Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE! I hope everyone is at home (or at least not at work) on this holiday and really taking some time to be thankful for what they have. What are you thankful for?

I'm thankful for:

My Fiance: He's been through a whole lot this year, and though we went through it all together, I'm really grateful that we got through it all to begin with, and also for how far he's come and where he's gotten today. As for today, he unfortunately can't be with the family for Thanksgiving, but I'm thankful for modern technology, and we will be taking advantage of FaceTime later today. :) I love you, pookie! <3

My Jobs: I have three of them, and in a world where many struggle to just find one, I'm thankful that I've got them even if sometimes they make me wants to bash my head against the wall. I'm also very thankful for the friends I've made at these jobs that have become like a family. You guys are the best!

Books: Haven't you ever just been glad that, whatever else is going on in your life, there are books to make you forget about it, even for a little while? Aren't you sometimes glad that you can read, especially with all the people in the world who cant and don't  have the opportunity to learn? Hug your books today - they deserve it.

My Family: Another set of people who in equal parts keep you sane and make you insane - but how could I ever live without them. I don't think I need to elaborate on that one.

So, on this very special holiday, what are you giving thanks for?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Finding Home by Lauren McKellar

ISBN: 9780857990914
Source: Netgalley/Publisher
Format: eARC
Series: No, Stand-Alone
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Find it on Goodreads
*Disclaimer* I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

When Amy’s mum dies, the last thing she expects is to be kicked off her dad’s music tour all the way to her Aunt Lou in a depressing hole of a seaside town. But it’s okay — Amy learned how to cope with the best, and soon finds a hard-drinking, party-loving crowd to help ease the pain.

The only solace is her music class, but even there she can’t seem to keep it together, sabotaging her grade and her one chance at a meaningful relationship. It takes a hard truth from her only friend before Amy realises that she has to come to terms with her past, before she destroys her future.

For those of you who know my reading tastes, you know I have a very hard time getting into contemporary reads. I can dig romance (because I'm a sap), but regular old contemporary novels are usually not for me - with the exception of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, which I'm enjoying very much. I didn't think I would like this one very much, but I was interested in the description and was able to get a review copy through Netgalley, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I didn't necessarily love this book, but I enjoyed it for being something out of my comfort zone. It was a pretty dark novel - Amy was falling into alcoholism after her mother's death several months before. There was some sex, which usually I am okay with in YA novels because I like books that can portray true young adult relationships, but the descriptions took it a little far for me. Trust me, I've read wayyyy worse (e.g., Fifty Shades), but I wouldn't exactly be giving this one over to a young teen, say 13 or 14.

I liked Amy a lot (except for when she was being boy-obsessed, ugh) and I think watching her downward spiral then eventual rise above her circumstances was fascinating and inspiring. I also enjoyed Nick though he didn't get a lot of time, considering how obsessed she was with another boy throughout the better half of the book. Unfortunately, I didn't really like any of the other characters. Amy's best friend was a snot, her other "friends" were not very nice to her, her aunt and dad were barely even in the book. The book was extremely short, and had it been lengthened, it would've been nice to have a little more development in the other characters. Don't get me wrong, I like that the characters had their imperfections and the novel was a darker one on the YA spectrum, but I didn't like that some of the bad decisions the characters made were never acknowledged, rectified, apologized for... they were sucky people and everyone was just okay with it.

RATING:  1/2

I enjoyed reading Finding Home, getting a taste for a darker YA novel and watching Amy overcome some very huge, very real obstacles teens face today. I wish the supporting character development and writing had been a little better but overall a pretty good contemporary read.

Have any of you read this one yet? What did you think?


Friday, November 22, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday Tag

Happy Friday.. Aahh, still coming off my high of seeing Catching Fire last night. It was amazing in case you were wondering.

Well this week's Feature and Follow is a rather simple one:

Q: You Are It! We are playing #FF tag this week. Comment on as many blogs as you can, even if they aren’t participating in #FF. Just say Happy #FF! At the end of your comment. Keep a running total if you want and update your post with it. The bigger the number the more impressed we will be!

So lets play tag, you guys! See you around!! :)

Tagged : 27 bloggers
(updated 11/22 11:35 a.m. EST)


Catching Fire! - The Movie

How many of you went to see Catching Fire last night?! I went last night to the 10 p.m. showing with my sister who is an equal fan of the series, and a friend who had stopped reading mid-Catching Fire and I had to convince to come see the movie because she'd lost interest.

(If you have not read Catching Fire, or seen the movie, please note that this post has spoilers. If you want to know more about Catching Fire, see my spoiler-free book review here)

To give you an idea on how we felt about it, my sister and I spent the entire time covering our faces and whimpering because we knew what horrible thing was coming next (i.e., speech in District 11, Quarter Quell announcement, Cinna, Mags...). My friend sat through it all silently and occasionally curled up and whimpered also. At the end, my sister and I immediately made plans to go back on Saturday and see it again. My friend didn't say much until we got out of the theater and she exclaimed "I'm so impressed!" She went on to say that this movie was so much better than the first, she can't believe how good it was, and that she wants to come back with us on Saturday to see it again. WE. LOVED. IT.

I saw some tweets immediately after about it being good despite the changes. I say, who cares about the changes, it was amazing! They did leave some things out and change the way some things happen, most notably:

     There are no escapees hiding in the woods trying to get to the fabled District 13, so Katniss has no idea of District 13 until the very end.

     Gale gets whipped not for selling game but for attacking a Peacekeeper.

     Katniss doesnt get whipped in the face, just punched.

     There are a ton of scenes with President Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee that don't actually happen in the books, but for some reason I actually like them. Especially the ones with Snow and his granddaughter... good set up for the next two movies, especially.

There were many other little changes, and probably some big ones I didn't care enough about to remember. I think the changes made were good for the movie adaptation and I absolutely loved it. The action was so well done, so exciting to watch. All of the emotions that leave us so bereft in the books come to life and do it to you all over again in the movie. By the time we left, I was so emotionally drained.. I just wanted to curl up in my bed for a few days. I will be seeing it several more times over the next few weeks, you'd better believe it!

So, please, please, please tell me - have you gone to see this movie? If not, are you going some time soon? I need to discuss how amazing it was!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

ISBN: 9780439023498
Source: Purchased
Series: The Hunger Games #2
Page Count: 391 pages

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
I always thought I  liked Catching Fire better than The Hunger Games. Now I remember why! The Hunger Games was a shock to my system the first time I read it, the first (and only, in my opinion) of its kind. After the elation the reader feels when Peeta and Katniss make it out of the arena, you can only wonder what the author can do to to keep us interested (and pray she won't find a new way to break our hearts... which she does!).

Collins uses the emotional high we're still riding on to propel us through the aftermath of Katniss and Peeta's victory. For those of you living under a rock, I'll keep this entirely spoiler free, but there is 10000% more emotion in this book than the last, and thats saying a lot considering how high strung I was reading Hunger Games the first time.

I still do find the writing to be a little on the simple side, but with everything going on, I can't be mad about it. I'm glad I didn't have to decipher hidden meanings and philosophical standpoints, because all I cared about at this point was Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch... oh and Finnick <3.. etc.

I felt more and more of Katniss and Peeta's relationship that I seem to have missed (or turned a blind eye to) the last time. I love it, and even though I think it rightfully takes a back seat to the action, it was almost perfect. I say almost because I didn't like the fact that Katniss kinda loses a little of her identity for a short while in this book. She's always flip flopping between who she should be making all of her decisions for, Peeta, Gale, Peeta, Gale.. In book 1, the decisions Katniss made were for her family and herself, and when it was necessary and logical, Peeta. I didn't like that she couldn't decide who she loved while still staying true to herself. On the other hand, I suppose being in the area truly did break her and she was no longer the same person before she left, so I guess I can forgive that.


Ah well, enough pondering the inner working of Katniss's mind. How many of you are going to see the movie this weekend? Any of you going today!? I am, with a few co-workers and my sister, and I'm beyond excited! I am obsessed with midnight showings, except they are releasing the movie earlier today and we are going to the 10:00 p.m. showing. I'm so pumped! I'll be posting a book-to-movie review also, probably tomorrow or Saturday. If any of you have done any posts in anticipation for the movie, leave me a link so I can come visit!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Harry Potter Read-Along/Discussion [20]

RECAP - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Chapters 23-29

Harry is convinced he is being possessed by the Dark Lord until Ginny points out that she has been possessed by the Dark Lord and she doesn't particularly think Harry is being possessed. That just about snaps Harry out of his sulking and things are looking up, but then Snape informs Harry that the Headmaster
wishes for Harry to take private lessons with Snape - Occulmency lessons - to learn to shut his mind to the probing of Voldemort.

The horrible Occlumency lessons have left Harry exhausted and so mentally weak that he dreams of  the Department of Mysteries almost every night. However, once again, even with the craziness all around him, Harry finally asks Cho out to spend Valentine's Day with him in Hogsmeade and she gladly says yes. The mass breakout of Death Eater's from Azkaban does put a damper on things though. It doesn't help either that Hermione has asked Harry to meet her halfway through his date with Cho, and Cho does not take that very well. It seems she thinks there is something else going on between Hermione and Harry, and doesn't quite give Harry a chance to explain before she storms out of their date, crying.

Thankfully Harry's meeting with Hermione quite takes his mind off of that. She's brought him to meet Rita Skeeter who interviews Harry and publishes an entirely truthful account of what really happened the night Voldemort returned - not that anyone would believe something printed in the Quibbler... or would they?Things start to look up at Hogwarts when a few of Harry's acquaintances begin treating him a little better as if they might believe him, but of course Umbridge bans all students from reading the Quibbler.

To add to her list of atrocities, Umbridge sacks Professor Trelawney, and Dumbledore hires Firenze the Centaur as the new divination teacher and lets Trelawney stay on as a guest at Hogwarts. Things don't seem to be able to get any worse, but then somehow, Umbridge finds out about the D.A. Meetings! Harry is brought in to be questioned by Umbridge and Cornelius Fudge and finds out that Cho's friend Marietta snitched on them. Harry pretends he knows nothing and Dumbledore tells Umbridge and Fudge that the whole thing was his idea and he has plotted to overthrow Fudge. Before he can be arrested though, Dumbledore knocks everyone out, disappears, and Umbridge is crowned the new Headmistress of Hogwarts to everyone's dismay. Things only get worse, if that's even possible, with Umbridge naming Malfoy and a bunch of his Slytherin friends as the Inquisitorial Squad that do her bidding. On top of that, Harry accidentally intrudes on a memory of Snape's of Harry's dad and his friends bullying Snape back in the day, and Snape ends all future Occlumency lessons with Harry.

As the students of Hogwarts have about had enough, Fred and George decide to go all out in terrorizing Umbridge, set off fireworks and other tricks they've invented and leave Hogwarts behind to open up Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, leaving Umbridge to deal with the aftermath of their pranks.


Here we are with Cho once again, and boy am I glad she she's done and over with. After that fiasco on their Valentine's Day date, yikes! I don't know who would want to date Cho. Little snot. But I won't get into that again considering I spent a fair amount of time bitching about Cho anyways.

I wanted mainly, today, to see who could help me clarify something on Legilimency and Occulmency. Maybe I should just look it up because there are enough wiki-pages with tons of Hogwarts info. In the book, Snape has to say (or think) the spell "Legilimens", cast it on Harry, then proceed to look through his thoughts. Seems straightforward enough except that the characters make it seem as though Voldemort can basically read minds using legilimency, that he can tell when people are lying. Does he cast the spell too? Is he so powerful that he doesnt have to? He is described as a gifted Legilimens, but I just wish I knew more about this, how Voldemort uses this 'gift' of his. Anyone else have any better ideas than I do?

Oh and that little witch (no pun intended) Marietta Edgecombe who snitches on the D.A.... if she didn't get what she deserved with that permanent acne advertisement on her face, I'd say I'd like to smack her myself. What's worse is that Cho even defends Marietta, saying her mother works for the ministry and thought she was doing the right thing. That's all fine and good, but when they all realize Voldemort has actually returned, Marietta is going to be sorry she ruined her face for a bit of tattling!

...well anyways, on another note, after having skipped a week of my Harry Potter discussions, I realize that I am dealing with a bit of a slump as far as reading and posting goes, and these HP posts take a lot out of me. I am not going to end them altogether, no, but I am going to make them less frequent. Instead of every week, I'll be doing every other week. I know I'll still see you guys around.

Talk to you all soon!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Dark Witch by Nora Roberts

ISBN: 9780425259856
Source: Purchased
Series: The Cousins O'Dwyer, #1
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Page Count: 342 pages
Find it on Goodreads

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.
County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.
Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.
When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.
Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…

I think we can all agree that Nora Roberts has a very... predictable storytelling style. Her trilogies always feature three friends, or brothers, or sisters, or in this case, cousins... There's always the different personalities, one bubbly, one caring and sensitive, one broody... its always the same set up with just a different plot put in behind it.

But for some reason, I've always loved Nora Roberts, not in spite of, but because of her predictability. Yes, sometimes things can get old, but reading a Roberts book (trilogies especially) makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The relationships she develops within the story makes you feel like you're sitting down with a few good friends - in other words, she draws you in.

I was kind of annoyed by the fact that the Ireland natives in the story sounded like they were talking in circles. Instead of simple yes, no, maybe, etc., It took an entire ridiculous sounding dialogue for them to get their points across. By the end of the book, whenever it wasn't Iona, the American, talking, I wanted to roll my eyes a bit.

However, regardless of the redundancy and the cheesy dialogue, her novels, as always, are masterfully put together. Nora Roberts is the queen of descriptive passages in modern writing, and I admire her for that. I can always picture a scene perfectly, right down to the little bee buzzing near a flower, and I love that.

In skimming through some other reviews, I noticed a comment about how Boyle, the romantic interest in this one, was a harder male character than Roberts has written in a long time, and the relationship lacked a little chemistry. I agree 100%. Boyle didn't have many soft spots and I remember some situations where he'd say something and I'd think, 'gee, I'm glad I'm not dating that guy,' or 'wow, Sean would never say that to me.' I mean, men aren't perfect, but usually Roberts gives her token rough male character a little flexibility.

I really don't think I read Nora Roberts for a romance fix anymore, because her books are more about the relationships and dynamic among the entire group than one couple. Also, I love a good, sensible, strong female character. I admire Roberts for always, always giving us heroines we can look up to. Maybe Iona was a little too sensible for me, cause I know I'm nowhere near that sensible, but I love that the women are always kick-ass chicks.


All in all, no matter how predictable her novels are getting, Nora Roberts never fails to capture me with her amazing characters, their development and relationships, and there's always an interesting back story with surprising twists and turns along the way. For romance fans, for Nora fans, this is one that you should definitely read!

Have any of you read this yet? What did you think? Let me know!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday - Book to Movie Adaptations

This week's Feature and Follow (hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read (just almost met the President!)) topic is:

Q: Are there any book to movie adaptations where you think the movie is (almost) better than the book?
YES! Well maybe not better than the book. I don't think I could ever go that far, but there are a couple that come pretty damn close:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - we all know the Harry Potter movies change a lot of the intricate details which can be super annoying, but this movie is the only one I think I enjoyed more than the book because it gets all the issues and emotions across without taking 800+ pages to do so. I recently read OotP and though I loved it as I do all Harry Potter books, I wouldn't have minded it being maybe 100 pages shorter?

The Time Traveler's Wife - one of my favorite books of all time. I cried for like a week after I read that book... then I took my mom, sister and cousin to see the movie... Lets just say at least we were able to laugh after we made fools of ourselves sobbing like small children in public. (omg I literally might cry just looking at some of the movie poster.. I'm pathetic)

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - definitely not one that it better than the book, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to see it again, and I think it brought a lot of the action to life when I was struggling to connect with Clare's writing.

oh and how about
The Vampire Diaries - I know this is a show, but as far as adaptations go, I love the show 103876827 times more than the book. I couldn't even finish the first book, but I am obsessed with the show and the spin-off show, The Originals.

How about you? Any movies you think are better than the book? Or like me, almost better? Cant wait to hear from ya!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

ISBN: 9780373210558
Source: Netgalley
Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion #1
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Page Count: 352 Pages
Find it on Goodreads
*Disclaimer* I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.
If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked - surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.
There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed, and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

Have any of you read Carter's Goddess Test series? I've read the first two and an e-novella and am currently reading the last one in the series. I wasn't a huge fan of the series, though I did enjoy it enough to finish it, but I've come to realize that writing adaptations of Greek myths is a tough one and its hard to judge an author on something like that. With that being said, I only found some similarities between The Goddess Test series and and Pawn, and I think Carter's writing was much stronger in Pawn.

I love the premise for this series - a society based on an IQ test of sorts. It's an idea I had toyed with in the past, though not to this extreme. In the world Carter creates, people are given the life they "earned", and hey, if they are average or below average in intelligence, then they work crap jobs, aren't allowed to buy certain luxuries such as oranges (crazy, right?!) and only are allowed one child. Talk about population control.

I liked Kitty well enough as the heroine, though I think she was a little too focused on her boyfriend Benjy, considering every decision she makes in the book comes with the prerequisite "how will this affect Benjy" inner monologue. I also liked that Carter made Kitty unable to read... probably dyslexic from what I can tell. Kitty was a smart, self-sufficient, caring, and kind of bad-ass heroine who was not perfect. She couldn't read, but she still managed to score a III (out of VI) on her aptitude test, which may sound horrible to her, but at least she wasnt sent Elsewhere. I don't even want to get into Elsewhere, which I found to be a a lot creepy.

This novel was very character- and relationship-centered, as there wasn't a ton of plot movement, though there was some. However, Kitty did spend most of her time in the Somerset mansion (just like Kate does in The Goddess Test) and that kind of keeps the plot stagnant.

As far as world-building goes, I think there was a good amount of it right at the start of the book, then we see some information interspersed throughout the book, but with such an promising world to work with, I wish there had been more.

Its hard for me to say if I feel more than just... *shrug*... about this book, because everything was kind of so-so on the Amanda-ratings scale. The world building, when it was there, was good and fresh and unique. The characters, when they did develop, it was interesting and they were strong, but then they kind of went... flat. Plot... moved along well enough, but there was only so much action before Kitty found herself sitting around somewhere again. Not to mention Carter skimming over some parts of the plot that I felt she definitely could've gone into more detail with, like the speeches Lila gave.

Also, and though the dialogue itself never came off as awkward or unrealistic, there were times when I felt myself saying "huh?". I felt as though I had missed something important in the dialogue or plot movement and found myself confused about what was going on a couple of times.

I do have to say though, by the end of the book I was gasping and slapping my forehead in surprise at the twists the story took and I think Carter did a good enough job setting up for what has the potential to be a very good series.

RATING:  1/2

I enjoyed this well enough and thanks to a couple of good plot twists and a world with a ton of potential, I think I'll be coming back to read the next one when it is released, probably some time next year.

Have any of you read this book? If, so what did you think? If not, will you be picking up a copy when it is released on November 26? I'd love to hear from you!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Giveaway Winners!: Dance the Moon Down by R.L. Bartram

Its time to announce this weekend's Giveaway winners! A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Robert Bartram and reviewed his book, Dance the Moon Down. Robert was kind enough to work with i solemnly swear to host a giveaway in which three lucky winners would each get a PDF copy of his book, Dance the Moon Down.

The winners of this giveaway are:

Anna Partrick of Diamond & Coal Book Reviews

Kristin of These Pretty Words


Elizabeth of so long and thanks for all the fish


All of the winners should look for an e-mail from Mr. Bartram himself, and I think everyone else should pay these awesome gals a visit on their blogs and show them some love.

Thanks for participating and I hope you love Dance the Moon Down as much as I did!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

ISBN: 9780439023528
Source: Library
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Page Count: 374 pages
Find it on Goodreads

"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, the shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before--and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

I read this book for the first time a little over a year ago, before the first Hunger Games movie was released. I became part of the fandom instantly. This was my first foray into YA dystopian and I fell head-over-heels in love with the series and the genre. Upon reinspection of this series, I've discovered I am still obsessed.

I won't pretend as if there were no issues for me this second time around, because there were. Its that classic occurrence, I think we've all experienced it since we became bloggers. You instantly become obsessed with the first good book you read in a particular genre... then later on you realize that there is better stuff out there. And upon re-reading the book that popped your genre-cherry, so to speak, you realize that it is not the messiah of all YA dystopian (or paranormal or romance, etc.) books.

Here's what I came across this time around that didn't strike me the first time:

First of all, Suzanne Collins is a great writer, engaging and descriptive. BUT... and there is a but... sometimes her narrative in this book was sloppy and even a little awkward. (Only) a few times, I found myself saying "huh?" at a sentence or some dialogue that made absolutely no sense to me until I read it a few times through. It was few and far between, though, so a few bumps in the road certainly didn't ruin the ride.

Something else I realized was that the first time I read this, for whatever reason, I was hard core team Gale. Before, in my mind, what Katniss and Peeta had wasn't real, it was all forced and she belonged with Gale. I also realize that at the time, I sped through this series because of how excited I was so be reading it and loving it. This time, I took my time, enjoyed the book, looked for things I liked and what I didn't and what I discovered was that I don't think I really gave Peeta enough credit the first time. I won't say I'm team Peeta now because that feels like a betrayal, but I suppose *spoiler* the ending of Mockingjay isn't as a hard a pill to swallow anymore *end spoiler*.

Collins does an amazing job building the world of Panem, but at the same time, I want to know so much more. I want to know more about President Snow and the Capitol and the other districts. But I suppose from Katniss's POV, that information would have been limited. I love Katniss' character and I think she's badass and the perfect not-gonna-take-your-shit heroine. For those of you who haven't read it, I think the plot is perfectly paced and other than the rather simple and sometimes bumpy writing, its an amazing read. This book definitely set the bar for me in YA and though I've found some other things I liked better since then, I  have yet to find a similar series as whole that I've loved wholeheartedly the way I do this one.


I don't feel as though I came across any great revelations while re-reading this book other than my new-found tolerance of the Katniss-Peeta relationship. It simply felt as if I were visiting an old friend when I picked up this book, warm and comfortable (the story itself is anything but), and its something I think I will re-read for many years to come.

If you haven't read it and you are looking for the dystopian series of dystopian series, start with this book, because as a whole, this series sets the bar pretty high. I'm planning on reviewing Catching Fire the day before the movie premiere and likely reviewing the movie that weekend. Anyone else doing a re-read (or a first read) of this one before the movie? What did you think the first/second (or millionth) time around? Are you going to see the movie?

Can't wait to hear from you guys on this one as it is one of my favorites for sure!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Harry Potter Read-Along/Discussion [19]

RECAP - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Chapters 17-22

Professor Umbridge has been using her new position as the Hogwarts High Inquisitor to her advantage. She has been ordering decrees to limit what the students and teachers can do, including a decree that all organizations must be approved by her. So much for the D.A.D.A club... right? Wrong. Harry and friends decide to have the D.A.D.A. meetings anyway, and the first one goes well! Its really too bad then, that while Harry is finding a way to defy Umbridge, he gets into a fight with Malfoy and Umbridge gives him, Fred and George a lifetime ban on playing Quidditch. A Life. Time. Ban.
Illustration by Amanda Grazini
While Harry and the Quidditch team are sulking, they see Hagrid returning to his hut and they sneak down to see him, only to find that he looks badly beaten. He was on a secret mission with Olympe Maxime trying to recruit the giants against Voldemort. Before Harry and his friends can really warn Hagrid about what's being going on at the school, Umbridge shows up interrogating him about where he's been.

Umbridge shows up the next day at Hagrid's class where he is teaching the students about, thestrals, the creepy horses that pull the carriages at the start of every term - you know, the ones Harry and Luna could see, but no one else could. Neville can see them too, and they find out that it's because only those who have seen death can see the thestrals. Umridge doesn't seemed pleased with the lesson though, and is definitely giving Hagrid a bad review.

Harry's days start to improve though, and he and Cho have a private moment in which Harry has his first kiss. He's on cloud nine of course, but when he goes to sleep, he has a strange dream that doesnt feel like a dream at all - Harry is a snake attacking someone - and that someone is Ron's dad. In a panic, Harry tells Dumbledore who uses his resources to find out that Mr. Weasley has indeed been attacked. The headmaster sends Harry and all of the Weasley children to stay with Sirius while they make sure Mr. Weasley is rescued and until things can be sorted out, and Professor McGonagall takes measures to make sure Umbridge doesnt interfere.


I don't even think I can begin to tell you my level of frustration when Harry gets a LIFETIME BAN on Quidditch. I mean we all know that doesn't last what with Umbridge only being "high inquisitor" for one year, but honestly. I hate the feeling of utter helplessness that almost sets in when Harry realizes that no matter what he does, it won't do any good. Umbridge had it out for him, and he had to learn to live with that. That's why I'm so glad that Harry and all the other students decided to go forward with their D.A.D.A. lessons. And thank god for them because honestly, can you imagine those poor kids going out into the world with no practical D.A.D.A. instruction. And they really do learn a few things, even in those first few lessons. Most of them didn't know how useful the expelliarmus spell could really be, but think about it. Harry uses it, and often, and he's survived a whole lot in the last 4 1/2 books.

And even through all the horribleness (is that a word?) going on in his life, Harry still finds a way to be somewhat happy... he and Cho Chang share their first kiss! I mean, its about time, don't you think. Harry is fifteen - most kids these days start at like.. ten. Sad and kind of gross, but true. Either way, I like that Harry maintained a modicum of innocence in the romance department until about year four or five. Cho annoys the heck out of me though. Yes, she is grieving, but come on. If you want a boy to like you, you don't go blubbering all over him all the time, sheesh. I'm so glad I'm not fifteen anymore!

I've heard from a lot of people that they preferred Cho and Harry to Ginny and Harry. For me, the jury is still out on Ginny and I'm hoping that re-reading the last two books will help me out with that decision, but Cho gets a firm NO from me. First of all, how would they be able to get past that kind of grief that is between them? How could they be expected to? Sure they'd be there to comfort each other, but Harry would always think Cho missed Cedric more than she was happy about being with him. Cho would always be upset about Cedric and would probably wonder how things would've been had he not died. She even says to Harry that if Cedric had known D.A.D.A. that maybe he would've lived. She obviously was not over Cedric or his death and pursuing Harry was just not a good idea all around. Maybe things would've been different with an adult relationship between two mature people, but I think Rowling made the right decision in ending that one with book 5. Not to mention she was a snot and was already jealous and suspicious of Harry and Hermione without even asking what was really going on... I'm sorry but a needy, emotional, jealous teenager is exactly what Harry did not need. So hey - three cheers for Ginny. At least she turns out to be a strong and understanding partner, even if all the feels weren't necessarily emanating off the pages... understandable considering Harry did have a lot going on by the end of book 6. Anyway, that's a discussion for a later book.

What do you all think about what's been going on in these last few chapters? Talk to you all soon!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

ISBN: 9780375842207
Release Date: January 1, 2005
Source: Purchased
Series: No, Stand Alone
Page Count: 550 pages
Find it on Goodreads


"It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement."


So, do you want to know how this book impacted me? Here you go: after crying for two hours straight while finishing this book, I sat on my couch in silence, staring off into space, and when my fiance asked me what was wrong, I told him "I just need to be alone right now," and went to lay down.

I was so emotionally drained after reading this book, I probably came off like a crazy person (Sean is used to that though). For some people, that is a reason not to pick up a book. For me, it means the book did something right if it can bring out those kinds of emotional reactions in me.

I will admit that The Book Thief took some time to hook me. I liked the story and the characters, and I especially liked the storyteller and the narrator used to tell the story - Death. I was a little wary, as I'm sure some of you who've read it were, about a book narrated by Death. That either meant it would be cheesy, or unbearably sad. Take a guess at which one it was?

The plot moved a little slowly at first - we don't even meet the Jewish man in Liesel's basement (not a spoiler) until, what, half way through the book? And frankly, you and I both know that that's where all the action started, but it was slow going getting there. At first I kind of wondered what about this book was everyone raving about.. about halfway through, I realized what it was. Once the story picked up, I felt such connections to Liesel, Rosa, Hans, Rudy, even the mean old lady across the road and the mayor's crazy wife. I loved them all. But thank's to Death's narration style, I already knew who was going to die almost as soon as we found out who they were. There were no surprises in this book. A complaint a lot of people had was that Death took the punch out of the ending because he routinely told you who was going to die and other things that were going to happen well before they actually did. I can see how that would be an issue, but I still don't know how I feel about it. Let me try to explain this to you the best I can:

After I read this book, I felt as though I had been duped. Death has lulled me into a false sense of security. I didn't think the ending would have much of an impact because I already knew exactly who was going to die, just not in what manner. I thought at the time that maybe this method of storytelling would take the sting out of the ending and it wouldn't be as bad as some people had said. I was wrong.

I cried the entire last 100 pages. How is that possible? I cried for almost two hours straight, while struggling to get to the end without breaking down and sobbing. Why did I react this way? Who the hell knows. I knew exactly what was coming, but I loved all of the characters so much that I couldn't bear for it to be true. Maybe I'd secretly harbored hope that it was all a cruel joke and they would all be alive singing Kumbaya My Lord at the end.

Sigh... it upsets me just thinking about it. Imagine what I'll be like when I go see the movie this weekend... ugh. I'm going to be a blubbering fool.

RATING:  1/2
The only complaints I had about this book were that it took a while to get into. The pace was very slow, but that was something I expected going into a book of this emotional magnitude. The writing was unusual but amazing, and any reservations I had about Death narrating this story were quickly forgotten as I fell in love with the characters, story and I even liked Death a little bit. Mostly felt bad for him I think, but Zusak portrayed such an interesting character that it was hard not to wonder about his own story too.

I know many of you have read this before and I've seen many different reactions. How did you feel about the narrator and the spoilers given throughout the whole book? Did you feel as emotionally drained as I did when you got through the ending did Death's spoilers spoil it for you? Anyone going to see the movie this weekend? Let me know what you think!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: The Pentrals by Crystal Mack

ISBN: 9780981982502
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Book
Series: The Pentrals, #1
Page Count: 246 pages
Find it on Goodreads
*Disclaimer* I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Picture your life without free will.

No choice. No voice. No personal direction.

For 17 years, it's the only path I've known. Always a follower, never in control, I am an afterthought, burying my impulses as I bend to the whims of another. I dream of someone taking notice-of falling in love and being kissed. But I probably never will.

My name is Antares. I am a Shadow.
Deep in a secluded canyon lies Talline, a metropolis of mirrors filled with forces called Pentrals that outline our very existence. Antares, Pentral Class Two, took an oath to act without influence—to echo without opinion. But in a cruel twist of fate, she must watch as Violet, her person, encounters a tragedy that will change both their lives forever. When Violet starts making careless choices, Antares can no longer remain a silent silhouette. She won’t allow lost friendships, broken hearts, or those mysterious menaces looking out from the glass to tear apart Violet’s very being. In doing so, Antares unknowingly crosses forbidden boundaries and ends up illuminating a darkness much deeper than her own."


  • Mack uses a wonderful combination of "show and tell" to world-build this intriguing place. She took such an interesting concept and turned it into a world that I needed to know more about.
  • The narrative was solid. The dialogue was sometimes awkward (see below) but the storytelling was done with a smooth voice. And while the narrative started out pretty solid, by the end the writing as a whole was wonderful and it seemed as if Mack had really gotten into her groove there.
  • The plot was very clever and unpredictable. I suppose with such a unique premise, it's hard to be predictable, but either way, the plot twists kept me coming back for more!
  • Not only is it a wonderful, intriguing story, but it felt like the entire story was a metaphor real issues: girls (well, people in general) with low self-esteem and horrible self-image; the downward spiral so many people fall into when they aren't happy with who they are (e.g. turning to drugs and prescribed medications); how much worth we put on appearance... I could go on. But Mack touched on some issues that go way beyond her plot here.
  • The romance in this book hooked me instantly. Of course, a forbidden love, but it pulled at my heartstrings and I found myself grinning like a fool during certain scenes.
  • Just a fun, random thought, but after I read this book, I spent some time walking around downtown on my lunch break and found myself noticing my shadow, the shadows of others, buildings, objects. I even sent a mental bullet to my would-be Pentral. And then I laughed at my self because I was so amused and delighted by the story and how it stuck with me. The author really gave this book some thought and the premise is just amazing and has so much more potential. 


  • The pacing was a little off. Some of the reactions to major issues didn't feel right - e.g. (not a spoiler) when Violet realizes she's a Shadow, she's upset for like an hour... then it's all just OK and she's content to sit back and watch Antares living in her body instead of freaking out about being a Shadow!! I feel as though if the book had been longer, some of the awkward scenes could've been more drawn out and paced a little better.


So let me clarify one thing - this book is about a Shadow. An actual Shadow, not a being living unseen, but those dark blobs that follow your body around at every moment of the day. I was so blown away by that fact when I finally realized what I was reading. How many other books are out there about a Shadow? Every book out there in the YA world lately is about the same dystopian-related things and it can get old. This book was so refreshing and unique, I absolutely could not put it down.

While I was reading it, it kind of reminded me of The Host by Stephenie Meyer, how those aliens take over bodies, except this time, Shadows can take over bodies.. It also reminded me of Across the Universe by Beth Revis because of the Xanax-like drug called Lifts! that most of the community had taken to using - not by force but through manipulation, similar to the Phydus being used aboard the Godspeed in AtU, though that one is given by force. Anyhow, it didn't take away from the story, it was just interesting to see some of the concepts I loved in other books used in this one in completely different and creative ways.

And aside from absolutely needing to know more about Talline and the Pentrals, Mack touched on some real deep topics in this book without being cheesy or overbearing. It makes you want to reevaluate what it is you hold dear in your life - your looks? Your popularity? Are they really so important, such that when you don't have them, you would resort to medicating yourself or to taking drugs/alcohol? Must we use these weak points to bring others down when we feel down ourselves? Yeesh, this book has me getting all philosophical!

Anyway, my point is, in this very short book, Mack has managed to hook me with her plot, characters, world-building and all of the deeper messages not-so-hidden in this book. I am absolutely dying to read the next book which she says will be out some time next year. I don't know if I can wait that long.

If you're looking for a refreshing, meaningful yet quick YA read, this one is for you. I enjoyed it so much, and am looking forward to new things from Crystal Mack.

Have any of you read this book yet? If you have, do you agree with what I had to say? If not, what do you think of the premise, and is it something you might want to read? Love hearing from you guys!


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Harry Potter Read-Along/Discussion [18]

RECAP - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Chapters 10 - 16

Harry is finally off to Hogwarts now that he knows he wont be expelled. To ruin Harry's happy mood though, they find out that Malfoy has become a prefect for Slytherin, and wthat Hagrid is conspicuously absent from the castle. Professor Grubbly-Plank took his position temporarily, and the toad-like woman from Harry's hearing at the Ministry, Dolores Umbridge, has taken the post of defense against the dark arts. As if that isn't bad enough, it seems as though many of Harry's old friends and acquaintances have been reading the Daily Prophet. Even Seamus thinks he is crazy!

When she is teaching her first D.A.D.A class, Umbridge tells her students that they will not need to use any magic, and tells Harry and the rest of the class that Voldemort is not alive. He receives an entire week of detention after having an outburst and calling Umbridge a liar. She makes him do lines - not just regular lines - the kind that cut the words into the back of your hand. While Harry is missing Quidditch Tryouts for detention, Ron makes the Quidditch team as the keeper.

Soon after, Umbridge is named the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts and has the power to set rules and inspect other teachers. After another week of detention, and many D.A.D.A. classes in which they learned nothing, Hermione suggests that Harry start teaching them and their friends some defense against the dark arts. Harry is not keen on the idea at first until his friends point out how much he really does know, including how to produce a corporeal patronus. Hermione sets up a meeting in Hogsmeade on the next trip and quite a few people show up - 25 to be exact, including Cho Chang. After some interrogation on the part of the attendees, Harry convinces them that he knows what he is doing, that Voldemort really is back, and that anyone who doesn't want to learn how to protect themselves can leave. They all agree that they want to learn, sign a paper that Hermione puts a hex on, and agree to meet at some later date.


I'm sure this entire series can be said to be a metaphor for a lot of things. Actually, I did a couple of reports and speeches on Harry Potter in college and went on and on about how its a metaphor for how good always beats out evil, and a metaphor for the story of Jesus, and encourages self-sacrifice for the greater good.. blah blah blah. I mean I did research on all that stuff so its not complete bullshit, haha, but t
talk about government corruption, huh?  Interfering in private education to pursue a vendetta. Dolores Umbridge is a villain that I hate more than Voldemort. I don't even really hate Voldemort anymore. Most of us who have been through this story before kind of feel bad for him and Umbridge kind of trumps him on the hate scale... There's no room to feel bad for Umbridge.

And Harry... annoying, whiny, broody Harry. He is so 15. I can't stand him, but thankfully something is always going on in that school in this book so Harry's chances to whine are few and far between. Hermione is developing so much in these books, and look at her now - setting up and illegal D.A.D.A. club, putting a jinx on that paper they signed. She's a sneaky little girl! Ron and Hermione's bickering is getting worse than ever and I love it! I love watching every little change with them. I want to relive that exact moment whent they realize how much they... love (well.. I mean they are 15... so like?) eachother. It's so beautiful, even though their fighting is annoying.

This book is long. Really long and sometimes tedious, especially once you hit the halfway mark and you're like, okay, come on already, can we get to the good stuff? Right now I'm enjoying it, surprisngly, but I'm sure soon I'll be dying for it to be over. Book 6 and 7 are the only ones I haven't read more than once (I read book five 1 1/2 times) so its almost like going into it without little-to-no knowledge of the intricate events that take place since I very easily forget all the little things that happened, so its going to be a lot of fun for me.

Talk to you guys soon!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday - Guilty Pleasures

Happy Friday! The weekend is almost upon us. Any special plans? I will of course be working all weekend - how about you?!

This week's question for Feature and Follow Friday (hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) is:

Q: What book are you embarrassed to admit you LOVED enjoyed (try to think beyond Twilight)?

Well, first of all, I've edited the question a bit. Only because everything I've LOVED, I still stand by because I obviously loved it for a reason. There are some things I really enjoyed that maybe wouldnt be my favorite anymore but grudgingly have to admit that I was a fan once upon a time.

First up is (and I'm really not going much beyond Twilight here) is Fifty Shades of Grey. When I read this book, I thought the premise and plot were pretty good and unique, but as we all know, the writing was garbage. I picked up the second one and my thoughts were confirmed, the writing was still garbage. I hate when my non-reading/non-blogger friends ask me if I've read Fifty Shades because they are so proud that this is the one book they've read and loved. I always have to admit that I did, and that I liked it. But my response is always the same, so I have some sort of disclaimer to go along with it, "I did read it. The first one was good but the second one was crap, so I didn't bother to finish the series, cause the writing sucked." Poor unsuspecting friends... all they did was ask me if I'd read the book.
Look- its freaking
lingerie on the cover.
I can understand why some
people are reluctant to pick these up
Second is not a book but a very general genre: romance. I don't mean YA dystopian or fantasy or sci-fi which almost always features some sort of romance. I mean romance, where the book probably wouldnt really hold up too well without the development of a certain romantic relationship. Now this is something I can say I LOVE. I am a huge romance fan, but I've gotten away from it in recent years after jumping on the YA dystopian train. I am Nora Robert's biggest fan (pre-ordered her newest book actually, Dark Witch, and I can't wait for it to get here!). I used to love those monthly Harlequin releases, the ones you can get for like $4.00 on the little romance displays in the aisleway at the book stores. Obsessed. Anyhow, it's not that I'm necessarily embarrassed, but I feel like romance isn't exactly taken seriously, especially with those covers and the sometimes less than stellar writing. But I suppose the latter is something you encounter in any genre, not just romance.

What books/genres are you embarrassed to say you loved... or at the very least, liked? Can't wait to hear from you guys!


P.S. Don't forget! I'm having a giveaway for 3 lucky winners - a PDF copy of Dance the Moon Down, a historical romance that I absolutely loved. Enter below - and good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway