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Category: Reading Snapshots

The #24in48 Readathon

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.

Anna

 

Reading Snapshots: Four Books You Should Pick Up

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The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

I thoroughly enjoyed The Wicked City! The novel features two narratives connected by the New York City building in which they take place—one is set in the 1920s, one in the 1990s. The stories each had their own flavor and individual aspects that I loved. The characters are true to life, the setting is vividly rendered, and both timelines are equally engaging. I breezed through this novel in a single sitting! I thought the romance could have used a little more building up but really liked the book overall. The folks at William Morrow wrote up an excellent blurb for this book, and as a copywriter I can appreciate a job well done. Here’s their teaser:

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family.

 Thank you, William Morrow, for providing me with an ARC of this book!

SomeonetoHold.jpeg

Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh

Westcott #2

This is such a sweet romance! Mary Balogh shines in this tale of family, self-worth, and the love we choose to accept. Centered on an orphanage in Bath, England, Someone to Hold features two protagonists who live with the social stigma of being illegitimate. After a terrible first impression, the two become reluctant friends and eventually—spoiler alert!—fall in love. I particularly enjoyed the many facets of the female protagonist, Camille. She has far more depth than your average romance heroine! I also found her current situation and Joel’s long-term experience growing up as an orphan to be a fascinating and thought-provoking contrast. Note: This is technically book two in the Westcott series, but I didn’t read book one and felt no confusion.

The premise:

Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery. . . .

Thanks to Berkley Books for giving me access to an ARC via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

perilous

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

 A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

This was simply delightful!
*witty banter to the max
*Victorian murder mystery
*art colony + Hellfire Club + opium den
*will they or won’t they?
*I don’t even care, I love them just as they are!

Who are they? The grouchiest, most eccentric and outlandish pair of natural-scientist-amateur-investigators in London. Do look them up!

(But be sure to start with the first Veronica Speedwell Mystery, A Curious Beginning. Read my review here.)

abundance

The Abundance by Annie Dillard

Wow. This collection from masterful essayist Annie Dillard was beautiful, crisp, and very inspiring to me as a writer. The prose, the metaphors, the way she describes things—nature, especially—is absolutely breathtaking. If you are at all interested in exposing yourself to a whole new level of literary talent, this book of essays is your introduction to a pro.

Reading Snapshots: November Fiction

Here’s a look at the fiction I’ve finished lately!

Queen of Swords.jpg

Book Five in the Wilderness Series

Format: Audiobook

Recommended to fans of Outlander, the Wilderness series is a sweeping historical romance and multigenerational family saga that begins in 1792 and carries on for decades after. The fourth book, Queen of Swords, opens in 1814 and is centered on the rescue of one of the family’s Scottish relatives who has been kidnapped by pirates. The plot also concerns the ongoing War of 1812. I found this part fascinating, as I know so little about that particular war. Why is it such a neglected part of American history? With white, black, and Native American characters, this book also provides an interesting glimpse into race relations during this time period—from day to day life to how each facet of society participated in the war. I liked Queen of Swords, although it took me a few chapters to remember who everyone was and where the last book left off. Like all the Wilderness novels, this book contains a well-balanced mix of action, adventure, and romance. The entire series is excellent narrated by Kate Reading. Unfortunately, Queen of Swords is the weakest book in the series so far—still not a bad book, but hopefully that’s not a trend.

If you’re intrigued, then start at the beginning of the saga with Into the Wilderness!

kindred

Format: Ebook

 A modern classic, Kindred is the story of Dana, a black woman living in the 1970s, who is suddenly and inexplicably pulled into the past whenever one of her ancestors (a white man) is in mortal peril. I love time-travel books, but this one is a tough read. It’s enthralling and devastatingly bleak. Octavia Butler’s writing is plain yet precise; however, I would have liked a bit more detail and depth in some places. Some very ugly truths are played out in this story and it’s an important book, especially given the racial tension and discord in still evident in America today.

Read a full summary on Goodreads!

What I’m Reading Now:

Like a River.jpgLike a River Glorious by Rae Carson. I am loving it as much as I loved the first book in the trilogy, Walk on Earth a Stranger, which was a National Book Award finalist.

Happy reading!

Anna

Reading Snapshots: September 2016

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

Format   

Galleys: 2          Audio: 4              Ebook: 3            Print: 4              Graphic Novel: 1

Other Details:   

Fiction: 11         Nonfiction: 2      Sequels/Series: 3 for #sequelseptember

FAVORITES THIS MONTH:

empire
Read the Goodreads Description

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.

torch

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!

 

nightingale
Read the Goodreads Description

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

woodsedge
Read the Goodreads Description

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!

 

GALLEY RECAP

change-of-heart
Read the Goodreads Description

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

 

IronCast.jpg
Read the Goodreads Description

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!

Reading Snapshot: July 2016

July was a great month for reading—partly because it was too hot to do anything else! I participated in the #24in48 readathon weekend, so I finished a lot more books than usual. I didn’t get close to 24 hours of reading done in 48 hours, but it was time well spent.

I read 14 books this month: 1 nonfiction (Cure), 1 short story, 4 audiobooks, and 10 print books.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor (#2, 2.5, and 3)

SymphonyofEchoesWhenChildBornSecondChance

In this delightful, action-packed series, time-traveling Historians go on madcap adventures while doing hands-on research. Of course, there’s also an evil organization trying to sabotage “the timeline” and hijinks ensue. The audiobooks (narrated by Zarra Ram) are fantastic. Highlight: Loads of dry humor. Qualm: I’d love to see more character development in addition to the fun plots. My recommendation: Keep in mind these are light on historical detail and just enjoy the ride. View the series on Goodreads!

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

MargaretIsn’t this the most beautiful cover you’ve ever seen? This is a fictional account of the life of Margaret the First, one of the first English women to make a living as an author. I am still in awe of this slim but stunning work of literary imagination. Dutton’s fanciful and lyrical voice perfectly conveys the spirit of Margaret, who “made the world her book.” I have no qualms. If you like historical fiction, this is a must-read. View the publisher’s summary on Goodreads!

 

 

AmyAmy Snow by Tracy Rees, narrated by Melody Grove

This one is right in my sweet spot! I adore historical novels with mystery elements. Set in 1840s England, Amy Snow is the story of a friendship between two women: one privileged, one a penniless orphan. While dying of a long illness, the wealthy girl sets up a treasure hunt for her friend using secret letters and clues only Amy will understand. On her journey—a fascinating undertaking for a woman in this time period—Amy learns more than expected about both her friend and herself. I enjoyed watching Amy come into her own while wrestling with how to honor her friend’s wishes and choose her own path. View the publisher’s summary on Goodreads!

That’s it from me. See you next week for my review of Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. It’s a gothic retelling of Jane Eyre—if Jane was a serial killer. The tagline is “Reader, I murdered him.” Need I say more?