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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Unexpectedly Loved

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week there is a new bookish topic. For more details, and how to participate, click the link above.

Books I (Unexpectedly) Loved

These are all books I’ve read in the last year or so that surprised me for various reasons.

HYPE!

I’m always hesitant when there’s a lot of hype surrounding a book, and I sort of expect to think it’s not as good as everyone claims. In this case I was so wrong, in the best way!

NOT FOR ME

I had looked at both of these books previous to blogging and written them off as not for me. Fast forward to post blogging me and I decided I had to give them a try. It’s books like these that make me so glad I became a part of the blogging community.

UNKNOWN

I didn’t know these authors before reading these books, and I just picked them up on a whim. I was blown away by all of them.

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CLASSICS

Of the classics Ive read I havent really enjoyed many of them, so I was hesitant about Anne. I listened to the audiobook and it made me smile and laugh and I am just so glad that I read this book.

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

I read Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy and love the first, really liked the second and just liked the third. So, going into Walk On Earth A Stranger I was hopeful but unsure. I LOVED it, even more than the first book in her other series. I can’t wait for book two.

I enjoy Illuminae and saw looked into both authors to see what else they had written. I saw that These Broken Stars was on audio on Overdrive and decided to give it a try. I figured it had some tough competition since it’s in space like Illuminae, but it was so good in its own way.

That’s all! I would love to hear about the book that pleasantly surprised you! Recently. Of all time. What ever it may be, I would love to hear about it.
Thanks for reading!

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All The Short Ones Readathon

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Announcement and Sign Up

I don’t know about you but I start out the year with huge reading goals and ample enthusiasm and by March I’m starting to slump a little. What better way to give me a boost than a readathon? The only thing is, sometimes I find them overwhelming. They are usually only a week long and involve reading a specific theme or number of books. As a single mom and someone with a busy life, it’s just not possible sometimes. What I really want is a readathon thats a longer and was a little… easier? While still pushing me to read more. So I created All The Short Ones Readathon.

The goal of this readathon is to read books that are 300 pages or less, as many as you can in the month of March. They could also be novellas, graphic novels, books of poetry, etc. An easy way to see which of the books on your TBR are 300 pages or less is to go to Goodreads and sort the books by number of pages. That’s how I compiled my list that I’ll be sharing with you below.

Dates: March 1st – March 31st

Giveaways: At the end of the readathon, one lucky winner will get a book of their choice from Book Depository, up to $15 USD.

You will receive one entry for your sign up post, which you can link in the comments below, and one entry for every book you read and reviewed in your wrap up post. (Which you can link in the comments of my wrap up post on the 31st of March) Bonus entries for anyone who posts their TBR for the readathon, using the hashtag #ATSOreadathon

**Reviews can be on a blog or on Goodreads and can be full length or just a couple of paragraphs, summarizing your thoughts**

You can also use the hashtag to connect with others participating in the readathon, find a buddy read, and stay up to date with everyone’s progress.

My hope is that everyone has fun, reading some shorter books that they may have overlooked. Perhaps some of those could meet other challenges you have this year and if not it will certainly boost your Goodreads count!

Here are All The Short Ones I hope to read for the readathon.

There may be a few that I’m forgetting but these are the ones I can think of at the moment. I might not get to them all but I intend to try, and I will be starting with the shortest and working my way to the longest of my short books. Half of these are books I read more than ten years ago that I have wanted to reread and see if I still enjoy them but I never make the time. So now is the time!

I really hope some of you decide to join up and participate, it’s going to be a very laid back sort of challenge but hopefully a lot of fun as well! Don’t forget to link your sign up post in the comments below so myself and others can check it out. Also, please share this readathon with others on Twitter and Instagram, you can find my handles below.

Jessica @novelcravings

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#ATSOReadathon

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

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The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 14th 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Soure: ARC from Harper Collins
Link to the author: http://www.lesleylivingston.com/

Click Here For The Goodreads Summary

 

RATING: 4.5 30320008

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“Wind carry my words. Shadows and darkness see my plight. Let the Morrigan hear my plea. Give me the strength to vanquish my enemies and wreak my vengeance.”

 

THOUGHTS:

Can I just say, 2017 releases are killing it! Seriously, I have read some incredible books this year and The Valiant is definitely one of them.

The story is about a girl named Fallon who is the daughter of a Cantii king. She has long awaited the day when she would become an honored member of his war band just like the older sister she idolizes. In a sick twist of fate, her life is changed forever and she finds herself fighting instead, in the gladiator arena of Rome, her family’s sworn enemy.

The story starts off strong and in the first few chapters, Fallon’s life is altered in unexcepted ways one after another. The story gives you a chance to catch your breath and introduces some new characters but it doesn’t pause for long. This story was honed like a perfectly balanced blade. There was enough dialogue between the characters to connect with them, but also enough action to propel the story onward. I never felt like I needed more than I was given or that something was dragged out.  It was embellished in all the right places that brought the story to life, and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Rome through Fallons eyes. Rome and Gladiators are not something I’ve read about in YA before, and it was so nice to read something new. Livingston is truly a strong and talented writer. Another thing about the writing, there were so many times I found myself shouting “I knew it!” And yet I don’t consider that this story was predictable because I only ever turned out to be partly correct. I always appreciate an author that can keep me on my toes like that.

The characters were also written really well. Fallon is tough and smart and realistically flawed. I felt that she grew a lot during the story as her values and beliefs were challenged. She really held fast to the essence of who she was as an individual while considering what her new position in life could allow her to become. My heart broke for her in the first few chapters, I loved Mael, and I wasn’t sure I wanted there to be a second romance. I ended up really liking the other love interest! And I appreciate the respect he shows Fallon, he knows that she is not a woman to be kept. Even the side characters were great, they were complex and their roles were essential to the story progression and the main characters growth. Nyx was the perfect villian, the kind you despise and then in certain moments feel for. Elka was an excellent sort of sidekick character, full of so much sass and loyalty, I wish she were my best friend. And the relationship between Fallon and the Lady Achillea was pleasantly unexpected. I felt that she kept Fallon from becoming bitter about her new lot in life and instead helped her see the possibilities in it.

Overall I really liked that the romance was not the main focus. Instead, it was more Fallon learning about herself, what she wanted to stand for and the person she wanted to become. I loved that she found a new family and a sisterhood. That bond was a strong focus in The Valiant and I don’t think you see that often enough in YA. The suggestion that family and belonging can be found again after losing it really resonated with me at this time in my life.

I gave The Valiant 4.5 out of 5 stars and I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel, The Defiant! I y ou enjoy strong female leads, stories about finding your tribe, or a great historical fiction, then I highly recommend this book!

A big thank you to Harper Collins for sending me a copy of The Valiant for this review!

 

 

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: January 31st 2017
Source: eARC from Raincoast Books

Click Here For The Goodreads Summary

 

RATING: ☆☆22296822

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“Not the Twix!” said Banger. “It’s a candy bar and a cookie”

THOUGHTS:

I feel like I’m definitely the black sheep in the flock because I just couldn’t enjoy this book. There were good moments, but overall I had so many issues with it.

If you don’t know this book is about a girl and her little brother who are attacked during a snow storm and saved by a mysterious, well muscled, man from the Lowlands. Which is basically Hell. He is sent to the Overlands (Our world) to collect sinning souls and take them back to his world. However, our main character Zoe and mystery man feel an instant connection and he asks her whether he should take the soul or not. She chooses mercy for the sinner but in choosing to let him go damns mystery man to suffer the Trembling. A kind of sickness for not obeying his masters. But he’s already broken a bunch of rules by allowing himself to be seen by an innocent so what one more, right?

Firstly I would like to cover what I did enjoy about The Edge of Everything. Mechanically, I found the writing was really solid. Honestly, I feel that if this author were to write a different story, I would be interested in reading it. I really enjoyed the characters because they had realistic flaws and were pleasantly quirky. Zoe was great, her blurting was funny and often had me in giggles. The banter between all the characters was really good in fact. I also adored Ripper and Banger, yes their self-inflicted damages made me cringe, but their personalities were fantastic. One of my favorite scenes is the junk food scene with Banger and Zoe.

Sadly, that wraps up what I enjoyed. (Some spoilers ahead)

The story started off faced paced and felt creepy, almost thriller-like but after the initial attack, the mood changed. The rest of the story was pretty slow-paced, and mostly dialogue between characters. I didn’t feel engaged anymore. It wasn’t predictable, I’ll give it that. It was so weird and unrealistic that I didn’t have any idea what would happen next but not in a good way. I like the kind of unpredictable that well crafted and this was more like the recollections of an acid trip. Think Alice in Wonderland, in fact, if you like that sort of nonsensical whimsy you might love this book. I am a true believer that there aren’t books that are actually bad, just books paired with the wrong people.

Like I said before I liked Zoe but boy did I hate her to start. She sent her eight-year-old brother, who she refers to as a Spaz, outside to play because hess annoying her. Even though its -10 and she knows there’s a snow storm coming. And, she waits till the storm is full on before going to get him? I was ready to quit right there, expecting her to be thi sbratty for the rest of the book. She was actually a pretty kick ass character throughout, and very protective of her brother, so the beginning felt really out of character.

One of the things that bothered me most were the love interests. Putting aside all the bright shiny feelings Zoe has for X, I felt like their relationship was really unhealthy. Insta love that causes the participants to instantly be willing to throw away their lives and safety of others is not romantic in my opinion. Also, X is aware that his presence is a danger to Zoe but he stays anyway and later he endangers her again without warning her of the consequences. This was just plain selfish. Now, let’s compare this to Dallas, the one-sided love interest, who is constantly and annoying painted as a Neanderthal. He was constantly respectful of Zoe’s need for space, always willing to listen, helpful, kind and even thoughtful. I’m not saying Zoe should have picked Dallas (I would have) because you can’t help loving who you love. What I am saying is, she had an example of healthy love in her life so she should have known the difference. Zoe and X’s relationship felt a lot like the typical bad boy who needs saving trope. Which is so over done, and unrealistic. Bad boys have a lot of baggage and aren’t emotionally available to have a healthy relationship. It’s not a trope that should be romanticized. Again, just my opinion.

This story was unrealistic in so many ways. I wanted to scream on multiple occasions. Just so you know this is the most instant of insta love you have ever read. These two can even mind read one another from the moment they meet. I can believe an instant attraction but I hate insta love. Also who has instant love with a man who appears out of nowhere, with magic powers and a taste for soul stealing? Where is her sense of caution?! I mean I get the bad boy attraction theory but this is pushing the limits. This isn’t a leather jacket and a smoking habit. This guy is from Hell. Zoe should have been getting some major red flags once she recovered from the sight of his perfect abs. Yeah okay, later we discover that he isnt a psycho but she doesn’t know that then! And while we’re on the topic of X’s demeanor – throughout the story Zoe and X are trying to find a way for X to stay in the Overlands so they can be together? This guy has lived in Hell for 20ish years, I’m sorry but I can’t see him getting a job at Starbucks and enrolling in evening classes. What I mean is this guy is going to need some serious therapy after what he’s been through and to assimilate into a new world. I really don’t think he would be in any place to have a relationship. And does anyone else think its weird that he loves the first and only girl he’s ever interacted with? I mean so would I in his position but does that make it real love? Maybe I’m being too critical but even though this story is weird and quirky I need it to be realistic. I need my characters to think realistically. And don’t get me started on the mother! What mom would have let a strange man, found hiding in the garage, suffering from some strange sickness into the house. And leave him alone with her kids. No, any mom I know would have called the cops, or at least a cab and kicked him out. I just couldn’t buy it. Look I know its fantasy, in other fantasy books there are teen assassins saving the world, but its set in a different world than ours. If you’re going to have a fantasy in our world I’m going to hold it to the standard of our cultural reality.

And my biggest gripe with this book. What. Was. The. Point. Seriously? I really felt like it had no direction what so ever. The world wasn’t changed or saved. I don’t feel like the characters grew or learned anything. Zoe changes her mind at the last minute and lets her father go? Wow, didn’t see that coming a mile away. Rendering everything that led up to it completely pointless. I was really hoping her father would go willingly to see her happy with X, that would have been a decent resolution – but no. And oh, there’s a big battle at the end? Nope, the lords don’t even look for a body, they just assume he’s dead and give up and leave. Talk about anti-climactic. And wouldn’t they know that they didn’t kill him? I mean they know what X is doing from another realm but they can’t sense whether a life ended?

Nothing was resolved, nothing changed. I’m torn between hoping there’s a sequel so things make sense and hoping that this is the end of the ridiculousness. If there is a sequel that wraps things up, I feel like a lot of this book could have been cut out to make way for that content.

 

January Reading Highlights

Well guys, the first month of 2017 is already over! It’s hard to believe.
This year I wanted to change up my monthly wrap-ups, with a new name and different content. Hopefully, you’ll find them more engaging.

My January Reading Stats

I read 3 books and listened to 4 audiobooks
That was an average of 495 pages per book and 48 pages per day

Windwitch (ARC) by Susan Dennard ★★★★★
Wow what an incredible sequel! Click the link for my full spoiler-free review.

The Raven King (Audio) by Maggie Stiefvater ★★★★★
I’m so sad to be leaving behind my Raven Boys! HIGHLY recommend this series.

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts (Audio) by Lucy Dillon ★★★★
A really great rainy day read. Funny, heart-warming, and perfect for dog lovers.

Empire of Storms (Own) by Sarah J Maas ★★★★★
What can I say? Manon ❤

Gemina (Audio) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff ★★★★★
I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as the first book, maybe even a little bit more!

Girl Against The Universe (Own) by Paula Stokes ★★★★★
I picked this up on a whim when I felt in a bit of a rut and, WOW!
I adored every page of this and stayed up late, unable to put it down.

Stars Above (Audio) by Marissa Meyer ★★★

I didnt manage to read 4 books this month, but I did almost reach my daily page goal of 50 pages. I’m also glad that one of the books was a sequel and one finished off a series!! Only 9 more to go to meet my goal of 10 finished series this year.

I also DNF’d two books, but I don’t consider those read. They were:
Dragon Captives by Lisa McMann
Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley 

Off The Page

In less book related news, January was an okay month for me. I attended my first Hanukah dinner and discovered I love latkes. My son started to use a lot of new words such as cracker and hat. For a guy who was content with uh-oh and cup for a long time, new words are cropping up almost daily. He also had his second haircut – from me! That’s right I bought some clippers and dared to cut his hair myself, we both survived, and it doesn’t even look that bad. I enjoyed a baby-free day and went to a book consignment store, where I traded in my unhauled books for some credit and 9 new beauties to adorn my shelves. Reorganized my office which led to a house-wide purging of unnecessary and unwanted things – and it has felt so cathartic! It has felt like a month of new things and clean slates. I wish that was all it had been but sadly there was some bad health news in my immediate family and it was taken its toll on me. So, if you notice that I’m a little less active in the community please understand that my attention is focused where it needs to be at the moment.

Books Discovered

Books Hauled:

Clariel by Garth Nix
There’s a dragon on the cover!
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerrscreenshot_20170202-200718
I hear so many good things about it and I want to read more historical fiction
Harry Potter #4 and #5
I finally completed my collection!

Added to Goodreads:

Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey
After Gemina, I really want to read more space operas.
Ahsoka by E K Johnston
I read a Starwars novel last year so I want to try another and I hear good things about the author.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
It was just something about the summary that really caught me.

Coming Next & Up For Review

In February I have three ARCs for review:
The Valiant by Lesley Livingston releasing February 14th 
Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan releasing March 7th
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco releasing March 7th

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