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

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How to Tell If You’re a Book Junkie II

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Directions: Mark an ‘x’ for each statement that applies to you.

[ ] 1. I have dropped a book on my face. More than once.

[ ] 2. On social media, I follow writers, not singers and movie stars.

[ ] 3. “Unputdownable” IS a word.

[ ] 4. My idea of a great weekend is starting a new book.

[ ] 5. My fingers type “Google” into the web address bar but somehow I keeping winding up at Goodreads.

[ ] 6. If I leave the house without a book I feel naked   I have a mini-panic attack. I never leave the house without a book.

[ ] 7. I freely admit I’ve hugged, kissed and/or lovingly patted a book.

[ ] 8. My favorite thing in my wallet is my library card.

[ ] 9. I plan road trips just to listen to audio books.

[ ] 10. While reading a book I am oblivious to the outside world. People can shout my name, gesture rudely, but short of bodily injury, I will not notice them.

[ ] 11. I’m happy if there’s a long wait at the mechanic/doctor’s office/airport because it means I get to read.

[ ] 12. When putting together a travel checklist, my first item is always: “books to read.”

[ ] 13. While standing in line to buy a new book I am. . . reading a book.

If you answered “yes” to any of the items on this checklist you are officially a book junkie. For further confirmation, try this test too: “How to Tell if You’re a Book Junkie.

Happy reading!

–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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

ARC Review: The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Hello, fellow book junkies! I’ve been reading, writing and working a lot, plus I came down with a terrible stomach bug this week, so blogging and social media had to take a back seat. I’m back now! Isn’t it such a great feeling when, after you’ve been terribly sick, you finally feel better?

I wanted to share with you about an ARC I recently read. The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs is slated to be published in September of this year, and it had some of the finest writing I’ve ever read in YA. The topic it explores is one I typically avoid: high school mass shootings. I freely admit that when it comes to fiction I tend to stick my head in the sand and not read about issues that already feel so upsetting in the real world. However, I’m glad I decided to read this book.

Here’s my review:

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC by Sarah Combs – YA Contemporary, 320 pp.

Sarah Combs’ writing style has a poetic, stream of consciousness feel to it, like a river flowing through the minds of one character to the next, building an atmospheric exploration of what moves teens to engage in mass violence. The topic is terrifying, but this is not a blood and guts story. The story swirls around the collective human heart.

The writing is pretty much brilliant throughout. Some examples:

“The sky! How huge it is, how opposite a thing from the narrowing that has become her life.”

“She loves to laugh at her own First World problems even as she is wallowing in them.”

The Light Fantastic also masterfully touches on the close, even psychic, connection sisters can have.

The story’s weakness is in the looseness of the plot. At times, the narrative dwells too long inside a POV character’s head and begs to be stepped up to the next level through action or dialogue. The main character April has hyperthymesia, meaning she can recall in perfect detail every event connected with her life. As intriguing a trait as this is, April’s gift/curse quickly becomes an excuse to overload the plot with backstory.

Nonetheless, The Light Fantastic is a powerful story. For myriad reasons—cruelty from peers, mental illness, dropping into the rabbit hole of the internet—a person can lose touch with their humanity to the point where they think it is acceptable, even necessary, to engage in mass murder. This book serves as a reminder to us all to connect with other people IN REAL LIFE, to be the one to say something genuine and kind to acknowledge another person as a living, breathing, feeling human being. You never know what difference your words might make, not only in that person’s life but in the lives of others who, perhaps, that person might not decide to kill.

–Eve Messenger

Totally Should’ve Book Tag #amreading #YA

Totally Should've Book tag

Thank you to Brittany @ Grisha Lieutenant for tagging me to do this fun “Totally Should’ve” book tag (created by lively video blogger Katytastic.)

1. A book that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE had a sequel.

It’s no secret that I adore Lauren Oliver’s novel, Before I Fall.  The lovely writing and compelling story make me want to read more, plus there’s a certain male character I’d love to see get another chance–sorry if that’s vague, but we’re spoiler-free here at Eve Messenger’s OtherWORDly Endeavors. 🙂

2. A book/series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE had a Spin-Off series.

Fangirl already has a spin-off with Simon and Baz in Carry On, but one-of-a-kind, adorable Levi is the character I’d most like to read a spin-off about: growing up with his big, blond brothers, working in the coffee shop, overcoming his unique challenge.

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Artist: Noelle Stevenson (I think!?)

3. An author who TOTALLY SHOULD write more books.

V.E. Schwab, V.E. Schwab!

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4. A character who TOTALLY SHOULD’VE ended up with someone else.

What randomly popped into my head just now is that Cinderella should end up, not in a cliched relationship with Prince Charming, but in a loving relationship with his dark, lovely, girl-knight sister. That would be cool.

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5. A book/series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE ended differently.

Not that I’d like a different ending, just a more complete one. In Sarah Dessen’s book, The Truth About Forever, a major plot question is raised at the beginning, which is never answered. That was kind of frustrating.

6. A book/series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE had a movie franchise.

If it’s done right, Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking would be amazing.

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7. A book/series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE had a TV show.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any novels I’d want  adapted into a TV series.

8. A book/series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE only had one point of view

The Future of Us.  Emma and Jay’s POV voices were confusingly similar, and the story was really about Emma anyway. One POV would’ve worked great.

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9. A book/series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE had a cover change.

I wholeheartedly agree with Brittany @ Grisha Lieutenant on this one. I love the story Ella Enchanted, but nothing about this cover works.

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10. A book/series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE kept the original covers.

I appreciate beautiful covers but am not adept at keeping track of originals vs. new edition covers, etc., so I abstain from answering this question.

11. A series that TOTALLY SHOULD’VE stopped at book #1.

I must have issues with  attention span or something because I rarely stick with a series past books one or two–with some notable exceptions, including Throne of Glass and A Darker Shade of Magic. . . . SQUIRREL.

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— Eve Messenger

I Nominate:

Michelle @ The Bibliophile Struggle

Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories

Dee @ The Bookish Khalisi

Nazahet @ Read Diverse Books

Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets

Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels

 Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books

The Bibliotheque

 

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Author Q&A: Randi Pink – Into White

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Hello, book lovers! In this, the “month of love,” I’m celebrating one of our greatest loves, YA fiction, by featuring Tuesday interviews with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS.

Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .

Smart, funny, fashionable Randi Pink whose talent and passion for beautiful writing is about to skyrocket her to literary stardom.Randi Pink Into White

The Book:

Into White is set to release in September 2016.

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Why Into White is a must-read:

Compelling, controversial, magical. “In a moment of desperation, a black girl prays for the power to change her race and wakes up white.”

The Interview:

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

R.P.: I was terrified! I wrote the first chapter of INTO WHITE as an assignment in a Children’s Literature Workshop, and I was so nervous that I could hardly sleep the night before. I knew the subject matter was controversial, so I feared judgment, but the class was so supportive and kind!

Stepping into that class and opening myself up to criticism taught me a valuable lesson about writing – as long as the story is rooted in truth, the audience will respond positively. I also learned that fear and creativity can’t live in the same place – one kills the other.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. If you created a playlist for your novel, what are some of the songs on it?

R.P.: Yes! I wouldn’t have made it through the process of creating this novel without Johnny Cash, India Arie, Cyndi Lauper, and especially Willow Smith. Every musician on INTO WHITE’s playlist has one thing in common, they embrace their own artistic uniqueness. I imagine Toya listening for the courage to be herself, because that’s what I listen for.

[Click here to hear some of the songs on Randi Pink’s Into White playlist.]

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Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

R.P.: I do! We’re called The Night Writers, and we met at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. We had our first meeting nearly three years ago, and the group has produced such beautiful writing! I encourage every aspiring children’s book author to join, not only SCBWI, but a critique group. Creative minds need to be around other creative minds. Even the most solitary writer needs a regular dose of creative companionship.

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Eve: What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

R.P.: I don’t do writing schedules. I write because it’s my compulsion. Example: I can’t get through the pastor’s sermon without scribbling a haiku, poem, or short story on the tithing envelop. J

I usually don’t do rewards either. My reward is the calm that comes when I search my mind for innovative ways to articulate a story. And the feeling of accomplishment when I read (and love!) my own words.

Eve: What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

R.P.: I hope INTO WHITE encourages an honest dialogue about self-denigration. In many ways, we are all Toyas. Hoping to lose those extra pounds. Praying for lighter or darker skin. Wishing for a smaller or larger nose, or waist, or rear-end. Secretly haunted by our own self-doubt.

I sincerely hope that Toya’s vulnerability and openness will inspire the reader to reveal his or her own insecurities to someone they trust, because honesty is the first step to self-love. Accessing true happiness begins with accepting ourselves as imperfect beings. If you’re chasing perfection, there will be no rest.

For more information about Randi Pink and her exciting new YA debut novel, visit:

January Wrap-Up Plus Random Author Facts #amreading

Here I was thinking I’d read eight books a month throughout 2016–and then started with four books in January. Ah, well c’est la vie (or however you spell that). They were all fun to read.

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The Diviners by Libba Bray

With The Diviners, I got to completely immerse myself in a different era and thoroughly enjoyed it. I haven’t read much historical fiction, but I plan to now. The Roaring ’20s was an AWESOME setting for a book about “diviners” (kids with supernatural abilities) chasing down an occult bad guy. Deftly told from multiple points of view, I fell in love with the characters Memphis Campbell and Theta Knight (though Evie was actually the central character). Libba Bray has an excellent writing style, and I look forward to checking out the next book in the series, Lair of Dreams, as well as another Bray book I’ve heard good things about, A Great and Terrible Beauty.

~Random Author Fact ~

Libba Bray is married to her agent, Barry Goldblatt.

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Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

I’ll be honest, the first few chapters of Magonia found me skimming a bit, but before long I was thrillingly engaged. What words can I use to describe the world-building? Extraordinary, striking, outlandish, whimsical, hallucinatory . . . and completely believable. It’s so hard to explain without giving away spoilers, so I’ll just say I’m grateful to Beth @ betwixt-the-lines for making me read this book. If you’ve read it, too, I’d love to hear your take on it.

~Random Author Fact ~

In 2005, Maria Dahvana Headley wrote a very different kind of book, non-fiction actually, called The Year of Yes. When Shonda Rhimes (of Gray’s Anatomy fame) recently released a book with the same title, Dahvana Headley was, shall we say, miffed and wasn’t afraid to say so. Publicly. On Twitter.

Maria Dahvana Headley - pissed about copying The Year of Yes title

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The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Let’s see . . . what was my original reason for deciding to read this book? Right, I freaking love time slip stories! (If you have any to recommend, I am all ears–er, eyes?) It’s 1996, and Emma is one of the first kids on her block to get a home computer. Emma’s cute neighbor/former best friend Josh gives her a CD-ROM so she can load email onto her computer and, lo and behold, Emma magically gains access to her FUTURE Facebook account. The story is told through alternating chapters of Emma’s and Josh’s POVs, and I have to admit, the two voices were so similar I sometimes had to check the first page of the chapter to make sure whose POV I was reading. This is a complaint other readers have had, too, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying The Future of Us for what it was: a cute, entertaining, and a pleasantly quick read.

~Random Author Fact ~

The Future of Us came to be because a teen fan asked Carolyn Mackler (a panelist at a book event) what her dream writing project would be, and Mackler decided she really wanted to collaborate with Jay Asher.

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The Door that Led to Where by Sally Gardner

As I type this review for the last of my January reads, I realize I read all four book exactly in order of how much I ended up liking them. Coincidence. . . or not? Yes, pure coincidence. 🙂 The Door that Led to Where was well-written in terms of descriptions and similes and all that (I especially enjoyed Gardner’s fun anthropomorphisms). I definitely wanted to keep reading ’til the end, but The Door that Led to Where didn’t get in-depth enough into the story it sought to tell. Good-natured 17-year-old AJ Flynn discovers a secret door to the past, which reveals important information about his true identity and puts him on the trail (perhaps in the path) of a murderer. I loved the scenes set in the 1830s (hmm, more historical fiction–I sense a personal trend), but my biggest complaint is that I never felt like I really got to know the characters.

~Random Author Fact ~

Because of undiagnosed dyslexia, Sally Gardner did not learn to read and write until she was fourteen.

 

Upcoming Reads :

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Buddy-reading with Beth @ betwixt-the-pages and Jess @ Gone with the Words.)
  • Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (Buddy-reading with Sarah K. @ The YA Book Traveler.)
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
  • Angelfall by Susan Ee
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey