Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite "Grown-Up" Books of 2011

Let's face it, publishing for YA this year was just not up to years past. I found myself putting more and more YA books down and picking up books written for adults, that ended up being absolutely delightful. For so many years it's been the other way around, but 2011 seemed to be the year of the "grown-up" book in my own reading. It was hard to limit all the books I loved this year, but these were my faves:






A Good American by Alex George (review to come in February)





The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern






The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey (review to come in January)







The Help by Kathryn Stockett









Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch




Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Guest Post: Erica from The Book Cellar

While I'm getting to know my sweet baby boy, several bloggers offered to guest post for me! This week, I'm sending a  huge welcome to Erica from The Book Cellar! She's filling us all in on some of the books she's looking forward to in 2012. Enjoy!


Every year I feel like books I’m going to love become more and more plentiful,  maybe it’s just me imagining or perhaps it’s simply that I am becoming more and more sure of what I like. Regardless, 2012 has some amazing sounding books coming out! 

My most anticipated book of 2012 is definitely The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.  Brightly Woven is about my favorite book ever, high fantasy is hard to find and good high fantasy is even harder to find. Brightly Woven was just brilliant, and while The Darkest Minds is a dystopian I am super excited for another Alexandra Bracken book.

Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep  - This is the 3rd book in the Mythos Academy series, which is one of my new favorite things. The first two books blew me away and I am eager to see where the story will go. The series has mythology, action, hot boys, and so much more.

The Selection by Kiera Cass – I read her book The Siren ages ago, and since then I had been hoping another book would come out. And it did AND it was YA! The Selection sounds brilliant – princes and dystopianness. 

Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa – I am in love with her Iron Fey series, so I am very intrigued by a new series from her! Immortal Rules is going to be very different from the fantasy of the Iron Fey, so I’m very excited to see how that turns out.

Point of Origin by Amanda Havard – This is book two to the series that started with The Survivors. It’s this super unique series that deals with the survivors from the Salem Witch Trials and book one was super cool. Now that that entire story is built, I am really excited to see how this series goes on.

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen – I love this book’s title, cover, and premise. It sound so intriguing and I can’t wait to read it.

Above by Leah Bobet – Not only does this book have one of the most gorgeous covers ever, but it also has this amazing sounding premise. I love what the premise sets up and can’t wait to read it. 

There are simply so many amazing books coming out. So which ones are you most excited for?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Favorite YA Reads of 2011

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I'll be back with regular reviews next week, but for now, wanted to share more favorites with you all!

I have to admit, I was less than thrilled with the YA offerings published this year. I had a really hard time finding really great books, unlike years past when I had long lists of fabulous reads. I read more YA than any other genre, so I'm really hoping next year brings a lot more "great" books. 

The ones I really enjoyed:





The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan




Divergent by Veronica Roth





The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (review to come in January)








Wither by Lauren DeStefano





What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen





The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (review to come in February)





I really liked all of those books, but the only one that I really, really loved was The Fault in Our Stars. Just wait until that book comes out guys, it is FABULOUS. I am so impressed with John Green's work that I couldn't stop talking about for days. It's that good.

If you missed out on my favorite picture books or middle grade reads of the year, check them out here and here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Favorite Middle Grade reads of 2011

I didn't read nearly as many books as I had hoped I would this year, but I still read a lot! If you missed my Favorite Picture Books of 2011 post, check it out, and YA and Adult faves will be featured next week.

I really loved all of these...they're in no particular order:




Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick













Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu










The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall













Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (review to come in January)










Bless This Mouse by Lois Lowry







 What are some of your favorite middle grade reads this year?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guest Post: Melanie from Reclusive Bibliophile

While I'm getting to know my sweet baby boy, several bloggers offered to guest post for me! This week, I'm sending a  huge welcome to Melanie from Reclusive Bibliophile! She's written a fabulous post, featuring one of my favorite television characters of all time. Here are 10 Bookish Lessons from Rory Gilmore:
 
"I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I've been a resident of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina, and strolled down Swann's Way. It's a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything."
        - Rory's valedictorian speech

Cool montage of book references: http://youtu.be/QpRMjxtViHA

1.      1. It’s important to have the right book for every occasion. Some books are bus books and some books are lunch books. And sometimes on the bus you want a biography and other times you want a novel. Alternatively, you might be in the mood for essays or short stories or poetry. Be prepared.

2.      2. Just because you already own a book doesn’t mean you can’t own it again. If you really love a book, you might need two or three copies. Paperbacks. Hardcovers. Different cover art. This is especially true if another copy is a good bargain and can fit in a pocket!

3.      3. There’s always room for more books. You may have to get a little creative when you think you can’t possibly fit yet another bookshelf in your house, but there’s room. Embrace a system of organized chaos if need be.

4.      4. Date the kind of guy who will babysit your books at a book sale. Or the kind who steals your books to leave you notes in the margins (if you’re into that sort of thing). But never, ever date the guy who mocks you for reading.

5.      5. Surround yourself with people who love books. Exchange books with each other. Ask for books as gifts. Try books outside your comfort zone, even if you think you really, really won’t like them. You might be surprised.

6.      6. Nothing smells quite like an old book. I love books new and old, but old, used books have history to them, and with that history comes that magical book smell. (Note: This does not apply to books from smokers’ homes. Or the other kind of smokers. I really don’t mean that kind of magic.)

7.      7. Read a lot. And read a lot of different kinds of books. If Harvard has 13 million volumes, it’s going to take a lot of reading to be able to converse about even 1% of those books. Don’t fritter your life away. If you want to be able to understand pop culture references (and throw out plenty of your own), it’s important to be well versed in that culture.

8.      8. Keep a dictionary on hand when you read. It may not have to be that very fancy, very expensive OED. (Though I’m a little envious of Rory’s.) Take a moment to look up words you don’t know from time to time.

9.      9. Return your library books. If you forget to bring back that copy of The Iliad you’ll feel so guilty that nobody else got to read it that you just might have to ground yourself.

10.  10. Live in two worlds. They characters in the book world and the real world have a lot to offer, and both worlds let you go places you never could have imagined on your own.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week in Review

Books:

Not a lot of reading has been done this week, as we had some exciting and busy days. More on that later. I did give up on Girls in White Dresses about halfway through, just because it wasn't really holding my attention any longer. I need something a bit more exciting at this point I think, something that will help in keeping me awake while I read the words. 

I have a copy of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler to start sometime today, so I'm hoping that will kick start my reading again, as well as Chime. I'm still a bit iffy on that one...don't know if it will be my thing, but I'm looking forward to just reading something!

Elliott has had lots of fun books read to him this week, but I think my favorites were the new Christmas books I ordered with a gift card to Powells. 

This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten is easily one of my new favorites and I know we'll be reading this one every year until E. is probably 5! It has all the perfect elements of the traditional Christmas story and a lovely repetitive flow.

I also love Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck (and E. seemed too as well ;). A short board book, this one simply introduces key players in the Christmas story. Like, the ram that guards the stall where Jesus was born, the donkey that carried Mary, and the shepherds that keep a holy watch. Everything rhymes nicely and has bright illustrations to keep little eyes on the page. A winner for the young ones!

Elliott:

 Guess who came home this week?! On Monday morning when the doctors came to do rounds, they totally caught me off guard and said we could go home the next day. We were thinking we would be there at least until this weekend, possibly even tomorrow, but they saw no reason for us to stay. Hooray! 

We've been home since Tuesday evening and so far everything is going great. We even had a 2 day follow-up, just to make sure he was still doing fine, and he had gained almost 3oz in just 2 days, so we were doing something right! The last couple of nights have been a bit challenging, because I think the "NICU schedule" is starting to wear off (meaning I get a lot less sleep than I did earlier in the week), but we're all adjusting. 

The dogs love him, especially Shae, who hasn't left his side except to occasionally go for a walk with me. It's adorable and I'm so glad she isn't super jealous of him. Let's hope it continues!




Have a great week everyone!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Favorite Picture Books of 2011

It's that time of year for "Favorites of 2011" posts and rather than combine all of mine into one giant post, I thought spreading them out over a few weeks might make more sense. These are a few picture books that I loved this year and have really enjoyed recommending and gifting to family and friends. Book titles all link to my reviews.







Stars by Mary Lyn Ray












Blackout by John Rocco









Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti







If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk







Press Here by Herve Tullet

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest post: Karen from Planet Books!

While I'm getting to know my sweet baby boy, several bloggers offered to guest post for me! This week, I'm sending a  huge welcome to Karen from Planet Books! She's filling you all in on some of her favorite books from 2011. Enjoy!


Where has this year gone? I have had a big-for-me reading year but have recently found myself unable to focus on anything for very long.  I've picked up and quickly put back down a few books and am feeling disheartened.  I have read twenty-seven books since January 1 and some of those had that extra spark that swiftly raised them to my favorites list. I need some more of that literary magic to get me through the rest of 2011.

The books I fell in love with this year were some popular titles and some books that didn't gain much momentum but in my opinion really should have.  First off the book that really started me off on the right foot this year was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  My goodness did this book hold me in its spell and make me cry. I remember the night I finished reading this story, told by Death, about a little girl who was taken in by a German couple for monetary compensation to keep hidden and safe from the Nazi movement that was taking over Germany.    


I had devoured this book and as I neared the end a twist of such great severity caught me off guard so powerfully that my sobs woke my sleeping husband lying in bed next to me.  This story about a girl who used her love of reading to free her spirit and unite a family is one of my all-time favorite books now!

Over the next couple of months I was really lucky to read three amazing books that became some of my favorites of the year.  The run started with The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark.  This story transported me to India in a magical way that had me gasping for more when the final page was read.  It's kind of like a story within a story in that the two main characters living in 1947 India are drawn into an earlier time in India, 1857 to be exact, through the journal pages discovered in the nooks and crannies of their rental home in northern India.  What evolves between these two times in Indian history is a tale of love, friendship, betrayal and forgiveness that had me giving this book as gifts left and right. It took me longer to read than it should have only because I kept Goggling historical facts about the rise and fall of the British Rah.

The next book in this fantastic run was Sara Gruen's masterpiece Water for Elephants.  I remember originally buying this book when it came out a few years ago while we were living in Okinawa and I was just starting out as a book blogger. Unfortunately I couldn't get into the story and put it down. It wasn't until the movie adaptation was due out in theaters this year that I finally picked it up again. I wanted to read the book before seeing it retold on the silver screen so I dove in. I was hooked right away the second time around and had a very hard time putting it down to do anything else. I felt that the movie represented the book well and though there were a few changes to the story's timeline I was pleased with the movie on a whole. 

The third in the trifecta of fabulous literature of the spring was The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. I selected this for my book club's May assignment and as a special treat I had won copies for every member in my club from TLC Book Tours.  This book was a departure from the chick lit and family based stories that the club usually picks.  The Lotus Eaters, set in Vietnam during the war with the U.S. stands up to such iconic tales of the Vietnam War as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Born on the Fourth of July, the memoir by Ron Kovic.  The cover was misleadingly beautiful because the words between the covers told a story of war, devastation, love and the human condition.  The Lotus Eaters ended up winning the British James Tait Black Prize this year and deservedly so.  This is a very raw story and it was hard to believe that Soli had never stepped foot in Vietnam because the description was so vivid and rich. 
Summer arrived and with it came a book that got tons of attention and praise.  The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon is a haunting tale of a taboo subject from our country’s not so distant past.  The mentally challenged were sent away to institutions by families either pressured by society to do so or simply unable to handle the challenges of the situation.  It’s a love story to the utmost degree and on all levels that love is felt.  Family love, romantic love, love derived from loyalty and love manifested in a blink of an eye between strangers. 
After reading Simon’s haunting tale I thought I would read a lighter book so I agreed to review Jennifer Weiner’s latest release, Then Came You.  Little did I know that light was no where in the pages of this book.  I was thrilled to learn that Weiner had peeled back the proverbial onion and had given her loyal readers and adoring fans a book we could sink our teeth into.  Surrogacy, pregnancy, fertilization challenges and the many faces of family in our modern society are what await you in Weiner’s best book since Little Earthquakes.  Wow! Wow! Wow!
This summer also brought to the shelf a book by another of my all time favorite authors and someone I now call friend, Ellen Baker.  I Gave My Heart to Know This is set in one of my favorite time periods, WWII.  I don’t know why I enjoy reading books set during such a tumultuous and devastating period of world history but novels that are inspired by that time are some of my favorites and this is no exception.  It’s set in Wisconsin and gives us a history lesson about the women who helped keep the home fires burning in more ways than one while America’s men were overseas fighting and dying.  The famous war time propaganda poster of “Rosie the Riveter” is the best way I can describe the women in Baker’s sophomore novel.  The women who built ships for the war effort and some secrets in one particular family that lay hidden until they were discovered generations later.  Ellen’s story telling is so wonderful and entrancing!  She’s amazing!
My latest favorite, so much so that every book I’ve picked up since pales so much from the start that I have put down about four books in the last month, is Next To Love by Ellen Feldman.  It’s another WWII story but the tough subjects Feldman weaves into the stories of her fantastic characters make for a rich, disturbing and realistic book.  It’s about three women, childhood friends, who grow up to marry three men who go off to fight in Europe against the Nazis.  One husband returns and he suffers from shell shock.  His story line is so mesmerizing and heart wrenching because of the horrors he continues to face in his mind years after leaving the battlefield.  The way Feldman describes his experiences makes me think this book would be a good book for family and friends of our present day troops to read to help understand what their loved ones face upon surviving war. 
Wow!!  What a great list of fantastic books!  I hope there is something that caught your eye here and will inspire you to pick up your next favorite book.  I may have just written myself out of my recent reading slump.  I sure hope so at least because I need a few good books to get me through the rest of 2011. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week in Review

Just a quick Elliott update for this week's review post.

They took his feeding tube out this morning, because he's had a full day of eating all of his meals by bottle. YAY! He started off slowly this morning, bringing Aaron and my stress level up a bit, because he was just NOT interested in eating.  He ate them, but took forever (he has a time limit) and we just don't want that feeding tube to go back in. We blame his disinterest/squirminess on this nasty multi-vitamin that goes in his 9am bottle...it just really seems to upset his stomach, making him very squirmy. Once that's out of the way, by 3pm he ate like a champ and even took 7 extra cc's of food. We're cheering him on, for sure. We want out of here!

We're trying so hard to be patient, but we're just so close now that I am getting more and more anxious for things to move along, so we can go home. We're incredibly blessed to have this room at the Fisher House, but it's not my home, my dogs aren't here, my BED isn't here. And Aaron had to go back to work this week, so I basically only have nurses to talk to. A bit lonely!

We are so lucky that this eating thing is the last step for us to go home...it's only been 2 weeks since he came screaming into the world, so I really can't complain about too much! He's still doing beautifully.

An after bath time picture:


Friday, December 9, 2011

Angelina's Bachelors review

When Angelina's husband dies unexpectedly, she is completely heartbroken and unsure of what to do with herself. Creating delicious food has always been Angelina's comfort and so she turns to cooking to put her sorrows into, making loads of yummy Italian food as she grieves. 

What is at first for her own healing eventually turns into a job for Angelina. Single men around the neighborhood, starting with her sweet, elderly neighbor, begin coming to her for meals, allowing her to work through losing her husband, make delectable dishes, and feed hungry bachelors at the same time. 

I was somewhat surprised with how much I enjoyed this book! From the title, I almost expected it to be a fluffy read without a whole lot of substance, but O'Reilly was able to capture Angelina's pure love for her husband and her devastation at his loss with a grace that made me really love her as a character. 

That being said, I was slightly disappointed with a rather predictable plot "twist" and found myself hoping the author wouldn't do what I thought he was going to do from the beginning. He did it, but it ended up ok. I was pleased with the overall story.

The recipes included sounded awesome, especially as I read the descriptions woven into the story, though I probably won't be attempting any of them at home. All sound incredibly challenging and for very experienced cooks, though they definitely are appealing! 

Not as light a novel as one would think. Grab your tissues and don't read on an empty stomach!

Angelina's Bachelors: A Novel with Food
Brian O'Reilly
384 pages
Adult Fiction
Gallery Books
9781451620566
August 2011
Library Copy

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Guest post: Michelle from Galleysmith

While I'm getting to know my sweet baby boy, several bloggers offered to guest post for me! This week, I'm sending a  huge welcome to Michelle from Galleysmith! She's filling you all in on some of her favorite books from 2011. Enjoy!


My Literary Dinner Party


What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by her favorite bookish friends?  Me, I'm gonna go all out and serve 'em up a nice dinner, give 'em some yummy sugary treats for dessert, and then send them on their way fat and happy.  Now, don't get me wrong I'm not cooking!  I wouldn't threaten anyone's gastrointestinal system with that, but I do a mean take-out order so I'm sure they'll be just as happy.  Let’s get to the guest list shall we?

Patrick - Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

This is a boy who would build me a house!  He's strong, he's sweet, and he's honest.  He loves his family, has morals and when he finds the right girl he's pretty damn dedicated to her.  Even when she has some serious challenges.  

Peeta - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Please, like I wasn't going to include bread with dinner!  Here's a boy that would literally face certain death for the girl he loves how can you not at least give him a pizza before sending him on his way?  Granted, he has a bit of a dark side too but heck, who doesn't?  Loyal to a fault he's going to be a team player and stick with his friends and family through thick and thin.

Katniss - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I think this girl can teach me a thing or two, don't you?  Strength, honor, political savvy, leadership and a whole host of other positive attributes. The stories this girl could tell would no doubt encourage the mind and spirit.

Tom - The Piper's Son by Malina Marchetta

Who doesn't want a bit of a fixer upper?  Tom may be a tortured soul but he's so thoughtful and pensive about who he shares himself with that it's impossible not to just squeeze him in a great big bear hug. He's so sweet he makes a girl's teeth hurt at the thought of all the sugar.  But he's got a little spice too!  Those imperfections only make him more charming.

Meghan - The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa

Between she and Katniss, oh man, the war stories they could tell.  Cunning, shrewd, heart-felt and passionate she would definitely fight to the death for what and who she believes in.

Ash - The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa

Well he's kinda cool!  That icy demeanor is just a cover up though, deep down inside he's a big ol' softie.  I love me a bad boy with a heart of gold.  Oh and it would be fun to see he and Meghan riff off each other the whole evening.

Cole - The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Steifvater

Duh, we need music!  But besides that, he's pretty and snarky and surly.  Not commonly what most look for in a friend but dang if he doesn't take one for the team when needed.

Isabel - The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Steifvater

We need a girl who can take the pressure off the hostess with the mostess!  Always wanting to be the center of attention she isn't afraid to do or say anything to garner the spotlight.  But when she dedicates herself to a cause she's in it full force.  Better be sure to be on the right side with her when it happens cause she'll take no prisoners.


I know, I know, you thought I'd get all serious and put in Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy and the like.  Me, I'm not a girl who's into the classics.  Besides, do you know the food they had to eat back then?  There's not much fun in that!  Now tell me, who would you invite to your literary dinner party?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week in Review

Books:

I actually finished a couple of books after the crazy couple of weeks I've had. Dead to You by Lisa McMann was definitely thrilling and something you all should look out for in February. All the books I've read by her have been page turners and this was no exception. 

I also finished The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix, an author I typically really like, but this book just did not do it for me. I didn't care for the plot or the characters, but since it was so short, I did finish it. Not her usual gripping story, but one that felt forced and strange. 

I started Pandemonium this afternoon and am pretty into it after only 60 pages or so. It had been so long since I read Delirium that I had completely forgotten what the first book was even about, but I was able to get back into the plot fairly easily. Lauren Oliver really does have a nice way of writing, making the story both exciting and "pretty" if that makes any sense. 

Baby:

Only two sections in this week's post, because really, besides reading and sitting next to the baby's bed, I haven't done anything! No tv/no Etsy shopping. 

Elliott is doing great and behaving exactly as he's supposed to. Eating, starting to take feeds from a bottle, starting to put on a little weight after the initial drop from birth weight, being adorable and snuggly, and just making us smile all the time. We're so proud of our boy! We would LOVE to be home by Christmas, but that may just be pushing it a little. It will remain our quiet goal for now. 

One of the hardest things about this whole situation is having to be away from Aaron for long stretches of time. He goes back to work on Tuesday, which will make it even worse, but for now it has just been him here for the day and then having to drive all the way back home to take care of our dogs. Though the Fisher House is wonderful and comfortable, it's still really hard to be alone all night and this coming week, all day too. Lots of reading next to Elliott, I suppose. And on the bright side, it's only for a few weeks, so I'll make it just fine.

And for your weekly photos:


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tuesdays at the Castle review

At Castle Glower, Tuesdays are the best days. Tuesdays are when the castle decides to add a new room, its occupants never knowing what will come. The castle definitely has a mind of its own, making for a very exciting life for Celie, the youngest of the three royal children, who loves her life at the castle and is really the only one who truly understand how it operates. 

When Celie's parents, the King and Queen of Castle Glower, go missing and are presumed dead, Celie has to use her skills with understanding the castles quirks to help save her home from invaders. Exciting and charming at the same time! 

It's been awhile since I've read a really good middle grade fantasy, but this latest one by Jessica Day George was delightful! I didn't read Dragon Slippers, though I know I'm missing out, so this was a complete surprise. The pacing was great, the characters realistic and enjoyable to follow, and the story was a whimsical adventure.

I would easily hand this to kids that aren't quite ready for Shannon Hale's "Books of Bayern" series, but really enjoy a good fantasy. The idea of a castle changing to suit the needs of its occupants is totally charming and the fact that it's kids basically running the kingdom after the disappearance of their parents will have readers hooked. I really enjoyed it!

Off to put a hold on Dragon Slippers...

Buy from IndieBound
Buy from Powells

Tuesdays at the Castle
Jessica Day George
240 pages
Middle Grade
Bloomsbury
9781599906447
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher




I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.