Top Ten Tuesday #13

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish. Click  here to read more and join!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Click here to read more and join!

This week’s TTT concerns top 10 books I’ve read in 2013. I’ve read under my usual number of books this year, and I might normally have a difficult time choose just 10 books. 2013, however, has not been my best year for reading–it started off well enough, and then I ran smack into one- and two-star books back-to-back-to-back. It frustrated me and stole a bit of my love for reading. I have read more books that aren’t brilliant but I do like, yet those aren’t enough to make my top ten. It’s only recently that I’m regaining enjoyment through some wonderful books, and I have some enticing reads planned out for the next few weeks. For now, though, here are my favorites of 2013:

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I am the Messenger

1. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
After reading the heart-wrenching tear-jerker, The Book Thief, I wasn’t too sure that Zusak could impress me as much as he did with his 2006 bestseller. Whether he did or didn’t is hardly the point, as I don’t believe the two novels can compare against each other. The two books are profoundly different, and the one similarity they share is the person who wrote them: the wonderfully talented Markus Zusak. I am the Messenger punched my emotions all around, and at the same time, the story of Ed’s journey and personal growth is both touching and inspiring. If you haven’t read The Book Thief, or if you  have and didn’t enjoy it, I highly recommend giving this a try.

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Teeth

2. Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
For nearly a month, I did a little dance around the bookstore with Teeth only to sit it back on the shelf. I wanted to buy it–not just read it, but physically own it–yet I had little knowledge of the plot. All for the best, I’d say. I did succumb to the strong urge to buy Hannah Moskowitz’s book, and once I had it I read it and didn’t stop until I hit the last page. It’s gritty, it’s beautiful, and it’s bleak. Some might call the end bittersweet… I think it’s just sad, and it still gets my emotions wound up months after finishing the book. Good on you, Moskowitz — I look forward to reading the rest of her novels!

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Siege and Storm

3. Siege & Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Us Grisha fans waited a year to see this book’s publication, but how I wanted it to come out sooner–and desperately. Shadow & Bone remains one of my top favorite reads from 2012, just as Siege & Storm will remains one of my favorites from this year. Leigh Bardugo surprised me senseless and silly with how much growth both the characters and storyline undergo, and my one regret in reading Siege & Storm is reading it too soon and too quickly. Why? Because now all I care for is third (and–sob–last) Grisha book, Ruin & Rising, which does not come out until 2014.

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Saving Francesca

4. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
I’m disappointed that it took me this long to read a Melina Marchetta book. I did attempt Finnikin of the Rock–and I admit that just might not be the book for me–but it is Saving Francesca that became my first Marchetta read. It’s  heart-warming and heart-wrenching all at once, and it was well worth the moments my eyes teared up–and it is certainly worth reading for all the moments it made me laugh.

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The Knife of Never Letting Go

5. The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness
If anyone is searching for a gripping novel, this is for you. It’s an addicting page-turner where there is no place to pause.  The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the best, if not the best, young adult dystopian novel I have read. Danger and risks await at every page and lurk in the margins, but more than that, I love the writing and I love the characters. Anyone who’s read this will understand my restless upset over Manchee, but I also enjoy the path that Viola’s and Todd’s friendship take. The villains are nothing but insane (and insanely evil), and more than anything, they are indestructible. (What is up with that?) Yikes.

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Warm Bodies

6. Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion
No, I still have not seen the movie–but at least I read the book! I’m not sure where Marion will take this in the sequel, whether it will contain the same characters or introduce an entirely set that live in the same universe. Either way, Warm Bodies surprised me with its lucid eloquence and its equally intelligent characters. For a zombie, R shows keen perception of his environment and complex thought, and I enjoyed reading his journey of self-exploration and finding love.

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Dr. Bird's Advice

7. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
I took an instant liking toward Rosko’s protagonist, James Whitman. He’s endearing without trying, and he’s likable on an adorable level where I’d hug him if he were real. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets tells the story of sixteen year old James and his struggle against depression, anxiety, and life itself. (Oh, and his therapist is an imaginary pigeon.) Books of this nature are typically “gritty” and mood-dampeners, but Rosko’s novel takes after the humor found in Ned Vizinni’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The story is not without flaws, but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless–and I intend to give it another go this summer.

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Alanna

8. Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1) by Tamora Pierce
I finally did it: I read a Tamora Pierce novel! Alanna: The First Adventure makes the one and only Pierce novel I have read, but not for long. I have the rest of the series on hand, and–if I’m lucky–I can move onto Pierce’s next series within the next few weeks. Alanna is a strong and determined character who makes an excellent role model for young readers. I wasn’t blown away by the writing or world-building, but it did entertain me — I’m eager to see where Alanna’s journey leads (and I’m excited to read through more of Tamora Pierce’s series)!

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Alex Woods

9. The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
The Universe Versus Alex Woods is the most recent book I have finished, and my review is scheduled to post soon — it’s a wonderful coming-of-age story about the very peculiar Alex Woods and his friendship with war veteran Mr. Peterson. The writing sits on the slow but steady side of pacing, yet I find the novel smart like its narrator (even if he is young and naïve).

 

Which of your 2013 reads make the top of your list?

In My Mailbox #6

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

Well, I had hoped I would have my Showtime review posted by now, and instead I let my blog grow quiet for a week. My mind’s been stuck in a haze, and while Midnight Coffee Monster sat in its own stagnant puddle of silence, I became lazy. For once, classes and schoolwork didn’t interfere with blogging and reading — a first? I think so.

Now I’m a couple days behind, which I hope to catch up on as I busy myself today with workworkwork. Let’s see if I can get out of this funk before it worsens and I de-evolve into another bedblob. Doing nothing became my newest hobby, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t resist the allure of Shiny New Books — which is something.

Sense & Sensibility and The Outsiders

I am in the habit of frequenting Barnes & Nobel for a couple of reasons. For one, I not only live and go to school less than ten minutes away from the store, but it is the closest bookstore around. Unless I wish to venture across town or walk into Borders, which is located in the mall and — I’m sad to report — has a rather sad book selection. I also like to plop myself in front of B&N’s bargain-priced books and fancy buying them all. I wouldn’t dare, but I do love the covers — they’re hardback and pretty eye candy. Naturally, I’m prone to snatching one for myself now and then.

I have heard lots of praise surrounding Austen’s Emma–which will probably be my next Austen-buy–but the itch to own Sense & Sensibility has bothered me for a long time, and I’m happy to finally own a copy.

I saw the movie years ago — not horribly long ago, but long enough to where I can hardly recall the movie at all. What I do remember is that I enjoyed it, and I’ve wanted to read the novel ever since I spaced out during a class read-along in seventh grade. Hopefully I can fit The Outsiders as one of my reads this year!

…Oops. Wait a minute. Don’t I already have this book? Didn’t I already order this? Yeah, I did — my mistake! Like I said, my mind has been fogged this week. What I wanted to pre-order is Robin Bridges The Morning Star, which is the third and final book to her Katerina trilogy. This book here is the second in the series, which I have yet to read but already own. I have to skulk on down to the bookstore and hope there are no problems with a return, but either way: I will have my pre-order!

A Monster Calls

  • A Monster Calls written by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd, and illustrated by Jim Kay

I bought a copy! For myself! I have A Monster Calls! I read this last year and it quickly became a book that I can’t separate from. I can read this a million times over, and the charm that Ness, Dowd, and Kay created won’t ever grow faint or wither. Not for me, anyway. I will give away one copy once my review is written up, and I sincerely hope that whoever I send it to will cherish this story as much as I do.

netgalley

These last three are from NetGalley, which I’ve had an account with for some time and only now am I taking advantage of it. NetGalley sent me invitations to read the first two, and the third is one I requested. (I’m a bit excited for Gavin Extence’s book especially!) I’m notorious for spending ample time working through ebooks, so I expect a challenge — hopefully I won’t take too long. If there is one thing I took from my last digital book, it’s that it is possible to lasso my attention span so long as I’m even slightly interested.

And that’s a wrap. Share your latest bookish finds with me!

Raya
xo

In My Mailbox #5

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

Classes started back up again this week, and–like most first weeks–it went by smoothly. For the first time in a long while, I finished several books and managed to complete all my work. (This really is an accomplishment of pathetic sorts, all scatter-brainedness considered.) If only this week could be a predictor for how the rest of my quarter will go! Meanwhile, I did buy new books (and it was torture trying not to read them all right away), which I’m rather excited about. First off:

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets & Life of Pi

This was the quietest little book on my to-read list. It recently came out, and it seems that not too many people were anticipating its publication like I was. I stumbled across its GoodReads page not long ago, and the title alone caught my interest. Yes: I really wanted to read this, and so I did — do expect a review from me! Overall, I think the pacing is steady but you can finish it in under a day, and I find James Whitman naturally endearing.

I haven’t seen the movie, and for good reason: I am waiting on little ol’ me to read the book. Finally–finally!–I picked it up! I’m just beginning my trek through Shelley’s Frankenstein, and after that I like to think I’ll begin either Persuasion, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, OR The Unfailing Light, so who knows when I’ll make room for Martel’s novel. It’s one of those books that’s received plenty of praise in an ocean full of hype, but I think I’ve steered clear of spoilers and overly indulged plot descriptions. If there is anything hype is good for, it’s raising my expectations to the point of deflation.

Dracula

How can I pass up a Dracula hardback when it’s only $11? It’s classic, inexpensive, hardback, and with a pretty cover to boot. I’m satisfied, to say the least.

A couple years ago I made a failed attempt at reading this, but only because it was due back at the library. Curses! To think: I read half way through (just when Bram had hooked me at last) and I didn’t get to see the end. It took me a long while to get it, but I now have my own personal copy — no due dates to interrupt my read this time!

The Unfailing Light & SS&D

Although I bought The Gathering Storm (Katerina #1) last year, I didn’t find my way to reading it until February of this year. I discovered that Robin Bridges keeps the atmosphere light with quick pace, but she still manages to include conflicts. By no means is The Gathering Storm perfect–and you can read my thoughts about it here–but I enjoyed reading it for stress-relief and fun. I couldn’t deny the sequel, so I plan to read and review that as well.

I surprised myself! Last year I read–and reviewed–SS&D, and I always planned on reading the sequel by the same means that I read book one: through the library. I enjoyed Dennard’s novel, regardless that I easily uncoiled the mystery and disliked the main character. Something strange happened. Strange, but not deadly. (I don’t think so, anyway.) Obsession hit back in March, or perhaps in February, because all I wanted was something quick! fun! light! I wanted Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly, so now I have it. (Now, of course, I also intend to buy the sequel. If only summer would get here sooner.)

That’s all from me. Which books did you snatch up this week?

Top Ten Tuesday #9

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Click here to read more and join!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Click here to read more and join!

Guess what this week’s Top Ten Tuesday’s prompt is all about? My favorite thing: book recommendations! And here are ten I suggest the most:

Between Shades of Gray How to Say Goodbye in Robot SeraphinaIt's Kind of a  Funny Story Looking for Alaska The Arrival The Book Thief 2 The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Sadly, I’m always too wrapped up in other books to read Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel a second time. At some point, which I hope is this year, I would love to re-read and even review it. Ruta is one talented writer who, despite the stark atmosphere of this novel, manages to sprout hope between the pages. With writing so swift and striking, it’s no wonder that I recommend this book so often. It’s not that Between Shades of Gray is only well-written and tactful–and with a great protagonist to top it off–but the novel sheds light on a piece of history that’s been hidden in the shadows. Whether you have or have not read this book, I also highly recommend that anyone watch the ‘promotional trailer’ of sorts here.

2. How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Another book I recommend often is Natalie Standiford’s How To Say Goodbye in Robot. As far as young adult contemporary/realistic fiction goes, I have yet to encounter any similar book and I don’t think I ever will. Standiford’s novel stands alone, which–regardless of its flaws–is great. I discuss a little of the book in this post, but I of course prefer that you check out the book instead — and read it!

3. Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman
I was crazy about Seraphina before it was published, and now I’m all sorts of crazy amplified by ten just waiting on the sequel. Although I’ve been successful in persuading others to read Hartman’s glamorousandkick-ass novel, I don’t think any amount of converts will please me because I just need to talk about this book ALL THE TIME. Hands down, I adore Seraphina as a character — she is an intensely smart, observant individual who is not simply relatable, but beautiful inside and out. My review can be read here, but I also mention Seraphina in this post as well.

4. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
First, I desperately plead, do not judge this book by its movie. The two are quite different in my opinion, and in all places where the movie flounders the book prevails. Out of many young adult novels I’ve read that deal with mental health, I feel that Vizzini nails it. Craig embodies the emotions of those who live with and have experienced depression, and what I admire most of all is how Vizzini works in humor. Yes: this is a novel about depression that is not depressing. Who’d have thought? Instead, the book is an uplifting story as it follows a boy’s one-week stay in a mental hospital after choosing not to kill himself.

5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
I may never love another John Green novel as much as I love Looking for Alaska, because I’m still waiting for its equal. This book, alongside one other, is what hooked me into exploring young adult literature. Miles “Pudge” Halter is a rather sentimental guy, quite thoughtful, and he undergoes a memorable coming-of-age experience. Off at boarding school, he finds his place among life-long friends and in a sad turn of events, loses one. This novel is sincere but balanced well by John Green’s trademark wit, and I have the feeling that Looking for Alaska will have a special place on my shelf for years to come.

6. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan’s work in The Arrival stunned me speechless. However wordless (that goes for the book and myself), Tan shows the wonder in his artistic ability through cinematic-like images. The story follows a man as he journeys away from his homeland only to arrive in a foreign world, filled with odd devices and customs, and even odder creatures. It’s an old tale to tell: the story of an immigrant, and what sets The Arrival apart is how Shaun Tan breathes life into it with impressive images. A lot of work–you might not think–went into creating this book, which you can read about (and view pages from the book!) by clicking here.

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Maybe some day I will get the knots out of my tongue to properly review this page-turner. Until then, I will slap it across the head of anyone willing to listen. You might think a smack from a 550-page book would hurt, but that is nothing in comparison to what its words and characters do to your heart. Death, as a narrator, does a spectacular job — even when he spoils the ending way ahead of time — because he’s much more human than he likes to think, and I swear there’s a heart and soul trapped in the pages.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is one of those book that, if I catch you insulting it, I will smack you silly across the face. …In my head. I won’t really abuse your face til it’s red and raw, but I’m rather attached –unfortunately?–and I will judge. There are people who easily dismiss Chbosky’s book because of its lasting popularity, and I’m happy to say that I picked this up on whim. I had no previous knowledge of this book, but a friend listed it as one of her favorite reads. Trusting her taste, I gave it a go as well and fell in love.

There Are No Children Here A Monster Calls

9. There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz
There Are No Children Here was required reading for my sociology class, and reading it had me deeply interested in the lives of these two boys. Far from simply informative, it’s heart-wrenching and mind-opening — even more so because it isn’t fiction. This is the true story, as told by Alex Kotlowitz, of Lafeyette and Pharoah growing up in “the other America.”

10. A Monster Calls written by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd, and illustrated by Jim Kay
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s honest and keenly written with certain awareness. From the moment I started reading I could see no happy ending, which–to be honest–was not what I’d expected. Unaware of the story, I believed a spooky tale lie ready for reading, and how completely wrong I was. It is unusual for me to like a book, and more to love a book, when initial expectations are struck down, and it’s not often that literature brings real tears dripping down my face.

Which books do you recommend most often?

In My Mailbox #4

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

I know it’s been a little while since I have been around, but I desperately needed time away for school. And now? I’m baaaaack! And with new books, too, as well as what I’m sure is a broken toe and sprained ankle — but let’s leave the latter tidbit at “Raya is too lazy to schedule a doctor’s appointment” and move on to the books. All right? Right.

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer & About a Boy

Soon after experiencing a mild burn-out on young adult literature, I was very firm about what my next purchase would involve. This included more “grown-up” works, yes, but I had a particular title in mind. No matter how many books I would buy, no matter how little or plenty I would spend, my next book purchase needed to include Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. By happenstance, I first spotted it in the bookstore months ago and failed to seize the opportunity. Hoping it was still there and that I wouldn’t have to wait even longer by placing an order, I strode back into the store this week. And? There it was, sitting exactly how I’d seen it before — crunched between other Howards and Hughs or whoevers — and I’m quite glad to be the proud owner of a sizzling hot book. (By “sizzling hot” I mean, “The cover is valuable and completely worth the immeasurable time I spend ogling and drooling,” as well as, “This book sounds great and I would like to figuratively consume it.”)

As for Nick Hornby’s About a Boy: the book was practically next to Howard’s novel. An impulsive buy! Who knows when I will get around to reading it, thinking about the number of unread books I already own — not to forget crazy stacks of library copies that I am prone to hoarding. In the least, I have seen the film. Although it’s been years since I last watched it, I did enjoy it and found the movie somewhat touching with good humor to boot. For now, I can only hope that I’ll develop similar feelings towards the book.

A Monster Calls

  • A Monster Calls: inspired by Siobhan Dowd’s idea, written by Patrick Ness, and illustrated by Jim Kay

Let me tell you: I experienced a strange emotion when I left the bookstore. Book-buying is a pick-me-up. If I’m not buying for someone else, I am buying to make myself a little less craptastic, and in both cases I walk out in a boosted mood. This time around I felt bad. This is the first time, and hopefully the only time, that I will associate icky emotions and book-buying, although I suspect this has to do with the lovely numbers on the receipt. I don’t normally spend $50 in one visit, because I’m used to spending $30 or below. I might drop in twice in one week and spend $70 — and then go in two more times the following week — but spending little increments during each visit feels better than going all-out. Doesn’t it?

In any case, I did not buy this for myself! If you caught my last post, I mentioned a giveaway. Of course, deciding on which book(s) to give away is something I have difficulty on narrowing. There are a number of great books I’d love to share and gift, but which do I choose?! [Frowns. Pulls hair. Grunts.]

I spied A Monster Calls, and I knew then that is one book I’d love to ship off to someone. No hesitations here: this is one book that will sit on my favorites shelf for years and years. It’s endearing for its honesty, which I appreciate, and I was taken aback by how moving a story I find it. I will give it away (internationally, and I’ve already decided that you do NOT need to be a follower)* once I have reviewed it, so readers be looking.

*To note: I am leaning toward Tumblr’s reblogging system for this. As I’m not particularly fond of Rafflecopter, this seems like a straight-forward means. If you have experience with other giveaway methods, to share about it is more than welcome.

Out of the Easy & The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Although I bought Sepetys’ and Stevenson’s books several weeks back, I thought I’d slip them in this post — and I’m doing exactly that. I am aware that I have only read Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel, Between Shades of Gray, but I already consider myself a fan. Having read and adored nearly everything about Ruta’s first novel, I find it difficult to imagine that Out of the Easy will disappoint me. Unfortunately, as I’ve said, I’m in a ‘YA lit is a no-no’ mood. I don’t plan to start this book any time too soon, but I expect and look forward to having my emotions flipped around like pancake batter.

In the mean time, I’m sl-o-w-ly making my way through Stevenson’s collected stories. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one story I’ve nagged myself for years to read, and: I read it, finally! I will save my thoughts for a review, but what I think is similar to how I feel about Treasure Island: likeable and readable but lackluster. For now I’m keeping a distance, but I do plan on returning for the next story: The Lodging for the Night.

And I’m all out of new books to share! Which books have you recently picked up?

Raya
xo