Top Ten Tuesday: Popular books that live up to the hype

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today we’re talking about books that actually live up to the hype, and we all know that I tend to dislike overhyped books. That said, here are ten books that are (or were) frequently hyped in the book blogosphere that I actually really enjoyed.

   

Are there any super-popular books that you would recommend? Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday today? Feel free to drop your link in the comments and I’ll check it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters who would make great leaders

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  Today’s theme is ten characters who would make great leaders, which is super fitting for election day.

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First up we have Darrow from Pierce Brown’s Red Rising saga.  Do I remember a lot about Red Rising?  No, not really, which is one of the reasons that I still haven’t picked up Morning Star.  But do I remember that Darrow was awesome?  Yes, absolutely.

Next up is Starr from Angie Thomas’ bestselling debut, The Hate U Give.  Starr is put in an almost impossible position as the sole witness to her childhood friend’s tragic death.  Stuck between the expectations of her fancy prep school friends and the real-life implications of the shooting in her neighborhood, Starr has to figure out how to do the right thing without letting anybody down or creating any additional problems.

Then there’s Victor from V.E. Schwab’s Vicious, probably the most controversial pick on my list.  It’s true.  Victor’s a villain.  But this guy has serious leadership potential!  And, in his own way, he is the leader of his group of misfits.  (Side note: I cannot wait for the next installment in this series.)

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It’s been a long, long time since I read Peter F. Hamilton’s Void series and I honestly remember very little of it, but I do remember Edeard being a great leader.

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Both Rose Calloway and Connor Cobalt from Krista & Becca Ritchie’s massive Addicted/Calloway Sisters series easily make the list of great leaders. While Connor is logical, refined, and cunning, Rose is a perfectionist who wouldn’t hesitate to tear out the heart of her enemies (and look great while doing it).

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I’m maybe cheating with these last four picks since they actually are official leaders in their books, but next up is Prince Kai from Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series.  It’s true that Kai starts out the series primarily as a love interest for Cinder, but as he grows up, he becomes a strong, morally sound leader who isn’t afraid to stand up for his people.

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I’m definitely cheating with Lady Jane Grey, who ruled England for nine days back in the 1500s.  I’m not sure if the real-life Jane Grey was quite as awesome as this fictionalized version, but the Jane from this book made an awesome leader.

And what about Alexander Hamilton?  The amount of attention this guy is getting now is insane.  There are so many books (above: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz) written about him, a musical so popular that people wait months for tickets, and suddenly everybody is interested in his life. Why was he never president?

Finally, I’m going with Prince Rhy Maresh from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series.  While Rhy comes across as a flirty playboy as the series begins, he grows as a person and a leader as the series comes to its conclusion.

Who are your favorite fictional leaders?

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations for people who want to get into YA

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  The topics are officially back, and this week is all about book recommendations.  The actual theme is ten book recommendations for _____, and I decided to go with ten book recommendations for people who want to get into YA.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why adults read YA.  For me, it’s an escape from the everyday realities of my adult life – work, bills, conflict – but the genre has also evolved from when I was within the target demographic.  For the most part, the genre has grown out of its former boy drama stereotype and branched out into much more varied stories.

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If you follow YA at all, you’ve probably seen a lot of hype surrounding Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  It’s a poetically written, character-driven story about two polar opposites who become friends and grow into better people.

Similarly, Morgan Matson’s books always get a fair bit of hype, and with good reason.  She crafts realistic characters who face real-world problems in an age-appropriate way – something that used to be almost unheard of in YA.  In Since You’ve Been Gone, Emily’s best friend has disappeared without a trace, leaving her only a list of thirteen tasks to complete before summer ends.

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An author that (almost) always does the genre justice is Libba Bray.  I’ve been a huge fan of hers for over a decade now, and I continue to read everything that she publishes.

In Beauty Queens, Bray delivers a story focused on a group of teenage beauty pageant contestants that have been stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash.  The diverse cast uses their combined talents to survive while simultaneously dismantling the patriarchy.

Changing styles completely, Bray’s Lair of Dreams follows a psychic flapper and her oddball group of friends through 1920′s New York City as they solve mysteries and fight stereotypes.  This spooky series is ongoing, with the third book publishing later this year.

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The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr, a young girl who witnesses police shooting (and killing) her unarmed friend, and the fallout from friends, family, and the media.  In addition to police brutality, it discusses the demonization of victims and the realities of being a young POC in the United States.  Somehow, Thomas does this without ever once sounding preachy.

By now, Red Rising is a few years old, and you’ve probably either read it or decided that you’re over the hype.  On the off chance that you haven’t, let me tell you about this wonderful story.  This intricately built world features a number of castes and a protagonist who attempts to dismantle the system from within. It’s rare for dystopian YA to feel new, but Pierce Brown has created an incredible world.

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David Levithan is a pretty ubiquitous YA author, and his books rarely disappoint.  The best in recent memory is his collaboration with Nina LaCour, You Know Me Well. Stepping aside from the typical romance plot, Levithan and LaCour build a beautiful friendship between two strangers struggling with their own problems.

With a host of taboo topics, The Death of Bees easily steps away from what you might expect from YA.  This is a dark, twisted, creepy story about the powerful relationship between two sisters, and everything that the older sister would do to keep the younger one safe.  Tackling topics such as drug abuse, dead parents, and prostitution, it’s not for the squeamish, but it’s so worth it if you’re willing to take a chance.

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Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  It’s based on the world of Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-esque character from Rowell’s Fangirl, and Simon’s rival-slash-love interest, Baz.  Simon and Baz put their differences aside to fight some evil monsters, and somehow, at the same time, fall in love.

My Lady Jane is based on the true story of Lady Jane Grey.  The authors take a lot of creative liberties with Jane’s life, involving shapeshifters and a bunch of Monty Python-style references, to create a hilarious retelling of the events that led to England’s Nine Day Queen.

ARC review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Goodreads | Amazon

“Once upon a time, there was a family of strong wills,” she says, voice slow and measured as a pendulum. “They did not love one another. But together they presided over a farm. And on that farm, there were hounds, and bitches, and dairy cows, and hens, and cocks, and sheep, and mules, and horses. The family kept the beasts in line. And the beasts kept them rich, fat, and happy. Now, the beasts obeyed because they knew the family was strong, and to disobey was to suffer their united wrath. But one day, when one of the brothers struck his brother over the eye, a cock said to a hen, ‘Darling, matronly hen, what would really happen if you stopped laying eggs for them?’” 

Golden Son begins two years after the conclusion of Red Rising. While his friends and classmates relaxed, confident in their new positions as Peerless Scarred, Darrow trained. He fought. He prepared to topple society from the top. As Golden Son begins, Darrow is nearing the end of his time at the Academy, where he has learned how to command an army. While the Institute taught him how to win people, the Academy has taught him strategic maneuvers and how to command fleets of aircraft to win a war.

The book feels simultaneously similar to and different from Red Rising. Mustang, Sevro, and Roque are back, and joined by a whole new cast of characters to either love or despise. Just as before, every character has their purpose. Prepare yourself: you will become attached, and your favorite characters will die in the most tragic ways possible. Darrow will claw his way to the top, using his anger at what was done to his wife, what was done to his closest allies, in an attempt to destroy the status quo. He will gain and lose trust, gain and lose friends. He will have to remind himself why exactly he’s fighting, and whose dream he’s fighting for. He will have to decide how many friends to betray along the way.

I have read many reviews of Red Rising that complain of Darrow’s perfection. I have good news for those readers: Darrow’s perfection is shattered in Golden Son. Gone is the boy who always knew what to do. Gone is the boy who got by with just his wits and his luck. In Golden Son, Darrow struggles. He falls from grace. His brilliant plans are thwarted by equally brilliant rivals and traitors within his inner circle. He makes bad decisions. He constantly second guesses himself. He takes his rebellion a little too far at times, accepts other Colors a little too freely, and his friends no longer blindly support him. He acts like an actual person rather than the perfect symbol of rebellion that he was before. I actually liked Darrow a lot more in Golden Son, because he seemed more real to me.

So if everything was this great, why is my rating lower for Golden Son than it was for Red Rising? It’s little things. I felt like the pacing was a little uneven. And unlike Red Rising, I felt like Golden Son was better outside of the battles, when Darrow was trying to repair his friendships and decide who he could trust. I loved this book, but for me, Red Rising was just a little bit better. Still, the ending had my heart pounding and I will be holding my breath waiting for Morning Star’s release.

A huge thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

Final rating: 4.5/5

[Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising trilogy.  See my review of book #1, Red Rising here, or on Goodreads.]