Archive for the ‘Books & Reading’ Category

The best books I read in 2013

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Books & Reading
Tags: ,

My goal for 2013 was to read 25 books, and I happily surpassed that. At the time of writing this, I’m currently at 38 and counting, and although I’ve read a lot more than this in past years, this was still a great goal considering how busy I’ve been recently. Yay, books!

So, which were my favorites? Well, an early favorite was definitely The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. It had this cool dystopian premise that reminded me a lot of X-Men, which I’ve always been a huge fan of. It comes kids with special powers and scary detention camps. It’s definitely worth the read!

A quick followup to that was 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, which was different from a lot of other books I’d read previously. It has a creepy storyline and a great twist at the end. It’s also a standalone book, which I know can be hard to come by.

I also read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley this year, which really needs no introduction. I was surprised by how much I liked it, even to the point that I’d love to read it again. If you’re not usually into the classics (like me), I would still highly recommend this book. It’s interesting and smart and makes you think about Frankenstein’s monster in a way you probably never have before.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was another great book, and definitely left a few tears in my eyes. I’ll have to pick up his other novels now because I really like his writing style. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider reminded me a lot of his writing as well, and that’s another book I’d highly recommend. It may have also left a few tears in my eyes.

Burn for Burn and Fire with Fire by Jenny Han were complete surprises. I read them to review on Hypable and didn’t imagine I’d find them all that interesting, but they were a huge surprise — and in the best possible way. They combine some truly awesome female characters with some great romance and even a touch of the supernatural. These also had a great twist to them.

House of Hades by Rick Riordan was my favorite book this year for so many reasons. It had a great storyline, and it was wonderful to see characters that we’ve been so involved in for so many years finally mature and come to learn a lot more about life. If you’ve been thinking about getting into the Percy Jackson series, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Lastly, I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This book was difficult to read because so much of my life is reflected onto the pages. Between Cath’s involvement in fandom and her anxiety, I sometimes felt like I was reading a story about myself. This also has a wonderful romantic thread throughout the book that is really genuine and organic. I’d recommend this to anyone, but particularly to those who are introverts and would rather spend time in front of their computer than interacting with other human beings.

I read a lot of other books this year, but these were certainly my favorites. Have you read any of them? If so, which ones and what did you think? What were some of your favorite books from this year?

1fun
noun \ˈfən\

: someone or something that is amusing or enjoyable : an enjoyable experience or person

: an enjoyable or amusing time

: the feeling of being amused or entertained

I should preface this blog post by saying two of the other girls and I had a fantastic discussion on Book Hype yesterday about the merit of Young Adult fiction. The episode won’t be out until tomorrow, but be sure to check my Facebook page or the Book Hype Twitter for the link when it goes live.

Although I would like to hear what you have to say about the topic, that’s not what I’m writing about today. I wanted to mention Book Hype because we often have great discussions about a variety of topics that don’t have easy solutions. Talking about matters complexly is something that I love to do, and it’s something that I devote a lot of time doing on behalf of Hypable.

But what about having fun? Have we forgotten about that? If so, I suggest you reread the definition again.

Like I said, I have no problem with really digging in deep when it comes to having an intellectual conversation. That’s something that I think needs to be done. But what about just enjoying a story for the sake of it being a good story?

This has really been brought to my attention lately with the recent 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, along with conversations taking place about Catching Fire and Teen Wolf, among many, many other things. Fans of these stories seem to be getting more and more critical. They’re forgetting that the main focus of the story is to entertain. Where has the fun gone?

I’m not saying that all stories are meant to be fun. Many of the themes in the Hungers Games trilogy certainly aren’t. But what happened to soaking in the words of a good book or TV show or movie? Why do we have to cut down the authors and writers and directors for some of the smallest details?

Even when those details aren’t so small, why do we have to overthink their meaning and make judgments on those people as human beings? Is that fair? I don’t think it is.

A lot of it harkens back to the fact that we as a species just love to complain. We’re never satisfied. We always want more. That’s great to an extent, but why should there be so much hatred toward your favorite stories? If you spend more time complaining about them than enjoying them, I think you’re doing it wrong.

While I think everything should have an underlying meaning that can spark conversation and action, I also think we can’t forget about how fun a good book or a good television show or a good movie can be.

What do you think?

Fangirl Rainbow RowellI recently finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and was completely blown away. If you want to hear a more in-depth discussion of the book (though I’d recommend you read it first, as this contains spoilers), you can check out our Book Hype episode about it.

Meanwhile, I’m just going to be over here fangirling. (See what I did there?)

Oh, and no spoilers, though watch out for the comments!

Fangirl was an amazing read for me for two very distinct reasons: 1. Anxiety, and 2. Fandom.

1. Anxiety

The main character in Fangirl is named Cath, and in nearly every respect I felt like Rowell was writing about me. It was strange and, actually, made me a little uncomfortable.

Cath has social anxiety. Her twin sister didn’t want to room with her at college, so they could be identified as separate people (which, understandable). Cath barely left her room, didn’t eat at the dining hall on her own, almost never spoke to her roommate, and avoided making friends.

Yes, that was me.

I was lucky in that my roommate in college was my best friend. We’d been friends for years beforehand, and even though certain people at the college warned us that if we lived together we’d ruin our friendship, we did it anyway. It was my saving grace in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t have gone to the dining hall by myself, but Deej dragged me there. I hated walking to classes by myself, so I’d always make sure I’d go out with her — even if that meant I was way too early for everything. The whole experience was completely overwhelming.

And all of that shows through with Cath and what happens to her at school. There was one passage in the book where she worries about the answers to questions no one else asks. Where does the line start in the cafeteria? What can you eat? Where do you put your tray when you’re done?

When you don’t have anxiety, these questions seem bizarre. “Just figure it out!” “Watch what other people do!” That’s not so easy when you have a swarm of doubt buzzing through your brain like angry bees hellbent on seeing how high they can raise your heartbeat before it explodes.

Anxiety is exhausting. I don’t know whether Rowell had it — or still has it — or if she knew one someone who did, but the thought processes written in this book are so hauntingly similar to my own that I found it both impressive and a little scary.

For anyone who does have anxiety, especially social anxiety, I would recommend this book. It’s fascinating to see it written out in front of you, brought to life by Cath right before your eyes. It’ll make you pause and think, but it will  also give you hope for a less anxiety-ridden future.

P.S. Deej and are better friends than we were before college. Chew on that, Mansfield administration.

2. Fandom

This part may be harder to convey to you, as I know most of you are not as immersed into the fandom world as I am. But many of you are still huge fans of movies, television shows, and books.

Fandom mostly exists on the internet on Tumblr and Twitter and in forums. It’s a place where people gather to discuss their favorite things, laugh at inside jokes, and let their creative juices flow.

Fan-fiction is one result of that creativity. With the advent of Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m sure many of you are very familiar with the idea of fan-fiction and it’s various pros and cons. In Fangirl, Cath writes fan-fiction about a non-existent character named Simon Snow. It’s slash (gay) fiction, which is something that exists in droves on websites like Archive of Our Own, and the numerous others that exist.

Although I’ve only recently gotten into reading fan-fiction, Rowell obviously pulled from her own experiences when dealing with Cath’s obsession with these characters and her desire to write her own versions of them.

It’s something that is very real and exists in our world. This book explored not only an individual person’s relationship with fictional characters and fandom, but other people’s relationships with this person. It was interesting to see fandom both from someone’s perspective that lives in that world and from the perspective of someone that doesn’t.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book. It’s one of those novels that has the ability to really stick with you forever. For me, it did just that. The level at which I could connect to Cath was astounding, even if we weren’t exactly alike. And because of that, I appreciated not only the story for being a good one, but also what the author was trying to say within the pages of her novel.

Have you read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell? Do you think you’d like to? You can add it to your Goodreads list if you’re interested!

The Eve Genome CoverThe Eve Genome is finally live and in color! I had a hand in editing this book (which is always exciting, especially when I see my name on Amazon), and I’m proud to offer it to you guys as a recommendation.

This book is about a girl named Adriana whose blood type is nothing that anyone has ever seen before. To solve the mystery, she has to delve into her family’s past and figure out what makes her so different. Kalan, meanwhile, acts as both a welcome distraction and a clue to her family’s secret. But he may be hiding more than he’s letting on, too…

This is pulled right from my Amazon review:

I’ve never quite read a story like The Eve Genome. It was one of those rare stories where I didn’t know exactly how it was going to end. Full of interesting characters and fascinating science, I was sucked into the story right away. Joanne Brothwell doesn’t hold back at any point in this book, and it’s obvious from page to page that she went all out. Besides, just look at that cover! Beautiful.

Seriously, though. That cover. I can’t stop looking at it.

You can find Joanne on Facebook and Twitter, along with on her website. Find The Eve Genome on Amazon and buy a copy! And if her name sounds familiar, it’s probably because I also recommended another book she wrote a while back. There’s a reason why I keep coming back for more, and that’s because I really love her style.

If you guys read this, or any of her other books, please let me know what you think!

It’s sort of a rhetorical question because, yes, there are some things that are still surprising. But more on that in a minute.

I watch a lot of television and movies, and I read a lot of books. I don’t get taken by surprise too often. It’s not actually a bad thing — more often than not we know how the journey will end, but it’s the act of going on that journey that is the most interesting part.

Any action movie or adventure book can attest to this. Nine times out of ten the hero will save the day, get the girl, and blow stuff up. By the end of the movie we know that most of the main characters will be alive, the problem will be solved, and everyone will pretty much go home happy.

Is there a problem with an ending like that? Not usually, no. It’s satisfying, even if we knew it was coming. It’s what leads up to that point that makes the story interesting. It’s not the “if,” it’s the “how.”

Dexter PosterBut sometimes I just really want to be shocked, you know? I want to be totally blindsided by a plot or a character’s motivations. I want to never see it coming and have it literally knock me off my feet. It’s fun to be that surprised after feeling like you’ve figured out the plot of something ten minutes or ten pages into a new story.

Last week I talked about how Fringe did this to me. It was a great feeling. But then as I was watching Dexter, I figured out exactly who the major evil villain guy was an episode or two before the big reveal. It wasn’t exactly hard — you just think about whose betrayal would have the biggest impact on the characters, and there you have it.

It’s sort of a catch-22 isn’t it? You want your big reveal to have impact and be believable. But oftentimes, in order for that to happen, you have to lay the groundwork of that plot, which can show up as a big, flashing neon sign. If you don’t lay that groundwork, the reveal will be shocking, but it won’t have the impact you were hoping for. If it’s just a random person, it won’t affect your main characters as much as if it were their best friend.

I think the best way to solve this problem is with red herrings. You want it to seem like the bad guy (or whatever shocking thing you’re trying to keep secret — it doesn’t have to be a villain) could be multiple people. Or you want to lead your audience in one direction, and then pull them in the other at the last second. This doesn’t always work either, because sometimes a change in direction like that can be anticipated, but it’s definitely worth a try.

What do you think? Do you have trouble being surprised by the turn of events you witness on screen or in a book? Without giving away spoilers (just in case!), what’s a shocking moment you remember that really took you off guard?

abandoned hope FOR KINDLEAnother quick book recommendation for you guys! Today I’ve got Affliction Z: Abandoned Hope by L.T. Ryan. It’s a zombie apocalypse book, and it’s good. It’s got a lot of action, and it really moves fast. The world feels super real, and you can’t help but be worried that this might just happen some day.

Here’s the review I wrote for Hypable:

Abandoned Hope, much like Patient Zero, combines a military thriller with the zombie genre. Fast paced and quick witted, this is a book that will have you turning from page to page in order to see what happens next.

Tough girls and smart guys litter each scene. In a world where the humans are just as deadly as the afflicted, there’s no one you can trust. That sets the tone of the entire book, and will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

The details are what drive the story, from the types of weapons to the validity of the secure underground bunkers, this world feels close and maybe a little too real.

You can check out the book on Amazon. And find the Facebook page for the series here.

Steelheart Cover Brandon Sanderson

Back for another quick book recommendation! This time I’m suggesting Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.

The superheroes came, but they weren’t exactly what everyone thought they’d be. They’re called Epics, and they might have superpowers, but they’re definitely not heroes.

David is just a human intent on joining the Reckoners, other humans who fight the Epics. He has information they’ll want, and they’re his only chance to see Steelheart’s reign of terror end.

I really loved this book! Every conclusion to a chapter was a cliffhanger, and I had a lot of trouble putting it down. The world is detailed and complex, but readable and understandable. It’s funny, heartfelt, and action-packed. I truly think there’s something for everyone here. I highly recommend it!

You can read a more in-depth review in my article on Hypable.

Steelheart came out yesterday. Add it to Goodreads or buy it on Amazon. You can check out Brandon Sanderson on his website, his Twitter, and his Facebook.

Atlantis Rising Cover TA BarronOne of my all-time favorite authors is T.A. Barron. He wrote the Lost Years of Merlin series, and it is — both figuratively and literally — on the shelf next to my Harry Potter books. That should give you a pretty strong idea of what I think about him as a writer and his books in general.

He has a new book out called Atlantis Rising. It is, as the title suggests, about the creation of Atlantis. I’ve been excited about this book for quite some time, especially considering I was sent an ARC a while ago. It’s due out this week and I’m just cracking it open, mainly because I’ve been busy reviewing other books for Hypable.

However, now that it’s next on my list, now that I have a deadline, now that it’s in my hands and there is a bookmark between the pages, I find myself not sitting down to read it.

It’s strange, what I’ll be willing to do to not pick up the book (writing this blog post, for one). I mean, I love this guy. Both as a writer and as a person (he’s an amazing conservationist, and a very, very good human being). I love his books, his writing style, and his messages. I know Atlantis Rising is going to feel very much the same. It has the same vibe the other books have. I know I’ll enjoy it.

So why do I keep putting it off?

I think I’ve built of The Lost Years of Merlin series in my head so much over the years that I’m not even sure it’s as good as I remember it is. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a fantastic series and I’d recommend it to anyone. But you know how you can watch really terrible movies when you’re a kid and love them later on even though you know they’re bad? It’s the nostalgia.

I guess I don’t want to be let down by Atlantis Rising. I don’t want that image of The Lost Years of Merlin and of Barron to change in my mind. Do I honestly think it will? No. But I do think that’s why I’ve been hesitant to really jump feet first into this novel.

But I’ve got deadlines I need to meet, and they are the best form of motivation. I will be reading it prior to the release and doing a review on Hypable. And I’m sure I will love it once I take that plunge and really sink my teeth into the story.

Has this ever happened to you? Do you remember reading a book by one of your favorite authors and being thoroughly disappointed? Did it put you off their other books, or are you always willing to give them a try?

My friend Chris just recently unveiled the cover for his latest book, Black Powder Brigade, and I love it! It’s got a cool Pirates of the Caribbean vibe to it, and is mysterious and haunting. Definitely something I would’ve picked up off the shelf to take a closer look at.

What do you think?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00066]

 

Here’s the back cover blurb:

THE HUNT FOR A MADMAN BEGINS…

THE NEW WORLD – A group of elite soldiers known as the Black Powder Brigade patrol the world in secret, searching for strange and deadly creatures to ensure the natural order is safe.

Victoria Sorrel, operating under the lie that she is a boy, joins these men in their hunt for unusual creatures in hopes that it will satisfy her hunger for adventure. But, things take a dark turn for Victoria and the Black Powder Brigade. Colonists come up missing, an unusual number of trade ships start to arrive at Boston Harbor, and the madman Isaac Carter escapes from prison.

The colonies become overrun with monsters, murder, and betrayal.

The New World hangs in the balance, and it’s up to Victoria, The Black Powder Brigade, and some newly made friends to pry it from the clutches of evil.

What do you think? Sound interesting? If so, add it to your Goodreads list! I’ve already read it, and I can tell you that it’s definitely worth your time.

The Beginning of Everything Robyn SchneiderHere’s another short and sweet book recommendation for you guys!

This week I’m recommending The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. This is so, so good. It’s not my typical genre, as I usually stick with fantasy, but it feels very much like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I really enjoyed. (And that’s not to say it’s a knock off. Because it’s not.)

The Beginning of Everything is about the most popular boy in school that got into a car accident, which consequently changed his entire life. Now he sits with the “losers” and is on the debate team. It’s very much a coming of age story about a boy that discovers who he really is. It’s sad and beautiful and heartwarming and funny. It’s full of puns and pop-culture references. And I think you guys will love it.

If you want to see an extended review of it, check out my Hypable article.

I’m also going to be doing an interview with Robyn, so keep your eyes peeled for that on Hypable! I’ll probably come back here and update this part to include the link.

You can find Robyn Schneider on her website, on Twitter, on Tumblr, and on YouTubeThe Beginning of Everything is available to purchase now. Let me know what you guys think of it if you decide to pick it up!