June Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

June 1st was my last day of school! YAYAYAYAY!! Being on summer break has been amazingly relaxing, though I can’t believe a month of it is gone already! I haven’t really been productive yet. Whoops…

I took another online poetry workshop with the University of Iowa (more on that later) and I started a photography class. I’ve been hanging out with friends and generally relaxing, reveling in the glory of not having any responsibilities

The one sad part is that my sister left for a five week summer program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. FIVE WEEKS! We’re twins, and we’ve never been apart for more than a night, so being twin-less for over a month is very weird, but we’re surviving. She’s doing amazing stuff and we’re actually managing to keep in touch, despite being on other sides of the country (oh, the wonder of technology).

On This Blog

I had 14 posts this month! After two months of barely posting anything, I think I’m finally getting back into the habit of blogging.

I took part in three Top Ten Tuesdays:

I also did the 3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge (day 1, day 2, and day 3) and joined the Make Me Read It Readathon, which will happen in July. You can still vote for which books I should read!

If you guys don’t know, I started a bookstagram account (@52lettersinthealphabet) last month. This month I took part in my first bookstagram challenge and it was really fun! I’m really glad that I expanded this blog into that social media space and that I’ve gotten to connect with so many amazing bookstagramers and bloggers!

In Reading and Reviewing

I set myself the goal of reading 20 books this summer and I’m doing pretty well. I read 8 books this month and they were all amazing. If I reviewed them, they will have a rating and you can follow the link to my review.

  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson — 3.5/5 stars
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACO #1) by Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Mist and Fury (ACO #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  • The King of Attolia (Queen’s Thief #3) by Megan Whalen Turner
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

ACOMAF was definitely my favorite book of the month (of 2016 really)! I will have a very fangirlly review coming soon, once I can get my emotions in order.

The only books that I read for the first time this month were TRK, SCS, and ACOMAF. The rest I reread either to continue series or because I needed to heal emotionally after a heart-wrenching book. Not all of the rereads will get formal reviews, but I have some discussion posts planned that tie into them.

I also caught up on some reviews for books that I read in May…and then fell behind again (as you can see).

  • The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars
  • Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner — 5/5 stars

In Writing

Though I didn’t post any poetry on this blog, I was actually working on it. I took another Flashwrite poetry workshop from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and loved it again. This one was more focused on peer workshops and it was really helpful.

I started a third draft of my WIP! I had an idea that fixed a lot of plot problems and made the story more exciting, but that forced me to rewrite most of what I’d already written. Luckily, I’ve actually gotten into a habit of writing (nearly) daily, and I’ve already written 18,000 words!


How was your June? Did you read any great books?

Top Ten Books That Ended Their Series Well

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

It’s an awkward title but bear with me. This week’s TTT them is FREEBIE, which is kind of a nightmare for me because I suck at coming up with topics, but I came up with something!

Here are my favorite last-books-in-a-series. Books that managed to maintain the awesomeness that was the previous books in the series and to give their readers a worthy ending. I won’t give you any spoilers for the series, don’t worry.

1. The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson

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I didn’t know how the Mistborn trilogy could ever end, but The Hero of Ages pulled off a surprising, but satisfying (and heart-wrenching) ending. (My review of the series here.)

2. The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle #3) by Libba Bray

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I haven’t read this book in ages, but I remember bawling at the end (so much that someone actually asked me if I was okay). I love this series a lot and the ending totally did it justice.

3. Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

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AHHHH!!!! The ending of this series saw all of my favorite characters unite in an epic battle against evil and it was AMAZING. (My review here.)

4. The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater

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SO GOOD. So painful. So perfect. (My review here.)

5. United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6) by Ally Carter

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These books are my comfort books. I read them during finals, or whenever I need a pick-me-up. Having to see the series end was painful, but Ally Carter wrapped it up in a way that put a smile on my face. (My review for the series here.)

6. Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness

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As you can tell from the cover, this isn’t exactly a happy book. But it wasn’t a happy series, and this book blew me away with the character and plot development.

7. Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna #3) by Stephanie Perkins

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Anna and the French Kiss will always be my favorite book in the series, but I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After for bringing us back to the beginning while spinning a new story of love and self-discovery. (My review here.)


Bonus: Books That Better End My Favorite Series Well

8. The Rose and the Dagger (TWATD #2) by Renée Ahdieh

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I’m about to start this and I’m TERRIFIED. I know that it’s going to break my heart…I just hope that it puts it back together as well. 🙂

9. Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson

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Unfortunately, I’ve heard mixed reviews for this book, but I still hope that it delivers a satisfying ending to what has been an action-packed adventure so far.

10. Always and Forever Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han

I am conflicted as to whether this story even needs a third book, so I hope that Jenny Han does her story justice with it. I’m ready to see more Lara Jean and Peter K, and I trust that there will be lots of swoony and adorably awkward scenes for me to fall in love with.

Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

This book surprised me with its handling of grief, friendship, and love, but it left a few things to be desired.

3.5/5 stars

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Goodreads Description

Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.

Add it on Goodreads

My Review

After reading Since You’ve Been Gone last year, I knew that I had to read more of Morgan Matson’s novels. Second Chance Summer is definitely worth reading, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way I did with SYBG.

Second Chance Summer tells the story of Taylor as her family returns to her childhood lake house to have one last summer as a family before her father succumbs to his chronic illness. Her father wants his children to be able to enjoy their last summer with him. Taylor wants to do anything but return to the lake house, haunted by past mistakes.

I really related to Taylor’s character. She responds to any awkward, emotional, or confrontational situation by running away—a strategy whose consequences finally catch up to her at the lake house. She doesn’t know what to do with her free time, or how to face the fact that her father is dying. She just doesn’t want to face anything that this summer will bring, but of course, she has to.

I enjoyed the way that Matson wove flashbacks into the story, slowly shedding light on the summer five years ago that somehow left Taylor with a former best friend and an ex-boyfriend who hates her. The flashbacks never broke up the flow of the main story, and they did a good job characterizing Lucy (the ex BFF) and Henry (the ex BF).

I was pleasantly surprised when we finally found out what Taylor did to screw everything up. It fit her character well and wasn’t overly dramatic; it was realistic, while still explaining the lingering tensions between the characters.

Taylor’s dad’s illness dominates a lot of the plot of Second Chance Summer. By the end of the book, I felt like I should be mourning one of my own family members—that’s how palpably I felt Taylor’s grief. Thankfully, though, Second Chance Summer also made me laugh, and we get to see Taylor share happy moments with her father in spite of the depressing situation.

Most of all, Second Chance Summer is a book about personal growth. Over the course of the novel, Taylor learns how to interact with her father on an emotional level, something she hadn’t even realized she didn’t do until his diagnosis. She has to face the consequences of that fateful summer, but she deals with them well, bringing Lucy back into her life and finding a place for herself in the lake town.

Surprisingly for me, Second Chance Summer is light on romance. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Because the book isn’t dominated or driven by romance, Taylor’s personal growth feels natural and honest. It is refreshing to see a YA character discover themselves largely outside of the context of romance. Matson achieves a nice balance of romance to plot, still making sure that the book has some sweet moments without overshadowing the more poignant parts of the story.

However, because the romance is put on the back burner of the plot, it isn’t very satisfying or exciting. Most of the romantic build-up between Henry and Taylor happens in flashbacks when the characters first meet. The rekindling of their relationship begins in a series of awkward chance encounters that made for funny scenes but a poor foundation for a relationship. I believed that Taylor and Henry had feelings for each other and that they were a good couple, but I never got that excited, gut-tingling sensation that I expect from romances.

All in all, I wanted more from Second Chance Summer. I felt like Lucy’s character could have been given more depth, and Taylor’s relationship with Henry needed a little more “swooniness.”

If you’re looking for a toe-curling, awkwardly adorable romance, Second Chance Summer probably isn’t for you. But if you want to read a complex and touching story of personal growth during a time of loss, then this book will be perfect.

Book Review: The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater

OH. MY. GOD. This book destroyed me! It was the perfect ending to one of my favorite series EVER.

5/5 stars

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Goodreads Description

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

Add it on Goodreads

My Review

This is a really hard book to review for me, because half of what I want to say is spoilers, and the other half is basically “oh my god” over and over. But I’ll try 😉

Reading The Raven King (TRK for brevity) is like voluntarily handing your heart over to a butcher while simultaneously having all of your wishes granted at once. Lots of pain and suffering and tears. Lots of happiness and YES YES YES moments.

It’s…a lot.

By the end of TRK, all of the characters are leaps and bounds away from who they were at the beginning of the series (at the beginning of the book, for that matter). Each character’s growth and transformation is palpable and powerful. They grow into deeper, stronger, realer versions of themselves—and do it at a realistic pace.

The relationships between the Raven Boys (and Blue) grow in the same way, knitting them together, becoming the epitome of friendship. Every character transforms on their own, yes, but their transformations also tie them closer and closer to the group as a whole.

Even the new characters got folded into the plot without a hitch. Introducing new characters in the last book of a series seems crazy, but it just worked in TKR. I’m particularly in love with Henry Cheng, who brought so many layers to the plot while also providing some of the happiest (and funniest) scenes in the book.

By the end of TRK, I loved every character so much that I couldn’t stand it. They were all so real and alive—how could you not fall in love with them?

Speaking of love, the romance in TRK was PERFECT. All of it. I don’t want to say more and give anything away, but no matter your ship, you’ll get some happiness 😉

I could not stop reading TRK. The book throws you from happy scenes to terrifying scenes to horrifically sad scenes to hilarious scenes, with no stopping points, ever.

I loved how a series of chapters would fit together (like the 6:21 chapters), as well as the “depending on where you began the story” motif. The whole book had this feeling of putting the final pieces of a puzzle together—everything worked together perfectly, and you could suddenly start to see the entire picture at once. And of course, the writing was drop-dead, how-can-anyone-write-this-magically gorgeous.

If there was a sense of impending doom in BLLB, there was even more of one in TRK. Every time Gansey wore his Aglionby sweater, I freaked out. I just knew that the plot was going somewhere it could never come back from, and I both really wanted and never wanted it to get there. The entire book was surprising and tear-jerking and just really freaking emotional.

I’ll just say it: I SOBBED at the ending. And then I finished the book and just sat there in emotional shock for a little while longer, tears dripping down my face.

But it was the perfect ending for the series. It wrapped up the story, left no loose ends to wonder about, and got in a few last surprises on the way out. It was beautiful and painful. It was everything I needed it to be.

Make Me Read It Readathon: What Should I Read?

Hey everyone! One of my goals this summer is to take part in a readathon, so when I saw a ton of bloggers posting about the Make Me Read It Readathon, I decided to take part! I’m really excited because this is my first readathon (during school I have no hope of being able to take part in them).

make me read it

The Make Me Read It Readathon is hosted by Val @ The Innocent Smiley and Ely @ Tea and Titles. It runs from July 9th to July 16th. Here are the rules:

Look at the books you own, either physical, e-book or ones you’ve borrowed from the library and pick out a few you really want to read, or feel like you should read. It’s up to you how many you pick, personally I’d pick a few more than you expect to be able to read in a week. Example: if you think you’ll only read two, pick out five books or if you think you can read seven, pick out ten.
Make a list of these books on your blog, or make a video, or a Goodreads shelf or post a picture on Instagram—whatever is easiest for you. Then get friends, other bloggers/booktubers etc. to vote on which books you HAVE to read.
When the readathon comes along, you read the books in the order of most votes. For example, if one book gets 10 votes—you read that first, then the one that got 7 and so on. If there’s a tie, then it’s your preference. The goal is to read as many as possible.

I have chosen a mix of books that I have had on my shelf for a while now and recent (or planned) purchases. For a lot of these books, I don’t know how much I’ll like them, which is why I have put off reading them, but I hate owning unread books, so I hope this readathon forces me to clear off my TBR shelf!

I need your help to decide which books to read! Please vote 🙂

You can choose up to 3
 

Book Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

Part three of the Raven Cycle does not disappoint. Actually, it rips your heart out and slowly tortures it with magic, realism, and impending doom.

5/5 stars

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Goodreads Description

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Add it on Goodreads here.

My Review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (hereafter BLLB because that is such a long title) continues the magic of The Raven Cycle, with a side of heartbreak.

In BLLB, shit starts to get real. You can tell that the series is building up to the climax. Gansey’s death stops being a far-off possibility and takes on an imminent feeling. Magic starts to go off the rails, trampling into the real world. There is a nervous excitement on every page that makes you want to read faster to rip the bandaid off. The plot is no longer messing around and is now playing for keeps.

And it’s really, really painful to read. But also gorgeous. GAH Maggie Stiefvater will destroy me.

At this point, it feels redundant to say that the characters are still living, breathing, and growing. All of the Raven Boys (and Blue) are well in the middle of fighting their demons, finding themselves, and rearranging their lives around the truths they keep uncovering. Once again, it feels more like a collection of simultaneous stories woven together than one dominant plot—which I love. It wouldn’t do the characters justice to leave out their individual plot lines for the sake of a more unified story line.

There are a lot of new characters in BLLB, but somehow it works. Some of them are minor characters and just add some humor to the story (I LOVE JESSE—see what I did there?), but others are key players in the plot. Gwenllian, Greenmantle, and Piper all helped move the plot in new directions (even if I wanted to scream at all of them).

The main plot of BLLB surrounds Marua’s disappearance and the presence of three “sleepers.” The sleepers plot was really freaking creepy, because you never knew if the characters were taking the right steps or if they were going to destroy themselves. Coupled with the vague sense of impending doom, BLLB had me on edge of my seat.

But BLLB still has strong “real world” subplots. I loved learning more about Aglionby, both about the students and the classes. Seeing Gansey’s cohorts interact with the rest of their school made me see them in a new light (even three books into the series).

And FINALLY, we get to see Blue and Gansey’s relationship develop. I loved (and hated) how tentative and guilt-ridden they were as they carefully left friendship behind and moved onto something more. There are moments of complete happiness, but they are always tempered by lingering fears and worries. They are the perfect couple, but they don’t get the perfect relationship, and though it broke my heart, it also made the story that much more real.

It’s impossible to describe how powerful the writing is. No longer is it just beautiful; now there is an energy to it that promises more secrets, more pain, more everything. Try to reread one scene and you’ll want to reread the entire book. (I know, it happened to me while writing this review.)

In closing, this is the kind of book that sucks you and and doesn’t let you go until the last page (and then only so that you can go pick up the next book). 

Top Ten Favorite 2016 Releases So Far This Year

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

Okay, here is my problem: I haven’t read very many 2016 releases yet. So if I made this list based on books I’ve read, it would be three books long…and that would be sad. So this list has two parts: 1) books I’ve read and loved, and 2) 2016 releases I plan to read and love.

Read

1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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This book destroyed me!! It was exactly the heart-wrenching, amazing, incredible ending to the Raven Cycle that I needed it to be.

2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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My favorite book of 2016, hands down. This book is so good there aren’t even words for how good it is.

3. The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

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Everything Brandon Sanderson writes is amazing, but this book was especially incredible. I need the next book NOW!

TBR

4. The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

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I actually plan to read this book soon! I love that this is a duology, so I won’t have to wait for another book (because I think another cliffhanger like the end of TWATD might kill me). I can’t wait to read more Shazi!

5. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

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I am officially a fan of Morgan Matson. Both Second Chance Summer and Since You’ve Been Gone were amazing, so I can’t wait to read her latest book!

6. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

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I am loving the Reckoners series so far, so I can’t wait to read the next book. I just bought this and will probably read it soon, though I’m not sure when.

7. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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I loved Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, so I’m really excited to see what her next book is like. It will probably destroy my heart, though, so I haven’t bought it yet.

8. Firsts by Laurie Flizabeth Flynn

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I got this book right when it came out. I am in love with the premise (and the cover), but I’m waiting for the right moment to read it.

9. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

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The description of this book really grabbed me. It combines Doctor Who and the competitive side of high school, two things that aren’t mentioned in YA enough 😉

10. Starflight by Melissa Landers

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The cover of this book is gorgeous and the plot sounds awesome. I don’t own this yet, but I wish I did!


Have you read any of these? Which 2016 releases are your favorites?