Most Anticipated Books of 2011

I have set my reading goals for 2011; now it’s time to start choosing the books! Below are seven books that I eagerly anticipate reading this year as I aim to complete my goal.

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia AhernFirst up for release is The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern. The January 25th release date is right around the corner. Ahern’s novels are a refreshing change from the ordinary, due to the setting of the books. Her plots seem to take place in a world very similar to our own, with an extra magical layer to them. This fantasy world has worked in all of her books except her last. I hope her newest release is more successful at maintaining the balance between reality and extraordinary.

Delirium by Lauren OliverI named Lauren Oliver’s debut release Before I Fall my favorite read of 2010. I was excited when Oliver announced her next book, Delirium. This book is the first in a trilogy scheduled to be released over the next three years. I usually wait until all of the books have been released to start a series. I plan on breaking this trend with Delirium. The first reason is the book’s description. It reminds me of one of my favorite books, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. The second reason is that my love for Before I Fall has me very eager to has me very eager to read more from Oliver.(Bad Pun Alert!) I am delirious to get my hands on a copy of this book!

Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by matt logelinOver two years ago I started reading a blog by new dad Matt Logelin. The blog was very different than those by other new fathers. Matt lost his wife less than forty-eight hours after welcoming his daughter into the world. The words on his blog were honest and emotional. I was quickly enthralled by his story. Even though the man was a stranger, I found myself rooting for him as tried to move past the tragedy in his life. He is now telling his story in Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love. The memoir will be released April 14th. I plan to have a box of tissues available for this read; it’s going to be a real tearjerker.

Abandon by Meg CabotMeg Cabot has two books being released in 2011. The first up is Abandon, due out April 26th. This book is the first in a new series she is writing. Her second story–Overbite–is the follow up to her 2010 release Insatiable. I am a bit apprehensive about both stories. Insatiable started strong, but I felt that it got a bit “out there” at the end. I’m hoping this is not the case in Overbite. The description of Abandon gives me the same concern. This is upsetting because I have loved her earlier works. I hope to be able to enjoy her Supernatural releases as well.

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson Abandon is not the only story I’m excited about being released on the 26th of April. That is also the publication date of the long-awaited sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I have been eager to get my hands on The Last Little Blue Envelope since Maureen Johnson announced it over a year ago. The original is one of my favorite works by Johnson; I hope the same is true for its sequel. Johnson is also releasing The Name of the Star in September of this year. This book is the first in her “Shades of London” series. I loved her submission in Zombies vs. Unicorns because it was a bit darker than her usual work. I am hoping that this latest series is more of that darker tone. If so I feel it will be one of her more enjoyable novels.

There are two other notable releases I want to mention. On June 21st Ally Carter will release the second book in her Heist Society series. I can’t wait to find out what hi-jinks Kat and crew encounter in Uncommon Criminals. Jen Lancaster is releasing her first work of fiction on May 3rd of this year. I have found her previous memoirs to be hysterical and can’t wait to see what If You Were Here is about.

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2011 Reading Goals

My goal for 2010 was to read 78 books. The plan was to average one and a half books a week. Some months–like April–it was easy to meet this goal; other months–such as June–it was tough to get through the pages. In the end the good and bad months evened out enough that I met my goal.

Last week I had to decide what my goal would be for 2011. I would normally aim to meet or surpass my previous target, but I don’t think that is possible this time. This year my usual distractions–and family–will welcome a new addition. I have no doubt that a new baby will reduce the time I want to spend reading. It’s hard to choose a book over a new baby! As a result I decided to drop down my target from 78 books to 52. I feel this is a realistic goal that I will be able to meet.

This year I have extra help as I aim to reach my target. The 2011 Reading Challenge on Goodreads.com is a neat tool to help me track my progress toward my goal. To start I inputted in how many books I was aiming to read this year. As I update the site when I finish a book, the tracker will automatically update my total. The Challenge page also allows you to see how your friends are doing as they aim to meet their goals. Another reason to sign up for Goodreads.com!

So I have set my reading goal for the year. I am interested to see how I do! If you want to see my progress, check out either Goodreads.com or here on the blog. Good luck to all as you try to meet your reading goals!

2010 Year in Review

I completed Ready or Not by Meg Cabot on December 28, 2010. This marked the 78th book I read that year, and I met my goal of reading 78 books! In celebration I will be highlighting some of my favorite–and one least favorite–of 2010.

Favorite Pregnancy Read

Nominees: Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be by Rebecca Eckler and Baby Bargains, 8th Edition: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More! by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Winner: Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Book Cover for Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields & Alan FieldsI judged this category based on which book I felt prepared me the best for my impending motherhood. These two books are very different from each other, which made it difficult to choose a favorite. Knocked Up was an entertaining and realistic tale about the journey of pregnancy; it is a great memoir. Baby Bargains wins the category, however. This book helped me prepare for the new baby the most. As a first time mom, I know nothing about the products available for a newborn. This book was invaluable in helping figure out which items I needed and which I didn’t. I loved how this information was all in one place for easy reference. This is such a great book that I recommend it for all new parents.

Favorite Series

Nominees: Airhead Series by Meg Cabot, Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter, The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins, and Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Winner: Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Cover of Shadowland (Mediator #1) by Meg CabotI didn’t realize how many great book series I read this year until I tried to pick a winner. All four series were full of five-star books. In order to pick my favorite, it came down to one fact: which series was the most consistent throughout. Two of these series–Airhead and Hunger Games–started off strong but the series’ finales left me disappointed. To some extent this also happened with the latest Gallagher Girls book. This was not the case in the Mediator books. Each book had a consistency that I enjoyed. I picked up the first and finished the last within forty-eight hours. The entire time I was interested and engaged in the plot. I enjoyed how Cabot was able to tell Suze’s story over six books while keeping the plot connected and entertaining. Note: While the Mediator series wins this category, all four series are “Must Reads” in my book.

Favorite Goodreads “First-Read”

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce Feiler, Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Winner: Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Lay The Favorite book cover What I like most about Goodreads giveaways is that they give me a chance to read a book I wouldn’t normally pick up. This is true of all ten books I have won. I appreciated all but one of them, with Lay the Favorite being the one I enjoyed the most. The fact that I had nothing in common with the main character, yet still was still entertained by her story, made the book more interesting for me. The book was a real page-turner that had me interested throughout. I never would have purchased this book, but am really glad that Goodreads gave me the opportunity to read it.

Worst Book of 2010

Nominees: Rich Again by Anna Maxted, The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell, The Gift by Cecelia Ahern
Winner: Rich Again by Anna Maxted
Book Cover of Rich Again by Anna Maxted I previously mentioned that I picked up this book solely based on its cover. The bright colors and shopping bags made me believe the story was a typical Chick Lit plot with a bit more conflict. Instead I found a book with a confusing setup, unlikeable characters, and morbid plot. There was not one enjoyable aspect in this story. I have never before been unable to finish a book and was only able to complete this one because I heavily skimmed it. Such a bad book all around.

Favorite Memior

Nominees: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson, My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto by Jen Lancaster, Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett
Winner: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson
Book Cover of Sliding Into Home by Kendra WilkinsonSo, I have a confession to make. I have a small obsession with all things related to the original Girls Next Door; Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, and Bridget Marquardt. I was very excited when I heard that Wilkinson was going to be releasing a memoir. I figured this book would give me a little extra insight into what went on behind the scenes of the TV show. I was also interested in learning a bit more about what Wilkinson’s life was life before her time at the mansion and what brought her there. Apparently I wasn’t the only one interested, as it was impossible for me to get my hands on a copy of the book until a week after it had been released! Once I was able to start reading, I found myself enjoying the pace and flow of the story. Her truthful tale was the perfect mix of history and humor that defines her. This book may not be on the same level as some of the other five-star books I read this year, but it served as a needed escape. It was the perfect way to get some “guilty pleasure” time in and getaway from the insanity that can be real life.

Favorite Chick Lit Novel

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes, Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Winner: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
The cover of Emily Giffin's now book "Heart of the Matter"Most of the Chick Lit stories I read in previous years were fun and flighty. They involved a single girl shopping her way around town while looking for the right guy. This year I discovered that authors were moving away from this type of story in favor of serious tales. Emilly Giffin was able to successfully tell the tale of the challenges of marriage after writing great “boy meets girl” stories. There was very little about this book that didn’t work. I highly recommend it to all of my Chick Lit blog readers.

Favorite YA Novel

Nominees: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green, David Levithan, Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Winner: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Book Cover of Before I Fall by Lauren OliverIt was a great year for me in terms of YA books. A quick look at a summary of YA books I read least year shows that a high percentage of the them rated four or five stars. It was hard to narrow this list down to the nominees. It was even harder to pick a winner! After much deliberation I picked Before I Fall. I started reading the book with no expectations. Lauren Oliver was a new author who was not from the usual circle of authors I read. I finished the book with a changed attitude. The way in which Oliver discussed the life and death of the main character was inspiring. I find myself often recommending this book to friends and strangers. Such an amazing book.

So, those are some of my favorite books of 2010. What were some of your favorite reads?

2011 Books

My goal for 2011 was to read 100 books. These are the books I have read that helped me meet my goal.

December
Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World by David Koenig Review
My Favorite Mistake by Beth Kendrick
Entwined by Heather Dixon
The Future of Us by Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler
Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
The Cubicle Next Door by Siri Mitchell
Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare Review
The Magic Touch by Dara England Review
Single in the City by Michele Gorman
What’s Your Number? by Karyn Bosnak

November
Ordinary World (Andi Cutrone #2) by Elisa Lorello Review
Faking It (Andi Cutrone #1) by Elisa Lorello
Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park Review
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Review
Crossed (Matched #2) by Ally Condie Review
A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell Review
My Fair Godmother (My Fair Godmother #1) by Janette Rallison
Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner

October
Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist Review
Spying in High Heels (A High Heels Mystery #1) by Gemma Halliday Review
Campaign Promises by Laurel Osterkamp Review
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #4) by Arthur Conan Doyle
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver Review
Why I Love Singlehood by Elisa Lorello, Sarah Girrell
The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson (Goodreads Author) Review
Matched (Matched #1) by Ally Condie
Being Kendra by Kendra Wilkinson
Mousejunkies! by Bill Burke Review

September
Heat Rises (Nikki Heat #3) by Richard Castle
Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld Review
Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts by Claire LaZebnik
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #3) by Arthur Conan Doyle
Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld

August
Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard
London Is the Best City in America by Laura Dave
In Service to the Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland’s First President by Jack Lindquist
The Baby Planner by Josie Brown
Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
Bumped (Bumped #1) by Megan McCafferty
The First Husband by Laura Dave

July
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Will Work for Prom Dress by Aimee Ferris
Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch by Tim Wakefield, Tony Massarotti
Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison
Four Decades of Magic: Celebrating the First Forty Years of Disney World by Chad Emerson
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Overbite (Insatiable #2) by Meg Cabot
Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
A Match Made on Madison by Dee Davis

June
City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare
City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare
Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society, #2) by Ally Carter
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman
The Royal Treatment (Princess for Hire #2) by Lindsey Leavitt
Spoiled by Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan
The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philip Pullman

May
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman
Naked Heat (Nikki Heat #2) by Richard Castle
Heat Wave (Nikki Heat #1) by Richard Castle
The Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia: A guide to the flora, fauna, and fun of the world’s greatest theme park! by R.A. Pedersen
If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster
Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
Princess for Hire (Princess for Hire #1) by Lindsey Leavitt
Working at the Ballpark: The Fascinating Lives of Baseball People–from Peanut Vendors and Broadcasters to Players and Managers by Tom Jones
Abandon (Abandon Trilogy #1) by Meg Cabot Review
The Last Little Blue Envelope (Little Blue Envelope #2) by Maureen Johnson

April
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Love on a Dime (Ladies of Summerhill #1) by Cara Lynn James
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Hook Line and Sink Him by Jackie Pilossoph Review
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen Review
Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch Review
Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner Review
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium #3) by Stieg Larsson
Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin
The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium #2) by Stieg Larsson

March
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1) by Stieg Larsson
Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison Review
The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick ARC Review
Loser/Queen by Jodi Lynn Anderson Review

February
Unbelievable (Pretty Little Liars #4) by Sara Shepard Review
Perfect (Pretty Little Liars #3) by Sara Shepard Review
Flawless (Pretty Little Liars #2) by Sara Shepard Review
Pretty Little Liars (Pretty Little Liars #1) by Sara Shepard Review
The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
Delirium (Delirium #1) by Lauren Oliver

January
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
There’s Cake in My Future by Kim Gruenenfelder
The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by Alex Wright
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Review

* Please note that ARC stands for advance reading copy. For more information about what an ARC is or how to get your hands on one feel free to check out wikipedia.org

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

I have always enjoyed reading books about American History, yet very few history books make it into my “to-read” pile. I was excited when I won a copy of Countdown on goodreads as it allowed me to read a bit more about the history of the United States.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Countdown by Deborah Wiles It’s 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits in with her family, and look beyond outward appearances. For Franny, as for all Americans, it’s going to be a formative year.

Before starting this book, I knew very little about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Throughout the story I found myself getting more familiar with the topic. The author conveyed the historical information in a way that made it feel like a conversation instead of a lecture. She did this by delivering the facts through the main character; a eleven year old. The details about this past event were seamlessly woven into the story between talks of the daily woes of a seventh grader. This style allowed the author to successfully convey the information she needed about the Missile Crisis and the main characters life in an interesting way.

The young age of the narrator did concern me at first. The intended audience for this book–ages nine to twelve–is much younger than the YA books I usually read. I wondered if I would be able to relate to a character whose daily concerns involved things such as who to play with in the playground. In the end, these types of issues took up little of the story. Instead much of the plot focused on larger issues. I found I could relate to issues such as dealing with family dynamics. The author’s ability to put me in the character’s shoes quickly eased any concerns I had about the age difference between the protagonist and myself.

I was interested to find out that this book is the first in a trilogy. I am very curious to see what topics the remaining two books cover. I am hoping that the author chooses to focus on two historical events for the subjects of the remaining books. Her ability to make history entertaining has me excited for these releases.

Review: This book is one I would love to see any middle school aged student reading. It is a great book that many will find entertaining. The authors ability to keep the story interesting while still informing made for an enjoyable story. I can’t wait to see what topics Wiles tackles next!

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black, Justine Larbalestier

I loved Geektastic; a YA anthology containing stories from some of my favorite authors. I was excited to check out Zombies vs. Unicorns as it contained short stories by many of the same authors. I hoped that I would enjoy this book as much as Geektastic.

From goodreads.com

Zombies vs. Unicorns book coverIt’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths—for good and evil—of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

I have found reading anthologies to bring mixed results. I generally like the stories by authors I know and struggle through the rest. Sometimes I’ll luck out and find a marvelous story by an author I’d not previously read. This often leads to the discovery of some great new books. When this does not happen, I just end up feeling like I bought a book to only enjoy 25% of it.

Short stories–unlike their longer counterparts–are often unable to focus on anything other than the main plot. Anthologies usually focus on one main plot. If it is a theme I am only slightly interested in, it can lead to the book feeling unnecessarily long. When this happens I find myself having to take a break in between stories in order to finish the book. This is another negative I sometimes find when reading anthologies.

This book suffers a bit from both of these negatives. The main issue I had was that I will never be “Team Zombie.” I realized right after I ordered this book that I dislike most things zombie. Why then did I decide to read a book where I hated the topic of 50% of the book? I hoped that some of my favorite YA authors would be able to change my mind. Some authors were able to write stories about zombies that I enjoyed. For the most part, though, I struggled to get through these pages. Eventually I also started to tire of the “Team Unicorn” stories. The theme of this book was not enough to hold my interest. I found myself taking long breaks between the stories. It took me so long to finish this book that my husband actually made a comment about it.

That being said, there were a few great stories in this book. I found the short story by Maureen Johnson to be fantastic. I thought it might even be her best work that I have read to date. I think the darker topic really allowed her to branch out in terms of story-telling. The result was something much more interesting than her usual “girl meets boy” story. I also enjoyed the tales by two of my favorite authors; Meg Cabot and Scott Westerfeld. A story by an author I had not previously read–Libba Bray–inspired me to add some of her books to my “to-read” shelf.

Review: I hesitate to give this book a rating. I did not find much of the book enjoyable due to the fact it was about a topic I don’t really like. This is not the book’s fault. It clearly states it is about zombies, and yet I still decided to read it. I do feel many of my fellow YA fans would read this book and rate it much higher than I have as they would like the topic subject matter. I do recommend this book as there are some great submissions from some of my favorite YA authors. I would suggest this book as a “borrow” instead of a buy.

Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley

Next up for review is a book I think my Harry Potter friends would enjoy!

From goodreads.com

Harry Potter Film Wizardry Book Cover by Brian SibleyImmerse yourself in the world of the spectacular Harry Potter film series, and learn why Yule Ball ice sculptures never melt, where Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts are really “minted,” how to get a Hippogriff to work with actors, the inspiration behind Hogwarts castle, and why Dementors move the way they do. Written and designed in collation with the cast and crew that brought J. K. Rowling’s celebrated novels to the silver screen, Harry Potter: Film Wizardry delivers an enchanting interactive experience, transporting readers to the wizarding world by sharing film-making secrets, unpublished photography and artwork, and exclusive stories from the stars. Full of removable facsimile reproductions of props and paper ephemera from the movies, this collectible volume offers a privileged look at the Harry Potter films and the talented group of Muggles that has made true movie magic.

I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I have read each book numerous times. I own all of the movies, and have watched them several times each. I check my favorite Harry Potter news site–The Leaky Cauldron–daily for all the latest stories on the fandom. This led me to believe that I knew a good deal about the behind-the-scenes going on in the movies. Harry Potter Film Wizardry quickly made me realize I was wrong.

A page from Harry Potter Film Wizardry

The first thing I noticed when opening the book was the amazing graphics. Flipping through the pages leads to many beautiful eye-catching pictures, text, and maps. Upon opening the book, I immediately flipped through it and soaked in all the images. This allowed me to check out the book’s layout. Each section represents a different Harry Potter movie. In each chapter you will find “A Production Designer’s Notebook and Producer’s Diary,” with sections that describe various characters, locations, or creatures from that movie.

A page from Harry Potter Film Wizardry

A page from Harry Potter Film Wizardry

A great example of the layout can be see when looking at the chapter which discuses Goblet of Fire. This section contains information on the Quidditch World Cup (QWC), Miranda Richardson’s portrayal of Rita Skeeter, and the Dark Mark. The pages containing information about the QWC contain an extra pull-out section; something that can be found throughout the book. In this case the bonus material is a program from the Quibbler. Other extras include a Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes product catalog and Marauder’s Map.
 

Review: I found this book to be a readable version of the DVD extras. The format allowed me to take in the images and text at a leisurely pace. The text held details that even I–a rabid Harry Potter fan–didn’t know. I thought this book was very informative and entertaining. I recommend it as a must-read for fans of the Harry Potter books and movies.