Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best of 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 with 16 comments

So, I kind of already rounded up my favorite reads of 2013, but I'm going to try to narrow things down a bit here.  Also, I forgot some apparently.  I read a ton this year -- 50 more books than last year for a total of just over 200 -- and a lot of great books came out at the beginning of 2013 that I just plain forgot about until I really started perusing my "read" shelf.  Plus, I listened to quite a few audiobooks along the way, and I'd like to highlight those, as well, seeing as I've convinced a good number of friends to give them a try.  (I'm actually a book pusher and an audiobook pusher.)  Also, it's really hard to narrow a list down to just ten or so like most would have you attempt to do -- and we all know there are only very few of us who could do it! -- so this list will break it up, include more than the requisite ten, and hopefully will make it easier for you to find a new favorite...if you haven't already!  =)

First up, the novels that started it all:

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Splintered by A.G. Howard
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

These are the first books in new series that published in 2013.  Some are trilogies, some are duets, and some are companion novels in a planned series, but all are absolute page-turners.

Next up, we have the sequels I was dying to read in 2013:

These are books that ended up being just as good as or even better than the first books in the series, and I'm now dying for the next book.

World After by Susan Ee
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Everbound by Brodi Ashton

And I just realized that I totally forgot to include Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi in this list.  D'oh.  I can't believe I left off Warner!!!

I could go on to create a list of top series endings, but honestly, those are bittersweet for me and probably won't ever make one of my "best" lists.  Though that's not to say that they aren't still favorites.

Of course, I can't forget those books that I had to see what all the fuss was about:

One & Only by Viv Daniels
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Archived by Victoria Schwab

These four books were ones I was reluctant to read for whatever reason:  I'd requested and decided the book wasn't a priority, neglected to request for review because I wasn't sure it would be my thing, or ended up requesting because of other bloggers.  It's always another blogger's fault, isn't it?  And again, I just realized I forgot to include a really amazing book on this list: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay.  It is becoming clear that I am simply horrible at lists.

Now for the books I finally got to because I ran across the audio on Audible:

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Okay, so these kind of fall under the last category, too, but since I listened to them, I wanted them to have their own section.  These are books that I've heard about forever and just could not find the time to read.  (The only exception is The Scorpio Races, but I did re-read that one this year, and only because I had it on audio, so I'm counting it because it's phenomenal.) So, I did what I usually do and found them on audio.  And my goodness, I think I probably would have preferred these on audio anyway because the narration is just beyond anything I would have experienced if I'd just read the books myself.  A great book + a fantastic narrator = an awesome audiobook.  Oh, another good audio is Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen.  (Yeah, I forgot another one.)

And last but not least, the books I read at the end of 2013 that don't even release until 2014 that were just too awesome not to mention:

Heh...now I'm just teasing you.  ;0) You might see a pattern with some of these...as in, I read the first book earlier this year, fell in love, then read the sequel and it's just as to die for. Which means now that I've already read it -- and it doesn't even release until next year (and yes, I realize that's tomorrow) -- I now have to wait even longer for the next book, if there is one. I mean, c'mon...what was I even thinking?  I must love to torture myself.

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
The Treatment by Suzanne Young
Unhinged by A.G. Howard
Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Plus One by Elizabeth Fama (not pictured, #1 because I'm a dorkus and forgot another one and #2 there's not a cover yet, so it doesn't matter...someone get on that already :P)

So, yeah, those are my picks for best reads of 2013.  At least, from what I read.  If I had to pick a favorite, um, well, I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a pencil than put my brain through that.  It's truly that difficult to pick.  But, yeah, it'd be one of these.  :D

What were some of your favorite reads this year?  Did any of mine make your list?

Stop by tomorrow to check out some of my resolutions for 2014.  There may or may not be something about sticking to limits on lists.  :P

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here's what I'm teasing this week:

Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: n/a
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux BYR
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source: borrowed from the awesomely amazing Christina
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
My teaser:
     "Arin was silent, and even though Kestrel had initially tried to answer his question in the briefest of ways, she felt compelled to explain the final reason behind her resistance to the general. "Also, I don't want to kill."  Arin frowned at this, so Kestrel laughed to make light of the conversation.  "I drive my father mad.  Yet don't all daughters?  So we've made a truce.  I have agreed that, in the spring, I will either enlist or marry."
     He stopped spinning the tile in his fingers.  "You'll marry, then."

- p. 98 of ARC

All the hype over this book is undoubtedly worth it, and I am so lucky to have such an awesome friend like Christina to loan it to me so I don't have to wait forever to find out why!  Though I do own The Shadow Society, this is my first time actually reading a Rutkoski novel, and I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed. Which means it's only a matter of time before I make room in my reading schedule for the other book on my shelf.

Also, FYI, you can download the first five chapters of The Winner's Curse for free right now:  Kindle | Nook.

What are you teasing this week?  Share it in the comments or leave a link so I can visit!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

Monday, December 30, 2013 with 7 comments
Title: The Unbound
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived, book #2
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Source: received from author/publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

I re-read The Archived prior to picking up my prized galley of The Unbound because, well...because of the Wesley Ayers. Among other things.  But, gawd, if I wasn't stoked  for the sequel before (and I was, I really was), then to say that giving that bad boy another read did unspeakable things to my determination to read The Unbound stat and without interruption would be an understatement.

I don't know about you, but I love an unreliable narrator.  And in this sequel, Mac becomes just such a narrator.  After the horrific things she survived in The Archived, girl is allowed a little mental breakdown, but when she starts to see Owen Chris Clarke, to feel his presence not only in her dreams but in her waking hours, too, something's gotta give, and for a good while, it looked like it was going to be Mac's sanity.  But it goes without saying that because of her questionable mental state, she might not be the most trustworthy source for information.  It might help if she'd actually talk to someone (ahem, Wesley) about what's troubling her, but you know she's not going to make it easy on herself.  Mac is tough as nails thanks to Da, and she will see this thing through, even if it kills her...but hopefully not.

And to add to the chaos of the situation is the fact that Victoria Schwab is boss as misdirection.  I had suspicions.  I had theories.  I felt at times that I was being pushed in one direction so that I'd get all turned around, like I were in those awful tunnels myself.  This sequel is all kinds of twisty, and I never knew who to trust, if anyone...well, except Wes.  I just can't not trust that guy.

Speaking of, if you were disappointed by the lack of swoons in the first book when it came to Wes and Mac, your patience will pay off in this book.  Though you should be warned, Mac's become a bit of a babe magnet as of late.  But fret not fellow Wesley fans, this is nothing compared to that awkward triangle-type thingy that happened in The Archived. Which, if I'm being perfectly honest, wasn't really there either since that was a case of Mac and OCC using each other for different purposes and really involved no feelings.  Anyway, back to my point:  lots of Wesley Ayers page time and you will see a side of him you've never seen before. And he's all kinds of adorbs, but that's to be expected.

New friends, new foes, old friends, old foes...this sequel isn't lacking for entertaining characters.  Roland is still a great counter to Mac's brash, impulsive personality.  I enjoyed the almost fatherly role he played in the first book, but he's an even more prominent ally now, which is perfect because Mac needs him now more than ever.  Even Mac's parents get more action in this sequel, though I can't say that it made me like them any better.  I empathize with their situation, but losing one child does not net you permission to be absent for your remaining offspring.  They seem to wake up a bit from their stupor and take notice, but it's all the wrong things they're seeing, and Mac can't say a word otherwise to dissuade them.

The interactions between Da and Mac still preface the chapters, but rather than being a present-tense memory where Mac is "speaking" to Da, this time around they actually feel like flashbacks, usually ones that precede some training aspect Mac is putting into action.  They still contain those nuggets of wisdom, but Mac is seeing the Archive and its actions in a different light, and she's starting to question what Da really knew and understood about the people he was working for.

Which is partly what makes this sequel so unbelievably good:  everything is in question and nothing can be taken for granted.  Also:  the resolution that should mollify all involved parties but likely will only result in inciting further rebellion...because it leaves room for more story, which I desperately need.  I could wax poetic about all the things I love about The Unbound, but there's only one thing that I'm disappointed in. And that's the fact that I can't find any info on a third book!  Grrr.

Check back for my stop on The Unbound Blog Tour later in January!

GIF it to me straight:

No words could adequately describe how amazing this sequel was.  Truly.

The Archived (The Archived, #1)The Unbound (The Archived, #2)
Gawds, I love those covers.  Eye porn for my book shelf.
About the author:

I am the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, I have been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. I also suffer from a wicked case of wanderlust, made worse by the fact that wandering is a good way to stir up stories. When I’m not haunting Paris streets or trudging up English hillsides, I’m usually tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up monsters.

My first YA novel, THE NEAR WITCH, a dark original fairy tale, debuted with Disney*Hyperion in August 2011, and is now out in paperback.

My next YA novel, THE ARCHIVED, is the first book in a new supernatural series about a world where the dead are shelved like books, and it hits stores January 2013, also with Disney*Hyperion.

My first adult novel, VICIOUS, about two brilliant and highly disturbed pre-med students who set out to generate their own superpowers and end up mortal enemies, is out in hardcover from Tor September 2013.

I have more books coming out in 2014, but I’ll get to those later.

These days, when someone asks me what I do when I’m NOT writing, I just kind of laugh nervously. But in truth, on the odd occasion I’m not typing away, I’m probably baking cookies, or watching BBC shows, or wandering. (See how we came full circle, there?)

Find Victoria:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumblr | YouTube

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Narrator:  Tanya Eby Sirois
Series: n/a
Length:  6 hrs 9 mins
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: June 20, 2008
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Add to Goodreads
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

It's been a couple of weeks since I listened to this audiobook.  I didn't mean to wait this long to review it, but them's the breaks.  Still, days later, I don't feel any differently about my first E. Lockhart novel than I did when I first finished it, and I'm kind of worried about how We Were Liars will fare now.

You see, unlike most people out there, I didn't love this book to pieces.  Actually, I found it kind of annoying for the most part.  If I hadn't been listening to the book instead of reading a physical copy, I probably would have set it aside and moved on.  But it's always easier for me to finish a story I'm not enjoying immensely when I'm listening to it while doing other activities, simply because I'm not technically wasting my time. (Money, sure, but not my time.)  The narrator was average...nothing stands out about the narration but it was decent and easy to listen to, anyway.

Frankie Landau-Banks is a girl who just realized she can no longer stand by and be left out of the good old boys club at her school.  Her father was a member of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds and now her super-hot boyfriend is a member.  And both are keeping secrets and lying to her about it.  I'm all for the girl who stands up for her rights and wants to be noticed.  (Don't we all?)  But the antics, the shenanigans, the lengths to which Frankie will go to be a part of this group, even without their knowing it, is entirely implausible and rather detrimental to the point she's trying to make, in my opinion.

First of all, I don't know any teenage girl with so little life -- or so much free time -- that she could plan the hijinks this group of guys finds themselves a part of.  There were some really well-devised schemes and pranks thought up by one Frankie Landau-Banks, but between friends, dating, and homework, where would a girl find the time to conjure up plans of this magnitude...and fairly regularly from the sound of it?  With any book, I allow for some suspension of belief because it is fiction, but when it's supposed to be realistic fiction, I have to draw a line somewhere, and this book overstepped it at times.

Especially the part where no one -- aside from her roommate the previous year -- seems to recognize Frankie after she had a summer growth spurt/transformation.  She's suddenly very pretty and developed and no one realizes that she's not a new student, that she attended Alabaster Prep with them the year before as a freshman.  I know some boys tend to be on the dense-side and that some makeovers really can transform a person, but the fact that she'd sat at the same lunch table as some of these guys, had actual conversations with them before, should have left some sort of impression, especially since they all knew her older sister before she graduated.  It just doesn't add up to me.

One thing I did enjoy about this story was the way it ended.  Teenage girls don't get their happily ever after at the age of 16, and I thought that even though things ended well enough for our heroine, she still hadn't made any friends with her choice to deceive and lead the Bassets astray.  I always favor realistic endings to those that are picture perfect, even if they do leave me less than satisfied.

I said I was worried about Lockhart's next novel, but that's not due to the writing.  I actually quite liked the writing style. It's the characters that bothered me, or more accurately, their actions.  I didn't connect with the characters, and I didn't like them, nor did I feel any inclination to do so.  But the way Frankie was portrayed, it seemed that had her father and boyfriend simply offered up some platitudes and a secret or two about their secret society, her whole plan may never have come to fruition.  The story seems like it's about feminism when really it felt like a study of Frankie's relationships with the two most important men in her life at the time.  In the end, did she finally get the respect she so desperately craved?  That's still up for debate.  Also, what was up with what happened with the ex?  Was that just some kind of initiation thing?  It was never fully explained.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was not a bad story.  I'd just heard so many wonderful things about this book, seen it on so many favorites lists over the years, that I went into the book with exceedingly high expectations that just weren't meant.  I still plan to read my ARC of We Were Liars, and I hope that it can set me straight where this author is concerned, especially since I haven't read any reviews for it yet.  I have a feeling that fact alone will help the book withstand my scrutiny.

GIF it to me straight:

An eye roll-inducing fluff piece masquerading as something deeper, though not altogether unenjoyable.

About the author:

E. Lockhart is the author of a number of teen novels. She has had nine official boyfriends, if you count the boy who asked her to go with him at a 7th grade dance and then basically never talked to her again. She has never been on a sports team of any kind and got excused from gym class by going to ballet lessons. She has a tattoo, cuts her own hair, and has worn the same perfume since high school (Kiehl's Chinese Flowers). In her office are two Betty & Veronica dolls, a photo of a particularly fat bull dog, an official business card from “Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective,” and the 1920s flapper dress she wore to the prom.

Find Emily:

Website | TwitterGoodreads | Pinterest

Saturday, December 28, 2013

In My Mailbox #114

Saturday, December 28, 2013 with 4 comments

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme where we all get to brag about the books and swag we got in the mail, for review, won in contests, etc.

So, apparently when I said I'd be back to my normal blogging schedule on Thursday or Friday, what I really meant was that I was going to go camping with my family at the deer lease and then come down with a stomach flu that left me incapacitated for the last couple of days.  I'm still not at 100%, but I feel tons better than I did yesterday.  However, I've yet to finish a book or a blog post while I've been on vacation.  Grrr.

Anyway, here's what I scored this week:

For Review:

Something Real
Thank you, Henry Holt & Fierce Reads!!!
(click on the cover(s) above to be taken to the Goodreads page for each book)

I won an ARC of this through a Twitter giveaway, and I can't wait to read it.  Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of reality tv, but I love reading about the behind-the-scenes stuff.

So, that's my haul.  How about you?  What did you get this week?

The Week in Review:

  • none

Current Giveaways:  Check back soon...I need to make room for more books!  :D

Promotional/Discussion Posts:  I (still) hope to do more discussions over the holidays...I've really been lacking in that department.  Sorry!

Jen's Currently Reading/Listening To:

Starters (Starters, #1)Lady Thief (Scarlet, #2)Since I just finished Scarlet and I now have the sequel in my possession and there's not better way to read books than back-to-back, I decided to pick up Lady Thief, even though it's not next on my list.  Schedule-schmedule.

Listening to this one as a refresher for Enders, which I need to read and review soon.  I actually kind of forgot how awesome this book is.  And the narrator is solid, which always helps.

Upcoming Reviews:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksAlienated (Alienated, #1)Bright Before SunriseThe Unbound (The Archived, #2)

Yep, not much has changed since last week.  Being sick/taking care of sick people will do that to you.  Hope you're all staying healthy and safe and warm!  I'll try to make the rounds soon.  =)

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 with 5 comments

Hey, guys!  I hope you're all enjoying the holidays:  the weather, the festivities, and most importantly, the time away from school and work.  =)  I haven't been around much, but that's not for lack of trying.  But sometimes, you have to put family and other things before your own wants and wishes.

On top of all of the preparations for Christmas, I have a sick kiddo.  Katie's been running a fever for a couple of days and just genuinely feeling yucky, and so all my plans to get things done while she was at daycare have been thwarted. Including getting her presents wrapped.  D'oh.  But the big day's here and we somehow worked everything out, as is usually the case, so all is well.

I plan to be back to blogging as usual by tomorrow or Friday, but again, that all depends on the family and what we have planned.  I'll always put them first, and even though this blog is important to me, my family is even more so.

I hope you are all spending time with family and friends and loved ones on this most special of days.  And I hope that no matter what you celebrate and who you're celebrating with, you're all being safe and careful and having a joyous holiday!

Be sure to check back for my 2013 Wrap-up post and my 2014 Blogging Resolutions!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays & all manner of good tidings!

Bring it on down to Wrappinville!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

In My Mailbox #113

Saturday, December 21, 2013 with 7 comments

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme where we all get to brag about the books and swag we got in the mail, for review, won in contests, etc.

Ahhhh....you feel that?  That's the beginning of winter break setting in.  I've got serious plans to finish several books over vacation.  I wish I could list them for you, but it really all depends on what mood hits me.  =)

Anyway, here's what I scored this week:

For Review:

We Were LiarsBroken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend (Broken Hearts & Revenge, #1)Lady Thief (Scarlet, #2)Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood, #1)
Thank you, Random House, Macmillan, Bloomsbury & Scholastic!!!
(click on the covers above to be taken to the Goodreads page for each book)

I just finished the audio for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks which was my first E. Lockhart book.  Still not sure what I think of it yet, but I do know that I like the writing style and now I'm looking forward to diving into We Were Liars even more.  Just stumbled upon Broken Hearts, Fences & Other Things to Mend but then I found out it was written under Morgan Matson's pseudonym!  I just finished listening to Scarlet and was so glad to get a copy of the sequel...hoping Lady Thief is even more epic!  And then yesterday, before I left work for my "I'm not coming back to this place until next year" vacation, I received an ARC of Fire & Flood in the mail.  I love supporting Texas authors but even more so when they write such fun books.  Scott's Dante Walker series is hilarious, and I can't wait to see what she does with her Pandoras.

So, that's my haul.  How about you?  What did you get this week?

The Week in Review:


Current Giveaways:  Check back soon...I need to make room for more books!  :D

Promotional/Discussion Posts:  I hope to do more discussions over the holidays...I've really been lacking in that department.  Sorry!

Jen's Currently Reading/Listening To:

Starters (Starters, #1)Lady Thief (Scarlet, #2)Since I just finished Scarlet and I now have the sequel in my possession and there's not better way to read books than back-to-back, I decided to pick up Lady Thief, even though it's not next on my list.  Schedule-schmedule.

Listening to this one as a refresher for Enders, which I need to read and review soon.  I actually kind of forgot how awesome this book is.  And the narrator is solid, which always helps.

Upcoming Reviews:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksAlienated (Alienated, #1)Bright Before SunriseThe Unbound (The Archived, #2)

Hope you all have a fabulous holiday...Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all of those good tidings! And who's watching the Dr. Who Christmas Special with me?!?  =)

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