February Wrap-Up

Hey all!  I am starting a new thing here on the blog: the monthly wrap-up!  I will probably mess with the formatting a bit as I figure out the way that works best for me, but here we go!  The format for this first one was totally inspired by the awesome Rachel over at Tiger Lily Rachel (though hers, as usual, looks way prettier) – you should definitely check her February wrap-up out as well!

Overall Stats

This month overall was really strong, reading-wise.  I was able to complete 19 books, bringing my total up to 50 books for the year.  This is insane to me; the highest reading year I have EVER had before now was 132 books (still strong), but I am on pace to pretty much crush that.

My 19 books included two novellas and two graphic novels, and all together included a grand total of 6,041 pages.  Insane!  As usual, my most-read genre was YA (9/19 books), but actually some of my very favorite reads this month were adult novels.  If you want to see everything I read, and read at least a short review, you can check out my Read This Month shelf on Goodreads by clicking here.  I tend to leave this up for “last month” for at least a week or so.

Five-Star Reads

This month, I actually had three five-star reads (and a crap-ton of four star reads).  My five-star reads were:

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Spinning Heart   vicious   never sky

I actually think that order is even the order I would internally rank those 5-star reads.  I actually gave Under the Never Sky four stars at first, until about a week later when I STILL hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it.  It was one of my favorite YA dystopians in awhile, and that is saying something.  Don’t know what took me so long, but I’m glad to be on-board that train now!

February Book Reviews, Features and Favorite Posts

I was able to write four book reviews this month (and honestly, I thought it was more!).  I will definitely focus on increasing this number for next month.  If you are interested in checking those out, here they are again!

A Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (5/5 stars)
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson (3/5 stars)
Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott (4/5 stars)
Unwind by Neil Shusterman (4/5 stars)

That last review was done as a part of Epic Recs, which is a really fun feature where book bloggers pair off together and make book recommendations to each other.  I had SO much fun doing it, and I highly suggest you check out that post to learn more!

I also participated in the Book Blogger LoveAThon this month and had the opportunity to meet so many more bloggers and add a TON of great blogs to my reading lists. I really need to update my blog roll and that is definitely on my to-do list.  To see what the LoveAThon was all about you can check out my LoveAThon 2014 category here! If you’ve never participated before, I HIGHLY recommend it next time it comes around! It was hands down the most fun I’ve had blogging!

My personal favorite post was actually made on January 30, but with the Academy Awards coming up, I want to give it a little more love and that was the Bookish Academy Awards tag that I filched from BookTube.  I had SO much fun putting this post together!  Check it out here!

I had SUCH a fun month blogging and reading.  I can’t wait to see what March brings!!

Top Ten Tuesday (3): Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

toptentuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week we are discussing our Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition.

I honestly feel so out of the loop on which authors are getting recognition these days and which aren’t. For some, I feel like I am way behind the curve (I’m looking at you Tahereh Mafi!) but for others I feel like I may be only slightly ahead.  But since this book blog – and I think Broke and the Bookish as well – leans toward having an audience who is more YA-focused, I’m going to recommend some of my favorite adult book authors in case you haven’t had a chance to veer into that section of the bookstore as often as you might like. 

That being said, along the theme of under-appreciated YA authors, if you haven’t read anything by Merrie Haskell, you really should.

If You Love These YA Books, Then Try…

1.       If you love The Name of the Star, then try Alan Bradley!

 Fans of Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star series might also like the British flavor of Alan Bradley’s murder mystery novels.  Alan Bradley has written a number of mysteries, but the series I like best is his Flavia de Luce series, which starts with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  The series is set in England in the 1950’s and its heroine, Flavia, is an 11-year-old amateur chemist and detective.  She’s basically Sherlock Holmes crossed with Harriet the Spy and I adore her.  With its 11-year-old protagonist, I’m not exactly sure why this series isn’t marketed as YA, to be honest with you.  Fans of Johnson will enjoy Flavia’s spunk and her hysterical relationship with her two sisters, and mystery fans will enjoy the excellently written who-done-it that will keep you guessing until the final page.

 sweetness 

2.      If you love Vampire Academy, then try Patricia Briggs!

Fans of the gritty Vampire Academy series might want to give some adult urban fantasy a try.  Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series is a good starting place, because unlike some other adult urban fantasy out there, there is not a great deal of language or physicality in the novels.  Much like Rose Hathaway, Mercy is a strong female character who feels completely self-sufficient and does not like relying on anyone to help her out.  She is fiercely loyal to her friends and is really a kick-butt protagonist.  There’s also a great slow-burn romance in this series as well that can’t be missed!  And from a fantasy perspective, this series truly has it all, from vampires to fae to werewolves to demons to, well – you name it, it’s probably in there somewhere.

 moon called

3.      If you love Grave Mercy, then try Guy Gavriel Kay!

Fans of Grave Mercy might enjoy the historical fantasy novels written by Guy Gavriel Kay.  Kay’s novels are set in various historical periods – medieval Spain, Constantinople, the Tang Dynasty – and are just epically gorgeous.  These novels are sweeping, with characters that will stay with you forever.  They are delicious to read and you want to just linger in the words on the page.  But they are also dark – you will find assassins, and plots, and betrayals, and intrigue in almost all of his books.  His book The Lions of al Rassan is perhaps the only book I’ve ever finished and then re-opened and started reading again just because I wasn’t ready to let go of the world and those words and those characters.  He explores brotherly love and true love and, yes, magic.  I recommend starting with Lions or A Song for Arbonne.

 lions

4.      If you love Little Women, then try Geraldine Brooks!

Geraldine Brooks is the Pulitzer Prize award-winning author of March, a novel that tells the story of Little Women from the perspective of the father, who is largely absent from that novel.  As you may recall, Mr. March was off serving as a chaplain in the Civil War.  This book is at once a great piece of historical fiction (Brooks referenced the various journals of Louisa May Alcott’s own father to help draw her character in this novel) and a beautiful revisiting of characters we all know and love.  I also love her novel Year of Wonders, which follows the life of a woman living during the plague outbreak in England.

 march

5.      If you love Code Name Verity, then try Irene Nemirovsky!

Irene Nemirovsky is best known for her beautiful, haunting novel Suite Française.  This novel follows the story of a number of families in Paris in 1940 on the eve of Nazi occupation.  The stories themselves are beautiful, but the book itself has a story worthy of its own novel.  Nemirovsky was a well-known author in Europe in the 1940s when she started work on this novel.  But she was also a Jew and in 1942, she was deported to Auschwitz, where she died.  This novel was not discovered for over sixty years, when it was found and translated.  It paints a horrifying picture of what life must truly have been like from someone we know witnessed the worst of it.  Fair warning – the novel is comprised of two parts of what was meant to be a five-part novel.  While it certainly stands on its own, you will feel a profound sadness, both for not knowing what happens in the characters’ lives, as well as for knowing what happened in Nemirovsky’s.  

If You Love These Television Shows, Then Try…

6.       If you love Sherlock, then try Laurie R. King!

Whether you love the BBC series or the original books (or both!) you might just love Laurie R. King’s take on Sherlock, which starts with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.  King’s series begins in the post-Watson, post-Doyle Sherlock years, admitting that those stories were written but starting with the presumption that they were somewhat exaggerated so that Doyle could obtain a greater readership.  You meet all of your old favorite Sherlock characters, with the excellent addition of Sherlock’s new sidekick and eventual partner, the American, Jewish female Mary Russell.  Where Watson was Sherlock’s sidekick, Mary is truly his equal and watching them verbally spar is a great joy to behold. 

 beekeeper

7.       If you love The Tudors, then try Sharon Kay Penman!

Fans of the historical fiction genre can’t help but love Sharon Kay Penman.  Her books are everything historical fiction should be – well researched, well written, and most of all absolutely compelling.  Her main characters are great and she realizes that the true story of what happened is often more compelling than any fiction.  While of course she does add characters and move timelines around where necessary to make the novel flow, she has excellent historical notes following all of her novels, making clear what’s fiction and what isn’t.  These novels really make history come alive and are so well written you might even forget you’re learning something as you go.  Her first novel, The Sunne in Splendour, is a standalone so that might be a good place to start, but I also really love her Here Be Dragons trilogy.  As an added bonus her blog, which I follow on Goodreads, offers a number of really timely and interesting tidbits about British history and its intersection with today’s world (for example, one recent post discusses the implications of Will & Kate’s child’s gender).

sunne

What Authors am I Missing?

I know, I could only come up with 7 to recommend this time around – BUT I also recommend the books and shows on the first half of the sentences up there, so really you got 15 killer recommendations from me this week (counting Haskell, of course!).  But who don’t I know about yet that I should really be reading?  Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

June Rewind

What I Read In June

It is really hard to believe that the year is already half over!  I went into this post feeling like June was a slow reading month for me, but as I looked everything over, it turns out I read 15 books!  So I guess it wasn’t such a slow month after all.  Not only was it a full month of reading, I read some truly great books this month – top 10 of the year quality.

With so many books read, I don’t want this book to get insanely long, so I will post covers and brief reviews of my top 5 of the month, though if you’re interested to hear about the rest, do check out my Goodreads – I normally post a few sentences at least about whatever I read there.

I’m totally open to feedback as I get a good format going, so let me know if you have any suggestions!  Also, please let me know if there are any of the books that you would like a full review for.  Hope you all had a great reading June!

Top 5 Books of the Month!

1.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: 5 out of 5 stars

penumbra

Thinking about it, I already want to re-read this book.  It just pushed every single one of my buttons.  Mystery, book lovers, font nerdiness, secret societies, and bookstores with mysterious secret sections for the truly devoted.  Come ON!  In some ways this book is an examination of the ongoing debate between technology and physical books and how, if at all, they work together.  In others it’s a book about friendship, in others it’s a book about books.  I loved it, I want to live in this world and be friends with everyone and yes.  Read it.  Highly recommended.

2.  Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: 5 out of 5 stars.

outoftheeasy

First of all, that cover!  Yes please!  So perfect and beautiful.  I read this pretty swiftly on the heels of finally picking up Between Shades of Gray by the same author.  While I did like Between Shades of Gray, there were things about it that caused me not to love it quite as much as I know so many others (another story for another post).  All that to say, I did not have high, amazing expectations for this book. I knew it would be beautifully written, since it came from Sepetys, but had no idea how much I would absolutely adore it.  I loved the lead character SO MUCH – one of my favorites in a long time.  This was a perfect example of historical fiction YA – I felt like I was in 1950’s New Orleans the whole time I was reading the novel.  I didn’t want to put it down, and I stayed up FAR too late to read this one.  Highly recommended.

3. Justice Hall by Laurie R. King: 5 out of 5 stars

justicehall

This is actually the sixth book in a series, so I won’t say very much about the plot.  But the series overall is amazing.  It’s Sherlock Holmes post-Watson, with an American, female partner who is in every way his equal.  They are excellent and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend the series (first book is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice).  These mysteries are perfect for those mystery lovers out there who want to read books that are head scratchers without an overmuch amount of gore or anxiety-provoking fear.  Although I love all of them so far, this book was my absolute favorite, playing on themes of family duty, friendship, and love, along with the mystery itself (which took all the appropriate twists and turns of a Holmes mystery).  Excellent and highly recommended.

4. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins: 4 out of 5 stars

hexhall

I really did not expect to love this one as much as I did.  Based on the cover image and title, I thought it might lean toward the juvenile or predictable supernatural-YA side.  But I ended up really loving it and requesting the sequel from the library almost as soon as I closed the book.  The main character is a witch who has been misusing her powers and is sentenced to Hex Hall, basically a truancy boarding school for bad supernatural characers.  You have witches, werewolves, shapeshifters, fae, and even a token vampire in this one.  It definitely got dark in parts – what do you expect when facing down a demon and a coven of dark witches – but the humor and intelligence in the writing made it really flow.  It in many ways was a great examination of high school itself, with some crazy magic thrown in for good measure.  It did a great job of raising enough big-picture questions to make me want to read the second book while not making this one seem like it couldn’t stand on its own.  A really great read.

5. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: 4 out of 5 stars

mooncalled

Shout out to Bunbury in the Stacks on this one, which I found by trolling her 2013-favorites shelf on Goodreads.  This is an older series, with this first book in the series being originally published in 2006, and I am so glad I have so many of these in the series waiting for me!  This series is kind of urban fantasy (if you can call Montana “urban”), and the main character, Mercy, is a walker, which is a magical being who can shift into a coyote at will.  She’s also a mechanic, though that’s not quite as interesting – hah. This book is an interesting take on the preternatural types of books in that vampires, werewolves, and the fae all live in this world along side us boring humans. As you might imagine, they don’t always get along very well, though Mercy seems to have friends of all stripes.  Mercy is an awesome main character, but not so amazing that it’s completely unbelievable. I’m kind of sad that a love triangle seems to be forming, but I will for sure be following this series going forward.  Side note: I cannot get behind that cover and am super-glad I read this one on my e-reader.

What About You?

What did you read and love in June?  Anything you think might make your end of year top 10 list?