Monthly Archives: February 2014

River & Sam’s Book Confessions

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River’s Confessions

I know we’re all very particular about our reading habits: that some of us dog-ear our books and others cry over the though. (I’m actually 50-50 on that, some of my books look like they’ve been through war while others look as if they’ve never been touched) We all have our book-quirks so here are some of mine…

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I HATE HARDCOVERS. Le gasp! I know, they’re so pretty and shiny and have dust jackets and special art and blah blah blah. I love LOOKING at hardcovers. But I hate actually having them. They’re too heavy, they take up too much space, I’m always ruining that damn dust jacket and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to take it anywhere. Because of this a lot of my books don’t match (did I hear another collective gasp?). Many of my series are mainly paper back with a few hardcovers mixed in. Some of my series even taper off into eBooks. AHHHHHHH.

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I LOVE EBOOKS. Or maybe it’s more that I love my kindle? Because I would marry it if I could. I once swore that I’d never get an eReader and then I did and now I’m obsessed with it. Not only can I get super cheap eBooks, but E-ARCS. AHHHHHHH. I love them. So much. I’d marry them too. Also my kindle is so much more portable and so much easier to read while commuting or on break at work.

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UNORGANIZED SHELVES. My shelves are NOT like this. Not at all. My books are laying all over and have no order. Well… they have some. I have a pile for ‘read’ and another pile for ‘to read’. I also stack them by size. Kinda. IT’S A MESS. When I move and have a real book shelf I WILL fix this. Maybe.

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I LOVE DESTROYED BOOKS. But I hate being the one to destroy them. This is why I’m on the fence about dog-earing pages. If it’s my own book or one that I borrowed, then I’m usually very careful with it. But if it’s one that someone gave me (not to borrow) and it’s already a mess… BEND THAT BABY RIGHT UP. My mom actually bent the spine on my Mila 2.0 ARC and I didn’t mind because I just felt like I had free license to ruin it more. My husband let me borrow one of his books and man… what a mess. He writes all over his books and bends the spines and pages… it’s so exciting to be able to destroy a book. But I just feel SO guilty if I’m the one making it go from unmarred to cracked and bent and crazy looking. So please, feel free to ruin MY books for me.

Sam’s Confessions

1.       I rarely DNF a book. – I am the type of person whether it is reading a book or playing a video game, I like to complete it and go down with a sinking ship even if I despise it. I’m the type of person who always hopes a book will have redeeming factors that will often take it from a 1 to a 2. I also feel super guilty when I don’t finish something because I know that is someone else’s hard work that I’m being asked to provide an opinion of. According to Goodreads I only have four books on my DNF shelf, but I feel like I should learn to be okay with not finishing something.

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2.       I have a Shelf of Shame – Some of you have seen pictures of the Shelf of Shame, aka my TBR pile. It consists of over 300 physical books because I have a book buying problem. I also have about 90+ books on my Kindle (stupid awesome $1.99 sales and ARCs!). I can go for months where I only buy one book, but then the following month I often find myself binging because I missed out on something.

3.       I struggle to break up with the library – I confess, I adore my local library! It is great at keeping up with the latest releases and there are always new books to be explored. A lot fo the time I will come out with four to eight new books to read (often a variety of graphic novels, picture books, middle grade, ya, all research, totally! …no, not really) when I should be focusing on the books I’ve bought. I am bad about this.

4.       I am a mood reader, but I am not a picky reader – I find I am often a mood reader. I’m the person who reads a few pages and if it fits how I’m feeling, I start reading. If a book rubs me the wrong way, I have no problem putting it down and starting something else. I craving different kinds of books every day, but I’m not actually picky about the types of books I read be it level or genre. I wish I could be pickier, but I like being the type of person who has an open-mind towards a lot of books. I feel like it’s the only way to find out if you like something or not.

5.       I (mostly) have no preference towards format – I am just really am not fond of audiobooks. It’s weird because I love podcasts and podcasting, but audio books oddly don’t do it for me. I think it’s because I’d rather have the feeling of something in my hands, and I am oddly not a fan of having headphone in my ears.

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ARC Review – The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

18108651Title: The Edge of Falling

Author: Rebecca Serle

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this. Writing this honest review to say thank you

This book is sad and beautiful. Caggie’s struggling with the loss of her sister (who died under Caggie’s watch), the loss of her boyfriend (who broke up with her after he didn’t know how to help her anymore), her brother (who spends his summer away at the beach house where the sister died), her father (who’s always away on business) and her mother (who’s distanced herself from everybody and busied herself with pointless things like redecorating the house). So when Caggie meets Astor, the dark, brooding, understanding boy who is also suffering, the two of them envelop each other with their grief, suffocating and drowning together in it. Caggie feels safe with him, but she doesn’t know anything about him. And she’s happy that way. She begins to distance herself from her remaining friends and doesn’t even care. She stops being interested in things she once loved.

The romance between Caggie and Astor is scary. It’s so clear to everyone around her that there is something wrong, that they aren’t good for each other, yet she sees them as the wrong ones. And who wouldn’t. She’s so lost in what happened, what she almost did on the rooftop of a classmates house (which earned her hero status that wasn’t justly deserved) that she just dives in deeper. Until she discovers just how gone Astor really is.

The darkness in this book is so sad, and the grief these characters suffer is unbearable. I can’t totally see why Caggie did what she did, but I’m also so glad that she was able to overcome her grief. I love how the issues were dealt with in this book and how the relationships were handled. And the writing~ it is so beautiful.

Fans of contemporary YA will love this for sure.

TTT – Top Ten Books That Will Make You Swoon

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Swoon Worthy Books

River’s Top Five

So I’m a big fan of books with romance in them, but it’s not enough just to stick two characters together. I have to actually FEEL it. It has to be real. I have to smile and laugh and sometimes even blush along with them. I also want to fall in love along side the MC. So here are some books where I felt that I was falling in love…
1. Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi — While I might not be the biggest fan of this series, I do love Mafi’s writing and even though Warner is an awful person, he is at least a good awful person. And he TALKS to Juliet. I ranted about this in my review, but my biggest problem with ‘team Adam’ is that he is all action, not talk. Warner is both talk AND steamy action. Let’s just say reading THAT scene on the train ride home from work was a bit embarrassing…
2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins — The part where Anna stays at school during vacation and St. Claire and her innocently sleep next to each other fully clothed was the most swoon-y part of that book for me. I just loved how innocent but intense it was.
3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell — EVERYTHING OKAY. This entire book made me swoon. Happy sighs and OMGGGGGGGS all around. I think my favorite part was when they first held hands. Totally made me remember the first time I held hands with someone.
4. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater — I’m torn between the kiss and the hug on the side of the road. I loved the kiss, LOVED IT. So bittersweet. I loved how the two of them grew closer because of it. BUT THE HUG ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD BESTILL MY HEART.
5. The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead — This entire book was sexual tension between Adrian and Sydney from the VERY START. I love how FUNNY their evolution was. I remember laughing over everything, it was just so cute and so THEM. Seeing Adrian happy was really great.
Sam’s Top Five
I love a good romance, but like River, it has to be believable. There’s nothing that grinds my gears more then couples being smushed together because of insta-love or “because fans said so.” A good romance should make you care about the characters and what you are reading and the five I’ve selected I feel do exactly what I like best in a romance.
1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell — Did I mention I have a huge love for Cath and Levi? I love the fact that they have such an awkward meeting yet they grow to be friends first, slowly moving into that stage of a new relationship. I love that Levi takes a chance in understanding where Cath is coming from, even if he didn’t understand it right away. This relationship reminded me a bit of how I met my soon-to-be-husband — we were lab partners in college in a horrible 8am class, and the rest was history… if you count “So if you’re not a lesbian or a pedophile let’s go on a date sometime?” and *SLAP!*
2. Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff — Lesh and Svetlana are truly adorable in how they interact with each other. They both know their oddballs and that really translates into a lot of the discussions and interactions they have. While I won’t spoil too much of this book as it’s not out yet, let’s just saying the last forty pages or so really sealed their relationship for me. They take so many chances but have so many realistic fears about relationships, and I loved that about both characters!
3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein — KISS ME HARDY! Easily one of the tough reads I’ve ever encountered, the romance in this book isn’t exactly the highlight of the story, but DAMN is it swoon worthy.
4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins — I was a HUGE sucker for this book and Lola and the Boy Next Door. There was so much charm in both books, but I feel like Anna gets the edge because her and St. Claire were surprising sweet a lot of the time. They have real couple problems, they don’t like each other right away, and the have a romance that grows and develops. Plus, it’s hard not to fall for St. Claire, that cheeky bastard. *fans self*
5. The Sight Seer by Melissa Giorgio — Before anyone says I’m cheating, I’m NOT! I have the biggest love for Gabi and Rafe’s relationship. There’s chemistry between the two of them, there’s a ton of humor, and what I love the most is that Gabi is the aggressor in the relationship. I mean that completely lovingly since Rafe is completely the boy you can take home to mom and know that he’d fit in, but Gabi is crazy, and she’s the fun kind. The writing in this series is just so fun and their interactions always end up being my favourite, especially in the Indiana Rafe story from An Autumn Dream. I snicker EVERY TIME I read about Gabi abusive shoving groceries into the customer’s bag while Rafe and Evan run a muck.

ARC Review – The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

17157466Title:  The Tyrant’s Daughter

Author: J.C. Carleson

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations? 

Huge thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for the advance reader copy.

River’s Review (4.5 Stars)

Wow this book was good. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when I went into it, but I’m so glad that I read it. Sadly, I’m not really that up-to-date with everything that is going on in the middle east (I blame living in Japan, but it’s mostly my own apathy towards keeping up to date with world news), but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book. I especially loved reading the authors note at the end and seeing how she used parallel events in her novel.

As a non-native living in a foreign country (American living in Japan) I could totally connect with Laila and her family on their exile to the US. I know what it’s like to move to a new country and be faced with having to explain and defend your own culture while trying to navigate, understand, and even accept the new culture that you’re in. I really loved how this was done. All of Laila’s stereotypes about the USA are ones that I hear from Japanese people ALL of the time. Everything is big, loud, noisy, too fast. At first it bothered me and I felt like the author was perpetuating the American stereotype, but the more I thought about it, the more honest it was. I find that A LOT of people outside of the USA are more-or-less trained to think that the USA IS this loud, fat, superficial nation. And the same goes for people in the USA. Laila’s friends were quick to judge her and her culture, and they often didn’t accept her culture. I loved it when she told the Cinderella story and the way everyone reacted. I can honestly say that I’ve also had similar reactions to Japanese culture. I try to understand, and have come to accept A LOT of it, but there are just some things that I cannot. But UNDERSTANDING is the key. So I really clicked with this aspect of the book and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I really loved Laila’s voice. She was such a strong character and so regal all through the story. She had her moments of weakness, anger, recklessness. She was able to rebel in more ways than a typical teenager, and she went all out at times. I’m glad that she stepped out of her comfort zone and tried new things. I liked her friends and the way she handled her choices. I loved watching her navigate her new life and deal with the freedoms she was suddenly handed.

I also loved the descriptions of the middle east. One of the BIGGEST issues I have with books set in foreign countries is that a lot of the time the author has no idea about the REAL LIFE stuff that happens. Anyone can watch the news and google about foreign countries, but if you haven’t spent a GOOD amount of time in a place, you wont really understand the way things work, the customs, the people. The author was spot on with the details though and I never felt the need to question what she was showing us. Credibility is important with books set in foreign countries, and this was full of it.

I was really surprised by the ending though! I didn’t see it moving in that direction and thought it was a brave choice.

And can I say how freaking COOL it is that the author was a legit CIA operative? One of my childhood dreams!!! Ah, so cool. Def check this book out guys!

Sam’s Review (4.5 Stars)

I went into the Tyrant’s Daughter with zero expectations. Truthfully, the story didn’t entirely sound like something I’d enjoy. Colour me shocked when I devoured 50% of the book in a day. Carleson’s book has these amazing powers of just sucking reader’s into Laila’s world and making you feel like you understand her hostility and aggression.

While I’m not always paying attention to current events, I found that the story Carleson told was surprisingly accessible. There’s a lot happening and for the most part (up until the end) it was easy to follow and Laila, for all her frustration and anger was a very easy protagonist to follow. Actually, I quite loved her. Being in her head was so fascinating, from her prejudice to her understanding. I liked that she wasn’t white washed — her culture is explicitly important to her, and even when she tries to be understanding or trying to fit in, her struggles are something that one can easily understand.

I think what I loved the most was just how real the story felt. Seeing how her mother and brother attempted to adapt was both interesting and heartbreaking. You get a sense that while their could be light at the end of the tunnel for everyone… not all the characters necessary want it. I also loved all the additional material at the end of the book that showed what inspired the story or the events that were rooted into the tale. I love having that extra bit of knowledge because I always find it helps me appreciate a story just a bit more.

The Tyrant’s Daughter is a very deep and layered story. It’s a great page-turner, but it’s not necessarily the easiest book to read. Laila is just such a great story teller, and that a lone is really what sold me on the entire novel. The writing is equally tight and fast-paced, and what I loved is the amount of realism. This book is definitely worth checking out, even if it’s something you might not think is your cup of tea — you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

ARC Review – The Lure by Lynne Ewing

18052928Title:  The Lure

Author: Lynne Ewing

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Blaise Montgomery lives in the gritty outskirts of Washington, DC, where a stray bullet can steal a life on the way to school. Drugs and violence are the only ways to survive, so Blaise and her friends turn to gangs for safety, money, and love. When Blaise is invited to join Core 9, one of the most infamous crews, she jumps at the chance. Though her best guy friends, Rico and Satch, warn her about the danger, she agrees to be beaten for a minute straight as part of the gang’s initiation ritual.

Now Blaise is finally part of a crew. A family.

But things get only more dangerous when she becomes a member of Core 9 and tensions with a rival gang heat up. Trek, the head of Core 9, asks Blaise to be his “lure,” the sexy bait he’ll use to track down enemy gang members and exact revenge. Rico and Satch tell her it’s a death sentence, but Blaise can’t resist the money and unparalleled power. As Trek puts Blaise in increasingly dangerous situations, she begins to see that there’s more to lose than she ever realized-including Satch, the one person who has the power to get under her skin. With death lurking around every corner, should Blaise continue to follow the only path she’s ever known, or cut and run?

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this advance reader copy.

Sam’s Review (2.5 Stars)

Considering all the low reviews for this book, it pains me to be another one tossing it into the pot. Ewing’s book has tons of potential, a wonderfully dark, gang-infested world, and an intriguing premise… that could have all been presented better.

Considering my interest in gang related narratives in YA, The Lure hit that note exceptionally well and I felt like Ewing did a great job of understanding the mentality and the cause and effect factors of what it means to be a part of a unique lifestyle. However, the writing is exceptionally dull, the descriptions are often flat, so while the intentions of a great story are there, the writing doesn’t heighten.

Another issue is how predictable the narrative is and how the characters add to that level of predictability. From the very beginning of the novel we know there’s going to be a love triangle, someone is going to get sacked, and bad decisions are going to be made. Even worse is that Blaise is just not a character you can sympathize with considering how poor her decisions are and the fact that she doesn’t see consequence, which is very baffling at times. In this type of story you think that consequence is something to learn from or be showcased and a lot of the time it’s not strongly represented. There are glimpses of great story moments, but are marred by the awkward dialogue. When I think gangsters, I think slang, and it was odd to not really see any.

Sometimes instances in this book felt flat or unrealistic, which is a real shame considering how realistic a lot of this narrative is supposed to feel. I think my issues with The Lure was that I wanted to see a strong, more cohesive narrative that just never came to be. I wanted to like the characters, but found them difficult to like. The Lure isn’t a bad book, it’s just one of those books with tons of potential that is never really realized.

Snow Day!!!

IMG_4747Snow Mamegoma!

It snowed today! Which I know, for most of you reading, that this is NOT a big deal (especially if you are in the USA, which is like 95% covered with snow) and DEFINITELY nothing new for my better half (Sam is from Canada if y’all don’t remember) but I haven’t seen this much snow since 2009. It DOES snow in Japan (in the northern areas) but the main island doesn’t see that much snow. Tokyo usually gets hit with snow in late February, but for the most part the East, West and Southern areas are just cold, snowless places in the winter.

IMG_4757 IMG_4739IMG_4740Last night’s weather forecast called for snow and all of my students started to cancel because they don’t have ~snow tires~ (which yes, I know if the area isn’t used to snow that people WILL freak out about having to drive in it and that it IS unsafe, but the whole OMG NEED SNOW TIRES FOR TWO INCHES OF SNOW thing cracked me up) and my manager was worried about if the train would stop/ be delayed, so she gave me the day off! Yay for having a Saturday off! So Husband and I went out for lunch, took photos and built a snow Mamegoma!

IMG_4742 IMG_4745The wind is actually blowing so hard it’s making baby snowdrifts! Awww, it’s like back home (If y’all don’t remember, I’m from the lakeshore area in Michigan where they currently have snowdrifts taller than human beings).

Also, if you’re wondering why we’re wearing surgical face masks… it’s a thing that people in Japan do. Most people believe that the masks will help keep you from catching a cold or that if you have a cold you should wear one to keep your germs to yourself. They’re also INCREDIBLY good at keeping your face warm, so Husband and I always wear them when we go outside.

IMG_4750 IMG_4753A few years ago Husband and I went on a trip to one of the more snowy areas of Japan and we built a snow Mamegoma. We’ve always talked about having the chance to make another one and today was finally the day! We built this little guy on our front walkway. I hope our neighbors think he’s cute!!!

18820442Snow day reading!

And now I’m going to curl up with a cup of tea and read this for the rest of this cold, snowy day! Mannnnn, I was having so much trouble getting into anything this past week (three DNFs in a row!) so I decided to try one of my most anticipated 2014 books and mmmmmm this is GOOD!

Happy snow day!

ARC Review – The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen

17878473Title: The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare

Author: M.G. Buehrlen

 

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for this advance reader copy.

I feel like based on the synopsis that this book would have been right up my alley. The problem with The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare is that it’s going to be a very polarizing read for most lovers of young adult.

I’m throwing this out there, but this book is beautifully written, right down to it’s detailed and intricately written descriptions and use of imagery. However, there’s beautifully written and then there is beautifully written but going nowhere. That really is how I am going to sum up my feelings about this book because it has such a fabulous premise, but the size of it hinders the story more than develops it.

I get frustrated sometimes with larger books because you want to hope that everything within the texts fits and its something important to the plot or makes the readers want to turn pages. For example, in a series like Game of Thrones the reason that those books are such page turners is because (for the most part) there is always something happening. While this may be an unfair comparison for Alex Wayfare, I feel like because a good chunk of this is flashback, it gets harder to invest oneself in where the real narrative is moving. I had so many moments where I found myself saying something was fantastically done or very clever, because Alex is a heroine who gets crap done. On the other side of the coin, however, there are so many parts of this book that drag and often feel as if it’s going nowhere, and that really saddens me. I don’t mind reading a large book, but give me substance that makes me want to turn the pages.

I had a hard time with a lot of the side characters. I never felt connected to them or care about what they were doing. Alex, I had moments where I loved and cheered for her, and other moments where I was smacking my face into a desk because of hos idiotic she’d behave. She’s a very polarizing heroine in this sense because you feel like she’s balanced, but her flaws don’t feel as fleshed out as they could be.

So in the end, I’m torn and confused by Alex Wayfare it’s a great idea that really could have been cut down by a number of pages. It’s one that I’d recommend requesting from the library or reading an expert before making a decision because I feel like with the right reader, it could be an amazing experience for them. Unfortunately for me, I was clearly the wrong reader in the end for this timeslip.