Monday, 4 May 2015

On My Radar: Upcoming May Releases

   April was my last month of school, and the month I graduated, so I hope you'll forgive me for not writing up a post for that month. But I am so excited to share May releases with you! Lots of good ones this month--it took little-to-no effort to come with ten books, which is ironic, because I was thinking of cutting back the list to five books. Anyway, without further ado, May's Radar Reads!

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond (May 1)

   The Smallville fangirl in me had a major jaw-drop moment when I saw this book on Goodreads. GUYS IT'S A LOIS LANE NOVEL. Honestly, there isn't much I know about the plot--I didn't bother to read the summary, because all I needed to see were the words LOIS. LANE. NOVEL. and I was sold! Let's hope that this Lois Lane is more Erica Durance than Kate Beckinsale *shudders at the memory of Superman Returns*.

A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (May 5)

    I'm going to come off as a horrible book blogger, because, once again, I didn't read the summary for ACoTaR. All I needed to know was that it was a Sarah J. Maas novel. You know, the author of a little series called Throne of Glass? The creative genius behind Celaena Sardothien? THAT Sarah J. Maas? She could write a thousand page novel on mathematics (Salve's worst subject) and I would STILL read it. I hope she reads this. Hi Sarah. I love you. #SenpaiNoticeMe

(Seriously speaking, this book is centered around the faerie world and SJM says it's in the same Megaverse as ToG--"Celaena could open a Wyrdgate and go to the ACoTar world.")

The Heir by Kiera Cass (May 5)

I have mixed feelings about this fourth Selection novel because:

 a. It's another Selection novel--we go through the motions of the Selection once again?!?

 b. It's literally a 352-page spoiler for the first three Selection novels. From the title to the summary, it's quite clear who America chooses at the end of the first trilogy. This fourth book is about America and Maxon's daughter's Selection process, hence the title The Heir.

 That being said, it's still a Selection novel *happy dancing* and I'd be insane not to include this on my list.

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh (May 12)

   Yay for fairytale retellings! Yay for Eastern high fantasies! YAY FOR A SCHEHERAZADE STORY!!! I loved the very first Scheherazade retelling I read, which was Cameron Dokey's The Storyteller's Daughter. The setting, the story, the images she conjured up were just beautiful. I'm excited to revisit this world of Arabian nights again--the fact that YA authors have been going on non-stop about this novel on Twitter is a great big plus, too.

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin (May 19)

   Set during Napoleon's reign, this book is set at Stranje House, where girls are sent if they can't be married off. Apparently that automatically means you're an unusual girl. The title itself sounds like a rip-off of the Peculiar Children series, but I do love me some historical fiction, and I've rarely ventured into the Napoleonic era, so I'll choose to ignore it. And may I say that that is a gorgeous outfit on the cover. Four for you. 

Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt (May 19)

   Ahhh, the mob. Our protagonist is the member of a family that made its name in black market organ dealings. The police procedural fan in me is drooling. She also suffers from an illness herself, and I can't wait to see how the author will tie the two plot points together. Another thing that's got me drooling? The series name: Once Upon A Crime Family. I LIKE IT.

 They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T.A. Maclagan (May 20)

   Say it with me: teenage sleeper agents. That is precisely the plot of They Call Me Alexandra Gastone. Alexandra is supposed to be a normal high school student, but she's really from the fictional country of Olissa, and she was sent to the US as a child to one day grow up and take down the American government from the inside. For someone who spent her teenage years watching A LOT of Alias episodes, this summary sounds like heaven to me.

Pro tip: Aside from binging on J.J. Abrams' Alias, watch Angelina Jolie's Salt before reading this book if you need to get into the whole spy mood. Also it's just a really good movie.


Immaculate by Katelyn Detweiler (May 26)

   I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this book's synopsis. It's a contemporary Virgin. Mary. Retelling. It's such a ridiculous, enormous, insane plot to take on that it might just work! And how can you not be curious about this novel? Virgin. Mary. Retelling. What more can I say other than those three words?


Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (May 26)

   While I usually don't include contemporary reads on this list, this one's summary had me too intrigued to say no. Two childhood friends meet once again at a sanatorium for terminally ill kids suffering from tuberculosis. From what I can tell, the whole story takes place inside the hospital, and I'm really curious to see how the author will play it out. I'm mentally prepping myself that this story will not have a happy ending (curse you John Green, for giving me eternal paranoia about illness plots in YA!!!), and I just know that after reading this novel I'll have to drown my sorrows in ice cream and Disney movies. Bring it on.

The Cage by Megan Shepherd (May 26)

    A dystopian novel that has aliens kidnapping teens to live in a zoo. WHAT A LINE. The blurb has called it "The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld". How crazy can a book plot get??? Hint: No, it cannot. While I've never read a Megan Shepherd novel before, she's been on my Author TBR list for forever, and I've heard nothing but good things about her. I have 100% faith that she can pull off this crazy plot.

And that's it for this month's Radar Reads! Can't wait to get my hands on these babies. Wait. Never mind. I totally can. My TBR shelves (yes, plural) are giving me hate-filled glares as I type. They're saying, "Saaaaalve. Read us firsssssst." If you insist.


photocreds and summaries go to Goodreads.



Monday, 23 March 2015

Favorite Cinderella Retellings

   With this month's release of Disney's live-action Cinderella, I decided to share my favorite glass slipper retellings with all of you!

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

   JDG has got to be one of my favorite authors in the fairytale retelling department. Her first Westfalin Princesses novel was Princess of the Midnight Ball and retold the 12 Dancing Princesses. Princess of Glass follows one of the 12 Westfalin sisters, Poppy, as she travels to another kingdom and stumbles upon a Cinderella story. What I like about this particular retelling is that it's Cinderella from the point-of-view of an antagonistic outsider. Poppy and Eleanor (Cinderella) aren't exactly nemeses, but you can tell that they're not best friends either. Seeing the whole Cinderella tale from another princess' point-of-view was interesting, and makes me wonder why it hasn't been done before.

 Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer

Not a huge fan of chick-lit, but Robin Palmer novels are the exception. Her Cinderella is a kooky, sarcastic high school student, and even though it's been years since I read this, she's still one of my favorite heroines. She's just so goshdarn adorable, and the character's voice is a memorable one. Robin Palmer's style of writing is irreverent and relatable, and her books are definitely ones you should pick up ASAP.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

   For those of you who have been living under a rock and haven't heard of The Lunar Chronicles, they're sci-fi fairytale retellings, and the first novel of the lot is Cinder. I've been meaning to give this a reread, hopefully before the fourth novel comes out. As you can tell from the cover, our Cinderella is, yes, a cyborg. A Chinese Cinderella Cyborg. How epic can you get? Marissa Meyer is an excellent worldbuilder, creating a setting that's both futuristic and mythological at the same time. If you're into traditional fairytales, maybe this wouldn't be your cup of tea, but if you're looking for a novel that turns tradition on its head, then this is for you.

Ever After (1998)

   This retelling focuses not so much on the ball and the glass slipper than on the relationship between Cinderella (or, in this case, Danielle) and the prince, which we can all agree was the flaw in the original tale.

   In Ever After, our prince and our heroine bond over books, philosophy, and escaping from bandits. Instead of being a stock character, Prince Henry is a passionate nerd who loves to argue. Also, instead of being set in a frivolous, colorful, imaginary kingdom (although I have no problem with those worlds), the film was set in 16th century France. It gave the story a more grounded-in-reality vibe, which is saying a lot, considering that it is a fairytale retelling. There are no fairy godmothers, no talking mice, and no pumpkins that turn into carriages. Instead there were family heirlooms, best (human) friends, and -- surprise! -- Leonardo da Vinci himself filling in the role of fairy godmother. There's not much more to say, except that you guys should all go and watch this. Immediately.

   And that's it for my Cinderella post! I did manage to see it last weekend and theaters, and my, it was beautiful. As an interior design/home decor nerd, I was drooling at the production design. And that dress. Now that was a Cinderella moment. And, okay, for Frozen fans, there is a short that comes out right before the film, which I highly enjoyed--it involved another Elsa song, snow babies, and Kristoff singing. FINALLY.


Saturday, 28 February 2015

On My Radar: Upcoming March Releases

    I skipped a month. I know, I know, shame on Salve. Once in 30 days do I have to write a mandatory post on this blog, and I didn't do it. I did start writing it though, and maybe I'll still post my February releases after this, but look! I managed to scrounge up 10 releases in March that I'm really excited for! And it's all on time. Now, enough of my attempts to redeem myself. On with the list!

The Selection Stories: The Queen & The Favorite by Kiera Cass (March 3)

   I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of novellas. Their usual form, e-books, is not exactly my favorite way of reading. Sometimes though, the bigshot YA authors (see Clare, Maas, and Cass), get all their novellas compiled and published in paper. When they're all tied up with a neat little bow, my feelings toward novellas generally soften. Kiera Cass' first set of novellas came out just before The One did, and it was enjoyable, if a little too short for my taste. Her second set, out this month, contains stories about Queen Amberly and Marlee, possibly my two favorite characters in the series. Nobody likes America. True story.


Kin: A Tale of Beauty and Madness by Lili St. Crow (March 3)

   Quick confession: I haven't read any of Lili St. Crow's Tales of Beauty and Madness, which is surprising, because I live for fairytale retellings. She's done Snow White and Cinderella so far, and Kin looks as if it's Red Riding Hood's turn. Personally, Big Red's not my favorite fairytale to read about, because how far can you really get in the story? In retellings, the wolf is almost always that handsome-as-hell rebel that draws the good girl into a world of debauchery. Yawn. That being said, I did enjoy Marissa Meyer's Scarlet, and that leaves me with high hopes for this one.

Dead To Me by Mary McCoy (March 3)

    Does anyone else think that the Golden Hollywood era is one that is totally underappreciated in the YA genre? I can probably count on my fingers the number of books I've come across that has 1930's Tinseltown as its setting. A few years back, I read Rachel Shukert's Starstruck and wondered why this amazing time in history isn't depicted more in novels. I finally get my wish with Dead To Me, which isn't just set in said time period, but is also a murder mystery. One ticket to Hollywood, please!

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (March 10)

   This little book has been blowing up the YA blogverse for months now, and its release is finally here! The plot itself seems like one that has been done before: lost princess, forbidden magic, secret destiny...but the wonderful thing about high fantasy novels is that tropes are welcome, and even a comfort sometimes (another journey through the kingdom battling shadowlike demons? Sign me up!). It's the worldbuilding skills of each author that makes the clichéd plot brand-new everytime. So yes, I am more than ready to get to know the world of The Orphan Queen!

Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy (March 10)

   No matter how many dystopian novels the YA industry shells out, I will never get tired of the genre. This new entry by Cori McCarthy takes us to the United States of America in the year 2048 (like the game, hee). The youth is recruited by the military to pilot fighter jets, and really, that's all I needed to know before putting it on my list. FIGHTER JETS GUYS. AND ALL THE PILOTS ATTEND A SCHOOL CALLED STARFLEET UNITED STAR ACADEMY. I am sensing some Star Trek vibes here, and I am not complaining in the least.

Little Peach by Peggy Kern (March 10)

   The Law & Order: SVU fanatic in me saw this book online and immediately began to jump up and down excitedly. It's about a teenage runaway who gets drawn into the world of prostitution by a guy she thought loved her, but turned out was only interested in pimping her out. It's definitely not a cheery world to read about, and I'm prepared to finish it with as heavy a heart as I had when I finished Trafficked. These books which take on shocking but all too real topics serve as eye-openers and I think that they help anyone (particularly sheltered little brats like me) view the world and the people in it in a different light, and see just how good we've got it. Wow, okay, this started off as SVU fanfic for me and somehow spiraled into a lecture on society. That's enough, Salve.



Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver (March 10)

    This March, I get a double feature from my two favorite Laurens in YA: Oliver & DeStefano! First up is Lauren Oliver's Vanishing Girls, which is, unsurprisingly, about just that. What I love about Oliver's writing style is she sets her novels in contemporary, realistic settings, but still manages to infuse them with this mysterious, almost magical aura. If you'll look closely on the cover, E. Lockhart calls it "a rare psychological thriller" and warns you to "read it with all the lights on". Hey, if it's good enough for the author of the critically-acclaimed We Were Liars, it's good enough for me.

What is up with this cover though...

Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano (March 10)

   I will have to sit my butt down and reread the first book in this series, Perfect Ruin, because as much as I love Lauren DeStefano, I erm, completely forgot what happened in the first novel. All I remember is that I liked it, which gets me excited for Burning Kingdoms. The only thing that worries me is that DeStefano doesn't have the best track record with sequels (cough, Fever & Sever, cough). I hope that with this sequel, DS brings us more into the world she created, and pull it off excellently.

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne (March 17)

   I am a sucker for rags-to-riches stories, which this novel is. Our heroine discovers that her long-lost father is an powerful politician and is suddenly whisked into his world. I'm hoping for some Chasing Liberty vibes from this book, maybe even with an equally charming love interest. That book cover worries me though. I know, I know, never judge a book, but it just seems too froufrou for me to take it seriously. 

King by Ellen Oh (March 31)

   The last, but most definitely not the least, is my most-awaited novel! I've been following the Prophecy series since its inception, and have actually traded a few words back and forth with Ellen Oh on Twitter (how's that for unnecessary name-dropping), and I could go on for hours talking about the books. This is the final novel in the series, which means a flood of bittersweet feels is about to come my way. The last time we heard from Kira, she was on her way to an island teeming with cannibals, so that should make for quite the opening chapter. Again, I have mixed feelings about the series ending, and an illogical part of me doesn't want King to come out yet, just to keep it unfinished, but the more rational side of Salve just wants to get her hands on it and return to the Seven Kingdoms. 


credits to Google Images and Goodreads, as usual ;)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

CFB Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

The cover's a bit too fluffy froofroo for me, but I'll take it.

   This is one of those novels that I've picked up and put down over and over again in the bookshop, thinking "Should I? Not this time. Maybe I should...nah, never mind." Then Poland Bananas Books named it as one of her favorite books of 2014, and then I saw it again at the store. I figured that might've been a sign from the powers that be, and I got it.

   Some of you may know that I'm not the biggest contemporary fan. I go way into the past, or way into the future. Probably I wasn't used to the vernacular anymore, which was why during the first few pages, Harper Price (our protagonist) irked me. The language seemed like it tried too hard to be down with the times. But she grew on me, and within the next few chapters, I fell in love with her. She reminds me of myself in high school: part of every school organization, in charge of events, vying for valedictorian, etc. I wasn't Homecoming Queen (my school didn't have homecoming) but I was Prom Princess! Harper's whole life revolved around school, which meant that she was in for quite a shock. By sheer happenstance, she (literally) gets sucked into a centuries-old battle for power. 

   I loved that when the time came for her to accept her destiny, Harper was like, "Yeah...nope. No, thanks. I'm gonna go back to my regular, non-threatening activities because y'all are crazy." I mean personally, I would've hopped on a train to Westeros if it meant seeing magic, but then again, so would 99% of YA heroines out there. What makes Harper different is that she doesn't want any of that. She doesn't want adventure or magic. She wants to be valedictorian and get into a good college. What impressed me is that Rachel Hawkins was able to write a character like this without making her seem petty and shallow. Harper Price isn't some dumb bimbo. Yes, she'll spend a thousand dollars on a dress and throw a hissy fit if she doesn't have the exact shade of lip gloss she needs, but she'll do it while kicking your butt at spelling bees and AP classes. 

   Speaking of Harper's intelligence, can we take a minute to admire her for untangling her supernatural destiny by checking a couple of books out of the library and marathoning Marvel movies? 

   The cast of characters in Rebel Belle were just all so lovable. I've got a soft spot for Bee, Harper's best friend. I like how Rachel Hawkins doesn't play the whole BFF-turns-on-heroine-once-heroine-starts-changing trope. Nope, Bee was at her side the whole time, with a heart bigger than her appetite for Cinnabon. 

   The love story in this book was ace. Towards the end of the novel, when the ball really got rolling on the romance angle, I found myself with a constant case of heart-in-my-throat, because dang it, I just wanted those two suckers to get together already! And Rachel Hawkins certainly did not disappoint. I guess if I had to nitpick, I'd wish that the whole "breaking up with her hottie boyfriend because she's really in love with that other dude" part of the story wasn't so cliché. She did that thing where Harper just doesn't feel sparks anymore for her boyfriend Ryan, and suddenly, she's noticing things about David that she never did before. Yep. We've been down that road plenty of times before. And I don't know how I feel about the revelation that *SPOILER* David's been in love with her all this time. It gave his character an immature angle--"I'm in love with her, so I'll spend all these years bullying her and writing awful articles about her. How fourth-grade am I?" But childish behavior aside, I still love David Stark, and his chemistry with Harper was amazeballs.

   The plot didn't take itself too seriously, which was good in some ways, and bad in others. I do wish there had been more exposition on what exactly a Paladin does, and how she is supposed to protect the Seer. The bright side of a not-too-serious plot is that we avoided the angst-filled chapters usually found in many young adult books nowadays. Harper was an absolute delight to get to know. It was a fun, easy read that you could easily speed through in a few days (I know some of you read faster than that, but two days is fast for me!).

Salve's Hopes for Book #2:

-Ryan finds love and/or tries to win Harper back.
-We get to kick Blythe's ass.
-Bee gets rescued and learns some ass-kicking herself.
-More feels between Harper & David.

My rating: 8/10 for wonderful, lovable characters, light & humorous writing, but I subtracted two from a perfect 10 because of The David Stark Flaw and lack of Paladinsplanation.


Sunday, 4 January 2015

On My Radar: Upcoming January Releases

   Behind my deadline for the second month in a row, shame on me. But it was the holidays! I wanted to let you guys enjoy Christmas & New Year's before I posted anything...fine, you caught me, I was too distracted eating my weight in holiday food to write this up. But now that we're back to our regular old schedules, here's my list of the 10 books I'm most excited for this month!

Vendetta by Catherine Doyle (January 1)

    Vendetta seems to be a modern-day retelling of Romeo & Juliet. You've got your two warring clans and your forbidden love between two members. The summary never outright states that it is a Shakespearean retelling, but we can read between the lines. Let's hope this one doesn't end with a double suicide.

What I'm excited for: Meeting the members of each clan and learning why they've got such a ~*VENDETTA*~ against each other.

All The Bright Things by Jennifer Niven (January 6)

   One of my New Year's Reader Resolutions is to read more contemporary novels. This one looks like a good place to start: two kids, one depressed and the other suicidal, have a chance meeting and stops the other's plan right in its tracks. They begin to spend more time together, exploring their hometown. The Goodreads blurb says it's "The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die." 

What I'm excited for: How Niven will create the friendship between her two protagonists. That, and the feels. 

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall (January 13)

   When a book is marketed as a "YA Da Vinci Code", how could you not be interested?! From what I've been able to glean from the summary, it's an adventure-thriller that takes place all over Europe, and our heroine is the missing heir to the throne of a secret society (cough, Illuminati, cough). She doesn't want any of that though, and goes on the run to take down the Illuminati Circle of Twelve.

What I'm excited for: The whole dang novel! Maggie Hall, do not let me down.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (January 13)

   While not a fairytale retelling per se, TDPotF certainly draws from fairytale elements: There's a brother-sister tandem involved, knights, fairies, and a person in a glass coffin (except it's a boy!). If I get my hands on it, this book will be my very first Holly Black book! I mean, I've read the Iron Trial and all, but that was penned with Cassie Clare, so to read a pure Holly Black tale should be interesting. She's one of the YA authors I've been hearing about for ages but have yet to read. 

What I'm excited for: This line from the summary: "Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children." If the author means "in love" the way I think it does, then that's going to make for a sibling love triangle with a nice twist to it. 

The Prey by Tom Isbell (January 20)

   Just when you think dystopians are dead, here comes a new generation of 'em. In the world of The Prey, the boys and girls who have been separated from the other gender team up, and try to outrun the Big Bad Dystopian Government. There's also a mention of twins in the summary, and I don't exactly know how that ties in with the whole shebang, but you know me, once I hear a whiff of twin-plotlines, I'm hooked.

What I'm excited for: Learning about the Big Bad Dystopian Government's motives for locking up all these children and consequently, turning them into Prey. Also, I want to know which dystopian backstory the author'll choose to employ. There's famine (The Hunger Games), natural disaster (The Chemical Garden), plague (The Maze Runner), so many tragedies to choose from.


The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn (January 22)

    This novel is ensemble driven, with five characters all going through hardships: a former child soldier, a teen suffering from MS, a guy whose girlfriend just died, a girl with CIP (a disorder that means she can't feel physical pain), and a drug addict. After sharing their stories with one another, they all somehow taking the other person's problems as their own. It's one of those "walk a mile in my shoes" tales, and it should be really interesting.

What I'm excited for: Hearing each person's story at the beginning, particularly the former child soldier's, because that's not something we really see a lot in YA. 

Woven by Michael Jensen & David Powers King (January 27)

   The plot summary reads like a high fantasy-version of Meg Cabot's The Mediator, and you will hear no complaining from me on that front. The hero is a ghost named Nels who spent his mortal (peasant) life wanting to don the armor of a knight. As a ghost, he goes on an adventure with a princess. Cue Taylor Swift's Love Story.

What I'm excited for: The falling-in-love bit. Give me a good ol' fairytale with a happily ever after any day.

Love, Lucy by April Lindner (January 27)

   This is your typical American-girl-in-Europe story, but sometimes, a good cliché is exactly what you need. Another NY Resolution I've got is to travel more, and not just to other countries, but around the 7,107 islands that make up mine. Maybe Love, Lucy will inspire me to get off my duff and start booking for those promotional travel packages.

What I'm excited for: Seeing Italy through Lucy's eyes. It's definitely one of my favorite European destinations, and I'd love to see if April Lindner's got any hidden Italian spots to share.

All Fall Down by Ally Carter (January 27)

    I've never finished an Ally Carter novel--I read the first book of her Gallagher Girls series and gave up. But maybe that particular series wasn't my cup of tea. Her new book, All Fall Down, seems to be more up my alley. It's got the same international flair as The Conspiracy of Us, and written from the point of view of an ambassador's daughter. The summary seemed very Nancy Drew-like, and if there's a heroine I will defend to the death, it's the original girl detective herself. If the story is as Carolyn Keene-esque as I think it will be, it should make for quite an interesting book!

What I'm excited for: I really hope that her Embassy Row gang of sleuths are comprised of kids from different countries of the world. Like, the Avengers, but with more Asians.

Enter The Uncreated Night by Christopher Rankin

   Such an intriguing book, right down to its lack of release date on Goodreads. It's about a psychiatrist treating a young girl who talks to an imaginary person who seems to know anything about everything, and just typing that sentence out sent chills down my spine. The good doctor also seems to suffer from something himself, as he drugs himself up with cough medicine, almost a la Doctor House. Hmm. Secrets, secrets.

What I'm excited for: The fact that this isn't YA. Hopefully this'll be the start of me broadening my horizons to more general fiction.

That's it for my January #RadarReads! Which one are you looking forward to the most? Leave a comment!



photo and summary credits to:

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Salve's Favorite Books of 2014

   And just like that, 2014 is coming to a close! I think that out of all my years on this planet, this one was when I had to make the most life decisions: stay in my hometown university, go off to a Swiss college that offered me a scholarship, or pursue my dreams and go to film school? I ended up choosing the third option (yay!) and I couldn't be happier with my decision. Maybe I missed out on living through European sweater weather, and maybe I had to give up cushy living at home, but my experiences at film school have more than made up for that. 

   What film school didn't give me, however, was ample time to read! Let's be honest, it didn't even give me ample time to sleep. Nevertheless, I read my fair share of novels in 2014, and today I give my list of my ten favorite ones!

Presenting, in no particular order...

1. Prisoner of Night & Fog by Anne Blankman

Naked book because I left its jacket in my dorm. Heh.

   While I love reading historical fiction, I must say I've never been attracted to WWII fiction. I guess it's because I love reading about royalty, and by the 1940s, kings and queens weren't exactly the main players on the global chessboard. However, I decided to remedy that with Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night & Fog. What drew me to this particular tale was that it was from the PoV of a Nazi sympathizer who eventually turns her back on her old beliefs. I wondered how exactly the author would pull it off, and I must say that I was not disappointed. There was a chapter in the novel where Gretchen (our protagonist) realizes that her Uncle Dolf truly is a monster and that all the things she thought was right growing up were actually inhumane and wrong, and it was masterfully written. I take that back. Not just that chapter, but the whole novel itself is a beautiful piece of literature. #BravoBlankman

2. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

   This was probably the first of the ten books on this list that I decided would make it on, no matter what. It's a weird retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and I say weird with all the love in my heart. A science fiction book set on an unnamed planet, the author never reveals which of the two heroes is the "beast" and which one is the "beauty". It's all up to the reader and what he/she finds beastly and beautiful. It's just an amazing, emotional adventure that I fell in love with. 

Side note: Stacey Jay's next fairytale, Princess of Thorns has just been released and I am doing a can't-hold-in-my-pee dance because it's got me so excited!

3. The Mirk & Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

   I discovered Jane Nickerson's first novel, Strands of Bronze and Gold, about a year ago, and it was delightful. It was one of those instances in a bookworm's life when you say, "This has been on my TBR list for forever--how come I never picked it up before now?!" I was then happy to find out that a second Nickerson fairytale-retelling would be released this year, which was The Mirk & Midnight Hour. 

  While I do love a regular fairytale retelling, in some cases I feel like the author tries to fit their plot around the fairytale, and not using the source material to create their own story. Jane Nickerson, thankfully, does the latter. She writes an original plot, and then peppers it with little fairytale references, but it's never the main priority, which I like. She also chooses obscure fairytales to retell (reminiscent of Shannon Hale's retellings of Goose Girl and Maid Maleen): Strands of Bronze and Gold is a Bluebeard retelling--okay, maybe not so obscure, but tell me how many Bluebeard YAs we've got out there? TMMH, takes on a rare fairytale as well--Tam Lin-- and a glorious retelling it is indeed. 

4. Flowers In The Attic by V.C. Andrews

Credits to Google Images because, heh, I  left my copy back at my dorm. :)
   This book has the distinction of being the only one on this list I read twice this year, and I loved it both times. I first heard about this book from Melissa de la Cruz's tweets. When the Lifetime movie came out, I watched it, loved it and then went on a hunt for the book. This is also the oldest book on this list, as it came out a good 15 years before I was even born!

   Flowers In The Attic is about four children who are sent to live with their grandparents. Told to stay in the attic for the time being, the time being begins to turn into a month, then a year, then years. They slowly realize that their grandparents (along with their own mother) have no intention of ever letting them leave the attic. I don't want to spoil too much on their motives, because I would love for you guys to discover this novel for yourselves, but, oh, it's just creepy and sinister and all things gothic. I'm not officially giving ranks for this list, but if I were, Flowers In The Attic would definitely be among my Top 3. 

5. The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

   One of the first books I reviewed for this blog, The Heiresses was just the pure fluff + guilty pleasure I was looking for. It's your typical Sara Shepard fare: pretty, rich girls involved in a murder mystery. But I did like how it's written for a more adult audience than Pretty Little Liars, and how she was able to portray the lives of the rich & famous without it being completely ridiculous and over-the-top. For the fans of The Clique who have since grown up, this is the novel for y'all.

6. Trafficked by Kim Purcell

   This is probably the most disturbing book I've read this year--and I've read my share of creep, thank you very much. But what made this book so disturbing is the fact that human trafficking is a reality. I mean, sure, a society that sends 23 innocent children to their death every year as a form of entertainment is terrifying, but fictional. What is very real in our world is innocent children who are sold into slavery because they were falsely promised a better life. That happens. And to read a first-person (albeit fictional, but drawn from experiences of survivors) account of everyday life as a slave in 21st-century America chilled me to the bone. It was an emotionally heavy read, but if you're ready for this kind of material, I really suggest you go for it. It was quite the eye-opener. 

*Also, the author mentioned in her afterword that she would be donating 20% of the book's earnings to organizations that help stop human trafficking. When I read those words, my heart skipped a beat and had a serious case of goosebumps. Whenever you think that all humanity is lost, there are people like Kim Purcell. Bless her heart.

7. The Young Elites by Marie Lu

   I'm sure that a billion other people have this on their 2014 list, and as you should! This book showcased Marie Lu's excellent storytelling skills, as well as her knack for complete worldbuilding. I remember when I first heard about this book, I assumed this was a dystopian series, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was a high fantasy series instead! I also love the fact that Lu decided to tell a villain's tale. In the world of The Young Elites, there is a lot of gray areas; the good guys aren't all that good, and the bad guys aren't all evil. It's the way that Marie Lu veers away from clichéd plotlines in her novel that make this a solid addition to Salve's Favorite Books of 2014.

8. Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

   I've loved Esther Friesner's novels since I was 13. Her books are timeless, in the sense that I can read her books at 13 or 20, and I have yet to grow out of them. Spirit's Princess was a typical Friesner book, and by typical Friesner, I mean it was typically EPIC. Her motto must be "go big or go home", because her historical fiction novels are just that. With Spirit's Princess, she leaves her usual mythology hunting grounds of Greece & Egypt and heads over to Asia. I enjoyed reading about feudal Japan, which is not an era I knew much about. The way she paints the picture of ancient Japan...just, give her all the awards. I could fangirl for another ten paragraphs, but I won't put you through that. For those of you who want to hear more though, I wrote a review on it which you can see here.

9. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

   If you have not read Crazy Rich Asians by now, you're doing this whole bookworm thing wrong. It's a hilarious book that explores the world of--yep, you guessed it--crazy rich Asians. We usually read books about the Hiltons and Trumps of the fictional world, but Kevin Kwan gives us an all-access pass to their Asian counterparts. I enjoyed it because as much as I love reading about shopping on Fifth Avenue as much as the next girl, there's something about a book being set in your neck of the woods that drives up your curiosity in it. I enjoyed reading about characters that come from almost-kinda the same cultural backgrounds as you did. I don't mean in the financial sense, although wouldn't that be nice. No, I mean in the sense that there's a certain Southeast Asian culture that otherwise-different countries share. Like, one of the big hooplahs in the beginning of the book is when Nicky brings home a girl from the US, sending all his relatives into a tizzy. His mom calls up all her relatives, from her network of spies  friends in Singapore to Nicky's cousin in Paris, all to dig up information about this girl. I can so imagine a few of my friends' mothers doing that! Also there's a scene where Nicky's mother, Eleanor, has all her friends over for "Bible study" but really, it's to gossip. I can't tell you how many times I've walked downstairs to see my mom and her friends gathered around the dining table, making chica, which is basically a nice Filipino slang word for catching up on gossip. 

Side anecdote: One time this happened, and I quickly said hi, then went and ran errands. Hours later, after finishing all my errands, I came home to find, I kid you not, that they were all still sitting in the same place, chatting it up! I then blurted out, "Oh my gosh, you guys are still here?!" Not one of my classiest moments, I gotta say.

   The icing on top of the cake, is that Kevin Kwan is working on a sequel!! *happy dancing* I'll bet my left pinky nail that Book #2 will make my top 10 for 2015!

10. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, The Throne of Glass Saga by Sarah J. Maas, Leslie Carroll's Royal Anthologies

But I got a blank space, baby, because I loaned one out to my aunt.
   The tenth and final spot on my list is dedicated these wonderful series I discovered in 2014. Both Meyer and Maas have crafted stunning plots that do not hit the typical Sophomore Slump. The sequels (and in Maas' case, her prequel) are just as engaging as the first book. For those who have been living under a rock, Meyer's Lunar Chronicles are sci-fi fairytale retellings, and Maas' Throne of Glass is a high fantasy series that I like to call The Hunger Game of Thrones. Also, for said people living a Patrick Star-like existence, what are you doing?! Get out there and get these books! 

   In Carroll's case, all four were a delight to read. Each book is a collection of royals who fall under a category: those who engaged in affairs or notorious marriages, or who were just a pain in the butt. Leslie Carroll doesn't write in boring, staid prose like so many of her fellow historians. Her books are hilarious and sometimes downright irreverent, and I love it. 

     These three series have been such a huge part of my 2014 that I couldn't imagine putting together a list and not including them. Their only fault? Each book in each series is a work of art in itself, and if I tried to individually add them to the list, we'd have a top 20 instead! But that is the best kind of fault to be had.

   And that is my top 10 for 2014 and with it, I challenge you all to post your top 10 for 2014! It was a great reading year for me; I think I branched out more this year in terms of genre than I ever did before. I discovered new series, watched my share of YA film adaptations, and of course, started this blog. Before 2014 ends, I want to give you all a big virtual hug and thank you for supporting Cuckoo For Books!