Sunday, October 18, 2015

Change is good.

It's been a little quiet around these parts. Yes, mostly because of a big life change in March that limited my time (and currently still does), but also…the blog stalled a bit. And I want to talk about why.

My blog has always been about YA books and wanting to talk about them. Whether it's crazy plot twists or unbelievable characters or ridiculous endings, the fact is: I read, and I want to talk about them. I want to connect with other readers and be inspired by this community and find meanings and purposes right alongside others.

Then a funny thing happened: I found a wider community, filled with connections and ambitions and doors that lead to exciting, amazing things. Every book blogger can and will tell you how we never expected to find our sisters, our brethren when we started our blogs. It was about the books, and somehow it became a mirror and opportunity to our lives. And it's humbling and brilliant and I am so, so lucky.

But it also got to be a little overwhelming. I started to feel obligated to do things: write a review in a better light, make an appearance at a book signing, do memes or posts since it was the trend. I hope it's clear that I'm not blaming anyone for this -- it was all me. It was all in my head, my own thoughts and insecurities and changes and choices. Nevertheless, I started to change what I was doing. In retrospect I can see the negative path it was leading me on, but at the time, it was all so subtle I didn't realize it. Honestly, it was probably what I needed at that point in my life: structure and rules that still allowed me to feel as though I was being completely creative.

And then it started to take a toll. I didn't want to review a book -- but I had to, since it was a touring one and I only had so many I could say no to after reading. I wanted to talk about something spoiler-y, but knew it wouldn't get as many hits/reads. I hadn't read any books by authors who were visiting San Diego, but I knew I'd be expected at a signing - so I went, and bought books. I only had a few sentences I wanted to say in a review, but one of my touring sites requires at least 3 full paragraphs, so I had to stretch my review and add some inane sentences and muddle my real point. I wanted to talk about what it was in March that limited my time but made me so much happier than I'd ever been--but it wasn't book talk, and that felt like it wasn't allowed.

I hope it's clear I don't regret any of it, but it is the reason this blog fell by the way side any time anything else came up. I thought if I couldn't write that review at least this long and format it just so, then there was no point in putting it up. I met amazing people, amazing bloggers and reviewers and authors and book lovers. I've read books I never, ever thought I'd find or give time to, and I have loved every single moment.

But that was the old me. That was how this blog used to be run.

Now? I'm doing it how I want. If I want to write a review that's only 5 sentences long, I'm going to do it. I'm going to open up about my life and write about me and what's going on with me. Maybe it will be book related--and maybe it won't (GASP!). And I don't know if that's going to make me lose followers or people will be upset that I'm not strictly reviews/bookish memes anymore, but…it's my space, and I feel like I'm a bit lost in all my pages now. And I don't want that at all.

So: changes. Tons and tons of changes. They'll probably be subtle, and it's not like ALL my reviews will suddenly change. I still write with flourish and there are times writing 3 paragraph reviews are me limiting myself. I still read and love YA and want to discuss everything. That remains. It'll just be a bit…different.

And I hope you stick around for it. Because I love you all and want to share this new open side of me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (2/2016)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine
meant to highlight an upcoming release we're excited for!

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Simon Pulse, 320 pages
Expected US Release Date: February 9, 2016

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything. This is their story.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England? 

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.
----------------------------Goodreads summary

Because pirates. Because rich vs. poor. Because Romeo & Juliet-esque romance. Because trapped by society. And because FREAKIN' PIRATES.

What are you waiting for this Wednesday?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano (ARC)

A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Pram #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Bloomsbury, 240 Pages
Expected US Release Date: September 1, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed.
-------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Saying it aloud was an admission as well. No wonder she'd grown up in a house where nobody said they loved anyone; what a terrible pain that word caused.
If someone asked me to describe the perfect Middle Grade book, I would probably reference A Curious Tale of the In-Between now. I’m not sure what I would have said before (this is excluding Harry Potter of course, because that’s just all ages), but I can certainly tell you now that everything you’re looking for is probably found in this little book.

I’m not even a big “spooky” story lover. And it’s not like A Curious Tale was terrifying or nightmare inducing – it was just the right amount of spooky and creepy with adolescent curiosity and innocence. I thought DeStefano handled that weird middle-time of being a kid and learning there are bigger, sometimes better and definitely sometimes worse, things in life. It’s a very strange transitional stage, and she did fantastically well not only representing it, but also maneuvering through the Big Life Things and cutesy childhood moments.

Lauren DeStefano’s YA books always have this fantastic storytelling creativity to them. They’re original and unique but entirely relatable and human – and she’s carried this into her MG story as well. I never went through seeing ghosts as a kid, but I still felt like I could have been Pram in so many parts of this story. Her curiosity, her strangeness, her sadness and big heart and emotions…they were all so real to me and felt like it was a part of me, too.

I absolutely love love loved Clarence and Felix. If I were in High School English classes, I would have had so much fun analyzing them and who they represent to Pram and her stages in life – but this is a review, not a report, and I won’t. But trust that they are enjoyable from a literary analytics view, and just as characters from a reader. Both were unique and loveable in their own ways, and I wish I had them as friends when I was younger, too.

A Curious Tale of the In-Between was an adorable read, but also one I feel like is important to the Middle Grade book roster. It represents that time in life where you’re growing from a kid into a teenager and struggling to find your identity within your family, within your friends, and within yourself – and it represents it entirely well. The story is evocative and enjoyable, strong and so, so original. I highly recommend reading it.

4.5 stars

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder (ARC)

All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder
Scholastic, 272 Pages
Expected US Release Date: July 28, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people's wishes -- and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day -- maybe even their own.
--------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
"…time has this magical ability to change things. Just because something was true then doesn't mean it's true today."
What do you think you would do if you knew a huge asteroid was going to hit North America? Would you leave? Do you think you'd try to outrun it, even though you know it will alter life as you know it? Or would you stay and live out the last of your days as you wished?

Quite honestly, I don't know what I would have done. I'm nowhere near Emerson and Vince's situation, nor was I as a teenager…but I think I would have stayed. There's something about an unknown that seems doomed versus a doomed comfort, and I would be one of those to try and make the most of the last certain days. At least...I like to think I would.

Moving along. This book made me think, and it made me hope, and it made me sad, and ultimately, it made me feel a whole range of emotions--and it was so, so good. I love the idea of spending your last hours/days/moments trying to grant wishes and do good, and it was such a fun premise to the plot. The variety of people Emerson and Vince meet are this ridiculously amazing mix of interesting and tragic, and I really felt such a distinct sense of personality from each of them. It was a pleasure meeting all of them on the page.

Vince and Emerson themselves are a cute duo, and a sweet, sort of tragic story in itself. They really worked well together, especially in this tentatively-built safety zone of their friendship, and I enjoyed watching them go through their emotions together and with each other.

I do have to say, the "cult"/"revolutionist"/"skeptic" portion was a little...odd. Interesting! But odd. and I wasn't sure how I felt about it within the kind of felt device-y? I'm having a hard time explaining what I mean, especially without being spoilery. Just know that I found it a little strange.

All We Have Is Now is a wonderful YA book about our last days and what we find important in. There's elements of love and friendship and family, and I thought it had a wonderful message of doing what we can while we have the life and the time to do it. Highly recommend.

4 stars

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (ARC)

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Harper Teen, 352 pages
US Release Date: Today! June 23, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.
--------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
"Sometimes love isn't something you say, it's something you do," he finally said. "Or, I don't know, at least that's what it seems like."
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Robin Benway on a multitude of occasions and getting to hear her speak at events. She’s warm and friendly, hilariously endearing and so real and cheerful to be around. I look forward to any event I can make with her.

And I have to say, Emmy & Oliver possesses all the same charm that Robin herself does. Sure, it’s a bit depressing—and actually, pretty scary to think about, at its premise—but there’s such heart and humor in this that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the story.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be Emmy. Or Oliver. Oliver broke my heart over and over again, simply because what he’s gone through is unfathomable. It is terrible and horrible and no child should ever go through that—except once you read more about it, and understand the motives, why it happened…it shatters you all over again to realise you can kind of understand the father’s way of thought. I’m in no way endorsing kidnapping your child of course (seriously.), but…I mean. Love makes you do crazy things, you know?

Oliver is so fantastic, by the way. His personality, who he has developed into in his circumstance…he’s just crafted so well. He’s not perfect, but he’s beautifully broken and wonderfully written. His friendship with Emmy is adorable at the beginning and tenuous in the middle, but it is always something precious and on the verge. I can’t think of a friendship-that’s-almost-more that I’ve loved as much in any of my recent reads.

Emmy is wonderful as well, in her own little hopeful way. She’s sweet how she’s hung onto Ollie and helps him regain who he was; but at the same time, lets him become whoever he was in the 10 years it had been. The way she and Oliver left each was just cruel (in the best way possible, of course), and it made me yearn for her and them that much more. I loved her humor and fierce friendship with all of the characters, and I’d be pretty happy to have someone like her in my life.

Honestly, I don’t have much to complain with in Emmy & Oliver! I loved the two best friends and would love to have more of them (spin offs, maybe? Maybe!), and I liked the family elements in this. Sometimes I thought it was a bit extreme how the parents each acted, but within the circumstances they are given…it actually makes sense. I can’t say I’d act differently, really.

Emmy & Oliver represents heartfelt characters and what it means to be able to love someone no matter what has happened. It’s an exhibit of the heart and the capacity it can allow others to have within it, and I find it a privilege to have these characters and this writing in my life.

4.5 stars

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis (ARC)

The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis
Disney-Hyperion, 336 pages
Expected US Release Date: September 8, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won't invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie's rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn't interested in rehabilitation, not when she's still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie's whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she's ever met.Ben's life isn't easy, but he doesn't see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn't have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she's currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie's new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben's brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future...before she loses everything she has grown to love. 
--------------------Goodreads Summary
I have this bad habit of skimming and skipping around a book if I’m a little bit bored or slowed by the pacing of the story. Or if I can predict and guess, and I’m pretty sure of myself, I just kinda…hop ahead to check.

And I did that with The One Thing. I knew going in why Maggie could see Ben – I feel it’s pretty obvious, actually. And then I wasn’t sure how much I really liked her, and some of the beginning stuff bothered me…but I still wanted to know! So I hopped. And found out I was right! And a little bit wrong, too. And that way more happened than I thought would, so I went back to read some of the parts I missed, and I was actually kinda bummed that I robbed myself of a decent story and development.

The one thing I definitely loved about this book
is the distinct voice Marci Lyn Curtis writes with. It’s so unusual but completely relatable, and I felt like each character could really have their own personality shine through the voice Marci was able to write. I was also quite impressed with how much is packed into this story! How much happens, the different people, how music ties in, the shows, learning with Maggie how to adjust to being blind…there was a lot in here, that somehow all flowed together really well.

The one thing I liked about the book
was the characters. Ben and Mason especially – they were sweet and kind and funny and sometimes infuriating, but always lovable. Sometimes I thought each were a little cliché, but it also worked within the story, too. It’s like they needed to be a little cliché to balance out all of Maggie’s hard lines and inflexibilities and attitudes.

The one thing I wasn’t too sure about
was Maggie. Sometimes I really liked her! I thought her as a character was great, and if I were in her situation and how she went blind, I’d actually probably be a lot shittier of a person with an even worse attitude. But there was also something about her that I just didn’t quite like, on a reader level. She’s bitter and hard headed and negative – which is fine! But I just couldn’t find enough to balance her out into a likeable person, either. She kind of got there in the end, but that was a progression totally predictable and expected.

The one thing I definitely did not like
was how little her probation officer and prank played a part in the book! I was expecting some awesome rebellion, fantastic community service stories, things like that! And it just…wasn’t as big a thing as I expected or wanted. I was also not a fan of what the title was literally directed to. I liked the concept of The Thing, and Maggie’s thing, and Ben’s Thing and just…the idea of a Thing. But hers, and how it worked into the story? A little too convenient, in my opinion.

The One Thing had it’s ups and downs with me, but overall was an incredible story from a literary standpoint, as well as a bit on the personal front. The one thing I didn’t mention in here was the enormous amount of heart and strength that comes from each character, and I definitely think that ‘s the reason anyone should pick this book up.

3.5 stars