Measuring A Year in the Life

I can't believe how fast this year went by. It feels like just yesterday, I was writing my 2010 wrap up post. Wow. Sometimes, it feels like the years go by faster for us book lovers, just because we're always waiting for the next upcoming release. Does that make sense? Anyways, 2011 brought on some awesome things. Between, reading, writing, and life, it was a pretty solid year, and I'm excited to see what 2012 will bring.

Some highlights of my year...

Favorite Book of 2011
I've read 110 books this year.... just wow. I thought 100 was ambition, but to pass that? Crazy! Out of these books, I have found many that are truly all time favorites. Books that I know I will reread over and over again.

Out of 110 books, ranking wise, I read:
5 Stars- 55
4 Stars- 31
3 Stars- 17
2 Stars- 6
1 Star- 1

I'm not going to go on too much about books since I just did a whole post on that yesterday, but I do want to share my most anticipated reads for the New Year. I'm so excited for books such as Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler, The Fault in our Stars by John Green, Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins, Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead... just to name a few. From what it sounds like, 2012 is going to be a fabulous year in books!

This year has been an amazing writing year for me, overall. I finished Perfection is my Enemy and began two new projects, Expiration Date and a brand new baby that is currently not titled. I have 20k-ish left in my Dancing Through Life rewrite, which I know I wanted to be finished by now, but December was just so crazy that it was impossible! It WILL get done though! Eventually. Collectively, I've definitely written well over 100k this year.

Highlights of my Life
2011 brought about so many new, exciting experiences.

In June, I spent the weekend away from home for the first time, at NYLSC, a leadership conference in Boston. It was my first time on my own, my first experience with a roommate. I loved every moment of it. Then July came, and I went away for a week, to a student council conference. I don't think I've ever had so much fun. It was so great meeting all these people from all over the state, and I still keep in touch with many of them. That was definitely the week of my life, and I am so excited for next summer, to go back. It really is a whole new world, being surrounded by all these nice kids who are just so willing to be your friend...unlike people at home.

In July I also went to Bermuda. Gosh, it was so gorgeous there! The weather was perfect and the beaches were so pretty, I so want to go back.

Another exciting thing that happened for me this year was author signing. I still can't get over the fact that I met Sarah Dessen. It's such a surreal experience, meeting someone who you've looked up to and admired for so long. She is literally the person who inspired me to write. So getting to have a little conversation with her was so crazy. And I also got the chance to meet Leigh Fallon back in November, she's so sweet!

Overall, 2011 is definitely a year to remember. But here's to an even better 2012. Happy New Year, everyone, and I hope you have a wonderful day ringing in the New Year!

I now leave you with, very appropriately titled, "Happy New Year" from RENT. Can you tell that I've been on a RENT binge this week? Haha!

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My Top 11 of 2011

Oh my God, narrowing down this Top 11 was so hard.
Picking an order to put this top ten in was even harder. 
But alas, tomorrow I'm having a big End of Year wrap up post, in which I will feature even more books. Mind you, my year total was 110 books... so everything on this list belongs to my "All Time Favorites" pile. The OMG reads, if you will.

So here it goes. These are my Top 10 reads of 2011.

11. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

10. Blood Red Road by Moira Young

9. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

8. She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott 

7. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

6. Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

5. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

4. Saving June by Hannah Harrington

3. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

1. Looking For Alaska by John Green

I would recommend every single one of these books in a heartbeat. They're so amazing.

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Cinder Audiobook Winner!

Congratulations Kelly!!
You have won the CINDER audiobook giveaway!
Hope you enjoy!
You have been emailed :)
And a big thanks again to Macmillan Audio and Esther Bochner for providing the giveaway!

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Top 10 Authors I Discovered This Year

This post kicks off my winding down the year with some Top 10 posts.
Here I have the top 10 authors I discovered in 2011. Some are debuts.
Others I'm all "Why have I never read you before?!"
So in no particular order, here they are:

Stephanie Perkins
John Green
Sarah Ockler

Lauren Oliver
Kieran Scott
Moira Young

Morgan Matson

Jeyn Roberts

Jennifer L. Armentrout

These authors are all incredible. Such amazing, powerful writers of all genres. You can bet that their books will be featured in the upcoming top 10 posts of the week. And while we always see a top 10 for books, I wanted to give a shout out to all the amazing authors who wrote the books.

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Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales

The higher you aim, the farther you fall….

It’s Violet’s junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she’d be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she’s just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush’s new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie.

When Katie starts making choices that Violet can’t even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success—but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge, epic failure?

Mostly Good Girls is a story about Violet Tunis, the ultimate overachiever. If I got a dollar every time she says "I have to study," I'd be rich. It was a light, quick read for me, and more at once it had me having laughing out loud. It was definitely the fun read I was expecting it to be.

I feel like every teenage girl would be able to relate to this book in some way. I know I did. Some of the things Violet did, or said, or felt, were just so me. I loved her voice, it was witty and very casual, as though I was having a conversation with her. She was definitely annoying and judgmental, but I could relate to her on the respect that she puts way too much pressure on herself academically. I did feel like by the end Violet had grown and learned from her mistakes. And I loved her relationship with her best friend Katie. The two of them together produced some of the funniest scenes. Like, there's this one scene where they're having a sleepover and they try to get drunk, just to see what it would be like, and it was just so good.

It's easy for books set at private schools with rich kids to get unrealistic. But Mostly Good Girls is a realistic portrayal. Not necessarily concerning the actual school or the administration--but in how the students act. Their parents wealth may have bought them into the school, but they don't buy their children's grades. The girls have to work for them. And not all of them are even wealthy to begin with. So that entire aspect of the novel was done well.

While I liked the voice of the writing, sometimes I didn't really care for the way it was written, concerning chapter breaks. Sometimes it felt as though each chapter was it's own mini-story, and it didn't always flow as one coherent novel. There wasn't enough of a plot or storyline, it was more just a book documenting the life of an overachiever. There were points when I was just waiting for something more.

Bonus points for setting! Love when books are located in Massachusetts. And Leila Sales incorporated many common locations and events into the story. It just made me like the book that much more. Also, I liked that there was practically no romance in this novel, concerning the main character. That's so rare in young adult novels, and I'm glad this was just a story that focused on a girl in a coming-of-age type scenario.

Overall, Mostly Good Girls was a solid, light read. I feel like in some way, shape, or form, any teenage girl would be able to relate to this book. I wish there was some more substance to the plot, and it had more of an emotional pull on me. But it's a quick read that will have you laughing out loud, or at the very least cracking a smile.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

First off, how gorgeous is the cover to this book? It is definitely one of my favorite covers ever. Just look at it! Such a beautiful image for such a dark novel. Imaginary Girls was not what I was expecting at all. Frankly, I don't know what I was expecting. While I was confused at times, and had conflicted feelings at others, ultimately this book was dark and haunting and just beautiful.

I'm not even sure what this novel is classified as. It's contemporary...but has this almost paranormal feel, and the entire book is a mystery. Sometimes I was confused and had no clue what was going on. It never really explained the WHYS behind what was happening. And sometimes this confusion took away from the story.

But oh my gah the writing! I was hooked from the beginning by Chloe's voice. It was just so compelling and different from the norm. The prose was absolutely gorgeous. I felt everything Chloe wanted me to feel, even if I didn't understand why I was feeling it. And Chloe's development throughout the novel was brilliant. 

Ruby is just...Ruby. She's one of the most complex character's I've ever read. She's so dark and her twisted logic makes you hate her at times.... but what got to me the most was how much she loved Chloe, in her own weird way. She always did what she thought was best for her sister, even though sometimes it didn't make sense at all. Normal people don't do the things that Ruby did. But Ruby isn't normal.

There wasn't much actual plot to this, but there didn't need to be. The bond between two dysfunctional sisters and the presence of a reservoir was enough. The complex characters and the gorgeous writing is what made this book so intriguing. It was just so different from most YA books today. And that was refreshing. That whatever romance was a minor subplot.

I was going back and forth between four and five stars for this book, but ultimately I decided on four. Because some things could've been clarified sooner. When something doesn't make sense to me, I spend the rest of the book focusing on that until I figure it out. And to me, that took away from my connection with the characters. But this is still a fabulous read for all you who are looking for something different.

'Tis the Season!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my followers! 
Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful day full of family and love and food and presents.

I don't know what it's like in other parts of the country right now, but here the weather is just too weird. It's been way too warm, and it just doesn't feel like the holiday season without snow. 

Usually, it looks all like 

This year its all
It hasn't even snowed yet!

Regardless, I love this time of year.
The generosity. And just the general joy in the air.
The Christmas lights
The eggnog, the milk and cookies 
Decorating a gigantic gingerbread cookie with my two year old cousin.

I hope everyone has a fantastic day! 
Tomorrow will be the start of my wrapping up the year week.
I can't believe 2011 is coming to a close.

Leaving you for the day with some music from Michael Buble's Christmas Album.
Because he's amazing.

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Cinder Audiobook Giveaway!

Hey everyone! How about a giveaway to put us all in the holiday spirit?
Macmillan Audio is providing me with an audiobook of CINDER by Marissa Meyer! So exciting, considering I just read CINDER and thought it was excellent! A big thanks to Esther Bochner and Macmillan Audio for providing the audiobook.You can check out my review HERE.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Here is a sample from the audiobook!

This giveaway will run from today, December 20th, through Wednesday December 28th.
Sorry international followers, this is a US only giveaway.
Mandatory Entries include following this blog, and leaving a comment telling me what book you're most looking forward to reading over the holidays. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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ARC Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Cinder will be released on January 3 by Macmillan Children's Publishing.

First off, hello another Marissa. Though you spell your name differently, there really aren't enough of us out there. Haha! Anyways, I've been dying to get my hands on this... because who doesn't love Cinderella? And so to take the story and make it all futuristic and complex, and where Cinder is a cyborg... that's pretty freaking awesome. Still, I went into this book not knowing quite what to expect.

I must say. Cinder definitely surpassed my expectations. I flew through it in no time. I loved how the initial roots for a Cinderella story were there, but Marissa really took off with this and wasn't afraid to make it her own. Cinder had an evil stepmother and stepsisters--though one of the stepsisters was actually nice. Cinder does go to the ball to see the prince, albeit under very different circumstances.The whole plot in general was so unique and well-contrived. It's part fairy-tale, politically intriguing, and an all around sci-fi adventure.

I loved all the characters. They were all purposeful and I felt were very well developed. Cinder was a great lead. Strong-willed and smart, yet vulnerable and confused. She never let her feelings for Kai interfere with her focus. Cinder is downright awesome. And Kai! I loved him. Yes, he was a prince, and he was just as swoon-worthy as you'd expect a prince to be. But that's not why I loved him. There's something deep about him, something that makes you forget his title and remember that he's just a man who's trying to figure everything out. And kudos for the realistic relationship between Cinder and Kai! 

There was no insta-love, and there feelings developed at a realistic pace.

And the writing was awesome too. The descriptions, the voices. Not too many YA reads are in third omniscient, but is so worked for Cinder. Also, a pet peeve of mine is when the author tries to explain unknown things out. I like being thrown into the world, and if the author does his/her job right, I can figure things out on my own. That's exactly how Cinder was. I was able to catch on and get the jist of the different technology words quite easily. 

The only thing is that the ending felt a bit rushed and abrupt. Well, for me anyways. Not in a bad way. In more of a HOW CAN THIS JUST BE OVER HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT TO READ MORE? 

Cinder is a solid read, one that I'd definitely recommend.

Heist Society by Ally Carter

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

I have to say, overall I was quite disappointed with Heist Society. Everything I heard about it was great, and I've read pretty good reviews. This book wasn't bad. I read it in no time. So it did hold my interest... it just. Maybe my expectations were too high? There were definitely great moments... just not enough of them.

It's just, the biggest problem I had with this book was that I never connected with it. The story never spoke to me, I never got fully invested in any of the characters. At points I was skimming, and I just wanted the book to be over. And then when it was over, I was like "What the heck did I just read?" The story never spoke to me. Which is too bad, because it sounded like such a cool premise. It just didn't work.

Also, this was one of those books that's in third person where I'm thinking "WHY THE HECK AREN'T YOU IN FIRST?" I feel like the narrative itself was causing that disconnection. I never really cared about Kat or got to know her well enough. Maybe if it was written in first, I would've connected better.

There were so many characters. And I had trouble keeping up with them. Someone would pop back up in the end who was in the beginning, and it was one of those who the heck are you? moments. Because of all the minor characters, I felt like there wasn't enough development with the characters who mattered.

What I did like was the slow progression of Kat and Hale's relationship. I thought that part of the book was realistic and sweet.

Overall, I'm just really disappointed with this book. Most people seem to love it, but I guess it just didn't do it for me. I have the next book in the series Uncommon Criminals, and I will get to it. Eventually.

Loving Emily by Anne Pfeffer

Ryan Mills is torn with guilt over the death of his best friend, and it's all because of Emily Wintraub. If Ryan hadn't seen those incredible gray-blue eyes, hadn't pegged her as a Potentially Amazing Woman, he would never have gone looking for her at the party that night. He would never have left his wasted friend Michael alone, when Michael needed him and asked him to stay. And if Ryan hadn't left, Michael would never have driven off, totaled his car, and taken the cosmic rocket ride into death.

As far as Ryan's concerned, when you’ve done something terrible, you don’t deserve to be happy. He tries not to fall for Emily, but he can't help it. Before long, he is "completely, gonzo, out-of-control in love."

Ryan then learns that Michael died with a secret. Still grieving, he feels compelled to take on his friend's unfinished business. When Emily begins to question where his commitments really lie—with her or with Michael’s memory—Ryan is forced to examine his choices. What does he owe to Michael, to Emily, and to himself?
I. Love. This. Book.

I remember this book and Anne from Inkpop. I read the first few chapters at the time, and remembered loving them, so when I saw that it was out I snagged a copy on my kindle. I don't usually read much self-published work. Typically, they seem to have a negative connotation going along with them, but Loving Emily is definitely a diamond in the rough. If there's more self-pubbed work out there like this, than I say give me more!

The writing itself was wonderful. So many great descriptive, deep moments. Emotion was just oozing from the pages! And ah, I loved it! Such beautiful writing. And Anne nailed the male POV. Some new favorite YA lines ever came from this book. Eek just so good!

The crazy-complex plot was awesome and so well done. There were so many facets to this story, so many facets to Ryan. Have I mentioned that I love Ryan? Because I do. There's guilty-over-Micheal's-death Ryan, family-Ryan, school-Ryan, Emily-Ryan, tennis-Ryan. So much is going on in this book, yet it is all perfectly natural and realistic. I loved watching Ryan change throughout the novel, and seeing how Emily changed him. Before he was a lazy teenager who slid by in school, but then he began caring and getting his grades up and wanting to do well. He was just an all-around awesome person, a mensch as his friend Jonathan called him. He was just so honest and sweet and caring (and hot!)

I just can't get over how realistic and awesome everything was. Nothing felt forced. All the characters were deep and real, even the minor ones. I got sucked into this story, sucked into every moment. And it had, by far, one of the best sex scenes. It was not an "oh this is so perfect and wonderful." It was awkward and clumsy and adorable and meaningful. And other than that there are just so many adorable scenes between Ryan and Emily that just make me go "Awwww!"

So yeah, I'd definitely recommend LOVING EMILY to everyone. AND the eBook format for it is only 99 CENTS! All the more reason to check it out, what a steal! Loved, loved this book, and will definitely stay tuned for any future work by Anne. :D

Opening Night

I don't know if this is something you guys know about me, but I do my town's community theater. That's the reason posts have been minimal and sporadic. This week was the production week (those of you in theater know that we call it hell week.) And tonight is opening night.

We're putting on "A Christmas Carol," a big hit during the holiday season. I'm playing the role of Penny (technically Peter...but I am not a Peter, so she changed the name, haha!) It's a good part. I get to do a little bit of everything: act, sing, and even dance. The cast is fantastic, and I've met so many awesome people.

While I love the acting, it's been a stressful week, managing it with school and dance. Especially since my teachers all feel like scheduling quizzes this week. I had three today. And I haven't been getting home until 10:30, meaning no being in bed until at least 11. Also meaning waking up at 5:45 is even less fun.

In any case, I'm so excited for the show! We're doing 8. Thursday through Sunday this week and next. A lot, I know, but it'll be fun. I love the story and it's just such a fun time period costume wise. I have to wear this big poofy green dress for the dance scene that's just gorgeous! I'll try to post pictures at some point. :)

That's the scoop as to why I haven't been around much. But winter break is right around the corner. Yes!

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