Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Mind-Blowing Mysteries/Thrillers

Mystery and thriller novels were, and still are, some of my favorite genres. Growing up with crime shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Law & Order: SVU led into it. I was obsessed with James Patterson in high school (not the case anymore). Mystery is actually how I got into urban fantasy. Most of the ones I read had a murder mystery plot or had a main character that was some sort of investigator.

Nowadays, I don’t think I read as much mysteries or thrillers as I used to. But I’ve definitely read enough within the last year or so that blew my mind. Those are:

 

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Screenshot_2019-02-04 Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)

The third book in the Cormoran Strike series, Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling explored the more dark side of humanity in this one. We dive deeper into Cormoran Strike’s backstory, mainly the death of his mother Leda Strike and his interactions with two very evil men he investigated while he was still with the army. We also learn more about Robin’s past, which leads me into a trigger warning for rape, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse. Aside from that, I flew through this book as it took me through one twist after the other. After finishing the book, it took me a while to emotionally recover.

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Screenshot_2019-02-04 And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is a classic mystery, published in the 1930s. It follows ten people, who are lured to an island off the coast of England by a mysterious stranger that then traps them inside with the promise of killing them all for their respective crimes. There is no other way on or off the island, so it has to be one of the “guests.” But just when you think it might be one person, they get killed off. Agatha Christie does a good job at making everyone look guilty. And having the characters die one by one to coincide with a creepy nursey rhyme adds a level of gruesomeness to it.

 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Screenshot_2019-04-16 Two Can Keep a Secret

The most recent read on this list, Two Can Keep a Secret is set in a small Vermont town with a reputation for killing teenaged girls. True crime buff Ellery and her twin brother Ezra move to this town to live with their grandmother when another girl goes missing and strange, frightening threats appear. While I’m not sure many would call this book “mind-blowing,” since it is a young adult mystery, I still enjoyed it. I was surprised by who the killer was. Two Can Keep a Secret was highly entertaining and I wanted to give it five stars, only it didn’t quite get there.

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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After being disappointed by Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, I went into The Last Time I Lied with low expectations. It follows Emma, who returns to the camp she visited fifteen years ago to find out what really happened to her three friends who vanished the summer she was thirteen. Like Final Girls, I flew through it, but I enjoyed The Last Time I Lied ten times more. I particularly like mysteries where not all of the characters are likeable, including the main character. The plot kept me guessing and entertained, and the ending I didn’t see coming.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

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Hunting Prince Dracula is the second novel in the Stalking Jack the Ripper and probably my favorite in the series so far, even though I haven’t read the third book, Escaping from Houdini. Hunting Prince Dracula was set in Romania, at a medical school inside a castle. There was a lot of blood, a lot of death, a lot of mystery, and a lot, a lot of steaminess. I actually almost gave Hunting Prince Dracula four stars until the end blew me out of the water.

 

What is your favorite mystery novel you’ve ever read?

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Top 5 Tuesday: Five Mystery Books for Ravenclaws

Growing up, I thought I was a Ravenclaw. I identified more with Luna Lovegood than Hermione Granger, given that Luna was unapologetically a weirdo. I love to read and I put education ahead of most things. Then, Pottermore crushed my dreams. But more on that another week…

Since Ravenclaws love to use their intellect, mystery books are right up their alley. They also might enjoy books that make them think about serious issues other people avoid in polite conversation, and gain a new perspective on things.

Basically, Ravenclaws love to read. So, here are five books I would recommend to Ravenclaws (or anyone else that likes these kinds of books).

 

Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman

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This was the first book I thought of for Ravenclaws. It is a historical mystery set in fifteenth century England and centered around John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. After her father is arrested by the king’s men, Elizabeth Milton teams up with an Italian scientist named Antonio to clear her father’s name. They find the answers they are looking for hidden within Paradise Lost and uncover a secret that could send the medieval world into a frenzy.

Traitor Angels takes one twist and turn after another. It brings up a lot of questions about religion, science, and morality that make you think. Elizabeth Milton is definitely a Ravenclaw, too. While she can use a knife when she needs to, her best weapon is her brain. She’s smart and keeps a cool head in dangerous situations. If you don’t mind books on the slower side, Traitor Angels is a good read for Ravenclaws.

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Screenshot_2019-02-04 And Then There Were None

The mother of all “who done it” books. Agatha Christie does an amazing job at creating morally gray characters and makes it clear no one is innocent. Any of the people trapped on this island inside this mansion could be a killer, or it could even be someone else. You never really know. And Then There Were None is an intense read. I think most Ravenclaws like to be challenged.

 

The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A book about books? Isn’t that what most Ravenclaws want? Both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game have mysteries centered around books. The former is set in 1950s Barcelona, where a young boy becomes enthralled with a mysterious author whose books are being systematically destroyed and sets out to find the culprit. The latter takes place thirty years earlier, following a struggling writer with an unexpected connection to the family from The Shadow of the Wind as he goes on a mission from a benefactor with ulterior motives. While I personally enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind more than The Angel’s Game for its mystery aspect, both are complicated stories with complicated characters.

 

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Screenshot_2019-02-04 I Am the Messenger

One of the more contemporary novels on this list, I Am the Messenger is a mystery, but it focuses on the idea of “do the right thing.” Underage cab driver Ed Kennedy is feeling a little lost until he accidentally stops a bank robbery. After that, an enigmatic mastermind sends him on various missions of helping and occasionally hurting others that need it. Along the way, different questions are asked, leaving it up to Ed (and the reader) to find the answers. I felt intellectually and sometimes morally challenged while reading I Am the Messenger, so I think Ravenclaws would definitely like this one.

 

The Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Is it weird to recommend a book written by the same author who created Hogwarts and the four Houses?

Nah.

The main character, Cormoran Strike, is an army investigator turned private detective that toes the line between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. He is so smart and pays such close attention to detail, it’s amazing how he figures it out. His assistant and the other main character, Robin, is definitely a Ravenclaw; she’s feisty and sharp as a whip. The plots of the novels in this series are intricate, mapped out to the last detail. Something I’m sure a Ravenclaw would appreciate.

 

Have I convinced any Ravenclaws to read at least one of these books? Would you recommend these also?

Autumn 2018 Book Haul Part 1

What’s the best part about working at the library? Going to the bookstore a block away.

Admittedly, I have not been reading much, but I have been buying a lot of books. It’s all a part of self-care…at least that’s what I tell my bank account. Also, many of these books were library books I previously checked out and didn’t get to read, but I really wanted to. Now, I own them, so I can read them whenever I want.

I’m calling this part one because I bought so many books between September and October that I had to split it in half. Not to mention the ones I bought on Black Friday….

From Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the bookstore near my work that I’ve visited frequently over the past several months, I bought:

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

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After reading the first three books in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, I remembered how much I like Greek mythology. The novel is a reimagining of the tale of the sorceress Circe, who Odysseus meets in his travels. But she is more than the Bernadette Peters character from the 1990s miniseries. Circe is the first witch—and a woman who made the king of the gods nervous.

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I am probably one of the few people who have not read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It has the elements I like: an aging movie star, Evelyn Hugo tells her life story to a young reporter and the novel goes back and forth between timelines. Turns out, the reporter, Monique, is connected to Evelyn Hugo’s tragic history in a shocking way. Plus, Evelyn has more than a few secrets. While I am intrigued, the flip side is the book is so hyped, I’m nervous of what will happen if I find any critiques with it.

 

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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My favorite types of historical novels are ones with dual timelines, where a crime or a tragedy in someone’s present timeline affects someone else’s in a future timeline. Next Year in Havana is a generational story following freelance reporter Marisol in 2017, who travels to Cuba to fulfill her late grandmother Elisa’s dying wish to have her ashes scattered in her old country. While in Havana, Marisol discovers family secrets that connect her grandmother, who in 1958 was the sheltered daughter of a sugar baron, to the Cuban revolution and how Elisa’s past can teach her to be brave now.

 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

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Mary Jekyll is penniless following the death of her father, the infamous Dr. Jekyll. When she learns that her father’s murderous friend Edward Hyde has eluded authorities, she sees an opportunity to improve her financial situation by helping Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson track him down. She begins with Edward’s daughter, Diana, who is living on the streets as a feral child. But in doing so, Mary discovers more women who have been victims of horrifying experimentations at the hands of other mad scientists: Justine Frankenstein, Catherine Moreau, and Beatrice Rappaccini. Together, these monster women will take down the monster men that created them.

 

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

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Twenty years ago, reporter Fiona Sheridan’s older sister was murdered and her body was found near the ruins of Idlewild Hall, an institution for “troubled” girls. Though her sister’s boyfriend was convicted for the crime, something about the case never sat right with Fiona. With Idlewild Hall under renovations by a mysterious benefactor, she takes the opportunity to investigate its ties to her sister’s death. In doing so, she finds that, in 1950, another girl had vanished and someone in the present day will do anything to make sure his or her secrets are never uncovered.

 

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

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Five years ago, Venus Black was a straight-A student with a passion for astronomy—until she commits a horrible crime. She won’t say why she did it; all she says is that she blames her mother. To make matters worse, her younger brother, Leo, goes missing. When Venus is released from juvy with a new identity, Leo is still missing, and she moves to Seattle for a fresh start. But when she meets new people, mainly a girl who reminds her so much of her past self, Venus realizes the only way to have a future is to confront the demons of her past.

 

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

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On the surface, Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil are the image of a fairy tale. He’s the son of an old Knickerbocker family and she’s an English rose that grew up in a Tudor manor house. Then, Bayard is found with a knife in his chest and Annabelle is presumed drowned midst rumors she’s having an affair. Only Bay’s sister Janie is convinced someone killed both of them. Teaming up with a reporter, she digs deep into their lives and finds out she did not know her brother or Annabelle as well as she thought she did.

 

The King’s Witch by Tracy Borman

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Frances Gorges only wants to go back to her normal life after serving as a beloved healer in the royal court for several years and taking care of Queen Elizabeth I on her deathbed. She especially wants to get out after King James of Scotland takes the throne. Unlike his predecessor, James is a Puritan and does not tolerate anything that could be thought of as witchcraft. But when Frances is forced back to James’s court to care for the princess, whom she grows very fond of, she becomes swept up in what is to be the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

 

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

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Jon and Chloe are best friends, the only people who understand each other in their small New Hampshire town. Then, Jon’s substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity abducts him. Eventually, he escapes, only to discover he has a new power that puts anyone he has strong feelings for in danger, especially Chloe. He runs away to find answers, but is chased by a detective investigating a series of vigilante killings that could be connected to Jon’s abduction.

 

Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black

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Years ago, Valentine watched her mother murder a man in cold blood and then be hanged for it. Since then, she has lived alone in their small town, where she faces suspicion and ridicule. When a string of murders happen, the townspeople immediately suspect her. Surprisingly, the only person who believes Valentine is innocent is Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed. Valentine takes it upon herself to catch the real killer, but doing so could expose her own secrets, as well as an unexpected truth about her mother.

 

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carols Ruiz Zafon

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Ever had that feeling when you discover an author you adore came out with another book you had no idea about? That’s what happened to me. I was in the bookstore near my work and I saw it on the shelves. Not only that, it is part of his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The Labyrinth of the Spirits follows Alicia Gris, a spy for the Spanish secret police, who is investigating the disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, leading her to Fermin and the Sempere family. I already know from Zafon’s previous books this will go in every possible twist and turn you can imagine, expertly blending in history and literature. And I want to read it now.

 

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

escapingfromhoudini

The third novel in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, Escaping from Houdini is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Unfortunately, since its release, it has not been getting the best reviews. I actually watched a spoiler-filled video on it, with the intent to mentally prepare myself for when I do read the book. And I don’t think my emotions will be able to handle it.

 

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling

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The book I have been waiting for the past two years, Lethal White is the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series. While everyone else has been begging for more Harry Potter stories, I’m in my little corner tapping my foot, waiting for more on Strike and Robin. But even though I want to read Lethal White immediately, I know it will likely be another two or three years before we see the next installment. I don’t think I will be able to last that long once I read this book, especially if it is heading in the direction I think it is.

 

Vanilla by Billy Merrell

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This is a book that always caught my eye whenever I visited that indie bookstore near my work. It is a coming-of-age story about first love between two boys, Vanilla and Hunter. The boys have been together since seventh grade but now they are in high school and having problems, such as Vanilla isn’t sure if he wants to have sex with Hunter and he doesn’t like his boyfriend’s friends.

I wanted to check this book out of the library, but after a few visits and noticing no one bought it, I caved. Still, I have faith I will enjoy it, because I want to read more LGBTQ books and it is written in verse.

 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

murderontheorientexpress

I read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie last year and I want to read more of her works. Problem is, I never know which one to pick up next. Murder on the Orient Express was recently made into a movie and, from what I’ve seen, it seems like one of her most popular novels after And Then There Were None. It follows the famed fictional detective Hercule Poirot as he investigates a baffling murder on a train where everyone is guilty, and a killer lurks among the passengers.

 

Mirage by Samaiya Duad

mirage

Eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer that longs for adventure away from her occupied homeland. She gets her wish in the most unexpected way when she is abducted to the royal court. Turns out, she is nearly identical to the cruel Princess Maram, who is so hated by the conquered kingdom she needs a body double to act in her place in public. Though forced into her new role, Amani can’t help but fall for the beauty of the royal palace lifestyle—and the princess’s fiancée. But if she wants to survive, she must play a dangerous political game that could get her killed.

 

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

seafire

After reading the Daughter of the Pirate King duology by Tricia Levenseller, I am itching for more pirate books. Seafire follows a crew of pirate women, led by Caledonia Styx, who are survivors of the destruction left behind by a bloodthirsty warlord Aric Athair. The crew are hell-bent on revenge, especially Caledonia, who lost her entire family at the hands of Aric. The girls rely only on each other, but when a boy saves one of them and wishes to defect from the warlord’s men, Caledonia wonders if this boy will ruin everything they’ve worked for if they take him on.

 

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

thesilenceofthegirls

The Silence of the Girls follows Briseis, the queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms that was conquered by the Greek warrior Achilles and his army. After her husband and brothers are killed in the war, she is made Achilles’s concubine and sent to a camp along with other women. Then, she finds herself in between Achilles and the brutal political leader Agamemnon, the two men who lead the Greek army into a confrontation that will forever change the ancient world. But The Silence of the Girls is really about those history forgot: the women in the Greek camps.

 

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

themermaidandmrshancock

One night in 1785, merchant Jonah Hancock opens his front door to one of his captains eagerly informing him he sold one of Jonah’s ships for a mermaid. Except this mermaid is a corpse and it looks nothing like Ariel. This astounding discovery catapults Jonah into high society, where he meets the beautiful courtesan Angelica Neal. Driven by this chance encounter, these two ambitious individuals soon realize that even the most priceless of objects can lead to the greatest of consequences.

 

To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

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I thought I had to wait a full agonizing year for The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One after binge-reading the previous books in this poetry series The Princess Saves Herself in This One and The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. Then, Amanda Lovelace pulled a Beyoncé with To Make Monsters Out of Girls. It is another poetry collection, originally published on Wattpad under a different title, but now edited and illustrated for my eager eyeballs.

 

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

pride

A remix of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Pride is set in a gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood where Zuri Benitez lives with her family. Proud of her neighborhood and her Afro-Latino roots, she is not the least bit thrilled when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street with their plans to “clean up.” She makes every effort to avoid the Darcy’s two sons, even as her older sister falls for one of them. But as she is forced to find common ground with arrogant Darius Darcy, Zuri struggles to find her place in a world she was once so familiar with.

 

Rule by Ellen Goodlett

rule

Though I have not read the original source material, lately I have been drawn to retellings of King Lear by William Shakespeare. Unfortunately, the last one I read, The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton, I just could not get into, no matter how much I liked her writing style. However, Rule seems to be a little more up my alley. Three girls who are from different parts of the kingdom are brought to the dying king’s royal court. Turns out, they are his illegitimate daughters and, following the mysterious death of their half-brother, are his only heirs. Only one can succeed the throne, so the girls will have to compete for the crown. But someone knows their deepest, darkest secrets and is intent on keeping the girls from fulfilling their destiny to rule.

 

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

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Shadow of the Fox follows two characters, one a samurai and the other a Kitsune (a fox shape-shifter), who are hunting for the missing pieces of a scroll that could summon a dragon to grant a wish. The last wish 1,000 years ago left their world in chaos, and the hope is that a new wish could save the kingdom. Both main characters are keeping secrets—such as one of them already has a piece of the scroll—but they have to work together before the scroll falls into the wrong hands again.

 

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

thedarkdescentofelizabethfrankenstein

Elizabeth Lavenza is an orphan on the verge of being kicked out into the streets when she is adopted by the Frankenstein family to be a companion to their odd son Victor. While she is treated very well by the Frankensteins, her survival depends on keeping Victor happy. No matter how depraved his requests are, she complies. But in all her manipulation, Elizabeth could never have imagined what he would ask her to do next.

 

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

givethedarkmylove

Seventeen-year-old Nedra leaves her rural hometown of Lunar Island to attend a prestigious academy to study medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student, she does not quite fit in with her wealthy classmates, who look down on her. Except for Grey Astor, who is taken by Nedra’s intelligence and her dedication to her studies. Then, a deadly plague sweeps through the countryside, getting dangerously close to Nedra’s family in the north and to the cities. As the body count rises and the need for a cure turns to desperation, she turns to the darkest practice of alchemy: necromancy.

 

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

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Anouk is a Beastie, an animal enchanted into human form, and destined to serve the evil witch that turned her. When the madam is found murdered, Anouk fears she will be blamed for it. Pursued by the Haute, a magical underground society, Anouk and the other Beasties go on the run through Paris. But they have three days to find the real killer before they turn back into their animal forms for good. And, as Anouk will find out, the Beasties might have more power than they ever knew.

 

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

thebonelessmercies

April Genevieve Tucholke is one of those authors where there is a 50/50 chance I will not like her books. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea? Not crazy about the romance or the plot. Wink Poppy Midnight? An almost-five star read for its setting and complex characters. Then, I found out she was releasing The Boneless Mercies, which is a gender-bent retelling of Beowulf with five female mercenaries hunting a monster. A reimagining of my favorite epic poem with an all-female cast in April Genevieve Tucholke’s quirky writing style? I’m in!

 

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

whenwecaughtfire

Emmeline, though part of Chicago’s high society and engaged to its most eligible bachelor, can’t forget her childhood sweetheart, Anders. Her childhood best friend, Fiona, has pursued Anders, but when he hooks up with Emmeline one last time, Fiona feels betrayed. Finding out a love triangle was the main plot point almost put me off—until I found out these three lovers are somehow connected to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Now, you have my attention, When We Caught Fire.

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

thelasttimeilied

The only book in this portion of the haul that I previously read, The Last Time I Lied is about Emma, who returns to the camp where her three friends disappeared fifteen years ago to get to the bottom of the mystery of what happened that night. I never thought I would love this book as much as I did, after being so let down by Final Girls. I’m still thinking about The Last Time I Lied, too, months after reading it. I had to have my own copy, even if just to reread my favorite scenes. Limited space be damned.

 

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

bridgeofclay

Bridge of Clay probably trumps Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas for a lot of people’s most anticipated released of this year—if not life. It is the first book Markus Zusak has published in ten years since The Book Thief. All I know about it is that it follows five brothers living with an abusive alcoholic father in Australia and there is a murder that happens. Whether or not it is one of the brothers that is murdered or someone else, that’s all I need to know. Bridge of Clay is a book I want to go into knowing as little as possible.

 

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

averylargeexpanseofsea

Tahereh Mafi is a very popular author I have known about for years yet I keep putting her books on the backburner. I’ve heard mixed things about her Shatter Me trilogy. I have it on my list of books to check out from the library, but I forget it’s there until I’m adding new books to the list. Then, A Very Large Expanse of Sea was announced.

What drew me to this novel was the fact that it is set in 2002 and follows a Muslim teenager who uses break dancing to cope with the abuse she has suffered since the attacks on 9/11. When she meets a boy brave enough to get close to her, she wonders if it is time to finally let people in again. Of all Tahereh Mafi’s books, A Very Large Expanse of Sea is one I knew I had to read.

 

Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph, & Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

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The His Fair Assassins trilogy is a series I have wanted to read for years. I had it on a list of books I wanted to check out from the library, but always forgot they existed as new titles came out. His Fair Assassins are companion novels following three girls training to be assassins at a nunnery run by Death himself. I saw on BookTube that the series was getting new covers in preparation for the first book in the spin-off series, Courting Darkness. I hate to say it, but the cover changes is what mainly inspired me to finally pick up this series. The covers catch my eye every time I look at my shelves, so now there is positively no way I could forget about them.

 

What books have you bought recently?

(And part 2 coming in a couple of weeks…)

 

Get to Know Ya Tag!

I found the Get to Know Ya Tag on Kristin Kraves Books. I saw the opportunity to talk about some books I have not mentioned on my blog for a while now, or maybe some I’ve never mentioned before. Plus, it’s a super fun tag getting to know people.

I don’t know who created it, but if you do know, give them a shout out.

 

Favorite book of all time

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I honestly have no idea how to answer this question. It’s like asking me to choose my favorite child, or more appropriately, since I am childless, my favorite friend. That, and I firmly believe that nobody can have just one favorite book. How is that even possible?

So, I’m going to choose five of my all-time favorite books, which are:

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

 

Favorite book five years ago

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At first, I was going to say maybe The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong or Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. For the heck of it, I checked on Goodreads for my reading stats in 2013. That was the year I picked up Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect was the first novel in a young adult mystery/thriller series following Tandoori “Tandy” Angel, the daughter of two extremely wealthy parents who are found dead in their bedroom. The only suspects are Tandy, her twin brother Harry, and her younger brother Hugo, as well as their older brother Matthew. There were a lot of twists and turns as Tandy tries to figure out who killed her parents, even if it means she did it, but the plot twist shook me to my core. I was obsessed with Confessions of a Murder Suspect, as well as its sequel, The Private School Murders, which I also read in 2013.

 

Favorite Duology/Trilogy/Series

Not surprisingly, I have an answer for all three of these.

Duology: It’s a tie between The Wrath and the Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh and the Passenger duology by Alexandra Bracken. Both of these made me feel everything plus they were fun, exciting reads with characters I adored.

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Trilogy: Easily the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I found very little fault in these books when I read them. However, since I have not read Lord of Shadows yet and Queen of Air and Darkness is not out until December, I’m wondering if maybe The Dark Artifices will soon take its place as my favorite trilogy. And there are a few other contenders on my TBR that could prove worthy competition.

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Series: Does it count if your favorite series are incomplete? The two series (again, I’m indecisive) that I am certain are my favorites are the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco and the An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. I just loved everything about these books.

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Last book you read

At the time I am writing this, the last book I read was A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell, a cheesy thriller about two mothers you think are best friends but they both have deep, dark secrets they use to manipulate each other. Unfortunately, it was not that entertaining.

 

Last book of poetry you read

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The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace, which I read and bought as soon as it came out. While I did enjoy it, sadly, I did not love it as much as her debut collection.

 

What book most influenced your life?

Honestly…I can’t say it was just one book, because a lot of books have influenced me in different ways throughout the years. To name a few:

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume is the book that awoke my passion for storytelling and inspired my first “novel” when I was eight years old.

At fifteen, The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong made me realize my strongest writing niche was in the fantasy and paranormal genres.

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The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur came to me earlier this year, making me feel empowered when I wasn’t really feeling like it.

 

 

 

 

 

Book that made you ugly cry

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Definitely A List of Cages by Robin Roe made me ugly cry. It takes a lot to make me cry in books in general. With this book, it was a full on sob fest.

 

Book that made you laugh

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All the Rick Riordan books I’ve read so far. That includes the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series plus the first two books in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune.

 

Character you’d like to be for a day.

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No brainer: Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I get to practice magic and go to Hogwarts, plus share a brain with one of the most badass women in literature.

 

Book so good you dreamt about it

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Hmmm…. I don’t remember my dreams. I remember my nightmares though. One book that was really good but also one I should not have read before bed was The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich. There was a scene with a mirror…and I have one in my bedroom, right across from my bed, so it took me a while to go back to sleep after.

 

Book you DNF’D

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After You by Jojo Moyes, which I tried to read over a year ago. I got about 35 pages in before I had to put it down. I think it bothered me that Me Before You got a sequel when it was perfectly fine as a stand-alone, in my opinion. However, I’ve heard decent things about the third book, Still Me, when Louisa goes to New York City, so I might pick up After You again, eventually.

 

What book are you most excited to read?

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

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

…To name a few.

mostexcitedreads

 

I tag….

Grey (once she’s back from her hiatus! I completely forgot. Sorry Grey!)

Crystal

Shanah

Joe

And anyone else that wants to do this tag!

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?

December 2017 Wrap Up

2017 is almost over…and I’m really excited about that…

In December, I read a total of six books, among them four library books and one reread. Unfortunately, I did not get to all the books I wanted to on my TBR for this month. There were library books I had checked out that I didn’t get to in time before their due date. They were also ones I was excited for, too. But overall, I’m satisfied with how I finished my 2017 reading year.

This month, I read:

 

The Monogram Murders by Agatha Christie, as told by Sophie Hannah

4.5 stars

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I had picked The Monogram Murders up previously in November, but I had put it down due to being in a reading slump. What I read, though, I enjoyed enough that I decided to pick it up again in December.

The Monogram Murders is, to my knowledge, the first novel in a spin-off series to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels. Christie’s descendants have approved for Sophie Hannah to resurrect Christie’s most beloved fictional character. In this first novel, Hercule is retired but has befriended Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard, who is recently put in charge of a triple-homicide at a hotel where the victims are found with monogramed cufflinks in their mouths. Hercule becomes involved after he encounters a woman in fear of being murdered but insists he do nothing to prevent her death.

The Monogram Murders is written in a different style than Agatha Christie’s original work, but it made the story readable. The plot was well thought out, though it dragged in some spots. The characters were compelling; Hercule and Catchpool have a good working relationship, with the former being a mentor to the latter. My biggest qualm with this book was likely the ending, as it felt too rushed. Overall, The Monogram Murders was enjoyable and I’m glad I finally read it.

 

On the Fence by Kasie West (library book)

2 stars

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After reading On the Fence, I knew I was wise to go into Kasie West’s early novels with low expectations. I would not go as far as to say as this book was one of the worst books of the year, except there were some minor issues with it.

Charlie, the main character, was a tomboy raised by a single dad and three older brothers. Her mother died when she was a little girl and she did not have a lot of female influence in her life. The plot is basically her exploring the stereotypical “feminine” activities like wearing makeup and sparkly stuff while dealing with her crush on her neighbor, Braden. At that, I had to ask myself, what is wrong with being a tomboy, preferring to do sports and not wear makeup? I personally admire women who are athletic. And I don’t wear makeup either—I don’t have the patience for it. Yet, this book felt like Charlie should give it up for the sake of being more “feminine.”

On the Fence also felt slightly sexist, particularly in the way Charlie is treated by her older brothers and Braden. One scene sticks out to me where Braden tries to give Charlie pointers in a sport where she clearly knew what she was doing and she ignores him. He gets mad at her and her brother reprimands her for not taking those pointers. Seriously, the book started to smell like wounded male ego. But that’s just me.

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (reread)

4 stars

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I finished my Harry Potter reread for 2017 by reading what I thought was my favorite book in the series. There was a lot I had to say about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and not all of them good.

We all love Hermione; she’s bright and responsible for someone her age. But she’s still thirteen; she has not reached full maturity yet, so why trust her with a potentially dangerous item like a time-turner? Next, Ron and Hermione are good friends to Harry, but they do not fully understand what he goes through, judging by their respective reactions to the Grim and their insistence on dragging him in the middle of the drama. On that note, I cannot fathom how Ron and Hermione even become a thing. And, lastly, most controversial of all: the movie was better than the book.

I can say I’m glad I finally read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before 2018. I turn 25 in January and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is when the series starts to take a darker, more mature turn. For my full spoiler-filled review, click the link in the title.

 

Every Last World by Tamera Ireland Stone (library book)

3.75 stars

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Every Last Word is on the most serious side of young adult contemporary, which I tend to reach for more often than the fluffier material. This one follows Samantha, a popular high school junior hiding her OCD from her friends. When a new friend named Caroline introduces her to an underground poetry club called Poet’s Corner, Sam realizes there is more to life, and herself, than who and what her friends want her to be.

I enjoyed Every Last Word very much. It is a good, solid contemporary that offered a realistic portrayal of mental illness and how a teenager would deal with it. While I personally do not have OCD, I do have friends that do; so, I have seen firsthand on what happens when one of them has a bad OCD day. I also liked Samantha as a protagonist and several other characters in the story. Though I wish we had seen a little more of her family regarding how they dealt with Sam’s OCD diagnosis.

I had two issues with it that caused me to cut down my overall rating. One has more to do with me than the book itself. Samantha’s interactions with her best friends brought back a lot of uncomfortable adolescent memories for me. Second, the “plot twist” as it were made no sense to me. And the logic behind it left me even more confused. Then again, I did not go to school for psychology, so I have no idea if it is even possible.

 

Final Girls by Riley Sager (library book)

3 stars

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In case you have been living under a rock, Final Girls is a popular adult mystery following Quincy Carpenter, a young woman that is the sole survivor of a massacre where five of her friends were butchered by a psychopath while the group was on vacation at a placed called Pine Cottage. She becomes what is known as a “Final Girl,” one of three women who have survived horror-movie like massacres that are idealized by the media.

The novel takes place ten years later, when Quincy’s supposed normal life is disrupted by the suicide of Lisa, the first Final Girl, and the arrival of the secretive second Final Girl, Samantha Boyd. Midst all this, the memories of the night her friends died slowly start returning to Quincy, forcing her to finally face what really happened at Pine Cottage.

I picked up Final Girls mainly because it was a nominee for the Goodreads Best Books of the Year. Unfortunately, the overall book fell flat for me. While I found Quincy realistic to her character’s circumstances and it was a fast read, I was bored most of the time. What really ruined the experience for me was the “big reveal”—it felt like the author was aiming more for shock factor than logic.

 

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand (library book)

4.5 stars

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A retelling of A Christmas Carol, The Afterlife of Holly Chase was a great book to read for Christmas. It follows Holly, who works as the Ghost of Christmas Past for Project Scrooge, an organization dedicated to redeeming a “Scrooge” every year. Holly herself is a failed Scrooge; five years prior, the Ghosts visited her and showed her what would happen if she did not change her ways. She didn’t and then she died. But this year, everything changes for Holly at Project Scrooge when the organization reveals its new Scrooge: Ethan Winters.

Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy is one of my favorite series. So, I should not be surprised I loved The Afterlife of Holly Chase as much as I did. While she was annoying at times, Holly had good character development. At the end, you really see a positive change that you might not have expected.

Like the love interests in Unearthly, Ethan had his moments where you really wanted to strangle him, yet you can’t help but love him. The other workers at Project Scrooge are just delightful.

For most of the book, I wanted to give it 3.75 or 4 stars…then the ending happened. I loved the ending to this book. So much, it actually made it on to my list of favorite books of 2017. Unfortunately, it was also a library book. Hopefully, I will get to add it to my own collection soon.

 

What was your favorite book you read in December?

My Top 5 Favorite Top 5 Tuesday of 2017

Before I started participating in Bionic Bookworm’s Top 5 Tuesday, I did not feel as connected to the blogging community as I would have liked. Then, slowly, as I started writing more, I found a little corner of the bookish social media I could really be a part of. Some entries have made me think and pushed me out of my comfort zone. That is something I need as a writer. Plus, the Top 5 Tuesday posts got me talking to fellow bookish people when there are so few in my real life.

So, thank you Shanah! ❤ And thank you to J.W. Martin for bringing us all together for this!

 

Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog (November 21st, 2017)

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If I had to pick my favorite post of 2017 overall, Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog would be my first answer. It made me think hard about why I chose to blog.

I started my blog after I graduated college and found myself unemployed for several months. I needed something to do and to build my portfolio so future employers could take me seriously. But there was more to it than that. Blogging gave me a routine I needed during a time I felt so unproductive and a little lost.

 

Top 5 “New to Me” Authors in 2017 (December 12th, 2017)

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I thought I didn’t have anything to contribute to this post. Then, I looked at my Goodreads and I realized I did read five “new to me” authors that I did enjoy. Without this post, I might have forgotten about these authors.

The first is Becky Albertalli, who wrote The Upside of Unrequited, one of my favorite young adult contemporary novels out of the whole year. Kasie West, who wrote P.S. I Like You, a lighthearted, fluffy contemporary; a genre I did not always reach for that has unexpected qualities.

Then, there is Agatha Christie with her famous And Then There Were None. I had heard of her for years and I’m so happy I finally read on of her books. Next is Susan Dennard with her book Truthwitch. I dare to say I enjoyed that more than any Sarah J. Maas book. Lastly is Lyndsay Faye, who wrote Jane Steele, one of my all-time favorite books of the year about a morally conflicted but ultimately good-natured female serial killer in Victorian London.

 

(Not so) Top 5 Books I Want for Christmas (December 19th, 2017)

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Probably my favorite one to write out of the whole year, especially since I know most book people can relate. We just want ALL THE BOOKS!!!

It was writing this particular Top 5 Tuesday that got me into the Christmas spirit with all that I have going on right now. I had to laugh at myself for having such a book addiction but not really caring because they were all books I genuinely wanted. Plus, the comments left by people (like Shanah) were so sweet, they made me feel better.

 

Top 5 Most Read Authors (October 3rd, 2017)

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I picked Top 5 Most Read Authors because this one had some surprising answers. When I looked on Goodreads, the top five were: Meg Cabot, Kelley Armstrong, Francine Pascal, V.C. Andrews, and Cassandra Clare.

Meg Cabot and Kelley Armstrong were not a surprise at all. I was obsessed with Meg Cabot all through middle school and high school. Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy and Women of the Otherworld series were game-changers for me. Both these authors are currently still writing and have books I am still interested in reading…once I get my physical TBR pile down to a decent size.

Francine Pascal is the mastermind behind the Sweet Valley franchise, which was the book series that took over my childhood while everyone else was getting lost in Hogwarts. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure why I loved these books so much—they were basically soap operas in book form. But I don’t regret it necessarily, because I was a different reader back then. Only I’m pretty sure I have read more Sweet Valley books than 24…there are likely some I have forgotten about.

V.C. Andrews and Cassandra Clare were the surprises. I had no idea I had read so many books by them (12 for Andrews, 11 for Clare). V.C. Andrews was one of my obsessions in high school. I still own some of her books that I have not read yet (or I have but just don’t remember reading) but I want to get back into her works. She’s the one who got me interested in modern Gothic literature and messed-up family dramas.

As for Cassandra Clare, she is still a current obsession. I have not read Lord of Shadows or The Bane Chronicles by her yet. The former I plan to remedy next year. I don’t know when I will ever get to The Bane Chronicles.

 

Top 5 Favorite Villains (July 11th, 2017)

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This Top 5 Tuesday made me realize I love female villains, since they tend to be more complicated and crazier than the male ones. Like Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses or the Commandant from An Ember in the Ashes series, to name two of the more well-known ones. When most people think “villain,” I doubt the word “female” comes to their mind when they assume a gender. Plus, this post was just fun in general, because who doesn’t love a good bad guy (or girl)?

 

Thank you Shanah for creating Top 5 Tuesday! I can’t wait to see what topics you come up with in 2018. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 “New to Me” Authors in 2017

Sadly, there were not a lot of “new to me” authors in 2017. This was not the best reading year, in terms of quality…but more on that later. On the flip side, the new authors I did discover were good ones whose books I will pick up again.

 

Agatha Christie

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I read Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None around Halloween this year and I own another book by her, The Monogram Murders. She’s a great mystery writer. And Then There Were None was a fast-paced mystery with morally gray characters: that’s how I like my mystery novels. I attempted to read The Monogram Murders, but I was in the middle of a reading slump. What little I read, though, I enjoyed.

 

Becky Albertalli

simon

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The Upside of Unrequited, which is Becky Albertalli’s second published novel, blew up on BookTube in the spring. At the time, I was just starting to get into lighthearted young adult contemporary novels. Though I’m 24, I never related so hard to a contemporary novel like I did to The Upside of Unrequited. It’s a story about a shy overweight girl who has had 26 crushes but no boyfriend and finally has the initiative to change that. The writing wasn’t anything special, but it was a fun read. Because of The Upside of Unrequited, I bought Becky Albertalli’s first novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It’s one of the books I am most excited to read.

 

Susan Dennard

I had heard of Susan Dennard years ago. Her fantasy novel, Truthwitch, was everywhere. I meant to check it out of the library, but when my birthday in January rolled around, I bought myself a bunch of books. Truthwitch was one of them. I figured I take a chance on it, because the reviews promised badass witches, strong lady friendships, and diversity. After being slightly disappointed by Sarah J. Maas, I needed that. Truthwitch did not disappoint and I soon bought the sequel, Windwitch. No, I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my priority TBR for 2018.

 

Kasie West

I received Kasie West’s novel P.S. I Like You from an Owlcrate box. The story follows Lily, a high school junior that starts exchanging letters with an unknown classmate in her chemistry class in a You’ve Got Mail situation. It was cute and easy to read. It also encouraged me to pick up more young adult contemporary, which then led to The Upside of Unrequited. I also bought her latest release, Lucky in Love. However, I have heard mixed things about Kasie West’s books, so I am keeping my expectations low going forward.

 

Lyndsay Faye

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I read Jane Steele, which is a reimagining of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, in April and loved it. In fact, I dare say I enjoyed it more than the actual Jane Eyre. The main character, Jane Steele, was a good-natured but morally conflicted serial killer. The writing was beautiful and showed a darker, more realistic side of Victorian London. Charles Thornfield, the Mr. Rochester of the story, is ten times sexier than the original. I am interested in reading more of Lyndsay Faye’s work, particularly since one of them is called The Gods of Gotham.

 

What was your favorite “new to you” author of 2017?

October 2017 Wrap Up

Happy Halloween!

I am normally hard on myself for not reading more than five books in a month. Only, given the state of my personal life and this reading slump I’m in, the chance of me reading more books is unlikely. I read only four books in October, but on the bright side, none of them were under four stars. In fact, most of them were very good.

In October, I read:

 

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (library book)

4 stars

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I picked up Alias Grace mainly because the miniseries is due to go live on Netflix in November and I wanted to read the book before I watched the show. It follows Grace Marks, an Irish woman convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress in 1840s Canada. A young American psychiatrist, Simon Jordan, is enlisted by Grace’s supporters to prove her innocence. Only as Simon peels back the layers of a surprisingly complicated woman, he realizes that Grace might not be the conniving murderess people are convinced she is.

If I were to rate Alias Grace among the three books by Margaret Atwood I have read, I did not like it as much as I did The Handmaid’s Tale but I liked it more than The Blind Assassin. I go into my full thoughts and opinions in my review. https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/review-of-alias-grace-by-margaret-atwood-spoiler-free/

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

5 stars

andthentherewerenonereview

My favorite book I read this month, And Then There Were None is the first book I have read by Agatha Christie. It is also praised to be the greatest mystery ever written and it did not disappoint.

Ten strangers are lured to an island by a mysterious host than claims each individual is responsible for a murder. One by one, the guests are murdered in correspondence to a nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians.” Agatha Christie did a great job at creating morally gray characters. I go into full detail in my review, but overall I enjoyed And Then There Were None. https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/review-of-and-then-there-were-none-by-agatha-christie-spoiler-free/

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (reread)

4.5 stars

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Continuing with my end of 2017 reread of the Harry Potter series, I read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this month. Reading this novel, I started to see how this book is usually people’s least favorite. Chamber of Secrets is easily a filler novel until the resurrection of Voldemort in Goblet of Fire. However, I can’t deny its value with the Easter egg of Tom Riddle’s diary, which will come into play in later books. For all my spoiler thoughts, go see my review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/thoughts-i-had-rereading-harry-potter-and-the-chamber-of-secrets-as-an-adult/

 

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

4 stars

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Bluebeard was one of the classics I wanted to read before the end of 2017 and it took me by surprise. I expected it to be as weird as Vonnegut’s most famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, but it read more like an actual autobiography, albeit fictional. I really liked Rabo as a main character. The writing was great and the story enjoyable. It was basically an elderly man reflecting on his life as an artist as he makes friends with a widow renting a room in his house on the Hamptons.

 

What was your favorite book you read in October?

The Music Book Tag

The Music Book Tag was created by bookchanted and I wasn’t tagged by anybody, but this looked so fun I wanted to participate, too.

 

Ed Sheeran: an adorable book that left you feeling warm and fuzzy.

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli was cuteness overload. It was very lighthearted the whole way through. The kind of book I needed to keep away a reading slump towards the end of the summer.

 

Taylor Swift: a book with way too much drama to keep track of.

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The Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor is a book that comes to mind. The main plot of the novel had a lot of drama to begin with, but then extra stuff involving friends and family were thrown in. At its core, The Definitions of Indefinable Things was a good book, but it had too much drama for my liking.

 

Zayn Malik: the broody, mysterious character you totally fell for.

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Like Zayn from the formerly One Direction band, broody boys don’t do it for me. In fact, they annoy me most of the time. The only broody, mysterious character I can think of that won me over was Khalid from The Wrath & the Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh. Mainly because he had a reason to be broody, though at his core he was a kindhearted person, a good ruler that only wanted the best of his people, and I agreed with his philosophy that he did not say the words “I love you” to people he loved, but chose to express it through his actions.

 

Jelena: a ship you really wanted but it never sailed. (Selena could do better, honestly.)

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Celeana Sardothian and Chaol Westfall from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. That is all I’m going to say.

 

Fall out Boy (aka one of my favorite bands ever): a series that just keeps getting better and better.

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The Half-Bad trilogy by Sally Green, which follows a war between white witches and black magic witches in modern-day London. The story is dark from the beginning, but only becomes more so as the books go on. All the characters are morally gray. The magic system is complex. And the government of witches is filled with twisted psychopaths.

Seriously, read this trilogy if you haven’t already.

 

Halsey/Demi Lovato: badass female character you really admire.

cityofsaintsandthieves

Easily Tina from City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson, who is a Congo refugee that survived by her wits in the streets of a Kenyan city as a thief and doesn’t use how hard her life was as an excuse for anything. She just rolls with it and lives her life by her terms. I don’t remember her ever complaining about unfair her life was. Tina’s sole motivation was getting justice for those who deserved it.

 

One Direction: the romantic, cheesy book you couldn’t help but love.

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is not exactly what I would call cheesy. Don is a genetics professor hired by a young woman named Rosie to help her locate her biological father while in search of his perfect mate. Though the attraction is strong, Rosie does not fit Don’s requirements for a significant other, but as they grow closer, he opens up to the possibility that not everything can be solved by logic or science. So, the book does cover some serious topics, but in a more lighthearted, humorous manner that pulls at the heartstrings.

 

Adele: a book that delivers a really powerful message.

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A book I thought of that I don’t talk about often is The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout. It follows Mallory, who is reunited with her foster brother Rider after four years. When she discovers he’s involved in some dangerous activities, she struggles to find her voice again after years of abuse at the hands of her and Rider’s former foster parents. Rider also learns that just because he was a foster kid does not mean he doesn’t have a chance in building a new life for himself, especially since he has so many people around him offering support.

 

Miley Cyrus: a book/series that exceeded your expectations.

andthentherewerenonereview

A recent read for me, which was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Classic novels are always a hit or miss, as they are open to interpretation. And Then There Were None is declared one of the greatest mysteries of all time and Agatha Christie reigns as the Queen of Mystery. Needless to say, the book lived up to its reputation and did not disappoint.

 

Katy Perry: a book/series that didn’t live up to the hype. HA HA!

theoutsiders

Definitely The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton for me. In hindsight, I suppose the author was being realistic in her writing about the characters, but I just did not connect to it. I felt very underwhelmed the whole time and, for such a short book, it took me a long time to read.

 

I tag anyone that wants to do this tag!