December 31, 2012

Favorite reads of 2012

It's finally time to reveal my top ten favorite reads of 2012. If there was one theme to this year's list, it was that 2012 was the year of the zombies for me, especially the Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry, which took the top spot, and with all three books landing in the top ten. In all, zombie books comprised half of my top ten list, including the only indie title here, Amanda Hocking's Hollowland.

1. Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
The entire series was great, but the first book was still the best. You can look back at my review of Rot & Ruin.

2. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Check out my review of Blood Red Road. I still haven't read the sequel yet, but it's on my 2013 TBR list.

3. Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry
The second book in the Rot & Ruin series is almost as good as the first.

4. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Read my review of Under the Never Sky. This is another book with a sequel that I'm looking forward to in 2013.

5. Deadline by Mira Grant
Feed, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy, was my #3 read of 2011. Deadline, the second book in the series, was just as entertaining.This is yet another case of a sequel I need to read in 2013. There are so many books on my TBR list!

6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This re-telling of the Cinderella story was awesome! Part fairy tale and part YA sci-fi adventure, I highly recommend this book. Have I also mentioned that it has a sequel coming out in 2013?

7. Pretties by Scott Westerfield
I read the Uglies series this year, and while I liked all of the books, Pretties was my favorite of the bunch.

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
This is another re-telling of Cinderella that's more in line with traditional fairy tales. I recommend this book for readers of all ages.

9. Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry
The third book in the Rot & Ruin series wasn't as good as its predecessors but it still rocked. It was probably the most action-packed of the three, starting with a bang on page one and never letting up.

10. Hollowland by Amanda Hocking
If Hollowland is indicative of Amanda Hocking's talents, I can see why she became an indie publishing legend. This is another great zombie book that fans of the genre shouldn't miss out on.

December 28, 2012

What I read in 2012

Before I write about my favorite books of 2012, I wanted to post some data about what I read in 2012.

I read a total of 82 books this year. 26 of them were indie published vs. 56 traditionally published. This far exceeded my New Year's resolution goal of reading ten indie books.

In terms of the ratings I handed out for the 82 books, they fell into these buckets:
  • 5 stars - 24 books
  • 4 stars - 31 books
  • 3 stars - 25 books
  • 2 stars - 2 books

Not surprisingly, the ratings clustered around 4 stars because my average ratings on Goodreads is 4.01.

Digging a little deeper into the indie books, their ratings were as follows:
  • 5 stars - 6 books
  • 4 stars - 11 books
  • 3 stars - 8 books
  • 2 stars - 1 book

The six indie books that received 5 stars, ranked in order of how much I liked them, were:
  1. Hollowland by Amanda Hocking
  2. Hera by Chrystalla Thoma (note: not a novel but still packaged as it's own book)
  3. Treason by S.M. Boyce
  4. Rex Rising by Chrystalla Thoma
  5. Break You by Blake Crouch
  6. Deadlocked by A.R. Wise

In my next post, I'll list my top ten favorite books of 2012. Will any of the 5 star indie books make the list? Stay tuned!

December 22, 2012

Favorite movies of 2012

I've seen more movies in theaters this year than in any other recent year, and thanks to Netflix, the total number of movies I've watch in 2012 is probably around 100. Here are the top 5 that I've seen this year.

1. The Hunger Games

Have I mentioned before that I love everything related to The Hunger Games? :-)
This was the movie I anticipated the most in 2012 (more than The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, or The Hobbit), and it didn't disappoint. True, the actors they hired didn't always resemble what I pictured in my mind, but I think Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson both did great jobs in their roles. The scene where Katniss volunteers to replace Prim as the tribute makes me choke up whenever I see it.

2. The Avengers

You have Ironman, Captain America, and the Incredible Hulk, three superhero movie characters I enjoyed. (Yes, Thor was there too, but I didn't like his movie as much.) Throw in Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, and you can't miss! The Avengers was as much of a good time as I hoped when I first heard about the movie. The Hulk stole the best lines, but it was great to see all of these superheroes together.

3. Wreck-It Ralph

I'm a sucker for Disney animated feature films, and Wreck-It Ralph was no exception. For some reason, although companies like Dreamworks can match the level of animation, no one creates characters and stories like Disney can. I also wish that Sugar Rush and Hero's Duty were real video games!

4. Men in Black 3

Maybe it was the time travel element. Maybe it was because there was more emphasis on relationships instead of just special effects. For whatever reason, I thought this was the best Men in Black movie in the series. It was fun watching Josh Brolin portray a young Agent K, and Will Smith was his usual entertaining self. I also liked having Emma Thompson as the new head of the MIB organization.

5. Brave

See Wreck-It Ralph for how much I like Disney animated features. Brave makes it two for Disney in 2012. The cartoon short before the movie, La Luna, was also fun to watch.

December 15, 2012

Favorite songs of 2012

It's that time of year when people share their top <insert topic> of 2012. I plan to write three such posts: favorite songs, favorite movies, and favorite books. So without further ado, let's kick it off with my top 5 favorite songs of 2012.

1. Titanium / David Guetta featuring Sia 

I just love this song! I can listen to it over and over again, and I have on several occasions. I love Sia's voice, especially when she sings the word "Titanium". The video is also pretty cool, which is an added bonus.

2. Lights / Ellie Goulding

I admit that I don't know why I like this song so much, but I do. On the surface, "Lights" is just a typical pop song and Ellie Goulding's voice isn't as captivating as Sia's, for instance, but when you put it all together, you get a song that makes me turn up the volume whenever I hear it on the radio (yes, I still listen to the radio).

3. Somebody That I Used To Know / Gotye featuring Kimbra

I really liked this song when it first came out, and then, when the radio stations played it non-stop, I got sick of it. Now that it's getting less air play, I like it again. Once again, bonus points for a cool video.

4. Good Time / Owl City, Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen will undoubtedly end up on many lists of top songs of 2012, except that my list doesn't include "Call Me Maybe". I like "Good Time" a lot more, and while the combination of Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen didn't seem to mesh on paper, they wound up making a good duo.

5. Eyes Open / Taylor Swift

I'm pretty sure that the only reason this song ranked so high was that it was on The Hunger Games soundtrack, and I love all things related to The Hunger Games. Still, this is my second favorite Taylor Swift song of all time after "Love Story."

December 8, 2012

A writing update

I realized that I haven't given an update on my current writing project since September. It's been going well. The end.

Just kidding.

Three months into writing my third novel, the progress has been slower than I'd hoped and I'm less than halfway through the first draft. The last three months have been really busy for me at work and with the family. Throw in a couple of bouts with illness (nothing serious) and I haven't been able to spend as much time writing as I'd like. I should have some more free time during the holiday season, and my goal is to pick up the pace and finish the first draft by the end of February at the latest.

The story itself is coming along nicely, and I still think it'll be my best novel yet. With this book, I'm trying something new that I don't often do: writing in the first person. Initially, I was nervous about it, but after 30,000-plus words so far, it's become second nature. I don't know why I was so afraid of it.

I still don't have a title for the book yet. The working title is Adams and Eves, but I'm not particularly fond of that name. Fortunately, I still have a few months before I need to decide on one.

December 1, 2012

Book review: Treason by S.M. Boyce

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Ourea has always been a deadly place. The lichgates tying the hidden world to Earth keep its creatures at bay--for now.

Kara Magari ignited a war when she stumbled into Ourea and found the Grimoire: a powerful artifact filled with secrets. To protect the one person she has left, she strikes a deal that goes against everything she believes in. But things don't go as planned.

Braeden Drakonin can no longer run from who--and what--he is. He has to face the facts. He's a prince. He's a murderer. He's a wanted man. And after a betrayal that leaves him heartbroken, he's out for blood.

To survive, both Kara and Braeden must become the evil each has grown to hate.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

In May, I reviewed Lichgates, the first book of the Grimoire trilogy. I liked Lichgates, but Treason is even better!

Treason began where Lichgates ended. However, without having to go through the process of world-building that Lichgates was required to, the story picked up right away. We got to know Kara and Braeden better and witness the ebb and flow of their relationship. S.M. Boyce did a great job of conveying the characters' feelings. I could feel the conflict brewing inside Kara as she struggled between her feelings for Braeden and carrying out her mission of peace as the Vagabond. We also explored more of Braeden's character, and the author was able to portray two separate three-dimensional people with their own personalities.

I also thought the story moved at a good pace, combining action with character exploration. There were lots of twists and turns, including a surprising reveal (which I won't spoil) near the end. For a book of over 400 pages, I didn't get bored. If anything, by the time I reached the end, I wished there was more.

After reading Treason, I can't wait for the final book in the Grimoire trilogy.