Monday, 20 April 2015

Change Is Good, Or So I've Heard.


So you may have noticed that I've been a little MIA from this blog lately. I've been doing a lot of soul searching these last few weeks in regards to my blog, and I feel like I've come to a crossroads. Blogging can take so many different directions and it can be very difficult to find your niche. From memes, to reviews, to blog tours, to discussions - and beyond, of course - there are so many different things you can incorporate into your blog to make it more comfortable for you.

If you read my post regarding memes, you'll know that I love them and that they are pretty much a prerequisite when it comes to me following a blog (they do provide me with the majority of my recommendations after all) but after thinking about it, I don't want them to be the sole focus of my blog. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don't know, but I think it's past time for me to figure out a way to expand my reach.

From today, my content is changing. I'm tired of thinking about schedules and whether or not a post is appropriate for my blog. I'm tired of posting the same things every week. And more than anything, I'm tired of feeling bored with my blog. I just want to have fun. At the end of the day, I've always been pretty anal when it comes to schedules and I think that's one of the biggest reasons why I took a hiatus from blogging in 2014. I was just focusing too much on how uniform I wanted my blog to be. It's not fun anymore and I need to figure out a way to bring back the spark I felt in 2012 when I first opened up this page.

Though I will still be incorporating both book reviews and memes into my blog, I want more discussions taking place and more fun little posts that don't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I just want to feel free again with what I'm posting. Hopefully this will be the change I need to really enjoy blogging again. It's going to be hard for me to not have a schedule - I'm just one of those people who likes things to be methodical and uniform - but I'm determined to make this work. I've invested too much time and energy into this blog to let it die a slow and painful death, and the lack of comments is really starting to get to me. My readers are the most important thing to me and I feel like I've been letting you all down. So I'm here now asking you guys what you want to see. Throw me some ideas and I'll figure out a way to make it all work. Determination and motivation are the two things I'm feeling right now, so hopefully we can revive this blog together.

I guess we'll just have to see what the future holds.

So with that said, I'm going to be taking a break from posting. I'm not sure when I'll be back, but I'm sure it won't be too long. I will, however, still post my monthly recap, as well as my challenge update & TBR at the end of the month, so stay tuned for that!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Anna & The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


the book -
Anna & The French Kiss
First published in 2010 by Dutton Juvenile
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (4.10)

edition i purchased -
Paperback, 401 pages
Published in 2014 by Usborne Publishing

the plot -
Anna had everything figured out - she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere... Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including √Čtienne St. Clair, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he's taken - and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss she's been waiting for?

This novel left me with a lot of conflicting emotions, and I'm still not 100% sure what I thought about it. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I expected. It felt a little slow in places. This novel has been growing in popularity since it was released nearly 5 years ago and I haven't seen a single negative review pop up on my feed. Everyone seems to love this book with a passion. For me, it was... meh. If I'm being totally honest, I can see why people like this book as much as they do - it's cute, it's fun, it's romantic, and it's set in Paris.

Anna was a character I had to learn to love. Her anger at her father for sending her 4000 miles away, to a country with a language she doesn't speak, is understandable, but it's Paris. I've only been once in my life, but it was, without a doubt, one of the best trips of my life. It's an absolutely beautiful city, rich in culture and tasty food. The fact that she had nothing to do but complain really grated on me. I would have loved to have spent my last year of high school in a foreign country. Nevertheless, she makes new friends on her first day and it doesn't take long for them to coax her out of school grounds and into the city. Once she realized what Paris has to offer, she started to grow on me. I won't lie and say she didn't make some questionable choices - namely Toph and Dave - but I didn't finish the book disliking her. Rather, I found myself rooting for her in all her future endeavors.

And then there's √Čtienne St. Clair, the golden boy that everyone fawns over. Honestly, I don't understand the attraction. He's a nice guy, sure, but he just didn't do anything for me. His relationship with Ellie drove me insane, even after he explained why he stayed with her for so long. It just got to me. However, I will admit that the tragic story regarding his mum did upset me, especially with the controlling nature of his father. My heart broke for him, but I still couldn't bring myself to like him. There was just something that didn't feel right. I know, I'm a strange one.

The romance was written well, though it felt a touch too unrealistic in places. Nevertheless, I love relationships that start as friendship and progress from there. Anna and St. Clair did make a good couple, but I think the obstacle that was Ellie made the whole thing a little bittersweet. I cannot condone staying with someone because you don't want to be alone, but that's all I'm going to say on the subject. Perkins's cute romantic style was the only thing that stopped me from hating their relationship.

The other characters - namely Meredith, Rashmi, and Josh - are what really helped create a teenage atmosphere that wasn't overbearingly filled with angst. The gang adopts Anna on her very first day at SOAP (the School Of America in Paris), and despite them having problems between themselves, the group is very close. These characters drew me in from the very beginning and I found myself rooting for all of them.

Stephanie Perkins is an incredibly talented author when it comes to her style. Her descriptions of Paris are gorgeous - and right on the mark. I felt like I was actually there, and it made me yearn for a city I've only visited once. Her writing flows beautifully and I will read her other books just to experience her gorgeous style again.

Overall, Anna & The French Kiss is a book filled with beautiful descriptions and cute romance. If you're looking for an easy YA contemporary novel, I would recommend you grab a copy. Though I gave this book 3 stars, I did a lot of thinking before I decided on a final rating. If it wasn't for St. Clair and Ellie, this book would have been a solid 4 stars, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles. Either way, it's cute, it's fun, and it's easy to read. Plus, I love these covers.

    Monday, 6 April 2015

    Dark Parties by Sara Grant


    the book -
    Dark Parties
    This book is a standalone novel
    First Published in 2011 by PAN (published as 'Neva')
    Genre: YA Dystopia
    Avg. Rating: ★★★ (3.47)

    edition i purchased -
    Paperback, 264 pages
    Published in 2011 by Indigo
    My Rating: ★★★

    the plot -
    Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...

    Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.


    To be perfectly honest, I don't even know where to start with this review. There were times where I really liked this novel, and times where I seriously considered putting it down for good. Dark Parties is a book that throws you in at the deep end, giving you no time to have a leisurely float as you explore the world created. Within the first chapter alone, we discover that our heroine, Neva, is planning a revolution, alongside her best friend, Sanna. Though the Protectosphere is mentioned, and is apparently killing everyone inside, nobody really explains what it is until much later in the book... strike one. And then Neva kisses her best friend's boyfriend. Admittedly, she didn't realise it was him, but that one kiss was the catalyst for pretty much all of the events in this novel, including the awkward, unrealistic love square. Strike two.

    So, two strikes in the first few pages. It's not looking good, is it? I decided to keep trying, however, and in a lot of ways, I'm glad that I did. This novel had a very interesting premise, and while the execution was... off-kilter at best, there was something about it that kept drawing me back. Neva's story is a perilous one, and despite the focus on the romance being a little too much, I did enjoy discovering the Women's Empowerment Centre and exactly what the government has been up to behind the scenes. Neva's list of The Missing was something that kept cropping up throughout the book, and I was intrigued to discover what was happening to these people. It was pretty sickening in truth, but it made for an interesting twist.

    Neva herself was a character whom I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with. Though her bravery and desire to see things through were commendable, her obsession with Braydon kind of grated on me. Unfortunately, their 'relationship' was a little unrealistic and my lack of trust towards Braydon made things even worse. There was something about him that I just didn't like, and while we did find out the truth towards the end of the novel, it was a long trek to figure out exactly who he was.

    Overall, Dark Parties wasn't a terrible novel, it was just too short. I think Grant could have done so much more with this book, but as it stands, I thought it felt a little rushed in places. Unfortunately, I also found myself growing bored in the middle. However, it really picked up towards the end, and though I don't think I can recommend it in good faith, it wasn't a complete waste of my time, and for that, I'm glad I stuck with it.

    Thursday, 2 April 2015

    Are We Drowning In A Sea Of Memes?


    Memes are a good feature to have on your blog for many different reasons, but the main perk of these weekly posts is that you can get across book recommendations to people who maybe don't like reading reviews so much. I, personally, never subscribe to a blog that only posts reviews or blog tours, etc. I like diversity when I'm scrolling through my emails, and I very rarely read reviews unless I'm thinking about buying the book with my next paycheck. For me, memes are essential when it comes to the decision of following a blog - they're where I get my book recommendations at the end of the day. A couple of sentences that pique my interest will get a book onto my wishlist, but it's not until after it's on my list that I start looking at reviews and such.

    A lot of people worry that memes are affecting originality. At the end of the day, I can see where they're coming from - on specific days of the week, nearly every single one of my emails is the same meme post, so in that regard, yes, originality could be compromised. On the other hand, this threat of originality loss is actually spurring bloggers on to create more interesting posts. There are a lot of bloggers out there who don't give an explanation as to why a book made it into their posts. These bloggers are the ones who are letting memes affect their creativity. Simply adding a couple of sentences to explain your reasoning is enough to make your post original - adding that personal touch is going to get people reading the books you're recommending. After all, if someone doesn't know why you liked the book, they're going to have to trawl through other information in order to figure out whether it's the right pick for them, and to be frank, most of us don't have the time of day.

    However I will admit that the amount of memes out there is getting a little ridiculous. There are so many memes that are very similar to one another and while I think that taking someone else's idea as inspiration and creating a meme more suited for your blog is fine so long as you give credit where credit is due, it actually makes it more difficult for other bloggers to find a diverse set of memes suited for their blog.

    While I think that memes themselves don't affect originality, I do think that bloggers need to start thinking about their posts a little more and getting more creative with them, but if you can find the perfect set of memes to feature every week, your blog could be one of the most diverse out there. At the end of the day I, personally, love memes and they are essential to me becoming a devoted follower, but if you're not creative with them, what's the point?

    What do you think about memes? Are there too many? Do you think they affect originality? Let me know in the comments!

    Wednesday, 1 April 2015

    April 2015 Challenge Update & TBR.

    Having read 6 books in March, I managed to contribute to a few of my different challenges. Though not an excellent month in terms of the amount of books I read, I'm still plodding along, trying to get some challenges knocked out early on in the year. With that said, here's what happened with my challenges in March.

    CITY OF ASHES BY CASSANDRA CLARE
    • Prequel & Sequel Challenge - 34/51 points
    • TBR Pile Reading Challenge - 10/31 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge - 14/50 books

    CITY OF GLASS BY CASSANDRA CLARE
    • Prequel & Sequel Challenge - 36/51 points
    • TBR Pile Reading Challenge - 11/31 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge - 15/50 books

    ANNA & THE FRENCH KISS BY STEPHANIE PERKINS
    • Contemporary Challenge - 2/11 books
    • Pop Sugar Reading Challenge - 8/27 books
    • Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge - 6/25 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge - 16/50 books

    DARK PARTIES BY SARA GRANT
    • TBR Pile Reading Challenge - 12/31 books
    • Pop Sugar Reading Challenge - 9/27 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge - 17/50 books

    • Prequel & Sequel Challenge - 38/51 points
    • TBR Pile Reading Challenge - 13/31 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge - 18/50

    KILL ME SOFTLY BY SARAH CROSS
    • TBR Pile Reading Challenge - 14/31 books
    • Pop Sugar Reading Challenge - 10/27 books
    • Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge - 7/25 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge - 19/50 books

    FINAL COUNT
    • Prequel & Sequel Challenge: 38/51 points
    • TBR Pile Reading Challenge: 14/31 books
    • Contemporary Reading Challenge: 2/11 books
    • Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: 10/27 books
    • Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge: 7/25 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge: 19/50 books

    Definitely a good month in the way of challenges. I'm 75% done with my Prequel & Sequel Challenge (or at least the minimum amount I challenged myself to), as well as being nearly 50% done with the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge and the TBR Pile Reading Challenge. April is sure to bring more contributions.

    As for the books I plan on reading in April, I didn't challenge myself to read a lot again. I think 5 books is a good goal to aim for.


    APRIL TBR

    By my estimations, my challenge progress should look a little something like this next month:
    • Prequel & Sequel Challenge: 52/51 points
    • TBR Pile Reading Challenge: 18/31 books
    • Contemporary Reading Challenge: 2/11 books
    • Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: 14/27 books
    • Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge: 8/25 books
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge: 24/50 books

    Fingers crossed I have a decent reading month, and good luck to you guys, too!

    Tuesday, 31 March 2015

    March 2015 Recap.

    March was a bit of a stressful month for me, having decided to hand in my notice at work. The decision was made based on multiple factors, but the most important is the state of my mental health. Anyway, I have until April 18th to get a few different things sorted, and if I stop to think for just a moment, reality kind of hits. The future is looking a bit uncertain now and it's definitely stressing me out. Nevertheless, I've been trying to keep my mind off of the situation, so here's what happened on the blog this month.

    BOOK REVIEWS

    TOP TEN TUESDAY

    DISCUSSIONS

    When it comes to the books I read, I'm still not entirely happy with the number. I managed to finish 6 books this month, but I would have definitely liked to have read more. I suppose with my upcoming unemployment I'll have nothing much to do other than read, so we'll see what happens. A silver lining, perhaps? On the other hand, I bought way too many books yet again. I have a major problem, that's for sure.

         

    BOOKS READ

    BOOKS PURCHASED

    And there you have it! That's what happened with me in the month of March. April's going to be another stressful one, but I'm determined to keep this blog up and running to the best of my abilities. Hope you guys had a good month, and I hope April brings you everything you want.

    The One With The Books I Recently Added To My TBR Pile.

    Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & The Bookish in which we can showcase the top ten books we feel deserve the spotlight according to the topic of the week. This week's topic is books we recently added to our TBR piles.

    There are so many amazing books that I've recently discovered and want to read so to make this easier, I'm only going to feature the ones that have actually made their way onto my shelves.

    I've heard nothing but fantastic things about this author, but for some reason, I've never gotten around to reading anything written by her. Though I don't know much about this series, having the bind-up of the first three will pretty much ensure that I read them. 
    I've wanted to read this novel for the longest time so when I found it in my local bargain bookstore, I had to grab it. This book sounds like a pretty gritty dystopian read and I've heard some great things. 

    This novel has received some amazing reviews, as well as some terrible ones. The story sounds like something I'd enjoy, however, so I'm going to ignore the negative and focus on the positive with this one. 
    I'm a little on the fence when it comes to this series, but when I found this bind-up edition for cheap (I'm talking about a like new hardcover for £1 in a charity shop), I had to buy it. People keep recommending this trilogy to me, so I guess I'll get around to it soon. 
    Though this book has received some less than stellar ratings, it sounds like something I'm going to enjoy. I want to know what happened to Ava and how she handles her amnesia. 


    I absolutely love The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, and Magnus Bane is one of my favourite characters. This collection of short stories will hopefully give me a little more insight into this wacky warlock's life that I'm no doubt going to devour. 

    Though I love The Vampire Diaries (the TV show more than the book series), I have to admit that I prefer The Originals. Klaus and Elijah are some of my all time favourite characters, and I can't wait to see what secrets the books hold. 

    Though I know barely anything about this series, I saw all three books in my local bargain bookstore and couldn't help myself. Fingers crossed I enjoy it! Impulse buys are pretty rare for me. 

    I can't figure out why people don't like this novel and it's really starting to annoy me. People are very vague when it comes to the problems they had with this novel, so I decided to say screw it and bought it anyway. It sounds interesting enough, so here's hoping I enjoy it! 

    This was a huge novel when I first started blogging in 2012 and I've heard nothing but amazing things about it, even now. I'm very intrigued by this premise and can't wait to give it a shot. 

    So what books have you recently added to your TBR piles? Leave me the link to your post/video and I'll be sure to check it out.

    Monday, 30 March 2015

    My Thoughts On City Of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3) by Cassandra Clare.


    the book -
    City Of Glass
    First published in 2009 by Margaret K. McElderry
    Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
    Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (4.35)

    edition i purchased -
    Hardcover, 541 pages
    Published in 2009 by Margaret K. McElderry
    My Rating: ★★★★★

    the plot -
    To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glss, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters - never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire that can withstand sunlight.

    As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City - whatever the cost?
    Clary and Jace have been through hell since this series started, but the conclusion to this novel brought peace to my mind. I went into this book knowing that it was originally planned to be the end of this series, so with this knowledge behind me, I went in prepared - and excited - to finally get some long overdue answers. Cassandra Clare managed to make everything feel worth it in the end - all the heartbreak and suffering, all the tears and laughter. Everything came together nicely and I'm excited to see what she comes up with next. I know it's going to be a bumpy ride, but I'm ready.

    Clary's ability to give normal runes destructive power is something that's intrigued me ever since she blew up Valentine's boat. I always figured there was something special about her, but I couldn't have even begun to imagine what that something was. With the return of Jocelyn, we finally hear her side of the story, and the truth is even more brutal than I was expecting. What Valentine did to his children... I don't know of a single author that could have come up with that twist. Clare is a genius and I can't wait to discover what other twists she brings to the table.

    With the introduction of Sebastian, I braced myself. Here it is, I thought, here's the dreaded love triangle. Despite the whole Simon, Clary, Jace fiasco, there has never been a serious love triangle in this series thus far. Fortunately, my fears were quelled pretty quickly. Sebastian was, for lack of a more eloquent word, creepy. He definitely had an ulterior motive, and I wasn't surprised in the least when this proved to be true. Though I couldn't figure out his endgame, or his reasoning, I had faith that Clare would come up with a spectacular plot twist. And boy, was it a doozy. I could have never imagined that ending, and I'm fully expecting to get more answers in the following books.

    My feelings towards a couple of other characters have done a complete one-eighty since their introduction in City Of Bones. Isabelle is no longer an immature brat, and Alec has finally stopped whining. Both are fast becoming loved characters and I can't wait to see what happens in their storylines next. Simon, however, is definitely the character that has come the farthest. Despite still being a little awkward and geeky, vampirism suits him. He's a little less sensitive and really stepped up to the plate. His ability to walk in the sunlight finally got an explanation in this novel, and it brought various parts of the plot together wonderfully. Clare has absolutely outdone herself with Simon's development, and I can't wait to see where she takes him next.

    Valentine as a villain still felt right to me throughout this book. It's clear that he has no limits, though he's definitely not evil. I genuinely believe that he loves his son in his own way, and he honestly thinks that what he's doing is the right thing. Summoning Raziel is no easy feat, however, and finding the final Mortal Instrument - the mirror - is giving him pause. Of course, Valentine will never be stymied for long, and when he discovers the location of the final piece of the puzzle, it's a race against time for everyone involved.

    Tense, fast-paced, and filled to the brim with action, Cassandra Clare has created a world that you will fall in love with. Jace and Clary are fantastic main characters and your heart will break for them multiple times. Jace's vulnerability and Clary's unexpected ability to kick some ass are completely unlike them at the start of this series. Clare's character development is out of this world and I can't wait to see what happens next.

    Despite this novel being a pretty definitive conclusion, I know Clare will come up with more marvelous ways of hooking her readers. This series is absolutely phenomenal and I will be continuing it with no hesitation. Absolutely stellar.

    Saturday, 28 March 2015

    How Fast Do You Read?

    The other day, I was bored and scouting the Internet for fun little challenge-type things when I came across this reading speed test. I can't remember the site that I originally saw it on, but you can find it on the Staples website.


    My results showed that I read at a speed of 438 wpm, which is 75% faster than the average American. Not as high as some of the scores I've seen, but I'm still pretty damn proud. If I had taken this test a couple of years ago, I could have beaten that score easily, but taking a hiatus from reading generally slows you down for a while.

    According to this test, I could read:
    • The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien in 18 hours 13 minutes.
    • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte in 4 hours 6 minutes.
    • Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling in 2 hours 56 minutes ← That's about right. 

    How fast do you read? Take the test and let me know. I'm curious to see where I average out amongst my fellow bloggers!

    Are ARCs All They're Cracked Up To Be?

    Though most book bloggers don't start off their blog for the sole purpose of receiving free books (and if you did, shame on you!), it's a common goal for most of us. We work very hard to promote books, and while ARCs and review copies are a nice reward, they're also a cause of great stress for a lot of us. At the end of the day, these books come with strings attached - after all, nothing in life is truly free, right?

    So, for those of you who don't know what an ARC is, let me try and explain: also known as an advanced review copy, ARCs are books that are printed well before the book's publication date and are given out to bloggers (amongst various other media outlets) as a way to promote the book ready to up those sales on release day. More often than not, ARCs are available by request only and as they cost the same to print as a final copy, there's usually a very limited amount of them - after all, giving them away for free means that the publishing company is actually counting on high release sales to reimburse the cost of printing those elusive ARCs. Because of the limited amount available, most publishers will expect a review unless you're very careful with your wording and they agree to send you one without the guarantee of a review. It's rare, but it does occasionally happen.

    Personally, I don't - and probably never will - request ARCs. Finished copies are a different story, but that's a discussion for another day. I do have a few reasons behind my aversion to advanced copies, though:

    1) I don't like feeling obligated to write a review. No matter how much I think I will enjoy a book, there's always a chance that I won't. Although negative reviews aren't necessarily a bad thing (see Negative Reviews - To Post Or Not To Post?), I don't want to think that I've taken away the chance of someone else reading and loving the book, thus gaining the ability to promote it in a much better manner.

    2) I'm a major mood reader. ARCs come with a deadline - publication. Though it's not a tragedy if you can't read and review a book before publication, that is kind of the point of ARCs and I always feel so guilty if I can't make it happen.

    3) Once you establish a relationship with a publisher, they will sometimes send you unsolicited ARCs - it's unusual, but it does happen if the novel in question is similar to previous books that you've requested. Again, this makes me feel incredibly guilty if I can't read and review it, despite having not asked for it.

    Though ARCs are a good marketing tool, I, personally, don't think they're worth it, more often than not. How about you? Do you think ARCs are all they're cracked up to be? Ot do you feel, like me, that they come with too many strings attached?