What I Read in February

Yes, this is late–you think I don’t know it’s March 7th? During the last week of February, I ended up on a four day business trip to Nebraska, which I’m still recovering from. I’m blaming it for not reaching my reading goals (see below) and writing goals (*gesticulates wildly at timestamp* nyeh). But that’s not all! Fitness goals. Study goals. Needlepoint goals. Really, it irreversibly damaged my life. I’ll never catch up.

Ikigai | Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles 

Garcia and Miralles travel to Okinawa to interview residents of a village that has the world’s highest percentage of centenarians–those overachievers who live to be over 100. They explore the Japanese concept of Ikigai, meaning “a reason for being.”

I often ask myself, What is the point of me? What am I doing with my life? Why am I not doing anything more fulfilling or worthwhile? Why am I not rich yet? It makes me angry knowing I’m not living up to my full potential. I was born for greatness. To have servants and live in a castle and lord over lesser people. I think–nay, I know–there was a mix-up at the hospital. My real parents are out there, dictating or something.

I picked up this book to find answers to those questions and also because The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to a Happy Living by Meik Wiking was already checked out (Danes, amirite?). After reading this, I’ve concluded I don’t really need to live that long, especially if I have to follow the diet rule of Hara Hachi Bu, which is eating until you’re 80% full. That just doesn’t seem right. If you’re not eating until you feel like you’re about to pass out, you’re doing it wrong. Everyone knows that.

LIBRARY – The book looks nice on a shelf, but it would just stay there. Unloved. Never to be touched again. Until a fit of passion seizes me at midnight and I rearrange my shelves.

The Cruel Prince | Holly Black

At seven, Jude’s parents’ killer steals away her and her two sisters to live in the High Court of Faerie. Years later, in her struggle to fit in among the fae and win a place at Court, she attracts the ire of Prince Cardan, the son of the High King. 

I thought this would take place entirely separate from Black’s earlier works, but I was delightedly surprised that characters from her Tithe series make an appearance. Roth Roiben Rye is BACK, baby. Which, of course, means I have to reread those books (again) before the next in this series comes out.

I love hate-to-love romances. This wasn’t one. At least, not yeeeet. *wriggles eyebrows* I keep forgetting Cardigan’s name. But that’s okay. He’s delightful. I will never tire of tortured, dark princes, especially ones you can make fun of and still find attractive.

Oh, and Jude’s great. Very fierce.

But Cardinal. Yum.

BUY – Yaaaaas.

Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind | Edith Hall

I think the title says enough?

I’m attempting to delve into Ancient Greece for funsies. While reading primary sources from writers like Homer and Herodotus, I’m trying to bulk up my understanding with texts like this (recommendations are entirely welcome). This was a nice introduction, but I found myself skimming the last few chapters. And some of the middle ones. And a few at the beginning. I’m not being tested on this material, so I’ll do what I want, thankyouverymuch.

LIBRARY – Though super informative and well-written, I can’t see this being one I’d reference again and again.

Far Far Away | Tom McNeal 

Jeremy Johnson Johnson is an outsider in his small town. His most notable peculiarity: he hears the voice of Jacob Grimm. Grimm takes it upon himself to help Jeremy get good grades, to keep distractions like Ginger Boultinghouse at bay, and, when children begin disappearing, to keep Jeremy and his friends alive.

You know that horrible show on ABC? The super corny one where they just cut and paste fairy tales? “Once Upon a Time” or something?

I was expecting that when I read this (only, you know, better).

I didn’t get that.

Since it’s narrated by Jacob Grimm, I wanted fairies and wicked stepmothers and people hacking body parts off. The only supernatural bit is Jacob himself. The danger the children find themselves in is entirely realistic. In a way, that makes it more terrifying. But this gives me mixed feelings. I applaud the author for managing to make the story feel magical without any magic, but I also really wanted that fantasy element. How can I be an escapist if you throw reality in my face? I also wish the novel had focused more on Jacob’s character. Who cares about the kids? They’re supposed to be devoured.

LIBRARY – While I liked it, it’s probably not something I’d read again.


What was your favorite February read?

January Book Reviews…in February!

Seeing as we’re almost halfway through February, I’m a bit late with this post. Below are the four pitiful books I read in January. My goal this year is, as always, to get to 100. I’m already four behind. But no matter! I have a good feeling that this will be the year I achieve 100. I may have to squeak in a few audio books at work, but dagnabbit it will be done!

I’m trying out a new rating scale. Instead of a star system, which really doesn’t mean much to anyone but myself, I’m doing my own Buy, Borrow, Bypass. Of course, a small note: Save for the nonfiction titles, I’ve already purchased all of these books. That’s just how I roll.

Lincoln in the Bardo | George Saunders

Told from the alternating perspectives of spirits caught in the Bardo, a place between death and new life, it follows Lincoln as he visits the crypt of his recently deceased son, Willie.

I thought this was absolutely brilliant. I was not surprised that it won the Man Booker Prize (as if I really know what that is or care), and I can totally understand why it was on so many favorites lists last year. I wholly recommend this to fans of historical fiction and satire, and I would encourage writers of any genre to read it for the experimental structure alone.

Buy – I’d read it again.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 | Annie Spence

A librarian writes love letters (and some hate mail) to books that have made an impact on her life.

This was hilarious. I did not at all expect to laugh out loud as much as I did, nor did I ever think librarians could have so much personality. I did not agree with her letters to every book, especially her off-putting and most disagreeable attitude towards The Hobbit, but I did read the entire book in one night. Well, okay, that’s a bit of a lie. I didn’t read the very end where she gave book recommendations. I’m already drowning in my TBR–I don’t need any help with that.

Library – Though thoroughly enjoyable, it’s not something I need to read more than once. Also, you know, she’s a librarian talking about books she read at the library.

James and the Giant Peach | Roald Dahl

Poor, pathetic, orphaned James is tormented by his two aunts until a stranger gifts him with magic water, which he accidentally spills on a barren peach tree. When a peach on it grows larger than a house, he finds a tunnel inside and embarks on an adventure with a group of super freaking huge insects.

I’m slowly making my way through Dahl’s books. As a kid, I only read The BFG. Last year I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the last of which I have ranted about to anyone who will listen and even to those who just sort of glaze over when I talk. I won’t bore you with–you know what? I’m gonna go there.

For those who haven’t read it (you lucky dogs, you), the sequel begins with Mr. Wonka, Charlie, and his entire family shooting up into space in the elevator. There are some run-ins with carnivorous Vermicious Knids and a whole section on the idiocy of the President. Then, finally, after much hullabaloo, they return to the chocolate factory, where the selfish grandparents–who they should’ve let starve ages ago–get in a tiff over these pills that make them twenty years younger. One of the dumb sacks hogs four pills which, since she is only in her seventies, ends up putting her in negative years. She disappears and Charlie has to save her. Apparently she never bothered taking up arithmetic during all those bedridden years.

Dumb. It was all just dumb. No wonder no one adapted it into a movie. They just stopped at the first book. Dahl should’ve too.

*deep breath* But I digress…

James and the Giant Peach did not enrage me to my core. In fact, I did not feel much of anything while reading it . . . except sheer bloody terror that the cursed rhino who killed James’s parents would return again. Stupid, emotionally scarring Tim Burton films.

Library – I’m glad I read it, but not certain I’d do so again.

Speak Easy, Speak Love | McKelle George

A group of teenagers work to keep a run-down speakeasy on Long Island running despite challenges from Prohibition officers, the mafia, and their own dramas.

Zounds, I loved everything about this book! Jazz, speakeasies, hate-to-love romances, ’20s garb. The two main love interests–Benedick and Beatrice–are deliciously witty. I aspire to insult people like they do. It’s supposedly a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, which I haven’t read and likely never will. Shakespeare hurts my head and I like to keep my distance.

I am very much looking forward to more work from George.

Buy – Mein Gott, buy it for the cover alone.



[Review] Wink Poppy Midnight – April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★★★

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

I really, reeeeally enjoyed this. For one, it’s a very quick read and, since I’m obscenely behind on my Goodreads challenge, it’s nice to read a whole book in one sitting. For two, it has a very magical quality to it without there being any actual magic in it. There’s a haunted house, a fortuneteller, and a very warm and cozy hayloft that I’d love to read and take a nap in.

The characters are beautifully flawed. Wink is obsessed with fairy tales and blurs the line between fantasy and reality (I can relate). Poppy is obsessed with herself (I can relate) and Leaf, Wink’s older brother, and likes to torture people (ahem). Midnight is obsessed with being like his older brother, Alabama, who his mother took with her to France, leaving him with his dad. Tucholke has an amazing way of making you root for one character in the beginning, hating the other, and then by the end, making you completely change your opinion on them. Except for Midnight. I don’t think my opinion of him ever changed. Poor thing, stuck between these two powerful forces. They have a lot of personality, these girls.

I love how the names are so bizarre. It’s like when you watch an anime for the first time and you know immediately who the main character is because they’re in a sea of plain characters while they themselves have spiky rainbow hair and eyes the size of soccer balls. I think the same could be said with the names in this book. Wink, Poppy, Midnight, Leaf . . . If they had a normal name like Zoe or Thomas, you know they’re mundanes.

I had the pleasure of getting my book signed by Tucholke last year when she toured with a group of authors (she said she liked my name). It’s kind of sad that I’m only just now reading this, but I will definitely be picking up more of her work.


[Review] Bad Romance – Heather Demetrios

Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2017
My Rating: ★★★★

From Goodreads: Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape. 

This book festers with rage. The story is told from Grace’s perspective as if she is writing to Gavin, the boy she falls for and later comes to hate and fear. The fact that it’s written in a mix of first and second person only makes it more poignant.

I’ve always wondered how a smart girl could end up in an abusive relationship and then stay in it. Or how you could give up your dreams for a dumb boy. But when you think you’re worthless, you don’t believe you deserve love or to be treated with respect. Grace has such a strong personality, and you just want to shake her for letting Gavin and her family get away with treating her so horribly. If she only said what she was thinking, because my god she is full of attitude, she wouldn’t be in this mess. They wouldn’t be able to cow her.

Even though I know he’s a total dick, I can’t help but find Gavin charming at first. Then I just felt bad for him. It’s clear he has issues, that he needs help. He tries to kill himself because his last girlfriend broke up with him and threatens to kill himself if Grace tries to leave him. You wonder how someone so young, who comes from a decent family, could have such problems.

Though Bad Romance should frustrate you and make you want to throw it across the room, it isn’t completely depressing. There are tons of references to musicals and plays. Most of them I’ve never seen (West Side Story anyone?), so a lot went over my head. But I had some great LOL moments. I would recommend to fans of Patrick Jones’ Things Change and Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland. 


The World Needs Library Simulator

I’m a big fan of escaping reality and where better to do that than in VR? Not only can you immerse yourself in another world, you can choose to be anything you want (Goat Simulator), work any job you want (Garbage Truck Simulator), and date the hunky man of your dreams (Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator).

So I ask myself, why not have a Library Simulator?

In this game, you could:

  • Learn the Dewey Decimal system.
  • Replace books on shelves.
  • Help visitors find the perfect title for their bookish needs.
  • Scan books for visitors to check out.
  • Create beautiful displays.
  • Read short stories and decide if they go or stay.
  • Attach your Goodreads account and browse actual titles, add them to your TBR, and recommend to others (not fishing for sponsors or anything).

You could even pick different settings: A brightly-lit, ultra modern library with lots of wasted space. An Inner city library with bars on the window (there’s only the one) and an armed security guard. Personally, I would prefer to lord over a more traditional library with polished mahogany shelves, antique tapestries, and candle sconces. This could even add to the excitement–if someone tips over a candle, everything burns!

As if that wasn’t already intensely titillating, here’s where it gets really fun:

  • If people don’t heed your shushes and stern looks, you can stab them in the neck with your Pen of Righteous Discipline.
  • If someone bends the spine of a book, you get to break or remove theirs.

    View post on imgur.com

  • If someone smuggles in food and drink, you get to stuff it down their throat until they choke.
  • If someone dog-ears a page, you get to put a slit in their ear. After, say, two offenses, they lose the ear. And their library card.
  • If someone attempts to steal a book, well, we’ll let them live because who can resist a good book?

Let us not forget story time, children!



[Review] My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith

Title: My Italian Bulldozer
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2017
My rating: ★★1/2

From Goodreads:

When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already late book, it seems like the perfect escape from stressful city life. Upon landing, however, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers his hired car is nowhere to be found. With no record of any reservation and no other cars available it looks like Paul is stuck at the airport. That is, until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative. While there may be no cars available there is something else on offer: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts and so begins a series of laugh out loud adventures through the Italian countryside, following in the wake of Paul and his Italian Bulldozer. A story of unexpected circumstance and lesson in making the best of what you have, My Italian Bulldozer is a warm holiday read guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

I was supremely excited for this book. I gushed about it to friends and family. I kept looking at the cover again and again (because isn’t it kinda awesome?), and kept seeing it posted on all these “Books to Look for in 2017” lists. I even recommended it to a coworker to bring with on her trip to Italy.

Then I read it.

My disappointment in this book rivals the disappointment my parents have when I do needlepoint on Saturday night. They just look at me wondering, why aren’t you out partying? Why are you wasting your youth?

Why is this book so tame?! I expected a riotous journey through the Italian countryside, but it fell flat. There were quirky moments that made me feel like I was watching a British sitcom, but they hardly got a chuckle from me. Perhaps the humor was just too subtle . . . or nonexistent. I bulldozed (aha) through the novel just to get it out of the way and move on with my life (which, according to my family, I do not actually have).

To keep myself entertained, I started picturing Martin Freeman as Paul. If it ever is adapted into a film, he would fit the part perfectly. He has that pushover appeal.

I will admit, this book is a good palate cleanser after you’ve read a dark and dreary novel. There is a simplicity and innocence to it that I find oddly charming, and I also loved the mouthwatering descriptions of food. However, this is the first and last time I recommend a book I haven’t read. Lesson learned.


Why Alphabetizing Your Private Library is The Worst: A Journey

It’s Friday night and I’ve just consumed a small Albino Turtle. Two shots of espresso, my limit for this week, surges through my veins. I’m jittery and restless until an idea hits me. An idea to do something worthwhile. Something good. I quickly fold piles of clothes and vacuum the carpet that hasn’t seen the light of day in weeks. Vivaldi blares from a Bose speaker.

Armed with my catalog of books and a damp rag, I begin. I clear the top shelf of a bookcase, wipe it down, and start the alphabetizing process.The Invisible Road by Rafael Abalos goes first, followed by The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. Then Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King. Slowly, the shelf fills. Tall books tower over vertically impaired ones. Fantasy buddies up to literary and mystery.

I am a revolutionary breaking the barriers between genres. Tonight, we are all one. We are paper. We are ink. We are words and ideas.

I play air violin to Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25 by Pablo de Sarasate and dance among stacks of books that cover the floor and bed. My mom steps into the room and turns right around. My brother asks me, “Are you out of your mind?”

By midnight, I think he may be right. I waver when my beloved Artemis Fowl books end up on the bottom shelf. As if they are nothing better than mass market paperbacks. I remind myself again, despite our outward appearances, despite the thickness of our bindings, we are all equal. Even with this inclusive new attitude, I am ill at ease with World War Z nestled against Wuthering Heights. Yet I knew when I began it would be complete, albeit meticulously organized, chaos. Determined to see it through, I shanghai my boyfriend into helping.

By three in the morning, I begin to admit that this undertaking may possibly be a mistake. I have only organized two out of four bookshelves, but that isn’t the issue. I can deny it no longer–the simple fact is that a new book would compromise the integrity of the entire system. For any new book that I buy, I would have to make room by moving every subsequent book one space over. I cannot do that for nearly 1,000 books.

The idea of a living shelf that is constantly evolving appeals to me, but it is not one easily maintained. Dejected, I quit. I do not get to the letter R. My dreams of having Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On next to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are crushed.

The next day, I gain perspective. No longer are my books equal. No longer will I blur the lines. With steadfast resolve, I segregate my books by genre.

I make it to midnight before I clear enough space on the bed for me and my dog to pass out. My boyfriend has to move fifty or so books just to get to the bed.

He knows I’m crazy, but he loves me anyway.

Uttering every violent threat I can think of to myself, I finish Sunday evening, but I am pleased with the results. I have two bookshelves dedicated to fantasy, one YA/adult, the other MG. Another bookcase houses science fiction, paranormal romance, horror, and fantasy. The last is full of literary classics, realistic fiction, magical realism, thriller, and . . . fantasy.

I have a lot of fantasy, okay?

I even did a bit of organizing by color (of which I am normally staunchly against) for my stand-alones. Interestingly enough, after filling the shelves, I had about fifty mass market paperbacks that I had no space for. They’re now stacked between a bookshelf and an armoire. I can only imagine it’s like having spare parts after dismantling and reassembling an engine.

I would strongly dissuade anyone from this overly ambitious endeavor, particularly if you have a large collection. I’m sick of handling books and will not be reorganizing again until the next time I move. Alas, I recently bought four new books and they are sitting untouched in the box they came in because I don’t want to find room for them.

How do you organize your shelves? 




[Review] The House – Christina Lauren

Title: The House
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: YA Horror
Published: 2015
My Rating: ★★★★★

When her family can no longer afford to send her to private school, Delilah returns to public school in her hometown. There, she thrusts herself upon the mysterious boy she’s had a crush on since forever.

Gavin has a secret–his house has a mind of its own and has raised him since he was a small child. House is the only family he has until Delilah enters his life, and House isn’t interested in sharing him.

I loved this! I was so thoroughly creeped out. I read it late at night (of course) and it got to the point where I’d demand my boyfriend to stand guard outside the bathroom. He wouldn’t humor me.

To be honest, I’m a bit of a chickenshit. Horror buffs might not feel the same tingles of adrenaline I did. But it’s not like there’s some thing in the house that hates Delilah. It’s the entire freaking house. Every inanimate object inside it has a mind of its own. Not only that, but its reach extends past the house, through roots and wires, to other homes. It’s not like you can easily sneak around and get away from it. The whole town is unsafe.

The characters are both endearing and I appreciated the dual point of views. Delilah looks sweet and normal, but is obsessed with the macabre. She doodles gruesome pictures in her notebooks, watches slasher flicks, and alphabetizes her books by the cause and number of deaths (might have to look into this). She’s also fiercely protective of Gavin, who is a doll (not literally, to clarify). He looks like your mysterious, haunted bad boy, but he’s actually a sweetheart. They are utterly adorable together and I was seriously worried that something horrible was going to happen to both of them.

I would recommend this to fans of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It’s not as bloody and full of angst, but it still made me laugh and gave me the chills.


[Review] The Love Interest – Cale Dietrich

Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2017
My Rating:  ★★

Caden is a Nice, the boy next door. Dyl is a Bad, the tortured and dangerous hot guy. After years of training to become spies–specifically, the Love Interest of a Chosen (a person who will one day likely have great influence and power)–the two are thrust into the real world to compete in making a brilliant young woman fall in love with them. When the two begin to have feelings for each other, their mission becomes even more complicated. Worse, whoever she doesn’t chose will die. 

I was so looking forward to this book. I first saw it in Writer’s Digest, where they put a spotlight on debut authors. The cover snagged my attention first, followed by the odd but compelling premise. Two boys who fall in love with each other instead of the girl they’re supposed to? Heck ya!

Unfortunately, I knew I was doomed from the beginning. The voice and the dialogue felt stilted and juvenile. Yes, I’m an adult–wait, did I just say that? All right, yes, I admit it: I am physically an adult. But I read a lot of YA. There’s stuff that feels super kid-lit and stuff that has crossover appeal. This did not have crossover appeal. It just felt too…bubbly for what was happening. Perhaps it was because the story is told from the Nice’s perspective. If it had been told from the Bad’s perspective, there likely would’ve been a lot more angst.

The plot, especially in the last half, felt extremely over the top. When I was going in, I didn’t realize this would be a life or death situation and that the loser would be incinerated. I’m generally all for action, but I could’ve done without it here. I wanted the author to focus more on Caden and Dyl’s relationship. Something more realistic would’ve been more compelling. There’s also so much attention to clothes. Like, every scene there’s a description. Honestly, who cares?

I’ll admit, there are a few gems. Caden asks his coach, “Wouldn’t it be better to send us in when we’re a bit older? No one finds the love of their life while they’re a teenager.” To which she replies, “You haven’t read many YA novels recently, have you?” Dietrich pokes fun at trends in YA. How boys are expected to behave in those stories. Not like persons in their own right, but someone to cater to the girl’s every whim. The boys alter their appearances and their personalities to conform to the girl’s desires. They put her ahead of themselves at all times. It’s nice to see someone take that love triangle trope and turn it on its head. It made me think more about my own characters and how I want them to be fully fleshed out individuals.

Overall, I really wanted to like this book. The idea intrigued me, but I didn’t like the execution. It’s a debut and unfortunately it reads like a debut.


“What Should I Read Next?” Podcast by Anne Bogel

I’ve recently begun listening to the podcast What Should I Read Next?, hosted by Anne Bogel over at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Each week she interviews a new guest. They are bloggers, fellow podcasters, authors, bookstore owners–basically people who love talking about books. Each episode is structured the same: The guest shares three books they love, one book they didn’t like, and what they want to change in their reading life.

With that information, Bogel gets to the heart of what they enjoy and what they’re looking for, then gives them three book recommendations. One guest called her the “Book Whisperer.” Many consider being on the show as a form of book therapy. She recommends books I’ve never heard of or books I would never have picked up without her describing them in such a compelling way. Needless to say, my already mountainous TBR pile now blots out the sun.

Unfortunately, there is little love for genre fiction on the show. You get a definite snobby vibe when anyone speaks about anything that isn’t considered “high literary fiction.” Still, I like to fantasize about what I would say if I were on the show.

Three Books I Love:

Like almost every guest on the show says, this is difficult. Obviously I can’t narrow down my favorites to three. I couldn’t even narrow it down to twenty. I could give the obvious and say Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl or any of the books that really resonated with me when I was younger and that still do. However, I will go with books that I’ve read in the last two years that I loved and will reread over and over again.

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

The book follows Blue, whose life becomes entwined with four rich students from a nearby academy and their quest to find a long-lost Welsh king.

I cannot emphasize how much I love this series. I wish I had an ounce of Stiefvater’s talent. Just one freaking ounce.The Raven Cycle checks off all my boxes: Fully-fleshed out characters, close male relationships, magic, fast cars, a compelling plot, snark, hilarity, beautiful writing.

I’m so flippin’ excited that she’s making a trilogy with Ronan and Adam, who are my two favorite characters. (This is the part where I shatter Bogel’s eardrums from my shriek of excitement.)

I’ve read a little of Stiefvater’s other work. Shiver is about a pack of werewolves in Minnesota, but even though it’s set in my state, it didn’t capture my interest as much. I abandoned The Scorpio Races after a few pages, knowing I just wasn’t in the mood to read it (I’ll get back to it, I promise). But The Raven Boys is something I see myself rereading every year and never tiring of it.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

This takes place a few years after the events in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. It follows criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker (Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz.) and his crew, who embark on a mission to retrieve a hostage from an impenetrable military stronghold and survive long enough to collect their reward.

I love Kaz’s character so much. He’s the right amount of vicious, the right amount of damaged. He’s soooooo dreamy, especially when he’s maiming people. He’s one of those characters who is one step ahead of everyone, even his own crew. I also loved the way Bardugo weaved together the different characters and their point of views. They all compliment each other really well.

If you like Netflix’s series, Peaky Blinders starring Cillian Murphy, you should definitely take a look at this. I began watching Peaky Blinders after reading the duology and all I could think was that Thomas Shelby reminded me of an adult version of Kaz.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

Though it’s such a horrid period in time, I’m fascinated by World War II. I have an entire shelf dedicated to it and Wolf by Wolf is a worthy addition.

The story is set in an alternate history where the Axis powers win. A young Jewish girl named Yael is experimented on by Nazis. Given the power to skinshift, she escapes the concentration camp and joins a group of rebels. Her mission is to assassinate Hitler. To do so, she poses as the only female participant in a motorcycle race from Germany to Tokyo.

This one was heartbreaking and exciting and powerful. The sequel, Blood for Blood, even more so. As you can maybe tell from my other choices, I enjoy reading about male characters. Like a lot. But Yael is so likable and broken, that she has become one of my all-time favorite heroines.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for fast-paced action with characters who have a lot of depth.

There are so many others I wanted to include on this list. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. The list goes on…

One Book I Hate:

It’s rare for me to hate a book. Especially since I don’t have any more teachers who like to shove horrible books down my throat. My all-time most-hated book is Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami. I will never forgive my Japanese literature teacher for making me read this horrendous novel. You need only read the first sentence to know why I hate it. I will never be able to scrub it from my mind.

A recent book I disliked–hate is too strong of a word–was I Woke Up Dead At The Mall by Judy Sheehan.

A girl from New York City is poisoned at her father’s wedding and ends up at the Mall of America, which serves as a sort of limbo, a place you go to before you go to heaven.

Weird premise, but I picked this up because it sounded quirky and I’m from Minnesota. It’s so rare to find books set here. But it hardly took place here at all. Most of the time, we’re in New York while the main character visits her past and tries to warn her father about her killer. I didn’t understand why only people from New York went to the Mall of America after they died. Why wouldn’t people from Minnesota go there? It just didn’t make sense and I didn’t make a connection to the MC or any of the other characters. I honestly didn’t care that they had died.

Changes I Want in My Reading Life:

I want to read more books in different genres. I only read fiction, most of it YA, and the vast majority of it is fantasy or science fiction. It’s not a coincidence that I also write YA fantasy. It’s what I love.

I want to include more nonfiction, especially creative nonfiction, more short stories, more literary fiction, and maybe, just maybe, a memoir (but that’s stretching it a bit). I also want to read more classics. I have a few shelves of them, but they intimidate me either because of their thickness (I’m trying to get through a large quantity of books this year) or because I’m worried about my own thickness and not being able to understand them.

So. Any recommendations for me? If you had to pick three favorites and one you didn’t like, what would they be?