Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bookish Goodness: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

My sister and I are cat sitting and my laptop had run out of battery so I couldn't do schoolwork or work on my NaNoWriMo project. Which means that I marathoned Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I didn't mean to; it just kind of happened. It's pink cover was glaring up at me, begging to be read.


I've actually read, or at least attempted to read, every other Rainbow Rowell book (except Carry On). My problem isn't that I don't like her books, its that I like them a whole lot and then the ending ruins everything for me. I had an inkling that Fangirl would be different, but I couldn't be sure, so I put it off. It's actually kind of funny that I finally got around to reading this book right now though. In junior high/high school, I was a huge fanfiction reader. It was my top source of entertainment. As I got older, I still read fanfiction, but not as much as I used to. My life has been kind of difficult for the last couple of years though and I have been increasingly falling back into fanfiction (I fully realize that this may be a less-than-healthy coping mechanism, but it is helping me cope). Then, I saw a tweet about NaNoWriMo. In my fanfiction heyday, I did try my hand at writing fanfiction (one stand alone that was half decent and another multi-chapter fic that I abandoned [and was not very good to begin with]) but I didn't stick with it for long. For years afterward, I would write down ideas as they came to me for other fics, but I never actually tried to take them anywhere. So, I decided to dive right in and try to actually write a fanfiction based on one of my ideas. Basically, over the last couple of days, my life has been reading fanfiction, writing fanfiction, and now reading about a girl writing fanfiction.

There are a lot of things, besides the fanfiction, that I liked about this book. I liked that Cath was kind of lost and weird when she first got to college. I like that she made mistakes and misunderstood things and just generally kept to herself. I like that her sister was a total bitch. I like that Levi messed up. I like that Reagan stuck by Cath. I like that some things worked out in the end and that some didn't.

There wasn't a lot that I didn't like about the book. I didn't like how Cath and Wren's Dad seemed kind of thrown into the story sometimes. I didn't like Courtney. At all. Period. I didn't like that we didn't get to see more of Professor Piper's class or more of the ultimate final project.

So, this is, by far, my favorite book by Rainbow Rowell. I really couldn't give it anything other than 5 out of 5 stars. Now, I absolutely cannot wait to dive into Carry On; I really hope it lives up to the standard Fangirl set.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bookish Goodness: Chasing Merlin by Sarah White

Between NaNoWriMo (my word count is at 800, but I'm happy with that because it's more than the 0 I started out with), schoolwork, and the craziness going on on campus (I go to the University of Missouri), I haven't had a lot of time for reading. But I decided to take a little break from everything and dive into a book I have been wanting to read that has been sitting on my shelf for a long time: Chasing Merlin by Sarah White.



Merlin is one of those characters who, in one form or another, has been written about more times than a person can count. In my experience, there is no in-between portrayal of Merlin, it is either good or bad. This story is one of the really good ones. I liked that the story addressed both Merlin as myth and Merlin as man and that both aspects were worked into the story. I liked that there was magic present in the story but that it wasn't the main focus and didn't drive everything that happened. One problem I did have was how Emrys treated Dyllan, which was completely rude, and how she just accepted it without any anger. I also had a problem with how the relationship and conflict between Emrys and Ryan just suddenly cut off, almost as if it didn't matter, when it was actually a driving plot point behind the last part of the book. My biggest complaint though is the ending. The entire book was filled with clues and foreshadowing of where the story was going, who the characters were, and what their motivations were. Then the ending came, with no warning, and it wasn't what had been hinted at from the beginning. The other did make mention of a foretelling that made the ending make sense, but it felt contrived. Nevertheless, I loved this book! I gave it 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Outside My Norm: NaNoWriMo News and a Daria Song Book Review

Hi All! It's November, and you know what that means: NaNoWriMo! I've actually been signed up on the NaNoWriMo website since 2012, quietly lurking in the shadows, watching other people's progress, but I've never actually tried to write anything of my own before. Sure, I've had ideas for stories, both fanfiction and original, but I've never had the (drive, time, patience) to actually attempt to flesh it all out in writing. This year, and last fall, has been very changing for me though. I went through, and am still going through, some things that made me realize that I have to go for what I want. In light of that, I decided to try writing some of my ideas out. Most recently, I have had several ideas for novels but, if I'm being perfectly honest, I don't think I have the experience/technical ability to do them justice. So, I decided to start by working on a Harry Potter fanfiction idea I came up with almost eight years ago.  School of course comes first, so my writing has been pretty sporadic, but I'm having fun anyway. If you're participating in NaNoWriMo (or want to, there is still time to sign up!), I'd love to be buddies! Here is my NaNoWriMo page. Good luck to everyone participating!

Because I'm juggling school and NaNoWriMo, my reading has slowed down some. But reading is my stress outlet (writing could be if I wasn't so type A about it). Luckily for me, Blogging For Books sent me a copy of The Time Chamber by Daria Song to review.


If you couldn't tell from the cover, this is an "adult" coloring book! I have been wanting to try one for a very long time, so I was doubly happy to receive this copy. The first thing about this book that caught my eye, and made me super happy, is that the cover (besides the copper leaf) is fully colorable on the outside and on the inside! The second thing that I noticed is that the book isn't just a coloring book! It has an actual story, with words, on the inside. There aren't so many words that it bogs you down reading, but just enough to drive your imagination forward! I also really liked the Visual Index in the back. Sometimes, when the pictures are big with lots of tiny details, I get overwhelmed. It's helpful that I can get an idea of the overall picture and what I want to do with the picture without being caught up in the minutia!

As for tools, I specifically bought Crayola Twistable Colored Pencils for this book. However, those are more blunt tipped and the pictures have many fine details that I think classic pencils that can be sharpened would be better to use. All in all, I am super happy with this coloring book! I give it 5 out of 5 stars. The pictures are gorgeous and I cannot tell you how much I enjoy adding color to them.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

TLC Readalong Recap: Month 3 - Cress Review

Confession time: I almost forgot to read this month's book. That being said, the October book for the TLC Readalong was Cress by Marissa Meyer.

 
It took me a little longer to get into Cress than it did the other two books, but it eventually drew me in. I thought the pacing of the book was a little off. Some chapters were nothing but action and then the next chapter would be really slow. I liked that we got a more up, close, and personal view of Captain Thorne. In Scarlet, Thorne was just super annoying and I thought he was a character I could do without reading about. His parts in Cress completely changed my mind. He seemed more personable. His being annoying reminded me more and more of a defense mechanism rather than a personality trait. I liked Cress as a character too, but she was harder for me to be interested in. I felt like she was too juvenile at times, which could totally be explained by the raised in isolation thing, but still bothered me anyway.
 
Scarlet and Wolf are still my favorites, but I think Thorne and Cress are growing on me as a pair. I do like them better than Cinder and Kai. I'm not sure what to make of Princess Winter. I feel like her story is going to be really complex but I think Marissa Meyer is more than capable of telling it in an awesome way. All in all, I think this book deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars. It's not quite as good as the other books, but still really great. I cannot wait until Winter comes out! In the meantime, I better get to reading Fairest!

Friday, October 23, 2015

ARC Review: An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Emma of Miss Print sometimes adopts out ARCs that she has received. The second ARC that I adopted from her is An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay.


 
When I first received the ARC, I was really shocked because it was a hardcover copy instead of softcover like I am used to. The cover is gorgeous too. I like that it is simple with a couple of details (white clouds, gold stars, and writing. The texture is interesting; it feels more like parchment instead of the usual smooth cover.

One part of the book that I especially liked was the amount of diversity in the book. There are characters that are straight, gay, white, black, Asian, adopted, raised by two parents, raised by divorced parents, raised by grandparents, and that's just the main characters. The side characters are just as diverse. I like that the characters aren't stereotypical either. They're diverse in a way that is unique and organic to them.

Beyond the diversity, I didn't really like the story. The tagline on the cover reads "In real life, you need real friends." As far as I could tell, none of the characters were really all that close until the very end of the book. Actually, they were all real assholes to each other. I didn't like that we followed the events of a couple of days from the point of view of four characters, making us rehash the same events several times over. It felt too tedious and dragging. The plot of the story was pretty generic YA fare for the most part too and it ended abruptly. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars. The book was okay, but there was a lot of room for improvement.

Bookish Goodness: The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

One aspect of my reading, that I am honestly surprised hasn't come up in one of my blogs before, is my indiscriminate love of Russian and Russian themed literature. In fact, it is a good bet that if Russia or Russians are so much as mentioned in connection with a book, I will read it (Side note: I am woefully behind on classic Russian lit though. I do plan to catch up eventually). So you can imagine my delight when I read the synopsis for The Tsar of Love and Techno which was written by the talented Anthony Marra. I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books, but this in no way affected my review.
 


Beyond the synopsis, the cover also made me want to read this book. The cover looked (and is) just so colorful and the font looks kind of like a cross between what you would see on an old propaganda poster and an '80's band poster. If the synopsis hadn't reeled me in, I would have read this book for the cover alone.

Other than the synopsis and the cover, I didn't know much about this book going in to it. This is the first book I've read by Anthony Marra as well, so I started this book with no idea as to where it was going to go. I was, however, under the impression that it was YA. It's not, which was kind of a shock for me, but it didn't bother me in the end. I also didn't realize that it was supposed to be read as a series of short stories (just goes to show how well I read the synopsis, which is, not very well at all). I assumed it was a novel and just dove right in. I was a little confused for a while, but eventually realized what was happening.

This story was so complex and masterfully done. It's common for a book to have a main character that brings everything else together, but to have the common denominator be an inanimate object is kind of mind blowing. I honestly didn't see how Marra would pull all of the stories together, but he did, and it was so amazing every time I realized exactly how the next story connected with all of the previous ones.

I will admit, I had a hard time staying interested in this book. This is because it is very dark and depressing throughout. However, considering the time periods that this book spans (from the heyday of Communism in Russia to the Cold War and the later rise of democracy) it's no wonder that the tone of the book isn't the happiest. As far as I can tell, it portrays the stark reality of life in Russia very well, and that's really all you can ask.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was well written, but I needed more light among the dark parts. I probably would have been happy if we had just followed the first character throughout his whole life. I would recommend that this book shouldn't be given to younger teenagers, as there are some themes that I feel need a certain level of maturity to understand, such as murder and drug use. But I also think that it is a good book that, if approached the right way, could be used as a good teaching tool, both from a social aspect and a historical view point.

Friday, October 9, 2015

ARC Review: Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

One part of the book community that is fun and frustrating is the acquisition of ARCs. Receiving ARCs seems to be more a study in alchemy (all trial and error) and less an exact science. The only ARCs I have ever received I won through a Goodreads giveaway. Recently, however, I have been delving into the world of Book Twitter and the various book tweeters, and through that found a lovely woman who has been adopting out the ARCs she no longer wants: Emma of Miss Print. I have, so far, been lucky enough to adopt two of her ARCs. The first ARC I adopted from her was Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith. I am a couple days late posting this review because the book was released on October 6, 2015, but I hope you enjoy reading it anyway!


I first saw the cover on goodreads. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous and it was part of the reason why I initially wanted to read this book. Having a physical copy in hand, the cover is just as gorgeous as I thought it would be but it's a little creepy too. I will admit though, I still have no idea how the cover ties into the story. I'm probably just missing something obvious though.

Initially, I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. If I hadn't promised Emma that I would review the book, I probably would have DNFed it after the first couple of chapters. That would have been a mistake. It took me about five chapters to be fully invested in the story but after that I was hooked. I think the slow start for me is completely attributable to the lack of world building.

The story is set in world that seems partly medieval, partly Victorian, but mostly something entirely its own. It comes with its own countries, political systems, religious systems, magic, and so much more. My problem with it was the detail, or lack thereof. The world the story is set in has to be self-contained. Almost everything about it is unique to the story. However, there was very little actual world building. This was partly due to the pace. The story was chalk full of action and very rarely slowed down for analysis. It also seemed to me that another reason for the lack of detailed world building was the emphasis on the character driven aspects of the story. There was so much focus on what was happening to the characters and what they were doing that there wasn't any time leftover for world building.

The characters were kind of interesting, but nothing to write home about. Livia was lackluster and I found myself not caring about what happened to her. Marez and Kriza were dynamic. They were really what pulled me into the story. Brandt really pissed me off. Edina and Vera had a lot of potential to be great characters, but I felt that potential was overshadowed by their story which felt thrown in and needed more development. However, Lindsay Smith used her characters masterfully. Their interactions and actions had me pulled into the story. I was completely fooled by the characters and did not see the conclusion coming at all!

Overall, I liked Dreamstrider but I didn't love it. The story had so much potential but fell just short of achieving it. The characters and overall story were the high points. The lack of world building was a serious detracting point though. Because of that, I have to give this story 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Seasons Readings: It Feels Like Summer - Book Blogger Creativity Project


Summer shines, Spring blossoms, Winter glistens and Autumn crunches. Seasons affect our lives constantly. As part of Nori’s Book Blogger Creativity Project aka the #BBCreativityProject, Team Hot Pink is celebrating and honoring the seasons with some special book posts over the next month.
Before I start my post I’d like to introduce you to the Hot Pink Team: Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide, Debbie from Silk Serif, Erica from Escape Under the Cover, Kailia from Life According to a Bibliophile;  Kj from Birds that Love Words, Let from Other Side of Ordinary, Maggie from The Novel Orange, Nori from Read Write Love, Orchid from The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia, and Myself from Grounded Wanderlust.

We have all worked really hard and hope you enjoy what we have created.

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Now, I know what you're thinking, "But Veronica, summer is already over! Why are you posting a list of summer books when you could be posting Halloween or Autumn themed books?" My answer: it's never too early to start stocking your bookshelf and stalking your library or favorite bookshop! To that end, I have compiled a list of my top 10 favorite summer reads. Not all of them have summer themes, but they are all books that put me in a summery mood.

Before I show you my choices, I want to give you a quick overview of the criteria I used to pick them and how this post is going to work. I really only had 2 criteria for choosing books. First, they are all books that I have read before. I am not the type of person who can recommend a book or Author if I don't have first hand knowledge of it. So, it was important to me that I be familiar with the work. Second, these are all books that I have given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars. I have read plenty of summery books that I rated 4 out of 5 or 4.5 out of 5 stars, but I wanted the books I recommend to you to be the best of the best that I have read. I have tried to keep books that have a similar theme or feeling together. Other than that though, this list is in no particular order. I am going to include the synopsis for each book, which I am taking directly from goodreads. I will link my goodreads' review of the book (if there is one) or the book's page at the end of the post. Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let's get to the books!

 

 
Synopsis: Hayley’s parents disappeared when she was a baby. Since then, she has been raised and homeschooled by her grandparents. Grandad is overworked and travels a lot; Grandma is much too strict and never lets her meet any children her own age. When Hayley does something wrong—she is not quite sure what—they pack her off to her aunts in Ireland. To Hayley’s shock, her family is much bigger than she thought; to her delight, the children all play what they call “the game,” where they visit a place called “the mythosphere.” And while she plays the game, Hayley learns more about her own place in the world than she had ever expected. This original novella by Diana Wynne Jones is sharply funny, fast-paced, and surprising until its very end—like all of this acclaimed author’s work.

My Opinion: I am a huge fan of Diana Wynne Jones, and this book doesn't disappoint! It has a smudgy, indistinct feeling to it that actually added to my enjoyment of the story. The overall theme of family always puts me in mind of summer vacations spent visiting far-away family and friends. I originally borrowed this book from the library, but immediately ordered myself a copy once I was finished reading it.

 
Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Alys is not a witch. But that doesn't matter--the villagers think she is and have staked her out on a hillside as a sacrifice to the local dragon. It's late, it's cold, and it's raining, and Alys can think of only one thing--revenge. But first she's got to escape, and even if she does, how can one girl possibly take on an entire town alone? Then the dragon arrives--a dragon that could quite possibly be the perfect ally. . . .

My Opinion: I have been reading Vivian Vande Velde's books since I was 11, but this was the first of her works that I picked up. Every summer, my family would drive halfway across the country to stay with my grandparents for the summer. I checked this book out every summer after the first time I read it! The story is actually set during the Autumn. However, the sense of adventure and mystery that the story gave me always made me forget that fact and think it was summer instead.

 
 
Synopsis: When her mother dies, fifteen-year-old Keelie Heartwood is forced to leave her beloved California to live with her nomadic father at a renaissance festival in Colorado. After arriving, Keelie finds men in tights and women in trailer trash-tight bodices roaming half-drunk, calling each other lady and lord even after closing time! Playacting the Dark Ages is an L.A. girl’s worst nightmare. Keelie has a plan to ditch this medieval geekland ASAP, but while she plots, strange things start happening? Eerie, yet familiar. When Keelie starts seeing fairies and communicating with trees, she uncovers a secret that links her to a community of elves. As Keelie tries to come to grips with her elfin roots, disaster strikes, and Keelie’s identity isn’t the only thing that’s threatened.
One part human determination and one part elfin magic, Keelie Heartwood is a witty new heroine in a world where fantasy and reality mix with extraordinary results.

My Opinion: I don't actually remember if the book mentions a specific month or season, but the lack of school activity always made me think that the story was set during the summer. It doesn't hurt that I impulse bought (and devoured and enjoyed) the first 3 books in the series during one of the best summer vacations I have ever taken! This book is a fun contemporary with a dash of magic (a la Maggie Stiefvater) that deals with some heavy topics in a responsible and fun way. It also straddles the border between Middle Grade and YA, which makes it a good pick for a range of people.


Synopsis: 15-year-old Emma has long suspected that something is not quite as it should be in her life. With her long, pale face and white hair, she looks nothing like her parents or frail younger sister. She acts nothing like them, either. While her parents happily pursue their daily routine, Emma senses danger. She knows she must watch over the family day and night -- but why, she doesn't know. Things spin out of control when Emma takes a summer job caring for an eccentric elderly neighbor and is drawn into playing a strange board game. She's suddenly plagued by surreal, frightening dreams that begin to invade her waking hours. Emma is soon hurtled from her quiet farm life into strange worlds of intrigue and terror. As she becomes a participant in a bizarre game of life and death, the mystery surrounding her is solved ? and her future decided.

My Opinion: Out of all the books on the list, this one is the one I read before all of the others. Not only is the story set during summer vacation, I first read it during summer vacation! I enjoyed this book, and the series as a whole, a lot. The plot twist was something I never saw coming. It still blows my mind when I think of it. It took me many years to track down a copy to buy, but it has been totally worth it!


Synopsis: Nia, a young mermyd of the Bluefin clan, has had one wish all her life - to be Avatar in her beloved home of Atlantis. To be one of the ten Avatars that rule the undersea city is an honour and a great responsibility. Now at 16, Nia has a chance to see her dream come true.

My Opinion: I adore this series! Like The Watcher, I first read Ascension over a summer break when I was younger. I fell in love with the world and the characters almost immediately. It is an origin story (I can't tell you whose because it would ruin the surprise) unlike any I have ever read before. The watery setting and prevalence of games and adventure always reminded me of summer.


Synopsis: Canadian Gwen and her Irish cousin, Findabhair, have long planned a summer of backpacking around Ireland, visiting sites out of the old legends of fairy folk. Little do they know that it is the summer of the Hunter's Moon, a dangerous time for mortals who meddle with the kingdom of Faerie. One night, camping out on old ruins, Finn is kidnapped by the Faerie king, who wants her for a bride and possible sacrifice. It is up to Gwen, the more indecisive of the two, to rescue her cousin. Beautifully written, romantic, exciting, and evocative of both modern-day and mystical Ireland, this is a treat for girl fantasy readers.

My Opinion: This is, by far, one of my favorite summer books, not only because it is set during summer vacation, but because it reminds me of so many happy summers, sitting outside in the sun, reading! Chock full of adventure, traveling, and faeries (faeries being a favorite subject of mine), I have read and reread this book more times than I can count!


Synopsis: This second book in a series "shimmering with magic, myth, and romance" ("Booklist"), follows sixteen-year-old Laurel as she tries to understand the cause of her twin sister's mysterious death. Honor believed in Faerie, a parallel land of mischievous immortals. Laurel doesn't. That is, until the fairies come and ask her to take up her sister's failed quest to find the Summer King, a lord who can light the midsummer fire that keeps the two worlds, human and Faerie, cleaved. Laurel must decide to help those whose cause killed her sister, and, in the process, come to believe that there is still magic and love in the world.

My Opinion: After telling you that The Hunter's Moon is one of my favorite books, I feel like I have to mention that I liked this book a lot more than the first! The summer is strong with this book and keeps you on your toes throughout. If I was stuck on a desert island and could only bring 5 books with me, The Summer King would definitely make the list.


Synopsis: Her castle under siege by an evil knight who keeps beheading all her would-be rescuers, Lady Lynet sets out for help and finds assistance from an odd dwarf named Roger and a scruffy kitchen hand named Beaumains. As the three unlikely companions return to Lynet’s castle, they face surprising adventures, including encounters with the uncanny Squire Terence, his master, Sir Gawain, and the majestic sorceress Morgan. And somewhere along the way, Lynet discovers that people can be much more than they seem.

My Opinion: This book is my go-to for summer road trips. It is an Arthurian tale that kept me interested the whole way through. It does have some darker, more adult elements, but was still appropriate for me to read at 13.


Synopsis: This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures. The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

My Opinion: The Penderwicks is solely a middle grade book, but that is part of why I loved it so much. Once again, this book is set during summer vacation. It was light hearted and fun, a little mysterious, and a whole lot whimsical. It did deal with one tough subject, but it was handled flawlessly.


Synopsis: One of our most universal myths is that of the Green Man, the spirit who stands for Nature in its most wild and untamed form. Through the ages and around the world, the Green Man and other nature spirits have appeared in stories, songs, and artwork, as well as many beloved fantasy novels, including Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Now Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, the acclaimed editors of over thirty anthologies, have gathered some of today's finest writers of magical fiction to interpret the spirits of nature in short stories and poetry. Folklorist and artist Charles Vess brings his stellar eye and brush to the decorations, and Windling provides an introduction exploring Green Man symbolism and forest myth. The Green Man is required reading, not only for fans of fantasy fiction but for those interested in mythology and the mysteries of the wilderness.

My Opinion: The odd-man-out in this list, The Green Man is actually a collection of short stories instead of a novel. It is the perfect summertime read because you can pick it up in between fun summer activities or at the end of a long day vacationing and just relax. The stories contained within are set during different seasons, but my favorite, Grounded by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, is set during summer vacation.

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I hope this list of summery books inspires you to get out and read! I'd love to know if you've read any of my picks or which ones sound interesting to you! What books would be on your list of summer reads?

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Links:
The Game by Diana Wynne Jones
Dragons' Bait by Vivian Vande Velde
The Tree Shepherd's Daughter by Gillian Summers
The Watcher by Margaret Buffie
Ascension by Kara Dalkey
The Hunter's Moon and The Summer King by O.R. Melling
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The Green Man edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TLC Readalong Recap: Month 2 - Scarlet Review

We have officially come to the end of Month 2 of the TLC Readalong! This month, we read the second book in The Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet.


After getting off to such a quick start last month, I was surprised at how hard I found it to find a good time to read this book. It's not that I didn't want to read it. On the contrary, this is the one book I really wanted to read this month! It's that I didn't want to read it too soon. Then it got pushed back to the end of the month because of school and life responsibilities. I was finally able to get to it though and ended up finishing it in one sitting instead of the three days I had set aside for it.

Sometimes you have to be wary with sequels. They don't always live up to the expectations or standards set by the first book. Scarlet, however, is not one of those books. It was just as good or, possibly, better than Cinder. The writing was on par with what I have come to expect from Marissa Meyer's work. The story was well paced, interesting, and engaging. I have to say, I think I like Scarlet and Wolf (and ScarletxWolf) better than I like Cinder and Kai (and CinderxKai). I liked that Scarlet was tough but semi-trusting. I liked that Wolf was tough and vulnerable all at the same time. I like the way they interacted more too, wary and probing while still working things through. I found Captain Thorne pretty annoying, but I also think that added to his charm. All in all, this book was absolutely fantastic! I gave it a 5 out of 5 stars.

The next book we will be reading for the TLC Readalong is Cress, and I simply cannot wait. The first two books were amazing and I am so glad I decided to read this series. Once again, if you haven't read these books before, I hope that you'll join in on this readalong so you can experience them too!
 
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Links:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Uppercase Box Selection Reviews: June, July, August, and September

Between papers, quizzes, exams, and required reading, I have had very little time to read for pleasure during the last month. I have been able to squeeze a chapter or two in every once in a while though. My top two priorities have been reading Netgalley releases and catching up on the books that Uppercase Box has sent me. I started off with the June selection, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.




Of course, each Uppercase Box comes with a cute uppercase bag, a little note explaining the book pick, a book, and extra book-related goodies. For the June goodies, I received a signed bookplate, an Uppercase Box sticker, Bookiemoji stickers, a Bookiemoji tote bag, a Bookiemoji bookmark, and a scarf that has the same pattern as the book cover.
 
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Warning: There are spoilers for the book contained in this review.
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I had a lot of trouble staying interested in this book. The pacing started off slow in the beginning and then was choppy throughout the rest of the book. I loved Shazi, Khalid, Jalal, Despina, and the Rajput's parts of the story but didn't care about Tariq or Shazi's Dad's story lines at all. One thing I did like was that when Shazi was mad or hurt or upset, she stayed that way. A lot of times in stories, the main female will be mad, but then the love interest says 1 nice thing, and the female lead melts like putty. I have wanted a character who would get mad and stay mad for a long time! I can't wait until the sequel! I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.
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After finishing The Wrath and the Dawn, I started reading Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

 
This box came with a coffee sleeve inspired by the book, library card socks, and an exclusive set of 3 Paper Towns bookmarks. As for the book, I actually ended up DNFing it. I made it about two chapters in before I had to stop reading. I found the situation in the book to be too ridiculous. Also, the mother was grating on my nerves.
 
After putting down Finding Audrey, I immediately started on the August book, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson.
 
 
The August box contained a signed bookplate, temporary tattoos, a fierce reads pen, an ampersand necklace, and a bookmark matching the gear and ribbon from the cover. Nerd that I am, the pen was my favorite goodie!
 
As for the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it! The story isn't very suspenseful, I guessed the plot twist early on, but it did keep my attention all the way through the book. I liked the characters a lot. They were funny but relatable (even though this book is set in an alternate history earth). Verity was just the right amount of spunky and Lord Henry was an interesting oddity. I especially loved their interactions. I absolutely cannot wait for the next book and I hope this is a multi-book series, not just a duology! I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
 
The last book I read was the most recent Uppercase selection, Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, for the September box.
 
The September box came with a signed bookplate, a bookmark matching the book cover, snitch earrings from Juniper and Ivy Designs, and a TBR notepad by Risa Rodil. The notepad is so cute and I've already used it twice to recommend books to people. The snitch earrings are cute and comfortable too!
 
When it comes to the book, I have to start off by saying that I had pretty high expectations for it. I'm a huge fan of westerns (I grew up on John Wayne and Clint Eastwood), the synopsis looked fantastic, and it has gotten a lot of hype from the book blog/tube/twitter community. The cover is absolutely gorgeous! The artwork and color is crisp and fitting (I think it would make a cool tattoo). The texture of the book is interesting and I like it a lot too. However, I was disappointed with the story. The writing is excellent (even though Kate's grammar bugged me). But the characters annoyed me to no end. I also have a problem with the plot twist at the end. I felt like it came out of left field and was kind of rushed. Overall, it was decent but I'm not a fan. I ended up giving this book 3 out of 5 stars.
 
Despite the fact that I didn't love all of the books that Uppercase Box chose, I am super in love with their service. Even though I haven't liked all of them, they did introduce me to books I would not have read otherwise. I would not have picked up Finding Audrey or Rebel Mechanics on my own. I ended up loving one of them and not loving the other, but I never would have had the chance to read them if not for Uppercase Box. I also like to see all of the extra content that Uppercase Box provides as well. It really gives a deeper insight into the story, as well as being a fun way to connect. All of the goodies are cute and functional too. I have been very happy with Uppercase Box over the last couple of months and am happily waiting to see what they come out with next!
 
 
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Links:
Uppercase Box - http://uppercasebox.com/
Juniper and Ivy Designs: http://www.juniperandivydesigns.com/


Monday, August 31, 2015

Netgalley: August Reviews

I am not a fan of e-books, for the most part, but I think that an e-reader is becoming more and more a necessity. I have found that a lot of authors are publishing solely in e-book format or are publishing their short stories (companion to series) in e-book only. I had previously been using my Mom's old Nook, but it died several months ago.  I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when I received a new Nook for my 23rd birthday. The first thing I did after I set up my Nook, besides downloading all of the books I already owned, was spend the $5 credit Barnes and Noble included with the Nook. But the third thing I did was get signed up for Netgalley and request a bunch of e-ARCs! I was only able to read four of the e-ARCs this month but I plan to read more soon!

The first e-ARC I read was They're Not Like Us by Eric Stephenson.
 


They're Not Like Us is a graphic novel and I was first drawn to it by the cover. In fact, I was expecting a lot of things from this comic based on the cover and the description. But, I ended up being sorely let down. I did not enjoy the art style at all. In fact, it was very distracting. The story was extremely dark and I had a hard time getting into it. I can see where someone else might enjoy it (it did have potential) but I would have DNFed it if I hadn't promised to review it. I gave this graphic novel 1 out of 5 stars and I will not be continuing on with the series.
 
The second e-ARC I read was Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
I have been hearing about this book so much on Booktube, Twitter, and Instagram. After all of the good reviews I have heard, I just had to get my hands on a copy! Now that I've read it, I can definitely see why so many people are talking about this book; I was only 23 pages in when I was hooked! The characters are all engaging and interesting. Both of the main characters (and several of the secondary characters) undergo great personal growth and change throughout the story. There was also a plot twist, no spoilers, that I absolutely did not see coming. The only thing that I did not like was how abruptly the story ended. I feel like the main characters needed more closure than they were given: at least an epilogue, maybe even a sequel, but definitely something more! I gave this book  5 out of 5 stars because, overall, I really loved the book. I will definitely be buying a finished copy for my shelf.
 
The third e-ARC I read was A Bone to Pick: A Peggy Henderson Adventure by Gina McMurchy-Barber.
 
I didn't realize when I first started reading this book that it is actually the fourth in a series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone. The first three books are Reading the Bones, Bone Deep, and Broken Bones. At the beginning, I had really high expectations for this book. After all, Vikings and archaeology are two of my favorite subjects! In the end though, I was supremely disappointed. The plot of the story is very interesting and the writing is good. Actually, this book would get 5 stars if that were all there were to it. Unfortunately, more goes into a book than good plot; namely, the characters. There wasn't a single character in this book that I liked. Aunt Margaret was overbearing and condescending. Peggy's mom was oddly accommodating toward everyone. Robbie was a snot. But the worst character was Peggy, the main character. She was arrogant, lazy, and a know-it-all. I also feel that she was partially compared to Sigrid (at least in the beginning of the book) which I thought was badly done and just didn't fit at all. Peggy did get better towards the end of the book but that did not make up for how horrible she was in the beginning. If I hadn't promised to review this book, I would have DNFed it just because of how insufferable Peggy was.
 
The fact that this book is the 4th in a series is worrisome. Peggy showed some growth over the course of the book, but she was so annoying in the beginning. I would hate to see what she was like for the first three books. I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars. I'm very glad to be done with this book [and not have to read the other three] and will not be buying a copy.
 
The last e-ARC I read this month was Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt.
 
 
One thing that YA needs more of is well written, diverse books. Unfortunately, while this book was diverse, it was not very well written. The characters were quite bland at best and extremely negative at worst. The plot was pretty generic YA fare with love at first sight, boy gets girl, and a huge helping of teen angst. I do believe that the story raised important questions about immigration, but I think that essential aspect of the story would have been better served without the lackluster romantic trope. I also didn't like how suddenly the story ended. It felt less like an ending and more like someone had forgotten to include the last couple of pages in the ARC. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I will not be buying a copy and am unsure if I will read a sequel (if one is ever published).
 
Are you looking forward to any of these books? Have you already read some of them? I'd love to know how you feel about these books!

TLC Readalong Recap: Month 1 (Cinder Review Repost + updates)

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I am taking part in the Lunar Chronicles Readalong. August was the month for reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer, the first book in the trilogy.
 
 
I had heard of this series many times on booktube but just wasn't interested in it. I'm not really a big fan of fairy tale re-tellings. But, I decided to give it a go when I heard about the readalong. When I started reading this book, I had planned to read only a couple of chapters per week so that I could drag it out over the whole month of August (which is the month allotted for this book). That way, if I didn't like it I could occupy myself with reading other books. I picked up the book and ended up finishing the whole thing in a little over 4 hours (it would have taken me less time but helping parents and going out to eat dinner got in the way of my reading). I am so sad that I didn't pick up this book before. It was a new and refreshing take on Cinderella! I loved that Cinder was tough and out of the ordinary. The only part of the book that I didn't love was that it was set in China. I didn't think the Chinese elements were worked into the story enough and would have been better off being left out altogether. But I loved this book so much, I don't think I can wait to read the other 3 books in the series! I gave this book a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars. If you've never read this series, or if you love the series, you should join in!
 
I had kind of planned to finish off the rest of the series in the same month, but decided to hold off until the designated months so that I can drag out my enjoyment for the rest of the year. The first book was really amazing and I hope that, if you haven't read before, you'll join in on this readalong so you can experience it too!
 
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Count Me In For Bout of Books 14

Once again, I am taking part in a read-a-thon. I decided to take part in Bout of Books 14. I liked the idea of this read-a-thon because there are no set conditions for reading. You're probably wondering what Bout of Books is then. Luckily for us, the Bout of Books ladies provide a blurb about their read-a-thon on their blog, which I have included below.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I am super excited to take part in the challenges!!! I decided that the only reading parameter that I am setting for myself is to read books that I already have in my house that I haven't read yet. I've also already read one book for the read-a-thon! Let me know below if you are participating and I'll see you later for the wrap-up!

 
 
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Links:
 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Booktube-A-Thon Wrap-Up

Well, Booktube-A-Thon is done. Has been done for 3 days now. I had fun but it left me pretty exhausted. I had not intended to take part in Booktube-A-Thon because it started so soon after TBR Takedown 2.0. Then, the night before Booktube-A-Thon started, I decided to take part and threw together my TBR. I kind of wish I had just done one or the other, because all of the self-imposed, required reading really took its toll on me. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't pressured myself to keep up with my reading TBR. I also really liked watching the challenges but didn't have the time to participate in any of them because of work. Work kept me from being able to read as much as I would have liked to as well. I also made a little mistake in timing that upped the stress of this readathon for me. I mistakenly thought it ended on Friday when it actually ended on Sunday. So, for all of Saturday I didn't read anything. Bummer. In total, I completed 5 challenges and read a total of 7 books. Actually, 6 books and 1 graphic novel, but I'm counting it!

The first book I read was The Visitor by K.A. Applegate, which I chose as my pick to total 7 books for challenge #7, which was the last challenge I completed.


There isn't much for me to say about this book. I love the Animorphs series, and this book is no exception. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

After this, I read a graphic novel, The Guild by Felicia Day and Jim Rugg.



I don't want to go too much into this graphic novel because, honestly, I hated it. I was really excited to read this comic. I mean, girl gamers!!!! But the story and characters were just bad. I gave this graphic novel 1 out of 5 stars.

Then I finished my second challenge, #6: Read a book you really want to read, for which I chose The Borrowers by Mary Norton.


 
I felt very conflicted about this book. I grew up watching, and loving, the Borrowers on film. I also remember watching a play about the Borrowers when I was younger. Then came the Miyazaki version of the story, which I also loved. After all that, reading the story was different. The characters were extremely different and the story was practically unrecognizable.  It's not that I didn't like the story. It was just so far removed from the other versions that I have already loved that I found it difficult to get in to this book. But at the end of the day, the story was good, so I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. I had decided, right after reading this book, to read the other four books in the series, but have since decided not to continue on.
 
The third challenge I completed was #5: Finish a book without letting go of it. My selection for this challenge was A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck.
 
 
This is a book that I have been wanting to read for a very long time. I remember hearing about it when it first came out because it was in one of the Scholastic Book Fairs at my school (seriously, who didn't love those book fairs!). I ended up not buying it back then, but the title has stuck with me. Now that I've read it, I loved it! It was geared for elementary or middle grade but was not watered down at all. I loved the characters, especially Grandma Dowdel, but would have liked to see more of some of the secondary characters. I didn't realize this was a sequel until I was halfway through reading it, so now I have to go back and read the 1st and 3rd books. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
 
The next challenge I finished was #1: Read a book with blue on the cover. Originally I was going to read Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, but when it came time to pick it up I just wasn't feeling it. I was also a little burnt out on reading. So, I decided to re-read one of my go-to books, Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer.
 

 
I first read this book in February 2013 and have re-read it many times since. It is a Christian Historical Romance, which I love but might not be other's cup of tea. I like the growth that the characters go through during the story. I love Meredith and all of the Archer brothers because they come across as very genuine. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars when I first read it, and my rating is the same this time around too.
 
The last challenge I completed was #3: Read someone else's favorite book. My book choice for this challenge changed several times. First, I was going to read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, which is one of my cousin's favorite books. I decided not to read it simply because the page count was too high (I will be reading it sometime in the future though). My second choice for this challenge was going to be Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, which is one of my friend Davina's favorite books. I ended up not being able to read this book because all of the copies were checked out from the library (I'm still 3rd in line for this book at the library). So, in a last ditch effort, I turned to twitter for recommendations. The only book recommended that I hadn't already read was Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (recommended by Sarah Woodward, @Sarahbear9789). I started reading it, but only got through 1 chapter before I realized I loathed it. I immediately DNFed it. Following that last failure, I turned to a book that I have already read (and own) that just happens to be a favorite of one of my local librarians; A Tailor Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer.
 
 
Once again, this is one of my go-to re-reads. I first read this book in September 2013, on the recommendation from a librarian, and have re-read it many times since. One thing I like about this book is that the characters have flaws that they must learn to overcome. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
 
The last book I read was Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer.
 
 
This book did not fulfill any challenges, but I really just felt like re-reading it. I first read this book in October 2013. Its not my favorite novel by Karen Witemeyer. I thought the characters were kind of generic and the story is a little odd, but I still like it a lot. I also gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
 
 
How did you do? Did you complete all the challenges? Only some? What books did you read? I'd love to hear about your Booktube-A-Thon experience!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

TBR Takedown 2.0 Wrap-up & Weekend Reads for The Lunar Chronicles Readalong

The TBR Takedown 2.0 is the first readathon I have ever taken part in. There were a lot of aspects that I liked and a few I didn't like. I loved the feeling of comradery that reading with a whole group of people brought. I also really enjoyed taking part in and seeing the submissions for the various challenges. I had trouble with feeling rushed which might have been lessened if I had started the readathon at the beginning instead of in the middle. I also didn't like that I felt stuck with the books I had initially picked and felt guilty when I strayed to different books. This was a personal feeling that I now realize was kind of silly. The point of the readathon was to read; it doesn't matter what I read, it just matters that I read something! I also didn't complete the challenges in chronologic order, I jumped around a lot, which I think gave me more of a sense of freedom. So, I am going to review the books in the order I read them. But, I am definitely going to be participating again next time!

The first challenge I completed was #4: read a book that has been on your shelf for over a year. For this challenge, I read The Triumphant Cat: Verse, Prose, & Pictures; Gathered from the Ancient & Modern Authors; Selected & Edited by Marmaduke Skidmore, Esquire.
 

I picked this book up because I like cats and I thought it would be fun to read a bunch of different selections about cats. In the end though, I didn't love this book. The selections weren't bad but they didn't interest me at all and there was absolutely no structure to how they were put into the book. I would have preferred more of a topic or common theme structure (other than cats). I read this book in about an hour, so it was a quick read, and gave it 1 out of 5 stars.

The second challenge I completed was #1: read the first book in a series. Originally I had planned to read Callum & Harper by Fisher Amelie, and I actually did start reading it! But I got caught up in the second chapter and found myself dragging through it. So, instead of forcing myself to read it, and quite possibly ending up hating it because of that, I put it aside to read for later and picked up the first book in the Animorphs series: The Invasion by K.A. Applegate.

 

I have been a long time fan of Animorphs. I first read the series when I was in middle school and recently started re-collecting the series. I now own most of the books but had not started reading them. I figured TBR Takedown 2.0 was the perfect time to start! The series is more middle grade and there are some dated references, but the book was no less fun and entertaining than it was when I first read it. My favorite characters are Jake and Tobias, but I love that the cast is so diverse (racially and socio-economically). I really cannot wait to finish reading this series! I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
 
The third challenge I completed was #2: read a book that is a sequel in a series. For this, I read my initial pick, Dark of the Moon by Rachel Hawthorne.
 
 

This is another series that I have recently been enjoying. This book is the third in the series. I enjoyed it almost as much as the first book and more than the second book. This book was a quick, fun read. I finished it in about 2.5 hours with frequent internet breaks. I did have a problem with some of the choices that the main character made, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. This series reminds me of a fluffier, slightly less developed version of Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. So you should check out this series if you liked Blood and Chocolate. I gave Dark of the Moon 3 out of 5 stars.
 
The fourth challenge I completed was #5: read your most recently hauled book. Luckily, The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter came just in time for me to read it for TBR Takedown 2.0.
 
 
The Kneebone Boy started off on a high with a dash of fantasy, a pinch of mystery, and a healthy dose of quirk. The book had a definite Lemony Snicket/A Series of Unfortunate Events vibe, which I liked a lot, and is geared for middle grade. The characters themselves are kind of really interesting and draw you in to the story quickly. The problem I had was with the plot. Honestly, it was slow, but the first 99% of it was really interesting. There was just enough adventure and mystery to keep me on the edge of my seat. It's just that the last chapter didn't fit at all with the rest of the story. This makes it hard for me to rate the book. I didn't dislike it but I didn't love it. Ultimately, I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. I also have to say that I bought the book primarily for the cover and was super happy with the art.
 
The final challenge I completed was #3: read a book that is out of your comfort zone. This is the only challenge where I didn't read the book I had originally planned on reading. In this case, I had planned to read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. It was the last day of the readathon when I had time to read my last book. By that time, I was dragging pretty heavily and just wasn't really wanting to read anything at all. I decided to leave An Ember in the Ashes for later and pick up something lighter and shorter that was still out of my comfort zone. So, I read Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket instead.
 
 
This book was out of my comfort zone because of the fact that it is an autobiography. I have never had good luck with autobiographies or biographies. But, I'm a fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and decided to give this book a try. Honestly, I found this book confusing and not very interesting. I might have liked it more if I had recently read A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I doubt it. I gave this book 1 out of 5 stars.
 
TBR Takedown 2.0 ended on a Friday. Instead of picking up another book right away, I took a break from reading. My sister and I had gone home for the weekend and spent the majority of the time helping my parents clean out and reorganize their closets in anticipation of a (eventual) move. However, Saturday (August 1st) marked the beginning of The Lunar Chronicles Readalong, which is being hosted by Brittany S. of The Book Addicts Guide. The readalong is running from August through December (1 book per month) in a lead up to the release of Winter by Marissa Meyer, the fourth book in the Lunar Chronicles series. I did decide to start reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles.
 
 
I had heard of this series many times on booktube but just wasn't interested in it. I'm not really a big fan of fairy tale re-tellings. But, I decided to give it a go when I heard about the readalong. When I started reading this book, I had planned to read only a couple of chapters per week so that I could drag it out over the whole month of August (which is the month allotted for this book). That way, if I didn't like it I could occupy myself with reading other books. I picked up the book and ended up finishing the whole thing in a little over 4 hours (it would have taken me less time but helping parents and going out to eat dinner got in the way of my reading). I am so sad that I didn't pick up this book before. It was a new and refreshing take on Cinderella! I loved that Cinder was tough and out of the ordinary. The only part of the book that I didn't love was that it was set in China. I didn't think the Chinese elements were worked into the story enough and would have been better off being left out altogether. But I loved this book so much, I don't think I can wait to read the other 3 books in the series! I gave this book a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars. If you've never read this series, or if you love the series, you should join in!
 
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Links: