Best Books of 2014 So Far

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This is (once again) a tag borrowed from Cait at Notebook Sisters! Here are my top 9 books that were published this year. Sidenote: these are ones that I feel have universal merit – I have a few more that I personally thought were fab but I know don’t resonate with other people.

Best Books 1

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller. I haven’t yet published my review, but HOLY CRAP WOW THAT WAS A GOOD BOOK. I really don’t know how I’m going to put my thoughts into words. It was everything that I love about science fiction: speculative, questioning humanity, defining evil, the power of technology – all the things from Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 that I fell in love with. Seriously, read this book. [Edit: July 28 – I’ve now published my review, and you can read the flailing here]

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour. See how beautiful that cover is? Doesn’t it make you so happy and fuzzy and warm inside? Yes? Okay, now imagine that feeling times ten. That’s what ELtY will make you feel. It’s very realistic – not just fluff, but it made me so happy that I think everyone needs to read this book.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. FANTASSSYYYYY. TWC took me to an entirely different world of slaves and class and politics and secrets. It was so well put together that I was wailing when it finished – I didn’t want to go back to the real world!

Best Books 2

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. Dreams of Blood and Starlight would be on here too, if it were published this year. I’ll admit that the first book didn’t have me convinced, but books two and three were just perfect and left me absolutely awestruck. I loved every single bit of this book, and could put it down – despite the intimidating size.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens. What’s odd is that I only rated this one four stars, but I think about it ALL the time. It may not have been one of those “OH MY GOD YES THIS BOOK” reactions, but it’s a slow burn that won’t die. The message is so inspiring, and this book is truly touching.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. This is such a feel-good summer book with an amazing romance AND friendship. I’ve read some reviews saying that it’s too cliche, but I don’t care one bit. Everything about Emery’s writing oozes with awesome sauce, and while I was perusing my copy (because sometimes I just need to hold my books), and I had all the feels again.

Best Books 3

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. I think my essay-length discussion about sums up how seriously I take this series. I’ll be the first to admit that the first two books are a bit whiny and insta-lovey and maybe creepy, but Ignite Me is beyond worth all of that! It’s like all of a sudden BOOM this amazing book just bursts into the room. The themes are what really sold me, and I’ll rant and rave to anyone who even mentions this book.

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas. What really stood out to me was that this was a bunch of novellas – and I hate novellas with a passion. I actually consider it more of a prequel novel, and wow what a backstory to my favorite assassin. Maas develops the entire world of her series, while getting into the nuances of Celaena’s character, and to be honest I think TAB is my favorite so far in this series. Though I haven’t read Heir of Fire yet, and that’s been receiving high praise from many of my friends!

Far From You by Tess Sharpe. This is similar to Faking Normal in that it hit me long after I finished it. This is a very quiet story, but very powerful after you’ve read the last page. The mystery wasn’t my favorite, but that wasn’t the important part, and I ignored it almost entirely.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, and I need to add three more: (the July 28 addition)

Best Books 4

There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos. Another that I haven’t published my review for quite yet, but oh my god you guys. Oh. My. God. This is a must read if you’re into books about grief; heck, it’s a must read for everyone. It’s an overlooked book from this year that needs MORE ATTENTION!

Sway by Kat Spears. I may be cheating by adding a book that hasn’t been published yet, but oh well. Y’all can pick up your copies on September 16th and find out exactly why Sway deserves a spot on this list 😉 If you like male narrators, contemporary stories, unlikeable characters that need to grow up and break your heart in the process due to touching character development, and a wee bit of romance – this book is for you!

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. Okay, also not published yet, but September 2nd isn’t THAT far away (I tell myself as I cry in the corner of BN because HoF isn’t on the shelf yet). But whenever it’s published – it deserves a spot on this list. There is NOTHING that can change my mind about Heir of Fire possibly being one of the best books of the entire year. Holy shenanigans you guys – holy shenanigans.

What do you think are the best books published in 2014? Feel free to do the tag yourself!

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Review: Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Title: Free to Fall
Author: Lauren Miller
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Publisher/Publication Date: HarperTeen / May 13, 2014
How Did I Get It? Bought it
Format? Hardback

Synopsis from Goodreads: What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness? What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

Amazon | Barnes and NobleBook DepositoryGoodreads

Okay, so I’m pretty sure I can put my sci-fi likings into two piles. One would be the space and hyperdrives and aliens a la Ender’s Game and Avalon, and the other would be the really-close-to-our-society-but-really-effed-up-in-a-dystopian-sort-of-way a la Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. Free to Fall would be of the latter variety. Seriously, I haven’t been this astounded and had my view of life challenged since I reread F451. It was like…

The entire concept brought me right back to 9th grade, when I was sitting in American Lit class and we were discussing Thoreau’s Walden. My teacher was trying to argue that technology is evil and it’s turning the human race into mindless creatures who disrespect everything, etc., etc. Cue 13-year old me having a mini-meltdown because I couldn’t find the words to say NO TECHNOLOGY IS AN INANIMATE OBJECT WITH ZERO POWER AND IT’S HUMANS WHO MAKE THE CHOICE TO BECOME IDIOTS WITH OUR TECH in a classroom appropriate way. But thank god Miller could. That was the moment I pretty much went full fangirl mode because one of the big points in the book is that technology is simply a tool for us to use; it all depends on how we use it that determines the detriment or benefit. So huge kudos right there for that incredible plot point/theme.

I’ve made it known that I’m not a huge mystery fan, yes? Well, now you know: Kayla and the mystery genre are mortal enemies. No Nancy Drew or Boxcar Kids for this girl. And the Westing Game? Pshaw. HOWEVER! The twists and turns and the slight “whodunnit” aspect of this novel didn’t bother me at all. It was more of a thriller like – oh my god I figured out who it is but OH MY GOD THEY’RE THE GOOD GUY but then who is the bad guy. <— My thought process. You’re welcome. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, finishing all 400+ pages within a few hours. I may have gotten to the point where my mom called my name several times and I still didn’t hear her. I mean… I never get that invested in a book. Ever 😉

And okay, I have to give a paragraph to the characters and romance. I loved how Rory was just a girl – she wasn’t any archetype. She was strong, brave, girly, weak, grumpy, sometimes mopey, distracted by a hot guy – all of that and more. She was just trying to get through life in the best way possible, and in that she was a strong character. I mean just slow clap it out *again*. Because WOW we need more girls like Rory in YA fiction! And then there’s North – who relies slightly more on the freedom-fighting hacker trope, but still stands on his own nevertheless. I should also admit right now that I fell in love with him the moment forearm tattoos taken from literary sources were mentioned. If I had to pick a body part, it’d be forearms, and when you put tattoos on them oh my word I just melt into a puddle.

I hope that wasn’t TMI, but it’s the truth

As far as the romance – I thought it was a wee bit insta-lovey, but it was a slow burn. So I guess maybe insta-attraction? Okay, I lied. I totally loved the romance. There is seriously nothing I can complain about here! Every single word was just flawless. Sue me if I fell for a trope – I still love it!

Long story short – y’all need to read it. If you love sci-fi that’s really close to our society, but just a bit more creepy *shudder*, then Free to Fall may be for you. Aimee @ Deadly Darlings and I read this together, and she ended up giving it 3 (2.5?) stars, so you can check out her review here to see her side of the story. But as for me – FULL STEAM AHEAD! Now I just need to hunt down a copy of Miller’s first book, Parallel. Also: I’m so glad my professors had me read Dante’s Divine Comedy, because I actually caught a few of the references. And how the title relates to the theme and poem? Oh lordy it’s just like *mind blown* again.

My Final Rating:

Six stars

Top Ten Characters To Keep Me Company While Deserted

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Check out their blog here!

Today’s TTT topic is: Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island (pick based on however you want…skills they would bring, their company…or pure hotness factor :P) I actually think I’ll stick with those three categories! As long as this doesn’t go Lord of the Flies, I think I could be quite happy stuck on an island with these ten characters. I tried to get fanart for all of these characters, but some I just couldn’t find, so I put the covers instead. All art is sourced to their creators 🙂

For… skills they would bring

1. Karou from Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. Even without the magic, Karou is intelligent and quick, and she would take charge and handle things in a crisis easily.

2. Sturmhond from Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a privateer with them? Not just for the hotness factor, I mean. He’s probably used to surviving in harsher conditions, and he could make any tough situation a bit lighter with his sarcasm and wit. 

3. Celaena Sardothian from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Of course I want an assassin on my side! But she’d also be nice to have for company – I mean, she loves chocolate cake. I don’t think I could hate any person who loves chocolate cake.

So. Many. Feels.
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For… their company

4. Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Oh Peeta ❤ My one true love and first book boyfriend. I’m pretty sure I could be happy just by seeing him smile every day. That’s all I’d need to survive a deserted island.

 5. Josie from Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan. We could sit on the beach and complain about sock seams and shirt tags all day, and then talk about linguistics and syntax together. The time would fly by and we might actually cry when the rescue teams pick us up!

6. Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Josie may be just like me, but Cath is my soulmate. It’s been several months since I read Fangirl, and I still can’t even properly word how much that book means to me, and how much it helped me understand myself. If I could just be with Cath for five minutes, my life would be made.

7. Emi from Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour. She’s got big ideas – maybe even too big sometimes – but I love the fact that she’s a dreamer. And she pays attention to the little details; the important parts of what makes someone unique.

For… pure hotness factor

8. North from Free to Fall by Lauren Miller. I mean, he’s a bit unconventional, but I’m a sucker for forearm tattoos. And when they reference literature? *swoon* Plus, he’s the most respectful character I’ve read about in a while. World is ending and girl is throwing herself at you? Nah, son, let’s save the sexy times for when we’re not acting out of fear. *swooning again*

9. Raffe from Angelfall by Susan Ee. *fans self* Let’s not get me started. This snarky asshole is the bane of my existence.

Yeah, I don’t like you either.
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10. Matt Finch from Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. He could serenade us while we all watch the sunset. Now tell me that isn’t a beautiful, beautiful dream…

11. Levi from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I need a Levi. Seriously, someone make one for me. Or buy one. I’m not too concerned about ethics in this situation.

THIS SCENE
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I just have to make a note here that while I’ve never read the Heroes of Olympus (just a few more months till the boxed set is released… patience, my love), y’all need to see this art. Oh lawd.

That’s my list for this week – link me yours below!

Top Ten Books On My Birthday Wishlist

TTT BannerTop Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Check out their amazing blog here!

Today’s TTT topic is: Top Ten Freebie! So since this is a “pick your own topic,” I’ve gone with Top Ten Books on my Birthday Wishlist. Because my birthday is just 30-ish days away now, on June 29th to be exact. And oddly, I’m very excited! My 18th birthday was kind of… meh. To put it gently. Actually, June through December of 18 sucked. Not even going to sugar-coat that one. BUT I WILL CHANGE ALL THAT WITH 19. Mainly this list is here for my own uses for when anyone asks, because I always forget when the time actually comes to say I WANT THIS. Also, my mom reads my blog.

Hi mommy!

So here’s my list, in no particular order.

1. Free to Fall by Lauren Miller. THE CONCEPT. Seriously, this makes my inner sci-fi geek just curl her toes with excitement. The WHAT IFS are just mind-blowing, and I’m pretty much drooling over here.

2. Plus One by Elizabeth Fama. I’ve been after this one since I heard about it last… February? I think? But I keep swaying back and forth between buying it, since I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews. I THINK I’ll love it, especially with that cover, but I’m afraid that A) I won’t love it as much as I hope, and B) I’m just buying it for the cover. If I’m honest, it’s one of those things that you want, but only want it if someone gets it for you. You know what I mean? Hopefully I’m not the only one who has that sort of thing happen. Either that, or I have to be having a really gutsy day where I say “screw this” and stop being scared of a book. 

3. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. Is this really a question? I told myself I could buy Take Me On or COHF for my last book before I go on the pre-birthday ban, and Take Me On won the coin toss. I’ll probably get spoiled, because that’s just how I roll around here, but STILL. She’s wearing white, and I’m so so afraid but I MUST find out if my favorite characters survive the end.

4. The Treatment by Suzanne Young. This is one that for whatever reason I keep putting off, despite having LOVED the first book and having several friends tell me it was a great follow-up. I’ll probably have to reread The Program so I can have a fresh memory when I read the Treatment, but I’m really excited to see how it all ends.

5. Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens. This was released back in February, and I almost bought it, but other books were higher on my priority list. But now that I’m on a huge contemporary binge, I’ve had my eye on this one more and more. I love stories about broken people, and seeing how they fight/defeat their demons, and this sounds like it’ll fit right in that niche.

6. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi. I’ve not yet read the second book, but it’s sitting on my shelf waiting for me and I loved the first book. Plus, Roar. There really is no other reason.

7. Split Second by Kasie West. Another duology in which I loved the first book, but never got around to buying the second. Which is strange, since I’m just dying to find out what happens to Trevor. He’s my favorite character, and really the only thing that matters is a HEA for him.

8. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. I avoided this one at first, just because it was SO hyped up, but now that the craze has calmed down, I’m taking the time to read reviews. Specifically, Nara’s, and since she and I share the same exact feelings about every single book (honestly, it’s creepy. We’ve compared our GR feeds side by side, and 99.9% of the books we’ve both read had the same exact star rating). And now I’m actually quite intrigued by this story! Plus, it sounds like one my sister would like to, and I love it when we can share a book and talk about it together.

9 & 10. Flat Out Love and Flat Out Celeste by Jessica Park. I’ve already read Flat Out Love, and LOVED it, but don’t own a copy. And then I found out on Sunday that Flat Out Celeste will be released in paperback sometime next week! I seriously had a “holy crap stop it all right now I need this book” moment. But I’m so picky about Kindle that I refuse to buy it until I can get a physical copy!

Because I was looking for a birthday party gif, but found this instead, and really what can top Emma Stone a la Easy A era?

That’s my list for this week – link me yours below!