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.
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 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.
Hello, galaxy! I’m back. Is anybody out there?
If you’ve heard anything about Sleeping Giants, you can probably guess where I’m going with this. Yeah, I couldn’t resist that cheesy segue. I’ve heard such great things about this debut novel that I had to check it out. Short version: I REALLY liked it. The publisher (Del Rey) sets it up as follows:
A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.
A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth.
She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown.
But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?
I was completely captivated by this smart, snarky, and unpredictable novel. I’m reading more and more science fiction these days, which is weird because I’ve never really liked science. But there is so much cool stuff happening in this genre! Take this debut. It’s gripping and very fast-paced, partly due to the all-interview format. At times, I loved this choice because the reactions of the characters are witty and full of grim humor. Still, there were other times when I wanted more details, to watch a play-by-play of the action. Yet, the sustained mysteriousness of everything is what makes this book so compelling. While we’re on the topic, WHO is the guy asking the questions? I have so many theories….
Without any spoilers, there’s not much I can say about the twists and turns, except “WHOA. I did not see that coming.” I was kind of peeved at the direction the story was taking for a while in the middle, but Neuvel absolutely nailed the finish. I’m hooked for the sequel. How will we wait until next YEAR?!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery, science fiction, or reading in general. The more I think about the book, the more I like it. It definitely keeps you thinking!
P.S. Any fellow Litsy users out there? I was inspired to start up the blog again because the app reminded me how much I love talking about what I read. Follow me at @ahenke.
I am a big Boot Riot fan—the posts, the podcasts, the whole shebang—so I decided to take up their 2015 Read Harder challenge. I like to take up a challenge every year to stretch my reading horizons (and be inspired to catch up on my TBR pile). It’s definitely made me pick up a few books that I wouldn’t have already, and I still have some interesting categories yet to fill!
Here’s a (slightly past) midyear update of my progress so far:
A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
A collection or anthology of short stories
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman
A book published by an indie press
The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women From the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary E. DeMuth
A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible by Keith Ferrin
A YA novel
Atlantia by Ally Condie
A sci-fi novel
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
A romance novel
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
A Pulitzer Prize winner from the last ten years
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A book that is a retelling of a classic story
Cinder by Melissa Meyer
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
A graphic novel, memoir, or comic collection
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffnegger
A “guilty pleasure” book
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
A book published this year
The Accidental Empress by Alison Pataki
A self-improvement book
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
Tasks still to go:
A collection of poetry
A book that someone else has recommended to you
A book that was originally published in another language.
A book published before 1850
A book that takes place in Asia
A book by an author from Africa
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous community
That’s it for now! If you have any suggestions for the remaining categories, I’d love to hear them! Happy reading!