5 Star Reads of 2017

This year, I was blown away by the second and third books in multiple trilogies. In the past, it had felt like no other book in a series could top the first book – and the third book? Might as well just pretend it never existed (I’m looking at you, Allegiant). But authors Sarah J. Maas, Victoria Aveyard, and Leigh Bardugo have made me hopeful that trilogies and series are alive and well. Sarah J. Maas tops my list as the author of five of my most favorite books of the year. Stand alone books didn’t disappoint either. Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a must-read for anyone looking for a politically and emotionally savvy #metoo read. I’ve been anxiously awaiting for another book from my Graceling-universe-author Kristin Cashore, and while Jane, Unlimited was worlds away from Graceling, I was still hooked on every page. I’m looking forward to whatever else she decides to write. Another interesting thing about this list? Women authors dominate, with the only male writer being Scott Westerfeld for Afterworlds. Way to go, ladies!

Without further ado, here are my five star reads of 2017, in no particular order:   

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  2. A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  3. A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
  4. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  5. King’s Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard
  6. Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo
  7. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  8. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

But I read so many GREAT books this year, and eight books just doesn’t do my reading list justice. So here are a few four star books that were an absolute pleasure to read.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
  • Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo
  • Siege and Storm (The Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
  • The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2) by Renee Ahdieh
  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
  • A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis
  • Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  • Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  • A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray

What were your favorite reads of the year?

Find my top books of 2016 here and 2015 here.

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Here Come the Posts!

Know why I’m excited for NaBloPoMo? Because I get to post more times in one month than I do all year! I posted a pitiful 11 times since NaBloPoMo 2016 wrapped up.

Here’s some of what I’ve been up to:

  • Family trip to Puerto Vallarta and Merida, Mexico, in March
  • Grown-up trip to Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend to see J.Lo in concert
  • Spending time with family in Minnesota in July
  • Family trip to Los Angeles at the end of July to attend a quinceanera and Disneyland
  • Smaller trips to visit my parents, who live 2 ½ hours away
  • Working once or twice a week at my tutoring center, plus doing some editing work from home
  • Attending a mommy and me dance class on Wednesday nights
  • Recuperating from back-to-school colds and post-vacation colds!
  • Visiting the library every two weeks or so
  • Throwing a Shimmer and Shine birthday party for my three year old
  • Keeping a toddler who doesn’t nap occupied for 14 hours a day!

This November, I hope to fill my blog with bookish posts – everything from reviews, to quotes, to dream casts, and maybe even some toddler book recommendations. I look forward to reading other bloggers’ posts, too. Stick around and let’s share some book love!  

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

A new dream cast post should be appearing soon, but until then, here are a few unpopular bookish opinions. Please feel free to share your responses to these questions too!

  1. A popular book or series that you didn’t like. 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (see my thoughts here) and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein. I’m all for World War II stories, but I did not understand this book at all. I was so lost about what was going on and eventually decided to give up on it. (Here are a few more popular books I didn’t care for.)

  1. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake was one of my favorite books of 2016, but when I looked on Goodreads, there were a lot of negative comments.

  1. A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with (warn people for spoilers) OR an OTP (One True Pairing) that you don’t like.
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jami Ford – because if he loved her so much and did so much for her and her family, why didn’t he wait for her?…
  • How about Harry and Ginny? Who really believed in that match?!
  1. A popular book genre that you hardly reach for.
  • Biographies
  • Memoirs
  • Short stories
  1. A popular or beloved character that you do not like.

I didn’t make a connection with Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. My first name is Anne, and my aunt gifted me the Anne of Green Gables books when I was younger and I just remember being soooo bored. I know Anne is experiencing a resurgence of popularity with an audio-book read by Rachel McAdams and a Netflix series, but I’m not interested.

  1. A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

Hm, maybe Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame. I tried reading the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief, but I gave up after a few chapters. It just didn’t hook me. This is possibly because I had seen the movie previously and it just wasn’t something I cared for, despite enjoying mythology. I’m also not much of a John Green fan (see here).

  1. A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing. (examples “lost princess”, corrupt ruler, love triangles, etc.)

I’m getting tired of the “girl-falls-for-the-guy-who-is-mean-to-her” trope. It just feels like we can be doing better than perpetuating the idea of boys treating girls badly because they secretly like them. I’m all for a bad boy or a mysterious boy with a secretive past, but why must they mistreat girls and the girls put up with it?   

  1. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies. Instead, while everyone was freaking out about Christian Grey, I was reading the epic romance of Tatiana and Alexander in Paullina Simons’ The Bronze Horseman trilogy.   

  1. The saying goes “The book is always better than the movie,” but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

There are actually several movies I enjoyed more than their books – and I think it’s because I saw the films before reading the books (read my post about those book/film duos here). I didn’t have an allegiance to the books or notice that I was missing out on anything. One such film is Stardust, which was based on the book with the same name by Neil Gaiman. To me, the film added conflict and entertainment to a book that was too sweet.

Share your opinions in the comment section below, or post about them on your own blog and link back here so I can check out your answers. This isn’t a new tag, so if you’ve already responded to it, I’m still curious to know your thoughts!

These Are a Few of My Favorite Links

We have moved on to May already (how can that be?! This year feels like it’s just flying by), but there were so many great bookish things in the news in April. Here were some of my favorite articles and links.

  • 8 Reasons the American Girl Books are More Relevant Now Than Ever
    • If you were a girl growing up in the ’90s like me, you definitely read (and probably still own) a bunch of these books (and had a doll…and clothes for yourself…and had a subscription to the American Girl magazine…and whatever else American Girl wanted to sell you!) I love Bustle’s take on why the stories continue to be powerful. I can’t wait to read these with my daughter some day.
  • Tahereh Mafi Returns to the Shatter Me Series with Three New Books
    • I read each of the three Shatter Me books in a matter of days. They were exciting and had great characters. Shatter Me is a YA dystopian story about a girl named Juliette who has the strange power to kill with just a single touch. The final book in the series definitely left a lot of room for the author to pick up and tell us what happens next in Juliette’s world. Mafi re-read the series when working on a related project and realized that, “At the end of Ignite Me, Juliette’s story had only just begun. I saw very clearly then what the next steps in her journey had to be, and I was suddenly anxious to bring the world back to life.” I will be reading the new books to see where Mafi takes our beloved characters.
  • 10 Books to Read if You Liked the HBO series, Girls
    • I’m way behind on this show because it’s not appropriate to watch with a two-year-old around, but it’s a guilty pleasure, for sure. I’m definitely going to add a few of these books about young women navigating life and jobs and relationships to my TBR list.
  • Pioneering Author of Novels for Gay Teens Wins Tribune Literary Award
    • It’s always nice to see authors you love earning the recognition they deserve. Author David Levithan won the 2017 Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Award. He wrote one of my most favorite books: Every Day. In the article link, be sure to scroll down past the ads to find his brief interview. While he (and other authors) have brought more LGBTQ characters to literature, he feels, “There are so many more voices that need to be a part of our literature. We’re getting there, one book at a time. I am profoundly happy to live in a time where The Hate U Give is the No. 1 YA book in America for over a month. I wish we were in a place where a book like The Hate U Give wasn’t necessary — but as long as it is, give us the Angie Thomases to be our truth-tellers. We need as much truth-telling as we can get these days.”

What bookish news has caught your eye lately?

Extra, Extra: Books Bursting with Bonus Content!

Have you ever put down your kindle for the night, thinking that there was still plenty of book left, only to find out the next day that you just had a few more pages to read?

Or, have you ever been excited to see what would happen next in your e-book since you are only 89% of the way through, only to find out that when you swipe to the next page, the book is over?

If so, you have probably been fooled by bonus content. Usually, a book ends and there is a page or two of acknowledgments and a bit about the author, and perhaps an advertisement for other books by the author.

But it seems more and more common now to have other extras included with e-books: book discussion guides, essays by the author, novellas, and sneak peeks of the author’s other works (Leigh Bardugo’s e-book of Shadow and Bone went crazy with this, including SIX full chapters of multiple books). Is this content meant to make readers feel better about the cost of an e-book?

While I loved reading Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, the e-book version that I read had the most bonus content I’ve ever seen. My kindle informed me that the final page of the book was at 82.2%. So what was in the remaining 17.8%?

  • An excerpt from Oliver’s Vanishing Girls novel
  • An excerpt from Oliver’s Replica novel
  • Acknowledgments
  • Two stories set in the world of Before I Fall
  • An essay by the author about the “greatest hits” of her life – a reference from Before I Fall
  • Lists and emails discussing the different title ideas for Before I Fall
  • An alternate cover design for the book
  • A 2009 Letter from the Editor
  • A letter from the author herself
  • Oliver’s interview with actress Zoey Deutch and Director Ry Russo-Young about the film, along with pictures from the set
  • Plus, the usual book ads, praise for the book, About the Author, list of other books by the author, and copyright and publishing information

Was all this necessary? For me, the answer is NO! I understand why bonus materials can be useful at times. I’m sure excerpts of the next book in the series convince some readers to go out and purchase the next book, and sometimes an additional novella can be interesting when you’ve lived within a book so long and you just can’t bear to part with the world. However, more often than not, the bonus material just feels forced and too much like a marketing ploy (though not as much of a ploy as when books get new covers just so you’ll buy multiple versions of the same book…). If the book was great, I’m going to read the next one in the series. If it was a standalone book, I’ll keep the author’s name in mind when I’m in the library or at a bookstore. I don’t need bonus content to pressure me into it.

That’s not to say that all bonus content is bad. For instance, I really enjoyed learning about how Andy Weir’s novel The Martian started out as a challenge for himself about how someone could survive on Mars. He posted the story online, and then turned it into an e-book when there was a lot of interest generated, until it became a huge best-selling novel and a movie. I like learning about the inspiration behind a story and the journey an author has taken to get the story to its end product. Generally, however, bonus content doesn’t add much to my reading experience.

How about you? Are you into bonus material at the end of the books you read? What types of bonus materials do you find the most worthwhile?