February 2016 Wrap-Up

book signing books

Books I got signed at the book signing I went to this month. Note: the ARC in the image was acquired indirectly from someone who had received it from BEA, but gifted it to me when she learned about the signing. 

I read significantly less in February than I have in the last few months, but I’m okay with that. February was a much busier month for me, and I still managed to read some great books. I also managed to go to a book signing where I met Melissa Landers, Carey Corp, and Lorie Langdon. I rarely get a chance to go to book signings, so that was exciting.

Reading

25551332Short Synopsis: An anthology of short stories set in the Unwind universe.

Thoughts: Some of these stories were really good, but others I didn’t really care for. For this reason, I’m not going to give it a rating, but left me wanting more books set in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

18966806Short Synopsis: Final book in the red rising trilogy.

Thoughts: Of the books I read in February this was my favorite. See my full review here.

Rating: five blue jays

15704486Short Synopsis: Final book in Brandon Sanderson’s YA trilogy about superheros.

Thoughts: This was the series that introduced me to Brandon Sanderson’s work, and I am very grateful for that. All the same, I think the second book in this series was the best. The pacing at the end of this book felt very rushed though as a whole this was still a good, fun read.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

20764879Short Synopsis: Second book in a series about traveling between parallel world versions of London.

Thoughts: This was quite addictive, and I read it in an extremely short period of time. The character development was also great.

That said, I felt like the plot didn’t develop much in this book. I was hoping to learn a lot more about a certain parallel world than I got to. Hopefully more will be explained in the sequel.

Rating: 4 blue jays

7932356Short Synopsis: A group of rabbits struggle to survive surrounded by enemies who take the form of everything from foxes, to humans, to rabbits themselves.

Thoughts: Listened to this one in audio book format. My favorite part was the world building surrounding the rabbit’s culture, but I also felt like the world building sometimes went to far and took away from the story. This book probably could have been much shorter, but it was still very interesting to read from rabbits’ point of views.

Rating: 4 blue jays

Blogging

I didn’t blog much in February as what little free time I had went to reading new releases, but I did post two reviews.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 4.5 Stars

Morning Star by Pierce Brown 5 Stars

Writing

I finally started writing again in February. It went pretty slowly, but I did manage to make it past the 25,000 word mark in the story I’m rewriting. This month I’m participating in the twitter challenge #MarWritingChallenge. The official website for which is writingchallenge.org. The goal of which is to write at least 500 words every day in March. I apologize to my twitter followers about the sudden increase in writing tweets, but it’s been really motivating.

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Favorite Books of 2015

I was planning to make a top ten list, but was having too much trouble narrowing it down in a way that didn’t make just about every book fall into a particular category written by a particular author. Instead I will be listing my favorite in each category.

Note that this is a list of favorite books I read in 2015. Not all were published in 2015.

Young Adult Fantasy

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Picking a book for this category was hard. It was a close call between this book and several others especially the Seven Realms series and later too books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

In the end I chose Six of Crows because it has so many different elements that were well executed as discussed in my review.

Adult Fantasy

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Words of Radiance is the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series which is part of the Cosmere, which is the larger fictional universe in which Sanderson’s adult fantasy novels take place.

I read just about all of Sanderson’s currently published Cosmere works this year, and I am now a huge fan. It was hard to chose only one, but this is my favorite Cosmere book so far.

I would not, however, recommend readers start with Words of Radiance, not just because its the second book in a series, but also because it’s hard to get through books in the Stormlight Archive for readers not used to long books. Starting with Mistborn: The Final Empire or Warbreaker might make Sanderson’s work easier to get into.

I have not yet reviewed Words of Radiance, but I have reviewed the first book, The Way of Kings.

Middle Grade Fantasy

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I have always loved books about dragons, and look for novels with nonhuman narrators. For these reasons, this book written from the perspective of a young dragon was almost exactly what I was looking for.

If I had read this book while I was part of the intended age group it would probably have become one of my favorite books ever. As it was, I still enjoyed it enough to make it my favorite for this category, and I plan to continue with this series.

Young Adult Sci-Fi

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Choosing a favorite for this category was hard. In the end I chose Illuminae in spite of the fact that I had a little trouble getting used to the formatting at the beginning because the second half makes up for the first. I have not yet written a review, but hope to soon.

Adult Sci-Fi

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Really enjoyed this book. Have read it around three times now. Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy. I have reviewed both Golden Son and Red Rising in which I express my enjoyment.

Middle Grade Sci-Fi

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This book is in the hazy area between YA and MG, but for the purpose of this list I will consider it middle grade. This book was very thought provoking, and I think it would be a great novel for discussion in a book club or classroom. It’s also the only book I’ve read set in Mexico, even if it is called something else in this novel.

Contemporary

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This book is unlike anything else I’ve read. So different that I haven’t been able to compose my thoughts into a review. It’s hard to adjust to the disjointed way the story is told at first, but once I adjusted this book was heartbreaking and thought provoking.

Classic

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I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy classics as much as some people seem to, but I really enjoyed reading and learning about the symbolism involved in this one. The fact that a large canvas painting/picture of myself I’d forgotten about arrived soon after I’d finished was a coincidence that finalized making this one of my favorite classics.

Non-Fiction

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This book was shocking for me because I had no idea any of what it discussed was taking place in the medical community. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks explores the ethical questions of who owns body parts after they have been removed for medical reasons though the true story of Henrietta Lacks and her decedents.

May 2015 Wrap-Up

This month I read six books. Many of the books I read this month were some of my favorite books of the year so far. I also read the longest book I had read so far in 2015 (The Well of Ascension).

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny HanShort Synopsis: A girl writes love letters to all the boys she has ever loved and hides them in her room until one day they are sent in the mail.

Thoughts: This book was fun to read. It was lighthearted and had an intriguing plot with well developed characters. However, it was my least favorite book of the month not because there is anything wrong with it, but because some of the other books I’ve read this month will probably become some of my favorite books of all time.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Challenger Deep by Neal ShustermanShort Synopsis: Caden descends into the depths of the Marianas Trench and his own mind.

Thoughts: This is a hard book to get into as it has a unique writing style of very short chapter alternating between two purposefully confusing story lines. After adjusting this book is unique and thought provoking.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasShort Synopsis: When the wolf Fayre killed in the woods turns out to have been a faerie in disguise she must chose between paying with her life and a lifetime trapped in a faerie’s house.

Thoughts: Though there were some elements at the end that confused me, I really liked this book. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

End of Days by Susan EeShort Synopsis: Third book in the Angelfall Trilogy in which angels invade the Earth.

Thoughts: Although I enjoyed this book, particularly the first three fourths, I felt the ending was rushed and left the story feeling incomplete. For my full thoughts see my series review.

Rating:

 4 blue jays

The Final Empire by Brandon SandersonShort Synopsis: A group of thieves with magical abilities gained through consuming metals plot to overthrow an immortal dictator.

Thoughts: This was a great read. The “overthrowing dictator” plot has been done a lot in fantasy, but Sanderson makes it feel original and fresh. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating: 

five blue jays

68429Short Synopsis: Sequel to Mistborn: The Final Empire. This shows the aftermath of the heist in book one.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book, and liked that I could hardly ever predict what would happen next. However, the story just didn’t feel as complete to me as book one which I preferred over the sequel.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

Currently Reading:

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)Invaded (Alienated, #2)18243700

Note: I’m probably going to stop reading Invaded and The Assassin’s Blade for a while. It’s not that either is a bad book (neither is). It’s just that I had to return one to the library, and as for the other, I’m just distracted by everything else I want to read and not in the mood for a human-alien romance story.

Series Review: The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

764347135450751733444617950614Titles: Unwind, UnWholly, UnSouled, UnDivided

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publication dates: 2007-2014

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian

Synopsis: The second us civil war over reproductive rights ended in a stalemate. The verdict: “The Bill of life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.

“However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent my chose to retroactively “abort” a child . . .

“. . . on the condition that the child’s life does not “technically” end.”

Unwind, Neal Shusterman

Review: I started reading this series in my freshmen year of high school, and finished it a few months ago. It has taken me so long to write this review because there is so much I want to say that I’m having a hard time putting into words. This series forces its reader to think and consider difficult issues about the real world through usage of science fiction elements.

The writing style of this series is rather unusual, and while I found it enjoyable I know there are many people who will find the series harder to get into as a result of the constantly changing point of view. If I remember correctly even an airplane got a perspective chapter at one point. Neal Shusterman is extremely good at giving all of his characters individual personalities when writing from all of their separate perspectives.

The practice of “unwinding”– which is essentially an extreme form of organ donating in which every part of the donor’s body skin, eye, brain, and everything else can be transferred to someone else– is an extremely chilling and almost inconceivable concept. What makes the story believable and relatable despite it’s outrageous premise are all the details Shusterman puts into making his society. Adding to the believably are all of the links and quotes to real events and news stories contained throughout the pages of the series. This includes stories about organ transplants, “feral” (aka rebellious) teenagers, and other medical advancements. The first book doesn’t introduce many details of this fictional future’s history which might make it difficult for some readers to understand the world, but I did not have this problem at all.

The first book can be read as a standalone, or all four books can be read continuously. Book one is in essence an introduction to the world, while book two expands upon it by exploring the organizations behind unwinding’s several hundred million dollar industry. Book three, my least favorite, is essentially the first half of the conclusion. The fourth and final book, Undivided, explores the world’s chilling black market that trades extensively in body parts taken from then perfectly healthy humans.

Book one follows three main characters: Connor, Risa, and Lev. All three of them are being unwound for various reasons– Connor due to disciplinary issues, Risa due to budget cuts, and Lev for religious reasons. With varying levels of enthusiasm these characters are brought together quite by accident and go “AWOL” (meaning they flee from their unwinding, which is illegal as unwinds are government property and no longer hold citizenship status). These three remain narrators throughout the series, and new ones are also added.

The series’ most impactful scenes were the ones involving unwinding. The author did an amazing job writing these scenes without them being terribly horrific. Rather than make these scenes gory the author took an emotional approach that I would argue is far more influential on the reader than blood everywhere. In my sophomore year of high school I read one of these scenes aloud to my speech and debate class who declared the scene “weird and creepy”.

This series has made me think about the state of the medical system. An infinite amount of money could be spent trying to keep people well, but everyone will eventually die. This series explores the concept of how society values some individuals more than others. It is ironic in the sense that unwanted children in this series are sacrificed to for the ones parents would do anything to save. Other issues this series explores include what it means to be alive and whether anyone truly deserves horrific fates.

This book can be enjoyed by people of almost any political stance or religious background which is astonishingly rare for a book with such a deep subject matter.

What Readers Should Know: While this series explores difficult issues including death and the afterlife it remains neutral on these issues.  The premise of this series does involve abortion, but this is not about abortion. Abortion is a mere springboard for the world building of the story making it that much more realistic.

There is some cursing although it is not heavy in this regard. Some minor teenage characters get pregnant in the later books, but details are not included.

Rating: This is one of my favorite series ever. I highly recommend to anyone who can get past the writing style and somewhat heavy subject matter.

five blue jays

My favorite Books of 2014

The books I’ve read in 2014:

The Iron KnightThe Iron QueenFangirlThe Iron DaughterThe Iron KingGrave MercyOut of the Silent PlanetA World Without PrincesThe Iron TrialAbhorsenLiraelEverfound1984Ruby RedSilver ShadowsFinnikin of the RockUndividedThe Blood of OlympusIllusions of FateEverwildNaked Economics: Undressing the Dismal ScienceAfterworldsThe Infinite SeaThe Indigo SpellEverlostHeir of FireIf I StayThe Fiery HeartThe Revenge of SevenStarglassThe Poisonwood BibleThe Golden LilyHow to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the LinesBloodlinesLast SacrificeSpirit BoundOpalBlood PromiseOnyxThe Kiss of DeceptionSinnerShadow KissWhat's Left of MeClosed HeartsEona: The Last DragoneyeThe School for Good and EvilPoison StudyLament: The Faerie Queen's DeceptionUnhingedSplinteredCaptivateCity of Heavenly FireThe OneThe Maze RunnerObsidianOpen MindsSteelheartIllusionThe Great GatsbyThe Bone SeasonRuinsFrostbiteInfiniteThese Broken StarsIgnite MeAlienatedCressWorld AfterAngelfallPhoenix OvertureScarletCinderThe DivinersSabrielInvisibilityReal Mermaids Don't Need High Heels

In 2014, I read a total of 77 books, all of which are pictured above, and I ended the year currently reading three: The Winner’s Curse, Pride and Prejudice, and The Fire in Fiction.
 The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiPride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
Of these I will be choosing my 10 favorite books and series I read in 2014. Before I continue I would like to point out that just because a book I read didn’t make this list doesn’t nessissarily mean I did not like it, or I don’t think the book is worthy of the praise it is given. For me how much I enjoy a book has a great deal to do with timing. I need to be in the mood for it, and I realize that this list is heavily influenced by this fact.
 City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6)
10. City Of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments book 6) by Cassandra Clare
This book made the list not so much because of it’s content, but because of the circumstances under which I read it, and the length of time which I have been reading this series. I read around a fourth of this over 700 page book while in the middle of a lock down that lasted the entire school day, and an additional roughly two hours after school ended.
Without this book I would have been bored out of my mind, focusing on the fact that there was no way to access a bathroom, and pacing back and forth in the confines of our small classroom complaining about how much I never wanted to see the room again. Instead this book inspired me to write a middle grade story about faeries, quite a bit of which was planned during this time period, along with other stories planned but not yet written inspired by the event itself.
What kept this book from being higher on my list is that I felt some of the content setting the stage for the next series in the Shadow hunter Chronicles was unnecessary, and I feel that the characters’ personalities weren’t entirely constant with previous books in the series.
Vampire Academy (Vampire Ac...Frostbite (Vampire Academy,...Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academ...Spirit Bound (Vampire Acade...Last Sacrifice (Vampire Aca...
9. The Vampire Academy Series by Rachelle Mead
 I have put off reading this series for years. Back when I was 12 I was a fan of Twilight, but have made an effort to avoid books Vampire related ever sense, especially those with the word “Vampire” is in the title. I like this series for its suspense. Once I start reading I can’t seem to put these books down. These books made it extremely difficult to stop in the middle of a series to finish my summer reading.
Poison Study (Study, #1)
8. Poison Study by Maria V. Snider
This book was fast paced and engaging. It reminded me a lot of the Throne of Glass series which I also enjoy quite a bit. What kept it from being at the very top of this list is that I’m not sure I want to continue. The other books in the series don’t seem to have very good reviews. If anyone has read the other books in this series I would appreciate them leaving their opinion in the comments below.
SplinteredUnhinged (Splintered, #2)
7. Books one and two of the Splintered Series by A.G. Howard
I really enjoyed this retelling/reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. I had a hard time getting into book one, but once I got engaged in the story I absolutely loved it. This version of Wonderland was well thought out, and the small details helped make the world feel real to me. My one complaint is the love triangle.
Sabriel (The Old Kingdom Trilogy, #1)Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)Abhorsen
6. The Old Kingdom/Abhorsen Original trilogy by Garth Nix
I have been a fan of Garth Nix since I was about 11-years-old when I read his Keys to the Kingdom series. I often struggle to get into his books, but I love the world building which is what keeps me coming back to read more of his novels.
My favorite book in this series is book two, and I’m not sure that it’s necessary to read book one first although it would be helpful. A prequel to the trilogy was recently released, but I’m not sure if I will read it as it seems to be getting mixed reviews.
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)World After
5. Angelfall books one and two by Susan Ee
I read book one in a single day on a school night. This almost never happens because it usually takes around 50 pages or so for a book to truly engage me. Also, if it happened all the time I would never get any sleep and would have terrible grades.
My favorite of the two was AngelfallWorld After was still very good, but I liked the first book much more.  My only major complaint about this series is the cannibalism as I feel it is unnecessary, and a distraction from the overall plot.
Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)
4. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
This is the first Brandon Sanderson book I’ve read, and even though superheros aren’t something I typically enjoy, I loved the world-building in this book. I already own the box set of the first three Mistborn books. If I weren’t so intimidated by their length I would have started them long ago. I want to read the Mistborn books when I have a lot of time set aside to read uninterrupted which is unlikely to happen until next summer. The sequel comes out in a few days on January sixth, and I can’t wait to read it.
EverlostEverwildEverfound (Skinjacker, #3)
3. The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman
Neal Shusterman is one of my favorite authors. I love the way his world-building is so thought out, and how his books make me think, but at the same time how I never feel as if he is trying to manipulate the reader into thinking a certain way. The first book in the Unwind Dystology will always be my favorite, but this series and Bruiser are really good too. I can’t wait to read more of his books.
This series falls somewhere between middle grade and young adult whereas I feel Unwind is most definitely young adult rather than being able to fit into either category.
CinderScarletCress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)
2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
My favorite book out of the three is Cress, but I enjoyed all three of the books that have been released so far. Most series seem to have an amazing first book, but then the rest of the series ends up being either just okay or downright terrible. Not so with this series.
I love the way this series incorporates familiar fairy-tales, but is still it’s own original story. The interaction between characters is great, and I love the way each book introduces a new story arc while still incorporating the old ones. I theorize this is how the series succeeded while others have failed to keep my interest after the first book: by having each new novel focus on a new character but still having old characters narrate. The symbolism from the fairy-tales is another one of my favorite aspects of this series.
I have some problems with the believability of the world building in this series, but am willing to overlook this because everything else about it is amazing.
Undivided (Unwind, #4)
1. Undivided (Unwind Dystology book 4) by Neal Shusterman
This is the best conclusion to a series I have read in a long time. It’s also one of the only books to have actually made me cry. Books often make me teary-eyed, but this is one of the only ones that has made me sob. I wasn’t prepared to like this book as much as I did since book three was my least favorite book in the series, but it’s a tie between this book and the first as to which I love more.
I’ve been reading this series since my freshmen year of high school, and it’s hard to believe it is finally over. At the same time, I can’t wait to read more of Neal Shusterman’s books. His ability to shuffle between many characters and still give each a unique voice and personality is amazing, the world building in all of his books I’ve read has been well thought out, and I said this already, but I love the way his books make me think.