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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Meeting Leigh Bardugo

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Last night, I had the chance to meet Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology.  While I’ve only discovered her work this year, she’s quickly become one of my favorite authors.

Bardugo has been busy this fall, with two books released in September.  At the beginning of the month, Wonder Woman: Warbringer (the first of the D.C. Icons series) came out.  I just finished listening to it on audiobook and it was really fun.  This week, A Language of Thorns was released, which is a beautifully illustrated collection of folktales set in the Grishaverse world.

As part of my job as a librarian, I frequently host author talks, but this was my first time attending one that is part of a national tour.  I’m the kind of girl who gets nervous around people I admire and frequently feel like I make a total fool of myself.  (Seriously, it’s the worst when talking to attractive guys… I get sooo awkward.)  Thus, coming face to face with an author whose work I love was really intimidating.  But this was too good a chance to pass up. Continue reading

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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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.

So here’s what I’ve been reading lately! Continue reading

On the Shelf: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This week, I’m delving into the realm of YA fiction.  I read two novels belonging to the genera this week: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (an old favorite) and Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen.  I considered highlighting the Zusak novel, but decided against it ’cause the review would be nothing but me raving about how much I love it.  Instead, I chose to discuss the newest Dessen book.

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads | Amazon

SummaryPeyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?  Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

My Thoughts:

I discovered Sarah Dessen in high school and became an instant fan.  Her books Just Listen, Lock & Key, and Along for the Ride were some of my favorite reads back in the day.  She’s one of the few writers where I will read anything she writes.  (Mind you, this isn’t because she’s high-quality literature.)

Dessen’s novels are engaging, fun, and they go fast.  Although it’s nearly 500 pages, Saint Anything took only two days to plow through.  It’s the kind of book you curl up with in bed at night and end up staying up FAR too late with.  You know, the “Just one more chapter…” game.

My main issue with these books is that, although they’re enjoyable, they’re highly formulaic.  Her heroines are all the same– pretty high school/pre-college age girls trying to find themselves amid tumultuous family situations.  Along the way, they discover a new group of friends that accept her for who she is and show her how to enjoy/approach life in a new way.  Along the way, she finds love with a special, unique, insightful boy who does not see her in the way the world wants her to be, but as she really is.  This is freeing… but brief.  At some point, things go wrong, the relationship goes rocky, family troubles explode, and the heroine is left in a mess.  By the end of the novel, though, she is able to piece things back together, learns something new about herself, her family begins to heal, and she steps into the future with her boyfriend.

There.  I just summed up every single Sarah Dessen novel.  Now you don’t have to read any!  I’m kidding.  If you like reasonably well-written stories about self-discovery and summer romances, you’ll enjoy almost all these books.

I did enjoy Saint Anything… but it followed too close to the formula and, frankly, wasn’t a stand-out.  Sydney was a mildly boring, but relatable heroine.  Her friends were quirky and fun, but felt like shadow copies of more interesting incarnations of the same characters in previous novels.  The love interest, Mac, was likable, but a bit bland.  I strongly disliked her parents–they were over-protective, judgmental, and terrible judges of character.

There was a review of Goodreads that claims the most this novel did was make them want to eat pizza… and I must say, I wholeheartedly agree.  While reading the book, I enjoyed it, but don’t think I’ll be giving it a second visit.

You will like this book if you enjoy: reasonably well-written YA novels, quick reads, stories of self-discovery, family relationships, and cute summer romances.

My suggestion: Skip this book.  It’s nothing special.  If you want to read Dessen, go for one of her books written in the 2002-2009 range.  Her earlier novels fall flat and her more recent ones are too formulaic.

See you next week for more book talk!

On my bookshelf

When I’m not running around doing campus ministry or diagramming sentences for Grammar & Language or working the circulation desk at the library, you can usually find me with a book.  (Actually, now that I think about it, I have a book in all three of those situations… but I digress).  I’m taking less credits than usual this semester, which means I have slightly more free time.  So, in true English major fashion, I’ve been filling my time with books!

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately.

1. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel, a widely acclaimed work based on the actual murder, in 1831, of a progressive mill owner. It follows Mary Barton, daughter of a man implicated in the murder, through her adolescence, when she suffers the advances of the mill owner, and later through love and marriage. Set in Manchester, between 1837-42, it paints a powerful and moving picture of working-class life in Victorian England.

(Description from Goodreads)

The perks of being in a Victorian literature class is that I’m assigned books I’d read for fun.  I just finished Mary Barton this afternoon (a week earlier than the syllabus called for) and loved it!  Gaskell vividly describes life for the lower classes of Manchester, makes a complicated argument for the solution of class disatisfaction.  About halfway through the novel, Gaskell changes pace and I found myself unable to put the book down, wanting to know what happens to all the characters.  I found the end a bit unsatisfying, but am willing to forgive Gaskell for that.

2. The Selection series by Kiera Cass

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

(Description from Goodreads)

I downloaded the first book for cheap on my Kindle for reading material at the gym and then proceeded to read the entire series in a week.  The trilogy definitely has weaknesses–it feels like a cheap knock-off of The Hunger Games, characters are pretty two-dimensional, and it’s not that well written.  Despite these things, though, I adored the trilogy.  It’s like The Hunger Games meets reality t.v. meets fairy tales.  They’re not perfect, but make for excellent brain candy.  And, oh my goodness, the covers are SO PRETTY.

2. Enchantress by James Maxwell

Ella and her brother, Miro, are orphans, their parents killed long ago in the ongoing struggle against the mad Emperor.

From the day Ella witnesses an enchanter using his talents to save Miro from drowning, she knows what she wants to be. But the elite Academy of Enchanters expects tuition fees and knowledge. Determined, Ella sells flowers and studies every book she can. Meanwhile, Miro dreams of becoming one of the world’s finest swordsmen, wielding his nation’s powerful enchanted weapons in defense of his homeland.

A dark force rises in the east, conquering all in its path, and Miro leaves for the front. When the void Miro left is filled by Killian, a charming stranger from another land, Ella finds herself in love. But Killian has a secret, and Ella’s actions will determine the fate of her brother, her homeland, and the world.

(Description from Goodreads)

I haven’t finished this one yet.  It’s my current gym salve.  (By that, I mean it takes my mind off the pain of the gym and gives me something to do.)  Book one of a trilogy, the only reason I happened upon this one was because it was a featured daily deal on the Kindle store.  It’s not particularly well written, not very original, and the characters feel really flat.  But Maxwell creates a very compelling world that I want to know more about.  I’ve avoided reading Goodreads comments on this one, not wanting to spoil my enjoyment.  Because, so far, it’s definitely been an enjoyable read!

4. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

(Description from Goodreads)

This was my brain candy this past weekend.  I downloaded a copy on my Kindle from the local library.  Again, it’s your typical coming-of-age YA novel, but enjoyable.  Schneider’s writing reminds me of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.  It was a fast, fun read.

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Have you read any good books lately?  What were they?  Do you have any recommendations?