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?

Book Review: Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Teeth by Hannah MoskowitzTeeth by Hannah Moskowitz

My rating: ★★★★☆

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but Hannah Moskowitz crept up on me, and she did so with such subtleness that I have no memory of it. Up until this point, Hannah Moskowitz’s name—and certainly her work—existed far, far away from me. Her books have amazed other readers, filling them up drunk-silly on wonder and heartache, and I had no clue. I missed out, it seems.

After reading reviews, I conclude that Moskowitz can write brilliant stories that make her fanbase feel sad. Likewise, these readers love to feel sad so long as it is brought on by a brilliant Moskowitz novel. I can get down with that, because now—after caving in to my inner-voice that pushed me to pick up and buy this very book—I get to feel the emotional torment of Teeth. How fantastic it is to feel abused by a book of all things.

I wish we would all just fall apart so I wouldn’t have to listen to the downfall happen, so slowly, so painfully. Clawing at us.

Teeth takes place on a remote and peculiar island where the fish can cure a human of the most terminal illness. Rudy, now alone and increasingly bored, finds himself stuck as an inhabitant, but not because he’s sick. Instead, it’s his younger brother Dylan who is (or was) plagued by cystic fibrosis and requires a healthy, life-sustaining dose of magical fish. Plucked right out of his life, Rudy now feels alone and joined, or rather confined, to the island. He daydreams of the future, of his getaway: college. The island life, Rudy discovers, is mundane—or so he thinks.

Enter Teeth: the ugliest and only fishboy haunting island waters. Half human, Teeth is a fish who can’t breathe underwater, has a mouthful of pointy, pointy teeth, and feels that the island’s fish are his family to protect. Fish, might I add, that Dylan’s life depends on. Often stubborn and irrational, Teeth is the true heart of this novel and perhaps the brattiest character I’ll love. Peeling back layers, Teeth shows how deeply complex and tragic he is, which makes his character such a sad but beautiful creature. Similar to Rudy, Teeth is also alone, but much lonelier still, and it is this mutuality that allows them to develop a loyal friendship.

“I’m not going to be whatevers with someone who can’t swim,” he says.

“Whatevers?”

“Yeah, like friends or whatever.”

For me, the magic of this novel did not come from any fish, but from unpreparedness. Shock can either take a person in the direction of a good or bad experience, certainly, but there is some charm in leaping into the unknown. I did not know what kind of novel this would become for me, or if I would connect to it on an emotional level. I tried to keep my knowledge about Teeth—both the book itself and the character—to a scant minimum when I read reviews. I have found that some books are best read when early judgments and expectations haven’t had time to form.

One aspect of Teeth that did sprout expectations on my behalf is Moskowitz’s style of prose. I read that her writing holds beauty and elegant quality. To an extent, I think this is true, but not in a way I had imagined. I suppose with my taste, “elegant” and “beautiful” easily translates as poetic and lyrical. (To be precise, I had Rainer Maria Rilke in mind—perhaps unfairly, and even then it’s really Edward Snow’s Rilke translations I’m thinking of.) But Hannah Moskowitz does write wonderfully, and yes, even poetic flair is sprinkled in. It was not what I had in mind exactly, but it still managed to drag me by the legs through a distressing journey with my full adoration intact. This is the kind of writing a reader should connect to on an emotional level, because it may or may not work for you.

Still, there is something to be said about Moskowitz’s style. It strikes and penetrates, sentences constructed just right so that words prickle you on a level where you can feel the sting. Trust me: that’s only one of dozen and more stings, and those stings will last. Sentence structure pushed over, I am also witness to notable characterization. I felt—and continue to feel—the lasting effects of empathy I underwent. Did Moskowitz’s make it one of her goals to have me stare forlornly at her book, to have me take it off my shelf just to touch it? Like I’m reassuring myself, Yes, this book exists, and you read it and it tore a chunk your heart out? Because either way, Moskowitz accomplished that much in the very least, and I know that it will be months before I recover.

In many ways, Rudy’s solemn attitude could easily morph into whiny complaints. It could be, and thank goodness it’s not, the angst many of us feel tired of reading about in literature. Frankly, I did enough self-pity lamenting as a teen that I don’t need any more of it. The dark past that makes Teeth into this extremely tragic character could be the backdrop ready to amplify Broody Rudy’s mood into extra-broody, but it’s not. Moskowitz displays her wonderful ability to make her writing feel authentic.

Teeth can split your heart into broken pieces, and for all of the right reasons. It’s about companionship, bravery, and the pain that loss causes. Although tentatively formed, the relationship between Teeth and Rudy has a root more stubborn than Teeth himself, and it’s buried somewhere deep. How deep does it go? Where is the breaking point? I’m not so sure there is a breaking point between these two, but Rudy faces difficult choices when Teeth seeks help in freeing his family: the magical fish. The very same fish, as I said, that Dylan needs to live. And just like that: the clear notion of friendship, and even family, suddenly blurs.

This island does feel like the perfect place for murder.

In My Mailbox #2

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 showed off my last book splurge six days ago, and yes: I have acquired more since then. Whoops. If you want to skip my side-rant, scroll right down to the photo below.

The purchases I made are nowhere near the book count from my last IMM post, but… I can’t stop myself. These last few weeks have tired and stressed me out to the point where I’ve felt like calling it quits on this nursing assistant training. I love this class, I do, but it drains, and I  sometimes find it nerve-wracking (especially for us beginners) and an occasional downer to my day.

(I mean: “I slept for two hours. I want to go home, not sit through an additional four hours of class,” or “I slept for two hours. I want to sleep, not get up at 5 AM and stand all day, jet around, and tend to people for the next eight hours.” Praise for those who can do this every day without much complaint, because those are the ones with real passion. Me? I look at these residents and I care and empathize, but: do I really want to do this? I don’t know, and it sucks to put yourself through some tough work only to discover in the end that you hate it.)

Books, however, have the opposite effect. I love weaving through aisles and flipping through curious books, and even returning to the same old books that a deep part of me desperately wishes to own (but I somehow convince myself to put them down anyway). I am down for a library raid any day (and even have some library loot to share soon), and just like borrowing books, buying and hoarding books are a pick-me-up. “This day has been tough,” I say to myself. “I deserve this!”

So what did I get? Ahem:

Siddhartha and Teeth

  • Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

For months I have heard and read wonderful reviews about Teeth, and I have eyed it for probably just as long. I’d walk into the book store and make a beeline for one of my favorite sections (YA fiction), and ogle and grab and carry this book all around the store. Never did I buy it, though. I’d find another book — or, as is often the case — a set of books I decided I’d for-sure read and enjoy over Moskowitz’s novel.

Like anyone, I feel utterly disappointed to buy a book — so full of hope believing that I will like or even adore it — only to discover it’s a flop. Let me tell you: Teeth is anything but. I am told the prose is a wonderful match for an original story, and thank goodness I agree. Teeth, I learned, is nothing like I thought it would be, which is neither necessarily bad or good, but oh! This book is good. Very, very good. It has been far too long since I’ve felt truly hooked into a story that I can’t put down. Lucky for me that I typically have free Fridays, because I stayed up well into normal waking hours — nearly finished reading — before I decided sleep is a beautiful, beautiful thing. This book and its main characters latched on quickly and have now left me with a lingering bittersweet sensation.

  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (Translated by Hilda Rosner)

This is the story of how I finally came to own Siddhartha and simultaneously made myself feel a teeny bit happier in the process.

Consider this a “feel better now” present to and from myself for having a not-so-great first-day clinical experience yesterday, because I do. I could turn the ordeal into a long, whiny rant, but to keep it “short”: I should have been up and getting ready at 5 AM, and I was. Or did. …Or tried. I physically removed myself from the bed only to lie back down to sleep for another half hour. A half hour became 6:26 AM, and: Oh my holy heavens I have to be there BEFORE 7!

It's smashing

Needless to say: I was 20 minutes late, had a ridiculous time finding available parking, became confused and lost once inside this facility (Where are my classmates?! Where is my instructor?! WHERE IS THIS HIDDEN ROOM LOCATED?!), I most likely annoyed the heck out of several staff members, and I nearly broke down in pathetic tears because I’m extremely ridiculous and I’m late, I’m late! The rest of the day was rough, and I will leave it at that.

What better way to make myself feel better than by driving to the nearest bookstore? Yes, there are other delicious things out in life like chocolate-gorging that send me straight into pure bliss… followed by a free-fall drop into self-loathing. Books don’t have calories I want to stab, so yeah. The bookstore it is.

Siddhartha is just one of hundreds upon hundreds of titles I want to read, and I do hope to read it this year. I made an attempt last year and failed (it’s embarrassingly easy for me to become distracted sometimes), but I know this book is not particularly long. “Great choice,” the cashier told me — he appears awfully fond of this classic, and I hope to appreciate it as well.