Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Dream Loot Crate: Nasty Women


Have you looked longingly at subscription boxes like I have? These have boomed in popularity in recent months, and I love looking at unboxings yet haven't been able to justify shelling out the money to subscribe to one yet. One subscription service that I've heard about, namely through Kristina Horner, is Loot Crate Loot Crate, which sounds awesome for geeks and nerds like me. So when they approached me about creating my own "dream crate" I knew I had to jump aboard.

Almost right away I knew I wanted to center my box around awesome female characters, and with the crazy election, my dream box is the NASTY WOMEN box.

Nasty Women Dream Loot Crate

My first choice is this Orphan Black t-shirt because this fabulous array of female characters were the first ones that came to mind. It was hard deciding on a product that could encompass Orphan Black (and there's surprisingly little merch), but this shirt is perfect and lists most of the major kick-ass female clones (portrayed by the equally kick-ass Tatiana Maslany), as well as a few other important characters.








My second choice was another easy one. This Rey print is stunning and also shows BB-8, another favorite. I loved Rey from the moment she appeared on screen in the new Star Wars movie. She's an amazing addition to the SW universe, and Daisy Ridley is perfection. Another easy choice.





Of course no list is complete without some Harry Potter reference. I actually have two different choices because they're possibly my two favorite HP characters, and I couldn't choose which one I wanted to feature more. This is Hermione's wand. Do I even need to explain this choice? Hermione meant so much to me when I was reading Harry Potter for the first time, and she still remains close to my heart. (Also, Emma Watson is perfection.)



The other amazing female character I love in Harry Potter is none other than Luna Lovegood! Her Spectrespecs are so unique to her and everyone who knows the movies will recognize it right away. Luna stays true to herself, regardless of what others will think. She's kind and creative.





Another easy choice is Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series. She, like Hermione, is the brains of the trio. She's such a solid heroine and similarly inspiring as Hermione. I found these books in middle school and am just now realizing how great of a transition it was to find it a few years after the last Harry Potter book. It's no wonder I loved Annabeth! This is an Annabeth Chase candle








This one is a less obvious choice, but this Everyone Deserves Tea mug represents the ladies of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (and of Pride and Prejudice). Not only do I love tea, but this is also a reminder of sisterly bond that is so strong in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. And I love all three sisters, the actresses who portray them, as well as the supporting female cast (Charlotte, Gigi).






I'm not sure if the image is hard to see, but this Belle shirt caught my attention right away. Belle has long been one of my favorite Disney princesses (alongside Mulan). Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved Belle. She was one of the first females I saw on screen who loved to read and comforted the bookworm in me. 



This was a bit of a late addition, but I've included it for a few reasons. For one, while I personally don't like Katniss, many people do, and this pullover partially represents her. But the other reason I included it is that it represents the thousands/millions of female ballerinas out there. Ballet has sort of been brought back to popular culture thanks to people such as Misty Copeland. As a dancer/ballet dancer myself, I had to throw something in there. Ballerinas (and all dancers) work so hard yet also work to make what they do effortless. They're often not given nearly enough credit and aren't seen as on-par with other athletes, when in many ways, we're more athletic. So I had to include this in my dream box.




I apologize that this Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan pillow isn't included in the overall graphic, but I added this after I made it. As I wrote my honorable mentions/extras below I realized I didn't have any non-white women above, which is a huge and real problem (and also why we need more diversity in popular culture). So Kamala Khan popped into my head. I wanted to pick an item that's different from the others, and this pillow fits that bill. 








Another last minute addition not included in the graphic is this Schuyler Sisters sticker. I had them in mind since the beginning, but it slipped my mind as I was finishing up this post. This is such a given. Does it even need explaining?





Extras/Honorable Mentions

There were a few items that don't fit into the popular culture category, so I've listed them here instead.
 






I absolutely love this image and think a tote would be fabulous. If we're going to talk about feminism, it should be intersectional. Unfortunately, basically all of the women above are white women, and it's important to acknowledge all types of women.



Michelle Obama is all kinds of goals, and I've fallen in love with the recent Strand merch including this quote. This is the magnet, and after the election, this is just so inspiring and lovely. I love Michelle Obama and think she's an amazing figure for all of us to look up to.





And last but not least, I had to include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists. To me, Adichie is one of the ultimate feminists, and while there are plenty of others whom I love, she speaks so eloquently and rawly and openly about transnational and intersectional feminism. She supports other women, even if she disagrees with them (see her comments on her feminism vs. Beyonce's feminism). She has been so integral in the recent pushes/fights for feminism, and she is such an important part of educating others on inclusional feminism. I just love her, and I think this (or her TED talk) should be required reading (viewing). 




~~~

Ladies, let us continue to be "nasty women." Let's continue to fight for inclusion and diversity, for equality, for respect. Let's continue to support one another and critically discuss issues important to all of us.

Be sure to check out Loot Crate Loot Crate
if you're interested in their subscription boxes!


And let me know below or on Twitter what you would include in your dream crate!

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Fun, Informative, Quick Read | Fun Science by Charlie McDonnell

Fun Science: A Guide to Life, the Universe, and Why Science is So Awesome by Charlie McDonnell
Publisher: Quadrille Publishing
Release Date: October 20th, 2016
Welcome, fellow humans (and others), to the the world of FUN SCIENCE! I'm Charlie, also known across the internet as charlieissocoollike.

In my book, I'll be taking you on an awesome journey through the cosmos, beginning with the Big Bang through to the Solar System and the origins of life on Earth, all the way down to the particles that make up everything around us (including you and me!).

Expect frequent digressions, tons of illustrations of not-so-sciencey things (NB a microwave flying through space), and pages packed with my all time favourite mind-bending science facts.

So, get ready for a faster-than-the-speed of-light (OK, not quite) tour of all of the best and most interesting things that science has to offer us… and most importantly: WELCOME TO THE UNIVERSE!
Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from Midas Public Relations for this blog tour. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this post.

Let me start by expressing how thrilled I am to be a part of this blog tour and to be the last stop. But without further ado...

For starters, let me give you a little background in case you don't know me. I am not a science person. There are some things within the sciences that interest me but more on a surface level, like a "I think this is sort of interesting and just want to know about it as a layperson, without getting all technical about it" sort of feeling, but beyond that, I am definitely not a science student. Unless you count the social sciences, I suppose. ;)

But when I saw that Charlie, also known as charlieissocoollike on YouTube, was coming out with this book, I got super excited. So many YouTubers are coming out with books, to the point where it's just exasperating, but I actually really like this one because I knew Charlie would really put all the time and effort into making this the best it could be. I knew that it would actually be informative and offer something useful and practical for readers.

I quickly realized that Fun Science is very much organized like my science seminar this semester is organized, giving a broad overview of the major sciences, starting with the large and ending with the small. This is the perfect companion to what I'm learning now and is so much more fun!

What I think the book does best is to take what would normally be boring to those of us who just can't deal with the sciences and makes them exciting and less intimidating. The doodles and pictures are funny and quirky. Information is provided in extremely colloquial writing, with many jokes and puns abound. It's colorful, the fonts vary, the text is easy to read through, and more. I quite like the fun facts inserted, as well as the "notes" interspersed throughout. I actually quite liked that Charlie would refer to himself, so that it feels more personal and more like a conversation. And all of this is presented in a way that isn't too childish but also could be understood by younger audiences.

This is the perfect introduction to science and is perfect if you're looking to gain some knowledge on the major sciences and all of the stuff you should have (and hopefully did learn) over the years in science class. It's a nice refresher and keeps from being boring or slow. Fun Science does exactly what it sounds like it does...it makes science more fun! For a non-scientist, Charlie sure does get the information across well. Perhaps it is precisely because he isn't a scientist that he can effectively present the information this way. Whatever the case, it works.

The book is very well designed, from the gorgeous, colorful cover, to the starry endpapers, to the drawings I mentioned above. It's like a fun textbook!

If you're at all interested in upping your science knowledge a bit, I would highly recommend Fun Science! It's a lite, fun way that will make you sound like you've spent much more time studying basic science than you actually have.

Be sure to check Charlie out on YouTube as well! His videos are fabulous, and I believe he's making videos to go along with the book.

About Charlie McDonnell

Charlie McDonnell is a Vlogger, Filmmaker and Musician from Bath, who currently resides in London. Charlieissocoollike currently has 2.3m subscribers and Charlie has 686k twitter followers, 201k on Instagram and 313k Facebook followers. Charlie, who started posting YouTube videos in 2007, became the first Video Blogger in the UK to reach one million YouTube subscribers. Beyond his own channel, Charlie has worked on many online video projects, notably "Science of Attraction," hosted by Derren Brown, and a vlog series from behind the scenes of Doctor Who for the BBC. He's also worked with many brands to produce videos for his own channel, including Microsoft, Pixar and Disney and is a regular participant in Radio 1's Internet Takeover show. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his girlfriend and their cat, Gideon.

Charlie McDonnell: YouTube | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Diverse Collection of Kick-Ass Ladies | Wonder Women by Sam Maggs

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: October 4th, 2016
Ever heard of Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous”? Or German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition? How about Huang Daopo, the inventor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China?

Women have always been able to change the world, even when they didn’t get the credit. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs introduces you to pioneering female scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors—each profile a study in passion, smarts, and stickto-itiveness, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to present-day women-centric STEM organizations.
Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this post.

Long time no see, everyone! So, this isn't really a comeback, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this incredible book with y'all. I loved The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy and knew I had to pick this one up too.

Wonder Women is pretty straightforward in its organization. The 25 women are split by category, and within each category are a few highlighted women whose stories are told, along with a few shorter introductions for a handful of other ladies at the end of each section. Then, the whole category is capped with an interview with a current day wonder woman in the field.

Albeit the intros/stories being short, they are concise, provide the background of these women, and explains what they did and why they're often left out of history. It's so sad to see these women, who span time periods, backgrounds, and locations, who were cheated out of their glory by greedy men who didn't appreciate and respect women in their fields. I feel guilty for not knowing most of these women (but am glad I know some of them). It's such a sad skewing of history and helps to perpetuate some people's perception of female weakness and inability, when that is clearly not the case. These women should receive all the credit they rightfully deserve. I only hope that history rights itself from now on, not lessening the accomplishments of women across all fields.

As a non-STEM student with many STEM friends and in a STEM-dominated school, it was interesting that Maggs chose to mostly highlight women in the STEM fields, which I totally understand. These fields are seriously lacking in female representation, and the time to change that is NOW (or really yesterday). But I would've loved to hear about the ladies in other fields who were similarly cheated out, who don't get the credit they deserve, who also did incredible things in their fields but aren't praised and respected for it and who were also lost to history and time.

But returning back to the point, I really love Maggs' voice in this book as well. It's colloquial enough but still professional enough to get the point across; it connects to young people and to fangirls and boys everywhere. This is a simple enough read for slightly younger audiences, which I think is great because people of all ages can begin to learn about these women. And this is a great starting point; I know I've certainly looked up some of these women to learn more about them/their contribution.

I truly love this fabulous little book and will certainly be recommending this to friends and sending it as gifts. This is clear proof that our textbooks need to change to reflect true history, not just male history, and that we need to stop looking down on women and diminishing their accomplishments and innovations in all fields. If this book can teach anything, it's that when women are given access, they can do and achieve incredible thing. So thank you to these pioneering ladies who did incredible things and have left incredible legacies; the world would not be the same without them, and I hope we will celebrate them some day the way we celebrate Watson and Crick, Einstein, and others.

Wonder Women: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Sam Maggs: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr
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In addition! I would like to bring your attention to Quirk Books' pre-order campaign for Wonder Women. You still have a few days to pre-order and submit proof!

Everyone who preorders will receive a download link to these two incredible pieces of art inspired by the book and the women included in it. You'll also be entered to win one of two SIGNED and framed versions of these prints. So what are you waiting for???


So if you'd want these, here's the link again! 

Monday, May 16, 2016

College, Motivation, Changes, and Uncertainty

I have been putting off writing this post for many reasons, a main one which is that I want to sound more eloquent than I ever could. I haven't really thought through all of my thoughts, so this post may be all over the place, but this is something that I think is important to discuss here. (SEE THE BOTTOM FOR AN IMPORTANT UPDATE.)

I'm sure everyone knows this at this point, but I'm in my second semester of college. I convinced myself that I would be reading more this semester than I did the last. I looked at bloggers/booktubers/etc who also just started college and are still keeping up with their blogs/channels/etc. But I haven't been able to do that for a few reasons.

Firstly, there's already so much for me to do in terms of work load. I know everyone else does too and that some people do have it worse. I know that there are still so many opportune times for me to read. But I'm already doing so much dense reading and writing, and it's just tiring. I'm taking notes and analyzing and trying to comprehend. I'm researching. I'm doing textbook problems. I'm writing responses. Whatever. So when I have time, I want to do something that doesn't take as much mental energy. I've especially taken to watching Youtube videos again lately, but TV shows are also great. I love reading, but sometimes I just feel too mentally tired to read, if that makes sense, even if it's something that I want to read.

And tied to that is changing reading interests and expanding tastes. I'm trying to read less YA or at least balance it out more with classics, adult fiction, short stories, essay collections, etc, but with those, I tend to only be able to read them in short chunks before needing to put them down (and/or to go to sleep). In trying to read more widely, I've realized that even if I'm reading something I enjoy, it may require, or at least feels as if it does, more brain energy/power.

And this has also affected my actual blogging. There are other posts I planned to write about that wouldn't necessarily require me to be reading all the time, but the other problem is that it's spilled over into my blogging. There are a handful of posts that I've been meaning to write (beyond reviews), but I honestly just don't have the motivation when I have free time or when I'm procrastinating. Part of it is, again the energy aspect, and the other is just that it feels like a chore. There are books and topics I want to talk about, but I don't feel like doing it here. I've been talking more about stuff like this, for example,

If I'm being honest, so much of this all boils down to motivation, and I'm in this in-between space where I'm trying to figure out what I'm interested in as my every day life and every day conversations change. What speaks out to me and interests me is no longer exactly the same, and I haven't figured out how to reflect that here. So I'm not sure how to move forward from here at the moment. I will be posting some long overdue reviews over the course of the summer until I run out of those posts, but with a few exceptions, I don't think I'm going to do anything beyond that.

Which brings me to my last point. If you haven't seen the post/social media spam, Lit Up Review is no longer posting anymore. We all decided that this was the best course of action for all of us as most of the main writers transition into their college lives. As I wrote my farewell post and dwelled on it a bit, as well as on the long and frequent hiatuses I've taken here, I've decided to put this blog on a long-term hiatus for an indefinite amount of time. Like I said, I'll finish reviewing a few books, and then that'll be it for a while. I don't know if I will come back to this blog in the future or if I'll be inspired again, but for now, I've decided to put my energy into my newer, personal/lifestyle/travel blog, Infinite Golden Floors. I haven't been active there for a while because of similar time/motivation issues, but as I read more travel blogs, the more inspired I am, and I think that without having to think about Fly to Fiction will unburden me a bit. So if you'd still like to keep up and read what I'm up to, please check it out and follow/subscribe to me there. In addition, I'll still be on Twitter infrequently (sort of in the same way I have been since getting to college). I am hoping to increase my presence there again, but I'm also really into Instagram at the moment. I WILL still be posting book-ish things on the Fly to Fiction Instagram and will have any short book reviews there. I may have some book reviews on IGF as well, but it won't be as often. I am also hoping to work on The Book Trail and join them as the US Ambassador, so if you're interested in that, please check out the site.

So I want to say thank you for all your love and support over the years/along this journey. This is not yet the end, just a stop along the away, and we'll see where things go from here. If you'd like to support me, again, please check out Infinite Golden Floors, both the blog and the Instagram (shameless self promotion). I love you all, and I hope that you can understand where I'm coming from. It's sad, and I'm a little sad and disappointed in myself, but at the same time, this feels like a burden lifted. I had ideas I wanted to implement here, but I don't think this is the right time for me. Thanks again for everything, lovelies. See you soon! <3

Monday, April 11, 2016

Music Monday (#17): March 2016 Playlist

Every other Monday, I'll share a song/artist/album that I'm either currently listening to or currently obsessed with, though they often go hand-in-hand. Some may have special themes or surprises. This means that I might share a playlist, fan!mix, Top Ten list, etc.


Friday, April 1, 2016

A Beautiful, Sad Story About Friendship, Hope, and Miscommunication | Tour: Review: The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (ARC)

The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: April 1st, 2016
Fourteen-year-old Oscar Dunleavy is missing, presumed dead. His bike was found at sea, out past the end of the pier, and everyone in town seems to have accepted this as a teenage tragedy. But Oscar's best friend Meg knows he isn't dead. Oscar is an optimistic and kind boy who bakes the world's best apple tarts; he would never kill himself, and Meg is going to prove it.

Through interwoven narratives, the reader learns what really happened to Oscar. His sweet life had turned sour after Meg's family moved away. Though Meg didn't know it, Oscar had a manipulative bully plaguing him with toxic humiliation. Meg must confront the painful truth of Oscar's past six months—and the possibility that he might really be gone. Surrounded by grief and confusion, she starts to put the pieces back together.

With a poignant ending and memorable characters, this story of love and friendship reminds us to keep hope in our hearts.

"It's really a beautiful and sad story about friendship and miscommunication and appreciation and hope. "

"Obviously it makes sense for the story to be centered around Oscar, but it felt like all the other characters were fairly one dimensional."

Disclaimer: I received an ARC as a part of the blog tour celebrating the US release of this book. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this. 

Before I begin, I wanna say Happy Book Birthday to Sarah Moore Fitzgerald! Today is The Apple Tart of Hope's US release day! *celebrates*

I went into this book without any idea of what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. The Apple Tart of Hope seems to straddle the line between middle grade and young adult a bit, and it is a nice short book with a gorgeous cover.

Anyhow, I thought the two characters, Oscar and Meg, were interesting. I can't say I remember exactly how I thought and/or thought when I was fourteen, but this book is definitely on the lower end of young adult and reads as such. We learn a surprising amount about Oscar even despite his disappearance/death, and in fact, we learn much more about Oscar than about Meg. I love how fleshed out Oscar was as a character. He's quirky and awkward but endearing, and everything that happens to him is terrible. I think we're able to get a good sense of what kind of person he's like, but I didn't feel the same way about Meg. Her story was told through his and the focus was still on Oscar. She lacked the same depth and characterization that Oscar had. We barely got a sense of who she is and about what it was like for her to move to New Zealand once she was there. I can understand the purpose behind setting up her story that way, but it always felt like we were seeing Meg at a glance. It felt like this with the other characters too. Obviously it makes sense for the story to be centered around Oscar, but it felt like all the other characters were fairly one dimensional. 

The story itself read, as I mentioned, very much like a MG/YA crossover, but not in a bad way. I love how it works for a slightly younger audience but without skimping on the complexity. The book deals with mental illness and bullying, as well as how death impacts people, and I think it does a good job of exploring these but at a level where those in the crossover section wouldn't find it too much. There's this great balance that's struck, which I really appreciated. The plot pans out slowly, but I think the pace works, if a bit too slow for me at times. It's really a beautiful and sad story about friendship and miscommunication and appreciation and hope. It's heartbreaking to see what Paloma does, and it's hard to imagine someone being that cruel, but I know that kind of treatment is also a reality for many people. Seeing the events unfold tore at my heart, especially seeing how so much of what happened hinged on a bit (or rather, a huge) miscommunication. I don't think the end was too difficult to guess, but seeing how things got to that point was what was most important, at least to me.

I think the book is perfect for anyone looking for a crossover genre or looking for a "lighter" book dealing with tough issues. The book isn't perfect, but it's a nice short book that does offer something a little different. If you're looking for something quick to read, The Apple Tart of Hope would be a good book to sit down with for a few hours and finish.
The Apple Tart of Hope: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Sarah Moore Fitzgerald: Twitter | Lit Agency Page

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Wonderful Intersectional Feminist Read | Review: The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller (ARC)

The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls' father is a plant hunter, usually off adventuring through the jungles of China.

Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan fails to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid, meaning that he will be thrown into debtors' prison and the girls will be sent to the orphanage or the poorhouse. Elodie's father has one last chance to return to China, find the orchid, and save the family—and this time, thanks to an unforeseen twist of fate, Elodie is going with him. Elodie has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China.

But even if she can find the orchid, how can she find herself now that staid, responsible Elodie has seen how much the world has to offer?
Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this except that I knew it was going to be an amazing feminist-y read. Ever since I read Waller's last book, A Mad, Wicked Folly, I wanted to read more of her works. I felt even more excited about this book after my video chat with her and Sofia. And when I saw that this was going to be set in China, I knew I had to read it.

I'm not even sure where to begin this review. Just like A Mad, Wicked Folly, the book followed a determined young woman--Elodie--through her life in England, where she feels underestimated and trapped. I loved seeing her transformation throughout the book as she leaves her sheltered home and takes matters into her own hands. If anything, I loved her even more than Vicky because I agreed with her actions more and it was easier to feel sympathetic to her/her situation. That being said, I didn't find the other characters as compelling. I thought the characters represented various walks of life and points of view which I really appreciated and loved. I loved Ching Lan's storyline, and it was interesting to see it from Elodie's point of view and from that time in history. At first I didn't really like Ching Lan but more because we were viewing her from Elodie's perspective, but as we learned more about her, her situation really struck me and very strongly shows cultural differences and how they impact our lives. And though I loved Alex, I don't know how I feel about his relationship with Elodie. It was pretty obvious and predictable and just didn't feel very authentic to me. I do think their relationship changed over time, and it became less of a thing, but it sat weirdly with me for a while.

I thought the parent-daughter relationships and sibling relationships were particularly interesting here, as well as the idea of a chosen family. I found these to be much more compelling, particularly showing Elodie's growth. She cares so much about her family and that never goes away, but she also learns that sometime we need to be selfish and put ourselves before our family members. She learns to be her own person outside of her family, but it's clear she doesn't care about her family any less because of it. The feminist message in this book is just fabulously done, and I think it was much clearer (and perhaps more explicitly stated) than in A Mad, Wicked Folly, but I just loved how this dealt with how culture plays such a big part in feminism and about intersectionality (and seeing supportive males).

I also really appreciated the two settings, England and China. Even though I'm Chinese (and Taiwanese), I've never visited the country, yet Waller perfectly captures the atmosphere of Chinese neighborhoods (but without the same Western lens we experience it here) and really captures the culture. I could picture all of the locations. It was just beautifully crafted.

However, I did have some qualms about the book. As I mentioned briefly earlier, I didn't really feel as connected to these characters. Though their stories were compelling, I wasn't pulled into them. In addition, there was a lot more build up before the actual trip to China than I was expecting. I suppose that it's necessary as it builds the backdrop for the second part of the book, but it really dragged for me. And even once we arrived in China, I didn't feel as though the pace picked up. Normally I'm okay with a character-driven, not high paced book, but without feeling the same pull to the characters, it made it a bit of an effort to keep reading the book. I know some people DNF'd the book, and I could understand why, but I'm glad I stuck with it until the end.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and thought the messages were much more developed than the author's previous novel, despite a more dragging plot. The setting was done very well and really captured the culture and atmosphere.
The Forbidden Orchid: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Sharon Biggs Waller: Website | Pinterest | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Beautiful, Unputdownable, Worth Every Tear | Mini Review: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?
"I cried so much while reading this, but every tear was worth it."

I've been eyeing this book for some time now, so I'm grateful for Dahlia's Book Club for giving me that extra push. This is a fabulous novel and is so important. It's so important for people to learn more about those who are intersex and what that is like, and this book hopefully provides some more visibility on the topic. So much of the focus of LGBTQ+ discussions leaves out intersex, leaving most people very unaware of what that actually means. This is manifested in the majority of Kristen's school.

This story broke my heart and then slowly healed it again. I learned so much along the way, and it was just an emotional rollercoaster. The characters really add such a depth to the story and to the conflicts. I feel like there might be criticism about some of Kristen's friendships, but oh my gosh did I see my own middle/high school friend dynamics in there (minus the partying). And I would hate to think about how non-tolerant those in Kristen's school were, but to be honest, I don't find it surprising. High school can be so ruthless and terrible, and teens can be so quick to tear one another down. But I think another important experience and lesson to be learned here is that despite all the terrible people (or the good people who make bad decisions), there are also really decent and amazing people who don't care and will stick up for you. And seeing that in this book was such a treasure. I cried so much while reading this, but every tear was worth it.

But before I forget or get sidetracked, I want to bring it back to this being about a girl who just founds out she's intersex and is struggling to figure out her identity when she feels it's being taken away. It is just so powerful, but it's also so impactful for anyone who goes through a time where they feel they're losing/they have lost their identity, even when it's something that doesn't truly define you or your personality. I just think this story was beautiful, and I couldn't put it down.

That being said, there were large parts of the story that were pretty predictable, including that ending. And there were a few other things, but I think they are far outweighed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and while it wasn't my favorite, it sure is amazing and definitely needs to be read by all.
None of the Above: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
I. W. Gregorio: Website | Tumblr | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Great World Building and Exploration of Identity, But Where Did Everyone Go? | Mini Review: Audiobook: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (Audiobook)
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: September 24th, 2013 
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city saved by the magic woven into its walls when a devastating plague swept through the world years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow, who spends his days in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.

But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill; something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.
"There's so much depth to Oscar, and I love the exploration of identity and what it means to be human and to be growing up."

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I was actually introduced to it through Dahlia's Book Club, and I decided to listen to this instead since finding time to read in college is hard.

There's so much depth to Oscar, and I love the exploration of identity and what it means to be human and to be growing up. Growing up can be so hard and so isolating for anyone, but social interaction is particularly difficult for Oscar. I also really enjoyed Callie as a character and how she is one of the few people to see through everything that prevent people from really getting to know or care about Oscar. Their friendship is so beautiful and so important and shows how important acceptance and love are, how much someone can change your life.

The world was really interesting, and I loved the premise of the story. I thought the story carried itself well, and I almost always wanted to keep listening. I'm still getting used to listening to audiobooks, but this wasn't particularly difficult to get into. I was glad there weren't long descriptions, but there were also so many times where I found it difficult to get any image of the setting. Like I know what the places are called, but it was still difficult to visualize much that wasn't the forest or garden.

The ignorance of the people also bothered me beyond belief. As much as it could be realistic, I don't see how everyone could just be brainwashed to forget simply because they were scared...but maybe that's because I never lived through something like that. My other biggest problem with the book was how quickly so many seemingly important characters just left the story, from Master Caleb to Wolf to Madame something (the one who Callie was working under) to the baker. There was so little exploration of these characters, and maybe the author didn't find that important, but it's such a shame.

But overall, I enjoyed the book, and it was worth the time.
The Real Boy: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Anne Ursu: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Real, Raw, Palpable, Heart-breaking, and Hopeful | Mini Review: Finding Center by Katherine Locke

Finding Center by Katherine Locke
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: August 17th, 2015
Zed and ballet are my two greatest loves

It took all of Aly's strength to get them back after a tragic accident ripped them from her six years ago. A long road to recovery led to her return, dancing full-time for the District Ballet Company and carrying Zed's child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she's losing.

I'm scared Aly is broken to her core

Zed recognizes the signs, but he doesn't know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of the woman he loves, it's getting harder the farther downward she spirals. When Aly's life is threatened and Zed's injuries prevent him from saving her, he's never felt so useless, so afraid he's not capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.

With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.
"This book in particular is raw and haunting but also hopeful."

"It made me feel understood too, and that made me feel a little less alone."

THIS BOOK. I'm not sure why I waited so long to read this, but I was really missing ballet, so I picked this one up. And I'm so glad that I did.

I loved Second Position, but I didn't realize I could fall in love with Locke's story even more. Yet Finding Center did just that. It still contained the ballet that I love and was looking for within Locke's story, but this one hit so much more and focuses much more on the characters and their development. 

The story continues with the emotional character development in the first book. I absolutely love how Locke handles mental illness within her books. She handles it deftly and carefully but doesn't leave anything out, doesn't sugarcoat anything. This book in particular is raw and haunting but also hopeful. We see that there's a way through. It never leaves you, but it gets easier, and you learn how to handle it amongst everything else in life.

But the journey to get there is an emotional one. There are so many ups and downs, so many miscommunications, so much that is conveyed. Locke shows how people can change but also how slow and how much of a process it is. The changing point of view is especially effective in this book and in getting the message across. Both are going1 through so much and shut others out, but we can see both sides of it, and I think that is so important and so well done.

The book is never lagging, and the struggles are so real and palpable. My heart broke so many times, and I cried so much while reading this, not just because the plot was often so sad and distressing but also because it just understood what it felt like. I definitely don't have anything close to what Aly and Zed are feeling and going through, but I can understand how they felt. It made me feel understood too, and that made me feel a little less alone. (And of course the dance/ballet portions are beautifully written, as always. The conflicts are well written and envisioned, and I loved every moment of it.)

I implore you to go read it (and/or Second Position).
Finding Center: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Katherine Locke: Website | Twitter | Tumblr 
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