Road Trip Wednesday: Best Book of January

{Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This week’s question: What was the best book you read in January?}

First of all, I can’t believe that January is gone, let alone have a “best of” for it. I’ve been so tunnel-vision-y with My Plan to finish this draft of WIP2 (which is still not done, ahem) on top of the everyday fires I had to put out responsibilities that I had to take care of for the paythebills job (main reason why WIP2’s current draft isn’t done yet), that even though I wanted to read so. Many. Awesome. Books. I just couldn’t.* I had to do the Grown Up Thing and Prioritize. *pout*

So, despite acquiring a bunch of books, most of which were sponsored by my friends and family via birthday presents (THANK YOU ALL!), I only really read three books: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake; Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver; and The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. (If you KNEW how quickly I devoured books you would be shocked, SHOCKED by this paltry number!)

I know this is a cop-out answer, but considering I prioritized my life to read these books, I would say ALL THREE were truly awesome. Plus, since they were distinctively different genres/styles, they all fed different Book Cravings that I’d been jonesing for.

If I must, MUST choose one, I would HAVE to choose The Fault in Our Stars, since that book is so life-changing AMAZING. (The fact that I’m choosing to spend my meager pennies to buy another copy to giveaway would ALSO be a great indicator to how much I loved it, I would imagine!)

I will eventually come to the point where I can read more science fiction and fantasy, the genre of my heart, but I am waiting till this draft is winging its way to my crit partners before I indulge. (See how Grown Up I am? See??)

So, what was the best book YOU read in January?

[*Waiting in the wings for me to finish WIP2 are Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi, Legend, by Marie Lu, 77th Shadow Street by Dean Koontz, Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I. So. Can’t. Wait!]

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The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

 Six-ish months ago, I went to a little John Green reading, where I first heard snippets of his yet-unpublished-new-book. Though Green read many clever lines that I loved and noted, I went to great lengths to scribble down this conversation in my notebook:

“Literally?” I asked.

“We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” he said. “I thought we were in a church basement, but we are literally in the heart of Jesus.”

“Someone should tell Jesus,” I said. “I mean, it’s gotta be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart.”

“I would tell Him myself, but unfortunately I am literally stuck inside of His heart, so He won’t be able to hear me.”

(Sigh. I knew I would love this book. He had me at the mocking use of “literally.”)

Along with sharing the first chapter of his then-unpublished-and-yet-to-be-named book (my notes referred to it as “the story after Paper Towns“), Green also shared anecdotes that related to both his author-journey-so-far, and what he felt was his responsibility as a writer to produce stories that were both helpful and beautiful.

I didn’t understand all the implications of his talk until I read The Fault In Our Stars, that long ago unnamed book.

Green sought to add a story that was both beautiful and helpful into this world? I’d say he exceeded his expectations. (He certainly exceeded mine!) (Also, much of his author-journey-anecdote became clearer to me after reading this book, a lesson I’m taking to heart for my own journey.)

And, here I am, left in a sort of afterglow.

I always get a quiet hush whenever I read an amazing book. Being a part of a story’s world, being momentarily linked with the author of those words, deserves a sort of reverence. Like, we traveled on a pilgrimage together for a time, and shared a holy act of worship.

Or, maybe I’m just maudlin right now since the characters in The Fault In Our Stars loved and grieved the way I would (and have) loved and grieved, and that poignancy is still with me.

I can go on and on about The Fault In Our Stars, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression of this book with my muddy words. Instead, I’ll give you the opportunity to read this book for yourself, and we can revel in the beauty together. (If we haven’t met yet, “Hi! You totally need to read this book so we can be friends!”)

I will send a copy of The Fault In Our Stars via bn.com to one lovely reader of this blog.

[THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED–Congratulations, Christine Myers! Barnes and Noble is processing your order as I type this!]

This book simply needs to be read, and it would be my privilege to give a copy away. I think of it as adding beauty to someone else’s life.

By the way, if you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend reading it in the privacy of your own home. Unless, of course, you’re comfortable bawling your eyes out and wiping snot on your shirt sleeve* in public. Then, by all means, do what you want.

(*I plead the fifth that this was me in any way.)

Nerd Moment

I interrupt what would normally have been an insightful, nay, inspirational post to say this:

“Squeeeeee!!! It’s here, it’s here!!”

I am OF COURSE talking about John Green’s latest book, The Fault In Our Stars, newly released this past Tuesday. (I first mentioned how I looked forward to the book HERE, when I went to a John Green signing back in June, and he read an excerpt from it.)

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Aside from my own ridiculous need to finish this draft of WIP2 THIS MONTH, I now have another incentive to get me to write my pages! ^_^

Share the Love (this time with a giveaway!)

Cover of "The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)&...

Cover of The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)

I’ve read a lot of good books since my last Share the Love post. Let’s see, there’s…

  • The Iron Queen, by Julie Kagawa
  • The Iron Daughter, by Julie Kagawa
  • The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa
  • Darkest Mercy, by Melissa Marr
  • The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

I’ve actually read more than these books, but I list these specifically to showcase the inordinate amount of fantasy that  I’ve been reading lately. I wonder if that was a conscious decision on my part or not. I know I picked up Eon and Eona specifically to inspire me about an aspect of WIP2. And, I also picked up Ender’s Game (which I know is science fiction, but has fantasy elements I enjoy) and Among the Hidden for that reason, too. I know that somewhere in the recesses of my mind, my muses are tinkering with a post-apocalyptic fantasy, and I wonder if they’re hungry for more fantasy?

Maybe it’s a combination of the available e-galleys and ARCs that came my way, coupled with my need to read meatier works? After all, the fantasy genre does lend itself to intricate world-building, and often uses sociopolitical power dynamics to add conflict and tension to the narrative.

For example, take, The Girl of Fire and Thorns (newly released September 20). The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1)This book is full of political intrigue, magic, and adventure. Set in a world reminiscent of medieval Spain, the story centers around Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza (aka Elisa), Orovalle’s second-born princess. Though she is royal, her privileged status comes less from her royal lineage, and more from being a Godstone-bearer.

Once a century, God chooses a bearer during a baby’s naming ceremony by placing a Godstone (a living jewel) on the baby’s navel. The Bearer is destined to perform an Act of Service, and the mythos surrounding the Bearer sets in motion harrowing challenges that Elisa must overcome.

What appeals to me the most is the sheer amount of terrain that Elisa covers throughout the story. I loved the big-ness of this world. I loved experiencing the lush climates of Orovalle; the seaside of Joya d’Arena; and the desert mountains of the rebel stronghold. I loved the concept that all these various countries and people groups are on the precipice of war. But, what I love most? Carson weaves these settings and power plays brilliantly through the narrative, making the countries so unique they were almost characters in themselves. (Interested in reading the full review? You can read it HERE.)

Honestly, though, now that I think about it, this year’s obsession with fantasy probably started after reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. My initial Good Reads reaction to it was…

Daughter of Smoke and Bone“Holy. Crap.

This book was AMAZING!

I loved Every. Single. Word.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a beautiful example of what YA literature could be, and what I strive for in my own fiction. I wish books like these were available to me when I was a YA, but at least I can appreciate them and revel in them now!

Brava, Laini Taylor, for crafting such a remarkable story!”

…and, since this book is holy-crap-amazing, I wonder if I just wanted to keep experiencing that awe, thus glutting myself on more fantasies. Hmm.

(BY THE WAY, Daughter of Smoke and Bone will launch on Tuesday, September 27, but I was lucky enough to read an ARC of it back in June, thanks to my dear friend and crit partner, Kayla (which I talk about HERE) and I remember gushing about it to my friend, Carol, that she was awesome enough to give me a signed ARC (which I talk about HERE.))

I plan on putting up a full review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone next week, because, DUDE, you all need to read this book. For reals, yo.

 SO, have YOU read any good books lately??

 

Monarch, by Michelle Davidson Argyle (plus giveaway news!)

MonarchMonarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The blood pooling on the floor under the assassin’s back reminded Nick of butterfly wings.”

Man, what an awesome first line! It sets up the mood, theme, and direction of this book perfectly! After a line like that, my expectation was that this book would be a post-James Bondian mission. Like, what happens *after* a mission takes place and the hero reports Mission: Accomplished.

Well, this is definitely not a post-Mission: Accomplished spy thriller. More like, Mission: Hasn’t Ended Yet. And, oh yeah, it’s not just about the mission.

Nick, a soon-to-be-retired CIA operative and the hero of this story, makes it home from a mission in Brazil, but unfortunately, his “work” didn’t quite stay there. Needing to find safety, he thinks of the only person with whom he’s found a semblance of peace: Lillian Love, now owner of the Monarch Inn.

The Monarch Inn is nestled in West Virginia, and named for the monarch butterflies that migrate through that area on their way to Mexico. At the Monarch, Lillian Love and her son Devan run the business as best they can, quietly living their lives. When Nick stumbles back into Lillian’s world, his presence soon shakes up their seemingly-peaceful bubble. Illusions of a perfectly happy and normal life are challenged, as these characters discover strength in unlikely circumstances.

Through Lillian, and Devan, I discovered the emotional depth of what could have been a superficial action tale. They told the narrative with Nick, alternating in a three-person perspective. Each voice is unique, and paced really well throughout so that the tension remained tight.

Though I expected a plot driven, action packed story (I’m a Die Hard kind of girl, yippee-ki-yay!), it was the unexpected character driven multiple perspective storyline that won me over. (In fact, though I’m a fan of the action and story in Brazil, I actually preferred the scenes at the Inn, especially Devan’s perspective.) Getting into these characters’ heads gave such a satisfying depth to the story and steered it away from being generic.

Nerd Point: I ate up the science facts about monarch butterflies that the author gave in the beginning of the book. It threw me off at first, since notes of that nature seem to come at the back of the book, with other acknowledgements and appendices, but looking back, I liked it, because it kept me in the mindset of these butterflies, how they persevere despite all external odds against them, and how they’ve endured, despite all scientific logic. They are truly worthy of being the symbol to represent the spirits of revered ancestors.

I think it’s with that mindset that I was able to sympathize with the characters more. They have come to realize that they are stronger than they appear, and can hope for a brighter future despite all logic and odds.

* * *

I invite you all to chat with the author, Michelle Davidson Argyle TONIGHT (9/15) at 9PM EST. The chat will be hosted by Annie Cechini on her blog, conveniently found HERE.

During the chat, you’ll be able to participate and be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Monarch.

Also, please visit DB Smyth’s blog HERE for her ridiculously-awesome-why-did-I-even-bother-to-review-this-book-when-I-can-just-link-to-her Monarch review (with more details about tonight’s giveaway.)

Hope to chat with some of you tonight!

* * *

Speaking of giveaways, my wonderful friend, Carol Miller is hosting a giveaway of GLOW. Much anticipated by me, since I love scifi. Click on the pretty cover image to get to Carol’s giveaway!!

GoodReads Summary:

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you’d been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth’s collapse, the ship’s crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader’s efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don’t know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them…

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren’t all from the outside.

Also, there’s a banner on my sidebar linking to Regina Linton’s blog, who is hosting a giveaway for it, too!