Books Finished in 2013

Best Books of 2013
Best Books of 2013

Don’t buy any more books until you finish the ones that you already own.

That was my mantra throughout 2013. Although I didn’t stick to this rule 100% of the time, it helped me finish several books that have been on my “to read” shelf for years.

Here are the books I read in 2013:

  1. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
  2. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan*
  3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  4. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  5. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
  6. Life, The Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
  7. So Long and Thanks for the Fish by Douglas Adams
  8. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
  9. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  10. Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling
  11. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  12. A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane**
  13. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  14. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
  15. Inferno by Dan Brown

Comment below if you’d like me to review any of these books!

Happy Banned Book Week 2013!

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

If something is controversial, then it’s often worth reading. At least that’s my philosophy.

Banned Book Week happens near the end of September each year. Its purpose is to inform the public about the censorship that happens in libraries and schools. The books on the list are frequently challenged, and many are banned in various schools and libraries.

Here are the 10 most frequently banned books of 2012:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at a frequently challenged book list and realized that I’ve hardly read any of the books on it! Maybe I’m just getting old?

Fifty Shades of Grey is the only book on this list that I’m certain I’ve read. I feel like I might have read a Captain Underpants book at some point in elementary school, but I could be wrong on that.

Of the remaining books, The Glass Castle, Looking for Alaska, and The Kite Runner have been on my to-read list for some time. And Tango Makes Three might be worth a read too; since it’s a children’s picture book, it won’t take long to look through.

What’s your favorite book off of the 2013 Banned Book List?

Other Banned Book Week Posts:

Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project
The Happiness Project

When I picked up The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I was intrigued, but skeptical. How can following a happiness plan make you a happier person?

I don’t think that happiness is one of those things that you can plan out. It just is (or isn’t). You can tell yourself that if you do X, Y, and Z that you’ll be a happier person, but still wake up every morning miserable because your life isn’t what you want it to be. Would having a happiness plan help with that?

Now, this book isn’t intended for depressed people. It’s actually intended for people who are relatively happy with their lives, but know that things can be better.

Overall, I thought this book was an interesting read. You follow the Rubin through her 12-month happiness project. Each chapter covers a month, and each month covers a different area of her life, e.g., family, health, spirituality…

Although I recommend this book, I would never have the motivation to go through a happiness project myself. And I’m not sure that it would work for me either.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Rating: 3/5

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Hunger Games fever was in the air a couple of months ago. Although I had read the trilogy months ago, another young adult dystopian novel caught my eye: Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Divergent is set in a dystopian Chicago that is set up into five groups or “factions.” Each faction represents the opposite of the trait that you believe was society’s downfall. The five factions are: Amity (Peace), Erudite (Knowledge), Abdication (Selfless), Dauntless (Courage), and Candor (Honesty). So if you believe that society’s downfall was that man is too selfish, you would be in Abdication.

16-year-old Beatrice (later known as Tris) was born and raised in Abdication, but never felt like she belonged. In fact, one faction in particular was constantly calling out her name.

When the 16-year-olds are tested to see which faction they belong to, Beatrice gets a dangerous result. She’s divergent. That means that there are several factions that Beatrice fits in, in her case, Dauntless, Abdication, and Erudite. On the choosing day, she picks Dauntless, a betrayal in the minds of her original faction.

The story isn’t over there. Dauntless candidates are put through a rigorous initation process because only ten initiates can become members. The rest will die or live on the streets as “Factionless.”

Here are my thoughts on Divergent:

  • I thought the writing was decent for a young adult novel. That is, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. That’s typical of many of the books in this genre. In a way, that’s okay because when I read a book like Divergent, I’m looking for entertainment, not great literature.
  • The plotline was gripping enough where I was able to finish the novel in a couple of days, but it also didn’t compel me to stay up all night reading, like many books do. That said, the point of book one in a series is not only to draw the reader in, but also to set up the rest of the series. I’m mildly curious to the extent that I’ll probably read Insurgent at some point, but I don’t feel like I need to read it right away.
  • Where this story falls short, in my opinion, is character building. When something happened to the major characters, I didn’t particularly care. This is not the case in most novels I read. In fact, I’ll be upset if a minor character I like dies (Cinna anyone? Or Finnick? Or Cedric Diggory?). Tris is an okay character. I like that she’s a strong female character, but I can’t relate to her desire to be Dauntless. Probably because I’m more of an Erudite.

I’d give this book a B- overall.

Have you read Divergent? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Banned Book Week 2011!

 

If a book is controversial, it’s often worth reading. That’s one of the reasons why I love Banned Book Week.

So, without further ado, I give you:

The Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit
  4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
    Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint
  9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
    Reasons:  homosexuality and sexually explicit
  10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
    Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence

Of these books, I’ve read Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Nickel and Dimed, and Twilight.

Brave New World and Nickel and Dimed were required reading for school. The former was required for honors English in high school, and the latter for Intro to Sociology in college.

I don’t recall either book being inappropriate. My 15-year-old self thought that Brave New World paled in comparison to 1984 and was disappointed, but not scarred for life or anything. (On the other hand, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, another book required for that class, scarred me for life. I almost died of boredom reading that thing! I never voluntarily picked up a Hemingway novel after that…)

I enjoyed Nickel and Dimed and finished it a couple of weeks before everyone else started the book. What can I say? I was looking for something to read and it caught my interest.

And of course you know my thoughts on Twilight and the Hunger Games.

What’s your favorite banned book?

Click here to read last year’s post for Banned Book Week.

Digital Books

Yesterday, I was thinking about e-readers. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” I thought, “if I could just take an e-reader with me to read on my lunch break?”

As it is, I debate each morning on whether I want to read a book, bring a magazine, read the paper, or take my iPod touch to catch up on my Google Reader. I usually go for the book.

I was a journalism major in school. I love print magazines, books, and newspapers. There’s nothing like the feel, or even the smell of them. For the record, my dream home has its own library.

The thing is, I’m also a very fast reader. Earlier this week, I read a 300-page book on two lunch breaks. One year on a family vacation, I made my parents take me to a bookstore because I finished all four of my books before the week was over. Situations like this is where I would love to have an e-reader. Lugging around multiple books just gets annoying!

So what wins? The portability of an e-reader or the joy of an old-fashioned book? I just don’t know.

My problem is solved for now though– I can’t afford an e-reader anyway. At least not until I find and settle into an apartment. Then I’ll know how much I can afford to spend on things I don’t strictly need.

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Do you have an e-reader? Which one? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Christmas Book Recommendation: Skipping Christmas

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Many of you might have seen the movie “Christmas with the Kranks.” What you may not know is that it was based on a book called Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.

The book is quite similar to the movie—Luther and Nora Krank realize that they spend over $6,000 on Christmas a year and decide to skip the holiday and go on a cruise instead. Hilarity ensues when their daughter Blair comes home for the holiday with her fiancé.

I actually read this book a couple of years before the movie came out—I must have been a freshman in high school. I borrowed it from my mom one day when I was looking for something to read. To be completely honest, I don’t remember enough details to make this a long review. I do remember enjoying the book though and I do rewatch the movie every year.

If you are looking for something festive to read for the holidays, I suggest you try this book.

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What are your favorite Christmas books? Let me know in the comments below!

If You Liked Harry Potter Read . . . The Chronicles of Narnia

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My uncle gave me a boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia when I was seven or eight years old, and I’ve loved it ever since. To this day, a small part of me still believes that I can find Narnia in the back of my closet, in a painting, at a train station . . . You never know, okay?

 

Here’s the strange thing: While everyone has heard of this series and considers it a classic, very few people I know have actually read it.

 

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie are playing hide-and-go-seek when they discover Narnia in the back of a wardrobe. There, they have all sorts of adventures, become kings and queens, and grow old together. When they discover their way back home, they realize that time runs differently in Narnia. Although they were gone for a lifetime in Narnia, they were only away for a few minutes in the “real” world. In later books, they go on to have other adventures in Narnia.

There are different ways to read this series. Most people start with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe—the most popular book and the first one featuring the Pevensie children.

 

There has been debate on the order in which the books should be read. I read them in chronological order because that was how they were labeled in my boxed set—with the Magician’s Nephew as the first book.

 

Although I think you need to read the whole thing to get the entire effect of the world, I think that the books featuring the Pevensie children are the most magical. If nothing else, read these three books: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Yes, these are the three books that have been turned into movies. I definitely believe that they picked the right ones to film.)

 

The part of this series that really resonated with me when I read the series was Aslan told Peter and Susan that they were too old to return to Narnia (Prince Caspian). It’s symbolic—Narnia is a place for children to discover. Giving up Narnia means growing up and living in the real world.

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Have you read this series? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below..

My Opinion On: Google eBookstore

Please note that I actually wrote this article a few days ago, so when the store launched, I had to change some things around. As it is more of an opinion piece than anything, I feel that my original post is still valid.

Google eBooks (formally Google Editions), an online bookstore, launched today in the United States.

Google Editions will have a significantly different sales model from most competitors, such as Amazon’s Kindle store or Apple’s iBookStore. Instead of purchasing books through a single online store, Google will let users buy them either from Google or from independent bookstores and then tie them to a Google account, which will enable them to read the books anywhere and on any device they please.

via Google’s Book Store Is Coming Soon [REPORT].

I like the ability to purchase books through several stores and read them anywhere, but what happens if you get locked out of your Google account for some reason?

As much as I love technology, I don’t know if it can replace the physical book for me. I like the way books look on a bookshelf, I like the way they feel, I even like the way they smell. You don’t have to depend on a battery, and it’s easy to share them with friends. If I traveled more, I’d consider reading more books digitally. But for now? I think I’ll sit back and keep an eye on how they’re evolving.

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What do you think about digital books? Are you excited about Google’s eBooks? Let me know in the comments below.

If You Liked Harry Potter Read . . . The Hunger Games Trilogy

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The connection that this series has to Harry Potter isn’t as obvious. Many people who read fantasy read it to escape to a different world. Sometimes that world is light and magical. Sometimes it’s dark and horrifying.

From my experience, this series does appeal to some Harry Potter fans, especially those who liked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I absolutely would not recommend this series to younger readers who are bothered by violence or death. As a 22-year-old, I wasn’t bothered by it, but it is classified as a Young Adult novel and some of those readers might be.

This synopsis was in my previous review:

[The series] is set in a dystopian North America, known as Panem. Panem has 12 (formally 13) districts, and is ruled by the Capitol. As a result of a failed rebellion, most of the citizens of Panem are struggling to get by. Another consequence? The Hunger Games, an annual televised fight-to-the-death tournament that the entire nation is required to watch. Two “tributes” from each district, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, are selected each year to compete. Only the winner will survive.

Katniss Everdeen, the main character, is the tribute from District 12. Although she sees the tournament as a death sentence, she volunteers to compete so that her younger sister doesn’t have to. Here’s the catch—Peeta, her fellow tribute from District 12—is in love with her.

In addition to merely surviving, Katniss must figure out what Peeta is playing at. Does he really love her? Does he want more sponsors? After all, they can’t both survive.

Although I genuinely liked this series, parts of it are not written very well.

  • By default, I always cringe a bit when I realize that something will be narrated from the first-person. I blame Twilight for this.
    • Part of the reason why this bothers me is that there is too much description about hair and clothing. Do I care if she braided her hair or left it down? No.
  • As a writer, Collins lacks subtlety. Her flashbacks and foreshadowing are painfully obvious and poorly-written.
  • Peeta—I think that this character could have been great, but as he’s written, he just falls flat.