Friday, December 26, 2014

Unravel Me and Ignite Me reviews

I FINISHED A SERIES! In case you're new here, I'm really terrible at series. I'm talking really, truly, awful. I just get distracted and end up not finishing them. But recently I made it a goal of mine to finish the Shatter Me series before the end of the year, and I did it! (If you haven't read the first one, definitely don't read any further, but maybe proceed with caution anyway if you haven't finished the entire series. I may be the only one left who hadn't finished the books though)

The second book picks up where we left off, with Juliette, Adam, and James settled in at Omega Point, and they are trying to fit in and figure out just what this underground city was built for.

I have to say, I enjoyed these two books much more than the first one, which is definitely not how I usually feel with trilogies. The first book revolved so much more around the stasis of Juliette's situation and the fact that she was stuck for so long in a solitary cell. I also loved that in the second book we were introduced to a whole host of new characters. I know they appeared in the first one, but we really got to know all the new people instead of focusing entirely on Juliette and Adam (who, by the way, I never really liked).

Unravel Me
Normally I feel like second books are kind of still. It's the planning book before you get to the real action in book three. That was not the case with Unravel Me. The plot still moved forward even though the majority of it was the planning stages for the upheaval of The Reestablishment. Between the training, the research, the character development, and the war planning stages, there was so much going on to keep me from getting bored halfway through this book. Instead, it propelled my interest for book three.
And I want to talk about Kenji for a moment. I love his relationship with Juliette and how good of friends they become. With so much going on in the book, it was still wonderful to have a focus on a pure friendship with such a wonderful character. Seriously, Kenji stole the show. He is my favorite.

Ignite Me
Again, Kenji stole the show. His character is the best and the strongest, hands down.
A lot changed for the onset of this book, including team members fighting and where their home base was. This was a huge leap to take, but I thought it was also a bit unrealistic because of who was left. It seemed too convenient. Regardless, the third installment, in my opinion, was the best. Juliette stopped (well, sort of) so whiny, which was a characteristic I really hated in book two. She matured the most of the characters (with quite a bit of pushing) and WOAH steamy scenes alert! That I was totally a fan of (you know, the person she was with). I was pretty much a fan of all the characters except Adam, whom I found extremely whiny for a person supposedly in a war and supposed to be fighting for his brother and protecting people.

I am so glad I finished this series, and now I see what all the fuss was about. It just took a little prodding because the first book was so still. But they got so much better, and they will definitely be on my keep shelf :)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Moon and More Review

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 435
Keywords: beach, graduation, family
Format Read: hardcover (owned)
Goodreads | IndieBound
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
Trusty Sarah Dessen is where I turn when I've had it with not enjoying books. Even if I don't like the characters or decisions, I know I can count on a good story and excellent writing from her. And that's exactly how I felt reading The Moon and More.

It's not often Dessen writes male protagonists I don't really like, but this was the case for both Theo and Luke. In fact, I wanted more of the character focus to remain on Emaline and her relationship with her best friends, Daisy and Morris, and her growing relationship with her half-brother Benji. These characters were the strongest and had the most interesting dynamic among them, and I really wanted to see more of them in the book.
Instead, much of the focus was placed on Emaline's struggle with choosing a boyfriend. Yes, there were some more things in there like discovering who she was and what she truly wanted to do upon graduating, but so many of the chapters revolved around Luke or Theo. I thought this was entirely unnecessary. Luke was quick to jump to conclusions when he failed to receive one response from Emaline about a scenario, and everything unraveled pretty quickly at the very beginning. He doesn't wait to listen or reason, so Emaline moves on. Super quickly. Which, you know, happens. But at the same time, I didn't see that much of a difference in the two. Theo, though he dressed and talked differently and was quite a bit snobbier, still never listened to Emaline and what she was saying, and he always jumped to conclusions way too quickly. It just seemed like an awful lot of the book focused on Emaline's struggle with the two when her real growth as a character was happening in all her other relationships.

The movement in the story was good, though, and the pacing was just right. The chapters focusing on Emaline, Benji, and their father were the best and most realistic. They delved into their relationship well, and I connected so well with that aspect of the book. And I know I mentioned it before, but I sincerely loved Morris and his kind-heartedness and genuine love for Emaline (like the friend kind of love). It was clear they had an important history—I just wanted to see more of them.

Even though I felt the placement was a bit off, the characters were still strong and Dessen always crafts a good story. The writing was superb, and the book itself was interesting and compelling. That's why I really enjoy Dessen's books; because even if I feel like I have issues with it, I still end up really enjoying the reading experience.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Book Drinks: Holiday Happiness

Welcome to a special holiday installment of Friday Book Drinks! This is a regular feature I created where I pair cocktails with books I'm reading because, you know, drinks are great!

I've been saving this book for a FBD feature because winter drinks are literally my favorite thing ever, and I'm 4 stories into this anthology and LOVING it.

Obviously, hot chocolate is delicious. There's no debate about that. But making grown-up hot chocolate is one of my favorite things about wintertime. Curling up with spiked hot cocoa, fuzzy socks, and a good book is what Friday nights in December were meant for.

You can always just put some peppermint schnapps into hot cocoa to make it instantly better, but this recipe is super easy to follow, and will help you up your game with HOMEMADE schnapps to add to your drinks. (I've tested and can confirm that it's 100% amazing and delicious).

It's the perfect warm and fuzzy drink to pair with warm and fuzzy stories (my favorites so far have been Midnights because DUH it's Rainbow R. and she's basically Queen of the world, and Stephanie Perkins' story with the Christmas tree farm. Mainly I think because I have a fascination with real pine trees. We've always had a fake one because my brother's allergies will nearly kill him if we bring a real tree inside.)

Have you read these stories yet? Tried some grown-up hot chocolate? What's your favorite drink when it's cold outside?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Resolutions Reflection

This year was the first year I made resolutions for the blog, and I think it turned out surprisingly well! I'm not too great at long-term goals (I tend to forget if there's not an event or something I'm actively working toward), but I think my three goals were realistic, doable, and helped improve my blog!

Below are the resolutions I posted about way back in January, and I'm going to see how well I did!

1. Read more e-books. For those of you who read regularly, you know I'm not a fan. I have a Kindle. I don't like it. But, my ratio on NetGalley is suffering (I think, like everyone else's). I need to catch up and stop requesting so many books I don't actually have the time to read. Until I can read 5, I'm not allowing myself on NetGalley to look at any more.

How'd I do?
I really worked hard on this one. Right when I first got a Kindle, I was so click-happy and unrealistic on NetGalley. I WAY overestimated how much I'd actually read. Resulting in a 10% feedback ratio. Sheesh. I am so sad at myself. But, I have knocked SO MANY out by motivating myself to go to the gym (great for treadmill use) and telling myself I have to read these. I've gotten my percentage up to 30.5%! Which still is not great. I'd love for it to be 80% like they say. But I read 27 e-books this year, and I think that's pretty crazy.

2. VLOG! Yep, vlog. This is a thing I'll be trying (this week, actually) so any tips, other vloggers to follow, or anything at all really will be welcome. I am planning on vlogging reviews/thoughts on books. Not full-fledged reviews, but an aspect in particular that made me think about a certain topic (hint, I'll be starting with Allegiant).

How'd I do?
Pretty well! I made more than one video, and I have like 12 whole people subscribed to my channel! It's not super high on my priority list, but it was pretty fun filming them! I have a theory in my head that I want to film Friday Book Drinks in a chat-style book talk but with drink-making involved. I'm just lazy and haven't done it yet.

3. Put down books I don't like. I'm a terrible book-quitter. I try so hard to like everything, and it puts me in a book slump when I get stuck on a book I loathe. So I'm going to put down books this year I don't want to read!

How'd I do?
This is what I did the best with, I'd say. I have a feature now called Reshelved where I talk about why I didn't like what I was reading, why I ultimately put it down, and who I think would like the book. That way, instead of being entirely negative, someone can find if that book may be for them even though I personally would not recommend it. It makes me feel a little better for not finishing it. I just don't have the time to spend on books I don't like.

Did you all make goals? How did you do? Do you think I'll EVER get my NetGalley ratio back up?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

All the Bright Places: Blog Tour Kickoff!

I am happy to share with you that I am kicking off the tour for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven! To celebrate this awesome book (seriously, I loved this one. I'll be reviewing it later this week, so stay tuned), I've made another Pinterest collage of things that I thought worked well with the book!

The book is set in a small town in Indiana (yay home pride!), and the top right picture is actually from my street! The Indiana factor is a big one, and there's a particular hill Violet and Finch go to that reminded me of home, seeing as my town sits about 600 feet above and looks out over Louisville.

Post-its and small notes are a big part of Finch's world, and he uses them to document ideas about songs, words, and other things he likes, and they are a constantly changing and evolving set of notes. He introduces them to Violet, and they become a big part of their relationship.

Lastly, my favorite. One of the central focuses of the book is the school project they are working on together, exploring Indiana. My favorite scene includes them finding a Bookmobile Park, run by a couple who was sad to see Bookmobiles not going to use, so they bought a bunch and ran a little park of book stores on wheels.

And, thanks to the lovely people at Random House, I am able to give away a copy right here, right now! Just enter using the form below and commenting answering the questions provided:

I really loved this book, and make sure to stop by the other blogs on the tour! (which I will have a list of soon, stay tuned!)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Amber House Review

Amber House by Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, Tucker Reed
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 368
Keywords: horror, magic, memories
Format Read: Hardcover
Goodreads | Indiebound
Sarah Parsons has never seen Amber House, the grand Maryland estate that's been in her family for three centuries. She's never walked its hedge maze nor found its secret chambers; she's never glimpsed the shades that haunt it, nor hunted for lost diamonds in its walls.
But all of that is about to change. After her grandmother passes away, Sarah and her friend Jackson decide to search for the diamonds--and the house comes alive. She discovers that she can see visions of the house's past, like the eighteenth-century sea captain who hid the jewels, or the glamorous great-grandmother driven mad by grief. She grows closer to both Jackson and a young man named Richard Hathaway, whose family histories are each deeply entwined with her own. But when the visions start to threaten the person she holds most dear, Sarah must do everything she can to get to the bottom of the house's secrets, and stop the course of history before it is cemented forever. 
Before I dive into the contents, I want to mention the cover. The picture doesn't do it justice. And yes, girl in fancy dress isn't anything crazy. But on the hardcover I have, the title is a shimmery mirage, and you can only see it if you turn it in the right light. Otherwise, it blends straight into the background. It's beautiful, and I think it fits extremely well with the story and the premise behind the exploration of this old family mansion.

This was a rather slow-moving book, but not in a way that made it less interesting. There was a ton of backstory for each character, and I felt like I was actually getting to know Sarah and her little brother as they got to know their past family and the secrets of Amber House. Their grandmother passes away, and they're staying at the house while their mom tries to plan events and showings to get the house sold. Of course, they begin to grow attached and do some exploring of their own and learn a whole lot more than what meets the eye.

Sarah discovers a genetic trait she, like the other women in her family, possesses, and Jackson, the boy who lives on the property, helps explain it to her. She can see "echoes," or memories, of people before her. This is how she gets more information on the house and the people who once lived there. Like I said earlier, this story wasn't super action-y or quick-moving. Instead, it relied on character-driven stories and memories and dreams, and the authors recounted tales many different ways.

This was both good and bad. In a way, I felt much closer to the characters and what was happening to them. But, at the same time, jumping from Sarah's present, where she flits around to parties with Richard, then back to the past, then to the further past, then back to present, made for a bit of a confusing plot to follow. I had many instances where I had to go back and figure out which characters lived when because there was so much overlap.

Other than being a bit confused and startled the first time I read the ending, it was a haunting and chilling tale with compelling characters and backstories. There just wasn't enough drive between events to make this a solidly awesome book, but if characters and still movement are your thing, this book is for you.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bookish Favorites #2

I find things all the time that make me drool because I want to own them, and I definitely can't afford them right now. So I wanted a place to compile all the pretty bookish things that I plan on (someday) having in my possession. Want to see the first installment?

This will be a sporadic post (aka a when I feel like it kind of thing), and I hope to share quite a few things you haven't seen before!

Even this shower curtain would make mornings tolerable (well, sort of. I really hate mornings).

How wonderful would it be to have these chairs out in the garden?

Definitely on the more luxurious side, how excellent would it be to have this monstrous tower of books by your bathtub? I don't think I'd ever leave!

And once I finally left the tub, it would be great to have this rug right next to it!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Haven Review

The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 224
Keywords: dystopia, genetics, rebellion
Format Read: finished copy via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Book Depository
For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories. 
But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?
For a dystopia, this is definitely a well-crafted, different story than those I've been reading lately, and I mean that in a definite good way.

It started out quite mysterious and doesn't try to be expository in telling its story. All we know at the beginning is that Shiloh and a bunch of other young kids are being held in this hospital-like place where they are fed, go to school, and all have medications they take. From there, things slowly start to unfold about scientists and why exactly these kids are being held here.

I was surprised by the serious nature of this book. It brought up a lot of moral questions, and it made it extremely interesting only being told from the inside of the complex — we had virtually no clue what was happening on the other side of the hospital's walls. It moved at a quick enough pace to keep me invested, but Williams revealed information slowly and at just the right time. I was pleased with the suspense.

It also, unlike many MANY dystopias out there, didn't paint one specific character as a hero, which I loved. Multiple people were involved in the story's progression and events that would eventually take place, and each character was developed and crafted carefully. It was much more realistic in its nature because of this, and the fate of the world didn't rest on one teenager's shoulders.

This was such an interesting story, and one of the best dystopias I've read this year, and I was shocked because I hadn't heard of it before it showed up on my doorstep. The science was sound, the characters were solid and believable, and it was definitely a unique concept as far as stories go. I will be on the lookout for more books from Williams, as I was definitely impressed by this one.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Orange Is The New Black Audiobook Review

A few weeks ago, I called out help to you, my fellow book nerds, to help me out choosing my first audiobook. I know, it's a little ridiculous that I, a book blogger and someone who recently drove to Florida and back on my own, have never listened to an audiobook. It wasn't for lack of trying though.

I tried to listen to one while training for the half marathon I ran in April, but I found I was too distracted and focused on running to be able to concentrate on a book. This is what I feared would happen with this one — I would zone out and have to rewind and ultimately never make it through.

On my library's website, they added new audiobooks up for borrow, and I saw Orange is the New Black, a show that I love and have been meaning to read the book for a long time. That was the tipping point.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Release Date: April 6, 2010 (audio June 11, 2012)
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Pages: 298
Keywords: prison, drugs, drama
Format Read: audiobook
Goodreads | Book Depository
With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.
Admittedly, I was shocked to find that I was enthralled listening to this book. I mean, I expected to like the book in general, but it was so easy to fall into the story while listening on my commute. I drive about 35 minutes to work, so there and back allowed me to finish the book in exactly 2 weeks. And I found myself sitting in my car once I got to work to listen as long as I possibly could.

Kerman uses an excellent voice (the writing, not the narration), and her style is very conversational, so it was easy to immerse myself into the novel, rather than feel distanced from it. It was so easy for me to visualize what was happening too because I felt like I related to her very well. White, middle class, graduated from college, and in general pretty privileged. Then suddenly all her mistakes she made when she was younger catch up to her.

The book was enlightening in a way that made me truly think about the people we have in federal prison, especially women's prisons, almost 90% of them being drug-related charges. Some are in there for 20-30 years. I don't know about you, but I'd rather reserve space and funding in prisons to hold actual dangerous people like, you know, murderers, rather than people almost forced into the drug business because they were unable to get jobs elsewhere.

Kerman's narrative was thoughtful, explorative, and had excellent pacing — it spanned her 13 months inside Danbury prison. The passages flowed smoothly, and I never felt like there was a jump that shouldn't be there. The downside to this experience, though, is now I want to see what reading the book is like because I liked the audio so much. Yet another book on my TBR shelf. It's never-ending.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Psych Major Syndrome Review

Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson
Release Date: August 11, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 336
Keywords: college, contemporary, romance
Format Read: hardcover via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Book Depository
Presenting Concerns:
The Patient, Leigh Nolan (that would be me), has just started her first year at Stiles College. She has decided to major in psychology (even though her parents would rather she study Tarot cards, not Rorschach blots).
Patient has always been very good at helping her friends with their problems, but when it comes to solving her own...not so much.
Patient has a tendency to overanalyze things, particularly when the opposite sex is involved. Like why doesn't Andrew, her boyfriend of over a year, ever invite her to spend the night? Or why can't she commit to taking the next step in their relationship? And why does his roommate Nathan dislike her so much? More importantly, why did Nathan have a starring role in a much-more-than-friendly dream?
Aggravating factors include hyper-competitive fellow psych majors, a professor who’s badly in need of her own psychoanalysis, and mentoring a middle-school-aged girl who thinks Patient is, in a word, naive.

Psych Major Syndrome
Welcome to the next installment of finally clearing some books I've had for an embarrassingly long time off my shelves!

This book suffers from a case of disagreeing book jacket cover info. Not necessarily disagreeing, but the synopsis on the book and online push the psychology major aspect of it, leading the reader to believe it's going to focus heavily on her school life and learning things about what she wants to do or applying it to her life somehow. This does not seem to be the case.

Instead, most of the story revolves around her boyfriend and her interactions with his roommate and her own roommate (who I really liked, and I want her and Reagan from Fangirl to be BFFs). There's the occasional mention of her Intro to Psych class (which, I know from taking one, is kind of a joke and not a class actual psych majors are in most of the time).

Aside from that, the book is pretty stereotypical in its unfolding of plot events. Boyfriend is a jerk constantly, makes reader confused at why they're dating in the first place, boyfriend's roommate is mysterious and moody (we all know where that will go), and girl's roommate is wise and tells it like it is early on, but it takes the MC way too long to realize it herself.

I did like that this was a college setting, I'm always looking for more of those, but it was still very high school dramatic when it came to everything else. Decent enough to read the whole way through, but it's one I would borrow from the library instead of purchasing.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bookish Favorites #1

I find things all the time that make me drool because I want to own them, and I definitely can't afford them right now. So I wanted a place to compile all the pretty bookish things that I plan on (someday) having in my possession.

This will be a sporadic post (aka a when I feel like it kind of thing), and I hope to share quite a few things you haven't seen before!

How much fun would it be to have these alphabet books on your shelf? What would you spell if you had these?
(via Anthropologie)

These hilariously immature Penguin book matchboxes would make excellent stocking stuffers this year.
(via Etsy)

I know most of us have heard of Frostbeard, but I still don't have any of their candles, and I'd really like to try one out soon.
(via Etsy)

How cute are these grammar teacups?
(via Etsy)

What would you buy first? Does anyone own these things? If so, can I come hang out at your house?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

17 First Kisses Review

17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 352
Keywords: friendship, grief, high school, romance
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Book Depository
No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.
Until Claire meets Luke.
But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.
With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.
I'm thankful that I read this one despite all that I heard about it prior to beginning it (Jamie's discussion about it prompted me to pick it up again, and I'm glad I listened to her post).

I feel like there was a lot that was deceiving about this book. Claire (formerly known as CJ) used to be a tomboy who refused to wear dresses, but she got scooped up into the popular crowd at school and quickly befriends Megan, which starts a lot of this book, and I think it's important to know that about Claire going into the story.

Some of the biggest complaints about the book include slut-shaming language and terrible friendships, and that's why a lot of people put this book down. While tons of paragraphs made me cringe at what the girls were saying about other girls, there was never a moment that seemed unrealistic about what people were saying. I remember high school pretty vividly, and while I actively avoided the popular scene (I was neither a picked-on kid nor a picker-on, I was a theatre kid who stayed far away from everything else), it was language I heard all the time and thought was just a part of life. It doesn't mean I didn't like it. But this is an issue with society and behavior, not the book.

As the story moves along, there is quite a bit revealed about Claire's character, in addition to some revelations about others. We find out that every single character in the book deals with multitudes of problems, which I thought was brave and also realistic on Allen's part. It made the characters much more dynamic, and though I hated several of them, it also garnered sympathy from me. It also made me think a lot about how I judge people in life. I'm guilty, and I think we all are at some point. Allen puts those issues to the forefront and makes you think about how actions and words are affecting other people, even when you really don't like a person. 

It was all a bit dramatic in its plot unfolding, and (okay, I can't be the only one, surely) I really didn't even like Luke at all, but the book definitely had its merits in what it was trying to discuss. I was NOT a fan of one part of the ending, and had several options for Claire I wanted to lay out for her, but I did understand why it happened the way it did. It was realistic, and it was what any high schooler would do. I know I did it quite a bit. I was, however, a fan of
*View Spoiler*

I would recommend reading this, but go into it knowing you will hate quite a few characters, their language, etc. It's not meant to be politically correct or shame people, it's supposed to bring those issues out and show people what it does.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Ten FAIL: Sequel Day

As we all know, the Broke and the Bookish hosts Top Ten Tuesday, and I'm terrible at consistently posting weekly features. I just do posts when I feel like it.

So I planned this out, and I'm typing this about a week before this Top Ten post, and I get on and see it's sequels I can't wait to get to.
But here's the thing: I SUCK AT SERIES.
I didn't used to be so terrible. In fact, a long time ago, trilogies were my favorites (like, way back before blogging and tons of trilogies were a thing). I liked how long they were and how I could keep reading about a character. Now, I don't often review books if they're not the first in a series, and I'm mostly ready to move on to something else by the end of the first one.

So I feel like I can't actually even make a list because I've been so bad at series lately, I won't even start them for fear of not finishing them.
So my list is going to be a random number of series I've half-started or have sitting on my shelves that have been sitting there for years because I know I won't finish them.

1. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

So I've read the first one. Really liked the style and the story. Then 7 months later I picked up Unravel Me. I've had the second sitting on my nightstand for literally 3 months and my bookmark on page 12. Oops. I just keep picking up other things instead. **Edit** Since writing this post a few days ago, I got so ashamed that I barely read the second one, I made it my blogger mission to finish this series before the end of the year. I have made ACTUAL PROGRESS. As of now, 10:11 p.m. Monday night, I'm on page 148. That sounds like pretty good progress to me. :)

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is one I haven't even started, but I have the whole series. I bought them on Book Outlet a while back for a huge discount, and they're still sitting wrapped up on the top of my shelf. I haven't even sorted them.

3. Pivot Point by Kasie West

I've read both her standalone books and LOVED both of them. I own both of these books. Why I haven't read them yet is beyond me.

4. Matched by Ally Condie

I've read the first (I read this YEARS ago, and have a review somewhere, but it's terrible and makes me cringe and laugh at my past self blogger), and then won the series in a contest. I was so excited I could finally finish the series, and guess what I did? Yep. Put them on my shelves and read other stuff instead.

And finally, the big one. The one I (sort of) got yelled at when I tried to sneakily comment on Twitter that I hadn't read the series. Specifically Jamie & Andi. (Sorry guys!! I promise I'm working on it!)

5. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I actually HAVE an ARC of Heir of Fire, and I remember how much everyone was freaking out when they surprised us with them in the mail. I felt super lucky to get one, and even checked the first two out of the library. Along with 26 other books. Which got read first. And the series went back to the library. I swear I didn't mean to ignore them, it just sort of... happened.
Also, if someone would let me know what's up with the covers of these books, that'd be great. Which ones came first? I'm confused.

Surely I'm not the only one terrible at series! Let me know in the comments which ones you can't believe I've read or which ones you're with me on meaning to get to!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mystery Unfolds: Made for You Review

Made for You by Melissa Marr
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 356
Keywords: murder, mystery
Format Read: ARC via trade
Goodreads | Book Depository
When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

I was a big fan of the Wicked Lovely series in high school (it was one that got me back into YA reading), so when I saw this show up on an Epic Reads teatime, I was basically doing the gimme hands.

It was so different than anything I expected, and I was captivated. I normally can't stand multiple points of view because I can't tell the narrators apart. Marr did an excellent job of switching between the three characters, and each voice I felt was distinct. Grace, Eva's best friend, was analytical and questioned a lot. Eva was descriptive. And Judge had a whole different level of distinct voice. He's the one obsessed with Eva. I loved that one of the perspectives openly admits that he tried to kill Eva in the first chapter. It gave such a suspenseful twist knowing what he was thinking but not knowing who he was.

I felt accomplished and proud when I hit 3/4 through the book and guessed who it was, but I realized once I turned the page that Marr wanted readers to find out exactly at that point and not a moment before. I was questioning everything and fully immersed in this strange world of southerners (okay, not so strange) and mystery.

It moved rather slowly for a murder/suspense type book, but it was a good slow. The plot didn't go too fast, and I felt like things happened realistically rather than at "book pace," where events seem to magically happen over the course of a day and a half. Eva had some recovery time in the hospital, and school dates were planned out, and it all made sense.

This was my favorite Marr book yet, and I will definitely keep an eye out for more things she writes in the future. I was a huge fan of the contemporary setting with magical elements.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I'm Being Critical

Basically this is how I've been feeling for the past few months or so: I'm being overly critical of books.

Now, I know as a blogger it's my job to be critical, but I feel like I just haven't connected with a book in a really long time. Like, since Isla long, which I read MONTHS ago. Sure, I've read books I've liked. But more often than not, it seems like when I'm writing up my review and posting links at the end, a book I've given two stars (or less) has been rated about 4 on Goodreads.

In my early days of blogging, I pretty much gave everything a five-star review because I was just like "BOOOOKSSS I LOVE THEM." But I wanted people to trust my opinions, so over the years, I've started thinking a lot about what I say about a book in a review. I'm lucky if I get a four-star review a month.

I don't know if it's me being way too critical of what I'm reading, or if it's truly been the books. I just wanted to put this out there and ask you guys if you have critical stages, where you feel like everything you read makes you side-eye it and want to go back to your trusty favorites.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I'd Rather Hang With the Nerds: Hexed Review

Hexed by Michelle Krys
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte
Pages: 384
Keywords: magic, witches, high school
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley (thank you!)
Goodreads | Book Depository
A stolen book. A deadly plan. A destiny discovered. 
If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won't stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn't want to be her?
Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie's world, she learns that her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn't get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that's seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she's a witch too.
Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie is about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.
The beginning of this book had me mostly worried: The MC is a cheerleader, and her BFF rose to popularity with her, but now they're having a falling out since Indie is dating Devon, the super hot, super popular football star, whom they both had a crush on a while back. It was pretty superficial, and Indie was openly embarrassed and mean to her mother, who runs the town's magic shop called "The Black Cat." I mean, I get it. High school can be rough, and you want people to like you. But to say out loud that your mom is crazy when she loves you more than anything else? That's cruel.

Fortunately, the magic part takes off pretty quickly. Indie's mom's sacred book goes missing, and in about 10 pages, Indie is introduced to the crazy world of flying and spellcasting - actual magic. Now, she's not afraid to enlist her neighbor Paige's help, even though she was previously mortified to be seen with her. And here's the thing; main characters do not have to be likeable. They DO have to learn and develop and hopefully improve something about themselves. There were so many instances Indie could have stepped up and done the right thing, and girl made some serious mistakes. All over the place. She made Paige (super un-cool girl, she reminds you all the time) leave her friend's house where she was spending the night to go on an investigative mission, and then insults her because Indie doesn't want to be seen by anyone from school going to a party with her.

All that aside, the magic stuff was okay. I enjoyed the back story of why things were happening the way they were, and I really got a kick out of the bad guys duo (I can't remember their names, but one of them was bald, and one was called Fred-something I think?). Baldie and Fred were pretty funny, even though they had zero reason for doing the things that they did - stealing Indie's mom's book and blaming Indie for putting a spell on it, when they could clearly tell she had no powers. And even if she did, she wasn't old enough yet. Which they should know. Because leather-jacket kid (yes, there's a romance, duh) knew and told her all about it.

It was a pretty quick read, but I was very indifferent to all the characters except Indie's mom and Paige, who seemed to be the only actual thinking characters in the entire book. It was filled with so many plot holes, though, that I just can't possibly feel interested in reading any more in this series.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Blogtober Wrap Up


I am so happy Blogtober is over — don't get me wrong, I've had a lot of fun. But it's also been a challenge to come up with interesting content daily for 31 days in a row. So many days!

So here's a quick run-down of what I did, what was posted, and what you can still do:

I hosted FOUR giveaways, all of which end at midnight EST today (Oct 31), so if you haven't entered them, you should head there now and get in your last entries you can! 
(Prizes include a poster, two hardcover books, and a handmade journal I made from my Etsy shop)

Books Reviewed:
I reviewed 11 books this month (whew), hit my Goodreads goal (yay!), and a few really stood out as favorites, so check out the reviews below of why I loved these the most this month.

Top Ten:
I actually did a top ten post for once, but I changed it up a little bit. My version is stuff I'm going to be doing rather than going out and socializing on Halloween!

Some other things I did include
A post on stuff in Louisville/So. Indiana in fall time, like a pumpkin show and visit to the winery
 A discussion after the Kathleen Hale incident on how I found out my info wasn't hidden, and what I did to make sure I was safer as a blogger. 

Mostly this has been a super fun project, and I feel like it really pushed my creativity as a blogger to think differently and come up with other ideas than just reviewing books. But I am glad it's over, as my work schedule is picking up and I'm planning the move (oh yeah, I'm pretty for sure I'm moving to NYC after Christmas to pursue editing as a career), so it will be nice to cool down on blogging. And by cool down, I mean resume my regular pace rather than a post a day.

Thanks for playing, and I hope you stick around to see what comes next!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Locked In: Welcome to the Dark House Review

This post is part of my blogtober celebration, my month-long blog party about all things creepy and Halloween-y! Don't forget I've got a ton of giveaways going on!

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 368
Keywords: horror, mystery, murder
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley
For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.
And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.
Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.
Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.
By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.
I'm first going to make a disclaimer that I really tried to ignore while I read the book. My eARC was formatted super incorrectly, and I realized the book is being told from all the characters' points of views, and that in the actual book, the typefaces change with the narrator. The eARC did no such thing. The voices were all really similar, and it was supremely difficult for me to differentiate between the characters.

That being said, I really liked the idea behind this. A movie star's contest to share nightmares, and then the winners get to see the set and live in his world, where there's all kinds of creepy stuff going on. I liked not knowing what was going to happen and how nothing was really answered straightaway for a while, so it kept me guessing a little bit.

Even with that plot that was fun, it all felt a bit cliche and boring, and I didn't feel like any of the characters stood out or went anywhere as people. They all felt static and boring, and I wanted there to be something more from them. Everyone had a distinct trait, and that was pretty much all that defined them, and they didn't feel particularly complex.

This was pretty much like a horror movie: The premise is good and it's suspenseful, but the characters are only so-so and the story will only go so far, and really, there's pretty much only one way it can end. Wasn't my favorite read of the season, but it wasn't the worst.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Strange Murder: The Monster Variations Review

This post is part of my blogtober celebration, my month-long blog party about all things creepy and Halloween-y! Don't forget I've got a ton of giveaways going on!

The Monster Variations by Daniel Kraus
Release Date: August 11, 2009
Publisher: Delacorte
Pages: 256
Keywords: murder, childhood, growing up
Format Read: Hardcover via publisher (thank you!)
Someone is killing boys in a small town. The murder weapon is a truck, and the only protection is a curfew enacted to keep kids off the streets. But it’s summer—and that alone is worth the risk of staying out late for James, Willie, and Reggie. 
Willie, who lost his arm in the first hit-and-run attack, finds it hard to keep up with his two best friends as they leave childhood behind. All of them are changing, hounded by their parents, hunted by the killer, and haunted by the “monster,” a dead thing that guards the dangerous gateway between youth and manhood. But that’s not all: shadowing the boys everywhere is Mel Herman, the mysterious and brilliant bully whose dark secrets may hold the key to their survival. As the summer burns away, these forces collide, and it will take compassion, brains, and guts for the boys to overcome their demons—and not become monsters themselves.
Going into this book, I was pretty excited because it sounded like a fast-paced murder mystery. Someone is running down boys in town in a truck. Willie, one of our main characters, ends up with only one arm, and another boy ends up dead. However, I was expecting there to be more that happened in the beginning. The description says that someone is killing boys, but for the first 2/3 of the book, it's just one that's died and poor Willie, struggling to carry home groceries without his left arm.

I realized early on this book was more about memories and learning about the past than it was about actions. It was reminiscent and pondered a lot of questions after they had happened, helping the reader see the boys grow as they made decisions in their childhood days.

The characters are complex and compelling, but because the story is told in such a distant way, I felt a lack of connection, and I felt like there was constantly a glass wall between me and the characters. I could see what was happening to them, but it was separate from me, and I couldn't quite get to where I wanted to be.

I think that knowing this story is about stories and revisiting the past would help the reader enjoy it more. Since I was expecting a Criminal Minds sort of story, I felt a bit disoriented as the book progressed, but I did like the characters. I just wanted more happening and more information on everything.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Things I'll Be Hanging With on Halloween

This post is part of my blogtober celebration, my month-long blog party about all things creepy and Halloween-y! Don't forget I've got a ton of giveaways going on!

I'm very sporadic in my participation in weekly memes, but this one fit perfectly! Of course, I am sort of changing/merging the topics. The Broke and The Bookish, the host, have chosen books to get in the creepy mood or characters you'd dress up as. 
For my Top Ten, I'm going to pick 10 things you can find me curled up with on Halloween because, let's face it, I'd rather spend the evening in my onesie at home on the couch than in a skimpy outfit somewhere outside. 

1. Fox Onesie — If you all know me at all (meaning I literally tweet about this all the time), I talk nonstop about how much I love my onesie. I have a basic one that is excellent, but recently I've really been loving foxes, and I would love to put this on to pretend I dressed up, but really I'd be in pajamas.

2. Hocus Pocus — You can't have Halloween without this movie. Really. Needs no explanation.

 3. Candy Corn — I'm one of the people that falls in the camp of absolutely loving and will eat to the point of sickness. Bring it on!

4. Anything cinnamon — I put it in all my tea and cider this time of year. It makes everything better. Plus cinnamon sticks are just super fun-looking.

5. Apple Cider — It's the BEST drink. Move over pumpkin spice latte lovers (seriously, how much can you make pumpkin-flavored things and not be sick of it? Just kidding, I just don't like pumpkin stuff. Ew). YUMMM.

6. Harry Potter Marathon — It's that time of year when I watch the series from beginning to end. Okay, I haven't done that recently, but I ALWAYS watch the first movie. I think because of the troll scene and how magical the first one is, I have always enjoyed watching it at Halloween time.

7. Halloweentown — Speaking of Halloween time, the Disney Channel has the best movies, hands down. This is another classic that I don't miss during October.

8. And Then There Were None — I just talked about how much I love Agatha Christie, but I have actually never read this one. Somehow it always missed my reading pile, and I just purchased it, so I've got it all ready to go for a lovely night in.

9. The Witches — This is a childhood favorite, and I adore Roald Dahl so much. I also just acquired a copy of this, so I'm all ready for a nice binge-read.

 10. Yarn! — Finally, I will be working on an awesome blanket I've been crocheting. I just finished up a hat too, so I'll be making a pompom to put on top the hat! Yay for old-lady habits!

What do you guys think? Do these look like things you'll be doing on Halloween, or do you go outside and interact with people?!

Monday, October 27, 2014

F**k, Marry, Kill: Monster Edition

This post is part of my blogtober celebration, my month-long blog party about all things creepy and Halloween-y! Don't forget I've got a ton of giveaways going on!

Partly inspired by my undying love of Jesse de Silva and partly inspired by Asti's Scary or Marry Monsters post, today's content comes to you in the fashion of the most popular game on the high school (and probably middle school) bus. (I didn't ride the bus in middle school, so I can't be certain)

F**k, Marry, Kill
(I've got a mouth like a drunken sailor, but I know some people aren't okay with that kind of language, so since I'll be using it a lot, I've put stars in for some of the letters)

I'm going to pick my favorite 3 books in each category (ghosts and sci-fi outcasts), and pick one of the boys to nominate for the match! Let me know if you agree with my choices!

First up: GHOSTS
Okay, so ghosts are supposed to be scary. And in real life, I'd probably pee myself if I saw one. But in books, they're often seen as undeniably hot or at least fun and cool to hang out with.
These books include ghosts or paranormal beings not visible to all humans.

First up, I'd kill Xemerius, the ghost who appears in the Ruby Red series. I mean, he's hilarious, but between Jesse and Bennett? Can't compete. Sorry, pal. Next is the tough decision. Now, Bennett (from Deception) isn't a ghost, but he's a ghostwalker, and I figure that's close enough (shhhh, it's my game!). As much as I'd want to keep the both of them around forever, I'd f**k Bennett because 1. he's a real human and 2. I really just want to marry Jesse (from Mediator) so I could keep him for all eternity. That's not creepy.

These are the ones who don't really fit into any category other than that they don't fit in and it's paranormal weirdness. Like wings, or they can talk to dead people, or they control the universe. You know, average stuff.

I know a lot of people are really obsessed with the main man from the Hush, Hush series, but I just didn't feel it. He seemed really misogynistic to me, and he drove me mad. So sorry, but I'd kill Patch. Next up is another undying love sort of scenario. I've loved Fang from Maximum Ride for ages, and he's moody and kind of a loner but also really caring, so I'd for sure marry Fang. That leaves Aelyx, who is drawing the lucky stick today. I don't really love him, but since the other two are gone, I guess his pretty alien looks would be interesting... so I'll f**k Aelyx (from Alienated).

Do you all agree with my choices? Who are some other characters in these categories you have strong feelings toward?