Wednesday, December 30, 2015

16 Things We Want To Do in 2016


1. Read More Genres
I want to up the genre diversity of my reading. I’ve noted some readers pick their monthly reads and post them on Tumblr, so I think I'll do the same and make sure I have a mix of YA, literary, romance and SFF.

2. Graphic Novels
I’ve put this on my list every year, this is the easiest thing to do and yet I never get to it. This year, though.

3. Days of David Levithan
I don’t even want to know what year I started this but I would like to finish. I do think I'll allow myself to skip ones that don't interest me.

4. Sarah Dessen Catch Up
I just noticed I started a lot of Sarah Dessen books and then never finish them with 40 pages or so
less. I'd really like to play catch up on these books.

5. Read 100 books
I think I’ve got my mojo back after a few years so I’m going to attempt it. I think between the romance blog and this one I can make it happen.

6. Virginia is For Book Lovers
Jess and I have been working on this post for years and this time we are going to do it.

7. Big Papa Books
We like big  books and we cannot lie. Just kidding, not really but we'd like to read 1 or 2 of those
900+ page behemoths.

8. Challenges
I'm signing up for the Pop Sugar and Debut authors challenge.




9. Bookmarks
I have downloaded bunch of fonts and would love to make some downloadable bookmarks that other readers can print out or use on print-to-order sites.

10. Newsletter
I'd like to condense the blog down into a bi-weekly e-mail as a way to build our audience. Blogging is mostly for fun but I'd like to see if we can get a group of engaged readers.

11. Get Active
I want to get more active in the blogging community. Kat participated in  a great feature this year and I want to do something like that in 2016. Sign me up !

12. Read More Print
I know one of the reasons I don't sit down and read alot is because I love to multi-task, so audiobooks are 80 percent of the way I read. My goal is to sit down and read at least five physical books.

13. Binge Read
In the vein of Days of David Levithan I want to binge read one author or series. For strictly YA I'm thinking of Falling Kingdoms or maybe the works of Daniel Jose Older.

14. Attend BookExpo America
I've been visiting NYC my whole life so going to BEA in NYC every other year was no big deal. This year BEA is in Chicago. I hope things work out so I can attend in a city I've never been to before. It'd be a real adventure.

15. Podcast
 I say this every year but I think it's be cool to do a podcast. I didn't realize until we were interviewed for a local blog, but I actually have quite a bit to say about YA.

16. Drop Caps
I want to read some literary fiction to round out  my reading. Because I like pretty things I plan to read two books from Penguin's dropcaps.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

16 Books We Want To Read In 2016


Kat and I searched all over the bookternet for 2016 books we want to read in the next year. Today's post features a mix of 16 books we want to review on Books and Sensibility and our sister site Romance and Sensibility.


1. Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (January 26, 2016)
This brand new historical romance series from Beverly Jenkins features a hero who is passing as white in the American West. I want to read more romance by and about black women and I've heard nothing but good things about this author - Kat








2.  Salt to Sea by Ruta Sepetys (February 2, 2016) This YA novel is based on the real life events of East Prussian refugees seeking safety during WWII. A story like this feels very topical now.  - Kat










3. Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (February 2, 2016)
I  usually don't like it when publishers bundle free novellas in a hardcover and I haven't even started Winter but.... give it to me. - Kat











4. Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (February 19, 2016)
This is a YA version of the Blackbeard story. I don't know much about Blackbeard but . . . pirates. - Jess













5. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (April 26, 2016)
Funny story, this book was on our list for 2015 last year, however the book release got pushed back to 2016. I  have an Audible credit just waiting for this. - Jess








6. The Crown's Game by Evelyn Sky (May 17, 2016)
Two magicians. A magical competition ? This sounds a lot like The Night Circus so this one might be right up my alley. - Jess










7. Tone Deaf by Olivia Rivers (May 3, 2016)
A deaf music prodigy is swept away on a world tour by the lead singer of a popular punk band. If you've read this blog you know I'm With the Band Now situations are my genre kryptonite.- Kat








8. Romancing the Fashionista by KM Jackson  (May 10, 2016)
In this romance a tough fashionista and ex-jock tangle. Like I said earlier, I want to read more POC authors so bring it on. - Kat











9. Addicted by Elle Kennedy (June 28, 2016)
I'm really enjoying the first book in this post apocalyptic romance series. It's so crazy sauce. I may try it on audio. - Kat









10. This Savage Song (June 2016)
I think Victoria Schwab is a great writer and this new series is about a town run by monsters, including ones that use music to steal people's soul. - Kat









11. The Serpent King by Jennifer Zenter (March 8, 2016)
This book has a boy whose father is one of those Pentecostal ministers who handles poisonous snakes. I think it's interesting to see more YA handling religion and this book seems interesting.









12. Enter Title Here (August 2, 2016)
This book reminds me of the book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got A Life, which I loved in high school and only later learned of the plagiarism scandal. In this book a straightlaced Indian-American overachiever lands a book deal and realizes she has to have some classic teen experiences to make her book more interesting.








14. Into White by Randi Pink (September 13, 2016)
This book is about a black girl who wakes up white. This book sounds super bizarre, but it's so crazy it just might work. I didn't know what they were going to do for this cover, but this one really works!. - Kat







13. Of Fires and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst (September 2016)
A princess with magical powers falls in love with her fiance's sister. Can't wait to see the cover for this one.(but I'm guessing it will have big serif text). - Kat

15. Heartless by Marissa Meyer (November 8, 2016)
*Grabby hands* - Kat

16. Flower by Shea Olsen and Elizabeth Craft (December 30, 2016)
A girl who has sworn off boys her entire teen years fall for a pop star. See above genre kryptonite. Also, by the time this book comes out it will be days away from 2017 ! - Kat

Okay, I have some review requests to write!



Thursday, December 17, 2015

After by Anna Todd



  • Release Date: October 1, 2014
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance / New Adult
  • Pages: 592
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster)

I’ve been known to do a bit of hate reading of NA, but since starting the romance blog (shameless self promotion is shameless) I’ve rounded a corner and have learned to understand and appreciate some of the genre’s tropes. I’m prepared to visit  a generically named-idyllic-college with its brooding alpha richboy-manwhore heroes and ingenue virgin heroines. But  After seemed to take those  tropes to a whole new level….It honestly felt like it tried to be bad on purpose. This book was just so bizarre.

As many of you know this was originally One Direction fanfiction (er, real person fic ? bandfic ?) that got crazy popular on Wattpad. I actually started this on Wattpad after hearing about Todd getting a 3 book deal. I didn’t think it’d be my speed, but I figured it would be unrealistic contemporary crack fun. It seemed like there had to be some kind of hook that garnered this story 6 million views and pushed this book to well over 500 pages.

Needless to say I was wrong.

 After is about what happens when straight laced, innocent  college freshman, Tessa meets  her roommates' rude, tattooed , pierced  “frat boy” friend AU Harry Style Hardin Scott. At first Tessa doesn’t get why Hardin is so mean to her, but soon they start a quickfire intimate relationship that consists of them flirting, fighting and breaking up...like 7 times.

In my most generous reading of this book I would say there were a few things I thought were funny   like how Hardin literally only wears black t-shirts and Tessa is amused by how he just keeps a supply in the back of his car.  I also liked the idea of this group of crazy tattooed and pierced friends who never seem to go to class. In fact when Tessa says she doesn't like "The Slut" in Hardin's friend group, he basically says 'too bad she's our friend and she's not going anywhere'.

My biggest issue with this book is there is no sign of a plot anywhere. Which is confusing to me because this book was clearly edited from the original fanfiction. The language was changed and some scenes were added and removed.  I’m not sure why they didn’t try and reshape the plot structure more.

There is no real motivation or conflict for either character. People and plots are brought up and dropped so quickly. Which is too bad because there are some threads that could have created some interesting conflict. 

You could also get real nitpicky with this book;Tessa and Hardin only go to one class,
Hardin joined a frat so he can live in the house, but the frat never gets a name and he never has to do any frat activities. But the worse to me is that Hardin uses his connections to get Tessa (who has been  a freshman in college for one month)  a PAID internship at a publishing house where she has her own office and just reads manuscripts for the publishing house owner. IN SEATTLE ! 

How in the world did the editors of this book let that one go ?





*****Spoilers Ahoy****

So after a 550 page slog though this book Tessa and Hardin are in love, Tessa is no longer speaking to her mother or her beta high school boyfriend, has moved in with Hardin-- who is the only person she talks to--when it is revealed Hardin has been She’s All That-ing her and had a bet with his friends that he could take her virignity and to make it worse he even showed his friends evidence. Which, just...ugh ? It really upset me that no one told her about this bet, not even her roommate who kind of likes her. And honestly this should have come at the half way mark instead of at the end.

This is the lowest score I've ever given a books, but I  have to give this book a 1.5 star because I really couldn't recommend anyone read this. Not just because of the content, but because it is so long and I don't think it's worth the time even for a hate read. 








Taking a cue from Jess' TFIOS review where she decided not to review the book like it lived in a vacuum, I did read some of Todd's interviews and have come to the conclusion that the biggest issue with this story was that it was never meant to be a book.

 Todd talks about how she basically wrote most of it on her phone--which it turns out is also how much of Wattpad is consumed. She discusses how she got into fanfiction based on Instagram fanfiction (I feel old) which is when people write fictional scenes based on in Instagram pictures.  I could see how this story could work in short bursts, but not as a 500 page endeavor. 




Monday, December 14, 2015

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Since I've started blogging and paying attention to the adult lit world I have heard a lot about Margaret Atwood. She’s mostly known for her feminist writing and disturbing dystopic features. And while this book feature some of this, it’ just so ….bizzare. I really had to do some research to see what others were saying to make sure I understood it. The book editor of the Washington Post called it a "silly mess"... and it kind of was this for me. I have no idea how to really review this, since I don't have much to compare it to, but here goes.


In an economic collapse in the Northeast, married couple Stan and Charmaine have lost everything. They live in their car, fearful of looters and the next day to come. When they have the opportunity to be apart of an economic experiment that requires them to move into the town of Consilience , an idyllic 50’s style town where everyone is given housing and work.. The only catch is they have to alternate a month being prisoners inside Positron prison and a month being a citizen in Consilience, leaving their home for their Alternates.

As you may suspect all is not what it seems and Stan and Charmiane get involved in a bizarre plot that include sex robots, a house of Elvis impersonators  and adultery. So much adultery. The thriller-esque plot they get involved in just didn't make sense. I’m not sure if this novel is satire or something. I feel like if I didn’t know who wrote this I’d be like, this is kind of misogynstic but because it’s Atwood it’s maybe satire. It just seemed like all these strong capable women had this plan and then they leave it to a bumbling man as their linchpin.


Something I think should be taken into account is this wasn’t originally a novel. This story was originally serialized on the now defunct Byliner website in chunks, which may be why it feels so distorted.
The strongest part of this book for me was the world building of the Positron/Consilence project. It was just so unsettling how the citizens were so willing to be in jail for a month and not question the system. There is a lot of build up about what Positron is a cover up for and that build up is what kept me reading.

I do think I'll go back and try more classic Atwood because I think this one was a little too weird for me.




Sunday, December 13, 2015

Quirk Books Gets Hillary Clinton All Dolled Up


We don't usually get political on the blog, but when Quirk Books told me about their Hillary Clinton paper doll book I couldn't resist. This book is so fun and would be the perfect gift for your political junkie friends or family. This book includes everything from White House Ghosts to Hillary's Republican foes and even a sax playing Bill Clinton. And Oprah. Oprah.

Quirk asked us to create a scene and caption using the dolls and here is what I came up with. 
I decided to put together a little White House book club with the queen of book clubs, Oprah Winfrey.


*Thank you Quirk Books for sending this our way!




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

9 Episodes of This American Life YA Readers Will Love


Did you know NPR's This American Life turned 20 this year ? I've been binge listening to the podcast and since I blog about books I decided to pair nine episodes of TAL with with some amazing YA books because sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

YA Novel: Like No Other by Una LaMarche
TAL Episode: My Experimental Phase - Act I

Both of these stories are about Hasidic youths exploring the world outside of their communities. Like No Other is the story of a relationship between a Hasidic girl and a West Indian-American boy in Brooklyn. The first act of this TAL episode tells the story of a young Hasidic man who ends up in the Brooklyn glam rock scene.






YA Novel: Tears of A Tiger by Sharon Draper
TAL Episode: The Alibi

The Alibi is the first episode of Sara Koeing's popular podcast , Serial, the true crime story about the murder of Hae Men Lee. Tears of a Tiger isn’t about a murder, but like Serial we get a glimpse of the aftermath of a teenage death told through the memories of their classmates and community.






YA Novel: Noggin by John Corey Whaley
TAL Episode: Mistakes Were Made - Act I


This episode gave me chills (I know, I know). This TAL episode is about what happens to a man tasked with caring for those who have been cryogenically frozen. And it goes horribly, horribly wrong . I think the story of  Noggin is the future members of this cryonic society would have wanted.



YA Novel: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TAL Episode: Show Me The Way - Act I


Hazel and Gus travel across the pond to meet their favorite author Peter Van Houten and in this story a man recounts how at 15-years-old he traveled 1,000 miles to meet his favorite fantasy author Piers Anthony--using nothing but Anthony’s books as a guide.




YA Novel: Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally
TAL Episodes: Heretics
This American Life seems to love stories of people grappling with their faith much like Kate does in Things I Can't Forget. This TAL episode captured me the most because this pastor has a complete 180 on his theological beliefs and loses everything for it. Bonus Episode : God Said, Huh. comedian Julia Sweeney reads the Bible for the first time and what she finds is surprising.



YA Novel: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

TAL Episodes: No Place Like Home - Act I

 Dream Things True is the story of a teenagers' family who was brought over illegally from Mexico by Coyotajes. The first act of this TAL piece is about the Caminata Nocturna--an illegal border crossing simulation run by former Coytajes--in Mexico. As entertainment.  His storytelling is so vivid of the simulation. I was half-listening to this episode of TAL and it caught me off guard with its big reveal.

 


YA Novel: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
TAL Episodes: Need to Know Basis - Act II

We Were Liars and Need To Know Basis are both about extended family, hard truths and the things families don't say out loud. Even more so both stories feature a girl who realizes the things she came to believe about her family look very different after a big reveal.







YA Novel: Everybody Sees The Ants
TAL Episode: Comedians of Christmas 


This episode is a hilarious recording of a TAL live show. While none of the comedians were given guidelines, all three of the male comedians did a piece about their mothers. Everybody Sees The Ants is one of the few books where

much of the conflict is seen between a mother and son's relationship.





YA Novel: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
TAL Episode: Image Makers - Act I

This episode is all about re-imagining people and places. In the early 2000's a librarian re-imagined the library as a venue for a rock concert. The reporter does a lot of interviews with the rock band, High Strung, talking about  why they agreed to perform in libraries for a summer and all I could think about was the band, Truth Squad, from This Lullaby. They're both just  a group of guys living in a van as they travel across the country playing shows. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4)


I have been meaning to get to this book for years. YEARS. The Mortal Instrument series has the honor of being one of the first series we reviewed and looking back on some of the older reviews I feel like we didn’t give it a fair shake. I mean people love this series and The Powers That Be  have so much faith in the story it's getting a TV show after the movie bombed.With all that in mind I decided to go into this book with positive intentions. Did it work ? Ehhhhhhhh….nope.

So, the big fight is over and the Big Bad from the first book is gone and we spend most of the book getting to see the characters outside of the whole Hero(ine?)'s Journey. And it is just not interesting. There is this scene in the book where Simon and Jace go grocery shopping (yes, I said Simon AND Jace) and it was so weirdly bizarre, it felt like a parody. I mentioned this to Jess and she said it may be a red herring, but it wasn't.

This is kind of like the Half-Blood prince of the series. There is so much relationship drama interspersed, but it's really hard for me to feel any emotion because most of the couples have known each other for a few weeks.

Anyway, the plot really gets going when Shadowhunter bodies start piling up around New York City and Clary and the crew are out to find out who did it and why.

There is a lot of character development, especially concerning Simon dealing with being a vampire and having the Mark of Cain which means anyone who hurts him is disintegrated. He also meets a mysterious new stranger.  Jace is less snarky and  more angsty this time around and Clary is being Clary; trying to be a shadowhunter, loving Jace, making up her own runes and yet still being a damsel in distress somehow.

I will say this book did make me appreciate Clare's myth building and the way she ties Biblical stories into her magic. Also have I mentioned the Nightmare Fuel ?  Once we get to the big reveal there is some top level Fridge Horror.

I highly suggest reading the Infernal Devices before going into this book. There are some pretty deliberate *wink nudges* to characters from that series. Including some characters (Okay, Magnus Bane) showing up and doing the "hey remember that Herondale kid..." thing.

I'm a bitter ender so I'll probably get on to City of Lost Souls...as soon as I find a cheapie copy somewhere.





Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mini Reviews : Life Hacks

These mini reviews feature my informal thoughts on two non-fiction books I've been reading and pulling tips and advice from all year long.

Skinny Taste by Gina Homolka

In 2015  I wanted to start eating healthier, so I picked up Gina Homolka's Skinny Taste after seeing the beautiful cover in Target. Plus this Target edition had extra recipes.

I loved the recipes in this book so much that I actually gave it to my brother, BC, as a birthday gift. It features colorful and flavorful recipes that are so good you won't believe they are healthy. Even in my tiny kitchen they bring out my inner Top Chef.
Chicken Pot Pie Soup !
One of the first recipes I made was the Chicken Pot Pie soup. I also highly suggest her beef and broccoli plus I've made her chicken marsala on multiple occasions.

If you're not sure if Gina's recipes are for you check out her blog SkinnyTaste.com it's how I first discovered her !  I co-sign on her Skinny Chicken Enchiladas !

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kondo

This is  the little book that was everywhere this year. This book outlines the KonMari method for tidying. I grabbed it on audio performed by Emily Woo Zeller. It's a shortie at around four hours and  I listened to this audiobook while doing the KonMari method. I really embraced her philosophy on discarding and organization.

As a book blogger I couldn't quite commit to her ideas behind book organization. Just no. I can't say I've kept up with tidying but I do find myself folding stuff into rectangles and throwing out things that don't have that spark.

Kondo seems to realize her ideas and thoughts on organization may be a bit radical and I couldn't help but to side-eye some of the lengths she goes to in the name of order.

One of my criticism of this book is that Kondo's book doesn't fully take into account individuals who might have non-familial roommates or who share a house. Her book is very focused on homeowners or those who live with parents. I enjoyed the audio but if you're not sure if it's for you this is a book I'd grab it from the library.



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