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Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

My apologies for posting this TTT so late – it took a surprising amount of time and effort to round up all of these amazing titles. Before you view the photos, you need to know that I am a book hoarder. If you don’t believe me, this slideshow presentation should alleviate any doubt. I tried to keep the focus on the authors I’ve actually read the most books from, not just collected. I think my collection of Mercedes Lackey, Terry Brooks, and Anne McCaffrey books might surpass a couple of these here, but I haven’t had a chance to read them all yet… #booknerdproblems 

Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From!

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I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my library. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Escape Reality Book Club – August 2014 Nominations!

Escape reality book club

Hosted by The Obsessive Bookseller

The Escape Reality Book Club is monthly feature where members take turns nominating the Young Adult titles they most want to read. We started it because we love geeking out about books, and knew a lot of other people who liked to too. This is a very low-pressure book club where anybody is invited to join. All you have to do is click here to be directed to our official Facebook page and asked to join the group. We host meetings here in Southern Utah, but all of you out-of-towners are invited to participate in a facebook book club meeting (which I will host if anyone shows interest).

August’s Nominations (via Charlotte):

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Unwind

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives. The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

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I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

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How to Ditch Your Fairy

Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eye, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit.

For 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all—especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, it isn’t at all what she thought it would be like, and she’ll have resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment? From the author of the acclaimed Magic or Madness trilogy, this is a delightful story of fairies, friendships, and figuring out how to make your own magic.

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Slammed

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope. Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.

Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

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Night of the Howling Dogs

DYLAN’S SCOUT TROOP goes camping in Halape, a remote spot below the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The only thing wrong with the weekend on a beautiful, peaceful beach is Louie, a tough older boy. Louie and Dylan just can’t get along. That night an earthquake rocks the camp, and then a wave rushes in, sweeping everyone and everything before it. Dylan and Louie must team up on a dangerous rescue mission. The next hours are an amazing story of survival and the true meaning of leadership.

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Bloodlines

Sydney is an alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect vampire secrets – and human lives. When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she’s still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir – the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir – is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill’s guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the last place anyone would think to look for vampire royalty – a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. But instead of finding safety at Amberwood Prep, Sydney discovers the drama is only just beginning…

Which book would you like to read?

 

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Chronicles of an Obsessive Bookblogger: The Book Review Conundrum

chronicles of an obsessive bookblogger

The Book Review Conundrum:

Today I’d like to discuss book reviews: specifically 1) my reviewing process and how it has changed over the last two years 2) my alternating problem with having either too many or too few books to review, and 3) my battle with publishing impatience. I know these sound like they could be individual topics, but they’re all things I struggle with whenever I try to improve my blogging experience (and that of my readers).

The Book Review Evolutionary Process

When I started this blog two years ago, I was posting a book review every other day. When I finished a book, it got written about immediately. Even I can’t read THAT fast (unless I’m exclusively reading YA), so I supplemented the reviews with my book review journal – which contained a hefty arsenal of books read before I started the blog. It’s how I kept track of books before I discovered blogging. I’d even go as far as to print out little pictures of the covers to tape inside. Anyway, when I ran out of current titles, I just pulled out that journal and transcribed the pages into posts.

Even while “cheating” with older reviews, posting every other day was a lot of work… perhaps too much. I was also at risk of overwhelming my audience. So to avoid burnout and unnecessarily inundating my readers, I took a chill pill and switched over to reviewing two times per week rather than three or four.

Too Far Ahead of the Game

Now, reviewing feels more free and easy – I write them when I feel like it. The downside to this newfound freedom is that sometimes the posts just don’t happen. I went from posting around fifteen reviews a month to seven or less. This is a change I think both my readers and I are happy with, but it did create a problem I never thought I’d have: too many books to review and not enough time… and it’s only getting worse.

I can remember several week stints in which I had trouble reading enough books to sustain my goal of two fresh reviews per week (as opposed to ones taken from the pre-blog journal). But now I’m reading more per week than ever before and am getting completely buried under TBReviewed titles. I can think of worse blogging catastrophes, for sure, but seriously, I now have have seventeen, I repeat SEVENTEEN unreviewed books from this year alone. If I don’t get inspired and post a review right after I’ve read a book, there’s a good chance the review is from a book read in February or March… It’s July. #fail.

At least I don’t feel at risk of forgetting how I felt about the book – I take thorough notes, and I have decent recall of everything I’ve read (within the last ten years, anyway). Every once in a while, I struggle with regaining my emotional reaction to a book, but a quick skim through usually brings it all back. Furthermore, not all reviews have to wait in line. I usually post reviews for 5-star books soon after reading them because, frankly, I just can’t wait to talk about them (has anybody who has followed me for a while wondered why I’ve reviewed so many 5-star books lately? Granted, I’ve been really good at picking titles, but I haven’t been that good, haha). In a way, this method has served me well because my excited “just finished the book” feelings gets poured into those reviews – usually making them better. I should also mention that I always post right away for “obligation” books (ARCs) and ones I REALLY didn’t like (which are few and far between). It’s the middle of the road titles that I find difficult to make time for.

All Is Not Lost!

So you ask, why don’t you just write reviews when you have the time then schedule them for a later date? I think it’s a great idea, but haven’t been able to do it. I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s like this, but once I write a review, I want to share it… immediately. It’s this crazy impulse to hit “publish” even if it means sharing two, possibly even three posts a day. If I don’t publish it right away, it hangs over my head and actually stresses me out more than if I’d just waited until the last minute to write it (this is the only place in my life where that sentiment is true – I’m usually a very “get it done now so you can play later” type of person).

I guess my point in all this is that I am fighting annoyance with how far behind in reviews I am while simultaneously trying not to set myself up for blogging burnout. I have yet to experience burnout of any kind, thankfully, and I think that has a lot to do with stress-reducing adjustments I’ve made along the way. Although I have occasionally felt a mite stressed to get something out on time, I haven’t ever felt like I need a break longer than just a couple of days. It’s essential for me to keep blogging fun because it’s something I’m truly passionate about. Avoiding burnout will be even more important going forward as I am working on several self-motivated projects that require me to sit in front of the computer screen all day (writing a book while starting a magazine… i.e. topics for another post). On the bright side, I can stop reading for several months and still have material to blog about (yeah, like that will ever happen). :)

Am I Alone?

How often per week do you write book reviews? Has it changed since you started blogging? Do you find yourself behind in your reviews or constantly struggling to finish ones to write about?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steel heartTitle: Steelheart

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: The Reckoners #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

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The Review:

I really liked Steelheart, which is awesome because I wasn’t totally convinced I was going to. You see, even though it’s a Sanderson (a HUGE endorsement in itself) I was afraid I’d find the comic book storyline too cheesy. While the book constantly straddled that line, I never felt like I was reading something juvenile. Not to say that I didn’t roll my eyes on occasion, but only because the main character kept using these ridiculous metaphors (which I thought was a brilliant character quirk) that were so bad they were good, if that makes sense.

Overall, Steelheart was just plain fun to read. And it was different from anything I’ve read before. The book was fast-paced and action-packed, with good guys you can really get behind and a villains who are fun to hate. I will say, though, I did find it a mite predictable. In fact, all of the members who attended March’s Escape Reality Book Club meeting agreed that Steelheart was highly predictable. The interesting thing is that none of us predicted the exact same twists to the plot. They noticed things that I didn’t and vice versa. What this says to me is that the book has to be a lot more complex than we originally gave it credit for because of the sheer number of opportunities we all had to predict things. That also makes our predictions a lot less impressive – we were bound to be right some of the time, right?

The bottom line is, there were a lot of elements to this book, which is a big reason why I enjoyed reading it so much. All of that thinking ahead and trying to figure out what was going to happen invested me in the story and made it feel more… interactive. I know some people had trouble getting into it, but I was hooked right from the very beginning by what I consider to be superb storytelling. I am eager to find out what happens next in Firefight when it comes out in January!

Sanderson has yet to disappoint, and every new novel sends him higher and higher on my favorite author list. I have not yet read a book from him that I didn’t like – the writing, story, world-building, and characters are always superb. Steelheart was no exception!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

dead heatTitle: Dead Heat

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Alpha & Omega #4

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Release Date: March 3, 2015

The Overview: Praised as “the perfect blend of action, romance, suspense and paranormal,”* the Alpha and Omega novels transport readers into the realm of the werewolf, where Charles Cornick and Anna Latham embody opposite sides of the shifter personality. Now, a pleasure trip drops the couple into the middle of some bad supernatural business… For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way… Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

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Hosted by Breaking the Spine

 Even though I absolutely love the Mercy Thompson series, I didn’t immediately get on board with Alpha and Omega. That is, until Fair Game came out last year and rocked my world. It is easily one of my favorites from Briggs but also a favorite from the genre as a whole. Because it was that good, I can’t help but hope Dead Heat is just as amazing. March can’t come too soon! If you haven’t had the pleasure to read Patricia Briggs, she is my number one recommendation for both urban fantasy lovers and those wanting to try the genre (start with Moon Called).

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Series I’d Take With Me on a Deserted Island

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I’ve modified this week’s topic a bit because the original (Top Ten Characters I take on a Deserted Island) definitely would’ve been a mix of my Top Ten Book Boyfriends and my Top Ten Favorite Female Characters so I decided to take a different route entirely and present my:

Top Ten Series I’d Take With Me on a Deserted Island

Kind of a hodgepodge, isn’t it? These titles represent my lengthier book favorites across a few different genres. While series length doesn’t necessarily coincide with excellent books (although there is a relation… authors who write better tend to get longer publishing deals), I decided to be strategic with my choices and take the series that provided the most long-term enjoyment. It pains me not to bring some of the shorter ones, but I think I’d get tired of them sooner. I should clarify that if a saga consists of multiple series, I’m counting them as one as long as they have continuity. That might be considered cheating, but I don’t care – I want to bring ALL the books.

What series would you take? :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

the jewelTitle: The Jewel

Author: Amy Ewing

Series: The Lone City #1

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring. Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life. Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

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The Review:

As a HUGE fan of the Selection Trilogy (well, the first one, anyway) you can imagine how excited I was when The Jewel popped up on my radar a couple of months ago. Whenever a new book draws my attention, I’m always nervous it won’t live up to my expectations. In this case, however, The Jewel was even better than I expected it to be!

It had most of the same elements as the Selection, but in my opinion took all of them to a higher level. The world-building was robust – maybe not quite on the level of adult genres, but interesting just the same. The conflicts were excellent – driving the story forward and keeping my attention the entire time. Even though the specific conflicts Violet dealt with weren’t totally relatable (as many women probably haven’t been forced to carry someone else’s child), her emotional reactions to them certainly were, making parts of this book downright heart-wrenching.

But great world-building and conflicts wouldn’t mean a thing without the interesting characters within them. Even though I never felt Ewing was withholding information unnecessarily (a huge pet peeve of mine), I still don’t know everything about the characters that I’d like to. They all had such depth and complexity that I feel we’ve only just scratched the surface of their potential in this first book. The desire to learn more about them all is the main reason why I’m chomping at the bit for the sequel (which is over a year away…fml).

I found everything about The Jewel a mite unexpected. The love interest was fantastically unconventional, all of the characters showed duality, the subject matter was slightly more serious than a typical YA, and the plot never followed the route I thought it would. All of these elements were delightful twists that made the book stand out that much more.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed the The Jewel and would strongly recommended to fans of the Selection. Only, I think the novels in this one are only going to get stronger going forward rather than weaker. Add this one to your TBR – you won’t regret it!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

shadow ScaleTitle: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Series: Seraphina  #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: March 10, 2015

The Overview: The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

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Hosted by Breaking the Spine

Seraphina was one of our Escape Reality Book Club picks earlier this year and I’m grateful it finally gave me the chance to read it – I enjoyed it thoroughly. How a book containing dragons managed to escape my attention for so long is beyond me, but  I am happy I only have to wait a year to pick up the sequel  (it’s been a long time in the making). Seraphina provided a different take on dragons and I quite like where the story is headed. While this won’t be at the top of my list of have-to-have books next spring, I’ll definitely still want a copy.

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Top Movies and TV Shows!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

That’s right, bookish people do have interests outside of reading… cinematic adaptations of books count, right? ;)

Niki’s Top Movies and TV Shows!

Movies:

Epic. That one word sums up pretty much everything I loved about these three films. Add that to the gorgeous visuals of the world building and the overall fantasy feel, and I am in love. I could watch the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy all day every day… it’s my favorite.

While I love fantasy epics, I also will always hold dear these animated features. As far as animation goes, these are actually pretty different from one another (at least in my mind), which is why all three of them landed on the list – I consider them the best in their categories.

 I am a sucker for romantic comedies but not the slapstick crude ones that seem to have been flooding the market for the last five years. Call me crazy, but I don’t think a romantic comedy has to be overdone (or outright stupid) to be entertaining. Lucky Seven is one I don’t think many people have heard of, but I love the story (and Patrick Dempsey). While You Were Sleeping and Dirty Dancing are my mom’s favorites and somewhere along the way they’ve become mine too.

TV Shows:

All of these I have discovered it within the last year and oh my gosh I can’t get enough! I am patiently waiting for the second season of the Bitten, am almost ready to watch Serenity, and am in the middle of season two of Battlestar… I want to know why I haven’t bothered watching them before now – they’re crazy good!

 I can’t even put into words why I love Gilmore Girls so much. I’ve watched the season countless times but every time I do I fall in love all over again. White Collar is one that I’ve discovered within the last year and there’s not a thing I don’t like about it. I’ve always been fascinated with crime-solving shows but have been too squeamish to actually watch them. White Collar has all the mystery without the gore. Picture a television version of Oceans Eleven – awesome, right? And of course I couldn’t have a TV list without mentioning Friends – it was such a big part of my life for so long that it will always be one of the greats.

  Gargoyles is an incredible animated show that I love for the story (and, in part, the nostalgia). It’s one of those that I think is entertaining for adults while still being appropriate for kids. So You Think You Can Dance is easily my favorite competition show – I love dance. Vampire Diaries was my favorite show for the longest time (team Damon, baby!), but I’m sad to admit my excitement for it has diminished within this last season… I still stand by the first three or four seasons, though.

 After composing this list, I realized that my movie/TV preferences really aren’t that different from my reading preferences. I like epic science-fiction/fantasy, love stories, and humor. I’m nothing else if not consistent . :-)

What movies/shows made your list?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinderTitle: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Series: Lunar Chronicles #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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The Review:

I’d always intended to read Cinder, but it wasn’t very high up on my priority list. Then the blogosphere exploded after the third book, Cress, was released at the beginning of the year. I swear it was a solid three months of rave reviews left and right. Thinking this series was a trilogy (it’s not), Cress was going to be the last installment (it’s not), and wondering what I was missing out on, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. From what I can tell, most people enjoyed the first book and then went on to absolutely love the second and the third. Having read (and liked) Cinder, I can definitely see the potential it has to go somewhere amazing.

First of all, the concept for the story was out of this world. I am definitely not a fan of fairytale retellings, but found this one oddly compelling because it had so many unique twists. Even though the story is a classic and I already knew where it was heading, Meyer made it feel new and exciting at every turn. If the cyborg twist wasn’t cool enough, then the “alien” Lunars and the beginnings of an apocalyptical pandemic certainly tipped it over the edge. Even though it stayed true to all the classic fairytale elements of Cinderella, it always felt like I was reading a detail-rich urban fantasy… I loved it.

You wouldn’t think a girl who is half human, half machine would’ve been relatable, but Cinder was honestly the best part of the story. I liked her from the first page and was totally invested throughout the whole book. Although she was in tough situations, she was anything but a simpering little girl. I love how resourceful, compassionate, and brave she was and sincerely hope she has a strong role in the next two books.

Overall, I really enjoyed Cinder and am looking forward to continuing on a series. I can honestly say it’s unlike anything I’ve read before, so Meyer gets some major originality kudos. If you’re a fan of YA and Urban Fantasy, check this one out – it’s an awesome hybrid of the two.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes