Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of Year Survey 2014!

Another year wrapping up! I know some people like to do this survey early, but I like to leave it until the very last minute of the year (or the very first minutes of the new year) in case I managed to squeak in another read. And boy am I glad I waited this year!

2014 Reading Statistics

Books Read: 141
Number of Re-Reads: 8
Genre You Read the Most From: with 39 books, YA Fantasy wins. 

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read in 2014?

This is such a hard question for me! I think I'm going to cheat a smidge and do categories. 
YA Fantasy: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
YA Contemporary: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Adult Fantasy: Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Adult Contemporary: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
New Adult: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker
Nonfiction: The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Short Story Collection: My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
Graphic Novel: Hawkeye My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction
Middle Grade/ Transitional Novel: Alvin Ho by Lenore Look

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going to Love More but Didn't?

The Magicians by Lev Grossman. If you've been reading my reviews, you'll know that I utterly despised that book. Biggest let-down of my entire life.

3. Most Surprising (in a Good Way or Bad Way) book you read in 2014? 

I think Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith wins this by default. I just had no idea what was happening the entire time I was reading.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

I definitely pushed The Chaos Walking series like crazy. And I'll Give You the Sun. But weirdly, I think The Port Chicago 50 might win this one by default of I recommended it to one person and she definitely read it. 

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

 The Lunar Chronicles is probably the best all-around series I started this year.
The Winner's Crime is probably the best sequel (but it technically doesn't come out until next year, sooo...I'm gonna leave that one up to you guys.)
Best Series Ender would have to be Monsters of Men. Incredible.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

 Oh man, I found so many good authors this year!! But I think I'll have to go with Patrick Ness. Simply because I've read the most of his works. Or Jandy Nelson (2/2). Or Marissa Meyer (3/3). 

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

 I don't read much adult fiction anymore, but I one that I didn't expect to like and looooved was The Color Purple by Alice Walker. No wonder it's on so many reading lists.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

 This is a tricky question for me because I tend to read books in one sitting anyway. Especially the ones I read for class. But I think I'm going to go with The Knife of Never Letting Go because it's huuuge and I started reading it and didn't put it down until I stopped, sobbing, at two o'clock in the morning when I had to go to work at 8. 

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

 Weirdly, my answer for this is going to be one of the few adult books I read. Written in Red by Anne Bishop which I only read last week is a book that I'm already dying to read again. Definitely at the top of my re-read list. 

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

Hm. I mean, I think that has to go to Level Up:

 11. Most memorable character of 2014?

 Most memorable character would probably have to be Meg Corbyn from the Others series. She's got secrets and powers and even though she's very innocent, she's really capable. Runner Ups are probably Todd (from the Chaos Walking series) and Alvin Ho (from the Alvin Ho series).

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

 I'll Give You the Sun. Oh my goodness gracious. I was trying to take down passages on like every other page. And I didn't end up putting many in my review, but I still think I put down more than any of my other reviews.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

 Hm. I read a lot of thought-provoking books this year. I think Nothing but the Truth by Avi maybe wins because there are so many different ways you can use it to look at the world. 

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

 I mean, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Scorpio Races, Locomotion, and Watership Down are all on this list. 

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

Maybe we're accumulating these new selves all the time.' Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things. (I'll Give You the Sun).

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Longest: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins at 622 pages
Shortest: The New World by Patrick Ness at 25 pages.

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Oh my goodness. I think I have to go with The Winner's Crime for this one because I literally posted my review on Goodreads when I finished it as "Holy Shit."

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Ah! I have the hardest times with OTPs in books. I think Meg and Simon (Written in Red) are at the top right now. But I do love Cinder and Prince Kai (The Lunar Chronicles). And Lady Kestral and Arin (The Winner's Curse). Oh gosh and way too many more. I usually ship canonically with books.


19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Noah and Jude! Phenomenal sibling relationship. (I'll Give You the Sun)

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Landline by Rainbow Rowell or Written in Red by Anne Bishop. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak was also fantastic.

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Don't Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout. This wasn't even on my radar until my good friend, Melissa made me read it. And it was really really good.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Prince Kai (The Lunar Chronicles). Or Jaxon (Like No Other). Or Arin (The Winner's Curse). 
23. Best 2014 debut you read?

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavendar by Leslye Walton. Phenomenal. 
24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Chaos Walking or The Lunar Chronicles or The Scorpio Races or Written in Red or The Winner's Curse. I read a lot of really well-built books this year.
25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure was hilarious. I was in stitches half of the time.
26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

I mean I cried so hard reading The Knife of Never Letting Go that my cat had to come investigate the noise I was making. (Hint: It was desperate, gulping sobs.)
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

I mean, I feel like The Knife of Never Letting Go was a bit of a hidden gem since it came out in 2008, and I have yet to meet another person who has read it. But Like No Other was also a fantastic read.
28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

A Monster Calls or The Knife of Never Letting Go. Patrick Ness: Soul Crusher.
29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

Probably The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I've never read anything quite like it. 
30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?


My Blogging / Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014? 

Hm. I've been following a pretty solid collection of blogs for the last year. The newest blog I started following is Read. Breathe. Relax. 

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2014? 

I think my favorite review might be the one I wrote for Landline. It's totally different than my other reviews, but it means a lot to me. Check it out here

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I mean, I wrote some pretty awesome discussion posts this year. Okay I wrote like 7 total, but they were all really good! I think my favorite though is this one about "Boy" books and "Girl" books. 

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I went to the Boston Book Festival this year which was super interesting. But I think my favorite event was the Horn Book Awards Ceremony. I met Gene Luen Yang, and he signed my copy of Boxers-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?

Uhm. Probably meeting Gene Luen Yang and having him sign my book. But it was a pretty great year over all.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

By comments: It's this Top Ten Tuesday post (with 7. My followers are silent people. Like The Gentlemen.)

By views: It's this Top Ten Tuesday post (with 58 views! My followers are also very few in number. Also like The Gentlemen). 

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Uhm. This post on Love Triangles? I mean, come on, that pun was dying to be made. 

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Well, I moved. So that sucked. And I haven't really found any great book stores yet. But my mom did get me a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. Which is great because then I hopefully won't have to drag a whole backpack's worth of books with me to classes. Also I can check out books from the library!

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Boy, did I! The one I'm most excited about is I finally read over 100 books in a year! I've had that as my goal for like my entire life, and this year I managed it. Woot woot!

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

Hmmm. I think maybe The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. It's been on my to-read list for quite a while. 

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?

Probably Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. (Although I still haven't read The Moon and More, oops!)
 3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I honestly haven't been too aware of debut novels for 2015, but I think No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss looks pretty awesome.

  4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?

Fairest and Winter! I'm psyched to get two more books in the Lunar Chronicles!!
 5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

I really want to start a weekly theme for myself. And get on a better blogging schedule.
 6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

I mean, The Winner's Crime. 

And that's it! My year in review! It's been a great one. I hope I read as many good books next year. What about you lovelies? What's the best book you've read this year? Comment with a book I need to read in 2015!!

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop is the second in the Others series, and a delightful read. 

I'll be honest, It definitely wasn't as good as Written in Red, but it was very exciting to read. Maybe I was just too hyped up from waiting for it to come in at the library: I couldn't just buy it because I bought Written in Red in the trade paperback, and Murder of Crows is only out in hardcover, sigh. So I waited for probably four days for it to come in at the library--which is super fast! But my eagerness for the book and anticipation grew to a level that would have been super hard to measure up to. 

This book sees the return of all the main characters from Written in Red, and the relationships between all of them really develop in this one. I loved the growth between Simon and Meg. It was so genuine and delightful. I want to see more of Monty and Lizzy in the next book. And I could never get too much of Henry, Vlad, Tess and Sam. 

I just love the premise of this series so much. And I can't wait until March when the third book comes out. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blogging Goals for 2015

Hello Lovelies!

This Top Ten Tuesday (as always by The Broke and the Bookish ) is all about next year. So without further ado, my Top Ten Goals for Blogging in 2015.

1. Comment on 5 blogs a week. 
Last year, my goal was to just get commenting! And I did comment occasionally, but nearly as much as I'd like to. So for a set goal. Comment on 5 blogs a week. That is 100% doable.

2. Get better at design.
I'm keeping this one. I've been learning a bit as I go, but I think it's definitely something that I want to keep learning about. Always useful skills to have anyway!

3. Write one review post and one discussion post a week. 
I made a goal last year to blog 3x a week, and that did not happen. Plus once, I started my graduate program, I skipped blogging even once a week a lot. So I'm hoping if I restrict it to one review post and one discussion post, I'll stick to it.

4. Finish any Dangling Series left from this year. 
Woo! This is going to be a tough one. I have 12 books that have at least a sequel to read. For me, this might also mean just dropping the series if I decide I don't like it. But at least it'll be dealt with.

5. Read 150 books.
Last year, my goal was to read 100 books, and I'm at 139 right now with like 36 hours to go!! I never thought I would hit 100, so I'm going to aim extra high for next year.

6. Read 1 book I own for every 1 new book.
I set this goal last year, and I didn't quite make it. I read about half as many previously owned book as new books. But all the books I bought last year when working at a bookstore will now count as previously owned, and I'm not going to count books I have to borrow from the library for school, so I think this will be much more doable this year.

7. Actually participate in a readathon. 
I had this goal for last year, but since I didn't really understand, I didn't get it done. I'm going to aim for one next summer!

8. Reread 15 books.
I want to read books I loved in the past! I set a goal of 5 for last year and read 7 (although they were all for classes).

9. Work on culling.
This is a constant work in progress. But I have almost all books that I haven't read with me in Boston, so I need to read them, so I can decide whether to keep them or not.

10. Start a weekly thing!
I love participating in Top Ten Tuesdays, but I'd also love to have something that's my own. I've been debating a couple ideas for this, so I think I'm going to try a couple out next week! I'll see how it goes. Check back to see what they are!!

What about you lovelies? What are your goals for the new year??

What's going to be next?

Hello Lovelies!

Today I wanted to talk about something that I've recently spend a lot of time thinking about. In my classes, we often discuss the "future" of young adult books and, less frequently, of children's books.

Of course as someone interested in going into publishing this is a hugely important topic. What's going to be the next big trend? What kind of books will sell really well? The last decade or so has been ruled by Fantasy and Sci-Fi (except for a few exceptions, thanks John Green). There were the magical boarding schools (what's up HP?), the vampire romances (lookin' at you Twilight), the dystopian futures (Hunger Games and more recently Divergent); so what is going to be next?

Well, publishers are predicting an uprise in Contemporary Romances, thanks again to John Green, but with a side effect of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park. They expect books about loss (the TFIOS effect, as I like to call it) to sell well. And "quirky" books to be a trend. Retellings have recently been a big deal, and that's supposed to continue. 

But from the perspective of a book blogger and a devout reader, I hate talking about the "future" of young adult books. Here's why.

1. No one ever talks about the "future" of adult books. It's considered obvious that there will always be a platform for books in adult genres. I mean, crappy adult books get published. Some of them do very well and some of them do not, but it is never about whether the genre/style/narrative/whatever is on trend or not. Adult books are separated by genre regardless. And publishers, theoretically, will publish a good book for that genre regardless of whether historical fiction is on the rise or not.

2. Good books will always sell!! I know some of you are thinking, Hayley, you cannot possibly say that after [insert book mention here]. But I can. And I will. I'll be honest, and say, I loved Twilight when it came out. I devoured those books. And if you've read my reviews you'll know that I hated The Maze Runner books. But both of those books still sell well. And better, less well-known, less "on-trend" books might sell slower, but they will sell. 

3. People find their books. It might take a while. But it'll happen. I have even more faith of this since joining the book blogging world. But when I read amazing books, I now have a place, a community to share them with. Before, I would tell a few friends, maybe post a Facebook status, but becoming a book blogger has made me more of a book sales person than ever! I leave comments on other blogs, and I tell people on Goodreads, and I tell people on Tumblr. I talk to my classmates. I haven't gotten to the point where I'm talking to people at stores about random books yet, but I can feel it coming. I did recommend Jandy Nelson's books to a random mom at Boston Book Festival. Because if it's good, if I like it, I want to share it.

4. Which brings me to my final point. Everybody likes different books!! The whole concept of saying there's a "future" of young adult books relegates every young adult to one taste in books. Which is hysterically incorrect. I mean, even looking at movies and television, high school is typically represented as a land full of cliques: the popular kids, the jocks, the nerds, the band geeks, the goth kids, the outcasts, etc. etc. Now, I know from personal experience that most schools aren't that neatly boxed into categories, but I also know that every teenager has different tastes. And it's completely ridiculous to think that they'll all love the same book. 

Unless it's Harry Potter.

(Just Kidding.)

(But seriously, I am so confused by people who don't like Harry Potter.)

Anyway, what do you think about the "future" of young adult publishing? Or kid's publishing? Or book publishing? Leave me a note in the comments!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Written in Red by Anne Bishop is a fantastic start to her newest series (Novels of the Others (or possibly just The Others)). 

Bishop is one of the few adult writers whose works I just flat out adore. Thankfully, this book was just as amazing as her others. 

Meg Corbyn applies for a job at the Courtyard (a place where all the creatures that are not human are forced to live). Simon Wolfgard is the leader of the Courtyard and a Wolf. He doesn't exactly trust Meg, but he doesn't have a lot of other options. 

I don't want to spoil anything but it's amazing. It is an adult book, so I'll put a few trigger warnings at the end of this review under a spoilers tag. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy novels.

~ * ~ * SPOILERS * ~ * ~
Trigger Warnings for: Rape Mentions, Cutting, Death

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a stunning addition to the Young Adult genre. Stiefvater writes the tale in two viewpoints, but she does a stellar job of making the two voices unique. 

The novel follows the dual narratives of Sean Kendrick and Puck (Katie) Connolly. Sean works at a stables on the island, and Katie finds herself trying to take care of her brothers in the aftermath of her parents deaths. The book follows that years Scorpio Races, a time when water horses emerge from the sea and the brave wrangle one and train it to race with it. It's a month of blood and death and nerves. 

I honestly didn't think I would like it. I don't particularly like horses--I kind of just feel ambivalent about them--and I didn't really enjoy Shiver--the other Stiefvater novel I've read. This one blew my expectations out of the water. I was hesitant at first because there was a lot of horse related description and terminology that I didn't really care about, but I was drawn in by the characters. I think you all know that I'm in it for the characters. And these two just did it for me. The side characters are equally fabulous and well-developed. 

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy character-driven adventures. 

Favorite Quotes: There are moments that you'll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you'll remember for the rest of your life, and it's not often they turn out to be the same moments. 

Not everyone's hands can always be the site of miracles.

You swallow her with your eyes.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My True Love Gave to Me is the best short story collection I've read in a long time. It features twelve holiday stories, and I really do mean holiday. They aren't just using that word as a substitute for Christmas. Although to be fair, most of them are Christmas stories: Let's say 9.5 out of 12. One is New Year's, One is Solstice (with a splash of Christmas), One is Hanukkah (with a splash of Christmas), and then there's Krampuslauf. If you don't like Christmas, this won't be the short story collection for you, but if you enjoy Christmas and want a dash of other holidays thrown in, this is perfect.

While I enjoyed all the stories, by far my favorite was "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins. I'm not exactly surprised because I loved all of her books so far too, but I expected Rainbow Rowell's "Midnights" to top my list because I adore her novels. Perkins beat Rowell out by a few heart-clenchingly adorable moments.

My least favorite story was probably "Krampuslauf" by Holly Black or "The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link. It's not that they're bad stories, I just felt a little lost and confused by them. Admittedly a few of the others are distinct in their weirdness, but these tow just felt like a bit of a let down in the awesomeness of the rest of the collection.

I would definitely recommend this book to every one who wants a little more holiday spirit in their life. 

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

To anyone who celebrates anything else, I hope it's enjoyable, and to everybody else, Happy December 25th!!

To be completely honest, I probably would have given this a 4.5, but I don't do half cupcakes, so it got upgraded. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Watership Down by Richard Adams is widely considered a classic for young readers. I somehow managed to not read this one when I was devouring everything in my school library. My best friend, however, read this several times and considers it one of her favorite books. So after being friends for over a decade, I finally got around to reading this one.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. It follows the story of Hazel and Fiver two rabbits who decide to leave their warren on account of Fiver's prophetic misgivings. They manage to get a few other rabbits to join them, and they set off. The story of their travel is interspersed with stories about El-ahrairah, their trickster rabbit god. 

I had a hard time remembering that they were supposed to be rabbits. And every time I reminded myself of that fact, I would start giggling at the picture of bunnies in my head. My other problem that I had with the book is the incredible lack of female characters and their subsequent representation. I know a lot of people are going to be like well, they're rabbits and that's just the way rabbits think to which I want to know how they've managed to start reading rabbit's minds. It was also a little difficult for me to read simply because of the writing style. I read primarily YA books which are typically written in a certain style. Watership Down is written for adults--the storyline appeals to readers of all ages, but the writing style itself has adult readers in mind. It made me slow way down in my reading.

Over all, I enjoyed the story a lot. My favorite characters were Pipkin, El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle. I would definitely recommend this to young readers who enjoy adventures and aren't daunted by difficult text. 

Favorite Quotes: All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.

Mad as the mist and snow. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken joins the many young adult dystopian trilogies. The story follows Ruby who has spent the last six years in a detention camp that closely resembles Auschwitz. The entire book reads like a thinly veiled allusion to the Holocaust except it's set in America and the people are teens and younger with different types of powers (coercion, pyrokinesis, telekinesis, to name a few). 

I liked this book overall. I think Bracken drags out the mystery of what happened to Ruby out a little too far. It's also a little bit too long for what actually happens in the novel. I definitely wasn't a fan of the end, but it's the first book in a trilogy, so I'm hoping my problems with it will be solved in the next two books. 

Overall, Bracken does a good job of creating likable characters. It's easy to get into the story because of the characters. The plot may have a few holes, but the relationships between the characters are a driving force behind the story.

Favorite Quotes:
Better to stay in the gray than get eaten by the dark.

We wanted you yesterday, we want you today, and we'll want you tomorrow. There's nothing you could do to change that.If you're scared and you don't understand your crazy abilities, then we'll help you understand--but don't think, not for one second that we would ever just leave you.

The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.

Hello Lovelies!! It's a holiday themed Top Ten Tuesday today (brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish as always). 

I've been awfully good, so Santa should consider setting these books under my Christmas tree.

1. Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez: This has been on my to-reads for a very long time, and I desperately want a copy!

2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: I've wanted to read this one for so long, and now I know so many people who've read it and say it's amazing. I want a copy!!

3. Avalon by Mindee Arnett: This one got mixed reviews, but it still sounds like a super good read to me!

4. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: I could have gotten this book earlier this year, but I was moving and I had literally a ton of books (Which I still don't have at my new place, sigh), so I opted not to get it. But I do really want to read it.

5. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shephard: I have a copy of the first one (with all my books at my parent's house), so I'd really like to get the next in the series so when I finally get my books I can devour both of them. 

6. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: This is a book I borrowed from someone else when I read it, and I've always wanted my own copy. But graphic novels are rather expensive, so I've never bought my own copy. 

7. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I borrowed this book earlier this year from the library and it's my favorite read from this year. I need a copy!!

8. Hi, Koo by Jon J. Muth: I love Muth's works!! I've wanted this darling little picture book since it came out, and I still haven't gotten a copy.

9 . The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin: I read this for one of my classes and it was so amazing. I need a copy for my own library.

10. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski: So good!! And I need a copy of the first one, so I can buy a copy of the second one when it comes out.

What's on your Christmas list, lovelies? Or other winter holidays? If you could be given a book from a mysterious bearded old man what would it be? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review Round-Up

More Than This by Patrick Ness is a roller coaster of a novel. It seems to be pretty divisive as a novel. People either love it or they hate it. I probably lean more to the love it side, but I couldn't give it the highest rating because of its weirdness. 

Things I love about this book: 
  • As a reader, you aren't sure what's happening. Is the main character dead? Is he alive? 
  • Diverse characters! LGBTQ people, WOC (women of color for those who don't know) and non-English native speakers!!! YAY!!
  • The writing, of course. Ness is fantastic as always.
  • The story line (once I figured out what was going on)
I would recommend this to people who have read Ness' work before, or who are really open to strange books.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu is an intriguing first book in her new series by the same name. There were several things I liked about this book: Diverse cast of characters (POC, people with disabilities), an interesting plot line, solid world-building. But there were a few things I didn't enjoy too: sometimes the storytellers blended together, women's actions boiled down to men, the fact that I thought it was a standalone when it's a series (sighhhhhh). Overall, I think it'd be good for someone looking for a dark series to stick with as it's being published.


Monster by Walter Dean Myers is a must-read for everyone. Especially with the current climate of America (regarding Michael Brown and Eric Garner--to name a paltry two in the face of so many). Monster is a book written largely in the format of a movie script. It follows Steve--a teenager on trial for being part of a store hold-up that ended in murder. It explores race and how race is reflected in the courtroom and public media. I would literally recommend this book to anyone who hasn't yet read it. 

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder was one of my favorite books growing up. I had to reread it for a class, and it still struck a chord with me. It's interesting how the first sentence has begun to date the novel though. It starts with a line about being 60 years ago, which now would be 1954. Clearly the rest of the story doesn't match that time period, which I wondered how that would affect the reading for newer generations. This first novel in the Little House series is less problematic than some of the others, but it still has its moments. My favorite thing about these books is how happy the Ingalls are with so little. I would definitely still recommend this book to younger readers who enjoy historical fiction and less adventurous tales.

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin is a spectacular non-fiction novel for readers of any age. This is another extremely important read to understand the effects and impacts of race in America. It tells the true story of a group of sailors in the Navy during World War II who refused to load highly explosive...explosives after they managed to survive one explosion. It is compiled with great readability and features many excellent photographs throughout. It is inspiring and disheartening at the same time. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. A must read for anyone interested in race relations or history.

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure is an incredible look at how deeply impactful books read as a child can be. McClure does basically anything related to the Little House books: she reads all the books, watches all of the TV show, goes on a road trip to the places mentioned in the books, and learns various crafts mentioned in the books. McClure has a hilarious writing style--I found myself laughing through most of the book. I adored this book. I would recommend it to anyone who read the Little House books when they were young.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich is another option for those who enjoy historical middle grade fiction. Like the Little House books, The Birchbark House follows a little girl of 7 years old. However Omakayas is Ojibiwa. The Birchbark House follows the Ojibiwa culture from the same time period as the Little House books occurred. It's a stellar book to read to learn about cultural differences (more historically than currently) and how the arrival of white settlers affected the Ojibiwa tribe. I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed the Little House books or historical fiction in general. 

Nation by Terry Pratchett is an interesting look at an alternate history. I really like the two main characters in this novel, and I love the glimpses of the Nation's culture, but I still feel like Pratchett drops the importance of the Nation in some way which I have a hard time articulating. I liked it better this time reading it than I did the first time I read it, but I also remembered this time that it was an alternate history and not a historical fiction novel. I would hesitantly recommend this book to people who like stories about cultural differences. I think Pratchett does a good job exploring them, but as it is an invented culture, I'm not entirely impressed. 

The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin was a bit of let down as far as series enders go. I enjoyed the first part of the book, but the ending just didn't sit right with me. I thought Hodkin's explanation was uncharacteristic to the rest of the series. However, the writing is still stellar, and I got engrossed in the story from the beginning. I was happy with certain aspects of the ending (sorry trying to be spoiler-free, but it's tricky!). I feel like even with my dissatisfaction, Hodkin did actually work to close off all her dangling questions and story lines, so I can appreciate that. Definitely worth the read to finish off the series!

Prequel/Sequel Challenge Points 88 + 2 = 90 + 10 = 100 points!

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson is a super intense historical fiction novel. It's a little hard to explain the novel without affecting how people read it, so I'm not going to do that. I didn't particularly enjoy it the first time I read it because it was a little too intense for me, but this time I was more prepared, and I really really liked it. 

I would definitely recommend this book to people who like scholarly pursuits, rooting for someone without power, and historical fiction.