Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 End of Year Book Survey

Last year, I participated in The Perpetual Page-Turner's End of 2010 Survey (you can see my post here), and this year, she has updated and expanded this survey, and I'm excited to participate again!

So here they are, my answers to the 2011 End of Year Book Survey:

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?
I read quite a few books that I LOVED this year, and I can't really narrow it down to just one, so I'll narrow it down to five:  Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, and Divergent by Veronica Roth.  All YA SF.  (And yes, I realize this is actually 10 books, since the Uglies series has four books and The Maze Runner series has 3 books, but I can't whittle it down any more than this.)

2. Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?
Probably Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  It was one of my picks for book club, and I was expecting it to be a lot more than it was.  I still enjoyed it, just not as much as I had hoped I would.  

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?
I guess that would have to be Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.  Several of my friends had read it and loved it, and one friend basically made me borrow it.  ;)  I'm not normally someone who loves Chick Lit, and this is YA Chick Lit, so I thought I would be groaning and rolling my eyes the whole time, but I ended up loving it!  I also really loved the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and I look forward to reading the third companion, Isla and the Happily Ever After.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?
I definitely think that would be Glow, by Amy Kathleen Ryan.  I received an ARC from the Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and not only was I ecstatic to have won an ARC, but I really, really LOVED that book!  I can't wait for the sequel!

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?
Well, the three series that I read in their entirety this year were The Hitchhiker's Guide series by Douglas Adams, the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld and The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner (although he's releasing a prequel to this series next year, so I guess I didn't read the ENTIRE series).  I really enjoyed The Hitchhiker's guide series, although I didn't enjoy the last few books as much as the first couple.  But I LOVED the Uglies series and The Maze Runner trilogy!  I highly recommend both!  I also read most of The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa (I read the first book, The Iron King, in 2010 but re-read it and then read all the other books this year, and I'm currently reading the 4th book, The Iron Knight) and I really enjoyed those as well.  But I've also read quite a few books this year that are the first books of series, and the other books have yet to come out, like Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Hourglass by Myra McEntire.  Then I also read the first books of a few series that have sequels that have been published, like The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, The Line by Teri Hall, Alanna by Tamora Pierce, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Storm Front by Jim Butcher, and Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder.  I enjoyed all these books and hope to read some of the rest of each of these series next year.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?
Scott Westerfeld, James Dashner, and John Green.  I'd add Amy Kathleen Ryan, Beth Revis, Myra McEntire and Veronica Roth to that list, but I've only read one of their books each, so I'll save their names until after I've read more of their books next year.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
I had never read any Steam Punk, so Boneshaker by Cherie Priest would be a good answer for this question.  Also, I hadn't read a lot of YA Contemporary before, and I enjoyed all of John Green's books (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson).  And I also hadn't read much Adult Chick Lit/Romance before, and I thoroughly enjoyed One Day by David Nicholls.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan and all of the books in The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner.

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?
Well, I don't really know the answer to this one.  I mean, I was looking forward to The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, but it wasn't like I couldn't wait for them to come out.  I think the books that I most wanted to get my hands on this year were The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, books 2 and 3 respectively in The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner.  Once I read The Maze Runner, I had to have those other books ASAP!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?
That would have to be Hourglass by Myra McEntire.  The next book in the series, Timepiece, has a great cover too!  I'm excited to read that one next year!
Photo courtesy of yareads.com
Photo courtesy of hypable.com

11. Most memorable character in 2011? 
Hmm, I can't really think of any one character that stood out.  I enjoyed most of the protagonists, but I always find myself really loving side characters.  Like Bob the Skull in Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?
All of John Green's books.  He is such a beautiful writer, and he knows how to craft a sentence in a way that I can only dream of.  Plus, he's better at grammar than I will ever be, and I'm okay with that.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?
I would say Night by Elie Wiesel, but I had to basically trick myself into believing that it was fiction so that I could get through it, so it didn't hit me as hard as it might have.  But it still was an amazing story, and one that everyone should read.

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?
All the Hitchhiker's Guide books, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, 1984 by George Orwell, Night by Elie Wiesel, and The Giver by Lois Lowry.  Most of those qualified for my Off the Shelf challenge, though, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading them.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?
Hmm, I hardly write down specific quotes except for the books that I read for book club, and I couldn't find any great quotes in my notes from this year.  But I did star one part from John Green's Paper Towns that I really loved because it remind me of my time in high school:
"I spent the next three hours in classrooms, trying not to look at the clocks above various blackboards, and then looking at the clocks, and then being amazed that only a few minutes had passed since I last looked at the clock.  I'd had nearly four years of experience looking at these clocks, but their sluggishness never ceased to surprise.  If I am ever told that I have one day to live, I will head straight for the hallowed halls of Winter Park High School, where a day has been known to last a thousand years."
16. Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012?
Probably Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan.  Or Divergent by Veronica Roth, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, or Hourglass by Myra McEntire, all because the second books in these series come out next year, and I'll probably want to reread the first books before reading the next ones.  Also I can see myself rereading The Maze Runner trilogy before the prequel, The Kill Order, comes out.

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!
Um, The Maze Runner series.  I really want one of my friends to read this series so we can go to lunch or dinner or something and talk all about it.

Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2011 (optional)

I'm not going to answer the questions in this part because, even though I have a blog where I review books sometimes, it isn't very consistent and reviewing books isn't the only thing I do on the blog.  Next year, however, I plan on writing a lot more reviews.

But I do want to answer one question from this section:

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Yes!  I set one goal of reading 35 books this year (I read 30 books last year - it was the first year I really started reading A LOT, so I wanted to at least surpass that number) and, as I'm writing this, I've read 76 books so far this year, and I'll probably finish one more before the year ends.  So I read more than twice my goal!  
I also participated in the 2011 Off the Shelf Challenge by Bookish Ardour, where I challenged myself to read 15 books that were sitting on my shelf prior to the beginning of this year that I had yet to read.  And I completed that challenge as well!  I think that's pretty good for my first challenge, and my first year of setting any kind of reading goal!

Looking Ahead...

1. One Book You Didn't Get To In 2011 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2012?
Well, I have lots of books to read next year, and several of them are kind of prioritized as to when I will read them, so the books that I answer for this question might not be the first books I read in 2012, but I will definitely get to them.  That said, the books I didn't read this year but will read next year are Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire, The Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2012?
I'm definitely looking forward to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  My friends and I are even traveling out of state to go to his book tour!  It should be a lot of fun and I can't wait!  I'm also really psyched for A Million Suns by Beth Revis, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Timepiece by Myra McEntire, and Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan.  Oh, and The Kill Order by James Dashner.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2012?
My friend Courtney at Abducted by Books is hosting a reading challenge next year, called the 15,000 Page Challenge.  The goal is in the title - read15,000 pages in 2012.  And she's going to give away a couple of prizes!  Since I'll be participating in this challenge, I'll need to blog a lot more to show my updated page counts.  So I plan on trying to review many more books next year, which is also a nice challenge for myself.  My blog will hopefully grow because of it!

So there they are, my answers to the 2011 End of Year Book Survey.  I apologize for the extremely long post.  It's so hard to have just one answer for most of the questions!  Let me know in the comments if you completed the survey as well, and I'll hop on over to your blog and take a look!  Happy reading in 2012!

Book Review: The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

Oh, man, this is when I wish I had come up with a more clever name for my blog, like my friend Courtney's, Abducted by Books (isn't that a great blog name?), because I really felt like I was abducted by The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner.

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
The first book in the series, The Maze Runner, had been on my to-read list for quite some time, and then at some point I bought the book (I can't remember if I bought it this year or last year, but either way, it's been sitting on my shelf for some time, waiting to be read).  This year, I've read 76 books so far (more than twice my goal of 35 books!), and I've ended up loving quite a few of them.  I realized that many of these books that I've loved this year, that I've given 5 star ratings to on Goodreads and have added to my favorites list, have been Young Adult Science Fiction stories.  And The Maze Runner trilogy is no exception.

The Maze Runner starts off with the protagonist, Thomas, waking up in complete darkness, with most of his memories erased.  He knows his name, can remember things, but can't remember people or specific events.  Then the small square room he is in starts to move upward, revealing itself to be an elevator in an extremely tall shaft.  Once it stops, doors open at the top of the shaft and Thomas finds himself in the middle of a huge maze with other teenage boys who have each had their memories erased, as well.  Their mission - to find a way out of the maze.  Only there are a few problems.  There are openings on each side of the middle of the maze (or The Glade, as they call it), but these openings are actually doors, which close each night.  And you don't want to get caught outside the doors at night, or you'll be killed by these grotesque creatures called Grievers.  And then, in the morning, once the doors have opened again, all the walls in the outer parts of the maze have changed, making you start all over again.  

And I won't say any more than that, because I hate spoilers - so much so that I read the descriptions of the books once, put them on my to-read list if I'm interested, and then once I get the book I don't read those descriptions again, nor do I read any of the blurbs on the book, because I've been spoiled by those before, too.  Anyway, I digress.

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
I LOVED The Maze Runner.  It is so my kind of book that I just want to read it over and over again.  I finished it on the 13th of December, but I knew before I finished it that I wanted to read the other two books in the series, so I put them on my Christmas list.  And I got them!  I was in the middle of reading another book, but I couldn't wait!  So on December 23rd (the day my family had our Christmas) I started reading The Scorch Trials.  I finished it on Christmas Day and started The Death Cure right after.  I finished The Death Cure last night, on the 26th.  I've only been able to read a few books in a day in my life, so that was quite an accomplishment.  And it also speaks volumes about the books themselves.

Photo courtesy of barnesandnoble.com
The Maze Runner is probably always going to be my favorite out of the three.  I really loved The Scorch Trials, too, and although I also loved The Death Cure, I had a few problems with it.  The Scorch Trials kind of revealed a different twist to this story (it was hinted at in The Maze Runner, but I didn't really get it until The Scorch Trials).  No, I'm not going to tell you what it was.  But I'll say that it didn't seem out of place in this world to me, but it kind of made me stop short for a second when I realized what was going on, and made me say, "Hey...."  But then The Death Cure happened, and I kind of felt similar to how I felt with Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games series.  With that series, I loved each of the books, too, and gave each of them 5 stars, but I was a bit disappointed with the ending of Mockingjay.  I didn't hate it like some readers, but it wasn't what I had expected or wanted.  And I felt the same with The Death Cure.  The Death Cure was a really fast-paced read with a lot of action, but I was kind of pissed at Thomas for this one thing (if you've read it you probably know what I'm talking about - the big thing HE DIDN'T DO!), and the ending left me kind of disappointed.  I kept waiting for something else to happen, and when it didn't, I was upset. I know this is all so vague and I'm sorry - you'll all just have to read the series and we can talk about it in detail, because I really don't want to spoil anyone.

But regardless, I still loved this series and it has moved up to my #3 favorite series of all time.  Right under The Hunger Games (which is right under the Holy Grail of series, Harry Potter).  I'm so glad I read these books, and I'll definitely read Dashner's prequel to the series, The Kill Order, when it comes out in August.  I'm also excited about the movie adaptation of The Maze Runner that is set to be released in 2013, although it is being directed by Catherine Hardwicke, and I'm not a huge fan of her films.  Hopefully the fact that James Dashner is co-writing the screenplay will keep the film very true to the book.  

I highly recommend these books to anyone who enjoys Young Adult Science Fiction, especially if you enjoy books like The Hunger Games series, Divergent, and the Uglies series.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo Fail....Maybe

Here it is, the 26th of November and I'm nearing the end of my third National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  I went into this month excited and all ready to re-write my 2010 NaNo novel.  I was pumped.  I wanted to get through NaNo with a fresh draft, maybe edit it one more time soon after, and then send it out to beta readers.  Then, my goal was to edit and edit and edit some more during the next year, and to send it out to agents by the end of 2012.  It was a lovely, wonderful, sweet plan.

Then it all went to hell.

There were HUGE plot holes in my story.  Things that I couldn't get past.  Things that were integral to my plot - things that were integral to this story becoming two books, maybe even three.  Things that I MAYBE could have figured out as I wrote, but everything else that I wrote relied on me figuring those things out.  Also, there was absolutely no action in my story.  Well, one car wreck scene, but that was it.  The rest was people explaining things to others.  A lot of telling, instead of showing.  Yes, these are things that can be fixed in future edits, but it just wasn't working.  I was bored of my story (although I still like much of the idea), and I felt like nothing was happening.  Nothing was moving forward.

So I changed it.  I made it much more YA.  I made it more supernatural.  Then I decided to read a couple of published novels that were similar to mine.  I know, I know, people say not do to this.  We should steer clear of novels that might resemble what we are currently writing.  But I wanted to read them to make sure that my novel wasn't too much like them.  So with one, I was okay.  My story was different enough that I wasn't worried.  But then I read the other one, and it was like, yeesh.  That's almost exactly what I'm writing.

So I changed it again.  Now, mind you, I haven't been deleting anything, so my NaNo word count still includes what I wrote for the first two stories.  But with this one, I only wrote about 1,000 words and got bored.  Again.

I haven't written a single word on my NaNo novel (novels?) since the 17th.  I'm currently sitting at 14,540 words.  Which is less than I did my first year, where I got around 15,000 words.  Last year I won.  This year, I have to write over 7,000 words a day to reach the 50,000-word goal.  I'm thinking this isn't going to happen.  

For the past few days I've been really discouraged about my writing.  I pretty much decided that this story, this idea that I've been working on and changing and brainstorming about for the past year needs to be set aside.  Maybe someday I'll figure out what to do with it.  But for now, I figured I'd just start a whole new story, keeping my current word count, of course.  But I was at a loss as to what to write.  I looked on the NaNo forums, where they have this great Adoption Society, where you can "adopt" plots or characters or whatever.  But nothing struck my fancy.  I was out of inspiration.  So I got more discouraged.

But today, I read some posts by Maureen Johnson (she's the Agony Aunt this year of NaNo - kind of like a Dear Abby columnist) where she talks about just jumping into your novel, and where she helps writers who have lost that fun relationship with writing.  Maureen Johnson has helped me all throughout this month.  She seems to know exactly what questions to answer at the right time.  I think she might be psychic.  

I also hopped on my Twitter account (I don't do that very often - I only was compelled to go there today because I got an email that someone new was following me) and browsed some tweets by literary agent Holly Root.  She had one on there about an author she represents who wrote a post about her experience finding an agent.  

It's weird.  Things like this open my eyes and light a fire under me and make me wonder why I ever questioned my writing.  I've been writing ever since I can remember.  Before I could physically write myself, I would tell my mom little stories and she would type them up for me.  I have always been a writer.  And I have always wanted to someday be published.  

So what if that original NaNo idea never becomes anything publishable?  I love to write, and stories are always coming to me.  I just need to remember that I don't have to have the next huge hit idea, and that I don't have to even have to have an outline before I start writing.  Actually, it's better, for me, if I don't do too much planning, because otherwise I think that I have to have everything perfectly planned out before I can even begin.  This does not work.  I just need a little spark of an idea.  A character trait, a world, an image - something that will get me started.  And then I just need to let it go from there.

So I may not finish NaNo this year.  I may not get to put a shiny Winner badge on my next blog post.  But right now, after I finish this post, I'm going to go back to that Adoption Society forum and find something - some little glimmer, some quirk or scene or line or name or setting - SOMETHING to get the ball rolling.  I'm in the writing mood today.  And we'll see how far I can get when I have no plan, no plot, and no direction.  This actually will probably be fun.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Off the Shelf" Reading Challenge Complete!

This was the first reading challenge I've participated in, and thankfully, with a month to spare, I've completed it!

I took the Off the Shelf Challenge by Bookish Ardour, who is hosting several challenges next year as well, including the 2012 Off the Shelf Challenge.  Go here to check out those challenges!

So for this challenge, I chose to read 15 books that I owned that had just been sitting there, waiting to be read for months or even years.  I took the challenge quite seriously, and all of the books that I read for this challenge were purchased before 2011.  Which was hard, because I was given LOTS of books this year by a couple of friends who were cleaning up their shelves, and I bought quite a few as well - more than I normally would have because of Borders closing.  But I've read lots of other books this year, not just the 15 for this challenge.

And I prevailed!  Here is a complete list of the 15 books that I read for this challenge, with links to my reviews:

  1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  2. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
  7. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  8. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams
  9. Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
  10. Night by Elie Wiesel
  11. Harry Potter Schoolbooks Box Set by J.K. Rowling
  12. Harry Potter:  Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley
  13. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  14. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
  15. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson & The Olympians, Book One) by Rick Riordan
Now, a few of those books might seem like really easy reads.  And some of them really were.  But regardless of how long or short, easy or hard, these were all books that have been on my bookshelf for a while, and I've wanted to read them, but never did for one reason or another.  And now, I'm glad to say that I've read them!  Thanks, Bookish Ardour, for hosting a challenge that I really needed and enjoyed!

Next year I won't be participating in this challenge again, but I'll be doing a completely new challenge by my good friend Courtney from Abducted by Books!  She'll be hosting the 15,000 Page Challenge.  The goal is to read 15,000 pages in 2012, and she'll be giving away prizes for the person who reaches the goal by reading the least amount of books (like if someone reads 15 1,000-page books) and also to the person who reaches the goal by reading the most amount of books (like if someone reads 100 150-page books).  I'm going for the latter option, and I've already got tons of books picked out!  That prize is mine!  (Maybe.)

Book 15/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

Photo courtesy of bookwormsreadmorebooks.com
For my 15th and final book to read for this year's Off the Shelf Challenge, I read Book One of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series:  The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan.

I had been wanting to read this series for a while, but never got around to it, although I had seen the movie adaptation of this novel.  I kind of wished I hadn't seen the movie first, because I knew some of the ending, and I am one of those people who does NOT like to be spoiled.  But I still enjoyed reading the book and I hope to read the rest soon - I'll definitely read the rest of the books before seeing the movies.

There were quite a few differences between the book and the movie (that I can remember), but I knew this going in, because a friend of mine, Tracy, as well as my husband, had read the book and told me about a few of the differences.  I liked the movie, but I enjoyed the book a lot more.  I think that's normally how it goes, though.

There were also a lot of similarities between this book and the Harry Potter series, and I am a total HP nerd.  But I wasn't irritated by the similarities.  I think it's just the nature of the stories.  Both involve quests, both involve boys who realize that they are part of a different world, and both boys are the keys to saving that new world, as well as the rest of the world, from destruction by a power-hungry bad guy.  So yes, there are quite a few similarities.  But these are two different, interesting, adventuresome series in their own right.  I LOVE the Harry Potter series with a passion, and I really enjoyed the first installment of Percy Jackson.  But, who knows?  I may grow to love this series, too, once I've read the other books.  However, I don't know that any book or series will ever surpass my love for Harry Potter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book 14/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

Yea!  I'm almost done with my Off the Shelf Challenge!  Just one more to go!

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
So for my second-to-last book for this challenge, I decided to go ahead and wrap up the Hitchhiker's Guide series by reading Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams.

I didn't like this book as much as some of the others in the series, but I still enjoyed it.  I really liked the bit that dealt with Elvis, and I liked the end, although I would assume that many fans might not like it so much.  I don't want to go into too much detail for those who haven't yet read the book, but I will say that this installment lacked the pep and humor that is abundant throughout the rest of the series.  Yes, there was humor, along with the seemingly random tangents that Mr. Adams loves to take, but I just didn't feel like there was as much humor in this one as the others.

I really enjoyed this series as a whole, although the first two books, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, were my favorites of the five.

On a side note, I finished reading Mostly Harmless mere minutes before a 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook my whole house.  Now, mind you, I live in Oklahoma.  We don't get earthquakes very often here.  Well, at least not the kind you feel.  We got one about a year ago, but it was much smaller.  And apparently I missed one while I was asleep this morning, but it was also smaller.  No damage as far as I can tell, but it was still very unnerving!  And, if you've read Mostly Harmless, you'll understand that reading the last few pages and then being in an earthquake can really creep you out!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book 13/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

Photo courtesy of wikifirsteditions.com
In an attempt to get another book out of the way for the Off the Shelf Challenge before the start of NaNoWriMo, I chose a small, quick read:  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum.

I have always loved the story of Oz, and really enjoyed the classic film from 1939, The Wizard of Oz.  But the 1985 sequel, Return to Oz, was my favorite movie as a child, and remains one of my favorite movies to this day.  I also really love The Wicked Years series by Gregory Maguire:  Wicked:  The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West; Son of a Witch; A Lion Among Men; and Out of Oz.  I knew that Out of Oz was going to be released soon, but I thought it was sometime next year.  Just now, while looking it up for this post, I found out that the release date is November 1st!  Um, I know what I want for Christmas!!!  And how funny is it that I read this book and wrote this post right before the release of that book!  I've never seen the musical Wicked, which is based off of the first book from Maguire's series, but hopefully I can see it someday!

Anyway, I don't think I ever read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a kid, even though I was such a big fan of Return to Oz.  And, reading it now, I was surprised to find that it is so different from the 1939 movie adaptation!  I mean, I know that something is always lost when a book is adapted into a movie, but for some reason, I didn't think it would be that way with this book.  But there were plenty of differences.  First of all, there is much more to the story than in the movie (and of course that is to be expected).  Also, there is no mention of it all being Dorothy's dream.  At least, it wasn't in this book.  L. Frank Baum went on to write several more Oz stories, so some of the things in the movie could have been from those books.  Also, the shoes Dorothy gets from the Wicked Witch of the East were "silver shoes," not "ruby slippers."  I'm assuming that for the film, since they were using the new technology of Technicolor, they wanted the shoes to stand out, so they made them bright red instead of silver.

Also, I was pleased to see that some of the characters and things that Gregory Maguire used in his retellings were actually in this story, like the character of Boq, the Winkies, and the Quadlings.  I don't think these were mentioned in the film, and I always assumed that Maguire had made them up himself.  So it was really nice to see that Maguire had obviously done a lot of research before writing his novels.  I always assumed that he had done a huge amount of research, but I think he probably did a lot more than most people realize.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I'm glad I finally read it, although I really think that I like Gregory Maguire's stories better, and I'm looking forward to reading Out of Oz!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book 12/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

NaNoWriMo is coming up (in one week!), and I wanted to try to get a couple of my books read for the Off the Shelf Challenge before heading into a month full of writing and not much reading. I still had 4 books left to read for this challenge, and the deadline is at the end of the year, so I really needed to get to it!

Photo courtesy of barnesandnoble.com
I finally finished Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley, which I blogged about back in October of last year (you can see that post here - I was trying out a new meme called "I Want" Wednesday - boy, that meme really lasted on my blog, didn't it?).  I've had Film Wizardry on my Goodreads currently-reading list all year long, although I haven't been reading it all year.  It's not a hard book to read; it just isn't like a novel, where you can tear through the pages.  I (obviously) took my sweet time reading it.

Film Wizardry is a gorgeous book full of artists' renderings, photos, and inside information on what went into creating all eight Harry Potter films.  Since I'm a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter books, and a huge fan of the films, I found the book to be really fascinating.  It's crazy how much time and effort goes into everything in the films, from the storyboards and concept art, to the wardrobes and makeup, to the intricate set designs and special effects.

Another thing that I really love about this book is that there are several items included within the pages that you can actually remove from envelopes and hold in your hands:  a replica of Harry's acceptance letter to Hogwarts, catalogs for Borgin and Burkes and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes (those don't actually come out - they're attached to the book), a program for the 422nd Quidditch World Cup (also attached), and my personal favorite - a fold-out copy of The Maruader's Map, among others.

This book is a great read for any fan of the Harry Potter films, and I'm glad to have it my collection.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book 11/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

There are a couple of books that have been on my Goodreads "currently reading" shelf all year long.  I haven't actually been reading them all year; I simply set them aside while I read tons of other books.  I got both books late last year, and even though they haven't been on my physical book shelf for that long, they still count for the "Off the Shelf" Challenge, since they were on my shelf before I started said challenge.

The two books in question were the Harry Potter Schoolbooks Box Set (which actually has two books, but I counted them as one), and Harry Potter:  Film Wizardry.  I'm still reading Film Wizardry, so I'll leave that one for a later post.

Photo courtesy of judyoz.com
Last year, my book club had a Christmas party where, instead of reading a specific book that month, we had a potluck dinner and played board games and had a gift exchange.  We all bought a book under a certain amount, and the idea was to play Dirty Santa, where you can steal one another's gifts.  Apparently we're bad at that game, because not much stealing went on (I don't know if anyone stole anything, actually), and I loved the gift I brought so much, that when it was my turn to choose a gift to open, I opened my own!  And that gift was the Harry Potter Schoolbooks Box Set.  

The Harry Potter Schoolbooks Box Set includes two books that are featured in the Harry Potter novels:  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages.  J.K. Rowling wrote both and proceeds from the sale of the box set went to a fund for needy children through the charity Comic Relief.  

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a book written by Newt Scamander that Harry and all the other first years were required to purchase in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  It reads like a textbook, which is maybe why I didn't like it as much as Quidditch Through the Ages.  Several magical beasts are listed and described, complete with a Ministry of Magic rating as to how dangerous each specific beast is.  The cool thing about the copy of Fantastic Beasts in this box set is that it is supposed to be the one owned by Harry Potter himself, and has been written in by Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  There are also a few doodles of some of the beasts, but I wish there had been more, because it was hard for me to picture some of these strange animals.

Quidditch Through the Ages, by Kennilworthy Whisp, is a library book that Hermione has checked out in Sorcerer's Stone, which Harry then borrows from her.  So the book in the box set is made to look like a library book, complete with a list of students who have checked the book out and the date that it was due back.  The book tells the history of the sport of Quidditch, from its early rough stages in Queerditch Marsh in the eleventh century, right up to the late twentieth century.  It lists the rules, national teams, and famous moves.  This book was a lot easier for me to read than Fantastic Beasts, and I'm not even particularly a big fan of Quidditch.  I mean, if I was at Hogwarts, I'd go to the matches, but I'm with Hermione - it's just a game.  But I liked the book and it was really neat to see J.K. Rowling's extensive imagination at work in the way that the game was formed.

Overall, I gave this box set 4/5 stars on Goodreads.  I am a huge Harry Potter nerd and I think that others like me would love to have this in their collection.  And I'm glad I finally got around to finishing these books!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books Week: The Giver

Yesterday I wrote a post about one of the books I read for Banned Books Week:  And Tango Makes Three.  You can see the post here.

Photo courtesy of goodreads.com
The other book I read for BBW was The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  I can't believe I had never read it before!  Well, it was published in 1993, which was a part of my "reading isn't cool" phase.  So that makes sense.  

The Giver is a story about a boy, Jonas, who lives in a utopian society.  Let me add a little note - I think this story is more about a negative utopia than a dystopia, because with dystopias, the community is bad.  I mean really bad.  With this story, the community is overwhelmingly good, but it has bad elements, therefore a negative utopia.  Anyway, Jonas's community is very structured.  People apply for spouses, and once given one, can apply for a child after a few years.  Only two children per couple - one male and one female.  The children are lumped into groups by their age, or rather by their year of birth.  Each year they have a ceremony, where the children become a year older, and are given new responsibilities, like volunteer hours.  Jonas is an Eleven, and is about to be Assigned to a job during the ceremony when he becomes a Twelve.  But Jonas's Assignment is totally different than any of the others.  

I don't want to get into too much detail here, because I'm not a fan of spoilers.  But there are some interesting things going on in this story, and in Jonas's community.  Some really great things and some really awful things.  So I can kind of see why someone would want to ban this book.  Don't get me wrong - I think banning books is wrong, and I think you should decide for yourself and for your own kids what you should or shouldn't read.  But this book speaks about some things that I don't even know how I feel about.  I mean, I know how I feel about some of it, but other things I'm a bit undecided.  So I can see how someone might think this is unsuited to the age group.  Unlike with And Tango Makes Three, the American Library Association didn't have a list of reasons why The Giver was challenged.  But I'm assuming that "unsuited to age group" was one of them.  (I know what a couple of the other reasons probably were, but I won't discuss them because they'll be spoilery.)

However, let me just say that I think that books like this help to get children thinking about certain issues.  I think that as long as they think critically about them - and that the teachers who might include these kinds of books in their curriculum try to touch on all sides of the issues, rather than just touting their own beliefs, or the beliefs that are included in the book - that kids will get a lot out of them.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Giver.  I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.  I love dystopias/negative utopias/speculative fiction.  So the story had me right at the beginning.  I'm unsure of the ending, and I know there were lots of symbols in the story, but I'd have to go back and read it again to really understand all of them.  The only (kind of) bad thing about reading this book - I had "My Name is Jonas" by Weezer in my head for a couple of days.  Not a bad song to have in your head, but still.  (And now you guys have it in your heads, too.  Ha!) But I loved the story and I think that I'll definitely want my son to read it when he gets to be a teenager (or earlier, depending on his maturity level).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week: And Tango Makes Three

I finished my two books for Banned Books Week earlier than I thought, so now I'll have more than one post in a day.  It's an Autumn miracle!

I read And Tango Makes Three and The Giver for Banned Books Week.  I'll start with And Tango Makes Three, and then I'll do a separate post on The Giver.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com
And Tango Makes Three is a children's picture book by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, and is illustrated by Henry Cole.  It's a true story about two male penguins who loved each other and together they raised a baby penguin from egg to birth and beyond.  It was published in 2005 and has been on the American Library Association's Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books List for each year beginning with 2006, and every year it has been in the number one slot, except for 2009, when it fell to number two.  The reasons that this book has been challenged have been listed on ALA's website as "unsuited to age group," "sexism," "anti-ethnic," "religious viewpoint," "anti-family," and "homosexuality."  Let's take these one-by-one, shall we?  Oy, this is going to turn into one of my infamous soapbox rants.  

So we'll start off with "unsuited to age group."  I'm not sure what the exact target age is for this book, but it's a children's picture book, so we'll say, um, birth to 8 and be generous?  I mean, kids don't actually read until they're 4 or 5 (unless parents do that Baby Can Read thing, which is a topic for another post, I think), but parents read to them.  And although I don't really read anything other than board books to my two-year-old son (he tears up the pages otherwise), many parents read these books to kids at all early ages, even while they're in the womb.  And by the time kids are 7 or 8 they're on to chapter books, I think.  I'm not sure exactly how this goes.  Give me a few years and I'll see what happens with my own son.  But anyway, it's a book for kids.  And yes, I can see how sexuality is not a subject that you really want to teach your kids until they're older.  But you can teach them about love, right?  Kids are taught about boys and girls liking each other, and thinking the other is cute; all that stuff is taught without a thought at a young age.  All that simply has to be said to teach homosexuality at a young age is that some boys like boys and some girls like girls.  Lots of people talk about the horrors of children learning about homosexuality in schools at a young age, and they always seem to think that this kind of talk has to include information about sex itself.  Sex doesn't come into the teaching of heterosexuality at a young age, so why should it come into the conversation when talking about homosexuality?  Besides, this book says nothing about the reproductive cycle except that the male and female penguin couples had babies of their own and Roy and Silo (the two male penguins) didn't, so their keeper gave them an egg to care for when it couldn't be cared for by its own parents.  I don't think this book is unsuited for the age group at all.

Next, "sexism."  How in the world is this sexist?  No, really, someone read this book and tell me how it's sexist.  I really don't know how it could be considered sexist.

As for "anti-ethnic," I really don't know what they're going with here.  There were people of all colors illustrated in this book as going to the zoo to see the animals.  I mean, there was only one type of penguin in the book, chinstrap penguins, but surely these people aren't claiming that it was anti-ethnic because there was only one kind of penguin represented?  I really don't know what anti-ethnic means, either.  But I found a funny blog post while looking this up:  And Tango Makes Three: anti-ethnic penguins?  They don't seem to know what it means, either.

"Religious viewpoint" is the next reason that this book has been challenged.  Now, does that mean that the book has an offensive religious viewpoint, or that the person who is challenging the book is saying that it is offensive to their own religious viewpoint?  It has to be the latter, because this book has no mention of religion in it whatsoever.  So I guess this person is basically saying that it has homosexuality in it, which is against their religious viewpoint.  Newsflash, people.  It's a free country.  And freedom of religion is one of the major freedoms in America.  Freedom to be whichever religion you wish, or to have no religion at all.  Your religion does not make the rules of this country.  No religion does.  So therefore, a book that does not go along with your religious viewpoint isn't going to be banned for that reason.  Sorry.

Moving on to "anti-family."  I wrote a whole post on this a year ago, aptly called Soapbox Rant.  Basically I talked about how many politicians talk about "family values" as if their opponents, or people in the other political party (they're Republicans talking about Democrats, mostly) don't have any type of family values.  It's quite ridiculous.  Just because some people don't limit a "family" to a marriage of one man and one woman and their biological children doesn't mean they don't have a sense of what family is, and it definitely doesn't mean that they don't have morals.  And Tango Makes Three is all about family.  It's about a not-so-typical penguin family, but the overwhelming, blatant theme in the book is family.  So this reason for challenging the book does not make sense at all.

And finally, we have "homosexuality."  Yep.  They're homosexual penguins.  So this reason makes sense, but I still think it's wrong.  First of all, banning books is wrong.  Decide for yourself what you want to read to your children.  If you don't like it, don't read it, and don't let your kids read it.  Second of all, the fact that something contains homosexuality does not make it bad.  You disagree with homosexuality?  I think you're going to have to get over it, because it's not going away.

Deep breath, rant over.  And Tango Makes Three is a sweet story about family and love.  The illustrations are cute, and the story itself is warm and fuzzy.  The fact that it is a true story makes it all the more wonderful.  I, for one, think we need more books like this for children, and I will definitely be reading it to my son (once he gets over that whole tearing-book-pages thing).

Pottermore and Banned Books Week

Photo courtesy of hp-lexicon.org
Now that all of the 1 million beta testers have been sent their Pottermore welcome emails, I thought I'd reveal what I can't believe I hadn't already posted on here:  I'm in Ravenclaw!!!  I was so excited, even though I thought that I would be in Hufflepuff.  I mean, most of the online tests that I've taken have given me the highest compatibility percentage in Hufflepuff, with Ravenclaw being the 2nd highest percentage.  But those tests weren't made by J.K. Rowling herself, so I consider the Pottermore sorting quiz to be official.

I mean, I knew I wasn't going to be in Slytherin.  And I was pretty darn sure that I was too much of a wuss to be in Gryffindor.  But I figured I'd be in Hufflepuff, and also hoped that either it or Ravenclaw would become my house.  But now that I've been sorted, my allegiance is to Ravenclaw all the way!  Now I want a Ravenclaw key chain, a scarf, a pin for my computer bag; basically anything that I can find in blue and bronze.

My husband, by the way, who I assumed to be in Gryffindor, was sorted into Slytherin!  But I know that he's one of the good guys in green, and would never turn to dark magic!  ;)  (Yes, I realize how big of a dork I'm being right now...)

In other news, it's Banned Books Week!  In honor of BBW, I'm reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, and I hope to pick up And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson at my local library in the next couple of days.  I'll write a post on these books once I'm finished with them, which will hopefully be by Saturday, which is the last day of Banned Books Week.

So what house do you call home in Pottermore?  Are you happy with where you were sorted? And if you're participating in Banned Books Week, what are you reading?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Top 100 YA List

My friend Kate (a.k.a. Midnight Book Girl) did a post yesterday, where she stole a list of the top 100 YA books from this site: The Hopeless Bibliophile.  So I thought I'd steal it from her.  (I know, I know, it's a meme, it's not really stealing.)

Basically you've got this list (not sure exactly who made the list in the first place, or when it was made, because I think it's missing quite a few great YA books), and you indicate which of them you've read and which you'd like to read.  So I'll go with Kate's color-coding scheme:  those I've read will be in blue, those I haven't read but would like to read will be in purple italics, and those I don't really care to read will remain in black.  I'm pretty sure my list will be mostly made up of purple italics.  Oh, and my personal notes will be [bracketed in bold].  You can see Kate's list here:  Midnight Book Girl:  Top 100 YA List.

Here we go:

1. Alex Finn – Beastly
2. Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones
3. Ally Carter – Callagher Girls (1, 2, 3, 4)  [Not interested in this series, but I'm interested in the Heist Society series also by Ally Carter.]
4. Ally Condie – Matched (1, 2) [I added the numbers 1 and 2 in there, since the second book is going to come out soon.]
5. Alyson Noel – The Immortals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
6. Anastasia Hopcus – Shadow Hills
7. Angie Sage – Septimus Heap (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
8. Ann Brashares – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1, 2, 3, 4)
9. Anna Godbersen – Luxe (1, 2, 3, 4)
10. Anthony Horowitz – Alex Rider (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) [I'm interested in trying the first one at least.  If I like that one, I'll read the others.]
11. Aprilynne Pike – Wings (1, 2, 3)
12. Becca Fitzpatrick – Hush, Hush (1, 2) [I was told that I SHOULD NOT read this by one of my best friends, Courtney, over at Abducted by Books.  I trust her judgement, and she gave a very persuasive argument as to why the first book, at least, wasn't worth my time.]
13. Brandon Mull – Fablehaven (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) [Alright, I've seen these books all over the place and I guess I'm willing to give at least the first one a chance, seeing as they have such good ratings on Goodreads.]
14. Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret [Just looked this one up on Goodreads, and the description had me with the first two sentences.]
15. Cassandra Clare – The Mortal Instruments (1, 2, 3, 4)
16. Carrie Jones – Need (1, 2, 3)
17. Carrie Ryan – The Forest of Hands and Teeth (1, 2, 3)
18. Christopher Paolini – Inheritance (1, 2, 3, 4)
19. Cinda Williams Chima – The Heir Chronicles (1, 2, 3)
20. Colleen Houck – Tigers Saga (1, 2)
21. Cornelia Funke – Inkheart (1, 2, 3)
22. Ellen Hopkins – Impulse
23. Eoin Colfer – Artemis Fowl (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
24. Faraaz Kazi – Truly, Madly, Deeply
25. Frank Beddor – The Looking Glass Wars (1, 2, 3) [I'll try the first one.]
26. Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere
27. Gail Carson Levine – Fairest
28. Holly Black – Tithe (1, 2, 3)
29. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) [Haha!  Finally something on this list that I've read and it happens to be my favorite series of all time!  Harry Potter FTW!]
30. James Dashner – The Maze Runner (1, 2)
31. James Patterson – Maximum Ride (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
32. Jay Asher – Thirteen Reasons Why
33. Jeanne DuPrau – Books of Ember (1, 2, 3, 4)
34. Jeff Kinney – Diary of a Wimpy Kid (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
35. John Boyne – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
36. John Green – An Abundance of Katherines
37. John Green – Looking for Alaska
38. John Green – Paper Towns [I'm also interested in reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, and also The Fault in our Stars by John Green.  I'm such a Nerdfighter.]
39. Jonathan Stroud – Bartimaeus (1, 2, 3, 4)
40. Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl – Caster Chronicles (1, 2)
41. Kelley Armstrong – Darkest Powers (1, 2, 3)
42. Kristin Cashore – The Seven Kingdoms (1, 2)
43. Lauren Kate – Fallen (1, 2, 3)
44. Lemony Snicket – Series of Unfortunate Events (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
45. Libba Bray – Gemma Doyle (1, 2, 3)
46. Lisa McMann – Dream Catcher (1, 2, 3) [I'll give the first one a try.]
47. Louise Rennison – Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) [I'll try the first one, since my aforementioned friend, Courtney, liked it a lot.]
48. M.T. Anderson – Feed
49. Maggie Stiefvater – The Wolves of Mercy Falls (1, 2, 3)
50. Margaret Peterson Haddix – Shadow Children (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
51. Maria V. Snyder – Study (1, 2, 3)
52. Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
53. Markus Zusak – I am the Messenger
54. Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
55. Mary Ting – Crossroads
56. Maureen Johnson – Little Blue Envelope (1, 2)
57. Meg Cabot – All-American Girl (1, 2)
58. Meg Cabot – The Mediator (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
59. Meg Cabot – The Princess Diaries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
60. Meg Rosoff – How I Live Now
61. Megan McCafferty – Jessica Darling (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) [I was given the first one to read and review, and I don't plan on reading the others.  Not my kind of books. But I would like to read her other book, Bumped.]
62. Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen’s Thief (1, 2, 3, 4) [My friend Holly, over at Traveling Due West, gave the first one 5 stars on Goodreads.  So I'll definitely check it out.]
63. Melina Marchetta – On the Jellicoe Road
64. Melissa de la Cruz – Blue Bloods (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
65. Melissa Marr – Wicked Lovely (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
66. Michael Grant – Gone (1, 2, 3, 4) [Sounds a lot like one of my favorite books of all time, The Girl Who Owned a City, by O.T. Nelson, which I read in sixth grade.  But I'll give the first book in this series a try.]
67. Nancy Farmer – The House of the Scorpion
68. Neal Shusterman – Unwind
69. Neil Gaiman – Coraline
70. Neil Gaiman – Stardust
71. Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
72. P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast – House of Night (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
73. Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials (1, 2, 3)
74. Rachel Caine – The Morganville Vampires (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
75. Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
76. Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
77. Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Olympians (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
78. Rom LcO’Feer – Somewhere carnal over 40 winks
79. S.L. Naeole – Grace (1, 2, 3, 4)
80. Sabrina Bryan & Julia DeVillers – Princess of Gossip
81. Sarah Dessen – Along for the Ride
82. Sarah Dessen – Lock and Key
83. Sarah Dessen – The Truth about Forever
84. Sara Shepard – Pretty Little Liars (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
85. Scott Westerfeld – Leviathan (1, 2)
86. Scott Westerfeld – Uglies (1, 2, 3, 4) [I added the number 4 in there, because Extras is technically part of the series.]
87. Shannon Hale – Book of a Thousand Days
88. Shannon Hale – Princess Academy
89. Shannon Hale – The Books of Bayern (1, 2, 3, 4)
90. Sherman Alexie & Ellen Forney – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
91. Simone Elkeles – Perfect Chemistry (1, 2, 3)
92. Stephanie Meyer – The Host 
93. Stephanie Meyer – Twilight Saga (1, 2, 3, 4)
94. Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
95. Susan Beth Pfeffer – Last Survivors (1, 2, 3)
96. Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games (1, 2, 3)
97. Suzanne Collins – Underland Chronicles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
98. Terry Pratchett – Tiffany Aching (1, 2, 3, 4)
99. Tonya Hurley – Ghost Girl (1, 2, 3)
100. Wendelin Van Draanen – Flipped

Yeesh.  That took a bit.  Of course, I was looking at the descriptions on Goodreads before I decided if I wanted to put them in purple italics or not, so that took some time.  So, as I predicted, the majority of this list is in purple italics.  51 out of 100 were in purple italics (want to read), 39 were in black (not interested in), and only 10 were in blue (already read).  But I assure you, I've ready many more books, and definitely some of them have been YA. Also, just because I left a book in black doesn't mean I'll never read it.  It simply means that I'm not really interested in it right now, but if someone has a compelling argument, I might read that book.

Some great YA books that I think deserve to be on this list:  Glow, by Amy Kathleen Ryan; Hourglass, by Myra McEntire; and Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins.  I'm sure there are several more that I've read that I would include on a YA best list, but I can't think of any at the moment.

In other news, I have finally caught up with the Vlogbrothers videos!  Now I've watched them all!  Hoo Ha Nerdfighters!  Now I'm going to go make a profile on their Nerdfighters website.  DFTBA to all you fellow Nerdfighters out there!