Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Books I've Read in 2011

I had to take part in this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're taking a look at the top ten books we've read in the past year. Here are mine:

1. Diamond Willow by Helen Frost. This is probably one of the best books I've read in the past few years. You can read my review here, but all I'll say is that this book was just so good on so many levels. It's a verse novel, but the formatting is incredible. And I had the good fortune to meet Helen Frost this summer, which was amazing.

2. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Another one that really was incredible. It's a children's book, probably around middle-school level, but it goes so far beyond most children's books I've read. My review is here.

3. Dairy Queen, The Off-Season and Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. I'm putting this trilogy down as one, despite the very different natures of all three books. I loved D.J. Schwenk and her family, and I loved the way she told her story. Plus I listened to this on audio, and Natalie Moore was perfect to narrate.

4. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I loved this book. I loved that it focused on the Black Panthers, and that the narrator was this no-nonsense girl who had to deal with a reluctant mother. I loved the summer setting. Pretty much everything. My review is here.

5. Paper Towns by John Green. Okay, so this might be cheating since this was a reread. But really, this book. Is. Just. Awesome. My review can be found here.

6. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This one won the Newbery Award a couple of years ago, and it was very deserving of the honor. I love Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and this book references it a lot. This is another children's book that transcends age. Again, here's my review.

7. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. A hilarious and incredibly rich story of the alien invasion of Earth. I listened to the Odyssey Award–winning audiobook, and I'm about to do so again for a middle school book club I'm helping to run at the library. Seriously, this book is fantastic. My review is here.

8. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. This graphic novel is just fantastic. The art coupled with the creepy story make this a quick but absorbing read. I started this one again immediately after finishing it. Here's my review.

9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This was one of the few nonfiction books for adults I read this year, but it was definitely a good one. I listened to the audio (it's easier for me to finish nonfiction that way). This is such an incredible story, and I recommend it to anyone interested in science, race relations, or the history of medicine. Or people who like good stories.

10. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. This is one of the few books I actually raced through, and the only one I stayed up all night to finish. Johnson is a master at blending suspense and humor. Plus, it's a ghost story. So, that's awesome. My review, ladies and gentlemen. 

That's it for me! Lots of great audiobooks this year. Let's hope 2012 will be just as great!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: "Eve" by Anna Carey

Title: Eve
Author: Anna Carey
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2011

In the not-so-distant future, a plague has wiped out most of the world's population. Eve has grown up at School, where she has led a simple life filled with education—literature, math, science, and Dangers of Boys and Men. Her whole life she has been warned not to go beyond the wall that keeps the men out, and keeps the girls in. But the night before graduation, Eve learns a truth that shocks her to her core and forces her to flee a tortured future. But she doesn't know what the wild will bring, or what the men beyond the wall will do to her.

This is another post-apocalyptic novel with not much new material to offer the already saturated genre. Basically Eve is traveling a road to a place called Califia, where she believes she will be safe. Along the way she must avoid the government, since she's being hunted down by the king himself (yes, of America), while also trying not to get raped or killed. It's a rough road, but she meets a man near her own age who is willing to help her and her friend along the way. Of course there is a love story in there, and sacrifices and misunderstandings and tragedy. It's all fairly predictable, to be honest.

That's not to say it's not entertaining. It is, and I finished this very quickly. I wanted to know what happened to everyone and whether Eve would succeed.

Eve made me really angry, though. She made some really stupid decisions that had really bad consequences, and I wanted to shake her a lot while I was reading it. I didn't particularly like her, and so I never really connected with her or the other characters.

I don't think I'll be picking up the sequels that will be coming out down the road, despite the cliffhanger ending of the first one. This was really just a mix between Cormac McCarthy's The Road and all the other post-apocalyptic teen books out there right now.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" by J.K. Rowling

Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008

This collection of fairy tales from the wizarding world of Harry Potter were written by J.K. Rowling, creator of one of the most popular, widely read and well-loved series to ever exist. Here she brings together a handful of "favorite tales" from the world she created, beloved by wizards and witches for centuries. From "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" to "The Tale of the Three Brothers" (the latter of which readers of the Harry Potter series will be very familiar), each story gives its own spark of magic, as fairy tales tend to do.

I can't believe I'm just getting around to reading this collection, but I'm honestly glad I waited until after my storytelling class to read this. It's clear to me that J.K. Rowling has studied folklore and fairy tales, both their history and their form. Notes from Dumbledore at the end of each story really show this, as he goes into theory and history of the tales, something which it would be impossible for Rowling to write about to such a degree without prior study.

The tales are delightful and clever, though one or two have a darkness that is more along the lines of the later Potter books—"The Warlock's Hairy Heart" being the first and foremost that springs to mind on that front. I loved how the heroines of the tales are rulers of their own fates, unlike the Grimm or Perrault tales we are so familiar with, as Rowling points out in her introduction.

These stories would be great to tell fans of the series, or even those who haven't read the Potter books yet, during a storytelling event or at bedtime (again, excluding the darker tales). The appeal is wide.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winter holidays, crazytimes, and relaxing.

I am trudging through.

I have one more week of classes after this one that I'm sitting in (that I neer pay attention in, if you didn't know). I have about 5 1/2 months until I get married. I'm looking for a home with my fiance. It's December, and it's Christmastime. I am probably going back to Barnes & Noble to work during the holiday season in addition to working at the library.

I feel like I'm nuts.

But through it all, I go on. I am taking life one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time, and it seems to be working. Unfortunately, my blogging is lagging a bit. But I know you all understand. That's why I like you guys. :)

So I will continue to take time for me, as well as do all the things I need to do. I will not disappear, but I my presence here will not be as great as my presence on Twitter (my handle is @Tahleen, if you would like to talk with me; I love conversation!). Feel free to drop me a line if you want to chat—I'll be happy to provide my email to anyone who wants to be friends. :)

My best wishes to you all this holiday season. Take care of yourselves, and enjoy each day you have!

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