The Reading And Blogging Slump Funk Has Gotten Me!

The title of this post says it all: I’m in a blogging AND reading slump. And that’s making me really, really sad since I love all of you guys 😦 But because of all the schoolwork I’ve been having, I just can’t find the time or motivation to blog or read. Seriously, it’s that bad. If one pile of work is done, another one will appear in its place.

About The Blogging Slump:

I have decided to take a little break in blogging. I will still be around commenting on your blogs, but mine will be pretty quiet for a little while. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be quitting blogging anytime soon. I’m just going to take a break so I can come back refreshed and ready.

Blogging should never be a chore and I don’t want it to turn into one, since that would make one of my favorite hobbies go bad, so I welcome this break. Hopefully I will be able to visit all you guys’ blogs and comment so I don’t get wiped from your memories 😛

About The Reading Slump:

I’m on the search for a book to get me out of my reading slump! And I would absolutely LOVE IT if you could recommend me some. I’m not looking for a certain kind of book. Long, short, fantasy, mystery, contemporary, anything will do. It just has to have the magical ability TO GET ME OUT OF THIS HORRIBLE SLUMP FUNK!

Thank you for reading that not-so short notification 😛

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Adorkable by Sarra Manning: review

10890319Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Stand Alone
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: May 24th 2012
Synopsis: Welcome to the dorkside. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Jeane Smith’s a blogger, a dreamer, a dare-to-dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand and has half a million followers on twitter.

Michael Lee’s a star of school, stage and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie.

They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can’t they stop snogging?

My Thoughts:

“We have nothing to declare but our dorkiness.”

Adorkable is a contemporary novel that I found to be undeniably charming. The book is fun, adorable, and has a really good message. Adorkable also had an uncanny ability to make me laugh, which is always a good thing 😉 This might not be a contemporary filled with emotion and impact, but it was fun.

I admit that the plot is a little ridiculous and the circumstances in the book can be even more ridiculous. I myself probably wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I had if it wasn’t for one thing: Sarra Manning’s great characters.

First is Jeane Smith, who is now one of my favorite characters. Jeane Smith is the blogger (see? She’s awesome already) behind the famous Adorkable, has half a million followers on Twitter, is the queen of jumble sales, and isn’t at all afraid of being her. She can be really terrible, but even then she is sort of fantastic.

“Never shield your oddness, but wear your oddness like a shield.”  

Jeane is one of those people who, upon hearing that you don’t approve of them, will say, “So? I think I’m freaking amazing” and then walk calmly away as if you didn’t exist. I find that absolutely refreshing since there definitely aren’t many characters out there that are like that.

Michael Lee wasn’t as amazing as Jeane, but he was definitely good. I was actually surprised by how believable and honest he was written. Even though he is a genuinely good person, Michael Lee’s thoughts can be pretty unpleasant at times, especially when Jeane is being a little intolerable. But I’ve always valued honest and imperfect more than unbelievable and perfect, so me and Michael Lee got along just fine.

The chemistry and relationship between Jeane and Michael Lee: Perfectly written. Jeane and Michael Lee’s relationship is an undeniably messy one. The way it progresses is not the norm. But that messy relationship was perfectly written, and to be honest, even when Jeane and Michael Lee were verbally battling out, I wished that I was a character in the book so I could ‘accidentally’ push the two together.

Manning’s writing is great, with dialogue and narrative that really made me smile and laugh, making Adorkable a breeze to read. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to write and understood how she was going to do it.

Adorkable is a very good contemporary and is one of the more refreshing stories out of the genre. I would recommend this book to lovers of fun, adorable stories with great characters. Oh, and also people who want to take a step into the dorkside. Because the dorkside really needs some members.

In Defense Of My “Reading Too Much”

People often say to me that I “read too much.” They normally say this to me after they notice that I carry a different book every couple of days or catch me reading a book when I come be doing something else. Now, I am actually totally okay with people telling me this. Mostly because it allows me to launch off on a speech about why I love reading and how good the book I am currently reading is.

But, I am starting to feel as if some people are sort of looking down on me, as if they think I have a life that is boring, have no social life, and/or just wasting my time. While I am not really angry or sad about this, I do feel like I need to vent my feelings and defend my fellow bookish people. And since I have a nifty, little blog, I decided to do just that!

First, I must ask how someone can read too much? What is the amount of time that I must spend reading for me to be reading too much? I mean, if you are enjoying it and it isn’t bad for you, then you really can’t have too much of it. If anything, you can really only read more because there are all these books out there in the world.

Reading is a practice that people like me enjoy, just like how other people may enjoy video games, sports, television, and many other sorts of things. And really, reading is thing that should be valued (just like all those other things should be valued).

Oh, and about the stereotype that readers are anti-social… Where did that stereotype come from? I mean, I am a very sociable person and spend lots of time with my friends, even if I “read too much,”, and I am pretty sure other readers do to. Besides, if someone prefers reading instead of socializing, that really shouldn’t be frowned upon.

Another thing I want to say is that I do not consider the time I spend reading wasted time. I love reading and love the bookish that comes with it. I have read so many amazing stories and met so many great people. I don’t regret all the time I spent reading at all.

Also, there is evidence that reading literature makes us smarter and nicer (thanks, Christina, for the link!). There is evidence that reading does affect you as a person and can make you more understanding of other people and more able to perceive the world through their eyes.  Which, in my opinion, is seriously awesome and very true.

So, all I really ask is that people stop automatically judging and assuming things about people who they believe to “read too much.” I don’t judge people who don’t like reading or just don’t read very much. Remember, reading is a hobby that should be valued. And if you are also a bookworm…

Keep reading 🙂

Goth by Otsuichi:review

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Goth: A Novel of Horror by Otsuichi
Stand Alone
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Horror, Thriller
Publisher: TokyoPop
Release Date: October 7th 2008
Synopsis: Someone had taken apart her body in the forest. Her eyes, tongue, ears, thumbs, organs–each was nailed to a tree.

One tree had, from top to bottom: the left big toe, the upper lip, the nose, and the stomach. Another had other bits of her arranged like Christmas tree decorations.

The murder was soon the talk of the nation…

Otsuichi-san’s GOTH comes at you with a relentless awe and a taste for the twisted. In this truly shocking tale of terror, two high school sociopaths become fixated on a local serial murderer. But rather than trying to prevent and solve the next murder, their obsession grows, taking them on a descent into a maniacal darkness in which the most nightmarish acts occur.

Psychologically twisted and emotionally wrenching, this compelling story takes Japan’s horror tradition to a whole new level of fear.

My Thoughts:

Stories that are twisted and depict the darker side of humans have always simultaneously disturbed and fascinated me. I find it interesting to read about how sociopaths, psychopaths, and the like think. So, when I began reading Goth, I was absolutely captivated.

Otsuichi didn’t flinch at all when he wrote this dark, twisted tale of mystery and murder. The killers he created are dangerous, unstable, and, at times, ruthless. Goth‘s atmosphere is dark and foreboding. The two leads are very interesting characters. And Otsuichi’s mysteries are skillfully crafted with surprising twists. Really, Goth kicks a heck of a lot of butt.

If you don’t already know, Goth is somewhat of an anthology. There are different stories, each featuring a different mystery and killer, but still containing the same two leads, Morino and the narrator, whose name is unknown until the last story in the book. As the stories go by, you will start feeling like you are grasping onto the two leads and how their relationship works.

This way of telling a story might not work for everyone, but boy, did it work for me. Learning more about the two mysterious leads by finding bits and pieces to hold onto throughout each story was fun and the different mysteries that come with the different stories are hard to figure out and will sometimes even pack quite a punch. And when I think about it, Goth really couldn’t be told in any other way…

Morino and the narrator are two of the most intriguing characters I have ever encountered in fiction. These these two characters begin as enigmas and, for me, uncovering more about them was the best part of reading Goth. These two characters, both of them obsessed with death, are characters that, while I couldn’t completely love them because of how cruel they could be, I genuinely loved learning about them.

Otsuichi did a fantastic job at writing from the point of view of a sociopath. I could really fell how detached from the world and how isolated the narrator was. I could feel how merciless and unfeeling he was. There were also times when a story would be told through the eyes of the killer, which were also very well done.

Goth is a story that I was completely taken in by. This book is mysterious, twisted, and unsettling. Otsuichi really did succeed at sending chills down my spine. Goth is a fantastic read. Highly recommended!

Steel Lily by Megan Curd: review

17828413Steel Lily by Megan Curd
Series: The Periodic Series #1
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Starry Sky Publishing
Release Date: August 12th 2013
Synopsis: AVERY PIKE is a commodity. No, more than a commodity. Her existence is guarded at all costs.

She’s a water Elementalist, the strongest of her dwindling kind. She creates steam to provide energy to fuel Dome Four: the only thing standing between humanity and an earth ravaged by World War III. No steam, no Dome. No Dome, no life.

Or so she thinks.

That is, until a mysterious man offers her a way out of having to donate steam. A way to escape the corrupt government of Dome Four. While the offer seems too good to be true, Avery is intrigued. But when she arrives to her new home, she realizes the grass isn’t any less dead on this side of the fence. Instead, the lies are just hidden better.

…Which means digging deeper.

When Avery enlists the help of her friends to uncover the truth, she learns that while some secrets are better left concealed, humankind was never meant to live in a cage. And when you can control the most sought after resource, you can learn to control anything…including the fate of your world.

My Thoughts:

Steel Lily has an interesting plot and world. Earth has become dangerous and barren after the war, causing humans to crowd themselves into domes in order to protect themselves from poisonous air. Avery Pike, a water elementalist, lives her life in Dome Four giving steam in order to power the dome, all awhile feeling like she’s being controlled.

One day, Avery is confronted by a man who tells her he can give her freedom and a life that isn’t controlled by the corrupt government. Avery is reluctant at first, but is later forced into a situation that requires her to leave Dome Four with her best friend Alice and go to a new home. But Avery soon realizes that Dome Seven has its own secrets…

As you can imagine, I picked up Steel Lily I was expecting an adventure in a damaged world, a compelling story that would keep me reading instead of sleeping. And even after a disappointing beginning, I still kept hoping. Unfortunately, Steel Lily, though it had its merits, didn’t have the adventure I seemed.

Instead, Steel Lily isn’t an adventure through a damaged world but takes place in a boarding school. Not that a boarding school is a bad place for a story to take place, but it just doesn’t work for a book like Steel Lily. The wonder of learning about a different world is gone and replaced by shared rooms and classes.

And even the giving of information wasn’t done well. The information about the war that killed the world and caused people to live in domes? Given through a boring video a teacher makes Avery watch. The rest of the information? Told through dialogue but never explained thoroughly. It all felt very lazy, and sometimes I just felt confused.

The main character Avery is also not a part of the book I loved. Avery is certainly a capable girl and knows how to take care of herself, but it really annoyed me that she always seemed to be merely reacting to things. She is constantly being led around by external forces and rarely causes anything herself. It’s Avery’s friends that collect the information and make things happen.

Speaking of Avery’s friends, I have to say that they were amazing and are probably the redeeming quality of Steel Lily. I loved Alice with her cheerfulness, Legs with his funny personality, Sari with her awesome hacking self, and Jackson with his funny, sarcastic comments (and eventual character development!). And the chemistry and relationships they had with each other and Avery was great.

I can’t say much about the villain, but I want to say that the plot twist that involved him was something I found ridiculous. It came absolutely out of the blue with no build-up at all. It just happened and left me rolling my eyes.

Curd’s writing is strong and well in control, for the most part. Her descriptions were often lovely. But I do think that the dialogue felt a little unnatural at times. A little editing bit more editing definitely wouldn’t have hurt.

Steel Lily isn’t a bad book and I was entertained by it, but lots of things fell flat for me, including an out-of-place feeling romance. Curd had thought up a great premise, it’s just that the execution wasn’t up to par. I might recommend this to a person wanting to try out a dystopia with a little bit of steampunk mixed it… Just be prepared for disappointment.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: review

9464733Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Stand Alone”
Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Humor, LGBT
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: May 24th 2011
Synopsis: The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

My Thoughts:

Here’s an interesting scenario: A plane filled with beauty queens crashes on a desert island. The beauty queens are left with a very small supply of food, little water, no way to contact help, and, most importantly, practically no beauty products. What do you think would happen?

Well, Libba Bray thought that random, ridiculous, and crazy stuff would happen, apparently.* And that thought is what made Beauty Queens, a hilarious and fun book that is filled to the brim with satire. Bray’s beauty queen survivalist story is addictive and really did bring me more than a few laughs.

A warning for readers: Beauty Queens has one of the most random, ridiculous, and crazy plots I have ever read. No matter how crazy and ridiculous you think things already are, it will only get more crazy and ridiculous. I mean it, guys. The explosive hair remover is the least crazy thing to happen in this book. Beauty Queens is an extreme ride and suspension of belief is obviously going to be required.

The beauty queens… Wow, the beauty queens! They are what made this book. The girls were weird and sometimes acted just plain bonkers. They were over the top and many of them were stereotypical (by design), but boy, were they fun! Those beauty queens had me constantly smiling the whole time I was reading the book.

I also loved that Bray really took the time to peel back the layers of many of the girls’ characters. It made it so you could find them to be believable and realistic (well,as realistic as a group of characters like these girls can get). Lots of the girls’ stories were very thought-provoking and I had no problem with investing in them. My favorite girls were Petra, Adina, and Tiara.

The other characters were just as over the top as our main girls and I think Bray did a great job with them. What can I say? I love crazy 🙂

Bray’s personality really shined through in the way she wrote Beauty Queens. I have never actually met the lady, but from what I have gathered, she always struck me as a fun-loving, hilarious person. And with all the cute and fun footnotes generously sprinkled everywhere and the commercial breaks, I definitely felt that a fun-loving and hilarious person wrote the book.

A couple of flaws I found while reading this book is that, while Bray presented great commentary and ideas on many different important issues, I think that Bray could have woven the ideas and commentary more tightly into the story and did more “showing” than presenting. I’m also pretty sure there was a name mix-up in one instance…

But as a whole, Beauty Queens is a book that I adored. I loved the humor and satire. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters. And the explosive hair remover was pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself.

*Okay, Bray might have not exactly fully believed that crazy and ridiculous stuff would happen. But she probably hoped that crazy and ridiculous stuff would happen.