Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jo's Best Books of 2013

I read so many good books in 2013 - and if you look over at the right sidebar, you will see that I surpassed my Goodreads goal (and I might even be adding to that total before the night is through)! Here are the ten(ish) books I read in 2013 that I liked the best. When I was going through the list this afternoon, I realized that a few of these are multiple books in a series, and if that was the case, I listed them all together. So, in no particular order:

 1. Onyx, Opal, and Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout


 Daemon... sigh.  My book boyfriend.  I don't care that he's 18 years old and an alien.  If you haven't read these books yet, do it!  They aren't expensive, and are a fantastically additive series.  I also love that Armentrout has branched out to tell you bits of this story from the Arum's point of view in her book, Obsession.

 2. Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson
Full Blooded

This book was such a cool take on the werewolf mythos.  Jessica is a private invesigator (and former cop) who comes from a family of werewolves and is used to the supernatural - but only men are werewolves.  That is, until Jessica has a really bad night and wakes up naked in the woods...  there are a few more books in this series as well, but they are so expensive for ebooks (I don't get why ebooks are $3 more than the paperbacks!).

 3. Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass
Crown of Midnight

 Oh my, did this series ever tear me apart.  Maas has created the most well-thought out fantasy worlds in a long time, and I still find myself thinking about the books from time to time, trying to puzzle out what is actually happening with the magic.  Celaena is a teenage assassin who is rescued from the sure death of the salt mines only to be forced to compete in a death match to see who will become the King's champion.  There are a few prequel novellas in this series that fill out Celaena's pre-salt mine days that I need to read.

 4. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half

 I had come across Brosh's blog a year or two ago on a friend's suggestion to read her posts about depression, and was so incredibly touched.  Such a sad subject, but she makes you see the stark humor and pathos in depression.  Don't sit down to read this book unless you have a few hours to go through it and laugh yourself silly and cry yourself dry.  I would recommend getting the hardcover or paperback versions of this book rather than the ebook because of the cartoon drawings.

 5. Dead Spots and Trail of Dead by Melissa F. Olson

Dead Spots
Trail of Dead

 I came across these books while I was on vacation this year - I had been storing up a few Kindle deals of the day to read in Canada, and the first book was one of those.  Scarlett is a null, meaning anything supernatural cancels out around her - and she is so rare there is only about 5 people with her ability in the world.  And she works as the clean up person for the triad of supernaturals - the vampires, werewolves, and witches.  The whole story had a neat set up - why she works for the supernaturals, and where each of them came from.  The mystery in the story was very interesting, too - so much so that I picked up the 2nd book at full price as soon as I finished the first one.

 6. Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
Magic Rises

 I have to say up front that I do not like the artwork in the new cover.  All of a sudden it makes Kate look 10 years younger than she is!  Okay, petty comment aside, this is definitely a series that gets better and better with every book.  I cried, I laughed - and one of my favorite scenes in any book I read this year was Curran throwing a tantrum and tossing boulders at a mountain to vent his frustration with Kate.  I like how these books are treating Kate and Curran's evolving relationship in a real fashion - nothing is ever absolutely perfect and relationships need work - and happily ever afters are nonsense.

 7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

 I shouldn't have been surprised that I liked this book so much - I went through a faerie phase a few years back, and read Black's Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside - three novels that definitely put Tinkerbell out of your mind completely.  Tana lives in a world where vampires are very much a reality - and there are ghettos called 'Coldtowns' where the vampires and hanger-ons are kept walled in, and on 24 hour satellite feed where people can see everything that is happening.  Tana woke up from a 'sundown' party - where people lock themselves in at night to party in safety - to find everyone but herself, her ex-boyfriend, and a chained-up vampire slaughtered.  They go on a roadtrip to the nearest Coldtown to her ex can sweat out the virus - I don't want to spoil it - but I loved this book.  I had to gush about it to Andrew afterward!  Tana was such a resolute heroine and I loved her thought processes.

 8. Wait For You - J. Lynn
Wait For You

 Cam... another sigh.  As you can see from the cover, J. Lynn is a nom de plume for Jennifer L. Armentrout when she write her New Adult books.  I loved the interplay between the two leads in this book, and the scenes between Avery and Cam were so hot.  It was very interesting and sad to read Avery's backstory - she was a victim of a sexual assault, and her whole town and even her family had made it out to be her fault because of who the aggressor was.

 9. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Days of Blood and Starlight

This is a series I get completely lost in.  Days of Blood and Starlight is the sequel to last year's Daughter of Smoke and Bone (another one of my year-end favorites).  The book continues with Karou's story, and goes into so much more detail of the conflict between the angels and chimera.  I also loved that Karou's friends, Zusana and Mik, have a much larger part in this story (and even have a novella of their own that I haven't read yet - Night of Cake and Puppets!).  The conclusion to this series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, comes out this spring and I cannot wait.

 10. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Shatter Me

 Shatter me did exactly that.  I was first attracted to this series by the cool artwork on all of the covers, but I was blown away by the story.  I will admit to being really confused by the story in the beginning, thinking that there was something wrong with the formatting of my ebook because there were so many lines where the text was struck-through - it took me a few pages to realize that was Juliette was redacting her thoughts.  This is a dystopian story where we have basically poisoned the world, and the absolute power in power is a scary thing.  There are a few sequels and novellas to this series I haven't read and am quite eager to read.

Wow.  It was hard to choose these books!  There are a few others I couldn't bear to leave out, even though they didn't make the top 10 - so I urge you to check out these ones as well!

 Honorable Mentions:
 Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund
A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang
Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
Faking It by Cora Carmack
Ever After by Kim Harrison
Fragments by Dan Wells My Unexpected Forever by Heidi McLaughlin

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

IMG_1478, originally uploaded by jochibi.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Review: Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas

Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas: A Perfect Fit  Holiday NovellaHave Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas: A Perfect Fit Holiday Novella by Sugar Jamison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a sucker for Christmas romances – it doesn’t matter if it is paranormal, regency, or contemporary – and I really liked this one. I was originally a bit thrown off by the formatting of the book – some of the dialogue from different characters seemed to flow into single sentences which made following the conversation confusing, but I think I have to attribute to this being an ARC eBook and perhaps these things weren’t cleaned up yet.

Dina is a mother of a 10 month old boy, and she knows she was not a nice person before her son came along, and she wants to be a better person. Dina starts off the story trying to find the baby’s father to make him pay child support, but soon finds out that the father is no long around. Period. She instead meets Ben, her lover’s older brother, a man still grieving his wife’s death from cancer nearly 10 years prior. Ben sees an instant family in Dina and her son, and offers her marriage so that Dash, his nephew, can stay in his life. The character development in this story is wonderful – and one of my favorite parts is Dina’s verbal diarrhea when she gets nervous – everything gets blurted out all at once and it made me laugh out loud. The relationship between Dina and Ben, although it seems awfully quick at first (this is a novella), but is believable when you understand the emotional places that both of them are coming from. I love how the author wove Christmas into the story – Ben’s family had stopped celebrating Christmas long ago because of his mother’s death, and having him introduce Dina and Dash to all the things in his town and house that he loved about Christmas were very heartwarming.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ornament Painting Party

I keep a Pinterest board for Willow, and it is a hodgepodge of gift ideas, craft ideas, or just cute things I think she might like. A while back, I pinned this pin on painting glass ornaments as a possible craft idea for her. We invited her friends over, and had a ornament painting party this afternoon after the girls came back from watching Frozen. It wasn't an expensive craft - the glass balls were normally $5.99 for a half dozen, and I had bought 2 packages plus a few bottles of acrylic pain with my 40% off coupon on Black Friday a few weeks back - so I don't think the entire project even hit $10-12 for everything. Amanda's mom supplied the ribbon, so we were all set. Here are some examples of our handiwork:

  Jo's Ornament A

Amanda's Best Ornament

Sara's Best Ornament

Willow's Best Ornament

Jo's Ornament B

Jo's Ornament C

 One of my friends who had done this craft previously suggested using the little coffee stirrer/straws to help guide the paint, and that helped immensely. Also, you have to use a lot more paint than the blog post I originally saw this on indicated if you wanted the paint to move inside the ball. I would love to try this craft again. I wasn't able to replicate the color striations in the originally pin, and I would love to try other techniques.  All in all, this was a great craft for 11 year old girls.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Willow's Winter Concert

Willow's middle school held its Winter Concert last night, and it was lovely go go and listen to the music. At first I hadn't intended to take video, but I wasn't really able to get any good still photos with the lighting and from where I was sitting. Luckily, Willow was within my view! You can see her in the lower right part of the frame.

 Video 1: Mozart Mania / Believe / Let it Snow / Winter Wonderland:


 Video 2: Let it Grow (from "The Lorax")