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

the-raven-cycle-series

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

Advertisements

ARC Review: THE CUTAWAY by Christina Kovac #amreading

30753708

Hello, fellow book junkies! A Goodreads friend really liked The Cutaway by Christina Kovac, so I ventured out of my YA zone and, crossing my fingers, requested an ARC on Netgalley. I got a copy (yay!), and totally enjoyed it. 🙂

The Cutaway is a fast-paced, engrossing adult mystery whose biggest strengths are its top-notch writing, a noble protagonist, and the many fascinating insights Kovac (a career journalist) shares about the world of television journalism.

The setting is Washington, D.C., known as “The District,” the protagonist Virginia Knightly, a newswoman with a painful past and a near-photographic memory. When a young female lawyer goes missing, Virginia vaguely recalls cutaway footage of the woman from years before. As Virginia pursues the story on this missing person investigation and uncovers why the elusive footage is important, she enters dangerous territory, both professionally and personally. But Virginia is not a woman to be trifled with–if anyone can compile a top news story while maintaining her integrity, Virginia will.

Though I guessed the villain’s identity a little earlier than I’d hoped I would, overall, the plot was suspenseful and solidly constructed. I’m definitely open to reading more books by Christina Kovac, and I predict The Cutaway will do well when it comes out in March 2017.

Image result for 4.25 stars

— Eve Messenger

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.

25064648

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.

25760792

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.

22840421

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.

26118377

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.

13414446

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

July Reading Wrap-Up & the Goodreads Bermuda Triangle #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies!  I’ll say it right out, July was a total hodgepodge of reading, and somehow I read a record number of books: 16–too many to review in one wrap-up, so I’ll just highlight a few.

Surprise Faves

I’m one of those people who can’t watch violence of any kind. If a character on television is being beaten or stabbed, my hands are clamped firmly over my eyes until a family member says it’s safe to remove them. That is why it came as a surprise that two of the most entertaining books I read this month–Ice Massacre and Red Risingalso happen to be the most violent. In Ice Massacre, a band of island girls battle mermaid-sea demons.See my review here. As for Red Rising, I didn’t mind that the story of godlike military academy cadets battling each other on Mars was heavily influenced by Hunger Games. What did give me pause was the contrived reason for their barbaric battles. But guess what? I still enjoyed the book– kind of like crushing on a bad boy you know you shouldn’t have feelings for.

July 2016 violent but entertaining Ice Massacre & Red Rising

And The Award for Most Haunting Book Goes to. . .

There’s this thing I like to call the “linger effect,” when a book haunts me long after I’ve finished reading it. That’s what happened with The Walls Around Us, penned by the queen of atmospheric writing, Nova Ren Suma. In The Walls Around Us there’s a cutthroat ballet dancer, violent girls in a detention center, paranormal happenings, and just. . . can someone give this book a better cover, please?

18044277

 

Off-the Hook Writing & the Goodreads Bermuda Triangle

Three books this month that featured notably exceptional writing were This Savage Song,  Station Eleven, and Reality Boy.

I have no qualms about declaring Victoria V.E. Schwab as my favorite author. I even say it right out on my blog’s “about me” page. V’s books transcend genre, and This Savage Song is no exception. I just adore the monster boy August. (Note to publishers of Nova Ren Suma’s book: THIS is how to do a good cover. . .)

23299512

Then there was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Literary post-apocalyptic ? Sign me up. There is a reason this beauty won a National Book Award. In St. John Mandel’s expert hands, the story kept morphing in unexpected ways.

20170404

Here’s where we get to the part about the Goodreads Bermuda Triangle. On a whim, I picked up the YA contemporary Reality Boy and was blown away by A.S. King’s writing. “Reality Boy” is 17-year-old Gerald who’s enraged and damaged by his seriously dysfunctional family and how his home life was broadcast on a reality show when he was a little boy. I tried looking up other A.S. King books on Goodreads and, no matter how I typed her name, with or without initials, neither she nor her books came up. Thus, I have determined that A.S. King resides in the Bermuda Triangle of Goodreads. Okay, so I found a workaround, and the next A.S. King book I plan to read is Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. Great title, right?

A Book That Hurt My Brain (in a Good Way) but Didn’t Touch My Heart Like I Thought it Would

A book that stretched my brain–not always painlessly–was Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? This adult memoir penned by well-known UK author Jeanette Winterson was loaned to me by a friend who raved about how Winterson so eloquently expresses the condition of being an adoptee (which both my friend and I are). The poetry and classic literature Winterson weaves into Why Be Happy made me feel smarter.  🙂
11395597

Disappointments

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – I’m actually kind of mad at this book. I went into it with high expectations. I mean, it was made into a movie, right? Everyone knows about it. It must be amazing, right? Well, the writing style is decent, and the story does introduce us to the beautiful culture Afghanistan, but the whiny, ungrateful, traitorous main character and the melodrama turned me off.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – Rich world building, mythical creatures, tons of characters with exotic names, Japanese cultural influences (bonus!), best of all, the main character Tea has the dark power to raise the dead–including her brother Fox (my favorite character). What I didn’t realize when I started the The Bone Witch is that it is the highest of high fantasy–not my favorite genre. For me, genre isn’t a deal breaker but never connecting with the main character is. And I didn’t.

Sleeper Hit

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman – It’s not perfect but well worth reading.
Goodreads synopsis: When Ari’s boyfriend Win dies, she gets a spell to erase all memory of him. But spells come at a cost, and this one sets off a chain of events that reveal the hidden—and sometimes dangerous—connections between Ari, her friends, and the boyfriend she can no longer remember.

July Reads At a Glance w/Star Ratings

YA PARANORMAL
Red Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black audiobook 4/5 stars
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma 4/5 stars
Inborn by Amy Saunders approx. –Netgalley ARC 3/5 stars
The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman  4/5 stars
Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner –Netgalley ARC 5/5 stars
(Secret Project) by Megan Crewe  –by author request, not allowed to post review until August.

YA HIGH FANTASY
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco-Netgalley ARC 3/5 stars

YA DYSTOPIAN FANTASY, or whatever the f*** brilliant new genre V.E. Schwab decides she’s writing
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab 4/5 stars

MIDDLE GRADE FAIRY TALE
The Wishing Spell, Land of Stories #1 by Chris Colfer  loaner from friend 2.5/5 stars

YA SCI-FI DYSTOPIAN
Red Rising by Pierce Brown 4/5 stars

YA CONTEMPORARY
Reality Boy by A.S. King 4/5 stars
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews audiobook 3.75/5 stars
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins buddy read w/Beth, Sophie, Emma @ The Books Are Everywhere 4/5 stars

ADULT POST-APOCALYPTIC
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 4.5/5 stars

ADULT CONTEMPORARY
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini audio book 3/5 stars

ADULT MEMOIR
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson  loaner from friend  3.75/5 stars

— Eve Messenger

Best Reads from the First Half of 2016 #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, we’re midway through the year(?!), a fine time to reflect on all the literary delights that have come along so far in 2016. On Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets  blog I saw this “Midyear Freakout” book tag and had to give it a try. Why? Because talking about books makes reading a thousand times more fun! 🙂

The Best Book You’ve Read So Far In 2016

I’ve read so many excellent books this year, and the best one was A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. I can’t say enough good things about it–the characters, the world building, and best of all, the writing.

22055262

The Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far

Lair of Dreams, book two of The Diviners series by Libba Bray, has the perfect YA paranormal setting: New York City in the Roaring Twenties. All the characters established in book 1 stay true to their natures and continue to grow in Lair of Dreams. A great new character is also added, and the plot thickens.

16060716

A New Release You Haven’t Read Yet (But You Want To)

I’ve heard Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes is upbeat, thoughtful, and very well written.

26156199

Most Anticipated Release For Second Half Of 2016

Biggest Disappointment

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. It’s sweet, well written, with tons of fans, but I just wasn’t in the mood. DNF.

15749186

Biggest Surprise

Totally on a whim I picked up Pivot Point by Kasie West and ended up really liking it. When faced with an important choice, main character Addison can look into the future and see both outcomes. Author Kasie West turns this intriguing concept into a heart-pumping story with a masterfully executed plot.

11988046

Favorite New Author

Victoria V.E. Schwab is talented, versatile, gracious, and hardworking. I am such a big, big fan of her work.

Newest Favorite Character

Neither of these characters is new, but they are to me. As for my favorite, it’s a tie between Day from Marie Lu’s Legend and Agnieszka from Uprooted by Naomi Novik. These two characters’ literary worlds are as different as can be–Day lives in a dystopic urban future and Agnieszka lives in a magical sylvan past– but both are kindhearted, strong-willed and very, very talented. I adore them both.

 

A Book That Made You Cry

There’s a scene in The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner that hit me hard and definitely made me cry. Yep, that one.

22752127

A Book That Made You Happy

Captain Marvel Further, Faster vol. 1-6 by DeConnick & Lopez.  Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel is everything, the story is fresh and stereotype-free, and best of all is the vibrant artwork by David Lopez.

20898018

 

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought So Far This Year

I’ve officially decided the book with the most beautiful YA cover of all time is A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, not only for its colors and gorgeous watercolor art by Craig Shields, but also because the reflection features an entirely different world! Here’s an interesting article about the design process behind this amazing cover.

17234658

Favorite Adaptation So Far This Year

Cheating Alert! I’ve seen very few movies lately, so even though the film was released last year I’m gonna go with The Martian. It’s a smart, solid, well-acted film that I hope was true to the book (which I haven’t read yet.)

What Books Do You Need To Read Before The End Of This Year?

Books I Must Read in 2016

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stievfater – Book number FOUR of the series just came out and I haven’t even started book one yet.
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente – This gorgeously written book with the deliciously long title cannot be ignored.
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio – I’ve only ever seen rave reviews of this book.
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown – All my go-to book bloggers love this one.
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh  – Can’t wait to experience this YA literary phenomenon for myself.
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – 2014 National Book Award Winner, you will soon be mine.
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – Murakami’s brilliant A Wild Sheep Chase was unlike anything ever read before. Must have more!
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen – By all accounts, this is an engrossing read, and it’s written by Sarah Dessen so. . .
  • Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – I’m dying to catch up on this unique, massively popular YA novel.

Whew, what a fun trip that was down memory lane. I’m sending this book tag out to anyone else who’d like to try it.

–Eve Messenger

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.

22544764

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. 🙂

24934065

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.

27190613

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.

16060716

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.
20706317

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.

17234658

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.

19403811

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.

22752127

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.

23286973

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

 

 

 

What Makes a Character Noble?

Noble Characters in YA Fiction

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

A noble character is someone who:

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

Top 9 Noble Characters in YA

Inej Ghafa, the Wraith – Six of Crows
An expert assassin, Inej can kill a person in seconds with her bare hands, but she never veers from her personal code of ethics. She would die before letting down her friends.
23437156Todd Hewitt – The Knife of Never Letting Go 
Sure, Todd could have kept running when all hell broke loose in Prentisstown, but he had to stop and help Viola because that is how a noble character rolls.
2118745

Celia Bowen – The Night Circus 
Celia Bowen could well be the most powerful magician in the world, but because of her strong moral compass she treats people with dignity and does what she thinks is right.
9361589

Brimstone- Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Without giving away spoilers, let’s just say Brimstone meets the qualifications of being a noble character. Fellow readers of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, would you agree?
8490112

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

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

Kell – Shades of Magic series Kell could practically run the world with all the powers he has as a Traveler and, though he is treated as a second-rate son by the Maresh family, he remains loyal to crown, especially to his brother, Prince Rhy.
22055262

Katniss Everdeen – Hunger Games
It would have been so easy for Katniss to leave District 12 behind and live the good life at the Capitol but, no, she has to fight for what is right.
2767052

Day – Legend  Day’s defining characteristic is his unwavering loyalty toward family, close friends, and his oppressed community.
9275658

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

–Eve Messenger