Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Top Seven New-to-Me Authors of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for list-loving bloggers that is hosted by the team over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week, readers compile a list of their favorite books, authors, or other literature-related things that fall under a certain category.

Last year, I listed ten authors whose books I finally got around to reading in 2015—much later than I should have. I decided to do a follow-up for 2016, but when I began compiling this year's post, I ran into an issue: I've only read 51 books since January. Between finishing high school and starting college, I've struggled to keep up with new releases, debuts, and new-to-everyone authors, let alone backlist, new-to-me authors' books.

What I did manage to read, though, was excellent, so I now present you with ten seven new-to-me authors whose books I should have read before 2016.

Leigh Bardugo // Six of Crows
I didn't read Six of Crows until July of 2016. I know. Please don't hurt me. (Shoutout to Aneeqah and Willa for finally convincing me to give Leigh Bardugo a shot! I was not disappointed.)

Emery Lord // Open Road Summer
I've been hearing amazing things about Emery Lord for ages (and I've been following her clever Twitter since her debut), but it took me until this summer to read Open Road Summer, which I loved.

Tim Federle // The Great American Whatever
Tim Federle has a repertoire of middle grade and adult novels, but I first tried his work after his YA debut hit shelves this year. It made me laugh, cringe, and cry, and it left me with an urge to pick up Better Nate Than Never.

Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton // Tiny Pretty Things
If you haven't yet read Tiny Pretty Things, you should fix that immediately. It features dance, diversity, and drama—and it's beautifully written.

Kate Hattemer // The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
This 2014 title is full of so much life and humor and so, so many antics. I'm now hooked on the author's writing and can't wait to read her 2016 and 2017 releases.

Martha Brockenbrough // The Game of Love and Death
2015 was a great year for magical realism, but it took me until 2016 to read this particular novel about a personified Love and Death orchestrating two characters' lives. I loved the concept, the characters, and the 1930s Seattle setting.

Tamara Ireland Stone // Every Last Word
I heard plenty of buzz for this author's Time Between Us when it came out in 2012, but for some reason I never picked up. I did, however, read her fantastic contemporary novel about poetry, friendship, romance, and mental health—and now I want to read her time travel title.

What backlist authors did you read this year? Are there any titles on this list you still need to catch up on? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

15 Blog Posts You Probably Shouldn't Write

Between college classes and the stress of living on my own, I've been in a bit of a blogging slump these past few months. Part of my plan to combat this temporary shortage of enthusiasm is the use of content idea generators, which provide randomized post titles featuring keywords you provide.

Some of these bots' ideas are surprisingly inspiring; others, not so much. Here are a few ideas for blog posts you may not want to write.
Um, they shouldn't be one of the seven deadly sins. They should be one of the Ten Commandments. 

Have you tried being a world-famous author? J.K. Rowling perhaps?

Shoutout to everyone who's stayed up late reading and almost missed a morning shift.

I have no idea how to turn this idea into a blog post, but if someone does, please let me know.

Hopefully we're talking about a literary agent?

Okay, but Iggy Azalea is

And apparently Justin Bieber's good at YA books too.

I'm not sure about this one, but I enjoy reading about characters who cook.

It obviously would. Does this one need further explanation?

I can't tell you that, but here are five YA books about government and politics you should read.

They may not have modern technology, but they must have a good taste in literature.

Please don't do this.

They may be fictional, but you can make it work.

Because marriage counseling can get expensive.

And, finally, the most important task the YA community will ever undertake.

To make this post, I used Portent's Content Idea Generator, but you can find other resources here. Have you ever used a content idea generator for a post? If so, link me up; I'd love to read it! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 2016 in Review

Background image source
Good morning and happy holidays! I hope all NaNoWriMo-ers are either satisfied with their work or will be by the end of the day. November was a tough month for many of us, which exponentially increases my respect for anyone who managed to produce 50,000 words in the past 30 days. Personally, I've been keeping busy with school projects, trying to become more involved in political activism, and (as always) managing to read some quality literature. Here are the highlights from my reading and my life this month.

highlight from my reading list

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell | Goodreads
If you're out of the loop on this book, like I was for an embarrassingly long time, allow me to catch you up: Carry On is essentially fanfiction for the super-popular, Harry Potter-esque series featured in Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. So, by extension, it's essentially professionally written and edited Harry Potter fanfiction. The similarities between Watford and Hogwarts are amusing and comforting, but Carry On is original and well-developed enough to stand entirely on its own as well.

And best of all, the character analogous to Harry and the character analogous to Draco are roommates—and their painfully slow-burn rivalry-turned-romance is excellent. Carry On is an absolute must-read for people who, like me, are supporters of the Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter ship. 

highlight from my tbr

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman | Goodreads
Set in 1750s England and spotlighting a boy who sets out to clear the name of his father (who's convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation to the colonies in America), this book sounds right up my alley. I haven't read any of the author's previous works, but based on the synopsis, which promises themes of "race, class, family, and corruption so deep it can kill," I have high expectations. This one should be atmospheric, thrilling, and oh-so absorbing. 

highlights from my life 

  • I traveled to Cincinnati and Louisville with my intro to business administration class. I live in Indianapolis, so earlier this month we all loaded on a charter bus and took a two-day road trip to nearby metropolises. We visited P&G's corporate headquarters, GE Appliance Park, Churchill Downs, and more (and my favorite part was probably getting to glimpse prototypes of GE appliances that may be on the market five to ten years from now). 
Low-quality Snapchat photo, high-quality behind-the-scenes tour of Procter & Gamble
  • I voted in my first United States presidential election. I'd been looking forward to November 8, 2016 ever since I learned about the concept of voting as a child. Needless to say, the day didn't end how eight-year-old me imagined or how 18-year-old me hoped. Ever since, I've been working on overcoming my fear of phone calls and telephoning my representatives—because I'm clearly going to be placing regular calls over the next four years. 
  • In happier news, I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! I was lucky enough to attend a pre-screening because my friend won tickets from a radio station, and I loved every minute of it. The story exceeded my expectations in terms of capturing the magic of Harry Potter, dropped hints about the origins and backstory of certain familiar characters, and features a cast I want to befriend. Go watch it ASAP if you have yet to do so. 

How was your November (presidential election news aside)? And if you're from the U.S. (or even if you're not), how have you been dealing with current events? Here's to hoping December brings better news. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Giveaway: Trouble Is a Friend of Mine

Happy Tuesday! And happy holidays to everyone who's planning on celebrating Thanksgiving later this week!

Today, I'm partnering with the lovely people at Penguin to bring you a giveaway for Stephanie Tromly's mystery novels, Trouble Is a Friend of Mine and Trouble Makes a Comeback.

I started reading Trouble Is a Friend of Mine this morning, and I'm already a fan. The story's been compared to Veronica Mars (one of the best television productions of our time), which only makes me more excited to continue.

Before the giveaway, here's a quick description of the first book in the book in the duology:

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly | Goodreads

Release: August 4, 2015 from Kathy Dawson Books
Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him. No one does.

The first time Philip Digby shows up on Zoe Webster’s doorstep, he’s rude and he treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to.

But before she knows it, Zoe’s allowed Digby—annoying, brilliant, and somehow…attractive? Digby—to drag her into a series of hilarious, dangerous, and only vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that might be connected to the tragic disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. When it comes to Digby, Zoe just can’t say no.

But is Digby a hero? Or is his manic quest an indication of a desperate attempt to repair his broken family and exorcize his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies? And does she really care anyway?

This is a contemporary debut with razor-sharp dialogue, ridiculously funny action, and a dynamic duo you won’t soon forget.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here's some legalese from Penguin: Enter for a chance to win one of three sets that include a paperback of Trouble is a Friend of Mine and a hardcover copy of Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly (ARV Per Set = $28.99 each). No purchase necessary. Enter between 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on November 22, 2016 and 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on November 28, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about December 1, 2016. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Good luck, and thanks for entering!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Historical Masterpiece That Will Tear You Apart: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry | Goodreads

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release: April 12, 2016
Source: Library
Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame.

Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town.

The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, what we now call Provence, France—a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies.

When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.
The Passion of Dolssa broke me. I read it over the span of a week, starting slowly for a variety of reasons (I was busy, the story was ever-so-slightly difficult to get into at first, I wanted to savor the setting development), then flying through the last 100 pages in one night. After I finished, my emotions were exhausted and my mind was racing. I was bursting to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I couldn't quite find the right words to articulate the immersive, emotionally gripping experience from which I had emerged.

I lost sleep over this book, staying up far past my bedtime to talk about it with my friend Willa. Eventually I turned off my lights in the hopes of getting rest, but still I tossed and turned, unable to get Dolssa and Botille and every other character out of my head. I couldn't start another book until two long days later.

I want to review The Passion of Dolssa, but I know I won't be able to capture every one of its incredible nuances—and I'd fatigue myself if I tried. So instead I'll list a handful of thoughts that emerged from my mess of emotions after I read the last page.

Thought #1: What does that ending even mean?
After a meticulously-built, stressful plot, The Passion of Dolssa hits readers with a cryptic ending. The last four pages sent me into a spiral of analytical angst as I theorized about the conclusion's meaning and worried that none of my answers seemed to fit perfectly. I almost wish I had read Dolssa's story for the first time in a classroom setting so I could have turned to a group of people who shared my confusion, but as it was, I settled for mulling over the ending myself. The Passion of Dolssa is the perfect book for fans of thought-provoking, open-to-interpretation finales. But if you despise open-ended stories, don't let me scare you off; the author has a secret resource on her website that should help you if you've thought about the ending and are still unsure.

Thought #2: I am so glad I'm alive now rather than during the Inquisition (or any other time in history, for that matter).
The Passion of Dolssa is set during a truly terrifying time in world history, a time when anyone could be burned alive—or face other excruciating punishments—for crossing the Catholic church. And Julie Berry paints such a frighteningly realistic picture of this setting that at times I forgot I was reading a novel rather than following a documentation of an actual series of events. Even as I reminded myself that Dolssa's story was a work of fiction, despite the author's vivid writing, I could not stop thinking about the many real people who faced pyres and lashings and brandings in medieval times. The Passion of Dolssa's most gruesome scenes continue to run through my mind on repeat, making me incredibly appreciative of the place and time in which I live.

Thought #3: Wow, what a brilliantly-woven story.
Framed by a series of extended flashbacks, The Passion of Dolssa jumps from 1290, when a friar is piecing together the story of Dolssa, to 1267, when Botille agrees to recount the story's events, before rewinding to 1241, when the action takes place. From there, the narration switches between mainly Botille, sometimes Dolssa, and occasionally other characters with testimonies to share, creating a patchworked storytelling style that perfectly matches the premise that a friar is assembling the story through a collection of found documents. Berry's choice to place Dolssa's story inside the friar's makes the novel's plot seem all the more realistic, as if attention from another fictional character cements the events of Dolssa's life. And the numerous narrators, while a bit confusing at first, create a vibrant, multifaceted tale that reveals Dolssa's character and journey more than any one narrator ever could.

Thought #4: My emotions are crushed.
Throughout the course of the novel, I grew to care deeply about each and every one of the characters. And even more importantly, I grew to care about the characters' relationships with one another. In addition to telling a story of heresy during the Inquisition, The Passion of Dolssa tells a story of family and friendship (and a dash of romance, although refreshingly little). I loved Botille's relationship with her family, I loved the family's bond with Dolssa, and I loved watching the characters sacrifice for each other—and I wanted more than anything else for them to survive and stay together. As a result, the danger that faces the characters (starting with Dolssa, then spreading to others) left my emotions in ruins. I almost never cry over fiction, but The Passion of Dolssa brought me as close as I'll ever get, drawing tears of anger and sadness and fear from my eyes. I don't know when I'll fully get over the emotional pain, but it hasn't happened yet.

Thought #5: This is easily one of the best books I've read all year.
I haven't started compiling my best of 2016 list yet, but I can say without a doubt that The Passion of Dolssa has earned a spot. From the incredibly-researched historical details to the deep emotional connections forged between the characters and the reader, Berry's latest is a true masterpiece. It's the kind of book that stays with you long after you've finished reading, the kind of book that makes you think about life and collapse into a ball of emotions at the same time, the kind of book that I love. I can't remember the last time I've been so obsessed with a story, so emotionally attached days after reading the last page. Just as magical as the title character herself, The Passion of Dolssa is a miraculous novel.