December 30, 2013

2013 End-of-the-Year Book Survey

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist) - See more at:
1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist) - See more at:
1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist) - See more at:

I read a pathetic number of books this year — grad school pretty much took over my life when September rolled around — so I'm not doing the entire end-of-the-year bookish survey that Jamie at The Perpetual Page-turner hosts each year (my responses would probably get really repetitive). But I did want to give a bit of a summary of my reading this year, so I've answered some of the questions!

1.) Best book you read in 2013? (if you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

YA — The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron for pure entertainment value and The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna for thought-provoking goodness

Adult — The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton for excellent historical atmosphere and an unsettling main character

Non-fiction — Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan for a horrifying but unputdownable true story

2.) Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. This one got so many glowing reviews and while it wasn't a bad read, I expected more from it than I actually got. It used some common tropes of the genre and the writing was not as amazing as I thought it would be. I think I'll still continue on with the series but I'll know better now what to expect. (To be fair to the book, I was trying to read it during my first term in my Master's program and I didn't really have the time or energy to devote to reading for pleasure, unfortunately, so it was very slow going.)

3.) Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron — this one was labelled as "steampunk", and I haven't yet read any steampunk books that I'm wild about. But really this one was way more Gothic than steampunk and I ended up enjoying it more than I anticipated.

4.) Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

Hmmm...well, hands-down the series I recommended most was the Hunger Games (especially Catching Fire, of course) but I didn't read those this year. So I guess I'll go with Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness.

5.) Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

Insurgent by Veronica Roth and Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness.

6.) Most memorable character in 2013?

Dolly from The Secret Keeper — she was pretty darn twisted — and Matthew from The Lost Girl for sheer swagger. Minka from The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult for her perseverance. Also, winning the award for Most Irritating Fictional Sibling of the Year: Bird from Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull. I could not stand that girl.

7.) Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to someone about it? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton and, if non-fiction counts, then Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments by Gina Perry.

8.) Favourite relationship from a book you read in 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc.)?

Romance: Samuel and Gretchen from Sweetly by Jackson Pearce, Gwen and Gideon from Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier, Eva and Sean from The Lost Girl

Friendship-with-a-spark: Vivien and Jimmy from The Secret Keeper

Stepdad-stepdaughter relationship: Frank and Rinn from The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

9.) Favourite book you read in 2013 from an author you've read previously?

Probably either Insurgent, Emerald Green, or The Secret Keeper.

10.) Best book you read in 2013 that you read based SOLELY on the recommendation of somebody else?

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I put this one on my Christmas wishlist last year at least in part because of the reviews/ratings I'd seen by bloggers I follow.

11.) Genre you read most from in 2013?

Probably fantasy/paranormal YA, although there was also a healthy dose of dystopian reads.

12.) Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

This choice might seem a bit strange, but...Matthew from The Lost Girl. Yes, he's sort of a villain, but he just had so much personality and sass.


13.) Most vivid world/imagery you read in a book in 2013?

The WWII setting in The Secret Keeper, the Gothic feel of The Dark Unwinding, and the bizarre, fantastical world of Summer and Bird. Also, the creepy atmosphere in Laura Bickle's The Hallowed Ones. 

14.) Book that was the most fun to read in 2013? 

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell — this book is hilarious.

Looking Ahead...

1.) One book you didn't get to in 2013 but will be your number 1 priority in 2014?

Um, there are a ton of these, can't single out just one...

- A Fault in Our Stars by John Green (no, I have not read it yet; yes, I am aware of its awe-inspiring amazingness; hopefully I will get to it next year, especially since the movie's coming out)
- Reached by Ally Condie (yeah, I know I'm way behind on dystopian series)
- Allegiant by Veronica Roth (ditto)
- Nightspell by Leah Cypess (sooner or later it will get read, I swear)
- A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty (a new Jaclyn Moriarty and I haven't read it yet?! I know, I know...)
- Bloodlines by Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy fans, is this spin-off series equally good? Let me know!)

2.) Book you are most anticipating for 2014 (non-debut)?

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess looks and sounds awesome — I really enjoyed her book Mistwood. Also, The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski has been generating a lot of buzz already, hopefully it lives up to all the hype!

3.) 2014 debut you are most anticipating?

Well, I'm on the Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge train just like everyone else. But aside from that one... I'm definitely looking forward to The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno. Dissociative identity disorder in a YA mystery? Sign me up.

What books were your favourites of 2013, and which are you looking forward to reading next year? And if you'd like to do this survey, you can link up your post at Jamie's blog here!

December 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: A Girl Called Fearless, A Mad, Wicked Folly, and The Half Life of Molly Pierce

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

I haven't done a Waiting on Wednesday post since... June! It has been far too long. Which is why I am joining in today and bringing you THREE books I'm looking forward to.

A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka

"Avie Reveare has the normal life of a privileged teen growing up in L.A., at least as normal as any girl's life is these days.  After a synthetic hormone in beef killed 50 million American women ten years ago, only young girls, old women, men and boys are left to pick up the pieces. The death threat is past, but fathers still fear for their daughters’ safety, and the Paternalist Movement, which was begun to “protect” young women, is taking over all the choices they make.

Like all her friends, Avie still mourns the loss of her mother, but she's also dreaming about college and love and what she'll make of her life.  But when her dad contracts her to marry a rich, older man to raise the money to save his struggling company, her life suddenly narrows to two choices:  be trapped in a marriage with a controlling politician, or run.  Her lifelong friend, student revolutionary Yates, urges her to run to freedom over the border to Canada.  He's always believed she's fearless and will help her escape if she's willing.  As their friendship turns to passion, the decision to leave becomes harder and harder.  Running away is incredibly dangerous and it's possible she'll never see Yates again.  But staying could mean death.

Romantic, thought-provoking, and frighteningly real, A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS is a speculative thriller about fighting for the most important things in life--freedom and love.

Not sure how scientifically viable this world is — I hope the author's done her research — but it sounds different from most of the dystopian YA offerings out there! Also, props to the author for bringing Canada into it. Apparently we are the country everyone wants to flee to :D

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

"Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

I'm still waiting for a Downton Abbey-esque YA read to wow me (I didn't manage to get through Wentworth Hall — the writing really needed some more work, and at least another round of editing would have been helpful). Maybe this'll be the one!

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno

"A mysterious and visceral page-turner about a seventeen-year-old girl who unravels the secrets of her alternate personality, reminiscent of the film Memento.

You live and you remember.
Me, I live and I forget.
But now-now I am remembering.

For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she's missed bits and pieces of her life. Molly suffers from dissociative identity disorder, and since she was a little girl, she's played host to Mabel, a completely separate and individual personality. When Mabel is in control, Molly experiences the blackouts she's been so scared of. But now Mabel is letting Molly in on her secrets; she's letting Molly remember. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led...and the love that she can't let go.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves.

I have high hopes for this one — dissociative identity disorder isn't touched upon all that much in YA (at least in comparison with other mental health issues like depression). DID is quite rare but it's also one of the most fascinating psychological disorders, at least in my opinion. I'm interested to see how the author presents it here. *crosses fingers that the psychological information is accurate*

What books are you waiting for?

Also, if you have a chance, please stop by my Help Me Get Back in the Loop post and share with me your bookish recommendations! :)


December 17, 2013

Help Me Get Back in the Loop!

For the past several months I've been bogged down with studying and exams and everything else that goes along with grad school, so I have had no time for blogging OR reading for pleasure. But now I have a few weeks off for the holidays and so I am hoping to catch up on book-related goings-on!

And for that I need your help, blogger friends. So I'm asking you to recommend me:

- book blogs to follow! I went through a lot of the blogs on my Feedly and a shocking number of them haven't posted in years or have just plain poofed out of existence (reminding me of the Tribute to Vanished Bloggers I wrote last year). So I need some new ones to follow! Who do you love? Who writes wonderfully analytical/witty/creative book reviews or has awesome discussion posts or hosts a super cool book blog event?

- author blogs to follow! Especially laugh-out-loud funny ones. I need some more of these in my Feedly!

- books published in 2013 that you read, loved, and are pushing on everyone! Like I said above, I did not get much reading done in the last half of this year, so I'm feeling a bit out of the loop. (Alternatively, what books did not live up to the hype and/or I should stay far away from?)

Thanks in advance!

December 16, 2013

Birthmarked: A Snapshot

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

"In the Enclave, your scars set you apart, and the newly born will change the future.

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying. 

A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish." (from Goodreads)

The subject: a girl determined to do what she thinks is right, even if it goes against the society's wishes.

The setting: a dystopian society trying to combat hemophilia. I appreciated that the author made neither the Enclave nor the rebels on the Outside the ones in the moral right, but showed complexities to both of them. Also, I liked that the author hasn't made the society very stupid (as can sometimes occur in dystopian books in order to allow the rebellious protagonists to succeed) — she's put up plenty of roadblocks for the main characters. They've actually had to tough it out and think for themselves.

Shutter speed:
snappy! While there isn't a ton of action, the mystery and romance kept the story going fairly quickly. 

What's in the background? The cute romance between Gaia and Leon. I thought they were a great pair, and the moments where they flirt and joke with each other are really sweet. While the relationship got kind of sappy towards the end I was definitely pulling for those two to get together. The tension between them is drawn out nicely (at least until the dynamic turns kind of weird in the climactic scenes, which will be discussed more below).

Zoom in on: Gaia's flaws. She comes off as a bit of a Mary Sue — strong, courageous, always saying the right thing. Everyone seems to like her and want to help her (except for the bad guys, obviously). She sometimes jumps to conclusions too easily but it doesn't seem to come back to haunt her; things don't go easily for her, but that's usually not due to her own mistakes. I think there's room for improvement in showing more of Gaia's immaturity and the consequences of that, and in also demonstrating rather than telling us about her character development.

Anything out of focus? The climactic scenes. They felt rushed and not as well thought-out as the first 3/4s of the book. I thought there were parts where it was over-the-top into farcical — definitely suspend-your-disbelief time — in terms of the drama going on, and characters started acting out of character, which bothered me. Spoilers, highlight to read: the way Leon was taking commands from her for a while was weird, because of the two of them he'd always been the decisive leader. And then later, she was just letting him decide stuff and following him around, becoming really dependent on him, which I did not think was flattering because she ended up sounding whiny.

Also, I had difficulty visualizing all the technology in the Enclave being mixed with the historical feel of Outside — it's a real juxtaposition. I'd like to know more about how this huge divide happened. Some of the modern terms used ("mom", "boyfriend", "computer") also feel out of place with the old-fashioned vibe. 

Ready? Say... genetics!

Click! 4 shooting stars. Not without its faults, but overall an absorbing read that had me glued to the pages. I'm hoping some of the "debut author signs" — like telling the reader about a character's emotions, and too clearly demonstrating the author's intent for what I should be feeling, both of which left me lacking an emotional connection — will improve in subsequent books. 

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