2012 Recommended Reads!

Hey, everyone! I can't believe it's the last day of 2012! HAPPY NEW YEAR! With that being said, I really wanted to share my favorite books of the year with you as recommendations, so that you can hopefully get them and I can recap a year that did nothing but satisfy me reading wise. Most are from 2012, some from last year, and very few from 2013. Here's to ending an amazing year of reading, only to start a new and better one!

CONTEMPORARY

  • Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally - 4.5 stars
  • Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry - 5 stars
  • Easy by Tammara Webber - 5 stars
  • Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - 5 stars
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith - 5 stars  
FANTASY/PARANORMAL

  •  Sanctum by Sarah Fine - 5 stars
  • The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke - 5 stars
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst - 5 stars
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - 5 stars
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - 5 stars
  • Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman - 4 stars
  • Incarnate by Jodi Meadows - 5 stars
  •  Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes/Michelle Rowen - 4.5 stars
  • Dark Star by Bethany Frenette - 4.5 stars
  • Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass - 4.5 stars
  • Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins - 5 stars
RE-TELLINGS

  • The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors - 5 stars
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen - 5 stars
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer - 5 stars
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - 5 stars
DARK NOVELS

  • Angelfall by Susan Ee - 5 stars
  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - 5 stars
SCI-FI/DYSTOPIA

  •  Altered by Jennifer Rush - 5 stars
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth - 5 stars
  • Crewel by Gennifer Albin - 4 stars
  • Insignia by S.J. Kincaid - 5 stars
  • False Memory by Dan Krokos - 4 stars
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - 5 stars
  • Legend by Marie Lu - 5 stars
HISTORICAL FICTION

  • Venom by Fiona Paul - 5 stars
  • Something Strange and Deadly - 4 stars
  • Incarnation by Emma Cornwall - 4 stars
  • My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris - 4.5 stars 
SERIES 
  • Croak Series by Gina Damico - 4 star series
  • Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout - 5 star series
  • Elemental Series by Brigid Kemmerer - 4.5-5 star series
  • Covenant Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout - 5 star series
MIDDLE GRADE
  • The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver - 4 stars
  • The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen - 5 stars
ADULT
  • First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones - 4 stars
All novels have reviews in my archive if anyone is interested, aside from CINDER, SCARLET, THE FALSE PRINCE, and LEGEND that are being posted in 2013.
 
What recommendations do YOU have for me?

Review: The Dead and Buried

Author: Kim Harrington
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 295 (ARC)
Source: Publisher For Review
A haunted house, a buried mystery, and a very angry ghost make this one unforgettable thriller.

Jade loves the house she's just moved into with her family. She doesn't even mind being the new girl at the high school: It's a fresh start, and there's that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade's little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade's jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn't.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who's seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade's school — until her untimely death last year. It's up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

 I went into this book expecting an awesome haunted house tale and instead I am disappointed to admit that all I got was a generic ghost tale that wasn't that well executed. I requested this from the publisher due to my excitement from the synopsis, but the synopsis is ten times more exciting than the actual book.

My biggest problem with the book was the writing. It was very simplistic and choppy. I was reading a middle-grade book as I read this one, and I felt like this one is better marketed as a middle-grade because the writing style was so uncomplicated. There wasn't much detail and I didn't connect to the characters at all because of this.

Our main character was dry and our ghost was a narcissistic and inconsiderate in both life and death. Originally, I thought the usage of her journal entries at the end of every chapter to help unravel the mystery was cool, but as I realized that she referred to people in a numerical code because she cared so little to use their names, I was disgusted. Sure, it was easy to put a face to a number, but it wasn't right. She's referred to as a huge bully, but she simply believes that she can do whatever she wants. The only character I liked at all was Donovan, but hey, it's hard not to love the broken soul that has to slowly get pieced back together.

Another qualm of mine was the cliches when it evolved around Jade's family. Jade's Dad remarried after her mother passed due to cancer and then they had a little baby boy that is now the family golden child. The step-mom really cares about the child, but never listens to Jade, threatens her often, and is your typical "evil" step-mother. The Father is absent most of the time on business, so this puts very little importance on the family in the book because they're rarely ever around. This cliche is like a recipe for a disaster for books. Marie, the stepmother, had so many character flaws that enraged me. As a parent, you are there for your children and you listen to their concerns as ludicrous as they seem. You don't go and suddenly hate your child because she doesn't want to call you Mom since her real mother happened to pass away. You're a nurse, Marie! Ever think that perhaps having a second Mom literally within a few short years of her real Mom's death is too much for her to handle psychologically? You're demanding and inconsiderate and I really, truly hate parents that are portrayed this way.

For a murder mystery, I didn't see any clues to the real killer either. They pretty much revealed themselves before I had any clue who it was. I wish there was more foreshadowing pointing to the proper murderer instead of a potential decoy that was entirely accidental on the murderer's part. I liked Jade's original hunch about the murderer more than the actual murderer. I understand the motive, but it's not as awesome as I would have enjoyed. When the murder mystery that makes up a murder mystery novel falls flat, you know there's something wrong.

I really have nothing else to say about this one. I managed to get through it due to curiosity, but it was an overall let-down. I don't think this review can possibly put my thoughts into words properly. I'd recommend checking out my trusted friend Krista's review here because hers portrays our similar thoughts beautifully.

 
2 stars

~*~Links~*~

Books Change Lives Update #5


As I write this post, we are 11 books away from 600! That's right, we have collected 589 books! That is absolutely insane, thank you so much for helping out these kids, everyone.

If you are a new follower and don't know what Books Change lives is, please check out the launch page here and do your part in helping to get books to impoverished children by contacting me at reflectionsbylili@gmail.com. If you want to see picture proof of how far we have come thus far, check out update #4 here!

And now, a thank you to everyone whose books have come in since the last update...

NICOLE MUSICH
Nicole and I took an impromptu trip to her local library where we bought some library books for the kids. Along with some more donations from her, she's donated another 20+ books. Thank you! <3 

JENNIFER DEE
Jennifer is amazing as always. She donated another 10 books; 8 are signed and two are even more MG ARCs with the promise of more to come! <3

ELIZABETH NORRIS
Elizabeth is the biggest donator we have ever had. Just this time around she donated an extra 55+ books to the program on top of her past donations! I am truly speechless about everything that you have done for us, Elizabeth. You are truly amazing. 

JESSICA SPOTSWOOD
Author Jessica Spotswood was awesome enough to donate over 20 books! And with them she donated a writing journal for the kids, an idea that I really love! I can't wait to get it to them. Thank you so much for the help! <3 

MONTANA GOLIN
Montana sent another 4 books my way on top of her previous donations in the last post. Thank you so much for the generosity! She is truly amazing! 

SUSAN DENNARD
On top of two signed hardcovers of her own debut, Susan also donated three really popular YA books to help out the cause. Thank you so much, Susan. It is greatly appreciated!

CASSANDRA CLARE
Can I just say that I freaked out when I drove home from my job at the local library to see a package on my doorstep marked from CASSANDRA CLARE?! Seriously, I did! My neighbor ran out of her house to check that I was okay and everything! Cassandra donated 5 copies each of the first two books in her amazing TMI series as well as one copy of CLOCKWORK ANGEL. And get this...they're all in Spanish! We desperately needed books in another language, so this is really going to help us out. Thank you so much, Cassandra! <3

SARAH WILLIAMS
The amazing Sawcat donated 20 books, many of which are classics, to help out. Thank you so much, Sarah! 

BETHANY FRENETTE
I loved Bethany's debut, DARK STAR, so much that I simply HAD to contact her for the event! She was amazing enough to not only donate a copy of her own book, but three mg classics that really help out in school.

KRISTA RITCHIE
Krista was awesome enough to send a copy of THE DEAD AND BURIED my way for the kids. Thank you! <3

LAUREN KATE
 The amazing Lauren Kate was able to send two of her signed books. Her most recently novella and THE BETRAYAL OF NATALIE HARGROVE. Thank you so much for helping out, Lauren!

ALAYNA RILEY
Alayna has such an awesome heart! She donated 7 books, all really in demand young adult books that marked off many of the books I needed from the kids' wishlist. Thank you so much Alayna, you're really going to make them happy!

SHELLEY CORIELL
Shelley Coriell donated a copy of her novel about a girl struggling to do a community service senior project like I am. The irony is hilarious! <3 Thank you so much Shelley! I'm sure they'll love this funny contemporary!

FARRAH PENN
Farrah was amazing enough to contact me with two really popular ARCs to send my way, two more books that I could cross off of the kid's wishlist! You rock! 

COLLEEN HOUCK
Colleen sent a signed copy of TIGER'S CURSE my way for the kids and I'm 100% sure they'll l ove it as much as I did. Thank you, Colleen! 

EMMY LAYBOURNE
Emmy was amazing enough to donate one copy of her post-apocalyptic debut, MONUMENT 14, signed to the kids. Thanks.

DEBBIE DADEY
Debbie Dadey is a very popular MG author. She donated four of her hilarious novels ranging from mermaids and the worst name a third grader could ever have. Thank you so much, Debbie!

The charity would not be a success if it were not for you guys and all of the future donators. Thank you... so much for everything you have helped me do thus far. <3 Have an amazing 2013!

Review: Paper Valentine

Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Razorbill
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 368 (ARC)
Source: Borrowed from a Friend
The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

It took me a while to get into this one, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. Yovanoff's writing style is really unique and it does take some getting used to. Add that to a beginning of a book that isn't that strong or captivating and the confusion just sets a tone that leaves you relatively uninterested. But as I persevered, I really did begin to enjoy the story once I was able to get over the first third of the book.

If I were to rate this book based on the beginning and first third of the book, it would only garner about two stars. Let me explain...

The big problem with the first half of the book is the characterization. There's a lot of contradictions and many uninteresting facts. Hannah was a character that I couldn't connect with. She was clearly depressed over her best friend Lillian's death six months ago from anorexia. It was hard to connect to her and, frankly, Yovanoff just didn't get a lot of the female teenage experiences down right. The way Hannah acted with her "friends" was just really unbelievable. It didn't help that the other main focal point of the first half of the book was Lillian and her ghostly ways. She was described as an old soul, wise and considerate, but she actually seemed really immature, rude, and mean. For the first half of the book she seemed like an annoying little sister with a huge attitude problem if she didn't get her way. And her relationship with Hannah was written poorly in the sense that at times it seemed like they had another kind of relationship than friendship because I have never met two people that press up against each other so much, even if one is a ghost.

But all of those hurdles were jumped over when Finny Boone was introduced to the story and, boy, did I love him. Tall, muscular, quiet and subdued, he hangs with the wrong crowd, gets stuck in summer school, wears the wrong clothes, and even died his hair with Clorox out of boredom. Oh, and he's known for the insane speculation about his missing pinky finger. Despite all of this, I really enjoyed his characterization because he was beautifully complex and really got the story moving for me. He breathed life into Hannah and made me begin to enjoy the story because I liked the girl she was becoming when around him. And because Hannah grew up, Lillian's ghost basically did too and all of the characterization problems from the first half of the book were pretty much sweeped under the rug and the book became enjoyable. All thanks to Finny Boone, who will always remain my favorite aspect of this novel. I would read the book just for his unique brand of swoonyness.

My one other complaint with the novel besides the fact that it took so long to pick up was the murder mystery. It wasn't a main focal point for much of the story. Sure, I wasn't able to foretell who the murderer was, but it wasn't paid that much attention to. Dead girls would show up, people would freak out about girls being out alone, but it wasn't a main focal point of the book at times. It was closer to the last third of the book, but that's it. I'd like to have known more about the investigations in the beginning, I feel like it would have grabbed my interest and made the beginning of the book more bearable. As a murder mystery, we need to have more of the murder mystery in the story. And perhaps I would have enjoyed some plot clues about the actual murderer. There were none and while it took me by surprise, it seemed totally illogical until he started ranting like a maniac. Even then, I wish the motive was clearer.

All in all, I think this book is worth checking out because it is unique. The concept of the ghosts as well as the oddities evolving around the murder and unlocking the true secrets to Finny Boone were great. If you have the time to read it, I would give it a chance. If you're like anything like me and the first half of the book was troublesome, I say persevere because it is worth it in the end. This book does leave you with some questions, but it is interesting.

 
3 stars

~*~Links~*~

Waiting on Wednesday #27


Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

Anna Whitt, daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a claim. She’d been naive about a lot of things.

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?
The first book in The Sweet Trilogy completely blew me away. I love Higgins' writing style and can't wait for book two!