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?

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Book Review: I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I am the Messenger by Markus ZusakI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

My rating: ★★★★☆

Sometimes I walk to that field and sink to my knees. I hear my heart beating, but I don’t want to. I hate my heartbeat. It’s too loud in that field. It falls down. Right out of me. But then it just gets back up again.

Applause for Markus Zusak, for he has stunned me dumb and wordless not once but twice. This does not happen too often, because whatever I think can usually find its way out of my mouth in coherence. The Book Thief ripped my tongue off and all I felt capable of doing was making wounded-animal noises. That book is a story which holds precious characters who made my I like you full-bloom into I love you, I love you, I love you. It was an experience, and an emotional one that refuses to stop tugging at my itty heart. Given that Zusak’s 2006 best-seller is the only familiarity I had with his work, I felt expectant of few things:

1. This is going to be good.
2. The adorable Zusak style (in which sentences nail an idea so perfectly that my emotional state is flipped upside down and jerked all around).
3. I will enjoy this.

How much I’d enjoy this is what I questioned, because certainly nothing can do for me what The Book Thief does. To an extent, I think that book will always be my one forever Zusak-love, no matter how fond I am of another Zusak book. What I discovered in I am the Messenger goes beyond enjoyment. I found an uplifting story that inspires and instills confidence in humanity.

Ed Kennedy, like many people I know, feels insignificant compared to the vastness of this planet and the accomplishments of other people. He likes to think he has and probably never will make an impact, because he’s Ed: a 19 year old never-has-been who lets his life trickle by on cab driving and routine card games.

Constantly, I’m asking myself, Well, Ed—what have you really achieved in your nineteen years? The answer’s simple.

Jack shit.

But all of this soon changes, because Ed is also a man with a big, conflicted heart that pushes him to do a lot of good — even when he may not intend to. By accident, Ed stops a “useless gunman” from making a cash-loaded getaway. In doing so, he unknowingly sets his own future to collide into and twist around the lives of others.

It is after the bank robber incident, after Ed is publicly declared a “hero” by newspapers, when he receives his first mystery card: the ace of diamonds. On it are written three addresses where he must deliver a different message to each, and some messages are not easily ascertained nor are they easily delivered. Some of these messages are difficult to bear, let alone communicate to the recipient. Others, however, prove less difficult, but all messages are equal cheer-rousers that show how a simple act can make the grandest mark. This one card is just a pre-cursor highlighting what’s to come, but it’s how Ed plants himself into other people’s lives and what he must do to help them that I find encouraging.

I crunch through my cone and we stand up. I realize how stiff and sore I am from two nights ago at the Cathedral. Attempted murder will do that to you.

Ed aside, Zusak has the ability to write his characters with a heart inserted into each one. They are palpable and real in every sense, because I can believe these are genuine people who undergo problems that we all stand a chance to experience. If just to add, it is also how these characters handle their problems and the circumstances of their situations. In I am the Messenger, this also extends into how deeply Ed sticks his head into another person’s life in order to understand and help – and it’s not only strangers Ed must get to know. He also must face his friends, which begs the question: how well do I know the people around me?

I want to talk to him.

I want to ask him about that girl and if he loved her and still misses her.

Nothing, however, exits my mouth. How well do we really let ourselves know each other?

Reading this book, I scrutinized the way I interact with strangers as well as people I know. The do-good aspect largely sits at the center of why I relish this story, because a number of bad events drop like bombs and, when pushed down far enough, it happens: people lose faith in people and in our ability to pay it forward. Not because we expect the same in return, but because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do.

If there is one thing I found unsatisfactory about I am the Messenger, it is the one thing I am probably the pickiest with in all books: the conclusion. Those who have read this book might agree that perhaps it’s what needed to occur for one of the characters to heal. Audrey needed to allow herself to love and to be loved, and she does. Still, there is a nagging voice in my head that asks, “And how many guys ‘get the girl’?” I think it’s easy to foresee and I enjoy pondering the many possible alternatives instead.

Moving this glitch to the side, I am the Messenger sat me at the protagonist’s side as his life takes an unsuspected turn. Ed journeys down a foreign road that has its bumps and it bruises him along the way. In the end, what matters is what his journey amounts to. Ed touches the lives of complete strangers and those of his friends, all the while taking an introspective exploration of himself.

At the start, Ed Kennedy is an average guy who blends into the background. He’s the guy who becomes one more face you’re prone to forget, but by the journey’s end, Ed is a guy you remember. Ed grows, and as he does so, he inspired a little growth of my own.

If a guy like you can stand up and do what you did, then maybe everyone can. Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of.

*Special thank you to Savindi from The Streetlight Reader, who sent this as a Christmas gift. It made a wonderful present for the holidays!

Quarterly Reading Challenge #5 (Books 1-5)

As some may know, I participated in the YA Book Club‘s May through March quarterly reading challenge. For anyone unfamiliar with these challenges, the GoodReads group issues a different challenge with new requirements for the duration of three months. Within those three months, members endeavor to read at least 10 young adult books.

In this post, I will cover the first five books and discuss the second half tomorrow. (Unless the tide sweeps me out into the Sea of Neglected Work, that is. In which case: books 6-10 will have a post sometime later in the week.) Without further ado: Continue reading

The Book Thief: film adaption assigned a director?

I can’t tell you which U.S. politicians are running presidential campaigns.

I can’t offer my slightest insight on Egypt’s own historical vote about to take place. Hell, I didn’t even know there were presidential elections happening in Egypt until today.

Frankly, I can’t even tell you the local weather forecast.

At this point, anyone will have better luck dragging an agoraphobic out of his or her home and discussing the latest trends in cat food or Lindsay Lohan’s newest faux pas as opposed to the alternative: dragging me out of books and discussing things – anything.

“I went to a rave last night. What’d you do, Raya?”

“I spent a pleasurable amount of time reading this book, drank coffee, and stared down some adult responsibilities until they receded into the dark recesses of my mind, lost to an eternity of forgetfulness.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

I guarantee that speaking to a parrot who has yet to master the art of mimicry will intrigue you more than hearing a word my mouth has to say.

Someplace I call Elsewhere has my mind entirely absorbed, and it’s a place where relevant news of any kind does not exist. As of late, I have been living inside worlds that are not mine: they are created by writers, owned and run by each book’s unique character set. I lose track of time (when did 11:00 pm become 4:00 am?), I cringe to I realize a full batch of schoolwork is in order lest I fail tomorrow’s exam, and I would have no idea what day it is if it weren’t for my phone. I’m fortunate to still know what the words “eat” and “breathe” mean. Suffice it to say, then, that because of this over-indulgence of literature, I have effectively grown into the least interesting person to discuss current events with.

Did my home state grant same-sex marriages? I’m so far removed from general news that I can only provide an uncertain “I think so…” But what I can say is I am near three months late in learning that the film adaption to The Book Thief has been assigned a director: Brian Percival. I’m excited! As it is my current read, I kept wondering, “Is The Book Thief a movie yet? No? No. Why is it not a movie yet?”

Who is Brian Percival, and does he direct well? I haven’t a clue (as usual), but it’s a developing piece of information I’m looking out for (and forward to).