Friday, January 31, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park was a Christmas present. It wasn't a surprise one, but a book I'd heard about from various different sources and wanted to add to my collection. Still, it's been sitting idly on my shelf since.

I only cracked it open yesterday morning because I heard the news that Faith Erin Hicks (who has written and/or drawn a number of graphic novels I'm in love with) was teaming up with Rainbow Rowell for a graphic novel in the near future. I was thrilled and decided I ought to celebrate the occasion by cracking open this lovely novel.

Oh. My. God.
I fell in love.

There are a thousand and one things I'd love to say about this novel and yet it all seems to come out in a high pitched squeal, because I cannot get over how much I fell in love with it. I mean, I devoured this book. I could hardly function for wanting to read it.

Eleanor has bright red hair and dark brown eyes. She comes from a broken home with a mother who has long ago forgotten how to care for her daughter, a stepdad who makes Eleanor want to run and hide, and siblings who have learned that to be silent is to be safe. She's uncomfortable, she's fat, she's weird . . . and Park can't take his eyes off of her.

Park is half Asian, half American. His mother is a beautician and his father a veteran who will never be pleased with the son who is too effeminate and too different. His brother is exactly the macho child his father always wanted and he looks American. Not to mention, he's getting bigger than his older brother every day. He's a comic book and music junkie who'd rather fade into the background than draw attention to himself. He's uncomfortable, he's weak, he's weird . . . and Eleanor can't breath when he's not around.

A love story that wraps you up, breaks your heart, and makes you believe in love that conquers all, Eleanor & Park was an absolute treat. It's one that has immediately installed itself as one of my all-time favorite books and I can tell I'll be revisiting its pages many, many times in the years to come.

Rating: ~★★★★★~

"I don't think I even breathe when we're not together," she whispered. "Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it's been like sixty hours since I've taken a breath. That's probably why I'm so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we're apart is think about you, and all I do when we're together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I'm so out of  control, I can't help myself. I'm not even mine anymore, I'm yours, and what if you decide that you don't want me? How could you want me like I want you?"
He was quiet. He wanted everything she'd just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with I want you in his ears.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2013 Reading Wrap-Up

At the end of 2013, I ended up falling behind on reviews due to my brief hiatus when my family came home for Christmas and the general business of the holiday season. So I decided to give a brief review of the last four books that I read at the end of the year and didn't get to review.

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, #4)

"Tell me, Percy. I have no wish to argue with you. But do you support the gods because they are good, or because they are your family?"
 Riordan doesn't disappoint in the fourth addition to an already wonderful series. Percy, Annabeth, and Grover face graver dangers with higher consequences than ever before. Once again, Riordan manages to capture all of the excitement, terror, and adventure that the reader can imagine in this thrilling installment to the series.
I cannot get over how much I love the character growth throughout this series. I really enjoy getting to watch our three heroes grow and mature even as the world becomes more dangerous around them. I cannot wait to read the final book in the series and find out just how everything goes down.

Rating: ★★★★☆


Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke


My mother had once said to me, "We make our best friends in the dark times because we always remember how they helped us out of the darkness." 
After reading the Inkworld Trilogy (which I absolutely fell in love with), I am hard pressed not to pick up a Cornelia Funke book if I pass it in a shop.
Ghost Knight has only heightened my love for her work. A children's novel about a boy who must battle an ancient curse in order to save himself and everyone he loves, it was an absolutely delightful and chilling read. Accompanied by illustrations that heighten the sense of creeping danger and valiant bravery, I could not be more entranced by this gripping volume.

Rating: ★★★★★


Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

It's pretty well established that girls want to be considered hot. I mean, when you're brought up to think that your hotness quotient is pretty much your entire worth, that shit becomes pretty damn important.
If you've been looking for a text that will cover all the basics of what being a feminist means, look no further. Jessica Valenti covers it all in this fabulous book that explains what feminism stands for and why you're almost definitely a feminist too.
I dove into this and barely surfaced for air. It was packed so full of gems that just thinking about this book makes me want to go back and reread it now. Give it a shot. You won't regret it.

Rating: ★★★★★


Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

Even if you are a woman who achieves the ultimate and becomes like a man, you will always be like a woman. And as long as womanhood is thought of as something to escape from, something less than manhood, you will be thought less of, too.
This was one of those books that I just picked off the shelf at Barnes & Noble because it looked interesting, then found myself thirty minutes later, well into it and dying to read more. Ariel Levy has a distinct voice that rings with truth in an ages where women are trying to find equality and especially sexual freedom, yet aren't really sure what that look like.
Levy warns against the dangers of buying into what our culture calls "sexy" and letting a new era of objectification wash in where we thought we were ushering in our own freedom. This is definitely a must read for women everywhere.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Friday, January 10, 2014

Top 13 Books of 2013

Best Books in "YA Fiction"

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
A contemporary stand-alone about a girl battling her eating disorder, among other inner demons, Wintergirls is the only non-fantasy novel in my top YA books read last year. Not only is it a stunning portrait of what it's like as a teen to have one's mind warped by an eating disorder, but Laurie Halse Anderson manages to draw you in and remind the reader that even in the darkest of hours, there is still hope if you're willing to let someone help.

This beautiful conclusion to the Inworld series was unforgettable. The world Cornelia Funke creates in this jaw-dropping trilogy will stick with the reader long after they've finished, begging you to give it another go almost as soon as they've turned the final page. 

Originally intended to be the final book in a trilogy that has since morphed into a full-blown series, I loved everything about Dragon Heir. The action was intense, the story heart-pumping, and the magic kept me desperately eager to learn more. The characters are still close to my heart and I cannot wait to read the next book in order to find out just what happens to them next.

This was the book that came entirely out of left field and still managed to steal the spotlight. I had never heard of this novel before picking it up, but I fell in love with it soon after. I can definitely say I'm deeply interested in learning more about Norse Mythology after reading this gem and I can't help hoping that the author will announce a sequel in the near future.

I'm usually not a big fan of ghost stories, but how could I resist one written by the enigmatic Maureen Johnson? Turns out, I couldn't. This fabulous start to a trilogy that is still in the works was so much more than anything I had hoped for. Deeply creepy and packed with excitement, this was a novel I'm very happy to have fallen in love with.

The final book in a series I had hoped would go on for much longer, Cold Spell was everything I had hoped for in a conclusion to a lovely book series that included retellings of Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, The Little Mermaid, and (in this novel) The Snow Queen. I absolutely adored it and couldn't be happier with how well it was executed.

Classics

One of those books that everyone except myself seemed to have read in high school, I was excited to dive into this novel and was not disappointed by the results. An antiwar novel written unlike anything else I've ever read, I was impressed by every chapter I was offered within its binding. I see why this is a classic and I hope it remains in the hearts and minds of many generations after my own.

Non-Fiction

Full-Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
As someone who very strongly identifies myself as a feminist, I was more than a little eager to read this one and was not at all disappointed. It's one of those books that really helps the reader uncover what feminism means and gives a nice overview to everything that falls within that realm. This is a great start for men and women who want to learn a bit more about feminism and this was the book I gave more than any other as a gift this Christmas.

Fantasy

A story that many of us know like the back of our hands after the movie adaptation, The Princess Bride  is a breathtakingly well-written work of art that I still cannot get over. I absolutely fell in love with this book and everything about it, from the narrator to nearly each and every character that is presented within its pages.

I have been in love with the film adaptations of these books since the first time I sat down to watch one. I have no idea what took me so long to read them, but I'm thrilled that I got around to reading the first of the trilogy. All of the characters I fell in love with in the movies are back and I can journey along with them far better here in the books than I can by watching the film. I cannot wait to read its sequels.

Children's Fiction

I knew, as soon as I'd seen the cover, that I would adore this book. I wasn't wrong. Patrick Ness tells the story of a boy whose greatest fear is losing his mother with such poignancy that I could hardly stand it. Not only are the words enticing and the story compelling, but the artwork that colors in the pages is so deeply stunning that I still go back just to stare at it. If there's a children's book you need to read this year: this is it.

The Gustav Gloom series is exactly what I hoped it would be: fun, creepy, and dark. It's not too scary for older children, but it's just creepy enough to keep the reader eager to learn more, all while giving them that deep sense of going on the same adventure that the characters are on. I adored everything about this first book in the series and continue to love it as I read on.

Though both books he released last year were stunning, this one has a special place in my heart for being exciting, brilliant, adventurous, and funny all at once. I immediately bought a copy for my nieces and nephew and have not ceased to hear its praises sung from every reader who has come across it. 


So there we go: my top 13 picks for last year. Did you read any of these books last year? Are you planning on adding any of them to your reading list for 2014? I sure hope you do.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 in Review

One of my Christmas presents from a very dear friend.
I know it's been nearly a month since I last posted a review, but I decided to take a break from working on Novel Attraction so that I could be present with my family while they were home for the holidays. Now January is in full swing and I'm ready to start up working here again. The first few posts of the year will include my 13 favorite books from 2013, my TBR list for 2014, as well as a wrap-up of mini-reviews of books I read in December and never got around to posting full reviews for.

Last year, I read 64 books. My goal was 100, but with a full-time job and a lot of other obstacles life managed to throw in my path, I feel like I did pretty well. This year, my goal remains the same. Only, there will be one difference: this year, I'll be counting graphic novels as well.

Don't ask me why I haven't counted graphic novels before now. I didn't really get into them until the year before last and I didn't even really consider it until recently. It should be interesting to see how that boosts my count. Maybe if I had managed to count them last year, I would have reached that fabled hundred. We'll see, I suppose.

The next year has a lot in store for me and I'm looking some major changes in the face as I peer forward, but I cannot wait to see what will happen. However, my love for books will never change and I'll be reading away no matter what I'm doing and where I'm writing to you from. Here's to a new year and many new books to dive into!

"Wherever I am, if I've got a good book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy." -J.K. Rowling