Book Haul: Birthday Style

Earlier this week was my birthday. I am one of the lucky bookworms who has friends and family that usually gives me books for my birthday (or gift cards to buy more books). No exception this year! This year actually blew the record out of the water as I got a whopping 13 books! Some books were given to me directly and some I got through a gift card.

Some of these books are old favorites and some are ones I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Hopefully you’ll find some new books that interest you to add to your TBR pile. If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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From bottom to top:

Auto Repair for Dummies (Deanna Sclar): Ok you might be wondering why I was thrilled to get this book, but it’s because despite loving cars, I know very little about them. This book is an excellent starting point and despite reading only a little of it, it’s already been a big help.

The Last Herald Mage Trilogy (Mercedes Lackey) Three books in one here! This is a series I have been meaning to pick up for ages, and to have it in such a beautiful edition makes me even more excited to read it. Lackey is one of my favorite authors, not to mention the fact that one of my friends swears by this series. I’m saving it for when school starts cause heaven knows I’ll need some high fantasy!

Batman and Psychology (Travis Langley): Batman is my all time favorite superhero. Psychology is one of my top three favorite subjects. Batman and psychology? Yes please! I’ve been meaning to check this book out for ages and am so happy to finally be able to indulge in my nerdery.

Private, Invitation Only, and Untouchable (The Private series, Kate Brian): Some of y’all might remember me talking about the Private series in one of my previous posts, but this series is one of my all time favorites. It’s a 13 book series and I had all of them. Until I moved and lost the first three books in the series. Unable to go back and re-read the first part of the series, I was never able to finish reading the series period. This has been a problem for the past two years. Now it’s fixed! I now have the first three books in the series, which completes the set. You can bet once I have my reading log cleared I’m binge reading this series.

The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins): Honestly I had no idea that Wilkie Collins was a writer until I ran across him in Drood (Dan Simmons). When I found out that not only was he a real person, but he wrote mysteries, I was in. Not to mention he was a contemporary of Dickens. I finally have Collins’ masterpiece. I’m saving this as one of my October reads.

The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, and The Oath of the Vayuputras (The Shiva trilogy; Amish): I had never heard of this series until a friend of mine gave them to me. I’m always looking for new authors and more diverse reads and this trilogy covers both! The series follows the adventures of Shiva and blends the history of India with the rich mythology of the country. Not only that, but my friend also has the series, so we can essentially read it together then fan-girl over it.

Last but not least, Coraline (Niel Gaiman): Now I have read this book before. But there is something so special, and so unique about Coraline’s story that I had to add it to my collection (yay gift cards!). While you’re more apt to find it in a middle school library, the story is timeless. Dark, spooky, and yet endlessly hopeful, Coraline is really the sort of story that you carry with you. I’m so happy I got to add it to my bookshelf.

And that is it! Although I still have enough on my gift card to buy one more book, that’s all the books I have at present…and frankly about all the books that I can fit in one picture!

Any of these books catch your eye? Have any book recs for what I should get with the last of my gift card? I’d love to hear about your summer reads or book hauls so far, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment.

TBR List: Publisher Style

So I’m not sure how many other people do this, but there are some publishers that I pay a lot of attention to. Firebird is an excellent example and a number of my favorite books have been published by Firebird. When I see a book on a shelf with the Firebird logo, I pick it up. I might not always read it, but there’s a much higher chance I will. This has actually helped me discover new authors, so this strange reading strategy has its perks!

When I was in middle and high school I used to read a lot of books published by DAW. In fact, almost all the books I read were either published by DAW or by Firebird. I haven’t really read a lot of books from any one particular publisher as of late…until I took a look at my Goodreads TBR list. The majority of books that I had recently added were from DAW.

So here’s a list of books that I’m looking forward to diving into that just so happen to come from the same publishing house.

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The Serpent’s Shadow (Mercedes Lackey)

A retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by one of my favorite authors. Sign me up! While it’s not my favorite fairy-tale, I am a sucker for any fairy-tale retelling. Lackey blew me away with The Fire Rose, so I’m looking forward to seeing what new things are added to the original.

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Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

While coming home from school after a fight she’ll most likely get expelled for, Karigan meets a man who is shot through with arrows. He has a “life or death” letter for the king and luckily for the dying messenger, Karigan is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Roped into delivering a message she doesn’t know the contents of, Karigain can only trust her horse. Add assassins to the mix and you have a really promising fantasy book! This is the start to a series that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Hopefully it’ll live up to my expectations.

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The Birthgrave (Tanith Lee)

I honestly have no idea why I haven’t read anything by Lee and considering what a power house she was in the sci-fi/fantasy sector I really have no excuses. But this book has such mysterious undertones. A woman wakes up in the heart of dormant volcano unaware of who or what she is. As she travels through the brutal world she fights to discover who she is as well as find the mysterious Jade…and avoid an evil god who can’t leave her alone. It’s the start of a series too so hopefully this will be a new favorite of mine and I’ll have a new series to dig into.

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The Broken Crown (Michelle West)

So this series leads into a second series and strangely enough I stumbled upon the second series first. But I’ve learned that reading books in order is important, and why read one series when you can read two? This book promises magic and political intrigue which I am totally here for.

No doubt about it, looking at the publisher is a rather atypical way of finding books, but it can bring about surprising results. Are you a fan of any particular publisher or is that the last thing you notice?

10 Books You Shouldn’t Read if You Hate NaNoWriMo

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Aaah yes. It is finally November. Personally this is one of my favorite months, not only because I get to spend time with family during Thanksgiving, but because of NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November people from around the world try to crank out 50k words during the month of November. The first Harry Potter book is a bit longer than that (at 70k)  to give you a size comparison. Another thing that makes NaNoWriMo so cool is that it’s a non-profit organization that helps promote literacy world wide. To be a part of that is a pretty cool thing!

Throughout this month I’ll be doing weekly posts on writing and NaNoWriMo in general. Fret not, the usual book reviews will still be around (posted on Fridays).

There is one damper on this excitement though. Every year without fail, there’s a group of very vocal people insisting NaNoWriMo is horrid, no one should try it, and no, they’ve never tried it themselves they are proud to say. Why would they? After all, they want to write real stories.  Not only are their posts just plain wrong and lacking in facts, the authors of the posts, knowingly or not, are insulting those who dare to try it.  Usually these insults are covered up with a quick complement, but it goes right back to the insulting soon enough. I’ve even seen a post where someone said it made them sad and dissapointed to see how many authors wasted their time each year trying to draft a novel in one month.

I understand that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I’ve met quite a few people who have tried it and it just didn’t work for them. I’ve met others who have heard of it but know that trying something like that just isn’t for them. That’s fine and completely understandable. But these people gave it a go, or looked into the idea of it, and while they realize a month of writing frenzy isn’t for them, they still manage to respect those who do it (or try to).

Despite all the awesome people out there, both participating and encouraging from the sidelines, sometimes it’s hard to ignore the nay-sayers. That’s why it’s always inspiring to look at the list of authors who published their NaNoNovels.

Here’s 10 popular books that started off as NaNoWriMo novels:

To see the list of every author that’s published their NaNoNovel check it out on the NaNoWriMo site. Warning, the list is long. The list I drew from was the traditionally published list. But there’s also a list of self-published authors, many of which wound up winning awards for their NaNoNovels. If you have time and are looking for a new read, I recommend checking out both lists and seeing what you find.

Bookish Recap (October)

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Oh man I feel like this month was a total bummer book/blogging wise. October is known for its surprises and I don’t suppose that should surprise me. Despite the twists this month had for me, I did manage to read two books. While I wasn’t completely blown out of the water by either, I enjoyed them. Both offer fresh takes on old tropes.

Cuckoo Song (Frances Hardinge; 4 stars)

KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale (NISIOSIN; 3 stars)

I certainly have a preference for Cuckoo Song. It’s dark, atmospheric, and the writing style is just my type. The story touches so many elements, mental and physical health, family issues, and different kinds of love. It’s one of those books that makes you view old things in a new light.

That’s not to say that KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale wasn’t a fascinating read in its own right! I haven’t encountered vampires in that light before, and learning about the Japanese culture was awesome. It was a fun, but unusual read.

I also wound up starting quite a few books. While I might not be able to review them all before the end of the year, I certainly plan to finish them before the year is out. Next month is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I’ll be doing some writing focused posts. I always planned for this blog to be both a writing and a book blog, so I’m using the upcoming month as an excuse to start integrating writing, including my own, into the blog. Fret not, the book reviews aren’t going anywhere!

I’ll be aiming for two posts a week again during November. Ideally a post on writing and the second post will be a book review. I’ll be doing a lot of re-reads during November because re-reads are quicker to get through, but I haven’t reviewed any of the books on the blog (except for The Martian, hahah, I’m obsessed!). So expect new reviews on some of my favorites!

While not the grand reading month I had planned, at least I got some good reads in and was able to use them towards the Cornerfolds Horror Challenge.

What is YA? (Book Talk)

Call me late to the party, but I had a good laugh a while back when I discovered that Dan Brown is rewriting his hit book The Da Vinci Code for the Young Adult (YA) crowd. Apparently this version will be less complex plot wise, have a more accessible vocabulary, and will be shorter.

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After cracking up I started scratching my head. This doesn’t make sense. You see, when I was in middle school (age range is 12-15), this book came out and it felt like everyone but me was reading it (I preferred Terry Brooks’ Shannara series). It wasn’t a book I was super interested in so I never bothered. And as I heard what my peers were saying I became grateful I never tried it, as what I was hearing wasn’t all that positive. For the most part, many of my peers were just reading it for the controversy. From my understanding, the same happened with the adult readership. It was only long after the Da Vinci Code craze died that I ever met anyone who enjoyed the book for what it was.

So why is Brown making it into a YA book? Obviously there’s the fact that the book is close to his heart, not to mention the potential money this book could bring. But considering how there’s a very large number of people who just felt “meh” about the book, and with “meh” movies based on the series, it seems like a dumbed down YA version puts too much on the line for both Brown and his publisher. Why not just write an all new book, separate from The Da Vici Code, for young adults? Why go this route?

I think it boils down to the fact that no one actually knows what YA is. Heck, before I wrote this out, I wasn’t sure I knew. So I decided to hit Facebook and a few other places including Goodreads reviews to see how people defined Young Adult lit.

Ask a teenager who reads YA what it is and you’ll get a pretty good answer. “YA is books about teenagers and their lives/adventures in all kinds of settings and situations.”  Cool. Ask adults that read YA and you’ll get pretty much the same answer. Ask an adult that doesn’t read YA and you get a pretty different answer. I’ve seen criteria ranging from not as intelligent, not as long, and less mature themes.

But as someone who’s read YA books from age 7 onward that just doesn’t add up.

“Adult books are longer!” Well the longest book I’ve read just so happened to be Insomnia by Stephen King, which coincidentally is an adult book. It’s a whopping 787 pages. Until I read Insomnia, the longest book I had read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at 759 pages. Most of my YA reads are around 500 pages. Trust me, there is no lack of long books in the YA genre. And many of these are parts of series. The latest release in the Throne of Glass series (Empire of Storms) is 704 pages.  As each book in the series has been a bit longer, I wouldn’t be surprised if the final book in the series wound up being close to 800 pages. Clearly if readers weren’t into long books there wouldn’t be so many in YA lit. But that’s what the readers want and that’s what the publishers provide.

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I would say that content might be a deciding factor in separating Young Adult from Adult books but that’s not it either. Why? Cause Wintergirls is a book about eating disorders. Speak is a book about rape. The Raven Boys has a couple of f-bombs in it and talks heavily about abusive home situations. We Awaken is a book about young women discovering sexuality and love. And I haven’t even talked about Gossip Girl (for the sake of space, I won’t). These books all assume the reader is intelligent and can see the problems presented. These books have mystery, high drama, and great depth. As a whole, YA literature regularly tackles the most complex and pressing problems of our society, in and out of fantasy settings.  True, the approaches will vary between adult and young adult books, but I find that young adult books talk about hard issues just as, if not more often, than adult books. I’ve seen some adult books take a sensitive topic such as abuse and handle it horribly. I have a long list of Young Adult books that handle the same topic beautifully. Now don’t say “well then, it’s the fantastical elements!” cause there’s plenty of adult books that are straight up fantasy or have fantastical parts.

The Matthew Swift series, or The Night Circus, or anything by Stephen King are all great options if you’re looking for fantasy or otherworldly in your adult reads. The Lord of the Rings, The Plucker, The Fire Rose, and the Shannara Chronicles are all fantasy books intended for adults. With Lord of the Rings and the Shannara Chronicles, you’ll see a crossover in audience. Why? Because despite these books being geared towards adults, young adults love them too, and that attention helps these books stay in the spotlight. You’re welcome.

So what makes Young Adult lit, young adult? Ultimately it’s the point of view. Katniss’ story in The Hunger Games trilogy was about war and politics, death and oppression, and plethora of other mature themes. But the story is categorized as Young Adult because that’s what Katniss is. In the first book she’s only sixteen. While the Matthew Swift series is high fantasy in a modern urban setting, it’s told from an adult perspective and therefore is considered adult (not to mention it has a grand deal more cursing than anything in The Raven Cycle). While adults and young adults alike adore the high fantasy elements of Lord of the Rings, Frodo is an adult, causing it to be categorized as an adult fantasy.

Perhaps adult books can curse more and go into more depth when it comes down to sexual themes. But part of the beauty of Young Adult literature is that the authors have found ways to talk about and share those experiences through implication. And sometimes that’s far more powerful and personal than what an adult book can give with an in depth description. Whatever “limitations” the genre has, readers and authors of Young Adult fiction have made those rules into something that makes the genre special and one of a kind.

So does Dan Brown need to write a young adult version of The Da Vinci Code? Nah. But then again, no one needs to re-write a book for an older/younger crowd.  But for whatever reason, that’s what’s happening. I just hope that one day authors and publishers learn that we readers don’t need or want things dumbed down for us. We want books that challenge us, that meet us where we’re at, and tell us to go further. I feel like for those who did enjoy The Da Vinci Code, that book has done that for them already, which is wonderful. But if many young adults aren’t interested in the book as it is, I doubt they’ll be interested in it if the plot remains the same and things are made “young adult friendly.”

Everyone, regardless of age deserves and wants a good story. Adults read YA lit, and young adults (which has a massive age range) read adult books. The idea that either adult or young adult books need to change to be credible or readable is both sad and ridiculous. Good stories are good stories and they shouldn’t have to change to become valid for different groups.

What’s your take? How do you define YA lit on a personal level?

5 Books to Get You in the Mood for School

Nerd alert! I freaking love school. I love learning and making full use of the campus library. I love seeing the geese at the pond and taking a stroll down the lane that’s lined with special plants from around the state. I love finding places to camp out and read a book before class starts and am always amazed that I manage to find new places after so long. But even I have off days and need a little help getting into the “back to school” mood. Here are five books that without fail get me in the mood for school:

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1. Harry Potter: Ok so it’s actually seven books, but just go with me here. I’m sure if everyone had to make a list like this, most people would put at least one Harry Potter book it. Personally, my favorites are books one and two. There’s just something about going back to school with Harry and friends. And say what you want about Dumbledore, but he’s not the only problematic person in the book, and he does have some genuine good in him. And I think that’s the beauty of it. Good people have dark sides, and bad people have good sides, and all sorts of people can find positions of power. It’s a challenge all of us face as students. For me, that element being in there is very comforting. I know I’m not the only one who’s had their run ins with teachers or the like who abused their power. The Harry Potter series shows that learning has its own kind of magic and that even the strangest and unexpected of challenges, in or out of the classroom, can be fixed with a trip to the library and a bit of daring, hard work, ambition, and creativity.

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2. Private: I’ll try to contain myself here but I’ve found that the Private series is underrated and few people know about it (seriously if you’ve read any of it, come talk to me about it!). But I love it and find it inspiring. Reed Brennan is tough. She has a horrible home life and yet she’s determined to reach her dreams through education-even though not all of her family is supportive of this. I think that’s such a powerful message especially with how things are going with the education system in America. When Reed lands herself a scholarship she works her tail off to keep it and the series does an excellent job of showing the challenges that scholarship students face. This 13 book series is mostly focused on the politics of schools. While there’s plenty of moments where I find myself going “Oh man, I can so relate to that,” in regards to Reed’s classes, there’s plenty of stuff I can also relate to when it comes to student/teacher and student/student interactions. Not to mention the whole morals of “do what it takes to stay on top.” It’s just a well done series in my take. While I still have to get my hands on books 9-13, from the first 8 books I know it makes the grade.

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3. Twilight: Something about the ambiance of Forks helps me get into the mood for school. It might be because I read the book for the first time in my senior year of high school and that year was one of my best. Also, as someone who’s been the new girl plenty of times it’s comforting to have a heroine that’s also the new one. I could relate to Bella a lot back in the day. Sure, there’s not much focus on school once Bella and Edward click, but the melodrama gives me life.  If I get too uptight about things, Twilight helps me take a step back, relax, and enjoy school on my off days.

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4. The Martian: Surprise! Look who showed up…again (seriously this is the third time this book has showed up on a list of mine-not even going to pretend to be sorry). I actually plan on re-reading this book soon because of the nerdery. This book makes the list because I learned so much while reading it. Not only that, it’s a super motivational book for me. It motivates me to stay strong in challenges and to keep learning. As much as I love learning, sometimes I get a professor that just doesn’t suit my learning style and can make the whole process a drag. It’s a great reminder that learning can be fun and really bloody useful.

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5. Angelology: Ok, ok hold up here. Back up. I have never actually finished this book. So how did it make it onto the list? Long story short, I kept picking up this book in the book store and reading the back and then looking at the cover and going “naked guy ok…how about no?” and putting it back. Then finally after like the fourth time (and again reading some of the writing) I decided to get it. And so for the past three years I have been trying to read this book at the start of school. And every time I have gotten sick or something major has come up and I stopped reading it. And almost every time at the exact same place. It’s like fate. So this book reminds me of school because I am just too stubborn to not try to finish it and I always try reading it during the school year. I will win. I will finish this book. Just like I will finish my classes come hell or high water.

Hopefully at least one of these books will help get you in the mood for school (or at least over the summer blues) if you’re dreading it. And if you’re as hyped as I am for it, hopefully these books will help encourage that energy. And those of you that aren’t in school anymore and just chilling…well hey, at least you have book recommendations right? I’d love to hear your take on any of these books or any of your book recs! I’m a huge fan of boarding school, and school related books so if you know of any, toss them my way!

Books I’m Dreading (Part 2)

I had a lot of fun doing the first post of this and am going to keep it as an ongoing thing.

Now as stated in the first edition of this, I might be dreading these books, but I’m also really looking forward to them. You can see the problem. But I know I’m not the only one that feels this way about certain books. I’d love to hear what books you’re dreading/looking forward to. Feel free to comment your take on any of these books too!

A Court of Thorns and Roses

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Bless the fans and everyone involved in this book for giving us a nice abbreviation for this  monster of a title. Honestly? I have no interest in reading the first book but I really want to read the second book (seriously y’all stop drawing awesome fan art). I  mean it should be something I’d like, the premise is apparently a spin off of Beauty and the Beast. As in it has some elements of the story but is pretty far from it. Goodness knows that is one of my favorite faerie tales (seriously I have read so many wonderful variations of it). ACOTAR has politics and strong world building too if the hype is to be believed. But it also has abusive relationships and is more on the New Adult side, and I’ve had a hard time so far finding NA books I’ve liked. Despite all the promise and fan art, this book just might not be for me and I’m dreading my potential dislike of it. At this point I want to love it cause I love the fandom and want to be a part of that. Also, thick books.

Obsidian

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People I trust swear by this book. Said people also really enjoyed Twilight and I love Twilight. But man, the last time I read about aliens it was a Stephen King book with death by alien via toilet. Not my thing. Aliens have never really been my thing outside of comics anyway. But I have read a sample of this book and the writing style seems strong, the cover is mostly green (green is one of my favorite colors), and apparently the heroine has a youtube channel dedicated to books. That all seems promising. But…aliens. I’ll read this one for sure, but kind of worried that this is just going to be another Twilight rip-off, and I hate rip-offs of any kind. But I swear I will eventually give this one a go. Just so long as there’s no death by alien via toilet.

Shadow and Bone

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Honestly? I have no interest in this series outside of the bad guy. When the series first came out the plot sounded promising but I just couldn’t get into the writing style. Which is odd because I have Six of Crows which is by the same author and I bought it because I loved all the samples of it I read. But I keep on seeing The Darkling pop up on best villain lists and man I am a sucker for a well written bad guy. On the other hand, I hear that while the setting is supposed to be a tribute to Russia it comes off more as appropriation. That always makes me wary of a book. But…well written villains? When I give this book a go I’ll have to keep that in mind.

The Woman in Black

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Look y’all I love horror. I get so frustrated with it though, because rarely do I find books or movies that genuinely frighten me. The movie adaption of this story almost made me cry it was so terrifying to me. When the movie first came out the commercials used a review that said “Don’t see it alone” I like a good girl for once listened to that sage advice. My friend and I were freaking terrified and I slept with my light on for at least a week. I loved it (so uh anyone want to watch it with me again?). True, genuine scares are few and far between with both books and movies, but for me it’s so much harder to be scared by a book. What if the short story isn’t as scary? It’s hard to pull of scares in a short story (short stories are hard in general yo).  What if this doesn’t live up to the promise? I cannot have another Divergent situation. I just can’t.

The Architect of Song

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I resent how the blurb starts off “A lady imprisoned by deafness.” Umm what? As a hard of hearing (HoH) person, who’s deaf when I take my hearing aids out, that’s just  offensive. But this book takes place in the Victorian era, so yeah, that would have actually been accurate. The resources people like me have today are astounding (I mean we’ve got a looong way to go, but that’s a story for another time), and next to none of them existed in the Victorian era. And if they did, they weren’t readily available for women. The premise sounds interesting and the setting and time period (Victorian era ftw!) sound like my cup of tea as well. I’m just really hoping that this book was well researched and written respectfully, but I’m also prepared for (and kind of expecting) it not to be. I think this might be the book I’m most nervous about.

While that’s it for this batch, there will be more in the future! My recommendation pile is ever growing and I’m always finding new books I want to read. I’d love to hear your take on any of these books, if you’ve liked or loved them, or if you’re dreading them too. Even if these books aren’t your cup of tea, I’d love to know what books you’re dreading yet looking forward to!