Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fantastic Fives Interview

The Fantastic Fives celebration is being held by Jaime from Two Chicks on Books and Amber from Me, My Shelf, and I to celebrate their five year blogoversaries. They asked other bloggers that have been blogging for five years to join in the event, and I thought it would be a) fun to participate in and b) a good way for you to get to know me better.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  
I’m a twenty-five year old who still doesn’t feel like an adult. But, I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and neuroscience and a Master’s degree. I’m currently a teacher, and when I’m not lesson planning, you can find me engrossed in a fantasy or a contemporary. 

How did you get started blogging? 
I decided to start blogging after reading Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox. At the time, I just wanted to tell someone how great this book was, but I knew that my sister – who isn’t a big reader – wouldn’t really care. So, I turned to the Internet, and found out that there was a whole community of bibliophiles online. I figured I could do this blogging thing too; and that’s how my blog was born. 

How did you pick the name for your blog? 
When I was trying to name my blog, I knew that I wanted “YA Reader” in there somewhere to make it clear that that was what I was interested in reading and blogging about. The “Musings” part came from the idea that I was going to be reflecting on my thoughts. 

If you could go back in time and tell your newbie blogger self 1 thing what would it be? 
I would tell myself to not resist social media. Getting a Twitter account enabled me to not only promote my posts, but also learn about different bookish events, and connect with bloggers and publishers, especially Canadian ones. 

What have you learned in your 5 years of blogging? 
My life has changed over these past five years, and there are periods when I can’t blog as much, so I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from blogging for this long has been to become comfortable with taking blogging breaks or not posting as much in some months. I used to feel like all my readers would disappear if I took a break, but I now know that’s not true. 

What was the first ARC or book you ever received from a publisher? My first book that I ever received from a publisher was an ARC of Paige Harbison’s Here Lies Bridget. I still remember being so excited that a publisher (Harlequin Teen) approved me to read a book on NetGalley. 

When you’re not reading or blogging, what can we find you doing? When I’m not reading or blogging, you’ll probably find me either napping, – I love naps! – watching T.V., – I tend to binge-watch shows and am currently hooked on The Flash, Arrow, Switched at Birth and Suits – or researching random things. I might also be going for a jog, depending on the weather and the season.

The Fives: (and yes, you can ONLY have 5! *muwhahahah*)

Five Favorite Books
1) The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
2) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
3) If I Stay by Gayle Forman
4) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
5) Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Five Favorite Book Boyfriends 
1) Gilbert from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series (my first fictional crush!)
2) Dimitri from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series (I’d be happy with either Adrian or Christian too, however)
3) Valek from Maria Snyder’s Study series
4) Red (aka Lord Hugh) from Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest
5) Jase from Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door

Five Favorite Book Quotes
I don’t normally highlight quotes, and am terrible at remembering them anyway; so I’m going to skip this question :)

Five Blogging Tips For New Bloggers
1) You don’t have to post everyday. Quality is more important than quantity!
2) Find bloggers who share the same tastes in books as you and connect with them. Some of these people might end up becoming your good friends!
3) Be selective in what you request; not only do you want to keep your TBR pile manageable, but you also don’t want to force yourself to read something you know you’re probably not going to like.
4) It’s okay to blog about old releases!
5) If you’re lucky to have bookish events in your area, try to attend them because they’re a great way to meet fellow booklovers and bloggers.

Five Blogs You Want The World To Know About
5) A Tapestry of Words

Don't forget to check out the rest of the Fantastic Fives!
November 8 Books Etc.
November 9 Fiktshun  
November 10 Two Chicks On Books  
November 11 Me, My Shelf and I
November 12 Bewitched Bookworms
November 13 Novel Novice
November 14 Book Angel Booktopia  
November 15 Maer Wilson  
November 16 Taking It One Book At A Time
November 17 YA Book Shelf
November 18 Musings of a YA Reader
November 19 Bookish Lifestyle  
November 20 Once Upon A Twilight  
November 21 Stories & Sweeties
November 22 Bookaholics Anonymous

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine

From Goodreads: In the year since the collapse of the slaughterhouse where Wen worked as her father’s medical assistant, she’s held all her secrets close. She works in the clinic at the weapons factory and sneaks away to nurse Bo, once the Ghost, now a boy determined to transform himself into a living machine. Their strange, fragile friendship soothes some of the ache of missing Melik, the strong-willed Noor who walked away from Wen all those months ago - but it can’t quell her fears for him. The Noor are waging a rebellion in the west. When she overhears plans to crush Melik’s people with the powerful war machines created at the factory, Wen makes the painful decision to leave behind all she has known - including Bo - to warn them. But the farther she journeys into the warzone, the more confusing things become. A year of brutality seems to have changed Melik, and Wen has a decision to make about him and his people: How much is she willing to sacrifice to save them from complete annihilation? 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The second book in Sarah Fine’s Of Metal and Wishes duology, Of Dreams and Rust was even better than Of Metal and Wishes! In this novel, Wen continues to grow as a character, and truly learns to look beyond race to consider how war affects individuals. Although I liked her in Of Metal and Wishes, she really became a character I admired in this book.

The romance continued to be something I enjoyed as well. Since Of Dreams and Rust is set a year later and Melik has been gone during this time, Wen has developed feelings for Bo. However, it becomes pretty clear early on that Wen’s heart still belongs to Melik and that the love that she has for Bo is very different.

Besides the lack of a love triangle, I also liked that the romance wasn’t without its challenges. The Noor – who we learn more about in this novel – and Itanyai have different beliefs, and it was good to see Melik and Wen acknowledge those differences and try to bridge the gaps.

A book that concluded on a somewhat bittersweet note because some characters that I loved died, Of Dreams and Rust was released by Margaret K. McElderry Books in August 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I like how the model is wearing brighter colours like the Noor and looking back as if she’s saying goodbye to her familiar life.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Mini Reviews: The Uninvited by Cat Winters and Ungodly by Kendare Blake

From Goodreads: Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days. But Ivy’s life-long gift - or curse - remains. For she sees the uninvited ones - ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War. Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Cat Winters’ YA books, I was curious to see what her adult novel, The Uninvited, would be like. Since I didn’t bother reading the synopsis before beginning The Uninvited, I was surprised to find out that it was set in 1918 America, a time period Winters had already explored in her debut novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Like with In the Shadow of Blackbirds, ghosts and the Spanish influenza play a role in The Uninvited; but The Uninvited’s focus is more on how World War I affected everyday Americans – particularly those of German background – living in America at the time. Personally, I liked In the Shadow of Blackbirds better; but The Uninvited is still worth a read, especially if you enjoy the combination of historical and paranormal elements. 

The Uninvited was released in August 2015 by William Morrow.

From Goodreads: For the Goddess of Wisdom, what Athena didn’t know could fill a book. That’s what Ares said. So she was wrong about some things. So the assault on Olympus left them beaten and scattered and possibly dead. So they have to fight the Fates themselves, who, it turns out, are the source of the gods’ illness. And sure, Athena is stuck in the underworld, holding the body of the only hero she has ever loved. But Hermes is still topside, trying to power up Andie and Henry before he runs out of time and dies, or the Fates arrive to eat their faces. And Cassandra is up there somewhere too. On a quest for death. With the god of death. Just because things haven’t gone exactly according to plan, it doesn't mean they’ve lost. They’ve only mostly lost. And there’s a big difference. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Ungodly, the final book in the Goddess War series by Kendare Blake, was a book I was looking forward to reading because I wanted to see if my favourite goddess from Greek mythology (Athena) would emerge victorious. With the way things ended in Mortal Gods, Ungodly starts at three separate points – in the Underworld with Athena and Odysseus, in Kincade with Hermes, Andie and Henry, and in California with Cassandra and Calypso. I wasn’t too keen about having to read about Cassandra without the others because she was my least favourite character in the previous books. Also, I felt that Ungodly was rushed in terms of how things were wrapped up, and wasn’t completely satisfied with the explanation given for why the gods were dying. 

Ungodly was released by Tor Teen in September 2015.  

Monday, November 02, 2015

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

From Goodreads: Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend - who might want to be something more. She also has a secret. Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it. When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California - where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I still haven’t read the second and third books in Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns series, I decided to check out her newest book, Walk on Earth a Stranger, because I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Knowing that Walk on Earth wouldn’t be a fantasy, however, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, once again, Carson’s novel had great characterization and setting.

Leah (aka Lee) was a protagonist I fully supported, and I loved that her parents didn’t restrict her due to her gender, allowing her to learn to shoot, ride, and mine gold. When Leah’s parents are murdered by her uncle because of her ability to sense gold, Leah refuses to stay under her uncle’s guardianship. Instead, she dresses up as a boy and heads west, without much of a plan other than hoping to meet up with her best friend (who also left home) along the way and going to California together to get rich. Normally, I’d consider this to be foolhardy; but considering Leah’s circumstances, I thought she was pretty brave.

Where I was hoping for more though was from the plot as it was very slow-paced and didn’t really seem to involve much other than Leah traveling, with people getting hurt along the way. Leah’s ability to sense gold, for example, barely plays a role in the book! The slow pacing, however, does help with the setting since it allows the reader to really get a feel for how the land must have looked during the 1800s.

Walk on Earth a Stranger was released by Greenwillow Books in September 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I think the background could be better, but I love the font’s style and colour.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

From Goodreads: Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical - most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent - and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie - and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I don’t normally read adult novels, Rummanah from Books in the Spotlight's review of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project convinced me to add it to my wishlist. Then I found out that the author was an Australian, and since I haven’t been disappointed by any Aussie authors so far, I knew I had to give The Rosie Project a try.

I don’t think I’ve read a book yet where the main character is on the autism spectrum, but there’s an allusion that Don is on it. Case in point: He is quite rigid in his behaviour and lacks the ability to understand social situations. In fact, Don’s inability to interpret language figuratively often leads to amusing misunderstandings.

When Rosie enters Don’s life, she challenges Don to step out of his box. At the same time, she accepts him for who he is, and asks that he do the same for her. Their relationship – and how much it throws off Don – was so fun to read about!

The Rosie Project was released on October 1, 2013 by Simon and Schuster. 

Comments About the Cover: I think it’s cute and effective because of its simplicity.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: High-school radio host Jasmine Torres's life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around. That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future. Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her. Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health - not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Jennifer Walkup’s This Ordinary Life was a book that I thought would be a heavier read because the main character’s brother has epilepsy and their mother is an alcoholic. Surprisingly though, This Ordinary Life is a pretty light read for the most part since its focus is more on the relationship between Jasmine and Wes than Jasmine’s life at home. 

While the characters could have been more fleshed out, I liked Jasmine due to her practical nature. For example, when she finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, she dumps him right away and refuses to take him back. Then, when she finds Wes attractive, she takes the time to get to know him as a friend instead of jumping into another relationship. You know you’re not going to have unnecessary drama when you have a protagonist like Jasmine!

A book that was every easy to get through, This Ordinary Life will be released on October 1, 2015 by Luminis Books, Inc. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the design.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

From Goodreads: It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing - and what she's running from - before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I picked up Sarah Beth Durst’s The Lost, I thought it was a YA novel. So, I was totally unprepared for the protagonist to be in her late twenties. Once I realized this and adjusted my expectations, The Lost turned out to be a pretty solid read.

I absolutely loved the premise of The Lost! The idea of a town where people and things end up if they’re lost – literally or figuratively – was really original, and the way the town was depicted … you can just feel yourself despairing of the hope of ever leaving.

While I wasn’t as in love with the characters, I did like them; and found myself relating to Lauren quite a bit. When we’re kids, I think we think that life will work out perfectly for us, but as we get older, we realize that may not be the case. Lauren, for example, tried for years to make a living as an artist before deciding to find a job that pays the bills; I myself had to go back to graduate school to find a job in my respective field and know many people who either still can’t find jobs or have found jobs that aren’t personally fulfilling.

The romance was pretty good too. Although it got annoying how often Lauren mentioned how hot Peter was, there was no insta-love. As well, even though there was an opportunity for a possible love triangle to develop, I liked that Lauren stayed true to her feelings.

The Lost was released by Harlequin MIRA in May 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m not really sure why the word “Lost” isn’t written on one line, but I don’t like it.