Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 year in review

This year guys! There's so much to say about it, both as a blogger and a person.  I went to Glacier, discovered bourbon on the Bourbon trail, changed jobs, moved and on top of that still managed to read 120 books (surpassing my goal of 85 easily).   If not for the move, I probably would've read 125-130 books but in the past month my pace has slowed considerably. So this year has been great, personally, professionally and as a read.  Because it wouldn't be a blog without a top 10 list, here are my top 10 books I read of 2012.  (These are books I read in 2012, not necessarily books published in 2012).

1. Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart

Why it made the list
Not only was this my favorite series of the year, it was eye-opening.  This book is a fun contemporary with boys, cute clothes that seems fluffy. But it's not.  E. Lockhart impressed me with her ability to put such great depth into a book that doesn't feel heavy. 

From the review
This series is one of the best that I've read this year.  This is not a mushy true love story.  It's girly, but the right kind of girly.  Ruby is witty, intelligent, neurotic, boy crazy and completely awesome. I'm very impressed how these books touch upon some serious topics without taking themselves too seriously. Read review here

2. Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Why it made the list
Melina Marchetta will always make my top ten list.  She writes people that are imperfect, damaged, relatable and completely believable.  Nobody writes characters like Marchetta does.

From the review
Very few trilogies are as complete and wonderful as this series.  Every book is strong and every character developed   This series in complex, with layers and depth and meaning.  Quintana of Charyn tore my heart out, but in a good way.  I would simultaneously be hurting and crying for joy.  Very few books touch me on that guttural level. The Lumatere Chronicles are a series that every book lover needs to read and re-read. Read the review here.

3. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Why it made the list
I don't think there was a YA book with more accolades this year, all well deserved. Maybe John Green's best work yet.  

From the review
The book goes between being funny and heart-wrenching in a way that I don't think has ever been done. Normally you have "books that make me laugh"  then on another shelf "books that make me cry."  Very rarely do you have books that make you do both. Read the review here.

4. The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Why it made the list
This book is perfect for me even if it's not perfect for everyone.  Strong heroines and adventurous fantasy (think Tamora Pierce) is where my heart belongs. 

From the review
For those who like fantasy with strong heroines and are looking for Tamora Pierce meets Jacky Faber, this book is perfect for you.  In this book you'll find your next fictional crush (especially if you're into men who treat women with respect), a new fictional best friend and maybe even a favorite novel. Read review here.

5. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Why it made the list
Middle Eastern fantasy is my new favorite thing and I have this book to thank.  The nerdy computer science, the setting and the conversations about religion make this book a winner.

From the review
Alif the Unseen is such a unique book.  It's a computer-science heavy fantasy novel set in the modern Middle East.  There is coding, firewalls, cloud servers and genies, all in the same book.  Doesn't that sound amazing?  This book is fantasy blended with real science, something that I've never seen before. It's a big risk that pays off. Read the review here.

6. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld 

Why it made the list
This book is a great ending to a great trilogy.  Sometimes series falter on the 3rd book but not Goliath. Just as brilliant as ever.

From the review
I feel like me and this series were meant to be together.  The story of an alternative steampunk WWI, a girl dressed in boy clothes and a global adventure is just my style.  This series is spectacular and highly recommended, especially if you like history.  Deryn is near the top of heroines I love. Read review here

7. Deadline by Mira Grant 

Why it made the list
I was worried about switching protagonists. REALLY worried. But Grant knows what she's doing.  This series is the epitome of zombie fiction. There is no better.

From the review
I've become convinced that Mira Grant's Newflesh series has become the peak of the zombie genre.  This book is ballsy, a bit like a punch in the face sometimes because it never holds back.  Read review here.

8. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman 

Why it made the list
Welcome back high fantasy. We've missed you.

From the review
 It's got the drama of court politics, the romance of first love and an overaching story with a mystery to solve.   The women are smart and strong.  Seraphina is not the exception, but Glisselda and the Queen are both admirable women.  Strength is not measured in brute force.  Seraphina's intelligence, along with her bravery are what make her a heroine. Read review here

9. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Why it made the list
If there's a more honest book about grief I haven't seen it. The audiobook is narrated by Jason Isaacs, who is perfection.

From the review
A Monster Calls rings heartbreakingly true, capturing how it feels when someone you love is chronically ill.   It captures the sorrow, the anger and the guilt. Read the review here

10. Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Why it made the list
This was a book that completely surprised me.  Normally I hear about great books from other bloggers and anticipate reading them. This I randomly grabbed at the library and wow, it impressed me.

From the review
I loved the history, especially since it was history that I never learned in school.  But this isn't a history book, it's a novel with a historical backdrop. This is the story of how 12 year old Marlee found her voice.  Marlee doesn't talk.  It's not because she can't, she talks to her sister and her father, but because she's afraid to. Read review here

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Follow Friday - Book I'd give world

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What book do you think everyone should read? If you could gift the entire population with one book?  
You know how unfair that is right? Asking me to choose just one?  My mind immediately (really) shouted RUBY OLIVER & Melina Marchetta simultaneously.  Yes my mind argues with itself.  What's that to you?

The problem with Melina Marchetta is that it's nearly imposible to chose just one of her books.  Initially I thought, "Jellicoe Road" because it's just a brilliant book and everyone should read it. Really if you haven't and you like intelligent YA go read it.  But lately I lean towards the Lumatere Chronicles because they're deep high fantasy that say a lot about human nature, war, love, family and forgiveness.

However, if I have to give the WHOLE WORLD only one book.  I'm actually going to choose the Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart (and don't you dare say I can't pick a series!).  I've often said that I want to give every teenage girl a copy of this book.  So how could I pass up the opportunity to give it to everyone.  Ruby Oliver is fun feminism.  The book seems like light fluffy chick lit, but what you're really getting is a great story involving slut-shaming, girl on girl hatred, gossip and learning to love yourself. Really, all teenage girls should read this book. (Read my review of the first 3 books in this series)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Carter Finally Gets It

4/5 stars

Carter Finally Gets It is a funny book.  It's about a freshman struggling to find his way through high school -- sports, ADD, virginity and popularity, the battles every high schooler faces.

I did have some struggles with this book.  Carter singleminded focus on losing his virginity wasn't always the most enjoyable thing for me to read.  Yes it's funny, but for me it's hard to listen to his continual objectifying comments about women. I get the point! Really I do!  Throughout the book Carter has to learn to think about himself and the opposite sex differently.  My question is, are high school guys truly this focused on sex?  I'm no idiot.  I know they think about it.  But at times Carter thinks about it SO MUCH that he can barely focus on anything else.

But I really like this book.  I just wanted to be upfront about that one issue.  Part of me wants to call this book Ruby Oliver for dudes.  Not because it's an excellent teenage feminist book hidden behind what seems like a cute fluffy story (Oh E. Lockhart! You are so tricky!).  A good chunk of this book is about Carter's quest to lose his virginity, but that's just a clever disguise to the real story.  This book is really about Carter accepting himself, not who the world, his friends or his sister tells him to be, but who Carter wants to be.

In the beginning Carter just wants to fit in.  He does all the same extracurricular activities and join the same sports team as his friends.  By the end of the book Carter is okay with being different, okay with doing his own thing and beginning to realize that girls aren't just walking vaginas and maybe he should care about the girl, not the just the sex potential.

This book is fun, extremely well narrated and very enjoyable.  I got a little scared inside the sex-driven mind of a teenage boy but overall I felt like the journey was worth it by the end of the book.  It's not as deep as Ruby Oliver, but I feel like the story is a good subliminal message for teenage boys.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Life and such

So I've been quieter than normal on the blog and goodreads lately.  My reading pace has slowed considerably (maybe even to normal people, not bloggers, reading pace).  In case you missed when I said it on twitter, I accepted a new job and moved to Louisville.  Moving is apparently time consuming and exhausting, who knew!

I'm doing public relations and social media for the Kentucky State Fair Board (which means the Kentucky Exposition Center, the Kentucky International Convention Center and the Kentucky State Fair).  I'm stoked.  Not only have I moved out of my parents garage (!!!!!), live in the largest city in Kentucky, but I'm writing professionally.  After the Great Recession threw off my career path it feels like I'm back on track.

This blog actually helped me get my new job.  Being a book blogger has kept me writing consistently even when that wasn't my job.  For the record, now that I'm done with the move I plan to get back on track with reading/blogging.  It just slowed me down for awhile.

I also want to say...


(From Tumblr)

Hope yours is wonderful and full of friends, family, laughter and hope.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Follow Friday - Learned about publishing

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: What have you learned from book blogging that you didn't know before about the publishing industry?
WOW. Um, everything that I know practically.  Before I was a blogger I didn't really think about where books came from. It's not like babies. Not everyone asks there mother one day "Where did this book come from?" I knew authors wrote them, sent them to agents or publishers, some editing happened them viola book magic.

I didn't know about publicity, ARCs, publisher mergers, author meltdowns, the cost of the materials for a book, etc.

One of the more interesting things I never realized was how little control authors had over their covers.  I love a well-designed cover and I'm rather picky about my covers. It's interesting that these pieces of art are SO IMPORTANT yet authors have minimal control over them.  Covers have much more to do with marketing than the book itself.  I should've known that but I never realized.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

4/5 stars

When I looked at the goodread ratings I wasn't sure what to think about The Adoration of Jenna Fox.  My friends loved it, my friends loathed it. Nobody seemed to agree.  But the library had the audiobook, narrated by the incomparable Jenna Lamia, so I decided to find out for myself.

I was pleasantly surprised.  A lot of the reviews mention the ending.  So I went into the book expecting a horrible and terrible ending.  What I got was abrupt and an epilogue, but I'd built up something entirely else in my head and was glad that it wasn't what occurred.  The epilogue leaves a lot unanswered, skipping a lot of ethical discussions and leaves everything neat & tidy.  But like I said, I didn't mind.

The story begins when seventeen year old Jenna Fox wakes up from a coma.  She doesn't have any memories of who she was or her life before the accident.  She doesn't know who Jenna Fox is and if she's even that girl anymore.  This is a contemplative book.  There is a plotline, but what this book is about is what it really means to be human.  What makes us us?  The book explores that topic as Jenna struggles with her identity.

Without spoilers this book is hard to review.  It's science fiction without being focused on the science.  It explains the science enough, especially considering that it's really a character driven novel, but that's not what's most important in this story.  The science is meant to be a backdrop to set up the conversation about identity and the ethics of medicine. I liked having that conversation with Jenna and taking her journey of self discovery (even though some things were painfully obvious to us before they were to Jenna).

The narration by Jenna Lamia is perfect for this book.  Her soft spoken, doubtful voice is perfect for Jenna, combining with the story to make for an excellent listening experience.  I think my negative expectations helped this novel, I enjoyed it very much.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Follow Friday - Teary books

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It'
Question: What is the last book that made you cry? Tell us about the scene....
The Crane's Diary made me a little teary.  I am not much of a sad cryer (I am more of an angry cryer and books just don't have that effect on me normally) so even a little teary is kind of a big deal.

I can't actually tell you about the scene because it involves major spoilers.  But it dealt with a topic that hit really close to home and I was surprised to react so emotionally (it was then that I realized how much I was enjoying and immersed in the book).  I wasn't sure how I felt about this scene existing or being so important to the plot. Ultimately I decided my worries had less to do with the novel and more to do with life stuff.

(Sorry this is so late. Today has been very busy.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Cranes Dance (review)

4/5 stars

The Cranes Dance surprised me.  I'd never heard anything about it before grabbing the audiobook at the library.  I saw it on display at the end of the shelf and thought "Oooo ballerinas" read the description and went "Oooo crazy sister issues" and checked it out.

I didn't expect the slow moving, character driven story.  Much like a ballet, it took it's time getting the story out, but did so elegantly.  

At first I wasn't sure about the narrator.  For the first few minutes her slow pausing speech worried me.  But the more I listened the more perfect it became.  It is the speech of a ballerina trying to keep control over her life.  Kate Crane is the careful controlled sister.  In her mind, her whole life is acted in front of an invisible movie audience.  She tries to be as perfect as possible.  The audiobook narrator took on this persona perfectly with her careful calculated speech.

Kate's sister Gwen is completely different.  She's the golden dancer, beautiful and gifted in a way that Kate envies.  But she's wild and not quite sane.  Without actually being in most of the book, Gwen is a huge force.  We meet her through Kate's memories.  We get to know Kate by the way she compares herself to Gwen.  She lives her life in the shadow of her sister.  From taking care of her sister, trying to protect her from her demons, to comparing their dance careers, Kate cannot separate her life from Gwen's.

The story is slow.  Near the end there are some scenes that felt unnecessary  such as a sex scene that really doesn't advanced the plot. (Sex scenes in audiobooks are always so awkward.  These are not things that are meant to be described out loud).

There's a point near the end, no spoilers, where I kept asking "Is the book really going there?"  I didn't know how I felt about the direction it was taking.  It worried me, made me nervous.  But then I realized that mostly, it made me feel.  Over the course of the novel, almost without noticing, I'd connected so much with Kate that during this section I felt emotional and a bit teary.

During the last quarter of the novel, there may have been some unnecessary parts but as whole the novel was quite good.  Very few books can move this slowly, be almost completely internal dialogue  yet work so beautifully.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Follow Friday - Character I'd be

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: Activity: Who do you want to be? If you could choose any character from a book.  What do you think the character looks like and what do you have in common?
Okay the thing about being a character in a book is that BAD STUFF HAPPENS. They have hardships and death threats. While I like having fun, I also like not dying.  There are lots of book worlds I would like to go to.  Sure Hogwarts sounds great, minus that whole Voldemort trying to kill everyone thing.

People who it wouldn't suck to be
  • Alexia Tarabotti - So she does have death threats.  But Alexia is so analytical and curious that they never seem to bother her much.  Also her hubby is one sexy piece of Scottish werewolf mancake that I wouldn't mind spending some time with.  Plus I think it'd be fun to hang out in steampunk novel for awhile. I don't really have much in common with Alexia, except a love of books and a shared love her husband. That's enough right? 
  • Granuaile - I know you're thinking, isn't she just a secondary character in the Iron Druid series? (I've only read the first 3 so NO SPOILERS PLEASE). But Granuaile, aside from having a name I would hate learning to spell, has a lot of things going for her.  For one, she gets to spend lots of time around our favorite sexy druid Atticus.  For another, she's a super sexy redhead and I bet that'd be fun.  Also, she's a druid in training which is probably pretty interesting. She works in a bar and I like bourbon.  She likes mythology.  Other than much.  
People who I rejected after thinking about it
  • Alanna from the Lioness Quartet - I thought "I'd like to go learn to be a knight like Alanna" then I remembered how much work was involved and thought better of it.  While being a lady knight might sound badass, everything Alanna went through to get there is more effort than I'm really willing to put forth.  Me and Alanna are both feminists who like animals but I think she's more intense than I am. 
  • Deryn from the Leviathan trilogy - While I think I'd love riding around on an airship I think I'd make a terrible soldier.  I just don't have the bravery that makes Deryn such a great character.  I think me and Deryn could share a lot of jokes and laughter.  We both like traveling and going new places.  She's a loyal and trusthworthy friend, something I hope that I am.  Out of all the characters, she'd probably be the one I'm closest to.
  • Jacky Faber - Lots of fun, lots of flirts but too many near death experiences.  Can I just have the flirting parts of her life? I like boys, traveling, adventures and stories.  We'd actually probably get along quite well though her piratey ways would make me very nervous. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mountain Hollow Farm

Just wanted to share a little adventure I had recently.  Along with my friend Alena, we took a knitting field trip to Mountain Hollow Farm in Tazewell TN.  They have a knitting group that meets twice a week and we decided to join them for their Saturday session.

When they say, "Mountain Hollow Farm", it's not just a cutesy name invoking visions of sheep, yarn and all the knitting time in the world.  In fact, it's a working farm in a mountain hollow.  To get to Mountain Hollow you turn off the highway onto a small country road, then turn off the country road onto a small gravel road.  Be wary of other cars because passing is difficult.

When we arrived the official greater met us.  When I sat down my knitting bag he knew just what to do, plop himself down where he could not be ignored.

We met quite a few beautiful goats.  This one was probably the friendliest.  The goats at Mountain Hollow Farm are actually used to produce yarn.  So cute, cuddly and productive, how could you not love that face?

Yarn shops are always gorgeous, filled to the brink with colors and textures just begging to be taken home.  Mountain Hollow Farm had a nice selection, ranging from the pricey to quite fair (unless you like Walmart yarn and haven't experienced the glory of wool).  Yarn often gives me the puppy dog eyes, then somehow ends up going home with me and this place was no exception.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Drowned Cities, Unearthly & A Monster Calls (quick reviews)

The Drowned Cities

4/5 stars
Dark and gritty, this book is a fitting follow-up to Ship Breaker.  However if you're expecting a sequel with familiar characters and scenery this is not that book.  Drowned City follows a new protagonist, the feisty and plotting Mahlia.  She's a "cast-off", half Chinese, half American, abandoned by her father after the Chinese peacekeepers abandoned Americans to the local factions .  She's been formed by a world that hates her.  She lost her hand, while fleeing the battling armies and was taken in by a kindly doctor.

When Mahlia's only friend, the meek and gentle Mouse is taken by one of the warring factions, she's determined to get him back.  Enlisting the help of a half-man, a genetically modified war machine, she follows the army to save Mouse.

Even with a backdrop of war, this book is mostly about Mahlia.  It's about how she sees herself, who she really is and her fight for survival in a hostile world.  This is not a happy cheerful book, but if you've already read Shipbreaker you shouldn't expect that.  But it's a good, fast-paced, intense read.


4/5 stars
This was a really enjoyable read, especially when I was in Montana and visited Yellowstone (Read about that here).  The timing was accidental, but great.  The book was really fun, the male lead was outdoorsy, funny and the relationship developed over time.  I very rarely like a paranormal romance, so the fact that I like Unearthy speaks volumes about it's quality in comparison to everything else.  It was a little romantic for my taste, but because the the relationship was actually healthy that's not a bad thing.  The male main character wasn't controlling or demeaning or any of the other things that apparently pass for romantic in YA books. Where most paranormals go wrong this one went right.

A Monster Calls

5/5 stars
This book is brilliant.  I listened to the audiobook and Jason Isaac's is a wonderful narrator.  A Monster Calls rings heartbreakingly true, capturing how it feels when someone you love is chronically ill.   It captures the sorrow, the anger and the guilt.  I don't even feel like I really need to review this because it's all been said before.  But in case you've been living under a rock, read this book.  It'll hurt, but it's one of the most truthful books about illness and grief I've ever read.