Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hey You, Let's Be Friends!

Sometimes, I think back to that hot summer day in August when I started book blogging and just think, "What have I gotten myself into?" But it's not meant in a bad way like ugh-blogging-is-so-gross-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into way. It's more like wow-so-much-has-happened-since-then-this-is-so-overwhelming-and-wonderful-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into type of way.

Am I the only one who ever feels that?

I've been blogging for nearly TWO YEARS now (and no, no matter how many times I say it, it does not become more real for me) and it's crazy to see how much has changed for me in terms of blogging in two years. It's especially crazy however to see how I've come to realize that blogging is a lot more than just writing out blog posts. It's a LOT more than that and one of the things I've learned about blogging is that it's very much a social activity. It's very weird for me because it started out solely as a personal endeavour but as the months have ticked by, I've started crawling out of my own little corner of the Internet and started to wander about into other people's territories. And while it was kinda weird at first to work up the nerve to comment and say hello, it's something that is ALMOST second nature for me when I'm blogging. And so, you know, I've ended up "meeting" a lot of super cool people.

I say "meeting" in quotations because I don't think you can call commenting on a blog a few times and maybe chatting occasionally on Twitter "meeting". I know it's common for bloggers to form lifetime bonds through blogging and I know a lot of book bloggers already have that but right now for me, that's more a fantasy than a reality. Because like I said, I've met a lot of really cool people but I don't think I've really gotten to know any of them really well. But I want to because everyone's just seems so fantastic.

It's kinda like the first day of school where everyone's doing introductions and then that one person just so happens to mention that one thing that you love too and then your mind's just set on befriending them.

Or am I the only one who feels that way?

But anyway, that's essentially what happens to me all the time in blogging. Because it's the internet though, I don't have to say a single word to get to know someone well and figure out what they like. Through reading blog posts or reading their tweets or whatever, I can learn a lot and I feel like that's a really creepy thing for me to say but it's true. You learn a lot indirectly and this is not to scare you guys into being more cautious about what you're putting out there (God knows I should be the one worrying about that) but more as an explanation of how I can make up my mind about someone and how sweet they are and so on without even really talking to them.

The thing about everything being online is that it's a lot harder, or maybe it's just me who finds it harder, to start up a conversation. In reality, it (usually) comes quite naturally for me to make conversation with someone by smiling but online, I just feel it can get really weird. I think everyone in general is really sweet and friendly and it might be more my extreme consciousness when it comes to Twitter but I feel like it's a bit odd if someone just randomly replies to your tweet if you've never seen them around before. Or randomly favourites your tweet.

So how do you approach someone online and talk to them? Obviously there has to be that first step of someone reaching out to one or the other but how can I make it not awkward? How do I say, "Hey I think you're a really interesting person and I know you don't know me but I read your blog and I've learned we have all these things in common and I just want to talk to you because you seem fabulous" without so many words and as random?

Because in the end, I just really love all of you guys and think you're all such great, wonderful and interesting people and want to get to know all of you better. HEY YOU, LET'S BE FRIENDS!

Now, tell me, do you ever have that feeling as a blogger? Where you've never really talked to another blogger but you comment from time to time and LOVE their blog and just know that you guys have this and this in common from posts and just REALLY want to get to know them better because they seem so cool and just have that urge to scream LET'S BE FRIENDS? 

And if you're still reading this, I have a favour to ask of you! I'm thinking of doing a Q&A video on my channel soon (just because I think it'd be a lot of fun) so if you have any questions you would like to ask me (of any type, doesn't have to be just book-related!), feel free to leave them in the comments! Thanks!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mid-Year Challenge Update & Check-In

Hey loves! Since we're about halfway through the year now (no exact calculations here), I thought that it might be a good idea to do a little check-in on how I've been doing with all of the challenges I signed up for. I have to admit, this is a bit more for myself than it really is for you but if you're doing any of these challenges, let me know how you're doing and we can cheer each other on!

The masterlist with all the challenges I signed up for was posted back in January and a lot has changed since then! I haven't even looked at that post in a really long time. Initially I was just going to update my results on that page only but then I wanted to do three separate update posts in the year so for future reference: that post was for updates from January to March, this post is for updates from March to June and the next post will be at the end of December for the last half of the year. Hope that makes sense? All right, here we go!

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Annie has read 1 book toward her goal of 100 books.

My goal this year is to read 100 books and honestly it isn't going as well as I thought it would. I've only ever managed to read 100 books one year and that was way back when I wasn't in high school so there's that. But now that it's the summer and I'm not going anywhere (god, I'm going to be so bored), I have time to read so I want to bring myself up to speed. I've actually already read 29 books this year so don't look at the Goodreads widget - it's lying! Honestly, I don't know why I have it because I've always hated updating that thing and it never seems to work for me. But anyway, there's that. I just have to read thirty more books by the end of August and I'll be good!


As for the Series challenge and the TBR challenge, well, I've decided to drop those. I wasn't doing very well on them anyway and I just hate the idea of having a list of books to read and then feeling bad whenever I forgot about it and picked up other books. I've also dropped the Commenting Challenge created by Asti because it just wasn't working out for me. I think I might do it in the future for two months or so but for now, if I'm commenting at least once a day, I'm happy with that.

But I am keeping all my bingo challenges! I've actually had a lot of fun doing them and they work a lot better for me because I can just continue reading whatever I want and then go back and check my card and usually, I'll be able to cross off a few.


Nearly halfway through! And having only read 29 books. If this is the rate I'm completing this card, then I'm pretty confident that by fifty books or so I'll have finished it. I already have planned what books I can read for some of the squares so I actually think this is all going rather well!

Hosted by Kelley @ Another Novel Read.

B1: read a book you've bought but haven't read yet
B2: Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar
B3: read a book that is out of your comfort zone
B4: read a book that teaches you something
B5: finish/reread a series

I1: read a nonfiction book you already own
I2: read a book you got for free
I3: read an ebook you already own
I4: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
I5: Relish by Lucy Knisley

N1: read a classic from your TBR list
N2: How to Love by Katie Cotugno
N4: read a verse novel
N5: read a book you got signed but haven't read

G1: finish a series that ends this year
G2: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
G3: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
G4: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
G5: finish a series that ended before 2014

O1: Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald
O2: read an indie book
O3: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
O4: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
O5: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Updating this now, I totally didn't realize I crossed off so many of the boxes, even with the tiny 29 books I've read so far! Only two boxes I have yet to complete, not including the free squares! Which is great so I'm just going to pat myself on the back. I think I cheated a bit for the series part though because I think I started more than I really continued. Oh well. It still counts, right? Because they were all still part of series that i wanted to start.

Hosted Anne @ Creativity Corner & Kristilyn @ Reading In Winter

B1: Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald
B2: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
B3: Relish by Lucy Knisley
B4: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
B5: Welcome, Caller, It's Chloe by Shelly Coriell

I2: Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
I3: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
I5: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

N1: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
N2: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
N3: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
N4: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
N5: Fire With Fire by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

G1: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
G3: The Diviners by Libba Bray
G5: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

O1: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
O2: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
O3: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
O4: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
O5: Fool Me Twice by Mandy Hubbard

First Random House bingo card out of two. Didn't do great on this but that's okay. I still have time and I'm working on it!

B1: The Diviners by Libba Bray
B3: Relish by Lucy Knisley
B5: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I4: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jolene Perry

N1: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
N5: Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

G1: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
G2: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
G3: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
G5: Fire With Fire by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

O2: The Diviners by Libba Bray

The YA bingo card. Same thing as above. Still working on this! I have quite a bit to go.

B3: The Diviners by Libba Bray
B4: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I1: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
I2: The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry
I4: Relish by Lucy Knisley
I5: Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

N2: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
N4: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

G3: How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

O1: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
O5:  Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

And those are all the challenges I've kept up with so far and my progress for each! I'm actually quite surprised with my progress on each of the bingo cards. Guess I just got lucky and managed to pick up the books that fit, eh? And like I said at the beginning of the year, as long as I keep reading, I won't fail!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1
Published April 15, 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 288 pages
Received from publisher -- thank you so much!

One of Lara Jean's most prized possession is an old hat box her mother gave to her before she passed away. Not only does it hold sentimental meaning but it also contains letters Lara Jean has written to a handful of boys she's loved as a way to move on, and they're not meant for anyone's eyes but hers. But one day, Lara Jean comes to find that all her letters have been mailed out and naturally, disaster ensues. Especially when one of the boys she addressed a letter to was her older sister's ex-boyfriend who then admits to have had feelings for her. And another boy who suddenly becomes her fake boyfriend. What?

I remember the day I first found out about this book and how I instantly thought, "This is such a ME book." First of all, cute cover that belongs on my tumblr. Second, private letters being sent out secretly to the boys they were addressed to? WORST NIGHTMARE. But totally a worst nightmare I would love to see play out in front of me. And this book was honestly one of the most fun books I've ever had the pleasure of reading, not to mention the most ADORABLE. Would reread a hundred times over.

That cover.
Being a self proclaimed cover afficionado (haha, not really), I just HAVE to talk about this cover. So, so pretty. The lettering for the title is so unique and that writing is gorgeous in that wish-I-had-it way. And how did they know about the bright pink? I mean, just take a look at my blog, clearly bright pink speaks to me. Also, Lara Jean's room is fabulous and I want to live in it, please. And hurray for no whitewashing! 

To All the Boys I've Loved Before had such a fun and interesting premise - one totally fit for a cute movie!
I think I've said this before somewhere but this book would seriously make the greatest sleepover movie. It's cute and sweet and so much fun. Though the book doesn't revolve around the sent letters as much as the synopsis would have you think, the letters do provide a kick-off point for all types of interesting things to happen and to be honest, To All the Boys I've Loved Before mainly centres around Lara Jean's fake relationship with Peter Kavinsky, one of the boys a letter was sent to and her first kiss. But the thing is, I love the fake relationship trope so it worked great for me. I loved that even despite knowing the inevitable would happen, it was so exciting to watch it all fall in place and get the fuzzies when it finally does.

Lara Jean could totally be my BFF.
I feel so strongly about this that I even wrote up a list of reasons why Lara Jean and I are essentially kindred spirits. But seriously, I LOVED Lara Jean as a character. Yes, she was naive at points and yes, she came off a bit whiney at points and was uncharacteristically childish but at the end of the day, I just really really liked her. Maybe it was because she spoke to me on a personal level because of all the little ways I could see myself in her but I loved her.

Great focus on family in this book and a strong paternal figure!
I love seeing family in books and I know I say that all the time but it honestly surprises me how family - such an integral part to all of our lives - doesn't pop up more in books, or as pronouncedly. To All the Boys I've Loved Before had a great focus on family though and I really appreciated that. I loved watching the relationship dynamics between Lara Jean and her sisters, Margot and Kitty. I don't have any siblings myself so I really enjoyed being able to have an inside peek and to me, at least, it all seemed really authentic. And of course, I had to mention Dr. Covey! Such a wonderful and hard-working person in general but a fantastic father. I loved reading about his relationship with the girls and it really made me happy to see how much they appreciated him and tried to help around to make it easier on him.

Peter Kavinsky.
Loved him. Oh my god, I don't even know what else to say except that he was fabulous and I need a Peter for myself. 

The ending.
You've probably heard it a bunch of times but that ending was probably the most abrupt one I've read in ages. So unsatisfying. But it makes me all excited for the sequel and to see if my ship will survive. I seriously hope it does. Otherwise I will be in shambles.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before totally reached my expectations for it and trust me when I say this, I went in expecting a lot. This was one of my most anticipated 2014 releases and wow, did it turn out to be a really satsifying read! Lara Jean was fabulous and one of my most favourite protagonists in a long while. I loved the family element in this book as well as the whole set-up of the plot. Such a sweet book. It gave me all the fuzzies! The only thing was the ending came by really suddenly which was such a disappointment but now I'm super excited for the sequel!

contemporary lovers looking for an adorable and satisfying read. If you liked Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson or 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, I think you'd like this one!


Jenni @ Xpresso Reads gives it 2 and a half stars: " I think I would have appreciated the novel a lot more if I had been able to identify with Lara Jean at all or if some of the romance worked for me but unfortunately it didn’t."

Kate @ The Book Monsters says "What was truly great about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was the pacing. The events take place right before school starts into Christmas break, and it felt like it. Sometimes it felt like I was getting just day to day stuff happening, sometimes bigger things occurred, but nothing felt rushed."

Aimee @ Deadly Darlings gives it 3 stars: "Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, although I found the writing to be a bit dull, sadly. I did like how things ended openly–it was a cute ending that left me wanting more."
Elena @ Novel Sounds says " I want more characters like Lara Jean. I would have LOVED this book as a teenager and I’m so thankful for Jenny Han."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Be Still, My Beating Heart! (A Sorta Film Review For TFIOS)

Today I'm going to be talking about The Fault in Our Stars movie and why, if you liked the book, you should definitely not miss out on this movie!

As I've been on an unofficial break of sorts from blogging, this post is very late. Initially I was going to have it up on the sixth of June, right after I watched it, but things just didn't work out. I have to admit, I've tried writing this post a bajillion times already and it seems the words aren't coming to me. Here goes another try as I'm making my jump back into my blogging.

So, where to start?

Well, first, let me rewind back to a few years ago when I read the book. It wasn't too long ago but it was well before The Fault in Our Stars blew up to the level it is at today. I liked it but I wasn't in love and it didn't make me cry. I definitely did not consider it a favourite so when word of the movie first leaked, I was rather indifferent to it all. 

But then, the trailer. Oh, the trailer. I talked a little bit more about it in this post which I think you should really read because I totally hit the nail on the head without even knowing it. I totally just predicted exactly how I would react to the movie. God, am I psychic or something? But seriously, after watching the trailer, my little heart just kinda seized up with a rediscovered love for the book. Even after I had grown increasingly less fond of the book over time. I don't know what it was but something about the movie just looked so RIGHT. Like it would be everything I liked about the book and not anything I didn't like about the book.

And true to my word, I was at the theatre the very day it premièred! I actually had an exam that day but it worked out rather well as my exam was early in the morning and I was able to just head to the theatre straight after (well, not before getting some lunch) to watch it.

I don't think I was ever more nervous to see a movie. Like seriously. I was shaking going into the theatre. And I walked out shaking. But don't worry, it was in the best way possible. Because the movie was great, and this is why:

1. They stuck to the book...
The Fault in Our Stars is such a PHENOMENON by itself that I think the producers made a smart decision by choosing not to deviate from the general storyline. I read The Fault in Our Stars a few years ago and seeing it on screen made my heart fill up with joy. Like, WOW IT'S ALL SO REAL. I think I must have squealed non-stop during the entire film, especially when Shailene and Ansel started speaking the lines from the book. It was so flipping perfect and didn't sound at all pretentious like I felt it did in the book.

2. ...But cut out unnecessary bits
Honestly, I didn't even notice anything was missing (like the Caroline bit) until I Wikipedia'd the book and I think, on screen at least, it was better the way they did it without the parts that didn't really add anything to the general storyline. For me - someone who wasn't totally in love with all of the book - it was like an airbrushed version of the book that worked really well for me. I don't think maybe that the story they stuck to for the film would have worked so well as a novel but I think I prefer the film version anyway.

3. Ansel Elgort as Gus was fantastic.
When the casting for Gus was announced, I think my jaw dropped. Totally did not think Ansel was the right guy for Gus because he didn't look anything like the Gus I had in my mind. I don't know why I had such a hard time getting over Ansel not looking like my Gus but I did. Even watching the movie at the beginning, I felt he was so wrong. BUT then. He grew on me. With each smirk, I felt myself more assured that Ansel was Gus and Gus was Ansel. I can still see where I didn't think he looked much like Gus but now, they're kinda becoming one and the same for me. Ansel might not have had the look of Gus that I felt like he had to have but he captured Gus' demeanour straight on and his acting was great. Like that gas station scene? My heart!

The movie just did everything really well. It all came together in such a fabulous way and it was just great. Like I don't know what else to say even after a few weeks since watching this film other than it was great. It delivered all the emotional punches to the gut that the book didn't manage and while I didn't sob, I did tear up a bit. Not that my cry-o-meter is such an accurate way of measuring emotion because I seriously cry at the most random things. Like during a Jennifer Aniston comedy.

I know I rambled on a lot but basically what I want you to take from this is that if you are a fan of the book, you SHOULD go watch the movie, if you haven't already. It definitely does not disappoint and I think even if you haven't read a book or are indifferent to it, The Fault in Our Stars stands well alone as a film and though it is directed mainly to teens, I think everyone can find something to appreciate and relate to about this movie.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy #1
Published November 2013 by Razorbill (Reprint)
Paperback, 332 pages
Borrowed from library

In the world Vampire Academy is set in, humans live among vampires. There are three types of vampires: Moroi, Dhampirs, and Strigoi. Moroi are pure vampires while dhampirs are half-human, half-Moroi. And as for Strigoi, they're dead vampires turned immortal when they kill another being. And they're out to kill more...

So because of the threat of Strigoi, all Moroi royalty need guardians. Rose Hathaway is her best friend Princess Lissa Dragomir's guardian. They've been on the run together since escaping their school St. Vladimir's but when the book starts, are seen being taken back to the school. And even though THEY should be safe there, what with all the guardians stationed around the school, peculiar things start to happen... DUN DUN DUNNN

The main thing I have to say in regards to this book is WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO READ IT?? I must be the last person on Earth to have finished this book and even though this review is wayy overdue (I finished Vampire Academy back in April), I still have so many FEELS and THOUGHTS because this book is FABULOUS and I want to shout it from the hilltops because yeah, it's just amazing.

Vampire Academy takes vampires and totally turns the idea of them on its head.
Ever since reading Twilight, I've stayed away from vampire novels and not because I thought Twilight had a horrible depiction of vampires (though I have to say, the glamorization of the vampires was sorta hilarious). I just wasn't really more novels about vampires which was why I was super hesitant to read Vampire Academy. OH MY GOD THOUGH because Vampire Academy takes all my opinions of vampires (those glittery creatures, anyone?) - mostly formed by Twilight - and flips it on its head. Vampires in this book are stronger, faster, bigger, cooler and way, way more scary. 

I thought the details of the world in which the vampires existed here were much more fleshed out too.
Here I go, comparing it to Twilight even though I said I wouldn't. But let me just say this real quick: the world-building in Vampire Academy was fabulous and thought out really well. I felt like all the little details were considered and that really was what helped make this book such an engrossing read. In Twilight, the world wasn't nearly as interesting or captivating which is okay because I liked Twilight for other things. But if you want to see strong world-building, check out this book!

Rose is a strong leading female character.
Enough said. But if you want more, how about this: Rose is one of the most interesting and strongest heroines that I've ever read and I love that about her. She isn't scared to say what she thinks and while bad things happen to her, she holds her head high and treks through each day like a warrior. 

Rose and Lissa have a great friendship and I loved reading about the two of them!
Friendship is something that I always say I would love to see more in YA and I definitely got that in this book! There is a really strong focus on Lissa and Rose's friendship in this book and while they certainly aren't your typical BFFs, I thought it worked superb and maybe even helped elevate their relationship dynamic.

Yes, it had to be in all caps because Dimitri, DUDE. OH MY FREAKING GIBLETS. DIMITRI. I GET IT NOW. EVERYONE WHO WAS SCREAMING ABOUT HIM. I GET IT. I GET IT. Even if I didn't like everything else about this book as much as I did, I think I would still continue the series because Dimitri was fabulous. Yes, that is how much I liked him. 

I liked this book a whole lot more than I thought I would! Seriously one of the most captivating, amazing books I've read in a long while. Every single minute I was away from this book was HORRIBLE because all I wanted to do was read, read, read. You will get hooked by this series once you start but it's not a bad thing at all because it is FANTASTIC so if you haven't read it yet, go read it now.

I'm going to say it: I think fans of Twilight would really love this book. And I think if you're in a search of a fun book to read, this is so made for you too!