Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Summary

What I Did

  • After a fun weekend trip to Eugene, I think Maddy, Marley and I were all pretty exhausted on Sunday. I ran some errands with my mom and then Marley and I just vegged in front of the TV the rest of the evening.
  • It was another pretty boring week so not much else to report on!

What I Read



On The Blog

  • On Monday, Maddy and I discussed more trends we'd like to see in YA, this time we explored space and science fiction!
  • Wednesday, I reviewed Before You by Amber Hart
  • Maddy found a great trailer for the movie version of one of our favorite throwback novels, The Westing Game on Thursday
  • Maddy reviewed Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins on Friday (I'm jealous! But I have the book now so it's on my TBR list)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Maddy's Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Contemporary Realistic YA
Publisher: Dutton
Length: 339 pages
Original Publishing Date: August 14, 2014
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Where I got it: Powell's Books
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website


Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.


I love this book. I know I say that about almost every book I read, but this time feels different. Stephanie Perkins has proven herself time and time again to be a great romantic writer. Her first two books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door (which form a loose trilogy with Isla) are total proof of that. Sometimes writers tend to write “forbidden romance”, where the two main characters cannot get together because of something standing in their way. Perkins first two books brought fresh perspective to the “forbidden romance” idea, and her third book surprisingly takes a different spin on contemporary YA romance. 

 The character of Isla is very adeptly written. She could have very easily have fallen into a Manic-Pixie Dream Girl cliché, but she instead defies stereotypes while still dealing with the fact that she doubts herself and her future. She sees herself as a blank canvas often in the story, and while I normally love when the heroines have a strong sense of self, Isla was incredibly sympathetic and human. Every part of this story felt honest. Even when I felt like the characters were making some of the wrong decisions, I couldn’t help but see the situation from their side. I felt like this book really captured a lot of the feelings that are present in real life, but may not be portrayed in books. Often in contemporary YA, the main characters don’t get together until the end of the book. However, in Isla, (spoilers) the characters get together relatively early, and the book details the ups and downs of their relationship. It still manages to be cute and wonderful even without the “forbidden romance” element. Although I have to say that this book got a lot racier than Perkins’ previous novels. I, uh, don’t know what to say about that besides the fact that if I had read this book like four years ago, I would have been totally scandalized. I was pretty sheltered. Anyway, moving on… 

I really enjoyed reading Isla’s progression as well as Josh’s. It was sweet and interesting, and I honestly could not put this book down. Ah, and Josh was the perfect male love interest. He was adorable. Also I loved the little cameos from Perkins’ previous books, which didn’t feel too forced. They definitely weren’t in it enough that people who hadn’t read the other books would be lost, but it had some definite spoilers if anyone wanted to read Perkins’ other books as well, which I definitely recommend. Isla felt like a great end to this loose trilogy, but most importantly, I think it’s a great book on its own. I definitely recommend this book to everyone who loves contemporary realistic YA, or even people who haven’t yet been sold on realistic YA. I’m probably going to read it like five more times this summer, let’s be honest. Just sayin’.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Analytical Finds: The Westing Game Movie Trailer

So, remember how I told you in this Throwback Thursday that I loved The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin? I love its delightful mysteries, spunky Turtle, the way that Raskin messes with your mind and throws in literally every red herring you can think of. I just love this book.

Well, the other day Maddy and I were talking about how it should be made into a movie. Maddy did some research and, lo and behold, there was a 1997 made for TV movie based on The Westing Game called Get a Clue.



Here's the link for the trailer, I hope you find it as entertaining as we did!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Before You by Amber Hart

Title: Before You
Author: Amber Hart
Genre: YA/NA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: K-Teen
Length: 320 pages
Original Publishing Date: July 29th, 2014
Series: Before and After #1
Where I got it: Netgalley
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website


Synopsis from Goodreads:  
 
Some say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both. 

Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie. 

It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don't care.

 Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life. 

At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely. 

Love—it will ruin you and save you, both

 
Main characters: 3.5/5

Faith starts off as a "good girl"; the preacher's daughter who is so very concerned with appearances and reputation. I personally couldn't relate to her concerns about reputation so much, but the idea that Faith felt that she was trapped in this "fake" life seems like it's a feeling that all of us can relate to at one point or another. I liked that her interactions with Diego changed her and allowed her to see that she didn't have to put on this front. The thing that she made into this big deal actually ended up being her own self standing in her way, which might be realistic for some, but was incredibly frustrating to read.
I liked Diego. Where do I start with him? I guess my negative is that Diego has his own melodramatic train of thought going on, which was shoved down my throat a little too much. He's convinced that he's a "monster". Yeah, whatever. Sure, he's the typical bad boy, but Diego's story reflected a boy who was loyal to his family and just tried to do what was best for them. I liked his prickly side because it made his vulnerable and sweet side even better. However, while I saw Faith grow a lot in their relationship, I don't know if I saw the same amount of growth in Diego. It seems like Faith was the one doing the most self-discovery. 


Secondary characters: 3/5

Melissa was the great best friend that I want. She challenged Faith in a lot of different ways. I like how she and Faith offset each other, but still work well. Some parts were a little convenient, like the fact that Melissa was used to lure Faith toward Diego. Faith gets frustrated but just says, "Oh, Melissa wants the best for me". Ok... but I would still be pissed if my best friend tried to break up my relationship.
Faith's family was great to read about. We get a really different idea of them based on what Faith thinks and what they actually do, which I personally can relate to based on my teenage years. I'm sure I portrayed my parents in a negative light sometimes when all they really wanted was what was best.
I wish that we had gotten more in depth glimpses at Javier and the rest of the cousins, as well as Diego's dad. I know we'll be seeing more of Javier in the sequel, but I think learning more about Diego's dad would have given Diego more character depth and background.

Writing style: 4/5

I had a couple problems with the writing style. Like a few other Contemporary Romances that I've read lately, this book sometimes attempts to force emotion down your throat. Instead of showing us things, Hart sometimes tries to tell us instead, without letting us get to know the characters on our own. On top of that, the writing can sometimes sound like a soap-opera. Exhibit #1: "He stares at me with hard eyes, eyes that have seen unspeakable misery." Sorry, what?
But beyond these relatively minor frustrations, I really liked the alternating first person narratives and I liked how short the chapters were. I can sometimes have a short attention span and the quick chapters were just what I needed to stay paying attention the whole time and hooked.
I also really enjoyed the pacing of the novel. Hart wove the plot events together seamlessly and in a way that kept me reading voraciously. The way that she wrote the plot action was short, to-the-point, and packed a punch. Her sentences became shorter and quicker, just like the action.
Finally, the dialogue was realistic and illustrated the personality of the speaker.

Plot: 3.5/5 
The first thing that I noticed about the plot was that I loved the setting in Florida and the Cuban immigrant aspect. It's a situation that it very relevant today and very realistic. The same thing with the secrets that both Faith and Diego have- they are very realistic and applicable to today's readers, even if they have never experienced those things themselves.
However, Faith's "big secret" in particular was this big waiting game like, "oh what is it?" and then suddenly (about 1/6 of the way in) we suddenly know what it is in this huge information-dump. I would have preferred the information scattered throughout the story or told up front. The info-dump came in a weird spot and was too much at once.
While I liked the idea of the conflict dealing with Faith and her need to uphold her reputation, I found it to be a little weak. The fact that Faith was letting all of this dictate her life made her seem like a weak character, someone who is a follower to what other people want. And it got to be frustrating to hear her complain about how restricted she was.
For the most part, the storyline itself was pretty predictable, but I felt swept away in their love story, which I think is a combination of the writing and the construction of the plot elements.


Ending: 3/5

Okay, whaaaatttttt?

I think that's all I can say without spoilers. Maybe I should have seen it coming but it took me on a roller-coaster ride. I think I liked it, but it also felt very gimmicky. So, I guess I'm neutral?

Best scene: The one at the beach


Reminded Me Of: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Positives: Realistic and well-developed main characters, most of the writing style and pacing, the secondary characters, the realistic quality of the conflict and characters (I felt like these could be my friends)

Negatives: Some weak conflict, characters who annoyingly trapped themselves into boxes, overdramatic descriptions, the ending, 


Cover:  I love the font on the cover, but I'm pretty lukewarm about the almost-kiss. It's a theme that I've seen done a lot before and I don't like how they're shadowy and animated looking.


Verdict:  The few hiccups didn't stop me from being swept away with this forbidden romance


Rating:  6.8 / 10 (4 stars)


Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Trend Analysis: Space Science Fiction

In part two of our feature called "Trend Analysis", Maddy and I discuss another trend that we want to see more of, or a trend that may be on the rise!


Space Science Fiction



Audrey: 

I want to see more deep space/science fiction. We've seen some dystopian themes in space a little bit recently, with books like Across the Universe by Beth Revis and For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. However, I want some straight up Star Trek type novels. Ender's Game just made it to the big screen, so I think that might signal a rebirth of the science fiction/space age stuff. It seems like it died down in the 80s and 90s when the Cold War ended and there was less interest in space exploration. I think that riding on the coattails of dystopian, we've started to see a slight re-emergence in this deep space subgenre that I think could turn into a larger trend.














Maddy:  
Dystopian in space would be so cool because it wouldn't be like a lot of dystopian novels like we're seeing right now..although I cannot for the life of me think of more YA space novels...does The Little Prince count as YA? Lol

Audrey:  
Well, don't forget some of the TV shows or movies that are coming out right now either. The TNT show Falling Skies and the recent movie Gravity. I also came up with the books These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagen Spooner and Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan.














Maddy:  
I think it's interesting that there aren't a whole bunch of YA books like that out there (at least that I know of). Maybe with the new space missions to Mars there will be a re-emergence of the genre, but like how many kids want to be astronauts when they grow up? I think that with the disappearance of a large chunk of the space program, we've lost that sense of exploration a little bit. It's interesting that a lot of space stuff is in movies/TV, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Gravity, and that new Halle Berry TV show Extant.

Audrey: 
But we've definitely seen a re-emergence of those trends in TV and movies, so I predict that this trend will make the jump to YA novels with a greater vengeance here in the future. It's an easy transition with dystopian (for example, dystopians set in space) so I can definitely see this marketed towards a younger generation. Aliens? Spaceships? Undiscovered planets? There's all kinds of possibilities with this genre trend.



What do you guys think? Did you come up with any other YA deep space science fiction novels? Do you agree that this trend should make a comeback? Let us know in the comments section!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Summary

What I Did

  • I got called in to another week at Nordstrom so I was working two shifts again this week! Thank God for naps in the car.
  • My extended family visited last weekend! It was so much fun to have a full house and to see everyone. The best part? Everyone in the Oregon area (although there are very few of us) came Saturday night for a little dinner and party. So much fun!
  • Maddy, Marley and I roadtripped to Eugene Friday night and are living it up back here in the dirty Eug! Back to home and work on Sunday, but it's good to get away!

What I Read


What I Watched

  • Obviously, Marley and I binged on Four Weddings and Jeopardy
  • We also started watching the new season of America's Next Top Model though (guilty pleasure that neither of us have watched in a while). It's a season that has both men and women competing against each other. After cracking up and laughing at the ridiculousness of it, Marley turns to me and says, "This is the best thing we've ever watched". 

On the Blog

  • On Monday, I discussed reading slumps and what I do when they come around
  • Wednesday, I reviewed Katie McGarry's Dare You To
  • I introduced to you Marley, my sorority sister and roommate on Thursday
  • Finally, on Friday, Maddy reviewed Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm

Friday, August 22, 2014

Maddy's Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Title: The Silkworm
Author: Robert Galbraith
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Mulholland Publishing
Length: 455 pages
Original Publishing Date: June 24th, 2014
Series: Cormoran Strike #2
Where I got it: Powell's Books
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website


Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling.
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...


 
Main characters: 4.5/5


I have to admit that I have kind of a thing for Cormoran Strike. While he’s not the YA hunk of my reader-dreams, he’s wonderful all the same. Sometimes detective novels get so focused in the solving of the mystery that you don’t really get to have the same character development as you do in other novels. And while the story arcs of Cormoran and Robin aren’t as front-and-center as in the first novel, their personalities continue to shine through. I’m interested to see where Rowling takes these two as these novels progress. (She’s said she wants to write more Cormoran Strike novels than Harry Potter novels!). I totally sympathize with Robin and her passion to be more involved in detective work, and even though her fiancé Matthew is super annoying, he’s still pretty complex. I mean, do I ship Cormoran and Robin? Yes. Do I think that has a lesser chance of happening than Hermione and Snape? Yeah, probably. I’m still going to hold out hope though.

Secondary characters: 3.5/5


There are so many secondary characters in this book that I don’t even know where to start. Everyone seemed to have a reason to kill Owen Quine. One thing I didn’t really like was that there were some unanswered questions involved with some of the secondary character’s storylines, but they were very small issues. Also Matthew was really annoying, but luckily he wasn’t really in a majority of the novel.

Writing style: 4/5


Rowling’s style is so deliciously detailed. The novel gets pretty gross at points when talking about Owen’s murder as well as his book, and it felt a little jarring. Rowling’s first book as Galbraith felt a little more clean-cut even though it was still disturbing. So it was a little weird to see these elements at play in this novel, but it ended up working out.

Plot: 4/5 

The plot centers around the murder of a controversial author Owen Quine, and the posthumous circulation of his latest novel, Bombyx Mori, which is a thinly-veiled attack on the people around him. The novel in question is termed “a perverse Pilgrim’s Progress” (shout-out to the other English majors who understand that reference), and boy, is it gross. I’m not exaggerating. It’s really disgusting at most parts, but then again, its meant to be disturbing, so it definitely works. It’s a little hard to reconcile the idea that some of the grossest stuff I’ve ever read was also written by the author who penned Harry Potter. Other than that, the plot was very engaging from start to finish. It was really hard for me to put this book down. Even though it was over 400 pages, it was exciting for the majority of the novel.

Ending: 4/5


I feel like some detective novels purposefully leave out the most important clues so that the reader has no way of figuring out who had done it. Thankfully, however, The Silkworm does not suffer from this problem. I didn’t guess the ending by a long shot, but I realized that a lot of the details that led toward the conclusion were pretty clear upfront. Half the fun of detective novels is guessing who-dun-it, so it’s nice that there’s a good element of that in this novel. I wish there had been a little more action towards the end of this book like there was in The Cuckoo’s Calling, but it was still a satisfying ending.

Best scene:
When Robin saved her and Cormoran from getting into a huge car crash.

Reminded Me Of:  Agatha Christie novels, if only because everyone hated the victim and had a motive

Positives: the details, Cormoran and Robin’s relationship, the mystery elements

Negatives:
Matthew, the gross parts, the parts with Charlotte

Cover: 
I love the symmetrical aspect of the illustration, and the font is perfect for this story.

Verdict: 
I’d still say The Cuckoo’s Calling is my favorite Cormoran Strike novel, but The Silkworm is entirely engaging and a great mystery.

Rating:  8.0 / 10 (5 stars)


Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Introducing.... Marley!

Hey guys! I'm back with some more very exciting news. A couple weeks ago, another sorority sister moved in with me and my parents because she got a job up here in Portland! Well, needless to say, I converted her to the book blogging world pretty quickly, especially once she figured out that Maddy and I were both on here. After a look around the blog, she decided she'd like to give it a try! So, I'd like to introduce you to...

Marley!


Marley and I lived together in the sorority house for three years and were a pair of troublemakers! We were both on our sorority's executive council and got very close our senior year when we were some of the few seniors living in the house. Now she's my post-grad roommate!
Marley was a history major at UO and likes reading a variety of genres. Thursday is now her official "day to post" so expect to see some posts from her in the future with the intro: "Marley's Review".

Give a big welcome to Marley!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Title: Dare You To
Author: Katie McGarry
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Length: 456 pages
Original Publishing Date: May 28th, 2013
Series: Pushing the Limits #2 (see my review of Pushing the Limits here!)
Where I got it: E-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website


Synopsis from Goodreads:   
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does.... 

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him. 

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....
 
Main characters: 3.5/5

I don't know what it is about Beth that can sometimes be very trying for me. Theoretically, I like Beth's attitude, her independence, her determination to make things right and her loyalty to her mom, even if it ends up badly for her. However, in practice, I get really frustrated with Beth. She is stuck in this mindset that Ryan actually ends up nailing on the head, and hearing her thoughts made me so mad sometimes. She fails to see so many aspects, and despite the fact that it may be realistic, it made me sometimes dislike Beth because I didn't want to hear her whine again about how Ryan couldn't possibly love her, or whatever else she was on at the moment.
Ryan made my heart melt. I love how dedicated Ryan was to baseball, but also how he learns about other things that he's passionate about and learns to make his own decisions in life. Even though he had the same frustrating qualities as Beth in the beginning (where you just want to smash their heads against a wall until they understand what they're doing wrong), I liked Ryan better because he understood things more quickly and stood up for himself more than Beth.
The one thing that McGarry does beautifully with her characters is slow development. You meet these characters at the beginning and they are stereotyped into these groups, the "jock" or the "punk girl". As you get to know them, you realize their imperfections (and man, do you realize how dumb they can be). Then, as they fall in love, they learn their shortcomings and have these beautiful moments of realization. It's wonderful to see that realistic character development.

Secondary characters: 4/5

The secondary characters were wonderful in this story. I was pretty disgusted with Scott at first, given that I only knew Beth's side of the story (or at least I could infer). But as I got to know him, I really began to like him. Scott and Beth's banter was hilarious and I thought that they were wonderful together. Chris, Logan and Lacy were the perfect sidekicks to Beth and Ryan. I especially loved Lacy because I could imagine her as my friend. The parents in Dare You To were exceptionally frustrating and I think it's interesting that neither Beth nor Ryan had great parents. Perhaps this was one of the things that connected them.

Writing style: 3/5

I think I mentioned McGarry's writing style a bit in my review of Pushing the Limits. I don't think McGarry's writing meshes with the stuff I like to read. To be fair, the writing style is simple and utilitarian, and it moves ahead at a pretty good pace. I rarely felt like the story was moving too slow. The part that I don't like is that some of the romance aspects seem so over-dramatized and cheesy. When the writing started to feel this way, the romance itself became unbelievable and unrealistic.

Plot: 4/5 
I liked a lot of aspects about the plot. I liked how some of the roles were switched. Beth was the "bad girl" and Ryan was the perfect, virgin baseball player. I liked the struggles that both Beth and Ryan dealt with, individually and together. They had very realistic difficulties that were intriguing and kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next.

Ending: 4.5/5

I was happy with the ending. I think it covered a lot of ground in their past, their present, and their future. Obviously there were some elements that I still had questions about and loose ends that could have been tied up. But I loved how some things came around full circle, how conflicts were on the mend (even if they weren't completely resolved, because let's face it, life is complicated and conflicts don't always end up perfectly solved), and how there was hope for the future.

Best scene: The one at the beginning where Beth turns down Ryan flat at Taco Bell


Reminded Me Of: Ahaha, it's too hard to do this with sequels because it really just reminds me of Pushing the Limits :)

Positives: Character development, realism, plot, pacing, ending

Negatives: Beth's attitude sometimes, the overdramatic descriptions of love, the writing style


Cover: I liked this cover better than the cover of Pushing the Limits, but it's still not exactly my taste.


Verdict: A satisfying sequel that combines character development and realism to create an emotional and heartwrenching romance


Rating:
  7.6 / 10 (4 stars)


Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Analyze This: Reading Slumps


We all get them. Times when no matter what you do, you just can't find the motivation to read. Kind of funny, isn't it? The people who are always touted as the "readers" sometimes feel at a loss when they just don't want to read.

Reading or not reading never used to be that big of a deal to me, unless it pertained to doing homework (because let's face it, if you don't feel like reading for your homework, you pretty much just have to suck it up). But when I start blogging regularly during the summers (and now hopefully, year-round), my reading slumps become a bigger deal.

That is, until I started thinking. The way that I recover from my reading slumps is simply not to read. And that stresses me out, but that's the fastest way for me to emerge from these slumps.

If I'm into a TV show or just wanna sit and research random stuff on the internet, then I need to let myself do that. Because if I try to force myself to do something, I end up hating it.

So what if I use a week watching the latest episodes of Scandal? I enjoy my time and when I get tired of watching TV, I move back to books and am able to breeze through books like crazy. And, when I watch TV, I multi-task by doing other things so that's an unexpected bonus as well.

I guess the point of this revelation is this: you can't force yourself to do something that you just don't feel like doing (or, I guess, you can, but it sometimes doesn't work out well). If I let myself follow my own fluctuations in interest, I end up happier and more productive. I know myself better than I think I do, and I work better and more efficiently than I might expect. I just need to trust myself more.

What about you guys? What do you do when you're in a reading slump?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Summary

What I Did

  • Nordstrom asked me to work mornings this week to help out on stock so I was working 5am-10am and then 1pm-5pm. Tuesday was the worst because I wasn't able to sleep the night before and ended up absolutely exhausted by the time I got to my second job. I might become addicted to coffee if I'm not careful. This is a big concern.
  • My cousins came into town on Thursday night, but I didn't even get to see them until Friday evening! Crazy
  • My family also made some amazing Cheesy Bacon Pierogies on Thursday night. I found the recipe on the blog, A Beautiful Mess. They were amazing (if a lot of work), so I recommend trying them out!
  • I've mentioned that I've been reading a lot of audiobooks but I recently downloaded Overdrive Media Consule and it changed my life. Literally so amazing! Library + app = amazing. I listen to my audiobooks on my hour commute to and from work, and during work at Nordstrom when I'm unpacking stock. So, I've been finishing a lot of audiobooks lately. Yay!

What I Read

  • Through to You
  • The Future of Us
  • Pure
  • Just Like The Movies

What I Watched

  • I honestly didn't have a lot of time to watch anything recently! Hopefully that changes next week

Friday, August 15, 2014

Analytical Finds: YA Authors Sort Their Characters into Hogwarts Houses

Have you seen this Buzzfeed article where YA authors sort their own characters into Hogwarts Houses?

I was going through Buzzfeed the other day and noticed it and it made me think about a few things.

1. There were very few Hufflepuffs and Slytherins and a TON of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws. What gives?

2. I think that Slytherin has such a bad reputation, and that Hufflepuff is the house without a strong stereotype. Sort of the "leftover pile", if you will. No author wants to think that they created a character without a strong personality, so very few would choose Hufflepuff.

3. I would definitely argue some of these. Do we really think Alaska is a Ravenclaw? And what about Hazel and Gus? Do you agree or disagree?





PS- there are more authors than just John Green, I promise

Check it out and let me know what you think!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

Title: Frozen
Author: Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Genre: YA Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Length: 336
Original Publishing Date: September 17th, 2013
Series: Heart of Dread #1
Where I got it: Netgalley
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
"Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all"
 
Main characters: 3.5/5

Oh Nat. I am torn between loving her spunk and her determination to make it to Blue, and frustrated that she wasn't as independent and strong a heroine as I wanted. It was tough to get much out of her other than the fact that she is an orphan and that she is "marked" and has this power. I didn't get a lot from her personality-wise other than these facts. I liked what I saw of her, but I wish there had been just MORE. More everything. More background, more personality, and more passion. I also had a few scenes that I eye-rolled, all of which starred Nat feeling like she was a monster. Ok, I get it, but she didn't need to be so melodramatic about it.
Wes was pretty dreamy, not gonna lie. We do get more background about Wes and slowly but surely we find out tidbits about his past. I loved Wes' loyalty and his determination to do what was right, despite what might happen to him.
So, let's talk about Wes and Nat together. I liked how it started out slow: they may have flirted at the beginning, but that's natural and it wasn't out of place. The romance itself developed slowly for the most parts, but there were some slip-ups where both Nat and Wes had these intense internal thoughts about loving the other and I wish that the authors had cut those out. They weren't really necessary and brought in this feeling of insta-love that might not have been present otherwise.

Secondary characters: 4.5/5

I liked the cast of secondary characters. They were so diverse and each had a unique flair that added something to the story. Shakes was adorable and I loved his calm demeanor and his loyalty to Wes. I liked Liannon but she was a little flat. The authors could have given her more of a personality, in my opinion. Roark and Brendon added some diversity to the gang and they were adorable together. I loved hearing their interpretations because they were smallmen. Finally, Farouk was unique because of his 180 and I appreciated the different type of personality in the group. I guess in general there was a wide range of characters and they each played an integral role in developing both Wes and Nat, and the story. What more can you ask for from your secondary characters?

Writing style: 4.5/5

For the most part, I was a big fan of the writing. Paired with the world-building and concept, the writing sped the plot along and I rarely had any problems with the pacing. I found it really difficult to put Frozen down. Even though it was a long book, I felt like I could have gobbled more up. There were a couple errors and a couple fact inconsistencies that needed to be double checked, but those were relatively minor. I noticed that especially in the beginning few chapters, the writing was exceptionally elegant and beautiful, without being weighty and flowery. That is difficult to do, especially while keeping up the pace and action of the writing, and I applaud de la Cruz and Johnston for that.

Plot: 4.5/5 
Okay, first of all, what a concept! I love the setting of Las Vegas. It is such an interesting place that really captures my imagination because of the promise it holds and the different ways that people act there. I'll admit that I stalked a few Goodreads reviews before I typed up my own and I noticed that there were a few people out there who disliked the mish-mash of genres and creatures and mythology. I completely disagree (watch out, rant ahead). Hasn't the book-blogging community (or readers in general) complained since the beginning of time about predictability and lack of unique books/plots/worlds? Aren't we all sick of the regular dystopia or paranormal fantasy? I absolutely adored the risk that de la Cruz and Johnston took by combining post-apocalyptic with fantasy and I think it paid off. By combining these different elements, I was immersed in a world that was completely unique. To be fair, there were definitely some things that were confusing or could have been explained better. Why is the world frozen? Is it global warming or something else? There were also plot points that didn't make sense. Apparently California was completely lost but they travel to K-town in Los Angeles? Just a couple minor fact issues that needed to be addressed. But the world itself was fantastic. And the plot points were dead-on. I loved the constant action and the twists.

Ending: 3/5

I am torn on the ending. On one hand, a lot happened all at once and it felt very rushed (the one spot that there were issues with pacing). The big secret is dropped and there is really no lead-in. One minute Nat is wondering what she is and the next she knows, but there is no explanation of how she knows all of this information. And then the action pushes through so quickly and things are happening that don't make a lot of sense. On the positive side, I like how the ending wrapped up the current conflict well and left the plot wide open for a lot of things that needed to be solved. There was no confusion or cliffhanger, but there was an effective desire instilled in me to read the next book, and that's exactly what I'm looking for in the conclusion to the first book of a series.

Best scene: There are countless amazing scenes but I really liked the scene where the gang rebels against the Slavers. 


Reminded Me Of: Game of Thrones meets X-Men except in a frozen, post-apocalyptic world

Positives: World-building, plot twists, pacing, excitement, conclusion of conflict, cast of secondary characters, Wes, writing style

Negatives: Some hints of insta-love, needed more depth/background from Nat, some plot/writing/factual errors and inconsistencies, the speed and confusion of the ending, the part where Nat finds out her dark secret


Cover: I really like the cover. It's simple, elegant, and captures the feel of the novel perfectly. 


Verdict: The concept and world-building of this novel are absolutely unique and the writing, characters and plot make up for the minor weaknesses. 


Rating:  8.0 / 10 (5 stars)


Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday



Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's theme is Top Ten Seven Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

1. Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey is hilarious and I've heard good reviews, but I just hate non-fiction and memoirs. So so much. 


2.  Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein

I've seen the movies and I LOVE them, but I don't do well with long, extremely detailed novels. I need more action and sometimes I get disinterested quickly, so I wouldn't want to disappoint myself.


3. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I like everything that I hear about this series, but I don't know. Am I too old to read something that's "middle grade"?


4. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I've heard some great things and some bad things about this book, but mostly I heard a lot of negative things about Paolini when this series first came out and that turned me off of it originally. Maybe I should give it a try now?


5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Sometimes classics are a struggle and I'm nervous that this one won't live up to the rave reviews my friends give it. I should probably read it at some point...

6. Sabriel by Garth Nix

Maddy raved about this one but not so much the sequel. Also, this is so picky but I hate the cover so it makes me wishy-washy about whether I want to read it.


7. Crank by Ellen Hopkins

I have heard such AMAZING things about Hopkins' books but I've never read them. I feel like I would have to be in the right mood to read them and I'm afraid that they would make me sad!



Analyze This: Bookshelves

Organizing the Shelves: An Adventure


There's only going to be one problem with this post: there's no before pictures! I know, I know, what kind of organizer am I if I don't have both before and after photos? Regardless....

I cleaned my room this weekend. That was a big deal. No seriously. I'm really messy. I got a new bedspread and new twinkle lights on my window and best of all, I organized my bookshelves.

Here's the result:


My "classics" bookshelf. TBR on the left, read on the right


My TBR bookshelf. Wow, that's a lot of TBR.
To be fair, I have a book buying problem. If it's cheap, I'll buy it, but I usually read most of my books on my computer when I check out ebooks from the library. So my TBR bookshelf continues to grow because I buy these books and never read them.

The books I've read bookshelf


The "books I need to get rid of" pile.
Note the stack of ARCs in the right corner? Yeah, there's a giveaway coming up soon.

What do your bookshelves look like? Do you colorize, alphabetize or just go random?


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Saturday Summary

What I Did

  • This week has been flying by so quickly! Everything at work is going well. I have some fun stories already and I feel like I'm really starting to get a handle on all of the policies and advising tidbits.
  • I'm really struggling to work on reading and blogging when I'm at home. Listening to audiobooks in the car has been great- a lifesaver even- but it means that I struggle to read books at home because I'm so in the mindset of the audiobook. 
  • I'm really hoping to get a rush of creativity this weekend while I have the extra time to work on blog stuff! I have some great ideas that I want to work on (in blog life and other/real life) but I just need the motivation and time to work on them!

What I Read


 What I Watched

  • I rewatched Inception. As always, I found more things that I never noticed before and it blew me away. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Maddy's Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Literary Thriller
Publisher: Broadway Books 
Length: 422 pages
Original Publishing Date: 2012
Series: Standalone 
Where I got it: Christmas gift
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website


Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Usually when I read books, I try to guess the ending, or I at least have some notion of how I want the book to end. However, when I was reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I realized I had absolutely no clue what was going to happen next or even what I wanted to happen next. It pulled me in in a way that I never expected to be pulled in. I had no idea who was the good guy or who was the bad guy, or who I even wanted to triumph in the end. I thought one thing was going to happen, yet something else entirely happened at every turn. It has a unique quality of making you think that you know everything that’s going on, when in reality, you know nothing. It was amazing. I’ve never read a thriller quite like Gone Girl. 

It was so creepy in ways that I never expected it to be. At first, I was drawn in by the portrait of a failing marriage, and it ended up being about so much more. This book is creepy; there’s no question about it. Even thinking about it makes me afraid to walk around my dark house at night. But its not overtly, horror-movie creepy. The novel’s intense psychological thriller aspect becomes just as a part of the setting as North Carthage, Missouri, the fading town where the action takes place. 

Yet, while it is creepy, its also completely enjoyable. I’m the kind of person to start up a book and then not finish it and leave it around for a few months before picking it back up. I recommend not stopping in the middle of Gone Girl because the new revelations that happen at every page turn make you think completely different things about all the previous chapters. Flynn has so adeptly created an entire world within this novel that you truly fall into this story. In a short period of time, a bunch of my friends also read this book and they all were shocked at the twists and turns; it was really fun to see their reading experiences play out on social media. 

If you’ve read this book, what do you think about this book? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Paradigm by Ceri A. Lowe

Title: Paradigm
Author: Ceri A. Lowe
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Bookouture
Length: 382
Original Publishing Date: June 13th, 2014
Series: Paradigm #1
Where I got it: Net Galley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:
 

What if the end of the world was just the beginning?

Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.

When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.

87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come. Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.

But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in. As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past...
 
Main characters: 3.5/5

Carter was an arrogant little jerk, and to be honest, that opinion didn't change much throughout the course of the novel. I get it, and I get why he was that way, but it's hard to connect to a character who alienates himself from others like Carter does. I liked that his development was slow and that we could see some things clicking in his mind. I loved reading about Alice. She was gutsy, gritty and curious and throughout the novel we watched her grow into a young woman who knew what she wanted and how she wanted to get there. Both main characters played on my emotions as I learned more about their motivations and why they wanted what they wanted, but I also contrasted this with the reality of their dystopian society. I loved how they weren't purely rebellious, in fact, Carter is vying to be the next Controller General- the picture perfect member of society. Although I enjoyed reading about Alice (and Carter, for the most part), I felt that they lacked something. I wasn't completely sold on them, and I don't know why exactly. I could relate, but I wasn't completely drawn into them and their stories.

Secondary characters: 2/5

There weren't very many fully developed secondary characters. I just got a few glimpses of Iseult and Ariel. We never had any interactions with Lucia. I had some fleeting ideas of what Isabella was all about but not enough to feel like I understood her deeply as a character. Alice's timeline was no better. The reader sees Alice's memories of her mother and grandfather, but none of her own. Her interactions with Jonah were better and I liked the contrast in their relationship, their motivations and their personalities, but Filip was like a rock- absolutely nothing there. The one secondary character that I was curious about and intrigued with was Lily.

Writing style: 4/5

Lowe's writing was surprisingly lyrical and beautiful for a dystopian novel. She has a way of describing even the most mundane things in gorgeous ways. However, this beautiful writing did not translate into great pacing. Some parts of the book moved incredibly slowly and it was hard to pay attention. Part of this is a lack of plot tension, but most of it is a lack of urgency in the writing itself. I really liked the dual narratives so you could see the time before the Community and during the Community. We could see why the dystopian society was created and therefore we are sympathetic, but then we also see what it has become and see the need for change. I loved that aspect of the dual perspectives.

Plot: 3/5 
What a cool concept! I really loved the details put into constructing the world and the precision with which it was constructed. I could tell that this world was sinister but finding out how and why was a mystery that was incredibly well crafted. In the middle, some of the background details started to flow pretty fast and I honestly got confused in the names and timeline and events that happened while Carter was frozen. That part of the plot could have been simplified and presented in a simpler manner. I also felt like not enough time was spent developing a worthwhile conflict and fleshing out characters that I could connect to. Both of those were sometimes lacking.

Ending: 3.5/5

I'll admit that I saw the foreshadowing for a couple events leading up to the ending but there was definitely still a few surprises that I enjoyed. It was a solid ending to the first book in a series. Some of the initial conflict was resolved, more conflict was created and that conflict hit the next scale, and the novel ended with the perfect line that insinuated what was to come, even if it didn't come as a surprise.

Best scene: Jonah swimming out to the boat- very dramatic


Reminded Me Of: Hunger Games meets Divergent (super stereotypical choices to compare a dystopian novel to, I know)

Positives: Unique concept, some cool plot twists, writing style, ending

Negatives: Pacing, confusion, secondary characters, jumbled plot


Cover: Reminds me of Divergent. I like the London skyline in the background but the fire/water circle could have been portrayed differently


Verdict: A unique concept and gorgeous writing style doesn't save this dystopian novel with some glaring faults


Rating:  6.4 / 10 (3 stars)


Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!