Thursday, December 29, 2011

End of 2011 Book Survey

Last year I filled out a cool book survey from Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner, and this year she’s created a 2011 edition! Yay for surveys!

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

Click here for the full post!

2. Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?

‘Salem’s Lot by: Stephen King

This wasn’t a bad book, but my expectations were kind of high. Stephen King’s novels tend to be hit-and-miss for me but in general I think he’s brilliant. Plus, I love vampires, so I figured this one would be perfect since it was two good things in one. But, I ended up being just entertained for the moment. It was nothing too memorable.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

Hush, Hush by: Becca Fitzpatrick

I thought it was quite disappointing the first time I read it (and even called it the most disappointing of 2010 in last year’s survey), but for whatever reason, when I read it back in January I really enjoyed it!

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?
Like I mentioned last year, most of my good friends are guys, so I never end up recommending any girly books… So I recommended these awesome books:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by: Suzanne Collins
The Catcher in the Rye by: J.D. Salinger
The Diary of a Young Girl by: Anne Frank
The Help by: Kathryn Stockett
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by: Seth Grahame-Smith

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by: Carrie Ryan
I’m not sure if it’s called The Forest of Hands and Teeth Series or what, but whatever the official term is, I loved it.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

Carrie Ryan
Elie Wiesel

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Night by: Elie Wiesel
I’m not good with sad books/movies, let alone true Holocaust survival stories. I’m too empathetic and I knew that this book would tear me apart, but it was a really good book. It’ll make you think about things like death, food, and humanity.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

Catching Fire by: Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by: Suzanne Collins

These books were amazing! They were almost impossible to put down and kept me flying through pages like a mad woman! In the midst of so much action, there was still a ton of emotion – both elements by themselves are present in a huge way in these books.

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?
The only books that I highly anticipated this year and actually read was Awakened by P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast and Illusions by Aprilynne Pike.

Others that I was so excited for but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to read this year:

Across the Universe by: Beth Revis
Silence by: Becca Fitzpatrick
Destined by: P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?
Torment by: Lauren Kate

Honorable Mention: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by: Seth Grahame-Smith

11. Most memorable character in 2011?
Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye by: J.D. Salinger)
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games Trilogy by: Suzanne Collins)
Gollum (The Lord of the Rings by: J.R.R. Tolkien)
Aibileen (The Help by: Kathryn Stockett)
Miss Celia (The Help by: Kathryn Stockett)
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

Night by: Elie Wiesel
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by: Carrie Ryan

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?
Night by: Elie Wiesel
This book made me different. As I read it I didn’t want to eat anything because all I could think about were the starving people. I’d randomly cry out of the blue thinking about the monstrosities of the damned Holocaust, wondering how people could ever be so awful to each other.

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by: J.R.R. Tolkien
I’m a nerd. I love fantasy and classic novels, yet I haven’t read any of these books until this year! What’s with that? And I haven't even read Return of the King yet!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?

Night by: Elie Wiesel
-Juliek’s death scene.

Mockingjay by: Suzanne Collins
-There is a paragraph in there somewhere in which every other sentence is “Making knots.”
The Catcher in the Rye by: J.D. Salinger
-The part where he admits that he feels the need to be a catcher in the rye.

16. Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012?

The Catcher in the Rye by: J.D. Salinger
I want to read it now, actually. I’ve wanted to read it since I put it down!
17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

Even though this one is elaborated, I’m still not quite sure what it’s talking about lol…

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2011?

Steph Su Reads is basically my favorite book blog!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2011?

I don’t really have favorite reviews actually.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
Artist Evolution

It talks about how artist tend to change over time and how “fans” freak out. I think it’s the only discussion on my blog.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?

I'm sure I've read multiple of these, but I can't remember specific ones.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I’ve never been to one.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2011?

Being asked to review one!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

By Views:

1. The House of Night, Books 1-6 by: P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast
2. ‘Salem’s Lot | by: Stephen King
3. Favorite Voices
4. End of 2010 Book Survey
5. Fallen | Evanescence
6. Look What I Made!
7. The Unforgiving | Within Temptation  
8. The Fame Monster | Lady Gaga
9. Evanescence | Evanescence
10. A Thousand Suns | Linkin Park

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Any book review. The only book review in my popular posts is for ‘Salem’s Lot and the one where I did mini-reviews of the first six House of Night books, which is a terrible example of my reviews! Come on, guys! Show the books some love, too!

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Barnes and Noble is way cheaper than Borders and Books-a-Million. Just saying.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Nope. I failed at the 2011 Stephen King Reading Challenge.

1. One Book You Didn't Get To In 2011 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2012?

SO MANY! But, I think Across the Universe by Beth Revis will be top priority next year, as well as Pathfinder by Orson Scott-Card.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2012?

I’m too preoccupied with this year’s books that I didn’t read that I can’t even think about next year. Ask me next year.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2012?

Maybe get my first ARC. I don’t want a ton of them like a lot of bloggers get, primarily because I don't have the time, but maybe one or two a year.

So... that's it! I hope everyone has a wonderful new year, and hopefully everyone will have a very awesome upcoming year for reading! Thanks so much for reading my posts; being heard is always appreciated.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Books I Read: 2011

2011 really flew by fast! Even so, I read quite a few amazing books in 2011 and I've decided to share those with you in another end-of-the-year wrap-up. Even though I read less books this year than last year, I have eleven books on this year's list. Ten made last year's list.  Like my Best Books post from last year, the best books are those that received 5/5 Stars from me and the runner-ups received 4.5/5 Stars. If any of these books have been reviewed, I will add the link.

Best Books - 5/5 Stars

Catching Fire by: Suzanne Collins
This book was a cardiovascular workout. All I did was sit on the couch and read this nonstop and meanwhile my heart was pumping like crazy the whole time, so much that it actually made me worry. This second installment in The Hunger Games Trilogy was just as good as the first with its action and morbidity interloping to form such a mesmerizing story. If you haven't read these books yet, you need to. Right now.

Putting Mockingjay down was painful. This is the final book of The Hunger Games Trilogy and it still held onto action in the midst of fighting against the disturbing government, but this time it was more of an emotional ride for me. After I plowed through all the pages, I couldn't stop crying. In fact, I don't think I've ever cried so much because of a book. I've never read something with such a bittersweet ending. The night I finished it, I had nightmares about different endings with no happiness at all - that's how far this story was embedded in my brain. I loved it so much; Suzanne Collins couldn't have done a better job.


Night by: Elie Wiesel
Although this autobiography is short, extremely well-written and keeps one's attention, it was so hard for me to read. I don't really see how anyone can get enjoyment out of reading it. It tells the story of Elie Wiesel's life in concentration camps during the Holocaust, living in a world of death and unimaginable circumstances. Right from the start I knew I was in for a very bleak reading experience, but I feel like this book changed me in some way. As I was reading, I had to force myself to eat. I didn't want to eat anything anymore. How could I when Elie was starving? If you're an empathetic person, be prepared.
Oh, Juliek...

The Diary of a Young Girl by: Anne Frank
Another Holocaust autobiography, but this story was not a survival story in the end. Anne's diary that she kept as her family hid in an attic for a couple of years isn't what you'd expect from someone her age; she really was a good writer, just as she aspired to be. Even though Anne could only ever be herself, I think a lot of coming-of-age girls could relate to her feelings of being shut out and cast as a child without her own ideals. Personally, I could relate to Anne's feeling that people don't prefer her to speak out, but they still complain when she holds her opinions back.

Even so, the irony of Anne's words will make you feel so heartbroken by the time you've finished reading this. She really did live on after she left, but in a different way than anyone would have expected.

Awakened by: P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast
Another awesome addition to the House of Night series! Stevie Rae's story finally gives us all some closure and Zoe always has something to deal with, but the theme that love is always the best choice really made this book special. These characters are starting to become more and more admirable as I go, and I plowed through the pages completely satisfied but looking forward to more.

The Catcher in the Rye is one of the strangest books I've ever read, and I loved it to death! I wanted to reread it again as soon as I put it down, and I've never had the urge to do that before. Of all books to want to reread as soon as possible, I ended up picking the one with basically no plot in terms of events, but a huge plot in terms of Holden's psychology. A lot of people who read this novel were bored for this reason and fed up with Holden. Though I understand this point, I find that the things people complain about are what make The Catcher in the Rye so unique, along with the fact that I could relate to this book in unusual (and less extreme than depicted) ways despite that Holden's such an odd and pitiful character. This misunderstood is by far one of the best I've ever read, perhaps the best.

I don't scare easily, especially when it comes to zombies, but the Unconsecrated freaked me out. To add to that, I don't even like zombies. I've always thought they were dumb and unnecessary, but Carrie Ryan knew what she was doing and created a fantastic dystopian novel! The bits of romance included do not take away from the creep-factor or make it gushy in any sense. Mary was a strong main character dedicated to exploration and I enjoyed reading about her struggles in the messed up world her story took place in.

Another thing I will always remember about this book is Carrie Ryan's wonderful writing. Her writing style is beautiful and more than effective, making this book even darker and emotional than the storyline already promised.

Jesus Freaks: Martyrs: Stories of Those Who Stood For Jesus, the Ultimate Jesus Freaks by: dc Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs
A book of dying for something you believe in with all your heart... Yeah, it was good. Every story included in this book is one of many true accounts of people giving up their lives and sanity before oppressors due to their undeniable Christian faith. Many of these stories talk about the miracles that were experienced by these martyrs before they died and even the miracles experienced by survivors. I don't really think you necessarily have to be a Christian to read this book, just a fan of those who stand for something in the midst of cruel treatment and even persecution. Personally, it really made me want to be a less grudging person, to learn not to hate enemies.

The Help by: Kathryn Stockett
This book will make you laugh, cry, and tell everyone about how you laughed and cried. It follows the intertwining stories of three loveable characters (Abileen, Minny, and Miss Skeeter) and how they live in the midst of racism in Jackson,  Mississippi during the 1960s. I think this is the only book that I have a hard time choosing who out of the three narrators is my favorite, but I suppose if I had to choose, it'd be Aibileen (with poor Miss Celia at number two). Although this book deals strongly with racism and the need for equality, there are a lot of different themes involved, adding complexity and adding to the list of things I love about this awesome book.

Runner-Ups - 4.5/5 Stars

The cover of this book itself pretty much screams that it's a unique story, just look at it. This book was extremely interesting, combining a good amount of mournful moments with humor as one of America's most beloved presidents is turned into one of Buffy's collegues.
One highlight from this was how Edgar Allen Poe and Abraham Lincoln were buddies! My favorite poet and my favorite president fighting vampires? Hell yeah! Plus, other famous figures were included as history meets fiction, and some were actually vampires. I liked this book even more than I thought I would, especially with that surprise ending...

Well, who knows if I really like this book or not? The first time I read it I found  nothing special about it, but the second time, I loved it! Somehow I could suddenly relate to Nora and find my own voice in her dialogue. Hush, Hush had a number of now-you-see-it-now-you-don't moments, and I find that such moments can't be visualized well in a lot of books, but it worked well in this case. Plus, I like stories with angels. They have a certain feel to them.
Of course, being the fangirl that I am, I must say that I really liked Patch...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011: A Great Year for Music

This year has been beyond exceptional for new music (in my opinion). I suppose it could have been a terrible year for whatever types of music you listen to, but a lot of my personal favorite artists released new material this year and a couple have announced that they will have full-length albums released early next year. That being said, here's a little wrap-up of my favorite parts of 2011 in the world of music.

It all started on March 29th when Within Temptation released their fifth studio album, The Unforgiving. A lot of speculation seemed to grow around this album from day one due to complaints that Within Temptation changed their sound too much for comfort, but I was not disappointed. Despite the change in sound, I believe that The Unforgiving was a really cool album, although I do hope that in their next release Sharon will sound more operatic again. Also, a series of comics have been released based on this concept album, and rather than just having music videos to follow the singles, Within Temptation has made short films (with actual actors, not band members) to emphasize the plot while being able to use all the violence they want.
A couple of months later, Lady Gaga dripped her highly-anticipated new album, Born This Way. Very rarely do I enjoy pop albums as much as I enjoy Lady Gaga's and Born This Way surpassed all of my expectations as she experimented with different sounds throughout the album and showed a lot of vocal improvement. Then in the summer, Vanessa Carlton returned with a new album called Rabbits on the Run. Like Gaga, Vanessa has also shown vocal improvement over the years. I've been a fan of her relaxing music ever since the beginning in 2002 with her too famous single "A Thousand Miles" (which I'm really sick of). It seems that ever since her debut in 2002 people have forgotten her and I think that's ridiculous since her three albums since then have been much better than the first! However, I have not listened to Rabbits on the Run yet with the exception of a couple great songs and from them, I am looking forward to buying this album (expect a review).

Next, Evanescence's new self-titled album was released on October 11th. Evanescence has been my favorite band for about six years now, so I've been looking forward to this album ever since their second album, The Open Door, was released in 2006. Each of their albums always have a very different feel from the other, as did this one. Amy Lee's voice has not lost any of its power during Evanescence's hiatus and the band sounds the way she described, happier and stronger. This is not to say that the music itself is happy, would it be an Evanescence record if it was? Still, despite what anyone may say about their current approach, I loved this album. It was definitley worth the wait, bringing me new gorgeous Evanescence favorites and something to relate to.
On November 30th, a new Nightwish album called Imaginaerum was released exclusive to a couple countries. Throughout the month of December and into January 16th, this new album will slowly but surely be released in multiple countries, including the USA (released January 10th). A special edition will be available and it will include the album in instrumental format. From what I've heard, even fans of their older, heavier material will have a good chance at enjoying this album. I will purchase it as soon as it is available to me!

But, 2011 didn't just bring awesome music, it also brought news of more cool music set to be released next year! According to their official site, Epica is going to release a new album called Requiem For the Indifferent on March 9th. (Note that it won't be released in the USA until March 12th.) Lacuna Coil will release their new album entitled Dark Adrenaline on January 23rd (January 24th in North America) and have already released their first awesome single from that album, "Trip the Darkness."

What an awesome year! I guess I got lucky this year with all my favorite artists releasing new material and can look forwarad to a few more next year. Did you like the new music of 2011, maybe from others I didn't mention?

Long live music!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The 2011 Stephen King Reading Challenge: I Surrender

I don't really sign up for reading challenges, but when I saw the 2011 Stephen King Reading Challenge at Book Chick City I thought I'd try. After all, I couldn't have picked an easier challenge. All that was required was for me to read six of Stephen King's books this year. Six books. That's it. Simple, right?

Well, I epicly failed. I should've raised the white flag in October to be honest... The only Stephen King book I read this year was 'Salem's Lot back in January. I even had a good start at the beginning of the year, but could I keep it up? No! I love Stephen King despite his novels can be hit-and-miss for me, and I have a ton of his books on my TBR (to be read) list, but I only got around to reading one this year. From this, I'm concluding that I can only read what I want when I want. Challenges don't seem to motivate me at all.

If I ever try the whole reading challenge thing again, maybe I should go for something broader, more general. For example, one that targets a specific genere that I typically read like dystopia, science fiction, or fantasy.

As a side note, I highly recommend Stephen King's Under the Dome (this book was my first ever review, so the link leads to a really short and tacky review). In the near future, I plan to read Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, and Full Dark, No Stars.