May Reads 2016 #amreading

May Reads 2016 Final

Hello, fellow book junkies!  I can’t recall the last time I read eleven books in a single month, so May might just be a new record.This month also rang in my first exposure to Netgalley ARCs, which included The Graces, a book I really enjoyed, and The 52nd, a book I really didn’t.

Is there a word that encompasses comics, manga, and graphic novels? “Graphic narrative,” perhaps? Whatever the term, I read three of them this month, a personal trend kicked off this year by my fabulous blogger friend Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories recommending the 2015 female version of Captain Marvel, which I adored. Carolyn is funny and so, so smart when it comes to books, so I hope you get a chance to check out her blog.

Here are the books I read in May:


Legend by Marie Lu
How has Legend not been made into a movie or TV series yes?!  I read it, loved it, and can’t wait to get my hands on the other books in the trilogy. “Day” is everything. 5 stars


The Graces by Laure Eve Netgalley ARC
Well written, atmospheric, and dark, this is the tale of a new girl in town who longs to be accepted by the Graces, three witch siblings who are the most popular kids in high school. Bonus points for the English seaside setting. Expected publication date: September 2016.  Goodreads review.  5 stars.

The White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black Audio book
Cassel is the only non-magical son of a family of con-artist magic workers. Entertaining, with excellent world-building. The audio book was narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, whose reading style isn’t my favorite. I’ll read the next book in the series, The Red Glove, the old-fashioned way. 4 stars.

The 52nd Netgalley ARC
Immortal Aztec demigods attempt to save a mortal girl from an ancient curse. Oh, what potential this story had, but the silly, rambling tale just didn’t work. Goodreads review. 2 (generous) stars.


The Art of Being Normal by Elizabeth Williamson Netgalley ARC
“Two boys. Two secrets.” In The Art of Being Normal, we get a taste of what life might be like in a London low-rent district similar to the NYC projects. More importantly, we get to view the world through the eyes of two sympathetic, believable high school students trying to be true to themselves. Yes, there are heartbreaking moments, but ultimately this is an uplifting story about what people can accomplish when they believe in one another and themselves.  Goodreads review. 5 stars.

The Haters by Jesse Andrews Audiobook
There are a ridiculous number of F bombs and explicit sexual descriptions littered throughout this book. That being said, the adventure this band of jazz camp dropouts goes on is totally entertaining. Writer Jesse Andrews is genuinely funny and totally gets what it’s like to be in a band. Narrated by excellent, fast (!) reader Michael Crouch, whose impressive narrating credits also include The Serpent King, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Salt to the Sea, and Magonia. 4 stars.


Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Good guys? Bad guys? Who cares? Enjoy Schwab’s morally conflicted ride, with characters unlike any you’ve read before. 5 stars.


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This moving story sure did make me cry at the end. The plot is so smart. And, oh, what a great character Queenie is. If only I hadn’t had to drag myself through minefields of overly technical details about engines and piloting airplanes. In the end, Queenie was worth it. 3.5 stars.


Ms. Marvel, vol. 1: No Normal by Wilson, Alphana, Herring
Ms. Marvel is a girl from a loving, immigrant Pakistani family who has to navigate her way through becoming a superhero. A smart, relatable, girl of color does the rescuing–fun read. 4.5 stars.

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Crystal Chan-NetGalley ARC
In addition to the lovely artwork, this manga version did a good job preserving key plot elements and best lines from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original–the ultimate forbidden love story. Goodreads review. 3.75 stars

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
I have a new crush, and his name is Ballister Blackheart. Talk about morally ambiguous characters! Nimona is quite a character, and the story takes a surprising turn. 4 stars.

–Eve Messenger

Hope & Heartbreak: The Art of Being Normal


Genre: YA contemporary

Goodreads rating: 4.26

“Two boys. Two secrets.”

If you’re looking for excellent writing and an uplifting read, I highly recommend The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson. Williamson writes in an eloquent style that I could read all day long—and did! Her compassion for her characters shines through every word of this tale of two high school age people striving to express their true nature in a world that does not always welcome them. At its heart, The Art of Being Normal is about friendship and what good people are capable of when they support one another and don’t give up. Every character and setting is believable. There are surprising plot twists, too. Yes, there is heartbreak but, above all, there is hope. 5 stars.


Clever: “When she’s not being sappy, she’s as hard as nails.”

Brilliant (when you know the context): “I watch as he breaks into a jog toward the bus stop, his blazer flying out behind him like a cape.”

Heart-wrenching: “Sometimes, if I can’t sleep at night or I’m bored on the bus or in classes, I imagine this parallel universe where Dad is still around. In it he takes me to soccer games, helps me with my homework, and calls me “son,” like he’s really proud of me. He makes Mam nicer too: younger, prettier, happier. Parallel-universe Mam always remembers to buy toilet paper, cooks roast dinners on Sunday, and laughs a lot.”

— Eve Messenger

Four Facts Survey

Some people seem to know themselves quite well. They have clear likes and dislikes and distinctive personalities. Maybe it’s because my head is in the clouds most of the time, but I don’t think I’m one of those self-aware people. That’s why it’s nice when a tag like this  comes along to bring me back down to earth and get me thinking about what makes me tick. For that I have smart, funny, forward-thinking Rae @ Bookmark Chronicles to thank. Rae discusses so many intelligent topics in her blog, not the least of which is, of course, books. 🙂 I hope you get a chance to check out her blog.


  • Answer the questions
  • Nominate 4  people to answer the same questions

The Questions

Four names People Call Me Other Than My Real Name:

Eve / “V” / Mom / “Honey”

Four Jobs I’ve Had:

Music/foreign language teacher, vocal arranger, Acquisitions & Divestitures Coordinator (sorry, that really was my title, ha), waitress

Four Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once:

Groundhog Day, Zoolander, Galaxy Quest, Love with a Proper Stranger (w/Natalie Wood & Steve McQueen)

Four Authors I’d Recommend:

V.E. Schwab, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Marie Lu

Four Places I’ve Lived:

Japan, Taiwan, Virginia, Southern California

Four Places I’ve Visited:

San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, Cancun

Four Things I’d Rather Be Doing Now:

Writing, playing with my dogs, finding new music, talking to my friends

Four Foods I Prefer Not to Eat:

avocados, guacamole, anything sour, marmalade

Four Favorite Foods:

sushi, chicken curry, b’bim bop, chicken tortilla soup

Four TV Shows I Watch:

Orphan Black, Broad City, Walking Dead, The Little Couple

Four Things I’m Looking Forward to This Year:

  • Having lots of time during summer vacation to write, read, exercise and play piano.
  • Taking a trip sometime in August (not sure where yet–any suggestions?)
  • Finishing my novel.
  • Getting healthy again.

Four Things I’m Always Saying:

“I totally get that.”
“Have a great weekend.”
“I don’t want to talk about politics.”

–Eve Messenger

Four People I Nominate:

Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secret
Blaise @ The Book Boulevard
Beth @ The Books are Everywhere
Jesalin @ Blogging Everything Beautiful 

What Makes a Character Noble?

Noble Characters in YA Fiction

Few things are as gratifying as reading about a truly noble character. So who are some of the most noble characters in modern YA fiction? Before we take a look at the list, let’s define “noble.”

A noble character is someone who:

  1. Sacrifices desires and emotional or physical safety for the greater good.
  2. Doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than who she is. (Probably my favorite quality of a noble character.)
  3. Doesn’t (necessarily) seek recognition for doing the right thing, in fact, prefers anonymity.
  4. May, in fact, lead a generally ignoble life, but when the time comes to stand up for what’s right, she does.
  5. Has a strong moral compass and sticks to it, even when ridiculed, pressured to conform, or ostracized.
  6. Can take the easy way out but doesn’t.
  7. Never abandons her friends.

Top 9 Noble Characters in YA

Inej Ghafa, the Wraith – Six of Crows
An expert assassin, Inej can kill a person in seconds with her bare hands, but she never veers from her personal code of ethics. She would die before letting down her friends.
23437156Todd Hewitt – The Knife of Never Letting Go 
Sure, Todd could have kept running when all hell broke loose in Prentisstown, but he had to stop and help Viola because that is how a noble character rolls.

Celia Bowen – The Night Circus 
Celia Bowen could well be the most powerful magician in the world, but because of her strong moral compass she treats people with dignity and does what she thinks is right.

Brimstone- Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Without giving away spoilers, let’s just say Brimstone meets the qualifications of being a noble character. Fellow readers of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, would you agree?

Queenie – Code Name Verity
I finished reading Code Name Verity several days ago and am still in a daze over what a noble character Queenie is.

Thea – The Diviners
Thea is one of those enticing characters who never pretends to be anyone other than who she is. She follows her passions and is kind toward those who deserve it.

Kell – Shades of Magic series Kell could practically run the world with all the powers he has as a Traveler and, though he is treated as a second-rate son by the Maresh family, he remains loyal to crown, especially to his brother, Prince Rhy.

Katniss Everdeen – Hunger Games
It would have been so easy for Katniss to leave District 12 behind and live the good life at the Capitol but, no, she has to fight for what is right.

Day – Legend  Day’s defining characteristic is his unwavering loyalty toward family, close friends, and his oppressed community.

What do you think? Are there other characters who deserve to be on this list?

–Eve Messenger




Little Kimono & Dad

Little me with the best dad ever. 

As a child, who was your favorite relative?

My favorite relative was my dad. When he got home after a long day of work, he made time to talk to me, play board games and word games with me, start tickle fights, and make me feel unconditionally loved.

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

I’d be a big tree with wide branches overlooking the forest and seeing up into the sky. Woodland creatures would make their homes in me and be my friends.

What would be your preference, awake before dawn or awake before noon?

My preference would be to awake before dawn, though I rarely do this anymore. I love the quiet of early morning, running and cycling, getting lots of writing in before the day begins.

Would you like to sleep in a human size nest in a tree or be snuggled in a burrowed spot underground?

If it’s big, really comfortable, and not too high off the ground, I’d go for the human size nest in a tree.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful that I “woke up” and starting reaching out to friends and family. I realized I was sort of cocooning, but I’m reconnecting now and it feels good. Next week I’m looking forward to the relief of being done with a couple of major events that have been zapping my time and emotional energy.

–Eve Messenger

Current Reads, Netgalley & Morally Ambiguous Characters


There seems to be a common theme running through the books I’m reading this month: characters who are impossible to classify as either good or evil. This unintentional trend began with Vicious, in which V.E. Schwab punched me in the face with “who’s really the villain here?”

This month I jumped on the Netgalley train. Out of three ARCs I’ve read so far this month, my favorite was The Graces by Laure Eve. Talk about morally ambiguous characters! You never quite know what everyone’s about until the end. The Graces is a contemporary paranormal YA story about young witches, which takes place in a vaguely British seaside town (though the author never identifies the town by name–which is the only thing that irked me.) If you’re interested, here’s my Goodreads review. Check out this fantastic cover.


I’m halfway through Nimona, which is a crazy adorable comic/graphic novel (I never quite know the difference). And again with morally ambiguous characters–I am so rooting for Nimona and her “boss” despite (because of?) the fact that nothing makes Nimona happier than hatching villainous plans.


Have any of you read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein? I’m about six chapters into it and having a hard time loving it. The writing is high level, and juicy plot twists are sure to come, but I’m feeling pretty textbookish about it, partly because Code Name Verity is reminding me, like a bucket of ice water over my head, why I do not like war era fiction, or technical stuff, like all the airplane model and engine part references. I want to like this book, so if you’ve read it and liked it, I’d love to hear why.


–Eve Messenger

Book Tag Inspired by “The Gilmore Girls” #amreading

GG Tag

I didn’t see The Gilmore Girls when it first aired, but I had a blast binge-watching Lorelei and Rory on Netflix and now have kindred book-loving spirit Beth @ Betwixt the Pages to thank for this fun Gilmore Girls Book Tag. If you’d like to do it too, please consider yourself tagged!

character having the worst day ever

“Day” from the book Legend has all the soldiers of a dystopian society against him. And they are not kind.

He is a legend... She is a prodigy... Who will be champion?:

wildly eccentric cast

The Night Circus  features such a unique assortment of characters.

a book you’re addicted to/a character with an addiction

I think Miles (AKA “Pudge”) was pretty addicted to Alaska and her wild ways.

great act of revenge

Victor from Vicious  owns this category.

an illicit affair

Nathanial Hawthorne penned the ultimate illicit affair story in The Scarlet Letter. I was recently impressed by the Manga Classics version of The Scarlet Letter, which did a great job capturing key plot details and most memorable lines–all in manga style.


a world you’d be afraid to enter

The strange world and undercurrent of evil in The Knife of Never Letting Go was genuinely unsettling.

character who needs to make a life-changing decision

Alexandra in Consider by Kristy Acevedo had to decide whether or not to take the ultimate leap of faith.


a comfort read

Captain Marvel Further, Faster (vol. 1-6) by DeConnick & Lopez. Talk about a comfort read. This graphic novel was pure Friday night joy.

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More

a book that messed with your emotions

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter devastated me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I read #8 to decompress from this beautifully written but heartbreaking book.

10. EMILY –
the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge)

Predatory, coldly beautiful Dr. Cable from Uglies.

favorite family dynamic

I choose the Shadowhunters family from Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices. They may not be related to one another, but they live together and have each other’s backs.

a book you’d throw in a lake

While reading Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle there were times I wanted to throw it into a lake because the derogatory Asian references were so offensive.

favorite romance

In Magonia, Jason literally travels to the far corners of the world to find Aza.

14. JESS –
an unpopular opinion

Cinder. Sorry!!

snowy or holiday read

Pretty much any book by Jane Austen feels like a snowy or holiday read. Something about reading stories set in Regency era England makes me want to curl up by a crackling fire.

book centered around music

In addition to being clever and funny, The Haters had so many musical references which, as a musician and music teacher, I enjoyed immensely–Jesse Andrews authentically captures what it’s like to jam with bandmates. But be warned: this YA book is undeniably an R-rated read.

your book crush

Day from Legend.

a book that could have been shorter

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (Should I also put this in category #14??)

19. KIRK –
the weirdest book you’ve ever read

Hahaha, Kirk is weird. Okay, so I’m gonna have to go with Magonia again on this one.

that one book that means more to you than any other

Impossible to answer.

I Tag:

Michelle, Books & Movies Addict
Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories
Jess @ Blogging Everything Beautiful
Stefanie @ YourDaughter’sBookshelf
The Orang-utan Librarian
Franciska @ Life is Sweet in Books
Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets
Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels

Vicious, Inspiration & Cinderella w/a Girl

I’m still madly in love with V.E. Schwab’s writing. Just finished reading Vicious, and what that woman did to the superhero genre. . . I hardly knew who to root for. It was crazy. I got so invested in the story and characters.

Speaking of Victoria V.E. Schwab, did you know that she wears a bracelet emblazoned with the letters WWNGD? The letters stand for “What Would Neil Gaiman Do?” Just as Gaiman is her role model, Schwab is mine. She isn’t afraid to write books in different genres, she works hard, she is gracious, and she is successful. That is why I wear this every day.


My “WWVSD” bracelet inspires and reminds me to work tirelessly toward my goal of becoming a successful published author.

Over the past few years I’ve written four novels. The fifth one (five has always been my lucky number)–which recently started writing–has grabbed hold of me and won’t let go. In a previous post  I mentioned I’d like to read a story in which Cinderella ends up, not in a cliched relationship with Prince Charming, but in a loving relationship with his dark, lovely, girl-knight sister. Well, guess what? Now I’m writing it! Ironically, I’m not a big romance reader, so in addition to romance there’s magic, a ghost, a betrayal, an invasion, and the coolest council of women magicians who hold even more power than the royal house. Whenever I write about the council it’s like stepping into Beyonce’s song, Run the World (Girls). Am having so much fun with this novel.

Alrighty, now I’d better get back to work. Yeah, that’s where I’m typing this–sorry, boss.

–Eve Messenger