Mid Year Recap

(July 2022)

Amidst trauma, a difficult year of public school teaching, and several reading slumps, I’ve still managed to read some outstanding books this year. Here is a full list of titles with more detailed highlights of my favorites so far in 2022.

Books Read:

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Grenade by Alan Gratz
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
True Beauty by Yaongyi
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson (reread)
Saga (Vol 1 & 2) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (reread)

Highlights

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

In an effort to read books that had been on my bookshelf for awhile, I drew this title (written on a slip of paper) from a jar. This was my first book by Becky Albertalli and it won’t be my last! This book was delightful! I adored Molly and Reid as characters. The Maryland setting was a fun surprise, as that’s where I’m from. The themes of first love, self esteem, and sisterhood were thoughtfully done. Highly recommend!

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

This audiobook was truly outstanding and I can’t imagine reading this book any other way. With three different point-of-view characters, the narrator (Julia Whelan) expertly crafts distinct speaking styles for each character and makes them come to life. This book tackles tough topics such as adoption, teen pregnancy, alcohol addiction, guilt, family, and belonging. There is a reason this is a National Book Award Winner, but I’d encourage you to experience it in audiobook form. I couldn’t wait to have a quiet moment to listen and the characters stuck with me long after I was finished. Highly recommend!

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

I’ve always had a thing for post-apocalyptic survival stories, and this one caught my eye on a school library visit with my classes. Another book with three point-of-view perspectives, I grew to care about each character. My favorite scene took place in an abandoned Books-a-Million store, and I was quite upset that they didn’t just spend the rest of the book camping out there (that’s what I would have done). This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea right now with reminders of recent pandemic experiences. My biggest takeaway was how this book inspired gratitude for small moments in everyday life. I found the ending to be a tad anti-climactic, but if you enjoy this genre and want something weird, give it a shot.

Daughter of the Pirate King and Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

This series was recommended to me by a student, and I thoroughly enjoyed them! Pure pirate fun! The series is a blend of fantasy, action adventure, and romance intended for a young adult audience. The main character, Alosa, is a witty and confident female pirate captain. Loved her! While I predicted a few twists, overall the pacing, world-building, and sharp dialogue were excellent and made for an engaging read! Highly recommend if you are looking for a fun and light young adult read.

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton

This is one that I can’t wait to recommend to next year’s students. Middle grade fantasy is one of my most requested genres and this will certainly feed that appetite. If you’ve read Dhonielle Clayton’s YA title The Belles, you’ll know that she excels at world-building. And while I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in the world of The Belles, the world of The Marvellers is a different story! The Arcanum Training Institute is a magical boarding school in the sky with sensory descriptions that paint a vivid world in the imagination. With a diverse cast of characters from all over the globe and opportunities to have conversations about bullying and prejudice, this is a fantastic addition to classrooms and libraries! Highly recommend!

Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe

While on a trip to Vermont, I visited the most wonderful indie bookstore (Northshire Bookstore). My husband had to drag me out of the store. I could have stayed there all day. I noticed one particular staff member had similar taste in books to me, and she recommended Lore Olympus in the graphic novel section. I bought it. I loved it. And discovered it was a Webtoon. The volume I purchased only had the first 25 episodes, but there were currently over 200 episodes on Webtoon… hence why the Webtoon app is now downloaded on my phone. I was skeptical of reading comics on my phone, but it is gorgeous and intuitive with the full color and scrolling panels. In addition to Lore Olympus, I also read the wildly popular True Beauty. Webtoons are a great alternative to mindless phone scrolling with their quick episodes and appealing graphics. Give the app a try if you haven’t already!

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

I read this book-in-verse for a teaching professional development session. It is a valuable read for teachers to reflect on their role in the school-to-prison pipeline. The book features two characters in teaching roles who are opposites in terms of their approach, and we had a valuable discussion as educators about power: wielding power vs empowering students. This book spurred me to dive deeper into learning about the flaws of our criminal justice system. Yusef Salaam is one of the “Central Park Five” who were wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in New York City. While this book is a work of fiction, Yusef contributes his experience and perspective as someone who spent six year in prison for a wrongful conviction. (If you are unfamiliar with the Central Park Five case, the Netflix miniseries When They See Us is well done and will break your heart.)

Let me know if you have questions about any of the books I’ve read so far this year! Are there any books you recommend I check out in the second half of 2022? Below are the titles that I am hoping to read soon!

Books featured: Book Lovers, Violet Made of Thorns, Iron Widow, The Last Cuentista, The Midnight Library, A Darker Shade of Magic, A Magic Steeped in Poison

Book Review: Tiny Pretty Things

Tiny Pretty ThingsTiny Pretty Things
by Sona Charaipotra , Dhonielle Clayton
Published by:
Harper Teen
Form: Paperback
Big Themes: Ballet, competition, power, privilege, heart condition, eating disorder

Summary from Goodreads: 
Soon to be a Netflix TV show!

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton, and the author of Symptoms of a Heartbreak, Sona Charaipotra.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

My thoughts:
Fast-paced and full of drama, this was hard to put down. This book explores what three different girls will do to get what they want most. The competitive world of ballet is a perfect backdrop for diving into heavy topics like power and privilege.

You’ll hate Bette, the reigning queen of ballet privilege and entitlement. Gigi will steal your heart with her kindness, dreams, and vulnerability. June is a tight-wrapped mystery on the verge of self-destruction. These three alternating perspectives are balanced and well-developed.

I hope the Netflix series keeps certain elements of the setting, like the dusty basement room with broken mirrors and the closet-sized room papered with photos and ballet pictures.

The drama and backstabbing is intense. The characters don’t hold back in their fight to get to the top of the ballet world. There are some wonderful layers of mystery that must have been difficult to plot with three different points-of-view.

HR sealofapprovalOverall: Highly recommend! Each character was well-developed, the ballet world was vivid, and the plot kept me guessing with twists and turns. These books will make an excellent Netflix series! Hughes Reviews Seal of Approval!

Book Review: From Twinkle, With Love

TwinkleFrom Twinkle, With Love
by Sandhya Menon

Published by: Simon Pulse
Form: Audiobook
Big Themes: Filmmaking, movies, popularity, falling in love

Summary from Goodreads: 
An aspiring teen filmmaker finds her voice and falls in love in this delightful romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi.

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy-a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man N begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

My thoughts:
I loved this book so much! Sandhya Menon’s love stories remind me of Stephanie Perkins’ books because they feature characters with passionate hobbies or interests. I loved Twinkle’s passion for storytelling through film and I loved that the male lead was so supportive of her dreams.

The book is structured where Twinkle writes to female directors she admires, and these kind of homages to film and movie-making are sprinkled throughout the book. Producing a film is a major plot point, and it was a lot of fun to root for Twinkle as she strives to direct her first film.

The romance is sweet and fun while also dealing with the authentic teen dilemma of wanting to be popular and noticed. There are strained friendships and plenty of drama, but the characters are all likable and relatable. You understood their motivations.

I thoroughly enjoyed both When Dimple Met Rishi as well as From Twinkle, With Love, so I’m definitely a fan of Sandhya Menon. I’ll be checking out her next book for sure!

HR sealofapprovalOverall: Highly recommend! A fun, feminist teen romance! Hughes Reviews Seal of Approval!

The Feminist YA Book You Need RIGHT NOW

Do you need a feminist book in your life right now?
Do you want a book that is both hilarious and powerful?
Do you want a book about a girl who doesn’t take “no” for an answer?
Do you want a book about a girl who takes on the patriarchy?
Do you want a book about a girl who is as clever as Hermione, but can prank like Fred and George?

This is the book that women all over the country need right now.
I need it right now. I plan to re-read it promptly.
Because I so desperately need a laugh, but I also want to feel empowered.

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksTitle: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart

Summary from Goodreads: 
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

Who would be interested in doing a read-along of this book? Live discussion? Yes?!
I am thinking the two weeks leading up to Election Day.
Who’s in?? Comment below if you’re interested!

Audiobook Review: The Belles

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 10.58.14 AMThe Belles
by Dhonielle Clayton
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Form: Audiobook and Purchased Hardback
Big Themes: Beauty, Power, Sisterhood

Summary from Goodreads: 
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

My Thoughts:
This book is luscious. I was immediately drawn into the world of Orléans because the author’s use of sensory detail is unbelievable. Color, taste, touch, and smell fill the pages of the book. The writing is full of similes that are as lush as the world they describe.

In terms of genre, I categorize this book as fantasy dystopian. Initially, you’ll be pulled in by the enchanting beauty being described, but as the plot progresses the beauty warps into a twisted and sickening thing.

Camellia is a likable heroine. She treasures her family/sisters while also having strong personal ambitions. She has a strong sense of morality, and yet, when she falters, you understand why.

Two of my favorite aspects of this world were the post-balloons and teacup animals. I loved the idea of balloons carrying messages. To arrive home and see balloons bobbing with notes is something I want in the real world! And the teacup-size pets are just too cute! I want one!

There are two rather disturbing parts of the book: an assault and a torture scene. The torture scene was definitely hard to get through.

Ultimately, this book has so many deeper levels to consider. From it’s analysis of beauty–it’s power and how it can be weaponized. To a deeper subtext examining servant and master. “No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”

Overall: If you enjoyed Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series or the 2006 film Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst, you will love this! This was one of my favorite reads so far this year. I would gladly re-read this book before the sequel comes out. Five stars!

 

Series Review: Saga Volumes 1-7

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 5.56.44 PM

Saga (Volumes 1-7)
by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)
Published by: Image Comics
Form: Paperback
Big Themes: Forbidden Love, Family, Effects of War, Refugees, Trust, Growth

Summary from Goodreads (Volume One): When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

My thoughts:
I just re-read Volumes 1-7 of Saga, and fell in love with this series all over again.

This is a comic for grown adults. Particularly Millennials who are embarking on the next phase of life–adulthood, married life, creating a family of your own. This is a love story, but not a meet cute, falling-in-love type story. This story starts with the birth of a child, from two forbidden lovers who married in secret. We start as the family is forming, and follow this family through the universe.

Lyingcat

I adore this comic. I love Alana and Marko. I love that there is a beautiful, bizarre, action-packed space opera comic about a mom and a dad raising their daughter and trying to keep her safe.

This comic is definitely bizarre. The world is strange and gritty. There are aliens unlike anything you’ve seen before. A sexy blonde alien that is half spider. A red ghost that is missing her lower half. A blue cat that knows when people lie.

There is a lot of violence. Lots of swearing. Lots of sex. It’s an adult world with adult problems. I wouldn’t recommend this series to teens. Because honestly, they aren’t the target audience.

The core of the story is watching Marko and Alana and hoping they manage to succeed in raising their little girl in this messed-up alien world. Despite the bizarre nature of this universe, the characters are so REAL. You can relate and connect to their struggles and joys.

Vaughan’s writing is strong. Each character has motivation. There are clear character arcs. Staples’ art is stunning. Her drawing style adds such depth to the characters and world.

I fly through each volume because the plot is fast-paced and ever-changing. However, upon re-reading them, you notice the themes and questions that the comic forces you to ponder. What is the definition of family? When is violence okay? Is it selfish to put your own family’s safety above the safety of others?

sagaArt

This article in The Atlantic articulates better than I can the themes and topics this series explores.

The Sprawling, Empathetic Adventure of Saga
One of the most prestigious comic-book series in print today is an unwieldy, profane, and glorious ode to compassion and equality.

I just love this series so much. I don’t know where Vaughan and Staples are heading, but I trust them enough to hop on for a ride through their universe.

HR sealofapprovalOverall: Five stars and a Hughes Reviews Seal of Approval. If you enjoy expansive sci-fi universes, don’t mind adult content, and are looking for an unconventional comic series. This is it.

Audiobook Review: Wonder Woman Warbringer

Wonder Woman WarbringerWonder Woman: Warbringer
by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Random House Children’s Books
Form: Audiobook
Big Themes: Heroism, War, Legend, Humanity

Summary from Goodreads: 
Daughter of immortals.

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Daughter of death.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together.

Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

My Thoughts:
Despite loving Wonder Woman in theaters and becoming a total Gal Gadot fangirl, I didn’t jump at the chance to pick this book up. I assumed it was a movie adaptation in book form. And didn’t think it could live up to the movie.

I assumed wrong. This book is totally worth picking up. There is a totally different plotline from the movie, but much of the same heart and earnestness that makes Wonder Woman such an endearing hero.

One element of the book that I really enjoyed was the two narrators. Diana (Wonder Woman) has a more antiquated and formal way of speaking. The other narrator, Alia, is a modern teenage girl from NYC. The contrasting points-of-view resulted in some lovely bits of humor in how each character saw the world and each other. And Alia’s voice was one that a modern reader could connect with.

The plot includes a ton of Greek Mythology, so fans of Percy Jackson will eat this up. The story made me especially want to research Helen of Troy. I remembered bits and pieces of her story from The Iliad, but this story humanizes her in a way that I appreciated.

The secondary characters, particularly Nim and Theo, were vivid and sympathetic. There were several plot twists that I didn’t see coming (and a few I had a hunch were coming). I was never bored, and eager to hop in my car to continue the audiobook!

Overall: Four stars. A thrilling adventure story with a lot of heart. If you loved Wonder Woman (the movie) or enjoy Percy Jackson, you will love this!

 

Top Ten Books With My Favorite Color On the Cover

5b4a8-toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. For a list of upcoming topics and more about this weekly feature, check out her site!

This Week’s Topic:
Books With My Favorite Color On the Cover

It was super clear to me from the start that there is a particular color that grabs me when it comes to covers: RED

Red is intense. Love. Fire. Blood. Red just brings intensity and passion. It was fun to see just how many of my favorite books feature red on their covers.

Red Covers.001

Twilight by Stephanie MeyerTwilight

As the only pop of color on this cover, red is prominent and a huge reason this cover was so iconic. I chose to feature this cover for two reasons. One, red is such an essential part of this cover’s design. Two, I watched this video essay on YouTube recently: Dear Stephenie Meyer–I’m Sorry. It’s worth watching, and helps me reflect on language and treatment surrounding chick flicks and romance. The shame, guilt, and bashing of things women enjoy or entertainment aimed at women is commonplace in our society. It’s definitely something I’ve done–called a movie I enjoyed a guilty pleasure rather than just admitting with confidence that I like it. It’s something I need to work on.

Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder

I adore this series as well as this cover! All of the books in The Lunar Chronicles feature the color red, but this first book in the series is by far my favorite use of red. The sexy red heel is such a fun twist on the glass slipper. The hint of the cyborg leg hints that this book will have more unexpected twists to the classic tale. And the lettering/font choice for the title is excellent. By far my favorite font from the ten books I selected for this post. The cover designs for the US Lunar Chronicles are up there with my all-time favorite covers for an entire series.

Little Brother by Cory DoctorowLittle Brother
If you want to learn about cyber security, programming, and cryptography–this book is a fun way to do so! Cory Doctorow does a great job of explaining complicated subjects within fiction in a fun way. His books serve the dual purpose of being entertaining as well as educational. I think the red “X” on this cover helps to create a tone of rebellion that is the core of this story. If you look closely at the “X” you can see rows of code. A perfect subtle detail that hints that the type of rebellion will be cyber in nature. Highly recommend this book for people looking for a cyber-heavy, near-future dystopian read.

Enna Burning by Shannon HaleEnna Burning
This is the second book in Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern series, and probably my favorite! Enna’s character has stuck with me years after turning the final page. What was it about her? The way Hale described Enna’s power with fire and the danger of wielding it is what most sticks with me. Drawing heat into her body fills her with power, but that heat can also burn her alive from within. She becomes addicted to the power, and what she can do with it. I’d love to see a fanfic that ships Enna and Avatar’s Zuko. That would be such an interesting crossover! A lot of books with red covers feature fire, but I love how this one shows the fire being on the brink of consuming Enna. So central to the story, and I love when covers reflect the contents of the book!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae
This is, by far, my favorite sci-fi book in a long time! The storytelling method is so unique, but perfectly suited to the story it is telling. The cover captures the content and themes of the story: censorship, cover-up, technology. But I think the color red, particularly this fiery orange-red, for the first book accurately captures the intensity and danger of this first book. I see this cover and I prepare myself for a wild rollercoaster ride. Whoever designed this cover did a magnificent job! (I’ve bought Obsidio… and am torn between jumping into it… and holding off… because I don’t want this series to be over!)

Fire by Kristin CashoreFire
It’s been ages since I read this book (2011? Goodreads doesn’t have a date logged.) But I’ve been meaning to re-read this book and Graceling so that I can read Bitterblue. I remember loving this book for its plot twists. And appreciating that author’s view of the world: That nothing is just black or white/right or wrong. That everything is circumstantial and kind of gray. I’ve read more books, particularly in the fantasy genre, like this since then. But Kristin Cashore was probably the first author to get me thinking morality in a more nuanced way. She definitely inspired me to craft heroes with a dark side and villains you could sympathize with. And because this post is about covers… can we just stop for a moment to say how gorgeous that bow and arrow is?

The Elite by Kiera CassThe Elite
This series was a pleasant surprise. I listened to them on audiobook last summer, and really enjoyed the female friendship, romance, and dystopian elements. However, I totally think the gorgeous dresses featured on each cover were a big factor in how this series became such a success. Before even knowing what the books were about, this series was the “books with pretty gowns” series. Admittedly, I think I like the dresses on the other covers better than this red one. But the red is certainly striking! And I love the eerie reflections in the background. I think this cover captures more than the others that there is danger lurking around America, as well as her growing strength.

Leviathan by Scott WesterfeldLeviathan
I LOVE THIS SERIES. SO MUCH. I think it’s so underrated and more people need to pick it up. This is the original hardback cover, and it captures the steampunk genre. I think it’s a really gorgeous, neutral cover. But I don’t know if it captures much of the story. The later paperback covers give you bigger hints what this book is about, but I still love the gorgeous design of this cover. This book is an alternate history of WWI where gender roles are flipped and battles are waged with steampunk machines and genetically modified beasties. This series is so clever that I was in awe of Westerfeld’s genius by the end of it. I wrote an entire paper on the gender roles in the book for an independent study in grad school. So good. Read it!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasACOTAR
I read this series this past winter to see what all the fuss was about. The fans of this series are intense! While I’m not a fangirl, I was pleasantly surprised with the series as a whole. This first book was not my favorite of the three, but this cover is certainly eye-catching. I love the variety of textures in inky black: lace, scales, feathers, bare tree branches. All of these on a backdrop of red makes for a really sexy and alluring book cover. I’d recommend this series to mature readers who can invest some time. The second book in the series makes the investment worth it with great twists, character growth, and world building.

Fablehaven (Book 5) by Brandon MullFablehaven 5
Another series that I absolutely LOVE!! This is the cover of the final book in the series, which was my favorite. This series is the first fantasy series that I truly enjoyed after Harry Potter. Technically, this series is middle grade, but I think readers of all ages can find something to enjoy. There is a huge cast of characters. A huge magical world that spans multiple continents (yes–you travel around the world in this series)! And tons of unexpected twists. The final book was so satisfying because you saw such growth in the characters, there were high stakes, and a thoughtful resolution. I don’t think this cover truly captures the essence of this series–two kids who strive to protect magical creatures and sanctuaries around the world. The cover looks like some sort of Greek hero story. But if this cover pulls in Percy Jackson readers, I think they’d be so happy with this series. Seriously, these books are underrated fantasy. Everyone should read them!

Some of my favorite books definitely have red covers! Which color covers do you connect with?

Top Two Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

5b4a8-toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. For a list of upcoming topics and more about this weekly feature, check out her site!

This Week’s Topic:
Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

Yup. Two books. Not ten. My to-read list is long enough. These are the two books that I’m most excited about in the coming months!

  1. A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa TahirA Reaper at the Gates

    This is one of the only series that I’m seriously invested in at the moment. The characters, world, and plot of Ember in the Ashes and Torch Against the Night are so gripping, fresh, and fascinating. It’s been a long wait for book three, and I am so, so eager to jump back into this world. Laia, Elias, and Helene are all in such perilous situations where there aren’t easy paths to take. I love each of them, but I fear that my heart won’t make it through this series without someone from this trio breaking it.

  2. My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton

    My Plain JaneMy Lady Jane was such a fun romp through an alternate history where Lady Jane Grey gets to keep her head. The voice, humor, and playful tone of this book makes me so gosh darn excited to see what they do with one of my all-time favorite Janes: Jane Eyre. The Goodreads summary:

    Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Which books would you kill for?

Book Review: My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane
by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton
Published by: HarperTeen
Format: OwlCrate Hardback
Big Themes: Tudor England, Alternate History, Animal Transformation, Love

Summary from Goodreads:
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

My thoughts:
Such a fun read!! This alternate history of Tudor England features many prominent British figures from the monarchy, but takes some liberties with who does and does not lose their head.

The book switches between three point-of-view characters. I loved their version of Jane Grey, a bookworm with a noble heart. Gifford, Jane’s arranged husband and part-time horse, was fun to read. He is a lover of poetry and watching him fall in love with Jane made your heart melt to mush. And finally, Edward, reigning King of England, was surprisingly sympathetic with his own adventure, internal journey, and romantic crush.

If you enjoy alternate histories, this is a fun one! One of my favorite alternate histories is Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. Fans of that series would definitely enjoy this! Both have strong feminist undertones, hints of magic, and are woven with bits of real history.

Overall:
Four stars! Definitely worth reading if you like history or a sweet romance. Lots of fun!