Monday, December 31, 2012

Must Reads of 2012

As promised, here are my all-time favorite titles of 2012! I have provided links to my reviews or to Goodreads.

I don't usually list my must-reads in any type of order, but this year spots 1, 2, and 3 have are definitely my 1st, 2nd and 3rd favorite books of the year.
  1. See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles: the first book I read this year is still my all-time favorite of the year:  If you haven't read this amazing novel of family and tragedy, you must. I read and reviewed the ARC way back in January: click here to check it out.
  2. Every Day by David Levithan: David Levithan blew. my. mind with this novel. It's absolutely amazing, I can't even describe it. Click here to see if my review makes any more sense.
  3. Ask the Passengers by AS King: which I actually never reviewed for this blog. UGH. Anyway, this is an amazing work by an amazing author. If you haven't read this story, you have to. Here's the link to Goodreads.
  4. The Raft by SA Bodeen: an incredible story of the struggle to survive. Here's the Goodreads link.
  5. Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti: not your typical bullying story. Learn more at Goodreads.
  6. Intentions by Deborah Heiligman: the story of a girl who witnesses something that causes her to lose her trust in someone she had previously thought was untouchable. Here's the Goodreads page (I sucked at reviewing this year, I know!).
  7. Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqeuline Woodson: obviously, a story about meth, but a really, really good one. I talked about it briefly in a Super Short Reviews post.
  8. Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale: Not only is this an incredible story, but it's the first book I've ever read that talks about Huntington's Disease, a devastating and fatal disease that not that many people have heard of. Here's my review.
  9. Miracle by Elizabeth Scott: of course anything by Elizabeth Scott is going to wind up on my must-read list, but this story, about the only survivor of a plane crash, is so moving and realistic that it warrants a spot on my list regardless of who wrote it. I posted a review of it back in June.
  10. Live Through This by Mindi Scott: a last-minute addition to the list, and a dark story of a girl trying to reconcile a person she cares about very much with the deplorable act that person is doing to her. Here's the Goodreads link.
  11. The Fault in our Stars by John Green: I have to say that I enjoyed this book but not as much as others have. Still, it definitely has to be one of the most-talked-about-YA releases of 2012. Lern more here.
  12. F in Exams: The Funniest Test Paper Blunders by Richard Benson: my favorite nonfiction title this year--and yes, I admit it wasn't published in 2012. It was by far the funniest book I read this year. I have never laughed so hard while reading a book and every single person I've shared this book with feels the same. Learn more about it at Goodreads, and make sure you enter my Bezst of 2012 Giveaway because this is one of three titles I'm giving away!
  13. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: this was my favorite adult fiction title of the year. I don't read that much adult fiction, obviously, but this one absolutely lived up to the hype. Completely amazing how psychotic these characters are! You can read more at Goodreads.
So, there you have it, my favorites from 2012! Care to agree or disagree? Did I miss something important? Leave me a comment!

Enjoy your reading, and happy new year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Kissing 2012 Goodbye

I will readily admit that 2012 sucked for me. Cancer, death, superstorms, the horrible Newtown shootings immediately after the mall shootings...other stuff that I don't even want to get into now...basically it sucked all around.  As a result, my blog suffered, and I apologize, and have apologized, sincerely for that. I can't promise that things will be "up to snuff" in 2013, either--I just don't seem to have the drive or dedication that I once did.

I am going to try to get back to reviewing titles on a more regular basis, although I think that I will spend 2013 challenge-free. I will read debuts, I will read sophomore novels, I will read standalones and (hopefully) I will read books on my to-read pile, and I will document them as such--I'm just not going to challenge myself to do so, because I hate failing. Case in point:
  • As of this post I have read 31 debut titles for 2012, which is most impressive, no? But the only thing I see is that there are four titles on that list that I did not get to this year. 
  • Same thing with my To-Be-Read challenge: I read 15 books that had been sitting around gathering dust, but all I can see is that I STILL have not read Rot & Ruin (I'm sorry, Jonathan Maberry! I know it's amazing, I just can't bring myself to read it!). 
  • Sophomore Reading Challenge: I read 14 and 1/2 (just could not finish Insurgent), but all I see are the two I have yet to get to.
  • Standalone: this was the easiest challenge for me, because I just added anything I read that was a standalone book LOL 73 of the books I read this year fell into this category, and there was only 1 that I put on the list (Touched, by Cyn Balog) that I didn't get to.
But with all that failure (I know 8 1/2  books out of 142 titles is not really failure), I still managed to read 177 books and counting this year. I set my reading goal at 150 so that, at least, is a win. And 2012 was an amazing year for Young Adult Fiction! I have my must-reads of 2012 set to post on Monday.

So I am kissing 2012 goodbye, and am trying to be optimistic (which is not my nature) that 2013 is going to be my year. My lucky number is 13, after all!

Enjoy your reading and best wishes for 2013!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best of 2012 Giveaway Hop

The Best of 2012 Giveaway Hop is hosted by Kathy over at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.

2012 has not been a stellar year for me. As a matter of fact, I think it ranks right up there with 2001 for me. Illness, death, superstorms--2012 was not kind to many. BUT! I strongly suspect that 2013 will be my year. 13 is my lucky number and I am heading into the year with a positive attitude. To celebrate, I am giving away not one, not two, but three of my favorite books from 2012!

One winner gets 3 of my favorite books from 2012: Ask the Passengers by AS King (I was fortunate enough to meet her at the Collingswood book festival pre-pub so this book will have a signed bookplate inside!), The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (signed), and F in Exams (technically not a 2012 release but the funniest book I read this year!)

Contest runs through December 31 and is open to US residents age 13 and up. You don't have to be a follower to enter but it's worth an extra entry, as is sharing your favorite 2012 read in the comments section.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enjoy your reading, and good luck!
Be sure to hop over to the other blogs participating!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I don't have any Christmasy pictures so this one of some cookies will have to do.
I hope all of my readers and followers have a wonderful holiday! I can *finally* say that I got everything done for the season--everything. The house is clean and decorated, the presents are wrapped, cookies were made and mostly eaten (although we definitely have some left for Santa), baking was done yesterday, chocolate-covered pretzels and marshmallows are made. I. Am. Ready.

And also very, very tired. I'm sure that I overdid it this season to make up for the fact that it's the first Christmas without my mom. I wanted Best Girl to have happy memories of this season, and not just remember that it was the first without Mima. So we did the Radio City Christmas Show, a weekend in Hershey, PA, a Polar Express train ride AND we went to Washington, DC for the first time ever (it was 70 degrees in December so it didn't feel super Christmasy, but still, we were there!) I tried to keep us busy, as you can see.

I hope that each and every one of you has a joyous holiday and that you're creating sweet and wonderful memories with your loved ones, as well!

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

In My Mailbox (115)

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week--it was a huge book week for me! 

Borrowed from the library:
  • The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottell Boyce (award-nominee-possibility)
  • If I Could Fly by Judith Ortiz Cofer (another potential nominee)
  • Past Perfect by Leila Sales (another potential nominee)
  • A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull (another potential nominee)
  • The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara (summer reading list potential.
  • Starters by Lissa Price (more summer reading potential. I'm determined to have my assigned books for January read before Christmas, so all my winter break reading can be "for fun!")
  • The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (while I won a signed copy in the YA for NJ auction, I want to make sure I have time to re-read it--we'll be having a virtual chat with Gae at my library at the end of January!)
Won in the YA for NJ auctions: I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I dropped a boatload of money for the recent YA for NJ auctions to raise money for the Community FoodBank of NJ, hosted by Kieran Scott. Seriously, don't look up how much I spent. I'm not kidding. All the money is going to a great cause, so that's my defense. All of my winnings came this week:
  • Ferocity Summer, signed by Alissa Grosso (that's right, I now have two signed copies!)

  • From Gae Polisner: I won an autographed copy of The Pull of Gravity, and because Gae loves me so much :), has also offered to send me a paperback copy when it releases in February! I heart her so much. We're also going to *attempt* a virtual chat with my book club at the end of January, so Gae also sent a ton of goodies to share with my teens:

Gae was so generous--look at all the goodies she sent to share with my teens!
These are cherry cola gummies for the teens to snack on during her virtual visit!
  • And this Mother of All Winnings: every book Elizabeth Scott has published to date, signed TO ME! Squee! PLUS two bonus books PLUS something cool in her next book! I love her so, so much. When I saw this lot, I knew I had to have it, no matter the cost. I have all of her books already, but most are hardcover, so now I have everything TWICE. Does that make me a stalker? 
Every book is signed. TO ME.
The bonus books

I suspect that next week will be a very quiet,  if not non-existent, IMM, as I'm not expecting any packages and I'm not working so won't have any library books to report. 
What did you get?
Enjoy your holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab

The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab
Merit Press, December 18, 2012
Read for 2012 Debut Author Challenge and 2012 Standalone Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:
Ariel's birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family's east coast estate, and all of Ariel's elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who's dreading the party is Sera, Ariel's former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.
They have no idea just how right they are.
Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel's father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives.

This is the second of three books that I agreed to review from Merit Press Books, a new YA imprint headed by Jacqueline Mitchard. I felt that this novel was compelling, with an interesting plot and characters I wanted to learn more about. Why are Ariel and Sera so estranged? Who is behind the hostage situation? Who will live, and who will die? (Spoiler alert: there's a significant amount of death in this book.)

The story is told through alternating points of view, through Sera and Ariel. Maybe it's just me, but I always wonder why an author chooses to start an alternating novel with the character he/she does. In this case, we learn that Sera wronged Ariel in some way, and as a result not only has their friendship been irrevocably damaged, but Ariel turned all of their mutual friends against Sera, turning her into a social pariah. What that wrong was we don't learn right away--it's enough to know that Sera is forced to attend Ariel's Sweet 16 at the request of her father, quite possibly the only person who wants her to attend the party.

During the hostage situation, we learn more about the girls, not only what Sera did to Ariel (in my opinion, Ariel's reaction was extreme considering the offense), but how each girl handles themselves in the face of an emergency. We also learn more about Hudson Winter, the (hot) pop star hired to perform at the Sweet 16 (who is not all that he appears), and Nico, one of Ariel's father's employees--and more. What's most heartening, though, is learning that the friendship between Ariel and Sera might just possibly be salvaged--if they can survive the hostage situation.

The whole tunnels-in-the-wall thing was really cool, too. On the one hand, it must be so awesome to live in a house big enough to have an entire set of tunnels behind all the rooms. On the other hand, if you're that rich, you run the risk of having people ambush your Sweet 16 and hold you and your friends hostage.

The only thing that bothered me about this novel is hopefully something that will be corrected by publication date. I know that ARCs are unfinished, and errors are to be expected, but throughout my (albeit not that many) years of reviewing, I have never seen an ARC with so many grammatical and typographical errors. Again, I know that some are to be expected, but double commas are kind of hard to miss. And again, I'm hoping that people who read the finished copy will come back to me and say "WTF? There are no errors in this book!"

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the story and will be on the lookout for more from Daphne Benedis-Grab and Merit Press!

ARC copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Enjoy your reading!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Super Short Reviews (17)

Here are some quick thoughts on some really good books I've read lately. I hope my thoughts will inspire you to pick them up! Links will take you to Goodreads.

Live Through This by Mindi Scott: borrowed from the library and read for the 2012 Standalone and Sophomore challenges. This was so much more than I was expecting--in a good way. If you're in the mood for some dark realistic fiction, look no further. Coley's life looks perfect to anyone on the outside. She's got a great family, best friend, and the attention of a boy who absolutely adores her. Underneath all of that, however, is the story of a girl who's being taken advantage of in the very worst way, by someone she loves and trusts, which of course leaves her confused about what she should do. I felt that Coley's reactions and thoughts were honest and realistic. This book managed to sneak onto my Must-Reads of 2012 right at the last minute.

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton: borrowed from the library and read for the 2012 Debut Author and Standalone Challenges. This is another dark read, but also another important one. I felt this was a very strong debut from Clayton and I can't wait to read more from her. Sid makes a reckless decision on a school ski trip and the ramifications of that decision change who she is. I LOVED Sid and I LOVED that Clayton gave her unruly curly red hair. I loved that Sid was not the stereotypical definition of beauty--she's extremely curvy but not obese--but I wish the cover photo had been a better portrayal of her.  This novel has as much to do with Sid's appearance--both how others view her and how she sees herself--as it does with the ramifications of date rape. Really a powerful debut.

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In My Mailbox (114): Holiday Book Swap Edition!

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week!

From the Holiday Book Swap I participated in (thanks to  Enna at Squeaky Books and Emily at Emily's Reading Room for setting it all up!): this awesome box of goodies from Nicole the Book Bandit!

Yay! I got a homemade Christmas CD and bookplates, a journal, pens, and bookmark, nutcracker ornaments for my tree, some Hershey Kisses in a cute tin AND two books I haven't yet read: Winter Town by Stephen Emond and Ferocity Summer by Alissa Grosso (on my must read list forever).  Thank you so, so much!

Borrowed from the library:
  • Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks
  • Troop 142 by Mike Dawson
  • Baby Mammoth Mummy! by Christopher Sloan (more potential award nominees)

And finally, I hope this doesn't offend anyone. I know it's not book-related, but it did come in my mailbox, and is so special to me I wanted to share. As you might remember, we lost my mom at the end of August, and the family decided on cremation rather than burial. I had been searching for some kind of jewelry to use some of her cremains in, and stumbled upon Vangie Collins' website, VClampwork. Vangie creates all different types of beads using some of your loved one's cremains. I liked that her company consists of her and her husband, and she was so sweet and kind when I emailed to ask her more about what she does. She asks for some information on your loved one, and a photo if you'd like to share, to get a better sense of the spirit of the person (or animal; this originally started as a pet memorial thing). Anyway, I finally got around to sending some of Mom out to Vangie, and ordered four Pandora-style beads--for me, Best Girl, Sis-in-Law, and my little niece. They arrived today and are absolutely beautiful, I think:

What I love most about them is that they're Mom's favorite color, but since my bracelet is primarily blue and purple, this bead will really stand out. The little speckles you see are Mom, so we'll always have a little bit of her with us. 

What did you get?
Enjoy your reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Louder Than Words by Laurie Plissner

Louder Than Words by Laurie Plissner
Merit Press, December 18, 2012 
Read for 2012 Debut Author Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:
Since the snowy night when her family's car slammed into a tree, killing her parents and little sister, Sasha has been unable to speak except through a computer with a robotic voice. Nothing is wrong with her body; that's healed. But, after four years, Sasha's memory, and her spirit, are still broken. Then one day, she's silently cussing out the heavy book she dropped at the library when a gorgeous, dark-haired boy, the kind of boy who considers Sasha a freak or at least invisible, "answers" Sasha's hidden thoughts -- out loud. Yes, Ben can read minds; it's no big deal. He's part of a family with a host of unusual, almost-but-not-quite-supernatural talents. Through Ben's love, Sasha makes greater progress than she has with a host of therapists and a prominent psychiatrist. With him to defend her, bullies keep the world from ever understanding Sasha, he pulls away. Determined to win him and prove her courage by facing her past, Sasha confronts her past -- only to learn that her family's death was no accident and that a similar fate may wait for her, in the unlikeliest of disguises.
I was really surprised by the layers in this novel. I was expecting a teen unable to talk. I was expecting said teen to meet a boy who can hear her thoughts. I was not expecting all the sexytimes, and I was not expecting the novel to twist and turn the way it did. I'm not even sure how to classify this novel--it's a psychological thriller, it's a romance, it's a mystery--but I do know that I enjoyed it. The storyline sucks you right in--what is Sasha repressing that has prevented her from speaking for four years? Will she ever speak again? Was the accident that killed her family really an accident? If not, who hated the family that much? And then toss sexy, magical-mind-reader Ben into the mix. (While not overly explicit, there's enough talk of sex, and an almost-rape scene, that I would recommend this for older and more mature teens.)

And I have to say that I adored Sasha's aunt and uncle, Charlotte and Stuart. Though they had planned to remain childless because of the demands of their lawyer professions, there was no hesitation when Sasha's family was destroyed. Not once did this couple make Sasha feel anything less than absolutely loved. I found that strong bond between teen and parent figures to be so refreshing--it's not something you see often in YA literature, but it's so sweet when you do.

This is a great debut novel and a standalone that is perfect for those who are looking to read something  out of the box. It's such a pleasant treat to stumble upon a novel that isn't like anything else out there!

This is the first of three books that I agreed to review from Merit Press books, a new YA imprint headed by Jacqueline Mitchard, and based on this work, I think Merit Press is off to a strong start.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Winner, Winner!

Thank you all so much for sharing your favorite holiday movies, music and books! I have to admit that I've never seen Love, Actually--but so many of you recommend it that I have to rectify that soon! And to update MY favorites, this year I just can't seem to get enough of Elf--I love that Buddy!

Anyway, out of the 1031 (!!!!) entries collected, Rafflecopter randomly selected a winner. Drumroll, please....

Candice J.

Congratulations! The winner has been contacted. Don't worry, I have one more giveaway coming up before the end of the year--stick around!

Enjoy your reading!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Lover's Holiday Hop Reminder!

Tonight's the last night to enter the Book Lover's Holiday Hop! A $15 Amazon e-gift card is up for grabs!

Enjoy your reading and good luck!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

In My Mailbox (113)

Don't forget to enter my Book Lover's Holiday Hop! Contest ends tomorrow!

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week!

Borrowed from the library:

  • The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Ummm...that's it for this week! I still have most of last week's haul to get through, so I'm not too worried!

How about you--what fun stuff did you get this week?
Enjoy your reading!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Lover's Holiday Hop!

Happy holidays! It's time once again for the Book Lover's Holiday Hop, co-hosted by Kathy over at I am a Reader, not a Writer and Maryann from Chapter by Chapter.

Once again, I am taking the easy way out. One winner will receive a $15 Amazon electronic gift card. Hey, I figure you can either use the gift card to buy yourself a nice new book, or maybe get a last minute gift for someone!

Contest runs through December 10, is international, and is open to anyone age 13 or older.

You can get extra points for following me or sharing a favorite holiday book, movie, or song...I have too many to list here but we always, always catch A Christmas Story at least 4 times during the 24-hour marathon on TBS. I actually own the DVD but have never removed the plastic wrap--we just HAVE to watch it on TV, commercials and all. Someday I vow to visit the house in Cleveland!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoy your reading, and good luck!
Be sure to drink your Ovaltine, and then hop on over to the other blogs participating!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

In My Mailbox (112)

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week!

Purchased for my nook:
  • Six Earlier Days by David Levithan (an original eBook detailing...well, 6 days before Every Day! Cannot wait to read it!)
Borrowed from the library:
  • Reached by Ally Condie 
  • Butter by Erin Jade Lange (I've been looking forward to this one forever!)
  • Blind Spot by Laura Ellen
  • Death of a Kleptomaniac by Kristen Tracy
  • Batman: the Black Mirror by Scott Snyder (more award-nominee reading)

What did you get?
Enjoy your reading!