November Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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

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

BOOKS I READ IN NOVEMBER:

YA Fantasy-Paranormal

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

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

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

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

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

YA Contemporary

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

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

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

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

Adult Contemporary-Humor

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

Adult-Mystery

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

Adult-Autobiography

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

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

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

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Happy holidays!

–Eve Messenger

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October Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading #YA

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Can you believe we’re already on the home stretch toward Christmas? Wow, this year is absolutely flying by. So how was your reading month? Though there weren’t any five-star reads, mine was perfectly enjoyable. All the books I read fell into the YA category (unsurprisingly, since I love it so much) . The narratives took me all over the place, from My Lady Jane’s alternate 16th century England to The Absolutely True Diary’s Spokane Indian Reservation and all points in between and way not in between.

Here’s what I read in October . . .

YA Paranormal, Modern Day Texas & Fantasy Compound Where People with Special Powers Live
Split Second (Pivot Point #2) by Kasie West 360pp
Kasie West is a fine writer; when I read her books I know I’m in good hands. However, I may be the toughest critic when it comes to sequels. What made the first book in this series so enjoyable was the thrill of going along for the wild ride as main character Addie, using her Searcher ability, mentally lives out two potential futures based on two different choices. This happened hardly at all in the second book; thus, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. 4/5 stars

YA Paranormal in a Modern Day Northern California Catholic High School with a very angry ghost
Shadowland by Meg Cabot 287pp audiobook
I’m always up for a story about a protagonist who can see ghosts. This book wasn’t bad, just the plot was a bit thin. It would have been better so much better if more things had happened. 3.25/5 stars

YA Paranormal(ish) in Modern Day Ireland
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle audiobook
Smalltown Ireland was a fantastic setting. This is one of those frustrating books that’s so well-written, with such a promising concept, but a plot that does not deliver. 3/5 stars

YA Contemporary/Humor on Spokane Indian Reservation
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Humorous and heartbreaking, this was an eye-opening journey into the life of an incredibly bright boy on an Indian Reservation in Spokane, Washington. The author’s illustrations were a nice touch. 4/5 stars

YA Alternative Historical Romance in 16th Century England
My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton & Meadows
I’ve never read a book quite like this. It was irreverent, entertaining, and impeccably well-researched. 4/5 stars

YA Steampunk in Alternate England
Timekeeper by Tara Sim  Netgalley ARC
This was my first foray into steampunk, a genre I’d be interested in reading more of. Timekeeper had lots of potential. My favorite character by far was Daphne, but she really didn’t have a very big part. The main character, Danny, was sweet and tortured, but I never really feel like I got to know him. My full Goodreads review is here3.75/5 stars

YA Dystopia in Post-Apocalyptic Denver
Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
I adored the first book, Legend. Book two kept my interest throughout but didn’t have the heartpounding, non-stop action that the first book did until about 2/3 of the way in. The Colonies alluded to in the first book are revealed in the second, and Marie Lu’s take on them is quite interesting. There are three more important things I want to say about Prodigy: Kaede, Kaede, Kaede. 4/5 stars

YA Contemporary/Coming of Age in 1990s Pittsburgh
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky  audiobook
Yay, I finally got around to reading this modern YA classic. Now I can see how true to the book the movie was. No wonder–wow, did Chbosky really write and direct the movie based on his own book? What a multi-talented guy. 4.25/5 stars

–Eve Messenger

Don’t Judge this Book by the Title

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If you like a good story

Read.

This.

Book.

If someone had told me a week ago I would even pick up a book called Ice Massacre I would have laughed. Hard. But I am here now to say I loved this book and that its only weakness was the title.

The plot line, on the other hand, got my attention. In this modern day YA fantasy, the people of the island of Eriana Kwai are in trouble. Merpeople have waged war on them and are starving them out. Warrior mermaids–who morph into (seriously) terrifying sea demons–send fish away from the island and brutally murder fishermen. Like sirens, the mermaids can also cast hypnotic spells over men. So what do the people of Eriana Kwai do? They send a band of trained, 18-year-old women out to battle at sea.

Ice Massacre kept me on the edge of my seat. The writing is strong, the characters believable, the mermaids so, so scary. Worthy of mentioning is that the book also features diverse characters. A good plot twist also lends depth to the story; as a young girl, the main character Meela befriends an injured mermaid. When she grows up, Meela opts to defend her people and battle the mermaids but must keep her cross-species friendship a secret.

This might be one of those books that hit me at a time when I was exactly in the right mood for it. Who knows? Bottom line: it was a blast to read. 5/5 stars.

–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

Current Reads, Netgalley & Morally Ambiguous Characters

Photo: thespiritscience.net

There seems to be a common theme running through the books I’m reading this month: characters who are impossible to classify as either good or evil. This unintentional trend began with Vicious, in which V.E. Schwab punched me in the face with “who’s really the villain here?”

This month I jumped on the Netgalley train. Out of three ARCs I’ve read so far this month, my favorite was The Graces by Laure Eve. Talk about morally ambiguous characters! You never quite know what everyone’s about until the end. The Graces is a contemporary paranormal YA story about young witches, which takes place in a vaguely British seaside town (though the author never identifies the town by name–which is the only thing that irked me.) If you’re interested, here’s my Goodreads review. Check out this fantastic cover.

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I’m halfway through Nimona, which is a crazy adorable comic/graphic novel (I never quite know the difference). And again with morally ambiguous characters–I am so rooting for Nimona and her “boss” despite (because of?) the fact that nothing makes Nimona happier than hatching villainous plans.

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Have any of you read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein? I’m about six chapters into it and having a hard time loving it. The writing is high level, and juicy plot twists are sure to come, but I’m feeling pretty textbookish about it, partly because Code Name Verity is reminding me, like a bucket of ice water over my head, why I do not like war era fiction, or technical stuff, like all the airplane model and engine part references. I want to like this book, so if you’ve read it and liked it, I’d love to hear why.

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–Eve Messenger