Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TV Tuesday (#8): Spotlight: NCIS:LA

Once a month on a Tuesday, I'll showcase a TV in some way, whether it be an episode review (or bundle), a discussion, some thoughts and reactions, Top Tens, a fan!mix, or a recommendation.

TV Show Showcase: I'll be spotlighting some of the many shows I watch. I watch so many shows, but I still haven't talked about most of them on here. I could be writing reviews, but I've been so busy that it's already been a hassle to try to keep up with one or two shows, let alone write some reviews. So this is my way of mentioning and talking about the shows I love.
(Previously spotlighted: Red Band SocietyOrphan Black, How to Get Away with Murder)

When did you first start watching the show? Why did you start watching it?
I started off as a huge fan of NCIS. It used to be my absolute favorite show. When NCIS:LA first came out, I was interested but not enough to really want to watch it. Then, I kept hearing about the show, and I kept seeing edits and Tumblr posts and tweets about Densi (Deeks/Kensi), and I sort of did want to watch it. I had already seen the crossover episode with NCIS that kicked off the show, so I went back and started the show! Now, I honestly love it more than NCIS.

Who's your favorite character?
Oh gosh. I love all of the characters for different reasons, but I think I'd have to go with either Nell or Kensi. I love how this show has such amazing females. The show does a great job of portraying strong but also vulnerable women, and there's such a sense of empowerment. I love how both Nell and Kensi are feisty and smart and not afraid to say what they want. They're also kind and caring and totally kickass. They're such well-rounded characters, and they truly stand on their own.
(I also really loved Nate, but he's no longer on the show, so.)

Who's your least favorite character?
I don't know if I have one, at least from the main cast. I suppose if I had to choose, it'd be Granger. If it had been last season or so, I would have easily said Granger, but we're starting to see him in a different light now. His interactions with the team are different now, and he's become much more human in the eyes of viewers. We see a softer side to him despite his really hard, serious exterior, and now that he's basically another part of the team, I've begun to like him a bit more.

Favorite guest star or addition to the cast?
Either Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) or Nell (Renee Felice Smith)! They were both added after the start of the show, and they're obviously a huge part of the team now. I can't choose between them, but I'm so happy they're on for good now.

Favorite episode?
??? To be honest, I don't remember them very well, but I kind of just enjoy most episodes...I don't know if there's one episode over all the others. I'd have to have a massive marathon if I were to decide that.

What's your favorite aspect of the show?
I absolutely love the team dynamics and the banter, and I think that's what really makes the show. It's hilarious and heartwarming even in the most tense moments of the show. It sets it apart from many of the other crime shows. While many of those also have lots of banter, there's something quite different about the way this team interacts. There's this special spark.

Also, I love how they take the buildup of relationships slowly on the show but without being too slow. I think one of the problems with NCIS was that it began to drag out the inevitability of Tony/Ziva, and in the end, because Cote left the show, they couldn't finally explore the two finally getting into a romantic relationship.

What's your least favorite aspect of the show?
Sometimes there's a bit too much banter, especially from Deeks. Sometimes I wish they'd tone it down a bit during the really serious moments. I know it's in his personality, but sometimes he'll cause Kensi to shut down, and it's hard not to see why they had such issues going into their relationship and making their work relationship work. She's right; there's this gap in communication. I love it when we see Deeks as vulnerable and a bit soft, letting down his guard, which are his jokes and his banter and that whole exterior.

OTP and/or ships?
Kensi/Deeks and Nell/Eric!!! They're the best. And then there's the ten thousand different brotps with like everyone on the show.

What do you think/predict about the future of the show?
I'm not sure! I'm not sure how it's doing in terms of viewership, especially now that the day has switched to Monday and now that it doesn't follow NCIS, but I'm really hoping it'll stick around and not suffer from being too long like NCIS. I hope to see more of what I've come to love on the show, and I can't wait to see relationships (romantic, friendships, work) develop even more, as that's such a forte on the show.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories Anthology

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories (Anthology) Edited by Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year's there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. This does not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for the review.

As this is an anthology, I'll be writing mini reviews for each of the stories separately, but if I were to rate it as a whole, I'd give it a 4 out of 5. You'll find that I found most of the stories to be in the middle/mediocre, but I really enjoyed the ones I did enjoy, so that's why I ended up giving it an overall rating of 4. As a whole, I found this to be enjoyable, and I'll definitely be rereading a few of these during the holiday season from now on.

1) Midnights by Rainbow Rowell
I absolutely adored this story. I'm going to be honest. I read the first half of the book around the time that the book came out so the details are a bit fuzzy, but I definitely remember loving this story. It's just this beautiful short little story about two friends growing closer, then apart, and then together again until they admit their feelings for one another. Rowell consolidated what could have been a great book into an amazing short story.
 2) The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link
This story still confuses me. For most of the story, I couldn't figure out what was going on, and I didn't find it very convincing love story at all. It made me squirm, and it made me feel awkward. It got a bit better towards the end, but I was just so done with it by then.
3) Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña
Again, I wasn't really feeling the romance in this story. It did get progressively better, which I was really happy with. I really enjoyed the ending, even though the "reveal" towards the end didn't surprise me and made the romance a bit more weird. But overall, this was a pretty cute story.
4) Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han
I wasn't the biggest fan for the first few paragraphs, and Natalie is far from my favorite narrator, but I did enjoy the story overall. I like how open-ended the ending is, but at the same time, I wish there had been more! It felt incomplete, and I wasn't entirely convinced about the whole Flynn, Lars, etc thing. I think the story would have been a bit, if not much, better if it had been longer and had more time to develop and grow. Overall, a sweet, short short story.
5) It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins
*FLAILS* This was just utterly perfect, and it was exactly what I was looking for, hoping for, and what I needed at the time that I read it. It's such a nicely developed story, and I feel like I really got to know the characters. I was completely drawn into story, and I just flipped the pages, wanting more, more, more. So much love! If you're only going to read one story in this entire anthology, this is tied for my first choice.
6) Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan
I feel really indifferent about this story. I was not a fan of it at the beginning, and though it got slightly better, I was never drawn into the story. I didn't feel anything for the characters, and it feels like this was more like a snapshot of a larger work than a standalone. This was just a very mehhh read for me.
7) Krampuslauf by Holly Black
I had to restart this one so many times because I kept putting it down, forgetting what it was about, starting it again, etc. I'm still not entirely sure what the heck was going on and what exactly those creatures were, but I could tell that this story was really trying to have heart and be about friendship. It was just that there was this really awkward air around all of it. I was left feeling pretty indifferent about this story too. I still have no idea what the krampuslauf is supposed to look like, and if it's anything like I imagine, I just really don't see the appeal of the romance. I did not get a happy, light, holiday-y feel from this story at all. It ended up not being terrible, but it was pretty mediocre in my opinion.
8) What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman
I quite enjoyed this one. It was pretty cute and fluffy. The romance moved pretty quickly, but I really enjoyed the banter between the characters so it sort of made up for it. My biggest peeve about this story was all the racial commentary. I cringed every.single.time she brought it up. Ugh. And also the whole wealth commentary as well. It detracted from the story and from the narrative a lot. I understand that perhaps Sophie felt that way and thought those things, but I think this could have been a better story had it not had a slight focus on those two aspects.
9) Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
Overall, a pretty enjoyable story. Not entirely sure how I feel about the whole religion commentary, but I like how it's portrayed in a positive light, used more for acceptance and forgiveness than judgment, anger, and hatred. The misconceptions that are revealed towards the end felt a bit unfounded, like where did they come from?, and there were some moments when he made comments about Gracie that made me uncomfortable, but overall, this was fun to read.
10) Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White
Tied as my favorite with Stephanie Perkins' story, what I loved most about this story is that it was wide in range, reach, and scope but still very focused. It wasn't simply a fluffy romance. While those are nice (I did really love Perkins' story), this one ultimately feels like the one with the most heart. For a good portion of the story, I wasn't expecting it to stick with me the way it did, and I wasn't expecting it to be as great as it ended up being. It addresses so many issues without being too crowded while still remaining concise and short. The twist at the end is one that I should have seen coming. I saw a small part of the revelation but the rest was quite a surprise. I love how it's about family and love and friendship and happiness and cultures and different peoples, but it's also about hardships and miscommunication and heavy and serious. Wow, just wow. I was blown away by this one. Highly recommended, and again, if you had to pick one story, it'd be a really hard choice between this one and Stephanie Perkins' story.
11) Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
This was a nice story that did not end up being what I expected. I'm not quite sure what I expected, but for a large portion of the story, I wasn't entirely sure what was happening while still having every idea of what was going on, if that makes any sense. The twist near the end was a shocker for me. I mean, I don't think we really had any good clues to lead us to that conclusion, but it was not what I was expecting. I enjoyed how it was about family and acceptance though. I did like the ending, though the romance was again awkward. It had this soft feel to it, even with the little bit of suspense mixed in there. 
12) The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
I'm going to admit that there are portions I kind of skimmed/skipped over. The story didn't grab my attention, and I had no idea what the heck was going on (in a different but similar way to The Lady and the Fox). I spent most of the story trying to figure out the world and how it worked. Once I sort of figured it out, the story did get better and was more enjoyable to read, but it was just so off-putting and her writing was hard for me to read. In the end, I liked the story and perhaps its commentary on females overcoming very obvious male dominance and control. It was just so hard to get into this!
My True Love Gave to Me: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (ARC)

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co (BYR)
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.
"This is heartbreaking, inspiring, and poignant, and it delves deeply in many issues, many ones that most other books don't address."

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley. This doesn't affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this post.

Speaking bluntly, I absolutely loved I'll Meet You There. I don't doubt it'll be one of my favorite reads of 2015. This book has stuck with me long after I've finished reading it. This is heartbreaking, inspiring, and poignant, and it delves deeply in many issues, many ones that most other books don't address.

The plot is engaging, and it draws the reader right into the lives of the characters. It's hard not to get attached to the characters and the conflicts in their lives. I enjoyed the slow reveal of Josh's story. I wish we could have heard more from his perspective, but at the same time, what we got was perfect. It was just enough to provide pertinent information without being more than necessary. It gives readers a scary look into what it's like to deal with grief and PTSD. We see his struggle to re-find himself and to fit back into his old life after being in the military. We see his struggle to come to terms with the tragedy he had to deal with, and we get glimpses into how much Skylar has helped him. It also provides for situational irony as the reader learns about reasons why Josh won't do X or why he does X, which directly impacts Sky's story and her portions. We see both sides of the story, and at times, that's a really powerful device.

Skylar also goes through immense changes throughout the book, as she struggles with her own plethora of issues. I particularly liked how Demetrios used art and Sky's hobby of creating collages to effectively show how Sky's perception of Creek View changes as she changes. She's dealing with this dilemma of choosing between going to college and staying in Creek View to help her mother. She can't wait to get out of Creek View, and all she wants is to ensure that she doesn't get "stuck" and "trapped" in Creek View forever. But at the same time, her mother (as well as Sky but not to the extreme extent) is still grieving Sky's father's death. Her mother makes bad decisions and turns to alcohol, refusing to get help. Sky is the only person holding up the two of them. She's the one making a meager wage in the hopes of it being enough to support both herself and her mother. We see her struggle with poverty, and while it's resolved a little too simply for my taste, it's not something often seen and addressed in books. So many people live in poverty, yet rarely do we get such a deep look into the reality of their lives. It made me cry, and it broke my heart.

The other characters are similarly complex. Dylan, Sky's best friend, is a teen mom who's in love and who wants to stay in Creek View. It's interesting to see their relationship change and grow as the book progresses, especially after their big fight. It reminds me of the point many feminists make--that feminism isn't about making women go out and enter the work force or be in leadership positions; it's about allowing women to do what they want, just as men can choose to do what they want. If a woman wants to be a housewife or stay-at-home mom, so be it as long as it's her choice. Dylan reminds me of this. On the other side, Chris, Sky and Dylan's other best friend, can't wait to get out of Creek View and go far away. His family life greatly contrasts Sky's, and Sky is often jealous of his home situation. There's Sky's mom, whom we watch go through a great many trials and tribulations. While we're seeing it from Sky's point of view, there are also really humanizing moments that give us a glimpse into why she does what she does and acts in the way that she does. There's Marge, whose son was a war vet and committed suicide; her narrative plays alongside Sky and Josh's, partially because they work at her motel but largely because of how their stories and experiences are intertwined. Marge and Sky are pretty close, and Marge takes over as Sky's mother figure later in the book, while Marge's revelation about her son really connects with Josh's struggle. The characters are so human, and they deal with issues that we don't often see in books. They give readers a look into the hard lives many people live invisibly. It give the book a gritty quality but in a good way.

But that doesn't mean there aren't happy, light moments. They're sprinkled around in just the right places, leaving hope in the face of great despair. Demetrios does a great job at weaving the stories together. The book is a bit slow at the very beginning, but it picks up quickly. Before I knew it, I was flying through the book, unable to put it down and go to sleep until I had finished. There were lots of tears, but the ending was just so perfectly done. This is honestly one of the best books and one of the most well-written books I've read. I'll Meet You There is definitely a book I'll be recommending to people until the end of time.

You can also check out my review/analysis on Feminists Talk Books, which focuses less on plot and more on representation. Much of it I rephrased for this review, but I go a bit more in depth in the other post.
I'll Meet You There: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Heather Demetrios: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Tumblr | YouTube

Monday, March 23, 2015

Music Monday (#10): Little Toy Guns by Carrie Underwood

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.

This week, I'm kicking it back to an artist I've loved for a really long time: Carrie Underwood. I love her music, and I love her as a person. She's so inspiring, and I'm excited for her new music, whenever we'll be getting that.

In her new greatest hits album, Carrie Underwood Greatest Hits: Decade #1, she has two new singles, Something in the Water and Little Toy Guns. I absolutely love both of them but for different reasons. I also love both of the music videos, but lately, the one I've been obsessing over more is Little Toy Guns (perhaps because Something in the Water came out first, so I was obsessing over that before).

It's such a Carrie Underwood song. It's catchy, but there's also so much meaning behind it, which I think the music video really got at. The music video is visually stunning, but it's also incredibly able to convey the full story Carrie is telling in the song. It's so beautiful and refreshing to see Carrie continue to address big issues through her music, something that artists tend to stay away from. It really shows how parents fighting and arguing all the time really affects children and how we often forget about others when we're arguing because we're only thinking about protecting ourselves. But what about the kids who deal with the yelling on a daily basis? How do they feel? How does it affect them? Little Toy Guns scratches the surface of the answers to these questions.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (ARC)

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: January 6th, 2015
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
"This book offers a poignant and painfully real look at mental illness and its effects. "

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher on NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this.

Wow, wow, wow. This book, you guys. I fell in love with the book for so many reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason was the way it discussed and looked at mental illness and how it affects those around the mentally ill as well. There's this exploration of the ups and downs, the highs and lows, of someone going through a really tough situation with little or no help. People don't understand. People don't know what to do or say. People pretend to ignore it, try to pretend that mental illness isn't a thing. People leave loved ones to fight on their own, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not knowingly. And sometimes, no matter how much we love someone and no matter how far they've come, the mental illness is still too much. It's horrible, and it's sad, but it's true.

All the Bright Places offers a painful real story of people living with grief and pain and mental illness. It's not glorified. It's not taken lightly. The ending fits the rest of the events of the book, and it's a bittersweet ending. Niven faces the issue head on and doesn't let the subject stop her from telling someone's story. But the book isn't completely sad either. Just like the end of the book, it's mostly bittersweet. There are happy moments, funny moments, but there are also many tough, rough moments, moments when the characters can't seem to bounce back from. This book offers a poignant and painfully real look at mental illness and its effects. 

On a separate note, I really enjoyed the exploration of Indiana. It's so refreshing to read a book that takes place somewhere usually forgotten about in books. I really like how the book focused on finding beauty in a place that most tend to view as boring. I think it goes well with the idea of find beauty in someone people forget to look at as a real person and someone people don't like to think about. And it just provides a great way to get to know Indiana a bit more. Every state needs a book like this!

However, while I thoroughly enjoyed the book, a few small aspects kept me from really, really loving it. First was the relationship between Finch and Violet. At times, especially towards the end, I was fully on board, but at first, their relationship just made me feel really awkward. I think it was the way Finch treated Violet. I really enjoy the two characters, and it's really interesting to see their journey throughout the book. They're both so complex, and it's really amazing to see the two of them grow closer and to see how that affects the both of them. But sometimes it was hard to be in Finch's head, as his voice sometimes reminded me of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Pudge from Looking for Alaska. For me, it's the kind of voice that's just too much and too distant for me to handle, but of the three, I did like Finch the best overall (in terms of voice). But their relationship seemed rushed in the beginning and extremely one sided. I know part of it was that Violet was really hesitant because it's so far from who she was at the beginning, but it still made for a bit of awkwardness.

And lastly, there's that ending. I went through most of the book without crying, and I was feeling all good about not being one of the people that cried at the (near) ending, but then it was like nope! and all the tears came pouring down. But the thing is, I totally saw it coming. All the classic warning signs were there, and I couldn't understand how the other characters couldn't see it coming. Maybe it's because sometimes you don't want to see the hurt others are hiding and so you don't, and I guess some were too caught up in their own journey to fully understand someone else's. Maybe it's because you so badly want to, need to, believe that you've helped someone find their happiness that you fail to see what's really going on. Either way, I saw it coming, and at first I was kind of irked about this, but the thing is, after finding out that Niven went through a similar ordeal, I realized that sometimes, life just happens that way. Predictable when we look back on it but so shocking when it first happens because we just didn't see it coming, even if it was so painfully obvious. I can't criticize her for writing about life. It might not be the best choice for the book, but that's the difference between books and real life sometimes.
All the Bright Places: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Jennifer Niven: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mini Review: In Real Life by Jen Wang and Cory Doctorow

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.
"I'm impressed by this story, and I'm so glad it lived up to my expectations."

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher. This did not impact my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for it.

In Real Life is another fabulous book from First Second. Not only am I huge fan of the fact that the book involves girls who game (which is so rare in books but pretty common in reality), but I'm also really happy about the way the girls, particularly Anda, are drawn. Yay for body diversity and no body shaming! I loved the colors and illustrations in the book, and it worked so perfectly with the plot. The book is gorgeous.

Speaking of the plot, I really enjoyed it. I was drawn into the story, rooting for the various characters. The story really makes readers think about their actions and about the consequences of your actions on someone else. In our globalized world, you never know how what you do affects people you've never even met "in real life." In Real Life explores morality and the struggle between what's right and wrong. So often in life, it's not a black or white answer, and there's no way we can anticipate what the affect of our actions and words can be. And the book explores globalization, economics, politics, and culture in a cohesive, understandable way. It's rarely done well, but I think it was amazingly well incorporated in In Real Life.

Andi grows so much throughout the book, and it's so evident, even though it's gradual and realistically done. I'm impressed by this story, and I'm so glad it lived up to my expectations. My only issue is that as some other reviewers have mentioned, it feels like there's a very fine line between a white girl coming in and saving the Chinese kids and a normal girl just trying to accept herself and coming to terms with her mistakes, leading her to help the Chinese kids save themselves. I don't really know how I feel about this. On the one hand, once I saw someone else mention this, I could see the issue, but while/after reading the book and before reading other people's thoughts, I didn't really notice this or find this to be an issue.
In Real Life: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Jen Wang: Website | Tumblr | Twitter
Cory Doctorow: Website | Twitter

Friday, March 13, 2015

Flashback Friday (#6): Mini Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green

This is a more irregular feature. 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 2014-December 2015 would NOT be old).

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 3rd, 2005
Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.
"[Looking for Alaska] is decent, but it didn't really work for me."

To be honest, I was disappointed. So many people love this book, and I guess I could see why. Maybe I went into it expecting too much. But I don't think I would have liked it much two or five years ago either.

Pudge's voice just didn't work for me in the way Charlie's voice didn't work for me in Perks. I didn't particularly feel anything for any of the characters, and though I understood them and ther actions to some extent, I personally didn't connect or feel compelled by the story. I was able to predict the ending well in advance, despite this being one of the few books in which I didn't read ahead. There was just something missing here that worked so well for me in TFiOS. I've been told that people who know someone who committed suicide got much more out of it though. 

However, the one thing that made me keep reading and made me give the book the additional .5 was the deep implications found in the novel. The book did make me think. It made me question. It made me talk to people about some of the issues brought up in the book. 

All in all, the book isn't horrible. It's decent, but it didn't really work for me. I liked how it made me think, but it didn't do so much for me beyond that. People mention Alaska being a MPDG, and I can definitely see why. I feel like this is a book that I'd only recommend to certain people.
[To be honest, do I even need to include these links?]
Looking for Alaska: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#13): None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio and Orphan Black Season 3

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.

Once again, I'm mentioning Orphan Black on my blog. If you still haven't watched it yet, why not?! Do you not see me freaking out about it all the time? :P Anyway, I'm so pumped for Season 3, and it can't come soon enough! The last season ended with a bang, of course, and I can't wait to see what's going to happen now that there are also male clones. Also another female clone, but she's a little girl, and I still don't really understand that part. Also, I really want to see what's gonna happen with Rachel. Did she die? Does she have an eye patch? How's she going to react? Oh man, this show is just so great, and I will always need more.

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

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?
Wow, wow, wow. This sounds like an amazing book! None of the Above is so refreshingly new and so needed, in both a sad but positive way. There are already few LGBTQ+ books, but I've never heard of any other YA book that deals with someone who's intersex (which is included in the longer abbreviation I use-LGBTQIA). This book is so important, especially since few people even understand or know what intersex means. I really need to get my hands on this book--birthday present anyone (it comes out the day after my birthday)? ;)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin (ARC)

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who's trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.
"The concept of the book itself was intriguing and though the execution wasn't the best, it's far from the worst."

Disclaimer: I won an ARC from the author. This did not impact my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for it.

(I am so glad I wrote down some notes after reading this book because otherwise, this review would either be really sucky or it wouldn't be here at all.)

What you'll find in this review is that most of what I have to say seems to show that I didn't enjoy the book much. There's a lot that I didn't like, but there was some quality about the book that made me still really enjoy it. I'm still unable to pinpoint exactly what that quality is, so I hope you understand that it's not something I can really discuss in this review because I don't even know exactly why I enjoyed it so much despite most of things I have in this review.

The first aspect of the book I want to address is the pacing. I had a hard time making myself get through the first portion of the book. It wasn't that it wasn't enjoyable; there was definitely a lot going on, but at the same time, it wasn't particularly engaging for me. There were too many questions that weren't answered. It makes sense in the context of the book, but it made it tough for me, as the reader, to get through the story. I know it's because Sarah herself has no idea what's going on, but it made me feel very disconnected from the plot and from the story. However, once things are finally set up, Tabula Rasa was SO action-packed and suspenseful. It ended up being a fairly engaging read as a whole but much of that was concentrated in the last half of the book. I loved the ending (unlike many other people), and I wish there was a sequel. (I was also able to predict some parts that were probably meant as plot twists?) My last pacing qualm is that I feel like it said somewhere that this happens over the course of three days. Now, I may be wrong about that, but if it's true, a LOT happens in that time. I don't know how reasonable that is...

I also had issues with the characters. While there were some that I loved (for various reasons), there were also many issues I had with them. I didn't necessarily feel any connection towards the characters, making me a bit aloof or outside of what was going on. The exception was Sarah herself, as there were times when I did either connect to her or understood her and her actions. The other characters aren't bad characters by any means, and there are portions where I really enjoyed reading about them and where I did feel a bit of a connection or something. For the most part, however, I felt that the secondary characters, even Thomas at times, didn't seem very well fleshed out. Maybe this is what contributed to the slight awkward feeling I had towards Thomas and Angel's relationship. While I loved them towards the end, for a large majority of the book, I wasn't fully on board with their romance. (There were also portions that made me feel uncomfortable because it seemed to put Mexicans in a bad light, and it seemed really stereotypical.)

I also wish that there had been more about Angel's background. We obviously learned A LOT about her as she slowly pieces together her past, but it feels like there was something missing. I would have liked to learn more, and I was hoping that there would be another book. It seems like the end was set up to accommodate a sequel because there's still so much left unanswered. 

In the end, I guess what I did enjoy was the action and all that happens in the latter half of the book. It was then that I felt like the book was engaging and engrossing, leaving me feeling better about the book. The concept of the book itself was intriguing and though the execution wasn't the best, it's far from the worst. I would semi-hesitantly recommend the book, but I enjoyed it enough that makes me think others would get something more out of it.
Tabula Rasa: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Kristen Lippert-Martin: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fiction Friction (#15): Coming Back From a Blogging Break/Hiatus

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.

Well, this seems like a pretty relevant discussion post, doesn't it? A few of my blogging friends, as well as myself, are getting back into the swing of things. We were on unintentional hiatuses and blogging breaks. We were dealing with school and college applications and juggling everything else in life. Blogging has to take the back seat sometimes. But now, most of us are slowly coming back. We're aiming to come back stronger than ever, my self included. I may have overestimated and may overwhelm myself now that I'll be posting on three blogs and a YouTube channel, but I also know that I'll probably be putting YouTube on the back burner for now, using it more for mini-reviews and book hauls, and I know that I can cross post on Lit Up Review and will be stepping down from full time to contributor once the school year is over. I also know that dance is ramping up as competitions are coming up and rehearsals for everything are becoming more intense and longer in length. But nonetheless, I intend to keep it up. I'm excited to be back and excited for all that's new.

But it's also hard. So hard. It's hard to remind people that you're still here. Even though I've maintained my Twitter presence, it hasn't been at the same level. I haven't been talking to/keeping up with many of my blogging friends. I haven't been talking about books and blogging and reading so much as school and dance and life. And that's okay, but it makes it hard to get people to remember your tiny blog. It's hard to regain your audience, let alone start expanding it again. I think it's definitely easier for a larger blog than my own. I'm taking it one step at a time, but sometimes it makes me sad that I'm working harder than ever on my blog and on my posts but that because of timing, people aren't going to be seeing some of it. That's okay, but it's a tough feeling.

I guess what it comes down to when you're coming back is being patient and taking it slow. There's no rush to get back to the level you were at before. Maybe the blogging break even made you rethink how you run your blog. My long break/hiatus certainly has. I'm not posting nearly as much, but it makes me feel a bit better and under less self-made pressure.

But being on a break often also impacts your reading. I've been reading so much less (as is evident from my Goodreads), and it's taking me two, three, four times the time to read/finish a book. I've become even moodier with my reading over my hiatus. I went through a time where I only wanted to read contemporary. Now, I want some action and excitement that you don't usually find in a contemporary novel. I'd like to reread books, but I'm not that quick of a reader, and I could be using that time to read a new book that I could review. Perhaps that's part of the problem, but it's one that I need to compromise on.

The good news about taking a break is that if you've read, you have a bunch of books you can write about for your blog! I've written a few reviews already, and I have many more that I'm drafting up. Yeah, it's weird because some of these I read over the summer or in September/October, leaving me to forget all about the book. But being on break made me regain my love for blogging. It's not that I ever lost it, but it lost some of its initial sparkle, I guess. The one year anniversary of this blog (as in at this URL) passed in January, and I wanted to do something for it, but time didn't allow for it, and I knew many people wouldn't see it anyway. I'm okay with that. I'll celebrate my other blogiversary! Anyway, I'm more excited than ever to write reviews. Before my hiatus, I was honestly sort of dreading every time I went to write a review. I wanted to talk about books, but I felt confined. Nothing like having nowhere to share your thoughts (other than 140 characters on Twitter) to make you want to review the heck out of all the books you've read!

I think coming back is about taking it slow. It's about re-embracing your blog and the community. It's about reflecting on changes and getting used to new habits. It's about re-establishing yourself. It's about reconnecting. It's about sparking your passion again. It's about catching up (ahem, I need to update my archive and Goodreads reviews). It's about reading books you own but haven't read because you can't get ARCs from publishers when you're on a long break. It's about finding your vibe again. It's about jumping in and just saying hello! I'm back and better than ever!

So to all my friends on the same boat, welcome back! I/we have missed you! :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TV Tuesday (#7): Spotlight: How to Get Away with Murder

Once a month on a Tuesday, I'll showcase a TV in some way, whether it be an episode review (or bundle), a discussion, some thoughts and reactions, Top Tens, a fan!mix, or a recommendation.

TV Show Showcase: I'll be spotlighting some of the many shows I watch. I watch so many shows, but I still haven't talked about most of them on here. I could be writing reviews, but I've been so busy that it's already been a hassle to try to keep up with one or two shows, let alone write some reviews. So this is my way of mentioning and talking about the shows I love.
(Previously spotlighted: Red Band Society, Orphan Black)

When did you first start watching the show? Why did you start watching it?
I started it after its fourth episode or something like that. I was interested in the show because I knew Alfie Enoch was in it, but I was kind of hesitant and was like mehh because I have so many other shows. But I kept hearing how AMAZING the show is, so I gave in one day, and here we are now.

Who's your favorite character?
I think I'd have to say Connor Walsh. I mean, I love most of the cast, but Connor is just the best.

Who's your least favorite character?
Um...Sam? Bonnie? Frank? Something about Bonnie and Frank just annoy the heck out of me.

Favorite guest star or addition to the cast?

Favorite episode?
I CAN'T DECIDE. None particularly stick out above the rest, but I've enjoyed most of the episodes. The show is SO intense!

What's your favorite aspect of the show?
I love how intense the show is, as I mentioned above. I love the cast and how the characters interact. I love Alfie Enoch and Viola Davis, and now I love Jack Falahee and Aja Naomi King. I kinda of like laughing at how stupid some of the characters are in terms of cheating; like can we talk about how almost everyone is cheating on someone or having sex with a bunch of people or whatever? I love the different relationships. I love how this is a mix of a law show and a crime show. It's sort of like the intensity of Orphan Black, the crime show-ness of NCIS and Criminal Minds and White Collar and shows like that, the law aspect of Suits, etc.

What's your least favorite aspect of the show?
I mean, there are things like how dumb some of them can be, giving me secondhand embarrassment and the like. Like how there's SO much forensic evidence that could be used against them in the house; I mean, at least they can say they're in the house all the time, but still. There's also the whole love life/sex thing. Some of the relationships I just can't get behind. Ugh.

OTP and/or ships?
My brotp is definitely Connor and Michaela. I used to ship Wes and Rebecca hard, but now I'm not so sure. (To be honest, I don't know that there are any healthy relationships in the show.) And of course Connor and Oliver!

What do you think/predict about the future of the show?
I can't even guess! It'll definitely continue to be successful as long as it keeps up with all the suspense. I don't know what they'll do once the current overarching crime/case is solved or resolved. It'll be hard to sustain it for long, and I don't think it would be realistic to have another huge, major case after this (as in another murder case they're all involved in). Anything other than that is so hard to predict because things are always changing on the show!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Month in Review: February 2015

I'm embarrassed to see how long it's been since my last month in review. I actually had a few scheduled for some of the past few months, but they fell through and just *hides my face* Because I've been on a mega hiatus, this month's Month in Review will look a bit different. I want to use this as a chance to catch up, let you guys in on what's been going on, and all that good stuff. Of course, I'll also link to this month's reviews and since I didn't read much this month, I'll include that too.

First things first. 
I'm really excited about this, but besides getting back to blogging, Lit Up Review has also changed one of our members, and we now have a bunch of new contributors! I'm really excited about this, and I think this will be great for all of us at Lit Up. 

In addition, we've finally launched Feminists Talk Books! I'm one of five bloggers, and we're super excited about this project. It's been a long time coming, and we're finally open. I'm so passionate about this little blog of ours, and I'm excited for what's to come. Our main goal is to spark discussions, talk about books, talk about feminism, and try to do our small part to make our world and community a better place. I hope you'll check us out, whether you call yourself a feminist or not. 

I've been in and out of reading slumps, and my reading pace is so much slower than it usually is right now. I'm currently 11 books behind on my Goodreads challenge, but oh well. There are a bunch of books I've started but haven't finished (that's a bad habit of mine), but anyway.

Books I Read:


Movies I Watched:



Other Posts:

1) Still dancing. Lots of dance. Things are starting to get intense as we near competition season.
2) I WON FAWM (Feb Album Writing Month--the songwriting version of NaNoWriMo) FOR THE FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW! Most of my songs this year were actually inspired by/based on my novel, so if you wanna check it out, click here!
3) President's Week break was the break I needed, but I'm sad we have five full weeks until our next break.
4) I mentioned this already, but it's both a blogging and personal thing: Feminists Talk Books!
5) School, guys. Ugh. And I've begun the wait for college acceptances. The worst part though is still the whole financial aid thing.
6) Lent has begun, and of course I've begun to get cravings for junk food and all that stuff now that Lent has begun. I got to go to church for Ash Wednesday though!
7) What even happened this month? :P Oh yeah, snow and snow days. That's been pretty great...ahem.
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