10 for 2010: Favorite Reads

And here is the final 10 for 2010 list for this year, and the hardest one at that. There has just been too many good books in this year that it’s so hard to pick just ten. But I have to choose ten…but that doesn’t mean I can’t have runner ups and honorable mentions. ;) It’s my list, I can do anything I want to. :P

So, the last 10 for 2010, here are 10 of my Favorite Reads in no particular order…and then some. :)

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen – How much do I love this book? I am very glad that I chose this book as my first classic read for this year. I love Anne Elliot, and I want to be her. I don’t have much point of comparison over other Austen books, but this one is really, really good, even better than P&P. :) I cannot recommend this one enough. :)

2. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews – I fell in love with the Kate Daniels series this year (thanks again to Chachic and Michelle for pushing!), but among the four books out in the series, Magic Strikes is the best one so far. It’s got action, tension and all the yummy hotness of Kate and Curran in all of it. Plus the ending had me all smiling and giggly and that is always very, very good. :)

2. Feed by Mira Grant – This book wasn’t the one that got me started on zombies this year, but it was the zombie book I loved the most. :) This book had me from the cover, and then with the story. I loved how geeky this book is and how emotional it is at the end. I loved the characters, and I loved the theme of the story…and I just really loved every bit of this book! This is one of the books that I got in Kindle, then got in print because I want to have my own copy. I gave a copy away, then I gave one as a gift, and now I’m (sort of) giving this away, too. I love this book that much.

3. Happyface by Stephen Emond – This is one of the impulse buys that I never regretted. I wasn’t a fan of hardcovers, but I am glad I got this one the moment I saw it because there are no copies of this one here. This is one of my favorite contemporary YA reads of the year. Happyface is such a darling character, and you just can’t help but fall in love with him. The plot is simple, but it’s very surprising and heartwarming at the end. I wish there were more copies of Happyface here so more people can read it…but that’s why I’m giving one away, right? ;) Oh, and I still think I look like Gretchen. ;)

4. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley – This was another impulse buy, but I’ve been seeing this one way before I got it. I am glad I got it, too, because it has such a beautiful story. The story may sound a bit cheesy with all the beauty talk, but it doesn’t only just talk about inner beauty and self-esteem, but also complications of a family and dreams that never came true. Terra’s transformation was very inspiring, and the ending left me feeling very good about myself, and very beautiful. :) Truly a gem.

6. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – I wasn’t planning to read this, and I stopped reading the start for a couple of times, but after I finished the first chapter, I got hooked. Before I Fall is a surprisingly good and powerful novel about life, death, friendship and the choices we make and how they affect people. I finished this book with a wistful smile on my face and tears in my eyes, thankful that I finally gave in and read it.

7. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – This is one of the book that I know I would love, only because the people whose book tastes I trust loved this one, too. After reeling from The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I needed more dystopia to keep the high going, so I finally read this one. And I loved every bit of it. I know it gets better with the next two books, and I am very excited to read them. :D Soon.

8. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – This book wouldn’t have made the list if I didn’t read it on time. If I read it in 2011, this would probably have made it in my 2011 list. :P I love the cover, and the story is just as good as the book. It’s not often you read a YA novel about a band, and it’s even rarer that you read a heroine who was deaf. It’s got diverse characters, a great story and a very rocking ending. :) A book that makes me reconsider my Top 10 is a book that deserves more attention. :D

9. Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra – You know you really love a book when you re-read it and it still gives you the same feeling it did on the first read. You know you love a book when you actually re-read it in the first place, and within the same year, to boot! I re-read Fairy Tale Fail after I finished reading The Maze Runner, and I really needed a pick-me-up after. It definitely picked me up, and it made me wish to have my own Lucas all over again. :)

10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – And like every Best of 2010 books out there, I must not forget about Anna and the French Kiss! This book was an absolutely fun read. After a series of not-so-stellar books, this one just kind of blew my mind. :) I realized a lot of things in this book, particularly: I still love contemporary YA the best, and you can tell a completely ordinary story in an extraordinary way. This is also one of the books that I got on Kindle first, then the hardcover when I found out it’s already available here. That much love, people. That much love. :)

Runners-Up:

  • Paper Towns by John Green – I finished the John Green trifecta this year, and out of all books, I have decided that I liked Paper Towns best. While An Abundance of Katherines was the funniest and happiest, I thought Paper Towns had the better plot and would fare better for a re-read. :) Plus Radar + Ben and the road trip? Priceless.
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – I wouldn’t have heard of this one if not for Pao and Chachic, and I am glad I got this one. Tall Story is a charming story about siblings, Filipino folklore and magic. This is a very heartwarming story, and I am glad this book is available internationally so more people can read it. If you haven’t read it, do include it in your 2011 reading list. You won’t regret it. :)
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman – I wouldn’t have picked this book up if I hadn’t heard good things about it from my Goodreads friends. Perhaps my reaction to this was a bit similar to The Knife of Never Letting Go – I plunged into it ready to love it, and I did. It’s not a very cheerful book being dystopia, but it’s very good and it has a lot of potential for a re-read. :)
  • Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr – I read two of Sara Zarr’s books last year and I loved them, so when I saw she had a new book, I knew I had to read it. Once Was Lost was just as beautiful as her other books, but I think I like this one more because it tackled faith. I loved how simple Zarr’s prose was, and how she tackled sensitive issues with grace. If I may quote my review: “Once Was Lost makes you think, makes you ask, and in the end, makes you believe that no matter what the tragedy is, no matter how hard things are, there will always, always be hope.
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – I read this one fairly recently, and I really liked it. I don’t know if my moods influenced how much I liked it though…but like I said before: any book that has me smiling like an idiot at the last page deserves a recognition. :)

Honorable Mentions:

See, I told you it was too hard. I’m sorry if I overwhelmed you with too many books in this list! It’s just very, very hard to choose. Maybe next year I’ll be more critical, but I’m glad I read so many good books this year. Looking forward to what 2011 had to offer. :)

Now it’s your turn. What’s your top reads in 2010? :)

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters
10 Favorite Female Characters
10 Favorite Couples
10 Favorite Authors
10 Most Anticipated for 2011
10 Blogging and Reading Highlights

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Get to know the awesomeness that is Feed by Mira Grant, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!

Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost by Sara ZarrOnce Was Lostby Sara Zarr
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 224 pages

As a pastor’s kid, it’s hard not to buy into the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI, and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town goes missing, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam’s personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed—about God, your family, and yourself—is transformed.

There are books that don’t seem much at first glance. They’re the ones that have only a few copies on the bookstore shelves, ones that rarely gets featured in its own section, ones that people (including me) would have ignored if it weren’t for some other thing. In my case, I have read the author’s other works.

I can’t say I’m a fan of Sara Zarr, but I have read her two other books, Sweethearts and Story of a Girl and liked them well enough for me to notice her new book, Once Was Lost. It took me a while to finally crack its covers though, and once I did, I couldn’t get out of the town of Pineview and from Sam’s life.

Once Was Lost starts out one hot summer day, when everything in Sam’s house seemed to be broken. Just like the book, the introduction was quiet and unassuming, but we know from the start that Sam is trying hard to deal with her situation without totally breaking down. Her mother has been in rehab for three weeks because of drinking, and instead of finding solace from her dad, she finds him more distant from her as he seemed to care more for his congregation than anything else, like compare annuity rates and the sad state of their family. The thing was, no one knew about Sam’s situation and she didn’t want to talk about it, not even to her youth group leader Erin or her best friend Vanessa. It would have just been a sad summer, but when thirteen-year-old Jody Shaw is abducted, Sam’s life is turned upside down. As she grapples with the tragedy that affected not only her but the entire town, Sam finds herself asking questions she had never thought of asking before, and wondering if she will ever find the answer to them.

This book is poignant. That’s the term. There is something about Sara Zarr’s writing that immediately touches the heart and leaves a mark, urging the reader to not just read but think. Zarr wasn’t afraid of lay it down hard on the reader and the use of such a scary ordeal — abduction — was an effective device to make all her characters grow. In a way, I felt like I was one of the residents of Pineview when Jody disappeared — I wanted to join them in the search, I wanted to join them in the prayer vigil, I wanted to send some comfort to the family in a trying time. At some point, I felt like praying for Jody, too, even if she was just a fictional character.

Sam is a sad character, but sad for the right reasons. You’d expect that a pastor would know how to be a good father, too, and I was annoyed for Sam as I see how her dad treats her, or did not treat her. But in a way, I can also understand why her dad acted that way. If you’re a person of importance, particularly in a church community, everyone expects you to always be okay. People looked up to Sam’s dad for spiritual guidance, and the pressure of having to be the God’s representative to the people is hard, and sometimes it’s easier to just not acknowledge the situations or ask the question when you’re not sure of what the reactions or answers will be.

But still, we’re only human. I think that was one of the important lessons in the book: that we are all just human. And God understands if you can’t bear everything that is happening — in fact, I don’t think He expects us to bear it all, at least on our own. Sam tried to hide it all, and just go along with whatever’s happening, but in the end, she learned that she didn’t have to carry it all on her own, and her family doesn’t have to either.

This isn’t a Christian book, but it read like one because of the setting and the situations. I liked how it showed community, and how people cope in the face of such a scary tragedy. I liked how it showed how Christians aren’t always happy (because we aren’t), and I liked how it wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions, questions that I am sure everyone of us asked at one point or another. Some examples:

I want to close my eyes and ask for what’s right, and open them and have everything fixed. As I try to form the words, I only get angry. Why should I even have to ask? You don’t have to be all-powerful and all-knowing to figure out that this is a tragedy in need of divine intervention. (p. 38)

Perfect love drives out fear, is what it says in the Bible. Perfect love. And who, my dad included, really knows anything about perfect love? Anyway, if God loves Jody so much, how could he let this — whatever it is — happen to her? And what else is he going to let happen to me? (p. 62)

In a way, I could relate my experience of the flood last year with this book. I don’t think I doubted God then, but I had a lot of big questions, and I had no answers. I often relied on my own strength during those times when the strength I needed was freely offered to me, I just didn’t know if I should take it. Sometimes I think we’d rather just keep asking questions and focus on our fears and problems rather than see that there’s Someone who’s willing to not only share the burden, but actually take it from us.

But I digress. Sara Zarr’s writing was spot on, just like in her previous novels. Lines like these just make me stare at the page and wonder how can such simple sentences have so much impact?

And love can’t be the answer to everything. If it was, us loving Mom should have kept her from falling apart. Her loving us should have made her want to change. (p. 61)

There’s a blue ribbon around the Hathaways’ mailbox. When we’re sitting out here two weeks from now, in a month, in a year, will the ribbons still be up? I wonder how you’re supposed to know the exact moment when there’s no more hope. (p. 101)

I think that’s enough to say that I thought this was a remarkable novel. This isn’t just your ordinary contemporary YA novel. Once Was Lost makes you think, makes you ask, and in the end, makes you believe that no matter what the tragedy is, no matter how hard things are, there will always, always be hope. :)

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 64 out of 100 for 2010

Cover and Blurb: Goodreads