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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Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

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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 Books I’ve Read So Far This Year. I’ve had an incredible string of FANTASTIC reads, so I’ll try to keep it to just ten. No promises though! I’ve listed them in order, starting from January up until now.

1. Avalon by Mindee Arnett. This was the beginning of my two month romance with deep-space sci-fi. I CRAVED anything space ship related for weeks after finishing this book. The friendships are my absolute favorite; Jeth is one of my favorite characters I’ve read in a while.

2. Me Since You by Laura Wiess. I’m honestly not sure I can talk about this book any more than I already have. Seriously, you all need to read it. It changed my life ❤

3. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Cress is a close runner up for this slot, but Scarlet still has my heart. I loved both MCs: Scarlet and Wolf. And their relationship is SO perfect!

4. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. Another one that really, I’ve talked way too much about. But the character development in this conclusion was just flawless, and honestly I need a reread. If only for Kenji! But Juliette is great incentive as well, as is Warner 😉

5. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. This is one that made my heart hurt so much, but also filled it with happiness. I adored the road trip setting, the romance was perfect, and the friendship was even better!

6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Another that completely, utterly changed my life. I felt like the book was speaking directly to me!

7. Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Okay, I know I put it off for like five months after I bought it. And I know I wailed for days about my feels and creys. But I’m so glad I pushed through it, because Allegiant was one of the best series enders I’ve read, right up there with Ignite Me.

8. The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas. The entire series is my favorite, but TAB really sold me on the whole thing, and novellas actually. I never thought I’d be so hooked on novellas before this book! And to have them all in print, in my hand – it was beautiful.

9. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. Matt. Finch. That is all. Plus, road trips.

10. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. Still a bit miffed that the title was changed from Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, but whatever. I still love this book with all my heart ❤

11. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. Two Matson books on this list! That should tell you something about how awesome this lady’s writing is. Really, there’s no way for me to express how much I love this book.

12. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I feel like this whole post is just me gushing way too much but ALL THE FEELS from this book! It’s so lighthearted and it makes me so happy ^_^

13. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. This is proof that you should always listen to book pushers: I almost didn’t read it, but I’m BEYOND glad that I did! Another that made my heart so happy ❤

So, I only did 13. Not too horrible! I can restrain myself after all. Also, a fun note: you can tell how my reading mood has changed over the last five months. Darker, more sci-fi and fantasy books, gradually moving towards light and summery contemporaries.

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

Top Ten Books About Friendship

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

Today’s TTT topic is: Ten Books About Friendship. This topic made me go “d’awww!!!” I’m in a best-friendy mood lately, what with Open Road Summer and Since You’ve Been Gone having been released in the last month! These also coincide with some books I think would be perfect for spring (summer here in Cali since we get Winter or Summer and no inbetween) and beach reads.

Oh and just a warning: I’m writing this after what was arguably the longest and most exhausting two weeks of my year so far. So you’re probably about to see the equivalent of a drugged Kayla. I have no idea if what I’m about to write will even make sense, but JOIN THE RIDE AND BRING SOME POPCORN.

1. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. You really thought you’d escape this one, didn’t ya? NEVER. This book makes my heart sing with happiness, and not just because Matt Finch exists within those pages. The friendship between Reagan and Lilah was heartwarming, and it felt like what a true friendship should be; antagonistic and goofy and undyingly loyal.

2. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. I haven’t posted my review yet (check back next week!), but this book really touched me. It wasn’t as dark as I expected, but it dealt with a lot of hard issues. I loved Kurt and Alice’s relationship – it showcased the beauty of someone looking past rumors and searching for the truth in a person. 

3. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. Also haven’t posted my review (tomorrow!), but I enjoyed it almost as much as Amy & Roger. This wasn’t a fluffy friendship – it was hard work. I loved how Matson emphasized the part of friendship where you really just have to kick each other in the rear a few times and give some tough love.

4. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. Another one of those “get your ass out of your black hole of pity and keep moving” kind of friendships. Basically, a “stop being an idiot and come hang out with me you nitwit”. It gave me the warm and fuzzies, and I laughed out loud many times!

5. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Wooo I slipped some fantasy onto this list! Best friends aren’t just for contemporary! Celaena and Nehemiah’s relationship is fantastic for this sole reason: they’re both fantastically powerful and intelligent and manipulative and you-take-down-that-patriarchy sort of characters, yet at the same time they gorge themselves on chocolate cake while exchanging gossip.

6. Avalon by Mindee Arnett. Aaaaand here’s some sci-fi too. It’s purported to be too close to Firefly, but do you see me caring one second? It’s got the whole band of misfits turned into a family trope – one of my favorites. Jeth is so protective and loyal to his newfound family that his sacrifices gave me ALL THE FEELS.

7. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. I mean, how can you pass up the awesome sauce that is Kenji Kishimoto?? He’s the best friend Juliette could ever ask for, and his snarky, goofy-yet-serious humor is the most light-hearted way I’ve ever seen someone give a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” talk.

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

LA Times Festival of Books: Day One

LA Festival D1I know I was very quiet on the interwebs this weekend, but for good reason: I was attending the LA Festival of Books both Saturday and Sunday! It was my first time in LA, and the whole experience was on a far bigger scale than I had imagined, but after I got over the slightly overwhelming atmosphere, I had a fantastic time! I had so much fun, and visited so many different booths and panels, that I’ll actually be splitting my recap posts into three parts! And now we begin with…

Day One

Saturday I went with Veronica, and after we fought about three hours of traffic, we finally found a parking spot and made our way into the USC campus. We were a bit later than we had anticipated, so we headed straight to our first panel, Young Adult Fiction: Testing the Boundaries. We ended up being first in line, and waited about an hour before we were let in – snagging some excellent third row seating!

Our moderator was Aaron Hartzler (HILARIOUS, by the way – and he kept the whole mood of the panel very lighthearted and intimate), and the authors on the panel were E. Lockhart, Rainbow Rowell, Andrew Smith, and John Corey Whaley.

At first I had attended the panel just for Rowell, but then I read We Were Liars on Friday, and I could not wait to hear Lockhart talk about her book! Of course, she wasn’t able to say too much, but it was nice to be able to know what she was referring to at all the different parts, and it gave me a different perspective on the book too. I’ll admit right now that I wasn’t interested in Smith’s books before, and I’m still sure I won’t be reading them in the foreseeable future. However, I hadn’t heard of Whaley before, but now I would totally read his book after hearing him talk about it!

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Sorry about the quality!

The entire hour was very relaxed, and all the authors were very comfortable with each other and with the crowd. We were laughing the entire time, but at the same time the authors had fantastic things to say about how each of their book pushes boundaries, whether it’s social class and interracial love (Lockhart), college kids and fandom (Rowell), horny grasshoppers (Smith), or cryogenically frozen heads (Whaley). Another common theme: they wrote the books that challenged themselves, whether in topic or style, and they weren’t writing for YA – they were writing for whoever wanted to read their book; it just so happened that they had young protagonists.

After the panel, Veronica and I ran over the signing area, and waited almost two hours in Rowell’s line! It was hot, and we were starving, but we finally made it to the front, and it was totally worth it!

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I love the purple ^_^

Our next panels weren’t until 4:30 (I was going to the Tahereh Mafi panel, and Veronica was attending the Lauren Oliver panel), so we took our time and satisfied our physical needs before anything else. Which means… FOOD!!! They had brought in a bunch of food trucks, but most of the lines were super long, so we ended up picking the shortest line. And that ended up with us paying $10 for a cup of noodles with some veggies and chicken – very yummy, actually. I was also very glad that I had brought extra cash! With blood sugar returning to normal levels, we stopped being so grumpy and spent the next hour or so wandering around all the booths and stages. My personal favorite was the Mysterious Galaxy tent, where I found a signed copy of Dreams of Gods and Monsters! I had to skip her panel that was later in the day, since I was going to Mafi’s panel and signing, so OF COURSE I couldn’t say no to buying it 😉

photo 4-2Veronica and I had to split up after that, so I headed over to my next panel, Young Adult Fiction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It, with moderator Cecil Castellucci, and authors Tahereh Mafi, T. Cooper, and Lydia Millet. Now, to be honest, I didn’t totally enjoy this panel. Castellucci had a bit of a hard time with some questions for the authors, and it seemed like the authors didn’t know each other all that well. But, while the first 30 minutes were a bit rough, things really started picking up after they opened up the mic for audience questions. After Cooper flubbed an answer and mispronounced several words, he finally said, “My last meal was a vegan, gluten-free waffle, and I’m f***ing hungry!” It completely lightened the mood, and I could feel the entire room relax.

photo 3-3Another note: I totally hate audiobooks (you all know that by now), but when Mafi read an excerpt from Shatter Me… oh my god. There are no words for how stunning her reading voice is – I would buy every single audiobook if she narrated them! And I actually told her just that, when I saw her later at her signing!

photo 5-2So I had only brought my copy of Ignite Me, since I didn’t know there WAS a signing, but while I was in line there was a vendor one tent over, so I bought a copy of Unravel Me (since I don’t have a finished copy, just an ARC) and had that signed too.

And that was my first day! It wasn’t horribly busy, but it was nice so that I had time to adjust and figure out what was going on. But I had a blast, and even though I didn’t get home till 11, it was totally worth it! This was my final stack:

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Isn’t it STUNNING?

PS: come back tomorrow for my recap of Sunday!