Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse Books!

Oh, hey! Just me, popping in again for another TTT. As someone who would be considered "diverse" in culture, race, skin color, body type, and I guess even "neurologically" as being someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, diversity in books is pretty important to me. I don't love perfect characters. I can't stand flawless lives. Nevermind hurdle-less storylines. What I love is a little "imperfection".

That being said, I was perusing my lists today for "diverse" books I'd read and I was disappointed to learn that I only had about 15-20 of what I would consider diverse books on my "read" list. So that means I'm counting on all of your posts to point me in the right direction of more well-written diverse books!

Here are the favorites of the ones I've read so far:

Top Ten Books that Celebrate Diversity

10. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

Maybe Someday centers around a "disability" that I have spent a lot of time over the last few months learning about: being deaf. When I read this book, I was fascinated and delighted that the characters were far from perfect. In retrospect, this book could've done a lot more in teaching the world about deaf people but it was a good start. I look forward to finding more romance novels about deaf people.

9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Most people should already know gist of this book because of all the movie publicity it received a few years back, but in case you don't, it centers around the struggles of black maids ("the help") in the 1960s from the point of view of a young white girl who is an aspiring journalist. Such a great read!

8. The Summer Remains by Seth King

Aside from the fact that this book destroyed me emotionally and left me bereft and unable to function for days after finishing it, it is diverse in that the main character is a girl with a life-threatening condition/disability that affects her day to day life and how she chooses to live it.

7. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

Despite any faults you (or I) may have found with the writing in None of the Above, it was one of the most enlightening books I've ever read. Not only was I educated on a topic I knew almost nothing about (being intersex), but there were some real worthwhile lessons in the book; mainly accepting yourself and others for who they are, not who you want them (or yourself) to be.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The book thief is about a German family with a young (adopted) daughter that hides a young Jewish man in their home during the holocaust. Such an amazing read, for its racial and cultural diversity, writing style, and message.

5. Cinder (and Scarlet, Cress, and Fairest) by Marissa Meyer

This book/series doesn't focus on the diversity of the characters, BUT the Lunar Chronicles is a breath of fresh air in that the characters are quite diverse and the setting of the story takes place over many continents. Cinder herself is part Asian, and the other MCs throughout the series include a French girl, a boy of Middle Eastern descent, and an African American girl. Not to mention it is one of my favorite series EVER.

4. Archer's Voice by Mia Sheridan

The MC, Archer (one of my favorite NA male love interests of ALL TIME), is mute (because of a medical issue, not a psychological one). The communication and interactions between the two main characters throughout this story touched me in a way some books can never come close to. I love diversity in romance novels and this is one of the best examples of that.

3. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

AtBP, one of the best books I've read this year, centers around a girl struggling with grief and depression, and a boy living with untreated bipolar disorder. Being someone who deals with mental illness and who comes from a family afflicted by mental illness, this book hit so close to home.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Hm... I don't feel as if this one really needs all that much explanation, but I think it's worth it to mention that TKaM is one of my favorite books of all time.

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

E&P is also one of my favorite books of all time. One main character in this story is physically diverse from what society deems to be beautiful, and one character is racially and culturally diverse and trying to fit in to what society says is normal. A perfectly imperfect love story, E&P touches on what it's like to be different and how to love people (including yourself) not despite, but because of those differences.

These are among the few diverse books I've read (in comparison to all the books I've ever read), and they are some of my favorites ever. Have you read any of these diverse books? What others have you read that you might recommend? Can't wait to see your lists!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read This Year

Not only has it been a while since I've reviewed anything, but it's also been a while since I've done a TTT. But I figured now was as a good a time as any to chime in with the best books I've read thus far. Sadly, I'm way behind on my goal and haven't read much at all this year. I've done quite a few re-reads too, which I won't include on this list.

The top ten books I've read (for the first time) so far this year are:

10. The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

9. Where the Road Takes Me by Jay McLean


8. The Summer Remains by Seth King

7. The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

6. Stay With Me by J. Lynn/Jennifer L. Armentrout

5. Boy Toy Chronicles: Volume One by Jay McLean

4. The Selection by Kiera Cass

3. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

2. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

1. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I will add that I haven't read a lot of amazing books this year, and while I did really enjoy all of the ones on this list and have rated them all a 4.0 or above, the only two I really loved were Fairest which I simply cannot get out of my head and All the Bright Places which I can't think about for too long or else I get weepy.

What have been your favorite books so far this year? I'm looking for some recommendations so leave me one in the comments. I love to read books other people loved!

Happy Reading!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas (aka Abby McDonald)

ISBN: 9781442486607
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Series: Stand alone
Released: July, 2013
Length: 400 pp
Goodreads  |  B&N

Paradise in Aruba quickly gets gruesome in this “ripped-from-the-headlines thriller (Kirkus Reviews)” with a twist that defies the imagination.
It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives.
But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer, she discovers harsh revelations about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
Awaiting the judge’s decree, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but also dangerous. And when the whole story comes out, reality is more shocking than anyone could ever imagine...


Any book that can suck me in and keep me hooked until I finish the damn thing in one sitting - that's the kind of book I love. Minor flaws and all, this book was amazing.

Sadly, I've learned over the years that I am super naive when it comes to sinister, creep-tastic and intense books like this one. I never see the twists coming even when everyone else does! You can see by my Goodreads updates (below) that I didn't start to truly suspect something until more than halfway through the book, and even then I was all like "No, say it ain't so!". It also doesn't help my case that this story was like a fictional version of the real-life Amanda Knox/Italy thing a few years back. Obviously no one really knows what happened in the Amanda Knox story, though so HA. Thank you Abigail Haas (aka Abby McDonald) for giving me a satisfying fictional answer, though!

Still, my lack of ability to deduce the identity of the bad guy may have been the reason why I enjoyed Dangerous Girls so much - because the twist was (mostly) a shock when I read it. A creepy ass shock that may or may not have caused me to lose sleep the night I read it. Whatever, NBD.

For starters, Abigail Haas' writing is smart and engaging and I was hooked from the start. She built and fleshed out characters that I somehow sympathized with yet didn't trust as far as I could throw 'em. I especially loved the back and forth chapters from past to "present" that equal parts made things make much more sense but (intentionally, [I think]) confused the airwaves, too. Like I said - I just didn't know who to trust!

Dangerous Girls was a wild ride from beginning to end and even if you're not a big dope like me and you can see the ending coming from a mile away, I think you will still find the truth to be rather disturbing and this to be quite a mind-blowing read.

And hey, if you've already read Dangerous Girls and are just checking this review out for kicks and giggles, maybe you should think about checking out Dangerous Boys, also by Haas. Equally disturbing but in such a weirder way. My review for that will be up in a few weeks.


RATING: ★★★★★ 5 stars

Have you read Dangerous Girls yet? I hope the answer is yes to that question because you're missing out if you haven't.

If perhaps you have not, pick it up soon! t's the perfect read a summer read (for you weirdos like me who like to go to the beach but stay out of the water). I'd love to know what you think if/when you read it!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: Where the Road Takes Me by Jay McLean

ISBN: 9781477849408
Format: E-Book
Source: ARC from author
Series: Stand-Alone (maybe)
Released: February 10, 2015
Length: 323 pages
Goodreads  |  Amazon


Chloe has one plan for the future, and one plan only: the road. She’s made a promise to herself: don’t let anyone in, and don’t let anyone love her. She’s learned the hard way what happens if she breaks her rules. So she’s focused on being invisible and waiting until she can set out on the road—her dream of freedom, at least for a little while.
Blake Hunter is a basketball star who has it all—everything about him looks perfect to those on the other side of his protective walls. He can’t let anyone see the shattered pieces behind the flawless facade or else all his hopes and dreams will disappear.
One dark night throws Chloe and Blake together, changing everything for Blake. For Chloe, nothing changes: she has the road, and she’s focused on it. But when the so-called perfect boy starts to notice the invisible girl, they discover that sometimes with love, no one knows where the road may lead.

It's been a while since I've been in the blogging game consistently, but anyone who's anyone knows I am a Jay McLean Fangirl of the most obsessive kind. I've read every one of her books, and if you haven't tried at least one, this is me telling you that you should. Where the Road Takes me was McLean's first stand-alone novel (which may or may not stay stand-alone... just sayin'...). I was thrilled for a new McLean book, but nervous at the same time. I'd read her first four books which were all part of a series (More Than series) and loved them, and I knew Where the Road Takes Me was going to be pretty different. Not only the fact that I would be reading about different characters, but the entire feel of the book would be different since it was an entire story in one book, not four.

When I got my ARC copy a couple weeks before release time, I hunkered down and finished that baby in two days, which is a mean feat for me these days since I've slowed down on my book intake in recent months. I was sucked right in by Chloe and Blake's story and read almost three-quarters of it on the first day.

Jay's writing, in general, is great, and while I do sometimes have my issues with it, she has steadily progressed in her skill as a writer and it's been a privilege to watch that happen over the course of five books. In WtRTM, she did not fail to deliver and I was so glad that, even with as different of a story as it was, I still fell in love with it all.

I found myself boohoo-ing through the better portion of the book, as tends to happen when "McLeaning", and Chloe's story really broke me. Chloe was not always a likable character and sometimes hard to understand or identify with. With that being said, I always appreciate an author who doesn't create perfect characters who never make mistakes or don't have flaws. So for Chloe's flaws, I commend you, Ms. McLean. And the few Blake had, too. But Blake = <3, so it was easy to ignore his faults.

As with some of her other books, sometimes the plot in Jay's books can get a little funky, leaving you wondering what the heck is going on until it picks back up and fixes itself, but one flawless characteristic that is common among all (now) six of her books is her ability to make me adore her characters. Especially her supporting characters (ahem, Josh) and make them feel like a family I am privileged to be a part of for a short while.

I did feel as though the ending was a bit rushed which took away from the story for me a bit. We saw years of Chloe and Blake's life go by before the epilogue even came and I wished we could have gotten a deeper look at those scenes rather than an overview.

Either way, rushed ending notwithstanding, I fell in love with Chloe and Blake, Josh and Blake's mom, Chloe's entire family... it was hard to let them go at the end of the book, and when I heard trickles of rumors that there may be another book, well, needless to say I was thrilled. I can't wait to hear more on that, and the other books she has in the works.


RATING: ★★★★ - 4 stars!

I don't think a book needs to be perfect to be great. I have come across various issues with many books, McLean's included, and still found reasons to adore them, just like I adored Where the Road Takes Me. Sometimes her stories veer into the cheesy, sometimes the endings are rushed. Sometimes the shocking scenes seem a bit unbelievable. But never have I not fallen in love with a protagonist or supporting character presented to me by that woman or not been touched by her words and ideas and the relationships she creates.

She has a passion for what she does and even more than that, she is a great person which, to me, makes all the difference. Those of you who've stopped reading books by "authors behaving badly" understand the exact opposite of that spectrum and when an author is behaving like an amazing human being, they deserve all the respect and attention in the world. So hey, give Jay McLean a try and you might just thank me if you look past the occasional typo and delve deeper into the worlds and relationships of Jay McLean. I think you'll find something worthwhile there if you do.

Happy Reading!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

*SPOILER ALERT* If you have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, the book, or already seen the movie, please be aware that there will be spoilers throughout the entire review.

Going to see Fifty Shades was a very last minute decision for me. I've never reviewed the book on this blog or any other blog for that matter, but many of you may know that I did not love the book. While I found it intriguing and at times was sucked in by the intensity of the story, I did not find it to be a good book for many reasons that will have to be saved for another post or some discussion later on.

With that being said, you all should know I'm a book-to-movie junkie in the worst way and I literally couldn't resist the opportunity to review this movie upon its release. I had a lot of preconceived notions about the movie going into it but then again, who didn't? Whether you thought it'd be good or bad or were waiting to see it to deem it worthy of watching, we all had expectations. I can honestly say, Fifty Shades of Grey The Movie was not what I expected. It was slightly better than I would have guessed, but I think that's because I disliked the book so much and I expected to absolutely abhor the movie. To the contrary, at times it was  enjoyable (though at other times somewhat unenjoyable(... just not what I expected.

Let me point out before I delve any deeper that I do have some issues with the plot, the characters, etc., of the book since before making it into a movie was even a thought. Here are the things I didn't like about the movie that are not attributable to the actual movie, but to the book itself:

Christian is a little bit of a psycho and watching that come to life on the big screen was creepier than ever. I think I could totally be into Christian as a character and even root for him if his brokenness was more a focus than his possessiveness. It was just too much and that wasn't Jamie Dornan's fault. I blame E.L. James.

It's hard to disagree with people who think the book/movie promotes or glamorizes domestic abuse or at the very least, unhealthy relationships, when you watch how Christian manipulates Ana and uses her, leaving her a crying, hurting mess because he wants his to have his way or else.

To clarify, do I personally agree that this movie promotes domestic abuse? Not necessarily unless you consider the fact that it's been made into a huge movie as "promoting" in which case, every movie ever depicting something bad has been promoting that bad thing, yes? No, obviously not - I'm being sarcastic - but what I'm trying to say is that if you've read the book or even pay close enough attention to the movie, you'll see that Ana does eventually stand up for herself (so what if it's after a particularly bad scene that had me holding back tears? Whatevs). I think the movie (if not so much the book) clearly shows that Christian's manipulation and obsession isn't a good thing - it hurts Ana, he hurts Ana, and there's nothing glamorous about it. In either event, though I don't think the movie promotes or glamorizes domestic abuse, I still think E.L. James wrote us a creepy little character that is Christian Grey and I really wish he was less of an obsessive control freak maniac and more of that broken vulnerable Christian we see at the end of the movie because... yum.

Now, as far as the movie itself goes, completely mostly separated from the book, here's what I thought:

Firstly, and above all, the most important (and my least favorite) aspect of the movie was the excessive amount of nudity. I basically took my 18-year-old sister to a soft core porn at the movies. Now, now, before you begin to rant at me for being dumb enough not to expect some nudity - remember, I did read the book. I expected nudity but I expected it to be just a tad more tasteful. I have the image of Dakota Johnson's breasts forever imprinted on my brain. I will never forget what that woman's nipples look like. And I'm not glad about it. I'm all for a good, hot sex scene, and in this case, I expected several good, hot sex scenes but really, poor Dakota! My sister and I overheard two girls says "Too much boobs! Not enough Jamie Dornan's ass!" after the movie let out, a statement with which I concur, but seriously, why so much breast, Fifty Shades? WHY?! There were just too many gratuitous boobie shots and I was sincerely hoping that the movie would take the book to the next level and make it less about the actual sex scenes and more about the intriguing world that is BDSM and the budding relationship between Christian and Ana. Needless to say, it did not, and I was disappointed in that regard.

Also, It really sucked that the script used lines directly from the book, or at least it seemed that way. I haven't read the book since the original Fifty Shades phenomenon a few years back so I can't say that with too much certainty, but the stilted, awkward delivery of the lines was enough proof to me that this was coming directly from the mind of E.L. James. It sucked. If there was ever a time I was hoping for a bit of artistic license in a book-to-movie adaptation, this was that time. Other parts of the movie flowed so well (thanks to Dakota Johnson,), but then we came to those lines and it felt like I was jolted right out of the story that I was actually beginning to enjoy and thus reminded of why I disliked the book so much.

Anyway, as uncomfortable as it was for me to watched poor married-with-a-child Jamie Dornan sticking his head between Dakota Johnson's legs while we are blessed with focus after focus of her naked breasts, I don't know that I could do it again. I'm completely content with Ana just leaving Christian's crazy ass and that being the end of the movie franchise because I don't know if I can sit through two more hours of this next year. Maybe if they promise less boob, because really, the novelty has to wear off at some point, right?

Now, I'm sure you're wondering if I liked anything at all about the movie and the surprising answer to that questions is: YES! There were actually a few high points and I, of course, will tell you all about them.

By far, the single best part about the movie was not having to be in Anastasia's head like we did in the book. If I had to sit through the movie listening to this chick talk about her "inner goddess" I probably would have walked out. Ana was a much more likable character without having to listen to the running commentary on her lady bits and "oh crap" and sighing and muttering every goddamn thing and oh my God I'm so glad we didn't have to listen to that nonsense. With all of that out of the movie, it was marginally better and much easier to watch than it was to read.

Might I add that Dakota Johnson is an amazing actress?! I was actually anti-Dakota Johnson at first. I remember seeing her on Jimmy Fallon the week before the movie premiered and I was just like, no. No, no, no, no, no! In my mind she was just not Ana but then she tripped her way into Christian Grey's office last night and I was hooked. She did the awkward so well, and as uncomfortable as the sex scenes were, she did them really well, too. Most of all, she was so funny. She was downright hilarious and I definitely think she brought the entire movie up a notch in my opinion. Jamie Dornan, who I adore in real life (that accent, though!) wasn't bad but he was no Dakota. That girl just really stole the show.

And as far as that last scene goes - you know the scene - the painful one where he's hitting her with some object in the Red Room of Pain and its like the worst moment of her life and the worst moment of their relationship by far... as horrible as it was to watch, I think it was superbly done and I was definitely holding back tears for Ana by the end. You already know how I feel about the abuse topic so I won't go there again but I will say, I am in no way, shape or form against BDSM. While being a Dom or a Sub may not be my thing, I respect that it is other people's thing. I actually found some of it kinda sexy, if not awkward to watch with my sister and a theater full of strangers. 
RATING: ★★★ 1/2

So... 3 1/2 stars. Yup, I said it. It was pretty enjoyable considering what I'd originally expected it to be. So you want to know if it's worth seeing?

My answer is contingent upon your open-mindedness and how you feel about watching porn with strangers. LOL, just kidding... sort of.

If you've read the book and liked it or at least tolerated it enough to be curious about the movie - go for it, with the warning that you'll be seeing lots of Dakota-boob.

If you haven't read the book, I would only recommend seeing it if you are not a Judgy McJudgerton and just enjoy the movie for what it is. You don't need to go in with guns blazing, ready to fight for or against Christian and Ana and their sexual choices - because let me remind you, manipulating as Christian may have been, give Ana a little credit here. She enjoyed everything Christian did to her with the exception of the last scene. I understand and agree that it just wasn't what she was into, but she consented and was pleasured through all of it. The parts she hated were how Christian treated her outside of their time in his playroom and his obsession with her being his Sub rather than being in a relationship and BDSM just being something they did sometimes. So if you are okay with all of this, and really just curious about this "taboo" lifestyle and wanna see what all the hype is about - go for it.

If not, please, please wait for DVD or just don't see it at all. Let the people who like Fifty Shades enjoy the damn movie. If it's not for you, that's cool and I don't blame or judge you, but leave the rest of us here in the non-judgmental community alone.

Whew... Excuse me, I'm getting a little tired climbing on and off this soap box of mine. So anyway, now you know what I think and if I think you should go see it. Now go see it (or don't) and tell me what you think!!!