2021 Books Read

I had an exceptional year of books read. According to my Goodreads challenge, I read 90 and this doesn’t include the beta reading I did for author friends. I typically read across three genres: Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), and adult.

By the Numbers

Pages read: 28,001

Average pages per book: 311

Longest book read: HUNGER by Michael Grant (590 pages)

MG books read: 26

YA books read: 44

Full series read: 7

For me, I find that when writing MG (which I was for most of this year), I gravitate more toward YA books for my leisure reads. However, 2021 was a FANTASTIC year for Middle Grade books! So many good ones! A few of my favorites include:

  • Fright Watch (The Collectors & The Stitchers) by Lorien Lawrence
  • Amari & the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston
  • Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley
  • Sol Invictus by Ben Gartner
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T Kingfisher
  • Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko
  • Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRocca
  • What Lives in the Woods by Lindsey Currie
  • The Verdigris Pawn by Alysa Wishingrad

If you’d like to see the full list of the books I read this year, it’s HERE.

Book Review: “Falling & Uprising” by Natalie Cammaratta

Plus insight into book two: SCATTERED & BREAKING

I love a good YA dystopian book, and FALLING & UPRISING, the debut novel from Natalie Cammaratta did not disappoint! Told in alternating POV, the story  follows socialite Serenity and marshal Bram as they navigate a society built on lies and the revolution that has been brewing for many years. 

Everyone in Kaycie knows that their city is the last dry haven for humans. Kaycians enjoy a life of prosperity, safety, and glamour. Serenity thinks she has it all, until she learns the truth. The Establishment has lied to its citizens.

Other islands exist, their main purpose being to provide goods and labor to the glittering city of Kaycie. There is a major imbalance and people from the islands are suffering. Young people taken from their families, their memories erased, and forced into zombie-like service as marshals in Kaycie. 

When Serenity learns the truth and is offered a chance to make a difference, she takes it—much to Bram’s surprise. He’s known the truth for a long time, having been born on one of the other islands and rescued by Sophos, Serenity’s mentor and one of the revolution’s key leaders.

FALLING & UPRISING has a nice balance of dystopia, sci-fi tech, and YA glamour. I found myself immersed in Cammaratta’s vivid details—I would love some of the fabulous clothing worn by Serenity and her best friend Vogue. The story moved well, and I never felt bogged down with techno-babble.

The connection between Serenity and Bram worked for me. I liked their prickly beginnings and enjoyed watching the two very different personalities find common ground and respect for each other. Serenity’s attraction and relationship with Jase, another member of their revolutionary team, had a few sizzling moments and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with those two in the next book. 

The reader is left hanging a bit at the end as there is another book coming. However, many threads are tied up nicely, but I found myself saying—WAIT! MORE! I wanted to continue reading and will be anxiously awaiting the next book!

And guess what? I got to read book two!

Scattered & Breaking by Natalie Cammaratta

I was thrilled when Natalie offered to send me an ARC of SCATTERED & BREAKING! Yes, I actually squealed and there may have been some bouncing/dancing about.

Here are some of my thoughts:

It sucked me in from page one! Seriously. I didn’t want to stop reading.

Being back with Bram, Serenity, Vogue, and friends was so much fun, but boy are they dealing with a LOT.

Book two picks up after the uprising and deals with the fallout, lies, and corruption that entangles each of the characters as well as their friends and family. The islands are splintered, the sea water has receded, and there is another enemy at the gates.

SCATTERED & BREAKING is a deep dive into this dystopian’s world’s political intrigue, twisted family dynamics, and the determined group fighting to make things right.

The book kept me turning pages, the action fast, but Natalie also gives the reader deliciously tender moments where we suck in a breath and just go “oh.”

It’s about relationships, the good, bad, and the very bad. But there also is hope. However, hold on when you’re reading SCATTERED & BREAKING because it’s a ride! And not everyone makes it out.

I’m am so ready for this story to continue!

Where To Find These Books:

To get a copy of FALLING & UPRISING and to preorder a copy of SCATTERED & BREAKING, please go visit author Natalie Cammaratta at her site: nataliecammarattabooks.com/books.

You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

SCATTERED & BREAKING releases on December 29, 2021.

You’ve got plenty of time to read FALLING & UPRISING first & then dive right into the SCATTERED & BREAKING. I highly recommend BOTH.

Back on the Bookshelf

Last Act by Christopher Pike

Several years ago I downsized my book collection, and then regretted that action. Not right away. At first, it was like, “Oh hey look at all this lovely bookshelf space” and I took the opportunity to add new books to the shelves.

Fast forward to about three years ago when I found “Until the End” the trilogy that is Christopher Pike’s three books “The Party”, “The Dance”, and “The Graduation.”

“Until the End” by Christopher Pike

Once I reread it, I wanted the other Christopher Pike books that I had let go, but I wanted them with the original covers that I had as a kid. I’ve been on the hunt ever since. Antique shops are a great place to find books like this, and I’ve added “Chain Letter” and “Remember Me” to my collection.

But the one I really wanted was LAST ACT. And now I finally have it. It arrived today — I ordered it online from a bookseller, because I could not find it in any of the used bookstores or antique shops that I’ve explored.

It’s been a couple of decades since I read LAST ACT and I’m looking forward to the reread. Will it be nostalgic? Probably. Will it be as good as preteen Barb remembers? Maybe not, but you never know. I’m still looking forward to it.

Do You Read Every Day?

Recently, someone asked me if I read every day, and I said, yes.

They seemed surprised. So I asked them if they watched TV or a movie every day.

They said yes, and seemed surprised that I’d ask that.

I said I don’t see any difference between picking up a book and reading for 30 minutes or sitting down and watching a sitcom for the same amount of time. I like to read. I also like to watch TV shows, movies, and other programming. But I usually feel like I relax more when I read.

I don’t think reading every day is strange, just as I don’t think watching TV daily is strange. Or listening to music.

My copy (with original cover) First book in the GONE series.

Reading makes me happy (most of the time). So yes, I do read every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

What am I reading right now? The GONE series by Michael Grant. It’s a reread for me, and I’m currently on book three: LIES. It’s a YA series that can be quite disturbing in parts, but it’s one of my favorites because of its complexities.

I have a few other books that I will be starting soon, in particular an ARC that I’m excited to read (keep an eye out for a post about that) and a beta read of an MG book written by one of my critique partners.

If you need me, I’ll be over here writing and always reading.

What Am I Reading?

I started reading The Shadow War by Lindsay Smith today. I’m about 100 pages in and loving it. This young adult novel is an alternate history story described as:

Inglourious Basterds meets Stranger Things in this dark and thrilling tale of power, shadow, and revenge set during World War II.

The first pages completely sucked me in and I’m anxious to see where it’s all going to go. I’ll let you know my final thoughts when I’ve finished. In the meantime, I highly recommend hopping over to author Lindsay Smith‘s site and checking out this book and her other work.

Book Review: The Traitor’s Kingdom by Erin Beaty

“Outside, the world was full of assassins, bitter politics, and the threat of war, but her, in this one place, for one night, everything was perfect.”

Chapter 65, page 310 of The Traitor’s Kingdom

The Traitor’s Kingdom by Erin Beaty is the final book in The Traitor’s trilogy that begins with The Traitor’s Kiss and The Traitor’s Ruin. You can read my review of The Traitor’s Ruin here.

As trilogies go, this one kept me interested and I anxiously awaited the final book. The Traitor’s Kingdom didn’t disappoint—it’s exciting, well-written, and offers a more-than-satisfying conclusion to the story of Sage Fowler.

From author Erin Beaty’s website:

A new queen under threat. 

An ambassador with a desperate scheme. 

Two kingdoms with everything to lose.

Sage Fowler has evolved from matchmaker’s assistant to ambassador representing Demora. She’s traveled far from home, fallen in love, and sacrificed much for her kingdom. Book three opens with Sage working on her duties as an ambassador, keeping up with combat training, and pining for her beloved, Major Alex Quinn.

Author Beaty quickly launches the reader into the political intrigue that readers will be familiar with from the first two books in this trilogy. The one thing that The Traitor’s trilogy doesn’t lack is intrigue, double-crosses, and action. Sage has grown up in this final book, but she’s still just as gutsy and stubborn. I like her in the role of ambassador and wish the book would have had more Sage. I sometimes found the segments featuring the soldiers to be less interesting and I was anxious to get back to whatever Sage was doing.

I liked the introduction of the new queen and her storyline. It was also interesting to watch Clare develop even further and how she deals with her sister. Overall, I thought The Traitor’s Kingdom was a good conclusion to the trilogy. It had enough twists to keep me guessing, but nothing that made me raise an eyebrow because it was too “convenient”. Erin Beaty tells a compelling story and her main characters are definitely likable even when they’re doing things that make me yell at the pages.

The final wrap-up I found to be very satisfying. I really like the endings for Sage and Alex as well as the others. The Traitor’s trilogy is one I’m glad I own, because I definitely will reread it again.

Don’t miss the first two books in Erin Beaty’s The Traitor’s trilogy.


Book Review: The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez

“The truth was so much more X-Files than Lucy could have imagined.” (pg. 177)

Readers looking for a young adult, sci-fi thriller with mystery and even a bit of romance can find it all and more in The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez. The story follows Lucy Phelps, an intelligent 18 year old in the last few weeks of her senior year of high school and the “shocking” information she uncovers about herself, her family, and the legendary Nikola Tesla.

Lucy has epilepsy, or so she’s been told her entire life. Because of that, she’s been sheltered by her parents shunned other kids, especially when she was younger. A budding and brilliant scientist, Lucy just wants to venture out on her own terms and that means getting away to college. She does have the love and support of her best friend Claudia, but things are a bit rocky with her boyfriend Cole. When Lucy accidentally discovers a hidden message in a photograph of her younger self, it leads her into New York City and an experience that will change her life.

After discovering the hidden Tesla room in New York, Lucy has her hands full. She’s promised Claudia she’d help with the lighting design for prom, there’s issues with her boyfriend, she needs to keep working on her science experiment, and there’s also this little (not!) issue of her newfound abilities that involve her ability to manipulate and control electricity. And let’s not forget the handsome new teaching assistant that’s taken an interest in her as well as the two rival, ancient, alchemical societies that each want Lucy for their own agendas.

I enjoyed The Tesla Legacy immensely. It kept me entertained and engaged, even during its science-y moments. For me, there was a nice balance between sci-fi and action as well as between the sci-fi and romantic elements. Lucy is a likable character and I found myself cheering her on as she takes a stand.

Author K. K. Pérez provides enough twists to keep a reader guessing, but not too many where it becomes tedious. I do like that we’re set up for a sequel and when it’s released, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Please go check out the other books by K. K. Pérez at her website and grab a copy of The Tesla Legacy today.

I Love a Good Hashtag! It’s #MuseMondays

Keep an eye out here and on my Instagram & Twitter accounts for weekly additions to #MuseMondays. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite books, authors, music, movies, and more. Inspirations for both my writing and what I grab to read when I want to escape from the daily mundane.

Today, it’s Josephine Angelini’s “Starcrossed”, a young adult trilogy that I’ve read and re-read multiple times. Add it to your TBR list today; it’s a fun twist on traditional Greek mythology.

The “Starcrossed” trilogy by Josephine Angelini

Weekend Reads: March 2

Reading on the weekend is more than just a way to relax, it’s an essential part of my existence. While some people may look forward to heading out to the movie theater on a Friday or Saturday, I begin anticipating and planning my weekend reading around Tuesday morning (usually after a particularly long session completing a freelance project.)

This weekend I’m getting a late start. Freelance commitments, family life, and writing new words in my own WIP, pushed back my weekend reads until now. In addition, I wavered on which book to begin. I seriously was leaning towards rereading Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed trilogy. It’s one of my favorite YA trilogies and if you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it. You can check out my review of the first book here. Angelini’s trilogy focuses on Greek mythology and that seems to be what I’m in the mood for. However, I really wanted to read something that is new to me.

Bingo! Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus series!

My son left the first three books of the series with me several months ago and they’ve sat there in my TBR pile since. I’m excited to begin reading this series, which means this post will not be much longer. The series begins with The Lost Hero, so keep an eye out here for my review of this first book. I’ve got high hopes for it and am ready to dive in.

What are you reading this weekend? Share the titles and/or links in the comments. I’m always looking to add to my TBR list.

Happy reading!

Book Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

“When you know as much as we do, how can you ever decide to just . . . stop? Stop fighting? Stop trying to help? Once you’re in, you can’t turn your back on it.”

(Slayer, by Kiersten White, Chapter 17, page 224)

 

I really liked Slayer by Kiersten White and I say that as a huge fan of both the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie from 1992 and the long-running series—and I did watch all of Angel. I haven’t read the comics or graphic novels, so if you haven’t either, no worries. You won’t be lost, just maybe a bit surprised at few things that have gone down since Buffy, the slayers, and the Scoobies closed the Hellmouth in Sunnydale.

Slayer

Slayer offers a different look at the Buffyverse, centered on what’s left of the Watchers and what happens when the last slayer becomes activated. Set primarily at and near the Watcher’s Academy, not far from Dublin, twins Artemis and Athena have grown up there. Their mother is on the now very small Watcher’s Council (remember the majority of Watchers were blown up?) and their father was a Watcher too.

Before he died. Protecting his slayer. Buffy.

Artemis and Athena, nicknamed Nina, are the only children of Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick.

As children of Watchers, the twins’ lives have definitely not been normal, nor has their education. Artemis has trained in weapons and combat, while Nina has been more protected and has a natural hand (and preference) for healing. They’ve dealt with tragedy throughout their young lives, from the death of their father to the devastating fire that almost killed Nina because their mother chose to save Artemis first.

Their world shifts again after Buffy destroys the Seed of Wonder and magic is purged from the world and all portals and hellmouths are closed. However, moments before it’s destroyed, something happens to Nina. She’s now the last slayer, and she never even knew she was a potential. It comes as a bit of shock, once she finally notices. It takes her a bit.

Slayer combines all the elements I have come to know and love from the Buffyverse and then adds a few twists that, for me, worked. There was ample teen angst, relationship issues, and jealousies flouncing about as well as parental units and Watchers that relentlessly get in the way.

I loved the supporting characters, in particular Cillian and Rhys as well as demon Doug. I never fully warmed up to Artemis, but that’s okay. I don’t think she’s completely likable. Then again, Nina definitely has her moments when you want to slap her upside the head as well—but let’s be truthful, there were times we wanted to slap Buffy too.

Kiersten White plays homage to the original Buffyverse nicely. I particularly enjoyed the dream connections and the interaction Nina gets with both Faith and Buffy. Slayer has plenty of action, the right amount of snark and wit, and plenty of heart. Loved the reveal of the “hunter” at the end and look forward to seeing how this all plays out in future stories.

If you’re a fan of any Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories, then definitely check out Slayer by Kiersten White. Also White is the author of one of my favorite (and often re-read) YA series: The Paranormalcy Series. I highly recommend it, you’ll totally love Evie and she always reminded me a bit of Buffy.

You can check out all Kiersten White’s books at her website: kierstenwrites.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-books

If you’ve never seen the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (and WHY haven’t you?!) take a look-see at it on the IMDb.