these lists of books to read before you die that are full of classics are all well and good but what if you don’t like classics? and what about the ya ones that are just full of popular series? so this is an alternative list of ya books you should read before you die. thanks to everyone who contributed books; i’ve had to miss some off because i’ve got more than 100, so i’ll probably include them on a second list. (also, i’ve not actually read all these books. it’s a group effort)

  1. under the lights by dahlia adler
  2. the wrath and the dawn by renee ahdieh
  3. throne of the crescent moon by saladin ahmed
  4. simon vs the homo sapiens agenda by becky albertalli
  5. the absolutely true diary of a part time indian by sherman alexie
  6. last night i sang to the monster by benjamin alire sáenz
  7. aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe by benjamin alire sáenz
  8. mosquitoland by david arnold
  9. pure trilogy by julianna baggott
  10. the fixer by jennifer lynn barnes
  11. the last leaves falling by sarah benwell
  12. ashes trilogy by ilsa j bick
  13. the darkest part of the forest by holly black
  14. curse workers by holly black
  15. noughts and crosses by malorie blackman
  16. anna duology by kendare blake
  17. the princess and the captain by anne-laure bondoux
  18. the diviners by libba bray
  19. gemma doyle trilogy by libba bray
  20. fire and thorns by rae carson
  21. gallagher girls by ally carter
  22. heist society by ally carter
  23. graceling realm by kristin cashore
  24. a hero at the end of the world by erin claiborne
  25. artemis fowl by eoin colfer
  26. the miseducation of cameron post by emily m danforth
  27. i’ll meet you there by heather demetrios
  28. just listen by sarah dessen
  29. spiderwick chronicles by tony diterlizzi & holly black
  30. penryn and the end of days by susan ee
  31. engelsfors trilogy by sara b elfgren & mats strandberg
  32. fearsome dreamer by laure eve
  33. dragonfly by julia golding
  34. since you asked by maurine goo
  35. half life trilogy by sally green
  36. to all the boys i’ve loved before by jenny han
  37. burn for burn by jenny han
  38. saving june by hannah harrington
  39. the outsiders by s e hinton
  40. shades of london by maureen johnson
  41. shadowshaper by daniel josé older
  42. everybody sees the ants by a s king
  43. in honor by jessi kirby
  44. charm & strange by stephanie kuehn
  45. everything leads to you by nina lacour
  46. micah grey by laura lam
  47. momentum by saci lloyd
  48. huntress by malinda lo
  49. adaptation by malinda lo
  50. we were liars by e lockhart
  51. legend by marie lu
  52. the lost girl by sangu mandanna
  53. the lumatere chronicles by melina marchetta
  54. on the jellicoe road by melina marchetta
  55. wicked lovely by melissa marr
  56. since you’ve been gone by morgan matson
  57. yaqui delgado wants to kick your ass by meg medina
  58. the lunar chronicles by marissa meyer
  59. conquered earth by j barton mitchell
  60. if you find me by emily murdoch
  61. i’ll give you the sun by jandy nelson
  62. chaos walking by patrick ness
  63. a monster calls by patrick ness
  64. the summer of chasing mermaids by sarah ockler
  65. before i fall by lauren oliver
  66. wonder by r j palacio
  67. even in paradise by chelsey philpot
  68. his dark materials by philip pullman
  69. the demon’s lexicon by sarah rees brennan
  70. the lynburn legacy by sarah rees brennan
  71. slice of cherry by dia reeves
  72. falling kingdoms by morgan rhodes
  73. how i live now by meg rosoff
  74. bone gap by laura ruby
  75. the winner’s trilogy by marie rutkoski
  76. written in the stars by aisha saeed
  77. persepolis by marjane satrapi
  78. the archived by v e schwab
  79. between shades of grey by ruth sepetys
  80. the bone season by samantha shannon
  81. far from you by tess sharpe
  82. more happy than not by adam silvera
  83. jasper jones by craig silvey
  84. unwind dystology by neal shusterman
  85. grasshopper jungle by andrew smith
  86. the secrets of lily graves by sarah strohmeyer
  87. all the rage by courtney summers
  88. an ember in the ashes by sabaa tahir
  89. because you’ll never meet me by leah thomas
  90. my heart and other black holes by jasmine warga
  91. ms marvel by g willow wilson
  92. don’t touch by rachel m wilson
  93. brown girl dreaming by jacqueline woodson
  94. howl’s moving castle by dianna wynne jones
  95. dirty london by kelley york
  96. made of stars by kelley york
  97. how to save a life by sara zarr
  98. falling into place by amy zhang
  99. i am the messenger by markus zusak
  100. wolfe brothers by markus zusak
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

5 out of 5 stars

I don’t normally like fantasy, as many of you know, but this book had been sitting on my to-read list for a while because I’d heard good things. I ended up loving it so much, you guys. For starters, the characters are all dark-skinned except for the villains, who are pale! That’s so refreshing, given how common the trope of “dark skin equals badness/evil,” which is both tired and extremely harmful and problematic. Nice to see it subverted.

So this book is about Elisa, a 16-year-old princess “twice chosen by God” (as her nurse, Ximena, says) because she is both royalty and a Godstone bearer. The Godstone only appears once every century, and it marks its bearer as someone destined by God for a great act of some kind. Elisa certainly doesn’t feel destined for greatness, given that she’s always lived in the shadow of her more beautiful, wiser older sister, who will become Queen when their father dies. And it certainly doesn’t help that the beginning of the book finds Elisa being married off to King Alejandro of Joya D’Arena, a man she’s never met.

That’s all I’ll say about the plot so as not to ruin any of the fun for anyone, but I do want to hit on three things I adored about the book:

  • Elisa is a really great main character. Did I mention she’s fat? There is one hiccup where she seems really happy that she’s lost a lot of weight at one point, which made me wonder if it was going to send the message that “now she’s skinny and she can start being awesome and attractive.” But I ended up finishing the series (the only reason I’m not reviewing the trilogy as a whole is that I really skimmed the second and third books out of sheer impatience), and she’s mentioned as being large throughout the sequels as well. (Side note: other characters comment negatively on her size a lot, so tw for fatphobia. But Elisa grows less self-conscious about it over time and stops internalizing the negativity, so, yay!) She’s also a really good war strategist because she spends so much of her time reading military strategies. Don’t get me wrong, the other characters in the book are all really strong and well-drawn characters, too, but Elisa’s still my favorite.
  • The religion in the book was really fascinating to read about. There are different theories about the Godstone and its bearer, and there are even different religious sects that interpret the scriptures in different ways based on varying translations. The worldbuilding in general in this book was extremely satisfying.
  • It was unpredictable, and that goes a long way with me when it comes to enjoying a book. I couldn’t predict a lot of events that happened, and moreover, everything that happened kept me riveted. Circumstances were often dire and I believed that they were dire (isn’t it the worst when you just know for a fact that everyone and everything is going to be okay?). Honestly, I just love when a book surprises me.

I’d recommend this book to anyone, even if they don’t generally like fantasy. I was so pleased with the characters, the setting, the pacing, the relationships…just everything about it was so good. It’s a new favorite, seriously, and I can’t wait to read Rae Carson’s Gold Seer trilogy (Walk on Earth a Stranger is the first one).


Entertainment Weekly has details for several Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi books. The new addition: A collection of short stories focusing on inhabitants of Canto Bight, the ritzy casino planet. The authors are Star Wars vet John Jackson Miller and franchise newcomers Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, and Mira Grant. It will be on shelves December 5.

We first heard about most of them back at Celebration, but there’s still plenty of mystery. Ken Liu’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker (October 31), which “presents its stories as rumors circulating through the galaxy.” Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan (September 1) is set when the character is 16, when she “decides to become involved in the fight against the Empire.” We’ll also see plenty of her parents and friends, a boon for fans who want to know more about Alderaan.

Delilah S. Dawson’s Phasma (September 1) will, as we learned in Orlando, give us her origin story, going back to her youth. The book will “show how she got off the planet that she was on initially and came to the First Order and what did she have to do to get there and what will she do to protect her secrets,” Lucasfilm’s Michael Siglain says. “It cuts between the present and the past and shows her as this fearsome warrior on this brutal world that she was on. The First Order comes to that planet, and she sees a great opportunity when they arrive.”

Thanks for your well-wishes and advice to take it easy everyone! I did write some more epilogue (I really need to update my progress bars!) and then settled down to read Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. It’s actually the best book I’ve read in quite a while!

Lovely, vivid language and an engaging main character. I’ve started the sequel now!

Time to get a bit more writing done today before doing errands (what joy!)


New Young Adult Books Releasing Today! (October 10, 2017)

Another big week for YA new releases! Are any of these on your TBR? Have I missed any titles? Let me know!

First in a Series/Standalones: 

  1. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  2. Breathless by Tara Goedjen
  3. Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski
  4. The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
  5. This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis
  6. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
  7. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
  8. Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott
  9. The Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
  10. The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster
  11. Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster


  1. Into the Bright Unknown (The Gold Seer Trilogy #3) by Rae Carson
  2. The Knowing (The Forgetting #2) by Sharon Cameron

Happy reading!

Are you here for accurate historical fiction? Because I sure am.

Firstly, I’m very picky about historical fiction in general. It’s not my go-to genre despite being a History and English teacher because there is just so much room for disappointment. Often it inaccurately depicts the era, or the story itself is boring/predictable and the characters flat. What could be the best of both worlds is often just the worst. 

Walk on Earth a Stranger is definitely one of the best of the genre. Rae Carson brings together a vibrant and diverse cast of characters representing different groups found throughout Antebellum America. In her overland journey to the West Coast Lee is met with unexpected and authentic diversity. What Carson really excels at in this book is her portrayal of women of the era. Lee is a girl occupying a boy’s place in society, and by disguising herself as a boy the reader gets to experience how people react to her as a girl and a boy.

This is a novel that will greatly expand the reader’s understanding of the California gold rush, and of the divisions that marked the United States in that era. So many people leave their history classes thinking American history was scrappy white people trying to make their fortune, that all black folks south of the Mason-Dixon line were slaves, and that Indians existed only long enough to cause a few land disputes.

Carson’s ability to offer a wider view of history is exactly why I’ll be putting this book in the hands of as many of my students as possible. 

Also, Lee is a fantastic strong female lead. She certainly isn’t going to let her gender decide what she does and where, even if those around her are a bit less flippant about it. 

My only negative critique of the novel is the pacing at the beginning. There is a lot of exposition to get through, and Carson tries to get through it as quickly as possible. as a result, her initial character motivations are a bit harder to buy into. It’s all for the greater good, though. If she didn’t whip through it so fast, the book would be 600 pages long. 

This is book 1 in the Gold Seer trilogy. I’m currently reading book 2.