Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Blog Resolutions

1. Do more interviews/guest posts. A whole side of blogging that I haven't really tapped into. That might be fun to try...

2. Post at least 5 reviews a month. For me, five books a month is all I can manage right now, but I've been kind of lackadaisical about posting reviews. I'd like to churn out a book review no later than a few days after it's been read.

3. Figure out reviews. First they were long (and yeah, kind of rambling) but they were genuine and from the heart and conveyed what I wanted to say. Then I kind of got insecure about my style - maybe it was too wordy? maybe people don't like it? - and then I made my reviews too short. I don't do short very well...I am short, but... So I'd like to figure out a style that works for me and have the confidence to stick with it, no matter what.

4. Make regular posts. I was really good about this last spring, but as transitions in The Life started happening, my schedule got out of whack. I hope to be more of a faithful post-writer.

5. Comment more. No need to elaborate. I need to work on this.

6. Manage time better. A lot of times, I'm on blogger, but I'm not posting. I just kind of stalk around the different sites, and it takes away from reading. And writing. And (oh yeah) studying. Not quite through with school yet :S I'd like to write my posts, make my comments, and move on to something else. Time gets away from me real fast, like Rip van Winkle.

7. Not stress so much. I've stressed way too often about whether or not my reviews are good enough, comment issues, followers...just general 'Is my blog good enough and why not? that's kind of made me lose focus. This year I want to get back to basics and get to where I enjoy blogging and writing reviews the way I did last January, when I didn't care so much about trying to please and be good enough. I want to get back to when I blogged for fun, and for me; not to please other bloggers, or **ssshh** publishers, or whoever.

So those are my blog resolutions. Not too grandiose or anything, but maybe since they're kind of small, I'll be able to reach them. Thank you all again, my faithful friends, who read my posts, who leave feedback (I read every line of them) and who have given their support and encouragement so that a novice, eccentric blogger could become...not quite so novice. Thank you Steph, Jess, Natalie (oh boyo, thank you!), Christie, ALY (I'll never forget what you did for me "That Day," how much you helped me. Now *that* is a real friend!) Christina, Enna, Juju, and Aussie Jess :D
Let's start 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

If asked "what would you recommend?," I would answer...


Over this past year, I've reviewed approximately 50 books on this blog (I hope to double that in 2011). Out of those 50 books, 16 received A+ grades, which is the highest rating I can give. Which is the best way I can say to you "READ THESE - PLEASE!"
So here they are - my favorite reads of the year:

The Dark Divine
Eyes Like Stars
The Great Tree of Avalon (Whole Trilogy)
The Hourglass Door
The Hunger Games
Once Upon a Marigold
River Secrets

(note: all the "Books of Bayern" would be A+ grades, but the first two books were read in 2009)
Troll Fell
Tyger Tyger
Wildwood Dancing
Wondrous Strange

Okay, guys. This list is it! These are the best books I've read all year. Are any of these books on your "favorite" list?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reading Wrap Up Post #2: "Great" Books!

Here's Part Two of my reading wrap-up. On here, there really isn't that big of a separation between the B+ and the A- books. All of these books were fun and enjoyable overall, and ones that I definitely think you all would enjoy, too!


Up next I'll post the A-TEAM books: the Really Awesome books, and then I'll post my Favorite Reads of the Year :D


Thirteen Days to Midnight - Patrick Carman
Genre: YA Speculative/Sci-fi
# of pages:
304 (hb)
Publisher: Little Brown
Recommended for: Upper MS & Beyond

You are indestructible. Three whispered words transfer an astonishing power to Jacob Fielding that changes everything. At first, Jacob is hesitant to use the power, unsure of its implications. But there's something addictive about testing the limits of fear.

Then Ophelia James, the beautiful and daring new girl in town, suggests that they use the power to do good, to save others. But with every heroic act, the power grows into the specter of a curse. How to decide who lives and who dies?

RIVETING is how I would describe Patrick Carman's newest book. I literally read this in under 24 hours, and for a burned out, near-sighted college nerd like me, that's pretty good!
The idea behind Thirteen Days to Midnight is just downright fascinating, and it made me think of a mix between X Men and Final Destination. If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Never mind getting to decide what power you had - what if just happened to you, all of the sudden? How would you use it? How would you control it? And what if your superpower turned out to be a supercurse?
It's so great that the lit world has authors like Patrick Carman out there, who can really capture the voice of a young teenage boy and make him seem authentic and likable at the same time.
I had a very easy time relating to Jacob and feeling for the poor guy - he certainly showed a lot of courage and (as Dumbledore would say) 'moral fiber' even when faced with some incredibly challenging situations. His two friends, Milo and Oh, were right by his side the whole time, and I loved Milo in particular - everybody should a friend like Milo! Still don't have a warm, fuzzy feeling for Oh, though. She was so intense that she came off kinda crabby. Like, goodness girl! Eat some chocolate or something!
I do want to point out that the entire book is set (as the title seems to imply) over 13 days.
So the action starts right away. So characters fall in love right away (apparently). So a lot of revelations and secrets come out very quickly, and I wonder what the story would be like if it was just a tad longer...if there were more days on the timetable than just thirteen.
As to some of the more "thematic" parts of the story: it didn't really seem as polished as Carman's most famous series, The Land of Elyon. Here, I still don't know what point Carman was trying to make and what moral lessons he wanted his audience to learn (and the inclusion of a really ambiguous priest spouting off-the-wall weird stuff that I doubt any serious, legit priest would say, only made me more confused).
My thoughts are that this is an engaging, riveting story that will in no time have you hooked, so enjoy the action, because that's the book's main strength. It's a fun, quick read that I definitely recommend to you. In fact, I bought two copies of this book for my 14 year old boy cousins, with a post-it note saying "Ignore the priest, he's weird."

Final Grade

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wrap Up Reading Post #1

All of the following books got a "B" grade on the blog, from a grading system of C - A+.
These books were all fun, entertaining reads and they are ones that I WOULD recommend to you. While I'm glad I read them, they're not quite "re-reads".

So two of these titles - The Iron King and Brightly Woven - were really popular 2010 releases, and while I am glad I read them, they weren't favorites. I'd definitely recommend checking into all these titles, but there will be some other ones that I would recommend you put at the TIP TOP of your TBR pile! :D

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Reading Wrapup Starts!

It's almost 2011, and so it's time to WRAP UP the books reviewed on this blog.

Since I'm planning on teaching, the ratings on this site are in grade format rather than number format.
The ratings go from the lowest (C) to the highest (A+).
Approximately 50 books have been reviewed on this site for 2010, and of that amount, 40 have been in the "A" category: A-, A, and A+. See? I am a nice reviewer after all!

Over the next few days I'll be posting each book category in order from Least to Most Recommended, and I'll have a separate posts for Best of 2010 Reads.

Happy continued holidays!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Results Are In!

For my blogoversary contest, I asked you all to give me your favorite 2010 release.
This is definitely my biggest contest to date, with just over 550 entries!

Honorable Mention (with at least 3 votes):

#10 (tie):

#9 (tie):


#7 (tie:):

#6 (tie):





#1 Book of 2010:
MOCKINGJAY (surprised?)

And now for the winners!

Winner #2 will receive their choice of any book that's been reviewed on this site:

Winner #1 will receive their choice of any 2010 release AND any book that's been reviewed on this site:

Congratulations, winners! Because it's Christmas and all and everybody's probably busy and stuff, please contact me in the next WEEK (or I will contact you sometime within the week)

Didn't win? Be sure to check back in January for my New Year's Giveaway!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Question of the Midweek [2]

So I was aiming for Wednesday, and obviously I missed!
Here's the question for what's left of this week:

Do you ever make notes while you're reading? Maybe to help you remember stuff for when you're writing reviews?
I do, but then most of the time I lose my notes. That's why my reviews are so long & rambling!

Real quick word about the contest:
As soon as I get home from work, I'm going to finish tallying up the results, and the winners will be announced on Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Heart's Blood - Juliet Marillier
Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy/Gothic-ghost story flair :P
# of pages: 402 (HB)
Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family and his home of Whistling Tor. But when the young scribe Caitrin is retained to sort through family documents, she brings about unexpected changes in the household, casting a hopeful light against the despairing shadows.
But to truly free Anluan’s burdened soul, Caitrin must unravel the web of sorcery woven by his ancestors before it claims his life—and their love…

My Thoughts
Raise your hand if you love books with fairytale storylines? Raise your hand even *higher* if you like stories based on/inspired by/or in any way affiliated with the tale of "Beauty and the Beast"?
Guys, as much as I love fairytale stories in general, "Beauty in the Beast" still, after 18 years, is my favorite story ever. EVER. And Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite writers EVER. The combination of the two made for a very exhilarating read.
I plowed on through this one because the tone was more up my alley than her other books, and so in the beginning I found HB way more exciting and thrilling than the others. Though it takes place in medieval Ireland, the story is written in a Gothic mystery/ghost story tone, and to be sure, the first half of the novel was quite creepy and foreboding - I loved it!
The first 1/3 of the book is most heavily concerned with the eeriness of the supernatural and the inspiration of "Beauty and the Beast," and this part of the story was by far my favorite. If you're even slightly familiar with Disney's Beauty and the Beast, you will notice delightful similarities between that film and this novel, both in the "Beast" dude's characterization, the household staff (they're not enchanted objects,'ll see!) and other stuff, too. About halfway into the novel, the focus leaves the B&B inspiration and takes more of a historical turn. Those pesky Normans are encroaching on Irish land, oh boyo! And I like historical fiction as much as the next history major, but see, it kind of took away from the Gothic elements and fairytale scenario. Then the last 1/3... *facepalm*. This has really never happened in a JM novel that I've read, so it's really weird to say that I thought the book lost its focus big time. JM stated in an interview that this story has "elements" of the "Beauty and the Beast" tale in it, but that it's not a straight retelling, and I think that's kind of where the problem lies, because according to the coverflap, the story is about Caitrin solving a family's supernatural curse in a Gothic suspense-romance style there was a lot of stuff in there that distracted from the overall story and made me kind of impatient. The story isn't about the heroine in and of herself, but how she relates to the hero and this cursed, that was kind of a letdown. Most of the JM books I've read get better as the story goes along, and this one didn't.
For the most part, characterization was brilliant. I've already mentioned how cool the similarities are between Disney's Beast and Anluan, the awkward, brooding Tor chieftain. In fact, I'd say that Anluan is one of my favorite Marillier characters *ever*. I just wish he would have stayed "beastly" longer - he undergoes that character change into a nice, sweet, mannerly guy a little too soon. And then there's the main character, Caitrin. There was just something about Caitrin that wasn't as endearing as other Marillier heroines: Sorcha, Tuala, Nessa, and even Jena. In addition to a tendency towards a "greater than thou" attitude, there was just something "off" about her, especially the way she interacted with the Beastly character, Anluan. Their chemistry seemed very forced, almost like Marillier grew tired of telling sweet, subtle love stories and wanted something...idk..."earthier." It was kind of weird. When they got together (way quicker than in her other books, too) it didn't seem as significant and I didn't really have much of a reaction to it. And so that was a bummer.

I know I'm nitpicking, and probably unnecessarily. I enjoyed this book, and if you are a fan of JM's other works, you will most likely enjoy this one, too. It's not without its issues, and I guess I focused on the "issues" because they just seemed strange and not what you'd expect from this author. But still, if you are a fan of anything fairytale, anything Gothic romance, or anything "Beauty and the Beast," this book NEEDS to be on your TBR. Very well-done. My only caution is that you will probably enjoy the beginning better than the middle or end. That was the case with me.

The "Yeah Right But Hopefully" Holiday Reading Goal!

I have a little over five weeks to read as many books as I can in this stack. And two of them I've already finished - yay!

Books include
Heart's Blood - Finished
The Cinderella Society
- Finished
The Knife of Never Letting Go
Jellicoe Road
Darkness Becomes Her
Scrambled Eggs at Midnight
- Currently Reading
The Long Patrol

So that's 10 in all, with 2 already finished and 1 in progress. What are your holiday goals?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In My Mailbox [29]

In My Mailbox is hosted by the Story Siren.

This week I bought two old favorites:

Redwall (Redwall, #1) - Brian Jacques
The Long Patrol (Redwall, #10)

Very excited to get the Redwall books back on my bookshelves! I'm just kicking myself that I gave my set to my cousins when I graduated. Ugghh.
What did you guys get this week? And have you read any of the Redwall books - if so, which ones?

Favorite Reads 2010 [3]

Some MORE of your favorite books from 2010. If you haven't entered my contest, be sure to do so by TUESDAY!!

"I loved Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I didn't like Sam, the protagonist, originally but she really matures throughout the book and opens up your eyes to how even the smallest actions have consequences. Before I Fall really makes you realize that everybody is connected in some way!"

"Monsters Of Men (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness.
This was the finale to my favorite trilogy of all time, and one of the greatest books I have ever read. It was full of adventure, action, suspense, and the plot was on full throttle from page 1. Full marks."

"Linger by Maggie Stiefvater was my favorite release of the year. I read a lot of good books this year, but that one just stuck with me. I really loved Shiver and I waited a few weeks after Linger's release to read it, because I was afraid I wouldn't love it as much as I loved Shiver. I was so wrong. I loved how much more involved Isabel was in the story as well as the addiction of Cole. Grace and Sam were still just as adorable as ever but their relationship seemed stronger and a bit more tragic, if that's possible. I also really enjoyed the role reversal of Sam trying to take care of Grace instead of her taking care of him. I can't wait for Forever to come out, is it summer yet?"

"My favorite 2010 release was "Revolution" by Jennifer Donnelly. It was my first book by this author and simply blew me away! The writing is awesome, the characters is great - the character developement too. Furthermore, I've found the perfect topic for my bachelor's thesis because of this book.
If you haven't read "Revolution" so far you should definitely get to it! :D"

"MATCHED by Ally Condie. Because it was awesome and original."

"My favorite 2010 release was Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. It was an entertaining and fast paced read and I was glued to the pages, so much in fact that I burnt dinner (I was standing by the oven and didn’t notice until it was too late). A witch and a vampire as roomies in a boarding school are set for awesome right? Suddenly girls are getting killed and one of the roomies is accused of, not only one, but two murders. Oh I mustn’t forget to add that I loved the bad guy, he was such a sweet bad guy. I also liked that our main character could see ghosts. There was some twist to the plot that I didn’t see coming and I love surprises like that. There will be two more books in this series so there's a lot to look forward to :)"

"Definitely Awakened (The Guardian Legacy #1) by Miss Ednah Walters! It is brimming with action, adventure, magic, suspense, romance and friendship. It is the best angel-themed book I have ever read so far, to be completely honest. I love the characters and their supernatural abilities, Clio is very powerful, she can freeze anything or anybody, she can create thunderstorms, she can read your mind/emotions, and many more! Their training is so cool!"

"I would have to say the Iron King by Julie Kagawa. It sparked my interest in faeries, and the fact that the series revolves around another universe always interests me. Plus I love the other books in the series too! My friend and I are always talking about The Iron Fey Series so it's always great to hear about."

Oooh what a challenging question... I guess I'll just choose one of my favorites. I loved Hourglass (Evernight #3) by Claudia Gray. After enjoying but not loving the first two books, this one came as a surprise. It was an emotional roller coaster (and I love those :D).

Thursday, December 16, 2010


...I was walking through a Barnes and Noble.
I saw this book:
I'd seen it before, and once on another occasion I'd even picked it up. But two years ago today,
I bought it. I brought it home. I read it.
And I kid you not, my reading experience has never been the same. And I finally realized the audience that I primarily wanted to write for: young teens (older ones too, but targeting the younger ones).
So thanks, PJ, for opening up the door to Young Adult fiction.
It's been a fun and crazy ride. And it's not over yet.

Most of us read YA, if not almost exclusively. What was that one book/series that really got you into the YA genre?

ARC Review - Much Ado About TEMPESTUOUS

Tempestuous (Wondrous Strange, #3) - Lesley Livingston
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
# of pages: 361 (ARC)
Published by Harper Teen
Releases December 21, 2010
Have you read the Wondrous Strange series yet? You should. You really, really should. The final book in this, the *best* faerie series currently in print, releases next week on the 21st. This would be just a fabulous time to begin this series, especially you high schoolers, since you guys are almost (if not already) out for the holidays.
I grabbed at Tempestuous immediately after closing the back cover of Darklight, intent on figuring out how the heck everything would go down in this final installment. Darklight's ending was, to say the least, a real shocker for me...and to be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the direction the story was taking. I was thinking, "Oohhh, I don't know how I feel about this. This is really not what I expected. Whatever will happen next?" Well, the author certainly didn't disappoint, and out of a complete left-field plot twist came a captivating finale to a beloved series. Without spoiling anything, if you've read Darklight, and the ending made you say, "What in the world?!" rest assured that you will most definitely be pleased with how everything plays out.
So in addition to Kelley and Sonny, the cast of the WS series has been energetic, enigmatic, and hilariously lovable. I've mentioned before how cool a concept it is to have four faerie courts - one for every season - and the folkloric creatures represented in the series (kelpies, creepy sirens akin to vampires, storm hags - YEAH, and ogres, oh my!) are brilliantly crafted. And although they're maniacally evil, the Wee Green Men were (ssshhh!) some of my favorite characters. These ain't your Lucky Charms leprechauns - these are strangely fascinating sociopaths who can terrify and entertain simultaneously. And Robin Goodfell0w/Puck/"Bob" is the *best* portrayal of the character I've encountered in YA fiction. In fact, nobody blends faerie lore with the witticisms of Shakespeare's plays better than Lesley Livingston. If you're looking for anything remotely Midsummer/Auberon-Titania/Shakespeare's take on faeries, you just need to get introduced to this series.
The Wondrous Strange series has nearly singlehandedly restored my love of faerie lore and folk tales. From start to finish, the series was strong, witty, thorough, and downright entertaining, and for that, the author deserves immense praise. The Bard himself would be so pleased.
So (boys and) girls, read the WS series over the Christmas break, then return to your teacher and regale her with "Lord, what fools these mortals be!," "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." When she claps her hands in glee and exclaims, "You've been reading Shakespeare over the break!" you can give her a toothy grin and say, "Nope, been reading Lesley Livingston's Wondrous Strange series, published by Harper Teen."
P.S. Don't forget the toothy grin :D

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