Monday, June 30, 2014

Epic Reads' Book Nerd Problems Is Gold!

If you're a young adult fiction fan and you're not checking in on Epic Reads...well what are you doing?

Epic Reads is the teen imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, and I think they do a lot of cool and interactive things on social media to keep book lovers interested. I talk them up a lot because they always have great contests and I love their Like, Try, Why infographics. They also have some cool video content on their website like Tea Time, but I especially love their Book Nerd Problems videos.

The girls that act in the Book Nerd Problems videos are my reader spirit animals. No for real, they are...or well at least their actor portrayals all. They have only done a few of these videos, and they are not that long, but I like how they can easily capture what it truly is like to be a book nerd. They do a pretty good job at it, and their short videos always give me a chuckle.

Below are two of my favorite videos that they have done for this series. Do you have a favorite so far?

I mean this one is so accurate it hurts.

...and so is this one I guess.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tired of Dystopia? Try These Instead!

Don't get me wrong, I love dystopia, but lately, I've been reading too much of it that I could really use a break from it. Since dystopia appears to be the it genre in young adult fiction right now, I wanted to put together a list of suggestions for some non-dystopian novels. That list ended up being massively long, so I think I'm going to start doing a weekly blog breaking it down by genre. Feel free to also leave comments below with some recommendations!

So for the first week, I want to start with some contemporary novels that I really enjoyed. Most of the novels that I suggest will be YA, but not all of them. Also, most of these books I read during high school, so to current YA readers they might be a bit dated, but I believe they stand the test of time. When I read them they had an impact on me, so I hope they have an impact on you too.

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic is really hard to explain, but it's a story told in dual perspectives about two teenagers that join in a game called Panic. The game has been played in this small, poor town in up-state New York for as long as anyone can remember. It's basically a series of escalating and dangerous dares, but whomever is left standing at the end wins a boat load of cash. The back and forth between the two characters is flawless, and Oliver has lovely writing in this one.

Dreamland By Sarah Dessen

This was the first book I read by Dessen, and it was incredibly intense. Dreamland tells the story of how Caitlin falls in love with Rogerson Biscoe, but he is not whom he seems as he begins to physically abuse her. This book might be hard for some readers to swallow. I read this when I was 14, and luckily I have never been in this situation, but this book rocked me to my core.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close By Jonathan Safran Foer

My cousin introduced me to Foer, and this book was the first where I discovered how a book can really interact with its reader. Foer tells the story of a young boy whose father died in 9/11 and how he tries to solve the mystery of who his dad was. It's an interesting and experimental story centered around such a traumatic event in American current history, that I think it's worth a read.

See the rest after the jump.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

If you want a nice little happy book about magical realism, get off this blog and don't read this book! But if you're a book masochist like I am, let me tell you about newcomer Leslye Walton's debut novel The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. 

I don't get to read a lot of magical realism, but whenever I do they always have a certain air of mystery to them. Walton delivers that in this book. I felt like I was stepping into a cloud whenever I picked up this book, and her dreamy writing style captured my attention immediately.

Some complaints that I've seen about the novel is that the book is more about Ava's grandmother and her mother's sorrows. I don't necessarily think that is true.

I think you need the context of Ava's family history to understand how this strange girl born with wings came into the world. Due to this strange yet beautiful mutation, she is burdened with not fitting in her whole life. Her sorrow is that she is so very alone, and she was born with wings that do not even let her fly. It makes her feel more like a freak then someone special. I think you get that early on, and if you don't see her mother and grandmother's sorrows you wouldn't have the complete story about the Roux family.

I don't want to give away the ending, but I do think that it's debatable about what really happens to Ava. Something huge does happen in the climax of the novel; something that will make you clutch your heart. I think overall the ending is written as a happy one, but I also think that you could interrupt the ending as a dream. I like to believe that in the end she comes to terms with her life and she is happy.

I quite enjoyed Walton's debut as a young adult novelist, and I would love to see what other magical realism novels she brings to the writing world. I'm giving this a 7.5 out of 10.

What did you think about this book? Leave me a comment below.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Get More Books By Blogging About Them!

Back in May when I first started up this blog I wrote a post on how to get free books. I'm really good at being savvy on various social media sites and finding book sweepstakes. At the time I wrote about Read It Forward and said they give away a book a month. That is actually incorrect, if you are signed up as a member they will email you about book giveaways each week. I haven't won yet, but if the books strikes my interest I'll enter it. Honestly, what do you have to lose? Nothing! So anytime I see a book contest, 90% of the time I will enter it, even if I have never heard of the book before. It's always nice to get out of your reading comfort zone.

Read It Forward is courtesy of Crown Publishing, which is also apart of Random House, which is now Penguin Random House. I don't care which publishing companies merge, just as long as they keep on contracting awesome books!

Read It Forward actually isn't the only way to get free books from Crown. They just recently opened up an advanced reader program called Blogging For Books.  Since I enter their contests a lot and give them my blog url in the entry form, I was invited into the program. It looks like this isn't just a invite-only program so I wanted to bring it to the attention of my fellow advanced readers and book bloggers.

Basically all you have to do is sign up and fill out the entry form, which I think took me 10-15 minutes. The entry form will ask you specific questions about what type of books you like to read so it will give you books suggestions that you might enjoy. Once you find a book you want, you request a copy which can be print or e-book. Sometimes it really depends on the book availability. All you really have to do is write an honest review about the book that they send you. The cool thing I like about this program is you don't necessarily have to already have a book blog. You can write your review right on their website. If you do have a book blog, you can write it normally and then just upload the url so it feeds onto their website.

I thought this was a really cool program, and I'm excited to get started with it. I also thought it was something my readers would be interested in. If you know of any other advanced reader programs, leave me a comment below and I will add it to my Sites for Book Lovers page.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

I Don't Like Endings

For the most part, I haven't really blogged about my actual writing on here. Mostly, because I've been busy trying to finish writing the first draft of my second novel. The other part is because I wanted this blog to not just be a blog where I write out my frustrations. I want this blog to be a place to talk about authors I love, books I love, and things that are going on in the literature world in general. I want it to be a place for all readers. However, today I want to blog about my frustration with ending a story.

First things first, I do not think a story is ever complete. Every draft is a working draft, and every story, short story or poem has room for improvement, even if the author thinks it's the best thing they have ever written. It might be your best, but you can do better. I know I have experienced this myself, because when I went to send the working draft of my first novel to my beta readers, I told them, "This is probably the worst thing you will ever read, you should probably just read the new one when I'm finished." 

I've been bouncing back and forth between two drafts, but the current one Head Games just seems more thought-out, more planned, and more likely to get published. If it ever does. WHEN. I have to tell myself when now. I really love some of things that I've been able to spit out with Head Games, and I actually spent a lot of time researching concussions and post-concussion syndrome to really get the mannerisms of my main character Artemis' long lost father correctly. I feel so much better about this novel, but I am struggling with writing the end. It took me about a week to actually get out all my thoughts about the last chapter, and I know exactly what I am going to do with the epilogue, but man I still don't really like the ending. It just feels like it's falling flat. 

The good thing is that once I've finished writing the first draft, I can go back and fix all those plot holes I dug myself in. So I definitely know that I'll be able to make that ending my best. Endings are just hard, because where do you leave your characters? Where does their story end? I think maybe their stories don't just end at the bottom of the page. I think they stay in readers hearts, and I really want to make that impact with my writing. 

Wanting to become a writer is probably the dumbest thing I ever thought to do, but I wouldn't change it for anything.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

UnWholly: A Book Review

So if you haven't read my review of UnWind, go do that now! And if you haven't read that book, be forewarned that there might be some spoilers after the jump.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Laurie Halse Anderson Is A BAMFing Writer--And Don't You Forget It!

I was talking to a friend the other night about how we think Laurie Halse Anderson doesn't get as much credit in the Young Adult Fiction community as she deserves. Not that she hasn't had a really huge impact on YA, but that people just don't talk about that impact as much as they do with other authors. Anderson is a BAMF when it comes to YA, and I'm going to tell you why.

I had the pleasure of meeting Anderson in the eighth grade. It was a random occurrence, and I'm not sure how myself and two friends managed to speak to her after a middle school presentation she did at Unami Middle School. Somehow we managed to talk with her for a few moments, a photograph was taken for the school newspaper, and it is probably a memory I will cherish for a long time. It is probably another catalyst that gave me the drive to pursue writing.

At the time Speak was in it's hey day, and we were told that we had to read one of Anderson's books because she was coming to do a presentation. I hated middle school, and being constantly compared to my rocket-scientist smarter older brother (no really, he is actually a rocket scientist now), so I didn't really pay attention to that announcement. I was pressed for time to read one of her books, so a friend leant me Speak and I couldn't put it down. I don't think I ever gave it back, because there's a copy on my shelf and I don't remember buying it. (Sorry Kristi) I read it in 3 days flat, and I couldn't get enough of it.

It was one of the first times that I really related to a character that felt uncomfortable in their own skin. It was also one of the few books that had been thrust upon us that I actually gave a damn about, because Melinda talked like us, and thought like us, and we could clearly see the plight she struggled with. And maybe some of us had dealt with a similar situation. I was not one of those kids, but I knew this book was important.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Unwind: A Book Review

There is no way that Unwind would ever be made into a movie. The book is fantastic, and while the plot is very thought provoking, it's content would be way too controversial.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman was recommended by a friend from college. She's pretty good at knowing what type of books I will like, and when I will hate them, so I usually listen to her recommendations. Unwind is a completed fucked up story, and it's hard to express my thoughts about the first novel in this dystology without a few spoilers.

So you have been warned!!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Books of Orange Is the New Black

With the new season of Orange Is the New Black going live on Netflix last weekend, there has been a lot of news about a little tumblr blog dedicated to it. Why am I writing about this on my writing blog? Because the Tumblr blog focuses on the Books of Orange is the New Black, hence the name.

I also saw a buzzfeed list about this that referenced the Tumblr blog. I'm on Tumblr way too much than should be normal, so the blog definitely appeals to me. Book blogs on that site are always aesthetically pleasing.

Whomever runs the blog has also broken out a list of book references in the show from both season 1 and season 2. They have also been posting about some of the fake prop books that have also been used in the show.

It's pretty thorough, so I highly suggest checking it out.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Allegiant: A Book Review

Before I give you the absolute truth about how I felt about Veronica Roth's Allegiant, let's recap on the how I felt about the first two novels in this series.

Divergent: The first novel in the series was okay, but it wasn't the best thing I had ever read. I liked the story enough, but I thought Tris was kind of a bitch. It was a quick read, so I did enjoy it.

Insurgent: I enjoyed the second installment more than the first, which I think is actually rare. Tris did some really stupid things in this novel, but I liked that it was more action packed than the first one.

Okay, now for Allegiant. Oh boy, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. In the end, I did enjoy the story, but I have a lot of problems with how the story was told.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

So How Many Books Will George R.R. Martin REALLY Write?

It took me six months to read all five books of A Song of Ice and Fire Saga. It was rewarding, as those books are a challenge. George R.R. Martin not only paints a great political struggle, but he has a way with multiple perspective that is just fantastic. Some readers complain that he is too descriptive, but I adore his attention to detail. So of course when I finished A Dance of Dragons, I just wanted to go out and get the Winds of Winter. Therein lies the problem.

Fans have been waiting, perhaps not-so-patiently, for the next installment of the series. But are there really only going to be seven books? According to Paste Magazine Martin's editor Anne Groell hinted that the author may need one more book to complete the saga.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Eight books? Yet we still haven't seen the 6th one? Look, as an author, I know the process of writing a book is a long and drawn out one. I cannot imagine what it takes to put out a book of the magnitude that Martin does. However, it's been quite some time since the last installment, so don't start telling me that another book is getting added to the to-be-written pile on Martin's desk.

So my anger aside, my other reaction to this news is, will Martin live long enough to finish this series? It's obviously a huge concern not only for the fans of the book series, but for the author himself. In case of his untimely death, Martin has already told the show's producers what he intends to happen to all of his characters. If that's not cause for concern for the book readers, I don't know what is.

I'm not sure what to believe, but I won't believe anything until I see the Winds of Winter on my bookshelf.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Periodic Table of Epic Reads--Say What?!?

I LOVE LOVE LOVE me some infographics, if you haven't noticed that already. And Epic Reads always makes some balling infographics. If you're a young adult book fan and you aren't following Epic Reads in some form, you are severely missing out. No serious, go on their website right meow! I guarantee it will be worth your while.

I love the Like, Try, Why graphics that they put out on a regular basis, but yesterday they rolled out the above Periodic Table of Epic Reads, and it is awesome!

There is a full on legend to explain what everything means. Some key things to point out is that they include the amount of pages for each book, the category, and group. The thing that I really love about this infographic is that they grouped book series together and indicated how many books are in the series. Do you know how many times I get sucked into series I don't have time for because I don't realize they are series? ALL THE TIME. So I think this is a useful tool in that sense.

I love things like these, and I think it's another cool way to discover new books.

Which books have you read on the Epic Reads Periodic Table?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, June 2, 2014

An Update On Reading Rainbow's Kickstarter

Last week, I posted about Reading Rainbow's kickstarter to bring content back for children everywhere by utilizing new technology and giving classroom segments to schools for free. In the first 11 hours of their campaign, they made it to their $1 million goal, so the Reading Rainbow team made some big plans to stretch their goals.

Reading Rainbow was pivotal to my childhood, so my first reaction upon hearing about the campaign was this:

No, for real, that was my reaction. 

Reading Rainbow gained a lot of attention after their project became an overnight success. LeVar Burton even did an Reddit AMA the next day. I definitely recommend you check it out. Burton is quite elegant with his words, but he is also such a genuine person. You can tell not only from his interactions with his fans, but through his desire to continue to foster a love of reading in children. I really admire that about him, and I think he is a great role model for kids. 

The project will be funded, but the team is setting a new goal to raise $5 million. That way, they get their program into more schools and onto more platforms like mobile, android, game consoles and set-top boxes. They can do a lot of good for future generations of readers, so I am a big fan of what they are doing. They have already raised $3,314, 599 in six days. SIX DAYS! That's amazing! Their kickstarter still has 29 days left, so I am pretty confident that they will be able to reach that goal. Even if they don't reach their new goal, the money they have already raised will be really influential to help battle illiteracy and get kids interested in reading again. 

But don't take my word for it! Check out new updates from the Reading Rainbow crew to see for yourself. 

Happy Reads Everyone!

Panic: Book Review

First things first, I do not like this cover. My day job is in marketing and advertising, so I get what the publisher is trying to do, but I hate it. People do judge books by their covers, I know I'm guilty of it, and this cover does not do the story justice.

It took me only a week to read this book, so I think that should give you an inclination on how I felt about the book. I literally had no idea what Panic was going to be about, and maybe that was Lauren Oliver's intention, because she had me flipping those pages faster each time. I wanted to know who was going to win the game and the $67,000 dollars. I wanted to know if Panic would even continue after someone died during the game.

Although, I did come to really like this book, Panic was a huge challenge for me. Oliver's writing is fantastic. So much that it made me want to cry, because I never think my writing will be that good. Her writing didn't present a problem for me, it was her characters. I loved that we got two different points of view in this book, and that they were male and female. I liked the juxtaposition of the storytelling in that light; however, I found it hard to relate to or even like her characters.

We meet Heather first, and she came off as cold and judgmental, but once you learn about her mom you start to understand why she is the way she is. I think she made bad decisions and misjudged a lot of things, but in the end I was rooting for her. Dodge is the male narrator, and at first I really liked him, but then his plot for revenge starts to paint him as more of a villain. I liked Dodge, and understood where his anger was coming from, but I wanted him to let it go. I felt indifferent to Heather's friend Bishop, but I didn't really like Natalie. I'm still not sure how I feel about her.

I think the story is interesting enough, so in spite of not really connecting to the characters, I still really enjoyed it. It was a challenge to read, but a challenge I needed. This book was not what I was expecting, but it was a pleasant surprise.I'm giving it an 8 out of 10.

Have a different opinion about Panic? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Avalon High Coronation-A Sorta Book Review

I loved Meg Cabot's stand-alone novel Avalon High. So much that when I read it, I immediately flipped back to the first page and re-read it. Cabot never wrote a sequel to this story, but she did happen to put out three manga style graphic novels to continue the story.

One of the major criticisms I've seen about this manga series is that the original novel does not translate well into the new medium. I went into these keeping that in mind, and reminding myself that it is a different medium, so perhaps it will come across differently than a full-length novel.

So here's the thing, I wanted to like these graphic novels so much more than I did. I mean, I did like them, but they can't compete with Cabot's other works. I think it was a cool concept, and an interesting risk for the author to take, but to me these were just okay. The graphic novels were relatively short, and it didn't take me long to get through them. (You can read all three in a day.) I liked how they engaged the reader, and I recommend it for a anyone who is having a "reading hangover."

The plot didn't really engage me as much as I think it would have had it been written as a full-length novel. I also still think that the new ending left some things open-ended. I loved the book so much, but the mangas didn't have some of that same pull for me.

Despite some flaws, I did still enjoy parts of this series so I am giving it a 5.5 out of 10. I hate to do that because it's Cabot, and I love her writing, but this series was a bit different.

Do you have a different opinion about the manga series? Or a book you want to be reviewed? Leave me a comment below!

Happy Reads Everyone!