Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 6 Reads of 2012

2012 was, for me, the year for not blogging. (Honestly, it was also a pretty bad year for reading) In the beginning of the year, I thought I'd try to get back into it, but ultimately failed miserably.

Now, with 2013 quickly approaching, I thought I'd give it another shot. I recently moved from Japan back to Montreal, and it seems like my life is changing from fun-filled crazy non-stopped-ness to something a little bit more mellow. I'm hoping that this means I'll once again have time for blogging.

So, the plan is to not only get back into book blogging, but also to personal blog a little bit more regularly, and I've even decided to start a music blog, since other than reading, music is my other passion. I've been reading some really great books lately, and I've got some great books planned to read for 2013, so I'm really excited to share them all with you.

So 2013 - get ready for brizmus the blogger!

In the meantime, my top 6 (I was a really bad reader in 2012, and not all of the books I read can make the list, so just 6) of 2012 in no particular order (also note that these are just books I READ in 2012, not necessarily published in 2012):

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami:
I meant to read this one in Japanese, but life kind of got in the way, and since it would have taken WAY longer to read it in Japanese than in English, I finally gave in and read it in English. It was separated into three different sections (books in the Japanese version), and the first two were normal in that totally mystical and majestic way that Murakami has, where shows that in all normal there is so much more than normal. While there was a little more taking off of clothing than I normally like in my literature, it was definitely love. The third tome sort of lost a little bit of Murakami's normal umph, and I kind of got the feeling that he didn't really know where he was trying to go with it. Still, it didn't at all take away from the overall wondrousness and awesomeness of the book.

Audrey, Wait! - Robin Benway:
I read this book in the beginning of the year, and I totally adored it, to the point that it's almost a year later now, and I'm still thinking about it. Maybe it's just because it's about a girl who shares my name, but there you have it.

Queen of Babble in the Big City - Meg Cabot:
I read this book at the beginning of January, and it was, well, Meg Cabot. It was the only Meg Cabot book I read this year (a whole year with only one Meg Cabot - WHAT is going on with me?!?), so of course it had to make it to my top 6.

the Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen:
Another book by another one of my favorite authors. I've adored everything I've ever read by her, and the Girl Who Chased the Moon was no exception. Now I've got to read the Peach Keeper, which has been on my excited to read list since 2010.

Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb:
I got this book free on my kindle AGES ago, and it just sat there. And sat there and sat there and sat there. Finally, my boyfriend said "You should read that," and I was all "Eh," but I listened to him, and boy am I glad I did! I'll be reviewing this book soon, but let's just say: I'll be reading the other two books in the trilogy, and soon!

Lovely Complex - Aya Nakahara:
I can't believe it myself, but yes, a comic book actually made it to my top 6 of 2012. I decided I needed to get into anime to help keep my Japanese up, and I loved this one so much I actually decided to read the manga, in Japanese, and I DEVOURED it! Well, I've only read the first 3 so far, but I ADORED them, and you can bet that when I'm done, a review will be upcoming.

And there you have it folks, my top 6 reads of 2012. As you can tell, it wasn't a great year for me, what with all of the traveling and moving around and Japanese studying and concerts, etc. . .Oddly enough, I also read some books that I've already forgotten about. Let's hope 2013 remedies that. I look forward to getting back into blogging and rebecoming a part of the world of book blogging.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Title: Audrey, Wait!

Author: Robin Benway


Who Should Read It?
Everyone! Seriously, this book is great for the lover of young adult novels, but it will also appeal to their non-young adult loving parents and friends. And I can even see dudes liking it. So check this book out!

What I Have to Say:
Have you ever read a book and just had "squeal" and nothing more be your primary reaction? That's sort of how I felt after finishing Audrey, Wait! I knew I was going to love it, as it's about a girl of my name, but I could never have predicted that I would love it as much as I did. I was filled with so much happiness from how much I enjoyed this book that I could barely contain the giddiness that needed to escape, and so I just felt like - squeal!

First of all the concept - awesome! What a great idea to base a book on the girl behind the song, the girl that broke up with the boy, causing him to write a song, eventually leading to his fame.

The writing style - lovely. Benway has created an Audrey who is awesome, but who also has enough flaws that she actually seems like a real teenager. She's funny and sarcastic, witty and crazy, but she's also just your typical teenager, and through her typical teenager narrative, Benway has made a totally implausible situation seem almost plausible.

Of course, now it's been about a month since I read the book, and further away from it I find myself overwhelmed with the complete and utter implausibility of it all. This feeling is strengthened by some of, what seem to me to be, the glaring plot holes. One of the things that I think makes this book so amazing, though, as that none of these stood out to me at all while I was reading. I was too busy laughing and enjoying the dialogue and being lost in the horror that Audrey was living through.

And now ignore that last paragraph I wrote. Because Audrey, Wait! is a winner of a book that will hook you so much you'll be losing sleep to finish (and then waking up the rest of the household with your laughing).

Summary:When her ex writes a break-up song about her that rockets up the charts, Audrey is suddenly famous--she can't go out without being mobbed by fans and paparazzi. Readers can take a wild ride with Audrey as she makes headlines, confronts her ex on MTV, and shows the world who she really is. This irresistible, fast-paced novel has a totally hot new paperback cover! Its the song everyones singing. And its about her! But for Audrey, becoming famous overnight equals total, life-changing disaster. . .

Cover Story: There are quite a few covers for this book, and most of them are awesome. The Audrey on the cover I have posted here is the one that reminds me most of the Audrey I imagined. I don't like the cover that has red and yellow sun-like rays around it. It seems hippie and just wrong. . . that's not the feeling I got from the book at all.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reviews: the Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Title: Graveminder

Author Melissa Marr


Who Should Read It?
The blurb about this book said "for fans of Charlaine Harris, Joe Hill, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Neil Gaiman, and Carol Goodman." I've never heard of Joe Hill, Sherrilyn Kenyon, or Carol Goodman, I've read one Charlaine Harris, and I didn't like it, and I ADORE Neil Gaiman. For me, I would say this is an adult book for adults that like YA. If you like a little mystery/suspense along with a little bit of undead and some harsh realism, this book could be for you.

What I Have to Say:
I'm happy and surprised to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I say surprised because I almost didn't read it - I'd read Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange, and I didn't really like either of them all that much, so I sort-of thought that meant I wasn't a Melissa Marr fan. And then, much to the horror of many book bloggers I know, I'm not a fan of zombies. At all. And this book seemed to be a book about zombies trying to disguise itself as something else.

In the end, though, it said it would appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, whom I adore, so I read it. And while nothing about it reminded me of Neil Gaiman, I did enjoy it.

In Graveminder, Melissa Marr has taken the perfectly normal world in which we live and added something totally bizarre. And she has done this in such a way that the reader almost believes that maybe Claysville, the home of said bizarreness, exists somewhere in the world, and we just don't know it. What I liked most about this book, though, was Rebekkah. She is an utterly believable main character put into utterly real situations with utterly real feelings. She reminded me of myself a little bit, and as such I felt a very close connection to her. Even though there was the occasional zombie involved, I really understood what she was going through and could relate to her feelings. No one will have been through EXACTLY what Rebecca is going through, but I think most readers will find themselves able to relate to her on some level.

Relationships are scary, and the world is huge place just waiting to be explored. Melissa Marr deals fabulously with these facts of life and the emotions associated with them.

I'll admit that I probably would have enjoyed the book more if the what hadn't been zombies (it's okay, that's not a spoiler), but then I think there are some that will find that the zombies make the book. They're done well and far from over the top, so, as zombies go, these rate up there, but zombies just aren't really my thing. Also, there were quite a few things that I found to be lacking in explanation. I almost think Marr did that on purpose, but I still found it frustrating and wish she would have tied up the loose ends before it was all over.

All in all though, a good book!

Summary:Melissa Mar is known to young adult readers as the author of the popular faery series Wicked Lovely. Her debut leap into adult fiction lands her in the small community of Claysville, a town where the dead walk free unless their graves are not properly tended. Into this eerie maelstrom, Rebekkah Barrow descends as she returns to a place that she once believed she knew. Kelley Armstrong justly described Graveminder as "a deliciously creepy tale that is as skillfully wrought as it is spellbindingly imagined." A new genre author to watch.

Cover Story:I love this cover. The colors are really pretty, and something about the way they're all put together with the girl holding the lantern just seems creepy in a beautifully mystical kind of way.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review by William Morrow Publishing. This in no way affected my review.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

Title: All the Flowers in Shanghai

Author: Duncan Jepson


Who Should Read It? If you like books about China, I'd say this book is a must. Do yourself a favor, though, and don't read most of the reviews out there. After write mine, I went and read a couple, and they are just FILLED with things you don't need to know before going into it. If you're into China, or just books about China like I am, I'd head over to pick yourself up a copy as soon as possible!

What I Have to Say:
While I've never really had all that much interest in China (I've always been more of a Japan girl), I have this weird fascination with books about China. I LOVE reading about Chinese history and Red China and Mao Tse Tung and foot binding and, well, if it involves Chinese history in any way, I want to, have to read it! So I of course jumped at the opportunity to review Duncan Jesper's first novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai.

And mostly, I wasn't disappointed. This story, written in letter format, is the tragic tale of a Chinese woman, Xiao Feng, whose life, via some pretty unexpected circumstances, takes a turn for the worse and doesn't go according to plan. At all. It's about the choices, both bad and good, that she makes throughout her life, and how they affect her. It's about how the communist regime swept in and affected the priveleged before they could even notice a change, and thus the story of how communism changes Xiao Feng and causes her to look back on her choices.

This book takes a close look at all of the good, the bad, and the ugly that was China in between the times of foot binding and communism. It's a passionate story of hate and learning what love is, the love between a mother and daughter, between a mother and son. But it's also a tragic story of things lost forever due to bad choices and heart-wrenching sacrifices. It is beautifully written and will warm your heart while at the same time making it feel somewhat icy cold.

The thing I liked most about this book was that, from the beginning to the end, it took me places that I wasn't expecting to go. And it's to the point story-telling allowed me to catch a real glimpse of what life must have been like for elite women in China, whose sole purpose, it seems, was to have an heir. The prose was simple, but the imagery of lifestyle was vivid, and nothing was spared.

What I didn't like so much was the lack of vividity in the descriptions. In a sense, it was fitting. The story was written in the form of a letter, and what Xiao Feng was seeing was, without a doubt, dulled by her life experiences. However, she was also surrounded by so much beauty, and I felt like Jepson's descriptive pose didn't really give that beauty the justice that it deserved. I would have liked to see a little bit more intricacy of description.

Also, because it was written as a letter, we only got the point of view of Xiao Feng. Sometimes, this work, but I feel like, in this case, the letter format occasionally led to some awkward phrasings and unnecessary side-notes that came out of nowhere and didn't really fit. I also felt like All the Flowers in Shanghai could have really benefited from multiple perspectives. As opposed to taking away from or changing Xiao Feng's story, I felt like it would have really added some heavy emotion to understand what the people around her were thinking.

All in all, a wonderful read that I definitely recommend. You won't be disappointed by this touching story of Xiao Feng, a woman trying to reconcile her past and move forward despite the bad choices that she made in the past.

All the Flowers in Shanghai is Jepson's stunning debut novel. Set in 1930s Shanghai,the Paris of the East, but where following the path of duty still takes precedence over personal desires, a young Chinese woman named Feng finds herself in an arranged marriage to a wealthy businessman. In the enclosed world of her new household-a place of public ceremony and private cruelty-she learns that, above all else, she must bear a male heir. Ruthless and embittered by the life that has been forced on her, Feng seeks revenge by doing the unthinkable. Years later, she must come to a reckoning with the decisions she has made to assure her place in family and society, before the entire country is caught up in the fast-flowing tide of revolution.

Cover Story: I have seen pretty much this EXACT cover WAY too many times - apparently all books about China need to have a beautiful Chinese lady in a sarong on the cover. Don't get me wrong, I like the cover, and if I saw it in a store, that would be enough to make me want to read the book, but I just feel like. . .eh, it's not very special.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review by William Morrow. This in no way affected my review.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guest Review: Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

There are several Bernard Cornwell fans in my life. So when Danielle at Harper Collins agreed to send me an advance copy of his latest novel (out January 17, 2013), I was psyched for the opportunity to share it with some of those people. After my brother read it, his friend Franklin read it, and I'm thrilled today to present you with Franklin's review. Enjoy!

Title: Death of Kings: A Novel (Saxon Tales)

Author: Bernard Cornwell


Who should read it? Anyone interested in English history, not just the main events that are known by all throughout the world, but the history of how people lived, how they survived and the environment in which they lived. Certainly anyone that is a fan of Bernard Cornwell and the intriguing characters that narrate his novels should read this book.

What I (Franklin!) have to say:
This is the eagerly anticipated sixth installment in Bernard Cornwell’s series, The Saxon Tales. The series is centered on Uhtred of Babbenburg, the narrator, who not only witnesses the events that took place in 9th century England, but participates in the events with and on behalf of Alfred the Great. There is one thing about history, what has happened in the past cannot be changed. Therefore, as the title implies, Uhtred witnesses the death of Alfred the Great in 899 AD, and then worries for the future of Wessex and England as a whole since the Danes (Vikings) have been trying to conquer Wessex and kill Alfred the Great for many years.

Uhtred has several conflicts in which he contends and some that he resolves. He wants to return to his home of Babbenburg, he wants to do his duty to the king that he has sworn an oath (Alfred), and he contends with the prospect of swearing an oath to Alfred’s son Edward. Furthermore, the reader will get a glimpse of one of the greatest female leaders in history, who just happens to be Alfred’s daughter, Aethelfled. In 890 AD England is becoming more Christian. Uhtred has to contend with Christian’s over his worship of Thor even though Alfred tries for years to convert Uhtred to Christianity.

Like the prior books in The Saxon Tales Bernard Cornwell does a wonderful job of describing life as it occurred in 9th century England. It is hard for us to imagine a world or life without large buildings, automobiles, and air travel. In the Death of Kings, Mr. Cornwell brings to life a world without plumbing and electricity. Furthermore, the reader experiences the horrible and personal way in which battle was executed in 890 AD, the shield wall.

The Death of Kings is easy to read, and when the reader is finished he will be clamoring for more!

Summary: The fate of a young nation rests in the hands of a reluctant warrior in the thrilling sixth volume of the New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series. Following the intrigue and action of The Burning Land and Sword Song, this latest chapter in Bernard Cornwell’s epic saga of England is a gripping tale of divided loyalties and mounting chaos. At a crucial moment in time, as Alfred the Great lays dying, the fate of all—Angles, Saxons, and Vikings alike—hangs desperately in the balance. For all fans of classic Cornwell adventures, such as Agincourt and Stonehenge, and for readers of William Dietrich’s Hadrian’s Wall or Robert E. Howard’s Bran Mak Morn, the stunning Death of Kings will prove once again why the Wall Street Journal calls Bernard Cornwell “the most prolific and successful historical novelist in the world today.”

Cover Story: Simply stated – the crown without a king!

And there you have it - thanks so much, Franklin!

Friday, January 6, 2012

World Book Night

Have you guys heard about World Book Night? It's an event to help get people reading, and it's super cool.
Basically, a bunch of people (they're hoping to get 50,000 volunteers) are going to receive 20 free copies of a book, and on April 23, they're supposed to pass them out to people (they know or don't know) that they think don't read that often or even at all.

There's a set list of 30 books to choose from, and participants will receive 20 copies of the book that they choose.

I think it's a great idea and a great way to spread the joy and power of reading, and I'm sad that, when April 23 comes around, I won't be in the country, so I won't be able to participate.

I highly encourage you, though, to take a look at the books below, and if there's one you want to spread around, get people reading, go check out the site and sign up to be a volunteer!

I can't decide which one I'd pick, if I could, but I'm thinking it'd have to be either Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card or the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Or maybe the Namesake. . .impossible to choose!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Blood Work by Michael Connelly
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Peace Like A River by Leif Enger
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Stand by Stephen King
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The History of Love by Nicholas Krauss
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Just Kids by Patti Smith
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Thursday, January 5, 2012

読書の進め - Reading Recommendations, and Welcome to 2012

So, one of my blogging goals of 2012 (aside from actually making a real return to blogging, which is top 2012 priority), I've decided I want to make a concerted effort to blog about book news. I'm regularly reading articles about books that I love, and for some reason, in the past, I've never really blogged about them. No longer.

So, I'm sure that most of you receive the Shelf Awareness newsletter, but if you're anything like myself, you never more than scan it. Which means that you perhaps missed the interesting article I read today. About a small little book store in Tokyo called Dokusho no Susume (you can see the actual Japanese for that in the title), which means Reading Recommendations.

And that's exactly what this little book store is about - reading recommendations. The owner, Katsuyoshi Shimizu, stocks books that he recommends, and all throughout the store, you can find little pieces of paper with the books, saying to whom he would recommend them and when (based on mood, etc. . .). He'll also personally approach you and talk to you while you're browsing, to help you find just what you're looking for. (However, according to the report of one Japanese male, he waited and waited for Shimizu to approach him, but he never did. And when he went back to find Shimizu-san, Shimizu-san had disappeared)

How cool is that? If you'd like to read more about it, check out this article in the Mainichi Daily News.

I adore Japan, and I'm already whole-heartedly looking forward to my return in April, but now I've got yet another reason to be psyched. I'll definitely be taking a trip to Tokyo, and you can bet that, when I do, I'll be visiting this book store.

Since I already mentioned one goal of 2012, I'll end this with yet another. One I'm particularly psyched about. I've got all 3 volumes of the Japanese version of 1Q84 by Murakami Haruki, and now that I'm back in the states, I'v acquired an English copy. Since I'll be away from Japan for nearly four months, I'm going to keep my Japanese up by reading the Japanese version and using the English version as a guide, for places I really have trouble.

What are some exciting goals you have for yourself for 2012?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot

Title: Queen of Babble in the Big City

Author: Meg Cabot


Who Should Read It?
Meg Cabot fans, of course! Anyone interested in that perfect fluff book that exists solely to brighten up their day.

What I Have to Say:
Um, yes. That's what I have to say. I don't know how to write reviews for Meg Cabot's books. Reason being that they're all the same to me. I don't say that in a bad way, though. I adore Meg Cabot. So much so that I genuinely believe that, if you've ever liked a Meg Cabot book, you're going to like all other Meg Cabot books, and so all that really needs to be said about a Meg Cabot book in a review is that it is a Meg Cabot book. Did that make sense?
This is a Meg Cabot book.
And I loved it. Naturally. Yes, Lizzie Nichols, the Queen of Babble herself, is slightly annoying. And yes, it is slightly perturbing that she seems to lack any common sense. No, I don't get what Lizzie Nichols sees in her supposedly wonderful boyfriend, Luke. And no, I don't get how oblivious she seems to so many obvious things. But I also wouldn't have expected anything other than that, and in a weird way, I sort-of love it for that. Because the characters are annoying in totally real ways, in almost lovable ways. And I do love them all, in the end.
It's fun, it's fluff, it's bubble gum. It's not going to make you think, it's not going to leave you awed, and it's certainly not going to teach you anything (except maybe a little bit of social protocol), but you're also not going to be able to put it down. It will make you smile, it will probably make you laugh, and it will make everything in your life feel all better for the short period of time in which you're reading it.
So, yeah, like I said, it's a Meg Cabot book. And it's wonderful.

Summary: Lizzie Nichols is back, pounding the New York City pavement and looking for a job, a place to live, and her proper place in the universe (not necessarily in that order).

"Summer Fling" Luke's use of the "L" (Living Together) word has her happily abandoning plans to share a one-room walk-up with best friend Shari in exchange for cohabitation with the love of her life in his mom's ritzy Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre. Lizzie's landed a non-paying gig in her chosen field—vintage wedding gown rehab—and a paying one as a receptionist at Shari's boyfriend's father's posh law firm. So life is good . . . for the moment.

But almost immediately her notoriously big mouth is getting her into trouble. At work she's becoming too chummy with society bride-to-be Jill Higgins, inflaming the ire of Jill's troublesome future mother-in-law. At home she's made the grievous error of bringing up the "M" (Marriage) word to commitment-shy Luke. Once again joblessness and homelessness are looming large for hapless blabbermouth Liz—unless she can figure out some way to babble her way to a happily ever after.

Cover Story: Totally Lizzie Nichols! BUT, maybe it's just me, but I'm really over all these YA covers with girls who have their heads cut off. . .
And thus I prefer the cover on which she is just covered by boxes (or is it a cake?)

My Contests

None for now!