Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: RITES OF PASSAGE by Joy N. Hensley

Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: an e-galley provided by the publisher for an honest review

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.


I've read a lot of amazing books this year and it's only September oh my gosh it's already September, WHERE DID MY YEAR GO?. I can't possibly pick favorites, but I can confidently say that Rites of Passage would definitely be one of them. This book gave me that satisfying, slightly remorseful feeling of binging until super late at night, only getting a few hours of sleep. 



And Sheldon accurately describes my attitude during reading. My eyes may have gone a little droopy, but my insides were going crazy. I wanted answers. I wanted my conclusion. But I loved reading it so much that I had a conflict inside. Just a few reasons why this blew me away is below. 

1. The characters connected with me so easily it was ridiculous. I felt like I had known Sam forever, like a beloved character, right when I started reading. Some people may say that she did have a similar voice as other characters (like that's a negative thing), but I completely enjoyed it. It was comfortable. And in a way, it was refreshing. It was like meeting tons of new people constantly, getting to know them, trying to decide if you liked them. It's exhausting. So when you run into someone familiar and you already have your judgement in place, it's relieving. Please don't tell me I'm the only one with this problem. Sam gave me a great breather.

But then the other characters were easy to connect to as well. I loved Drill from the start as well, knowing he was special. I was reluctant about the other girls, but I could easily tell who the trustworthy guys were in the story.

2. The conflict twisted my insides. I felt things for Sam. She was stubborn, determined, smart, and just all-around tough. The sexism of the school outraged me and so I sympathized with her. But then it came time to fully meet the antagonists. I don't think I ever felt my insides twist so much for a contemporary. We were supposed to feel disgusted and the author definitely succeeded in that feeling. Sam was put through abuse, plain torture, and unthinkable sexism. Leaders purposefully planned to harm her and if I was her, I'd be terrified out of my mind. Conflict sounds so tiny compared to what I and Sam felt through the story, but the "conflict" was truly well-done.


3. The romance didn't consume the story, but it was still great to read about. Hensley definitely knew what she was doing. I've read many (and I mean many) stories where they have promising synopses and then suddenly we have the displeasure of them being consumed by unwanted romances. Having a romance is in no way a bad thing. I'm strong pro-romance. But if there are bigger issues at play (or could be at play) then I don't want to feel like I'm in a sappy, contemporary love story. It's disappointing. So with Rites of Passage, I loved the moments with Drill and Sam, but those moments didn't make up the book. There was a time where I felt like it bordered the line, but most of the time, they kept it in check. And while they had great chemistry, they also had a valuable respect, friendship, and work ethic together as well. Now that's refreshing.

I loved the story so much that I hate to even mention negatives to be honest. Of course, I still will. My main problem was the fact that the problems were solved a little too quickly. It wasn't as bad as others I've read, that's for sure. It just stumbled a little into the trap I see a lot of contemporaries fall into: having a rushed, magical solution. I also groaned at the fact that it felt too open-ended. From what I know, it doesn't seem as if there's a sequel in works. The ending of the first book feels like it though. While I would LOVE a sequel, I don't think that'll happen (at least anytime soon), so points are taken off for the open-ending...of sorts.

I want another.
Verdict: An all-around enjoyable contemporary that YOU NEED IN YOUR LIFE NOW.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Read Once

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This is a list that makes me so thankful for Goodreads. I think it would be impossible for me to think of 10 authors off the top of my head, and 10 authors that I only read once from. Talk about haaaard. So shout-out to Goodreads for helping a girl out.

Tiffany Schmidt
I only have read Bright Before Sunrise, a cute contemporary, and her next book, Like a Breath, sounds SO GOOD. I'm not crazy about the cover, but I'm looking forward to reading more Schmidt! 

Shelley Coriell
Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe was very fun. In the midst of stress and end-of-the-year activities, it was just what I needed. Now I need more Coriell in my life, starting with Rebel Blue.

Emery Lord
Open Road Summer pleasantly surprised me. EXTREMELY pleasant. (Thank you, Ms. Lord.) So now I'm impatiently waiting for her next book.

Rosamund Hodge
Since I loved Cruel Beauty, I'm not sure why I'm not reading Hodge's novella. However, I'll have plenty of chances to read more of her books since I already see a few upcoming ones on Goodreads!

Lauren Miller
I fully planned on reading Free to Fall RIGHT as it came out since I adored Parellel and craved more of Miller's book. Why I haven't yet, I don't know.


Cammie McGovern | Cristin Terrill | Marie Rutkoski | Anne Blankman | Joy N. Hensley

These are all authors I've read once, but unlike the other five, they don't have another book out or even a cover for their next book. They have some descriptions of them on Goodreads, but that's all we're given. And it's making me impatient. 

What author do you want to read more than just one book of, but haven't yet? 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: FALLING INTO PLACE by Amy Zhang

I meant to do a Rewind and Review this week, but life happened (yet again) and I'm so overdue on my ARC reviews. Thanks, Harper!
Author: Amy Zhang
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow (HarperCollins)
Source: an e-galley provided by the publisher for an honest review

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. 

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Before getting into the actual story, I want to draw attention to that cover art. Isn't that FANTASTIC? The dead-end road going into the curved title and eventually the red car, and perfectly placed hand. The red lettering up top to match the car, "there are no accidents." But most importantly, the physic equations. The death is centered around the physics lesson Liz learned earlier. She applied school to her real life and calculate her suicide (do NOT do this at home, kids). But the little scripts all over have me captivated. I just really want to find the cover artist and shake their hand. 

Now, the story. It's told in a third person narrative, the voice trying to stay relative, but objective at the same time. It's a tricky maneuver in my opinion and can be hard to not disconnect with the reader. However, it works. It worked for me at least. I was thoroughly captivated by the story and the flow of events. Some things may be uncomfortable and not my usual read, but it didn't deter me. If anything, it left me wide-eyed and willing to follow. 

I realized I experienced something different than other bloggers and I hope that I find people who felt the same way that I did. The readers of this book seem to be in two groups: the ones who felt and the ones who felt nothing. And the people who felt nothing really hated feeling nothing, understandably. But for me, I didn't have the feels and I still, for the most part, was fine with not having a great connection with the characters. I'm usually very character-driven in my reading and since this was more focused on the characters, their lives, and choices, it'd be VERY easy to hate it because of the disconnect. Honestly, I'm a bit surprised I didn't. I didn't really feel for the characters. There was no agony inside of me. I think this book impressed me as much as it did not only for its writing, depth, and somewhat of a non-plot (it didn't have much of a plot, but it's story pattern still interested me), but also for how it still strung me along despite the circumstances. I despised a character sometimes, but unlike Tease by Amanda Maciel, I still followed along. It wasn't exactly a enjoyable story (attempted suicide does that), but I can't stress enough that I still liked a heavy-character story with no connection to the characters. 



Verdict: A love-it-or-hate-it kind of book that I actually liked...and yes, desperately want the cover. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: HEIR OF FIRE by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Heir of Fire
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publication date: Sept 2, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: an ARC provided from the publisher for an honest review

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?




In Throne of Glass, I was enthralled and couldn't wait to start the second book. It involved a love triangle, but hey, meeting Celaena rocked. During the sequel, Crown of Midnight, things became more tense. Then the ending absolutely killed me because I felt like someone was taking me off oxygen. So imagine combining my feelings for those two and how they ended...and you won't even get close to how I felt for this ending. 

Granted, the beginning was slow. Sloooooow. The thing that kept me going was how much I love the series, knew how great it WILL be, and that I was already invested into the story. The book is big, but it isn't even that. Nothing felt progressive or that interesting in the beginning to keep me connected. I read and then waited a long period until I read again (aka the worst reading pattern ever). Comparing it to its predecessors, it loses in that area. For me, the others were better paced and kept me wanting more. With Heir of Fire, I only reached that point after many pages. 



Maas introduced us to a couple people and placed some stepping stones into the story for later use. Then finally, FINALLY, we reached around the midpoint or sooner and things started picking up. Like I said, we met a few important people. 

1. Manon. Manon, the Blackbeak witch and ruthless leader, really intrigued me. We meet her in a gruesome, creepy way (which I don't think is fair to you if I divulge how). At first, I actually wondered if we should sympathize for her (hint: no) because of how we meet. But while it's a little jarring to be introduced to a supposedly random character, believe me, she's fun to know. As Jen mentioned in her review and in our own conversation with each other, Manon's wyvern, Abraxos, is VERY alike to Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon (the movie version). So you can see that Manon is all kinds of awesome. 

2. Aedion. Celaena's (or Aelin's) cousin and the mysterious fellow. I say mysterious because for me, I wasn't sure how I should feel about him. He's presented as a threat to the other characters then as a potential backstabber before becoming a possible love interest. But no matter what you think or believe, Aedion comes with surprises. Oh, the surprise. 

3. Rowan. Most importantly, we meet Rowan. CURSE YOU, ROWAN. 



I NEEDED to hate Rowan. I felt the threat and dread immediately and wanted to make it stop. I felt like a train was barging through and it was only me against this huge train to not trample a couple strapped to the train tracks. But you can guess what happened.



Rowan charmed me. Unintentionally, of course. You can really give Maas those powerful applauses for achieving this kind of character depth. In my opinion, it's hard to charm readers when the character isn't charming. Rowan is hard. Soldierly. Tough. Unemotional. We don't know much about him. He gives Celaena bruises and no excuses. Mysterious. For a major portion of his story, we don't really know much about him. But somehow, some way, Maas makes us like him. Because he's teased as upcoming competition for Chaol, I wanted him far, far away. Despite all this, Maas made me like him. I was determined not to and completely failed. 

Romance isn't emphasized and if it's mentioned at all, it's mostly between Dorian and his new girl. However, Celaena mentions Chaol, but we see her resigning that they have no hope together (GIRL, NO). It's amazing to me that even though apart, I still felt their strong tether to each other. Chaol was pushed to tweak his thinking (thank you, Dorian). Celaena matured. Through their separate changes, their relationship actually strengthened in some ways. For all of you who are worrying about a love triangle (again) with Celaena, so far, there's no actual evidence that there'll be one. But like so many books these days (fantasy, nonetheless), there's that feeling that it will happen. Implication, assumption, instinct...whatever you want to call it. Rowan does become even more desirable towards the end, but I Chaol is still in it!

While things picked up in the latter half of the book, the last couple of chapters contained the biggest emotional punches. THINGS HAPPEN. Confessions are made throughout the book and tensions rise, but the last few chapters gave me whiplash. I repeat, things happen. Things I wish I could capitalize, rant about, and just talk about. I looked like a zombie after finishing, disbelieving what happened in, I think, the last 50 pages of the book. My sister even laughed at my mutterings and exclamations. If any book deserved tons of exclamation marks, it's this one. 


Verdict: If the first portion of the book had been like the rest of the series, this would have been OUTSTANDING. As it is, I'm excited for the next one, but only because of the last part. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters at My Lunch Table

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
It's school season! Yay? No. The only way school would be AWESOME is if I had these people as friends in school. So far I've been making good connections, but come on, who wouldn't want these fictional characters at their lunch table? I made half of my list about people I want with me and the other half about characters I want far, FAR away. 

Who I want: 

Tina from The Princess Diaries
Tina is the best. She's supportive, slightly delusional, and unintentionally funny. The girl is a hopeless romantic and her ideas are chuckle-worthy. Who wouldn't want some entertainment at lunch during usual school drudgery.

Peeta from The Hunger Games
He would be our yummy food supplier. Yay for homemade bread!

Victoria from Audrey, Wait! 
Most of you are probably going "huh?" But I just reread this gem and she's hilarious. Quips and wittiness galore. I'd include Audrey too, but I'd want to be Audrey in this scenario so Victoria can be my best friend.

Katsa from Graceling
No one will try to mess with us.

Cress from Cress
The cutest person ever. She made me giggle so much when I was reading because of how much she geeked out. I need her sitting by me.

Who needs to stay away:

Dee-Dee from Gallagher Girls
She's a super nice person, but I think after a while she'd get on my nerves. Too perky?

Allyson from Just One Day
She seems too...wish-washy? I haven't read it in a while, but I remember feeling like pre-adventure that she was easily manipulated and bossed around. And then complains about it. Get control!

Jason from Meant to Be
I KNOW SOMEONE LIKE HIM. He was my mortal enemy until I knew him better and then we became kinda friends. But still. Don't sit with me.

Cady from We Were Liars
It'd be really nice to have a rich friend, but this girl is annoying, has no personality, and just too much. Too much of nothing for me.

Lia from The Naturals
I love and value honesty, but I'd feel too self-conscious with her at my table. She's good at lying AND detecting them. No thanks.

Who do you want at your table? 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rewind & Review: July 28 - August 31

Hosted by Shae Has Left the Room
I'm trying to get back to normalcy as much as possible so while I don't have much to recap on, I need to go back to my regular scheduling. This is college does to you apparently. I haven't gone to college parties or been the stereotypical student in movies, but I have socialized and stayed up late and was thrown into something so overwhelmingly new. So, yeah, it's been hectic.

I haven't received anything, but...
  • My mother sent me TWO packages, mostly of things I forgot at home, but sweet little surprised were there too. I needed those peanut butter pretzels (and the clothes I forgot). 
  • My dad surprised me with a quick trip (he had a meeting close by) and a visit to Starbucks.

I don't even want to talk about what I've read because I actually haven't read anything. I can't. I can't believe I even wrote that. ACTUALLY, I did read Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. But that's it. And I'm incredibly sad.


I will be reading:

Past blog posts:

They're on the righthand-side. Near the area where you can sign up for emails. Hint, hint. 


Upcoming posts:
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Who I'd Like at My Lunch Table
  • At some point, I'll be posting my review for Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. I'm rooting for Thursday.
  • I won't even try to list more because at this point, who knows. 

Happenings:
  • CHANGES
  • Follow me on Twitter (here) and Instagram (here) and you'll know. It's been too long to attempt to rehash.

As you can see, my life is a little up in the air right now. I have semi-structure, but definitely not in a permanent state. This week will be even harder since my best friend is coming up Wednesday and I go home Thursday to help for my brother's wedding (which happens Saturday). 

Next week (I won't even try this week), I'm attempting normalcy! Scheduled posts, regularly commenting on others' blogs, reading...it's going to happen I hope.

Do you have anything I need to catch up on? What books have you read?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Do a Duo

During NaNo November, authors from all around scrambled to get 50,000 words in. Coffee, rewards, and more coffee helped them to continue. But the major thing about NaNo is that it's a community. So the biggest motivation for authors, from what I saw, was support from others. If someone was feeling horrible, it was nice to find someone in the same slump and boost each other up.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, I did a few writing sprints with Marlene from Flyleaf Review. We sat down, set a time, and then wrote nonstop, blocking out any distractions. Instead of writing a book, we wrote reviews. Before we did it, I wasn't totally sold that this would actually work. I had been in a slump and wondered why writing with someone (through the computer) would be different than just it being me. Because, technically, it was the same atmosphere.

But I was so, so wrong.

That was THE thing I needed. Thanks to Marlene, I finished approximately one guest post, a review, and a half review in only a few writing sprints. I edited later, but the big, intimidating stuff was over with. 

I don't have a co-blogger or a fitness buddy (although I have been going with one floormate in my dorm to the gym recently) or any other activity partner. But I think if you're any kind of slump, recruit somebody else. 

Key proof that partners help you succeed:

1. Mr. Darcy helping Mr. Bingley. Sure, Mr. Darcy accidentally stirred up trouble leading to the awkwardness, but then he was THERE for him. Bingley TRIES to propose and nerves (and the mother) overtake him, but thanks to Mr. Darcy, he practices and gains confidence. And wins the girl. I only read the book once and have watched the newer version millions many times so excuse me if I only take from the movie.


That is a good friend (and one of my favorite parts) right there. Mr. Bingley may have eventually proposed, but after Mr. Darcy screwed up, he made sure to correct his mistake. And encouraged Mr. Bingley to propose. And helped him practice. That's a good duo. 

2. Iko being Iko for Cinder. That sentence says it all. Iko is wonderful, funny, transparent, and loyal. I don't know how Cinder would be able to succeed without her sidekick.

3. Madison going with Annika to achieve an unrealistic venture. I don't think many people have read Just One Wish, which is an adorable contemporary, but in it, Annika's little brother has cancer. So she hatches a plan to get her brother's favorite star to visit him and cheer him up. And of course, she needs a sidekick. Really, I don't think it would've happened if Annika didn't have Madison. Although the plot itself isn't actually plausible, if you want to make it realistic, there are just some things you need a partner for. This would definitely be one of them. 

Whether you have a co-blogger or a writing buddy, I think everyone can use a partner, especially in the blogosphere. So if you're stuck in a rut, do a duo. I know I've been stuck in a MAJOR one so I'll be doing another one this weekend hopefully.


Have you done a duo? Did it work?

And if someone has any suggestions for getting me out of my blogging slump, help a girl out. What do you do?