Announcements

Oops! An (Almost) 2-Year Update

Wow, it’s been a long time since I last posted a review! Almost two years, to be precise. I really didn’t mean to let it go this long. But between college and its ridiculous amounts of homework, 2-4 jobs (yes, there was a point where I was working 4 jobs), living on my own, getting a dog, and other adulty things, I just didn’t have the time to read.

Last year, I only read 9 books. (Yes, I am ashamed that I have to write that sentence. But it’s true. Only 9. Less than half of which were fiction and one of which was technically for school.)

The good news

I’ve graduated college (finally!), so I now have time to do things. Like pick up hobbies that I haven’t done in two years. So if you’ve missed me – and even if you haven’t – I’m back!

The changes

You didn’t think I could be gone so long and not make changes when I came back, did you? 🙂 I like to think it’s nothing major, but here’s what’s changing around here.

  1. The book grading system is going to go. It’s too much effort, and honestly it’s nothing I couldn’t put in the review text anyway.
  2. No posting schedule. I don’t need any more stress in my life, and trying to force myself to read and review one book a week is just going to take the enjoyment out of everything. I’ll post a review when I finish a book. (Which will hopefully be around once a week)
  3. More nonfiction. I know in my last changes post (admittedly in 2014) I said reviewing nonfiction was going to be a thing. Well, it’s going to be more of a thing now, since it’s a much larger proportion of what I read now. And self-improvement is going to be a big theme.
  4. Trigger warnings. Sometimes books have stuff that you might not want to read about, for whatever reason. In all reviews from here on out, I’m going to list trigger warnings for common triggers (such as violence, sexual content, abuse, and varieties of bigotry) so you know which books to avoid. I try to keep my reviews trigger-free, but if I accidentally include triggering content (or miss a trigger in a book), please comment and let me know!
  5. Everything is gay and feminist. Because I am 🙂 I’m putting more effort into reading distinctly feminist books (fiction and nonfiction) and novels with queer characters. That’s not to say that I won’t ever read something about The StraightsTM, but I’m prioritizing LGBT+ authors and characters.
  6. Picky, but in different directions. I used to be picky about profanity, sex, homosexuality, and anything that didn’t wholeheartedly support the Christian belief system. Those things don’t really matter to me anymore – now I’m more sensitive to misogyny and sexism, rape and sexual assault, and racism and ableism.

(I’m also going to be slowly working through my archives to make my review formats consistent, because I’ve changed formats at least eight times.)

I realize this is a massive change from what Jalyn Reads used to be – but I think I’ve reinvented this blog no less than four times already. Either way, I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

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Book Round-Ups

2014 in Books

I don’t know how this happened, but it’s 2015. 2014 has been a year of huge changes for me – mainly because I left for college in August. And I only read 89 books this year, 44 fewer than 2013 – the first time since I started tracking my reading in 2010 that the number has dropped below 100. A little disappointing, but still not bad.

So, to start the new year, I’ve put together three lists: My top 5 favorite books of 2014 (since I can never decide on just one), some 2014 reads worth mentioning that didn’t make the top 5, and the 5 books I’m most excited to read in 2015. None of the lists are in any particular order.Jalyn at jalynely.com's 5 favorite reads of 2014: BLACKOUT by Madeleine Henry, ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE by Gail Carriger, NEW SIGHT by Jo Schneider, WIN THE RINGS by K.D. Van Brunt, and THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson

  1. Blackout (Darkness #1) by Madeleine Henry. I had a deadline of one week to read and review this book, which I agreed to against my better judgement … and ended up devouring the entire book during the busiest week of my year. The characters, concept, and amazing execution blew me away, and I would be happy to read book two with a yesterday deadline if that means I get it soon.
  2. Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger. Steampunk is my current obsession anyway, but steampunk, in high-class Victorian England, at a finishing school, that teaches girls to be spies? Absolute perfection.
  3. New Sight by Jo Schneider. Giving a new twist to the idea of psychic powers, this Indie urban fantasy added beautifully dark, gritty tones of insanity and addiction to the traditional master-your-powers-help-the-good-guys plot.
  4. Win the Rings (Cracked Chronicles #1) by K.D. Van Brunt. Despite a vague blurb, bland cover, and seemingly nonsensical title, this Indie book was amazing. Tense, action-packed, amazing concept, and told from two perspectives that gave the best of both worlds – the hunter and the hunted.
  5. The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson. This is the second year in a row a Sanderson book has made my top 5, and for good reason. Fascinating and original magic systems, great characters, a delightfully complicated plot, and I never could decide on a prediction for the bad guy.

Jalyn at JalynEly.com's books worth mentioning of 2014Reviews of the mentioned books:

  1. Ballad of the Northland by Jason Barron
  2. Theory of Mind by Jacob Gorczyca
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen by J.L McCreedy
  5. My Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos
  6. Tea Cups and Tiger Claws by Timothy Patrick
  7. Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by F.J.R. TitchenellJalyn at jalynely.com's top 5 books to read in 2015: FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson, EXPOSURE by Kathy Reichs, UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman, THE SHADOW THRONE by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and DATA RUNNER by Sam Patel
  1. Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson. The first book, Steelheart,was amazing (honestly, anything Brandon Sanderson writes is amazing), so I’m really looking forward to reading more of this fabulous series.
  2. Exposure (Virals #4) by Kathy Reichs. I’ve loved the Virals series since I discovered it, and after the way Code, the third book, ended, I need to know what happens.
  3. UnWholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman. Unwind has been a favorite for a while, so I was thrilled to find it was first in a series (I actually just bought this book – now I have to get around to reading it).
  4. The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I absolutely loved the first two books in this series, even though it’s middle grade, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series.
  5. Data Runner (Data Runner #1) by Sam A. Patel. Couriers running information in a high-tech world, including cool aliases and conspiracies – sounds like a fun, action-packed ride.

So that’s my year in books. What were your favorite books of 2014? What books are you looking forward to reading in the coming year?

Announcements

Changes at Jalyn Reads

Right now, I’ve been at college just over a month – land of homework, classes, and staying up until 1AM every single night. And in that month, I’ve managed to read 2 books.

So I’m making a few changes to my reading habits.

Ditching the 100 page rule

If you’ve been hanging around here for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with my 100 page rule: give a book 100 pages (75 if it’s short) to get good before I abandon it. But I don’t have time for that. I’m now following the “literary agent rule” – any point after the first five pages where I’m not dying to read on, I won’t.

Reviewing nonfiction

I’ve always read a little bit of nonfiction, just not enough to bother reviewing. But the proportion of nonfiction I read is going up. So I’m going to try my hand at reviewing nonfiction.

Not reading books I’m not absolutely thrilled about

Without a car and living on a campus within walking distance of nowhere, the only library I have access to is IPFW’s library of study rooms and reference works. The only novels I can get my hands on are review copies and ones I order online. So there will be very few “this looked vaguely interesting” reads.

Being picky

With a lot of books, I’ll run into something I don’t like early on, but unless it’s blatant, I’ll give it a hundred pages to see if I can suffer through. From now on, I’m not going to do that. If I find something I don’t like, I’ll stop reading. Period.

No pressure

It’s too much pressure to try to do all my homework and read and review two books a week. So I’m only going to post every other week in the forseeable future. I should be able to maintain that.

Quality over quantity

Life is too short to read bad books. So I’m not going to.

Jalyn Rants

YA Shaming: Filed Under “Advisement”

I know I’m a little late to the ball game here, but I just recently came across Ruth Graham’s article Against YA. I’ve seen responses blowing up Twitter with the #promoteaYAinstead and #NoShameYA hashtag, but I wasn’t really sure what started it all until yesterday.

When I read the title of the article, I was set to argue. You bash YA, I’m going to bash back! But as I read, I realized something:

I understand her point.

That’s not to say I agree with the article. On the contrary. I read a lot of YA. And even though I do read some adult books, I much prefer the subjects and variety of YA. But I can understand Ruth Graham’s perspective, because it’s the same perspective my mom has.

My mother knows I read mostly YA. And she doesn’t really approve. She keeps pushing me to read adult books – “real” books.

See, Ruth Graham, my mother, and pretty much anyone older than forty were teens when YA wasn’t really a “thing.” There were children’s books, and there were adult books, and as soon as you outgrew Nancy Drew it was time to head to the adult section. To them, YA is children’s books.

Graham also mentions outgrowing YA. That’s completely understandable. I’ve tried to reread some of my favorite books from the preteen years, and they don’t have the same appeal. And many middle grade books don’t appeal to me as much as I think they’d appeal to my eleven-year-old sister. I’ve pretty much outgrown middle grade, and that’s okay with me. If you outgrow YA, that’s okay.

As Graham claims, some YA is purely entertainment. Some of it is all about “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.” And I will be honest – sometimes, I want a just-for-fun read.

But not all YA is useless. Take the Hunger Games trilogy: sure, a reality-TV show where kids kill each other is just plain ridiculous, but Katniss and Peeta both ended up with PTSD and the revolution practically destroyed their world.

And Divergent, which Graham called “trashy” and a book that “nobody defends as serious literature”: I found themes of identity, priorities, using your unique gifts, and the power of choices. And in the end of the series, their entire world falls apart and a whole lot of characters I’d grown to care about died.

How much more real does Graham want? And who would call those endings “satisfying”? Not me.

Just because a book is classified as “YA” doesn’t mean it’s pointless. And just because a book is “adult” doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile. YA can contain important themes, and adult can be pure escapism.

I see where Ruth Graham is coming from. She holds the view common among older adults that YA is children’s lit. And she’s outgrown it. That’s okay. I can respect that.

I think the real issue here is not YA versus adult books – it’s because people are being shamed for what they like to read. 42% of college students in America will never read another book once they graduate. Shouldn’t we be happy they’re reading, instead of criticizing because they’re not reading “literary” stuff?

Ruth Graham has the freedom to read whatever she wants – and if it’s not YA, that’s okay. But the rest of us have that freedom, too.

If you don’t like YA, that’s okay. But please don’t hate on me because I do.

Book Adventures

America’s Most Famous Library

Last week I went to Washington, DC with my family. Freshman year, my dad promised me we’d go before I graduate. I graduate high school on Friday. We called it a little close, but it happened.

And being the huge book nerd that I am, I forced my family to go to the Library of Congress. Jalyn with Library of Congress sign

I didn’t realize the Library of Congress is actually three buildings: the Jefferson Building, the Madison Building, and the Adams Building. We visited the Jefferson Building because it was closest to where we ate lunch and I couldn’t convince my siblings to see all three.

Jalyn outside the Library of CongressThe original Library of Congress was established in 1800 by President John Adams, and it had 740 books and 3 maps. They were kept in the Capital Building until the British burned it in 1814. Thomas Jefferson offered his 6,487-volume personal library to replace it. The current library opened in 1897 (later renamed the Jefferson Building when the library expanded) and was the first building in DC constructed with electric lights.

Bookshelves at the Library of Congress
Some of the shelves off the main reading room

What I found was not really what I expected. I expected amazing architecture (like every famous building in DC) and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. It was actually a museum. Jalyn with the Gutenberg Bible

There were some awesome exhibits, like Thomas Jefferson’s original library (I wanted to take pictures, but they didn’t allow photography in the exhibits). But I expected to see more books.

Apparently it’s called the Library of Congress for a reason. Only members of Congress and their aides can read the books. And even they aren’t allowed to browse the shelves themselves – they decide which book they want and an automated retrieval system brings it to them.

Library of Congress main reading room
View of the main reading room from a glassed-in balcony (the closest they would let us get)

The only room in the building where you can actually touch books is in the far corner of the basement: the young readers center. I took my 11-year-old sister there and discovered they have a YA room.

Jalyn reading in the Library of CongressIt was like seeing my TBR list on shelves. They even had ARCs! Leaving that room without a book or twenty was one of the worst parts of the trip.

Even though it was not exactly what I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Library of Congress. I wish I could have explored the other buildings, too. I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves books – as long as you don’t expect 20-foot bookshelves.

(Apologies for the bad lighting in some of the pics – camera flashes weren’t allowed in the building.)

Book Round-Ups

2013 in Books

Well, it’s the beginning of a new year already. 2013 seems to have gone really fast for me. I only managed to read 133 books this year, 54 less than last year. Still, I think that’s pretty good.

I’ve put together some lists of books. My favorite books of 2013, other books I read in 2013 that didn’t make the top 5 but are worth mentioning, and the 5 books I’m most excited to read in 2014. None of these lists are in any particular order.

Top 5 favorite books I read in 2013:Cover of "The Raven Boys," featuring the silhouette of a raven with blue wing tips and a glowing red heart

  1. The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater, which not only didn’t agree to my maybe-this-will-be-okay expectations, it knocked them down, trampled them, and made me wonder where I got such idiotic ideas.
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I wasn’t really expecting much from a tearjerker about cancer kids, but I ended up falling in love with the heartbreakingly beautiful romance.
  3. The Last Dragonslayer (The Last Dragonslayer #1) by Jasper Fforde, which I’m glad I gave a chance. Its screwball storytelling is a perfect blend of smart and silly, realistic and ridiculous, ordinary and oddball.
  4. The Crystal Ordeal (Legends of Leone #1) by M.G. Dekle, an Indie book that surprised me. I couldn’t read this book at night because the male lead would make me laugh so hard I’d wake up my family.
  5. Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson, a dark, suspenseful, action-packed not-exactly-superhero story with an urban vibe. Any book that can make me draw wrong conclusions is impressive, but a book that can trample them this fantastically earns definite bonus points.
Cover of "Allegiant," featuring a background of red clouds with an ocean wave curling in a complete circle above the title text
Image from Veronica Roth

Other books worth mentioning:

  1. The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl #8) by Eoin Colfer. The last Artemis Fowl book was bittersweet for me – it was a fabulous ending to a fabulous series, but I was sad to see a series I’ve loved for so long end.
  2. Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth – a book I thought I’d like, but didn’t. I liked the first two books in the series, but this one killed off too many characters that (in my opinion) didn’t have to die.

Top 5 books I want to read in 2014:

  1. Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
  2. The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson
  4. Exposure (Virals #4) by Kathy Reichs
  5. UnWholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman

How about you? What are your favorite books of last year? What books are you excited to read in 2014?

Blog Tours

Blog Tour: Poison

Today’s post isn’t a typical blog tour.  It’s special.

Bridget Zinn, librarian and writer, died of cancer in 2011.  She was 33 years old.  Now, nearly four years from the day of her cancer diagnosis, her novel Poison is published.  It was released on March 12.

You can find out more about Bridget’s story, her book, and how people are spreading the word (and how you can get in on it), visit Bridget’s website.  I hadn’t planned on doing anything with it, but trust me – once you read the whole story, you can’t not help promote this book.

About the Book:

Poison book cover
Image from Bridget Zinn’s website

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

***

I had planned to have a review to go along with this post.  But of course the book gets lost in the mail and doesn’t show up.  At some point, I’ll review Poison.  But in the meantime, you’ll have to content yourself with visiting Bridget’s website.

About the Author:

Bridget Zinn
Image from Bridget Zinn’s website

Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the “summer of love” and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.”

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers’ copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads.

Click here to visit Bridget’s website.

Book Round-Ups

Stand-Out Books of 2012

Well, it’s a new year, which means two things.  First:  A round-up of stand-out books I read last year.

I’ve decided on my top five favorites, plus a few “honorable mentions” that were good but didn’t make Top Favorites.  All links go to my review. (Since I started this blog mid-year, I don’t have reviews for every book.  Books marked with an asterisk [*] are ones without reviews.)

Virals book cover
Image from cemsbookhideout. blogspot.com

My top 5 favorite books of the year (in no particular order):

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld*

Prophet by R.J. Larson

Gunner’s Run by Rick Barry*

All Things New book cover
Image from bookcritiques. blogspot.com

Honorable Mention (books that made an impression):

All Things New by Lynn Austin

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

The Hero’s Guide to Saving your Kingdom by Christopher Healy*

Failstate by John W. Otte*

The second thing a new year means is a list of books I intend to read in the coming year. Since my goal is to read 200 books, I’m not going to list every title – just the ones I’m really excited for.

My top five most-excited-for books to read in 2013 (I will link to reviews as I read them):

Code book cover
Image from mynotsovacantshelf. blogspot.com

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I Hunt Killers by Barry Luga

Code (Virals #3) by Kathy Reichs

Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson

There’s my ten cents’ worth.  What about you?  What were your favorite books that you read last year?  Which books are you excited to read this year?  How many books do you want to read?

Announcements

Welcome to Jalyn Reads!

I read my first novel at age six, and I’ve been reading obsessively ever since.  This blog is devoted entirely to my takes on the books I read.

Image by Jalyn Ely

I started reviewing books four years ago, but only started blogging about them last year, at Reader…Writer…Homeschooler.  When I outgrew that blog, I moved over to Jalyn Ely.  But I only realized after I set it up that there really wasn’t room for too many book reviews at Jalyn Ely.

So I started Jalyn Reads.

Here, I’m going to post my thoughts on the books I read.  Classic books, new books, old books, famous books, obscure books… I read them all.  And I have thoughts about them all.

And maybe my thoughts will help you find books to read.  After all, book blogs are where I hear about most of the books I read, anyway.