Obsessing Over in 2013

Dec 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

If you read my end of the year survey, the books on this list will be no surprise to you. While I read plenty of great books this year, I decided to only list the six that I can't stop thinking about or recommending to people. These were all five-star reads for me, and I've quoted from and linked to my reviews for each (just in case you need further convincing to read these books).

Top Six Books I Read In 2013

1. Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer - "I read Nowhere but Home back at the beginning of June and have had this draft post just sitting there since then. I just loved this book so much that everything I write about it seems inadequate. What words can I string together to convince you that this is a book that is so deserving of your attention? This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read this year." My Review

2. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - "How do I even begin to describe my love for this book? From the stunning cover to the gorgeous prose inside, I love everything about Burial Rites. Hannah Kent's debut novel is a work of fiction, but it is based on real events. It is stunning, moving, and without a doubt, one of the best things I've read in a long time and certainly a favorite of this year. It deserves all the praise it's been getting and more... If you're a fan of adult fiction, this is a book that MUST be on your reading list." My Review

3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - "No matter what you think about the controversial topic addressed in Me Before You, I am convinced you'll find the book engrossing and memorable! There's just so much to love about it. We're barely in to 2013, and yet I feel confident in saying that this is absolutely a book that will top the list of favorite reads at the end of the year." My Review

4. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas - "Crown of Midnight is just an addictive story! I really enjoyed Throne of Glass, but I can now see how Maas was setting everything up and introducing you to characters that were about to steal your heart. The creativity of the story, the super swoonworthiness of the romance, and the mythology of the magic in this world just blew me away. The story is so complex, so detailed, and so thought out. I definitely feel like Maas knows where she's going with this story, which makes me even more excited for further books in this series." My Review

5. All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry - "Don't let the blurb or cover dissuade you from reading this book. It's emotional, lovely, haunting and such a wonderful book. The writing is so lyrical that I found myself re-reading passages over and over again just to savor their beauty. Even when I love a book, I'm not typically the kind to push it on everyone. Listen, I'm pushing this one. You really NEED to read this book! You may be nervous or unsure of it, but I'm begging you to give it a chance. This was definitely one of the best surprises of 2013! And you better believe I'm buying a hard copy for my shelves." My Review

6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - "Honestly y'all, I feel like I haven't said anything new or original about Fangirl. In case you can't tell, I absolutely loved it. I tore through my copy at lightning speed, and I'm already thinking about a much-needed re-read because I didn't take enough time appreciate Rowell's clever and smart writing. There were SO MANY quotable lines, but I feel like I barely absorbed them because I was so smitten with the story and the characters." My Review

The Favorite Factor: Longbourn

Dec 27, 2013

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Release Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Random House | Knopf
Pages: 352 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she'd most likely be a sight more careful with them.

In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants' hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocable, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen's classic - into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars - and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.
Cassie and I were chatting about our love for adult fiction, and we wanted to figure out a way to really highlight that love with a new feature. So, we're bringing you adult fiction reviews where we highlight five factors: The Frame (Setting), The Flow (Plot), The Faces (Characters), The Function (Writing Overall) and The Feelings (Relationships).

Each of our posts will highlight our own thoughts on each of the five factors, so you can see side-by-side how our opinions stack up. Then, it all culminates in The Finale where we jointly share our overall feelings on the book with a rating that helps you find out how this book factors into our favorites pile.

As much as I love Pride and Prejudice (and many associated spin-offs), it was actually Cassie who suggested this book for our second edition of Favorite Factor. I was really intrigued by the idea of a book set during Pride and Prejudice, but focusing on the characters and events of "downstairs." And I'm happy to report that the combined setting of Regency England + servants life/tasks/etc. was so well done! The time period leapt off the page, just from the way things were described and the tasks that the servants performed. While it could have been separated from the Pride and Prejudice connection, I actually thought that added to my enjoyment of the book. I loved seeing so much more of what might have been going on in my favorite book - and seeing the way it corresponded with that story.

I will be honest and say that the book started off a little slow for me. It's separated into three volumes (like Pride and Prejudice) and there wasn't a ton going on in the first volume. It really set the scene and introduced the characters, but it wasn't the most engaging part of the book. I enjoyed it, but it didn't have me turning the pages with excitement. However, it definitely picked up in volume two. I couldn't put it down after that part! It wasn't that there was a lot more action - the story just started to get more interesting. 

As far as the plot itself, I really loved it! I liked that the plot intersected with Pride and Prejudice, but that it also distinguished itself from that book. There was romance, scandal and intrigue downstairs, too. In fact, I thought the book got better and became a more enjoyable read as the servants developed their own stories. That was what got me hooked on this book! 

I loved these characters so much! Now, if you're reading this expecting to see a lot of your favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice, you might be a little disappointed. Those characters don't actually play a huge role in this book. Yes, they exist in this world and do make appearances, but they aren't what really shine in this story. What made me fall in love with Longbourn was the servants who populate it. I loved the main housemaid, the mysterious new footman, and the house manager. There are additional characters I enjoyed, but those three were definitely my favorites. 

I thought Longbourn was really well written. Despite the minor pacing issues I previously mentioned, I found so much to enjoy about Baker's writing. I thought it fit the time period really well, and it didn't try to match Austen's tone or wit. Instead, it just complemented the world she'd created and added its own perspective on that time period and those events.

I hate when I read a Pride and Prejudice spin-off that either feels too modern or like it's trying too hard to mimic Austen. Longbourn really hit out of the park in that regard. It was a unique angle that felt new and interesting. I think it would have worked as a story with or without the Pride and Prejudice connection, but I felt that tie-in really made it come alive for me.

This was absolutely, completely the best part of this book for me. The relationships between the servants themselves and between the servants and the Bennets made me fall in love with this book. There wasn't as much of a relational aspect in the first volume, which likely contributed to why it didn't work quite as well for me. But once Baker started introducing new relationships and focusing on that angle, it really took off.

I loved that there were so many different kinds of relationships in this book - employer/employee, co-workers (almost sisterly), daughter/mother figure and even a romance! The romance was actually my very favorite part of the book, but there were still so many other interactions that had me falling in love with this book.

Me: So, let me start with the question of the hour. Can you see now why I told you that you HAD to read Pride & Prejudice before you were allowed to read Longbourn?

Cass: Oh my goodness yes!! There is NO WAY I would appreciate nor understand Longbourn without reading P&P!

Me: Agree! I think the book is that much richer of a read if you have already experienced P&P. The characters from P&P don't play a HUGE role in this book, but I still think you have to know what happens in that book to fully appreciate everything that happens in this one.

Cass: Absolutely. You'd just simply miss out on so many things going on otherwise.

Me: Now, I've seen some reviews suggest that this book should have been written without the P&P connection - just as a simple belowstairs story. Thoughts on that?

Cass: Meh. I think that it still would have been great, I have a LOT of faith in Jo Baker after this novel, BUT I think that how it WAS done with including P&P was perfect. What do you think?

Me: I agree! I think that it would have been an enjoyable story either way, especially since the events of P&P weren't the focus of this story, but I still think it was just perfect the way it was done. I loved that connection - and feeling like I was getting a "behind-the-scenes" peek at my favorite book. So, what's your overall feeling about the book? I think I can guess but I'll have you spell it out for the sake of our readers!

Cass: Hahaha, my final reaction is - READ THIS BOOK. It is beautiful, and heart-wrenching and bold, and just about damn near perfect. SPEND THOSE GIFTCARDS LADIES AND GENTS. Buy it! And Hannah, if you'd do the honors and give YOUR final thought?

Me: I absolutely, 100% agree with everything you said. I could not put this book down once I got into it, and I just fell in love with everything about it. I'm really excited that this gets a stamp of ABSOLUTE FAVORITE from me!

Cass: Same from me! Our second book was DEFINITELY a success! Can we hope the same from our next? ;)

Me: I'm definitely hoping so! But either way, people, GO BUY THIS BOOK.


Me: NOW.
- The Consensus -
Don't forget to check out Cassie's thoughts!

2013 End of the Year Book Survey

Dec 26, 2013

Survey Created & Hosted by Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner
It's the most wonderful time of the year! I'm so obsessed with end of the year recap posts - both writing mine and reading others' posts. I love getting a snapshot of what everyone has read this year and looking back at my year in books. It's always nice to highlight some of my favorites, reflect on some of the best moments and gather my thoughts before moving into the new year. So, let's do this thing!

1. Best book you read in 2013?
I'm really sorry, but there's no way I could pick just one overall favorite. But I did narrow it down to six, and you'll definitely see some of the same books crop up on the rest of my survey.

YA Contemporary | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
YA Historical | All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
YA Fantasy | Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Adult Contemporary | Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
Adult Historical | Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Adult Non-Fiction | Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings by Mary Henley Rubio

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't?
The one that I was most excited for but was ultimately most disappointing was The Turncoat by Donna Thorland. My minor frustrations with the book became amplified due to a heroine that didn't make any sense.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
I definitely have to go with All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry. I almost completely overlooked the book because of the cover, but a great review from a trusted blogger convinced me to give it a second look. I'm so glad because this ended up being one of my favorite reads of the year!

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommend to people most in 2013?
There are actually three books that I read and recommended most in 2013. They absolutely, no contest, are: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
As a series addict, there's no way I'm choosing one. I started and loved Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night. While I got off to an iffy start with Cinder, I ultimately fell in love with The Lunar Chronicles after reading Scarlet and Cress. I just binge read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom in about a week and totally fell in love. But, of all the series I discovered this year, I think I have to say that Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight were my favorite.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?
While you should check out my Top Ten Tuesday post about my 2013 author obsessions to see the depth of my author love this year, I've got hand Rainbow Rowell the crown. I read all three of her books, became obsessed and then saw her speak in person and realized she's even more awesome than I'd imagined.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
The Lunar Chronicles was definitely a new genre for me since science fiction is not my thing, but I've actually got to go with Katie McGarry's books on this one. While I've read a lot of contemporary, I'd initially dismissed her books because they are more romance than contemporary. Major thanks to Betty and Cassie for convincing me to give them a shot!

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
I've got to hand this one to Crown of Midnight. I stayed up into the early hours of morning - on a work day - because I could not stop reading this book. There was no way I could close my eyes without knowing what was going to happen! Then it ended, and so began that book hangover...

9. Book you read in 2013 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
Honestly, anything I loved that's mentioned on this survey is a likely re-read! I'd like to be better about re-reading next year (since I love it so much), but we shall see...

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
I'm absolutely in love with the covers of Burial Rites and Fangirl. I think Burial Rites is absolutely gorgeous and so eye-catching, and I think Fangirl is so refreshing, adorable and fits the book perfectly.

11. Most memorable character in 2013?
As a reader who craves well-developed characters, it should be no surprise that the three characters I found most memorable are the heroines of my three most recommended books in 2013: Agnes from Burial Rites, Queenie from Nowhere But Home and Louise from Me Before You. All three women have stayed with me over the year - popping up in my thoughts and setting the standard for what it means to be a memorable character.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
No question - Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. This was one of the most gorgeous, well-written books I've ever read. I am dying to get my hands on more books from Kent. I'm so impressed with her talent at such a young age. I cannot tell enough people to read this one!

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
While my three most recommended books had a significant impact on me, I want to highlight another book that really affected me: Just One Day by Gayle Forman. While I didn't relate to everything in Allyson's story, I still found myself so attached to her growth as a character. I related to some of the lessons she learned and found myself really moved by the way she finally begins to come into her own.

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
I can't believe I waited until this year to read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. It took me a little bit of time to get into the book, but I was hooked once I finally did. I love the world and the characters Rossi created, and I'm sad about saying goodbye to them in the new year.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2013?
"I remain quiet. I am determined to close myself to the world, to tighten my heart and hold what has not yet been stolen from me. I cannot let myself slip away. I will hold what I am inside, and keep my hands tight around all the things I have seen and heard, and felt. The poems composed as I washed and scythed and cooked until my hands were raw. The sagas I know by heart. I am sinking all I have left and going underwater. If I speak, it will be bubbles of air. They will not be able to keep my words for themselves. They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt. They will say 'Agnes' and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving. They might see the lamb circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother. But they will not see me. I will not be there." - Burial Rites

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2013?
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was my shortest read at 96 pages. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo was my longest at 1,330 pages.

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to someone about it?
It wasn't my favorite book in the series, but I was dying to talk to someone about the relationship developments in The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead. While the turn of events wasn't entirely surprising, I just had chat with someone about what might happen with this new couple in the future!

18. Favorite relationship from a book you read in 2013?
My favorite sibling relationship was Queenie and Merry Carole from Nowhere But Home. I can't get enough of those two ladies! My favorite friendship was Jennifer and Beth from Attachments. Their emails just made me grin like a fool and totally sold me on them.

And my favorite romantic relationship? Chaol & Celaena (Crown of Midnight), Will & Lou (Me Before You), Levi & Cath (Fangirl), Sydney & Adrian (The Fiery Heart), and Hector & Elisa (The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom). Yeah, sorry, I can't just pick one.

19. Favorite book you read in 2013 from an author you've read previously?
I definitely think it was Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi. I was thrilled when it turned out to be even better than Shatter Me and a wonderful continuation of that series!

20. Best book you read in 2013 that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else?
Estelle from Rather Be Reading really pushed Attachments and had me so intrigued by it. I'm so glad she recommended it so highly! I fell in love with this story and have since recommended it to so many friends. And it was very first introduction to the wonder that is Rainbow Rowell!

21. Genre you read the most from in 2013?
It's actually just about a tie between contemporary and historical fiction, but I also read a surprisingly high number of books that could be categorized as fantasy. I also read more young adult than adult fiction this year, but I still managed to work in a little non-fiction, too.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
I totally crushed on five new fellas in 2013. My three "good guys" were Chaol from Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, Levi from Fangirl and Hector from The Girl of Fire and Thorns series. And the two "bad boys" that stole my heart were Adrian from the Bloodlines series and Isaiah from Crash Into You. You're in for some serious swoon with those gents!

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
Unsurprisingly, my favorite adult debut was Burial Rites, and my favorite young adult debut was All The Truth That's In Me. Both were such fantastic reads - and historical fiction (my favorite) to boot!

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Without question, this goes to Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight. Since the world building aspect is usually turns me off of fantasy books, the fact that I loved the world in these books just as much as I did the characters and action really says something about how much I'm enjoying this series.

25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2013?
I had the most fun reading Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham in the first third of the year, the Heist Society series by Ally Carter in the second third, and Past Perfect by Leila Sales in the final third of the year. Each book was so much fun and had me grinning at the pages while I was reading!

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2013?
While Me Before You should have been the biggest tearjerker of a read, I actually cried more while reading Nowhere But Home. I absolutely fell in love with Palmer's book (if you can't already tell), and I cried at least three times in it. And it's not really a sad book. And I don't cry when I read. Something about that one just got to me!

27. Book you read in 2013 that you think got overlooked this year or when it came out?
The book I loved that I think got overlooked this year is The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni, and the book I loved that I think got overlooked the year it came out is Past Perfect by Leila Sales. Why aren't more people talking about these two books?

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013?
I found so many great blogs this year! My very favorite new blog discoveries are the ones where I've come to know and love the blogger behind the screen. Those are Betty from Book Rock Betty, Cassie from Books With Cass, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books, Kelly from Belle of the Literati, and Judith + Ellice from Paper Riot.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2013?
Thankfully, I actually thought I liked the reviews I wrote from my favorite books this year: Me Before You, Nowhere But Home, Burial Rites, and All The Truth That's In Me. I think my love for the books was evident in each review. I also liked two reviews where I mixed up my format - Unravel Me and Attachments. I think changing it up made those reviews fun and two of my favorites!

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
I'm so glad I made it a goal to have more discussion posts on my blog this year because they ended up being some of my very favorite posts this year! The ones with the best discussion were: On My Commenting Habits, On Being A Series AddictOn The Classics Conundrum, and On My Rating Dilemma.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?
I loved two discussion posts that Judith from Paper Riot wrote: Books Belong To Their Readers and These Books Will Kill Me. Confession: I loved both posts so much and had so many thoughts on them that I kept them both open in my Internet browser for 2+ months... and then never commented. Be better than me, y'all!

5. Best event that you participated in?
The Summer Series Challenge! This was my very first challenge experience (Goodreads reading goal doesn't count), and I hope it's not my last. I had so much fun participating! I got to write a guest post for the challenge and was able to accomplish so much. I really hope to join in again in 2014!

6. Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?
I went to three book signings this year that were so much fun: Veronica Rossi and Tahereh Mafi, Gayle Forman and Stephanie Perkins, and Rainbow Rowell. These ladies are five of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed the chance to hear them talk about their books and get my copies signed. I've never attended a signing prior to blogging, but now I've always got my eye out for authors coming my way!

BUT the absolute best moment of blogging was when Cassie and I got to interview Liza Palmer for our blogs. I loved getting to hear from one of my new favorite authors, and she was sweet and generous enough to send us each a signed copy of Nowhere But Home. Did I geek out over the book + the sweet card inside? YOU BET.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog?
My most visited non-book review post was my Kindle Paperwhite Review, and my most visited book-related post was my Burial Rites review. My post with the most comments was, ironically enough, my discussion about my commenting habits.

8. Post you wished got a little more love?
While there are always reviews that I wish got a little more love, I actually would have loved to hear some more movie suggestions on my post about my love for costume dramas. I also wish my A to Z Survey got a little more attention - mostly because it took me forever to answer the questions. Hah!

9. Best bookish discovery?
NetGalley! I'd heard people talk about it prior to 2013, but I didn't join until January of this year. I have a love/hate relationship with review books, but I can't deny that I love browsing this website.

10. Did you complete any reading challenge or goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I did - I completed and met my goals for the Summer Series Challenge and the Goodreads Reading Challenge! To see more how I did on my other goals this year, check out my 2013 resolution recap.

1. One book you didn't get to in 2013 but will be your number one priority in 2014?
How about every single book I just HAD to buy this year but still haven't read? There are really way too many books that fit this description. The two that I think top the list are the ones that I cared enough to pre-order: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers and Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund.

2. Non-debut book you are most anticipating for 2014?
Too many to choose from for this question, but I am really excited about reading The Here and Now by Ann Brashares and Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Check out this Top Ten Tuesday post to see what else I'm dying to read in 2014.

3. 2014 debut you are most anticipating?
I'm really looking forward to a new historical fiction debut in 2014 - The Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman!

4. Series ending you are most anticipating in 2014?
I think I'm most anticipating Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi and Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. I'm excited, scared and sad for the end of both of series! Check out this Top Ten Tuesday post to see what other series/sequels I'm dying to read in 2014.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2014?
Honestly, I really hope to get more control over my TBR and stop buying so many books that just go unread for weeks or months. I'd also love to do more re-reading in 2014 since that's something I've barely done since I started blogging. 

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Dec 25, 2013

Daughter Zion Designs
But the angel said to them, 
"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11, NIV

Send These, Santa!

Dec 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - I wasn't really interested in this one until it won the Goodreads "Best Books of 2013" award for historical fiction. Then I noticed that several trusted bloggers gave it five stars, which made me wonder why this hadn't been on my radar before.

2. The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook - I've had this on my TBR from the moment I first spotted the cover before it was released. I love historical fiction, and this one has gotten great ratings. Plus, it's gorgeous!

3. Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall - I first introduced Cassie to this book, and she's had it on her wishlist ever since. I decided that I, too, needed to read this book. It's set in the South, so that's a win!

4. Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman - I absolutely adored Freeman's Wildflower Hill when I read it last year, so I'm hoping this one is also a hit for me. It seems like it's right up my alley!

5. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes - I read this book for review, and I've wanted to add a copy to my shelves ever since. I've really fallen in love with Moyes' writing!

6. The Handmaid's Daughter by Barbara Mutch - I read the summary and knew this book had my name written all over it. Santa (in the form of Cassie) technically already gave me this one. THANKS, SANTA CASSIE! 

7. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard - This was on my wishlist after several bloggers started singing its praises, and my sweet best friend already gifted me a Kindle copy. Hope I enjoy these zombies!

8. Crash Into You by Katie McGarry - This is another one that I've already read, but I obviously must own a copy so that I can re-read whenever I'm in the mood for some serious swoon. Or, you know, some Isaiah.

9. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys - I really enjoyed Sepetys' first book, Between Shades of Gray, and I know Cassie really loved this one. That was reason enough to add this one to my Christmas wishlist!

10. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - My same friend that bought me #7 on this list also gifted me this book at the same time. I haven't read it yet because I think I need to re-read the first book for a refresher.

Too Hot To Handle

Dec 20, 2013

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Release Date: November 19, 2013
Publisher: Penguin | Razorbill
Pages: 438 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Series: Bloodlines #4
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her…

But the struggle isn't over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps at the threat of exposure - and re-reducation - looms larger than ever.

Thoughts on The Fiery Heart
I read The Fiery Heart in the midst of a massive book slump, and I had the highest of hopes that it would pull me out of it. While I really enjoyed the book, it didn't completely break me out of my blahs. That being said, this was definitely a great installment for this series and left me freaking out over what Mead will do to these characters next. So, here's what I have to say to our unlikely hero and heroine.

Dear Sydney,

Girl, you have totally surprised me! I kind of liked you in the Vampire Academy series, but it was mostly your role that intrigued me. As I started to get to know you, I realized that I really identified with your rule-following ways. I've found your thought process and growth to be very relatable. While Rose is a consistent badass in that series, it took you a little bit of time to come into your own. I really appreciate that you stay true to yourself - even as you begin to make decisions and do things that surprise you. Your decision in the last book left me seriously dying to talk with someone about what was happening. So, needless to say, I could not wait to see what you'd do in this book. And you continue to impress me! I love your thirst for knowledge, the way your brain works, and the way your heart loves fiercely. I'm seriously so scared about what's to come for you, but I have hope that it won't break my heart TOO much.

Dear Adrian,

I actually didn't realize I would get to hear from you in this book. As soon as I did, I got really excited about finally getting a peek at your perspective. I felt so bad for you in the Vampire Academy series - Rose really did you wrong. But gracious, I sure am glad she did. I bet you couldn't have imagined that you'd be where you are and who you're with now. I absolutely love seeing you fall in love, watching you be a boyfriend and start to realize your own power and potential. I don't usually fall for the bad boys, but I've definitely got a soft spot for you. And you hardly qualify as a bad boy these days! I should have known you were a hopeless romantic at heart! I think this book really belongs to you - and I'm definitely thankful that I got to know you better. You're going to need all your recently-discovered strength in the days to come. That was one heartbreaking ending!

I know I said nothing about this book, but do you really care? The Fiery Heart is another solid installment to the Bloodlines series. It delivered exactly what I'd expect from Mead - major swoon, lots of drama and packed with new roadblocks and problems with these vampires and humans. The ending wasn't totally surprising, given that Mead favors shocking endings (particularly at this point in the series), but it was still a total punch to the gut. I cannot wait for The Silver Shadows in July!

So Quotable
"I had never thought I could love another person this much. I also never thought I'd live in such fear of losing another person. Was this how everyone in love felt? Did they all cling tightly to their beloved and wake up terrified in the middle of the night, afraid of being alone? Was that an inevitable way of life when you loved so deeply? Or was it just those of us who walked on a precipice who lived in such panic?"

2013 Resolution Recap

Dec 19, 2013

1. Take notes on finished book before starting a new one.
Ha! I love optimistic, New Year me. This definitely didn't happen, and I can't even give myself half credit. I haven't written any notes on books in forever, and I've completely lost the habit. I had all these ideas of sitting down to write reviews with my succinct and helpful notes by my side... Keep dreaming, self!

2. Write more discussion-focused blog posts.
Major success! I passed this resolution with flying colors, and I'm so glad it's something I thought to prioritize at the beginning of the year. Discussion posts ended up being my favorite ones to write and often resulted in some of my favorite comments. Here's a look at what I talked about in 2013:
3. Reply to all blog comments.
I'm going to say this one was achieved, even though I didn't always reply within a timely manner. I have to be honest, replying to all comments is just not feasible moving forward. I want to do it, but I also know that it just adds so much pressure to blogging. I need to figure out a better way to manage comments because I definitely want to reply to them, but I need to perhaps focus more on the comments that start a conversation, ask a question or provoke a discussion.

4. Stay up-to-date and comment on blogs I follow.
I think I'll give myself half credit on this one. I did better on this compared to 2012, but it wasn't a majorly significant improvement. This is actually something I really struggle with when it comes to blogging. I love reading blogs and really want to comment, but I haven't found a good way to balance everything. I feel like I don't have enough time in the day to read books, write posts, respond to comments, read blogs and leave comments. It's just too much! 
1. Read 100 books.
Success! As of writing this post, I've read 145 books this year. I had a feeling that I'd be able to easily meet this goal, but I'm happy that I kept it at 100 instead of trying to push myself to reach a higher number. I hate it when Goodreads gets all bossy and tells me that I'm falling behind on my goal!

2. Read books I own and get TBR below 50 books.
EPIC FAIL. I didn't even come close to succeeding at this goal or the next one. When I wrote the post at the beginning of the year, I had 98 books that I owned but hadn't read. I thought it was realistic to aim for getting it below 50 books, and now I have to laugh at my optimism. I can't remember if I counted classics in my original TBR, but if I did, I did even worse than I thought. My TBR on Goodreads is currently at 161 books. Y'ALL! I'm so disappointed in myself... and yet I have no major regrets, at the same time. So, you know, oh well. 

3. Don't buy a book unless I'll read it immediately.
Yeah, I don't even want to talk about this one. Just look at my monthly posts documenting what I added to my shelves to see how I long this resolution didn't last. I've started brainstorming what I could do next year to curb my book buying, and I've got a few ideas I think might work. I'll be writing a little update if I finally settle on something I think might solve this problem!

4. Read one classic and two re-reads per month.
This was a well-meant goal, but I only put in a half-hearted effort. I did re-read 21 books this year and read 9 classics, but they actually overlapped for the most part. I re-read two of my favorite series - Anne of Green Gables and Betsy-Tacy - so that accounted for most of the re-reads. Although it seems like I did pretty good on this goal, I'm not really impressed. I love to re-read and have let it fall by the wayside while blogging. I want to get this habit back!


1. Try to listen to more audiobooks.
Yeah, this didn't happen. I like audiobooks, but I don't love them. Since I'm not in the habit of listening to them, I find it hard to concentrate. Sometimes my mind starts wandering and then, next thing I know, I've missed an entire chapter's worth of information. So, I've just taken to using audiobooks for re-reads when I do listen to them.

2. Finish three series.
I finished 12 series this year! Some of those were series I started and finished, some were complete series re-reads, and some were series where I finally read the last book published. Here's the full list:
  • The Katie Weldon Series by Robin Jones Gunn
  • The Unearthly Series by Cynthia Hand
  • The Boston Jane Trilogy by Jennifer L. Holm
  • The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
  • The Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Matched Series by Ally Condie
  • The Bright Young Things Series by Anna Godbersen
  • The Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace
  • The Grand Tour Series by Lisa T. Bergren
  • The Passing Bells Series by Phillip Rock
  • The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Clare
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns Series by Rae Carson
3. Participate in one read-along.
Another goal where I succeeded! In fact, I actually one-upped it. I both hosted and participated in The Lumatere Chronicles Read-Along in February, March, and April. What did I learn from this event? While it was fun, I learned that I'm not really the right reader for read-alongs. They sound so fun to me in theory, but I don't end up really enjoying the experience in the end.

4. Complete one reading challenge.
YAY! I think it's obvious which section of my resolutions I enjoyed the most. I participated in the Summer Series Challenge that was hosted by Lauren at Love Is Not A Triangle, Heather at The Flyleaf Review and Asheley at Into the Hall of Books. Check out my goals post and my wrap up post for an update on how I did. I also got to write a really fun guest post for the challenge! I'm definitely hoping to participate in a series-related challenge again next year.

6 Kept + 0.5 Credit on 2
Final Tally: 7 Out of 12 Resolutions Kept

A Microwave & A Mini-Fridge

Dec 18, 2013

Roomies by Tara Altebrando & Sara Zarr

Release Date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: Hatchette | Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer - and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives... and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

Thoughts on Roomies
I was so excited when I first saw the cover for Roomies that I don't even think I bothered to read the summary very closely. The minute I realized it was about college roommates, I was thrilled. While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, Roomies ended up being a fun and entertaining read that was the perfect way to pass an afternoon.

Roomies is the story of Elizabeth and Lauren, two college freshman who are assigned as each other's roommate. They don't know each other, so Elizabeth decides to send a quick email introducing herself to Lauren after she receives her housing assignment. Little does she know that her introduction will spark a flurry of emails and what may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

I have to come clean and admit that I was expecting this book to be set in college. I guess I didn't read the summary close enough because I thought the book was going to focus on their first year as roommates. Since there is so little YA set during that time period, I was really excited for this one. What I didn't realize was that Roomies is actually set during the summer after the girls graduate from high school and before they start college. While that seems like a really minor difference, I was sad we never got to actually see them at school. So, while I did enjoy the book, I never completely recovered from my initial disappointment. However, that's definitely an expectations issue - not necessarily a problem with the book itself. I wanted to mention though in case there are other readers out there who will go into it expecting what I did.

The book takes place in California (Lauren) and New Jersey (Elizabeth). Each chapter alternates between the two girls, and it was never confusing to me who I was reading about at the time. The different chapters are interspersed with emails between the two girls, and I enjoyed their back-and-forth. Even though they hadn't met, I found the progression of their friendship to be very natural and relatable. While I knew my freshman year roommate, it reminded me a lot of the way I've made new friends through blogging. I could relate to the way they slowly start to share more about themselves - and with how easy it is to misinterpret someone's tone or meaning online.

That being said, I didn't feel particularly connected to either girl. It was fun to read about them, but I wasn't really invested in their lives or their drama. Both are struggling with boys, family and friends, and I could appreciate the way their experiences both paralleled and diverged. It was easy to relate to some of their fears and frustrations about going off to college. I can still remember the nerves I felt leading up to move-in day, and I didn't even have as much to be worried about at these two do!

While it was a fun read, it did seem predictable to me for the most part. And I was particularly frustrated with the ending. The email correspondence was such a huge build up, and I was so letdown when the book ended where it did. I didn't understand why there wasn't just a tiny bit more. I actually went back to make sure I hadn't missed a final chapter or epilogue!

The abruptness of the ending, combined with my initial letdown regarding the setting and the fact that I wasn't connecting with either character, left me just liking instead of loving this read. I do, however, think this will become a favorite with many readers. The few things that didn't quite work for me likely won't bother everyone, so I expect to see a lot of buzz about this one in the blogging world. It was felt really fresh and different from what I've read lately, and I hope to see more books focusing on college-aged characters in the future!

So Quotable
"Live in the present. Take care of the relationships in front of you now. Most friendships have a natural life, and when they've lived that out, you'll know."
*I received a copy of this book from Little Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.
© So Obsessed With • Theme by Maira G.