Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review: The Way I Used To Be

The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 3/20/16 to 3/23/16
384 pages
Rating: 


Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.

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

Oh, this is an incredibly hard review to write. Not because I didn't like it, but because it was on the subject of rape. I do not think I can review this properly, seeing as I have never experienced such a situation.

Once upon a time, when I was in 6th grade, I read this book called Speak. And at that time, I didn't get it. Speak was the first novel I read that tackled the issue of rape and it shocked me because I didn't know that something that horrendous could happen in real life.

Well, now I do.

And that's where The Way I Used To Be comes along, because we actually feel the frustrations of Eden. It really isn't surprising that many rape victims today keep quiet about the crime. Because who would believe them? Or so they've been told. Eden is put in this same situation when her brother's best friend, and family friend really, comes into her room in the middle of the night, and rapes her. When she's 15 years old.

It's really heartbreaking.

And throughout the entire story, we have to watch Eden transform into someone she isn't. Watching her struggle for four years hurts, especially with this huge weight bearing down on her.

And here is why I can't review or really criticize the novel. My frustrations with the main character feel invalid. I do not know how it feels to be raped at such a young age. How can I criticize her for not saying anything, when millions of other women suffering from abuse or rape are struggling to say anything either?

The Way I Used To Be isn't easy to read at all. You will be frustrated at Eden. You will be frustrated at her friends and how they slut-shame her at times. You will be frustrated at how she copes with it all. And you will definitely, most likely be frustrated at how she handles her relationships.

Yet even with its frustrating moments, The Way I Used To Be is an eye-opening read that I recommend to everyone.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: Burning Glass

Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 3/4/16 to 3/13/16
512 pages
Rating: 1/2


Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.


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

Burning Glass is tough to review. On one hand, I was extremely hesitant to read this because it was 500+ pages, and it didn't seem worth it with all the mixed reviews. But then on the other hand, it did exceed some of my expectations.

Sonya is an empath. She can feel all the emotions around her, but hasn't mastered controlling them yet. This leads to the reader being thrown right into the action, with Sonya burning down the building housing pretty much ALL of the Auraseers. So when the emperor comes to collect the eldest Auraseer to help protect the kingdom and himself, there is only her. And life begins for Sonya in the palace.

The beginning of Burning Glass was a little tough to get through. After the whole affair of accidentally killing everyone (fun fun!), we see the life of Sonya in the palace, and how she has to conceal her emotions for the elusive Anton, the emperor's brother, in front of the emperor. And then the emperor himself has these crazy mood swings, and it's never really evident as to how he'll act in front of Sonya.


There's also Anton, and his whole history with him being the true heir, while his brother is just a fake. The relationship he had with Sonya was more so on and off. It was obvious he cared for her, while also holding back because he didn't want to get her involved. On the other hand, Emperor Valko wants Sonya and he claims to love her, and it's just pretty uncomfortable. And a little boring. Most of the book is Sonya's thoughts about how she's going to figure out Anton's secrets while manipulating the Emperor. So again, not much action really.


It isn't that I hated Burning Glass, but more that I never connected with the story. Most of what happens occurs in the palace, which bored me a little. Also, I couldn't help but think of how Shadow and Bone did a better job with this type of plotline (though I will admit that Burning Glass is definitely its own story).

It is hard to pinpoint exactly what I did not like about this book, maybe it was the romance, or the plot itself, or just the disconnect from the characters. Either way, if you can make the time to read 500 pages and think it's worthwhile, I say go for it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review: Wink Poppy Midnight

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 1/12/16 to 1/14/16
352 pages
Rating: 


Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

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 read this awhile ago, back in January, and it is definitely safe to say that it was quite different from what I was expecting. As the release date for Wink Poppy Midnight came closer and closer, I kept seeing a lot of positive reviews, which made me think "Yay that's really awesome for them, BUT HOW ABOUT ME? Did we both read the same thing?"

I think my main problem with it all, was the point. Apparently it flew over my head.


You see, Midnight used to like Poppy, but was done with her after realizing she was just using him. Yet, once he moves on to Wink, Poppy becomes jealous and tries to win him back, by oh you know sneaking into his room to do the naughty. Even though he is somewhat already involved with Wink.

For some reason, Wink sees all of this as a fairytale, where Midnight is the hero and Poppy is the Wolf. Or something. Which yes, does make sense. Especially since Poppy is such a bully and convinces Midnight to tie Wink to a piano in an abandoned mansion. WHO DOES THIS?

I'm not exactly sure where to start with this. I could probably say I was confused. And if you did read this, then I can tell you that I just did not get the point of it all. Why go through all of that if it's only going to be a lie? What was the point? I understood the book until I did get to that point where everything fell apart for me. Yes, I get HOW it happened, but WHY?


I suppose I could say that I liked Wink Poppy Midnight because it was different. The story itself wasn't written in a straightforward manner, in that it could be interpreted in a number of ways. Sadly I do not think I understood any interpretation. But maybe you will? I'll probably head over to Goodreads and read some reviews to see if I can wrap my head around it.

So, review is short today. I don't think I have anything else to add on here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: The Serpent King

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 3/15/16 to 3/18/16
384 pages
Rating: 


Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.


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


Let me tell you what I found myself with after reading this book.

1. A stuffy nose
2. Red eyes
3. A damp pillow
4. A shirt covered in my own snot

Now, did you think I asked for any of that? NO. I didn't even ask for a goddamn contemporary, yet here we are. That's right, newsflash, The Serpent King is NOT fantasy, the cover lied to me.

Yes, I'm overreacting, fine. It's like on one hand, I REGRET reading this because I am SO SAD, but then I don't because this forever changed me. Forever. I didn't even know I could cry while reading contemporary YA. HOW.

And I don't even know how this book affected me so much. Like Dillard Early, the son of a pastor who is now in prison due to child pornography. Everyone blames him for the situation his father is in, saying that he's the one who downloaded the porn. But all Dill wants to do is write music and hang out with his best friends Lydia and Travis. But Lydia is busy planning to leave buttfuck nowhere with her successful fashion blog and head up to NYU for college. Travis just wants to talk to his online friend and girlfriend about his favorite fantasy series, Bloodfall.

They are really the perfect group of outcasts. And I can relate to all of them (except maybe not Dill, and I don't live in the South).

But there is a lot happening in this book. The relationship between Dill and Lydia is a little tense because for one, Lydia is LEAVING. And of course, Lydia constantly tries to convince Dill to leave as well by applying for college, which is no easy feat especially when your family is in a ton of debt. And yes, it DOES hurt when your friend has a way out and you don't, especially for Dill. And the same goes for Travis too, who has to live with his shitty, abusive father.
"I can't. I just can't. And all you're doing is making me feel worse about my life. You're telling someone in a wheelchair 'Walking is awesome. You should get up and walk'. It's not that easy"

Plus, Dill is struggling with his faith. And I can tell you right now that this book handles it perfectly There's no preaching, yet also no outright denial. Dill takes what he has learned from his faith, and interprets it in a way that applies to him and his future.  

I don't know if you can tell by this review, but my emotions are everywhere. I felt A LOT for the characters. I also cried for a solid one hour after finishing. This may be the sixth book I've ever cried over in my life.


What else needs to be said? Let's see.

You definitely need to read this book. I'm sure you'll connect with Lydia (unless you're not a book blogger, though maybe you still will). And the same for Travis and his love for reading fantasy novels. 

You'll probably need tissues at some point. Or not if you're heartless.

Oh, and you can thank me after you're done. Yes? Yes. You're welcome.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

An Innocent Life #6: Spring Break (Where I'm Not Stuck On A Zipline)


Hello there! It's been a week since Spring Break, and I think this was the most work I ever had since the semester started? I mean, when it comes to my classes.

When it comes to bookish news in my life, I don't think much happened? I took a couple of great pictures over break though!

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


Kelly @ Diva Booknerd came up with this great, sensational tag #randominstragramprop. All it requires is a random prop, and a book! Sure, man stuck on the zipline may not be the prop you're thinking of, but anything goes!

Also, poor guy was stuck up there for about 2 hours before he was rescued by the Special Tactics team.

---

Holly @ The Fox's Hideaway is featuring a BUNCH of authors during her March Madness event. You should check out all of her posts!

Geraldine @ Corralling Books discusses why she rarely participates in TTTs. I used to participate in all of them, but now I only do the ones that interest me.

Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings asks what would happen if our default was to DNF. I try to get to at least 100 pages or 25% of a book before I call it quits!

Nick @ Nick & Nereyda's Infinite Book List reminisces about her young, little self, AND SEX (in YA books). I haven't read many contemporaries, but I think it would be really cool if the birth control pill was present in novels. I mean, it is pretty common, right? Especially for period pains.

Nereyda @ Nick & Nereyda's Infinite Book List gives tips on how to keep up with commenting, or just mark everything as read because ain't nobody got time for that. Just kidding. But seriously, I do not. I mean at least I try?

Along those lines, Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight features a Fine Line post, about whether commenting is either nice or necessary. I think it is nice :) But not necessary.

Jessica @ Bookish Serendipity gives us a detailed guide about how to move to self-hosted Wordpress for only $24, thanks to sales! It is very tempting.

Lastly, I want to bring attention to my own discussion I had recently, about whether it is ok to love problematic books. In regard to what has been happening on Twitter lately, I think it is pretty relevant.

Spring break in Florida was a ton of fun. I actually spent my time there with both of my housemates, going to St. Augustine, the beaches, and just chilling by the pool damaging my skin. As much as I like the community my parents chose, there is really no one else my age around. This will be a problem during the summer, where everything is 30 minutes away by car, and everyone is a high school student or younger. Or old.

Which is why I have decided that I will be adopted a dog from the shelter. And then bring him or her up to grad school, because why not.

I feel like I have the habit of making excuses to not do things because I'm afraid I'll run into problems in the future. For example, I kept thinking that I had a choice of adopting a dog vs. spending time back in Boston with my best friend. I thought that if I made a commitment I wouldn't be able to do another, and now I'm starting to realize how untrue that is. I'm tired of having to make excuses for not doing the things I want to do, which is why I need to STOP. And you know, adopt a doggy.

So that will happen in a couple of months. Also, what will be happening pretty soon is surgery! Fun fun. (But not really). At least I'll be going home and doing absolutely nothing for two weeks! (Definitely a lie but I can dream).

How is your March going? I just finished The Serpent King and bawled like a little baby!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hello, It's Me. Your Current Obsession, Hamilton


Hello friends. You see, I have been tagged to do this by a couple of my friends, but mainly, Amber @ YA Indulgences, who can quote Hamilton with her eyes closed. So, Amber, this tag is dedicated to you. Thanks for forcing me to listen to Hamilton and making me somewhat, semi-obsessed.


The Room Where It Happens
A Book World You Would Put Yourself Into


I do think that the default option would be the world of Harry Potter, but I wanted to be different this time. And really, why not go to Roshar and have my own Shardblade swords and armor. Ugh I really need Words of Radiance now, off to check how much it is on Amazon.

The Schuyler Sisters
An Underrated Female Character


I feel like this book itself is pretty underrated, which is why Cas is underrated as well. And she doesn't deserve to me! She is a freaking badass, training that Reckoner.

My Shot
A Character That Goes After What They Want and Doesn’t Let Anything Stop Them

Honestly, I did not necessarily love this book, but I do not deny that Madeline stopped at nothing to get what she wanted, which was to meet with Olly. And also go outside. And do all those fun things that would get her killed because allergies. But still, she did it.

Burn
The Most Heartbreaking End To A Relationship You’ve Ever Read

 

Oh I didn't even have to think twice about this one. Both of these books feature horrible, heart wrenching ends to friendships, and I cannot EVEN. I cried, so so hard. It was bad. 

You’ll Be Back
Sassiest Villain


So no, I don't really know if this counts as "sassiest" villain. Neither do I think Holland is the true villain, but hey, at least it fits in the song title, amirite?

The Reynolds Pamphlet
A Book With A Twist That You Don’t See Coming


What even WAS this book? So much unpredictability. And nope of course I did not see that ending at all. I know Dangerous Girls holds a place in my heart for being the most unpredictable and shocking, but you know, this almost tops that.

Non-Stop
A Series You Marathoned


I don't ever marathon series. Unless it was when I was a small middle schooler, because in that case, it would be everything Meg Cabot.

Satisfied
Favorite Book With Multiple POVs


Here is a recent one I read! I pretty much loved every single POV in this fantastic World War II story, except Alfred's, because he was just weird. I never really understood why he was in the novel in the first place, but oh well that's ok!

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?
A Book/Series You Feel Like Will Be Remembered Throughout History


Well there is no surprise here. I mean technically it has already. Though I do have mixed feelings about JKR adding more and more content. But for her original Harry Potter series, yes.

Stay Alive
A Character You Wish Was Still Alive


I think everyone and their mom know about my obsession with Rudy and Liesel. So obviously, this is the book I am choosing. I seriously cannot believe the stupid author did that to my stupid heart. (Sorry author, I am getting your book signed soon)

That's it! If you haven't listened to the Hamilton soundtrack yet, WHY haven't you? Also, I'm tagging anyone who reads this. So BAM. You automatically have to do this, no look backs. Sorry not sorry.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Review: Into The Dim

Into The Dim by Janet B. Taylor
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 3/8/16 to 3/10/16
432 pages
Rating: 1/2


When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.


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

I am a pretty sad munchkin today. You see. I have been anticipating Into The Dim since 1994, okay, summer of 2015. I anticipated it so much, that I sent in my very first galley request via email, to the wrong publishers of course. I have been rejected twice on Edelweiss for this. But FINALLY, I got an eARC through Netgalley, though it was Read Now. Then, I asked for this same book at ALA, and got the last copy of it! With the other cover too, not this one (I don't like this cover, sorry).

But here's the point to my rambling. I really, really wanted to read Into The Dim. And I stopped at nothing to get an ARC of it. And at the end, here I am. Disappointed. Well not entirely, but a lot.


Hope Walton just lost her mother to an earthquake, and she's devastated. Fully convinced that her mother did not die, she stops at nothing to get the answers she needs, even if that means traveling to Scotland to meet the her mother's family. The one that, apparently, can time travel. And no, her mother isn't dead, but alive in another time period. Which is why Hope, and her new friends, need to find her before the other rival family catches up to them. Which, too late, they did.

I guess I'll start out with what I did like. Traveling to the 12th Century was cool. I really liked learning about that time period. I didn't know who Eleanor of Aquitaine was until, well now, when I looked her up. The plot itself was engaging, though I do admit the beginning was a hella lot of info dumping and just slow.

And the characters. And the romance. The romance itself was not necessary, like I do not care about this Bran character. And I'm positive that Collum will be an added love interest later in the series, just to make a love triangle. No I do not want.

Also, the entire story was fairly easy to predict. I didn't like Hope as a character, she just didn't connect to me at all. And she seems to be fairly judgey of others, and OH has eidetic memory in that she remembers everything and is super knowledgeable. And don't forget the usual "beautiful but doesn't know it" characteristic.


I don't want to go into the time travel. I don't know how to explain it, and apparently Nikola Tesla was involved? Again, it was an info dump.

I'm sad. I am. I think this is one of the worst time travel books I have read. And you know what else? I kept relating it back to Seeker, a book I absolutely loathed last year. And that just didn't sit right with me, and the more I think about Into The Dim, the less I like it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Review: Kill The Boy Band

Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Publisher: Point
Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 2/22/16 to 2/24/16
320 pages
Rating: 


Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band.

We didn't mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he's tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it's Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn't be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group.

We didn't mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn't. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that's what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.

How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell.


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 not expecting Kill The Boy Band to be one of my 2016 favorites. First of all, it's contemporary, but then again it's not romance so I guess it had that going for it. Second, it was completely unpredictable and weird, but in a good way. And third, it was about boy bands. I don't really care for boy bands, neither have I been fans of them.

The interesting thing about this book is that the main character's name is never mentioned. The entire story is told from her point of view, as she describes the events that transpired between Erin, Apple, and Isabel and The Ruperts. Or more specifically, one band member, Rupert P., who is "accidentally" taken as hostage. Really, what happens from there is hectic, and then it turns into a murder mystery. This book kind of reminds me of a satirical version of Dangerous Girls, in that you have NO IDEA who the culprit is.

And the main character, who gives out fake names to everyone who questions her, like Sloane (I'll be calling her Sloane from now on), is running around trying to reason with the girls about all of this, especially when things go from bad to worse. The dynamics between her and her best friend, Erin, changed throughout the novel as well.

I think I'm just going to come out and say that I did see a couple of problematic issues in it (which inspired my problematic issues discussion post!), but it didn't really affect my enjoyment. 

This review is just incredibly hard to write because I rather not spoil anything, it's really just better to go into Kill The Boy Band blind and read it for yourself. Overall, all I can say is that this was definitely an adventure, and I was not expecting it at all!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Review: A Study In Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 2/28/16 to 3/4/16
336 pages
Rating: 


The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.


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

I read A Study In Charlotte because I was a tiny bit obsessed with BBC Sherlock. Or at least I was, back a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, this just was a tad bit too similar for me to enjoy it to the actual TV show. However, the problem with me saying this is that I have no idea whether it is because the book is based off of the original Sherlock Holmes, which is what the TV show is based off as well. I think I will just have to go with my gut.

Basically, I felt as this book was just a teenage version of BBC Sherlock, but with Sherlock as a girl. So we have Charlotte, who is from a long line of Holmes, and then we have James, who is from a long line of Watsons. The two coincidentally meet at the same boarding school. From there they are dragged into a murder mystery that incorporates the original Sherlock Holmes, using hints from each of John Watson's books about Sherlock Holmes.


I will be honest and say that I did enjoy reading about James Watson and Charlotte Holmes. I liked their interactions, and Charlotte felt a little more human to me than the BBC Sherlock version. Although there were times where she seemed a little distant, she didn't hide her friendship with James. Plus, things actually seemed to affect her. And she held guilt about her past actions.

On the other hand, there were a couple of things that were keeping me from loving this.

The first is that like I said before, this seemed a little too similar to BBC Sherlock. Charlotte did drugs as a coping mechanism. Her brother was overly protective of her. Also, I could have sworn that someone told me that in the original Sherlock Holmes, he died in the short story "The Final Problem"? Oh I just looked it up, and Conan Doyle was eventually persuaded to revive Sherlock Holmes. Nevermind!

The second, is that having actually GONE to boarding school, this is NOT an accurate representation of it. I should be used to this by now, because a lot of authors (*cough* John Green) have used the boarding school plot device. Newsflash. You CANNOT do anything you want in boarding school. You can't even have a car unless you are a day student. And even then you cannot drive a boarder without suffering heavy repercussions. And there is NO WAY you would be able to sneak OFF CAMPUS during the night. Nope. Anyways, I felt that I should mention this at least, seeing as I found it all highly improbable.


I think overall, I just felt meh about this. Maybe it is because I don't like Sherlock Holmes as much as I used to, or that I am just not familiar with the original story, especially since I didn't appreciate how the author incorporated the original Sherlock into her story (which was great by the way, I just didn't care? I'm sorry). I thought that the mystery was really well done, but I think I was just in the wrong mood for this book.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: Beyond The Red

Beyond The Red by Ava Jae
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 2/28/16 to 3/4/16
360 pages
Rating: 1/2


Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.


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

I went into Beyond the Red expecting science fiction, similar to Red Rising. Unfortunately, what I got was a hell more romance than I expected. Like what. This is not the book for me! No no no no!

Sorry about that. But I don't want to write it off completely! Beyond the Red started out strong, with an opening of Eros being kidnapped, to rushing back and defending his family, and later to the reveal of his lineage, half-Sepharon half-human. Yet, after his capture, everyone sort of went downhill for me. You see, Kora is struggling to rule the throne as queen. She doesn't trust anyone, which is why she took on Eros as a bodyguard in the first place, because he really has no allegiance to anyone. His friends were all killed, neither human nor Sepharon likes him because he wasn't even supposed to exist. It's kind of sad when you think about it really.

I guess here is where I ran into a couple of problems, which I'll just list out below.

The first is that, there is a lot of romance. And a lot of talk about appearances and exposed skin and I'm just sitting here like "Ok.....this is kinda awkward for me." I think this was the first YA I have read that mentioned it a lot, and I just felt extremely uncomfortable with it. I feel bad for saying that the attraction (and love I suppose) between Eros and Kora seemed to only be based off of physical appearance, only because I didn't connect with the characters at all and probably missed something because of that.


Second, I didn't really understand much of the world, or why things were the way they were. There was a lot to take in, such as new terms and names of this new planet, which isn't Mars apparently. However besides that, I could not wrap my head around why Kora's kingdom was in disarray. Or why she had to marry at all. What was marriage going to do? She still could be assassinated and have the crown taken away from her.

Speaking of said marriage, I have no idea why Serik, the neighboring prince offering to marry Kora, even saw in Kora. Okay, this may be a lie in that I think I have a sense, but he mentioned the "L" word so, so easily. Like where did that come from? It's been maybe, two days at the most? Not even?


Third, the synopsis ruins the entire book, basically. I mean, Kora doesn't get framed for the assassination until 60% into the book, and that is in the synopsis. I thought that was going to happen within the first 10 or 15%! Imagine my surprise when it's still about Eros being handed over to Kora.

The more I think about it, the more I didn't like Beyond the Red, which is a shame because I felt that it just wasn't a me book. It had a ton of romance, which is not something I was expecting at all. Yet it wasn't all that horrible. I at least tolerated it, plus there was a decent amount of action when Eros and Kora were not thinking about how they can't have one another because of class/race/etc. I'm sure that 50% of the book were just their thoughts, it was a little frustrating to read the same thing over and over again. Like yes, I get that your relationship is forbidden or frowned upon or whatever. Get on with it!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Review: The Smell Of Other People's Houses

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 2/25/16 to 2/28/16
240 pages
Rating: 


In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled.


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 completely taken by surprise by The Smell of Other People's Houses, which I will now dub as "Smelly Houses", because I can, and I am not sorry.
I've realized over time that houses with moms in them do tend to smell better. If I close my eyes, I can just barely remember my mother's wildflowers in their whiskey bottles. The very distant scent of my parents lingers in my brain, as they laugh and twirl around the kitchen.

First glance at the cover, and it reminded me of Station Eleven, and of course I thought that I would be reading something similar. Luckily, I banished that thought completely, because this is not a post-apocalyptic novel.

Anyways, I think this is a really hard novel to describe. Basically, it follows a couple of characters, Ruth, Alyce, Hank, and Dora, and also features a ton of characters in the background. Ruth is pregnant with her child, Alyce is with her father fishing over the summer, but desperately wants to audition for dance, Hank is running away from his abusive father with his brothers, and Dora won a ton of money, but both of her parents are also pretty abusive. In the end, every story intertwines and meets, and it was intriguing to read.

As I said, I was impressed with the fact that I really liked Smelly Houses. Although I don't have much to say about it, unfortunately, I'm a huge sucker for books that connect everything together at the end. Which is why I loved this.

Though saying this, I do have to mention that you really have to read this all in one go. It's hard to remember what character you are on when you stop and put the book down. This wasn't really a problem in the later chapters when I figured everyone out, but in the beginning, it was bad.

Overall, I don't have much to say, other than the fact that the writing was beautiful, the story itself was short (only 240 pages! No wonder my review is so short!), and all the characters fit together nicely at the end. And that closure made me happy.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Is It OK To Love A Problematic Book?

Shannon and I used the same Canva template today, HAHA

Today, I'm going to be discussing a topic that has been on my mind for quite some time now. And since it is somewhat controversial, or at least I think it is (maybe it is not?), it will be featured as a Fine Line post!

The Fine Line post is a feature I share with Holly @ The Fox's Hideaway, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight, and Amber @ YA Indulgences. It touches upon topics that are either controversial or hard to talk about. For that reason, I will try to remain as neutral as possible. These posts are not aimed to cause offense or target anyone. And more importantly, the reason for these posts is to see what YOUR thoughts are on the topic at hand. Because I am interested in discussion.

Also, please don't be afraid to comment or discuss your thoughts. There's no right or wrong answer to anything I've discussed, and of course you do not have to agree with me on anything. The only thing I do ask is that you don't mention any names or the such. And if you do have a problem with anything I've said, feel free to DM me. Though just remember that I am allowed to state my own thoughts.

And with that, here goes nothing.

--

Very recently, I finished what I thought was a fantastic and hilarious young adult contemporary. I really enjoyed reading it, and it even became a new 2016 favorite. However, it was brought to my attention that there were a couple of problematic issues with it, such as the negative portrayal of a fat character. There was a scene where she ran over to another character and knocked him unconscious, and then another where she sat on said character to stop him from moving.

So here's the thing. I still really loved this book, even with acknowledging the issues in it. So does this make me a hateful person, or an insensitive one?

Or how about if no one pointed it out to me at all? Would you view me as less of a person if I didn't even notice such issues, and you did?

I think there a lot of things we should talk about in regards to this, and I'll list my two views on the situation.

The first, is that unhealthy messages are not the best, and I'm sure most can agree with me on this. From completely inaccurate representations of POC and mental illness, to abusive relationships being romanticized along with mental illness, to negative views of body image, etc., the list is long. We can argue that whenever one of these issues occurs in a book, it sends out the message to teenagers and adults alike that all of these are okay. And in this society, that's not something we want to express.

Plus, if we do not discuss how problematic these books are, more of them will be published. 

But, on the flip side, what if you really liked a book that had a lot of these issues, take for example, Fifty Shades of Grey. I think everyone can agree that it wasn't the greatest representation of a relationship, right? From what I've heard, at least. Yet, so many people loved the series.

The same can be said for the Twilight series. Many have said that it features an emotionally abusive relationship (I actually would not really know because I read the first book maybe 7 years ago? So I forget)*, yet again, there are tons of fans.

But there are so many readers out there, in the book blogging community from what I have seen, that got into YA because of Twilight! So technically, it was a good thing. When I read it 6 or 7 years ago, I remember that I didn't mind the book, and in fact I think I quite enjoyed it. Is it because I was unaware of what I was reading? For example, I know both Mosquitoland and The Love That Split The World were talked about being offensive to Native Americans. Yet I loved both books. Maybe it is hard to see things as problematic when you don't fall into that category.

In conclusion, I personally do not think I would force someone to hate a book because of its problematic issues. However, I would try to bring the issues to their attention (but only in real life to my friends, or my very close online friends). I'm not exactly sure I have the guts (or I guess the time?) to engage with someone online. Tweeting it though, or mentioning it in a review, would be something I would do.

And as to liking a book that has these issues, I would also say that is fine. It's your feelings, your thoughts, your opinions, and no one should be mad at you for it.

Wow, I cannot believe I got all of that out. Anyways...


What are your opinions on this? Do you have any books that you love but have problematic issues?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Double Reviews: *Insert Frustrated Noises Here*

Guess who finally read some 2016 releases that weren't, great? Me. Yes, it was bound to happen, but I guess I was hoping to avoid all the books I wouldn't like? But nope. It happened. And am I sad? Yes I am. But maybe I shouldn't have expected such a thing. Womp womp.

Enjoy my fun, ranty, negative reviews! Yay!

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: February 9th, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 2/15/16 to 2/17/16
304 pages
Rating: 


Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

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

I am really surprised I finished Reign of Shadows. Honestly, I feel like it paled in comparison to all the other books I was reading, plus it mainly focused on the romance, which sure, was fine, but I am not a romantic person!

This was based off of Rapunzel, except Luna does not have super long hair that she uses to tie people up or swing onto things (haha). Actually, Luna is blind. Yet, she can still...do things like anyone else. She just uses her other senses a ton more. It was great to see a strong female main character who was blind, yet still held her own. However, though saying this, I found her ability to do things extremely unbelievable. Like, picking up a knife and chopping vegetables. I don't know HOW you can use your other senses to know where an inanimate object is, and use it to STAB other inanimate objects. There must be some sort of magic involved, because this is just so unbelievable.

And then. The romance. It was...a lot. And not for me. I just really didn't connect with any of the characters, I wasn't invested in the story much. This whole book was sadly "meh" for me, and other than above, I don't really have much to say.




Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: DNF
420 pages
Rating: --

In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.

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

I think all I can say about Assassin's Heart was that the writing was way too dense for me, and I couldn't handle it. I think I was expecting something like Assassin's Creed, but maybe this is a story that for me, only works in video games, where you are actually controlling the character. Because I do have to admit, your whole family being killed because of a sort of rivalry is the plot of Assassin's Creed II.

I didn't read enough to get into either Lea or Val, the whole reason why I requested the book in the first place (haha). Apparently, Val is a huge douchebag, or so I've heard (the character, not me!), and he's not great for Lea at all. But I don't think I got to that part.


I DNFed because at that point, Lea was hiding out in a church or whatever, and she was escaping with one of the Brothers to...somewhere. At that point, I was being hugely info-dumped, and I could not care less.

I do know that Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight liked this, so maybe you'll want to read her review!