Comforting your sick, lazy self + Twitter

What a fancy seeing me here! I’ve kept quiet for almost the entirety of July, I am well aware. Blogging sat in the back of mind for a couple of weeks, and then it invaded my conscience and found a voice. It said things like, “Post!” and “Review!” and I said, “No.” After leaving one of the more stressful school years behind this spring, I felt I deserved a break. I was done. Kaput. Out of energy. I wanted a vacation from cramped schedules and due dates and ARC reading. Well, I cannot do anything about the books I’ve received for review, but I did–clearly–go away for a short while. It wasn’t all fun: I first came down with a two-week bug followed by a bout of laziness, or you might say my two-week bug was laziness followed by more laziness.

medical conditional called laziness

During this great period of Doing Nothing, I read a bit of this book and that book, watched a show here and there… Which made me think: I love comfort books. But not only that. I also love TV shows and movies for comfort, especially ones I can watch on repeat a hundred times. In every sense of the word, I am a book nerd, though I’d be lying if I said I don’t love sitting in front of the screen for hours just a bit more than reading.

comfort reading

If I feel flu-ish or like a couch potato, I become drawn to certain books that meet certain criteria. When sick, there is no chance I’ll seek a book weighted in politics, intricate plots, and complex storylines. All of these qualities, when brought to life by good writing, can make an excellent piece of literature, but who wants that with a fogged brain? I demand light and simple yet interesting. I don’t want a book whose plot flies ten feet above my ability to grasp it, but I don’t want a book that puts me to sleep either. To name some personal favorites, I compiled a few lists…

1. I love a book that can wow me. A book that’s unique, emotionally compelling, and intelligent. My reading, however, should never be restricted to “smart” or “impressive” novels–reading should be fun, and that entails rehashed plots or predictability equally as much as it entails originality. So long as the reader enjoys the book, who cares?  Straight-forward books that offer non-complex world-building often become some of my favorite comfort material, and here are only a select number of preferred light reading:

anna

*Anna & The French Kiss and I didn’t get off on good footing the first time around, but now–well, yes. I understand the book’s appeal. I understood it the first time I read it, but that understanding is now on par with zealous fans. I’m not a zealous fan–just to be clear–but I like this novel for how simple and light it proves to be. It’s predictable with the perfect about of fluff and drama, and once you accept Anna & the French Kiss for it is, you just might like it, too

2. One word: manga!

Ladies & Gentlemen: Mikasa Ackerman of Shingeki no Kyojin & why she's top BAMF. You are welcome.

Ladies & Gentlemen: Mikasa Ackerman of Shingeki no Kyojin & why she’s top BAMF. You are welcome.

I stand before you at the cusp of entering a manga obsession. I’ve never been a manga person, as I can count on one hand the number of manga I’ve read before this week (two). Having finished EVERYTHING that is currently available of Shingeki no Kyojin (SNK/Attack on Titan), I died. Then, upon realizing that SNK is not the only manga out there, I undied and began my search. I’m brand new at this–a beginner. I can’t provide a decent recommendation list, but I will say that–just like any novel–manga storylines are either complex or simple.  Not all are mind-blowing or likable, but the added bonus of a good manga artist and writer (not to forget: a good translator) make even the sophisticated plots fairly comprehensible. I appreciate this.

e7: blue mondaySo on that note:

*The Eureka 7 manga is an adaption of the original anime show of the same name. Between the two, I highly recommend the anime.

3. Those books I will re-read and re-read and… re-read…

When it comes to reading, my biggest problem is allowing myself to get swept up in one book only to be distracted by three more. I don’t accomplish too many re-reads for this reason, but the aforementioned titles are books I will re-read in an instant. They remain as some of my personal favorites, and I give high praise to each. Whenever I’m down with a cold, this is a handful of what I reach for on my shelf.

Fact: Something Strange & Deadly is my favorite comfort book to re-read. At four read-throughs, it’s my second-most read book (only topped by A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness).

film preview

Maybe it’s because I’m a nostalgic person–or perhaps it’s because I loved my mother’s pampering when I was little–but when I’m sick or avoiding chores, I seek things which define my childhood: Spice Girls, Harry Potter, Disney, and well…

1. “Family-fun movies”

2. Shows that know a good time…

Unless you’re my grandmother who solely lives for Lifetime movies, there is a high chance you will enjoy these shows. I will watch every single episode back-to-back–recycle and repeat; no rinse.

*Now, bumping into people who refuse to watch ATLA is almost as frustrating as discovering people who deny watching it. If you think you’re too old for ATLA and LOK, if you think you’re too old for anything animated, then get out of my face or prepare to be agni kai’d off this planet. I will burn you into ashes of shame and humiliation from which you will never rise. Insulting these shows is outrageous. It’s blasphemous. You don’t stomp over a sacred creation without consequence. Thank and bless Michael Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko, amen.

atla water tribe

Speaking of, Korra’s second season is coming this September! Who else feels excited?

3. Re-visiting a few more childhood favorites…

I am sorry? You don’t like Pokémon or Sailor Moon? We cannot be friends.

twitterYes, I am now on Twitter. Maybe? I am here! But, uh, not tweeting. I am intelligent enough to create a Twitter account, but I am not intelligent enough to tweet. Standby as I finish Twitter for Dummies. In the meantime, drop me a comment, because feed is superbly boring when there’s no one to spam it.

Tell me: What are your favorite shows and books to revisit?

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ARC Review: Extremities by David Lubar

ExtremitiesExtremities: Stories of Death, Murder, and Revenge by David Lubar
Release date: July 23rd, 2013
| GoodreadsB&NThe Book Depository |
My rating: ★★☆☆☆

I’m a person who avoids horror. Not because horror scares me, but because it bores me, and if it doesn’t bore me, it frustrates me to the point where I scream at the television or the book in my hands. As a child, however, many things frightened me—scary things. Back in the glorious 1990s, Nickelodeon aired Are You Afraid of the Dark? (which I most certainly was). Kids gathered around campfire, spooking each other with ghost tales, and I will never forget the story of the haunted pool. The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float episode didn’t frighten me of ghosts or even pools; it made me fear water. Shower time? Not before it the water-monster strangles me. Take a swim? I’ll pass. Glass of water? He’s going to suffocate me from the inside!

So what does a ridiculous ‘90s show have to do with Extremities? Just like Are You Afraid of the Dark?, who will get the most enjoyment or thrills from Extremities depends on the reader. Looking back, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is as cheesy as cheesy gets. But the fact is that it still scared me and gave me an irrational fear of water. Now that I’m much older, what scares me has changed. People-eating giants makes me shiver, zombies are creepily fascinating, eerie dystopian settings horrify, and the psychological aspects to all these both terrify and excite me. Reality itself, even, can zap me dead in a second. These concepts put me in a panic—zero of which I find in Extremities—but none of this stopped me from reading Lubar’s book.

If there is one thing Lubar wants to note, it’s that “this is not a book for children.” Indeed it’s not, but I think who Extremities is most appropriate for varies. “At rare and random times, without any plan on my part,” says Lubar, “a story will emerge that is too dark, too heartless, or, dare I say it, too evil, for my young readers.” But that’s exactly it, that’s my problem. I didn’t find any of the stories within Extremities too dark, heartless, or evil. What I did find was a lack of suspense, predictable twists, and writing that wants to be smart but falls short.

When I first spied David Lubar’s Extremities, I felt a pull that I couldn’t resist. My lack of acquaintanceship with horror drew me to Lubar’s collection, as if we were a cute match but doomed to a petty break-up. While I thought I would like Extremities, the book serves as a reminder why I scarcely wander into this genre. David Lubar’s collection dances familiar paths of similar stories that have come before it. Although this doesn’t deem the book ‘poor quality,’ why didn’t the author take new turns? Hold my hand and lead me to a place I haven’t been before. Be daring and dangerous. Take risks. Whatever you do, dream beyond what’s already been done.

For each story, events flip-flop for the hero or heroine—either the character comes out the victor or victim, depending on how the story opens. Lubar’s tales take expected turns and end in likely fashion, which strips away the element of shock. Once the story reveals itself, usually paired with the title, the end becomes clear before the reader gets there. Prior to starting Extremities, I expected stories that weren’t horrifying or dark, but original ideas that held interest and surprise. These stories should have captivated me by their warped characters and by the irony of events, or at least that is what I wished for.

Well, Raya, maybe the fright doesn’t come from the conclusions. Maybe David Lubar’s point has nothing to do with unprecedented twists. I get that. Extremities is not intended to make the reader scream or spend a restless night waking from nightmares. It is intended to make the reader shudder, perhaps, at the thought of what these character do, witness, and experience. At the same time, I can’t deny that ingenuity would’ve helped improve the collection as whole. As one reader out of many, I didn’t shudder. I snickered at the irony and turn of events, and only because I saw them coming. If I wasn’t eyeballing the text with an ‘I told you so,’ I felt nearly bored. And yet… Extremities mildly entertained me.

For all that I’ve said, not everyone is doomed to have the same reaction. What Extremities needs most is the right audience—and that does not include me. There is something to be said for entertainment value, and for these reasons alone, David Lubar’s collection is one I still recommend. If haunting stories of any kind suit your fancy, then by all means, let this book find a home at your bedside and prepare to unleash some horrors from its pages.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing a free copy of Extremities in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Nicking Time by T. Traynor

Nicking TimeNicking Time by T. Traynor
Published June 1st, 2013
| GoodreadsB&NThe Book Depository |
My rating: ★★★☆☆

At first glance, Nicking Time appears to be a novel about friendship and growing up—an overdone theme, some might say, yet T. Traynor instills a vitality and refreshing youthfulness through her set of characters. Told by Midge, the story does not unfold through events, but sprawls out before the reader as the young narrator reflects on one particular summer from his childhood. What marks this summer as significant for Midge’s gang—Skooshie, Lemur, Bru, and Hector—is what comes at the end of it: change.

We know that it’s more than just an ordinary summer and that we’re expecting great things to happen. It has to be the best summer we’ve ever had because we’re all scared it’s going to be the last one. That at the end of it secondary school will swallow us up and make us different and everything might change between us.

It’s one thing to experience change the moment it hits, standing in the wake of sudden shock—life altered for better or worse. It’s a different experience to see that change coming ahead of time, and anxiety and excitement or fear fluster in a fit of stomach butterflies. Regardless of what lies ahead, so long as it’s seen beforehand, the remaining time between now and the future becomes precious. The boys sense a shift on the horizon coming to greet them, and they have every intention of making the most out of their summer vacation. With a list full of fun and adventure, their summer seems set, but is there enough time to do it all?

“So do we put ‘Invent Time Bank’ on the list of things we want to do this summer?” asks Skooshie.

“Might as well,” I say.

“OK,” says Hector, scribbling. “That’s number 7.”

“Read them out, Hector,” says Lemur.

“In no particular order—apart from the first one: Cathkin.”

“Even if we doing nothing else,” says Skooshie, “we do that. I would underline it, Hector, just so that’s clear.”

Hiding out in the cool shadow of their secret den, re-enacting battles, rolling in the grass, watching favorite TV shows, and playing the silly, normal games boys play make up the majority of Nicking Time. It largely consists of Midge and his friends adventuring, hopping from one activity to the next, and their plot to break into an rickety-old abandoned stadium. For most of the novel, little else happens, almost to the point where some might question a missing plot. For Traynor’s story to effectively work, to successfully convey Nicking Time’s theme, a defining moment needed to occur. Such a moment does occur, yet not in the way I first suspected, and it crosses the pages late into the story.

Nicking Time, as I said, appears to be a coming-of-age-like novel about childhood friendships. The keyword here is “appears.” Traynor’s novel remains, in certain ways, a story about five boys at the cusp of innocence, ready to enter their adolescent years. What I expected to sprout from this idea shares nothing in common with what the story does offer. As Midges says, “Some disappointment you just have to accept.”

Whether it involves fantasy elements, stays realistic, or even if it’s non-fiction, stories about childhood have always been one of my favorite type of stories to read. Many defining moments mark a person’s life, but more often than not, I find that childhood and leaving it behind can remain one of the more bittersweet tales to tell. Using Midge as her narrator, Traynor has written her book with the simplicity and naiveté of childhood ignorance. Nicking Time is cute, humorous, and most of all, I enjoyed it. However, by writing through Midge’s musings, there are instances of warning that foretell a possibly dark turn.

Perhaps I’ve seen and read too many similar stories that end tragically, or are characterized by uneasy tension. It’s possible, and it’s possible that I let these stories get the best of my expectations, because by the time Nicking Time makes that turn for change, I felt incredibly disappointed. Through all of Traynor’s hints, I suspected something terrible—that death, even—might strike down one of the boys. What better misery to crush one of their most memorable summers? But death awaits none of these boys, nor does anything equally or less tragic. Instead, the story takes on a surprising twist of paranormal nature.

For a mostly realistic but fictional novel, this paranormal twist felt as unsuspected as it is disjointing. At the same time, this aspect proves predictable. Once Traynor introduces this bizarre trait into the story, it’s difficult not to notice hints that the author has planted. By no means did I think Traynor would go do down this route at the beginning of story, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear. Compared to the places my imagination took me, the way in which Traynor concludes Nicking Time lacks spunk and the pulling of emotional heartstrings. Even if I hadn’t misinterpreted the author’s early tip-offs of what was to come, I greeted the paranormal development with an unwelcoming attitude. Rather than one, complete novel, Nicking Time feels like two different stories that collide. The result is not a smooth blending, but an awkward and brashly-concluded story.

Does this take away from the overall enjoyment of Traynor’s writing? In some ways, yes, but Nicking Time remains a likeable story. The narrator, Midge, is smart and funny—as are his friends and younger sister, Kit—and I cherish the moments they made me laugh.

We want to risk the gloom of the stand, lying back and staring up at the rusting roof. We want to walk over every bit of broken concrete, challenging each other to find and leap the most dangerous gaps. We want to be players, managers, spectators, villains, heroes. It’s the stage for so many possible adventures. It’s calling out and we’re the boys to answer it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Floris Books for providing a free copy of Nicking Time in exchange for my honest review.

Waiting on Wednesday #4

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by  Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

A Darkness Strange & LovelyA Darkness Strange & Lovely (Something Strange & Deadly #2) by Susan Dennard
Release date: July 23rd, 2013

A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly, #2)

Goodreads Summary:

Perfect for readers Libba Bray’s The Diviners and Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel series, this spellbinding sequel to Something Strange and Deadly delivers a mix of intrigue, supernatural forces, intense romance, and revenge, all set against the enchanting backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris.

With her brother dead and her mother insane, Eleanor Fitt is alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor hears the vicious barking of hounds and see haunting yellow eyes, she fears that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are after her.

To escape, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. But Oliver harbors a dangerous secret involving necromancy and black magic that entices Eleanor beyond words. If she can resist him, she’ll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over, and there’s a whole new evil lurking. And she is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there’s a price for this darkness strange and lovely, and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.

| B&NThe Book DepositoryAuthor Website |

I will be honest: this is the first time I fully read through the summary, and… I think it spoiled me. Did I want to hear the news of Eleanor’s mom just yet? Nope. Did I want to hear about Oliver so soon? No. Much of my excitement for A Darkness Strange & Lovely comes from the unknown, wanting  to know what transpired after Something Strange & Deadly‘s conclusion — what happened to Eleanor’s mother, the family’s financial burden and social standing within the city, and of course: Eleanor herself. Eleanor is nothing if not tough, as I think she proved herself by the first book’s end. Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly, while not flawless, became one of the more addicting, fun reads of 2012, and I anticipate the sequel’s release with much excitement! I have a copy pre-ordered, so you can guarantee I’ll be stalking my mailbox until the book arrives.

What are you waiting on?

A little bit of reading…

Or at least I would like this week to involve a little bit of reading. It’s July 2nd, which means the Summer Lovin’ Read-A-Thon officially kicked off yesterday. I found myself on the busy side of things, so I accomplished little reading. Today, I hope, will not be a repeat of yesterday! Either way, I took a trip downtown for a scheduled library raid to pick up several books. Although most of the books I plan to read are from the library, I won’t make an official Library Loot post. I don’t have an exact “reading schedule,” either, but here is what’s set for Summer Lovin’ week!

reading 1

CURRENTLY READING:

I thought I would have finished Neftzger’s book by now, and I easily could have. I enjoy her writing and the story immensely, told in fairy tale-like fashion, and the book proves highly readable. What stands between me and finishing The Orphanage of Miracles are other books! You might say I started Summer Lovin’s Read-A-Thon a few days early, as I took the weekend to read up through the third book in Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. (What can I say? The series is addicting. Thank you, Tamora Pierce.)

As you can see, I also started Battle Royale. This is for Underrated Bookers, a group run by Rebecca (thebooker) on Goodreads. From the Underrated Book Project, books are chosen each month. For this month, the group picked books from the dystopian genre: Battle Royale, Ready Player One, and The Darkest Minds, so if you’d like to take part feel free to join the group! (You do not have to read all three books.)

Moving on to library books, now…

LL 1

I’m starting the library loot list off with leftovers. Yes: these are the very same books from two weeks ago. You can bet I’ll finish Lioness Rampant, if not this week then certainly by the following week.

LL 2

I am terribly excited to read this stack! I’ve said recently that I am itching for fantasy and steampunk, and, well… steampunk took over. My one and only worry is that I won’t enjoy these books as much as I’d like to. I can’t say I’m new to steampunk, as I do love the fashion and steampunk concepts that are used in films, but I am new to steampunk in literature. I’ve read so-so and mixed reviews for The Pearl Wars and Boneshaker–though I must say that my eagerness to read them doesn’t waver. I think the most promising out of these three might be Westerfeld’s Leviathan. His Uglies series isn’t for me, but Leviathan sure does have an appeal.

LL 3

Again: another great stack I look forward to. The Darkest Minds has sat on my to-read shelf since before its publication, and I am hoping to use Underrated Bookers as an excuse to finally read it. The sequel is due out soon enough, so I really do hope to make room for it at some point during July.

Of course, I believe I mentioned The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Wildwood Dancing in a Top Ten Tuesday post, which I still hope to read before summer turns into fall. I admit that I’m most antsy to start Jemisin’s book, as the summary and cover have a fancy, wondrous appeal that I have trouble denying.

LL 4

Sky Castle is a quick children’s picture book, which I discovered in the library’s catalog as I hunted down steampunk titles. Just to clarify: Sky Castle is NOT a children’s steampunk picture book, but I don’t deny the allure of one. I also have Melina Marchetta’s The Piper’s Son here, and I’m awfully excited to read it. I loved Saving Francesca, so I am eager to start the companion novel, like, right now.

Naturally, as an ATLA fanatic, I need to read The Search, where Zuko teams up with Azula to discover the truth of what happened to their mother. I weep tears of joy. Really, I do–and for a couple of reasons. The first being: Azula. She alone is one of the best villains I love to love, and I love her character all-around. (As I do Zuko. How can you not like him?) Secondly: we may finally learn the truth! ATLA’s finale slapped me across the face when the creators left this cliff hanger dangling on all of our faces.

Last up…

book 2Yes, we all know I picked up Battle Royale to read and finish, but the one book–above all other books–I am dying to read is Airman by Eoin Colfer!

Eee! What is that sound? Squeals of excitement and bliss.

Once I finish The Orphanage of Miracles and Battle Royale, which books am I picking up next? Who knows. As much as I want to read Airman, I am known for neglecting my own books so that I can plow through towers of library loot. I’m also a mood-ish reader, and I will waste a day trying to figure out which book out the many I should read.

Problem solved:

reading mug

I point out: the creepy-faced reading mug, for it has an actual face, and I refuse to drink from it.

I pooled together titles that interest me and wrote their names on paper scraps before placing them in my “reading mug.” If I ever have difficulty choosing what to read, I can blindly pick a title. Suddenly: choices becomes less problematic.

(Remember: sign-ups for the Summer Lovin’ read-a-thon are open through July 6th! Just before the 24-hour reading marathon starts.)

Happy reading!

Book Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

The Universe Versus Alex WoodsThe Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Release date: June 25th, 2013
| GoodreadsB&NThe Book Depository |
My rating: ★★★★☆

In case you didn’t know, in secondary school—especially in the early years of secondary school—diversity is not celebrated. In secondary school, being different is the worst crime you can commit. Actually, in secondary school, being different is pretty much the only crime you can commit.

At one point or another, most teenagers believe the universe is pitted against them. For Alex Woods, that seems to be the case—literally—as a chunk of meteorite crash-lands through the roof of his home and knocks him unconscious. Alex survives, but not without side-effects. In the aftermath, Alex gains the attention of media and develops an onset of epileptic seizures, but it is not just Alex’s fame, medical history, or the scar on his head that marks him an outcast. Wildly curious and interested in science coupled with social awkwardness makes him a target for school bullies. It is these bullies, however, who chase Alex right into Mr. Peterson’s yard. What starts as a rocky, uncertain relationship between the thirteen year old and Vietnam war veteran steadily turns into a life-altering friendship.

Now, at age seventeen, Alex once again finds himself at the center of media hype, but for different reasons entirely. His actions have set the country in uproar, and upon stopping at customs, he is found with 113 grams of marijuana and a full urn of ashes. Told from the viewpoint of the naïve yet exceptionally perceptive and smart Alex, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a clever coming-of-age story. It’s a novel that comes full-circle, beginning and returning to the specific event which opens the story. Similar to that of a memoir, the pages in between reveal Alex’s reflections—from the moment the universe collides into Alex’s life to his friendship with Mr. Peterson and beyond.

Alex presents an endearing naïvety by nature, yet this is one quality he continually grows from. An insightful and observant individual, Alex does not lack keen awareness, and when that clarity is ever clouded, he fights to understand. He is more than smart, looking at the world through an innocent’s eyes—a common feature among coming-of-age stories. Alex is intelligent, evolving in character, odd in terms of typical teenagers, and quite the saint. Above all of Alex’s qualities, however charming, it is his belief in doing “the right thing” that wins me over. No matter what consequences may result, fear does not seem to phase Alex. Instead, he readily accepts what he believes he must do and any punishment that comes with it. In this respect, he displays valor—a characteristic that not only earns my respect, but makes him a valuable person to know.

“Still, not all scars are bad, Alex. Some are worth hanging on to, if you know what I mean.”

I believe that Alex is the heart of this novel, as the story rests and depends on his musings. It’s centered on the events in his life during a certain span of years, or rather: The Universe Versus Alex Woods is Alex’s story thus far, and in part of this story lives Mr. Peterson. The friendship that grows between the two characters becomes a turning point, as both Alex and Mr. Peterson affect one another through irreversible change—and for the better. Some of the book’s most gripping scenes prosper from this unexpected but somehow ordinary relationship, and much of the growth this book experiences stems from these parts. It’s a poignant aspect: one teenage outcast and one reclusive war veteran who find each other, connecting through their obstacles, Kurt Vonnegut’s writing, and perhaps through loneliness.

In the long history of human affairs, common sense doesn’t have the greatest track record.

The story Gavin Extence has written is a blast of fresh air: compelling, profound for its thoughtfulness, and touching with a sweet twinge of humor. I find that the charm and uniqueness  Gavin has instilled into his novel is difficult for me to communicate. It’s simple: I fear that I will ruin the plot for anyone who has yet to read this story. I fear that by saying more, I will remove the story’s capability to affect prospective readers. I can only encourage others to pick this book up and discover Alex’s story for themselves.

At a surface glance, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is the coming-of-age tale about a peculiar boy growing up under even more peculiar circumstances. This story, however, runs deeper than that. It’s thought-provoking literature that displays the small wonders in this vast, complex universe. At the same time, it handles expansive issues centering on life, death, personal right and responsibility. What I appreciate about Gavin’s way of dealing with these facets to the story is this: they are what they are—nothing more and nothing less. Gavin’s aim is not to persuade the reader of anything, but to let the story unfold and allow the reader to get lost its wonder. For a debut, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is immensely likable and it’s one that I won’t soon forget, and I suspect that its appeal will withstand decades to come.

The longest-lived of these particles could exist for only a few hundred-millionths of a second before decaying; the shortest-lived were so unstable that their existences couldn’t even be ‘observed’ in a conventional sense. They popped into being and were gone in the same tiny fraction of an instant, so quickly that no instrument had yet been invented that was sensitive enough to register their presence, which could only be inferred post mortem. But the more I thought about this, and the more I thought about how old the universe was, and how old it would become before it suffered its final heat death—when all the stars had gone out and the black holes had evaporated and all the nucleons decayed, and nothing could exist but the elementary particles, drifting through the infinite darkness of space—the more I thought about these things, the more I realized that all matter was akin to those exotic particles. The size and scale of the universe made everything else unimaginably small and fleeting.

Thank you to NetGalley and Hachette Book Group/Redhook for providing a free copy of The Universe Versus Alex Woods in exchange for my honest review.

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:

*

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?