What I Read This Summer

Hard to believe it, but my roommate texted me this morning to remind me that she and I will be moving back into college exactly two weeks from today! It may be a bit premature, but since I will no doubt spend these next 14 days in a whirlwind of work and packing, I thought I’d spend time today doing a comprehensive write-up of some of the best books I read this summer.

The Lockwood & Co. Series by Jonathan Stroud

Speaking of my roommate, Lockwood & Co. was one of the first series that she insisted I read. And boy, I am glad she did. These books, about a small ghost hunting agency located in a ghost-ridden London, are atmospheric and thrilling and oh, so, funny. The characters are witty, charming, and hilarious; and I think one of my very favorite parts of the series is the use of swords against ghosts. I highly recommend these books, and I can’t wait for the finale of the series to be released in September.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

I will admit that Tash Hearts Tolstoy has had a bit of a special place in my heart ever since I read the synopsis, and I discovered as soon as I’d finished the first chapter that my interest in it was well deserved. This book, while not the best or most unique I’d ever read, definitely resonated with me in a lot of ways.

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

If you’ve been around for a while, then you know that I am always on the hunt for the next great superhero novel. While Not Your Sidekick was by no means ~flawless~ I found it thoroughly enjoyable, if a bit predictable. I fully figured out two of the most major twists within the first 70 pages or so, but it honestly didn’t bother me too much. Besides that, I found the romantic subplot pretty adorable, and the world had a lot of potential. Hopefully, I’ll pick up the sequel(s) at some point!

Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab

After being completely floored by This Savage Song a bit over a year ago, I will admit that I was a teensy bit disappointed by Our Dark Duet. I would say a lot of what the sequel was missing was the discovery elements that made the first book so compelling – unfortunately, not much more was revealed about this duology’s universe within the second book. Without revealing anything, I would say that the ending did feel fitting, though I did not find it to be very satisfying.

The series almost feels like it needs another book, though I’m not quite sure how another one could be managed.

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

I will start out by saying I have no clue how to rate this book, because while I didn’t love it, it was a very compelling novel that I think explores a lot of issues that need to be explored in fiction right now, such as Islamophobia, and the experience of growing up in America as a second generation Indian immigrant. While a lot of the romantic elements of this book were really not for me, I think it is a very timely one that is certainly worth reading, even just for the perspective that it gives on the life of someone very different than me.

The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me) by Albert Wade White

This book is the sequel to a book I read over winter break, and while I found the first book extremely odd, I was also amused enough that I found myself compelled to pick this one up. And let me tell you, I feel about the same after reading this one as I did after reading the first one. Except, I will admit that I very much want to know what is going on in the world this series is set in. It seems to show hints of either being set inside a computer or of the world being controlled by a computer, and that’s just very fascinating to me. They’re hilarious books that have a lot of fun by playing with the classic tropes of the epic fantasy genre, and I think the right person would very much enjoy them.

I’m not sure if I’m necessarily the “right person,” but I will be reading the next installment for sure.

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

This is the fall book release I’ve been most excited for this year, and so I was even more hyped when I was able to read an advanced copy! I think Alexandra Bracken is an absolutely wonderful writer, and Halloween-y, demon-filled middle grade is just the thing I love. Prosper Redding did not disappoint. It was utterly fantastic, with such a great story. I adored the back-and-forth between Prosper and his resident demon, Al. It was just hilarious, with just the right amount of angst and indecision. I would’ve loved to get a little more knowledge of Prosper’s family, but all in all, I really enjoyed this book. I’m definitely excited to read the sequel, even if I’ll most likely be waiting a little more than a year to read that one.

What did you read this summer? Did you find any new favorites? I’d love to hear about them!

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Always Looking Up: A Review of The Upside of Unrequited

I thought Albertali’s first novel, Simon Vs the Homo Sapien’s Agenda was sweet, adorable, and wonderful. It was light on the plot, and heavy on the mystery of who Simon’s secret online boyfriend was. It was kind of cliched, but in a good way, and it brought a few twists of its own.

Her sophomore novel, however, is anything but typical. Instead, it is real, plausible, and relatable, while still being as heartwarming as Simon Vs. The meet-cutes are more odd than cute, the teenaged characters often have no idea what (or who) they want, and they are flawed in the most normal ways. They remind me all of people who I could know from class or someone I could meet at a party. They are very real modern day teenagers.

The other thing I loved about Upside is that even though our main character has many struggles and insecurities to work through, overall it is a delightfully upbeat novel. The characters continue to care for each other, and understandings are amicable. At the end of the day, the book is about a rather “unusual” family who loves each other during any hardship, large or small.

I say the family is “unusual” because, well, they just aren’t a common nuclear family. Molly has two moms and is not related at all by blood to her brother. There is a lot of diversity in this book, and a lot of it is represented just within her home.

There was a lot of this book that felt like the cute contemporary I needed, and parts of it that had such good insight on life in general. If Simon Vs was like a fresh plate of cookies, then Upside is like a refreshing cup of tea. Yes, it’s still warm and sweet, but it also wakes you up a bit and helps you see the world in a slightly different way.

The Upside of Unrequited will be released on April 11th, 2017.

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My Favorite Books of 2016

The end of the year is upon us, so it is time for me to share my favorite books from 2016! I read quite a few less books this year than last year, so I had a bit less to choose from, but I still think I had some good picks this year.

the start of something new: favorite first in a series

One of the first books that really wow-ed me in 2016 was This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. I loved the setting and the plot, and I can’t wait to see where the second book goes.

following through: favorite sequel or part of a series

Last year my very favorite book was Illuminae, and my favorite second book was Gemina. It was SO FANTASTIC. If you like science fiction and haven’t started this series… Well, you definitely should.

finest finale: favorite conclusion

A lot of my favorite series had conclusions this year, but I didn’t find myself loving any of them. Actually, even though I liked but didn’t absolutely love Six of Crows, the best conclusion I read this year was Crooked Kingdom.

single and proud: favorite standalone

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour was everything I hoped it was and more from this amazing pair of authors. I can’t even describe it… It was so good and I read it in a day.

best dressed: favorite cover

I haven’t read it yet, but The Sun Is Also A Star has one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen. The colors are wonderful, and I just love the texture of the jacket.

fantastically fantastical: favorite fantasy

I’m going to cheat and say Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, because I read it this year, and technically the edition of it I read was published this year…

super science-y: favorite sci-fi

I was super happy when I learned the author of one of my favorite trilogies, SJ Kincaid, would be writing a new science fiction book! And the book, The Diabolic, was no disappointment.

dream team: book(s) with the best friendship/squad

For this category this year I couldn’t pick just one book, as I read two with very different, but extraordinary, groups of characters.

The first one was The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. It was as sweet and heartbreaking as any other Matson book, and it also had one of the most realistic, and fun, group of teenage friends I’ve ever read about.

Another book with a great group of characters was The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. I just loved how hilarious and great this group was.

ship ship ship: book with the best romantic relationship

I only read it recently but I loved the ship in The Secret of A Heart Note. Overall, just a really cute book.

standing ovation: favorite book of the year

Unlike last year, it took me a while to decide what my very favorite book from this year was. While I really liked a lot of what I’ve read, there weren’t many that surprised me or which I was unbelievably amazed by.

However, there was one book that I think was really of the highest calibre, and I know is one I will read again and again. A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro was a fresh and clever Sherlock Holmes retelling with great characters, an intriguing mystery, and a world with so many possibilities. I’m really hapy this is a book I read.

What were your favorite books from this year?

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim (SST Review)

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim, Published by Sky Pony Press, ARC received through Sunday Street Team. 

“In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.”

The first thing that grabbed me about Timekeeper was the premise: instead of time running clocks, like it does in the real world, the clocks actually ran time.

That initial premise that I was so excited by in the summary led to some seriously cool worldbuilding. There’s the whole principle of the clocks, yes, but another thing we see in this book is that due to the clocks in this world, the industrial revolution happened early. So yes, Victorian gender roles are still a thing, but they’re not as much of a thing. One thing I often dislike about historical fiction is that it sometimes feels like it gets hung up on the facts of the time a little too much and that makes it boring or tedious for me. (The girls are either totally excepting of their life or are a huge “rebel.” There’s no in between. Meh) But, as a historical fantasy Timekeeper was able to make its own rules, which was fun.

One thing I didn’t like was the changing perspective in the book. I found it pretty jarring. In the first half of the book, the narrator was always Danny. Then, around the second half of the book, different perspectives start to be thrown in. We hear from different mechanics and see things that Danny certainly couldn’t have seen and it was just a little weird. I get that it was important information, but I think it could have been done a better way.

I also didn’t love the storybook bits of the mythology or “history” of the clocks. Again, important information, but the delivery was jarring. I wanted more world building, and those bits did sort of provide it, but not as much of it as I really wanted. I still have so many questions. 

Everything else, however, was solidly great. The characters were different and fun, and the plot was really engaging. The romance was pretty cool too, and I’m glad it wasn’t part of every aspect of the plot. Overall: a great steampunky read.

4stars

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Mini-Reviews: Quick Middle Grade Reads (Isabella for Real + The Bronze Key)

Isabella for Real by Margie Palatini, Published by HMH Books, ARC received from the publisher through Red Ballon’s Teen Book Club in exchange for an honest review. Buy this Book: Indiebound // The Book Depository.

This was cute! A nice little middle-grade romp intensely focused on one huge Italian-American family in New Jersey. It all starts with a ridiculous case of mistaken identity, and you meet a lot of interesting characters. It’s also written somewhat like a script, with takes and scene changes, and has a couple of scenes in a comic book form.

What I Liked:

  • Isabella’s eccentric relatives.
  • The food talk. Mmm. I want to eat it all.
  • Interesting concept with unexpected internet stardom being the thing to actually cause the problems.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Changing from the comic book parts to the written parts felt very abrupt. I enjoyed the illustrated parts the most, so I almost wanted the entire thing to be a graphic novel?
  • It was very confusing at the beginning. It was a while before anything was actually explained.
    Not very exciting. The conflict was there but didn’t feel like a big deal.
  • It ended up being a sort of full circle situation with not much resolution.

On the plus side, Isabella for Real was very short. But it was also not very exciting and not as unique as I thought it would be.

Isabella for Real will be released on October 11th, 2016.

3stars

The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Published by Scholastic, ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Buy this Book: Indiebound // The Book Depository.

I am going to go ahead and say that this was the best book in the Magisterium series so far. It was more unexpected than The Copper Gauntlet, more exciting than The Iron Trial, and it made me more emotional than either of them. After reading The Bronze Key I want to both scream and cry. In a good way… But also in a very bad way. I am in PAIN. And shock… because I still can’t quite believe it.

I guess you’ll just have to read it.

What I Liked:

  • A fair bit of character development.
  • TONS of plot development.
  • Unexpected and exciting.
  • Seriously I don’t know where they’re going to go from here because this is the kind of stuff I’d expect happening in the last book.
  • Strong third book to lead to the second half of this series!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The romance stuff was so unneeded; I don’t get why that was in there. Ugh.
  • Why?
  • Why?
  • Why?!

I can’t wait (in a mean way) for everyone else to read this book, so people can share my pain. Also, I don’t know how I’m going to wait more than a year for the fourth book. 😭😭😭

The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3) will be released on August 30th, 2016.

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