“A to Z” YA Challenge: June Update

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

-William Styron

I’m sure there’s a million-and-one “A to Z” Reading Challenges floating around the mighty inter-web these days but I dove off the deep end and created my own for 2020. I had a few things in mind:

  1. Keep this self-challenge strictly to YA.
  2. Read only books that I OWNED already and/or had access to at the library.
  3. When I “check off” a letter, it had to be the first book I read that fit. (For example: I’ve read 3 books that started with “C” but chose Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco because it was the first of the bunch.) I didn’t want to pick and choose which title so that it “looked cool” at the end of the year. Nope. First completed = takes that letter’s spot.
  4. For the more challenging letters, I allowed myself a…cheat, of sorts: Double-Point Titles. This means, if I read a title with more than one word starting with the selected letter, I get a double-point. This double point then can be applied to another letter. Example: I read The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young earlier this year. Not only did I fulfill my “G” spot (Dear Lawd, have mercy. That G-Spot.) but this particular book is a double point since it has the extra “g” (…Gave…) in the title. I can then apply that double point to, let’s say my “Z” spot and, as long as the title still has a word that starts with Z in it – it counts. The title does NOT have to start with Z, it just has to have a z-word in there somewhere. — Clear as mud?

Hey. I make the rules.

This challenge hasn’t really gone as planned and, per usual, I’m behind. Currently, half-way through the year, I’m shy of the halfway mark by (4) books. I have checked off 9 of 26 and (hopefully) am headed for #10 this week.


Here are the titles I’ve read so far, to complete each of those nine A-Z Challenge spots:


RECAP of January-June’s “A to Z” Challenge reads:

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas got (5) stars from me. I knew the ending would rip my heart out but I loved it anyway. Those stories added such an extra layer to both Aelin and Sam’s characters. Meeting young Aelin was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed; I kind of questioned why I’d waited so long to grab this one off my shelves. *Shrug.*

Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter turned out to be just as fun as re-reading the first installment. (More on that below.) It garnered (4) stars in my book journal, with its oddly satisfying mixture of dinosaurs, dragons, and Darwin. These books are quick paced, the romance takes backseat, and contain cute little bursts of both witty humor AND wise anecdotes.

Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) by Kerri Maniscalco turned out to be my least favorite of the SJtR series. Saying that, it was still fantastic. I still gave it (4) stars. And I still loved Audrey Rose and Thomas. However, this edition felt too lovey-dovey for my taste and the “big reveal” at the climax? It felt rushed and clumsy. I’m holding out that Mephistopheles/Ayden gets his own series! Come on, Maniscalco, give the people what they want.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young took home (3 1/2) stars from me in March. I liked that several of the original characters from Sky in the Deep were built upon. We still had the foundation of two clans at war, conflict, growing up into positions of power, and varying pantheons of gods/goddesses. I guess I was sad, more than anything, that TGtSGB didn’t feel as VISCERAL and edgy and Sky in the Deep did.

Jackaby by William Ritter is an old favorite and I was SO excited to re-read it! The first book has a certain flair to it that the rest don’t (probably because it’s the first and we all know how firsts are) – Jackaby feels more quirky and whimsical in the beginning. Light, fast, pleasant read if you’re looking for something that doesn’t feel heavy. Think: Sherlock but with fantasy creatures. I gave it (4) stars when I read it back in 2015 and I gave it (4) stars again in 2020.

Lovely War by Julie Berry was one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in 2020 and I marked it (4) stars. The Greek gods/goddesses provided such a well-rounded variation of voices and, even though Aphrodite was the central figure, I found myself sucked in when Ares or Hades or Apollo would recall their parts. The writing is lush and unique and so, so good. The human MCs were hard not to love, with distinct personalities of their own, who faced: racial prejudice, death/grief, hardship, and mental health issues. Such a special book!

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (BRACE YOURSELF: here comes the unpopular opinion of the year) has been my least favorite read of 2020 thus far. I gave it (3) stars on Goodreads but had it at only 2 1/2 in my journal. I just never could get into it and struggled to stay interested. Pretty sure I ended up skimming a healthy majority of it. If you’re into a plot-line that’s action oriented and/or driven by war/politics/rebellion, this might be a good book for you. My problem was, the characters didn’t feel fleshed-out enough for me to truly care about them. I gave it the (3) stars on Goodreads solely because of M-Bot’s witty, sarcastic nature. “He” was my favorite part.

Tainted by Morgan L. Busse was my first steampunk read for 2020 and I knocked it out in one-sitting. I found this book in a local Christian College bookstore and wasn’t sure what to expect but ended up giving it 3 1/2 stars. The romance was “meh” – I found the male MC to be a tad toxic + off-putting. The steampunk elements had a futuristic taste to them. The cool part = there was a HUGE betrayal and I seriously didn’t see it coming. It was one of those book-moments where I was so invested that I got physically angry with the characters. (Note: Might continue the series later this year.)

Last but not least, White Stag by Kara Barbieri took my “W” spot back in January. This was also a 3 1/2 star read with some pretty heavy elements in the mix: rape, eating disorders, death, PTSD, and sexual violence. I had to remind myself, however, that I’m an “almost-30-year-old” who was reading a book meant for teens and early teens – and, even with those heavy elements, it felt immature. Pretty predictable love story, with flaky (filler) humor in an attempt to lighten things up. It was nice to see Goblins versus Elves portrayed as eerily beautiful monsters though. The underlying mythology of the white stag itself was my favorite part of the book.


Looking Ahead:

On the books for the next few letters:

“D” – The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter
“E” – Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
“H” – House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig



So, what’s your thoughts? Have a letter suggestion? Anything you’d do differently the last half of 2020?

Leave a comment and let me know!

-B

6 thoughts on ““A to Z” YA Challenge: June Update

  1. I have been in a rut with reading but have shelves full. I might have to try your challenge. 😊 “In the dark, dark wood” by Ruth Ware is amazing though if you need something for I. I have yet to find a book of hers that I didn’t enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhhh, I read that on a roadtrip and it rained the whole time we were driving = perfect mood.

      I’ve been eyeballing The Turn of the Key by Ware, too, though! (Looks good and creepy.) Have you read it by chance?

      Sorry about the rut! I had the same issue, the whole time we were quarantined. I barely read 30 pages total in those 3 months. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Guess we just gotta ride that wave!

      Like

      1. I haven’t read that one yet, I think I bought it but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I started The Death of Mrs. Westaway near the beginning of quarantine but just haven’t went back to finish it yet. The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game are both good though.

        Like

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