31 Favorite Books to Celebrate my 31st Birthday

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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?

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Quite Possibly My Favorite Book of the Year

martianThis may come as a surprise after the way I raved about the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, but I think I just read my favorite book of the year. There are still four months left, of course, and I’ve read some really great books this year (like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell), but this latest book is easily the best adult book I’ve read. So what book is it? It’s a New York Times bestseller that actually lived up to its hype: The Martian by Andy Weir.

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Here’s what I loved about it:

1. It’s sci-fi, but believable.

There weren’t any aliens, or a time-space continuum, a meteor on an Earth-destroying path, or epic space battles. This was just a straight up mission to Mars where the astronauts were all scheduled to do some experiments, collect rock and soil samples, and return home. Easy-peasy. Or at least, that was the plan…

2. The main character had a great sense of humor.

Mark Watney could have crumbled under the despair of being abandoned on Mars. But he doesn’t. He’s calm and clever and keeps it light. Most people wouldn’t be able to do this, but he’s an astronaut. They train for the unexpected, plus they’re just cooler than the average human, right?

An example of his humor: when Mark tries using a laptop outside of his main hub, the extreme cold of Mars causes the laptop to instantly die. He teases, “Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”‘

3. The suspense kept me racing to find out what would happen next.

This may be sci-fi, but it’s really a survival story. We’ve all heard about the robots and missions where one miscalculation has led to million dollar failures. With one problem after another, will Mark survive on Mars? Will he ever make it back to Earth? How could one astronaut survive the odds?

4. The math and science-heavy parts were oddly satisfying.

I am terrible at math. My brain just doesn’t do well with numbers and complex problem solving. But I admire Watney’s ability to do those things. Math and science really do save his life. His MacGyvering skills would be useless (and a bit unbelievable) if he didn’t have the calculations to back up his plans. Also, I can appreciate the work the author put in to achieve the book’s thoroughness. The author really knew his stuff.

5. The story of how this book became a bestseller is a writer’s dream.

In the back of the e-book version of The Martian, there is a short essay by the author explaining how a nerdy idea became a bestselling novel. Just for fun, the author decided to plan out a manned mission to Mars, complete with software to calculate the crew’s trip. From there, he started thinking about all the things that could go wrong. So he wrote The Martian and posted chapters on his website. His readers asked him to make the book available on Amazon, so he formatted it into an e-book, and set the price at the lowest available: 99 cents. Lo and behold, it became an Amazon bestseller. Publishers wanted the book and so did movie studios. The book was republished and became a New York Times bestseller. In October, the movie version starring Matt Damon will hit theaters. Not too bad for a self-proclaimed nerd, eh?!

Have you read this book? What did you think? Will you see the movie?

Below is the trailer for the film. Caution: if you plan on reading the novel, I would steer clear of the trailer. It reveals a lot of the book’s content.

The Next Must Read Series

chaos_postoneWow, readers. I just finished a series that was unlike anything I’ve ever read. It was thought-provoking, action-packed, suspenseful, and invigorating. It was so special that I’m going to focus three blog posts on this particular series. What series would deserve so much attention? The Chaos Walking series, made up of three novels and three short stories (one short story is at the end of each ebook). The series starts with The Knife of Never Letting Go, whose dramatic cliffhanger ending leads you right into The Ask and the Answer, and culminates with Monsters of Men. It’s a Young Adult series, but the content is pretty mature, so I would recommend it for readers over 13. Intrigued?

Have you ever wished that you knew what someone was thinking? Well, in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series, you can hear what everyone is thinking. All. The. Time. All of their most secret and mundane thoughts, hopes, dreams, and memories are broadcast as “noise” to everyone around them. Oh, and everyone can hear what YOU are thinking too. Now maybe that doesn’t sound so cool. Got a crush on someone? Everyone would know. Don’t know how to do something? Everyone would know. Tell a little white lie? Don’t even bother, because everyone would know. The animals all have noise too, so it’s practically impossible to find some peace and quiet. But wait. Are you female? Then you don’t have noise. Lucky you! Only the men have noise, which means they are jealous and mistrustful of you and all your silence. How is such a thing possible? Well, this series takes place on a new planet where settlers have landed to get away from the problems of “Old World.” When the settlers arrive, the noise is like a disease they catch. So not only are they working hard to survive and build new communities, but they are also struggling to adapt to this strange phenomenon. Communities choose to deal with this issue in different ways.

The Knife of Never Letting Go follows the story of Todd, a young boy who is about to reach the age of manhood. His community- which is the only one he believes exists- no longer has any women. It’s just a town of angry, frustrated, depressed, and noisy men. One day, Todd is out gathering apples when he comes across a pocket of silence. This silence starts a chain of events that sends Todd running from his community in fear for his life. Along the way, he discovers the truth behind his community’s history, what it means to be a man, and how love can be a powerful force. I’m going to leave it at that because I don’t want to spoil the story for you. You should know that the book may be a little strange and difficult to get into at first, but keep reading–it’s worth it!

This series has the potential to become the next big thing. Like The Hunger Games, the series is violent and brutal, and not for the easily offended. As in The Maze Runner series, the main character is a boy, instead of a girl like a lot of popular teen stories (Katniss, Katsa, Cassia, Bella, etc). Despite the heaviness of some of the events of the series, there is also a theme of tolerance, respect for the planet, and the courage to do what is right even in the toughest of times.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up The Knife of Never Letting Go at your local library, bookstore, or online outlet. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this wonderful series.


Read more about the Chaos Walking series on Goodreads:

Book 1: The Knife of Never Letting Go          + Short story “The New World”

Book 2: The Ask and the Answer                  + Short story “The Wide, Wide Sea”

Book 3: Monsters of Men                             + Short story “Snowscape”

Admitting the Truth

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In an article posted on Huffingtonpost.com earlier this month, author Gabrielle Zevin questions why we lie about our favorite books. Instead of admitting that we love mysteries, romance, a book from our childhood, or Twilight, most people would rather state that their favorite book is something that makes them sound intelligent and thoughtful—like a New York Times Bestseller that we read about in a review once. There’s a sense of pride when we pick out the book at the bookstore and place it on our coffee table or bookshelf, while there is something embarrassing about revealing our true favorites. Zevin notes, “I have often wondered if a book like Fifty Shades of Grey would have done as well in a world without e-readers. What if all readers had had to go into an actual bookstore to purchase a copy?”

Sometimes we try to get out of answering the question about naming our favorite book by saying something like, “Oh, there’s too many! How could I ever choose just one?” I used to ramble off a bunch of titles or authors when asked the question, but now I feel more confident revealing that The China Garden is my favorite book. I don’t mind that hardly anyone else has ever read it. I don’t mind that it’s a young adult mystery/romance from the 1990s. I’ve read and re-read the book on multiple occasions and no longer feel guilty that it isn’t a classic or a Best Seller.

In all, Zevin states that she doesn’t “mind when people ‘lie’ about what they read. I think the lie itself is revealing and the more I consider the matter, I’m not even sure it’s a lie. On some level, I think we want our reading self to represent our best self…We buy books aspirationally.”

Aspirationally or not, I’m just glad that people are still buying books and talking about them!

How about you? Do you find yourself lying about your favorite books?

Entry #22 – Favorite Book:

Entry #22 – Favorite book:  I know, I know—how can you pick just one?  But if you had to, what book would be your favorite?

I hinted at this post in Entry #15, and now it’s finally here!  My answer to the question, “What’s your favorite book?” is typically The China Garden by Liz Berry.  I have read the book multiple times, but it had been a while since I last read it.  I decided to re-read it earlier this month to make sure that it still is my favorite book—and to make sure it wasn’t just something I enjoyed as a pre-teen.  I was pleased to discover that I still loved the book.  I still raced through it to uncover the mystery of Ravensmere.  Be aware that this can be a tricky book to get your hands on, as it is no longer in print.  It’s worth the search though!

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