Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately {10.31.17}

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 with 3 comments

For some reason this month, I was compelled to read quite a bit of classic literature. At least from the likes of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I made it through all of Jane Austen's work, with the exception of Pride & Prejudice, simply because I'm still on hold at the library for it. But it's my favorite of hers and a re-read at that, so it was more important for me to read those that I hadn't picked up before. I also did a little spooky re-reading and ventured into somewhat foreign territory with an adult contemporary and an adult sci-fi novel, both of which were pretty fun in their own way.

And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

(More on why I've gone to this format here in lieu of traditional reviews for each.)

Y O U N G   A D U L T

If There's No TomorrowVanguard (Razorland, #4)All the Crooked SaintsLove Songs & Other Lies

If There's No Tomorrow - I think this is my favorite JLA novel. I didn't have a favorite before because none of her books have really resonated with me up to this point, but I do now. The main character's grief and longing were palpable in this story of loss and consequences and it made me sit down and pay attention to a side of Armentrout's writing that I'd never experienced before. This story was gritty and poignant and heartbreaking and it was so unlike the tropey stuff I'm used to. Sure, there was a severe lack of communication which caused problems between characters, but there was a real reason for it. These characters weren't just playing games. This was a frank and serious novel about a tragedy that's all too common these days, and I thought it was exceptionally well done.  🌟🌟🌟🌟

Vanguard - This spin-off novel in the Razorland series was quite different from the previous three books. But it also wasn't. The original series had Deuce and friends facing near-death situations and would-be zombies at every turn. But Vanguard takes place after the War of the River, where peace between humans and the Uroch was reached. The beginning of this book was a little slow, and I'm not afraid to admit that I almost put it down, never to be picked up again. But after re-reading the original series earlier this year, I knew I couldn't leave it like that. And it was worth sticking with. Just because Tegan and friends aren't facing muties/freaks anymore, doesn't mean they don't encounter more than they bargained for when they leave the relative safety of the homes they've come to know in the year since the war. And I ended up really enjoying their adventures. I've tried reading Aguirre's other novels, but nothing compares to the writing in this series. It's just so compelling.  🌟🌟🌟🌟

All the Crooked Saints - Maggie's books are weird. I like weird. But for a plethora of reasons that I will only briefly touch on, this story didn't work as well for me as her previous novels. Mostly, I just didn't connect with the characters. To be fair, I don't usually feel one with the characters in her books, but I at least care what happens to them. With AtCS, I found it so easy to walk away from the story time and again. I wasn't captivated. There were no "AHA!" moments, like with The Raven Cycle. It was just slow and strange and felt more like a weird dream I wanted to forget than a story I wanted to keep reading. I read on her blog that the story was originally much darker, and I can't help but feel that I would have preferred it stay that way. 🌟🌟🌟

Love Songs & Other Lies - So, this story is kind of post high school with flashbacks from before, but I'm still considering it YA because there was honestly nothing that really made it feel like it wavered into new adult territory. But it was nearly unputdownable. I know a lot of readers don't like flashbacks, but I love that you get a more well-rounded idea of a character, seeing what they were like before and how they've changed. Seeing where everything went wrong and that they're being given a second chance. I also love that music was integral to this story. And though I'm not a fan of reality TV in general, I actually enjoyed that aspect, as well. The manipulations and machinations of all involved made the story that much more interesting. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

T H E   C L A S S I C S

PersuasionEmmaMansfield Park

Persuasion - After reading The Jane Austen Project, I felt inspired to read all of Jane Austen's collective works. Or re-read them, as the case may be. This is my first read through of Persuasion, though I've read a YA retelling or two. I quite liked this book, though. It reminded me of why I loved Pride & Prejudice and Emma so much. Jane Austen just had such a clarity with regards to the world around her and society at large. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Emma - I've always loved Emma. I know she's unlikable and self-involved and her character growth is marginal at best, but I still love this book. The match-making attempts made by Emma are just too fun and ill-fated. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Mansfield Park - I'm a little ashamed to admit that this was my first time reading Mansfield Park, but I'm also a little relieved because teenaged-me would have cringed and thrown the book down when I'd learned the book concludes with a marriage between first cousins. Now, I'm a little more open-minded to the fact that that's just how things were sometimes done during that time period, whether to keep property in the family or for actual romantic feelings. But even now, I can't help but think poor, poor Fanny. Years spent pining for the cousin and friend who'd essentially made her the woman she was, only to end up with him after he's thoroughly resigned to the fact that the woman he pursued instead of her was never the woman he thought her to be at all. This story was frustrating to no end. I've now read five of the six Jane Austen novels, and I daresay this is my least favorite. 🌟🌟🌟

Northanger Abbey - The one remaining Austen novel I hadn't read and it ends up being among my favorites. (Okay, well, truth be told, the only Austen novel I didn't love was Mansfield Park, so make of that what you will.) I adored Catherine's love of gothic literature and how she jumped to conclusions and made an utter fool of herself at times because she saw danger lurking everywhere. And I kind of love Tilney for being able to overlook that. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Sense and Sensibility - I know I read this novel in high school -- I even remember having to write a report about it -- but prior to picking up the audio, I couldn't have told you anything else about it. Which is why re-reading is so great. If it's not a favorite that I can almost recite line for line, then it's a favorite I can read again for the first time. The Dashwood sisters were such polar opposites and yet I loved seeing the parallels as their romantic entanglements slowly unraveled...and how they came together upon realizing this. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Convenient Marriage - Oh, that was a lovely story! Made even better with Richard Armitage narrating! And to think, were it not for my friends on Goodreads, I may never have experienced it, let alone known that I was going to endeavor to get my hands on all of the Georgette Heyer novels within my grasp, despite having never even heard of the author previously. *cue the gasps* I know! What has been my education if it did not include the works that established the historical romance genre? The genre I fall back on whenever nothing else will do these days? I shudder to think. And now I will comfort myself by downloading more of her lovely stories...hopefully also narrated by the inimitable Richard Armitage. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Sylvester - Richard Armitage narrating Georgette Heyer novels is giving me life. How? How did I not know such a thing existed? Better yet, why did none of you tell me? I think Georgette Heyer, mother to the regency romance genre, writes it like no other. Her stories are charmingly short and if not straight to the point, they at least don't meander and last longer than necessary due to miscommunication or the utter lack of it. I know this is only the second of her novels I've read/listened to, but I already have such a strong love for them. I loved Phoebe, wanting of conduct and aplomb, and I adored the arrogant Sebastian and his Darcy-esque proposal. The rest of the cast of characters was also quite entertaining and I can't say a bad thing about this novel. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Venetia - I loved how tangled this story was and how well Richard Armitage performs the role of reformed rogue. But I'm sad that there's only one more of these novels with this fabulous narrator available from my library, and it's currently checked out so I have to wait to enjoy it. :( 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Charity Girl - This one...this one I did not love. And there were probably several reasons for that, namely that Richard Armitage did not narrate it. Also, that it was much longer than the others I've read thus far. And it was not a romance. Not to me, anyway. I honestly knew who the intended love interest for Desford was from the beginning, but they've been lifelong friends and he spends so little time in her company for much of the book that I wasn't sure it would actually come to pass. I'm glad I listened to the others first or this novel surely would have put me off them. 🌟🌟

R E - R E A D S

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Diviners/Lair of Dreams - Re-reading in preparation for Before the Devil Breaks You. I'd say it's not necessary to read, but it was great being back in this world. Plus, when there are two or three years between books instead of the usual one, it's probably just a good idea to refresh your memory, regardless of any recap the author might offer at the beginning. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - I re-read this every October, if not more often, and it is still probably my favorite Holly Black novel. It's just so fantastically creepy. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

738 Days - When I saw the new novel from Stacey Kade is going to be about a girl who makes up a life based on Felicity to keep her mother happy, I knew I had to read it. But it also made me want to re-read the last Stacey Kade novel I read. Except this time on audio. But still with the tears. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Forgetting - Re-reading prior to picking up The Knowing, even though that one is a companion and not a true sequel. But it's been awhile and I wanted to remember the world of the Forgetting, to remember the whys and hows and how the story left off, especially. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


How to Capture a Countess (The Duchess Diaries, #1)My Beautiful Enemy (The Heart of Blade Duology #2)Not Quite a HusbandThe Trouble with Dukes (Windham Brides, #1)The Fall of Lord Drayson (Tanglewood, #1)

How to Capture a Countess - My second Karen Hawkins' novel proves without a doubt that I'm a fan. I don't think I've seen this vengeance plot played out before -- though I am still relatively new to historical romance -- but I quite enjoyed the flirtations and challenges and the scheming on the part of Sin's aunt. It was good, calculated fun. It's a shame my library doesn't have any more of Hawkins' novels on audio. :*(  🌟🌟🌟🌟

My Beautiful Enemy - This novel felt like a mix of all of the Sherry Thomas novels I've read to-date, even her YA series, what with the historical aspect and action scenes and a female masquerading as a male to survive in her world. Oh, and the flashbacks. And even though it wasn't my favorite of her books, it was still quite entertaining and quite romantic. This is actually the second in a duology, and I haven't read the first book, though I've heard it's better. It's supposed to be the prequel to this story, but you can definitely read My Beautiful Enemy without having read the other. Which I did since my library/Hoopla only had this one available. *le sigh* 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Not Quite a Husband - Apparently, I'm on a Sherry Thomas binge again. Though, it's over as quick as it started because I found the only other two books of hers that my library had via Hoopla. Boo. Still, I love her novels because they take a taboo subject and turn it on its head for the enjoyment of the dear reader. The premise of this novel has been done before, but I don't think it's ever been quite so...well, action-packed and widespread. It's definitely not boring, at any rate. ;) 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Trouble with Dukes - I feel like I've been pretty lucky with all of the new-to-me historical romance authors I've tried of late. I think I saw someone mention the second book in this series on GR, and that's what made me put this one on hold at the library. I love Scots. I love scheming matchmakers. And I love a series where each book details how a spinster daughter finds the love of her life. Though this one actually felt like it was more the Scottish duke's story than the spinster's at times -- and that might have been because the narrator was male (but good) -- it was all of the things I admitted to loving above...and then some. I hope my library takes my recommendation to purchase the audio for the second book to heart. I can't wait for the next couple's story! 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Fall of Lord Drayson - This was rather adorable. I love a good amnesia plot, especially one that comes with a side of comeuppance. And the romance was cuuuute. Not full of miscommunication and missed opportunities. It was just right. =) 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Truth or Beard - I'm not a big fan of facial hair. A little scruff is fine, but I'm not partial to a full-on beard, which is why I'm glad my husband decided to shave his off after we'd been dating for awhile. But, the beard doesn't make the man, obviously, and I kind of loved how charming and gallant Duane Winston was, beard and all. I was sure I was jumping into a romanticized version of Duck Dynasty when I picked this one up, but I was pleasantly surprised. I listened to a sample first, and I was sure I was going to be thoroughly annoyed with the narrator for Jessica's perspective, but she really grew on me after awhile. That's not to say I would seek her out as a narrator again, but she did fit the personality of the character and it worked. The narrator for Duane's character was perfectly adequate throughout. I had a lot of fun listening to this one overall -- especially sausage night at the Winston's -- but I'm still unsure if I'll pick up the rest of the series. There were moments that this story became a bit repetitive -- dialogue, actions, words, you name it -- and I can only imagine how tedious I'll find that in the rest of the series. Rounding up because of Cletus, whose book I might be inclined to read once I've distanced myself from the books for a bit. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Grimspace - Well, that was fun! And the narrator is the same as the later books in the Vampire Academy series and its spin-off, though under a different name, and she just does that snarky banter and sarcasm so well. Of course, I have a soft spot for fugitive intrepid space travelers and love almost any story featuring them. But this one ranks high above any I've read before. It's fast-paced, action-packed, group dynamic is exactly what I was in the mood for. And this book stands completely on it's own, even though there are six books in the series in total, which is great for me, considering I wasn't really looking for a new series, just a thrilling space opera in between reads. Man, now I'm even MORE excited for Aguirre's sci-fi collaboration with Rachel Caine. :D 🌟🌟🌟🌟

What Happens in Scotland - I didn't realize this was Jennifer McQuiston's debut historical romance when I grabbed the audio from the library. I actually listened to all of the books in her second series last month and rather enjoyed them. And I liked this story, too, though maybe not quite as much, and mostly because the first half of the story finds the hero and heroine apart, both suffering memory loss and acting rather dunderheaded in their attempts to find the other. I may check out the other books in the Second Sons series, but I'm in no rush to do so. 🌟🌟

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Find any new titles to check out? ;0)

Until next time! Happy reading!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Thanks to JIMMY Patterson Books and Big Honcho Media for sending a copy of Expelled and for providing a finished copy to give away! Here's more about the book:

Title: Expelled
Author: James Patterson with Emily Raymond
Series: n/a
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson Books
Publication Date: October 23, 2017
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Add to Goodreads
A secret Twitter account. An anonymous photo. Everyone is a suspect.

Will Foster's Twitter account used to be anonymous--until someone posted The Photo that got him and three other students expelled, their futures ruined forever. But who took the picture, and why are they being targeted?

To uncover the truth, Will gets close to the suspects: the hacker, the quarterback, the bad girl, the class clown, the vice principal, and...his own best friend. What secrets are they hiding, and even worse--what do they know about each other? The terrible truth will haunt them forever.

New York Times bestselling author James Patterson brings us another fast-moving tale of suspense, with danger, romance, and twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the very last page.

I've really grown to love YA contemporary novels, set during the formative high school years, in addition to all of the YA fantasy and paranormal stories I consume. So, whether there be football, hopes and dreams, or just plain ole calculus, here are some of my favorite high-school-centered contemporary reads, in case you're looking for some more to check out after you finish Expelled:

Too Cool for School
Other Must-read High School Contemporary Novels

About the author:

James Patterson received the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community from the National Book Foundation. He holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers, including Confessions of a Murder Suspect and the Maximum Ride series, and his books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. A tireless champion of the power of books and reading, Patterson created a children’s book imprint, JIMMY Patterson, whose mission is simple: “We want every kid who finishes a JIMMY Book to say, ‘PLEASE GIVE ME ANOTHER BOOK.’” He has donated more than one million books to students and soldiers and funds over four hundred Teacher Education Scholarships at twenty-four colleges and universities. He has also donated millions of dollars to independent bookstores and school libraries. Patterson invests proceeds from the sales of JIMMY Patterson Books in pro-reading initiatives.

Find James:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | FacebookInstagram

I've partnered with JIMMY Patterson Books and Big Honcho Media to bring you this awesome giveaway!

Get @ Me!
Twitter is a catalyst for the teens’ expulsion in Expelled. One (1) winner receives:
  • a finished copy of Expelled by James Patterson and Emily Raymond
  • an @ symbol necklace to memorialize your own time on this social media platform!
Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by JIMMY Patterson Books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 20, 2017

Title: Before the Devil Breaks You
Author: Libba Bray
Narrator: January LaVoy
Series: The Diviners, book #3
Length: 21 hrs 26 mins
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: audiobook received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Add to Goodreads
New York City.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming...

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They're more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten--ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they've ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation--a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

I don't even know where to begin with my love for this series. The writing, the narration, the utter creepiness of it...it all coalesces into one of my very favorite series. Which is quite a boast for this author, considering her Gemma Doyle trilogy is also on that list of favorite series. Despite how much she loves breaking my heart.

And I can totally see Libba Bray doing that here with this series, as well. She's made me come to love all of these characters, even ones I thought I'd always loathe. And, yes, she's left my heart reeling after this installment, too, but I know it's not over yet. She's not finished with my heart yet and even when this series is complete, she still won't be done with me because this is one of those stories that I can't help but come back to.

I love each and every characters' story arc, even if I didn't foresee it going in a certain direction, well, for any of them. No, especially because of that. I love how relevant this story is because of how history is doomed to repeat itself. That the more things change, the more they stay the same. And how sad is that? And I loved that in this book most of all, we see the Diviners actually coming together to work as a team. They all have their issues and their hang-ups but they're such a diverse lot of characters that it makes me hopeful for them, despite what they're up against.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Libba Bray has done her homework. When I'm reading these books, everything else falls away. I am transported to the Roaring Twenties. To the time of speakeasies and flappers and prohibition. When white man ruled the land and anyone of color or another sexual orientation was shunned. (Oh...wait.) But it's in the little details, as well, from specific items of clothing to songs sang at rallies or advertisements on radio shows. The background for this series has been so well-researched and it shows.

The publisher could not have selected a better narrator for this series, either. This story comes to life because of January LaVoy. There are so many story lines, so many perspectives, that normally I'd have a hard time keeping them all straight, but this narrator literally has a separate voice for each character. Each one is unique; each one is special. I cannot praise the narration of this series enough. It's among my favorites, as well.

This third installment in The Diviners series is actually on my favorites of 2017 list. It is just SO good. I mean, I waited long enough for it...it should be, right? ;0) Two to three years between books is hard but worth it. So worth it. And if I'm being honest, this might actually be my favorite in the series so far, so that makes the wait between installments all the sweeter.

I wholeheartedly recommend this series -- especially on audio -- and this time of year is perfect for it. It's just so divinely creepy.

Previous books in the series:

The Diviners
Lair of Dreams

About the author:

Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of The Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine; Beauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist; and The Diviners series. She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats.

(You should absolutely check out her full bio on her website, though. You'll learn things.)

Find Libba:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TumblrGoodreads

About the narrator:

January LaVoy is a New York City based actress, best known for her role as Noelle Ortiz-Stubbs on the long-running ABC daytime drama One Life to Live. January was named Publishers Weekly's "Audiobook Narrator of the Year" for 2013 and has an extensive body of work in both narration and commercial voiceover, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, John Grisham’s Camino Island and several Star Wars novels. She has won multiple Audie Awards, most recently in 2016 for her work on Libba Bray's Lair of Dreams.

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