Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Best of 2013: Fiction

Over the course of 2013, I read a total of 25 books, or 8,108 pages. Of those 25, I gained several new favorites, including The Great Gatsby, and Between Shades of Gray - novels that I feel have made an important impact on my life.
Several books were also made into movies during 2013, including Gatsby, Catching Fire, The Host, and Safe Haven. The film industry has seem to found a new jackpot in YA novels! 2014 promises to be a year of more books-turned movies as well. I am looking forward to Divergent in March, The Fault in Our Stars in June, and Mockingjay Part 1 in November!
Not only was 2013 a year of great books, but a year of some of my best accomplishments. I  was published in my school's literary arts magazine and became Literary Editor of the magazine for the 2013-14 school year a few days later. My travels took me to Cape Cod, Sugarbush, VTColumbia University, and Strand Books.
I do not plan on posting for the rest of the week, so I would just like to say that I hope everyone has a very, merry Christmas, and a happy New Year! I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, and good food. And of course, if the time yields, a good books as well! C.S Lewis once said, “Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably."
Best wishes to you as the year comes to a close, and I will see you in the new year!
2014 will be the first year of fully integrating my rating system, so my "Best of" list next year will be based on mathematical reasoning rather than recollection. But for now, here are my top fiction novels of the 2013!
Top Fiction Novels of 2013
10.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan

9.   Pivot Point , Kasie West

8.   Safe Haven, Nicholas Sparks

7.   Just One Day, Gayle Forman

6.  This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith

5.  Such a Rush, Jennifer Echols

4.  The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

3.  Allegiant, Veronica Roth

2.  Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys

1Divergent, Veronica Roth

Divergent, the first novel in another dystopian trilogy, had me hooked at the first page. With its chapters of danger and self-discovery, as well as hints of romance and interpretations of humanity, it was a read sure worth my time. Both suspenseful and epic, Veronica Roth did a fantastic job in adding another series of books to the list of novels not to be forgotten. The trailer and movie clip are here!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Best of 2013: Historical Fiction / Memoir

As 2013 comes to a close, I have complied my lists to create The Best of 2013. I will be posting lists of memoirs, historical fiction, and finally, the best of the best in fiction!

Just as a reminder, unlike many other "Best of" lists around the Internet, the books included in my lists are not centered entirely on novels published in 2013, they are just books I read in 2013. Books listed here that were published in 2013 are entirely coincidental.

Top Memoirs of 2013:

2. Night, Elie Wiesel

1. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls

I read The Glass Castle as part my Honors English curriculum last spring, and it was a very eye-opening novel. Jeannette Walls writes about growing up with neglectful and unemployed parents, and her struggle for a bright future. Walls tells her story in a way that is raw and inspiring.

Top Historical Fiction Novels of 2013:

3. In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez

2. Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys

1. Life: An Exploded Diagram, Mal Peet

In reading the review I posted of Life: An Exploded Diagram, you will have noticed the great praise I gave this novel. Taking place during three different time periods: post World War II, the Cold War, and early 2000s, Peet does a fantastic job of painting world history in a way that is moving and delightful.

Check back tomorrow for The Best Fiction Books of 2013!

Friday, December 20, 2013

On Challenges and Nerdfighters

With 2013 quickly coming to a close, it is time for bloggers and readers alike to reflect on their reading over the course of the year. Back in January, I had joined two reading challenges hosted by very successful book blogs. Below you can find the books I read for each category, and links to the reviews I posted for each.

I am currently scoping out what challenges will be available for 2014, and I will post here at the beginning of January with my findings!

2013 Women Challenge I read a lot of books written by women, but this year I had hoped to focus on the original, classic, women in literature: the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, etc. For this challenge I signed up for the "Super Girl" category (11-15 books written by women authors) and it was hosted by the blog Peek-a-Book!

The titles I read this year (15 read of 15 book goal - 100%):

1.  Divergent, Veronica Roth
2.  Insurgent, Veronica Roth
3.  Allegiant, Veronica Roth
4.  Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
5.  Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys
6.  A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, Carol Berkin
7.  The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
8.  Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
9.  Pivot Point, Kasie West
10. Just One Day, Gayle Forman
11. This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith
12. Such a Rush, Jennifer Echols
13. In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
14. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
15. The Future of Us, Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher

YA Contemporary Challenge 2013 This tends to be the genre I read the most, so I had signed myself up as a Level 2 contender (10+ books). All books read for this challenge had to be YA books published at some point during 2013. This challenge, hosted by Katie's Book Blog, also had a group on Goodreads, which listed dozens of titles that fit this category.

The titles I read this year (5 read of 10 book goal - 50%):

1. Just One Day, Gayle Forman
2. This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith
3. Pivot Point, Kasie West
4. Allegiant, Veronica Roth
5. Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys

Just one more day until I reveal my Best of 2013! The announcement will be divided like in past years into two days - Historical Fiction and Memoir on Saturday, and Fiction on Sunday.

On a different note, on Wednesday I spent most of the afternoon walking around the house with my headphones in, so that I could listen to author John Green's (TFiOS, Looking for Alaska) livestream via YouTube. This video was part of the 48 hour-long livestream he hosted in conjunction with his brother Hank on their YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. The livestream was done to promote their charity event called Project for Awesome, an event where Nerdfighters (the name John and Hank have given their fans) create videos to promote a charity they feel strongly about. Donations to the project are currently over $800,000 dollars, and the money will be divided among the charities that collect the most comments and views. I did not make a video, but did vote for several.

(Miss the livestream? Check out the best moments from the 48-hours here!)

During the livestream John gave a tour of his office while wearing the fox hat from Looking for Alaska. He also read an excerpt from the new book he is working on, and revealed our first look at the TFiOS film adaption - the movie poster! (ahhh!!!) It's easy to forget upon reading books, watching movies, or listening to songs, that there are real people who made those things. Although they might be famous and always in the spotlight, fans don't ever really get the chance to know their favorite singers or authors on a personal level. John Green is not my favorite author just because of the books he writes, but because of how connected he is with his fans. He is constantly answering "Real questions from real Nerdfighters" in his Question Tuesday videos, and sharing updates from his life. It's also neat to see that he gives back, through fundraisers he has created like Project for Awesome and The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck.

So it's very cool (at least to me anyway) to see that one of the people that inspires you the most is more than just the picture on the inside of a book jacket.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Veronica Roth
526 pages
“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater."  - page 509

It is very, very hard to write about this book without giving away spoilers from Divergent  and Insurgent, but I will try my best. Please stay away if you have not read the aforementioned titles...
The faction-based society of Chicago that Tris Prior and Tobias Eaton had once called home is now completely shattered. War, unjust power, and betrayal has interrupted their world indefinitely. When they are given the chance to escape the city and go beyond the fence, there is no way they can refuse. What they find there is not at all the quiet, safe, life together they had imagined. Tris and Tobias are suddenly overwhelmed by just how big the world is, and together they must face new obstacles and truths they did not think even possible.
And I think the simplest way to explain my feelings about this book is by saying (and pardon my word choice)
What the hell. 
I approached this book already knowing there would be a surprise ending (thanks, Internet spoilers for blowing up in my face) but I did not know just how surprising until I read it a few hours ago. But that is all I will say about it. I am trying to make the Internet a more spoiler-free place, one little unknown blog at a time here :)
I wish I had been able to read this book from beginning to end in about a week's time, but it took me more like a month due to the fact that I have been busy reading Lord of the Flies and Great Expectations for English class. Today was the first day in about two weeks that I picked up Allegiant, and since it was snowy outside and cozy under the covers, I was able to read the last 125 pages in one sitting.
Allegiant picks up right where Insurgent ended. The story is told from a riveting dual perspective, elevating the novel to an entirely new level. Alternating chapters between Tris and Tobias was extremely effective in allowing several events to occur at the same time, as well as thoughts from both characters to be understood.
Although Allegiant takes place in futuristic, dystopian world, Veronica Roth sill manages to make it seem very real. Not necessarily the setting, but the characters. Tris does not suffer from a futuristic virus, but from common themes in today's world such as self-identity, bravery, and love. Throughout Allegiant Tris struggles to determine her role in this new society outside of the fence, as well as with the definition of bravery. Tobias and Tris' relationship is grounded in reality, with arguments, separation and understanding. And although their relationship is so real that it seems cliché, I can not help but sigh and smile every time I read...
Then I thought of how strong I have become, how secure I feel with the person I now am, and how all along the way he has told me that I am brave, I am respected, I am loved an worth loving.
"And?" he says, his voice and his eyes and his hands, a little unsteady.
"And," I say, "I think you're still the only person sharp enough to sharpen someone like me."
- page 372
Allegiant was a fantastic closure to a series I thought a few months ago I would have no interest in. Turns out, Roth's trilogy has made it into my Best of 2013 List, to be posted December 22nd, 2013!
Story Line - 8/10
Character's Voice - 10/10
Writing Style - 8/10

Overall - 26/30