Sunday, May 29, 2016

Relevant But Disappointing | This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Usually I would post my weekly update, but I'm postponing that so I can include a small wrap up for May! So, I have a review instead. This is Where it Ends slightly intimidated me because I thought it would destroy me, didn't end up doing that.

*I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival. 

*Released January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire*
My Thoughts
Sadly, This is Where it Ends let me down. I had high expectations! There was a good number of things that I liked, but the issues I had weighed heavily on my overall impression of the novel.

I'll start with what I liked!

- the solidarity among the people of the town
- the importance and relevance of the story
- the characters themselves (my heart went out to them)
- the idea of the flashbacks to develop the characters (though the execution didn't work for me)
- a part near the end that made me want to cry hard (though tears never formed)
- the powerful ending

That seems like a pretty good list, right? But I still had so many issues with what I was reading.

First, the flashbacks. I love flashbacks!! They're one of my favorite literary devices. When they don't work for me, I feel a little...betrayed. Why couldn't they work the way they usually do?? With this book, the frequency of the flashbacks got in the way. Not only that, but there was also a lot of moments where characters suddenly had this internal monologue (so, not a flashback but a moment where they thought about certain characters or parts of their life). This was set in a high-paced, dangerous situation taking place over 54 minutes and all of flashbacks and internal monologue moments drew the focus away from the event and interrupted the pacing, intensity, and rhythm of the story. And with the frequency, I had trouble staying connected for long before a flashback would happen and leave me disconnected again.

Second, I felt like there should've been MORE. It featured some solidarity in the community, though it didn't feel like it was really ABOUT that. I read this shortly after Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (which is great, by the way) and that features a different tough subject: rape. But I don't describe that book as one about rape. It's much more than that, though. It's a book about the love and support you can find from the people around you after something horrible happens. And I guess I like books better when I see how a horrible event changes and affects people instead of focusing mainly on the past events and what happened during the event. (I hope that makes sense.) For me, This is Where it Ends was a book about a shooting and very little else. Books with "very little else" aren't my thing. It could've been about solidarity during a difficult time and destroyed relationships, but there wasn't enough to make me think that.

Third, this didn't leave a large impact on me. I hate saying that about a book like this! The event was obviously horrible and it reminded me of all the times I've seen news about school shootings, but as a BOOK, it didn' anything. Was it eye-opening? Could it change my worldview? Will it linger with me? No, no, and no. For something so relevant, this didn't affect my worldview because, unfortunately, I'm familiar with this topic from learning about it in real life. But I feel like it had the potential to change how I see things. This book could've had a bigger presence--had a statement. Reflected and commented on society more.

With all of that said, This is Where it Ends turned out to be a disappointment. I was expecting to feel strongly impacted by this story and I simply wasn't. I didn't even cry. I ALWAYS CRY WHILE READING HARD-HITTING BOOKS. A lot of other books make me cry, too! Even though I wanted to at one part, I could hold back the tears with ease. That's the biggest that this book didn't work for me. I really wish this left a larger impact.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Letting Go and Moving Forward | Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake

I picked this books up because...well, it's a YA contemporary romance. It seemed right up my alley!

*I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

“Just let it go.”

That’s what everyone keeps telling Hadley St. Clair after she learns that her father cheated on her mother. But Hadley doesn’t want to let it go. She wants to be angry and she wants everyone in her life—her dad most of all—to leave her alone.

Sam Bennett and his family have had their share of drama too. Still reeling from a move to a new town and his parents’ recent divorce, Sam is hoping that he can coast through senior year and then move on to hassle-free, parent-free life in college. He isn’t looking for a relationship…that is, until he sees Hadley for the first time.

Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret that could ruin everything. Should he follow his heart or tell the truth?

*Released May 3rd 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers*
My Thoughts
Suffer Love is about a lot of things! The difference between someone who has lied and a liar. Holding on...and letting go. How letting go is SO TOUGH. The theme that spoke to me the most dealt with looking at the whys: there's more behind lies and deceit than the act itself--there's always reasons behind them, a way to understand why someone made certain decisions. 

Hadley and Sam were a lovely, lovely couple. There was so much ease between the two when their parents weren't getting in the way--when it was just them, no last names or pasts tangling things up. And flirting!! I loved that.

Both Harley and Sam had problems letting go: her with her dad's actions and the current state of her family and Sam with his own actions and how he saw himself. Hadley's side of the story interested me the most because she was stubborn and unforgiving. She was hurt. She was angry. And she dwelled on that instead of moving on. I tend to really like reading about characters like her. I can't say I have much to say about Sam that isn't connected to the romance... He was a good brother? I loved seeing how he was with Livy. He didn't leave a big impression on me as an individual.

Livy was WONDERFUL. She's really hard not to like because she's so sweet and young (but not super young). Her presence and the role she had in the story was one of my favorite parts of the whole book!

I liked how the family aspects were handled. There was a LOT of anger in both families, but there were some positive and hopeful family moments that left a strong impact on the story. 

My one complaint is that it was just another contemporary romance. I didn't find that much that stood out in a super special way. The situation with the parents was a new one for me and there were a few things that stood out, but the book itself isn't fresh. I'm a sucker for contemporary romance, so this didn't affect how much I enjoyed reading this (sooooo addicting) by a lot, but it did feel like it was missing that something extra to push this contemporary from really good to AMAZING. Special element separate a four star from a five star read for me--from a book I would recommend among a crowd of similar ones and a book I would rave about on its own. Some of the ending events came close, but for the most part, that something special was missing.

Suffer Love is a hopeful book. It's about the aftermath of loved ones poor decisions and learning to let go and move forward. It has a lot of heart in it and it made me feel good to read it!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

How My Week Went ~ Socializing and Blogging Fire

Another week, another update! I wasn't in a big reading mood, but I was in a Twitter mood. :)

Reading Update
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (5 stars) - This book is brutal and I absolutely LOVED IT. It's definitely one of the best books I've read so far this year! My review is finished and will be posted this week.

Call Me, Maybe by Ellie Cahill (DNF around 50%) - I hit halfway and realized that I didn't care to know anything else about the characters or the story. It was a pretty easy decision to DNF.

I started Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes! It's going really well. :)
Music + TV
I listed to "I'm So Excited" by The Pointer Sisters a lot, but for the part, I didn't listen to much of anything! I considered listening to Meghan Trainor's new album, but ehh. I didn't feel like it at the time. I saw "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" by Adele and considered listening to that too. I will listen to it soon, though.

I watched a lot of Criminal Minds! I've been meaning to go back to the place that I left off at on Netflix and catch up. I see episodes from the most recent seasons on the tv sometimes (or hear about them from my mom), so I know a couple things that have happened with the characters recently. I want to catch up and get the whole story. I just finished season seven!
General Life and Blogging Stuff
It was another good week!! Not much happened with life, but it WAS one of the best blogging weeks of the year. I returned to Twitter fully and got back into things (instead of just tweeting occasional things from Hootsuite). Stepping back for awhile really helped and now I feel so refreshed. My blogger fire was lit this week, a bit through being on Twitter more and a lot through a post (Trying To Figure Out What The Point Is). I can't say for sure, but I think it was my most read post of the entire year! Or, it received the most responses on Twitter and on the blog. So, yes. That made me really happy.

Plans For The Upcoming Week
Socializing! Twitter and otherwise. I'm going to hang out with my best friend and there will be a lot of tea drinking, chatting, and anime watching. It's possible that I'll have social plans for Memorial Day weekend, but...I don't think I want to go. Even though that's always been an eventful weekend for me. I'm going on another library trip and will HOPEFULLY not pick up a bunch of new books. I'm trying to focus mainly on ARCs since I want to get my pile down to a really small amount by October. We'll see how that goes...

As for posts, I want to get some posts up! I think I'll manage to do that this time since I just finished a bunch. :)

That's it for this week!

How was your week? Read anything great?

Two Months Later | An Anime Update

I skipped posting an update in April because I didn't have much to add. I had finished maybe one anime since since March 20th. But now, I've finished four since then! My computer issues put a hamper on most of my anime watching, so I'm slowly moving through series.

Finished in The Last Two Months
Parasyte (24 ep) - I liked this! It moved a bit slowly for me, but the concept of a parasite coming to take over the guy's body, but missing and taking over his hand was pretty cool. I liked watching Shinichi change throughout the show. He really struggled with his humanity and his emotions! There are some really sad moments in this anime, too.

Food Wars season 1 (24 ep) - I think this is the first ecchi anime I've finished! This anime featured a lot of sexual reactions to food that were kinda funny (it's a comedy after all), but got repetitive after awhile. Some of the descriptions to food got repetitive, too, and went on and on and on. I got annoyed during those moments, but for the most part, I really enjoyed watching this! It was pretty fun. And so easy to binge watch.

Toradora! (25 ep) - THIS IS SO CUTE. I adored this one soooo much. I haven't had many anime ships yet, but Taiga and Ryuugi are my top ones right now. I loved how they slowly grew comfortable with each other and became really close friends.

Another (12 ep) - Oh, creeeeepyyy. This one was quiet and eerie and so bloody. Things got crazy. I spent the last couple episodes wanting to cover my eyes because it was getting scary, know. Subtitles. I loved the art in this one!

Currently Watching
Fruits Basket (2/26 ep) - This hasn't hooked me yet, but I really like the characters! Something about the art isn't sitting well with me, but I'll get used to it. Tooru has made a good impression on me. She so nice and thoughtful!

What to Watch Next?
I have no idea what I'll watch next! O_O I'm going to be watching a bunch of anime with a friend this weekend and it's always my choice, but I'm probably going to take forever to settle on an answer. We'll probably watch a bunch of Fruits Basket. She's a fan of it and loves to rewatch shows.

Oh, wait. Studio Ghibli films...I should probably get to a couple of those... I've seen Kiki's Delivery Service (maybe a year ago, as an attempt from friends to get me into anime), but nothing else. During two of the most recent times I hung out with my friend, we meant to watch a film but ended up just watching an anime instead. :D 

That's it for this update! Have you seen any of these? What are your favorite Studio Ghibli films?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mingling With Books (Test Run #1)

I'm trying out a new feature! It's a way to showcase upcoming releases as well as some older books I have discovered and books I'm hoping to read soon. I'm going to post it once or twice as test runs to see how they go, then I'll decide on whether I'll keep it around or not. I had some fun with it. :)

The Intro
You know how there's a lot of mingling at parties (like a conference mixer or a dinner party)? You may meet new people or catch up with old acquaintances. Well, I mingle with books at...let's just call it a bookish party, okay? This is an account of the latest books I've mingled with. I shook hands with some and just glanced at others. I'll do my best to describe what my first impressions are: what I learned about the book, when it releases/ed, who wrote it, how exciting I am, etc. I would like to post these little recaps every two weeks or so, but who knows what'll happen?

The Mingling
The first book I get at this party was Spells and Sorcery by S. Usher Evans, and . . . I may have screeched. I reacted in an all capsy way because I DIDN'T KNOW SUSH WAS WORKING ON ANOTHER SERIES. I can't say anything about the cover because there isn't one yet, but I can say that I've enjoyed all of the five books I've read by this author. After I calmed down, this book told me a little about itself! A documentary and Twitter loving teen is told that she is magical and proceeds to have trou le controlling her power. Then a guy--maybe bad, maybe not--shows up and tries to help her control it. That's the bare bones of what I know. Based on my previous experience with the author's other books, I have a feeling this will entertain me. :) It's the start of a YA paranormal series and releases on October 18th!

Then I met Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacqueline, who I met through Kelly @ Live Love Read YA. I had heart eyes from first sight! Its cover is super pretty. THOSE COLORS. I have a thing for soft, neutral colors on contemporary romances. This book gave me a sad intro. Girl's best friend dies in accident and is survived by four kids and a military husband; girl drops everything to help with parenting; girl and guy (the military husband) sleep together a year later; guy is deployed for seven months; mysterious betrayal occurs upon his homecoming. It sounds like it'll break my heart instead of unbreak it. Betrayal? Grief? Guilt? Sudden parenthood? Eeeeek. That's a lot to take in and I'M SO READY FOR IT.

Sandra @ Reads and Reviews introduced me to She Laughs in Pink by Jessica Calla, telling me that it's a great NA. This one just released on May 17th. This book and I stumbled a bit upon meeting . . . as I accidentally pre-ordered it. Luckily, we hit it off, so we just rolled with the mistake. This is about a girl who follows her best friend--the guy she loves and wants a relationship with--to college, but meets this guy named Chase. Her best friend's roommate. I'm a sucker for this type of story (romance between someone and a friend of a friend/family member), so I'm really excited to spend more time with this one!

I spotted This is Not a Love Story by Keren David, which released on May 7th. This may have been pointed out by a friend, but I'm not sure. Anyway, we haven't officially met yet. This is one of those books that I just glanced at and noticed how pretty it is. I looked at some shelves it's made its way on, I saw GLBT, travel, and romance mentioned.

Towards the end of the party, I decided to meet up with some TBR buddies to make plans. I searched for You by Caroline Kepnes (there was a library), but it hid from me. *coughs* Rude. *coughs* I decided to make plans with The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan instead. It's a magical realism book featuring a floating circus. I was told friends of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern would loving hanging out with it. I've also been trying to settle on plans with All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders.

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes yelled out for my attention and begged me to stop postponing our plans. (Whoops.) So, I guess I'll l do that soon. I'm slightly intimidated by it because I want to love it. I really like this author! What if her newest book and I don't get along? What if our plans end badly?? *sweats nervously* I actually don't know much about it, but I know there's...bad luck and tennis. I think.

What books have you met lately? What are you looking forward to reading?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Raw and Honest Contemporary | Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

I was really excited to read this one, but it wasn't one I had super high expectations of. I had heard some great things about it before hand and I'm glad I can contribute to the praise. :)

*I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The story follows the unlikely friendship of two young women forged via fan fiction and message boards, and is told entirely in texts, chats, and blog posts.

Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

*Released May 17th 2016 from Chronicle Books*
My Thoughts
Gena/Finn was an honest, messy story about two ladies that meet online and form a strong friendship. They have to deal with so many unexpected emotions and events that change their lives and their relationships. I ADORED this story. The formatting, the turmoil, the themes, the bonds, the events: there was simply so much to love about it.
This book is told in chats, blog posts, journals, emails, poems, etc. The formatting took me a little bit to get used to, but once I did? Wow. It was really easy to tap into the characters' emotions and get a feel for their personalities and sense the bonds that existed. The formatting--along with the raw, honest writing--also made it easy for the words to soak in and make me feel for the characters. The emotions were enhanced, so I was able to connect to the book really well. It also allowed for a lot of unfiltered thoughts (especially in journal entries) and it just made the characters so much more real.
Gena and Finn were so close. I loved their relationship. It was built out of a shared love of a show and their places in the fandom. It was great to see such a strong bond created between two people that met on the internet. I have internet friends (no one I'm close to nearly as much as these ladies) and I see great internet friendships everyday, so I could immediately relate to the characters very well. As the book went on, though, the line between just friendship and something more was a blurry one and that internet bond changed into something different.

I don't know how much I can say about either character as individuals without spoilers since a lot of my reactions stem from part three (the last part of the book). But both had strong, distinct personalities. Both dealt with very strong emotions as their lives fell apart and they had to figure what the hell to do with the leftover pieces.
I'm not exactly sure what to say about this . . . I feel like it wasn't a large focus. There were some intense feelings and a lot of conflict because of them (because, you know, love triangle), but romance seemed to be subtle. Maybe that was because the focuses on friendship and mental illness were much bigger? Maybe it was the formatting since you didn't get to see the characters directly interact with each other? I'm not exactly sure! I kinda wish there was more, but the story didn't need it.
Oh my god, this made me sad. Charlie was a wonderful guy and his and Finn's relationship becomes strained. The way it was affected by her and Gena's bond was painful to both of them and it was just . . . sad. With Gena's feelings on top of it and her reactions to Finn and Charlie made all the emotions in the book so much messier and harder to swallow. I loved that there were so many conflicted feelings! It made the story more painful, which increased my emotional connection to it, which helped make it easy to give the book five stars. 
This book made me cry! I wasn't expecting it, but after that moment, the book became even better than it was before. Maybe I was so connected to it that flaws didn't matter? I started highlighting like crazy because so many passages seemed worth remembering. I love love love how this book was written. It was ridiculously quotable. Part three especially is packed with emotion and quotable moments.
Final Thoughts?
A phenomenal story about friendship, love, fandom, grief, life, and all the conflicted feelings that come with each, Gena/Finn is a must-read for any contemporary fan! Basically, READ THIS BOOK. I felt completely floored by the story and the writing by the time I was through with this one. I ended up with 50+ notes and highlights in my e-arc because so many passages sounded right--they sounded like words that fit so perfectly together that I couldn't resist saving them. This book is honest, raw, and REAL. And it must be read.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trying to Figure Out What the Point Is

I can spend a LONG time mulling over big questions, which is what I've doing with quite a few blogging ones. Most of this year has been focused on trying to find the answers to these questions and move on, actually. (I guess you can say this blog is going through growing pains because of that. Or changing pains. Is that a thing?)

Now, my question isn't the point of blogging. I asked myself that a lot last year and, thankfully, found my answer. The point of blogging for me is to 1) help me connect to other book lovers, 2) provide a healthy and creative outlet for myself, and 3) share the bookish love. It's pretty easy to satisfy those three things with a book blog.

My question is about the MORE. I'm talking about blog growth. Goals. Outreach. Follower/stats milestones. I look at these things and I ask myself this:

What is the point of making my blog bigger or more influential?

(By the way, this is a mostly personal post. I know there IS a point. But that's for other blogs. The point is murky for my own, though.)

Every time I see a post about improving your blog, bettering your outreach, etc., I feel weird. Is it something I should be focusing on? What is my place in the blogosphere when I'm not aiming to improve my stats or following? And why am I even wondering about this when I'm not even trying to make those types of improvements.

I AM trying to improve this blog, motivation is always about bettering myself and my connection to my followers. I want to relate to you guys. I want to have conversations about the topics I write about. I want to know what you think! But...weirdly, that doesn't feel like the same thing as making my blog "better" or more popular gain a larger following. (What is a popular blog, anyway? I shouldn't say that.) I can't place my finger on exactly WHY, though. Maybe my goals don't align well enough to what most people talk about when explaining how you can improve your blog or following.

The solution to my worrying seems to simple: don't worry about it. Just be you! You're fine, Kaitlin. That's what most of you would tell me, right? 

But I still mull over these thoughts. What's the point in growing your blog? I imagine most bloggers can answer that easily. They want to do it just because or because it makes them feel good. They might have a business or project they want to grow and their blog is a big part of that. They may want a larger influence and get their book recs to more people. There can be a lot of different the answers, depending on the blogger.

I feel like I don't have that larger purpose, though. I don't have a business/program and don't intend to have one anytime soon (not bookish, anyway). I'm not a writer or a graphic designer or a photographer or an artist or a marketing major or a publishing person or a book seller or...anything. I'm just a 20 year old woman who likes to share her thoughts on books and connect to other book lovers. My purpose is very simple!

Maybe I'm worrying about these things because my approach towards blogging has changed a lot in the past year. Improving stats and a following helped with reviewing and publisher ties and events and promoting newer (and sometimes older) releases. But since taking away author features, most event-type posts, and fading out ARC reviewing (okay, I faded out most requesting but not reviewing), I've focused a lot less on promoting my blog posts. Blogging has become even more laid back and in the moment for me than it was before. I don't have as many goals. I'm not planning as much. I guess I'm still adjusting to that.

I could also be worrying about this topic because my blog has kinda...slid backwards? It's a negative growth. That kinda got to me in a way I didn't want it to last year, which is when I noticed it happening. I used to have a more active following (not by much, but still), but now it doesn't feel like I have a follower base. It feels like my words are just echoing in a nearly empty cave now and it's a very...odd feeling to have. I guess I'm still adjusting to that, too!

Both of those adjustments are probably a big reason I'm even writing this post. When I'm done adjusting, maybe I'll have a solid answer to my question about growing my blog. Or maybe I need to find that answer before finishing with adjusting to the blog changes. (This HAS been going on for a long time.)

After writing this post, then editing it as I transferred it from paper to my phone, I have realized that a possible answer is that the point of growing my blog is to improve the chances of conversation. Maybe it's that simple. Better chances at conversation = better way of satisfying the three main points I blog. It doesn't feel completely right, but I am now feeling a little more at ease with this question.

Now that I finished with my own thoughts, I have a LOT of questions for anyone willing to chime in on this topic. I'M CURIOUS. And I want to know what you think.

- Do you ever mull this topic over too?
- What is the point in improving a blog?
- Is "improving" a blog the same as gaining a stronger or wider outreach? If it's not part of your personal goals or something that you feel would improve yourself, is this even something you should focus on?
- And something I didn't address, but am now curious about: Do you ever feel like there's a pressure to make your blog "better" and more visible in the blogosphere?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How My Week Went ~ A Big Reading Update and Not Much Else

Hello again! I have another update, which is mainly about what books I finished/made progress in this week because...I didn't really do much else. I was in a READ-ALL-THE-BOOKS mood, so that's what I did. :D
Reading Update

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman (4 stars) - I'm officially a fan of Neil Gaiman! His writing is wonderful. The creepy and weird stories were my favorite from the collection. That was a big portion of the book!

Rat Queens, vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe (4 stars) - I didn't like this one quite as much as the first volume (mainly because Betty barely had a spotlight and she's my favorite), buy I really enjoyed reading it!

Y: The Last Man, volumes 7-10 (Paper Dolls, Kimono Dragons, Motherland, and Whys and Wherefores) by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra (3-4 stars) - I finished the series! The ending was a little underwhelming, but I still cried. The series as a whole was a 3.5 star for me.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (4 stars) - I didn't get the full impact of this because I didn't connect fully to the characters, but it's SO well written. It was a memorable, haunting novel. And short!

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (4 stars) - I FINALLY READ THIS ONE. I put it off for sooooooo long, but I suddenly felt like reading it the other day. I really liked it! See my 4 star rating? Despite that, I'm still...disappointed. My expectations may have been a little high and there were some parts that fell short for me.

Take Me On by Katie McGarry (4 stars) - finally read this too! It's my least favorite of the series, but I definitely still enjoyed it! It was a nice romance.

Dearest Clementine by Lex Martin (4 stars) - The beginning was really rocky for me because the writing didn't seem great, but I ended up ADORING this book! The couple had fantastic chemistry and a natural feel to their relationship. 

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer (5 stars) - This was such a satisfying book! This had me hooked from the I was able to sink into the story so easily. I LOVED IT. I definitely need to continue the series soon...especially since I put off reading this for THREE YEARS. I can't wait that long for the next one.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins (3.5-4 stars) - This was super fun! The characters are definitely the best part for me. The conflict seemed a little watered down, so the event the book led up to felt anticlimactic.  I guess I wanted more intensity.

I also read more from Outlander (yay!) and Code Name Verity, but not much. I read half of The Way I Used to Be and All of You (though that's technically not part of last week's reading since I started it early this morning). I read a little from What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions as well.
It was a very girl group centered week. I discovered "Hair" by Little Mix and have listened to it...a lot. I listened to a lot of Destiny's Child too, which I haven't done in a long time.
General Life and Blogging Stuff
It was a really good week! I had a midterm on Monday that I was nervous about, but I ended up doing really well on it. It made me so happy!! Class was cancelled on Wednesday, so I didn't have much for school that I had to do. I went to the library again, though it was a rushed trip. My mom and I tried a new restaurant (or drive in diner, I should say) again. It was one of the best ones we've tried! I also finished up season 10 of Supernatural, which is the furthest I can get until season 11 is added to Netflix.

Blogging was...*coughs* Almost nonexistent. I did post a review this week, though!

Plans For The Upcoming Week
More reading? I'm still in the mood to consume books one right after the other, so I should probably take advantage of that, huh? I'm going to try to read more review copies than anything else. I would love to get my pile down to only a three or four books by the fall. It's going to be hard, but hey, I love the challenge. :)

That's it for this week!

How was your week? Read anything great?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Romance on a Cruise | Out of Frame by Megan Erickson

I have a review for a romance for you today! I've enjoyed all the books in this series. :)

*I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Romance trades the open road for the high seas in the latest from the author of Focus on Me and Trust the Focus...

Perpetually shy, Quinn Mathers is content to remain in the shadow of his brash best friend Jess Hartman. But before their college graduation, he and Jess have planned one last hurrah: a spring break Caribbean cruise.

And it won’t be just any cruise. On board are members of the reality show Trip League, which follows young twenty-somethings on adventures around the world. Since the show’s beginning, Quinn has been fascinated by J. R. Butler, with his amazing body, warm eyes, and killer grin. Unfortunately, he’s straight—or so the world thinks.

At nineteen, J. R. signed a contract to play straight for the show, and there’s no way to get out of it now. Yet with each passing day, Quinn and J. R. find it harder to keep their hands off each other and to keep out of the camera’s frame. But when the lens finally focuses on them, J. R. must decide if he’s willing to risk his career by admitting his bisexuality, and Quinn must determine if he's bold enough to stand in the spotlight with the man of his dreams...

*Released March 15th 2016 by InterMix*
My Thoughts
This book was satisfying, happy, and sweet. I didn't love the romance quite as much as in the previous books, but I still found Jay and Quinn to be adorable. They were really good for each other. I just liked the characters and their chemistry a more in the other books.

I loved the families of both guys! They didn't have much of an on page presence, but the SUPPORT. That was huge. It was complete unwavering support and I loved seeing that. It was such a happy part of the book. There was so much support from other characters too!

Quinn was soooooo cute (though he doesn't like to be called that). He's cautious and kinda awkward. I really liked that he stayed true to himself and wasn't open to a secret relationship after the cruise. He was out and had been for a long time. I thought he had a great influence on J. R.--being with him reminded J. R. of what he was missing. It made him feel more like himself.

J. R. was a bi guy pretending to be straight for a reality tv show--it was in his contract. It was messing with his identity and he was clearly not happy about it. (Who would be?) He felt stuck. He didn't feel like he could change much about his situation. The motivation behind his choices was hard to dispute. I couldn't blame him for agreeing to that contract because he felt like he had good (if not misguided) reasons to do so. His story was about embracing his identity again.

Overall, Out of Frame is another great addition to the In Focus series! I've been really enjoying meeting the characters in the books and tagging along on their journeys. I'm so. Excited. For. Levi's. Book!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How My Week Went ~ RYBSAT and Good Life Stuff

Time for another weekly update! I'm finding that I like posting these on Sundays more than on Saturdays. :)

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! Have an amazing day!

Reading Update
Guess who hasn't read further in Outlander? *points at self* This girl! But oh well, I was expecting it to take me awhile to get through. I started listening to Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce, but I can barely stand the narration. I may have to pause that book and wait until I get an ebook or print book to read. I've been reading from Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances and I'm loving it! The stories are weird and very different from what I'm used to, which is exactly what I'm in the mood for. The last book on my currently reading shelf is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which is proving to be fantastic even though I'm less than 40 pages into it.

Now, what books did I finish?

The Body Institute by Carol Riggs (2 stars) - This book irked me. It focuses on weight loss, body image, and identity. I LOVE it when themes are done well, but if they rub me the wrong way, my enjoyment of the book sinks so fast. That's what happened here. I got very few positive vibes about body image and weight loss.

Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre (4 stars) - This was the second book on my mystery TBR for RYBSAT, and weirdly enough, it also focused on body image (in the beginning). Even more weirdly, I felt my irritation with The Body Institute soothed quickly within chapters of Mortal Danger. Anyway, this was an awesome read! I liked the concepts.

Rat Queens, vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch (4 stars) - THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN. The art was my favorite part, followed by the characters. Betty and Dee are my favorites so far. :) 

Y: The Last Man, volumes 4-6 (Safeword, Ring of Truth, and Girl on Girl) by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra (all 4 stars) - I'm enjoying later volumes more than the earlier ones because I'm familiar with the characters now and am learning more about them. I love the dream sequences and flashbacks.

Readathon Progress
I finished two books for RYBSAT and started a third! I won't be participating in any readathon until the Mental Health Awareness Readathon, which starts on the 14th. I'm still not sure what my TBR will be for that...I do have a lot of options. 
I tried to find more instrumental music to listen to because I didn't think songs with lyrics would pair well with Neil Gaiman's short stories. I don't know if I'm doing well with that, so if you have any recs, please let me know! 
I discovered the Tome Topple Readathon, which is aimed towards tackling books with over 500 pages. Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes is the host I discovered it from, but there are a lot more hosts! It's taking place from June 5th through June 19th. I also discovered the Hobb-A-Long Read-A-Long hosted by Sam @ Novels and Nonsense. It's for all of Robin Hobb's books! It starts on May 23rd with Assassin's Apprentice and will run for the rest of the year. For the schedule and other details, just click on the read-a-long title.
General Life and Blogging Stuff
This was a really good week in both! I treated my mom to lunch at Applebee's the other day as an early Mother's Day present (we didn't know if she'd be working today or not). It was a nice lunch! I spent the majority of Thursday cleaning because I felt too restless to sit and read a book for very long. I let Supernatural run as I was doing that, so it helped me make good progress on the show. I'm now nine episodes into season ten! Other than that, I've been working my way through some anime.

There weren't many blog posts this week, but I loved writing both of the ones I put up! The first one was about how this is my year of trying new things and the second was a lesson on how to NOT read a book (AKA my tips on putting books you really want to read for months or even years). I felt like being silly with the latter. ;) I also formatted some review posts and drafted a booktube recs post.

Plans For The Upcoming Week
I want to get a lot of reviews scheduled! I have three that are more or less ready to post. I want to post an anime update. And lastly, want to finish up my booktube recs post. There's only videos and links to add.

Life plans include an accounting midterm, filling out my election ballot (my state does mail in voting) and another trip to the library!

That's it for this week!

How was your week? Read anything great?

Friday, May 6, 2016

How to NOT Read a Book

Hello everyone!! I have a I have a lesson for anyone interested. As the title says, I'm going to tell you how to NOT read a book. All of my tips are all actions I've tested myself multiple times over the last few years. Each one has been very successful! I've avoided reading many, many books, including Clockwork Princess, Ruin and Rising, Silver Shadows, Vicious, and The Sea of Tranquility!

Now, let's get on to the lesson! There's a lot to cover and I bet you aren't looking for a lengthy intro. These tips are numbered, but not ordered in any particular order. They're great to combine too! These are meant to be used when not reading a specific book. For best results, apply this lesson when not reading books you genuinely do want to read. (I mean, it works for books you really don't want to read to, but those are easy to avoid.)

1. Look, but don't read.
*insert heart eye emojis*
There are so many wonderful covers to look at! If the one you want to avoid reading has a beautiful cover, just look at it and admire the prettiness. Take a picture or two. Look inside for nice chapter headings or end papers or whatnot. BUT DON'T READ THE WORDS. If you feel tempted, put the book down and do something else.

2. Think of how much you'd probably LOVE that book, but don't read it.

You aren't guaranteed to love it, so isn't it safe to just think about the book instead? Imagine the disappointment if you don't love it! *shudders*

3. Read reviews instead of the book.

Plenty of other people have (probably) read the book! You can just read what they thought. Live vicariously through them. And hey, there should be a good variety in the reviews.

4. If you can, read OTHER books by the same author.
If you're looking to not read all of an author's books, then this won't work. But if you're only targeting a specific book, then you can experience the author's writing in a different one! This is great to combine with #2 because it could help you think that the book really is one that you'd love.

5. Put it on your TBR for the month, season, etc. and then stay away from it.
There's Vicious among some  possible May reads!
This one is a bit risky because there's a chance that you might actually decide to read all of the books on your TBR, but it's still effective. Plus, if it's a rec from a friend, it'll make them happy to see that you're planning to read the book (even though you won't go through with it, if you following this lesson).

6. Keep saying "I want to read ________ soon!!" so it stays near the top of your TBR (and not on your finished reading pile).

It's good enough to keep it near the top of you TBR. It'll make it seem like you're going to read it at any moment, even though you won't. It's the thought that counts, right? This is a good tactic to use in the long run, so this could keep you from reading a book for a couple years.

7. Join a readalong for a book, but don't go through with reading along with everyone else!

Hey, at least they're fun to join! (Note: I haven't tested as much as the others, but I should have another testing opportunity soon...)

8. Make plans to read the book with a friend (or a group of people), then don't  go through with said plans.

This happens best when both/all of you are on the same page about not reading the book. If one of you starts reading it, then you're more likely to start it, and YOU CAN'T LET THAT HAPPEN. For best results, pair with busy schedules and huge TBRs.

9. Hide the book from plain sight and don't go looking for it.

This is more suited to those who double stack their shelves or put some of their books in boxes. Or have a Kindle. It's easier to forget about a book if it's not staring at you from across the room and therefore, it's much easier to not read it.

That's it for my lesson today! Have you found any success with any of these tactics?? Are there any suggestions for not reading a book that I missed?

I hope you liked the post. :)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Year of Trying New Things

I feel like I gave a theme to 2016 without even meaning to, and that theme is trying a bunch of new things out. They aren't major, but more like things that I was reluctant to try or do before. And even though I'm still not a hugely adventurous person, I'm finding that I LOVE trying new things out and seeing how I react to them. I feel like I've discovered a new part of myself that's been hiding for the majority of my life!

What I've Been Doing So Far
Trying new restaurants with my mom

Okay, we started doing this last year, but I've been trying more food outside of my comfort zone this year. We went to this really cool bar and grill type place (thankfully, it allows minors before a certain time unlike most of the other places in town) that I absolutely love. There were a lot of people there and it was louder than most places I go to, but apparently that's the atmosphere that I get really into. I believe the burger I got was pesto sauce, sun dried tomatoes, spinach leaves, and feta cheese on focaccia bread. My safety food when going to restaurants is omelettes, but obviously this wasn't a breakfast place! Our most recent trip was to an Asian food restaurant that had decent food, but a much quieter atmosphere. We were the only people there when we ordered. We're trying Applebee's next. Yeah, I know, but that's a place we always feel meh about trying for some reason. I'm hoping the food is good...that's our early mother's day plans.

Trying new foods as well as ones I've always hated

I've started picking up a new type of dried fruit from the bulk food aisle each time I go to Winco. I have a bag of dried kiwi (meh) and this mango pineapple thing (good) that I'm slowly making my way through. (I'm slightly in love with bulk food.) I tried dragonfruit, stuffed mushrooms, goat cheese, and ricotta cheese. Even though I hate onion and dislike bell pepper, I haven't been pulling those off meals as much as usual. There are some instances where I've eaten mint chocolate because I didn't mind the taste. Oh! And coffee. There's a milkshake from Dutch Bros. that I swear has a little bit of coffee in it, but I actually don't hate it.

This doesn't seem like much, but it does feel very new to me! Maybe that's because I've been cooking a lot more lately...

Trying makeup and beauty products

Yes, I'm a 20 year old that is just now getting a genuine interest in makeup. It actually started with skin and hair care. Well, first, I've struggled with acne for a long time and finally got some products that have been working for me (cleanser toner, + essential oils face serum). I've struggled with my hair a lot too, but not as much. I alternate between Head and Shoulders and Tresemme and use a volumizing mist and I probably won't stray too far from that routine. I'm kinda in love with it. Hair and skin stuff is a big topic between me and a couple of my friends , which makes me more comfortable about trying things out in a way I didn't used to be.

Anyway, makeup. I gave Ipsy a go and have gotten some basics from the bags (which are super handy with storing items, by the way). I've tried out eyeliner, an eye brightening pencil, lip creme, and a shimmery eye shadow. I also bought mascara, which I've been curious about for ages. Spoiler alert: it's my favorite! It's been fun experimenting with the products. :)

Reading more widely

Ahh, I'm moving this! I read Corrupt by Penelope Douglas, which is a dark erotic romance. I used to shy away so much from erotic romance, but after reading so much NA and some Megan Erickson books, I just don't feel weird about reading the genre anymore. I've also read some manga (Mamotte! Lollipop, Death Note, Black Butler, Kodocha, and a sampling of Tokyo Ghoul) and graphic novels/comic compilations (Saga and Y: The Last Man). I'm starting to get more into exploring my local library, which will help me get more into nonfiction. I read a graphic memoir and am currently reading about artificial intelligence. There's a lot of possible topics to explore: food, business, books about books, history, culture, etc. (Heyy, I could tie in my nonfiction choices into more personal posts in the future. I'll have to remember that!) There's also audio books! I'm going to start my second one of the year before too long. Then there's adult fiction and classics, though I haven't actually read any classics this year yet. I'm still reading YA, but I'm currently being swept up in the excitement of reading a bunch of books that I haven't heard much about. I've read YA for so long and have stayed on top of new releases for a few years. I don't get as big of a rush from discovering new YA as much as I used to because I already know about so many of the titles.

A Couple Things I Want To Try
Sushi - I'm not a fan of seafood, but I want to give it a try sometime. I could cheat and go with something that doesn't have seafood, but I feel like that's not the same?

Getting my hair professionally cut - You know how I said I've always struggled with my hair? Well, I've mainly struggled with anyone touching my head and doing anything with my hair. The last time I got a hair cut from anyone besides my mom (who isn't a hair stylist) was...over ten years ago? I want to try layers, but I also really want to get over this stupid reluctance to let someone else touch my head. I did let my friend curl (attempt to at least) and style my hair the other day, so I can feel myself getting over it.

Have you tried anything new lately?? Was it fun? Do you have any recommendations for what I should try based on what I included in this post? It can be a book rec or a makeup thing or even a recipe!

Psst...also, do you like this kind of post? This was pretty fun to write. Okay, I'm done inundating you with questions. :D