Favorite New Author & Biggest Reading Surprise of the Year – Days 3 & 4

Hello, fellow book junkies! It’s December, a fine time for reflecting on all the wonderful books read in 2016. For days 3 and 4 of @AnneReads’ “All the Books of 2016″ challenge , I’d like to share with you about my new (for the year, and possibly all-time) favorite author and my biggest reading surprise of 2016.

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“New Favorite Author”

This past February I was blown away by  a little tome of amazingness called A Darker Shade of Magic, written by V.E. Schwab. The writing, characters, and world-building were all outstanding. If you want to know how I felt about discovering this new author, imagine the scene in the movie Young Frankenstein when Madeline Kahn sings.

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A week later, V.E. Schwab blew into my town to promote A Gathering of Shadows, so that’s when I decided to attend my first book signing. 🙂 I wrote about it here. In addition to adult fiction, V.E. Schwab publishes YA under the name Victoria Schwab. She’s super connected to her fans. Check out her honest, funny Twitter feed here.

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“Biggest Reading Surprise of 2016”

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Omigosh, there’s a revelation about one of the characters in Maggie Steifvater’s The Raven
Boys that took me by such surprise that it’s quite possible I may still be recovering from it. If you’ve read the book, you surely know what I’m referring to. If you haven’t read it, then by all means get started. The Raven Cycle series is so good!!!

— Eve Messenger

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December Book Challenge: Days 1 and 2 #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! I am thrilled to share this first in a series of retrospective bookish challenges for each day of December. I first noticed “All the Books of 2016” (created by @AnneReads for #bookstagram) on Cristina @ My Tiny Obsessions‘ blog and knew right away I had to do it. Think about reading? Delight in all the books I’ve read this year? Yes, please. XD

In case you’d like to do it too, here are all the challenges @AnneReads came up with:

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For this post, I’d like to start with challenges 1 and 2. . .

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“First Read of the Year”

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My first read of 2016 was The Diviners by the “divinely” talented Libba Bray. This spooky paranormal YA story set in 1920s NYC was a fun book to start the year with. I happily lost myself in the adventures of Bray’s amazing characters and felt transported right out of the 21st century. At 578 pages, The Diviners was the second longest book I read–the longest being book #2 in the Diviners series, Lair of Dreams, at a whopping 618 pages. Which brings me to my next topic. . .

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“Shortest Book I Read”
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If graphic novels don’t count, then the shortest book I read was The Day We are Born by Philippa Cameron at 210 pp. I wish I had more to say about this book but, alas, the story did not rise to the level of the evocative title.

However, if graphic novels do count, then the shortest book I read in 2016 was Captain Marvel Higher, Further, Faster, More vol. 1-6 by DeConnick & Lopez–which I ADORED. Captain Marvel was 100 pp. of pure escapism, rich illustrations, and many strong, inspiring female characters. Endless gratitude to Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories for turning me onto this series.

Happy Reading & Happy Holidays to all you wonderful book lovers out there.

–Eve Messenger

November Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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Helloooo, fellow book junkies! You know what I’ve been noticing? A trend toward more classics being mentioned in YA blogs and posted about on Goodreads. Classic literature is magical, so I approve of this trend.

As for me, well, no classics this month (hypocrite, Eve), but I did enjoy reading a mix of genres–which, for me, translates to “not just YA fantasy.” As usual, most of the books I read were standalones–with the exception of books three and four of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, a series I began a month ago and just had to finish. Don’t you love when you find a delicious series you just can’t get enough of?

BOOKS I READ IN NOVEMBER:

YA Fantasy-Paranormal

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stievfater 391pp 5/5 stars

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater 5/5 stars

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather 368pp-kindle – The good: It’s written by the 11th great granddaughter of a Salem Witch Trials judge, and she compares bullying between the Puritan trials with modern-day high school. The Salem, Massachussetts setting is super interesting. The writing is not bad, but it’s got this weird internal narration the MC does throughout, like having to explain what’s really going on in her head every time she says, does, or encounters anything. Hard to explain. Check it out. The story’s got some good supsense but, yeah, that writing style, I’m not so sure about. 3.75/5 stars

The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge 410pp -Historical, gothic, disturbing, downright literary lines of prose. Unique worldbuilding. I’ll definitely read more books by Francis Hardinge. 5/5 stars

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison – All the things I liked: Loved the concept of a fairy godmother so ditzy she only gets to be called “fair.” The adorable cover. A strong opening. That the MC lives in Herndon, VA–pretty much my stomping grounds as a little girl. What I didn’t like: It read as MG, and at 165 pages in, I stopped caring. DNF.

YA Contemporary

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King 326pp – A.S. King is her own writer, through and through. Her books are unique, smart, and unconventional, and I just can’t put them down. As with most A.S. King books, this one has paranormal overtones and a certain darkness–maybe even despair–but is first and foremost a compelling and well-written YA contemporary. 5/5 stars

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen 304pp Netgalley ARC – I happened to read We are Still Tornadoes and Please Ignore Vera Dietz back to back and was surprised by  how similar their themes were (lifelong friendship between a girl and a boy) and how very differently they were told. Dietz is the dark side of the coin, Tornadoes is the light. Full review here  4/5 stars

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Amy Berkower/Writers House) 198pp audiobook – No light fare, this is one of those heart-wrenching, eye-opening, important stories I pray will be read by the people (victims and abusers) who need to see it. 4/5 stars

Wonder by R. J. Palacio audiobook – Half a million(!) people have a reviewed this book on Goodreads, and it still has a 4.41 rating. That’s pretty outstanding. Wonder was sweet and featured both YA & MG characters in an authentic way that developed a sort of “six degrees of separation” around the central character Auggie. A sweet story, another “important” story that I think I was supposed to get more choked up about but didn’t. 4/5 stars

Adult Contemporary-Humor

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella 404pp audiobook – I’m so glad I finally checked out Sophie Kinsella’s writing. What can I say? This book made me happy. XD  This fish- out-of-water story with a bit of romance thrown in (not too heavy-handed but a bit steamy) kept me grinning. Okay, and it reminded me to remember what’s important in life. That’s a good combination, right? 4/5 stars

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The Cutaway by Christina Kovac 320 pp Netgalley ARC – I’ve read many mystery and suspense novels, but it’s been a a while, so it was fun to get lost in a gripping mystery again. What made this one especially interesting was the behind-the-scenes look at television journalism from the insider perspective of writer Christina Kovac, who’s worked for years managing news rooms. Full review here 4/5 stars

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Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life by Misty May Treanor – Once in a while it’s nice to add a dose of reality to my steady diet of fiction. As a big fan of women’s volleyball, Misty May is one of my idols, so it was interesting to read about her journey to gold superstardom (she also lives in my county–I know people who know her. :)) Shocker: Misty came super close to being named Desiree–which definitely doesn’t have the same ring as “Misty May.”

Shhh. . . let’s chat over here in this quiet corner for a moment so I can tell you. . . well. . .

There’s one more. . .um, thing? I read. I’m shy to admit  it because it was darn naughty, but it was also darn funny, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you I read. . .

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Happy holidays!

–Eve Messenger

NEW YA Book Review: We Are Still Tornadoes #amreading

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Newly out this month from St. Martin’s Griffin is a YA contemporary penned by co-authors Michael Kun and Susan Mullen called We Are Still Tornadoes–a quick, feel-good read.

Set in the 1980s, We Are Still Tornadoes takes us into the relationship between lifelong friends Cath and Scott through letters they write to one another after Cath moves away to college.

As someone who also grew up with a dear friend of the opposite sex (coincidentally, also named Scott), I appreciate how authentically Kun and Mullen capture the open, honest, sometimes goofy, sometimes flirtatious friendship between a girl and a boy.

Cath, Scott and their shared history are totally believable. Scott is very funny. Cath is more cerebral but can hold her own in the humor department. Both are genuinely good people navigating the turbulent seas of post-high school life. They make mistakes, deal with social faux pas, encounter tragedies, and through it all we root for them.

We Are Still Tornadoes’ only weakness is its ending, which would have benefited greatly from more of a build-up and a denouement. No joke, when I arrived at the last page of the story, I kept tapping my e-book screen thinking there had to be more–but nope. Despite the rushed ending, We Are Still Tornadoes is definitely worth the read and deserves a hearty four out of five stars.

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–Eve Messenger

The Raven Boys – I Finally Understand What the Hype is About #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies!

If you love dark, imaginative, splendidly written, modern YA fantasy/paranormal stories, you will love The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stievfater. The paranormal thrills are off the hook. And, oh, how we come to adore the wonderful, proud, reckless characters. And the moments, oh, the moments–like when Ronan writes “Remembered” on the car window–and so very many others.

Henrietta, Virginia makes for a fantastic setting, with its stretches of unvisited forest and turbulent blend of old-money, new-money, and no-money families. Stirring through all of this is the ley line with its vast psychic energy.

The Raven Cycle is atmospheric, constantly full of surprises, and is one of the most well-planned series I’ve read. Through each successive book, it becomes increasingly obvious that we’re being led into plot and character revelations by a master storyteller.

The intrigue continues unabated from The Raven Boys through The Dream Thieves and on to Blue Lily, Lily Blue. And now–for this reader–there is just one book in the series left to read, The Raven King. As excited as I am to delve into the final installment, I am simultaneously dreading it because after The Raven King there will be no more Blue, Ronan, Gansey, Noah, and Adam. No more Chainsaw screeching, “Kirah!” No more Mara, Calla, Persephone–the three savviest mediums around. No more chilling bad guys. No more Mr. Gray. No more adorable side characters like Jesse Dittley.

Now that I think about it, it is quite possible I am already beginning the process of mourning the end of The Raven Cycle. But, oh, what a thrilling literary ride it has been.

–Eve Messenger

Halloween Book Tag!

Hello, fellow book junkies. ‘Tis the season to be spooky, so I’m super thankful to thegrishalieutenant for this awesome Halloween Book Tag! 

CARVING PUMPKINS-What book would you carve up and light on fire?

I’m mad at The Bone Witch for being so darn aimless, especially after I’d looked so forward to reading it.

TRICK OR TREAT – What character is a trick? What character is a treat?

For this category I chose two different blond guys. . .

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Eli Cardale from V.E. Schwab’s Vicious. Every character in this book is as morally ambiguous as can be, but Eli Cardale is one of the biggest dicks tricks.

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Matthias Helvar from Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. This hunky blond from the icy north gives me the shivers in a good way.Definitely a treat.

CANDY CORN – What’s a book that’s always sweet?

Most books I read these days have somewhat of a dark edge, so I’ll have to reach way back into my reading history (and even farther back historically since this book was published in 1902!) for a riches to rags story I’ll never not be touched by: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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GHOST – What character would you love to visit you as a ghost?

It might be interesting to be visited by the ghost of Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I think she’d show me interesting things.
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DRESSING UP IN COSTUME – What character would you want to be for a day?

I’d want to be Nimona from the graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, because Nimona gives a total of zero f–ks, and I would like to know what that feels like.
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WIZARDS AND WITCHES – What is your favorite Harry Potter moment?

When Harry Potter first takes the train to Hogwarts on track nine and three quarters and meets Ron and Hermione. It’s just so darn magical.

BLOOD AND GORE- What book was so creepy you had to take a break from it?

It’s a tie between these two books because the idea of pure, cold evil terrifies me like nothing else.

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Happy Halloween!

XOXO, Eve Messenger

I tag:
Jesalin @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful
Amy @ Every Book You Need to Read and More
Britt @ Geronimo Reads
Orang-utan Librarian
Emma the Book Lover
Caitlyn @ Rhodes of Reading
Amanda @ Cover2CoverMom
Alyssa @ Alyssa is Reading
Cinderzena @ Cinderzena Blogs
Jessica @ The Mud and Stars Book Blog

Anonymous Bookaholics Tag #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! My name is Eve, and I am a bookaholic. Thanks to eloquent, well-read, super friendly Orang-utan Librarian for tapping me to do this book tag and thus giving me license to explore my inner bookaholic.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT NEW BOOKS?

The smell of them! Whenever I crack open a brand new book I’m transported to all the  happy moments when I’ve started a new story. Something else I like about owning my own book rather than borrowing it from the library is that I don’t have to worry as much about spills or pages getting bent from me falling asleep on them. And I love goodies that accompany pre-ordered books. Oh, and getting authors to sign my books live and in person.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU BUY NEW BOOKS?

I used to buy a lot of books. A lot, a lot. Between my book-loving husband and me, we’ve filled our bookshelves with books stacked two, three, and sometimes four rows deep. There is simply no more room for new books.

The way I come by books nowadays looks like this:

40% borrowed from library
20% Kindle e-books
20% Netgalley ARCs
15% new book purchases
5% used book purchases

Each time I don’t buy a book I feel guilty. Authors work so hard at crafting the stories I love to read, so I have made a vow to myself that when I am a successful published author, I will buy every book I read. That is a promise.

BOOKSTORE OR ONLINE SHOPPING — WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

If these two choices were at either side of a teeter-totter, the teeter-totter would be completely level. Bookstore browsing is so, so, so fun, but then again online purchases are so darn easy. Both are great!

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BOOKSHOP?

Yes, a used bookstore called Bookman, just a five-minute drive from my house.

DO YOU PRE-ORDER BOOKS?

When I absolutely, positively can’t wait to read a book and there’s no other way to get my hands on it, I WILL pre-order.

DO YOU HAVE A MONTHLY BOOK-BUYING LIMIT?

I don’t have a spending limit, just an awareness of limited funds.

BOOK-BUYING BANS, ARE THEY SOMETHING FOR YOU?

I don’t ban myself from buying books because, well, here’s a secret. I am a bit of a rebel; if I disallowed myself from buying books, I’d probably end up buying a bunch just to spite myself.

HOW BIG IS YOUR WISH LIST.

There are around 400 books on my wish list, and that’s just I like it. It’s I’ll never be without ideas for good books to read. 🙂

WHICH THREE BOOKS FROM YOUR WISH LIST DO YOU WISH YOU OWNED RIGHT NOW?

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab – It’s not due out until 2017, but I want it in my hot little hands right now. I am dying to know how the series ends!!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – I adored the characters and worldbuilding from book one, Six of Crows, and people are raving about book two so, yeah, that one.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Okay, I realize that’s four books, but after reading The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, I am so enamored with the series that I must own all the books now! 🙂
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–Eve Messenger

I Tag:

Caitlin Rhodes @ Rhodes of Reading
Diana Prince Reviews
Nicole @ Sorry I’m Booked
Larkin @ Wonderfilled Reads
Amanda @ Cover2CoverMom
Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories

It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah!

Hi, fellow book junkies! What a great feeling it is when a bunch of great books suddenly come raining in. By mail, library, and Netgalley, all of the following books arrived this week, and I’m like a kid in a candy store gazing gleefully at the pretty stack they make on my nightstand.  😀

The Reader by Traci Chee –Lushly told YA fantasy about a girl living in a world where reading is forbidden. Read an excerpt here.

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim Netgalley ARC – Gay clocktower mechanic boy. Magic clock mysteriously missing 2 o’clock. I’ve had my eye on this book since hearing about it almost a year ago, and I’m so grateful to have been approved for the ARC.

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My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton, & Meadows –This lighthearted historical YA novel apparently gets a bit experimental (or maybe just plain cheeky?) The authors occasional break the fourth wall and have their Victorian characters lapse into 21st century slang. I’m intrigued.

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge – Blogger friends tell me the writing in this is so good. Then when Cover2Cover Mom mentioned The Lie Tree also has a dark edge, I ran right out and got it. Oh, and then the librarian told me it won some kind of award. Bonus.

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Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu – Legend was such a fun read that I had to find out what Day and June get up to in the next book, Prodigy. A prodigal investigator vs. a prodigal criminal–June and Day’s dynamic is incredible.

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Currently reading:

Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. Eloquent prose–check. Pleasant Irish setting–check. Intriguing plot idea–check. However, the story doesn’t really catch fire until around page 160. I hear there’s a good plot twist, so I’m hanging in there.

Last but not least. . .

Dear book-loving friend, for taking the time to read all the way down to the end of this post, here is a little treat for you. (Remember to replace the word “men” with “books.”)  XOXO Eve Messenger

September Reads. End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! In September I had the pleasure of reading ten novels and, though a couple came close, not a single one was a five-star read. Whether that’s a reflection of the books or of me as a reader (returning to work this month was a definite distraction), is hard to say. Every book had strengths and memorable moments. Here’s a recap . . .

YA Paranormal / Urban Fantasy

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin – Creepy in a good way, original (and humid) Miami setting. 4/5 stars

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater – Part of what makes me love a book is getting to enter a brilliantly wrought world with outstanding characters. The Dream Thieves had this. So did the first book in the series, The Raven Boys, which I was so enamored with that maybe it was hard to love the second book as much. The Dream Thieves is still great and made me definitely want to read the rest of the series. Since one of my favorite characters is Blue, I’m especially looking forward to the third book, Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 4.5/5 stars

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older 304pp – Brooklyn girl gets caught in a world of ancient spirits who come alive out of painted murals. Intriguing concept, bold characters. 4/5 stars

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey Strong writing (author Melissa Grey graduated from Yale) but the plot’s too reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. 3.75/5 stars

YA Contemporary-Mental Illness

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – Much funnier than I expected. Creative writing style, but not a super memorable plot. Saw the twist coming a mile away. 4/5 stars

YA Fantasy Romance

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh I go into every book with an open mind, but since romance isn’t my favorite genre maybe this wasn’t the right book for me. Disappointing. 3.5/5 stars

YA Suspense

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes  – Gifted teenagers help the FBI track serial killers. Enjoyable characters, interesting premise. I’ve read many suspense novels, so my standards are pretty high and this one was a bit predictable. Still a fun read. 3.75/5 stars

Adult Sci-Fi Horror

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Vividly imagined, quick read, (almost too) screenplay-ready. Memorable story! 4/5 stars

Adult Romance-Humor

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion audiobook Joyful, often hilarious story of a professor with Aspergers who’s on a mission to find a wife. Cleverly written–I love how the MC is often the unintentional superhero of the story. Rosie is a fun character, too. 4/5 stars

Adult Historical-Empowered Women

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier audiobook  In the early 19th century, two bright women from different social classes bond over fossil hunting–in the early days when extinct dinosaurs were still thought to be giant crocodiles. Based on a true story. 4.25/5 stars

–Eve Messenger

ARC Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Let me start by saying that, even though I’m not big into vampires, Certain Dark Things was a unique and thoroughly entertaining read. This YA paranormal thriller is told from alternating viewpoints of Atl, a naïve young female vampire who’s illegally entered the vampire-free zone of near-future Mexico City; Domingo, a homeless Mexican teen; and Ana, a tough Mexico City cop.

The tenuous balance between humans and vampires, as well as clashes between vampire families and drug cartels, make for an action-packed story. However, the most compelling aspect becomes the relationship between Atl and Domingo. Domingo’s awkward courtship of Atl is genuinely sweet, i.e., this passage told from Domingo’s POV:

“Yeah. I know how it goes. I used to have a girlfriend but that’s not the case anymore,” he told her because he figured it sounded like the mature thing to say. He was attempting to go for “aloof” and “sophisticated,” like they said in the magazines.

World-building is a tricky thing. It can come across as info dumps, which it does early on in this book. However, by chapter 14 the story totally drew me in, and I didn’t want to leave the world and characters.

Moreno-Garcia has a strong writing style. Though in a couple of places descriptions went on a bit long, making me impatient to return to the story, for the most part the descriptions were excellent; for example, this one about the Mexico City district of Colonia Roma:

It was a place for sophisticated older people and hip young ones, with magnificent trees and faded mansions, a taco stand here and there to remind you it was not quite the Belle Époque and you were still in Mexico City.

The Revenant vampire Bernardino is an UNFORGETTABLE character. I also really liked Mexico City cop/single mom Ana. Armed with knowledge gained from listening to her grandmother’s folktales, Ana is one of the only humans in Mexico City with expertise on how to take down vampires. To give you an idea of Ana’s fiery attitude, here’s how she describes a sexist male coworker: “. . . skinny fucker with his cheap tie and his monumental indifference.”

I appreciated Moreno-Garcia’s subtle characterizations, like this one conveying how Atl begins to open up to Domingo. It’s simple but so effective.

He kicked the can in her direction and she kicked it back.

Lastly, don’t skip the glossary at the end. Moreno-Garcia clearly put a lot of research into the story, and it’s interesting to read about the different vampire species from all over the world, their habits, and social structures.

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