Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Books that Lived Up to the Hype

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic, courtesy of host Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl, is ‘books with sensory reading memories’. I struggled to come up with selections for that topic so I’ve decided to bump up the top for next week to this week instead, which is popular books that lived up to the hype.

We all know how hit and miss the hype train can be so it’s always nice when you find books that actually manage to live up to expectations. The results are different for everyone so here are 10 books that I found myself agreeing with the positive (and very loud) book community consensus on.


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Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles 1#) – Marissa Meyer

I’ve mentioned this one as a welcome surprise a few times since I read it last year, so I won’t bore you with the same info over again. I expected mediocre and cheesy but ended up having a lot of fun.


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The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

This book deserves its hyped reputation and awards. It’s fantastically crafted with great attention to detail, lots of emotion, and wonderfully written characters. A romance for the ages with enough war, gods, and political squabbles to interest anyone.


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Scythe (Arc of a Scythe 1#) – Neal Shusterman

One of my favourite reads of 2018 so far. The world is so well constructed and very unique. Although the plot is slower than some people might like, it’s definitely entertaining and there’s a lot of big moral questions.

Review


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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

One word: Love.

Review


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Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Absolutely beautifully written. The world and characters are compelling, the prose is gorgeous, and it ends on a major screw you cliffhanger.

Review


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A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses 2#) – Sarah J Maas

You guys don’t need to hear me sing this one’s praises. It’s been done. The first book was massively mediocre and almost stopped me reading the rest of the series. The hype got me to try this one and thank goodness, because I loved it. It’s great.

Review


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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files 1#) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

I picked this one off the children’s wall at the bookstore after seeing fabulous things about it (admittedly, this was still pretty early on, even before Gemina) but I was very nervous about the variations in style. I shouldn’t have been. The book is action-packed, with great characters, some big twists, and just generally so much fun to read.


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The Princess Bride – William Golding

The movie adaptation of this book is one I’ve watched several times. I always laugh and it’s just so endlessly quotable. The book is no different. It’s spoofy, humorous fun and I’m sorry it took me so long to finally read it.


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Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

It’s a classic crime book for a reason. Christie really knows her stuff. This and And Then There Were None are regarded as two of her best novels and they live up to their reputations. I definitely recommend reading this one if you like period crime books and if you don’t already know how it ends.


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Red Rising (Red Rising 1#) – Pierce Brown

I was ready to write this one off as a victim of the hype train but once I got past the first 100 or so pages, I was hooked. The book and rest of the series are a rollercoaster of action, backstabbing, plot twists, and emotional upheaval.

Review

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Which hyped books lived up to your expectations? Help me navigate the minefield!

Love Ashley

 

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Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 (So Far)

This week’s top ten Tuesday topic is a list of your favourite reads of 2018 so far. I touched on this briefly when I did the mid-year freak out tag a few weeks ago but since it’s always fun talking about fantastic books, I thought, why not expand on it here. Creating this list was really tough in places because I’ve read some great books this year. If you were to ask me the same question again tomorrow, I’m likely to have changed the list by then, it’s just that hard. I’m so indecisive – did I like this book better than this book? Oh, but I rated this book higher, but then I read this one super quick, it’s just crazy. So here are the ten I’ve come up with for today. The books are listed in order of the date I read them (because who wants the grief of trying to rank them, heaven forbid)


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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli)

★★★★★

I feel like I’ve raved about this one enough for you guys to know how much I enjoyed it. Like I said in my review, it’s better than Oreos – sweet, funny, emotional, and uplifting, this is the definition of a good YA contemporary.

Review here.


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A Torch Against the Night (Sabaa Tahir)

★★★★

It’s always a nice thing when books avoid sequel suckage syndrome. This was a great adventure. I love both Helene and Elias so it’s was really interesting watching them play cat and mouse across the country. The prison scenes were also extremely entertaining and the book ended in a place that left me super excited to read A Reaper at the Gates.


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The Cruel Prince (Holly Black)

★★★★

I’ve never been a huge fan of fairy books, with a few exceptions, but it’s books like this that have started to change my mind of late. Yes, the world building is a little lacking and some of the plot is on the slow side but I had a great time reading this one. The characters are morally ambiguous, there’s scheming and backstabbing, and the ending is fabulously dramatic. I can’t wait for The Wicked King.

Review here.


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Red Rising Series (Pierce Brown)

★★★★★

Yes, this is three books so I’m cheating but 1) they were all excellent and 2) I didn’t want a third of this list to just be RR books. I loved this series. LOVED. Well written characters, epic action scenes, dramatic twists, amazing world building, and some intense emotional moments, what more do you want? Also, unlike some other series, it finishes even stronger than it begins. Definitely would recommend to sci-fi fans!

Series review here.


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Call Me By Your Name (Andre Aciman)

★★★★

This book was such a change of pace for me. I picked it up after falling in love with the film and the novel is just as magical. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the book itself is just heartbreaking but so, so worth it.


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Warcross (Marie Lu)

★★★★.5

This was my first experience with Marie Lu and it was wonderful! The Warcross matches themselves were so much fun and Emilka was a strong, smart and well developed MC. The plot twist at the end is predictable but still enjoyable because of the direction it takes the story. The sequel, Wildcard, is one of my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2018.


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Scythe (Neal Shusterman)

★★★★★

I had to wait for ages to get this book in Australia but it was worth it. The world is unique and extremely well constructed, the book deals with some big questions about morality, power, and life itself, and the characters are complex but likeable. The plot will be a bit slow for some people but I enjoyed it immensely!

Review here.


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Leah on the Offbeat (Becky Albertalli)

★★★★.5

I’ve had a good year so far with Becky Albertalli books. Leah was one of my least favourite characters in Simon but after this book, I gained such a new appreciation for her. She has her stubborn moments but she’s also super relatable and I loved the development of her relationship with Abby. Plus I got to spend some more time with the other adorable Simon characters. Winner!


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The Last Olympian (Rick Riordan)

★★★★.5

Up until this book I’d had fun reading the Percy Jackson series but I had yet to reach a book where I was genuinely super keen to find out how it would end. That was this book for me. The plot was exciting and actually felt like it’d have a lasting impact on the world of the books instead of just being Percy and co’s latest adventure. I loved that the stakes felt real and there was a chance for characters to showcase true bravery. It was a much more mature read and I really appreciated that!


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The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

★★★★.8

Wow. I cannot believe I waited so long to read this one because it was AMAZING. Miller puts so much detail into the book but without bogging down the story. I loved Patroclus as a narrator and the romance between him and Achilles is beautifully done. The downside, however, is that the book leaves you an emotional wreck at the end.

Review to come soon!

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And that rounds out my top ten! Are there any favourites we’ve shared? What have been some of your best reads of 2018 thus far?

Here’s to many more fantastic books in the second half of the year!

Love Ashley

Top 10 Tuesday: Books with my Favourite Colour on the Cover (Or in the Title)

This week’s TTT topic (via Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl ) is an extremely serious one. Expect to get some serious insight into my soul and find a base for some intense comment discussion.

Just messing with you. This week we’re looking at books which involve my favourite colour either on the cover or in the title.
My two favourite colours are orange and red, but since a lot of orange shades on books end up being more like Effie’s hair than a sunset shade (thanks, Peeta Mellark) I’m going to go with red for this list. The colour of passion, red velvet cake, bold lipstick, theatre curtains, the occasional murder scene…Okay, too far. Because twelve is so much easier to put into neat little rows, I’ve done twelve red books instead of ten.

Red Books

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  • A Gathering of Shadows (V.E. Schwab) – I really love these covers and the US versions are great as well. The white, red and black scheme is really striking. Plus, extra points because Kell is from “Red London”.
  • American Gods (Neil Gaiman) – A big, red book. I quite like the silver accents too.
  • The Mime Order (Samantha Shannon) – This cover is such a bright, eye-catching red. It really stands out whenever I pull it out of my shelves.
  • Scythe (Neal Shusterman) – Just enough red and in the right places for a super awesome cover.
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli) – How could I not include this one?
  • Red Rising (Pierce Brown) – It’s so simple and yet it works so well. Red accents and the word in the title. Woo!
  • Scarlet (Marissa Meyer) – A big red cape and the title is a shade of red, winner.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas) – Couldn’t resist.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor) – I like the UK covers of these books so much more than the US versions. I feel like the mysterious red door here perfectly captures the tone of the story.
  • Eldest (Christopher Paolini) – Badass red dragon on the cover. This definitely had to make the list.
  • The Wrath and the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh) – I adore this cover. It’s just so damn nice to look at. The red is a little different in shade from some of the other covers on this list, almost metallic, but still equally striking.
  • Vicious (V. E. Schwab) – Schwaby’s publishers really like red in their covers and for good reason, this is another great design.

What’s your favourite colour and some of your favourite book covers in that colour?

Love Ashley

Death Sucks, but it’s Necessary: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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You know those books where the hype is huge? I mean, so big the book couldn’t possibly live up to it? Where, regardless, you read said book and hope for the magic to happen before inevitably, you’re faced with the biggest disappointment of your reading life.  You’re then tasked with the terrible job of writing one of those minority reviews in which you have to somehow articulate why this particular book was the most mediocre thing you’ve ever read and brace yourself against incoming pitchforks.

Phew, good thing this isn’t one of those!

Because, Scythe, this is a book that deserves some hype.

I’ve wanted to read Scythe for what feels like forever – probably because it did take for bloody ever for the stupid thing to come out in Australia – which meant a lot of time for expectations to form. So, I’m extremely glad it actually lived up to them (for a change).

Scythe is set in a world in which the human race has evolved beyond disease and death. Using blood-based nanites, people can live forever. They can get married over and over again, have armies of children, see the world, and do just about anything they want. Looking too crinkled around the edges? Visually reset yourself to any age above 21. Hit by a car or fall off a balcony? We’ll just scrape you off the sidewalk and bring you back at the nearest revival centre. Of course, as I’m sure you can tell, this isn’t great for population control.

To combat the problem, the order of Scythes was created to select individuals and force them to move on to wherever it is we go at the end of it all. They’re like grim reapers but with much flashier robes and they actually do the killing themselves (or “gleaning” as it’s called here). Each Scythe has a yearly quota and must not display any kind of selection bias – basically, you can’t just kill old people, white people, ugly people, people who like cats rather than dogs, you get the point. As long as this rule is met, individual Scythes are allowed to determine their own methods for selection and gleaning.

Our story follows two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, who are selected to become apprentices to Scythe Faraday. Both will be taught how to do the job but only one will take the position at the year’s end. Cue dramatic music.

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Why you should read it

An Original World

The first thing that grabbed me about Scythe was the world itself. I mean, a world without natural death, overseen by a self-aware super computer called the Thunderhead (formerly the Cloud), and select figures designed to cull the population? It was a crazy, compelling concept and Shusterman executed it extremely well.

I lapped up every detail like Spongebob had just got his hands on a krabby patty, and by the end of the novel we hadn’t even scratched the surface.  Some of the things that fascinated me most were:

  • The dynamic the existence of Scythes created within society due to their power to kill and grant one year immunity – people’s reactions varied from outright panic to sucking up to them in every possible way.
  • The impact of immortality on people’s attitudes to life – does no fear of death somehow lessen our humanity?
  • How can unnatural death be regulated in a fair way? Can the code actually function in practice? (spoiler, it can’t)

In other words, MIND BLOWN.

Complex Characters

A great world can only take you so far, you also need well written characters to inhabit it and Citra and Rowan definitely met this requirement. Layered, likeable and imperfect, they’re a bit like a Venn diagram. They have this compassionate and moral middle ground which gives them a deep bond with one another but at the same time they each have their own traits and drives to distinguish them. Citra possesses a need for control, desire for knowledge and an ability to think well on her feet. Comparatively, Rowan has a kind heart but also a dark side, one that causes him a lot of internal conflict, and largely wants nothing more than to blend into the background. Both characters undergo interesting arcs of development, shaping them into individuals that have a lot of potential for the rest of the series. Yet, they still remain two vastly different sides of the same coin.

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Aside from Citra and Rowan, the other key Scythes in the book, including its villain, Scythe Goddard, were equally compelling. Each had a wealth of backstory, mystery, and depth, and I loved learning more about them as the book went on, especially through their diary entries.

Romantic Subtlety

I’ll admit it, I like a good romantic subplot. It just has to be properly developed, not annoying as hell, and not dwarf the story. Is that too much to ask? Apparently not because that’s exactly what Scythe delivered. There are sort of two romantic relationships in this book and both complement the story whilst also not making me want to eye roll and/or vom. Winner.

Why you Might want to Skip it

Slower Plot

This wasn’t a problem for me but I know it’s is going to turn some people off so don’t say I don’t warn you about stuff.

Scythe is a slower unfolding story, there’s no denying it. The first part of the book takes its sweet time establishing Shusterman’s world and characters (which I loved) and it’s a little while before plot points other than Rowan and Citra’s training kick in. However, the second half of the book is a lot more eventful. There’s a mystery element, a crap ton of brutal murders, more morally questionable characters, a man-on-the-run section, and a satisfying climax. But despite all this, keep in mind that the true conflict here is in terms of ideology.

As long as you go into this one not expecting guns blazing right at the start, you should be fine. Be like a boy scout and:

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It’ll Give you Nightmares

Yeah, so I know I said the world was super-duper, amazing compelling. The only problem is that it raises so many big questions that after a while of thinking about them I ended up like this:

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And then this:

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To make matters worse, there are nutjobs in this book that just go to show that while ideas may be great in theory, they don’t often work so well in practice because PEOPLE SUCK. Basically, after reading this book I maintain my existing view point: Death isn’t pleasant but it’s a necessary part of life. Deep, I know.

Insert Reason 3 to Skip Here

And…I’m out of reasons.

I loved it. Read it. Hopefully you will too. Now, somebody find me a copy of Thunderhead.  NOW.

5 Stars

Top 10 Tuesday: Books on my Autumn TBR

It’s time for another TTT topic, courtesy of Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. As usual, I live in the southern hemisphere so I’ve reversed the topic from Spring reads to Autumn reads. Speaking of which, YES, AUTUMN IS HERE. I mean, it doesn’t exactly feel like it yet but sooooon. I know you’re out there somewhere. I can’t wait to start breaking out my knits.

Here are ten books currently sitting on my TBR that I’m hoping to read soon-ish. Then again, my reading moods are more changeable than the weather so there’s the potential for all or only a few of these to successfully make the cross over to the read pile in the end. *shrugs* What can you do?

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I really need to get back to this series.  Poor Cress has been sitting on my shelf for a while now. They’re fun reads and I’ve heard from a lot of people that Cress is the best of the four. I wasn’t as into Scarlet as I was Cinder but hopefully this one reignites the momentum.

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I loved the first three books so much and I’m super excited to get stuck into this one. Only problem is that the sooner I read it, the longer I have to wait for book 5. *cries* Such a dilemma. At least it’s freakin’ massive.

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I had to wait ages for this one to come out in Aus for some reason. Now book two is out and I’ve heard heaps of rave reviews. The concept sounds great so I’m hoping for a solid read on this one. I mean, the New York Times Bestseller list couldn’t be wrong, could it?

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A pretty cover, a higher than 4 stars average goodreads rating, magic, a kick-ass heroine, and all the books are already out? Yes, please!

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I’ve mentioned this one on the blog a few times now and I really want to get around to reading it soon. I almost picked it up last week but decided to go with Warcross by Marie Lu instead. Another book with magic and I’m always up for stories with great female friendships.

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I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one but I’m in the mood for something a little bit different. Should be a fairly quick read and maybe if I’m lucky I won’t be able to guess the twist too early.

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This one’s been on the TBR forever and now that the movie is coming out next month, I’m motivated to get it read. It looks like it’ll be an adorable read – historical setting, quirky characters, a bit of romance, plus it’s short so win!

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Yep, you guys win. I can’t take it anymore. All this Shatter Me/Restore Me chatter in the last few weeks has finally cracked me. I need to see what all the fuss is about. Fingers crossed, I really don’t want to end up a victim of the hype train.

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Simon was sweet beyond belief.  I need more happy books so I’m hoping Albertalli can strike gold twice. Sometimes you just need something light and fuzzy. Aren’t you guys proud of my YA contemporary growth?

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Yep, I bought this after coming back from seeing the movie. I’m not even going to deny it I don’t read a lot of espionage but like I said earlier, I’m after something a bit different from my normal reads. I quite enjoyed the movie so I’m expecting the book to be even better with the extra room to expand on things.

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What’s on your Spring/Autumn reading list? Anything you’re really excited about?

Have you read any of these ones? What did you think?

Love Ashley