Tag Archives: Ally Carter

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?

Great Book Recommendations

When I make a book recommendation to a friend I am always a tad worried. There is always a fear in the back of my mind that although I loved a book, they could hate it. The same is also true when I pick up a book on the recommendation of a friend. How am I supposed to respond if I hated a book they highly praised? While this has yet to happen, I always get a bit nervous when starting a book plugged by a friend.

My experiences with the Harry Potter series helped me find some great friends. The passion we share for the Harry Potter series often translates to a general love of reading. As that feeling is shared with this great series, I often find many of us to have similar tastes in books. When a love of books and shared interest combine, great book recommendations are often the result.

I credit my discovery of the fantastic world of Young Adult (YA) literature to recommendations from friends. In some cases, the book suggestions come inadvertently. After noticing a few friends commenting on a book on twitter, I will look to get more information about it. Often–as was the case with John Green’s novels– I’ll find myself heading to the bookstore to pick up the book. A love of YA books was born.

My friends are not the only people who recommend books to me via Twitter. I mentioned previously that there are a few fantastic authors that I follow on the site. These authors can also be a great source for recommendations. A while back, Maureen Johnson tweeted how she had written a blurb for Heist Society by Ally Carter. This mention put the book on my radar, and I purchased it on my next bookstore run. I enjoyed the story so much I ended up picking up the author’s Gallagher Girls series. Another successful recommendation!

Sometimes I pick up books based on their covers. Other times I pick up a book based on a suggestion by a friend. While the book cover route has had mixed results, a recommendation from a friend has never let me down. Keep those great book reviews coming, guys!

ePiracy

As a blogger, I often spend time seeing what search terms lead people to my blog. This helps me determine if new people are finding my blog, and what is leading them to it. I was pleased to see a lot of searches for Ally Carter’s “Gallagher Girls” (GG) series were leading to my blog. That excitement soured when I noticed a third of those searches were looking for places to read the book online for free. As Carter has never published the whole of the GG books online, these people are looking to read the books illegally. This is very upsetting.

I understand that many of the readers of the Gallagher Girls books are in the “Young Adult” category. In many cases may be to young to get jobs, and therefore can’t afford trips to the bookstore. I imagine this is why they might look for free options for reading the book. I, however, do not think that this justifies downloading free copies of the book.

If not for libraries, perhaps I would be more sympathetic towards those who cannot afford to buy books. Libraries provide books free of charge for all. If your library doesn’t have the book you are looking for, you can request it or look into having it loaned from another library. Unless the book is a new release, it is generally pretty easy to get your hands on a book without having to pay.

Now people may ask, “If you can get a book from the library for free, why can’t I download it for free?” While I’m not going to discuss all the reasons, the main problem I have with it is how many people this practice hurts. In short, downloading books illegally off the internet hurts the author of the book, its publisher, the readers, and the libraries themselves. How? Well, for that I’m going to send you over to GG’s author Ally Carter’s blog post on ePiracy as she does a GREAT job explaining this!

Anyway, I didn’t mean to end up posting a rant. (oops!) As a book fan, this is an issue that upsets me. It was nice to get my thoughts about this issue out there. Thanks for reading!

The “Harry Potter” Effect

I started reading the Harry Potter books in June of 2002. I tore through the four books that had been released at the time in about a week. After finishing, I was left needing more. I had so many questions that I needed answered! Just what was that “gleam of triumph” in Dumbledore’s eye all about? What was going to happen to the wizarding world now that Lord Voldemort had returned? I would have to wait five long years for all of my questions to be answered.

There was both some good and bad that came out of my wait for the release of all seven books. The need for information on the next release was intense. My desire to have my questions answered left me scouring the internet. While this fell into the “bad” category, it resulted in many things in the “good” category. The longing for info on the next book lead me to a great HP news site, The Leaky Cauldron. My need for answers to my questions helped me find some great discussions on the The Leaky Lounge. The friends I met through these sites, and great discussions I had, helped make the wait worth it.

Since finishing the Harry Potter books, I have discovered many great series. In some cases–like with the Uglies Series–all of the books had already been released. This meant I could read all the books at once and not have to wait long for the answers to my many questions. However this need to get answers quickly meant that I missed out on the opportunity to discuss the book and theorize about what came next. Perhaps had I found Uglies earlier, I would have discovered some great Scott Westerfeld fans with whom to share my love of the series.

Other times my first encounter with a series is purely accidental. Only after having finished a book had I realized it was the first in a yet-to-be completed series. This happened with Heist Society by Ally Carter. I now find myself often checking the author’s Twitter page for any updates on the Heist Society 2 manuscript. (Good news: It’s in progress! Bad News: Still only in first draft form.)

The last “series situation” I’ve stumbled upon is hearing about a book that is part of a yet-to-be completed series. I then have to make a decision: Do I start reading the series immediately and then wait with all my questions? Do I wait for all of the books to be released and then read them all? Sometimes I will ignore the dreaded wait and start reading the series right away. This was the case with Insatiable by Meg Cabot. I read the book knowing that only the first book of the series had been released. I was comfortable making this decision because I felt that the plot wasn’t as intricate as some others, and I wouldn’t find myself kept awake at night due to unanswerable questions. For the most case, this is true. While I would enjoy some word on that status of its sequel, I’m not searching the internet for any word about it.

As often as I’ve decided to start reading an unfinished series, I’ve also found myself making the consciousness decision to not read a series until just before the release of the final book. Such is the case with Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I made the decision to wait based on two things. The first of which was the wait. By the time I had heard about this series, the first book had been out for a while and the second was almost released. I knew that it wouldn’t be a long wait until the third and final book was out. The second reason was the suspense factor of the book. Everyone I know who read Hunger Games had many questions after finishing. These questions were not of the “Gee I wonder what happens” variety, but instead “I need to know what happens now!” It seemed these feelings only intensified after the release of Catching Fire. The extreme suspense, and relatively short wait time influenced my decision to wait until all the books had been released to start reading.

Now, was this the right decision to make? I’m sure that I’ve missed out on some great discussion by not reading the books as they were released. It seems that there has been no lack of theorizing about what will happen in the finale of the series. In many cases while my friends have been discussing the books, I’ve had to cover my ears and walk away. If I know a friend is reading the books, I read their status updates with my eyes half open in an attempt to avoid spoilers. While I can’t ever say if I made the right decision, I know that as I start reading the series ASAP in preparation for the August 24th release date of Mockingjay, it will be nice to know I’ll soon find out an answer to all my questions!

Authors are all aTwitter

Twitter is a fantastic place to get information out quickly. Many authors have realized this, and they are using Twitter to quickly spread the word about their work. This practice helps authors in reaching their existing readers, communicating with them, and giving them updates about their books. In addition authors are also using Twitter to reach out to new readers. I love using Twitter to find new authors and to keep up with my favorite authors.

An example of an author whose books I started reading after I found them on Twitter is Maureen Johnson (@maureenjohnson). I met Maureen at LeakyCon 2009. After the conference I decided to check out Maureen on Twitter. What I found was a stream of hysterical tweets that inspired me to check out her books. I have since read and ejoyed all of her currently published works. Now I use Twitter to keep up with the status of her next book, The Last Little Blue Envelope, due out May 2011.

I follow my favorite authors on Twitter to find out about their newest projects. When an author announces a new book, Twitter is often the fastest way to find out about it. Jane Green (@JaneGreen) tweeted about possible title choices for her upcoming book. Other authors like Ally Carter (@officiallyally) sometimes tweet excerpts from the works they are editing. Looking for a cover or release date for a book? Check out an author’s Twitter account!

Authors don’t only tweet about books while they are writing them. Authors use Twitter to get the word out about their soon-to-be release books. Meg Cabot (@megcabot) recently tweeted about a book giveaway for her upcoming book release. John Green (@realjohngreen) recently posted his tour dates on Twitter for for his upcoming tour.

I find the best way to keep track of my favorite authors on Twitter is using lists. I have created a Twitter list of some of my favorite authors. Feel free to check it out, and hopefully find a great new author! Have an great author I’m not following? Let me know so I can check them out!

The Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter

Of all the Young Adult books I have read, the Gallagher Girls series really stands out.The series focuses on the life Cammie Morgan, who attends Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. Cammie is not a typical teenage high school student and Gallagher Academy is not a typical school. Cammie Morgan is a spy, and The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is where she receives her training.

In some ways Cammie does have to deal with the same issues as typical teenage girls. One of these issues is boys. For any teenage girl, dealing with boys is a baffling and confusing thing. Being a spy does not make this any easier. Spy school can prepare you for protecting government secrets; spy school does not prepare you for first dates. Luckily Cammie does not have to unriddle how to behave around teenage boys all by herself. Bex and Liz, fellow Gallagher Girls, provide a great support system for her as she navigates the tricky world of boys.

The original nature of this story makes it such a fantastic read. The author is able to take an ordinary story–a teenage girl going to high school–and make it different and interesting. You aren’t just reading a story of boy meets girl. This is a story of a girl who meets a boy, but she has to make sure the boy isn’t using her to find out about her top secret school. You won’t want to put this book down as you read all of the original twists and turns.

The series is written by Ally Carter, and consists of four books. Three of the books, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover have been released. The fourth book, Only the Good Spy Young, is due to be released June 15th.