I’ve had Killing the TBR on hold for a while.  Honestly, it got a little tedious to read three books per month that I wasn’t really into, and for no good reason.  I mean, if I’m going to buy a book, I’m going to buy a book.  No “reading challenge” is going to stop me from doing it, right?

So I held off.  The holidays were a little crazy.  I don’t even know where January went.  But now I’m ready to start this thing up again, but with a few changes.

  1. I no longer need to own a book for a full year before it qualifies.  (After all, I’ll run out of choices eventually, won’t I?)  Now, the book must be at least one month old.

    I’ve created a page listing all books that qualify for the challenge.

  2. The challenge is going to run on a monthly basis now.  No keeping track of strange 30-day periods.  It’s officially from the first day of the month to the last day.
  3. Gone are the days of trying to fit in three books per month while still completing my yearly reading challenge and keeping up with ARC’s.  Now it’s a minimum of one book per month.
  4. I’ll post all the books that I read the previous month that qualified.  The reward is my TBR pile getting smaller.  I’ll also try to remember to tag these reviews for the challenge.  If I don’t read any books that qualify in a particular month, I’ll made a sad post in which I share how disappointed I am in myself.

That’s it.  The new and improved KILLING THE TBR challenge.  Are you with me?  Are you ready to tackle your TBR pile?

It’s almost February already, and, by the way, February is looking like it’s going to be an awesome month when it comes to new releases.  There are six that I’m really looking forward to.

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– Starflight by Melissa Landers (2/2/16) 
– Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (2/2/16)
– Morning Star by Pierce Brown (2/9/16) 

I just realized that these are all star-themed!

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– These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (2/9/16)

– A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (2/23/16)
– The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine (2/16/16)

We’ve also got two shadow themes down here!

What new releases are you looking forward to?

Book review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source: Purchased

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

I read this book, in its entirety, on November 28, 2015. As of January 2016, I have still not reviewed it. I think this is because I want to do this book justice in my review, but I’m not really sure how. I really, really enjoyed this book. I’m glad that I read it, and I think that most people would enjoy it, too. But how to articulate what’s great about this book? That’s just stumping me.

Because what’s great is Simon, and how so many people can relate to him.

What’s great is the friendships in this book, because they’re real.

What’s great is how nobody’s perfect, and all the characters accept that.

What’s great is the romance, which builds mostly through anonymous emails.

What’s great is that this book is so honest and realistic.

In this book, you’re not going to find boys who look like they just stepped off a runway. You’re not going to get characters who, as teenagers, have the kind of eloquent conversations that most adults can only dream of. You’re not going to find perfect, angelic characters who always know the right thing to do and say at the exact right moment.

You’re going to get teenagers. Normal teenagers, who fight with their friends and overreact and do stupid things. But teenagers who also learn to accept things outside of their norm, and learn great life lessons.

This book is fun to read, that’s for sure. But it’s also an important book, because it deals with issues of sexuality and race without shoving it in the reader’s face. I’ve added Becky Albertalli to my list of authors to watch.

Last week’s Wishlist Wednesday focused on books I’ve been wanting to read for a really long time.  This week’s focuses on more recent additions.

  • I first heard about What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler a couple days ago through jessethereader’s review.  I read a lot of fluff, and sometimes it’s good to go with something important, something uncomfortable, something that pushes your limits as a reader.  I get really outraged at the topic of rape in general, so this is bound to be a book I’ll have really strong opinions about.
  • I have, of course, been hearing about Me Before You by Jojo Moyes for years.  I only recently added it to my TBR after hearing a patient’s wife recommend it incessantly over a several-hour period as her husband underwent surgery.  She was like 90 years old and she said it’s one of the best books she’s ever read.  That has to count for something.
  • A few weeks ago, I was hopping around the book blogs and saw several of them mention Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk.  I was intrigued by the premise at first, and then even more interested when I saw that it takes place in Wisconsin.  There’s a serious shortage of books set in my home state, so that gives me even more reason to read this one.

What books are on your wishlist?

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  This week is a freebie, so I went with a topic from before I started participating: Top Ten Books I Read Before I Started Blogging.

I was a voracious reader when I was younger, gobbling down entire trilogies in a weekend, reading ten or twenty books per week during the summer, literally reading the entire YA section of my library by the time I turned sixteen.  (Luckily, we had an awesome inter-library loan program, so I was then able to read the entire YA section of several nearby libraries by the time I finished high school.)  I didn’t keep track of what I read then, much to my disappointment now.  There are books that I absolutely loved, and I just cannot for the life of me remember what they were called.

But these are books that I either read right before I started blogging (like Room and The Diviners), books that made a real impression on me (like the Fearless series), and books I still own that have moved across the country with me (I still have all my Tamora Pierce books, and I refuse to get rid of them).

So, read on for a list of ten great books (or, at least, books that I remember being great) from before I wrote reviews:

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– Room by Emma Donoghue 
– Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk 
– Fearless (series) by Francine Pascal 

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– Song of the Lioness (series) by Tamora Pierce

– Daughter of the Lioness (series) by Tamora Pierce

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– A Great and Terrible Beauty (series) by Libba Bray 
– 

The Diviners by Libba Bray

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– Looking for Alaska by John Green
– Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
– Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

   Goodreads   Amazon

**While I don’t think my review gives away much more than is in the plot summary, I have had some complaints over on Goodreads that it should be under spoiler tags.  To avoid ruining anybody’s life, I’m putting this under a read more.**

** spoiler alert ** 

Oh boy. Here we go. I always hate writing negative reviews, especially of books that don’t have a lot of reviews to begin with. It’s a lot of pressure when your review could considerably lower the book’s average rating! But I just can’t pretend that I loved this book.

But, as always, please remember that doesn’t mean that you won’t love it.

This was an impulse pick from Netgalley. I was trying to find something to read, and while I usually steer clear of the Read Now section, I jumped in and picked this book. It’s a pretty intriguing description:

It’s the year 2055 and an anarchist organization has taken control with the aim to create a world-class society. Half of humankind is unknowingly living in an alternate reality called Dormance… and there are no plans to wake them up.

Sixteen-year-old introvert Emery Parker is one such dormant. An academic scholar who avoids ruffling feathers at all costs, Emery finds herself being transferred to a boarding school on the outskirts of Arizona. Little does she know, a family secret has the power to change the course of the future. When she’s approached with an opportunity to free the dormants, she sees no other choice but to accept, even though failure could mean having her memory wiped clean.

But when tech-savvy Torin Porter reaches out to her from the other side, Emery begins to question everything she was told about Dormance. If her family’s secret falls into the wrong hands, the world as she knows it will be faced with irreversible consequences. Now Emery must play both sides to uncover the truth about her family’s past or risk leaving mankind to live in an unconscious reality.

Futuristic world! Alternate reality! Anarchist organizations! Intelligent, introverted MC! Boarding school! Hacker boys! These are all things I like in my books. But, ugh. The execution could have really used some work, starting with the whole basis of the plot in general. Half the world lives in Dormance, a state where their bodies are held in suspension as they live out some sort of virtual reality. Sure, makes sense for the first generation. How do you explain their virtual babies? Do babies just appear in suspension when born in Dormance? Or do people just not get pregnant, and think nothing of it? But also, where do they keep all these bodies? We’re told where a whopping total of twelve bodies are kept. There are supposedly millions of people in Dormance. I don’t get it.

But anyway, setting that aside, let’s talk about Emery’s recruitment and training for The Alpha Drive. She receives a phone call from a man who doesn’t identify himself, asking her to come alone to a location she’s unfamiliar with. She thinks, Hey, why not and leaves without telling her roommate what she’s doing or where she’s going. I thought Emery was supposed to be smart? Of course, everything works out in the end, except for the fact that she has a microchip implanted and has to sign a confidentiality agreement with unfortunate repercussions, including memory wipes in the event of anybody figuring out her identity, or if she figures out another Alpha Drive participant’s identity. We can set that aside, too, because I guess if I were running a top secret scary recruitment program, I might be just as serious about confidentiality. (Probably not, but carrying on…) Emery is trained in the elements. In aquam, she has to dive and swim and deal with seeing dead family members. In ignis, she basically has to set herself on fire. In terrae, she runs through the wilderness as manticores chase her. Somehow, this is meant to prepare her for battle.

Enter Torin Porter, a lovable hacker working for The Alpha Drive’s mortal enemy, Seventh Sanctum. Emery has been led to believe that The Alpha Drive are the good guys, and 7S wants to destroy the world, but Torin tells her it’s actually the opposite. And… she just believes him. He’s right, of course, but come on, Emery. Again, I thought you were supposed to be smart?

At this point, the book derails into a series of romantic conflicts, but I don’t know why I expected anything different from young adult sci-fi. Emery has arguments with her clingy boyfriend from home, who somehow never has trouble getting into her supposedly secure campus. Emery sneaks off and spends the night with a boy she meets at a party. She’s not sure what that means. She and her roommate develop a crush on the same boy, and spend the rest of the book bickering about it. Neither of them are familiar with girl code of not hooking up with/dating a boy your friend likes, I guess. Even Torin develops a crush on Emery. Half the world lives in an alternate reality, but the most important thing at this moment is whether or not Emery made out with Mason and whether or not that upset Rhea.

The last 20% of the book is a mess. As I was reading it, I found myself asking (out loud) what just happened. It’s convenient. (Come on, Emery, even I could have guessed the password for The Alpha Drive’s safe.) The resolution, if you can call it that, doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t at all make me want to read the rest of the trilogy.

I know I have a lot of complaints, but this book sure kept me entertained. Despite everything, I still wanted to know what would happen next. I think it started off better than it finished, and with a lot of polishing, it could be a great story.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #3: a young adult bestseller.