Tag Archives: books

Thoughts on reviewing and where I want to go

Guys I have been so absent from this blog that if Sam wasn’t so good about updating it this space would surely be dead. But it’s not and I just can’t let go of it, but I have so many thoughts about blogging and reviewing, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, but i thought that I would at least write some of my thoughts out here and just… get it out.

So I haven’t seen anything official, but it looks like one of my biggest source of ARCs (and thus reviews) is going to stop sending out their monthly blogger packs to bloggers. This has me really upset on two fronts. First I’m just upset because I’ve heard all of this second hand and even when I reached out to the pub I didn’t hear anything back. I was consistently receiving ACRs from this pub for almost two years and I was reviewing almost every title they sent (that i had requested. Any extras or unsolicited I reviewed at my own digression). Second… I’ve spent a lot of time these past two years reviewing books for them! And not to just stop without a word… it hurts. I know that getting ARCs is a perk and that it’s not the reason that I blog or read, but it really helped. I’ve been able to freely read almost anything that I’ve wanted because of this and now I won’t be able to. Yes I can get all the same books digitally and review them there, but my kindle is old and dying and idk if I want to invest in a new one.

I haven’t fully decided yet but maybe this will be the end of my reviewing career. A part of me is a bit relieved… it’s getting tiring reading on a schedule. It’s getting exhausting forcing myself to read books because I feel obligated. It’s getting boring writing what I feel is the same review every time. I think, but I’m not fully sure, that I might quit requesting books and just review whatever is sent to me. If anything is anymore. And then just read what I want. I have friends who can get me ARCs if I ask, there’s trading on twitter, and I have a HUGE backlog of things that I want to read but always feel like I should read later, AFTER my review books.

I do still want to blog. I want to be more active on here and bring more than just reviews. I want to talk about books that I’m reading, to catch up on books that people have been telling me to read for YEARS. I want to support authors that I already love.

But who knows. I might change my mind and buy a new kindle and make a new schedule and read all of the eARCs or I might give up totally and just become a hermit that never posts on the internet again (haha yeah right). But for the end of this year I have decided to not focus on reviews, to not read on a schedule, and to do what I want. And hopefully that will mean ya’ll will hear from me more often on here than just twitter or instagram.

ARC Review – Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

Title:  Diplomatic Immunity
Author: Brodi Ashton
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Aspiring reporter Piper Baird decides to write a scathing exposé on the overprivileged students at an elite Washington, DC, school, only for her life to change when she begins to fall for the story’s main subject, in this new realistic contemporary romance from Brodi Ashton, the author of the Everneath trilogy.

Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity…it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.

Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.

Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.

The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love? 

Molly’s Review – 

Huge thank you to HarperTeen for an advance copy of this book!

I really loved this book! I went into it with high hopes and they were met! This is my first book by Brodi Ashton and wow, her writing is so fun! I breezed right through this book, and was totally engaged from start to finish.

Our MC, Piper, is a journalist. She’s a big neurotic and will do anything for a story… and college tuition. So she gets it into her head that if she can get into this super competitive Ivy league high school in Washington D.C. that she’ll win a prestigious scholarship that will get her into Columbia. She manages to get into the school and is shocked by the way that the privileged elite that attend the school act, and what they can get away with. Especially those with diplomatic immunity.

On Piper’s first day of school she makes a fool out of herself in front of the son of the Spanish diplomat. Raf is charming and a bit of a bad boy. Piper sees her in with the DI crowd (diplomatic immunity kids) and starts to put together an expose on the shit that they get away with. She knows that this story will get her the scholarship that will get her into Columbia. Only she doesn’t really plan on falling for Raf but… she does. And then lines start to blur…

I really loved the voice of this book. Piper was so relateable because she’s not perfect. She lies and uses and she loves and cares so deeply. Her brother is on the spectrum and the way that she interacts with him is perfect and I just loved her whole family, money troubles and all. I also loved that Raf’s brother was also on the spectrum and that they had something really intimate to bond over. That they could get each other on this different level. And that it made Piper all the more human when she starts to delve away from her path of “getting the story”.

The writing in this book was so effortless. I love it when I fall into a book and just read and don’t feel like I’m putting in any effort. Sure some books I love to really dig into and have to think about, but there are times when I just need something smooth. This was perfect. It had just enough drama, enough heart and humor that it kept me engaged and I flew through it.

Really enjoyed this one! Don’t miss out!

Well done books set in Japan

 

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For the past month all I’ve done is cook Japanese food, read books set in Japan, and miss things like Japanese convenience stores, dependable trains, and being able to walk around a night feeling safe. Then a facebook memory popped up and reminded me that I moved back to the USA two years ago. Huh. No wonder I’ve been devouring Japanese stuff left and right.

It’s weird. After moving back both my husband and I were almost rejecting everything Japanese that we could. We didn’t eat Japanese food, listen to Japanese music, or watch anything Japan related. Then we slowly started to get home sick and binged on everything Japan. I think we’ve found a nice balance now. We love our home in Boston, we love MIT, but we also really love to shop at the Asian supermarket and order sushi to eat while watching anime.

As many of you know I love to read books set in Japan, but I have a lot of trouble with what’s out there. A lot of popular things are written by white authors that only experienced Japan for a short time in a very limited perspective. There is a huge difference between living in Japan for many years vs. visiting vs. studying abroad vs. teaching English for a year. I’m not going to belittle anyone’s experiences, but you CANNOT claim authority on something that you haven’t fully experienced. And this is where I have a lot of issue with some of the books I read. Whenever I find out a book is set in Japan (at least in the YA scope) I HAVE to find out what the author’s experience is. While I do think that it’s okay for author’s to write outside of their experiences, I also think that if they chose to do so, they need to get their work vetted by those who HAVE lived those experiences.

So I want to talk about some of the books that I’ve read recently that I’ve found to be spot on with accuracy.

25898828The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw — Five stars

I just finished this book and I ADORED it. The Last Cherry Blossom is a middle grade book set in Japan during WWII around the time of the atomic bomb. This book is based on the author’s mother’s experiences in WWII Japan and during the dropping of the atom bomb. It’s well written and based on true events!

27414389A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith — Four stars

I did go into this book with a little hesitance. The author visited Japan but (as far as I know) has never lived there for any period of time. I was a little worried but she did a lot of research and seems to have gotten her work vetted by those with experience in Japan. I did have a few Japanese word usage issues and a couple of authenticity qualms, but overall it was well done and didn’t get anything glaringly WRONG. This is a story that takes place in modern Japan and historical Japan. It’s also a ghost story. I really loved how the author did use her experiences from her visit to Japan to really get a lot of the details right.

25688977The Monster on the Road is Me by J.P. Romney — Five stars

I LOVED this book. The author taught English with the JET program and lived in a small village in the Japanese countryside. I love that he had such a different experience than most English teachers who work in or near larger cities. This book is 100% Japanese in the fact that there are no non-Japanese characters. It’s based on Japanese folklore and has a lot of Japanese words used in the text (a little too much at times I thought). The parts that take place in the classroom and school are something only those who have actually worked in Japanese high schools would be able to really tell us about. I had no issues with any of the accuracy in this book and LOVED that there wasn’t any “white savior” nonsense going on.

26138370Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse — Five Stars

When I first heard about this book I was worried that it was going to be written by another white girl who studied abroad for a little or taught English in Tokyo for a year. But after connecting with the author we got super nostalgic about our lives in Japan and I got REALLY excited to see what this book was about. It’s a love letter to Tokyo, to Japan, and to her life there. I’ve seen a few reviews saying how they wished there was more Japanese culture in this book and that Japan was only used as a backdrop and that a lot more could have been done. I disagree. This book isn’t about a girl going and exploring and learning about Japan. This is the story of a girl who’s lived there for a long time. She’s already integrated. She also very much lives the life of an expat; she goes to an English speaking school, she has a lot of English speaking friends, and she lives in Tokyo… where you don’t have to speak Japanese to survive. She’s also a teen who has a mother that takes care of the more critical aspects of living in Japan. This is instead the story of a girl who lives in that circle (I knew A LOT of people who lived in expat circles) who has to say goodbye to a country and culture that she loves. There is a TON of Japan and Japanese culture in this book and I loved how none of it was really forced or taught or explained from a superior stance. I hate it when I read books about a character moving to Japan and then the author goes on and on about the culture in a totally unnatural way that is basically showing off how much they know. This book doesn’t do that, and I loved it.

30521682Year of the Talking Dog by Patrick Sherriff — Five Stars

This book is the second book in the Hana Walker series. I LOVED the first book and was so excited that I got to beta read the second book. I have since re-read the published version and damn, it was so good. The Hana Walker Mysteries series is about a half Japanese half British girl who gets sucked into solving mysteries that deal with the yakuza and in this one, a North Korean spy. I know the author personally and he’s lived in Japan for quite some time. He also has children who are half Japanese half British and I love that he’s representing his daughters in his work. Someday they’ll read his novels and see themselves in them and that’s just amazing to me. These books make me miss Japan SO much.

So there we go. Do you  know of any books that are set in Japan that you think I should check out? I have a list on my goodreads account and I am ALWAYS looking for books to add to it!

 

Too much?

I wrote this blog post (below) at like 3am on my phone last night because I couldn’t sleep (hello insomnia!). And even thought I’ve already posted it, I want to add some things now that I’m rested and it’s daylight.

Lately I’ve been revisiting things that I used to love… possibly for ~nostalgia’s sake~ but maybe also just because I really fucking miss who I used to be. And I’m not saying that the person I am now isn’t who I want to be, but I do miss some of the things that I used to really love that have kinda fallen to the wayside…

Music, for one, is something that I used to be OBSESSED with. I lost a lot of my music when my MacBook crashed and I have a very small amount on my iPhone. I do listen to Pandora when I’m at work, but I don’t want it to burn my data (and I don’t have wifi at home) so I tend not to listen to it as much as I used to. When I discovered Halsey over the summer last year it was like a part of me that  was missing had returned.

I do feel like I’ve ditched a lot of things that I used to be very in love with to spend more time reading. I LOVE TO READ. I have always loved to read. But lately I’ve been feeling like a slave to my TBR. Whenever I finish one book I IMMEDIATELY start another. It’s like I just can’t slow down because I feel this NEED to KEEP GOING. And I am neglecting things to read. Myself included.

I spent the past year really getting my foot in the door with publishers and I’ve overwhelmed myself with review books. I feel like I’m constantly getting stuff and while I WANT to read it, at the same time I feel like I HAVE to read it and that can take the joy out of actually reading it.

Reading is not my purpose, but I feel like it has become my purpose. I want to write but then I think about how much reading I wont get done. And then I don’t write. And I want to fucking write my book! I want to go to the gym but I’d rather sit on my butt at home and read. I’ve gained weight since moving back to the USA and I don’t like it I don’t like being unhappy with myself. Yes I am all for being happy with whatever body you have, but at the same time, if you aren’t happy with it then find a way to be. And sitting around eating crap food and feeling like shit isn’t the way that I’m going to find a way to be happy with these extra pounds (and the fact that my favorite shorts don’t fit anymore and that I couldn’t wear them AT ALL last summer).

I guess I just feel like I’m out of balance and that reading has become this thing that I do to avoid my adult problems and that really it just makes things worse for me in the end. Where is this coming from? I put off something important and avoided my stress about not doing said important thing by burying myself in a book and not looking up for a whole month. And guess what, the important thing didn’t go away, and now I am the most stressed out I’ve been in a long, long time. And I hate it. And I did it to myself. Because I don’t have balance.

So this doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop reading or blogging. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop requesting or reviewing. It does mean that I’m going to slow down. That reading is going to not be the thing that I strive to do day in and day out. That it’s something that I will do when I have time, when I’m done doing other things that I ALSO want to do.

 

How much is too much of anything? I’ve always been told that there are worse things to be addicted to in life than books. But when your (my) reading obsession (habit) becomes something that is more tangible than anything else where do I stop and realize that this might not be the best?

In the past few years, since I started book blogging, I have proudly read over 100 books a year. This year I wanted nothing less. And I have been reading like a crazy person. I am well on my way to being over my goals (some 20 books ahead) and I’ve found myself spending entire days binge reading a single book in one sitting.

Tomight I ran two miles. I haven’t done that in months. Why? Because I’d rather spend my free time after work and before bed reading. I honestly will rush home to sit there and read and then rush through whatever I have to do before staying up way later than I should to read. And then my entire day is spent in sleepy anticipation of doing it all over again.

I think I have a problem. Reading makes me feel productive. But it’s also something that I can get so easily sucked into. I often have to tell myself to do the laundry, chores, etc before I get sucked into a book or else I might not do it. Sometimes I don’t eat when I’m reading because I don’t realize or just cant be bothered.

I think my reading habits have become unbalanced. And I need to slow down. I need to run two miles more often. I need to spend actual time cleaning my house. I need to enjoy other things and spend time out with friends.

This is me saying that I need to find balance. That I am not going anywhere just that I need to slow down and find balance.

FEB TBR

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February is generally my 2nd least favorite month (with August being my LEAST favorite month) and while the 60 degree no-snow weather IS helping me feel less bleh than usual, I still can’t wait for this month to be over.

Why do I hate February so much? It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s usually very very snowy, and it has the dumbest holidy in the world. Yes, I hate Valentine’s day. I’ve always hate it. And I just started to hate it more when after moving back to Japan in 2008 (which was SEVEN years ago yesterday holy crap) my boyfriend broke up with me ON VD. BLEH. BLEH BLEH. Dumbest holiday dumbest month can it just be March?

That said… at least I have a six day long vacation this month! AW yeah. So I plan to read my face off. Husband is going to an Artificial Intelligence conference and while he’s gone I plan to read at least 3-4 books. So this is my stack for the month… I plan to:

Re-read The Dream Thieves
Binge read This Savage Song, The Lost & the Found, and Down with the Shine while on VACA

and then read the rest for review.

In January I read 19 books but… I don’t think I’ll make it through that many. (A lot of these are really thick!)

What are you planning on reading this month? How much do YOU hate Valentine’s Day? Tell me your stories!

Honesty

Let’s be real friends, I hardly ever blog anymore. Sure I write reviews and Sammy (the best coblogger in the world) posts them but my actual presence over here is lacking. And here’s the thing, I want to blog. It’s just such a hassle because I have to think of a topic, get some images, take some photos and then put it all together. And I just don’t always have the energy for that.

So I’m not gonna do it. Ya’ll like to read books, so you can read my blog text and take it or leave it. I figure the only way I’m going to blog is if I do it the way I want to. Maybe I’m old school (more like just old) but when I started blogging it wasn’t about gifs and being as witty as possible. It was about writing down your thoughts and feelings. And that’s what I’m going to do.

Guys, I can’t believe that it’s 2016. I just renewed my lease on the apartment that I feel like I JUST moved into. My one year anniversary for my “new job” is in three months. My husband just finished his masters thesis (and got all A+s in his classes, boom!) I wrote 2000 words of my Japan Novel for the first time in two years. Time, what are you.

January was an odd month. A lot of famous people died and everyone was sad. It snowed once here in Mass and then it was 40 the next day and all the snow melted. I went to ALAMW and it was AH-MAY-ZING. Yesterday I went to the launch party of my friend Emily’s book, THE YEAR WE FELL APART. I’ve hung out with friends and eaten a lot of good food. I went to Chinatown with husband. We ate sushi and watched a shit ton of anime.

And I’ve read 15 books so far. And while reading I started to think about my reading habits and my likes/dislikes when it comes to YA and how I rate stuff. I came to realize that last year I was reading and rating emotionally. Now that I have more writer friends and we talk about books in a different way I’ve noticed that I’ve started to read more critically. And my ratings are reflecting that… so I think this year I’m going to rate more honestly and read more critically. Sure I’ll let myself get swept up in feels (I just finished The Serpent King and the writing was awful but holy shit the story and characters were amazing and I gave it an honest 5-star rating) and read emotionally, but I think that I’ve grown as a reader and I like that.

I also think that it’s important because I would really like to get back into writing my Japan Novel. I put it aside while moving to the USA and then just kept putting it aside and making up excuses. I’m not going to hold myself to any set standards or goals, but I just would like to finish a first draft by the end of the year. I’m having fun thinking about it again, and I’ve even come up with some fun new things that I want to do with it. I’ve also decided that I’m going to re-write it from the very start. I know that my writing has to have matured in the past two years. And I’ve changed as a person. So I think a fresh start will be good for me, my characters and the story I want to tell.

And that’s about it I guess. I just wanted to write something for the blog and I did. I apologize for being such a bad blogger friend too, I know that I suck at responding to comments and visiting other blogs… but I guess that’s what social media is for… hehe.

Love.

 

Halloween!

Hard to believe Halloween was just last weekend AND NOW IT’S OVER FOR ANOTHER YEAR! Ugh, it went by too fast. This YEAR has gone by too fast! I can’t believe that it’s almost 2016! So much has happened this past year and I am dizzy just thinking back about it.

So what did you guys do for Halloween? I made the BEST LIFE CHOICE ever and dressed up as my true self… er I mean…

H1Wednesday Addams!

I wore my costume to work the day before Halloween and won 3rd place in our costume contest! I was BEYOND pleased with how well this turned out!

Then on Halloween I went to a Halloween Book Swap at Mackenzi Lee’s (yes the author of THIS MONSTROUS THING GO BUY IT NOW) house. There were lots of bookish people there (as my husband calls us, “The Gang”) and everyone dressed up! I sadly didn’t get photos with everyone, but here are a few!

H3Mackenzi & I (She was one of the wives from MAD MAX: Fury Road)
H4Melissa & I (She was a Camp Half-Blood camper)H5Rachel & I (She was the Fox from the cover of FURIOUSLY HAPPY!)

There were like 10 or so of us in total and I’m really sad that I didn’t take more photos! Everyone looked so cool! We all ate and drank and chatted and relaxed and it was just a chill time with cool people and then…

H6BOOK SWAP! So I posted about our last book swap, back in June where a bunch of us got together, brought 10 books, and then laid them out on the floor. We then each got a number and went in a circle and got to choose a book! We decided to do this again and it was so fun! More people came so there were WAY more books this time. We all took turns, and sometimes people would steal books from each other (kinda like Yankee swap) and all while having really engaging bookish conversations. I am REALLY starting to love these parties!

H7Here are the books I ended up going home with! I am SO excited to read them all!

It was a really fun party and I’m so glad that I was able to go! I highly encourage getting your local book friends together and starting a swap group! It’s cheaper than #booksfortrade (postage wise), a great way to share books, AND it’s just fun to spend time with your people.

Did you do anything fun for Halloween? Tell me in the comments!