Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: Everland

Everland by Wendy Spinale
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: May 10th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/19/16 to 6/22/16
312 pages

London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders -- the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.

Unsure if the virus has spread past England's borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a daredevil boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Everland was an interesting take on the story of Peter Pan. Rather than a land of fantasy, we're introduced to Everland, the post-apocalyptic London. Where the aftermath of a war has evolved into an airborne virus that affects all, but mainly girls.

BECAUSE WAR NEVER CHANGES. YEAH! (Val recently finished Fallout 4 and is not okay)

This is one of those books where I just rushed through, because of how fast paced it was. Because of that, I ended up not paying attention or analyzing everything I was reading. Though I can say that I liked it, there's a great possibility that I won't remember much of the details. (Hence why I'm having a hard time writing this review, whoops). But let's get on to what happened.

The story opens up to a ravaged London, where Gwen, her sister Joanna, and her brother Michael are scavenging for food and supplies. But everything falls apart when Marauders (or pirates really) kidnap Joanna, as girls are incredibly scarce due to the disease killing them all. It's believed that any girl even alive is considered immune to the virus, and therefore must be taken captive so a cure can be created. But everyone is mistaken unfortunately, because there's only one true immune out there.

Fast forward to Gwen meeting Peter Pan, who CAN'T FLY. Okay yes I was a little disappointed that this didn't end up being a fantasy, but hey at least Tinkerbell can fly! Or Bella in this book, who's only 12. But she has these mechanical wings that let her fly, and she carries gold dust (or pixie dust).

Just based on the cover alone, I expected a much darker story. And although it wasn't as light as say, the Disney animated version, it felt a little "cheesy" at times. Maybe cheesy isn't the right word to use. I guess I expected "Hook" here to be much more darker, more sinister, more cunning. And "Smee" was acting like a bumbling idiot everywhere trying to capture both Gwen and Bella. It just didn't give the sense of terror or evil.

I really don't have much else to say. This is one of the better Peter Pan retellings I have read, but then again I don't think this one was truly for me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #85

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Books I Will Definitely Be Preordering

Every time I tell myself, "Val, you should preorder some books, maybe one book a month. Because YOU CAN and YOU HAVE the money too". And you know what happens? Well I don't end up preordering the books. This time though, I will be making a list and holding it against myself. I would preorder them all now, but I don't have my new address yet. YET.

Also, I have not done a TTT since February. Wow.

I actually have no idea whether Nevernight will be my kind of book, but there is just so much hype surrounding it. Also I'm most likely going to be preordering this through TBD, because COVER.

Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova just recently had its cover revealed, and I will read anything she writes, so that is an automatic preorder. If you haven't checked out Air Awakens by her, you should do so! I believe the ebook is under $5 or so!

I may not be preordering Crooked Kingdom, but rather the box set that also includes Six of Crows. I just really want the red and black pages let's be honest ahahha. I mean I love the story too, don't get me wrong!

I have a vague sense of what When The Moon Was Ours is about. Either way, I hear it is magical realism, has LGBT themes, and is multicultural. Sign me up right now.

Currently reading This Savage Song and loving it. I also have it preordered for about $8 (depending on tax) from Amazon. So if you have NOT gotten in on this deal, I suggest you do right now. I am a little sad I won't be at home when I get it, but that's okay.

Shannon said she cried while reading The Memory Book. It also has to do with forgetting and trying to remember. I need this book in my life, it was written for me. Again, sad I won't be able to read this right on July 5th, I'll have to wait until I get back from my vacation.

I will read anything by Laini Taylor. Yep. I need Strange The Dreamer in my life.

Holly raved about This Adventure Ends, so of course I am intrigued. I also really need to read Firsts by her, what am I doing with my life?

Hello there A Conjuring Of Light. I preordered A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, no doubt I will do the same for the final book. 

Lastly, I absolutely love David Arnold, and he's pretty much become an auto buy author. Which is why I will be needing Kids of Appetite. And that other new novel he announced which won't get to me until 2018. 

How about you? Will you be preordering anything? Should *I* preorder anything else? (Don't say all the books)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: And I Darken

And I Darken by Kiersten White
The Conqueror's Saga #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/22/16 to 6/26/16
496 pages


And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

So. I'm sure you have read both 5 star reviews and DNF reviews of And I Darken. Well now you have me! Presenting you with a 3 star review! Drumroll please.

And I Darken presents a different take on the word "princess". In this case, Lada is cruel from the moment of her birth. On the other hand, her little brother Radu is the complete opposite. Pretty and handsome, he only seeks friendship in others while Lada seeks violence.

"I am your father. But that woman is not your mother. Your mother is Wallachia. Your mother is the very earth we go to now, the land I am prince of. Do you understand?"

Lada looked up into her father's eyes, deep-set and etched with years of cunning and cruelty. She nodded, then held out her hand. "The daughter of Wallachia wants her knife back."

The first wrong assumption I made about this book, is that our main character would only Lada. But this book very much features both Lada, Radu, and along with a lot of Mehmed, the sultan's son. I actually loved Lada's cruelty (sorry guys). At times she acted cruel for a purpose; the more she grew, the more she understood her position in the empire. The same can be said for Radu, who was constantly bullied by others as a child. Knowing that his sister could not always protect him, he used other means for his gain.

There was a number of reasons I ended up liking And I Darken, and in the process not DNFing it. For one, I stayed for the characters. Each character, even some of the side ones, were developed and distinct from others. Reading about characters such as Radu, Mehmed, and Lada gave me insight about the historical Ottoman Empire.

Not only that, but both religion and sexuality play a huge role in the novel. I do not often read historical fiction (other than WWII) or contemporary, but I think this is the first YA novel I have read that touches upon Islam. Though it would be surprising for it to not make an appearance, seeing as this IS the Ottoman Empire afterall.

So, here is where I am a little mixed about this novel. You see, I didn't hate it. I loved the characters enough, and the novel itself was compelling to keep reading. However, it was just so damn long. And slow. And I think this is one of the main reasons that many have DNFed this.

To me, this didn't feel like any other YA novel, which is fine, but just hard to get used to. As I Darken features a story that spans across "a lifetime", from birth to Lada and Radu's teenage years. A considerable amount of time was spent on Lada and Radu's childhood, and their preteen years. The book presented back to back obstacles that were easily resolved, making the climax somewhat hard to pinpoint. Although there was an overarching goal, it was not always noticeably present. With other books, the characters are working towards a larger goal, one that is usually made very clear at the beginning of the novel. But here, I just wasn't sure what to expect. There were so many things happening one after the other, that it's easy to lose focus of the actual goal.

As I Darken suffers from a slow-paced plot, but has a great set of characters. I would say that if you like this kind of pacing, or if you like reading about history and have the time to invest in a 500 page book, then this is for you! 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: Run

Run by Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 4/24/16 to 5/21/16
288 pages

Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who's not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter -- protect her from what, Agnes isn't quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn't hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo's dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and -- worst of all -- confronting some ugly secrets.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Hey would you look at that! 5 stars for a contemporary! Must be the end of the world or something. Just kidding. Honestly, I just loved Run. Not only is it a powerful story about friendship, but it also tackles issues such as sexuality, disability, and family.

There are two main characters in the novel, each having their own POV. Agnes is a goody two shoes with overprotective parents, afraid that she'll hurt herself with her disability. On the other hand, Bo has a bad reputation. Her mother is constantly drinking, and at times Bo finds herself in foster care because of it. In Run, Agnes narrates the "before" while Bo narrates the "after". The event separating them is when Bo discovers she is being put in foster care again, leading to the both of them running off to find Bo's dad.

I'm not exactly sure HOW I can fully convince you to read this book. For one, I haven't read The Duff or Lying Out Loud, so I can't really compare any of them to Run. But nevertheless, Run had a wonderfully unique plot. I adored both Bo and Agnes, who both had such unique voices. With Agnes, I could see that she was really suffocating under the watch of her parents, who barely let her do anything. Yet at the same time, I admired how her parents stepped up and backed up her friendship with Bo, even with Bo's reputation. Bo herself didn't give a shit as to what anyone thought, and that was extremely refreshing. But she also thought about Agnes, and how she didn't want to drag her down to her level.

I guess what I'm afraid of with most contemporaries is running into petty drama, especially involving relationships. There were none in this book. Run featured a strong friendship between Bo and Agnes, even when it hit some rough patches along the way. The perspective each of them brought was vivid and refreshing, with Bo being bisexual and Agnes having a disability.

Basically, my point is is that you should all pick up this book. I would say more, but I think the best thing for you to do is to discover what happens on your own.

Also, thanks to Amber for patiently waiting for me to finish so we could chat about it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rage-Inducing Characters, Do They Make Or Break A Book?

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Ever had to write that review on a book featuring a character you hated? One that caused you to rage and spew out words of hate against them? Great! Then this post is relatable!

There have been a number of times where my hate for a character dictated the rating. But then on the flip side, sometimes it doesn't. Even though the actions or the personality of the character are unfathomable, I find it in myself to either forgive them or overlook it. Yet this doesn't happen in all the books I read. Why is that? 

Here in this post, I will guide you on a journey into my mind, and shed light on why my opinion on hated characters differ from book to book. And maybe while I'm discovering myself, you'll find that you have the exact same thoughts! Win-win. (Or not, which is fine too. Still a win-win).

Let's start with some books I've read!

Falling Into Place - The main character, Liz Emerson, was such a bully. I hated how she treated her friends, other people. Yet by the end of the novel, I was still crying over her. How, why? Did I see through her hateful actions?

How It Feels To Fly - More specifically, I did not like one of the minor characters, Zoe, because of how she constantly teased everyone at treatment camp. You know, the place where it's supposed to be safe to talk about your feelings without expecting judgment? WELL nope it isn't a safe place to talk at all apparently, especially when you have someone making fun of you at every moment. I hated Zoe. She made me so mad. But in the end, I forgave her a little. Just a little though.  

The Way I Used To Be - Dealing with the hard topic of rape, there really was no way I would be criticizing the main character, Eden. Even though I was continually frustrated with her actions towards others, I didn't let that affect my rating of the book.

When We Collided - Looking back at the main character here, Vivi, I almost regret hating her as much as I did. But I just couldn't take how she acted towards the love interest, Jonah, especially when it involved putting him (and herself) in danger.

And then there are the characters that I loathe entirely.

Into The Dim - The main character, Hope, is just very judgmental of others. And I felt like she viewed herself above others, with her eidetic memory and all.

We Are All Made Of Molecules - Stewart enters Ashley's family because their parents marry. Does Ashley even try to make him feel at home? Even after everything that's happened to him? NOPE. She's a bitch (for a 14 year old). All she cares about is her social status, which apparently is ruined with having a brother like Stewart.

So, it's kind of apparent what makes me hate a character. Let's see if I can sum it up!
  • Any kind of bully. I hate them all. They may be forgiven if they see the errors in their ways. Or maybe if being a bully is just a front (Though I'll probably still hate them)
  • Acting in a way that is stupid, and for me, that's defined as putting themselves or others in harm's way. This includes making dumb decisions, which I have known a lot of heroines to do. The worst is when you're yelling at the character to not do the thing, but then they end up doing the thing. 
  • Being judgmental of others. Mostly when it comes to appearances and hobbies.

A lot of factors come into rating a book, and sometimes a character can break a book, or just not affect me at all. But here comes the real question. If you hate a character, doesn't that mean you were invested in the story? Invested in the emotions of the characters?

I personally do not have the answer to this question. For me, sometimes I hate a character so much, it affects my enjoyment of the novel causing me to rate it lower. But then other times, my investment in said character causes me to reevaluate the rating. Because I would much rather read about a character that messes with my emotions, rather than one that is just meh.

How about you? What makes you hate a character? Does it affect the enjoyment of the book?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: Unplugged

Unplugged by Donna Freitas
The Wired #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: June 21st, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/16/16 to 6/17/16
448 pages

Humanity is split into the App World and the Real World—an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy and a dying physical world for the poor. Years ago, Skylar Cruz’s family sent her to the App World for a chance at a better life.

Now Skye is a nobody, a virtual sixteen-year-old girl without any glamorous effects or expensive downloads to make her stand out in the App World. Yet none of that matters to Skye. All she wants is a chance to unplug and see her mother and sister again.

But when the borders between worlds suddenly close, Skye loses that chance. Desperate to reach her family, Skye risks everything to get back to the physical world. Once she arrives, however, she discovers a much larger, darker reality than the one she remembers.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I've always been interested in a virtual world setting. Although I tend to lean towards reading about video games (which I have YET to do!), Unplugged focuses on a virtual world designed for living. I found the novel to quick and entertaining, yet it lacks some major, major worldbuilding.

Skye is a "single". Her family besides herself have volunteered to become Keepers of everyone connected to virtual reality. But because they want Skylar to have a better life, they send her into the App World, leading her to lead a life as a single. Although she has a surrogate family, Skye longs to see her family again even though it's been many years. But when her only chance to unplug is gone, she turns elsewhere. As a result, this leads to being caught up in politics between the Real World and the App World. And of course, getting close and personal with Rain Holt, the uh...leader's son (basically all you need to know is that he's super important and super good looking, the usual).

This novel would have been much better if the world wasn't half developed. There were many, many questions that arose as I read. As the reader, we're told that the ones with a lot of "capital" can live life luxuriously with "apps". Apps in the App World can change someone's appearance, can transport you into a game, a new location, create food, clothes. The catch is that it's time sensitive. In order to always have the ability to download apps, you need capital. But where does the capital come from? How do you get more? It doesn't seem like anyone works in the App World. Are you just assigned capital, and once it's all used up you're done? Then what happens next?

And then there's the Real World. Where does New Port City take place? Is the rest of the world just as enamored with virtual reality? What is the form of currency there? Trust me, I have so many more questions than just these.

Skye is boring. Of course, when she emerges in her new body, she's the most beyootiful. Wow I did not see that coming. And apparently, everything they learned in the App World is transferred to their real body, because the brain assimilates everything from the virtual world. I understand how this would work for certain skills, like driving, but strength? No, that doesn't transfer. You need to physically work on your strength. If you've been laying there for 10 years, your muscles will not be toned. (Then again this is science fiction, and this has never been tested, so I'll let this slide).

Let's not talk about the relationship. There's nothing to talk about.

Wow I should talk about the positives! Honestly I felt just meh about this, but it didn't bother me enough to rate it 2 stars. The fast paced plot kept me going, a reason why I finished this in only 2 days. Other than all of my questions, which may hopefully be addressed in the second book, Unplugged kept me entertained.   

Friday, June 17, 2016

Have A Phone? Love Apps? These Book Recs Are For You!

Hi. I've been meaning to come up with a post that isn't a review or a wrap up. And this is what Rashika came up with. I don't know why she forced me to write up HER idea, but it was forced. I'm sure she'll steal it back once she has the time. So credits to that potato.

I'm currently read Unplugged by Donna Freitas, and the premise of the story is that us humans are living in a virtual reality! In this virtual world, there are a ton of apps you can buy to modify your appearance, play a game, download food, etc. With that in mind, I want to introduce the apps that I either use on my own phone or are popular, and recommend books that go with them!

(I would also like to dedicate this post to my old Samsung Galaxy S4, now in a box being shipped back to Verizon. You will be missed.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: How It Feels To Fly

How It Feels To Fly by Kathryn Holmes
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: June 14th, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 6/13/16 to 6/14/16
384 pages
Rating: 1/2

The movement is all that matters.

For as long as Samantha can remember, she’s wanted to be a professional ballerina. She’s lived for perfect pirouettes, sky-high extensions, and soaring leaps across the stage. Then her body betrayed her.

The change was gradual. Stealthy.

Failed diets. Disapproving looks. Whispers behind her back. The result: crippling anxiety about her appearance, which threatens to crush her dancing dreams entirely. On her dance teacher’s recommendation, Sam is sent to a summer treatment camp for teen artists and athletes who are struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. If she can make progress, she’ll be allowed to attend a crucial ballet intensive. But when asked to open up about her deepest insecurities, secret behaviors, and paralyzing fears to complete strangers, Sam can’t cope.

What I really need is a whole new body.

Sam forms an unlikely bond with Andrew, a former college football player who’s one of her camp counselors. As they grow closer, Andrew helps Sam see herself as he does—beautiful. But just as she starts to believe that there’s more between them than friendship, disappointing news from home sends her into a tailspin. With her future uncertain and her body against her, will Sam give in to the anxiety that imprisons her?

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

How It Feels To Fly is no easy read. It focuses on the struggle of anxiety, how it impacts life, and the process for treatment. As eye opening as this was however, I just do not think I was in the right mood for this.

Sam is an amazing ballerina, ready to start her summer intensive. But before she can begin, she attends treatment camp, to try and "fix" her anxiety about her weight and appearance. There, she meets a wide cast of characters that help her, even though at first glance it doesn't seem like it.

One of the greatest things about this novel is how it throws away all of your misconceptions when it comes to living with anxiety, and coping with it. For starters, the synopsis does not tell you the whole story, especially when it comes to Andrew. I will not spoil what happens, but I do have to say that I did not like Andrew one bit. Even though he may have had good intentions.

Then, there is Zoe, who is Sam's roommate at camp. I really could not tolerate her at all. First off, she did not want to be there, only signing up to go to get out of tennis. Second, she constantly teased the other campers. It made me mad. It just seems so destructive for her to be in another person's safe space. I couldn't fathom why she was allowed to stay for so long. Although to be fair, she does change through the novel. However she still has a long, long way to go.

It is clear to see that how much of an impact the anxiety has on Sam. The little voice in her head continuously tells her she's not good enough, not skinny enough, that everyone is looking at her and judging. Even though she may not have an eating disorder, she'd rather eat alone than let others see her eat.

The worst part about all of this, is what started it all. Ballet. Honestly, I might just avoid books about ballet altogether, because it makes me sick reading about it. I'm just going to assume that it really is true that fat girls are discriminated against. No wonder Sam had anxiety with her appearance, nearly everyone in her ballet group talked about her behind her back! I just...she went through some horrible experiences, and it just makes me rage. (And I felt the same with with Tiny Pretty Things. Do these things really happen in ballet?)

How It Feels To Fly really is an important read. Unfortunately I couldn't completely enjoy the novel because of how mad I was, leading me to even be mad at things I knew I would have enjoyed. Plus, this reminded me a lot of Paperweight, which also features a treatment camp but focused solely on eating disorders. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review: The Vanishing Throne

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May
The Falconer #2
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: June 21st, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/8/16 to 6/13/16
384 pages

The second book in the Falconer trilogy is packed with surprises and suspense.

Aileana Kameron, the Falconer, disappeared through the portal that she was trying to close forever. Now she wakes up in the fae world, trapped and tortured by the evil Lonnrach. With the help of an unexpected ally, Aileana re-enters the human world, only to find everything irrevocably changed. Edinburgh has been destroyed, and the few human survivors are living in an uneasy truce with the fae, while both worlds are in danger of disappearing altogether. Aileana holds the key to saving both worlds, but in order to do so she must awaken her latent Falconer powers. And the price of doing that might be her life.

Rich with imaginative detail, action, fae lore, and romance, The Vanishing Throne is a thrilling sequel to The Falconer.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

If you all remember (unless you've never heard of this series until now), the first book The Falconer, ended on a major, if not unnecessary cliffhanger. Unnecessary in that I had to wait more than a year for this sequel. DO YOU KNOW HOW PAINFUL IT WAS?

But here we are, and I am content. Onto the review!

Spoilers ahead for the first book!

To be honest, I was incredibly hesitant to pick this up even though I knew it was going to be fantastic. The reasoning behind it was that I knew it was going to be extremely bleak. Aileana's world was in complete destruction, and it seemed like none of it would ever go back to normal. Half of the world's population was decimated, thanks to the fae. What hope is left? How could all of this be resolved? To me, it could not!

I'm also having a very hard time reviewing this. Have you ever just read a book, and didn't really pay attention to what you liked or didn't like because you were focusing on what would happen next? That's me with this book, and now I have no idea how to organize my thoughts. So here they are in list form!

  • Kiaran's sister, Aithinne. She wasn't anything I expected, similar to her brother but then not. I feel like she was the nicer counterpart, willing to help pretty much anyone in her way, but at the same time, not afraid to fight ruthlessly.
  • Derrick's pixie kingdom. Both humans and fae lived here on the condition that the fae would provide supplies, and wouldn't harm the humans. Also, the kingdom was revolved around illusions, so you could imagine your room to look like anything and it would take that form. This setup sounds great, until you think of all the people living in denial as to what happened.
  • Who the heck is Gavin again? This is why I should have reviewed the first book, even though I don't even have it. But I am so very glad this didn't develop until a love triangle, which the first book may have been hinting at (not that I remember!).
  • I still love Kiaran as a book boyfriend. Though I feel as if he is slightly more mushier in this book.
  • But who cares because my ship has sailed! (Though it already had by the end of the first book I think. Wow I really remember nothing!)
  • Much more history between the Seelie and the Unseelie courts were introduced. I'm still not exactly sure WHAT to make of it. Maybe I will reread the whole series before the last book in the trilogy.

Here's a non-spoilery summary!

Basically to sum up my rambly thoughts. I should never wait two years to continue a series. I probably shouldn't wait 1 month either (In this case I didn't have a choice, but still). Compared to its prequel, The Vanishing Throne went much more in depth in regards to the history of the fae, and how the Falconers came to be. Also, there was more romance, more action, just all in all a great continuation to the series. In other words, this did not suffer from second book syndrome. (But there is another cliffhanger, boo!)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

An Innocent Life #11: Disney World, Fallout 4, And It's Similarities To The 100

Hi! I've been so much more active because it is SUMMERTIME and it makes me happy. I have also been posting more (unless I'm pooped) and playing a lot of video games.

A photo posted by Valerie (@innocent.smiley) on

I'm also participating in my first Instagram book photo challenge, for June. Actually, I am doing two of them. Sometimes I do both in one day, sometimes I do one, sometimes I'm a bum and don't do anything. But it's a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be, and even though some of the prompts are hard (and my dad CONTINUES TO JUDGE MY BOOK PICTURES. I'M LOOKING AT YOU DAD), it's worth it!


Back at it again with the links! (Well, some links)

Ely @ Tea & Titles has added me to her blog squad! Just in case the apocalypse actually happens. I think we agreed that we would save the dog before ourselves. (Also this is a tag and you should all do it!)

This is from MONTHS ago (one month), but Holly @ The Fox's Hideaway talks about internal vs. external hype for books! For me, either way if I get let down I am sad.

Alexandra @ Literary Legionnaire discusses whether you notice well developed (or undeveloped) secondary characters. Sometimes I overlook them, but if they are REALLY well done I will take notice! (It also was her blogoversary recently!)

Emily @ Loony Literate reveals the pros and cons of the Instagram algorithm. Which I do not all. I feel like I miss so much from my faves.

Amber @ YA Indulgences talks about what she wants to see more of in YA. When it comes to this topic, I always want to see more birth control and contraception!

Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight is hosting Shattering Stigmas again! Check it out!

Lastly, Ely and I are again hosting the Make Me Read It Readathon (back by popular demand, or 2 people lol). We are really excited and grateful for how many people are excited to join!

Does anything really happen in my life anymore? Nope just small stuff! My most recent trip was going to Epcot and Magic Kingdom in Disney World. My parents only live two hours away, and because we're (technically they're) Florida residents, we get a lot of discounts.

BE JEALOUS it is me and Baymax!

Other than that, I have read many, many books. I have caught up to my Goodreads Challenge (although sometimes I am still 1 book behind). I have posted a lot of reviews. Eaten a lot of popcorn (Dad can attest to this).

I also bought my first video game of 2016 (yes I know, it's already June). I have been playing Fallout 4 almost every day. At first I was dying a lot, but then over time I got stronger and just better at playing (shooting more chaotically more like it). Also, I made the greatest revelation of all time, in that Fallout 4 is basically the video game version of The 100. First off, the player is stuck down in a vault for 200 years before coming back up to a radiated Earth, due to nuclear warfare. There are groups such as raiders, supermutants, and this bigger one called The Institute. I even spotted a two-headed deer!! SEE THE RESEMBLANCE*

*I've only watched 8 episodes of the 100. Shannon probably thinks I'm a weirdo. ALSO FALLOUT 3 WAS MADE IN 2008 SO THE 100 TOTALLY COPIED OFF THEM. (Just kidding the plot is completely different)

That's it from me! Hope you have an awesome June! AND SUMMER.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: The Loose Ends List

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Source: Book Expo America
Date Read: 6/5/16 to 6/7/16
352 pages
Rating: 3/4 (because I do what I want)

First loves. Last Wishes. Letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie's closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie's plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret "death with dignity" cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way - and give the O'Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Contrary to my rating, I absolutely adored this book. I simultaneously loved and hated how much was packed into this book. It took me ages to read this "light" contemporary, but it was so worth it.

Let me explain how this was a light-hearted read, but at the same time not. A high school graduate, Maddie is ready to start her last summer before college. She makes a "loose ends list", similar to a bucket list, of all she wants to do before attending NYU. But all of that is cancelled when she gets a call from Gram, who informs her that she's dying of pancreatic cancer. And even better, she's scheduled an 8-week cruise for the whole family.

Most of the family is unhappy with this. You see, this cruise isn't just a normal cruise. It's a cruise for people like Gram, who would rather die in peace rather than succumb to their diseases. After living for so long, Gram has decided to choose the way she'll die, much to the chagrin of her family. And the same goes for all the families on board, which is why I internally sobbed a bit because I know how it'll end for some of these characters.

As I mentioned before, there is a lot packed in this novel. First off, there's a million characters, which I was only able to familiarize myself with by the time I was halfway through. Then, the entire family not only go on the cruise, but they stop at Rio, fly to Iceland, then travel to Rome, and also Taiwan. All to fulfill Gram's wishes. Yet, the reason why this novel is so long is due to the detail put into these trips, all of them so unique to the family and Gram. For example, Gram visited Iceland because she wanted to prove to her mom that the volcano from The Journey To The Center Of The Earth actually existed.

Throughout the novel, I grew to love all the characters, despite the fact that there were a lot. So many little things were put in that enhanced their personality, which made it hard to be reminded of how this is essentially a cruise of death. I say essentially because there is a point where the boat stops at Wishwell Island, where patients can stay there instead of the cruise to get top-notch treatment.

And then there's the romance, which is one of the biggest drawbacks for me. To be fair, I get that being on an 8-week cruise you need to get off somehow. But I find it really hard to grasp that it is that easy to find someone to hook up with, or be in a relationship with. Maddie and Enzo exchanged looks for maybe two seconds, and there is insta-attraction both ways. Enzo even admits after seeing her, he thought about looking for her around the ship. After they officially meet, it pretty much goes straight to kissing, and then to "I love you's". Despite the attraction (because I admit it probably does happen in real life), I just feel it is moving really fast. Either that, or it is very hard to tell how much time passes in the novel.

And the same goes for Maddie's cousin, Janie, who almost immediately finds a hot doctor to hook up with. Like HOW? Maybe I should go on an 8 week cruise?

Still, I continued on for the characters. Maddie was extremely fleshed out as a main character, she has a problem with death, which is ironic since she's on a cruise of death. Watching her learn how to deal with the fact that her Gram will not be in her future is heartbreaking. There is no doubt that Gram is hella awesome. She's hilarious, plans all the events, is outrageous yet kind, and badass. She has officially become my book grandma, if that's a thing.

There's just so much more I want to say, but this review has become quite long so I'll stop. This is one of those books where I rated logically, based on what I liked and didn't. But on the other hand, this will also be one of those books that I will never forget about.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Review: The Marked Girl

The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 6/5/16 to 6/6/16
400 pages
Rating: 1/2

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Los Angeles)…

When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day L.A. via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task…

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Apparently, at least 25 books are being published today, and The Marked Girl is one of them. I'll be posting my review of another June 7th release tomorrow, most likely. But that makes two that you'll have my opinion of, good luck with the rest!

For some odd reason, I have been reading a lot of contemporary. In order to even it out a bit, I decided to read The Marked Girl. And although I enjoyed it, I'm not sure if this is something I would read again.

Liv very badly wants to be a filmmaker, but the only chance she really has is through school. As a foster child, she's been thrown around, family to family, never knowing whether she'll stay settled or not. Enter in Cedric, Merek, and Kat, whose home has been recently taken over by wraths. By entering a portal that leads to Earth, they're stuck there until they find the "scrolls" that will take them back to Caelum. Rather than the main character stuck in an unknown world, it's flipped. Chaos ensues as we see Prince Cedric (oh right, I forgot to mention he's a prince) struggles with technology and terminology.

13-year-old Val would have loved this story. Main character stumbles upon the existence of another world (or in this case, the inhabitants of that world stumble unto her). Main character is linked somehow to these strangers. PORTALS. And yes, that means other worlds. Unfortunately, 22-year-old Val has read enough of these tropes at this point. Don't get me wrong, I still liked this, but I felt that it was incredibly generic, or I guess a better way to say it is that it was filled with cliches. Liv doesn't believe this fantasy world exists, but then she does after being chased down by some evil wraths, and of course Prince Cedric tries to protect her, even though he barely knows her. And of course there aren't really parents involved, because of foster care.

It's also not as if everything wasn't explained. It was. But just very, info-dumpy. Liv and Cedric actually drive out to find information at UC San Diego, and that's where half of everything is explained. Then, the rest of it comes out later, by the villain himself (so classic). I think this is why I felt like the world, or Caelum, felt generic and not well-developed. It is almost as if things were being dropped in as seen fit.

Yet with all of this, 22-year-old Val still loves stories with portals and parallel universes, or different worlds in this case. Although I am not completely attached to the characters, I am still interested in their situation. And maybe more will come up in the second book about the world of Caelum, more than just castles and wraths, hopefully. Plus, it's always fun to watch someone struggle with our language and technology. I felt like those encounters were especially well done in this novel.

Although entertaining, I definitely wanted more from The Marked Girl. So I'm really hoping that the second book covers everything that wasn't mentioned in this one.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Review: Please Don't Tell

Please Don't Tell by Laura Tims
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: May 24th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 4/24/16 to 5/21/16
336 pages

Joy killed Adam Gordon—at least, that’s what she thinks. The night of the party is hazy at best. But she knows what Adam did to her twin sister, Grace, and she knows he had to pay for it.

What Joy doesn’t expect is that someone else saw what happened. And one night a note is shoved through her open window, threatening Joy that all will be revealed. Now the anonymous blackmailer starts using Joy to expose the secrets of their placid hometown. And as the demands escalate, Joy must somehow uncover the blackmailer’s identity before Joy is forced to make a terrible choice.

In this darkly compelling narrative, debut author Laura Tims explores the complicated relationship between two sisters, and what one will do for the other. It’s a story that will keep readers turning pages and questioning their own sense of right and wrong.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I went into Please Don't Tell not knowing what it would be about, and I do not regret it one bit. Reading it reminded me how important it is to read out of your comfort zone, even if it is a genre I would have never picked up!

Please Don't Tell follows Joy and Grace, twins that are surprisingly very different from each other. Although Joy is a little obnoxious, she views herself as a protector, both of her sister and her friends. Grace on the other hand is a straight A student, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind that she'll be going to college. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Joy.

The POV not only switches between the sisters, but it also switches between the past and the present (or more accurately, the "before" and "after"). In Joy's POV, we see her struggling to not only deal with the aftermath of Adam's death, but also a blackmailer who apparently saw her murder Adam. In order for the blackmailer to not turn her in, Joy has to pretty much do whatever the blackmailer says. In Grace's POV, we see how the sisters were before, which was vastly different from the present. I had much less tolerance for Joy then, and Grace was like me in high school. Always studying, never really breaking out of her shell. Not until Joy comes along to drag her off to be a party animal.

To be honest, this is a very hard review to write because I don't want to spoil anyone. I went into this book completely blind, not knowing it dealt with a some hard topics, along with it being a mystery. The most I can say is that I kept on trying to guess who the blackmailer was (and failed to guess right). I really was just pointing fingers at everyone.

Most importantly, I loved how we can clearly see the changes in both Joy and Grace after what happened. It reminded me a little of The Way I Used To Be, where one event can completely transform a person, for better or for worse.

I can't hold it in, so highlight for spoilers! Let's talk about the reveal! [spoiler] I think something in me knew it would be Grace, although I was stuck on the blackmailer being Preston for a very long time (hey you never know). But wow, I can't believe her own twin sister blackmailed her! Makes me really glad that I don't have any siblings, though I'm sure that would never happen haha. [spoiler end] I feel like the last half of the novel was much more fast paced, as the beginning was a little slow for me. But very much worth it.

I really enjoyed Please Don't Tell, even though it doesn't seem like a Val book at all. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, or likes reading about darker topics.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: Goldfish

Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema
Publisher: Feiwei & Friends
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Source: ALA Midwinter
Date Read: 1/20/16 to 1/24/16
240 pages

Lou Brown is one of the fastest swimmers in the county. She’s not boasting, she really is. So things are looking pretty rosy the day of the Olympic time-trials. With her best mate Hannah by her side, Lou lines up by the edge of the pool, snaps her goggles on and bends into her dive…

Everything rests on this race. It’s Lou’s thing.

… or it was. She comes dead last and to top it all off Hannah sails through leaving a totally broken Lou behind.

Starting again is never easy, particularly when you’re the odd-one out in a family of insanely beautiful people and a school full of social groups way too intimidating to join. Where do you go from here? Finding a new thing turns out to be the biggest challenge Lou’s ever faced and opens up a whole new world of underwater somersaults, crazy talent shows, bitchy girls and a great big load of awkward boy chat.

Lou Brown guides us through the utter humiliation of failure with honesty, sass and a keen sense of the ridiculous. This girl will not be beaten.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Before I get into this review, I have to mention that I'm probably incredibly biased. You see, talking about Goldfish made me remember my swimming career. From ages 11-14, I thrived in the swimming world. My times were always improving, I qualified for a number of swim meets, I had many friends, and I had great times. Unfortunately, once I hit 15 years old, it all went down from there. My body stopped growing, my peers in high school were faster than I was, and my personal records stayed the same. I grew to hate the meets and the practices and I had no friends among my new team. For me, everything sucked.

Goldfish made me remember all of that. And more importantly, it made me miss swimming. Or at least the time I was 11-14.

Because you see, Lou is in the same exact position as I was. Instead of an outstanding race, Lou fails at making the cut-offs for a qualifying swim camp. But her best friend does. Because of this, Lou is incredibly heartbroken and decides to quit swimming, because how can you go back to a team that expected more from you? 

As a 15 year old, this is huge. This is the time in your career where you either find out you have a talent in swimming, or you suck (that was the latter for me). Because of the meet, she feels like everyone will shun her, like her swim coach (which she does, that bitch). Plus, with Hannah at swim camp, she has no other friends.

That is, until she forms a group with a couple of guys who want to learn synchronized swimming for some talent show. With time, and planning and research, she ends up becoming friends with the three of them, despite everyone else on her original swim team looking down on her.

I'm going to go ahead and point out that I know nothing about synchronized swimming. I don't know whether the events in the novel are accurate, or whether it really is that simple to audition for a talent show (and bring in a tank for that matter). Or whether it really is that original for synchronized swimming to be a talent, especially when it's a couple of guys and Lou, neither of whom are trained in this sort of thing. What really made this novel for me, is that you CAN move on and be BETTER at other things. Just because you failed at one thing, doesn't mean you will at others. Ever since I have quit swimming, this is what I've been doing everyday. Discovering my other passions.

Overall, I thought this novel was a fun, light read. Even though the main character is a little young, younger than we see in most YA, I felt that it had to be this age because as I mentioned before, this is when decide whether to quit or continue. I think I would recommend this more to readers that used to be, or still are, swimmers, just because it's easier to connect with Lou (Like me!)

Here's a happy swimming turtle

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Make Me Read It Readathon

Hello again! Apparently, due to popular demand, Ely @ Tea & Titles and I will again be hosting the Make Me Read It Readathon! Basically, this readathon allows your friends and audience to vote for what you'll be reading. This year, the readathon will be from July 9th to the 16th! So that will give you guys a month and a half to set up voting and polls and all that!

Here's some more information about the readathon, copied and pasted directly from last year's post because I'm a lazy bum hahah!

What Is This Readathon About?
Look at the books you own, either physical, e-book or ones you've borrowed from the library and pick out a few you really want to read, or feel like you should read. It’s up to you how many you pick, personally I'd pick a few more than you expect to be able to read in a week. Example: if you think you’ll only read two, pick out five books or if you think you can read seven, pick out ten.

Make a list of these books on your blog, or make a video, or a Goodreads shelf or post a picture on Instagram—whatever is easiest for you. Then get friends, other bloggers/booktubers etc. to vote on which books you HAVE to read.

When the readathon comes along, you read the books in the order of most votes. For example, if one book gets 10 votes—you read that first, then the one that got 7 and so on. If there's a tie, then it's your preference. The goal is to read as many as possible. 

When Will This All Take Place?

The Make Me Read It Readathon will start at July 9th and end at July 16thYou can start once it hits 12am in your time zone. The readathon itself lasts for a week!

Since this is an interactive readathon, there is about a month and a half to get some kind of initial post/photo/video/etc. where your readers can vote for which book you read! You can either have a poll, or just rely on the comments, have votes count more than once, honestly this is all up to you! If you plan to participate, make sure you have all your books ready for July 9th!

And with that being said, time to set up my own poll!

Which Books Should I Read

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
The Nightingale by Kristan Hannah
Burying Water by K. A. Tucker
Confess by Colleen Hoover
The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas (The Elementals #3)
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Liars Inc. by Paula Stokes
online quiz creator

WE ALSO HAVE A TAG. If you're on Instagram or Twitter, our tag will be #MakeMeRead! If you have any questions, leave a comment or email us! (My email is

Link Up! Sign Up! Go go go!

Do you wanna sign up for the readathon! This is the place to do it! I would recommend linking up with your post/video/photo about the books you are using for the readathon, so that other readers can hop around and vote!

(Note: Linky ends June 29th because it hates me)

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