August 31, 2014

Rewind & Review #20

Rewind & Review

I'm here at college!!! It's been a crazy adventure so far. Orientation week was especially hectic. I wasn't feeling well most of the mornings, so I missed a lot of worship and what-not. It wasn't fun missing out on a lot, but it was probably better that I stayed in my room and rested. My roommate and I are getting along fairly well, and I've made several friends, especially from my orientation group (we were #13, which made me happy). I'm still getting used to dorm life, but I like my room and my floor and especially my RA. If anyone wants to send me mail, you can email me for my address (obviously, I'll be choosing with discretion who I give it out to, but if you're a good blogger friend, then by all means, ask away!). What else... the amount of books acquired has dropped, of course. I bought a few before I left, and as you'll see, I received some and won some, but I've been too busy to go to the B&N in Lexington yet (and my fall preorders will be staggered throughout the next few months). I did make it to another bookstore yesterday though. Watch my haul video for that story. And oh my gosh, Taylor Swift's new single and the new album, and I'm just over the moon. The night "Shake It Off" released, Elise and I danced around our room for an hour and she likes a Taylor Swift song and I'm so happy. I've been getting used to classes and balancing homework on every day of the week instead of just getting it all done by Friday.

Books I Received
Valiant by Sarah McGuire (via NetGalley/Egmont; this doesn't come out until June 2015, so I won't be reviewing it for quite awhile)
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (thanks to Dawn for the loan!)
Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst (via NetGalley/Bloomsbury)
Inside Narnia by Devin Brown
Inside Prince Caspian by Devin Brown
Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader by Devin Brown (via Dr. Devin Brown)
Love and Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander (via NetGalley/Entangled Teen)
Boundary by Heather Terrell (via Edelweiss/Soho Teen)

Books I Won
Infinite Repeat by Paula Stokes (I won this awhile ago from Ensconced in Lit's blogoversary giveaway, and it released on August 5th, so I received my copy; thank you to Christina and Paula!)
The Fire Wish by Amber Lough (won from Scott Reads It and Random House)

Books I Bought
Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
Magnolia by Kristi Cook
Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker
Summerfall by Claire Legrand
A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor
Relic by Heather Terrell

Books I Read
The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings (3.5 stars)
Infinite Repeat by Paula Stokes (4 stars)
Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (5 stars)
The Traveler's Tricks by Laurie Calkhoven (4 stars)
Unforgettable Summer by Catherine Clark (2.5 stars)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (reread)
Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker (4 stars)
Magnolia by Kristi Cook (3.5 stars)
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando (reread)
Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan
The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E.D. Baker
Of Triton by Anna Banks (4 stars)
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander
Of Neptune by Anna Banks (2 stars)
Summerfall by Claire Legrand (4 stars)
Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst
Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan (4 stars)
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (reread)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (From 8/4-8/9)
   (From 8/10-8/16)
   (From 8/24-8/30)
Upcoming Posts in the Next Few Weeks (subject to change)
  • Another Fifteen 2015 Reads
  • TTT: Characters I Want at My Lunch Table
  • Misleading Titles
  • Review: Falling into Place + an Interview with the Author
  • My New Home
  • Awkwordly Emma 2014 Update
  • TTT: Underrated Contemporary Books
  • Review: Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien
  • Random Friday: Awesome Places to Read
  • Meet My Roommate

August 30, 2014

Review: Don't Touch

Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
Grade: A
Release date: September 2, 2014
This ARC was provided by On the Same Page's ARC tours and the author.  Since it was provided by the author, On the Same Page requested that we review the book.
Summary: Step on a crack, break your mother's back,
Touch another person's skin, and Dad's gone for good . . .

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it's never been this bad before.

When her parents split up, Don't touch becomes Caddie's mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person's skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn't make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama's humidity, she's covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that's where things get tricky. Even though Caddie's the new girl, it's hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who's auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she'll have to touch Peter . . . and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The main thing that drew me to this book was the mention of Hamlet in the synopsis. It makes me ridiculously happy that Caddie has a bit of a soft spot for Ophelia and that she desperately wants to play her. The school's performance of Hamlet is a recurring subplot throughout the entire book. The Kenneth Branagh adaptation was mentioned, which may have made me flail a bit. The book was divided into acts, which seemed a bit unnecessary to me, but hey, each act began with a quote from Hamlet, so I can't complain too much. I also really enjoyed Caddie comparing herself to Ophelia. Because, just like Ophelia, she feels like she's drowning. 

Don't Touch was amazing in such a quiet way. Issue books are difficult, and this one gets it very right. Things wrapped up a bit too quickly and easily perhaps, but I can overlook that in the grand scheme of things. I didn't cry at all, but I was very invested in the story and the characters. I read the book in less than 24 hours. There were painful parts, but that just makes the narrative and characters all the more realistic. Real life isn't comfortable. The prose was fairly straightforward but still very enjoyable. There was a pivotal line early on that said, "He's at home in his skin." (quote taken from page 21 of my ARC) To someone like Caddie, I can see how striking that would be. She's not comfortable with who she is entirely, and she's scared to have her skin touch others or to be touched.

The characters, oh my goodness. It's very easy to compare them to characters in a play. Each one has a role, and some are more minor than others. I would've liked to see more of Caddie's brother, Jordan, and more interactions between Livia and Caddie. But Mandy turned out to be a great friend (and very realistic), and the only character I thoroughly detested was Oscar. I'm pretty sure he's supposed to be polarizing, though. Something that's important to note is that you may feel a teeny bit disconnected from Caddie and her narrative (it's in first person so we know all of her thoughts and what-not, but there's still a bit of disconnection). I found that the disconnection was minimal, though, since her emotions and thoughts are so very raw and real, and I felt them, too. I enjoyed feeling somewhat disconnected from the protagonist, actually. In a book like this, it works. It was like Caddie was keeping me at arm's length, to keep me from touching her.

At times I was invested in the romance and other times, I wasn't. I didn't feel any particular swoons for Peter, but I still think he was pretty cool. He did a great job as Hamlet. I liked that, when Caddie said she wanted to get to know him better before they let their relationship become more than friends, he was genuinely okay with it. There's a moment where she freaks out when he touches her, and his reaction was great. He was apologetic and (humanly) freaked out and just wanted to help.
Language is fairly mild (I think I remember maybe a few uses of the s-word, but they're scattered), and romance is pretty clean with a few innuendos. Also, there is a little underage drinking. Suicide is discussed (mostly about Ophelia), and Caddie has a form of OCD, so those might be trigger warnings for some.

The Verdict: So good. So so so so good. Don't Touch was everything I hoped it would be and more. Get thee to a bookstore and buy it! (Well, preorder it at this point.)

August 29, 2014

Random Friday: Fall 2014 Reads

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following: 
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my post.
  • Blog about this week's topic.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
Time to share my fall 2014 TBR list!

1. Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (September 9th)

2. Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley (September 9th)

3. Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz (September 16th)

4. Winterspell by Claire Legrand (September 30th)

5. The Young Elites by Marie Lu (October 7th)

6. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (October 7th)

7. Stray by Elissa Sussman (October 7th)

And now three books that are already published and I keep meaning to read.
8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

9. Legend by Marie Lu

10. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

August 27, 2014

Review: In a Handful of Dust

Hi, everyone!  I have Hannah here for another guest review.  When I snagged an ARC of In a Handful of Dust (the sequel/companion novel to Not a Drop to Drink), I knew she'd be over the moon.  And she was. ;) 

In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis
Grade: A-
Release date: September 23, 2014
This ARC was won in a giveaway from The (YA) Bookcase.
Summary: The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Like the first book, I could not put In a Handful of Dust down.  It was really cool to be able to see how past events in the first book affected characters in this book.  Lucy has an easily lovable personality, and I think people can relate to her well.  There is a hint of romance, not a lot, but enough to give the book another layer of dynamics.  There is a part in the book that I think is a little abrupt and doesn't seem to get proper closure.  It felt a bit rushed.  Also, there is still some swearing, but not as bad as Not a Drop to Drink.  There is some pretty intense gore, I guess you could say.  It wasn't the worst I've read, but it would be on the worse side of things.  It's still about Hunger Games level, though.

The Verdict: Overall, I think this book exceeds its predecessor in many ways. Even if you haven't read Not a Drop to Drink, I think you could still enjoy giving this one a read. [Note from Emma: I read In a Handful of Dust without having read Not a Drop to Drink.  There were some things I was confused about, but overall, it's its own story, so I didn't find it too confusing.]

August 26, 2014

Review: Starry Night

Starry Night by Isabel Gillies
Grade: D- (or maybe even an F)
Release date: September 2nd, 2014
This e-galley was provided by NetGalley and FSG Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Sometimes one night can change everything. On this particular night, Wren and her three best friends are attending a black-tie party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to celebrate the opening of a major exhibit curated by her father. An enormous wind blasts through the city, making everyone feel that something unexpected and perhaps wonderful will happen. And for Wren, that something wonderful is Nolan. With his root-beer-brown Michelangelo eyes, Nolan changes the way Wren’s heart beats. In Isabel Gillies's Starry Night, suddenly everything is different. Nothing makes sense except for this boy. What happens to your life when everything changes, even your heart? How much do you give up? How much do you keep?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: As of reading Starry Night and writing this review (back in June), I had a streak of really awful books. There were good ones interspersed, but three of the books I'd read for review had been just disgraceful. This one joined those ranks. From early on, the writing style bothered me, and the protagonist, Wren, sounded much younger than 15 years old. There were weird metaphors like "I laughed at my own expense to fit in with everyone else, but it felt like someone had just made me swallow a clementine." (quote from loc 209 of my e-galley) Within the same night they met each other, Nolan and Wren are "in love" (Wren literally says that "in one day, I was in love."), and it's the ultimate insta-love cliche. There's also an extremely inappropriate relationship between an artist and one of Wren's friends, and yet the resolution of it was awful. For so long, that friend was resisting her friends' efforts to get her to see the light and in one night, she suddenly does? Then Wren's friend, Reagan, does something unthinkable and she doesn't seem truly sorry, and yet Wren still wanted to be friends with her to some extent. I'm sorry, but if I were Wren, I wouldn't be able to look at Reagan ever again. Also worth noting is that it's revealed that Wren's friend Charlie is gay. I felt like it was very cliche for his character to be gay because all his friends are girls and he'd never thought of said girls as more than friends, so of course he has to be gay. Finally, there was no real plot, apart from Wren obsessing over Nolan, obsessing over her brother's relationship with another friend of hers, or obsessing over that friend mentioned above who was having an inappropriate (and I'm pretty sure illegal) relationship.
The ugly consists of: all of the adults swore with such ease around the teenagers. It was appalling. The teens swore, too, and talked about sex a lot.

The Verdict: I was really looking forward to this book, but it honestly isn't worth your time. (I won't even be including buy links for this book because you'll just regret buying it.)

August 25, 2014

From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen: Dauntless Cake

Welcome to my new blog feature, From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen!  This is vaguely inspired by Gillian's Baking the Books, among other book bloggers' food features.  I wanted to try out several recipes inspired by or directly from YA novels, not just baked goods.

The first recipe?  My twist on Dauntless cake from the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.  Pretty much everyone has read this trilogy so if you haven't yet, I'm a bit astounded (and yes, I know I only read the books last summer).

This cake is very rich, so cut small pieces!  It's probably great for a party because it'll get eaten up quickly.

Making this cake wasn't easy, so definitely make sure you have plenty of time.  And don't worry if it doesn't come out perfectly the first time.  I think that, the next time I make it, I'm going to leave out the ricotta cheese mixture layer and just do a basic chocolate cake with this frosting recipe.  The frosting is SO GOOD.

Emma's Variation on Dauntless Cake
1 package chocolate cake mix and the ingredients to make it
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
4 eggs
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 5.1-oz. package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
8 oz. Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.  In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix according to the box directions.  Set aside.  In another bowl, using a hand mixer, beat together the ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking dish.  Spread to fill the pan evenly.  Once the cake batter is in place, carefully pour the cheese mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter.  Spread to cover as best as you can.  Bake for 1 hour.  Remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.  Once the cake is col, whisk the pudding mix and milk together until combined.  Carefully fold in the Cool Whip.  Spread the pudding mixture over the cooled cake.  Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.

Ready to see the result?

Have a recipe/book suggestion for From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen?  Email it to MDBCnumber1fan [at] gmail [dot] com.

August 23, 2014

What Every Bookworm Needs

I'm sure I could give dozens of answers to that statement.  "What does every bookworm need?" More shelves. More books. More time to read.  Friends who will fangirl/fanboy over books with us.  And so forth.  But this post is about something I'm sure every bookworm needs and wants and will likely never get.

A rich benefactor.
"Who will do what?" you ask.
Fund all my bookish ventures, that's what.

You know, buy all the books I want and all the bookcases to hold them.  Pay for shipping so I can give away tons of books and swag.  So I can donate more books to ARC tours.  And so I can go to all the awesome book conventions (BEA, ALA, YALLfest, etc.).

Wouldn't that be nice?  Don't you agree?
(Wow, this is an unusually short post for me.)

August 21, 2014

Christianity in YA

I've been mulling this post over in my mind for a couple months now, and I'm still not certain I have all of my thoughts collected. But this is a post I don't want to procrastinate writing.

I've noticed that, in most YA books (particularly contemporary), the characters are either Jewish, agnostic, or atheist. Rarely are Christians encountered - or at least true Christians. Most "religious" or "churchy" characters are hypocrites, jerks, or are just what the world thinks Christians are. There's the whole mean pastor trope, and the Christian super good girl stereotype (that's often about that girl only being that way because that's what her family wants), and there are sometimes philosophical discussions about whether God and heaven really exist.

I'm fine with a wide variety of religions being represented in fiction. I'd just like to see Christianity represented more accurately in books that aren't strictly religious. I'd like faith to be a large part of a character but not all they discuss, because I believe in God, Jesus, the Bible, heaven, etc., but it's not all I talk about (although a lot of my thoughts and actions do revolve around what I believe is right, and most of that comes from the Bible). Wow, that was a long sentence.

In my own writings, I've had several Christian characters who mention praying, going to church, God, and so forth, but since they're never solely religious stories, it doesn't usually go beyond that. In a current WIP, I've created a fantasy world, and I had to decide if that world and my characters were going to be religious, particularly since magic exists (sort of in a Narnian and Disney way). It was interesting to create a variety of characters whose religions are similar to Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, and atheism (this is a fantasy world after all, so I don't think they'd actually use the same names we do). I think some of my characters are going to be more devout than others. I want them to bring up questions among themselves about why they believe a certain thing and let everyone still get along after these debates, but I don't want this book to be religious. I just want it to be a matter of life, like it is in my own. I also want to challenge "the church is EVIL" trope.  Yes, currently, I'm planning for the church in a few kingdoms to have a bit of an Inquisition, but I think it's important to acknowledge the following fact. There are bad churches and there are good churches. Some are firmly rooted in the Word of God and others just claim to be Christian. What I believe matters most is the condition of the believers' hearts. Are they a true Christian and do their actions exhibit what they believe?

One thing I don't like is when any novel - even religious Christian fiction - gets too preachy. I can go to church and read Christian nonfiction if I want a sermon (or something similar). I don't like when books get too preachy about other religions or issues. And if a book goes against my views too much, I'll stop reading or won't read it. That's the whole point of my "The Ugly" category in reviews. As a Christian, I'm careful about what I put in my mind. I don't tolerate an excessive amount of swearing, sexual content, drug/alcohol content, or mysticism. It's also why I tend to not read horror novels (besides the fact that I have an overactive imagination and won't be able to sleep without having nightmares for weeks if I read those books) or ones with magic that's too reminiscent of witchcraft.

I probably got a little rambly, but I wanted to get my thoughts out there on this topic. If anything I've said in this post offends you, I apologize (not for my beliefs, though, just making that clear). This isn't me starting a debate; this is me starting a discussion that I hope will remain calm and respectful. What do you think about Christianity in YA? Would you be open to more Christian characters who don't fit into one of the tropes? Have anything else you want to discuss relating to this topic? Let's talk! :)

August 20, 2014

Review: Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Grade: A
Release date: September 2, 2014
This e-galley was provided by Bloomsbury and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

**Warning** There will be spoilers for the past Throne of Glass books!
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: From page one, I was sucked back into Celaena's story (along with the side-stories about Chaol and Dorian). I was so happy to be back with some of my favorite characters. It took me a little longer to warm up to Manon (according to my Goodreads updates, I was about 33% in before I thought she was a cool character). I think she's only going to get more interesting as the series goes on, and I'd like to see where her character arc takes her (will she continue to be a villain? will she become an ally to Celaena?).  
I've had a couple days to sit and contemplate my thoughts before I write this review, and I still feel as if I'm suffering from the worst book hangover. Sarah J. Maas feeds on the despair of her readers. A couple of my tweets after I finished Heir of Fire will sum up my thoughts nicely.

I got to about 75% in (give or take a few pages), and I just wanted to murder things. I even contemplated throwing Heir of Fire against a wall, but my copy is an e-galley on my iPad and I'm not throwing my iPad. Overall, it's a well-written book. The Throne of Glass world continues to come alive, and there are just enough new characters introduced to keep everything feeling fresh. Your heart will go out to most of the characters, and you'll want to wrap them in blankets and protect them from their author. (Aedion!  Dorian! *sobs*) For those who want to know more about Celaena's past, before she became an assassin, those questions are most definitely answered. Those answers aren't painless, though, just warning you. You will rage, and throw things, and want to murder things (particularly the King of Adarlan).
However, I was very underwhelmed by the first half. After how emotionally fraught Crown of Midnight left me, Heir of Fire started very...slowly, I guess. Also, there is less romance in Heir of Fire than the previous books. Celaena is pining for Chaol a bit, although she is still quite angry at him after the events of Crown of Midnight. I'm still trying to decide where or not Sarah is setting Rowan up as a potential love interest, but I'm hoping he won't be. I'm most definitely still firmly on Team Chaol, as I now want Dorian for myself.
Language isn't too bad (the s-word is used a bit too frequently for my tastes, but otherwise, it's pretty tame); violence is probably the most graphic. I won't go into detail but there are battles and blood.

The Verdict: How am I supposed to wait a year+ (depending on if I get an ARC/e-galley again) for the fourth book?! And I thought Crown of Midnight murdered me... If you've read the rest of the Throne of Glass series, you need to read Heir of Fire. If you haven't read the Throne of Glass series, get on that now.

August 18, 2014

DNFing Books

Before blogging, that term was a foreign concept to me.  I didn't even hear it until I'd been a book blogger for a few months.  DNF stands for Did Not Finish, as in, I did not finish this book.  I know there were lots of times before I started reviewing books that I put something down because it was too inappropriate for me, because I was bored, or because I just didn't like it.
When I found out about the term, I started giving myself the freedom to DNF books.  It's still something I struggle with (with some books more than others, especially if I've DNFed a lot lately).  In the last year, I've stopped reading about 30 books.  Many bored me.

For example, Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick.  Beautiful cover.  Cool concept.  But I was expecting to see more of the Romanovs.  So when I didn't and there was this mysterious rebel, who I realized would be a love interest, I was done with the book.  But tsarist Russia is such a fascinating time, so I hope to find another book from the time of the Romanovs that I like more.

This next book, I'm not even going to name.  I DNFed it because there was just too much weirdness, there was too much inappropriate content, and...the author exhibited some bad behavior on Twitter.  She was very rude about a semi-bad review and she claimed all book bloggers are aspiring authors who can't get published.  I was already close to DNFing her book at that point, and that was the final nail in the coffin.

There were other books that I really wanted to like but just didn't.  These include Vicious by Victoria Schwab, Wanted: Dead or In Love by Kym Brunner, Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay, Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong, Sekret by Lindsay Smith, and Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger.

I've also started giving myself the freedom to write DNF reviews (hence the three that went up in the last 10 days).  I'm also to a point in my life where I'm very busy so what reading time I have has to be spent on books I'm going to give at least 3 stars.  I still often feel guilty when I have to DNF a book (especially if it's for review), but I've realized I need to give myself permission to say, "I don't like this book.  I shouldn't have to force myself to read it."

What causes you to DNF a book, and how long do you read before saying you're done?  Does DNFing make you feel guilty?  Let's discuss!  Leave a comment below or tweet at me or something. :)

August 17, 2014

Review: A Little Something Different

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
Grade: B
Release date: August 26, 2014
An ARC was provided by Macmillan/Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship. 

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: From the moment I heard about this book, I knew I was dying to read it. It sounded like such a cute romance.  While it wasn't without its flaws, A Little Something Different certainly lived up to its name.  There were 14 different POVs (if I counted correctly), and each one adds something different to the story.  I could've done without the POVs from the bench and the squirrel (those were just too weird), and maybe Pam, since she didn't add much to the story, but the rest were definitely effective.  Towards the end, I really wanted to see Gabe and Lea's POVs, so that's a definite flaw.  We never get a true look inside the heads of what I'd consider the true protagonists.  However, there is surprising diversity in this book (Lea is Chinese, and Gabe is half-Portuguese, just for starters), and serious issues were touched on.  A Little Something Different is still a romance, though.  It was cute, and fluffy, and interesting.  It didn't follow the formula of a typical love story, and Gabe and Lea were not your typical love interests.  I will say that one part of the book is pretty unrealistic - Gabe and Lea are in the same creative writing class, and I'm pretty sure Gabe and Victor were in it just to fulfill an English requirement.  Since it seemed to be upper-level, I'm pretty sure this wouldn't actually happen.  Lea is only a freshman, so it was a bit unbelievable that she would be in an upper-level creative writing course, but I suppose it could happen.
Romance stayed pretty clean, surprisingly (since these are college students), there was underage drinking, and language was the worst of it (the s-word was used on multiple occasions).

The Verdict: Cute, fluffy, fun summer read, but it doesn't follow the usual teen romance novel formula.  Give it a try!

August 15, 2014

Random Friday: A Whole New World

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following: 
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my post.
  • Blog about this week's topic.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
If you're seeing this post, it means I didn't have time to write the originally-planned post because I was too busy with orientation. See, I chose the topic "a whole new world" with my journey at college in mind. As of today, I'll have been at Asbury in the dorms since Tuesday (down in Kentucky since Monday). So I figured I'd have a lot to tell y'all. But unfortunately, I'm not a time traveler, so I couldn't really schedule that post in advance. So this post is just in case I got too busy with events and didn't have enough time to hop online and write a whole post about my college adventure so far. (But don't worry: I have a post scheduled for September in which I'm going to give you a mini campus tour.)

I had to think long and hard about what I'd write about instead. I actually considered doing a post about the song from Aladdin since it fits the theme and all, haha. But instead I decided I wanted to talk about my latest work-in-progress. I can't divulge too much because I want to keep this idea pretty secret for multiple reasons, but I decided to share about the world-building process.

I have NEVER had to do so much world-building for a book before. Seriously. This WIP is fantasy, whereas most of my past writings have been contemporary. I printed out seven 12-page character questionnaires and one 30-page world-building questionnaire. I also created short profiles for my seven protagonists and twenty secondary characters (some of which are dead but relevant enough in the past to need personality expansion). I also drew a map of what I figure the land of this book to look like. It's a very rough map and probably totally disproportional, but it serves its purpose.

It's taken several minutes to answer many of the questions because I actually have to think of an answer. I never really thought about what science would be like in my book's world. Religion and government, yes, but not science or even education really. On the topic of religion, it's been interesting to determine what my characters would believe. Since this is a fantasy world, they don't have the actual religions we have, but they have forms of Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, and atheism. So I'm going to have to develop those to some extent.

Also, the fantasy world has different races, but they obviously can't be called by the terms we use in our world. I really wanted this book to be diverse, to represent what our world is truly like, but in a fantasy setting. I'm not going to get every detail right or be perfectly politically correct, but that's okay. Why? Because a) this is set in a made-up world, and b) because my focus is being realistically diverse, not being perfectly correct about everything. I'd rather have a diverse book with a few blunders than leave out diversity entirely.

I've also started creating Pinterest boards for a lot of my books. The one for this WIP is the biggest by far. I have multiple fancasts for the majority of the characters, plus inspiration pics for settings, castles, and tiaras. (Picking out castles and tiaras was harder than you might think.) There are tons of cute boys (if I had to go by fancasts, the love interests, Calder, Gavril, and Viviano are probably my favorites), and lovely princesses (fancasts for them include Sasha Pieterse, Seychelle Gabriel, Arden Cho, and Alexandra Daddario). I've included a couple of the inspiration pics for the kingdoms below so you can swoon with me over how magnificent the world is.

So what does the phrase "a whole new world" make you think of?

August 14, 2014

DNF Review: Finding Ruby Starling

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers
Grade: DNF
Release date: August 26, 2014
This e-galley was provided by Arthur A. Levine Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: THE PARENT TRAP comes to the digital age!

When Ruth Quayle used a special app to search for pictures of herself online, she found dozens of images of "Ruth Quayle" -- and one of "Ruby Starling."

When Ruby Starling gets a message from a Ruth Quayle proclaiming them to be long-lost twin sisters, she doesn't know what to do with it -- until another message arrives the day after, and another one. It could be a crazy stalker ... but she and this Ruth do share a birthday, and a very distinctive ear....

Ruth is an extroverted American girl. Ruby is a shy English one. As they investigate the truth of their birth and the circumstances of their separation, they also share lives full of friends, family, and possible romances -- and they realize they each may be the sister the other never knew she needed.

When did I stop reading?: 82% into my e-galley
The Short Review: Others may enjoy, but the formatting was wonky in my e-galley, which made it hard to follow at times, due to the nonlinear narration.  As the book progressed, I grew bored.

The Long Review: Finding Ruby Starling has a cool premise, I'll give it that.  But it involved a ton of British slang and teen slang that apparently I'm not hip enough to know.  I seriously started wishing for a glossary.  After DNFing another middle grade novel recently in part because of all of the ridiculous slang, I'm starting to wonder if it's common to all contemporary middle grade these days.  I found Ruth to be overly chatty and both girls shared details in their emails that I would never share with someone who's technically a complete stranger, despite being long-lost twin sisters.  Their birth mother was a stereotypical mess, and all three parents were as obnoxious as their daughters.  I couldn't bring myself to care for any of the characters. *sigh* I'm starting to think I can't enjoy middle grade anymore, which really stinks, because it's a good genre.  I'm a quick reader, so if it takes me longer than 2-3 days to read a book (especially MG), then I'm either extremely busy or not enjoying the book.  In this case, it was a combination of both.

The Verdict: Maybe this book just wasn't for me?  Hopefully others enjoy it because I certainly couldn't.

August 13, 2014

Adapt These Books

2014 has certainly been the year of the YA movie adaptation - between the successful (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars), the not-so successful (Vampire Academy), the yet-to-come (If I Stay, The Giver, The Maze Runner, Mockingjay), and the plethora of movie deals announced (Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, Shadow and Bone, Unremembered, Eleanor and Park...).  I think the YA community is definitely proving that adaptations of our favorite books are definitely films to take a risk on.  But there are some books that I haven't seen any news about a movie deal for (or they've only been optioned).  I also can think of some recent YA novels that should be a TV show or...even a web-series (a la The Lizzie Bennet Diaries).  So here are the recent (meaning series still uncompleted or standalones published in the last year) YA books that I believe deserve to be adapted for the big screen (or a smaller screen).

The Movies

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

This could be a really fun summer movie, and I think everyone would love the focus on friendship.  Plus, the whole list is a GREAT plot point that I believe would translate well.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Just like Since You've Been Gone, this would work well as a summer movie.  Music is a popular theme.  Plus, there's Matt Finch. What more of a reason do I need?

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I'm pretty sure The Lunar Chronicles have been optioned (and I think last I heard they were starting work on the script?), but my need for this movie is immense.  I'm just hoping it will be well-and-accurately casted and there won't be any whitewashing or butchering of cultures.

Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I think the world of Elusion is one that deserves to be brought to life on the big screen.  Especially the actual technology of Elusion.  As long as it's done right, it could look really cool.

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

An adaptation of this book would be amazing.  It's Robin Hood, which a lot of people love and would pull in guys, but it's also got enough girl power and romance to entice a female audience (apart from those who have read the books).

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I'm sitting here picturing myself watching The Winner's Curse in a movie theater, and... *swoons*.  I cannot say enough how much I want this book to be a movie.  With its world and complex society, I think it would be incredibly cool.

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Does anyone else agree this book would make an awesome movie?  There have been a lot of films about technology lately, and one from a more YA perspective would definitely be cool.

The TV Shows


Just something about TAtBILB screams TV show to me.  It would be a fun, cute sitcom or drama, and hopefully, it wouldn't be too cheesy.  Plus, there's a sequel coming, so that's more material for the show. (Apparently a movie deal was just recently announced for To All the Boys I've Loved Before, however.)

The Arkwell Academy series by Mindee Arnett

Mindee Arnett's The Nightmare Affair would probably work better as a movie (and they'd probably have a better budget for CGI), but I think the Arkwell Academy books would make a wickedly cool TV show.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Didn't I hear at one point that this might actually happen?  I can definitely see the DOROTHY series making a better TV show than movie.

The Web-Series

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Particularly since such a big part of this book is the e-mails, I could see this making an awesome web-series, as long as they took full advantage of transmedia.  The girls could vlog about their lives and vent about things, and then, for the more private stuff, secret online journals (that would be unknowingly shared with the public) could be used.


I'm less certain as to how this book would work as a web-series, but I think the whole music element would make it really cool.

So those are the recent YA books I want to see adapted.  Any you want to add to the list?