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 On top of the 20 published novels I read, I also read and critiqued three unpublished manuscripts and hundreds of short stories.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Since I can’t recommend any of the unpublished stories I read, I’ll stick to those I read as part of the Goodreads Reading Challenge.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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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/

http://giphy.com/gifs/ColbXXtLhOz0k

http://mazerunner.wikia.com/wiki/File:Mazerunner_minhoquote.jpg

http://wifflegif.com/tags/202690-read-the-book-gifs

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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Photo credits: 

http://brynnetervention.blogspot.com/

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

http://gayleforman.tumblr.com/post/54363068897/the-quote-books-if-i-stay-by-gayle-forman

http://handwrittenonpaper.tumblr.com/post/35663785431

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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Happy Book Release Day – Cress by Marissa Meyer

It’s finally here! Cress, the third book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is on shelves today! Let’s all give a big, loud CHEER!

What? You haven’t started reading this awesome series yet? Well, here are my reviews for book one and two:

Book of the Month: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Book Review: Scarlett by Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer

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Synopsis

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.”

To read more about Cress, click here!

Now go read. Go, go, go!!

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Book of the month – February

In honor of Rainbow Rowell receiving a Printz honor, I’m dedicating this month to Eleanor & Park. And you know what? It’s just romantic enough to cover the Valentine’s Day holiday, too!

15745753Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis

“TWO MISFITS. ONE EXTRAORDINARY LOVE. 
It’s 1986 and two star-crossed teens are smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love–and just how hard it pulled you under.

 A cross between the iconic ’80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.”

Jen’s Review

After reading Fangirl a couple of months ago, I knew I had to read everything ever written by Rainbow Rowell. So, I put a hold on Eleanor & Park at the library, and after waiting forever, I finally got my hands on it. And it hardly left my hands in the two days it took me to read it. What a great story! Sweet and endearing with a tough edge. Rainbow Rowell definitely knows how to build characters that want to be heard and remembered. And I’ll always remember Eleanor and Park. Although I couldn’t relate to their story as much as I can to Cath’s in Fangirl, I can visualize it and feel it all the same.

Eleanor & Park is an addictive tale that takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions. Anger. Humor. Fear. Love. I’ve never read a contemporary romance quite like this one. It was a perfect combination of reality and fantasy. Of life sucks and life rocks. Of “Oh, my god.” and “Oh my God!” You go from smirking at Eleanor and Park’s resentful start, to grinning at their magical connection, to holding your breath at their uncertain future.

In a nutshell, it’s awesome. It is!

If you haven’t read Eleanor & Park yet (or any of Rainbow Rowell’s books for that matter), then it’s time to get in the game. Don’t miss out on these wonderful plots and memorable characters!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

 

Book of The Month: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

11235712Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Synopsis

“Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.”

Jen’s Review

Okay, I admit I’m arriving late to the Lunar Chronicles party. For almost two years, I’ve seen this book on shelves with its striking red heel and fancy font, but I never thought to pick it up. I didn’t even consider reading the synopsis. Why? No idea. It was just one of those books that screamed for my attention, but I ignored it. And I’m both horrified and grateful I did: Horrified, because I was missing out on a wonderful, innovative, magical story. Grateful, because I was able to jump straight into its sequel, Scarlet, and now only need to wait about a month for its third book, Cress.

From beginning to end, Cinder captivated me. Completely! I zipped straight through its imaginative pages, loving nearly every inch of its original plot, endearing characters, and entertaining twists and turns. I even enjoyed its sci-fi base, and I’m not a sci-fi fan, especially when it involves cyborgs, androids and intergalactic politics and wars. But, Marissa Meyer has a gift for taking futuristic elements like robots and outer space and making them fantastical, romantic and adventurous. And addicting! I couldn’t pry my eyes or mind away from Cinder. It was always there, begging me to pick it up and keep going. Which I did, even when I was supposed to be focusing on last minute holiday errands and chores.

If you like stories that take classic fairy tales and give them a unique twist, Cinder is for you!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

Read more about Cinder here!