Year End Review

As 2013 comes to an end I wanted to look back on the books I’ve blogged about this (my first year of book blogging!) year. This was a year of great highs (The Silent Wife –  If you’re in the mood for something not YA this is the book to read. It’s amazing.) And some major lows (Beautiful Creatures) and some disappointments (*cough Allegiant cough*.) But all in all it was a great year of reading. Here’s to 2014 and the all the new literary gems to be discovered!

What was great

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell EleanorPark_thumb
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In my opinion, Eleanor & Park is one of the best YA novels of 2013. Perceptive, funny, sophisticated and touching, Rainbow Rowell’s charming misfit lovebirds melt your heart and make you yearn for the excitement and turmoil of first love.

Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare CP2_cover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The finale to Cassandra Clare’s prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices, has been a bit polarizing amongst fans of the series. Personally I loved it. And that’s saying something because I wasn’t overly keen on the first two books. I didn’t mind them, I absolutely loved the steam punk elements and the Victorian England setting, but this last book had me finally falling in love with Tessa, Will and Jem. I truly loved the way Clare ended this story. I thought it was strikingly heartfelt and absolutely moving. Plus *spoiler alert* that whole thing with Tessa morphing into a giant angel was super cool.

World After, (Penryn and the End of Days #2), Susan Ee WorldAfter
Publisher: Skyscape

I have yet to finish my review of this book but I needed to put it on the list. Susan Ee is a bit of a phenomenon – having self published the first book in this series (Angelfall – awesome) only to see it become a massive success. This is her follow up and it lives up to the hype. Plus Penryn kind of puts to shame other major heroines (Katniss, Tris etc.) she doesn’t complain, she just gets on with it. Her sense of self preservation knows no bounds. Love it.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway adamstrand
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin Group)

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is one of those little gems you weren’t looking for but have the good fortune to simply happen upon. After reading a review from the A.V. Club I knew I had to read it. Existential is the best way to describe Galloway’s novel. Adam Strand is so frustrated with life, so overwhelmed with  boredom he kills himself. Over and over again. As his frustration grows at his inability to make death stick Adam takes us on a journey through the mind of an insightful, self-absorbed, too smart for his own good teenager. Macabre, witty and shrewd The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand has to be the most unsung YA novel of 2013.

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp
Publisher: Knopf Books

Okay it wasn’t a new release but who cares? This book is amazing. Incidentally so is the movie – except for the ending. Don’t get me started on the ending. Regardless this is a book I highly recommend. Tharp’s Sutter Keely has to be the most likeable teenage-alcoholic-ne’er do well in literary history. The best part of The Spectacular Now? The ending. Which I won’t spoil, you should go read it. Like now.

Days-of-Blood-and-Starlight-HBDays of Blood and Starlight, (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy), Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown

I’m in love with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy. In Love. Like hardcore. Obsessed? Probably. But definitely in love. I couldn’t wait for this book and when it finally came out I devoured it – twice, back to back. Taylor’s poetic prose coupled with her knack for creating characters you can’t help but fall in love with (or hate with the passion of a thousand fiery suns – I’m looking at you Thiago) makes this series more than worthwhile. Plus the blistering, heart-breaking and overwhelmingly quiet burning passion between main characters Karou and Akiva is kind of everything.

What was meh

Allegiant, Divergent Trilogy, Veronica Roth Allegiant2
Publisher: HarperCollins

Possibly the biggest disappointment of the year, the last book in Veronica Roth’s thrilling Divergent trilogy came in with a bang and left with an astounding fizzle. I don’t despise this last book. But I can’t deny feeling a little shafted. It’s not the choices Roth made that bother me, those I respect. It’s how bloated, convoluted and downright ridiculous aspects of the book were. There was just too much going on, story lines were stretched so thin there was no authenticity anywhere. And for the first time in the series I found myself not caring about Tris and Four. And really – there’s no way Tris would have left her gun behind. Never.

13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher ThirteenReasonsWhy
Publisher: Razor Bill

I know – I know, a lot of people really love this book. And I respect that. I really loved the overall concept, I found the way the touchy subject of suicide is discussed was done in a sensitive and appropriate manner. I also couldn’t help but feel 12 of Hannah Baker’s 13 reason’s for ending her life were a bit superficial. And quite frankly, there’s really no reason that’s truly acceptable.

Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Penguin

Ugh.

“Do you sometimes wish you could fast-forward a week? You know something bad’s coming up, and you know you’ll get through it, but the prospect just makes you feel sick?” Yes. This book.

To truly understand my complete and utter disdain for this book is nearly impossible unless you’ve read it yourself. Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries was never going to be one of the great literary feats of the 21 Century but when it began it was enjoyable entertainment. Sookie Stackhouse was a great, kooky, feisty and likeable heroine. Throw in some otherworldly-ness, smokin’ hot vampire love triangles and loads of shenanigans in small town Louisiana, this series was pleasantly thoughtless entertainment. But as the series progressed it became ridiculous and laborious. By the time the final instalment rolled around in the form of Dead Ever After I was reading the books out of sheer spite (and with some minor hope that they might redeem themselves in this final outing. Alas it was not to be so.)  Dead Ever After was the worst of the thirteen book series. THE WORST. And that’s saying something. Silly, boring, predictable and with the lamest copout ever it’s quite possible Harris herself had lost all interest in Sookie’s adventures in Bon Temps.

What I can’t wait for in 2014

Avalon, Mindee Arnett Avalon
Publisher: HarperCollins
On Sale: January 21, 2014

Science Fiction doesn’t get nearly the amount of respect it deserves. I’m hoping with the release of Mindee Arnett’s Avalon that might change. First described to me as Firefly but with teenagers this is the story of Jeth Seagrave and the group of teenage mercenaries he leads who travel the numerous star systems stealing metatech. Despite being a topnotch thief all Jeth cares about is earning enough money to buy back his family’s ship from his lethal boss and getting his younger sister Lizzie away from a life of crime.

Interstellar space travel, teenage mercenaries, criminal masterminds and mind control are just a few of the many elements that make up Avalon.

Dreams of Gods and MonstersLaini Taylor GodMonsters
Publisher: Little, Brown
On Sale: April 8, 2014

So we’re back to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. This is the third and final instalment in the series and naturally as someone with an unhealthy obsession I’m obviously counting down the days (101!). Taylor’s Karou is one of the best female heroines out there, tough, witty, resourceful and vulnerable she’s a class act.

CityHeavenCity of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
On Sale: May 27, 2014

I love the Shadowhunter world Cassandra Clare has created. It’s inventive and fresh, and really how could you not love a world where the fabulous Magnus Bane resides? This is yet another series finale, this time for Clary Fray and the shadowhunters of the New York Institute. With (dreamy) Jace filled (literally) with heavenly fire and the sociopathic demon-angel hybrid Sebastian on the loose creating evil nephilim this is bound to be one doozy of a closer.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn
Publisher: Harper Teen Forget About Me
On Sale: June 14, 2014

Okay truth be told I’ve already read this, but it’s on my list because I want others to know how good it is. Kate Kurys Quinn weaves an intriguing, spellbinding tale of two sisters with extraordinary powers living in an extraordinary town filled with secrets. This is a story that’s both haunting and magical, unexpected and refreshing. It’s also so tightly wound that unravelling the many secrets within the books pages is a truly thrilling experience.

Despite having read and blogged about all four of John Green’s books I’ve left them off this list because let’s face it if I put in one I’d have to put in all of them. Much like the rest of the world I’m a little in love with Green. The Fault in Our Stars has become one of my all time favourite books and there are times when I wonder how any of us every lived without the witticisms and philosophical insight of Augustus Waters.

Early in the new year expect reviews for World AfterUntil YouThe Rosie Project and Hemlock.

Book Review: Dead Ever After

Author: Charlaine Harris

Publisher: Ace Books

Date Published: May 7, 2013

Series? Yes

Number of pages: 338

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“It’s always possible for human beings to spoil their own peace of mind”
― Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After

Dead Ever After the final book in Charlaine Harris’ uber popular Southern Vampire Mysteries series (also known as the Sookie Stackhouse novels) takes up where we last left telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse – having just used her super powerful magical fairy artifact the Cluviel Dor to save her boss Sam’s life (thus effectively destroying her relationship with vampire Eric Northman.)  On top of simultaneously dealing with the demise of her relationship with the reigning sheriff of Area 5 and Sam’s difficulties in adjusting to being brought back to life, Sookie’s former coworker/friend (and attempted murderess) Arlene returns to Merlottes to ask for her job back.  After Sookie denies her request Arlene turns up dead and Sookie quickly becomes the prime suspect.

The above only just skims the storyline in this series finale, the book is overflowing with additional stories that – granted – all connect but there are so many and so much to remember from the past twelve books it becomes both difficult and tedious trying to keep up with what’s going on. Basically everyone Sookie’s ever pissed off has banded together to end her once and for all. Okay maybe not everyone but hyperbole seems the only way to go with this review so bear with me.

The book is chock full of returning characters, some enjoyable (Mr. Cataliades and his half demon niece Diantha and were-tiger Quinn to name a few) some inane and annoying (*cough Amelia cough*) and some so uninspiring you barely remember who they are if you remember them at all. The book is also chock full of a lot of nothing. Most of the story is Sookie lamenting over the lazy ending of her relationship with Eric and Sam’s distancing himself from her and his overall weirdness towards the woman who restored him to life. And rather than use a brain cell and think “Hmm my super scary, totally powerful and really pissed off vampire ex-boyfriend probably threatened my boss in some manner because I used a super magical artifact to save his life rather than release my boyfriend from 200 years of servitude and effectively becoming a high-class courtesan to the vampire Queen of Oklahoma” she just flounces around the place bein’ all confused ya’ll.

While all of this is happening there also remains the fact that Sookie has been framed for a murder she didn’t commit and the fact that someone is once again out to get her. The girl cannot catch a break.

Add in deals with the devil, a vengeful father who figures if he murders his daughters friend he can control her and the world’s lamest and biggest copout ever of a TWELVE BOOK LONG LOVE TRIANGLE and it’s quite easy to see that there’s a reason Charlaine Harris didn’t go on tour to promote this final book and that is, to be quite blunt, because it sucked. I’m sorry but there’s just no beating around the proverbial bush here. This final book is quite possibly the worst of the series, perhaps only trumped, or better yet tied with the series’ penultimate book Deadlocked which really should have been indication enough that this series had totally and completely jumped the shark.

Now for those who may stumble across this little ol’ blog of mine and be in the midst of reading this series *SPOILER ALERT* am I the only one truly offended that Harris would stick Sookie with Sam in the end? After years of continuously saying no and picking any other man over him what on earth would make his character even want her anymore? She picked dead guys (albeit super-hot ones) but regardless dead supernatural beings known for their blood thirsty ways over him. And whilst constantly turning him down and whatnot she continuously ran interference in his relationships. She was kind of a jerk. And that’s coming from someone who genuinely likes the character of Sookie with all her Southern sass and unexpected bravado. But seriously how freaking desperate is Sam?

Furthermore, is this not the world’s biggest copout? The way this series ends brings back memories of my unbelievable annoyance over the fact that Harry was the seventh unexpected horcrux – in the words of my four year old niece, like for serious? The entire point of the series was that Sookie finally found a world in which she belonged when the vamps came out of the closet, in Bill and then in Eric she found peace of mind – literally. And she just turns around at the end of everything and says “Oh Sam it was you all along.” Lame…lame, lame, lame, laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame. Did I mention I think this is lame?

In the end Sookie overcomes the bad guys and walks off into the sunset with her copout boyfriend – but goes so far to acknowledge that she doesn’t really know if there’s anywhere for things between her and Sam to go but you know, whatevs.  Way to back pedal there Sookie.

It’s as though at the last minute Charlaine Harris just decided she was over it. A little forewarning would’ve been nice lady. Perhaps a small book tour where she said ‘Hey dear reader beware, I may not have had the lady balls to make a choice between our resident vampire lovers so I you know just let Sookie settle.” And yes I realize that this particular approach I’m suggesting would not have been smart for the whole book selling process but seriously between her editors, agents, publisher and family did no one think to point out the obvious? That this decision would be pissing people off for years to come? This is like when Joey and Rachel started dating after she gave birth to Ross’s baby. I mean come on! We knew that wasn’t going to work out and I’m sorry but in the fictional world of Sookie Stackhouse there is just no way in my personal fantasy of this series that her and Sam make it for the long haul.

In closing Dead Ever After has to be one of the most disappointing finales to a series I’ve ever had the misfortune of putting myself through. Disappointing, lackluster and lame is how I’d best describe this series finale. I say read up until the sixth book and then just watch the show, because I think we can all agree that it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the show as long as Alexander Skarsgard is on the screen. Preferably with limited clothes.