Worth It Wednesdays: “Circle of Magic” series by Tamora Pierce

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

512bc8sybuwl-_sx297_bo1204203200_Title (of first book): Sandry’s Book

Author: Tamora Pierce

Goodreads Description (of first book): With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic – and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place where they’ve ever been accepted?

Why it’s worth it: You know, these books get a lot less love than Tamora’s Tortall books, and that’s always struck me as pretty unfair. Do I like those books better? Actually, yes. But the Circle of Magic books do so many important things that, really, these are just as worth it.

This world is BIG. There are two sets of connected quartets (one with the foursome together, and one while they are apart). Then there is the novel where they all come back together again. Then there are two other novels that are related to Briar and a character that is introduced in one of Briar’s books. PHEW.

But that is the seriously cool thing about this series. For one, Tris, Sandry, Briar and Daja are all very different people. They come from very different backgrounds and go very different places with their future. In the first four books, it’s all about them finding a way through their differences to work together as a team. In the second quartet, they figure up how to grow up apart. While people are going to tend to like some of the characters over others, there is literally someone for everyone. There are so many unique struggles that there is always something to connect to. Reading the standalone novel where they all come back together is heartbreaking because these once close people have their own secrets and scars and they have to figure out what their “family” means to them once again. I love it.

And when I’m talking about struggles, I’m not talking small scale. Sure, there are your typical self-acceptance and self-growth story lines. But these happen while the characters are doing everything from surviving genocide and the resulting PTSD to figuring out their own sexuality. The Circle of Magic books talk about a LOT of topics that, at the time they were published, I hadn’t really seen in young adult publishing.

That’s why these books deserve so much more love than they get. They start off amazing, and they only get better and more intense. They say so many important things, for people of all ages. If you haven’t read these yet, the largess of the series is totally worth it–and, really, not big enough.

Read it if you’re looking for: strong female characters, rotating POVs, LGBTQAI+ novels, long series, books about war, books about PTSD, magic, action, adventure, strong world building, books about family, books without a lot of romance

Worth It Wednesday: “Angelfire” by Courtney Allison Moulton

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

7285498Title: Angelfire

Author: Courtney Allison Moulton

Goodreads Description: First there are nightmares.
Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.
When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie’s power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie’s memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.
Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Why it’s worth it: Okay, I know what you’re thinking. That blurb sounds kind of corny. HANG IN THERE WITH ME.

I got into Angelfire kind of on a whim, back when angels were big but I was being seriously bored by a lot of the other stuff out there. I saw the sword on the cover and instantly knew that this was going to be something different, and maybe something closer to what I was looking for. I was right.

Okay, so Angelfire is a bit predictable, especially looking back on it all these years. However, what I also saw as the merits then are still serious merits now. In so many other angel books I was reading, the girl never got to be the hero. She was the human or less-that-the-guy angel who didn’t really get to do anything cool. Ellie isn’t like that at all. SHE is the warrior, and it’s up to HER to save the day. The lore fed into the angels think in a really cool, unexpected way. The books were also REALLY fast paced and action packed. In my review of the second book, Wings of the Wicked, I start off by saying that I had to read that book in one sitting because I couldn’t find a place to put it down!

The romance, while kind of cutesy, also struck me as just … good. I really believed that these guys had a connection across reincarnations and time, and I understood why they struggled because of that. Will and Ellie were partners, not one-over-the-other protectors. Will doesn’t like it when Ellie puts herself in danger, but he lets her do what she needs to because he knows that she’s strong enough to take it. They fight each other, they find each other, and they really love each other. That’s enough for me to be happy.

While I mention in my review of the last book, Shadows in the Silence, that I was a little bit iffy on the ending, the only reason is that it happened too quick. That’s not surprising, however, since these books are SO fast paced. And if that’s my only complaint, it’s still VERY MUCH worth it to read!

Read it if you’re looking for: strong female characters, swoon worthy romance, angels, mythology, action, adventure, fast pace, fantasy

Worth It Wednesday: The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

City of BonesTitle (of first book): City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

Goodreads Description (of first book): When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

Why it’s worth it: IN HONOR OF THE LADY MIDNIGHT RELEASE, HERE’S THE SERIES THAT STARTED IT ALL. Ahem. Anyways.

I have a Cassandra Clare obsession. It’s bad. I once made my dad drive four hours to see her in person. I can’t help it if I just … love these books.

The original trilogy is fantastic. It’s great. I wrote in my joint review that you had to read them because they are the funniest, funnest things ever. I hold to that to this day. I love re-reading the books because I laugh every time. Clary is the kind of female protagonist who actually isn’t special (to begin with) but grows into her powers. Yes, some of it just kind of happens but other things do GROW. They are fun and fast adventures, and me and my brother both loved them. Everything about it was great.

The fourth book of the series–which was not always meant to exist–is probably my least favorite book that she’s ever written. It was this weird stop and start kind of thing that was forcibly kick starting the plot that had petered out at the end of the original trilogy. I got so upset.

When I reviewed book five, however, I learned to love the series again. The original trilogy had been focused on Clary and Jace, but in book five and six the world really expanded. We spent more time with more characters, and there was even more growth. I especially loved the romances that were given more time in the later books, because each one of them was so human in so many different ways. The plot, as well, once it got done clearing it’s throat, was really wonderful and well done. I was actually more interested in it than the original Big Bad.

All in all, The Mortal Instruments wasn’t the most cohesive thing. It has it’s issues, and it has it’s cliches. However, if you stick it out, you are in for one of the funniest, action-packed, human rides of your life. Even though this is a paranormal book, I return to the series again and again for the characters above all else. That’s a really high mark in a genre book for me.

Read it if you’re looking for: Paranormal, romance, strong female characters, large casts of good characters, humor, magic, action, adventure, series that aren’t trilogies, swoon-worthy male characters, strong world building

Worth It Wednesday: “Insignia” by SJ Kincaid

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

InsigniaTitle: Insignia

Author: SJ Kincaid

Goodreads Description: The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S. J. Kincaid’s fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy perfect for fans of Ender’s Game.

The planet’s natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn’t seem like a hero. He’s a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom’s life completely changes. Suddenly, he’s someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there’s a price to pay. . . .

Why it’s worth it: This book has been on my mind since my From the Notebook video titled Where is the YA for Boys? Insignia is one of the books that I mention me and my brother both having enjoyed, so I figured that it was fitting to give it it’s own time in the spotlight.

The fast way to say why this book is worth it is: it’s FUN. It’s SO MUCH FUN. I’m not the easiest person to make laugh out loud, but this is one of the books that did it for me. The main characters in this book–the whole ensemble, in fact–really stick out at me every time I think of it because they all had such a genuine friendship and good time with each other. When I read back over my ARC review in preparation for this post, I remembered the exact scene of hilarity I was referencing in it despite not having read it since that initial review in 2012.

I am not usually easy to sell scifi too either, since whenever I see it in book form I’m usually annoyed with it for one reason or another. Kincaid’s use of science and world building was good but also easy to access, painting a world that I could understand without hitting me in the head with weird and difficult science concepts. I enjoyed the space action immensely–but, again, super happy that the emphasis stayed on the characters and not the explosions.

Sure, there are some not so great things about this book. It straddles the line between YA and middle grade, so there is this weird half-hearted romance that happens, but it doesn’t particularly overrun the story. The ending villain reveal isn’t as in-depth as one might hope either, but in terms of a first book in a trilogy I’ll give it a pass.

It’s hard not to love something that was just FUN. Also, that me and my brother both enjoyed reading. Though I never read the rest of the series, I find this to be a serious failure on my part. Hey, at least I got my brother into the series. He finished it–and now it’s time to borrow his books.

Read it if you’re looking for: Great cast of characters, science fiction, books like Ender’s Game but better, laugh out loud humor, male protagonists, realistic characters, space battles, action, adventure, fast paced reads, fun

 

Worth It Wednesdays: “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

Title: Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Goodreads Description: This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart…

Why it’s worth it: I cuss out tropes a lot. I hate them. I’m tired of seeing them on repeat. I didn’t pick up this book originally because I thought it sounded fairly same-same and also I’ve become extremely wary of hyped books. I added it to my “maybe get someday” list and let it sit there. Then, when I taught high school writers over the summer, one of them–who loved Throne of Glass!–suggested that I read this one because it was a lot like that. I went out a few days later and bought it.

I DID VERY MUCH LIKE.

The world hooked me straight away, and for that I was very glad. It kept me reading when the book started to tumble into some of those books I so hate. (*coughlovetrianglecough*) But I kept reading, because Aveyard writes a really good story and from the inception the plot tackled some political realities that I hadn’t really seen.

THANK GOD I DID.

This book is just a trope subverter. That’s why I like it. I mean, sure, it covers all the basic bases like a well written story, thought out world building and characters I really like spending time with. All that is there, and all that on it’s own would make it a good book. What makes it a great book is that Aveyard knowingly sets up a plot that looks very similar to something I’ve seen a million times before and then in the final act BLOWS EVERYTHING UP WITH DYNAMITE. I haven’t been this blown away by a final act trope subversion since A Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

Avoid the hype and read it. It’s worth it.

Read it if you’re looking for: Strong female characters, trope subversion, swoon-worthy male characters who are also more than nice to look at, hype that’s worth it, action, adventure, fantasy, magical powers, kick assery, political realism, dystopia

Worth It Wednesdays: “Clockwork Angel” by Cassandra Clare

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

clockwork angelTitle: Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Goodreads Description: In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

Why it’s worth it: First off, Cassandra Clare is a wonderfully amazing author. I am incapable of letting people ask “What should I read next?” without screaming HAVE YOU READ CASSANDRA CLARE? That said, most people are familiar with her The Mortal Instruments series, which I also love a lot. However, I honestly think that this series is more strongly written than the TMI books–and also is a tighter, more thoroughly planned trilogy.

The Infernal Devices series has all the elements that I love in the first series, while being set in a more Steampunk setting. The characters are a bit more complex and the plot line deals with more issues than just magic/action/thrills. That said, they read REALLY fast and are good for plenty of heart-pounding and emotions and laughter.

ALSO THE ROMANCE. I have never been more on the fence with who I wanted the main character to pick in a love triangle. Yes, love triangle. BUT A GOOD ONE. Cassandra Clare basically only wrote this love triangle because Holly Black told her that no one could ever write a good love triangle. Clare succeeded big time.

…just talking about them now makes me wish they were here at school with me so I could read them again and again and again.

Anyways, if you were looking for a gateway into Cassandra Clare’s world, LOOK NO FURTHER. There is definitely some debate on how best to read the series (since they interlock in weird ways, given the order in which they were published), but starting here will show you all the best that Clare has to offer, which will get you through some of the not as strong showings in TMI.

Read it if you’re looking for: steampunk, magic, fantasy, kickass heroines, romance, good love triangles, action, adventure, humor

Worth It Wednesdays: “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” by Rae Carson

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

the girl of fire and thornsTitle: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Author: Rae Carson

Goodreads Description: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

Why it’s worth it: This is the first book in the trilogy, and it’s amazing. Even better, the books KEEP GETTING BETTER. Elisa is a model for the “not-perfect” girl who speaks to body positivism and doing your best even when you’re convinced you’re going to fail. I connected so much with Elisa as a person, which is something I’m often barred from doing because I don’t have “ultimate courage” or and not everyone thinks I’m pretty and– well, you know the YA tropes I mean. The book is also extremely well written, and–again–they just get better. (I mean, hell, Rae was just longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her newest series.)

Besides the fabulous fantasy setting, the great and funny characters and the exciting plot–all of which are great!–the thing that Rae did that really made her great in my eyes was how she handled the love triangle. Yeah, I know you caught that in the description and groaned. But fear not! I actually included this series in an article I did about doing love triangles right and LET ME TELL YOU I DID NOT EXPECT WHAT HAPPENED. I’m not going to give it away, of course, but the end of this book just told me that Rae was an another unafraid to take risks and shake it up and in The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom I was NOT disappointed.

Just to give you an idea of this book, I’ve included in my Top Ten Books about Friendship, Best Sequels Ever, Favorite Authors in YA and Most Vivid Fantasy Settings!

Read it if you’re looking for: A strong female protagonist, action, adventure, romance, good love triangles, a worthwhile series, fantasy, strong worldbuilding

Worth It Wednesdays: “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

Code Name VerityTitle: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Goodreads Description: I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Why it’s worth it: I should note that I had no reason to like this book. No reason. I don’t like war books, I don’t like books that switch perspectives and are written in this strange, shifting POV. (Read more about that in my review.) But did I like this book?

I BLOODY WELL LOVED IT.

I am not one who cries easily over books. I’m not one to say, “Wow, that book really stuck with me.” But with this one, I did both. I laughed, I cried, I screamed and at the end of it I sat there in a stunned silence and just FELT THINGS. So many things. Wein has crafted such a technically skilled and gorgeous novel that any other book that I’ve read like it has paled in comparison.

Back when I did Top Ten Tuesdays consistently, I listed this book for just about everything: Top Books about Friendship, Top Books I Wish were Taught in Schools – you name it. I also made my book club read this book, to intensely favorable reviews. It’s WORTH READING as few others are. Just have Kleenex handy.

Read it if you’re looking for: strong female friendships, historical fiction: WWII, female spies, female pilots, tears, feelings and emotions, beautiful writing, strong storytelling, action and adventure

Worth It Wednesdays: “Hex Hall” by Rachel Hawkins

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

Hex HallTitle: Hex Hall

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Goodreads Description: Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Why it’s worth it: I know, it sounds kind of like Harry Potter, right? That’s what I thought. And, you know, that’s kind of correct. I honestly almost didn’t pick up this series because I thought, “Yikes, this sounds like something I’ve read before.” But you know what?

THIS SERIES IS SO MUCH FUN.

I often call this series “mind candy,” because that’s how I think about it. The plot isn’t overly complicated and the characters aren’t necessarily deeply nuanced, but I love it all the same. The dialogue is spot on, the action is packed and you can read through them like butter. Every time I re-read one of these books, I laugh out loud–and I don’t do that often!

I was so enthralled by Sophie and her narration that I almost couldn’t bring myself to read Hawkins’ next series, Rebel Belle. But, it turns out, this is just how she writes. I’ve been won over by her sense of humor and fast paced, easy reading–and I think you will too!

Read it if you’re looking for: Strong female friendships, swoon-worthy romance, fast paced action, books like Harry Potter, sassy main characters, magic, fantasy, witches, demons, humor and feel good moments

Worth It Wednesdays: “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

16034235Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publication Date: August 7th, 2012

Goodreads Description: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Why it’s worth it: LISTEN PEOPLE. I WORSHIP ON THE GROUND SARAH J. MAAS WALKS ON. I tend to have a thing against high fantasy novels for being too detailed, but sometimes YA fantasy teeters too far the other way. The Throne of Glass series is absolute perfection.

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