Monday, June 30, 2014

Monthly Recap: June 2014

I've toyed around with creating a monthly recap feature for the blog, but was finally inspired today by Cee's Recap to make a feature of my own.  I will probably be messing around with the logo, the layout, and exactly what I share in this feature, but I suppose that you'll enjoy coming on this little adventure with me, and see where it takes us.  Haha
Overall, June has been a busy month:
  • Graduation happened.
  • Summer
I think that those really summarize what June was in a nutshell for me.  Now I'll get down to the details for me.

  • I read 12 books in June
  • I didn't buy any new books, but I did borrow a large stack from a friend.
  • Favorite book of the month:
  • T.V. wise I've been exclusively watching Vampire Diaries and I don't know why I like it so much.  I think now I'm just too invested in the characters to stop.  I'm only season three so no spoilers please! :)
  • Movies, umm well, here is my post about TFIOS and it includes a movie review sort of.  I also saw 22 Jump Street with my brother.  It was funny, but nothing special.  Haha
  • Music, huh, okay I finally bought music after months of using Pandora and Youtube.  I'm pretty proud of myself.  I also discovered 8Tracks, this awesome site where people create playlists and you can listen to them.  You sort of set filters on what you're in the mood for and the site will recommend a playlist.  I like it a lot better than Soundcloud, which I know my brother is huge fan of.
Blogging and Other Media:

My Blog Posts:

Other Posts I Enjoyed:

Normally I would be much more on top of other news in the blogesphere and YA genre in general, but my move sort of has me in a tailspin. All I can tell you is that there has been a TON of hype for We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

July Goals:
I didn't really have any real goals for June besides read a lot and make sure to not slack on blog posts admits my crazy life.  Here are my more concrete goals for July:

  • Participate in Camp NaNoWrMo, my own way (I always feel pressured by NaNoWriMo and always give up halfway through because I struggle sticking with a longer story.  My goal for this Camp is to write around 1500 words daily, whether it be in poetry, short story, or the revisions of some of my past work).
  • Finish my summer reading for school.
  • 20 total books in July
  • Starting knitting my friend and myself Weasly Sweaters 
  • Everyone has been raving about Blogilates, so I figure, why not?
  • I'm taking my first Bikram Yoga class on Wednesday, I hope to try to do more!
  • I also am making a commitment to go on runs with my dad every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Well, there goes my first monthly Recap.  I hope that it's a feature that sticks! :D

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Summer of Skinny Dipping: A Flopping Fish in a Sea of Summer Contemporary

Title: The Summer of Skinny Dipping
Author: Amanda Howells
Series: Summer #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: June 1st, 2010
Format: Paperback
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance


There Are Some Summers You'll Always Remember
Sometimes I wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life.
My name is Mia Gordon: I was sixteen years old, and I remember everything

My Thoughts and Reflection:

I picked this book up at the library randomly because I had just gotten my new library card and felt super excited to put it to use!  Anyway, the library was relatively small and I was short on time so I grabbed the first thing that appeared to be relatively entertaining.  I had never heard of The Summer of Skinny Dipping but I was all, "Hey, it's summer.  It's probably a fluffy read, why not?"
In the very beginning of the book, we meet Mia, our down-to-earth, naive, brown haired protagonist who is pretty much one of the most MarySueish characters I've actually read in a real book.  Quickly the reader is engulfed by the multitude of family troubles that she is plagued with on their drive to stay with their perfect cousins in the Hamptons.  So, middle class girl, staying with rich family members, already feeling like stories that I've read before.
The majority of the book focuses on Mia's selfish cousins Corrine and Beth and their Gen (who all have these crazy ragers and get drunk).  Mia struggling with how much Corrine had changed since they last talked and that pretty much is 2/3 of the book.
Then we meet Simon, the boy next door who's family has money but not enough to impress with millionaires and billionaires strutting up and down the beaches.  Of course, he's the son who is an artist and want's to backpack around Europe instead of going to Buissness school.
Overall, Simon was an okay character.  He was poorly fleshed out, and where he was it was compiled mostly of stereotypes so he didn't feel like a real person at all.
Of course, the last third of the book basically consists of literally everything that Mia thought to be true falling apart, as was quite foreseeable as the book had gone on.  The last couple chapters felt unnecessary and the ending was typical and not at all a surprise.
Howells was not a particularly graced author.  She was not talented in her sentence structure nor her overall story arc.  There were no metaphors or similes or anything to show off a lick of talent in this women.


If you are looking for the most bland summer read ever, I say go for it.  If not, try some nice old-fashioned fluff from Sara Dessen.*

Dust Jacket Ramblings:

There was nothing special about this cover.  Of course it used my number one cover pet peeve (a model), and the model wasn't even accurate for the book.  (It is mentioned numerous times that Mia's swimsuit is a two piece navy, not this flawy peach thing).  The beach seen made since considering that this book takes place in the Hamptons, and the typography is alright.

*Now, this book was just okay.  However, I did read the blurb for the sequel, The Summer of Sneaking Out, and it was much more promising.  I'm not sure how it connects to Skinny Dipping, but who knows?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why I'm Ridding My Blog of a Rating System

I can't quite remember why I started using a rating system on my blog, but at some point it happened.  I figured, sure it's a great idea!  I can use little pencils to represent stars and then I can show quickly how much that I liked a book.
Sure it worked nicely for a while, until I ran into my first problem.  What if I liked a book with five stars, but it wasn't my favorite?  So then I added a sixth star to my system to represent my favorites.
Then my most recent problem arose; I sort of like three stars.  I don't know why, but a lot of my reviews tend to be three stars, and I don't think that's fair, because they aren't all equal. Some of them are more than 3 stars, but not quite 4, and some are not 2 stars, but not really a 3 either.  
I'm just sick of the numbers and half stars and the labels in general.  I think that if you really want to know if you're going to like a book read the blurb and several spoiler free reviews.  Reviews give you a better sense of the book, because different reviewers like different things in books and that skews their star ratings.

SO, I'm no longer going to rate books with stars, or pencils for that matter.  If you want to know what I think, read the review.  If you're lazy, read my conclusion, which usually sums up my thoughts.  All my reviews* are spoiler free so I think that read the whole review is better, but that's just me.

I hope that you all understand where I'm coming from.  What do you think about rating systems?  

*All posts after April Guaranteed Spoiler Free Unless Otherwise Stated

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nantucket Red: The Dreamy Island Returns

Title: Nantucket Red
Author: Leila Howland
Series: Nantucket #2
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: May 13th, 2014
Format: ARC
Genre: YA; Romance; Contemporary
Rating: ✎✎✎✎

Cricket Thompson's lifetime of overachieving has paid off: she's headed to Brown University in the fall, with a spot on the lacrosse team and a scholarship that covers almost everything. Who knew living in the dorm cost money? An Ivy League education seems to mean living at home for the next four years.
When Cricket is offered the chance to earn enough cash to afford a real college experience, she heads back to Nantucket for the summer. But the faraway island challenges Cricket in ways she hadn't anticipated. It's hard to focus on earning money for next year, when she finds her world opening up in entirely new ways-to art, to travel, and, most unexpectedly, to a future completely different from the one she has been working toward her whole life. A friendship blossoms with Ben, the gorgeous surfer and bartender who encourages Cricket to be free, even as she smarts at the pain of seeing Zack, her first love, falling for her worst enemy.
But one night, when Cricket finally lets herself break all her own rules, she realizes she may have ruined her carefully constructed future with one impulsive decision. Cricket must dig deep to fight for her future, discovering that success isn't just about reaching goals, but also about listening to what she's been trying to ignore-her own heart.

Thoughts and Reflections:
*May Contain spoilers for Nantucket Blue
I'm not sure why the blurb is so long, there isn't much going on in this book.
I read Nantucket Blue earlier this year and it just didn't do it for me.  I thought that Cricket was foolish and whiny and made awful mistakes that were boring to read about.  However, when a friend gave me this ARC I figured that I might as well try it out, and I'm glad that I did.
Although the blurb seems to suggest otherwise, the first part of the book follows Cricket through her senior year in high school, which to say was relatively uneventful despite some boyfriend drama.  When summer arrives and Cricket heads to Nantucket the book's pace begins to pick up and lots of fun occurs.
Cricket makes some new friends, reconnects with the old, and has a much more exciting summer then the last.  I felt much more connected to Cricket throughout all of her shenanigans.  While she was still foolish, she was less whiny and the tiniest bit more grown up.
I got frustrated at the end of the book, however, when Cricket makes a mistake that could permanently change her life she does everything that she can to get that life back, but then she questions her actions?  What????  That was the only time in the book that I found myself comparing her to the old wishy washy Cricket.
There was a lot more side character development in this book that I was excited to see because that differed from the Cricket centered book that was Nantucket Blue.  Howland spent more time fleshing out the other characters lives as well and that made the overall book more balanced.

While this is still a fluffy summer read, I'd recommend it.  Honestly, you could probably read it without having read Nantucket Blue and that would most likely be more enjoyable.

Dust Jacket Rablings:
I love this cover.  I think it encompasses the story very well and is visually appealing.  I'm not usually a fan of models on covers but the fact that there are no faces makes me not hate this cover.

*I did hate the cover for Nantucket Blue:

It is more sleazy, you can see their faces, (and some boobage).  It gives the impression that this book was about sex, when it wasn't.  Thumbs down on this one.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Incarnate: Newsoul #1

Title: Incarnate
Author: Jodi Meadows
Series: Newsoul #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publication Date: January 31st, 2012
Format: Paperback
Genre: YA; Romance; Fantasy
Rating: ✎✎✎


New soul
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.
No soul
Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?
Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

My Thoughts and Reflection:
I first received this book (and it's sequel) from a former teacher of mine who had already read the books  and was willing to pass them on.  I've had it for a while and decided to pick it up a couple of days ago.  Needless to say that it took me a while to get into it; I re-read the first chapter a few to times.  I had a hard time grasping the main character and the story, but eventually I held on tight enough to proceed with the book.
The beginning of this book is a little rocky.  The reader is first getting to know the defensive, insecure newsoul that is our protagonist Ana.  She is actually like a lot of YA protagonists: utterly unextrodinary until some guy comes along and says that she is extraordinary.  How disappointing.  However, in this book because all of the souls have been reincarnated so many times, physical looks are not often described in the book.  There is little talk about body images and appearances in general.  That certainly was a unique aspect of this book, and it gave the reader more time to focus on what the characters were actually like instead of what they visually appeared to be.
The majority of the story is not centered around Ana searching for the reason why she is in the Range, it is focused on her often strained, awkward relationship with Sam.  Not that it was a bad thing; they were cute and a little predictable but not vomit inducing.  Their intimacy level was lower than a lot of YA books and that sets this book apart as well.

There is not exactly a clear antagonist throughout the story, more like several persons and ideas that overall make things harder for Ana.  First her mother Li is certainly an ongoing enemy throughout the story.  She and her followers do have their beliefs and story to why the treat Ana the way they do but it is not something that alters the ending all that much.  Second is the council and their lead speaker.  They seemed unnecacarilly concerned with Ana's life and habits while living in the city of Heart.  They were innocent in their desire to protect their city but went overboard in their efforts to suppress Ana.  I suppose the dragons and mysterious unexplained entity sylph were also antagonists in the story, but they never worked directly against Ana per say.  I wish that there had been more explanation regarding both of these creatures.  (On a side note, there were several other mythical creatures mentioned in the story as well, but never make a concrete appearance.  It seems silly for the author to have made a point to include them and then not put them in the actual story at all).
Ana was a protagonist who developed over the story.  She learned and adapted slowly to what was around her, although she remained naive, and childish through out the entire story.  I was frustrated numerous times in the books by her lack of reaction to certain events when similar events had provoked emotion before.  She was a wishy washy character, but I didn't hate reading about her.
Sam was just annoying.  He was sweet and considerate only to be sly and decisive the next.  While this is part of the development of the story I felt like I never got to know him as a person because he was always behind this mask.
The other side characters in the book varied in how fleshed out they were.  The different levels added a diversity to the cast.  The characters who were more frequent I knew more about, which is how it honestly should be in most books.
The ending was rushed and utterly confusing.  The final explanation didn't make any sense and didn't fit with the story at all.  It wasn't a cliffhanger ending, exactly.  It felt like it ended in the middle of a chapter or something.  *Sigh*


I was in no way impressed with Meadows writing style.  It wasn't particularly descriptive, or flowery, or metaphorical.  It was just writing, and that made this a boring book to read.  The characters were just okay and left me with no desire to continue their story.  Since I have a copy of the sequel, I will probably read it, but only because I crave more explanation after that poor ending.

Dust Jacket Ramblings:
Overall, I dislike this cover.  The butterfly does reference the many times in the book that Ana compares herself to the delicate insect, but the butterfly mask doesn't relate to the story.  If butterfly wings had been used as a costume on the model I might have felt better about the story, since that actually references a seen.  I am generally not a fan of models on book covers and this is one example of why.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars & John Green

Today I'm going to be discussing this thing.  This big, popular book that has become mainstreamed in an instant, has a hit movie breaking the hearts of those all over the world, and has become highly acclaimed by many.

For those of you who are not familiar with this book, here is the blurb: 

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Okay, so now onto this book….

I first read The Fault in Our Stars in 2012, the year it was first released.  I had recently moved away from a group of book loving friends, and was anxiously trying to keep up with what our group was currently reading.  They had at some point become obsessed with John Green, his books, and the Vlogbrothers youtube channel.  So I picked up a copy from my local library and set out to read it.  fAnd I was initially not impressed.  I was really disappointed with the book.  I actually posted a review on here of what I thought, but later felt pressure from friends and from the culture that was soon evolving to delete that post.  I have no other record of it, and that is something that I deeply regret.  
I did, continue to watch Vlogbrother's videos, and fell in love with John and Hank Green.  Their personalities, views on the world, and all of the things that make up their channel are incredibly inspiring.  I was then prompted to read some of John's other books.  I chose Looking for Alaska.  I was much more impressed with that book, I fell in love with the characters, and needless to say my heart was broken many times over.  I actually have a note in the front of my copy to prevent myself from reading it again in an attempt to stop more tears.
So, at the time, my John Green score was 1-1.  Last summer I read John Green's two other books, An Abundance of Katherines, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (With David Levithan).  I was less impressed with An Abundance of Katherines, so the score when 2-1, but Will Grayson, Will Grayson turned out to be awesome, so the score was tied again.
Last year, in my fit to meet my goal of 100 books for 2013, I stayed up all night in December reading Paper Towns, the only John Green book that I had yet to read.  In my review I described Paper Towns as being the most "thriller-esque" of John Green's books.  While I still agree with that statement today, I also made a point about the similarities in characters between John Green's books.
After much contemplation, I have concluded that yeah, John Green pretty much tells the same story over and over again.  It was very disappointing for me.  I do, however, have hope for his writing in the future because John Green does have the ability to write other sorts of characters, as seen in Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Final Score:

So, here I am, two years after I read my first John Green book.  I am a dedicated Nerdfighter, lover of John and Hank's many Youtube channels, and a minority when it comes to my views on The Fault In Our Stars.  I really enjoyed watching Rebecca Brown's Youtube video I dislike "The Fault In Our Stars". I agree with every point that she makes, and I found the video to be enlightening.  

However, The Fault in Our Stars is so much more than a book now.  

In late January of this year a book was published, known as This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl.  This was a heart wrenching book, and became quite popular in the Nerdfighter community because Esther is the girl who inspired John to write The Fault In Our Stars.  

As I stated at the very beginning, The Fault in Our Stars is also now a movie, staring Shaline Woodly and Ansel Elgort. 

I saw the movie with my best friend just after it came out.  We sat in an empty theater, and bawled out eyes out. (We went at an odd time of day).

Yes, I cried, but I cry in a lot of movies. I thought that the movie was very accurate in relation to the book, (and John was on set during filming).  When Ansel was first cast as Gus, I was skeptical, but he did a fantastic job.  Shaline Woodly, however, was never my Hazel Grace, and I don't think that she gave the character justice.  Nat Wolf as Issac was perfect and awesome.  He is a great guy.

Overall, the movie was, well, exactly like the book.  And while it may be selling out in theaters and racking in lots of cash, it isn't a great movie.  It won't win any Academy Awards, and while it isn't one of the recent YA movie flops (I'm looking at you Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson, and City of Bones), it certainly won't be the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter.  That, in part, is due to the fact that there is no sequel to this book (thank God).  

However, it just gets better from here on out.  Not only was I not impressed by Shailine Woodly and her acting performance, she made outrageous statements about feminism, that made me dislike her even further.  Here is the Time article.  

Lately, John Green has somehow gained credit for being the "father of ya" in the adult community.  Seriously?!?  The Outsiders was published in 1983.  Forever by Judy Blume was published in 1975. The Giver was published in 1993.  Sorry, but YA has been around for a long time.  

John Green is also receiving hate about a kissing scene in The Fault In Our Stars that takes place in the Anne Frank house.  While I agree with most people that it was insensitive to have such a romantic thing happen at a place that should be treated with solemnness and respect, I think that the applause really put it overboard.  Really?!?

To conclude my John Green rant, as much as I love him and his brother, I do not love The Fault In Our Stars.  I do not love the movie, but I do love the kind of person he is.  Motivated to share his newfound fame with charities and education; I will certainly not stop being a fan of John Green because of this. 

John is working on a new book at this time, and I'm sure that he has taken his criticism well and will have a brand new set of characters ready to bounce off the pages of his upcoming novel.

I hope to re-read The Fault On Our Stars this summer to finalize my views on it.  I'm sorry that I was pressured into hiding what I really thought about the book with the internet.  I won't be afraid to speak out against a popular book again.  Thank you for giving me the confidence to do that.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Confessions of a Hater: Highschool Drama Meets Nerds at it's Finest (Oops, I Mean WORST)

Hey!  I'm sorry that I never fully wrapped up everything with Armchair BEA.  I really meant to, but I was swamped with finals and graduation and this Talent Show that I was somehow dragged into… Anyway, now it's summer, and I'm free to read and blog as much as I want (which means 24/7).  Just kidding! :)

Title: Confessions of a Hater
Author: Caprice Crane
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: August 27th, 2013
Format: Hardback
Genre: YA; Romance; Contemporary, Nerd Lit
Rating: ✎✎✎

Hailey Harper has always felt invisible. Now her dad has a new job and the family is moving to Hollywood. Just what Hailey needs: starting a new high school.

As she's packing, Hailey finds a journal that belonged to her older sister, Noel, who is away at college. Called "How to Be a Hater," it's full of info Hailey can really use. Has Hailey found the Bible of Coolness? Will it help her reinvent herself at her new school? Will her crush notice her? Will she and the other Invisibles dethrone the popular mean girls? After all, they deserve it. Don't they?

My Thoughts and Reflections:
This book certainly played nicely off of every cliché "Nerds/Outcasts" fight back against the popular girls but then end up becoming, (pardon my language) the same kind of bitches themselves.  

I've read lots of books with those story lines, and while this one was unique and had it's own flare, it's still a cliché, and was still very predictable.  I'm tired of reading over and over again about these mean, rich, white girls who just abbsotlutey take it out on everyone who is not them.  I am a person, and I live in society, and in all my life, (granted, it is not over yet) I have yet to come across a person who is anywhere near the kind of cruel soulless person this author made her character be.  Hollywood and yes, book culture, has somehow created this façade that bullying is widespread and cliques overrun middle schools and high schools.  I'm not saying that bullying doesn't happen, because I know it does and it is awful.  And I know that there are lots of cliques in lots of different towns with lots of different levels of meanness.  What I'm trying to point out, is that this "rich, white girl" clique is overused, is not overly common, and doesn't apply to all of teenager hood.  

Pardon my rant, I just wish that authors could find something else to write about instead of repeating this soggy leftover trash over and over again.

Anyway, we start off the book meeting our protagonist, Hailey Harper, who considers herself to be invisible, and has a slew of problems with the cliquey and bully girls at her school.  Hailey's world is turned upside down when her family moves across the country to Hollywood, (I can't remember where she moved from, either it was explicitly stated or the author didn't bring it up enough for me to catch it).    In the meantime, Hailey discovers her older, (cooler, prettier, skinny, blah blah blah) sister's journal and decides to make her "Bible" or sorts to become a hater.
Hailey waltzes into California and immediately is picked up by the popular crew, and even meets her super cute neighbor Andy (I don't think that this book could get any more cliché) but of course, she stays true to her roots and ditches them for "real friends".
The book plays on after that in a predictable manner.  All of Hailey's character development is expected and doesn't stray from what I assumed would happen.  No other characters experienced any change in their demeanor.  The high school drama and family troubles were as boring and ABC Family soap-oprea isn as they come.  The few stray plot lines that thickened this book were hastily (and poorly) wrapped up towards the end of the novel.  All possible things were tied up in a neat and orderly bow and it was gross.

This book was a flop.

Dust Jacket Ramblings:
I really like the cover of this book.  I think it is balanced nicely and played on Hailey's comic strip and artistic skills that are so mentioned throughout the novel.  Pity that such a fabulous cover incases such a horrendously written book.