My 5 Star Books of 2018

We’re already 18 days into 2019, but I still wanted to share some of the best books I read last year. I hope you’ll be inspired to add them to your TBR lists if you haven’t read them yet. Out of 59 books, I gave 13 books a 5 star rating on Goodreads. The chart below talks about 10 of these titles. While most of the titles are YA, I find it interesting that there are two graphic novels listed and a nonfiction book. Neither have appeared in my previous “Five Star” posts (check out my lists for 2015, 2016, and 2017). A tip: click on the infographic below so you can zoom in and actually read the text!

Honorable Mentions:

  • Becky Albertalli’s books:
    • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (and the adorable film adaptation, Love, Simon)
    • Leah on the Offbeat 
    • The Upside of Unrequited 
  • Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  • One Dark Throne and Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake
  • The Thousandth Floor series by Katharine McGee
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  • Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray

Did any of the above books make it onto your favorites list? What were your favorite books of the year?


Wrapping up November

Thanks so much for stopping by my little corner of the web this month. I’ve gained new followers and found new blogs to follow myself. I’ve blogged from my cell phone – new for me – and blogged from an airport and a different country. While NaBloPoMo can be stressful as I put pressure on myself to churn out way more content than usual, I’m always glad that I participated.

Other November Stats:

  • Read 3 books:
    • Juliet Takes a Breath
    • Holding up the Universe
    • From Twinkle, With Love
  • Started 3 other books (but their lending periods ended before I could complete them):
    • They Both Die at the End
    • The Ensemble
    • Strange the Dreamer
  • Gained 16 new followers
  • Had web visitors from 38 different countries
  • My post “Casting To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” continues to be my most popular post, with 97 views this month alone
  • 14,577 words published in November
  • Saw Hanson’s String Theory concert in Minneapolis
  • Threw a Wonder Woman themed 4th birthday party
  • Spent a week in Mexico

Not too shabby for 30 days! Hope your month was productive and fulfilling, and that we continue to see each other around the blogosphere.

May your holiday season be filled with lots of books and blessings.

Faraway Lands

As I sit in the Houston airport during a loooong layover, I’m reminiscing about all the cool places I traveled to in books this year.

  • An assassin’s keep in a dessert oasis in Sarah J. Maas’s collection of novellas, The Assassin’s Blade. Maas knows how to write books that suck you in and transport you to a new, fantastical place. Her world building is so well done. The Throne of Glass series is incredible. In this story, I could almost feel the heat and sand as Celaena trains in the dessert.
  • An almost-utopian island called Antica in The Tower of Dawn. Also a part of Maas’s Throne of Glass series, TOD sends a few characters away for healing by the famed healers of the Torre Cesme and for answers and military backing. While some fans felt this book was a distraction from the main story (trying to make money off another book?), I felt it was a refreshing break, offering up another opportunity for Maas to shine at world building and society building. Unlike what’s happening on the northern continent, the people of Antica are safe and cared for by a royal family that fiercely protects their own.
  • Fennbirn Island in Kendare Blake’s Two Dark Reigns. The island is retaliating against the botched ascension by sending out a deadly mist that no one understands. So technically, this is a dangerous place, but it’s so intriguing and magical that I can’t help loving this dark, twisty series.
  • A colony on the moon in Andy Weir’s sci-fi novel, Artemis. There’s nothing cooler than imagining what it would be like to live on the moon. That’s not just me, right? Weir makes the multiple-domed colony sound so plausible thanks to his science-heavy descriptions and explanations. How do you build humongous buildings on the moon? You extract the supplies right from the moon itself and smelt the building materials. Genius! Between the science, there’s also a decent adventure, heist, survival story going on, too.

Traveling by book is my favorite kind of travel. All the thrills without the hassles of airports!

Where have books taken you this year?

A Thanksgiving for the Books

Since my husband, daughter, and I are flying to Mexico very early tomorrow morning, we weren’t able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family members who live hours away.

So instead, I decided it would be fun to imagine a Thanksgiving table filled with some of my favorite authors. Here are my self-imposed rules. Feel free to play along and post your guest list in the comments.

1. Guests have to currently be alive. It has to have some sense that this could maybe possibly happen!

2. My dining table can hold 8 people. Minus my “1-2-3 family” (as my daughter likes to call us), that leaves room for 5 guests.

3. Guests have to be authors, but they could have written many books or just one.

My Lit Thanksgiving Guest List:

  • Sarah J. Maas: I have read nine or ten of her books and I adored them all. I want to hear her talk about the characters. I would also love for her to bring along a copy of Kingdom of Ash because I haven’t read it yet and I’m dying to find out what happens.
  • Victoria Aveyard: I know from hearing her speak at the War Storm tour that Victoria is smart and interesting to listen to.
  • Jenny Han: Her books are adorable, so she must be too, right? Maybe she’s also a baker like her character Lara Jean? She can bring dessert!
  • Steve Berry: His books are full of history and conspiracy theories, so I think he’d be a good guest. Plus, my husband would probably appreciate having another guy at the table!

Ok, next, I wanted to pick queen J.K. Rowling because who doesn’t love Harry Potter?! And it’d be lovely to have someone at the table with a British accent, but really? Getting her to my house seems unrealistic- even for this made up scenario!

  • Laurie Halse Anderson: Laurie’s book Speak has been on my mind a lot lately because of its relevance. I recently read the graphic novel version and loved it. She’s also just released a very personal book of poetry. I think she sounds like she has a lot to say, and she really gets YA.

There you have it! I hope you’ll share your guest list with me. Happy Thanksgiving!

(P.S. I’ve been busy packing for our trip all day today, so this post is seriously lacking in images. Please picture a cleverly photoshopped image with all the authors sitting at a dining room table! Thanks!)

A Legit Reading List

Whether it’s 1,000 books to read before you die, the 18 best books of 2018, the 10 best beach reads, or Americans’ 100 favorite books, it’s clear that readers love lists…and debating those lists! That’s why I was surprised to come across a list that I (almost) completely agree with!

20 Books All Students Should Read Before They Turn 18

By Lindsey Murray for Good Posted Aug 20, 2018

  1. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  4. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  11. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  12. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  13. Night by Elie Wiesel
  14. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  
  15. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
  16. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  17. 1984 by George Orwell
  18. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  19. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison  
  20. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle  

This is a pretty well-rounded list. There’s a good mix of classics and contemporary novels. There are challenging, intellectual reads, as well as binge-worthy, fun reads. There is some diversity. There is historical fiction, science fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy. And there is a mix of male and female writers.

If I could tweak the list, I would make just a few changes. There are six books on the list, which I’ve marked with the asterisk (*) below, that I haven’t read. I can’t vouch for them – though most of them I’ve heard about. The bold titles are the ones I would remove from the list and replace with a different title. Some of these are books that I didn’t particularly enjoy, and some are tough reads that would be best enjoyed by older young adults, or by teens only if they were reading them along with a teacher who could help explain the book/symbolism/significance.   

    1. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
    2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
    3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
    4. *Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
    5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky → replace
    7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding → replace
    11. *Looking for Alaska by John Green  → replace
    12. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    13. Night by Elie Wiesel
    14. *The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  → replace
    15. *The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
    16. *The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath → replace
    17. 1984 by George Orwell
    18. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    19. *Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison  → replace
    20. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle  

What would I replace the six bold titles with? Hmm…probably the same books that I keep recommending over and over and over again!

  1. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  2. March by John Lewis
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  4. Every Day by David Levithan
  5. The Giver by Lowis Lowry
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  7. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

What did you think of the “20 Books All Students Should Read Before They Turn 18” list? Would you make any changes?

My TBR List Will Never Be Tackled

Like most book readers, I’ve got a TBR list – both formally on Goodreads and as a wishlist in the Overdrive app, and informally in my head – but, to be honest, I don’t really plan on reading all of those books. I don’t prioritize my next book choice based on my list. I just don’t see that working for me because my reading habits and styles and interests are always changing and growing. Here are a few specific examples of why I don’t plan on following through with my TBR list:

1. Sometimes I see the movie first and then I don’t care to read the book.

This might be because I didn’t think the movie was very good, so why would I invest the time into the book? Or, now the lack of suspense just makes it something I no longer care to read. I know what happens – why bother reading the same story twice?!

Three particular examples of this are:

  • The Spectacular Now, book by Tim Tharp
  • The Lightning Thief, book by Rick Riordan
  • Big Little Lies, book by Liane Moriarty

2. Sometimes I read other books by the author and realize I don’t really care for their work.

For instance, I know John Green has a big following, but I just can’t get over how pretentious and boring most of his books are. Read more about my thoughts here! Even though I added Looking For Alaska to my TBR because it is consistently on best-book lists (even making it onto the PBS The Great American Read program), I refuse to read it since I didn’t like An Abundance of Katherines or Paper Towns. The Fault in our Stars is bearable, but I can pick out a lot of other YA books that I enjoy more.

3. Sometimes I’m worried reading another book by a beloved author will ruin the series/author for me.

I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird numerous times, and even taught it in the years I spent teaching high school English, but I’m scared to pick up Go Set a Watchman. I’ve heard that Atticus is not as virtuous as he is in TKAM. The circumstances regarding how the book became published when Harper Lee was 88 never sat well with me, either. Did she really want the book read or was she taken advantage of?

Another book like this is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I adore the Harry Potter series and I don’t want to tarnish it. Cursed Child has had very mixed reviews, and since Potterheads worship J.K. Rowling, I know the work has to be pretty rough to not earn their praise!

4. Sometimes I read the first book in the series and wasn’t captivated enough to pursue the rest of the series…but if I come across it someday, maybe I’ll pick it up.

  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
  • Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman
  • Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

5. Sometimes it’s a classic or a book with a lot of hype that I feel I’m supposed to have read…but I’m not really interested. I’ll get to it later.

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

How about you? Are you strict with your TBR list, or do you give yourself wiggle room?

Mmmbop, ba duBOOKS

At the end of last year’s NaBloPoMo, I was off to Chicago for Hanson’s “Finally It’s Christmas” tour, and now, I’m off for another Hanson concert! This time around (also the name of a great Hanson song and album!), Hanson will be performing with a symphony orchestra. So, in honor of one of my favorite musical groups, here are some brief book reviews paired up with the lyrics to Hanson’s most popular song, “Mmmbop.” Enjoy! Tip: click on the image to make it bigger and easier to read.

And you’re welcome in advance for getting this song stuck in your head for the rest of the day!