Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve done a TTT, but I like this week’s topic: My Spring TBR. Most of these books were Christmas and birthday gifts that I haven’t read yet, but some are books I want to buy and some are books I need to reread because their sequels are coming out.

  1. Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

cover firsts

I’ve been really excited for this debut since people started talking about it last year. The concept is so intriguing—nothing like the contemporary YA I usually read. I recently bought it and I plan to read it soon!

2. Shadows of Self and The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (and The Alloy of Law)

MORE MISTBORN!!! The next two books in the Mistborn spin-off series recently came out and I own both of them, so why haven’t I read them yet? Not sure. I’ll have to reread the first of the spin-offs, too, though, so this series will take some time to get through.

3. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

cover these shallow graves

A murder mystery with a journalist protagonist—I love everything about this book’s premise. Again, I got this book for my birthday and I’ve been waiting for the right time to read it.

4. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

cover these broken stars

I fell in love with Amie Kaufman when I read Illuminae, so I can’t wait to read more of her writing!

5. The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

cover the great hunt

Wendy Higgin’s Sweet series was awesome, so I’m excited to see what she comes up with in her new book. I expect some swoon-worthy romance.

6. The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

cover the sweetheart

My sister is reading this book right now and she loves it. Though it isn’t my usual YA, I like the premise, and I just know that my sister will convince me (force me) to read it.

7. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (and the rest of the series)

cover the raven kingAJSSKDHSDKJS!!! The fourth book in the Raven Cycle comes out in May, so I know that I’ll be rereading the series in preparation. There aren’t words for how much I’m looking forward to this book!!!

8. Iron to Iron (Wolf by Wolf 0.5) by Ryan Graudin

cover iron to iron

I rarely read novellas, but Wolf by Wolf was amazing, and I really want to read the story of Luca and Adele’s previous race. I don’t know when I’ll read this, but I’m excited for it anyway.

9. Vengance Road by Erin Bowman

cover vengeance road

Another gift that I just haven’t picked up yet. I can’t wait to see if this book lives up to my expectations!

10. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (and the rest of the Reckoners series)

cover calamity

I love the Reckoners series so far, so I’m dying to find out what happens next. Calamity has been out for a few months, but I haven’t gotten it yet, so I’ll have to wait to read it.


What about you? What books will you read this spring? Do our lists overlap?

Breaking Down the Trilogy: Book Two, Or Where It Usually Falls Apart

Welcome to the second installment of my discussion post series Breaking Down the Trilogy! I’ve already looked at the quirks of Book One, so today I’m looking at…

Part Two: Book Two

This is, I think, the hardest book in a trilogy to get right. One and Three usually have clear purposes (The Introduction and The Conflict’s Culmination, to put it simply), but Two is a strange bridge between the two that often gets lost.

As always, these are just my opinions. If you disagree, comment! This is a discussion post! It is supposed to start a conversation!

what i look for b2

It’s own plot: This is a must for me. Just because Book Three will probably have the most important climaxes and conflict resolutions does not mean that book two is allowed to have no plot of its own. Book Two needs to do more than raise the stakes for Book Three.

The same “feel” of Book One: I hate it when I pick up the second book in a trilogy and it suddenly has a completely different focus, feeling, and tone as the first book. I don’t like surprises; if I liked Book One enough to pick up Book Two, I better get what I ordered—that is, more of what I loved in Book One. Of course the story should develop, but I should still be able to recognize the story at the end of the second book.

Lots of development: Characters and conflicts have to develop in Book Two. I like seeing new characters or new plot lines introduced that push new buttons in existing characters. I like it when allegiances get complicated and change. If you’re going to spend an entire book with the characters, things need to be shaken up.

Build to Book Three (without overpowering Book Two): Of course, the most powerful book in a trilogy is usually the third one. That’s where the plot that links all three books together gets resolved, often with a war (just saying). Because of this, Book Two should build toward Book Three. Though it has its own plot, I want to feel like I’m on the ride up on a roller coaster, where Book Three is the crazy drop.

A Little Love Triangle Drama: If there is a love triangle, I’m okay with some drama in Book Two. Maybe we see a different side of the love interest we’d written off. Maybe the love interest that “won” in Book One turns out to be an asshole under the new circumstances of the second book. Again, the love triangle developing shouldn’t be the only plot that the second book has, but it can definitely be a subplot.

cant stand b2

When it is just Book Three’s exposition: I’ve already touched on this a lot, but Book Two should be able to stand on its own. It brings the reader to Book Three, but it has to be more than a trailer for Book Three. So often, I see trilogies have a strong first book that has its own plot, and then books two and three are just one long plot line—which gets really old, really fast.

When it completely breaks with Book One: I already talked about how much I need Book Two to continue the things I loved about Book One. On this note, I absolutely hate it when I pick up Book Two and I can barely recognize the story that started in the first book.

When the romance from Book One is destroyed for no reason: So many ships sink during Book Two! Sometimes this is because of a love triangle, sometimes just a misunderstanding. And while I appreciate relationships being dynamic and developing, I hate it when it feels like characters only broke up in Book Two so that they could get back together at an appropriate moment in Book Three.

When it exists only so that Book Three can be hella dramatic: So often it feels like Book Two is just characters stumbling through a minefield, detonating various bombs for Book Three to deal with. Characters broke up! Someone has a secret agenda! The plan went awry! And you’ll see the resolution after the break…that is, in the next book.

Book Three should be dramatic. It’s the end of a series! But Book Two needs to have its own, self-contained drama. At least, that’s my two cents.


What do you think? Do you agree? What pitfalls or successes have you seen in Book Twos that you’ve read?

Poetry: The Secret of Perpetual Motion

I’ve no desire

To search for perpetual motion

No need—

I’ve already found it in a place called

High school

 

Day one, period one

Lecture, homework written down,

Passing period and now it’s period two

Lecture, some classwork, more homework to do

And now it’s period three

Discussion, some classwork, test tomorrow, need to study

You get the drift

 

Day two like day one

Three like two, and four like three

Day n+1 just the same as day n and day n-1

 

Stop thinking about today or tomorrow or goals or dreams

Just do the next thing in the pattern

 

That is the secret of perpetual motion

Breaking Down the Trilogy: Book One, Or Where It All Starts

Hey guys! I’ve wanted to do a discussion post about trilogies for a while, but I haven’t been able to figure out what to focus on. So I decided to skip trying to condense my rambles, and I am instead doing a series of three blog posts (you might even say a trilogy) about trilogies, with each post looking at one of the books in a trilogy.

Today’s topic is: The First Book

These books are usually the most straightforward. They set up the world, introduce us to the characters, start some short range and long range conflicts, and leave us with enough of a cliffhanger ending that we want to read books two and three. Simple, right?

Not always.

what i look for b1

Have your own plot: This one is simple. Book One is also a book. It needs to—in my opinion—be able to stand on its own, at least mostly. It should have its own plot within the overarching series’ plot.

Make me want to keep reading (without gimmicks): Anyone can write a cliffhanger. What a great Book Ones does is write a story so well, and end it at exactly the right moment, so that I want to keep reading naturally, not because the author set off emotional fireworks in the last chapter.

A balance of drama and development: A lot of trilogies end up being action-packed. The format attracts faster-paced genres, and the format allows for intense stories with a ton of conflicts. I love this, but I don’t want the first book to be one giant fight scene. There should be breathing room, scenes where I get to relax and focus on the details like characters and world building. Every book needs this, in my opinion, but especially the beginning of a series.

get right b1

Introducing characters: This something that most trilogies—or rather, most books—are able to do. As long as the author is good, I find that I rarely have problems with the characters in a trilogy, at least not in the first book.

Setting the Stage: Most Book Ones give the reader a sense of what the series will be like. How will it be paced? What will the writing be like? What will the mood of the book be? What will the book talk about?

As a person who likes to know what I’m getting into, I love this. For me, trilogies should be a continuation of a theme, not a disjointed mess of themes, tones, and styles. I love it when Book Ones set the stage well for the series.

common mistakes b1

Clunky world building: Since it’s the beginning of a new series, there has to be some world building. Because most trilogies are fantasy, paranormal, or dystopian, and because the world has to be complex enough to support three books, this world building is rarely simple.

Complex world building is something I’ll never complain about—as long as it is done well. The problem is, in a rush to get the exposition out of the way so that the action can start, Book Ones often leave the world building wanting.

And this is a problem. If I don’t understand the politics/magic/caste system of your world, I probably don’t care about the conflicts they cause.

The lid fell off the jar of love triangle sprinkles: I don’t hate love triangles wholesale. Especially for trilogies, they are a way to keep the romantic spark alive for three books, to add conflict, and to keep the characters interesting.

But Book One needs to do more than introduce two love interests and throw down the gauntlet. Maybe by the end of the series the love triangle can come to the forefront of the plot, but in the beginning, when everything is new? Yeah, I want some real plot, not just Instalove and dramatic gestures.

Too big of a CLIFFHANGER: Do you feel THE DRAMA? The SUSPENSE? No???!!! Are the all caps and excessive punctuation marks not enough?!

Okay, that’s a bit ridiculous, but this is sometimes how I feel at the end of Book Ones. The author is so desperate to get you to read the second book that they detonate a massive plot bomb on the last pages, shattering your heart and forcing you to read the next book.

Sometimes, I am willing to forgive this because the cliffhanger was so good. (The Wrath and the Dawn, I’m looking at you.) But most of the time, I’m just annoyed, and a lot of the time, I won’t continue the series.

pet peeves b1

It’s just a ton of exposition: Just because Book One sets up the rest of the trilogy doesn’t mean that it gets a free pass to be all exposition and no plot. So many Book Ones feel like they exist only so that later books can come out.

I’m fine if an author knows that their story will be a trilogy and makes sure that the first book is a solid foundation. But as I mentioned before, I want the first book to have its own plot, and sometimes authors just don’t do that. Which sucks, in my opinion.

“We Get it Already,” AKA obvious plot lines: Trilogies make good story arcs, but they also make repetitive plots common. These days, I basically expect the first book in a fantasy or dystopian series to start out with a few characters and a simple goal, and by the end, the goal has started some massive chain of events rolling (creating the second and third books). This is a good template the first few times you read it, but I’m dying for some originality by now.


What do you think? Do we have the same pet peeves? How do you feel about first books in trilogies?

Which Blog Posts Do I Actually Read?

Okay, that’s a harsh title, but seriously. We all follow a ton of book blogs, we all have a ton of posts to read every day, and to be honest, we can’t read all of them. At least, I know I can’t.

So…what’s up with that?

Just to be clear, the purpose of this post isn’t to bash on anyone’s blog posts. I love the spectrum of posts that the blogging community creates. I know that we all have different focuses, schedules, and passions when it comes to the posts we create. I’ve even written the blog posts that I say I don’t read often, probably more than I should.

But I’m putting this out there, because I think it might just be interesting, and maybe a little helpful, and most of all, it will probably start a discussion. And since this is a discussion post… 😉

How often do I read each common book blog post…and why?


Lists!

lists

I’ve seen a lot of people criticizing memes like Top Ten Tuesday for their lack of originality. Recently, I feel like a lot of bloggers are turning away from memes and trying to focus more on original content. And I love that.

But I also loved reading TTTs. They’re quick. I can read a lot of different blog posts in a short sitting. I get an idea of what kind of books different bloggers like and I find out about new books. Though they aren’t the most unique or complex posts, I enjoy the simplicity of TTTs.

Discussion posts in the form of lists are also in my most-read category. This is kind of awful, but when a discussion post is clearly broken up into summary-esque titles, it makes the post easier to read quickly. When I’m reading blog posts, I’m generally in the middle of doing something else—watching TV, eating breakfast, going somewhere. Being able to get the gist of what someone is saying (and then get more detail if it’s interesting) is one of the best qualities of list-based posts.

Reviews for Books I’ve Read

reviews books ive read

I love seeing what other people think about books that I’ve already read. Being able to measure someone’s critiques and praises against my own experience makes book reviews more interesting for me.

It’s fun to see other people fangirl about a favorite of mine, and through them, relive some of my own obsession with the book.

In a weird way, I also like reading reviews that are critical of books that I loved. Usually, I find that I totally understand where the reviewer is coming from, and though I still love the book, I have new ways of thinking about other books I’ll read and review. Some of my most interesting comment conversations have come out of reviews of books where I disagree…but agree at the same time.

Reviews for Genres I Don’t Usually Read

reviews genre unread

Yeah, this is a bit weird. I follow a few bloggers who read mostly NA books, a genre that I don’t think I’ll move into right now. (Nothing against NA, I just love YA.)

The fact that I probably won’t read the books that other bloggers are talking about means that I’m able to read everything they say without fear of spoilers, or disagreeing with their assessment. I find it interesting to see how people describe different plots, especially ones that I’m not familiar with. I get to take away different critiquing styles—and notes for things to do/avoid in my own writing—that are still relevant, but tied to a slightly different genre (so that content changes a bit from what YA book reviews usually entail).

Poems

poems

This isn’t really a book blogger thing, but I also follow a lot of poet bloggers. I love reading short poems as I blog hop. Most of them are really amazing, and they get me thinking in the space of a minute or two.

Random YA Book Reviews

reviews random

Let’s be honest, my WordPress Reader is flooded with book reviews. I love that, but I can’t read all of them.

Often, whether or not I’ll read a review is based on if the description of the book sounds interesting. If a plot sounds like something I’d never read (this time because of cliches or lame plots, not genre type), I probably won’t stick around to read the review. Sorry about that.

Then again, there’s a good chance that I’ll randomly decide to read a book review, no matter what the book’s description is like. I’m unpredictable 😉

Discussion Posts

discussion posts

These are hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes I’m really in the mood to read the amazingly creative and insightful posts that everyone has created, in which case I can’t get enough of discussion posts.

But sometimes, when I’m on a time crunch or if I’m tired from school, I don’t actually feel like reading through long discussion posts. I’d rather read a quick list or skim a book review than not give a discussion post the attention it deserves.

I’m trying to get myself to read all of the discussion posts that interest me, no matter the mood I’m in.

Random Memes

memes

Readathon TBRs/wrap-ups, Waiting on Wednesdays, blog awards, and other random meme-esque posts that pop up can be really interesting. Or really boring. Again, they’re usually shorter, so I’m more likely to read all the way through them, but I get less out of them than a great book review or an interesting discussion post.

Reviews for Books I Plan to Read

reviews tbr

I’m afraid of spoilers, I’m afraid of hype, and I’m afraid of someone telling me that the book I just spent ≈$20 on sucks. If I know that I want to read book (and even more if I already own a book), I rarely read reviews for it until I’ve actually read it. I like to keep my expectations clear of other’s viewpoints.


Do you agree? Or not?

What do you look for when reading blog posts? How do your most-read posts stack up with mine?

Book Review: Rook by Sharon Cameron

A fast-paced story of twisted loyalties and conflicting desires that I couldn’t stop reading.

3.5/5 stars

cover rook

Goodreads Description

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

My Review

This has minor spoilers for Rook, mainly because I can’t talk about one of the character’s role in the book without spoiling a bit of the beginning. Proceed with caution.

This book started off slow for me. It took me a week to read the first thirty pages. This was because there were major problems with the exposition and the world-building. Sometimes I like it when authors just throw you into the action and leave you to figure out the world, but in this case, that format really didn’t work. I was confused and frustrated, and even once the book’s pace picked up, I was still unsure about the specifics of the world.

I did like some parts of the world building, however. It is something like a dystopian retelling of the French Revolution, focusing mostly on the Reign of Terror part. Since that time period was one of the most interesting ones that I studied last year, I loved the way that Cameron wove historical details into a new world, one that was revolting against technology and the rich a few centuries after an apocalypse.

Once the story got moving, I was able to focus on the characters. Sophie, daughter of a formerly wealthy merchant family and secret revolutionary, was an interesting protagonist, but I felt like there was always something missing that kept me from falling in love with her. She has all of the components I want in badass characters like this—sass, creativity, moments of weakness—but they never gelled into an awesome protagonist. She’s not a bad main character—far from it—but I would have enjoyed the story more if she had a few more layers, a bit more spark.

René, on the other hand, was an awesome character. Engaged to Sophie through an arrangement that neither of them like and with close ties to the dictator Sophie is secretly fighting, he starts off the book cloaked in mystery and distrust. I absolutely LOVED watching the truth of his character come out. I loved all of the intricacies of his character. René was definitely my favorite character in the book.

The romance that developed between Rene and Sophie was amazing. It takes a while, and it is always dominated by concerns over if they can trust each other, but their chemistry was impeccable and I loved them as a couple. It’s sweet and painful, and it really added to the book.

There are so many other characters in Rook. Amazingly, I rarely got them confused, but I also didn’t have much understanding of each character’s personality (mostly just their name and what role they play). Some of the more important characters stood out, of course, and added to the story. Benoit, in particular, was one of my favorite characters. LeBlanc was a terrifying villian—his religious fanaticism and lack of a conscience created a horrifying character, but one that was realistic (in an awful way).

Spear, the other kind-of love interest, was an annoying character. He was supposed to be annoying, so that was written well, but I still wanted to shove him out of the way so that Rene and Sophie could get together. I also wished there was more to his character than just his obsession with Sophie.

The most impressive part of this book is the web of interwoven loyalties and lies that binds the characters together. Throughout the book, you honestly have no idea who to trust. Everyone has another agenda, everyone is watching each other, and everyone ends up getting in each other’s way. It was actually stressful to read. I had to keep reading to find out who was good, who was evil, and what the frick everyone was doing.

Because of this, the pacing of this book is insane. Literally, the last half of the book is one massive scene. I couldn’t stop reading if I had wanted to.

While I was impressed with the breakneck speed of some scenes, there was something off about the overall book’s pacing. Maybe it was too many pages, maybe the last scene was too fast for too long, but when I finished the book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something about the pacing hadn’t worked.

There isn’t much to say about the writing—it wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad—but I loved the way that Cameron strung different scenes together by ending one scene and starting the next with similar wording. It’s hard to describe, but it helped different plot lines flow together and it sped the pacing up.

I would recommend this book to French Revolution buffs, dystopian fans (who want a semi-historical setting), or people who love not knowing who to trust. The romance is swoonworthy, the plot is complex, and there are a lot of surprises. Despite the book’s problems, it was still a really fun read, and I can see myself rereading it sometime in the future.

February Wrap-Up

I can’t believe that February is over! 2016 is already two months old—it’s ridiculous.

In My Life

This month was pretty good. School is normalizing again, since second semester is also two months old. Everything is stressful, but normal stressful, so it’s all good. I did get pretty lazy, something you’ll see in this wrap-up.

Nothing really exciting happened this month, so that’s basically all I have to say about my personal life.

In Blogging

This was an interesting month for blogging. I only had 11 blog posts, which is really low for me. I do like the posts that I wrote, at least.

I had a few Valentine’s Day-themed posts. I had a discussion post about The Importance of Platonic Relationships. I also did one TTT, Romances I’ll Read to Cheer Me Up.

I also took part in the Cinderella Book Tag.

In Reading and Reviewing

This was a good month for book reviews! I read four books (indicated with *), and reviewed four others. Reviews are linked to if they exist. I read A Catcher in the Rye for school, spanning January and February.

As you can see, I enjoyed basically all of the books that I read this month. None of the books were disappointing, which I consider a win. A Madness so Discreet and Wolf by Wolf are definitely the stand-outs.

In Writing

This was a really sad month for writing. I published no poems or short stories, and barely wrote for my WIP. I don’t really have an excuse, besides that I was pretty lazy across the board this month.

Hopefully next month will be better!


How was your February? Are you feeling productive, or falling into lazy habits for 2016? What are your plans for March?