Friday, February 27, 2015

In February...

Hello! Since I started doing monthly TBR and goal posts, I thought I should have a feature at the end of the month to share with you guys how things went! I'm basically going to talk a little bit about the month -- things I've done, whether I accomplished my goals, and I'm also going to include a book haul for the month at the end. In the future I might break this up into a couple different posts, or change the format, but for now I'm going to try it out this way!

I read 4 books in February.
I did not complete my TBR, but I did read two books that weren't on my list. Overall, I think it was an okay reading month! 

I did make progress in A World Without Princes, which is the only book on my TBR that I didn't finish, but then I put it on hold again. While it's not a bad book, I've been picky about my reading lately (still in a slump!) and I decided to come back to it when I'm more in the mood.

I did not complete my goals for the month.

My first goal was to get some different follow buttons for the side bar which I did do -- I actually managed to change the entire layout, which was way more than I planned for the month.

My second goal was to have at least three writing related posts, which also did not happen at all. In fact, I had a total of zero writing posts this month, mostly due to the awful writing/reading/blogging slump I've been in. I'll do better next month!

I purchased 3 books this month, and received none for review.

I did not do bad at all when it comes to getting new books! I also read two out of my three purchased books this month. Aside from I Was Here and Sweethearts (Goodreads links above), I also bought To All The Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han, which I have not begun reading yet.

I also managed an entire month without requesting any review copies, and right now I only have three old ones left to read.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

TBR Piles (And Goodreads Shelves)

In my experience, readers usually have two stances on TBR piles: There is the reader who wants a small pile, and one who wants a never-ending one.

The first type would rather purchase books and read them immediately. They might want a few unread books lying around, but these unread books feel like an obligation. Hundreds of books would be terribly stressful to them. It's difficult enough to realize that there are so many books in the world they will never get around to -- but adding those books to a TBR shelf on Goodreads and having a visual? Actually keeping those books around their home? No way.

The second type just wants to be surrounded by books. They are possibilities, worlds not yet discovered. Knowing that they will never read all the books provides a comfort -- what would they do if someday, there was nothing left to read? A library full of unread books sits very well with this person. So what if they never read every story on their shelves?

I have to say, I'm the first type. When I first discovered Goodreads, I added and added to my TBR. Even if a book didn't seem great, I might want to read it some day. If I didn't add it to the shelf, I would probably forget about it completely.

But after awhile, this constant adding of books turned to constant removing of books. I'm happy with that, especially recently.

Here's something I've found: For me, it's so much more exciting to pick up a book right away. I have never been one to purchase too many books in advance -- I usually buy them when I'm ready to read. But when I first hear about a book's release and can pick it up right away, that's when I'm happiest with my reading.

With a large TBR, I don't feel I can do that. There are so many other books that have been out a long time, that I've been meaning to read forever, and that I should definitely get to first! But since I narrowed down just my Goodreads shelf (Why was I ever letting a list on a website run my reading life?), I feel more freedom in what I read.

It's really all a change in perspective. I think I started out as the second type of reader -- I didn't know about many books, so I had to keep them all where I could find them. But now I know I will never run out of things to read. Between Goodreads and blogging, I am always hearing about new books. Only now, I'm beginning to realize that I don't have to read every one of them.

I would love to hear your opinions in the comments -- which type of reader are you? Do you relate to either of my options, or do you have a different perspective that I didn't think of?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Quick Update

Since it's Wednesday, I just wanted to update you guys quickly and say that I won't be doing Waiting on Wednesday posts anymore.

The thing is, sometimes I don't look into new releases for awhile. Sometimes I am not excited enough about any releases I know about, to feature them on the blog. And this leads to me feeling like I have to post about an upcoming release every single week, so I search Goodreads until I find something. At that point, I'm not even excited about the "something" that I find. I'm just glad my search is over and I have a post.

I don't have any plans for Wednesdays yet. Lately it's been difficult finding topics to discuss on Thursdays and Fridays, which are my other "free" blogging days. (AKA days when I'm not posting reviews or weekly memes.)

This kind of brings me to my next discussion: I'm going to attempt to be a more relaxed blogger from now on. The concept still freaks me out a little, like ... what do you mean I don't have to post every week day??

But I don't. I don't have to keep weekly posts like this around just to fill up space. Nothing on this blog should be here for that purpose. It should be here because it's something I am honestly excited about and want to share with you guys.

I might take the blogging down to say, three or four posts a week -- which is still great. It's still consistent and it still takes effort on my part, just hopefully not stress.

So, yeah, I'm still going to blog about upcoming releases I'm excited about. It'll just be in more of a discussion post format, and it will be less often. I'll also still blog consistently. I just won't pressure myself so much to get a post up every single day.

I'm going to cut this off here, because it doesn't look so much like the "quick update" I promised anymore. But let me know what you guys think -- will you miss Waiting on Wednesday posts? Do you even read them? Are they a part of your own blog?

Tuesday, February 24, 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 Favorite Heroines From Books.

1. Bree from Loop

2-3. Emily and Sloane from Since You've Been Gone

4. Cath from Fangirl

5. Anne from Anne of Green Gables

6. Rose from Vampire Academy

8. Maddie from Awaken

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Quick Facts
My Rating: 5 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: February 2, 2015

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Genres: Young adult, contemporary

Summary (taken from Goodreads): Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.
Cody and Meg were best friends. They told each other everything. So when they separate for college and Meg kills herself, Cody wonders why she didn't talk to her. Why couldn't Meg come to her about something so important? Is it because Cody didn't visit like they planned? Because they didn't speak for about a month?

Her journey to find answers begins on a simple trip to collect Meg's things. There she meets Meg's old roommates, as well as someone else who might have the answers - Ben McAllister. Did Meg confide in him? Was he, ultimately, the reason she chose to die?

It's always hard for me to review books like these. I love all of Gayle Forman's books, and this one is no exception - which leaves me with little to talk about. There is not one thing I would change about this book, given the chance.

The characters were amazing. I fell in love with so many of them throughout the story, and I loved watching Cody, especially, learn and grow. The writing, of course, was wonderful and heartfelt, and the story itself was heartbreaking, yet hopeful. It dealt with a difficult subject, and handled it so well.

All I can really say is that I had very, very high expectations for this book. And every single one of them was met.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Quick Facts

My Rating: 4 stars

Series: The School for Good and Evil #1

Date Read: December 30, 2014

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: May 14, 2013

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genres: Fantasy, middle grade

Summary (taken from Goodreads): New York Times Bestseller * Indie List Bestseller * Soon to be a Film from Universal Pictures * A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2013 * Waterstones Children's Prize Nominee * Children's Choice Reading List Selection

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.
In Gavaldon, children go missing. In particular, two children every four years - one who is good, and one who is evil. One who is beautiful and kind, and one who is ugly and strange. They are rumored to be taken to the School for Good and Evil, where they are taught to be a part of a fairy tale. Good children are taught to be princes and princesses, while evil ones are taught to be villains.

Sophie dreams of being taken to the school and living out her fairy tale. She focuses on kindness and being good, even going so far as to befriend Agatha, who isolates herself and is very possibly a witch. 

Agatha figured she was only a good deed to Sophie, but after that they became friends. She knows she will be content so long as she and Sophie are together. So when Sophie is taken, she tries to stop the kidnapper.

Of course, she is unsuccessful. Not only is Agatha brought along to the School for Good and Evil as the second child, but she is thrown into Good - leaving Sophie to be thrown into Evil. Surely it's a mistake, but how do they prove this when nobody wants to believe them?

It did take me awhile to get into this book. In the beginning, I put it down a lot. The main reason for this is because I went into it expecting something with a much quicker pace - but the writing is slow. If I expected that, I think I would have enjoyed the beginning of this more.

I also had some problems at the beginning with the Good and Evil concepts. Good only cared about appearance and princes. Evil students were all ugly (excluding Sophie) and most wanted to be villains. I don't think most "bad guys" want to be bad; they just are.

Regardless, I loved the story by the end. The lines between Good and Evil blurred throughout the book, until I could not tell who really was Good, and who was Evil, regardless of which school they were in. I feel that the characters were complex and the different sides of them were shown well.

The twists here were subtle, but also unpredictable. It seemed like I never really knew where the story was going - so it did not feel like a story with a bunch of twists, but rather one where I had no idea where it would go at all.

Admittedly, this lead to some inconsistencies. Some of them were explained, and most I could overlook, but they were there. I think that, at times, they made the characters feel more realistic and unpredictable, but at others they failed. Mostly, I think the "failures" came up when a plot line was introduced but not carried through fully. Perhaps they will be addressed further in other books, but I do doubt that.

Overall, I found the story to be very unique and I liked the overall message. The characters were great, and I loved seeing them develop throughout the story. The book really showed past the surface of many characters, and I appreciated that a lot. I would recommend it to anyone who knows what they're getting into - but don't expect a fast-paced story like I did. That's not what this book is, but I think it more than makes up for that in other aspects.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

I always say I want to read more diversely, but sometimes (many times) that does not happen and I fall back on the same old books - I stick to contemporary YA with straight white characters the majority of the time. I read about mental illnesses fairly often, but they're usually the same ones - eating disorders, anxiety, depression.

So, I am excited about this book. It's different from what I normally read. I have never read about a character who is intersex, and that will change.

This book comes out on April 7, 2015. It can be found on Goodreads here.

Goodreads Synopsis: A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she's intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Tuesday, February 10, 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 Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books.
Things I Like
1. When the romance begins as friendship. I really enjoy friendships in books anyway. I also think that it allows the relationship to grow slowly - so it takes away some of the worry about insta-love.

2. The characters have lives outside of the relationship. I love seeing both characters have other interests, friends, family - something that sets them apart from the other person. Too often we see characters who are "the love interest" and not much else. I like characters that feel like real people!

3. The relationship isn't the only thing happening in the story. This goes along with the last point, but I think it's a little different. Sometimes, the characters have lives only until they meet one another, and sometimes they supposedly do other things, but readers never get to see them happen. I like when there are several things going on at once - because in real life, our lives don't just go on pause so we can complete our love story!

4. The characters aren't complete opposites. It's not that I don't like seeing completely different people fall in love - that's a trope I really enjoy in books. But I do wish there were more books about people who are similar to one another - not exactly alike, obviously, but with the same hobbies or major personality traits, etc.

5. Realistic relationships. I think this is what most of my first points are saying, anyway - I like relationships to be believable. I want to feel like I could meet both characters in real life, and they weren't just thrown into the story so the main character had someone to fall in love with.

6. The actual relationship is shown. This is another thing that I really want to see more of. Not characters getting together, not them fighting so that their relationship doesn't have to be shown for too long in the book - just the characters actually being together. I feel like there are very few books where couples don't either get together at the very end, or break up a time or two throughout the book. Aren't there other problems for them to overcome that don't involve fighting with one another? I would like to see that portrayed more often. 
Things I Dislike
7. The characters fall in love too quickly. I'm actually pretty lenient when it comes to this. I enjoy light reads where the characters fall together quickly. I think, if that's what the book is meant to be, then it's perfectly okay. But some couples fall in love too quickly for even me to overlook.

8. One, or both, of the characters have awful lives that are "fixed" by the other person. This applies to home situations, mental illness, etc. It's okay to depend on other people, but when the love interest does everything and the main character isn't trying to help themselves, their problems shouldn't be solved. In real life, they wouldn't be.

9. The love interest is there for the sake of the main character. (Or, the side characters are there for the sake of the main couple.) I know I mentioned this above a couple of times, but it's something I really dislike. The characters should be their own people. The love interest should have a life, as should the best friends.

10. There is someone (usually a popular girl) trying to keep the characters apart. This comes in several forms. She likes the guy as well and feels he was "stolen" from her. She's an ex, but he's so great that she just can't get over him. She has absolutely no reason, but she does pointlessly hate the main character, so there's that. I don't mind this one if there's a reason, and if the character trying to keep them apart is developed some, but that's rare.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

Quick Facts
My Rating: 4 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: January 29, 2015

Source: Free review copy from Edelweiss

Publication Date: February 10, 2015

Publisher: Penguin

Genres: Adult fiction

Summary (taken from Goodreads): It was the summer everything changed.…

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.

This book is not narrated by Lindy Simpson, but it is her story. It takes place in a quiet neighborhood, and many people are shocked to hear of Lindy's rape. There are several suspects, including our narrator - and it doesn't help that he's obsessed with her.

In the beginning, this book was difficult for me to get into. Firstly, because I am used to young adult books, and did not expect the details to be so "adult" in this book. The bigger problem was that many issues were dismissed as normal - for example, the obsession with Lindy was justified as a crush.

Around the middle, things started to become more clear. The narrator was called out for his obsession. He began to turn around as a person, although I admit it was still difficult to like him. I kept waiting for him to do something stupid.

Luckily, I don't need to like a main character to enjoy a book. This one was written beautifully, although I could have done without some of the descriptions. I skipped a couple of paragraphs, not because the writing was slow, but because of details I did not want to hear. For example, there was a case of animal cruelty depicted that I had to skip over. (And it was a dog death. I hate when dogs die in books.) However, I do admire the way that nothing was held back. 

Overall, this one was darker than I expected. It was suspenseful, but in a quiet way, and I was hooked throughout the story. The mystery aspect was done well and kept the reader wondering. The format was also really cool, with the memories being told and pieced together, and I loved the end. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

What I'm Reading This Weekend

It's been awhile since I've done one of these posts, so I thought I'd try it again this week rather than a discussion post as usual. Sometimes it's nice to sit down and type up a small post that's coming out the very same day, so I left this spot open for that.

This weekend is looking to be fairly busy, as usual, but I do plan to find a bit of reading time in between things!

Twist by Karen Akins

First of all, I want to be at least halfway through this book by Sunday night. I'm reading it early, because I didn't want to wait, and yet I'm reading it so slowly! It's not the book - I just haven't felt like reading at all lately. This weekend, I'm hoping to get rid of my reading slump!

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I also want to make progress in this audiobook! I'm trying to get through audiobooks quicker, because it usually takes me at least a few weeks to get to the end.

And that is it for my reading! If I get through more than planned, I'll just keep reading Twist. If I finish Twist this weekend, I'll pick up whatever I'm in the mood for. I've bought a couple of books recently that I might get around to.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

February TBR & Goals

There are so many things I want to do with this blog. By the end of 2015, I want Kittens and Books to be improved so much. My main goal is to look back and think, Wow, the blog has come a long way since January!

To help with that a little, I'm going to add to my TBR posts - they will now also include a monthly goal that I have for the blog. It could be about posts, or layout, or organization. There's just so much I want to improve, and I think taking baby steps each month is the way to go.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani

Twist by Karen Akins
  • New follow buttons for the side bar
  • At least three writing related posts

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

I'm not a huge reader of non-fiction. It's not that I don't want to be - I just honestly have no idea where to start! A lot of popular non-fiction books just don't interest me.

I have watched Carrie's videos on Youtube for quite some time now, so when I heard she was releasing a book, and that it was non-fiction, I thought it would be a good thing for me to pick up.

The book comes out on May 14, 2015. It can be found on Goodreads here.

Goodreads Synopsis: We all know that growing up is hard to do, and sometimes the only thing that makes it better are the reassuring words of someone who has walked that bumpy road just a few steps ahead of you and somehow ended up as a fully-functioning adult. Carrie Hope Fletcher is that person.* Thanks to her phenomenally popular YouTube videos, Carrie has become an 'honorary big sister' to hundreds of thousands of young people who turn to her for advice, friendship and, most of all, the knowledge that things will get better.

Carrie has created a safe and positive space for young people to connect and share their hopes and concerns online, and now she will share her most personal thoughts and experiences in her first book, ALL I KNOW NOW. Part memoir, part advice guide, it will include Carrie's thoughts on some of the topics she's asked about most regularly: bullying, body image, relationships and perhaps the scariest question of all: what does the future hold for me? With warmth, wit and a sprinkling of hard-won wisdom, Carrie will provide the essential tools for growing up gracefully . . . most of the time.

*Although she did recently post a video about how to pee in a onesie. So the definition of 'adult' is a bit flexible here . . .

Tuesday, February 3, 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 ten young adult books I can't believe I haven't read. I chose young adult since, despite reading mostly YA books, there are some I have been waiting to read forever!

1. The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

I read the sample of this so long ago, but never actually bought the book! Every time I think I'm going to read it next, I end up finding something else instead.

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This book has so much hype surrounding it - I just can't bring myself to pick it up yet. I swore I was going to months back, but didn't get around to it still. If I'm honest, I'm not super excited to read it anymore - maybe it's one I'll skip, despite the hype?

3. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

This is the only book by Morgan Matson that I haven't read, technically. (She also writes as Katie Finn, and I haven't read any of those books either.) I can't believe I haven't gotten around to it yet.

4. Ask The Passengers by A.S. King

I've wanted to read a book by A.S. King for awhile now, and this is the one I plan to start with - but honestly, I have no idea when I'll get around to it!

5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

In my defense, I do plan to start this series soon.

6. What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I LOVED My Life Next Door. I have no idea why I haven't read this book!

7. Ripple by Cidney Swanson

I bought the Kindle version of this series so long ago, but never got around to it! I'm guilty of this with a lot of books, because I just don't use the Kindle app that often.

8. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I've been meaning to read this for approximately a million years.

9. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I didn't read this when it first came out because I thought it was part of a series. I just recently figured out it was a standalone, and I really can't wait to get around to it now.

10. Dare You To by Katie McGarry

I read and loved Pushing the Limits, but never continued with these books. It's always near the top of my reading list, though!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: Water So Deep by Nichole Giles

Quick Facts

My Rating: 4 stars

Series: N/A

Date Read: January 15, 2015

Source: Free review copy from Netgalley

Publication Date: February 2, 2015

Publisher: Jelly Bean Press

Genres: Young adult, fantasy

Summary (taken from Goodreads): I'm choosing not to share the Goodreads blurb here on the blog, because I personally find that it gives far too much of the story away. However, if you would like to check it out for yourself anyway, it can be found here.
Emma is a changeling. When she was an infant, she was dropped off with a human - her Gran - to live on land for eighteen years. After this time passed, she would be physically forced to return to the sea. 

This left Emma living with her parents and her younger brother. The only person who knew about her condition was Gran, who insisted they not tell her parents until the change happened. Emma, attached to her life and the people she loved on earth, did not want to leave for a mate and a new home in Atlantis.

I expected much different things from this story. Admittedly, that's not the book's fault. Going in, I thought that Emma's life would be split more evenly between water and land, when it actually all happened on land.

The lack of mermaid parts were disappointing, but I quickly got over it and took the story for what it is - which is, primarily, a young adult romance. Once I accepted this, I fell in love with Emma's story. And that is why the ending to this book upset me so much.

Without giving spoilers, I can say that this ending left a lot to be desired. I don't think the concept is bad, although it's disappointing. But my problem is how many plot points get started in the end, but don't follow through. There are connections that began to come together, then were left alone. A character did something completely unexpected, and that action was never explained. 

I don't think this is a book that, if ended right, would have needed a sequel. I don't think the main story line requires a sequel, although I would love one for that too - but there were several important side plots that need more explaining. The side plots needed an ending too, and they just did not get one. As far as I know, this is a standalone, which disappoints me.

Still, I focused a lot on the negative in this review - and that is not entirely fair. While I had problems with the ending, the rest of the story was wonderful. I loved following Emma and her life, and I admired her strength throughout the story. I fell in love with James - although he thought far too much about Emma being 'different from other girls' because she was complex, which all girls are. I was rooting for them the entire way.

Ultimately, I cannot give this any less than four stars. But if a few more things had been wrapped up, I would easily give it five.