January 31, 2015

Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Grade: B+
Release date: February 10, 2015
This ARC was provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There's only one problem: she's not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel's convinced she's found her solution--Roman, a teenage boy who's haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other's broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: My Heart and Other Black Holes wasn't an easy book to read. It's full of sadness and dismal moments. Because of the synopsis, I found myself expecting the general ending, although not the specific details (none of which I will spoil here). Aysel Seran is a protagonist that you want to root for; I didn't pity her, but I did want to wrap her in blankets, give her hot cocoa, and tell her it gets better and not everyone is as awful as her classmates and people in her town can be. Roman Franklin is a character who needs blankets and hot cocoa, too. They're both so lost and they've both lost hope, and my heart goes out to them.
I appreciated how Aysel's mother and half-siblings made an effort to reach her. Her mother admitted her wrongdoings in a way that was perhaps wrapped up a bit too neatly, but I'll take it because it proves that, even when you think you're all alone, there are always people who will be there for you. I wanted a bit more of that Tyler kid because his part, while important, didn't have quite enough to it to satisfy me. Also, once the whole story behind Aysel's father was revealed, I found it to be well-developed and a fairly good reason for Aysel's fears. However, I didn't appreciate how long it took for that story to be told; I suppose it was for suspense, but it didn't feel like that to me.
Finally, for a contemporary book, the setting was nicely developed. There wasn't info-dumping or anything overly descriptive. I learned just enough about Langston and Willis to feel like I could picture Aysel and Roman in their towns and what-not.
There's foul language, but not on every page and not enough that I had to start skimming. There is also underage drinking.

The Verdict: Dark and sad but with enough moments of hope and light so as not to be overly depressing. And surprisingly, I enjoyed My Heart and Other Black Holes. (Surprisingly because, from the synopsis, I felt like it was a book that would make me think but wouldn't necessarily be entertaining.)

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Most definitely. I preordered it a few weeks ago.

January 30, 2015

Random Friday: More Wintery Book Covers

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.
Last winter, I featured some wintery book covers and I'm ready to do that again.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark

Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick

From Me to You by Elizabeth Eulberg

My True Love Gave to Me by various authors

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

January 29, 2015

Young Adult Gateways

We all have that one book that got us into reading - whether it be reading in general or a certain genre. Well, it took me awhile to actually read more than just a few young adult books/series. I wasn't an adult, like a lot of bloggers I know, but I was definitely in the upper age range of YA. I'm not ashamed that it took me so long because I have discovered a ton of wonderful books in the last year and a half. While it would've been nice to discover a lot of the great series/standalones when other bloggers did, I got to spend several years rereading my favorites instead. I still do a lot of rereading but not nearly as much as I once did. (Curse my busy college schedule!)

I want to spend this post discussing the books that slowly introduced me to YA and then to some of the genres within young adult fiction.

My YA Gateways

In 2009, I discovered the middle grade/lower YA series, The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. When I was younger, before a long trip, my mom and I would go to the bookstore and I'd pick out some books so I'd have something to do during the long drive or flight. I remember going to Barnes & Noble and scanning the shelves. My mom was the one who found The Mother-Daughter Book Club and the second book, Much Ado About Anne. She asked me if I thought they looked interesting. I read part of the first chapter and was immediately hooked. (And I'll admit, part of that was because the first chapter was from the POV of a character named Emma.)
I read and reread those two books during the trip and was in love. As soon as I got home, I went online to see if there would be more. To my delight, an MDBC book released every year through 2012.
In 2010, for my birthday, a friend gifted me a book she thought looked like something I would like. The book? Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. And I'll admit, on that first read-through, I thought it was good but I wasn't that interested. I skimmed through several chapters. Eventually, I reread it, as I often did because my bookshelves were severely lacking (compared to how they are now, at least). I fell in love with the story, and Miri, and Mount Eskel.
But that was it. I continued to reread my childhood favorites and the middle grade series I adored (namely, Main Street by Ann M. Martin and the Sophie books by Nancy Rue and the Elsie Dinsmore books).

My Second Introduction to YA

I have this friend named Kate (who I've mentioned before). She kept talking about these two series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Gallagher Girls.
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I read the Percy Jackson books fairly soon after she recommended them (I read the series in March and April of 2011), but Gallagher Girls took me a bit longer, so we'll get back to that series in a minute.
My best friend since infanthood, Kelly, had been talking about The Hunger Games series for quite some time. In October 2011, I finally borrowed them from the library and read all three books in about a day. So I'm definitely one of those people who can say The Hunger Games trilogy was sort of my entrance into the wonderful world of YA.
I was still fairly exclusive, however, when it came to what books I read and reread. I wasn't exactly a book snob, but I was leery of most YA. Back then, I believed every single YA book was full of sex, drugs, and foul language. While that's the case with some, a lot aren't nearly as inappropriate as I feared. 
Back to Gallagher Girls. One day in June of 2012, I was over at Kate's house. We were just hanging out as usual. I'm not entirely sure how it came up in conversation but I ended up borrowing all five Gallagher Girl books (United We Spy didn't release until September 2013). I'm pretty sure I finished them in about two days. (Hey, it was summer. I had nothing better to do.)

My Official Entrance into YA
It took until May 2013 when I started following some book blogs and finally read more YA. I started with the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series by Jen Calonita (that first book was great; the rest got more and more repetitive). I also read Jen's Belles trilogy, along with Cinder and Scarlet.
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In June of 2013, I read books by Tamara Ireland Stone, Elizabeth Eulberg, Kiera Cass, and Jennifer E. Smith. By July, I was reading Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt, Michelle Dalton's summer romances, The Fault in Our Stars, and Divergent. I think it's safe to say I was officially hooked on YA. And I've never looked back.

January 28, 2015

DNF Review: Seeker

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
Grade: DNF
Release date: February 10, 2015
This e-galley was provided by Delacorte and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: For readers of A Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games comes an epic new series.

The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor. As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world. And she'll be with the boy she loves--who's also her best friend.

But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes. Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought.

And now it's too late to walk away.

When did I stop reading?: 32% into my e-galley (chapter 19)
Why didn't I finish?: It usually takes me 1-3 days to read a book. When I reached day 5 and I was only 32% in, I knew my heart wasn't into Seeker. I dreaded reading it, so I knew it wasn't worth it.

The Long(er) Review: I found Seeker to be rather slow-paced and uninteresting. I liked the chapters from Maud's POV, but too much information was being withheld and I didn't like feeling as if I should know more than I did. Additionally, I went into this, thinking it was fantasy but I think it's more futuristic, since portable televisions are mentioned and it seems to be set in Scotland. 

The Verdict: Maybe Seeker just wasn't for me. I was rather looking forward to it, so the fact that I'm DNFing isn't fun. Perhaps this is another case of a pretty cover but bad book.

January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Pick for the Mother-Daughter Book Club

Today's topic was technically books I'd pick for my book club (real or hypothetical). Since I'm not in a book club and have no idea what my hypothetical one would be like, I knew I needed to choose books for my favorite fictional book club. In case you're wondering what the haystack I'm referring to, click here. The Mother-Daughter Book Club is a super fun MG/lower YA series by Heather Vogel Frederick that I've adored for about 5 1/2 years now. I was at the bookstore promptly when it opened every release day for books 3 through 6. This is the series I'll be reading to my future children when they're old enough. But I digress.
So without further ado, here are the ten books/series I'd tell the Mother-Daughter Book Club that they need to read.

1. His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers
There's intrigue, there's murder, there are kick-butt heroines, and there's romance, so I think all five girls would enjoy these books.

2. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
The MDBC has read classics. Most of them are for entertainment, but those books also have more literary sides. That's what drew me to a couple of the picks on my list, including Like No Other.

3. Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
My explanation under Like No Other is the same for Don't Touch.

4. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Once more, see the explanation for Like No Other.

5. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
A book about friendship is always good for fictional characters whose series is built upon friendship. And if Cassidy, Emma, Jess, Megan, and Becca love this one, they can read Morgan's other books (specifically Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, but also her books under her pen name, Katie Finn).

6. Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
I'm not entirely sure why I've picked this one, but it feels right to me.

7. The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson
Epic fantasy that I could see sparking good discussions for the book club.

8. Anna and the French Kiss trilogy by Stephanie Perkins
Well, Cassidy would have to put up with all the mushy-gushy romance but I think most of the MDBC girls would love this trilogy.

9. Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
This is another pick that just fits for me. Perhaps because I sort of grew up with the girls and, therefore, they'd all be freshmen in college like me this year.

10. The Madman's Daughter trilogy by Megan Shepherd
My last pick is because, like I said before, the book club reads a lot of classics. This trilogy retells three stories, one of which is a major classic (Frankenstein).

So if you've read The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, what books would you choose for them? Or what did you do for Top Ten Tuesday this week?

January 25, 2015

Rewind & Review #30

Rewind & Review

I'm back at school, and these last two weeks have definitely been something. I've had to settle into all my classes, and that definitely cut into my reading time. I also started my job, and it hasn't been too bad so far. I'm allowed to be on my phone, or read, or do homework while I'm there and I'm an expert multi-tasker.
I've tried to be good, and I've bought zero books since I know I'll be purchasing quite a few in the next few weeks (between preorders and what-not).
There's not much else to report, so hope y'all have a good week!

Books I Received
Love, Lucas by Chantele Sedgwick (via Edelweiss/Sky Pony Press)
How (not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts (via NetGalley/Entangled: Teen)
Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca (via Edelweiss/Simon Pulse)
After Hours by Claire Kennedy (via Edelweiss/Simon Pulse)
The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski (via NetGalley/Sourcebooks Fire)
Seed by Lisa Heathfield (via NetGalley/Running Press Kids)
Legend by Marie Lu
Forget Me by K.A. Harrington (Christmas gifts from my roomie!)
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (traded with Eden from Blogging Between the Lines)
All Fall Down by Ally Carter (via Scholastic)
Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton (via Read Between the Lynes)
Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen (via Bloomsbury)
Landry Park by Bethan Hagen (via Brittany and ARCycling)
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (traded with Mia from M&Em Read)

Books I Read
All Fall Down by Ally Carter
The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris (4 stars)
Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally (4 stars)
Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally (4 stars)
Revolution by Jennifer Donnely (2.5 stars)
Down from the Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer
How (not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts (2.5 stars)
Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd (4 stars)
Return to Me by Justina Chen (2 stars)
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (4 stars)
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (reread)
The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (From 1/12-1/17)
   (From 1/18-1/24)
  • TTT: Books I'd Pick for the Mother-Daughter Book Club
  • DNF Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
  • Young Adult Gateways
  • Random Friday: More Wintery Book Covers
  • Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
  • So You Like... #10
  • TTT: Contemporary YA I Need to Read
  • A Bookish Swiftie's Recommendations Part 4
  • Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • Review: Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes

January 24, 2015

Awkwordly Emma's 2014 Book Awards Winners

It's time to announce the winners! Check out the video to see who won. (And please pardon my awkwardness.) Also, below the video, I've included some of the pie charts used to summarize the entries so y'all can see that I'm not lying and just saying the nominee I wanted to win. (I would've included all, but frankly, that would've taken up too much space.) Finally, I announced the raffle winners at the bottom as well.

Winners Video

Full List of Winners
Best Cover- A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Best Worldbuilding- Cress by Marissa Meyer & Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Best Tearjerker- Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
Favorite Book You Wanted to Throw Against a Wall- Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Favorite Friendship- Dee and Reagan from Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Favorite Couple- Captain Thorne & Cress from Cress by Marissa Meyer and West & Haley from Take Me On by Katie McGarry
Best Contemporary- Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Best Fantasy- Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Best Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic- Cress by Marissa Meyer
Best Historical Fiction- Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Best Series Beginner- The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Best Series Ender- Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Best Standalone- I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Best Debut- Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Favorite Hero- Dorian from Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Favorite Heroine- Celaena Sardothien from Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Most Anticipated of 2015- All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Voting Pie Charts

Raffle Winners
Amy H.
Christy M.
Josie M.

January 22, 2015

Winter/Spring 2015 Classes

It's time for me to talk about the classes I'm taking this semester! Originally, I was going to be taking 18 credits but then I found a job, so I dropped to 15. I searched for 1 or 2-credit courses that I wanted/needed to take, but none were offered or they were all full. So without further ado...

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have...

Literature and Culture
The required literature course for everyone. I chose the prof who seems to be the hardest, but she's very passionate and challenging in a good way. Plus, she was the only one who chose a few books that didn't seem overly boring. (That is, she chose Persuasion and The Tempest as opposed to The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Portable Dante.) I'm going to have to do a presentation at some point, but thankfully, I'll be doing it during the unit on Persuasion.

French II
I somehow tested out of French I during orientation week, so I didn't have to take a foreign language last semester. I tried to review as much of French I as I could over Christmas break. Since classes started last week, I'm already feeling like my brain is going to explode. Clearly, I need to step up my review.

Western Civilization II
The class I've chosen for the required history course. I had the choice between the two main history profs, and I've had friends who've had both. I chose the one who is reportedly less crazy, and I think I've chosen a good prof. He's passionate about history and very funny.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have...

Intro to Communications
Blech. I hate that I have to take a communications course, especially since it's primarily speeches and I hate, hate, hate public speaking. Thank the Lord my roommate is in the class with me. The prof seems pretty nice, though.

Art History Survey II
Preferable to Art History Survey I since this one covers Renaissance to the present, which means the Impressionists will be covered. It will fulfill my fine arts requirement. It also seems like a ton of work, which I'm not looking forward to.

So as you can see, I'm taking all gen eds this semester. How exciting... I'm hoping to get a couple of online summer courses in and do a couple CLEP tests so I can get mostly major and minor classes next semester. Here's hoping!

January 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Need to Add to My Library

It's a freebie week! So I'm talking about books that I need to add my collection and heaven knows why I haven't yet.

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1. The House of Hades/The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
I own neither of the last two Heroes of Olympus books, and that's partially my fault. I keep buying other books instead, which has made my life difficult since I need them in hardcover to match the first three.

2. Deception's Princess by Esther Friesner
MUST. OWN. ALL. THE. HISTORICAL FIC. (Well, as long as I liked it.)

3. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Gotta hunt this one down in hardcover. It's too pretty to own in paperback.

4. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Can't believe I only have one of The Books of Bayern.

5. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
I own the second and third books, but not this one. I guess I'm kind of hoping I can hunt it down in hardcover to match my copies of Wednesdays in the Tower and Thursdays with the Crown.

6. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
I have Grave Mercy and Mortal Heart so it's surprising I don't have the second book in the trilogy as well.

7. One Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington
This pretty cover is a must for my shelves.

8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Maybe if I owned this one, it would motivate me to read it.

9. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
I almost bought Cruel Beauty right after Christmas but ended up going with another book. I'll probably have to hunt this one down online so I can get it in hardcover. It has an awesome hidden cover under that dust jacket.

10. The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith
I may no longer be loyal to the Chicago Cubs, but if there's a good YA book involving them, then I need it.