September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Were Hard to Read


What defines a hard-to-read book? Is it its level of difficulty? Perhaps it's a plethora of triggers that you feel on a personal level. Perhaps you've had a family member who had cancer so The Fault in Our Stars was either very difficult for you or something you never read. Well here are my top ten books that were hard to read.

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1. Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
Amy told a very realistic story of bullying, eating disorders, suicide, and more. It was painful to read for all those reasons.

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2. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
The Holocaust and concentration camps are so cringeworthy, and I usually can't read or see anything about them. Therefore, Rose Under Fire was hard to read, but it was enlightening and factual.

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3. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Imagine trying to see Hitler as one of the good guys. Viewing him through Gretchen's naive eyes was extremely difficult, considering everything we know about him now. But I loved this book nonetheless.

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4. Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
Caddie, the main character, suffers from a form of OCD. It was difficult to be inside her head, to see her punish herself so much. I wanted her to cry out for help, and I wanted to hug her close (although that probably wouldn't have helped). Still, Don't Touch was amazing, and I want to read it again and again.

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5. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Whereas The Fault in Our Stars is usually the sobworthy cancer book, Second Chance Summer got more tears out of me, particularly towards the end. Sad books are hard to read overall.

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6. The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor
Just like with Don't Touch, I so desperately wanted Bettina to get help and to get out of the abusive relationship. It's frustrating when a character makes wrong decisions, but it can also be incredibly realistic.

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7. Margot by Jillian Cantor
This fits in with Rose Under Fire in that part of it focuses on the Holocaust and survivors. I loved reading Margot, but I could feel her pain and fear, and that made it a difficult book to read.

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8. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Ah, an uneasy time in our nation's history. Overall, Lies was hard to read because of the racial slurs and just how appalling people's actions could be.

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9. Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Honestly, I wasn't a big fan of Side Effects. The main character was just too unlikable. Her personality and choices are what made this book a hard one to read.

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10. Dangerous by Shannon Hale
What do you do when you don't like a book by one of your favorite authors? Dangerous was hard to read because I love pretty much everything else Shannon has written, but this book definitely wasn't her best work.

September 29, 2014

Review: Not in the Script

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Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan
Grade: B+
Release date: October 7, 2014
This ARC was provided by Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma can’t help but wonder if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships.

Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance.

When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: My notes for Not in the Script are very scatterbrained. I read this book over the 2 days before I moved into my dorm, and now it's four days later. This review isn't probably going to be my best, but I want to share my thoughts! First off, I liked Emma - and not just because of her name. She wasn't your typical young actress - worn-out, or diva-ish, or whatever. She seemed so normal, and I loved that. Jake was cool, too. However, both Brett and Kimmi seemed a bit stereotypical - for Brett, maybe it was just because he reminds me of someone I know, and for Kimmi, she needed to be more unique. She had great character growth, though. As of page 80 in my ARC, the show they're all on, Coyote Hills, seemed a bit stereotypical as well; I also noted that I worried about the potential of a love triangle or even a love square. A bit of a love triangle exists, but it's entirely one-sided with one of the guys, so it didn't bother me too much. The couple that did end up together, though... Oh my word, y'all, they were adorable. Their flirting was so cute, and they were friends who obviously knew they liked each other, but it isn't until the end of the book that they say 'love.' Oh, and that ending? I reread it after watching episode 70 of Emma Approved so I was squealing over 2 different couples with Emmas in them.
Minimal swearing, clean romance, minor violence.

The Verdict: Overall, I think Not in the Script is best summed-up with the word cute. It's not that memorable, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm also hoping Bloomsbury will announce new books in the If Only series soon!


September 28, 2014

Rewind & Review #22

Rewind & Review

Well, as evidenced below, it's been a pretty quiet two weeks. Not many books - received, bought, or read. I've had about 4 tests since the last post, so I've been studying like crazy. I got a 93 on my first Old Testament test, so it paid off there. I didn't do so well on the math pretest, but thankfully I can retake it. I got to spend an hour and half in Joseph-Beth last Sunday. That was heavenly. My reread shelf is starting to overflow, so I'm hoping to get to a lot of those soon enough. Curse the books I have to read for school!

Books I Received
Talon by Julie Kagawa (Thank you to Read Between the Lynes!)
If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Finnish edition; thank you so much, Gayle!)
Elusion by Cheryl Klam and Claudia Gabel (traded for this via YABE; thank you to Rachel!)

Books I Bought
Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson

Books I Read
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg (reread)
Talon by Julie Kagawa
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (3 stars)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson (4.5 stars)
My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten (reread)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (reread)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (From 9/15-9/20)
   (From 9/21-9/27)
Upcoming Blog Posts in the Next Few Weeks (subject to change)
  • Review: Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan
  • TTT: Books That Were Hard for Me to Read
  • Released Books I *Need* to Read
  • Review: The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E.D. Baker
  • When Life Plans Change
  • DNF Review: Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander
  • My Review Process
  • From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen: the Darkling's Brownies
  • Review: My True Love Gave to Me by various authors
  • Random Friday: Favorite Childhood TV Shows

September 26, 2014

Random Friday: Books I Wanted to Throw Against a Wall


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Ahhh, books that made me want to throw them against a wall.  Most of these, I wanted to throw because I got mad at the authors (although they were good books) or because certain characters died or just because they made me mad.  I won't tell you which is which for most, to preserve spoilers, but I think some of you will be able to guess.
First up...

The Elite (The Selection, #2)
The Elite by Kiera Cass
I just got so mad at America and Aspen's stupidity in this book that I seriously wanted to introduce my copy to a wall.

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Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
If I hadn't been reading an e-galley on my iPad, I think I seriously would've thrown this one at a wall.  Sarah is a splendid writer who makes you feel all the things, which makes your typical bookworm get ragey. 

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Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
There is someone out there running a class on how to kill your readers.  Sarah J. Maas and A.C. Gaughen have both taken it.

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Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
All the characters that were lost. *sobs*

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Cress by Marissa Meyer
According to my Goodreads status updates, pages 104, 124, and 380 made me upset.

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The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
THAT ENDING.

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Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
The final book in the Grisha trilogy ruined me.  It made me mad, and I liked it, but it wasn't what I wanted. At all.

Okay, so what books have you wanted to throw against a wall?


September 24, 2014

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves

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Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Grade: B+
Release date: September 30, 2014
This e-galley was provided by Harlequin Teen and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Overall, Lies We Tell Ourselves flowed very cinematically. I could actually see the first scene playing out like something in a movie or on TV. I learned a lot from this book—I knew a lot already, but there were personal perspectives I’d never considered. I mean, we all obviously know segregation is wrong, but to get point-of-view chapters from Linda, the daughter of an extreme segregationist, was very interesting. I could see where a lot of her thought process came from, even though most of it was just things her father had drilled into her over the years. I never really felt bored at all while reading. There was a lot of tension, and that’s something else I want to discuss. I’m sure there was supposed to be romantic tension and chemistry, but I never really felt that. And an important note—the two main characters, both girls, start to like each other as more than friends. Because it wasn’t graphic, it didn’t bother me terribly but I know some readers won’t be comfortable with a book that features that (although I’d say it’s only 25% of the plot; the rest is the racial unrest).
Character-wise, I was intrigued by both Sarah and Linda. I obviously didn’t like most of the secondary characters (we aren’t supposed to), but Ruth was great, and I really think she came into her own in the end. At one point, she says, “Don’t you see, Sarah? Someone has to do this. If we give up, nothing will ever change.” She’s only a freshman, and that quote was so pivotal to me. I think it sums up Lies We Tell Ourselves perfectly. Reading from Linda’s perspective was interesting, as I said. I like getting into the heads of people who consider themselves the protagonists when they’re really the antagonists. There were points where I think change came about too suddenly for her but others where I could see her maturing humanly and realistically.
Violence is pretty bad (there’s a boy who’s horrifically beaten up) and then minor acts of violence. None of it is too gruesome, though. Language is also pretty strong. The f-word is used on a few occasions, and the s-word is used, too. Obviously, the n-word was used for historical accuracy, but I think most readers in this day and age will understand its importance to the narrative and not be offended.

The Verdict: Great historical fiction that portrays a troubling time in our country’s history, a time that can’t be shoved under the rug. Were it not for the romance, I’d give Lies We Tell Ourselves 5 stars. But I’ll sum up my review with one of my favorite quotes from the novel: “‘Other people will always try to decide things for you,’ she [Sarah] says. ‘They’ll try to tell you who you are. Remember, no matter what they say, you’re the one who really decides.’”


September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR List


So I covered this topic a few weeks ago on Random Friday, but I always like doing it for Top Ten Tuesday as well.  You can check out the 10 books I listed last time, though, here.

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2. Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot (10/14/14)

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3. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (10/14/14)
4. Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle (10/21/14)

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5. Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (11/4/14)
6. Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (11/4/14) [We're going to pretend I haven't already read this book because it's so amazing that I had to feature it.]

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7. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (11/4/14)
8. Captive by Aimee Carter (11/25/14)

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9. The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson (11/4/14)
10. The Witch Must Burn by Danielle Paige (11/11/14)

Honorable Mentions: The Blazing Star by Erin Hunter and Home of Our Hearts by Robin Jones Gunn

September 22, 2014

Review: Being Audrey Hepburn

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Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman
Grade: D+
This e-galley was provided by St. Martin's Griffin and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Lisbeth comes from a broken home in the land of tube tops, heavy eyeliner, frosted lip-gloss, juiceheads, hoop earrings and “the shore.” She has a circle of friends who have dedicated their teenage lives to relieve the world of all its alcohol one drink at a time.

Obsessed with everything Audrey Hepburn, Lisbeth is transformed when she secretly tries on Audrey’s iconic Givenchy. She becomes who she wants to be by pretending to be somebody she’s not and living among the young and privileged Manhattan elite. Soon she’s faced with choices that she would never imagine making – between who she’s become and who she once was.

In the tradition of The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada, this is a coming of age story that all begins with that little black dress…

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Well this book happened. I've had such a bad slump of review books lately, but I powered through and finished this one, even though there wasn't much to enjoy. I liked all the fashion descriptions and so forth, but Being Audrey Hepburn was a very slow read that then resolved much too quickly. There was less Audrey Hepburn than I expected, and that was disappointing. I found myself thinking the book was just downright weird or meh on several occasions. Overall, it was just a bit too unrealistic. Lisbeth herself was a mess (even though she claimed not to be). I felt like most of the characters, apart from maybe Jess, were very cardboard and stereotypical. I don't even know what Chase's role was; he felt very unnecessary, which stinks because I think he could've been a great character. Also worth noting is that I'm pretty sure this is classified as YA. While that fit the writing style, the ages of the main characters and a lot of the content was better suited for a New Adult novel.
Also, language was pretty bad for most of the book, romance had its hot-and-heavy moments, and there was a TON of partying and drinking. Not my scene at all - both in books and in real life.

The Verdict: Not as enchanting as I expected it to be. Being Audrey Hepburn was a big letdown.


September 21, 2014

Music While Reading

Today's post is themed around one question.


Do you listen to music while you read?

My answer is, "Sometimes."

Unless I'm in the mood for one particular artist, I'll stick to my two playlists.  One is mostly instrumental music (there are only two songs with lyrics) and the other is instrumental mixed with other songs I like.  The problem with the second playlist is, sometimes I want to sing along or dance to the songs which distracts me from my book.

Listening to music is great, though, especially if I'm trying to block out other noises while reading.  I can just pop in my earbuds and get into the reading zone.  If there's stuff that could distract me, then it's harder to get into the reading zone and I don't get as much read as I'd like to.  This tactic is especially effective during car trips when my parents want to talk or listen to the radio.  I'll just turn on a playlist and get comfortable with a book.

Now it's your turn to answer the question above!

September 20, 2014

So You Like... #5

Do you like historical fiction?  Or perhaps you've tried a few, and you're looking for some more.  Well, this post is for you!


HISTORICAL FICTION
(As always, the book cover will link to its Goodreads page.)

If you liked...

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try...

The Falconer (The Falconer, #1) or 18296016

Maid of Secrets is all about mystery and court intrigue.  The Falconer is full of mystery, peril, and adventure, while The Ring and the Crown is definitely packed with court intrigue.


If you liked...

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try...

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Both are set in close time periods and revolve around similar issues (Rose Under Fire heavily features a concentration camp; Prisoner of Night and Fog is about the Nazis and Jews).


If you liked...

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try...

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I'm recommending Sekret for readers of Tsarina (or vice-versa) because of their Russian settings.  Tsarina is set right before and during the Russian Revolution, while Sekret is set in Communist Russia.


If you liked...

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try...

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Why?  Kick-butt girls who know their way around weapons (and, in Ismae's case, poisons as well).


If you liked...

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try...

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There's the same upstairs-downstairs setting, although be warned: I personally felt Manor of Secrets was a bit of a rip-off of Cinders & Sapphires.


If you liked...

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try...

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For some reason, these books just go together for me.

Did this post add new books to your TBR list?  Do you have any other historical fiction recommendations?

September 19, 2014

From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen: Cowgirl Cookies


This is the second Bookshelf-Kitchen post, and I have a yummy treat for y'all.  I actually got this recipe from Gillian's (Writer of Wrongs) blog when she made cookies galore this past spring.

Cowgirl Cookies are from To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, which is one of the cutest books ever.  If you haven't read it yet, you need to! Here's the Goodreads link and a couple buy links.

These cookies are scrumptious.  They smelled so good when they were baking, and they're best while they're still warm (as most cookies are).




The original recipe calls for pecans and more M&Ms and chocolate chips than I used.  I really wanted to use pink M&Ms to match the book, but I likely won't find any until Valentine's Day.  Ready for the recipe so you can make these cookies yourself?

Cowgirl Cookies
1 1/3 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. quick oats
1/3 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. mini M&Ms
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add wet ingredients and mix well.  Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, place on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and bake for about 10-15 minutes (original recipe said 10 minutes, but mine needed 15) in a 350-degree oven.  Let cool on a brown paper bag.  Makes about 24 cookies.
**Note: It's best to form all the cookie balls while the first batch is in the oven. Otherwise the dough starts to get too crumbly.**

Ready to see the finished product?


It's hard to have just one of these cookies, but I managed to limit myself so they'll last.  But I'll definitely be making cowgirl cookies a lot!

Have a recipe/book suggestion for From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen?  Email it to MDBCnumber1fan [at] gmail [dot] com.