Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review ~ Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Series: standalone
Genre: YA/NA contemporary
Publication Date: June 30th, 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Goodreads Description: 
Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls...opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight—on everyone's terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved...and the person she never imagined she could. 
Source: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I didn't enjoy reading this one quite as much as Behind the Scenes--I preferred the single POV and the couple of that one--but Under the Lights felt like it was a stronger book overall. There were more things to appreciate, including the following:

- Diverse characters
- An unlikable male MC that still had great qualities
- Character growth in both main characters
- A dual POV in which only one had a big romance focus
- Sex positivity including a scene that didn't fade to black
- Fantastic friendships
- Liam and Ally appearances (because who doesn't love seeing a couple they loved return in another book?)

The characters in this book were pretty good! I liked how unlikable Josh was. He sure was a jerk, but he was a loyal jerk. He was a good friend--there ws a glimpse of that in the first book. I liked seeing him grow. It was a nice surprise! As for Vanessa, I was so proud of her. She overcame a lot of fears in her story. It was a tough and confusing experience for her, and I liked seeing how she dealt with it. The love interest, Bri, was a great one! I liked how she stood up for her sexuality and wouldn't accept BS from Vanessa. Bri influenced Vanessa to push herself and overcome some of her fears.

Overall, Under the Lights was a really good read! As with the first book, I really liked the romance, character growth, character flaws, and the setting. I didn't get into the sequel as much as the first book, but there were so many great elements to Josh and Vanessa's stories. If you're looking for a pair of refreshing contemporaries, you should give the Daylight Falls a shot!

2015 challenges this book counts towards:
105 Challenge
Netgalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge
Dive into Diversity

Monday, June 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (29) ~ Best Books I've Read This Year (So Far)

Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and a weekly meme where we simply make a top ten list for the week's topic.

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015

Three fantasies, one sci-fi, and six contemporaries. I'm not surprised. :D

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (72) ~ Just One Book!

This is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share what books we have recently added to our physical or virtual shelves. I like to use the meme to also give a recap of the week's posts.
(Click on the covers to go to Goodreads.)
I came so close to having nothing to share this week! It's exciting when that happens because it's so rare for me. But I did get one pretty good looking book.☺

For Review
Thank you to Macmillan and Nori!

The Three Ways In Which I DNF
Sophomore Spotlight on . . . Stephanie Diaz
I read Under the Lights and Everything, Everything this week! I also reread Angelfall. Up next is World After, End of DaysChasing River, and Court of Fives.

Weirdly, I'm writing this on a Thursday. I'm going out of town to see a friend's graduation ceremony and I'll be gone for the weekend! 

That's it for me this week! How about you? How has your week been?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Flashback Friday (3) ~ Eye Catching Reads

Flashback Friday on Swoony Boys Podcast and Fiction Fare
Flashback Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Fiction Fare and Swoony Boys Podcast that celebrates books that are at least two years old! Titles can either be ones you've read or ones from your TBR pile.

For these posts, I'm going to feature two books (one I've read and one I haven't) with something in common (subjects, cover elements, etc.). The theme for this week is books with an eye on their covers. :D

A Book I've Read
Released in October 2012
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. 
I LOVE THIS BOOK! The writing was absolutely beautiful. The strikethroughs were clever and I really liked Juliette's narration. She was kinda fascinating as a character. The other characters were pretty great too.

A Book I Still Haven't Read
Released on June 8th, 2013
Her eyes saved his life.
Her dreams released his darkness.

After four years of sleeplessness, high school junior Parker Chipp can't take much more. Every night, instead of sleeping, he enters the dreams of the last person he's made eye contact with. If he doesn't sleep soon, Parker will die.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. But what starts out as a chance meeting turns into an obsession; Parker's furious desire for what he needs pushes him to extremes he never thought he'd go. And when someone begins to terrorizing Mia with twisted death threats, Parker's memory blackouts leave him doubting his own innocence. 
Since I own the sequel, wouldn't you think I would've read this one by now? *laughs* Nope. I haven't even peeked into Insomnia yet. It looks creepy, though, and I really like creepy reads (that kinda feels creepy to say, but it's true).

Have you read either of these?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Three Ways In Which I DNF

There are more books that I want to read than I can get to in my lifetime, so I don't want to waste time on books that don't deserve it. There was a time (as a blogger) where I was hesitant to DNF books, but I've grown much more comfortable with doing it. 

However, I don't always DNF books for the same reasons or even in the same way. When it comes to making the decision to finally move on from a book, I have a few different approaches.

With a Big Huff
I sometimes get too fed up with a book to want to continue reading it! 

Common reactions to accompany this:
  • Scowling at page/screen
  • Rolling eyes
  • Swearing at the book
  • Feeling a rant building up
What makes me DNF this way:
  • INCREDIBLY annoying characters. I'm pretty tolerant of unlikable characters, but I do have limits.
  • Annoying writing. This can mean inconsistency. It can also mean the writing felt too forced or too "beautiful." (I really love beautiful writing, but sometimes it rubs me the wrong way because it can feel like way too much.)
  • Nothing happens! I get so frustrated when NOTHING IMPORTANT IS HAPPENING IN A BOOK. 

Books I have DNFed in this manner:
All covers link to my reviews except Taking Chances. I tried that one before I started reviewing books. It would've been one of my most negative DNF reviews, though. It made me so angry!

With Great Reluctance
If I mention in a review that I really wanted to love a book, but it didn't work for me in the moment--and I want to try it again someday--that means I DNFed with great reluctance. Usually I can see that the book is a great one, but things aren't clicking for whatever reason.

Common reactions to accompany this:
  • Whining about how much I want the book to work, but IT JUST ISN'T
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Questioning self more than the book and wondering what's up with me at the moment of reading the book
What makes me DNF this way:
  • Book and I aren't clicking
  • Not in the right mood for the book
  • I was in the middle of the book for too long (I tend to start disliking the book when I don't finish it within a couple weeks)
Books I have DNFed in this manner:
All of these covers link to my reviews!

    This happens when I lose all interest in a book and I don't have much of a reaction to it. I end up saying, "okay, I guess I won't be getting back to this one." I just accept that the book isn't working and that I should move on.

    Common reactions to accompany this:
    • Ignoring book and reading a bunch of other books instead
    • Looking at the book and feeling sudden reluctance to read
    • Forgetting that I'm even reading the book
    What makes me DNF this way:
    • I was in the middle of the book for too long (just like with the previous manner)
    • The book just isn't interesting to me
    • I react very little to the things going on in the book
    • I can't connect to the characters (this is BIG for me--without the connection, I have a tough time getting into the book)
    Books I have DNFed in this manner:
    These all link to reviews.

    How do you DNF? Do you have similar reactions? What do do you think makes you DNF the most?

    Sunday, June 21, 2015

    Sophomore Spotlight on . . . Stephanie Diaz

    In case you missed the intro with the description and main giveaway, this event is simply about checking in with 2014 debut authors who have at least one release in 2015 (AKA their sophomore year as an author).

    Today is the last spotlight feature! I'm sharing a guest post by Stephanie Diaz, the author of the Extraction series! Her debut, Extraction, released last July and her two 2015 releases are the second and third books, Rebellion and Evolution

    Stephanie has written a great guest post about the different processes that she went through for each book in her series. She also offered to do a giveaway! Enjoy the post.☺

    Twenty-two-year-old Stephanie Diaz wrote her debut novel, Extraction, while studying film at San Diego State University. When she isn't lost in books, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fan-girling over TV shows.

    Visit her online at www.stephaniediazbooks.com. Follow her on twitter: @StephanieEDiaz.
    Writing each book in the Extraction series turned out to be a very different process with different challenges. With Extraction, the biggest challenge was that I was writing and revising it during college. I studied film production, which did mean I had less homework than students in other majors. But there were still plenty of days when I had projects I had to put ahead of Extraction, or when I had to be on a film set all weekend so I couldn’t touch the manuscript. The one thing working in my favor was that I wasn’t much of a social butterfly. When I was done with schoolwork, I’d go home, sit down, and get to work on my novel. This allowed me to finish the first draft faster than I’d finished any other book, in a little less than two months. Revisions took a lot longer. The first draft had all the plot points there and most of the characters, but the world and characters needed to be fleshed out. And at the time I didn’t even know it was going to be a trilogy. It wasn’t until I signed with my agent and worked on the book with her that I realized there was a lot more to the story.

    When I began writing Rebellion, the second book in the series, I was no longer in college and only had a part-time job, so I had a lot more time to work on it. But that presented its own set of challenges, as it became a lot harder to focus during those long periods of time I had for writing. Rebellion took a lot longer to write. I always knew how book 2 was going to end and essentially what would happen, but a lot of the details ended up changing over the course of the first draft. The story took the characters into a new region of the world, so I had to do a lot more world building, something I’m still trying to get better at. I’m not a writer who can easily follow the whole “write to the end without stopping” trend. I have to edit as I go or I end up hating everything I’ve written. So with Rebellion, I allowed myself to take the time to go back and change chapters until I was happy with them, before moving on. In the end it made revisions a lot easier, as I had far less for this book than I had for Extraction.

    Writers often say the second book in a trilogy is the hardest to write. But I actually had a much harder time with the third. I’d done the least amount of plotting for Evolution beforehand, which was a big part of the problem. All I knew was the beginning point, the midpoint, and the ending, courtesy of the short paragraph I’d written when we sold the trilogy. The rest of the book was nothing but threads of ideas in my mind. And in this third book, a whole new cast of characters and a new world had to be introduced, so there was even more world building to accomplish. As a result, it took me a long, long time to find my footing. The first three chapters of the book took about six months to write. I re-wrote them a hundred different ways, scrapping thousands of words every time. Eventually I had to start working on later parts of the book to get things moving, so I began writing a lot of scenes out of order, something I hadn’t done much of before. But it helped me later on, when I finally was happy with the beginning of the book and pushed forward to the next chapters. The whole process of writing Evolution took almost eight months total, and it was definitely one of the hardest books I’d ever written. But I finished! And I couldn’t be more proud of the outcome.

    Here's the description of the first book in Stephanie's series!

    Goodreads Description: 
    "Welcome to Extraction testing."

    Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

    What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon's lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet's leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too. 

    Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don't want her running—they want her subdued.

    With intense action scenes and a cast of unforgettable characters,Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender's Game and leave them breathless for more. 
    add to goodreads

    Here's the other two books in the series!

    Stephanie has offered to give away a signed hardcover of Extraction! This giveaway is US only and ends on July 6th @ midnight PST. Please no entering with giveaway Twitter/other social media accounts and please be familiar with my giveaway policy before entering.

    Good luck.☺

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    (Reminder: If you comment on this post, you can also get a couple entries in the event giveaway. You could win your choice of a released book or a pre-order.☺)

    Saturday, June 20, 2015

    Stacking the Shelves (71) ~ So Much Excitement in One Week!

    This is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share what books we have recently added to our physical or virtual shelves. I like to use the meme to also give a recap of the week's posts.
    (Click on the covers to go to Goodreads.)

    I had pre-ordered both of these. It was exciting to get them on my Kindle at the same time.☺

    For Review
    Thank you to Ingrid Seymour, Jennifer Foxcroft, Sanovia @ CreatyveBooks! I'll be reviewing these for A Month of Indies, an event Sanovia is hosted all July.

    I'm super excited to read DreamstriderEvery Word is the sequel to one of my favorite books from last year, so I'm excited to read that one too.

    Thank you to Red Adept Publishing, Tundra Books, Macmillan, and Negalley for these review copies!

    Print - Lots of Sources

    Thank you to Andye @ Reading Teen for Court of Fives and After the Red Rain! I'll be reviewing these for her blog. I've almost done with After the Red Rain and it's . . . interesting, but I like it. :)

    Thank you to Nikki Wang for trading with me! The Secret Side of Empty looks like a good contemporary. And the book jacket is so soft!

    Thank you to Jennifer Walkup for This Ordinary Life!

    Funny story: I was at the bookstore yesterday for that book signing I'm mentioning in a bit. I had Every Ugly Word and was looking for another paperback. I picked up The One (because I'm planning to read the first three books of the series in August), bought it, then went to find my mom. Right next to where I found her was the preowned non-YA section and I stopped to see if anything good was there. And right in front of me was Uprooted AKA THE BOOK I'VE BEEN DYING TO GET MY HANDS ON for only $15. So, I made two separate purchases at the store. . . . 

    Rudyard Kipling's Tales of Horror and Fantasy was given to me by my friend's mom.

    A Brief Book Signing Recap
    I met an author--the first author I've ever met (also the first person I knew from Twitter)--yesterday! Apparently Aimee L. Salter lives in my area and I somehow never knew it until this week. I heard that she was having a signing at my bookstore and I absolutely could not miss it (especially since I've been familiar with her book for awhile). When I got to the store, I walked up to the table and said "hi, you know me from Twitter," and she immediately knew who I was and stood up to give me a hug. She, my friend (who came with me), and I talked for a little bit and then my friend and I got signed books and bookmarks. It was a really exciting day.☺

     I got some really cool swag this week! The Strand bookmark came with my trade from Nikki and the This Ordinary Life swag came with the ARC I won. I got the Every Ugly Word from Aimee. I found a little display of free Go Set a Watchman bookmarks at my bookstore, and I absolutely had to have one! 

    Thank you so much to NOVL, Liza, Hannah, and Andye for this NOVL Box!! It was so exciting to win this!

    The Swag: NOVL bag, water bottle/infuser, carabiner, insulator thingy (I don't know the technical name), and a shot glass. (Yes, a shot glass, which I thought was both odd and kinda cool.)
    I have an exciting event running right now! Here are the features from this week!

    Next up is Angelfall (reread), World After, End of Days, and Everything Everything.

    This felt like a really long week, but it a really good way. I've been doing a lot of blogging, reading, planning, tweeting--I've even been commenting! I've been in this huge commenting slump for the last couple months and I'm finally (slowly) pulling myself out of it.☺

    That's it for me this week! How about you? How has your week been?