Friday, October 27, 2017

Books I Need To Get To (Because It’s Already Freaking October)

Gonna be honest, I didn’t have as many anticipated releases as I usually do this year. And the ones that I did have (cough Starfish cough) I have already read. I might later do a post on my disappointing reads of 2017, but for now, I want to showcase the ones that I still haven’t gotten to yet. Because it’s ALREADY OCTOBER and how did the year pass by so quickly? (Also, I feel like everyone is already focusing on 2018, and I’m just like “hold your horses”).

This year, I managed to read 41 out of 88 of the books on my 2017 releases Goodreads shelf. I know, compared to like…Shannon, 88 is a really small number. But to be honest I just haven’t really been paying attention to new releases. But next year I’ll try harder :D

But without further ado, here are the books I want to get to before the year ends!

I don’t think I have read a bad review of this yet. And also the cover is so pretty? AND I WANT TO READ ABOUT THE GOBLIN KING, which reminds me of another book, Stolen Songbird, which is pretty popular? So I kind of wonder how similar the two are.

I even pre-ordered this, but just HAVEN’T gotten to this one yet. Why? I’m not really sure? I think mainly because I’m scared that I’m going to be so annoyed by the males in this novel, that I’m not ready for it? Like I am not ready for the sexism. BUT because it probably is so empowering, I really don’t have anything to fear. SO hopefully I will read it soon!

I reaaaally want to read this because a) cover is super shiny and I cannot get over shiny things and b) it’s kind of about parallel universes. Or something. Either way it’s something cool, and I need it.

Not going to lie, but I DID try reading this at Shannon’s place. And I am willing to give it another shot. BUT TO BE FAIR, I don’t think it exactly sat well with me that a well-known character from my childhood (aka the monkey king) reincarnated into a super hot-looking dude. LIKE IT’S JUST WEIRD TO ME OK? I JUST NEED TO GET OVER IT.

I have a problem with finishing series, and the same holds true for duologies. Also, I’m hesitant because I’m not sure I need to reread the first book? So I’m just…waiting, until I decide what to do…

This book screams me but because I don’t have a copy of it (yet, I guess), I haven’t gotten to it. Right now, it is on my “To Buy ASAP” list. BUT YES. SPACE. SPAAAAACE.

My best friend has my copy of it right now, but I’m almost scared to read it because I just know it’ll hit me hard. Fun fact, the author will be visiting my former high school. So, guess we’ll see how that goes (to give context, I went to a private school in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. One time, some sort of activist came to talk at our school, and these rando conservatives on Twitter got super salty about it. My best friend engaged with them online so she knows more about it than I do).

Been anticipating this since my Australian blogging buddos gushed about how good it was. So, this is definitely high on my list.
I still don’t know why I haven’t read this. I think it’s because every time I think about it, there’s something else that I need to read? And this just keeps getting pushed further and further down the list.

Surprise, still have not read this, and I don’t know why. Well, just kidding, I do. It’s mainly because of the hype monster. This was wayyyy too hyped up back in January, which is why I just…haven’t gotten to it yet.

And that’s it (well no it isn’t, but gotta stop somewhere). What 2017 releases do you still need to read?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review: Turtles All The Way Down (And Thoughts On John Green)

WoooOOoooo. It’s a new John Green book! I mean finally, right? Well, I’ve never been one to fan over his books. But at the same time I don’t mind John Green much. And I’m not biased to rate his books highly, so hopefully you’ll get some insight from this review.

Also, I guess I was anticipating more thoughts on John Green? But I guess I don’t have any? Whoops. I mean I know my best friend absolutely loves him, but I never really interested in any of his books? The first one I read was Looking for Alaska, which I only rated 3 stars. And maybe it was just me because I wasn’t too into contemporary back then? But I for sure can say that it did not motivate me to continue reading his books. Then on the other hand, I absolutely LOVED The Fault in the Stars. I kind of sobbed through the whole thing? AND THEN THE MOVIE TOO. I remember bringing a pack of tissues into the movie theater because I knew I was just going to bawl.

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Seeing how much of a hit TFIOS was, I’m not at all surprised that I only liked Turtles All the Way Down. It’s true that I did enjoy it, but it just didn’t have the “umph” that it had in his last book (which yeah, I’m not surprised by at all).

On the other hand, we get to experience Aza’s mental illness firsthand, and it relates directly to the cover of the book. Her struggle with mental illness is like a never-ending, tightening spiral downwards. And even though there are times were everything is okay, sometimes it’s just not. I honestly was not expecting such a vivid experience of her mental illness, something I could very easily connect to. It’s really what made this book stand out from all the others I have read.

The plot of the story is a bit bizarre, and also takes place in the background. It starts off with Aza and Daisy wanting to claim some reward for finding a wanted man (I don’t remember exactly, I think maybe he partook in some shady dealings). Anyways, this man happens to be Davis’ father. Davis used to be friends with Aza, but they drifted apart over time. Daisy wants to use this connection to investigate, but Davis is not really onboard. He knows that everyone trying to get close to him only wants the money. Which is why right from the beginning, he hands the two of them $100k.

But Aza is like nooo, I really like you for who you are! And so, the rest of the novel focuses on the development between the two.

Overall, I really liked the book, especially how it portrayed Aza’s anxiety (although I’m not sure, it might be OCD? It wasn’t exactly labeled in the book, but I know it’s mentioned in interviews with John Green somewhere, I just don’t remember right now). But this was definitely more of a character-driven novel rather than a plot-driven one. Also, I’m not really sure how I feel about the conclusion? I almost felt like it just…ended. I guess that does reflect real life, I suppose.

In the end, I’m glad I read it and enjoyed it. It did provide a very unique perspective on mental illness.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

No Review Required (Shannon's Bookshelf Edition)

My thoughts on the following books are from Shannon’s overflowing bookshelf! Every time I visit her (which turns out to be once a year or so), I pick out a couple books to read. During this visit, I read TWO books, though they were pretty short since I was only going to be there for a couple of days.

I LOVED THIS BOOK. Downright loved. I’m pretty sure I loved it enough to head over to TBD and order the UK copy of it (because it won’t release in the US until late 2018 or so).

What exactly did I love about it anyways? Well one, IT TAKES PLACE IN SPACE. Now you may be asking “Val, why should I read about some rando girl in space? Won’t it be super boring?” Well that’s where you’re wrong, because it is not. And I honestly won’t spoil any more than that, because I definitely recommend going in blind.

“On my very worst days, I think of nothing but how vulnerable I am out here. I’m balanced on the edge of oblivion with only a fragile skin of metal separating me from the void of space.”

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this, because it was absolutely not what I expected at all.

This book is absolutely gorgeous, including the beautiful illustrations inside. Also, I was afraid that I needed to complete the previous two series before reading this, but that didn’t end up being the case at all. In fact, it really just read like Russian fairytales.

“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always ones who do.”

There are six short stories within, and they are all marvelously told. My favorites were Ayama and the Thorn Wood and also Little Knife, though I equally loved them all. And as each story progresses, more illustration and decoration is added to the page edges.

I haven’t decided if I want to buy this for myself, but I think I won’t be able to resist if I see it in the wild (and not on Shannon’s bookshelf)

Have you read either of these yet? Which Grishaverse series do you like more, Shadow and Bone or Six of Crows?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

An Innocent Life #20: Getting My Life Back Together

There’s a reason why there’s wine in this graphic, and that’s because I NEED it. Life has been a bit too hectic recently, but I think everything will go back to normal once I submit things for this grant I’m working on.

Please look at my precious child, who gets better healthcare than I do.

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October has NOT been a great month to be. My wallet got stolen AND my laptop decided that this was the time to die (though to be fair, I should have expected it because it’s been almost six years, but still). So I not only did I have to replace all my credit cards, but then right after I had to replace my laptop. And get all my files back.


Anyways, life moves on. Though I am very excited for October to be over and done with.

Also, I’m currently at Shannon’s, because it’s my Fall break. Not that I am getting much of a break haha.

How has your month been going? I haven't done one of these things in forever.

Monday, October 16, 2017

No Review Required (More Random Thoughts)

And it’s a start of a new week. With my new laptop. Which I just got, because my old one died on me after 5 and a half years. I’m a bit sad, because I had so many memories with that laptop, but then again, this new one is super impressive. There are features here I never even knew about? Like using my fingerprint to sign in, having everything sync to the cloud automatically, THIS TOUCH BAR IN GENERAL. It’s just a lot to take in, and it has been awhile since I’ve been super overwhelmed.

But anyways, this hasn’t stopped me from sharing my thoughts on MORE BOOKS. Because I can. So let’s get to it.

Is it a coincidence that my laptop literally died RIGHT as I was finishing this? But anyways, I liked Gemina, I really did. But I think the fact that I was not reading a finished copy of this affected my experience. Especially when this series really relies a lot on the photos to tell a story (and half of them just weren’t there yet). But this is why I am saving judgment until I buy and read a finished copy.

“Now, children, watch closely. Hold your breath. Listen. And I will show you the components of calamity.”

But even so, I don’t think this was up to par with Illuminae. Maybe it’s because there were new characters, though I did like them enough. Mostly I think it was because I had zero clue as to how the story connected to the previous one. And again, totally my fault because my memory for these things is so poor. Like why was Beitech attacking the ship? I don’t remember.

All in all, I just need to reread the finished copy of this book, and Illuminae, before the final book comes out.

AHH. WHAT DO I EVEN SAY ABOUT THIS FINAL BOOK? I mean other than the fact that we get MORE from this series. (Though I will miss Lila and Kell).

“What are we drinking to?"

"The living," said Rhy.
"The dead," said Alucard and Lila at the same time.
"We're being thorough," added Rhy.”

ACOL was everything I wanted from a finale and more. Finishing the trilogy made me want to start ALL OVER AGAIN because I just wanted to be with the characters longer. I did not want the series to end. And I think this was why I held off on finishing this book for so long?

I honestly did not expect this type of story, but I 100% enjoyed it. It was an amazing spin on the tale of Persephone and Hades, based on Indian mythology (I think). And the story itself was much more than I expected? Like I thought this would be a typical “girl gets dragged to underworld” type of plot, BUT NOPE. I was blown away, again, by the YA genre.

“No matter where we are, we’ll always share the same sky. We can always find each other in the same constellation.”

I also have Crown of Wishes, but it’s not a direct sequel but rather a companion. I’m curious to see whether I’ll like that as well. Guess I’ll have to see when I get to it.

Look at that, a series starter, a middle book, and a finale. I covered all my bases. Have you read any of these series?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

No Review Required (But Here Are Some Thoughts Anyways)

Hey everyone! So I've actually been reading a lot since the beginning of the academic year, surprisingly. And I've decided that even though these aren't anything I'm required to review, I'm still going to talk about them anyways. Because that's why I created this book blog in the first place, TO TALK ABOUT BOOKS. So I here are three mini reviews, with the images linked back to their respective Goodreads pages.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT GOOD OMENS? Why have I never read anything from Terry Pratchet until now? And I just loved that Neil Gaiman wrote this as well?

My best friend (shout out to Vanessa) rec’d me this book after having it pitched to her. And even though she didn’t even read it, she pitched it to me and I needed to IMMEDIATELY have it in my hands. Luckily I was able to get a hold of it at the library. I mean, who doesn’t want to read about the Anti-Christ and a regular normal boy getting switched at birth? And having all of hell freaking out about it? And an angel and a demon working together to prevent the apocalypse?

“He stared down at the golden curls of the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness.

"You know," he concluded, after a while, "I think he actually looks like an Adam.” 

Does the book live up to my expectations? Yes. Yes it does. It was also downright HILARIOUS. Though there were times I didn’t understand what was going on. Like I couldn’t for the life of me understand the switch of the babies. I had to read it at least three times because I just couldn’t believe that the nun was that absent-minded.

Either way. Amazing, hilarious novel. And I would definitely take the time to reread it. Maybe even buy my own copy.

Teeth was an interesting read, and I did end up liking it a lot! It just wasn’t the typical mermaid story. Instead, it featured a half boy half fish, who yes, I absolutely loved. And I just wanted to hug and squish him because he was at times, in a world of pain.

“It's not just like that. I can't just swim away."
"Why not?"
"I'm afraid I'll drown."
He looks up and gives the world's smallest smile. He takes a deep breath with those lungs. "I'm afraid I'll drown.”

Also, really loved that the main character, Rudy, was bisexual. At least he was to me.

But yeah, all I can say is that it was unlike anything I’ve read before, and a twist (a better twist imo) on the whole mermaid/siren theme.

Surprisingly, I expected Howl’s Moving Castle to differ way more than the movie, more so than I anticipated. But actually, the beginning of the novel and the beginning of the movie line up pretty well! Nevertheless, I did very much enjoy the book, and of course I watched the movie right after finishing.

“Yes, you are nosy. You're a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman. Control yourself. You're victimizing us all.”

But because I did that, I now can’t really distinguish between the book and the movie. Good job Val. All I know is that I enjoyed reading this, and I’m glad I FINALLY got around to it as it had been on my TBR for years.

Oh, I did recognize that the movie used some characters from the book! Though it was only one of Sophie's relative though, and not both of them.

Have you read ANY of these books? Do you review or talk about any books besides ARCs?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Reasons Why I Have Been Seriously Slacking

If you haven’t noticed, I have been really slacking on my blog posts. For the past…year. Just a couple days ago, I was *admiring* my blog as I usually do (haha) and saw that back in 2015, I was posting ~15 to 20 times a month. HOW did I do it? How did this amount change so frequently? Well, let’s all get into a time machine and pinpoint what exactly went wrong this past year.

Just, the US in general, and who’s in charge
I’m going to be honest, this is the number 1 reason why I haven’t been as active as I wanted to be. Being on Twitter wasn’t very good for me as I would just get bombarded with bad news after bad news. And obviously yes, that still happens today, but I’ve gotten better about coping with it.

Number of ARCs
This is also another big one! I am … no longer a fan of ARCs anymore. I don’t care much about them. In 2015 and most of 2016, I was drowning in piles and piles of ARCs. By the end, I was like “enough is enough, I need to start culling”. And so I became very picky. I thought through my requests, didn’t read books that were unsolicited, and now look at me! Four ARCs for the rest of 2017!

The mediocrity of some of these new releases
Now you might be thinking, “Val, aren’t you missing a bunch of great new releases? Shouldn’t they be on your radar?” Well. Nah. I mean they are on my radar thanks to Book Twitter, but too many times have I expected a great story from a book I requested, only to be let down. Which is why I have reduced the number of ARCs I request in the first place. And also why I now wait until I read reviews on the book before buying or borrowing it. Or even adding it to my TBR.

But wait, how can I read reviews when there are…

Fewer book bloggers in the community in general
I don’t know. I recently had to clean out a list of my faves because they were no longer active. And it was sad. I have made the effort to go out and check out new blogs, but I have also become really picky with which blogs I follow. I honestly wish I had more time to comment on every weekly update or every review, but I physically just can’t.

Rise in Bookstagram
This is where everyone migrated to. And I can’t even talk because I’m on Instagram too. I love taking and editing photos though, so it’s not like I am forcing myself. Or aiming to be at the top. In my eyes, I’ve already made it with my blog.

I'm also very happy with my Instagram now though!

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Writing reviews
This is a chore. We can all agree. But at the same time, it is why I started blogging in the first place? The hypocrisy.

To be fair, I have been doing a MUCH better job writing reviews. THE SECRET: I actually talk to my phone through Google Voice. It lets me get all my thoughts out, without any typing. Of course, the end result is something that needs heavy editing.

Where do I even begin with among the red stars. So first of all it was very much reminded me of code name Verity, and that there's a heavy focus on planes and just flying and there's just a lot of technical jargon but not as much as in code name Verity which in the beginning or just packed full of jargon. But again the characters were amazing so basically what's happening is that these two girls that I have don't remember the name of but these two girls are amazing flyers and they just are from Russia and so they want to join they want to join like the war effort and by flying like planes and war planes and one of them wanted to be a fighter pilot and then the other is a navigator and so like basically a whole bunch a girls and they're all bunking together the basically all living together and training to fly.


I got the idea of using Google Voice from my own laziness. I kept thinking of how awesome it would be if my thoughts would just automatically transfer to my blog. This isn’t exactly that, but close enough. And doesn’t involve using my hands or a laptop, so that’s a plus.

Amount of work in grad school
Yesterday I had a quarter life crisis because I have just been so busy at graduate school. BUT I’M FINE. EVERYTHING IS OKAY. But yes, no time for blogging unfortunately. I mean I could probably make time, but then where’s the time to read? That’s the problem I ran into in 2015.

Adult books
I’ve been seeking out more adult books now, because YA has completely burnt me out. Or at least a bit. And so I’ve been visiting the library to take out more books, because I have such a huge backlist. And that means no reviews to write!

Video games
This is the most obvious thing on the list, but I have been playing video games almost every day, and of course it takes up time. BUT I LOVE VIDEO GAMES. Anyways, I play them more than I did during my undergraduate years. Mainly because I now have my own (two!) personal TVs.

No motivation
I have had no motivation to do anything blogging related. Last year, I was creating graphics to go with my posts. Making sure everything matched and looked good on the blog. Now? Not so much.

Also this is the first discussion-ish post I have had in a while? So this is actually a big step for me.
But speaking of big steps, I do want to get back into blogging. Like fully get back into it, and post three times a week like I have done in the past. It’ll be hard, and there might be times where I slip up. But I think that with my enjoyment of reviewing coming back, and with all the books I’ve been reading, I can handle it.

So I guess get ready to see more regular posts from me! Woo!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Among The Red Stars

Among The Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 9/19/17 to 9/23/17
384 pages

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

As we all know (and as I repeat myself for the fifth time), I love reading World War II fiction. It is one of my go-to genres (despite current events). Therefore, it’s no surprise that I read and enjoyed Among the Red Stars.

First off, the story very much reminded me of Code Name Verity. There's a heavy focus on planes, including some technical jargon. But I could overlook this as the characters were very well developed. The story starts out with Valka and her cousin, Iskra, both wanting to join the war effort as fighter pilots. But it isn’t until later in the war when they get accepted into female fighter and bomber regiments. This means leaving home and also Pasha, Valka’s childhood friend.

Most of the book details the training that the women do, alongside their peers. I won’t lie and say there isn’t sexism in the book, because of course there is. The male commanding officers look down on the female fighter pilots, and refuse to give them access to better equipment. Little do they know that they work three times as hard as the men do. And these women are badass. They are literally flying planes at night, with low visibility, cutting off their engines to avoid being detected, and risking their lives flying 3 to 4 missions a night.

At the same time, Valka really misses Pasha. Unfortunately, Pasha was recruited to fight at the front lines. I do want to mention that it’s not until he gets into some serious trouble does the plot actually reveal itself. But on the other hand, this focuses much more on the characters themselves rather than an action packed plot.

One of the things I didn’t like about the story is that there were many, many alternating letters between Valka and Pasha. I didn’t mind at first, but over time it really did add up. Nevertheless, the story itself is packed full of emotion. I definitely teared up a bit when I heard about the fates of some of the characters.

Again I really love World War II books, and this wasn't an exception. I'm really glad I got to learn more about the Night Witches, because I hadn’t really heard much about them until this book. I just think that this topic is so cool, and it’s always fun to read about badass female pilots (based on REAL people!) dropping bombs on Nazis, and killing them. So yes, highly recommend this! But just don't expect your faves to get out unscathed.
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