Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#7): Echo

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading an ARC of the first book in the new Soul Seekers series by Alyson Noel, Fated. So, I'm really looking forward to finding out what happens next!

Echo (Soul Seekers, #2)
Expected Publication Date: 11/13/2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#8): Kickass Heroines

There are many more female main characters I love, but they don't all rise quite to the level of kickass (in my opinion), so I'm going to limit this list to just my top five. I'll be interested to see who else pops up on other bloggers' lists!

1. Claire from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander -- A modern woman with modern "notions" about a woman's place in the world, time-travels to the 18th century. She uses her skills as a nurse to be a healer in her new time and is forever coming to the rescue. She's smart, strong-willed, and totally kick-ass.

2. Katniss from The Hunger Games -- This one needs no explanation. Katniss is kick-ass in every sense of the word.

3. Hermione from Harry Potter -- I love smart heroines and Hermione fits that to a T. She uses her brains and her wits to do all sorts of ass-kicking.

4. Vianne from Chocolat -- An independent thinker who challenges a small town's idea of what is right and proper. She doesn't bend to the townspeople's pressure to "fit in." I love her character in both the book and the movie.

5. Nancy Drew -- the original girl sleuth who always saved the day!

I hope everyone in Sandy's path is staying inside and staying safe -- it's crazy out there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#6): My Ideal Bookshelf

From Goodreads: "The books that we choose to keep-let alone read-can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In THE IDEAL BOOKSHELF, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most-books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect gift for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book."

Expected Publication Date: 11/13/2012
As a long-time reader, the whole premise of My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount & Thessaly La Force fascinates me and I'm sure the book itself will inspire many more additions to my To Read list.

Check out the authors' website to order prints, notecards, or even your own custom piece of book art. The custom pieces are definitely pricey, but would make an amazing wedding or housewarming gift for the avid readers in your life -- I know I want one!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#7): Books to Get in the Halloween Spirit

I have not read ten books that fit this week's theme sponsored by the Broke and the Bookish, so I'm going to get a little creative here. First, a few I have read and can personally recommend:

The Woman in Black (Movie Tie-in Edition): A Ghost Story   Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story   The Hollow

The Thirteenth Tale   Historic Haunted America

1. The Woman in Black, Susan Hill -- A very creepy, well-written ghost story. I think in honor of Halloween I should finally watch the movie -- I really think it would translate fabulously as a horror flick!

2. Wait Til Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn -- I loved this book as a kid. It's been years since I read it, but I remember it being supremely eerie and creepy and I think it would be absolutely perfect for this time of year

3. The Hollow trilogy, by Jessica Verday -- These books are not scary, but I still think the combination of ghosts, graveyards, and a setting in Sleepy Hollow make this a perfect October read.

4. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield -- This was one creepy, gothic read. It's not your typical horror book, but still great for Halloween

5. Historic Haunted America, by Michael Norman & Beth Scott -- I confess I've only read a handful of stories in this collection, but they really are perfect for this time of year. If this is your kind of thing, there are many other "Haunted" books by these same authors, each focusing on a different theme or area.

Rebecca   The Complete Tales and Poems   Dracula in Love
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde   Graveminder

I'm going to finish this off with a few from my To-Read list and ones I've seen around the blogs today that I can't personally recommend from experience, but think would also fit the Halloween theme.

1. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier -- a creepy, gothic classic that I can't believe I haven't read yet and need to read soon!

2. Anything by Edgar Allan Poe -- I don't think this needs any explanation. I've read a few short stories in the past and pretty much everything Poe has written is perfect for Halloween.

3. Dracula in Love, by Karen Essex -- I've seen a lot of recommendations for Bram Stoker's Dracula, but I won't personally recommend it. I read it last year and just did not care for it. If it's a book you're interested in, this is definitely a good time of the year to give it a try, but despite it's status as a classic, I just could not talk myself into liking it. However, I'm really interested to see what this spin-off novel will be like and I feel I have a good foundation by having read the original, even though I didn't like it.

4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson -- Here's another classic that has fallen through the cracks for me that I really should remedy soon.

5. Graveminder, by Melissa Marr -- I was so excited for this creepy looking book to come out, but then it got pushed to the back of the bookshelf somehow. I should bump this higher on the to-read list.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Evolution of Mara Dyer

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Source: Won a free Advance Reader's Copy from a publisher contest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I learned that I had won an ARC of this book from the publisher. I dove right into The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer which I had put off because I had heard it ends in one hell of a cliff-hanger and waiting for the publication of follow-up books is not exactly my strong suit. Let's just say I'm not the most patient person when it comes to these things. Which royally sucks, because this book also ends in a crazy cliff-hanger!

Simply put, if you liked the first novel, you most certainly will love this one as well. Mara's story continues to twist and turn, and just like with the first book, I was blindsided by some of the plot developments. I give an author a great deal of credit when she can surprise me, and surprise me Michelle Hodkin most certainly did. The first book left us with a lot of questions and you'll be happy to know that many of those get answered here, but there are plenty of new ones that are raised as well. For better or worse, some of those likely won't get answered until the final book.

I love Noah even more in this book than the first. There's just something so sweet and romantic about him being the only one who believes Mara is telling the truth. Even as a reader, when you start to question whether or not Mara really is just nuts, Noah stands by her. The lengths he goes to trying to protect her just about kill me and you really feel like they are a team -- the two of them against the world. I was also so thrilled to see that Jamie reappears since I really love his character and his friendship with Mara.

I'm only squeaking in this review two days before it's launch date so you don't have long to wait! Order it now or march yourself to the bookstore on Tuesday because this is one fabulous read. With all that is revealed in the final scenes of this book, the only negative I can think of is the excruciating wait for the final book in this trilogy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#5): Requiem

There are still five more months to wait for the final installment of the Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver.

Requiem (Delirium, #3)
Expected Publication Date: 3/5/2013

Pandemonium ended with such a cliff-hanger, I really cannot wait to find out what happens next...

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#6): Favorite Authors

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke & the Bookish we're supposed to choose our favorite authors from the genre of our choice. I don't have a specific "niche" that I read from all the time, so I'm going to go a bit broad here and split this up between adult fiction authors and young adult fiction authors.

Top Four Adult Fiction Authors

1. Kate Morton - I am addicted to this woman's books. Her latest gets published TODAY. Can't wait for my pre-order to arrive!

2. Sara Gruen - So in love with Water for Elephants and I enjoyed her other three books as well.

3. Diana Gabaldon - I love Jamie and Claire and everything about the fabulous Outlander saga. The books are massive -- just calling this a "series" doesn't really do it justice!

4. Kathryn Stockett - So far The Help is her only published novel, but I will snap up anything else this wonderful writer comes out with in the future.

Top Five Young Adult Fiction Authors

1. J.K. Rowling (I'm only 20 pages in, but I'll soon see if The Casual Vacancy adds Ms. Rowling to my adult list as well!)

2. Jenny Downham - I've talked about this amazing author quite a few times now. LOVE her. I've reviewed both her books Before I Die & You Against Me

3. Suzanne Collins - Hunger Games. That's all.

4. Lauren Oliver - I have the rest of her books on my to-read list, but I've really enjoyed Delirium & Pandemonium

5. Lauren DeStefano - Wither & Fever - so good!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#4): Sever

Unfortunately, I still have quite a few months left to wait for this one:

Sever (The Chemical Garden, #3)
Expected Publication Date: 4/12/13

The final installment of The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano is calling my name! I loved the first two and I can't wait to see how everything turns out...

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#5): Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

I'm still pretty new to Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, so there were lots of great topics to choose from for this week's list! As I've been dipping my toe into the blogging world recently through blog hops and weekly features such as this one, I swear my To-Read list has just been growing exponentially! I've come across so many recommended books that I really can't believe I haven't read yet, so I thought this would be perfect for me. I've chosen mostly classics since they are so foundational for their genres and I really do feel like I've been missing out by not having read them yet. I also added a few contemporary books at the end. This is going to be embarrassing, but here goes nothing!

1. Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen -- This is such a beloved classic that so many speak so highly of. I own it, but have yet to crack it's spine!

2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer/The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain -- I feel like everyone except for me read one of these two for school!

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- My husband recommended this one to me forever ago, but it just never happened!

4. Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier -- One of the original gothic novels that I really must get around to one of these days.

5. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte -- Another shameful omission!

Pride and Prejudice   The Adventures of Tom Sawyer   100 Years of Solitude
Rebecca   Wuthering Heights

6. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte -- ditto above.

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Really looking forward to the day I finally get to this one.

8. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman -- Haven't seen the movie either!

9. Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- OK I have read a couple of the short stories, but I've been meaning to read one of the full collections and/or the novels, FOREVER.

10. The rest of the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis -- I read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for a college class, but never more than that. I wish I read them as a kid, but I still think this is a must at some point in time.

Jane Eyre   The Great Gatsby   The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
The Adventures and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes   The Chronicles of Narnia

BONUS: A few contemporary books that also deserve a mention (and a read one of these days!)

11. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

12. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

13. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

14. The Passage, by Justin Cronin

15. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

The Book Thief   His Dark Materials Omnibus (His Dark Materials)   Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Passage (The Passage #1)   A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)

This list could probably go on and on, but I think I'll end it here!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Source: Purchased & won a free copy in a publisher contest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems I'm behind the times with this one. I recently won a free copy from the publisher, along with an ARC of the sequel, The Evolution of Mara Dyer. (Stay tuned, I'm reading that one next!!) This left me with two copies of the first book and if that's not a sign it's time to start reading, I don't know what is!

I had originally bought this book after reading a great review of it on The Makeshift Bookmark and feeling like I just HAD to know what it was all about. Then I talked myself out of reading it right away because I had been forewarned that it ends with a giant cliff-hanger. And it's a doozy, let me tell you. I am SO glad I had book #2 on my nightstand when I read the ending to this one. Michelle Hodkin just might give Lauren Oliver a run for her money in the Oh-My-God-I-Can't-Believe-That-Just-Happened Department and that's saying something. I was kept in suspense all the way until the end and was totally FLOORED by the ending. You will not see it coming.

For anyone who isn't familiar with the general premise of the book, it's about a girl who moves to another state after two of her friends and her boyfriend die in an accident that leaves her with barely a scratch. In her new town, Mara struggles to cope with PTSD in the aftermath of the tragedy.  As all sorts of odd things start to happen, Mara has trouble figuring out what is real and what is not due to her fragile state. As I was reading, I felt like I had an idea of what might be happening to Mara, but I could never quite figure out how the story would get there.

And of course there's a Boy (what YA book doesn't?). As the book opens, you want to hate Noah Shaw, but let me tell you, the boy grows on you. I'll leave it up to you how you feel about him, but I implore people to remember that high school is Complicated with a capital C. By the end of the book, you start to understand the motives behind his actions and, personally, I went from loathing his character to quite the opposite.

I also can't forget to mention Mara's brothers. I absolutely loved these two boys and the relationship they had with their sister. (I also found it an odd coincidence that their names are Daniel & Joseph and my own brother's name is Daniel Joseph, but that's beside the point.) There was a perfect balance of protectiveness, friendship, and butting-heads amongst the three of them and it was refreshing to read.

This book doesn't quite reach 5 stars for me, but it did get me totally stoked for the follow-up. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#3): Stolen Nights

I thought this one was coming out soo long ago, but unfortunately I had some misinformation. I have been waiting ever since for this sequel to Rebecca Maizel's Infinite Days.

Stolen Nights (Vampire Queen, #2)
Stolen Nights
Expected Publication Date: 1/29/13

Rather than humans becoming vampires, this one is about a vampire that becomes human. The first one was a great read and I cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#4): Older Books Not to Forget

Top Ten Tuesdays is a feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.

Water for Elephants   Fahrenheit 451   Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
World of Pies   The House at Riverton

1. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen -- If you have not read this book yet, you really must! It's one of my all time favorites.

2. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury -- Any lover of the written word has got to read this classic novel. I also thought it quite appropriate to include since we're in the middle of Banned Books Week.

3. Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling -- We're also in the midst of all the excitement surrounding Rowling's first adult novel, but if you're one of the 5 people who never read this series, it's not too late. I envy the fact that you still have the opportunity to read it for the first time. It is pure magic.

4. World of Pies, by Karen Stolz -- It's been a really long time since I read this book, so I don't remember everything about it, but I do remember it being a great read. If you haven't read it, check it out. And I think it's time for me to read it again!

5. The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton -- Her newest book comes out today, but if you never read her first novel, it's a fabulous read.

Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow, #1)   The Luxe (Luxe, #1)   Alphabet Weekends
The Thirteenth Tale   Sh*t My Dad Says

6. Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden -- This is the first of an Australian YA series originally published in 1993. If you've never read this series and you're a fan of YA, it's a must-read.

7. The Luxe series, by Anna Godbersen -- A lot of people disliked the final book in this series, but I enjoyed it all the way through. Things don't always turn out the way I'd like them to, but such is life. I don't think that's a good enough reason for me to dislike a book or a series unless I absolutely cannot reconcile why a character would have acted a certain way or why an author wrote an ending a certain way.

8. Alphabet Weekends, by Elizabeth Noble -- I have the rest of her novels on my to-read list, but this one from 2000 was such a lovely book.

9. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield -- I've found myself enjoying gothic-type fiction much more lately, and I'd love to re-read this one. It came out a few years ago and is definitely worth a read.

10. Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern -- This one came out 2 years ago and is the funniest memoir ever. I loved it on audiobook, but I'm sure it's great in whatever form you choose to read it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Celebrating Banned Books Week

Fahrenheit 451It's hard for me to believe that in 2012 there are still people in this country trying to get books banned. Knowledge truly is power and it is only knowledge that can fight ignorance which is a truly dangerous thing. Whatever you choose to read, whatever books librarians choose to stock their shelves with, and whatever titles teachers choose to teach their students -- we all have the freedom of choice, just as we should.

Books sometimes show us the ugliness of the world, that is true. But that is an ugliness that we need to learn about, not hide from. It won't go away if we all stick our heads in the sand.

Books sometimes express beliefs that are different from our own. But we need to open our minds to the diversity in the world and learn that ours is not the only way.

Books sometimes depict situations or ideas or use language we feel our children are too young for. But that does not mean the book should not be read by anyone, or banned from a library's collection. Everyone is different and parents should be able to decide for themselves if and when their child is ready for any one particular book. Encourage your kids to talk to you about what they're reading -- it might even make important discussions easier.

Books teach us about the world and they teach us about humanity. They teach us about people who are different from us and they teach us how to see things from another's perspective. Reading is a very solitary act, but I truly believe it improves us as human beings when we go out into the world. Books teach us to open our minds and to learn new things. We learn to form opinions and to question what we read. Ever since I learned to read, books have been dear to me. I can't imagine a life without books or a life in which I don't have a choice about what I read.

The funny thing is that forbidden fruit is always sweetest -- by trying to get a book banned, it's likely more people will read it rather than less. I think that is a rather interesting side effect!

To celebrate my right to read what I choose, I offer you a list of frequently challenged books I've read compiled from the ALA's Banned & Challenged Classics, 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999 &  2000-2009, and Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century Lists:

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
1984, by George Orwell
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
The Bridge to Teribithia, by Katherine Paterson
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Earth's Children series, by Jean M. Auel
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Grendel, by John Gardner

There are a lot of other great titles on the ALA lists and several I already own, but haven't read yet. I'd like to add to this list and read more before Banned Books Week 2013 comes around -- I'll keep you posted!

Be a rebel, read a Banned Book!

P.S. I'm also submitting this post to this week's Book Blogger Hop hosted by Soon Remembered Tales.