Friday, December 31, 2010

End of 2010 Wrap-Up

Here's how things stand at the end of 2010:

Books reviewed: 35

Challenges completed: 4

Favourite book reviews (aka The Best Books I Read in 2010):

Tiger Moon
Before I Fall
The Book of Lost Things
My Name Is Memory
The Hunger Games

Least favourite book reviews:

Basajaun
The Explosionist
Unthinkable
The Girl with Glass Feet
Prophecy of Days - Book One: The Daykeeper's Grimoire

Favourite non-review blog posts:

Strange moments in the world of book blogging/marketing...
Censorship!
Say What?
Censorship or Common Sense?
James Frey Wants Your Money

Favourite bookish memes:

In My Mailbox
Top Ten Tuesday
WWW Wednesdays
Booking Through Thursday
Book Blogger Hop

All in all, it was a pretty good year for book blogging.  I wish I had enjoyed more of the books I'd read, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WWW Wednesdays (6)

WWW Wednesdays is hosted at Should Be Reading.
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
My answers:
What are you currently reading?

I'm reading You Wish by Mandy Hubbard.
What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas.
What do you think you’ll read next?

I'm going to read The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black by Eden Unger Bowditch.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

In My Mailbox (31)


From Kobo:
A Christmas Story
by Jean Shepherd

The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in 1983, has become a bona fide Christmas perennial, gaining in stature and fame with each succeeding year. Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana has entered our imagination and our hearts with a force equal to It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

This edition of A Christmas Story gathers together in one hilarious volume the gems of autobiographical humor that Jean Shepherd drew upon to create this enduring film. Here is young Ralphie Parker’s shocking discovery that his decoder ring is really a device to promote Ovaltine; his mother and father’s pitched battle over the fate of a lascivious leg lamp; the unleashed and unnerving savagery of Ralphie’s duel in the show with the odious bullies Scut Farkas and Grover Dill; and, most crucially, Ralphie’s unstoppable campaign to get Santa—or anyone else—to give him a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Who cares that the whole adult world is telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”?

The pieces that comprise A Christmas Story, previously published in the larger collections In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, coalesce in a magical fashion to become an irresistible piece of Americana, quite the equal of the film in its ability to warm the heart and tickle the funny bone.

Me & Death: An Afterlife Adventure
by Richard Scrimger

The story of one boy’s experience with the (not so) sweet hereafter.

Fresh from having stolen a piece of fruit and taunting the grocer, Jim, a fourteen-year-old wannabe gangster, bully, and car thief, is run over by a car. What follows is a hilarious, bleak, and ultimately hopeful visit to the afterworld, courtesy of Richard Scrimger, one of the country’s finest writers.

This is an afterlife peopled with unforgettable characters that might be drawn from video games: angry Slayers, tearful Mourners, and scary Grave Walkers. Jim meets them all and is given the chance to return to earth with the extraordinary gift of knowing what happens when we die. Now he must deal with living demons, including a neighborhood torturer and a truly creepy older sister. With imagery from the mean streets as well as the arcade, Me & Death is thought-provoking, exciting, sad, and funny — sometimes all at the same time.


What was in your "mailbox" this week?


In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Weekly Recap - December 19-25, 2010

Here's what I managed to blog about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I shared what I got In My Mailbox.  Four books this week!

Monday - I mused on negative reviews as part of Monday's Question of the Day.  I also signed up for the 2011 Young Adult Reading Challenge.

Tuesday - I reminded folks that there's still time to sign up for the 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge.  I also shared the top five books I read in 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Best Books I Read in 2010

Coming to the end of 2010 and looking back, it feels as though I've read a lot of stinkers this year.  So I thought I'd go through my reviews and find the books that earned the top five spots, just to remind myself that there are good books out there.

So, without further ado, here are the five best books I read in 2010:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (rating: 4.0)

I put off reading The Hunger Games for so long, fearing that it wouldn't live up to all the hype. But I'm very glad that I finally read it. It's one of those books that's so thought-provoking that it makes you wonder about your own life... and if something similar could happen to our own world if we're not careful.

Read my review of The Hunger Games here.

Buy The Hunger Games from chapters.indigo.ca
Buy The Hunger Games from Kobobooks.com

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares (rating: 4.6)

I'm a sucker for stories about reincarnation. Unfortunately, they're usually not done very well. In this case, though, Ann Brashares has crafted a beautiful story about two people who keep being drawn together in life after life, only to be separated once more. I can't wait to read the upcoming books in this planned trilogy.

Read my review of My Name is Memory here.

Buy My Name Is Memory from Kobobooks.com

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rating: 4.6)

This was a hardcover that I found in the bargain bin. It sat in my TBR pile for a while before I finally got to it, but I wish I had read it sooner. It's a dark sort of fairy tale with unforgettable settings and characters... and even more unforgettable villains. While not for the faint of heart, The Book of Lost Things is a must-read for readers who enjoy a well-imagined story.

Read my review of The Book of Lost Things here.

Buy The Book Of Lost Things from chapters.indigo.ca
Buy The Book Of Lost Things: A Novel from Kobobooks.com

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (rating: 4.6)

This is one book that definitely lived up to the hype surrounding it. While the book doesn't have the most original premise (think Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls), I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded. Plus, the writing was refreshingly beautiful. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

Read my review of Before I Fall here.

Buy Before I Fall from chapters.indigo.ca
Buy Before I Fall from Kobobooks.com

Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis (rating: 4.8)

Tiger Moon was the best book I read in 2010. A magical, romantic fairy tale set in British India, this is a book that combines unforgettable characters with a beautiful narrative that makes you believe in love and the power of stories.

Read my review of Tiger Moon here.

Buy Tiger Moon from chapters.indigo.ca

Just a reminder...

... that you can still sign up for the 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge!

Don't have an e-reader?  You can still join if you're willing to read books on your computer or other device.  There are plenty of apps that make this possible.

To get started, why not sign up at Kobobooks.com? You can get 35% off your first e-book purchase! That sounds like a pretty good deal. Just click on the coupon below to get started:


Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 Young Adult Reading Challenge


I was wondering if anyone was going to host this challenge this year (it was previously hosted by J. Kaye).  Jamie at For The Love of YA has taken over hosting duties for 2011.  Since I read mostly YA fiction anyway, I thought I might as well join this challenge.

I think I'm going to start with the Mini YA Reading Challenge for now and read 12 books.  I might eventually upgrade to the Fun Size YA Reading Challenge (20 books), depending on how things go in the first few months of 2011.  Here are the books:

1. The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L. J. Smith
2. Breathless by Lurlene McDaniel
3. Eli the Good by Silas House
4. One Night With The Fae by Claire Farrell
5. God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
6. Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury
7. The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
8. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
9. Evil? by Timothy Carter
10. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
11. Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston
12. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

13. Salt by Maurice Gee
14. The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller
15. The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
16. The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix
17. The Poison Eaters: and Other Stories by Holly Black
18. Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
19. Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
20. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

Updated December 9, 2011: I guess I've hit the "Fun Size" level, without really trying!  I'll have to change my progress bars to reflect this...


20 / 20 books. 100% done!

Monday's Question of the Day (24)


Monday's Question of the Day is hosted by Eleni at /-LA FEMME READERS-/

Question:
Inspired by Steph's post from Reviewer X: Bloggers, or anyone who posts their reviews on other networks, have you ever felt the need to tone down a negative review?

My Answer:
Let's face it: this blog is not exactly drowning in positive reviews.  I'll always say what I think about a book, even if it's negative.  I don't think writing only positive reviews helps readers (or writers, for that matter).  I've been sucked into reading books that only had positive reviews... which I then had to tear apart in my own review because nobody had bothered to point out the book's shortcomings, many of which probably would have dissuaded me from picking up the book in the first place.  I'm now extremely wary of books that only have positive reviews.  It's like there's a whiff of dishonesty and sycophancy surrounding them... and I've learned that I want no part of that.

As for whether I've ever felt the need to tone down a negative review...  Well, not really.  By the time I actually post a review, I've already done lots of toning down.  Some books are so awful that they make me really angry.  In those cases, you should see the first drafts of the reviews!  But I do try to self-edit once I've gotten all that out of my system.  You'll never see me say (for example), "This author is too stupid to write!" even if that's how I really feel.  Getting personal like that doesn't help anybody, and I should be able to get my points across by talking about the book.  Sometimes it's cathartic to include that stuff in a review's first draft, though (especially if I feel like I've just wasted hours reading something that never should have been published in the first place).

Some of my best reviews (I think) have been the ones where I just let loose on a certain book's attributes -- or lack thereof.  So aside from not letting things get too personal, I'm not going to tone down my negative reviews.  I think they're important, and I wish more people would write them... instead of listing only the good things about a book or not saying anything at all.  We'd have a terrible mess if we stayed silent or only talked about the good things in other areas of life; I don't see why book reviews should be any different.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In My Mailbox (30)


From Kobo:
Plain Kate
by Erin Bow

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" -- a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate's father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he'll give Kate the means to escape the town that seems set to burn her, and what's more, he'll grant her heart's wish. It's a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes that she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

You Wish
by Mandy Hubbard

1 Wish
2 Girls in love with the same boy
14 Days to stop the madness!

Kayla McHenry's sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla's secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do.

Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year's supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla's wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride... but they MUST STOP.

Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her.

And Ben is her best friend's boyfriend.

From Amazon.com:
House of Dark Shadows
by Robert Liparulo

Dream house... or bad dream?

When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films... but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

He, David, and Toria are, however, captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into -- as well as by the heavy woods that surround it.

They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong direction. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker one-nineteen at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in. They find a hidden hallway with portals leading to far-off places -- in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true... or his worst nightmare.

Wish
by Alexandra Bullen

For broken-hearted Olivia Larsen, nothing can change the fact that her twin sister, Violet, is gone... until a mysterious, beautiful gown arrives on her doorstep. The dress doesn't just look magical; it is magical. It has the power to grant her one wish, and the only thing Olivia wants is her sister back. With Violet again by her side, both girls get a second chance at life. And as the sisters soon discover, they have two more dresses -- and two more wishes left. But magic can't solve everything, and Olivia is forced to confront her ghosts to learn how to laugh, love, and live again.

Plain Kate and You Wish have been on my wishlist for a while.  Since I had a couple of coupons, I figured I'd go ahead and get them!  House of Dark Shadows and Wish were free Kindle downloads... so how could I refuse?


What was in your "mailbox" this week?


In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Weekly Recap - December 12-18, 2010

Here's what I managed to blog about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I reviewed The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair.

Monday - Better late than never!  I shared the contents of my mailbox.

Wednesday - Kobobooks.com was celebrating its 1st birthday with a 50% off coupon.  Did you take advantage of it?

Thursday - I finally finished The Magic Thief.  What a fun read!

Friday - I mused on the character versus plot question as part of the weekly Book Blogger Hop.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (14)

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question is from Alex of Geek on the Brink:

"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

The characters.  Definitely the characters.

I've read weakly plotted books that I ended up liking because the characters were so strong.  I've also read awesomely plotted books that fell totally flat because the characters were so bland.

Of course, in a really good book, both the plot and the characters would be great.  But if I can only have one, I'll go for the strong characters every time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review - The Magic Thief

The Magic Thief (Magic Thief #1)
by Sarah Prineas
Date: 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 422
Format: e-book
Source: Kobobooks.com

Conn, a fiesty lockpick and thief, tries to steal a wizard's magic stone. He should have died when he touched it, but he didn't... and the wizard is intrigued.

Nevery, an old wizard, was exiled from Wellmet years earlier after a magical mishap. But he's been summoned back to the city to investigate the mysteriously waning magic. It's an important task because, without the sustaining force of the magic, Wellmet will die.

After Conn convinces Nevery to take him on as an apprentice, he must find his own locus magicalicus stone. But with the magic rapidly declining, there isn't much time. Conn must pursue his studies, find his stone, and avoid getting caught by the Underlord's minions, all while trying to stop whoever is stealing the magic.

It seems like I've been reading this book forever!  I'm not really sure why it took me so long.  It certainly wasn't boring.

I really enjoyed the voice of the narrator here.  While the story does have some similarities with the Harry Potter series, the book is narrated in the first person by Conn, who uses some interesting turns of phrase.  In this regard, it reminded me a bit of Ingrid Law's Savvy (another great middle-grade read with a fun narrator).

The story is a fairly basic one, about Conn and Nevery's attempts to discover who or what is behind the declining levels of magic in the city of Wellmet.  The settings and characters are well realized and easy to picture (the map and illustrations help, of course).

There's really not much that I didn't enjoy, other than the fact that the illustrations tended to make my e-reader run rather slowly.  But the book itself is great fun (and the beginning of a trilogy!), so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to middle-grade readers.  Those who enjoyed the Harry Potter series and are looking for something similar should definitely give The Magic Thief a try.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

50% off at Kobobooks.com!

Today only, in celebration of its first birthday, Kobobooks.com is offering a one-time use coupon good for 50% off an e-book!  This is a great deal for Kobo users, as well as those who have the Kobo app for other devices.  (The books are in EPUB format, so they may work on the NOOK, too.)

Over 2 million ebook titles

Monday, December 13, 2010

In My Mailbox (29)


From Kobo:
Need
by Carrie Jones

Zara collects phobias the way other high school girls collect lipsticks. Little wonder, since life’s been pretty rough so far. Her father left, her stepfather just died, and her mother’s pretty much checked out. Now Zara’s living with her grandmother in sleepy, cold Maine so that she stays “safe.” Zara doesn’t think she’s in danger; she thinks her mother can’t deal.

Wrong. Turns out that guy she sees everywhere, the one leaving trails of gold glitter, isn’t a figment of her imagination. He’s a pixie — and not the cute, lovable kind with wings. He’s the kind who has dreadful, uncontrollable needs. And he’s trailing Zara.

I found this e-book for $1.99, and I just can't say "no" to a good bargain.  The TBR pile grows...


What was in your "mailbox" this week?


In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review - The Girl in the Garden

The Girl in the Garden
by Kamala Nair
Date: 2011
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Reading level: A
Source: NetGalley

In a letter to her fiancé, a young woman shares a story of family secrets, betrayals, and tragedies.

Rakhee was only ten when her mother started receiving mysterious letters from India, letters that eventually prompted her to take her daughter back to her childhood home for the summer. Leaving behind her beloved father and pet dog in Minnesota, Rakhee is thrust into a world she barely understands, in an Indian village that time seems to have forgotten.

Soon Rakhee realizes that there is more going on than just a simple family reunion. Secrets have been hidden for years and, during that one Indian summer, they all come bubbling to the surface.

I'm not sure why I chose to read this book. It's certainly a change of pace from young adult paranormal fiction! But I actually really enjoyed this story.

While The Girl in the Garden is classed as an adult book, there's really nothing in it that would prevent teenagers from enjoying it.  Nearly the entire story is seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl, so her understanding of events as they happen somewhat tempers the (at times) mature subject matter.

I loved the whole setting in India.  Because Rakhee was born and raised in Minnesota, everything seen through her eyes seems exotic and unusual.  The seeming unfairness of some of the cultural aspects was a bit disturbing, but not unrealistic.  I really enjoyed Rakhee's relationships with her cousins (especially Krishna, who was close to her age), and the way the characters were portrayed made it easy to tell them all apart (something that's often troublesome when there's more than one of a specific type of character, such as aunts, uncles, or cousins).

The actual "girl in the garden" aspect reminded me of the story of Rapunzel (I think it was probably supposed to, since Rapunzel was mentioned a few times).  However, it didn't seem out of place or contrived.  Pretty much everything that was included made a lot of sense in the context of the story.

The ending was a little abrupt, and was probably the weakest part of the book for me.  But the journey to get to that point was fascinating, intriguing, and even exciting at times.  Since this is a galley, I hope that there's going to be a little more editing (there were a few punctuation and grammar mistakes, all of a sudden, in the middle of the book).  But, all in all, this is definitely something I'd recommend.  Look for it in June 2011!

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Weekly Recap - December 5-11, 2010

Here's what I managed to blog about over the last seven days:

Tuesday - I shared my literary "location" as part of the It's Tuesday... Where are you? meme.

Thursday - I provided a very succinct answer to Booking Through Thursday's weekly question.  I also read and reviewed a very short novel called Unthinkable.

Friday - I participated in the Book Blogger Hop again!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (13)

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question is from Angela of Library Girl Reads:

"What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs?  Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?"

Really, it's the reviews that I like the most.  They help me make decisions on which books to read, as well as introducing me to books I might not have heard of.