Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm Back! (Sorta?) (+Giveaway)

*sneaks in* Hey everyone! Wow, here I am, finally kinda back from a blogging hiatus that wasn't really a hiatus but sort of was. Basically, I kind of disappeared for a while, with only a few posts once in a while. For that I am so sorry. But you should blame school. And dance. And life in general.

Anyway, now that I'm finally on summer break from school and from dance (for a few weeks), hopefully I'll be able to catch up on reading and writing posts/reviews. To start things off, I'm going I already have some reviews that I need to write, and I have an exciting blog event coming up. My one year blogoversary is coming up. So fingers crossed everything will go according to plan, and I'll be able to schedule a bunch of posts for the beginning of the coming school year.

However, the sorta part of the title of this post is also really important to explain. What it means is that I'm really hoping I'll be able to get everything done, and I'm hoping I'll be more involved in the blogosphere again. But at the same time, I'm entering my senior year of high school, and I have a packed summer. I have an internship, two tutoring jobs, a one week program in New York City, dance classes, a ballet master class, dance competition workshops, volunteering, various appointments, I'll be visiting various colleges, I'll be starting my college applications, and I have three summer assignments for school. 

So yeah. Fingers crossed things go according to plan. If not, well, you'll know. I'm so sorry for being so in and out, but school really put me into a blogging and reading slump. But I should be around now! :)

And now, to celebrate my summer break and to thank you for sticking with me and hopefully not forgetting about me and/or my blog, I (finally) have a giveaway for you! Plan to see another giveaway in my blogoversary post too! :D

I'm giving away a copy of This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki in honor of summer break (or winter if you're in the S. Hemisphere, I guess).

~Must be 13 or older or have parent permission
~US only (sorry international! I'll include a US/CAN swag giveaway for my blogoversary)
~Winner must respond in 72 hours or a new winner will be chosen
~No cheating will be tolerated
~Damaged or lost prizes are not my responsibility--sorry!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Flashback Friday (#4): Books That Made Me Love Reading

Flashback Friday is where I review, or possibly discuss, an old TV show, movie, book, or album. So what's considered old? Anything that was not released within the past year and a half. By years, I mean calendar year (so for this year, June 2013-December 2014 would NOT be old).

I was inspired by one of the Top Ten Tuesday posts to write about my own "gateway" books. I guess I'll split it up into a few books that a) got me into reading b) got me into YA and c) led to me reading other books of its genre (if that makes any sense). So without further ado, here are some of my gateway books! (These are not in order, and I obviously haven't included everything, but this is just a sampling.)

Inspired My Love for Books/Reading:
1) Make Way for Ducklings
2) The Babysitter's Club
3) Harry Potter
4) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
5) Inkheart and Cornelia Funke's other books
6) Doctor Seuss' books
7) Eric Carle's books
8) Judy Blumes' books
9) Beverley Cleary's books

Got Me Into MG/YA:
1) Sarah Dessen's books, namely Lock and Key
2) Harry Potter
3) Inkheart and other Cornelia Funke books
4) Percy Jackson and the Olympians
5) The Mysterious Benedict Society
6) Chasing Vermeer
7) The Princess Academy
8) Midnight Rider
9) Judy Blumes' books
10) Jude Watson's Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice series

Books That Led Me to Others in Its Genre
1) Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen-->YA Contemporary
2) Midnight Rider by Joan Hiatt Harlow (and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne)-->Historical Fiction
3) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (and Eragon by Christopher Paolini)-->Fantasy
4) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer-->YA Paranormal (I'm not a huge fan of the genre anymore, but this initially led to it)
5) Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan-->Mythology
6) The Wanderer by Sharon Creech-->Multiple POV books
7) Nancy Drew, Shakespeare's Secret, and Chasing Vermeer-->Mystery
8) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-->Dystopian (as much as I didn't like the books)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TV Tuesday (#4): Review: The Line (Graceland)

You know when there's a show you really love that you just want to see continue to do well and go in the right direction? Graceland was sort of one of those shows for me; there were a few ups and downs last season, but I had high hopes. But alas, this week's episode, The Line, didn't live up to my expectations. At all.

In my last post, which was a Waiting on Wednesday post, I mentioned how one of my favorite aspects of the show is the group dynamic and how characters interact with one another. The thing is, that has completely changed. And with very little explanation other than "well, it's been a while..." Yes, yes it has, but that doesn't mean the whole dynamic changes just because Mike is gone. I mean, I get it...but I don't. It sucks. It was my favorite part of the show. Hating Briggs, loving Johnny, being iffy on Jakes, loving Paige, loving Charlie, changing all the time on Mike. I know that things must change, but this is not a change I like. New guy isn't really introduced to us that well, so I have no idea anything about him and/or his relationship with the others. I don't have anything to say about him. Briggs? I agree, Mike, he's just acting so unlike himself. Also, still not a huge fan of his. Johnny <3 I love Johnny, and I feel SO bad for him because he's like my baby, but even he is out of it. Paige is okay, though we don't see a whole lot of her in this episode. I still don't know what to make of Jakes, so I'm just leaving it here. Charlie? Gahhhh. What do I even say? I don't want to include spoilers, so I'm leaving the majority of my opinion regarding Charlie off of here. Mike has me wanting to pull my hair out a bit. The thing is, I kind of have to agree. The whole pulling rank thing? Not cool. He's gotten SO cocky, and it annoys me. I understand it, but I don't like it. It makes him less likable, and he just comes off as being incredibly reckless. Yes, it worked this time, and he's not dead, but he may not always be so lucky. And just because he's in DC doesn't make him better than the others. And yes, he is pushing everyone away. It just makes me so upset that the characters aren't who they used to be. 

In terms of the plot, I wasn't overly excited about this one. It didn't have the same pull as some of the previous episodes. I guess it's because I kind of want to get past Caza, and while it will take us away from that focus, it hasn't been resolved yet. I know Caza will come up again, but anyway. The plot just felt really lacking. Not as exciting. Not as much going on. The other characters were barely important. I don't understand, completely, what Charlie is looking into. Perhaps it's because everything else has changed that it feels like the plot is different. I'm hoping things will pick up or get more interesting soon. The whole bus line plot sounds okay, but it doesn't sound as interesting as some of the plots from Season 1. I guess I'll just have to wait and see. 

Okay, I'm just going to stop here now because those were really the main two aspects I had any comments on, and I think those are the more important aspects anyway. I'm disappointed in this episode, but I'm praying the rest of the season will be better.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Blitz: Her Secret Inheritance by Jen McConnel (+Giveaway)

I'm so excited to be a part of this book blitz. I'm lucky to be on Jen's street team. She's so awesome, and though I'm still only roughly halfway through Isobel Key, I am enjoying it. Her Secret Inheritance just sounds awesome!

Her Secret Inheritance by Jen McConnel
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Release Date: June 12th, 2014
Five years after the trip to Scotland that changed her life, Lou is back in the misty, magical country. But this time, she’s not on vacation.

When Brian, her old Highland fling, turns up at the scene of some depressing family business, tension mounts between the former lovers. But dealing with Brian is only part of the problem; something wicked is stirring in Scotland. Lou must use all her strength to handle the increasingly desperate situation, but will she be strong enough to battle both a vengeful ghost and her heart?

Lou may have thought that she was finished with the witch Isobel Key, but some secrets can’t stay buried forever.

About the Author:

Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives andwrites in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Her debut NA novel, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY, is out now from Bloomsbury Spark. She also writes YA and nonfiction. Visit to learn more.

(The print is the one posted above)

***In addition, COMMENT BELOW BY JULY 9TH for a chance to win an Isobel Key swag pack. Leave your email in the comment!***

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#12): Graceland Season 2

This feature is hosted by Breaking the Spine!
For more info on this feature, see my features page. My version is just adapted to include more than just books.

I'm so excited for Season 2!!! Actually, it airs later today, though I can't watch it for probably another two weeks. But anyway. This is such a fun but intense summer show. So many friendships and really interesting dynamics and interactions. The show is so unique from other FBI shows in that it brings together the FBI, DEA, and other agencies. But at the heart of the show, it's about the character's interactions and dynamics, and it's so great! Please check out the show if you haven't already.

Fiction Friction (#12): When Bands/Groups Break Up (aka When Fans Cry Forever...and Ever)

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

The title says it all, really. We all know good things must eventually come to an end. There's always some band/group that's going on a break or just breaking up for good. And if you're a fan of that band/group, it just breaks your heart, doesn't it?

Because unlike a TV show ending or a book series ending, there's usually no clear sign of the end. Bands and groups can continue to release music even if there aren't as many fans or listeners anymore (unlike TV shows that are largely based on the number of viewers). You don't know how many albums will be released before they break up, unlike with most books where there are a set number of books that will be released in a series. 

Sometimes there are little signs and hints, but sometimes there aren't. I have two different examples:

1) The Civil Wars

The duo, Joy and John Paul, seemed to be on the way to stardom. They rose to fame recently, and I fell in love with their music after listening to one or two of their songs. Their lyrics are so meaningful, and I just love the sound of their music. Their talent just blows me away, and I love how raw and real their live performances are. You could see the chemistry between them (to the point where some people thought they were dating or married). And then, all of a sudden, they announced that they weren't finishing their tour because they couldn't tour together anymore due to "unreconcilable (irreconcilable?) differences." And fans were shocked, or at least I was. It seemed like it was out of nowhere. And it definitely broke my heart because they could have gone so far together and because this happened before their second, and I suppose final, album was released. TEARS.

2) The Wanted

For fans that watched The Wanted Life, it seemed as if a rift was starting to form in the band. But everyone, including the band members themselves, credited it to the fact that it was all because of the editing of the reality TV show. I mean, come on, we all know how unrealistic reality TV generally is. Besides, they still seemed to be great together when on Twitter, in their videos, etc. Yes, they're just on a break to focus on their own lives, which makes sense. Yet fans fear that the end may be near for the band despite this just being a hiatus. I'm a relatively new fan, and I wish I had been a better fan or had tried to get into the Fanmily more. I'll be really sad if they officially break up, and I really hope it won't happen because they're an amazing band that is even more amazing to their fans. 

But once in a while, bands/groups on hiatus come back and the whole fanbase cheers. My #1 example? The Hush Sound, one of my favorite bands. After a few years on hiatus to work on their individual projects, the band finally came back together, released a few new songs, and they're releasing a new album sometime this year, I believe. You don't know how happy I was because I fell in love with them after their hiatus began. So I rejoiced. Hiatuses don't mean the end of a band/group, and that really assures me and makes me feel better.

So what do I do when one of my favorite bands/groups, or even a group I listen to sometimes, breaks up or goes on hiatus? I make sure I follow their social media so I can get the first bit of information about them potentially getting back together (mostly in hiatus situations). I follow their individual accounts if it's available because many of them continue on with a solo career. I continue to listen to old songs/albums. I feel sad from time to time. I talk to other fans. And I try to find other groups/bands that I can fangirl about next.

Have any of your favorite bands/groups broken up or gone on hiatus? What's the best way to deal with THE FEELS?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blitz: Just Sing by Rene Gilley

Release Date: June 5th, 2014
Sixteen-year-old Lily O’Brien has one goal in life—to sing. Her dream is to get into a topnotch college vocal program, but the summer before her junior year, her high school cuts their awarding-winning vocal ensemble. She might as well kiss her dreams goodbye.

When the snobby new neighbors move into their mansion up the hill, Lily is positive summer can’t get any worse, and she’s determined to hate and ignore them—until she meets Aiden.
He’s broken and beautiful, and they become reluctant friends. Through her newfound friendship, she finds the strength to step outside the comfort of her plan and follow her dream.

But when Lily’s family is about to lose their home, she puts her wishes aside and finds the answer to save their generations-old ranch in the last place she expected.

Available from:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

About the Author:

I’m RenĂ© Gilley, a young adult and new adult author. I’m a mom, wife, and breast cancer survivor. A portion of every book royalty I receive will go to support breast cancer patients, awareness, and research for a cure.

JUST SING, my debut young adult book, will be available in ebook and paperback, June 5, 2014. Published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House TWCS.

Author Links:



Book Blitz Organized by:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fiction Friction (#11): Reader vs. Author Interpretations

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

I was thinking about this idea after my whole class share for my English Scholars Program class. It was really interesting to see how my classmates interpreted the song that I shared (which is actually 100 Colors; it'll be shared during the "Inspired: A Summer of Songs" event this summer). So it got me thinking about how an author's interpretation/view of their work compares to how others/readers view their work.

One example I need to use is Harry Potter and the recent Hermione/Ron thing that J.K. Rowling spoke about. I'm not focusing on what she actually said but rather on the discussions that stemmed from it. The thing is, as an author, J.K. Rowling can choose to interpret events and relationships as she wishes. Just because she thinks certain things about her characters and their unwritten future doesn't mean that you have to agree. Once writing is out to the public, the public can decide how they interpret the work.

In a similar vein, sometimes, an author believes that they are giving a certain message in their book/poem/etc, but then, some readers either won't ever see that message or they might even get an opposite message. It's always hard to gauge this, especially when dealing with a tough or touchy subject such as suicide, rape, etc.

But there are also aspects such as symbolism that can differ. In my song, 100 Colors, I wrote many of the lines because they just popped into my head that way. My classmates started to talk about what the colors represent and how the verses relate to the feeling they get from that. But it was interesting to me because they looked at it in such a deeper light than I had ever thought of the words. My line, "there are a hundred colors/bleeding through my fingertips" was just something that popped into my head. I honestly don't even know where that came from. It just sounded nice, and it fit the idea of art/photography in Solving for Ex, which the latter parts of the song were inspired by. It made me think about how authors may not always have the intent that readers interpret. I didn't write "colors" to symbolize emotions and the complexity of emotions. I wrote it because it came into my head, it fit, and it sounded right. But does that mean that the readers are wrong? Not necessarily. I believe that one of the powerful things about reading and writing is that different people interpret works in different ways. It's really interesting to see other peoples' perspective on the same piece of writing. It's the reason why, for every book with a 5 star review, there's a 1 star review. 

Do you think readers have the right to interpret writing as they wish? Is there a right or wrong interpretation (or does it depend)? What are your thoughts on interpretations? Do you sometimes think that you put more meaning into something than the author might have meant/intended?
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