Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 10 Books of 2013

So 2013 is also done, and 2014 is fast approaching. With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to wrap up my year of reading and list my top 10 favorite books of 2013. Most of these books were released in 2013, some were not. All of these books are fantastic, though, and I recommend them all.

Hope the new year is filled with even more fantastic reads! I can't wait.

Let's start with my #10 book:

Why I love this book: historical fiction was/is my first love. This book ripped my heart out and glued it back together. I loved how it illustrated genuine friendship, and how that was the main focus of this story. YA is flooded with romantic tales, but rarely stories about two friends willing to risk their lives for each other. This book is slow, and a bit confusing at first, but give it time. And then you will realize how slowly this story grabs at your heart. 

Why I love this book: it is the conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy series. In this final installment, Elisa struggles and suffers to protect her country and her people. She begins to realize what is important in her life, and Elisa's character growth from the first book is evident. It is one of the best YA can offer, in terms of a well-rounted, relatable, and DYNAMIC character who actually grows through her experiences. I love it.

Why I love this book: This is a surprising addition, because I didn't like Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Daughter of Smoke and Bone began as a promising fantastastical tale, and it quickly spiraled downward with flashbacks and insta-love that I couldn't believe in. What made this sequel better, though, is how Laini chose to focus on the impending war instead of the romance. Laini is also an incredibly lyrical and talented writer, and her writing was one of the main reasons I wanted to give this series a second chance. I'm so glad I did.

Why I love this book: I wasn't enthralled by Maggie's latest series, The Raven Cycle. But I did like Maggie's writing, and I heard so many things about this book. I gave it a try this year, and WOW. I adored this book. It's not as action-packed as I had assumed, but the characters and their journey toward the final race was still engaging and beautiful. 

Why I love this book: This book is filled with a lot of ups and downs--a roller coster of emotion. It's because of this book, that If I Stay is on my "MUST READ" list next year. Gayle Foreman has a way of getting under your skin and evoking all sorts of emotions from the reader. 

Why I love this book: This was probably the most surprising "best of 2013" book. I thought it would be a fun book, but I didn't expect to love it like I did. The main character, Addie, was fantastic. I think West's talent really lies with dialogue, and I couldn't help but laugh and smile as I continued to read. And the choice Addie makes, in the end, is so admirable and heart-breaking. I definitely recommend this book to those who love their contemporary with a twist of paranormal. This book sort of defies stereotypes, and I love that.

Why I loved this book: for the honest way that Rowell portrays young love. It's powerful, and real, but people grow and life happens. Both Eleanor and Park was perfect for each other, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading as their romance unfolded. Let's be honest though--it's no surprise this book is on my list. It's on a lot of people's lists.

Why I loved this book: the world, the characters, and Leigh Bardugo's writing all combine to make a fascinating story. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole book. And when I reached that cliffhanger ending, I was so distressed, because I have to wait for book 3 to come out. And I don't want to wait. I need to know what happens, NOW.

Why I loved this book: Vicious challenges all your ideals about good and evil. I love that! It's bold, fascinating, and FUN. Eli and Victor are two fascinating characters, with such powerful and strong convictions about what makes a villain. Really, though, who doesn't love a good superhero tale? And this book defines all superhero tropes and stereotypes, which makes it bold and refreshing. I also can't think of a more perfect ending. I closed the book with an evil and satisfied smile on my face. Schwab is, simply put, a genius.

Yet again, Sarah Maas manages to climb up the top of my list for a second year in a row…
Why I love this book: Ask almost anyone who has read the first two Throne of Glass books, and they will agree that this second installment is even better.. It's perhaps the best "second book" that I've read in a very long time. This could do with the fact that the series isn't a trilogy, as it's supposedly a 6 book series. And I do hope Maas gets the chance to write all six books, because I am in love with Celeanea and her quest  for self discovery, adventure, and truth. I can also say that, without a shadow of a doubt, this book has made me Team Chaol. Crown of Midnight is filled far more action, intrigue, and revelations (some surprising, some not). I don't remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book. Maas' writing, and flow, in this book is also vastly improved. I thought she couldn't get better, and she did! For meeting and surpassing my expectations, Crown of Midnight deserves to be at the top of my list. And hopefully the book will be added to your reading list in 2014 (if you haven't read it yet).


- Silver Linings Playbook
- HP Series (I thought it "unfair" to put this series on my list, because it's obviously going to be #1)
- Cress (I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC, but I thought it was unfair to put in on this list, since the book comes out in 2014). Needless to say, I ADORED this book. Even more than Scarlet.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Vicious

Vicious by Victoria Schwab 
Release: September 24, 2013 
Source: Purhcased

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question

Vicious is, without a doubt, one of the best books of 2013. And this isn't because I've had the fortune of hanging out with Victoria. No bias--just pure love for Victoria's writing, her characters, and her story. In case you don't know, Vicious is an adult novel. It centers around two college students, who collaborate on a thesis. Together, they discover the key to achieving superpowers: near death experiences. It's not just enough to theorize this connection between superpowers and near death experiences. Both Eli and Victor strive to simulate ether own near-death experiences, which ends disastrously. Ten years later, Eli and Victor are sworn enemies, and the entire story leads up to a showdown and an ending that can only be described as "perfect".

I think what I loved most about Vicious is how it managed to blur the lines between good and evil. This world is filled with exceptions and shades of grey, and Victoria manages to illustrate that perfectly in this novel. The writing is also glorious and lyrical, without being excessive. Victor and Eli are both intriguing characters, with their own agendas and motivations.  What's surprising about this book, is that there is no clear villain of hero in Vicious. Both Eli and Victor have good intentions, but the path towards good intentions isn't always bright. It can be destructive and dark.

The book is also perfectly paced, alternating between the past and present. As the story progresses, we see what happened to make Eli and Victor enemies. Tension rises.  We also meet two other characters: Selina and Sydney. Both girls have unique gifts of their own, and they each help assist Eli and Victor in their quests for revenge and redemption.  This is, without a doubt, Victoria's best work to date. There is so much I would love to discuss, but I can't without spoiling the story. If this futuristic, superhero, morally ambiguous story piques your interest, don't hesitate to pick it up today.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Giveaway

If you haven't noticed yet, I've made a new post in my blog. It's the first post in months, and for that, I apologize. I know I don't have a huge following, but I appreciate each and every comment and follow I get. As a way to say "thanks", and in light of the Christmas season, I'm hosting a giveaway.

Here are the rules:

1. You must be 13 years or older.
2. You must be a follower of my blog.
3. Winner must respond within 48 hours.
4. US only

What can you win?
1. ARC of Requiem by Lauren Oliver
2. ARC of The Elite by Kiera Cass
3. ARC of How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer
4. ARC or Origin by Jessica Khoury
5. SIGNED copy of Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Winner gets ALL the listed books. Good luck! And Merry Christmas!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Release:  September 10, 2013
Source: eARC from publisher

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Eleanor and Park was Rainbow Rowell's major hit. I adored it, and it's actually one of my favorite books of 2013. So, when Rowell announced she had another book coming out this year, I was eager to get my hands on it. I needed this book.

For those who don't know, Fangirl is about a fangirl. The fandom? Simon Snow. But Cath is more than just a fangirl--she writes fanfic, and is perhaps one of the most well known online fanfiction writers out there. In short, this book is a journey toward self discovery, independence, and purpose. Cath deals with facing her first year of college, and begins to forms meaningful relationships outside the fandom of Simon Snow. This doesn't mean she loves Simon Snow stories any less, and it doesn't mean that it's any less important. Cath just learns to live life, and she learns to enjoy the time she has. It's something that many forget about, in the midst of our busy and hectic lives.

Anyone who has read this book can get the sense that Simon Snow has some striking similarities to Harry Potter. There are even fascinating tidbits from the Simon Snow books, as well as sections from Cath's own Simon Snow fanfic. These bits at the end added something extra to this book, and made me fall in love with it even more.

I adored the characters: Cath, her father, Levi, and even Wren. They had me smiling and laughing with each page that I turned. Cath is likely one of the most relatable characters I've come across, because she's so much like us bookworms. We all fell in love and grew up with the Harry Potter series, just as Cath grew up with Simon Snow, and that connection struck a cord. I found the pacing of this book perfect, and the writing just as good as in Eleanor and Park (if not better).

Here is my only issue with Fangirl, and to an extent, Eleanor and Park: Rainbow Rowell has a tendency not to end her books with finality. I felt the ending of Fangirl to be abrupt, without any definite conclusion. Sure, I can imagine what happened, and Rowell gives us clues as to how they happened, but I wanted something more. I wanted a more neat and tidy ending, and I didn't get it. It is the only major flaw to a story that I think is full of heart, perhaps more heart than Eleanor and Park.