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Favorite/Least Favorite Books of 2013

3 Jan

First post in one million years! I don’t know if anyone even reads this blog anymore, haha. I don’t think I ever even made a favorites post for 2012……. Anywho, I set a really low reading goal for myself last year- only 50 books. That was mainly because for the first half of the year I was working 60+ hour weeks and had hardly any time for reading. I actually ended up reading 58, which was good, I guess.

To be honest, I don’t really remember any particularly standout books, either good or bad, offhand. I will have to go through my list and see…In no particular order…

FAVORITES

1. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis- Although the finale to the trilogy had a really ugly cover, the story did not disappoint. It was a highly satisfying ending! I just wish it could have had a pretty cover to match the first 2.

2. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer- While I didn’t like it nearly as much as Cinder, it was still very enjoyable.

3. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin- This was by far my favorite so far in the Song of Ice and Fire series! Unfortunately, I’ve heard the next couple of books aren’t that great so I’m afraid it may have peaked here.

4. Because it is my Blood by Gabrielle Zevin- The sequel to All These Things I’ve Done. I think I liked it even more than the first.

5. The Book of Lost Things by John Connoly- Seemed at first like a children’s story, but it was actually anything but.

6. Curtain by Agatha Christie- Her last Poirot novel, it was written decades before it was published. I read all of Agatha Christie’s books in the order they were published, and towards the end they definitely declined in quality. That’s why reading this was such a relief!

7. Endless Night by Agatha Christie- This was her 70th book out of 80 that I read, and probably the last really good one.

8. Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson- I liked this series much more than I thought I would when I began the first novel, The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

9. Call the Midwife series by Jennifer Worth- I began this series at the very end of 2012, shortly after getting into the Call the Midwife TV series. I really liked all of the books.

10. Tie between The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham and A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh- After finishing Agatha Christie, I was desperate for some more cozy mystery authors. These two both reminded me more of Georgette Heyer than Christie but I highly enjoyed both and can’t wait to read the rest of their books.

As you can see, I cheated on a lot of the above- listing series and a tie. Haha! Now on to the flip side of the coin:

LEAST FAVORITE- other than the first book, I didn’t actually hate any of these. They were just not very good or they didn’t live up to the hype.

1. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta- This book had been spoken really highly of in the YA booktubing community. The description sounded good, too. But I hated, hated, hated this book. Boring, poorly written, cheesy, etc. Reminded me of previous hated YA books like Graceling and The Naming.

2. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff- A steampunk Japan fantasy! But it was really disappointing and misused a lot of random Japanese that was thrown in.

3. Boundless by Cynthia Hand- It wasn’t bad, but definitely a disappointment compared to the first two books.

4. Reached by Ally Condy- I wasn’t crazy even about the first book in this series, Matched. I’m not sure why I even continued with it.

5. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith- I think the hype killed it. It wasn’t bad, but I would rate it maybe a 7/10. I was so excited for this being such a huge Harry Potter and mystery fan- of course a detective novel by JK Rowling would have to be super amazing, right? Instead, it was just “pretty good.”

6. Stardust by Neil Gaiman- It sounded really cool, but for some reason, I just wasn’t that into it.

7. Black and White by Malorie Blackman- An alternate reality where the white people are the oppressed race and blacks are the privileged. Like many of the others on this list, it was a really cool concept, but I wasn’t blown away.

8. Outpost by Ann Aguirre- I wasn’t crazy about the first book, Horde, and I liked this one even less.

9. NOTHING! Surprise, I couldn’t think of anything else.

Overall, 2013 was a very underwhelming year in reading for me. That’s largely due to the fact that I only read about half or fewer books than I have in the past few years. Hopefully 2014 will be a little more exciting.

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.

I’m Alive! Some Agatha Christie reviews…

26 Nov

Yes, I’m still here. I really miss updating this blog. The past couple weeks I’ve actually managed to read some books again! I actually reached my goal of 111 books this year already. I think I’m going to hold off on reading any new books until the new year so I can catch up on stuff for this year….maybe! Well, here’s an update. Sorry if you’re sick of Agatha Christie…but I’m not, so here’s what I thought of the books I read in the last few months.

The Moving Finger- Someone is sending nasty anonymous letters in a little village. One of the letters supposedly drives a woman to suicide. This is a Miss Marple novel but she’s not in it a whole lot. The narrator, a newcomer to the village, tries to do some sleuthing on his own, but obviously doesn’t quite get it. This is another favorite of mine. I always seem to love the Miss Marple novels. I just seem to really like the casts of characters in the small village settings. I don’t think I solved it, but I don’t remember! My Rating: 10/10

Towards Zero- A Superintendent Battle novel. An old woman is murdered and her nephew is the obvious suspect but everything is not as it seems. I liked the idea behind this story but there were some little side-plots that I felt were thrown in and didn’t really fit. I solved this one. Too easy. My Rating: 7/10

Death Comes as the End- Really different from all Christie’s other novels- this one’s set in ancient Egypt. Really interesting concept and well-done, in my opinion. I do prefer her contemporary novels but this was neat for a change. A man brings a new young concubine home and she ends up dead. Then other family members stop dying. Is it her ghost seeking revenge? I don’t think I guessed this one either until very close to the end when it was almost too late! My Rating- 8/10

Sparkling Cyanide- A reworking of her short story, “Yellow Iris.” A woman is poisoned at a dinner party and her husband seeks to recreate the events a year later. This one has a totally different conclusion and features Colonel Race instead of Poirot. I preferred “Yellow Iris” to this, actually. I liked the new twist but Colonel Race really failed as a detective and that was a big let-down for me. I didn’t solve it either. I got so good at guessing after a while but I guess that couldn’t last! My Rating- 7/10

The Hollow- Country house party….Poirot stops by to visit just as a man falls over dead from a gunshot wound. Is it his wife, standing over the body with a gun? This was another good one because of how you got to see in the characters’ heads. No one’s actions seemed to make sense until you find out the solution, which…I did guess! My Rating- 9/10

The Labors of Hercules- Poirot’s friend tries to tell him that he should spend his time reading the classics instead of solving mysteries. True to his name, he somehow stumbles upon mysteries that recreate the labors of Hercules. This was a series of short stories that varied in terms of quality. Some were pretty good, others were kinda boring. My Rating- 7/10

Taken at the Flood- A family patriarch dies in the Blitz but his new young wife miraculously survives….before he has written a new will. She is left with everything and his family is struggling because they had been dependent on him. Then some people die, but not necessarily who and why you would think. Really confusing book! I was completely wrong on everything. I also found one part of the ending really disturbing.  My Rating- 8/10

Sadly my ability to review these books went down since I waited so long!

Agatha Christie- N or M?, The Body in the Library, Five Little Pigs

29 Jul

N or M?- The third Tommy and Tuppence novel. They’re middle-aged in this one, set during WWII, and feeling useless. They jump at the chance to do some spying to help in the war effort. They have to track two spies, N (man) and M (woman) at an inn. I thought it was cute to see an older Tommy and Tuppence, but the book was nothing special.

Solved it? I guessed M, which was rather obvious, but not N.

My Rating: 6/10

The Body in the Library- The third Miss Marple book. The body of a bleach blonde young girl is found in Miss Marple’s friends, the Bantrys’ library. I absolutely loved the first two Miss Marple books and while I liked this one, it paled in comparison to those two.

Solved it? No…I had my own theory all worked out but it was no good.

My Rating: 8/10

Five Little Pigs- Carol Crale seeks Poirot’s help. Her mother was convicted of killing her father sixteen years previously and died in prison. She sent her daughter a letter insisting on her innocence. Poirot interviews everyone involved in the case to find the real culprit. I really enjoyed this book and its somber feel.

Solved it? Yeah, I was right on track with Poirot and picking out the clues!

My Rating: 10/10

Latest Agatha Christies…

10 Jul

I read three Agatha Christie books in the last week- that makes up half of my total read books for the week! I’ve been trying to make a point to alternate- one Christie, one other, etc. They’re just so addicting!

Sad Cypress- I got shades of Dorothy L. Sayer’s Strong Poison in this. A woman is on trial for murder, and a man in love with her tries to find evidence of her innocence. Lord Peter Wimsey helped Harriet Vane, but in this case, country doctor Peter Lord (see the names?) enlists Poirot’s help for Elinor Carlisle. This book was kind of on the sad side. Elinor was obviously depressed, her aunt died and her fiance fell in love with another woman. Then the other woman dies and Elinor is accused of both her murder and her aunt’s. It had romance in it but unlike some of Christie’s other books it has a much more realistic ending- nothing cheesy here.

Did I solve it? Yes, I figured practically EVERYTHING out.

My Rating: 10/10

One, Two, Buckle my Shoe- Poirot’s dentist is found shot in the head. Was it suicide, or is it something larger at play? This book wasn’t bad, but it’s far from being one of my favorites. I found Poirot’s thoughts while at the dentist’s office to be really amusing, but like I’ve said before- I’m just not that crazy about her books that take on international intrigue. I like ’em straight and cozy.

Did I solve it? Not really. I played with different ideas, and the correct solution was one of them, but it doesn’t really count.

My Rating: 6/10

Evil Under the Sun- Poirot vacationing at the seaside. None of his vacations are ever free from murder. Like Death on the Nile and Triangle at Rhodes, this one concerns a love triangle where beautiful wife is murdered. This was an enjoyable read, but I thought it was a bit too similar to the other stories I just mentioned. They’re not all carbon copies of each other or anything, but I guess I just needed more time in between these books to appreciate this one more.

Did I solve it? Partly.

My Rating: 8/10

Agatha Christie Finished!!!

1 Jul

Not that I’ve finished reading all of Christie’s books, but with this post I’ve caught up with reviewing all of the ones I have read.

Cards on the Table: An eccentric rich guy invites four murderers and four sleuths to a party. While the two groups are in separate rooms playing bridge, the rich guy dies. This is very different from her other novels where everyone is a suspect- only four people could have done it. This was an excellent, tightly plotted book. I enjoyed seeing four detective characters work together- Poirot, Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race, and Superintendent Battle.

  • Did I solve it? Yes, but not using the bridge game like Poirot did. I know nothing about bridge so it was all over my head.
  • My Rating: 10/10

Dumb Witness- Poirot gets a letter from an old woman, but by that time she’s dead. The dumb witness refers to the woman’s dog, Bob. Hastings has a few cute “conversations” with Bob, but this book was nothing special to me.

  • Did I solve it? Yes, I had one theory at first that was totally wrong but I picked up on the same things that Poirot did.
  • My Rating: 7/10

Murder in the Mews- Four long short stories featuring Poirot. This book wasn’t that great. The three murder stories I felt would have been better fleshed out as full-length novels. The theft story I thought was boring and totally obvious from the very beginning.

  • Did I solve it? I solved one of the stories, “The Incredible Theft.”
  • My Rating: 6/10

Death on the Nile- A couple on their honeymoon in Egypt is being stalked by the husband’s ex-fiancee. Then the wife turns up dead. Poirot and Colonel Race are both on the boat. I loved this mystery even though I had an inkling of what was going on the whole time. I thought Colonel Race’s subplot of finding a spy was extraneous and totally obvious, and perhaps there are a bit too many characters to keep track of (for me at first, at least!)….but I loved it.

  • Did I solve it? Yes. I went back and forth between A and B…then realized C was the best answer. I also guessed the spy character, because it was totally obvious and it didn’t really fit within the book either.
  • My Rating: 9/10

Appointment with Death: A sadistic woman who maintains total control over her family is murdered while vacationing in Petra. Poirot just can’t catch a break. I really liked this book and the characters, but I do have to admit the ending was kind of cheesy.

  • Did I solve it? No…total fail.
  • My Rating: 8/10

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas: A locked room mystery with Poirot- a rich but cruel multi-millionaire invites his family for Christmas and is killed in his room. The whole family had a motive to kill him. I thought I would like this one more than I did. The actual mystery and the solution were interesting but it was very dialogue heavy. A lot of it was just the detectives questioning the family members, and then discussing those interviews and various possibilities. The parts were stuff was actually happening were good, but there weren’t enough of those.

  • Did I solve it? Well, I played with the idea in my head but it wasn’t until the end that I took it seriously…so kind of.
  • My Rating: 6/10

The Regatta Mystery- A series of kind of random short stories. There are two Parker Pynes (one diamond theft, one relationship one), one Miss Marple, five Hercule Poirots (all murders, I think), and one totally unrelated one. The latter, “In a Glass Darkly,” has supernatural elements- a man sees a woman being strangled in a mirror, but it’s a premonition, not a real reflection. It was…quite weird and very unlike Agatha Christie. Of these, I liked the Poirot stories the best because they were murders. I found it a weak collection on the whole.

  • Did I guess it? I guessed most of the Poirot ones.
  • My Rating: 6/10