All right, I’m back with the February book round-up!  This month was full of enjoyable reads, and I can’t wait to tell you about them!

Up first is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, a story that focuses on the interconnected stories of a blind French girl and a German radio operator during World War II as they struggle on opposite sides of the war front in France.  This book won spots on several top book lists, and it definitely deserves its reputation!  The writing is tight and vivid, and the characters’ undertakings were fascinating to read about.  I loved this book, and, if you haven’t read it, you definitely should!

I also greatly enjoyed Soman Chainani’s School of Good and Evil.  Every year, two children are taken from their village to attend the School of Good and Evil, where students are groomed to be heroes and villains.  Beautiful Sophie is certain she will be picked for the School of Good, and dour Agatha has no interest in the schools but people think she’s a shoo-in for Evil.  Both girls are taken away, but neither end up where they are expected.  I loved this mix of coming of age and manipulation of familiar fairy tale elements.  Despite its middle-grade/ya status, The School of Good and Evil was a rousing good tale that will appeal to several age groups!

In light of the recent snowacolypse, I read Christopher Gordon’s Snowblind.  A New England town is shaken to the core when an unusual snowstorm takes away several of the inhabitants and changes the lives of the survivors forever.  Now a new storm has returned, and the town will be forced to confront old ghosts.  I enjoyed the concept of the storm and Gordon’s experimentation with the theme of loss and memory, but found the characters dull.  I would recommend it though if you want something quick with a dash of creepy.

For graphic novels, I focused on completing the two series I started last month.  However, I did take the time to read Ms. Marvel.  This graphic novel lives up to the hype; the story focuses on Kamala, who has recently acquired super powers!  The story focuses on Kamala’s exploration of her new abilities and brings up interesting questions of identity, and Kamala is a great character.  I can’t wait to read the next collection!

Last time, I mentioned I was reading CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura; I finished it this month and loved it!   Sakura is an elementary school girl who must capture the escaped Clow Cards (magical cards designed by Clow Reed, a great magician); I loved Sakura’s spirit, and the supporting cast is great.   This is another series that will be sure to appeal to multiple age groups.

That’s it for this month!  See you next time!

January Book Round-up

The first month of a new year has passed, and I’ve already sunk my teeth into some tasty books!  Here’s a quick recap of  some of the books I’ve read.

I must start out this post by discussing Marie Lu’s The Young Elites.  A blood fever ripped through the world–this fever permanently marks its victims and, in some cases, grants special powers.  These gifted individuals are called Young Elites.  Adelina Amoretu survived the blood fever, but endured harsh cruelty at the hands of her father.  After escaping, Adelina meets an organization of fellow Elites, who offer to show her how to control her abilities in exchange for her help in overthrowing the king.  But can Adelina overcome her own darkness?  I was sucked into Lu’s world, and she delivered a gut-wrenching tale.  Don’t miss this one!

I also checked out Pierce Brown’s Golden Son, the sequel to Red Rising (a favorite of mine last year).  Darrow has left the Institute for a position in the family of Arch-Governor Augustus.  He hasn’t forgotten his promise to his wife Eo and is struggling to support the rebellion while staying afloat in a cutthroat political arena.  However, he finds achieving this goal more challenging then he ever would have believed.  This follow-up did not suck me in as much as Red Rising did–I think it fell a bit into “second book” slump and I personally do not always find political maneuverings interesting.  Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and look forward to reading the trilogy’s conclusion.

I also have been reading a lot of manga lately.   I just finished Naoko Takeuchi’s rewritten and redrawn Sailor Moon!  Sailor Moon was my gateway anime, so reading this manga was pure nostalgia.  While I sometimes felt like I was getting a “cliff notes” version of some of the story arcs and characters,the series has plenty of action and a real go-getter message!   I am currently working on CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura and Toshiaki Iwashiro’s Psyren.  CLAMP’s Sakura is charming and precious, and the story is action-packed and heartwarming; I can’t believe it took me so long to read this!   Psyren follows the adventure of three high school students who acquire cards that read “Psyren”.  They are transported to a futuristic apocalyptic Japan; there they must use their psychic powers to fight off monsters and solve the mystery of Japan’s disastrous future. I have been enjoying the action and mystery in this series and can’t wait to read what happens!

Okay, that’s it for this month.  I hope to be back next month with another report!

Best Books of 2014

Well, another year has come and gone, and, according to my Goodreads account, I read 130 books in the year 2014.  As in years gone by, it was a great year for reading.  As we prepare to ring in 2015, I want to take this time to share the books that I especially enjoyed this year.   I have linked reviews when I wrote them.  Enjoy!

Literary Fiction: Newcomer Lauren Owen’s The Quick occupies this space.  Her vampires and use of historical detail made for an engaging read.

Science Fiction:  Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder trilogy (self-contained ecosystem in space is the setting for a power struggle as the ship sails to colonize) and M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts (an interesting take on the apocalypse story) take this category.

Fantasy: This was a tough category because I read a lot of fantasy, but I am going to go with Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs.  The setting–a city ruined by the death of their gods–plus a compelling murder mystery made this a fantastic read.

Mystery:  Elizabeth Elo’s North of Boston takes this category.  Elo’s protagonist Pirio is a delightful spitfire, and I found the mystery and day-to-day challenges presented equally intriguing.

Nonfiction: I genuinely enjoyed Karen Abbotts’ Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy–a history of women who participated undercover in the Civil War.  You can read a review here.  I also found Julie Sondra Decker’s The Invisible Orientation to be an accessible and compassionate look at asexuality.

Manga/Graphic Novels: Again, this is a really tough category!   However, the one that stuck with me was Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (high-flying adventure centered around an awesome protagonist)

Young Adult: Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory (tells the story of a teenager with a father who has PTSD) takes this category.  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S King also gets a nod (not going to explain this one–the amount of space I have will not do this fantastically weird plot justice.  Click on the link if you’re curious).

Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy: Pierce Brown’s gritty sci-fi story Red Rising and Jasper Fforde’s irreverent Chronicles of Kazaam take this category.  I loved Pierce’s incorporation of Graeco-Roman mythology, and Fforde’s protagonist Jennifer Strange tells a witty and thoughtful yarn.

Well, that’s that!  I hope reading this gave you an opportunity to relive your own favorites or pick something out to read in the future!  Happy 2015, all!

Widow Rose O’Neail Greenhow used her social connections in Washington D.C. to spy for the Confederacy.   Emma Edmonds–a young woman with secrets– disguised herself as a male Union soldier to spy and tend the wounded.   After shooting a Union soldier, Belle Boyd rode through the countryside, spying and carrying messages for the Confederacy.  Richmond abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew planted her African American servant in the house of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and organized a spy network to send key intelligence to the Union Army.   In Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, Katherine Abbott compellingly narrates the stories of these four women who played significant roles during one of the most tumultuous times in United States history.

This book was an engaging read.  Abbott skillfully develops each woman as her own character and skillfully writes compelling narratives for each woman as she plays her role in the greater events of the war.  I found myself admiring their brave actions, even if I did not necessairly agree with their politics.  The fact that Abbott was able to bring them to life in a non-judgemental way is what I found most enjoyable about the book–although the excellent action didn’t hurt either!
 If you’re interested in women’s history, the Civil War, and/or spy stories, don’t miss this one!

High school graduation should be an exciting, happy time, but, for Glory O’Brien, it just opens up more questions and frustrations.  She feels directionless and has lots of questions surrounding the suicide of her mother Darla and the commune that camps out across the street.  After she and her friend Ellie drink the remains of petrified bat, Glory gains the ability to see the pasts and futures of people she encounters.  The future she sees is a grim one, and Glory begins recording the main outline in her journal.

This compelling book pulled me right in!  Even as Glory’s prophetic powers portray an unhappy future (one that I certainly would not want to be a part of),the situation does not overwhelm the story but rather helps the character to shine. Glory is a well-portrayed character, and her character arc was an extremely satisfying one to read.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one and suggest that you don’t miss it!

City of Stairs (Bennett)

The Continent was once home to the Divinities, beings of great power.  The capital city Bulikov was a place of great wonder, and the Continent controlled the world.  However, Saypuri’s Kaj slew the Divinities, and Saypuri became the great nation.  Now Bulikov is broken, and the Continent’s people now scrabble to survive.  When a noted Saypuri scholar is murdered,  intelligence operative Shara Thivani and her “secretary” Sigrud step in and quickly find themselves plunged into a divine mystery that whispers of old secrets long buried.

This thrilling fantastical spy novel was a treat to read. Bennett’s world-building is vivid-the history and world cultures are  rich, and Bennett expertly weaves the resulting clashes into the story to great effect.   I particularly enjoyed the character of Shara–a smart heroine who nevertheless is facing down some significant international and personal problems–yet Bennett portrays even minor characters very well.   The balance of character abilities and circumstances–not to mention the fantastic secrets–make this a compelling read.  Recommended.

All Men of Genius (Rosen)

Violet Adams is a mechanical genius; she spends hours in her lab tinkering with useful inventions.  She has dreams of attending Illyria–the elite school for scientific geniuses–but there is just one problem: the school does not accept female students.  Undeterred, Violet disguises herself as her twin brother Ashton and enters the school to study there for a year.  Her days become a whirlwind of studies and adventures with her new friends.   Violet also has to deal with her growing attraction to the Duke of Illyria and the Duke’s ward’s attraction to her alter ego.  However the secrets of the college are stirring, and Violet and her friends are caught up in the mystery.  Now, getting through the year with her secret intact is the least of Violet’s worries.

This delightful read kept me engaged.    Violet is an engaging heroine, whose determination and growth really drive the narrative.  The story is a grand adventure that manages to balance levity with painful challenges and potential consequences.   If you’re looking for a fun read, be sure to check out Lev A.C. Rosen’s All Men of Genius.



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