ARC Review: THE CUTAWAY by Christina Kovac #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! A Goodreads friend really liked The Cutaway by Christina Kovac, so I ventured out of my YA zone and, crossing my fingers, requested an ARC on Netgalley. I got a copy (yay!), and totally enjoyed it. 🙂

The Cutaway is a fast-paced, engrossing adult mystery whose biggest strengths are its top-notch writing, a noble protagonist, and the many fascinating insights Kovac (a career journalist) shares about the world of television journalism.

The setting is Washington, D.C., known as “The District,” the protagonist Virginia Knightly, a newswoman with a painful past and a near-photographic memory. When a young female lawyer goes missing, Virginia vaguely recalls cutaway footage of the woman from years before. As Virginia pursues the story on this missing person investigation and uncovers why the elusive footage is important, she enters dangerous territory, both professionally and personally. But Virginia is not a woman to be trifled with–if anyone can compile a top news story while maintaining her integrity, Virginia will.

Though I guessed the villain’s identity a little earlier than I’d hoped I would, overall, the plot was suspenseful and solidly constructed. I’m definitely open to reading more books by Christina Kovac, and I predict The Cutaway will do well when it comes out in March 2017.

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— 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

May Reads 2016 #amreading

May Reads 2016 Final

Hello, fellow book junkies!  I can’t recall the last time I read eleven books in a single month, so May might just be a new record.This month also rang in my first exposure to Netgalley ARCs, which included The Graces, a book I really enjoyed, and The 52nd, a book I really didn’t.

Is there a word that encompasses comics, manga, and graphic novels? “Graphic narrative,” perhaps? Whatever the term, I read three of them this month, a personal trend kicked off this year by my fabulous blogger friend Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories recommending the 2015 female version of Captain Marvel, which I adored. Carolyn is funny and so, so smart when it comes to books, so I hope you get a chance to check out her blog.

Here are the books I read in May:

YA DYSTOPIAN

Legend by Marie Lu
How has Legend not been made into a movie or TV series yes?!  I read it, loved it, and can’t wait to get my hands on the other books in the trilogy. “Day” is everything. 5 stars

YA FANTASY-PARANORMAL

The Graces by Laure Eve Netgalley ARC
Well written, atmospheric, and dark, this is the tale of a new girl in town who longs to be accepted by the Graces, three witch siblings who are the most popular kids in high school. Bonus points for the English seaside setting. Expected publication date: September 2016.  Goodreads review.  5 stars.

The White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black Audio book
Cassel is the only non-magical son of a family of con-artist magic workers. Entertaining, with excellent world-building. The audio book was narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, whose reading style isn’t my favorite. I’ll read the next book in the series, The Red Glove, the old-fashioned way. 4 stars.

The 52nd Netgalley ARC
Immortal Aztec demigods attempt to save a mortal girl from an ancient curse. Oh, what potential this story had, but the silly, rambling tale just didn’t work. Goodreads review. 2 (generous) stars.

YA CONTEMPORARY

The Art of Being Normal by Elizabeth Williamson Netgalley ARC
“Two boys. Two secrets.” In The Art of Being Normal, we get a taste of what life might be like in a London low-rent district similar to the NYC projects. More importantly, we get to view the world through the eyes of two sympathetic, believable high school students trying to be true to themselves. Yes, there are heartbreaking moments, but ultimately this is an uplifting story about what people can accomplish when they believe in one another and themselves.  Goodreads review. 5 stars.

The Haters by Jesse Andrews Audiobook
There are a ridiculous number of F bombs and explicit sexual descriptions littered throughout this book. That being said, the adventure this band of jazz camp dropouts goes on is totally entertaining. Writer Jesse Andrews is genuinely funny and totally gets what it’s like to be in a band. Narrated by excellent, fast (!) reader Michael Crouch, whose impressive narrating credits also include The Serpent King, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Salt to the Sea, and Magonia. 4 stars.

ADULT FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION/PARANORMAL

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Good guys? Bad guys? Who cares? Enjoy Schwab’s morally conflicted ride, with characters unlike any you’ve read before. 5 stars.

YA HISTORICAL

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This moving story sure did make me cry at the end. The plot is so smart. And, oh, what a great character Queenie is. If only I hadn’t had to drag myself through minefields of overly technical details about engines and piloting airplanes. In the end, Queenie was worth it. 3.5 stars.

COMIC/MANGA/GRAPHIC NOVEL

Ms. Marvel, vol. 1: No Normal by Wilson, Alphana, Herring
Ms. Marvel is a girl from a loving, immigrant Pakistani family who has to navigate her way through becoming a superhero. A smart, relatable, girl of color does the rescuing–fun read. 4.5 stars.

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Crystal Chan-NetGalley ARC
In addition to the lovely artwork, this manga version did a good job preserving key plot elements and best lines from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original–the ultimate forbidden love story. Goodreads review. 3.75 stars

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
I have a new crush, and his name is Ballister Blackheart. Talk about morally ambiguous characters! Nimona is quite a character, and the story takes a surprising turn. 4 stars.

–Eve Messenger

Current Reads, Netgalley & Morally Ambiguous Characters

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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