End of the Year Thoughts

2011 is almost over and I feel the need to write a little post on how what started as a reading challenge changed into something more.

I wasn’t in the best place last year when I decided to take on the 52 Book Challenge. I was looking for something I knew I could do and that I would be good at. I needed something to make me happy for a little while. Reading has always been that for me, so I took on the challenge.

A couple of weeks in, things started to change for me. My passion for reading was reignited and something in me started to come alive again. I was thinking about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. Because of this challenge, I finally know what I want to do with my life and it feels amazing. I’m feeling happier than I’ve been in a long time.

This simple reading challenge really changed me for the better. It not only rekindled my love of reading, but it brought a new clarity to my life that I had been trying to find for a long time. My real life may not always be the best place to be, but I know I can always find a great place to escape by picking up a book and diving in.

My new goal for 2012 is to read and review 100 books. It’s going to be a bit more of a challenge, since I’m also going to try my hand at writing one. But I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait to start.

Hereafter by Tara Hudson

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure if I would, after reading other reviews of it, however I was very pleasantly surprised.

Out of all the paranormal romances there are, there’s something about those with ghosts that really draw me in. Maybe it’s because I really hope there are such things as ghosts, which would make these stories the closest to reality as they could, or some other unknown to me reason. Reading about the afterlife being tied to real life really interests me and I felt like Hudson did a great job in creating this story.

I really liked Amelia as a character, and going along with her as she discovered things about her life and death; seeing what made her what she was. Seeing her struggle with not knowing if she was a good person or not, what her past meant for her future and if she really had a choice in her afterlife was interesting to read and experience with her.

There were a couple things that kept me from thinking this was a 5 star book. The first was, while Amelia’s attachment and love of Joshua made sense, it was a little harder to understand why Joshua felt so attached to her. I could understand wanting to know more about her, and wanting to know what had saved him from dying, but I felt after that is was a little confusing. The other little thing that bothered me a bit was the very beginning of the book. It felt a little off, and not like the rest of the book. I’m not sure if I could ever be able to explain what I mean by that, but it just seemed…different and not as effortless as the rest of the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was a wonderful read. It’s definitely one of my favorite Young Adult novels I’ve read this year, and I certainly can’t wait to read the next book.

Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow

I will be the first person to tell you I am not a Tim Tebow fan. The hype that has surrounded him in Colorado has been enough to drive me insane, and I’m pretty sure my friend gave this book to me as a joke. I read it anyway, and while I’m still not behind him as a Broncos quarterback, I have tremendous respect for him as a person.

I was a little worried going in that it would be too football heavy. While there were some references I didn’t understand in terms of plays, I was able to picture what he was describing in my head and follow along with what he was saying. As long as you have a basic knowledge of football, I think you’d be able to understand what he’s talking about.

I was also worried that it would be a little preachy. Thankfully, the way he wove the Bible references in wasn’t in your face and it really held the story together. I’m not a religious person, but I was able to see how he was influenced by God and respect it. He talks about how he uses his religion to make him stronger and motive himself to be the best person he can be, and yet to not let that go to his head. It’s honorable and it made me like him a little bit more as a person.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Tebow, or football in general, this is a great and inspiring book to read. I highly recommend reading this book if you’re looking for something to get you thinking about how you live your own life.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I wanted to like it so much, I read the entire book hoping it would get better, even though all I wanted to do was give up. The only thing that kept this book from being one star was the writing itself. It was stunning, even if the rest of the story failed to live up to the hype.

It took forever for this book to get a plot started. There were pieces of information given and a beautiful setting described, but nothing really happened. I kept waiting for the challenge or duels referenced in the description to start, and they never did. The characters didn’t really have much depth to them until the final stages of the book.

The one saving grace of this book was how well Morgenstern can write descriptions. I could picture everything, in detail, in my head as I read. I could smell everything and sometimes felt like I could reach out and touch what she was writing about.

This book will appeal to some people. I am not one of those people. I need the writing to match the story and this book falls drastically short, in my opinion.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I’m a little conflicted about this book. I liked some parts and other parts made me come dangerously close to just giving up on the book.

I enjoyed the attempt at mixing up the traditional YA book by writing in the lead male’s POV; however, he just didn’t seem male enough. As much as the 16/17 year old girls in Young Adult books don’t seem to fit the typical teen girl idea, Ethan was even further from the typical teenage male ideas. I can’t think of any guy I knew growing up that could focus on a girl’s clothing so much or how he was feeling towards her if it went beyond lust.

I did like the newer take on witches (Casters in this book) and their world. It was interesting to see a little bit different spin on the powers and abilities so many others have written about. It wasn’t entirely unique, but there was enough of a change to keep me interested.

The length of this book was entirely too long and the portrayal of the South is way too clichéd. It just didn’t work.

It took me nearly 200 pages to get interested enough to ignore the things I should be doing in favor of reading. This book just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I do know the select few friends I’d recommend this to. However, for the general public, I’m not sure it’s all it’s been made out to be.

Hand Me Down by Melanie Thorne

I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to describe how much this book moved me.

I could feel the pain Liz was going through each time I turned the page, and the anger she had at the world around her. I had more hope for her than I’ve had for any other character in a long time. She was such a strong character, with so much determination to not let the mistakes of those around her bring her down to their level.

I wanted to shake some sense into the adults in this book. They are flawed and not very good human beings, but as horrible as they are, it is written so wonderfully there are a few you feel a tiny bit of sympathy for. You learn enough about why some people are they way they are that, while it doesn’t excuse them, it makes their behavior believable. Each person is the way they are for a reason, and after you learn those reasons, each character becomes a real person.

I was incredibly touched by this book and will tell every single one of my friends they need to give this book a read.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

I’m having a hard time coming up with the words I need to describe this book. I loved Never Knowing and was excited to start Still Missing. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started read it, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I went through reading this book.

I love the way Stevens wrote this book as a set of flashbacks, each “chapter” book ended by Annie’s therapy sessions. I think the reason I love it so much is because it makes this a story about Annie and how she deals with the world after this horrible things happens to her.

The one line from the book that really stuck out to me was, “I just wonder why nobody cares much about the after—just about the story. Guess they figure it stops there. I wish.”

It’s one thing to write a moving story about the “during,” but to tackle a novel about the after really got to me. Yes, Annie’s depictions of what happened to her in the cabin were horrible, and there were times I had to stop reading for a little while. But what really made me feel for Annie was her struggle to return to something normal, her fights to eat whenever she pleased, or to sleep on a bed instead of in the closet.

Annie fought in one way to stay alive when she was in captivity, but she was fighting a completely different fight when she returned to her life. That is what made me love this book. Everything is out there and it’s raw and while I have never been through anything Annie went through, I felt a little bit of her pain.

The last line of this book made me cry more than I thought a book could make me cry. This is a book that has made me think and feel and I will tell anyone who will listen to read this book.

Pure by Julianna Baggott

I’m not even sure what to write about this book. It was yet another dystopian novel, and yet it wasn’t. Because the future painted in this book is one that people can actually think of. Each time the Detonations are mentioned, it’s hard to not think about what could have happened, had the Cold War ended very differently.

People remember what the world was like before, and they see what life has become after. Life has been changed so much, and yet there are touches of the old world thrown about to remind the survivors of what used to be. This eerie collision of the past and present creates one of the best settings for a novel I’ve ever read.

Pressia slowly became one of my favorite examples of a strong novel heroine. She does not have the physical strength to compete against others, she can’t scare attackers away with just her looks, she’s not the most creative thinker, and yet she gets things done. She finds strength in her hope and compassion, in her drive to remember the past and who she is. She wants to prove people wrong, and to prove herself wrong and to find something better in the dark world she lives in.

Partridge finds his strength when he sees just how imperfect his seemingly perfect world is. He’s hunting for his mother and he sees just what has happened to those people that weren’t lucky like he was. It makes him want to fight for those people and what he knows to be right, not what he’s told is right.

The one hitch I found in the book is how easily some things slide into place, or are explained. It seems like some aspects of the story were made to fit easier into the story instead of present a problem so the story could progress a little fast. While I understand why it was done, I do wish a few parts of the story hadn’t been so easy.

I was completely drawn into this story and am already wishing I had the next part of the story. I can’t wait to see the next part of Pressia and Partridge’s story.