Thursday, December 31, 2015

Resolutions for 2016

It has come to my attention that the new year, is in fact, TOMORROW.

Were you prepared for this? Because I was not. 2015 flew by so quickly, so quickly that I still feel as if summer was just yesterday.

This year, I half want to make resolutions, and I half do not. Because those things end up lasting for maybe a month or so. But nevertheless, I'll tell you what I want to achieve this next year (In theory).

1. Try to not leave all my posts for the night before. Or if I do, make sure I actually WANT to post them, and not just because I need new content.

2. Eat a new type of cheese every couple of weeks or so. And start a new feature that pairs up cheese with books. Yes, I know. This is really random, but I love cheese. So I figure why not take it a step further?

3. Comment on posts that I am truly interested it, and not just comment to, well, comment. I've already implemented this into my blogging.

4. Utilize Creative Market freebies to create awesome graphics like the one above! If you haven't done so already (and you want to create cool graphics), sign up for the Creative Market weekly freebie email!

5. Do whatever I want, and not worry about stupid things like trying to find parking. Just DO IT. This involves overcoming my laziness. And involves being spontaneous. And not planning everything that goes on in my life.

6. Do not go to class or work if there is a huge snowstorm and the driveway and roads suck. Just don't.

7. Don't worry about surgery, everything will be fine. There's always going to be tough times, you just have to through it. Without struggle, there is no meaning to life (apparently someone said this, maybe. Or something along the lines of it I suppose.)

8. Have fun in my yoga class next semester! (This will be the best class ever, okay Dad? NO REGRETS)

9. Take no shit from anyone. Sorry not sorry. Tell people when they're being judgmental or mean even if they think they are not. Because they are.

10. Lastly, have fun with life. And that includes blogging too.


Do you plan to have any resolutions this year? What are they? Or does it not matter to you?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Passenger

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Source: Borrowed
Date Read: 6/21/15 to 6/29/15
464 pages
Rating: 


passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

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

First off, thank you Holly for letting me borrow your copy of Passenger! Even though I stood in the line at BEA 2015, I got the book for Shannon because I wasn't interested in having my own copy. And I guess I am glad, because I am the BLACK SHEEP. 

Also, I was debating on whether this should have been a mini review, seeing as I read this in June and it is now almost January, but oh well. Time to play the "Let's see how much Val remembers" game!

Surprisingly, I ended up liking the beginning of the novel more so than the rest of it. I enjoyed reading about Etta and her talent at playing the violin. However, once everything spiraled out of control (and into a different era), I grew a little discontent. My interest in the time travel genre stems from the disarray a character causes by entering either the past or the future. But I rarely got any of that in Passenger. Nicholas, the romantic interest, already knew who Etta was. Pretty much everyone did, so there was no element of surprise. In fact, it was actually planned? I didn't get to experience the whole "hiding of the origins" type of thing, no "Oh you don't look like you're around here". No "finding out more about you" from the romantic interest because wait he's also a time traveler.

I guess this is why the rest of the novel became such a blur. I was just stuck on what I thought the book would have been, when in fact it was something entirely different.

However, while saying that, I did end up enjoying the journey through time, the characters themselves (even though I remember nothing), and the mystery of the traveler who's doing everything they can to stop both Nicholas and Etta. So I definitely do not regret reading this, I just, expected a teeny tiny bit more than what I got (a completely different story, ha).

And for that reason, I feel like my review isn't really the greatest, when it comes to actually telling you about Passenger. Because please do not get me wrong, this is a marvelous, well developed story. I urge you to buy this or preorder it because it is worth your money.

Since I waited way too long to write up my review, and I'm being super unfair to you by pretty much only talking about my interests, I'm going to leave Holly's link right here. (She always reviews much better than me anyways).

*NOTE: This is a BEA ARC. Apparently the published copy is going to be pretty different. So, be aware of that. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Annual End Of The Year Book Survey!

Thank you to Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner for creating the Annual End Of Year Survey as usual! This is just going to be a HUGE info dump. Which is why this graphic ended up taking a ton of time, and most of it is a short version of EVERYTHING. Because this is EVERYTHING.

Enjoy!


Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Truthwitch

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Source: Book Expo America
Date Read: 5/30/15 to 5/30/15
416 pages
Rating:  


On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

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

So here we are, months since I have read the book, which I rushed to receive at BEA (everyone else was rushing too!) But anyways, I read the book in May. In one day. Oh, and this is scheduled, because no way in hell would I have remembered anything in December. Ha. So I guess you could say this review is my initial thoughts, seeing as I reviewed it right after reading it. If I were to read it again, maybe my opinion would have been different, but as of now, I really loved this book.

Moving on.

Where do I even start with this book? Fully developed world, characters each with their own backstory, antagonists that aren't just black and white, an interesting plot immersed with politics and magic. OH AND DEATH. Don't forget death.


So here's the thing. Safiya is a Truthwitch, and no one but her best friend Iseult and immediate family know about it. In fact, everyone has been protecting her from the start, which is what gets Safi into a whole mess with Prince Merik. What does it mean to be a Truthwitch, you may ask. Or a Threadwitch? OR ANY WITCH IN GENERAL. For Safiya, being a truthwitch means being able to tell whether someone is truthful, whether it's a statement or the nature of a person. She's considered very valuable because the last Truthwitch died 24353 years ago (random number sorry, you get my point), and come on she can tell what's true from false, and this whole story revolves around politics so who wouldn't want that?

There's also Iseult, who as a Nomatsi Threadwitch, is discriminated by almost everyone. I'm not sure why that is the case because it was never explained (sadly), and I'm also unsure whether her power, being able to see threads of emotion coming out of people, is just exclusive to her. Apparently every witch must have a Threadsister or brother, so that may not be the case.

Honestly, I was so immersed in the story of Iseult and Safiya, and their encounter with the Bloodwitch, Prince Merik, and everyone else, that I never really had the time to fully analyze what I loved (No surprise). All I know is that I couldn't put the book down from the moment I stepped on the bus from NYC back to Boston. Sure, I have to admit some things never got explained, but I'm sure that will happen in the second book. Whenever that comes out. Ha.


Overall, I loved Truthwitch. I loved the world, loved the magic, loved the characters, and most importantly, I love where this plot is going. I can't say whether I have or haven't been influenced by the hype monster or not (probably have), but for now I'll just let that slide.  

Looking for a different perspective? Holly and I are post twinsies for today! Check out her review of Truthwitch here! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #80

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving 
Under My Tree This Year


Before I start, let me thank Creative Market for having freebies every week. They have had some very good holiday ones, which is what I used for my graphic today! (Seriously, take advantage of those weekly freebies!)

So, this TTT is really "All the books Val wants and will 100% buy after Christmas and NOT buy them off Amazon tomorrow because Christmas hasn't happened yet and what happens if her presents were the books she bought off of Amazon and then there would be DUPLICATES and Val would feel bad and everyone would just sigh."

So Santa. I want all the books. I hope that is not a problem. Yes? No? Too bad. 


There is actually a decent amount of diversity in genre when you look at my ultimate wishlist (which I came up with in the past 10 minutes. Don't worry Dad you didn't have to get me any of these, maybe).

First, Holly has been urging me to read Play On, which is CONTEMPORARY. As you all know, I'm not a huge fan of contemporary, but I will make the exception because I've been hearing wonderful things about the author.

And then there's the normal WWII book for the WWII obsessed reader. Ely swears she will disown me if I don't read Anne Frank next year!

In preparation for Remembrance, I will be collecting all the books in the Mediator series. So I need #2 next, and then the rest onwards.

WINTER. NEED THIS IN MY LIFE. It will be read soon. Definitely early next year.

I read an eARC of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but in preparation of The Raven King (!!!), I need this book physically to complete my collection of it. I don't know if you have noticed, but I tend to buy books I have already read just because I need complete series.

Nimona is a graphic novel, and it was nominated in the Goodreads Best Books of 2015. I think it's the same artist as Adventure Time (??), so it definitely needs checking out.

I also need my Batgirl. I also need the first volume.

I read The Kiss of Deception and loved it, so now I need to buy The Heart of Betrayal. Or I guess I could wait until the library gets a copy and put it on hold. If I buy the second book, I HAVE to have a copy of the first book as well.

So this is a weird one, but I've been meaning to get into poetry for a long time now, but never knew where to start. Someone recommended me Catalog of Unabashed Attitude, and it is SO COLORFUL. The theme is life on the farm and in the countryside, I'm pretty sure.

Lastly, who doesn't want Heir of Fire? I mean sure, haven't read Crown of Midnight yet, but might as well complete my collection now.

How about you? What do you want Santa to bring you? (Yes he is real). Did you discover anything new on my list? Maybe add that to YOUR list? Or TBR, that works too

Sunday, December 20, 2015

An Innocent Life #2: An End To The Madness


Hello, it's me again. And this time, I am not quoting Adele. Though I have been listening to her album non-stop. And a bunch of others.

If you haven't noticed, I took an impromptu hiatus due to the sheer craziness that was my Fall 2015 term. I only had a million group projects, a couple of papers, and one exam. And I finally finished and I'm currently at my parents' apartment now.

Except that is a lie. A huge fat LIE. I apparently still have to revise a paper to make it longer and more like what a PhD graduate student would write. I am a little bitter about this. But let's move on.


I received these two books from my wonderful, amazing #OTSPSecretSister, who I know now to be Sara @ A Gingerly Review thanks to my awesome DETECTIVE SKILLS! She sent me Split Second which is awesome because I already read Pivot Point and loved it.

She also got me The Archived which is again AWESOME because I've been planning to read everything by Victoria Schwab. And this in general sounds super intriguing! 

Unfortunately I was unable to take photos of the both of them due to my laziness, and the fact that I am not in Rochester right now. Whoops.


However, I do have my giveaway win from Deanna @ Deanna Writes! It means a lot that you sent Their Fractured Light to me!

Man, life is hard.

Like I said before, I just finished my semester, and I am pumped for Christmas! But unfortunately, I've hit this little slump in blogging, and I guess I am in one of those moods that is killing my motivation?

On the other hand, and what I really want to talk about, is my upcoming interview with a PhD program at my first choice school! I am incredibly excited because 1) the professor really seemed to like me when we Skyped and 2) they are paying all of my expenses to travel down to North Carolina! I hope I don't jinx anything, but unless I completely screw up the interview, I have a really good chance of going there! So BAM!

Christmas is coming up, I even made an xmas card with my roomies to celebrate this fact. And our 8 foot tree (we have a tall ceiling)


If you don't know who I am by now, then you are DISOWNED. Just kidding. I'm the one on the left in the serious photo.

And, I think that is all I had to say? Man I am really pooped. Thanks for sticking by me during my months of stress and academics! It really means a lot! I also got a couple of Christmas cards, and I am very grateful for them all! I will be sending New Year's Eve cards to bloggers I got addresses to but never ended up sending cards to because lack of money.

OH, did I forget to mention that I am going to ALAMW in Boston? Because I am. Is anyone else? I have no idea what books are going to be there, but if you know there's going to be a specific book there and you want me to grab it for you, just DM me (Amber, Holly, Shannon, NOT YOU).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: Not If I See You First

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Publisher: Poppy
Release Date: December 1st, 2015
Source: Netgalley
Date Read: 11/23/15 to 11/26/15
320 pages
Rating: 1/2


The Rules:

Don't deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don't help me unless I ask. Otherwise you're just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don't be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I'm just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn't need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there's only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that's right, her eyes don't work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened--both with Scott, and her dad--the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

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

I was actually supposed to write this review ages ago, seeing that I did finish Not If I See You First before December, but sadly I hit a major blogging slump. So I'm trying to see whether writing this review will get me back into the swing of it.

What initially drew me into requesting this was Parker, our blind main character. I didn't even pay attention to the rest of the synopsis, my mind was drawn to the cover, and went "Oo a blind MC! Yes! Interesting! Request!". In other words, I wasn't exactly expecting the drama that unfolded, but nevertheless, this still ended up being a pretty good book!

Again, I've been known to not like contemporary. So this is me out of my comfort zone. (And also slightly sick).

Parker really stood out to me. Even though she was blind, she didn't let that bring her down. She ran, for crying out loud. If I were to lose my sight, I would be sitting on the couch all day, not sprinting across a field! Her confidence is what really pulled me into the novel. Her motto was "Don't see them, don't see their reactions, don't care about what think about me", and that is a damn good motto to have. She's not one to care about what she wears, except for her blindfolds, which each have a different pattern on them. By sewing on tags with braille on them, she can distinguish between each one, and where the one that suits her mood for that day the best.

And then, the romance. Or the drama. Throughout the course of the novel, we quickly learn that Parker used to have a thing for Scott, but then he ends up being on her shitlist. Now, years later with the merging of high schools, Scott is back, and of course, still in love with Parker. Even though Parker and her best friend have their own little advice booth during lunch, she doesn't understand how much her grudge is hurting the people around her. So yes, even though you can't see, that doesn't mean that people no longer exist to you anymore. Them and their feelings are still there.


So of course, there is drama over that, but it's good drama. It's drama that builds character, especially for Parker. And I'm sure that if I were in her shoes, I would have the same line of reasoning. Yet, even with saying this, as myself, I found it hard to understand how she held a grudge for so long. She had years to let it go. But nope.

I loved Parker, but I didn't necessarily understand her actions or thoughts behind Scott. Which is fine, I suppose, seeing as I am not blind, and that particular event did not happen to me. Neither do I have the same personality as Parker (or have all of those rules). So my rating is more based of my tolerance of contemporary, and my disconnection towards any of the characters. But other than that, this was such an interesting read, and the author did a great job at portraying the scene without the use of visuals. And that's always a plus.

Friday, December 11, 2015

And Now The Blog Is Two!


This day has really been creeping up on me, and with all the fun, high-stress level activities I've been doing, I couldn't get anything intricate drafted up (post-wise). But I also can't not do anything right? Also, I may not have time to mention everyone like I did last year, but if you're reading this, you definitely hold a place in my heart, even if I don't know you, or have never heard of you. You are still awesome. (Hi Dad, I know you're reading this. I hope you bought my christmas presents)

First, let's talk about my goals for the past year, and which ones I have accomplished.

GOALS MET (Whoopee)

1. The very first I can think of, is meeting my blogger friends in real life, Shannon and Holly. And Amber, I hope to meet you at BEA next year! Well, we have to meet. Because you're paying, for 1/4 of the hotel. NO BAILING.

2. Read waaaaay more books than last year. I think last year my goal was 75? Anyways more on that later when the year ACTUALLY ends.

3. Attend BEA 2015. Because I did. And it was glorious. Remember kids, bring a butt pillow
4. Improve my writing. I'm sure I did. Let's just say I did.

5. Achieve really good stats for this year, and also reach 200 followers. This was much better than I ever thought I would do, so that makes me really happy.

6. Met even more bloggers, stuck with the ones I've been friends with forever, just had a lot of fun in general!


Overall, blogging has definitely changed my life. I don't know where I would be without this wonderful, amazing community. As of now, I have been incredibly busy of late in that I have to write a couple of papers, and also finish applying to graduate schools. Just that alone is very stressful. Anyways, I feel like I haven't done the best I could in updating the blog or commenting, but I am here. By next week, I should be back for good.

When it comes to my next year of blogging, I want to improve on my writing (still), and also my posting. Someone needs to hold me to this, and make me schedule all my posts on Sunday. Or else I'll just end up lumping in my bed and not do anything.

So, again, I would like to thank everyone for supporting me! I wish I could offer a giveaway, but I haven't even chosen the winner for my last one, and I already spent tons of money on Christmas gifts this year. But enough on all that. PLEASE, TAKE A PUPPY.


THANK YOU AGAIN, EVERYONE!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #79

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For 
The First Time In 2015

In other words, basically every single book I ever read. Here's a thing you need to know about me. I don't binge read an author all at once, I like to take a break once a while. Plus, most of the titles I've read is due to recommendations from others, or the synopsis, or just a genre I like. To be honest, I rarely read a book because an author I know wrote it (though I think this may change next year, I've discovered so many good authors I wanted to stick with) 

BUT LOOK AT ALL THE NEW FAVORITE AUTHORS I HAVE!


Wow, this past year has been a really good reading year, now that I think about it. There's some here that I didn't even expect to love! Like Red Rising, Magonia, and The Kiss of Deception! 

I definitely urge you to check out all these authors 
I discovered this year!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Does It Matter If I'm Not Professional?


Have you ever thought about the type of blog you wanted to run? Like whether you wanted to aim for a more professional view. Or maybe more personal, with your posts relating to your everyday life. And of course, don't forget the GIFs. Do you pour out all your feelings of a book through a post, in a way that incorporates humor?

It's no surprise that all of us once started a blog as a hobby (and I'm sure this is still the case for most of us). However, sometimes, maybe even most of the times, blogging is viewed as a job. We generally strive to make publishers happy by reviewing ARCs and eARCs on our blog. Yet, is there a "right" way to review a book? Or does it not matter as long as you get your point across?


A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 
BLOGGERS AND REVIEWERS?

I got this idea through Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight, who kind of mentioned the idea of being professional in passing. You've heard of reviews that all authors strive to achieve, the ones in Publisher's Weekly or Kirkus Reviews, or wherever else reviewers get paid to express their opinion of a book (unfortunately I'm not too informed about this area of reviewing). Then, there are blogger reviews, which are made up of a diverse variety of review styles (I do not know if this also holds true for professional book reviewers, so I won't say that that is not the case). I know that I, personally, read hilarious negative reviews by my favorite reviewers and bloggers just to be entertained.


AM I PROFESSIONAL? (Nope)

If we look at my blog, it isn't exactly professional in that I 1) Do not get paid for reviewing books and 2) Do not review books in a serious, professional manner (not that I even know what this means. I guess in a way that is not informal to readers) and lastly 3) Do not have a professional layout (I have a little version of myself up there, I feel like that counts as unprofessional).


WHY THIS DOESN'T MATTER

Yet we still review books. Even though we mostly aim for a more personal connection with our readers, we still get the job of reviewing across. I mean, who's to say that our reviews do not hold as much weight as the reviews from well-known reviewers? Reviews are to express our opinion of a certain book, right? So no matter what review you read, you still wouldn't truly know if you will like or hate a book unless you read if for yourself. There have been a number of times where I thought I was going to hate a book based on a review I read, but then after reading it, I ended up loving it (Notable examples: Red Rising and The Kiss of Deception).

To rephrase, a review's worth should not be weighted by a reviewing style. In the end, we are all reaching the same goal, which is reviewing the book and expressing our thoughts about it. (Even GIFs alone give me a good idea of how the reader felt about the book, and that in itself is amazing.)


TO CONCLUDE, KEEP DOING YOU

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think it matters how you review books, whether it is in a professional, serious, a humorous way, or a combination. Just because your review is entertaining to read, does not mean that your opinion is any less relevant than professional reviews. And you shouldn't let other people decide your style of reviewing. Or let anyone influence how you blog. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #78

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Debuts I'm Looking Forward To In 2016!

I am going to be honest and say that I am surprised that I do not have more debuts that I am looking forward to! Most of the books that I am dying to read are from authors who are already very well known, and have books in a series. Which is why I had a hard time coming up with this list, even though I have access to some of the eARCs for them already. 

Hope you can still figure out the books from the cropped images! Again, titles will not be linked to GR due to sheer laziness.


Also, I have already read The Love That Split the World, which was amazing. I recommend it to everyone!

What debuts are you looking forward to?