Friday, September 12, 2014

The evolution of my reading habits. {2}

Image: Asheley @ Into the Hall of Books

Last time I discussed how my reading habits have changed, I talked about how I have started reading series books back-to-back and how my Series Finales Fear has lessened and maybe even disappeared. 
These things have changed my life and I kind of like it. 

YAY FOR ME!! 

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Here is another way my reading routine has changed lately:

Before: I have always read a little bit of everything, even though I've had my favorites. 
Now: I still read a little bit of everything, but I'm reading a ton of MIDDLE GRADE. 

This actually doesn't bother me at all. I love Middle Grade books. I LOVE Newbery Medal winners and Newbery Honors books. I just cannot remember when I have read this many of them in such a short amount of time...except for when I was actually a middle-grader myself. 

The deal is this: I'm homeschooling this year. We've been a little on the slow-side to settling in around here, which is totally fine. But instead of throwing everyone 
(ages: 11, 11, and 8) into new schools with all that is going on around them - we're just homeschooling this year. It is working out really well! 

I've more or less always been a "read what they read" kind of gal. I like to know what they're reading, but REALLY I JUST LIKE TO DISCUSS THE BOOKS WITH THEM. I want to engage them and see what their young minds think. Also, you guys, I will discuss books with anyone that will listen to me...

...this includes tweaking a homeschool curriculum to make it heavy on the literature and then reading AMAZING Middle Grade books with my young people and THEN making them talk about it with me. 

It's actually quite lovely. 

We've already read a few and loved them. 
Right now we're all reading this: 


If you've read this, THEN YOU KNOW. 
(sobs * kleenex * sobs)
This is a re-read for me! Layla, Greta, and Jack are all reading for the first time. 
One finished this morning, tearfully. One is currently biting her nails, almost finished. 
The other is trying to figure out the ending and asking me if he is correct. 

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As I said, I'm still reading other books, but it is just taking me a little longer to get through them - especially if I do not have an audiobook version to listen to. But that's okay! I had nearly forgotten how much I love some of these books that I read a bazillion years ago and I am ALWAYS up for middle grade and Newbery. I just didn't expect it to be so much, right now.  

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What are your favorite middle grade books?



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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Series Review: Revenants by Amy Plum [No Spoilers]

Die For Me / Revenants #1 / May 10, 2011 / 341 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N 
Until I Die
Revenants #2 / May 8, 2012 / 353 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N
Die For HerRevenants #2.5 / April 2, 2013 / 60 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N
If I Should DieRevenants #3 / May 7, 2013 / 405 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N

I read the first book in this series ages ago and liked it, but I never got around to picking the other books back up. Since the series is now complete and since my library carries them all on audiobook as well as digitally, I decided that I would read them/listen to them as I unpacked my house after my recent move. I started over with Die For Me as a reread and followed with the rest of the series back-to-back. 

It didn't take me long at all to remember what I liked about Die For Me once I began reading it. I liked the interesting take on zombie lore in the form of Revenants. I liked the backstory of main character Kate - why is she a young American living in France with her American sister and French grandparents? I LOVED the setting and how vivid it is - reading this series, set in Paris, felt realistic and sensory even as the book is a paranormal romance with urban fantasy undertones. 

I think I liked Die For Me a little better the second time, but I find this is often a case with an audiobook reread. 

When I got to Until I Die, things were a little different. The lore was established for the most part - as was the romance - but it didn't feel to me like it built too much from there in the lore department. There was probably a little more in the way of the history of the Revenants and the politics of the groups, but for the most part this book felt like a slower book of events. Things happened - particularly toward the end - but it was just a little on the slower side. The romance was a bit better as Kate and Vincent became more comfortable around each other - loved that. ALSO! the last part of the book left me feeling a little bit like WHAT and OH MY and WOW I'M GLAD I WAITED UNTIL THE SERIES IS COMPLETE. I like it when an author isn't afraid of taking risks and apparently this author is one of those! 

I don't really know if I would call Until I Die a book that suffers from a second-book slump, but it is certainly different from the first book and then WHAM! that ending. Ahem.

Finally, If I Should Die was a bit more on the fast-paced side as everything from the previous books begins to come together. Main character Kate is more confident about her place within the group: she understands how things work within the international rankings of Revenants and she understands the dangers that lie with having that much power. There were a few things that I felt were predictable but there were also some things that I would have never predicted. I was surprised as some characters stepped up into different and pretty impressive roles, and I was surprised to see that some really great characters didn't survive the series. (Again, the author takes risks! Love that.) I think the series ended in an okay place although there are one or two characters that I would have liked to know a little more about because they filled my secondary-character-loving heart to capacity (looking at you, Jules and Georgia). 

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Ultimately, this series is a lot of fun. I'm glad that I pushed through and read/listened to it. Is it my favorite series? No, but I really can't remember a time that I have read one back-to-back, all three full-length novels + the novella, within a period of a few days either, so that must count for something, right? I was captivated enough by the Revenants lore to want to know more, I liked the romance plenty, and I could have stayed in that setting for a really long time. Plus, there must be some sort of pretty-cover award for these books because I could stare at them for days. Actually, the covers are what caught my attention the first time I read Die For Me years ago, and the covers have continued to stop me in the library every time I've walked by them for the past few years. I will probably always love girl-in-pretty-dress covers. 

I understand why the big fans of this series love it so much.

**Regarding Die For Her, the novella: This is a little story that is written from Jules' point of view. Because it is numbered #2.5, it would fit between the second and third book technically, but I read it after I completed the series and that didn't affect anything at all. In fact, TO ME, I think I liked that quite a bit. WHY? Because I didn't feel a love triangle at all while reading the full-length novels BUT the Die For Her novella expands on Jules' crush enough that it makes me feel like if it were any longer or if Jules' POV were written into the books, it could potentially be considered a love triangle by some of my die-hard anti-love-triangle friends. Because I felt so happy with the relationship between Kate and Vincent, and because they were true to each other throughout the series, I'm thrilled that I didn't add any more of Jules' feelings until after I had completed the trilogy. Don't get me wrong -- Jules is one of my favorite characters (along with Kate's sister, Georgia), but one of my favorite things about him was his ability to have a small crush on Kate without letting it affect him or his relationship with Kate and Vincent. Die For Her gives a short glimpse of exactly how hard this was for him, and it made me a little sad. Great novella, but I am glad that I read it after completing the trilogy, and since it does not really contain anything essential to the plot of the trilogy, this was perfect for me. 

Audiobook Notes:  The audiobook formats of Die For Me, Until I Die, and If I Should Die by Amy Plum are published by HarperAudio and are 9 hours and 20 minutes, 9 hours 50 minutes, and 11 hours 7 minutes Unabridged (respectively). They are all narrated by Julia Whelan who is fantastic and a favorite of mine. She has voiced popular audiobooks such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn as well as books by Dan Wells, Jandy Nelson, Nora Roberts, and Cate Tiernan AMONG OTHERS. I recommend these audiobooks as first reads or rereads because this voice actor is awesome. 


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The Revenants Series will appeal to fans of:

Paranormal Romance with a slight Urban Fantasy feel
as the series progressed
Strong Characterization
Romance:  No triangle. Not too steamy but more kisses and such 
as the series progressed
FANTASTIC use of Setting: Paris
Completed Series with Novella

The Revenants Series by Amy Plum
is currently available for purchase. 

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Have you read this series or any of these books? 

Don't you love these covers? 


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