Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cram-a-Thon TBR + Updates!

Hi all! 
So if you follow me on YouTube channel, you may have noticed it's been a while since I've posted video. It's mainly because being a first year in uni is CRAZY; I can't even imagine what else is in store for my next three and a half years here! Also, I've been under quite a bit of stress. I went through a little rough patch and honestly thought I wouldn't be able to post another video until the new year, which is not true but I definitely will have to wait until my exams are over to have time to post anything.
Something I do seem to have the chance to do is blog posts: so I'm starting this baby back up! I figure it's a great way to update my reading but not have to get all fancy for the camera or spend the time editing and uploading a video. Today, I wanted to talk about my Cram-a-Thon TBR pile!
If you don't know what cram-a-thon is, it was started by Whitney at whittynovels (who is an awesome human being) last year when she wanted to get more books read for her Goodreads goal. She sets challenges for the read-a-thon to help build a tbr, but you don't necessarily have to follow them, you can participate however you'd like! This year's end-of-year cram-a-thon is taking place December 19th-22nd. Unfortunately, I've got a 3 hour exam to write on the 20th, and then two 8-hour shifts the next days, but I'm pretty confident I can get more reading done than I have all December. (I've literally read nothing but class-required stuff all December.)
I've made up a very ambitious TBR for the short 2 weeks I have off from class, but I'm hoping to read as much as possible, and so I figured participating in the cram-a-thon might be worth it! I'm not really aiming for any challenges, but if I hit some in the process, it's not a bad thing!

1. Winter, Marissa Meyer
Now, I've already started this one. But there's no way with all the things I have planned and an exam that I will finish this before the read-a-thon begins. It completes the "finish a series" challenge, as it is the last book in The Lunar Chronicles series. Which is amazing, by the way. It's a series on retellings of several different fairytales but it's sci-fi and there's this weird evolved species of humans that live on the moon with an evil-tyrant queen ruling over them. It's really cool, really fun, and you will love the characters.

2. Saga Vol 5, Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples
This technically completes the challenge "read a graphic novel". It is the most recent trade of the Saga comic series that has been released. I love this series, though it's not for the youngings as there are scenes of nudity and *whispers* people doing the do. But it's so much fun, it's like Romeo and Juliet if they ran away... and had a baby... in space... and had many different people/alien species running after them. So much fun! I'm very excited to get to this!

3. Beyond the Night, Alexandra Bracken
This completes the challenge "read a book under 200 pages" as it is a novella published in a bind-up with the two other novellas that take place inside Bracken's The Darkest Minds world. I've noticed that her writing isn't for everyone, but personality I love it! It always provokes strong emotions in me, and I love it when a book can do that. The Darkest Minds series - if you didn't know already - follows teenagers in a dystopian world where a plague wiped out many others their age. However, since they survived, they developed different mind abilities. It's really cool and super road-trip-y. I've already read the whole series, including the other two novellas published, and I can't wait to read this last one!

4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
*hides under table* so I haven't finished the Harry Potter series. I know, I know, I've heard it many times. (trust me I work in a book store, there's nothing worse than your co-workers at a bookstore finding out you've never read Harry Potter.) But that story is for another time. Basically, this fifth book is the next one I have to read and I really enjoy the audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale. I may half-read half-listen to this one, since I do own the book (and I did read the fourth book without audiobook help). But this one is so long, and I like being able to multi-task during the boring parts. So audiobook it is! Not sure if I'll finish it during the read-a-thon since it is so long, but it's worth a start! If I were to finish, it would hit another challenge, "read an audiobook."

So that's all I've got in mind, and more than I think I've got time for, but I'm really gonna try to find! I hope you're all doing very well, let me know what you're reading by leaving me a comment, or shoot me a tweet!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review: Masterminds by Gordan Korman

Title: Masterminds

Author: Gordan Korman

Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Mystery

POV: first person, switching between 5 characters

Average Rating: 4.28 stars (subject to change)

My Rating: 5 stars


Barnes & Noble | Chapters/Indigo

(I received an ARC of this book through my job)

Masterminds is about a group of kids who live in the most "boring" town in the United States; Serenity, New Mexico. Although, their parents would rather call it the safest and top rated town in the country. It takes a total of eight minutes to walk across (as long as there's no trucks hauling orange plastic construction cones to get in the way). Every parent in the town who isn't a teacher, doctor, or plumber, works at the city's pride and joy, Plastic Works. The only people you never recognize are the town's police system, otherwise known as the "Purple People Eaters".

In the beginning, our main character, Eli, and his best friend Randy, decide to bike just outside the city's limits. But as soon as they cross the town border, Eli collapses with a sudden headache and nausea. When he wakes up, he finds his friend being sent away to live with his grandparents. The only thing he leaves behind is a strange note telling Eli that something's up in their perfect town, and that Randy is something Eli is not; linked to the world's most notorious criminals, perhaps?

Serenity is a creepy town if you've lived in a city your whole life. Even if you think your city is small, think again. There are a total of thirty kids in Serenity; every one knows everyone. There's no crime, no poverty, nothing. Every house is an average, middle class home, each with a pool and basketball net.

What I loved about this setting is how quaint it was; every knows everyone, everyone knows how to get around, and who has what flowers on their front porch. But then there's Plastic Works, where each kid can only imagine what it might look like on the inside because they're not allowed in. It's all fenced up and the "Purple People Eaters" are constantly guarding it. And like I mentioned, the only people the kids don't know by name are the "Purple People Eaters." Again, a little creepy.

This setting sets the perfect tone for the novel. It tips the scale on which "side" the reader should be on: kids vs. adults.

With this being a Middle Grade novel, the synopsis does make it a little easy to guess what the ending is. And, actually, I knew what the "ending" was before even realizing it was a spoiler. It's a spoiler you don't realize is a spoiler, like telling people that Harry Potter is a wizard. Either way, I still had so much fun reading this!

I loved the characters and each of their distinct personalities. By the middle of the book, I rarely had to look at the chapter headings to know who's point of view we'd switched to. Also, because of the multiple POVs, we didn't just see Eli's, but two other boys and two girl's POVs; which helps make it gender-neutral and relatable.

I've always mentioned that I love book with lots of character dynamic, and if you do too, I highly suggest you read this. They all had their own funny/sassy moments that added comic relief to the intensity of the plot line. "Intense enough to stay action-y and keep you reading, but fun enough that it won't freak out a younger audience", a direct quote from the notes I made while reading; good job, past Emily.

In the end, there's the question of Nature vs. Nurture, and in that case, I'd recommend it to the older middle grade audience (11 or so), because it can be a more difficult concept to grasp. But, being older, I found this part super interesting and a great way to tie the real-world into this fictional town.

I will definitely be purchasing a copy of my own and continuing this series. I can't wait to sell this at the book store where I work, since I'm always looking for awesome Middle Grade titles to recommend! The plot was super interesting, and the writing pulled me in and kept me there; how I like it! I have no clue what might happen next, and I'm excited for the other two books in the trilogy!

Let me know if you plan on picking this one up, and if you already have, what did you think?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan

Title: The 100 (The Hundred)

Author: Kass Morgan

Genre: Sci-Fi/Dystopian

POV: Third Person (switches between four main character's POVs each chapter)

Average Rating: 3.49

My Rating: 2.5


Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Chapters/Indigo
The 100 follows a society living above the Earth after a nuclear war made it un-livable. However, now that's it's been hundreds of years since, the leaders of the society have decided to send people down to test the livability of Earth. Their test subjects? 100 teens that have been convicted and await their 18th birthdays until they're re-trialed and most-likely executed.
We see the story through four pairs of eyes as each chapter follows a different character in third person. Clarke was arrested for treason; Wells will do anything to get back the girl; Bellamy just wants to protect his sister; and Glass is about to discover that the ship isn't as safe as she always thought.

Within The 100, we get to see the two different settings we're most interested in; the ship, and Earth.
Within the ship are three different colonies; Phoenix, Walden, and Arcadia. Phoenix consists of the most privileged, where Walden and Acadia consist of the lower class who become guards, and work to provide basic needs (food, sanitation, materials). Through Glass, and flashbacks in other's POVs, we get to see daily life on the ship as well as the justice system and relationships between the different colonies.
We don't get to venture too far when the ship lands on Earth. The teens simply make camp and wait to either die or be rescued. They land in a forest, and from descriptions of what Earth looks like from space, it seems that almost the whole planet is covered in forest (but we can't be certain). The biggest difference is when we get to see animals. After radiation wiped the planet, the animals all evolved, and the descriptions of the animals we see are pretty cool!

Here's where I can talk about my problems with this book. I loved the concept and found the premise very interesting, but I think it could've been executed better. The writing just fell flat for me. I found the secrets very easy to guess minus maybe two? And while the constant flashbacks were fun, some of them felt unnecessary and the only major purpose for them was to explain thing I'd already figured out and weave all the character's lives together.
I liked that each character had a complex past, but it never showed through in their personality or behavior. Everything the characters did seemed to be all impulse and I hate to say it but, stupidity. Even when a character tried to justify something for themselves, it just didn't make sense.
And the romance? It completely took priority over the plot. Every single character is in their own horrible and stupid situation solely because of their mostly romantic (and rarely platonic) feelings for someone else. I picked up this book because the plot intrigued me, and then there was no plot. The only rising action I found was after the non-climatic climax to explain the climax and then a cliff-hanger that was never even foreshadowed.
If it weren't for the short length, and flipping back and forth from different perspectives, I'm not sure that I would've gotten through the book.

I picked up this book because I've heard nothing but amazing things about it's TV adaptation on the CW. In the end, this book is definitely made for the screen and I'll still be watching the show despite my dislike of the book. As for the second and upcoming third book, I'll try to read them, but I won't be wasting my time if I find the plot nonexistent and the writing flat, again.
If you like a sci-fi/dystpoian setting and romance being the driving force, I'd recommend this book for you, but unfortunately, it was not for me.

Have you read The 100? Do you watch the TV show? Let me know your thoughts in a comment or hit me up on Twitter!