Sunday, November 10, 2013

Persy -- How To Make Friends and Monsters by Howard Boward (with a little help from Ron Bates)

Howard Boward is a super genius, but super intelligence doesn't make you a lot of friends in middle school. The UPs (uber-populars) only notice him when they find him in the way or when he runs down the school halls in a unitard, and then they call him How-Weird.

His mom, disturbed Howard's friendlessness, gives him a book: How to Make Friends. At first Howard refuses to read it, but gives in out of curiosity. The book gives him a brilliant idea on how to make a friend.

After gathering equipment and an unwanted lab assistant, Howard builds himself a secret laboratory in his basement and sets to work. A few accidents later and he has his first friend (and monster) on his hands. He names his new friend Franklin Stein and takes him to school...

Franklin is almost instantly a hit with everyone, including the UPs. And it's not long before Howard soaks up the spotlight as well... But Franklin's secret origins won't stay hidden forever, and what happens when Howard no longer needs him?

This book is a delight in every way.

When I first got the book in the mail, I was lovestruck. "Perfect size! Perfect shape! Perfect color! Perfect cover! Perfect cover material!" For a while I was almost afraid to read it for fear that it would be awful and then the perfection of the physicality of the book would be such a waste.

But I was not disappointed.

Howard Boward is a brilliant little nerd with a streak of passive sarcasm, and he's probably one of my favorite main characters of all time. And Franklin... Franklin, Franklin, Franklin. He's the BEST. Oh my gosh he's just so freakin' (franklin?) adorable. I just want to hug him so super duper hard and then I want to smack Howard for being mean to him sometimes. But then not really, because I really love Howard too. Yeah.

Reynolds and Winnie are also superb supporting characters, not to mention the rest of Howard's family. How often do ALL of the supporting characters turn out perfectly? Very, very, very, very, very rarely. All of the characters are simply amazing and they make it an absolute joy to read.

If anyone dares to say that the plot is too crazy and farfetched I might have to punch them in the face, because that is hardly a big issue in this book. I think the plot is perfect. It's one of those great books with character development that isn't too inspirational and meaningful and painstaking, if you know what I mean. Howard goes through a lot and learns a lot of lessons and really does change for the better.

Plus, the illustrations are franklin adorable. Props to André Jolicoeur (um, his last name in French means "pretty heart." That might be the best thing EVER).

How To Make Friends and Monsters is such a perfect, delightful little book. The orange is so cheerful, the cover illustration so intriguing, the size so perfect, the material so comfortable in your hands. And then you open it up and don't put it down for a few hours until you're done, and you walk on sunshine for the rest of the day.

Ron Bates hasn't "helped" anyone else write anything yet, but I'll definitely be keeping an out. He's kind of hard to find too, but you can visit his website here. Though I recommend you read the book before watching the promotional video...


You might like this if you: love perfectly sized books; love perfect covers with perfect insides; love adorable illustrations; want a cute, short read; like awesome things; like The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; or if you have a hard time making friends yourself.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Persy -- Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Y'all should be proud. Because even though I just spent my first night in a college dormroom and I've been way too busy the past few weeks to read a reviewable novel... I'm bringing you an ontime review. Shazam.
All Brittany wants to do her senior year is maintain the perfect life others see: the clothes, the grades, the cheerleader, the boyfriend. What they don't know is that Brittany struggles to take care of her autistic sister and deal with her distant parents.
But her first day goes ominously bad. She accidentally amost runs over Alex Fuentes, the toughest guy in school, and then finds out she has to be his partner in chemistry. Yikes.
Meanwhile, Alex is just trying to take care of his brothers and his mom and protect them from the gangs by being in one of the gangs. But when a bet is placed over Brittany's virginity, his world gets a little more complicated...
I was expecting to either hate the book and quit within the first five chapters or find a surprising new favorite. I did neither.

My first impression was that Simone Elkeles is trying pretty hard, and almost has really good writing. Instead, it's just pretty good. The best thing this book has going for it is that it's real easy to read quickly, so the 350 pages goes by in a breeze. If it didn't, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have finished the novel.

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a retelling of Romeo and Juliet or not, but it basically is. So I might consider excusing the stupidity and hopelessness of Brittany, the heroine. She's kinda... boring and... silly and... impetuous, in a weird kind of way. I'm honestly not sure what her personality is supposed to be. Alex is a little better, but he's also very dramatic and I can't see why he's so in love with Brittany.
I personally like Alex and Shelley, but whatever.
And then Mrs. Peterson is really cool. In fact, she's probably my favorite character. But whatever.
Y'know what's really silly? The epilogue. I mean, I guess it's kind of cute in a weird kind of way, but it's also just... silly. Sorry.
Overall it's not a bad book, but I certainly wouldn't reread it and I don't think I'm even going to continue the series (the second book is about Alex's little brother and the love he finds in an unexpected place!).
You might like this if you: like shallow romance; like Romeo and Juliet; like high school romance; like forbidden romance; or if you yourself are shallow, in high school, and are involved in a forbidden romance.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Arty -- The Selection by Kiera Cass

Friends, readers, countrymen - I bring you a YA dystopian romance that doesn't completely suck.

I know, I know, le gasp.  This is not to say "GO OUT AND BUY THE SELECTION RIGHT NOW CUZ AWESOME!!!1!!" YMMV and I recommend a library read before committing.


Have a Goodreads summary:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime.  The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth.  To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels.  To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare.  It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her.  Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want.  Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon.  Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself - and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I don't actually know what's up with that last paragraph, because... there's nothing much like that in the book at all.  Maybe it's a series overview, I dunno.  But it makes America sound all dramatic when she's such a down-to-earth kind of person.

America is what made the book for me, mostly.  She has her Weepy Sensitive Heroine moments, and she can jump to some pretty drastic conclusions without a lot of evidence, but for the most part, she's a really friendly girl.  Her character is pretty consistent, and along with lovely consistency is likeableness.  It's really pretty dang fantastic.  The only thing that annoyed me was the constant "Oh boohoo I'm not pretty" when basically everyone else told her she was - why that needs to be a thing, I have no idea.

Also, MAXON.  Maxon is a sweetheart.  I don't think Cass was really comfortable writing him at first - he came on kind of stiff, and not just the kind of stiff she was going for - but as it went on, he became a teddy bear.  Impulsive and naive, but a teddy bear.  And, before the inevitable Love Triangle of Wangst broke in, he and America had the most. adorable. friendship.  YOU MEAN BOYS CAN BE FRIENDS WITH GIRLS WITHOUT THERE BEING ROMANTIC INTEREST AT FIRST SIGHT?

(We don't talk about Aspen.  Aspen is a testosterone-fueled child who needs to grow up a few years before getting into a serious romantic relationship.  Go away, Aspen, no one likes you.)

Plotwise, the Selection competition - thirty-five girls being gradually whittled away until Maxon chooses his bride - isn't as fierce as the blurb makes it out to be.  Only a few of the girls turn out to be conniving witches; it's even mentioned, a couple times at least, that the majority of the girls are close and don't want to intentionally sabotage the others' chances.  I liked that, since most YA likes to depict large crowds of girls evil queen bees with a few honored exceptions (aka, the protag and her one/two friends).  Maybe it made the plot less intense, but it was unexpected and there wasn't an overload of the author trying to come up with a load of different ways to tell us "MOST OF THESE GIRLS ARE EVIL."

The rebellion groups - nice, realistic touch, there being more than one rebellion group - weren't very intimidating except for one scene, mostly because the worldbuilding in The Selection is the very weakest part of this book. (It tends to be, I've noticed, in most new YA dystopian romance.)  There is the mystery of one group (I can't remember whether it was the Southern or the Northern group) trying to get inside the castle to steal something, but it was hardly a major plot point.

I can't talk about this book without going into massive hysteria about the last chapter, which should be entitled "In Which America does what Every Female in the Typical YA Love Triangle should Do but usually Doesn't."  No spoilers other than that, but it just made me really, really happy and put me firmly in the court of Team America.

Weak and cheesy writing - on an infrequent but consistent basis.  Not really that much conflict - yes.  Almost total lack of worldbuilding - yeah.  However, The Selection has a great MC, a great prince/friend/love interest, and genuine hope for an even more awesome sequel.  Definitely a recommend!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Scrolls -- RAMFAP Requiem AKA July Review

Last year, RAMFAP was quite a momentous occassion. I read so many books. Had so much fun. Not that I didn't have any fun this year either... 
For RAMFAP 2013, I read a total of 7 favorite books, with 1,612 pages read not counting an unpaged manga and an unpaged children's book. I actually read a total of 11 books in July, with 3,328 pages read, but not all of those were for RAMFAP. Honestly, I don't think I did too shabby considering all the stuff I've been busy with.
Here's my favorites book list from RAMFAP 2013:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Maid-Sama! Vol. 6 by Hiro Fujiwara
Night Gate by Isobelle Carmody
It's interesting to note that Night Gate is the only book that has been in both RAMFAP lists so far -- I tried to keep this year's priority list limited to the books I didn't get to last year, but Night Gate snuck to the top anyway.
How did y'all do, if y'all participated? I'm hoping for a good August!

Arty here.  Yes.  The Arty who hasn't written a review in ages.  COLLEGE, GUYS. *lame excuses*

For RAMFAP... I reread one book.  And it turns out I probably shouldn't have, because The Angel Experiment, the first book in the Maximum Ride series, was a lot better when I was thirteen than it is now.  I still really like the story, but... sorry, Max, you're just not one of my favorites anymore.  Except for maybe nostalgia.

I did get to read around thirteen other books - what can I say, July caught me when my to-read stacks were high and I had succumbed to multiple library temptation.  Some of them were pretty lame - the Supernatural tie-in novel, One Year Gone, was disappointing, as was Mortlock by Jon Mayhew (it had black page edges - black page edges!) - but some of them were pretty dang fantastic and destined to end up on the next RAMFAP list.  Such Wicked Intent, the second book in the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series by Kenneth Oppel, and Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki are destined for my favorites shelf.

August is already looking pretty good - hope you all have similar prospects!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Persy - Wednesday Scrolls - RAMFAP 2013!!

It's that time of the year again, folks... Yes, it's back. Are you ready?
For RAMFAP 2013!!!!!!
A quick recap of what it is: Reread-As-Many-Favorites-As-Possible month! And it's as easy as that. All you have to do is reread a minimum of one favorite book. I like to make it a challenge and see how many I can squeeze into the month of July, but that's definitely not a requirement. All it is is one month devoted to favorite books. Other than that, it's open to everyone's unique interpretation.
I honestly wasn't sure I would participate this year, because my reading kind of fell behind due to ballet, school, and college prep. We were in a week into July when I realized how ridiculous I was being. Heck yeah I'm gonna participate! And you should too! There's really no excuse not to pick up a favorite novel and give it another read!
So please, if you do participate, let us know! Start a conversation! Both Arty and I will gladly talk for hours on the subject of literature (as you've surely discovered by now). What book(s) are you reading this month?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Persy -- The Passage by Justin Cronin

Are you ready for my round of excuses? Well, I was out of the country for almost a month, and then I got the chickenpox...
Science is cruising along, forever searching for the equivalent of the fountain of youth. Someone thinks they've found it... but is it what they think it is? Meanwhile, a young girl named Amy is abandoned to a group of nuns, and then kidnapped by the government. She becomes part of the experiments and while the world falls to ruins around her, she remains... Amy. And something a little bit more.
Almost a hundred years later, the story takes up with the small community of survivors who live inside a walled city with electric lights that will eventually shut off for good. And once that happens, no one will be able to stop the "smokes" from getting in and killing everyone.
The smokes are what happened when they tried spreading their fountain of youth. They got youth all right, but also a lot more. Superhuman abilities and a dose of insanity, and insatiable thirst and hunger for blood...
The little community's fragile peace is disturbed when Peter Jaxon runs into a Walker outside of the wall, a young girl who cannot speak with her mouth but somehow communicates exactly what she needs to say. No one knows where she came from, but it doesn't take Michael long to find the chip in her neck, put their years ago by the military. And it doesn't take him much longer to find a signal being sent out for her, asking for her return.
As the little community crumbles and the infected breach the walls, Peter leaves with a small crew to find the source of the signal, and, just maybe, other survivors.
This book took me over four months to read. That is a freaking long time. Geez. Admittedly, part of the problem was just crazy life stuff, but still. I mean, thinking about all the other things that have happened in the last four months, it's ridiculous to think that I've been reading the same book the whole freaking time.
Anyway. All that said, it makes it rather remarkable that I didn't just give up on the stupid thing. For some reason, I just kept on reading, kept re-checking it out at the library.
The beginning really drew me in, but the sudden drastic setting change really disoriented me, and for a long time I was really irritated about it. It took me a very long time to warm up to the new characters in the new setting. And once I had started to like them, Justin Cronin goes off and kills one of them and then has the other go through such a drastic character growth that he's not even the same character anymore. I'm still a little pissed off about that.
Two of the characters, Peter and Sara, really do have nice character growth. Peter was just "meh" in the beginning, but by the end he was awesome. Sara was "meeeeeeeh" and then she was "DON'T DIE, SARA." Theo and Maus, however, are just dull the whole way through.
The ending, OH THE ENDING. It was so sharp, so sudden, so unexpected, so... AAAUGH. It's amazing. I had to reread it five times to make sure I'd understood it correctly. Geez. Man. Wow. Golly what an ending. Major points for that one.
Justin Cronin has a very insensitive writing style. It's rather dry and there's not a whole lot of emotion in his characters (other than the occasional maniacal rage). It's not like I want an epic love story or anything, but something might be nice. Instead, you've got nothing. And then when he does put a bit of emotion in, it feels weird and...alien. Maybe he was just trying to sum up the world he created, but I don't really like it.
All in all it's... weird. The story and characters and writing is all just... weird. And long. Man. I would honestly only recommend this book to people who specifically like ridiculously long books. I don't think anyone else could get through it.
I also discovered that there's a sequel, and I'm not sure if I want to put my time and strength into that...
You might like this if you: love ridiculously long novels; like horror vampire stories; like apocalyptic stories; don't much care about emotion (except for maniacal rage); or if you're dreaming about a mean fat woman and have an imaginary friend named Babcock.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Arty -- Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Heeere's Arty!

Yeah, I'm colossally late.  Who's surprised by now.

Okay.  Jinx.  I picked this up initially because all there was on the spine was 'Blackwood' and I really, really hoped Gary Blackwood had a new book out.  If he does, this isn't it, but it was still a really great book to pick out.

Jinx has a pretty basic premise, one I didn't have much hope for.  I mainly kept it because, let's face it, that cover is gorgeous, and I was probably still subconsciously affected by the magical Blackwood surname.  Here's the summary from Goodreads:

In the Urwald, you don't step off the path.  Trolls, werewolves, and butterchurn riding witches lurk amid the clawing branches, eager to swoop up the unwary.  Jinx has always feared leaving th epath - then he meets the wizard Simon Magus.

Jinx knows that wizards are evil.  But Simon's kitchen is cozy, and he seems cranky rather than wicked.  Staying with him appears to be Jinx's safest, and perhaps only, option.  As Jinx's curiosity about magic grows, he learns to listen to the trees as closely as he does to Simon's unusual visitors.  The more Jinx discovers, the more determined he becomes to explore beyond the security of the well-trod paths.  But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic - and magicians - can be as dangerous as the forest, and soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat.

Pretty simple.  Or so it seems.

Jinx, for a book firmly in the children's section of the library, goes surprisingly deep into characterization - there aren't any blazing pieces of brilliance like Sydney Carton or Severus Snape, but Jinx, Simon, the Bonemaster, Sophie, and even characters I didn't think I'd like much were well-written.  The story, too, dives off the expected end of "as-good-as orphan gets taken in by a wizard and learns that he's three times as powerful as anyone else after he beats the Big Bad."

Jinx has a great ability - a sixth sense, rather - of being able to see the thoughts of others as colored clouds of emotion.  I love what Blackwood does with the ability - no spoilers, but the different twists and turns the story takes around this ability and around Jinx himself actually caught me by surprise.  That's not easy to do.  Simon and Sophie, too, are anything but cliché characters.  (Even though they greatly reminded me of Howl's Moving Castle, down to Sophie's name - turns out Blackwood is a Diana Wynne Jones fan, and it shows by the way her plot/magic/character development works.)  I could never really tell where either of them came from until the end, some good writing that actually made Jinx's conundrums feel real.

I was reading with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm until about halfway through.  Then the story took another turn, in which Simon and Sophie greatly leave the picture, the story takes on a more adventurous turn, and two characters take Simon and Sophie's places - Reven the thief, and Elfwyn the granddaughter of a witch.  I did not like Reven or Elfwyn.  I wanted Sophie and Simon (especially Simon) back.  Especially when Elfwyn started turning into your usual girl-with-two-boys-as-friends girl, an obnoxious, domineering sort that the boys tolerated because - well, they liked her for some reason.

But, as much as I hate to admit it, they did grow on me - a little.  Their curses amused me.  Reven, especially, with his antiquarian way of speech and his more interesting curse, got to be one of my favorites.  They made suitable replacements for Simon and Sophie - logical ones, since Jinx couldn't have too much magic on his side, or everything would be too easy.

The book ends slowly, but in a good way.  The climax occurs and then another sixty or so pages are dedicated to resolution - which is something I really enjoyed.  Even if the ending as is dragged a bit, rushed would have been worse.  And while I think Blackwood could have taken more time sewing up loose subplot ends, the main plot was magnificently concluded.

Jinx is a great book with a great main character and a great supporting cast and a great plot and I'm hoping for a sequel sometime.  Definitely a recommendation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Persy -- Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind

Richard Cypher leads a simple life as a woodsman-guide-trailblazer-whatever person. Until the day a beautiful young woman named Kahlan shows up in his forest, bringing with her a boatload of trouble.
Secrets are unveiled. Richard discovers that he has a destiny as the Seeker, and he is given the Sword of Truth. It is now his job to defeat the evil tyrant Darken Rahl who has taken over Kahlan's homeland, and will soon move on to Richard's. He is accompanied by Kahlan and the old cloud reader Zedd.
You'd think there'd be more to say about an 800-page novel, but there really isn't.
If you've had to be around me over Christmas break, you'll know that Wizard's First Rule is a bit infamous. It took stinking forever to read. Oh my gosh, the only reason I was so determined to finish it was so that I could say I had read the whole darn thing and so I could write a legitimate review of it. Although let's face it, this will probably be more of a rant. Sorry.
The writing is dull. Oh my gosh it's dull. Terry Goodkind maybe could've gotten away with it four a 200-page book, but not an epic fantasy. Oh my GOSH. And the characters? So flat. Uuuuuugh flatness and dullness married and produced THIS.
Terry Goodkind also seems to have some kind of fascination with gore. There are random fightscenes that are basically excuses for him to talk about entrails and guts spewing across the floor in pools of blood. Basically.
The only enjoyable things in this entire book are Zedd and Denna and Scarlet. In fact, the thing that makes this book a real pain is Kahlan. If she weren't in the book, the whole thing might be tolerable. Near the end, there are sections with just Richard and Denna or just Richard and Scarlet, and I actually really enjoyed those parts. But then Kahlan would come back, and it would all go downhill into drama. The parts with Zedd, Denna, and Scarlet are not worth it.
This review's a little...well, lackluster. But let's just say I'm out of practice (haven't written a review in a loooong time) and I read this book a long time ago and don't really want to delve back into it even if it's just to refresh my memory. Yikesies.

ps. I'm thinking Arty and I may have to have a Book Arena about Wicked Lovely, because I actually like that book.
You might like this if you: enjoy dull, flat, long, epic fantasy novels; like to make fun of things and need something new to make fun of; have a fondness for dramatic whiny heroines trapped in forbidden love; or if you have a dark secret, meet a strange woman in a forest, AND know a strange cloud-reader.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Arty -- Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Let's get the new year (or the closest chronological thing to it) of reviews started off with a bang - in other words, a rant!

Aislinn (don't ask me how to pronounce it - I'm not proficient in Irish or Celtic or Gaelic or whatever it is pronunciation - I'm guessing like Ashlyn because her nickname is Ash) has the Sight - in other words, she can see faeries.  She pretends she doesn't see them because they don't know she can, and she doesn't want them or other humans to know of her ability.  But poor Aislinn is tormented by this knowledge and her entire existence seems to be one of victimization and misery at hiding her true self.

But hark!  A hot faerie approaches!  Seriously, he is hot - he's Keenan, the faerie Summer King.  And he thinks Aislinn is destined to be his Summer Queen.  Because of a 'feeling' and 'dreams' that have apparently gotten a lot of other girls kicked out in the cold - in other words, reduced to miserable Winter Girls, each successive Winter Girl having the duty of warning Keenan's next victim not to trust him.

Cue a tug-of-war between Aislinn, Keenan, Donia (the current Winter Girl who's still in love with Keenan), and Berea (I think her name is Berea), Keenan's mother and the current wicked Winter Queen.  It's not as dramatic as it sounds - mostly it's just Aislinn running away and being blah and hiding out at totally-not-her-boyfriend Seth's house.  And Keenan moping.  And Donia moping.  And Berea plotting.

I do have to say that it started out really good.  I was interested.  I was hopeful for something more interesting than your typical YA paranormal romance.  Seth, despite being in high school, lives alone, drinks tea, has tons of piercings, and keeps a boa constrictor.  He was cool at first.  Original.  Aislinn was moderately interesting and not too whiny.  Donia and Keenan had good personalities.

At first.

Oh good story of faeries and intrigue and Court angst.  You disappeared into a pile of teen angst, shaky characterization, and an exponentially growing number of wearisome plot devices.

The characters started to dissolve about a third of the way through.  There's a feeling you get when you have a firm grasp on a character, who they are and how they work.  None of the characters ever got that feeling - or, if they had it, it was for a few short chapters and then they lost it.  The only character who was halfway consistent was Berea, and that was because she was a cackling villainess who was there to hurt people and enjoy doing it for no particular reason.

There was one plot twist that I didn't see coming and that I appreciated - it would give away major spoilers if I wrote it out, but let's just say Marr didn't fall into the tired old love triangle bit, at least not fully.  It was just that by the time came to unleash the plot twist, I just didn't give a rip.  Everyone was boring.  Not unlikeable, per se, but just... blah.  Who cares that some faerie-human lady loves some faerie dude who wants some human girl who loves some mortal guy and they're all trying to be killed by some evil faerie queen?  Marr gave me no reason to care.

The prose was nice, there were regular sprinklings of originality, and the cover is absolutely gorgeous, but there's just not enough good here to warrant a recommendation.  In the end, the execution of the story is just as bland as the cover is beautiful.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Arty -- Books of 2012

Hi.  Arty here.

I am the reason why this is painfully late.  Yes.  Tomatoes are provided at the door; I'll be waiting over by those stocks.  Plaster me with as many veggie-fruit-delectable-spheres-of-red-deliciousness as you want.  I DESERVE IT. #dramallama

Seriously, I had an insane January (I WENT TO KANSAS) and then it seems I've been halfway ill all through February.  None of which are very good excuses.  But I take them where I can get 'em, right?  Just... know that Persy did hers on time and I failed as miserably as a piece of charcoal trying to learn astrophysics. (Or as miserably as that simile did.)

Okay.  If my Goodreads stat thing is to be trusted (I failed miserably at cataloging my books near the tail end of December; I chalk it up to running a business) I read 240 books in 2012!  Not bad!  I mean, my goal was 250, but ten behind is not bad at all, especially considering the almost complete lack of reading I did in the autumn months.  So yeah.  A pat on the back for me.

The first book I read in 2012 was Fruits Basket #16 (go manga!) and the last book I read was... wait.  Well.  The last book I have recorded for December was The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle. (We're just going to pretend that I surely read something between December 14th and the next book I read on January 6th this year.)

Now.  Onto my BEST BOOKS OF 2012.  I'm going to try to keep it down to fourteen.  We'll see about that!

The Fruits Basket manga by Natsumi Takaya.  Yeah, guys, I know it's so cheesy and so cutesty but - but - but it's just amazing anyhow.  The characters.  The art.  AAHHH.  It makes me happy inside and that's what counts, right?  Manga.

The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan.  I've read the first half or so of this series multiple times, but I'm adding it here because I finished the series in 2012.  And it just deserves to have its name in bold.  The plots continually get a little less fantastic but it's the characters that give this series a place on Jon (my Extra Super Tiggerific Favoritesness Bookshelf Whose Title Keeps Changing Because I Can't Remember It).  Fantasy.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  SYDNEY. FREAKING. CARTON.  S'all I have to say except that it made me cry in front of my family.  Not many books can do that.  A classic well-deserving of its title.  Classic.

A Tale Dark And Grimm by Adam Gidwitz.  A super-easy read combining a lot of fairytales so that Hansel and Gretel are the main characters, this was a clever, totally entertaining fairytale mashup that I need to reread at least once a year.  Fantasy.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  If you read my review on it, you'll probably remember my mixed emotions for this book.  But when just the thought of reading a book like The Night Circus gives you twirly butterfly flutters in your stomach, I think it deserves a place on the AAHHH TWO-THOUSAND-TWELVE BOOKS OF AWESOME list.  Urban fantasy. (?)

The Genius series by Catherine Jinks.  Continually amazing, continually heartbreaking, continually (in a small way) thought-provoking, and finally throw-the-book-at-the-wall worthy, these books also have a proud place on Jon.  (No idea how to categorize these.  Urban sci-fi?)

Swear To Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanen.  Van Draanen of Sammy Keyes fame can write no wrong.  Tiny book, huge impact.  Read it.  Genreless.

Runemarks by Joanne Harris.  A huge book with a huge fantastical story with the huge Norse gods.  I read this when I was in the throes of my Norse obsession, which has by now faded somewhat, but thinking about it still makes me go SQUEEEEEEEEEE.  In a totally rational way, of course.  Fantasy.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  Shiver.  That's the best way I can put it.  Disturbing, fascinating, thought-tugging... another classic that deserves to be called such.  Classic.

Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.  Another quick genreless read, it's possibly even better than Swear To Howdy.  Hope (I reiterate) is one of the best heroines I've ever read.  Genreless.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson.  It's a bit of a slow start but once you get reading... WOW.  Things just keep unfolding and unfolding until it ends in this suck-your-breath-out-of-your-tubes finale.  (Not sure how to categorize this one either.  Urban... science... fantasy...?)

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.  Dark, depressing, heartbreaking... not how you think you'd classify a book narrated by Tinker Bell.  But this Peter Pan reimagining is just fantastic anyhow.  Fantasy.

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst.  Desert gods instead of Norse or Celtic make this book a lot more entertaining than most.  I liked the heroine, and the love subplot was superbly handled.  Durst makes me a happy reader.  Fantasy.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle.  A thoroughly original and completely enthralling look at trolls, elves, and the fey world in general.  Marrak is a fantastic love interest-slash-villain, Kate is a great heroine, and the relationship building between all of the characters just... makes me happy.  Historical fantasy.

I also need to have a list of series that I finished in 2012, even if they were started in 2011 or prior.

-Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher.  Holy molehills of amazing prose and characters.  READ THEM.

-The Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White.  Fluffy YA paranormal romance, but I daresay they're worth reading anyhow.

-The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley.  I've been reading these for at least three years and I still love them, cheesy or no.  The last book was a bit of a letdown but the last couple chapters made up for it completely and totally.

-The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.  IT'S OVER.  MY GOSH IT'S OVER.  It went out with a bang.  I love you, Artemis.  Colfer: you'd better have a series spinoff planned.  TAKE MY MONEY.

-The Theatre Illuminata series by Lisa Mantchev.  So Silver Bright was a lovely end to a rather shapeless, oft confusing, but still beautiful trilogy populated by amazing characters.

-And, of course, the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.  I wrote a whole blogpost on why I love the series while ever mindful of its various and sundry weaknesses.  Paolini, though well-versed in the art of disappointment, didn't fail to leave me satisfied on the shores of Alagaesia.

(I'm sneaking in another plug for my favorite trilogy of all time, which I reread in 2012 - The Books of Umber by P.W. Catanese.  Seriously.  I can't come up with enough synonyms for BLINKING FANTASTIC to suit these books.  They're God's gift to bookworms.  Read them.)

And here are some Honorable Mentions.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer; The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith; Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan; The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot; Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green; Wonder by R.J. Palacio; The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman; The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner; The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks; The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner; A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde; To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby; The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones; and Quicksilver by Stephanie Spinner.

And now my other favorite part.  THE BAD EGGS.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  Classic.  History book.  Two terms that never go well together.  This book was written as propaganda and it shows, gods, it shows.  (Sorry, Persy.)  I call emotional blackmail.  Classic.

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling.  Again, apologies for any stepped-on toes, but this book was just one boring blah.  I'm not really a fan of Kipling, anyhow.  Classic.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  Cool concept, bro; needs actual character development and writing skills behind it.  Though the photos were spiffy.  Fantasy.

No Promises in the Wind by Irene Hunt.  DEPRESSION.  I don't even remember what happened in this book, just that none of it was good.  Everyone is miserable.  The end.  Historical/youth.

A Kiss In Time by Alex Flinn.  Flinn was pushing the boundaries of unlikable with Beastly but this one just skipped over the line and went sailing into the sea of stupidity.  A more applicable simile might be that it was on a south-bound roller coaster - it just kept getting worse.  Fantasy/fairytale.

The first two Infernal Devices books by Cassandra Clare.  Clare.  You are recycling the already annoying characters of Mortal Instruments and making them EVEN MORE ANNOYING.  Historical fantasy.

And the poor sad Dishonorable Mentions, not even bad enough to get a rant or caps or anything.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke; Inside Out And Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Worldshaker by Richard Harland; The Alchemist and the Angel by Joanne Owen; The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong; the first two Everworld books by Katherine Applegate; The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig; Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin; and Behind the Gates by Eva Gray.

And that was 2012!  Here's to a new year of plundering libraries, finding new favorites, and reading those hilarious one-star reviews of books that always have funny gifs to illustrate the review-writer's hatred!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Persy -- I Want My Hat Back/This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

So...I haven't really read much since my last review. Which is saying something, because my last review was over a month ago. Yikes. So I'm resorting to something I've never done before: I am reviewing a children's book. This review will probably be longer than the book itself. Oh well.
So normally when I write a review, I head over to GoodReads to look at the short reviews I post there, to refresh my memory a little about the book. When I went back to look at what I'd written for I Want My Hat Back, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen, this is what I found:
"Awesomeness. Pure awesomeness."
Never have I spoken (written) truer words.
I Want My Hat Back follows the life of a bear(? There has been some disagreement over the species of the main character) who has lost his hat. And now he is going to find it.
It's as simple as that, really. But how do I relay the awesomeness and fantasticity of this short little book? I don't believe it is possible. The only thing you can do is read it. It's not like it'll take you very long.
Jon Klassen recently released the sequel, This Is Not My Hat. This little book follows a fish, who has...acquired...a hat. He quite likes his hat, and is determined to keep it. But someone has a different idea...
While its awesomeness is not as pure as I Want My Hat Back's, This Is Not My Hat is still pretty dang awesome. Pretty. dang. awesome.
This is the best review I've ever written. There's no need to tell me.
All I can say is that I'm struggling my way through an 800-page book with atrocious writing, and for some stupid reason I'm determined to finish it. I still have about 400 more pages, but I'm hoping to finish it at some point... hopefully within two weeks, and then I'll review an actual novel. Maybe.
You might like this if you: like hats; like bears; like fish; like catching thieves; like thievery; or if YOU ARE AWESOME.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Persy -- A New Year (OF BOOKS)!

Welcome to a new year! Congratulations on surviving 2012! Hurrah yippee boom etcetera! I hope your first day of this exciting new year has gone well (mine's been rather exciting).
My reading goal for 2012 was to read more books than I did in 2011, so 181 books. I am happy to say that I SUCCEEDED EASILY way back at the beginning of December (maybe that'll excuse my terrible reading job that month)! In fact, I read 186 books and 43,977 pages in 2012! Curiously, that's less pages than in 2011, but I chalk that down to the fact that I read more manga and graphic novels these days. In fact, 51 of my 186 books were manga or graphic novels.
The first book I finished in 2012 was The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. The last book I finished in 2012 was Big Annie of Calumet by Jerry Stanley (darn those history books).
I tried as hard as I could to narrow down the Best Of list to a respectable number, but I could not get past 14. Sorry. There are just too many good books.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. An exhausting book, but totally worth it. It took me a while to read, BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT. It all seems so realistic and terrible and yet...there always seems to be some tiny glimmer of hope, even if you can't identify the source. Scifi.
I Want My Hat Back written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Who says children's books can't be incredibly awesome? NOT ME. This book is fabulous (as is the sequel). It'll take about five minutes, so read it. Children's.
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Another exhausting read, but also totally worth it. It has an amazing main character and a plot that begs to be read again and again. Dystopia.
World War Z by Max Brooks. Zombies. War. Phenomenal writing. Boom. Apocalyptic.
The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Possibly the most charming book ever written. An adorable, touching, and awesome story about a gorilla. Inspired by a true story.
Replication by Jill Williamson. Scifi and Christianity collide in this awesome book set in Alaska about a genuinely intelligent teenage girl and a curious clone. Scifi/Religion.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The whole thing is a classic in my book, and the whole thing is meant to be read again and again. It's pure magic. Fantasy.
Alice's Adventures In Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. One of my favorite classics. I can't get enough of Wonderland. Classic/Fantasy.
Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe. Even the second time through, this book practically had me in tears because I was laughing so hard. Jaz and her merry band of friends are certain to win you over. Humor/Mystery.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman. The master of storytelling brings you one of the most disturbing and though-provoking novels I've ever read. You know it's serious when I call a book "thought-provoking." Dystopia.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. This is one of those children's books that's not quite as simple as it seems. Some of the lines in this book burn with truth and wisdom. Classic/Fantasy.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Another "children's" book that is full of depth and wonder. A surprisingly disturbing story of an eternally young boy who basically kidnaps children. Classic/Fantasy.
The Death Note series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. I finished the whole series in 2012, and boy is it a ride. There are few wimpy volumes in between, but don't let that stop you from reaching the final volume. Manga--Shonen/Supernatural.
Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. Another book that makes me actually laugh out loud. A book seemingly about nothing (even less than The Great Gatsby), but still one of the best books I've ever read. Classic/Humor.
**Repeats** These are books that were on the Best Of list last year. I didn't want them taking the place of a new book, but I still wanted to mention their awesomeness.
Graceling (Kristin Cashore); Fire (Kristin Cashore); Dragon Slippers (Jessica Day George); Ouran High School Host Club series (Bisco Hatori); Nightlight (The Harvard Lampoon); the League series (Sherrilyn Kenyon) Jabberwocky & Other Poems (Lewis Carroll).
**Honorable Mentions** And, of course, there are plenty that just wouldn't fit. Poor souls!
Hamlet (Manga Shakespeare); Wonders Never Cease (Tim Downs); A Benjamin Franklin Reader (Benjamin Franklin); Beauty Sleep (Cameron Dokey); The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde); This Is Not My Hat (Jon Klassen); Circle of Blood (David Mack); Marco's Millions (William Sleator); I Am Here! series (Ema Toyama); The Prophecy of the Stones (Flavia Bujor); Life As We Knew It (Susan Beth Pfeffer); In The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan); Night Gate (Isobelle Carmody); Hana-Kimi series (Hisaya Nakajo).
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. I find it humorous that so many people hate this book. But it is well-deserved. Terrible heroine. Urban Fantasy.
What Happens In Vegas, Dies In Vegas by Mark Everett Stone. Oh my gosh, just through random supernatural investigators through a time vortex and have them meet JRR Tolkien and fight the Nazis and that'll about sum up this novel. A train wreck. Supernatural.
Battle Royale series by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi. Mindless gore. Few panty shots. Yuuuuuuuuup. Manga--Shonen/Dystopia.
Heaven's Wager by Ted Dekker. Didn't finish this one, because it's awful. Writing is just awful. People assured me that normally Dekker is better than this, and I certainly hope so. Religion.
Hummingbird Heart by Robin Stevenson. Geez, this is just awful. It's freaking miserable. And the main character doesn't exactly do anything about it. She just moans about being miserable and how much she hates everyone. Whiner. Contemporary/Misery/Whatever.
**Dishonorable Mentions** because there were even more bad books this year.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Seth Grahame-Smith); Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) Across Five Aprils (Irene Hunt); Uncle Tom's Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe); Snitch (Allison van Diepen); Rifles for Watie (Harold Keith).
So how was YOUR year? What was your favorite book? What was your least favorite? How much did you read? Did you reach your goal? What are your goals for this year? LET ME KNOW and GOOD LUCK!