December 23, 2012

Good Tidings of Great Joy


Have a safe and Merry Christmas! 
And may 2013 bring you only good things!

December 20, 2012

Class of 2012 YA Superlative Blogfest: Day 4

Day 4:  Best In Show
(All titles are linked to their Goodreads synopses.)

Head on over to the following blogs for more info on this blogfest:
Tracey NeithercottKaty UppermanAlison Miller, and Jessica Love

Favourite Cover: 
I suck at choosing just one...


Incarnate—because every time I see this beauty, it catches my eye.
Shadow and Bone—because the Russian flair on the cover and the pages inside is just gorgeous.
Throne of Glass (British cover)—because it truly reflects the kickassery of Celaena Sardothian.
The Selection—because even as a big girl I still dream about owning a frou frou princess dress.
Sapphire Blue—because the gem-like detailing and ornate curlicues is just so darn pretty.

Cutest Couple:
Bennett + Anna, Time Between Us

I'm assuming we're talking "Awwww" cute couples and not "Holy wow, this couple is smoking hot". This was a toss-up between Bennett + Anna (Bennanna—haha!) and Oliver + Hadley in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Both couples were absolutely adorable, but I think Bennanna tips the scale just a hair in their favour.


Most Likely to Succeed 
(Or, pick a Printz Winner.):

Long after that other Shades of Grey series fades from memory, this book will still be around receiving the praise it truly deserves. This is one of those books you read alongside Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and The Book Thief. {Addition: So I just found out that this book is a 2011 release. Whoops! I only heard about it for the first time this year, so I mistakenly thought it came out in 2012.}


Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime 
(The book you just couldn't put down!):

Maggie Stiefvater's writing is just so captivating that I found myself devouring The Raven Boys a lot quicker than I anticipated. I just finished Throne of Glass, and it was pretty darn good too. Mostly, I was just waiting for some swoony bits between Celaena and Chaol (and for the most part, I wasn't disappointed).


Best Repeat Performance 
(Your favourite sequel or follow-up.):

I kind of want to say Insurgent here, but there were things that irked me a bit in it, so I'll consider it first runner up. Sapphire Blue was everything I was hoping it would be after reading Ruby Red so long ago. Can't wait for the third book!


Favourite Finale or End of Series Novel:
I'm actually just starting or mid-series on a number of series, surprisingly. I've got no finales to list.


Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath:
Perry + Aria, Under the Never Sky

I read a lot of swoonworthy (read: steamy) romances in books this year, but I think Veronica Rossi wins this one with Perry and Aria. I think I can probably attribute this to how rugged and primal Perry came across.
Honourable mention: Ismae + Duval, Grave Mercy.


Breakout Novel 
(Your favourite book by a debut author.):

Gah! This was nearly impossible to choose. I resisted the urge to put two...or three. I think Cinder takes the title because it was just such a unique twist on a very familiar tale.
Honourable mentions: Shadow and Bone + Throne of Glass


Best Old-Timer 
(Your favourite read of the year published BEFORE 2012.):
I refuse to choose just one. (Big surprise, right?)


The Book Thief—because it's just such a powerful read with a new take on a truly awful point in history.
Audrey, Wait!—because Robin Benway is the queen of teen voice, and because it's stinking hilarious.
Graceling—because this book reminded me how much I actually do like fantasy, and because Katsa's kickass.

Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry:

The deportation and extermination of Lithuanians to Siberia by the Soviets in 1941 is a less familiar piece of history than other WWII-era events, but it's no less heartbreaking or important to pass on. (Lest we forget, or in this case, never hear about it in the first place.) It wasn't until the interview with Ruta Sepetys at the end that I really felt myself losing it. {Again, I didn't realize this was a 2011 release, so forgive me for cheating.}


Most Pleasant Surprise 
(The best book you didn't think you'd like, but totally did.):

I think something about the "no-strings-attached hookups" description on the flap was kind of a turn-off. I'm not big on the one night stands and sleeping around in the books I read. Of course, this doesn't end up being part of Bria's experience, and I got totally sucked into her story. It was hard not to love it, love Bria and Rowan, and the little sketches on the pages.


Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle:
Gansey + Blue + Adam, The Raven Boys

I feel like this category was made specifically for this book. Come on, you know it's coming. It may not have played out in Book 1, but we know (or have been more or less told) that it's in the cards. In case you're wondering, I'm Team Gansey.


Sleeper Hit 
(The book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more.):

For some reason I feel like this book hasn't been hyped up enough. And judging by the number of my Goodreads pals who either haven't read it yet or it hasn't made it onto their TBR lists, I think it could use more talking up. To those of you put off by historical fiction—Trust me, you won't find it boring. I have three words for you: Kickass. Nun. Assassin. That is all.


Favourite Outlier 
(Your favourite middle grade picture book or adult new adult 2012 book):


I know this was supposed to be middle grade, but since I haven't read any this year and since William Joyce's books are always fantastic (pardon the pun), I went with this one. It's a book about books and words and the illustrations are gorgeous (like always). Not only is the story totally cute, there's a short film of it as well that you can purchase on iTunes.


New Adult: Easy

Honestly, I think it's about time new adult became a thing. Judging by the popularity of books like Easy, there's certainly a market for it. A word of warning, though: This book is on the risqué side. So if you're squirrelly about such things, you might not want to pick it up. I loved the relationship between Jacqueline and Lucas. He was definitely swoonworthy!


Pick Your Own Category
Most Kickass Heroine:
Ismae Rienne, Grave Mercy
Celaena Sardothian, Throne of Glass

The common thread here is deadly assassin. I suppose I could have went with that as a category title. Both Ismae and Celaena are seriously lethal and yet both manage to be sympathetic heroines. I actually care about both ladies and want them to find happiness and fulfillment outside of simply being assassins.


Thanks go to Tracey, Katy, Jessica, and Alison for hosting this super fun blogfest. This was a great way to round out a fantastic year of reading. Here's to 2013 and another great year of reading! (Assuming the Mayans were wrong.)

December 19, 2012

Class of 2012 YA Superlative Blogfest: Day 3

Day 3: Elements of Fiction
(All titles are linked to their Goodreads synopses.)

Head on over to the following blogs for more info on this blogfest:
Tracey NeithercottKaty UppermanAlison Miller, and Jessica Love
Okay, this time around I'm going to try really hard not to overdo it with The Raven Boys. Promise.

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you'd thought of yourself.)

While Cinderella retellings are certainly not a new thing, this particular spin on the fairy tale was so unique to me—Cinderella as a cyborg and all of the other science fiction elements of this awesome story. It seemed like after Cinder came out, I started seeing a whole pile of unique twists on familiar stories cropping up. Also worth mentioning: For Darkness Shows the Stars, a sci-fi spin on Jane Austen's Persuasion. I love when authors put creative twists on stories we know.


Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you most definitely would NOT want to travel to.):

This is a no-brainer. Seriously, who in their right mind would want to travel to a world plagued by zombies?! Not this girl.


Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you'd happily travel to.):

I could probably travel happily to a few places in Wanderlove and In Honor, but for me there is one destination that I'd hop on a plane to in a heartbeat: London, England. Hubby and I just visited London back in May, but since we were only there for a few days there's still a ton of places left unexplored. Personally, I feel like Julia in Meant to Be needs a do-over on her London trip what with all the hijinks and shenanigans that kind of robbed her of what she expected from her trip.


Loveliest Prose:

While I wasn't quite as into this one as I was Daughter of Smoke & Bone, there's no doubt that the prose was just as awe-inspiring as in Book 1. There's just something about the way she describes things that makes me pause and reread. And then, of course, there's Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys. I'm not even sure I need to say anything beyond this woman's name for you to understand what I mean.


Best First Line:

Oh, looky here. It's only my second reference to The Raven Boys today! With so much emphasis on a great first line, it's kind of funny just how many books have only meh opening sentences. The Raven Boys captured my interest instantly with: "Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love."  Pretty great, right?



Most Dynamic Main Character:

Celaena Sardothian is such a great MC. I liked her from the start when she was an angry, snarly, bloodthirsty assassin, but I loved her just as much when she transformed (returned to?) something a little softer around the edges but no less deadly.


Most Jaw-Dropping Ending:

We have us a tie, folks. Shockingly, this is my first reference to Insurgent this entire blogfest. I won't ruin the experience with spoilers for those of you haven't read one or the other. But let's just say I was left with a feeling of "Well, I didn't see that coming" at the end of both of these books. Needless to say, I'll be queuing up like a boss when the sequels come out.


Best Performance In a Supporting Role:

I suck at choosing only one. Sigh. While Bitterblue was my least favourite of Kristin Cashore's Graceling Realm series, I loved having Po and Giddon return. Roar was one of my favourite characters in Under the Never Sky, though most of my fangirly attention is placed squarely on Perry. And then there's the debut appearance of Ziri*, a seriously sweet (and smoking hot—at least in my mind) chimaera in Days of Blood & Starlight.


Best Use of Theme:

I'm going to stick with simple themes of sacrifice and good vs. evil in Days of Blood & Starlight. Without going into spoilery details, there were a number of instances of characters sacrificing themselves for others, whether it meant putting their life on the line or something perhaps a little less severe. When you get into good vs. evil in this book, everything gets a little murky. We get to see things from both sides of the war between chimaera and angels, and it's difficult not to sympathize with both. In many ways, I think this is very true to life (though not in every instance in the book or in life).



* I had to stop and think for minute about his name. I was all set to type 'Kiri', which had me pausing to make sure I wasn't confusing him with a seriously hot dwarf named 'Kili' in The Hobbit. Managed to finally get it right, though. ;P

December 18, 2012

Class of 2012 YA Superlative Blogfest: Day 2

Day 2:  Popularity Contest
(All titles are linked to their Goodreads synopses.)


Head on over to the following blogs for more info on this blogfest:
Tracey NeithercottKaty UppermanAlison Miller, and Jessica Love

Umm...brace yourself for a Raven Boys landslide here, folks. You've been warned...

Class Clown
Ronan Lynch

While not an obvious choice, I'm going to go with Ronan from The Raven Boys. He's volatile and scowly, but holy buckets does that boy have some funny lines! I think a good number of the things that made me laugh in this book were due to this crusty character. Most of the other zingers came from Helen, Gansey's quick-witted sister.


Most Likely to Become a Rock Star
Sam

Maybe not so much a rock star, Sam in Incarnate could certainly be a world-renowned musician. He composes music and plays a number of different instruments, so I guess he qualifies as their world's version of a rock star.


Most Likely to Start a Riot
Ronan Lynch...again.

And again, I think this title should be bestowed upon Ronan from The Raven Boys. His surliness and general bad attitude, not to mention the way he and his brother can't seem to keep from pummeling one another make him the perfect choice. I think Ronan was at the centre of more than one scuffle on the pages of this book. Not sure about a riot, but who knows.


Biggest Flirt
Celaena Sardothian + Dorian Havilliard

I'm not quite done Throne of Glass, but I think Celaena Sardothian has this in the bag. Though, I think her flirtatiousness is meant to rattle the guys keeping her on a short leash and it certainly works. An assassin is not supposed to be feminine and attractive and flirty! Or so they thought, anyway. And then there's Dorian, the Crown Prince himself, who can't seem to stop macking on nearly every girl who crosses his path.


Fashion King and/or Queen
America Singer + Prince Maxon

I wasn't really sure who to pick for this because fashion isn't really something I pay much attention to in the books I read (unless it's Lola and the super cute Boy Next Door). America Singer (lame name aside) and Prince Maxon probably earned this title in The Selection—America because she's primped up and prettified to impress the prince and Maxon because he's, well, the prince and already well-dressed and dapper. And just look at that cover! When do I get my gorgeous gown?


Girl You'd Most Want For Your BFF
Linh Cinder or Ismae Rienne

This was a toss-up between Cinder from Cinder and Ismae from Grave Mercy because they're both rad. Who wouldn't want a cyborg for a friend?! As for Ismae, she's just all around awesome and it would probably be a good idea to stay on her good side, you know? All this awesomeness and kickassery aside, I think both are just regular girls who need a friend.


Boy You Wish You'd Dated in High School
Bennett Cooper or Oliver (?)

No. Fair. WAY too many to choose from. There are plenty of book boyfriends, but not all of them are exactly realistic choices. Perry's* wonderful, but can you really see him in a high school setting? No. And Duval*? He would have gotten arrested for dating a minor (he's older than 18). Bennett from Time Between Us is one seriously appealing time-travelling fella. Breakfast in Italy and lunch in Paris? No prob. But then there's Oliver from The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight. Sweet? Check. English accent? Check. All kinds of other great qualities? Check, check, check.


Most Likely to Become President/Head Honcho
The Darkling

Okay, I added on that last bit there. If you read any fantasy, it's tough to think of those characters as a modern-day president (or around these parts, prime minister). I won't say more, but the Darkling from Shadow and Bone definitely has the big cheese title in his sights.


Quirkiest Character
Persephone

Here we go again. There was just such a great cast of characters in The Raven Boys that it's easy to slot them into a number of categories. YA reads seem to be peppered with a fair share of quirky characters; this book is no exception. My sister pointed out that Persephone reminded her of Luna from Harry Potter, which I hadn't thought of while reading it but can totally see it now.


Villain You Love to Hate
Unnamed Bad Dude

How can I answer this without spoilers? Hmm... My favourite villain is in Shadow and Bone, and I'll leave it at that.


Favourite Parental Figure
Too many to list

This category was surprisingly tough because there were a number of really great parents in the books I read this year. Not nearly as much negligent or absent (for whatever reason) parent syndrome. I loved Ella's parents (and relatives) in The Fine Art of Truth or Dare despite being only meh over the book. I thought Jace's parents in My Life Next Door were pretty great too. And then there's the wacky bunch of women raising Blue in The Raven Boys.


Coolest Nerd
Richard Gansey

While probably not the nerdiest person that could spring to mind, I think Gansey from The Raven Boys could qualify as a pretty cool nerd. The guy is fixated on studying ley lines and the history around Glendower. He also has an eighty-year-old (give or take 20 years) British contact/friend, and likes to use expressions like "top shelf". I think it's fair to say he's got a touch of the nerd thing going on, wouldn't you agree? But he's a very, very appealing and seriously cool nerd in my books.



* From Under the Never Sky and Grave Mercy respectively.

December 17, 2012

It's That Time Again

Head on over to the following blogs for more info on this blogfest:
Tracey Neithercott, Katy Upperman, Alison Miller, and Jessica Love

I didn't end up participating last year, and since I've been a lousy blogger of late, I figured I'd be a joiner this time around. My choices for each category were limited as 2012 ended up being a bit of a catchup year for reading (ie. reading books from previous years that everyone else and their dog has already read). But I did manage to read a number of stellar books that were published this year. Here are my winners for today's superlatives categories:

Day #1: Head of the Class
(All titles are linked to their Goodreads synopses.)

Favourite Dystopian: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi and/or The Selection by Kiera Cass
Does post-apocalyptic count? If so, I'm going with Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. If not, my pick would be The Selection by Kiera Cass. The former had a pairing of both an advanced/futuristic society and a more primitive society which I found very compelling. Or was it Perry that was compelling? Hmm... The latter had a fairy tale quality to it—a prince choosing a bride, gorgeous dresses (check out that cover!), an invading enemy—and a sweet love story between a girl we want to root for and a guy we have no difficulty loving. Can't wait for the next book in both series.

Favourite Science Fiction: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This was a super easy choice. I won an ARC of Cinder from the lovely Rebecca Behrens just before Christmas last year and wasted no time diving into it before it was released in January 2012. The pairing of a familiar fairy tale with science fiction (Cyborgs and androids and lunars, oh my!) and a dash of Sailor Moon was genius, in my opinion.
Honourable Mention: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Favourite Fantasy: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Again, this was no contest really if we're going with straight-up fantasy (as in, not paranormal). Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone was fantastic for so many reasons: the Russian fairy tale feel to it, the Darkling (sigh), the Grisha and their powers, the cover and the beautiful chapter embellishments, a likeable heroine... There's much to love about this book.

Favourite Contemporary: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
This was definitely a five-star read for me. It felt real to me in so many ways, mainly because Hubbard didn't glamorize the backpacking life. If a place was filthy and buggy, then that's how she described it. Bria was a believable character who you so badly want to see burst out of her shell. This is a story of growth and letting go of the things that hold us back—lessons that we can all learn no matter our age or where in life we find ourselves. The margin drawings by the author herself were a nice touch as well.
Honourable Mention: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

Favourite Action/Adventure: Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Though I'm not entirely sure it fits squarely in this category, my pick is Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier. This is first and foremost a time travel story, but it's certainly got a fair amount of adventure (and romance!). Who wouldn't want a first-hand glimpse at life in other eras? And to take that glimpse in a gorgeous dress with a swoonworthy and dashing albeit frustrating boy? There were definitely buckles swashed, and I'm eagerly anticipating the final instalment in this series.

Favourite Historical Fiction: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Hands down, bar none, without a doubt Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. If 'kickass nun assassin' and 'majority-age love interest who's okay to crush on' don't win you over, then I don't know what will. Seriously, you guys, this book was fantastic in so many ways. It's historical fiction for those who might not be crazy about historical fiction, it's romantic and full of swoon, full of action, difficult choices, suspense... I could go on, but I'll spare you the fangirl blathering. Just read it.

Favourite Comedy: Still thinking...

Favourite Mystery: A Million Suns by Beth Revis
While not exclusively a mystery, Beth Revis' A Million Suns does have elements of mystery. This was not a perfect book, but it did have plenty of things that I liked. For me, a lot of that came down to the suspense and science fiction aspects of the story. I like being forced to keep reading so I'll finally know what's going on in a story (in a good way, not in a what-the-H-is-going-on-I'm-so-confused-and-frustrated kind a way), and this was one of those instances. I can't wait to find out what's next for Amy, Elder, and the rest of Godspeed in the final book of the series.

Favourite Romance: The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Oddly, a number of the romance books I read this year weren't published in 2012 so they didn't count. But that doesn't really matter because fortunately my pick for this category was simpler than typing out it's cumbersome (but awesome) title. This was a fun, simple, and sweet romance between two very likeable characters. I loved the dual settings of an airplane and London as well as the fact that the author didn't shy away from the possibility of love at first sight. Come on! We all want to believe it happens, don't we?

Favourite Paranormal: Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Though I'm not positive it fits under the 'paranormal' category, my pick is Everneath by Brodi Ashton. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, it's a YA retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone, which in and of itself is compelling. The romance between Jack and Nikki, a ticking clock (before Nikki must return to the Everneath), an intriguing yet evil-ish Hades character (Cole), and just a captivating take on the myth make this well worth the read.

Favourite Family Drama: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
I'm a little confused about this category (what does it mean exactly?), but I think my pick fits here. It follows the story of a young girl who is deported by Stalin to Siberia in 1941 along with most of her family. (From Goodreads: Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It's a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?) All that aside, it's a powerful read and needed to be somewhere on this superlative list.

Favourite Genre Bender: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Because it hasn't yet made it on this list and it was fantastic and because it seems to fit under a few categories. I loved, loved, loved the dynamic between the Raven Boys themselves and felt invested in all of them. Maggie Stiefvater is the master at providing an atmosphere-rich backdrop for her story to take place—Gansey's warehouse apartment, Blue's house full of wacky women, the dreamlike quality of the woods (the tree!!). But while this story dealt with the supernatural, with legend, and even with issues of class disparity, it was not without its funny parts. Such a good book!


December 3, 2012

Monday Miscellany

Hello, friends. It's been a while, but I'm still here. So what's been going on around these parts lately? (Other than watching made-for-TV Christmas movies and Just Friends for the millionth time while eating chocolate-covered peanut brittle?)

Peace: Something I'm trying to find right now.
1)  Querying
As I've already mentioned, I'm deep in the query trenches right now. It's exciting, but it's also kind of a blow to the self-esteem at times too. I'm trying to adopt the I'm-one-step-closer-to-finding-the-one mentality, but when rejections start rolling in, it's certainly tough. My friend Sara Biren created that little Rejectionista badge to the right for those of us who've had our stories rejected but are still plugging away at writing, querying, whatever. I have to say, while rejections suck, they definitely make you feel legit as a writer trying to get published. It's par for the course, a necessary hurdle that all writers have to jump on their way to publication. (Or at least that's what I keep telling myself, anyway.)

2)  Reading
While I'm waiting for responses to my queries, I've been spending a good deal of time reading. I always read a lot, but lately I've felt like I wasn't reading as much as I'd like to. November had some great reads (The Book Thief, Between Shades of Gray, and Ruby Red) and December is shaping up well too (Sapphire Blue and Meant to Be). Was a little less then wowed by Days of Blood & Starlight which is a bit of a bummer. As usual, Laini Taylor's writing amazes me, but the story this time around kind of didn't. While I was reading, I kept thinking, "Needs more cowbell romance" aka Akiva + Karou. It was more fantasy than the first one was too. I like fantasy, but this felt like a big shift. Oh, and I missed Prague.

3)  Writing-related
So my NaNo grand total was just over 20K words. Meh. Not a staggering number of words, but it moved my already-in-progress story much closer to the end, so that's good. I haven't been spending much time writing lately (I've been reading), but I hope to return soon. I am considering taking part in Pitch Wars, though. I wasn't going to, but after looking into it further I think it might be worth a shot. As my CP, Elodie, said yesterday: "We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain." Very true. I have a finished MS and a query, I've picked out who I'd like to work with, now I just need to apply.

Meep.

4)  Other
December Photo A Day: I've been aware of this for some time (Katy Upperman is a fan), and I've always wanted to take part. December's list of photo ideas seemed kind of fun, so I decided to join in. Yesterday's topic was PEACE (see above).

All Things Christmas: I'm that person usually. The one who's itching to dig out the Christmas decorations while parents are still wiping Halloween stickiness off their children's faces. I blame Starbucks for this (they always roll out their Christmas drinks and stock the first week of November in Canada). But for whatever reason, this year I've been less festive than in past years. I wouldn't say I'm Grinchy or Scroogey, but despite the fact that we've had snow for over a month now, I haven't been getting that warm and cozy holiday feeling. But the tree is up, I've been watching tons o' Christmas movies and listening to tons o' Christmas tunes, and I think I'm finally getting there. My mom is coming to visit this week (and staying for a week), so we'll be baking Christmas goodies, playing board games, watching more Christmas movies, and lots of fun stuff. I'm definitely looking forward to it!


How about you? What have you been up to lately?