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Friday, January 3, 2014

Best of 2013: Books

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I realized that I forgot to wish you all a happy new year, so.... Happy New Year! I hope your 2014 is amazing! :) My New Year's resolutions are as follows:

  1. Get back to my healthy eating plan (which I slowly strayed from as the year progressed...) 
  2. Read 50 books this year 
  3. Finish editing/revising my novel
What are some of your New Year's resolutions?

If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that I love books. I have an obsession with them. And, when it comes down to it, I could have a worse obsession, right? ;)

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 

This is the concluding book in the Divergent trilogy, so if you haven't read the first two (Divergent and Insurgent), I highly suggest you do. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the book. But not in the way that you'd think. Don't get me wrong, it was amazing, but the ending... I wanted to have a serious talk with Veronica Roth. So if you do end up reading this book- beware! 

2. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan 

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

Again, this book is part of a series and The House of Hades is the fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series. The first three are The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, and The Mark of Athena. You should start from the beginning if you plan on reading The House of Hades at some point. I love Rick Riordan's style and this book did not disappoint. He keeps a serious tone, but injects lots of humor into the story. Luckily there wasn't as huge of a cliffhanger as The Mark of Athena, but still enough to keep me on the edge of my seat.

3. Beyond Bacon by Matthew McCarry and Stacy Toth (aka the Paleo Parents) 

Beyond Bacon pays homage to the humble hog by teaching you how to make more than a hundred recipes featuring cuts from the entire animal. While bacon might be the most popular part of the pig for those following the paleo diet, there is a plethora of other delicious and nutrient dense cuts to enjoy.

Pastured pork is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), the "good fats" our doctors want us to eat - not to mention high in Vitamin D, a deficiency for most Americans.
Beyond Bacon breaks the myths behind this often eschewed meat and shows you how create delectable dishes that are grain-, legume-, dairy-, and refined sugar-free. Beyond Bacon allows you to improve your health and the environment by focusing on sustainable swine.

Firstly, the pictures in this book are gorgeous. I want to eat every single one of their recipes even though they might contain some strange ingredients (think the jaw of a pig). Second, the recipes are divine. Stacy and Matt have creatively incorporated the whole hog into their book. If that's not something to applaud, how about the tastiness of their recipes? I've tried the pork sausage stuffing casserole and it was awesome. I don't usually like stuffing, but that was great. If you're tired of the usual pork chops or tenderloin, this book is for you.  

4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face. 
Thirteen Reasons Why is the gripping, addictive international bestseller that has changed lives the world over. It's an unrelenting modern classic.

When I first started this book I didn't think that I would like it. Boy, was I wrong! I finished it in about 3 days. This isn't your usually teen suicide book (depressing, unoriginal, etc.). It's witty, suspenseful, and 100% creative. Both Clay and Hannah are amazing storytellers with voices all their own. I just couldn't stop reading!  

5. Wonder by R.J. Palacio 

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

What I loved about this book was that it gave me a new perspective. (I love it when books do that...) I would compare this book to Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. The same idea is present here, but told in a completely new way. The best part about this book was that it was told from multiple view points, which gave you insight on how other people coped with Auggie's facial deformities. And, even though it dealt with a heavy topic, this book was still full of laughs. 

6. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy–loving best friend riding shotgun—but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.  

Unlike John Green's usually deep and thought-provoking novels, this one is mainly just plain funny. There are some good philosophical moments, but you don't end up crying at the end of it. To be honest, I liked this book more than The Fault in Our Stars (please don't hate me). The writing style in this book is incredibly witty and the characters wonderfully developed.

7. All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab 

Carly: She was sweet. Smart. Self-destructive. She knew the secrets of Brighton Day School’s most privileged students. Secrets that got her killed.

Neily: Dumped by Carly for a notorious bad boy, Neily didn’t answer the phone call she made before she died. If he had, maybe he could have helped her. Now he can’t get the image of her lifeless body out of his mind.

Audrey: She’s the reason Carly got tangled up with Brighton’s fast crowd in the first place, and now she regrets it—especially since she’s convinced the police have put the wrong person in jail. Audrey thinks the murderer is someone at Brighton, and she wants Neily to help her find out who it is.

As reluctant allies Neily and Audrey dig into their shared past with Carly, her involvement with Brighton’s dark goings-on comes to light. But figuring out how Carly and her killer fit into the twisted drama will force Audrey and Neily to face hard truths about themselves and the girl they couldn’t save. 

This isn't a very well known book, but it deserves to be. The prose was amazing and the plot absolutely thrilling. It's a refreshing mystery, not like one I've ever heard before, and keeps you guessing till the very end. I was hanging on to the edge of my seat by the last few chapters. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! 

8. Drama by Raina Relgemeier 

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she's a terrible singer. Instead she's the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!

Even though this is a graphic novel (which I don't read very often), I loved this book. It was very refreshing to read a book that practically nails the drama that occurs during middle school. And, there were plenty of twists and turns in this book. It was exactly thought-provoking, but it was a nice, easy read. I really enjoyed this book.

Inquiry of the Day:
What were some of your favorite books that you read last year? 

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