Friday, January 6, 2017

I'm Baaaaack!

I think.

Lately, I've been jonesing for some blogging. I miss it. I haven't posted since July of 2015 or something like that, and though my life hasn't really allowed for it as of late, I miss it. I miss the writing, I miss connecting with other bloggers and book lovers.



A lot has happened since I last posted. Actually, a few months after my last post, I found out I was pregnant. Fast forward to June of 2016 and wouldn't you know it - I was giving birth. Fast forward to now and my 7-month-old is making my life downright crazy! So as far as time goes, you can see I didn't have much of it to offer. With my kid about to start crawling and exploring the world any day now, I don't foresee much more time opening up as I'll be chasing him around the house all the time, but still... I miss it.

So... yeah. I think I'm back. It'll be limited for now as I get back into the swing of things, but I need to write and I need to do it now!

So expect some new reviews from me soon, but maybe some other stuff also. I mean, I'm a mom now, you know. Who knows what I might come up with!

What's been going on in your lives over the last year and a half? Read anything good? Write anything good? Have any good babies lately? Let's catch up!


Happy Reading,
A.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse Books!

Oh, hey! Just me, popping in again for another TTT. As someone who would be considered "diverse" in culture, race, skin color, body type, and I guess even "neurologically" as being someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, diversity in books is pretty important to me. I don't love perfect characters. I can't stand flawless lives. Nevermind hurdle-less storylines. What I love is a little "imperfection".

That being said, I was perusing my lists today for "diverse" books I'd read and I was disappointed to learn that I only had about 15-20 of what I would consider diverse books on my "read" list. So that means I'm counting on all of your posts to point me in the right direction of more well-written diverse books!

Here are the favorites of the ones I've read so far:

Top Ten Books that Celebrate Diversity

10. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover


Maybe Someday centers around a "disability" that I have spent a lot of time over the last few months learning about: being deaf. When I read this book, I was fascinated and delighted that the characters were far from perfect. In retrospect, this book could've done a lot more in teaching the world about deaf people but it was a good start. I look forward to finding more romance novels about deaf people.

9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett


Most people should already know gist of this book because of all the movie publicity it received a few years back, but in case you don't, it centers around the struggles of black maids ("the help") in the 1960s from the point of view of a young white girl who is an aspiring journalist. Such a great read!

8. The Summer Remains by Seth King


Aside from the fact that this book destroyed me emotionally and left me bereft and unable to function for days after finishing it, it is diverse in that the main character is a girl with a life-threatening condition/disability that affects her day to day life and how she chooses to live it.

7. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

Despite any faults you (or I) may have found with the writing in None of the Above, it was one of the most enlightening books I've ever read. Not only was I educated on a topic I knew almost nothing about (being intersex), but there were some real worthwhile lessons in the book; mainly accepting yourself and others for who they are, not who you want them (or yourself) to be.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


The book thief is about a German family with a young (adopted) daughter that hides a young Jewish man in their home during the holocaust. Such an amazing read, for its racial and cultural diversity, writing style, and message.

5. Cinder (and Scarlet, Cress, and Fairest) by Marissa Meyer


This book/series doesn't focus on the diversity of the characters, BUT the Lunar Chronicles is a breath of fresh air in that the characters are quite diverse and the setting of the story takes place over many continents. Cinder herself is part Asian, and the other MCs throughout the series include a French girl, a boy of Middle Eastern descent, and an African American girl. Not to mention it is one of my favorite series EVER.

4. Archer's Voice by Mia Sheridan


The MC, Archer (one of my favorite NA male love interests of ALL TIME), is mute (because of a medical issue, not a psychological one). The communication and interactions between the two main characters throughout this story touched me in a way some books can never come close to. I love diversity in romance novels and this is one of the best examples of that.

3. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


AtBP, one of the best books I've read this year, centers around a girl struggling with grief and depression, and a boy living with untreated bipolar disorder. Being someone who deals with mental illness and who comes from a family afflicted by mental illness, this book hit so close to home.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Hm... I don't feel as if this one really needs all that much explanation, but I think it's worth it to mention that TKaM is one of my favorite books of all time.

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell


E&P is also one of my favorite books of all time. One main character in this story is physically diverse from what society deems to be beautiful, and one character is racially and culturally diverse and trying to fit in to what society says is normal. A perfectly imperfect love story, E&P touches on what it's like to be different and how to love people (including yourself) not despite, but because of those differences.


These are among the few diverse books I've read (in comparison to all the books I've ever read), and they are some of my favorites ever. Have you read any of these diverse books? What others have you read that you might recommend? Can't wait to see your lists!


Happy reading!
A.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read This Year


Not only has it been a while since I've reviewed anything, but it's also been a while since I've done a TTT. But I figured now was as a good a time as any to chime in with the best books I've read thus far. Sadly, I'm way behind on my goal and haven't read much at all this year. I've done quite a few re-reads too, which I won't include on this list.

The top ten books I've read (for the first time) so far this year are:


10. The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred


9. Where the Road Takes Me by Jay McLean

 

8. The Summer Remains by Seth King


7. The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead


6. Stay With Me by J. Lynn/Jennifer L. Armentrout


5. Boy Toy Chronicles: Volume One by Jay McLean


4. The Selection by Kiera Cass


3. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach


2. Fairest by Marissa Meyer


1. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


I will add that I haven't read a lot of amazing books this year, and while I did really enjoy all of the ones on this list and have rated them all a 4.0 or above, the only two I really loved were Fairest which I simply cannot get out of my head and All the Bright Places which I can't think about for too long or else I get weepy.

What have been your favorite books so far this year? I'm looking for some recommendations so leave me one in the comments. I love to read books other people loved!

Happy Reading!

AR

Friday, May 8, 2015

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas (aka Abby McDonald)

ISBN: 9781442486607
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Series: Stand alone
Released: July, 2013
Length: 400 pp
Goodreads  |  B&N

     SUMMARY
Paradise in Aruba quickly gets gruesome in this “ripped-from-the-headlines thriller (Kirkus Reviews)” with a twist that defies the imagination.
It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives.
But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer, she discovers harsh revelations about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
Awaiting the judge’s decree, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but also dangerous. And when the whole story comes out, reality is more shocking than anyone could ever imagine...

     REVIEW

Any book that can suck me in and keep me hooked until I finish the damn thing in one sitting - that's the kind of book I love. Minor flaws and all, this book was amazing.

Sadly, I've learned over the years that I am super naive when it comes to sinister, creep-tastic and intense books like this one. I never see the twists coming even when everyone else does! You can see by my Goodreads updates (below) that I didn't start to truly suspect something until more than halfway through the book, and even then I was all like "No, say it ain't so!". It also doesn't help my case that this story was like a fictional version of the real-life Amanda Knox/Italy thing a few years back. Obviously no one really knows what happened in the Amanda Knox story, though so HA. Thank you Abigail Haas (aka Abby McDonald) for giving me a satisfying fictional answer, though!

Still, my lack of ability to deduce the identity of the bad guy may have been the reason why I enjoyed Dangerous Girls so much - because the twist was (mostly) a shock when I read it. A creepy ass shock that may or may not have caused me to lose sleep the night I read it. Whatever, NBD.

For starters, Abigail Haas' writing is smart and engaging and I was hooked from the start. She built and fleshed out characters that I somehow sympathized with yet didn't trust as far as I could throw 'em. I especially loved the back and forth chapters from past to "present" that equal parts made things make much more sense but (intentionally, [I think]) confused the airwaves, too. Like I said - I just didn't know who to trust!

Dangerous Girls was a wild ride from beginning to end and even if you're not a big dope like me and you can see the ending coming from a mile away, I think you will still find the truth to be rather disturbing and this to be quite a mind-blowing read.

And hey, if you've already read Dangerous Girls and are just checking this review out for kicks and giggles, maybe you should think about checking out Dangerous Boys, also by Haas. Equally disturbing but in such a weirder way. My review for that will be up in a few weeks.

     THE BREAKDOWN


RATING: ★★★★★ 5 stars

Have you read Dangerous Girls yet? I hope the answer is yes to that question because you're missing out if you haven't.

If perhaps you have not, pick it up soon! t's the perfect read a summer read (for you weirdos like me who like to go to the beach but stay out of the water). I'd love to know what you think if/when you read it!


A.

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.