Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme was:

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing This Year

The Scorpio RacesThrone of GlassThe Rosie EffectSinnerLailah

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Throne of Glass / The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

A physical UK edition of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (I have an e-ARC that I’m currently reading. I already know I’ll want a physical copy and I hate the US covers. I have a UK copy of The Rosie Project, so I need a UK The Rosie Effect to match)

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater (ditto needing a physical copy of this one)

Lailah by Nikki Kelly

The Best Exotic Marigold HotelFangirlSaga Deluxe EditionWingerShatter Me

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

Fangirl and/or Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Saga Deluxe Edition, volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

Winger by Andrew Smith

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I could go on and on with a list of books I’d like, but these are the first ten that came to mind. Only two of them were actually on my Christmas wishlist. What books would you like to see under the tree?

Review: Gayle Forman’s and Myra McEntire’s stories from My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to MeOoops. I forgot to post a My True Love Gave to Me review yesterday! Okay, mostly I just did nothing yesterday and I didn’t even open my laptop. So, as a result, I’ll be posting a review of two stories today from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”, Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”, David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”, and Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”.

Today I’m reviewing Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus”.

WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE, SOPHIE ROTH?

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So I know that a lot of people love Gayle Forman. Like, everyone, it seems. I read If I Stay, and I just wasn’t a fan. At all. I’m sure you can guess that I wasn’t really looking forward to Forman’s story in My True Love Gave to Me. You should have seen the look on my face when I finished this story. It was probably a mix of genuine shock, confusion, and happiness. I actually liked Gayle Forman’s story!

Sophie Roth has a lot of moments in which she questions her actions and words, but she comes to change her mind about one of them: she decides to go to a caroling performance at her university (in a middle-of-nowhere, pastoral town) but she ends up meeting a boy there who she at once has a lot in common with and a lot of differences.

I liked the diversity and the genuinely cute story. I liked Sophie and Russell together. They’re different but similar and they have a lot of great banter. The characters felt realistic and developed. Also, the ending was just beautiful. I quite liked this one.

BEER BUCKETS AND BABY JESUS

IMG_20141222_201134First page of this story and you get these two quotes:

“The whole mess started when I lit the church on fire.”

“Put this on your list of things to know: the combination of tinsel, baby angel wings, and manger hay burns like weed at a Miley Cyrus concert.” – both from page 203

Started off this story laughing. A lot. Vaughn is the class clown; he likes pranks and creating chaos, but sometimes he goes too far, like when he accidentally lit the church barn on fire. This causes a chain of events that lead to him volunteering to help run the church Christmas pageant. Fortunately for Vaughn, the pastor’s daughter is not too bad on the eyes and not what you’d first think, sort of like Vaughn.

So this is probably one of the most cliché plots out there: bad boy turns good and good girl has some edge. But despite that, I thought this one was pretty good. I don’t think it quite lived up to its first page, but I had several more laughs and I wasn’t bored. I liked Vaughn’s character quite a bit and was happy he had a second chance.

Not one of my favorites but still enjoyable and cute.

Book Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New ThingsAuthor: Michel Faber
Genre: Literary fiction, sci-fi, religion
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
500 pages, hardcover

Peter is a pastor, happily married to his wife Bea, when he is called to a mission by a mysterious corporation known as USIC. He is sent galaxies away to a completely new environment, where is to teach the strange natives from his “book of strange new things.” While he’s gone, Bea’s faith begins to falter as the world as Peter knew it begins to crumble (typhoons and earthquakes and failing governments). The distance between Peter and Bea has never felt so far. He struggles to fulfill the needs of his congregation and also the needs of his wife.

It’d been a long time since I’d read an “adult” novel and an even longer time since I’d read something I’d classify as literary fiction, so it took me a little bit to get into The Book of Strange New Things. To really, really get into it, I’d estimate it took me about 100 pages, but I am so glad I kept going. This novel is incredible, you guys. I was glued to the book for the last 250 pages, at least, flipping through the pages at lightning speed. I was fascinated by Oasis, what this new planet was dubbed, by its natives, by USIC’s secrets, by Peter’s relationship to both Bea and the Oasans, and by Peter’s seemingly unnoticed (by him but not by others) deterioration in body and sanity.

It’s safe to say that The Book of Strange New Things is not at all what I was expecting. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was expecting. The only book I’d read by Michel Faber previously was Under the Skin, and to me, this was vastly different. It’s also completely unlike pretty much any sci-fi book I’ve ever read. Instead of focusing on the science aspects (the new world, the technology, the natives, etc.) it focuses on the relationships between Peter, our main character, and the people around him. The book is emotionally complex, leaving both the characters and the reader feeling almost raw. It’s bleak and sad and beautiful and hopeful.

I like this book for several of the same reasons that I love Matt Haig’s The Humans (though the books are dissimilar in many ways too). Much like in The Humans, you appreciate what it means to be human even more by comparing yourself to the “aliens” – their lack of emotion (though don’t be fooled by this), their simplicity, their lack of differences (again, don’t be fooled).

Faber handles the topic of religion deftly. The tests of faith feel appropriate and true. Faber neither endorses nor condemns religion throughout the book, instead the development of the themes unfold naturally, making the story feel genuine and honest. The characters’ beliefs are plausible even in a fantastic setting.

I don’t just mean this with the humans. The natives of Oasis feel realistic too. They are appropriately alien, different physically, emotionally, and mentally (especially physically – weirdest descriptions ever). Despite this, they are still easily relatable with their struggle to communicate effectively, learn, and grow. Plus, the creative way that their language is depicted is seriously cool.

My only complaint is that it ended. Yes, I wished that a 500 page novel would have been longer. SPOILER: it’s open-ended, which leaves a lot of things left unanswered. I both love and despise this. I want to know what happened!

The bottom line: If it wasn’t apparently obvious, I loved this book. It was captivating and profound and beautiful. I’ll be buying my own copy (I checked it out from the library) – the hardback has gold gilded pages and it’s gorgeous.

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

Review: Krampuslauf by Holly Black (My True Love Gave to Me)

It’s day seven of my “Twelve Days of Christmas” – reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far, I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”, Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”, and David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”.

Today’s story is Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”.

My True Love Gave to MeIMG_20141220_193704

I liked this one. Quite a bit. It was weird and different and dream-like. I’ve never heard of Krampus, but apparently he basically looks like a satyr – goat legs, horns, human torso – and he punishes the children who are bad versus rewarding the children who are good. Hanna and her friends decide to go to a Krampus celebration (well, really, it’s just a hipster-ization of Krampus including hot chocolate and a charity run) to spy on the guy who screwed over Penny, one of the friends. They end up inviting the guy and his real girlfriend and their friends – as well as a cute boy who has a seriously realistic Krampus costume – to a New Year’s Eve party. Fighting, drinking, kissing, and laughing ensue.

I really, really like this one. I’ve only ever read/listened to Holly Black’s Doll Bones, but this story confirmed I seriously like Black’s clever and smart writing style. This story is really different from what you’d probably expect from a holiday story. There’s magic and mythical creatures. It doesn’t center on Christmas and it’s got Krampus – who’s kind of a more interesting version of Satan. I mean, what? I felt a little like I was dreaming while reading this and that’s actually a cool feeling to have while reading. I liked the characters, the story, the magic, the uniqueness, the writing style, everything. One of my favorites so far. Looking forward to reading more Holly Black and researching Krampus some more.

Review: Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan (My True Love Gave to Me)

Alright, today is David Levithan’s story for my “Twelve Days of Christmas” – reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far, I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” and Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”.

David Levithan’s story is called “Your Temporary Santa”.

My True Love Gave to Me     IMG_20141219_074846

The story is about an unnamed narrator who dresses up as Santa Claus as a favor for his boyfriend Connor. The narrator does it out of love for his boyfriend and so that Connor’s little sister Riley will continue to believe in Santa and magic after what we can imagine has been a rough year.

It’s a really short story – 15 pages – but it’s pretty succinct. It feels like a complete story with character development and a, sort of, conflict between the unnamed narrator and…well, really himself. He feels as if he is unwanted, like he doesn’t belong.

I enjoyed this story even though it is somewhat sad. Not all relationships are easy and swoony. Sometimes they are simple, and I don’t mean simple as in easy, but more like unpretentious, not needing to be extravagant and in your face. Sometimes you can just SPOILER get in bed and cuddle and let that be enough.

This story kind of made me feel melancholy even though it’s about Santa and Christmas. Glad it had an uplifting and hopeful ending. Not the best story so far, but not the worst.

ARC Review: We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

We Should Hang Out SometimeAuthor: Josh Sundquist

Genre: Memoir, humor

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: December 23, 2014

336 pages, hardcover

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for letting me read this.

I’m not going to lie, before I requested this book on Netgalley, all I knew about Josh Sundquist was that he was that YouTuber with one leg who dressed up as a Gingerbread man with one leg bitten off a few years ago. I’d never watched any of his videos or anything. Not that I was against him, I just never had.

Well, I have now. I’m subscribed to him on YouTube and follow him on Tumblr. It’s not because of the book. Well, it is, but probably not why you’d think. I’m going to give you a short rundown of what the book is about and what I thought about it overall, but the real reason I liked the book so much was because of the way I was able to connect with Josh. So here we go:

When Josh was 24, he realized he’d never had a girlfriend. Unless you count the one he sort of had in 8th grade that lasted 23 hours – but Josh doesn’t because he thinks you shouldn’t count a relationship unless it’s lasted a full day. So he decides to try and figure out why. Was it the way he looked? The way he acted? Josh’s book is broken into several cases, with a background section, hypothesis, and investigation for each, in which he details his encounters and friendships with girls and why they didn’t work out. The book is funny and interesting albeit heartbreaking and really, really honest in parts. Overall, I enjoyed the book (though I thought parts of it were melodramatic and the end was too abrupt and I wish we’d gotten a little more future since we got so much past). The diagrams and charts included were hilarious and had me laughing out loud several times.

But the part I really connected with was when Josh was talking about his disability. Alright, I know I have two legs, but I was surprised by how many similarities there were between how people reacted to him and how people react to me. In case you weren’t aware, I have no hair. I have alopecia, which basically means my body makes my hair fall out. Society has deemed that people who look different or strange are not quite normal and, therefore, it is okay to say really horrible things to them. Josh put into words exactly how I feel and how people react. It was so strange but wonderful to connect with someone you’ve never met and probably never will meet in such an emotional way. How insecure being different makes you, how hard it is (sometimes) for people to see past the thing that makes you different, how weird and awkward people can be about it. I felt connected to Josh even though the things that set us apart are wildly different. A few examples of passages I related to (NOTE: these were taken from an e-ARC and are subject to change in the final copy):

So now it’s really obvious—like right now everyone on the sidewalk where I’m standing can see that I have one leg. But at least there’s no question about what sort of disability I have. I’m not trying to disguise it with a fake leg or something. It’s like, what you see is what you get.

Again, I know I don’t have a disability, but this is exactly how I feel about wearing wigs or hats. This is what I look like, if you don’t like it, I don’t care. This is me. Another:

I’m not sure what it is about having one leg that makes people want to comment on it. But for some reason my disability gives many individuals permission in their own minds to say whatever they want despite our being total strangers. And often what they say ends up being quite awkward. Especially the questions they ask.

I mean, preach Josh. Oh my goodness. That quote is my life. People ask and say the strangest things and it is super awkward. I don’t mind people asking questions for the most part. What bothers me is the assumptions. Assuming I have cancer. It’s basically like saying, “Hey. You look sick. Are you dying?”

The bottom line: Overall, I liked this book. I had a few issues with it (it felt a little exaggerated in parts), but because I connected with it in such a profound way, I ended up really enjoying it. Also, I don’t think you have to have a disability or no hair or whatever to like this book. It’s funny, honest, and has some hilarious diagrams that should be seen.

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award – #2!

I was nominated by the lovely Ellen at The Wanderlust Reader for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award – I think it’s especially fitting because she lives in Europe, so we’re really getting worldly here. J Thanks, Ellen! Sorry it took so long to do.

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the ten questions they’ve set you.
4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Nominate ten people.

Here are the ten questions she asked:

1. Favourite reading snack?
Coffee. Does that count? I tend not to eat too much when I’m reading, but if I do, I like pretzels, peanut m&ms, cookies (to dunk in the coffee)… Most of the time though, I don’t eat and read. That’s how accidents happen.

2. Would you rather read first, or movie first?
Read. Obviously.

3. Thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars?
Book or movie? Book – amazing. Movie – amazing. 🙂 Also, sad, sad, sad.

4. TBR this holiday season?
I could link you up to my December TBR (and I did), but I’ll also list my next few reads here: Rereading Linger; reading The Rosie Effect, Atlantia, The Iron Trial, Let It Snow, Every Day. Okay, I might not read all of these, but I probably will. I have two weeks off (minus one day in the middle) off for Christmas/New Years, so I plan on reading all of these.

5. Favourite holiday reads?
I never really had any favorite holiday reads. I have favorite holiday movies (The Family Stone, The Nightmare before Christmas, Rudolph..), but not reads. This year, I’m reading My True Love Gave to Me, which I think will be a staple of every holiday season. I’m also planning on reading Let It Snow.

6. Thoughts on film adaptions?
I have a love/hate relationship with film adaptations. Sometimes they can be amazing (The Perks of Being a Wallflower; TFiOS) or horrible (I won’t give examples, but I’m sure you know what I mean). I love seeing the stories come to life in more than just my head, but man, can they get it wrong sometimes.

7. Top 3 favourite series?
Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Anna and the French Kiss. Haha. I have wide tastes.

8. Contemporary young adult; yay or nay?
Before this year: nay (except a little Sarah Dessen here and there). After this year: yay! I was exposed to Morgan Matson, Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer E. Smith, Adi Alsaid, and more this year, and I’m happily a contemporary YA fan now.

9. How is your 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge going?
Um. Amazing? I didn’t actually start it until March. I set it for 100 books. I’m currently at 148 and the year isn’t over yet. Woo!

10. Which fictional character would you be for a day?
Could this be any harder? I’m going to go with Blue Sargent. 1. She’s amazing, 2. The raven boys, 3. Cabeswater, 4. Gansey.

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I tend to tag the same people over and over for these posts, so 1. I hate doing that because I know they don’t have time for all of them, and 2. I don’t want to tag someone I don’t know quite as well because I don’t know if they’ll do it.

So what I’m saying is, if you want to answer these questions, do it. I had fun answering, and you might too. 🙂 Love you all!

Review: It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins (My True Love Gave to Me)

Today is the Stephanie Perkins’ day of my very own “Twelve days of Christmas” – reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow” and Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”. Stephanie’s story is called “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.”

My True Love Gave to MeIMG_20141218_064757

Stephanie’s story was the one I was the most looking forward to (duh) and I wasn’t disappointed. At all. I mean, what can I really say? Obviously, I loved this story. It’s my favorite one I’ve read so far.

Marigold Moon lives in an apartment full of the boxes of their previous life with her mother, who works nights at a restaurant she owns. Across the street from her apartment is a Christmas tree lot, where a boy with an amazing voice works. When Marigold goes to ask him if he’ll narrate her video (okay, she kind of stalks him), she accidentally buys a Christmas tree. Amazing-voice-boy carries it to her apartment where he finds the hoarder-looking mess that’s inside. He decides to help and you can probably guess the rest.

Perkins has the uncanny ability to make me swoon with her stories and her characters and her words. I just love everything she writes. It’s sweet and lovely. This story was just perfect for the holiday season. I really like Marigold, too. She wasn’t whiny or annoying, but rather funny and a little awkward. And, of course, you know I liked North (yep, all the kids in his family have Christmas-y names). He’s big and strong and you wouldn’t expect him to like NPR, but he does. He’s nerdy and sweet aka swoon-central.

Alright, I’ll stop gushing. Here’s a quote I really liked:

It was nice to think that she might have a superpower, even a dumb one, hidden inside of her. What might it be?

Got me thinking. What’s mine? 🙂

Overall? Love, love, love.

Review: Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han (My True Love Gave to Me)

It’s day four of my very own “Twelve Days of Christmas”, during which I’m reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”.

Today I’m reviewing Jenny Han’s story, “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me.”

My True Love Gave to MeIMG_20141216_200742

This story is about a human girl named Natalie (or Natty) who is being raised at the North Pole by none other than Santa Claus. She lives and works with the elves, who have a much ruder attitude than you’d probably associate with elves. She’s been crushing on one of the elves for a long time, but she also met a human boy last year while delivering presents with her dad.

The story was cute though I can’t say there was much substance to it. It’s really just a fluffy story. It’s also really short, like 13 pages short. To me, it read more like a first chapter than an entire story with beginning, middle and end, which is how even a short story should read, at least to me.

The main character is a little whiny and spoiled. On the other hand, I did enjoy reading about how she got to live at the North Pole and the festivities that happen there in the lead up to Christmas. Overall, a cute story with a sweet, hopeful ending.

Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing the story I have a feeling I’m going to love the most: Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”, which I’m heading to read right now!

WWW Wednesday [10] – My true love gave to me embarrassing true stories

WWW Wednesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three questions: (As always, all titles are linked to their corresponding Goodreads pages)

  • What are you currently reading?

My True Love Gave to MeI’m currently reading one story a day from My True Love Gave to Me (so far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow” and Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”. I’m also starting my reread of Maggie Stiefvater’s Linger today. I tried to do it as an audiobook like I did with Shiver, but the copy I checked out from the library skipped too much. 😦 It’s perfect weather to reread these books.

  • What did you recently finish reading?We Should Hang Out Sometime

Yesterday, I finished We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story by Josh Sundquist. It was pretty funny and very, very honest – to the point where you almost feel as embarrassed as he does. I related to it a lot, in ways that I’ll discuss in my review on Friday.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

The Iron TrialAfter I finish Linger (which should be by Friday), I believe I am going to read The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. I have a few others checked out from the library that I’d like to read, and I also got The Winner’s Curse and several other books from my Belles’ Enchanted Book Exchange partner that I want to dig in to, so I’m not 100% sure what I’ll read. I’ll see what jumps off my shelf after I finish Linger.

What about you? What are you reading?