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?

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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?

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…

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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?

Top 10 Tuesday: In Another Time…

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Historical Settings You Love/ Ten Historical Settings You’d Love To See or Top Futuristic Books You Love/Ten Futuristic Societies I’d Love To Read in Books. I wanted to do a mix of historical settings and futuristic ones, so I wasn’t sure how best to sum this up in a catchy title. But here are ten settings I’d like to see from other periods of time in books… be it past or present. And if you know of something in said settings, please feel free to recommend them to me!

1. The 1950’s

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Thanks to a fifties dress up day at school once upon a time, I fell in love with poodle skirts and become obsessed with the 1950’s for a while. While my love for it isn’t quite as strong now, I still find it an interesting time period and would love to read a YA novel set in 1950’s America!

2. Future a la Gattaca

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There are two things I love about the movie Gattaca in terms of its futuristic setting. One, it’s about a time in which society only views those who have been genetically engineered as capable of taking on the larger roles of society, while those who have not been engineered are doomed to a life of servitude. It’s a fascinating concept and Gattaca only scratches the surface with it. The second is that it has such a classic, timeless feel to it even though it’s set in the future. It’s a mix of, ironically, a 1950’s classic style with the sort of sleek/steel looks we often associate with the future. I don’t want to see a book completely rip off Gattaca and I’m not looking for a novelization of it either, but something that draws inspiration from it would be interesting to see.

(FYI, if genetic engineering and its consequences fascinate you I would recommend the YA duology For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea. It’s set in a different world and the consequences are surprising!)

3. French Revolution

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I never had an interest in the French Revolution until I watched the movie Les Miserables. Something about watching Marius and these other young men and boys risking their lives for their cause in such a ragamuffin way was really interesting to me. Now I would love to see a YA book where the French Revolution served as the backdrop of the story.

4. Space Station/Spaceship Living

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I have read a couple of books with spaceship living, and my WIP actually has a space station setting for part of the book, but I want to see more YA books that feature families living in space.

5. World War II

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There are already a lot of WWII books out there, but it’s period in time that fascinates me. And with these three books above, they explore three very different experiences and there’s so much more to be told.

6. Alternate History of any Time

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The only alternate history I have read so far is the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld and it was interesting! It’s fun to explore “what if” scenarios when it comes to events in our past.

7. Spy Story 1960’s Style

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I presume because of the Cold War, spy stories were big in the 1960’s. Last year I randomly wanted to see/read some spy stuff a la the 1960’s, though I never got around to seeking it out (I would have probably watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but I wasn’t pleased with how it looked like the woman’s role was going to play out). I still would be intrigued to see something of this nature in YA format.

8. Clones

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I know there have been books with clones, but very few have actually appealed to me (though if you have any recs, please share). This is another interest I have had for a while in science fiction though and would love to see it well-done in the YA world, something probably akin to Orphan Black (though I haven’t actually watched the show so I can’t say for sure, but the idea seems right)!

9. American Revolutionary War

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Any other American Girl fans out there who remember Felicity? She lived during the Revolutionary War, and I think it would be interesting to see a YA novel set during the time period. There would also definitely be a forbidden romance between a Loyalist and a Patriot.

10. A Future of Technology Dependence

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This is a theme that has been explored before, and in this day and age I think it’s worth continued exploration. We live in a time where toddlers can operate smart phones. How will this affect them as they grow up? What will future generations glued to their screens mean? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology (clearly since I have a blog), but it’s important to consider the ramification of technology with moderation. Free to Fall did a pretty good job of this, and I’d be interested in more YA fiction with similar themes.

What time settings, past or future, would you like to read about?

Top 10 New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top 10 New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015. This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. Rachel M. Wilson

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I’ve been getting a little more into contemporaries this year, and Don’t Touch was one that I really enjoyed. I hope Rachel M. Wilson will set some more of her future books in the South!

2. Sharon Cameron

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Fun fact: Sharon Cameron is local to me and I didn’t even realize it until AFTER I had just seen her at a writing conference (as an attendee) AND asked for Rook for my birthday. Maybe next year at the conference I’ll tell her how much I enjoyed Rook.

3. Renée Ahdieh

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Even though it took me some time to get into this book, once I got into it I really loved the cinematic writing and the complicated characters. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

4. William Ritter

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I haven’t read Beastly Bones yet, but I thought Jackaby was a fun read. I look forward to more of Ritter’s books.

5. Cynthia Hand

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I found Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Say Goodbye compelling, and while I probably won’t be diving into her paranormal books, I do hope to read more contemporary from her in the future.

6. Shannon Hale

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Austenland was a fun, light read for me, and I think I would enjoy reading more of Shannon’s works in the future.

7. Emery Lord

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I LOVED The Start of Me and You ridiculous amounts, and it has made me very excited about future Emery books! I admit I’m still not sure if I want to read Open Road Summer though, since the characters don’t sound as likable. But I am all about When We Collide when it comes out!

8. Cristin Terrill

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Her debut is one of the best YA sci-fi books I’ve read, that was also filled with elements of contemporary, thriller, and dystopia, but came together so well. I need more by Cristin Terrill!

9. Annie F. Downs

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I don’t read much non-fiction, but I will be reading more Annie F. Downs in the future. Reading her book was like having coffee with a friend.

10. Ally Carter

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I read two Ally Carter books this year: All Fall Down and the first Gallagher girls. I liked the former more than the latter, but plan to continue both series. Ally Carter is definitely a new-to-me go-to for quick, fun reads, with just a little dash of danger.

Who are your new favorite authors you discovered this year?

Also, random side note: In case you have missed it, my Twitter handle has changed from @acps927 to @acshawYA. This is also my name for all social media now: Tumblr, Pinterest, and now my new Instagram account! Definitely be sure to follow me on Instagram if you haven’t already! 

My Feels for The Hunger Games Are REAL: My THG Reread & Mockingjay Part 2 Review

*Warning: Spoilers!*

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I’m really glad I decided to pick up this series again in preparation for the last movie (so sad!). When I read the trilogy for the first time in 2012, none of the movies had come out yet (though they had been cast). My only spoiler was that I had heard one of the male characters died, and I was so worried the whole time it was going to be Peeta (I realized later the reference was to Finnick). I adored him and wanted what was best for him, so I spent all of Mockingjay SO STRESSED. But this time, I was able to appreciate Katniss’ journey even more (though I liked her a lot in my first read too, obviously, since I named my blog after her)..

The first read of the series, for me, was all about the characters. This second time around, it was about the overall story, particularly its themes of war and PTSD.

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In my initial read, The Hunger Games was my favorite read of the trilogy. After rereading, I think Catching Fire might actually be my new favorite, but I will not deny that this is most likely influenced by the movie, as it is also my favorite of the movies (which I can say for certain now that I have seen Mockingjay Part Two). The nice thing about Catching Fire is that we already know the main characters and the world, but we get some new secondary characters and we delve deeper into what leads to the rebellion. Also, Katniss’s interactions with Peeta are more genuine.

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The first time I read Mockingjay, I pretty much hated it until the last page before the epilogue. The pacing seemed off and I was so concerned about poor Peeta’s state. This time, I was more relaxed and able to appreciate the book more, but at the end I was amazed that despite the fact that Katniss and Peeta end up together and even have a family, the whole thing still feels downright tragic. Not in a hopeless way, otherwise I wouldn’t care for these books the same way, but she loses her sister, her mother, her best friend, basically loses her mentor, and several others in her life – some through death and some due to purposeful distance (or in the case of Haymitch, he continues to lose himself to the bottle). No one comes out of this in good shape, and that’s scary. But sometimes, that’s real life. But we see that good can still come out of it.

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I know not everyone loved the first Mockingjay movie, but I have a deep appreciation for it, and my feelings are the same for the second one. They’re hard movies because we see Katniss struggling so much, see the dirty underbelly of war, see the horrors of manipulation and PTSD. And I appreciated some of the changes they made in the films, few as they were.

In the final Mockingjay installment, we get a little more closure with Effie. Haymitch seems to be in at least a slighter better state than he did in the book. And in the scene where Katniss asks Gale about the bombs, you know with certainty when she says, “Goodbye Gale,” she means goodbye forever. That hit me much harder than his sudden disappearance in the book.

And after everything has gone down and she returns to Twelve, we get the scene with Buttercup and then we see little flashes of her starting her life over again. I actually would have liked more of this, but the movie was already bordering on too long of an ending (due to staying faithful to the book in so many ways, I might add) so I forgive it. Katniss hunts, Peeta returns, and they start to spend time together. And at the very end they have apparently ended up in the same house, because she leaves her bed to come into his room to crawl into bed with him. I was a little sad we didn’t get one more kiss when she finally admits she loves him, but it was sweet nonetheless.

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Neither the books nor the movies pulled any punches, but I think that is a large reason why this is a story that will continue to endure. It carries themes and warnings that we can all take to heart.

What are your thoughts on the last Hunger Games movie, or the books and movies in general?

“I Did Love You Once”: Thoughts on Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

Don’t Touch is a quiet book in the world of YA. I didn’t hear a lot about it before asking for it for my birthday, but I’m pretty sure my interest in it was piqued largely thanks to Kayla. It focuses on Caddie, whose parents have recently separated and is subsequently dealing with extreme anxiety, which is fed by a rule or mantra she has created for herself: don’t touch. Caddie feels that if she touches someone, or them her, skin to skin, she will be responsible for her parents’ divorce. As someone has never experienced anything like this, it was interesting to get inside her mind see her thought process.

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The book felt very genuine, from Caddie’s anxiety to her friendships and her experience as a new student at a performing arts high school (in Birmingham, Alabama! Bonus points for the Southern setting!). She reconnects with her old friend Mandy, but for me, the highlight was definitely her friendship with Peter, who she adores, but a potential relationship between them is very much complicated by don’t touch. (Bonus points for Peter being such a nice guy! I loved it!)

Part of the plot involves Caddie playing Ophelia in her school’s production in Hamlet, and I promise you I read this book in high school, but all I remember is, “To be or not to be,” and not liking it at all. Talk of the play in the book almost made me want to revisit it and see if I could appreciate it more this time around. But the key word is almost, because in the end I decided I was fine without ever reading it again.

This book felt like a 4.5 star book most of the time; I was really enjoying it but it wasn’t quite 5-star read for me, but the ending almost lowered my rating to a 4. I don’t want to say too much to spoil it, but one aspect doesn’t really wrap up at all, but that felt realistic and appropriate for the story. The other aspect I think wrapped up a little too nicely. I understood that she had struggled a ton already, but it seemed some things happened a little too quickly, but I have no expertise on the matter, so maybe it could be that way. Also, the ending didn’t really drag after the climax, but I feel like there was maybe a little more to it than necessary. I would have preferred something a little more open-ended.

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Overall, I would definitely recommend it for a realistic look at mental illness, interesting friendship dynamics, and a sweet romance.

Content advisory: Some mild to moderate language. Some talk of sex, nothing real descriptive.

Have you read Don’t Touch? What are your thoughts? What was a book that, for you, did a good job of portraying mental illness?

“So I Write it to the Sky”: The Wrath and The Dawn

It’s always a little intimidating going into a book with so much hype. And honestly, The Wrath and the Dawn started off slow for me. You are dumped into a whole new world with no background information or explanation as to what is happening or who any of the characters are. I spent probably the first 25% of the book trying to keep everyone straight and trying to figure out why I should care about any of them. I felt disconnected from all of them, but since I was reading this for book club, there was so much hype, and I wasn’t completely bored or uninterested, I kept reading. Thankfully, it really picked up for me.

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Possibly because of this disconnection at the beginning, I didn’t believe in Shahrzad’s growing attraction towards Khalid at first. She hated him and she never really said anything positive about his looks (not negative either, but she didn’t seem to be drooling over him), so I didn’t understand why her heart would flutter around him early on in the story. Does she feel connected to him because of their marriage? Is there something else about him that evokes this in her, maybe even nervousness or fear? I would have liked to have gotten some more insight into Shahrzad’s thoughts, but we’re provided with very little. This disconnect in the beginning and how it affected my view of the characters is my definitely biggest complaint of the book.

However, as the story developed and I grew to understand the characters more through their words and actions, I did find myself caring more and more. And on the night when Shahrzad learns the truth about why Khalid does what he does, I was definitely a lot more on board with them as a couple and with the story as a whole.

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The ending left me with a lot of questions, but I know most of them are definitely going to be brought up in the next book (since they’re mentioned in the synopsis), but one thing I really want to know is why Khalid sought Shahrzad out that first night, but never did with any of the other women. Because without him having done that, the rest of the story would never have happened. I really hope this comes up again, and wonder if this is somehow connected with her abilities she seems to have. Speaking of which, the element of magic and abilities was brought up later in the book than I personally felt it should have been. I wish we could have learned that about her earlier, as it seems to be an important part of her character.

The writing overall in this book was beautiful. It was written very cinematically; I could picture each scene in my mind with all the rich description given of setting, clothing, food, etc. There were multiple senses being evoked in each scene, yet I never felt it bogged down the pacing of the story, and that is masterful writing in my opinion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely plan to continue the series!

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What are your thoughts on The Wrath and the Dawn? Was it slow for you at first too or did you fall in love right away? 

The Top 5 Author Duos I Want to See

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Author Duos You’d LOVE To See Write A Book Together. I just came up with ten because I’m lazy like that. My list this week is in no particular order.

1. Cristin Terrill and Lauren Miller: High-Stakes, Twisty Contemporary Sci-Fi

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They both have written books with fabulous, intriguing plots, so imagine what they could do together! Cristin would be totally in charge of the characters though because Lauren’s characters drive me nuts!

2. Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Ally Carter: Thriller Contemporary

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I mean, they both write in the genre, it only makes sense! I think I would really love to see what they can come up with together!

3. Emery Lord and Jane Austen: Romance Filled with Witty Banter and Wonderful Slow Burns

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I know this is literally impossible due to Jane Austen being no longer living BUT CAN YOU IMAGINE. ALL THE WIT AND SWOONS.

4. Diana Peterfreund and Marissa Meyer: Imaginative Sci-Fi with the Most Wonderful Characters Ever

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Between my love of the For Darkness Shows the Stars duology (though please write more in this world Diana kthanxbai) and The Lunar Chronicles I cannot even imagine if these two came together with their sci-fi world-building ideas and amazing characters!

5. Brandon Sanderson and Scott Westerfeld: Alternate World Fantasy of Awesomeness

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In my mind, this would be like Mistborn meets Leviathan. I mean, what’s not to love about this idea?

Which authors would you like to see team up for a book, and what would the book be about?

Genre Talk: Urban Fantasy & Magical Realism

Among the many genres out there, I have never read urban fantasy. Yet I have found myself, more than once, thinking, Oh, wouldn’t it be cool for a story to have a contemporary setting but there are fantasy elements? and then remembering, Duh, that’s urban fantasy. 

But any time I have ever read a synopsis for an urban fantasy title, it’s an instant pass, not interested. It doesn’t matter that I like the contemporary books I’ve read by Cynthia Hand and Jennifer Lynn Barnes, I have no interest in their urban fantasy. Why? Well, it comes down to that paranormal/supernatural elements that I have mentioned before as not being my cup of tea. I don’t want to read about fallen angels (unless it’s a la The Screwtape Letters) or vampires, because I just don’t have an interest there.

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So is there urban fantasy where the fantasy elements aren’t supernatural as much as they’re just… fantasy-like? Maybe a secret underworld kingdom where they lead very different lives? I think A Corner of White has this sort of story line, but I haven’t read it. Harry Potter was sort of like that… Harry lives in Muggle world but finds out his heritage of wizardry. From what I understand Percy Jackson is somewhat similar. So are these stories urban fantasy? Or are they more magical realism (another genre I’m not real knowledgeable of either)?

I get a little weirded out when I’m reading a story and expect things to be normal, and then suddenly it’s not, but with Harry Potter I knew it going into it, and I enjoyed it. Perhaps the same could be said for other stories with magical or fantasy elements in an otherwise normal world.

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Part of me blabbing about all this is not just a possible interest in reading these genres, but also in writing them. Sometimes I get story ideas I feel sort of fall into these lines, but I think, Oh, that won’t work out. It’ll seem dumb. But I’m thinking surely it can be done. I mean, I had no problem getting into the TV show Fringe and how it explored alternate universes. I know that it’s sci-fi, but why should it be different if it’s something more magical? As long as the story’s good and I can connect with the characters, that’s what matters.

So what do you think about urban fantasy and magical realism? How do you define the genres? Any books you’d recommend for me?