May Reads – Monthly Wrap-Up & Flash Reviews #amreading

May Reads 2017

Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, it seems lately my blogging is pretty much down to monthly wrap-ups, so here’s my entry for May. I hope you’re enjoying a great spring and that loads of good books are finding their way into your book-loving hands.

— Eve Messenger

Illuminae Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff audiobook – This was a thoroughly entertaining YA sci-fi read. Space battles, romance, horror–Illuminae has it all. Katie and Ezra are my new favorite OTP, by the way. Oh, and the computer. You MUST read this book for A.I.D.A.N. the computer. 5/5 stars

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff audiobook – Once I got over the disappointment that book two, Gemina, did not feature Katie and Ezra, I got into it, though the large cast of characters was a bit confusing. Like book one, Gemina has a chilling horror element that REALLY WORKS. 4.5/5 stars

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (translated)-kindle – The Art of War is one of those classic books I felt I needed to read. It’s short and full of smart philosophies about working in groups and wisely engaging in battle. Coincidentally, Sun Tsu is referenced several times throughout Gemina, another book I read this month. 4/5 stars

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova 336pp – I’m always up for a good story. Labyrinth Lost was about brujas (Spanish for “witches”). What made it special was the infusion of pan-Latin bruja folklore. Honestly, I expected Labyrinth Lost to darker and, frankly, better, but it was enjoyable overall, somewhat reminiscent of (though not at all as poetic as) Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen. 3.5/5 stars

Anansi Boys (American Gods #2) by Neil Gaiman – A relative gave this book to me for Christmas because he knew how much I’d love it, and he was right. In Anansi Boys, Gaiman continues to flex his genius imagination, and his characters leap off the page.Thrilling, unusual, and darkly humorous, Anansi Boy is now my second favorite Neil Gaiman book (the first being The Graveyard Book). 5/5 stars

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling  – Of the several autobiographical books by celebrity comic actresses (Amy SchumerLauren Graham, Anna Kendrick) I’ve read lately, this was the best–which makes sense since Mindy Kaling got her start as a writer. The most powerful part of Why Not Me? comes at the end when Mindy responds to a question a girl at a panel once asked her but that Mindy felt she’d answered flippantly. She more than redeems herself! 4.25/5 stars

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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

 

December Book Challenge: Days 1 and 2 #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! I am thrilled to share this first in a series of retrospective bookish challenges for each day of December. I first noticed “All the Books of 2016” (created by @AnneReads for #bookstagram) on Cristina @ My Tiny Obsessions‘ blog and knew right away I had to do it. Think about reading? Delight in all the books I’ve read this year? Yes, please. XD

In case you’d like to do it too, here are all the challenges @AnneReads came up with:

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For this post, I’d like to start with challenges 1 and 2. . .

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“First Read of the Year”

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My first read of 2016 was The Diviners by the “divinely” talented Libba Bray. This spooky paranormal YA story set in 1920s NYC was a fun book to start the year with. I happily lost myself in the adventures of Bray’s amazing characters and felt transported right out of the 21st century. At 578 pages, The Diviners was the second longest book I read–the longest being book #2 in the Diviners series, Lair of Dreams, at a whopping 618 pages. Which brings me to my next topic. . .

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“Shortest Book I Read”
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If graphic novels don’t count, then the shortest book I read was The Day We are Born by Philippa Cameron at 210 pp. I wish I had more to say about this book but, alas, the story did not rise to the level of the evocative title.

However, if graphic novels do count, then the shortest book I read in 2016 was Captain Marvel Higher, Further, Faster, More vol. 1-6 by DeConnick & Lopez–which I ADORED. Captain Marvel was 100 pp. of pure escapism, rich illustrations, and many strong, inspiring female characters. Endless gratitude to Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories for turning me onto this series.

Happy Reading & Happy Holidays to all you wonderful book lovers out there.

–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

“How a Book is Made” Tag

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Thanks to The Orang-utan Librarian for yet another interesting tag. In this post, I’ll be exploring all things writing, even including a link where you can test your typing speed–post results in the comments section if you dare. 😉

1. Should you participate in National Novel Writing Month to create a book?

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Every writer should participate in NaNoWriMo at least once in zir life. Thirty consecutive days of grinding out as many words as possible establishes consistent writing habits, gets you out of the house, helps you discover great local places to write, creates bonds with other writers, pushes you to allow your imagination run wild and maybe, just maybe, gets you to the point where you can write The End at the end of an actual first draft.

 2. Self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing is what I personally strive for, primarily because the idea of having to add a full-time job of promoting my own book to actually writing books, plus working a day job to make ends meet seems utterly daunting. I’d like to have a publisher who can at least explain to me how best to promote my books.

3. Write one idea at a time or write all the ideas at once?

Capture all ideas that come to you, always. That doesn’t mean you have to turn them into books right away.

4. What genre is the easiest to write?

I’m not sure if it’s the easiest, but the genre that comes most naturally to me is young-adult speculative fiction.

5. Where do you need to write to get the work done?

Wherever there aren’t interruptions, and I’ve been getting better at writing even in environments where there’s some noise.

6. Where do you find your inspiration?

In books! I’m inspired by the stories I read and the way they’re written. Of course, I’m also inspired by events from my life, my perspective on things, and my many interests.

7. What age do you start writing?

I vividly remember writing stories in 1st grade.

8. What’s easiest to write? Short stories, stand-alones, series, etc.

Stand-alones. The idea of planning out a series makes my brain explode.

9. Do you mill your books or take years to write a book?

I can whip out a first draft quickly, maybe in a month or two, but ultimately I think I need a year or two to finish a book.

10. How fast can you type?

According to TypingTest.com, I type 95 words a minute.

11. Do you write in the dark or in the light?

Both.

12. Handwritten or typed?

Typed, but I love those rare occasions when I hand-write because I think the writing flows more organically, and when I type out the handwritten words afterward I’m always surprised by how many more words there are than I expected.

13. Alone or with someone else?

Alone, but I’m open to trying out a collaboration. Why not?

14. Any typing hacks?

Practice a lot.

15. Are you already published?

I had a poem published in an anthology; that’s about it.

16. When did you first consider being an author?

I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an author.

17. How many books do you have in draft form?

Four and a half.

18. Do you outline or no?

Proper outlining is a skill I’ve not yet mastered–but I really want to!

19. What’s your favorite note-keeping strategy?

I keep notes in my smart phone, notebooks, and Google docs.

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20. What do you think about writing in different genres?

I love reading multiple genres but, ultimately, I’m most comfortable writing YA speculative. I am, however, totally enamored with the idea of experimenting with writing genre mash-ups.

–Eve Messenger

I Tag:

Rayne Adams
Melanie Noell Bernard
G.L. Jackson @ Dreaming in Character
Mackenzie Bates
Ida Auclond
Daisy in the Willows
Nicolette Elzie
Danielle @ The Caffeinated Writer

 

 

The Raven Boys – I Finally Understand What the Hype is About #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies!

If you love dark, imaginative, splendidly written, modern YA fantasy/paranormal stories, you will love The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stievfater. The paranormal thrills are off the hook. And, oh, how we come to adore the wonderful, proud, reckless characters. And the moments, oh, the moments–like when Ronan writes “Remembered” on the car window–and so very many others.

Henrietta, Virginia makes for a fantastic setting, with its stretches of unvisited forest and turbulent blend of old-money, new-money, and no-money families. Stirring through all of this is the ley line with its vast psychic energy.

The Raven Cycle is atmospheric, constantly full of surprises, and is one of the most well-planned series I’ve read. Through each successive book, it becomes increasingly obvious that we’re being led into plot and character revelations by a master storyteller.

The intrigue continues unabated from The Raven Boys through The Dream Thieves and on to Blue Lily, Lily Blue. And now–for this reader–there is just one book in the series left to read, The Raven King. As excited as I am to delve into the final installment, I am simultaneously dreading it because after The Raven King there will be no more Blue, Ronan, Gansey, Noah, and Adam. No more Chainsaw screeching, “Kirah!” No more Mara, Calla, Persephone–the three savviest mediums around. No more chilling bad guys. No more Mr. Gray. No more adorable side characters like Jesse Dittley.

Now that I think about it, it is quite possible I am already beginning the process of mourning the end of The Raven Cycle. But, oh, what a thrilling literary ride it has been.

–Eve Messenger

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