My 2015 Reading Year

In the past I’ve written a few posts summing up my favorite reads of those years. Honestly, I don’t have time to do that this year so I’m going to compile it all into one post.

I’ve read 71 novels in 2015, 29 of which were audiobooks. I’ve read at least 55 picture books this year (courtesy of Jack), and most of those have been read over and over and over again. I’ve also abandoned a handful of books.

This year I’ve focused on expanding my repertoire of different genres/authors and am happy with the results:

Mystery: 10 novels
Historical Fiction: 4 novels (not many, but all within this school year)
Fantasy: 6 novels
Memoir: 4 novels (I have a couple in queue for 2016)
New to me/Debut authors: 40 novels

Based on my list of top ten favorite books of 2015, it’s obvious that contemporary realistic fiction is my favorite genre to read. This list is in no particular order because it would be way too hard to narrow it down.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (my review): I can’t imagine my list of favorite 2015 reads existing without this book on the list. It’s outstanding and Willowdean will probably stay one of my absolute favorite characters for a long time. Plus, it was a great audiobook.

Violent Ends by Shaun Hutchinson and 16 additional authors: I still need to write a book review for this, which I’m mad at myself for not having done sooner. This is the type of book that all teachers should read. It’s being passed from reader to reader in one of my senior classes right now and I couldn’t be happier about that. There are a number of characters in this novel who are still on my mind even a month or so after reading it.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (my review): This read more like historical fiction to me than fantasy, which worked perfectly fine. The audio is fantastic and really kept me hooked. I’m a huge Rae Carson fan which is one of the reasons I’m using The Girl of Fire and Thorns as a hero’s journey book club book with my freshmen. In one class, however, only two students chose to read that (totally surprised me) and one of students ended up being unsure about whether she wanted to stick with it. That student didn’t want to leave her peer behind though, so she didn’t know what to do. I had my copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger handy, so I suggested she try reading it instead so she and her other group member could maybe at least read books by the same author. My student came in the next day and was so excited about Walk on Earth a Stranger that she realized since it’s so awesome The Girl of Fire and Thorns must be just as great too. She’s now reading both books. Total win.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: Here’s another book that I wish I would have reviewed after I finished reading it. I loved The Summer I Turned Pretty and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but P.S. I Still Love You officially made me a Jenny Han fangirl. I felt like I was right there experiencing everything with Lara Jean as I read it. Jenny Han made me feel like I was part of Lara Jean’s family; I was left feeling kind of sad when I finished reading because I wasn’t ready to leave those characters behind. It would be perfectly okay with me if she writes a third book or even a book written from Kitty’s point of view. I’d pre-order either book!

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby (my review): I feel like all I’ve done this year is spread the book love for Things We Know by Heart, but I love it so much it’s hard not to. Thankfully my students trust my recommendations and have been thoroughly enjoying it as well. One of my freshmen has read it more than once and even created her own playlist for it. Another teacher in my building was reading it at the same time as one of her students and told me about how much fun it was to discuss Quinn’s story as they both read it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (my review): My goodness, if you want to read a steamy fantasy, add this one to your list. I was seriously bummed when I found out that ARCs weren’t going to be made for the sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury, because I have been wanting to read it for almost a year now!

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin: Time got away from me and I didn’t write my review after listening to this audiobook. Oh my goodness, is this debut funny and engaging! I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio because it was seriously that good. When I was at NCTE I requested the sequel, but they didn’t have it. Honestly, I’m kind of glad they didn’t have it because I think I want to listen to the audio again. If you’ve been wanting to read more sci-fi, but it isn’t really your cup of tea, I’d read Denton’s story; it’s what I like to call sci-fi lite. The idea behind the story could be classified as science fiction, but the story reads very much like realistic fiction, if that makes sense.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Fixer over the summer which is also written by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It was actually the first book of hers that I’ve read. Because I enjoyed it so much and because many of my friends have read and recommended The Naturals, I decided to give the audio for it a go. I have to say, Jennifer Lynn Barnes is fast becoming one of my favorite mystery authors. The narrator for this was really good and paced the story well. It’s a little bit predictable, but the reveal was still fun. This is perfect for fans of the TV show Criminal Minds and the books I Hunt Killers and The Body Finder. The only complaint I have is that I’ve been told there most likely won’t be audiobooks made for books two and three in this trilogy.

Stand-Off by Andrew Smith: Ryan Dean West is another one of my absolute favorite characters. I’m so thankful that we’ve been gifted with the rest of his story after such a tough ending in Winger. I adored this book and was left completely satisfied when I finished reading it. Of course, if Andrew Smith decides to write a third book about Ryan Dean I won’t complain; I’ll pre-order it as soon as it’s available if that ever becomes an option. What I really liked about Stand-Off is that it’s still laugh out loud funny, but it’s also full of heart and introspective moments for Ryan Dean. It reminded me of what Geoff Herbach crafted in I’m With Stupid as he wrapped up Felton’s story.
P.S. I’m sorry I didn’t write a full review after I finished reading this. I was racing to get all the things read and finalized for NCTE.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: I received an ARC of this when I was at NCTE and it’s the only 2016 title I’ve read so far. It feels like cheating adding a 2016 title to this list, but there’s no way I can be honest about this list and not include it. In fact, Jeff Zentner’s debut will be on my 2016 favorites list as well because it’s utterly fabulous. I’ll probably read it a second time if my students don’t hog my copy, but I’m predicting this is going to be a book I rarely see during the school year. I promise to write a full review in time for the March 2016 release, but I’ll leave you with this: The Serpent King was reading in almost one sitting–which is nearly impossible to do these days–and it made me ugly cry FOR MULTIPLE PAGES.

And because I can’t stop at ten and because I don’t like leaving good books off my list, here are some titles I’ve read in 2015 that my students are loving this school year:

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon: My students and I really dig the multigenre format to this novel; it makes for a quick and engaging read.

A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy: I love it when authors feature athletic girls in their stories and make that aspect of the character a primary focus in the story. There aren’t enough female characters who are student athletes in YA novels, which is a real disservice to our teens. I was a swimmer in high school and the high school I teach at has an impressive swimming program, so Abby’s story really resonates with my students.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I listened to the audio for this before it was announced as the 2015 Printz winner and was over the moon thrilled about it. As usual for the past few years, we had a snow day when the awards were announced so I had to wait to tell my students all about the win. Since last school year I’ll Give You the Sun has been passed from reader to reader in my classroom. My freshmen last year kept a constant waitlist for it and have even told my current freshmen about it. I love it when a book becomes so widely loved that my students recommend it to friends outside my class. Also, the audio for this is fabulous!

 

I’d love to know which books were your 2015 favorites! Happy New Year, lovely readers!

 

 

Where Are The Non-Celebrity Authors?

Something’s been bothering me and I feel the need to write about it. Since Jack was born (and I’ve been waking up MUCH earlier) I’ve started watching TV morning shows like Good Morning America and Live! With Kelly and Michael. They interview authors often, but lately they’ve interviewed some YA authors. I’m happy to see YA novels receive more coverage, but what bothers me is that celebrity authors are being interviewed.

If you’re like me then you view YA authors as celebrities, so you might wonder why I’m bothered by these authors being interviewed. Over the summer Kelly and Michael featured After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli, and Rob DeFranco. When I saw this book in the line-up I was geeked because I thought maybe Barry Lyga would be on the show. Nope, they interviewed Peter Facinelli. Just this month Shay Mitchell was on Live! With Kelly and Michael talking about her YA/NA novel Bliss: A Novel. It seems like Good Morning America is more apt to interview authors who write novels for adults, like today they interviewed Michael Strahan about his new book.

I have nothing against Peter Facinelli or Shay Mitchell. I’m happy to see authors and their novels receiving national coverage. I’m especially happy to see YA novels earning such wide attention; hopefully those books will land in more teen’s hands now. But why can’t non-celebrity authors be interviewed on morning shows or national TV in general? Aren’t their books worthy of more attention? Don’t viewers read books other than those written by actors? How do we make this happen?

If any television producers happen to be reading my little blog (ha!), here are some YA authors my students love who write books that you should consider featuring on your shows:

Jason Reynolds–His newest book, All American Boyswhich he co-wrote with Brendan Kiely–is timely, important and powerful.

David Levithan–Besides the fact that I could listen to him talk for hours, he’s so smart and deeply insightful. His books make my teens think in ways they may not otherwise.

Gae Polisner–What I love about Gae is that she truly loves teens. She bends over backwards to connect with them, especially teens who are aspiring authors. Her most recent release, The Summer of Letting Go, has been so popular I haven’t seen my copies since the school year began.

Courtney Summers–Courtney understands how complex teen girls are. Her novels are loved by my students because they’re raw and real and deep. Her newest novel, All the Rage, zooms in on rape culture in ways that many books do not but should.

Julie Murphy–I haven’t told anyone this, but I had a dream a few weeks ago that Julie Murphy was being interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel. How cool would that be?! Dumplin’ is a book that should be featured on TV because of its focus on being body positive and being so appealing to teens in general.

Kwame Alexander–Um, he wrote a Newbery award-winning novel, so why HASN’T he been on national television?!

Cinda Williams Chima–Fantasy is always a popular genre and Cinda Williams Chima writes FANTASTIC fantasy series! Why not feature an author who writes fantasy that Lord of the Rings fans will love?

Sherman Alexie–He’s a well-known author in the publishing world. His YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been banned or censored multiple times despite its need to be in the hands of teens. Sherman Alexie would be great to interview because of his insight on censorship and the need for diversity in the publishing world.

Rae Carson–Rae is another fabulous fantasy author. Her newest release, Walk on Earth a Stranger, is a stunning piece of fantasy historical fiction that’s on the Young People’s Literature National Book Award longlist.

Libba Bray–She’s too smart and her writing too brilliant NOT to be featured on television.

I could go on and on with this list, but I’m going to stop here. Let me know in the comments which authors you’d love to see on national TV!

Audiobook Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Audio Review

Walk on Earth a StrangerTitle: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Author: Rae Carson

Narrator: Erin Mallon

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 22nd, 2015

Interest: Author / Fantasy / Historical Fiction

Source: Audible purchased via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Audio Review: I couldn’t buy a physical copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger yet, but I really wanted to read it so I decided to download the audio via Scribd. I’m so thankful that I did because the audio is great and so is the story. Erin Mallon has a voice suitable for a sharp shooting girl who’s fleeing to the west. It’s just the slightest bit gritty and easy to listen to. Also, the audio is almost 11 hours long and I finished it within a few days because I kept finding excuses to keep listening. There were a few times I walked into work a little late so I could keep listening in the parking lot. And I did the same thing in my garage. I was thoroughly entertained.

Book Review: I’m a big Rae Carson fan so I had high expectations for Walk on Earth a Stranger and I’m sure her other fans feel the same. Looking for epic world building? You’ll feel like you’re trekking into the wild west with Leah. Want to feel a crazy bond with the characters? I haven’t felt so close to a group of a characters in a very long time. I was hoping for more fantasy elements, but this is a stunning piece of historical fiction.

Did any of you play the Oregon Trail game in elementary school? I remember playing in my 4th or 5th grade social studies class and loving it. I clearly remember the wagon I built with my dad for our class project. Reading Walk on Earth a Stranger was like playing the Oregon Trail game on steroids. There’s an especially vivid buffalo scene that made my hair stand on end. I’m sure the audio helped, but I really felt like I was alongside Leah throughout the story. Her magic sense added an extra layer of excitement, but I liked the historical elements even more. For some reason I’m not always quick to pick up a historical fiction novel, but if they were all this entertaining I’d read more from the genre.

Let me tell you, I experienced so many emotions as I read this book. Some of the men in this book made my skin crawl. During the Gold Rush era women still weren’t respected and treated fairly. I love that Leah fights that and so do some of the other women she meets. It was also difficult listening to characters depict Native Americans in such a backwards and bigoted manner, but that’s sadly true to the time period. There were also a few moments that had me tearing up and had my heart swelling. There’s a good reason why Walk on Earth a Stranger is on the long list for the Young People’s Literature category for the National Book Award!

I wish I didn’t have to wait a year to read the second book in the series. I’m expecting more magic as the series progresses, so I know it will continue to be a fun series to read. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is a must read!

Top Ten Tuesday Freebie: Strong Female Protagonists

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

It has been a LONG time since I’ve written a Top Ten Tuesday post! I love that today happens to be a freebie because I’m working on a new bulletin board for my classroom. Four out of five of my classes are seniors and since they’re gone for the school year and I’m going to be on maternity leave at the beginning of next school year, I want to use some of my extra time putting together bulletin boards for next year. I really doubt bulletin boards are going to be a high priority when I’m ready to pop. 🙂

Anyway, in April I posted the survey results about whether my girls see themselves in what they’re reading. One of the questions I asked them is what they’d love to see in the books they’re reading and a majority of them wish to see strong female characters (their definitions of this vary). Back in February I created a bulletin board featuring book recommendations based on what my students are reading and interested in reading. I’ve decided to merge these two ideas; one section of the bulletin board will feature some strong female characters that my girls are searching for. I’m also thinking about adding a section that features girls in YA who play various sports. Of course, those two ideas can easily be one in the same.

1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Goodreads): Elisa isn’t your average royal YA fantasy character. She’s a little bit insecure, she’s very religious, and she’s fat (she describes herself this way). What I love about her, however, is that throughout the first book and the series itself she becomes increasingly self-reliant and a strong leader.

2. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (Goodreads): A.S. King is one of my favorite authors for reasons like this book and Astrid’s story. Astrid is a character who sees beyond labels, especially those that label sexuality, and simply wants to find herself and where she fits in the world. Plenty of readers will be able to connect with her.

3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Goodreads): Frankie is still one of my favorite characters and for good reason, too. She’s smart, independent, and full of spunk. I also like that this book features a strong female protagonist and is light-hearted at the same time.

4. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads): One of the things I like about this book is that while there’s a romance, it’s not the center of the story. The main focus of the story is how Hayley is dealing with her father’s PTSD and in turn her own PTSD from dealing with her father. She’s self-reliant almost to a fault. Her journey through this story is touching.

5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (Goodreads): I can’t imagine growing up with a prostitute as a mother, especially living in a brothel. Like many of the characters on this list, Josie is independent, smart, and strong-willed. This is an excellent piece of historical fiction and example of how strong a YA character can be.

6. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (Goodreads): Tana’s wakes up as the only one living after vampires attack a party she attended so she takes a huge risk by entering Coldtown to save a few of the other survivors. Tana is tough, resourceful, and resilient. This is a vampire book and Tana is no Bella Swan.

7. We Are the Goldens by Dana Rheinhardt (Goodreads): This just released today and thankfully I had the ARC to read already. This is a great story about the power of sibling relationships. Nell is extremely close to her older sister Layla, but because of a secret Layla’s keeping, Nell is being pushed away and is forced to figure out who she is without her sister.

8. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John (Goodreads): I really like Piper. I like that she’s deaf and managing a band. I like that she’s looking out for her little sister and trying to connect with her family. This is a fun, engaging, heartwarming book.

9. Sold by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads): Surviving being sold into prostitution. Enough said.

10. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu (Goodreads): Have you seen the show Hoarders? Reading Lucy’s story is like watching an episode of Hoarders. Her mom has suddenly died in their home and Lucy feels it’s up to her to keep her mom’s secret and clean up their home before anyone arrives to get her mother’s body. Talk about strong and independent.

Audiobook Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

The Crown of Embers audioTitle: The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2)

Author: Rae Carson

Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 18th, 2012

Interest: Series

Source: Audiobook purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Audiobook Review:  I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns traditionally and absolutely loved it.  Besides enjoying the narrator, the main reason I decided to listen to The Crown of Embers is because I don’t always like reading books in the middle of a series during the school year; most times I’d rather read a stand alone or the beginning of a series.  I often save series continuations or endings for the summer when I feel like I have more freedom to read what I want, when I want.  Anyway, I very much enjoyed Jennifer Ikeda as a narrator for this story.  I honestly don’t know if I’ll read the third book traditionally or as an audio now that I’ve experienced both.  What I liked most about listening to The Crown of Embers is being able to hear the correct pronunciations of names and places.  I never knew how to pronounce Ximena while I was reading the first book, and of course, I was pronouncing it wrong.  Jennifer Ikeda does a nice job bringing a different voice to each character and really bringing Elisa’s character to life.

Book Review:  I love this series.  Rae Carson is such a talented fantasy author.  I can’t wait to read book three, but I’m even more excited to see what other worlds and stories she’ll write in the future.  I love her use of imagery and pacing.  Picturing the setting comes easily as does imagining the characters.

I can’t write this review without bringing up the relationship between Elisa and Hector.  It’s such a strong friendship in the beginning and now it’s blossoming into something more.  Even when Elisa was in love with Humberto, I was hoping she would recognize Hector as more than a guard.  Their relationship might be a new favorite YA romance for me.  Hector is so honorable and strong and Elisa is finally beginning to gain some self-confidence and strength.  They’re a great match.

The Crown of Embers is a bit slower than The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but I think that’s because so much more of the story is building.  Elisa is maturing and really finding herself as a carrier of the Godstone and also as a queen.  We’re also learning more about the Godstone and we’re learning more about the realm.  I’m excited to see where all of this build-up is going to take us in book three, especially with an ending like we have in this book!  The ending is bittersweet, but it also left me feeling proud of Elisa.

Overall, I can’t recommend this series enough.  I included The Girl of Fire and Thorns as a fantasy option in my YA II class and the majority of my students who chose it loved it.  Many of them went on to read The Crown of Embers because they loved Elisa and her story so much.

Top Ten New To Me Authors of 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I’ve read some pretty fantastic books this year written by some pretty fantastic authors.  I love reading debut novels, so many of the authors featured on my list are debut authors.  I’d love to know which “new to you” authors of 2012 are your favorites!

1. Trish Doller–I’ve been raving about Something Like Normal since I read it this spring.  It’s a stunning debut and I absolutely CAN’T WAIT until Trish’s new book, Where the Stars Still Shine, releases next year.

2. Matthew Quick–I know his YA debut released in 2011, but I didn’t read one of his books until this year when I read Boy21.  This is another book that I rave about on a regular basis.  I love Boy21 so much I’m reading it out loud for the second time this year since I have a brand new group of students this trimester.

3. R.J. Palacio–I was late to jump on the “Everyone needs to read Wonder!” bus, but peeps, Everyone needs to read Wonder!  I’m so impressed by how Palacio wrote this book and has been able to reach so many readers across age levels.  I have sophomores reading Wonder and singing its praises.  I’ve been telling teachers I work with to buy it and read with their kids.  I will buy R.J. Palacio’s next book without a doubt.

4. Tammara Webber–Sigh…I LOVED Easy.  I hope Tammara Webber writes more New Adult novels because I had the worst book hangover after reading Easy.  I want more of her books!

5. Jessica Brody–I’m way late on this one!  I was asked to be part of the 52 Reasons to Hate My Father blog tour, so I was lucky enough to receive a copy to read.  And it was so much fun to read!  Since adding it to my class library, a few of my students have requested that I buy more of Brody’s books which I’m happy to do because I want to read all of them.

6. Jordan Sonnenblick–Again, he’s been around for a few years, but only this year have I been aware of his books.  I read Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, and since then I’ve been reading more and more of his books.  They’re great as audio and great as a traditional read.  His writing is engaging and his stories are heartwarming.

7. Jessica Spotswood–I bought Born Wicked on a whim and then read it straight through.  I’m usually hesitant to read historical fiction, but Jessica Spotswood wrote her debut in the best way.  Her historical fiction is romantic, magical (hence the witches), and engaging.  The language of the time isn’t overdone, but balanced and easy to read.  I can’t wait to read the sequel; I wish I didn’t have to wait until this summer!

8. Miranda Kenneally–I’ve read both Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker and love them both.  They’re incredibly popular in my classroom which made me eve more excited to find out that Kenneally is signed on to write six more books with Sourcebooks.

9. Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns released in 2011, but I didn’t read it until this summer.  I love Rae’s writing style and the characters she’s included in this high fantasy trilogy.  The sequel, The Crown of Embers, just released this fall and its been receiving lots of rave reviews.

10. S.J. Kincaid–I read Insignia last fall, but it didn’t release until this summer.  S.J. Kincaid is an exciting new voice in YA with the Insignia trilogy.  It’s exciting and refreshing and full of guy-appeal.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can’t Wait To Read This Fall

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Fall is one of my favorite seasons.  I start the school year feeling refreshed and energetic, I get to wear hoodies again, and the trees turn vibrant colors.  I also love getting cozy on the couch and reading a good book.  Actually I do that all year long, but don’t we all?  I’ve listed some books I’m looking forward to reading during this lovely season.  I only have eight today, so it’s not a true top ten, but that’s the best I could do for now.

Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt (Goodreads)–I’ve been reading lots of good reviews for this one.  It sounds like a tear-jerker, but I’m okay with that.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone (Goodreads)–Thanks to NetGalley I’ve already read this one and loved it.  I’m adding it to my list because I’m excited to buy a finished copy and share it with my students.

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill (Goodreads)–Besides absolutely LOVING this cover, this book sounds awesome.  Is it November yet?

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (Goodreads)–This is one of my favorite fantasy series.  The books are really long, but they’re so much fun to read.  Can’t wait!

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (Goodreads)–I just read The Girl of Fire and Thorns a few weeks ago and loved it!  Thankfully I only have to wait a couple more weeks to find out what’s happened with Elisa 🙂

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads)–It’s been over a year since I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.  I seriously can’t wait for this book.  Michelle Hodkin left us with such a cliffhanger that I absolutely need to know what the heck is going on with Mara.

Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (Goodreads)–I hope the audio for this book releases on the same day as the book.  After listening to Beautiful Chaos on audio I’ve decided that there’s no other way to read this series.  If you like audio, you really have to listen to this series.

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (Goodreads)–I’ve been reading some positive reviews for this one, so I’m really excited for it.  It sounds like a cool mix of sci-fi and paranormal.  One of the reviews on Goodreads said it’s really fresh which is always something promising to read.

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Author: Rae Carson

Publisher: Greenwillow (HarperCollins)

Release Date: September 20th, 2011

Interest: High Fantasy

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

I still view myself as a new fan of high fantasy, but I know when it’s done right.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson is high fantasy done right.

Usually when I’m torn over a book I break it into a list of what worked and what didn’t work.  I’m not torn about this book at all because I LOVED IT, but I’m going to make this review simple and break down everything that is awesome about The Girl of Fire and Thorns into a list.  Sometimes lists are necessary, especially when reviewing a fantastic book.

Everything That Is Awesome About Rae Carson’s Debut:

  • The World Building–I think my friend Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts said it best when she said that the world building in The Girl of Fire and Thorns is similar Kristin Cashore’s world building.  Her use of imagery makes the world come alive on the page and very easy to visualize.  It’s not simple, but it’s not overdone; the reader doesn’t need a map to know where everything is, like in many high fantasy novels.
  • The Premise–I know some readers have been turned off by the fact that the Godstone resides in the bearer’s belly button, but it didn’t bother me.  I like how original the idea is and how it played out in the novel.  I was constantly wondering about the Godstone and what might happen with it, and I was pleasantly surprised at the end.  I like that the reader figures this out with Elisa; it engaged me as a reader and made me feel more connected to Elisa.  Religion plays a large role in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but it isn’t your average book about faith.  Elisa needs to stay faithful and learn to have faith in herself, but the religion is different.  It’s written in such a way that those who may shy away from books with religious themes will probably enjoy this.  The way magic is mixed in to the story gives this religion a different flair.
  • The Characters–Elisa is a breath of fresh air.  She isn’t a perfect, beautiful, graceful character.  She’s fat, unsure of herself, and in many ways naive which makes her more realistic.  The growth of her character is outstanding and so much fun to watch.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching her become strong and independent.  The supporting characters are wonderful.  I particularly enjoyed Lord Hector, Humberto, and Ximena.  They’re vibrant and make the story so much stronger.
  • The Pacing–Many of the high fantasy novels I’ve read are dense in story, lore, background, mythology, etc.  Rae Carson’s novel is lengthy at 424 pages, but it’s fast-paced and easy to read.  Many of the character’s names and the different settings are hard to pronounce, but it didn’t hold me back from enjoying and understanding the story.  I had a hard time putting this one down, especially since the chapters are short and end in just the right way to keep me wanting more.
  • The Ending–No, I’m not going to spoil the outcome of the story.  I’m simply going to say that I’m happy about a “real” ending to a book kicking off a series.  No horrible cliffhanger that makes you want to throw the book.  The ending is perfect because it leaves me satisfied and wanting more at the same time.

If you haven’t read The Girl of Fire and Thorns yet, I highly recommend reading it as soon as possible.  I’m teaching this in my YA Lit II class and couldn’t be happier about it; it’s going to work perfectly in my fantasy unit.  The good thing for those of us who are just now reading this book is that we only have to wait until September 18th for the sequel, The Crown of Embers, to release!

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