My Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday topic is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Books I Read In 2013. I am listing them in order of my absolute favorite of the year to my 10th favorite. These probably won’t be very surprising if you’re a regular reader here since I’ve talked about them so much, but here they are once again!

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: 5 Stars

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This was one of three nonfiction books I read this year, and it was far from an easy read, but it was extremely rewarding. It’s the terrifying story of an American who became a POW in Japan during WWII, and how he healed afterward. It’s an amazing story that I think everyone reading this blog should read. I can’t recommend it enough.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: 5 Stars

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This is the hauntingly beautiful tale of a young girl living in Germany during WWII with a desire to read every book she can. This book has some of the most lovely prose and imagery that I have ever read, not to mention the emotions and the characters! Another one you should definitely read if you haven’t already (and one I might not have discovered were it not thanks to all you out there in the blogsphere!).

3. Start. by Jon Acuff: 5 Stars

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Before attending Jon Acuff’s Start Night and reading this book, I was toying with the idea of starting this blog. This non-fiction book about “punching fear in the face” pushed me forward with blogging, writing in general, and slowly letting go of the fears that I have for too long have allowed to hold me back. And in case it sounds like typical self-help, it’s not. It’s much funnier, as well as realistic and practical.

4. For Darkness Shows the Stars: 4.5 Stars

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Genetic engineering + Jane Austen adaptation = a total Amy book. I really, really enjoyed this one, but there were a few things that kept me from giving it a full 5 star rating. But the world building, characters, and story were all great, and I’m so glad I read it. I’m currently reading the follow-up Across a Star-Swept Sea and I think I might even love it more!

5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer: 4 Stars

Cinder

This was one book that got so much love among bloggers that I couldn’t ignore it, and I’m so glad I didn’t! Marissa Meyer crafts such an interesting world filled with such lovable, unique characters that you can’t help but root for. This book got 4 stars for being pretty predictable, but it was definitely a favorite for me this year!

6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: 4 Stars

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I did not love the second Lunar Chronicles book as much, since I didn’t connect with Scarlet and Wolf as well as I did with Cinder and Kai, but the action was great and the story was still so interesting! I’m dying for Cress!

7. Pivot Point by Kasie West: 4 Stars

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Kasie West’s debut really took me by surprise. It’s basically a contemporary meets paranormal (but not of the vampire variety) or light sci-fi (however you want to categorize it), and the story and the characters kept me engaged throughout. I am looking forward to seeing how Addie’s story finishes.

8. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: 4 Stars

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This was not the most fun book to read, but it was a very good story and extremely thought-provoking. I don’t think I really even realized how many questions it raised in my mind until months after I had closed the book. Or how much I cared about the characters.  And I still need to read Ender’s Shadow! If you’ve read some of the light sci-fi YA out there but not this, I would recommend it as your next step into the genre, but know that’s it’s darker. But it’ll really get you to thinking. The movie is worthwhile too, though a very truncated version of what happens in the book.

9. What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang: 4 Stars

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This was another pleasant surprise for me. When this was the first choice of book for a book club I joined, I was intrigued by the premise, and curious about how I would like it when I saw several mixed reviews. Though some of it was confusing, overall, I really connected with the main characters and really enjoyed it. I also had the chance to meet Kat Zhang in person, and she’s really sweet! (She’s also very personable on Twitter!) I felt the follow-up was not as strong, but still a good read.

10. Allegiant by Veronica Roth: 4 Stars

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Despite its highly controversial ending, for the most part, this  book won me over as a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. Did I love everything about it? No. But it was nice to finally get answers to questions I’ve had since Divergent. I’m still peeved I didn’t learn more about Caleb’s motives in Insurgent though. Grrr.

What were your favorite books that you read in 2013?

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Review: Fringe Season Five

I can’t believe it’s over. That I finished Fringe and have seen all that there is to be seen of the dynamic team of Olivia, Peter, and Walter. I’ll admit, I was slugging through this last season, only 13 episodes long. Maybe because it was accepting the end, maybe it was because I was watching TV shows live again (mostly that), but there was also the fact that for quite a while, I wasn’t motivated to watch season 5 because I felt sort of meh about it. Thankfully, the last few episodes and the finale finally delivered. WARNING: Don’t read further if you haven’t watched the series. THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW!

fringe-5So this is how season four ended…

they-are-comingI knew that the season 4 episode “Letters of Transit” was a glimpse into the future world that we would be visiting for season 5, so September’s words were certainly ominous. The Observers were coming, but why were they going to be so evil? September seems pretty nice! I was curious to find out, but cautiously optimistic. The world portrayed in “Letters of Transit” was quite grim, after all. And that definitely did not stop once season 5 got kicked off. The Fringe team, having been trapped in amber for 20 years, is reunited thanks to Etta, Peter and Olivia’s now grown daughter who they lost the day the Observers invaded.

Rant #1: Peter and Olivia spend a lot of time asking each other, “What happened to Etta that day? Where did she go?” BUT THEY NEVER ASK HER! At least, not on-screen, and they should have, because I wanted to know too! Obviously someone raised her, and she was raised as such that she came to hate the Observers/Invaders and joined the Resistance. But we NEVER find out what happened to her!

Walter hid tapes in the ambered Harvard Lab that would reveal the details of the plan to defeat the Observers.  The Fringe team must retrieve, watch, and follow these tapes to the letter. So for several episodes, they are basically on a scavenger hunt with a vague objective in mind, meanwhile Peter and Olivia struggle with their relationship and with how to relate to the daughter they barely knew.

I never felt the connection to Etta that I wanted. When she died, I was sad, but I wasn’t devastated, and in fact, I felt that the story really picked up after she died. I guess her death was motivation to help the Fringe team stop their lollygagging around, but still, I think I was supposed to be more emotionally connected. I mean, there were definitely some nice moments between Olivia and Etta, but there could have been more, or at least stronger, moments. Though the running theme with the bullet was poignant.

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Rant #2: For a 13 episode season that was described by the show’s producers as being essentially “one long movie,” it has terrible pacing.

The first episode that I think REALLY piqued my interest a lot was episode 6, “Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There,” the episode where we learn that the boy from the season one episode “Inner Child” is an important part of the plan and the Fringe team travels to a “pocket universe” to retrieve him, but instead end up with a radio.  Then I felt the story lagged for another couple of episodes (though there are some nice moments in “The Human Kind”) where we have to deal with

Rant #3: the Peter-becoming-an-Observer-and-it-is-really-dangerous-and-scary-but-the-only-after-effects-from-it-are-a-couple-bad-headaches subplot,

until “Black Blotter.” That’s when, despite Walter’s LSD trip induced state of mind that provided some unnecessary weirdness (along with a very necessary emotional check-up of Walter’s subconscious), we finally seemed to move forward with the story. They get the boy! They call him Michael! He’s an Observer anomaly who was never fully matured and was set to be destroyed! They find Donald! AND DONALD, AKA SEPTEMBER WHO IS UNOBSERVERFIED AND HAS HAIR NOW, IS HIS FATHER!

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Feels…

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Michael, I am your father…

Needless to say, “Black Blotter” through the end of the season easily get 4.99 stars for me for being so awesome and emotionally satisfying.

Speaking of emotionally satisfying, “Liberty” brought the Redverse back briefly (which I hated so freaking much in season 3 but thanks to season 4 did not hate anymore…) and just look how cute Fauxlivia and Lincoln are!

fauxlivia-lincolnleeI’m so glad I got to see Lincoln Lee one more time.

So the finale. It tied up all the loose-ends from season 5 (except I’m dying to know what happened to William Bell. Was he left in amber without a hand? Or did the Observers get him out when they got Simon? If so, what happened? Was he interrogated? Is he running around ready to cause havoc to the timeline all over again?). It did not tie up all the storylines and questions from throughout the series though, which I sensed would be the case basically from the first episode of season 5, when the focus was clearly not on the past. So while I’m disappointed I will never fully understand the deal with ZFT, The First People, Sam Weiss (though I was glad he was at least alluded to this season), John Scott, Olivia’s stepfather, and more, it wasn’t disappointing enough to say that the finale wasn’t the right ending for the series, because it was.

My first reaction to the timeline reset: I wasn’t surprised. I had expected as much, especially thanks to The Fringe Podcast I listened to along the way where they theorized this frequently. But I kept thinking that a reset in the park didn’t make sense if the Observers ceased to exist, and that the timeline change for our Fringe team members would have to start in 1985 with September not showing up in the lab to distract Walternate. And then that would change EVERYTHING and invalidate THE ENTIRE SERIES (of course, only the fourth season really means anything now, though I am SO GLAD that Walter got the memories Peter and Olivia have of seasons 1-3, even if it all still seems convoluted to me). But also thanks to The Fringe Podcast, I heard some different ideas of how this might work and some explanations of time paradoxes and such, but it’s all too much for my brain to truly comprehend.

But there the very final moment made it all worth it for me.

white-tulip“White Tulip” is easily  one of my favorite episodes of all of Fringe, and how the writers used the symbol throughout the show and then tied it all back in the end was just WOW. It was the most fitting, perfect, beautiful ending Fringe could have given me.

Random Star Trek: Enterprise Rant: Brannon and Braga and Rick Berman: I hope you watched Fringe and took notes.

Season 5 was not perfect. It needed more Astrid. It needed better pacing. It needed more answers about Etta. But the finale did deliver and while it did not do everything I wanted for the series, I think it probably did everything I needed, and I can’t really imagine it being any other way.

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Though I can’t deny I was hoping for a little bit more with Gene…

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What were your thoughts on Season 5 of Fringe? Also, I’ll be doing a recap post of the entire series sometime in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned, Fringies! 

2013 End of Year Book Survey

This book survey is brought you by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner and highlights our favorite books of 2013! I apologize in advance for how much of a broken record I am going to sound, as I typically do with these surveys!

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1. Best Book You Read In 2013? Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. A simply amazing true story.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau. The writing was pretty bland and even though I liked some things about it, overall I was very disappointed.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I mean, wow. I heard it was good but I couldn’t imagine HOW GOOD.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013? Probably Cinder and Scarlet, because I think most people can enjoy them.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013? The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013? Marissa Meyer

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7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you? I’d have to say Unbroken, a historical non-fiction account. Did I mention it’s an amazing story?

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013? Even though it was a little predictable, Cinder.

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? It seems unlikely I would re-read anything as soon as next year, but Start by Jon Acuff is the most likely since it’s a quick, easy read and it’s full of good life advice!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

fordarknessshows 11. Most memorable character in 2013? Just one? Let me just name a few from the same series… Cinder, Prince Kai, Captain Thorne… Nope, just kidding, I want to talk about characters from Ender’s Game too… Ender, Valentine, Petra…

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013? The Book Thief 

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? Start by Jon Acuff. I’ve been more conscious about doing things that scare me, like starting this blog, since reading it.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. About time I wrap up The Chronicles of Narnia!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” – Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013? Shortest: Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund. Longest: The Book Thief.

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
Probably in The Book Thief when Death told me who all was going to die… and then when it happened… ahhhhhhhhh…

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18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc). Cinder and Thorne’s frenemy relationship. So funny…

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously: Start by Jon Acuff. Previously read Quitter by him. 

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else: Unbroken

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013? YA dystopia/sci-fi

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013? No fictional guy tops my husband, but I like Prince Kai quite a bit.

23. Best 2013 debut you read? Pivot Point by Kasie West.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013? That’s hard to say… I read a lot of great world building and imagery books. Probably The Lunar Chronicles books, but I also want to give shout-out’s to Ender’s GameFor Darkness Shows the Stars, and Across the Universe. 

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013? Cinder

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013? Two that did make me cry: Unbroken and The Book Thief, both about WWII. WWII makes me cry.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out? What’s Left of Me and Once We Were, both by Kat Zhang. Even though they weren’t my favorites, I enjoyed them both and don’t see them discussed much on the blogsphere.

2014-books

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014? I have no idea what my top priority for next year will be… there are several books I didn’t get to this year! Code Name Verity is definitely high on the list, as well as These Broken Stars.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)? Cress, the next installment of The Lunar Chronicles!

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? I’m really curious to hear more about The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno, but will have to read reviews before I know if I’m going to check it out for sure.

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4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014? Even though I haven’t read The Elite yet, I’ll say The One by Kiera Cass. I’m hoping everyone will be happy with the ending so I can read The Elite and The One without fear, ha ha. And Echoes of Us by Kat Zhang will hopefully be closing out The Hybrid Chronicles next year. And Split Second, the second and last Pivot Point book. OK, I’m done now.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014? I hope to keep pushing myself to try new things on the blog and in my reading that will further enrich my experience with both, and that will enrich my writing as well.

Let me know if you’ve filled out Jamie’s survey too! 

Top 5 Books I Want for Christmas

Top Ten Tuesday topic is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me. Even though there are certainly more than five books I’d like for Santa to bring me, I decided to just mention the top 5. I only asked for the first two so that’s probably all I’ll get, but you know, just in case Santa is reading this. 🙂

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1. These Broken Stars/2. Across a Star-Swept Sea/3. All Our Yesterdays/4. The Screwtape Letters/5. Les Miserables

Also: I went to all this trouble to make a video to share with you all, but it has proven more difficult to upload onto here than I thought it would be. Hopefully I’ll get it up tomorrow in time for Christmas, but just in case I don’t, I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and enjoys the holiday season!

Review: Allegiant

When Allegiant came out in October, I was already in the middle of the book that I knew would be my last read before NaNoWriMo, and I knew this would mean that Allegiant would become my first read in December, which meant I needed to avoid spoilers! I wouldn’t read any Allegiant reviews, even if they said they were spoiler-free, just because I didn’t want to have too many hints, though I did catch a vibe from Twitter. So while I was technically spoiler-free going into the story, I ended up being  not too surprised by what happened.

*WARNING: If you haven’t read ALLEGIANT, SPOILERS AHEAD!*

allegiantFirst, I’ll explain my feelings on the series as a  whole. I enjoyed Divergent pretty well but I didn’t LOVE it was the same passion many do. I never fell completely in love with either Tris or Tobias/Four, or really any of the other characters for that matter. The character that interested me most was Caleb. And I wanted more background on the world because I find it a little unrealistic, at least without an explanation.

I thought Insurgent was a little bit better than OK, but definitely weaker than its predecessor. For starters, reading it a year after the first book, I could not remember who virtually ANYONE was. The pacing was funny to me. I never understood the motivation for the various wars being fought and why characters were doing what they were doing, and Tris and Four’s relationship issues especially annoyed me. But there were two very bright points in this book for me (at least in terms of how interesting they were): When Tris went to Erudite headquarters (at least I think that’s where she went?) to essentially sacrifice herself, and at the very end when they see the video and hear about the outside world. BOOM! That dropped the bomb had seriously been waiting two freaking books for.

So Allegiant started… a little slow. Not super slow, but the first few chapters felt a little worthless, just some stuff I think Veronica Roth felt she had to get out of the way before she got on with the good stuff. My opinion: I think she could have left most of it out. But then once Tris, Four, and some of the others left the city (with Caleb in tow), then it got good, finally going exactly where I wanted to see the story go even though I didn’t know it until it was happening.

So let me break down a little bit of what I did like…

The history of what happened. All the questions I had in Divergent were finally answered! Genetic engineering experiments?! Oh, I was eating it up! It all clicked for me.

The ending felt fitting. I will elaborate on this more later, but I felt that the ending was actually very appropriate for the series and pretty well done.

Tobias became a much better person and character at the end. Tobias annoyed me for most of Insurgent and Allegiant, so I appreciated how after what happened to Tris, after he accepted Christina’s help, and after he reconciled with his mother, he was changed for the better. And yet things weren’t all happy and with a bow on top at the end either. It was realistic and I appreciated it.

quote-allegiantBut there were things I did not like…

– Tris and company have a lot of facts and lies and emotions to deal with while they’re in the compound outside Chicago, and they’re trying to figure out how to stop the people there from being so obsessive about fixing the “genetically damaged.” But the thing is, they weren’t exactly right in the things they ultimately did. I can’t feel like Tris died for a good cause, really, or at least not a great one. I view her death as a symbol of her sacrificial love for her family, which makes it much easier to accept than doing it to hurt the people who were hurting her. Look, I’m not saying I have a better solution, and I’m sure the point is that some things are gray and even good people with the best intentions don’t always do things the way they ought to, but I’ve seen that played out much better before (see: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season six episode “In The Pale Moonlight”).

– Even though Tris and Tobias had a talk about what it means to respect each other and be honest (and there is a great line where Tris talks about choosing to love Tobias everyday) and they work through their issues better in this book than they did in Insurgent, their relationship still bugged me a lot. Part of it was the arguing and all that, but a lot of it was actually when they were in a good place and they were just too mushy for me. Ick. I like a good swoon, but Tris and Tobias are more vomit-inducing when they’re all lovey-dovey, at least for me personally. I honestly really wanted them to break up. Sorry.

I still couldn’t remember who ANYONE was! OK, it was not half as bad this time, but Shauna shows up in the end of Allegiant and I’m thinking, I remember this name and yet I have no recollection of who you are or why you are in a wheelchair. And a few other people like Cara… I don’t remember her. I even read Asti’s fabulous Recaptains posts to help me out but no such luck with all the characters. Either I have terrible book amnesia or Veronica Roth created too many unmemorable secondary characters.

AND THE BIGGEST PET PEEVE OF ALL…

WHAT THE HAY HAPPENED WITH CALEB?!?!?!

I mentioned earlier that in Divergent, I was interested in Caleb. I was saddened in Insurgent by what he did, but I thought, OK, in the third book we’ll find out why. Before Allegiant was released, I read somewhere that Veronica Roth said Caleb became her favorite secondary character while writing Allegiant. I thought, good, finally, we’re going to figure out what’s going on in Caleb’s head! 

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WHAT THEY HAY VERONICA ROTH?!

I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO CALEB!

Tris spends 99% of the book not talking to him, then they have a two minute conversation, she dies in his place, and then… Tobias talks to him, right?! Nope. Not for long enough anyway. We never find out why Caleb did what he did. HE HAD TO HAVE REASONS! I cannot believe not a single beta reader or editor was like: “Hey, so… what was Caleb thinking about in Insurgent when he betrayed his sister? I mean, he obviously cares about her… so… what gives?”

SERIOUSLY.

There better be a Caleb novella is all I gotta say.

Rant over. For now.

So I briefly addressed Tris’ death earlier… I had a feeling she or Tobias was going to die based on fan reaction, and I was kind of hoping it was going to be him, but I knew it was more likely to be her, especially once Caleb volunteered to die. So when she did die, it was like, OK, that thing I thought might happen… just happened. And I honestly felt as if a burden had been lifted from the anxiety I had about reading the end of the trilogy. I wasn’t really worried about what else was going to happen afterwards…

But when Tobias stood in front of that mirror, shaved his head, and was ready to take that serum… I think it was the first time I really, honestly cared about him. I thought, nononono he can’t do this! Christina’s intervention and all that was perfect. Hands down, it was the most poignant scene of the trilogy. And it never would have happened if Tris had not died. That scene alone made it worth it for me, and I think what it did for Tobias made it worth it too.

So, needless to say, the ending of the story was bittersweet and not-all-together pretty, but gave the proper closure for the trilogy. Except with Caleb. Grrrrr. It had flaws, but overall I thought it was solid.

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Content Advisory: Moderate language, sexual content (includes making out and an off-screen sex scene) , and violence. 

What were your thoughts on Allegiant? Did Tris’ death surprise you? Anger you? Feel right to you?

Also see: Review: Divergent and Insurgent

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

Top Ten Tuesday topic is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013, and the list is in order from least likely to seek out a new book by this author to most likely, based mostly on their writing style and the subjects/stories they choose, and not taking into account sequels I am anticipating.

10. Jenny B. Jones, There You’ll Find Me

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9. Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

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8. Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken

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7. Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

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6. Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

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5. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

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4. Diana Peterfreund, For Darkness Shows the Stars

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3. Kat Zhang, The Hybrid Chronicles

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2. Kasie West, Pivot Point

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1. Marissa Meyer, Cinder and Scarlet 

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Who are your top new-to-you in 2013 authors? 

Favorite Christmas Scenes in Non-Christmas Movies

Recently I talked about my struggle with Christmas movies, but how there are some “Christmas” movies I enjoy that take place during the holidays, but aren’t really Christmas movies, since they really take place over a much larger portion of time. Here are four movies with Christmas scenes I really enjoy…

While You Were Sleeping

While You Were Sleeping is, for me, the standard for all chick flicks, which means I’m not generally a fan of chick flicks, because this one is just so much better! For the uninitiated, due to a misunderstanding, Lucy (played by Sandra Bullock) finds herself being accepted into the family as the fiance of the man whose life she saved but is asleep in a coma. This happens on Christmas and she ends up spending the holidays with them. I love this scene especially where the family has this funny conversation at dinner that is quirky, yet also feels like it could happen around a number of dinner tables.

Little Women

You all know my love for Little Women, and Christmas comes up a few times throughout the movie. I particularly like the Christmas scene when the girls’ father comes home from the war, but this is also a nice scene where Beth gets a piano for Christmas. Times have been tough for the March family during the war, as we see from the first few minutes of the movie, but Beth is not one to complain. She’s been sick and so when the March family’s next door neighbor, Mr. Lawrence, gives her this piano, it’s just a sweet moment.

Catch Me If You Can

Christmas also plays a fairly significant role in the movie Catch Me If You Can, as Frank Abagnale always seems to talking Hanratty, the FBI agent pursuing him, on Christmas day. (Side note: this is just a motif for the movie and not part of the real life story, but it’s one I enjoy.) This scene in particular is a stand-out for me because every time I hear this song, I think of Frank in the snow, outside his mother’s house.

Emma

Out of all these movies, Christmas plays the least significant role in Emma, but I enjoy the scene of Emma and her friends and family at a Christmas party. She tries to listen in on a story about the mysterious Frank Churchill, but is constantly being interrupted by Mr. Elton. Then after the party, we have this fateful scene of Mr. Elton confessing his love for Emma and her rejecting him. By the way, do you think Senator Elton on Emma Approved will make known his feelings towards Emma during a Christmas party?

What’s your favorite Christmas scene from a non-Christmas movie?

catch-me-if-you-can-christmas

Mini Review: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I decided to read Bird by Bird because I saw it heralded as the book for writers by more than one person, so I knew I just had to pick it up. And with this in mind I decided to read it right before I started on my NaNoWriMo adventure, and never got around to reviewing it after I read it. At first I thought I wouldn’t review it, but then I thought I should share my thoughts since they’re not what you would typically hear about this book.

Bird_by_Bird_LRFirst off I will say that overall, I did like this book, am glad I read it, and felt like I did learn from it. But what I would also have to say that for me personally, it’s not the book on writing.

Maybe it would have seemed much more revolutionary if I had not heard other people recycle Anne’s advice as their own. Everywhere I look people are telling me my first draft is going to be crappy. Which I do need to be reminded of! But regardless of what I have heard of it before, much of it did resonate with me…

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bird-by-bird-tweet1And this was especially true in the beginning of the book. But I think somewhere, maybe at the halfway point, I was over the sentimental antidotes (which again, I DID LIKE) and ready for some more practical advice. A writing book that I read last year that has really helped me is simply called Plot and Structure, and while it’s not nearly as witty or inspirational, it’s extremely practical and helped me a lot when I was suffering through serious structure problems with a story I was working on. So for me, Bird by Bird has its place for writing advice and helped me in some small ways, but it was more like a cheerleader, and less like the coach I was hoping for. Overall it’s a 3 out of 5 star book for me. I’ll probably read the first few chapters again, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever reread the whole thing.

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If you’ve read Bird by Bird, what were your thoughts? Or if you haven’t, can you relate to feeling a book was good but didn’t meet quite the expectations you expected? 

The Growing Sci-Fi Trend in YA

In case you haven’t noticed, and for the majority of you who read this blog and keep with YA books you probably have, the growing trend in YA now seems to be science fiction. And just coming off Sci-Fi Month in November, some books I heard about during the month are fresh on my mind!

YA-scifi-released

A very small sampling of YA sci-fi released in the last two years

Time Between Us/ All Our Yesterdays/ Relativity

While there have been YA titles dealing with space or aliens (Across the Universe trilogy, The 5th Wave), most of these sci-fi books seem to be dealing with time travel (like Time Between Us and All Our Yesterdays) and alternate realities (Reativity and Dissonance) or technology (Elusion and Free to Fall).

YA-scifi-upcoming

A very small sampling of 2014 YA sci-fi releases.

Dissonance/ Elusion/ Free to Fall

I’m not sure what started this trend, other than perhaps it seems like a natural progression to come from the dystopia genre (which is also still going fairly strong, and of course sci-fi and dystopia often go hand in hand), which might explain why more of these stories seemed focused on what I consider “earth-bound” science fiction, rather than focusing on what’s in space. And personally, there are several reasons I am excited to see this trend grow…

Sci-fi arouses our curiosity. I think one of the best things about science fiction is all the “what if” questions it poses. I recently started watching the new Fox show Almost Human, which raises the question: What if android (“synthetic”) cops were paired with human cops?

almost-human

If you like thinking about the possibilities of the future, you should watch this show. And Karl Urban and Michael Ealy are fantastic in it.

Or with a YA book I read this year, Pivot Point, what if one could see the different futures that await her when she has a decision to make? Really, the what-if questions we could ask in science fiction are endless!

It awakens creativity and scientific interest at the same time. I have to admit, I have never been interested in science. Ever. It’s always been my weakest subject and I have never cared to understand it. But in college I suddenly developed an interest in learning about genetic engineering. So while I will probably never have an interest in all sciences, there are now at least a couple of areas that I do find interesting, I think largely thanks to science fiction. It also really awakens my creative juices as I think through all those “what-if” scenarios. And I think both creativity and science are important!

It can be a gateway into more science fiction! Let’s face it, I’m sure the actual sci-fi content in most of these YA books is pretty light. I personally don’t have a problem with that, in fact it can be helpful when you’re as science-deficit as I am, but others might see this new trend as just watered-down science fiction. And there’s probably some truth to that, as the dystopia genre has been watered down, but lighter science fiction can be a gateway that leads to Ender’s Game, Star Trek, or more hardcore stuff that I myself have not checked out yet! Presenting a story with some science fiction, even if it also has a contemporary feel or a romantic subplot, can be just what some people need to get their feet wet and realize just how much they might enjoy other science fiction!

What do you think about the rising trend of science fiction in YA literature? Do you have a favorite sci-fi YA book?

Let’s Talk About Christmas Movies

Let me say up front: I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday, my favorite time of year even, which considering my idea of a perfect life involves a beach and constant 70-80 degree weather with not a snowflake in the sky, is a pretty big deal. It means it makes me THAT happy. I like most Christmas music, I like the trees and decorations and all that jazz.

But I find when it comes  to talking about Christmas movies, I feel more like Scrooge.

bah-humbug-scrooge

Side note before I continue: To be fair, there are also a lot of classic Christmas movies I still have yet to see, or have not seen in a long time, and who knows, maybe I’d like them! If a movie isn’t mentioned, it probably falls into that category.

Classic Christmas movies that I either dislike or think are just meh:

– It’s A Wonderful Life

– Holiday Inn

– Every iteration of A Christmas Carol (that I have seen and remembered, at least), except one (which will be mentioned later)

– How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Here’s the list of Christmas movies I like pretty well and am happy if I happen to catch them:

– A Christmas Story

– Elf

– Home Alone

– White Christmas

– The Santa Clause

– The Holiday

Now here are the ones I like enough to merit annual viewings:

– The Polar Express

– A Charlie Brown Christmas/ It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown

– Santa Clause 2

– A Muppet Christmas Carol

christmas-movies

That’s right folks, my favorite Christmas movies involve obnoxious kids going to the North Pole, obnoxious kids bossing around poor Charlie Brown, a sequel with big plot holes, and a classic that I generally dislike but I apparently like when done with puppets. And I like all these movies MUCH MORE than It’s A Wonderful Life.

(Does George Bailey really have to be so whiny? Does he really have to yell at his kids? Really?!)

I’m not sure what this says about me… I’m not sure if I want to know.

Or maybe it just means I want to keep my Christmas light-hearted.

I’ll go with  that… I mean, I don’t like all the drama in Holiday Inn. You saw my aforementioned problems with ol’ George. The Grinch makes me sad, and I just have a hard time believing Scrooge would change so drastically so quickly just because of the ghosts, not to mention that the past and future ghosts are WAY CREEPY.

Just give me some music and good times.

Now, non-Christmas movies where Christmas is part of the movie and/or plays a large role is a whole other story. Maybe I’ll blog about those before the month is up.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? Are you a lover of all the classics and are totally offended by my Christmas movie preferences? Or are you a fan of more unconventional choices?