Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Need to Read

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
So not only have I been in a MAJOR blogging slump and had to start a new blog for class, but there was a big pot of drama happening in the blogosphere this past weekend. Really, it was more than drama. It was WRONG. A criminal offense. A sickening situation. I'll leave the link (that does not contribute in pageviews) HERE. So I blame all of this for forgetting about the Top Ten Tuesday that I was actually going to do. Thus, I tweaked the list.

Series I need to start: 

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
EVERYONE is talking about Blue Lily, Lily Blue this year and I obviously need to catch up and see what all this commotion is about. Also, Stiefvater was against Hale's actions, even better!

Splintered by A.G. Howard
The covers are so preeeeeeetty. Ever since the first one came out, I've said I wanted to read it. Why haven't I yet?

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
I have no excuse. This one has been on so many TTT lists and is on my bookshelf for Pete's sake. Need. To. Start.

If Only by Various Authors
It looks so cute and its publisher is Bloomsbury and I've heard positive feedback about how fun it is. I must have, especially in this dark time (otherwise known as "college"). 

Arclight by Josin L. McQuein
I read a few chapters of this while housesitting and wasn't able to finish because I had to go back to my own house. I NEED TO READ MORE. Bonus: big voice in being against Hale!

Series I need to finish:

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
I've heard it's anticlimatic, which plays into my hesitation, but why must such a good thing end?

Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
I've gone back and forth on how I want it to play out love triangle-wise (and PSA: I do not like love triangles) and since I finally determined a side, I'm scared to be wrong. 

Split Second by Kasie West
I read every Kasie West as soon as it comes out. I'm baffled at my unpredictable actions. But I need to finish this.

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
It deserves a spot on here, but there's nothing left to say because I put it on MANY TTTs and every time, I say I'll read it, but that the cliffhanger terrifies me (and ya'll support me in this because you know how heartbreaking it is). Another TTT repeated offender: Ruin and Rising

Deception by C.J. Redwine
Another sequel I need to read because I loved the first one, but ALSO, she was a fantastic voice in how Hale behaved badly. Go, Redwine!

What series do you love or need to read so you can love on it?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Surfin' in the USF

In August, I talked about going to college.


Once again, I say college. I did dual-enrollment, but that was living at home. I know other bloggers on here (hey, Lili!) blog in college, even with other responsibilities. I only hope I'll be able to juggle it all as well as they do someday. I never realized how difficult the transition would be for me. The actual schoolwork isn't so bad, but suddenly I'm procrastinating my time a lot more. 

In the first week, I tried to really put myself out there socially. I went to almost all of the events, hung out with my floormates constantly, and had a minuscule amount of "me" time. All I wanted was to watch some The Big Bang Theory, ya'll. I finally did, but was developing procrastination issues. 

But here's what's been happening so far.

I've been trying new things...

Like rowing! Okay, I quit it recently, but I stuck it out for a month. I woke up at 5am Monday to Thursday EVERY week. The practices lasted unofficially from 5:45 to 8am, possibly a little longer. Land workouts (running, core, the machines, calisthenics) and water workouts (technique on the boat) happened every week. Surprisingly, rowing has more to do with the legs than the arms. 

Not like that though.
I quit because of back issues along with other things, such as money and time. It was for the best, but I'm glad I tried it. 

But today (I'm writing this on Wednesday), I actually tried a pilates class! I have no strength whatsoever, but I tried it. I'll be doing even more fitness classes next week! 

I've made extreme progress in my TV shows.

Probably not something I should be proud of, but it's as if all that "me" time I was lacking came back in full force and I binged watched several shows I was behind in. And it's possible that I watched two seasons of Big Bang in one week. 

I read and received some pretty great books.

HELLO, Killer Instincts! I was a little nervous to start it since I LOVED the first book, but this sequel. Wow. THIS SEQUEL. It blew me away and got me really motivated to make time for reading. 

I also received the gorgeous German version of Where She Went by Gayle Forman, which I don't understand, but it'll look pretty on my shelf. Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson came digitally to me and man, I'm excited. As well as a print version of Soulprint by Megan Miranda, thanks to Bloomsbury. 

But I think the letter from Emma was just what I needed. 

I had many breakdowns.

I'll try to not spend too much time in this negative portion, but I think that it's important to say that I cried. A lot. It's embarrassing how much I did in these last two weeks. Depressing phone calls to my parents, feeling overwhelmed, hating change...it all happened. And again, I wonder, WHY IS THIS NOT PORTRAYED IN FICTION? I give major props to Fangirl because it is the ONLY book I've read (or heard of) that has done this. Rainbow Rowell writes Cath's transition perfectly in my opinion. Props to them. Now let's get more out there so I can feel normal. 

Food and I have an even more intense love/hate relationship.

Well, first you have emotional eating. Then you have proximity eating (meaning, I'm in my dorm, the banana nut cheerios and peanut butter are RIGHT THERE). Dining halls and dining dollars (stuff you get with your mandatory meal plan that gets you "free" food on the onsite restaurants...hello, Jamba Juice and Chick-Fil-A!). And no homemade meals. And a college student's budget. I go to the gym, but I've definitely had anxiety about weight. 

But I know who my friends are.

I've had difficulty with people here. Mainly, one girl on my floor. I've never had a bully before, but she's a semi-one. While we were undeniably close in the first few weeks, I realized she's not someone I want to be around, especially under that treatment. At the same time, I've gotten texts and calls and even visits from my friends back home. I never communicated my problems here with them, but I believe they sensed I needed them. 

I've also gotten lots of support from bloggers (you know who you are). 

Next week, I'll be doing more fitness classes. I've already done Zumba and Pilates, but I want to try something I've never heard of before. I'll hopefully try out the fencing club. I'll be trying out this other Christian organization. I'll be motivating myself to get on top of visiting blogs and working on my own...but not feeling guilty if I fail. I'll be pushing myself, but still maintaing my TV shows, let's be honest. 

I'm still getting used to USF and pushing down fears of doubt, but at least it's normal. (It IS normal, yes?) And there's your super long catch-up post. If you made it through, congrats! 

Is transition this hard for you? What was your college experience? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch

Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
Publication date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: an e-galley provided by the publisher for an honest review

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

I've been trying to come up with the exact words to use for this review. It's difficult. Snow Like Ashes made me feel conflicted throughout the story, not loving it, but not hating it either. 

What I liked: 

1. The political and power aspects. About 75% of this book, I'd have to say, was about politics and power. There was war that made me picture the "FOR NARNIA AND FOR ASLAN!" scene in The Chronicles of Narnia. There were poverty and power struggles between leaders. There were scenes with strategies laid out and you felt the struggle everyone was in. I've been getting more into these type of books lately so I appreciated it all.

2. The narrative. I like first impressions are important not just for real life, social situations, but also for books. I need to like the narrative and even better, if it's from the start. I quickly got into Meira's narrative, which is always relieving when it's through an ebook. I might have had issues in the story and my interest may have fluctuated throughout, but I liked the narrative.

3. A lot of THINGS happen. It's so vague, I know. But like I said, THINGS happen and I liked that nothing wasn't ever truly settled throughout. 

What I disliked: 

1. The lack of punch. While I like that THINGS happen, I still didn't get that WOW factor. I waited for that love to kick in, for me to be hungry for more, or to feel fangirling emotions for it. But I didn't. I just nodded and went, "Okay, that's a nice book." I can't wait to read the next book, not because of how this one affected me, but because I NEED answers and closure (which is a positive actually). 

2. The looming threat of a love triangle. Like Kiss of Deception, I feel weary about how the sequel plays out the romance. Meira has always had a crush on her best friend Mather. But then this new guy shows up and throws a wrench in everything, but always stirs something up in Mather. Typical. But a love triangle doesn't actually come to life. It's implied. It's definitely hinted at for the next book. I wouldn't be surprised if it does, but oh, I'll be disappointed. So it hasn't crossed that line yet, but I hate that I felt that way throughout. 

3.  I was so dang confused. World building in a fantasy book is tricky. It's especially difficult when debut authors try to make complex worlds. Props to them, but I could've used more clarifications. I didn't really understand how the Seasons worked. At about halfway, I felt that I had a little grasp on what I was reading (eerily similar to how I feel about geometry concepts), but not enough that I could explain to others...or anywhere close. 

It wasn't the best fantasy I read, but it definitely wasn't horrible. It came close to which outweighed more: positives or negatives. But in the end, the positives won. Because of the political aspects, the few surprises (albeit some were predictable), and THINGS, I'd tentatively recommend this one. 

Verdict: Not a fantasy that I LOVE, but I'm hoping for the best (and no love triangle) for the sequel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
I feel like I think this every time I do a Top Ten Tuesday, but this week was hard. I came close to cheating a lot by picking not only 2015 picks, but spring 2015 picks. But I did it. The first six have been published already and the last four haven't.

I've been waiting for this one. When I get a little breather during school to really appreciate another book, I want to buy this one and treat myself. Of course, it may just be a time where I FORCE a pause.

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
I've heard so many positive things for this one. I'm all for another win.

Firebug by Lish McBride
Another fire book that I've heard fantastic things about. Keep it coming, you pyromaniac authors. (This book comes out today!)

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton
This one...this one will be harder. I received an e-galley for this and have been having a horrible time connecting with the book. Need. To. Finish. Or at least get through the first several chapters. (Another book birthday!)

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
I don't know if I can do it. I've heard the cliffhanger is killer.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Another one I don't know if I can do. THERE WILL BE HEARTBREAK.

Dangerous Deceptions by Sarah Zettel
Once I got into it, I really enjoyed the first one in this series. And my sister has said raving things about it. 

Mortal Heart by Robin Lafevers
My heart will definitely feel its mortality while reading this, I'm sure, if you know what I mean.

Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson
This really, really interesting book is waiting on my kindle. I'm so excited.

EDIT: I actually forgot two of my picks. One, The Start of Me and You, isn't out until 2015, while the other, Storm Siren, is already out. 

 The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Emery Lord! *pumps fist*

Storm Siren by Mary Weber
I've heard RAVING reviews for this one. *looks at Lauren*

What will you be reading?

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.