Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year and First Book of the Year

I wish you a happy and healthy 2016! I will be having a low key New Year's Eve. This afternoon I'm meeting my book club for a potluck lunch and then we'll be watching A Walk in the Woods, one of our book club picks from earlier this year. This evening I may go home to see my parents for the long weekend but haven't decided yet. 

First Book of the Year is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. I've enjoyed participating in it for the past few years. It took me some time to choose my book this year but I finally decided to go with How to Be Brave, a YA contemporary debut by E. Katherine Kotteras. I've heard it is excellent. Have you thought about what your first book of 2016 might be?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Velvet Undercover

Velvet Undercover
By Teri Brown
Published: October 10, 2015

Samantha Donaldson's family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, mathematics, and complex puzzles, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women's spy group La Dame Blanche, she's torn—while this could be an unbelievable adventure, how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes she can't refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known only as Velvet. Deep undercover in the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Sam must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she must fight a forbidden attraction to the enemy—a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Sam find Velvet before it's too late . . . for them both?

A thrilling story of one girl's journey into a deadly world of spy craft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.

My review:

Samantha initially comes across as spoiled and petulant, particularly her behavior at the competition where we are first introduced to her character. As the novel goes on however she becomes more likable. Sam is supposed to be highly intelligent and her father taught her to crack codes from a young age as a sort of game they played. Unfortunately Sam isn't always as smart as I'd hoped she'd be. She is sort of naive as an agent but it isn't entirely her fault. She receives inadequate training and information for her task. This adds to the suspense as well as we watch her flounder seemingly out of her depths.

There are a couple of possible people who could be "Velvet" and Sam has to spend time with them to figure out who is the spy. Both the French governess Lillian and the American Marissa seem to have secrets which makes Sam's job harder. There is also the handsome palace guard Max who may be hiding secrets as well.

Overall I thought this was an entertaining and fast paced spy novel. Some things I was able to guess pretty quickly but not the identity of Velvet, which was nice as usually I can figure out mysteries without much difficulty. I also liked that this book was set in WWI instead of WWII and that it featured a female spy ring even if it wasn't as well developed as I'd hoped. If there is a second book I'll probably give it a try. I think that this book requires some suspension of disbelief and if readers are able to do that, it is more enjoyable. Teens who like historical fiction and mystery should take note. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016"

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

After my disappointment with The Sword of Summer, I am eager for this new series set at Camp Half-Blood and featuring Apollo as a mortal teen. I think it sounds promising anyway.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

This is the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, a novel inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. I liked the first book so I'm looking forward to giving the second book a try.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I thought A Court of Thorns and Roses was fantastic so I can't wait for this second novel.

When We Collided by Emery Lord

I loved her first two books and now Emery Lord is on my list of favorite YA authors so I will definitely be reading When We Collided.

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

I love this YA fantasy series! I don't know if this is the final book but I can't wait to read it.

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace

I was impressed with The Storyspinner, Becky Wallace's debut YA fantasy novel. I loved the setting, the characters and the twists. I can't wait for the sequel!

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

I love reading about WWII so this YA novel about a girl who becomes involved with the resistance movement in Amsterdam really appeals to me.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson is another must-read YA author for me. This contemporary sounds fantastic and I like that it mentions strong friendships. Plus the cover is cute!

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

So this is being touted as an "Outlander for teens" and while I doubt it will be like Outlander, it does feature time travel (which I love) and the unusual setting of the 12th Century and Eleanor of Aquitaine. 

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

I thought Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was wonderful and in her second novel, Simonson writes about life in an English village during the summer before WWI. I have very high hopes for this one!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Post (34) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Happy New Year! I can't believe 2015 is nearly over. This year just flew by! My New Year's Eve plans involve getting together with my evening book group for lunch and watching A Walk in the Woods (we read the book this summer) and then reading my First Book of the Year in the evening.

I had a wonderful Christmas with my family and just got back this evening. It was nice to just relax and watch movies and spend time together. I did have some kitchen disasters. I burned my first batch of saltine toffee and the yule log my mom and I planned to take to my sister's for Christmas ended up being an epic fail (I rolled up the cake and when I unrolled it later to fill it, it had cracked clean in two). Thankfully my second batch of saltine toffee turned out well and I took that and some pumpkin spice Oreo truffles for our dessert offering. Mom and I also made some samosas with phyllo dough. I've never worked with phyllo but I was shocked that I didn't ruin it and they tasted fantastic. I definitely gained a few pounds between those and the truffles and all the chocolate my dad kept buying. (I know where I got my sweet tooth!)

I took some books home with me to read during my week off but I didn't get much reading done at all. I was kind of hoping to make it to 150 books by the end of the year but I really slowed down this month. I'm not sure if that was due to other distractions or just picking books that didn't hold my attention. This week I need to finalize my pick for First Book of the Year. I may just have to go with one of the books I'm currently reading. I'd planned to finish both before the new year but I don't know if that will happen!

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#Fitreaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

I am still trying to get the hang of using my FitBit One (if you want to add me as a friend, I'm c_thurairatnam at hotmail dot com), which I started wearing on Wednesday evening after I got it charged. I really want to get the FitBit Charge HR (it seems more convenient and I like the heart rate feature) so maybe I'll save up for that next year and alternate devices. If I had eaten healthy, I'd be happy with my exercise amount but as I was indulging in cookies and candy and cheesecake, this is not a very good week!

Wednesday--4,242 steps walked on the treadmill
Thursday--7,478 steps, walked on the treadmill
Friday--4,739 steps, walked a mile
Saturday--2,258 steps

Last week on my blog:

A Winter Wedding by Brenda Novak (review)
Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal (review)

Books read:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster
Don't worry--no spoilers here!

I've enjoyed some of the other novelizations of Star Wars movies but this one wasn't very well written. It did have some scenes not in the movie so I did gain something from reading it but the writing style didn't really expand much on the script. I'd recommend borrowing this from the library instead of purchasing and definitely see the movie first!

Currently reading:

The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown

This book is really cute and a nice holiday read but it is a little slow. I guess that is in keeping with the cozy village setting!

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

I really like this YA contemporary so far. It is thought provoking. The story is told from the perspective of Belinda, a young woman with disabilities who was accosted at a football game and Emily, another student at the school who saw what happened but didn't do enough to help (she thought someone else would come to Belinda's rescue). 

What I might read next:

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

I've heard this is really good but also sad (it deals with early onset dementia and the protagonist is in her late 30s like me). I'm not sure if I want this to be my first book of 2016 or if I want to go with something not as heavy.

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

The premise of this book reminds me of both Ink and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes and other similar fantasy novels. One blogger said it is a little like the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy which is a favorite of mine.

How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I can't believe Christmas is here already! Today will be spent making candy and truffles and then going to the Christmas Eve service at church. Tomorrow I will be heading to my sister's house with my parents for lunch.

Have a blessed holiday! 
I wish you a joyful Christmas and safe travels! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Published: October 27, 2015

In this latest riveting mystery from Susan Elia MacNeal, England’s most daring spy, Maggie Hope, travels across the pond to America, where a looming scandal poses a grave threat to the White House and the Allied cause.

December 1941. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C., along with special agent Maggie Hope. Posing as his typist, she is accompanying the prime minister as he meets with President Roosevelt to negotiate the United States’ entry into World War II. When one of the First Lady’s aides is mysteriously murdered, Maggie is quickly drawn into Mrs. Roosevelt’s inner circle—as ER herself is implicated in the crime. Maggie knows she must keep the investigation quiet, so she employs her unparalleled skills at code breaking and espionage to figure out who would target Mrs. Roosevelt, and why. What Maggie uncovers is a shocking conspiracy that could jeopardize American support for the war and leave the fate of the world hanging dangerously in the balance.

My review:

Just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill visited the United States to meet with President Roosevelt about America entering the war. Using this historic event, Susan Elia MacNeal also examines race in the United States at that time and Eleanor Roosevelt's involvement with civil rights, a view which does not make her popular with some Americans. When her secretary dies of what initially appears as a suicide and a note is found that portrays Mrs. Roosevelt in a negative light, Maggie steps in to help. Who killed the secretary and plans to destroy Mrs. Roosevelt's reputation? Is it someone who want to hamper the war effort or is it related to civil rights? 

Maggie has now recovered from her time in the field in Germany. Now she is trying to rebuild her relationship with John Sterling which is stilted and complicated by their busy schedules. She also has to deal with some emotional issues over her missing half-sister and her mother, who is involved in some intrigue herself. Maggie shows that she is still resourceful but this investigation is not as thrilling as in previous mysteries. Readers find out who the killer is towards the beginning of the novel which really diminishes the suspense.

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante is an interesting look at a fascinating historical figure and the events of that time. I think the author does a good job of portraying not only Winston Churchill but also Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. The setting and historical details add to the story.  While I would have liked more suspense in the plot, I overall enjoyed this Christmas-set mystery. Maggie is an intelligent and brave heroine and I look forward to reading more of her adventures.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: A Winter Wedding

A Winter Wedding
By Brenda Novak
Published: October 27, 2015

One Christmas can change your life…

Kyle Houseman believes he'll never find anyone he could love as much as Olivia Arnold, who's now married to his stepbrother. Not only did he lose her, he's been through one divorce and has no desire to go through another. He's determined to be extra careful about the next woman he gets involved with—which is why he fights his attraction to the beautiful stranger who rents his farmhouse for the Christmas holiday.

Lourdes Bennett is a country music artist. She's only planning to stay in Whiskey Creek long enough to write the songs for her next album—the album that's going to put her back on top. Her dreams don't include settling in a town even smaller than the one she escaped. But as she comes to know Kyle, she begins to wonder if she'd be making a terrible mistake to leave him behind…

My review:

This is the final book in the Whiskey Creek series and readers finally get to see Kyle get a happy ending and overcome his longtime feelings for ex-girlfriend and sister-in-law Olivia. When Lourdes Bennett rents a home from him for Christmas, Kyle is drawn to her but she is involved with someone else. Things get a little more complicated when the heat doesn't work in the rental property so Lourdes has to move in with Kyle and then her relationship starts having trouble. Kyle is a nice guy, perhaps too nice to his ex-wife Noelle (Olivia's messed up sister). For years Noelle has had her claws in him and manipulated him to giving her what she wants to keep the peace. Kyle will have to break free of Noelle and his past with Olivia if he wants a chance with Lourdes.

Lourdes is struggling with her career and trying to write a new album while fighting her feelings for Kyle. A romance with him would be a bad idea since she knows she'll have to leave in the end. Lourdes and Kyle both have obstacles to overcome and they also have to try to keep her presence in town a secret. I liked this Christmas and country music themed romance.  While some of the other titles in the series definitely packed more of an emotional punch, A Winter Wedding is a pleasant quick read with likable characters and even a little bit of suspense. It wraps up the series nicely though I think readers could read it as a standalone (I'd recommend at least reading the e-book novella When We Touch which introduces Olivia, Noelle and Kyle first). 

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Post (33) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Merry Christmas! I spent a fun weekend with my sister and now I'm staying with my parents till after Christmas. My sister and her husband and I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I thought it was amazing. I loved seeing the original characters and really liked the new characters too. I definitely plan to see it again while it's still in theaters. It wasn't all about Star Wars of course. I also enjoyed spending time with my sister and my furry nieces and furry nephew (cat, sheepadoodle puppy and goldendoodle). Saturday was our family Christmas at an Indian restaurant with really good food. Definitely worth the hour drive. Now I plan to relax, watch cheesy holiday movies and bake with my mom. She is hoping to make a yule log for Christmas, something she did years ago when I was a kid.

Did you go and see the new Star Wars movie yet? What did you think of it?

If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very Merry Christmas! I have a few reviews scheduled for this week but other than that I plan to take the time off from my blog to just be with my family.

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#Fitreaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About 

I didn't get to exercise that much this past week. I wasn't very motivated and had a couple of rough mornings where my GERD was bothering me so exercise was the very last thing I felt like doing. I will try to work out on my vacation (my mom and dad have a treadmill) but I make no promises! I did order a Fitbit One (finally!) which will be arriving tomorrow so that will hopefully help to motivate me.

Sunday--walked 1 mile
Monday--walked 1 mile
Tuesday--walked 1/2 mile

Last week on my blog:

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins, et al. (review)

Books read:

My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis

This is the second novel in the Cedar Ridge series about the Kincaid brothers. I had a hard time connecting with the characters in this one or really caring about their romance. 

Currently reading:

The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown

I like this story so far though I haven't read very much of it. The heroine is left at the altar when her fiance runs away with her twin sister and when her job is also in danger, she decides to visit a friend in a charming village where she also finds a new chance at love.

What I might read next:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

I have enjoyed reading the novelizations of Star Wars movies in the past so I decided to get this one too. I have seen some mixed reviews of it but hopefully I'll like it anyway.

New books received:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (purchased)

Downton Abbey: A Celebration by Jessica Fellowes (library book)

The Hundred Gifts by Jennifer Scott (library book)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave To Me
By: Stephanie Perkins, et al.
Published: October 14, 2014

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you're going to fall in love with My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers (Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de La Peña, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Tayler and Kiersten White), edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

My review:

This anthology really does offer something for everyone. There are stories of contemporary romance, paranormal romance and even some slightly darker tales. I think my favorite stories are the Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (a young woman and the friend she is romantically interested in and how every New Year's Eve she hopes he will kiss her at midnight), Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena (a struggling young college student is cat sitting over Christmas break during a blizzard when he meets a girl who lives upstairs) and The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (a beautifully written and unique story with a paranormal twist). I also particularly enjoyed the stories by Stephanie Perkins, Kiersten White and Myra McEntire.

Really all of the stories are excellent with maybe one or two exceptions. I admit that I was a little disappointed by Jenny Han's short story about a human teen living at the North Pole (was too juvenile for my taste) and Ally Carter's story which I just expected more from as a big fan of her novels. Holly Black's Krampuslauf was a weird story but I'd never heard of the Krampus before so I learned something new :)

Overall though this is a great collection and a perfect reading choice for the holiday season and a good introduction to a variety of popular YA authors. I only wish the stories were longer! 

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (170)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Release date: February 2, 2016

With shades of Game of Thrones and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a tale of love, lies, and vengeance. Fans of Kristin Cashore and Rae Carson will devour the flawlessly crafted action and inventive world building.
Seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana is a trained assassin. She was born into one of the nine clipper Families in the kingdom of Lovero who lawfully take lives for a price. As a member of the highest-ranking clan, loyalty to Family is valued above all, but that doesn't stop Lea from getting into a secret relationship with Val Da Via, a boy from a rival clan. Despite her better judgment, Lea has fallen in love with him; but she's confident she can anticipate any threat a mile away.

Then she awakens one night to a house full of smoke. Although she narrowly escapes, she isn't able to save her Family as their home is consumed by flames. With horror, she realizes that Val and his Family are the only ones who could be responsible. Devastated over his betrayal and the loss of her clan, there's just one thing on her mind: making the Da Vias pay. The heart of this assassin craves revenge.

While I doubt this book will be like Game of Thrones, it still sounds really good. I like a good assassin novel.  :)

I'll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable
Release date: February 9, 2016

Michelle Gable's I'll See You in Paris winds together the lives of three women born generations apart, but who face similar struggles of love and heartbreak.

After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they'll go to Paris, where the city's magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.

Thirty years later, Laurel's daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie's father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie's told herself it doesn't matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won't Laurel tell her the truth?

The key to unlocking Laurel's secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie's quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last.

I didn't read A Paris Apartment (which I've heard is really good) but this sounds fascinating. The Duchess of Marlborough, Gladys Spencer-Churchill was married to Winston Churchill's first cousin.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Books Read in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten New to Me Authors I Read in 2015".

I always wish this topic would be used at the end of the year as we still have a few weeks of 2015 left and I may read some amazing books before the end of the year.

Top ten books for adults:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

If I had to pick just one book that is my favorite read of the year, The Nightingale would be it. It is such an emotional story. I think it is Kristin Hannah's best book.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

This book made my list last week for top ten new to me authors. I loved the historical detail and the writing style and I think the book is still timely.

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

I knew when I read this that it would make my top ten list for 2015. The funny thing is that even though I'd heard of it before it was published, I hadn't planned on reading it till I was looking for newer books for my book group to discuss. I am so glad we read it! I think readers who loved The Help would really like this too.

Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

I thought this prequel to Teatime for the Firefly is even better than the first book. I loved the setting and Biren, especially as a kid who just wanted to help people. He is quite a character.

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Although it's not as good as The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, I really liked this novel about the plight of refugees and the prejudice and hardship they face.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

This novel is a foodie's delight and also perfect for fans of movies like You've Got Mail. I loved the food descriptions and the fun cast of characters.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Who would have thought a book about a grumpy man would make me laugh so much? I really enjoyed this novel and seeing how Ove's life was changed because of some caring neighbors with boundary issues. The sarcastic sense of humor really appealed to me too.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

This is a fun novel inspired by the real life relationship of Kate Middleton and Prince William. It also reminded me of The Prince and Me

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This was such an emotional and powerful story. The author does a good job of putting you in the shoes of someone with early onset Alzheimer's Disease and also showing how it affects loved ones.

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack

This novel touched a personal chord with me as it deals with alopecia. It stood out to me because it is more than a Regency romance. The novel really allows the characters to grow and develop from who they are at the beginning which makes the happy ending so much more satisfying.

Top ten books for teens:

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Having read a couple of her Morganville Vampire novels, I wasn't sure what to expect of this fantasy novel about a world where printed books are illegal but I was blown away by it. There are high stakes and losses and interesting characters including one that reminded me of Severus Snape. I can't wait for the next book!

Winter by Marissa Meyer

The final book in the Lunar Chronicles brought the series to a satisfying end. I loved these novels and was so happy that Winter didn't disappoint. I remember how hesitant I was to pick up Cinder when it was first published because I didn't care for the cover and wasn't sure that I'd like reading about a science fiction version of Cinderella with a cyborg but boy was I wrong!

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace 

I was so pleased with this debut fantasy novel. It reminded me in a good way of Falling Kingdoms and even The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. I loved the world building and the action and the complicated characters. I can't wait to get my hands on book two!

The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas 

This is the final book in a top notch YA fantasy series that I highly recommend (unless you don't like romance at all because that is part of the storyline). I think it is great when the last book in a trilogy is just as good as the first. 

All the Rage by Courtney Summers 

All the Rage was definitely an emotional and thought provoking book. Romy was date raped but when she went to the authorities, the town pretty much turned on her because the rapist was a popular jock and the son of the town sheriff. Romy is regularly bullied but no one does anything to stop it. The book makes for pretty grim reading but it is important and there is a ray of hope in the end.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord 

I loved Emery Lord's debut, Open Road Summer, and I thought this was fantastic too. Paige is grieving the loss of her boyfriend the year before but she has decided to tackle the new school year with a list of things to do to show everyone that she is just fine and moving forward with her life. Her list includes going on a date, trying something new and overcoming something she fears. I really enjoyed seeing Paige make new friends and try new things.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler 

This novel is inspired by the Steubenville rape case and other similar stories. I thought the author did a good job of writing the book in a thoughtful way that makes the reader question things and it never once felt like an "after-school special"

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski 

The Winner's Crime is an excellent follow up to the first book in the series, The Winner's Curse. I love the politics and the intrigue and action and this one ended with a shocking cliffhanger. 

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson 

Although I prefer the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, I really liked this first book in her new series in an alternate Old West during the Gold Rush. Lost of historical detail and the Oregon trail added to the appeal for me and the fantasy element is light so it's a good choice for those who are hesitant about fantasy.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

There was a lot of hype about this one before it was published and thankfully it lives up to it. I liked Willowdean and her sassy and unapologetic attitude.