Friday, October 30, 2015

Mini Review: We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist (ARC)

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: December 23rd, 2014
A bright, poignant, and deeply funny autobiographical account of coming of age as an amputee cancer survivor, from Josh Sundquist: Paralympic ski racer, YouTube star, and motivational speaker.

Josh Sundquist only ever had one girlfriend.
For twenty-three hours.
In eighth grade.

Why was Josh still single? To find out, he tracked down the girls he had tried to date and asked them straight up: What went wrong?

The results of Josh's semiscientific, wholly hilarious investigation are captured here. From a disastrous Putt-Putt date involving a backward prosthetic foot, to his introduction to CFD (Close Fast Dancing), to a misguided "grand gesture" at a Miss America pageant, this story is about looking for love--or at least a girlfriend--in all the wrong places.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC via NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this.

I was originally interested in this book because I have never been in a romantic relationship, and I thought this book would offer at least a little of insight as to why that might be. Or rather, why it was like that for someone else. I also heard that Josh is hilarious, and I was interested to see what he had to say on the matter.

Perhaps my favorite part was all the diagrams and the various other ways he presented information outside of the normal text. These portions were amongst the most hilarious and often presented information that wouldn't have been as funny in text form. Josh's writing itself is pretty straightforward and blunt, which I enjoyed. However, as funny as parts of it were, I think I was expecting much more humor, and I only got a little bit of that.

Something else I had a problem with was the way the book was the way he split up his stories, making them seem like scientific experiments. I guess I could understand why he made the decision to split up the stories and girls in that way, but it bothered me a bit. Not only were some sections clearly weaker than others, but it made it seem as though females can be understood in this scientific way rather than understanding their complexities.

I do think that he did a pretty good job of exploring his thoughts on the reason he hadn't been in a romantic relationship before. For the most part, he kept me interested. But it was pretty clear what his real message was--probably similar to the message he gives at various speaker events. I didn't necessarily have a problem with this, but at times, it was a bit overwhelming and so obvious, and I was hoping it wouldn't be. I did appreciate his message though, and I think it's an important one which I connected to it a lot. He seems awkward the way I am, but it's important to see how self-worth and acceptance may be a huge part of this and can at least be a huge first step.
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Josh Sundquist: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Youtube

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: The Chase by Balak, Sanlaville, and Vives

Last Man: The Chase by Balak, Sanlaville, and Vives
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
Richard Aldana, the mysterious stranger who entered the Games in the first volume of Last Man, continues to defeat all of his competitors, despite his outlandish refusal to use any magic, and to rely solely on martial arts. With young Adrian fighting at his side, he's beginning to look like a likely contender for the Royal Cup. But in a breathtaking twist, everything changes: this world is not what you thought it was, and Richard Aldana is certainly not who he claimed.

With the same fast-paced, action-oriented storytelling and gorgeous art asThe Stranger, the third volume of Last Man changes all the rules, and will leave readers eagerly awaiting Book 4!
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.

I've become invested in this series in a way I didn't expect, but here I am, back reviewing the third book to the Last Man series. I still find myself a tiny bit shocked by the graphic-ness of the books in this series, but it's not a bad thing, just something you don't see often, at least in what I'm used to reading/seeing.

I think every book in this series just gets better and better, building off of the books before it. The Chase is no exception. My favorite aspect of this installment, however, is how it finally gets to the female empowerment. Finally, finally, finally Marianne gets her time to shine. And how badass is she? She sticks up for herself, takes care of Adrian, and kicks butt all at the same time. She shows that she doesn't need someone to take care of her. In a male-dominated world, she's so underestimated, but she finally steps out of the shadows and takes the leading role.

On a different note, I feel as though this installment didn't really give any answers the way I hoped it would. Marianne seems to have gotten the part of the map from Aldana, but what about the bike? I feel like she had that there the whole time, so who did she get it from? How does she know about these other worlds? And of course, the book ends with yet another confusing Aldana scene. Just when I thought I was starting to get a better sense of the story, they throw this curveball, and I'm left trying to figure out what just happened! I guess that's how they get us to keep reading, though. ;)

Another great installment! I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Music Monday (#14): Those Girls 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.

I meant to post this ages ago, but I only just got around to it now. I happened to be listening to music and thinking about Those Girls by Lauren Saft, when one of them just connected and made me think of one of the characters (I can't remember which one exactly). This started the ball, and I decided to try to find songs on my phone that would fit each of the characters. I'm not completely happy with all of the choices here, but at the time, I didn't have enough time to really listen through all my songs and find the best fit, so this was the best I could do. Hope you enjoy! (On a side note, I didn't mean for three of the four songs to be by country artists, but it just happened. xD)

you belong with me // taylor swift

Oh, I remember you driving to my house
In the middle of the night.
I'm the one who makes you laugh
When you know you're 'bout to cry.
I know your favorite songs,
And you tell me about your dreams.
Think I know where you belong,
Think I know it's with me.

Can't you see
That I'm the one
Who understands you?
Been here all along.
So, why can't you see
You belong with me.

you won't find this // carrie underwood
Alex and Drew

You can hold any girl that you like
Fall in love when it's easy at night
But, you'll wake up wondering why she ain't ever something better
When you're lost and run out of road
Find what I already know
In the end close is all there is
But you won't find this
No, you won't find this

need you now // lady antebellum

It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone and I need you now.
And I said I wouldn't call but I'm a little drunk and I need you now.
And I don't know how I can do without.
I just need you now
I just need you now.
Oh, baby, I need you now.

drunk on love // the wanted

I'm a lover not a hater,
Not a fighter or a player
And I'll party 'till the sun comes up
Getting a hangover without a cure
We could end up anywhere but that's all part of the rush

When the lights are shining that's where you will find me
Getting drunk on love
That's what we do,
When I see you dancing
Gets me so excited
Gonna pour my love all over you

Those Girls: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Lauren Saft: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: The Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this review.

As soon as I saw that Gene had a new book coming out, I knew I needed to read it. Add to it the fact that this new series is meant to teach kids coding--something I'm interested in learning--and I knew I needed to read this at some point. And both Gene and Mike certainly didn't disappoint.

Secret Coders makes learning basic coding interesting, fun, and easy. People of any age could understand the book. I liked the sense of interaction in the book, and they did a fine job of keeping me engaged the whole time. I don't know that I agreed with all the ways they presented information, but I remained interested throughout the whole book, so I guess it's okay. Older audiences may find the "now you try" parts a little elementary and reminiscent of children's shows that do the same, but it's not a big hindrance in the story.

That being said, not much actually happened in this book. Most of the book was set up and background that will propel the later books. The ending was definitely a great cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting the next book already. Many of the conflicts also didn't feel very fleshed out, but I figured it's more a first book in a graphic novel series thing than anything else. I'm hoping they'll be explored more later!

In addition, we didn't actually learn much coding in this one, so I'm not sure how much each book will roughly cover. I don't mind how little was taught, but I can only imagine how much more there is to coding than the very basics presented in this first volume. I'm definitely looking forward to the later books!

Lastly, I continue to love Gene's smooth inclusion of diverse characters. He never seems to be inserting them for the sake of including them. It's all included very seamlessly, and I love that about each of his stories. A character is never defined by the way they look, the way they identify, whatever. This kind of representation is so refreshing to see, especially in graphic novels, where characters are drawn out and pictured on every page. I can't wait to see what's to come!
The Secret Coders: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Gene Luen Yang: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Mike Holmes: Website | Tumblr | Flickr

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (ARC)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
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.

"I wasn't fully convinced by the story and a lot of it seemed unrealistic to me."

Woah is this a hyped book in the blogging community right now! I started reading this right around the time the hype really took off, so I had pretty high expectations. The premise of the story is really interesting and totally new, and the cover is simply gorgeous.

The first thing I noticed about the book was the format. The mixed format/mixed media was very well done. At times, we got to see the story from both Maddy and Olly's point of view (but not in the traditional sense), and it was spaced out enough that it was tasteful and didn't overwhelm. It added to the story and was certainly effective. The short chapters also make this a quick read without feeling choppy.

But I finished feeling conflicted about the book and the story. I think we got a good sense of the characters, particularly Maddy and Olly, and the two of them were certainly complex, but there was little else. Of course, it makes sense because Maddy hardly knows anyone, but I felt like we were missing something in that. There could have been more development in the other characters, but I could also understand the focus on Maddy and Olly. Their interactions were one of my favorite parts of the first half of the story. But later on in the book, I just started to find so much of it to be completely irrational, and I couldn't see that ever happening, logistically and otherwise. It left me feeling unconvinced, uncomfortable, and almost annoyed. When they [SPOILERS] ran away together, I just felt so uncomfortable about the whole situation. It just seemed so unrealistic, particularly given the circumstances they're both in--but particularly Maddy. [END SPOILERS]

In addition, though I started off really supporting their relationship, that started to change as the story went on. There's something about the way in which the relationship developed that just bothered me. I hated feeling as though she just fell for Olly because he was a guy that just happened to pay attention to her. I can understand how refreshing that may have felt for her, but I feel as though her feelings developed more from that than from really being attracted to him as a person. The romance arc felt a bit like that of Romeo and Juliet.

But the biggest thing that irked me was probably Maddy's illness itself and the way it was portrayed and explained. After reading Cait's review, I realized that I had found similar plot holes, though I didn't really think about it until after I finished reading. But even beyond that, unlike many others, the ending honestly didn't surprise me. There were hints along the way that weren't difficult for me to piece together. I don't want to spoil anything, but it was just so obvious to me. I had expected it early on in the story. In addition, her body's reaction to being outside seemed wrong to me. If you're in a sterile environment your whole life and haven't been exposed to almost anything and all of a sudden go out into the world, where you're surrounded by different bacteria and just things (I'm not science-y enough to really say any of this for sure) that your body has never built up a resistance to, you're going to get sick pretty quickly. But oh look, Maddy is fine. I mean, it does help build up to the reveal at the end, but at the same time, it's not consistent with someone who's been so sheltered her entire life. (Speaking of that, it's so sad that her mother would subject her to that kind of life. I can understand her mother's motivation, but I think part of learning how to live and take care of yourself and be safe is to be in situations where you have to help yourself. Without life experiences, how can you grow? How can you learn to save yourself? Her mother's logic just astounds me.)

Overall, I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't as great to me as it seems to have been for others. I wasn't fully convinced by the story and a lot of it seemed unrealistic to me. I didn't like the way chronic illness was addressed and used as a plot device. But I didn't hate the story, the characters, or the book either. It just didn't have the wow factor at all. I can see why others would enjoy it, but this didn't completely work for me.
Everything, Eveything: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Nicola Yoon: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Updates on Life, Books, and Starting New

Hey lovelies! So. It's been a while since I've blogged or even tweeted regularly, if you couldn't tell. If you follow me or are friends with me on Goodreads, you may also have noticed that I've also been reading very little, if at all, since the end of the summer. To say that I've been busy or getting used to this new start would be an understatement. I wanted to apologize for being away and for taking an unplanned but kind of expected hiatus, but I've realized lately that I shouldn't apologize for it and for taking time for myself.

Hiatuses, College, Fresh Starts

As you may have understood from what I mentioned, or may know because of Twitter or Instagram, I just started my freshman year of college. Now, some people are really good at managing their time and finding a great balance, but I am not that kind of person, at least not yet. I've been taking a lot of time trying to find my groove and make new friends. I haven't been reading because I haven't really had much time to myself. I've been hanging out with friends almost all the time, and now I'm headed into the two toughest weeks yet. I want to start taking more time for myself, as in letting myself be alone more, and hopefully then I'll get back to reading and blogging regularly. I have some books from this summer that I'll review, but I don't know when those will go up. I still have one or two tour posts that'll go up soon, but otherwise, I have nothing scheduled as of right now. I might return to mixing up what I'm writing about so that it's not just about books, but again, I don't really know how things will go from here on out. I don't want to stop blogging, but I also don't want to be inconsistent. This first month of college has been full of new experiences and lots of growing, but looking back on my first month, I still have some things to figure out. But I promise I'll be back eventually; I truly miss reading and blogging. I know it's doable and many bloggers are college students, but everyone's different, so we'll see.

Blog Updates (FTB, LUR)

In other news, I wanted to give you guys an update on the various other blogs I blog at. I haven't been very active on Feminists Talk Books, and I really apologize for that. I'm speaking to the girls now to see how we want to move forward from here on out, so I'll let you know if anything changes at a later date. For now, I'm hoping to get back into it once I start reading and blogging again. In addition, I've stepped down from being one of the main writers for Lit Up Review and am now just a contributor. Even though I'm sad, it's nice to know that I now have friends in the other writers and contributors. Being a part of Lit Up Review was such a great experience, and I'm happy I'm still able to contribute once in a while. I think it's for the best that I hand the reigns to someone else because I know they're much more able to give the blog the dedication and time it deserves. I'm just really happy I still get to play a small part in LUR.


Lastly, I wanted to introduce my new personal blog, Infinite Golden Floors. I meant to launch it over the summer but kept pushing that back because I wasn't ready with graphics and scheduled posts and whatnot. It's still not quite ready, but I want to at least let you all know about it, especially since the Instagram account associated with the blog has been up and running for some time now. The personal blog may eventually mix with Fly to Fiction, but for now, they remain very separate. Infinite Golden Floors is my space to talk about life in college, my travels, my everyday thoughts, etc. It's more a journal and collection of thoughts, opinions, etc than anything. Posts will range from travel adventures, college life/updates, reviewing or writing about favorite coffee shops or places around NYC, pictures of city life, opinions and thoughts on important issues, thoughts on personal topics, and more. You can see from the Instagram that it's pretty different from Fly to Fiction, and you can tell from the blog design that it'll have a very different aesthetic. I hope to be able to keep up with both these blogs as well as my studies and social life, but we'll see. I'm already falling behind! Anyway, I'm actually really excited about Infinite Golden Floors, and I hope you'll enjoy reading it!

I think that's about it for my little update! As always, thanks for sticking around. I'll try to do something special for you all soon. I hope you'll still stick around. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tour: No Love Triangles Here!: The Devil's Dreamcatcher by Donna Hosie (Guest Post)

The Devil's Dreamcatcher by Donna Hosie
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: October 1st, 2015 (Today!)
Hell is full of thieves. But only one has dared to rob The Devil.

The Devil’s accounting office is hiring an intern, and sixteen-year-old Medusa Pallister wants the job. Badly. Not only would she report to the coolest boss in the Underworld, she’d also be working alongside Mitchell Johnson, who, she’s certain, is the key to solving a mystery that’s been haunting her since her death.

Landing the internship is easy, but answers about her past will have to wait. Medusa has barely made Mitchell’s acquaintance when Hell goes into lockdown. Someone has robbed The Devil of his most precious possession: a dreamcatcher so powerful it could be apocalyptic in the wrong hands.

In this gripping sequel to The Devil’s Intern, Team DEVIL reunites for a quest for stolen property that will lead Medusa to a showdown that no one, not even The Devil himself, could have foreseen.
I really love stories that feature really solid, amazing friendships because for so long, all I truly wanted was a good group of great friends. I didn't care as much about dating or whatnot, and I think that even if you are dating someone, friends are so important to have. I really love seeing strong, well-developed friendships, and I think that they can be just as great as, or possibly even better than, romance in novels. I'm so excited to have Donna on my blog today, talking about friendship and romance!

~ Guest Post ~

No Love Triangles Here! Writing About Friendship Groups and Love

Love triangles and young adult literature are becoming intrinsically linked. It’s a plot tool that helps creates romance, tension, and passionate fan advocates - think Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, or Team Peeta vs. Team Gale. Hey, Katniss is about to suffer a gruesome death at any moment but more importantly, who is she going to kiss first?!

I’m not adverse to reading a good love triangle. I adore Kiera Cass’ SELECTION series, and yes, I was a passionate advocate for Team Gale, but I can’t write a compelling love triangle myself. I need more. THE DEVIL’S INTERN and my latest release, THE DEVIL’S DREAMCATCHER, are novels that have four dead teens from various points in history at their heart. There’s modern-day Mitchell, 1960s Medusa, Alfarin the Viking Prince, and Elinor the peasant from the 17th century. And whilst there is romance in the depths of Hell, there definitely isn’t a love triangle – or love square in this Team’s case! Team DEVIL is all about the friendship, and the extraordinary lengths that friends will go to protect that, even when they’re dead!

The dynamics between friendship groups is my absolute favourite plotline to read in any novel, whether it’s young adult, fantasy, or literary. Think of the brilliant Marauders in the HARRY POTTER series, or the mismatched yet endearing friends who come together in the LUNAR CHRONICLES, or the bond between male school friends in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s astonishing THE SHADOW OF THE WIND. These books all have unique plotlines, violence, romance, humour, and horror, and yet at the heart of each story are the friendships.

Concentrating on friendship rather than romance gives a writer more scope, in my opinion. When I’m writing, I like to stretch the boundaries of loyalty and see how far friends will go for one another, because in reality and fiction, friends will put up with a lot more crap than a love interest! They can fight and it isn’t the end of the world. They can hug and not have emotions take up ten pages! You can still have the kissing in there – although my dear Mitchell is a little clueless when it comes to that in my books – but you get more plot, more excitement, and more jeopardy when you concentrate on the bonds of friendship.

Using the dialogue between friends is also a great tool for exposition. Where would Harry have been without Hermione? The Boy Who Lived wouldn’t have been alive for long if it wasn’t for her! J.K. Rowling has said that she used two characters in the Potter series for explaining plot lines: Dumbledore and Hermione. If you have a friendship group, you can give each one different, yet complimentary, personality traits. It’s believable that in a group of friends, there will always be one who knows everything. Because most YA literature is in first person, the bigger the friendship group, the easier it is to work out a plot line without having to resort to deus ex machine or an info dump.

Friendships in literature are endearing and enduring. Make them the focus, and everything else comes naturally.


About the Author:
Donna Hosie is a YA time-travel author and full time geek. Part Potterhead, Ringer, with sprinkles of Valar Morghulis on top! Originally from England, Donna currently resides in Australia with her husband, three children, and a crazy Golden Retriever named Harry (after a certain boy wizard, of course!)

Donna's first foray into writing came about from her time working on a Harry Potter website. Warner Bros and EA Games asked her to be a fan consultant on the Order of the Phoenix computer game. Her reports and podcasts were relayed around the world as fans of the books patiently awaited the next installment. From writing reports, she turned to fan fiction, eventually writing her own time-traveling novels while studying for an BA(Hons) in Modern Languages.

Donna is the author of THE RETURN TO CAMELOT trilogy, THE CHILDREN OF CAMELOT series, THE DEVIL'S INTERN (Holiday House, October 2014) which was named a Kirkus Teen Book of 2014 and a YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults book, THE DEVIL'S DREAMCATCHER (Holiday House, Fall 2015), and THE DEVIL'S BANSHEE (Holiday House, Fall 2016).

Donna is represented by Beth Phelan, The Bent Agency, New York.

(Photo Credit: Emily Hosie)


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