Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lettering and Calligraphy #20 - Your Voice is All I Hear

Lettering & Calligraphy is a new feature on the blog where I can share to you guys my other hobby besides reading. This feature will showcase my letter and calligraphy works of quotes from various books. I'm not an expert or even anywhere near , but I just wanted to share my works. :)
"A person sick with cancer has the support of the community. Everyone bands together to help. Friends organize bake sales and blood drives. Next door neighbors bring tuna casseroles to the family. There are no casseroles for schizophrenia. People are afraid so they keep away. The families are embarrassed, so the hide. They pretend that their son or daughter has gone abroad or is busy at school. Anything to avoid telling the truth." - Your Voice is All I Hear by Leah Scheier
 For me, this is one of the best and most important quotes that I've ever encountered in books. As a psychology major, this is something that I really want everyone to know.

Friday, June 24, 2016

ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Publication Date: July 7th, 2016
Pages: 496
My Rating: 2 Stars
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she'll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is totally not what I expected at all. And I Darken is shelved under fantasy and historical fiction in Goodreads, and I expected more from the fantasy than the historical aspect of it. However, it turns out that this has a more historical fiction feel, even if it doesn't follow historical events.

And I Darken features an anti-princess that you would just love to hate. Lada is cruel, ruthless and cunning, even when it comes to the ones she holds dear. She would fight anyone in her way, even if it means hurting the ones she love. But beneath all that hard exterior, what Lada wants most of all is to return home to Wallachia, and finally claim what is hers (or so she thinks).

For the first 50% of this book, I was so bored that I almost gave up on it. The narrative was overbearing most of the time, but written in such a way that you can't risk not reading it because there would be information there. I only convinced myself to finish this book because so many had liked it, and I so badly wanted to like it myself. It's a good thing that after the first 50% of the book, it picked up and became a little bit more interesting. It wasn't exciting or anything, but just a little bit interesting so reading it wouldn't be a torture.

I think because that because of what I expected from this book, I became really disappointed by it. I truly thought that there would be a touch of fantasy in the sense of powers or something, but there wasn't anything. And I would have been fine with that if this was an interesting book, but no, no, no; not at all. I also expected the plot to be on a much larger scale than what I got. I think the plot didn't do the characters and the world - if I can call it that - justice.

I tried so hard to like this, but to no avail. I am deeply disappointed because it was one of my highly anticipated releases, and I was so glad when I got approved. However, it just didn't live up to my expectations.

2 what-a-bore stars

Monday, June 20, 2016

ARC Review: A Season for Fireflies

Title: A Season for Fireflies
Author: Rebecca Maizel
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Pages: 256
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
A story of second chances from the author of Between Us and the Moon, which Kirkus Reviews called “what first love is meant to be.”

A year ago, Penny Berne was the star of her high school’s theater department, surrounded by a group of misfit friends and falling in love for the first time. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, her new best friend is the most popular girl in school, and her first love, Wes, ignores her. Penny is revered and hated. Then, in a flash, a near-fatal lightning strike leaves Penny with no memory of the past year—or how she went from drama nerd to queen bee. 

As a record number of fireflies light up her town and her life, Penny realizes she may be able to make things right again—and that even if she can’t change the past, she can learn to see the magic where she never could before.

This captivating new novel about first love, second chances, and the power of memory is perfect for fans of Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Katie Cotugno’s How to Love. 

 I received this book from Netgalley and St. Martins Griffin in exchange for an honest review.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure about whether I wanted to read this book or not. I saw a lot of people wanted to read it, so I just requested it as well. But then I saw that the Goodreads ratings weren't so high, and I had a teeny tiny panic attack about not liking this book. However, this is the only instance when I'm glad my opinion varies from everyone else because I actually really liked this one! 

I haven't been able to connect to a main character for the books that I recently read so the fact that I was able to connect to Penny was a major, major plus point. I also connected to the story as well, and the romance made me feel all the feels! I'm a sucker for romance filled with tension so this was a major win! 

A Season for Fireflies explored a heavy topic - alcoholic parent - but it wasn't a heavy book. Yes, it made me feel a lot of emotions but it wasn't exactly the kind of heavy book that I used to read. And I'm actually glad because I've been avoiding heavy-emotion books so far because they sometimes ruin my mood. A Season for Fireflies, in my opinion, is the perfect in-between between heavy-issue and light and fluffy. 

Aside from the fact that I really loved the romance and how the author showed the side of how a school's queen b can also be hurt and feel jealous, I don't know what else to say about this book. I mean, the friendship and development is good, but it's not exceptional. The family aspect is explored, but it's nothing special as well. However, I really, really loved this book for some reason, and I don't know why people rated it so low.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and all the feels it gave me. I would say that I recommend it but based on the not-so-high reviews from other readers, I would also advice you to listen at your own risk.

4.5 perfect-in-between stars. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dress Up That Cover #63 - A Thousand Pieces of You

  Dress Up That Cover is a new feature where I create an outfit based merely on the cover, not the story nor what the characters would wear. Colors of the outfit will all be taken from the cover design, so the books may be ones that I haven't read yet. All sets will be created via Polyvore.
  This week's feature is A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Oh man, the cover and the plot of this book are two amazing things! I question myself every day why I still haven't read the second book yet, and the answer? Too much homework and a mountain of books for review. :(

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mini Review: The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele

Title: The Marked Girl
Author: Lindsey Klingele
Series: The Marked Girl #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date:  June 7th, 2016
Pages: 400
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Los Angeles)…

When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day L.A. via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task… 

  I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

One thing you should know about me is that I am a hardcore contemporary girl, and as a hardcore contemporary girl, I don't usually read fantasy book. However, when the book is an urban fantasy, I am usually game. This is why I was super excited to read this book! Right from the start, I was really interested in the concept.

The Marked Girl is a really interesting book. People from another world called Caelum went through a portal escaping an enemy, only to land in LA. It's filled with both inner and outer conflicts, questionable motives and standing by each other. I also really enjoyed the romance in this book, even though it's just a teeny tiny portion of it.

However, I think that this book needs more polishing. Yes, the plot is interesting, but it needs something more to tie everything together in a nice bow. I'm also really curious about Caelum, and was disappointed that not much was mentioned about the world and how it works. Although I guess we'll learn about it in the next book. The story is also action-packed, but it still lacks this something to make it more enjoyable and unputdownable.

This book is really interesting, and I cannot wait to find out more about Caelum in book two! I don't think that this book is going to be for everyone, but for fantasy beginners, this will be an easy read. Overall, it's good but it lacks something to make it better.

3.5 can-still-improve stars

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mini Review: Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger

Title: Change Places With Me 
Author: Lois Metzger
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  June 14th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 224
My Rating: 2.5 Stars
Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

Change Places with Me has a synopsis that just made me need to know what's going on. The synopsis is very vague, but in this instance it worked out perfectly. However, I can't help but be disappointed.

Change Places with Me is a very weird book. The tone of the whole book is weird, and Rose talks as if she's not a fifteen-year-old girl. Once you start reading the novel, what's behind the mystery kind of gets predictable. The characters, for me, are not well-developed, and there was a hint of romance that was not explored. Or even if it's just friendship, it still wasn't explored well.

The resolution is a good resolution generally, but it's not a proper ending to tie all lose ends. I felt like it ended abruptly, but the ending was really beautiful. However, even until the end, both the speech and the narration were still awkward.

I think the only thing that I liked about this novel is how much of a quick read it is. I read this in just a few hours and it's easy to breeze through. The book is not so bad in the sense that it didn't make me cringe. The book is just really not for me. Overall, it was kind of 'meh.'

2.5 weird stars

Monday, June 13, 2016

ARC Review: We Were Never Here by Jennifer Gilmore

Title: We Were Never
Author: Jennifer Gilmore
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date:  June 14th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 320
My Rating: 1.5 Stars
In this exquisitely written, emotionally charged young adult debut, Jennifer Gilmore explores the bond that is formed between a hospitalized girl and the secretly troubled boy she falls in love with.

Did you know your entire life can change in an instant?

For sixteen-year-old Lizzie Stoller that moment is when she collapses, out of the blue. The next thing she knows she’s in a hospital with an illness she’s never heard of.

But that isn’t the only life-changing moment for Lizzie. The other is when Connor and his dog, Verlaine, walk into her hospital room. Lizzie has never connected with anyone the way she does with the handsome, teenage volunteer. However, the more time she spends with him, and the deeper in love she falls, the more she realizes that Connor has secrets and a deep pain of his own . . . and that while being with him has the power to make Lizzie forget about her illness, being with her might tear Connor apart. 

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

  When I first saw this book on Goodreads, I really thought that it would be one of those books where my opinions would differ with everyone else's. So despite seeing the not-so-high ratings in Goodreads, I still requested this. However, I have to say that the others were right about this book from the start.

  The premise of this book just seemed so interesting to me when I first read the synopsis. According to the synopsis, it's about a romance between a hospitalized girl and a troubled boy, which just sounded so interesting! I also saw a review that mentioned that this has mental illness in it, so of course I was interested. However, this book is more about pining away for someone who is not there rather than a romance that would make you feel the feels.

  Let me just say this - I hated Connor's character. He's a chronic liar who thinks that the world revolves around him. I get that he's depressed but I don't think that's an excuse for being pathetic. Speaking of depression, I hate the way it was portrayed in this book. I know that it's not the center of the story, but seriously. Connor was not given the help that he needed, which just resulted to him being worse. He was continuously sent away, but not to get help. Ugh!

  Also, there was no chemistry whatsoever between Connor and Lizzie. I didn't feel anything, which might also be caused by how few the time they spent with each other were. Which brings me to the point of insta-love because they've only seen each other a few times and they were already in love with each other. Nope, I just couldn't stand it.

  Another thing I didn't like was how the characters interacted with each other. The conversations between Stella B. and Lizzie felt so awkward and chopped, and I just really didn't like it. It was also the case sometimes with Connor. Sometimes there would be one-word replies, which were just weird and awkward in my opinion.

  Overall, I really didn't enjoy this book. In fact, it took me almost a week just to finish reading this because there was just nothing to hold me onto the book. In this case, I should have listened to what everyone else was saying.

1.5 nope stars

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lettering and Calligraphy #19 - Running Barefoot

Lettering & Calligraphy is a new feature on the blog where I can share to you guys my other hobby besides reading. This feature will showcase my letter and calligraphy works of quotes from various books. I'm not an expert or even anywhere near , but I just wanted to share my works. :)
"You can't build walls and then be mad when no one wants to climb over them." - Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon
  Words to live by by Amy Harmon! This one really hit me hard because I am like that. I build walls and then get hurt when no one wants to climb over them. That's why I always remember this quote.

Friday, June 10, 2016

ARC Review: Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker

Title: Cure for the Common Universe
Author: Christian McKay Heidicker
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Humor, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 14th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 320
My Rating: 4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab . . .

ten minutes after he met a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon's first date. Ever.

In rehab, he can't blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can't slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has just four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he'll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother's absence, and maybe admit that it's more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

Prepare to be cured. 

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

I have one very big problem about this book, and it's the ending. Aside from that very big problem, however, I have no other complaints about this book. I mean, come on, video game rehab! Enough said! Cure for the Common Universe is such a unique and fun book to read, while showing us the main character's quest towards self-discovery. 

"Just because something goes wrong in your life doesn't mean you get to become the wrong in everyone else's."

I really enjoyed reading this book. Jaxon was committed to video game rehab by his dad for spending hours and hours playing video games, and there, Jaxon has to earn 1 million points to be released. Since Jaxon met this girl Serena right before he was committed, he would do anything in order to get that one million points in time for their date, which is in four days! Because Jaxon was focused on this goal, he pushed people, used them, and became incredibly selfish.

I really like the fact that this book was able to show how someone can be so selfish and yet never realize it. It shows that while being selfish, there may be people - like soup - to feed (no pun intended) that selfishness, making us not aware of it. People come off as trying to help, and that's just what they're doing, but it only makes people not realize that they're being selfish because it's offered to them. And what Jaxon did was just take and take, without even properly viewing Soup as a human being, or as an equal. Meeki gave him shit for being selfish, but Jaxon only viewed it as someone getting in his way.

"Nobody Puts Princess in a Castle
Every Warrior Needs an Adventure
Party People Aren't Medicine
Everyone's a Grouchy Cow on Their First Day"

This book shows that we can so blinded by our goals that we don't realize how self-centered we are becoming. It shows that we will hate the people who tell us the truth because we only think of ourselves as achieving our goals. It shows that there may be people who are so important but get pushed to the sidelines because we are so blinded by what we think is right. It shows that sometimes, achieving the goal is not the most important thing, but the journey that you took to get to it.

I really like how unique Cure for the Common Universe is. From introducing a fun video game rehab facility, to the amazing characters, to featuring a main character that you would just love to hate, I think the author did a magnificent job. Man, I would love to see this book as a movie! Just imagine seeng the video game rehab center! I think a lot of people would enjoy it too.

However, as I said in the beginning, my issue with this book is the ending. I felt like it didn't give justice to the story. I felt like it ended abruptly, and I felt like I was left hanging. There were still so many questions I had that were left unanswered, and I was just staring at the book in the end because I couldn't believe that that was already the ending. I need more!

Other than the ending, however, I don't have any other complaints about this book. It's an amazing book, and one I think everyone should read. It's a quick and easy read, it's also not heavy, but it carries along a strong message that everyone needs to hear. I highly recommend everyone to read this.

level-up stars

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

ARC Review: Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi

Title: Autofocus
Author: Lauren Gibaldi
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date:  June 14th, 2016
Pages: 352
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.

Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with her search. Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

"I'm a blur. I'm not clear and crisp like some people; instead I'm messy on the edges and not quite formed. I'm many pieces all put into one, and one day I'll figure them all out. But right now, I'm happy being a blur. I'm happy being every part of me, every image of me, even if they don't feel like me."

When I learned that Lauren Gibaldi was coming up with a new book, I was really excited. I read her debut novel The Night We Said Yes and I really enjoyed it, so I wanted to read whatever she came up with. I was so excited about this, in fact, that I didn't care what it was about and I just requested this one without really reading the synopsis. I had no idea that this was about adoption, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Autofocus is about a girl who went on a journey to find out more about her birth mother, who died when she gave birth to Maude. Her adoptive parents are not exactly supportive, but not exactly not supportive either, which I think was good because that makes it more realistic. So Maude goes to FSU to visit her best friend, and there she finds out more about her mom.

What I liked:

1. The romance: What's amazing about the romance of this book is that the two characters started out as friends, which is just so rare in YA nowadays. I mean, yeah, people start getting to know each other in books, but they didn't feel like being friends like Maude and Bennett were, you know? I really liked that they spent time not liking each other first, then getting to know each other, then liking each other.

2. Realistic: Maude has a good relationship with her adoptive parents, but they weren't exactly happy when she wanted to go on this journey to find her biological mother. I think that's a realistic portrayal because no matter how close she is to her parents, I think most adoptive parents will have some inhibitions and worries about their kid looking for his/her biological mother. However, I'm glad that Maude didn't have any problem in general when it came to convincing her parents, which I think was also realistic, considering that her parents really do love her as well and want what's best for her. They only wanted Maude to be careful and remember that she might be disappointed.

3. Self-discovery: Maude took a journey to find her mom in order to find herself. It's actually a cliche, but I didn't really mind because I love books with self discovery. Maude realized that her biological mom doesn't actually define her, which is also another cliche, but then Maude also realized that she isn't necessarily like anyone else as well. I think that's something important for everyone to know - that we can be unique and ourselves, not defined by who others are or the circumstances around us.

4. Bennett: Bennett is such a dork and a gentleman combined into one! He had a lot of opportunities to take advantage of Maude, but he chose not to. Instead, what he did was accompany Maude through her journey, and was there for her every step of the way. He understood when Maude needed company and when Maude needed to be alone. He was also a great friend first to Maude, and that matters.

What I didn't exactly like: 

1. Connection: I couldn't fully connect to the main character and the story. I don't know why, but I just wasn't that invested in it. This is my main problem with the book, which is why I couldn't give it a higher rating. I really enjoyed reading the story, and I connected to it a little, but I just couldn't fully connect to it.

2. The ending: I feel like in terms of the romance part, the ending didn't really give it justice. I would really like to find out more of what happened in the end, or how they planned to move forward with their relationship. They still talked, but I just wanted to know, what now?

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this story. It was a quick read and it was interesting. My only main problem about it is that I couldn't fully connect to it.

3.5 couldn't-connect stars