Jen’s Top 5 Favorite Books of 2017

Even though I failed my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I still had a very productive reading year. It, uh, just wasn’t done in the traditional way. On top of the 20 published novels I read, I also read and critiqued three unpublished manuscripts and hundreds of short stories. I also read through my own manuscript at least 15 times as I wrote, revised, and polished it up for querying in January.

*deep breath*

Since I can’t recommend any of the unpublished stories I read, I’ll stick to those I read as part of the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Compared to last year, I had a much more enjoyable experience in 2017. In fact, it was difficult to narrow it down to my top five favorites. But, I did. So, here we go!

Jen’s Top 5 Favorite Books of 2017

Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch

“You’ll gulp Dark Matter down in one afternoon, or more likely one night… Alternate-universe science fiction [and] a countdown thriller in which the hero must accomplish an impossible task to save his family. There’s always another door to open, and another page to turn.” —New York Times Book Review

I’m not a big sci-fi fan, but “Dark Matter” was excellent!  It was, by far, my favorite book of 2017. I could not–NOT–put it down. I truly felt like I was reading a movie. It had a breathless pace, a unique premise, and unexpected twists and turns. Plus, it made me think–and it kept me thinking long after I finished it. So, even if you don’t love sci-fi, give “Dark Matter” a shot. It’s downright fun!

To read more about “Dark Matter,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh

The next blockbuster thriller for those who loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl…a novel with “an astonishing intensity that drags you in and never—ever—lets you go.” -Daily Mail, UK

Without sounding like an annoying know-it-all, I’m one of those readers who tends to figure out a story’s twist long before it’s revealed. In “I Let You Go,” I was duped. The book’s twist totally caught me off guard–and I loved it! Fair warning, however: the first chapter is pretty intense and includes a disturbing event that might make some readers consider putting the book down. I know I needed to take a few minutes to catch my breath and shake it off before I kept reading. I’m glad I did. This was an outstanding thriller!

To read more about “I Let You Go,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

“Gorgeously written in language simultaneously dark, lush, and enchanting, the book will leave readers eager for the next.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

My favorite YA author, Laini Taylor, published a new book in 2017 (*cue confetti and champagne*). Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t love “Strange the Dreamer” quite as much as I loved Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone,” but it was still great. Laini Taylor is a master of language. She also knows how to herd characters into a corner and make it seem impossible for them to escape–sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It always makes for an exciting read. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

To read more about “Strange the Dreamer,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

All Things Cease to Appear” by Elizabeth Brundage

“Frequently shocking and immensely moving…. It was for such extraordinary books that the term ‘literary thriller’ was coined.” —The Wall Street Journal

Haunting. Tragic. Gripping. If you’re looking for a thriller that is unique and beautifully written, then “All Things Cease To Appear” is perfect for you! I think the most common complaint I’ve seen about this novel is the lack of quotation marks around the dialogue. I’ll admit, it initially threw me off, too. But, as I acclimated to Brundage’s unique style, the problem “ceased to appear” and I was able to thoroughly enjoy this dark, mystifying drama. Definitely worth a read!

To read more about “All Things Cease to Appear,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

Behind Closed Doors” by B.A. Paris

“A hair-raising debut, both unsettling and addictive…A chilling thriller that will keep you reading long into the night.” —Mary Kubica, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Good Girl

To be completely honest, I have a love-hate relationship with this novel. I was not a fan of the main character for most of the novel. In fact, I kinda wanted to slap her for making the decisions she did. BUT I loved the entire concept, as well as the big, bad villain. And I really loved how B.A. Paris kept me on the edge of my seat. She put the protagonist in an awful situation and kept her there without any real promise she’d find a way to save herself. So, even with the protagonist’s faulty character, I’d recommend this book to those who love thrillers.

To read more about “Behind Closed Doors,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

So, there you have it! It wasn’t a fantastic year of reading for me, but I still read a lot of fantastic books. I hope you get a chance to read one or all of them!

What were some of your favorite books from 2017? Let me know in the comments section!

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Jen’s Top 5 Favorite Books of 2016

I have to admit, I’ve been a terrible reader the past year. In fact, I only managed to consume about 20 books (compared to my usual 60+). I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it was fatigue from working a new job, writing a new novel, and critiquing over 200 stories? Or maybe it was pure lack of interest? (I picked up and put down so many books!) I’m not sure where I can place the blame, but I’m definitely ashamed of how few books I read.

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Even though my book pile was pitifully small in 2016, I still read some great novels. Each of them captured my attention, delivered great entertainment, and made an impact of some kind. So, if you’re looking for a good book to read, check out my top five favorites from this past year.

Jen’s Top 5 Favorite Books of 2016

Edge of Eternity” by Ken Follett

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“Edge of Eternity is the sweeping, passionate conclusion to Ken Follett’s extraordinary historical epic, The Century Trilogy.”

I’m only about a third of the way through this 1,000+ page novel, but I know it’s going to be my favorite book of 2016. “The Edge of Eternity” is the third and final novel in Ken Follett’s series, The Century Trilogy. What I love about it (and its predecessors) is how it brings history to life with sharp, believable characters, engaging plot lines, and a galloping pace. I can usually finish one of Follett’s behemoth novels in just a few weeks (and that’s taking my time). Whether you’re a fan of historical fiction or not, I highly recommend this series!

To read more about “Edge of Eternity,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

Commonwealth” by Ann Patchett

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“Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”

During my driest reading spell in early November I decided to check out Goodreads’s nominations for the Best Books of 2016. I skipped around each genre, reading synopses and adding those that piqued my interest to my TBR list. “Commonwealth” was one of those novels.  Not only am I a big fan of Ann Patchett’s, but I’m also a sucker for family dramas. So, I had to believe this book would save me from the reading desert I’d stumbled into. And it did! “Commonwealth” was chock-full of intrigue, emotion, and drama. I couldn’t put it down!

To read more about “Commonwealth,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

Winter” by Marissa Meyer

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“Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.”

Finally! I got my hands on the last book in Marissa Meyer’s series, the Lunar Chronicles. And it was as good as I’d hoped it’d be.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this popular young adult series, it’s basically fairy tale meets sci-fi. The tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White are given new twists and threaded together into a fresh, amazing plot. My only suggestion to those who’ve taken a long break between book three (“Cress”) and “Winter”: Read the series again! Refresh your memory, or else “Winter” won’t be nearly as magical.

To read more about “Winter,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

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“A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.”

There was a lot of hype about “The Nest” in 2016. I became aware of it over the summer when I kept seeing pictures of it all over Instagram. The cover kept grabbing my attention–over and over. Finally, I surrendered and reserved it at the library. When I went to pick it up, I was apprehensive and a dash cynical. If there’s too much chatter about a novel, I worry my high expectations won’t get met. However, I was pleasantly surprised by “The Nest.” If you like family dramas, then you’ll want to read this one. It’s addicting!

To read more about “The Nest,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes

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“A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?”

Okay, full disclosure, I did not LOVE “Me Before You.” However, it held my attention when so many others failed to do so. This novel is definitely not your typical romance. In fact, I felt it belonged more in the drama section of the bookstore than the romance. But, that’s neither here nor there. “Me Before You” delivers an excellent plot, engaging characters, and a great hook that pulls you through the pages–fast! If you like romances that are less fantasy and more reality, then check this one out.

To read more about “Me Before You,” check out its synopsis on Goodreads.

So, there you have it! It wasn’t a fantastic year of reading for me, but I still read some fantastic books. I hope you get a chance to read one or all of them!

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What are some of your favorite books from 2016? Let me know in the comments section! I’m planning to participate in the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge, so I’ll need plenty of recommendations to help me reach my goal.

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Must Read: The Martian by Andy Weir

There aren’t many books that I gush about anymore. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve read so many by this point in my life that it takes a special one to stick out, or if it’s because when I recommend one to people, I want them to take it seriously. Whatever the reason, I’d like to take a moment to gush about The Martian by Andy Weir.

The_Martian_2014Okay, I’ll try not to gush too much. I know what happens when people do that: Expectations go up, up, up, and inevitably those expectations aren’t met. So, I’ll keep my recommendation short and sweet:

Read it! It’s awesome.

Fine, fine. I’ll gush a little more. But only a little, I promise.

I first heard about The Martian last fall when I went to a writing conference run by publishing guru, Chuck Sambuchino. During the session that revolved around writing great first pages, he mentioned this book. I can’t remember exactly what Sambuchino said, but it went something like this: “If you want to read a flawless first page and a near flawless book, then read The Martian.”

So, of course, I did. And, of course, I loved it! I’m not even a huge sci-fi fan and I couldn’t put it down.

Since then, I’ve recommended The Martian to all of my friends, and they’ve agreed it’s addicting. Just this morning, my mom text me and told me she finished it (she started it two days ago), and then proceeded to gush about it as well.

…I won’t go into any specific details as to why The Martian is so great (I despise spoilers), but let’s just say it’s been about six months since I finished it and I’m still not over it!

book leavingTalk about an epic book hangover! Thanks a lot, Andy Weir. 😉

Okay, okay, I’ll stop now. Just go read The Martian! And definitely read it before the movie adaptation gets released in November. As amazing (and accurate) as the trailer looks below, we book nerds know the movie is rarely better than the book. So read it before you head to the theater!

To read more about The Martian, click here!

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Book of the Month – The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Yet again, one of my favorite young adult books is being brought to life on the big screen. This month, it’s The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

6186357Synopsis

“‘If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.’
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.”

Jen’s Review

I read The Maze Runner forever ago, but even now, years later, I still remember how exciting, adventurous, and suspenseful it was. I also remember how I never stopped asking myself, “What the heck is going to happen next?”.

In a way, The Maze Runner reminds me of Lord of the Flies, except it has a maze, a girl, and oozing, creeping creatures that attack in the night! Oh, and there’s a tiny world-wide plague that gives people zombie-like symptoms, which makes things even more tense and crazy.

I will warn you: if you decide to read The Maze Runner, then you should prepare yourself to read its sequels, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. There are way too many unsolved mysteries at the end of book one to feel fully satisfied. But, that’s okay. As a whole (yes, I’ll admit, there are some ups and downs to all three books), this is an entertaining series that’s full of action and intrigue. And, in my opinion, they’re totally worth reading.

Mazerunner_minhoquoteSo what are you waiting for? Run out and read The Maze Runner before the movie hits theaters on September 19th!

Jen’s Rating 

5 Star

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for The Maze Runner. Prepare to hold your breath for the next two minutes!

…Just remember: Read the book BEFORE you see the movie!

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Photo credits: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6186357-the-maze-runner?from_search=true

http://www.teen.com/2014/08/07/movies/books-turned-movies-second-half-of-2014/attachment/maze-runner-thomas-running/

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Book of the Month – If I Stay – Gayle Forman

On August 22nd, one of my favorite books is coming to life on the big screen. To honor that, I’ve chosen If I Stay by Gayle Forman as August’s Book of the Month.

6564365If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Synopsis

“Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?
Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.”

Jen’s Review

I read If I Stay years ago, and it still makes my heart twist and my stomach drop. Just thinking about it makes me search for a tissue while thanking God I haven’t had to experience what Mia did in this book.

tumblr_mp8lqkavxh1sxy5x9o1_500One of the most important things in my life is my family. If anything happened to them…well, I’m not sure what I’d do. It’s one of those fears that haunts me on a daily basis, just as I’m sure it haunts many of you. To think of having everything you cherish taken away in the blink of an eye…

*shudder*

If I Stay addresses this tragic fear. It makes you live it through the eyes of Mia, a girl whose family is killed in a car accident. She herself is on the brink of death and must decide if she has the strength to stay and live with the pain of knowing when she awakes, her family will be gone; or if she can’t bear their loss and will let go to join them in death.
But, don’t worry. This story isn’t only about making you cry and sob and go through an entire box of tissues. It celebrates life and love, and offers hope when there is no hope to be found.

tumblr_mdg8mwFXNk1rj9ghno1_500As hard as this story is to read, it’s worth it. For me, it made me consider what I’d do if this type of tragedy ever struck in my life. Would I give up? Or would I fight for life? To be honest, I’m still not sure. Like Mia, it’s a choice I can’t make until it I had to.

Jen’s Rating

5 Star

To read more about If I Stay, click here!

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for If I Stay…I suggest you grab a tissue before you view it 😉

…Just remember: Read the book BEFORE you see the movie!

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http://brynnetervention.blogspot.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4374400-if-i-stay

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Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

18081809Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis

“Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now. Maybe that was always besides the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts …

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?”

Jen’s Review

Meet Georgie McCool (er, but with blonde hair): 

Meet her husband, Neal: 

Meet their life:

Meet Georgie’s magical phone: 

yellow painted classical phone

Now meet the novel where all of this goodness happens:

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And now meet my Two Thumbs Up for it: 

Okay, seriously, if you haven’t read a book by Rainbow Rowell yet…well. You better get on it! As of this month, she has four–FOUR–awesome books published. And her newest, Landline, is no exception. Just like her other novels, Landline had me hooked from page one. It was thoroughly engaging, filled with vivid, relatable characters, and so addicting, I didn’t want to put it down. I also enjoyed how it wasn’t completely adult fiction. There was plenty of YA moments, which made it all the more special.

So go pick up Landline and get reading. Scootch-scootch!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

Read more about Landline here!

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http://massivnews.com/evenements-du-jour/22-novembre-2012/

The week in GIFs: Mark Ruffalo edition

http://www.pleated-jeans.com/2012/12/31/your-daily-life-in-gifs-12-31-12/

http://rebloggy.com/post/film-jennifer-garner-mark-ruffalo-13-going-on-30-my-dream-otp/66946189691

From Working Girls to Devils in Prada: Top Female Leaders on Film and TV

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http://www.cornerstonefitnesstv.com/contacts/

http://www.eatprayriderun.com/2014_06_01_archive.html

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http://www.zap2it.com/blogs/happy_birthday_tina_fey_celebrate_with_her_best_30_rock_moments-2014-05

Book of the Month: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

11870085The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 

Synopsis

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Jen’s Review

That about sums things up 😉

Okay, seriously. I’m not normally into stories about cancer and sickness and whatnot. They’re just too sad and depressing. However,  I made an exception for The Fault in Our Stars after hearing so many wonderful things about it. And I’m glad I did! This is a special story everyone needs to read. It has a touching plot, plenty of takeaway messages, and a cast of sincere characters. I especially love Augustus (I think most readers do). Simply put, he’s a good guy. A good, sweet, authentic, lovable guy. In fact, when my sister was trying to think of a name for her next kid, I suggested August…She almost used it, too. Darn!

I won’t lie. This is a heartbreaking story. And you will need tissues. But the pain is worth it, I promise!

1010396_212218672304022_342272204_nPlus, the movie is coming out in a few days, and you know my rule of thumb: read the book before you see the movie. So go read it!

Jen’s Rating 

4 Star

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