December 31, 2014

2014 Best in Books Survey

1. Best Book You Read in 2014: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, but honestly I read sooo may great books this year!!!
    2. Biggest Disappointment Book: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

    3. Most Surprising Book (in a good way): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

    4. Book Read in 2014 That You Recommended Most in 2014: The Book Thief, We Were Liars and Attachments
      5.  Best Series You Discovered in 2014: What I call The Late-to-the-Party Dystopian Trio: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and Legend by Marie Lu

      6.  Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2014: Tahereh Mafi, Rainbow Rowell

      7. Best Book Outside Your Comfort Zone: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

      8. Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book Read in 2014: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver and The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      9. Book Read in 2014 That You're Most Likely to Re-Read in 2015: Faking It by Elisa Lorello, I think this will be my annual tradition.

      10. Favorite Cover of a Book Read in 2014: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      11. Most Memorable Character in 2014:Warner from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

      12. Most Beautifully Written Book of 2014: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

      13. Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2014: The Help, The Book Thief, Night and Twelve Years a Slave

      14. Book You Can't Believe You Waited Until 2014 to Read: SO MANY! The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Night by Elie Wiesel, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Legend by Marie Lu, Delirium by Lauren Oliver,

      15. Favorite Passage/Quote from a Book Read in 2014:

      You think it's so easy to change yourself. You think it's so easy, but it's not. True, things don't stay the same forever: couches are replaced, boys leave you, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions- but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn't that- just you- enough? 
      from This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales  

      16. Shortest and Longest Book Read in 2014:
      • Shortest: Just One Night by Gayle Forman (40 pages)
      • Longest: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (552 pages)
      17.  Book That Had A Scene That Had You Reeling and Dying to Talk to Somebody About It: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, Chapter Sixty-Two. HOLY SHIT. Sexiest scene in any book ever.

      18. Favorite Relationship from a Book You Read in 2014:
      • Romantic: Juliette and Warner - Shatter Me series
      • Friendship:Juliette and Kenji - Shatter Me series
      • Familial: the sisters in To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
      19.  Favorite Book Read in 2014 From An Author You've Previously Read: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello

      20. Best Book Read in 2014 Based Solely on Another Person's Recommendation: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      21. Genre You Read the Most in 2014:Dystopian/Paranormal YA (23 books!)

      22. Newest Fictional Crush From a Book Read in 2014:Warner of Shatter Me

      23. Best 2014 Debut You Read: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

      24. Most Vivid World in a Book Read in 2014: The world in Lauren Oliver's Delirium

      25. Book That Was Most Fun to Read: The One by Kiera Cass and Cress by Marissa Meyer

      26. Book That Made You Cry in 2014: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Nightby Elie Wiesel

      27. Book You Read in 2014 That You Think Was Overlooked: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello

      28. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog: Review for Unite Me by Tahereh Mafi (random!)

      29. Did You Complete Any Reading Challenges or Goals You Set This Year? Initially my goal was to read 75 books (which I did!) but then I increased it to 100 and I failed on that miserably! I also failed the TBR Pile Challenge but I learned that I am an emotional reader and that TBR pile will suffer for it! I was one book away from getting a blackout on my Book Bingo!


      1. One Book You Didn't Get To in 2014 But Will Be Your #1 Priority in 2015: Atlantia by Ally Condie

      2. Book You Are Most Anticipating for 2015: Winter by Marissa Meyer and The Winner's Thief by Marie Rutkoski

      3. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2015: The Lunar Chronicles!!

      4. One Thing You Hope to Accomplish or Do in You Reading/Blogging 2015: Put more of my energy into it and make more friends through my blog! It's been a busy and challenging 2014 but I need to focus my energy and priorities in 2015!


      December 26, 2014

      Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

      It was hard when I knew I was about to be flooded with memories of a life I hadn't lived yet. Really, two lives I hadn't lived yet.
      -from Pivot Point by Kasie West

      Kasie West's Pivot Point creates a world and concept unlike any other. Hidden somewhere in the United States is a compound of people who use the full capacity of their brains. This usage gives them each unique abilities that they are trained to cultivate early. Aside from her ability to search her decisions for alternate outcomes, Addie Coleman is a relatively normal teenage girl living in this compound. When her parents unexpectedly announce that they're getting a divorce and Addie's dad is moving out into the real world as a Norm, Addie must decide which parent she wants to live with. The book primarily consists of the outcomes of the two choices Addie scans. If Addie chooses to stay with her overbearing mother, she becomes the girlfriend of the most popular guy in school (something she's never been interested in). If she chooses to live with her dad, she adjusts to life as a Norm and even meets a cute new boy. But as her Search goes deeper into her future, both choices reveal things Addie would never want to happen but she has to make a decision.

      At first I wasn't a fan of the writing of Pivot Point. It's not bad necessarily, it's just the result of a first person teen narrator which can often feel cheesy to me. I think the narrative perspective is important and I wouldn't have changed it if I were the author, but it reminded me that I was reading a teen book. Once I was able to get over that though, I was really impressed by how well laid out this story is. The chapters alternate with the path of each choice Addie can make regarding which parent to live with. West does a great job of showing similarities with each path so that you can identify outside forces that Addie's decision did not affect (i.e. a football game is in both choices). I found that this made up for the narrative style and proved West to be a solid writer.

      Another pat of West's writing I like is her characters; they all felt like real people to me. I generally get annoyed by spunky best friend characters, but I really liked Addie's best friend, Laila. She had just enough back story, angst and personality. Addie herself is likable, especially when she's trying to fit in with the Norm culture.

      Throughout the book I kept changing which choice I wanted Addie to make. It was so clear to me which I wanted and then I would completely change my mind. This is another great indicator of how well this story is mapped out. I had suspicions of the ultimate outcome, but it didn't deter my enjoyment of the story overall.

      Bottom Line: This is a very unique and fun story that gets more and more intense as it goes. I think this is a great read for YA fans who love a splash of science fiction/fantasy but still lean more toward contemporary stories. 4/5 Stars.

      December 19, 2014

      Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.
      -from The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkowski
      The Book Rest - Review for The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
      In Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse, seventeen year-old Kestrel must choose to marry or enter the military as she enters adulthood. As the only child of the most revered general in her people's history, the pressure to join the military and continue to acquire more land and enslave more people is great. But when Kestrel befriends a slave she purchased on a whim, she slowly begins to question the customs of her people and quickly finds herself in the middle of more than she anticipated.

      This book isn't quite dystopian and barely qualifies for fantasy, but it does take place in another time and place with elements that make it feel both futuristic and historical. It started out really slow for me and the only thing that kept me going is that Rutkoski's writing is so well done that I trusted her talents (that, and the gorgeous cover! ha). I'm glad I did trust because this book really picks up about a third of the way in and I was unable to put it down! The action and change of pace really turned this into one of my favorite books this year!

      Kestrel is also a great asset to this book because she's a heroine who is strong and courageous yet relatable and flawed. While she accepts her people's customs of keeping slaves and doesn't really know any different, she also questions their captivity and even goes so far to free her nurse maid. Sometimes Kestrel's desire to do what she wants or to do what is right gets her in trouble, but for the most part this is what I liked about her. It made her seem less perfect and polished; I loved when she would mouth off to people and speak her mind. It made me relate to her much more!

      My perception of Arin changed a lot throughout the book. While I think I enjoy his character overall, he is very good at keeping a poker face to not only Kestrel, but also the reader. Any negative feelings I have toward him were probably more due to Rutkoski's writing abilities than any inabilities. There is so much more to examine, but it's difficult to do this without spoilers or giving too much away that will affect your reading experience. To better understand what I mean about Arin.... you'll just have to read the book for yourself!

      Overall this was just what I needed to get me out of a reading rut. When I was finished with the book I was so sad to find that the sequel doesn't come out for another few months! What will I do with that much time to wait?!

      Bottom Line: This is a great book for any fantasy/dystopian fans who want light fantasy without science fiction. A great story overall and I can't wait for the sequel! 5/5 Stars

      December 13, 2014

      Happy Birthday, Grandpa

      Today would have been my grandpa's 81st birthday. He passed away 6 months ago yesterday. 

      While I know he walked with me through my wedding day (see above) and I know he's here with me in spirit everyday, there's a special sort of hole in my heart today missing him more than ever. 

      Tyler's grandma's birthday is later this month, too. We are missing her the same and hope that the two of them are celebrating their birthday month together in Heaven with a lot of fun. 

      We love you, Grandpa and Grandma

      December 12, 2014

      Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

      I am hard on myself. But isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you? Before someone else can break your heart? Isn’t it better to break it yourself?
      -from Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

       photo Isla_zps8771d2c5.jpg
      Amazon | Goodreads

      Stephanie Perkins third novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, might just be one of the most anticipated YA releases of 2014. I was so excited for it that I specifically reserved it to read while on my honeymoon so that the wedding planning stress wouldn't take away from my experience! I'm very pleased that I did because lounging on the beach in Cancun, Mexico was just the spot to enjoy this sweet, warm and fuzzy novel that only Stephanie Perkins could have written.

      This novel is the story about Isla, a senior at the American School in Paris, who readers might remember from a brief encounter in Perkins' first novel, Anna and the French Kiss. Ever since her first year in Paris, Isla has had a hopeless crush on Josh, a talented cartoon artist who is way out of her league. When Isla has a chance in encounter with Josh in Manhattan over school break, she gets the opportunity to enter his life and make their romance a reality. But with it comes all sorts of other realities for which Isla just might not be ready. 

      For fans of Perkins, this novel has everything we already love and the same sharp wit and swoon-worthy-yet-realistic-romance we were counting on. Perkins proves again that regular teen crushes and ordinary teen problems are just as noteworthy to write about as anything else. What I love about Perkins is her ability to give power to such a seemingly trivial subject. It's easy to describe this book as a teen romance, but it's much more difficult to articulate the substance that's in it. 

      I was probably able to relate to Isla more than any of Perkins characters because of how shy, introverted and her automatic response to do what is responsible. Like myself as a teen, Isla is highly devoted and loyal to her long-term crush and even thrives off of observing from the shadows. But when faced with the challenge of actually participating in his world, she's forced out of her comfort zone to navigate uncharted territories. While this might not be the most relatable story to others, it really was special to me so I might be biased in how much I enjoyed this novel. 

      Similarly, Perkins doesn't make this just a love story. It also navigates issues with friendship, friendship alongside romance, familial issues, dealing with a significant other's family, etc. Similar to Rainbow Rowell, Perkins makes her supporting characters do more than support. They have lives of their own that affect the main characters in this book. I especially enjoyed the way Isla's autistic best friend Kurt factored into her relationship with Josh and gave it a new dynamic that brought out her need to be responsible. This challenged her need to be romantic and get what she wanted, hence depth to a superficial sounding love story. 

      While I don't think the characters in Isla popped as strongly as those in Anna and Lola, I still enjoyed this book so much. Even though I related to it in a particularly specific way, I think any lover of YA romance would find other ways they can relate to this book and enjoy it just as much! And, as always, we get cameos from our favorite couples in Perkins' previous novels. Yay!

      Bottom Line: If you loved Stephanie Perkins other novels, you've probably already read this one. Although, if you haven't - what are you waiting for?! This series would make a great gift for any teen girl in your life! 

      December 5, 2014

      Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

      We're all working hard, but so far away from what we actually want to be doing. We're all peering in at the window of a party we aren't invited to yet, a party we wouldn't know how to dress for, or what kind of conversation to make, even if we came as someone's guest.
      -from Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

       photo Someday_zps506315f5.jpg
      Amazon | Goodreads

      Lauren Graham's debut novel, Someday, Someday Maybe is the story of struggling actress Franny Banks. Franny has give herself a deadline of three years to "make it" as a successful actress in New York City. This novel begins six months before her deadline with very little Franny has to show for her ambitions doing important work. What transpires from following Franny's journey isn't simply a measure of her success in acting, but also the lessons she learns about love, friendship and everything in between.

      While this novel is reportedly not based on Lauren Graham's personal experience struggling for success in the acting world, Franny resembles Graham in a lot of ways fans of the actress may perceive her. Franny is charming in a quirky way, always making the most out of the funny situations in which she finds herself. Franny is likable as a character in the ways Graham is likable on television as a character; while the reader and/or viewer may be frustrated with some of each character's respective choices, the characters are both endearing and therefore lovable in their own rights. 

      That said, Franny also frustrated me in a lot of ways. The most irritating thing about this whole novel is how little Franny actually knows about acting, especially auditioning. If she's dedicated two-and-a-half years of her life to "making it" in show business, how has she not done her basic homework on what to expect at an audition or on a commercial set? I just found this incredibly annoying and made me feel like she wasn't working half as hard as she should be. Similarly I really didn't like how she treated her college sweetheart like a backup plan if her life in New York didn't work out. It made me feel like Franny was very self absorbed and took a lot she did have for granted. This distracted from her likability at times. 

      The good and the negative aspects of Franny are what really humanizes this character driven novel and made it enjoyable enough to finish. While the novel didn't necessarily enlighten me in any particular way, it was a well-written, warm and funny, coming-of-into-oneself novel that's just as good as the others in its genre. If you're a big fan of Lauren Graham you'll probably enjoy Franny in similar ways; but if you aren't familiar with Graham this novel might not strike you as anything outstanding. 

      Bottom Line: Nicely written, quirky, coming-of-age type novel that will probably resonate more with fans of Lauren Graham's acting than the average reader. A good, warm read but not necessarily the best book I've read this year. 3.5/5 stars