Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday–All Time Favorites

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Top Ten Books That Have Become my All Time Favorites
 
(that I’ve read since I started blogging January of 2012)
 
 
1. The Taker Trilogy by Alma Katsu
 
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2. The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi
 
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3. The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken
 
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4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
 
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5. Everything I’ve read from Maggie Stiefvater
 
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6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Lani Taylor
 
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7. Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
 
Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
 
 
8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
 
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9. The Martian by Andy Weir
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10. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
 
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I know I’ve missed some favorites, but I feel like I shouldn’t have to think hard about the best 10 books I’ve read since I started blogging. They should just pop out at me with hardly a thought and that’s what these books have done. I have not forgotten about any of these books and I recommend them all of the time.
 
 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review–The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

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The One I Left Behind
 
by Jennifer McMahon
 
Summary: Bestselling author Jennifer McMahon is back with a gut-wrenching mystery about an architect whose troubled mother has been found 25 years after being kidnapped-by a killer who is still on the loose.
The summer of 1985 changed Reggie's life. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school's outcasts-Charlie, the local detective's son, and Tara, a goth kid who has a mental hold over Reggie and harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera-an ex-model with many "boyfriends" and a thirst for gin-the most, Vera's hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there's no body and Neptune disappears.
Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind after that horrific summer, Reggie doesn't trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when she gets a call from a homeless shelter saying that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.
With her signature style, Jennifer McMahon portrays the dark side of adolescent friendship and introduces characters who haunt the imagination, along with a disturbing web of secrets, betrayals, and murder.


Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I love Jennifer McMahon’s books. I love the mixture of secrets, being a kid and not fully understanding the adults around you, murder, and small towns. The One I Left Behind is longer than a lot of her other novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and was glad it was full of so much more detail.

The story flipped back and forth between 2010 and the summer of 1985. Reggie’s mom was the last victim of the serial killer Neptune and her body was never found when Reggie was a kid in 1985. In 2010, Reggie was living away from her hometown as a successful architect and returned to her hometown once news of her mother’s return reached her. It was crazy that Vera, Reggie’s mom was found alive. Her brain was kind of muddled, so she was unable to tell anyone what happened or where she’d been.

In the summer of 1985, Reggie was getting into trouble with her friends and growing up. And like most kids, she didn’t quite understand the world around her and the relationships between the adults in her life. But when her mother went missing, she tried to figure out what happened with her two friends. She was getting into trouble, feeling inadequate, crushing on one of her best friends, and building a tree house. Her mother definitely had some darker habits and secrets that Reggie seemed kind of oblivious about, but there were so many people who could have had something to do with her disappearance.

I had no idea who Neptune was. It’s safe to say I suspected just about everybody at one point in the book and I liked not really knowing. As secrets unraveled, the relationships between the people in Reggie’s life were complicated and more interconnected than Reggie would have believed. And Reggie had her own share of issues, some due to her mom’s disappearance, but others due to lack of self esteem. It was interesting to watch the story unfold.

While Don’t Breathe a Word is still my favorite novel by Jennifer McMahon, The One I Left Behind is definitely in the number two spot. I enjoyed the way it unraveled, the secrets, and the growth of Reggie that terrible summer.

4%2520star

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Goodreads and Shopping for Books

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Using Goodreads While Shopping for Books


When I go to a bookstore to browse without any idea of what I’m looking for, I always have my phone out and the Goodreads app ready to go. It’s how I do the bulk of my book shopping because of the reviews, average ratings, and friend ratings for the book. I find books that look appealing and immediately check them out on Goodreads to see what reviewers are saying about it.

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I have a whole system where I look at average rating, then scroll down to the reviews and see what most of them are rated. If an average rating is low or average, but I’m seeing a ton of 4 and 5 stars, it’s typically a controversial book or a popular one with a ton of low ratings because it contains something the reviewer doesn’t like. (Like a romance novel with a ton of low ratings from people who hate romance and are skewing the average rating by reading stuff they have no business reading.) If the bulk of the reviews are just average, I know it’s probably just an average book. Then, I look at what my friends have rated it. There are people I follow on Goodreads with reviews and tastes I recognize, and I trust their reviews as a result. If I’m looking at a genre, there are a couple reviewers who have similar tastes in that genre and if they rated it low, I find out why. I totally do this in the span of a couple of minutes and decide if the book I’m holding is a yay or nay book.

I’ve put down many books I discover I probably won’t like, even if they do have a pretty cover. I’ve picked up many maybe books when I see that people have positive things to say about it.

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The other day, in the bargain section of Barnes and Noble, I picked up a book with a beautiful cover and amazing premise. Looking at Goodreads clued me into the fact that it was a Christian fantasy novel. Had it not been for Goodreads, I would have bought it, taken it home, and hated it because that’s the one category of fiction I don’t read. When I do on accident, I want to bang my head against a desk when I find out. I’m glad I saved myself the headache. There’s nothing worse than taking home a promising book only to find out it’s the kind of book you’ll hate.

Using Goodreads is even more helpful as a used bookstore for me. I find so many amazing books at used bookstores, but there’s a catch. I know when I take books to be traded, they are typically mediocre or hated books of mine. While other people may love them (and I hope they do), if anyone has similar tastes as myself, they’ll pick up my old book and hate it. There’s a huge chance that a majority of books I find in used bookstores are the kind that look great, but maybe aren’t. Goodreads helps me figure out if it’s worth buying based on my tastes. And this is why I love reviews that are detailed so I can figure out what people didn’t and did like about the book.

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I’m not sure what I did before Goodreads and the book reviewing and blogging community. I find suggestions on what to read through social networking all of the time and I find that I have go to reviewers without even realizing it. There’s definitely a perk to having a lot of Goodreads friends who read and like similar books because Friend reviews are the first thing to pop up when you bring up a book. I feel like before I used social networking for bookish purposes, I was probably reading terrible books on accident all the time. I know I had favorite authors and never strayed from them or I’d read classics because I had a better idea about what to expect.

The only area where Goodreads doesn’t always steer me in the right direction is with self published books. The average rating for indie books is always much higher than other books, partly due to the smaller number of reviews, different expectations, and possibly other factors. Many blog tours don’t allow reviews under 3 stars. Many reviewers refuse to review books they didn’t like and elect to say nothing at all. Many reviewers, because of the nature of dealing with authors one on one, are probably less inclined to rate a book as low as they would if they were reading a traditionally published popular book where they don’t have to consider the author’s feelings. My Goodreads formula doesn’t work for self published books, but fortunately when I’m buying them, I’m at home on amazon and can spend a lot more time reading the reviews, maybe downloading the sample, and I can figure out if it’s a book for me.

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Do you use Goodreads when you’re shopping for books?

Has social networking helped you buy books?

Do you read reviews before you buy?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review–Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3) by Veronica Rossi

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Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3)

by Veronica Rossi
 
Summary: The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.
Within the confines of a cave they're using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.
Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn't just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival--he's also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.
In this final book in her earth-shattering Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.


Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

Into the Still Blue was AMAZING! The trilogy got better and better with each book and the finale was definitely the best book. It was full of adventure, conflict, hope, death, and love. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time because there was so much that needed to happen.

 Aria, as part of her quest to save Talon and her shaky alliance with Soren, was able to gather the remaining people left in the crumbling Reverie. But they had to move in with the Tides, which is difficult. The Dwellers and Outsiders did NOT trust each other at all and were pretty vocal about their disgust of Aria and Perry’s relationship. Roar was a mess after the events of Through the Ever Night. Perry was stressed more than ever, and Sable definitely had Cinder, who was the secret to unlocked the Aether wall at the the entrance to the Still Blue.

I loved Into the Still Blue because it explored all of the crazy tension between the Dwellers and Outsiders and I knew the characters had to figure out a way to beat Sable, which was difficult because he always seemed to be a step ahead. It had me on the edge of me seat so many times. It was obvious that the author wasn’t afraid to kill off characters, so I think a lot of my emotions had to do with not knowing who would perish or if they wouldn’t even make it into the Still Blue. I was terrified that they’d die somehow, attack each other due to differences, or Sable would just execute them all.

My only criticism is that I wanted more from the ending. There was still so much that could have happened and I wanted to see the characters who were left figure out how to get along, how to build a civilization, and basically explore the area a bit more. I mean, how did they even know if the Still Blue was safe just because it didn’t have the aether storms? I saw so much room for more storylines so I just wish it wasn’t just a trilogy. However, so many authors tend to beat a dead horse and have endless series, so I guess part of me is happy I don’t have to wait for more books and that I can just sit and let my mind wander and think about the fate of the characters left in the Still Blue.

I highly recommend the trilogy. It was such an unexpected amazing book. I didn’t like the covers, didn’t think it would be worth my time, and basically just thought it was another forgettable YA dystopian trilogy and I am very happy that I was proven wrong. Not only did Under the Never Sky wow me, but the sequel and finale were so much better and made for a pretty amazing trilogy. Don’t let this trilogy collect dust on your shelf. It’s totally worth the read.

  5%2520star


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review–Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2)

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Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2)

by Veronica Rossi
 
Summary: It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.
Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, can their love survive through the ever night?


Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to pick up this trilogy. I enjoyed Under the Never Sky, but with first books, you never really know the direction of the series and so many of the popular YA trilogies start out great and then fizzle out with the sequels. I was definitely worried, but I couldn’t wait to find out happened next. Through the Ever Night was incredible and didn’t suffer from Second Book Syndrome at all. In fact, I think I liked Through the Ever Night even more than the first book!

While Under the Never Sky had a blossoming romance, Through the Ever Night focused more on the events going on involving the outside world and Reverie. Aria was given the task of finding a way into the Still Blue by Hess from Reverie. Perry was Blood Lord of the Tides and had the task of getting his people to trust him, take care of them, and be a good leader despite the growing Aether storms. Aria and Perry’s paths crossed, but neither of them had the ability or the time to waste making googly eyes at each other. I totally appreciated that fact because they both had a lot of growing to do. Still, they had a strong connection and I thought that’s what made me like their relationship more.

As an adult reading YA, while I love romance and even understand when teen characters fail in duties because they are distracted, I really like it when two people can look up and realize they have shit to do and get that stuff done. In a way, that’s kind of what falling in love is like in the real world. When you’re with someone, you can lay in bed all day and memorize their curves, but someone has to get up and go to work and clean the house, right?

One of the other things that I appreciate about the series is how well the relationships are built. I felt Aria and Perry’s strong connection, but their friendships with others were also well developed. Aria and Roar had a bond that was very close, but I never thought for one second that there was anything more. So many YA series fail at creating friendships, especially between a guy and a girl and it was so refreshing to see it well executed here. The author refrained from having any insane love triangle BS. And while Aria and Perry had their own things happening and weren’t always able to explore their connection to each other, I felt like the conflict and drama was real and not created just to add relationship tension. I am so impressed by the way the author handled friendships, relationships, and the struggles of leading a tribe of people.

Through the Ever Night was filled with so much conflict. Aria was trying to find the Still Blue so she could save Talon and possibly help Reverie, since she was sure something was wrong with it. She started a shaky alliance with the guy in Reverie who attacked her. Her and Roar’s agendas aligned when she headed to the leader of the Horns who was the same guy Liv was supposed to marry. But things were crazy. Aether storms were going nuts, Perry was losing his credibility with the Tides, and Aria’s presence with the Tides was a constant source of problems. The people saw her as a Dweller and didn’t trust her, despite the fact that she was trying to help them in many ways. 

I loved the adventure and the conflicts in the book and I sped through it pretty quickly because I just had to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Things were so crazy! I highly recommend the sequel and the trilogy so far. It’s not one of those forgettable science fiction dystopian trilogies at all! And I’m so glad that the second book was even better. I had to buy book 3 immediately after finishing and I have high hopes it will be the best one in the trilogy.

4%2520star

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review–Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi

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Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)
 
by Veronica Rossi
 
Summary: Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered.
This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland--known as The Death Shop--are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild--a savage--and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile--everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.


Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

I really enjoyed Under the Never Sky, much more than I thought I would. I expected something a lot more run of the mill and didn’t expect such a refreshing and original plot. It was a great blend of dystopian, science fiction, fantasy, adventure, and romance.

I love the way the story unfolded. Aria’s world was much different than ours and most interactions took place in a virtual world. I loved that the world wasn’t over explained, it just was. As the story progressed, more bits of information of how things came to be that way and how the world was set up were revealed. I hate when books give me too much of an information dump, so I liked the way I was thrown into the setting and the story eventually revealed itself.

I enjoyed Aria’s character and admired her resilience as she was thrust into a world where death was said to take her. The world was scary, flawed, and lacked the order and design that her virtual worlds had. I loved seeing her take everything in without letting it overwhelm or frighten her. She worked through any fear she had. I admired her for sticking with Perry, too, when he was so rude and terrible to her. She was scared of him because he was an Outsider and a Savage, but she knew she was better off with him than she was on her own in the world.

Perry was in the wrong place at the wrong time through the entire beginning of the novel and ended up stuck with Aria. He hated Dwellers, was rude to her, but had to do what was necessary to save his nephew. I liked his point of view and the type of society he was living in on what Aria called the Outside. He was faced with difficulties Aria couldn’t begin to understand. Over time, the two characters, along with some wonderful side characters, got to know and care about each other. Aria never had to deal with the stress, hunger, and decision making that the Outsiders had to deal with and she learned so much on her adventure to Bliss to find her mother.

The story was violent, adventurous, romantic, difficult, and entertaining. I couldn’t put the book down and was shocked it was as good as it was. I’m not sure what sort of terrible YA dystopian I was expecting, but I’m glad it exceeded my expectations. I definitely recommend the book to any fans of YA Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, and/or Dystopian because it fits well into all of those categories. I think it came out during a time when dystopian YA trilogies were abundant and I think it’s a bit forgotten and underrated now. I usually pay attention to what books aren’t really being talked about anymore versus what people are still raving about years after release, so I thought maybe this one would be a 3 star, meh, kind of book, but I was so wrong.. I skipped over it for such a long time and I’m definitely glad I finally got the urge to pick it up. It was so much better than I expected.

4%2520star

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review–Let the Sky Fall (Let the Sky Fall #1) by Shannon Messenger

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Let The Sky Fall (Let the Sky Fall #1)
 
by Shannon Messenger
 
Summary: Vane Weston should have died in the category-five tornado that killed his parents. Instead, he woke up in a pile of rubble with no memories of his past - except one: a beautiful, dark-haired girl standing in the winds. She swept through his dreams ever since, and he clings to the hope that she's real.
Audra is real, but she isn't human. She's a sylph, an air elemental who can walk on the wind, translate its alluring songs, even twist it into a weapon. She's also a guardian - Vane's guardian - and has sworn an oath to protect him at all costs.
When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both their families, Audra has just days to help Vane unlock his memories. And as the storm winds gather, Audra and Vane start to realize that the greatest danger might not be the warriors coming to destroy them, but the forbidden romance growing between them.


Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:

Let the Sky Fall had a unique premise that piqued my interest. I didn’t realize that, despite being a romantic novel, it was primarily from Vane’s point of view. Vane was the one who didn’t realize he was special or anything other than human. Audra was the unique and otherworldly being who protected Vane and tried to get him to come into his powers. I like Vane and I thought it was refreshing to read something from a guy’s perspective since that’s something I don’t often come across in romantic YA fiction. Vane was snarky, sarcastic, and enjoyable as a character. I liked that Audra was the mysterious character and had the upper hand.

Let the Sky Fall dealt with sylphs, who were essentially air elementals and can walk in and talk to the wind, controlling it to some degree. Some sylphs were obsessed with learning all the types of winds in order to be powerful, but Vane was the last living relative of his line and was the only person who would potentially know how to talk to/control his kind of wind. Guardians like Audra protected him from the power hungry air elementals. I enjoyed the plot and the role reversal a lot because I thought both were refreshing. It’s not often I come across elementals in paranormal YA romance, so it was something new.

However, Let the Sky Fall was extremely predictable. Vane was the ignorant plain character who was suddenly the entire key to saving the universe because of some repressed ability he had, which is the most widely used trope in paranormal fiction. And with just days worth of training, he was able to unlock said ability without realizing it and save the day. Vane and Audra started to develop feelings, but couldn’t actually act on that because apparently one kiss from Vane would bond him to whoever he kissed. Which is another terribly overused trop in YA. The “twist” at the end was something I saw coming from the first moment I met the character involved because it was one of the most obvious conclusions. I was terribly disappointed. These predictable moments and overused tropes negated the refreshing perspective and premise completely. Also, I didn’t like that the main character’s name was VANE and he was able to control wind. I just thought that was super cheesy.

It looks like most people enjoyed Let the Sky Fall, so I’d still recommend it if you’re looking for a fun, read in one afternoon, easy to read paranormal romance. I enjoyed reading it, but it failed to bring anything new to the table and didn’t live up to my expectations.

2%2520star