfect. Definitely the best conclusion this year. 

What Else I've Read
The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
13 Secrets by Michelle Harrison
The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan


The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It's easy to see why this is the most well-known and considered the best of all the Holmes stories. The atmosphere, suspense, and mystery were more intense and better described than in any of the other mysteries. Not only was it a brilliant mystery, it was beautifully written. Plus...yes, okay, I have a bias towards anything involving Sherlock Holmes. 

What Else I've Read
(not a complete list, just other notable books in the genre)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne


Firebirds Rising
Edited by Sharyn November

All of the Firebirds anthologies were amazing, but Firebirds Rising stood out - not only from the other Firebirds anthologies, but from other anthologies, too - as the clear best. I loved not only the fantasy included here, but the science fiction, which I didn't expect. All of the stories in here were brilliant, and I highly recommend this collection

What Else I've Read
Firebirds Soaring edited by Sharyn November
The Coyote Road edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Winding
The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


By Lauren DeStefano

The Chemical Garden Trilogy is one of the best post-apocalyptic/dystopian series I've ever read, even rivaling The Hunger Games. These are incredible books, and Fever was every bit as fantastic as Wither, which almost won this category last year. This year, it's a clear victory for the Chemical Garden trilogy. And it could make an appearance again next year, after the release of Sever, which I cannot wait for. 

What Else I've Read
Witch and Wizard by James Patterson
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Matched by Ally Condie
The Gift by James Patterson
The Fire by James Patterson


The Demon King
By Cinda Williams Chima

This year I discovered the incredible author Cinda Williams Chima, and immediately fell in love with her Seven Realms Series. This book, which I've praised several times on the blog, faced tough competition - this was a good year for fantasy - but still prevailed as the best fantasy book I've read this year. 

What Else I've Read
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
13 Secrets by Michelle Harrison
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Eona by Allison Goodman


The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
By Jacqueline Kelly

This book was so beautiful. I loved Calpurnia and her relationship with her grandfather, and reading about their adventures in the nature that surrounds them. It was such a sweet, heartwarming story, and I highly recommend it to anyone.

What Else I've Read
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Geronimo by Joseph Bruchac
The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli
Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Bradley
La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith
Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Shecter


Heist Society
By Ally Carter

I loved this book. It was such an engaging read. All the characters were incredible, the plot kept me hooked, and the writing was good without getting in the way or distracting from the story. I loved it and can't wait to read the second book, Uncommon Criminals, which I got for Christmas.


Why We Broke Up
By Daniel Handler

Heartbreaking, emotional, touching, sweet, and beautifully written, all at the same time. In my review, I gave this book the highest possible compliment: I didn't want it to end. I wanted this story to go on forever, just so I could keep reading about it. This is a work of genius right here. 

What Else I've Read
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Write Naked by Peter Gould
Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
The Story of Us by Deb Caletti


These are some other books that I felt deserved a mention, although they didn't fit in any particular category: The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht, with its stunning setting and description and intertwining stories; Garden Spells, which brought me into the magical world of Sarah Addison Allen; and Wonder, which warmed my heart and taught me some important lessons about love and kindness. Of course, these are just a few of the incredible books I read this year. 2012 was a great year for reading, and I'm looking forward to another wonderfully bookish year in 2013. 


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed - Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.

Now, once again, the queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana'Marianna, maintaing peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible. Tension between wizards and clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells' inner turmoil, Raisa's best hope it to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she's falling in love.

Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cutthroat world of blueblood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Ha finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for raisa. Before long, Han uncovers a secret believed to be lost to history, a revelation powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can save his queendom?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie comes to light at last in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series. 

This was a superb ending to Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series. The action that had been building up over the past three books came to a climax here, and it made the book exciting and impossible to put down. The plot was exciting, well structured, and perfectly paced, and the world was as rich and vibrant as ever, made even more so by the additional details about Aediion, earth magic combined with High Magic, and the true history of Queen Hanalea and Alger Waterlow. 

What really made this book stand out to me, however, was the character development. There was not one character in this story who had not undergone at least some change since the beginning of the first book, The Demon King. Han's was the most pronounced; it was incredible to see him finally determine what he wanted and go after it, and it made me root even more for him to succeed. Han discovered a lot of truth about himself, Raisa, and the world in this book, and it made him a very different character, even more likable and compelling than before. Micah also changed drastically, from the reckless, charming, spoiled young man he was in The Demon King to a much more mature person who'd learned a lot of humility and patience - as much as any Bayar can learn those traits. Moments like when he and Han worked together to keep Raisa safe when the temple was burning and when Micah proclaimed to his father that he would "Get in bed with the bloody copperheads if I have to," showed that just like Han, Micah finally has something of his own that he believes in and is willing to fight for. 

Micah and Han weren't the only characters to change. The moments where Raisa finally allowed herself to be weak helped her to see the path forward. Amon reestablished his friendship with Raisa while learning to trust Han to protect her. Adam Gryphon stepped out of his parents' shadow, Night Bird learned to see a future where clan and wizards worked together, and maybe most thrilling of all, Fire Dancer stepped up to claim his legacy and his place as both a wizard and a member of the clans and exposed Gavan Bayar for what he did to Dancer's mother. The revelation of the truth about Alger Waterlow and his love for Hanalea was beautifully done. Even Fiona's character became more complex in this book - even though she's ruthless and dangerous, she's also clearly attracted to Han, and the scene where her father refused to help her because of his desire to find the armory of the gifted kings was actually one of the saddest scenes in the book. All of this was done without making the antagonists too likable or the heroes too flawed, instead striking the perfect balance. 

Aside from a few minor flaws - Reid Nightwalker's character was not as well-executed as the others and Elena and Averill Demonai could come off a little too warlike at times - this book was incredible, and I loved every page. The most amazing thing about this book is that it's about magic, wars, politics, nature, right and wrong, justice, history, and lies, while at the same time remaining, at its heart, a love story. Once again, a perfect conclusion to the incredible Seven Realms Series. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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 list their top ten in the category.

Sorry for the lateness of this post! Just barely getting it in on Tuesday. Today was filled with craziness.

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2012

10. Nathaniel Hawthorne

I still stand by the fact that I absolutely hated The House of the Seven Gables, but I'm reading The Scarlet Letter right now and I'm liking it so far. We're also reading some of his short stories for English class, and those are considerably less painful. I'm actually enjoying The Minister's Black Veil, and Rappaccini's Daughter and Young Goodman Brown look pretty interesting. I don't love him, which is why he's tenth on the list, but I am glad I've read some of his stuff. 

9. Sara Zarr

Her book How to Save a Life was beyond incredible; it was moving and nearly perfect in every way. I loved it, and I'm so glad I discovered this author. I definitely want to read more by her, and soon - she's awesome. 

8. Ruta Sepetys

The author of Between Shades of Gray, one of our books for the fall Reading Competition that I absolutely loved. Her next release, Out of the Easy, made my list of the top ten books I'm looking forward to in 2013. It's authors like this that make me absolutely love historical fiction. 

7. James Patterson

I finally got into James Patterson's books this year when I started reading Witch and Wizard. I loved those books and was quick to finish off the series. Over the summer I started reading Maximum Ride, which I really liked. I'm glad I started reading James Patterson, and look forward to reading more books by him in 2013. 

6. Donna Jo Napoli

The first book of hers I read was Lights on the Nile, but the book that made me love her as an author was The Smile. It was amazing. Looking her up on Barnes&Noble revealed that she'd written a bunch of books that all sounded fantastic. I'm so glad I discovered her. 

5. T.S. Eliot

One of the people I met at writing camp over the summer was really into T.S. Eliot, and recommended him to me; coincidentally, I received Four Quartets as a gift about that same time. And now I want to read every poem T.S. Eliot has written, ever. He is amazing. 

4. Robin McKinley

I finished Pegasus not to long ago, and now I really want to check out some of her other books. Her fantasy writing is incredible - the world she creates, the characters she brings to life, and her writing style - all of it leaves me craving more. 

3. Ally Carter

Heist Society was one of the best books I have ever read. So incredible; I loved it. Uncommon Criminals is high-priority on my Christmas wish list, and I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You is without a doubt going to be the next book I check out from our school library. 

2. Sarah Addison Allen

Compared to other authors I love, like Maggie Stiefvater or Markus Zusak, I don't think I've gushed sufficiently about Sarah Addison Allen. I read all of her books except The Firefly Dance over the summer, and I adored every one of them. I want to live inside one of her novels. 

1. Cinda Williams Chima

There's nothing I love more than a good fantasy author, and Cinda Williams Chima is superb. I've read her Seven Realms Series and The Warrior Heir, and with every book of hers I read, I'm desperate for more. She is incredible, and I love everything about her writing. I love stepping inside her world. 


Friday, December 7, 2012

Season Finales Are Emotionally Stressful

"Why has this hat got two fronts?"
"It's a deerstalker."
"It's got flaps. It's got ear flaps. It's an ear-hat. What do you mean, we have to be more careful?"
"I mean, Sherlock, that that's not a deerstalker anymore. It's a Sherlock Holmes hat. You're not a private detective anymore. You're practically famous."

And this is why he is the most iconic literary figure of all time.

I believe in Sherlock Holmes.

Just watched the Season 2 finale of Sherlock. To say that I was a bit emotional over it is not quite an adequate description.

Honestly, I think I would have been fine - well, not fine, but I wouldn't have actually cried - if they hadn't shown Mycroft at the end reading the article in the paper.

This was me when they showed the Diogenes Club:

"Mycroft Holmes, if you are not upset about this, you are the most unfeeling, uncaring, despicable human being-"

[Mycroft looks substantially upset.]

"No. Oh no. Nevermind. Don't look upset, don't, because you're just like Sherlock, you're unemotional and sociopathic and you're upset and that means you really cared and - great, now I'm going to cry."

So Mycroft was what got me. That whole episode, all that emotion, and Mycroft's reaction was what sent me over the edge.

Moving on.

This episode also happened to be full of incredible quotes...

"In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king...and honey, you should see me in a crown." -Moriarty

"I may be on the side of angels, but do not think for a second that I am one of them." -Sherlock

"Well, no one could fake being such an annoying dick all the time." -John.

And, I honestly think the moments between Sherlock and Molly in this episode have made me stop shipping John/Sherlock. Which is good, because I never really wanted to ship them in the first place, but that ship just sailed itself.

Problem is, I think I now ship Mycroft and Moriarty. Just as a one-sided thing from Moriarty, but still.

I'm not even sure what you'd call that. Moriarcroft? Mycroftiarty? I mean, at least Johnlock rolled off the tongue. Although I've recent discovered that Sherlock/Molly is known as Sherlolly, so suddenly Mycroftiarty doesn't sound quite so ridiculous.

I'm sorry. Sherlock does this to my brain. that I've finished watched all episodes of Sherlock, I need another way to get my Sherlock Holmes fix. Recommendations as to which adaptation is the best? Still skeptical about Elementary, but the Jeremy Brett versions are looking promising.

Or I could just go back to watching Psych religiously. It's like Sherlock, but without the sociopathic consulting detective and the emotional damage.

Digressing. Ignore me. I'm in shock. Look, I've got a blanket.
I need to stop now.

Monday, December 3, 2012

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 Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

10. Maximum Ride Manga, Volume 1
By James Patterson

I read The Angel Experiment over the summer and I really liked it, and I really want to read the manga versions of this series - I think it's a story that would translate extremely well to this format. I've wanted to read them for awhile, so hopefully I'll have a chance to get my hands on the first one this Christmas.

9. The Lord of the Rings
By J.R.R. Tolkien

I am as obsessed with J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth as I am with Sherlock Holmes, if you can imagine that. My dad and I have been sharing his old beat-up copy of the books for awhile now, and while I love that version for the memories, I also stumbled across a really amazing set in a bookstore a month or so ago that I definitely would not mind owning. 

8. Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein

This book was recommended for people who loved The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which is one of my favorite books of all time. It looks fantastic, and I'd really like to own it - and give it a happy home next to The Book Thief on my shelf. 

7. Anna Karenina
By Leo Tolstoy

I've wanted to read this book since it was mentioned at the summer writing program I attended over the summer, and seeing the trailers for the movie only makes me want to read it even more. It looks like such a huge, epic, fantastic story. (I find the fact that the movie is rated R extremely irksome, as I am still under 18 and do NOT want to go see this movie with my parents.)

6. Tiger's Quest
By Colleen Houck

I got the first book, Tiger's Curse, for Christmas last year, and although I liked it, never got around to finishing the series. I'd really like to read this book, and it's also one I'd like to own - these books are just so beautiful, and this one has my favorite cover art out of the whole series. 

5. Uncommon Criminals
By Ally Carter

Ally Carter's Heist Society books are already among my favorites, even though I've only read the first one. I need to know what Kat and the rest of the gang get up too next. Heist Society was so amazing. I need more. 

4. House of Shadows
By Rachel Neumeier

I've seen this book on several blogs and it's gotten really good reviews, and I've wanted to read it ever since the first time I saw it. I haven't seen it at the school or public library or any of the libraries nearby, so it looks like if I want to read this book I'm going to have to make a request of Santa Claus to drop it off under my tree.

3. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King
By William Joyce

I saw Rise of the Guardians over the weekend, and It. Was. Epic. I never thought I could be so amazed and blown away by an animated movie about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost. But - I was. I've wanted to read these books since I saw the movie trailer, and I want to read them even more now. Hopefully the rule of the book is always better than the movie holds true here and I'll be equally wowed by the novels. (Never mind the fact that I'm far too old for them.)

2. Endure
By Carrie Jones

The conclusion to the Need series holds a well-deserved spot near the top of my wish list. The third book in the series set up for so much excitement and action to occur in the third book, and I absolutely cannot wait to find out how it all ends. 

1. The Crimson Crown
By Cinda Williams Chima

And the only thing that could beat out Endure for the number one spot, The Crimson Crown. The fourth book in the seven realms series can't arrive at my house soon enough. I saw it the other day in a bookstore and almost died from excitement. Unfortunately, my money had to go towards my Christmas shopping for friends and family, so I'm relying on Santa for this one. Still, I'm not sure I'll be able to stand the wait until Christmas.