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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It’s no Wonder this book is on the big screen

In 2014, I posted about three books that had great messages. One of these books was Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Wonder is about a ten-year-old boy named Auggie Pullman who is about to attend public school for the first time. While this would be challenging for anyone, Auggie has an even more difficult time because he was born with a facial deformity. The book follows Auggie’s side of the story as well as his classmates, his older sister, and other people around him, showing the effects of the strange looks and bullying he encounters. Everyone learns something from Auggie. While the book is written for elementary students (grades 3-6), teens and adults will enjoy it just as much as a younger audience. This winter, the book’s popularity and it’s message to “choose kind” have catapulted Auggie and his story to the big screen.

I’m bringing all this up because I recently came across another great article called “The Power of Wonder.” In the article, Julia Roberts (who plays Auggie’s mom in the film), author R.J. Palacio, and director Stephen Chbosky (who also wrote a little book you might have heard of called The Perks of Being a Wallflower), discuss Wonder, how it impacted their lives, and the messages that stood out to them the most. I enjoyed hearing Julia talk about how she read the book to her three kids – complete with voices – and the awkward situation that lead to R.J. writing the book. If you have read Wonder, I highly recommend this short but sweet article, which can be found in the December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine or online here. If you haven’t read Wonder yet, be sure to pick this one up. I think it will become one of those great classics that we share with our kids like The Giver, Number the Stars, and Matilda.    

Anyone else out there want to share some love for Wonder?

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!

Reconstructing Amelia: A Mother’s Hunt for the Truth

reconstructingameliapostA rule-following, intelligent teenager dies when she falls from the roof of her affluent New York City high school. At first, her lawyer mother accepts the police’s ruling that the horrific death was a suicide. As a single parent, she blames herself for not being around enough for her daughter, Amelia. However, an anonymous text message declaring that her daughter didn’t jump shocks her out of her grief and she starts asking questions and looking for answers. As she digs deeper into the weeks leading up to her daughter’s death, she learns that Amelia was hiding many secrets. Alternating chapters fill readers in on Amelia’s life, which includes secret school clubs, hazing, a mysterious friend she only knows via text message, a hunt for her father’s identity, skipping school, encounters with her principal and English teacher, and a budding relationship with a girl. The mother starts to wonder if her daughter really did commit suicide – perhaps life was just becoming too much for her. Readers will eagerly turn the pages of Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight as they try to find out the truth, too.

This book had been on my TBR list for a long time, as it was on a 2013 Buzzfeed list of 14 books to read before they become movies. All of the other books on the list (Divergent, The Fault in our Stars, Ender’s Game, The Maze Runner, Gone Girl, just to name a few) did become movies…except for Reconstructing Amelia. IMDB still lists the project as “in development” and the only name attached to it is Nicole Kidman. So I’m not sure that this project will ever move forward, but it would make a pretty great movie or TV miniseries. The book touches on a lot of important issues like bullying, unhealthy friendships, how much parents and schools should monitor and be involved with what young people do online, and strengthening the relationship between educators and parents, as they both have an important place in the care and raising of our young people.

I went into this book cautiously. I figured that a book with a lot of hype and a possible movie deal could lead to disappointment (Serena by Ron Rash was also on the Buzzfeed list, and you can read my thoughts about that one here). However, the more I read, the more I became hooked. I wanted to find out what had happened in Amelia’s life and how all of the texts and emails would look afterwards to her mother. So many different pieces were woven together to create a compelling snapshot of the lives of Amelia and her mother. I stayed up late to finish reading this book and it was worth it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good thriller, especially teachers, parents of teens, and mature teenagers. Reconstructing Amelia turned out to be one of my favorite reads of 2016, and I’m hoping you will enjoy this one as much as I did.

31 Favorite Books to Celebrate my 31st Birthday

31stbirthday

So, I cheated a bit with this list by counting some series and trilogies as one, but I think that’s fair because it’s my birthday and I get to make up the rules! As these are my favorites, I’ve posted about many of these titles. The links below will take you to my posts related to the books or authors.

My 31 Favorite YA and Adult Books:31favorites

  1. The China Garden by Liz Berry
  2. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  4. The Eight by Katherine Neville
  5. Every Day by David Levithan
  6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  7. The Martian by Andy Weir
  8. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
  9. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  10. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  11. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  12. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
  13. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  14. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  15. Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  16. Cotton Malone series by Steve Berry
  17. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  18. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  19. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  20. Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
  21. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  22. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  23. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – link coming soon!
  24. Voyager from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  25. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  26. Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi  
  27. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  28. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  29. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  30. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  31. Deadline by Chris Crutcher

How many of these have you read? Do you consider them favorites as well?

Five Star Books of 2016

fivestarbooksof2016Once again, I was pretty tough on the books I read this year. While I read many books that were good, good wasn’t enough to earn a coveted five star rating! Like I said last year, I reserve the five star rating on Goodreads for books I truly loved. Books that hooked me and I couldn’t put down. Books I had a connection with, characters I loved or enjoyed, and plots that were unexpected. These are books I’d read again. These are books I’d recommend to others (and then feel heartbroken if that person didn’t love the book as much as I did). This year, I marked nine books (out of 61 total) worthy of five stars. It’s interesting to note that two of the books were ones that I read over Christmas break – I was lucky to finish the year with such great books. I plan to write more about Reconstructing Amelia and Three Dark Crowns later. For now, just consider adding them to your TBR list! 

  1. Most of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  4. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
  5. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

fivestar2016

Honorable Mentions:

  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh  

What were your most favorite reads of 2016?