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. 

  • 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,'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? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want to Read and Don't Own

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
I don't read everything I own (unfortunately) and I don't NOT read everything I don't own either. The first part are books that are published and I don't have or have read yet. The second part are ones that haven't even published yet, but I already have grabby hands for.

This was published today and I want it NOW. 

Hungry by H.A. Swain

I got it from the library, but never got around to reading it. This is the title of my life so obviously I need it.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Sometimes you just need a tough contemporary in your life.

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel

I need to own this cuteness and wouldn't it look so pretty on my shelf?

Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

This sounds like a hit or miss and I so hope for a hit.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein


This Shattered World by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman

Disney, I thank you.

Invaded by Melissa Landers

Again, thank you, Disney. This comes out next year so I'll be starting off the second semester right.

Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson

I'm kind of hyperventilating on how perfect this sounds. 

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

A wilderness story about friendship and love? Yes, please.

I know I never hit on what each was about, but that's why I put the links in the titles! Goodreads will give you all the information you need and you can get little commentary right here. What are books you don't have or read yet?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: ROOMIES by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Authors: Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Publication date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

I thought it was fitting to read this since I was transitioning to college myself only a couple days after I finished. To me, this was actually realistic. While Elizabeth, called EB throughout, is from the East Coast, she's moving to California for college. I thought this unlikely considering her familial situation until she mentioned all the loans she's taking out. Because if I can barely go to college IN state, then how could she go to college OUT of state? When authors casually have their characters go out of state, making it seem like all the tuition is the same, it makes me grumble about the story.  Thankfully, that didn't really happen here. 

On the other hand, we have Lauren, the first born out of many who is trying to have enough money to go to the same college just a little bit away and in the same state. I felt THAT was really realistic. I didn't have this SUPER connection with either of them, but homesickness-wise, I knew where Lauren was coming from. I think I even liked her more than EB, but both had their positives. 

The romance is where I cross the line from one roomie to the other. Lauren's romantic prospect outweighed EB's WAY more. Way, way more. Lauren actually knew her guy before, they had a realistic rough patch, and I could see the connection between the two. For EB, that wasn't the case. It felt too much like insta-love for me. I kept going back and forth between whether or not EB should've even had a love interest because it seemed useless. But I can see the authors wanting to portray a different side, kind of like a summer fling. Their feelings for each other felt too rushed though. 

Because I just moved to college, I liked how the authors made the whole transition for each of the girls relatable. It's stressful. Emotions are running high. Conflicts arise. Fears heighten. Everything just seems a little too MUCH at once. Lauren is dealing with insecurity, change, and homesickness before she even leaves home. EB is dealing with leaving everything behind, her family, and unmet expectations. They have problems with each other. They have problems with people around them. THAT'S NORMAL. For me, I felt like I became snappier through the transition because of stress and the newness of it all. When I had a rooommate glitch, I just finished the book, which meant I had gone through EB and Lauren's glitches. I can't say how much that actually helped me, to have read someone else's problem's, even though they were fictional.

I might have problems here and there with the story, but overall, it was just what I needed.

Verdict: Realistic, fun story of two future roommates before school starts. 

To promote the book way back when it was first published, they had people tell their roommate stories. What was your roommate story? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recommended Books to Me

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish
Can I just say that I am SO glad to be back to Top Ten Tuesday? Lists are wonderful. Such a wonderful structure and peaceful task to do. Of course, I'm not sure I'll continue to do the Photoshop pictures because, wow, what time-suckers (props to regular Photoshop users). This week we had to compile a list of the most books people recommend to us. Most books on my list are personal recommendations, but some are general and frequent recommendations from blogs I read. In no particular order:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
While I said there isn't a particular order, Harry Potter is, by far, the most recommended book and series to me. It's been more less of a "hey, you should read this" and more of a "READ THIS, YOU FOOL."

Storm Siren by Mary Weber
I fully intend on reading this as soon as possible. It sounds awesome and one of the people who has recommended this is Lauren. Making her happy would be a plus. 

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
So many fantasy lovers love this. I feel so much pressure. 

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

The Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce
It's Tamora! I LOVED Alanna and I've heard Beka rivals her. HOW?

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Kate Roric and Bernie Su
The web series was the absolute best, making me fall in love with YouTube. I've heard nonstop recommendations of this since it's more of Lizzie and her world. I need this in my life, I know.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
CUTENESS OVERLOAD. People know I love contemporary.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordian
I'm not a fan of MG, but so many people love this. I may fudge. 

Shadowland by Meg Cabot
Meg Cabot is a contemporary queen so I'm not sure why I haven't read ALL her books especially since people sure do love this series. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thank you, Morgan Matson

Way back when, I read Second Chance Summer and it was my second cancer book and second contemporary book that made me get emotional. It's one of those books that I remember fondly, but think that I won't read again because I already have so much emotion in my life right now, it can't possibly be healthy to have extra.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour was my second book by Morgan Matson that I read and it was...good. It didn't wow me or make me go all squealing fangirl. It was cute. I had problems with it, but it wasn't bad by any means.

Then there was Since You've Been Gone and IF Morgan Matson needed redeeming, this book did it. I'll always look back and remember SYBG as the book of summer 2014 for me. I've told people multiple times to read it because it's the ultimate summer book. And I'll say it again. Do it. You won't regret it. Because it made me not only enthralled, but also challenged, in a way.

The book is centered on Emily whose best friend Sloane has disappeared. She doesn't know where or if she's ever coming back and since her whole world was wrapped around ONE best friend, she has to cope with that empty slot in her life. Unlike other books where something happens to a friendship between two people, where one is more dependent on the other, this didn't feel obsessive. It probably wasn't the healthiest thing, but Emily definitely saw more improvement quicker than others. She makes new friends. She grows. Most importantly, Sloane even helps her adjust by leaving her with a summer bucket list.

I love bucket lists. I love lists. I love adventure. These three things shape Emily's journey through the book. And this is where I give my biggest thank you to Morgan Matson. It encouraged me to accomplish things in MY summer, the summer where I had to be less dependent on my own surroundings. I wasn't losing a best friend (well, not really), but I was losing 18 years of familiarity since I was leaving for school in August.

I made time to hangout with people more.
This might sound so silly to others, but me actually making plans with people takes a lot. I usually wait for others to say something and a lot of times this summer, that's what happened. But I also initiated. And I bonded with people I cared about, something I won't ever regret. 

I traveled.
As ya'll know, I went to Nicaragua. That place transformed me and I spent a week of my life pouring love out into others. I tried new things on that trip and became more flexible than I ever was before. 

I skydived.
Yesterday I did something that's always been on my bucket list: SKYDIVING. I turned 18 two weeks ago and knew that I wanted to give a birthday gift to myself. The jump was incredible. I did get sick once the parachute opened, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else. 

I said goodbye.
Through the whole book, Emily was trying to figure out where Sloane went. But I personally believe that by crossing off each item her best friend gave her, Emily was also saying goodbye. I haven't left yet (I leave tomorrow night and will be saying most of my goodbyes by the time this is posted today), but I have said goodbye to friends already. And those lovely Nicaraguans. I hate goodbyes, but you know what? It's healthy. 

And while the main point of this is to say how much Morgan Matson impacted me with her latest book, a big part of why I loved SYBG was that cliche saying of "being in love with love." I loved loving this book. I loved the summery feel. While I've had past issues with Sarah Dessen books for making me grumble that it was NOT real life and it ruins reality, I didn't feel the same way with SYBG. I wished my summers were like that, sure, but it also pushed me to achieve it too. I won't ever go skinny dipping (I promise, Mom, I have no desire), but I think it's exciting to try other new things. Mostly, it's actually a lot of fun to watch (in this case, read) about others doing new things. Sometimes it's great to live vicariously through others (I'm looking at you BEA attendees). And sometimes you need an author to challenge you to take a hold of your summer. 

So thank you, Morgan Matson. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hallelujah, there's clean water

I'm back! 

My little corner of the internet has been basically silent for a week thanks to my latest adventure. I've been writing and rewriting this post and introduction because I realized that while I have a lot to say, I feel like a jumbled mess. I got back at 1am on Tuesday and I give props to those people who can bounce back right away. 

The general idea of what we did: Kids' ministry. Every afternoon we sang, performed a drama, taught a lesson, played games, and made crafts for about four hours. Before and after, however, we hung out with the kids and played with them. In the mornings, we either painted or cleaned or rehearsed. 

How many kids? The picture up top is, I think, from the last day. Best answer: a lot. 

How was Nicaragua? How do I even explain that one? The homes were...sad. There was definitely proof of poverty. Our only acceptable water was from water bottles. When you went somewhere besides the church, they charged you to use toilet paper when going to the bathroom. And you couldn't flush toilet paper. There was no soap (so grateful for hand sanitizer). It was uncommon to have air conditioning. While there were scam artists, the people we met through the church there were the nicest people I ever encountered. 

What did I love the most? THE KIDS. Wow. The craziest thing I experienced was how quickly I formed relationships with these kiddos. They ranged from about 5 to 13 years old from around the neighborhood (there's a school nearby too) and they were amazing. I've done other kid activities before in my church and area, but it wasn't really a WHOA I LOVE IT thing until Nicaragua. Nicaraguan kids stole my heart, ya'll. By about the second day, I already had a Spanish posse going on. 

Here's the thing about the picture above. From left to right is Fernanda, Alexander, Monica, and Nayeli. They're cousins who all live across the street from the VBS center. This group specifically took me in as one of their own, tried to teach me more Spanish, and became my (younger) friends. While they had less than I did, they gave me gifts. I don't think anyone will understand how much they affected me. 

Other cool stuff: 
  • Ziplining! This also included a tightrope section, swinging like Tarzan, and a HUGE, fast drop down.  I don't even know how to explain the adrenaline rush. 
  • A boat ride and unsuccessful attempt to feed a monkey. 
  • Lunch on the highest point of a mountain overlooking a volcano covered by a lake. Basically, it was really pretty. 
  • SHOPPING. I'm not a shopper, but I was looking forward to souvenirs. I had 45 minutes-1 hour to go through 120 shops and buy for 7 people (6 family members and me). It was actually stressful, but I was dubbed the best haggler for prices among everyone. 
  • The driving was...crazy. Our bus driver had a humongous bus of about 26 people he had to navigate through the tiny streets of Managua. He owned those streets, I'm telling you. I almost felt death a couple times. 

A big downer of the trip was sickness. About early-mid way through, I became really ill. Chills, a fever, and nausea hit me at once and I never felt so cold. Thankfully, it was only about 24 hours, but my runny nose is still here. And during the last two days, I lost my voice. Guys, it's already a struggle to talk in a different language, but it's almost impossible to do so while your voice is raspy. 

I didn't read a single book, go on Twitter, or think about this blog during that week. Now that I'm home, I can't wait to catch up, talk to you guys, and read. But I'm so thankful that I had this opportunity. Nicaragua wouldn't be my first choice in the beginning. Now, I'm already hoping I go back and revisit with the people in a few years.

Now...what's your week been like? Catch me up! Tweet, email, comment, I want to hear from you. 

EDIT: A few of you commented saying you wanted to see the lake over the volcano. The picture doesn't do it ANYWHERE NEAR justice, but here it is!

Friday, August 1, 2014


During my freak-out session on my birthday post, you might remember me saying that I was going to Nicaragua for a week. Well, the time has come! Today, I'll be driving four hours with my group to Orlando, where we'll spend the night. Then at an ungodly hour in the morning, we'll be meeting at the airport with other groups to fly to Nicaragua. We'll actually be staying in the capital, Managua. (And I really have a feeling I won't be able to pronounce anything.) 

We can have our phones to take pictures, but I probably won't be able to update or tweet (I haven't been doing a good job of that in America either, sooo). We'll be doing projects and VBS for the kiddos during the week THEN our free day is Saturday. The agenda: zip-lining, visiting a volcano, and shopping (aka where I spend a fortune on souvenirs for my six-person family). 

Ultimately, I'm hoping for safe travels, a great time, and to make an impact and to not push my traveling companions down the volcano

I get back the following Monday (8/11) and while I may be exhausted, Top Ten Tuesday WILL be up thanks to pre-scheduling (okay, I HOPE it'll be up). I do know that I'll be extremely happy to be reunited with my brand, spankin' new laptop...and to talk to ya'll again of course. 

Review: THE JEWEL by Amy Ewing

Title: The Jewel 
Author: Amy Ewing
Publication date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: an e-galley provided by the publisher for an honest review

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

I'm such a sucker. A naive, little reader who gets cover cover lust. Also, legitimate synopsis desires. I wasn't a fan of The Selection, despite the fact that the dresses are beautiful and the synopsis is addicting. The Selection did continue to get me to read its books, but only because it resembled a guilty pleasure reality TV show and I wanted to know what happened (and regretted doing so). The Jewel resembles it in a way. Same pretty cover, same amazing synopsis, and same disappointing and guilty pleasure. But worse in some areas and better than others. 

I won't be comparing the two through the review because, even though they both made me really angry, it's not fair. Violet is actually a pretty good main character at first. She has me interested in her life, her family, and her situation. I care about her and especially about her best friend Raven. I wanted to know more and I felt excited at the book's prospects. 

Then it crashed. And it was bad. 

We're introduced to Ash, who's relationship to the family was a bit confusing to me. He was the Duchess's niece's companion who did sexual favors? and completely off-limits to Violet, the Duchess's property. Of course, they apparently hit it right off and in no time flat, are confessing their undying love to each other. 

What. Just. Happened. WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I stared in shock at my iPad and was trying to figure out how Violet and the whole book suddenly took a downward spiral. 

I think I tried to wipe away what I just read from my brain because after a few weeks, I couldn't really remember all their transgressions. But here are a couple of Goodreads updates: 

47%: Speaking about your irrationality is not the same as as removing it. Please fix yourself.

68%: I now think this is turning into stupidity and I hate that I've stayed up late when I have work in the morning. 

I finished the book and gave it 2 stars for two reasons: 
  1. I liked the beginning. It deserves SOME credit for that. 
  2. Raven. I'm telling you, I liked Raven. When we got into that nasty Ash business, I wanted to ditch Violet and go straight to poor Raven. 
While I did notice that The Jewel avoided some cliches, it didn't avoided the biggest. It gave me insta-love and all the tropes that go with it when Ash came into the picture. I think some people will still enjoy this because that doesn't matter to them (or they even like it), which is fine. I think The Selection fans will either love it because of The Selection or hate it because it's compared to The Selection

Verdict: Disappointing to the max. 

How do you like insta-love? Do you DNF if a book you're reading goes into a downward spiral FAST?