Top 5 Tuesday: Top 10 All-Time Favorite Books of 2019 (so far)

Thank you Shanah for taking pity on us for this week’s topic. I had no idea how I could narrow it down my all-time favorite books to five, never mind ten. But even that list will go far beyond ten.

Since we are coming up on the halfway point of 2019, it seemed like a fitting time to do a check in on my overall reading of this year. This list is comprised of ten of my favorite books I’ve read so far in 2019. Those are:

 

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

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I Am the Messenger has not gotten the best reviews compared to Markus Zusak’s other novel The Book Thief, but, as you can see, I enjoyed it. I liked the writing style and the coverage of different issues young people face in their lives and the desire to be something greater than yourself. Ed carried the book with his good heart, strong moral compass, and dry sense of humor. You might have to suspend your disbelief on certain scenarios, but I like that in contemporary novels.

 

Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

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The latest volume in the Saga graphic novel series, I was bored throughout most of it. While it covered a topic like irrational fear spread through fake news, not much happened. Then, the ending did. While I saw it coming in the first volume, it had not gone the way I expected. It hit me with all the feelings and took me a couple of days to recover. I have no idea what I’m going to do until volume 10.

 

To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

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Yet again, Amanda Lovelace has earned a spot on my favorites. I loved To Make Monsters Out of Girls, in which she opens up about her experiences with being The Other Woman and domestic violence. While she is honest about her mistakes and what choices she made cost her, she also reminds women that they will not always be the bad guy and they are still worthy of love and respect. I still have not figured out how to review poetry. The best I can offer is my emotional reaction, which is I felt everything.

 

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Marina is set in 1970s Barcelona, Spain and follows fifteen-year-old Oscar, who gets swept up in a dark mystery with an enigmatic girl named Marina. Like all his other books, it had beautiful, descriptive writing and a twisty plot that you never knew where it was going to take you next. This is one of those books where you are better off going into the plot knowing as little as possible.

 

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

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Another library book I went into with mediocre expectations, A School for Unusual Girls is set during the era of Napoleon at an English boarding school where girls with “unusual” gifts—i.e. a knack for science like the protagonist Georgie—are trained to be spies. I loved this book. It was fun and fast-paced. Georgie and the other girls at the school, along with their headmistress Emma, are all strong, smart, and independent in their own right. The guys—Sebastian Wyatt, Captain Gray, Lord Ravencross—were all swoon-worthy and the relationships were adorable. A School for Unusual Girls is the first book in the series, so you better believe I will be buying my own copy of this book, as well as the next two books.

 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

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Two Can Keep a Secret blew me out of the water. I flew through it in a few days, probably finishing homework too quickly to get back to reading. I liked all the characters—true crime buff protagonist Ellery, her twin brother Ezra, Malcolm, who is the other narrator, and Malcolm’s best friend Mia—and the writing and the plot made me want to keep reading. Then, it ended with likely the best line a mystery novel can end with.  

 

Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

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This book got a tiny bit of hype on BookTube when it first came out a year or two ago, but I almost completely forgot about Invisible Ghosts until I found it browsing my library. It is one of the few books I saw both my current and past selves represented in a character. Rose Asher is an introvert intentionally cutting herself off from the world not only out of shyness, but to spend time with the ghost of her older brother Logan. You see her gradually come out of her shell as she finds her “people” as well as comes to terms with her grief. It’s one of the books on this list I still catch myself thinking about frequently.

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

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Vicious is a book I have heard nothing but amazing things about for years and I finally read it. Thankfully, it lived up to the hype. V.E. Schwab did a good job blurring the lines between good and evil, and painting the world she created with more gray than black and white. For a sociopath, Victor Vale was surprisingly more likeable than I expected him to be. His friendship with Mitch and his protectiveness of Sydney added a deeper human quality to him. As for Eli, he was one of the most interesting villains I’ve read. The writing was also amazing and the plot was fast-paced and entertaining.

 

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott

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Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc was in my most recent book haul. I was not planning on reading it. But it was calling my attention from its new home on my bookshelves and I was looking for something short to read, being in the height of finals at the time. I finished this book in a day and it was amazing. The writing was lyrical, written in various styles of medieval poetry, through the eyes of Joan, the people that knew her, and other perspectives, even inanimate objects. It explored different issues of sexism in medieval society and how ultimately Joan was killed by the patriarchy she was trying to protect. That hit the barb home.

 

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Another novel written in verse and another of my most recent purchases, Shout was another anticipated release this year that I had to read before I picked up any other book. It is a memoir, in which the author opens up about her parents’ tumultuous relationship caused by her father’s PTSD and drinking, her rape at thirteen, how she learned to cope with her trauma in the years following, and what led her to become an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, which then led to her writing Speak. Though it was not quite a five-star book like I expected, Shout was still a powerful novel that I highly recommend everyone read.

 

What is your favorite book you’ve read so far this year?

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Top 5 Tuesday: 11 Debut Novels I Want to Buy (Eventually)

One of the things I love about Shanah’s Top 5 Tuesday topics is that she leaves them open to interpretation. With “Top 5 Debut Novels,” I could not keep it at five. There are a lot of books coming out this summer, or are already out, that I have my eye on. Worse still, my new top is smack in between two bookstores. But the promise of textbooks on the horizon and empty hangers asking for new clothes in my closet have me trying to refrain from going overboard with every paycheck.

Key word trying.

            Here are the eleven debut novels I am most excited to add to my bookshelves (or check out from the library, whichever comes for):

 

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

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I’ve been following Christine’s writing vlogs since she started her novel project in 2016. Besides liking Christine and her videos, I’m drawn to this book anyway. The cover is super pretty and it’s about a shy bookworm that studies abroad in London in hopes of getting out of her shell to improve her college experience.

 

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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An all-girls boarding school on an island is quarantined after a virus infects and kills the teachers then leaves the students horribly mutilated. The girls are left to fend for themselves on the island to wait for a cure and never go beyond the walls of the school. But when one goes missing, another girl dares to venture into the world outside to find her. In doing so, she uncovers more to the story than what she and her friends knew.

 

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

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A girl disguises herself as a man to hunt in a cursed forest to feed her village and a prince assassinates those who dare to challenge his father the sultan. They are two heroes that don’t want to be heroes. Now one has to hunt the other as they are both in search of an ancient artifact that can save their kingdom from war.

 

Nocturna by Maya Motayne

Screenshot_2019-06-02 Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic, #1)

Finn is a skilled thief and shapeshifter that can disguise her face as anyone she wants. She’s blackmailed by a mobster to steal something from the royal palace, which causes her to cross paths with Prince Alfie. Grief-stricken by the murder of his older brother, Alfie feels he can never live up to his brother’s legacy and seeks forbidden magic to bring him back from the dead. But when he meets the shapeshifting thief, an evil force is accidentally unleashed. Aside from having a gorgeous cover, Nocturna is also based in Dominican mythology, something I am very interested in reading.

 

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala

Screenshot_2019-06-02 The Tiger at Midnight (The Tiger at Midnight Trilogy, #1)

Having just watched the live-action Aladdin, I’m craving more desert fantasy. Based on Indian and Hindu mythology, The Tiger at Midnight follows a rebel called the Viper and a soldier who are forced into a power play as the Viper seeks revenge for those who took everything from her. Both think they’re calling the shots, but they are only pawns in a larger, deadly game.

 

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

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Spin the Dawn was a book I heard about on Hailey in Bookland’s most anticipated books of 2019 then forgot it until I made this list. A girl disguises herself as a boy to join a competition to become the emperor’s royal tailor to provide for her family. Then, she is presented the challenge of creating three dresses for the emperor’s betrothed—from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars—and travels to the depths of the kingdom, finding more than she anticipated.

 

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

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Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens follows a bored, awkward queer teen named Nima who is in love with her straight friend and still reeling from her mom’s sudden departure. After an encounter at a festival, she is drawn into the drag scene where she not only learns how to love and accept it and herself, but also how to accept when love is lost. Plus, this cover is so freaking pretty.

 

How it Feels to Float by Helena Fox

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Biz lost her dad when she was seven, although everyone but her thinks that. She doesn’t tell anyone she can still see him, or about her chaotic thought patterns, or how she kissed her friend Grace or noticed the new boy Jasper. Then, something happens to Biz one day at the beach and the strings that held her together for so long finally give way at the seams. The ghost of her dad disappears, leaving her to wonder if it might be easier to either disappear altogether or find her dad and bring him back to her. But there is a third option Biz has yet to find.

 

The Beholder by Anna Bright

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Selah is a princess that has waited her whole life to embrace her duty to marry for her kingdom and find happily ever after. But after a humiliating public rejection, she goes along with her stepmother’s plan of travelling the seas from country to country to find a husband. If she doesn’t come back engaged, she doesn’t come home at all. But while Selah embarks on the journey of a lifetime, she finds more than her stepmother’s schemes hiding belowdecks.

 

This is Not a Love Scene by S.C. Megale

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Aspiring filmmaker Maeve has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and is wheelchair-bound. Her friends and passion for what she does distracts her from constant rejection from the opposite sex. Then, she meets Cole Stone, a hot older guy starring in her senior film project that is giving her looks she’s never gotten before. With this new attention and unexpected confidence, Maeve gets a taste of teenaged dating life, both physically and emotionally. But when it comes to choosing between what she needs and what she wants, and getting an answer out of Cole, suddenly romance doesn’t look so fun anymore.

 

The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson

Screenshot_2019-06-02 The Art of Breaking Things

Skye is enjoying her time partying with friends and counting down to graduation and art school until her mom rekindles a romance with the man who betrayed Skye’s trust years ago. Too young to understand what happened to her, she kept quiet. Torn between running away and staying to protect her younger sister, she must find the courage to reveal the secret she’s hidden for so long. With the help of her friends and her artwork, Skye becomes her best ally and finds her words.

 

What is your most anticipated debut of the summer or of 2019 overall?

 

           

My Favorite Books of 2018

When I was making this list, I realized I read a lot of good books in 2018. More than I have in previous years, I think. In finding my favorites, I stuck with the ones who left a lasting impression on me, made me feel a lot of feelings, or I found myself thinking about often. Thus, save one, these books are arranged in no particular order.

Still, it was hard to keep the number down.

 

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

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If I had to choose which book was my absolute favorite of the year, it would without a doubt be The Princess Saves Herself in This One. Even more surprising, it is a book of poetry, something I don’t often reach for. I even remember the day I read it.

I read The Princess Saves Herself in This One roughly a month after my mother died. In addition to dealing with my grief, there were other things going on that took a hit at my self-esteem and self-worth. I picked up The Princess Saves Herself in This One at bedtime then didn’t stop until I finished it until the wee hours of the morning. Amanda Lovelace had said the words I needed to hear. I had felt validated and empowered.

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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I find it ironic: last year, Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, was on my disappointing reads of the year. The Last Time I Lied, in my opinion, was way better. It was fast-paced and engaging. The plot had me guessing and the author did a good job leaving breadcrumbs, building the suspense. Most of the characters were likeable, but they were not all innocent. And the ending blew me out of the water. I would definitely reread The Last Time I Lied, now that I own my own copy.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

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I don’t know where to begin in describing my love for the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. Audrey Rose is strong, smart, and sassy, but she has a vulnerable side she learns to embrace. Thomas Cresswell is flawed, but still knows how to pull at your heartstrings and he really does try to do right by those he cares for. The setting of Romania was beautiful; the way Kerri Maniscalco wrote it made me want to visit the country, especially the old castle the medical school is set in. Lastly, the mystery was fun and twisty, and more than a little bloody.

 

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Eliza and Her Monsters was another book that hit me with the feels. I saw a lot of my teenaged self—and my current self—in Eliza. She was shy and had trouble making friends. She wanted to let people in, but it felt safer in the world of fiction. She loved the art she created, putting herself into something that her family didn’t really understand. Then, she met someone who allowed her to let her walls down. The romance was adorable. Eliza and Her Monsters was a quick read that played with my emotions. I actually felt seen in this book.

 

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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There is no other word to describe My Lady Jane better than fun. While I had read Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy and enjoyed it, I went into My Lady Jane with low expectations. It was good that I did, though. The world was a good blend of history and fantasy. The authors wrote this book like an entertaining textbook where they broke the fourth wall and narrated the story to the reader like this is actually what happened to the real-life Lady Jane Grey. The characters were amazing and the romance was adorable. Why did I wait until 2018 to read it?

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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I absolutely adored Heartless. The writing was delicious and lyrical. The world of Wonderland was as magical as it was dark, better than Lewis Carroll’s version, in my opinion. The story was compelling, watching Cath go from a sweet girl who only wanted to open a bakery with her best friend to the evil Queen of Hearts. It didn’t just happen; there were different factors that contributed to her falling apart in what I thought was a realistic way. I know it’s a stand-alone, but I really want a sequel to Heartless where Cath meets Alice.

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

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I know a lot of people were disappointed by Flame in the Mist. It was advertised as a Mulan retelling but it didn’t really have that. I personally still enjoyed the book regardless. Mariko is the kind of protagonist I want to see more of in young adult: her brain is her weapon instead of a sword. The romance was steamy, even if it felt a little like insta-love. I liked the world of feudalist Japan Renee Ahdieh created. The writing was as beautiful and captivating as ever. Flame in the Mist is the kind of book I would be scared to reread someday because I don’t want to find anything that could taint my love for it.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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One of the most polarizing books published in 2018, I originally checked out The Hazel Wood from the library because I had no idea how I would feel about it. As you can see, I enjoyed it very much. Melissa Albert writes so beautifully you would never guess this was her debut novel. The protagonist, Alice, was unlikeable in every sense of the word, but she had a reason to be the way she was. The world of the novel was dark and creepy. My favorite part of the book was definitely the fairy tales, how they were way more twisted than even the Grimm Brothers, without the moral lessons at the end. The Hazel Wood is written like a stand-alone, though I am glad we are getting more books.

 

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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The Astonishing Color of After was one of the most hyped books of 2018, and it is well deserved. Others said it was slow, but I read it in two days. I was immediately sucked in. The writing was beautiful and handled the topic of suicide in a delicate yet hopeful way. Emily X.R. Pan blended contemporary and magical realism beautifully. The characters were realistic in that some of their decisions made me mad. I loved Leigh, the protagonist, and how she handled her mother’s passing and her determination to get the answers she deserved. Unfortunately, I currently don’t own a copy of The Astonishing Color of After but once I do, I just might reread it (eventually).

 

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

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I read books one through four of The Heroes of Olympus series in 2018. I liked The Lost Hero. The ending of The Mark of Athena broke my heart. The House of Hades put me on the edge of my seat. But I didn’t love those as much as I did the second novel in th series, The Son of Neptune. The plot was fun and not as intense, at least until the end. Percy was at his finest, and beats Rhysand in the book boyfriend department (fight me). Hazel and Frank are my two new favorite demigods, after Leo Valdez. And I laughed a lot while reading The Son of Neptune, which is a surefire way to get on my favorites list.

 

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

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The concluding novel in the Daughter of the Pirate King duology was just as fun, exciting, and steamy as the first one. Alossa is a fiery, prideful protagonist I could not help but adore. Riden is swoon-worthy and the romance was written in a way that made me feel all of what they were feeling—love and pain. The story was fast-paced and thrilling. Life on the seas was brutal but there was never a dull moment with Alossa and her pirate crew. Plus, there was a great fantasy element thrown in with the world of sirens as well as watching Alossa battle with her dual nature.

 

What was your absolute favorite book that you read in 2018?

 

Least Favorite Books of 2018

I really don’t like it when I don’t like a book.

I don’t like it when I dislike a book because I know the author worked hard to produce it. I don’t like hating a book because it makes some people feel bad for liking said book. Most of these books have pretty decent ratings on Goodreads, so I know people like them. But no one reads the same book.

If you have read any of these and liked them, I am glad. If any of these sound interesting to you, I still encourage you to read them if you want to.

Here are my least favorite books of 2018:

 

The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

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This is a book I went into fully prepared for the fact I might not like it, due to a previous negative reading experience with Eliza Wass’s debut novel, The Cresswell Plot. Still, the concept of The Life and Death Parade fascinated me.

I genuinely liked Eliza Wass’s writing style. The Life and Death Parade was very atmospheric. The portrayal of the protagonist Kitty’s grief felt realistic. Unfortunately, that was all the book had going for it. The characters were flat and had virtually no motivation or development. The book was wrapped up way too quickly. And the plot was weak, the little that was there.

 

Lizzie by Dawn Ius

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When I first heard about this book, a modern-day retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders, I was all for it. Then, I checked it out from the library and, the entire time I was asking myself: what am I reading?

            It was literally uncomfortable to read. That’s all I remember about it. That’s how bad this book was for me.

 

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

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I picked up A Simple Favor from the library because of the movie. In theory, it sounded like a fun chick-lit mystery. Then, I opened it to find bad writing, boring characters, and predictable plot. This was another book that was admittedly painful for me to read. It is also likely my most viewed book review, too. I don’t hold back on my feelings for A Simple Favor.

 

Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu

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Despite the seriousness of the topics covered in this novel—bride trafficking, the One-Child Policy in China—Girls on the Line was ultimately a dry read that dragged on for how short it was. The characters had some depth to them and it focused heavily on female friendship, except it took forever to get to the point and the ending for one character is not one I would have chosen for her.

 

Charlotte’s Web & Stuart Little by E.B. White

There is no other word to describe these two little novels but dull. Maybe because I’m 25 reading a book meant for children. I didn’t feel the emotional impact Charlotte’s Web was supposed to deliver nor did I understand the motive behind Stuart Little. Again, it could be my age, but the writing style just did not do it for me.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is probably one of the most beloved young adult novels to be published in the last ten years. Unfortunately, for me, the writing was cringey and repetitive. It was also overly philosophical for two fifteen-year-old boys, yet dumbed down. As characters, I could put up with Aristotle, at least in the beginning, but Dante got on my nerves most of the time (the boy whined too much). The boys were a little too obsessed with each other to be healthy. The romance felt completely forced. And plot, what plot?

I’ll stop now….

 

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

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For what it’s worth, Let’s Talk About Love is packed with diversity. The protagonist, Alice, is black and biromantic asexual. Her love interest, Takumi, is Japanese. There are all kinds of great quotes on asexuality as well as how love and sex are not mutually exclusive. On the flip side to that, the writing was too juvenile. The characters were supposed to be college-aged, yet it felt like they were younger than that. And there was a lot of other drama thrown in that was not as developed as it should have been.

 

What was your least favorite book of 2018?

 

10 Books I Don’t Talk About Often on My Blog

I glanced at my bookshelves the other day (as I do often) and I noticed there are books on my shelves that I don’t think I have mentioned ever having read on my blog. Some of these are quite popular, or at least they were back in the day. Others I read years ago, not as well known, that affected me at the time I read them.

Ten books that I don’t talk about often on my blog are:

 

Prey by Lurlene McDaniel

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One of the older books on this list, Prey centers on the taboo topic of teacher-student sexual relationships. Fifteen-year-old class clown Ryan catches the eye of Ms. Settles, the beautiful new history teacher at his school. While his best friend Honey is suspicious of the teacher’s motives, Ryan falls under Ms. Settles’ spell and the two embark on a secret romance that could only ever end badly.

Prey disturbed me as well as sucked me in when I read it. Not only do we get Ryan’s POV, but we also see what is going on through Honey’s eyes, as well as see the thoughts of Ms. Settles as she goes about seducing Ryan. The ending of this novel floored me.

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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I read The Night Circus when I was a freshman in college, roughly a year after its publication, I think. I remember enjoying it, although I did not fall in love with it like so many other people seemed to. While I was interested in the synopsis—two young magicians that fall in love pitted against each other in a competition midst a magical circus that only comes out at night—it was really out of my comfort zone at the time. Thus, I’m not sure I gave it the fair chance it deserved. Someday, however, I will reread The Night Circus.

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I think I mentioned Fangirl in a post when I first started my blog two years ago, but it has not come up since. I read it when I was a senior in college; young enough where I could enjoy it, but old enough to not be able to relate to it. To clarify: I could relate to Cath’s fangirl impulses—her desire to keep writing fan fiction for a book series she adores—and her passion for writing, as well as some of her social awkwardness, but that’s about it.

Despite what others might have thought, I was not scared to go to college. I wanted to go, very badly, after being a loner throughout high school. It was easier for me to socialize once I became a college freshman because so many other people were desperate to find someone to latch on to. I didn’t feel as left out. Once I got my bearings, like everyone else, it was ten times easier to find my people.

 

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

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The Catcher in the Rye is one of those books you either love or hate. I remember walking around the student center at dinner time, asking people if they read it and what they thought of it (majority hated it). I’m the unicorn that falls somewhere in the middle. While I get Holden is annoying, it is not without good reason. If you read the book, you might understand why he is acting out. Plus, he’s fifteen and everything is dramatic at that age. I just took everything about The Catcher in the Rye with a grain of salt.

 

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

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I watched the Peter Pan movie loads of times growing up, but I didn’t read the book until I was in my twenties. I think I read it in a day or two, it was so easy to read. Despite the seriously offensive portrayal of Tiger Lily and the other Native Americans in Neverland, I still gave Peter Pan four stars.

 

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

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An OG urban fantasy young adult novel, Blood and Chocolate is about Vivian, a beautiful young werewolf that falls in love with a human boy named Aidan. This was published in the 1990s, well before the Twilight era. It takes a more “realistic” approach to the human/werewolf interpersonal relationship, as well as shows the supernatural world is not as darkly romantic as humans think. What I appreciated most about it was that the author was true to the werewolf folklore and the ending was bittersweet, the kind that young adult authors nowadays probably won’t dare to write in order to placate readers. (Veronica Roth is a perfect example.)

 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Yes, I did read The Fault in Our Stars. And, really, I only read because pretty much everyone else was at the time. Admittedly, the book didn’t bring me to tears like it did so many other people. I’m not a book crier in general, so that’s probably not a fair assessment. I always chalked it up to having read a mystery novel where a serial killer was using an octopus to kill people desensitized me the same time I was reading The Fault in Our Stars. Although I wonder now, after what I’ve been through, if I would feel differently?

 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Another book I read at the peak of its popularity, right when the movie came out. I liked If I Stay, more than its sequel Where She Went, but not as much as Gayle Forman’s other book published after that, I Was Here. I distinctly remember thinking: “If this were my parents, and I chose to leave this world when I still had a chance to live, they’d be waiting at heaven’s gates to kick my ass.” I have not read another book by Gayle Forman since I Was Here, though I am interested in reading her newest publication, I Have Lost My Way. I will get it from my library, eventually.

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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I recently saw Burial Rites on Shanah’s blog. I can’t remember the last time I have talked about this book, if ever. Set in the nineteenth century, is a historical novel about the events leading up to the last public execution in Iceland. A woman named Agnes is convicted of murdering her lover/employer and sentenced to death. Before her execution, she is sent to a farm to be monitored by a reluctant host family and the young minister selected to be her spiritual guide has doubts of her guilt. Only it might not be enough to save her if Agnes can’t tell the truth. I read Burial Rites in the heat of summer yet I could feel the freezing cold of the Iceland landscape. My biggest qualm with the novel, that I can remember, is that the ending was anticlimactic, leading up to something then nothing happened.

 

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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I always forget about Nicola Yoon’s books! I don’t know why. Even making this list, I almost forgot about her again. But I distinctly took off one book solely for the purpose of replacing it with Everything, Everything. Admittedly, I had some problems with this book, like using a boy as motivation to make the main character finally take a chance a break free from her sickly bubble. Only one has to remember to think like a teenaged girl in these situations. I know I was one once, not that long ago. And I know why the big reveal didn’t sit right with a lot of people. Again, I didn’t approve of it either, but I understood the motivation to a degree. Overall, Everything, Everything was a cute, fun read regardless.

 

Have you read any of these books and what did you think of them?

Top Ten Romance Novels on My TBR

I pride myself on being an optimistic realist…until I saw all the romance novels on my TBR.

I don’t generally gravitate towards books heavy with romance. I prefer romantic subplots. Only I think that has changed within the last year or so. Most of these books have other things going on besides the romance. Also, the majority of them are diverse, either featuring an LGBTQ couple or an element of mental illness.

The romance novels on my TBR that I am most excited to read are:

 

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

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The sequel to The Rosie Project, which I have the audacity is my favorite contemporary romance, yet I still have not read its sequel. I can’t go into detail because of spoilers, but this book picks up right where the first one left off and Don is encountering a whole new set of social/romantic problems.

 

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

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Of all the Jojo Moyes books currently on my TBR, The Last Letter from Your Lover is highest on the list. Mostly because I am interested to see how the author handles another controversial topic: adultery. There are two intertwining storylines. The first is in 1960 about Jennifer, who wakes up from a car accident with no memory of her life. The only clue she has is a passionate letter from a man calling himself “B” and not the man who claims to be her husband. The other is Ellie, a journalist in 2003, who finds B’s letter and becomes fascinated with the lovers’ story. As the synopsis implies, she does this in hopes her own supposed adulterous affair can have a happy ending, too.

 

Vanilla by Megan Hart

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I bought Vanilla back during a time I was interested in erotic fiction but did not want to read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy because of the atrocious writing excerpts I saw online. Regarding Vanilla, I am still interested; primarily because it is the woman, Elise, who wants to be the dominant one in the bedroom. Then, she meets Niall, a sweet, non-kinky guy that gives her a run for her money. The whole novel is basically them trying to navigate their relationship, in and out of the bedroom, when both are used to wearing the pants (so to speak).

 

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

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All her life, Grace’s world has revolved around her alcoholic mother Maggie. Then she meets Eva, a girl who challenges her to finally take her life into her own hands. But as the girls pursue a relationship, Maggie does something unthinkable that forces Grace to choose between staying with what she knows or going after the life she deserves. Having spent five months taking care of my own mother and putting my life on hold, I think I can relate to this novel on some level.

 

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

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Though I’m not always a fan of the “guy shows girl the truth” trope, or whatever it’s called, I am still interested in Under Rose-Tainted Skies. Seventeen-year-old Norah suffers from OCD and agoraphobia. As a result, she never leaves her house. Then, when struggling to bring her groceries in, she meets her neighbor Luke. Through their friendship and eventual relationship, Norah realizes she does not have to live her life defined by her mental illness.

 

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

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I already have high expectations for Autoboyography, despite having not read anything by Christina Lauren before. Bisexual Tanner Scott was forced to go back into the closet when his family made the move from California to Utah. As he enters his final semester of high school, he is counting the days until graduation. On a dare by his best friend, he takes a writing class where the students are charged to write the first draft of a book in four months. Except that is not Tanner’s biggest problem: it is Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy that mentors the class.

Bisexual main character, Mormon love interest, and a writing class: this already sounds like a recipe for one of my favorite books of the year.

 

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

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Lily has recently gone of her ADHD medication and is trying to adapt to the changes. Then, she meets Abelard, a boy on the autism spectrum that enjoys medieval literature as much as she does. The two bond over The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise, eventually falling hard for each other. But as the relationship gets complicated, Lily fears she will get the same unhappy ending as her idol, Heloise. I say, two kids with neurological disorders falling in love over literature? Count me in!

 

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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Rufus and Mateo are two teenaged boys that get a call from the organization Death-Cast declaring September 5th is their last day on earth. They connect on the Last Friend app and spend the day together living an entire lifetime in New York City. I totally just butchered the synopsis, but I read Adam’s other book, History is All You Left Me, which deals with similar topics such as relationships and grief. That one really pulled at my heartstrings, so I can’t imagine what They Both Die at the End might do to me.

 

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

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After the death of her mother, Lina fulfills her mom’s dying wish by going to Tuscany, Italy and reconnecting with her long-lost father. At first, Lina is reluctant to do so, but when she inherits her mother’s diary that she kept while in Tuscany, a world of new possibilities opens up to her. And, of course, she has a male companion to help her along the way.

Given the circumstances of my life currently, I’m a little nervous how close Love and Gelato might hit home for me. I think that’s why I’ve put off reading it.

 

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

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When Ramona Blue first came out, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it. The protagonist, Ramona, a teenaged girl struggling to keep her family together that identifies as lesbian, questions her sexuality when her childhood best friend, Freddie, comes back into her life. People seemed to think the synopsis implied that “the right guy can make a lesbian straight.” However, Julie Murphy herself said, though she is married to a man, she is bisexual and sexuality is more fluid than people think. Once I heard that, I was sold on Ramona Blue.

 

What are some romance books on your TBR?

Romantic Recommendations: My Top Ten Favorite Romance Novels

Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you have someone to share this day with, enjoy it with him or her and I urge you to continue to express your love even after today. If you are #foreveralone like me, that’s just as well—indulge on chocolate, buy yourself something you like, and, of course, read romantic books!

Today, I am recommending my top ten favorite romance novels for you to read either today or any day where you are in a particularly romantic mood (keep your mind out of the gutter, you cheeky monkey).

 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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Arguably my all-time favorite contemporary romance, The Rosie Project follows Don, a socially awkward genetics professor trying to use science to find his perfect mate. Then, he meets Rosie, a young woman looking for help in tracking down her biological father. She helps him loosen up and teaches him that science is not always the answer. Naturally, adorableness and drama ensue from there.

 

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

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If you are looking for something cutesy and fun, I recommend P.S. I Like You. Sixteen-year-old Lily is bored during chemistry class one day and writes song lyrics on her desk. The next day, someone completes the lyrics. She then begins to exchange letters with the mysterious writer, eventually falling for him. Though you can kind of guess who Lily’s pen pal is, the story was still a fun read, with a little more than the romance to it.

 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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Another cute, lighthearted read, The Upside of Unrequited follows Molly, who has had twenty-six crushes but no boyfriend. When her twin sister Cassie starts dating a girl named Mina, she is introduced to Mina’s hipster sidekick Will. It seems like the perfect situation for Molly to get her first boyfriend. But then Molly’s new co-worker Reid comes into the picture.

 

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

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I always describe The Game of Love and Death as the offspring of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Love and Death personified compete in a competition every few centuries by creating an epic love story between two star-crossed lovers. This time, it is Flora and Henry, two young people in 1930s Seattle. She’s black with dreams of becoming a female pilot and he’s a privileged white boy with no idea of what to do with his life. Love does everything he can to give Flora and Henry a happy ending, only Death is non too keen on seeing that through.

 

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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A book that took me by surprise when I read it myself on Valentine’s Day last year, Love and First Sight is about Will, a blind boy that transfers to a mainstream high school. He meets a group of cool new friends and even falls for a girl, Cecily. After he and Cecily start dating, he learns of an experimental surgery that promises his eyesight. But when Will goes through with it, he sees that Cecily does not fit the traditional standards of beauty. And he has to figure out if that is really as important as he thinks it is.

 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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Probably one of the most beloved books on this whole list, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the cutest and fluffiest read. Simon, who is a closeted gay teen, is exchanging emails with another boy at his school that is also gay and in the closet. Their banter is adorable and they help each other come out of their shells. If you read any book on Valentine’s Day, read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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I am well aware of the controversy surrounding Me Before You, yet something about Will and Lou’s relationship stuck with me. Lou is a quirky young woman hired by quadriplegic Will’s family to be his caregiver and companion. As the pair bonds, she learns something shocking about her client. Then, Lou makes it her mission to show Will that life can still be worth living regardless of circumstances. If you are looking to cry, Me Before You is a good one.

 

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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If you aren’t interested in Me Before You but are still looking for a good cry, History is All You Left Me is another option. Griffin loses his first love, Theo, in a drowning accident. Though they broke up, Griffin was convinced he and Theo would get back together, only that is not happening now. The whole of History is All You Left Me is a reflection on Griffin’s relationship with Theo, before and after they broke up. And it is so cute you might want to cry a little more.

 

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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Almost everyone, when asked their favorite Jane Austen couple, will most likely say Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I do like them a lot, but Edward and Elinor, and Marianne and Col. Brandon are the ones that really make me swoon. Elinor and Marianne are two sisters caught up in their own love stories. Elinor falls in love with Edward, a sweet and shy young man that failed to mention he already had a fiancée. Marianne is swept off her feet (literally) by Willoughby, who she thinks is her dream man, until she starts to see family friend Col. Brandon in a new light. Sense and Sensibility is probably my all-time favorite classic novel, too.

 

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

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Spunky and openly gay Jo is entering her senior year of high school when her minister father marries his third wife. The family then moves from Atlanta to a small town in Georgia. In exchange for her own segment on her father’s radio show, Jo agrees to spend her senior year pretending to be straight. At first, things are fine and Jo is having fun. Then, of course, she meets a girl. Not only is Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit a cute romance, it also has great discussions on religion and its relationship to sexuality.

 

What are you reading today for Valentine’s Day?

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 10 “Ships” I Will Sail to the Ends of the Earth

You all might be surprised to learn that I actually had an easy time coming up with this list.

Though I am a romantic at heart, “shipping” is not a priority for me. I am more interested in plot and storytelling. Romance, particularly a romance I enjoy, is just icing on the cake. Something that adds drama to make the story a little more angsty or to provide a reprise from whatever danger is going on.

All the couples on this list are not the usual ones you see in the fan art posts on Instagram—i.e. Feyre and Rhysand. More often than not, the ships everyone else ships I don’t. Or, in the case of Sarah J. Maas’s couples, I see so much of them on social media I just get fed up real quick….

The top 10 ships I will sail until the end of the earth are:

 

Jack and Ashi from Samurai Jack

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Not a book couple, but Jack and Ashi are from the show Samurai Jack. Samurai Jack is a Cartoon Network show about a samurai with an enchanted sword that is on a mission to defeat the evil Aku, who banished him to a future where the demon (Aku) rules the whole plant. It was produced during a time Cartoon Network was actually good. My dad, my brother, and I loved the show and never missed an episode. Originally, it was only four seasons, ending on a cliffhanger that made you wonder if Jack made it back to the past. Then, out of the blue, we find out there was a fifth season released eleven years after the previous one and proceed to binge watch it on iTunes.

Ashi is introduced in the fifth season. She was raised in a cult, the Daughters of Aku, and trained from childhood, along with her sisters, to kill Jack. In the process, she learns that everything she was brought up to believe is wrong and aids Jack in his mission. But if you know Jack and Ashi you will know angst!

            I can’t talk anymore about them. It’s been months, but I’m still not OK.

 

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell from the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco

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Move over Feysand and make room for Audrey and Thomas, who are too cool for a ship name.

There are no words to explain how much I love Audrey and Thomas, together as well as separately. Audrey is strong and independent, determined to prove her worth and she is motivated by something not romance. Thomas is a wise ass, but unlike most “bad boys with a heart of gold,” he does not hide that his heart is made of gold. These two grow together, and it’s something I love seeing.

 

Eliza Mirk and Wallace Wartland from Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Every time I think of Eliza and Wallace I think GAAAAHHHHH!!!

These two are so sweet together I can’t stand it. They feel so comfortable with each other and they bond over a love of all things nerdy. The progression of their relationship is a slow and natural pace, each taking turns to initiate things. He helps her make friends while she encourages his writing project. They are as comfortable with each other in person as they are online. While I understand most people have a problem with mental illness playing a part in the relationship, I still love Eliza and Wallace together.

 

Simon Spier and Blue from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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While we don’t know who Blue is for most of the book, the development of his and Simon’s relationship is so sweet. They open up to each other and support each other. I love how Simon does not push Blue to come out of the closet until he is ready, which is something I saw in another LGBTQ young adult romance that bothered me. Plus, Blue gets Simon to open up about his own confused feelings and gives him the self-confidence boost he needed. Once they finally do meet, the reveal is simply too cute to handle.

 

Elias and Laia from An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

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I am aware of the “love rectangle” going on in this series, but I think after A Torch Against the Night, I’m pretty sure Elias and Laia are end game. (At least, I hope so.) They can be honest with each other. They communicate well. They were friends first. They would never do something to deliberately make the other person jealous or angry, something I see a lot in books that annoys me. Their relationship is a slow burn and likely only to progress as the series goes forward.

 

Clara Gardner and Tucker Avery from the Unearthly trilogy by Cynthia Hand

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These two are really so, so cute. Tucker loves Clara unconditionally, even though he is initially freaked out after finding out she is half-angel. Their banter is comfortable and, no matter what happened, they always find their way back to each other. While I did like Christian, Tucker’s personality complimented Clara’s better.

 

Holly Chase and Ethan Winters from The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

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Something about Cynthia Hand’s couples that just get to me. On the surface, both Holly and Ethan are spoiled rich kids, but their attitudes hide terrible pain. Both lost a parent at a young age. They were vulnerable, making it easy for their “Marley” to mold them into a different person they were not meant to be. In each other, they find themselves and someone who understands what it’s like to feel you have to protect yourself from the world.

Unfortunately, the ending is bittersweet for Ethan and Holly….

 

Molly and Reid from The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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Another Becky Albertalli-invented couple, Molly and Reid are just too cute together. Molly suffers from social anxiety, but Reid makes her feel comfortable. They are not shy about being themselves around each other. Reid is nerdy and proud of it. Plus, he’s just a nice guy, not that “broody bad boy” trope I HATE.

 

Etta Spencer and Nicholas Carter from the Passenger duology by Alexandra Bracken

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I know their relationship is kind of insta-love, yet there is something about Etta and Nicholas’s relationship that made me totally fine with it. She’s feisty and smart, while he’s good-natured and a natural leader. Their personalities compliment each other. Nicholas is the rock Etta needed while Etta encouraged Nicholas to take chances once in a while. They worked well together as a team, too.

 

Gabriel and Nathan from the Half-Bad trilogy by Sally Green

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There is no other angsty LGBTQ relationship than Nathan and Gabriel. Both are black witches in a world that hate them. While Nathan struggles with his identity crisis as both a Black and White witch, Gabriel is his most staunch supporter and the little angel on his shoulder. Gabriel is not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve for Nathan, despite the latter’s constant insistence at pushing him away. When they finally do come together, it is beautiful…and then heartbreaking.

 

What are the ships you will sail to the end of the earth?

My 17 Favorite Books of 2017/My Reading Year in Review

Happy New Year!

I decided to make my last blog post of 2017 both my top 17 favorite books of the year combined with my reading year in review, starting with the review.

I read a total of 67 books this year. 2017 was the first year of the five I’ve been on Goodreads that I decided not to do a yearly reading challenge. I decided to do this because in 2016, I felt an enormous amount of pressure to read midst trying to finish college and get a job after graduation. I also did away with monthly TBRs to read what I wanted when I felt like it.

In the first half of the year, it worked. At the time, I was working retail and often mentally too drained to read at the end of the day. Then, the store I worked in closed and I found work with a temp agency. Through the agency, I was hired to work in a library, with about an hour and a half commute every day. Suddenly, instead of going on Netflix or YouTube, I had motivation to read more.

For the first few months of 2017, my average number of books read per month was five. My friends would call that successful, only I was struggling with it. Mainly because I knew I could do better. In fact, in November, I set a Goodreads of 65 books when I was at about 58 books read trying to see if having a goal helped me read. It worked.

The biggest issue I have with my reading in 2017 as a whole is the quality of books I read. There were so many great books sitting unread on my shelves, yet I kept putting them aside for titles that ultimately disappointed me. Looking at my reading stats for 2017, I realized that is often what happened.

Don’t get me wrong: I did read some real gems this year. But compared to 2016 or even 2015, 2017 was lukewarm. I have enough favorites for seventeen, but if you asked which one was my all-time favorite, I would not be able to tell you. These aren’t in any particular order; they are simply books I read this year I really liked.

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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And Then There Were None was the first book I have ever read by Agatha Christie. Now I know why she is called the Queen of Mystery.

The story is set in a mansion on a secluded island, where ten strangers are invited to a dinner party. While there, the guests discover they have been targeted by a madman for their perceived sins and are trapped there during a storm as they are killed one-by-one in the method of a child’s nursery rhyme. And Then There Were None was exactly how I like my mysteries: darkly compelling setting, fast-paced, and morally gray characters.

 

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

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The sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, A Torch Against the Night confirmed that I love Sabaa Tahir’s series more than Sarah J. Maas’s…and I’m not ashamed to say that whatsoever. I love the main characters, Laia and Elias. The world building is amazing and the story is fast-paced and exciting, even with its size. Now, I am just anxiously waiting to get my hands on the third book in the series, A Reaper at the Gates.

 

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

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All We Have Left is a young adult contemporary novel following two teenaged girls connected to 9/11. The first is Jesse, a sixteen-year-old in 2016, whose older brother died in the Twin Towers. All her life, she has lived in his shadow, causing her to make a stupid mistake that forces her to finally uncover the secrets to her brother’s death. The other POV is Alia, a teenaged Muslim girl in 2001 that finds herself trapped inside the Towers with a boy she just met but must rely on to survive.

The writing in this novel was beautiful, filled with great quotes about friendship, family, religion, Islam phobia, and other subjects. Both Jesse and Alia have the best character development I have ever seen in a young adult contemporary, Jesse especially, as she starts out an angry, lonely kid but grows up fast.

 

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

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A List of Cages is a 2017 young adult release that follows two boys, Adam and Julien. Five years ago, the boys were foster brothers until Julien’s uncle came and took him away. Now, the boys are in high school, Adam a senior and Julien a freshman, and the former realizes the latter is in terrible trouble at home. The writing in this novel was so beautiful, you would never think it was Robin Roe’s first book. I loved Adam and Julien. I cried because I could not protect Julien from what was happening to him. There was discussion of learning disabilities, as both boys have them, as well as child abuse. A List of Cages had a strong friendship element I loved, too.

 

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

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City of Saints and Thieves is set in modern-day Kenya, following sixteen-year-old Tina, a refugee from the Congo. Five years prior, Tina’s mother was murdered and she fled the estate where her mother worked as a maid, intending to return to seek revenge on the man she believed killed her mother. Tina has survived all these years as a thief for the most notorious gang in the city. But when her supposedly perfect plan goes wrong, she is forced to face the secrets of her mother’s past that put everything she thought she knew into a new perspective.

City of Saints and Thieves is the first book I’ve read both set in Kenya and about a refugee. While there has been some criticism around this book not being OWN voices, I found the author’s experience as a volunteer working with refugees from the Congo still worth something. She was not shy about showing how hard life is in that part of the world. She also brought to life a strong, fierce Tina, someone I think Aelin from Throne of Glass would tip her hat to. Tina is what made this book for me.

 

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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The Forbidden Wish is a beautifully written retelling of Aladdin with a female genie as the protagonist. Zahra, the jinn, has been trapped inside a lamp for centuries until the mortal thief Aladdin releases her. When the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance at freedom, she agrees to help Aladdin in his quest for revenge against the royal family in order to reach her own goal. There’s just one problem: Aladdin falls in love with Zahra—and she with him.

The world of the jinni in The Forbidden Wish was both fascinating and terrifying. Zahra was a great protagonist; wise and strong in her own way. Aladdin himself was as swoon-worthy as the boy in the Disney movie. Plus, this book had an ensemble of lady assassins that made it even more fun.

 

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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I finally read Lady Midnight this summer, just in time for Lord of Shadows to come out a month or two later. Since I have yet to read the sequel, I can say so far The Dark Artifices has a chance of becoming my new favorite series in the Shadowhunters Chronicles.

I love feisty and smart Emma Carstairs. Julien Blackthorn is the first Shadowhunter guy—aside from Jem Carstairs—to make me feel so weak in the knees. I love the Blackthorn family and the crew at the Los Angeles Institute. The plot of this novel is darker, more interesting than previous Shadowhunter novels. Plus, the reviews surrounding Lord of Shadows promises that The Dark Artifices will only get better with each book.

 

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

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The second and final novel in The Wrath & the Dawn duology, The Rose & the Dagger was as good as the first. Renee Ahdieh has a lovely writing style that made the book seem to fly by, even being over 400 pages. I love Shazi and Khalid as a couple as well as individuals. The world the author created was so magical and vivid; I hope she someday writes more books in the series. While I think I liked The Wrath & the Dawn slightly more than The Rose & the Dagger, it was still a satisfying, heartwarming conclusion to the duology.

 

Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

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The Saga graphic novels are the only science fiction stories I am seriously into. The last few volumes in this series were mildly disappointing. For most of Saga, Vol. 7, I would have rated this book 4 stars or lower. Then, the ending happened…The last chapter of this volume broke my heart. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples went there with this story. Now, I’m excited to see where Vol. 8 is going to take the rest of the series.

I remember I finished Saga, Vol. 7 on the train home and I couldn’t cry because there were people.

 

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

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Another young adult contemporary novel, Made You Up follows Alex, a schizophrenic high school senior. She tackles life with her polaroid camera and a Crazy 8 ball to separate her delusions from reality. When she transfers high schools, she meets Myles, a boy she thought she made up at eight years old, and uncovers a mystery that makes her wonder if she is not the only “crazy” person at her new school.

Despite its heavy topic, Made You Up is a fun, easy read that gives insight to a mental illness not often seen in literature and often dramatized by media. Alex is sassy and does not let her mental illness define her. The story was also not one you see often in young adult literature, which I enjoyed the most.

 

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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The next retelling I read and loved this year, Jane Steele is a reimagining of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Only the Jane Eyre in this story, Jane Steele, is a morally gray but ultimately good-natured serial killer who targets men that abuse women and children. The writing was beautiful and the story was engrossing. Jane Steele was an interesting main character. The plot was twisted and the atmosphere was a realistic, grittier portrait of Victorian London. Lastly, Charles Thornfield, the Mr. Rochester of the novel, was ten times sexier than the original.

 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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My favorite historical fiction of this year, Lilac Girls centers on an untold story of World War II: the experiments done to the prisoners at Ravensbruck, the Nazi concentration camp for women. The novel follows three women—American Caroline Ferriday, Polish teenager Kasia Kuzmerick, and German doctor Herta Oberheuser—all having ties to the Ravensbruck experiments. The whole novel was amazing and the characters equally amazing. It also showed that, while men might have been serving at the front, women were the backbone of the country during the war. And human beings can do terrible things to each other, but humans are also terribly complicated.

 

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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Truthwitch is the first novel in a high fantasy series in a world ruled by witches. That is all I needed to know when I read it and this first book did not disappoint. I liked the two leading ladies, Safi and Iseult, and I loved their friendship. Prince Merrick made me feel weaker in the knees than Rhysand ever did. The world building was great and the magic system was fascinating. I can dare say I loved Truthwitch more than Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series or even her A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy….

 

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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Passenger was a book that took me by surprise. I liked Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds trilogy but I didn’t love it. Passenger and its sequel Wayfarer show she’s already improved so much.

The time-traveling element was as complicated as one would expect time travel to be. The story was fast-paced. Etta Spencer is an underrated female protagonist; she’s strong without needing a sword and she uses her head. Nicholas Carter is one of my new favorite romantic heroes. I don’t understand why more people aren’t as obsessed with him as they are with Rhysand or William Herondale. I also don’t understand why more people don’t love this duology as much as I do. But his to their own, I suppose.

 

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

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I completed Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy this year and it is one of my favorite series of all-time. I picked up The Afterlife of Holly Chase, her most recent release, last month from the library to read for the holidays. It is a retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which follows Holly Chase, a failed Scrooge, that spends her afterlife working as the Ghost of Christmas Past for Project Scrooge, an organization dedicated to redeeming a Scrooge every year. This year, though, everything changes for Holly with this year’s new Scrooge: Ethan Winters.

I don’t know why, but I never expected to love The Afterlife of Holly Chase as much as I did. The overall book was simply delightful. Holly had her annoying moments, but she also had good character development. I can’t wait to actually buy it myself.

 

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

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Daughter of the Pirate King was an impulse buy. Thankfully, it did not let me down. Alossa was a morally gray badass female pirate captain. The book accurately portrayed life on a pirate ship, especially what it was like for a woman. The story was fun and action-packed with twists and turns searching for the treasure map. Lastly, Riden, Alossa’s only love interest, is another swoon-worthy gentleman you can’t help but love.

 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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The Upside of Unrequited was a little low on the rating scale compared to all the other books on this list, but it was the most relatable. Molly is a real-life teenager with real-life teenaged problems and a real-life family. The romance in this story is super sweet and cute and relationship goals for me. The book covered everything from friendship, family, romance, and sexuality. The Upside of Unrequited made me feel all the feels.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Wicked like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

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I really liked Wicked Like a Wildfire for its beautiful writing and setting as well as the magic in the story. However, I had some problems with it, enough that earned it a spot as an honorable mention instead of a favorite.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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The Star-Touched Queen had beautiful writing and a beautiful world based in Indian mythology. It is a Hades and Persephone retelling with a female protagonist I really liked. Unfortunately, the story fell a little flat for me in the end.

 

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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I loved Love and First Sight for its comedy, writing style, and the blind/disability representation. I liked the main character, Will, and his romance with Cecily was super cute. But at some point it went in a direction I was not expecting, as it felt too much like John Green, that I had to dock down a few points.

 

What was your favorite book(s) of 2017?

The Most Boring, Disappointing, and Worst Books I Read in 2017

Controversial post ahead!

Compared to other years, 2017 is not one of the best, but it wasn’t completely terrible either. Sadly, I could still come up with ten books for this list.

Most of these books I actually rated as high as 3 stars. Those were ones I was disappointed by or were ultimately very boring compared to others. Some of the ones on this list I can dare say I hated.

But do not take it personally if a book you like is on here. In fact, I am glad there is someone who appreciated it more than I did.

The most boring, disappointing, and worst books I read in 2017 are:

 

Woman of God by James Patterson

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If I had to pick a book I genuinely hated this year, it would have to be Woman of God by James Patterson. Unfortunately, he’s one of my favorite authors. But I’m getting his books out of the library from now on.

On the surface, the plot for this novel is cool: a woman’s journey to becoming the first female Pope. While I hope to see that happen in my lifetime, there were so many problems with Woman of God, it still makes me angry just thinking about it. The story was boring, if there even was one. The writing was so detached; I didn’t care about what happened to the main character, even during the really terrible things. There was little development within the protagonist to speak of. And the book was packed with so much insta-love it made me want to puke.

 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

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Some many of my friends read The Outsiders when they were in school and loved it. I think if I had been forced to read this in school, I would have disliked it even more than I already do.

In case you are unaware, The Outsiders follows two gangs of teenagers, the Socs and the Greasers, in the 1950s that have a heated, violent rivalry. One night, somebody goes too far and a kid is murdered, and another must face the consequences.

The main reason I did not like The Outsiders was because of the writing style. It made me feel underwhelmed and was overall an unpleasant reading experience. To be fair, the author was probably trying to be true to the nature of the character she was writing from: a fourteen-year-old Greaser. Still, The Outsiders was not the book for me.

 

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

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the only book on this list I went in with low expectations. I waited until the hype for it had gone down and I checked it out of the library. By the time I had read the “eighth Harry Potter book,” I had seen so many reviews that were negative. Plus, I was apprehensive about this release to begin with.

The only aspect I can say I liked about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is Scorpios Malfoy. He was a great character and a good friend to Albus Potter. The rest of the book was not up to par. The playwriting format did not fit with the fantasy element. The writers were trying to make it look like they were not recycling old storylines but they failed. The time-traveling element was not good at all. And some of the original characters were done a terrible injustice in their development.

In short, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child confirmed my belief that The Boy Who Lived needs to retire.

 

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

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Lies She Told is an adult thriller I had heard mixed reviews about going into it. The story is a dual-point of view between a struggling author and the character she creates. On the surface, it appears exciting and interesting. Then, it got weird.

Don’t get me wrong. As a whole, Lies She Told was not a bad book. The first half was quite good. Cate Holahan is a talented writer. It was not her fault the publisher basically gave away her whole book on the front flap. If you read a lot of mysteries, you can predict the twist. That was a problem for me, as well as the main characters Liza and Beth. While I sympathized Beth, who was the fictional character, I had a hard time connecting with Liza, the author, even as I pitied her. By no means was she a victim of circumstances; she made her own terrible mistakes and received punishments I felt were fitting.

 

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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Unlike Lies She Told, Emma in the Night was really built up in my head. Not a lot of books have children dealing with mentally ill parents as a subject matter. Cassie and Emma, the sisters of the story, as well as Dr. Abby Winter, the other lead character, all have grown up with narcissist mothers. However, at a certain point, the story started going downhill and I had no idea to how the characters came to the conclusions that they did. While I’m certain an unstable family such as the Martins exist in real life, there were some instances I found a little unbelievable. Then again, I do not have a psychology degree. Plus, the ending felt so rushed, it was like falling face-first to the ground.

On Goodreads, I gave this book a fairly good rating, but it ultimately did not live up to the hype I built up for it.

 

Final Girls by Riley Sager

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One of the books featured in Goodreads Best Books of the Year, I picked up Final Girls from the library to finally read what all the fuss was about. It was not a terrible book; I actually enjoyed it at times and Quincy seemed like a realistic character, given her circumstances.

Then, in the second half of the book, I just wanted to finish it because there were other books I wanted to read more. By that point, I only wanted to get Final Girls over with so I could have an honest opinion about it. When the big reveal finally happened, it made no sense to me whatsoever. It was like the author was simply going in for the shock factor rather than logic. But that is just my personal opinion.

 

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

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2017 was the year I got deeper into the young adult contemporary genre. I was excited to read Definitions of Indefinable Things because it was about a teenaged girl, Reggie, with clinical depression that becomes involved with a boy her age, named Snake, that also has depression.

Going off what I personally have seen in my own life with my friends who have depression and been in similar situations, I found Reggie and Snake’s relationship to be slightly unhealthy. While I appreciated Snake taking responsibility for the girl he got pregnant, I ultimately found him to be an arrogant and annoying drama queen. I really liked Reggie; I think she could have done better. Overall, Definitions of Indefinable Things was a decent book, filled with great educational talk about depression, but the relationship was a major flaw for me.

 

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

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The Women in the Castle was another book I had built up in my head. It is a World War II story set in Germany after the war following three widows of resisters that were executed following a failed assassination of Hitler. After the war, the widows reside in one of the women’s family’s ancestral castle with their children. All three women have secrets that come back to haunt them, even decades later.

Again, my disappointment in this book was my own fault. I had built The Women in the Castle up in my head as this beautiful World War II novel about women that kept the front at home. While the writing in this novel was beautiful, the story ultimately fell flat for me. Not a lot happened, and most of it not until the near end of the novel. My favorite characters were the children; their mothers dragged them through so much and they just rolled with it. As for the widows themselves—Marianne, Benita, and Ania—I can’t say I liked all of them very much.

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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I don’t know what it was about the mystery novels I’ve read this year, but they have all become predictable. Or maybe I expect too much or I read too much of the same thing. Regardless of the reason, The Woman in Cabin 10 was another floppy mystery.

The novel is about a journalist offered the opportunity of a lifetime to work on a cruise. Her first night there, she hears what sounds like a woman being thrown overboard but all ten other passengers and the full staff is accounted for. While the book was fast-paced and I liked the protagonist, I was ultimately really bored with the book. Not a lot was going on and, again, the author disregarded realism. Who asks a stranger to borrow mascara?

 

Go Ask Alice by “Anonymous” also known as Beatrice Sparks

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Much like The Outsiders, Go Ask Alice was another acclaimed banned book I wanted to read but ultimately disappointed me. While I appreciated the author’s realistic approach to drug abuse and writing it in the true voice of a fifteen-year-old, the story was so boring. I also felt detached from the characters, even the narrator. By no means would I say it was an awful book, but I expected too much.

 

What was your least favorite book you read in 2017?