2010 Year In Review

I just wanted to summarize the 2010 reading year with a summary of my favorites over the course of the year. While this year I did not set a goal of a book a week like I did last year, but I’m pretty sure I’ve well exceeded that goal. This has been a good year for books in my opinion, and I’m sure they will continue to keep rolling in for 2011. I just want to point out a few of my favorites.

Book of the Year – Clockwork Angel

My favorite book of this year was actually a difficult decision. Not only was there the dramatic conclusion to the Hunger Games Trilogy - Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins to consider, but there is also the 2nd book to the Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater, Linger, as well. Both of these books were wonderful reads and would be the other two books on my top three books of 2010.

Cassandra Clare is an author that I do not (well, DID not) heavily follow. I wasn’t watching for anything new from her. I had read The Immortal Instruments series and had really enjoyed it, but I had no idea Clockwork Angel was even in the works, let alone releasing. I just happened to see something about it on Audible.com and decided to use one of my credits on it. I’m very thankful I did. I love the characters of this book, but even more the world that Cassandra Clare created [had already established in her TMI series]. Rather than the story taking place in current time, Clockwork Angel takes you back in time a bit, probably 18th or early 19th century. It was very gothic. I continued to imagine the setting of the Sherlock Holmes movie while reading the book. Will and Jem are great assets to the story as well, the two are as opposite in their looks as a ying-yang symbol, and combined with Tessa – the wit pouring out of this book has you laughing out loud all the way through. That is why I must say that Clockwork Angel is my favorite book this year!

Favorite Completed Series – The Hunger Games

I actually hate that I couldn’t say that Mockingjay was my favorite book this year, especially since Hunger Games would have been my favorite in 2008 if not for the Breaking Dawn release, and Catching Fire was by far my favorite of 2009. But I cannot say that the book wasn’t excellent. It was wall-to-wall action, of course. Katniss and Peeta and even Gale played extremely important roles. In fact, it might have been Gale who ruined this book for #1. In both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I really liked Gale. So much so, that while I loved Peeta, I was actually on Team Gale right from the get-go. Then Gale jumped on the “war-boat” so to speak, and was willing to make sacrifices that seemed drastic and heartless. It started to seem like he cared more about the drama and winning than anything else. The book was also a little depressing. I’m not knocking it at all – how else would a war end? I feel that Suzanne Collins did a wonderful job telling a futuristic story and keeping it real. All of the things that happened in the book are things that really could happen. It would not have made sense if all the good guys came out unscathed, and everything was perfect. This entire series was absolutely wonderful, and while some of the other books I’ve read and completely love I would recommend only to people who maybe like that particular genre, this is a series that I would recommend to anyone.

I hear that this series is being made into a movie.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I have been rather disappointed with the Twilight movies so far.  Not because they are bad really, but just because some of the magic has been lost, and I'm not quite as interested in the books, movies, characters like I was once before.  I don't really want this to happen again with The Hunger Games.  I will say that I enjoy The Harry Potter movies, and you would think that would be encouraging.

Favorite Romance – Lover Mine

Yes, I still love vampires. I can’t help it! And what vampire lover can resist J.R. Ward’s vampire world? I have been a huge John Matthew fan from the moment he was introduced, so I really enjoyed reading his book. One of the things I enjoy about this series is that, while there are individual stories, the main story is an ongoing one. I think this is true for many series, (I.E. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books are similar). I’m looking forward to the next book, Lover Unleashed. I haven’t really been big into Pain’s character, but I’m still curious to find out what she does.

Runner-up for this spot would have to be The Search by Nora Roberts. The book was very entertaining, but her books are becoming very predictable and very formula driven. While the characters, places and scenarios change, the basic outline of her books remains the same.

Favorite Heroine: Katniss Everdeen

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love a butt-kicking female. Every time I read a Hunger Games novel I want to go out and learn to fight, or use a bow and arrow, or something that would give me an edge in case zombies try to attack. Katniss is everything I would like to be. She’s not wrapped up in herself, she cares for others and their well being. She’s not really wrapped up in boys, even though she sort of waivers between two – but you know how it is – times of stress, there’s got to be a bit of a tension reliever somehow. She wants what’s best for everyone, and she has some serious skills. While not unbeatable, she would defiantly offer up a challenge to anyone who would cross her.

I have no opinion as to who should play Katniss should a movie actually exist.  But I do like this image of Anna Popplewell.

Favorite Hero: Will Herondale

Of course I’m going to pick the dark haired/blue eyed troubled teenager. His secrets covered up by wit and false pretenses make him one of the more interesting characters of the year. I cannot wait for the next two books of this series and learn more about him and his deep dark secrets!

In my original Clockwork Angel blog, I said that I thought Ian Somerhalder would make a very good Will, but I think I've come up with a good (more age appropriate) fit.  How about Logan Lerman?   NOT that they are making this into a movie or anything.

Movie of the Year:  Alice in Wonderland 

This is a bit off topic I suppose.  But this was such a great movie; the characters (and actors), the colors, the story.  It was all just so perfect.  I love Tim Burton movies anyway, but I think this one is one of my favorites. 

Although, I will say that I love the movie How to Train Your Dragon.  It's my favorite animated movie thus far. 

What about 2011?? 

There are a lot of books coming out in 2011, and many I'm really looking forward to reading.  So I'm just going to list my top 3 anticipated books:

1.  Clockwork Prince - (this should be obvious I guess)

2.  Forever - I am sooo looking forward to more poetic words from Maggie Stiefvater.  I'm also looking forward to finding out more about her "secret novel."

3.  Across the Universe - I got to read the first chapter of this book, and I'm hooked.  I've been chomping at the bit for this book to come out.  Thankfully I just have another week or so to wait!  

Movies for 2011

1.  Red Riding Hood - I saw a preview for this before Harry Potter - The Deathly Hallows I.  I'm hooked, I have to see this movie like NOW! 

2.  The Three Muskeeters - This is going to be awesome, I just know it.

3.  Harry Potter - The Deathly Hallows II, and Breaking Dawn I.  I can't decide when one I want to see more, so I'm listing them both.  Sorry for cheating! :)


The Gift - James Patterson

The Gift (Witch & Wizard #2)The Gift by James Patterson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am confused about this series. I have looked at websites and read other reviews, and so far the feedback seems to be rather positive. I guess there are just some books you don’t like. It’s just unusual, because I’m usually in sync with other people, but this time I can’t be further away. I really, really do not like these books – this book specifically. I think with Witch and Wizard, it was new and somewhat enjoyable. I was hoping the story would have moved on from the last book. Really, I feel like this is the same book over again, only Whit and Wisty actually know about their powers instead of being oblivious.

The characters are all over the place. For example, Byron and Celia –Are they trying to help Whit and Wisty, or are they against them? It’s like this wavering plot point that seems like it’s suppose to be tricky, but is really annoying. Usually a character (Byron) only changes sides once, maybe has a change of heart and then will change twice, but he is completely riding the fence and has no idea who he’s working for or why. Then there are the cryptic messages from the parents and other “friends.” In any “war” situation, why would anyone give half advice? “You must give your gift away.” Like that is helpful. To whom? Why? How? Parents especially would never be that cryptic – especially when there is a master overlord in the picture. People who are for you wouldn’t try to relay information this way. It just doesn’t make any sense.

And as for the Master Overlord, The One Who is The One (hello cheesy name..but when he heads up an organization called the N.O, and has N.O.W troops running around, what do you expect?), this guy must be really dumb. I mean, how many times can you capture the same two kids only to let them escape? Seriously! And if you’re going to give a death sentence, don’t you think (considering how many times the two have escaped in the past) you would just do the deed right away instead of letting them “sit and think about it” for a few days. I won’t even touch on this menacing “test” at the end of the book. This guy would run screaming like a little girl if he were to meet Voldemort, and at least he knew how to play down the whole ego driven, power hungry thing, making a much more deadly villain.

As for the magic. It really is a little out of hand. Not only can Whit and Wisty change into animals, fish, birds, whatever; but they can cause things to appear out of thin air. They can change bomber planes (machines) into birds (alive). So what doesn’t seem to line-up is why is it so difficult to run and hide, or why worry about your energy running low? Surely you can create more food whenever you want it. Or, with this kind of power, why not go for invisibility and just take your time?

I am not sure what age group these books are suppose to be geared for, and maybe that is the problem here (with why I don’t like the books). Between the horrible text speak and teenagey talk that just sounds like the book is trying to “fit in” with all the other paranormal books out there, the characters come off sort of stiff and unbelievable. (If you want some good characters – check out some Cassandra Clare) Then there is an impromptu concert, that is supposed to be a benefit for The Resistance (or whatever they call themselves) and has what is suppose to be an encouraging, motivational speech given by Wisty….where is Katniss Everdeen when you need her anyway? I really can’t see this series working with a young adult crowd (which I would consider 16-20 somethings), but it probably would go over well with the 11-15ish age group. The book, for me, read like a Nickelodeon Sitcom.

I think I’ve made my point well enough. I don’t usually rip books apart like this. In fact, I don’t usually finish reading (or listening, in this case) to books I don’t like. I was just hoping for something to happen so that it would redeem itself. I feel like most of the hype is due to the author’s popularity and the media backing he’s able to get, rather than how well the books are written. With all the great books out there, I can’t even imagine picking up the next installment of this series. It just wouldn’t be worth my time.

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Revolution - Jennifer Donnelly

RevolutionRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andi Alpers is having a hard time with life, and living it in general.  Her dad has never really been a part of her life, and ever since her brother, Truman, was killed her mother has checked out as well.  Andi deals by popping antidepressant pills that sometimes cause her to hallucinate, drowning herself in her music or a guy, but every now and then she still finds herself standing at the edge of life looking for a way out.

Things begin to change when Andi's father gets a letter from her school informing him that she is failing most of her classes and that she is headed toward expulsion. At her house he feels Andi's mother is behaving clinically depressed and has her committed to a hospital, and whisks Andi off to Paris for her Winder Vacation.  It is in Paras where Andi discovers a diary from the eighteenth century girl by the name of Alexandrine Paradis.   Alexandrine's story begins to work itself into Andi's life so much that Andi finds herself unable to focus on much else.

This is one of those books that is very hard for me to actually rate, because on one hand I can't actually say that the book captivated me in such a way that I couldn't walk away.  I wasn't bored, while I was listening to it I was into the story and wanted to know what happened, but I had to stop I didn't find myself rushing back to it to find out what happens next.  On the other hand, this book had so many interwoven parts and was written so well that it is impossible to say that it wasn't a great book. 

I loved the music that was interwoven through this whole book.  The music took on it's own life and became such a great part of story.  I loved it when Andi went through an entire musical history of chord progressions.

I think the problem with this book was the underlying depression in it.  All the way up until the end, there really is not much relief, which makes sense for the type of book that it is.  Andi does her healing through Alexandrine's life, as well as with help from a friend.  She learns that she is actually afraid of dying and she learns how to move forward and begin living again, but all of this is saved for the very end.  The entire book is melancholy, while mixed with a bit of sarcasm here and there, it does make for a bit of a downer of a book.

It is worth it to read this book though.  The historical aspects are interesting, and the characters are real.  It is very well written.  I feel like despite it's darkness, the book does show hope and healing, and it also shows how it is important to stand up for what you believe in, even if it might be a lost cause.

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Happy Birthday to Jane Austin

I'm late at posting this.  Just in case you didn't know, today is Jane Austen's birthday.  As a way to celebrate, for the remainder of today (December 16th) and tomorrow (December 17th) all of Jane's ebooks are being offered for free at ebook purchasing sites (BN, Amazon, iTunes...etc.)  In addition to Jane Austen's books, the following books are being offered as well:

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

So hurry up and get your Austen kicks...free books, you can't beat it!

Happy Reading!


Juliet - Anne Fortier

JulietJuliet by Anne Fortier

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?
Summary Source:  Barnes and Nobel website

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A retelling of the story of Romeo and Juliet so good, it's hard to pick the book down!

I loved this book. The retelling of Romeo and Juliet was very intriguing and interesting. I loved the instant passion between the old lovers right from the beginning. In fact, I think I actually liked this version of Romeo and Juliet even better than Shakespeare’s. I also enjoyed how the story continued to flashback/flash forward in alternating chapters. It was fun to “learn” the details of Romeo and Juliet's love right along with Julie, but also see what trouble she was getting herself into as well.

The mystery of Julie's ancestors unravels slowly but surely, this was very well written. It seems as though danger lurks around every corner of this story, and you can't seem to figure out who you can or cannot trust. So there is the feeling of constantly being on the edge when it comes to what's going to happen next. There were moments in the story when I felt like I was listening to an excerpt out of Indiana Jones.

The characters in Juliet were very well developed. I truly felt like we were looking at this book straight from Julie's eyes. If she missed a small detail, it's likely you did to, even if it was right there staring you in the face. The only thing I was a little disappointed in was the development of Julie and “Romeo’s” relationship. There seemed to be almost no chemistry between the two at all, in my opinion. Somehow, since the sparks didn’t start right at the start, the characters just did not click the way I would have liked them to. This made the end of the story sort of fall flat. Perhaps Anne Fortier was a little too concerned with keeping the romantic scenes to a minimum, which left wanting more, for example, when they actually finally kissed there were no real descriptors or anything to help you to feel what Julie was feeling. To me the passage was a fancy way of saying “and we made out." The lack of chemistry could also have been because she was trying to keep Romeo's identity a mystery, therefore the characters had to remain on opposite ends of the book for a long time, too long for the reader to really get into the relationship. I guess I just wanted more here.

Despite my one misgiving over the book, I really did love it. I listened to it via audio (which explains my lack of naming characters - since I probably couldn't spell half of them), and the narrator was wonderful! I love the story of Romeo and Juliet, tragedy and all, and this book really just made it all the more beautiful. Juliet breathed even more life into an already excellent story.

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