Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ten Book Recommendations for People Who Want to Punch Nazis

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic: Ten book recommendations for X!

Okay, everyone. I'm mad, and if you've been paying any attention to American current events, you'll know why. Of course, I've been mad to varying degrees for months, but this weekend was really something. And I know, I know, it's not the first time it's happened by a long shot, but for some reason, nothing's gotten to the extent that I want to make a blog post about it.

Laura Silverman, author of GIRL OUT OF WATER, came up with an amazing hashtag for a giveaway she was doing on Twitter: #PunchNazisReadBooks. And I want to get behind that. So here are ten books I've read with that Nazi-punching spirit. There are so many upcoming/recently released books that I haven't read that I think would fit on this list, too, so I'm considering making a follow-up!


THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas: My list would be sadly incomplete without this absolute gem of a book. It seems like I can find something in the news that's relevant to it every single day, and when that makes me hopelessly frustrated, I think of Starr fighting back.

WOLF BY WOLF duology by Ryan Graudin: So you'd like to punch some World War 2-era Nazis? Especially Hitler himself? So does Yael, the kickass protagonist of this duology. The Nazi-fighting is a bigger thing in the second book, but the entire mission of the first one is to kill Hitler, so I think that both are very good additions to the list.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis: This one isn't as good of a direct link - don't pick it up looking for some on-page Nazi punching - but Alex would 100% punch a Nazi. This book's focus is more on destroying rapists, but I think it's a good related book.

MS. MARVEL by G. Willow Wilson: You know who can embiggen for an even bigger Nazi-punching impact (and totally would)? Ms. Marvel. And that's only one of the many reasons she's awesome. If you're looking for a quick read to take a break from actively changing the world for the better, this is the one for you.

THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli: Maybe you like your literary Nazi-punching choices to be more happy than revolutionary, and that's fine too! May I suggest this wonderful novel, in which positiveness absolutely abounds, there are so many Jewish characters who don't let you forget about it, and queer characters being openly and happily themselves. (Those last two categories aren't mutually exclusive, by the way.)

VIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD duology by Katie Coyle: I don't know about you, but this book makes me super ready to take a sledgehammer to anything wrong in the world that could possibly be dismantled by a sledgehammer. I maintain that this book was more entertaining before the past 9 months or so happened, but that length of time has made it into something inspiring.

FLYGIRL by Sherri L. Smith: Perhaps your preferred form of Nazi-punching spirit is taking a good look at what people say you can't do because of who you are and telling them you're gonna go ahead and do it anyway. If so, you might like this book. It's been way too long since I've read this one, but there are certain parts of Ida Mae's story that I remember as vividly as if I'd just put the book down.

THE STEEP & THORNY WAY by Cat Winters: A reminder to all of those people saying that "this isn't America" that this unfortunately has been entrenched in our history everywhere we look. This particular story may be fictional, but it's far from unbelievable.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J.K. Rowling: Perhaps you like your books and/or your Nazis fantastical. That's fine, too! I know many people who'd prefer it if Nazis were simply figments of everyone's imaginations. But it doesn't take too long looking at the Muggle-Born Registration Commission and that revolting "Magic is Might" motto to see things that aren't very unreal at all.

GIRL OUT OF WATER by Laura Silverman: This book in and of itself doesn't have a lot to do with punching Nazis. HOWEVER: a) I have to give another shout-out to the creator of the hashtag that inspired this, b) you'd be supporting a Jewish author, and c) she's writing a super-Jewish book right now and you can read this in the meantime. Besides, I refuse to believe that Anise and Lincoln wouldn't be Nazi-punchers given the opportunity.
Do you see any favorites on this list? How about any essential books that I missed? What did you do for your Top Ten Tuesday? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Series Finales

Last week, I wrote a discussion on why I don't like series finales, or at least not normally as much as I like the rest of the series. That got me thinking about specific examples of series finales that I've especially disliked or liked, and ones that stood out from the rest of the series for one reason or another. But I just didn't have room in my post to talk about specifics without getting totally off track.

So here's a selection of series finales that have stood out to me, broken down into four categories. This is mostly based on how these books have compared to the rest of the books in the series, though a couple on here were definitely particularly good or bad. And remember - me thinking that a book didn't measure up to the rest of the series doesn't mean I didn't like it on its own!

JUST NOT GREAT

These are the books that are not only my least favorite of the series, but just make my overall impression of the series that much worse. Because really, that's what we were building up to the whole time? The biggest offender here is absolutely THE ENCHANTRESS (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel), although to be fair, that series started deteriorating the book before that. It started out great, but it just went in a totally different direction that I didn't want anything to do with. Then, there's THE SWEET FAR THING (Gemma Doyle). It wasn't bad by any means, but after how invested I was in the first two, it was definitely a letdown. And finally, we have DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS (Daughter of Smoke & Bone), which I really think was just a matter of my personal taste. There were parts of the first two books I liked and parts that I didn't, and this last installment really focused on those parts that I wasn't as much of a fan of. Not a bad thing overall, but a bad thing for me.

WORSE THAN THE REST

My feelings about these books vary widely, so let's end on a high note and go from worst to best. First, then, we have MOCKINGJAY (The Hunger Games), the book that intensely divided my friends in middle school. Some people thought it was brilliant, and some people (like me) thought that compared to the first two books it was confusing and underwhelming. The shift into this final book was so dramatic that I'm not surprised it was polarizing. I want to give this whole series a second chance, and maybe I'll appreciate it more. Then, there's CLOCKWORK PRINCESS (The Infernal Devices), which, from what I've seen, I have an unpopular opinion about. My series reread this past summer really solidified my belief that the first two are better! I really liked this finale, and I thought it did a good job of wrapping things up, but there was so much going on that wasn't always relevant to the main plot that I don't think it was as good as a whole. Finally, a book that I absolutely love: A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU (Firebird trilogy). So why is it on this list? Because the first two were even better. They all easily got five stars from me, but the first two just had that little extra something special that made them instant favorites while this one was left slightly behind.

BETTER THAN SOME INSTALLMENTS


Sometimes, it's other books in the series that let me down! Or, even if they're not disappointments, they're just not quite as good as the finales. In my discussion post, I said that one possible reason that I don't like series finales as much is that they can be kind of different from the rest of the books. These two examples are definitely different, but they take that difference and make it amazing. First, there's IN THE AFTERLIGHT (The Darkest Minds). In this series, a shift between books wasn't that unexpected, because it happened between the first and the second books too. And even though these shifts happen, I never got the feeling that they were out of place or that this wasn't the series I thought I'd started reading. (That's not me saying that series can't change - they can and often should! But if they're unrecognizable, something might be wrong.) There's also HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (Harry Potter), which breaks the mold that the other six books have followed in pretty much the biggest way possible. But at the same time, it doesn't change what you loved about the books. (Unless, of course, what you loved about the books was Harry attending class at Hogwarts, in which case, I'm deeply sorry. You must have been incredibly disappointed.) Harry's still on the same mission, he's still putting clues together with help from his friends, and he still runs into the same kinds of problems.

BEST OF THE BUNCH

As I said in my previous post, I can only find one series where I definitely like the last book the best. That last book is WHERE SHE WENT (If I Stay), and funnily enough, it's incredibly different from the first book. It just goes to show there are exceptions to everything. The thing is, though, I love this book so much because I read it twice in high school and I really related to it. I'm a little scared that if I go back and read it now, I won't enjoy it as much because so much has changed in my own life. And then maybe there won't be any big exceptions at all. (Bonus: I have to give a shoutout to VIVIAN APPLE NEEDS A MIRACLE (Vivian Apple), which I rated significantly higher than the first book. It's a bonus and not a main example because I really need to reread the first book and I know I'll like it more this time around.)

What are some series finales that have stood out to you? Do we agree or disagree on any on my list? What do you think about series finales in general? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Don't Like Series Finales

There's something that I've been thinking about for a while, probably since I read WINTER, the last book in the Lunar Chronicles, almost two years ago. (Or, more accurately, the last novel - there have been a few add-ons since then.) I love the whole series, and I gave all of them five stars, but there was something about that last book that just didn't quite live up to the other three for me.

After that, I started thinking about it more generally. In so many cases, no matter how much I like it, the last book in a series is my least favorite. The Firebird trilogy. The Infernal Devices. The Hunger Games. The Wrath & the Dawn. Wolf by Wolf. Graceling. For some reason, it just doesn't measure up to the rest.

But why? Are series finales really so consistently different from the other books in a series? I think they might be, simply because they have to wrap everything up. In so many cases, this makes the book pretty different than its predecessors. Sometimes, your favorite parts of the previous book(s) just don't fit into what's needed for a finale.

Or maybe it's the pacing. In pretty much any plot - standalone or series - wrapping things up can take a while. The more there is, the longer it will take, and the more important the balance between keeping things exciting and not rushing through them is. There are certainly series that do this well. However, I can think of others where the end seemed to take place with 70 pages to go, or, on the other side of things, I was left thinking: that's it?

On the other hand, maybe my expectations are just too high. Maybe the momentum of an amazing series just tends to set me up for a bit of disappointment. Maybe that necessary change in series finales that I seem to see just happens to be to a kind of book that I don't like quite as much.

Of course, as with anything, there are exceptions. Sometimes it's another book in the series that lets me down. Harry Potter. The Darkest Minds. The Grisha trilogy. But these exceptions are outnumbered, and the only series finale I can think of that I liked the best is WHERE SHE WENT from the If I Stay duology (unpopular opinion, I know). So maybe this opinion isn't super consistent, but it's most definitely a trend, and it's one that I'm really not too happy about finding in my reading. I guess I'll just keep a hopeful eye out for these exceptions.

What do you think of series finales? What are your favorites and least favorites? Do they tend to be your favorite books in a series, your least favorites, or somewhere in between? Is there another book in the series sequence that tends to let you down? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 31, 2017

July Wrap-Up

It feels like forever since I've done a wrap-up (probably since my last wrap-up wasn't exactly significant), but at the same time, I can't believe another month has gone by! Only one more month of summer, and I'm definitely going to make it count reading-wise!

This month was a lot better than last month. I read a lot more, I felt like reading a lot more, and I read some really great books. A lot of this was helped by the fact that I participated in BookTubeAThon during the last week of the month. The challenges were really fun, and it helped motivate me to read more! Although there were definitely a couple days in there when I didn't read as much as I could...but that's okay! I'm really happy with how I did.

In other news, my laptop needs repairs. That means I don't have it right now, which means my computer access is going to be a bit more limited for a while. I should be able to get regular blog posts out (she says as she hasn't been doing that for months), but hopefully I'll have it back soon! I was putting off the repairs because I had an online job during June, but now that that's done, I really need it fixed before the school year starts.

THE BOOKS

SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS ed. by Stephanie Perkins: I really enjoyed this anthology! I read the one that's kind of a companion to it, MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, last December, and I thought that overall, this one was better. And it was a perfect read for when it was so hot outside! For my thoughts on the individual stories, click here. ½

ONCE AND FOR ALL by Sarah Dessen: I've been really excited for this for so long - I love Sarah Dessen books! This one definitely didn't disappoint. It was a bit darker than I was expecting, but it all worked so wonderfully that I couldn't put it down.

GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES by Isabel Quintero: This was a really difficult book for me to rate because I liked the story, but for most of the book, I didn't really like the writing style. I'm definitely glad I read it, but I think my expectations were a little too high.

WE ARE THE ANTS by Shaun David Hutchinson: The best word I can think of to describe this book is strange. And I can't really talk about any of my opinions without major spoilers. I started out a bit unsure, but I really liked this more as I kept going.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN by Jenny Han (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3): I'm so happy that I finally read this but so sad that the series is over! Although, to be fair, we all thought it was over with the second book, so I should be happy that we got this in the first place. This was a really satisfying end to the trilogy, and it reminded me of all the reasons I love Lara Jean and her whole world. ½

WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND by Robin Talley: I'm very conflicted about this book. On the one hand, it explores a lot of ideas that I think need to be explored in YA: you don't have to be sure of your gender. It's okay to change your mind about who you are or to try out different things. But on the other hand, there were so many parts in this book that I think could be hurtful and that made me cringe.

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig (The Girl From Everywhere #1): I've had this book on my TBR forever and I'm so glad I finally read it! It's a perfect blend of historical fiction and fantasy, the worldbuilding is exquisite, and the character are each so unique. I can't wait to read more! This filled the Booktubeathon challenge for reading a book in a day.

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon: I was really surprised by this book, in a good way. I was pretty sure I'd like it, but I had no idea how much, or how attached I'd get to these characters that we know for such a short time. Of course it's not for everyone - the premise alone means it's pretty insta-love-y - but I'd definitely recommend reading it even if you're not too sure about it. This kind of filled the Booktubeathon challenge for reading a cover buy - I don't do cover buys, so I just picked a book with a nice cover. ½

 SAINTS AND MISFITS by S.K. Ali: This was a very interesting book because it had traits of a light, happy contemporary as well as traits of a very dark one. The whole book was balanced very nicely. My biggest complaint was that it was somewhat predictable, but that didn't really take away from my enjoyment in reading it. This filled the Booktubeathon challenge for reading a book about a character very different from yourself. ½

MS. MARVEL, VOL. 5: SUPER FAMOUS by G. Willow Wilson: It's been way too long since I've read a Ms. Marvel comic! This was just as wonderful as I was hoping it would be. The reintroduction into the world was slightly rushed - might have been a little easier if I actually kept up with the rest of the Marvel universe - but overall I loved it. This filled the Booktubeathon challenge for reading a book entirely outside.

I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE by Maurene Goo: This was so, so good! I remember almost taking it off my TBR a while back and honestly, what was I thinking? It's wonderful, it's hilarious, it's relatable, it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face within the first chapter, and I just loved it so much. This filled the Booktubeathon challenge for reading a book with a person on the cover.

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab (Shades of Magic #1): I've finally read a V.E./Victoria Schwab book! And wow, what a way to start off! If the rest of her books are like this, she's going to become a new favorite very quickly. My favorite part of this book was definitely the worldbuilding, but the characters were pretty amazing too. I'm really excited to read the rest of the series! This filled the Booktubeathon challgne for reading a hyped book. ½


NORA & KETTLE by Lauren Nicolle Taylor (Paper Stars #1): This was a disappointment. My biggest problem was that the thing on the back of the book doesn't happen until page 219, which is just about two-thirds of the way into the book. That's way too long with me knowing what's going to happen. Things got a little better after that, but the last third felt very rushed because that's where the majority of the plot was. This rounded out the Booktubeathon challenge to read seven books.

Reread this month:
  • CLOCKWORK PRINCESS by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices #3): Finally finishing my audiobook reread of this series! Technically I haven't finished this one yet, but I know I'm going to by the end of the month because it's due back at the library by then. I'm sure it's going to be wonderful.
READING STATS
  • Total books: 13 new, 1 reread
  • Longest book: not counting rereads, The Girl From Everywhere (464 pages); counting rereads, Clockwork Princess (570 pages)
  • Shortest book: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous (144 pages)
  • Favorite book: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
  • Least favorite book: Nora & Kettle
CHALLENGE PROGRESS

Backlist Reader Challenge: 3 this month, overall 20/60 (Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, What We Left Behind, A Darker Shade of Magic)

Read it Again, Sam Challenge: 1 this month, overall 18/16+ (Clockwork Princess)

2017 Debut Author Challenge: 1 this month, overall 8/12 (Saints and Misfits)

2017 Series Ender Challenge: 1 this month, overall 4/5-10 (Always and Forever, Lara Jean)

BLOG POSTS
BLOGGING CHALLENGE PROGRESS

2017 Discussion Challenge: 0 this month, overall 4/11-20

How was this month for you? Did you participate in BookTubeAThon? How are your reading challenges going? Tell me in the comments!