End of 2010 Survey

Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner came up with this survey for the end of the year and I thought it would be the perfect way to ease back into blogging after a couple weeks off.

1. Best book of 2010 - East of Eden and The Hunger Games series tie for my favorite books for the year for different reasons. East of Eden was one of the most thought provoking books I read all year. The Hunger Games was the most exciting and anticipated.

2. Worst book of 2010 - The Yiddish Policeman's Union was the worst for me. It did not hold my attention and I started and stopped reading it multiple times this year.

3. Most disappointing book of 2010 - Both Blue Highways and Travels With Charley were big letdowns. Funnily enough, they are both travelogues. I read the first on my roadtrip across the country where I thought I would be completely into it. Unfortunately, I found it to be very boring and it took me the longest to read of any book all year. Travels With Charley was a book I'd gotten so excited about after hearing so many good things from other people. It ended up falling pretty flat after all that hype.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010 - The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was a huge surprise for me. For a very thick book about comic book creators, I really enjoyed it.

5. Book you recommended most to people in 2010 - My most recommended this year was The Millenium trilogy. I read the first two of the series last year and finally was able to finish it out back in the spring. Since then I've been telling everyone to get their hands on it right away!

6. Best series you discovered in 2010 - The Wake series by Lisa McCann and The Hunger Games. Both were exciting and action packed that had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation for the next book in the series.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010 - Jay Asher, Kody Keplinger, Lisa McCann, Rob Sheffield

8. Most hilarious read of 2010 - Going Bovine had me laughing a ton, even though it had it's super sad moments. I also read the first 3 Stephanie Plum books this year and they all had my laughing out loud.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book of 2010 - The Hunger Games series and Hate List were all books I absolutely flew through. I think I read Hate List in just a day which hasn't happened probably since the final Harry Potter books was released.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010 - Great House by Nicole Krauss was my most anticipated. Right around the time it came out I got really backed up on books from the library and I STILL haven't read it. I actually just picked up my copy from the library yesterday and plan to have it be my first read of 2011.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010 - I read a lot of e-books this year, so I didn't always pay attention to cover designs. The ones that stand out to me the most are Dreamland by Sarah Dessen Going Bovine by Libba Bray. The Dreamland cover had me thinking the book was about something completely different and the cover for Going Bovine is pretty silly but sums up the book very well.

12. Most memorable character in 2010 - Katniss from the Hunger Games stands out the most in my memory.

13. Most beautifully written book of 2010 - East of Eden had some fantastic language and was almost poetic. Some of my favorite quotes this year came from this book.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010 - I think I'd have to say My Sister's Keeper had the greatest impact on me. I felt incredibly heavy after finishing it and cried for a really long time throughout.

15. Book you can't believe you waited until 2010 to read - East of Eden!



I apologize for being MIA these last couple weeks. I started a new job and was busy preparing for the holidays. My plan was to catch up on my reading and writing of reviews this week, but I got stranded in New England after the blizzard we had yesterday. I couldn't get another flight out until Thursday so I'm computerless for another few days.

I hope you all had wonderful holidays and are keeping warm! Expect an influx of posts this weekend when I get a chance to play catch up.


Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Book: Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Published: Little, Brown and Company, 2009
Genre: YA
Pages:  405 pages
Where I got it: got an e-book copy for my Nook
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

My thoughts: I've been on a really great streak of captivating young adult novels lately. Hate List was another book that I could not put down. Brown tells Valerie's story by alternating between present and past which had me hooked from the beginning. The subject matter is tough, especially after all of the issues with bullying that have come to light in the last couple of years but the story will really leave you stunned. Valerie kept a notebook full of things she hated, including people, places and inanimate objects. When her boyfriend, Nick, found out about the list and began adding things to it, she thought nothing of it. Soon Nick started mentioning suicide and killing people in great detail until one day he finally carried out the plan he seemed to have hinted at for months before, killing several classmates and a teacher before turning the gun on himself.

Thinking about the way Valerie must have felt about being an indirect cause of the shooting makes the story all the more interesting. She had pretty natural thoughts for a teenager, like wishing she could get revenge on the people who make her life hell at school. I know I have said things in the heat of the moment that I never truly meant, but Val's boyfriend took the hate list that they started literally. Despite the fact that so many people treated her like a criminal and her role in the shooting wasn't completely determined, I really liked Val's character. I felt so bad for her and how she really had no one on her side other than her therapist. In addition to dealing with the ramifications of the shooting, Val also had to deal with her crumbling family and the loss of the guy she loved. It was amazing to me that she even went back to the same school at all.

The ending of Hate List was fantastic. Valerie went through so much during her senior year and this book made me feel like I had experienced it all with her. When she is finally able to graduate and present the project she was working on, it was very touching. She grew as person and was able to get back into a good place with the important people in her life. It was nice to see a happy resolution to such a terrible situation. I'd recommend anyone read this book!

My rating: 4 stars 


Book Review: Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield

Book: Love Is A Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
Published: Three Rivers Press, 2007
Genre: Non-fiction/ Memoir
Pages:  219 pages
Where I got it: bought at Borders
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from book jacket): Mix tapes: We all have our favorites. Stick one into a deck, press play, and you're instantly transported to another time in your life. For Rob Sheffield, that time was one of miraculous love and unbearable grief. A time that spanned seven years, it started when he met the girl of his dreams., and ended when he watched her die in his arms. Using the listings of fifteen of his favorite mix tapes, Rob shows that the power of music to build a bridge between people is stronger than death. You'll read these words, perhaps surprisingly, with joy in your heart and a song in your head- the one that comes to mind when you think of the love of your life.

My thoughts: Even before I picked up Love Is A Mix Tape, I knew that I was really going to love it. Music has always been one of my biggest interests, so when I first heard about this memoir and the way Sheffield weaves the story of finding and losing the love of his life with some of his favorite tunes, I was siked. It took me far too long to get my hands on a copy and then actually read it. It's a short book, just over 200 pages, and all of the pop culture references make it a fun and relatable story. I often found myself saying "YES! I loved that song!" or "OMG, I totally know what he means!" Their love for baseball and the Red Sox also had me just loving them as a couple.

My boyfriend and I met in a Psychology class in college. One of the first connections we had was through music. The first time we hung out outside of class, I took him to my car and went through all of my CDs, giving him anything he didn't already have. Our first Christmas together, we both unknowingly made mix CDs for each other and continued making mixes for each other that often had many of the same songs on them. Finding someone that can share my love of music has always been something I dreamed of, so to see that in a couple like Rob Sheffield and his late wife, Renee, really made my heart happy. It was touching to read about love from a man's point of view. He describes Renee with such affection, it's plain to see he was head over heels for her from the day they met. I loved this quote he used to describe her, "She was in the middle of everything, living her big, messy, epic life, and none of us who loved her will ever catch up with her".

Another thing I loved about this book was Sheffield's description of mix tapes and the desire to share music with others. As a kid, when I was not reading or out playing with my friends in the neighborhood, I was in my room listening intently to the radio, waiting for songs I liked so I could tape them off the radio and make my own mix tapes. I wore out my old stereo doing that kind of thing. I used to keep a notebook where I wrote down what number each song was every week during Kasey Kasem's top 40 countdown. I would use my parents 5 disc CD changer on shuffle to make my own top 40 countdown (with only 5 artists, haha). I was a huge music nerd but those were the things I loved to do. I felt a kinship with Sheffield while reading this because it was all so familiar to me. I loved that the beginning of each chapter included a new mix tape with so many songs that I remember from the 80's, 90's and early 2000's. I also thought it was funny that Rob was a fan of Hanson. I was a huge fan, but I was also a 12 year old girl then.

When Sheffield's wife passed unexpectedly, he had a very difficult time moving on with his life. Music haunted him but also became a form of therapy. I can't imagine what he went through when he lost Renee. I have a hard time listening to certain songs or albums that remind me of bad times in my life, but Sheffield spent 7 years sharing every part of his life with Renee. This was a heartbreaking story about how he dealt with his loss and eventually learned to move on without her. I expected to cry while reading this, but there was enough humor in Love Is A Mix Tape that I felt a balance. It was definitely a sad memoir, but I had this feeling like everything was going to be okay for him eventually. Sheffield's final act of letting go of Renee was incredibly touching. He took all of her hats to Central Park and spread them around, putting a note on them that they were free. I thought that was a great way to honor her and spread her cheer around a place that she loved.

If you are a fan of music, pop culture or just a beautiful love story in general, go out and get a copy of Love Is A Mix Tape. Rob Sheffield is a fantastic writer with a huge capacity to love, as you will see demonstrated in this memoir.

My rating: 4.5 stars


Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Reading Spots

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme featured on The Broke and the Bookish. This week we are talking about our favorite reading spots.

1. My couch - I've been spending lots of time curled up on my couch with a book lately. It's comfy but it's pretty dark in the evenings. I need to get a brighter lamp before I go blind from straining my eyes!

2. On my roof deck - the apartment I moved into over the summer has an awesome roof deck. I spent many afternoons out there on my little beach chair. I've been looking for a more comfortable lounge chair to put up there.

3. On the futon in my loft - this is a great substitution for reading outside. It gets really bright in the loft and I can lay right next to the sliding glass door which lets in a nice breeze.

4. My bed - I love curling up under the blankets on a cold day. Sometimes I end up falling asleep though.

5. At the park - Some days there is really just nothing better than spreading out a blanket in the grass and laying down with a book.

6. At the beach - As much as I love the beach, I tend to get bored just laying on a towel or sitting in a chair trying to get a tan. Having a book makes it more enjoyable and it also makes me feel productive. It's not always the most comfortable place to read, but I still love reading by the ocean.

7. On the train - When I lived and worked in Boston, I got so much reading done on my commute to and from work. As long as I was able to get a seat, I was guaranteed a half hour each way of losing myself in a book. It was a nice way to de-stress right after a long day of work.

I think those are the places I enjoy reading most. I can't think of a full list of ten. I'm going to have to explore new places to read!


Book Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Book: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Published: Little Brown/ Poppy, 2010
Genre: YA Fiction
Pages:  288 pages
Where I got it: got an e-book copy for my Nook
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

My thoughts: The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) is a story about self esteem during the teenage years. If you talk to pretty much any young girl with a group of girlfriends, you'll find out that she has felt like the duff at one time or other. When Bianca Piper meets the hot, womanizing Wesley Rush, it's clear he's only after one thing. He is looking to score with Bianca's good looking friends and chatting up the duff is a good way to score brownie points with her friends. He introduces the term "the Duff" to her and continues to address her as such throughout the book. Bianca is a smart girl who doesn't fall for guys like Wesley. When her family life starts to go downhill, Bianca finds that kissing him is the perfect distraction from her troubles. Eventually she finds herself starting to care about Wesley and getting jealous of the other girls he's seeing. The DUFF was a fun, quick read for me (I read it in just a few hours), although a little predictable at times.

The DUFF had it's depressing moments, like when Bianca would get down on herself for the way Wesley was calling her the duff (although he usually didn't treat her like he thought of her that way). It was sad to read about the developing troubles with her parents. I liked Bianca even though I felt like I probably shouldn't. She was a promiscuous hypocrite when it came to Wesley and was kind of the downer of her group of friends, but her snarky attitude was what won me over. Her two best friends were polar opposites of her, both peppy and popular. I could not stand Bianca's crush, Toby Tucker, and thought there were certain parts of their brief relationship that were odd. He didn't seem like her type at all, other than them both being smart kids who don't typically follow the trends that the other students do. I was rooting for Bianca and Wesley in the end and I'm happy with the outcome of the story.

I was amazed to find out that Kody Keplinger wrote this book when she was a senior in high school. I think that her characterizations of high school students were pretty spot on, so I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised. She's definitely a young, new author to watch. I'm looking forward to reading her next effort.

My rating: 4 stars 


In My Mailbox/ Weekly Reading Wrap-Up (7)

Job hunting is a frustrating process. Since beginning my search back in July, I feel like I've been riding a rollercoaster. This past week was the 3rd or 4th time that I thought I finally was going to be hired, only to be strung along a little further. I still may get this particular job, but it's not as in the bag as they made it seem. I've been trying to lose myself in my reading to de-stress myself (it's working, plus I'm getting so much reading done). This week I read and reviewed Alice I Have Been and The Jane Austen Book Club. I also finished reading The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, which I'll be reviewing tomorrow. I'm reading Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield now and loving it!

I also had a pretty good week in my mailbox. I discovered Net Galley and am super psyched to start reading and reviewing ARC's that way.

From Borders:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

From Amazon:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (I left my copy at my parents house in Massachusetts)

For review from Net Galley:

Miss Entropia and the Atom Bomb by George Rabasa
The Raising by Laura Kasischke
Everything I Was by Corinne Demas
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow
Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Thanks to HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Unbridled Books and Lerner Publishing Group! Also, thank you once again Kristi for hosting IMM.


Book Review: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Book: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Published: A Plume Book, 2004
Genre: Fiction
Pages:  304 pages
Where I got it: bought it at a thrift store
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): In California's central valley, five women and one man join to discuss Jane Austen's novels. Over the six months they get together, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her eye for the frailties of human behaviour and her ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Karen Joy Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships.

My thoughts:  I read quite a few negative or mediocre reviews about The Jane Austen Book Club before picking it up off my shelf. I was hesitant to read it, but I actually enjoyed this novel for the most part. The title is a bit off putting; once you start reading you will see that this is not a novel about Jane Austen, but about the people in the Jane Austen book club. I found the characters to be interesting, if not a little pretentious. The women of the book club were very snooty when it came to discussing the works of Jane Austen. Some of the thoughts they had about the man in the club, Grigg, bothered me. They accepted him into their group but often turned their noses up at his ideas because he wasn't as familiar with Austen as they were.

The beginning of the book had more discussions about Austen and quotes from her novels. I was enjoying how Fowler applied the events in whatever Austen novel they were reading at the time to the stories she told about the lives of her characters. About halfway through The Jane Austen Book Club, I felt like that really dropped off and it became a book about the characters completely. It didn't seem as cleverly written anymore. The relationship between Jocelyn and Grigg bugged me. It seemed to me that Jocelyn was just settling in the end. There wasn't very much chemistry between the two until she found out he had a crush on her. It felt very middle school to me. Fowler meant for there to be a happy ending, between Jocelyn & Grigg, and Sylvia welcoming her husband back home and into their book club. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was another matter of convenience for them to get back together.

I think too many people were expecting a book all about Jane Austen and her writing and this really wasn't that. If you are able to go into it knowing that, you will probably enjoy it more for what it is. Most of the characters are likeable and it was a relatively quick read (for me). If anything, I have an urge to read all of Jane Austen's novel, and in order. If you enjoy a story about the lives and relationships of people, most who happen to be book snobs, I'd suggest you give The Jane Austen Book Club a try.

My rating: 3 stars 


Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books. In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word!
The question this week is: "What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

My answer: I don't think there has been a book that's been over hyped in the blogosphere that I had to write a negative review for yet. I'm still new to blogging and have been reviewing quite a few older books. I think the most disappointing book I read was No One Belong Here More Than You by Miranda July. I had high hopes for it and it ended up falling really flat for me. When writing my review, I tried to point out the positive points of the book to balance out my dislike for it.


Book Review: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Book: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Published: Random House, 2010
Genre: Fiction
Pages:  345 pages
Where I got it: got an e-book copy for my Nook
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war. 

My thoughts: The story of Alice in Wonderland is such a familiar tale to people all over the world. What most people don't know is what happened between Lewis Carroll and the real Alice. This fictional tale may be an exaggerated retelling, but it has many of the facts shockingly correct. Learning that Lewis Carroll (real name: Charles Dodgson) may have been a child molester is really something that cannot be forgotten. I never really thought much about who was behind the creation of one of my favorite childhood fairytales until now. It is a disturbing look at the truth behind a fantastical world that will make you think about the story of Alice in a different way.

Alice I Have Been is an emotional novel that peeks into the life of the Alice who inspired the famous story. As a young girl, Alice Pleasance Liddell and her sisters spent many days hanging around Mr. Dodgson, who took a special interest in Alice. He came up with the story of Alice In Wonderland and Alice urged him to write it down. After an incident between the two, Alice is forbidden to see him. Alice I Have Been details her struggle with overcoming her past relationship with Mr. Dodgson and how it affected her throughout her life as she searched for her true identity, separate from the girl in the fairytale. He immortalized her as this young, carefree girl but he knew that she would one day grow up and not be the young girl he so admired.

I really enjoyed the writing in this novel. Alice was a tortured soul, but I was glad that she was able to come to terms with what happened before she died. It seemed that she always discovered things too late. She realized that she truly loved her husband after he passed, and it took her almost her entire life to read the full story of Alice in Wonderland because it was too painful for her to think about all that story put her through. Her relationship and feelings towards her three sons was heartbreaking and I'm not even a mother. Throughout all of this, she also had to deal with losing so many of her loved ones. A sister, a potential life partner, sons, parents, husband. It's a tragic tale that will have you on the edge of your seat. I found my self sympathizing with Dodgson as well. He seemed innocent enough, despite his interest in young girls. We don't actually know what occured between the two, as this is just Benjamin's mind at work. Alice and her family never spoke about it and Dodgson's family ripped the pages from that time of his life out of his journal.

Alice I Have Been is a more toned down Lolita. As the reader, if you are able to look past the scandal, this is an interesting and engaging novel that I'd recommend you read. I've been trying to figure out how to rate this one. As I neared the end, I could not put it down because I felt very attached to Alice's story and Benjamin's writing had me hooked from the beginning. I'm still a little creeped out by the relationship between Alice and Dodgson but I'm also quite intrigued about their history. Google Lewis Carroll's photographs of children if you are at all interested in this story and you will get a quick peek at the background of this novel.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars