Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2016

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-1-13-50-pm

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-1-13-55-pm

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Advertisements
Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite YA Fantasy Books

OMG, guys. I have no idea how this summer got away from me, but it did. I’ll do an actual ~life update~ post soon, but for now, I’m going to talk up some awesome YA fantasy books.

TTT2016

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Favorite YA Fantasy Books

  1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson: My review here.
  2. STOLEN SONGBIRD by Danielle L. Jensen: Suddenly finding yourself attracted to trolls is a very confusing thing, but there you go.
  3. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas: My review here.
  4. RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard: Really good pacing and I’m always here for court intrigue.
  5. THE WRATH & THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh: Beautiful world building and writing all around. I couldn’t put this one down.
  6. Lumatere Chronicles series by Melina Marchetta: My review here.
  7. Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima: My review here.
  8. THE KISS OF DECEPTION by Mary E. Pearson: This book featured one of the best love triangles I’ve ever read.
  9. THE WINNER’S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski: My review here.
  10. THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater: My review here.
Book Reviews

Mini-Reviews: QUEEN SONG & STEEL SCARS

Titles: QUEEN SONG and STEEL SCARS
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, #0.1 and #0.2, respectively
Genre: Young Adult – Epic Fantasy, Dystopian, Novella
Publication Information: HarperTeen, 2015 and 2016, respectively
Rating: 4 Stars and 3 Stars, respectively
Recommended For: Fans of the Red Queen series.
Watch Out For: Violence

QSQueen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.

(Summary from Goodreads)

This was my favorite of the two novellas because I liked reading more about the inner workings of the Nortan court, plus Coriane seemed like a genuinely lovely person who met an unfortunate end. This one was also particularly interesting because of the insight it gives us into Elara’s character, and Elara is my queen, so. (Idk, what does that say about me?)

SSFarley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow.

(Summary from Goodreads)

I actually could’ve just read an entire book about Farley infiltrating Norta because that part was interesting. I didn’t connect with her as much as I did with Coriane, but it was nice to get a look at how the Scarlet Guard came to be such a force in Norta and to learn about its inner workings.

TL;DR: You don’t have to read these novellas to follow the story in the main books, but it does add an extra layer to some of the character motivations if you do read them.

Book Reviews

Book Review: SOUNDLESS

SoundlessTitle: SOUNDLESS
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Publication Information: Razorbill, 2015
Rating: 2 Stars
Recommended For: People who enjoy books that read like fairytales.
Warnings: Some kissing, but nothing that wouldn’t be appropriate for a middle school audience.

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

(Summary from Goodreads

The premise to this one sounded really interesting, which is why I’d initially picked it up, but unfortunately, the execution didn’t really work for me.

I seem to recall that this was based in Chinese folklore, but I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell if I hadn’t been told — which was disappointing because that was part of what interested me about the book. Aside from the names, the world felt really Generic Fantasy to me. Which isn’t to say the world building was necessarily bad — Mead made good use of details, especially as Fei starts to hear. (Actually, those scenes where Fei hears things for the first time were my favorite ones.) But I definitely wouldn’t have sold it as Asian fantasy since it really wasn’t.

That being said, though: the cover? YES. SO HERE FOR IT.

I also had a hard time with the characters. Aside from the scenes where Fei is describing different sounds for the first time, or talking about her painting, she really didn’t interest me, and her romance with the miner (whose name I can’t even remember, tbh) fell so flat for me that it might as well not have been there at all. And to be totally honest, this book really didn’t need the romance at all. Fei saving Beiguo easily could’ve been interesting enough on its own and the romance actually took away from that for me.

TL;DR: Good world building but not much else going on for me.

Book Reviews

Book Review: ALL WE HAVE IS NOW

22840148Title: ALL WE HAVE IS NOW
Author: Lisa Schroeder
Genre: Young Adult – Apocalyptic, Verse
Publication Information: Scholastic, 2015
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommended For: People looking for lyrical writing or something a little different.
Watch Out For: Language – probably appropriate for middle school.

What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn’t leave, the world will end. But Emerson’s world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city’s quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people’s wishes—and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day—maybe even their own.

(Summary from Goodreads)

I loved the writing in ALL WE HAVE IS NOW. It was lyrical, not to mention the fact that using third person present tense felt very natural and the poems also fit well into the overall story. I think, if you want to read a book in verse but are too intimidated, this would be a good one to start with because it was a good balance of poetry and prose.

One of the things I loved about the writing – the tense – was also a drawback for me, character-wise. I felt like I had a hard time getting to know any of the characters, and I think that was because telling the story in third person present made me feel more like a spectator and ended up distancing me from the story. That being said, I did still enjoy watching Emerson, Vince, and Carl on their journeys to help people and to get home.

I loved the premise – that there’s an asteroid about to hit Earth and wipe out most of North America. The story easily could’ve gone a different, darker direction – as most apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels do – but this one had a lighter tone, instead choosing to focus on the positive aspects of humanity, and I appreciated that. I also felt like the almost whimsical feel was appropriate given that the setting was Portland, Oregon, since that’s basically Portland in a nutshell.

TL;DR: A whimsical story with beautiful writing, but I felt too much like a spectator.

Book Reviews

Book Review: DUMPLIN’

DumplinTitle: DUMPLIN’
Author: Julie Murphy
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Publication Information: Balzer + Bray, 2015
Rating: 4 Stars
Warnings: Sexual content, language

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

(Summary from Goodreads)

I was super excited to read this one, and I wasn’t disappointed! I really enjoyed Murphy’s debut, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY because of the realistically flawed characters, and that was what I enjoyed about DUMPLIN’, as well. I also loved how well the beauty pageant and Dolly Parton worked with this story, acting as huge parts in the story without overwhelming it.

Willowdean has always been confident in her appearance, but when she has a summer fling with Bo, she starts to realize that maybe she isn’t as confident as she pretends to be. This sets in motion her character arc, which is a journey to finding real confidence. However, there are also other layers in play. Willowdean and her mother are still grieving the death of her aunt, for example, and it’s extra hard for Willowdean because Lucy felt like more of a mother than her actual mother did. Additionally, Willowdean’s relationship with her mom is strained, since her mom is worried about Willowdean ending up like the morbidly obese Lucy – and maybe a little embarrassed about Willowdean’s appearance, too. And then there is Willowdean’s relationship with her best friend, which also becomes strained throughout the book as Willowdean fears they’re drifting apart. I felt like all of these different conflicts worked really well together, rather than feeling messy.

There were also a lot of quirks in the book that made it fun to read. For example, Dolly Parton is a recurring theme. Willowdean is a fan, both because of what Dolly represents to her (being your authentic self regardless of what everyone else thinks) and because Lucy is the one who got her into Dolly to begin with. I also loved the beauty pageant as a backdrop to everything, since it added just a little extra drama to everything. (I mean, there were LOTS of dramatic things going on, but the beauty pageant lightened the mood a little.)

I also loved how the setting came to life. Murphy did a great job making me feel like I was in Willowdean’s small Texas town, and the beauty pageant had a lot to do with that, I feel like. We really got a sense for how central to this town the pageant was, as something that it could take pride in. There were also lots of smaller references, like all of the mentions of iced tea, that I liked. It all put us in the scene without being too much.

Both of Julie Murphy’s books have been winners for me now. I can’t wait to read more from her!

TL;DR: Complex character development and clear setting made this one a winner.