Posts Tagged ‘Books’

The best books I read in 2013

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Books & Reading
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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?

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!

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?

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!

I’m a sucker for a happy ending, just like the next happy-go-lucky, head-in-the-clouds gal. Nothing makes me more gleeful than turning that final page and releasing a sigh of pure contentedness that tells me I finished another book that I’ll be sad to let go.

But sometimes those books just aren’t realistic. Sometimes an important character needs to die, a couple needs to break up, and the ending needs to leave you crying instead of sighing. Some books I can think of off the top of my head that did this are The Fault in Our Stars, Skin, and Tuesdays with Morrie.

I like happy endings because I think books should reflect an ideal world whenever possible. They’re meant to help us escape, to allow us to believe in hope and love, to make us think that perhaps this world has the potential to be better than it is.

But not every story is meant to be that way. If you looked at stories like The Fault in Our Stars, which deals with a very realistic portrayal of cancer patients, what would it say if the book ended up with everyone happy and cured and living their dream lives? It would feel fake and undermine the whole point of the book.

Then again, to constantly beat up characters and not even allow them to come back triumphant would be tragic – not only to them, but to the reader as well. Who wants to be kicked down so far that they can’t even pick themselves back up?

It really is a balance in any story, and the ending should reflect a lot more than just the author’s whims. It should make sense according to the plot, the characters, and the setting and world. An ending that seems out of place could ruin an entire book.

I like a good mix of realistic endings and happy ones. But if I had to choose, I’d go with happy endings every time. Call me superficial, but I can be a mush sometimes.

If you HAD to choose, would you pick to only read books with happy endings, or realistic ones?

Lost Years of Merlin CoverThe Lost Years of Merlin book, and the accompanying series, is one of my favorites of all time. I mean, it’s up there with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson.

If you haven’t heard of it before, please do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s by T.A. Barron, and it deserves to be better known than it is. It’s the story of Merlin before he became the infamous wizard and mentor to Arthur, before he knew exactly what he was and who he could become.

I would call it YA, but it reads more like an epic. Something closer to A Song of Ice and Fire (from what I’ve heard, at least, I haven’t read it yet) than Harry Potter.

And they’re making it into a film. This both excites me beyond words (read: asdfghjk; !!!!!) and terrifies me.

I mean, what if they mess it up? What if everyone thinks it’s a dumb movie? What if it flops and they don’t get to make the second, third, fourth, and fifth films? I’ll be devastated. No, really. I’ll have to take off work for bereavement.

It has the potential to become huge. WB is pooling its resources and really hopes to make this The Next Big Thing. I don’t know if it will be, but it definitely has the potential.

Part of me doesn’t want them to make the movie. No movie would be better than a terrible one (see: many people’s feelings about Lightning Thief). And if the movie is terrible, maybe they won’t even give the books a try. That would be a travesty.

On the other hand, I really, truly, absolutely want them to make it into a film. I want it to be epic and wonderful and perfect. Great casting, great locations, great writing, and great CGI. I want the world to take notice of the movie and then subsequently take notice of the books. Because that’s where the true magic lies, and that’s where all the praise should go – back to the author.

I want the ability to see all the characters that have lived in my head for so long to become corporeal on screen. Is that too much to ask?

I’m sure I don’t need to ask this question, but has there ever been a movie adaptation of book that has meant so much to you that you’re unsure if you want to go see it or not? Which one was it? 

Think whatever you want, I don’t care. I totally judge a book by it’s cover.

I mean, why not? The cover should reflect the book as a whole. If you couldn’t take the time to create a nice image for the front of your story, how do we know that you took the time to craft a nice story for us to read? Something that’s been poorly photoshopped or doesn’t even really represent your book tells us a lot about you.

So, make sure you have a nice cover.

And hey, not every cover is going to speak to every person. And if your book gets enough good reviews, the cover isn’t even going to matter that much.

The cover for Divergent doesn’t really do anything for me, but I picked it up and read it because everyone was saying how amazing it was. (And it IS amazing, FYI.)

Divergent Cover

 

And everyone’s opinions are different. I love highly photoshopped or colorful book covers. They always grab my attention.

Clockwork Princess Cover

 

Incarnate Cover

 

That’s not to say that I won’t read a book with a cover I don’t like. It’s just that when I’m browsing for something new, something I’ve never heard of before, a cover like Incarnate is going to grab my attention and intrigue me more than, say, the cover for The Casual Vacancy.

Casual Vacancy Cover

(Which I read anyway because – duh – J.K. Rowling.)

What’s your opinion? Do you refuse to judge a book by its cover, or do you feel like it does (and should) represent a book? Do you ever just browse covers that grab your attention, or do you only go by recommendations from friends or family members?