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.