Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: DON'T TOUCH by Rachel M. Wilson

Title: Don't Touch
Author: Rachel M. Wilson
Publication date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

A powerful story of a girl who is afraid to touch another person’s skin, until the boy auditioning for Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good.

Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together... which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, this debut novel from Rachel M. Wilson is a moving story of a talented girl who's fighting an increasingly severe anxiety disorder, and the friends and family who stand by her.


I read this book in one evening. If I didn't take a break to shower, it would have been in one sitting, which I basically never do (I hate sitting for long periods). But Don't Touch isn't just captivating because of the issues of an anxiety-stricken girl it tells. No, it's so much more. I've tried my hand at "issue" books, specifically OCD-related problem books. However, Wilson's writing and realistic portrayal blew me away. 

I had low expectations. I read Corey Ann Haydu's OCD Love Story, which turned out to be a big bust for me, making me a little fearful of reading a similar book. At the same time, it gave me a little hope that maybe someone else would produce a book that dealt with similar issues, but in a different way. I'm not here to bash Haydu's book, because at the time I actually admired it a bit, but it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Wilson, on the other hand, left my jaw open in awe and my brain scrambling for things to say to adequately describe my feelings. So you could definitely say that Don't Touch soared above my expectations. 

It'd be easy to think that Caddie's disorder or ways to keep it going are farfetched. I almost fell into that trap until I really dove into the story. The book is long and I sighed a little when I realized how much I read and we hadn't even gotten to her being in the play. But it's worth it. You get to see Caddie seeing her old friend Mandy for the first time in a while. You get to feel her and her brother's struggles of having their parents separated and dealing with a flaky father. It was really great to see Caddie meet Peter for the first time. And to watch Caddie simulate herself into Mandy's group of friends, even if it included pushy Oscar (who actually ends up being pretty decent later). It sounds so cliché, but when you read this, you will honestly be on the emotional journey with Caddie. 

I gained a better understanding in disorders and I think that's the most important thing. I always knew that they really can't help it when they're in the midst of it, but when they seek help, they can conquer it. But I never fully got it and this showed me how it works through Caddie's eyes. Like I said, I felt myself leaning towards the thoughts of it being farfetched in a couple places, but I went with the story. I tried to understand and tried to feel. For me, it worked. And really, unfortunately, I couldn't explain it well enough to do it justice. You'd have to read it. Because only by reading it would you feel Caddie's panic, pain, and emotional turmoil. By reading it, you'd invest your feelings into the characters and their relationships and progress. 


Which is another thing: relationships. Man, oh man, did I like Peter. Like many YA fictional couples, I don't think it'd actually happen in real life. I think IRL guys would definitely not put that much effort or time into a girl and potential relationship. A girl can hope and that's what was great to read this: it was great to imagine. Peter is a gentleman. He's extremely and the most patient, gentle, and sweet. His introduction to the story, the lively exchange between him and Mandy then the unnerving exchange between him and Caddie, was perfect. I felt like I was actually there, watching it all play out. Peter is there being a friend for Caddie and potential boyfriend through the story. Always putting himself out there, but not trying too hard so he doesn't scare her. The scene at the party was another instance where I could picture their interaction vividly (claps for Wilson). 

I became a little disgruntled at the kinda unresolved ending, but I understood that, really, in a way, it was resolved. Lives aren't always happy and not everything will be perfect. So while I like my happy endings (and don't worry, there is one), I fully appreciate that Wilson didn't tie up the book with a neat, little bow. 



Since I'm already praising Wilson, I'll go a little further and say that the author's note was one of the best author's notes I've ever read and a great addition. Not only did it give the story even more depth by adding her personal story, but it was personal all-around with her sincere advice and encouragement. I only hoped that the right people would read Don't Touch, stick around for the author's note, and find the answers they desperately need. 

I have so many words I'd like to say and feelings to express, but it's late (I actually mixed things up and am writing this review the same night as reading/finishing the book, which is HUGE) and my brain can't handle the thoughts and emotions any more. I'll probably go to sleep thinking about it though.

Verdict: A story everyone should read. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Books I'm Excited About

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Last week, the topic was centered on our winter TBRs. So because I had a lot of January and February books on my list last week, this is only for books March and after. I can't even express how great 2015 will be and how utterly depressing it will be that I won't read as many books as I'd like



Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Release: May 19 from Bloomsbury

A crime family. Body parts being sold like no big deal. Autoimmune disease. What sounds like a protective family. Rival families. I'M IN LOVE.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Release: March 3 from Farrar, Strous and Giroux

I want to cry while looking at that gorgeous cover. The first book, The Winner's Curse, was one of my absolute favorite books. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Release: May 5 from Bloomsbury

It's SARAH J. MAAS. 

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby
Release: April 21 from HarperTeen

I'm a sucker for those news videos where a family meets the donor recipient for their loved one's heart. (Also, why are there so many guys in these 2015 stories named Trent?) 

99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Release: April 21 from Balzer + Bray

Why yes, I would like this contemporary. And I'm really digging that title.



The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver
Release: April 28 from Farrar, Strous and Giroux

This reminds me of a Blacklist episode (the Lord Baltimore one?) and I'm loving it.

Pretending to be Erica by Michelle Painchaud
Release: July 21 from Viking Juvenile

THIS THIS THIS THIS. I want this so bad. It hurts. 

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough 
Release: April 28 from Arthur A. Levine Books

The intro in the synopsis almost lost me (way too long), but I see DIVERSITY! 

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
Release: August 4 from Sourcebooks

Some people may groan that it's a teenage parent/pregnancy story, but it's told by the male's perspective!

Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay
Release: March 17 from Katherine Tegen Books

Points subtracted for a bad rhetorical question: Hasn't everyone wondered what if? Well, actually, yes. A lot of books have, in fact. But points added because it's a what-if/parallel universe-type story and I love those. 

Bonus: The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy, Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (!!!!!!),  A Matter of Heart by Amy Feller Dominy, Damage Done by Amanda Panitch (WANT!),  Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day of Thanks and Pie


Happy Thanksgiving! Today is when people watch the parade and football, agonizingly wait for the meal, and then stuff their faces. Oh, they also—hopefully—acknowledge the whos and the whats that they're thankful for. Instead of reiterating the same "family, friends, dog" list, I thought I'd highlight just a few of the bookish things (and whos) I'm thankful for as a reader and as a blogger. 

I mentioned in a previous post (and others) that The Hunger Games was a big stepping stone for me as a reader. After tons of historical and contemporary fiction, it was the first different genre I read. Gallagher Girls is contemporary, but it was still different from the other contemporaries for me. Also, this series gave me the best bookish characters to be friends with (my greatest wish was to be a Gallagher Girl). Seraphina was the first fantasy book I ever read and the first book I read to review later for my blog. Without these books, I wouldn't love so many books so much. 

Livia Blackburne, Stacey Kade, and Jessica Brody
The authors that I've met and interacted with have been many and they've all been wonderful, but these three were milestones for me. Blackburne gave me an incredible opportunity, Kade's The Hunt was one of the first ARCs I ever received and she was the first author I interviewed, and Brody gave me the best author meet-and-greet experience (we basically became bffs in two minutes). These women and their books rock.

Bloomsbury, HarperTeen, and Disney-Hyperion
These three publishers are the nicest publishers I've worked with and read from. I can't exactly go into detail, but Bloomsbury and its publicists have really made me grow as a blogger (they're also credited as giving me one of my first ARCs as well). HarperTeen has given us all the lovely EpicReads girls to interact with weekly. Then Disney-Hyperion has continually been an absolute joy to work with (doesn't hurt that the publicist I talk to is super nice) and never fails me with their books. Overall, though, these three have published some amazing books, especially in 2014. My reading log can prove it (and will do so with the End of the Year Survey coming in December).

I'm also incredibly grateful for: 
  • Gifs
  • ARCs
  • Bloggers
  • Fandoms
  • And, of course, PIE

I'm thankful for all of you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR



Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
I always loved winter, but now I have a whole new appreciation for it since going into college. Winter now = winter break = no school = EVERYTHING IS GREAT! Homemade food, no annoying floormates, no evil professors, no homework, my own room, Christmas movies...and of course, more time to read (hopefully). It's a beautiful time.


All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Release: January 27 from Scholastic

ALLY CARTER ALLY CARTER ALLY CARTER 

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Release: February 3 from Henry Holt & Co

I had mixed feelings about her previous book, Something Real, but I do know that I enjoyed her writing style. I want this.

One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin
Release: February 10 from Spencer Hill Press

Super cute romance plot alert!

Release: February 10 from Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen

This sounds like it will be really sad, but strangely enjoyable.

Release: December 9 from HarperTeen

I've heard positive things about this and since I just finished her other book, Ask Again Later, I know I'll love this. At least I hope so.


Invaded by Melissa Landers
Release: February 3 from Disney-Hyperion

*pumps fist* Landers surprised me with how much I loved Alienated, the first book, but I really shouldn't have been since Disney-Hyperion is the greatest.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Release: January 27 from Viking Juvenile

Forman is an artist at emotional books. I'm ready.

Soulprint by Megan Miranda
Release: February 3 from Bloomsbury

I actually have this one waiting for me in my dorm room! The lovely Bloomsbury ladies sent me this and I'm excited to start it soon.

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
Released: October 14 (2014) from Amulet Books

I can't express how intrigued I am with this.

Released: May 13 (2014) from Feiwel and Friends

Cuteness alert. Level: 10. 

What are you wanting to read this winter?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mockingjay Part 1 + the Miami International Book Fair

My weekend has been very bookish so far. And it feels so refreshingly good.

I usually see any Hunger Games movie the night before it officially opens, whether it's midnight or 8pm. This year, though, I had to wait to see it on Friday night since my best friend, who I always go with, couldn't do it the night before. So not only did I have an extra day of pent-up excitement, but this is MOCKINGJAY. Does anyone understand this? This is part one of the most heartbreaking, stress-inducing, soul-crushing books ever.


They included direct quotes from the book, skipped a few parts (and twisted them around), and even added a few things. Like the other two movies, Mockingjay Part 1 had "behind the scene" type of scenes, what I like to call "background scenes." In the books, it's solely told by Katniss's perspective so we don't know anything except for what she tells us and thinks. However, in the movies, they can't portray that so they add scenes from the Capitol's perspective, District 13's perspective, and even gives us further insight into scenes we didn't have. SPOILER-ish: In the book, when they go rescue Peeta, all we do is wait with Katniss and rejoice when they're found. In the movie, Katniss and all of us watch them break in. The whole audience grows more tense, even though we've read the books, because we're waiting for what they find and the suspense grows. Personally, I LOVED this. END OF SPOILER. 


I tried looking up Mockingjay gifs, but the really good ones (like with Peeta) are too spoilery in my opinion. If you've seen the latest trailer, you'll know how he looks, but I think seeing his transition progress is the best way to really FEEL. I don't want to rob you of that. It's also possible that my heart broke all over again and I was feeling super emotional while looking at those Peeta pictures and gifs. 

Again, I say, if you're "Team Gale" this is for you:

He's a jerk and you obviously haven't read the 2nd half of Mockingjay
I tried to ignore any comparisons or critiques I had and watch it from a moviegoer's perspective. But there was one thing that I loathed entirely: Jennifer Lawrence's wig. It wasn't so bad when she wore her hair in a style, but when it was just down, it distracted me. (The guy who sat in my row and laughed during tense, emotional scenes visiting District 12 anyone? and whose cellphone went off didn't help either. He can go have an unhappy life.) 

And then I met some amazing authors the next day. 

My sister, her friend, and I went to the Miami International Book Fair on Saturday. First, we sat in on Robin LaFevers and Kami Garcia's panel. I recorded LaFevers, but the quality didn't turn out well and I'm too lazy. Basically, she gave us a rundown of her books (Garcia, too). But it was really interesting to hear about how she came up with the idea. She found Brittany, which is a region of France, and its cultural and historical roots. Also, Anne of Brittany is pretty cool, and she talked about her influence with the series so I suggest researching her up. As for Kami, she was hilarious and I could've probably listened to her for a long time.

Shae and Robin meet. I snatch a selfie with her. 

Shae is Ms. Robin's assistant and after the signing, she took us to the author's suite (a big room filled with all the authors from the HUGE event) to talk. 

This doesn't even do it justice for how many people were in here
Then we said our goodbyes and got in line to have Maggie Stiefvater sign our books. 


An hour or so later, we listen to Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Melissa Marr talk for their panel. They completely captured my attention. I inwardly begged to listen to more because I'm so intrigued by Barnes' psychology brain and Marr's insight from her own personal situations. 

 AND SHE RECOGNIZED ME! 

 Afterwards, the guy who was in charge of the HarperCollins booth made me a deal and gave me a brand spankin' new hardcover of Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley (one of my 2014 favorites) for only $5. I hugged it all the way to the car.

My $5 favorite and the three signed books! 
I'm feeling overwhelmed with school (my tweets are proof) and I'm trying to take advantage of being home for about 10 days, but having two days devoted to books (even if it's a movie adapted from a book) was worth it. I thank my friends for dealing with my fangirling tendencies before, during, and after Mockingjay Part 1. And I thank my sister for brining me to the book fair.

Have you seen Mockingjay Part 1 yet? Have you read any of the books above? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award


I was tagged by Lili from Lili's Reflections. Not only did I love reading her questions and answers, but it was a fun blog post to do!

Guidlines: 
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their website.
  • Post the award's logo on your blog.
  • Answer the ten questions you have been asked.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers and ask them 10 other questions. 

Questions:

When and why did you start blogging? 
I started in October of 2012 after my sister pressured me to. A whole community who loved books as much as I do? Sign me up.

What is your favorite genre and why? 
This is awful. How do you pick? I guess I'd have to say fantasy. I honestly love many genres for different reasons. Contemporary comes close because it was my first love and dystopian is third because it introduced me to a whole new world of books. But I guess I'd have to pick fantasy because I have read so many great (and diverse) books in this genre that I think happy thoughts.

Recommend a book you love that you think deserves more hype. 
I'll always say Gallagher Girls, but I LOVED Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley and didn't see a lot of feedback. Maybe I missed something, but I think it deserved a lot more hype.

Aside from reading, what are your favorite hobbies?
Of course I get asked this when I feel completely lost in a list of have-tos. I guess working out, but that's a love/hate relationship. Basketball, maybe. Does watching TV count? oh my gosh I sound boring

Top 3 books you have ever read?
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, and Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter (although The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes comes close)

Who are your favorite authors and why? 
Ally Carter, hands down, because she wrote two amazing series, which was a stepping stone for me in YA. Meg Cabot, Janette Rallison, and Jen Calonita, because their contemporaries make me happy. Marissa Meyer, because she's a genius. And so many more.

What is the best book you have read so far this month?
Well, I haven't read this much this month, but even so, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord.

What book is responsible for the reader you are today?
I could take this question so many ways. If it's for the "more mature than juvenile" reading, then The Hawk and the Jewel by Lori Wick. If it's to show that my sister actually has good tastes (which is very important to how I am now), then it's Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy. But if it's for the diverse-loving reader (who doesn't snub non-contemporary books) I am today then it's all to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I over-answered this question, but I didn't think it fair to ignore such important books.

Do you collect anything other than books?
You could probably count notebooks/notepads. I love notebooks and never want to throw them away. I'm such a pro-notepad kind of girl too (yellow legal pads make me happy to write on).

Tell us a weird fact about yourself that we probably didn't know.
I'm super picky in my personal music. I don't mind listening to the radio (I actually enjoy it) or to others' music. But when I'm listening to my headphones, I can only stand certain music. Usually it has to make me feel something, I can daydream to it. I love OneRepublic and all, but oldies are my jam.

My nominees: 
1. Jen at Starry-Eyed Revue
2. Lisa at Lost in Lit
3. Danielle at Love at First Page
4. Kel at Booked til Tuesday
5. Emily at Forever Literary
6. Emma at Awkwordly Emma
7. Jessica at Just Another Teen Reading
8. Marley at Flyleaf Review
9. Lauren at Love is not a triangle
10. YOU! 

Questions for YOU: 

1. What YA book to movie adaption is your favorite?
2. Do you listen to music while you read and if so, who's your go-to artist?
3. What's the best book you read this year?
4. What's your favorite and least favorite genre to read?
5. What did you rate the last book you read and why? (DNFs count)
6. Do you like reading outside or inside better?
7. Who's your favorite OTP? (one true pairing/fictional couple)
8. Gifs or no gifs in reviews?
9. Do you read more ebooks or physical copies?
10. What's one book you wish everyone would read?

What would you answer to the questions I was asked and to the questions I'm asking you? Tell me below or make your own blog post! 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: KILLER INSTINCT by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Killer Instinct
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publication date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: an ARC provided by the publisher for an honest review.
All quotes may be changed from ARC to publication.

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.



Spoilers from the FIRST book MAY be ahead. Proceed at your own risk if you haven't read the Naturals.


First line: The majority of children who are kidnapped and killed are dead within three hours of the abduction.

Not to sound like an utter psycho, but I felt immediately assured that this sequel would meet my expectations after I read the first page line. 


What made such a strong impression on me when I started Killer Instinct was that it felt like my favorite crime shows. The characters may have dealt with a huge shock in the last book (I almost needed CPR last go-around) and they were still sifting through their emotions, but we were already introduced to a new crime. Just like, say, Blacklist there's a major plot line running through, but we see them dealing with new issues as well. The first case we see in Killer Instinct is not the main one throughout the story, but does a great job of leading us back into the characters' lives. 

The real case, however, deals with college students and a suspected professor. First of all, it seems like college crimes are a must have at least once in a crime series (which I love, don't get me wrong, but being a young female in college makes me conflicted). Fortunately, this book doesn't get carried away with cliches. Instead, it makes this normal college crime scenario anything but normal. 

It also dives deeper into the mysterious Dean's life, specifically his serial killer father. If you thought you had daddy issues, you have NOTHING on Dean. Zero. I won't get into detail about Dean's past because if you read this book (which you should), you'll find out and that's part of the fun. Because of this path that the book takes, we find more about Dean's and even Lia's past. Also, this causes Cassie to think about and help Dean more. Of course, that also makes us more aware of her love triangle at hand, but I really think that Barnes does such a great job with the love triangle that I'm not bothered by it. The love triangle is not a big issue in the plot (hello, they have other stuff to worry about), but there's still enough scenes for it to not become stagnant either. 

While I love (and I mean love) the character development, even the new characters, and plot in this sequel, the twists made me enjoy the sequel even more. Just like the first book, Barnes included some of the best twists I ever read. Not only did I become sucked into the story so much that I forgot I wasn't actually in it, but when the twists came along, I was blown away. I might have rivaled the characters' surprise. 


All of the characters are still dealing with what happened before in the first book, but new conflicts arise, making the plot fresh. More sequels need to learn this. A major theme can carry through the story, but it shouldn't become stalled. There should be progress and analysis even, but something to keep me interested. So once again, I applaud Barnes and Disney-Hyperion. 

Verdict: One of the best (if not THE best) sequels I've ever read.