Thursday, April 30, 2015

April Wrap-Up and May TBR

Near the end of this month, I decided to make a comeback.  After a lot of thought, I returned to blogging for the first time since October 2013.  I realized I was so much happier reading and writing reviews than I was without.  You can read more about it in my post, Back from a Blogging Hiatus: Where I've Been and Where I Plan to Go.

The books I managed to read in April:
-Divergent by Veronica Roth
-Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu
-I Hate Myselfie by Shane Dawson
-Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby
-Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger
-The Secrets of Attraction by Robin Constantine
-On the Fence by Kasie West

The books I plan to read in May:

I know it's quite the list for someone who wanted to ease back into reading and blogging, but as of late, I've been reading a book a night. 
 I think I can handle 13 in 31 days!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Category: Dystopian
Release date: April 25th, 2011
Pages: 487 (ARC)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Source: Won
Goodreads | Amazon | Author

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I'm a little ashamed to admit that I let this book sit on my shelves for years before picking it up.  When Divergent first came out, there was so much hype surrounding the story.  Everyone loved it, everyone fangirled over Four.  I added it to my TBR pile, just like The Hunger Games, The Immortal Instruments and other series that I often heard about but never intended to pick up immediately.  I'm ashamed because Divergent is an incredible story.  One of the best I've read in a long time.  It completely restored my passion for reading and pulled me out of the slump I'd been in for over a year.

Although she doesn't seem to be at first, Tris proves to be a strong and inspirational character.  There was nothing that I didn't like about her.  She was very caring and loyal, but when it came to standing up for herself against others, she truly was Dauntless.  The author didn't rush anything, from the main character's personal growth to the romance she develops with one of the faction's most valuable members, although the story was very fast-paced and packed full of action.

The way this version of Chicago was described only reeled me in more.  Having visited the city on multiple occasions, I could picture it perfectly.  Though I tend to lean towards stories that rely heavily on romance, the relationship between Tris and Four wasn't the main focal point.  I felt that the author gave readers a wonderful balance of romance, dedication towards family and friends, and being able to survive.  The message is very clear, and that's in order to be brave, you must also be selfless.  No one should ever be tossed into one category.

I was so captivated by the world that Veronica Roth created.  A world where everyone has their place, where you must leave your old life behind if you choose a different faction than the one you were born into.  I loved some characters and I despised a few, too.  Even days after finishing the book, the story is still on my mind.  Thankfully, I already own a copy of Insurgent, so it won't be long until I'm picking that up.

Waiting on Wednesday #92

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on! 

Title: The Fill-In Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley. 

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. 

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

Although I don't have to wait long for this one to come out, I'm still so eager to read it!  Having read two of this author's previous books and loving them, I'm almost certain that I'll love this too.  Kasie West's writing style is perfect for telling this type of story.

What awesome title are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Title: Things We Know by Heart
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: HarperTeen
Age Group: Young Adult
Category: Contemporary Romance
Release date: April 21st, 2015
Pages: 304 (eGalley)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads | Amazon | Author

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection. 

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all. 

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Before the accident, Quinn had a normal life. She had plans for prom, graduation, and college--all of which she envisioned her boyfriend, Trent, by her side.  One horrifying morning, she realizes that nothing is ever set in stone.  Her soulmate was taken away from her and every plan she had for the future came and went.  Living just wasn't the same when Trent couldn't live with her.  Eventually, she reaches out to those who received his organs with the thought that meeting them would help.  Still, there was one she never heard from, one she ached to know.  After weeks of digging, she finally found the person who Trent's heart now belonged to.

Things We Know by Heart is the fourth book I've read by Jessi Kirby, and it definitely didn't disappoint.  Though the subject matter sounds pretty heavy, I felt that the story was very light-hearted and easy to read.  I could relate to Quinn, because there have been times in my life where I've lost people and felt the same.  She had trouble moving on.  Trent was the first and last thing on her mind each day, even a year after he died.  She didn't have much of a will to do anything other than look for the missing piece named Colton.  Once they finally do meet, she realizes how much she's been missing by shutting out the rest of the world.

While reading, I didn't think that this book would become a favorite of mine.  It was just another cute contemporary romance, but by the end, I was crying and wishing that it wouldn't end.  I went through this story in a day, and I loved every minute of it.  From the start, I pleaded with Quinn to tell Colton the truth.  He was such a sweet and caring character, so I empathized with him the most.  Colton had no idea who Quinn was or that she'd written him the letter so many months ago, and I felt that with each chapter, I was just waiting for the entire romance to blow up in Quinn's face.

Things We Know by Heart is the epitome of a great contemporary romance.  The story is original and that's what kept me hanging on until the very end.  Sure, there are a few cliches, but I don't mind as much as some.  Though death brought these two characters together, life is what made this story special.  Life is what happens when you learn to move on.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: I Hate Myselfie by Shane Dawson

Title: I Hate Myselfie: A Collection of Essays
Author: Shane Dawson
Publisher: Atria/Keywords Press
Age Group: Adult
Category: Nonfiction
Release date: March 10th, 2015
Pages: 228 (Paperback)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Goodreads | Amazon | Author

From his first vlog back in 2008 to his full-length film directorial debut Not Cool, Shane Dawson has been an open book when it comes to documenting his life. But behind the music video spoofs, TMI love life details, and outrageous commentary on everything the celebrity and Internet world has the nerve to dish out is a guy who grew up in a financially challenged but loving home in Long Beach, California, and who suffered all the teasing and social limitations that arise when you’re a morbidly obese kid with a pretty face, your mom is your best friend, and you can't get a date to save your life. 

In I Hate Myselfie, Shane steps away from his larger-than-life Internet persona and takes us deep into the experiences of an eccentric and introverted kid, who by observing the strange world around him developed a talent that would inspire millions of fans. Intelligent, hilarious, heartbreaking, and raw, I Hate Myselfie is a collection of eighteen personal essays about how messy life can get when you’re growing up and how rewarding it can feel when the clean-up is (pretty much) done.

The premise and hype surrounding I Hate Myselfie made it seem that by reading this book, you were getting a peek into the secret life of the controversial YouTube star, Shane Dawson.  I was interested from the moment I heard that he was writing a book.  Many other YouTubers are doing the same, but Shane has a special place in my heart.  He's the first YouTuber I've ever subscribed to, and he's the only one I've watched constantly over the past 6 years.

Shane's humor definitely isn't for everyone.  He almost always manages to offend someone, but what great comedian hasn't?  If you've ever watched his videos and laughed, this would be a great book to dive into.  I actually listened to the audiobook version, narrated by the author, and it made the experience better.  I felt that I was listening to one of his podcasts.

Also, because I've been watching him for so long, many of the essays were familiar to me.  I could recall stories that he's told about being overweight as a teenager, when his grandmother passed away, and even being fired from the job that lead to his life-changing YouTube career.  There were plenty of other stories I've never heard as well, such as the time his addiction to Splenda nearly killed him.

While the book is full of off-color humor, it's also inspiring and heartbreaking at times.  I remember getting a little choked up listening to him speak about his family and the difficult childhood he had, but Shane's way of telling those stories always left you smiling.  Overall, I Hate Myselfie is a fast-paced and surprisingly emotional read.  It only shows what a versatile person he is, and although the Shane that everyone has known for years is more of a front that he puts on, it's very clear that the real Shane Dawson is an intelligent person and he will go even farther than he's already come.  I think it's the perfect book for fans, new and old.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu

Title: Exquisite Corpse
Author: Pénélope Bagieu
Publisher: First Second
Age Group: Adult
Category: Graphic Novel
Release date: May 5th, 2015
Pages: 128 (Hardcover)
Rating: 3 out of 5
Source: Publisher
Goodreads | Amazon | Author

Zoe isn't exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn't recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment...and into his life. It's also why she doesn't know that Rocher is supposed to be dead. Turns out, Rocher faked his death years ago to escape his critics, and has been making a killing releasing his new work as "lost manuscripts," in cahoots with his editor/ex-wife Agathe. Neither of them would have invited a crass party girl like Zoe into their literary conspiracy of two, but now that she's there anyway. . . . Zoe doesn't know Balzac from Batman, but she's going to have to wise up fast... because she's sitting on the literary scandal of the century!

At the beginning of Exquisite Corpse, readers are introduced to a young woman named Zoe. It's not a secret that she's unhappy with her life.   Her job is a joke and her relationship isn't much better.  There's not much else keeping her tied down to work or her dead-beat boyfriend except for herself.  When she locks eyes with a man peering at her through his apartment window, things take an unexpected turn, and a new romance begins to bloom.

Thomas is a writer, quite famous for his work, but Zoe wouldn't know that.  Her sudden appearance inspires him, and as long as she keeps coming back, he's been able to write more than he has in years.  She's happier than she's been in a long time as well, so it seems to be working out for the both of them.  Though what they have going on is sweet at the start, the initial excitement begins to fizzle out when he spends a majority of his time trying to perfect his next bestseller.  This book has it all, from hopelessness to romance, even a big, steaming pile of deception.

Though the characters weren't around long enough for you to grow attached, they were still quite interesting.  The only complaint I have is that because it was so quick, it won't be hard to forget.  In comparison to the previous graphic novels I've read and reviewed, Exquisite Corpse doesn't hold up.  If you're looking for something light, I recommend this, because I zoomed through it in a matter of minutes.  Short and sweet, the illustrations were perfect and the ending left me quite amused.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Back From a Blogging Hiatus: Where I've Been and Where I Plan to Go

So much has changed since the last time I posted, both in my life and in the blogging world.  My last few posts lacked substance, and I figured that if I was losing interest in my own blog, why would anyone else want to read it?  When I began a new job, the last thing I wanted to do when I came home was read.  Review copies piled up and the blog added stress.  Blogging was just supposed to be fun--an outlet where I could share thoughts and ideas and be able to discuss my favorite stories with other people who shared similar interests.  In the end, it became an obligation.  I realized that I wasn't reading to read.  I was reading to promote.

While I loved being able to help authors by spreading the word about their new books, release dates hung over my head and I knew I couldn't keep up.  I wasn't in it for the fun anymore.  At first I thought that I would take a short break.  Just enough time to catch my breath, focus on another hobby, and come back feeling refreshed.  I left, but as you can see, it took me nearly two years to feel confident that this is what I truly wanted to do for myself.

As of right now, I'm reading a little book that you may or may not have heard of by now.  It's only been collecting dust on my shelves for the past 3 or 4 years.  That book is called Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I can gladly say that it has restored my love in reading.  I want to consume more stories that make me feel similar emotions.  I want to read for pleasure again.  I will no longer waste my time on books that don't captivate me, because this is what I end up missing out on.

That being said, you probably shouldn't expect to see daily posts from me anytime soon.  I'm going to take this slow so I don't get overwhelmed again, but I'll also try and add new features to the blog in order to keep things exciting!  I can't wait to dive into new worlds, meet new characters and take you along with me.  Thank you for sticking around this long!