Top Ten Books I’ve Read in 2015 So Far

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post at the Broke and the Bookish is the best books you’ve read in 2015.  Poor Holly is too busy to read so here is my list in no particular order.

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  1. A Man Called Ove
  2. All the Rage
  3. Made You Up
  4. The Unquiet Dead
  5. The Shore
  6. Uprooted
  7. Dietland
  8. Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant.  I may never go in the ocean again.
  9. Hausfrau
  10. A Court of Thorns and Roses 

What’s on your list?

Still Reading: Invasion of the Tearling

Here we are, halfway through the Invasion of the Tearling.  Queen Kelsea is basically waiting for the evil queen of Mortmesne to invade with her superior and sadistically cruel army.  The Invasion of the Tearling promises to give some history of why people fled what was the United States and crossed to Europe to found the Tearling.

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This pretty much sums up our lives, right now:

Day 1 Reading:

Amanda: I am way too excited about starting this book. I fear disappointment.

Amanda: WTF? Manhattan?  I wanted history, but I didn’t expect flashbacks!  Where is Kelsea’s head?

Amanda: Bad Queen is real bad. She had seriously better get what is coming to her.

Amanda: Stopped at 29%

Holly: Hahah I read like 3 pages. #theworst

People, I mean well, I swear. It’s just that my reading time has been limited lately. My next text to my sister said “I am resuming human work hours next week,” which I’ve been trying to do. Clearly, these books Amanda shouts at me about aren’t going to read themselves! So, back to it.

[4 days after Amanda finished ⅓ of the book]

Holly: Hi. I read to 10%. I am slow. You can start a post about how slow I am. [She did.]

Holly: When Kelsea was talking about her rage, I was waiting for someone to belt out Let It Go! I was pissed that everyone knows rape was a weapon of war in the last invasion, but apparently it’s taboo to mention that men were raped. Because somehow that’s worse? Wtfever.

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Holly: I don’t mean to stomp on your parade. Things in the Tearling just annoy me.

Amanda: Yes, I was totally pissed about the rape conversation as well – but this is why I love Kelsea! She’s full of rage too! She doesn’t want to let things just be the way they always have been.

[Another day later]

Holly: I am at about 20% now

[Another day later]

Holly: I told you there was something in #1 about anti-sodomy squads! 22%

Amanda: Yes, yes you were right – dislike

[3 days later]

Holly: Announcement: I finished to 29% last night so we can discuss and move on.

So, for discussion:

Holly: I don’t think I hate this book, but I do think it’s weird. And I’ll try not to be SO slow through the rest of it.

Amanda: Ok so it is weird.  I so wanted the history of the Tearling, but I think I wanted to be TAUGHT a lesson.  I didn’t want flashbacks to Manhattan and spousal abuse. I am going with it and trusting, but right now this is not my favorite aspect of the book.

And we read on.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation Books 7-9

We are a bit late in posting this, but we’ve are still participating in Pink for all Seasons, a yearlong readalong of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. The series is coming to close in August with Book 12, so we’re catching up with books 7-9 here. Click for our posts on 1-3 and 4-6.

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The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (2010)

Synopsis: Lady Frederick Staines, née Penelope Deveraux is off to India with her ill-gotten husband, where she becomes involved in local politics and, of course, French espionage plots, while also dealing with her relationship woes. In modern times, Eloise is confronting her own relationship woes and learning about Colin’s family.

Holly: I would give Penelope’s story a five-star review, but the Eloise and Colin storyline here really brought me down. There is a really hard-hitting passage where Pen realizes that her status as a young woman of the ton, while seemingly limited, affords her countless privileges that are not afforded to women of lesser social status – including the fact that women of the lower class can be assaulted with impunity. Pen is smart, fierce, and independent, and she demonstrates growth in her character throughout. Unfortunately, I don’t see the same in Eloise’s storyline – she gets fixated on Colin’s sister and his family and I found myself getting annoyed with all the Eloise chapters in this book. Pen is fighting snakes, rebels, and the limitations of women in society, and Eloise is fighting troubles of her own making.

Amanda:  I also loved Penelope and her devil-take-society attitude.  I will say I actually felt a bit bogged down in all the spies at the end.  But the end I was happy with how heads rolled (or not) and I actually liked the Eloise and Colin storyline.  As I’ve said, I’ve read all these but I can’t remember all my Colin and Eloise details- I want to see how this relationship works when there is trouble in paradise.

The Orchid Affair (2011)

Synopsis: Laura Gray, a former governess recruited by the Pink Carnation, finds herself as a governess once again while spying on Andre Jaouen, a high-ranking French police official. Of course, It turns out Jaouen is also hiding something, and the two have to learn to trust one another. Eloise spends minimal time researching this story while in Paris for a weekend with Colin and his dysfunctional family.

Amanda: I think this is by far the weakest link of France to Eloise.  She just happens to remember all this while in Paris for the weekend? I know she’s a smart girl, but that pushed things a bit too far for me.  Also, I like that Willig has expanded her cast of characters, but I do miss checking in with Henrietta, Charlotte and the other.  I appreciate Laura for being a woman that can take care of herself- but I like my references to Turnip too!

Holly: Willig has definitely gone off-script here with the way the modern and historical stories usually weave together – though, I suppose she tossed out that script back with The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Laura’s story was another refreshing change of pace – as a 32 year-old used to taking care of herself, the romance that developed was different from those of the young heroines in the first few Pink books.

The Garden Intrigue (2012)

Synopsis: British agent Augustus Whittlesby has been hiding in plain sight in Napoleonic Paris, posing as an insufferable poet. He is commissioned by Emma Delagardie, a widowed American in Paris, to help write a masque for the newly appointed Emperor. Hijinks ensue, sparks fly, and the awful Georges Marston gets what he deserves. Meanwhile, Eloise and Colin negotiate the terms of a relationship when each has commitments on different continents.

*Bonus note: for this book we got to be the moderators for the readalong over at Ashley’s site – so much fun!

Holly: I went into this book expecting to be annoyed by Augustus, but, of course, I was completely won over. I love how Lauren has continued to evolve the series, with each character having different backstories and motivations. And, I always seem to learn something – like this.

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Amanda: I loved that the series got a bit of American spunk thrown in (aside from Eloise obviously) with the delightful Emma.  She is such a smart-ass to poor Augustus that I had to fall for him a bit right away for holding his own against her.  It was also fun to see where our contemporary relationship might lead.  Colin and Eloise are heading into decision time – is a long distance relationship across the Pond in the cards?  And of course because I want to be like my sister, this book left me wanting to learn.  About Napoleon specifically.  I think I have my eye on a book or two for when Non-Fiction November rolls around.

Are you reading along with us?  Or considering giving the Pink books a try?

Review: Made You Up

Made You Up, Francesca Zappia

Amanda

Published May 19th 2015 by Greenwillow Books

Hardcover, 448 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

For a girl that does not read a lot of contemporary YA, what I have been reading in 2015 has been phenomenal! Exhibit 1. All the Rage.  Exhibit 2. The Walls Around Us. Exhibit 3. Made You Up.  This book just went straight to my heart.  Alex herself went straight to my heart and shattered it.

Alex is beginning her senior year at a new high school.  We don’t learn right away what’s caused her to transfer but we know this is her last chance to prove that she doesn’t need to be hospitalized for her schizophrenia.  What a weight to try to live with!  While Alex is trying to balance school, work, and her mental health, she is also trying to just be a teen with a family and to maybe make some friends.  And yet, Alex carries a camera with her so that she can look at printed photographs to see what changes.  Are those armed guards surrounding school real?  What about the snake looking at her from the ceiling tiles?

The ups and downs of this book nearly killed me. Alex’s story was emotional and moving, and yet also funny and so sweet.  I loved the innocent romance.  I loved the rivalry between the smart kids and I loved the friendships between the trouble makers.

The only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read for me was the very, very end.  I just didn’t want it to end that way for Alex – and I thought the details could have been gentler.  But details aside it was the right ending even if it hurt.

4.5 stars!

Have you read Made You Up?  I need someone to discuss this with!  Also, how pretty is that cover?

Thank you Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for an advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

We’re reading: Invasion of the Tearling

Usually, we post our sister-readalongs in three parts. As we dive into the much anticipated Invasion of the Tearling, we have to set up the backstory on the first book.

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If you’ve followed us for a bit you may have noticed that I have a slight obsession developed with the Queen of the Tearling.  Yes, there were some problems with the book but I LOVED it and have been basically waiting with grabby hands for the sequel to become available.  I may have badgered my sister into reading it as soon as she had the time – but hey at least I bought her a copy when I did the badgering!

My anxiety was high when I got these messages:

Holly: Is this a YA book?  Because the bad queen just referenced the slave in her bed as a good fuck.

Amandar: NO

Amanda: [As I frantically text Holly to see where she is] Anyone try to kill Kelsea yet?

Holly:  Hold your horses pal I just read the first 2 pages of chapter two! [Followed by] Hmm, I am wondering if you would keep reading a book where a king referenced the slave girl in his bed and then had her tongue removed for snoring? [As the gender roles are reversed in Q of the T]

Amanda: Good question,  I did not like that.  That bad queen is BAD.

Holly: If [redacted] ends up being Kelsea’s dad I’m going to be pissed. Not sure I love this book

[Cue weeping in Chicago]

Holly: [upon finishing] I did not hate the T but certain things annoyed me: the weird child sacrifice in the nude, the stockholm-syndrome-esque obsession with a captor, and the fact that sometime in the future, ALL THE F’ING DOCTORS AND MEDICAL EQUIPMENT SUNK ON A SHIP AND THEN SOCIETY IS BACK TO ZERO?  I would think someone else could have figured that out…

Amanda:  Ok so I’ll give you that, maybe some modern medicine could be recreated.  But just accept it and go on ok?  The bad queen has all the scientists because she is BAD.  Just love Kelsea that’s all I ask sister.  We’re totally going to get more backstory in Book 2!!

And with that, we are diving into the Invasion of the Tearling!

Actually, we started diving in, but it’s taking a while to get ONE of us through the book and her name rhymes with Jolly.

Catch up with us if this is on your TBR! We’re going to stop about 30% and chat about it!

Review: Orhan’s Inheritance

Orhan’s Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian

Amanda

Published April 7th 2015 by Algonquin Books

Hardcover, 352 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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From Goodreads

When Orhan’s brilliant and eccentric grandfather Kemal—a man who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs—is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But Kemal’s will raises more questions than it answers. He has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, an aging woman in an Armenian retirement home in Los Angeles. Her existence and secrecy about her past only deepen the mystery of why Orhan’s grandfather willed his home in Turkey to an unknown woman rather than to his own son or grandson.

Left with only Kemal’s ancient sketchbook and intent on righting this injustice, Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There he will not only unearth the story that eighty-seven-year-old Seda so closely guards but discover that Seda’s past now threatens to unravel his future. Her story, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which his family has been built.

Moving back and forth in time, between the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the 1990s, Orhan’s Inheritance is a story of passionate love, unspeakable horrors, incredible resilience, and the hidden stories that can haunt a family for generations.

After reading the description for Orhan’s Inheritance, I pretty much had to have this book.  I have not read a lot about the Ottoman Empire and had a pretty romanticized historical view of the land and the people. I can say that is no longer true after reading Orhan’s Inheritance.   Yes, I know there’s been war and yes, I did know of the Armenian genocide – but I had not read anything substantial about either topic.  Orhan’s Inheritance addresses the genocide that took place during World War I and the intragenerational pain that continues in the Armenian people.

During World War I the Ottomans accused the minority Armenian people living in what is now Turkey of collaborating with the Russians against them.  Wikipedia tells me that the number of Armenian people killed is estimated between 800,000 and 1.5 million.  This was a government directed execution of first the intellectuals, then men and last the women and children.  But still, Turkey denies that a genocide took place.

This was an important book and the story was very well told.  I really appreciated the changes in time and perspective from modern Kemal and to Seda in her youth.  It really struck me while reading that  because Turkey still doesn’t acknowledge that a genocide took place that their young people like Kemal are never taught about the Armenians.  I appreciated that Kemal had his own painful history with his homeland, but still could see past his own experiences to learn a the truth about his family and his people.  This book left me thinking about the brutality of the past and the unresolved grief of the Armenians.  They endured unspeakable atrocities, yet remain unacknowledged.

I didn’t dislike the ending, but it all wrapped up a bit too quickly and conveniently for me.  I would have liked more time with Kemal as he processed all the information he learned about his family and about the history of the Armenians in Turkey.  Honestly, in parts this was an emotional brutal and graphic read — as you’d expect I suppose when it’s about genocide, but it also a book about love of family and was ultimately hopeful.

Thank you Algonquin Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: Never Be Younger: A YA Anthology

Never Be Younger: A YA Anthology

Amanda

Published June 9th 2015 by Metamorphosis Books

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From Goodreads…

Classic story meets the modern world…and out of this world.

From the halls of a high school to hip night clubs to the depths of space, Never Be Younger gives Shakespeare’s classic plays and sonnets a fresh spin for a new audience. Nine authors pay tribute to the Bard by taking his timeless tales to new heights, entrancing readers all over again. A Shakespeare story by any other name still reads as sweet.

I checked one of my 6 books off my currently reading list!  It’s been a long time since I have picked up one of Shakespeare’s plays to read and the Never Be Younger anthology made me think I should remedy that asap.  Some stories, such as Othello, never leave you but others I definitely would have gotten more out of the retelling if I’d had more familiarity with the original.

The highlights for me were:

  • To Undreamed Shores by Cortney Pearson (The Winter’s Tale).  I would have enjoyed more of this story for sure.  The Winter’s Tale is one I’m not too familiar with but this was a sweet romance, if a bit rushed in the end.
  • Mark the Music by Olivia Hinebaugh (The Merchant of Venice).  Loved this!  What a way to lose a pound of flesh.  Hinebaugh set the original on its head with this musical story.  Even more than moving Romeo & Juliet to outer space (yes it’s true) I thought this was the boldest retelling.
  • The Scarf by Christina June (Othello).  Othello is absolutely my favorite Shakespeare (Thank you and RIP Brother Ruhl) so I was very curious to see how this was retold.  Loved this one too!  June stayed true to the spirit of Iago and his malevolence with a setting that was purely modern high school.  I was very nervous for June’s Darcy and her scarf throughout, but this was a creative and excellent retelling.

These three were my favorites, but the anthology also includes stories based on Romeo & Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream- so perhaps your favorite is included too?

All proceeds from the sales of Never Be Younger go to United Through Reading, a charity dedicated to uniting military families through reading. Check out the bottom of the post for how you can win great prizes to celebrate the release!

To celebrate they are hosting a fantastic giveaway as well.  Check it out HERE!