Down the TBR Hole #2

Yes, folks, it’s time for another stroll down TBR lane to see which books remain on the list and which will go. Strangely, every book that ended up on this week’s TBR Hole list has a terrible cover. Except for Challenger Deep. I think.

Here’s how the Down the TBR Hole game is played (created by Lia @ LostInAStory):
1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
2. List books in ascending order (oldest first).
3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
4. Read the synopses of the books.
5. Decide: keep it or should it go?

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Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Genre: YA contemporary
Goodreads rating: 4.14
Number of Pages: 320

I liked Shusterman’s book Unwind, so I thought I’d give Challenger Deep a try. Unlike Unwind, which is YA dystopia, Challenger Deep is a YA contemporary that explores mental illness through the viewpoint of a brilliant boy absorbed in the fantasy that he lives on board a ship headed for the deepest point on Earth: the Marianas Trench.

Verdict: Keep 

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Genre: YA LGBTQIA
Goodreads rating: 3.98
Number of Pages: 470

In this “funny and heartbreaking” book, Cam is a girl who likes girls. When Cam’s parents die, she is forced to move in with her conservative aunt in Miles City, Montana–where she falls for a cowgirl named Coley. Sounds like a winner. 🙂

Verdict: Keep (and move higher up TBR list!)

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Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Genre: YA fantasy
Goodreads rating: 3.88
Number of pages: 384

Jeremy Johnson has lost his mother and now hears the ghost of Jacob Grimm (one of the Grimm brothers) speaking to him. The story is told from the first person POV of Jacob Grimm, who also protects Jeremy from evil. Interesting premise. Readers seem to either love it or hate it.

Verdict: Keep 

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Bright Side (Bright Side #1) by Kim Holden

Genre: New-Adult Romance (aren’t they all?)
Goodreads rating: 4.40
Number of pages: 423

I must have heard something really special about this book if I added it despite the fact that it’s a romance–which I don’t normally read. The ending is supposedly a real tear jerker. Maybe I’ll save it for when I’m in the mood for a good cry.

Verdict: Keep 

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Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Genre: Adult Fantasy-Humor
Goodreads rating: 4.25
Number of pages: 412

Oops, I forgot I took a look at this one not too long ago. I adored Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, enjoyed Anansi Boys, and appreciated  most of Neverwhere, but when I recently picked up Good Omens I found I just wasn’t in the mood for the “wink, wink, nudge” writing voice.

Verdict: Toss

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May Reads – Monthly Wrap-Up & Flash Reviews #amreading

May Reads 2017

Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, it seems lately my blogging is pretty much down to monthly wrap-ups, so here’s my entry for May. I hope you’re enjoying a great spring and that loads of good books are finding their way into your book-loving hands.

— Eve Messenger

Illuminae Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff audiobook – This was a thoroughly entertaining YA sci-fi read. Space battles, romance, horror–Illuminae has it all. Katie and Ezra are my new favorite OTP, by the way. Oh, and the computer. You MUST read this book for A.I.D.A.N. the computer. 5/5 stars

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff audiobook – Once I got over the disappointment that book two, Gemina, did not feature Katie and Ezra, I got into it, though the large cast of characters was a bit confusing. Like book one, Gemina has a chilling horror element that REALLY WORKS. 4.5/5 stars

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (translated)-kindle – The Art of War is one of those classic books I felt I needed to read. It’s short and full of smart philosophies about working in groups and wisely engaging in battle. Coincidentally, Sun Tsu is referenced several times throughout Gemina, another book I read this month. 4/5 stars

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova 336pp – I’m always up for a good story. Labyrinth Lost was about brujas (Spanish for “witches”). What made it special was the infusion of pan-Latin bruja folklore. Honestly, I expected Labyrinth Lost to darker and, frankly, better, but it was enjoyable overall, somewhat reminiscent of (though not at all as poetic as) Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen. 3.5/5 stars

Anansi Boys (American Gods #2) by Neil Gaiman – A relative gave this book to me for Christmas because he knew how much I’d love it, and he was right. In Anansi Boys, Gaiman continues to flex his genius imagination, and his characters leap off the page.Thrilling, unusual, and darkly humorous, Anansi Boy is now my second favorite Neil Gaiman book (the first being The Graveyard Book). 5/5 stars

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling  – Of the several autobiographical books by celebrity comic actresses (Amy SchumerLauren Graham, Anna Kendrick) I’ve read lately, this was the best–which makes sense since Mindy Kaling got her start as a writer. The most powerful part of Why Not Me? comes at the end when Mindy responds to a question a girl at a panel once asked her but that Mindy felt she’d answered flippantly. She more than redeems herself! 4.25/5 stars

Dogs, Dad, and THE Best Audio Book #amreading (barely)

Hello, fellow book junkies! Four months into 2017, and I’m already eleven books behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge. What’s up with that?  I blame it on decompressing after the death in January of my beloved dad. (Sorry to start on a sad note, but it really does get better…) My focus has understandably been off. In my free time after work and family, instead of reading or working on my novel or blogging, suddenly watching TV shows like Chewing Gum (what a hilariously irreverent Brit-com), Long Lost Family, and Feud-Bette and Joan, and practicing Spanish on Duolingo is a lot easier than try to focus on reading words. In actual books. Oh, and I freely admit to spending too much time on Twitter rubbernecking the train wreck that is our current White House administration. Fortunately, I’m starting to wean myself off that because it is just not healthy. So, yeah, the number of books I read in a month seems to correlate to my mental state. My past two months of reading productivity has been super low–three books a month compared with an average of nine books a month before that.

TV Shows April 25

A word about dogs. . .

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned him here in my blog before, but I have this good buddy named Teddie. He is fourteen years old, follows me everywhere, is a white poodle and the smartest dog I have ever known. I swear Teddie is part human. My Yorkshire Terrier, on the other hand, is dumb but with a heart of gold. Except she hates the sound of crying babies. She growls whenever she hears the sound on television.

Here is Teddie all smiley in the car, probably working out how to drive. . .

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An Astoundingly Good YA Audio Book. . .

And finally, because this blog is about my love of reading and writing YA lit, I must mention that I am ADORING the audio book version of Illuminae by Kaufman and Kristoff. Oh, the characters–“Bite Me” Kady, chivalrous-despite-himself Ezra. The interstellar world! And the storytelling style is OFF THE HOOK. What’s really astounding is that the audio book–with its many narrators, ship sounds, computerized voice–VERY effectively captures the genius storytelling style of the print version’s many POVs, redacted confidential reports, ship-to-ship communiques, etc. The audio book fully deserved to win the 2016 Audio Award for Multi-Voiced Performance. Illuminae may be is the most fun audio book I’ve ever listened to.

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Happy reading!

Eve Messenger

P.S. If you love languages, free website http://www.Duolingo.com is the bomb-diggety.

February Reads. End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! This month’s flash reviews will each be accompanied by a complaint. Yes, even for a five-star book. Why? Because I’m feeling ornery–and, yes, I did use the word ‘ornery.’ Happy reading!  XOXO, Eve Messenger

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson  YA fantasy – I’m so glad I finally got a chance to read this book. There’s a sort of love triangle. The main character Lia is a snowflake. Wait, that doesn’t sound good. But this book was so fun to read, thanks to Pearson’s excellent writing skills, imaginative world-building, and strong characters. Complaint: the ending was too abrupt. 4.75/5 stars

Hold Still by Nina Lacour YA contemporary– There is something both bold and gentle about Lacour’s writing style, and I could read it all day long. Read Hold Still if you like A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Complaint: The photography teacher is a bitch. 4/5 stars

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen  adult historical A college student in the Depression-era Midwest loses everything and winds up working in a circus. Rosie the elephant is a superstar. Main character Jacob Jankowski is hugely likeable. The historical details are well-researched. Complaint: I’m not convinced Jacob’s old-man-reflecting-back-on-the-past chapters were necessary to the plot. 4/5 stars

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin YA historical Outstanding writing, interesting concept, memorable main character with a very unique ability. (Full Goodreads review here.) Complaint: Yael’s inner thoughts sometimes veer toward melodrama. 4/5 stars

DNF – The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick -adult historical mystery  Sadly, my affinity for books with “girl” in the title failed me here. Netgalley has been the source of many good books, but this was not one of them. My favorite thing about this book is the pretty cover. The Girl Who Knew Too Much had too much telling, not enough showing. I never got into the characters–or past chapter five. Complaint: I decided to read this book.

The Girl with the Lower back Tattoo by Amy Schumer –celebrity autobiography audiobook – Beneath that bawdy comic exterior, Amy has plenty of depth and intelligence, and she isn’t afraid to express it in her book. Well done. Complaint: Amy occasionally gets preachy. 4.25/5 stars

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – adult contemporary  This book is a brilliant character study, a must-read. Often humorous, A Man Called Ove opens the door to the world of suburban Sweden. One-of-a-kind character Ove (whose name is apparently pronounced oo-vay, which I didn’t learn until I’d read all 337 pages thinking it was ove like “stove”) and the entire cast of diverse characters comes alive under the masterful pen of Fredrik Backman and translator Henning Koch.  Complaint: Ove acts like he’s 90, not 59. 5/5 stars

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham – celebrity autobiography audiobook Lauren Graham seems just as sweet in her book as she does in her interviews and the characters she plays. She is a good writer, but. . . Complaint: Lauren Graham is too sweet to reveal anything riveting about her life or career.

January Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! I’m afraid in January I only managed to read five books. It was kind of interesting, though, how my two favorite characters  both turned out to be animals. Sure, there were lots of interesting fae and human characters–like complex Rhysand from ACOTAR and saintly Joan of Arc from Mark Twain’s book–but the real stars of January were:

  • Corr, the feral, ferocious mythical water horse from Maggie Stievfater’s The Scorpio Races (check out what he does at the end of the book–it’s amazing); and
  • Mischievous, smiley, long-suffering Rosie the elephant from Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

JANUARY FLASH REVIEWS

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas-YA Fantasy. I finally got around to discovering what a rich, fascinating, magical world Sarah J. Maas has created with this series. I found myself really liking protagonist Feyre Archeron for her bravery, hot temper, and resourcefulness at teaching herself the skills she needs to survive and keep her impoverished family alive. Oh, does Feyre hate the Fae, which of course makes for great drama when she is forced to live among them. I’m not sure if I loved the plot decision at the end, but I am definitely down to read book two. 4.5/5 stars

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, vol. I  by Mark Twain – This classic novel is the first of hopefully many more e-books I’ll be downloading for FREE from Project Gutenburg If you haven’t already, check out Project Gutenberg. You’ll find tons of old books that have fallen out of copyright and can be downloaded right onto your eReader. Apparently, of all of Mark Twain’s books, Recollections of Joan of Arc was his personal favorite. He spent twelve years researching it! Joan of Arc is, of course, an unforgettable character. In this fictionalized account of Joan’s life told from the POV of a childhood friend, Twain weaves in his trademark sarcasm and ingenious insights into human nature, as well as some of the best dialogue of any writer ever. We learn about elusive, earnest, mystical Joan of Arc, and shake our heads at the antics of her friends and countrymen who come to believe, like Joan does, that God means for the French–against all odds–to win against the English. 4.25/5 stars

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater-YA paranormal – The Scorpio Races is a song of a book that’s flowing and lyrical, and maybe just a touch slow-paced. The love story is enthralling because each person in the relationship is their own brave, utterly competent, strong-willed soul from an island that breeds them that way. The mythological water horses are haunting and memorable, especially Sean Kendrick’s mount, Corr. 4.25/5 stars

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick-audiobook – Cute, humorous, and unflinchingly honest, this autobiography was read by the author herself, Anna Kendrick, who reads really, really fast. 4/5 stars

The Abyss Surrounds Us (The Abyss Surrounds Us #1) by Emily Skrutskie – This YA post-apocalyptic pirate adventure is one of several YA books I’m reading that feature f/f and/or fem bi characters. I found myself much more drawn to pirate girl Swift than to the main character Cassandra Leung, probably because Cassandra’s motivations weren’t always believable. Still, there’s no doubt Emily Skrutskie is a skillful writer. The Abyss Surrounds Us is one of those debut novels that noticeably improves as it goes along, and I look forward to seeing what Skrustkie comes up with for the next installment in this series. 3.75/5 stars

–Eve Messenger

December Flash Reviews

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, here’s a recap of the final books I read in the year 2016. Each book was super unique and there were lots of YA speculative genres represented: fantasy, time travel, sci-fi, paranormal, f/f, dystopia0, horror. The flash reviews are listed by how much I liked each book, leading down to two fabulous five-star reads at the end.

The Dreamcatcher by Barrett – YA paranormal,  F/F relationship, WOC main character. Dark magic influenced by Indigenous folklore (maybe). Adorable romance, but the paranormal element missed the mark. I’m getting nervous about reading books by YA authors who only go by one name. (See review for The 52nd by Dela).  3.5/5 stars

Side Jobs, Short Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher– This adult paranormal detective short story collection was recommended to me by my husband. Interesting concept. Funny, self-deprecating protagonist Harry Dresden is both a private detective and a warlock. The stories were entertaining until I lost interest about halfway through the book. Highlight: Murphy, the female non-magic police officer tiny in stature but with a big don’t-mess-with-me attitude. 3.75/5 stars

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter – Eloquent, nightmarish, Russian YA fairy tale retelling set in Brooklyn. Weird is good but not always great.3.75/5 stars

Railhead by Philip Reed– Off-the-hook world-building. Intriguing concepts. Reminiscent of Red Rising, but the characters could have been stronger. 4/5 stars

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee –  YA superheroes and f/f romance. Entertaining, sweet, unique, entertaining–especially if you’re into superheroes. 4/5 stars

Pretties (Uglies #2) by Scott Westerfeld – YA dystopian. There was hoverboarding, and gorgeous, stoic Zach is my new book boyfriend so, yes, I am perfectly content. 🙂 4/5 stars

Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs – Intriguing YA time travel/thriller featuring an amazing WOC main character who I rooted for like crazy.High on mystery/suspense, low on world-building. 4/5 stars

Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Erania Kwai #2) by Tiana Warner – YA paranormal filled with thrills and gills. Islander warrior girl befriends/falls in love with mermaid/sea demon warrior girl. Exciting, fascinating, adventurous. Loving this series. 5/5 stars

The Reader by Traci Chee – Officially one of my top eight favorite reads of 2016. This YA fantasy magic-adventure-fairy tale is engrossing and brilliantly structured with fantastic world-building, the kind of deliriously good book that whisks you away. Book two now, please. 5/5 stars

So long, books of 2016. Hello to all the new books to be read in 2017!

–Eve Messenger

Why are More People Not Reading this YA Series? It’s So Good! Ice Crypt by Tiana Warner

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Earlier this year, I posted a rave review about a book called Ice Massacre (Eriana Kwai #1) by Tiana Warner. I just finished book two, Ice Crypt,and couldn’t wait to let you know about it.

First, let me just say that I’m perplexed about why more YA fantasy book lovers are not reading this series. It is so fun! Okay, I kind of get it. Some people are into mermaid stories; some aren’t. I honestly had no preference either way. I just really love these books. Yes, they’re written by an indie author, but they’re as good or better than some of the more popular YA fantasy series, very professionally done, strong writing, no typos, etc.

So here’s the  setup:

Human inhabitants of the island of Eriana Kwai are mortal enemies with merpeople/sea demons who are starving out the islanders and killing fisherman under the leadership of an evil, power-hungry mer-king. In book one, we get to know Meela, a human girl, who forms a strong bond of friendship with Lysi, a mermaid, when they’re both young girls. Then Meela and Lysi grow up to become warriors and have to do battle with each other. In book #2, Ice Crypt, we get to know Lysi better, and we witness what appears to be a blossoming love affair between Meela and Lysi.

Some things that make Ice Crypt so good:

  • the best kind of camaraderie between friends (both Meela’s and Lysi’s)
  • heroes to care about
  • villains who are super fun to root against
  • an exciting climax
  • surprising plot twists
  • f/f romance that doesn’t overwhelm the story
  • great world-building–especially the merpeople’s undersea existence. It’s interesting how Lysi, being a mermaid, can sense auras and emotions of nearby sea animals and merpeople. For example: “I’d always loved dolphins. They were the only animals whose auras showed as wide a range of emotions as a mermaid’s.”

Highlights

Lysi’s merman comrade in arms Spio is the most endearing kind of goofball, like when he says to Lysi: “She reminds me of what you would look like if you were ten years older and had dark hair. And darker skin. And bigger—”

[Lysi interrupts to say] “So she looks nothing like me.”

“Not really.”

In Ice Crypt, Meela and her human friends experience fascinating adventures on the island, but Lysi the mermaid steals the show. Lysi is a brave, stubborn warrior with a kind heart and lots of attitude, like this observation she makes about a pompous merman who keeps following her around (even though she only has eyes for Meela):

This guy projected so much confidence that I had the urge to swat it away. . .

For anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, I highly recommend this series.

–Eve Messenger