Mar 29, 2014

Review: Black Box by Cassia Leo

From New York Times best selling author Cassia Leo, comes an epic love story about rewriting destiny.

Over the course of five years, Mikki and Crush cross paths on three separate occasions. Their first encounter changes Mikki's life forever, but their second meeting leaves them both buried beneath the emotional wreckage of a violent attack. Mikki is left with more questions and grief than she can handle, while Crush is forced to forget the girl who saved his life.

Now nineteen years old, Mikki Gladstone has decided she's tired of the mind-numbing meds. She books a flight to Los Angeles to end her life far away from her loving, though often distant, family.

Twenty-one-year-old Crush has always channeled his blackest thoughts into his music, but he's never had great aspirations. He decides to fly to Los Angeles to record a demo of the only song he's never performed in public; a song he wrote for a girl he doesn't even know: Black Box. He has no expectations of fame and he's never felt like his life had any purpose... until he meets Mikki in Terminal B.

When Mikki and Crush cross paths for the third time in Terminal B, neither has any idea who the other person is; until they slowly piece together their history and realize that fate has more in store for them than just another love story.

I bought Black Box on a whim. I saw a Facebook post that was raving about the emotional intensity of this book, and I just used my handy-dandy "One-Click" buy button via Amazon, and it was in my virtual library. Helps that it was only $0.99...

I really had no idea what Black Box was about. I was going for spontaneity by just diving into a book without any expectations... But I really didn't know what I was in for with this one...

I'll start with what I liked. The writing style. The author can write - you can hear the voices she portrays and it flows... It's just.... everything else I had a problem with.

Mikki goes through a horrific experience. I just... can't... It's awful, and I can empathize with the pain she feels. But she was suicidal way before this tragedy. She's bipolar, which is a major contributing factor to her desire to end her life, but there's one problem. I didn't sense any bipolar-ish qualities in her personality. She was depressed, definitely - but she had zero highs or lows that I could tell. This claim of being mentally ill was not reflected anywhere in her character development. It was just that: a claim. 

We get a glimpse of her first suicide note, before she was brutalized, and I really couldn't understand her reasoning. She wanted to kill herself because she didn't like Kim Kardashian or makeup? (I'm sorry, but who really likes Kim Kardashian?) Or because some immature highschoolers made up a rumor about her? It just didn't add up to me... Maybe I'm insensitive, but it just felt whiny and weak.. Honey, not everyone is interested in the same things, and bad shit happens to people, even when they don't deserve it. It's a part of life. Maybe if I was made to believe she really was bipolar, then I could empathize... Otherwise, it just sounded like a couple of really shallow reasons to end your life and leave your family. 

Other things that bother me about Mikki: 

1.) She keeps saying she wants to die (over and over and over), but she's worried about her sensitive skin.

2.) She still wants to die, but she's smiling and excited about a guy and what he's beginning to mean to her.

3.) She insists on watching Pretty in Pink, but still... you guessed it. She wants to die.

4.) She asks Crush to brush the tangles out of her hair because she can't get to them, but she doesn't care about her life.

The way I see it, if you don't care about your life, why would you care about your hair, sensitive skin, or watching any movie with Molly Ringwald?

This book is basically about suicide, through and through. Just about every single character has this overwhelming desire to end their own life. Far fetched? You betcha. 

I wouldn't joke about suicide - it's on the list as one of the most serious subject matters an author could write about. But giving every one of your characters suicidal tendencies? It just isn't believable. And, in all honesty, it makes it seem like suicide is a normal thought for people. Like it happens all the time to almost everyone, that it's easy to feel this way, and that takes away the weight it carries.

The one thing that saves Mikki is love. And just like everything else in this book, it's not believable. Enter the dreaded insta-love. Crush (wtf kind of name is that?) loves Mikki. He saves her, which saves him, and now he's head over heels in love with her. After twenty minutes. With zero conversation. I get being grateful, but love? Annnd the author takes away the importance of that emotion as well.... by making it seem easy. 

I did like Crush though, despite my inability to believe how he felt about Mikki. He was sensitive, patient, and had a good sense of humor. He doesn't push Mikki in any way, even when it comes to talking her off the ledge. 

But what is the point? Really? Because I don't get it. When I finished the last sentence, I couldn't believe that was it

I guess it's supposed to be about two people saving each other? But even in the end, Mikki doesn't believe they will grow old together. She still believes they will die young. WTF? - an expression which basically sums up the entirety of my feelings about this book....

I don't even know....



Review: Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Fire & Flood is nothing like Victoria Scott's Dante Walker novels. It's more like a cross between The Hunger Games and The Amazing Race with a little bit of Pokemon thrown in. It's good - there's excitement, adrenaline, and a little bit of unexpected shock value, but even with all that, I'm having a hard time rating this novel, and here's why:

1.) The main character Tella. She really, really, really got on my nerves. Her good intentions were admirable, but any moment that I felt like "Hey, this girl is finally growing up...," she ruins it with her ridiculous obsession with fashion, makeup, and massages. You're in the jungle/desert fighting for your life. People around you are dying. Your brother - who is also dying - is counting on you. Who gives a flying crap about Nordstrom and Chanel makeup? Tella takes away from the seriousness of the situation by basically being a complete vain idiot.

2.) World-building - or lack thereof. There's nothing. Nothing. We are thrown into this story and BAM, there's a race, a love interest, a bad guy, and a screwed up authority. What time are we in? Why is the Brimstone Bleed still going on? 

3.) Character-development - or lack thereof. I could not relate to Tella. She was too all over the place, so you could never really figure out who she was. Was she a survivor? A dependent? A girly girl who only cares about makeup and what clothes she's wearing? I couldn't tell - and as soon as I thought she might be evolving, she'd regress back to being a spoiled little city girl. The other characters were pretty bland and cliche. Guy was the strong, silent type - except, instead of opening up sometimes, he pretty much says nothing at all until the end. Titus was the typical bad guy - except he was all bad. A good bad guy (if that makes sense) should have some kind of quality or past that you can empathize with. This guy was just totally evil, and it didn't make sense given the situation. Everyone is there to save someone they love, but this guy didn't seem like he could love anyone, much less want to save them.

4.) Writing style. I love Victoria Scott - I really do. But I felt like the writing style in Fire & Flood was immature compared to the gravity of the content. It clashed, and as a result, I couldn't take any of it seriously. 

On the other hand, there were some pretty awesome, adrenaline-inducing scenes. Twists and unexpected moments. My numbered list above would be enough to add a book to my DNF list, but I couldn't stop turning the pages, and that counts for something. The story is there. It's exciting and has the potential to be an emotional roller coaster. 

Key word: potential

Which is why I'll read the second novel. I'm really, really hoping that things shape up, and Tella grows the "F" up. 

I'll give Fire & Flood a hesitant three stars. It has it's issues, but like I said, I still didn't want to put it down. 


Odd combination of feelings about this book, but there you have it....


Mar 17, 2014

Raising a Reader

I'm all about raising a reader. I try to read to Sully every night for as long as he'll have it (sometimes he's just too tired). Maybe a four month old can't quite understand the story, but he definitely interacts by talking, getting excited over the colors and pictures, and by trying to reach toward the pages.

I do all the voices, add an accent here and there, and point things out to him. Like I said, he may not understand the story, but every time I crack open a book with him on my lap, I know he's learning something new.

Needless to say, we've read his entire library several times. He doesn't really seem to care, but I, on the other hand, can only read Where the Wild Things Are so many times before losing my mind. (Love it, but 27 times is my limit for a while.)

Soooo we decided to take a hike down to the Limerick Library to get 1.) a library card and 2.) some new books! Limerick is teeny tiny, but the library is pretty nice. They're even with the times - you can get a Portland Library card there (getting access to lots of e-books) and set up an online account to renew, reserve, or request books. They even have story time for kids and book signings by authors. Pretty impressive for our hole in the wall (yet very quaint) little town.

The children's section is half the library (which is amazing), and I really didn't know where to start. That being the case, I stuck with the classics, grabbing a few books I've been eyeing to add to Sully's library permanently.

Super cute, huh? 

Does he seem happy to you? I swear, the kid never stops smiling! 


Mar 16, 2014

Bookish Rants

I love Victoria Scott. I've followed her since before Dante Walker came stomping gloriously into my life with The Collector. She's got this great personality, and I always find myself interested in what she has to share with her readers.

I was surprised when I heard that she was coming out with a brand new novel - not related to Dante in any way. When did she have the time? Even with that question in the back of my mind, I was stoked. The cover rocks and the synopsis sounded like something I needed to get my hands on - especially if it was written by an author I already loved.

You know when something becomes really popular and in high demand, then all of a sudden the person who created that something tries to capitalize on its fame? I'm about halfway through Fire & Flood, and that's all I can really feel about it.

Granted, I haven't finished Fire & Flood yet, and there are some interesting twists... but it all feels very juvenile, rushed, and incomplete.

Why, oh, why? How could this happen? I feel like I've been duped. There's no groundwork, no real research, no depth. It feels like Scott just whipped this one out for the sake of having another "completed" novel to sell to the masses.

Not. Cool.


Mar 6, 2014

Bookish Rants

**Bookish Rants is a post dedicated to just that: ranting related to anything bookish ;)**

I just posted my review of The Edge of Always, and there was one aspect that I said irked me... How Camryn and Andrew keep saying that don't want to be like "those people," meaning people who settle down and work to pay the bills. They want to keep traveling, even when they have a child.

Having had a wonderful baby boy recently, I know that you don't stop being you just because you have a little one to care for. Your dreams are still there, and while life changes, it isn't over like so many people seem to think (I heard that a lot when I was pregnant and still don't believe it). But while your life and dreams don't end, priorities change, and keeping the heat on and your baby fed and safe is more important to a lot of people than traveling and holding on to their spontaneity.

I said in my review that Camryn and Andrew's outlook felt unrealistic and accusatory. I say that because, in the book, they have a six figure inheritance that Andrew received to fall back on. Of course they can just up and quit their jobs and ride off into the sunset! Those People, referring to most of the general population, simply don't have that luxury. 

My husband and I talk all the time about all the places we'd like to see and things we'd love to do. Buy an RV and travel for a year. Living in Europe for a while. Moving just for the sake of living somewhere different (we've done it before, we wouldn't mind doing it again). But with a baby, security and stability seem more important, even if it does sound boring, and taking a risk that we'll run out of money or we'll end up somewhere unsafe with our little guy just doesn't seem worth it. Maybe we'll have the means to do all those things one day, but in the near future, it just isn't in the cards... 

Maybe I'm taking it too personally, but while I've settled down and my husband works his ass off to pay the bills (and I've recently started working part time to help), I don't feel like we're those people. I feel like we're doing what we have to to make sure Sully (my son) has everything he needs. Sure we plan on taking Sully places and showing him that the new or unknown doesn't have to be scary, but there's no way we can just up and quit our jobs because it's what we want to do. And I bet most readers can say the same thing - so while I can relate to and admire Camryn and Andrew's outlook on life (living in the moment, not getting sucked into living for work, etc), it sucks that they have to call everyone else those people. Kind of puts a damper on the admiration. Especially when they have the means to live life the way they want. What would they do if they didn't have that money in the bank? Hmmm... That's a story I'd like to hear... 


Review: The Edge of Always by J.A. Redmerski

Five months ago, Camryn and Andrew, both dealing with personal hardships, met on a Greyhound bus. They fell in love and proved that when two people are meant to be together, fate will find a way to make it happen.

Now, in the highly anticipated sequel to The Edge of Never, Camryn and Andrew are pursuing their love for music and living life to the fullest as they always swore to do. But when tragedy befalls them, their relationship is put to the ultimate test. As Camryn tries to numb her pain, Andrew makes a bold decision: To get their life back on track, they'll set out on another cross-country road trip. Together they find excitement, passion, adventure-and challenges they never could have anticipated.

I think I've started writing this review ten times, only to delete, delete, and delete again. I really don't know how to start.... I fell in love with Camryn and Andrew, their relationship, their passion and spontaneity, and their fearlessness. The Edge of Never blew my mind, but I'm not sure I can say the same about its sequel. 

**There are minor spoilers in this review.

Camryn has a moment in The Edge of Always in which she decides she doesn't want to try to relive great times because it might ruin the initial memory. That's kind of how I feel right now. Like I wish I hadn't revisited Camryn and Andrew and had just held on to the memory of reading a truly amazing book.
“It’s like, you know, it doesn’t matter what you do, even if you try to replicate an experience down to every last detail, it’ll never be the way it was when it happened naturally the first time.”
That's not to say The Edge of Always wasn't worth my time; it just wasn't what I hoped for. I felt like it dragged on, and while the message the book gives is one I can admire and hope to aspire to, it seemed redundant. 

The tragedy to which the blurb is referring was indeed that, but it didn't feel like it could have been the main event that put their relationship at risk. It was obvious what was going to happen, and the way it played out made this twist fall flat. I was pretty annoyed with Camryn for how she acted, and while everyone handles grief differently, I felt like Andrew's feelings were totally ignored. 

In true Andrew fashion - where all his worries lie with Camryn - he decided to "fix" things on the road where everything began. 
“Because this is our life. We met on the road; we grew to know and to love each other on the road. It's where we were meant to be for however long, and it's what we're going to do until it becomes clear that we're meant to do something else.”
This is where I got excited, because it is what I loved so much about the first book. It reminds me of my husband and I and how we took a road trip from Texas to Maine where we settled down. Totally spontaneous, totally the most amazing thing we've ever done. Enter nostalgia again... 

We experience some more epic scenes with Camryn and Andrew, but like I said, a lot of it felt redundant. Some of it even irrelevant. There are some major time gaps in which we skip over months, even years, and it made everything feel rushed. Like the author just wanted to get it over with. 

One aspect that irked me was how Camryn and Andrew are always saying how they don't want to end up like "those people," meaning people who settle in one spot, work to pay bills, and raise a family in a single location. Yes we all have a choice, but when you have a child, it's not just about what you want to do anymore. Your life isn't over, but money is important if you want to keep the heat on and your baby fed. I'd love to just up and go on a whim when my little man got a little older, but not all of us have a six figure trust fund to fall back on... I guess it just seemed unrealistic and accusatory. (I have a separate post about this topic - Bookish Rants.)

All that being said, I still felt the electricity between Camryn and Andrew and J.A. Redmerski's writing style always gets me hooked, no matter what. I'll always remain a huge fan, but I'm kind of wishing that The Edge of Never was a standalone novel. The Edge of Always is still a great read - the emotion is very real and if you were hooked by the first novel, you won't be able to help yourself - but...it just didn't live up to its predecessor. 

3/5 Stars.


Feb 28, 2014

Review: Viola Doyle or an Unconventional Gift by Amy Lynn Spitzley

Riding her bicycle at a speed no proper young woman would attempt, letting her hair fly free, conversing with statues of long-dead heroines—these are all par for the course for Viola Doyle, much to her mother's chagrin.

Keeping her newfound magical pin safe from those who would use it to unsavory ends and dealing with a handsome young historian takes quite a bit more effort.

And then, of course, there is the dragon...

To save herself and those she loves, it is up to Viola to become her own heroine, or suffer a terrible fate...

Thank you to Curiosity Quills for providing me a copy to review in my honest opinion. 

Viola Doyle or an Unconventional Gift was an easy, cute read. This is a book I would have loved as a young teenager, what with rebellious girls, magical objects, dragons, and a geeky love interest.

Viola, the main character, is strong and stubborn in her beliefs (as any young lady should be) and refuses to conform to the stuffy behaviors that society demands of her. I really liked Viola, and I think she sets a good example for young readers.

The romantic interest in this book is sweet and innocent even if it is predictable. What I liked about it was that Viola, while her feelings for Mikhail grow stronger every time she sees him, won't compromise who she is or what she believes to be right for this new love.

I say the romance was predictable, but the truth is, a lot about this book was predictable. I knew who the villain was the moment he was introduced, who the love interest would be, and ultimately how things would play out. I don't mind predictability, but I would say that this aspect of the novel is what reminds me of something I would have read when I was a preteen. 

Probably the only bit that bothered me about this book was the way the climax played out. It happened very quickly and felt rushed. Not only that, but I had a hard time believing all that craziness would play out so smoothly. This is the only part of the novel where I had a problem with the predictability. 

The writing style flows and makes reading effortless. The characters are likable and well-developed. The story itself is interesting and brings you to the point that you want to dive a little deeper into the history behind the mythology. 

This is a really cute novel with a lot of history, adventure, and mystery. I can't describe it as mind-blowing or the like, but it is a nice, easy, fun read. 

3/5 Stars


Feb 22, 2014

My Baby's Library

Now that I'm a mom, I'm constantly worried about how what I'm doing now will affect my little one in the future. His development, motor skills, communication skills, and likes and dislikes. 

Every evening, I make it a point to read to Sully. Sometimes one story, but if he's really focused, I'll read as many as three. He's only three months old, but he loves it! He looks at the pictures and responds to my voice, and sometimes he feels the need to "tell" me his own story. It's really one of the only times of the day in which he'll sit still (unless he's sleeping, of course).

I'm pretty excited that he loves it, because I want to raise a reader. I want him to learn to use his imagination and discover new worlds and enjoy getting lost in a good book as much as I do. 

I'm adding to his library a little at a time, and here's a list of wonderful children's books that I remember as a kid, and hope to add soon!

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Harry Potter (The entire series - he's a little young yet, but he'll get there!) by J.K. Rowling

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone

The Mitten by Jan Brett

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

What children's books do you remember growing up?


Feb 17, 2014

Musing Monday

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

My Musing:

Right now I'm reading The Hangman's Daughter. It's going rather slowly. First, I was in a car accident and was the only one in the vehicle to achieve a concussion (go me!), so I haven't been able to read much :( (or post anything, as you can tell). And second, the book is... well, it's a little dry. 

I enjoy the historical and completely human aspect of this book - how people would go into hysteria over things that they couldn't explain or solve. Science and forensics weren't exactly top of their game back then, so people had to find a way to channel their fear. "Let's just blame the easiest target, call her witch, burn her, and be done with it! Case closed!"

It seems pretty ridiculous to us today, but in a time when science was basically considered blasphemous to most, witchcraft and associations with the devil were more logical.

So while it's interesting to see things from a totally different perspective and a different time, what bothers me about this book is the lack of emotion. It's completely dry. Children are dying or in danger; a seemingly innocent women is being called to the stake; a hangman deals with the baggage that comes with torturing and taking lives. This is all pretty heavy stuff, but while I understand that, I can't feel any of it. The author doesn't portray these emotions in a way that touches the reader. It's explained and described, but I don't feel the passion, pain, or fear behind the words. 

I'm having a hard time getting into this book. The concept and the story itself is awesome - but without feeling what the characters are feeling, I can compare this experience to reading a history textbook so far. You can gather the information, but you can't relate to how people felt at the time. 

What are your literary musings today?



Feb 8, 2014

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves - hosted by Tynga's Reviews - allows  us to share the books that we've added to our shelves (physical or virtual) the past week.

Here's my haul:

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

What's weighing down your shelves this week?


Feb 6, 2014

Review: Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.

Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though.

Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they're triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters.

These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight.

The cover. The synopsis. The raving reviews. All three came together and made Sweet Venom a book I had to read... and after reading...

I'm sorry, I just don't understand all the hype surrounding this book. I could barely get myself to finish it. A little after the halfway mark, I found myself skimming rather than immersing myself in the story. Not a good sign. But rather than go on an angry rant, let me bullet point it for you.

  • The writing felt stilted. What should have been witty came across as weird, and what should have been serious or potentially romantic came across as cheesy. Everything about it felt forced.

  • I get talking to yourself, but the consistency with which these characters speak, out loud, to themselves makes me wonder if there isn't something seriously wrong with them.

  • The so-called romance was... anything but. The whole insta-love/insta-crush thing is in overkill mode. A few things bugged me, but nothing as much as the fact that Grace was willing to lie about herself in order to win the affections of Milo. That, and the guys acted completely unlike any guy in the history of men. Who immediately holds their friend's little sister's hand? What guy keeps going after a girl who has made it absolutely clear that she's not interested?

        Not any guy I've ever heard of. Just another aspect of this book that felt forced.

  • I love Greek mythology, but no one in their right mind believes it truly exists. So when Grace walks up to Greer (a sister she has never met) and tells her, straight up, that she's a descendent of Medusa, what do you think the response is going to be? That's right. A door slammed in the face. And Grace has the nerve to act surprised. Common sense is seriously lacking.

  • I couldn't stand Grace's character. It's one thing to have insecurities, but she takes it to a whole new level. The word "freak" got pretty redundant, and the fact that she constantly used it to describe herself (or how she thought others might describe her) was beyond annoying. 

I can appreciate how the author was trying to take a well-known Greek myth and make it her own. The concept was interesting, I just can't get on board with the way it was executed.

I saw a lot of great reviews for this book, but, for me, it left a lot to be desired.

1.5/5 Stars.


Feb 5, 2014

Excerpt: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

In 2013, The Collector was one of my most anticipated reads. Dante Walker rocked my world, and I absolutely adore Victoria Scott for creating him. This year, she's releasing Fire & Flood, and it sounds nothing like Dante's series. It sounds a lot like The Hunger Games meets The Amazing Race. *Intrigued.* I love it when authors surprise us with something completely different than what we know them for. 

Fire & Flood releases on February 25th, a mere three weeks from now and I, for one, am counting down the days. As a little treat, I received this little nugget to share - an excerpt from Victoria Scott's newest release. Enjoy!!

“If you are hearing this message, then you have successfully completed the Pandora Selection Process. It also means you are now at the official starting line.”Around me, Contenders whoop with excitement. Seriously? They’re about to plunge into a wild jungle, and that brings them happiness? Once again, I realize how out of my league I am. I don’t even have a change of clothes, for crying out loud.
“As you may have realized, you are on the outskirts of a rain forest. This will be the jungle part of the course. You will have two weeks to arrive at the jungle’s base camp. You will find this base camp by following the path of blue flags.”Contestants glance around, immediately looking for the first blue flag. As for me, I’m watching the taillights of the semi and having a massive coronary.
“If you are the first to encounter a blue flag, you may remove it, but you may not remove the stake it is attached to. Doing so will result in immediate disqualification.”I wonder why anyone would want to remove the flag to begin with. No one else seems concerned by this.
While the Cure will be awarded to a single winner at the end of the last ecosystem, we will bestow a smaller prize for each leg of the race. The prize for the jungle portion will be monetary.” The woman pauses dramatically. “I’d like to officially welcome you to the Brimstone Bleed. May the bravest Contender win.”
That’s it? That’s all she’s going to say? Because it seriously sounds like she’s wrapping up. So why aren’t I running after the trucks? Why am I not chasing after my only way out of this jungle like my life depends on it? I know the answer — though I wish I didn’t. Cody would do this for me. I am his only hope. I have to believe his cure exists. My only other option is to return home and watch my brother die. If I could even get back home.
I glance around frantically, looking for someone to tell me what to do. The Contenders have formed a long line, the kind you see at the start of a marathon. A few yards down from where I stand — I see him. My throat tightens when I realize his cold blue eyes are locked on me. It’s the guy from the Pandora Selection Process. The serial killer–looking dude who I thought was going to kidney punch me. He glares in my direction like he might take this opportunity to finish what he never started. I raise my hand in a small wave, hoping it says something like: See? Look how friendly I am!
He lifts his own enormous hand. For a moment, I brighten. I think maybe that — even though it looks like he hates every fiber of my being — he’s going to wave back. But he doesn’t. He holds up two fingers — his pointer and his middle — places them under his eyes, and then points in front of us.
Oh no, he didn’t. I think he basically just told me to pay attention. I’m still processing this when the woman’s voice rings in my ear.

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Feb 4, 2014

Review: Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She'd been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have...until he wasn't beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl's love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior's love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

Wow. Just. Wow. Two days later and I still am having issues finding anything else to say. You know that feeling... You're sad but at the same time you can't help but feel good about your heartbreak? That's Making Faces.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Weaknesses can be strengths and vice versa. Beauty is what you've come to know and not necessarily what's at eye level. 

True beauty, the kind that doesn't fade or wash off, takes time. It takes pressure. It takes incredible endurance. It is the slow drip that makes the stalactite, the shaking of the Earth that creates mountains, the constant pounding of the waves that breaks up the rocks and smooths the rough edges. And from the violence, the furor, the raging of the winds, the roaring of the waters, something better emerges, something that would otherwise never exist.

It's not only the lessons that makes this story, but the characters that are enveloped in those lessons. Bailey Sheen, for example (and my favorite). The kid was handed a shit hand in life, but he is probably the most inspirational character I've had the pleasure of meeting. He suffers from muscular dystrophy, so instead of legs, he has a sense of humor; instead of arms, he has snark; instead of that athletic skill he's always craved, he has brains and a big heart. I absolutely fell in love with Bailey - he saves so many, whether it be their lives or their drive and motivation. If anyone is a hero in this story, it's him. 

"I have no pride left, Ambrose!" Bailey said. "No pride. But it was my pride or my life. I had to choose. So do you. You can have your pride and sit here and make cupcakes and get old and fat and nobody will give a damn after a while. Or you can trade that pride in for a little humility and take your life back."

I could really keep gushing about the heroism that is Bailey Sheen, but I should also mention Ambrose and Fern. Ambrose is lost and is having trouble holding on to who he thought he was. He lost his friends, his good looks, and, truly, his respect for himself. Fern knows exactly who she is but has trouble believing it is at all beautiful and deserving. I wouldn't say she's insecure, just resigned, and it is this acceptance of who she is that makes her unique. 

The romance between these two takes its time, spreading itself out over the course of years, slowly building a history and a solidity that can't be broken. It's real and amazing, and although it may have seemed odd at one time for them to come together, two people could not be more perfect for each other. It is through each other that they find their way, each of them proving the other wrong.

This books takes tragedy and allows us to see the light that rises from the darkness. One of my favorite quotes sums it up nicely:

"Maybe everyone represents a piece of the puzzle. We all fit together to create this experience we call life. None of us can see the part we play or the way it all turns out. Maybe the miracles that we see are just the tip of the iceberg. And maybe we just don't recognize the blessings that come as a result of terrible things."

Everyone is connected in one way or another, and everything we do has an effect, whether we realize it or not. 

I really could go on and on and ramble until you have no idea what I'm talking about. Just read the book. Seriously. 

Amy Harmon is a beast when it comes to writing. The emotions I experienced while reading Making Faces is something I will remember for years to come, and I have no choice but to believe this will be one of my favorite books, not only of this year, but ever. 

Highly recommend!

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5/5 Stars


Jan 30, 2014

Netflix for Books?

Okay. I'm a firm believer in real books. The ones you can touch, smell, and put on a physical shelf. But I also live in a place where the nearest bookstore is about, oh, an hour away, so e-books are pretty much necessary unless I use my free shipping via Amazon. 

I know. I'm not being a very good bibliophile, but I just want to read! And as a new mom, I simply don't have the time (or the gas money) to trek it to the bookstore all the time - then I have to hope they are carrying what I'm looking for. Besides, what does it matter in what format we read so much as that we do read. Right?

So, as a result, I'm probably a little too excited about this app by the name of Oyster. Who has Netflix? Oyster is supposedly like the Netflix for books. What a concept. Pay a monthly fee and get access to hundreds of thousands of books. Read unlimited. Two words that fit wonderfully together.

I really want to support local bookstores, but in my neck of the woods (literally - the woods), there simply aren't any. So, I'm not going to feel guilty. Not really. I'm just going to enjoy reading in whatever form I can get. 

But before I get off point, click here to check out Oyster. They have some fabulous titles, and I love the idea of being able to read a book before I buy it in hardcover. (I guess I can't feel too guilty - if I really love a book, I have this obsessive need to display it like the work of art that it is on my bookshelf.) 

Check it out! Enjoy!


Jan 29, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday

It's that time of week. Time to take a moment to share what books you are anxiously waiting to be released! Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's WoW:

Annie grew up with a warped family who didn't shelter her from the horrors of the world. In fact, they threw it at her feet.

When she meets a boy who shows her affection she struggles with feelings she had never experienced before. But her family is not willing to let her go easily.

Even if Annie is able to escape their control, the damage done to her will haunt her for the rest of her life.

I've been following Teresa Mummert on Facebook, and I'm pretty excited to get my hands on this one on March 11th!

What are you waiting for?


Jan 28, 2014

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Pretty simple really: just grab one of your current reads, crack it open, and pick a few lines in order to give other readers a glimpse into the book.

This week, I'm choosing Making Faces by Amy Harmon. This book is consuming me - sleep be damned. 

One of my favorite scenes so far is when Fern and Bailey are driving around their sleepy little town discussing the shit hand that Bailey's been handed in life. 

"'There are times like that, Bailey. Times you don't think you can take it anymore. But then you discover that you can. You always do. You're tough. You'll take a deep breath, swallow just a little bit more, endure just a little longer, and eventually you'll get your second wind.'"
"'Accept the truth in it. Own it, wallow in it, become one with the shit.'"
"Swearing could be very therapeutic."

There you have it. I've been in a reading slump lately, and this book is turning out to be my savior. Seriously. It's incredible so far, and even though I haven't finished it yet, I would take that leap and go so far as to highly recommend it.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide


Download Making Faces via Amazon or B&N.

Happy Tuesday!!!


Jan 26, 2014

Review: Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire, paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld. But after her last battle, she's also become queen of the Thorn Land. It's hardly an envious life, not with her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and Eugenie eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind. And now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one--except Eugenie--seems willing to find out why.

Eugenie has spilled plenty of fey blood in her time, but this enemy is shrewd, subtle, and nursing a very personal grudge. And the men in her life aren't making things any easier. Her boyfriend Kiyo is preoccupied with his pregnant ex, and sexy fey king Dorian always poses a dangerous distraction. With or without their help, Eugenie must venture deep into the Otherworld and trust in an unpredictable power she can barely control. Reluctant queen or not, Eugenie has sworn to do her duty--even if it means facing the darkest--and deadliest--side of her nature. . .

Let me start by saying that I wasn't sure how to rate this book. I really like the way Mead thinks, from her world-building to character development to the surprises she holds in store for Eugenie. But at the same time I'm just kinda like... eh...

Maybe it's because toward the middle of the story I found myself asking..."So what's really happened so far? Hmmm... Not much." It dragged a little, and while it picked up toward the end, getting to that point was a little monotonous. It's because of this monotony that I'm just getting kind of bored with the whole story. Relationships and characters have changed, but as for everything else that's going around them, I feel like Thorn Queen is one of those filler/stepping-stone novels.

I do have to say, though, that I love how Eugenie has evolved and transformed through her experiences. Comparing her to the way she was when we first met, the only thing that's remained unchanged is her strength and sass. Everything else has shifted, and Eugenie is anything but a stagnant and stuffy character.

Her relationship with Kiyo is - and here's that "word" again - eh. Honestly, the guy has never felt right for Eugenie and I could never sense that spark between them no matter how much she said she loved him. Sorry, Eugenie. I'm not convinced.

Dorian, on the other hand... The one guy that Eugenie thought she could never trust seems to be the only one who truly loves and understands her unconditionally. Go figure. You've made me a believer, Dorian, even if Eugenie is too pigheaded to see it herself.

In the way of evil-doers, Mead surprised me with her knack for creating a truly sick and twisted villain - you know the kind who don't even know they are evil? The ones that think they are good and right? I relished at the idea of him getting his ass beat - or worse.

To sum the rambling up, Mead's character development is amazing (even if the one relationship kinda flopped for me). You know these people - they are real within the pages - and you hurt and hope for them (even if you want to clobber them sometimes).

The writing style, as always, is fluid and easy. Eugenie keeps things light even with shit hits the fan and the descriptions do well to build this solid little world that you can see and almost touch with your own two hands.

So while there's a lot of good that I have to say about what gives this book readability, it's just that - "good." Not great or mind-blowing or any of those other adjectives that you'd use with a 4+ star review. I don't really feel that I'll remember much about this story a few months down the road. It's worth reading - don't get me wrong - but, for me, it wasn't anything to glow about.

So, would I recommend? Yeah, sure. If you're looking for some easy reading that'll keep you entertained until your next read. Richelle Mead has definite talent and potential - no argument - I just don't think I'm in a huge hurry to finish the series.

3/5 Stars. 


Jan 19, 2014

I'm Back!

Wow. Let's see if I remember how to do this. It's been about… oh, hell I don't know - it's been forever since I've immersed myself in the book world.

Lately, I've been up to my elbows in diapers, spit up, and bottles. Yup, that's right! I had my beautiful little boy, and he's already about to hit the two month mark. Needless to say, reading, blogging, and anything that has nothing to do with catching up on my sleep or sneaking a shower hasn't really been on my list of priorities. 

But I'm hoping to change that now that I've gotten the hang of being a new mom. 

I'm going to kick off 2014 as the year of all years. I had lots of goals for 2013, but when I found out I was pregnant (WOAH!), everything else came to a screeching halt and basically got put on the backburner behind the backburner. 

So, this is my do-over. I'm hoping to participate in some challenges, maybe a few tours, NanoWriMo, and get back into the reading and writing I used to do.

Cheers :)