Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#11): Most Anticipated Books of 2013

There is no way I'm going to be able to keep this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, to only ten! Despite my towering piles of To-Read books there are so many new ones I'm looking forward to in the new year, so I'm cheating and sharing them all.

Find out more about each title on GoodReads by clicking on each book cover or title. Keep in mind that publication dates can change, but as of now, these are all slated for release sometime in 2013 (as per GoodReads.) There's nothing I like better than spreading the word about books, so here goes nothing...

Lots of great YA:

Requiem (Delirium, #3)   Sever (The Chemical Garden, #3)   The Essence (The Pledge, #2)

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)   Mystic (Soul Seekers, #3)   Taken (Taken, #1)

The Murmurings   Uses for Boys   Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)

A couple of adult books:

The Blood Gospel   The Winter Witch

A few that don't have covers yet (Adult):

Written in My Own Heart's Blood, by Diana Gabaldon -- the next Outlander book, eeee!

The All Souls Trilogy book #3 (untitled), by Deborah Harkness

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3), by Justin Cronin

A few that don't have covers yet (YA):

All That Was Lost Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller

Fullriders #1 (untitled), by Simone Elkeles

The Retribution of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin

Horizon (Soul Seekers #4), by Alyson Noel

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (#10): The Winter Witch

I keep seeing this one pop up all over this place and the description on Goodreads has really sucked me in.

The Winter Witch
The Winter Witch, by Paula Brackson
Expected Publication Date: 1/29/2013

The best part of discovering this upcoming book was realizing Paula Brackston isn't a first-time author and she has another book out that I can read in the meantime! It's called The Witch's Daughter and, despite the similar titles, they are not actually related.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#10): Authors I'm Thankful For

This won't be the first time I've confessed my undying love for a few of my favorite authors. So at the risk of repeating myself to any readers who've actually been around this little corner of the internet for a little while now, I've decided to participate in this week's Top Ten Tuesday sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish. I'm going to keep this one short and sweet :)

Adult Authors
1. J.K. Rowling
2. Diana Gabaldon
3. Kate Morton
4. Sara Gruen
5. Kathryn Stockett

YA Authors
6. J.K. Rowling (yes, J.K. makes both lists)
7. Jenny Downham
8. Lauren Oliver
9. Suzanne Collins
10. Lauren DeStefano

Honorable Mention: Stephenie Meyer -- I wasn't a fan of The Host, but I am a big Twilight fan. I don't care how many people hate on these books, I still like them. A guilty pleasure, if you will.

I am also incredibly grateful to be an educated, literate woman who grew up in a family that placed great importance on reading. I am grateful to have the time and the means to read at leisure and the freedom to read whatever I choose. Not everyone in this world is so lucky. What are you grateful for?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#9): The Essence

I have to admit that I haven't read the first in this series, The Pledge. I bought it a while ago, but I've been holding out for at least one more to get published before I read it. Let's just say, I'm not so patient when it comes to waiting for sequels.

The Essence (The Pledge, #2)
The Essence, by Kimberly Derting
Expected Publication Date: 1/1/2013

I find the premise of this series really fascinating -- a world where the classes are divided by the language they speak -- so I'm hoping to enjoy both the first and second installments. Click on the cover for the full description on Goodreads.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading Banned Books: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

I first heard about this book years ago, but nothing really compelled me to pick it up until a combination of two things happened. First, I learned it was being released as a movie which reminded me just how popular this book is that I'd never read. Second, I saw it on the ALA's list of frequently challenged books. And as a general rule, I feel that if a book has ruffled a few feathers, it's probably worth reading.

I've come across more negative reviews than I really anticipated, but overall I know this book is still loved by many and considered to be somewhat of a modern classic. Having just finished it, I can now understand why. It deals with the very tumultuous period of adolescence and I imagine many young people can relate to Charlie, the main character. He encounters so many real and important issues, both big and small. From suicide to making friends, from  homophobia to figuring out how to act on a first date, and from rape to break-ups. There's a whole lot going on and these few topics really only begin to scratch the surface.

Given this subject matter, I can also see why it’s been challenged, even though I do not believe books such as this one should be censored. Personally, I think adults, particularly parents, should stop squirming away from books that deal with tough subjects and instead acknowledge that the themes in young adult fiction really do reflect the struggles and issues everyday kids face. We should be creating an open dialogue, not sticking our heads in the sand.

One particular subject I think the book explores very well is the often difficult reality of being a gay teenager. We learn early on that Charlie’s friend Patrick is gay and then we witness the secrecy, fear, bullying, and family rejection that all too often affect gay teenagers. The fact that the book discusses homosexuality at all is one of the main reasons it has been challenged, but this is a subject that needs to be discussed. I’d like to think that by getting to “know” a fictional character such as Patrick, more people might be influenced to be more compassionate and accepting of people who are different than themselves. And if that were the result of reading this book, I honestly don’t know what it is any “offended” adults have to fear.

On a bit of a lighter note, I love how the novel is written in the epistolary style, each letter simply addressed "Dear friend." It felt like Charlie was writing directly to me as the reader while at the same time reading almost like a diary. This reminded me of myself as a teenager since I was always scribbling daily observations in my journals (perhaps I too was a bit of a wallflower!). Charlie’s writing is not flawless. In fact, it is even a bit awkward at times, but for readers to believe these are really letters written by a 15-year-old, I think this was necessary. As a result, the writing feels authentic and I think it helped make the characters and the story more authentic as well.

Now, I’m going to end this with one minor quibble. I know Charlie is a sensitive soul and he has his fair share of issues and problems to deal with, but I did find the sheer number of times the poor boy cries in public to be a bit unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, I have zero problem with boys or men crying. I don't think it makes them weak or any less masculine, but at the same time, I think most people (women and girls included) try very hard to rein in their emotions in public. If it said he "felt like crying" or "fought back tears" or I don't know SOMETHING else along those lines once in a while, it might have been a little more believable. But like I said, this is a very minor quibble.

This book might not be for everyone, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. In a relatively short space, this book covered a lot of ground. It tells a story and it does so extremely well. It's not the kind of book where you expect crazy twists and turns, but I was surprised when something quite unexpected did happen near the end. It was honestly kind of a punch in the gut, but the revelation really helped me understand Charlie’s character better. At first, I was thinking “What the hell?!,” but the more I thought about it, the more all the puzzle pieces seemed to fit into place. Are you curious now? Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reading Banned Books & Reading the Classics

Two things happened last month that have really made me want to shake up my reading routine. First, there was Banned Books Week. Writing about the topic of censorship and taking a closer look at the lists of frequently challenged books, I realized there were far too many I want to read, but haven't yet. I promised myself at the end of that blog post I would read at least 10 more of these titles before next year's Banned Books Week rolls around.

Then, I wrote a list of Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read and realized that many of the books I feel I've been missing out on are classics. Combine that with the fact that dozens of frequently challenged books are classics and it's really made me want to branch out from my usual reading selections. I'll still be reading some of my more usual fiction titles, both adult and YA, but I really want to start mixing things up. So, stay tuned for some reviews that fall into these two categories and some that just might fall into both!

And if anyone else wants to join in and is interested in reading banned books or classics, I'd love to read your reviews -- just leave me a link :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#8): Gameboard of the Gods

I found out about this upcoming series two weeks ago over on Nightmare on Bookstreet.

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)
Gameboard of the Gods
Expected Publication Date: 6/4/2013

You had me at "In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists..." This would be my first from Richelle Mead and I'm very much looking forward to it. You can click on the book cover for the full description on Goodreads.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#9): Favorite Covers

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, we got a freebie! I'm doing a mix of favorite covers from both books I've read and books on my to-read list. Now, I know a lot of people take issue with movie adaptation covers, but I actually have a fondness for some of them. This doesn't necessarily mean I even like the movie, but if I like the actors (don't judge) and especially if I learn about a book because it's being made into a movie, I do love a well done movie cover.

Covers from Books I've Read:

Water for Elephants   Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1)   Fallen (Fallen, #1)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)   Something Like Normal

Covers from Books on My To-Read/Pre-Order List:

The Rose Garden   The Lantern   The Taker (The Taker #1)
Rapture (Fallen, #4)   The Winter Witch

P.S. Don't forget to vote today!

Monday, November 5, 2012

I won!

I very rarely win things. I'm the one that usually gets the losing scratch-off tickets in my Christmas stocking and I don't think I've ever won a raffle or anything like that at an event or fundraiser. And I don't even like casinos because the machines just eat my money. When I started winning free books from GoodReads FirstReads program I was over the moon -- it was so exciting to finally win something! I was really diligent about reading and reviewing those books at first, but then the pile overwhelmed me. For the time being at least, I no longer win anything from that program either because my delinquent reviews have put me on the shit-list.

Anyway, I'm telling you all of this to explain how super-excited I was to hear that I won Sandy of Somewhere Only We Know's giveaway to celebrate her blog gaining 100 followers! I won a $10 giftcard to Barnes & Noble, so you know what that means: shopping time! I even had a coupon in my email, so I just had to put an order in right away. Of course I spent more than $10, I had to get free shipping, afterall. I have way too many novels and series in my To-Read pile as it is, so I decided to go for a few new releases that celebrate bookstores and the written word. And I threw in one cookbook -- You see, I'm also a bit of a cookbook addict and work for the website Eat Your Books, so I really couldn't resist! So here's what's on it's way (well, it will be on it's way Nov. 13th since My Bookstore is still a pre-order):

My Ideal Bookshelf
My Ideal Bookshelf,
by Jane Mount & Thessaly La Force

The Books They Gave Me: True Stories of Life, Love, and Lit
The Books They Gave Me, by Jen Adams
My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop
My Bookstore, by Ronald Rice

Cooking Light Slow-Cooker Tonight!: 140 Delicious Weeknight Recipes That Practically Cook Themselves
Slow Cooker Tonight! from Cooking Light
I love Cooking Light's smaller slow cooker cookbook they published in 2006, so I'm hoping for good things from this one! Click on the photos to check these books out on Goodreads (except for the cookbook -- that link goes to Barnes & Noble) and don't forget to check out Sandy's blog, Somewhere Only We Know. Thanks again!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

Seeing so many bad reviews of this book really breaks my heart. Judging from the fact that there are also a great number of reviews praising it and having just finished it myself, I am convinced the (somewhat) widespread dislike comes from misperceptions of what the book is about and what people expected from Ms. Rowling's "next chapter." Let's face it, the book sold so many copies so quickly because of who J.K. Rowling is. And I am certain there are elements in this novel (rape, incest, drug use, self-mutilation, mental illness, domestic violence, criminal behavior, cheating, and the free use of foul language, just to name a few) that won't sit well with some of Rowling’s fans whether or not they resist the temptation to compare it to Harry Potter.

That aside, J.K. Rowling is still, without a doubt, a skilled writer and storyteller. She is still the same person who breathed life into the magical world of Harry Potter, but in The Casual Vacancy, she breathes life into a much uglier, grimier world. This is no fantasy; it’s still fiction, but it’s about real life. There is misery and heartbreak, pettiness and selfishness, unhappiness and desperation. Rowling brings the town and people of Pagford to vivid life, but it's not a pretty picture.

Against the backdrop of a local election to fill the council seat of the deceased Barry Fairbrother, Rowling keenly observes the citizens of a small town and tells their story without any sugar-coating. She shows us that people are often so caught up in their own petty issues and problems that they fail to see the world is so much bigger than their own tiny place in it. She shows us just how horribly human beings can treat each other -- sometimes on purpose and sometimes not. She shines a light on the cruelty of a society divided by class and the mistrust it breeds between people who see each other as “different.”

I must say, I found it a bit ironic to be reading this in the days leading up to the presidential election. The sharp dividing line between "parties" in the book reminds me so much of the state of our own country. There is an inability for people to see things from another’s point of view and there is a stubborn unwillingness to work together.

To move a little bit away from the abstract, I want to briefly talk about Krystal, a character I couldn’t help but love. She lives in poverty and her mother is a drug-addicted prostitute. She is crude and crass and her very presence in one of Pagford's schools is a thorn in the side of many "good citizens" of the town. This girl has many flaws, but with the exception of Barry Fairbrother who has (in this case) the advantage of being dead, the most likeable character in the whole book. The things this girl has lived through are unthinkable. But through it all, she's built up a tough skin and she's been a survivor. She does not make the best decisions, but she tries to take on responsibility for her baby brother whom she loves very much. That’s an awful lot to ask of a 16 year old. I’m not going to tell you what happens, but know that if you're looking for a happy ending, you're reading the wrong book.