Saturday, December 31, 2011

In My Mailbox (43) - Christmas Edition

IMM is brought to you by Kristi from The Story Siren.

Basically... I made out big for Christmas. I've been on a book-buying ban since mid-October and I'd say that the amazing Christmas haul (+ the KICKARSE review books!) more than make up for it. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

For Review (thank you, Little Brown!)



For Christmas (thanks to my husband, Mom, & Dad!)



Peace Out to 2011



2011 has been real. And by that, I mean the following:

Really Difficult: I'm not kidding you when I say that this has been the most strenuous year of my life so far. With numerous family illnesses, including: dementia, two heart attacks, bladder cancer, pneumonia, skin cancer, gall bladder issues, there have been more trips to the hospital that I would have preferred. I'd have preferred none, but that's life.

Really Stressful: Um, nursing school and working full-time. The same as last year, but WORSE.

Really Busy: A combination of all of the above, adding in my own neurosis and procrastination. I don't abstain from posting just because I want to, I do because THERE IS NO TIME.

But on the other hand, it's also been real positive.

Really Triumphant: Most importantly, I graduated nursing school, despite all the ridiculousness. Not to mention I got an RN job that I will be starting in January. On the lesser important, but also fabulous and more blog-centric, I read 107 books this year. This is not only more than I was shooting for, 100, but it was more books than I've ever read in a year.

Really Fun: I met some amazing bloggers and solidified some fantastic friendships. I've spent more quality time with family than in previous years. I had a hilarious, fun, awesome time in Las Vegas, despite all the money we lost. And I've just taken it day by day and enjoyed all that I've been given.

So while 2011 had its ups and downs, I think I'll definitely focus on those positives and leave all the trials & tribs at the door. 2012 is going to be a great year. I can feel it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

HOLIDAY. CELEBRATE.

i couldn't find the ACTUAL clip, because the only person who uploaded it to youtube blocked it from being embedded. lame. but you should look up this FRIENDS episode

Like many others, I'm sure, I shall be scarce around the interwebs this week. (This does not include Twitter because, well, I have an obsession and what not.) But it's CHRISTMAS WEEK! So I'll be partaking in lots of family time which requires me to travel. I'll be going home to see my family this Christmas on the Jen/Mr. Jen Family Christmas Rotation Schedule. Which means insane amounts of food, family, presents, and general euphoria and/or food comas.

I just wanted to take the time to wish everyone who celebrates it a Merry Christmas. Everyone else: Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Holidays, or Regular Weekend! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ordinary Reading Levels: Exceeds Expectations.



That's right: I've officially exceeded my goal of reading 100 books in 2011.
Actually, my total is at 103 right now. Honestly, this is crazy because it's been the busiest year OF MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE and I barely remember any of it, yet I've read more books this year than any other year. Isn't it crazy that 1 in 4 people did not read a SINGLE BOOK (in 2006?) We avid book readers are straight-up badasses. My husband actually brags about how much I read, which I think is super sweet. I know it's not as much as some other people, who have exceeded 200 books (hat tip to your magnificence!) But I'm pretty effing excited.

Here's hoping I can make it to 110 by December 31!

Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain


Published: EgmontUSA (January 19, 2010)
Pages: 372
Format: Hardcover
Series: Book 1 of 3
Source: I purchased this book.
GoodReads Summary: Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

My Thoughts: Okay, so let me just get this one out: I'm not yet over werewolves. I don't know if I ever will be. And The Dark Divine did nothing but stoke that blazing lycanthropic fire.

I've read a lot about the religious aspect of this book. Being a Christian, this didn't bother me whatsoever, though I can see how those who are not may be put off by the idea. I absolutely loved the fact that Despain did not make religious people out to be the bad guys, like I've read in other books. She portrayed the Divine family to be good-hearted, honest, hardworking, flawed human beings without a superiority complex. Additionally, I liked The Dark Divine because it wasn't preachy. The plot stayed focused on Grace and Daniel. I also loved the small-town feel of this book. I could perfectly picture the atmosphere: muddy, damp, and you'd better believe it was ripe for all sorts of supernatural happenings.

I kind of loved Daniel. I just love the tortured souls, I cannot help it. This dude well all out, too. The black hair, the paleness, the hermit-y tendencies with DARK SECRETS. He just reeked of emo. I can't hate on Grace, either. With a name like Grace Divine, you would think that this girl would have her share of problems with mockery & what not. She held her own like a G and YOU KNOW she had to stick her nose in all the wrong places.

I read this book in one sitting. COULD. NOT. PUT. DOWN. I'm hesitant to read The Lost Saint right away because I know the wait for The Savage Grace will not be a fun one. Buuuut let's be honest: I'm probably going to pick it up tonight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: If I Had a Million Dollars....

....or at least a job that would pay me more than I'm getting now, these are the books I'd give as gifts this Christmas.


1. The Harry Potter Audiobooks
Gift for: EVERYBODY.
Slap me sideways and call me Gertrude, I want everyone to listen to these. Even if you've already read the books, you should have a go with Jim Dale's interpretation. His voices, his tone, his attitude... I've only read the first book, but I've listened to books 2 - 5 and a half so far, and dare I say that the audiobooks are actually superior to the reading experience. Mr. Dale does a far better job than my imagination could ever dream of. These books have had me bawling at my desk at work before. Mr. Dale, I BOW TO YOU.


2. The Shade Series by Jeri Smith-Ready
Gift for: anyone who likes themselves (but doesn't mind crying.)
Your heart WILL break if you read these books. Don't say I didn't warn you. You WILL hurt. But in a good way. So if you think you're swell and deserve to read a couple of fantastic books over which you will likely obsess and which will cause you to think "OMG this is SO Aura and Logan/Zachary" and then cry for 20 minutes after you hear ANY song, then read these. Then tell JSR how much you love her books and how torturously beautiful they are.
My Reviews: Shade and Shift.


3. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Gift for: anyone who doesn't mind waiting one billion years for the sophomore novel.
Because this book's sequel won't be out until August 2012. Nevermore was released in August 2010. OUCH. However, it's quite a chunker of a novel and hot damn, it's good. Varen is all kinds of goth goodness and Izzy is a badass cheerleader. You'd think the two wouldn't typically mix, but OH, they do. And it's an explosion of sorts. Plus there's Poe and mindscrewery. Perfect for one those bleak December midnights dreary. Hopefully there won't be any rapping at your chamber door to scary the shizz out of you.
My Review.


4. The Morganville Vampires Series by Rachel Caine
Gift for: anyone who likes fun and crazypants vampires.
If you need more convincing and like the ABCs, please go here and I'll explain myself alphabetically with visual aids.



5. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Gift for: anyone who loved Inception and/or Memento.
This book is crazy. This book right here is better than caffeine. Better than those pep pills Jessie Spano was taking to stay awake to study. I couldn't put this one down. Read it in one sitting, eyes all bloodshot and dry. DID NOT CARE.
My Review.


6. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Gift for: anyone who hasn't read it.
Seriously, what the heck are you waiting for?
My Review.


7. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Gift for: those who like sensitive and tortured musician boys, especially Anna and Ginger.
OH MAN. I know it's not out yet, but I'd seriously like to pre-order this for you. There's so much love and fantasy and MUSIC within these pages. If you can help it, do not wait to read this.


8. Unearthly/Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Gift for: anyone who is tired of sucky angel books. And also Jamie and Lynn, because I think they'd love these.
There's so much to love within these books. There are angels, obvs. And fallen angels. But SO much more than just that. And there's a love triangle, but it's a good one. And there are awesome secondary characters. And things that made me cry and those that were butterfly-inducing. Plus I love the shimmery covers. Why are you even listening to me, though? Really, see for yourself.
My Review: Unearthly and Hallowed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Audiobook Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre


Published: Feiwel & Friends (April 12, 2011)
Pages: 259
Format: Hardcover
Series: Book 1 of 3
Source: I purchased this audiobook.
GoodReads Summary: In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.


My Thoughts: Enclave was my first audiobook ever. At first I was like "whoa. It's a book. In my ears." But after awhile, I got used to it. I found that I really enjoyed the fact that I could listen while working, driving, cleaning. If I tried to read a book while doing any of the above, I'd either be:
a) reprimanded/fired
b) dead
c) not clean
So audiobooks and me? GOOD MATCH. In fact, audiobooks and ANYONE who is super busy or wants to read while doing life's mundane tasks = good match. I'll step off my "Team Audiobook" soapbox and get to the actual review now.

WOW. This is a journey of a book. The world-building, the plot, the characters. OH, how I loved them all. I could picture oh, so clearly the dismal, bleak environment in which Deuce resided. Can you imagine? Living in a dystopia/apocalyptic (WHAT is the difference, seriously?) society where being 25 is considered on the brink of death? Where mutated humans/cannibals/zombies roamed about looking for fresh meat (aka YOU)? Where you've never seen the sun or the sky, nor do you know what it is? Yep. Me neither.

Deuce is a BAMF. I'd put her up there with the likes of Katniss, Katsa, and Tris. In her world, you're either a breeder (used just for reproduction), a builder, or a hunter. She's a huntress. She doesn't need any guy's help to kick some butt. I love it so much when female characters are strong and capable. Deuce does NOT disappoint. And her chemistry with her partner, Fade, is a slow build, which makes me SO happy. I love that they pretty much despised each other at first, but they just couldn't stop that lovin' feeling.

SUCH an exhilirating story of adventures and fun, scary violence and survival of the fittest. My one complaint? The narrator had a pretty high voice, so when she was feigning male, it made me think he was not so tough. She made Fade sound kind of emo and breathy. Probably the only downfall of audiobooks that I can conjure. There are two more books in this series and you bet your sweet buns that I will get my hands (or ears!) on the continuation of Deuce's story.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington


Published: Harlequin Teen (November 22, 2011)
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Series: No
Source: NetGalley
GoodReads Summary: When her older sister commits suicide and her divorcing parents decide to divide the ashes, Harper Scott takes her sister's urn to the one place June always wanted to go: California. On the road with her best friend, plus an intriguing guy with a mysterious connection to June, Harper discovers truths about her sister, herself and life.

My Thoughts: My awesome friend Ginger told me that Saving June is a must read, with music and a singing boy. Not to mention romance and road trips. I am delighted to say that I was not at all disappointed by this novel. When Ginger speaks, this girl listens.

Harper lost her sister. This is big time sad. But she's also one of those girls who suppresses her feelings. Who could blame her, I guess, considering her mother who is broken and her aunt who is psycho. Someone has to maintain control, right? At first, I was angry because this girl would not emote. She lost her SISTER. Her FAMILY. Please, please let it out, woman. Because if you don't, I will. But then I realized: Harper just needs someone to confide in and lean on. To be a catalyst to the healthy release of her tightly jam-packed feelings.

ENTER: THE BOY. Jake. Who, at first, was not at all a person I'd trust. He was a jerk. Snide comments aplenty, I still was rooting for Harper to smooch him. (Hint: it's a slow burn.) Speaking of burn, there's a scene in a van named Janis Joplin which I think all you girly girls who like subtle romantic explosions in your YA books. Hannah Harrington has cooked up somethign real nice for you. But it's not the way you're thinking. However, it has the same OMG MELT effect.

Saving June was beautiful. Hannah's grief and regret is subtle, but you still feel it. It makes me want to hug my sister and never say anything mean to her. This is a standout contemporary that I won't hesitate to recommend to.. I don't know. Everybody.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand


Published: HarperTeen (January 17, 2012)
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Series: Book 2 of 3?
Source: ARC from publisher
GoodReads Summary: For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

My Thoughts: I loved Unearthly earlier this year, as evidenced by this. I had high expectations for Hallowed, but OH SWEET LORD, I was not expecting all this.

It was better than Unearthly, but in a very emotional, difficult way. If you've ever read any of my reviews, you know I have a deep appreciation for the realistic depiction of difficult issues. For fear of a massive spoiler, I shall not share the basis of Clara's (AND MY) pain & suffering. Just know that you need to have the tissues handy, because it's about to get real runny around here.

CLARA. Girlfriend. Please hang out with me and make funny jokes about life and people and everything. I love this girl. Cynthia Hand has a sparkling diamond of a main character and I love everything about her. She's faced with some shizz in this book. ALL SORTS OF IT. And she handles it the best way she knows how: by being human. Even though she's a fraction of a heavenly being, she's an ordinary girl.

Most importantly: the love interest(s?). WOW. I'm always afraid that the love triangles will go horribly awry. Nope. But it's heavy. There are so many layers to the Tucker-Clara-Christian saga. I can't say much. You must see for yourself. OH, THE COMPLICATIONS. I am forever Team Tucker, but Hand doesn't hesitate to lay on the intrigue of The Other Side.

I cried countless times. Hand's descriptions of sorrow and sadness and confusion are heart-twisting. I believe everything she writes as if it's carved in stone. It all feels so real. You guys, this series is a diamond in the rough. In the recent flurry of angel books that try much too hard, Cynthia Hand's series is one that you'll find yourself thinking about long after you finish. Please do yourself a kindness and pick up this one.

PS. And just try and tell me that the girl on the cover doesn't bear a striking resemblance to Alicia Silverstone circa Clueless.
PPS. THIS IS GONNA BE A TV SHOW ON THE CW, YOU GUYS.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten Books I Loved as a Wee Lass (or "The Source of My Mind-Numbing Phobias and Future Rebellion Against my Parents")

TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and was created by mastermind Jamie.

So I like to think that my childhood ranged from ages 0 - 20. Because really, I was a child up until that point. So here goes. Warning: I pretty much talk forever about almost every book.

1. I Am a Puppy

I have probably read this book more than any other book in the entire universe. First off, it's like 6 pages long and my parents read it to me practically every night. Secondly, there are about 10 words of text on each page. I maintain that it triggered my love for animals because the puppy in this book is so damn cute. However, for a long time, I was traumatized because there's a page where this puppy is wrestling with a bigger dog and I would always get sad because it looked like they were attacking one another and I just knew my puppy would lose because he's tiny. I still have this book and have every intention of reading it to my kids.

2. The Monster at the End of this Book

I must've been pretty masochistic, because I was scared pissless of monsters as a kiddo. Under the bed, in the closet, in the dark. Surely they were everywhere. Also, this book inspired my near decade-long rebellion against my parents telling me what to do. I say this because on EVERY SINGLE PAGE, Grover tells you not to turn to the next. Because there's a monster and monsters are bad for you. Did I turn the pages? YES. I DID. Even though Grover scolded me time and time again and begged and pleaded. It didn't matter. 4 year old Jen laughed maniacally and did it anyway.

3. Where the Sidewalk Ends

This collection of poems is straight up weird. I love it. Especially the poem about the pancakes, because I hate girls like Terrible Theresa, that malicious wench.

4. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I'm trying to figure out how in the world this was considered a kid's book. Especially 8 year olds with vivid imaginations and a knack for night terrors. I'm not one for censorship, so by all means: let your kids read it. But as for me, I shouldn't have read this book. First off, the illustrations are stuff that you see in the scariest of horror movies. Seriously disturbing. I had numerous nightmares. Also, this probably started my fear of spiders after the story of the girl who had a nest of spiders IN HER FACE. I'll go ahead and let the illustrations speak for themselves


5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Mostly I just loved the movie, but I did read the book as well. I don't remember much about it, but this movie was probably my favorite of my entire childhood. Possibly more so than The Little Mermaid, so this is pretty series. Also, I blame the movie for my fear of tornadoes and the reason that I hid in the closet crying every time it rained. Because obviously every tornado will inevitably rip your house from its foundation and hurtle you into a strange land and separate you from your family.

6. Night of the Twisters

Yet another book that didn't help my fear of tornadoes, yet made me want to be a meteorologist/storm chaser (I was a weird kid). Did you know they turned this book into a movie and Devon Sawa played the main character? Yeah, that helped ease my pre-pubescent phobias just a little bit. After all, who doesn't love Casper? ("Can I keep you?")

7. Goosebumps Books

Obviously. These books were LEGIT and I still have a bunch of them.

8. Fear Street Books

These were my first YA books that had lots of kissing and mystery in them! YAY! Just take a look at the 90s-ness of those amazing covers. And those taglines are priceless.
_______________________

EDIT: WHOA. How did I forget the Babysitter's Club? Like seriously. Those books deserve to be numbers 1-50, because I a TON of them. Had to come add these to the list. Claudia was my favorite because she liked to eat lots of junk food and was an oddball. My favorite kind of people.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley


Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 14, 2012)
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Series: no.
Source: NetGalley
GoodReads Summary: "Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

My Thoughts: I decided to throw blogging rules to the wind. I know this book won't be published until February, but I can't hold it in anymore. I HAVE to tell you guys of its glory. You know that amazing and rare feeling that you get when you pick up a book and you just KNOW you're in for something good...nay, BRILLIANT? That's the exact feeling that resonated with me throughout the entirety of Graffiti Moon. Why in the world is this the first time I'm reading a Cath Crowley novel? Why haven't I been stalking her and reading random blurbs she writes on scrap paper and napkins? I feel like anything she would write is too beautiful to go to waste, so I want to read it all.

My eyes could not move fast enough to devour Graffiti Moon as quickly and slowly as I wanted them to. Quickly, because this book made a savage out of me. I NEED MORE. Slowly, because I wanted to savor every line and read it twice.

Quirky narrators are pretty much my favorite and Lucy is a perfect example of that. She's a glassblower and she sees beauty in everything. She draws pictures in the sky with her fingers and is crazy about a graffiti artist without a face: Shadow. Speaking of Shadow, he very well may be the most perfect male love interest I've read in recent memory. He's in the top five, that is for sure.

The tension between Ed/Shadow and Lucy is VISCOUS. It's syrupy and melty and oozes all over the pages of Graffiti Moon. If Lucy and Shadow were paper dolls, I would push them together and have them smooching from the get go. (This is why I don't write books.) The longing, the YEARNING, the OMG MAKE OUT ALREADY. I don't even know why I'm writing this review, because I'll never, ever do it justice with my simple words. This book is beautiful. This book is feeling.

Read the synopsis. Read my fangirling. Read Graffiti Moon as soon as humanly possible.