Top Ten Books I Read in 2013


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jamie at The Broke and Bookish.

I could not figure out a way to list only ten, so I split this list up by contemporary and then everything else. In no particular order...

~*~Contemporary~*~


2. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
3. Losing It by Cora Carmack


4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


6. Also Known As by Robin Benway
7. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
8. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick


9. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
10. The Summer I Became A Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

~*~Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal~*~

1. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
2. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
3. Champion by Marie Lu

4. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
5. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
6. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner



7. Cress by Marissa Meyer
8. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
9. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terill

10. A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard
11. Poison by Bridget Zinn
12. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Stacking the Shelves #55


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

This was a week of gifts and I am so thankful for them!


Gifted
 Unhinged by A.G. Howard (Thank you, Inky!)
Eona by Alison Goodman (Thank you, Skye!)
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (Thank you, Ashleigh!)
All These Lives by Sarah Wylie (Thank you, Ashleigh!)
A Mad, Wicked, Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller (Thank you, Gillian!)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Thank you, Gillian!)

Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 226 (ARC)
Source: BEA 2013
Life. Death. And...Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I've never read an Elizabeth Scott book prior to this one. I suppose they never just popped up on this radar. But I chatted for a half hour with Elizabeth at BEA and I really wanted to give one of her novels a chance after meeting her and speaking with her. And though she is one of the biggest sweethearts ever, this book simply was not for me. And, if you want to ask me what exactly turned me off, I can't pinpoint something in particular.

I struggled slightly with the writing style because the book went by so unbelievably fast. I don't keep track of exact time while reading, but I think I may have knocked this one out in less than two hours. So, yeah, it's cool that this is such a quick read, but it's frustrating all the same. I flipped to the last page and though the story summed up nicely I was sitting there thinking, "that's it?" It just seemed like the story went by too fast, almost as if I was under-informed. But here's the kicker. By no means was I under-informed at all. Sometimes, I felt like I was slogging through this thing. I think that this can be attributed to the fact that the story was so heavy. It was a lot to handle and it truly was heartbreaking. It put me into this emotional hole because it was so serious, and I think that's why it was so hard to get through certain parts of the book.

The main character, Emma, was not someone I found it easy to connect to. Then again, I don't think many people can outright connect to a girl whose mother died and is only being kept alive to support the child inside of her. At least, I hope not many people can relate to that. I wasn't the biggest fan of her and her new pessimistic view on the world dragged me down emotionally. She over-analyzed everything and was overemotional and blew her beliefs into epic proportions. See, she hated her stepfather for keeping her mother's body around to save her little brother, but didn't want to see her mother go when the time came. She was full of contradictions and her mind was all over the place. Emma was the equivalent of a literary headache at times.

However, I give this book major props because it got me to sit down and think while reflecting on the world. Scott is brave to go into such a deep and dark subject matter. I'm sure this was not easy for her to write because the raw emotion behind it made it hard to read at times. I can see this being completely and utterly heartbreaking to a parent because this will resonate with the parental population more than any other reader.

All in all, I will describe this book as powerful. But, at the same time, it wasn't for me. I can't say I loved it or hated it, though I appreciated the message it shared with us. I wasn't emotionally prepared for the whirlwind of emotions in this book. It was an unexpected onslaught--more like an avalanche. I felt as if I was suffocating and unable to breathe. So, my best advice to readers is to go into this one prepared for how heavy it is and with an open mind. It's going to bring low and take you to dark places. Be prepared, because the twisted journey it takes you on certainly is incomparable.


2 stars

~*~Links~*~

FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive any form of compensation in exchange for this honest review.  

Waiting on Wednesday #40


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine.

My pick of the week is...

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

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.
~*~Why I Am Waiting~*~
 I absolutely adored book one because it was so well written on top of being dark and atmospheric. Schwab is pretty much my go-to author for dark, atmospheric novels, so of course book two needs to be in my grasp, like, yesterday.

Link me to your WoW posts if you get the chance!  

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

Most of the books I want are currently out in ARC form, so this will be a list full of wild hopes and dreams.

~*~Titles Already Released~*~



1. Finding It by Cora Carmack
2. The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
3. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
4. Awkward by Marni Bates
5. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

~*~Titles That Are Floating Around as ARCs~*~

 
6. The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
7. Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
8. What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
9. Three by Kristen Simmons
10. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
11. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi - This is the big dream, okay?!

Review: Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr

Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: 12+
Pages: 279 (ARC)
Source: BEA 2013
It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Before you read this review, know that there is going to be a small discussion on the issue of how race is treated in society below.

I picked this book up at BEA 2013 on a complete whim. At this time, I was experiencing the general nerves that come with entering college for the first time. My graduation date was a few weeks away and my roommate assignment was also a few weeks away and I was an excited yet extremely nervous wreck. So, when I saw this lovely out on display, I couldn't pass it up because of the way I could potentially relate to it. Plus, I had read several of Zarr's novels (and enjoyed them) when I was younger, though Altebrando is a new author to me. But, with that in mind, I'm extremely confused with my feelings for this novel.

I suppose the best place to start is the characterization. Right off of the bat, I had a better connection with Lauren (Lo) then I did Elizabeth (EB). This is because Lo seemed to be the calmer of the two. Elizabeth constantly over-analyzed everything and it got on my nerves rather quickly and she was incredibly naive. It did not take long for me to begin rolling my eyes thinking, "this is the type of person I left Jersey to get away from." Well, people like her and our own cast of the Real Housewives. However, she gets bonus points for majoring in landscape architecture because that was totally unique and added a cute spin on the story that I've never seen before.

But, all things aside, I could relate to both girls for different reasons. I could relate to Lo because of her money issues and the fact that she's like a third parent in her family because she has so many younger siblings. Seriously, they're like a brood. While I only have one sibling, my maturity level is entirely above hers which makes me not only the third parent when necessary, but the only child who understands financial troubles and everything of the sort. I think this aspect of Lo's characterization was very well done because it truly does weigh on you and I saw that in her. Then there's Elizabeth. Like her, I grew up in a small town in New Jersey and, like her, I couldn't wait to get out. Similar to her, my life was stuck in a repetitive rut and I was desperate for change.

In contrast, there is something in this novel that I was not happy about, and that was the way the authors handled race. I felt like it was almost constant that race was mentioned everywhere, even if off-handedly. Some of the comments had my mouth hanging open. Stuff along the lines of... "that sounds like a black name" or "I always thought black babies were the cutest." No, these aren't direct quotes, but these are situations taken from the story. So, let me explain why this bothered me so much. My Dad grew up in a bad part of Brooklyn (lots of gang violence) where he was actually one of the only white people. His dream was to get out and give his eventual family an amazing life where race was not an issue. He spent his childhood often getting beat up because of his minority race in his area, and then he grew to be six foot three by age fifteen and that changed. Long story short, his dream came true, he eventually had a family, and he moved us to a suburb in Northern Jersey so he could commute to his job in NYC everyday. The problem with this New Jersey suburb (like Elizabeth's town) is that there was no diversity. Our literal diversity came in the form of our rather large Asian population, second to our dominating Caucasian population. All other minorities were nearly non-existent. Last year, when I graduated out of high school with a population of about 1,300 students, I could say I'd only ever seen eight African American students walk the halls of my school. I knew three of them were definitely adopted, people made an especially big deal when one moved out here from Haiti. The one thing they all had in common was that they created a coping mechanism to being such a minority. They often made jokes along the lines of "Is it because I'm black?!" and everyone would laugh and go back to their normal routines. They used their race as a joke and inadvertently encouraged racism and potential stereotyping. My Dad, on the other hand, raised me saying that I grew up in a very good area and he's thankful he got us there, but that he wanted me to be aware of the fact that we lived in a bubble. The world was not like this, and I needed to be prepared for that. When college came, I was, and when I see some of the people from my school freaking out on Facebook about "befriending their first black person" I cringe inwardly when thinking about the world. I think that Elizabeth's mother, like my father, should have prepared her for the world instead of allowing her to grow up in a state of ignorant bliss. Granted, the authors characterization of her small town was spot-on, but I suppose that's why it was such a sore subject to me.

And then there's Lo's issue with race, all the way on the other side of the country in San Francisco. To put it simply, her love interest, Keyon, is African American. We had to beat around the bush to discover this, and then once it was brought up it seemingly never went away. There's a lot of mention about how race is supposedly ignored out there, yet it's admitted that it's constantly on everyone's mind underneath (at least in San Francisco). Then, there was also the fact that certain characters behaved slightly differently when in Keyon's presence and it is hinted at that this may be because of his race. Now, here's where the small rant comes out. My belief in regards to race, religion, sexuality, anything really, is that you should treat nobody differently. Say you support gay rights, yet you act differently around your daughter's new gay friend or feel the need to point out to everyone that that new friend is gay...you're doing something wrong. You're making a big deal about the difference between them and you and drawing attention to it. The right thing to do is to treat them like you would anyone else instead of focusing on what makes them different. THAT is how such a situation should be handled. If it changes how you act, you need to sit down and do some serious thinking.

Now that that is out of my system, I want to get back to my review.

Keyon was obviously mentioned above and I want to say that I adored him with every fiber of my being. He was an entertaining character that brought fun to almost every scene and I often looked forward to his entrance in Lo's chapters, which happened every other chapter, so it made me really happy that he was a rather important character that we saw a lot of. His relationship with Lo grew very naturally. Things went slow, but there was definitely a strong physical attraction between the two that led to lots of swoony kissing scenes. There was no rush to put a name on their relationship or to commit for the future, nor was there a rush to take things to the next level physically. This made me love them even more. In contrast, there's Elizabeth and Mark. Mark was perhaps once of the nicest guys I've come across and I really loved him, too, but their relationship went super fast. I suppose I condone it because their hormone-driven teens and Mark is easily lovable, but the sex and the "I love you's" and the token gifts were all too speedy for me. I felt like there was no time to breathe in their relationship and while I ship them (not as much as I do Lo and Keyon though) they needed to slow things down a bit.

On another positive note, I want to commend Altebrando and Zarr on their writing. One of my pet peeves about co-authored books is that, at times, they lack flow. It ruins the story if you can tell that the two perspectives the story alternates between are written by two different people. This is not one of those cases. The flow was effortless and it made the book a really fast read. Admittedly entertaining, though the race issue did not make me a happy little reader. Aside from that, this was very well done.

Lastly, the ending frustrated me. I did not feel like the full story was told. We spend the entire book with Lo and Elizabeth primarily communicating over e-mail. Their big meeting is coming up and we never get to see that. As a reader, I felt almost robbed of this monumental moment that would have truly tied the entire novel together.

Also, a warning to parents: I don't think that the age twelve and above recommended reading level on this was a smart decision. There is cussing, adult problems, mentions of sex, worries about sex, and a party where there is drinking mentioned. Though the age of the characters technically classifies this a new adult novel, I'd say fourteen and up seems like a better age group.

All in all, a very light, solid read for the holiday season. It has a little bit of everything: stuff to make you think, stuff to make you swoon, a set of parents you hate and another you love. It can certainly appeal to any reader, though I think you have to be in a certain type of mood to pick it up.


3 stars

~*~Links~*~

FTC Disclaimer: I did  to not receive any form of compensation in exchange for my honest review. 

Stacking The Shelves #54


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

This week was full of so much Christmas cheer. Thank you, guys! <3

 
Gifted
 Eon by Alison Goodman (Thank you, Krista and Becca!)
 Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell (Thank you, Krista and Becca!)
Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally (Thank you, Sunny!)
Past Perfect by Leila Sales (Thank you, Christianna!)

Krista and Becca, thank you for the huge Godiva chocolate and the amazing bookmark, too! <3
 
For Review
Pushed by Corrine Jackson (Thank you, K-Teen!)