The Top 10 Books I’d Buy Today with a Loaded Gift Card

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books You’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card. I’m usually very well-restrained when it comes to gift card usage. I try to stretch it out thin and really only get I want. So if you gave me a gift card today, chances are I’d make it last until January. However, let’s pretend for this prompt today that I am going to waltz right into a bookstore that has available for me all the books I could possibly want and I get 10 right on the spot. (I’m saying a bookstore over Amazon because (1) it’s more fun to buy books in bookstores and (2) so I don’t have to wait ten years for them to ship to me since I’m not a Prime member.) In no particular order…

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

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I usually wait to get Kasie West books from the library or buy an ebook of hers when it’s cheap, but this cover! If I saw it in store while I had a loaded gift card, you’d better believe I’d pick it up.

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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I’ve been buying The Naturals books as the paperbacks come out, but I’m tired of waiting for All In! If I have a loaded gift card with me, I’m all in for buying this one!

The Book Thief (Anniversary Edition) by Markus Zusak

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Once upon a time I loaned my copy of The Book Thief, only for it to never be returned. So I would totally gift myself with this anniversary edition with the better cover anyway!

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedwig

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I’ve been interested in this one for a little while.

Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

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I’ve been interested in this for a while because of the Writing Excuses podcast, and my interest level went up even more when Charlene recommended it so highly. Why haven’t I gotten this yet?!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

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No, I don’t have this yet. I’m actually kind of waiting to see if I want to read it. The Deathly Hallows was just perfect to me. But if I’m already buying a bunch of books, I don’t think I would pass this one up.

The Anatomy of a Story by John Truby

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One of my writing friends has highly recommended this one, so a loaded gift card is good motivation to finally check it out.

Starflight by Melissa Landers

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This one sounds fun and worth checking out.

Something from the Jane Austen Vintage Edition Collection

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Even though I technically own all the Austen novels, I want to collect all the Jane Austen books in this vintage collection, so I would go ahead and treat myself to at least one with the gift card!

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

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I’ve really been meaning to look into this one for a while now.

Have you read any of these? What would you buy with a loaded gift card?

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My Top 10 Books Set Outside The US

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books Set Outside The US. While seeing what books I’ve read that are set somewhere other than the US that were not sci-fi/fantasy/dystopia, I discovered that basically all of them were set in Europe. Sounds like something I should probably fix, so please send me recs!

Note: I decided to keep this list limited to classics, contemporary, and historical fiction. I excluded Harry Potter because I consider it fantasy, so don’t think it wouldn’t top this list otherwise. List is in no particular order.

Rebecca

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“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I was hooked on this suspenseful classic from the start. While the narrator references the estate in England where she’ll settle with her husband, the novel starts off in Monte Carlo with the her worldwind romance with Mr. de Winter, then they travel to his home shrouded in mystery.

The Book Thief

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This book set in WWII Germany gave me a new perspective of those who lived under Hitler’s oppression, not to mention it’s just an amazing read all around.

Code Name Verity

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Another WWII story set in Europe, both France and England, as well as a prison camp. It’s a bit of a slow, layered read, but when everything ties together it’s pretty incredible.

The Distant Hours

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Another book full of layers, that alternates between a WWII timeline and a 1990s timeline, all set in England. The WWII storyline focuses on children billeted and living at a castle, creating quite an atmosphere for those of us who don’t live anywhere near castles.

All Fall Down

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This feels a bit like a cheat for my criteria of non-fantasy since the location, Adria, is not real, but the story is a contemporary thriller so I decided to keep it on my list. And Adria feels like it could be a real coastal country in Europe, steeped in rich history.

Between Shades of Gray

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All the WWII! So this starts in Lithuania, then Lina is forced to leave home and travels by train further north to a work camp, and ultimately, to Siberia. This book also revealed another chapter in WWII history I was unfamiliar with, including an interesting  perspective from the characters who viewed Hitler as a lesser evil than Stalin.

Salt to the Sea

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I actually don’t recall where on land the book was set before the characters reach the Wilhelm Gustloff, but again, it’s definitely Europe, and the characters come from different nationalities. In this account of the worst maritime disaster that has been overshadowed by the Titanic, we see yet another glimpse into a largely unknown chapter in WWII’s history.

Crime and Punishment

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Let’s just say Russia sounds like a rough place to live.

Jane Austen books

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All of Austen’s books take place during the Regency era in England, and we definitely get a very good feel for their society from her writings.

Sherlock Holmes

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These mysteries set in late 1800s England are a delight to read and a peek into the culture of the time.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

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The plot of this book is largely centered around the politics of the French Revolution. I also love how Sharon Cameron reused these same elements in her retelling Rook.

What’s your favorite book set outside of the US?

The Top 10 Books I’ve Enjoyed with <2000 Goodreads Ratings

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is  Top Ten Books We Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads. I was a little surprised that some of these had so few ratings, though most of them are a little newer. I also apparently haven’t read much with less than 2000 ratings on GR… other than these listed there were only a few more books plus several novellas. I listed the genre of each book since not all of them are the young adult fiction I generally talk about.

This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: YA fiction

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I just recently devoured this book in three days and there is no way JLB can leave me hanging like this. I NEED MORE! And you need to read these books if you haven’t already so that she’ll write more!

2. Do Over by Jon Acuff: Business non-fiction

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Business non-fiction may sound like a snore, but not with Jon Acuff. This book didn’t make the same impact on me as his previous books Quitter and Start, but it’s definitely still full of practical career advice told with humor.

3. Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor: YA fiction

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Another recent read that is definitely underrated. It’s not perfect but it’s a beautiful story with compelling characters.

4. Finding Alice by Melody Carlson: Christian fiction

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While this is technically Christian fiction, it’s not preachy and can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s an older favorite of mine about a girl in college who gets diagnosed with schizophrenia. I’ve read it twice already but feel I might be due for another reread soon.

5. Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey: YA fiction

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This book has its flaws but it’s a fun read with characters I enjoyed. I’d recommend to fans of Jane Austen who like a dash action and spying as well.

6. Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs: Christian non-fiction

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The only books that I loved more than this one last year were The Deathly Hallows and The Start of Me and You. Compelling and exactly what I needed.

7. Loop by Karen Akins: YA fiction

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This is an underrated sci-fi romp in the YA world (and don’t let the cover fool you, the romance doesn’t dominate). Unfortunately, the sequel disappointed me, so I’d recommend reading just book one and reaching your own conclusions for the few unanswered questions.

8. The Veritas Conflict by Shaunti Feldhahn: Christian fiction

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This is an old favorite of mine about a girl going to Harvard who deals with spiritual warfare, with shades of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters throughout the story.

9. Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson: YA fiction

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An underrated YA contemporary about a girl who develops an obsession with not touching others, believing that if she follows these self-imposed rules that her dad will return home.

10. Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs: Christian non-fiction

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Another memoir from Annie F. Downs that I didn’t love quite as much as Let’s All Still Be Brave, but I still enjoyed quite a bit.

What are some of your favorite underrated books? Have you read any of mine? 

The Top 10 Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a freebie! So as you can see, I am discussing my favorite reads of the year so far. Confession: My top read of the year is my only 5 star of the year (other than my one reread so far, see below note), followed by a few 4.5 stars and then yes, I have 4 star reads on this list. I don’t know if I’m getting stingier with my ratings or not reading the right books this year, but I have read some great stories that I wanted to share. And maybe you can give me suggestions to make the second half of my reading year better!

(Note: I did not include my one reread of the year so far, The Start of Me and You, which is seriously one of my all-time faves.)

10. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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An interesting fantasy that I quite enjoyed. I’m definitely looking forward to more of Merik specifically in Windwitch.

9. Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

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I saw someone on Instagram describe this as Jane Austen meets The Scarlet Pimpernel and I would say that is pretty accurate! I think the story could have been tightened just a bit more, but it was a super fun read, and I adored Spencer!

8. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

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I first read The Archived early this year and liked it as well, but I enjoyed this follow-up more. I especially became a bigger Wesley fan after this book.

7. The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

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This was my most recent read, and after seeing mixed reviews, I was so glad to end up really enjoying it! I actually could have taken or left most of the actual story, but I really loved the characters and want more of them!

6. Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

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This book has its flaws, but this story still haunts me. It’s quiet and beautiful and filled with hope.

5. Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

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An inspirational non-fiction book about looking for the lovely in our everyday lives.

4. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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In true Brandon Sanderson fashion (minus Calamity, sigh), I fell so in love with these characters and their world and got wrapped up in their stakes. It takes a while to really understand why these chalk drawings are such a big deal in Joel’s world, but again, Sanderson makes it work.

3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

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The book that made me a Ruta Sepetys fan. And tore my heart out in that way that only readers can appreciate.

2. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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This book had twists and turns and quips and friendships and I ate it all up.

1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

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Seriously. Gutted me. Beautiful and moving and powerful.

What are your favorite reads from this year? Any of yours the same as mine?

Ten Books Every High School Student Should Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books Every X Should Read, and I decided to go with high school students.

Even though I’ve always liked reading, I always dreaded required reading. So many of the archaic classics just did absolutely nothing for me at the time I read them. However, several of them were also very thought-provoking. If I was given a high school English class with free reign how to teach it, I would want to include some books written in the last few years as well, because many of them are also very impactful. Below is a mix of older classics and newer stories that I feel every high school student should read.

1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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I kind of feel like this one’s a given, and for good reason. I read it in the 10th grade and am long overdue for a reread.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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My thoughts on this one can be summed up in this GIF:

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3. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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This book is about The Salem Witch Trials, written during the time of the Communist Red Scare in America. Point being: the message it timeless. This book rocked my world in 11th grade.

4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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Thought-provoking but far from boring. I read this one the summer before my senior year, and it really wasn’t a bad poolside read. Plus, it may encourage the students to read more Oscar Wilde, which they should because he is hilarious.

5. Anthem by Ayn Rand

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Alternative possibilities that work just as well: The Giver or The Hunger Games. But let me explain what I think is great about Anthem for high school students though. First off, it’s short, which is always a plus for required reading. Secondly, the character perspective is interesting. At first, you’re not reading about a unique individual, like Katniss. And you’re not reading about a child who is given a great opportunity, like Jonas. You’re reading about an adult who is toiling in his world when he makes a discovery on his own that changes everything. Besides, there’s a decent chance in this day and age that a high school student has probably already read The Giver and The Hunger GamesAnthem explores more dystopia themes that will take their critical thinking to another level. It is a little heavy-handed, but that in itself might make for interesting discussion as well.

6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Pretty much because it’s a fantasy gateway, and if a high school student hasn’t read any fantasy yet, it’s time for them to discover if it’s for them or not.

7. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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Another genre read that again, I think high school students should be exposed to. And it certainly has plenty of material for a paper or a class discussion.

8 and 9. Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

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I had to include both, because seriously, moving WWII fiction that focuses on lesser-known parts of history.

10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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I had considered just making this one a bonus for AP students, but this book impacted me too much for me not to put on this list. Even if it’s an abridged version, that’s fine. No one really needs that sub-plot about the sister anyways. This book is all about consequences to actions, something I think all high school students need to think about.

What books made an impact on you in high school? What book do you wish you had read in high school?

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?

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?

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?

The Top 10 (Or 11) Songs I Wish Were Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is  books we’d give theme songs to or 10 songs I wish that were books. I decided to make book covers based off of ten eleven songs (I was going to do 10 but had one more I really wanted to add and didn’t want to cut anything…) that I thought would be interesting YA books. I will warn you that my taste in music is pretty limited and not very hip, though I tried to list a couple artists outside my usual go-to. I also initially didn’t want to repeat artists but ended up repeating a few anyway. I created a playlist on Spotify with these 11 songs if you want to listen through them; hope you enjoy!

Also, with the exception of the image for the Renegades cover, which comes from Unsplash, all photos are from the super talented Wyn Wiley Photography.

1. Silhouettes by Of Monsters and Men

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It’s so hard letting go/I’m finally at peace, but it feels wrong

2. Tell Her You Love Her by Echosmith

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When she says she needs you/Tell her you need her, too/You tell her clearly/Speak what your heart wants you to/Tell her she’s lovely/Always tell her the truth/When she says she loves you/Tell her you love her, too

3. A Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay

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‘Cause you’re a sky, cause you’re a sky full of stars/I’m gonna give you my heart/’Cause you’re a sky, cause you’re a sky full of stars/’Cause you light up the path/I don’t care, go on and tear me apart/I don’t care if you do/’Cause in a sky, cause in a sky full of stars/I think I saw you

4. Closer to Me by The Fray

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Have you ever done something so wrong?/Won’t you come a little bit closer to me?/Come a little bit closer

5. Washed by the Water by Needtobreathe

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Daddy was a preacher/She was his wife/Just trying to make the world a little better/You know, shine a light/People started talking/Just to hear their own voice/Those people tried to accuse my father/Said he made the wrong choice/Though it might be painful/You know that time will always tell/Those people have long since gone/My father never failed

6. Hazel by Phillip Phillips

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But I know that they sun will shine for me/Even when the skies are gray/But I feel like I’m missing something/But the bridges built narrow ways

7. Souvenirs by Switchfoot

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I close my eyes and go back in time/I can see you smiling, you’re so alive/We were so young, we had no fear/We were so young, we had no idea/That life was just happening

8. Renegades by X Ambassadors

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Run away with me/Lost souls and reverie/Running wild and running free/Two kids, you and me/And I say/Hey, hey hey hey/Living like we’re renegades

9. Paradise by Coldplay

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When she was just a girl she expected the world/But it flew away from her reach/So she ran away in her sleep and dreamed of/Para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise/Every time she closed her eyes

10. Haley by Needtobreathe

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If you don’t know just how you feel/Don’t say those sweet things/That you know I’d wanna hear/If you don’t know just what to think/Then put your thoughts away/And keep them out of reach/Haley don’t hurt me, if you don’t know/I could of moved on a long time ago/You’re undecided, your eyes still show/Haley don’t hurt me if you don’t know

11. Up To You by Echosmith

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Want you to come back to me/Oh ’cause you wanted to, not ’cause you needed to/You’re all that I need/Oh and I love you/Yes I love you/I wear my heart on my sleeve/It’s just what I do/But if there’s too much to leave/Won’t hold it against you/It’s all up to you

Which is your favorite song on this list? Which is your favorite cover? 

The Top 10 Swoon-Worthy Book Couples

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a Valentine’s Day themed freebie! Two years ago I did the top 10 book romances that make me swoon, but I have several new favorites now so I wanted to do it again. In no particular order…

lizziedarcy

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mockingjay-part-2-katniss-peeta

Emma-Knightley

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(Excuse me while I go cry my eyes out now.)

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(Though Rachel Hartman proceeded to crush my heart in Shadow Scale.)

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All photos that are not from movies are from Unsplash

Who do you feel are the most swoon-worthy book couples?