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Best Books of 2011

13 Mar

Sorry to be so late on this post! I can’t believe I haven’t already posted this! I swear I thought I did. I don’t know what’s up with the formatting for this by the way. I did NOT type everything in italics, and even going back trying to change it, it stays like this!

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- Definitely the best of the Sherlock Holmes novels- no long flashback scenes like the others.

2. The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer- Hilarious combination of romance and mystery. Loved the characters.
 
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini- Not enough tears to cry. Even better than The Kite Runner.
 
4.Eon/Eona by Alison Goodman- Action-packed fantasy/dragon series that I couldn’t put down.
 
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth- Finally found a dystopian I liked just as much or even more than The Hunger Games!
 
6. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers- Mystery not involving a murder. Excellent Harriet Vane/Peter Wimsey scenes.
 
7. Champagne for One- by Rex Stout- By far my favorite Nero Wolfe mystery so far.
 
8. A Game of Thrones– by George R. R. Martin. Action-packed and addicting.
 
9. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie- One of many great Agatha Christie novels. Loved how she did something different with only four murder suspects.
 
10. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan- Great to see Percy Jackson again.
 
RUNNERS UP!
 
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder- Not your typical YA fantasy.
 
Across the Universe by Beth Revis- A sci-fi/murdery mystery/dystopian. Covers a lot of great genres!
 
If I Stay by Gayle Forman- One of the few contemporary novels I enjoyed, and even this has a hint of the supernatural.
 
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- This gets better with every reread!
 

Worst Books of 2011

5 Jan

Happy New Year, everybody! Surprisingly I’ve still been getting hits on this blog despite not updating for so long. I had another virus starting on Christmas day but I’m better now. Hopefully no more illnesses for a while! This year I’m gonna try to update my blog more often, but since I’m taking even more classes than last semester, that may be hard to do! But I’ll do my best.

What better way to start the year than with a list of my least favorite books that I read? I read a total of 111 books, which was my goal (in honor of the year 2011). A great deal of them were good, many were mediocre, and some were….bad. This is a list of the bad ones, in alphabetical order (not ranked). Remember, these are only books that I READ last year, not necessarily released that year.

Edited- I updated the list to include a couple books I forgot!

1. April Lady by Georgette Heyer- I’m a Georgette Heyer fan, but really, a few of her books have been duds for me. I read this book shortly after The Convenient Marriage, which was very similar and which I was also not a fan of. Both deal with couples after marriages who still go through issues. The couple both believe that the other doesn’t love them and whacky hijinks ensue. While I didn’t like The Convenient Marriage, at least the first few chapters were promising and there was some basis to the misunderstandings the couples faced. April Lady didn’t even had that. The characters were not charming, but rather nitwits, and it was just annoying overall.

2. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley- This one sounded really interesting and I’d heard it was a classic fantasy. The setup was good, but it ended up being really, really boring. That seemed to be a common theme with fantasies I read this year.

3. Foundling by D.M. Cornish- Another boring fantasy. I don’t know why it was in the young adult section when it seemed clearly meant for younger children. My mind wandered about 1/4 of the way through, and though I finished it, I don’t clearly recall much that happened after that.

4. Graceling by Kristin Cashore- Soooo disappointing. Another one of the boring fantasies, but this one was possibly the worst for me because I was expecting the most from it. Such an interesting concept, but such a poor execution. First of all, the writing was terrible! Secondly, the majority of the book was boring traveling scenes with nothing happening. What a shame.

5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray-  I debated with myself for a while whether to put this book on the list or not. I did find it entertaining, but not historically accurate in any way, in terms of the characters’ personalities and ideals. They really seemed like modern characters in a Victorian setting. I dunno, I think I would have liked it if I were 10 years younger, but as it is, I found it EXTREMELY disappointing.

6. Katherine by Anya Seton- I really liked Seton’s Green Darkness, but this one didn’t do anything for me. I wasn’t crazy about the characters in that one either, but I really couldn’t stand them in this book.

7. The Naming by Alison Croggon- Good God, was this boring. All descriptions of the landscapes as the characters traveled. Snore….

8. Novellas by Elizabeth Gaskell- I couldn’t pick just one. I decided to read the novellas that the Cranford miniseries were based on- Mr. Harrison’s Confessions, My  Lady Ludlow, and The Moorland Cottage. All were dull as dishwater and I liked how they were done on the show better.

9. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkelez- Okay, I knew going into this that it was chick lit and I’m not into that genre at all. But most of the reviews I read acknowledged this and said they liked it anyway. I didn’t fall into that category. It was so cliched, cheesy, and stupid!

10. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett- I wanted to try some American hard-boiled mysteries as a change to my usual cozies. I didn’t like it at all! Maybe his other works are better?

Runners-Up- These were books that were disappointing but still not bad in general.

Incarceron/Sapphique by Catherine Fisher- What an inventive concept. A seemingly fantasy world that’s really a dystopian future with a living prison? But it ended up being disappointing. Nothing was ever explained!

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson- Based on just the first two books- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire. I’ve yet to read the third. The stories were interesting, but Stieg Larsson’s writing left a lot to be desired. Maybe something was lost in translation, but I doubt that’s the whole story. He seemed to feel the need to describe every single thing the characters did, whether or not it was relevant to the plot.

The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers- Just like with April Lady, this was a dud by an author I’m fond of. I love the Peter Wimsey series and all the various characters. But it was the characters in this that ruined it for me. The six murder suspects were practically interchangeable. It made no difference to me which was the murderer, because none stood out from the others in any way.

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey– A Victorian supernatural murder mystery. This book I think was meant more for the tween set. Like A Great and Terrible Beauty, the historical inaccuracies in this drove me insane! Actually I think in terms of characterization, it was fine, but simple things like the peerage and titles were constantly wrong wrong wrong! Every one in this book seemed to be an earl. Some of the titles seemed right, and then we get an earl named Lord Jasper. Yes, his first name. And the younger brother of an earl named Sir Wentworth….his last name. WTF???? All of this could have been easily fixed. The story could have appealed to me more if I was in middle school.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2- Second Viewing!

24 Jul

If you recall, my first impression of Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 was less than stellar. I liked, but did not love it. I’m a little late in posting this second review (I saw it over a week ago at the midnight showing). So, how did my second viewing go?

Well, sadly to say, my opinion is largely unchanged. Once I got over the shock of it, I felt a little more forgiving, but on the whole…I still find it a bit of a let-down. I know I’m really in the minority in this. This film, more than any of the others in the series, has received hugely positive feedback. Yet I (and most of my family members who saw it, plus one friend) still prefer Part I.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!

My main complaint is that the film was too rushed. It was the shortest in the series, yet it didn’t need to be. This was the ending, so I feel like they could and should have taken all the time possible to make it perfect. A lot of the key points and characters from the book are in there, but for a split second! Hardly anything made much of an emotional impact on me because it was just BANG, move on to another scene without any time to digest anything. The moments that moved me the most were The Prince’s Tale and The Forest Again, because they were slower pace. Like a lot of Part 1, they gave the scenes time to breathe so I could actually digest what was happening.

I was so disappointed with the lack of the side characters. They were all brought back and there was all this build-up in the beginning leading the audience to believe that they would be featured in some epic battle scenes. But they weren’t! We saw a couple cool shots of them getting ready for the battle and a couple seconds of them fighting, but that was it. Lupin and Tonks had one nice moment reaching their hands out to each other, but that was it before we see their dead bodies. We never learned about their son, so when Harry mentions it in The Forest Again, instead of being an emotional moment, it’s just a head-scratcher. The same goes for Fred Weasley. The twins have a nice but waaay too brief scene on the roof and Fred’s only line in the movie is “yeah.” I was so mad we didn’t get the wonderfully written, abrupt, and tragic death scene in the book- or at least have him featured in the movie a bit more! Lavender Brown is clearly brutally killed, but it’s never mentioned again. Hagrid is mysteriously absent during the whole movie until he suddenly shows up as the Death Eaters’ hostage in the forest. How did he get captured? What was he doing the whole time?

My next big complaint also has to do with battling- namely, the handling of the Molly/Bellatrix and Harry/Voldemort duels. Where were the audiences during these scenes? Molly vs. Bellatrix is over in a second with no one watching. The intensity of the book scene is totally absent because it’s over in a split second and it wasn’t treated as as big of a deal. Mrs. Weasley just smiles in satisfaction to herself afterward, which I felt was totally out of character. Harry and Voldemort’s duel, on the other hand is terribly drawn out to be made more “cinematic.” I didn’t really care to see them falling over the side of the castle or the Dragonball Z-esque long-ass shot of their spells colliding. And then Voldemort just disintegrates once Neville kills the snake? Okay, I get that all his horcruxes are gone, but he still actually has to be killed! I never saw the spell actually hit him. And once again, like Molly and Bellatrix, no one is watching. And afterward- where’s the reaction from everyone? They’re all just chilling in the Great Hall waaay too casually. No cheers and whoops or sobbing and laughter? It was too toned down.

I think the easiest thing to do is list the rest of my quibbles/complaints.

  • Angle of Ron/Hermione kiss scene- All you could see was the back of Ron’s head.
  • Draco apparating into the castle- why couldn’t they all just apparate away then?
  • Luna randomly appearing in the Room of Requirement when she had been at Shell Cottage earlier that day.
  • Voldemort hugging Draco- no,  just no.
  • Awkward/forced Harry/Ginny- always big fail in the movies.
  • Random Neville/Luna
  • No explanation for the end of Wormtail. He was clearly alive at the end of Part 1, yet nowhere to be found here. Did Voldy kill him in rage at some point in between?
  • Young Lily clearly has brown eyes. No one caught this?
  • I wasn’t crazy with Harry telling Ron and Hermione he was going into the forest, but their reaction pissed me off. Hermione hugs him and offers to go with him, but Ron does not and they don’t hug?
  • Harry breaking the Elder Wand and not repairing his old wand.

Ah, my expectations were just way too high for this. The wonderful book and Part 1 just got my hopes up so much. Part 1 was so faithful and let the story breathe. This didn’t have the same feel for me and of course I was let down. My rating is up, but not by much.

My Rating: 7/10

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

11 Jun

Graceling is the story of Katsa, a girl “graced” with the power to kill.  I was expecting an action-packed adventure with the bonus of romance. I think my expectations were part of what made the book so disappointing for me.

It started out promising and sucked me in. I liked the cast of characters (well, Po was perhaps a little too perfect) and just the whole idea in general. I really wanted to love this book, but in the end, I just couldn’t.

I think Cashore had a great idea and the bare bones of the plot line were good. It fell apart, however, in the execution. For one thing, it’s poorly written. The prose/sentence structures are clumsy and filled with repetition of the same words and phrases. The awkwardness kept taking me out of the story while reading, even in the interesting parts. Where were the editors for this book, I just wanna know?

Then we come to the plot itself. Like I said, it started out good- in an action-filled scene. Then it quickly went down-hill. After an introduction to the world and characters, it moved to a long, draggy middle of the protagonists traveling, building up to a villain we barely even see and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it anticlimax. I was just disappointed all around.

I think this book could have been great if Kristin Cashore maybe had taken more care to flesh out her ideas- and gotten a better editor. Seriously, whoever did this book was clearly asleep on the job.

My Rating: 5/10

The Naming by Alison Croggon

2 May

I’m taking a short break from my Bronte reviews for something different. I’m a big fan of fantasy and strong female characters. I also read a lot of young adult literature. The Naming, by Alison Croggon, combines all of these things. It’s about a slave girl named Maerad who finds out she has special powers and goes on a journey to develop them. It’s the first of four in the Pellinor Series. It sounds like a winner, right?

Wrong. The Naming, to me, is a prime example of why you should not judge a book by its cover- or in this case, the spine. I was browsing the YA section at my local Borders and this series caught my eye. The spines have a really nice design on them that I thought would look pretty on my shelf. Before you start laughing at me for blindly buying a book for that reason, just wait. I actually did read the blurb on the back and went home and read several reviews before I purchased it. The large majority of the reviews on Goodreads are very positive and it did sound good from all the summaries! It’s supposed to be an “epic fantasy!”

Long story short, I was hugely disappointed. The storyline is very derivative, which is admittedly not necessarily a bad thing. There are no really original ideas anymore so everything depends on the execution- the author needs to put her own spin on things. Croggon did do this a little bit- her magical characters, or Bards, have powers based on language and music- that idea isn’t all that common as far as I know. Yet this book only ended up as a poor man’s Lord of the Rings for me. For one- it’s boring. While nearly 600 pages, it’s mind-numbingly slow-paced and nearly nothing happens! The majority of the book is just descriptions of the landscape and scenery on the journey Maerad and her mentor, Cadvan take. Croggon is apparently a poet and loves to describe all the forest and mountains and things in poetic detail. Although poetry’s not really my thing, I thought it was nice at first. But it ended up probably taking up 2/3 of the book! I didn’t need to read about every little thing the characters were eating.

Secondly, the characters are two-dimensional at best. At worst, less than one-dimensional. I knew  nothing more about Maerad’s personality at the end of the book than I did at the beginning, ditto Cadvan… and all of the other characters! I think the root of this problem was in the dialogue, or lack thereof. In between paragraphs of descriptions, the characters would have a couple lines of dialogue that usually sounded more like recited speeches than actual conversations. All the opportunities for character development were wasted.

I could go on and on about several more specific issues that bothered (or rather, bored) me, but this book isn’t really worth it. It was dull and cliched; the few action scenes were not enough to save the rest of the story. I’m still baffled as to how this series is apparently so popular! There is a minority of negative reviews similar to my own that I’ve read, but very few. I won’t be bothering with the rest of the series, no matter how pretty the set looks!

My rating: 4/10