What I’m Reading: YA Fall Releases

It’s Thursday night and I’ve managed to talk myself down from the “I should be studying” ledge.  So, since I’ve decided that grad school is no excuse to not read for fun, why not talk about all the books I’ve been cramming in my spare time?  Thanks to my library, I’ve been on the top of the list for many of this fall’s hottest YA releases.

My mini reviews are spoiler-free, so no worries if you haven’t read them.

Here’s my lineup:

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What I’m Reading 9/14/17

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about all the things I’ve been reading.  Some of these, I finished almost a month ago!  Holy cats, does time fly!  I’m glad I take notes on each book I finish, otherwise I wouldn’t remember what I thought about them.

Here are the books I’ll be discussing today:

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Let me know what you’ve read lately in the comments!

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In Appreciation of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna Books

As a lifelong reader, there are many books I read when I was young that have shaped me into the person I am today.  Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables (which I didn’t actually read until high school… but it still shaped me), the list could go on.  I remember loving Julie Andrews’ The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and tearing through every Boxcar Children book I could get my hands on.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve returned to several of these books and have found them disappointing.  Whatever spark they ignited in me no longer connects with the person I am today.  They lose their savor and I can no longer remember why I returned to it again and again.

But that’s not always the case.  There are some books that, when I enter in with my grownup perspective, only get better–books that I can go years without and, upon opening the first page, feel the magic rise up in me once more.

Tamora Pierce is one of those writers for me.

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Review: Monsters of Verity Duology by Victoria Schwab

Book Talk on Keep Your Feet

Format: eAudiobook from Overdrive / physical book

My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars for both books


Over the past few months, I’ve read quite a bit of Schwab’s writing.  Recently, I finished her Shades of Magic series, which I adored.  Several of my friends on Goodreads were reading her YA Monsters of Verity duology, so I jumped on the bandwagon.  In this post, I discuss both books in a relatively spoiler-free fashion.

On the whole I was… underwhelmed by these books.  While there were aspects I really enjoyed, there was quite a bit that just didn’t capture my imagination.  I’m realizing more and more that dark dystopia might not be my thing.

A bit about the books: the series takes place in a dystopian America in which the states are split into territories named after virtues.  The main action takes place in the city of Verity, where monsters roam at night keeping everyone in terror.  Verity is a city split in two, held together by a tenuous agreement that is quickly fraying.  The north is lead by Callum Harker, who reigns through fear and uses the monsters to his advantage.  The south is held by Henry Flynn, an ex-surgeon who heads the military-like organization, FTF.

The series centers around Kate Harker and August Flynn, the children of these two leaders.  Kate is reckless, impulsive, and on a mission to prove her worth to her father.  August, quiet and sensitive, just wants to be human.  Pushed together by circumstances, they forge a deep friendship.

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Firebrand by Kristen Britain

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Format: Kindle ebook

My Rating: 3.75 / 5 stars

Amazon / Goodreads

My Summary: The sixth installment of Britain’s Green Rider series, the book takes place where the previous one left off.  After her journey through the mysterious Blackveil Forest and adventures in the future, Karigan has returned home to the castle.  While resuming her duties as a messenger to the king, she struggles to find peace and healing after her long journey.  Eager to establish a sense of normalcy, she is sent on a mission to establish allies among a mythical moose-people in the North, near the territory of the Second Empire, who is trying to overthrow the crown.  Meanwhile, the castle is attacked by an ice elemental, who kidnaps and impersonates King Zachary.  This sets off a sequence of events that puts the future of the kingdom in jeopardy.

Karigan, as a protagonist, wears on me at times–she’s a fantastic Green Rider, an honorary Weapon and sword master, the avatar of the death god, has a magical mirror eye, is blessed by the elven race, loved by the king… and on and on and on.  How special can one person be?!!!

My favorite thing about this book is that we got a large amount of Zachary’s point of view, which was a breath of fresh air.

I’ve been reading this series on and off for years.  Britain writes so slowly that, by the time another book comes out, I’ve forgotten everything that has happened.  Thankfully, she sprinkles reminders of past events and plot details into her narrative–which helped me get my bearings.  While this is helpful, it simultaneously comes across as sloppy.  Actually, most of the book feels sloppy and gratuitous… but in an endearing way.  Britain tries to write epic fantasy, but the result is more campy than anything.  The writing may not be great, but when I read Britain’s work, I’m wholly engrossed and having fun.  I spent six days on this 700 page long read and enjoyed every minute.

For more of my reading adventures, add me on Goodreads

Check out my regular reading update posts

What I’m Reading 8/21/17

When preparing this post, I realized that I had written way too much content.  Since I’ve begun writing reactions/reviews/summaries in a notebook immediately after finishing a book, I’ve noticed that my comments have gotten a longer.  So I decided to do some shifting around, giving some of the books where I had more thoughts posts of their own.

Here, you can find my thoughts about several of my recent reads.  Keep an eye out over the next week for others–I’ve got a writeup for a fantasy novel primed and ready to go and, as soon as I finish Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, I’ll give the Monsters of Verity duology their own post.

Here’s what I’m discussing this week:

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What I’m Reading 8/7/17

Since I last did one of these, I’ve started writing short, one paragraph reactions in a notebook every time I finish a book.  I do so much reading that stories often blend together and, when I come to do these kind of posts, I forget details.  I’m finding that I really enjoy processing books in this way–it helps me express my opinions and give the experience closure.  In addition, I’m also adding star ratings, just for fun.

I hope you enjoy my list of recent reads!  Have you read any of them?  What did you think?  What have you been reading lately?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

5/5 stars

When I reached the end of this book, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.  I rarely give books five-star ratings, but this series was absolute perfection.  All six main characters are distinct, fully, fleshed out, and deeply relatable.  They feel like real people–deeply flawed and broken and beautiful–and I love them all so, so much.  I can’t help being in awe of Bardugo’s planning skills–there are so many character arcs, schemes, plots, and back-stabbing… how does she juggle it all?  And given how complex it all is, how the heck does she manage to pull it off?!  This book sealed the deal: Bardugo is a top-notch writer and I will gladly read anything she publishes.


Geekerella by Ashley Poston

4/5 stars

This YA book has been on my radar for months and I finally got my hands on a copy.  It combines two of my deep loves: fairytale retellings and fandom.  I found the story delightful and endearing–the plot familiar, but a comforting kind of familiar.  More than anything, I was reminded of the movie “A Cinderella Story” with Hillary Duff–only with more cosplay and a pumpkin-themed vegan food truck.  It was a clever, fresh retelling of one of my favorite fairytales.  And, oh, how I wish that Starfield was a real show–it sounds like something I would love to watch.


The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

4.5/5 stars

This was easily one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read in a long while.  Lately, I’ve found it harder and harder to relate to that corner of the genre.  This book, though, hit home in so many ways.  It’s about a Christian girl who, after discovering that her mom’s cancer has returned, spends her summer as a counselor at a camp for troubled youth.  There, she wrestles with her faith and learns about life, love, and friendship.  The book is about growing up, discovering yourself, and allowing your worldview to grow and change.  Although our circumstances are different, I deeply related with Lucy.  I spent several summers camp counseling, so the exhausting pace of her days was familiar.  What I love about this book is that, while Lucy questions and struggles with her faith, she doesn’t walk away from it.  It’s really hard to write about faith journeys in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy and Lord handles Lucy’s journey so, so well.  Her faith shifts into something new, but it doesn’t go away.  The book also features a rich array of diverse characters and I adored the friendships Lucy forms.  They reminded me of the friendships I forged in my own camp years.  This is a book that doesn’t shy away from life’s biggest questions–it leans into hard questions, tough situations, and embraces the challenges of life.  I’m thankful for books like these–books that act as mirrors to our own experiences.


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What I’ve Been Reading 7/25/17

It’s time for another exploration of my recent reads.  I’ve been pretty spoiled by some of the books on this list–I rarely give out five star ratings on Goodreads, but there are some titles worthy of that honor in here.

Enjoy–and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments!


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book has been on my radar for a LONG time–it was just a matter of getting to it.  Well, I’m currently listening to it on audiobook and HOLY CRAP, HOW HAVE I BEEN MISSING OUT ON THIS?  The subject matter isn’t one that immediately sucks me in (which is why it has taken so long to pick up), but dang.  Once I got past the first few chapters, I was absolutely hooked.  What strikes me about this book is the excellent characterization.  It features a variety of characters and switches points of view constantly, but each voice is distinct.  Each character is fully-realized, which makes them feel so real.  Bardugo slowly unveils their stories, giving us hints and glimpses at their pasts and their ambitions with each page.  It makes driving to work an absolute treat!  I’m already dreading reaching the end of the audiobook, but I know I’ll be moving on to Crooked Kingdom straight away.

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

Gosh, WHY do I keep reading Dickerson’s books?  I’ve read almost everything she’s published and, even though I don’t love her stories, they’re enjoyable.  I love fairytale retellings, and Dickerson’s are subtle.  After the mess that was this one, I think I might throw in the towel.  Her stories are all formulaic, but the formula is definitely wearing thin.  Dickerson’s protagonists are always beautiful, kind, compassionate, selfish, pious, and BORING.  Her side characters have zero depth.  It’s like watching paper dolls act on a puppet show stage, then fall into a puddle and crumble apart.  I’m also almost insulted by how heavy-handed Dickerson is with her representation of Christianity.  Female leads are always quoting scripture, praying, and longing to someday be rich enough to own a Bible translated into German.  It’s as if Dickerson expects that, by making her women models of Christian femininity, that makes them good characters.  Um, no.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

I talked about Schwab’s first book in this series, A Darker Shade of Magic, a month ago.  While I really enjoyed that book, I fell head-over-heels in love with this one.  I think this might be because I listened to it on audiobook, which meant that my reading was slower and more deliberate.  Schwab is excellent at world building–in the first book, she establishes the different Londons.  In this book, Schwab takes a new turn.  She expands the world of Red London through a magical tournament, which reminded me a lot of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter.  The tournament introduces the different empires and peoples, as well as expands on how magic functions and how each culture relates differently to it.  Schwab also continued to establish her characters, who have nestled their way deep into my heart.  Delilah Bard (who I found likable, but flighty and kind of annoying in the first book) is now making her way to my all-time favorite characters list.  I’m eagerly waiting for my hold on the third book on audio to come through at the library so I can continue.

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What I’m Reading 7/3/17

Book talk time!  I’m definitely not a full-fledged book blogger.  I definitely have the reading stamina, but don’t have enough drive to do all the writing.  But I do love informally sharing what I’ve been reading lately.  I used to call these posts Inbox//Outbox, but from here on out will just call them “What I’m Reading”.  Because, really, that’s much more to the point.

So here is what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks!

Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxanne Gay

Other possible title for this book: In Which Roxanne Gay Bares Her Soul.  I can only imagine how much courage it took to write this book.  It follows the trajectory of her life–after being sexually assaulted at the age of twelve, Gay turned to food as a comfort and safety mechanism.  In this memoir, she shares the story of her life thus far and the experience of living in her body.  She covers topics like sexual assault, fat shaming, weight loss TV shows, dating, etc.  The writing was articulate and brutally honest.  It broke my heart more than once.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

This book is the PERFECT summer read!  It’s a soft retelling of You’ve Got Mail, only it takes place in California with surfers and film lovers.  I adored the main characters, Bailey and Porter.  The whole “we are arch enemies” aspect of the plot faded pretty frequently, transitioning to “we bicker all the time because we are super attracted to each other”.  The plot was predictable, but that didn’t diminish the enjoyability of the book.  Sometimes, it’s absolutely lovely to sit down with a fluffy book that you can finish in a day.  That book was it for me.

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What I’ve Been Reading…

Things have been busy in my corner of the universe lately and, while the reading hasn’t stopped, the recording of it definitely has.

In my reading update posts, I normally do an Inbox (what I’m about to read), an Outbox (what I’ve recently finished), and sometimes add a Currently Reading section.  Because I haven’t done one of these in a month or so, I’m going to switch things up and talk about all the things I’ve finished.

Over the past couple of weeks, soooo many of the books I’ve been excited for have come in for me at the library.  My pile is at least ten books high.  It’s a bit overwhelming, but very fun.

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