November 29, 2014

Series finales and rankings

So many YA series that I've been following came to an end this year. Some were published last year, but I didn't read the final book until this year. Others released their last installments in 2014. It was a great year of series finales for me, but at the same time, I'm a little sad to say farewell to some of my favorites.

Without further ado, these are the series I finished in 2014, ranked by how much I enjoyed the overall series.

1. Series: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Books: Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Flesh & Bone, Fire & Ash
I started reading the Rot & Ruin series in 2012, and the first three books all made yearly my top 10 lists. These are my favorite zombie books of all time and one of my favorite series ever.

2. Series: Razorland by Ann Aguirre
Books: Enclave, Outpost, Horde
This series kept getting better with every book. I liked Enclave, but I loved Outpost. It came in at #3 on my list of favorite reads of 2013. And guess what, Horde was even better!

3. Series: Newsflesh by Mira Grant
Books: Feed, Deadline, Blackout
How is it that my favorite series are all zombie-related? Who knows? It certainly wasn't intentional because I'm not that much of a zombie fan. Feed and Deadline both made my top 10 favorite reads lists in the years that I read them.

4. Series: Legend by Marie Lu
Books: Legend, Prodigy, Champion
Legend was my favorite book read in 2013. Then I read Prodigy and Champion in the first half of 2014, which is fairly quick for me in getting through a series. While I like Marie Lu's writing, the trilogy lost its way a little in book 2, but it ended on a strong note. Overall, a very satisfying series.

5. Series: Dust Lands by Moira Young
Books: Blood Red Road, Rebel Heart, Raging Star
I loved Blood Red Road, and it was my second most favorite read of 2012. The writing style of this series takes a little getting used to, but once I did, I was hooked. I think it's that style that lends a level of gritty emotion to this series that isn't often found in other YA books.

6. Series: Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Books: Unwind, UnWholly, UnSouled, Undivided
I loved the first book of the series. The concept was original and scary, and the story was gripping. UnWholly and UnSouled didn't measure up to Unwind (I partly blame the introduction of the dreaded love triangle for this), but the series ended with another great book in Undivided.

7. Series: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Books: Under the Never Sky, Through the Ever Night, Into the Still Blue
Under the Never Sky was my #4 favorite read of 2012. The other two books in the series didn't quite live up to the first, but this was still a very good series overall.

8. Series: Grisha by Leigh Bardugo
Books: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising
The first two books in this trilogy were good, but the conclusion was great! It's one of the best series finale books I've read.

9. Series: Partials Sequence by Dan Wells
Books: Partials, Fragments, Ruins
Unlike the Grisha series, I enjoyed the first two books in the Partials Sequence, but the third book fell flat. The plot lines split into too many groups for me to easily follow, and the characters all started to annoy me to the point where I didn't care which side won or if they both died out. Not a good sign, and it made the ending a non-event for me.

10. Series: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Books: Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant
Believe it or not, despite all of the hype over the Divergent movie and books this year, I never got into this series like many others did. Divergent was pretty good, but Insurgent suffered the sophomore slump, and Allegiant was somewhere in between the two. Also, count me among the readers who didn't like the ending. So much of what happened in this series didn't make sense and didn't need to happen the way it did, which is one of my biggest problems with it.

11. Series: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Books: Article 5, Breaking Point, Three
This was a series that was decent but never progressed beyond that. It had a very typical YA dystopian story line, and in some ways, that hurt it as the writing didn't wow me and it didn't offer anything original that wasn't already found in other books of the same genre. If I had to compare it to something, I'd label it as a poor man's Legend.

Although I don't anticipate next year to be as eventful, there's one series conclusion that I'm very much looking forward to... and dreading at the same time because I don't want to say good-bye.

Series: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Books: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter (to be released Feb 2015)
The Lunar Chronicles has become one of my all-time favorite series. The first three books have all been fantastic. Even as new characters are introduced, Marissa Meyer has done a wonderful job of keeping me engaged. I can't wait for Winter in 2015!

November 22, 2014

Reading Outside the Box recap

In January, I set out to read a book for each square in the Reading Outside the Box challenge. Surprisingly, with a month to spare, I managed to finish it!

This was a fun challenge to undertake. I read some categories that I usually never read, like Romance, where I was pleasantly surprised by the book I chose, Star Struck by Jamie Campbell. Of the 25 books I read as part of the challenge, I rated 6 of them as 5-stars, 13 as 4-stars, and 6 as 3-stars.

My three favorites (in order of date read) were:
(Yes, two of the three are indie books!)

As promised, I also posted a review for each book that I read. Here are the links to each review. The number in parenthesis was my rating.

November 15, 2014

Book review: Ninety Percent of Everything by Rose George

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On ship-tracking websites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy. We buy, so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work.

Freight shipping has been no less revolutionary than the printing press or the Internet, yet it is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, shipping revels in suspect practices, dubious operators, and a shady system of “flags of convenience.” Infesting our waters, poisoning our air, and a prime culprit of acoustic pollution, shipping is environmentally indefensible. And then there are the pirates.

Rose George, acclaimed chronicler of what we would rather ignore, sails from Rotterdam to Suez to Singapore on ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; she patrols the Indian Ocean with an anti-piracy task force; she joins seafaring chaplains, and investigates the harm that ships inflict on endangered whales.

Sharply informative and entertaining, Ninety Percent of Everything reveals the workings and perils of an unseen world that holds the key to our economy, our environment, and our very civilization.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

November 11, 2014

Happy birthday to George and the Galactic Games

It's hard to believe that three years ago, I published my first novel, George and the Galactic Games. At the time, I had only written short stories and didn't know if I could write a full-length novel. It turns out that I can because, after George and the Galactic Games, I wrote four more!

To celebrate the book's third book birthday, I've discounted the price to 99 cents! I don't know yet how long I'll keep it at that price, so get it while it's on sale.

Buy it from Amazon
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November 8, 2014

Book review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

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Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

November 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

For the first time ever, I've decided to take the plunge and try my hand at NaNoWriMo! If you aren't familiar with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it's a month-long challenge that takes place every November. The idea is to attempt to write a novel of at least 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. Yes, in just one month!

I've always been afraid to try NaNoWriMo because I don't think I can complete a novel in one month. It takes me four or five months to write a first draft, so I'd have to write 4x or 5x my usual speed. This year, however, I figured I'd give it a try, not because I have more faith in my abilities, but because I was going to start a new novel anyway, and NaNoWriMo is as good an incentive as any to force me to write daily.

Last month, I did the research for my new novel, and I already have an outline of the plot. (I'm not sure how much preparation is allowed before November for NaNoWriMo, but I hope doing research and outlining is OK.) Now I'm ready to start writing it! If you want to follow my progress, the best way will be to stalk me on Twitter. :-)