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

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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

December Flash Reviews

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, here’s a recap of the final books I read in the year 2016. Each book was super unique and there were lots of YA speculative genres represented: fantasy, time travel, sci-fi, paranormal, f/f, dystopia0, horror. The flash reviews are listed by how much I liked each book, leading down to two fabulous five-star reads at the end.

The Dreamcatcher by Barrett – YA paranormal,  F/F relationship, WOC main character. Dark magic influenced by Indigenous folklore (maybe). Adorable romance, but the paranormal element missed the mark. I’m getting nervous about reading books by YA authors who only go by one name. (See review for The 52nd by Dela).  3.5/5 stars

Side Jobs, Short Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher– This adult paranormal detective short story collection was recommended to me by my husband. Interesting concept. Funny, self-deprecating protagonist Harry Dresden is both a private detective and a warlock. The stories were entertaining until I lost interest about halfway through the book. Highlight: Murphy, the female non-magic police officer tiny in stature but with a big don’t-mess-with-me attitude. 3.75/5 stars

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter – Eloquent, nightmarish, Russian YA fairy tale retelling set in Brooklyn. Weird is good but not always great.3.75/5 stars

Railhead by Philip Reed– Off-the-hook world-building. Intriguing concepts. Reminiscent of Red Rising, but the characters could have been stronger. 4/5 stars

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee –  YA superheroes and f/f romance. Entertaining, sweet, unique, entertaining–especially if you’re into superheroes. 4/5 stars

Pretties (Uglies #2) by Scott Westerfeld – YA dystopian. There was hoverboarding, and gorgeous, stoic Zach is my new book boyfriend so, yes, I am perfectly content. 🙂 4/5 stars

Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs – Intriguing YA time travel/thriller featuring an amazing WOC main character who I rooted for like crazy.High on mystery/suspense, low on world-building. 4/5 stars

Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Erania Kwai #2) by Tiana Warner – YA paranormal filled with thrills and gills. Islander warrior girl befriends/falls in love with mermaid/sea demon warrior girl. Exciting, fascinating, adventurous. Loving this series. 5/5 stars

The Reader by Traci Chee – Officially one of my top eight favorite reads of 2016. This YA fantasy magic-adventure-fairy tale is engrossing and brilliantly structured with fantastic world-building, the kind of deliriously good book that whisks you away. Book two now, please. 5/5 stars

So long, books of 2016. Hello to all the new books to be read in 2017!

–Eve Messenger

5-Star Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

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Hello, fellow book junkies! During winter break, I packed The Reader to take with me on a trip, leaving the dust jacket at home so it wouldn’t get bent up in my suitcase. But then the very moment I finished the book, I was DYING to have that stunning (see picture, above) dust jacket back because The Reader is so unique and amazing that it deserves to look gorgeous, too.

The best way I can think of to describe The Reader is that it is a “thrilling fairy tale.” The world-building is in a league with Leigh Bardugo, the writing style is reminiscent of the brilliant V.E. Schwab, and there’s a fairy tale quality that is all Traci Chee. If you like The Winner’s Curse, A Darker Shade of Magic, and/or Rebel of the Sands, you’ll love The Reader.

Interestingly enough, there was a glitch in the lead-up to my reading this book. When I first heard about The Reader and then checked out the wonderful excerpt, I got so excited I pre-ordered it, meaning not only did I get the book as soon as it came out in September, I also received the little poem/art print and book plate goodies that came with it–which, as pretty as they were, ended up in a pile with book merch bling I’ve received with other pre-ordered YA books. Yes, it’s fun getting free stuff–especially when it’s book-related–but, to be honest, I haven’t figured out a good use for pretty poem/art prints, temporary tattoos, book postcards, book plates, etc. Anyway, it’s nice having them. XD

So, back in September I was excited to read The Reader, but then I discovered–oh, no–there are pirates in it.

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I am not at all into pirates; I mean, I didn’t even get past the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. So this meant The Reader got put on a back burner for three months. As it turns out, there was nothing to fear. Yes, pirates do appear in The Reader, but they are not the central focus of the story and–guess what–I LOVED them! The pirates are noble and loyal and roguish in the best way.

Here’s what The Reader is about: a girl named Sefia who is left on her own after the death of her parents (shocking YA fantasy set-up, right?) In Sefia’s world, reading does not exist, but somehow she comes into the possession of a book. Sefia also has an ability to see golden light beyond normal life, where she witnesses people’s histories. Lots of other things happen, but I won’t go into much plot detail so you can savor the thrilling adventure for yourself. I’ll just say The Reader gets better and better as you go along, and it’s exciting how everything ties together. There’s also a lovely slow-burn romance with a character I sincerely hope we get to learn much more about in book two. Yes, I am already planning to read book two, cannot wait for it, in fact.

To be honest, for the first few chapters, The Reader’s story structure feels too busy. Several POV characters are introduced, there are interjections of distinctly different fonts that mean special things, and some of the chapters are from a book Sefia is reading in the story–which we’re not aware of first, and that’s a bit confusing. After a few chapters, though, the story comes together beautifully and completely sweeps you away.

As a fantasy book for teens, it might hurt a bit that The Reader features some characters who aren’t adolescents, but those characters are so compelling and interesting, I didn’t mind at all.

All in all, I’d have to say The Reader is in my top eight favorite reads of the year. It was the last book I read in 2016, and I’m thrilled to end on such a high note.

5-stars

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!

— Eve Messenger

Why are More People Not Reading this YA Series? It’s So Good! Ice Crypt by Tiana Warner

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Earlier this year, I posted a rave review about a book called Ice Massacre (Eriana Kwai #1) by Tiana Warner. I just finished book two, Ice Crypt,and couldn’t wait to let you know about it.

First, let me just say that I’m perplexed about why more YA fantasy book lovers are not reading this series. It is so fun! Okay, I kind of get it. Some people are into mermaid stories; some aren’t. I honestly had no preference either way. I just really love these books. Yes, they’re written by an indie author, but they’re as good or better than some of the more popular YA fantasy series, very professionally done, strong writing, no typos, etc.

So here’s the  setup:

Human inhabitants of the island of Eriana Kwai are mortal enemies with merpeople/sea demons who are starving out the islanders and killing fisherman under the leadership of an evil, power-hungry mer-king. In book one, we get to know Meela, a human girl, who forms a strong bond of friendship with Lysi, a mermaid, when they’re both young girls. Then Meela and Lysi grow up to become warriors and have to do battle with each other. In book #2, Ice Crypt, we get to know Lysi better, and we witness what appears to be a blossoming love affair between Meela and Lysi.

Some things that make Ice Crypt so good:

  • the best kind of camaraderie between friends (both Meela’s and Lysi’s)
  • heroes to care about
  • villains who are super fun to root against
  • an exciting climax
  • surprising plot twists
  • f/f romance that doesn’t overwhelm the story
  • great world-building–especially the merpeople’s undersea existence. It’s interesting how Lysi, being a mermaid, can sense auras and emotions of nearby sea animals and merpeople. For example: “I’d always loved dolphins. They were the only animals whose auras showed as wide a range of emotions as a mermaid’s.”

Highlights

Lysi’s merman comrade in arms Spio is the most endearing kind of goofball, like when he says to Lysi: “She reminds me of what you would look like if you were ten years older and had dark hair. And darker skin. And bigger—”

[Lysi interrupts to say] “So she looks nothing like me.”

“Not really.”

In Ice Crypt, Meela and her human friends experience fascinating adventures on the island, but Lysi the mermaid steals the show. Lysi is a brave, stubborn warrior with a kind heart and lots of attitude, like this observation she makes about a pompous merman who keeps following her around (even though she only has eyes for Meela):

This guy projected so much confidence that I had the urge to swat it away. . .

For anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, I highly recommend this series.

–Eve Messenger

The Bookish Scenarios Tag #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! I won’t lie; it was super challenging to narrow down each of these categories to just one book  (you know how it is, right, when you love so, so many books?). Everyone should try this book tag, though–it’s a fun one, so I hereby tag all of you! Thanks to Jess @ Blogging Everything Beautiful for telling me about it. 🙂

[1.] You have to get rid of all your books and you can only keep one from each of these genres – contemporary, fantasy, non-fiction and one other genre of your choosing. What books do you keep?

Contemporary: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Fantasy: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Non-Fiction: The Gypsies by Jan Yoors

Fantasy/Speculative: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

[2.] You’re at the bookstore and you hear a teenager telling their mom they don’t like to read, but their mom insists they pick something. You walk over and recommend a book you think is great for people who aren’t big on reading – what book is it?

I’d say, “Start easy with this amazingly awesome comic book, reluctant reader, and work your way up.”
Captain Marvel, vol. 1. by DeConnick and Lopez

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[3.] You’re not feeling yourself and need a pick me up. Which book do you read to put yourself in a great mood?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. As scary as this novel gets at times, the main character Agnieszka is so full of love, there are great friendships, and the homespun (but very powerful) magic is a joy to read about.

[4.] You go back in time for a day to your childhood years. What book would you most likely have caught yourself reading?

I’d have to go with Fairy Tales from Around the World. It was a very old series I found in the far corner of our small-town school library. I haven’t run across it since, but in third grade I couldn’t get enough of it.

[5.] Your friend surprises you with a 4-day trip and you have 1 hour to pack. Which book do you bring to read on the way?

I’d pack my Kindle so I could choose from several books already loaded onto it: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Geir, and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

[6.] Your house has been robbed! Don’t worry – everyone is safe, but your bookshelf has been raided. What’s the book you really hope is safe?

A Darker Shade of Magic, signed by V.E. Schwab at my very first book signing.

[7.] Your friend borrows a book and returns it in awful condition. Do you a) Just pretend you haven’t noticed b) Ask them to repurchase it or c) Secretly do the same to something of theirs?

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or d) Wonder what the heck happened to me that I would go back on a promise to myself–after many, many unreturned books–to never loan out books unless I’m okay with giving them as a gift.

–Eve Messenger