Goodbye Days: Book Review

Where do I start with this book? I read Jeff Zentner’s debut novel, The Serpent King, last year and I absolutely loved it, I’m talking one of my favorite reads of the year. And after finishing his follow-up novel, it’s safe to say that he’s becoming an auto-read author for me. The story opens with Carver Briggs (named after Raymond Carver and nicknamed Blade, how cool is that?) attending the funerals of his three best friends who were killed in an auto accident while texting Carver. As you can imagine, Carver is constantly plagued by guilt, grief, and the threat of possible prosecution. Every time I picked up this book, I immediately had a lump in my throat, the emotion was so real and so raw. Throughout the course of the book, Carver has “goodbye days” with each of his friends’ families, sharing memories and trying to make peace with his loss. They were the hardest parts to read, but also the most beautiful, where you could really feel Carver’s love for his friends and the depth of his grief.

One of my favorite things about Jeff Zentner is how he writes his characters. Carver and his friends, The Sauce Crew, feel like real teenage boys, sometimes cringingly so. Zentner writes misfits and outcasts as only someone who has been there can; honestly and compassionately. His prose sometimes feels almost poetical, lyrical; which makes sense. He’s also a guitarist and songwriter with five albums under his belt, who’s recorded with Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry. His love for music is a common thread in his books, both of which feature musicians and the power of music to heal and inspire. (The music-related Serpent King cameo was possibly my favorite thing in this novel)

While I didn’t love this one quite as much as The Serpent King, it was still a five star read for me and I recommend it if you’re a YA contemporary fan or if you just enjoy having your heart ripped out of your chest and shredded into confetti multiple times. Check it out at Book Depository or wherever you shop for books. And if you’ve already read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Baby Proof : Book Review

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Title: Baby Proof

Author: Emily Giffin

Genre: Chick-lit

This year I’ve been making a conscious effort to add more variety to my reading: more nonfiction and genres other than mystery/thrillers. I’ve been inadvertently building a collection of chick-lit and never reading them (even though rom-coms are my favorite movie genre), so it seems like a good year to make a dent in them. This was the first candidate, by new-to-me author Emily Giffin, and after finishing it I can say I will definitely be picking up more of her books.

It only took a few pages for me to fall in love with her writing, even while I struggled with my feelings for the main character. The thing that annoys me the most about chick-lit books is the abundance of MCs who are entitled and overly confident. Give me heroines who are flawed and KNOW it. (Looking at you, Bridget Jones.) I spent most of the book inwardly yelling at Claudia for her choices and her attitude. Basically, this is the story of a woman who never wanted children and married her perfect man, Ben, who also didn’t want kids, only to find a couple of years later that Ben has changed his mind. She then spends the rest of the book pining for her soulmate who “left her” because she wouldn’t compromise. There was a lot of frustrated sighing on my part as I read this one, let me tell you.

But besides Claudia’s blissful self-ignorance, I actually found her a likable character, and as I said before, the writing was FABULOUS. Honestly, it was better than I expected it to be, which means I should probably rethink my opinion of chick-lit novels. There was also a minor character, Richard, who totally reminded me of Robert Downey Jr, so that was a bonus. All in all, I gave this one four stars. You can pick it up on BookDepository.com, which offers free worldwide shipping!

If you’re a chick-lit fan, who’s your favorite author?

 

My Husband’s Wife: Book Review

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My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

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Lily Macdonald is a young, newly married lawyer, determined to make a fresh start and leave her secrets in the past. But her first murder case, representing a convicted killer named Joe, will threaten her happy future.

*sigh* I’m getting really burned out on “domestic thrillers,” guys. The kind that center around husbands and wives with secrets and strained relationships, that focus on the minutiae of everyday life than on any real action. The kind that likes to tout themselves as “the next Gone Girl.” Give me a good suspenseful serial killer novel, with a twisty plot and an actual likable main character!

That’s one of my biggest problems with these sorts of books, every character is just so hard to like that it’s difficult to connect with anyone or really feel invested in the story. Lily and Ed Macdonald are two people who honestly shouldn’t have married in the first place; they barely knew each other and neither of them knows how to communicate unless it’s in the form of an argument. Their nine-year-old neighbor, Carla, gains some sympathy at first as she copes with bullies and the feeling of being “different,” Unfortunately, when the story picks up more than a dozen years later, Carla hasn’t changed very much. She still thinks and acts like a child, turning out to be, in my opinion, the least likable character in the book. A note to all the thriller authors out there: it’s not a crime to write characters that people like.

I gave this one three stars because while the writing and plotting was decent, it’s ultimately a forgettable novel. Also, it’s no Gone Girl.

 

 

How to Get the Most Books on the Smallest Budget

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If you knew me personally, you’d know that I am a reasonably thrifty person. Raising a family on one income in the poorest county in Oklahoma is good motivation, but I also just enjoy getting something for a bargain. Especially when it’s something that I don’t exactly need, such as another dozen paperbacks to add to my shelves. In this post, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite places to score cheap books, just in case you need new ways to supply your own addiction.

Goodreads

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Goodreads is a great website for booklovers, it’s full of reviews and reading lists, and it allows you to keep track of what you’re reading and share your own opinion. It also has a section for giveaways. Books in every genre, from ARCs to previously published, are offered to Goodreads members every day. Now, it’s not a guaranteed way to get new books, but it doesn’t take long to enter the giveaways, and there’s no better price than free. I’ve won five Goodreads giveaways already, and I’m just as excited every time I get another notification email.

Library Book Sales

If you have a local library in your area, I hope you’re already visiting it regularly. They’re such a great resource, not only for the books and movies you can check out, but also because of the tons of free programs they offer for all ages. And, my favorite perk: book sales! My library has a book sale at least twice a year, and the prices are so cheap, it’s practically a crime. Hardbacks for a dollar, paperbacks for ten cents; I can leave with a whole bag for just a few bucks. And I usually do.

Goodwill

In case you’ve never heard of it, Goodwill is a thrift store with several locations through the US and Canada. If you live anywhere there’s not a Goodwill, I recommend checking out whatever thrift stores you can find, they’re one of my favorite places to shop for books. Prices will vary, but the Goodwills near me sell hardbacks for two dollars and paperbacks for one, and there’s half price sales on certain things every day. They also get new items in all the time, so if you happened to live close to one you could really fill up your shelves.

Book Outlet

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I’ve only recently started shopping at Book Outlet, but it’s been a great experience! They offer tons of books, at really good prices, and best of all, there’s a scratch & dent section full of heavily discounted items. Now, these will be damaged, but in my experience it’s very slightly. And because the books are such a good deal, it’s something I’m personally willing to live with.

Thriftbooks

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Guys, I love Thriftbooks. Every book I’ve ordered from them has been in great condition and most of them were under four dollars. They offer new and used, I always go for the used, but only if it’s in very good or like new condition. You’ll get a five dollar coupon every time you spend fifty, and for U.S. customers, shipping is free on orders over ten dollars. If you don’t find a book you want,  you can add it to your wishlist and they’ll send an email when one is in stock. I would honestly order from them every week if I could afford it. Right now, if you buy through the referral link above, you’ll save 15% on your order, so go check them out!

Book Depository

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Lastly, I want to mention Book Depository because it’s a really popular site for discounted books, and they offer free worldwide shipping, which is so important when you’re trying to save money online. I haven’t personally ordered from them yet, but they have a massive selection, so it’s worth checking out.

What are your favorite ways to save on books? Let me know in the comments or send me an email through the form on the Contact Me page.

 

 

 

February Wrap-up

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It’s a new month, which means it’s time for another reading wrap-up! February was a pretty decent month, I added ten books to my total for the year, two of which I actually started months ago. That still counts, right? Here’s the rundown of what I read, from worst to best.

The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

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I hate classifying this one as the worst, I did give it three stars, so it wasn’t actually bad. Just not quite as good as the rest of the books I read this month. It features the character from a previous novel, Laurie Moran, who now produces a true crime television show dealing with unsolved murders. Fun fact about me: I love true crime television shows, and unsolved crimes, so I was really excited about the premise of this novel. Laurie and her production team set out to solve the murder of college student and aspiring actress Susan Dempsey with quite a long list of suspects. There’s also a creepy quasi-religious cult subplot that’s probably unnecessary but interesting anyway. Like all of Clarks’ novels, it feels a bit like reading a Lifetime movie, a guilty pleasure that requires little emotional investment.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

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Total honesty: I absolutely bought this book for the cover. I’m a sucker for anything vintage-looking, and it was only a dollar! Of course, I’ve read Fannie Flagg before and enjoy her work, so I was really looking forward to this one. I’m sorry to say, I was a little disappointed. I did enjoy the chapters that focused on the Polish family in the 1940’s who ran the all-girl filling station, but the parts with the main character, Sookie Poole, got a little tedious. She did a lot of bird-feeding and running errands, which I usually feel is information that can be skipped over in a plot. The ending felt a bit rushed, too. All-in-all, another three star read.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

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First off, Carrie Fisher was an icon and a legend and she will be greatly missed by millions of people. Having said that, this book was kind of tough for me to get through. It wasn’t the standard memoir that I’m used to, there was a lot of jumping around from subject to subject, half-finished story to half-finished story. I did love the addition of family photos, and the dedication is probably my favorite ever.

20170207_124907Apparently the book is based on her one-woman show, so I guess I can understand why it’s light on the detail and heavy on the jokes, but I still wound up giving it three stars, just because I wanted more.

The Night Manager by John le Carre

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Okay, I gotta level with you guys. I picked up this book solely because they were making a miniseries starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. I wound up not finishing the miniseries, but that’s beside the point. This was another three star read, because although it was very well-written, it’s kind of light on the action for a spy thriller. And at times, I wasn’t sure if what was happening was past or present. But I’m not giving up on Mr le Carre, A Most Wanted Man is actually on my TBR for March.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

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Here’s another fun fact about me: I love British detective fiction. And in my humble opinion, P.D. James is one of the best. I’ve read several of her Adam Dalgliesh novels, but this was the first Cordelia Gray. I slightly prefer the other series, but like all of her books, I found this beautifully written. I also really liked Cordelia as a character, she was smart and sensitive and tough. And I just discovered that this has been adapted for television twice, so I’m definitely going to be checking those out! Four stars for this one.

Doctor Who: Death’s Deal by Darren Jones

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Where do you stand on the subject of audio books? Some people love them, but I’ve always preferred to do my reading with a physical book in my hand. I’m trying to be more open to audio books, they certainly are convenient when you’ve got housework to get done. For instance, I listened to this one while I was washing dishes. It was only a little over an hour, so two sinks full and it was done. It was kind of strange to be listening to Doctor Who instead of watching it, but I loved that Catherine Tate narrated, I thought she did a great job. The storyline was simple, but I gave it four stars for Catherine and because it’s Doctor Who.

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

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I have mixed feelings about this one. On the plus side, the writing was absolutely gorgeous. It was lush and descriptive, without being overly bogged down by details. The plot was also very well-crafted, full of tension and surprises. I think it would play well on the screen. The minus for me was the characters. For some reason, I couldn’t really connect with any of them, and so there was a lack of investment in how the story turned out. But that might just be me, first person narrators are hit-or-miss in my experience. If you haven’t heard of this one, basically it’s about four friends who go on a white water rafting trip in the remote Maine wilderness. I won’t give you any spoilers, but just let me say you won’t catch me going rafting in the middle of nowhere any time soon. Bottom line: four stars for this one.

White Fire by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

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This was the first of two five star reads for me this month. It’s part of the Agent Pendergast series, and involves a long-lost Sherlock Holmes story and a 150-year-old miner massacre. I’d never read any of this series before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but oh my gosh, it was so good! Agent Pendergast is such an intriguing character, and the plot was fast-moving, with twists and cliffhangers, and just the slightest hint of horror. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys thrillers with a side of Sherlock Holmes.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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Last up is the only YA I read, and my favorite book of the month. I’d seen this one floating around on Instagram and when I read the blurb I wasn’t sure if I would like it. A future society where death only comes at the hands of appointed government representatives named Scythes? Sounds kind of gruesome. But it turned out to be one of those books you just want to keep reading, you just have to know what happens next. There was nothing about the book I didn’t enjoy, from the worldbuilding to the characters to the romantic subplot, it was all very nearly perfect in my opinion. I’m calling this one an early front-runner for favorite of the year and if you haven’t read it yet, do it.

You can find all of these books at Book Depository, I’ve linked them to make it easier, and they offer free worldwide shipping, how cool is that? Happy March guys, here’s to another great month of reading! What was your favorite February read?

 

Book Review – Behind Her Eyes

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I received an ARC of Sarah Pinborough’s new novel, Behind Her Eyes, from FlatIron Books to spread anticipation for the upcoming release. My thoughts on this book, in a nutshell? Absolute, addictive, insanity. Considering the only other Pinborough book I’ve read involved giant spiders that use humans as breeding vessels, triggering a horrific arachnid apocalypse, I didn’t really know what to expect from this one. It was billed as a psychological thriller, which is pretty generic these days; everything is a Gone Girl wannabe. But this thriller is seriously like no other thriller I’ve ever read, with twists that you wouldn’t see coming if you were Professor X.

The novel is told from multiple viewpoints, which has the danger of becoming confusing, but each character’s voice is so clear that it’s not hard to keep them straight. The plot at first doesn’t seem that interesting, you think it’s the standard love triangle, a married man attracted to his secretary, yawn. But there are clever twists from the very beginning and you’re constantly left questioning who you can trust, whose version of events to believe. In fact, it’s really hard to discuss this book at all without giving anything away.

Which makes it very difficult to explain the one thing I didn’t like. This is an entirely personal opinion, I’m definitely not trying to discourage you from reading this book, it was amazing. Having said that, ambiguity always makes me uncomfortable, especially in endings, which I prefer straight-forward, just, and (ideally) happy. But I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time watching rom-coms, and couldn’t sleep after any Mentalist episode involving Red John. So make of that what you will.

Behind Her Eyes releases January 31.

Big Little Lies (Book Review)

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Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal….

 

There’s an old saying that the third time’s the charm, and that proved to be the case with this book, my third read of the year and first to get a five-star rating. I went into this story without knowing much beyond the fact that Showtime is doing an adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley. Right off the bat you find out that there’s been a death at a school trivia night, and the rest of the book is spent covering the events leading up to it. It’s not until the 77th chapter that you find out who died and what exactly happened, which really heightened the suspense in the novel, especially as you got attached to various characters.

Speaking of characters, there’s a ton of them, but the book primarily follows three women, glittery, bubbly,larger-than-life Madeline; gorgeous, wealthy, perpetually distracted Celeste; and young single mother Jane. I was surprised that I found all three women equally likable, although there were times that I wanted to shake Celeste and tell her to wake up already!

It’s also impressive that the whole story revolves around a class of kindergarten students and their parents, yet it manages to be compelling and suspenseful. I did figure out the major twist around the 14th chapter, but I still could hardly put the book down! Parts of it I did find difficult to read; being a mother I’m pretty sensitive to the feelings of children, even fictional ones, so the storyline about bullying made me tear up a few times. I mean, these are five-year-olds we’re talking about, nobody should be making them cry!

But bottom line, I really, really enjoyed this book, and I will definitely be picking up more of Liane Moriarty’s novels in the future!

 

My Year in Books

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Wow. Can you guys believe that 2016 is almost over?? In many ways, I feel like saying “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!”, what with the devastating celebrity deaths and the general craziness going on in the world. Honestly, I feel kind of like I missed the whole year, I have no idea where all those months went. But bookwise, it was a pretty good year.

First, let’s go through the boring number stuff. I’m happy to say that I exceeded my personal challenge by finishing 57 books this year! Yay to Goodreads for making it so easy to keep track. Here’s a breakdown of the star counts on what I read.

  • 5 stars: 6 books
  • 4 stars: 27 books
  • 3 stars: 17 books
  • 2 stars: 7 books

There’s no one-star reads because in all honesty, if it was that uninteresting, I didn’t even finish it. There were a handful of books that wound up on the DNF pile, but they’re outnumbered by all the wonderful reads I did finish. Scroll down to find out which beat out all the rest!

My 2016 Top Ten

(Synopses are from Goodreads)

10) Dead Man’s Grip by Peter James

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Carly Chase is still traumatized ten days after being in a fatal traffic accident that kills a teenage American student from Brighton University. Then she receives news that turns her entire world into a living nightmare. The drivers of the other two vehicles involved have been found tortured and murdered. Now Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of the Sussex Police Force issues a stark and urgent warning to Carly: She could be next.

The student had deadly connections. Connections that stretch across the Atlantic to America and an organized crime group. Someone has sworn revenge and won’t rest until the final person involved in that fateful accident is dead. The police advise Carly her only option is to go into hiding and change her identity. The terrified woman disagrees. She knows these people have ways of hunting you down anywhere. If the police are unable to stop them, she has to find a way to do it herself. But already the killer is one step ahead of her, watching, waiting, and ready.

It was super hard to choose a tenth book, there were so many good four-star reads this year! Finally, I decided on this one, which was a new author discovery for me. Even though it’s number seven in the Detective Superintendant Roy Grace series, I didn’t feel lost. There was just the right amount of backstory woven in to explain without overwhelming, and the bits about his missing wife were especially interesting (that’s not a spoiler, she’s mentioned in the first chapter). I also appreciated that it wasn’t excessively gruesome. It’s a thriller, don’t get me wrong, but I’m fine without every little gory detail. And I have a soft spot for British detective fiction.

9) Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

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The enchantment continues….

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.


The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….
The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.
The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.
After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.
The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a game called The Princess
The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.
Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century.

This is the first of three Marissa Meyer books on my list. The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite book series, and I really enjoyed this collection of short stories, especially The Little Android, and Something Old, Something New. All the prequels were fun too, as any fan could tell you, there is no such thing as too much backstory! We crave every detail of our favorite characters’ lives, and if you don’t give them to us, well we’ll probably just make them up ourselves.

8) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

It was such a surprise to me how much I liked this book! I always say that YA is not my thing, but they’ve really been growing on me lately. This one was like R.L. Stine meets the X-Men. There’s a spooky old house, kids with “peculiar” powers, terrifying villains, and even a sort of time travel. I loved the old photographs throughout the book, they were a nice addition to the story. I haven’t finished the rest of the series, but hopefully I’ll get to it next year.

7) Fairest by Marissa Meyer 

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In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

This was another book I didn’t expect to love as much as I did. I went into it hating Levana with a passion. Halfway through, I felt sorry for her. By the end, I hated her even more than when I started. You learn exactly why Levana is the way she is and why she does all the horrible things she does. Maybe you won’t like her when you’ve finished, but at least you’ll understand her.

6) Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Yep, it’s another YA book. This one has such a unique plot, and the main character, seventeen-year-old Yael, is strong and sad and compelling. I’m looking forward to picking up the second book in the series, Blood for Blood, soon.

5) I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

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The three laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders givein to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future–a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.

Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world–all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asmiov’s trademark.

Okay, I know I’m late to the party here since this book is over sixty years old, but at least I showed up. A collection of interlinked stories covering the development of robotics, this is science fiction that isn’t too heavy on the science, and enlivened by a sense of humor. I finished it in like, two days, and am now on the lookout for anything written by Asimov.

4) End of Watch by Stephen King

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The spectacular finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers—In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding, supernatural suspense that has been his bestselling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

There’s only one Stephen King on my list because…well, it’s the only one I read this year. End of Watch was a great ending to a wonderful trilogy. I’ve know that some people didn’t really care for the Bill Hodges trilogy, but I love the more hard-boiled detective approach to the novels as opposed to King’s usual horror.

3) The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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Dillard Early, Jr., Travis Bohannon and Lydia Blankenship are three friends from different walks of life who have one thing in common: none of them seem to fit the mold in rural Tennessee’s Forrestville High. Dill has always been branded as an outsider due to his family heritage as snake handlers and poison drinkers, an essential part of their Pentecostal faith. But after his father is sent to prison for sexual abuse of a young parishioner, Dill and his mother become real pariahs. His only two friends are Travis, a gentle giant who works at his family’s lumberyard and is obsessed with a Game of Thrones-like fantasy series (much to his alcoholic father’s chagrin); and Lydia, who runs a popular fashion blog that’s part Tavi Gevinson and part Angela Chase, and is actively plotting her escape from Redneckville, Tennessee.
As the three friends begin their senior year, it becomes clear that they won’t all be getting to start a promising new life after graduation. How they deal with their diverging paths could cause the end of their friendship. Until a shattering act of random violence forces Dill to wrestle with his dark legacy and find a way into the light of a future worth living.

What can I say about this book?? It totally destroyed me, I mean I was bawling like a baby by the end of this one! It was a contender for number one book of the year, I actually considered having a three-way tie, but I forced myself to choose. I will consistently recommend this book, though, especially to lovers of contemporary YA.

2) Winter by Marissa Meyer

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Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

What a thrilling end to this amazing series! I could hardly put this book down, even though I hated to finish it. There was a lot of mumbling and gasping and a bit of cursing from me throughout.

1) Illuminae by Jay Kristof and Amie Kaufman

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This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Top honors goes to Illuminae, a mammoth YA sci-fi written in the craziest format I’ve ever seen. This seems to be a book that you either love or hate, and I loved it from the first few pages. The style is just so unique, and I was completely invested in the characters and plot, despite it not being the usual format. I felt like I was reading a movie, if that makes any sense? I spent the entire time on the edge of my seat, and was brought to tears more than once. If you’ve been hesitant about picking this one up because of the size, just give it a shot, it reads much faster than you would think.

That’s it for my favorite reads of the year, if you haven’t read these yet, go check them out! Every one of these is available at Book Depository, which offers free worldwide shipping, score! There’s a few honorable mentions that didn’t make it onto my top ten, but that I also recommend:

I can’t believe that 7/10 of my favorites this year were YA-guess I can’t say that’s not my thing anymore, can I?

Did any of these make your top ten?

Vengeance Road Review

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Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

 

Title: Vengeance Road

Author: Erin Bowman

Genre: YA/Western

Rating: 4 coffee mugs

Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

Before I start, I have to admit this book was a total cover draw. I mean, how gorgeous is this thing? Then I read the plot summary, it reminded me a little True Grit, and the main character has the same first name as me, so I decided to give it a shot, even though westerns are not my comfort zone at all.

The novel opens with the hanging death of 18 year old Kate Thompson’s father at the hands of the dastardly Rose Riders. She immediately vows revenge and sets out to hunt down the murderers, aided by Jesse and Will Colton. Any other details and we’d get into spoiler territory, so I’ll just say there’s lots of shooting, a little flirting, and even hints of Shakespeare. (A girl disguising herself as a guy always points back to Shakespeare, in my opinion.)

Now the reasons for my rating. On the positive side, this was a well-written novel with likable, clearly defined characters. Waylan Rose, the main baddie, is suitably villainous and the end features a twist that I definitely did not see coming. It also felt really authentic for the time period, down to the vocabulary and grammar of the main character. One of the things I really loved was the descriptions of the scenery and environment. At times, it almost felt poetical, which I think is a hard balance to strike when you’re writing this sort of novel. And I’m always a sucker for good descriptions anyway! My only problem is my biggest complaint with all westerns. Why do they have to be so sad?? But if you enjoy westerns, or you’re looking to branch out in your reading, I’d definitely recommend this book as a good introduction to the genre. Stay tuned to find out if it makes it into my top ten reads of the year!

How many of you have read Vengeance Road? Tell me what you thought in the comments below!

My Ever-Expanding TBR

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One of these days (possibly very soon), I won’t be able to cram any more books on my shelves, and unfortunately I can’t promise to stop buying them once that happens. Not when they’re constantly releasing books that I want to read.

Which leads us to this weeks’ new releases that I’m especially looking forward to.

  1. Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben – Coben’s books are always at the top of my list for their fast pacing and twists that keep you guessing. This one sounds no different, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a special ops pilot who sees an image on her nanny cam of her dead husband playing with their daughter. Creepy!
  2. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – I’ve been seeing this one all over Bookstagram and I am dying to pick up a copy! Described as a reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, it’s been getting stellar reviews.
  3. The Other Side of Gravity by Shelly Crane – This book was actually released a week ago, but I didn’t want to leave it out. I’ve mentioned before that YA isn’t my comfort zone; but this sci-fi romance set in a world where oxygen, gravity, and basically everything else is sold on the black market caught my attention. The one drawback is that it’s the first of a series, and I’m always hesitant about getting wrapped up in one of those.
That’s it for this weeks’ tbr. What books are you especially looking forward to?