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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.

He Knew He Was Right Book and Miniseries Review

31 Aug

The Book

He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope, was published in 1869. It is one of the more popular of his many, many novels. It tells of the destruction of a once happy marriage, due to the husband, Louis Trevelyan’s jealousy, and his wife, Emily’s stubbornness. Louis does not like Emily to spend so much time with her godfather, Colonel Osborne, a ladies’ man who has some rumored scandals in his past. Although he does not suspect that she has been unfaithful, he thinks that it will give him a bad reputation as a husband. Emily, in turn, insists that she has done nothing wrong and so instead of acquiescing, she obstinately defies Louis just to prove him wrong. Both keep insisting that they are right until things keep spiraling further and further out of control. Like Trollope’s other works, there are about a million side characters and subplots as well, including a love triangle involving Emily’s sister, Nora.

I actually read this a few months ago but am only getting around to a review now to fill up time until my Jane Eyre DVD arrives! This was my fourth Trollope novel.I have not really cared for any of them, sadly. The Warden and Barchester Towers were okay, but I really hated The Way We Live Now. I like Trollope’s writing well enough, but I always have a  hard time because most of his characters are so unlikeable. Trollope himself was not fond of He Knew He Was Right because Louis Trevelyan was so unsympathetic. I have to agree. It’s not good if I like the subplots better than the main plot of a novel! I could not sympathize with Emily either. Yes, she was technically more “right” in the beginning than Louis, but the situation got out of hand largely due to her obstinacy as well as Louis’s. The two really needed to have a frank discussion without constantly blaming the other for everything. I do not hesitate in saying this will be my last Trollope novel, since I do not own any others.

My Rating: 4/10

He Knew He Was Right, the miniseries, aired on BBC in 2004 and was scripted by the (in)famous Andrew Davies. It stars Oliver Dimsdale as Louis Trevelyan, Laura Frasier as Emily, and many well-known British actors such as Bill Nighy as Colonel Osborne, Anna Massey as Aunt Stansbury, and Christina Cole as Nora. Andrew Davies also adapted Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, and as you probably know from my earlier review, I was NOT a fan of that adaptation in any way. Since I did not care for this book very much, I did not have high hopes for this miniseries.

So, what did I think? It was actually not as bad as I thought it could be. That was, I believe, mostly due to my low expectations. The acting was good all around and it was faithful to the novel for the most part. I have mixed feelings about one big change to this adaptation, however. Namely- Emily Trevelyan. Davies paints her as MUCH more sympathetic than the book character, where she is nearly as much to blame as Louis for their failed marriage. Here, she is almost completely innocent and seems genuinely ignorant and confused about why Louis is originally upset. Louis in the miniseries actually believes that she and Osborne are having an affair for some reason, which never crossed his mind in the book. Emily in the series is a blameless victim, and can honestly be called “right” in the situation. I suppose Davies wanted to make at least one likeable lead and so altered things to make Louis entirely the villain and Emily only a victim, trying to do the right thing. I am torn about this change because while it does make for easier viewing, having someone to root for in the main plotline, the fact remains that it is not true to the book. I was unable to fully enjoy the miniseries for that reason because I just kept thinking “That’s not how it’s supposed to be!” Silly and too purist of me? Maybe. But that’s how I feel.

My Rating: 6/10

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.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

21 Jun

I’m sorry this is not a Jane Eyre review! I will get into those adaptations soon, I promise! I just need to get my hands on the 1934 version so I can start at the beginning. For some reason, I forgot to order that one. Oopsies!

For now, I have a YA book review, specifically Divergent by Veronica Roth. It’s set in a dystopian Chicago where society is divided into five factions based on personality traits- Candor (honest), Erudite (intelligent), Dauntless (fearless), Agnegation (selfless), and Amity (peaceful). Sixteen-year-olds must take a test to see what faction they belong in and then choose where they’ll be the rest of their lives. The protagonist, Beatrice, is torn whether to stay in Abnegation with her family or leave them. It doesn’t help that her test results were inconclusive- She’s divergent, and doesn’t fit perfectly in any faction. And it could mean danger if the secret gets out.

Dystopians are all the rage in YA right now. I like dystopians if they’re well done, but I was a bit hesitant to read this one.  It got really good reviews and I was afraid it was just over-hyped, like Matched. And the author, Veronica Roth, is only 22 years old! I was just…nervous. Luckily, my fears were unfounded.

Divergent was great! It has almost as much action as The Hunger Games. The characters were diverse and well-written. Beatrice, or Tris as she renames herself, is a realistic character who grows mentally and physically throughout the novel. I liked the romantic subplot as well- it wasn’t forced and fakey like in Matched.

Divergent is the first in a trilogy and it definitely left me hungry for more! I want to find out what happens next, of course, but I also want to know more about this Chicago’s history. What happened? War? How long has it been that way? I hope Veronica Roth tells us in the next installments.

Gah, I’m so jealous of Veronica Roth and her writing skills at such a young age. I know with more time and experience, she’s going to be amazing. I would love to be like that…if only I had an ounce of creativity.

My Rating: 9/10

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