Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bout of Books 13 Sign-Ups!

As this post goes up, I am headed on a plane for London. My birthday is on Sunday and I think London is a great place to celebrate. I have a post scheduled to go up on Sunday and I will be hosting my very first giveaway!

Well it's that time of year again folks. It's time for the Bout of Books Read-A-Thon!

I had such a great time participating in Bout of Books 12. I got a lot of reading done and I was able to meet some great bloggers in the process.

The Bout of Books Read-a-Thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It's a week long read-a-thon that begins at 12:01am on Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever timezone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.

Last time I participated in the Bout of Books, I was able to read a lot more because my husband was out of town. No trips for him this time, but I am still going to do my best!

Here are my goals for this round of Bout of Books:

  • read at least 3 books
  • read for at least three hours every day (180 minutes)
  • participate in at least one Twitter chat
  • participate in at least two mini challenges
  • ENJOY everything I am reading!! No forcing myself to read something I am not excited about.

If you want to sign up, click here.

Are you planning to participate in the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon??

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Undertow by Michael Buckley

This is a book review for Undertow by Michael Buckley. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is May 5, 2015.

Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

This book was so different from anything I have read before and I loved it. It has strange creatures that are half fish/half human. It has bullying, abuse, family loyalty, secrets, and romance. There is so much here!

The book starts several years after the Alpha take over the beach at Coney Island. The town becomes a military zone where people are scared to walk the street and scared to show any compassion at all towards the Alpha. Regards to the Alpha, the descriptions and the world that Michael Buckley created are just amazing. The Alpha are a entire population of people/fish that once lived underwater. One day they washed along the beach at Coney Island and now they are a weird mix of fish and human. Some of the Alpha look like other humans. Some have scales, some have tails and some have swords that come out of their arms. No one knows why the Alpha are here or what their intent is. When the book starts, the government has made the decision to begin integrating the Alpha into schools with humans. This does not go over well. There are protesters and cops in riot gear in front of the school every day. Honestly, I could see so many similarities between how the Alpha were treated and how other people who are different have been treated in the past (and even now). The Alpha are bullied and teased to such an extreme. I felt so bad for the Alpha and what they were going through. It was obvious they didn't want to try to integrate, but the government was forcing them.

I loved the character of Lyric. She was so incredibly complex and went through so much character growth. She is also keeping a pretty big secret of her own, so she tries her best to stay under the radar with everyone. Even though this secret is revealed within the first couple of chapters, I still don't want to reveal any spoilers. I loved all the secondary characters; her best friend Bex, Bex's boyfriend, Shadow and all of the Alpha: Fathom, Luna, Ghost, Arcade. The Alpha were expected to adapt to the human world, but everything in the human world was so strange and unique to them. The new principal of the school, Mr. Doyle, strong arms Lyric into meeting with the Fathom (the crown prince) every day. His reasoning is that Lyric can maybe help Fathom assimilate and ease his integration into the school. Lyric and Fathom try to keep this a secret though. Obviously, they cannot keep it a secret for long. Some of the humans are so against the Alpha that they start threatening Lyric simply for talking to him.

I started to really like Fathom. I felt bad for him because he was in this strange new world and didn't know what any of the humans wanted. I was happy that the romance between Lyric and Fathom wasn't instantaneous. She doesn't hate the Alpha, but she is afraid of what people will think about their relationship. They developed a friendship that quickly developed into something else. The first third of this book went a bit slowly because the author had to build the world and set the scene. I did forgive that, especially once I read the last third of the book. The action quickly turns into this fever pitch, where the Alpha are fighting both the humans and another, more dangerous enemy at the same time. There is a lot of science fiction, fantasy and paranormal stuff in this book. This is the first book in the series. It was kind of a cliffhanger of sorts. I am so excited to read the rest of the series!

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy!! You will not be disappointed. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays - Top Ten Books With Strong Female Characters!

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic was kind of a freebie. I decided to do a top ten list on my favorite books with bad ass female characters.

1. Katniss from Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

There is no bigger bad ass than Katniss. If there is ever an apocalypse, I want her in my corner.
2. Mireille from An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Mireille went through unbelievable pain and somehow came back from it. I am not sure I could be that strong.

3. Laney from Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Laney is one of the best characters I have seen in a while. She is dysfunctional and unflinchingly honest. She also comes up with a very extreme way to get revenge on all of her bullies. Yeah, she's awesome.
4. Tris from Divergent by Veronica Roth

I loved her when she chose Dauntless as her faction. They are all bad ass. She was just a bit more bad ass than everyone else.

5. Astrid and Diana from Gone by Michael Grant

I love both of those women. One was good and the other was a villain. But I loved them both! They both kicked some serious ass in the final book of the series.
6. Skylar from I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

I really love how strong she was while dealing with her family issues and Josh's PTSD.

7. Marie-Laure from All The Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This girl is my ultimate book hero. She is twelve, blind and somehow manages to survive everything WWII could throw at her.
8. Betty, Madeline and Alice from The War Bride Club by Soraya Lane

These women were incredibly brave. The left London for New York after WWII to live with their husbands, whom they barely knew. Each of them manages to make a life for themselves, which turns out to mean different things for each of them. I loved these women!
9. Eleanor from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I have a special place in my heart for Eleanor, mainly because of how much I could relate to her. She was bullied at school and dealt with incredibly family stress. I loved how strong she was despite all of this.

10. Romy from All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Romy survived a rape and had to deal with incredible victim blaming from everyone, including her best friend. I really love how incredible she was when dealing with everyone.

Who are some of your favorite female characters?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Musing Mondays - Why I Decided To Quit My Challenges

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by Jenn at A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! This is when we speak about bookish rants or issues, among other things.

For this week's topic, I am talking about why I decided to quit all of my challenges. Yep, you heard me right: I decided to quit them. All of them. This year, I had signed up for several challenges: the Banned Book Challenge, the TBR Pile Challenge, the New To You Challenge, the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and of course the Goodreads Challenge.

Last year, I told myself that I would not sign up for too many challenges. Yeah, that didn't work out very well. I was trying to branch out and read new things and I love challenges. They give me something to work towards and I love winning . . . even if I am just winning against myself. Not including the Goodreads challenge, I had a total of 71 books to read for my challenges. It did help that I was able to use some of the same books for multiple challenges. Nevertheless, the number was overwhelming.

So how did this affect my reading habits? I found myself reading stuff that I wasn’t really in the mood to read. Granted, some of the books have been on my TBR list for a while, but that doesn’t mean I was in the mood to read them right now. In addition to the books for my challenges, I had requested way too many ARCs that needed to be read as well. I have been calculating every month how many books need to be challenge reads so that I can stay on top of everything and not be behind on anything. Because of that, I have found myself not enjoying reading. I have read stuff I wasn't excited about and this did not help my enjoyment of the book. 

It isn’t actually enough that I just be behind . . . I have to be ahead too. Take my Goodreads challenge for example. I had signed up to read 170 books for this year. That is roughly the same amount of books I read last year. At this point in the year, I have read 75 books and I am way ahead of my goal by 22 books. Yet, I continue to put all this pressure on myself to get farther and farther ahead. Why? Because I have travel coming up and I want to make sure I don’t fall behind my goal. And then I also think to myself “Hmmm, maybe I could actually beat my goal and read 200 books this year.” Yeah, it’s a sickness.

No one is pressuring me but me. I realized this week how I was just not reading books I actually wanted to read. I was feeling the need to complete all these challenges and I also felt the need to read every ARC I have by the publication date. Well there was one book I was reading that was published on April 14, 2015. A few pages in, I realized I was not in the mood to read this book. I wasn’t marking it DNF or anything. I think I had only read five pages so I really couldn’t blame the story. I just wanted to read something else. So I put it aside and read something else. The publication date for that book came and went, it still hasn’t been read and I am not sure when I will read it. And guess what? The world didn’t end. NetGalley didn’t come and hunt me down asking why I haven't read the book yet.

That is when I realized that all of these challenges were just too much. Maybe that is why I have been in a couple of reading slumps lately: the books that I am “supposed” to read just aren’t cutting it. A couple of weeks ago, I actually read a book (A Different Blue by Amy Harmon) that was neither an ARC or was it a challenge read. That book was the one that ended up pulling me out of my slump. That was the first book in a couple of weeks that I actually liked. Even though it is totally not like me, this is when I decided to quit my challenges. I know it sounds silly, but that decision took so much pressure off myself. I do not want to read just for the sake of reading. I want to read what I want. And if I want to take a break from reading, either because of travel or because I just need a break, I want to do that without feeling like I am missing out on some stupid goal.

Are you working on any challenges this year? Do you feel pressure to read a certain number of books?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Jenn at A Daily Rhythm, where we show off books we recently added to our TBR list or books we recently purchased, borrowed, etc.

It's ironic. The second I post about trying to get my TBR pile under control, I suddenly lose all willpower and start requesting books from NetGalley. They were just so tempting!!

Here are the two books I received from NetGalley this week.

1. The Prodigal Sister by Laura Elliot
NetGalley synopsis: Four sisters. Four secrets. One reunion to reconcile the past. Cathy fled her Dublin home was she was just fifteen years old, and pregnant. Starting a new life in New Zealand with her son Conor, and new partner Lyle, she believes the secret she carries will never be revealed. Rebecca was eighteen when her parents died and she took responsibility for her younger sisters. Years later, she is haunted by fears she hoped she'd conquered. Freed from family duties, mother of three Julie is determined to recapture the dreams of her youth but at what price? Married to a possessive older man, Lauren embarks on a frantic love affair that threatens to destabilise her fragile world. Anxious to make peace with her three sisters, Cathy invites them to her wedding. But as the women journey together through New Zealand towards their reunion, they are forced to confront the past as the secret shared histories of the Lambert sisters are revealed.

2. A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moscowitz
NetGalley synpsis: Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies. But when Beckan's clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn't have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected. This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.

Did you get any new books this week?

Books and Bloggers Swap Show Off!

Happy Friday!! 

I am still doing great on my temporary book buying ban. Nope, no books bought for myself at all!

Instead, I joined Chaotic Goddess's Books and Bloggers Swap. Cheating? Maybe. I don't even care. I love my new books.

I got partnered with Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag and she chose outstanding books for me! 

We had to send each other three books:
  • a book from your partner's wish list
  • a book you have read and loved
  • a book you haven't read, but find interesting (could also be on the wish list).
I was sent these three books:

1. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - this is the one that was on my wish list. I read I'll Give You The Sun earlier this year and LOVED it!! I am so excited to read more of her work.

2. Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang - This is the one that partner has not read, but finds interesting. It was also on my wish list! I have heard great things about this one so I can't wait. 

3. The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen - This is the one that my partner has read and loved. I had never heard of this one, but it has an awesome premise and has awesome reviews. It is a love story starring two guys! Love it!

Did you participate in the Books and Bloggers swap? Any new goodies?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Lie by C.L. Taylor

This is a book review for The Lie by C.L. Taylor. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She's happier than she's ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist. Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women. Jane has tried to put her past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won't stop until they've destroyed Jane and everything she loves.

The book starts on a day when Jane receives an anonymous note from someone who says they know who Jane really is. The reader learns that Jane's real name is Emma and she is hiding from reporters after an incident in Nepal five years earlier. The narration goes back and forth between the present and the past. The chapters that take place five years prior slowly build suspense and lets the reader know, bit by bit, how a normal vacation with three other friends turned into a nightmare. I was way more interested in what happened with Emma and her friends than I was in Jane's life at the present. Jane in the here and now was kind of boring and she was with a boring guy. Her and Will had no chemistry. It is revealed they have been dating for a couple of months. Maybe it was because they didn't seem very serious or the fact that the book started after they started their relationship, but I wasn't very invested in it. 

The story of the vacation was far more intriguing, The girls go on a trip to parts of Nepal and they wind up at a commune on top of a mountain that is not what it seems. It is revealed that of the four women, only two came back down the mountain. I kept turning the pages because I was dying to know what happened at the top of that mountain. In that respect, it was extremely suspenseful . It is at the commune that the girls' friendships unravel. Being in a place with no way to contact the outside world at all brought a lot of resentments and jealousies to the surface. It did appear as if the people at the commune were taking advantage of that to turn the girls against each other. I am not giving away any spoilers here because this plot point is revealed within the first chapter or two: the commune in Nepal is actually a cult. I am so intrigued by cults and what it takes for people to fall for the cult leader. In this case, the leader isolated everyone and made them feel so good that they never wanted to leave. They researched the people coming so they could know all of their secrets and all of their weaknesses. It was creepy. People even burned their passports, although it is not clear whether some people actually want to do that or not. My issue with the cult though is that it was never fully explained how the cult began or how it turned into what it was. Throughout the girls' time there, you can see the violence that lurks beneath all the calm and peace. One of the members did indicate that it didn't start out like that. So I was curious how it started and how it evolved. 

In the present, Jane is trying to figure out who knows who she really is but she doesn't try very hard. She even dismisses most of it as no big deal. Because she doesn't care very much, it was hard for me to. Once a few more details about the experience in Nepal were revealed, I had a good feeling about who was stalking Jane and I was right. The ending though, was a bit anticlimactic for me. There was all this suspense in the last couple of chapters when the stalking did intensify. But there was no real confrontation with the guilty party and then it was just over. This is a psychological thriller that does have its suspenseful moments, but no big finish. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Blondes by Emily Schultz

This is a book review for The Blondes by Emily Schultz. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Hazel Hayes is a grad student living in New York City. As the novel opens, she learns she is pregnant (from an affair with her married professor) at an apocalyptically bad time: random but deadly attacks on passers-by, all by blonde women, are terrorizing New Yorkers. Soon it becomes clear that the attacks are symptoms of a strange illness that is transforming blondes--whether CEOs, flight attendants, students or accountants--into rabid killers. 

With a premise about a plague that affects blonde women, you would think there would be plenty of excitement. Eh, not so much. I actually spent the majority of the book in a state of boredom. Then something exciting would happen . . . and ten pages later, I was bored again. When the book opens, Hazel is already pregnant (it appears that she is quite late in her pregnancy) and she is alone in a cottage owned by the wife of her baby's father (Grace). The world is being ravaged by the plague and she is doing everything she can to remain isolated so she won't catch it. The narration alternates been Hazel being alone in the cabin and Hazel recounting to her unborn child all of the events that led to her isolation. 

Reading this book, the first thing you have to do is suspend all disbelief with the "Science" that is talked about in this book. I have no clue about Science and even I knew that what was happening was beyond the realm of possibility, as was the explanation. First, it is reported that the disease affects all blonde girls and women (not males, JUST females). Then they state that blonde women just dye their hair so they won't catch it. This makes no sense to me. Then they say women who aren't natural blondes, but who dye their hair blonde, have a chance of catching it. Then they say that even if you dye your hair or shave your head, it doesn't matter. You can catch it. Hazel is a redhead. This should put her in the "safe" category, but not really. From what I understood, the only way for women to be completely safe was to have natural hair as dark as possible. When women are attempting to cross borders, inspectors even have the women drop their pants so they can see if "the carpets match the drapes." This was one of the few times in the book where I was genuinely horrified. Hazel dyes her hair a darker color, but because the inspector asks her to do this, she is put under quarantine. All of this hysteria does strike me as somewhat realistic. There is a disease no one is familiar with so all of these theories get thrown out as quickly as possible by reporters just so they can have a story. This further incites mass hysteria. With women all over the country supposedly being affected by this disease, it would be easy to be scared. I did wonder how many cases were real and how many were just diagnosed because of mass hysteria. At one point, reporters were telling people to be on the lookout for "emotional" or "upset" women. Sorry, but if there is a plague turning blonde women into killers, I'm going to be a bit "emotional." 

I think the reason why I was bored throughout most of this book was that the main character seemed bored with everything too. She showed almost no emotion throughout the entire book and in fact, seemed almost apathetic to what was happening. Even when she was describing her affair with her married professor, there was no emotion there. I didn't even know why she continued with the affair. It didn't seem like she loved him or even knew him very well. The ending of this book was as anticlimactic as everything else. I kept waiting for something to happen. The resolution did not sit well with me. All in all, there was probably one chapter's worth of exciting events in this very boring book.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Teaser Tuesday and First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday

Here is the book I am providing teasers for today: Undertow by Michael Buckley.

Amazon synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

I stayed up until almost 1:00am this morning so I could finish this. It is so different from anything I have ever read. It was such a great book! 

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea, where we share the first paragraph of the book you are reading.

"You can hear them coming from blocks away, a low thrum like the plucking of a bass string. As they grow closer it becomes a buzz in your inner ear, like hornets building a nest in your brain. By the time they reach your street, when they are right outside your window, the sound is unbearable: a rogue wave of moans and shrieks that rises higher and higher into a great crescendo of terror, the stuff of nightmares. You can't sleep through it. There is no pillow in the world big enough to block out their howls. Just pull the blankets up over your head and wait for them to pass. They will. They always do."

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jenn at A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

 Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“I squeeze some of the ointment into my fingers, but something stops me. He needs it, yes, but these are his trophies. I don’t have to respect that or even understand, but it feels wrong to dismiss it. To nurse him against his will seems like a violation. It’s me trying to make him more human, to force him to adapt to my world. It’s me trying to change him, and I didn’t like it very much when the world did it to me.”

Do these teasers make you want to read more?