My 10 Most Recent 4.5-5 Star Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is 10 Of My Most Recent 5 Star Reads. Since I don’t hand out a lot of 5 stars, I decided to expand it to 4.5 stars as well. The list starts from the most recently read. I read the first three this year, and the latter seven last year.

1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

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As you’ll see again, I have become a Ruta Septys fan this year. She writes such moving historical fiction about pockets of history that are very well-known. I will admit I was a little confused in the beginning of this book, but I got to know these characters and their stories and that made the journey for me. Loved it.

2. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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This was enjoyable for me all the way through and the ending legitimately shocked me! I’m looking forward to The Long Game!

3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

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Again, just seriously heartbreaking but good. The ending of this one felt abrupt for me, but upon further reflection I understood why she chose to end it as she did.

4. Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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While I enjoyed The Naturals, the pacing for Killer Instinct was on-point the whole time!

5. Winter by Marissa Meyer

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While still not my favorite of the series, nor what I believe to the strongest book of the series, Winter was a satisfying ending for The Lunar Chronicles.

6. Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

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Even though in hindsight I see Don’t Touch more as a four star read, I reviewed it with a 4.5 star rating, and I did really enjoy it as I read it. It’s definitely underrated in the YA book world, and I think it’s worth a read if you have any interest in YA fiction exploring mental health.

7. On The Fence by Kasie West

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Kasie West is all about the fluffy contemporary, though this one did have a more serious undertone towards the end. What I enjoyed most about it, however, was the friendship-turned-romance between Charlie and Braden.

8. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

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Sucker punch to the gut, in the best way possible.

9. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

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THAT ENDING. How did Brandon Sanderson make me love it and hate it but mostly love it all at once?

10. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

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If you’ve read my blog ever, you know how I feel about this one. Slow burn, nerdy banter, friendship… yes please!

What are some your latest 5 (or 4.5) star rated books (or new favorites if you don’t rate)? If you’ve read any of these books, did you also rate them high?

Discussion: Are You Going to Finish That?

In the years 2012-2015, I deliberately put aside four books (I think it was actually one a year) without the intention of finishing. I came to a point in these books where I didn’t care enough about the characters or their journey to continue.

However, in the same number of years I have set aside about 7 books to not be picked back up again thus far, but that I would like to finish.

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Five of those books were non-fiction. One was Les Miserables. One was The Prestige audiobook, and long story short, it took me a long time to figure out how to download an audiobook with my library again like that without streaming with my phone’s data, and by the time I did figure it out I did not really have a good time to devote to audiobooks, and I just haven’t gotten my hands on a physical copy since.

As a general rule, I read one book at a time, for about an hour or two a day at least five days a week. For some reason, I have a difficult time putting non-fiction down and picking it back up in this matter. There are exceptions, like the wonderful book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. But in my daily reading time, I am seeking some sort of escape. For most non-fiction, I have to pretty much carve out a different reading time and read it in significantly less settings. This worked out really well for Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs, which I read most or all of one Sunday afternoon, and completely adored it.

Some of the books I have set aside but not picked back up yet have been religious non-fiction, which, even when I like the book, can be hard for me to dedicate the time to both read and reflect. Another one was a writing book that has been highly praised but I wasn’t really into, though I still think one day I’ll get back to it. But again, I feel I might need to take notes or something when I read it, rather than doing so leisurely.

And while Les Miserables is fiction, that behemoth is certainly not a leisure read. What I read was really interesting though, and I would like to pick it back up. I was actually trying to read that one at a different time than my normal reading time, very slowly. I’m not sure what the best plan of action for me reading it in the future is though, other than dedication.

So tell me, do you struggle with occasionally setting something aside and not picking it back up? What kind of books do you typically set aside to finish later? Do you have any specific reading strategies that work for you when it comes to books that you might not read as easily as others?

The Top 10 Books On My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR. In no particular order…

1. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

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I’ve got to read it now that I have an autographed copy!

2. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

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I’m impatiently waiting for my library copy to become available and excited to see how Brandon Sanderson ends the series! (Though did you hear about the new series that is an alternate universe to what we see in The Reckoners?! WHAAAAAT.)

3. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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I’m one of those writers who has come to love Susan Dennard exclusively for her candidness about writing and publishing, but I’ve been meaning to read one of her books, and this is my book club’s next pick so it’s about time!

4. Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

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Annie’s Let’s All Be Brave was in my top 3 favorite books I read last year, so I’m excited for her new book coming out next month and can’t wait to read it!

5. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (Reread)

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I think I’ve decided to reread another one of my fave books from last year when I go on vacation in May!

6. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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I’ve been reading one Jane Austen book a year for some time, and this is my last Jane Austen novel to read, so I want to knock it off earlier in the year rather than later.

7. On The Loose by Jenny B. Jones

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I enjoyed the first book of this series, In Between, and want to dive back into Katie’s world sometime soon!

8. The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

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I’m ready to see how this trilogy ends!

9. When We Collided by Emery Lord

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New Emery Lord! Enough said!

10. Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys

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Pro of reading this book: I have read all of Ruta’s books this year! 🙂 Con: I will have no more Ruta books to read for a while. 😦

What’s on your TBR for this spring?

SE YA Fest 2016 Recap

We have a few authors who live in Nashville and we have a few come for signings. Since I don’t live in Nashville proper though, getting to these events on weeknights just doesn’t happen (at least, not for any of the authors who have come so far. I would make an exception for Marissa Meyer FOR SURE and probably for Brandon Sanderson as well). But to have a huge event with so many authors so much closer to home in SE YA Fest was just a thrill! It was a non-stop day of panels and signings (not to mention I still had a lot going on after it was all over)! It was the first time we had this event here, and it seemed to be a hit, so I hope it’s not the last!

First I’ll recap my experience, and then I’ll share some things you should know before going to a book festival like SE-YA Fest!

The way this worked was that there were multiples panels happening starting from 9 going into the afternoon, with signings happening at the same time and in between. There were three different panels at 9, and I actually didn’t have a super strong interest in any of them so I initially thought I might not try too hard to make it to one of them, but something came up and I wanted to leave the event a little earlier than I originally planned, so I decided to make the most of my day and go first thing. So the first panel I decided to go to was with Helene Dunbar, Bethany Griffin, Katie McGarry, and CJ Redwine. I haven’t read any of their books but some of them sound interesting to me, and I thought it was about time I see CJ Redwine since she lives in Nashville. I had also actually seen Bethany Griffin and Katie McGarry on a panel before at the SCBWI Midsouth conference.

IMG_1168Highlights of this panel:

  • When asked to describe their books in one word, Helene Dunbar chose intense, Bethany Griffin chose dark, Katie McGarry chose raw, and CJ Redwine had no idea, but someone suggested real and she seemed satisfied with that.
  • CJ mentioned that she actually got her agent with an adult manuscript and they tried for two years to sell to that market. When that wasn’t working, she thought of how much she loved YA and wrote for it instead.
  • Katie lives out her research. She has done mixed martial arts and hung out with motorcycle clubs just to get a feel of the culture in her books.
  • Katie also said she is quite the planner and will have her entire book mapped out, but her characters always kidnap her and do their own thing with the story.
  • Each shared stories about the author experiences that meant the most to them, and they all were along the lines of someone being touched by their story or someone getting into reading because of them.

After that panel I got my book signed by Sharon Cameron, and wandered around a little bit.

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The next panel I went to was Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. All three of these ladies were funny, but Maggie truly had us all laughing, plus she’s fascinating!

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Highlights of this panel:

  • We learned a lot about Maggie: She loves really fast cars, she played bagpipes in college, and she has a lot of goats and other animals on her land in Virginia.
  • All of Tessa’s writing is born out of her anger.
  • Brenna loves pink, but also monsters.
  • The three of them are critique partners and have two books with a novella from each of them with commentary about the writing called The Curiosities.
  • Stiefvater is Maggie’s husband’s last name that she took.
  • Maggie said it’s hard for her to say for sure which her favorite of her books is because she loves everything about The Dream Thieves, but it doesn’t stand alone, and she also absolutely loves The Scorpio Races.
  • While Maggie does not usually cry over books and movies, reading The Time Traveler’s Wife for the second time made her ugly-snot-cry, and from that she decided her goal in life was to write a book that made other people ugly-snot-cry.

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I went back to the signing lines and then I hit up a panel with Sharon Cameron, Linda Sue Park, and Tracy Barrett.

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All three have written some variation of historical fiction, so much of the panel focused on that.

Highlights:

  • Linda Sue insisted that if you find the right historical fiction, anyone can come to love the genre.
  • All three, but especially Linda Sue, insisted the importance of writing what you loved and are passionate about. Tracy and Linda Sue have written about periods in history that aren’t very popular or well-known, but their stories have sold and resonated with readers.
  • Sharon talked about the writing process that has worked for her when she doesn’t always have a set, consistent schedule to devote to writing is to steal every moment available for writing.
  • All three ladies said that historical fiction is important because history repeats itself, and we should be aware to try to not make all the same mistakes again. Plus, people hundreds of years ago lived similarly to how we do now in terms of desires and such.

Then I had a quick lunch before I headed out to my last panel for the day, which I had to leave a little early, but I still got some good info from, with Victoria Schwab, Gwenda Bond, Beth Revis, and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb.

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They went through a lightning round of silly questions before they got to audience questions. From these we learned…

  • If they had to choose between still having cheese as an option for the rest of their lives but not chocolate, choosing chocolate over cheese, or allowing someone to die, Victoria and Beth would let someone die. Gwenda said cheese and Kristin said chocolate.
  • Victoria just got a Master’s degree in Edinburgh that is basically in Monsters (she explained what it actually was but I don’t remember the exacts).
  • When asked about the one super power they would like to have… Victoria said time, but she has no desire to meddle with the past, she just wishes she could control the timing of the future. Gwenda wanted teleportation. Beth wants to be a Time Lord so she can time travel and have teleportation. Kristin wanted invisibility, and Gwenda said only sneaks want that.
  • Gwenda has a fasicnation with the circus, which is why she wrote Girl on a Wire.
  • When asked about their self-care routines, they all laughed and Victoria actually face-planted onto the table.

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Now, things you should know before you go to a book festival like this one:

  • Bring lots of water! I was smart enough to bring one bottle of water, but I really should have brought two, or tried to find a water fountain instead of buying another overpriced bottle. As long as you can figure out how to keep it with you without it being a burden, something like a Nalgene would also be great.
  • Bring snacks! This is one I didn’t do and wish I had! I ended up buying a snack at the bookstore to help carry me over when I ended up with a late lunch. Which brings me to…
  • EAT SOMETHING. Due to the craziness of me trying to leave a little early, I pushed back my lunch until about 1:30 and that was tough. The snack I bought helped but I would definitely recommend eating closer to your normal time if you can (which for me would have been noon). This is really a good rule for life in general, but when you’re doing something like this you don’t want a screwy blood-sugar level.
  • Have a plan but be flexible. I had a game plan of what I wanted to do which kept me on task, but things didn’t always move as quickly as I anticipated (some of those signing lines are long!), and had I been more flexible by keeping the afternoon open, I could have probably enjoyed myself a little more by spacing out my signings and eating earlier (though don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy myself!).
  • Dress for comfort, not style. I wore tennis shoes, jeans, and a casual shirt and I’m so glad I did. It was a pain to haul around the rain jacket I ended up not needing, but with a 50% chance of rain I felt I couldn’t be too careful (side note: it was nearly perfect during the event, but later in the day it was pouring, so we were fortunate!). Also, Victoria Schwab actually commented that she liked my shirt, a totally unexpected compliment that made me happy!
  • Have something to say to the authors. I’m completely the worst at this, and thankfully they were pretty good at keep the conversation flowing themselves since do this on the regular. But the best conversation I ended up having with an author during the day was with with Sharon Cameron, because when I told her I had seen her at SCBWI conferences, we immediately had something in common to talk about outside of the normal “I like your books.”
  • Get to know the area if possible. This wasn’t something I didn’t even have to think of because the venue was at my Alma Mater so I was very familiar with it, but after having to help out someone from out of state, I understood why it might be best to try your best to familiarize yourself with the venue beforehand. It would have been difficult to do at this festival, apart from the map and maybe scoping out the buildings before everything began.
  • Have fun! That’s the whole point of the event, of course!

The books I got signed!:

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Have you been to an event like this one? What did you learn from it? Which fact about these authors that I shared surprised you most?

Mini Reviews: Sci-Fi Edition

Loop by Karen Akins

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Loop is a fun story set in a future where some are known as Shifters, people who are genetically capable of time traveling to the past. Something that really struck me about the book was the rules of shifting (it’s impossible to change the past, you can’t go to the future, etc), the animosity between Shifters and non-Shifters,  and the world in general. Even though the genetic ability to time travel part felt impossible, how things unfolded with it being possible felt realistic, and I felt like the technology was a realistic progression.

There are SO many things going on in the story; I don’t know how Akins kept up with all the plot threads! I think everything tied together pretty well in the end, though there are still some unanswered questions that will clearly be dealt with in the next book.

While I really enjoyed the book overall and was impressed with the story, I never LOVED the characters. I do like them, but they’re not new favorites for me or anything.

The end left me ready to read the sequel, Twist, very soon, and looking forward to more Karen Akins projects in the future!

Rating: 4 stars

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

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Of course, any addition to The Lunar Chronicles is a must in my book (and now there are going to be graphic novels what what!). I had always meant to get around to reading some of the stories in this collection before, like Glitches, The Queen’s Army, and The Little Android, but never did, so I was happy for them to be all together in print format! I enjoyed most of the stories, but was still feeling a little underwhelmed until we got to the wedding story.

I think part of this was because the stories were isolated incidents of each character’s life (except I noticed poor Jacin was the only one of the major 8 who didn’t get his own story) and I really prefer it when they are all together. Also, The Little Android, late in the collection, really brought me down. I don’t know how to explain why, but it really put a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think it’s poorly written, and even though the ending is sad I understand its purpose, but I just couldn’t come to care for it.

And then we had Something Borrowed. I won’t spoil any of the details but it was nice to see everyone come together again. I was enjoying but not loving the story though, but then in the last few pages the feels were strong. For me personally, the culmination of the entire series I had been waiting for actually came down to these last few pages of this short story for me. I know not everyone will agree with this sentiment, just because we are all looking for different things, but I enjoyed it more than the end of Winter, honestly.

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read either of these? What are your thoughts? 

Top 10 Books/Series If You Are in the Mood for Romance + Adventure

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books To Read If You Are In The Mood For X. I enjoy quiet love stories, but I also love action-packed stories, and it’s a bonus if there’s romance in the mix too! Thus, here are my favorite books/series that have a nice blend of both! In no particular order…

1. The Leviathan Trilogy

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Alternate WWI history with lots of adventure AND secret love? Yes please.

2. Seraphina

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Dragons + one of my favorite ships ever. The book starts off a little slow but it picks up. (Important FYI: This does not include the sequel Shadow Scale.)

3. The Grisha Trilogy

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Wonderful fantasy with magic and best friends trying to decide if there is more between them.

4. Across a Star-Swept Sea

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You’ll probably want to read the not-as-adventurous but still wonderful For Darkness Shows the Stars first, but this book based on The Scarlet Pimpernel is full of missions and secrets and unwelcome love.

5. The Lunar Chronicles

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How many series are there out there with as many swoon-worthy couples and daring escapades as The Lunar Chronicles? Honestly, I’m not sure there are any others.

6. Rook

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Another Scarlet Pimpernel retelling full of missions and secrets and unwelcome love…

7. All Our Yesterdays

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The best book I have read where time travel served as the main plot, plus a love story.

8. Loop

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Don’t let the kissy cover fool you, there are many conspiracies afoot in this book, with the romance taking a backseat.

9. The Mistborn Trilogy

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Heavier on the action and lighter on the romance, but what romance there is SUPER sweet. And the ending of this trilogy will leave you with so many feels.

10. Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2)

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I enjoyed the first book as well, but the second book in The Naturals series ups the ante both on the action and romance sides. Now I need to read book three!

Are you a fan of any of these adventure + romance books? Which books would you include on this list?