Month: June 2016

June Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up

Hello, fellow book junkies! June was a fantastic month for reading. Not that there were 5-star books across the board–actually, there was only one– but I sure enjoyed the literary ride.

MAGICAL FANTASY WORLDS:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Adult Fantasy, 438 pp. 5/5 stars

I fell madly in like with protagonist Agnieszka, a wild heroine with a heart of gold. Yes, Agnieszka is a young adult character but–fair warning–the writing is not.

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
YA Fantasy-Middle East, 306 pp. 4/5 stars

The mythical creatures in this book are so, so good. Sure, Act Two had pacing issues, but the ending was epic and set the stage for a fantastic book two, which I’m super pumped to read. The next book in the series is tentatively titled Traitor to the Throne and is supposed to be released March 2017. Nine months to go, just like a baby. 🙂

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HISTORICAL POLITICAL INTRIGUE:

And I Darken by Kiersten White – Netgalley ARC
YA Historical Fiction (not fantasy), 496 pp. 4/5 stars

A bold new character has entered the YA arena and her name is Lada Dragwlya. I cannot wait to see where Kiersten White takes this series. See my review of And I Darken here.

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A TRIP TO PARANORMAL ROARING ’20s:

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Bray
YA Paranormal-Historical Fiction, 613 pp., 4/5 stars

Libba Bray is an architect of a writer who deftly weaves together multiple story lines featuring tons of characters without confusing the reader. Lair of Dreams made me laugh out loud and also cower in terror (in a good way?) Descriptive passages, while masterfully written, went on a bit long at times. I highly recommend listening to the the audio version of this book; narrator January LaVoy is super talented–she voices every kind of accent, different genders, and even sings beautifully.

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MIND-BLOWING ALTERNATE DIMENSIONS:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Adult Speculative, 403 pp., 4/5 stars

Author Claire North is all kinds of smart–only a brilliant mind could come up with the very believable but far-out concepts proposed in this book. Protagonist Harry August has the ability to relive his life many, many times over. With each rebirth, he gets to know other people with the same ability, and they pass along messages to each other through time. They can also alter events. If Harry of the analytical mind had been a bit more sympathetic this would have been a 5-star read.
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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
YA SciFi/Romance, 360 pp., 4/5 stars

I was thrilled to finally hold a hard copy of this book in my hands so I could get a good, close look at what may be one of the all-time most beautiful YA covers. Marguerite, the only artist in a family of genius scientists, travels through different dimensions to find her father’s killer. In each dimension, Marguerite experiences an alternate version of her life. In one dimension, the Russian Romanov royal family was not murdered in 1918, and as a Romanov descendant Marguerite still lives in modern-day Russia as a princess. I could have stayed in that dimension for the entire book. It was so good! The romance aspect of the story was fine except for the love triangle.

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ART AND LAUGHTER IN AUSTRALIA:

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
YA Coming-of-Age, 295 pp., 3.5/5 stars

Funny story with a unique POV, set in a small Australian town. Check out my review here.

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TEARS IN TENNESSEE:

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
YA Contemporary, 384 pp., 4.5/5 stars

Writer Jeff Zenter THREW DOWN with a strong debut. The Serpent King was about friendship, boys standing up to dad issues, teens taking emotional risks, plus nice, nuanced descriptions that made you feel you were walking alongside the characters in Tennessee. Lydia, one of the three central characters, was unique and entertaining but might have crossed the line into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that–reality checks are good.

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AND BOOKS THAT MAKE YOU THINK:

The Day We are Born by Philippa Cameron
YA Contemporary-Mental Health, 210 pp.

I fell hard for the evocative title. The Day We are Born was well written and started out nice and voice-y, but then the promising story got hijacked by pamphlet-style education about depression.

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The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs
YA Contemporary, 320 pp., 4/5 stars
Expected pub. date: 9/13/16

This book gets you thinking. Lots of emotion and a dreamy writing style. I reviewed it  here.

— Eve Messenger

 

 

 

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ARC Review: The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Hello, fellow book junkies! I’ve been reading, writing and working a lot, plus I came down with a terrible stomach bug this week, so blogging and social media had to take a back seat. I’m back now! Isn’t it such a great feeling when, after you’ve been terribly sick, you finally feel better?

I wanted to share with you about an ARC I recently read. The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs is slated to be published in September of this year, and it had some of the finest writing I’ve ever read in YA. The topic it explores is one I typically avoid: high school mass shootings. I freely admit that when it comes to fiction I tend to stick my head in the sand and not read about issues that already feel so upsetting in the real world. However, I’m glad I decided to read this book.

Here’s my review:

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC by Sarah Combs – YA Contemporary, 320 pp.

Sarah Combs’ writing style has a poetic, stream of consciousness feel to it, like a river flowing through the minds of one character to the next, building an atmospheric exploration of what moves teens to engage in mass violence. The topic is terrifying, but this is not a blood and guts story. The story swirls around the collective human heart.

The writing is pretty much brilliant throughout. Some examples:

“The sky! How huge it is, how opposite a thing from the narrowing that has become her life.”

“She loves to laugh at her own First World problems even as she is wallowing in them.”

The Light Fantastic also masterfully touches on the close, even psychic, connection sisters can have.

The story’s weakness is in the looseness of the plot. At times, the narrative dwells too long inside a POV character’s head and begs to be stepped up to the next level through action or dialogue. The main character April has hyperthymesia, meaning she can recall in perfect detail every event connected with her life. As intriguing a trait as this is, April’s gift/curse quickly becomes an excuse to overload the plot with backstory.

Nonetheless, The Light Fantastic is a powerful story. For myriad reasons—cruelty from peers, mental illness, dropping into the rabbit hole of the internet—a person can lose touch with their humanity to the point where they think it is acceptable, even necessary, to engage in mass murder. This book serves as a reminder to us all to connect with other people IN REAL LIFE, to be the one to say something genuine and kind to acknowledge another person as a living, breathing, feeling human being. You never know what difference your words might make, not only in that person’s life but in the lives of others who, perhaps, that person might not decide to kill.

–Eve Messenger

Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

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The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a perky and entertaining coming of age story featuring Alba, a one-of-a-kind, very funny 18-year-old girl from a small Australian town. Alba and the close-knit group of friends she grew up with have recently graduated high school and are about to embark on the next phase of their lives. Alba is uncertain what path she wants to pursue. The discoveries she makes about herself during the course of the story are reflected in the way she chooses to draw the comic book character she’s developed, Cinnamon Girl.

“. . . her [Cinnamon Girl’s] face materializes on my page, I can tell she’s not at all happy with me. She plants her hands on her hips, her solid thighs busting out of her star-spangled shorts, and I swear she’s glaring at me with contempt.”

Each chapter of this book opens with a one-page comic-style drawing, but The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is not a comic book or graphic novel.

Alba’s observations throughout the book  are often pleasantly tinged with comic book references. For example, when Alba becomes irate at an annoying stranger she thinks, “I’m visualizing myself soaring into the air with a backward tumble and punching Penny-Farthing Man in the neck.”

When asked what she wants to do with her life, Alba responds, “Me? I have no idea what powers I’ve got hiding underneath. Maybe something cool, like optic-blast eyeballs.”

And in another passage she thinks, “I’m already halfway down my bluestone path at a speed that would make Captain Marvel herself proud.”

Alba is funny! She’s a unique girl devoted to her collection of garden gnomes, and if she’s in a foul mood might wear her black dress decorated with pink skulls, a signal to her loved ones to beware. The story, told in Alba’s 1st person POV, offers lots of smile-inducing lines like these:

“This house looks like the place personality came to die.”

“I. . . kissed a boy partly out of curiosity, partly to make him stop talking.”

“I graciously decline to participate in a nudie dance-off.”

Bonus points for the small town Australian setting. Minus points for something I can’t specify because it’s too big of a spoiler. Suffice to say I was mildly disappointed in one major aspect of the plot. Overall, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl was a pleasant read.

— Eve Messenger

Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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Kiersten White’s newest book And I Darken, is beautifully written and epic in scope. It is told from the alternating viewpoints of Lada and her younger brother Radu, children of Prince Dragwyla of the kingdom of Wallachia.

Lada is ferocious (“She had a soul. At least, she was fairly certain she did.”) but, contrary to what some reviewers say, she is not psychopathic nor even particularly vicious. While Lada has no qualms about killing people, her logical mind serves as a sort of moral code, holding her back from wanton murder. As she tells Radu, “Why do anything without purpose?”

Considering that the character of Lada is based on Vlad the Impaler (AKA Count Dracula), known for having impaled over 50,000 Turkish soldiers, I predict Lada’s personality will “darken” significantly through the course of this series.

Vlad the Impaler

Radu is an interesting contrast to his older sister Lada. While Lada is warrior-like, sharp-toothed, perpetually disheveled, and could care less about manners and good graces, Radu is watchful, cerebral, and physically beautiful.He is sweet but not as compelling a character as his sister.

One of the biggest misconceptions about And I Darken is that it is a fantasy. It  is not. There are no supernatural elements or magic of any kind. It is historical fiction, set in the 1400s, with treaties and border invasions, and people who could commonly speak multiple languages–an interesting setting for a story.

Through chapter eight, And I Darken is a five-star read across the board. It’s very powerful when Lada, after losing her mother, begins to think of her kingdom Wallachia as her true mother. She is committed to her kingdom and will defend it at all costs.

Then the trajectory of the story changes.

Lada and Radu wind up in Edirne, the capital of the Ottoman Turkish empire, and Lada’s devotion to her homeland takes a backseat to the interests of the sultan’s youngest son Mehmed. In essence, Mehmed becomes the center of this story’s universe. Through Act Two, practically everything Lada and Radu do revolves in some way around Mehmed. Political maneuverings also become a big part of the story. Lada continues to train as a warrior, but the fighting spirit she exhibits earlier in the story diminishes.

In addition to Lada(!) and Radu, there are many memorable characters in the story. Some of my favorites were the nanny who raised Lada and Radu, the slave soldiers (called Janissaries), as well as women in the  harem who must use wits, feminine wiles, and whatever other resources at their disposal to survive their oppressive situation.

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–Eve Messenger

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, I’m enjoying home-cation this weekend while my family’s away, so I’m reading and writing like a nut and now get to answer “Sunshine Blogger Award” questions from one of my favorite bloggers on the planet, Shannon @ Clockwork Bibliophile . Not only does Shannon hail from the #1 place in the world I want to visit (Scotland), she has a very pretty blog with tons of insightful posts about books, and she’s so nice and friendly, too.

Rules

  1. Thank the people/person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions from your nominators.
  3. Nominate eleven other bloggers and give them eleven questions.

Shannon’s Questions

  1. What was the very first book you read? (if you can remember)
    I totally did not expect this question. Let’s see. . . I’m pretty sure there was a Mother Goose collection of nursery rhymes pretty early on in my childhood. More than anything, I remember carting around an activity book full of mazes, coloring pages, dot-to-dots, etc. I loved those things.
  2. Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
    Another good question! My favorite genre of books is YA fantasy because I appreciate great imagination so much, especially magic in all its variations, and I enjoy heights of emotion found in YA stories. I also like watching characters grow, making connections, finding themselves.
  3. If you were to write a book, where would it be set? (place, time period etc)
    The stories I write are usually set in some blended version of America and Japan, either in the present day or some mythological past. I’ve set stories in suburban neighborhoods, towns, cities, and often in natural settings like mountains or woods.
  4. Have you ever felt connected to a character because they have experienced something you have?
    For sure. I’m too shy to specify the book and character, but in a book I read not that long ago I definitely related to the emotional pain the character suffered.
  5. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
    To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s spot on true to the book.
  6. What is your favorite book-to-tv show adaptation?
    Though I haven’t read the actual books–and probably won’t–I think Game of Thrones is pretty spectacular.
  7. What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?
    The last book I read was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. “Appreciated” might be the most apt word to describe how I felt about reading it. It was a brilliantly written, four-star read. If I’d felt a little more invested in the main character it would have been a five-star book for sure.
  8. What’s your least favorite book that you’ve ever read?
    *stall, stall* While I get that he’s a skilled writer, I’m not a big fan of Ernest Hemingway’s minimalist, testosterone-fueled stories.
  9. Who is your favorite blogger and why?
    Oh, gosh, there are so many bloggers I adore, for myriad reasons, but I’m going to say Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories is my favorite blogger because she’s been with me since I first started blogging, she’s taught me so much about YA books, and she makes me laugh.
  10. What’s the prettiest cover on your shelf?
    The cover of The Star-Touched Queen catches my eye from across the room all the time.
  11. What is a random fact about you that people might not know?
    I speak fluent Japanese.

I Nominate…

Sabrina Marsi
Nazahet @ Read Diverse Books
Michelle, Books and Movie Addict
Dee @ The Bookish Khaleesi
Stephanie @ Your Daughter’s Bookshelf
Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels
Cristina @ My Tiny Obsessions

My Questions –

I hope I don’t get into trouble with the Sunshine Blogger police but Shannon’s questions were SO GOOD I’m sending them out again to the next round of Sunshine Bloggers.

  1. What was the very first book you read? (if you can remember)Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
  2. Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
  3. If you were to write a book, where would it be set? (place, time period etc)
  4. Have you ever felt connected to a character because they have experienced something you have?
  5. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
  6. What is your favorite book-to-tv show adaptation?
  7. What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?What’s your least favorite book that you’ve ever read?
  8. Who is your favorite blogger and why?
  9. What’s the prettiest cover on your shelf?
  10. What is a random fact about you that people might not know?

Whooohooo, House-cation!

Hello, fellow book junkies!  It’s amazing how much better regular exercise makes me feel, both in body and soul. Last week I finally started going for walks again for 20-30 minutes each night. The solitude of walking alone is nice, but it’s even more fun when a family member or neighbor tags along. Last Friday there were four of us chatting and enjoying the night air.

But that’s not the only reason I’m in a good mood. . .

#1 It’s Friday!!

#2 I won an ARC I’ve been really looking forward to reading: And I Darken by Kiersten White. This dark historical fantasy set in the age of the Ottoman Empire is getting all kinds of great reviews.

#2 House-cation!! With my lovely family out of town for a few days, I’ll get the house all to myself. Yes, it might get a bit lonely, but I’ll have my dogs, cats, and lovely online friends like you for company. I can watch any TV show I want (we’re a one TV household), get lots of writing and reading done, and yeah, pretty much do whatever I want.

Suffice to say, you’ll probably be seeing me around more over the next couple of days. 🙂

— Eve Messenger

The Book I’m Most Indebted to & The Ultimate Game of Thrones Book Tag

the ultimate game of thrones tag

Hello, fellow book junkies! It never ceases to amaze me how creative book bloggers keep coming up with all these fun book tags. Here’s a clever one created by our friendly neighborhood book lover, Orang-utan Librarian.

Speaking of Game of Thrones. . . yes, it was  tragic, but who thinks the Hodor thing might’ve been a bit on the hokey side? Alrighty, now on to the tag. . .

Rules:

  1. Mention the creator Orang-utan Librarian.
  2. Answer all the questions
  3. Tag people and keep it going!

we do not sow

“We do not sow”- A book you would not be willing to invest in.

I have zero interest in reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

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fire and blood

“Fire and blood”- A book that produced strong emotions in you.

The First Time She Drowned swept me away with beautiful writing then haunted me for days. Strong emotions? Definitely!

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winter is coming

“Winter is coming”- Your favorite winter read

Victorian or Regency era novels by authors like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens are made to be read beside crackling fires on wintry days.

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family duty honour

“Family. Duty. Honour.”- A book about strong family ties

In If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Mia’s family is like a port in the storm. Speaking of If I Stay, have you seen the movie adaptation with Chloe Grace Moritz ?  Apparently, it was released in 2014, but I never got a chance to see it.

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growing strong

“Growing strong”- A book you had low expectations of but that grew on you.

This is a tough question to answer because I have high expectations of all the books I read. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t invest the time in reading them. However, if I haaaad to choose a book I had low expectations about but that grew on me, I’d pick Wool by Hugh Howey. I chose this book purely because Howey´s literary agent, Kristin Nelson, is someone I want to query someday, and I wanted to be able to say I read a book by one of her clients. Wool turned out to be a good read!

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ours is the fury

“Ours is the fury”- A book that made you furious.

Usually sadness or fear–not anger–are the negative emotions a book might evoke in me. But, come to think of it, there was a foul, betraying character in V.E. Schwab’s Vicious who made me really angry.

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unbowed unbent unbroken

“Unbowed. Unbent.Unbroken.”- A book you have unwavering devotion to

I have an unwavering devotion to A Darker Shade of Magic because it introduced me to my favorite writer, V.E. Schwab. I have two copies, one for reading and one that’s been signed by the author. *heart flutters*

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hear me roar

“A Lannister always pays his debts”- A book you feel indebted to

Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall is the book that made me fall in love with YA literature. I probably would’ve found my way to YA eventually, but Before I Fall was my “gateway book,”so I owe it a great debt.

–Eve Messenger

I Tag:

Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets

Annalisse @ Hopeful Reads

Brittany @ The Grisha Lieutenant

Michelle, Books and Movie Addict

Rae @ Bookmark Chronicles

Shannon @ Clockword Bibliophile

 

Summer @ XingSings

Blaise @ The Book Boulevard