books I keep pushing everyone to read (are these books my brand?)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is actually “books I refuse to let anyone touch”, but I don’t really have any books like that. Are there books I would only lend out with specific instructions to take care of them? Of course. That really only goes for my illustrated editions of Harry Potter, though.

Instead, I thought I would talk about the books I keep mentioning over and over again on this blog. Ones that have been on countless recommendations lists. I saw this video go around on BookTube where people were talking about the books that are their “brand”, which are really the books everyone associates with those specific vloggers. It seemed like a fun video, so why not create a blog post around it? Let’s get into the books!

Let me know whether you predicted any of these books to actually be on my list! I would love to know whether this is all in my head or not.

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence
Ever since I read this book at the start of 2018, I’ve been pushing it onto everyone here. I’ve mentioned it countless times, because I still feel like not enough people have read it. It’s a character-driven story that is action-packed at the same time, and follows a girl called Nona who is training to become a Red Sister – a nun of battle, basically. Also, 98% of the characters in this book are female. YES.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
While The Secret History is an incredibly popular novel in general, I feel like I don’t see it mentioned that often in the bookish community. Maybe I’m simply not following the people who also adore this book? Either way, everyone should read it. I know it may seem like an intimidating and somewhat snobbish read, but I promise you it’s worth it. Instead of the classic whodunnit, this novel is more of a whydunnit.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is one of the only books on my shelves I’ve actually lent out to people “in real life”. I hate saying in real life, but I don’t know how else to convey what I mean. I’ve lent it out to family and friends, and recommended the translated novel to those in my life who don’t read in English. Everyone I have recommended it to has loved it so far, which says something, right? It’s a WWII historical fiction novel about two French sisters during the German occupation of France.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I’m sure the majority of you are sick and tired of seeing me mention The Song of Achilles. Guess what? I couldn’t care less. I’m going to keep talking about it until everyone has read it. It’s a retelling of the Iliad through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’ best friend and partner.

I Hear the Sunspot volume 1 by Yuki Fumino
I Hear the Sunspot is a very recent addition to this list, because I only read it two months ago. The reason I’m adding it to this list is because I know I’ll keep recommending this manga for years to come. It’s absolutely wonderful. I became obsessed with it immediately, and binge-read the three English volumes available at the moment – as well as the unofficial translation of the next issues out so far. I NEED MORE INFORMATION ON WHEN THE NEXT ONES WILL BE RELEASED. This manga follows two guys at university. One of them offers to take notes for the other, who is hearing impaired, in exchange for lunch. They quickly develop a friendship, and more…

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Once again, I’ve talked about this book so often. Duh, Jolien, that’s what this entire list is about… To this day, Radio Silence is one of my favorite YA contemporary reads. It’s quietly brilliant. It has a biracial, bisexual main character who creates fanart for her favorite podcast and becomes friends with the podcasts’ creator, Aled. There is no romance between them whatsoever, which is refreshing.

Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations #1-2) by Michael J. Sullivan
I feel like I haven’t talked about these books in a while, even though that’s probably a lie. Michael J. Sullivan is one of my favorite fantasy authors so far, ever since I read Theft of Swords in 2015. This series has all the fantasy tropes I love, and I’ve become so attached to the two main characters.

Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop
How many times have I read Written in Red since first picking it up in 2013? I’ve marked it as read 4 times on Goodreads, but I know I’ve done re-reads of it without adding it to Goodreads. This urban fantasy series is absolutely fantastic. It has a large cast of characters, but the author manages to make you feel attached to every single one of them. There really aren’t any characters I don’t have any feelings on. Either I love them, hate them, want to protect them, want to kill them, or want to be them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards #1) by Scott Lynch
Once again, I feel like I don’t need to explain why The Lies of Locke Lamora is on this list. I have been in love with this series for years, and am (im)patiently waiting for the next book to be released. It’s about the Gentleman Bastards, who rob both rich people and other robbers. It’s magnificent.

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco
I feel like I haven’t screamed about this series enough, to be honest. I absolutely adore it, yet I never even reviewed the second book? I recently read the last book in the trilogy, and will be reviewing it soon. It’s Asian-inspired YA fantasy, and reminds of of The Name of the Wind. It’s told in two timelines: one in which the main character discovers she’s a bone witch (Dark asha), and one in which she has been exiled from the kingdom and is raising an army of dead monsters to proclaim war.


Did you guess these correctly? Are there any books you feel I shouldn’t have put on this list, or ones that I should’ve added instead? Let me know! I find the idea of a “brand” as a book blogger quite interesting, because I want to know which books you all associate with me. Which books are your “brand”?  I’d love to hear about it!

Books I have recommended to my friends and family

While everyone who knows me is aware of how much I love to read, I don’t end up recommending books to my friends and family often. Obviously, I’m not counting my blogger/vlogger friends in this list. I most certainly consider you to be my friends (looking at you, Lovelies), but we talk about books all the time. For the sake of this post, I am focusing on friends I’ve made outside of the bookish community, like at university.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is the book I’ve recommended the most, I think. I made my mom buy a Dutch copy at a book sale, which she ended up loving. She then lent it to my aunt, who loved it as well. I’ve lent my English copy to one of my best friends from university, who loved it to, and lent it to her brother before returning it to me. I’ve become the official promoter of this book! It’s one of the best WWII stories I’ve read so far.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I don’t think I’d still recommend this book today. However, when I first read it I did absolutely love it. So I lent it to the same university friend I mentioned before, and she loved it too. I also think another uni friend read it because of my recommendation, and loved it.

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1) by Kevin Kwan
This is one I am currently lending out to my friend! We watched the movie together in theaters and she really loved it. So did I, by the way. I brought my copy of the first book for her so she could give the book a try as well, since they do differ in certain aspects.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
I lent this to a friend as well, during university. It took some convincing for her to give it a try, which is understandable given the topic of the book. If you’re not aware, it’s about a brother and sister falling in love. The idea grossed both of us out, but the book itself is fantastic.


Those are the 4 books I have recommended to my friends and family! Not a lot, I know. I’m sure I’ve recommended other books too, but these are the ones I’m sure they actually read after my recommendation. Have you read any of these? Which books have you recommended to your family and friends?

 

Jolien Recommends: Difficult/Taboo Topics

I’m here for the first time in a while with a recommendations post (and video)! I thought I’d talk about 5 books I’ve read in the past few years that deal with some difficult or taboo topics.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma // This is the most taboo topic of all 5 books. If you don’t know, this book revolves around Lochan and Maya as they fall in love. The problem? They’re siblings. This book broke my heart. I know this is a difficult topic. Even thinking about falling in love with my brother makes me nauseous. But this book is worth picking up. It really is worth reading.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers // I’ve talked about this book quite frequently ever since I read it a few months back. I absolutely adored it. This is the story of Romy, a teenage girl and rape victim. This book made me both angry and sad. Courtney Summers wrote an incredible book. This should be required reading in every school because it not only deals with rape and trauma, but also with slut-shaming and victim-blaming.

Down From the Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer // I read Down from the Mountain in 2015, so it’s been a while. But I thought this was a really interesting book about Eva, who was raised on the compound of The Righteous Path. So it’s a fictional story set in a cult.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp // This Is Where It Ends revolves around a school shooting. The entire story covers only 54 minutes, but I felt every single emotion on the planet while reading it. 

V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram // Maybe a weird choice to some? But I think that sex and virginity are still not talked about enough. And we still don’t respect other people’s choices enough. You want to lose your virginity at 16? If you are ready for it, that’s fine. You want to wait until you’re married? THAT IS FINE TOO. You know what? As long as it is your choice, every decision is FINE.


Those are my 5 recommendations of books that deal with topics that are either taboo, or not talked about often enough. Have you read any of these? Do you have any to recommend me?

Underrated Fantasy Series

I have been thinking about writing this post for a while. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and I have come across some books I feel are underrated. Books not many people/bloggers seem to talk about. So today, I am showing you some fantasy series I really enjoyed, but don’t see around enough.

THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS BY MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN

The Riyria Revelations consists of three bind-ups: Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron

I will say it time and time again: I love this series. I love these characters. I love this author. I consider him to be one of my favorite fantasy writers, yet the first bind-up of this series “only” has a bit over 25.000 ratings on Goodreads. How is that possible? I wish everyone would give this series a go. Here’s the synopsis of the first book

“There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.”

THE RIYRIA CHRONICLES BY MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN

The Riyria Chronicles consists of three books (so far): The Crown Tower, The Rose and the Thorn and The Death of Dulgath.

This is a prequel series to the Riyria Revelations. The story of Royce and Hadrian as they first start working together. I read this series after I read the Revelations, and I would advise everyone to do so. It provides such an interesting view on the characters. To see how they were when they started out, it just shows you how years of working together has changed them. It’s incredible. Here’s the synopsis of the first book

“A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadius can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.”

THE KANIN CHRONICLES BY AMANDA HOCKING

The Kanin Chronicles consists of Frostfire, Ice Kissed and Crystal Kingdom.

I started this series in the summer, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. This is a fun, action packed YA fantasy with Scandinavian influences thrown in. I enjoyed the characters, the world and the fast-paced plots. I do have to say that this series will probably spoil you for her other series a bit, the Trylle trilogy. They take place in different tribes, but the Trylle do make an appearance here. Here’s the synopsis of the first book

“Bryn Aven is determined to gain status amongst the Kanin, the most powerful of the hidden tribes. But as a half-blood, winning respect is a huge challenge. Bryn’s almost-human community distrusts people, and those from other tribes are almost as suspect. She has just one goal to get ahead: to join the elite guard protecting the Kanin royal family. And Bryn’s vowed that nothing will stand in her way, not even a forbidden romance with her boss, Ridley Dresden. But her plans are put on hold when fallen hero Konstantin starts acting dangerously. Bryn loved him once, but now he’s kidnapping Kanin children – stealing them from hidden placements within human families. She’s sent to help stop him, but will she lose her heart in the process?”

THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS BY RACHEL AARON

The Legend of Eli Monpress series consists of The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, The Spirit Eater, The Spirit War and Spirit’s End.

I read this series at the end of 2014, binged them all in one month. I absolutely loved this world, the kind of magic and especially the characters. I wish I could met Eli. It would be a glorious meeting. The first book in the series only has a little over 5.000 ratings on Goodreads, so for the others it would be even less. I think that’s such a shame! Here’s the synopsis of the first book

“Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief. But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect. The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while. Like a king.”

THE BLACK MAGICIAN TRILOGY BY TRUDI CANAVAN

The Black Magician trilogy consists of The Magician’s Guild, The Novice and The High Lord

Again, I don’t understand why this isn’t mentioned more often, especially in our lovely community. This is a YA fantasy series, which is pretty high in demand now as a genre. Yet this trilogy gets overlooked most of the time. I guess because the last book in the trilogy was published in 2002/2004 which is quite a while ago. Please don’t overlook this gem! I really loved it. Here’s the synopsis of the first book

“This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work-—until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders…and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield. What the Magicians’ Guild has long dreaded has finally come to pass. There is someone outside their ranks who possesses a raw power beyond imagining, an untrained mage who must be found and schooled before she destroys herself and her city with a force she cannot yet control.”

THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY BY DANIELLE L. JENSEN 

The Malediction trilogy consists of Stolen Songbird, Hidden Huntress and Warrior Witch (to be released in May 2016).

I was quite surprised by Goodreads on this one. At first, I wasn’t going to include these in my list because I have seen them around on the blogosphere. Plus, the final book isn’t released yet. But then I saw that the first book “only” has about 10.000 ratings on Goodreads! So I felt obliged to add it. This is another YA fantasy series yet it’s different from the others because the plot revolves around trolls. Actual trolls. Interesting, no? Here’s the synopsis of the first book

“For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse. Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time… But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for…”


I wish all of these series would get far more attention than they do now. So I hope that if you haven’t read any/some of these, you’ll give them a go! Have you read any of these? What do you think constitutes a series as underrated? If you have some recommendations on underrated fantasy reads, I’d love to hear about it. 

Jolien Recommends: Out of My Comfort Zone

Today is a special day everyone! I wasn’t really feeling the Top Ten Tuesday post of this week, so I decided to write something different instead. It’s the first in a series of posts I’ve been wanting to make for a while, namely “Jolien Recommends”. I have read quite a lot of books -and loved them- most before I even started my blog. So I want to make these posts ever so often to recommend some books to you that I’ve really enjoyed.

I thought I’d start by showing you 6 books that for one reason or another, are out of my reading comfort zone. I have certain genres I tend to stick to, or certain topics I tend to avoid and yet somehow, I picked these books up and really enjoyed them. Let’s get into it!

Forbidden

#1: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives–and the way they understand each other so completely–has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

Obviously, this one was out of my comfort zone because it’s about siblings who fall in love. As I have a brother too, that just freaks me out. It makes me feel nauseous. But I can’t tell you how much I adored this book -and how devastated I was after finishing it. I made one of my friends read it too, and she felt the same way about this book as I did.

quiet

#2: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Synopsis: At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so.

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I heard about this one I knew I had to read it. This book was so empowering for me. I learned so much about myself but most of all, I learned to accept many aspects of my personality through reading this.

the miseducation

#3: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Synopsis: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl. But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

This wasn’t really out of my comfort zone because of its topic, it’s just a book I would never have picked up if I hadn’t heard its reviews. It plays out a few decades ago and warning, this book is quite long and slow. But it’s definitely worth giving a try. It really showed me far much society has come -and how far we still need to go.

the hallowed ones

#4: The Hallowed Ones (The Hallowed Ones #1) by Laura Bickle

Synopsis: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community?

So I’ve read my fair share of apocalypse stories, but never through the eyes of an Amish girl. That alone warrants a read, no? Anyway, I really enjoyed the first two books and I don’t think these books are mentioned enough.

down from the mountain

#5: Down From the Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer

Synopsis: Eva just wants to be a good disciple of the Righteous Path. She grew up knowing that she and her mother are among the chosen few to be saved from Armageddon. Lately, though, being saved feels awfully treacherous. Ever since they moved to the compound in Colorado, their food supplies have dwindled even while their leader, Ezekial, has stockpiled weapons. The only money comes from the jewelry Eva makes and sells down in Boulder–a purpose she’ll serve until she becomes one of Ezekial’s wives. But a college student named Trevor and the other “heathens” she meets on her trips beyond the compound are different from what she’s been led to believe.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t often read books with religious themes -which is why the only few I’ve read and liked are in this post. But I really enjoyed this story, about a girl who was practically brought up in a cult.

outlander

#6: Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Synopsis: The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.  Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart.

I don’t read a lot of time travel books. For some reason, they just don’t seem to appeal to me. But I’d heard such good things about it that I had to try it out. I have to say that the time travel part is more of a side story and the romance is basically the main part. But I’d recommend it anyways.

So those are my 6 recommendations of books out of my comfort zone. Aside from Outlander, all are suitable for young adults. I hope you give these a try if you haven’t already!

Do you have any recommendations for books that were out of your comfort zone?