Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite Books of 2011

As crazy as it is, the year is practically over! I read quite a bit this year, a bunch of rereads and books for English and then a ton of really great new (to me) books. Just an interesting thing, out of all the new books I read only five of them were completely non-magicky. Also, out of this list of ten, six are part of series'! And they were really all so good, I didn't have much trouble picking my top ten, but I'm not even going to attempt a numbered order. It was all personal preference and what stuck with me the longest, and what characters I loved the most, so I'm just going to list the book and blab about them and tell you to read them all.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
I'm just starting off with the only non fantasy on the list, and one of the ones I read most recently. It's made a pretty big splash in the book world and for good reason, it tells the chilling story of a girl and her family who are forcibly relocated from Lithuania by the Soviets. They have to try to survive in awful conditions in Siberia, while at the same time trying to find their father who was separated from them. The author went to Lithuania to talk to people who had similar experiences, and it's awful to think of how everything in the book could have and probably did happen to someone. But it's not completely depressing, there are little glimpses of love and happiness amidst everything else, and hope for a better future.

Red Glove by Holly Black
This is the middle book in a series about a world very like our own where 'curse workers' (people who can do some kind of magic) are criminals and have to hide their talent, or very often join the mafia. I read the first book last year and was kind of eh about it, but this one I loved. My issue with the first book was that it was all good and fine but I never really connected with Cassel, the main character. I didn't have that issue at all in the second one, I liked him immediately and got swept up in everything right away. I loved the plot, and his friends are awesome, and it left me eagerly waiting the third book.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
This was by far my favorite dystopian of the year. After the world has gone to pieces and wars and craziness happened, a system of five factions (groups to promote different virtues, like honesty, selflessness, peacefulness, bravery, and intelligence) has taken over the society. At sixteen every teen has to choose to be in one, and then undergoes training to see if they're worthy. But the thing that is most valued in that city is control, and the few people called the Divergent (people who could fit into more than one faction) are hard to control, and therefore dangerous. After that awesome set up, there were characters I really liked and an intriguing plot that was always moving, so there weren't really any downsides to this one!

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
The last in the Shiver series, Forever is told from four points of view which I loved. The writing is gorgeous, I love the characters (Cole especially), and it was a satisfactory ending to the whole story. It was just really good, but I can't say much about it without giving away the other two books! I'm sad the series is done but this book made me really happy.

Pegasus by Robin Mckinley
Oh, how I adore Robin Mickinley's writing. It's just wonderful. Pegasus is about a princess who, when she is bound to her Pegasus, discovers that they can hear each other's thoughts. This forms a strong friendship that the whole book revolves around, her adventures with Ebon, the things they discover, and the changes they inevitably start making in the world because of their bond. I so wish I had a flying horse to ride on. I know I'm going to say this with every single book on this list but it really is one of the most important things for me: I loved the characters. Especially Sylvi and Ebon, but tons of the other small ones too. They were all really good. And then this book completely and totally wins the award for WORST cliffhanger EVER. It made me SO upset (and no, it wasn't anything ridiculous like a main character dying *glares at a different book*) and it was like a kick in the gut, but it had to happen for the story I think. So it wasn't just a trick to get you looking forward to the next. Still, I wish 2014 was tomorrow!

Chime by Franny Billingsley
This book was really interesting, very twisted, had excellent character development and characters in general, and had simply gorgeous writing. It felt like every sentence had been fine tuned and worked on until it was the best it could be, and it captivated me. It's setting is really interesting too, a small town on the edge of a swamp in England somewhere in about the late 1800s I thought, but there are old ones, and witches who are sentenced to death if they're found. Briony is a witch, and is to blame for most everything wrong in her family's lives. But through an unexpected and extraordinary turn of events, she slowly starts to think that maybe that isn't true after all.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Karou isn't really sure who she is. She lives with Brimstone, in his shop of teeth and wishes, and is an art student in Prague with friends who think that she actually dyes her hair blue. But the discovery of an entirely other world through a shop door and the reappearance of Seraphim in the human world means that she will find out after all. There's been a ton of buzz about this book and I read the author's blog, so I was really looking forward to reading this one. It did not disappoint. The worlds are lush and detailed, from colorful Prague to the city of the Chimaera. I really liked the characters and the writing and the plot, and I love Karou! Can't wait for the next one.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races is about two people who live on the little tiny island of Thisby. Thisby is mostly populated by fishermen, and it's economy survives because of the annual Scorpio Races. The waters off of Thisby are full of the capaill uisce, water horses that sometimes come out of the water and eat people. And every November people race on them, for fame and glory and lots of money. Puck is the first girl to enter the races and Sean is a four time winner of them, and alternately they narrate the story of competition and home and family and love. Things I especially loved about this book: the mood, the setting, the characters (George Holly! Finn Connolly! Corr!) the writing, and the ending. You really should just read it.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Elisa is the chosen one, she is the one person per century who has a Godstone. Everyone who recieves a Godstone is meant for great things-- whether or not they accomplish them is another matter. She is also a princess, which means that she is married off to a neighboring king at sixteen. It is only when she is in his kingdom that she finds out what being a chosen one really means, and that there are people who would go to any lengths to get her power for themselves. This one's really hard to describe without giving away the plot, so I'll just say, there's court intrigue, kidnappings, trekking across deserts, romance, wars, finding power in yourself, sadness, and hope. I loved it. Elisa is smart and strong all the way through and I loved seeing her come to believe that. And it's set in the desert, and the world is SO well built and believable, and all the characters are amazing. Cannot WAIT for the next one!

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Kate, an exceptional carver and orphan, has to leave her town when too many people start thinking that her talent with wood means she's a witch. She makes a deal with Linay, an actual witch, who helps her leave and makes her cat able to speak-- but the deal has repercussions that Kate never foresaw. It draws her into a tangle of shadows and death that is almost impossible to get out of. I first have to say, Taggle is my FAVORITE talking cat I have EVER read about. I loved him so much, in every way. He never lost his catness even when he could talk. And Kate is such a smart and brave and likeable heroine, and Linay is probably the most complicated and well drawn out bad guy of the year. I'm still not even sure I would call him the bad guy. The writing is gorgeous, simple and poetic. The world is beautiful and scary, and this book made me cry SO hard. I hit the big climax and started crying, and pretty much didn't stop until after it ended. I know it won't affect everyone like that, but everything about it just hit me the exact right way. I get teary even now, ten months after I read it. And if it had just been completely sad, nothing good happened, I would have just disliked it, but it was so full of hope and perseverance in the end. I loved it.

That took me ages! But there it is, my favorite books of the year.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Writing

So, nano starts tomorrow! Incredibly excited and nervous like always, but at the moment I'm really happy because of all the writing I did in October. I had a goal the whole month to write every day, which I never told anyone about but I succeeded! Still can't really believe it. I wrote very little some days, as little as a 18-word poem, or as much as a 2,140-word short story. Four days of the month didn't produce anything finished but I ended up with 9 short stories and 18 poems. That makes this by far my best writing month since last November. Most of my poems will never be read by anyone else and some of my short stories were more like beginnings, but I am unrealistically fond of most of it. I really hope that continues into next month, and good luck to everyone who's attempting the mad dash!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nothing Post

This is a nothing post, because everything I've wanted to post about has dried up as soon as I try to write about it. I rediscovered last month how very much I love reading, and how much I hate writing reviews. So you won't be getting any unless I am VERY inspired! But I have been writing down every book I read, because in the spring I started getting worried at how little I was reading and wanted to see how much exactly I had read, and I've kept it up. I have read 37 books so far, 8 for english, 12 rereads (because I only went to the library to get books out for english this spring/summer I reread a lot of books, which was different but really great too), and 17 new books. Up until August I had only read 5 new books, this past month I've been reading constantly. And I've found some amazing books! At the end of the year I'll do a complete list, with my general opinion of the books if not a review. I have at least 5 so far that I've absolutely loved.
And it's started me writing again too! Nano being SO SOON has really, but I'm sure the books have helped. In september/this bit of October I've written 7 poems and 4 short stories. That makes 6 total for this year, which is pretty amazing considering I've written one or two other than that. They're super short, the longest is 1600 words but they're super fun. Just scenes or snippets of a story, some of them work fine by themselves, some could definitely be part of something longer. I love having time to do all this again! This summer was amazing, but definitely did not leave a lot of time for reading and writing. I think I read maybe three books all summer. So I'm making up for it now. And I maybe have a plot. At least some characters who I definitely think I'll use, though the plot's a bit vague right now. But there's a pretty big family in it which should be fun!
Other things about this fall so far: being the only kid still home. WEIRD. It's very quiet. And I feel oddly antisocial, I talk to friends and sisters a lot but I go days and days without seeing any of them. It wasn't so bad when a sister was around half the time, but everyone's Very Busy and I think I have to start making more of an effort to actually see people. And I miss my sister! But in good news, I get to see one of my best friends tomorrow!
Piano is eh today, but I have a lesson tomorrow so hopefully that'll change. It's almost like I'm doing so much that none of it is interesting, which makes absolutely no sense at all. I don't understand how my brain works in regards to piano. But I've decided I really like teaching, it's always changing and frustrating and rewarding. Half the time I have no idea what I'm doing, which is always fun.
And it is FALL! The leaves are yellow and orange and falling fast. It was really windy today and they were gusting off the trees, and there's a definite bite to the air. Fall always seems wistful to me. I guess my October experience is different from most everyone else's, I'm always planning frantically for nano instead of Halloween (though sometimes I do both). But I'm going to soak up the trees and wind and blue skies and chill when I can, as I think my story will be set around this time.
Anyways those are some of my thoughts lately. I've been wanting to blog again for a while and we'll see if I actually do more than this one post. Weirdly enough I plan posts in my head all the time, mostly about books I'm reading, but as soon as I try to write them out they shrivel up and stop working. Partly because I think too much about what other people are going to think, but maybe I can't do such planned out and formal posts. I'll try just doing thought vomits like this and see if it works. This nothing post turned into such a random journal entry! Hopefully I'll post again before six more months go by.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Today feels like summer. Cloudless blue skies, warm sand beneath my feet, heavenly 64 degrees, and most of all the ocean.

Every spring I realize how much I've missed the ocean. I get used to it in the summer because I'm always there, but the first time I go back (when it actually feels somewhat warm) I just want to stare at it forever. I wish it could be this warm all the way to July. It is really windy, at the beach there was a steady stream of sand blowing knee high and at times it would blow so hard we were forced backwards! But I love the wind too, and it was a warm wind. If it's back to 30 degrees tomorrow I'm going to go into withdrawal, this little taste of summer has been so amazing. Let's just skip April and May, can we?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Through reading another blog I discovered this tumblr, which is now probably going to be my favorite site on earth. It's called Sunsurfer and it's a blog of pictures of beautiful things. Landscapes, houses, odd and fascinating things, each picture is gorgeous and makes you want to be there. The first picture is a foggy day in Budapest, Hungary, the second is a sunset reflected in a soap bubble in Norway, the third is a place in Portugal. *love* The site is and you should really check it out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year! It's weird how used to it being 2011 I am already. Probably because I was thinking about it so much in December, that whole month I couldn't stop thinking about it being a new year and what last year was like. So much changes in a year. A year ago I hadn't met some of the loveliest people I know, hadn't even heard of the theatre where I met all of them, didn't have my permit, hadn't won a competition, didn't know what it would be like with only one sister home, hadn't discovered some books and two TV shows that make me ridiculously happy, hadn't written a novel about Iris and Darius, hadn't even started learning the concerto, hadn't gone to see the Trans-siberian Orchestra, was nowhere near as into acting as I am now, and I hadn't had some of the best days of my life with my family and amazing friends.

That's all the good stuff. It was a pretty awesome year, though there was plenty of the icky days and bad things and crying, but there was enough good to balance it out. And this year is going to be just as incredible, and hopefully I'll be able to be more positive and keep it all in perspective and not worry so much, but I know I'll have fun.

As for resolutions I didn't really make them, since I only completed one from last year, but I kind of some vague plans. Like: keep writing poems, at least one a week since I got so off in the summer and only got 80 out of the 100 I wanted. And finish my nano by next year though I don't know how motivated I'll be to do that. And possibly try scriptfrenzy again? We'll see how it goes. Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My top 5 books of 2010

I didn't read a whole lot in 2010, but there were a bunch of books that I fell in love with. I can't narrow it down to 10 but the top five are very clear, I LOVE these books. (These were books I read in 2010, not necessarily published this year but I think most of them were.)

5. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Completely fell into this world, it's so complex and dark and the characters are awesome. It was very fast paced and engrossing.
4. How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
This is a hard one to describe, but I think the biggest thing I loved was that it was about a friendship. A complicated and messy and painful and amazing friendship, that was as real as all of mine are. I loved the characters and the writing style and the ending.
3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
A very very powerful book, you saw the main character change so much. The way the plot elements wove together from day to day was amazing, the little glimpses of feelings in each character mattered so much. It is one of the only books I've read with completely real and understandable, if not likable, popular mean girls. I felt so hopeful at the end, it left me with such a good feeling.
2. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
I wrote a review for it already on this blog which is here and I'm not going to repeat myself, so I'll just say, WOW. What an amazing book.
1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Stolen fought with this one for number one, but Jellicoe Road eventually won. Not because Stolen is any less good, but this one is a bit less painful and I can remember it without being so sad. Pretty much this is an incredible book. Complicated, emotional, characters and a crazy haphazard plot that weaves together perfectly and just purely beautiful writing. I fell in love with it from the first page (and the characters! All of them! Are amazing!) and it's definitely one I'm going to be rereading lots, I just read through a page of quotes from it to find one to put here and it's just making me want to read it again. And I can't choose one.

So those are my favorite books of 2010, what are yours?