April Reading Recap and a 5-Star Book #amreading

April 2018 Reads

Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, if I had to sum up this month’s reading experience in one word, it would be “eclectic.” Genres spanned from contemporary LGBTQIA to graphic novel to classic Indian mythology to adult fantasy-horror. Most of the books were quite good, and one has entered the golden category of personal favorites.

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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – YA Contemporary

I’m going to start this review with a little secret. When I was a child, the vast majority of books I read were written by men. That wasn’t a conscious decision, of course, just based on what was available. When I started writing stories of my own, I caught myself constantly writing about male progatonists. It dawned on me that that was kind of strange since I am female, so I decided to give my literary brain a reboot, and I switched reading books by females about females, almost exclusively. For the most part, I think it worked. Sometimes, as I’m writing, I still fall into gender stereotype traps, in which case deliberately subvert them, i.e., making the wise mentor female.

Now that I’m branching back out into reading more books by male authors, one of the ones I chose was Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli–because I adored the title. While this book does explore important themes of having the confidence to be yourself, it is essentially about a boy who meets his manic pixie dream girl. Sigh. 3 stars

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – Adult Contemporary

Hey, literary world, just because this story features a woman dealing with family issues, can we please not call it Chick Lit?!! Do we call adult contemporary books by males Dick Lit?!! Okay, so back to the book. . . Amnesia stories always intrigue me, especially when they’re sort of a do-over story like this one. As the story opens, main character Alice is regaining consciousness on the floor of a gym, and she is confused as to why people keep telling her it’s twenty years in the future. Humorous at times, What Alice Forgets is a powerful exploration of relationships and remembering to remember what we appreciate about life and the people in it. 4.5 stars

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Paper Girls by Brian Vaughan – YA/MG Graphic Novel

A graphic novel about girls in the 1980s who deliver newspapers? Sign me up! The setting, concept, and artwork arefun. The story had its moments and some surprises but wasn’t super strong. Still, I think I’d like to keep reading about these tough girls from different walks of life.  3.5 stars

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We are Okay by Nina Lacour – YA Contempary LGBTQIA

What a good writer Nina Lacour is. Her stories are kind of on the quiet side, and I’m always glad to have read them. She captures feelings of loneliness like no other writer I’ve seen, and her stories are full of feeling and human connection. The LGBTQIA aspect isn’t a huge part of this book, but it makes an impact. 4 stars

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Ramayana by  Vālmīki, William Buck (translator) –  Classic Indian Mythology

This epic Indian story about Prince Rama, gods, and demons was written by Sanskrit poet Valmiki in 300 A.D. It’s incredible how, within this rich mythological world, the human emotions and motivations are still so relatable. 4.25 stars

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The Goose Girl (The Books of Bayern #1) by Shannon Hale – YA Fantasy

What a wonderful thing it is to dive into a new book and discover it’s going to be one of your all-time favorites. That’s what happened to me with The Goose Girl. Everything about it is great–the writing, the magical atmosphere, the characters, and, oh, the plot. The plot is really good. All the feelings I had about as a kid about princesses and fairy tales I found again in this book. 5 enthusiastic stars

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan – YA Magic Realism

After her mother’s suicide, half-Taiwanese, half white Leigh Chen Sanders travels to Taiwan to connect with her Taiwanese roots at last. The scenes set in Taiwan are full of atmosphere and intrigue, magic and emotion. A woman that Leigh meets there, Feng, is a fascinating character that I think will stay with me for a long time.

The cover is a work of art. The title is gorgeous.  The Astonishing Color of After has a nice writing style, too, as magic realism stories so often do. The plot, however, meanders at times. It takes a while to get to the point, and I found myself skimming pages. Overall, this is a powerful story of a girl looking to connect with dead mother mother through her rich Taiwanese heritage. The romantic subplot takes away from what is a much bigger story of self-discovery. 3.5 stars

 

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins 388pp  – Adult Fantasy-Horror

Anyone in the mood for a dark, modern fantasy should look no farther than The Library at Mount Char. It is unlike any book I’ve ever read, a cross between Stephen King’s The Stand and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide. The world-building is smart and imaginative, and the characters are fascinating–especially Carolyn and Erwin. A terrific read. The only time it slips is during the last act when the story kind of diverts and turns into an over-explanation of things. If you’ve read it, I’d be interested to hear what you think about that. 4.25

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— Eve Messenger

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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

Down the TBR Hole #1

Hello, fellow book junkies! Here’s a fun trick to try when your TBR list gets longer than a Duck Dynasty character’s beard. You know those books you clicked on as “want to read” way back when? They looked wonderful at the time, but in hindsight maybe they don’t need to take up quite so much space on your TBR.  “Down the TBR Hole” is a brilliant way to whittle books off your list. It comes from Lia @ Lost in a Story, and I first saw it on Regina @ Bookish in Bed’s blog, so thanks, Regina! 

How to go Down the TBR Hole:
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?

Here are my five picks for the week. Let’s see if any make the cut.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery20893527

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When, oh, when will I finally get around to reading this timeless classic?! Anne of Green Gables is only 320 pages long, so I suppose even if it doesn’t totally keep my interest, it’ll be a quick read. Judging by the quote, it’s a pretty joyful story, too, which is something I can always use more of: “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Verdict: Keep

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Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

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I’m kind of on the fence about this book. Some readers had a hard time with the oppressor-oppressed romance and relating to the main characters.  It’s also a very heavy story–understandable considering the theme. Lies We Tell Ourselves has a lot going for it too. It’s an important story about racial oppression, which is something we have a long way to go toward needing to improve in society today. Apparently, Robin Talley has a great writing style (which is a big plus for me). It’s also well-researched, which is cool since I’ve been liking historical fiction a lot more lately. Oh, and we mustn’t there’s an F/F romance.

Verdict: Keep (for now)

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The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is anyone else weary of stories about characters whose relatives die? This book opens with a nice, voice-y protagonist mentioning that her mother and sister have died. Uh-oh. I get that people die, and it is a very, very sad thing, but there are ways to build conflict and tension in a novel without needing people to die all the time. The opening of The Sky is Everywhere also has the MC saying her grandmother believes “a particular houseplant. . . reflects my emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.”  Quirky. I like it. 

Verdict: Keep

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The Everafter by Amy Huntley

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The Everafter has an average 3.71 rating on Goodreads. That’s a little on the low side, but then again rating isn’t everything. I loved The Graces by Laura Eve, for example, and can’t fathom why Goodreads insists it is only a 3.28 star read. Reviews of The Everafter also abound with the word “depressing.” That’s not a good sign. It’s hard enough to stay positive without reading a depressing story. Sorry but. . . 

Verdict: Go

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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West 

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I really enjoyed books one and two of Kasie West’s Pivot Point and have been wanting to read something else by her. The Distance Between Us intrigues me with its premise: “Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment. However, the book is also labeled by some readers as a “cheesy romance.” (I should’ve have looked a little closer at the cover). I prefer books that explore human connections beyond stereotypical boy-girl romance, so. . . 

Verdict: Go

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Final score: 3 Keep, 2 Go. I’m making progress!

–Eve Messenger

YA Books for Music Lovers #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! Have you ever noticed how so many book lovers are also passionate about music? I know I sure am. Music and books are a wonderful combination, and they have a lot in common. Both books and music are powerful forms of expression and artistry. They transport us, help us navigate emotions, and can even elevate us as human beings. In honor of the beautiful duo known as books and music, let’s take a look at YA books which incorporate music as a theme. (Music about books would be an interesting topic too, but that one we’ll save for another day.)

Without further ado, here are the top ten, music-themed YA books. If you can suggest other good, music-related YA books–especially in YA fantasy–I am all ears. 🙂

–Eve Messenger

10. The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb

This is one of those books that always has a song reference going. The main character is Aden, a high school senior with a beautiful voice who’s looking to get a solo gig. Heavy themes of grief, teen pregnancy, and drug addiction abound, but they’re strangely glossed over. One of the most compelling aspects of the story is Aden’s struggle to connect with her Jewish identity, which she lost as a little girl when her mother passed away.

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9. The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana

Susannah wants to follow in the footsteps of her rockstar father, with whom she has a complicated relationship. The story has a cool, dreamy atmosphere steeped in music, though the plot is a little disjointed . The Midnights represents yet another music-centered story that’s rife with heavy themes likes grief and loss. Wouldn’t it be great to encounter a music-themed story with depth but also an uplifting feel? I’d also like to see more music-themed stories in YA fantasy. That’s why I’m writing one. 🙂

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8. The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Fair warning: You might want to be in a strong emotional place before plunging into this book about three characters dealing with grief and loss. Music is a central theme–Sasha is a music blogger; Logan is a songwriter. And Woodfolk’s lovely, poignant writing will appeal to fans of Nina Lacour and Jeff Zentner.

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7. The Haters by Jesse Andrews

This book totally captures what it’s like to be in a band with friends. Okay, so it’s also littered with F bombs and explicit sexual descriptions that don’t add much to the story. That being said, the adventure this music-loving band of jazz camp dropouts goes on is really entertaining. Jesse Andrews, of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl  fame, is a genuinely funny writer who aptly describes the interactions and special chemistry of different personalities in a band, kids who are in the trenches together as musicians but who also have complicated friendships, emotions, and desires.

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6. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist  by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

 Nick, a guy in a band, asks Norah, daughter of a famous music producer, to pretend to be his girlfriend after his ex brings a date to his gig. Half-assed pick-up line aside, Nick and Nora spend the entire night hopping to different venues in New York City and forming a deep connection. Except, is it really that deep? The 2008 film adaptation starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings suffers from the same weakness as the book in that Nick and Norah don’t really talk to each other that much. Still, the music is a great factor, and so is the New York City setting.

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5. Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez 

Carmen is a violin virtuoso raised by a stage mom who was once a rising opera star but whose career was cut short when she became pregnant with Carmen. Forging through the cutthroat world of music competition, Carmen unexpectedly bonds with her biggest competitor, Jeremy, both of whom live, breathe and adore music. As a main character, Carmen can be a bit wishy-washy, but her scenes with tutor Helen are super good.

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4. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

Though this isn’t technically a YA book, The Ensemble is a glorious celebration of music and enduring friendship. Over a 15-year period, starting when they are young, the story follows four high-level classical musicians who perform together in a string quartet. Shades of Mozart in the Jungle.

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3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This story about humans and alternative dragons who can take human form, has a strong plot, smart writing, and super unique world building. Plus, all the main characters have a growth arcs that are satisfying to read about. The main character is Seraphina, an unusually gifted young musician hired to work at the palace as a court musician.

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2.  The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Though this isn’t totally centered around music, science-y Haitian girl Natasha and Korean-American boy poet Daniel meet in a record store, Natasha wears earbuds a lot of the time,  they go on an awesome karaoke excursion, and both are music lovers, so I’m including it on the list.

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1.This Song Will Save Your Life  by Leila Sales

Introvert Elise has always felt like an outsider, and music is her escape. At a warehouse party she finally meets people she can connect with and discovers her love of DJ’ing. Serious themes but also lots of humor.

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Mid-year Book Freakout #amreading

August Blog Post - Mid-Year Book Freakout

Thanks to the beautiful book blogger with exquisite reading tastes, Cover2CoverMom, for this awesome book tag because, well, reflecting on books and movies might possibly make me happier than not having to wake up for work in the morning.

Best Book I’ve Read So Far In 2017

Illluminae by Amie Kaufman. It’s thrilling and entertaining. The hardcover version is super creatively presented through e-mails, case notes, diagrams, etc., but let me tell you a little secret: the audio book version is amazing, too. I worried it might not capture the unique storytelling of the hardcopy version, but the audio book was GREAT. No wonder it won the 2016 Audie Award for Multi-Voiced Performance!

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Best Sequel I’ve Read So Far In 2017

Looking back on this year’s books so far, I’m surprised how few sequels I’ve read–or rather, maybe not that surprised, since I’ve always favored stand-alones. Nonetheless, in this category, I’ll have go with A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab. (More about that in a different category below.)

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New Release I Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To

I’m excited about Renee Ahdieh’s newest book, Flame in the Mist. Her writing is lovely and the story takes place in Japan, so. . .

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Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo!!!
Bardugo KNOWS how to write action and adventure. Her female characters are so strong–I’m thinking of Nina and Inej from Six of Crows. Yep, surely Bardugo will knock it out of the park with Wonder Woman.

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Biggest Disappointment

Uh-oh. Okay, this is kind of like a kid being disappointed because Santa brought a shiny new bicycle rather than the motorized scooter the kid was expecting, but I have to say my biggest disappointment might have been A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (gasp! my FAVORITE AUTHOR?!). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book immensely, but the disappointment stemmed from how a couple of huge plot points raised in the first book–that I was dying to see resolved–were glossed over in the finale. Otherwise, A Conjuring of Light was fantastic.

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Biggest Surprise

Because I was intrigued by the story and atmosphere of the movie Carol starring the Cate Blancett and Rooney Mara (probably two of the best actresses working right now), I wanted to read the book it’s based on. The The Price of Salt. gave me one of my favorite new (well, from the 1950s) writers, Patricia Highsmith. Her writing is flawless. I loved every word of The Price of Salt.

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Favorite New Author

See “Biggest Surprise” (above.).

Newest Fictional Crush

Cassie’s love interest–sweet, geeky, sincere Reid–from The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. I have a soft spot for awkward, true blue boys.

Artwork by Simini Blocker

 

Newest Favorite Character

EVERY character in Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer . Seriously, you guys, you have to read this one. The world-building will whisk you away.

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Book That Made Me Cry

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry definitely made me cry. There were truly noble characters and powerful, moving moments. I definitely wiped tears from my cheeks as I read.

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Book That Made Me Happy

Shocker: I don’t read a lot of happy books, so back we go to Illuminae. It made me happy because it had a fresh concept and was utterly entertaining.

Favorite Book to Film Adaptation I’ve Seen This Year

Wonder Woman!!!!!!!!! The scene when Diana bravely charges into No Man’s Land to draw enemy fire so the others can cross fires me up every time. Did you know the movie studio wanted director Patty Jenkins to REMOVE THIS SCENE ENTIRELY? It is the BEST SCENE IN THE MOVIE. Thank God Jenkins stuck to her guns.

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Favorite Review I’ve Written This Year

This year has been so crazy busy I’m happy to have written ANY reviews!

Most Beautiful Book I’ve Bought So Far This Year

The blue and gold cover of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is everything. What a gorgeous color combination. I already liked it from the pictures I’d seen, but when I held the book in my hand, the gold shimmered and seemed three-dimensional. Beautiful!

Books I Need To Read By The End Of This Year

So. Many. The average number of books I read is WAY down from ten books to around four, so my TBR’s backing up worse than my kitchen sink at Thanksgiving. These are some of the many books I’d like to get to before the end of the year:

  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente-Must read this if for no other reason than it has the longest title I’ve ever seen.
  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas – Because EVERYONE is talking about it. 
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I can’t believe I didn’t get to this in high school–sorry, Mrs. Bernard!
  • Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray
  • Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  • Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
  • Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1) by Tamora Pierce – I haven’t read any Tamora Pierce yet and really want to!

— Eve Messenger

I TAG THE FOLLOWING WARM, FUZZY BLOGGING FRIENDS:

Amy @ Bursting With Books

Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets

Michelle @ Bibliophile Struggle

Tina @ All Of These Prompts

Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories

Bethany @ The Grisha Lieutenant

End of Month Wrap-Up: April & March #amreading

April & May 2017 Reads
Hello, fellow book junkies! I miss all of you fabulous bloggers so much. If it’s any consolation, I haven’t had a lot of time for reading books lately either, so it’s me, not you!

Now on to reviews for books I read in April and March (two of which were two 5-star reads, by the way.)

Adult/YA fantasy crossover
A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab. Okay, so how do I put this? My favorite writer, Victoria Schwab, is EVERYTHING. In A Conjuring of Light, yes, the writing is great. So is the worldbuilding, the characters, and the plot but–as the final installment in trilogy–A Conjuring of Light did not sufficiently answer important plot questions I’ve been dying to know the answers to since book one. If you’ve read the series maybe you’ll agree. To avoid giving away even a smidgen of a spoiler, I won’t say more. 4/5 stars

YA contemporary
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon –audiobook. This was my Nicola Yoon book, and I loved it!! The Sun is Also a Star was beautifully written, moving, philosophical and featured features characters that I really grew to care about. Natasha and Daniel are so very different–a Jamaican girl with a passion for science and a Korean-American boy who’s a born poet–but somehow their love just seems meant to be. I am now officially a huge Nicola Yoon fan. 5/5 stars

MG fantasy
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson-audiobook Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians had a title I couldn’t pass up. Yeah, so then I was 1/3 of the way through the book before I realized it was the fourth book in a series I had never read! Oh, well, at least now I know how the series ends. Right? Nope, turns out book five comes out in 2018. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (book FOUR) was cute and kookily(?) magical. Sanderson–bold writer that he is–breaks the fourth wall and just seems to have a blast writing this book, I guess I’m just a tough customer to please when it comes to MG fantasy. Could be because I’m not an 11-year-old boy. There’s that. The part I enjoyed most was Alcatraz Smedry’s conflicted Evil Librarian mother. She was interesting. 3.25/5 stars

YA light horror
Wax by Gina Damico Orange Library. Entertaining, original, humorous. This is unlike any YA book I’ve read before, kind YA-lite meets Edgar Allan Poe. 3.5/5 stars

YA dystopian pirates
The Edge of the Abyss (The Abyss Surrounds Us #2) by Emily Skrutskie-Netgalley ARC. Why did I read book two of this series? Oh, right, because even though I didn’t get into the main character Cass in the first book, I appreciated Skrutskie’s unique worldbuilding, strong writing skills, and the fact that the story featured a YA lesbian (budding) relationship. So I continued the series and–surprise!–encountered the same frustrating issues I had with the first book. I did not care about the main character. Cass’ motivations were so haphazard and ingenuine that I may well have strained my eyeballs from rolling them so much. And yet I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading The Abyss Surrounds Us. It’s a unique book with a lot to offer. 3.25/5 stars

Adult contemporary literary-ish
Exit Ghost by Phillip Roth audiobook I don’t get to do this as often as I’d like, but I randomly picked this book off the library shelf one day. And I was sorry I did. Exit Ghost seemed intelligent and voice-y, had an intriguing title, and was written by an author I’ve heard of but never read. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bunch of navel-gazing. I didn’t care how many Depends adult diapers the 80 y.o. writer had to wear or find it at all endearing that he coveted his new friend’s young wife. Honestly, even if a protagonist and a reader are from completely different walks of life (as this protagonist and I are), a well-written story should get me to care. This didn’t. I DNF’ed halfway through. 2.75/5 stars

Children’s historical modern classic
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, written for readers ages 10 and up, works for all ages. It’s full of depth and moving portrayals of human decency. In fact, Number the Stars made me tear up. . . okay, cry, three times. This book restores your faith in the human race. A must-read. 5/5 stars

— Eve Messenger

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.