Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: Where the Road Takes Me by Jay McLean

ISBN: 9781477849408
Format: E-Book
Source: ARC from author
Series: Stand-Alone (maybe)
Released: February 10, 2015
Length: 323 pages
Goodreads  |  Amazon

     SUMMARY

Chloe has one plan for the future, and one plan only: the road. She’s made a promise to herself: don’t let anyone in, and don’t let anyone love her. She’s learned the hard way what happens if she breaks her rules. So she’s focused on being invisible and waiting until she can set out on the road—her dream of freedom, at least for a little while.
Blake Hunter is a basketball star who has it all—everything about him looks perfect to those on the other side of his protective walls. He can’t let anyone see the shattered pieces behind the flawless facade or else all his hopes and dreams will disappear.
One dark night throws Chloe and Blake together, changing everything for Blake. For Chloe, nothing changes: she has the road, and she’s focused on it. But when the so-called perfect boy starts to notice the invisible girl, they discover that sometimes with love, no one knows where the road may lead.
     REVIEW

It's been a while since I've been in the blogging game consistently, but anyone who's anyone knows I am a Jay McLean Fangirl of the most obsessive kind. I've read every one of her books, and if you haven't tried at least one, this is me telling you that you should. Where the Road Takes me was McLean's first stand-alone novel (which may or may not stay stand-alone... just sayin'...). I was thrilled for a new McLean book, but nervous at the same time. I'd read her first four books which were all part of a series (More Than series) and loved them, and I knew Where the Road Takes Me was going to be pretty different. Not only the fact that I would be reading about different characters, but the entire feel of the book would be different since it was an entire story in one book, not four.

When I got my ARC copy a couple weeks before release time, I hunkered down and finished that baby in two days, which is a mean feat for me these days since I've slowed down on my book intake in recent months. I was sucked right in by Chloe and Blake's story and read almost three-quarters of it on the first day.

Jay's writing, in general, is great, and while I do sometimes have my issues with it, she has steadily progressed in her skill as a writer and it's been a privilege to watch that happen over the course of five books. In WtRTM, she did not fail to deliver and I was so glad that, even with as different of a story as it was, I still fell in love with it all.

I found myself boohoo-ing through the better portion of the book, as tends to happen when "McLeaning", and Chloe's story really broke me. Chloe was not always a likable character and sometimes hard to understand or identify with. With that being said, I always appreciate an author who doesn't create perfect characters who never make mistakes or don't have flaws. So for Chloe's flaws, I commend you, Ms. McLean. And the few Blake had, too. But Blake = <3, so it was easy to ignore his faults.

As with some of her other books, sometimes the plot in Jay's books can get a little funky, leaving you wondering what the heck is going on until it picks back up and fixes itself, but one flawless characteristic that is common among all (now) six of her books is her ability to make me adore her characters. Especially her supporting characters (ahem, Josh) and make them feel like a family I am privileged to be a part of for a short while.

I did feel as though the ending was a bit rushed which took away from the story for me a bit. We saw years of Chloe and Blake's life go by before the epilogue even came and I wished we could have gotten a deeper look at those scenes rather than an overview.

Either way, rushed ending notwithstanding, I fell in love with Chloe and Blake, Josh and Blake's mom, Chloe's entire family... it was hard to let them go at the end of the book, and when I heard trickles of rumors that there may be another book, well, needless to say I was thrilled. I can't wait to hear more on that, and the other books she has in the works.

     THE BREAKDOWN




RATING: ★★★★ - 4 stars!

I don't think a book needs to be perfect to be great. I have come across various issues with many books, McLean's included, and still found reasons to adore them, just like I adored Where the Road Takes Me. Sometimes her stories veer into the cheesy, sometimes the endings are rushed. Sometimes the shocking scenes seem a bit unbelievable. But never have I not fallen in love with a protagonist or supporting character presented to me by that woman or not been touched by her words and ideas and the relationships she creates.

She has a passion for what she does and even more than that, she is a great person which, to me, makes all the difference. Those of you who've stopped reading books by "authors behaving badly" understand the exact opposite of that spectrum and when an author is behaving like an amazing human being, they deserve all the respect and attention in the world. So hey, give Jay McLean a try and you might just thank me if you look past the occasional typo and delve deeper into the worlds and relationships of Jay McLean. I think you'll find something worthwhile there if you do.

Happy Reading!

A.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey


*SPOILER ALERT* If you have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, the book, or already seen the movie, please be aware that there will be spoilers throughout the entire review.

Going to see Fifty Shades was a very last minute decision for me. I've never reviewed the book on this blog or any other blog for that matter, but many of you may know that I did not love the book. While I found it intriguing and at times was sucked in by the intensity of the story, I did not find it to be a good book for many reasons that will have to be saved for another post or some discussion later on.

With that being said, you all should know I'm a book-to-movie junkie in the worst way and I literally couldn't resist the opportunity to review this movie upon its release. I had a lot of preconceived notions about the movie going into it but then again, who didn't? Whether you thought it'd be good or bad or were waiting to see it to deem it worthy of watching, we all had expectations. I can honestly say, Fifty Shades of Grey The Movie was not what I expected. It was slightly better than I would have guessed, but I think that's because I disliked the book so much and I expected to absolutely abhor the movie. To the contrary, at times it was  enjoyable (though at other times somewhat unenjoyable(... just not what I expected.

Let me point out before I delve any deeper that I do have some issues with the plot, the characters, etc., of the book since before making it into a movie was even a thought. Here are the things I didn't like about the movie that are not attributable to the actual movie, but to the book itself:

Christian is a little bit of a psycho and watching that come to life on the big screen was creepier than ever. I think I could totally be into Christian as a character and even root for him if his brokenness was more a focus than his possessiveness. It was just too much and that wasn't Jamie Dornan's fault. I blame E.L. James.

It's hard to disagree with people who think the book/movie promotes or glamorizes domestic abuse or at the very least, unhealthy relationships, when you watch how Christian manipulates Ana and uses her, leaving her a crying, hurting mess because he wants his to have his way or else.

To clarify, do I personally agree that this movie promotes domestic abuse? Not necessarily unless you consider the fact that it's been made into a huge movie as "promoting" in which case, every movie ever depicting something bad has been promoting that bad thing, yes? No, obviously not - I'm being sarcastic - but what I'm trying to say is that if you've read the book or even pay close enough attention to the movie, you'll see that Ana does eventually stand up for herself (so what if it's after a particularly bad scene that had me holding back tears? Whatevs). I think the movie (if not so much the book) clearly shows that Christian's manipulation and obsession isn't a good thing - it hurts Ana, he hurts Ana, and there's nothing glamorous about it. In either event, though I don't think the movie promotes or glamorizes domestic abuse, I still think E.L. James wrote us a creepy little character that is Christian Grey and I really wish he was less of an obsessive control freak maniac and more of that broken vulnerable Christian we see at the end of the movie because... yum.

Now, as far as the movie itself goes, completely mostly separated from the book, here's what I thought:

Firstly, and above all, the most important (and my least favorite) aspect of the movie was the excessive amount of nudity. I basically took my 18-year-old sister to a soft core porn at the movies. Now, now, before you begin to rant at me for being dumb enough not to expect some nudity - remember, I did read the book. I expected nudity but I expected it to be just a tad more tasteful. I have the image of Dakota Johnson's breasts forever imprinted on my brain. I will never forget what that woman's nipples look like. And I'm not glad about it. I'm all for a good, hot sex scene, and in this case, I expected several good, hot sex scenes but really, poor Dakota! My sister and I overheard two girls says "Too much boobs! Not enough Jamie Dornan's ass!" after the movie let out, a statement with which I concur, but seriously, why so much breast, Fifty Shades? WHY?! There were just too many gratuitous boobie shots and I was sincerely hoping that the movie would take the book to the next level and make it less about the actual sex scenes and more about the intriguing world that is BDSM and the budding relationship between Christian and Ana. Needless to say, it did not, and I was disappointed in that regard.

Also, It really sucked that the script used lines directly from the book, or at least it seemed that way. I haven't read the book since the original Fifty Shades phenomenon a few years back so I can't say that with too much certainty, but the stilted, awkward delivery of the lines was enough proof to me that this was coming directly from the mind of E.L. James. It sucked. If there was ever a time I was hoping for a bit of artistic license in a book-to-movie adaptation, this was that time. Other parts of the movie flowed so well (thanks to Dakota Johnson,), but then we came to those lines and it felt like I was jolted right out of the story that I was actually beginning to enjoy and thus reminded of why I disliked the book so much.

Anyway, as uncomfortable as it was for me to watched poor married-with-a-child Jamie Dornan sticking his head between Dakota Johnson's legs while we are blessed with focus after focus of her naked breasts, I don't know that I could do it again. I'm completely content with Ana just leaving Christian's crazy ass and that being the end of the movie franchise because I don't know if I can sit through two more hours of this next year. Maybe if they promise less boob, because really, the novelty has to wear off at some point, right?

Now, I'm sure you're wondering if I liked anything at all about the movie and the surprising answer to that questions is: YES! There were actually a few high points and I, of course, will tell you all about them.

By far, the single best part about the movie was not having to be in Anastasia's head like we did in the book. If I had to sit through the movie listening to this chick talk about her "inner goddess" I probably would have walked out. Ana was a much more likable character without having to listen to the running commentary on her lady bits and "oh crap" and sighing and muttering every goddamn thing and oh my God I'm so glad we didn't have to listen to that nonsense. With all of that out of the movie, it was marginally better and much easier to watch than it was to read.

Might I add that Dakota Johnson is an amazing actress?! I was actually anti-Dakota Johnson at first. I remember seeing her on Jimmy Fallon the week before the movie premiered and I was just like, no. No, no, no, no, no! In my mind she was just not Ana but then she tripped her way into Christian Grey's office last night and I was hooked. She did the awkward so well, and as uncomfortable as the sex scenes were, she did them really well, too. Most of all, she was so funny. She was downright hilarious and I definitely think she brought the entire movie up a notch in my opinion. Jamie Dornan, who I adore in real life (that accent, though!) wasn't bad but he was no Dakota. That girl just really stole the show.

And as far as that last scene goes - you know the scene - the painful one where he's hitting her with some object in the Red Room of Pain and its like the worst moment of her life and the worst moment of their relationship by far... as horrible as it was to watch, I think it was superbly done and I was definitely holding back tears for Ana by the end. You already know how I feel about the abuse topic so I won't go there again but I will say, I am in no way, shape or form against BDSM. While being a Dom or a Sub may not be my thing, I respect that it is other people's thing. I actually found some of it kinda sexy, if not awkward to watch with my sister and a theater full of strangers. 
RATING: ★★★ 1/2

So... 3 1/2 stars. Yup, I said it. It was pretty enjoyable considering what I'd originally expected it to be. So you want to know if it's worth seeing?

My answer is contingent upon your open-mindedness and how you feel about watching porn with strangers. LOL, just kidding... sort of.

If you've read the book and liked it or at least tolerated it enough to be curious about the movie - go for it, with the warning that you'll be seeing lots of Dakota-boob.

If you haven't read the book, I would only recommend seeing it if you are not a Judgy McJudgerton and just enjoy the movie for what it is. You don't need to go in with guns blazing, ready to fight for or against Christian and Ana and their sexual choices - because let me remind you, manipulating as Christian may have been, give Ana a little credit here. She enjoyed everything Christian did to her with the exception of the last scene. I understand and agree that it just wasn't what she was into, but she consented and was pleasured through all of it. The parts she hated were how Christian treated her outside of their time in his playroom and his obsession with her being his Sub rather than being in a relationship and BDSM just being something they did sometimes. So if you are okay with all of this, and really just curious about this "taboo" lifestyle and wanna see what all the hype is about - go for it.

If not, please, please wait for DVD or just don't see it at all. Let the people who like Fifty Shades enjoy the damn movie. If it's not for you, that's cool and I don't blame or judge you, but leave the rest of us here in the non-judgmental community alone.

Whew... Excuse me, I'm getting a little tired climbing on and off this soap box of mine. So anyway, now you know what I think and if I think you should go see it. Now go see it (or don't) and tell me what you think!!!

A.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Been a While, Huh?

How ashamed of me would you be if I told you I've only read two books since I officially went on hiatus in September? I hope not too much because I am already judging myself - hard.

Since that time, I've kind of replaced the obsessive reading/blogging with knitting and crocheting. I know - crazy, right?! I taught myself to do both once I quit my part-time job and realized that if I didn't find a "productive" hobby, I'd be sitting at home every single night after getting home from my day job and watching 5 hours of Netflix and having nothing to show for it.

I reached this major slump in reading - I just couldn't find anything that I really wanted to read. I am still dealing with this issue somewhat, but I'm at least reading again. I went weeks without picking up a book - WEEKS!! Everyone who knows me was shocked to hear that. Hell, it still shocks me when I say it out loud.

I read Legend by Marie Lu after I went on hiatus which I enjoyed but didn't love. Then I started Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta which took me ages to read because it's a very intense and involved book, and ya know, slump and all. But I finally finished it, and it was amazing and I'm slowly getting back into a reading groove. I honestly can't see myself reading two books a week anymore because I really love this needlework hobby I've picked up, plus I'm really engrossed in a few Netflix shows (One Tree Hill, Heartland, Vampire Diaries [which I'm just re-watching], etc.). But I'd really like to get back into the bookish blogosphere.

I feel like I have no idea what is going on these days, what books have released lately or what's being released soon. I think you can expect to see more of me once I can catch up on all the reviews I never wrote, but maybe you can help me out? What have I missed? What are some of your most anticipated released for the end of the year and the beginning of 2015? What really great debuts should I read that came out in the last couple of months? I mean, Christmas is coming and I need to submit my book requests soon. Can't wait to hear from all of you and to check out everything I've been missing out on thanks to Netflix and yarn.

A.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Taking a Break

I know, I know. You're all sitting at your computers day after day, wondering where the heck I've gotten off to, right? Kidding! - I know that the only person who truly cares about this post is me. But for the sake of my ego, and the few good friends I've made through blogging, rather than ignoring my blog entirely, I wanted to tell you all that I am officially on hiatus!

It'll only be for a few weeks - probably until after my birthday in the first week of October. Why, you ask? For basically the same reason most bloggers take breaks or leave entirely: reading has become a chore again. This happens to me every so often. I took a month long break at the end of last year and it felt amazing, and I was back and better than ever in January.

I haven't been able to really get into and enjoy anything lately and I was pushing myself to read things I just didn't want to read. You can also thank The Sims 4 for taking over my life because once that game released, I realized I was choosing a video game over literature and knew I needed some time to myself.

I do have a few ARC reviews and scheduled posts so I won't be totally gone. But I'm going to play the Sims to my heart's content and go on the search for the book that will get me back into my groove. Any suggestions?

What do you all do when the pressures of book blogging worm their way under your skin? Do you take a break altogether like I am? Change up your reading "schedules"? Re-reads? (I'm totally going to devote the next week to HP just to be reading something I know I love) Or are you one of the smarter bloggers who make sure to keep things light, fun and low-pressure most of the time to avoid things like this? I'd love to hear what you do when you start feeling the heat!

I'll be around - I'm sure I'll be back to posting regularly soon!


A.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

ISBN: 9781619630659
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Series: Throne of Glass #3
Released: September 2, 2014
Length: 565
Goodreads  |  B&N

     SUMMARY
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

     REVIEW

I went into this book definitely feeling afraid of what was to come. I loved Crown of Midnight so much. I knew I would love Heir of Fire too, because Sarah J. Maas is a genius and this series is a new favorite of mine, so that isn't why I was afraid. I'd seen a lot of posts about new characters, intense feels, being utterly ripped apart over and over again, etc. You can see why I had some reservations. Not to mention this is a beast of a book. I love myself a good long book but I always know it's going to take me a while to get into it, especially when it's something I'm really in to.

Heir of Fire definitely did take a day or two for me to get in to. It's a slower start. Celaena is unhappy. Actually, unhappy is the understatement of the century. Celaena is utterly broken, and though it takes quite a while, we journey with Celaena through every bit of her broken heart, soul and spirit. Sometimes slower paced books are not for me. I loved it in HoF, though. Every last word devoted to Celaena's pain, healing, gaining of power, etc., was worth it. It was necessary, even if it tore me apart while I was reading it. Maas writes pain like no other.

New characters: there are some. Are you surprised? This is one of the best epic fantasies I've ever gotten my hands on, incredibly in depth, so you can imagine how many characters we have to deal with here. There is Rowan, likely the most important of the new characters. You've probably heard/seen tons of people shipping Rowan/Celaena, and I know what you're thinking. You're probably thinking the same thing I was thinking when going into this. HELL NO, NO ROWAN NONSENSE CHAOLAENA FOR LIFE! I was adamantly against any other ships for Celaena. Don't worry, things don't go as you would expect in this area and it is perfect and wonderful, and for Chaol/Celaena shippers, you'll find yourself rooting for Rowan in a few different ways even if you think there is only room for Chaol in your heart. Trust me, I'm still team Chaol.... but I wouldn't be mad if something took a turn in a future book and it didn't go that way. As a matter of fact, I have some speculations. Not really educated guesses, just regular old guesses - things I suspect could happen... if you've read all of the books, send me a private message. We can discuss all of the horrible (and wonderful) things that could happen!

There was also Manon, a POV from a not so nice person - a witch. I won't go into much detail, but I will say this: Maas, you are a genius. How do you make me interested and even feel FEELS for evil people? HOW!? Some may have thought this POV was pointless, but I get the feeling it will be very important in the rest of the series. I have high hopes for this POV actually.

This world, this story, everything in it is so detailed, so many nuances and "storylines" to remember that all wrap into one amazing ball of brilliance. And Maas keeps adding more and I'm almost inclined to wonder how the hell this is all going to work out and tie together but the thing is is already does! Every aspect of every book matters. I remember when I read ToG, thinking that the whole magic aspect seemed out of place. I take nothing for granted in this series now. Nothing is out of place. Nothing.

HoF wrecked me, by the way. I cried like a baby for Celaena, for Dorian, for Chaol, for Rowan. But I also cheered for them, grinned like a fool, laughed like a loon. Maas knows how to write characters we will love (or hate, but in that she-writes-really-good-villians kind of way) so, so much, and I can't even fathom having to let one of them go, because we all know that there will be someone, if not multiple more someones, who don't make it out of this alive. Listen, I'm still mourning over Sam and he was only around for a few short stories.

I feel like it is impossible to not like this series. The only book I can see not liking is ToG, but if you trust me, if you trust the rest of the bookish world, CoM and HoF (oh and Assassin's Blade) will change that for you. It will change everything for you.


     THE BREAKDOWN

RATING: ★★★★1/2 - Really enjoyed it!

I loved Heir of Fire so much! It added so much to the world, a world that I didn't think could expand that much more, and I get the feeling Maas is going to give us even more come the next book somehow (which by the way we have to wait God knows how long for and it is killing me).

I know most of you loved this book. I've seen your reviews and status updates. I now this one killed you inside also. But I have so many thoughts on what could possibly be coming and I want to talk to someone about it without worrying about spoiling. I want to know what you thought, but I also want to know what you think is coming!

Also, can we talk about how excited I am for the other series Maas has coming out next year - A Court of Thorns and Roses?! A Beauty and the Beast retelling! God, I can't wait!!

So tell me your thoughts on all things Sarah J. Maas. Go!
A.