Top 10 Most Personally Anticipated Reads

With 2016 has come quite a bit of change in my reading schedule—that is to say, more books, more variety, and more excitement. After taking a quick break from the blog to go on vacation, I definitely realized how excited I am about the books on my TBR, and this week I am thrilled to share with you my top ten most anticipated reads.

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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I cannot wait for this read. I love family epics, sister complexes, and a multitude of plots in a single story. This book sounds beautiful and has gotten incredible reception. I honestly would just hug this book if I had it in my hands; it sounds SO. PERFECT.

2. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

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Since reading one of my favorite books of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five, I’ve wanted to read Cat’s Cradle. I can’t imagine why I haven’t picked it up yet, but I do know that this is the year.

3. The Moral Animal by Robert Wright

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I’m a huge psychology geek. I would’ve majored in it had I not been an ever bigger English geek (go figure). But the concept of evolutionary psychology has always fascinated me, and the moment I heard about this book I knew it was a must-read.

4. The Jewel by Amy Ewing

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I. Love. Pretty. Covers. GAAAHHH. So gorgeous. But the real reason I’m excited for this is the idea of a beautiful world surrounded by corruption. I’ve always loved that concept. I think this will definitely be an interesting portrayal of the meaning of being a woman, the worth of wealth, and… oh gosh I hope there’s ballroom dancing. *swoon*

5. The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

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To start, I love Cat Winters, so this was an immediate YES PLEASE kind of book. But then to go even further and say this is a retelling of Hamlet, with a mixed race protagonist living in racist Oregon circa 1923… All of the yes. I already love this book and all I’ve read is the title.

6. A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl

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Comic books, cosplay, all things geek… Right up my alley. Add that with what sounds like a beautiful relationship between a mother and her son, and I would go so far as to say this is the book I am second most excited to read in these upcoming months. Oh gosh, please take my breath away. I am so ready.

7. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

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I’ve loved mysteries ever since being that Nancy Drew-obsessed little girl who dreamt of being a jet-setting detective. I’ve never read Wilkie Collins and I’m hopelessly excited to read a masterwork of the founder of the detective mystery genre.

8. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

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Hogwarts. For assassins. Strong female protagonist. I’m sold.

9. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

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I can’t imagine a more interesting concept for contemporary young adult fiction: “a physics nerd obsessed with plotting her own death.” But to further this and make it a strange, beautiful, touching love story… My heart, goddamn. I am 95% positive I will love this book.

10. The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

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As the last book on the list, and my most anticipated of all, I’d just like to leave you with the Goodreads description, which touched me in a way I never thought a synopsis could.

“If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story.”


 

Now I have to know: which books are you most excited about reading in the not-so-distant future? Let me know in the comments! As always, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I hope you have a fantastic day full of books!

-Avery

 

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Bite-Sized Review: “Bite-Sized Fiction for Busy People” by Rachel Hobbs

A Red Raven Reads Review of “Bite-Sized Fiction for Busy People” by Rachel Hobbs

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

Have you ever read a book that just made you feel so whole and happy inside? A book that made you laugh and smile and realize that there was something right with the world? That’s exactly how I felt when I read “Bite-Sized Fiction for Busy People.” It was so gosh darn fun and cute. I loved every moment and re-read several of the stories two or three times. This collection of flash fiction is a delightful, welcome break in the monotony of the day, and I’m so glad to have picked it up. Plus? It’s FREE! I highly recommend picking it up if you get a chance. This little collection gets 4 out of 5 stars from me. It definitely made my day to read it, and I bet it’ll make yours, too.

Review: “The Murder Complex” by Lindsay Cummings

“Welcome to the Murder Complex. You cannot see us. You cannot feel us. But we are here. And we control your every move.”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “The Murder Complex” by Lindsay Cummings

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

Girl meets boy. Except, well, the boy is a serial killer. But he’s hot so it’s okay. (No, seriously, like I am so down. Hottest serial killer ever.)

In a dystopian future (yes, more YA dystopia, but hang in there), Meadow and her family struggle to stay afloat amidst a bloodthirsty society. Typical, right? But things get a heck of a lot more interesting when Meadow meets Zephyr, whom she must fight an intense attraction for—especially when he attacks and tries to kill her. However, the monster that tried to kill her isn’t really Zephyr, but a program installed by the government to make him an assassin pawn. Well. Basically.

THE GOOD:

This book is action packed, vivid, bloody, and an addictive page-turner. It’s hard to put this book down once you start—it draws you in and doesn’t let you go. Meadow and Zephyr are both great, likeable characters. I would go so far as to say they’re actually quite fascinating. If you want a bloody dystopian thriller, this is definitely the book for you!

THE BAD:

This book is by no means for everyone. It’s interesting but also so typically “YA Dystopian.” I don’t know if anybody else is getting sick of them, but I sure am. I need fresh meat! There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, to be honest. It just wasn’t anything special or different, and it’s hard for me to be okay with that. Further, the violence and death was so frequent it almost lost its effectiveness.

THE CONSENSUS:

This book is good. Really interesting and fun and gruesome. But it’s almost too gruesome, and almost too “good,” in the sense that it doesn’t really grow from there. However, don’t let the bad take away the good—it truly was an addictive experience for me, and I think other readers would enjoy it if they are fans of the genre. However, if you’ve got the “Dystopian Slumps,” I would recommend a break before picking this baby up.

THE RATING:

After careful consideration, I’ve decided to give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I really did like it, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of Dystopia or action-packed page-turners. However, if that doesn’t sound like your style, I probably wouldn’t pick it up.

Review: “The Beginning of Everything” by Robyn Schneider

“Sometimes I think that everybody has a tragedy waiting for them, that the people buying milk in their pajamas or picking their noses at stoplights could be only moments away from disaster. That everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “The Beginning of Everything” by Robyn Schneider

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

Ezra Faulkner, top jock and golden boy of his high school, experiences a single night that ruins his life—being cheated on by his girlfriend, only to promptly have his knee shattered and future as a tennis star and full-rider put in question. It seems as though his forever has become bleak and dark—that is, until he meets transfer student Cassidy Thorpe and his life is irrevocably changed, this time for the better.

“TBOE” is a realistic romance vivid with beautiful characterization, emotion, and unquestionable literary value. This novel presents an adventure and a romance you won’t soon forget.

THE GOOD:

This book will give you ALL. OF. THE. FEELS. Robyn Schneider is a talented new voice in young adult contemporary and damn, can that girl write! You will feel so present, so alive—the characters will become your friends, and Cali will become the world around you. It’s so funny, so lively, so vivacious. I can’t imagine someone reading this book and regretting it; I honestly can’t. It’s just a fantastic example of its genre, and I adored it. (Also, Ezra, will you marry me please? I would dig that.)

THE BAD:

I think the main concern I have with this book is that I’ve seen it before, and it was predictable. It’s very much in the John Green vein and doesn’t steer too far from that formula. And the ending, while necessary, left me feeling sort of lost, and not in the “lost in emotions” way. I was confused, more than anything. However, that doesn’t detract much if any from the story itself, because I truly believe it ended the way it should have.

THE CONSENSUS:

This book is great. It’s just great. You will laugh and cry and sing its praises and recommend it to all of your friends. It’s impossible to not like this book, in my opinion. Also, Ezra and Cassidy are incredible characters, as are Toby, Phoebe, and the rest of the cast. I adore every single one of them and always will.

THE RATING:

This book wasn’t life-changing, but dang, it was so incredible to read. It was addictive, funny, and so very alive. I loved it, and I think you will too. This book receives an easy 4 out of 5 stars from me. (Read it. Seriously. <3)

Review: “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

“After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

Guys, so get this. The Hunger Games in medieval times.

I know what you’re thinking. “This chick needs to shut up.” And while that’s correct, it’s a pretty dang accurate synopsis…

Okay fine. Celaena Sardothien, once a slave for her crimes as an assassin, now has a shot at freedom: become the king’s champion and sword. There’s one condition, of course: she must beat out 23 other competitors to do so, or she will return to the cruelty and abuse of the Salt Mines in Endovier.

However, outside of the competition, her competitors begin dropping like flies to a killer with claws and a hunger for brains. Will Celaena find the true killer in time, or is she next to die?

THE GOOD:

THIS BOOK IS SO BEAUTIFUL OMFGHIACBAJVUWQDN. It’s like a princess wrote it or something. It’s sooo pleasant to read; like a fairytale. It definitely reminded me of my childhood and I have no clue why. Plus, the man candy in this book is AMAZING. Like dang. It is just a fangirl trip. (Cough cough: Team Chaol) The book itself is just so interesting, albeit “seen before.” I was always thrilled to see what was going to happen next, especially during the second half of the book. It had vivd description, lively characters, and plenty of heart-pounding action.

THE BAD:

Oh gosh… Celaena is probably my least favorite character of all time. She’s petty, vain, arrogant, obnoxious, and pretty stupid to be honest. She was so unlikeable I nearly stopped reading the book at least 3 times. I’m glad I finished it, but she is just god-awful and there is no redeeming her. I also was disappointed at how “stereotypically YA” the book was. I was hoping with all of the hype that it was something special, and it is in its own right, but it’s not something you haven’t already read.

THE CONSENSUS:

It’s really hard to say what I feel about this book. It’s been a week since I finished it and I still don’t really know what I think about it. I will say this: I think it’s a good book. I personally don’t understand the hype, and I was a little disappointed by what this book turned out to be, but also surprised by the beauty of the writing itself, the care with which the suspense and excitement was crafted, and the obvious love that Mrs. Maas put into this novel.

THE RATING:

I’ve decided to give this book 4 stars. While it may not be phenomenal necessarily, it’s phenomenal for what it’s supposed to be, and that’s a “fandom-esque” YA read that you can devour in a day or two and still want more. I personally won’t be reading on, but I would certainly recommend the series to fans of YA and fantasy alike.

Review: “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis

Daddy said, “Let Mom go first.”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis.

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

Amy is a teenage girl. (A very, very teenaged girl. I don’t know how to better describe her. Very teenage-y.) And, lo and behold, she is a teenage girl whose parents have been selected as “essential” crewmembers for the ship Godspeed, and Amy can’t stand to stay at her home on Earth, knowing that her parents are cryogenically frozen and hurtling towards a new Earth. Go figure. However, the story begins when our heroine awakes 50 years earlier than the estimated 300 year-long flight and nearly drowns in the midst of cryostasis. Is it merely an accident, or otherwise? That’s what Amy, and her handsome new space-beau, Elder, intend to find out. “Across the Universe” will sweep you into a world of mystery, murder, and intrigue… all in space.

THE GOOD:

This novel is phenomenally written and offers realistic portrayals of different character views. The story is fabulous. It’s compelling, interesting, and exciting. It is clear that Revis has an excellent understanding of the craft of suspense, as her work teems with it. It is clear that a great deal of work and thought went into the novel. In the all-too-trite world of Young Adult, this novel is a breath of fresh air that seems to part the red sea of mediocrity. However, while an excellent book in these areas, there are a few areas where “Across the Universe” falls short.

THE BAD:

It could very well be just me, but I found Amy intensely unlikeable, naïve, and almost bitchy at times. I didn’t like her a bit. I didn’t care what happened to her. I only followed the story because I adored Elder and his perspective (and book boyfriend sexiness). And, while the suspense was well done, the impact and “punch” of the book seemed to fall flat as well. It was as though there was a film of apathy layered over all of the excellent writing and passion. At times it just felt weak, and it really affected the book as a whole.

THE CONSENSUS:

While I personally didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d liked to have, I would still recommend it. My personal taste has no bearing on the quality of the novel and I can see why others love it so much. With that being said, objectively it’s difficult to render this book at four stars, simply because of Amy’s characterization and the seeming distance and lack of “seriousness,” for lack of a better word.

THE RATING:

To me this was a good Young Adult experience, and I was impressed by the uniqueness and veer away from trend. However, due to its flaws, I have settled on giving it 3 stars in 1-point rating systems and 3 ½ stars from a half-point rating system—the truest rating being the latter. If you’re a sci-fi geek such as myself minus the intense critical nitpicking, I have no doubts you will enjoy this novel.

Book Talk: Why Read Indie Lit?

Indie literature. There’s an undeniable stigma that comes with the label—many readers find indie books to be poorly written or littered with errors in editing. However, when you scrape away the “muck” that comes along with the concept that anybody who wants to write a book and publish it can, and for free to boot, we find something magical.

Traditional publishing has led us to a place that exists nearly entirely on fads. For example, if you read 10 random young adult contemporary novels, it may be the case that the plots and characters begin to melt together as time goes on. Why? This is the goal of traditional publishing, in a sense: uniformity. The pursuit is profit, and that means publishing something with the knowledge that it will sell—read: something that’s already had success. Something that’s been done before. And while there’s still a great deal of voice and individuality to be found in traditional publishing, it may be difficult to sort through the pieces of coal to find the diamonds.

This, however, is where independent publishing comes into play. Ideas that were too unique for the traditional publishing industry find their home in a market that allows literally anything. If you want to publish a story about a time-traveling gorilla that’s also the princess of a sand castle in Prague, well, there you go. If a book’s plot or characters aren’t uniform with what’s currently “selling,” it doesn’t matter. Independent markets may not thrive off of being “counter-culture,” but they certainly thrive off of their unique product offering.

If authors like J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, and Stephen King had access to the independent e-book markets at the time when their first works were being overwhelmingly rejected, I believe they may have become independent authors.

There’s a plethora of undiscovered mastery that lies in wait for you on Amazon—look for it. Find it. Support a movement that goes against the grain, a movement that focuses on art and not profit, a movement that has changed the world and will continue to do so.

Please: support independent authors. You’ll never know if the next bestseller is a click away unless you give that book a chance.

Review: “The Witch Hunter” by Virginia Boecker

“I stand at the edge of the crowded square, watching the executioners light the pyres.”

A Red Raven Reads Review of “The Witch Hunter” by Virginia Boecker

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www.redravenreads.wordpress.com // http://www.booksarefood.wordpress.com

THE STORY:

Elizabeth Grey, seventeen years old: short, blonde, cute—and a cold-blooded witch killer. What’s not to love about that already? We are immediately greeted by a witch burning, which leads to a deliciously grotesque battle with necromancers and their creation. But when Elizabeth makes a rare slip-up, the stone of adventure begins to roll—until we find Elizabeth herself accused of the very thing that she hunts, and the very thing that killed her parents when she was only nine: witchcraft. However, she is saved by one Nicholas Perevil, the most fearsome wizard in the world, and she is tasked with the one quest she may not be strong enough to take: saving his life. This story follows Elizabeth’s journey to find the truth in a world full of illusion and deceit; searching for humanity in an ocean of cruelty; and finding love, strength, and courage from the most unlikely place of all: within herself.

THE GOOD:

Elizabeth is a fantastic character. She’s interesting, spunky, sassy, but never “bitchy”—unless she needs to be. You can’t help but love Elizabeth and root for her success until the very end—and even after that. “The Witch Hunter” is wickedly paced, deftly plotted, phenomenally immersive, and it will leave you begging for more from debut author Virginia Boecker. I felt so wholly engulfed by the plot and characters that when I was forced to set the book down to eat or work, I still envisioned myself in Elizabeth’s world. The action scenes were superb to boot. Personally, I love a good bloody battle, and this book left me thoroughly sated. This book, for the two days it took me to read it (darn you personal commitments), was an addiction.

THE BAD:

There were parts of the book that I felt were “unfinished,” in the sense that it needed elaboration or more development. For example, there were characters I only saw a few times that I think I should have seen more of to make more sense of the plot—but therein lies the problem with YA standalones; the publishers only give you so much room, and I think it was used wisely despite this complaint. I personally didn’t feel a fantastic sense of closure, but it’s hard to say whether it was an intentional device used by the author or not. Finally, while this is by no means a criticism, I totally need this to be a series. Like stat.

THE CONSENSUS:

This book is a standout fantasy debut and I am thrilled that I picked it up. Its minor flaws are crushed by its superb wit, spunk, emotion, structure, and delightful imagery (gruesome and serene alike). It is an addiction that you will devour in one sitting, and you’ll only want more.

THE RATING:

This book didn’t change my life, but damn was it ever incredible. It’s a little love story, a big thrill ride, a huge triumph against evil. It’s brilliant, even on an objective level. It’s nearly flawless and I cannot wait to read more from Virginia Boecker. I’ve been so torn between giving it a 4 and a 5, but I settled it on 4 only by comparison to books I’ve given 5 stars to. If you love fantasy, action, young adult, or even just great stories, I’d highly recommend giving this book a try. (Now. Go get it. Run.)