My Top 10 Books of 2017

10:30 AM Ally M.G. 0 Comments


This year might have been a big mess but it was a good reading year for me! I completed my reading challenge of 50 books! And found new favorites along the way.

These my top 10 books of the year! Check it out and let me know what your top 10 are.

10 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

Check out my review

9

Flame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Check out my review

8

Warcross by Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Check out my review

7

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Check out my review

6

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab ( Book 2 of Monsters of Verity)

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn't afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she's good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims' inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Check out my review

5 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Check out my review 

4 

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Check out my review

3

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab ( Book 3 of the Darker Shade Series )

Witness the fate of beloved heroes - and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED...

The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari - begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace - but never common - thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay

Check out my review

2 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. 

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Check out my review

1

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales

Check out my review




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The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris | Book Review

11:00 AM Ally M.G. 0 Comments



The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.

After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they'll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso's villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.


The quick way to describe this book is: six kid magicians solving a mystery narrated by a goofy Lemony Snicket

We follow the story of a runaway away magician Carter, a young boy who wants to belong to a proper family. When Carter ran away from his uncle's clutches he found himself in a little town called Mineral Wells and tangled in a mystery. There he meets Leila, Theo, Ridley, Olly and Izzy. Together they create a small team called the Magic Misfists and try to reveal B.B Bosso for the crook that he is!

Between the narrator and the diverse character cast, Harris created a modern Lemony Snicket. No one character is the same and the narrator himself is a character of his own. 

Carter is benevolent young boy who mysteriously lost his parents and was forced to live with his crook uncle Sly Mike. Just a young boy desperate to fit in and have a real family again. 

Leila is a fiery ethnic (of unknown origin so far) girl who lives with her two dads, a magician and a chef (I see what you did there NPH). She dreams of being an escape artist magician and learning more magic with her friends.

Theo is a black gentleman who always wears a suit and lives with a musician dad and an artist mom. As a magician who specializes in levitation, he uses his violin that he keeps in his suit at all times to make things move. 

Ridley is intelligent girl who is bound to a wheelchair, but it doesn't stop her from making things appear in the blink of an eye. She makes sure the misfits don't get into too much trouble. 

Olly and Izzy are a performing twin duo who know how to magically appear in random places to entertain the audience.  

With such diverse characters there is sure to be someone that any kid picking up the book can identify with...without being magicians of course. 

Throughout the Magic Misfits, the reader is given quick magic tips that makes one feel like a magician too, and that maybe it is not that hard. The narrator makes sure to explain some tricks in such a simple manner that even a dog could do it. 

I was really impressed with Harris' way of story telling, while it can be argued that it is very similar to Lemony Snicket's style of story telling, Harris created a quirky-go-lucky narrator that wants the audience to laugh and cheer for the characters rather than feel pity for the character's life. Even though Magic Misfists is a Middle Grade novel I believe it is still a novel YA readers will find themselves enjoying, especially if you are a Lemony Snicket fan. 

My Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads: 3.84/5
Amazon: 4.6/5

Make sure to solve the puzzles for an extra fun treat!


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These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner | Book Review

10:00 AM Ally M.G. 0 Comments




These Broken Stars

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth. 

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This is not the type of book I would normally pick up, but I got it when I went to Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Gemina book signing. 

I was a in a big mood for something sci-fi and this was one of the few things left on my bookshelf that was unread…a Titanic story in space, told from a dual point of view.

From the start I felt that the main characters, Tarver and Lilac, were kinda meh but a little interesting…interesting enough to keep me reading. I knew this book was roughly Titanic in space, but it turns out that the Titanic in space part is just the first four chapters. The rest of the novel is about these two kids trying to survive on a planet that they have never heard of.

A soldier and an heiress. 

The book was mostly Tarver making sure they both didn’t die (if we are being honest) because Lilac did not know much about the outdoors. 

Throughout the story we see their bond grow, it was a bit of a slow burn which was nice…even though at the start they both had a small crush on each other, that eventually turned to disgust.

The story’s plot focuses on Tarver and Lilac’s need to survive and get rescued, rather than them falling in love. You see Tarver put up with Lilac’s "I need to be stronger than you even though I am way out of my element" attitude. I would have personally left Lilac behind at some point but Tarver is a good person so there is that.

Alongside the main plot, there are the intriguing mysteries of the whispers and the lack of people on the planet. I think my favorite part of the plot was the mystery behind the whispers that Lilac kept hearing. 

Halfway through the book I saw myself growing attached to these two, and actually worrying for their wellbeing even though you know Tarver survives the planet (not a spoiler, it's given away literally at the start of the book).

I enjoyed the book, but I do not think it pulled me in enough to justify reading the two sequels that come with it.

“And there it is, against all hope, like the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. The smallest hint of a smile.” 



My Rating: 3.5/5
Goodreads: 3.9/5
Amazon: 4.3/5

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Mama Graciela's Secret | Book Review

10:00 AM Ally M.G. 1 Comments

This book by Author Assistant was given to me for an honest review
Mamá Graciela’s Secret
Written by Mayra Calvani
Illustrated by Sheila Fein
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing
www.maclaren-cochranepublishing.com

Description:
Mamá Graciela’s TENDER, CRUNCHY, SPICY bacalaítos fritos are the best in town...
Local customers (including stray cats!) come from all over the island to enjoy her secret recipe. But when the Inspector discovers that Mamá secretly caters to so many cats and he threatens to close her tiny restaurant, Mamá must come up with a plan to save it—and all of the animals she loves.
About the author:
Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her children's picture book, Frederico the Mouse Violinist was a finalist in the 2011 International Book Awards; her anthology Latina Authors and Their Muses was a First Place winner at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards; her nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a Foreword Best Book of the Year winner. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications like The Writer, Writer's Journal, Multicultural Review, Bloomsbury Review, and others.

She lives in Belgium with her husband of 30+ years, two wonderful kids, and her three beloved pets. When she's not writing, editing, reading or reviewing, she enjoys walking with her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family. www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com


About the illustrator:

Born in Queens, New York and living in Los Angeles since 1987, Sheila Fein has always been inspired by the changing world around her. Earning her BA in Design from Buffalo State College of New York, her concentration was on drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography. Sheila's education as an artist has taken her everywhere from Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia to Bath University in England. Today, Sheila Fein runs two figurative workshops, Imaginings Sketch in LA and People Sketchers in Thousand Oaks. She has been featured in numerous collections, magazines, books, solo and group exhibitions. Her paintings and drawings reside in public and private collections. Sheila loves to make the imagination of others a reality and has done so through her commissioned Fein Fantasy Portraits and Interactive Paintings. In addition to being a fine artist Sheila works as an illustrator. She just completed the book "Mama Graciela's Secret" for Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing.



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Review

I do not remember the last time I read a picture book, but it was so nice to read one again. Mama Graciela's Secret is a really sweet book about a sweet abuelita that does what she loves and protects what she loves.

Even though the story is less than 25 pages long I actually gasped when the someone threatened to take Mama Graciela's cats! Even though it is a children's book with very little prose Calvani was able to get me invested in Mama Graciela's story. At the end I felt proud of her decision at the end of the adorable picture book.


Rating: 4/5




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Super Graveyard | Watcha Reading Wednesday

9:18 AM Ally M.G. 1 Comments


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I am currently reading this spooky read...even though spooky month just finished. Neil Gaiman is known for being a very illustrative story teller and so far I agree.

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family... 
Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

I have given this book for free for a honest review. You can check out my review HERE. Overall I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I felt kinda in between about it.

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.
No.
It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchan
ted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.


Super Secret by Eon

This comic has the cutest art style and the most adorable story plot. I squeal whenever it updates because all these characters are just too precious. 

The boy next door, friends for life, is actually a werewolf!






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