Jen’s Top 10 Favorite Books of 2014

Although I’ve cut way back on the book review side of my blog, I still like to spotlight books every now and then. And today, I’d like to spotlight my top 10 favorites from 2014. As you’ll see below, I read and enjoyed a wide variety of books last year: Light and heavy. Adult fiction and YA. Historical fiction, drama, sci-fi, contemporary romance, paranormal…I was all over the map! So, check them out. Maybe you’ll find a few that pique your interest?

Jen’s Top 10 Favorite Books of 2014

#1: Cress by Marissa Meyer

13206828I read Cress in early 2014, and it stuck with me the whole year. Like its predecessors in the Lunar Chronicles series, Cress was fun, witty, adventurous, and downright entertaining. Marissa Meyer has definitely proven to me old tales can be remade in exciting and creative ways. I can’t wait for Winter, the final book in this amazing series, to be released later this year!

To read my full review and more about Cress, click here!

#2: The Martian by Andy Weir

18007564I just finished The Martian during the holidays and…wow. Just wow! Think the movie Cast Away, but on Mars. Seriously, it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. Gripping, intelligent, funny. I might’ve even shed a tear at the end.

The second I finished The Martian, I said, “Well, that has Hollywood written all over it.” And, guess what? The film is set to be released in November 2015. Ha! So don’t wait. Go read it before you see the movie…And then thank me for recommending it to you. 😉

To read more about The Martian, click here!

#3: Winter of the World by Ken Follett

12959233You know what amazes me about Ken Follett? He can write a 1,000 page story that flies by like a 400 page one. What amazes me more? He can write a 1,000 page historical fiction that doesn’t bore me to tears! Just like its predecessor, Fall of Giants, Winter of the World ensnared me from the start and has everything you want in a story: likable characters, rich settings, suspenseful plots, and so much more.

Trust me, don’t let the daunting size of this book stop you from reading it. It’s too good to pass up!

  To read more about Winter of the World, click here!

#4: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

15745753So, I read three Rainbow Rowell books in 2014, and I must admit, I wanted to put all of them on this list. But, I resisted the temptation and only put two (sorry Landline).

I’m sure most of you have already heard a lot of buzz about Eleanor & Park, and I’m sure many of you have already read it (and if you haven’t, you should.) It’s 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. 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. So go read it!

To read my full review and more about Eleanor & Park, click here!

#5: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

16131484You know, there has been some debate about this sequel to The 5th Wave. Some have liked it. Some have not. Personally, I did. No, it wasn’t as great as The 5th Wave, and yes, it did feel like a middle book in a series (you know, the wobbly bridge that connects the 1st and 3rd book). But, whatever. I still enjoyed it and I’d still recommend it to others.

And, hey, here’s another book that will likely be adapted to screen someday since they’re already filming the first in the series. So, go read it before you head to the theater!

To read more about The Infinite Seaclick here!

#6: The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo

10194157After seeing this book cover all over the place for a couple of years, I finally decided to place a hold on it at the library…and then I proceeded to devour it within two days…and then I proceeded to devour its sequels within a week. Yeah, The Grisha series is ahh-ddicting! Magical, mysterious, scary, romantic, all three books (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising) have the perfect elements to make a perfectly entertaining story.

So, if you’re looking for a quick, fun, adventurous read, here you go!

To read more about The Grisha seriesclick here!

#7: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

13618440Considering Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of my favorite books of all time, I placed its final segment, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, at the top of my must-read list for 2014. I can’t even explain how excited I was to get my hands on it. Once I did, I was satisfied with it. I’ll admit, it wasn’t my favorite in the series, but it wrapped things up nicely, answered all my questions, and made me both happy and sad. It’s always bittersweet to finish a wonderful series, you know?

Trust me, this is a must-read!

To read more about Dreams of Gods and Monsters, click here!

#8: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

8909152Annnd here’s the second Rainbow Rowell book on my list. Thinking about it, I should’ve listed this above Eleanor & Park because, honestly, I enjoyed it more. It’s not as intense and it’s just a tad more addictive. Plus, I totally fell in love with Lincoln. He’s one of my biggest book crushes ever.

*cue googly eyed expression*

…Hmmm…

Okay, I’m gonna keep daydreaming about Lincoln while you go read Attachments. I promise, it’s awesome!

To read my full review and more about Attachments, click here.

#9: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

8755785This was another highly anticipated book for me in 2014. And–unlike some of the other books I had looked forward to reading–City of Heavenly Fire lived up to my expectations. It also polished off The Mortal Instruments series in a satisfying way. As usual, Cassandra Clare wove a wonderful tale of adventure, wit, and love. And, of course, there were plenty of twists and turns, “Oohs” and “Ahhs”, and even a few “Noooooo…!” moments.

If you haven’t had a chance to get into this series, and you enjoy paranormal stories with a dash of humor and lots of action, then I highly recommend it!

To read more about City of Heavenly Fireclick here!

#10: Vampire Academy series Richelle Mead

18660669Oh, yes. I did it. I put the Vampire Academy series on the list. Go ahead and laugh, mutter “Huh?”, and poke fun at me all you want. But, you shouldn’t judge me until you read these books. Talk about addicting! I ended up reading all six of them in just over a month.

And, fine, these are not the most serious, challenging, or life altering books out there. But you know what? Sometimes, light and easy books are the best. And these are some of the best I’ve read in a long time. So check them out!

To read more about Vampire Academy, click here!

Overall, I read some great books in 2014 (and, okay, some not so great books, but we won’t talk about those). I can’t wait to read all the adventures awaiting me in 2015! I’ve already gotten off to a great start with Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.

If you’d like to check out more of my book reviews, click here!

Music Monday – You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicLast week, I was completely obsessed with one of my favorite Malt Shop artists, Lesley Gore. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop listening to her music, not even the awesome “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”…Don’t worry, today’s Music Monday feature isn’t that yippity-dippity hit. It’s Gore’s much more dramatic and empowering “You Don’t Own Me”.

I fell in love with this song years and years ago, all the way back to when I was a kid and my aunt used to babysat me and my siblings. Whenever we’d go over to her house, she’d throw on Lesley Gore’s record, grab a spatula, and “serenade” us while we ate dinner. Usually her performance would end with all of us dancing around to “It’s My Party”.

However, it was my aunt’s theatrical rendition of “You Don’t Own Me” that stuck with me throughout the years. And lately, as I’ve been working on the edits for my manuscript, it’s become one of my obsessions.

“You Don’t Own Me” is one of those songs that inspires me purely on its attitude, empowerment, and drama. And Gore’s performance in the music video below is the cherry on top. So much spirit and spunk! Just watching her makes me feel strong, rebellious, and all “Don’t tell me what to do!” And I need to feel those types of emotions while working on my novel.

You+Dont+Own+Me+LiveSo, if you’re looking for a wonderful song that’s full of power, drama, and attitude, listen to Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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Photo credits: 

http://michaelgalvis.com/

http://rebloggy.com/post/gif-black-and-white-vintage-singing-singer-gif-set-1960s-b-amp-w-60s-lesley-gore/40830810486

http://rebloggy.com/post/my-gif-gif-funny-glamour-party-humor-new-years-retro-nostalgia-1920s-classic-fil/71786318384

http://www.last.fm/music/Lesley+Gore/You+Don’t+Own+Me+(Live)

Friday Funny with a Side of Wonky and Flash Fiction

Attention, everyone! Attention, attention: It’s Friday!

So, to be perfectly honest, I spent the majority of my week doing this:

Daydreaming. Pondering. Staring off into La-La Land…

I’m not quite sure if I’m so tired I couldn’t focus on anything, or if I’m so focused on everything, I couldn’t focus on anything. Wait, that didn’t make sense. Let’s go with the first thing I said…

Yeah, yeah. I know. I need a vacation. But that isn’t happening, so let’s move on, shall we?

On a positive note, my life was much calmer than last week, and I no longer feel like I’m on the verge of a royal meltdown.

I spent all last weekend hermit-ing it up to regain my footing and get back on track with my manuscript–which I did. Phew! Better yet, I sent my beta reader new chapters, and her feedback was positive. Her exact words were: “All I can say is WOW!!!!!!!!”

I’m hoping to send her one more chapter before tonight, when the 2nd round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge begins.

Dun, dun, dun…

Yes, yes. It’s time for another round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. Buckle your seat belts!

So, yesterday I received my results for round 1. I don’t want to bore you with the details of the competition’s point system, so I’ll just say my story, Inevitable, took 11th out of the 40+ writers in my heat. Yeah, not too shabby, though I’d kinda hoped to crack the top ten. But whatever. For me, it’s not really about winning. It’s about challenging myself, improving my writing, and connecting with other writers.

Plus, I have to admit, Inevitable isn’t one of my favorite pieces I’ve produced. I’m proud of it and everything, but I wish I’d dug deeper and pushed myself harder. Suspense is one of my favorite genres to write, so I’m disappointed I didn’t try to take things to the next level.

Oh well, oh well. Onwards and upwards!

Round 2 begins tonight. At midnight, I’ll receive a new assignment (genre, location, object) and have 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story. Since I received suspense in round one, I’m betting I’ll receive comedy, romance, or–God forbid–political satire as my next genre.

Seriously, if I get political satire, I’m doooomed.

Anyway, in honor of my…hmm…I don’t know how to categorize this week. Wonky? Ha! Yeah, let’s go with that. In honor of my wonky week, here are a few random Friday Funnies. Enjoy!

033347dfdbe2bc8a03c75f4be6a73f37

493b5e12ed868e2268ff30400f2ef664

10257893_288674234658465_2390867437885549490_nHow was your week? Anyone have fun plans for the weekend? If I finish my writing contest early, I might crack out the Halloween decorations and gloom up my house a little. Of course, that means I’ll need to enter the dreaded Crawl Space of Spiders…Nope. Forget it. I’m not decorating this year 😉

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – Set Fire to the Rain – Adele

You Know You’re a Writer When…Dishes

10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask

Photo credits:

http://partyofoneblog.com/2013/07/finally-friday-is-funny.html

http://www.rowdychicken.com/media/19-dilemmas-every-book-lover-has-faced-at-least-once/

http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/86751220.html?page=2

http://reactiongif.org/gifs/gif-cry-crying-lose-meltdown-sad-wine-work-gif/

http://www.urbansmoothie.com/2013/10/the-devils-reprise-devils-2-by-karina.html

http://hollygrass.blogspot.com/2014/05/hallelujah-its-friday.html

http://graphitedoll.tumblr.com/post/30306748060/everything-i-do-this-is-no-different

http://www.pinterest.com/slynnk94/i-want-to-be-a-writer/

http://thepeopleproject.com/writers/wine%20quotes

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 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:

18081809

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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Photo credits:

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

http://www.wanderlyn.com/category/fun/

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

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

http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/61935334.html

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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Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This” YA Books

It seems lately whenever I bring up one of my favorite books/series, people respond with a blank stare, a careless shrug, or, worst of all, an “I’ve never heard of it” type of comment. AHHH! So, I decided it’s time for me to give you the heads up on some books you MUST read if you haven’t.

Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This?” YA Books

1. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112On average, I read a book a week. AKA, I read a lot. However, no matter how many pages I turn, or how many stories I finish, Daughter of Smoke & Bone remains one of my favorites of all time. And it’s troubling how few people are even aware of it. No offense to Hunger Games  or Twilight, or even Divergent, but I wish the mass population would revere this story. Simply put, it’s awesome. Daughter of Smoke & Bone has everything a reader craves: intrigue, romance, humor, and, of course, adventure.

So go read it! And be sure to spread the word how awesome it is.

Check out my full review here!

2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

11235712Sighhhhh…Just…God, just go read this series, okay? I can’t even begin…I can’t even tell you…AHHH! Just read it. Goooo.

Check out my full review here!

3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

136251Believe it or not, there are still people in the world who haven’t read Harry Potter. *cue gasps* Every time I encounter one of these rare beings, they usually tell me, “Well, I tried watching the movies, but I just wasn’t into them.”

…That’s all I have to say about that.

*clears throat*

READ HARRY POTTER!

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

19063-1When people ask me, “What’s your favorite book?” I first glare at them, and then I tell them I don’t have a favorite (what book nerd does?). Then, when they still won’t leave me alone, I spout off a handful of memorable titles. The Book Thief is always on the list. Always. And it should be on yours!  I promise, it’s a tale you’ll never forget.

Check out my full review here!

5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

6050678Barking spiders! You haven’t read the Leviathan series? Are you mad? What’s not to like? A round-the-world adventure? A would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne? A commoner girl disguised as a boy? Daring deeds? Fun? AMAZINGNESS!

Hey, all you sods, I can fly and you can’t! A natural airman, in case you haven’t noticed. And in conclusion, I’d like to add that I’m a girl and you can all get stuffed!

…Hmmm, I think even I need to go read this–again. So much fun!

Check out more about Leviathan here!

6. Legend by Marie Lu

9275658Amongst all the dystopian books out there, Legend is my favorite. Think Les Miserables set in the future with a deadly virus, two badass protagonists, and lots of rip-roaring action.

In a nutshell, Legend is…

Read more about Legend here!

7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

16101128Have you ever read a book as slow as possible? Because you’re dreading the end? Because you know when you turn that last page, the story will be over and you’ll be sad for days and days? Well, that’s how I felt while reading The 5th Wave. Although I’m not a huge fan of stories revolving around aliens, this one is both awesome and terrifying. It actually made me stop and think, “Oh crap. What if this actually happened?”

Dun, dun, dun…

I dare you to read it…Okay, forget the dare. I’m telling you to read it. Scoot, scoot.

Check out my full review here!

8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Rainbow Rowell is officially one of my favorite authors of all time. In fact, I had a difficult time choosing which of her novels to recommend. The truth is, I recommend all of them (Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, and Attachments). Rowell is a master at character development and writing stories that have meaning and relevance. Trust me, you won’t be the same after experiencing one–or all–of her books.

Check out my full review for Fangirl here!

9. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

7171637Adventure. Wit. Tears. Mystery. Romance…The Infernal Devices has it all! This prequel series to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments is a MUST-READ! Especially if you’re looking for a new giddy book crush.

Oh, Will Herondale

“How rude. Many who have gazed upon me have compared it to gazing at the radiance of the sun.”

Jem still had his eyes closed. “If they mean that it gives you a headache, they aren’t wrong.”

Read more about The Infernal Devices here!

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

1217100I could easily list thirteen reasons why you should read this book, but I’ll only give you one: it’s life changing. So read it!

Check out my full review here!

Okay, I have about a hundred more books/series I could list, but I’ll end things here. Just take my word for it, these are books you MUST read! You won’t regret it.

What about you? What books make your “How Have You NOT Read This” YA book list?

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