Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Month One Library Ban Update

Since January is wrapping up, that means my first month of my self-induced library ban is almost up! After having what could be considered an addiction to the library, based on the habit of going once or twice a week when my boyfriend was in class, I thought it would be much harder to deny myself library access. In fact, the other day I was cleaning my bedroom and found my library card...on the floor...under a pile of clothes. Neglected! I felt a little pang of sadness, and then I wondered what shiny new books were sitting on the 'new releases' shelf...and then I brushed it off.

Some things I've noticed in this library dry spell:

  • Not going to the library has suddenly made it much more acceptable for me to buy books. I am now all over the Kindle Daily Deals, NetGalley, used book bins, etc. 
  • I read much slower and with less urgency. When I have library books, the three week due date is always looming over me, pushing me to read as much as possible. In the past month, I have only read five books, and one of those was started in December. That's not a very high number for me, and I just don't have that due-date pressure, which lets me relax a little bit more.
  • I've missed marking my pages! One of the worst things about library books is that it's not socially acceptable to underline your favorite passages or make notes in the margins, which is something I LOVE to do. I recently read The Shining and loved highlighting certain passages, or even just jotting down, "oh snap!"
All of this has also been made much easier by this Polar Vortex nonsense that Chicago (or should I say, Chiberia?) has been dealing with for the past month. It's too cold for me to even want to deal with walking two blocks down the street. And since this month has been a slow reading month for me, maybe I will even have to extend this into March! So far, I'm definitely not feeling a shortage of books to choose from, and it's satisfying to be able to slide a finished book back in it's place on my shelf. 

Month one in the books! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Kindle Book Haul!

I've made it an unofficial goal to use my Kindle more often, since for the past couple of years it has just been collecting dust. Feeling motivation to use my Kindle has been made a lot easier by things like NetGalley, where they send ARC's in the form of e-books, and also Amazon Daily Deals and FREE books on Amazon. I don't know how I lived my whole life without knowing that there are free Kindle books on Amazon? Have I been suffocating under a rock for the last decade?

Anyway, I've been currently addicted to scooping up Daily Deals and free books, so I've accumulated quite a little collection over the last month or two! Some of these I might have already mentioned briefly, but I wanted to present them all together.

Pivot Point by Kasie West : This was a Young Adult Daily Deal, I believe, and I've been hearing nothing but amazing things about this book. A girl has the ability to see into the future of both sides of a choice.
The EveryGirl's Guide to Life by Maria Menounos : Another super cheap Amazon deal. I don't even know why I got this one, considering I'm not a big fan of Maria's or anything. But I have been wanting to introduce different types of reviews onto this blog, and this had some good reviews!
Vibrant Food by Kimberly Hasselbring : I scored this one on NetGalley and I am beyond excited to use this cookbook in the spring and summer. Boyfriend & I are frequents at the farmers market when it's warm, and this cookbook shows you how to use fresh, seasonal foods to create healthy dishes that showcase the fruits and veggies.

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson : Another one scooped from NetGalley. This book sounds thrilling and full of high stakes, which are two of my favorite things! A royal middle eastern family is exiled to the American suburbs after the patriarch of the family is killed. While Laila, the teenage daughter, is adapting to her new life, her mother is obsessed with the past.
2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron : Amazon recently slashed the prices of a lot of educational books and this one was only $1. Since graduating with a degree in Fiction Writing, I have a hard time pushing myself to write outside of the class-writing regimen I had become adapted to. Hopefully this helps me boost my daily word counts!
500 Ways to Be a Better Writer by Chuck Wendig: Intrigued to see if there is anything I can learn from this, or any skills I can adopt into my writing life.

Quiet by Susan Cain : I am an introvert to the max, so I have been dying to read this book on the power of introverts, and how beneficial quiet people really can be :)
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: I really enjoyed Speak by Anderson, and even though I didn't love Prom as much, this book sounds like it is in the same dark, emotional vein as Speak. I also can't believe I haven't read this yet.
Bet in the Dark by Rachel Higginson: 1) Is that Khloe Kardashian on the cover? 2) This book was free and sounded slightly intriguing so I snagged it because…free.

Deer in Headlights by Staci Hart : Another freebie…and with a gorgeous cover! I had to download it after seeing this cool illustrated cover. Aphrodite and Apollo are in a modern day competition. Aphrodite's mission is to bring two people together. Apollo's is to keep them apart. Love blooms, etc.
Dollhouse by Anya Allyn : Another freebie with a stunning cover. I downloaded this because it reminded me of that CREEPY AS F dollhouse episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? In this book, four friends go on a school hike. One of them goes missing and the police are suspecting murder. The remaining friends go on their own search to find their missing part, and find the dollhouse, hidden away in the woods. Sounds hella creepy.
N0S4A2 by Joe Hill : I'm obsessed with the title of this book. Also, it's written by Joe Hill who is the son of Stephen King, so I think we can all know what to expect. Judging by the title, I would guess there is a vampire element, and after reading the synopsis, there is time travel, and a creepy alternate world called Christmas Land.

That's all of my recent e-book grabs. It feels good to have a haul of 12 books that I paid next to nothing for…I could maybe get used to this e-reader thing..maybe.

Have you read any of these? Are you addicted to Amazon freebies, too?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review: Finding It by Cora Carmack

Finding It by Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Page Count: 320
Genre: New Adult/Romance
Goodreads & Amazon

Kelsey Summers has left for Europe straight out of college with one goal: to find herself. And maybe scoop up some solid life experiences along the way that she can bring to the stage. Equipped with her father's limitless credit cards and the hunger for adventure, she has been traveling across Europe, never saying no, making countless friends along the way, and taking advantage of irresistible European men. Then, she stumbles upon the too-handsome-for-words Jackson Hunt. He's mysterious, and offers to show Kelsey an adventure she couldn't have dreamed of on her own. And naturally, she falls for him. Somewhere in between falling for Jackson and finding herself, Kelsey realizes that maybe she's trying to lose a dark part of herself instead of finding a new shiny part, and that maybe she doesn't know Jackson as well as he knows her. (This review might contain spoilers?)
I really should be scared, walking around a dark, unfamiliar city with a complete stranger. But there were a lot of things that I should be and wasn't. And when I looked over at him, I couldn't seem to conjure an ounce of fear I knew I should have. Dad always accused me of having a death wish. Maybe he was right.
After the disappointment that was Faking It, I wasn't too sure if I was looking forward to the third installment in this series of companion novels. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. Like Cade in Faking It, Kelsey became more of a character in Finding It. In the first book, we know her as Bliss' wild, sex-crazed best friend. If it wasn't for Kelsey, Garrick and Bliss wouldn't have ended up meeting on the night that Kelsey had determined Bliss would lose her virginity. She was very one dimensional in the first installment--always down to party and, um, get it on. Finding It starts out with the Kelsey we came to know. It's her new motto to never say no, she's in pursuit of the hottest underground parties, and is juggling not one but two men. But in her alcohol fueled nights, she is starting to realize that she is drinking to fill what has become an unfillable hole. When Jackson comes in, she starts to learn even more about herself, and not all of it is stuff she likes.
This funny thing happens when you graduate college. You hear so much about being an adult that you start to feel like you have to become a different person overnight, that growing up means being not you. And you concentrate so much on living up to the term "adult" that you forget growing up happens by living, not by sheer force of will.
Of course we have to talk about the love interest! Jackson Hunt was my favorite of series. He was dark, mysterious, and I loved the adventure that he took Kelsey on through Europe. He also has a whole load of his own baggage, and I enjoyed watching him help Kelsey shed her baggage, while also getting rid of some of his. He also brought back some of the tension that was present in Losing It but lost in Faking It. He didn't fall over for Kelsey like most guys do, and he actually respected her in the bedroom, which is important, ladies! He had a dark back story, and he added the biggest plot twist that this whole series has. The twist was brought on too late, though, because after it, we have to do a large time jump and a lot of stuff is glossed over. I would have liked to see either a quicker turn around, or more time to see the aftermath of this twist instead of mostly recovery.
I'm going to kiss you, princess. But not now, not when you're telling me to. Not when it's just something you want to check off a list. I'll kiss you when it counts.
The one thing that irked me a little bit was the place in time of this novel. It is the third book of the series, though it should have been the second. Kelsey is fresh out of college, like Bliss and Cade, and at one point in her travels, she Skype's with Bliss and listens to Bliss freak out about her new living situation with Garrick. However, we know from the second book that she already is living with Garrick and they seem pretty established? Especially since that book carries us through Thanksgiving and Christmas? I know that this is a series of companion novels more than an actual series, but the glitch in the timeline made me wish that it was at least linear.

Finding It is definitely my second favorite in this group of books. It's not as fun as Losing It, but it is darker, a little sexier, and contains a twist that actually surprised me. I was glad that (I think) Cora Carmack closed out the series with this novel. I also read the novella Keeping Her, and the new novella from Jackson's POV is coming out in two days, so I'll be reading that, too.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: Faking It by Cora Carmack

Faking It by Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Page Count: 355
Genre: New Adult
Goodreads & Amazon

Cade has moved to Philadelphia for a fresh start full of opportunity after college, but so far his 'fresh start' has only included playing a homeless person in a commercial, and living in an apartment that makes actually being homeless seem more favorable. Enter Max. She's a tattooed singer, constantly living in the shadow of her uptight parents' expectations, and she really needs a new boyfriend, at least, a pretend boyfriend. When her parents drop into town for a surprise visit, there is no way that they can meet her boyfriend Mace, a punk drummer with neck tattoos and a bad attitude. So she grabs Cade in a cafe and begs him to be her new, pretend boyfriend. The two are a pair that hardly make sense together, but as they keep pretending for the sake of Max's parents perception of her, the more their relationship feels real and permanent.
**Might be some spoilerish stuff in here if you have not yet read Losing It**
One of his hands found my jaw and he lifted my head up enough to face him. "Your pain made you strong. It made you passionate and alive. It made us both who we are." A laugh pushed its way past the pain that lived in my lungs and escaped from my throat. "Golden Boy and Angry Girl."
Where Losing It was fun, awkward, and actually had some romantic tension, it's companion novel Faking It was insta-love to the maximum, corny dialogue, and cookie-cutter characters. Cade, the wild card love interest of Losing It, has followed Bliss and Garrick to Philadelphia to work out his own acting career, but finds himself miserable when he cannot find a decent acting job, and he realizes that he's not as over Bliss as he thought he was. It was nice for the cracks to begin to show in Cade's character, because in Losing It, he seemed like the perfect square, American boy trying to do right by the girl. He had a little more angst in this book, which was nice to see, even though most of his angst stemmed from moving across the country with his former love interest and the man she's hopelessly in love with…WHO THINKS THAT IS A GOOD IDEA? In this whole book though, Cade is the least stereotypical character. Because while he's handsome and clean cut on the outside, he's got some demons to face, guys, and he became more of a real person than he did in the first installment of this series of companion novels.
"If I'm reading between the Cade lines, I'd say you still want to be with her."
"I don't know, man. I do, and I don't. She's amazing, but she's got a whole baggage claim to herself, man. If I'm honest, she stands to screw me up way more than Bliss ever did."
"This is why I don't date girls."
When Max comes in, the stereotypes start ROLLING in. She's a singer by day and a go-go dancer by night, living on the funds her parents provide for her while she tries to carve out her living as a musician. She's covered in tattoos and has brightly dyed hair, and shocker! Her parents hate that, which is why she hides it from them as much as possible when they come to town so they don't strip away their parental support. Her real boyfriend, Mace, is a drummer, also tattooed, who uses drugs, drinks and has a negative IQ score. Then there are her parents, uptight, conservative, and always casting a cloud of high expectations over everything Max does. None of these characters seemed genuine to me. The dialogue from her parents, especially, was painfully generic and turned them into one-dimensional characters with no meat behind them. I get that they are hella rich and ultra-conservative, but that doesn't mean they have to be cardboard characters with no personality. Even the most boring person on earth has a quirk, and they didn't seem to have much of one at all. Then her boyfriend, Mace, is the stereotypical boy your parents tell you to stay away from. After Losing It being so fun and having a lot of different character types, I wished Carmack had pushed the characters in Faking It to be a little more adventurous, or at least an out-of-the-box type of conservative/bad boy.
My mother said, "What about you, Cade? What are you thankful for?" His eyes stayed fixed on mind. His hand brushed the side of my neck where my bird tattoos were hidden by my turtleneck sweater. He said, "I'm grateful that the past is the past, and the future is ours to make."
As I mentioned above, where Losing It had some romantic tension, Faking It had zero, and it all happened very quickly.
In the course of less than a day, Cade is hooked on Max. Within two days, or what seemed like two days, (spoiler!) Cade is convinced that what he thought was love with Bliss was not actually love at all, because what he has with Max is actually love. Yup, the girl who he has been best friends with for four years and who he spent the last half of Losing It being a sad puppy over was nothing compared to Max, who has given him an awakening on love in 48 hours. His realization of this irked me and completely made his storyline with Bliss exactly what I thought it was in the first book: pointless. It was disappointing to see him brush off a part of a storyline that was injected into these first two books over an instant love. It then becomes his life mission to prove to make Max realize that she is beautiful the way she is, and that she shouldn't be afraid to be who she is around her parents, even though he doesn't know what makes Max the way she is until near the end of the book, which made his love for her seem superficial and as cardboardy as her parents. His dialogue with her was unrealistic. He says a lot of things that I couldn't see his character, or anyone, actually saying out loud.

"I'll take my chances against your fickle heart if it means it's mine."
As corny as the romance was between Cade and Max, I was relieved to find that there was a reason behind why Max is the way she is, and why her parents treat her the way they do. It came a little late in the novel, but it was when things clicked into place a little bit for Max's family dynamic. I understood why her parents are conservative and protective, and I understood why Max pushes herself as far away from her family as possible. As can be made obvious from above, it would've been more fulfilling if their characters were treated differently, but the version of them that we got reflected the family secret.

Faking It was a disappointing follow-up to Losing It. The characters were more of caricatures than actual people, and the 'romance' between Max and Cade happened way too quickly compared to the drawn out, tension filled one between Bliss and Garrick in Losing It. Despite this, I did grow to like Cade more as a character, and Max's family demons that are released near the end made each character in their family make a little more sense to me. I was also not deterred from reading the third installment, Finding It, so stay tuned for that one!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Library Ban 'Challenge.'

As I mentioned in this post, I am banning myself from the library. I realized about a month ago when I was cataloguing my collection (I will post about this soon), that there are dozens of books on my shelves that I have yet to read. Even though I was mostly getting my reading material from the library, I was still buying and collecting books, which resulted in about a billion books that are collecting dust but deserve to be read.

I am only six days into it, but so far so good. Currently, Chicago is sitting in -16 degree temperatures with -35 degree windchill, so I definitely don't want to walk even three blocks to the library. Then, with Christmas having just happened, and I just received a huge box of books as a prize from a giveaway hosted by Justine @ Paperback Heart, I have a billion more books that I am really excited to read. I also have more of a variety on my shelves now, which was one of the things I loved most about the library: I never got bored with one particular genre because there are obviously thousands of other ones to choose from.

Here are the books I hope to read over the next two months:
Actor's Anonymous by James Franco: I don't know very much about this book, and it actually has pretty terrible reviews on Goodreads, but it's James Franco! And it was like, a dollar on Amazon. 
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: This was a Kindle Daily Deal yesterday, I think. It was only $1.99 and I was so stoked because I keep hearing really incredible things about this novel. 
We Were Liars by e. Lockhart: Another one that I keep hearing AMAZING things about. I snagged this one on NetGalley, and have been itching/dying to read it ever since. 

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard: Another one that I got from NetGalley about a girl who is sent to a boarding school after her boyfriend comes to school with a stolen gun, threatens her, and then kills himself. The plot + the uncomfortable looking cover is making me think this will be a very powerful and intense read. 
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman: Because every time I see a gif or still from the Netflix show, I want the new season so bad. Hopefully this will hold me over. 
Obsidian (Lux, #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout: I need to see what the hype is all about surrounding this series. Something tells me it will be in the same vein as Twilight, but with aliens, so I'm kinda excited. It's also a series so maybe I will actually read/finish a whole series this year!

Real Books: 
The Diviners by Libba Bray: I bought this a while ago after hearing a zillion good things about it, and obviously haven't read it yet. But I really want to!
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: Another muchly hyped book that I have also had for months and that I also want to be on the bandwagon of. 
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith: Does this really need an explanation?!
The Shining by Stephen King: This could be the cabin fever setting in from boyfriend and I spending the past two days indoors to avoid -45 wind chills, but this seems appropriate.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl: Another one I am SO STOKED about. A friend of mine had an ARC from the bookstore she worked at and didn't want it she gave it to me! Huzzah!
Once Is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann: It's been a couple of months since I've read one of my favorite dramatic authors, so now might be the time. I love Valley of the Dolls and The Love Machine, so I'm sure this story about an actress who searches for a man just as perfect as her father will be just as good. 

I have a lot of books that I hope to get through over the next two months. Who knows, maybe I'll have to tack on March to my library-free life. 

Do you ever feel like you use the library too much? Do you also have a book hoarding problem? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review: Losing It by Cora Carmack

Losing It by Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Page Count: 255.
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary.
Goodreads & Amazon

Bliss Edwards is about to start her last semester of college. She's following her passions, she has a great group of friends, and she's excited to start the rest of her life. The only problem? She's still a virgin. Determined to shed her v-card by the time she is out of college, she decides to do it in the quickest and most simple way she knows how: a one-night stand. When her friend drags her out to the bar, she is lucky to snag the perfect guy. He's charming, handsome, and British. This should all be well and dandy, but in true, awkward Bliss fashion, she freaks out, makes an excuse impossible to believe, and dashes, leaving him in her bed. Still burning from her embarrassment, she drags herself to her first class of her last semester the next day, and is shocked to find that her new professor is painfully familiar.
Bliss Edwards, you are a freaking catch.
So then how did I end up twenty-two years old and the only person I knew who had never had sex? Somewhere between Saved by the Bell and Gossip Girl, it became unheard of for a girl to graduate college with her V-card still in hand. And now I was standing in my room, regretting that I'd gathered the courage to admit it to my friend Kelsey. She reacted like I'd just told her I was hiding a tail underneath my A-line skirt. And I knew before her jaw even finished dropping that this was a terrible idea.
This book is so not in the vein of books that I typically read, but it was for cheaps on, and I've heard a lot about this book. Not to mention the fact that I have a habit of reading the not-perfectly written, smut books of the world for my entertainment. Surprisingly, I liked this a little more than I expected I would. I thought Bliss was funny, though sometimes irrational. She is sarcastic, and a complete head case that made me laugh out loud several times throughout the book. Her first person narrative was very lively, and paced perfectly to reflect her reeling mind in times of utmost embarrassment, such as when she ditches the hot British man, Garrick Taylor, and then when she sees him again as the professor of her class. Carmack really put her in some painfully awkward situations, and it was fun to read as Bliss flails out of them.
And since I couldn't stand silence, I was the first to break.
"I won't tell anyone." His eyebrows raised, but I couldn't tell if it was surprise or judgment or just a facial tic. "I mean, not that there's anything...not that we...I mean, we didn't, make the beast with two backs and all that."
Oh. My. God. Killmenowkillmenowkillmenowkillmenoooow.The beast with two backs? Seriously?
I'm twenty-two years old, and rather than just spitting out the word "sex," I used a Shakespeare reference! A really embarrassing Shakespeare reference. 
Then for the love interests. Yes, two! We'll start with Garrick, the hot British man. He was charming, as I said, and handsome, and quite seductive. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing with Bliss, and how to get her where he wanted her. But! He kept those romantic stakes up, especially since they are in the delicate teacher and student relationship. Whether it was keeping her after class, or dragging her out of the theater to talk to her in private, I kept wanting to know when they were actually going to hook up, or if they were going to get caught first. Then there is Cade, Bliss' best friend in the theater department. I didn't have many feelings towards Cade at all. He didn't jump out at me as someone who was in love with Bliss, but more as someone who suddenly got protective in the face of a little competition.
"Listen Garrick, while this parallel you're drawing is lovely, especially with that accent, I'm a little tired of the metaphors and being compared to doomed love stories. Just say what you want to say. I've been puzzling out ancient texts all night. I don't want to have to decipher you, too."
"I'm saying that I was wrong." He took a step closer, and my exhaustion fled, replaced with electricity under my skin. "I'm saying I like you. I'm saying I don't give a damn that I'm your teacher."
As for the romance aspects of this book, I liked the romance between Garrick and Bliss much more than I liked the 'romance' between Bliss and Cade. With Bliss and Garrick, there were high stakes and intensity. There was a lot of lust, and seduction that really built up the anticipation for me. There was a touch of insta-love, though, which was disappointing to me, but not as disappointing as the Cade storyline. (Some maybe spoilerish things after this?) It seemed that Carmack needed a love triangle to add to the stack of obstacles in the way of Garrick and Bliss' happily-ever-after. Cade's sudden love confession didn't feel genuine to me, and I thought there was a lot of unnecessary drama surrounding it.  (end of spoilery things.) 

Losing It was a funny romance novel, with a hilariously awkward narrator, and a dashing leading man. The insta-love, and seemingly unnecessary love triangle, though, was enough to make me feel a little 'meh' about this novel. At this point, I have read all of the available books in this series, so I will continue to review them!

Summed up in a gif: