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.

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Series Review: Penryn and the End of Days

158638321784911218500665Titles: Angelfall, World After, End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days Trilogy)

*Note: I have posted a separate review of the first book, Angelfall. To view my review of book one click here.*

Author: Susan Ee

Publication dates: 2011-2015

Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: When angels come to Earth the people in the World Before thought it meant something to celebrate.

They were wrong.

The angels brought with them the apocalypse, and they still haven’t told the world what they want or why they’re here.

Penryn is a human teenager trapped in the middle of this chaos. All she wants is to keep her family safe and together. This proves complicated when her sister, Paige, is kidnapped by angels.

Penryn is left with only a wounded angel named Raffe to help her find Paige. Penryn keeps telling herself her goal is simply to keep her family together, but she has the potential to accomplish so much more.

Review: As mentioned in my review of book one, this series is extremely addicting. I read End of Days during my final exams because I just couldn’t wait any longer. It was practically painful to pry myself away from the book and remind myself I needed to get to bed at a decent hour. Book one remains my favorite in the series.

In World After Penryn and Raffe spend too much time apart. As much as I love Penryn, who is a strong character on her own, it’s really her relationship with Raffe that brings this series to a whole other level from any paranormal romance novels I’ve read. This is not to say this book is a paranormal romance novel. While this argument could be made there is so much more to the Angelfall trilogy than the romance.

Throughout the series the two main characters, Penryn in particular, is constantly reminded of the fact that she and Raffe are on different sides of what she sees as a war between their species. I appreciated that Penryn never forgot Raffe was an angel which shows the difference between her and many young adult heroines who would drop anything, including their allegiance to humanity, for their love interests. (I don’t think this has happened yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If anyone can think of a YA heroine who abandoned humanity for her boyfriend I’d love to hear about it in the comments.)

While my favorite part of World After was the thrilling last several chapters, my favorite part of End of Days was the first two thirds. The ending of the series, while still good, felt rushed. This is especially true of where the story finally ended up. These are relatively short books, and I felt that with a few more chapters or maybe even one more chapter the author could have left me feeling satisfied. Instead everything at the end happened extremely quickly, and I never felt closer for certain events I never heard the end of that seem like plot holes to me.

What Readers Should Know: This series is set in a post-apocalyptic version of our world. As a result, government structure has collapsed and human behaviors that would not be acceptable to modern society have become the norm.

This series features some gory death scenes. (How graphic depends on how imaginative you are.) Cannibalism plays a rather predominate role. Although neither of the main characters partake, some of the aftermath is described in detail.

Rating: This is a great series overall, and I would recommend it to others. It was engaging with great character dynamics. Angelfall gets a 5/5 while World After, and End of Days both get 4/5. That gives the series a 4.5/5 overall.

4.5 blue jays

Reading Wrap-up: February 2015

In February I read four books for the first time and reread three. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and still am. When this happens I typically start rereading some books I found highly enjoyable.

First Time Reads: 

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin GierShort Synopsis: Book two in a series about a family with a time traveling gene.

Thoughts: I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first in the series and am debating whether to continue on. The characters have really begun to annoy me, although I do enjoy the underlying plot.

Rating: 

3 blue jays

Fairest by Marissa MeyerShort Synopsis: Prequel to the Lunar Chronicles Series. Find out how Queen Lavana got to be such an evil villain.

Thoughts: If it weren’t for my reading slump I think I would have enjoyed this much more. It gives background information I suspect will be useful for understanding Winter when it is released, but those who try to skip this book in the series should still know enough to grasp events in the series finale.

Rating: Too conflicted to decide.

Born at Midnight by C.C. HunterShort Synopsis: Teenager finds herself at a camp for paranormal creatures.

Thoughts: This book had me laughing out loud on several occasions, and put me in a good mood. It was a great choice for when I was both in a reading slump and not feeling well. At the same time I felt like it was following some sort of unspoken formula for YA and middle grade novels (ie girl goes somewhere new where two boys fight for her affections). This book feels like it was very much an introduction for the future books in this series which I do intend to read.

Rating:

 3.5 blue jays

Hamlet by William ShakespeareShort Synopsis: Hamlet attempts to kill his uncle, Claudius, to avenge his father’s murder.

Thoughts: I was read exerts from Hamlet before bed when I was younger and it was interesting to see how all of those exerts came together to form a story.

Rating: I can’t decide.

Rereads: 

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Short Synopsis: Teenage girl tries to ease tensions between humans and dragons while keeping her own past a secret.

Thoughts: Thoroughly enjoyed this book both times I’ve read it. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)Short Synopsis: Angels leave the world in ruins and kidnap a girl’s sister. Girl nurses an angel back to heath to convince him to give her information about her sister’s location.

Thoughts: A fast pace, captivating read. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating: 

five blue jays

World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)Short Synopsis: Sequel to Angelfall.

Thoughts: Still enjoyed this one, and am eagerly anticipating the series finale, but I liked the first one better. This book has a much slower pace, and a certain male character didn’t have enough page time which wouldn’t normally be a problem for me, but this character and the main character have an amazing dynamic. This dynamic was part of the reason I loved the first book.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Currently Reading: 

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2)

To see a full review of anything I’ve read this month but haven’t reviewed please comment below with a request.

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.

Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days, 1) by Susan Ee Book Review

Title: Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days book 1)

Author: Susan Ee

Genre(s): Young Adult, Paranormal, Apocalyptic

Release Date: May 21, 2011

Synopsis: Six weeks ago the world ended. Those cute little angel mosaics and statues? Turns out they’re about as far from the truth as it is possible to imagine. The apocalypse was not from an alien invasion or scientific invention. The world was destroyed by angels.

17-year-old Penryn Young doesn’t care about saving the world. She just wants to have her sister back, and there’s only one person who can help her. The only problem is that he’s not exactly human.

He’s a wingless angel named Raffe, and angels are the enemy.

If Penryn is to find her sister and Raffe is to get his wings back these two must make a temporarily alliance. Their only hope is to reach San Francisco where the angels have gathered in number, but there is no guarantee that arriving in San Francisco will give either of them what they want.

Review:  When I told my friends I had read this book in one night they thought I was crazy. When I reached the “100%” mark on my e-reader in one sitting I was not at all surprised. I enjoyed this novel that much. Angelfall is the suspense grabbing, action-packed type of novel that leaves readers wondering “what happens next?”

I must admit that I came into this book with some doubts. To put it simply, I had a prejudice against self-published authors. But, this book has helped change that. If I hadn’t known before I started reading that this book had been self-published I never would have guessed.

One of the main reason this books works is our main character, Penryn. Unlike most of the heroine’s I’ve read lately Penryn is a very strong female lead who never forgets what’s at stake and is determined to find her sister no matter what the cost. Penryn isn’t about to let anyone push her around– not even Raffe.

Raffe knows this about Penryn. He lets Penryn fight her own battles and acknowledges her strengths. Some readers might be expecting some Penryn and Raffe insta-love thanks to all the paranormal romances in existence, but this was not the case. This book does contain a touch of romance, but it is mostly found in the last ten percent. Perhaps one of my favorite elements of this book was the absence of the “love triangle” cliche that plagues paranormal novels.

The usage of angels in this book was fairly well done. The author was trying to write an angel book that appeals to the general audience. I know that a lot of people are hesitant to read books containing angels because they either a) don’t read books that are preachy or b) don’t read books that are the opposite of preachy. As this book takes a neutral stance, neither audience is likely to have a problem with it on this regard.

Raffe is not your stereotypical angel from modern YA novels either– none of the angels in this novel are. Most novelists either decide to have the focus of their angel novel be on fallen angels or  morally perfect beings who can do no wrong but Mrs. Ee has decided for her angels to be more like the angels of the Old Testament. Meaning that there is destruction to the point that the world can say goodbye to most of its major cities.

The world building was another strong point. This novel is set only a few weeks after the start of the apocalypses which results in characters who still remember their lives before and most modern infrastructure is still around but useless. I liked the way the author intermixed the highly popular Apocalyptic and Paranormal genres. I often see the two apart but almost never written into the same book, and I found the combination of angels and the end of the world to be a refreshing twist.

One of the only element that I didn’t enjoy was the cannibalism. I give a detailed analysis of my reasoning without giving away major spoilers so all I can say is I felt it was unnecessary.

This book was one of the best apocalyptic novels I’ve read in a while.

Disclaimers: If this book were a movie I’d rate it towards the more gruesome end of the PG-13 spectrum. This novel contains references to cannibalism and potentially disturbing depictions of dead bodies.

Rating/Recommendations: I recommend this book for people who enjoy strong heroines and are looking for a fast paced read. I would recommend reading this book when you have time set aside to read through it quickly.

I give this book 4.5/5 because I adored Penryn, liked that the romance remained a subplot, and found the world Susan Ee created facinating. The .5 is only taken off because I didn’t enjoy the way cannibalism is used in the story-line.

4.5 blue jays