Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The YA Book Community is Going to Disown Me For This Review...

Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Will Patton)
Publisher: Scholastic
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Warning! This review is filled to the brim with SPOILERS. Read at your own risk!

This book was supposed to be my redemption. I didn't like Cinder by Marissa Meyer, so I never read the rest of the series. Then, I DNFed Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Right off the bat, two huge fandoms in the YA community that I can't be a part of already, and now . . . *whispers* I . . . don't like The Raven Boys . . .

Long before my blogging days, I used to just buy books that I heard good things about. As the years passed and these books became more and more popular, I just kept buying each of the new books in the series as it came out, all while telling myself that I will read them at some point. *sigh*

So literally every bookworm I know adores The Raven Boys. They say it's "perfection" and "filled with book boyfriends" and just overall "a magical unicorn series that you need in your life" . . .

I tried to understand why everyone loves this book. I promise you, I did! While I usually DNF at 25% when I'm not liking a book, in this case, I pushed on! I schlepped through this entire book, waiting and praying for it to get better . . . waiting for that moment of clarity, or of understanding. And yet, here we are. 

Honestly, I was completely emotionally unattached from all of the characters. I didn't understand why they were friends, or why they were on this magical quest to find this magical dead guy's body. I didn't feel any genuine emotions or problems there.

If I had to narrow my dislike to one, huge issue, I'd say that The Raven Boys was just unnecessarily overdramatic. For example, Blue has been told that if she kisses Gansey, he'll die within a year . . . but she doesn't seem to like him at all, so why is it even a problem to not kiss someone you don't even like? On the other hand, she seems to kind of like another boy from Gansey's crew—Adam—but she doesn't tell him about how her mother foretold that if she kisses anyone (just to be safe, since who knows—maybe it's not Gansey?), that could be the person who dies. And why—you ask—doesn't she tell him why she's avoiding kissing him? Well. She doesn't tell him because . . . she doesn't think he'll believe her. So in summation: these people are on a crazy quest through some creepy forest with talking trees that speak Latin while searching for a magical corpse, and THAT'S THE PART HE WON'T BELIEVE?!

And really, I want to blame the narrator—Will Patton—for my dislike of this book, but even a truly terrible narrator can't affect how a person feels about a plot and the characters of a book this intensely. HOWEVER, I will try listening to The Dream Thieves audiobook to see if I change my mind about this series, just because it's so popular that I really want to understand and grow to love it, maybe? So yes, I really hope that I will like Book 2, but I have very low expectations.

I will say that Will Patton largely contributed to me disliking this book. His voice is so raspy, and he honestly sounds like he's 60 years old, but he's narrating a teenage story! It just doesn't fit at all. Sadly though, he is the narrator for the rest of the series, and since the only way I'll have the reading time for this series is via audiobook, I am not looking forward to hearing this guy's voice again . . .

1) Blue's family was pretty interesting. I liked Persephone and Calla—they were hilarious contrasts to one-another.

2) Out of the raven boys crew, I only liked Ronan and Noah. They were the only ones I could understand for the most part.

 1) First of all, it's really clear that this book came out ages ago (a.k.a. 2012, to be clear) because it has the overdone trope of "quirky, outcast girl makes friends and potentially falls in love with privileged rich boy(s)." I had to remind myself repeatedly that this was popular back then, and that I possibly wouldn't have minded it if I had read it when it came out . . . half a decade ago.

2) I could not emotionally connect with any of the characters. I didn't understand their motivations or their feelings. I also found them all to be boring and/or irritating with only a couple of exceptions. Though to be brutally honest, I might just think I like them in contrast to the other characters, since I found the rest to be super aggravating.

3) So the raven boys are made up of Gansey—the leader, Adam—the non-rich friend, Ronan—the guy who doesn't give a shit about anything except his pet raven, and Noah—the ghost who nobody realizes is a ghost, even though he FREAKING FLAT OUT TELLS THEM ALL, but okay. Besides my obvious irritations that I've just mentioned, this group of boys are a total bromance fail. They are all supposed to be blindly loyal to Gansey, except they all give him shit when he's doing things to actually help them. BUT when he asks them to join him on dangerous quests which involve talking trees, crazed psycho murderers, and psychics—THEN they are all for it. But when Gansey is trying to keep them in school when they are getting expelled OR when he's trying to get them away from physically and emotionally abusive family members—then Gansey is somehow dubbed "an asshole." I'm sorry—what??? HOW DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE?!?

4) The main "problem" between Blue and the raven boys is that if she kisses Gansey, he's going to die. If she kisses Adam, he might die. We're not sure. Well, as I've already said—it doesn't seem like she likes Gansey at all, so what's the issue? It all felt contrived. We only get visions of what might happen with them in the future, but there is zero chemistry between them. And as for her relationship with Adam, I felt absolutely nothing. It just seemed like two lonely people who don't want to be lonely. Oh, and Blue is the only girl around.

5) I could literally keep going for another several hours of rants, but then I'd just be tearing apart the entire book, bit by bit. So . . . I'll stop here. Please don't hate me!

“My words are unerring tools of destruction, and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.”

So what do you guys think? Are you huge fans of The Raven Boys? Is the next book much better? Do you hate me now? Let me know in the comments below! XD

Monday, March 27, 2017

First We Were IV Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway!

Publication Date: July 25th, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
A group of friends start a secret society in this out-of-control thriller from the author of The Telling and The Creeping that examines the all-consuming love of lifelong friendship—and what someone is capable of when they’re afraid of losing it.

Izzie loves nothing more than her three best friends, Viv, Graham, and Harry, and the bond the four of them share. And she’s terrified of their friendship falling apart next year when they go off to college. To bind them together, she decides to create that will belong only to them, a special thing that they’ll always share between the four of them. And so they dream up the Order of IV, a secret society devoted to mischief that rights wrongs and pays back debts. At first, it works like a charm—but when the Order of IV’s escapades getrecognition beyond their wildest expectations, other people start wanting in. And soon, what started as a game of friendship is spiraling into something dangerous and beyond their control—and before it’s over, they’ll pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Alexandra Sirowy is the author of the young adult thrillers THE CREEPING, the Bram Stoker Award® Nominated THE TELLING, and the upcoming FIRST WE WERE IV. Alexandra attended a women's college as an undergrad and received her graduate degree in International Studies. When she isn't writing, she loves to travel, read, eat, and get into mischief. She lives with her husband in Northern California.
Connect with Alexandra: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest
Disclaimer: All content directly from First We Were IV (such as quotes and excerpts) is taken directly from an advanced reader's copy of the book. Therefore, it is not to be separately quoted from due to the fact that it is not in its final publication form.
     By the time the police arrived, there were three of us left. Three originals. Three best friends. Architects of what was once a secret society.
     The difference between leaders and initiates was evident. We designed it that way, dictated 
that initiates wore the white of sacrificial lambs and us bloody red. No confusion over who appeared to be in charge.

     There was a chaotic minute under the star-choked sky. Volleying accusations and bodily threats. I tried to kick out of the arms of an officer because I still hadn’t had my fill of revenge. Never would I. And you know, the dagger tipped in blood didn’t exactly help our case for looking faultless.

     They herded the initiates into a line, ordered them to keep their mouths shut. Still, those kids, those snakes, whispered stories and secrets in the way the dying confess, anticipating forgiveness. Good little boys and girls, eyes innocent saucers, except they’d terrorized a whole town.

     Our dagger lay a little outside the ring of fire. There was the truth serum, a few muddy, crimson sips they’d dredge up from the bottle to test. And the idol on a pile of rocks, her smile calling out from on top of her burial mound. No sense would be made of her origins.

     Police circled the meteorite, probing the scene, coming up short in front of us three, searching faces for clues. Accident or murder.

     They would ask the wrong questions later on, after the ambulance left without its sirens wailing, when the three architects and our six recruits were in the police station.

     There was lots of hand-wringing and Make me understand. Parents arrived. Our initiates had been shaking their fists and snarling at authority just an hour before. The rebellion had drained out of them and they buckled with relief at the sight of their moms and dads. I didn’t acknowledge mine. All the adults needed help understanding how the night happened. 
     "October happened because September did.

     An officer warned me to stop being snarky. 

     "I’m not," 
I whispered, voice all cried out. 
     "Then answer,
he demanded.
     "Because August. Because July. Because June. I can keep going if you need me to."

     That was the only answer they’d get from me. Afterward, I stopped talking. For a few weeks. I sat in my room, on the top of my desk, watching the Pacific battle the shore. I sketched the four of us. Together. Hardly needing to watch the progress of my pencil. There was something unnerving in our eyes when the pictures were done. A glimmer of foreshadow that I hadn’t noticed was present before. Had it been? My best friends. The loves of my life. Strangers. Reeling. Ferocious.

     I held my tongue and the lesson sunk in.
     No matter how much you see, there are bottomless seas you don’t.

     What I am certain of is the heart of it.

     First we were four.

     Now we are three. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Week 1
March 27: Brittany's Book Rambles - Intro Post + Excerpt
March 28: YA and Wine - Most Mischievous YA Characters
March 29: Rattle the Pages - Nail Art
March 30: Book Nerd Addict - Inventing A Secret Society
March 31: Fables Library - YA Books with Secret Societies

Week 2
April 3: Emily Reads Everything - Fancast
April 4: The Eater of Books - History of Secret Societies
April 5: It Starts At Midnight - Author Guest Post!
April 6: BookCatPin - Mystery YA List
April 7: A Book and a Cup of Coffee - Moodboard

Week 3
April 10: The Book Buzz - YA Thrillers You Need to Know About
April 11: The Candid Cover - Bookworm Initiation Quiz
April 12: Girl in the Pages - Book Recs for First We Were IV Characters
April 13: Stories and Sweeties - Author Guest Post - Story Behind the Title
April 14: Little Lillie Reads - Playlist

Week 4
April 17: Literary Legionnaire - Favorite Quotes
April 18: Chapter by Chapter - Author Guest Post: Secret Society Initiation Rituals
April 19: Tales of the Ravenous Reader - Secret Societies You Never Knew Existed
April 20: YA Book Central - Author Guest Post: 3 Favorite Books About Secret Societies
April 21: The Bookish Feels - Author's March Favorites

Week 5
April 24: Waiting For Wentworth - Author Guest Post: Secret Society Rules
April 25: The Reader and the Chef - Book Inspired-Recipe
April 26: Forever Lost in Literature - Author Guest Post: What We Do For Friendship
April 27: Flying Through Fiction - Favorite YA Friendships
April 28: One Way or an Author - Phone Wallpapers

Saturday, March 25, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon ARC Review

Format: Paperback ARC, 380 Pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub. Date: May 30th, 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Before picking up When Dimple Met Rishi, I had heard nothing but praise. I do my best to go in with as much of a blind eye as possible when reading and reviewing books. However, other reviewers and friends who typically have similar taste in books were raving about it, so I couldn't help having extremely high expectations. Thankfully, I am so thrilled to report that everything positive that people have said about this book is true!

When Dimple Met Rishi is one of the cutest books I have ever encountered. It's incredibly fun, quirky, and truly heartfelt. I really loved watching Dimple and Rishi fall for one another. This book actually reminded me of some of my favorite teen romantic comedies—with an Indian spin. The cultural aspects of the story were effortlessly and organically woven into the plot, and I enjoyed learning more about Indian family life, music, and traditions. Overall I was incredibly impressed with this novel, and I look forward to reading more books by Sandhya Menon in the future!

1) First of all, Dimple and Rishi are so freaking cute. Each of their interactions, conversations—literally everything about them together—left me with a huge smile on my face. I loved those two from their very first meeting; They were quite literally made for one another, and they made me so happy!

2) The dialogue, you guys! Oh my gosh, it is so hilarious, adorable, and witty! I was thoroughly dazzled ;) Dialogue—to me—is often the best part of books, and it was definitely one of my favorite aspects of this one!

3) I love how culturally rich the story is! Thanks to this book, I looked up many different Indian dishes, listened to new music, and I even looked up several Bollywood movies! At the same time, Sandhya Menon highlights certain biases and negative stereotypes that many Indian people face, which I appreciate as well. This novel is not only fun, adorable, and interesting—it's also enlightening.

4) I love how Rishi struggles with pursuing his passion for art versus a more "practical career." This was something I truly identified with, so I'm sure that many people in the book and art community will feel the same. It was really moving, and it made me reflect on my own struggles in this area. At the same time, the book has a very positive and hopeful feel about it, so it made me feel better about some things at the same time.

5) Dimple and Celia's friendship was both delightful and complicated. Not only are they friendship goals, but their relationship accentuates different molds and pressures that are put on females. I loved watching their bond grow and be tested. I found it to be very realistic and gratifying.

1) The main reason I'm not giving this book the full five matryoshkas is because of the last third of the book.

*slight spoilers ahead* 
Suddenly, the plot is rushed forward so quickly that I almost got whiplash. Dimple and Rishi had been insanely cute and sweet until this point, and then out of nowhere, Dimple randomly starts to second-guess her relationship with Rishi. I didn't feel like there was any build-up to this part of the book. It was like everything is adorable, my heart is singing, and then BAM—heartbreak, angst, and the sound of my dreams dying. Granted, there is a happy ending, but I just wish we could cut out a little bit of the extra drama before we get there.
*end spoilers*

2) I wish that Rishi and Dimple had more equal character arcs. We see more of how Rishi changes and deals with his family's expectations, and I would have loved to see more of that with Dimple.

Dimple loved vintage things. She followed a bunch of vintage photography accounts on Instagram, and old apothecary bottles were a favorite subject. So it was a kind of magic, being here in this antiques store with a boy whose eyes were just the right shade of honey. 
Rishi kissed her with purpose, with meaning, like he believed this was exactly where they were supposed to be in this moment. He kissed her till she believed it too. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Geekerella Blog Tour: Ashley Poston's Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines!

Publisher: Quirk Books
Pub Date: April 4th 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Ashley Poston's fangirl heart has taken her everywhere from the houses of Hollywood screenwriters to the stages of music festivals to geeky conventions (in cosplay, of course). She lives in South Carolina, where she hangs around the internet tweeting at @AshPoston. 
Follow Ashley: Website | Twitter | FB | Instagram | Pinterest | Tumblr | YouTube
Sometimes, the kick-ass heroine isn’t the one holding the smoking pistol. Don’t get me wrong—pistol-wielding gals get stuff done. But if Hermione taught me anything, it’s that you can kick ass with brains as well as brawn.

In Geekerella, I wanted Elle to look up to one of those kick-ass heroines, so took the parts of kick-ass heroines I adore and crumbled them up to make a heroine who is a little good, a little bad, and one-hundred and ten percent can kick your ass.

So here are my top ten inspirations for Starfield’s Princess Amara—

1. Fem!Sheppard from Mass Effect. She’s a gosh darn war hero, who rises up out of the literal grave to come back and kick some serious Reaper butt. And that is what a hero does. They never give up.

2. Zoe Washburn from Firefly. Basically favorite space cowboy—ever. She’s a true leader without needing intimidation to win her arguments. She’s comfortable in her skin, and she’s in love with her husband (LEAF ON THE WIND) without it being her defining characteristic.

3. Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle. Sophie has a special place in my heart. She’s resourceful, witty, and has a gift for elevating other people when she, herself, doesn’t realize how important her own self-worth is to everyone around her.

4. Nyx from Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty. I can write sonnets about how much I love Hodge’s reinvention of Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Where Disney made Belle a witty bookworm, Hodge crafted Nyx as daring and stalwart—and dare I say it: unlikeable—with a single thread of curiosity that shines brighter than the darkness that traps her. Basically, Nyx is A+ material.

5. Hermione from Harry Potter. After all, she’s the brightest witch of her age, and without her, Harry would’ve been dead since book one. Voldemort should’ve never underestimated the power of a mudblood.

6. Artemis from Greek Mythology. She kills a man for spying on her in the bath, ‘nuff said.

7. Uhura from Star Trek. Without Uhura, Captain Kirk—in both the original and the reboot—would be so, so dead. Uhura showed me that you can be great at your job, and demand the respect you deserve.

8. Nimona from Nimona. I’m not sure if I’m in love with Nimona, or if I want to be Nimona. The jury’s still out.

9. Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars. I was a little late jumping into the Star Wars universe (Trekkie for life, here), but once in I lost myself in the badassery of one Togruta female.

10. Lila Bard from Darker Shade. I am also in love with Lila, but I’d also never be caught in the same room with her because she’d rob me blind.

What are some of your favorite kick-ass heroines?

Brittany: Thank you so much for this awesome and fun guest post, Ashley! :D

The Novel HermitMarch 21 — US
The Mile Long Bookshelf — March 22 — UK
Brittany’s Book Rambles — March 23 — US (You are here!)
Holly, Quills, and Ivy — March 24 — UK
The Book Bratz — March 27 — US
Paper Trail YA — March 28 — UK
Owl Always Be Reading — March 29 — US
The Bibliophile Chronicles— March 30 — UK
Mary Had a Little Book Blog — March 31 — US
Tea Party PrincessApril 3 — UK
LilyBloomBooks — April 4 — US

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Hearts We Sold & Foolish Hearts

My TBR list is always growing and I thought it would be fun to share my anticipation for those books with all of you. This is not my own original meme; it belongs to Breaking the Spine. It specifically spotlights upcoming releases. As it implies in the title, I'll be posting this meme on Wednesdays. Please feel free to comment and let me know what books you guys are waiting on as well!

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Pub. Date: December 26th 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Book Depository 
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

I'm extremely picky when it comes to contemporary books because I generally prefer fantasy. However after reading Emma's last book, This Adventure Ends (which I reviewed here), I wouldn't miss out on Foolish Hearts for the world! 

Plus, I absolutely adore anything Shakespeare-related, so this sounds like the perfect cute contemporary read for me :D

Emma Mills is an author better known to her subscribers as vlogger Elmify. She is also cocreator and cohost of the "life skills" channel How to Adult, which ended in 2016.
Connect with Emma: Twitter | YouTube

Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR/Hachette Book Group 
Pub. Date: August 8th, 2017
Pre-Order it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 
When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

The Hearts We Sold first grabbed my attention because the lovely cover reminds me soooo much of Tim Burton's work!

I'm really intrigued by this heartless concept and by the "charming but secretive James Lancer." I have no shame when it comes to book boyfriends ;D

Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. After graduating from Western Oregon University with an English degree, she enrolled in the publishing program at Rosemont College just outside of Philadelphia. She currently resides in Northern California, working in a bookstore by day and writing by night. Illusive is her debut novel.
Connect with Emily: Website | Twitter | Instagram

Are these books on your TBR? Is this the first time you're hearing about them? Let me know!