Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who…

This was actually a really tough one, so I’m sure it will be super interesting. I look forward to checking out other responses sometime later this evening. (Work is so busy right now, I definitely won’t be able to sneak a peak at lunchtime like I usually do!)

Top FIVE YA Books which feature characters who have active parents

Ever notice how many YA books–especially YA fantasy books–have lead characters with dead or absent parents? I set out to make a list of books where the character’s relationship with his/her parent is a major plot point. Bonus points if the lead character was involved with something magical or paranormal and the parent is more of a muggle but loves/supports their children anyway. I didn’t want to pepper this list with watered down versions of the kind of relationship I was going for, so I shortened it to five:

1.  The Lynburn Legacy Trilogy (Unspoken, Untold, Unmade) by Sarah Rees Brennan

The kids are at the center of this story, but the whole town is involved and the parents have to fight the good fight as well, even sometimes stepping aside and letting their more powerful children lead the way.

2.  The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane

Kit and Nita’s parents aren’t the type to let their 11-13 year old kids stay out long past their curfew without giving them some grief about it, even if they are just trying to save the known universe from destruction and decay. And, later, when the cat’s out of the bag about their magic and their important missions, they have an even harder task: coming to grips with their pre-teens putting themselves in mortal danger.

3.  The Archived by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

MacKenzie’s relationship with her parents comes into play in this series as the entire family mourns the loss of a child. It would have been easy to make the relationship completely distant, but instead its strained anyway, made even more strained by her constant absence and sneaking out. If it weren’t for the library of the dead, this has many of the makings of a contemporary YA family drama

4.  The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater

I love a lot of things about The Raven Cycle, but one of the things I love most is the various family dynamics. Blue and the boys make their own family in a way, but everyone is centered in where they come from. Ronan Lynch wouldn’t be Ronan Lynch if his parents weren’t who they are. Blue grew up in a quirky, female-rich household and relies heavily on her mother and aunts as the adventure progresses. Gansey and Adam have absent parents, but the trappings of their disparate raisings are evident in their outlook.

5.  The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski

A little less strong of a parent presence in this one than some of the others, but the first volume of this series in particular struck me with it’s complex father/daughter relationship. It gets paralleled in book 2, between the emperor and his heir, but Kestral’s love for her father is evident even as she struggles to define her own course of action so very different from everything he stands for and the book would be much weaker without that conflict.

So to make this top ten a true top ten, let’s list some topic ideas that I came up with and really wanted to do, but had to reject because I could only come up with one or two books. Please, please, please, leave a comment and give me some recommendations of books that fall into these categories that I missed

Top FIVE lists I wanted to do, but I haven’t read enough diverse stuff yet

Top ten books which feature characters who are transgendered

  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Top ten books which feature characters who are asexual

  • ???

Top ten books which feature characters who are not as perfectly nice looking (too tall, too short, ugly, fat, etc.)

  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
  • Dark Triumph by Robin LeFevers

Top ten books which feature characters who are “incidentally” people of color 

This one is hard to title. Basically, I mean, books where the characters are POCs, but that fact isn’t completely central to their story. Some examples:

  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

Top Ten books which feature (main) characters who are not romantically linked at all

  • The Chronicles of Narnia (?-I’m pretty sure, but can’t remember)

Leave your recommendations; I’m in desperate need and would love it if we could come up with a list of ten for each. Some of you maybe even did on your own. If so, most definitely leave a link. And, of course, I’m fascinated to see what everyone else choose to list that I didn’t even fathom.


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

2014-08-03 16.29.23
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins Published August 14, 2014 by Dutton 339 Pages (Hardcover)

Isla and the Happily Ever After is the newly-released third installment in Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss YA romance pseudo-series (following Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door). While this probably isn’t the series’ strongest installment, it delivers another dose of Perkins’ sweet, modern fairy-tale style romance, and gives fans of Lola and Anna another peak at characters they’ve come to love.


Isla Martin’s had a crush on the brooding cartoonist Josh since they were both freshman. A chance meeting in Manhattan in the summer before their senior year begins to finally bring them together, but once back at school they face the challenges that every couple at the end of high school faces from maintaining friendships to facing time apart.


Stephanie Perkins’ books are just too much fun to miss. Her characters are bright and memorable; quirky and flawed too. Isla’s a bit of a classic basket-case bookworm; with her unrequited romance, distinct middle-child syndrome, and the dichotomy of her fear of the unknown and love of adventure stories. Josh is a well-constructed character as well, if a bit more of a stereotype. Brooding, artistic, and rebellious, redeemed by his deep instrospective thinking and love and respect for Isla. He’s not completely without personality, and I enjoyed reading him, but he did fall a bit flat to me. The supporting cast: Kurt, Isla’s strictly platonic, socially awkward friend, Isla’s sisters Hattie and Gen, were all delightful individuals, both supporting and complicating the central romantic relationship in realistically complex ways. Kurt and Isla’s relationship was a highlight as a boy-girl friendship with absolutely zero romantic tension, and an accurate portrayal of the strain a romance can put on a close friendship.

Isla and Josh fall in love over the course of a belivable set of events that take up nearly half of the book, which is nice. We get introduced to them this way, and as such we get to see what attracts them to each other. The timeline within the story for this falling-in-love arc did feel a bit squished, however, happening within just a month. The push and pull of external and internal pressure on the relationship was realistic, though it was also a bit rushed and compressed at the end as well. The story did all flow well together, and was easy to get immersed in, it just felt a touch too short in certain areas.

The main characters of the other two books, Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket, make cameo appearances in the climactic scenes of this book. It was fun to see the series tie together, to wrap everything up with big, bright, shiny bow. This book, like those, is all feel-good, lovey-dovey fun. I wouldn’t miss it, unless you don’t like being happy or something

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection (The Selection, #1) by Kiera Cass
Published April 2012 by HarperTeen
336 pages (Hardcover)

Let me just start off by saying I have never been a fan of The Bachelor. I can always feel my IQ dropping whenever I happen to catch a few minutes of it. So really, I should have known what I was getting into with this, but for whatever reason I thought I might like it anyway. And I did, more than a little, but not a whole lot. Three stars.


If you haven’t heard of it, The Selection is the first book in a YA trilogy of the same name by Kiera Cass. It follows America Singer, a girl living with her family in a post-world war, dystopian, future USA where everyone’s profession and status in life is determined by the numbered caste they are born into. America is a Five, a penniless artist. Her secret boyfriend, Aspen, is a Six, a rung lower on the ladder than she. Her life changes dramatically when it comes time for the country’s crown prince, Maxon, to host The Selection, The Bachelor-style competition in which girls from all over the land, from every caste, are chosen to compete for his hand in marriage and for the crown.


What makes The Selection decent is its fluffiness. Pretty dresses, attractive boys, long walks in a moonlit garden. Your standard Disney movie stuff. The romantic lines can be eye-roll inducing, but most of them are on or just barely over the line into that particular territory. The book is well paced, the exposition is interesting and informative and the plot moves pretty well also. It is a relatively quick book, without much time or space for dragging scenes.

America has enough smarts and personality to make her likeable in this, though I wonder if Cass tried a little too hard to make her so. I, for one, wouldn’t have begrudged her having fun with clothes and make-up, and thought her snubbing them was more off-putting than if she had. But mostly I liked her boldness and her strength. She felt quite real to me, not flat or uninteresting.

Then there’s the love triangle, the central point about which the series spins. Aspen irritates the hell out of me, which is really more of a mark of the strength of the book, that something in the plot itself could upset me. Maxon, the ungainly but clearly meant for the job prince, I quite like, surprisingly. He’s got an uncertain innocence about him that’s pretty endearing. It’s actually, also surprisingly, given my frequent hate for them, a pretty good love triangle. America gets into it in a way that’s believable, and, while I’ve guessed who she’ll wind up with, I’m not entirely certain who she’ll pick. I can tell already, however, (I’m actually 100 pages or so into The Elite as I write this) that the series isn’t really ever going to move beyond the romantic plot line. The books are titled after the different stages of the Selection, after all. And I think three books is going to be waaay too much time to spend on this particular conflict.

There is potentially more to the plot in the dystopian aspect of it, but the dystopian worldbuilding isn’t that good. The US of A with castes and a king and rebels to endanger him. It’s simplisitic and not (yet?) explained well. Why a caste system specifically? What do the rebels even want? Why are there two groups of them? Why “Northerners” and “Southerners”? I just don’t get the sense that there’s any real fight going on anywhere. The castes are there, they’re not fair and that’s it. Maxon’s portrayed with such a good heart that I get the feeling he’ll level the playing field a bit no matter whether or not America sticks around to push him to do it. So then, what else is the point of her choice? Of her continued existence in the heart of her messed up country’s politics? Nothing really, so far as I can see right now.

Overall, I enjoyed this. It was just one of those things I enjoyed even though I knew objectively it was not that great. I feel enough like I’m not able to predict everything that’s going to happen and that combined with my weird obsession to finish series, even ones I hate, to pick up the other two books, though I think that if you’re even a little on the fence about reading this you should probably turn the other way. That being said, if you love romantic drama or reality TV and especially enjoy a drawn out, torturous love triangle, this might just be a good pick for you.

April Wrap-Up (with Mini-Reviews!)

Hello all! It’s been a while since I’ve done a wrap-up post like this, but they’re fun and especially useful for a month like this where I’ve slacked off on reviews.

Books I read in April

Bit of a random assortment this month, but it was pretty great overall! 10 books total, of which 3 got 5 star ratings which is an excellent ratio. That or I’ve just gotten soft.

Click on the cover photos for the Goodreads page, and check out the links on the titles below for Starlight Shelves Reviews. If there’s no link there, and the few lines below just aren’t enough, you are always welcome to check out the babbling and rambling I usually post right as I finish a book on my Goodreads page!

ImageImageGirl of NightmaresLegend ImageRebel BelleEmmaProdigy The Giver The Impossible Knife of Memory


The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson-4 stars

I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary teen fiction, but then once in awhile I read one like this and wonder why I don’t read more. This was really beautiful and heart-breaking. A story about someone I can’t really relate to on the surface, and so find a lot to learn from as I go along. It’s the type of book that reminds you why reading is so crucial, and reassured me that Halse Anderson is a writer whose books deserve the acclaim they’ve received. I thought it lacked just a little in the character relationship development department, but Hayley’s voice was so strong, you almost forget to notice.

Emma by Jane Austen-4 stars

I am so proud I finished this. I picked up Emma back in the fall, when the YouTube series Emma Approved was just getting started, but put it down pretty early on. I couldn’t get into it enough, and Austen really knows how to make annoying characters actually be annoying. I picked up an audiobook version on the cheap early this month (because I already had a Kindle version, the Audible version was discounted, which is pretty cool). I’ve always sort of liked watching Austen-adaptations better than reading the books, even though they cut things out. I suppose I just like seeing the costumes and the settings, plus the emotion comes through much more on screen than it does buried in language and turns of phrase I don’t entirely understand. A good audiobook, then, was absolutely perfect for me. I got all of the inflections to help me out with the text, while not missing a single word of Ms. Austen’s. The version I read was performed by Juliet Stevenson (Audible link here!), if you’re interested. I thought it was wonderful.

The Girl of Nightmares (Anna Dressed in Blood #2) by Kendare Blake-3 Stars

I read Anna Dressed in Blood last month and really enjoyed it. It’s horror blended with romance and coming of age and I thought it was plotted and written extremely well. This one, the conclusion to the duo, I didn’t like as much, however. It dragged and felt superfluous to the story told in the first installment. It probably would have been better as a novella or a long epilogue as it didn’t stand on its own at all, though its conclusion was solid and meaningful. I liked it in the end, but at the same time I had that nagging feeling that it didn’t really ever need to exist at all.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn-3 Stars

I wrote a whole review trying to explain what I actually felt about this book. It’s hard to do for books that are good, but not that great. The short version is that I think Gone Girl is a bit overhyped and I had a hard time with it; it just wasn’t for me.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins-4 stars

I finally caved and joined in on a Booksplosion book of the month after hearing some glowing initial reviews for this. It sounds contrite and insane when you try to describe it, but it really is a ton of fun. Rachel Hawkins is hilarious, turns out (I’d heard of her, but never read her, and funny was somehow not a word I’d heard to describe her books), and the book is so quirky. Plus it is so good at making fun of itself that you can’t help but enjoy yourself while reading it. It wasn’t profound and it wasn’t perfection, but I say give it a go.

The Giver by Lois Lowry-5 stars

I read The Giver, or had it read to me, I don’t remember for sure, in 4th or 5th grade. I remember liking it back then, but not completely understanding it and after reading it again, I totally see why. The Giver is deceptively brief. It’s much more than it seems on the surface and it does so much with so few words. It’s really incredible, and I’m so glad that I revisited it. It’s going to be really strange to see it as a movie later in the summer, since it’s always had this weird alien feeling to it, to me at least.

Legend and Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu-5 and 4 stars

I’m completely over the moon about the Legend trilogy thus far, though I should withhold judgement until I’m all the way done with Champion. Still, I think it’s a very smart, very intense dystopian trilogy that you should check out if you haven’t already (I was definitely starting to feel like I was the only one left, but I’m sure I’m not!)

 The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab-4 Stars

A really cool series that has started to get some more fans due to some dedicated Booktubers, but underrated nonetheless. A super awesome blend of the fantasy adventure and contemporary drama that everyone should be able to enjoy.

 Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) by Laini Taylor-5 Stars

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy wrapped up this month with Dreams of Gods and Monsters. It was completely not what I was expecting, but it was beautiful and hindsight has told me I wouldn’t have had it end any other way, though at first I was kind of completely startled by it all. Still haven’t reviewed this and probably won’t, just because my brain was so jumbled up about it. But it’s good. And the trilogy as a whole is amazing.  Richly written fantasy, broad in scope and heavily detailed all at once, and an intensely complicated romance. What more could you want?

 Coming Up…

I’m currently reading Champion by Marie Lu, which I should be done with by early this weekend, and listening to The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein. Yes, I have never read LOTR all the way through and it is indeed quite shameful. I am a self proclaimed fantasy addict, but you can’t be a real fantasy fan without reading the universally acknowledged master. Though I get stuck every time at page 130 of volume 1. Tom Bombadil just drags…we’ll see if I can push through this time. I like my audiobook (performed by Rob Inglis) and I’m hoping that the format change will be enough to help me through it and hopefully enjoy it as much as everyone else does.

Then, I have no idea, really. I used to make plans, but they always change, so don’t get out the chisel on this list just yet. I really want to read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo for the Nerdfighter Bookclub, which has to be done by June 10, I think, so I’m sure start sometime in May. Then I still have not read Cress by Marissa Meyer, which is just ridiculous, since I’ve been meaning to since February when it came out. And I will most definitely be reading City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare, which comes out on the 27th. Definitely my most anticipated release of the entire year, though my physical copy of it probably won’t show until June, I’m sure I’ll cave and buy the ebook. Because…just because. I have to know what happens.




Review: The Archived series by Victoria Schwab


The Archived
The Archived by Victoria Schwab Published January 2013 by Hyperion 328 Pages (Hardcover)

The Archived had been on and off my radar for awhile, but I finally picked it up last month and I was so glad I did. It’s a very well written blend of fantasy and contemporary, with a concept I found very intriguing. I give both it and its sequel, The Unbound, a 4/5 stars. And I eagerly anticipate the third book, which I hope will come out next year at the latest, though no word on any upcoming release just yet.


The Archived follows Mackenzie Bishop, who took over her grandfather’s position as a Keeper for the Archive when she was only 12. Now, at 16, Mackenzie has been hunting Histories through the Narrows and returning them to the Archive before they can reach the outside world for four tumultuous years. It’s a solitary, secret job, keeping the sort-of living records of the dead in line, but Mackenzie has learned how to carefully manage it all. Her life is in upheaval, however, as her family moves in the wake of her younger brother’s tragic death. Before she can even begin to settle in the old hotel that is her new apartment complex, with its dark memories and mystery plain for her to see, Mackenzie is bombarded with an upswing in the number and strength of the Histories on her list as the unshakable Archive is attacked from within. Mackenzie then must piece everything together in a fight that threatens the whole of the Archive, and every living memory that resides in it.


So one thing I really, really admire about The Archived, especially after attempting to write a decent summary of it, is the way it manages to weave exposition into plot. I never felt overly confused, but I was also never bored or bogged down in some detail rich explanation of something. It came together quickly, for a concept that I just discovered is difficult to explain (though a book never has to worry about spoiling itself!)

Mackenzie was a very good character. She’s strong. Strong to a fault, really, which was even more interesting. I really enjoyed the dynamic with her family as well, her parents are an integral part of her life and her story, for all that they stand entirely outside the more fantastic elements of it. The stress and strain of tragedy on a family was handled quite realistically, in my (un-experienced) opinion. Wes, fellow Keeper and Mackenzie’s eventual love interest, was such a great character as well. A bit angsty, to be sure, but sarcastic without being biting and good-natured without seeming impossibly perfect. Their romance developed quite nicely over the course of both books. No starry-eyed, fate-induced babbling, just two people with a lot in common and a lot to figure out slowly growing closer. I loved it.

The Unbound
The Unbound by Victoria Schwab Published January 2014 by Hyperion 368 pages (Hardcover)

The only negative thing I can say is that book 2, The Unbound, was a bit of downer after all the fascinating intensity of the first. It was lighter on the action, pushing that aside to deal with some more internal struggles that came in the wake of the events of The Archived. It was good, and I definitely loved where it went in the end, but it was just a little less easy to get sucked into. And it was a tad frustrating, watching Mackenzie struggle while knowing what is was she should probably be doing. The whodunnit bit was predictable to me in both books as well, but especially so in The Unbound.


Overall, the story operates on so many levels giving it a complexity that I would never have suspected such a short couple of books to have. Mackenzie’s dealing with the mundane and the fantastic and the two interweave in a way that makes both more interesting. The more mundane idea of coping with the sudden and unexpected death of a sibling is complicated by the fact that a version of that sibling is technically within reach, though he can never really be alive again. Underneath everything is this constant undercurrent of suspicion against the Archive itself. No one can really be trusted. Ever. So it’s fascinating to watch Mackenzie figure out who to trust, who to fight for, and determine what it is she really wants. It does what so few YA fantasies endeavor to do and weaves the mundane aspects of it’s characters normal teenage lives into the plot, enriching the story even more. I definitely recommend it and look forward to getting my hands on the conclusion one of these months!


Review: Heaven is Paved with Oreos by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Heaven is Paved with Oreos by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Published September 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
208 Pages (Hardcover)

If the ridiculous (and creative!) title doesn’t catch your eye as you’re perusing the new arrivals section at the library, than I don’t know what does. It’s certainly what I noticed first, then the spotted suitcase on the cover and then its author. I grabbed it up, remembering how much I loved Gilbert-Murdock’s Dairy Queen trilogy when I was in high school and, lo and behold, this book is a companion to it. You can read this book without first reading that trilogy, but it does take place after it and thus spoils a few things. It was  a quick read for me, and I quite enjoyed it, though I struggled with Sarah’s voice a bit and didn’t think it packed as much emotional punch as it could have. 3.5/5 stars


Heaven is Paved with Oreos takes place in the summer after the end of Front and Center and follows Sarah Zorn, (That’s DJ’s little brother Curtis’s “girlfriend”/science fair partner if you remember from The Off Season). Sarah and Curtis have been fake dating to stave off the teasing that comes along with being boy/girl just-friends, but things are starting to get complicated. Sarah’s just trying to figure out her life as she gets ready to go to high school in the fall when her youthful, free-spirited grandmother invites her on a week-long trip to Rome to finish the seven church pilgrimage she started, but didn’t finish with friends years before. It’s a major learning and growing experience for Sarah as she experiences the foreign country and copes with some startling secrets about her family history.


This was sweet and cute. I was predisposed to like this, after loving the Schwenk family all throughout the Dairy Queen series, especially the side-plot nerd love between Curtis and Sarah. This book explores that of course, but it’s a romance in the middle grade sense, focusing more on the nervousness around the start of a relationship than anything truly physical.

I would be remiss if I made this sound like just a romance, however. At it’s heart, this book is all about Sarah’s journey of self discovery as she experiences a foreign country, gains some self sufficiency and independence, and reckons with the secrets within her family. I enjoyed reading the trip more than I thought I would, it’s clear CGM did her research, and Sarah’s journey was, overall, pretty compelling.

The book is written as though we’re reading Sarah’s journal, which is mostly effective, as it gives an easy way to portray Sarah’s thoughts and feelings, though I did find her to be a bit juvenile sounding for her age (she’s 14 and she won’t even say “Oh my God” instead of “Oh my gosh” and the “boy-liker” thing sounded dumb to me as well). It was pretty believable, especially since it allowed the book to be longer and more descriptive at its exciting points (the trip) and skip days between notable events back home. There was even a little bit of a tense mystery for a few pages as Sarah is interrupted in her writing by a traumatic event and then only hints at it for a little while before it gets explained. It gave a unique, present-tense twist to a largely past-tense format and I enjoyed it a lot.

For me, this was a fun, one-evening read. It wasn’t ground-breaking and it had a few flaws, but I thoroughly enjoyed spending more time in Red Bend and beyond with Gilbert-Murdoch and her characters. In the week or so since I finished this, I’ve found that the characters have stuck around in my head, making me hope she’s planning a sequel to this one; though I have no clue if she is or not, but I keep imagining more romance and a return trip! Definitely check it out if you liked the whole Dairy Queen series. I would also recommend it to a younger reader (or any middle grade fan!) looking for some strong-girl travel adventure/feel-good family drama.

So I Finished Percy Jackson…

I Eat My Words

So it turns out I have to put my foot in my mouth here…

If any of you reading this read my review of The Titan’s Curse, you’ll know I closed by saying that I was a little off-put by the fact that I wasn’t addicted to the series. I was ok with this because it meant I got to savor it a bit longer and now, only a week later, I’ve devoured the last two books.

Somehow addiction  sneaked up on me. I don’t know exactly what triggered it. Maybe it’s because I love the complexity and seriousness of Percy’s story as he ages. It’s developed in the same way the Harry Potter story developed: keeping its whimsy and humor while continuing to up the stakes for the characters. Plus I had jumped on the Percy/Annabeth ship by the end of Titan’s curse and waiting for them to freaking get over themselves and just be together already was a driving factor as well.

Babbling On On Goodreads

I originally planned to post reviews here, but I find it difficult to keep reviewing books in this series without constantly repeating myself. I did post a few short ramblings about my thoughts immediately after finishing each book, which are up on Goodreads, so I’ll just link those here, if you’re interested in reading more, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing a review of The Lost Hero from me soon enough. I already have that one and the next two books in the companion series in my possession. Thank you, library!

The Battle of The Labyrinth Goodreads Review

The Last Olympian Goodreads Review

Books I Recommend, IRL

In every review I write, I tell you if I recommend the book or not. Usually, if I liked it, rated it four or more stars, I recommend it, but a better test is to see if I actually recommend it to my real-life friends and family. So here’s a list of books that pass that test, sorted by person, that I either have told a friend or two about, or plan to, next time they ask me: “what should I read now?”

Click the titles for reviews I’ve posted, if they’re available.

To Multiple People

These are the books I have given to at least two people and said: “you have to read this.” True recommendations for all sorts of people from books that are just that good, interesting, or that I somehow feel are necessary reading for human existence, because I love them that much.

  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

To Savanna

Savanna’s a good friend of mine, and she reads nearly as much as I do. She’ll pretty much read anything, but she’s like me and sticks mostly to YA dystopian or fantasy adventure/romance.

To Kayla

Kayla’s a slower reader and she’s not as into it as people like Savanna and I are. She does enjoy it though, and when I recommend books to her, I like to make sure they relate somehow to her personality and interests (animals, rock music, and cute boys). She hasn’t read any of these yet (most of what she’s read before is on the “multiple people” list, since I always start people off on the best) but they’re next on my list to get into her hands.

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
  • Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

To Brittney

Brittney is pretty new to reading for fun. After Savanna and I dragged her to the bookstore one night (a story I chronicled in my Eleanor and Park Review), she started off with Eleanor and Park, then read The Fault in Our Stars, and is currently finishing up The Hunger Games series. So after making her cry for a solid month, I think it’s time to give her something a little happier before diving into another tear-jerker. She seems to like YA contemporary the best, so I’ve been sticking to that:

  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

To My Mom

My mom reads slowly, but consistently. She’s a pretty picky reader, liking character driven, adult, often historical fiction pretty much exclusively. No thrillers for her, but it does have to hold her interest:

  • The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Kahled Hosseini
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok

To My Brother

Andy and I have been swapping book recommendations for years and years. Less so now that we’re both grown up and don’t live in the same state, but I still like to see what he’s been reading. He likes epic fantasy, but he also reads a lot of very thought provoking, dense philosophical or historical works. Those I don’t really know enough to recommend, but I thought up a couple things he might like, if I get stuck trying to find him a birthday present in a few months:

  • The Eye of The World by Robert Jordan
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

From Others

Finally, here’s a few good books that have been recommended to me by the people listed above. Gives you some idea of what they like, and it’s even more books for you to check out, if you haven’t already.

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (from Mom)
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (from Mom)
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (from Savanna)
  • The Farm by Emily McKay (from Savanna)
  • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (from Andy)

As always, leave your recommendations for me in the comments, or you can leave some recommendations for my friends for me to pass along. (I especially need some good contemporaries to tell Brittney about! That genre is not my forte.)

Review: Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King Published October 2011 by Little, Brown 279 Pages (Hardcover)
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
Published October 2011 by Little, Brown
279 Pages (Hardcover)

This is a very quiet, understated ode to solitude and pain. Beautiful in the complexity it expresses quite simply. I have a personal soft spot for magical realism and this executes it very well, making for a wholly unique and compelling story. 4.5/5 stars


There’s not too much good about Lucky Linderman’s life. He’s bullied relentlessly and yet his school counselor focuses on other things. His parents don’t know how to handle it either, both escaping into their own pursuits. But Lucky has dreams that are more than dreams. Dreams where he is brave and strong, where he fights every night to save his grandfather, who never returned home from Vietnam.


I still can’t get over how slow and quiet this book was. It’s not action-packed or romance-loaded tangle of crazy emotion. Instead, it’s exactly the opposite, a patient unraveling of common human feeling through characters who are perfectly imperfect. Lucky has been failed by his parents, yet (even) when told from his perspective, it’s almost impossible to hate them. Each character is struggling with his or her own loneliness, pain, or insecurity and each has a redeeming quality as well. With, perhaps, the exception of Nader, Lucky’s bully, but we are limited to Lucky’s perspective. Lucky is the center of his story, and his journey is compelling, but every other character woven in has their own story, one that reflects and expands on the theme that fear and pain are a prison cell, one that can sometimes be broken.

I, weirdly, don’t have a lot of experience reading magical realism, considering what I have read I’ve adored. Garcia-Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is probably my second favorite book that I’ve had to read for school (after To Kill a Mockingbird, which is probably my favorite book, period.)  Sarah Addison Allen can be placed in the genre as well, and between the two books of hers I’ve read and Solitude, this is my fourth foray into magical realism. And I’m still loving it. Everybody Sees the Ants is particularly successful at using its magical elements to add layers that otherwise would not exist to a story. Along with being a necessary and welcome bit of comic relief, the ants are a glimpse into Lucky’s deepest consciousness, a different perspective than even the thoughts we get directly from him.  His dreams weave in his insecurities, the things that immediately worry him, and, of course, are the major component relating Lucky’s life to his grandfather’s. This magical element weaves two otherwise largely disparate stories into one, making both much more relate-able and real. It’s excellently executed and the writing and flashback/flashforward style serve to make the story extraordinary as well.


Definitely recommended, for pretty much everyone. It is relatively uneventful, if, like me, you are used to massive battles and epic romances and invading aliens and other assorted insane happenings. It is a quite short book, though, and the beautiful writing, style, and message make it easily readable. I’m so glad I found this, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more from Ms. King.

Review: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan Published May 2007 by Puffin Books 304 Pages (Paperback)
The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
Published May 2007 by Puffin Books
304 Pages (Paperback)

At A Glance

The Titan’s Curse is the third book in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series about modern pre-teen demigod Percy and his many adventures. The review will spoil the first two books, though no major spoilers for this book appear in the review.

I have really been enjoying the series so far, and this book was no exception. Riordan continues to do an amazing amount within each book. The characters are vibrant and the world is constructed well and fun to live in. New conflicts and plot lines emerge with each installment, changing as much as Percy does as he grows older and more experienced. I do think it’s brilliant, but I do feel a little disappointed that I’m not as rabidly addicted to this the way many people seem to be. I don’t know that I can explain why. I like it, I’m just not crazy excited about it. I still highly recommend it though, no matter what age you are. 4/5 Stars


When demigods Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia go to assist their satyr friend Grover on mission to locate and rescue two newly discovered demigods, nothing (as usual) goes according to plan. Annabeth is captured by a monster and the goddess Artemis is soon captured as well. Percy, Grover, Thalia and the maiden members of Artemis’s Hunt return to Camp Half-Blood where the Oracle predicts the terms of Artemis’s rescue:  Five will go and two will not return.


I loved the new characters. Each one emerges so vibrantly, it’s hard to believe that they haven’t been around the whole time. Zoe has such strong convictions and her stubbornness, combined with her distrust of men, make for some fun semi-antagonistic moments with Percy. It’s hard to believe that Thalia is a newcomer as well. Her struggle to find the right action is poignant, in part because it has been (and still is) Percy’s struggle as well. I enjoyed reading her, and I liked where her story went.

It’s extremely fun to watch the old characters grow up from learning how to handle demigod powers and sticking close to camp to moving out in the world and forging identities rooted in who their parents are yet finding independence enough to make their own decisions about where they will stand and who they will stand with. It’s a subtle, but really cool thing about the series. I can’t wait to see what new directions Percy and the rest of the old gang will go in the remaining books.

I really don’t have anything bad to add about this. I had issues with the pacing of The Lightning Thief  being too lightning-quick, but that’s either gotten better or I’ve gotten used to it. I did kind of expect to be more addicted to the series by now, after hearing and seeing so many people fall head over heels for it, and I kind of find the fact that I’m not irrationally disappointing. I’m content to just keep reading one or two a month, and that’s ok. Why not draw out the fun?