The Paradox Trilogy by Rachel Bach

You guys, I spent the weekend marathoning this sci-fi trilogy like a crazy person. I loved it so much! The plot, characters and world building all brought something amazing to the series, and I can’t recommend it enough!

I’m definitely gonna keep things vague here, but if you enjoy space operas – or even urban fantasy – with a good dose of romance, you should be RUNNING to the closest possible place you can pick these books up! I mean, there are space pirates, big blobs of death, hot dudes with black scales and creepy, insane little girls. What else could you ask for?

Fortune's PawnFortune’s Pawn

The protagonist, Devi Morris, is the very definition of driven. She has big advancement plans in her chosen career, and from the very beginning she is just stubborn enough to make you think she’ll accomplish her goals. So how does a mercenary get a job promotion? She accepts the craziest, most dangerous assignment she can find! All she has to do now is survive…

Working on the ship Glorious Fool ends up being exactly the wild ride she was told it would be. I love the format of this first book – in the background, hints of a larger plot start being unveiled, but the plot is mostly episodic. It jumps from one problem to the next and shows how Devi and the rest of the crew handle themselves. As we start getting to know them, the larger danger starts getting closer.

Honor’s Knighthonor's knight

Everything develops a lot further in this book – Devi is hit with revelation after revelation. Both characters and plot lines that were just beginning to be developed the first time around are pretty much thrust into the spotlight. It all hits the fan, you guys. Big problems. Big danger. Big betrayals. As Devi’s original questions start being answered, she is only hit with new ones. The mythology is expanded and we really get a much clearer picture about the world they’re in.

heaven's queenHeaven’s Queen

From the beginning, this was a strong series. I am so glad I can say that it absolutely ended just as beautifully! Devi finally comes up with a plan and finds a few people she realizes she is willing to trust. Whether or not she succeeds, my favorite part of the book was absolutely seeing the great character growth finally highlighted front and center. In the beginning, Devi was definitely alone. She was extremely stubborn and believed that everything was clearly black and white. By the end, she realizes that sometimes you have to jump head first into the gray area (and boy, does she!).

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The themes this series explores are so brilliant. There are definitely no clear sides here – good and bad don’t really exist when it comes to what side Devi has to finally choose. That goes for the issues she is fighting for, the people she has to decide to trust, and whether or not she can let her defenses down long enough to fall in love.

There is definitely a lot of betrayal going around – but I think the way things ended up made sense. Devi is definitely not a “you’re so sweet and sensitive, LET ME LOVE YOU SQUISHY WISHY BEAR!” type of girl. She’s more of a “you look damn sexy dripping with the blood of your enemies, haaaaaay!” gal.

Check out Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach on Goodreads / Amazon

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What I’ve Been Reading…

Ball & Chain

Ball & Chain by Abigail Roux Goodreads / Amazon

This is the 8th book in the Cut & Run series, and you guys – I’m not sure how to adequately express my obsession with these books. It’s a reading-fanfiction-stalking-the-author’s-tumblr-reread-the-books-a-crazy-number-of-times situation. I’m waaaay down the rabbit hole! If gay romance is a genre you’re interested in trying, these are the books you pick up. I long ago stopped worrying about issues I might have with the writing/plotting/whatever. The characterization is solid, and these characters? Yeah, they’re a pretty big deal to me. I have a freakin’ Ty & Zane playlist on my iPod with songs that remind me of them, okay? As for this book specifically – I absolutely loved it! One of my favorites of the series, definitely. (I’ll leave all my spoilery thoughts on Goodreads so that you can avoid them if you so desire.)

Geography of You & Me

 The Geography of You & Me by Jennifer E. Smith Goodreads / Amazon

I’ve been a little hot and cold with Jennifer’s books in the past, but in this case – I really enjoyed this one! For one thing, I am unabashedly a sucker for the whole stuck-in-the-elevator thing, so I love that the characters met  that way. For another thing: they actually seemed like teenagers. Lucy and Owen both keep living their lives when circumstances force them apart. They don’t forget about each other, but they certainly don’t go emo sitting alone in a dark room either. It makes the way their story eventually winds up even more meaningful. I definitely recommend this one if you’ve been unsure about the author in the past.

boy, snow, bird

 Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi Goodreads / Amazon

This book did not end up how I expected at all! It was billed to me as a Snow White retelling, and I only agree with that in the loosest possible sense. The book deals with a lot of great issues – racism, loneliness, family, identity…seriously. There are some great, meaty things to be found here. Plus, the writing is full and gorgeous. I definitely recommend picking it up and getting lost in the weirdness and discomfort of the characters, but I don’t recommend expecting an easily recognizable retelling of a fairy tale.

tomato red

Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell Goodreads / Amazon

You guys, I’m more than a little in love with Daniel Woodrell. This is only the second book I’ve read by him, but mark my words – I am greatly anticipating tackling his entire backlist. He writes what he knows, which is the Ozarks. His characters are flawed, to say the least. Even mostly decent people can end up in hopeless (and criminal) situations.  The real stand out of his books, though, is the writing. Seriously – this man uses the sentence as a weapon. His use of language, humor, irony? It’s ridiculous. I love it.

 

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Read This…Then That: ASTRONAUTS!

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthAn Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

You guys – this memoir is incredible! Chris Hadfield is basically a boss, seriously. He has a pretty great sense of humor, and he isn’t afraid to make fun of himself! That’s right – a fighter pilot turned astronaut isn’t afraid to talk about his screw-ups.

Also, I loved getting an inside look at the training required to become an astronaut. Actually, how about the training required to be able to even freaking LOOK at astronauts? Years and years of studying minutia in the off-chance you might get to travel in space someday. Seriously – they have to study. A LOT. The same things over and over. Things there is about a .0001% chance they’ll actually ever need to use. And they live for it! Basically, astronauts are complete neeeeerds.

I definitely recommend picking this up if you’re part of the 99% of the population that things astronauts are awesome. Because, guess what? THEY SO ARE. Just maybe not in the ways you thought…

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…once you’ve read the non-fiction, time to put your new knowledge to use by picking up…

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The Martian by Andy Weir

the martian

Imagine the world a few years into the future. Basically the only thing markedly different is the fact that we have the ability to send manned ships to Mars. When a stronger-than-anticipated dust storm sends the latest crew home way earlier than planned, a pretty horrible chain of events leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded on Mars – alone and with no way to contact Earth. GULP.

So basically, this book kicks complete ass and Mark Watney is a rock star. The McGuyever of Mars. He is an engineer and a botanist, and he puts those skills to pretty spectacular use. Plus, remember how you learned about all the crazy minutia astronauts cram into their brains? Well, that .0001% chance comes calling for Mark Watney! The stuff he pulls off is incredible, but definitely not unbelievable. You’ll be flying through the pages, dying to see if he manages to get back to Earth safely!

This book is absolutely epic and impossible to put down after about one paragraph. The best part? I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if I hadn’t read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth first!

Check out An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield on Goodreads / Amazon

Check out The Martian by Andy Weir on Goodreads / Amazon

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My Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2013!

You guys, I’m not gonna lie. Summing up my favorite books at the end of the year is one of my absolute favorite parts of being a blogger. I always force myself to stick to a top ten – and then shove in a bunch of honorable mentions at the bottom. That isn’t cheating, right? Right!

Okay, so…counting down more or less in order, here are my favorites of the books I read in 2013!

(Keeping in mind this includes everything I read, not just what was actually published this year…)

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10. The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber Goodreads / Amazon

I definitely won’t be bringing up this title as an “awesome read!” or something I really enjoyed. Man though, it is so intense and all-consuming! I read it in just a couple of days because I couldn’t put it down. It chronicles the life of Charlie Cullen, and the subsequent investigation of the estimated 300 murders he committed as a nurse in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It is impossible not to get chills at how horrifying it was watching him get away with it time and time again. Seriously – if you like mystery novels, try dipping your toes into true crime with this one.

9. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield Goodreads / Amazon

I really tried to read a lot more non-fiction this year, so I’m excited that these first two titles made the cut! If you haven’t heard of Chris Hadfield, you have some seriously awesome YouTube and Twitter browsing in your future. (Also, you’re welcome.) This book is just as awesome as you’d expect it to be – no matter how boring the life of an astronaut actually is (and wow, is it boring! Turns out you have to spend decades doing intense research and stuff before they let you walk in space.)

8. The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber Goodreads / Amazon

There are few things I love more than a good romantic historical mystery series, and this one was by far one of my favorite discoveries of the year. I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next! If you’re a fan of the genre, this is definitely one to follow. If you aren’t a fan of the genre (yet), then you and I need to have a talk.

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7. Truly by Ruthie Knox Goodreads

This is currently available to read for free on Wattpad (although I can’t vouch for how long it’ll stay that way), and it’ll actually be published later in 2014. I can’t rave about this book enough – seriously. Two people meet, clash, decide to get along and then fall in love over a very short time and it just so completely works. They talk, they argue, they deal with awkward things. The dialogue is wonderful and the evolution of their relationship is wonderful and…it’s just all wonderful, okay? (If you don’t want to deal with Wattpad, I also enjoyed her novella Big Boy.)

6. Longbourn by Jo Baker. Goodreads / Amazon

Like a lot of other readers, I was hesitant about this one. Needlessly, as it turns out. This book was excellent on every single level – and it is nothing like you’re probably thinking. Mr. Darcy only shows up once or twice in passing, and compared to the rest of his family, Mr. Bennet actually plays the biggest role in the story. It isn’t an excuse to write another P&P knock off or sequel – it truly is about the lives of the Longbourn servants and it is incredibly engrossing! I can’t recommend it enough. (I’m currently doing my best to make my mama read it.)

5. The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare. Goodreads / Amazon

I used to have this incredibly dimwitted idea that novellas were in some way substandard. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong! I have already read this twice this year, and just talking about it makes me want to pick it up again. By far the best historical romance I picked up this year, I can’t rave about the characters in this enough. Their slow journey to happiness was filled with both hilarity and poignancy – and it all fit nicely into 100 pages! (Also, the ebook is 99 cents. Seriously.)

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4. Down London Road by Samantha Young Goodreads / Amazon

This series is fantastic, and I’ve absolutely adored all three of the books I’ve read so far. Even though I did manage to snag a copy of the upcoming 2014 release, I can’t stop thinking about this one. It is such an emotional read and I got so incredibly invested in the characters – the payoff at the end was incredible. Did I cry? Maybe. (Yes.)

3. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley Goodreads / Amazon

If you’re a fantasy and/or paranormal fan, I’m not sure how you could not love this book. It was one of the first books I read this year, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The worldbuilding is incredible, and the characterization is fascinating! Seriously, don’t spoil yourself with too many details. Just pick it up and enjoy the ride. (And join me in my impatient wait for the sequel!)

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Goodreads / Amazon

Reading this was absolutely one of my favorite experiences of 2013. It was so fun and enjoyable and just…perfect. It resonated with me in so many levels. A girl goes to college and meets a boy – sounds pretty basic, right? WELL IT ISN’T. She is a total nerd for this book’s version of the Harry Potter series and she’s a prominent fanfiction writer and just…seriously. This book is everything I love about being nerdy and loving books. It has earned a permanent place on my shelves of cherished books.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

1. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Goodreads / Amazon

Talk about perfect! This book is absolutely incredible. The writing is indescribably lovely, and the characters are so real and charming and confused and unsure and wonderful. I have never read a more moving love story or a more beautiful coming of age narrative. It is easily one of my top ten favorite books of all time.

Honorable Mentions

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux / Searching For Someday by Jennifer Probst / The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell / How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid /Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson / Escorted by Claire Kent

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Welcome To My TBR, New Authors!

I love this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, you guys! I came across a lot of fantastic new-to-me authors this year, most of which have back lists I can now devour. In fact – almost every single author on this list has at least one title I can look forward to getting my hands on. Be sure and let me know if you have an opinion on what I should pick up next from any of these guys!

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1.Sarah Vowell. She has published numerous non-fiction books filled with essays based on her travels and experiences dealing with politics and history. Sound boring? I can promise you she is anything but! So far, I’ve only read The Partly Cloudy Patriot, but I seriously can’t wait to pick up more. I love her sense of humor – and her willingness to state her opinion. If you’re a non-fiction fan, she is a definite must read!

2. Daniel Woodrell. I read his 2013 release, The Maid’s Version, and fell in love with his writing style in just a few pages. His depiction of life in Missouri, both in the present and in the past, was full of honesty and color – and written so wonderfully. Sigh, I swoon. I have already been buying up his previous books like an obsessed lunatic – plus, Jennifer Lawrence starred in a movie based on one of them! I foresee a long, happy future with the writings of this man.

3. Rainbow Rowell. Me, you and everyone else on the planet can probably agree on this one, right? I actually didn’t love Eleanor & Park, but my deep and abiding devotion for Fangirl more than makes up for that. Everything about that book is utter perfection, and I could gush about it for hours! Expect it near the top of my best of 2013 list, y’all.

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4. Anna Lee Huber. I love historical mystery series a lot, you guys. Especially if they have romantic subplots. The Lady Darby books are just such a series! It’s still pretty new – just two books so far, but I promise that when you pick up The Anatomist’s Wife, it won’t take you long to be nearly as devoted as I am – especially if you’re already a fan of Deanna Raybourn and/or Tasha Alexander.

5. Jo Baker. To put it simply, Longbourn blew me away. I appreciated every inch of the story – from the characters to the plot to the brutal and honest depiction of the servants’ lives. If you think you know the Bennet family? Just wait until you see them from the POV of the people paid to clean their chamber pots.

6. Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I’m keeping this one short and sweet. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is easily one of the best books I have ever read,  and I can’t imagine how anyone could disagree.

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7. Kasie West. Pivot Point was a wonderful surprise, and one of my favorite YA books of the year. I can’t wait to continue that series and see what else she has in store!

8. Austin Kleon. His non-fiction talks a lot about creativity and how to share and brainstorm ideas – he also writes really awesome newspaper blackout poetry. Steal Like An Artist would make an excellent gift, especially for recent grads!

9. Daniel O’Malley. The Rook was one of the most inventive, complex and interesting books I picked up this year.  I need more from that world ASAP! If you like fantasy or paranormals with excellent worldbuilding, this is an author for you.

10. George Orwell. A little late to the party, aren’t I? I read and loved Animal Farm this year, and now I have a couple books of his essays I can’t wait to dive into!

 

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The Books I’m Gifting in 2013

christmas books

So, I love books and I love my family. Therefore, I love giving books to my family for Christmas! Unfortunately, only a couple of them actually appreciate them, so I am trying to tone it down a bit this year…

Still, I thought it would be fun to show you some of the titles I’ve picked out!

(It’s purely coincidence that these are all titles I’m interested in reading as well. I swear.)

If you are looking for a more comprehensive gift recommendation list, I did a shopping guide last year you should check out as well.

for my dad…

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo Goodreads / Amazon

My dad definitely isn’t much of a reader, and when he does read it is usually non-fiction. So, I figured this would be a fun choice! He was super young when Truman was president, but I still think the book sounds like a great way to experience the 1950s.

 

for my mom…

Sparrowhawk Series

The Sparrowhawk Series by Edward Cline Goodreads / Amazon

The past few years, I’ve taken advantage of my mom’s love for the Downton Abbey TV show and gotten her books relating to that time period. But when I was growing up, we were both pretty obsessed with the Colonial period so I decided to take her back there this year! This six book series sounds really interesting and incredibly well researched, so I’m hoping it’ll suck her back to the 18th century.

for my mom and dad…

Heads in Beds

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky Goodreads / Amazon

My parents hardly ever watch the same TV shows, but they’ve both recently become addicted to The Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible. Since they both seem so interested in getting an inside look behind the scenes of life at hotels, I thought it would be really awesome to get them a book they could possibly read together as well!

for my grandma…

Jubilee Trail

Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow Goodreads / Amazon

Gwen Bristow has special meaning for both my mom and I because her late best friend is who got us hooked on her in the first place, so we’re both excited to give this book to my grandma this year because it’ll mean a lot to her as well. It is an awesome look at 19th century life in California, which is one of my all time favorite settings, so I recommend this one all the time!

for a guy’s secret santa pick…

Paddle Your Own Canoe

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman Goodreads / Amazon

My extended family is trying out secret santa this year, so my dad has to contribute a “man gift.” I convinced my mom this book should be a part of it! I 100% plan to read it before it gets wrapped. I am not ashamed.

 

 

So – now it’s your turn! What books are you giving to your family and friends this year?

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