Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Goals

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Last year, I made five bookish and five non-bookish goals. It was pretty pathetic how much I didn't come close to finishing all 10. I did only one bookish goal and basically three non-bookish (the basically is due to "smiling more" which I did with my polite "this is torture smiles to my roommate). This year, I'm doing the same layout of five six bookish and five non-bookish.

6 Non-Bookish Goals

1. Read 100 books. I didn't come close to 150, which I set last year. I talk a little more about that when I do my 2014 End of the Year Book Survey I'll publish later this week or early next week.

2. Do at least 2 reading challenges. I did a read-a-thon two years ago and really enjoyed it (especially the productive feeling afterwards), but never did anything of the sort last year. This year I'd like to do a series challenge of some sort and another reading challenge!

3. Go to BEA. I mean it this time!

  • 3.5 Meet blogger friends. This is an accordance of the above one and just like last year, I hope to do it. 

4. Finish series. Evertrue, Into the Still Blue, and Curtsies & Conspiracies (and the third book) are just a few books I need to read from series I enjoyed.

5. For the love of cupcakes, read at least two books a month and make sure there's at least two blog posts a week. This is especially during college.

6. Comment more on other blogs. I have been completely slacking this year and while I read others' blog posts, I never end up commenting. That has got to change.

5 Non-Bookish Goals

1. Get back into senior shape. As in, high school senior. After graduating and finishing basketball (my main source of activity), I've lost my stamina, but gained something else, if you know what I mean. This is such a generic goal, so I'll also put find healthy options at the dining hall and regular things to do at the gym.

2. Discover a solution for my esophageal problems. More like go to the doctor and wait for him to tell me what to do. But then I'll do it, no matter how hard it is (like cutting out a favorite food). So by this time next year, I'll be like "esophageal what?" and "be in pain for two hours every night? Me? Say what?"

3. Get an internship. I won't be too worried if I don't accomplish this because I have time (somewhat), but I'm sure going to try.

4. Volunteer. I was too busy to do it last semester, but there's a new club at my university that goes to the animal shelter every month. PUPPIES!

5. Grow out my fingernails. For as long as I can remember, I've picked at my fingernails and every year, I want to stop. Hopefully this year I can do it and maintain it (because I've grown them out a couple times, but they always end up short).

What are your goals?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

December (more like Bookember, amiright?) recap

December may have been the nicest month to me this year. I received a crazy amount of books, finished books I wanted to get to, and finished my first semester away from home. While I went back to a blogging slump and had a few frustrating circumstances come my way, I feel relatively good with how I'm closing my year off. Now onto the books!

For review:

Hand-me-downs aka books Shae was getting rid of: 

Number of Books I Read: 6

What I'm Reading Now/Next: 
Bookish (and not-so-bookish) Happenings:
  • As you can see (or saw on Twitter), I finally cashed in my Harry Potter virgin card! I've already gone to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal, but I definitely want to go back now. After the books, I'll watch the movies!
  • I finished my first semester of college. I was going to do a recap, but I'll think I'll hold off for the end of the year. Only because I'm lazy and really don't want to think of school anymore. 
  • I attended the Bloomsbury Shindig earlier this month (or late November) where the wonderful Bloomsbury employees showed us 2015 releases. 
  • I also ordered a package from Better World Books that should be coming next week. 

Don't forget I'm currently hosting a giveaway for The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, which you should go enter in NOW. Watch out for my 2015 End of the Year Book Survey this week! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Author Interview with Emery Lord + GIVEAWAY

Earlier this year, I gave into many pressures from other bloggers to read Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. It became one of those "why did I wait so long to read this?!" kind of book. Fast forward to in the middle of my first stressful and emotional semester of college and I just received an ARC of The Start of Me and You (thanks, Bloomsbury!). Perfect timing. I can't recommend both of Emery Lord's books enough, especially to those who are stressed. Fun contemporaries are key.

Below is an interview I was able to do with Emery Lord and because tomorrow is Christmas (!!!), I'm giving away an ARC of The Start of Me and You, which comes out in March of 2015.

What is one thing you think readers should know about you? 

I love reading and creating complicated teenage girl characters- strong in different ways, flawed, slowly evolving. In each book I write, I try to both create a heroine or anti-heroine who pushes back at the reader a little bit and tackle at least one subject that is really emotionally uncomfortable/challenging for me.

I know people have been asking about a sequel for Open Road Summer, but do you think you'd ever write a series instead of your amazing standalones? 

It's definitely something I think about! I'll have 4 standalones- one a year from 2014-2017, but, after that, who knows?! 

The Start of Me and You is basically about Paige finally moving on after her boyfriend's accidental death and not being known as The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned. Was this idea from personal experience? 

I've never had a significant other die. But I have absolutely dealt with the kind of grief that changes you and, once the darkness starts to dissipate, leaves you unsure of who you are anymore. I wanted to explore that in-between space- when the loss isn't quite as raw, but you're still trying to figure out how to be

Confession: I've done something very similar to a Quiz Bowl and you described Paige's experience perfectly (oh, so much blushing occurred for me). Did you do any of the things on Paige's list as well? 

None of those specific things- I love swimming, I travel quite a lot, etc. But I've definitely always pushed myself to try new activities- not necessarily to overcome fear or move on- but just because new experiences are the best!

Did you like writing Open Road Summer or The Start of Me and You more? 

I couldn't choose! They were both difficult in different ways and fun in different ways!

If you could write a book in any genre except contemporary, what would it be? 

Fantasy. Or sci-fi. I love all genres!

What's a book you recently read that you loved? 

Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley (My add-on: YES!)

Choice of drink while writing? 

Coffee, water, and Diet Coke if things get dire ;)

Thank you, Emery! 


1. Winner gets an ARC of The Start of Me and You, which comes out in March of 2015. 
2. Winner has to reply back with his/her address in 48 of hours of receiving my notification email or I will pick another winner
3. Must not lie/cheat in any entries. 

Merry Christmas Eve! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Let's focus on...YA Diversity

On Tumblr, I've seen several posts about needing more diversity in YA books. But there was one in particular that really stuck with me. It talked about how diversity doesn't only mean race and sexual orientation. The person demanded diverse books so that more people could see themselves in the books. Because, really, that's why we read, right? We read to see new places and experience new things through pages. We read because, at least for me, it's almost an adrenaline rush to make new attachments to fictional characters, who seem more and more real as you read the story or series. But what really makes a book successful is when it has a main character that readers can connect with. A personality trait, certain feelings, the relationships he/she possesses with others, maybe looks...there are lots of options.

This Tumblr post comment said they'd love to read about a person like them. A deaf person. Of course, this made me go "YEAH!" because I would love to read a book about a deaf/blind/mute person, if done right. And it made me think more about diversity. It's great that so many people want it, but I wonder if the majority just wants it for race purposes. It's great to not have only white people as main characters. I instantly perk up at the mention of a POC (person of color) as a main character. However, I think it's important to also want other kinds of diversities. I hate to say disorders or disabilities in case I offend anyone, but they're the only accurate, general terms I can think of. Deafness, paralysis, blindness, muteness, loss of limbs (Soul Surfer, anyone? Or a military story!), phobias, diseases, illnesses. The list can go on. I could even say leprosy, although that is uncommon, but it's an issue that's rarely done. Instead of authors going down the well-beaten path, I'd like to see more exploring going on. Like another Tumblr post said, it's not about having a character that's exactly like the reader (that won't really happen). It's about having situations/stories/lives to relate to and feeling like others get it. Even if they're fictional, it feels like someone else understands your own story or situation. 

I recently read and reviewed Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson (click on the title to be led to the review). It's a great example of this. The main character has anxiety issues and uses superstition to the extreme. Someone touches her, her family becomes permanently broken in her mind. It's a form of OCD, but not a type that many people are aware of since OCD is usually talked about in terms of cleaning and Monk

If you need suggestions to diverse books, here's a website that can definitely help. And here's another list, but devoted to race. But I'd also like to applaud HarperTeen for doing a great job this year. They published Say What You Will, which dealt with physical and psychological issues (wheelchairs and more anxiety). In Falling Into Place, suicide was a main theme. Then, of course, in Don't Touch, OCD takes place. Different kind of "heroes" for different people is always good. I already appreciated and liked HarperTeen as is, but they gained much more from me this year. 

And I'm not even saying that the aspect that makes the character diverse has to be the focus of the story (just like race shouldn't always be the focus in a story either). So authors, write characters with different traits. Maybe mention the fact that the love interest has only one hand. Or maybe the main character had a cutting issue in her past, but she's fine now. Or the main character is deaf. Or maybe the love interest is in a wheelchair. So many options, so little time, you know? 

What books featuring diversity have you read and enjoyed? What would you like to read about?

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


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