Friday, January 30, 2015

Happy Book Stuff #3

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 more bookish favorites? I've decided a better name for this segment will be Happy Book Stuff!

Today will be bookish things I found on Etsy that I can't get over!

I saw Andi @ Andi's ABCs pining over this love, and I wanted to share it over here! I would love to add this to my book collections to keep track of books I lend out to people. Though I may feel some reservations stamping it in my books. Would you use a stamp like this?

If there's anything I need to own, it's a card catalog file. I have a thing for shelves and containers anyway, and I've always wanted to own something like this, used in my elementary school days. :)

My little cousin got this for Christmas from on of my aunts, and I can testify that this books is absolutely adorable. It's personalized to the child, so the girl who looks for her name can be customized (my cousin's character found out her name was Carly!)

Okay, time for a little shameless (okay, a little shameful) self-promotion! (Don't hurt me) I make handmade journals, so you can keep track of quotes you really like in books, or a physical TBR, or you can use it to try and sketch out your favorite book covers! I have some that I make from scratch and some out of vintage children's books, like this one with a funny cat on a fence.

There's tons of cool bookish stuff on Etsy, so I'm sure this will not be the last of my bookish favorites from here!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pivot Point & Split Second Double Review

Pivot Point by Kasie West
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 352
Keywords: divorce, time travel, supernatural
Format Read: hardcover
Goodreads | IndieBound

Split Second by Kasie West
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.
I really like the first cover art. The concept is cool with the character looking into her other possible future. I like that it's faded, so you can tell it hasn't really happened yet. I also really love the title running down the center. It adds interest to the typeface and makes it stand out while dividing the two images. The second, however, is too similar to the first to stand out. I was also confused at why they are two different girls. Maybe Laila, her best friend, is this one? It's still a bit confusing to me.

Okay, so "liked" is definitely an understatement in this one. I LOVED this series. The first stood out to me as such an interesting concept in general. The whole book follows Addie searching her two futures, so each chapter jumps back and forth between story lines. It actually wasn't hard at all to follow. I thought it would be, but I managed to keep up with the plot and two separate futures beautifully.
Every once in a while I would remember that these events weren't actually happening. Which was crazy to me. A whole book based on premonitions and "what ifs" seemed strange and foreign, but West did it so well. I never felt out of the story or lost because the events were still in her mind. They felt very real to me.
The second book picked up where one of the futures (obviously I'm not going to tell you which one pans out) leaves off, and it follows Addie in the aftermath of the issues she had to deal with. I didn't like this one as much, but I'll talk about that in another section. I still really love West's style of writing, and she's for sure on auto-buy. With this series knocked out, I've officially read all of her books other than The Fill-In Boyfriend (due in June), but I have an ARC of that already so I will be taking care of that soon. :)

I have to say, I was surprised by almost everything in these books. There was never a moment of groaning because I knew what would happen in 20 pages. It was mostly heart palpitations because I never could have seen that coming. And you know how much I love a crazy, mood-swining, unpredictable book.

Like I mentioned before, I didn't like the second book as much as I liked the first one, but that for sure does not mean I didn't like it. I loved that it was only two books (much more manageable for a non-series person like me). But the appeal of the dual futures was gone with the second, and I felt like we were starting from square one again at the beginning of the second book. Which Addie kind of was. It just was a teeny bit slower to me than the first one.

Love, love, LOVE! Kasie West will be one of my auto-buy authors for sure, and she made this sort of dystopian book feel fresh, contemporary, and much newer than anything else I've read even remotely close to this genre.

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Not Tracking TBR and # Books Read in 2015

Hello convoluted and confusing title!

I've been thinking about this post for a while because I knew I wanted to do this in 2015. As December came to a close, Goodreads began asking me how many books I wanted to read next year. Since I broke 100 last year, I knew I could get number through the roof this year as my first year out of school and not bogged down by homework. My TBR shelf on the same site has more than 800 books on it (I was honestly surprised there weren't more). Some of my Facebook friends were boasting about their reading prowess and fancy books they've read and how many pages they got through, and that they were going to read lots lots lots more next year.

And it hit me.
I don't want that.

I've never felt pressured by counting the books I've read. And I mostly use my TBR on Goodreads to mark books I don't want to forget about rather than a "must read immediately" sort of thing. But seeing a lot of non-bloggers talking about their reading feats made me kind of angry. Not at people who count books. But at the whole idea of competing against a clock or others or yourself or whatever. I don't want that.

Reading is fun.
First and foremost, that's why I read and blog. I like it. I don't want it to lose that aspect, and I'm afraid if I keep heading down this path, I will feel behind. Sure, I'd like to read a ton this year. I know I will, in fact. I like reading. But I also want to be able to binge Netflix to my heart's content for a week straight and not feel behind or guilty about not reading for a week.

So I'm not going to worry about it! Simple as that! And I have gone back to watch the entire first 2 seasons of Gilmore Girls this past week and I regret nothing. :)
I will probably look at the number at the end of the year just for stats purposes.
And it's not that I don't approve of the tracking thing. This is just what is working better for me, and I think it will help me to keep such a positive attitude about blogging. So many people are getting burnt out and sad about blogging, and I think being more relaxed and not as strict on myself will help keep me excited about doing it.

Are you tracking number of books this year? What helps you not get stressed about blogging?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Ditch Your Fairy review

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
Release Date: September 16, 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 307
Keywords: fairies, magic, high school
Format Read: paperback
Goodreads | IndieBound
Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eye, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit. 
For 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all—especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, it isn’t at all what she thought it would be like, and she’ll have resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment? 
I'm sad that I couldn't find a high-res picture of the other cover, which is on the paperback I purchased, of a hammer smashing a little fairy. It seems morbid, but it's actually quite a cute and funny cover.

This was a last-minute addition onto my insane Book Outlet Black Friday purchase, and it was only a dollar and had a funny cover, so I bought it not knowing a thing about it. And what a fun book it was! Larbalestier, instead of doing an expository intro into this made-up country with fairies and weird words, just assumes you know what doos means and you know that everyone (mostly) has got a fairy accompanying them. She did it so well. Though it did take me a few pages to register that was what was happening, once I got the hang of this alternate universe with many similarities to our current one, it was a blast to read.

The idea that everyone walks around with an aura and a fairy that helps them with some aspect of their life is a fun one, and each character had a different fairy that assisted in their everyday lives. Charlie, though distraught by her parking fairy, was hilarious in her attempts to stop it from working by walking everywhere and refusing to travel by any motorized vehicle. And though Charlie did not have any particular smarts when it came to her opinions on other people (I mean, she hates Fiorenza because all the boys like her, and then she wants to switch fairies and is surprised that people hate her?), but she is only 14, after all.

Though I think the story could have been wonderful without the cute boy storyline in the picture, it was truly fun to read, and the antics Charlie and her friends got into (bobsledding course is all you need to know) were laugh-worthy and memorable. Read this one when you want something in the contemporary field, but totally unique and funny too.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Fourteenth Goldfish review

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 208
Keywords: science, friendship, family
Format Read: finished copy
Goodreads | IndieBound
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
I've really been getting into middle grade a lot, so you'll be seeing more of those books pop up here from time to time. My job at an indie children's bookstore has helped inspire this, and I'm so glad I've started looking at middle grade again!

This book was a delight, pulling in scientific topics and making them easily digestible and fun. Ellie's grandpa turns up as a middle schooler, and obviously a lot of antics ensue. He's on a mission to get back into his lab to get his recipe for eternal youth, but security won't let a kid just wander into the lab.

The chapters were extremely short, so it was easy to read a little bit here and there, and it was super easy to get through. This was a fun book for any age, though it's geared toward 4th-7th, depending on reading level. It had such good messages about friendship, family, and adapting to one's environment. Grandpa Melvin is in a totally new surrounding — modern day middle school, and Ellie has NEVER been interested in science and doesn't have a gang that she hangs out with too much at school. So the two of them pairing up is not only a cute friendship, but they also teach each other about many different things in life (like Grandpa Melvin constantly trying to borrow her mom's van because he really can drive even though it looks like he's a middle-schooler).

I had so much fun with this one, and if you're wanting to dive back into middle school reading, or if you're looking for a perfect gift for a younger reader, I'd start here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reshelved (6)

It's been a while since I've done a Reshelved post!

Welcome to back to Reshelved! This is an installment of books I didn't finish. I don't like to do full posts because it's not fair to the book for me to not like it and review it if I didn't finish it. So these just weren't for me, but I still want to give them publicity because maybe you all read them and thought differently or they sound spectacular to you. Let's discuss in the comments what you thought about these if you've read them, or why they sound good to you!

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Release Date: February 1, 2009
Publisher: Harcourt
Pages: 351
Keywords: vampire, paranormal, romance
Format Read: hardcover
DNF at: 54 pages
Goodreads | IndieBound
Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

I've had this complete series for a while, and I finally decided to get down to it. I can honestly say I was so sad to see this wasn't what I'd hoped it would be. I'm usually not a paranormal reader, but I thought this one looked interesting, funny, sarcastic, and plenty cool. I was surprised when I found cheesy dialogue and prose, stereotypical characters and plot lines (disbelieving girl has creepy vampire stalker who turns out to be a vampire king and is supposed to marry her?), and generally just an all-around annoyed feeling. Everything happened super fast. Like, no, we're your adoptive parents because your real ones are vampires who betrothed you to this prince a long time ago. More potatoes?
If you're a huge paranormal fan, this might be up your alley, but it felt like the same old story to me, so I had to put it down.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 307
Keywords: steampunk, spy
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley
DNF at: 24%
Goodreads | IndieBound
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.
Oh, the good things I'd seen about this book! Lots of people rave about this series all the time, and I am all about the school/academy learning scenario with magic/mischief/something weird going on at the school. But the style of this writing was NOT FOR ME. Like, it was a struggle to get to the 24% I made it to, and I just could not go on. It was very, like, in a middle school-y talky way, you know? With lots of vernacular and real talk going on and stuff and it was all just blah and ugh. Yikes. That kind of prose is not for me.
I think this was a case of "it's me, not you," because while I was looking on Goodreads literally a TON of people are really into these books. So give them a shot! I, on the other hand, will be stepping away from these before I get too frustrated.

Monday, January 5, 2015

There Will Be Lies review

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 464
Keywords: survival, native american, mystery
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | IndieBound
In four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car.
Shortly after, she and her mother will leave the hospital and set out on a winding journey toward the Grand Canyon.
All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands. And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past—and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.
This is my first Nick Lake book, and it definitely won't be my last.

There are two components to this book: the here and now, and the dreaming state. The present story revolves around Shelby, a young teen who is deaf and has only known life in Arizona with her mother. They have a strict routine, and her mother is very tight about the rules. After Shelby is put in the hospital, her mother, with no explanation, checks her out early and heads out of town with her. And by out of town, they mean seriously out of town. Her mom's booking it somewhere and trying to cover her tracks, and Shelby doesn't know why.

Part two of this book is an intermittent state of dreaming, which mostly happens while Shelby is asleep. The cute guy she knew from the library, Mark, is talking to her in this alter world and he tells her it's up to her to save the child.

This book wins automatically in its uniqueness and by being so incredibly different than anything I've read before. It's hard to find books that seem genuinely, authentically their own, and they're not reminiscent of anything else. This was one of those books. It's got a supremely cool main character, and she doesn't speak much since she's deaf. So we get a lot of internal dialogue and it's all told a bit differently from her perspective since she doesn't always know what people are saying, despite her ability to lip read. It's also set in the desert out west and has a lot of ties with Native American folklore and culture, which is really cool. It's not something I ever read a lot about or studied, but it's an interesting component that made this book stand out.

I was 110% into the mystery behind the present story. The suspense was excellent, and the story moved at a quick pace, so it was easy to get into what was happening. Along the way, a lot of secrets were revealed about why they were on the run and what exactly would happen in Shelby's near future, and I was swept up by the storytelling of it all.
It was the Dreaming where I felt the story got stuck. It was interesting, but I could never figure out if it was a thing that was happening or if it was a thing in Shelby's head, or what really was the purpose of it all. I mean, I got it by the end, but to me, it seemed like an extraneous piece of the story that really didn't need to be there. It didn't mess up the story too much or anything, and I still enjoyed the book, but it always took me out of the suspense and questioning mode from the car trip, and I'd have to get back into it a few chapters later.

This book would be perfect for a long weekend coming up (MLK Jr Day?) because I know you'll want to read it in a couple days. It's too good to spread it out, and despite the crazy page count, it's one you will fly through.

Friday, January 2, 2015

All the Bright Places review

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 384
Keywords: depression, suicide, healing
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | IndieBound
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
I don't really have an intro or a nice way to start this, so I'm just going to dive right in.

My favorite thing about this book was, surprisingly, the narrative voices and the dual perspective. GASP. I know, who am I? I never say that. However, I truly loved seeing the story from both Violet's and Finch's POVs. Both narrations were different and unique, and I especially loved Finch's voice. It felt authentic, and I could relate to a lot of his inner dialogue.

The whole story takes place sort of revolving around an "Explore Indiana" sort of mindset. Finch and Violet are partners in a school history project to find unpopular, cool places around their hometowns (and hey-yo I'm from Indiana!). So a lot of their bonding takes place on funny road trips and hikes around the area. I loved all the weird locations they went to (Bookmobile land was my favorite) and how they tied in to the rest of the book.

I also think it's good that suicide and depression are being talked about in a realistic way. These are issues tons of people (especially teens) deal with daily and experience or have friends who experience this. However, I don't want it to become a "thing." Like, this book talked about it wonderfully. But I worry that if so many books start talking about it the wrong way, it will be the next big "thing" in books, and it won't be treated the way it needs to — as a very real and very scary issue. I loved the way Niven approached the subject. It wasn't romanticized or blown out of proportion, and the characters were so real and so true to high schoolers and people struggling with depression.

Niven's style was spot-on, the plot moving quickly but not too fast that we lost things. It was a big book, almost 400 pages, but it never felt overwhelming to be reading something of its size. In fact, by the time I got to the end (in tears, I might add), I flipped the pages frantically because all the sudden, it was over.

And since I loved this book so much, and thanks to the wonderful people at Random House, I have a copy to give to a lucky reader!

Are you excited for this book? Any cool places you'd explore near your hometown?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I Don't Do Challenges & A Challenge!

This is the second year in a row I'll be doing some blog resolutions and goals, and I wanted to talk for a minute about why I don't participate in yearlong challenges (other than a general books read goal).
I forget.

Plain and simple. A year is too long a time for me to plan for, and since I'm on the search for a full time job and moving around a lot, I can't commit to where I'll be or what I'll be doing two months from now, let alone a year. Most times, I get excited about a challenge, but one month later I lose focus and totally forget or move on to something else.

That being said, I am participating in a challenge this year! (I know, makes a lot of sense, right?)

The reason I'm doing this is because Book Addict's Guide has put together a month-to-month-through-June blog organization plan, and I am all about the blog organizing.
I've already got my plans up on Wunderlist (the best organization program ever), and I'm really excited about this one. Mainly because it's month-to-month and I won't get bored and because since I take my computer when I move, I'll be able to work on it wherever I go.

That being said, my resolutions for 2015!

1. Up my follower count. I know, I know, it's not about numbers. But a lot of days it's rough when I put together really expansive posts that I get excited for and remember I have been blogging for SEVEN YEARS and only have like 60 followers total. It's hard. And I'm not sure how to go about increasing my readers, but I know I'm going to work really hard this year. My current counts are:

GFC : 99
Bloglovin : 63
Email : 6
Twitter : 245
Tumblr : 69

Is there anything else I should be using or doing to help get my posts out there more?

2. Actually DO the organization challenge. I talked about this one already. I just hope I follow through.

3. Read ARCs close to release dates. This is one I struggle with. I get ARCs that are being published like 6 months later, but by the time they are released, I forget about them, and then the hype is over and no one reads the reviews anymore. So I'm trying really hard to start organizing how I read books, beginning with unreleased ARCs. This also may result in a lot of giveaways in 2015 to celebrate book releases!

These seem like very do-able goals to me. That's always a hesitation I have making resolutions. I want to be able to achieve them, but I want to work a little bit for them. I am confident I can at least make a little progress on these! What are your resolutions?