2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge

Happy New Years Eve everyone!! With just a few hours of 2015 left, I decided it was time to join one more challenge for 2016 (although it probably won’t be the last!)

2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge

  • A book based on a fairy tale
  • A National Book Award winner
  • A YA bestseller
  • A book you haven’t read since high school
  • A book set in your home state
  • A book translated to English
  • A romance set in the future
  • A book set in Europe
  • A book that’s under 150 pages
  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A book that’s becoming a movie this year
  • A book recommended by someone you just met
  • A self-improvement book
  • A book you can finish in a day
  • A book written by a celebrity
  • A political memoir
  • A book at least 100 years older than you
  • A book that’s more than 600 pages
  • A book from Oprah’s Book Club
  • A science fiction novel
  • A book recommended by a family member
  • A graphic novel
  • A book that is published in 2016
  • A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
  • A book that takes place during Summer
  • A book and its prequel
  • A murder mystery
  • A book written by a comedian
  • A dystopian novel
  • A book with a blue cover
  • A book of poetry
  • The first book you see in a bookstore
  • A classic from the 20th century
  • A Book from the library
  • An autobiography
  • A book about a road trip
  • A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with
  • A satirical book
  • A book that takes place on an island
  • A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy

I’m hoping I can use some of the books I choose for this for other challenges as well.  And I already know I won’t make it through this entire list because I do not read political memoirs or autobiographies.  But who knows? A few months ago I didn’t read Adult Romance, so anything might change!

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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This is Where it Ends

Marieke Nijkamp

Publication: 1/5/16

Source: Netgalley, e-ARC

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Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

*I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.*


 

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.


 

I don’t like to read books about serious subjects. When I read I want to be taken to a place where I don’t have to face problems and issues that we already see too much of everyday. That is why I don’t like books about disease/death, rape/abuse or even really mental illness or suicide. I get that these books are important and totally support them being written and other people reading them, I would rather just read a book where all of the worlds problems are disguised in terms of magic and whatnot.

So, for the life of me I don’t know why I requested This is Where it Ends, a book where the plot is told over 54 in the midst of a school shooting. I had no plans on actually reading it. And then I decided to make a blog and to dedicate myself to reading all of the ARCs I was lucky enough to be granted (future ARCs, that is. The ones from last year will probably continue to sit on my kindle).

So I went into this book knowing it wasn’t a subject I wanted to read about. I’d like to add that when I do decide to venture into the realistic, difficult topic type books, I expect to be destroyed. I want to be sobbing in a ball by the end of the book. Or I want to be so angry that I could rage for hours. Or my head to hurt from all the thinking the book forced me to do.

And all I feel right now is indifference. Ok, my eyes got a bit blurry at the end, but the rest of the time I was reading? I felt nothing. Actually, I was bored. Every time I “turned” the page, I had to tell myself not to DNF it. That a book with such a delicate topic deserved to be read. That these voices deserved to be heard.

But I kind of wish I DNFed it around 50% when I first wanted to.

I didn’t exactly expect it, but the synopsis told me this would be the ultimate game of survival. And while it was, because it was told from the POV of 4 different victims, it was still boring. It was basically a bunch of flashbacks so that readers can understand what made these four narrators special and their relationship to, Tyler, the shooter.

Autumn: Tyler’s sister. An aspiring ballerina with an abusive father.

Sylvia: Autumn’s girlfriend. POC. Mother is very ill. Tyler has it out for her for “stealing” and “corrupting” his sister

Tomas: Sylvia’s twin brother. Has gotten into fights with Tyler and knows Tyler did something that made his sister terrified of him. Is a lovable troublemaker.

Claire: Tyler’s ex girlfriend. ROTC member, does her duty. Has a brother with Lupus.

See these characters are so wonderful. And so, so boring.

Obviously a book with such an important topic doesn’t have to be non-stop action for it to be worthwhile, but I just couldn’t get over how bored I was.  I could barely tell the characters apart and there wasn’t a single one that I actually connected with.  Maybe I can’t connect with them because I have, thankfully, never experience anything as harrowing as this, but I should feel something for them.  And I didn’t. If I didn’t have their names right up there I probably wouldn’t even remember them.

There was quite a bit of romance that I was not expecting for a book about a school shooting.  Half the time the characters were going on and on about their love lives. And yeah, I’m sure it’s impossible not to think about the people you love in times of crisis, but it just went a bit too far in this book.

I have seen a few other reviewers mention that Tyler is presented as almost entirely evil .  And I would kind of have to agree.  It wasn’t my main issue with the book, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice it and that it  didn’t detract from my overall feelings for the book.

Sidetrack here, but the thing I love most about the Game of Thrones series (ASOIF) is that there are such wonderfully complex, morally grey characters. Every time I read it, it reminds me that we don’t live in a world of Good vs Evil. It’s human vs human. In the wise words of some character in Harry Potter (can’t remember for the life of me): “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” And this book doesn’t take either of those ideas into consideration.

So if there was ever a time to see someone like Tyler’s POV, this book would be it.  Instead we are presented with pretty much just an evil kid hellbent on revenge. Actually, just go read  Nenia Campbell’s review. I agree with everything she says and she does so  way better than I can.  Presenting the shooter in this way does nothing to help us understand how/why school shootings happen or how we can help prevent them.

Also, a lot of what bothered me about this book was that I couldn’t get a clear image in my head of what was going on. And it has nothing to do with the fact that in times of crisis things blur together. I think it had less to do with the fact that it was told from 4 different POV, and more to do with that it is told within 2-4 minute increments, with each character retelling the same events in some cases. An example is when Autumn is walking towards her brother in the auditorium, and it goes on for like 15 pages where he hasn’t noticed her and she is still walking.  I’m probably not explaining it right, it just bothered me.

So I gave this book a 2. I was strongly in the 1 camp for the majority of it, but it did make me tear up and I did end up finishing it, so I didn’t exactly hate it. I was just disappointed.

I’m back!

I want to thank everyone who wished me well while I was sick.  What started off seeming to be simple food poisoning evolved into a still unknown infection and an inflamed stomach.

2 ER trips, 1 night in the hospital for observation, multiple blood tests, x rays, CT scans and even an ultra sound and probably thousands of dollars  later…and all they have really been able to determine is that I definitely have acid reflux disease. I also learned that the hospital is the last place you will ever actually be able to sleep and doctors are pretty useless, especially in teaching hospitals. Nurses for the win.

BUT I am feeling a lot better!  I’m back at work and plan on trying to maybe finish one more book before 2015 is over.  My reading and review schedule got all messed up thanks to my illness, but I’m not going to worry too much about it.  With only 1.5 days left of the year I’m focusing on 2016!!

It’s weird how even taking a week off from actively blogging will knock me out of my routine I’ve built.  I will probably be a bit wonky for the next few days while I try to get back into the swing of things! Thanks for sticking with me!

–Alahna

This Week I’m Waiting on: Salt to the Sea

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

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Salt to the Sea

Ruta Sepetys

February 2, 2016


 

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

I Rarely read about WWII from a perspective outside of the Holocaust “experience” or the American POV.  I think I read somewhere that this is inspired by a true story or events and that’s always interesting.  Plus I really loved Out of the Easy.

ARC Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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Passenger

Passenger #1

Alexandra Bracken

Publication: 1/5/2016

Source: Netgalley e-ARC

4stars

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


 passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever


*I feel like I should start off my review by saying that I am completely and totally biased when it comes to this book.  I LOVE books with time travel. That totally might influcence by ability to write an objective review*

With that said, I really did enjoy this book.  It actually reminded me a lot of the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier (which is one of my favorites)  only, expanded.  Etta and Nicholas go all over the world and through all these different time periods, which was really, really cool.

I think the plot started off a bit slow in the present day and even once Etta arrived in the 18th Century.  I feel like there was too much time spent on the ship.  I get that these scenes held character development, but it slowed the book down.  Once Etta and Nicholas escape into the past again, that’s where the story picks up.  And it was awesome.  It was jam packed with action, as well as wonderful worldbuilding and even more character development.

And I loved being transported  to the different years and locations and I think Bracken did a wonderful job of bringing everything to life. Some periods were stronger than others, but I did feel as if I were in the middle of the Bltiz in London, or in the jungle in Cambodia.  She paints vivid scenes, and in a book like this that’s what you really need.

I really enjoyed that the plot and the characters discussed the difficulties (which is putting it very mildly) that both women and people of color faced throughout history.  And not just in the 18th century.  Even when they go to 1940s London they have to assess their situation to see how appropriate their behaviors are for the the time period. I also appreciated that it didn’t shy away from, not only the sexism and racism of the past, but acknowledged that we don’t live in some beautiful Utopia where everyone is finally equal.

Etta is a strong heroine.  She can take care of herself, even in the past in worlds she should be totally lost in. When she is thrown into the past, moments after her mentor is brutally murdered, she doesn’t break down (which is kind of a let down.  I don’t know about you, but if I had just seen the dead body of someone close to me and THEN I was brought back to the 1700s I think I would freak out a little) but I guess it just goes to show Etta is more composed than I am.  She stands up for what she believes in and is quick to point out the injustices of not only the past, but the present.

I couldn’t really get as strong as a read on Nicholas.  There are so many different aspects that influence his personality: he’s a freed slave; it’s a pirate (legally); he’s the bastard son of a rich and powerful white man, and he was separated from his mother at a young age. He is as strong willed and stubborn as Etta and hates being a pawn in the game of his powerful grandfather.

The romance was a bit meh.  It was sort of insta-lovey, but not really at the same time.  And I’m always quicker to ignore insta-love in cases where two characters are thrown together in dangerous situations.  I feel like if they are going through all of this shit together, relying on each other to survive and whatnot, it’s no surprise that they would fall in love.  I guess it was just the beginning of their romance, which is always the most passionate coupled with the fact that they are from such different times and may lose each other forever which stops me from hating on it.

There were some issues that I feel like probably might be bigger deals to other readers (but as I said, I love time travel books so I’m willingly to look past a lot).

I was very confused about the science (magic?) behind their abilities but I usually am when it comes to time travel books.  It didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the reading (maybe because I just accept that I am not smart enough when it comes to physics (??) to understand that type of stuff).  Also, by the end of the book I had a more concrete understanding, but even so it wasn’t all explained.  I basically just told myself that I would have to re-read it which I will, because there is no way I will be able to go into the sequel in a year without rereading it.

It also suffered from some things that do annoy me in books: Etta’s totally and complete acceptance within 5 minutes that she can time travel, which I already mentioned.  I guess once you’ve already done it has to be easier to believe, but still. And the fact that everyone gets angry at her for not knowing the laws of time travelling. LIKE HELLO she just learned about it yesterday.

But even with those issues, I still loved it.  I still can’t wait for the sequel because that ending was just so cruel!

Favorite Covers 2016 New Release*

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*Of those that are available on Goodreads.

I already posted about my favorite covers from 2015.  Here are some of my favorites from 2016.  I’m sure I’ll do another post once all the covers are up!

 

I think this batch of covers really represents what I look for in a cover.  It’s less about beautiful girls in beautiful dresses (or actual people at all) and more about the typography and the colors.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a pretty dress every now and then!

What do you look for in a cover? What are some of your favorites for 2016 releases?

 

A little break

Merry Christmas! I just wanted to write a quick note to explain why I might be absent for the next few days. I am having some major health issues and basically anything besides sleeping is taking a lot out of me these days. Hopefully I’ll be better soon and back to posting! I have some posts scheduled already so I won’t totally be gone.

Sanctuary Bay by Melinda Metz and Laura J Burns

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Sanctuary Bay

Laura J, Burns & Melinda Metz

Publication: 1/19/16

Source: Netgalley e-ARC

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Goodreads | Amazon |The Book Depository

*I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.*


 

 

This was my WOW post a few weeks ago. I love boarding school stories and I was really hoping for a creepy, atmospheric read.   While it wasn’t exactly creepy, I think the authors did a great job at bringing the setting to life.

Sanctuary Bay Academy is the most elite prep school in the country. Located on an island off the coast of Maine, once you arrive, there is no leaving. Total immersion is how the school describes the situation. There is no contact with the outside world until you graduate. But when you graduate you are almost guaranteed a spot, and probably a scholarship, to your pick of Ivy League colleges. And for Sarah Merson, a foster kid who has been tossed around the system, the school is a godsend. It is her best shot at securing a better life for herself. So she goes all in and decides there is nothing she wouldn’t do to better the chance of achieving that future. But she soon discovers that not everything is as it seems. There are secrets within the walls of Sanctuary Bay and it is up to Sarah to find out the truth.

For the most part, I liked Sarah. She’s bi-racial, half black and half white. In fact, a lot of the characters in the novel are POC, which is a nice change. They didn’t seem to be tokenized either. Sarah’s had a rough upbringing. Thanks to her eidetic memory she is able to remember in full detail her parent’s brutal murder and sometimes suffers from flashbacks where she is totally immersed in memories from the past. There are brief mentions of sexual abuse at the hands of foster families, although it’s brushed over pretty quickly. I said for the most part I liked her, because her poor-me attitude did get a bit tiresome. She of course has every right to be angry with her lot in life, but she has a hard time recognizing that other students, even the rich, more privileged ones could have hard upbringings too.

There was a little bit of romance, and even a possible love-square situation, but it’s not really focused on that much. In fact, around 30% through the book things get weird and any real romance is set aside.

It’s hard for me to talk about the other characters without giving away plot details, but I will say that I did like Ethan, her roommate’s boyfriend. Yeah he comes off as an ass, but sometimes those are my favorite types. Plus, he’s not really as jerky as he seems.

It’s a “psychological thriller” but it’s also a lot more than that. There were many different turns in this story. It started off as one thing and ended up somewhere completely different. Towards the end I kind of guessed where it was headed, but if you had told me within the first 20% of the book I probably would have been shocked.

The writing style kept me engaged throughout all of it. I gave it 3 stars, so I did enjoy reading it, but there was a lot that felt off. There were a lot of questions I had that were kind of answered, but also not really at the same time. And the ending is definitely set up for a sequel. In fact, if there isn’t a sequel, and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that there will be, I would totally move this down to a 2 star rating. If there ends up being a sequel I would probably feel better about that nagging feeling.

 

 

The Dark Days Club

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

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The Dark Days Club

Lady Helen # 1

by Alison Goodman

January 26, 2016

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Demon hunters? Regency London?  Intelligent and headstrong heroine? Sign me up. I try to avoid new series, at least until the 2nd book, but I think I will be reading this when it comes out!

A Charmed Review: Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter

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Born At Midnight

Shadow Falls #1

C.C. Hunter

2011

2stars

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart.

Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs.


Ok first, there is no reason for this book to be 400 pages. NOTHING happens. The first half is basically just her meeting the campers and falling in instalove with 2 dudes.  Also, shitty love triangle.  Derek seems like the “nice” guy.  You know, the guy who is totally fine with waiting until you’re ready for a relationship and then one day snaps.  That’s just how he seems to me.  And Lucas. Well he wasn’t too bad.  I actually liked him a bit.

There is the presence friendship between Kylie and two other supernatural girls, whose names I forget. Positive representations of female friendship are always good,  but we don’t really get to see the development. We are told that all of a sudden they are all best friends. And they didn’t exactly stand out that much if I can’t remember their names without going back to check.  One was a vampire and the other was a witch.

The “mystery” isn’t introduced until like more than halfway and what a shitty mystery it is.  Who’s eating the wild animals (wait is that it? I don’t even really know).  And then it’s solved like 20 pages later without much effort. And the book doesn’t answer the more pressing mystery of “what the hell is Kylie?”.  Nope.  That would have been too simple.  They probably keep that a mystery until book 3 or something.  All we know is that she can see ghosts and likes the taste of blood, both of which are pretty rare in the supernatural world (Well it’s not rare for  Vamps to enjoy blood, but other creatures).

Beyond the fact that nothing really happens and this book could have been reduced to a few chapters as an introduction of another book, it’s an interesting concept for a book.  A supernatural camp where all the different creatures intermingle. Basically, you’ve got witches, vamps, werewolves, shifters, and fae at a camp together (I think that’s it).  Oh and Kylie, who doesn’t know what she is because she’s speshul.

And even though she can be super judgy, Kylie wasn’t the worst character in the world. The one thing that really, really annoyed me (beyond what I mention below) is how Kylie thought of Fredricka and Lucas.  Just because Lucas left, and Fredricka followed him a few days later, doesn’t mean they ran off together.  Lucas admitted that he didn’t like her…so STOP complaining about it.   It’s a childish book, but I’ve definitely read worse.

But what really annoyed me, and actually probably took off half a star, is that there is definitely an underlying theme of SEX IS BAD.  I mean, her best friend starts off the book with a pregnancy scare (and then promptly disappears because she has served her purpose) and almost every single character admits to regretting sex.  And the one  I mean, Kylie doesn’t want to have sex.  She isn’t ready.  That’s totally fine.  But you don’t need to project your own feelings onto everyone else.

If there hadn’t been such a focus on “SEX IS BAD” I would have given this 2.5 stars, maybe even 3 if I was feeling generous.  I did speed through it, and as I’ve said it wasn’t the worst supernatural book I’ve come across.  (And it did inspire a project I’m super excited about! But more on that later). I already have the 2nd book, because it came as a 2 in 1 special edition, so I guess I’ll be reading that eventually.