Saturday, December 31, 2016

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Title: Me and Earth and the Dying Girl
Author: Jesse Andrews
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 295
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Purchase this book:
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Greg Gaines, senior, had everything down. He knew just how to slip into the world of high school with no enemies, no friends, and no commitment. Of course the only way for his set up to be ruined would be the result of intervention from his mother. When childhood friend Rachel was diagnosed with cancer, Greg's mother forced him to rekindle their friendship in an attempt to give the girl something happy in the last moments of her life. And also, there's an Earl involved.

This is not a sad book. I don't think it was ever meant to be a sad book either. From the beginning it's made clear that this is not supposed to be your typical YA contemporary. So if you're expecting a tearjerker, Fault in our Stars lookalike, look again. This isn't it. In fact, this book is anything but sad- it's funny. Part of that may be due to the title putting everything out there in the open. You're aware Rachel is a dying girl from the get go. But truthfully, this was a really funny, lighthearted book.

I feel the need to introduce Greg's friend Earl, as he does have a spot in the title. Earl is hilarious. His raw humor and grim outlook on life always left me laughing, and his default mood is grumpy, which makes for a snarky and sarcastic character. So he's a huge part of the comedy in this novel. 

I actually listened to this book via audiobook, and I highly recommend you do to. I don't think I'd have liked it as much if I had read it instead of listened to it, because the narrator is so talented. He gets each voice so perfect, and it really contributed to the overall quality of the book. I don't think I would have read Earl's dialect in his accent if I'd been reading it physically, so hearing the narrator mimic his accent pulled his humor and dialogue together completely, allowing me to truly appreciate his comedic taste. 

I found Greg to be a somewhat relatable main character in the sense that I do strive to have no quarrels with people in school. However, that's where my ability to relate to him stops. I would much rather have friends and a couple people I didn't get along with than have no friends and no enemies. Greg's strategy to having no enemies is to have no close friends, and I don't think I could go through life like that. And Greg and Earl are not much of overachievers when it comes to school. In Greg's defense, he was a bit of an achiever before he began devoting all his spare time to visiting Rachel, but we don't really get to see pre-Rachel-Greg. I just find it difficult to relate to people who just don't care. Whether that be about school or just things in general. 

But I did find this book extremely funny, touching, and fun, and I'd recommend it to everyone, because it's truly an exciting book to read. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top 16 of 2016

It's that time of year again in which I highlight some of the best books I read this year. Today, I bring you my top 16 of 2016! (Check out my top 15 of 2015!) Please note that these are not in order of preference, (I'm too indecisive for that lol) but ordered by when I read them.

Okay fun fact- Cinder was the first book on my Top 15 of 2015  list. Anyway, it's no shock that this amazing conclusion novel won a spot here. I gave this one five, well deserved stars. 

2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Gosh dangit this book left me emotionally wrecked. I've always had a daunting fear of classics, given the awful ones I've been forced to read for school, but I truly enjoyed Of Mice and Men. If you haven't read this one, I would highly recommend it. It's super short (was the shortest book I read all year) and it's plot is so gorgeous I just want to as;dkjaiad. Caution- tears will fall. 

So I don't think I've kept it a secret that Alexandra Bracken is literally my favorite YA author, like, ever, and I will endlessly spend my money on anything and everything that she produces. I loved her novel, Passenger, and gave it a 5 star review (which she retweeted!!!). I also had the pleasure of meeting her at BookCon this year! 

This book was so overwhelming that I literally couldn't even think about picking up another book after I finished this one. It was so good. If you haven't read this, you need to. Right now. I gave it five stars. I also had the honor of meeting this duo at BookCon, so that was pretty cool! (Understatement of the year- it was absolutely awesome.) 

Yoooo if you haven't read this one you're doing yourself a disfavor. I gave this one 4.5 stars, so I know what I'm talking about. Honestly. Read it. Love it. Reread it. Even if you hated the inserts in Fangirl, READ IT I PROMISE YOU'LL LIKE IT.  

So Kiera Cass rewrote this novel that she wrote a while ago, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is this a YA standalone- it's a YA, fantasy standalone. We don't get many of those. This was such a sweet, refreshing romance, and I hope you pick it up! (4.5 stars)

You can hate on Cassie all you want, but I adored Lady Midnight. It was one long, awesome, epic ride, and I can't wait for Lord of Shadows. It got five well earned stars! 

This is a crazy book. Honestly, it left me feeling so many different things. It's a book that makes you think. It got 4.5 stars from me, so I definitely recommend it. My brother recently finished it, and he loved it too. (So obviously it's good- he said so.) 

SOS please someone help me it's not healthy for me to feel so strongly in love with this book. For those of you who have begun to feel burned out by all the Riordan books, never fear, The Trials of Apollo are here. This new five book series got off to a really good start with me, and I gave it five shining stars because dang this book. 

I wasn't the biggest fan of The Grisha trilogy that Bardugo put out, but Six of Crows was phenomenal. It got 4.5 stars from me. 

I sort of want to force McDaniel to spill her author secrets to me because THIS BOOK IS LIFE CHANGING. I literally want to go around throwing this book at people's heads until they finally read this book because it is so, so, sooooo amazing and I really wish I could convey the feelings I have for this book accurately. (Honestly just go read my review- it's so much more coherent.) But yeah, this was possibly the best book I read all year, and I gave it five stars. Also, check out my interview with the amazing Tiffany McDaniel!

Wow all I can say here is that this book really messed with my mind. Low key thought I was going crazy. 

13. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'm super sad because I just realized I never finished writing my review for this book, and I think it's too late for me to recollect my thoughts. However! I can tell you that this is definitely one of my new favorite books, and you need to read it because Jandy Nelson has the most beautiful writing humankind has ever seen. 

14. Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavksy

Another great read I didn't review (not sure why this is a trend all of a sudden...) but this novel was bizarre in all the ways you don't even realize. 

Aha Bardugo strikes again. I liked the sequel to Six of Crows even more, and gave it 5 stars. 

Honestly, are we even surprised here? The next book in the Illuminae Files did not disappoint- I loved every page of it. Crossing my fingers in hope that we'll get a cover and/or title release for book three soon! 

Aaaaand that concludes my Top 16 of 2016 list. I had a year full of some amazing 5 star and 4.5 star reads, and I hope that these are all books you've read or plan on reading in the future! Let me know some of your favorite reads this year! 

Friday, December 23, 2016


Title: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)
Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Pages: 659
Rating: 5 Stars
Purchase this book:
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Hanna and Nik are celebrating Terra Day on the space station they live on, Heimdall, when it is attacked by terrorists from BeiTech. Fortunately, (or unfortunately- depending on how you look at it) the two were separate from the rest of the civilians when BeiTech locked everyone in. The two are pressed to find help in escaping their attackers as they're hunted down.

Of course this book was phenomenal. I gave Illuminae five stars, and Gemina was just as good. For those of you who have read Illuminae, be prepared for a new set of main characters. Hanna is the daughter of the station captain, and lives a life of luxury. Nik is part of a notorious crime family and does not. I was somewhat worried that I wouldn't like having new characters, but I instantly fell in love with them and became invested in the story. Plus, their story still connects to the characters in Illuminae, and we get to see a little bit of them here and there.

Like with Illuminae, Gemina is told through IMs, transcripts, journal entries and more. In fact, the lovely Marie Lu did the sketches inside Hanna's journal, and they are absolutely fantastic. The typography, graphics, and images found in Gemina are so gorgeous and powerful. It really adds much more feeling to the story. True, it was a little awkward having to turn the book upside down and sideways to read some pages, but it was worth it. (Mini arm workout am I right?) 

Also! On the pages with "random" names, (lists of casualties and whatnot) I highly recommend you actually read through the names. You'll recognize many beloved YA authors scattered here and there!

If there's anything negative I have to say, it would be that I find the dialect of the characters a little too similar to ours. This book takes place five centuries into the future, and I feel like some of the things they say would be different. Like, the references they make are so... earthly. I don't know if the characters actually understand their references, or if they've just become old sayings at this point in the future. I'm not sure. Also, I'd love a little more worldbuilding. I understand that wouldn't really work with the story and format, but I really, really want to know more about what life is like in this world. What is Terra Day? What happened to Earth? How far into space have we colonized? However, these are so insignificant that I can't even dock down any stars for it. 

Gemina was an incredible book. The plot had my mind whirling- I couldn't believe the roller coaster it had me on. If you're even debating not picking this series up, please do. It's such a great read. And don't be intimidated by the size- the format allows you to read it quickly. 

Other books in this series: 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2017 Goals

Woah woah WOAH where has the time gone? I feel like December 2015 was just yesterday. Regardless of my inability to measure time, it is in fact the end of 2016, and I figured, "what better time to make plans and goals I probably won't accomplish than right now?"

1. Stay consistent

Okay, okay, so I went MIA there towards the beginning of the school year, and it was really hard to get back into blogging. This time, I want to consistently blog throughout the entire year. I don't necessarily want to keep to a strict schedule, but I also don't want to take months at a time off either.

2. Network more

I need to embrace the fact that I can't be totally immersed in the book blogging community if I don't go out and explore other people's blogs. I've been getting better at it, but I could still be doing more commenting, reading, and networking with other people.

3. Meet my Goodreads reading challenge

I'm going to tell you a secret, I changed my Goodreads reading challenge this year. *gasp* I know. What a scandal. But shhhhh I had a three month streak in which I did not pick up a book, so I think it's justified that I lowered my goal from 75 to 50. I did, in fact, reach my goal of 50, so.... yay? I think I'm going to set it at 50 again, but in my mind I'll shoot for 75. I just didn't like feeling so pressured to read as many books as I possibly could. I'd rather have some extra room to reread books and things like that. (Speaking of, Goodreads really needs to come up with a reread feature.)

4. Make my own TBR Jar Challenge

I haven't picked out the topics for this one yet, but I looooove the whole concept behind the TBR Jar Challenges. I think I'll write a post about it when I make mine, but I need to come up with some challenges that'll work for me first.

5. Start bullet journaling again

I bullet journaled all of the 2015-2016 school year, and I really loved it. When this year came around, however, I used a standard planner instead. I miss all the creativity I got to put into bullet journaling, and I recently flipped through my old one, and now I really want to get back into it.

6. Reread Harry Potter

I like to do a Harry Potter reread at least every other year, and I think that 2017 would mark another Potter year. (I'm not entirely sure, as some of my rereads have gone from, like, October to February, happening in the span of two years.) Regardless, I want to reread Harry Potter in its entirety this year!

7. Be happy :)

In the end, the only thing I can ask for out of 2017 is happiness. I started this blog because I figured it'd bring some amount of joy, and that's most certainly proved to be true. Whether it's within or outside of blogging, I'd like to get through 2017 happy and healthy!

What goals to you all have this coming up year? And does anyone have any challenges they're participating in? I really want to join some, but I have no idea where to start!

Wishing you all a happy new year,


Monday, December 19, 2016

Crooked Kingdom

Title: Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Pages: 536
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase this book:
AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

In this conclusion to the Six of Crows Duology, the team has escaped the Ice Court and now has to deal with Jan Van Eck. With Inej being held hostage, and the young Kuwbei wanted by multiple parties, the team has to work swiftly and quietly to finish the job.

Oh. My. Gosh.  Can I direct your attention to that little word up there that says "rating". Do you see what's next to it? FIVE STARS PEOPLE. I'm so happy I dove into this book. I read Six of Crows back during finals earlier this year, so it took me a solid month and a half to get through the book. Because of that, I was concerned this one would take me forever, too. But nope! I finished it in a week, and dang was it a good week.

I rated this book a half star higher than Six of Crows, and I think I did honestly like it a little better. Mostly, though, this is because you get to skip the heavy world building and jump right into the story. I had a hard time getting into Six of Crows at first, mostly because it does take a lot to set the plot up, but with Crooked Kingdom, I instantly fell into the world and the story. 

Speaking of the story... I really, really appreciate the complexity of this plot. I feel like a lot of books (especially YA) have this standard form of -conflict- make a plan- act out plan- plan succeeds- story ends. However, in Crooked Kingdom, it's so much more complex than that. Bits and pieces of the scheme are revealed to you as it happens. You think you know what's going to happen and then bam! you realize you never knew the full picture. It's just so great.
Another amaaaazing part of the story, as I mentioned last time, is the characters. Typically speaking, I don't like a story having multiple perspectives, but I love how it's done in here- and there's six perspectives! Each character truly has their own, unique voice, and you get to know them all on a deeper level. 

For my Hamiltrash out there who've read this one- did any of you see a handful of Hamilton lines scattered throughout the story? I definitely saw the thing about "guns and ships", the "outgunned- outmanned" thing, and the "see you on the other side" thing. 

So anyway, I loved this book on such a deep level, it's really not okay. I'm so angry this is only a duology. I'm not ready to say goodbye to these characters! And after goodreads-stalking Leigh Bardugo, I can confirm her next project is totally unrelated to the Grisha. It's not even high-fantasy! :(

That said, please, please pick this duology up! I wouldn't say it's necessary to read the Grisha Trilogy beforehand, but there are some references and things you won't entirely understand if you don't. (Nothing essential to the plot though.) So go! Read away! And if you've already read Crooked Kingdom, let me know your thoughts! 

Other books in this series: 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Banning Books and Why I'm Angry

So, recently I came across a story involving the censorship of books, and the typical stupidity of some people.

Parents in Illinois are pushing to have eight books banned from the school, including:
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • After the First Death by Robert Cormier
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 
I'm sure you, too, have read -or at least recognize- some of these books, and I think it's absolutely ridiculous that parents are pushing to have these banned from that school. 

I'm no stranger to the Anti-Banned Books movement, but this particular story has really sparked my flame of hatred for this type of censorship. 

In the second article, we get plenty of interviews from parents and teachers involved, and honestly, I don't know what bubble they're all living in. I highly recommend you go read at least the second article, but I'll pull a couple quotes out to show you what I mean. 

“I’ve read some excerpts of [‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’] that include an 8-year-old getting raped; it’s very explicit,” said Mary Kay Fessler. “The sexual content is too much for their young minds to process. As an adult, yes, we can process that, but as a 14-, 15-,16-year-old, I don’t’ think they have the neurological [power] to process that.”
First of all. Is that not offensive?  Fun fact- teenagers have the "neurological power" to process the seriousness of rape, thank you very much Mrs. Fessler. And secondly, if you're particular child doesn't have the "neurological power" to "process that", then I think you have some parenting to do.

'“We can’t have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation or sexual issues, regardless of the literature. I don’t care if it’s from Dickens or who else,” Rick Ligthart said, in summary."
Okay, I mean, that makes sense. We can send 18-year-olds off to fight and defend our country, but God forbid they read about "sexual issues". I'm sorry, but you can't shelter students forever, and maybe it's better that they read about things inside of literature, as opposed to online.

"Reigle called “The God of Small Things” “smut” and “porn”."
Right, right. Let's take a work that's been crafted with a plot of complexity and a deeper message hidden within the layers of the story, and plop a label on it. Has this "Reigle" even read more than the controversial bits before stating this offensive overgeneralization?

Okay my point here is that CENSORSHIP ISN'T OKAY. And it's hypocritical to try to censor literature, and then turn around and allow even worse content to be taken in through the internet and TV. Instead of censoring books, parents, why don't we allow students to enjoy reading, and learn about all aspects of life- including the ones you'd rather them not know about. Because the truth of the matter here is that teenagers need to be exposed to things that they will have to deal with later on in life without someone coaching them through it. The opinions you get from other people won't always line up with your own, and if you never have to seen possibly offensive, contradicting opinions, how will you know how to deal with those?

As always, you can protest book banning and censorship by reading a banned or challenged book, and letting people know.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Hammer of Thor

Title: The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2)
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Pages: 471
Rating: 4.5 stars
Purchase this book:
AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

Thor's hammer is missing (again), and of course the only people able to retrieve it are Magnus and his companions. However, there's more to this mission than originally meets the eye. With a deadline fast approaching that, if missed, would result in the wedding of Sam, and possibly the end of the world, it's a mad race to the hammer.

Ahhhhh okay emotions. If you read the first book, The Sword of Summer, this book was EVEN better. Yes, you did hear me correctly. Even better. Of course, I wasn't the biggest fan of the first book to begin with. I mean, it was good, but it wasn't anything mind blowing. However, this book? This book was amazing. 

Firstly, it was really funny. I was laughing. Out loud. Possibly at 1:00 in the morning. But drowsiness aside- the book was really humorous! As I said in my earlier review, I enjoyed Rick's writing style before Heroes of Olympus better, and this book really does mirror that style. 

I'm also going to mention the chapter titles. Because these chapter titles give me life. 

Another noteworthy aspect of the book was the characters. Actually, the characters might be my favorite part of the book. Rick Riordan has successfully shattered the norms of middle grade- and fiction in general- by supplying the most diverse cast of characters I've ever seen in one story. Carrying over from the first book, we have a deaf character speaking with ASL, a Muslim girl, and new to this book, a genderfluid character! I think it's fantastic that Rick has introduced a genderfluid character, especially since younger kids will get to see that through the eyes of Magnus, who is super accepting and has a good way of looking at things. It'll help kids understand the gender spectrum a bit more, helping it become something not so alienated. 

Mooooving on to the. freaking. plot. which. has. left. me. dying. for. book. three. 

I need it now. 

We go through the nine worlds with Magnus on this epic quest for Thor's hammer, and then all of a sudden there's this tiny sliver of a crossover between the Norse world and the Greek world. But of course. Rick has saved this for the third book, which doesn't come out until next year. I won't survive. Also, I believe this is going to be a trilogy, which makes me very sad. Partially because I want more of these beautiful covers on my shelf. 

Can I also add that I loved the pop culture references? They just add to the light-heartedness of the story. I think it'll be funny in the future when those references aren't as relevant, but adult-me will understand them all as she re-reads everything. (Possibly in my personal library with my three cats?) 

Anyway, I really hope you decide to pick this series up. I very much so enjoyed it, and I can't wait for the third book! 

Other books in this series: 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Climbing Out of a Reading Slump (a.k.a climbing Mt. Everest)

So we've established that I took a little abrupt break for a few months, and while there's a large negative side to that, it sort of prompted this post, so yay!

Essentially, for me, my reading life and blogging life are closely knit. When I'm not in the mood to read, I'm not in the mood to blog. And that's sort of what happened. I fell into a slump, and I pulled out of the bookish community, in turn pulling me out of my blog. So today's post is going to be all about beating (and avoiding) that reading slump. 

The first thing to address here is how to avoid getting into that slump in the first place. 

Rule number one, don't push yourself to read more than you can. I know one mistake I made was forcing myself to read wayyyy more on a daily basis than I really wanted to. I was heavily invested in hitting a daily page goal, and would spend a lot of time mathematically figuring out how many pages I'd read, and needed to read, instead of focusing on the book I was actually reading. Everyone wants to read more, but instead of focusing on page count, try and hit a certain amount of time. That's right, set a goal of, say, reading for an hour each day, and every time you pick up that book, hit a stopwatch or something. That way you can focus on how much genuine reading time you get instead of how many pages you read. (OR you can just live in the moment and not track your reading at all!)

Rule number two, don't set unrealistic goals. That time of year is coming up again. You know which one. The Goodreads Reading Challenge time of year. As December winds up, you'll be faced with setting your 2017 read books goal. Please, please, please, make it realistic. Don't push yourself to read 200 books if you know you'll be stressed out reading that 200 books. There's nothing wrong with a little challenge, but forcing yourself to speed read will only throw you into a slump. Instead, try setting a realistic goal that will challenge you, but still be achievable. (Or set an easy goal if you really don't care about how many books you read, so long as you're enjoying it.)

And rule number 3, don't compare yourself to other readers. Yes, sometimes we look at those crazy people who can read billions of books every year, and compare ourselves just a teeny bit. I know it's hard, but just accept that the amount of books you can read is good enough, if you're happy reading! There's no point in striving to be someone you're not. Your schedule only allows for so many books each month, so instead of feeling down about yourself, be happy, because as long as you love to read, you're just as much of a reader as everyone else!

Now that we've established how to avoid said slump, we will go into how to get out of one. 

First thing's first- acknowledge that you are in a slump. Acceptance is the first step to healing. Once we're aware that this is indeed a reading slump, proceed to the following steps.

- Go book shopping! Nothing gets those reading juices flowing like purchasing all those new releases you were excited for. Do you need more books? Probably not. Does that actually matter to you in the slightest? Nope. So go, purchase some new books, spice up your TBR pile, and see if that doesn't kick you back into reading gear!

- Watch some BookTube. I find that watching people hold up pretty, pretty books while they passionately talk about the um, plot and stuff, is quite motivating. Let them remind you of the joy that comes with reading, and perhaps that'll get you back into motion.

- Reread a well-beloved book. I would suggest a Harry Potter reread, to be specific. Other books I've enjoyed rereading are Percy Jackson, the Mortal Instruments, and any Rainbow Rowell book.

- In the words of Eliza, "take a break". Taking a step back from the reading world for a week may be what you need to reset your reading juices. In the meantime, feel free to listen to the Hamilton CR on repeat.

- Re-arrange your bookshelves. I've never actually tried this before, but reorganizing bookshelves is fun. Plus, sprucing things up always makes my room look nicer, and then I spend a lot of time just staring at my shelves. That's pretty motivational, right?

- Buddy read with a friend. Pick a book you and a fellow reader friend have both been wanting to read, and read it! Try and agree on a certain place to be at the end of a certain period of time, and then discuss! Having someone counting on you to read might be what you need to start your routine up again. (And if you don't have a fellow reader friend, hit up any of us blogger people!)

- Change the time of day you read. Have you always been a night time reader, climbing into bed and cracking open that novel before you drift off to sleep? Carve off some time in the morning to read a couple chapters before you start your day! Changing up the time you read might make you more willing to read. (I find once you've found a routine, your brain has a tendency to reject it. ;) )

And that concludes this episode of Julia (tries to) Help 101. Let me know what you do to climb out of a reading slump, and when the last time you had a slump was!