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?

18075234

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 

11595276

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!)

16030663

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 

22669832

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 

12067

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

Advertisements

Help! Which Book Should I Start With? #amreading

Decisions, decisions. All three library books I requested from Overdrive became available at the same time! That means I have only two weeks (no renewals) to read all three, and no idea how long it will take before they’re available again. If I were a faster reader, this might not be a problem, but since my days are also filled with writing my own books, taking classes and, y’know, life, I’ll probably only get to one, maybe two, of these three books–and I’m really excited to read all three!

Help! Which book should I start with?

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins 
“A library with the secrets to the universe.” Yep, that definitely captures my attention. Protagonist Carolyn was once a normal American. Now she wonders if the cruel tutor called Father who captured her and her adopted siblings and trained them in the ways of the library might be God. Then Father goes missing, and Carolyn must battle fierce competitors for control of the unguarded library.

26892110

 

Unspoken (Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan
Kami Glass is a girl detective from a sleepy English town who has spoken to a boy inside her head all her life. Haunting atmosphere, humorous,  and charmingly creepy. This looks like it could be a really fun read.

17162405

 

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Ruby survived a mysterious disease that killed most American children, and it gave her dangerous powers. Now she’s on the run for the only haven for kids like her. When she arrives, she finds nothing at the haven is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader (who I’m pretty sure she gets in a romantic relationship with). A lot of readers say the first couple of hundred pages are a slow burn but that the ending is completely amazing (which how I felt about Six of Crows).

10576365

–Eve Messenger

 

Do longer titles mean better books? YA books with the looooongest titles. #amreading

Books with super long titles sort of whisper, “I am going to be so well-written. Just wait and see.” But is it true? Are YA books with longer titles better? Let’s find out.

Here’s a list of fifteen YA books with titles of six words or more, each rated from 1 to 5 stars.

6-Word Titles

Titles 6-words
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sara J. Maas   – 4.5 stars
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – 4.5 stars
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – 4 stars
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King – 4 stars
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil – 3.75 stars
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness – 4 stars
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – 4 stars
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – 3.5 stars

Holy royalty checks, Batman. Did anyone notice that on Goodreads The Perks of Being a Wallflower has over ONE MILLION ratings? A million. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book with that many. How could I possibly give this classic book only 4 stars? But I did. Oh, and A.S. King? Her books are so interesting, smart, cool, and different. I love them all. Okay, so there are lots of excellent reads in this six-word title group, but none with five-stars, so let’s see how 7-word titled books fare. . . 

7-Word Titles
titles 7-words

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – 4.5 stars
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina – 3.75 stars

Okay, not bad. The First Fifteen Lives is so well-written. Technically, it’s adult fiction but feels like a bit of a crossover. Still no five-star books. Let’s move on to YA books with eight-word titles. 

8-Word Titles

titles 8-words
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton – 4.25 stars
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 4.25 stars
Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle – 4 stars

All three of these books are so enjoyable. Who can resist a book with the gorgeous and unusual title of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender? And that cover!  Alas, neither of these books earned five-stars, so it’s on to the nine-word titles.

9-Word Titles 

12000020

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – 3.75 stars

Only one YA book (that I could find) had nine words in the title–which is probably my favorite title, by the way. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe–it’s a magical title! I wish I liked the book more. The writing is lovely and philosophical, but the plot meanders a bit.

fireworks GIF-downsized_large

And now, for the grand champion, the longest-title on the list. No other books had ten-word or even eleven-word titles, but this one, oh, this one.

12-word title 

9591398

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente – 4.25 stars

Yes, a twelve-word title, and a stunner. Wow! Those were all long titles. All combined, the titles of these fifteen books add up to over 100 words! Something else I noticed was that 50% of them include the name of a character. I wonder if that’s a long-title thing.

The search for long-titled YA books continues. What are some of your favorite YA books with titles of six words or more?

–Eve Messenger

Brainstorming Techniques for Writers & Bloggers

I had an epiphany recently that vastly improved my approach to writing and blogging. I’d somehow fallen under the notion that the only way I knew of to generate  writing/blogging ideas was to free-write (write without stopping or editing) until the answers came. And, yes, that kind of worked, but I was getting frustrated with having to write so many blind pages. Free writing didn’t always seem that efficient.

The  best solution is usually the simplest one. There are TONS of brainstorming techniques other than free writing. I knew this but wasn’t using them. Using a variety of brainstorming techniques mixes up the brainstorming process, makes it fun and interesting, and maybe even saves time.

Maybe you’re working on an outline but have a plot hole you’re struggling with, or you’re planning a blog post that’s missing  key ideas. Try some of these brainstorming techniques to fill in the gaps. You probably already know this, but when brainstorming remember to never censor yourself. The BEST ideas come right after the most outlandish ones. Good luck! –Eve Messenger

BRAINSTORMING TECHNIQUES FOR WRITERS & BLOGGERS by Eve Messenger

ROLE PLAY

1. Perspective Shift

Approach your brainstorming topic as if you were in a different place or time, or even as if you were a different person. What if you were in your favorite hiding spot as a kid? What if you were on Mars, in the middle of an ancient forest, in a great library, or sitting at a Paris cafe with  Lost Generation writers? What might your approach be if you were your favorite writer? What if you were the best you living life in your dream situation?

2. Attribute Change

This is like Perspective Shift, except you’re only imagining changing one aspect of yourself. Approach your brainstorming topic as if one attribute about you is different: gender, race, socioeconomic status, religion, ethnicity, nationality, profession, etc.

3. Super Power

Imagine you have a super power that lets you get right to the root of your answer. Explore your topic from that super power perspective. If your topic feels murky, imagine you’re Aqua-man (or Aqua-woman), who can see clearly beneath the water and swims quickly and powerfully toward the solution.

BE A REBEL

4. The Opposite Approach

It’s remarkable what good ideas can be sparked by exploring bad ones. Deliberately try to cause problems for your topic. Now write down those problems and see what solutions come.

5. The Five Whys

In this brainstorming technique, you get to be the little kid who asks “why” ad nauseam. Starting with your brainstorming topic/problem, ask why at least five times: “Why is this happening?” Answer. “Why is that happening?” Answer. And so on.

MIX IT UP

6. Z to A

Write whatever comes to mind starting with each letter of the alphabet, Z to A. For example, let’s say you’ve got a lot of half-ideas floating around in your head and you want to solidify which you should write on. First, solidify your question: “What should I write about in my next blog entry?” Then open up the floodgates to your subconscious and let the ideas flow. Each idea you write must begin with the next successive letter of the alphabet.  The trick in brainstorming is to not beat yourself up about bad ideas. In this brainstorming technique, you’ll come up with 26 ideas. Pick the three best ones.

Zoo animals in YA fiction.

Young people are frustrated by not being properly represented in YA fiction.

X-ray closely the dark underbelly of  publicity for YA books.

and so on until you reach “A”. . .

7. Cubing – D/C/A/A/A/A

Approach your brainstorming topic from six different angles:

  1. Describe
  2. Compare
  3. Associate (what does your topic make you think of?)
  4. Analyze (what is your topic composed of?)
  5. Apply it (how can your topic be used?)
  6. Argue for or against your topic

8. List

This brainstorming technique is simple and straightforward. Just make a list of the story/passage/character ideas and elements you want to convey.

9. Fill in the Gap

You probably already have some solid ideas for your novel or blog post, but now you’re looking to fill in the gap. Make connections from your solid ideas to the one that’s still missing. Build the bridge. Fill in the hole.

10. Commonalities

Parallel your topic with other similar topics. What does your topic have in common with what other writers have written? List the commonalities and apply them to the topic you’re brainstorming.

11. Sentence Starters

Give yourself sentence starters.
“What if ___________.”
“The way this will work is if ______________.”
“The best solution to this problem is  ________________.”

HAVE FUN WITH SCHOOL SUPPLIES

12. Mind Mapping

This brainstorming technique is probably the one many  of us  learned about in school. Get a big piece of paper or a dry erase board, In the center, write your brainstorming topic. Without censoring yourself, write down all ideas related to that topic–the sillier and more outlandish the better. After exhausting all ideas, start connecting them and branching other ideas off of them.

13. Starburst

Draw a large six-pointed star. At the tip of each point write: who, what, when, where, how, and why. In the middle write your topic/goal/problem. Now answer each of your “tip” questions.

14. Index Cards

Get a stack of ten or so index cards. On each one, jot down a key image or idea from your brainstorming topic. Now shuffle the cards, pull out one at a time, read your idea/image, and  brainstorm responses.

Best of 2016 – YA Standalones, Series, Authors, and More

bets-of-2016

Hello, fellow book junkies and happy last day of 2016! Before launching into an exciting new year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the best YA books and authors I read in 2016. I surpassed my 100-book reading challenge by 18 books and met many five-star worthy reads but, ultimately, these are the books that left the most lingering impression. Here’s the best of 2016.

Favorite New Author

V.E./Victoria Schwab – Thank you, 2016, for introducing me to the writing genius of Victoria “V.E.”  Schwab. My gateway drug into Schwab ‘s amazing books was A Darker Shade of Magic, followed by: A Gathering of Shadows, Vicious, and This Savage Song. Oh, and I got to meet her at a book signing (my very first one). Yes, I am officially a Schwabling (at least I think that’s what they’re calling us diehard Schwab fans.)

Honorable mention: A.S. King – Her writing style is completely original and imaginative. I may not always love the plot, but I can’t get enough of her writing. I recommend starting with Reality Boy or Please Ignore Vera Dietz.

Favorite Series

Without question, my favorite series was The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater! It had everything: memorable characters, amazing writing, off-the-hook world-building, great plot twists. Once I started with The Raven Boys, I could not stop.

Books So Fun They Felt Like Reading Parties

Captain Marvel, vol. 1-6 by DeConnick and Lopez

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Best World-Building

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Honorable Mention: The Reader by Traci Chee

Favorite Indie Series

Mermaids of Eriana Kwai by Tiana Warner

Best Female Protagonist

Agnieszka from Uprooted by Naomi Novik. A complete original with a powerful gift for magic.

Honorable Mentions:
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Miss Justineau from The Girl With All the Gifts

Best Male Protagonist

Day from Legend by Marie Lu

Favorite New Book Boyfriend

Zach from Pretties (Uglies #2) by Scott Westerfeld.

Best Setting

Alternate, modern world, czarist Russia from A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Dreamy, wonderful, unforgettable.

Favorite Plot Twist

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Best Cover

25203675

Most Devastating Read

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter. I usually avoid sad stories, but Kletter is stunningly talented, and this story about a broken girl really moved me.

Honorable mention: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Zentner got me good on this one. Tears were running down my cheeks before I fully realized what was happening.

Favorite Audiobook

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Narrated in the best kind of wry, British style by Kathryn Kellgren. This fish out of water story made me laugh out loud, and the audiobook was perfect for listening to while putting around in the car.

Best Small Press Standalone

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It took a few chapters for things to come together, but once they did, there was no looking back.

The #1 Book No One Else Seems to Like But Me

The Graces by Laura Eve – I’m so glad I got a hold of this deliciously deadly, atmospheric book early on as a Netgalley ARC because otherwise I might have been turned off by the low 3.23 rating it currently has on Goodreads. Here’s to teen witches and morally ambiguous characters.

I would love to hear about YOUR favorite books of the year. To step up this challenge and give a massive New Year’s shout-out to bloggers who have brought so much bookish joy and friendship to my year, I hereby tag:

The Orang-utan Librarian

Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories

Amy @ Every Book You Need to Read and More

Danielle @ Books, Vertigo & Tea

Brittany @ The Grisha Lieutenant

Ann @ Ann’s Reading Corner

Amanda @ Cover2Cover Mom

Melanie Noell Bernard

Naz @ Read Diverse Books

Rae @ BookmarkChronicles

Jesalin @ Blogging Everything Beautiful

Beth @ Betwixt These Pages

Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets

Morgan @ Hopeless Book Addict

Jocelyn @ 52 Letters in the Alphabet

Kim @ By Hook or By Crook

Kelly Deeny
Elena Johansen
FamilyRules
Wallace Cass
Annika Perry
Pat Sherard
The Glitter Afficianado
Stephanie @ Eclectic Scribblings
Deby Fredericks
Nate Philbrick
Sabrina Marsi Books
Mackenzie Bates
Stephanie @ yourdaughtersbookshelf
Karen @ MyTrain of Thoughts
Erica @ Books the Thing
Beth @ Betwixt These Pages

 

December Flash Reviews

december-reads-2016

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

5-Star Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

25064648

Hello, fellow book junkies! During winter break, I packed The Reader to take with me on a trip, leaving the dust jacket at home so it wouldn’t get bent up in my suitcase. But then the very moment I finished the book, I was DYING to have that stunning (see picture, above) dust jacket back because The Reader is so unique and amazing that it deserves to look gorgeous, too.

The best way I can think of to describe The Reader is that it is a “thrilling fairy tale.” The world-building is in a league with Leigh Bardugo, the writing style is reminiscent of the brilliant V.E. Schwab, and there’s a fairy tale quality that is all Traci Chee. If you like The Winner’s Curse, A Darker Shade of Magic, and/or Rebel of the Sands, you’ll love The Reader.

Interestingly enough, there was a glitch in the lead-up to my reading this book. When I first heard about The Reader and then checked out the wonderful excerpt, I got so excited I pre-ordered it, meaning not only did I get the book as soon as it came out in September, I also received the little poem/art print and book plate goodies that came with it–which, as pretty as they were, ended up in a pile with book merch bling I’ve received with other pre-ordered YA books. Yes, it’s fun getting free stuff–especially when it’s book-related–but, to be honest, I haven’t figured out a good use for pretty poem/art prints, temporary tattoos, book postcards, book plates, etc. Anyway, it’s nice having them. XD

So, back in September I was excited to read The Reader, but then I discovered–oh, no–there are pirates in it.

https://media4.giphy.com/media/AqEUAOCWjoU5W/200_s.gif

I am not at all into pirates; I mean, I didn’t even get past the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. So this meant The Reader got put on a back burner for three months. As it turns out, there was nothing to fear. Yes, pirates do appear in The Reader, but they are not the central focus of the story and–guess what–I LOVED them! The pirates are noble and loyal and roguish in the best way.

Here’s what The Reader is about: a girl named Sefia who is left on her own after the death of her parents (shocking YA fantasy set-up, right?) In Sefia’s world, reading does not exist, but somehow she comes into the possession of a book. Sefia also has an ability to see golden light beyond normal life, where she witnesses people’s histories. Lots of other things happen, but I won’t go into much plot detail so you can savor the thrilling adventure for yourself. I’ll just say The Reader gets better and better as you go along, and it’s exciting how everything ties together. There’s also a lovely slow-burn romance with a character I sincerely hope we get to learn much more about in book two. Yes, I am already planning to read book two, cannot wait for it, in fact.

To be honest, for the first few chapters, The Reader’s story structure feels too busy. Several POV characters are introduced, there are interjections of distinctly different fonts that mean special things, and some of the chapters are from a book Sefia is reading in the story–which we’re not aware of first, and that’s a bit confusing. After a few chapters, though, the story comes together beautifully and completely sweeps you away.

As a fantasy book for teens, it might hurt a bit that The Reader features some characters who aren’t adolescents, but those characters are so compelling and interesting, I didn’t mind at all.

All in all, I’d have to say The Reader is in my top eight favorite reads of the year. It was the last book I read in 2016, and I’m thrilled to end on such a high note.

5-stars

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!

— Eve Messenger