Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Book Drinks: Goin' to the Chapel

I flew through Lindsey Leavitt's Chapel Wars, and I thought it was such a cute book. I mean, Vegas wedding chapels plus feuding families over said chapels? Coolest story line ever.

There's this point in the book when Holly (the MC) and her friends (a bunch of guys) are hanging out at Holly's best friend Sam's house watching the game and helping Holly with signs, envelopes, and other marketing stuff for her chapel. Porter, one of the guys, finds a bottle of Kaluha in a cabinet.
Turns out, it's an old bottle, and Sam's dad was storing leftover old alcohol in there all mixed together, planning on throwing it out, but Porter takes a swig before Sam can tell him this. EW.

This scene inspired me to pick a Kaluha drink for today, something I'm sure Porter would have much rather tasted than a conglomeration of stale mixed drinks. So today we're going to go with a classic White Russian to spruce up Porter's tastes in alcohol.

 A White Russian is super easy to make and traditionally looks like the glass on the right, but I think it tastes nasty that way, so I mix mine all together like the glass on the left. But I'll give you the option for either.
All you'll need is:
2 oz. vodka
1 oz. Kaluha
1 oz. light cream or milk
Put ice in your glass, and pour in the vodka, then the Kaluha. The Kaluha will naturally sink because it's heavier, so you'll get a layered effect. Then top it off with the milk or cream, and it will naturally sit on top. There's no need to stir because your alcohol is supposed to be at the bottom, but it's much better tasting if you do (in my humble opinion).

My review should be up in the next week or so (spoiler alert--I loved it!) for The Chapel Wars, but until then, kick back with a White Russian, and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Topics Time: YA Mysteries

This post started out as a throwback Thursday where I featured books that already came out focusing around a specific topic, but I'm switching the name around (because I'm indecisive).

So it's Topics Time, where I give you a few recommendations based on a particular topic for the week, including new releases and some older backlisted books you can find for cheap or at your library if you're on a budget. This week's discussion? YA (Murder) Mysteries!

1. Dangerous Girls by Abigal Haas
Lots of people rave about this, and for a good reason. It's a mindfuck of a book. Seriously. I could not stop flipping the pages, and about every 5 pages I had a new theory about who had done what and what was going to happen to Anna who was currently stuck in Aruba. And there's more incentive to go get this book—Abigail Haas just released an announcement saying she wasn't given a second book deal because the first one only sold 450 copies. So she's releasing Dangerous Boys herself, which is a crazy bold move and I totally admire her for that. So go get the first one (it's totally worth it) and help support an awesome author.

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This was one I read a long time ago before I realized the weird distinct divide between YA and "adult" fiction, and this is one that crosses that line. It's marketed as literary fiction, but the main character is a young boy who discovers his neighbor's dog has been killed. This is a beautiful novel for everyone to read that also has insight into the mind of a logical and literal-thinking boy.

3. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
This was one of my all-time favorites (and it's by the same guy who wrote the Book Thief, for reference) in high school, and I still adore it to this day. It moves much quicker than the Book Thief and follows the story of an underage cab driver who follows playing cards he receives in the mail, becoming a messenger for a mystery he, and you, will be running around and trying to solve as fast as you can read words.

4. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Also called On the Jellicoe Road, this award-winner revolves around Taylor, who is found by Hannah six years prior to the start of the book, solving the mystery of where her friend Hannah has gone. The only clue she's got is an old manuscript about five kids who lived in the town eighteen years earlier. There's also a lot more going on like a territory war and why Taylor was abandoned in the first place and what happened to her family members, and this one will leave you begging for more (seriously SO GOOD). 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Choosing My Next Read: A Discussion

Today I wanted to talk about a little something different.
TBR piles.

I see a lot of people posting pictures and posts of their monthly or weekly TBR piles, and I always think, "I'm going to do that!"

And then I don't.

Because here's what will happen:
I'll get the books pulled out of my meticulously sorted shelves, they'll sit on my nightstand for a month while I decide I'm not in the mood to read any of those, and then I'll eventually take a deep breath and put them all back where they go.

I've tried to organize some sort of method, and I do actually focus on newer releases, but when it comes to picking out a book to read, I'm totally a mood reader and I decide 100% in the moment what I'm going to pull of my shelf.
Which results in my TBR pile just being my bookshelves in my room. AKA a LOT of books.

This is a really short post with not really a giant point, but I was wondering if all bloggers plan out what they're going to read, or are you like me and just grab whatever you feel like reading?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Double Kingdom: The Selection and The Elite Reviews

I read both of these so quickly, it only makes sense to pair them together for a review. I'll try and keep it mostly spoiler-free, and I'll only put the description of the first one below so it won't ruin things for you.
And so you know, I'm 100%, without a doubt, Team Maxon. :)

The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass
Release Date: April 24, 2012 and April 23, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Keywords: royalty, competition, dystopia
Format Read: Hardcover purchased (#1) and library book (#2)
Book Depository #1 | Book Depository #2

I did NOT expect to love these books as much as I did. I mean, I thought I was done with dystopian stuff, but this series was so different from the rest. It wasn't dark and gloom and secret crazy rebellion. I mean, a little of that exists. But it's under the premise of a royal competition, where the prince basically has his pick of 35 girls, and by the end of the selection process, he'll have chosen a wife. So on top of the anarchy and chaos that is this futuristic world, there are also parties and pretty dresses and some sense of normalcy even though this could not be further from anything I've experienced.

The world-building was what truly got me. There were historical aspects to it, and Cass let the reader in on EXACTLY how the country got to be in the state that it was, and we got to witness America (the girl, not the country) discovering for herself secrets about the place in which she grew up and thought she knew. This aspect alone will make me hurl the books at your head if you haven't read them.

And now for the people. Oh, yes, the people. I'm going to start with the friendships and we'll ease our way into the love triangle debacle. Marley was one of the competitors in the selection with America, and she was my favorite. They instantly bonded and had an excellent friendship that was just so wonderful to read about. And there are things that happened that made me feel things and made me love Marley so much more once I read the second one, and I cannot wait to see her again.
And here we go. There's Aspen, and there's Maxon. Aspen is the hometown love interest that's supposed to be the "follow your heart" branch of this. And there's Maxon, who, shortly into book one, proves to America that he's actually a really good guy, and they form a really great bond. So there's a whole lot of reasons why America is in the competition, and helping her family secure financial stability is one of them. Why she's still pining after Aspen who pushes her to participate in the selection in the first place is beyond me, especially when she's doing so well with Maxon and helping her family and doing so many good things and has such an amazing opportunity.
But I digress. I'm forever Team Maxon, unless something CRAZY happens in The One.

And I am so impatiently waiting for The One to not be checked out at the library (I'm on hold for it, but I feel like I'm dying) so I can read it in about a day ECSTATIC because I just received a notice it's at the library, and I may already have it read by the time this post goes live. Seriously, I devoured these books.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Book Drinks: In the Lap of Luxury

In a couple days my review (it's a double feature) will be up basically gushing for several paragraphs about how into The Selection Series I am. And while I (very) impatiently wait for The One to arrive back at the library so I can go snatch it, I thought I would feature it in a Friday Book Drinks!

Just look how regal this cover is! And throughout the course of the series, America and the other contestants are put through events and fancy dinners, and they even have to plan a party themselves once.

This is Elderflower Champagne, and I think it's one of the most sophisticated-looking and tasting drinks out there, and I can totally see the contestants at one of the Queen's gatherings sipping this light and airy cocktail.

St. Germain (a delicate French liqueur made of elderflower blossoms)
Thinly sliced cucumber (garnish)
Fresh mint (garnish)

 It's very simple, and all you need to do is to fill a tumblr with ice and fill it 3/4 up with champagne. It's topped off with the St. Germain and garnishes to give it the light and airy taste. Next you can put on your fantastic ball gown and waltz on over to the palace and have this drink alongside the royal family. You know, if you can. Which I can't. :( Always sad to not be part of royalty.

What do you think about this drink and book? Any other fancy-pants drinks that would go well too?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Topics Time: Teenage Pregnancy

This post started out as a throwback Thursday where I featured books that already came out focusing around a specific topic, but I'm switching the name around (because I'm indecisive).

Welcome to Topics Time, where I give you a few recommendations based on a particular topic for the week, including new releases and some older backlisted books you can find for cheap or at your library if you're on a budget. This week's discussion? Teenage Pregnancy!

I'll be the first to admit, this is actually a topic that may make me put a book back on the shelf (gasp!). I'm not entirely sure why, but it's always seemed like a topic that I just don't want to read about. But, I have found some that steer clear of the stereotypes (that seem to exist in my head of how those books normally go), and these are definitely eye-catchers for interesting and unique stories.

1. Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
Teen mothers plus spaceships and aliens? Yes, I am completely serious. Not only do I LOVE having this gorgeous book on my shelves (the cover is so bright, I am in love with all of it), it's without a doubt one of the weirdest plots in a book ever—in the coolest possible way. Elvie is a teen who accidentally gets pregnant and shipped off to a special school for pregnant young women aboard a spaceship. Yep. That's the plot. And then there are extraterrestrial beings trying to take over the ship and steal the unborn babies. How could you NOT want to read this?

2. Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia
I don't know if I ever really looked at this one when I first received it for review, but after seeing a ton of good feedback, I finally picked it up and ended up loving this. I've got a review of this one, and it was such a pleasantly surprising book. It follows a girl named Lemon (coolest name ever, by the way), and she finds out she's pregnant—the kicker is the father? He's a guy her mom has been flirting with. There's also a road trip with her best friend involved, and her best friend is one of the coolest characters I've read about in a while. It's a great book about growing up, dealing with family, and friendships made to last.

3. The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski
I also reviewed this one a while back, and wow, did it take me by surprise. It follows the young boy, the father, instead of the mother, which is such an interesting perspective. She's planning on giving the baby up for adoption, but right after the child is born, our MC goes to visit and impromptu-ly kidnaps the baby and names him Socrates, beginning the road trip/car chase of a lifetime. It's full of funny/insightful/weird philosophical questions and wonderings, and it's truly hilarious moments on Jack's insane road trip.

4. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
I read this in high school when it first came out, and I remember being shocked by this book. My friends and I all passed a copy around, and we could not get enough. Hopkins' books are all written in verse (so the 600 pages actually fly by, since there's only a few stanzas on each page), and they are emotionally captivating, honest, and draining. This particular series follows a young girl and her battle with crystal meth, and other things crop up like her outgoing, outlandish alter-ego, dangerous boys, and the pregnancy that follows.

And there is a reason one of Hopkins' books is on the list! As I was cleaning my shelf, I discovered a long-forgotten extra ARC of Ellen Hopkins' Tricks, and I want to give it away to one of you! It's US only (sorry, I'm poor), and just fill out the rafflecopter below!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dystopia Fever: The Murder Complex Review

I participated in a pseudo-blog tour with this one—essentially it was just a bunch of bloggers who all passed the ARC around, and it was a lot of fun! It was organized by Brittany at the Book Addict's Guide, and you should go check her site out because she does a lot of cool signups!

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 398
Keywords: dystopia, murder, family
Format Read: ARC
Book Depository | Goodreads
Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.
The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?
I'd heard a lot of cool things about this one, and I was stoked (wow, haven't used THAT word since my angsty high school days) to finally be able to read it. And it was good, don't get me wrong, I just felt a bit "Haven't we seen this before?"

It may be more of an "it's me" case, in that I think I'm done with dystopia for a while. There was a pretty interesting question that started the whole thing. The basic premise is what happens when our super smart society eradicates disease entirely and no one dies ever? The solution, for them, was the murder complex, and there's a whole lot of explanation that comes later in the book, but all Meadow knows at the beginning is that people are murdered in the streets on certain nights and she has to hide with her family and keep them alive to avoid being killed.

The concept was really interesting, but there was quite a bit of the insta-connection-love stuff (like, the guy sees her once, and thinks he may love her even though she's crazy and murderous and won't talk to him). This kind of turned me off to that plot line, and since I wasn't a big fan of Zephyr anyway, it was hard for me to root for them since it was such a sudden love interest.

I really loved Koi (her brother) and (her sister, but I'm forgetting her name, someone help me please!), and I loved their family dynamic. Koi failed to get a job earlier in his life, and this causes a lot of stress for him since he's older and supposed to be providing for his family. There was another character, Orion, whom Meadow meets on the job, and she reminded me of Jane Lynch's character in Wreck It Ralph (anyone who's seen it and read this book, tell me it's so right. That's what I was picturing the entire time). She's a hard ass who doesn't take shit from anyone and whips Meadow into shape, and I loved having her around.

There were things I liked, which is why I want to say this was a good book. It was. But with my personal blinders on now, I think I need to take a break from dystopian books for a while because they seem to have all the same qualities. Teen girl chosen to overthrow crazy government society who thinks they're helping but actually they're not, plus a romance thrown in for good measure.

Read When: If you're into dystopian, this is a good one to pick up. It's got some fun characters and a lot of fast movement. But, if you're like me and a bit tired of this strain of books, hold off for a while until you're really ready for it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Celebrity Status: Now & Forever

Now & Forever by Susane Colasanti
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 272
Keywords: romance, celebrities, music
Format Read: ARC via publisher in exchange for honest review
Book Depository | Goodreads
What if your boyfriend was the world's biggest rockstar?
Sterling is crazy in love with Ethan. Not only is he the sweetest boy she's ever met, but he's an incredibly talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter. And since forever, he's believed he has what it takes to be a star.
When Ethan becomes an overnight sensation, he's thrown head-first into the glam world of celebrity-and so is Sterling. Before she knows it, she's attending red-carpet premieres, getting free designer clothes, and flying around the country to attend Ethan's monumental sold-out concerts.
It's a dream come true...but whose dream is Sterling living? And what do you do when "forever" comes to an end?
This was my first book by the author (even though she's got a ton of cute-looking contemporaries out), and I was not disappointed.

Each chapter begins with the number of Ethan's followers, which I loved. It was such an interesting way of measuring time and how much has happened since the last chapter, and it really brought a whole different look to how I read the sections.

What stood out the most out of this book was the characters. They were detailed and real and had personalities I really came to understand and know. Though I didn't love every aspect (the MC emailed authors to tell them about typos in their books. That would make me feel TERRIBLE as an author, and yes, I do notice typos everywhere, but I would never tell an author about a typo in their book), I really loved that they were real and emotional and flawed. I also loved Sterling's best friend Georgia (though she made some stupid mistakes too), and her love of plants and wildlife was adorable.

There were a couple things that kept me from loving this book more than I did, including the ever present instalove. There were some things that happened, and I thought the beginning of the book was timed very well, but all of the sudden it felt like things were way more advanced than they were (you'll know what I mean if you've read it).

There were also a couple of ramblings that didn't really seem to fit well where they were in the book. Some of the paragraphs just didn't flow to the next, and I felt like there was a lot of info-dumping, especially in the very beginning.

Read When: This was a quick one, and it's good for when you don't really want to think about anything and get away for a few hours with some fun characters and some fun reading.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Book Drinks: Southern Sass

Inspired by a recent trip to the library in which I finally scored a copy of Rachel Hawkins' Rebel Belle, this week's Friday Book Drinks is all about pearls, girls, and glam.

This is one I haven't personally read yet, but now that I've got a copy, I'm going to start as soon as possible. From what I gather from descriptions, it's the story of a classic Southern Belle (yes, they're still around) who, at a dance, runs into the whole issue that she's a guardian with powers, and she's been charged to protect the guy she hates most in school. Well, of course things happen, and I anticipate some romantic-y things going on shortly afterward.

To celebrate, here's the Southern Belle-ini! (Cute name, right?) To make it (and by it, I mean SIX servings. So be prepared to have some friends over), you'll need the following:

1 can frozen PiƱa Colada Mix 
½ cup light rum
½ cup peach rum
1 1/2 cup raspberries
1/3 cup lemon juice
5 cups of ice
6 raspberries for garnishes
6 mint sprigs for garnishes 
(I always include the garnishes on the lists, but when I make drinks I'm WAY too lazy for that shit, so use at your own risk)

Literally, throw everything except the garnishes into a blender and mix until smooth. THAT'S IT. So easy, and if you blend til it's smooth, you should get a nice little foam on top that gives the top of the glass a light pink fluffy quality to it.

I picked this (other than its obvious cuteness and pinkness) because I can just imagine Southern Belles in dresses chilling on their porches in Savannah sipping this in the afternoon. Can't you picture it, too? Seems so perfect. You know, until they've got to get up and fight stuff and protect people.

And though I haven't read it yet, this was a quote from Goodreads I really enjoyed and got a good laugh out of it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones Review

Illusive by Emily-Lloyd Jones
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 416
Keywords:supernatural, superhero, suspense, dystopia
Format Read: ARC via Goodreads FirstReads
Add It: Goodreads
Get It: Book Depository
When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She's what's known as an illusionist...She's also a thief.
After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn't?
The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against the government that could cost them their lives.
I was lucky enough to get a beautiful signed ARC of this book waaaaay back in February, and I knew I needed to read it before it was published. It just has that quality to it from the outside. It looks like it's an intriguing book.

I read it in less than 24 hours.

Now, when I say that, clearly I was hooked. It wasn't astounding literature or groundbreaking storylines, but it was pretty damn cool. I really enjoyed the ride.

The story is pretty superhero-like. There was a virus, and to cure it, everyone in the world was administered vaccines. Of course, side effects happened. So a very small percentage of people developed supernatural powers, and there were about 8 different varieties. This is the basic premise, and there was a ton that happened on a side story, starting with a bank robbery and escalating to a full-on government/criminal battle that has you rooting for the bad guys (aka NOT the government).It was fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable to watch the action unfold. The descriptions and actions were so quick I could actually picture it and did as I read (which is something that really doesn't happen very often).

There's Ciere, who develops this kind of superpower quality and she's called an Illusive, which means she can pull up illusions around herself and basically become anyone else or invisible, depending on the situation. My big issue with her is that she made some really stupid mistakes. And I know, flawed characters are better. However, she was a seasoned robber and used to running around and avoiding the law and staying under the radar. And then she would do something so colossally idiotic I found myself wondering how she even survived before. But that's okay because it was still fun to read.

My favorite was Devon, her eidetic-memory sidekick.They worked extremely well as a team, and I really wanted to see him develop more as a character. There were several others in the gang, but they didn't receive a ton of stage time, something I was quite sad about.

The action in this book gets an A+. That's what really stuck out by the end and is the most memorable about this, and that's what will keep you flipping the pages.

Read When: You want to go see a superhero movie but there's not one out yet. You'll also need a chunk of time because the story is confusing if you stop and start again. You'll forget what was going on. (Not that it happened to me or anything...)