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

January Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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

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

JANUARY FLASH REVIEWS

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

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

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

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

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

–Eve Messenger

2016: Favorite Cover & New Fictional Crush

Hello, fellow book junkies! In the merry month of December, I’m strolling down memory lane and reminiscing about the wonderful books I read in 2016. Today I’d like to share with you about my favorite cover of the year, plus my new fictional crush.

Favorite Book Cover of 2016

First, the nominees. . .

For feminine attitude and vivid artwork,  Shadowshapers and Captain Marvel are hard to beat.
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And, somehow, the cover of The Star-Touched Queen nearly manages to capture the ethereal beauty of Roshani Chokshi’s writing.
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The cover of This Savage Song is so eye-catching. I like the combination of black and red, and the best part is the font. Plus, seeing covers on the computer, it’s easy to miss the fine detail that goes into the artwork, but if you look closely at this cover, inside the violin is an image of an urban alleyway. Pretty cool.
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There’s something about The Graces cover that appeals to me–the symmetry, perhaps? Another thing about this book, I really liked it, but for some reason it has a low 3.23 on Goodreads. I disagree!
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And the winner is. . .

A Thousand Pieces of You. This cover is a genuine work of art. Look at those watercolors and that genius reflection. This is a cover for the ages.

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New Fictional Crush

And, lastly, a quick word about my new fictional crush. I know, I know, I’m several years behind on Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, but I am 24768
finally getting caught up and loving how adventuresome, stoic, and gorgeous Zane is in Pretties (Uglies #2). He will definitely give David a run for his money. I choose you, Zane!!

 

 

 

 

–Eve Messenger

“How a Book is Made” Tag

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Thanks to The Orang-utan Librarian for yet another interesting tag. In this post, I’ll be exploring all things writing, even including a link where you can test your typing speed–post results in the comments section if you dare. 😉

1. Should you participate in National Novel Writing Month to create a book?

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Every writer should participate in NaNoWriMo at least once in zir life. Thirty consecutive days of grinding out as many words as possible establishes consistent writing habits, gets you out of the house, helps you discover great local places to write, creates bonds with other writers, pushes you to allow your imagination run wild and maybe, just maybe, gets you to the point where you can write The End at the end of an actual first draft.

 2. Self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing is what I personally strive for, primarily because the idea of having to add a full-time job of promoting my own book to actually writing books, plus working a day job to make ends meet seems utterly daunting. I’d like to have a publisher who can at least explain to me how best to promote my books.

3. Write one idea at a time or write all the ideas at once?

Capture all ideas that come to you, always. That doesn’t mean you have to turn them into books right away.

4. What genre is the easiest to write?

I’m not sure if it’s the easiest, but the genre that comes most naturally to me is young-adult speculative fiction.

5. Where do you need to write to get the work done?

Wherever there aren’t interruptions, and I’ve been getting better at writing even in environments where there’s some noise.

6. Where do you find your inspiration?

In books! I’m inspired by the stories I read and the way they’re written. Of course, I’m also inspired by events from my life, my perspective on things, and my many interests.

7. What age do you start writing?

I vividly remember writing stories in 1st grade.

8. What’s easiest to write? Short stories, stand-alones, series, etc.

Stand-alones. The idea of planning out a series makes my brain explode.

9. Do you mill your books or take years to write a book?

I can whip out a first draft quickly, maybe in a month or two, but ultimately I think I need a year or two to finish a book.

10. How fast can you type?

According to TypingTest.com, I type 95 words a minute.

11. Do you write in the dark or in the light?

Both.

12. Handwritten or typed?

Typed, but I love those rare occasions when I hand-write because I think the writing flows more organically, and when I type out the handwritten words afterward I’m always surprised by how many more words there are than I expected.

13. Alone or with someone else?

Alone, but I’m open to trying out a collaboration. Why not?

14. Any typing hacks?

Practice a lot.

15. Are you already published?

I had a poem published in an anthology; that’s about it.

16. When did you first consider being an author?

I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an author.

17. How many books do you have in draft form?

Four and a half.

18. Do you outline or no?

Proper outlining is a skill I’ve not yet mastered–but I really want to!

19. What’s your favorite note-keeping strategy?

I keep notes in my smart phone, notebooks, and Google docs.

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20. What do you think about writing in different genres?

I love reading multiple genres but, ultimately, I’m most comfortable writing YA speculative. I am, however, totally enamored with the idea of experimenting with writing genre mash-ups.

–Eve Messenger

I Tag:

Rayne Adams
Melanie Noell Bernard
G.L. Jackson @ Dreaming in Character
Mackenzie Bates
Ida Auclond
Daisy in the Willows
Nicolette Elzie
Danielle @ The Caffeinated Writer

 

 

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. . .

Trick

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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Treat

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