The Friday 56: Wild Beauty

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

Azalea nodded to them. The other four took off their shoes so their feet would be silent. They rushed up the dark wood staircase and tore through Reid Briar’s things.

Estrella and Dalia threw aside clothes and cuff links, books and boar-bristle shave brushes.

“Don’t go so fast,” Gloria said. “We have to put everything back where it was.”

Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty is one of my favorite novels of 2017. If you enjoy magical realism or even if you haven’t given it a shot, try this author’s books. I’m continually impressed and she is one of the few writers that I auto-buy. You can read my review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
      The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

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Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Title: Not Now, Not Ever
Author: Lily Anderson
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: November 21st 2017

      “Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer.
      1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
      2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
      3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mother’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.
      What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?
      This summer’s going to be great.

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“I opened my mouth to laugh, but it died in my throat, threw itself a funeral, and dug graves for every ounce of joy that I could ever feel again…”

Lily Anderson’s companion novel to The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is inspired by Oscar Wilde’s jovial play The Importance of Being Earnest. In Not Now, Not Ever, seventeen-year-old Elliot Gabaroche concocts a plan to attend Camp Onward in an effort to win a scholarship to her dream college. The only problem is she has to do it without her overprotective family finding out. But as Ever Laurence, Elliot gets to be whomever she chooses, without the expectations of her parents hanging over her head. Winning one of the few scholarships at a camp full of geniuses and keeping her scheme a secret becomes increasingly more difficult when Elliot’s annoying younger cousin Isaiah shows up, hoping to win a scholarship himself.

Elliot is a character who is easily relatable. On the verge of adulthood, Ellie needs to decide what path her life is going to take. This isn’t easy when she’s been born into a family where her choice of career means choosing one parents over the other. Her mother expects her to attend the Air Force Academy over the summer, to follow in so many Laurences’ footsteps. Her father and stepmother are hoping she takes a different route — the former hoping she chooses to study law like him. Elliot on the other hand has dreams of her own. At Rayevich College she’d have a chance to study her all-time favorite authors like Octavia Butler and N. K. Jemisin. Even though Elliot’s family is a point of contention in the novel, I loved how important a role family played in the story. It’s easy to see how much Elliot loves her parents and how much she doesn’t want to disappoint any of them. I also loved that this novel has a positive portrayal of a blended family where Elliot’s stepmom is an important part of her life. Elliot’s relationship with her cousin Isaiah has been defined by a childhood where her own accomplishments were always overshadowed by his own. I wanted more for the two of these characters in terms of their relationship. In the end, it felt like Elliot had more of a chance to mature, but this is her story, so it’s somewhat understandable.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is filled with nerdy references and Anderson does not disappoint in this department when it comes to Not Now, Not Ever. A camp full of nerdy geniuses provides plenty of opportunity to celebrate all things geeky. Anderson has a way of writing settings where the cast of characters gets to celebrate their nerdiness in a fun and unapologetic way. One of my favorite things about her books is how authentic and relatable these incredibly intelligent characters end up being. Fans of the first novel will recognize some familiar faces and rediscover others. Elliot’s love interest, Brandon, for example, is a character that I didn’t know I wanted an update on. Their relationship is sweet with just enough realism to feel authentic.

Not Not, Not Ever is the perfect contemporary for those who love nerd culture. It can be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend everyone pick up both of Anderson’s novels as she continues to impress me with her writing.

4/5

★★★★

Top Ten Tuesday: 2018 Bookish Resolutions & Goals

Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently hosted on That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week’s topic is “Bookish Resolutions/Goals.” Yes, goals. I’m really excited about this topic, not because I have a bunch of lofty goals, but because I have a bunch of mediocre ones. I’m hoping my 2018 will give me more freedom to read and explore more books I want rather than always trying to meet some goal. Wish me lots of luck!

Do we happen to share any goals? Any goals that you didn’t meet last year that you’d like to meet in 2018? Let’s discuss in the comments and be sure to leave a link to your own TTT post, so I can visit.

Kernels of Nonsense: Why I’m Reading Less in 2018

Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature here on the blog where I talk various book and blogging related topics. As my first discussion post in 2018, I’m talking about my decision to lower my Goodreads reading goal compared to last year.

At the beginning of 2017, I contemplated reading less than I had the year before, but folding under the pressure of setting a goal right away, I ended up aiming for the same amount of reads compared to the previous year. As 2018 approached, I once again began contemplating lowering my goal. The amount of books I picked up in a month took a bit of a hit during November and December of last year. I ended up reading only four books for each of those two months when I usually average around seven books. This didn’t exactly sit well with me, but I also learned something about how I approach reading and reviewing.

The decline of my reading efficiency during the latter part of the year had to do in part to the holidays. In theory, holidays should mean more time to read, but in reality it just means you have more time to do all the extra stuff you need to do because of said holidays. When I did have time to read, it was usually at night, but by that time, I would rather conk out than pick up a book. But I discovered something interesting. I kind of liked spending the extra time on a book.

If I’m on my game so to speak, I can finish a book in three or four days. Add an extra day that I spend writing a review and that pretty much means that I don’t have a whole lot of time to slack off in order to meet my goal for the year. In 2017, I ended up meeting my goal fairly early and so those two months I spent not reading a whole lot functioned as a bit of a reprieve from all that reading pressure.

When I only picked up four books in a month, I never had to force myself to try and catch up, reading 200 pages in a day because I neglected to read enough during the first few days. And it was nice. I went a couple of days not reading at all because I was so busy. I had more freedom when it came to reviews as well. I wasn’t scrambling to write one, so I could quickly move on to the next book.

You know what happens when you have more time to read and review a book? At least for me, I had more time to appreciate them. I had more time to think about these stories and characters. I had more concise and polished thoughts. I got more out of these books than I normally did when I spent less time with them.

My Goodreads goal for 2018 isn’t dramatically lower than 2017, but because I ended up reading more than my goal last year, I feel safe with a 65 book goal. If I only get to 65, I will be reading about ten books less which will give me more time to enjoy the books I do pick up.

Are you planning to read more or less this year? Do you feel like you get more out of a book when you spend more time with it? How do you handle the pressure to read so many books in a year? Let’s discuss in the comments.

The Friday 56: Bad Blood

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Maybe it wasn’t me…If I was terrified and fighting for my life, the first chance I got, I would go to the door.”

Unless I was looking for a weapon. Unless I had a reason to believe I could fight and win.

I finally got around to finishing Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s final installment in The Naturals series. Bad Blood pits an unconventional team of teens working for the FBI against a group of serial killers, resulting in a fast-paced thrill ride. In this excerpt, the protagonist is profiling a kidnapping victim in an attempt to understand the crime scene. Read my review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.
      The bodies begin piling up, the deaths hit closer and closer to home, and it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.
      They’re being hunted themselves.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

Title: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
Author: F.C. Yee
Series: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, #1
Pages: 336
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: August 8th 2017

      “Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.
      But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tale and penchant for peaches.
      Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance., Is there evil in all of us?

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“I scrabbled backward on my heels and hands, trying to get away from the radius of their malice. My heart hadn’t beat in the last minute. I was looking at two people trying to kill each other.”

F.C. Yee’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo brings Chinese mythology to life in an action-packed and entertaining novel. Genie Lo is a sixteen year old with Harvard ambitions. Her number one priority has always been school and she’s never let anything distract her from that goal. But when Quentin Sun walks into her life and introduces her to a world of gods and demons, Genie is forced to reprioritize. Genie isn’t as ordinary as she’s always thought. Gifted with abilities beyond her wildest imagination, Genie must join forces with Quentin to defeat demons who have descended upon her city.

I immediately took to Genie as a protagonist. Not only is she relatable, but her voice is playfully comedic, making it hard not to immediately love her. She is also a bit of a hothead, but it made me love her more rather than subtracting from her character. Genie often struggles with her self-image. She’s never been dainty and has always been valued (like her spot on the volleyball team) because of her height and not her skill. Genie’s self-consciousness is made worse by her mother’s often backhanded remarks. Though she knows her mom means well, this doesn’t make these snide comments any easier to swallow. Genie also has a complicated relationship with her father and is part of the reason she feels that it is important to have her whole future already planned out. Discovering that she is the reincarnation of a powerful entity makes discovering who she is as a young adult even more complicated. Genie has to contend with this important destiny that often pulls her away from those she’s close to and refusing to do so could result in the end of the world. It isn’t easy for Genie to suddenly have all this responsibility on her shoulders. I felt for her so much when this journey took her away from her best friend especially and she couldn’t even tell her what was really going on in her life.

I really liked Quentin both as a character and love interest for Genie. His first impression isn’t all that great and in many ways he comes on a little too strongly, but he ends up being incredibly supportive of Genie. He sees strength in her even when she does not. I loved how much room he gave Genie to grow and even though he wanted her to see just how powerful she really was, it never felt like he was being too pushy. Genie and Quentin’s relationship felt genuine. Any romantic feelings between the two didn’t start right away. Their relationship felt earned as they both earn each other’s trust first, but I did find myself rooting for them from the very beginning. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy with an likable protagonist, look no further than F.C. Yee’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo.

4/5

★★★★