Saturday, July 2, 2016

An Innocent Life #12: And It's July! Wow!

Man, July is already here and what have I been doing? Nothing. Just kidding I have been playing video games all day. Seriously. I already need a new game because I finished Fallout 4 and I cannot get over it.

A photo posted by Valerie (@innocent.smiley) on

I bought this beautiful new planner from Anthropologie (yes, THAT store that sells super expensive table cloth clothing) because hey, maybe I should get my life organized for graduate school? No but seriously, I couldn't resist this because it's filled with random art on each page. There's one page with cats all over it. CATS! I bought a very nice set of pens that will be coming on Sunday.

I have a lot of goals for July. One is to post at least one new photo on instagram every day. I have unintentionally committed myself to this flower competition between Aentee and I. She's upped me by owning a flower crown, but LITTLE DOES SHE KNOW I WILL GET A FLOWER WREATH OF SOME KIND. At the store. When I go back. (I don't even know what I would do with a flower wreath).

The Make Me Read It Readathon is this month! Okay, emotional Val time. Last year, we had 30 participants sign up. This year we have over 100. I don't know what Ely and I did differently this year (though I suspect we had a couple of amazing cheerleaders), I am just internally crying tears of joy every time I see readers talking about it on Twitter. And making polls on their blog. And just being excited about the whole thing. I love that everyone is having fun with this.

Let's see. I went on a much needed shopping trip today, which resulted in the goodies above. The last few weeks have been spent by the pool, reading, drinking alcohol. Drinking so much beer that I am no longer carded (whoops). I mean come on, would you resist this frozen green deliciousness?

I plan on getting this tomorrow. Again.

Other than that. Not much going on in life. I have officially cut ties with my former residence, because I finally got my security deposit back from my old apartment. One more month before I move to my new apartment! Woo.

Hope everyone had a great June!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Review: This Savage Song

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Monsters of Verity #1
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: July 5th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/24/16 to 6/30/16
464 pages

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I'm this close to having this review be only three words. Because I am not even sure how to go about reviewing this. I loved this, do I really need to say more? How many synonyms do I need to find to express the amazingness that is this book?

Let me try to sum it up. The city of Verity is divided between two factions, the North and the South, held together by a shaky truce. In control of the North Side is Harker, a man who demands money from families for protection against the monsters, the Corsai, the Malchi, and the Sunai. Managing to bring the Malchi and Corsai under his control, Harker is allowed to make the rules as to who dies and who lives. The Sunai side with Henry Flynn on the South side. Although scarce, they are considered the more powerful of the three, able to feed on the souls of sinners. With them in the South, both sinners and monsters are kept in check.

August is one of those Sunai, a monster that represents justice. Since monsters come from the shadows of living sinners, they must be killed. Under the "protection" of Henry Flynn, he is sent out to kill them with his music. His Sunai brother, Leo, convinces him to spy on Harker's daughter, Kate, over on the North Side at Colton Academy. Problem is, he has to pretend to be human or else risk getting caught.

Those two little paragraphs above does no justice at all. There are many, many details missing. Ones that make this whole story much more complex than it seems. So much thought was put into this, and I just absorbed it all.

I loved August. He is a monster, but he is also a human.

I loved Kate, who only wanted her father's respect.

I loved when the two were together. I wanted Kate to finally figure out who, or what, he was. I couldn't wait to see how everything would turn out when both August and Kate had to escape from the Malchi chasing them.

I wanted to know more, about everything. What is the Phenomenon that caused the monsters to form from human shadows? What is it like outside of Verity City? And since most of the novel focuses on  the North side, what is it like in the South? Seriously, when is the next book coming out?

This Savage Song was just much more unique than I could have ever imagined. With monsters, with music, with all around death, this book is beyond astounding. There is really no other way to put it. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: Everland

Everland by Wendy Spinale
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: May 10th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/19/16 to 6/22/16
312 pages

London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders -- the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.

Unsure if the virus has spread past England's borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a daredevil boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Everland was an interesting take on the story of Peter Pan. Rather than a land of fantasy, we're introduced to Everland, the post-apocalyptic London. Where the aftermath of a war has evolved into an airborne virus that affects all, but mainly girls.

BECAUSE WAR NEVER CHANGES. YEAH! (Val recently finished Fallout 4 and is not okay)

This is one of those books where I just rushed through, because of how fast paced it was. Because of that, I ended up not paying attention or analyzing everything I was reading. Though I can say that I liked it, there's a great possibility that I won't remember much of the details. (Hence why I'm having a hard time writing this review, whoops). But let's get on to what happened.

The story opens up to a ravaged London, where Gwen, her sister Joanna, and her brother Michael are scavenging for food and supplies. But everything falls apart when Marauders (or pirates really) kidnap Joanna, as girls are incredibly scarce due to the disease killing them all. It's believed that any girl even alive is considered immune to the virus, and therefore must be taken captive so a cure can be created. But everyone is mistaken unfortunately, because there's only one true immune out there.

Fast forward to Gwen meeting Peter Pan, who CAN'T FLY. Okay yes I was a little disappointed that this didn't end up being a fantasy, but hey at least Tinkerbell can fly! Or Bella in this book, who's only 12. But she has these mechanical wings that let her fly, and she carries gold dust (or pixie dust).

Just based on the cover alone, I expected a much darker story. And although it wasn't as light as say, the Disney animated version, it felt a little "cheesy" at times. Maybe cheesy isn't the right word to use. I guess I expected "Hook" here to be much more darker, more sinister, more cunning. And "Smee" was acting like a bumbling idiot everywhere trying to capture both Gwen and Bella. It just didn't give the sense of terror or evil.

I really don't have much else to say. This is one of the better Peter Pan retellings I have read, but then again I don't think this one was truly for me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #85

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Books I Will Definitely Be Preordering

Every time I tell myself, "Val, you should preorder some books, maybe one book a month. Because YOU CAN and YOU HAVE the money too". And you know what happens? Well I don't end up preordering the books. This time though, I will be making a list and holding it against myself. I would preorder them all now, but I don't have my new address yet. YET.

Also, I have not done a TTT since February. Wow.

I actually have no idea whether Nevernight will be my kind of book, but there is just so much hype surrounding it. Also I'm most likely going to be preordering this through TBD, because COVER.

Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova just recently had its cover revealed, and I will read anything she writes, so that is an automatic preorder. If you haven't checked out Air Awakens by her, you should do so! I believe the ebook is under $5 or so!

I may not be preordering Crooked Kingdom, but rather the box set that also includes Six of Crows. I just really want the red and black pages let's be honest ahahha. I mean I love the story too, don't get me wrong!

I have a vague sense of what When The Moon Was Ours is about. Either way, I hear it is magical realism, has LGBT themes, and is multicultural. Sign me up right now.

Currently reading This Savage Song and loving it. I also have it preordered for about $8 (depending on tax) from Amazon. So if you have NOT gotten in on this deal, I suggest you do right now. I am a little sad I won't be at home when I get it, but that's okay.

Shannon said she cried while reading The Memory Book. It also has to do with forgetting and trying to remember. I need this book in my life, it was written for me. Again, sad I won't be able to read this right on July 5th, I'll have to wait until I get back from my vacation.

I will read anything by Laini Taylor. Yep. I need Strange The Dreamer in my life.

Holly raved about This Adventure Ends, so of course I am intrigued. I also really need to read Firsts by her, what am I doing with my life?

Hello there A Conjuring Of Light. I preordered A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, no doubt I will do the same for the final book. 

Lastly, I absolutely love David Arnold, and he's pretty much become an auto buy author. Which is why I will be needing Kids of Appetite. And that other new novel he announced which won't get to me until 2018. 

How about you? Will you be preordering anything? Should *I* preorder anything else? (Don't say all the books)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: And I Darken

And I Darken by Kiersten White
The Conqueror's Saga #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/22/16 to 6/26/16
496 pages


And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

So. I'm sure you have read both 5 star reviews and DNF reviews of And I Darken. Well now you have me! Presenting you with a 3 star review! Drumroll please.

And I Darken presents a different take on the word "princess". In this case, Lada is cruel from the moment of her birth. On the other hand, her little brother Radu is the complete opposite. Pretty and handsome, he only seeks friendship in others while Lada seeks violence.

"I am your father. But that woman is not your mother. Your mother is Wallachia. Your mother is the very earth we go to now, the land I am prince of. Do you understand?"

Lada looked up into her father's eyes, deep-set and etched with years of cunning and cruelty. She nodded, then held out her hand. "The daughter of Wallachia wants her knife back."

The first wrong assumption I made about this book, is that our main character would only Lada. But this book very much features both Lada, Radu, and along with a lot of Mehmed, the sultan's son. I actually loved Lada's cruelty (sorry guys). At times she acted cruel for a purpose; the more she grew, the more she understood her position in the empire. The same can be said for Radu, who was constantly bullied by others as a child. Knowing that his sister could not always protect him, he used other means for his gain.

There was a number of reasons I ended up liking And I Darken, and in the process not DNFing it. For one, I stayed for the characters. Each character, even some of the side ones, were developed and distinct from others. Reading about characters such as Radu, Mehmed, and Lada gave me insight about the historical Ottoman Empire.

Not only that, but both religion and sexuality play a huge role in the novel. I do not often read historical fiction (other than WWII) or contemporary, but I think this is the first YA novel I have read that touches upon Islam. Though it would be surprising for it to not make an appearance, seeing as this IS the Ottoman Empire afterall.

So, here is where I am a little mixed about this novel. You see, I didn't hate it. I loved the characters enough, and the novel itself was compelling to keep reading. However, it was just so damn long. And slow. And I think this is one of the main reasons that many have DNFed this.

To me, this didn't feel like any other YA novel, which is fine, but just hard to get used to. As I Darken features a story that spans across "a lifetime", from birth to Lada and Radu's teenage years. A considerable amount of time was spent on Lada and Radu's childhood, and their preteen years. The book presented back to back obstacles that were easily resolved, making the climax somewhat hard to pinpoint. Although there was an overarching goal, it was not always noticeably present. With other books, the characters are working towards a larger goal, one that is usually made very clear at the beginning of the novel. But here, I just wasn't sure what to expect. There were so many things happening one after the other, that it's easy to lose focus of the actual goal.

As I Darken suffers from a slow-paced plot, but has a great set of characters. I would say that if you like this kind of pacing, or if you like reading about history and have the time to invest in a 500 page book, then this is for you! 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: Run

Run by Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 4/24/16 to 5/21/16
288 pages

Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who's not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter -- protect her from what, Agnes isn't quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn't hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo's dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and -- worst of all -- confronting some ugly secrets.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Hey would you look at that! 5 stars for a contemporary! Must be the end of the world or something. Just kidding. Honestly, I just loved Run. Not only is it a powerful story about friendship, but it also tackles issues such as sexuality, disability, and family.

There are two main characters in the novel, each having their own POV. Agnes is a goody two shoes with overprotective parents, afraid that she'll hurt herself with her disability. On the other hand, Bo has a bad reputation. Her mother is constantly drinking, and at times Bo finds herself in foster care because of it. In Run, Agnes narrates the "before" while Bo narrates the "after". The event separating them is when Bo discovers she is being put in foster care again, leading to the both of them running off to find Bo's dad.

I'm not exactly sure HOW I can fully convince you to read this book. For one, I haven't read The Duff or Lying Out Loud, so I can't really compare any of them to Run. But nevertheless, Run had a wonderfully unique plot. I adored both Bo and Agnes, who both had such unique voices. With Agnes, I could see that she was really suffocating under the watch of her parents, who barely let her do anything. Yet at the same time, I admired how her parents stepped up and backed up her friendship with Bo, even with Bo's reputation. Bo herself didn't give a shit as to what anyone thought, and that was extremely refreshing. But she also thought about Agnes, and how she didn't want to drag her down to her level.

I guess what I'm afraid of with most contemporaries is running into petty drama, especially involving relationships. There were none in this book. Run featured a strong friendship between Bo and Agnes, even when it hit some rough patches along the way. The perspective each of them brought was vivid and refreshing, with Bo being bisexual and Agnes having a disability.

Basically, my point is is that you should all pick up this book. I would say more, but I think the best thing for you to do is to discover what happens on your own.

Also, thanks to Amber for patiently waiting for me to finish so we could chat about it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rage-Inducing Characters, Do They Make Or Break A Book?

Background Vector Designed By Freepik! Woo!

Ever had to write that review on a book featuring a character you hated? One that caused you to rage and spew out words of hate against them? Great! Then this post is relatable!

There have been a number of times where my hate for a character dictated the rating. But then on the flip side, sometimes it doesn't. Even though the actions or the personality of the character are unfathomable, I find it in myself to either forgive them or overlook it. Yet this doesn't happen in all the books I read. Why is that? 

Here in this post, I will guide you on a journey into my mind, and shed light on why my opinion on hated characters differ from book to book. And maybe while I'm discovering myself, you'll find that you have the exact same thoughts! Win-win. (Or not, which is fine too. Still a win-win).

Let's start with some books I've read!

Falling Into Place - The main character, Liz Emerson, was such a bully. I hated how she treated her friends, other people. Yet by the end of the novel, I was still crying over her. How, why? Did I see through her hateful actions?

How It Feels To Fly - More specifically, I did not like one of the minor characters, Zoe, because of how she constantly teased everyone at treatment camp. You know, the place where it's supposed to be safe to talk about your feelings without expecting judgment? WELL nope it isn't a safe place to talk at all apparently, especially when you have someone making fun of you at every moment. I hated Zoe. She made me so mad. But in the end, I forgave her a little. Just a little though.  

The Way I Used To Be - Dealing with the hard topic of rape, there really was no way I would be criticizing the main character, Eden. Even though I was continually frustrated with her actions towards others, I didn't let that affect my rating of the book.

When We Collided - Looking back at the main character here, Vivi, I almost regret hating her as much as I did. But I just couldn't take how she acted towards the love interest, Jonah, especially when it involved putting him (and herself) in danger.

And then there are the characters that I loathe entirely.

Into The Dim - The main character, Hope, is just very judgmental of others. And I felt like she viewed herself above others, with her eidetic memory and all.

We Are All Made Of Molecules - Stewart enters Ashley's family because their parents marry. Does Ashley even try to make him feel at home? Even after everything that's happened to him? NOPE. She's a bitch (for a 14 year old). All she cares about is her social status, which apparently is ruined with having a brother like Stewart.

So, it's kind of apparent what makes me hate a character. Let's see if I can sum it up!
  • Any kind of bully. I hate them all. They may be forgiven if they see the errors in their ways. Or maybe if being a bully is just a front (Though I'll probably still hate them)
  • Acting in a way that is stupid, and for me, that's defined as putting themselves or others in harm's way. This includes making dumb decisions, which I have known a lot of heroines to do. The worst is when you're yelling at the character to not do the thing, but then they end up doing the thing. 
  • Being judgmental of others. Mostly when it comes to appearances and hobbies.

A lot of factors come into rating a book, and sometimes a character can break a book, or just not affect me at all. But here comes the real question. If you hate a character, doesn't that mean you were invested in the story? Invested in the emotions of the characters?

I personally do not have the answer to this question. For me, sometimes I hate a character so much, it affects my enjoyment of the novel causing me to rate it lower. But then other times, my investment in said character causes me to reevaluate the rating. Because I would much rather read about a character that messes with my emotions, rather than one that is just meh.

How about you? What makes you hate a character? Does it affect the enjoyment of the book?