This weekend I did something truly and fantastically nerdy. I participated in the #24in48 Readathon and read (in some format) for 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday. I loved it! My eyes were very, very tired by the end. Here are some mini reviews of the books that I read/listened to.
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
(audiobook narrated by Steve West and Alex McKenna)
This young adult adventure novel was tons of fun and packed with action! Set on another planet, this story centers on two teens—one a promising student/self-appointed archaeologist and one a scavenger sent to the planet to steal the treasures of past civilizations (in other words, alien tech). When both of their original plans fall through and they end up on the same side of a sticky situation, they team up to go after a special temple that is lesser known but—according to the amateur archaeologist—more important in value. Many complications ensue, including lots of alien booby traps and “testing” of the worthy to receive their inheritance. VERDICT: This book is a fun ride, but I wasn’t quite as impressed with this series as I was with the authors’ BROKEN STARS trilogy, which I absolutely LOVED. There were some pacing issues and the romance was a little too instantaneous, but I still enjoyed the book a lot. I give it four out of five stars for a clever plot, solid characters, and that special Indiana Jones spark. The narration by Steve West and Alex McKenna is excellent.
Ms. Marvel, Volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson, Illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt
Volume 1 of the new Ms. Marvel, “No Normal,” collects issues 1-5. This is not the first superhero comic to feature a Muslim character, but I think it’s the first headliner. I was curious to see what it was about and how the author would handle religion within a superhero world as I haven’t seen that done before. This comic features Kamala Khan, an ordinary girl from Jersey City, who is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts after emerging from a strange fog on her way home one night. At first, she chooses to hide her identity and change her appearance to what she thinks superheroes should look like: blonde and leggy. But when a friend is in peril, she jumps in without her disguise and must make a choice: Will she continue to fight evil with another’s face or be brave enough to be herself? VERDICT: I enjoyed this collection, but I probably won’t pick up the rest of the issues. I was curious as to how she would feel as a Muslim with superpowers, and this volume didn’t really explore that at all. Still, the art and, particularly, the illustrator’s use of color really brings this story to life.
Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys
This is a very complicated book to explain but I’ll do my best! This is set in a world similar to our own, but for the fact that other creatures, in addition to humans, inhabit it. There are subspecies of humans and there are creatures that are not human at all taking on the physical attributes of humans and walking among us. This story follows Aphra, a person of the deep. In 1928, her town (all people of the deep) was rounded up and put in internment camps. Interestingly, once most of her kin and community died, the Japanese join her and her brother in the camp. She are her brother, the only survivors of their kind, are finally released at the same time as the Japanese (1946). This is the tale of the friendships and family she builds, the magical community she forges, and her pursuit of her people’s books and legacy. VERDICT: With a library at its center, strong weather magic, and a self-declared “ugly” heroine who is a member of a subspecies of humanity, this unique book will appeal to fans of well-written genre fiction that’s a little dense but ultimately rewarding. I found it highly original and would not hesitate to recommend. *Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an early copy of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is available now.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
(narrated by Rachel McAdams)
This is one of my favorite classics of children’s literature, and I couldn’t resist the chance to listen to this audible version read by actress Rachel McAdams. I last read the book in sixth grade, and I was just as delighted this time as I was then. I had forgotten how much dialogue is in this book, and McAdams’ girlish voice really shines in those sections. I also enjoyed discovering how faithful my favorite movie version (with Megan Follows as Anne) is to the book. Now I may have to rewatch it in the near future! Fellow Anne “with an E,” you will always hold a place in my heart and on my shelf. (I own a physical copy as well. How could I not?)
The Young Queens: A Three Dark Crowns Novella by Kendare Blake
The first thing to be said about this novella is not to read it before you read Three Dark Crowns (click here to read my review). It spoils one of the major twists that is best discovered organically. This novella offers backstory that is referenced in Three Dark Crowns, but is more valuable for the insights into the lives of the secondary characters, in my opinion. Queen Mirabella was the most interesting as a child, and I enjoyed seeing how her “growing up” played out. This is a must-read for completists and big fans, but could probably have been skipped by the casual fan like me.
The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz
This is one of the best works of modern children’s literature I have read in the last twenty years. It is simply brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I cannot possibly do it justice in a mini review. Look for a full post featuring this title coming later this week!
That’s all for now! And my, that’s quite enough.
Overall, this year of reading was a mixed bag. I read 84 books. Some of them were great. Some of them were good. Some of them were truly terrible. In the end, it was actually pretty easy to select these top seven reads from 2017. Here are my picks—click on the title for a link to buy the book!
Following an independent storyline in an alternate universe from the movie, this is an excellent origin story featuring a teenaged Diana. The Amazonian princess risks exile by rescuing a mortal—only to discover that the mortal is a warbringer, a descendant of Helen Troy with the supernatural power to destroy the world. This is a marvelous tale of adventure, female friendship, girl power, mythology, and just the teeniest bit of romance. I listened to the audiobook, and it’s fantastic.
This book felt like warm comfort food or getting comfy under a blanket with a mug of hot tea. I still remember my second grade teacher, Mrs. Knutson, recommending the LITTLE HOUSE books to me on the stairwell of Washington Elementary School, because reading these novels was one of my most formative reading experiences. I shared a room with my younger sister while growing up, and my mom read the entire series aloud to us. As a family of four girls, we went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder play; we stayed in a sod house; we visited the Minnesota landmarks. I am a huge fan girl. So when I heard that a new and authorized LITTLE HOUSE book was coming out in 2017, I was ecstatic—and I was not disappointed! As it is written from Ma’s (aka Caroline’s) perspective, this book offers a more realistic picture of life on the frontier than the children’s books. It is heartwarming but also deeply human. How would it feel to have a husband you love dearly who is always wanting to move on to the next place when you might be just as happy to stay? What can you find for your little girls to do that won’t drive you crazy while you try and get something done? There are some truly touching scenes between Caroline and Charles as well as some beautiful snapshots of motherhood.
What a delight! Originally published in 1970, this slim volume of real letters exchanged between Helen Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York, and a London used book dealer are an homage to the world of books and letters. Funny, irreverent, and showing humanity at its most generous, this book is more wonderful than words can express. At only 95 pages, I read this book in a single sitting and it was undoubtedly my most pleasant reading experience of the year.
And . . . another tiny book about books. I can’t help myself. In this novella, Queen Elizabeth II discovers a voracious appetite for the written word in the later years of her life. On a stroll with one of her hounds, which escapes its tether, she learns that a traveling library visits Buckingham Palace every week. It’s only polite, she feels, to borrow a book once she comes face-to-face with the librarian and a young kitchen boy perusing the shelves. Soon enough, the queen can’t stop reading for pleasure—something she’s never done before. She’s always read books, of course. But reading for enjoyment is a new concept. This begins a passionate affair with literature that leads to a surprising revelation at the end. I won’t tell!
An intense but ultimately rewarding read. “When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family” (from Goodreads). Excellently written, this a tale that will grab you and not let go. Set in the American South and exposing the harsh cruelties of slavery, this novel is not for the faint of heart but is so worth the effort. I think part of the reason I found it to be such a difficult (in the best sense) read is that I listened to it on audio. There was no escaping or skimming over the reality of injustice, and perhaps that’s a good thing. I was very satisfied with the ending, although there is a sequel that I haven’t read yet called Glory Over Everything.
This is a beautifully written, tangled-twisty mess of a feminism, deception, and shame. WOW. The Lie Tree is starkly true at particular moments, and there are many wonderful quotes within. I was riveted by the way this YA novel portrayed the way a lie takes on a life of its own and the power that even the smallest fib can wield over our lives and the lives of those around us. Read more about the book and what I thought here.
You and everyone you know should read this book, especially if they happen to love books. This is a beautiful journey of two people growing closer, of a mother and her son, of a lifelong love of literature, of what a well-lived life looks like, and of what a good death truly means. It is emotional and incredibly inspiring. I savored every carefully crafted word.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a traditional book review, but I’m back and ready to report on what I’m reading and what you should be reading, too! You can expect to see a more balanced output of posts on lifestyle, literature, and faith coming from me this fall. I’m starting mid-month, but September is the other January – so here we go!
And now . . . the review. I would like to thank the publisher, Orbit Books, for providing me with a digital advanced copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was so excited to be approved as this book is SO in my wheelhouse. A historical family saga about witches? Yes, please. Give me all the access.
Here’s the copy from Goodreads:
After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew.
From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures.
Sounds great, right? I have been hesitant to write this review because, honestly, A Secret History of Witches theoretically rang all my bells but failed to live up to my expectations. This was a so-so read for me. I’m not sorry I read it. However, it’s not going to be a book that I recommend. The writing is solid. It’s the story and character development that is problematic.
Although I typically love family sagas, this one is composed of stories that are too similar. The five women all have the same struggles and basic journey, so it felt like I was reading the same story again and again. Also, their stories felt incomplete. Each character’s journey was cut off just when it was getting interesting to make way for the next character. In order to fulfill my expectations, this book would have had to have been significantly longer.
Another issue I had is that the women are so unlikable! The majority are selfish, vain, ungrateful things. I just couldn’t handle it. I appreciate that this book featured a cast of independent women. I like to see that in my fiction. But in this case, it wasn’t a positive representation, which is unfortunate.
I would have loved to have seen the author delve deeper into the historical time periods, and explore how this factored in to change things for each individual character more, as the blurb implies. I thought this plot aspect was underdeveloped in the actual book.
Another reader might really enjoy this book. It’s well-written in a technical sense and has a beautiful cover to draw the reader in. It just wasn’t for me.
If you haven’t read THE LUNAR CHRONICLES by Marissa Meyer, check out my previous Series Starter blog post to see why it’s worth reading!
written by Marissa Meyer and illustrated by Doug Holgate
Today I’m recommending the graphic novel, Wires and Nerve, Volume 1, which follows up this series and the short story collection Stars Above. Wires and Nerve wasn’t as good as getting another novel for me—but only because I’m not a huge graphic novel person. It was great seeing all my favorite characters again, especially because we got so much more of Iko!
The artwork was fantastic, and I thought the color scheme was perfect for the story. The cool shades of blue are so fitting for the Lunar world. Of course, the characters weren’t quite as I imagined but were wonderfully drawn. I hadn’t realized at first that this was just the first volume of an ongoing series, but I’ll gladly continue reading them. This is a must-read for all Marissa Meyer fans.
Hardcover, 240 pages | Published January 31, 2017
This book took hold of me and wouldn’t let go!
Greenland, AD 1000
More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband.
New Hampshire, 2016
Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.
I found Amalia Carosella’s historical timeline richly imagined, as fierce as Freydis herself, and as harsh as might be expected. The writing in Daughter of a Thousand Years is great, and, at first, I found the alternating historical and contemporary chapters equally intriguing. But I have to admit that I quickly became frustrated with Freydis as a character. I admired her loyalty to her father and her personal strength. Yet I found her attitude toward being a woman troublesome and her moral choices to be, in almost every case, highly objectionable. However, the Vikings have always fascinated me, and the pull of a Norse saga re-imagined was enough for me to continue with the story.
While the historical plot is intriguing on an epic scale, it was the more personal contemporary drama that really drew me in. As the daughter of a congressman during a re-election year, Emma is in the public eye when a controversy in her classroom turns into a scandal that shakes her family—and her father’s campaign—to its core. From one religious student’s comment to another’s well-intentioned effort to reach out, Emma has to navigate how much to say and how much of herself to reveal not just to the public but to the man that she’s just starting to fall for. The secret was surprising to me—although perhaps it wouldn’t have been if I had read the cover copy more carefully. But I’m glad that I didn’t. If I had, I’m embarrassed to say that I likely would’ve written this book off, and that would’ve been my loss.
Daughter of a Thousand Years presents the very relevant subject of religious freedom both in AD 1000 Greenland and today from the perspective of about the smallest minority you can imagine. The author Amalia Carosella and her two heroines all identify themselves religiously as Heathen. I want be very clear that I use that not as a derogatory term but respectfully, deliberately following the example of the author in using it as a proper noun. As my regular readers will know, I am a Christian and hold my beliefs close to my heart. It is my observation that this author does the same with her own faith.
That being said, I have a confession to make: I requested this advanced readers copy mainly because it was a dual-time narrative (I love those) and had a Viking-set storyline. I didn’t realize that the main contemporary heroine, Emma, literally worshiped Thor. While I have my own opinions about this set of beliefs, the author was very authentic in her representation of both the good and the bad actions of Christian people in her novel—and was so respectful in her discussion of religious freedom in general—that I have nothing further to add to what is in the book. I’ll just say this one thing: It’s hard to write about religious differences and not be offensive so I give Amalia Carosella mad props for that.
Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this book. My apologies that it’s a little late in getting out to the world! This book was released on February 21, 2017, and is now available wherever books are sold.
Source: Netgalley – Thank you, Bloomsbury USA! I received a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Release Day: TODAY! March 7, 2017
I could not wait to get my hands on The Song Rising and was lucky enough to get an early copy. I absolutely LOVED the first two novels in this series, The Bone Season and The Mime Order.
Here’s a summary of the first book in the series with no spoilers:
Set in a future England with a fantasy twist, the series follows “dreamwalker” Paige Mahoney, but her abilities are a dangerous secret. It is not legal to practice clairvoyance in Scion-controlled London. It is not even legal to be clairvoyant. The powerful “mime lord” Jaxon Hall employs her, but even he can’t protect her when she is attacked, kidnapped, and transported to the secret slave city of Oxford. There she learns the terrible truth about the forces behind Scion: an otherworldly race known as the Rephaim.
Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.
As this is the third book in the series, the rest of this post has spoilers.
You have been warned.
Let’s talk about The Song Rising.
It was fine. I know—that’s not what I was expecting to say either. I probably would have classified it as good (3/5) if I hadn’t had such high expectations after books one and two. However, I committed to the review on Netgalley, and it was good enough that I’m planning to continue reading the series. Overall, I give it 2.5/5 stars, which is my “it was fine” equivalent. As a result, this is going to be a more critical review than what I usually post. The qualifier that I will state here, for the record, is that my criteria for this author is higher than usual because I expect more from her. The first two books in this series are two of my favorites, so perhaps I’m being overly harsh. But I know what this author is capable of, so I know she can do better!
Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population. But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilizing the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging. Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it. . . . . (read the rest on Goodreads)
I’ve acknowledged already how much I was looking forward to returning to the world that Samantha Shannon has created and finding out what happens next. However, since she took an extra year to write this book, I admit I expected more. I read this as a galley, but it was immediately apparent that this book is significantly shorter than the other two. Length is not necessarily an issue if the narrative is tight, but The Song Rising also had pacing issues. I was completely immersed in the first two novels in this series, both of which I was unable to put down. This one I didn’t feel as drawn to continue.
That being said, there were still glimpses of the Samantha Shannon we’ve seen before. There are some gripping action-adventure scenes in The Song Rising. These were the bits that kept me turning pages. You want to know what did not? The relationship between Paige and Arcturus. EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE MY FAVORITE PART! Why, you ask? Because their relationship was so static that it barely existed. (Insert dramatic sigh here of disappointment here.)
I found Paige so annoying in this book, and I really liked her before! Her struggle to be a leader may have been more realistic than in a lot of fiction, but it made it hard to root for her as a character. Her inability to see herself as a leader also felt unconvincing, as she’s proven herself several times over at this point. Then, she suddenly accepts her position and goes in way too strong and it’s kind of a shock. Arcturus is unquestionably my favorite character and there is still so much we don’t know about him. I liked learning a little more about his history in this book. It just needed more Arcturus in general. We also learned more about some secondary characters, which I enjoyed. I found Cutthroat especially fascinating! There were other parts that I liked, but it was the less pleasing stuff that stuck with me. I do feel for Samantha. The pressure on her must have been huge. Unfortunately, this one just didn’t do it for me. But I’m not giving up on her yet!
The Song Rising ended with a promising set up for the next book.
Questions to Ponder:
What is the best thing that could happen at this point, now that the world is being taken over by Scion? Is there even a solution?
Where are all the regular non-extremist people? I feel like there is room for a broader resistance beyond those directly affected by Oxford. There have to be some people out there who aren’t buying all this Scion crap, right?
Predictions for future books, anyone?
What with the new year, new commitments, and, as it happens, my birthday (which was lovely), this month has been kind of a whirlwind. I haven’t read as much as usual. Still, I’ve always got something going. Here are my thoughts on the YA fantasy I read this month:
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
I was completely enthralled by this story! In this fantasy world, a set of triplets is born to the royal family every generation. These three sisters become three queens, who are separated at a young age and brought up to one day fight each other to the death. One is a poisoner, one is a an “elemental,” and one is a “naturalist.” (AKA, they are all magical.) I really enjoyed the way this book progressed. I thought it was well written and liked how the narrative changed POV with each chapter, alternating between the three sisters. The character development was excellent, and I couldn’t decide which queen I was rooting for until the very end. It has some twists and turns that will take you by surprise. This book is the beginning of a series, so the end is just the starting point of the, for lack of a better word, festivities. They each have one year to kill the other two. The last one standing reigns supreme. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
This is a beautifully-written, tangled-twisty mess of feminism, deception, and shame. WOW. The Lie Tree is starkly true in so many moments. There are some wonderfully insightful quotes within. I was riveted by how this book portrayed the way lies take on a life of their own and the power that even the smallest fib can wield over our lives and the lives of those around us. The main character Faith, who is fascinated by the science her father practices, is constantly surrounded by temptations in a world that denies her own intelligence and right to have a voice. To listen at the door. To read her father’s books. To say what she thinks. So when she learns of the lie tree, Faith takes that voice and uses it with unforeseen and dangerous consequences. Her intentions weren’t necessarily bad to begin with. She tells herself that she is only doing it to learn the truth about her father–but is that really all there is to it? She becomes entranced by the lie tree. It makes her feel powerful.
The 1860s is the perfect setting for this book–religion and science were seemingly at odds and at the forefront of the public’s mind in the aftermath of Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. There’s a lot to unpack here in terms of the book’s obvious religious parallels, but I’ll keep it brief. At times I could feel my stomach roiling at what was happening in the story, and I even recognized examples of false logic that I have thought to myself within my inner dialog. It was surprisingly revelatory. The parallel between Hardinge’s lie tree and the Scriptural Tree of Knowledge is obvious but not preachy, blatant without being doctrinal. I highly recommend this excellent book.
“Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21
That’s all for now. Ta ta!
This was a great year for me and books! What with blogging, joining the Litsy community (@annahenke), and just loving the reading life, I’m perfectly content. I read over 120 books in 2016. It’s customary in the blogosphere to do some sort of “Best of” list, and I’m excited to share mine with you. Here’s my list of the best books I read in 2016 by category!
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses #2
I devoured this book! I have loved everything Sarah J. Maas has written so far. The character development in A Court of Mist and Fury is astoundingly good. I really like how Maas handles Feyre’s grief and portrays her PTSD after the events of A Court of Thorns and Roses. I couldn’t put it down! This is a series that MUST be read in order.
NOTE: This is not a YA book, in my opinion – at least, not in terms of the romance. Full-on steamy. This should have been marketed as adult fantasy.
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
What a remarkable story! This fictionalization of the life of trailblazing horse trainer and pilot Beryl Markham blew me away. Set primarily during her formative years and early adulthood in Kenya, this novel about a strong historical woman who wasn’t afraid to smash boundaries is beautifully written. Beryl was flawed but fierce and endured much for “being a woman and daring to think I could be free” (Circling the Sun). I’ve put Beryl’s memoir, West With the Night, on my TBR, and I’m very interested to hear the full story from the woman herself. Beryl was a private person by all accounts, however, so I hear it doesn’t have much in the way of personal relationships, which was a strength of McLain’s fictionalization. But I still need to read it!
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1
I enjoyed this book so much that I read it twice in one year! I had to prep for the sequel coming out in January 2017. Why I loved it: It’s a Victorian historical mystery featuring an intrepid lady/amateur detective who is also a lepidopterist (specialist on butterflies and moths). Sold! There is an enigmatic, handsome taxidermist who becomes her reluctant investigative partner. Yes! There is a romance, but it’s very subtle and develops slowly. Just my cup of tea! They take refuge in an abandoned private museum of sorts. Hooray! There is a mystery about the main character’s heritage. Love it! I could go on, but I won’t.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
Brilliant! The artwork is amazing and perfectly fits the tone of the story being told. The fictional folktales within are everything one would wish for: clever, funny, poignant, and sweet. I think it’s a must-read for graphic novel fans and a great entry point for newcomers to the format.
Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye, Narrated by Susie Riddell
This book was so strange and I loved it. It’s a Jane Eyre-inspired story with a quirky twist: What if Jane had been a serial killer? The tagline for the marketing was, “Reader, I murdered him.” For those unfamiliar with the real Jane Eyre, the most famous line is, “Reader, I married him.” So clever! I was hooked by the fascinating premise; however, the book was something of a surprise. Jane was quite likeable. This is in itself is a remarkable achievement for a writer. I consider myself pretty sensitive to violence, and I don’t enjoy unlikeable characters at all, so I was very impressed that Faye pulled that off. Jane kills multiple people (only bad people, mind), but I was still rooting for her in the end. The audiobook is exceptional. I would not have changed a thing.
As a side note, the premise of this book is so bizarre that it makes a great conversation piece. I had about a twenty-minute conversation with my coworkers about it at the company picnic and they all thought I’d gone mad. 🙂
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
I loved what Nyquist had to say about grace, forgiveness, and shame. I learned so much. Read my review here.
The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton, The Pathfinders #1
I was so impressed with the diversity, vigor, and historicity of Benton’s writing in this first chapter of a new family saga. The story is wonderful. Read my review here.
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
I loved this book and look forward to everything Kearsley writes. It contains her signature Scottish history connection, a mystery in a book, and features a beautiful, intelligent heroine who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s real, and the romance is so heartwarming and completely believable. Apparently, Susanna’s daughter has Asperger’s, and that shows in the sensitivity and normalcy with which she portrays the social interactions of the main character. I thought it was fantastic! This is a solid, clean romance recommendation.
Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This one took me a little while to get into, but I was more than amazed by the end of it! Its best qualities are the unorthodox storytelling, the various illustrations, and the gripping action/suspense. I literally gasped at the twists and turns in the last fifty pages. Definitely worth the read! A top-notch YA pick.
That’s all for 2016. 🙂 Happy New Year!
This YA fantasy series is out of this world! A delightful combination of clever fairytale retellings, The Lunar Chronicles features strong female characters, action, adventure, and romance—all with a campy ‘gangs-all-here’ vibe. Did I mention the elusive Asian hero? And the banter is so much fun! Marissa Meyer delivers in every book of this completed series, making each more fun than the one before.
One aspect of this series I want to highlight is the friendships. The heroines—all of whom are talented in their own ways—have deep, meaningful relationships with each other, not just the love interest in their life. And that’s too rare in YA.
Sure, there are love interests and the romance is well done. No pesky love triangles here! More importantly, if I was old enough to have a teenager as a daughter, I would be comfortable giving all of these books to her. The juicy bits never go too far and that’s really good to see.
So here’s the breakdown (no spoilers!):
The series premise is that the Levana, the evil queen of Luna (aka the moon) has a strong “Lunar gift,” which allows her to manipulate people, and she is plotting to take over earth. That’s obviously a problem, especially since few are immune to her power.
Cinder, The Lunar Chronicles #1
The twist in this futuristic retelling is that Cinder (aka Cinderella) is a cyborg. She is also the best mechanic in New Bejing, which is how she meets the hot Asian prince who needs her help. She has a wicked stepmother and her best friend is an android named Iko. Iko has a “faulty” personality chip—as in, she has way too much of it. She’s so loveable! Hijinx ensue. There is a ball, a state visit from the evil Lunar queen, and a shocking revelation at the end.
Scarlet, The Lunar Chronicles #2
Scarlet is a tough, no-nonsense, ginger farm girl who doesn’t take crap from anyone. She wears her favorite hoodie sweatshirt every day (red riding hood). The action starts when her grandmother gets kidnapped. Scarlet’s determined to get her back. She hires a street fighter named Wolf to help her with work on the farm while she investigates. He is fierce, somewhat feral, fascinated by vegetables, and (predictably) good looking. He also has a secret. When Cinder shows up, the original team grows by two as they unite in a common goal.
Cress, The Lunar Chronicles #3
Now we’re getting farther into the series and I don’t want to spoil the plot. The things I like most about Cress (aka Rapunzel): the romance she daydreams about doesn’t match up to reality. She is infatuated with a guy she’s read about online but when she meets him in person, she discovers that he’s not the perfect hero she believed him to be. Will she still feel the same when she gets to know him for real? Cress also finds strength within herself and acts heroically by using skills that do NOT include brute force or perfect hand-eye coordination, which is so overdone. Instead, she’s smart and phenomenal with computers, and she uses her powers for good.
Fairest, The Lunar Chronicles #3.5
In this eye-opening novella, we get the Levana’s origin story from her point of view. How did she become the evil queen? I was skeptical about this addition to the series because Levana is just so unlikeable, but I was pleasantly surprised. I found it fascinating. Meyer manages to provoke a modicum of sympathy for Levana while maintaining her core identity as a villain. Not an easy feat.
Winter, The Lunar Chronicles #4
This all-out, gang’s-back-together, action-packed series conclusion is incredibly satisfying. We get the additional point of view of Winter, the step-daughter to the evil queen. The princess has been driven mad by refusing to use her Lunar gift, which is heartbreaking and noble and never annoying or hard to read. She just sees things that aren’t there. But she’s got a good heart—she’s beautiful and white as snow, which she’s never seen since she lives on the moon. Her guard Jacin’s devotion to her is unwavering and the Lunar people adore her, much to the evil queen’s dismay.
Stars Above, The Lunar Chronicles
I typically don’t care for short stories, but this anthology is fantastic! Meyer gives us a fun, deeper glimpse into the backgrounds of some her most beloved characters, and delivers what every fan wants: a wedding. But whose?
This is absolutely and series worth starting—and finishing!
What’s your favorite YA series? What’s do you like most about it? Let me know in the comments.
Wow, September flew by! It’s been three weeks since my last post, but the truth is . . . I’ve been busy reading!
BOOKS READ IN SEPTEMBER: 13
New Releases: 4 Backlist TBR Books: 6 Surprise Finds: 3
Galleys: 2 Audio: 4 Ebook: 3 Print: 4 Graphic Novel: 1
Fiction: 11 Nonfiction: 2 Sequels/Series: 3 for #sequelseptember
FAVORITES THIS MONTH:
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass #5
I absolutely love this series. SJM delivers everything fans love in this fifth installment: romance, action, phenomenal world building, fantastic characters, and so much drama! As usual for this series, this book gutted me emotionally. And that cliffhanger—how can we wait! NOTE: This series gets more explicit with each book. This is categorized as YA, but I wouldn’t recommend it for younger teens.
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes #2
This is one of the best fantasy series being written today! This latest from Sabaa Tahir is riveting, beautifully crafted and packed with emotion. It’s impossible to talk about this book without spoiling book one, so pick up An Ember in the Ashes STAT if you’re into YA fantasy. I’m so happy that we are getting two more books in this series!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book. This story of two French sisters during WWII is moving, filled with fascinating historical detail and unputdownable! The audiobook is excellently read and so deserving of the Audie Award it won. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, do it! Confession: I had some bias toward this author based on the covers of her contemporary women’s fiction books. I was so wrong!
CHRISTIAN FICTION SPOTLIGHT
The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton, The Pathfinders #1
This is a great historical fiction read. Set in the years leading up to the American Revolution, this tale follows the lives of two twins who are separated at birth. Benton presents the fascinating juxtaposition of one twin, raised by his birth mother—a white woman married to an Oneida Indian—and one twin raised by the redcoat officer, who took the newborn from his crib and raised the child in place of their own newborn who died. With gentle romance, well-researched history, and Christian elements, this is a solid read. I’ll be continuing the series. Highly recommended!
A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
I was completely blown away by this book! I have heard such great things about this author that I requested it on Netgalley without even reading the premise. I went into to it totally blind. Man, was I in for a surprise! This story is dark, difficult, and brutally emotional. It’s so much more than a romance—there’s also a mystery and a crime investigation. It’s about two broken people, finding the courage to help each other heal and love again
Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
While I didn’t love this book, I think many teens will enjoy it. I recommend it to fans of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. It has a similar style and fell. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read so much phenomenal YA fantasy this month, but this didn’t quite deliver on the intriguing premise.
Well, that’s all for now. Participating in the #hellooctober readathon and must get back to my book!