Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite Reads of 2014

I'm ridiculously behind in reviewing (and general blogging), but I had to post my favorites from this year of reading.  It's been a great year for me, but not generally in the reading department (and definitely not in the blogging area).  I read 71 books this year, but I'll save all the fun stats for a later post (that's my incentive to do said post :).  I have to admit, when I looked over the list, I didn't really have a lot of books that jumped out at me as favorites.  Basically, this was relatively easy!  Here they are, categorized by genre:

YA Historical Fiction:

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Opened my eyes to how many stories and sorrows there are that I will never know about.  Cruelty of humankind will never cease to amaze me.  Also, resiliency!

YA Historical Fantasy:

Chime by Franny Billingsley (review to come)
Fascinating, strange, and beautifully written.  I was engrossed from the start.

YA Fantasy/Sci-fi:
Cress by Marissa Meyer
More, please, Ms. Meyer.  I love this series!

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (review to come)
I really enjoyed the fantasy and the magic woven in this tale.

Atlantia by Ally Condie (review to come)
Different and unique and once more, beautifully written.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (review to come)
Intriguing and fascinating and if I had had a copy in hand, unputdownable (I listened to the audio).

Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (review to come)
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (review to come)
Let's just get me the last book in this series, already.  I'm always surprised by where these books end up!

MG Historical Fiction:

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Hello, novel in verse.  I love seeing unique historical periods through the eyes of a child.

MG Non-Fiction:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (review to come)
There's a reason this book is being raved about.  It is fantastic and I wish I could just read it over and over all day long.  Also written in verse!

MG Fantasy:

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy (review to come)
Many thanks, Mr. Healy, for the belly laughs.

Adult Fiction:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (review to come)
Made me really think about where I've been and where I'm going in life.  Who do I want to become?

Adult Fantasy:

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (review to come)
Such a rich and detailed fantasy world Sanderson has created.  I'll take another helping, please!

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread!)
Never gets old.  Truly, the best fantasy for me.

Adult Non-Fiction:

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand (review to come)
The book touched me in many ways, noting again the cruelty of mankind and the ability we have to rise above extremely horrific circumstances.  Truly inspiring!

What were your favorite reads this year?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, December 12, 2014

One Librarian's Holiday Bookish Gift Guide

So I started this post earlier and had looked up a bunch of lovely items.  And then my post didn't get saved (BLAH!).  All this boils down to: short and sweet.  Here's last year's Holiday Gift Guide, I've included some of the same items, because they are still awesome.

A beautiful version of a childhood favorite. Bonus points for nostalgia-inducing choices! Like this gorgeous The Secret Garden illustrated by Inga Moore (see more of the lovely illustrations here)


Or The Annotated Charlotte's Web for a true E.B. White fan:

I'm partial to the globes, but you can't go wrong with dragons.  Right?

Bookish t-shirts:
I saw a teen wearing a shirt that said "Perfect men only exist in books."  I love it!  Plus, with t-shirts, you can either make it yourself with a favorite quote (it's super easy to iron on) or purchase one.  I like these ones:
from Zazzle.com
from OutofPrintClothing.com

Signed Books:
Lots of indie bookstores have stock on hand of books signed by the author.  Changing Hands, my local, has some. A few others you can peruse online Parnassus Books in Nashville or The Strand in NYC, and even Barnes and Noble. Or you can track down your own local indie bookstore and buy a signed edition in person.  Then you get the added bonus of personalized help!  Find your local independent book store.

Tote Bag:
Everyone wants to haul around their books in style.  I love the Anne of Green Gables tote from Litographs - it's got the full text of the book printed on it!  Also, the Little Women tote from Out of Print Clothing is just darn cute.
Book + Movie:
There are loads of options for this kind of gift and it satisfies movie-lovers as well.  You can try The Fault in Our Stars (movie and book) or Divergent (movie and book) for modern hits or go classic with Pride and Prejudice (there are several movies and book versions) or North and South (movie and book).  You can buy movie tickets for those still in the theater like The Hobbit or The Maze Runner.  Or if they prefer plays, you can buy tickets to a play the accompanying book, like Wicked, Les Miserables, or The Wizard of Oz.  There are lots of combinations to choose from and either way, I'm quite sure your bookish friend or family member will love it! 

What gifts are you dying to receive this year?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: November 2011
Pages: 860
Source: Purchased (and signed!)
For: Fun
Series: Inheritance, Book 4

Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers are inevitable for the first three books*
Not so very long ago, Eragon — Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider — was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chance.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaƫsia? And if so, at what cost?
Things I Liked:
You've got to give Paolini credit for coming up with a rich and detailed world and a problem that seemed unsolvable.  The bare bones of this story are really good, exciting and fast-paced.  The characters are interesting and flawed and at times simply annoying.  There is so much detail and so many different people and things to keep track of.  I was really happy there was a summary at the beginning to remind us what happened in the previous books (yeah, so I reread them right before I thought I was going to read this...and then more than a year passed before I finally got to it).  I'm pretty satisfied with how it ended as well, though there are some issues I had, of course.

Things I Didn't Like:
Ok, the main thing about these books that bothers me is their length and how they're packed with details that just need to be cut.  It's been said by many many people in much more convincing ways, but he could really have benefited from an editor chopping out much of the fluff.  Yes, there is a lot that he's created in his imagination.  I think it would have been better if he'd put some of those stories and details into some kind of appendices or additional book about the world if he really wanted people to know about it.  Those who are dying for more would have devoured it, but the books would have been tighter and flowed a lot faster.  Also, shorter.  Yeah, the ending left me unsatisfied in a few ways (hello, Aria) and the way the king was defeated (spoiler?  probably not) was a bit out of the blue, but still I could handle it.  And yes, he drew on a lot of source material and I don't really even have much of a problem with that, but it's just the ridiculous length and side stories and jumping from character to character and every single thing must be written out in detail.  Glad I read the end and glad that it's the end.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 
The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

s-factor: !@ 
some here and there

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->->->
Ok, it's a really long book about a really long war and there are a LOT of battles

Overall rating: story: ****, experience **

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review: UnSouled by Neal Shusterman

UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: October 2013
Pages: 416
Source: e-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Unwind, Book 3

Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they're not just running away from something. This time, they're running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever.

Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human.

With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively;and everyone will be changed.
Things I Liked:
This has signature Shusterman deep, thought-provoking moral dilemmas.  I love that he mixes in with his story (which at times, can seem incredulous), real clips from articles that make you realize just how realistic the story can be.  There are situations and difficulties that the characters face that seem impossible.  The kids are making impossible choices with really horrible situations that they experience.  I'm quite glad I read the short story Unstrung before this one, because I would have been rather confused if I hadn't.  There were a lot of details and some characters that I'd forgotten from the previous books (it's been a long time since I read them), but I didn't think I got too lost.  Compelling story and world-building.  I'm interested to see where the next book leads us.

Things I Didn't Like:
This book was quite difficult for me to read.  Even though I mentioned all the really thoughtful things, it suffered from lack of plot to me.  It seemed like they went nowhere, did nothing, and spent a lot of time worrying and wondering and trying to figure out what they should do.  I mean, this book is like 1000 pages long, so that is a lot of time to spend thinking on page.  It honestly felt like a filler book, which considering it's book 3 seemed rather unfortunate.  I'm still invested in the story, because I'd like to see how Shusterman can possibly end this series and not make the world just fall apart.  But, I didn't much care for this book. 

Start with Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary Pearson

s-factor: !@
there are some

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
glimpses here and there, but nothing too graphic

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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