Monthly Recap (4) - July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014 12:00 AM

Monthly Recap is where I share everything that's happened on Courtney Reads A Lot over the past month. I read some great books over the past month. In fact, all of these books were rated 3 stars or higher! That's a good month in my book (ha! puns)!

Book Reviews:
-Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo
-Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
-The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson
-The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
-Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Other Posts: 

This summer is just flying by, and I cannot believe it's going to be August already. This past month, I read a decent amount of books, thanks to listening to audiobooks along with reading physical copies. I finished two debuts, Paula Stokes' The Art of Lainey and Joe Abercrombie's YA debut Half A King, and both count towards the Debut Author Challenge! As for my personal challenge, I read The Bitter Kingdom and finished the beloved Fire and Thorns series, and I'm sad to see that one come to an end.

Courtney Reads A Lot has a new design which I love! I also picked out the flooring, cabinets and counter tops for my house! And (drumroll please) they broke ground! Which is all very exciting! Otherwise, July was pretty uneventful up until this week when I was hit with some bad news. My mom-mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer out of nowhere, and it's going to be rough for awhile. She'll be going in for radiation treatment, and I hope it goes well, but I'm terrified. In the meantime, my blog posts might be a little more sporadic, as I'm having trouble focusing while reading, and I'm constantly distracted by my thoughts.

In September, there's a book tour event/book signing I'm hoping to go to. In preparation, I will be reading some books this month by a couple of the authors attending. Sarah Maas, Susan Dennard, Elizabeth Norris, and Tiffany Schmidt will all be there, and I'm really looking forward to meeting all of them and getting some books signed!

Goals for Next Month:
-Read one debut for my Debut Author Challenge
-Finish 1 series for my personal challenge
-Read at least 2-3 books by Sarah Maas and/or Susan Dennard in preparation for the book signing
-Write a Bookish to a Fault post and another discussion post

How is everyone's summer going? What books are you planning to read this month?

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 12:36 PM
Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Published: June 19, 2014
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic, Horror
Pages: 460
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“you can't save people from the world. There's nowhere else to take them.”
― M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
I’ve been looking forward to reading The Girl with All the Gifts for some time, knowing that I would love it. Everything about it, from the intriguing, unclear synopsis to the stunning cover, had me wanting it immediately. I’m not usually into zombie books, with the exception of some like This Is Not a Test, but The Girl with All the Gifts is another book that focuses more on the development of the characters than it does the hungries (what the zombies are called in this book). Yes, we’re given plenty of information about the hungries and the infliction from a scientific standpoint, which I found fascinating, and we see some hungry attacks, but there’s so much more to this book than pure, raw fear and bloody gore. It’s a harrowing tale that plucks your heartstrings, and fills you up with raw emotion.

Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From (33)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 12:00 AM
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week, book bloggers post a top ten list based on a bookish prompt. This week's Top Ten Tuesday is...

Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From
I don’t usually buy books because I love the author; I’m more likely to buy a book because the premise caught my interest or it’s received many positive reviews. Yet there are some authors, mainly from my middle school and high school years, that I have read extensively and whose books I still keep on my shelves for future rereads. Here are some of them:

1. J.K. Rowling – Of course, I would have her books on my shelves and plenty of them. I have the entire Harry Potter series, The Hogwarts Library box set, a second copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Casual Vacancy. I plan to eventually buy Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm to add to my collection. It’s pretty much a given that I’ll love whatever she writes.

2. Lemony Snicket – I love his A Series of Unfortunate Events series, and I have the first 12 of them on my bookshelves, and I just need to buy The End. I plan to reread these sometime soon, since I never did finish the entire series for some reason or another.

3. Lynn Kurland – I used to have a weakness for her historical fiction, time-traveling, fantasy romance novels. I have 20 of her books which is crazy. I think what drew me to her writing was that I always knew what awaited me within the pages of her books; I could count on a tasteful romance filled with adventure, bandits, and true love shared between a strong female protagonist and a medieval lord. Unlike other adult romances, her writing was never as explicit, not that I have any problem with steamier romance scenes. And the secondary characters always brought so much to the story with their banter and chivalry! All of the characters belonged to one of three family lines, and they would reappear in several novels which I loved. And the setting was pretty much always in castles in England or Scotland! How could I not read these?

4. Cate Tiernan In high school, the Sweep series had to be one of my top five series, and I own every single book in this series. I was obsessed with this series, and after finishing one of the books, I would immediately go to the bookstore to buy the next one. Morgan was a very realistic protagonist. While I couldn’t relate to her growing powers as a witch, I could understand her insecurities, and the romance in this one is just sooooo good. I need to reread these soon.

5. Meg Cabot – I cannot even begin to express my love for her books. I read so many of them during high school, and I think they helped me get through all of the teen-angst and insecurities. I loved The Princess Diaries, the All-American Girl and the 1-800-Where-R-U (now called Vanished) series. But my favorite is still The Mediator series, mainly because of the love interest Jesse. I reread this series so many times, and I will never give these books away.

6. Jodi Picoult – After I read My Sister’s Keeper, I kind of joined in on the whole Jodi Picoult craze. I bought several of her books, but when I think about it, I’ve only read maybe four of them. Every once and awhile, I get the urge to read another, so I’ve been slowly making my way through them. I’ll admit that none of them really stand out as unique to me. But they always deal with some controversial case, and I find the unraveling of the story entertaining, making it hard to put her books down.

7. Darren Shan – This is another series I never finished, but I was really enjoying. I'm somehow missing #5, Trials of Death. I think I lent it out, but it was never returned. I tried out The Demonata series as well, but I wasn't as impressed.

8. Cassandra Clare – It is no secret that I was a huge fan of The Mortal Instruments series, and I was also really into The Infernal Devices series. I’ve lost some of my interest in her books recently, especially after she continued a trilogy that I think should have remained finished. Yet I still have all of them on my shelves, except for City of Heavenly Fire which I still need to purchase. Or maybe I’ll just borrow it from the library…

9. Neil Gaiman – I didn't realize how many Gaiman books I had until just now. I love The Sandman comic series, and his children's books and short stories are simply amazing. I don't always like his books, but I do love their darker tones and how creepy they can get.

10. Tamora Pierce – I count Pierce among my favorite authors, and I would gladly revisit her books at any time. I have almost all of her books that take place in the Tortall universe, such as The Song of the Lioness, the Protector of the Small, The Immortals, and the Daughter of the Lioness series. The only series I’m missing from this universe is the Beka Cooper series, but I’ve heard it’s not as good as the others so I may not purchase it or even read it. I also have The Will of the Empress that I picked up randomly, but I have yet to read the Circle of Magic series, but I heard this is a standalone?

I have some new favorite authors that I’ve discovered recently, but many of these are old favorites I can count on for some wonderful rereads.

So what about everyone else? What authors do you own the most books from? Let me know and don’t forget to link up to your Top Ten Tuesday in the comments!

Showcase Sunday (6)

Sunday, July 27, 2014 12:00 AM

Showcase Sunday is hosted over at Books, Biscuits, and TeaShowcase Sunday is where book bloggers can show all of the books and bookish goodies they bought, received, borrowed, etc recently. It's been over a month since I last posted a Showcase Sunday, so this post features the books I've received or bought over a long span of time. 

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Thursday, July 24, 2014 8:38 PM
Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Narrator: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Published: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 7 hours and 29 minutes
Source: Library
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“The problem with my life is that it was someone else's idea.”
― Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe starts off like many other books, introducing the lonely, misunderstood protagonist, different from other kids his age and in desperate need of a friend, only to find one only a few pages in. But from then on, it traverses another path entirely its own, unique and individual in every way. I went into this book, completely unsuspecting of the beautiful, emotional writing I would find within, and despite a couple of misgivings, I found it to be overall an awe-inspiring read.

Review: Half A King by Joe Abercrombie

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 7:11 PM
Title: Half A King
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Published: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Del Rey
Series: Shattered Sea #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“The fool strikes. The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Half a King

I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper? 

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
There are some books that sneak up on you unawares, books that you weren’t eagerly anticipating or counting down the days till their release, but somehow fall into your lap nonetheless. Half A King was one of those books for me. A couple of weeks ago, I was unaware of its existence, but after reading one review and spotting it on Netgalley, I knew I had to have it. Less than a day later, I found myself lost in its pages, always happy to explore another fantasy world. Half A King was a challenging book to review, and I put off writing this review for far too long. While I enjoyed it, I also had some major issues with it, leaving me torn and unable to express my feelings. Half a King may have fallen short of my expectations, but it still offered an enthralling tale full of adventure and friendship, betrayal and revenge.

Review: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 6:06 PM
Title: The Art of Lainey
Author: Paula Stokes
Published: May 20, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Pages: 384
Source: Library
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“Standing up for yourself is about more than flinging barbed-wire insults around. Its about picking your battles, knowing when to fight, knowing exactly what and who is worth fighting for.”
― Paula Stokes, The Art of Lainey

Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins, Sarah Dessen, and Susane Colasanti, The Art of Lainey tells the story of how, with the help of The Art of War, Lainey plots the perfect plan to get her boyfriend back. But is getting him back really what she wants?

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warnings, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that's when Lainey and Bianca stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, the girls are sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey's arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous.

After a few "dates," it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game. Can fighting for what she wants help Lainey figure out what she really needs? (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
At first glance, The Art of Lainey may look like a light, fluff-filled beach read, but this shows why you should never judge a book solely by its cover. There were times when the book seemed a bit too young for me, as I rolled my eyes at Lainey’s immaturity and self-absorption. But as the novel progressed and Lainey gained a deeper understanding of herself and others, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this charming debut.

Review: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:00 PM
Title: The Bitter Kingdom
Author: Rae Carson
Published: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Series: Fire and Thorns #3
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Pages: 433
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

*Warning: This book review contains spoilers for The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers*
“I think sometimes when we find love we pretend it away, or ignore it, or tell ourselves we’re imagining it. Because it is the most painful kind of hope there is.”
― Rae Carson, The Bitter Kingdom

The champion must not waver.
The champion must not fear.
The gate of darkness closes.

Elisa is a fugitive.

Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.

Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa né Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy's kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history.

But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for.

Even of those who hate her most. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
It’s been over a week since I finished The Bitter Kingdom, and this enchanting story still possesses me, sinking its claws in and refusing to let me forget a single page, a single word. I knew Rae Carson was a more than capable writer, but I still worried that the final book in this beloved trilogy would disappoint, as other final installments have unfortunately done this summer. Yet my worries were entirely unfounded, as The Bitter Kingdom was everything I could possibly want for a conclusion and so much more, leaving me deeply satisfied while at the same time devastated that a favorite series had ended.

Bookish to a Fault (2) - I Have A Seriesish Problem

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 10:00 AM

Bookish to a Fault, an original feature from Courtney Reads A Lot, is where I confess my nonsensical and/or shameful reading habits and bookish behaviors. These posts serve as a reality check, as I'm often living in denial. I chose to share these posts with you because I'm sure you can relate. If anyone can understand where I'm coming from, it would be fellow book bloggers and readers like yourselves.
I Have A Seriesish Problem

In my first Bookish to a Fault post, I talked about the uncontrollable urge I sometimes get to buy more books when I still have so many books waiting to be read at home. I know I shouldn’t, and I feel so guilty afterwards, but I just can’t seem to help myself when I step into a bookstore or end up on Amazon.

In my second Bookish to a Fault post, I’d like to confess this terrible habit I have of leaving book series unfinished. I start new book series all the time, even though I shouldn’t, even though I have a million other book series I still need to finish. But I see fellow book bloggers reviewing these books, and raving about them, and I just cannot resist the temptation. Sure, I could wait until I’ve finished other book series, but if there’s one thing I don’t have a lot of, it’s patience.

Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Monday, July 7, 2014 1:03 PM

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
Narrator: Noah Galvin
Published: August 13, 2013
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 6 hours and 19 minutes
Source: SYNC free download
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
―Matthew Quick, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?

Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he'll do. He'll say goodbye.

Not to his mum - who he calls Linda because it annoys her - who's moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor's daughter and a teacher.

Most of the time, Leonard believes he's weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he's not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not an easy read by any means. It’s a raw, heart crushing book that leaves you emotionally gutted long after you’ve finished. Having read the synopsis, I knew to some extent that this would be the case, but even so, I was not entirely prepared for what I would find within these pages. I had borrowed this book from the library at first, but for some reason or another, I found it difficult to truly immerse myself in the story when I was reading a physical copy. Listening to it was an entirely different story. I downloaded the free audiobook that was offered by SYNC, and suddenly, I couldn’t stop listening, and it really made the workday go by so much faster. For some reason, I was able to empathize more with Leonard when listening to the book rather than reading it, and I found it to be, overall, a gripping tale of a teen who has lost the will to live and is trying to find his way back to stability.

Courtney Reads A Lot Has A New Look

Saturday, July 5, 2014 12:00 AM
With my two year blogoversary approaching, I figured it was just the right time for a new blog design. And let me tell you, I love this design so much! I am just so excited for this new look! Let me show my excitement through a bunch of unrelated gifs! Because how else could I possibly express my feelings?

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Thursday, July 3, 2014 5:16 PM
Title: Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Series: The Grisha #3
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Pages: 417
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

*Warning: This book review contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm*
“I wanted to believe anything so that I wouldn’t have to face the future alone. The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak.”
― Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
First off, let me apologize because this is a really long review, and probably longer than any of my others. But I had so many feelings and emotions that I needed to express, and they all just poured out when I started writing this review. So here we go...

Top Ten Classic Books I Want To Read (32)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 12:00 AM
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week, book bloggers post a top ten list based on a bookish prompt. For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, we could choose Top Ten Favorite Classic Books or Top Ten Classic Books I Want to Read or some variant thereof. I chose...

Top Ten Classic Books I Want to Read
When it comes to the classics, I have so many favorites, books I’ve cherished and that have lasted with me for long after I've finished them. These are books that I return to time after time, such as Jane Eyre, Dracula or The Great Gatsby, and they are books that I will never tire of. I’d love to share them all with you, and I'm sure I have mentioned most of them in earlier posts. But I decided to go in the opposite direction today, and focus on the classics that I still need to read and have been meaning to pick up for some time. I’ve been neglecting the classics lately, and I’m hoping this post will give me the push I need to read some of these well-loved books. So here we go…

1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville – I’m ashamed to admit that I still have yet to read this one. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for far too long, just waiting to be cracked open. This was my college advisor’s favorite book, and since he was the best advisor ever, and this English major was lucky to have him as both an advisor and teacher, I feel like I owe it to him to read this one pronto. The size may be intimidating, but from what I heard, it’s well-worth the read.

2. Persuasion by Jane Austen – I have read three Austen novels, and loved every single one of them. Well, I sorta loved Northanger Abbey. I also tried to read Sense and Sensibility, but I guess I wasn’t in the right mood at the time. Yet I still haven't read Persuasion. For some reason, I feel like this one will be my favorite one of all, even over Pride and Prejudice. While I’m more into Gothic novels, I cannot help but appreciate Austen’s writing skills, and I’m very anxious to read this one soon.

3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – It’s a tragedy that I have yet to read Little Women, as I’ve heard so many good things. I plan on reading this sometime in the future, hopefully soon.

4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – This book sounds like it’s right up my alley. I have it waiting for me on my bookshelf, and I’ve tried starting it a couple of times now. I think I just need the right moment, as I’m a mood reader.

5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – I’m especially eager to read this one, as it takes place during the Great Depression. I’d love to learn more about this time period, and I think I remember enjoying Of Mice and Men, so I hope I like this one as well.

6. Native Son by Richard Wright – I’m trying to read more diverse novels, and I believe Native Son fits the bill perfectly. This novel tells the story of an African American youth living in an impoverished area of Chicago in the 1930s. Amanda loved it, and since I trust her taste in books, I think I need to read this one ASAP.

7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker – This is another novel that features diversity, and like Native Son, it also takes place in the 1930s, but in the south instead of in Chicago. I’m curious to see if this book deserves all of the hype it’s received. Yet if it was popular enough to be adapted into a film and musical, it must be worth reading.

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – I want to read this because a) it takes place in Russia, b) I have yet to read anything by Tolstoy, and c) it features doomed love and for some sick, twisted reason, I love classic novels that feature heartbreak and ill-fated lovers.

9. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – I bought this book some time ago, and it is terrifyingly huge. This book could be used as a weapon; it is dangerous and will tire my hands quickly if I hold it too often while reading. But I am determined to read this one, as it looks delightfully creepy.

10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez – I've been wanting to read this book, or really any book by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, for awhile. I have the book in my possession, so it's really only a matter of time.

How about you? Have you read any of these? Or do you have any classics you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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