Archive | December 2016

Top 12 Books of 2016

As 2016 draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on the past year and all the books I read. For the most part, the majority of the 102 books read I found entertaining and enjoyable, there were only a handful that I did not enjoy. Looking back on all of these books, I felt it was only right to select my top 12 books from the year. As I waded through the list of books, I decided it was best to select my top read from each month to help narrow down the contenders.

JanuarySalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea was my first introduction to the writing of Rita Sepetys and she quickly became a writer that I look forward to reading more from. This was a beautifully written historical fiction YA book about a very little known piece of World War II history. The story centers around four teens who are each making their way, amidst thousands of other refugees towards the coast in hopes of boarding the Wilhelm Gustloff ahead of the Soviet advance. This was a heart-wrenching and all too human story of the greatest tragedy in maritime history. This book was my top read for January because of how well Ms. Sepetys wove the story together and for moving me to moments of tears and joys as she told the story.

FebruaryAudacity by Melanie Crowder

Another historical fiction YA book, Audacity tells the story of Clara Lemlich, a young Russian Jew who emigrated to New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Clara found herself working in a factory on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and after harsh work conditions she went on to lead the largest strike by women in US history. This book made it to the top of my February list mainly for the way the story was told. This important story was told in verse and for me it brought the story to life that much more. Verse isn’t for everyone, but I think that this is a book that many would find enjoyable.

MarchDark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Every so often I get in the mood for some poetry reading and I will look towards either a classic poet, or a more modern poet. In March, I found myself reading Amber Tamblyn’s book of poetry that looks at the lives of more than twenty-five of Hollywood’s actresses. The poems range from Marilyn Monroe to Sharon Tate, from the famous to the lesser known. The poems are insightful and raw, and the pictures that accompany many of the pieces are each unique to that poem and to the artist who drew it. I would love for Amber to one day write a male version of Dark Sparkler as there are plenty of male actors in Hollywood with dramatic stories of their own.

AprilNovember 9 by Colleen Hoover

This was my first Colleen Hoover book and I decided to pick it up after seeing so many rave reviews of it on Instagram. I devoured this book in a matter of hours and was left not only satisfied with the book as a whole, but left wondering how I had gone so long without reading it. Not only did November 9 quickly become my favorite read for the month of April, but it became one of my favorite books of all time. So much so, that I’m afraid to read any other books by Colleen Hoover in case they don’t live up to this one, but I’m sure I’ll get over that fear in the New Year.

MayScarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Reading this book was like spending the afternoon with one of my best friends. Scarlett was the kind of fan girl that I was able to relate to as she reminded me of how obsessed I was with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was a teen. Now, I didn’t take part in the online communities or write Buffy fanfic, but I did make it a point to be home when it aired and I would shush anyone who tried to speak to me during that hour of the night. This was one of my favorite début of the year and I can’t wait to see what else Anna Breslaw comes out with.

JuneGirl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

I found this book to be a very cathartic read, as I myself had experienced a trauma at the beginning of the year. I was able to relate to Maguire and her issues with anxiety so much so reading Girl Against the Universe aided me in dealing with my own anxiety and working to move forward in my own life. Both this book and the author, Paula Stokes, are on my favorites list because of what was an important read for me and because of the kind words I received from Paula Stokes when she read my review of her book.

JulyThe Call by Peadar O’Guilin

This YA horror story is one that literally haunted my dreams while reading it. Rather than reading the story in one sitting, I decided to draw out the anticipation of everything and as a result I would toss and turn at night dreaming of all the different possibilities where the book was going to go next. My nocturnal musings led to me only getting 4-5 hours before I was awake again and picking the book back up. I loved everything about this book and its unique take on the folklore of the fae in Ireland and what happened to them. This was the perfect book to keep one up reading late into the night.

AugustGirl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

I have recommended this book to so many of my fellow bookworms since reading it, I even filled out a shelf talker at the bookstore to further help promote it. Girl in Pieces is a story that needs to be told as it deals with some of the darker issues which exist in society and that some of us, our friends, or family may deal with. The story was raw and emotional in its sadness. Reading this book made me want to reach in and hug the main character, telling her everything would be all right and that she could count on me. Upon finishing the book, I was left wishing I had studied psychology  or social work in school and gone into counseling for teens.

SeptemberMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This was actually a re-read for me. I first read the book not too long after it was originally published and decided to revisit it after hearing they were going to make it into a movie. On my second read through, I found insights into the story and the accompanying pictures that I had missed on the first read through. Sadly, I still have not seen the movie, or finished reading the rest of the books, but those are both things I plan on resolving in the New Year.

OctoberThe Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

This 1920s retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was so well written and uniquely done. I loved that for once, an author actually wrote about a minority female as their main character. The story was beautifully woven together and had so much rich insight into the history of Oregon in the early 1920s. The included historic pictures further added to the story for me since I was unaware of the vast majority of the facts which are covered in the book not having grown up in Oregon. I was fortunate enough to meet Cat Winters at a book signing and share with her just how much I enjoyed her book; I was even able to convince 4 other people (all strangers to me) who  were looking to read a diverse book to purchase it.

NovemberVassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

This retelling of a classic, and lesser known, fairytale was darkly enjoyable. Vassa was such a different story and unique in it’s telling that I flew through the book, and then proceed to read the original fairytale. Sarah Porter told this story so well, that I think she could give the Brother’s Grimm a run for their money.

DecemberBlack Moon by Romina Russell

The third book in the Zodiac series did not disappoint. The stakes continue to be raised, the new zodiac worlds which are introduced are just as stunning unique as those introduced in previous books and the cliff hanger ending left me screaming in shock and horror. This book quickly jumped to being my favorite book in the series thus far.

As previously stated, 2016 was a wonderful year when it came to reading. I read a total of 102 books, attended some amazing author discussions and books signings, made some new bookworm friends along the way. Looking forward, there are some amazing books coming out and I can’t wait to see which authors I’ll get to meet on their book tours and stops in Denver.

 

How I did on my 2016 Charity Reading Challenge and What’s Next

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my desire to take part in a charity reading challenge. My goal was to read as many books as I could and for every book I read, I would set aside a certain dollar amount (1-499 pages = $1, 500-999 pages = $5, 1000+pages = $10), to be donated at the end of the year to the charity of my choosing, Stand Up 2 Cancer, in memory of my father who passed away from bladder cancer in 2010.

As 2016 draws to a close, I have managed to read 102 books, and to set aside $131 for donation. Of those 102 books read, 96 were ones that earned $1, 5 books earned $5 and only 1 book earned $10. Although I originally planned on making a donation to Stand Up 2 Cancer, I have since then become aware of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) and have made a charitable donation of $131 to them. My reason for this change is because although Stand Up 2 Cancer is a wonderful cancer organization, I want to donate to a cancer organization that is specifically working to raise awareness about, provide resources for, and find a cure for the type of cancer my father passed away from. Many people are not aware that bladder cancer is the 5th most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the United States, and I want to do what I can to help raise and support that awareness.

With that being said, moving forward into 2017, I have decided to reduce my reading goal from 100 books to 75 in hopes that I will be able to read longer books and have even more money to donate at the end of 2017 to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.

As I did with my original charity reading challenge post, I encourage all who read this to create your own charity reading challenge to benefit the charity or cause closest to your heart.

“Frostblood” Book Review

frostblood-cover image courtesy of: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27827203-frostblood

Author: Elly Blake

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Type: Fantasy, Young Adult, Advance Readers Copy

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Elly Blake’s upcoming YA novel, Frostblood, is delightfully action packed and full of danger from the very beginning of the book. The story revolves around seventeen-year-old Ruby, a young fireblood, a unique human who is able to start and control the element of fire with her body. When Ruby’s village is raided, and her mother killed by the frost soldiers of the Frostblood King, Ruby finds herself imprisoned with nothing but thoughts of revenge to keep her going.

Despite the country being the home of the frostbloods and their king, and hatred of the firebloods, there are those who oppose the king and work towards overthrowing him. Thus, Ruby finds herself being broken out of prison by a couple of mysterious monks and taken to their abbey for safety and proper training of her powers in exchange for her agreeing to help them kill the king.

As the months pass, Ruby’s powers continue to grow and she finds herself not only learning to trust and befriend some of the monks, but even falling in love with the mysterious Arcus. Just when Ruby and Arcus finally begin to admit to and explore their feelings for one another, the king’s soldiers raid the abbey, taking Ruby into custody once again. This time though, Ruby is taken to the court of the ice king where she is made to flight frostblood champions to the death in a gladiator style arena.

With her powers continuing to grow, a dark force attempting to control her, no idea as to whether her friends are alive and coming for her, it is all Ruby can do to hold on to a piece of herself and remember her original mission.

Thoughts:

I received an advance review copy of Frostblood, courtesy of Netgalley. Even before starting the book, I was taken in by both the beautiful cover and the engaging description. I find that with a lot of fantasy novels, YA or adult, the description will make the book sound absolutely amazing, but upon actually reading the book, it falls flat for me. Luckily, Frostblood did not do this. The book both lived up to and exceeded my expectations. I loved the world building Ms. Blake created and the mythology she developed for the story. The mythology is so rich with details, that the possibilities for the subsequent books int he series have my interest so piqued that I’m ready for the next book and the first one is still weeks away from release.

The characters were well-developed and for once I didn’t want to constantly beat the main character upside the head for whining too much. That’s not to say that Ruby was a perfect character, she was stubborn and often acted before fully thinking things through. Thankfully though, Ruby did learn from her mistakes and developed into the kind of character who thought things through and allowed others to help advise her.

As for the romantic aspect of the book, it held just the right amount between Ruby and Arcus. Since the developing romance between them is not the main focus or driving force of the story, it was actually a pleasure to read because it didn’t feel forced upon me as the reader. Did I know that they would go from not liking or trusting one another to friends and eventually more than friends? Of course I did, but the progressions was both enjoyable and humorous. I was further pleased with the love story development because I really saw how complementary they were and it was nice to see that Ruby could hold her own when Arcus wasn’t around.

Overall, this was a truly enjoyable read that I flew through and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.