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2013 book report

Last year, I wrote in my 2012 book report:

In all I read 40 books this year. Short of my goal, but more than last year. … I shall strive to best this goal in 2013… if I can ever finish the two books I’ve started.

Well, 2013 has come and gone and I failed. Miserably. My book count was only 30 for the past year, and six of those were gorgeous picture books (in my defense, they were for adults). For some reason, between August and December, I simply… stopped reading.

My favorite book of 2013.

My favorite book of 2013.

I have no idea why! It wasn’t for lack of good books. I had seven new releases of series I follow come out in October alone. I can’t even blame the television, as I stopped watching several of my “regular” (read: crappy) shows. So why I stopped reading for 3+ months remains a mystery.

Therefore, I am determined — determined — to read more than 30 books in 2014. I set my goal at a modest 32, so I don’t disappoint myself as badly as I did this year, should I fail for some reason.

With that goal in mind, I take a look back at what I read last year, and choose, in no particular order, the top 5 reads of 2013.

1. Jumper by Steven Gould

I think I’ve read this one about 100 times now. OK, maybe not quite that many, but my copy is old and worn. I discovered it when I was a teenager and have devoured it many, many times in the long years since. Forget the movie. The movie has little in common with this marvelous book about a teenager who finds he can somehow teleport, or “jump.” It’s a wonderful coming of age tale with a sci-fi twist.

2. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

My only 5-star book of the year, I couldn’t put this one down. I don’t know what it is about young adult dystopian novels that have so captured my interest, but this is right up there with my favorite, The Hunger Games. The book follows teenage survivors of an alien invasion. But who can you trust? Can’t wait for the sequel!

3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Told from the unique perspective of a girl in a coma, the story centers around 17-year-old Mia who must decide whether to stay or let go after she loses everything in one fateful, tragic accident. Made me tear up a time or two.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Sad, yet beautiful

Sad, yet beautiful

I found this one when Amazon recommended it after I purchases If I Stay. I hadn’t heard of it before, and was therefore unaware of the big following it had when I started reading it. Hoo-boy. This one was… difficult to get through, though not in a bad way. I would have given it 5 stars if it hadn’t been so damn sad. Although what else did I expect when I picked up a book about two teenagers with cancer? Heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

5. Bastion by Mercedes Lackey

The fifth and final book of Lackey’s Collegium Chronicles was really hard to put down. Finally, all was answered in this long-awaited sequel to last year’s Redoubt. I’ve heard rumors that Mags’ story will continue on in a new series perhaps (or maybe this wasn’t the final book after all), so I’m really hoping it will. I’m not ready to say goodbye to these characters yet.

Speaking of saying goodbye, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this year’s honorable mention, Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris. It was the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. And while it didn’t end the way I hoped it would, it was a good sendoff for one of my favorite heroines of all time. Farewell, Sookie. It was great getting to know you.

 

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I’m not dead. (Not yet.)

So, I haven’t updated this in…. months. I haven’t even been busy. I’ve just been boring. Story of my life.

The Christmas season is upon us. When did that happen? Though I think I frittered away August, September and October waiting for my doll convention to arrive. (You can find the recaps of that over on Shelf Life.) As my nephew would say, it seemed like it was “taking for-ever” for the Wilde Halloween Convention to arrive. But it did and Dad and I went and it was a blast. But that’s really the only news I have since my last post at the end of July.

charlie-brown-christmas-tree

I haven’t even read any good books lately! It seems like, after I gorged myself on young adult dystopian and fantasy novels over the summer, I lost my appetite for reading. Since August, I’ve read exactly one book. ONE! I AM SO ASHAMED. I had a goal of reading 42 books this year, but I’m not even going to come close. I did, however, finally buy Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, and am about a quarter of the way through it at the mo’. I did pick up some new reads during Amazon’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, so maybe I’ll stop being a lazy ass and pick up a book this month.

I’ve been selling a lot of dolls on eBay and other places, but I still seem to collect more than I sell. I have half a dozen dolls still in their boxes because I’ve nowhere to put them at the moment. However, I did have a rather rotten experience today on eBay. I have a doll up for a Buy It Now/Best Offer. Now, I suppose my mistake was not putting in an automatic decline for low-ball offers. I got one such today and made a counter offer… something that’s been done to me many times. Sometimes I accept, sometimes I don’t. It’s all good. But after I countered, the potential buyer sent me a rather rude little email saying how I must not want to sell the doll. No… I want to sell the doll, but not at an unacceptably low offer. Instead of arguing with the little upstart, I just blocked her from bidding altogether. Wouldn’t want to do business with someone like that anyway.

And that’s it for my update. Buying/selling dolls, not-reading and trying to get ready for Christmas. So… how y’all been? 🙂

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

ImageThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Divergent by Veronica Roth. The Selection by Kiera Cass. Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien. All engrossing, entertaining entries in the young adult dystopia genre. And now I can add one more. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

The story opens with Cassie, a teenage girl on the run and hiding from the Others, an alien race who have attacked the earth and scattered its survivors. She has made a promise to find her little brother, and with dogged determination, she intends to keep that promise. The only problem? She is alone and can trust no one. The Others look like us. They sound like us. They think like us. And they want to exterminate us.

With the opening sentences of this book, I could not put it down. I eagerly devoured the flashbacks of the initial invasion, Cassie’s inability to trust anyone human, even the point of view change to other survivors… this book made me late to work on more than one occasion and kept me up late at night. Who can be trusted? Who are the Others? What do they want? Where is Cassie’s brother? I had to find out, work and sleep be damned!

This book is like Chinese food. So good you gobble it down, then two hours later you’re hungry for more. Which makes it a good thing this is the first book of a new trilogy. The only downside is waiting for book 2.

The 5th Wave will be released May 7, 2013. (Yes, I was lucky and got an early copy.) Mark your calendars. You won’t be disappointed.

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2012 book report

I like to think of 2012 as the year of the young adult novel. I read more YA this year than I can ever remember reading in the past. And it was GLORIOUS.

2012 started off with YA novels as I finished the His Dark Materials trilogy and was left wondering why everyone goes nuts over this series. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t really like the third book as well as I had the first two. It is probably a series I will never want to read again. 6320534

The next couple of months were a complete divergence from what I normally read. I rekindled my love for Stephen King with Under the Dome, then read some books of my mother’s, The Help, Girl in Translation, 1000 White Women and The Kitchen House, all surprisingly enjoyable. I usually stick to my normal genres of sci-fi/fantasy/dystopia, so these books were a welcome respite.

I also caught up on some of my series with A Perfect Blood (The Hollows), Lover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood), Hit List and Kiss the Dead (Anita Blake), Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse) and Redoubt (Valdemar Chronicles). Many of these series are starting to overstay their welcome. However, I was saddened to learn 2013’s Sookie Stackhouse book will be the last.

10507293I made copious use of Amazon’s “recommended for you” tool this year and tried Kiera Cass’ The Selection, which I adored. That sent me tumbling down the young adult rabbit hole with other YA series such as The Goddess Test, Divergent, Birthmarked, Razorland and Fire and Thorns. Most brilliant, some OK. But I’m eager to continue with these series in the future and cannot wait for the next books in the series to come out.

I’m ending the year in the middle of two books, Reached by Ally Condy and Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling. I normally try to avoid beginning two books at once, but Reached didn’t grab my attention right away and I’d been putting off Casket of Souls all year.

In all I read 40 books this year. Short of my goal, but more than last year. I also picked up a few manga as well, after being away from it for over a year. I shall strive to best this goal in 2013… if I can ever finish the two books I’ve started.

And now for my top five books of the year. In no particular order:

1. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson12868761

This is the only book I gave a five-star rating to on Good Reads this year. Jenny is also known as The Bloggess. The book is a memoir of some of her most memorable blog posts about her life. I laughed. I cried from laughing. I may have even peed a little. She suffers from severe anxiety disorder and depression, like me, so I could completely relate to almost everything in the book. (Except the taxidermy.)

2. Under the Dome by Stephen King

At over 1000 pages, I thought this one would be hard to get through. It wasn’t. I couldn’t put it down. I read it in less than a week. I didn’t really want it to end. Completely engaging with characters to both love and loathe. Bravo on this one, Mr. King.

3. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

The story of a young girl and her mother who immigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn and the conditions they are forced to live and work in… heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth

A young adult dystopian future where society is divided into five factions. On their 16th birthday, children must decide which faction to declare allegiance to by undergoing a series of tests. Tris is divergent, meaning she tested for not one, but three factions. But seemingly perfect societies never really are…

5. Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is chosen by God and on her 16th birthday becomes the secret wife of a neighboring King. But there are others who wish to use Elisa’s power for themselves and she finds herself on an adventure that will show her who she truly is.

Honorable mentions:

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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2011 Book Report

At the beginning of every new year, I look at my stack of as-yet-to-read books and think, “Man, that 52 books in 52 weeks will be a breeze this year.” And usually, it is. I’m an avid reader. I hate going to bed without reading anything. So 52 books in 52 weeks is generally no problem.

Alas, I fell well short of my goal this year. According to my count, I only managed 38. What a sad little number.

Little did I know what I was getting into...

In my defense, this was the year I took on all five of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. With nearly all five books topping 1000 pages or more, I maintain that they should count for at least two or, in a couple of cases, three books apiece. Still, even by that count, I’d still be short by about half a dozen or so books.

I used to include graphic novels in my book count, once upon a time. But for the past couple of years, my interest in manga has dropped dramatically. I think I only read four  manga this past year. In fact, I think my reading of American-produced graphic novels heavily outweighed the Japanese manga, what with finally getting all of Buffy season 8, Angel season 6 and a handful of Firefly graphic novels. I even borrowed a New Teen Titans book from my brother a couple of months ago. But I did not add them to my yearly count. (If I had, I would have blown past the 52-book mark.)

So I guess I can take comfort in the fact that I’m not reading less, I’m just reading a lot of non-traditional books. The time I spent reading graphic novels and mega-books was time I couldn’t spend reading other books. In other words, I’m placing all the blame on George R. R. Martin. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

2011 was the year of undiscovered series — the aforementioned A Song of Ice and Fire as well as two young adult dystopian series. I’ve no idea why I had never gotten into any of these (well, Martin’s books looked really daunting when I picked up the first one), but I am so glad I did. I also revisited an old series and picked up the latest installments by some of my favorite authors.

Soooo goooood!

I began the year off by discovering, devouring and becoming a die-hard Hunger Games fan. Futuristic dystopias do not interest me, in general. I remember seeing a mini book review in Entertainment Weekly for the final book, Mockingjay, and wondering what the series was about. I looked up the first book and found that Amazon was selling it for only $5 on Kindle, so I took a chance. I think I only put the Kindle down to go to work and go to sleep after I started the trilogy, and I protested both interruptions. It only took me less than a week to finish all three books, and I was left wanting more. Only the thought of the movie adaption (please don’t screw it up, Hollywood!) made finishing the trilogy bearable.

After finishing The Hunger Games, I decided to revisit an old favorite, Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortalityseries. I LOVED these books when I was in high school and read several of them so many times, the spines were falling apart. Sadly, I had not reread them in over a decade, and to my dismay, the series does not hold up well. I guess I’m just a little more grown up than I was when I enjoyed them. In fact, some of the ideas presented were a little… creepier and more disturbing than I remember them. The curse of growing up, I guess.

Started off strong, but the second book didn't live up to the first.

After The Hunger Games, I went looking for something in a similar vein and found Matched by Ally Condie. The first book had a lot of promise and I really enjoyed it (despite the fact that it felt more like Twilight than The Hunger Games). The second book, Crossed, was released this past fall and I found myself struggling to get through it. I am hoping the next book will be better.

HBO’s new series, “A Game of Thrones,” prompted me to try slogging through the five-volume epic, which I did in about three months. Seriously, the series is totally engrossing, but it does take some time to get through them all. I did learn a valuable lesson: don’t get too attached to characters. I also learned not to write off other characters as a waste of ink. Never in a million years would I have dreamt I would come to love Jaime Lannister as I did ’round about book 3. Not quite my favorite character, but he ranks just under Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark. I’m glad I started reading the series just before book 5 came out. I can’t imagine having to wait six years between A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. I only hope book six doesn’t take that long! Having read the series now, I am looking forward to season two of the HBO series.

This one kept me awake at night.

I picked up the latest releases by some of my favorite authors: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris, the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel and always a fun romp; Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey, another epic at over 600 pages; Changes by Mercedes Lackey, an eager return to her Valdemar series; Ghost Story by Jim Butcher; and Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey.

But this year was a little different in that there were some new releases by favorite authors I chose to skip. I did not pick up the latest Anita Blake book, Hit List, by Laurell K. Hamilton; Undead and Undermined by MaryJanice Davidson; or anything by Rachel Caine or Sherrilyn Kenyon. I’m starting to feel burnt out on a lot of these series.

Currently, I am working my way through the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I’ve just finished The Golden Compass and am one chapter into The Subtle Knife. The jury is still out on this series at the moment.

And now that I’ve rambled on for, like, ever (OMG), I will present my sort-of annual Top Five Best Books of the Year. These don’t have to be books that came out this year, just ones I’ve read. Also, they’re in no particular order, because I just can’t pick an ultimate favorite.

The one I did not want to see end.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

OK, maybe I can pick a favorite because this book was epically AWESOME. Anyone who grew up in the ’80s should read this book. You will not be able to put it down.

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

The plot seems so implausible, but Collins makes it work and reels you in, hook, line and sinker, for three novels.

3. One Con Glory by Sarah Kuhn.

I swear, it’s like Kuhn was living in my mind when she wrote this little tale of a con-going girl geek.

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

If you read this, buy the actual book, not the Kindle version. The photographs make the story.

5. Changes by Mercedes Lackey.

Lackey’s Valdemar series is one that does hold up to the years. I have read and reread every book in the series countless times over, which spans about 3000 years or so in the kingdom of Valdemar. I love each and every new adventure in this series and eagerly look forward to more.

You can see a complete list of the books I read in 2011 here.

2011 was a good year for reading. I hope 2012 brings about more exciting book discoveries!

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Review: “Changing the World” by Mercedes Lackey

Changing the World and Other Tales of ValdemarChanging the World and Other Tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been starved for new Valdemar tales as of late. Mercedes Lackey dominated by bookshelves in the ’90s, and while I do like some of her new works, the world of Valdemar will always be my first love.

I think this was the best collection of short stories that’s been put out so far. Admittedly, a couple of them were a bit dull to the point where I skimmed through them, but what really set this book apart, for me, was the last story, “Interview with a Companion” by Ben Ohlander. It was reminiscent of “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice, where the author meets a real Companion, in Kentucky of all places, and learns the world in the books may not just be the product of a woman’s imagination. What a neat concept!

A new Valdemar book will be published in October of this year, so this book of short stories really helped stave off my craving of wanting a new tale.

View all my reviews >>

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Crying makes it better

I suffer from depression. I don’t know how long I’ve had it, and I sometimes think I am not doing enough to combat it, but most of the time, I can get by. Medication helps a lot. But there are some days where not even that helps and I find myself crying for no reason. Which then pisses me off because so many people in this world have a real reason to cry and I feel like I should just put my big girl panties on and deal with it. But it’s hard. And crying, oddly enough, can make me feel better.

"You're not supposed to look back, you're supposed to keep going."

So when I read a book or watch a movie that makes me cry, it feels almost cathartic to let go and just let the tears fall. I don’t actively seek out books or movies that are sad. Just the opposite. I don’t like crying. My nose gets all stuffed up, my eyes turn red and itch, and my head will just hurt all over. But afterwards, when I put the book down or turn the movie off, and the tears have run their course, I just feel… better.

Last weekend I went to visit my brother in Chattanooga. We stopped by a discount book store after we ate and I picked up a book called “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See. It is a very sad, moving book. I read it in less than a day and must have cried through the entire second half of the book.

Tonight, I watched The Lovely Bones. I had read the book by Alice Sebold last year and fell in love with it. I cried through the book. And even though the movie is different from the book, I cried through it, too. And now I have dried tears on my face and a headache, but I feel better right now than I have all day.

Sometimes I will fight crying so badly I make myself sick. I know I shouldn’t, but there are times when crying can be embarrassing, like at work or a gathering of friends. But when I’m alone, I give in, because I know I will feel comforted after having a good cry, like I’ve let all the stress and little resentments I’ve picked up during the day out with the sad story. But that still doesn’t mean I’ll be renting more sad movies.

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