Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Favorites & A Blog Update

Hi everyone! I just wanted to check in to do a 2013 favorites post as well as do a quick update on this blog. Although I love blogging, I've been on a bit of a break and haven't posted until late August sometime. I'm still reading and posting what I'll call mini-reviews over at Goodreads. Life has just been busy and something had to be cut back. I'm going to continue to not post as much here for awhile until I get things in my real life a bit more organized but I will be back! In the meantime, you can follow me at Goodreads if you want to see what I've been reading.

I read 97 books in 2013 and overall it was a really great reading year. In addition to all of my reading, I attended Book Expo America with my mom in May which was fantastic!

In the meantime, here is what I loved reading in 2013 -

I could not decide on which of the following novels are my favorite fiction of 2013. And so, we have a tie - there were two books that truly blew me away this year and I highly recommend both of them:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17333223-the-goldfinchhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10281556-night-film

They are both amazing novels that just blew me away! I highly recommend that you read the physical book copy of Night Film rather than the ebook, if possible, since I believe the reading experience is much better with the physical book. Also, there is an app for the novel which really adds some interesting things to the reading experience.

My favorite non-fiction of 2013 is also a tie! I just couldn't decide which I loved more so I'm going with two for this category as well!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13152194-tiny-beautiful-things
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16142053-going-clear

These are both amazing books that I highly recommend. They could not be more different but they are both such compelling reads!

Beyond those four books, the rest of my favorites are shown below! I think that 2013 was a fantastic reading year and I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for us!

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Dr. Sleep by Stephen King
The Bells by Richard Harvell
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
The Rosie Project by



Happy reading in 2014! What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments ...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

The PanopticonThe Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is another book that the premise sounds RIGHT up my alley - foster care, social work, coming of age, etc. All of those are things that I tend to gravitate to for so many reasons.

Although I was never bored while reading this one, I also never really found myself to be truly engaged in the novel. I was certainly disturbed by the content (it's definitely dark) and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness at the injustice so prevalent in this novel. But, I didn't find myself compelled by it. I just never connected with it for some reason.

The characters were definitely well written and striking. I found the characterization to be the most outstanding aspect of the novel and that is likely what kept me reading. I didn't love the plot - and found a number of holes in it that I had a hard time overlooking. There were aspects of the plot that were alluded to but never really given any substance which I think was a bit of a letdown.

Jenni Fagan is obviously a good writer. There were several scenes that came so alive to me that they made me a bit sick to my stomach due to the intensity of the events being described. She certainly has a way with language and in describing events. Although I was initially taken aback by the dialect of the novel, I got used to that over time.

All in all, this novel didn't wow me as I'd hoped but it has outstanding characterization and says something pretty important about social injustice and child welfare. But, be warned ... this is a very dark novel. One that has quite a bit of dark and twisty content which might not work if you're weary of such things.

** NOTE: This book was provided to me by the publisher for review.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

The ReturnedThe Returned by Jason Mott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really, really wanted to love this but it just fell flat for me. This was one of the books I brought back from BEA that I could not wait to read ... the concept/premise was outstanding but the execution was less than great. I was hoping for something more in the speculative fiction vein but it was much more of a story of contemplation. I had a hard time buying that there wasn't much concern around what was happening but rather they focused on the WHY behind their returning. I just didn't find that to be realistic. The lack of any exploration of what might be occurring just didn't satisfy me as a reader.

I found the characters to be particularly cardboard and one dimensional in this novel. I just never felt that they came alive in any way, shape or form. And, it makes it difficult to care what happens to any of them if they never feel 'real.'

This was one of those books that I had to push myself to finish. I could have easily walked away in the middle but hoped it would improve. Unfortunately, it never came together for me. What a shame! It's always sad when a book doesn't meet its potential!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains EchoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am actually quite sad to be writing this review because I had such high expectations of this book ... I LOVED his first two novels. LOVED. Like Holy Grail LOVED. But, this one just fell flat for me. It certainly didn't meet my expectations and it was a disappointment in comparison to his first two novels. It appears that most readers seem to love it so take my review with that in mind. Most readers seem to have felt differently from me about this one.

My primary issue with this novel is how disjointed it felt to me. I never really connected with the characters or the story because I felt off kilter the entire time that I was reading. Although Hosseini is a great writer - and the writing here is very good, the story here just never came together for me. It felt very much like a series of interweaving stories but they never really came together as one story which appears to be what Hosseini intended. As a result of the disjointed feeling that I got from the story, I truly never connected with the story or the characters. The emotional intensity that I love in both of his earlier novels was missing here for me.

Despite my disappointment, I do think its a good novel and worth the read. Perhaps if you go in with lower expectations than me, you'll enjoy it more. It's never fun to not love a novel written by someone who has always produced fiction that you love but I'm still glad that I read this one ... I just wish it had come together a bit better for me!

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had no idea what this one was about when I went into it. Beyond the fact that so many of my bookish friends loved it, I didn't have any context for the story or anything else. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It's a very well written novel that creates a world and characters that blew me away! It took me a bit of time to really get engaged in the story and the world that Laini Taylor builds here but once I did ... wow! It was fantastic!

The first half of the novel was particularly strong. There comes a point where the narration changes and that interrupted some of the momentum for me but I was able to overlook that fact since the story itself was so compelling. I loved how unique and original the story is in this novel especially given the fact that the genre has been flooded with similar(ish) novels. I think this may be one of the best of these types of novels that I've read in a long time!

The beautiful, lyrical writing combined with compelling characters really made this one stand out for me. There really was magic in this novel. It's by no means a perfect novel but it's strengths outweigh its weaknesses for me. The world building was so well done that I really felt like I was dropped into another world while reading this one.

I highly recommend this to those who enjoy YA and those who just enjoy good storytelling and world building! This is a great read and I can't wait to sink my teeth into the second in the series!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Giveaway Winner Notified

Just a quick note to let you all know that I've notified the winner of the book giveaway that I held here on the blog for a copy of The Never List by Koethi Zan! Thanks to all of you who entered!

Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

TampaTampa by Alissa Nutting
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I knew going into reading this book that it would be an uncomfortable read - one that certainly wouldn't be enjoyable in any way. I was fairly sure that I knew exactly what I'd be walking into with this book. But, I have to say that I was still completely and utterly shocked by what I read. Which I think is partly the genius of this novel - how it gets in your head, making you think about things in new ways. I really liked the way that Nutting uses this novel as an exploration of female predatory behavior. It certainly made me think about it in a new way. This novel helped me begin to think through how we view male predators in our culture versus how we view female predators.

This is a really well written novel. Alissa Nutting is obviously a talented writer. She has created one of the most horrifying and captivating narrators that I can recall in all of my years as a reader. Being in her head for the duration of the book is one of the most difficult reading experiences that I've had. The descriptions of sex are jarring and unsettling. The narrative is engaging when it should make the reader want to run screaming. And that is the genius of Alissa Nutting's writing! To make me want to keep reading despite the disturbing content. I cannot say enough how effectively Nutting puts the reader inside the head of this woman, this sexual predator. There is no holding back of anything - the reader gets all entwined in her every thought, fantasy, and compulsion. You are taken deep into her darkest thoughts and its as disturbing as anything I've ever read.

This book is definitely not for everyone. If you're offended by sexual content, then this is not going to be a book that you should read. It's raw and dark and extremely disturbing. I tend to be very open minded and not particularly disturbed by much content and I found myself taken aback while reading this novel. But, in the end, I'm glad that I read it. It has definitely given me a new framework from which to think about sexual predators and how our society tends to view them. I found this novel to be absorbing, disturbing and thought provoking. I suspect this novel will disgust many readers and get quite a bit of criticism from some corners. But, those who are able to get beyond the difficult content may find themselves surprised at how effectively Alissa Nutting brings the reader to think about the intersection of sexual predators, the media and gender roles.


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