Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations for People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

Hey guys!  So, as of today, I am officially back in school.  I’m both a little excited (summers can get surprisingly boring after about a month and a half) and a little sad to see summer is over.  And since I am an English teacher with many students who don’t read, I thought this list might be helpful.  As you all probably know, every reader is different.  Some of my students love YA, some don’t.  And I wondered what YA books I could recommend to them that would be different but interesting.  So let’s see what I found!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Book Recommendations for People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

  1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

    This brilliant book is exciting, action-packed, and even has aliens.  I picture this as a book for some like Mission Impossible/James Bond fan.  Or maybe Independence Day.  Probably that one.  It’s a bit slow in the beginning, but it gets way better.  And not everything is predictable.

  2. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

    Already in its favor, it has won a Michael L. Pintz honor, so it’s basically critically acclaimed (some people are snobby about that stuff).  Anyway, it’s kind of a utopian story, but also a bit of a mystery and a political thriller.  It’s definitely weird, but I expected nothing less from Shusterman.

  3. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

    This is such a perfect life (er…afterlife…) story.  Beautifully written and emotional, it takes a look at what it means to have lived and moving on.  I think this is perfect for those philosophically minded folks who want some deeper meaning from their reading.

  4. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

    I like reading diverse books.  This is the story of a young Haitian girl living in Detroit and trying to learn how American culture is different from her own in a very dangerous neighborhood.  It’s real, and sometimes that makes it really hard to read.  But this definitely means something and I want to spread the word.  Oh, and if I remember right, it’s probably better for more mature audiences.

  5. Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat

    I adore this story.  It deals predominantly with class and money, which I think is an underrated topic in books, regardless of genre.  (Sometimes, they cover moving up in social classes, but this one discusses moving down, which is rarely written.)  It talks about stereotypes and other things we don’t care to admit we think.  And it’s cute.

  6. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

    Let’s enter the brief historical fiction section of this list.  This takes a look at the very real terrors that were committed in insane asylums in the past from “professionals” who were little more than sadists.  This book is alternately horrifying, emotional, and hopeful.  But it’s also definitely dark.

  7. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

    This one is amazingly written and I probably should have moved it up higher if this was an actual ranking.  A mystery set in the later 1800s, a young girl sets out to discover who murdered her father–and tried to make it look like an accident.  It takes her all over the darkest corners of New York City, to places that you can barely even imagine existed at one point.  Very historical, sometimes dark, and sometimes funny, I thought this mystery was one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

  8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

    Kind of a crossover hit already, Shatter Me seems perfect for more poetry minded people, since Juliette’s style is very lyrical already.  Yes, it plays into the dystopian style that has become so common in YA–let alone the romance–but it is so beautifully written that I couldn’t leave it off the list.

  9. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

    A fascinating look at mental illness, this story will continually surprise you.  I think this is great for people who don’t normally read YA because it seems to defy the genre in different ways–unreliable narration, shocking twists, maturity not always seen in main characters, etc.  It’s different and I love it.

  10. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

    This is by far the darkest book I have on this list, but it’s also the one that I think matters the most.  Following a girl of Middle Eastern descent, she tries to break with some of her parents’ traditions since she’s grown up in America and wants to act like an American.  It’s absolutely horrifying what happens to her, but it’s also something that is socially acceptable in places around the world.  Far from being written to shame a culture, it’s more written to explain the different culture and help us understand what girls like Naila are up against.  This is definitely for more mature audiences.  Like, this is one I would never ever recommend to middle schoolers.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books Recently Added To My To-Read List

Hey guys!  This is really my last week of freedom before I have to go back to school (noooooooooo) so I thought I’d take advantage of it and write about books.  I don’t do that enough, right?  Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the books I’ve recently added to my to-read list and why.  Maybe you’ll find something new there too!

toptentuesdayBooks I’ve Recently Added To My To-Read List

  1. How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat

    I absolutely loved Roat’s debut novel Between the Notes, so I’m interested to see what this one does.  Vicki creates a perfect life online, only to discover that there are others like her, who feel alone and hopeless.  I have this as an ARC, so hopefully I can read it soon!

  2. Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

    Seriously, who doesn’t like Kenneally?  I just need to keep plugging away at this series.

  3. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

    I have this from the library!  I just need to read it.  I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, but it had a diverse main character (she’s Muslim) and there’s something about monsters (figuratively, I believe).  Guess we’ll see!

  4. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

    A story of two people whose timing is off, this feels a bit like Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.  It involves two people working at a bookstore, notes, and a little bit of a tragic backstory.  I’m interested to see how this plays out.

  5. Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

    I only added this one after much deliberation because I’m very very afraid of how this relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler is going to be portrayed.  I’m interested…but hesitant.

  6. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

    I actually have this as an ARC and I think I’ll be reading it in the next week or so.  It’s a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing (which I love anyway), but it’s set in the 1920s with Prohibition and all that fun stuff.  I’m totally game.

  7. Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

    This one feels like a cool fantasy novel.  Basically, there are a bunch of illegitimate children who feel left out by their parents and they befriend each other and, I think, try to stop a rebellion since they’ve become targets.  Sounds full of action and probably some interesting characters.

  8. Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

    Now this looks cool and pretty funny while being deep.  Briefly: Will has always been blind and that doesn’t make high school easy, so he’s just happy when he’s made some friends.  Then he learns he qualifies for a surgery to give him sight, only he then finds out that the seeing world has been keeping secrets from him and his friends haven’t exactly been honest about a few things.  It looks funny and I’m truly interested in the insights he’s going to come away with.

  9. Every Little Thing by Jill Hathaway

    This book goes way dark side, far darker than I usually go.  Briefly: Lil is suicidal and self-destructive, but that changes when, after writing a suicide note and wrecking her car, she learns in the hospital that she killed someone.  Lil, depressed, says she did it on purpose and goes on trial for murder. But this is also supposed to be uplifting (somehow), and I’m interested in seeing how that plays out.

  10. The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

    This feels a lot like a Sarah Dessen/Morgan Matson story.  Briefly: Lucy and Ben are secretly crushing on each other, and just as they’re about to spill the beans, Ben’s sister drowns.  A year later, Lucy and Ben reconnect near the anniversary of the drowning and they have to decide if they can move past it.  It’s heartbreaking (which I’m always drawn to), but I think it will also be uplifting and cute.

Top Ten Tuesday: Hey, I Should Probably Read That…

Hey guys!  This is a Top Ten list I came up with on my own after an off-hand comment I made in yesterday’s review.  I started thinking about some of the books that have been on my to-read list on Goodreads the longest and I thought I’d bring them to the light of day and see which ones you guys recommend I should hustle up to the top of my to-read list!  Some of these have been on Goodreads for an embarrassingly long time.  If any of these are your favorites/worth checking out, leave a comment!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday: Hey, I Should Probably Read That…

  1. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (since June 23, 2008)

  2. The Hollow by Jessica Verday (since May 14, 2009)

  3. Intertwined by Gena Showalter (since June 22, 2009)

  4. Forever… by Judy Blume (since June 29, 2009)

  5. Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson (since July 11, 2009)

  6. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (since July 24, 2009)

  7. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (since September 5, 2009)

  8. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson (since September 9, 2009)

  9. Deerskin by Robin McKinley (since November 5, 2009)

  10. Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (since November 6, 2009)

…This was way more embarrassing than I thought it would be.  These have all been on my to-read list since before I graduated high school…

So?  Any of these worth checking out?  Or should I just give up?

Top Ten Books to Try If You Like Sarah J. Maas

Hey guys!  I know there’s not an official Top Ten Tuesday today (it’s on hiatus), so that inspired me to try a topic myself!  I love recommending books based on what other people like.  (For example, a student of mine loves Kasie West and so I keep introducing her to other contemporary YA romance writers like Sarah Dessen.)  I know a lot of us are HUGE Sarah J. Maas fans, so I thought I’d try finding a few other books/series that you may also like!  (You may see authors come up more than once.)


Top Ten Books to Try If You Like Sarah J. Maas

1. The Gold Seer Trilogy by Rae Carson

This may seem like a weird choice, but I promise it works.  The series starts with Walk on Earth a Stranger, a tale about a girl who can sense gold in the era of the American Gold Rush.  Like many of Maas’s heroines, Lee has a horrible backstory and relies on her own wits and instincts to stay alive.  The series is historical with a hint of fantasy and romance of the slow-moving kind.  The story is about so much more than love and I found it delightful.

2. Ruined by Amy Tintera

The fantasy novel knocked me off my feet last year.  In Ruined, Em has watched her parents’ brutal murder and infiltrates the enemy kingdom under the guise of the prince’s betrothed.  Basically, Em is Celaena Sardothien (Throne of Glass) in a different form.  This fantasy promises bold action sequences, alliances between unlikely forces, and characters you will not forget.

3. The Remnant Chronicles series by Mary E. Pearson

One staple of Maas books is their detail and length.  The Remnant Chronicles can rival any Maas book in length.  The first book, Kiss of Deception, is nearly 500 pages and it just goes up from there.  This series involves rival kingdoms, assassins, princes and princesses, and major battles.  It’s also incredibly well-written, the kind where you feel like the characters are real people that you know in your daily life.  They are so vivid.

4. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

I feel like most people know about Outlander either because of its rise to fame in the last few years or because of me constantly talking about it, but I’m going to talk about it again.  Outlander is the story of a World War II army nurse who accidentally goes back in time to 1743 and has to rely on her wits to survive in a brutal and political world where a single misstep could get her killed.  The books are incredibly long, well-written, and delightful.  Claire and Jamie, at the point, are real people to me.  And even the minor characters are family.

5. The Splintered series by A.G. Howard

If you’re looking for a kooky, out-of-the-box fantasy, this is it.  A modern retelling of Alice in Wonderland, Splintered is the story of Alyssa, a girl whose ancestors have always been lured to Wonderland or to madness (sometimes both).  And the real Wonderland is much darker and dangerous than Lewis Carroll’s version.

6. The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa

One of the staples of Maas’s books is the fey, so I thought I’d include a fey story on the list.  The Iron King, the first book in the series, is about a normal girl who becomes a pawn in a fey fight for power.  While she may not be a strong fighter like Maas’s characters, there are still plenty of battle scenes, humor, plots, and brilliant characters.

7. The Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson

This is like, the crowning series that I think is remarkably like Maas’s writing.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns begins with Princess Elisa, a girl who doesn’t feel fit to rule the country she is now queen of thanks to an arranged marriage.  There are daring twists in this series, bold and dangerous enemies, magic, character development that goes through the roof, and shocking twists.  If you haven’t read this series yet, you totally should.

8. Penryn & the End of Days series by Susan Ee

I went in a slightly different direction with this pick.  Most of Maas’s books have to do with a dangerous and seemingly invincible enemy.  If powerful angels who literally destroyed the world doesn’t fit that bill, I don’t know what does.  Angelfall begins by introducing us to Penryn, a teenage girl determined to do whatever it is to recover her disabled sister from the angels who kidnapped her, even if that means befriending the enemy to do so.  Well-written and insightful, it takes a look at human nature as humanity falls apart, but it also creates a scarily realistic dystopian world.

9. The Pledge series by Kimberly Derting

Again, I went in a different direction here.  In The Pledge, we are introduced to a world of distinct class structures and oppressive rulers who kill for fun.  We see underground resistance groups, fights, magic, and a heroine who needs to outsmart some very dangerous foes.

10. Defy series by Sara B. Larson

This series is basically a more romantic version of the Throne of Glass series.  Defy is a tale where Alexa disguises herself as a boy (Alex) in order to flee the terror of being a woman in a man’s world.  An able fighter, she becomes an integral part of the King’s Guard and her secrets start to come unraveled.  Alexa is very similar to Celaena in many respects, but this book definitely has more of an emphasis on the romance than Maas books usually do.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under the Tree

Hey guys!  I know I’ve been quiet on here lately.  Between school (we still have finals this week!), the holidays, and my current obsession with reading historical nonfiction (the American Revolution, y’all), reading YA has been a little sparse lately.  But I’ll figure it all out, no worries.  In the meantime, I thought I’d give you a little something.  So here’s my top ten!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under the Tree

1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I’m starting here because this was actually on my Christmas list this year.  I adored this book when I read it and now I need a copy of it for my bookshelves so I can read it again and again and again and again.

2. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Who didn’t fall in love with Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda this year?  Jeez.  But I would so adore this book.  One of my friends who is a librarian flipped through this at work on day and would not stop telling me how awesome it was.  #jealous

3. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Shusterman is, and I say this in the nicest way, a weirdo.  But seeing as I am also a weirdo with the same kind of interest for books he writes, we’re good.  This book, about a girl who becomes the Grim Reaper, is just perfectly up my alley.

4. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

There’s so much hype over this book that it could be really really awesome (which is what everyone’s saying) or it could just be hype (which is my fear talking).  While I wasn’t really a fan of Everything, Everything, I think this book could be better than that and more to my expectations.  Now I’m not making a lick of sense.

5. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

I was not kidding when I said I’m on a historical bend right now.  I have Washington’s biography by Chernow sitting on my shelf right this second, though I haven’t had time to read it yet.  Adding Hamilton’s would just be icing.  #WaitForIt

6. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

This book came out years ago.  It is a collection of essays from a college student who died right around her graduation date, so this was all published posthumously.  But for some reason, it’s just always caught my attention and I just haven’t made time to get it anywhere.

7. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I think this was in the Uppercase Box this month?  I stopped my subscription for the time being because of the holidays, so I didn’t get this.  Which really kind of sucks because this is one that’s been on my to-read list for a while!  #PaintingTheRosesRed

8. Just about anything from Philippa Gregory

While I haven’t actually read anything by Gregory yet, I’m dying to.  Tudor England is another fascination of mine because of all the power playing going on, the backstabbing and conniving.  Fiction or nonfiction, I want to read it.  #OffWithHerHead

9. East by Edith Pattou

A friend of mine recommended this to me oh, 6 years ago?  She said it was fantastic, basically a fairy tale but without feeling like the ones we know really well.  And I have this at the top of my to-read list, but again, haven’t made time for it.  So maybe if Santa brings it…  #Snow

10. Highland Knits by Interweave Editors

I don’t know if I’ve told you guys this lately or not, but I’ve taken up knitting.  I learned in October and I’ve been making scarves like a fiend ever since.  This book has been fabulous, giving patterns for things that Claire Randall Fraser wears in the Outlander TV show.  I’m legit in love.  However, I currently only have it as a library book and that’s heartbreaking.  #HeySanta

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Read Because of Recommendations

Hey guys!  So this week’s Top Ten is actually kind of a tricky one.  I tend to be a loner when it comes to books because, frankly, I know what I like and someone recommending books will have to convince me that they are truly giving me something I would like.  (I’m quite stubborn about it, really.  I drag my feet if I have the chance.)  So picking books that have been recommended to me?  A bit challenging.  But I rose to it.  Sort of.  These may not actually be my “top ten” books, but they are 10 books that have been recommended to me.

toptentuesdayTop Ten Books I’ve Read Based on Recommendations

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve sold my heart and soul to this series since I first read it last summer on the recommendation of my hairdresser.  (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?)  She’d gotten hooked on the show and was working her way through the first book when she told me I absolutely had to read it.  Being history and a love story, I was in.  …And then I never left.  (I’m currently rereading Dragonfly in Amber, which is why I haven’t posted any new reviews lately.  Sorry, not sorry.)

2. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

This recommendation came from readers like you!  (Now I sound like a PBS commercial.)  But truly, it did.  When I read A Thousand Nights and didn’t really like it, a lot of people sent me comments telling me to try this book.  And boy, were you guys right!

3. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Is it a recommendation if Uppercase sent it to me?  I’m going to say yes.  Because hey, now that I owned the book, I had to read it, right?  And it was pretty good.  It definitely helped my faith in these book boxes.

4. And I Darken by Kiersten White

Ok, again, does it count if like, the author keeps recommending it?  I follow Kiersten on Twitter and she kept going on and on and on about this book because she was so excited about it.  And then she started posting all the positive reviews and I had to check it out, you know?

5. The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

This was recommended by a teacher at school because we do a Holocaust unit and this was one of her favorites.  So I decided to read it to give my students the chance to read a wider variety of books and I ended up really liking this one.

6. Story Thieves by James Riley

A student of mine loaned me this book about 5 days before the end of the school year, telling me I had to read it.  He was a super sweet kid and I couldn’t disappoint him.  So I read it.  And it was ok.

7. Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney

When you teach, you frequently have a certain number of books to choose from, basically the ones the school already owns.  We have tons of this book and a few teachers had said it was really good.  So I read it to see if it would be interesting for my students.  And I really liked it.

8. Partials by Dan Wells

My college bestie had been trying for years to get me to read this.  I mean it.  If there’s anyone who should know what I would like, it’s her.  But when it came to trusting her judgment on this one?  I kept putting it off.  And then she proved me wrong when I read it and really enjoyed it.

9. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter

Another book recommendation from a teacher at school because we had to teach something.  Not the greatest, but it had its moments.

10. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Honestly, I can’t even remember who recommended this to me except that one of my students read it around the same time I did and another teacher at school had read it shortly before me.  Whoever recommended it, I totally didn’t like it.  You cannot mess with my favorite characters like that.  Nope, nope, nope.

Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite/Most Compelling Villains

Hey guys!  When I saw this topic, I knew I had to do it.  How often do we really look at our favorite villains?  This is the perfect topic to kick off October.  I’ll just warn you, though, you’re going to quickly notice a trend with my picks.  (I tend to like epic villains with black souls.)

toptentuesdayTop Ten Favorite/Most Compelling Villains

1. Voldemort from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

A list of villains would not be complete without Lord Voldemort, so I thought I would start with him and just get it over with.  Seriously, this man haunted my nightmares as a kid and I found bravery within myself whenever I wanted to face against him.  He committed horrible atrocities and yet it was still possible to defeat him.  (But don’t even get me started on Dolores Umbridge.)

2. The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

In whatever incarnation she comes in (The Wicked Witch, Elphaba, etc.), she remains one of my all-time favorites.  I mean, she has also haunted my nightmares before (when I was a kid, at least) so she’s totally got the scary thing going on.  But you also have to admire her tenacity a bit.

3. Warner from Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

If you’ve finished the series, it goes without saying why Warner is on this list.  But if you haven’t yet, Warner is one of the most compelling villains on this list.  He’s magnetic.  Even when you hate him, there’s still something about him that draws you in.

4. The King of Adarlan from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

One of the most despicable characters I have ever had the…pleasure?…of reading about.  He has absolutely no qualms about murdering innocents in order to gain more power.  None.  In fact, it’s actually more fun when they’re innocent.  Every single scene he’s in leaves you, as the reader, just twitching to take him down yourself.

5. Rhysand from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Again, if you’ve read both books in this series so far, you know why Rhysand is on this list.  He’s as compelling as Warner is, but in a different way.  Rhysand is ruthless but in a clever way.  He tends to be one step ahead of everyone else and knows the implications of every move.  I really like books that do that because they keep me guessing and actively participating in the reading process.

6. Prince John/Guy of Gisbourne/Sheriff of Nottingham from the Scarlet series by A.C. Gaughen

Anything to do with Robin Hood is a favorite story of mine.  These three characters (I couldn’t choose between them) are heartless, ambitious, and ruthless.  Which makes their downfall all the more satisfying.

7. Anima Industries from the Alice in Zombieland series by Gena Showalter

There really isn’t a set character here so much as it is an organization, and I’m cool with that.  But these guys at Anima have no scruples whatsoever about the ethics of really anything.  It’s fascinating.  And throwing zombies into the mix only makes them that much scarier.

8. Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

This guy…where do I even start?  He’s a horrible excuse for a human being.  He’s vicious, cold-blooded, and sadistic.  (Seriously, his stuff is not for the faint of heart.  It is gory and disturbing.)  But even when you hate his guts, he still somehow manages to give you moments where you think that maybe, just maybe, he’s really not all that bad after all.

9. The demons from the Angelfire series by Courtney Moulton

I went a little off the beaten path for this one, but I had to get an angel story into the mix.  Angels vs. demons is pretty much the ultimate story of heroes and villains.  These demons are definitely monsters of your nightmares.  They are deadly, fierce, and disturbing.  But the clever ones are the ones you really have to watch out for.

10. The Queen of Hearts from the Splintered series by A.G. Howard/Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I couldn’t decide which Queen of Hearts was actually my favorite, so I just decided that it was simply the same character and went with it.  She is another character that has transcended time to remain as compelling now as she was 150 years ago.  She’s nonsensical and irrational, which makes her incredibly unpredictable and dangerous.  And that’s always so much fun to read about.