Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflect & Renew: July 2013

Hello readers! Say hi to Reflect and Renew which you will be seeing around here at the end of each month. Inspired by Monthly Rewind at the Perpetual Page Turner. Enjoy! :)


Lately, I've been a bit down in the dumps so I've decided to take some time off from blogging crazily like I did for the past week. Seriously, I don't understand how some people can blog every day ALL YEAR ROUND. Kudos to you because I cracked after a week. I'm still going to be posting reviews of books I've read but I think all the discussions and features and of course, the Book Blogger Challenge will have to wait. I still haven't made up my mind to continue with the Blogger Challenge or not so I can't tell you too much about that.

I think I really needed this time off because I've been pushing myself really hard this month and it's been exhausting. I love this blog and all of you guys but sometimes, you just have too much on your plate and you need to call stop. But even though this blog has been inactive for the past few days, my Tumblr is still going steady and I'm trying to update my Twitter more often as well so you can chat me there. And also, I have a super-secret project I've been working on that I'm really excited about. I can't wait to tell you! But you'll just have to wait! :)


REVIEWS:

BOOKS NEXT UP ON MY TBR LIST:
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Somebody Hates You Up There by Hollis Seamon
Seven Deadlies by Gigi Levangie Grazer
Winger by Andrew Smith


MOST MEMORABLE EVENTS:
Visiting the art gallery -- I loved the contemporary art exhibit and the interactive rooms!
Watching Despicable Me 2! It was so funny!
Going to Stratford and seeing Blithe Spirit!
Walking through an outdoor festival and buying the cutest button pin EVER!
Discovering the best croissants ever.
Spending a very hot day in a very hot car driving around a very hot park
Buying the CUTEST shirts known to man -- not joking.
The 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge!
And having fun with my friends!


MOST PLAYED SONG:

Royals - Lorde


THINGS I CAN'T WAIT FOR IN AUGUST:
Being in the live audience for an episode of The Next Star!
Visiting the amusement park with my friends - again!
Hitting up tons of festivals
Volunteering at the local daycare and the library!
Getting ready to go back to school!


AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE:
As a typography lover myself, I was ecstatic to come upon Debby's post on cover typography.
Brittany has written a great post on commitment (it's even greater because it includes New Girl gifs!). This is a great idea and I'm looking to trying this out in August! I miss that freedom I had before!
I love this article explaining literary techniques using Disney movies! So useful and nostalgic!
This is why I love Random Rantings over at Book Rock Betty. Seriously, every time I see that phrase pop up, I know I'm in for a treat!
Speaking of a treat, check out these ice cream/book pairings! Elena sure knows how to get my mouth watering!
After being inspired by blogging boards on Pinterest (yay! I'm not the only one who does this!), April created this amazing challenge for book bloggers! Go check it out!
I thought I was the only one who went through this! Reem talks about rating a book you know is good but just not feeling.
How do you tell that you're a book blogger? Bec gives us some examples!
Reem makes a second appearance with a great list of survival tips for fictional characters.
Mel shares a great guide to buying eReaders. I definitely needed this!


That's all, see you next month! :)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Tickles My Fancy | Day 8


We're past the half-way mark! It's day 8 and it's time to CELEBRATE!


If you've been looking to impress me, today's your lucky day! I'm dishing out 15 (or as many as I can) things about what I look for in a blog. Now I must admit, when it comes to blogs, appearance is number one. I can't help it, I'm aesthetically driven. And if that sounds shallow, yes it is! Without further ado, here is my list of the 15 things I take into consideration when it comes to my blog and other blogs. 

Disclaimer: Sorry if I sound like a condescending butt, I don't mean to! 

1. No neon colored text
Hey, I love all the colors but when it comes down to reading on a screen, neon colors just aren't the most comfortable. No highlighter yellows or greens or pinks or anything that looks like it can be the color for a highlighter.

2. No more than three fonts; otherwise, it's too busy
This was something I read on a blog a while back and it's a great suggestion. You really don't need more than three fonts. It's up to you what those three are but the best combination would be a fun and crazy font (Amatic, in my case), a serif (Georgia) and a sans-serif (Verdana).

3. Sans-serif text for posts
In my opinion, sans-serif is just much easier to read than serif on screen. 

4. A clean sidebar, preferably on the right side of the page
Sidebars are super important but a super cluttered one is a nay. Try keeping things minimum, only having things you really need and if you can afford to do so, some fun widgets! And a sidebar on the right-side is just a personal preference!

5. An archive widget of all your posts
When I find a new blog, the first thing I do is surf their archive. It's how I determine if I want to subscribe to them. If their archive is a good balance of all the things I like to see as far as content in a blog, then I'm clicking ENTER! 

6. An equal balance of reviews, memes, discussions, blog tours and all that jazz
I don't need to explain, do I?

7. A detailed About
I'd like to know who the mastermind behind the blog is!

8. Relatively fast loading
I'm not going to avoid your blog if it's a bit slower to load but it would be nice for it to be quick, wouldn't it?

9. At least five posts on display at a time but preferably, 10 to 15
I like taking the time to flip through old posts on blogs but I don't want to be constantly flipping. I don't want to have to flip every three posts. My index finger will get sore!

10. A rating system
They're the handiest things on earth. Or if you don't have a rating system but you have something like Jamie's post-it note, that's fine too! As long as I can take one glance at it and have a rough idea of what you thought, that's great!

11. A fun and catchy title
The title is what I remember you by. The more times I repeat it, the catchier it is, the better I'll remember you!

12. Big text
Reading off a screen is hard enough as is so don't make me go through tiny 10 pixel font! Make it big and clear! 

13. Cute graphics in your posts
Graphics are super important in your posts because (a) they are super cute and (b) they help break up large chunks of text which is NEVER easy to look at. And I know I'm guilty of not doing this a lot. Yikes!

14. A cute favicon and/or button
This isn't necessary at all but I was running out of ideas.

15. An authentic and unique voice!
By far, the most important! If you have a clear voice, you don't need to have the most aesthetically perfect blog! I'm coming back for you and you only!

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols


Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols
Published by MTV Books; July 16, 2013
Hardcover, 288 pages
Received from publisher through NetGalley - thanks!

From the author of the “real page-turner” (Seventeen) Such a Rush comes an unforgettable new drama that follows friends-turned-lovers as they navigate the passions, heartbreaks, and intrigue of country music fame.


Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away.

Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…


- Description from Goodreads.com



I think I've become hooked on Jennifer Echols now. And here's why:

The characters are the most UNLIKEABLE people ever (except for Ace. I love you, man). Three-quarters of the time, I wanted to punch them and kick them but somehow, Miss Echols managed to keep me under control. And uhh, actually like the characters at some points. 

Take Sam, for instance. He is a nice-looking boy, all Southern charm and class but he's known to be a heartbreaker - and don't forget absolutely SELFISH. He really never thinks about other people and when he does, it's always because he gets something from it. Always. But then all of a sudden, he goes all sweet and charming on me. And what happens to all my anger? Flies straight out the window.

It's confusing, all right! I never know what to expect from the characters. Are they going to tolerable or are they totally going to make me blow my top? Sometimes, the way the characters switch from mood to mood feels completely off but it's too much of a breather for me to complain.

And come on, who can resist Jennifer's writing? It runs smoothly and easily and at times, it was almost lulling me to sleep, to forget the issues I had with the characters.

Great, easy read! But I agree with the other Jennifer Echols fans, read this AFTER you've already established yourself as an Echols lover!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Blogging Quirks | Day 7


My lucky number: 7! And now here are some BLOGGING confessions.


Just because I need a pop of color, I made another graphic. It's really time consuming but I can't stop. Oh, and excuse some of the quirks you may have already read about in My Bookish Confessions. I was struggling.


1. I always write my reviews in one sitting.
One thing about me when it comes to my studies is that I always write all my essays at once (most of it, at least). I think it's just good for me to get down all my ideas and then once that's done, go back and edit. The same thing applies to my blog, I guess. Since the beginning, I've always written all my reviews in one sitting. I just can't NOT do it. But a little part of me suspects it has a little to do with the guilt I feel over not being as active as other bloggers so when I do write reviews, I'm just really eager to get them out. 

2. Once I'm done, I'm DONE.
As soon as I type that last word, it's straight to publishing. I don't edit (mostly because I edit along the way) and I don't look over. What's done is done, right?

3. I like spontaneity.
Which is my excuse to why I don't schedule (re: #7). But I do like spontaneity and working on my OWN time. I have enough deadlines for school and it's definitely not in my interest to add more. Of course, I have some sense of when to create new material but it's not pin-pointed so if something comes up, my schedule is flexible enough that I can really do it any other day.

4. I like to write my reviews as soon after I've finished the book as possible.
Again, this is because I am a strong believer of getting out all my ideas all at once. Like a brain dump. And with books, I'm just really bad at remembering details in general so now that I've started reviewing, I just need to get to that computer!

5. I like making little improvements to my blog. 
When it comes to aesthetics, my perfectionism kicks in. It just has to look perfect which is why the way my blog looks is never enough for me because perfect is not an actual thing I can achieve. I won't lie though, I'm pretty darn proud of how my blog is now but just wait a few weeks and something will get tweaked and changed.

6. I can never bring myself to cross-post.
I don't like cross-posting and I've never done it. Probably never will. It's not that I have an aversion to posting reviews on Goodreads and such, it's just that I feel like I should have different material to go on Goodreads so it's not like I'm copy and pasting from my blog. Not that I judge others when they do that, it's just not for me. But then because I'm not willing to write two different reviews, I skip on posting to Goodreads completely.

7. I've tried scheduling but I just...can't.
I'm actually very good at scheduling for school. My agenda was well-used this year and it was all a great success. But when it comes to blogging, I just can't schedule. I mean, I've tried but I don't follow it. Oh well.

8. I LOVE making graphics for my posts (clearly).
Ever since discovering PicMonkey, I've gradually become more and more obsessed. Like I've said above, it takes up a lot of time but I just can't help it. I like making graphics. Period.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I'm a Shopaholic | Day 6


Day 6 of the Book Blogger Challenge and now, we're on the same page. SHOPPING.


My parents should have known living near a mall would not have been good for their daughter. Because I go absolutely NUTS in malls. I'm a shopper okay? And I can't help it. I just want to buy everything: socks, shoes, candle holders and ESPECIALLY books. I hate to admit it but I'm a shopaholic. Thank goodness I'm not living on my own yet - imagine how absolutely wrecked I'd be.

I first realized this when I was ten and at that time, I wasn't really interested in shopping for candle holders - not my style - I was more interested in book shopping. I would pull my parents to the bookstore every time we passed by and it was honestly magical. I would sit and read for the longest time until, of course I had found a book I wanted to buy. At first, it was the odd fairy book and my mum and dad happily obliged but after my birthday came and gift cards to stores rushed in, it was three books a day and often, at least one was a book I bought simply for the sake of buying. 

When I was twelve and I was cleaning out my bookshelf, I realized just how many books I hadn't finished yet. And I bought them like, two years ago. At that point, I just said to myself 'this has to stop'. Because that right there is an unhealthy addiction. I was wasting money on books I didn't even want to read! That's crazy! Ever since then, I've been much stricter on my book-buying habits and I get most of my books from the library, instead of buying them. Occasionally, a book will catch my attention and I'll buy it but for the most part, libraries are my friend. 

But even though I don't buy books often, I still visit the bookstore tons! And I don't really have a system when I visit though I have to say, I make a beeline for the YA section as soon as I step into the store. Furthermore, when I do end up buying a book,  it's not because I had planned what books to buy when I go the bookstore (unless I have to get it for school). It's more like 'I have the money, there's a bookstore, let's go in and see'. I like being able to flip through books and finding new ones that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. I like taking my time and stumbling upon a hidden gem - I roam the entire space. 

So there's my not-all-relevant-to-the-subject answer! Share your thoughts in the comments! xxx

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Big Girls Don't Cry | Day 5


I'm a third into the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge! Hip hip HOORAY!


Recommend a tear jerker.

See, the thing is I don't actually cry while reading. I just physically cannot. While my heart might be aching, my eyes are most likely dry. But I don't need to cry to determine a tear-jerker. I know one when I read one! 

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence


Possibly one of the best books I've read this year, this touching story about the unlikely friendship between a socially awkward teen and a grumpy old man is MIND-BLOWING. The quirkiness of the book makes it like no other and I promise, once you read the end, you'll be bawling. I nearly cried. Just goes to show how amazing a true friendship can be.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Please Don't Harm Me | Day 4


It's Day 4 of the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge and I hope you guys are still as excited about reading these as I am about making them.


Please don't kill me, book lovers when I admit that I have actually flung a book. Not across the room but across the floor. And it was only ONCE. I promise you.

This is the book.

But in my defense, the book was really disgustingly detailed. And even though it's been, like, two months since I've read this, I'm still EXTREMELY grossed out. Besides the sex scenes that made me cringe, there were the characters whom I didn't find likeable at all. There was very little development on the MC's part and frankly, Sam was just as big of an ass as all the other guys Anna dated. The pacing was weird and I just really did not enjoy this book. And so I flung it across the floor in exasperation. I'm not proud of it but in honour of honesty, there you go. The story of the time I flung a book.

And I promise there won't be another!

Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne
Published by Sourcebooks Fire; July 2, 2013
Paperback, 262 pages
Received from publisher through NetGalley -- thanks!

They Said It Was An Accident...

Sawyer Dodd is a star athlete, a straight-A student, and the envy of every other girl who wants to date Kevin Anderson. When Kevin dies in a tragic car crash, Sawyer is stunned. Then she opens her locker to find a note:

You're welcome.

Someone saw what he did to her. Someone knows that Sawyer and Kevin weren't the perfect couple they seemed to be. And that someone—a killer—is now shadowing Sawyer's every move...


-Description from Goodreads.com



I'm always looking for great thrillers to scare myself with at night and after reading the synopsis for Truly, Madly, Deadly, my hands were already shaking. Unfortunately, Truly, Madly, Deadly did not live up to its first impression. The book had a lot of potential but in the end, it fell flat.

Sawyer was a likeable character and you felt bad for the poor girl. She's adjusting to a new mom, a new house, a possible new sibling all while coping with the death of her boyfriend, Kevin. But at the same time, I felt like Sawyer lacked depth which made it hard for me to feel any emotion for her while reading. Of course, that most likely is a result of the third-person narrative which I don't think worked in the author's favour. 

As a reader, I'm never really ecstatic about reading a third-person narrative. I think this must be the third time I've said this this week but I"ll say it again: in order for a book to be good for me, I have to love the characters and be able to relate to them. Third-person creates a distance between me and the MC and obviously, it's harder for me to build a connection (though when it's used well, I'm a fan of third-person too!). For this book, I think the author chose to use third-person so that the reader is more like a spectator, watching the mystery unfold from the sidelines. Almost as if you were watching another episode of 48 Hours. It worked for me at the beginning - I thought that the emotionless writing added an eerie ambience to the book. As the story progressed, I needed more than just the mystery to propel the book. I needed emotion. If I'm not attached to Sawyer, why do I care if someone is ruining her life? And because this is a fictional character, I do not feel guilty or ashamed I said that. 

But I think it all comes down to one major aspect of the book: the mystery. I would have been fine with the detached narration and the ish characters if the mystery had been better done. The idea that someone is watching Sawyer and committing crimes that seemingly help her is incredibly intriguing. It has a lot of promise but unfortunately, execution wasn't strong. It didn't take me very long to figure out who could be committing these crimes - especially not after the You're Welcome note and a certain character's shifty behaviour in every single scene. 

Furthermore, the ending wasn't very strong either and left a lot of questions. In my opinion, the ending is one of the most important parts of a mystery. You really have to explain and wrap all the loose ends created during the middle. And that was another thing Truly, Madly, Deadly was lacking. I wanted to know how the crimes were committed in more detail than simply explaining what was used to kill the person. How did the killer manage to slip unseen and put these crimes into action? With the last crime, we weren't provided any information at all and that was the crime that was probably the hardest for the killer to execute. I would have at least liked to have known how the heck the killer was able to sneak in there unseen. Does he/she possess an Invisibility Cloak? Secondly, how did the killer manage to stalk Sawyer's every move without her knowing? Especially in the vast and empty neighbourhood Sawyer lives in. And really, I just don't understand why the killer did this. The end was just so out of character and it seemed like it came out of nowhere.

But despite all this, the book was pretty good. Even though the mystery wasn't too strong, I had a blast reading about all the crazy antics the killer was up to. The idea behind the story was interesting and I liked the character dynamics with each other. I wouldn't suggest this to a mystery fan but if you're interested for something to pass the time, this one is a great choice!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Err...I Don't Have Any Friends | Day 3


Day 3 of the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge - these days are passing by fast!



Today's question is: who are your blogging BFFs? Well, ain't this a bit awkward for me? Truth is, there isn't any blogger who I know really well. And that probably stems from the fact that I don't spend as much time interacting with other bloggers as I want to. Look, I'm not opposed to commenting; it's just that, I'm bit of a lazy bum. And especially when school comes around, I think about all that homework I have to do and my blogging duties and I'm like, UGH. So yeah, I'm not a big commenter. And that's pretty much the main way you get to meet people around here (or so I've read). 

But now it's summer and I don't have to go to school anymore. I'm really trying to make good use of my free time. I'm doing a lot more blogging and I'm commenting a lot more. And I'm getting to know some of my favourite bloggers better and you know what? They're not as scary and intimidating as I thought they were. I mean, they still are but now that I have actually TALKED to them, it's like, cool you're an actual person. 

Sometimes, I still get a bit self-concious and I re-edit my comments/tweets like ten thousand times but hey, at least I'm talking, right? And that's a huge accomplishment for someone who at the very core is shy and EXTREMELY nervous. I'm used to always having a solid group of friends and now, here I am in the blogosphere not knowing anyone. And that's actually terrifying for me. Because there's this one part of me who loves meeting people and is all 'YAY, LET'S GO TALK TO BLOGGERS!' but then the other half is like 'Slow down, honey. No one's going to like you.' There's always this tug-of-war between the two sides and I'm never sure what to do. Though I can say that up until now I ended up shutting my mouth more often than not. Just sometimes you can't help it, you know? 

With this summer though, I've really tried pushing my boundaries. I'm really trying to open up to more people. Because I want to change my attitude but also because I am selfish and I want more friends. But in my defense, every single time a blogger is asked their favourite part about blogging the answer is near always the community. And I love that other bloggers are having a blast fraternizing with everyone but when I read it, it's a bit like, oh. Because I hadn't really talked to anyone. And only now am I realizing what I'm missing out on and it's a shame I didn't realize it until eleven months into blogging. 

Well, that's my little sob story. I'm sorry for hanging all that out there because I'm never comfortable with talking about my feelings but I just needed to let it out. Sometimes, talking is the best way to resolve your problems...and remind yourself how ridiculous you sound. Anyway, now that I'm trying to be more social, are there any friend applications? The apply-to-be-Annie's-friend office is now open. Just kidding, it's never that easy. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

I Am A Bedtime Reader | Day 2


It is Day 2 of the Book Blogger Challenge which means today we're talking about our bedtime reading rituals! 



Truth: I am a huge bedtime reader. Especially when school starts, before bed is usually the only time I have to read in peace. The first thing I do in preparation of crawling into my bed is changing into my pajamas. 

Then, I walk over to the bathroom and do the whole face-washing-and-teeth-brushing routine. During this time, I'll probably have my iPod blasting out Phoenix. And this is because: {a} they are upbeat enough for me to have a good time while going through my routine (because I absolutely despise washing up), {b} I totally have no idea what they're going on about half the time so chances of me singing along are reduced by, like, 30% and {c} they're just mellow enough for me to be able to switch to my quiet bed mode. 

After I've finished my little Phoenix jam fest in my bathroom, I head straight to my bedroom where a pleasant stack of books are already waiting for me! Before I do any reading though, I have to adjust the pillow and the bedding to make sure I am in the most comfortable position. And then I prop myself up with my elbows and I start reading! 

Usually, I read for at least an hour but sometimes, if the book is REALLY good, I read up to an hour and a half. I never like to read for too long because my eyes are getting really terrible and I don't want to make them worse. 

And that's pretty much my bedtime routine!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Published by EgmontUSA; July 23, 2013
eBook, 233 pages
Received from publisher through NetGalley -- thanks!

A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog-- and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.

A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.


-Description from Goodreads.com



Dear A Really Awesome Mess,

Usually when I read a book, I like to have a pretty good idea what my fellow reviewers have thought about it. This time around, I didn't have a clue! So I was a bit hesitant when I first started. Would I like you?  And the answer to that question was a pretty yes. It just goes to show how good it can be going into a book without bringing along all those set expectations.

The first thing I noticed about you was the writing. It was HILARIOUS and gee, did I have a blast while reading! I loved how Emmy and Justin's voices were easily distinguishable yet were still very similar in regards with the humour. I think the dual point-of-views were used very effectively and the story came together smoothly.

If there's one thing in a book that strikes my fancy, it's unlikely friendships. And that was my favourite thing about you. I loved how the friendships between Emmy, Justin, Tracy, Chip and Jenny grew so organically. They really were a 'ragtag group of teens' and while at first I wasn't too into it, by the end of the book, I wanted to see more of that friendship.

But while I loved the friendship between the teens, I wasn't so crazy about the individual characters. I found them all rather underdeveloped and that might be because of the sheer number of characters there were in this book. As a result, there were many details that were omitted that might have been crucial to the development of each character. For starters, I would have liked more background on Justin's relationship with his mother. He constantly talks about not being wanted and we see clearly where that stems from with his father but what about with his mother? Does she contribute to his feeling of neglect in any way? If so, how?

Furthermore, the reasons why Chip, Diana, Jenny, and Tracy were at Heartland didn't feel as if they were resolved by the time they got out of there. I have a feeling that that was a hint at how flawed Heartland's system was but nevertheless, it didn't leave a good taste in my mouth knowing that they would most likely revert to their old practices.

And now for the romance. The whole Emmy/Justin thing was way too 'love at first sight' and sadly, that was something I have long grown out of. It was obvious right from the start they were going to fall in love and when they did, it came out flat. *Spoiler alert! Highlight to view!* But the fling I did like was the Jenny/Chip one. It was so cute and I loved all the little signs Cook and Halpin gave us at the beginning. I would love to see how that would play out!

But frankly, in the grand scheme of things, these were all minor issues. The major issue I had with the book was this: none of the very serious, very common problems the teens were at Heartland for were given much attention. And that is upsetting. I was really expecting the authors to explore these problems and I was left disappointed.

While I did want more from you, I thought that in the end, you made for a fun and light read. So that wasn't really what I was looking for after I had read the blurb but at least you weren't a boring and very heavy read! There were great laugh-out-loud moments and the experience of reading you was definitely enjoyable from all the witty cracks Justin and the rest of the gang!

Confessions of a Teenage Girl | Day 1


I've been waiting until I've finished blog maintenance to do this and finally, after some incredibly frustrating days, I am DONE. And so now, I can relax and have a little bit of fun! 

The 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge is exactly what it sounds like: a 15 day challenge for book bloggers. So super easy! If this sounds like your type of challenge, head over to creator April's blog, Good Books and Good Wine to participate!


Today's task is to make 15 book related confessions but I hope it's okay to change things up a bit and make 15 random confessions instead. Honestly, I don't think I have enough book confessions to go around - especially not after My Bookish Confessions Part 1 & 2! So here are 15 confessions about me that may be surprising...brace yourselves!


1. I am a Sagittarius - and I'm proud to be one!

2. I have an alter ego named Avery. She was born in fifth grade as a secret identity to help me avoid this guy from the school I attended previously. I still don't think he knows. Hopefully, he doesn't read my blog.

3. I don't have a middle name so I make it up. It changes all the time though! A month ago, it was Eliza. Now, it's Mabel!

4. I love polka dots and stripes and I WILL fearlessly wear them in the same outfit. Never polka dot on polka dot or stripe on stripe though.

5. I love talking and laughing. I swear, once you set me off, I won't stop.

6. Taylor Swift is my homie. You really don't understand how much I love her...but maybe taking a look at my tumblr would give you an okay idea.

7. I'm obsessed with Wanelo which is basically Pinterest except only for things you can buy. It's amazing.

8. I can't handle spicy stuff. so ix-nay to the hot chilli peppers.

9. I constantly check courses from universities on my 'Universities I Might Like To Go To' list. I don't know why but I guess it's probably me planning my future again.

10. I love to plan my future. I usually do it before I go to bed so they can become dreams which is kind of like a fake reality. It's nice to have something to dream about every night though.

11. I am a BIG dreamer. It's very rare that I'd go one night without dreaming. I have tons of super detailed dreams and it's a mystery why none of them have started recurring yet.

12. I was sorted into Ravenclaw on Pottermore. Go Ravenclaw!

13. I've been hoarding American Girl magazines since I was 9.

14. I've had four failed blogs before this that were REALLY stupid. Like, tremendously stupid but you'll have to trust me on this one. You couldn't get me to show you them even if you paid me a million bucks.

15. And because these are, after all, supposed to be bookish confessions, I'll throw this one in: I am...very passionate about the covers on my books.

Share your confessions with me below!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Voyage: New York City

Inspired by Of Literature and Locations over at the Perpetual Page-Turner, Book Voyage combines my want to travel and my love of books. Join me as I venture around the world!

With the unveiling of a snazzy new feature today, I will be showcasing an equally snazzy (perhaps even more) city that I have seen quite a bit of in books I've read in the past. I'm talking about New York City, guys. 

There's something inexplicably magical about the city that never sleeps and well, I think it's best to let Jay-Z take this one:

In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh
There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York
New York, New York

I honestly don't think I could have said it better. But back to the magic - that is the reason behind why I've always wanted to visit New York City. I've always wanted to feel that magic myself. And while that's going to be a looonnng time from now - at least until I finish high school which is in four years! - I'm thankful I, at the very least, still have books and the Internet. 

3 Things I Have To Do While In New York City:

1. Visit Times Square at night. I mean, this place is iconic! And what could be better than witnessing it at night?
2. See a show on Broadway. I'm not a giant theatre nerd but Broadway is a must. 
3. Visit FAO Schwarz. Because everyone knows that some days, you just have to let your inner kid roll.



Books I Have Read Set In New York City:



 Books I Have YET  To Read Set In New York City:




That's all for this edition of Book Voyage! If you have anything to share, you know where the comment box is! 

Love from Annie!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How Did I Acquire These Books? Part 1


A while back, I shared some of my bookish confessions with y'all and I shared a picture of my bookshelf (or rather, a part of my bookshelf. Taking a picture of my entire bookshelf was too hard). I kind of stared at it for ten minutes yesterday for no reason at all. And as I was staring, I was thinking about all the various ways I acquired these books and this post was born. So here are some stories behind how I got these books. They're not very interesting stories but I hope you don't mind!



When I was eight, my school held a book fair. There were posters plastered all over the walls and every single time I walked by them, my eyes would automatically stop at the book, Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist. I just thought it was the cutest, most magnificent cover ever and so I went home and basically told my dad that he had to give me money for this book. Fortunately, I have the greatest dad on the planet. He obliged and the very day the book fair opened, I bought the book!

After I had finished the book, I realized that I made the mistake of reading the second book first. Errrr. But I kind of just shrugged it off, saying 'there's no point in reading the first now that I've read the second'. And this is where things get a bit crazy. A couple weeks later, my grandmother who loves sending me books sent me The Tale of Emily Windsnap which was the first book in the Emily Windsnap series. That was like, totally beyond what my third-grade mind could comprehend so I sat and screamed for ten minutes.

I still don't think I've finished the series. It took me a while to make it to the third book and then after that, they didn't interest me any more. I still remember how much I loved this series when I was younger though. Honestly, if you were to ask me my favourite childhood authors, Liz Kessler would probably slip from my mind but really, she deserves a spot on my list for helping me discover my wonderful imagination!


When I was six, I saw a movie that would forever change my life: High School Musical. No, seriously, that movie was my LIFE. I think I've watched it about seventeen to nineteen times since then. And every single time was as magical as the first. I think everyone around me evenutally caught on how absolutely obsessed I was because as Christmas came, so did two High School Musical books. They were the only things I read for like, a year until I begged my mum to get me this one too. Which I still haven't finished.

But I hope that doesn't give you the impression that I'm no longer a Wildcat. Because I am, I just no longer feel the need to cry into my books, wondering when I will get my own Troy (but seriously, we all know I'm talking about Zac).


I think two books is pretty good for the beginning right? I planned on having four books in this post but seeing as how much I talk about on each book, it's better to keep the numbers small. So 'How Did I Acquire These Books?' will now be a series that you can probably find pretty regularly here now that it's summer. And don't forget to share stories of how you acquired YOUR books!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books; March 22, 2011
Hardcover, 344 pages
Borrowed from library

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.


- Description from Goodreads.com



I'm a sucker for historical fictions and so I was ecstatic when my quasi-book club picked this for this summer's read. I have close to no knowledge about Stalin and the Soviet Union so I was really excited to learn something. This book was not only educational, it was enjoyable.

Ruta Sepetys' writing in Between Shades of Gray is incredibly detailed, almost as if she were retelling the story as it happened to her. This made it easy for me to understand, even just a little, what the deportees were going through. I give kudos to her for being able to include so many different scenarios that the deportees had to face during such a grim period. She really showed the reader a vast range of the outcomes the people under Stalin's rule faced without straying too far from the central storyline.

Lina's flashbacks were another thing I liked about this book. They provided great background to Lina's story that we wouldn't have otherwise been able to learn. The flashbacks also helped build up Lina's character. As you read on, your understanding of her grows. By the end, I was totally hooked by her and I didn't want her story to end.

There's no doubt that Ruta Sepetys is a master storyteller. Between Shades of Gray was wonderfully crafted and yet, for me, I just wasn't feeling it. Something about the book came a bit short for me. But even so, I don't have to hesitate to claim this is one of my favourite historical fictions ever.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Published by Redhook; June 25, 2013
Hardcover, 416 pages
Received from publisher through NetGalley - thanks!

A rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn't had the easiest childhood.

But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count. 

So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...

Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.


- Description from Goodreads.com



The Universe Versus Alex Woods starts off with a bang. A very confusing, incredibly bizarre bang. Nevertheless, it draws you in. It makes you want to continue. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that the beginning to this book was one of the best I've read - and a great start to an equally bizarre book.

The first thing we learn about Alex once he starts on his story is that he was hit by a meteorite as a child. At first, this seemed slightly random and superfluous but as I read, it became clear to me just how important the meteorite was to the development of Alex. Without that occurring, would Alex have still developed his signature cautiousness? His awkwardness? Would he still be as lovably naive and innocent? These are all the things I loved about Alex's character and without the bed-ridden (and hospital-ridden) part of his childhood, I don't think we would have been able to see that. Heck, he might have ended up like Decker and Asbo!

It's also these characteristics that makes Alex's relationship with Mr. Peterson so interesting to read about. And while they're both very different, I think it's their shared awkwardness that brings them together. It was such a joy to watch them both develop throughout the book. Everything progressed very organically and it felt authentic (which is kind of my favourite thing in a book). I loved their conversations - the constant clash of naivete and innocence with sarcasm was brilliant. On occasion, Alex and Mr. Peterson share a deeper conversation and that was always a breath of fresh air. It provided me with new insight and really made me think.

As strong as The Universe Versus Alex Woods does start off though, the narration becomes rather dull towards the end and with the conversations between Mr. Peterson and Alex getting fewer and fewer, there wasn't much for me to look forward to. 

However, the ending was great. I thought it wrapped the story up nicely. And while I did shed a tear here and there, by the end, I - like Alex - felt nothing but happiness. It took a while after I had finished for me to grasp just how much I enjoyed this book. As I'm writing this review, memories of my favourite scenes and quotes are flooding back. I'm thinking about all the wonderful things I've learned while reading this and that is truly not something that happens often after finishing a book. Simply amazing.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Anna and the French Kiss #2
Published by Dutton Books; September 29, 2011
Hardcover, 338 pages
Borrowed from library

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion...she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket--a gifted inventor--steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.


- Description from Goodreads.com



And Stephanie Perkins strikes again! Trust me when I say this, Lola and the Boy Next Door is every bit as delightful as Anna and the French Kiss was. 

The Things I Loved

1. I loved the setting! San Francisco is the perfect city for Lola and her story. It was vibrant and quirky, just like Lola is! I couldn't imagine a better suited place.

2. I loved the return of St. Clair and Anna! One of my favourite things is when authors sneak in characters from their other books. It's nice to check up on them and see how they're doing since we last saw them.

3. And yes, of course I'm going to mention the boy - Cricket! Holy smokes, I think I like him better than Etienne! Is that even possible? He's so kind and caring and just absolutely positively AMAZING. If Lola won't have him, I would gladly take her place.

As I have come to realize, I am totally on Team Character, meaning that if I can't stand the characters in a book, everything else falls apart. There were a couple of moments in this book where I just wanted to slap Lola and Max and Lola's gay dads for being so UGH. But honestly, the great writing, my love for Cricket (and Anna and St. Clair), and the setting completely blew everything else out of the water. It was fantastic. If you're not sure you should proceed with Lola, I'm insisting you do. It may not be as splendiferous as Anna but it certainly comes close. 


*Phoenix reference alert*

Friday, July 12, 2013

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; August 1, 2009
Hardcover, 403 pages
Borrowed from library

Acclaimed authors Holly Black (Ironside) and Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on!


- Description from Goodreads.com


 

Well, you can bet that I was in for a pleasant surprise when I picked up this book. I'm not very good with reading anthologies but this one was so delightful. I didn't understand half of it but still, so delightful! I'm not being sarcastic, by the way. This is just my twisted humour.

All the stories were amazing and I loved how they all touched on different parts of geekery. You just feel like you get a very full representation of geeks even though I'm sure there's tons missing (Like, hello, where's my Harry Potter?). Also, great comics!

After reading (most of) this book, I'm definitely way more in touch with my inner geek. Thank you, Holly and Cecil, for compiling a kick-ass anthology of awesome geektastic stories!

*If you would like to read mini-reviews of the stories in this book, scroll down.*
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way by Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci
The familiar "did I sleep with a stranger?" storyline is reintroduced in Once You're a Jedi (the answer is, yes you did). Here, a Klingon girl finds herself in a strange hotel room which she later discovers to belong to a Jedi. And she doesn't have any memory of what happened.
Annie's Comments
Yay! A great beginning for a 'geektastic' anthology. Everything was easy to understand (even for me who hasn't watched (or read in some cases) Star Wars and Star Trek). Plus, the story was told in alternating perspectives which is the exact thing I love in books. 


2. One of Us by Tracy Lynn
A popular cheerleader has problems understanding her boyfriend when he talks about things such as Star Wars and Buffy so she hires geeks to teach her.
Annie's Comments
One of Us was super cute albeit a bit predictable. The characters were all super likeable. I kind of wished I had learned more about the things they were teaching Montgomery but that would have made an awfully long story, wouldn't it?


3. Definitional Chaos by Scott Westerfield
A guy has been recruited to look after 84 000 dollars (with the help of his ex-girlfriend) as it is being shipped to ComCon via train.
Annie's Comments
Errr... I feel like I'm missing something because I didn't get this story at all. What is going on????


4. I Never by Cassandra Clare
There's a party for the players of The Game and a girl goes with her friend to meet the guy she talked to online.
Annie's Comments
I loved this story! It was absolutely adorable and I loved the flow. Jane was a cutie and so was Noah. I mean, he wears toggle coats! Isn't that the cutest thing ever? The end was so obvious but it was amazing nonetheless. Bonus points for making up your own game (which should actually cease to be fictional because it's so cool). 


5. The King of Pelinesse by M.T. Anderson
A boy travels to Maine to confront his favourite author, R.P. Flint about a supposed affair with his mother (the boy's, that is).
Annie's Comments
This was quite confusing at the start but once the fundamentals had been established, I found myself really enjoying this story. It was original and I loved the way the theme of the anthology was woven into the story. It was geeky but not really, if you get that.


6. The Wrath of Dawn by Cynthia & Greg Leitich Smith
Dawn attends a Buffy sing-along with her step-sister, her step-sister's boyfriend, and her own date, Eric.
Annie's Comments
The Wrath of Dawn was one of the shorter stories in the anthology and had a large emphasis on Buffy. Which I have never seen. I'm indifferent to this story, but not really because Buffy is so foreign to me. The whole thing was just really short, especially the ending which felt rushed.


7. Quiz Bowl Antichrist by David Levithan
Literature genius, Alec and his quiz bowl team prepare themselves again for another year of intense button-pushing.
Annie's Comments
DAVID LEVITHAN IS THE BEST! I will never, ever get tired of anything he writes because he's just so fantastic. Quiz Bowl Antichrist was easily one of my favourite stories in Geektastic. I totally appreciated David for making his story about geeks something everyone can understand. Great characters and amazing story. I bow down to you, Levithan!


8. The Quiet Knight by Garth Nix
In one night's LARP (live action role play) adventure, Tony a.k.a The Quiet Knight meets Sorayah and her little brother. He sees them at school the next day and must make an important decision.
Annie's Comments
Another absolutely adorable story! I thought it was delightful but it didn't wow me. 


9. Everyone But You by Lisa Yee
Felicity and her mom move to Maui and she finds it difficult to fit in among her peers.
Annie's Comments
I don't really see how this story fits in with the others but maybe that's because the previous stories have been exploring a different kind of geekiness than the one we see in this story. Perhaps. But moving on, I thought the fast forwarding made the story really confusing because there was no 'heads up, we're skipping two months'. It just seemed as if one second Felicity was being hated on and the next second, she's hot baton twirling hula girl. 


10. Secret Identity by Kelly Link
Billie, a fifteen year old girl, meets a middle aged man through an online gaming site and proceeds to meet him at a hotel. But he's not there so she's writing him a letter recounting the events that occurred at the hotel (and apologizing for multiple somethings I won't say).
Annie's Comments
I am not ageist, okay? God knows how many twenty/thirty-year-old celebrities I've had a crush on but isn't it a bit creepy and scary that a fifteen-year-old and a thirty-four-year-old are having a fling? Like, I'm not actually in love with Andrew Garfield and just hypothetically, if he were to ask me to meet him at a hotel - oh who am I kidding?!? That will never happen because I know better than to meet a stranger at a hotel (and also, he doesn't know me). Anyhoo, this was a really confusing story. I didn't get it at all.


11. Freak the Geek by John Green
Two girls are targeted for an annual 'freaking of the geek' (which is when you torment geeks and laugh at them).
Annie's Comments
It's John Green. The person who wrote Tumblr's favourite novel and the best Youtuber on the planet. Of course I wanted to love it! But alas, this story disappointed me. While there were some signature John Green lines that I adored, the only thing that happened in the story other than them running away from the meanies was a fight between the two girls. That was the end.


12. The Truth About Dino Girl by Barry Lyga
Dinosaur-obsessed Katie has her eyes set on baseball-playing Jamie and fantasizes about being with him.
Annie's Comments
Okay, I'm not too sure what the moral of this story is. Like, what's up with the ending? But the dinosaur theme was cute.


13. This Is My Audition Monologue by Sara Zarr
The title sums it up pretty well. This is her audition monologue.
Annie's Comments
I'll admit, I didn't actually read this one. I started skimming it but then I just flipped to the end and moved on. Now you know why my summary is very bare-bones. I just didn't have it in me to read an 11-page monologue about why a girl should be cast into a play.


14. The Stars at the Finish Line by Wendy Mass
Ever since fourth grade, Peter and Tabitha have been fierce competitors, always trying to edge out one another. When Tabitha hears of a Messier Marathon (a thing where you have to find all 110 stars in one night), she eagerly joins. And because Peter has a secret crush on her, he asks to help.
Annie's Comments
Wendy Mass is one of my favourite childhood authors (Thanks for introducing me to her! A Mango Shaped Space, remember?) and I haven't read her work in so long so when I saw this story, I screamed my head off. It was amazing! A lot of what Wendy writes is amazing but seriously, when she talks about stars and the universe, it is like magic. Every Soul A Star has been one of my favourite books by her and yay, I love this story!


15. It's Just a Bump to the Left by Libba Bray
I didn't read this either. I'm sorry but I heard it was about the Rocky Horror Picture Show and I was just like ehhh. So much for keeping an open mind, right?