10 Messy, Unconventional, Thought-Provoking Romances

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! It’s that time of year again when everyone is cuddling up with their sweetheart, watching romantic movies, and devouring mounds of heart-shaped chocolates. It’s also the time of year when I get to talk about one of my favorite things – bookish romance!

I would categorize my favorite kind of fictional relationship as a tie between “terrible people in love” and “good people in love under terrible circumstances.” Messy, complex, complicated love stories are what I’m all about. If a romance breaks my heart, makes me cringe, or forces me look at love, myself, or the world in a different way, I’m guaranteed to love it.

The following list features 10 of the most thought-provoking, unconventional romances I’ve read to date. There are selfish/manipulative/self-sabotaging couples, lovers facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and relationships that make the people in them question who they are or what they believe in. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Book cover for Every Day by David LevithanBook cover for The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

1) Scarlet and Rhett from Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell – This resilient, self-serving pair will do whatever it takes to survive, resulting in a relationship fraught with mind games, manipulation, and equal parts passion and loathing.

2) A and Rhiannon from Every Day by David Levithan – Relationships are hard under the best of circumstances; imagine how much harder they’d be if one of the people in the relationship woke up as a new person each morning, complete with a new body, new family, and new life. This is the premise of Every Day, which raises questions about gender, identity, and what it means to really love someone.

3) Abel and Anna from The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis – Abel is a drug dealer with a secret. Anna is the curious, naive girl who follows him after school one day and learns more than she bargained for. The relationship that develops between them is partly touching, partly dangerous and begs the question – what will you forgive of the person you love?

Book cover for Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. JamesBook cover for Gone by Michael GrantBook cover for The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar

4) Anastasia and Christian from Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James – I’m not ashamed to admit that I not only read Fifty Shades of Grey, but loved it too. Why? Because I was fascinated by the relationship between Christian and Anastasia. They’re two very different people with vastly different needs and values. I was fascinated by watching them try to figure out a way to be together without one or both of them having to compromise who they were.

5) Diana and Caine from the Gone series by Michael Grant – Give it up for villain love! Diana and Caine are some of the “bad guys” in the Gone series, powerful, vicious, and spoiled. Even in their tenderest moments together they’re always keeping an eye out for ways to gain an advantage over one another and use their mutual attraction for their own gain.

6) Margo and Oliver from The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar  Oliver is a genie. Margo is his master. Inevitably, the two fall in love. Sounds awesome, right? Who wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with a cutie who can grant your wishes while making you swoon? The problem is this: genies are magically engineered to please their masters. This means their behavior, sexual orientation, looks, personality, and even gender are malleable, defined by their current master’s will. This causes Margo to question how much of her relationship with Oliver is real and how much is Oliver’s subservience to the magic.

Book cover for Sinner by Maggie StiefvaterBook cover for The Other Me by Suzanne van RooyenBook cover for Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

7) Cole and Isabel from Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater – This is one of my favorite Maggie Stiefvater books, and it’s all because of the relationship between Isabel and Cole. They’re a train wreck as a couple as well as individually. Cole is manic and suicidal. Isabel is cold and self-sabotaging. While reading, you constantly wonder: can two broken, self-destructive people forge a lasting relationship?

8) Treasa and Gabriel from The Other Me by Suzanne van Rooyen – The Other Me is about a damaged boy, the confused girl who falls in love with him – and wants to BE him – and the realization that love doesn’t always show up in the shape you expect it to. The moral of the story? Sometimes you have to fight your own demons before taking on somebody else’s.

9) Maya and Lochan from Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma – Lochan and Maya are everything to one another. They’re partners, confidantes, and each other’s only sanity. The issue? They’re also brother and sister. Only Tabitha Suzuma could write a book about sibling romance and make it sad, captivating, and sympathetic instead of creepy and gross.

Book cover for Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

10. Froi and Quintana from Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta – Froi of the Exiles is about two imperfect people made perfect together. Need I say more?

Do you have any recommendations for great books with unusual romances? Let me know in the comments section below!

Cold As Ice: A Book List Inspired by Snowmageddon

Cold As Ice: A Snowmageddon Book List

There’s no denying it – Snowmageddon is upon us. Much as I hoped we’d make it through this winter unscathed, the 28 inches of snow that fell in Central Pennsylvania this weekend have dashed my hopes for a mild season. The past 48 hours have been filled with the scrape of shovels, acrid snowblower fumes, and the conundrum of how to wrestle one-foot-high dogs out of two-and-a-half-foot snow banks.

Much as I enjoyed snow as a kid, adulthood’s required me to trade sledding and snow forts for shoveling and windshield defrosting. I am decidedly not a fan. Still, my parents always taught me to find the bright side of every situation, so I’m doing my best to stay positive about this Snowmageddon business. In an effort to do just that, I’ve put together a list highlighting great Young Adult and Middle Grade stories featuring ice and snow.

Perpetual Winter Fantasy Lands

Winterspell by Claire Legrand – I’m only part-way through this dark, sensual retelling of The Nutcracker, but so far I’m loving it. It’s got a wicked queen, curses, a sexy but possibly dangerous prince, and is set in the wintry, snow-covered land of Cane, a kind of a magical steampunk fairyland.

Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan – A tale of slavery, destiny, and magic, Winter of Fire takes place in a world where greenhouses gases have blocked out the sun and trapped humanity in a bitter, frozen world. Perfect for those who are into fantasy with strong heroines who fight for justice and equality.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis – One of my favorite childhood books, this classic follows the adventures of four siblings who stumble upon the magical land of Narnia. There, they must battle a wicked queen who has cursed her subjects to endure an endless winter.

Book cover for Winterspell by Claire LegrandBook cover for Winter of Fire by Sherryl JordanBook cover for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Man vs. Snow

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George and John Schoenherr – When a young Eskimo girl runs away from home, she gets lost in the Alaskan wilderness. In order to survive, she falls in with a pack of wolves and is gradually accepted as one of their own.

Woodsong by Gary Paulsen – Every time I feel the urge to grumble about the cold, I think about Gary Paulsen and his wild survivalist adventures. The man traveled over 1,000 miles on a dogsled in sub-zero temperatures, hallucinating and eating sticks of butter to survive. Surely I can handle the long walk across the parking lot from my car to my job, no?

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Twenty-eight inches of snow doesn’t seem so bad when compared to the blizzards that swept through the Dakota Territory in the winter of 1880. As a kid, I was stunned by Wilder’s descriptions of cold so bitter that cattle nearly suffocated from their breath freezing over their noses and eyes, and snow that stung at you until your eyelids bled.

Book cover for Julie of the WolvesBook cover for Woodsong by Gary PaulsenBook cover for The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Atmospheric Winter

Nameless by Lili St. Crow – This retelling of Snow White begins with the discovery of a brutalized young girl half-dead in the snow. The wintry theme continues throughout the rest of the book, subtle yet pervasive, all ice and chills and frosty breath. (Read my review here.)

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis – One of my all-time favorite books, this gorgeous but heartbreaking story is packed with wintry motifs. The pages are full of chapped hands, brutal winds, and frozen oceans, everything icy and frigid, the cold inescapable.

Book cover for Nameless by Lili St. CrowBook cover for The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

Are you a fan of the cold and snow? Have you read any great books with wintry themes? Let me know in the comments section below!

2015 End of Year Book Survey

2015 End of Year Book SurveyThe clock may have struck midnight, and the ball may have dropped in Times Square, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to 2015 just yet. Before we charge full speed into 2016, let’s take one last look at 2015 with an End of Year Book Survey, brought to you by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner.

2015 Reading Stats

Number of books you read? 145

Number of re-reads? 16

Genre you read the most from? Science Fiction / Fantasy

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2015? My top two are Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Golden Son by Pierce Brown. You can see the runners up here and here.

Book cover for Hardwired by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay CurrieBook you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t? I had high expectations for Hardwired by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie, but it ended up being a vastly different book than I’d anticipated.

Most surprising book you read in 2015? The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow kept me guessing from beginning to end. Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, Bow threw me a curve ball.

Book you “pushed” the most people to read in 2015? I was a huge advocate for Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy this year.

Best series you started in 2015? The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

Book cover for Golden Son by Pierce BrownBest sequel in 2015? Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Best series ender of 2015? Quintana of Charyn, the last book in Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles

Favorite new author(s) you discovered in 2015? Sarah Fine and Suzanne van Rooyen

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? I don’t usually read short stories, but I really enjoyed “Monkey Talk” by T. Lucas Earle. (Read my review here.)

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Golden Son by Pierce Brown (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Book cover for Game Slaves by Gard SkinnerBook you read in 2015 that you are most likely to re-read next year? Game Slaves by Gard Skinner

Most memorable character of 2015? Talis from The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Most beautifully written book read in 2015? The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (Read my review here.)

Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2015? Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde helped me truly see transgender people for the first time.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Book cover for Tear You Apart by Sarah CrossFavorite cover of a book you read in 2015? Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015? I can’t pick just one, so here’s a list of my 10 favorites from 2015.

Shortest and longest book you read in 2015? Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers (shortest) and Feed by Mira Grant (longest)

Book that shocked you the most? The ending of Feed practically knocked me out of my chair.

One true pairing of the year? Simon Snow and Baz from Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On and Rob and Gamelyn from J. Tullos Hennig’s Greenwode

Book cover for Glass Houses by Rachel CaineFavorite non-romantic relationship of the year? The easy, natural friendship between Michael, Shane, Claire, and Eve in Rachel Caine’s The Morganville Vampires series

Favorite book you read in 2015 from an author you’ve read previously? On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Best book you read in 2015 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure? Alice by Christina Henry

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015? Quinn from I Heart Robot (Read my review here.)

Book cover for The Creeping by Alexandra SirowyBest 2015 debut you read? The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy (Read my review here.)

Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read last year? In her Newsflesh trilogy, Mira Grant does a tremendous job of showing how society might adapt – culturally, medically, technologically, politically, etc. – 20 years after a zombie apocalypse.

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read? Play Me Backwards by Adam Selzer was hilarious and a ton of fun to read.

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015? What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi – the protagonist’s grief for his late girlfriend was so fierce it made my chest hurt.

Book cover for Alive by Scott SiglerMost unique book you read in 2015? The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow and Alive by Scott Sigler

Hidden gem of the year? The Other Me by Suzanne van Rooyen

Book that crushed your soul? Stay With Me by Paul Griffin

Book that made you the most mad? Benjamin Reed’s Courvalian: The Resistance had me spitting nails when I reached the end. (Read my review here.)

Your Blogging Bookish Life

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015? I had the privilege of discovering lots of great blogs this year, but I’m in awe of Cait at Paper Fury. If I had even a smidgen of her talent and creativity, I’d be thrilled.

Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? I didn’t do any discussion posts in 2015.

Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff, and Maggie Stiefvater at BEA15

Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff, and Maggie Stiefvater at Book Expo America 2015

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? I went to Book Expo America for the first time, and it was EPIC. For three days I got to meet famous authors, score free ARCs and swag, and make friends with other people just as book crazed as I am.

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015? At BEA, I achieved one of my life goals: meeting Maggie Stiefvater. I’m pretty sure I almost fainted dead away.

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? 2015 was a really tough year as far as my regular job was concerned. This made it very difficult to have the energy and motivation for blogging.

Book cover for The Wrap-up List by Steven ArntsonMost popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)? My review of The Wrap-up List by Steven Arntson was the most popular post overall, even though I originally posted it in 2014. The most popular post I wrote in 2015 was an author interview with Alethea Kontis.

Post you wished got a little more love? I had a lot of fun creating a list of book/song pairings for Halloween, but it didn’t get quite as many views and comments as I would have likd.

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc? In 2015, I FINALLY discovered and joined the bookish community on Twitter. (You can follow me here!) I also realized that my library lends audiobooks through the Overdrive app, which was super helpful for my hour-long commute to work.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? I didn’t set any reading challenges this year.

Looking Ahead

One book you didn’t get to in 2015 but will be your number 1 priority in 2016? His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Book cover for Places No One Knows by Brenna YovanoffBook you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut, non-sequel)? Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

2016 debut you are most anticipating? Beyond the Red by Ava Jae and The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2016? This is a hard tie between Morning Star by Pierce Brown and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater.

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2016? I have a ton of blogging goals for 2016. They include coming up with more creative posts, stepping up my design/image game, and becoming more involved in the blogging community.

A 2016 release you’ve already read and recommend to everyone? I just finished Scardust by Suzanne van Rooyen, and it was fantastic. Definitely check it out!

Halloween Thrills and Chills

We’re already a week and a half into the month of October, which means it’s time to get down to business. The business of Halloween.

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. Costume parties and pumpkin carving contests? Amazing! Free candy for all? Sounds great! A chance to scare the bejeezus out of trick-or-treaters? Count me in!

You’ll never see me pass up an opportunity to dress up like a pirate, watch my husband paint himself green like the Incredible Hulk, or utilize my limited culinary skills to prepare mummy hot dogs for a party. Nor will you see me miss a chance to combine two of my great loves, books and Halloween. Consequently, this month’s theme for Angela’s Library is:

Halloween Thrills and Chills

Over the next three weeks I’ll share a series of posts about books that feature haunted houses, vampires, zombies, and the things that go bump in the night. I’ll also be participating in Fortnight of Fright, hosted by Books Take You Places, Tripping Over Books and The Book Addicts Guide, on Oct. 30.

Not all of my posts will be Halloween-related this month, but there’ll certainly be enough spooky content to get you ready for Oct. 31. Happy haunting, friends!

Click here to view all posts associated with Halloween Thrills and Chills.

Bringing You Classics All Summer Long

Dreading the end of the school year? Wondering how you’ll survive the hot summer months without an English syllabus full of titles like Jayne Eyre and The Great Gatsby? Never fear, dear readers – Angela’s Library is here to make sure you get your literary fix even when school is out.

I’m proud to announce that the theme for this summer is:

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 12.41.36 AM

No need to lament the loss of English class – I’ll make sure you get your dose of the classics to make it through the summertime slump. This summer I’ll be featuring a variety of books based on British and American literature. I’ve got some wonderful retellings, prequels, and spin-offs for you, inspired by the works of greats such as William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and J.M. Barrie. Happy reading!

Click here to view all posts associated with the Classically Inspired theme.