YA lit

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

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Best of 2016 – YA Standalones, Series, Authors, and More

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Hello, fellow book junkies and happy last day of 2016! Before launching into an exciting new year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the best YA books and authors I read in 2016. I surpassed my 100-book reading challenge by 18 books and met many five-star worthy reads but, ultimately, these are the books that left the most lingering impression. Here’s the best of 2016.

Favorite New Author

V.E./Victoria Schwab – Thank you, 2016, for introducing me to the writing genius of Victoria “V.E.”  Schwab. My gateway drug into Schwab ‘s amazing books was A Darker Shade of Magic, followed by: A Gathering of Shadows, Vicious, and This Savage Song. Oh, and I got to meet her at a book signing (my very first one). Yes, I am officially a Schwabling (at least I think that’s what they’re calling us diehard Schwab fans.)

Honorable mention: A.S. King – Her writing style is completely original and imaginative. I may not always love the plot, but I can’t get enough of her writing. I recommend starting with Reality Boy or Please Ignore Vera Dietz.

Favorite Series

Without question, my favorite series was The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater! It had everything: memorable characters, amazing writing, off-the-hook world-building, great plot twists. Once I started with The Raven Boys, I could not stop.

Books So Fun They Felt Like Reading Parties

Captain Marvel, vol. 1-6 by DeConnick and Lopez

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Best World-Building

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Honorable Mention: The Reader by Traci Chee

Favorite Indie Series

Mermaids of Eriana Kwai by Tiana Warner

Best Female Protagonist

Agnieszka from Uprooted by Naomi Novik. A complete original with a powerful gift for magic.

Honorable Mentions:
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Miss Justineau from The Girl With All the Gifts

Best Male Protagonist

Day from Legend by Marie Lu

Favorite New Book Boyfriend

Zach from Pretties (Uglies #2) by Scott Westerfeld.

Best Setting

Alternate, modern world, czarist Russia from A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Dreamy, wonderful, unforgettable.

Favorite Plot Twist

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Best Cover

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Most Devastating Read

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter. I usually avoid sad stories, but Kletter is stunningly talented, and this story about a broken girl really moved me.

Honorable mention: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Zentner got me good on this one. Tears were running down my cheeks before I fully realized what was happening.

Favorite Audiobook

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Narrated in the best kind of wry, British style by Kathryn Kellgren. This fish out of water story made me laugh out loud, and the audiobook was perfect for listening to while putting around in the car.

Best Small Press Standalone

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It took a few chapters for things to come together, but once they did, there was no looking back.

The #1 Book No One Else Seems to Like But Me

The Graces by Laura Eve – I’m so glad I got a hold of this deliciously deadly, atmospheric book early on as a Netgalley ARC because otherwise I might have been turned off by the low 3.23 rating it currently has on Goodreads. Here’s to teen witches and morally ambiguous characters.

I would love to hear about YOUR favorite books of the year. To step up this challenge and give a massive New Year’s shout-out to bloggers who have brought so much bookish joy and friendship to my year, I hereby tag:

The Orang-utan Librarian

Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories

Amy @ Every Book You Need to Read and More

Danielle @ Books, Vertigo & Tea

Brittany @ The Grisha Lieutenant

Ann @ Ann’s Reading Corner

Amanda @ Cover2Cover Mom

Melanie Noell Bernard

Naz @ Read Diverse Books

Rae @ BookmarkChronicles

Jesalin @ Blogging Everything Beautiful

Beth @ Betwixt These Pages

Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets

Morgan @ Hopeless Book Addict

Jocelyn @ 52 Letters in the Alphabet

Kim @ By Hook or By Crook

Kelly Deeny
Elena Johansen
FamilyRules
Wallace Cass
Annika Perry
Pat Sherard
The Glitter Afficianado
Stephanie @ Eclectic Scribblings
Deby Fredericks
Nate Philbrick
Sabrina Marsi Books
Mackenzie Bates
Stephanie @ yourdaughtersbookshelf
Karen @ MyTrain of Thoughts
Erica @ Books the Thing
Beth @ Betwixt These Pages

 

July Reading Wrap-Up & the Goodreads Bermuda Triangle #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies!  I’ll say it right out, July was a total hodgepodge of reading, and somehow I read a record number of books: 16–too many to review in one wrap-up, so I’ll just highlight a few.

Surprise Faves

I’m one of those people who can’t watch violence of any kind. If a character on television is being beaten or stabbed, my hands are clamped firmly over my eyes until a family member says it’s safe to remove them. That is why it came as a surprise that two of the most entertaining books I read this month–Ice Massacre and Red Risingalso happen to be the most violent. In Ice Massacre, a band of island girls battle mermaid-sea demons.See my review here. As for Red Rising, I didn’t mind that the story of godlike military academy cadets battling each other on Mars was heavily influenced by Hunger Games. What did give me pause was the contrived reason for their barbaric battles. But guess what? I still enjoyed the book– kind of like crushing on a bad boy you know you shouldn’t have feelings for.

July 2016 violent but entertaining Ice Massacre & Red Rising

And The Award for Most Haunting Book Goes to. . .

There’s this thing I like to call the “linger effect,” when a book haunts me long after I’ve finished reading it. That’s what happened with The Walls Around Us, penned by the queen of atmospheric writing, Nova Ren Suma. In The Walls Around Us there’s a cutthroat ballet dancer, violent girls in a detention center, paranormal happenings, and just. . . can someone give this book a better cover, please?

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Off-the Hook Writing & the Goodreads Bermuda Triangle

Three books this month that featured notably exceptional writing were This Savage Song,  Station Eleven, and Reality Boy.

I have no qualms about declaring Victoria V.E. Schwab as my favorite author. I even say it right out on my blog’s “about me” page. V’s books transcend genre, and This Savage Song is no exception. I just adore the monster boy August. (Note to publishers of Nova Ren Suma’s book: THIS is how to do a good cover. . .)

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Then there was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Literary post-apocalyptic ? Sign me up. There is a reason this beauty won a National Book Award. In St. John Mandel’s expert hands, the story kept morphing in unexpected ways.

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Here’s where we get to the part about the Goodreads Bermuda Triangle. On a whim, I picked up the YA contemporary Reality Boy and was blown away by A.S. King’s writing. “Reality Boy” is 17-year-old Gerald who’s enraged and damaged by his seriously dysfunctional family and how his home life was broadcast on a reality show when he was a little boy. I tried looking up other A.S. King books on Goodreads and, no matter how I typed her name, with or without initials, neither she nor her books came up. Thus, I have determined that A.S. King resides in the Bermuda Triangle of Goodreads. Okay, so I found a workaround, and the next A.S. King book I plan to read is Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. Great title, right?

A Book That Hurt My Brain (in a Good Way) but Didn’t Touch My Heart Like I Thought it Would

A book that stretched my brain–not always painlessly–was Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? This adult memoir penned by well-known UK author Jeanette Winterson was loaned to me by a friend who raved about how Winterson so eloquently expresses the condition of being an adoptee (which both my friend and I are). The poetry and classic literature Winterson weaves into Why Be Happy made me feel smarter.  🙂
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Disappointments

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – I’m actually kind of mad at this book. I went into it with high expectations. I mean, it was made into a movie, right? Everyone knows about it. It must be amazing, right? Well, the writing style is decent, and the story does introduce us to the beautiful culture Afghanistan, but the whiny, ungrateful, traitorous main character and the melodrama turned me off.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – Rich world building, mythical creatures, tons of characters with exotic names, Japanese cultural influences (bonus!), best of all, the main character Tea has the dark power to raise the dead–including her brother Fox (my favorite character). What I didn’t realize when I started the The Bone Witch is that it is the highest of high fantasy–not my favorite genre. For me, genre isn’t a deal breaker but never connecting with the main character is. And I didn’t.

Sleeper Hit

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman – It’s not perfect but well worth reading.
Goodreads synopsis: When Ari’s boyfriend Win dies, she gets a spell to erase all memory of him. But spells come at a cost, and this one sets off a chain of events that reveal the hidden—and sometimes dangerous—connections between Ari, her friends, and the boyfriend she can no longer remember.

July Reads At a Glance w/Star Ratings

YA PARANORMAL
Red Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black audiobook 4/5 stars
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma 4/5 stars
Inborn by Amy Saunders approx. –Netgalley ARC 3/5 stars
The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman  4/5 stars
Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner –Netgalley ARC 5/5 stars
(Secret Project) by Megan Crewe  –by author request, not allowed to post review until August.

YA HIGH FANTASY
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco-Netgalley ARC 3/5 stars

YA DYSTOPIAN FANTASY, or whatever the f*** brilliant new genre V.E. Schwab decides she’s writing
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab 4/5 stars

MIDDLE GRADE FAIRY TALE
The Wishing Spell, Land of Stories #1 by Chris Colfer  loaner from friend 2.5/5 stars

YA SCI-FI DYSTOPIAN
Red Rising by Pierce Brown 4/5 stars

YA CONTEMPORARY
Reality Boy by A.S. King 4/5 stars
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews audiobook 3.75/5 stars
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins buddy read w/Beth, Sophie, Emma @ The Books Are Everywhere 4/5 stars

ADULT POST-APOCALYPTIC
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 4.5/5 stars

ADULT CONTEMPORARY
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini audio book 3/5 stars

ADULT MEMOIR
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson  loaner from friend  3.75/5 stars

— Eve Messenger

“How I Read” Book Tag #amreading

Thank you to Beth @ betwixt-the-pages for this tag AND for her fabulous book blog, which is an endless source of fantastic recommendations.

How do you find out about new books to read?

Most of the books I gleefully add to my TBR come from book blogs. I’m especially likely to try out a book that’s rated all over the place with five stars—case in point, the book I’m reading now: Throne of Glass. I’m only 50 pages in and already loving it.

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By the way, does anyone else think this depiction of Celaena looks a lot like author Sarah J. Maas?

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How did you get into reading?

My dad and his parents were big readers, so I just remember always having books around. Growing up as an only child, books made excellent companions.

How have your tastes in books changed as you got older?

This may seem counterintuitive, but as I’ve grown older I’ve gotten more into young adult fiction. I went from the classics, to science fiction (because that’s what my dad’s shelves were filled with), to horror and suspense, to literary, upmarket, and women’s fiction, to YA.

How often do you buy books?

I buy books when they’re not available at my local library, maybe three times a month.

How did you get into reviewing books?

I’m not one to shy away from expressing my opinion. This is doubly true of books and movies.

How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

This is me when I don’t like the ending of a book because it’s badly written:

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This is me when I don’t like the ending of a book because it didn’t go the way I hoped it would:giphy

How often do you take a sneak peek at the ending to see if there is a happy ending?

Never, ever. The thrill of discovery is one of the most delicious things about reading a book. Not only will I never peek at the ending, I’ll even cover upcoming paragraphs with my hand if I sense something big is about to be revealed.

Your Turn!

It was kind of fun to think about how I read. If you’d like to do the same, please consider yourself tagged.