Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday Thinks: I'm Going Back to NTTBF!



So, I don't know if you remember last year when I went to NTTBF and had an amazing time and met my friendship soulmate. My kindred spirit, the nacho to my cheese, the chip to my salsa, the rice to my beans (Yes, I realize I just used three comparison phrases that revolve around Mexican food). Anyway, that was over a year ago now, and as you can probably guess from the post's title and the ginormous picture above, this is my official "I'M GOING BACK TO NTTBF!" post.

The festival is sure to be an amazing one, and I can't wait to come back to the Lone Star state and shake things up with some AHHH-MAZING authors. I have a few interviews set up with some spectacular people, and I am over-the-moon excited. It'll be a fantastic day, and I'm already looking forward to it. 

If you're in the Texas area and had no idea about this festival, here's a link to the website. Here, you can find out which authors will be in attendance, where the festival will be located, and what kind of panels will take place during the day.

I know from having gone last year that it'll be a great day, so this is something that you don't want to miss. If you're going, let me know! I'd love to meet some readers/bloggers!

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: All Fall Down by Ally Carter


Title: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Two stars

Description from Goodreads: A new series of global proportions-- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy
2. Her mother was murdered
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her-- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace-- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to haunt her... and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.


I met Ally Carter last March at NTTBF. I heard her speak on panels and watched her signing line reach out through the door. Her pitch of her novel, ALL FALL DOWN, had caught my interest, but for whatever reason I didn't leave the festival that day with the book. Later that year, Ally was one of the attending authors at Anderson's Literature Conference, and I heard her talk about the upcoming release of the second book in the Embassy Row series, but I didn't leave Lit Conf with an Ally Carter book, either. Now, I find out that she's going to be at a festival that I'm going to, and I decided that this was it. So I went out and bought the book, devoured it in two days, and now... I'm not sure how I feel.

Throughout the book, I had a big problem connecting to the characters. They just weren't touching me, emotionally, and I could never figure any of them out. Generally, I'd say that's a good thing in a mystery novel-- not knowing who has good intentions and who has bad intentions is the thing that really makes a mystery intense and suspenseful. But in this case, there was no character that I was attached to, so I wasn't caught off guard by the inevitable betrayal, and I wasn't rooting for anyone in particular. This is something that bothered me, as character connections are the things that really sell me on a book.

As for the plot. I was all with it, loved the process of introduction to the plot points and characters, was easily following one point to another, and I thought I had it pegged. Most of the time, I'm great with figuring out plots-- untwisting and untwining them until I know how everything will play out-- but with this one, I had myself double guessing my choice, and then my backup choice, and it turns out that both of them were wrong. And what ended up being the truth, while extremely interesting, I didn't feel was thought out well enough. It seemed haphazard and thrown together, and it didn't make me feel anything. The entire ending seemed rather odd to me. Like it happened too quickly to make everything mesh well together.

I give ALL FALL DOWN two stars, though I will be reading the second one to see how things play out, because I need to see what's going on with this story. Even though I didn't enjoy it, I have to give it a second shot, because something about this first book just doesn't add up.

It actually felt as if I were reading a Middle Grade novel.

Ally Carter fans, did you feel that this was poorly executed? 

(Un)happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thursday Thinks: If Books Were Shoes


Everyone knows that the right pair of shoes can be the difference between a good day and a bad day. They need to be comfortable, and stylish, and just the right height, but my perfect shoe may not be the same as your perfect shoe. Everyone is different. 

Just like books. Each one is different. Each book holds a different story, a different lifestyle, and a different set of characters. Some are peaceful stories, and others are full of angst and turmoil.

This got me thinking about books and their relations to clothing. If you go onto Pinterest, you can find fan-made Ideal Outfits for countless characters from books and movies. Oftentimes, these are clothes, shoes, jewelry, and purse outfits. But what about shoes only? For me, I'll see a pair of shoes and say, "Oh, that's totally a *Insert book title* kind of shoe*". In fact, I have a pair of black lace-up leather boots that I bought specifically because they reminded me of something straight out of a Cassandra Clare novel.

So I've thought long and hard, and I decided to write up this post.

If Books Were Shoes, what would they look like?




The Fault in Our Stars by John green

If TFIOS were a pair of shoes, they would absolutely be a pair of Chucks. Not only does Hazel wear Converse most of the time, but it's just a laid-back shoe that perfectly fits Hazel's personality.




The Shadowhunters books by Cassandra Clare


If you've read any of the books from the Shadowhunter world, then you know exactly why I chose this boot. You may even be nodding and smiling right now. It screams Nephilim, and I can definitely see a few of our fierce fighting gals donning these shoes before a battle.




Front Lines by Michael Grant


Not quite combat boots, but  not quite every-day boot, these shoes are the perfect embodiment of the female soldiers we've come to know and love. There's even a pocket for a tube of lipstick... or a small knife... depending on which girl decides to wear them.




Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufmann


For such a major sci-fi, only out of this world shoes will suffice, and these definitely scream ILLUMINAE to me. I could just see people walking around amongst the stars in these heels, strutting their stellar stuff.



The Splintered Series by A.G. Howard



As soon as I saw these, I thought of Alyssa Gardner and her talking bugs. I could see her traipsing around Wonderland in these heels, though I imagine she doesn't do much walking down there.



Percy Jackson and the Olympians/Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan


I honestly don't know how you could be a modern-day demigod without buying a pair of these hand-painted TOMS to wear at Camp. Not only are they great for Camp spirit, but they also perfectly match the tshirt, and while Aphrodite's daughters may not love the orange on orange, I think it's perfect.



Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling



What witch wouldn't wear these? School pride! House Representation! And the best part is that they can be worn with jeans, and then the crest will be hidden from any muggle eyes when worn away from school.



Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena. She would definitely wear these ironically and let it be a running joke with Ethan. Typical witch shoes for your atypical Caster.


These are just a few of the products of my brainstormation (Yep, made that up). What shoes have you seen and immediately related to a book or set of characters? Let me know down below.

Happily,
Stephanie




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid


Title: Never Always Sometimes
Author: Adi Alsaid
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: Never date your best friend.

Always be original.

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliche high school kids-- the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never dye your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild, and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the cliches, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even love.

I picked up NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES pretty quick after release date. Being a part of Adi's street team, I had to go out and show mu support! And then in February, I was checking my blog and realized I'd never reviewed it. This led me to do some checking, which is when I learned that, FOR MONTHS, I'd thought that I had read and reviewed NAS, when in reality, I hadn't done either. So I fixed that immediately.

Dave and Julia are literal best friend goals. As you journey through part of their high school lives, it becomes easy to fall in love with the pair. They have this perfect, unfailing friendship, and they perfectly balance each other out. Where Julia is wild and reckless, Dave is calm and laid back. She is the fire to his ice, and they are beautiful together. 

The idea of an anti-cliche high school experience was so much fun to read about. Not only did we get to see how each of these events affected their relationship, but also their relationships with the people around them, and it was like watching an experiment. Some of the things on their list, like rule  #5 and the hair dye, are things that I've always wanted to do, but would never really have the guts to go through with, so it was fun watching them experience these things together-- things that I would never, could never, do. 

And Julia and Dave doing them together made for some extremely hilarious chapters, let me tell you. Julia is a force to be reckoned with, and seeing her in all of these different, cliche lights... it was so much fun. Where Dave reminds me a lot of myself, Julia is the anti-Steph, and it was fun to watch the two interact and create these memories and experiences that will last them a lifetime.

And the romance in this one! It was so well done, not too much and too over-the-top, but not too vague and ignored. That's all I'm saying about that, or I'll end up spoiling it.

I definitely enjoyed NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES more than Adi's first one. LET'S GET LOST wasn't a bad book, but NAS just raised the bar quite a bit. This was a four star read for me, and I encourage any high schooler, past high schooler, or future high schooler to get their hands on a copy and read it asap. So, you know. Basically everyone. It won't be a bad decision, trust me.

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Thursday Thinks: BookTube

I've been blogging for just over two years now. In those two years, I've had some amazing experiences as a book reviewer, and I love getting to talk to you guys about books every single week. There's something about sharing your love of books with others that just... you can't beat that feeling.

 Keeping this in mind, I recently was sent a link to a review of Lady Midnight. This girl was a booktuber, and it was easily the best review I have ever seen. It had me laughing and gasping for breath, and then on the verge of tears all within minutes. How I had never seen one of her videos before was beyond me, but I proceeded to spend the next hour browsing through her channel and giggling to myself as I watched her freak out in the very same way that I do. All about books. 

It threw me back to when I, myself, finished Lady Midnight. As soon as I hit the last page, I was on skype with my best friend and we were screaming and laughing and crying (Okay, that was just on my part. And I managed to be discreet. I'm a ninja that way.) and we talked for almost two hours about this book. And then we convinced my mom to read The Mortal Instruments. And I had an absolute blast with that conversation.

So now that I've blogged for a while, the idea of starting a BookTube channel is rolling around in my brain. There's the obvious problem: I am so highly mega technologically challenged that I would not even know where to begin. But right now I see a lot of positives out there.

What I want to know is from you BookTubers out there.

What are your insider pros and cons? I want to know the real stuff from the real experts.

And what do you guys think... would I make a good BookTuber?

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: When We Collided by Emery Lord


Title: When We Collided
Author: Emery Lord
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: April 5, 2014
Format Read: ARC
Rating: Two stars

Description from Goodreads: Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power to save or destroy them.

Vivi and Johan couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Jandy Nelson, When We Collided is a powerful story of two teens whose love is put to the test by forces beyond their control.


I received an ARC of WHEN WE COLLIDED, and was over the moon excited for it. I hadn't read any of Lord's books yet (I'd heard many good things), and since I do enjoy books about mental illness, I thought that this would easily be a high star read. Apparently I was wrong.

Immediately, from the first scene he appeared, I fell in love with Jonah. He's the mature and responsible guy, a big brother to a quiver full of siblings whose parents have pretty much checked out of their lives, and he's of the more reserved type. Vivi is Jonah's immediate counterpart-- loud and bubbly and colorful and carefree-- and their summer romance ensues shortly after the first couple chapters.

I didn't like the way Jonah and Vivi meshed. Most of the book consisted of them being together, hanging out, but I didn't enjoy their dynamic. It felt off, and lopsided, and wrong. To me, Vivi was very clingy, both physically and emotionally, and she was always THERE. The amount of scenes, after the two met, that showed either Jonah or Vivi doing things on their own, discovering more of who they are, were very limited. And when it comes to character development, there were subtle changes, but nothing in terms of "Wow, they started here, and now they're there. They've grown so much.".

It's also Vivi as a character that I didn't like. She was just too much for me-- too much makeup and sass and boisterousness and too out there. It's hard to explain without you having read the book. 

As for the plot, I felt like it was too scattered. It led one way, and then swerved another, and then about three quarters of the way through the book, all of these new plot devices started popping up, especially with Vivi, and I got to where I was incredibly annoyed with the storyline, along with Vivi as a character.

This book was just not for me. I didn't enjoy it, and the only thing I found enjoyable was the scenes with Jonah and his family, and the scenes with one of the secondary characters that got very little page time. I would give it two stars, and wonder how other readers liked WHEN WE COLLIDED, especially in comparison to her other books.

(Un)Happily,
Stephanie

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