Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: If You're Lucky by Yvonne Prinz

Quick Facts
My Rating: 3 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: June 12, 2015

Source: Free review copy from Netgalley

Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Genres: Young adult, contemporary

When Georgia meets Fin, a friend of her dead brother, Lucky, she feels that something is off about him. He's charming, much like Lucky, and perhaps that's the problem: He's kind of taking over Lucky's life. First, his girlfriend; then, his dog, his family. Georgia is the only one who isn't fooled.

As time goes on, Fin's behavior becomes even more suspicious. Georgia, who is schizophrenic, stops taking her medication. Everyone else seems to think that her mind is playing tricks on her - but is that true? Or is Fin exactly who she thinks he is?

This sounded like a fast-paced, action-packed book. I really expected it to be mysterious, intriguing, and wonderful. And it took me a long time to accept that this was not the book I expected. It took me even longer to figure out what, exactly, did not sit right with me.

When we first meet Fin, he is very charming, bordering on love interest. Georgia really likes him, and he has a way of making people feel special and understood. Rather than talking about himself, he focuses on the other person - which, as Georgia observes, is not only a great way to make people like you, but a fantastic strategy when keeping secrets.

I liked the beginning of the book well enough, although I kept waiting for the action. But when things took off, the story seemed to go even further downhill. It's not that the story wasn't interesting, because it was! I love the concept of someone completely taking over the life of someone they murdered, and I love stories about mental illness. The highlight of the story, I think, was getting into Georgia's mind and seeing things from her point of view.

But everything felt predictable. Perhaps it was just me, but I knew what was happening throughout most of the book. I may have doubted it a couple of times, and there was one small twist in the middle that I especially enjoyed. The thing is, there was just not a lot of mystery going on, at least for me.

The writing also felt just a bit lacking. I couldn't figure out just what I didn't like, and I don't think anything was technically wrong with it. I just kept wishing it were more. I felt the same way about Fin's character - I wanted to be more charmed by him. I especially wanted to be more afraid for Georgia when she began questioning him and getting into dangerous situations. But I didn't. When Fin was supposed to be charming, it almost worked. When he was supposed to be creepy, I couldn't feel that at all.

Lastly, the ending. This was what caused the most trouble for me - it didn't feel realistic. And I kind of ended the book thinking that's it? The last chapter kind of started some new plot lines, rather than simply wrapping old ones up. And I'm sure this was meant to give new hope for the future - but I don't think it was handled well. The new bits felt forced and not a part of the story at all, and left me wondering why I should care, especially about a character who was introduced within the last five pages.

So maybe this one just wasn't for me. I'm sure others will pick it up and love it. But I couldn't get past thinking it was okay, nothing more or less.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Official Goodbye

It's finally time. This isn't going to be a long post, because I've explained a number of times now that I'm moving blogs.

Although I was keeping both this and my new blog going for awhile, just posting less here, it's now time for me to officially switch over. I'm very happy with what I've done on my new blog, BookMatcher, and hope you guys will continue to follow and support me over there if you haven't begun to do so already.

I won't be deleting the old content for Kittens and Books, so all the old posts will still be around if you want to read them for any reason in the future. However, there won't be any more new content posted here.

Thank you to everyone who has supported my blogging either here or at BookMatcher, and sorry for any inconvenience this move might cause to anyone! This was just something I wanted to persue and, since BookMatcher is basically a new-and-improved Kittens and Books anyway, hopefully you guys will enjoy my new blog just as much.

That's just about all I have to say in this post, but if you missed my first announcement and want more information, you can find that here!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Two Contemporaries I Cannot Wait For!

It's been awhile since I shared my anticipated releases with you guys, so here I am! I have two contemporary, summery books that I really cannot wait for. These are both books that I'm likely to read the moment they are released.

First of all, we have The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It seems like I've been waiting on this one forever, although I know there are people who have waited longer than me -- I read My Life Next Door a bit after all the hype. Still, I will be buying and reading this the very day it comes out, no doubt in my mind. I've even tried getting an advanced copy in many ways -- I requested an ebook review copy, I've entered giveaways ... Looks like I'm destined to wait until release day, though!

Second is Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith. I have mixed feelings waiting for this one, because I have read three of this author's books. Two I loved (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This is What Happy Looks Like) and one (The Geography of You and Me) was just ... okay. I admit I was pretty disappointed, and it doesn't help that it was the latest released -- which always makes me wary of the next release, of course.

Still, I had such a great time with the other two books that I really want to give this one a chance, and I still am excited about it. While I might not get to reading it right away for those reasons, there's still a good chance I will! And if not, I'll definitely be reading it sometime. (Also, I need to read more of Jennifer E. Smith's earlier releases. Because I checked Goodreads just now, but before then I had no idea there were so many!)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Book Review: How to be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, & Lauren Myracle

Quick Facts

My Rating: 4 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: June 24, 2015

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: May 1, 2008

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genres: Young adult, contemporary



When Jesse finds out her mom has cancer, she's desperate to leave and escape the reality she doesn't want to accept. Her plan is to go on a road trip with her friend, Vicks, to visit her boyfriend at college. She doesn't expect Mel, the rich new girl at work, to invite herself along -- but she offers to pay, so how can Jesse say no?
The three girls set off in Jesse's mom's car, each with their own secrets and issues to deal with. Vicks' relationship isn't quite as perfect as she made it seem, and she hasn't really heard from her boyfriend since he left. Jesse is keeping her mother's cancer a secret. And Mel just wants to feel like she belongs somewhere, but she knows she's really only there because the other girls wanted her to pay.
I really enjoyed this book. The dynamics between the girls were so interesting -- they were all so different, and I enjoyed every one of their perspectives. I will admit that I preferred Mel's point of view to the others in the beginning, but towards the middle I didn't care who was telling the story. I just wanted to hear more about the girls and their trip!
This book also did a great job at balancing a realistic aspect with a fun, summery read. It does deal with a pretty deep topic -- cancer -- but it isn't covered much throughout the book, due to Jesse's reluctance to talk about it.
That said, and I'm probably being contradictory: I wanted something more. I was so interested in the girls, I could have read so much more about their lives. Maybe this is just a sign of how well-developed they were, but when I reached the end I wanted more. Maybe a bit of a deeper story line. Or maybe just a longer book?
I didn't hate the ending -- in fact, I thought it was a really great place to leave off. At the same time, I would have liked to see more of the girls daily lives, more of their friendship, everything else that happened after the trip. (Maybe what I'm saying is that I wouldn't mind a sequel? Even though this does work fine as a standalone?)
Anyway, I would completely recommend this to anyone looking for a great summer read. It has so much fun, so much girl power, and such excellent relationships. And it's a road trip book -- which might be my favorite trope, ever.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Here is the link to the Top Ten Tuesday information from The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read. I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday post in FOREVER, so let's get into this one!

1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This is a series I really should have gotten to by now, especially because I own the first book. (And maybe the third? I think?) I tried to read it once and couldn't get into it, although I did like it -- I was in a reading slump at the time, and just needed to read a few contemporaries to get out of it. And then, of course, I never picked this one up again! (I'm bad at doing that!)

2. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I have absolutely no excuse for not reading this one. It's been on my TBR for years. I've heard countless people talk about how great it is. Yet, I have never picked it up. It's something I want to read, obviously, since I have never taken it off my TBR list. Maybe I'll get around to it soon?

3. A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

The hype seemed to die down rather quickly after this one was released which, come to think of it, might not be a great sign! Still, I added this one to my list when everyone was talking about it, and I still do want to get around to it eventually. It's something that I think I would enjoy, as I usually like stories told in unusual ways. A love story told by people surrounding the protagonists just sounds like such a unique, fun twist!

4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I don't think there is a ton of hype surrounding this one, but I've heard about it enough to consider it a hyped book. This is yet another series that I meant to start ages ago, but never did. I'm pretty awful at starting series, really. It's just such a big commitment when there's more than one book!

5. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

These next few books are going to be similar in that I'm now into the book series that I've started, but never finished. I even reread City of Bones awhile back in preparation for finally reading this series, but it hasn't happened yet! I do have plans, though. I have to be in a certain mood to read these books, for some reason.

6. Spirit Bound by Rachelle Mead

How many times did I say I would finish this series? I don't even want to count! Anyway, it's super hyped. And I want to read Bloodlines. And I need to finish these last two books! (I might toss a bunch of series into my August TBR and see what happens. If I actually finish any of them!)

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

This is, by far, the most hyped book on my list. But look, I'm almost finished with the series! I've just had this last book waiting for me forever. It's just, spoilers. And deaths. I've been waiting until I'm ready for this one.

8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I'm moving into books that aren't on my TBR anymore, now. This whole companion-novel-series was on my shelf for a very long time, but I could not get into Anna no matter how many times I tried! Finally, I found a copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door and tried reading that. But I didn't really like it, either. So I guess this is one time that the hype failed me. Which is disappointing, because I loved Stephanie Perkins' short story in My True Love Gave to Me. So I do like her writing style. I'll probably give these, or possibly any other books she publishes, another chance in the future!

9. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

This one is super hyped right now, with the sequel having just been released. However, I purchased it pretty recently and just couldn't get into it. The narrator seems pretty childish to me, which I have since seen quite a few people say in reviews. I'm likely to give this another chance sometime, as I did buy it (on sale, luckily), but it'll probably be quite some time. Maybe I'll wait until I'm looking for a book with a younger protagonist, and then I won't be so bothered.

That's all I have! I'm sure there are a ton more hyped books that I've never read, but these are the ones that I could think of. I've been pretty good recently at keeping my TBR pile small, and I've been trying not to give into the hype for every single book -- so that's why I couldn't quite meet the ten here! 

Are there any of these that you guys haven't read, either? Any that you think I should read immediately? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July TBR

It's time for another TBR! Last month I began on making big plans for my reading in July, so I'm excited to get into those now that the month has started. In July, I will be challenging myself to read only diverse books. I'm hoping that, by dedicating a month to finding and reading diverse books, it will change my reading patterns. I definitely don't search for diverse books as often as I should. It's something I tend to save for later, when I get through all my books on my immediate TBR. Which, of course, never happens. So I'm starting now!

To begin with the books I'll be reading this month, I do have two current reads. I couldn't wait to start Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda after hearing all the hype, so I started the audiobook in June. Due to my reading slump, I'm still pretty close to the beginning, but making progress! Hopefully I can finish this one soon -- I'll be writing a lot in July, which usually means more audiobooks than text. I guess I get tired of looking at actual words!

The other book I started at the end of June was Far From You by Tess Sharpe. I bought this (first full-price book I've purchased in quite awhile!) as a reward for finishing last months review books, so I couldn't wait until July to begin! I really enjoyed the little bit that I read, but again, reading slump. It's a pretty quick read though, so I can probably finish it pretty fast once I get back into reading it.

And from here we get into the books I haven't started yet, that I plan to read. Although I have many potential reads (all listed on my Goodreads shelf, if anyone is interested), I'll just list a few that I'm most likely to get to here, starting with The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I have been meaning to get to this one for quite awhile, so hopefully it'll happen this month.

Next I really want to read Liar by Justine Larbalestier. This is one I came across just recently, and I'm super excited to get to it! This one is about a compulsive liar. I really like books with unreliable narrators, and this seems to be just that! Micah's boyfriend dies and she has to begin to tell the truth, but how can she do that when she's so used to lying about everything? This seems super great and suspenseful, and I really hope it meets the expectations I have for it.

And that's it for this month! As I said, go ahead and check out my Goodreads shelf for more diverse books that I might read this month, if I get through the four listed here. Also, you can check out a duplicate of this post on my new blog, BookMatcher, where I add in some monthly goals and talk about the things I'll be posting over there this month. 

Also, tell me what you'll be reading! Any diverse books planned for the month? (Or any that you would recommend me?)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In June...

June has been a crazy month. While every other month this year has seemed to fly by, I feel like June took its time and lasted forever. Despite some of the real-life, awful things that happened to make this month so long, though, it was a great writing and blogging month for me!

The most notable thing that happened to me as a blogger is that I'm in the process of moving the blog. (That links to my announcement post that went up earlier this week.) My new blog is called BookMatcher (link to the actual blog, there!), and I am SUPER excited about it. It's just what I needed to get back into my excitement for blogging again, and I'm having so much fun.

Anyway, onto what I read this month...

I read 5 books in June.

I feel pretty good about this, considering how busy this month has been. And it's probably more than I will be reading next month, simply because I'm participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. My goal for that is 60,000 words (I know, I'm crazy for making the word goal higher instead of lowering it), so I'll be writing like crazy next month! 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Weekend Reading (& Goals)

I've been slacking when it comes to blogging and reading lately, so I decided to share my weekend plans with you guys. Hopefully by typing it all out, I will actually stick to doing what I want to do these next few days.

First of all, one of the most important things I need to do is read. I thought I would have finished A History of Glitter and Blood by this week, at the latest, yet I only started it last night. This one definitely has to be finished before July 1 if I want to complete my monthly goal of reading only diverse books. I don't want to fail before the month even begins, but I won't put aside a review book due to a challenge I set for myself, either.

Next, I need to type up some reviews! I'm never behind on reviews, I always write them right away ... And yet, this past month I have let myself put off reviews to the point where I have about three or four sets of notes just sitting around, waiting to be typed into actual posts. And while I know that isn't a lot for some bloggers, for me it definitely is! I never get more than two reviews behind. Last week, I actually had to change my post schedule simply because I didn't have a review ready that I thought would be finished by then. (And I was too lazy to write it, still!)

My third weekend goal is to take some book photos. I've realized that posts on my new blog take much longer. Mostly, because it has made me more passionate about blogging again. I like my new ideas and I want to spend time on them. But also, pictures. I can only take them during the day, when there's sunlight. (At least, if I want a decent picture.) So while I can post reviews to this blog whenever, I have to be more careful about scheduling reviews on BookMatcher. I can't do them so last-minute, unless I have pictures ready beforehand. Which I will, because there is no way I will have reviews ready on time if I don't. I'm a procrastinator!

Finally, my last goal is to keep up with planning my novel for Camp NaNoWriMo. I've come up with some great ideas the last few days and I'm really getting to know my characters well, but I'm lacking some of the research I'll need to write the story -- and I don't want to be spending hours of writing time next month doing research I could have done now. I also need to develop some side characters I've been neglecting.

And that's all for me! What are your plans for the weekend? Is anyone else participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next month? 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Announcement: My New Blog!

You guys may have noticed my mentions of a secret project lately. I've been keeping pretty quiet about it, but haven't been able to help but say it a couple of times. It's very difficult for me to keep secrets, so as an alternative to telling, I tend to just bring it up from time to time. ("Hey guys, did you know I have a SECRET?")

Anyway, I'm not sure that anybody but me will be excited, if I'm honest. BUT, it is huge news for Kittens and Books, because I won't be blogging here as often anymore.

Right now I'm working to move things over to my NEW BLOG, which is called BookMatcher. I would absolutely love if you guys could check it out, although some of the content might be repeated for awhile. (Just until I get things transferred over, and there will also be new, original content in between that you can watch out for!)

I've decided to make this move for a number of reasons. Mainly, I like Wordpress. Since I switched over to Blogger, fairly early in my blogging days, I always kind of thought about switching back. The thing is, Blogger gives me more freedom when it comes to customization - but I think I like just about everything else about Wordpress more.

So I wanted to return to Wordpress. I have also had these ideas in my head for awhile - ideas that didn't quite fit my mental image of Kittens and Books. But I feel they're unique ideas, great blog features, and I wanted to use them. I kept thinking, How can I fit this into my current blog?

BookMatcher kind of covers what I want to do. For some reason, I just really like the concept of matching books to things. Whether I'm matching covers, or taking pictures of my cats with books that they look good next to (which I might have been doing far too often since getting this idea), it's just something I enjoy. It brought back that spark, that enjoyment for blogging.

I can't say for sure when the time will come to end Kittens and Books. As of now, I don't plan on ending it completely - I will still post reviews and discussions, some of which will also be posted to BookMatcher, and some of which probably won't. I really consider two different images in my head when I think of Kittens and Books compared to BookMatcher, so what works for one blog won't necessarily transfer to the other.

Anyway, I hope you guys stick with me and at least head over to check out my new blog. Think of it as a move for Kittens and Books, except I've changed the name and added tons of fun features!

(I will post here again when I decide to permanently end the blog, probably just with a quick farewell and reminder to follow BookMatcher, for people who might have missed this post, and of course to keep you all updated as well!)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Book Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Quick Facts

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: June 6, 2015

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: July 2, 2013

Publisher: Harper Teen

Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance

Elise doesn't really like rich people. Through working at her mother's doll shop, she sees enough of them, and knows that they tend to be obnoxious and self-centered. And when Xander walks into the store, she can tell he has money. She treats him like any other customer, until he keeps coming back.
Although Elise rather likes having him around, she still tries to keep him away. Her mother has warned her about the rich often enough that Elise should know not to fall for Xander, but what if she can't help it? What if money doesn't automatically make a person bad?
My biggest praise for this book is that all of the characters are fantastic - not just Elise and Xander, but Elise's best friend. The best friend's boyfriend. The adult characters. I love seeing great adults in YA books! I love seeing great people in books, generally. It's one of my favorite things.
The romance here didn't disappoint, either. I think it's been too long since I last found a light romance where I truly enjoyed both characters, and really wanted them to be together. While, yes, Elise's rich people stereotype felt kind of petty, I felt their romance was true and so well done, hugely because the characters themselves were so well written. I loved the love in this book!
The story was also near-perfect. It was light and fluffy, without being entirely made of fluff. The characters had their issues that added to the story, and the combination made this nearly impossible to put down. I read it so, so quickly! 
This was my first Kasie West book, but I decided before I even finished - it definitely won't be my last!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekend Reading!

It's been a bit since I last shared my current, weekend reads, so I decided to take today to sit down and share a quick post about my plans! Currently I'm pretty busy, between writing, blogging (I have a SECRET blog project! That I should be sharing pretty soon?), and life in general. So I haven't been doing as much reading as I would like, but I'm going to try and get at least some done over the weekend.

My first read is going to be How to be Bad, which is a novel written by three authors - E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle. I'm over halfway through this at the moment I'm writing this post (Thursday night), so I might finish before this post goes up and the weekend officially begins, or I might have a bit more reading to do Friday.

After I finish How to be Bad, I plan to jump right back into Breakaway by Kat Spears, which is a review copy. It doesn't come out until November, but I loved Sway, her last novel, and wanted to read this one as soon as I was accepted for the review copy! The absolute only reason I put this down was due to a reading slump and the fact that this one is pretty slow paced - but hopefully I can get out of the slump and fly through this one over the weekend.

While I doubt I'll finish my current reads too long before the weekend is over, I do have plans for after Breakaway. I'm going to read A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz, which will be released at the end of July. This looks like another great, but possibly slow paced, read, so I do plan to break it up with either an audiobook or another random, quick read. Hopefully soon I'll be able to read a book straight through, but right now it's really hard to focus on just one! (My slump is pretty much me wanting to read all the books at one time, so it's really difficult to stick to one book! I feel unproductive!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Should Bloggers Follow the "Do Not Engage" Rule?

If you have seen any of the drama concerning authors and reviews, I think you've probably read these words: "Do not engage."

Now, they're always directed at the author. It's really a number one rule for authors who choose to read their reviews. You want to know what people are saying? Fine. You want to argue about their opinion of your book? Don't.

But one thing I sometimes think in these circumstances is, Why does the reviewer keep responding? This isn't to say that these reviewers are wrong, or that they're handling the situation badly. Often times, they're not. I have seen many circumstances when a reviewer (and often times others who have joined the comments) are actually trying to help the author. But in doing so, aren't they making the situation bigger and bigger? Aren't they engaging in a conversation that they're advising the author not to?

Maybe this comes from me being an aspiring writer, myself. I have posted my writing online for a very long time - from the first, awful stories, to poetry, to blog posts. Right now, my blog is the only place where I share my writing publicly. But maybe the rules from before are still an instinct for me.

The thing is, I had that experience in writing communities. Not often, but every once and awhile, someone hateful will comment on your work. They're not there to provide constructive criticism - they just want to tell you how awful the writing is, and move on. I never responded to these comments. And although I have not received any hateful comments while blogging, nor have I been contacted by an author regarding a negative review, I feel that I would do the same as I've always done: Delete the comment, and move on.

This stems from my thinking that my space online is just that: My space. I don't need the negativity. I don't need to argue if someone comes into my area of the internet and starts causing problems. I don't need to tell them they are wrong. I feel it's rather like someone coming into your house and trying to argue. I wouldn't feel the need to explain to a stranger why they are wrong for coming into my home unannounced, and I wouldn't begin speaking to them about why I disagree with any opinions they decide to share with me. Why? Because they are in my space, uninvited. So I'm going to call the police and have them removed from my home. I'm going to press delete, and remove them from my space.

But I understand that this doesn't always work, and that some people just don't want to do that. Some people feel really awful when they ignore others. (I'm one of them, honestly!) Others just want to explain things to the author and give them the benefit of the doubt that they don't know they're wrong. No matter the reasons, I understand that my way of thinking does not work for everybody. I'm not saying everyone should handle things the way I think I would. (Because honestly, this is a hypothetical situation ... Sometimes we act different when we're actually involved.)

I just wanted to get my thoughts out somewhere about this, because it's been sitting in my head for quite some time, and I've finally found a way to put it into words. And I would love if we could discuss this further in the comments. Do you guys think bloggers/reviewers should follow the writer's rule to not engage in things like this? Should reviewers ignore author comments to avoid drama, or do you think authors should be called out and spoken to when they choose to comment on a review?

I don't think there's really a 'right' answer here, just opinions. But I would be so happy to hear your thoughts!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

Quick Facts

My Rating: 4 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: June 5, 2015

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: February 27, 2007

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance

When Jade's grandmother died, she developed a panic disorder - not because they were especially close, but because Jade realized then that people could die. This left her incredibly anxious and afraid to take risks.

After her family moved to the city, Jade began visiting the zoo near her house. She became attached to the elephants, finding them calming to watch, and then started to watch them at home, from a webcam the zoo set up. This is where she first sees the boy. He wears a red jacket, holds a baby, and Jade knows in her gut that he will become part of her life.

I took so long to pick up this book. Back in 2013 - two years ago! - I read the beginning chapters through an excerpt that iBooks provided, and immediately wanted the rest of the book. I must not have had the money on my account at the time, because I didn't buy it. And then I went forever thinking about this book, but not picking it up. Even once I had the full thing, right there to read on my tablet, I didn't get around to it.

I'm a little regretful of that, because not only was it a super quick read, but it was so good. I always hesitate to pick up a book about mental illness, but I think Jade's anxiety was handled well here. Stories like this are so important.

That said, I do think Jade's coping with her anxiety could have been handled better. Despite all Jade does for herself - volunteering with the elephants in the zoo, sending applications to colleges that aren't five minutes away, falling in love - only one of these was given credit for making her less anxious. While her relationship with Sebastian was super important, love is not a treatment for mental illness. It was only one of the things she did to face her fears and to put herself out there, so I kind of hated that Jade mentioned only that when thinking about how much better she felt. I don't feel she was able to 'forget' to be afraid because of their relationship, but because she began to live her life fully and didn't have so much alone time with her thoughts.

Despite my slight problems where it intertwined with Jade's anxiety, though, I really enjoyed the romance. I admit I had my doubts at first - Sebastian had a child, Jade was pretty immature, and there were a couple of secrets kept that left me wondering if they could actually work things out. However, I really adored Sebastian and his son, Bo. And Jade grew so much through the book,

Another great aspect was that so much of Jade's growth involved her family. I love books that focus on family relationships, and I don't read enough of them. (They can be hard to find!) Both Sebastian and Jade had interesting families and I was glad they were included as pretty consistent characters, rather than only being mentioned once or twice. Jade's understanding of her parents grew as she did, and that was wonderful to see. I was rooting for her in every way - not only for her and Sebastian, but for her to repair her relationship with her mother, and to help her little brother through his own problems.

Lastly, the animals in this book were actual characters. Family interactions constantly included the dog - from his reaction when everyone was outside without him, to his sadness with the rest of the family when they're hurting, to Jade simply taking him for a walk in hopes of running into 'the boy in the red jacket.' The elephants also had their own personalities and problems to deal with, and I just really liked this. The little elephant facts that began each chapter were great, too!

Overall, this is a book I waited way too long to read. I had very few issues with it, and the positive aspects far outweighed anything negative. It was such a beautiful story.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Audiobook Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Quick Facts

My Rating: 4 stars

Series: Snow Like Ashes, Book 1

Date Read: May 15, 2015

Source: Purchased audiobook

Publication Date: October 14, 2014

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Genres: Young adult, fantasy, romance


Meira was left an orphan after her kingdom, Winter, was conquered. She is one of the eight survivors now left, and is training to be a warrior. If Winter can only get the locket back, the one that holds the kingdom's magic, they might finally be able to restore their kingdom.

Though her memories of the place are few, Meira has always wanted to do more for Winter - more than she is currently allowed. So when she has a chance to go after half of the locket, she takes it, no matter the risk.

This starts a whole flow of events that Meira couldn't have planned for. Magic is a mysterious thing, and the kingdom of Winter has some secrets itself. 

I thought this was a solid start to the series. The writing was excellent, and I enjoyed hearing about the different kingdoms. The magic system also worked really well, and might have been my favorite aspect of the story.

Throughout the book there were twists, but I found most of them predictable. That's not to say I didn't enjoy them and the story - but I did see a lot of things coming, sometimes way before they actually happened. In that aspect, the story wasn't super original.

There was definitely romance here - a love triangle, actually - but it did not take over the story. Since there were so many more important things for Meira to focus on, it was great to see that she wasn't too caught up in potential love interests.

And Meira did have a lot to focus on. She grew so much, and I found myself cheering her on and feeling proud as she did what was needed for her kingdom. From beginning to end, she definitely matured and found her place, and I felt so happy for her. The story arc was really great, and Meira felt believable all the way through - her doubts, her impulsive attitude, her confusion and realizations. It felt very natural and believable.

Lastly, the ending seemed to wrap things up perfectly. There were definitely enough loose ends to leave room for a sequel, but things came together well enough to make this book satisfying on it's own. (And there wasn't a huge cliffhanger, which is a relief when you have to wait for the next book to be released!) 

Monday, June 8, 2015

#TBRTakedown Readathon Wrap-Up

For anyone who didn't know, last week there was a readathon called TBR Takedown. It lasted the full first week of June, from the 1st to the 7th. This was only my second readathon I ever participated in, and the first one that I really planned in advance. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how me and readathons get along. I love them, but it seems that the moment I think I have that week free to read, life throws a million other things at me!

This was a chaotic week, to say the least, but I did actually get some reading done - way more than I expected, especially considering I skipped three whole days worth of reading. Below is a quick sum that I put together for each day!

NOTE: I read some audiobooks during the readathon, so to calculate page numbers I used the percentage read + the Goodreads page count.

MONDAY, June 1

I thought about staying up until midnight, both to get started immediately and so that I could finish my current audiobook before the readathon began. However, I couldn't make it past ten o'clock!

However, Monday morning I did get started with The Nature of Jade. I read about 80 pages, then had to leave the house for awhile, and didn't get back to reading until later in the afternoon. I managed to get about 100 more pages read, then decided to switch over to my audiobook, The Winner's Curse.

  • TOTAL PAGES: 243
  • BOOKS READ: The Nature of Jade (started), The Winner's Curse (finished)

I did not read at all on Tuesday! It was such a busy day that I just didn't have any time to read until night - and then I was too tired.


On Wednesday I got off to a bad start, because I decided to read some fan fiction instead of the published books on my TBR. Later that night, though, I did start Vanishing Girls and got about 15% through.
  • TOTAL PAGES: 243 + 53 = 296
  • BOOKS READ: The Nature of Jade (started), Vanishing Girls (started), The Winner's Curse (finished)

Again, a non-reading day! I kind of slacked off when it came to this readathon, mostly because life got so busy. (Everything seems to happen when I think I'll actually have some reading time!)

FRIDAY, June 5

On Friday I did a TON of reading. I'm most definitely a stress-reader, and after a crazy week, I read for most of the night. Two of my cats also ran away on Friday, which led to more stress, a sleepless night, and a whole lot of reading. I managed to finish The Nature of Jade, after reading the last 157 pages. I then started The Distance Between Us by Kasie West and read about 50 pages of that before falling asleep.
  • TOTAL PAGES: 296 + 206 = 502
  • BOOKS READ: Vanishing Girls (started), The Distance Between Us (started), The Nature of Jade (finished), The Winner's Curse (finished)

This was another stress-reading day. I woke early in the morning (the cat was scratching at the door, but wouldn't come inside when I opened it!) and then read between searching/waiting for cats. I finished The Distance Between Us and immediately picked up If You're Lucky, which is a review copy I wanted to get to later this month. 
  • TOTAL PAGES: 502 + 360 = 862
  • BOOKS READ: Vanishing Girls (started), If You're Lucky (started), The Distance Between Us (finished), The Nature of Jade (finished), The Winner's Curse (finished)
SUNDAY, June 7

Today was the last day of the readathon, and I was just too tired all day to read anything! I've skipped a lot of days this week (about half of them!), but I'm pretty happy with the reading I did get done. Hopefully I can be more dedicated to the next readathon I try, but we'll see!


  • Books finished: 3
  • Page count: 862
What did you guys read this week? Did you participate in the readathon?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Quick Facts
My Rating: 4 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: May 11, 2015

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: September 9, 2014

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Genres: Young adult, contemporary


Liz is in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Through a not-quite third person, mystery narrator, we get to see the people in Liz's life both before and after the crash. We also get to see the events that led up to Liz's decision to end her life.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is that it made me care so much about Liz, although on the surface she's an incredibly unlikable character. Even deep down, she has her reasons for what she does - but they aren't good enough, and she knows that. It was really difficult to see her bullying progress, and to see her do things she knew were wrong from the start. But I still wanted her to make it out of the hospital alive, and the credit for that goes to the amazing writing in this book. I liked Liz - and the entire cast of flawed, unlikable characters - so much that I was on the brink of tears while reading.

The mystery perspective was really cool as well. It kept me guessing most of the way through the book, and it symbolized so much for Liz. This really was the perfect way to tell the story. There were also 'snapshots' between some of the chapters, in which we got to see a brief few paragraphs of Liz as a child. They were so great that I kept hoping there would be one at the end of each chapter, and was a bit disappointed when there wasn't!

Going back to the characters, I do have to say that I wish Liam - who is a rather minor character - were more flawed. Everyone else made mistakes and had major flaws, but Liam's greatest flaw was stereotyping people. Since everyone in the book did this (and everyone in real life does too, to an extent), I wish he had another defining flaw. I'm guessing he was written that way to make him seem more likable, and it worked, but he could have been more human while still being a good person.

The ending also felt a bit sudden. After spending so long with the characters, and with Liz in the hospital, I would have liked to see more details regarding what happened.

I should also say that this book reminded me a lot of If I Stay. There were many parallels - a girl in the hospital after a car crash, a (potential) love interest who plays an instrument, the best friends who hated each other in the beginning. Both books also switched between past and present tense. Of course, along with that there were differences - the characters here were much different, and more flawed. The suicide aspect added a lot to the story, as well as the bullying that happened before the suicide attempt. They are two different stories, and I loved each equally, but I'm not sure I would recommend this to someone who did not enjoy If I Stay. I also think that the similarities might bother some readers who have read both books, while other readers (like me!) will be excited at the similarities and enjoy both.

Overall, this was a great story with deep, heartfelt writing, and I enjoyed every bit of it. The characters were most definitely the best part of the book, and their abundance of flaws made them seem human and real. The short chapters and various story lines kept me hooked all the way through, making the book almost impossible to put down.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Story Ideas: Write Them Now, Or Give Them Time To Grow?

I think most writers have this question at some point. At the beginning it's great - we get tons of ideas, we probably mash a bunch of them together in our inexperience. Or we write them all at once, leaving unfinished drafts everywhere. (Or you're great from the start and tell one solid story at a time... Who knows?)

But then you realize how many separate, individual ideas you have. You begin to want a finished piece, or at least a finished first draft! But which idea do you start with? I mean, they're all fantastic (or most of them, anyway). You could go with the one you've been working on for two months that is half-finished, or you could start the new idea that came to you in a dream last night.

You should probably let your new idea sit for awhile.

Yes, it's new and shiny. If you give it a couple weeks worth of attention, you can probably turn it into a fully developed plot. Or, if you're not a planner, you can just jump right into the action. And this idea is fun. Right now, it probably looks better than all of your other story ideas combined. The first thing to ask yourself in this scenario is this: If you think of a better idea, will you drop this story for the new one?

If the answer is yes, let the idea sit. That is such an easy way to jump around from project to project, never getting anything finished. And if a finished piece isn't that important to you, go for it! But otherwise? Wait.

The longer an idea sits, the better it becomes.

This isn't to say that writers should sit around writing nothing, waiting for the day they're good enough to do their ideas justice. That's another common trap.

But if you are currently working on one idea, stick with it. Your new idea - the one you probably like more right now, anyway - will only grow as it waits. Keep it in the back of your mind, let the ideas come - don't close yourself off to them, even though this isn't your current project. It might be your next one! (And if you're this excited about it, it should be!)

That said, write down any and all ideas. You don't want to forget what you have in mind. Even if you're sure you will remember it forever, write down everything. Character concepts, scene ideas, the main plot.

You might also find that, if you let your ideas sit long enough, you can combine some of your coolest plots. For example, I have a concept about fairies sitting around right now. The other night I thought of writing a love story between a writer and an editor. These characters and their story were vivid in my mind, and I knew I had to write down at least the basics. Then I thought, which of these stories will I write first? I'm not near ready to write either, but I felt so excited for both at that moment. And I realized, why can't a fairy be an author? An editor? The love story is now planned right into my fairy story, and it's a lot cooler in that setting than it was before.

But, there are times when you should write that new idea right now.

I don't know if this is just me, but sometimes a character comes with a specific voice. They get in my head and I can immediately tell that they need first-person narration. I begin writing my immediate ideas (which usually come with a few scenes that I will write out in full) and realize that the voice is completely unique to what I've written before. And that I want to write more.

If your story comes with a unique tone or voice, write immediately. Like I say, maybe it's just me - but this is the one and only time I have ever regretted not completing a story right away. Because I have a very difficult time mimicking that voice, and many times I can't later on. It's gone. And although I can tell a fine story without that specific writing style, I don't usually want to. The initial voice is better.

The only other time I can think of that you would get to a story immediately is if you don't have any other stories in progress. If you're not writing anything else at the moment, and none of your other ideas jump out at you, write the new one! You're not pushing another project aside. There's no risk of unfinished projects due to this one. And it's always, always better to be writing than waiting around. Writing before the idea is ready is better than writing nothing at all, every time.

How long do you let your ideas sit?

I used to be the person who wrote them right away, working on a million projects at once. But now, I'm a writer who works on only one or two projects at a time. It works much better for me, personally.

But each writer is different, and I want to hear from you guys! How long do you let your ideas sit before you jump into them? Do you write them right away, or could it take years before you write that shiny new idea?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Quick Facts
My Rating: 5 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: May 25, 2015

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance

Elyse and her twin sister, Natalie, began singing together when they were little. Nobody had to ask the sisters what their futures held - it was obvious. But when the sea takes Elyse's voice, her future is ruined. Not wanting to face her immediate family, she moves to the U.S. to live with her aunt in Oregon.

Here she meets Christian, a boy who isn't afraid to ask questions. After finding Elyse on his boat, he takes an interest in her. And when his father makes a bet, risking his family's summer home and her Aunt Lemon's rented house, the two become even closer. Elyse has to help Christian get his boat ready to race - because if he loses, they both lose their homes in Atargatis Cove.

I went into this with false expectations that, admittedly, I wouldn't have hoped for if I read the book's summary. I expected mermaids, due to the title, not a realistic story. And I regret that, because it did slow the book down for me. I had to adjust my expectations to what the book really was.

I've also seen this in a couple of fairytale retelling lists, but I wouldn't go that far - if it's a retelling of The Little Mermaid, it's a loose one. Elyse has many sisters, and loses her voice. There are some repeated names (Ursula, Sebastian). But I think those who go in for a retelling will probably have false expectations.

That said, this book is a new addition to my favorites shelf. It is a fantastic book, with great characters and such a strong, important message. Elyse lost her voice literally, but so many people (her included) suffered from loss of their voice. There was Christian, who couldn't stand up to his father. His little brother Sebastian, whose young voice was too small for most people to consider. Elyse's Aunt Lemon, whose voice went unheard in matters regarding her own home - because she was renting, and the house was not technically her own property.

In the Cove, two men had voices. The mayor, a sexist man who wanted to bring in tourists even if it meant changing the quiet, calm atmosphere of the Cove, and Christian's father. And they used these voices to silence others - most of whom allowed themselves to be silenced.

It's difficult to stand up for something that seems impossible, and I think this book touched on that really well. Nobody saw the point in standing against the people who obviously had more control and, for that reason, their voices went unheard. And Elyse, loud and outgoing as she used to be, had lost her voice - how could she speak up?

One of my favorite parts of the book (and the parts that made me cry more than once) were Elyse's conversations with her Aunt Lemon. She was a fantastic woman, always encouraging Elyse to heal and find her voice again. She let her know that the sea might have taken Elyse's speaking voice, but ultimately it was her own decision to go unheard.

Another important thing was the acceptance in this book. Girls and women were portrayed wonderfully - not one of the characters was a stereotype. (Which meant no 'blonde, jealous ex' that we usually get when the main character falls for a player - you can't imagine how excited I was when I couldn't find her!) Christian did not fall for Elyse for the typical reason, either - not because she 'wasn't like other girls.' Elyse was very much like the other girls in this book, because they were all realistic, well-rounded people.

None of the teens in this book were shamed for having sex, either. Or for not having it. The adults in this book (namely Lemon who, again, was fantastic) handled that well and it was refreshing to see the topic treated as just a normal thing - because that's what it is.

And then we get to Sebastian, Christian's little brother. He had a mermaid obsession that his father, and quite a few others, found issue with. He was told again and again that mermaids 'weren't for boys,' basically, and his persistence - and the support he received from his brother, Elyse, and friends - was so great.

Even the awful characters were human. Even those who made huge mistakes were not shamed for this in the writing, and I liked that even smaller characters had their stories told and personalities shown within the story. It fit well with the message of the book, to speak up and not let yourself be silenced.

Overall, I hope nobody kept reading this in hopes of finding criticism - because while I usually try to share the good and bad parts of a story, I can't find any fault with this one. If I could have left this review at 'perfect book, go buy it!' I would have.