Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: We Are The Ants Blog Tour + Giveaway


We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Source: Irish Banana Tours + Edelweiss
Date Read: 1/25/16 to 1/27/16
400 pages
Rating: 


Henry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of The Deathday Letter, fml, and the forthcoming The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. He can be reached at shaun@shaundavidhutchinson.com. He currently lives in South Florida with his partner and dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.





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

What did I just read? Wow. All I can say, is that this is incredibly underrated. I know initially I thought that this would be strictly science fiction, but man was I wrong. Instead, I was hit with the harshness of reality.

Henry Denton has been nicknamed Space boy. Ridiculed for claiming that he was abducted by aliens, he faces bullying in school almost every day. And along with that, he also needs to learn to deal with the loss of his boyfriend, who committed suicide without any warning whatsoever. For Henry, there really isn't anything stopping him from not pressing the button, the button that determines whether the Earth is saved or not.

Although I wasn't expecting a huge focus on contemporary, surprisingly, I didn't mind it. Every character had their place in their novel, from Henry to his science teacher, Ms. Faraci. I grew to love Henry's family, which although a little dysfunctional, still managed to come together in times of need. Like his Nana has Alzheimer's, and it was heartbreaking watching her forget names or people. Then there was also the brother, Charlie, who was such an asshole to Henry, yet still worried about him when he went missing due to the abductions.

And speaking of these alien abductions, it made me wonder whether this was something that really happened to Henry, or if it was a huge metaphor in regards to Henry's view on life. This is something the reader has to decide for themselves, and in this way, We Are The Ants reminded me a little of We All Looked Up. Is the world really going to end? Or is it all just Henry's imagination? And also, was he going to press the button or not?

We Are The Ants is a story of all the up's and down's of life, but mainly the more negative parts of it. Henry blames himself for Jesse's death. He can't seem to move on, especially when Diego comes into the picture. He can't even find a way to reform his friendship with his best friend Audrey. And yet even when everything seems to be alright, life finds a way to fuck it up again. This is life, and you just have to accept and acknowledge it.

Overall, there were a lot of things in We Are The Ants that really touched me in some way, and there is no way I'll be able to put it all into my own words. All I can say is that THIS IS REALLY GOOD, and YOU SHOULD READ THIS. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: The Wrath and The Dawn

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Source: Library
Date Read: 12/10/15 to 12/13/15
388 pages
Rating: 


One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Well, I waited a long time to review this. I'm not exactly sure why? Because I really liked The Wrath and The Dawn. I was drawn into the characters, the story, and I can say with certainty that this is a backlist book that you should get to (in reference to all the posts and people saying they want to read more backlist titles. READ THIS). No peer pressure.

You may not think this, but a lot of things happen in this novel. At least more than I thought. First, our main character, Shahzard, volunteers to be the bride of the Caliph of Khorasan, who is known to kill his brides at dawn after the ceremony. "Why does she do this?" you may ask? Well to get revenge for her best friend of course, who was killed by him. So she has a plan, which is to survive and kill him. By telling him a story that doesn't have an end, she forces him to come back each night, and leave her alive to hear the rest. And although there were a few close calls, she never foresaw that she would end up falling in love. Big whoops there for her.


The characters were what really made this novel. Shahzard was a strong, determined young woman with a thirst for revenge. She carefully scouted out the palace, and tried to find weaknesses in Khalid. But then she's torn on whether she should avenge her best friend, or stay with the killer.

And then, like I said before, this isn't the only plot. There's also a rebellion brewing in the outskirts of Khorasan. Fathers and mothers are tired of sending their daughters to be wives, only to be killed the next day. If I were a parent, I would have been pissed too if my child was slaughtered for no reason at all, so I totally understand their motives. But here's the thing, this rebellion was sparked by Tariq, Shahzard's previous "lover". He is completely convinced that she needs his help, when that isn't the case at all. (In fact he makes it much worse, andddd I hate him, but that's besides the point).


However, at times, I felt a little frustrated because how long could Khalid, our Caliph and love interest, keep his huge, dark secret from Shazi? The build up for it was huge, which was why when it was all revealed, I felt a little underwhelmed. I just thought there would be more to the whole thing.

The Wrath and The Dawn was a great read, and I enjoyed it immensely. Plus, I need the sequel with an ending like that!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #82

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR


So this is a very straight-forward list, and plus most of these books were additions based on the new releases of 2016, so if you're looking for anything new to look forward to, here's a list!


If I didn't go to ALA, I would never have known about A Criminal Magic. It definitely sounds like my kind of book!

I also don't think I would have added South of Sunshine to my TBR, but I attended a panel where the author talked about her book, and I am completely sold. There needs to be more f/f romances in YA, there really does. 

AUTISM IS INVOLVED HERE. So obviously I am going to be reading On The Edge of Gone. This also sounds a bit like The 100, which I don't even watch...really. Sorry.

I have The Haters on my TBR because I got it signed at ALA. And there was no line, so that's mainly the reasoning for that.

SHANNON GIFTED ME RETURN ONCE MORE FOR MY BDAY. It is time travel, and also is about finding your one true love? IN ANCIENT EGYPT? What? Need to read.

The ending of The Falconer sucked, because of a cliffhanger. So when I got a copy of The Vanishing Throne, I was beyond ecstatic. 

I'm slowly reading out of my comfort zone with Learning To Swear In America, so we'll have to see how this one goes.

Mirror In The Sky reminds me so much of Parallel and Pivot Point, so yes I will read it soon.
Denton Little's Birthdate! (Or Denton: Still Not Dead?) I did very much like the first book, and I keep saying Denton's Little Birthdate. I don't think I'll ever get it right.

I'm a little mad that I didn't pick this up at ALA, because Some Kind of Happiness was staring me right in the face, and I didn't pick it up from the floor! Oh well that's okay!

So this could technically be a new releases post, but what did you recently add to your TBR?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Source: Book Expo America
Date Read: 5/29/15 to 5/30/15
240 pages
Rating: 1/2 


Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

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.

I guess after ALL the WWII books I've read, All The Light We Cannot See, The Book Thief, etc., it's going to be hard to live up to them all, and my expectations. And here we are with Anna and the Swallow Man, a short read featuring a young girl, her demon-like companion, traveling through Poland during WWII. Even though I enjoyed reading it, it wasn't the WWII book I wanted.

With her Linguistics professor father (!!!) taken away from her, Anna is kicked out of the store where she usually waits for her father. From there on, it's pretty hopeless, especially since she's young, and has no way of getting back into her home. Until she ends up sneaking up and following a man who can speak to swallows. 

The book is unique in the way that it shows how many languages you can speak in. You can speak a regular natural language, like German, French, or Polish. Or you can speak to birds and animals, but not directly. Or you can speak the way of the road, which is what is emphasized here. Anna learns a lot from the Swallow Man, especially how to survive in a country filled with war.

Unfortunately, I had a couple of problems, mostly due to my preferences when it comes to WWII books, and other books in general. First off, there were tons of paragraphs of just description, rather than dialogue, which is what I wanted more so than the former. But then on the other hand, some scenes would be so abrupt and curt. When someone died, it went something like "And the next day, he was found dead." How am I supposed to react to such a sudden thing?

Due to this, I felt a lack of connection with the story and the characters. I started to crave plot rather than what was happening development wise with the characters. And then, there's the ending. It was definitely one of the most open ended books I have ever read. And as mystical the ending was made to seem, I don't accept it. At all.

In the end, Anna and the Swallow Man wasn't anything emotional, or memorable really. It wasn't the WWII book I was looking for or expecting, and with all the amazing WWII books out there, this one kind of just felt like a copy. (Which makes me sad to say!) NOTE: I don't think this is middle grade! There are some scenes in here that....yeah no it's not.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

An Innocent Life #3: ALAMW 2016, Christmas, And The New Year


So this post is up a little late, but that's okay! Classes actually just started this week, and I wouldn't say I'm stressed already, but I do have a lot of things to do that aren't even class related.

Usually, Christmas isn't anything special for me, but this year, so many people made it the best.


I got two care packages, one from Holly, and the other from my secret sister, which I now know as Sara @ A Gingerly Review. My Mistborn collection is now complete (and I still need to read Hero of Ages), and so is my duology of Pivot Point! And Funko Pops! Yay!

For my birthday, I got a number of books as well, from Shannon, Nori, and Rashika! Look at the pretties!


Right after my birthday, I attended ALAMW 2016 in Boston, where I met a lot of people. First off, Nori stayed with me from Friday to Sunday. With her, we also met up with MC @ Blame the Books. We spent most of the time together, walking around the three rows of YA booths (lol), taking trips to my car to drop off books, and getting lunch. Other bloggers I hung out with were Melissa @ Live, Love, Read, Molly @ Innocence Walker, Brittany @ Brittany's Book Ramble, and also Meredith @ Pandora's Books. I also loved getting to know Laura Tims, author of Please Don't Tell, who crashed our dinner at the Daily Catch!

The main difference I saw from BEA was that everything was much more chill. Authors could wander around without getting swamped, and along with ARC drops, you could also ask for any ARC that was displayed on the display shelf in a booth. There were also barely any schedules for anything other than author signings and panels.

Anyways, here is the huge haul. Good thing I'm getting rid of most of them.


The New Year is actually turning out to be a really good start for me, including the new semester. This year, I plan to not stress myself with things that aren't even in my control, and also not to work too hard in classes and the like. 

This year, one of my classes is yoga-based. But more meditative, and I love it. Even though I've only taken one class, I can tell that I will be learning a lot from it. I'm excited for the other classes too, but I'm in that phase where it's my last semester of senior year, and I just cannot care much anymore. One of my classes prepares you for grad school applications, and I'm like "Why didn't I take this last year when I was actually applying to grad schools?" But oh well.

Other than that, nothing much has happened? Planning to go to Shannon's house again sometime soon! 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: Walk On Earth A Stranger

Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson
The Gold Seer Trilogy #1
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 1/2/16 to 1/4/16
432 pages
Rating: 


Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

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

Hello there! Another September ARC review. But this one I ended up really enjoying a lot, especially seeing how I loved playing the Oregon Trail PC game as a kid, so this definitely brought up feelings of nostalgia. And although it was not exactly what I expected, I'm still excited to read the rest of the series!

Let's start with what's known from the synopsis. Leah, also known as Lee, has "witchy" powers in that she can sense gold, allowing her to bring a little bit of wealth into her family. Unfortunately, those who know of her powers want the gold for herself, which brings us to the murder of her parents. Coincidentally, this occurs right as news of gold in the west arrives, and as her Uncle moves down south to take over. As Leah puts two and two together, she comes up with the plan to disguise herself as a man and run away to California.

As with Shannon, I used to play the game Oregon Trail a lot when I was younger, so I quite enjoyed this novel. From my experiences of a computer game (lol), I applaud the accuracy of traveling across the country in a company. It wasn't like "And then we passed here and here", but more detail was brought to the wagons, and each family in the company. Surprisingly, I grew accustomed to the huge number of characters I had to keep track of, and instead, found a way to tell them apart from each other. Each family had their own characteristics, which allowed me to be fully drawn into the story, as if I were there.


However, I didn't particularly like how unbelievable some bits of the story was. First, the coincidence of Leah's best friend/romantic interest, Jefferson, working for the same family Leah was working for, the Joyners seemed incredibly unbelievable. Both Jefferson and Lee left Georgia to head to Independence on different days. Along with major bumps along the way, it seems a little unbelievable that both of them found each other in the end. The second coincidence, [spoiler] was the presence and confrontation of Uncle Hiriam in California. There was definitely a higher chance that Lee would have never seen him again. But apparently California is not too big of a place. [end spoiler] It's a small world! 

Along with this, I felt that the pacing from Georgia to Independence went a little too fast for me. And then all of a sudden, it slowed down immensely during the time where Leah is with the company. I know there is no way a book could fit everything without being boring or super long, but it felt like the pacing itself was incredibly unbalanced.

Although it seems like these two points bothered me, I overlooked them because of the overall story and characters, especially the transformation of Mrs. Joyner by the end of the novel. I recommend Walk On Earth A Stranger to all lovers of the Oregon Trails, and also anyone who is a fan of Under A Painted Sky. However, while saying this, I do have to mention that Lee's gold-seeking powers are not a major focus of the novel, but rather stay in the background. But this in no way affects my enjoyment of the novel! (But it might for you, which is why I am saying that now).

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Dreamland

Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 12/30/15 to 12/31/15
336 pages
Rating: 1/2


Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once. Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea’s mother is certain are right behind them.

Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she’s had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that’s so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what’s real and what’s not?

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

Another September eARC! Yay! Anyways, I actually liked Dreamland, and I'm happy I did. I will admit, my expectations were a little low because of previous reads, which may be a good thing, because I did not put this book down once. 

What originally drew me into the book, was the idea of walking dreams. You see, Odea (Dea) can walk the dreams of other people as long as she is touching them or has something that belongs to them. If she doesn't enter their dreams, she gets really sick and weak. Ever since she's shown this ability, which is also shared by her mother, she's been told to follow a number of rules, or else they'll come after her. *Cue creepy shadow people from horror movies*

Dea has been doing a pretty good job following these rules, not going into the same person's dream twice, not to be seen in the dream, and lastly, to not interfere. But when she meets Connor, she can't get enough of him. This causes a number of rules to be broken, because she figures "What the heck, mom never told me the reasoning of all these rules, so why bother following them?"


Well it turns out she gets into some deep shit and has faceless creepy dream men come after her (The source of all my nightmares). And not only that, but her mother goes missing at this exact time. And she's been charged with identity theft? Man, what a time to LIVE.

The way this story turned out REALLY surprised me, and I do not think I would have ever predicted the ending or the explanation of it all. Not only did I get a story about walking into dreams, but I also got a murder mystery. Way to get two stories in one book! Seriously, as said before, I did not put this down once because I was so interested in what would happen next. Where the heck did Dea's mom go? Who killed Connor's family? Why are all these dreams dangerous? WHAT IS WITH THE FACELESS MEN (ugh).


Unfortunately, I did feel like the character development suffered a little bit. In the end, I do not really know much about Dea's and Connor's personality, and I felt that their romance was just there, with no justification for it. I also really would have liked more of an explanation to the dream world. A lot could have been expanded on from this, like where do dreams come from? Or how do you escape a dream? And so on.

I am really glad I got to read Dreamland, however, despite some gripes here and there. I felt that the good outweighed the bad, and I would definitely read a sequel if there is one (Is there?). So hopefully, I have that to look forward to!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #81

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten 2015 Releases I Forgot To Read In 2015

I think I did a really good job at keeping up with 2015 releases! Especially since my library had an excellent selection of them all, which surprised me a lot when I first visited. Yet even with saying this, there were some 2015 books that I so badly wanted to read on release day, but it never happened. Maybe I will get to them this year!


I read These Broken Stars, and also This Shattered World, and I was doing so well with reading them around their release date, but I didn't with Their Fractured Light! I even had it shipped on the day it came out! So I don't know what happened here, whoops.

WINTER. I just don't have the book yet, but I will try to get my hands on it! Then I will finally know how everything ends!

Yes Holly, yes I know. I will probably borrow The Heart of Betrayal from the library, as I did with The Kiss of Deception. I'm sure I will not regret reading it hahah. I heard this one was even better than than the first book.

I actually had Red Queen around the release date, but after mixed reviews, I held off on it. Maybe I should read this.

I started Ink & Bone, but then I couldn't finish it in time for Winter Break, meaning I had to go drop it back off at the library. I'm not even sure if I WANT to continue reading it, which isn't good!

I have been meaning to read The Weight of Feathers, but I wasn't able to get a copy until ALA! So I'll have to read that sometime this year!

Uprooted, the hype was strong in this one. Even so, I need it in my life. Maybe I will also read this in the library.

I had an eARC of The Immortal Heights. But did I read it? No. Bad Val. It will happen. Because I do like the series, and I have come so far already.
The Darkest Part of the Forest was all the way from January 2015 (so long ago!), that I almost forgot that I wanted to read it. Now? I'm not so sure. I might still give it a try, maybe.

Oh I almost forgot ACOTAR! Hype was big for this one too! I was planning to preorder it, but then it never happened (??) I think I made too many excuses for myself, oh well.

Is it common for you to preorder books than never read them? How many 2015 releases have you not read?

Friday, January 8, 2016

I Don't Know About You, But I'm Feeling 22


It is my 22nd birthday!

Do I feel any older, NOPE probably not. And it's not like last year where I was finally allowed to drink alcohol (This isn't stopping me from not drinking later today though). I also plan to buy some donuts, and oh, go to a doctor's appointment, at 8am in the morning. Yay. But I think after getting that out of the way, I'll be fine. I'm still not exactly sure what I want to do with the day, but I'll figure something out?

I'm still quite positive I'll be carded for the rest of my life. Which is why when I reach 30, I'll be deducting tip from any waiter or waitress that asks for my ID. SORRY NOT SORRY. (Yes I know that is 8 years away)

Again, because I don't want to JUST post that it's my birthday (that would be so immodest, me asking for your birthday wishes), I'll be providing a couple of fun facts about myself. Also, THANK YOU to everyone that gave me bday presents! I'm planning to post my haul tomorrow!


Here are some wonderful facts about yours truly:

  • I used to be from Boston, but now that my parents are moving to Florida, should I still consider myself from Boston? (I say yes)
  • I am a huge video game nerd. I just recently looked up what 2016 has to offer, and apparently 4 out of the 5 games release on December 30th, 2016? Definitely some sort of joke. That's $240 out of my wallet right there! (I'm sure they'll be pushed back)
  • Every year, my best friend's little sis draws me a birthday poop. I will update this post with the latest birthday poop when I get it, but for now, here are the last two years.

 

  • I am different from most people in that I have two uteruses, and one kidney. Yep. Great huh. I found out last year, and this year I'll be getting surgery, not to get it removed...well, I don't want to get into the details because then it will be really TMI-y. Also, I call them my uteri. I'm sad I have only one kidney. (Shannon made me a great graphic on the "Do's and Don'ts of Val's Uteri", and I would post it, but again, pretty TMI-y)
  • I have already pre-ordered three books for February, and they are Salt to the Sea, Remembrance (MEDIATOR BOOK #7!!!!), and lastly, A Gathering of Shadows (SIGNED!). I am very excited for them all! I would pre-order more books, but I am moving and therefore have no idea which address I need to put down.
  • I plan to buy a paddleboard with all my tax refund money, because priorities.
  • I'm going to ALAMW 2016 in Boston! I actually also plan to go to ALA 2016 in Orlando, and also BEA 2016. This year is going to be fun. Ha. Good thing I'll be buying new bookshelves for the new house (AND MY NEW ROOM).
  • Since coming home for Winter Break, I have already eaten a total of 8 chocolate frosted donuts from Dunkin Donuts and I regret nothing. 
  • I still like brains. It is my major after all.
  • And lastly, I LOOOOVE BOOK BLOGGING. AND MY BLOGGER FRIENDS. You all mean the world to me. 

Thanks for reading! And for those of you going to ALA, see you soon!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tips For The Forgetful (Or Trying Not To Lose Your Mind Over Book Details)


I don't know if it's the same for you, but I often have an incredibly hard time remembering details from recently read books, such as character names, settings, what exactly happened, you know, unimportant things. I don't think it necessarily has to do with bad memory (or maybe it does! Who knows), but more of other factors.

Here's a list of great tips I've started using since 2016 in order to remember what I just read!


1. AFTER FINISHING A BOOK, WRITE DOWN A SUMMARY OF WHAT HAPPENED

In all my drafts of reviews, I have a simple outline that I use as my notes. It comes in super handy when I'm about to write the actual review.


And obviously I'll include pretty much EVERYTHING, including spoilers, and what happens in the end (which is why all of that is bolded out). You never know when you're going to have to read the sequel, which means you obviously have to remember how the previous book ended!

I know some also write notes while they're reading, but for some reason I could never get into that. Although I find the idea appealing, the note-taking disrupting my reading flow. Which is why I just have to trust that my brain will remember enough for me to write my thoughts out in the end.


2. COPY DOWN YOUR NOTES ON WHAT HAPPENED

This is the part where I tell you I actually LIKE the update from Goodreads. Mainly because with it, came a new feature allowing you to have private notes to yourself for each book. This is below the actual review section.
There are still drawbacks to this unfortunately, like having a limit of only 300 characters. However, I rather not put my spoilers in the review, only because I don't feel like editing them to make them fit in, ya know? This is why I try to summarize the ending in just a few sentences, while everything else, like character names and the likes, will be in my actual review.


3. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, LOOK TO SOMEONE ELSE

This usually falls to my blogger friends, or Recaptains. The wonderful people behind that site will spoil you on purpose by recapping what the book was about. This works wonderfully for series starters, where I haven't read the book in A YEAR and I have no clue what happened. Because it was a year ago. So now there really is no excuse to not picking up that sequel.



4. BOOKMARK QUOTES OR PASSAGES

Quotes are the hardest for me to keep track of because, as I said before, I hate when my reading is disrupted. And then whenever I saw a quote I liked, I often told myself "I'll definitely remember this page number" or "I'll find it on Goodreads!" neither of which end up working for me. Which is why rather than taking the time to highlight a passage in my Kindle, or writing out the full quote, I now write down the page number, or bookmark the page in my Kindle. Then, after I finish, I'm free to go back to the page, and VOILA, it is still there (surprise)! Because of this, I actually have a number of quotes I can use in my reviews. And if I need them again, I can go back to said reviews and share them on Goodreads, or my TTTs.


5. NO SKIMMING!

Unless it is painfully boring. Going to be honest, I have this problem. I skim, and I think that is the number one reason I 1) get confused and 2) don't remember. This gets worse more towards the end of a book, where I am just either excited for the conclusion, or I just want to get started on a new book. This year, I want to make sure I know what's going on (unless the book is particularly boring at that point) and not live in confusion just because I skipped five paragraphs of text.


I'm always looking for new ways to remember what I read, especially when it comes to writing reviews. Attempting to write a review on a book I remember nothing about (It happened, I wrote the review, but was overall displeased with it) never ends well.


Feel free to leave more tips below! I hear bullet journals are all the rage these days, and regular journals alike!

There is also this Book Blogging Journal Template if you're interested by Hazel @ Stay Bookish!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Review: I Crawl Through It

I Crawl Through It by A. S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
Source: Netgalley
Date Read: 12/18/15 to 12/20/15
336 pages
Rating: 


A boldly surreal novel from one of the best YA writers working today.

Four talented teenagers are traumatized-coping with grief, surviving trauma, facing the anxiety of standardized tests and the neglect of self-absorbed adults—and they'll do anything to escape the pressure. They'll even build an invisible helicopter, to fly far away to a place where everyone will understand them... until they learn the only way to escape reality is to fly right into it.

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 not exactly sure how I should go about my review of I Crawl Through It. It is an interesting read, one that I'm sure completely flew over my head. Nevertheless, it was eye-opening (I think??), and I think I can say I got the overall concept. Maybe?



Stanzi, Gustav, China, Lansdale. One has completely swallowed herself, so at most times you can only see her organs. Another is a compulsive liar. I'm not exactly sure what were the problems of the other two, but I know it all has to do with the pressures of society. Either way, it is enough to cause all of them to seek ways to escape their problems. Like, for example, building an invisible helicopter.

Throughout the entire novel, I tried to figure out the metaphor. Believe me, I put all my efforts into this, because I knew that this would be a little weird. But every time I got even a little bit close to, for example, figuring out the symbolism behind China swallowing herself, something new would pop up telling me otherwise. And the invisible helicopter? Being able to only see it one day but not the other? I'm just not exactly sure what to think of it? I think the closest I can get in an explanation is that every single event, every character, even the adults themselves, are metaphors.

Now that I think about it, the synopsis itself is what this book is symbolizing. And the whole book is a metaphor in itself.


Yeah I don't know. I have no idea.

So, let me get back to the review and out of metaphor-land. I Crawl Through It isn't for the weak-hearted. It's not an easy read, and you need to have a grasp on the symbolism of the book in order to fully understand what is going on. Or you can just read it literally, that works too.

I don't regret reading this, but I would like to be enlightened. I understand the overall message, but I want to know what the characters and their actions represent. Off I go to read other reviews!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Review: Ash & Bramble

Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 12/21/15 to 12/30/15
464 pages
Rating: 


A prince.

A ball.

A glass slipper left behind at the stroke of midnight.

The tale is told and retold, twisted and tweaked, snipped and stretched, as it leads to happily ever after.

But it is not the true Story.

A dark fortress.

A past forgotten.

A life of servitude.

No one has ever broken free of the Godmother’s terrible stone prison until a girl named Pin attempts a breathless, daring escape. But she discovers that what seems to be freedom is a prison of another kind, one that entangles her in a story that leads to a prince, a kiss, and a clock striking midnight. To unravel herself from this new life, Pin must choose between a prince and another—the one who helped her before and who would give his life for her. Torn, the only thing for her to do is trade in the glass slipper for a sword and find her own destiny.

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

The good news is, that I am only four books away from reading all the eARCs that I requested back last May. The bad news, is that this particular book was, to put it plainly, not good.

You see, the problem is that I am still not exactly sure what happened. It starts out with "Pin", who wakes up as a seamstress in the Godmother's fortress, because yes the Godmother is evil. She forces others to sew dresses, build carriages, make glass slippers, all for the sole purpose of granting the wishes of a poor girl.


Pin wishes to escape, and she somehow manages to drag Shoe the Shoemaker with her. Together, they succeed in climbing the wall covered in bramble (woo book title!), but unfortunately, Pin is caught by the Godmother. And you know what happens? Godmother erases her mind, and sticks her into the story of Cinderella.


To be honest, I kind of understand how the idea came to be, with the Godmother being the true villain here. However, she lacked a motive. Why bother with setting girls up with princes? And why the entire army of seamstresses and candlemakers, shoemakers, etc. Why need all of this if you yourself have magic? I simply did not, could not, accept the concept that fate was keeping everyone from doing whatever they wanted.

Even without this, the beginning dragged on immensely. Until Pin and Shoe escaped the fortress, nothing much happened. Much of the book consisted of huge blocks of description, rather than dialogue, or anything else really. I ended up skimming most of the book simply because I was not invested in either the story or the characters. 

Le sigh. Unfortunately, I could not get into Ash & Bramble. I just have so many questions regarding everything, especially with the explanation of the "true villain". Could there really be no better explanation to the motives of the Godmother? (It almost reminds me of the TV show Once Upon A Time). Anyways, I'm just really glad I'm finished with this book, and I can move on better ones. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

SST Review: The Love That Split the World

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Source: Sunday Street Team
Date Read: 11/5/15 to 11/9/15
400 pages
Rating: 1/2


Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository


Emily Henry is full-time writer, proofreader, and donut connoisseur. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. She tweets @EmilyHenryWrite.

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 incredibly happy that I will be starting off the new year with a review of The Love That Split The World, which, in my opinion, lives up to the hype. Although it may seem like a contemporary based on the title, it incorporates tons of sci-fi-esque elements. And that is what really got me hooked. 

Let's start with Natalie, our main character who suffers from what numerous therapists call hallucinations. Every time she has an episode, she meets an old lady who calls herself "Grandmother", who knows everything about everything. She warns Natalie of the future through her cryptic stories, all so that she can save the one she loves.

And this is where Natalie meets Beau, or more specifically, finds him. Both find each other an anomaly, seeing that 1) Beau is visiting from "another" Union, Kentucky, and 2) Natalie does not exist in his world, yet everyone else does. And this applies to Natalie as well. The both of them find ways to travel to each other's worlds, however, what will happen when they no longer can?


I flailed, I cried, I was inspired, I felt torn apart by all these feels. This entire book was too much for my poor heart, and yet I would read it again. I adored the uniqueness of the story, the fact that this wasn't strictly a contemporary, but it also didn't drown me in scientific terms.

Also, the novel did not skimp out on characterization. Natalie, as a Native American adopted by another family, has never felt like she belonged. She always aimed to not be a burden to her adopted parents, trying to find a way to validate who she was as a person, and to see herself reflected in other people. But when that doesn't happen, she isolates herself. Her therapist Alice, or really a research professor interested in Natalie's hallucinations, plays a huge role in getting Natalie to realize this about herself.

"You're not missing something. You're not broken. Your grand identity will not be revealed to you like a bolt of lightning. It's okay to be scared. Your big feelings are powerful. But it's not okay to hide, especially when what you want more than anything is to be known. Don't shut down. Stick this out. Woman up, tell your parents what you're doing, and stay until we finish this."

Natalie has a best friend, named Megan. It was fun to see the different personalities of Megan when coming to and from the different worlds. Without Natalie, Megan was somewhat meaner, and less fun. And also, surprise, in a relationship with Natalie's current boyfriend, Matty. However, with Natalie, she was much more funny, entertaining, and an overall great friend.

Miss you so much it hurts.
Seconds later, she texts back, The feeling is mushrooms, followed by a second text reading. Yes, autocorrect, I meant to say mushrooms, not mutual. Good catch.

In this regard, the book really reminded me of Parallel by Lauren Miller. Except that rather than decisions, the future changes based on whether a person exists or not.

Then, there's Beau. I fell for their relationship hard, and in the end I sobbed bucketfuls. I did not think that there could be a book that would make me feel all these emotions, whether it was laughter, happiness, frustration, or just TEARS. Like who has the right???


Speaking about frustration, the explanation for everything is about seven pages long, both front and back. Although this is the only gripe I have, reading this in the middle of the night hurt my brain a little bit. None of it really made sense until I went back to it again later for another read through. Yet even with that, I had to write out a bunch of notes to fully process why everything was the way it was.

To sum up my somewhat long review (how did it turn up like this?), you must read this book. The uniqueness, the feels, the characters, all of it outweighs the bad, which wasn't even that bad in the first place. I'm sure that after you read this, you'll come back here in tears and ask "Why would you recommend such a book to me Val? WHY", and I'll just be sobbing with you. Still.

This review of The Love That Split the World was made possible by Sunday Street Team! (And readers like you. Get it?)