Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mask of Shadows (Untitled, #1)Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The whole premise of this book was that there was a competition of assassins and the last one standing is to become one of the four Queen's assassins that went out and did her biding/dirty work to protect the Kingdom. Haven't we seen this exact storyline before? That's what was bothering me throughout the book but I quite couldn't put my finger on. I've seen this exact trope dozens of times in thinly-veiled YA fantasy novels, and at some point in time they stop becoming interesting to consume.

Not only that, but this was one of the most predictable plot-lines that I had read in a very long time. Meaning that you knew what the outcome was going to be even before you finished Chapter one, or from a mile away. It's not that I've even read some spoilers about what would happen, it's just a cliche that you know is coming, and I wish that the author could have thrown us for some sort of surprise curveball, instead of the plot being so straightforward.

Do you know what else I really expected from this novel? I wanted the political intrigue and worldbuilding to be much more developed. I'm writing this review roughly four hours after finishing this book and I couldn't tell you the name of the main kingdom in which Sal resides. I couldn't tell you the players on the political chessboard. I couldn't tell you much about the world at all, and coming up with these type of major blanks is not supposed to happen in a well-developed fantasy setting.

Further, you know when a character just gets in easy, or learns all of the world's talents in a week? That's how it felt like the author was writing the development of Sal, after they got accepted in the audition, they suddenly had all sorts of fighting skills and physical strengths developed in an instance, which is so utterly ridiculous and unrealistic that I cringed during displays of Sal's talent that weren't practiced enough.

The only side character who I cared about, as the other seemed like stereotypes of assassins, was Maud, who was the servant in Sal's quarters. Maud is very determined get paid so that she could save her triplet siblings from being scattered and sold by the orphanage. In my opinion she is the shining, yet quiet heroine in this novel.

Another thing is that I wasn't on board with the romance at all. Whenever there is a teacher-is-lover-with-student, I feel all icky because a boundary is crossed and in every situation it makes me not want the two characters to end up together at all.

I don't want to discount that this book could mean a lot to someone objectively, because I identify as a non-binary person and this was the first genderfluid characters that I have ever seen represented on page. Even though I don't have the same experiences as Sal did, I still feel like there was adequate emphasis on explaining their pronoun preferences and who they were interacting with. Also as a note there was a bisexual/pansexual love interest, which made me appreciate the various sexuality that was represented in here.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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The Epic Crush of Genie LoThe Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Going into this book, I had the highest of expectations because all of my fellow bloggers have given it the five stars. Because of the hype, I was fully ready for this to be one of my favorites of the year, but disappointingly there were just some things that didn't work for me. In the end though, I felt that choosing the 4 star rating was the right choice, because although it wasn't my cup of tea, it is such an important piece of literature that should get in as many readers hands as possible.

We start out with Genie Lo, a high school student who is trying her hardest to get into an ivy-league school. Then her stalker/romantic interest Quentin comes to her asking for help with slaying demons from supernatural realms. She than embarks on this whole journey of trying to protect the people that she loves, her hometown, and herself. What's the most fascinating thing about this is that's it's based on Chinese mythology, something that I knew nothing about so I felt like I was in for a treat.

One of the things that bothered me is how long it took to explain the rules of the otherworld, because for most of the beginning parts we didn't get a chance to dive in deeper into the world of reincarnation, heaven, hell, etc. I tried to forced myself to care about any of the characters, but there wasn't any connection that I could grasp because of one trope that I absolutely hate being played out in any book.

The stalker one turning into the love interest makes me feel so uncomfortable. Especially in this book, because of their strange set-up/forced partnership there were lots of beginning scenes of Quentin hardcore stalking Genie and it made my skin crawl and so I started to skim those section.

On another note, I am so amazed how well Yee can capture the voice of a teenage girl, and not make it sound awkward or stilted. One of the highlights of this book was seeing how both Genie and Yee was in writing such an apologetically fierce hella angry female warrior. We need more of that, and this is the perfect example of how it should look like.

However, all of this rambling above is just my subjective preferences, right? I truly see the value of exploring the diaspora and what it means to be a Chinese-America by an ownvoices author. I would still recommend you picking this up to read, going in with a clean slate, because in every aspect of representation it is so brilliantly done. I'm sure that there are many Chinese people out there who would like to see themselves in book, and this is an excellent choice to pick up.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Girl in SnowGirl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Let me tell you something about my reading taste, I thirst after thrillers, but when one is a flop I spare no mercy on my many criticisms. With this book, I don't even know where to start telling you much of a flop it was in my eyes. The story starts out with Lucinda Hayes, a beloved and popular high schooler being murdered at the local school playground.

From the premise that the summary described, it sounds like it has the potential to be a whodunit, especially since there is a POV from the local police officer thrown in there. In reality, this story is about three individuals, the boy who stalked her, the police officer that had personal ties, and the girl who wanted a perfect life. It was the most boring life stories, as dull as the dishwater in your sink. Seriously, if you want to write character driven stories (which are my favorite usually) you should take some time into putting some personality and distinction between every person so that there's actually some substance.

There was an overuse of sex in this book, and so throughout it I couldn't stop cringing and skimming throughout those passages. During the actual reading time of this book, I had 0 inclination to go and pick it up, usually the experience of not being able to put down a quality thriller, this was definitively a red light.

Another thing that got on my nerves was how juvenile and not well done the writing was. I do understand that this author is a debut novelist, however her writing not at all what I had expected from a thriller, and I think that has to do that it seems she can't pull off writing from a young adult's perspective. For most of the book, there was much oversimplification because I felt like the author didn't understand and couldn't get into the headspace of the main teenagers in this story, which just detracted from the general intent of the story.

If there was more focus on the murder investigation, if we had known the dead girl better, if I was invested in the three main characters lives, this would have been a much better story. As it stands, I would say that this book was one of my least favorites that I have read this year, and I would not recommend it to anyone because of the way that it lacked character development, an exciting plot-line, and the bad writing found within it.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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The Idea of YouThe Idea of You by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

TW: miscarriages

This book so beautifully sums up motherhood, the pains, losses, and joys that come along with it. Lucy Carpenter, newly remarried to her wonderfully loving husband, Jonah, and feels like her biological clock is running out at thirty nine. She has a fabulous career that anyone couldn't help but be envious of. However, all she wants most desperately is to become pregnant and carry to term a baby, so that she could complete her family.

When Camille, the rebellious teenager, who's the daughter from Jonah's first marriage, comes to live with them, Lucy feels like her world is starting to tilt out of orbit. There are so many new things that she has to deal with, all of the teenage drama and woes, and also the fact that Camille being the only and favored daughter starts creating a wedge between her and Jonah.

From there the story takes it to a roller-coaster of ups and downs that made you cry your eyes out or laugh until your stomach hurt so much that you can't breathe. Probably the most emotionally touchy thing was when the letters were revealed at the end of the story, it made me actually ugly cry. All in all it's a beautiful and poignantly written of a women's journey to motherhood. While I have no personal experience in that area, I just couldn't tear my eyes away from all of the hormones that were going on (ha!)

One of the fascinating contrasts that I noticed was the extremely slow budding relationship between Lucy and Camille compared to the whirlwind of a romance between her and Jonah. Fast forward to the ending though, I thought that it tied loose ends and wrapped up perfectly, which is always an added bonus.

The only problem is, I can't quite decide if this book was my cup of tea. It was great while I was reading it, but after I felt the acute disappointment that this just isn't my type of story afterall. I think that's an important realization that I needed to make personally, but I still would hope that this book gets into the hands of someone who needs it.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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The Good PeopleThe Good People by Hannah Kent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Some folks are forced to the edges by their difference. (...) But 'tis at the edges that they find their power.”

This book reminds me so much of "The Wonder" by Emma Donoghue, so if you were a fan of that one you will love this one as well! This one is set in 1820s Ireland, where the author is extremely well-researched into the Irish folklore, various superstitions, and herbal treatments that these village people believe in. The book opens with the death of our protagonists husband on a stormy foreboding night. Nora's deep down in the hole of grief and so she decides to hire a nanny to the grandson that was misplaced under her roof.

Except there may be whisperings that this boy is a changeling-not fully a human, since he often have fevers or seizures and is a sickly child. So Nora enlists the help of Nance, a magic "healer" who's hated by most of the villagers but is said that she can save Michael from his evil sickness. The book then embarks on a twisted path that is fascinating to watch play out, because you know what could inevitably happen, but the road to the ending conclusion is what makes it worth the read.

The atmosphere, a sense of time and place, is a feeling that's so thick that you could almost palpably touch it. That was definitively Kent's strong point, having a detailed description of the settings-not too overboard, not lacking-just striking that perfect balance in between. This is something that I always appreciated in a literary story that is so focused on the base of history.

There's also a deep dive into the contrast between folklore and the law of the land, what people believe in vs. what they see, which makes me genuinely enjoy the book even more. For me, the only reason why it wasn't a memorable favorite is because the middle part of the book dragged so slowly, that I began to count the times that I was actually yawning. Hint: it was a lot, and almost put me off of finishing this story, which would have been unfortunate.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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The Gypsy Moth SummerThe Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In my opinion, it felt like this book was trying to do too much, and in that process feel completely short of everything it set out to accomplish. There are so many things going on here (TW for: Animal cruelty, profanity, drug use & alcohol abuse,racial prejudice, an abused wife) that sometimes it was too painful to read what was going on that I had to put the book down and just take a breather for the intense conflict.

There are bugs overtaking this isolated island, most literally and metaphorically. Leslie is the daughter of the esteemed Navy commander who isn't who he seems, and moves in with her black husband and biracial children to a house called "The Castle". It's has a mysterious maze and is an enchanting place to all of the other islanders.

Than there's Maddie, trying to be a full-on teen drama queen, and yet just experiencing first love for the first time with the new black boy in town, Brooks. Ah to be in young and in love, but it wasn't romantic to me, instead it became stilted and fell flat. The sexual situations were overused, there was no many sensual details. It awkwardly started to detract from the story and I thought the majority of it was unnecessary.

Usually, I'm such a sucker for hints of star-crossed lovers but in this book it just didn't work. Sure, there were secret trips to see eachother in the dark, both sets of parents disproved, they came from completely different backgrounds, but it was missing every excellent point that I genuinely enjoy in that trope. And in the end that was one of my biggest disappointments with this one.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hum If You Don’t Know the WordsHum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book, ahh where to even begin.

In it, we follow two different perspectives, a nine year old girl Robin, whose parents were shot by activists, and Beauty, a Xhosa woman living in a village that comes to try to find her daughter, and ends up being the nanny for Robin. Their lives collide and tangle, and neither of them will ever be the same after their shared experiences.

This book is set in South African apartheid, and I don't have any expertise on how accurately this was researched. Although this book was a bit enjoyable, if you want to open your eyes more the all of the horrors of apartheid, I would direct you to Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

As a book that struggles with hard topics such as race, privilege, oppression, activism, etc. I thought that it had some solid passages where Beauty is trying to explain to Robin about how not all black people are the same "bad", how even though her parents were killed, she now has to deal with the fact that they were evidently racist. It's just an interesting journey of a nine year old who has had past good and bad experiences with black people, and how she comes to grapple with the loss of her parents.

Lots of things in the book were so unrealistic and so implausible. There were risky things that Robin did for redemption, which I personally didn't appreciate how it was played out. If you read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about because it's obvious that this would have never happened the way that it did.

The ending was also pretty unsatisfying, in the sense that the author left everything partially resolved. We have no way of knowing what exactly happened to either of the storyline and so it's not what I was waiting for nor was it what I expected. Overall, my rating scale is tipped over to the lower side of things considering the many lacks that I found with the story itself.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Apollo's RavenApollo's Raven by Linnea Tanner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like this was the book to introduce me to historical fantasy, and for that it will forever have a special place in my heart. We follow two kingdoms trying to fight for survival, Rome and Celtic culture, young first loves etc.

From page one, I did not realize that I was about to embark on this exciting journey, filled with political intrigue and magical abilities involving animals. I was hooked on the first sentence, and was constantly thinking about what would be the outcome for these character. Truly, I cared and connected with their struggles and joys, which is a rare thing for me to usually say.

Tanner has created a bad-a*s princess from Brittanica, Catrin who is fierce and loyal and my favorite character in this book. I just love her determination to change fate/ change the outcomes of things. She has all of these hidden magical abilities that were deeply explored, and definitively satisfied what I was looking for in a character.

The gods demand the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul's journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to do the same as mine. I prophesize your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a Raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire to overtake your kingdom and to execute my curse.

This is the curse, that was said by the former queen at her first execution as to what will happen in the kingdom's future. The whole plot of the book revolves around trying to change/break this curse so that Catrin can save the ancient kingdom of Brittanica, which she loves oh so much because it's always been home. Her star-crossed lover, Marcellus who's on the other side of the conflict, and because of this it added another layer of 'why we can never be together' to their relationship.

In general, I thought that this book was just well-crafted. My only one complaint would be that there were too many storylines going on at the same time, that I often felt like I was losing track. Not only are their so many characters, but we also get to learn everyone's backstories, which can be extremely helpful for worldbuilding but can get a bit confusing when trying to connect the dots.

**This is an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day and you can find it here on their website.**

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Poems of Robin R. Rabii: Insights That Nurture ConnectionThe Poems of Robin R. Rabii: Insights That Nurture Connection by Robin R Rabii
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Going into this poetry collection, I was a little bit hesitant because this usually isn't the medium through which I consume written art. From the beginning, the prologue and various soliloquies turned me off, because I started wondering if this whole book was going to have such a wordy alliterating style.

Fortunately, I found some treasures that I could ponder on. The author doesn't hesitate to address issues like racism, sex, politics, feminism, homosexuality, environmental issues, head on; which is something that I could really admire.

One great thing that he was is choose a descriptive image and flow with it for the stanza of the majority of the poem. That makes it feel more consistent, and what also contributes that that feeling of consistency was the repetitive. Sometimes there are phrases that seem to repeat over and over again, but I can identify that's just to emphasize a certain point that he was trying to convey.

However, the balance that has to be struck is to not make it too preachy and for it to come from a place of humble suggestion. I understand that the author clearly wants to convey a message to the reader, but saying "do this, do that." isn't going to be that effective for me. If I honestly wanted to go learn how to be a better human, I would go to some other trusted source.

Another writing device that is often utilized in poetry is rhyming, and the author does rhyme in several spots. Most of the time, I find rhyming distracting, if not unnecessary because it makes me go on a puzzle hunt trying to connect which words rhyme with which one that subtracts me concentrating on the message.

Within the poem about Mother Earth that's called "Unconditional",he uses the metaphor of a violent assault to describe what humans are doing to earth. Obviously, since the first stanza the reader knows exactly what he's talking about based on the context, yet he still comes right out and says "this is mother earth" directly in the poem. I feel like that's overstating, or rather stating the obvious which seems to indicate that he isn't keeping his poetry mysterious enough.

My absolute favorite poem was called "Holding Hands" in which it describes the marriage of two gay guys and it really had an open and frank discussion. The way that the author set it up what in an interview or Q & A style which really make for an interesting discussion. My favorite line from that is:
Unclog your thoughts,
Accept love as a smasher of boundaries...(and later on)
Love unclogged is true freedom and
hope for all of us,
creating possibilities for the impossible.

Overall, if you want to get into a collection of poems that explore deep themes and problems in today's "conditioned" society, I would say to go and pick this awesome collection up to give it a try!

This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day and you can find it here!

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Marriage PactThe Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A psychological thriller who follows a newly-married couple, as they find themselves joining this mysterious pact which will change their lives forever. We start out with young love between Alice and Jake, seemingly a picture-perfect couple. The Pact is supposedly there to protect their marriage, to keep them together and on the path to their dreams.

But then... everything falls apart and becomes a nightmare. Except their not dreaming; this is reality staring down at them for the "consequences" of their decisions. Some thing in here are funny, while others are just downright creepy...friend. The thing with this book is, it won't let you get your breath, it won't stop for even one minute to let you catch up. The pacing is just that excellently quick, which is good if you have problems with focusing your attention, which is good if you're like me and have problems doing that.

Throughout the book, Alice and Jake manage to break the rules, gets seduced by the image/allusion of these rich people throwing parties at their house, and the original intentions where this Pact was born from. I'm not going to say anymore, except that if you like the sound of this intriguing plot, then this is the book for you. There's no way out of this mess apparently, even though they are both willing to find it...friend.

Furthermore, because Jake is a marital counselor, we get lots of statistics and facts thrown in about the probability of divorce in xyz situations. We get different scenarios of marriages trying to work their problems out, teenagers/children of these to-be-seperated parents,etc. which provides a very in-depth and more delicate look to this topic.

Alice is a lawyer, and I guess that I just never realized how high-maintenance being on the job it. Meaning that Alice is always working over-time, long hours at the firm, so exhausted of being beaten, elated at winning. Which is a thing about books that I enjoy, giving us a simple look-in into the daily lives of these people.

Overall, if you aren't in the mood for chick-lit (this isn't it), but if you want to read a fast paced thriller about an adult relationship and all the intricacies and problems that come of that, this is the book to pick up!

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Goodbye DaysGoodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[actual rating: 3.5 stars]

Carver Briggs, has a normal life with his best friend's “Sauce Crew” who do everything in life together. After sending one fateful text of an inquiry of location to Mars, Blake, and Eli who were driving somewhere, all three are killed in a car crash instantly. Left as the only survivor of the squad, Carver questions who’s to blame for this terrible event that made his life spin out of control.

TW for this review: self-harm, suicide, homophobia

I have extremely mixed opinions about this book. On one hand, I perceive this as a beautiful celebration of life, and on the other hand, there were some extremely problematic sections in the text which really bothered me and wasn’t amusing. Therefore I will try to divide this review into two sections:

“For the most part, you don't hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”

At its heart, this is an exploration of grief, guilt, and the fear of moving forward while leaving such a big part of yourself behind. The blurb really caught my attention, because I feel like this could be a cautionary tale for teenagers to think about what they do and what consequences can result because of this. Don’t mistake the stereotype of this genre, this is far from a fluffy contemporary.

The mental illness representation in my opinion, was quite accurate. (view spoiler)

“He grins and starts making elaborate tying motions with his hands. He fits an invisible noose around his neck, tightens it, and jerks it upward, sticking his tongue out the side of his mouth. I stifle a laugh and pantomime opening a bottle of pills and dumping the whole thing in my throat… We meet eyes again. Under his deck, Blake of pantomimes cutting his wrist.”

These lines are inexcusable and should not be even placed in the text. There is no correction, Blake and Carver consider this whole action sequence as a joke, because they are currently in a classroom with a shitty teacher that pisses them off. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for this type of disgusting joking of attempted suicide.

“Yeah, well you’re gayer than… riding a white pony through a field of dicks… ‘It’s cool dude. We just need to have a gay-joke training montage, where you’re running while I ride my bike, and lifting weights while screaming gay jokes, all in preparation for your redemption from this humiliating defeat.”

Not having or having a gay friend doesn’t give you the excuse to make these homophobic, and then while apologizing saying: “There aren’t really homophobic. None of us are. We just---didn’t think.” Excuses excuses who do you think you are?

“Funny how people move through this world leaving little pieces of their story with the people they meet, for them to carry. Makes you wonder what'd happen if all those people put their puzzle pieces together.”

Yet quotes like these make me recognize the value that this book brings. Quotes like this blow my mind and make me love Zentner’s writing style even more.

**Thanks to bloggingforbooks and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Ending Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
I think the most daunting hour was nearing the around the 20s, because it became increasingly difficult to not just collapse and fall asleep on my desk.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?
Any volume of Saga or Lumberjanes, because it's a quick read that has a lot of pictures, so it's easier for your brain to process this at the dead of night. 
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?

Would like some collective tab that announces all of the winners of the prizes, because otherwise all of the way of communications are scattered, and you take to keep on checking multiple blogs/social medias.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

All the Twitter chat questions and involvement of the participants.I love making new friends!5. How many books did you read?
8 total books, with a total number of pages 1687 
6. What were the names of the books you read?

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
I think that my favorite has to be GOODBYE DAYS, because it's a beautiful celebration of life and I adored all of the characters.
8. Which did you enjoy least?HOME (Binti #2), but the only reason why is because I hadn't read the first one therefore I was very confused on what is going on with the worldbuilding and character development.
9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Definitively doing it next time, would love to spearhead some of the future Twitter chats that are going on.

See y'all in September! 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hour 13 Update

Here are the three books that I've finished, currently have scattered thoughts so will update and review later
Have Read:

Currently Reading: 

Opening Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? – On the beautiful East coast in the great garden state of NJ.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? – Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? – I gathered up all of my favorite snacks into a stockpile, so we've got: pretzels, raisins, caramel candies, cheese, and of course my favorite--the grapefruit.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! – Hello y'all, I'm Mars, a queer teenager blogger who devours YA books like nobody's buisness. I've been blogging consistently for about one year, and this is my third round of Deweys.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? – DNF way more and way more quickly. Previously readathons I have made myself slug through books that I hated or weren't really entertaining at all. Also, going to try to do a bunch of pictures for the Instagram challenges.

Well, fellow readathoners, Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Convenient EscapeThe Convenient Escape by Robert Downs
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book could have been executed much better, if the author just took the time to develop the one-dimensional characters a little bit more by telling us their backstories and life decisions that lead them to this point. We start off with with Veronica (our MC) running away from a kidnapper in the middle of the woods and abandoning her heels in order for speed, trying to do anything to escape. Coincidentally, she happens to stumble upon Peter, an old acquaintance from high school. From there she uses force on him, for his cooperation and provision of resources (cars, guns, etc.)

The title has it exactly right, everything was too convenient, too coincidental. As a reader, I knew exactly where this story was going since the first chapters (romantically, thrillery, etc.) Instead of playing it on the safe side of storytelling, Downs could have crafted a shocking twist or a legitimate inconvenience that would prevent it from being relatively easy for the characters.

Multiple things in this book I found to be unrealistic. The fact that Veronica was able to actually hold Peter hostage for such a long number of hours at first; I mean he's a soldier who served in Iraq. I'm pretty sure that he's made of tougher stuff than submission, so if he really wanted to leave, he easily could have.

Another thing, is how Anthony's character was portrayed. He literally goes around hiring secretaries and disposing of them for his disgusting sexual desires, and then uses them to go and seduce the people that he wants to kill. He was by far my least favorite character, the worst of the villians in this story, because he manipulated everyone and made it all seem like such a bore. I had a strong urge to skip all of the chapters with his POV, because every word was physically repulsive to me.

The most frustrating thing about this whole story, was that instead of Veronica going straight to the police station and disclosing all of the information that she knew about her bosses as well as describing the abduction that happened to her; she decides to take unnecessary risks and handle this alone in an unsafe environment to her and the public around her. Almost every decision that she made was completely irrational, and I just couldn't understand what was happening.

Lastly, I've read this book before. Not this exact book, but one where it goes like: employee finds some undesirable information about the people that she's working for, decides to take matters into her own incompetent hands, finds a partner/boyfriend who she comes to completely trusts, and goes on a mission to stomp out the bad guys herself. Excuse me, I think that there could be better way of creating a thriller, especially in a world endless with possibilities.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Monday, April 24, 2017

The Perfect StrangerThe Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After Miranda's first book, All the Missing Girls which blew me away, I had nothing but high expectations for this book. This book has no connections to the previous, yet still has an underlying theme of the darkness lurking at the edges of reality.

Leah Stevens is a crime investigative journalism, who had a falling out with her company because of libel charges that were put forth. So she decides to escape her past by moving into rural Western Pennsylvania with her mysterious roommate, Emmy. But the truth catches up with you and bubbles up to the surface, as Leah comes to learn again.

Two dead bodies are found in this town, which is a place for people to migrate to begin a new start. Leah decides that she wants to get involved in this case, because she has personally holding at stake, and also get involved with some insider information that leads her down a path or connecting the dots in this stories. I appreciate how the author gives us some snippets and mini-flashbacks, to give us clues. However, I think that it took our MC way too long to figure out this who-dun-it, and I started getting a little bit impatient and frustrated with the time frame.

I've never read a thriller like this before, because there was debate if the "missing girl" actually existed(was she an actual girl or just a figment of imagination), which I honestly felt like a cheap plot device or lazy writing. This was also written in chronological order in first POV, which has the standard format for thrillers that are exciting, yet in comparison to the unique format, this fell a little bit flat.

We are only in Leah's head, who is a likable but unreliable narrator, and has a scattered trains of thoughts and a mess in her life. After a certain point, I rather did not enjoy spending so much time from her perspective; it would have been much better to can an overall take-a-step-back view of the situation at hand. Honestly, at most points I viewed her as an untrustworthy source of information, because of course you can twist the facts like you want them and always view them through your lens.

With all of that in mind, Miranda still manages to deliver something deliciously mysterious. Her writing has the perfect mix of the past and the present, along with trying to overly-focus on the details that may link one case to another. She's just the author to take you by your hand at the start, and send you on a wild ride (or a wild goose chase) for an unidentifiable person.

The ending was also very disappointing, there was no huge confrontation in which everything got solved and the criminal got caught. Sure, I don't like tidy endings in most thrillers, but in this case I think that the author played it too safe and left it too open ended, ultimately leaving me unsatisfied with the outcome.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"We're all just wandering through the tundra of our existence, assigning value to worthlessness, when all that we love and hate, all we believe in and fight for and kill for and die for is as meaningless as images projected onto plexiglass."

This book was an absolute masterpiece and an absolute mindfuck of a sci-fi world.

"Are you happy with your life?" are the last six words that Jason hears before becoming unconscious and waking up in an unfamiliar, different world. At first, he doesn't even know if he's experiencing a dream/hallucination or which reality is the one that's real. The biggest question that he is trying to answer is: how does he get back to the people that he loves, the family that he left behind.

"I thought I appreciated every moment, but sitting here in the cold I took it all for granted. And how could I not? Until everything topples, we have no idea what we actually have, how precariously and perfectly it all hangs together."

Throughout this novel, we then go through a series of these types of introspective thought about: appreciating the things that we already have, finding our identity, how we perceive what reality is, the choices that we make or that we don't make. Because of our first POV, and the psychologist who appears in a good chunk of the book, this proved to be an interesting psychological study.

"The other (view spoiler) want the thing in the world that is the most precious in the world that is the most precious to me--my family."

This can classified as a love story, between a husband and wife and their son, between what their family means and how it grounds them in whatever life they choose to live through. That's what makes it so emotional, so gripping and soul-searching for both the narrator and so that the reader can relate. In my opinion this was the most important element of the book because it erased the indifferent and made us empathize with the struggles of our MC.

"It's a mystery. But there are clues. Most astrophysicist believe that the force holding stars and galaxies together--the thing that makes our whole universe work--comes from a theoretical substance we can't measure or observe directly. Something they call dark matter. And this dark matter makes up most of the known universe."

The scientific explanations blew my mind and probably went way over my head, but nevertheless could still captivate my attention completely. The way that the author writes it provides so much intricacy, and why this novel is titled is (the title sentence, if you will) captures the meaning and themes even more clearly.

I have to admit at first I had to adjust to Crouch's writing style. It could be described as short and choppy, but I thought that the voice of a screenwriter was shining through the pages. From page one, I just knew that this was meant to be adapted onto the big screen. There are repetitive phrases that are like lists, and lots of short phrases that just get dropped to the next line-in the middle of a thought. In a way though this fits right along with the fast paced tempo that Crouch is aiming for, so I grew to really appreciate . The result of his writing was making this an extremely quick read that was unputdownable, the kind that's so excellent that you can't help but read it in one sitting.

**Thanks to bloggingforbooks and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinion are my own.**

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Friday, April 14, 2017

The Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Everything breaks if you hit it hard enough.”

This novel follows the unique father-daughter relationship between Loo, a quirky teenager who had a rough-n'-tumble relationship, and Hawley, a mysterious man with a hidden past filled with regrets and mistakes. Set in the quaint New England setting of the Atlantic shore, we follow the messy nests of secrets and lies, and the criss-cross railroad tracks that this creates within the various connections in town.

Could be described as grit-lit mystery, in which the father teaches her daughter of survival skills like jumping a jar, shooting at the bullet range, etc. Loo's childhood being pretty unstable and unconventional, her transferring to seven different schools throughout her childhood. Objectively, I could recognize that Loo would have had a traditionally "better" childhood if she had stayed with her grandmother, however the things that she went through with her father was both heartbreaking and bittersweet.

How this book is set up, there is one chapter for the story behind every bullet hole that Hawley has acquired. Other chapters are alternating from Loo's POV, little vignettes of her life from twelve-years old to seventeen years old. I would dare say that this was done very successfully because I felt like we could get to know the characters much more in-depth, through their thoughts on life and their reactions of certain events.

Hawley has a peculiar way of life and tradition, where he hangs memorabilia, a type of shrine place in the bathroom, and always carries several guns wherever he goes and in whatever he packs. There's an element of grief, because Loo's mother drowned when she was just an infant.

Overall, the writing was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience this coming-of age story through my new favorite characters': Loo's eyes.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We Stood Upon Stars

"We search mountaintops and valleys, deserts and oceans, hoping sunrises and long views through the canyons will help us discover who we are, or who we still want to be. The language of your hearts reflect that of creation because in both are fingerprints of God."

[Actual rating: 2.5 Stars]

This book explores the journey of life and what fatherhood means, the wonder of looking up at the stars, camping in the West,etc. I think that this book has the potential to be an insightful and introspective piece of travel memoir art, if it's read at the right time to the right audience. However, being a female teenager, nothing in this book interested or applied to me personally, and so that's why I found it hard to get into it.

My favorite passages were those where Thompson describes all of the motorcycle rides with his grandfather and sees canyons, valleys, and tunnels. Those seem to be heartfelt, and his grandfather is a wise old man who brightened some of the dull stories and also gave us insight into the kind of contemplation that was taught to him, and in return pass this on to his two sons.

Generally though, I found myself skimming through most of these short camping stories, because a lot of the moral lessons are repetitive. Things like how he wants to be a better father by exposing his sons into the wild west and all the dangers that come in, how he has these moments with God that change him to be a better person. That's all good and nice, however this type of reflection would have been more suited for a short novella or even longer essay. 

On the other hand, in memoirs I like when all of the other characters are fleshed out and seem realistic, not paper-cut with roles. That's what it seemed to be here; the wife fulfills the life partner and romantic elements that are needed, supporting her husband in all of her endeavors. We don't even get one insightful shred about how their relationship actually functions, we don't really see the individual personalities of his two sons (the only details being that they're eight and ten years old). 

Overall, if you enjoy travel memoirs that talk about landscape and faith, this just might be the book for me. For me, however, it fell incredibly boring and flat as a result of this disconnection.

**Thanks to bloggingforbooks and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinion are my own.**

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 SerendipiTEA Tour Featuring When Planets Fall Author Abby Reed + Giveaway!

I've always wanted to have a chance to host a book tour on my blog, for as long as it's been alive. Right now, not only do I get to do that, but this is also a tour that I in part created. It was an honor and privilege to work with these sixteen debut authors and put together a beautiful and packed tour of their novels. Today I'm extremely excited to be focusing in on WHEN PLANETS FALL by Abby Reed, who I consider a friend.

Here's a little bit about this book:

“In this richly imagined start to a new sci-fi series, Reed brings optimism to the goal of solving entrenched violence in a galaxy far, far away. . . A propulsive, sharply crafted tale about a planetary war.” –Kirkus Reviews
If you enjoy books with disabled characters, sibling relationships, moral greys, body modification, and don't mind a bit of blood . . . in space . . . then you might like WHEN PLANETS FALL!
Breaker's home is cleaved by blood. The three tribes on the planet Scarlatti, whose only difference is their blood color, each want to exploit Breaker's valley for themselves. The feudal tension has already claimed red-blood Breaker's leg and his older brother. Now all this 18-year old wants is to maintain the tenuous peace in order to keep his little 'stroid of a brother alive. Malani, a red-blood raised blue, is a kidnapped POW and only wants to return to her adoptive home with her dangerous blue secrets. Luka, a red-blood stewing for trouble, wants to right wrongs done to his family and bathe his home in justice.

All three intersect when Breaker discovers a wrecked starship and is given seven days by the green-bloods to fix and hand it over as a weapon. Breaker must decide if aiding his enemies is worth the home he knows and his family's life. War is coming. And war respects no boundaries. And war leaves no survivors."

This is book #1 in STARS FALL CIRCLE series.

You can purchase it here:

A little bit about Abby Reed!

Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if. She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her debut novel, WHEN PLANETS FALL, will be published in May 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing.
Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint. Find her online at www.abbyjreed.com.

A little bit about her tea life! 

This photo should sum up my tea life: 

Yeah. Did I mention I like tea?

I like the caffeine. I like that it's water (I live at high-altitude!) I like the flavors. It's like eating a scent, and since scents are strong memory triggers, it's like eating a memory. Every time I drink something rose-based, I'm reminded of the way I felt when I visited the Queen's Rose Garden in England. I feel at peace, surrounded by beauty, even if I haven't left my office.

All about her tea contribution:

My WHEN PLANETS FALL tea is a custom cinnamon vanilla roobios mix. It smells very warm and makes me think of home. With rooibos as a base, there's no caffeine. And, fun fact: rooibos is supposed to be good for headaches!

Cinnamon is a very important scent to Breaker. To him, it's a scent that symbolizes his brother's death, loss, and a never-ending cycle of violence. I knew that had to be a main part of the tea. The vanilla is representative of the pupal fruit that grows on Scarlatti. It's a main part of their diet and has a sweeter taste. I chose rooibos because a) it's red, and the color red is huge in Breaker's world. B) Rooibos is supposed to be inflammatory, which is good for migraines, and Luka, one of the POVs, gets migraines.

What's included in the giveaway prizes?

Delicious Giveaway Link Below!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Serendipitea Tour online!

April 1st–The Regal Critiques: JM Sullivan with THE WANDERLAND CHRONICLES

April 2nd–Ohana Reads: Leah Henderson with ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL

April 3rd–YA and Wine: KM Robinson with GOLDEN

April 4th–The YA Book Traveler: F.M. Boughan with CINDERELLA NECROMANCER

April 5th–YA Wednesdays: Linsey Miller with A MASK OF SHADOWS

April 6th–Bibliobibuli YA: Leslie Hauser with CHASING EVELINE

April 7th–Rattle the Pages: Gwen C. Katz with AMONG THE RED STARS

April 9th–Pirates and Pixie Dust: Amber Duell with FRAGILE CHAOS


April 10th–lollipopsbooks: Abby J. Reed with WHEN PLANETS FALL

April 11th–SimplyAllyTea: Carrie Ann DiRisio with BROODING YA’S HERO GUIDE

April 12–Bookish Fan Girl: Amanda Hanson with SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

April 13th–For the Sake of Reading: Rosalyn Eves with BLOOD ROSE REBELLION

April 14th–Redd’s Reads: Meg Eden with POST HIGH-SCHOOL REALITY QUEST

April 15th–Tales of the Ravenous Reader: Kristin L. Gray with VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE

April 16th–Little red bookshelf: Chelsea Sedoti with THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT

April 17th–Emily Reads Everything: Shaila Patel with SOULMATED

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2)Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Rating: 3.5 stars]

A daring sequel to a thrilling first novel, however slightly inferior. Second book syndrome, or perhaps not enough spent with my favorite character may contribute to my indifferent to this continuation.

Plot-wise it's absolutely fascinating and was moving along quite rapidly. Planet Earth is being invaded by more and more of these "alien robots" that are threatening the very international safety. Chaos ensues and the storyline goes from there, involving all of the same characters that were featured in the first book.

There was more of a sense of deathly urgency, which of curse ensured that there was a decrease in solid character development that I was desperate to see. However this (endearing) train wreck didn't keep my on my toes. I think that the author tried, and quite frankly failed at creating that authentic urgency that's needed in this thriller-esque thing. The format stays exactly the same as it was in the first installment (interviews and short diary entries) however because of certain event and the need for more narratives to fully flesh out the character.

Funny, I expected this alternative world to expand, but instead I felt like it was narrowing. We spend a significant among time solving mysteries in the details of under the microscope and examining DNA. Sure, there were some profound passages that explore the idea of space, infinity, etc. just as could have been expected from Neuvel.

(view spoiler)

Lastly the ending: omg! Neuvel really has a knack for writing abstract cliffhangers. Not only did you not expect them, but they are completely out of the world of things that happened; that they change the playing board completely. I'm expecting that this is a set-up for the third installment.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Monday, April 3, 2017

The BarrowfieldsThe Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The more I read these types of books, the more I discover that dysfunctional family sagas are not my cup of tea. Let's face this, "debut" author sometimes tend to overuse this tope to create a barebones plot outline.

I wish that I could say that I've found an exception to the rule, but this one is unfortunately not what I was hoping it was. We follow Henry, a child of two ambitious artists that live in a dark and ghostly mansion at the top of the hill, that's rumored to be haunted because of the previous owners mysterious deaths. It seems that his father is a depressive alcoholic who neglects everything and everyone around him for his sacred "writing" which he considers his whole life. His mother has put up with this behavior for years, and has not ben a comforting mother figure to neither him nor her daughter Threnody. Henry seems to take the mother and father role in her life. The setting is a small rural town in Northern Appalachia, where both the father and son want to escape but ultimately their town calls them back (see the repetitive patterns yet?)

As for the writing, where is the editor or was there any editing work done on this? You could not believe the number of "and"s and repetitive phrases that were repeated in the same sentence/paragraph. Lots of the word choice and sentence structure felt very discombobulated to the point that I felt frustrated with it. I just thought that this needs a lot more work writing-wise. One might say: "But readers like me should maybe move past that since after all he is a debut author, so cut him some slack right?" (I have greater expectations, and also if the writing sucks, it's ruins everything so...)

I was also disappointed in the way that the adoption process was handled. There is a certain character who is in a relationship with our MC and then of course something about her biological parents is revealed and our MC is the fire to ever notice the answer. I just thought that whole section wasn't well thought-out and unrealistic in terms of legal stipulations and then how the information was even discovered.

One of the only things that I genuinely enjoyed where the flashbacks to Henry and Threnody's sibling relationship when they were children. He used to read her books and make up stories and sing to her every night before bed, which I thought was really sweet and showed a caring side in his otherwise unlikeable nature. That point in time was absolutely precious to watch unravel, although I can't say the rest for the same of the book.

**Thanks to bloggingforbooks and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Nasty WomenNasty Women by 404 Ink
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The world is a dangerous place right now, but not as dangerous as a nasty woman with a pen in her hand and story to tell. These voices telling our truths cannot be shaken and they certainly will not be drowned out any more. Why fear us when you can join us?

This collection of essays blew me away. As a newly christened feminist, I was looking around for some empowering literature that could empower me through the voices of the women fighting against sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, etc. Coming out of this reading experience, I’ve discovered some kick-a*s role models who are champions in the movement. I feel more passion, more spark than I have in what seems a very long time, but is just months since the November election.

Every single one of these essays are on an important topic, and a majority of them were successfully were intersectional. We have imperfect feminists that have mental illnesses, drug addicts, and people who’ve fuc*ed up. We have proud daughters of immigrants, who describe the struggles of their parents giving them a better life.

“I shake in terror for them and with them and I cannot decide what is scarier: that Drumpf is president or that people I know and love enabled him.”

As with any collection, there are weaker ones and ones that you absolutely loved because it related and resonated with you as a women. My favorite one was actually the first one, which is hella political and truly packs a punch from which I am sure that I will reread over and over again.

Firsthand experience, first person POV is essential for making these people who are writing these essays connect to their audience of readers. A successful piece of writing makes the reader feel empathy and want to do something about the injustice that is being spread. So many pieces did that to me, quotes that stuck with me and resonated deep within myself. This book made me confront my own racist behavior and thinking that was harmful and horrible, and so for that I will be forever grateful for that.

This isn’t sugarcoating “comfortable” feminist stories, it’s raw, painful, sorrowful, passionate, personal and more than that. It opens your eyes to example of microaggressions that black women experience, it talks about survivors of sexual assault and rape (trigger warnings). But walking away you feel like you learned something valuable.

****Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairy TaleGeekerella: A Fangirl Fairy Tale by Ashley Poston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a magical Cinderella retelling, with wicked stepmothers, bratty stepsisters, a pumpkin that serves as transportation, and even losing a plastic slipper. A die hard Starbound fan, her father the creator of ExcelsiCon is going to give everyone that she has to win a cosplay event to get the tickets and transportation to Atlanta, where this is hosted.

“I'm half of my father. Half of my hero. And I am half of my mother. Half soft sighs and half sharp edges. And if they can be Carmindor and Amara--then somewhere in my blood and bones I can be too. I'm the lost princess. I'm the villain of my story, and the hero. Part of my mom and part of my dad. I am a fact of the universe. The Possible and the Impossible. I am not no one. I am my parents' daughter, and then I realize--I realize that in this universe they're alive too. They're alive through me. Fashioning my hands into a pistol, I point it at the ceiling, lifting my chin, raising my eyes against the blinding stage lights, and I ignite the stars.”

A perfect description of who Elle is. If you are at all familiar with the popculture and story of Cinderella, you would know that she’s an orphan. Here the author can spin that element of her personality, and shine her dead parents’ character through it. The way that Poston describes stars and the night sky blows my mind. There’s an element of pure wonder, coming from both of your narrators that make the readers feel as if they’re staring at the night sky right then. If you love romance that feature enemies-to-lover, anonymous text messages, and cons, than this is the book for you.

“I know fans are the worst sometimes. The best, but also the worst. And you are a fan. So you’re going to be the worst to yourself. You’re going to judge yourself the harshest.”

I adore seeing fangirls and fanboys active within the fandom be represented in YA novels. All throughout this story, I felt like I could really relate to Elle’s obsessions and her determined fangirl girl that shines through against all odds. Also, I really enjoy taking a deep dive into teenager celebrities lives, and what it’s like for them to be new on the scene of Hollywood. Darien, our Carmindor, is the most beloved character of the show that he’s watched since he was seven.

The author isn’t afraid to explore the dark side of fandom, the fans that go too far and ruthlessly criticize newer reruns that are happening. The author includes diverse characters, like Elle’s best friend is gay and Darien is Indian I believe. Elle is such an adorable geek, such an adorable nerd, and I loved her all the more for it. There’s nothing that she wouldn’t do for her fandom and for the show that got her through her childhood, even through her stepmother’s opposition.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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