Top Ten Authors I’ve read ONE book from but want to read more!{Top Ten Tuesday}

Top Ten Authors I’ve read ONE book from but want to read more!{Top Ten Tuesday}

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which features (you guessed it!) top ten lists on a given topic each week. This week’s topic is. . . .Top Ten Authors I’ve read one book from but NEED to read more!

 

1. Andrew Smith

What I’ve Read: Winger

I read and LOVED Winger. I don’t think all of Andrew Smith’s books would be for me(I think Grasshopper Jungle, for example, is just a little too out there for me), but I loved Winger so much I definitely want to read more.

2. Anne Blankman

What I’ve Read: Prisoner of Night and Fog

Prisoner of Night and Fog was one of my favorite books I read last year, and I’m really look forward to the sequel. I’m sure it will be just as great and I’ll definitely read more works from this author!

3. John Irving

What I’ve Read:A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany had a slow start, but by the end I was calling it one of my favorite books. I actually have a few more of John Irving’s books on my TBR shelf(Cider House Rules & A Widow for One Year), so I’m hoping to read one by the end of the year.

4. Rick Yancey

What I’ve Read: The 5th Wave

I really enjoyed The 5th Wave. I know Yancey’s other books are quite different, but I’ve been curious about some of his previous books for awhile.

5. Leila Sales

What I’ve Read: This Song Will Save Your Life

I LOVED This Song Will Save Your Life. It’s an all-time favorite for me, and really made an impact. I’ve been told Sales books are a little more fluffy and less serious, but I still want to give them a shot at some point.

6. Trish Doller

What I’ve Read: Where the Stars Still Shine

Doller doesn’t have many books, but I do have her debut, Something Like Normal, on my TBR shelf.

7. Victoria Schwab

What I’ve Read: Vicious

I’ve only read Vicious so far, but I have both The Archived and The Near Witch on my TBR.

Only seven for this TTT for me today. When I was putting this list together I realized I tend to read a LOT of series, so there are very few authors I’ve only read one book from, and even fewer who I WANT to read more. That being said, these are seven I DEFINITELY want to read more from.

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Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

 

The Jewel

 by Amy Ewing

The Jewel

Expected Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Length: 358 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen

Source: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my final opinion of the work.
Format Read In: E-ARC
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The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

howwasit

 

The Jewel could have been so much better. I’m still in love with the premise and potential of this book, but let down by the final product. I was hoping for an interesting, complex look at a futuristic society with surrogates, inequality, and a focus on social issues. The Jewel manages a little bit of this, but it all feels pretty shallow. Slavery is bad,inequality strips people of their voice, etc. Not that I expected The Jewel to say the opposite of those things, but I was hoping it would explore it more, instead of keeping everything on the surface.

That’s not to say there were no redeeming qualities to The Jewel. There’s a quick pace and addicting storytelling in here. While the writing wasn’t stunning, I think Ewing has real potential as a storyteller, because man was I on the edge of my seat, even when I hated what was happening. It was addicting and I read it all quickly, desperate for more.

I’m torn on my feelings towards the characters. Violet had real potential to be a complex protagonist, but I don’t think she ever quite reached that point. Indeed, I was immediately turned off my her inner monologue at the beginning, though I came around eventually, especially when she was interacting with her family. I do find it a little ridicolous that she has actual violet eyes, because combine that with her high lot number(the higher the number, the more “desirable” the surrogate is seen as being. Out of 200 girls, Violet is 197), the fact that she’s a wonderful musician, and the fact that she’s the best at one of the three “powers” surrogates all have. . . well, it screams Mary-Sue. I think her characterization is deepened enough by the end that I wouldn’t consider her a complete Mary-Sue, but she definitely starts the book on the fast track to being one.

I found many of the secondary characters much more interesting, including the Duchess of the Lake, who buys Violet. At first, she appears to be a complete villain(and she does some pretty terrible things), but her motives and desires are really interesting–she was the character I wanted to know more about.

By far, though, the worst part of The Jewel was the instalove. Up until that point, I was enjoying the book. It wasn’t going as deep as I wanted and some things were irritating(Violet’s violet eyes, for instance), but I was addicted to the story, slightly horrified, and intrigued. Once Ash entered the picture, though, it was downhill from there. There are cases of instalove that are annoying for being instalove but you grow to like the couple anyway. . . and then there’s the other kind, the kind you want to burn with a great big bonfire. The instalove in The Jewel is the second kind. They have one conversation, Ash acts repulsed when he finds out Violet is a surrogate, and then somehow he gets over his prejudice by the second meeting. Violet is willing to throw away everything for Ash, even though she barely knows him.

On some level, I could understand instalove on Violet’s part. The fact is, Violet exist in her world to be used. Period. Once she was selected to be a surrogate, her entire life has been grooming her to be a tool for someone’s ambition. She has no control, no agency, no power. So when someone is kind to her, of course she’s going to take to that person. This could have been an interesting exploration–but that’s not how it’s treated. Instead, it’s reciprocated in equal measure and both Violet and Ash make dumb choices because of it.

While the instalove was the worst part, the world-building also left me wanting. It’s clear that there’s a lot about the world of high society that Violet doesn’t know about–which I expect. What I don’t understand is how she seemed to know so little of her world beyond that, and how gullible about her world she could be. It also drove me insane that the different circles where people lived/worked had such standard names–like how the place where merchants lived and worked as called “The Bank”, and then there’s “The Farm”. It’s like naming places “City 1″, “City 2″, “City 3″. A relatively minor complaint overall but it bugged me while reading.

Overall, The Jewel had a lot of promise but went downhill quickly once the love interest showed up. I’m interested in the next book of the series because I want to believe it could get better, but this one was just okay.

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Ewing knows how to spin an addictive story, but there were so many elements I was disappointed in. I found the characterization often flat and felt the secondary characters were all more interesting than Violet. The instalove, though, was what took this book out of the “like” territory for me. It was so ridiculous that it dropped my final opinion by a lot.

2cupcakes

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Book Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Book Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle

by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle

Original Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Length:345 pages
Obtained Via: Borrowed from library
1st in series
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the story morning glory

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

howwasit

Rebel Belle opens on the night of Harper’s Homecoming dance, and all she’s expecting is to be crowned Homecoming Queen, have some fun, and celebrate. She doesn’t expect that a make-up emergency will lead to her becoming a Paladin, a guardian figure with special fighting skills and ability tasks to protect a certain person, but that’s what happens. And from there, Rebel Belle takes the reader on a bit of a wild, but charming, southern ride.

Harper is a fun character, but she isn’t shallow. What starts off as seeming like surface interests–makeup, perfect clothes, etc–really shows how wound-up Harper is. Harper is a character who has plotted out her whole life with precision. She stays up until 3 in the morning making dance decorations, she’s a member of every committee her private school has to offer, and she’s in the running for Valedictorian. She’s a perfectionist, but she’s savvy too–she’s not ready to say she’ll lay down her life to protect someone just because she ended up with magical powers. She has her own goals and ambitions, and she’s torn between what she’s suddenly become(a process she had no choice in), and the things she’s always wanted.

Harper’s charge, David, is also a great character. He’s smart and quick-witted, always a plus. Their energy played off of each other well, especially when Harper realized that David was the person she was suppose to protect. I was glad the reasoning given for this made sense, and wasn’t just purely made to complicate the plot(complications happened, of course, but it came around rather organically). It was great to see Harper and David come to grudging respect each other to becoming friends.

All that being said, Rebel Belle did seem to read exceedingly young, which shocked me. The plot was really standard–not a whole lot of twist, until the end–but I felt it could have easily played out with younger characters than Harper and David, except for the logistical aspects(driving cars, etc.) Harper’s voice in particular feels much younger–and not just because there’s a lack of “dark” issues in this book, which is fine–it’s more of her word choice and the way she approaches things. It threw me off the entire book.

The language censoring was weird, as well. Harper has a tendency to substitute “eff” into the story in place of real curse words. I’m not always a fan of books full of cursing if it feels forced, but this one just made no sense and kept pulling me from the story. I would understand it if it was just Harper’s inner narration, but there are times when other characters say it, and one time when she says she “says the real version”, but it still written in her watered-down substitute. It was jarring every time I came across it.

I expected this one to be fun and a little on the lighter side, but I was still shocked at how young it read. Considering the themes of protecting and potential sacrifice, I did expect a little bit of danger mixed in with my snarky dialogue. There was a little of that, but I never was really able to take it seriously. That being said, I did love the idea of this book! I mean, Paladins? Mixing southern culture(hello, cotillions, pearl strings, and hummingbird cake) with an adventure story? That premise and basic plot was the best part of the book, even when it took the predictable route.

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Rebel Belle was fun, but not super memorable. I kept getting jolted out of the story due to some of the word choice and I did think it read really young for this type of story, but I was engaged the entire time. The premise was so original and fresh and it partnered really well with such a high-strung main character such as Harper. I’ll probably read the next book. 3/5 cupcakes.

3cupcakes

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Book Review: Blackbird by Anna Carey

Book Review: Blackbird by Anna Carey

Blackbird

by Anna Carey

Blackbird

Expected Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins

Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via Edelweiss from the publisher. I was not compensated for this review, and this is no way affects my opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
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This twisty, breathless cat-and-mouse thrill ride, told in the second person, follows a girl with amnesia in present-day Los Angeles who is being pursued by mysterious and terrifying assailants.

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her.

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.

howwasit

If you read the blurb for this book, I want you to scrub the phrase “The Maze Runner meets Code Name Verity” from your mind. Go ahead, do it. I have no idea who came up with that comparison, but there’s nary a bit of Code Name Verity in Blackbird. A better description would include the short story “The Most Dangerous Game”. If you never had to read this short story in high school, it’s the story of a man who finds himself on an island with a hunter–of humans. This hunter has gotten bored with just hunting big game and wants to hunt game that can think for itself and be smart–aka, other humans. The setting might be slightly different–LA instead of a remote island–but the plot is more or less the same.

Blackbird is pure thriller. It gets off to an awkward start in the middle of the action. The main character finds herself lying on the train tracks, a train speeding at her. She manages to survives and realizes she can’t remember anything. She doesn’t know her name or why she’s in the city. She realizes, though, that she’s resourceful and smart. Things like covering her tracks and breaking locks come naturally to her. As she tries to piece together the story of her life, she realizes she’s a pawn in a much larger game.

Blackbird is told entirely in second person, which made me nervous. My experience with second person is limited to the first few chapters of Half Bad, a book that didn’t work for me at all, and creative writing exercises from previous classmates. The second person was jarring at first, but it didn’t take me as long to adjust to it as I thought it would. It’s one of the few times I can see second person going right, because I really did feel like I was being put at the center of the action.

It can be really annoying to read about characters who don’t remember things and then the book drags out, purposely keeping the reader in the dark. There’s a special talent between keeping up the suspense and making sure the reader doesn’t get too frustrated with the secrets being drawn out. For the most part, Blackbird succeeds at this. There are a few scenes that take place outside of LA that are present mostly in flashback. The purposes of most of these is still a mystery at the end of the book, despite a few answers. Out of all the information revealed in Blackbird, I think a little more about that could have been in the story. Obviously with a duology not everything will be answered in the first book but I felt I really needed more to go on for that aspect. Other than that, the information-withholding never seemed purposefully drawn out for the sake of suspense. The pace was quick and the plot well-executed, and again, thrilling. I don’t remember the last book that left me holding my breath.

 

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If you like fast-paced thrillers, I recommend giving Blackbird a shot. While not without a few flaws, it was an exciting read and one of the few examples of second person done right. 4/5 cupcakes.

4cupcakes

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Book Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Book Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts

by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts

Expected Publication Date: June 19, 2014
Length:460 pages
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion.
Standalone
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the story morning glory

NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.

howwasit

I knew virtually nothing when I requested The Girl with All the Gifts, and then reviews started coming in and mentioning zombies. If I had known that, I would have never requested The Girl with All the Gifts, because I consider zombies the most boring, bland, and gross(but not in an interesting way) supernatural creatures. I’ve managed to finish ONE zombie book before this, and that was only because the zombies were pretty much in the background. So the fact I finished The Girl with All the Gifts is a compliment in and of itself. Ultimately, while I kept going with the story and thought it decent, it didn’t utterly hook me or leave me reeling.

The girl in question in The Girl with All the Gifts is Melanie. Like the other children who live in the same compound she does, she’s wheeled in and out of a cell each morning, completely strapped down, into a classroom. The world-building is set up quickly and is greatly detailed, but it becomes clear that not all is as it seems in Melanie’s world. I’m hesitant to talk too much about the plot with The Girl with All the Gifts because it’s a spoiler minefield, so I’ll try to review it in more abstract terms than I normally would.

The Girl with All the Gifts becomes about a journey–both physical and philosophical– not just for Melanie, but for four other characters as well, including a scientist, a teacher, a military leader, and a new military recruit. I refer to them by their position and not their name mostly because I found them fairly forgettable as characters, since they played into those stock roles quite often. Some become more developed than others, but I was left feeling vaguely frustrated with overall characterization. There were some characters–like Melanie and the military leader–that were really well-written. Their characters just kept deepening over the course of the novel. And then others, like the scientist, never got the same treatment.

I learned that the Girl with All the Gifts was realized by a comic writer/screenwriter, and I think it totally shows, because the visual writing, descriptions, and pacing were the strengths of the book. Even when I wasn’t fully invested emotionally in the plot, The Girl with All the Gifts kept me engaged, and raised some pretty interesting questions. While it didn’t manage to convert me into a zombie fan, I liked the new approach.

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I didn’t love The Girl with All the Gifts, but even as a zombie-hater, I have to give it credit for keeping me reading and managing to do something new with a creature I consider some of the most boring. I would have liked deeper characterization for some of the characters, but I understand why it’s been a loved book so far this year. 3/5 cupcakes.

3cupcakes

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