Dec 29, 2011

Bookish Thoughts | Reading Challenges

For the year 2011 I stayed away from reading challenges. Why? Because I failed at completing most of them in 2010. I miss them though. I really do. So for 2012, I have joined a good amount. You can see which ones I will be participating in (and maybe join in on the fun?) on my Challenges page.

I am really looking forward to all of them! I feel like they will push me to read more this upcoming year. I haven't done as much reading as I had hoped this year, but it was still a pretty decent amount (my best year has been 2010!)

The one I am most excited about is the DAC. I have seen this one for years, but this is the first time I have ventured to participate. They are also doing ARC tours for it this year, so make sure to check those out. I am also really excited about the Harry Potter challenge because I have wanted to re-read the series for quite some time now. I love Harry Potter ♥ I haven't decided what my new reading goal will be. For 2011, I made it 50 books because I knew it would be a busy year. I don't know if I want to keep it at 50 for 2012 too though. I will see as the year progresses :)

The point of this post is to warn my readers that tomorrow I will be posting all my progress posts for all the challenges. They should go up early enough but they will run continuously on my blog for about 2 hours. Just wanted to let you know about the overload that will be coming from me. Good luck with all your reading goals for next year and thanks for reading :)

Dec 27, 2011

Top 10 Books I've Read in 2011

Since it is the last week of 2011, like many of you, I wanted to join in and share what my favorites of 2011 were. For today (since I missed this yesterday), I will be talking about my favorite books read this year. I had a really slow year, so I didn't have too many to choose from. In no particular order...

How to Kill a Rockstar by Tiffanie DeBartolo

Why? I love this author, I think she is amazing. I've read two of her books and they each tugged at my heart. I loved this book, it is one of my favorites of all time.
Summary: Written in her wonderfully honest, edgy, passionate and often hilarious voice, Tiffanie DeBartolo tells the story of Eliza Caelum, a young music journalist, and Paul Hudson, a talented songwriter and lead singer of the band Bananafish. Eliza's reverence for rock is equaled only by Paul's, and the two fall wildly in love. When Bananafish is signed by a big corporate label, and Paul is on his way to becoming a major rock star, Eliza must make a heartbreaking decision that leads to Paul's sudden disappearance and a surprise knock-your-socks-off ending.

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

Why? Another favorite author. I love most of his books and I think his writing is beautifully simple. I thought A Walk to Remember was such a tender book and it made me cry so much. It was really short and I was able to get through it really fast, but it was so powerful. Loved it.
Summary: Every April, when the wind blows from the sea and mingles with the scent of lilacs, Landon Carter remembers his last year at Beaufort High. It was 1958, and Landon had already dated a girl or two. He even swore that he had once been in love. Certainly the last person in town he thought he'd fall for was Jamie Sullivan, the daughter of the town's Baptist minister. A quiet girl who always carried a Bible with her schoolbooks, Jamie seemed content living in a world apart from the other teens. She took care of her widowed father, rescued hurt animals, and helped out at the local orphanage. No boy had ever asked her out. Landon would never have dreamed of it. Then a twist of fate made Jamie his partner for the homecoming dance, and Landon Carter's life would never be the same. Being with Jamie would show him the depths of the human heart and lead him to a decision so stunning it would send him irrevocably on the road to manhood...

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Why? I read this author's previous book last year, Half Broke Horses, for a book club and I loved it. I thought it was a fantastic read so when I found The Glass Castle, I definitely wanted to read it. It was amazing. Walls honesty and writing make an amazing combination, and her story telling is absolutely captivating. Definitely one of my favorites of all time :)

Summary: Jeannette Walls's father always called her "Mountain Goat" and there's perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls' removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents' knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them--despite their overwhelming self-absorption--resonates from cover to cover.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Why? I haven't read too many dystopians, but it's pretty much one of my favorite genre's. This became one of my favorites right away because of the unique storyline and amazing writing. I cannot wait to read more of Oliver's books in the future.
Summary: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Why? I love wolf stories, they are awesome. This was a bit of a different take on wolves and I was really glad to finally pick up a book that everyone enjoyed. I am looking forward to the rest of the series, I have yet to read it.
Summary: Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon. A stirring supernatural teen romance.

Tempest by Julie Cross

Why? This was one of the only few YA ARC's I got to read this year and it still hasn't been released. I loved the characters and the story. I loved the writing and the pace. I think everyone should give this one a try, it such a great book.
Summary: The year is 2009. Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun. That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future. 
Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities. But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler. Recruit… or kill him. Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world. 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Why? This was such a sweet story, I could not put it down. I am a huge contemporary fan and this was one of my favorites, ever. I loved the characters and the story and I cannot wait to read more of this author's work.
Summary: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.
As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

Her Sister's Shadow by Katharine Britton

Why? This was unexpectedly one of my favorite reads this year. I wasn't sure what would come from reading this, but the story was really great and I was really glad I signed up for the tour. I definitely recommend this one.
Summary: Renowned painter Lilli Niles is at home in her North London flat when she receives an unexpected call from her elder sister, Bea, who's at the family homestead in Whitehead, Massachusetts. Bea's husband has just died, and she'd like Lilli to fly home to attend the funeral. There are reasons Lilli moved all the way to England to escape her older sister, reasons that have kept them estranged for decades. But something in Bea's voice makes Lilli think it's time to return to the stately house in New England she loved as a child, to the memory of the beloved younger sister they both lost. With Bea more fragile than Lilli remembered, maybe she can finally forgive Bea for a long-ago betrayal that has simmered between them for nearly forty years.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Why? This book was such a sad and powerful read that I am glad I finally read. It is something everyone needs to read, I think. Definitely a favorite of all time.

Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

Why? I was already a huge fan of Ellen Hopkins, so I was really surprised and pleased to see her create an adult novel that was similar to her YA novels, but totally different. I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to more adult novels from her.
Summary: In this emotionally powerful novel, three women face the age-old midlife question: If I’m halfway to death, is this all I’ve got to show for it? Holly, filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea, a single mom and avowed celibate, watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband? Then there’s Marissa. She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts. As one woman’s marriage unravels, another one’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s is reconfigured into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all three of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness before it is through.

Dec 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Sorry for the absence, but I have been enjoying my holidays and I hope that all of you have been too, be that Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Festivus, Inti Raymi, Modranect, Yalda, Malanka, Kwanzaa, Chrismahanukwanzadan, Flying Spaghetti Monster Day, or a.n.other. I hope you are having a great time with your loved ones. I will be back soon!

Dec 2, 2011

Review | Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Young Adult
Publication: 03.22.2011 by Philomel Books
Pages: 344
Source: Library

Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Cover: A very simple, calm looking cover that I find very nice.

Thoughts: Between Shades of Gray is a powerful, moving and heartbreaking novel that I am very glad that I picked it up. Like many others who read this, I had no idea of these events that took place during WWII, at the same time as when Hitler was in control. Stalin was just as cruel to people and he killed millions, but it is shocking that this part of history is so unknown. Between Shades of Gray is definitely an eye-opening book that I am glad Ruta Sepetys decided to write and share with the rest of us.

The author does an amazing job in telling the tale of Lina, an excellent character, who struggles to survive in such terrible conditions. She is a brave young girl and everything that she does to live shows how courageous she really is. Her mother and brother and extremely important characters that the reader learns to love as well, so it is really painful to watch them all suffer so much.

The story is told with glimpses into the past, and it is really sad to learn how wonderful Lina's life really was before their life was destroyed. There are a few light moments in which the reader can see how hope can help some situations seem a little better, but overall, this is a tough book to read. It is an amazing story, but it is also horrifying. I cried in several parts of this book, but I enjoyed each and every one of the pages.

I recommend this to others who have read and enjoyed books based on the Holocaust or who would be interested in learning more about that part of history. Though it is historical fiction, the experiences that the author describes were real and make this book a must read. Also be sure to read the last part in which the author shares her family's experiences during the 1940's, it adds a lot to the ending of the book.

*I listened to the audio version of this book, and while I did not like the narrator's voice, it did not make this book any less amazing, and that is why I still gave it 5 stars.
Favorite Quote: "Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch."

Dec 1, 2011

\\ Blog Tour \\ Review + Giveaway | Let Me In by Lauren Hawkeye

Title: Let Me In by Lauren Hawkeye
Series: Erotic Me #4
Genre: Erotic Fiction
Publication: December 1, 2011 by Spice Briefs
Format: eBook
Source: Bewitching Book Tours
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Imogen hasn’t had sex with her husband, Ty, in over a year. She’s still as attracted to him as ever, but they’ve both been looking for something new to renew their desire for one another. Yet she never thought to find it at a friend’s wedding when another couple invites them to share their bed. Ty is obviously aroused by the idea and the thought of a ménage thrills Imogen to her core. Could this be the key to rekindling their passion…and can Imogen go through with it?

Thoughts: Unfortunately, I was hoping this one would be different from the last one in the Erotic Me series, which was about a woman and her sexual interactions with two men, and would leave me wanting more. From the summary though, you can read that Let Me In involves two couples and that sort of threw me off a bit.

Like the others in the series, Let Me In takes place during the wedding. Ty and Imogen are having troubles in the bedroom and have not made love in a year. Struggling with this and with herself, Imogen sort of sits around and blames herself the entire time. Imogen is insecure about the way she looks and she beats herself up about it the whole time, which eventually got annoying. Ty, her husband, is not as interesting as I hoped he would be. He is obviously still attracted to his wife, but Imogen is so unsure of herself that she doesn't really see this.

After overhearing a couple talking about swinging with others, they are invited to join them at the hotel room. It caught me off guard how easily Imogen was willing to participate, even though she claims to have never thought about it before. She seems pretty confident that this will help her marriage and so they decide to go ahead with it. Before reaching the room, things spice up with her and her husband, but instead of heading to their own bedroom to rekindle their fire, they still continue to the other couple's bedroom.

That pretty much made me want to stop reading, but I didn't. Things in the bedroom get sexually intense pretty quickly, but I wasn't really interested in reading between two couples and their sexual interactions. Imogen's quick decision in the end definitely made this a little better though, and I was able to read the end with a little satisfaction. Unlike the other books, this one had a lot more emotional problems and seriousness that made me wish it was longer. Not because of the two couple action, but because I wanted to learn more about Imogen and Ty, about their marriage and if they would be able to work it out. Their love and attraction still seems to be there, but it is tough to understand in such few pages why things have been going badly for them. I really wished that I could have learned more about them.

This was not my favorite in the series but it was still a good read. It can be be enjoyed by anyone who likes reading about ménage and is looking for a quick, fun read. Overall, I found the Erotic Me series to be fun and sexy, with a little bit of this and that for everyone to enjoy. The author was able to create a great short series that I am sure many will enjoy and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.