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 Bandia series by Talia Vance

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

SilverTitles: Silver & Gold

Author: Talia Vance

Goodreads Description (Silver): “As I step into the room, a silver flash blurs my vision. Before I can take a breath, the world falls away.”

Brianna has always felt invisible. People stare right past her, including the one boy she can’t resist, Blake Williams. But everything changes at a house party where Brianna’s charm bracelet slips off and time stands still. In that one frozen, silver moment, Blake not only sees her, he recognizes something deep inside her she’s been hiding even from herself.

Discovering she is descended from Danu, the legendary Bandia of Celtic myth, Brianna finds herself questioning the truth of who she is. And when she accidentally binds her soul to Blake, their mutual attraction becomes undeniable.

But Blake has his own secret, one that could prove deadly for them both. Bound together by forbidden magic, Brianna and Blake find themselves at the heart of an ancient feud that threatens to destroy their lives and their love.

Why it’s worth it: So here’s the thing about Silver. It sounds very … generic? Like, the kind of story that you’ve read before. While it most certainly is NOT when you finally read it, it’s also why I couldn’t JUST say Silver for this post. My favorite is actually Gold, because this romance does NOT go where you think it’s going to. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First things first: if you love Celtic mythology, stop reading right now and just find a copy. The mythos of this novel is done so well, and so thoroughly researched, that I loved that aspect in both books. I thought I knew a bunch, but I learned a lot more.

Silver, to be honest, does go in most of the ways that you would expected. Blake and Brie are from two separate worlds, but they love each other despite of it, their love makes them stronger … etc. One of the great pluses was that when Brie falls into insta-love with Blake, Blake steps back and is like WHAT and that jump to insta-love is actually PART of the plot instead of something we’re supposed to believe is true and everlasting love. That, honestly, should have been my clue that these books were not going to immediately fall into every trope I thought was coming. As you might guess from my original 4 1/2 star review, it totally did not. I was very pleased.

But then it gets even better with Gold, wherein Vance takes any expectations you had left and smashes them. I was absolutely blown away how Vance’s already strong writing and great storytelling ability didn’t stop there, but then ALSO tackled some of the more realistic aspects of the “two different worlds” trope along with the romance in general. I find it hilarious now that I rated Gold 4 stars where I rated Silver 4 1/2, because I can’t remember the last time I re-read Silver but I re-read Gold all the time. I think, especially in a world where I’m just getting more and more disgusted with tropes, the second book keeps standing out more and more to me.

Honest to goodness, after Silver I was prepared for Gold to continue on the story of another pseudo Romeo and Juliet that had a love triangle involved–but I loved the characters and story so much that I didn’t care. In the end, Vance rewarded me with something SO MUCH BETTER and something VERY worth reading!

Read it if you’re looking for: Celtic mythology, anti-insta-love, not another love triangle, swoon worthy romance, realistic romance, strong female characters, books set in Ireland, books that make you laugh out loud, books that tug at your heart strings

From the Notebook: (Some) Favorite Books to Re-Read

From the Notebook videos are back! This week I’m talking about all the books I re-read while I was home. I spent a lot of winter break sick or feeling awful after getting my wisdom teeth out, so this is really a list of some of my favorite books of all time. A lot of these are the books I always return to and that make me smile and make me happy. Enjoy the last video I filmed at my house for the foreseeable future!

Posts mentioned in this video:

Worth it Wednesdays: “Pushing the Limits” by Katie McGarry

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

Pushing the LimitsTitle: Pushing the Limits

Author: Katie McGarry

Goodreads DescriptionSo wrong for each other …and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Why it’s worth it: I got Pushing the Limits as an ARC back in 2012, and I still can’t tell you why I requested it in the first place. I don’t like contemporary YA romances, as a rule. They all seem the same to me, and I get bored easily.

I’M SO GLAD THAT I DID THOUGH, because this book is such a stand out.

I think the best thing about Pushing the Limits is that it isn’t just a love story. I mean, it certainly is a romance–and a really, really good one–but it also takes the time to give Noah and Echo lives outside of their romance–really, really 3D lives. They’re both struggling through real, serious struggles in their own, individual lives, each of which could have been a singular novel on their own. But then their stories twine together, and they fall in love and give each other strength while doing so.

One thing that always irks me in YA contemporary romance is that there is usually one person in the romance (typically the girl, but not always) who is having the struggle, and then the other one comes in at exactly the right time to be their hero. Or, worse, they both have very shallow struggles going on that take a backseat to some kind of star-crossed love. In my ARC review of Pushing the Limits, I wrote that it was actually NOAH’S finale that made me tear up, as opposed to Echo’s, which NEVER happens to me. I usually identify with the girl more, and usually the guys are really trite besides. Noah and Echo are both important, integral and real parts of the story–something I have rarely found outside of Katie’s books.

I did also review the second book in this series, Dare You To, on my blog, but I read the whole series and loved every one. Sure, I didn’t really have the intense, visceral reaction that I did to Pushing the Limits, but that doesn’t make the whole series any less worth it.

Read it if you’re looking for: contemporary romance that isn’t cliche, books dealing with serious topics, love that isn’t insta-love, realistic romance, a tear jerker, swoon worthy leads

Worth It Wednesdays: “Incarnate” by Jodi Meadows

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

IncarnateTitle: Incarnate

Author: Jodi Meadows

Goodreads Description: NEWSOUL

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, millions of souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

NOSOUL

Even Ana’s own mother think’s she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

HEART

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies–human and creature alike–let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Why it’s worth it: This book is just as beautiful as it’s cover. That’s the simple answer. The long answer involves the characters, the plot and the ideas wrap into this book that makes it one, big, beautiful package.

The main character, Ana, is a bit cutesy, but I love her all the same. Meadows walks a fine line, having to make Ana sound younger than all the older souls, but it is rarely annoying. In fact, it becomes one of her assets. The world around her is also wonderful, involving mythical creatures like dragons and a god who might not really be a god. There’s a lot going on in this book. On top of that, Meadows works in a lot of great ideas about what loves is and what it means, as well as the dangers and fears that surround change and newness in peoples’ lives.

There’s also no love triangle. Instead, Meadows gives us a romance that begins as a friendship and then grows into something more–something more that still experiences bumps and challenges along the way. It’s an actual evolution of a relationship, rather than something that just appears overnight.

Is this book perfect? No. It’s a debut, after all. But it’s pretty damn good all the same. I reviewed Incarnate, as well as Asunder, on my blog, if you want a more in depth opinion!

Read it if you’re looking for: fantasy, fantastic world building, realistic romance, not another love triangle, magic, dragons, big ideas, stories about love, stories about change, action, adventure

Worth It Wednesdays: The Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce

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

squireTitles: First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight

Author: Tamora Pierce

Goodreads Description of First Test: In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out…

Why it’s worth it: Listen. You could pick up any Tamora Pierce series you wanted and have something worth it. You’ll probably see me talk about all of them over the course of this feature. However, out of all the series, I think that Protector of the Small is my favorite.

I. Love. Kel. Kel is the quintessential female warrior who stands up for what’s right. The first books, especially, deal with Kel struggling to be accepted as a girl in a room full of men, but the books never lose sight of that struggle. However, the books are hardly just about that. Kel also battles her way through tough situations, fights, battles, wars–not to mention constantly having to push herself through her own fears and terrors.

This is also Kel’s story. Sometimes YA today feels like the story of two people, usually the romantic duo. Romance happens in this series, but it happens on a minuscule scale around everything else. Above anything else, Kel is on a mission to get her shield and prove herself. She certainly enjoys acting like a traditional female sometimes, but she refuses to sacrifices every talent and skill she fights so hard for.

Out of all the books, I think that Squire is my favorite, followed quickly by Lady Knight. While I was home from break, I abandoned any new book purchases because I was filled with a need to read them again. They are classic, quintessential, and pretty damn perfect. They influenced my childhood and they fill me with joy to this day. If you haven’t read these yet, and this sounds like something up your alley, then GET THEM NOW.

Read it if you’re looking for: Lady knights, strong female characters, books without romance, humor, classic fantasy, books about friendship, action, adventure, magic, feminism.

Thesis Thursdays: Review – “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

GracelingGraceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore

Published October 1, 2008, by Harcourt

Goodreads | Amazon

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…

Four and a half stars

I was about to call this review a re-review and then I realized I never actually reviewed this on my blog. I have no recollection of a time before my blog but … whatever. Anyways.

Continue reading

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