Sunday, June 30, 2013

Goodbye, Google Reader. Hello, Bloglovin!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Now that Google Reader is shutting down, I'm switiching over to Bloglovin (which apparently I'm one of the last people to do).  There's now a button in the right column, below the Twitter button.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Blog Updates

I've been making some changes over the past few days to the blog, and I'm really happy with how it's been going.

  • Changed the look of my blog to match the color of my business cards, since I think my cards are so pretty.
  • Changed the rating system from a letter grade system to my new cupcake system.
  • Made a review policy, as well as some general blog policies.
  • Consolidated my reviews for books, movies, and TV shows into one review index, rather than having separate pages for each.
  • Figured out how to remove those annoying borders from around all the images.  And I did it with a little CSS.  I copied it from someone's tutorial, but it still felt cool to use CSS & HTML again.
  • Started a twitter account for my blog (@the3Rsalmost).  I'm still not that good at keeping up with it or tweeting in general, but I'm getting there.
  • Added lots of new books to my Crazy TBR List.  And I still haven't even added all the books that I got from BEA (project for Sunday).
  • Updated my photo in the About Me section to something more recent.

So that's what I've been up to, and I hope to keep making changes.  Some of the changes I hope to make include:

  • Adding/participating in a few new features.  Maybe Waiting on Wednesday or Feature & Follow Friday.  Maybe I'll start my own.  We shall see.
  • Updating my list of Blogs I Read.  It's sadly outdated, and it doesn't include most of the blogs I've discovered this past year through Top Ten Tuesday.
  • Creating (aka asking my brother to create) a logo or banner that's unique for my blog.  Since my brother's the one who made the cupcake images for my new rating system, I figured I'd ask him to see what he could do.
  • Starting a facebook page for my blog once I have a logo/image.
  • Creating a spreadsheet schedule for my TBR list.  I have a lot of ARCs (which I never did before), and I want to try to read & review them close to their release dates.
  • Learning more CSS & HTML than I already know (which is very, very little CSS and only basic HTML), so that if I ever do move to another platform, or self-host, I won't feel completely lost.
  • Buying my own domain name.  Probably the last thing I will do, once all the other changes are done.

And that's it for now.  Hopefully, I'll be able to accomplish some of these soon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (29) - Best Read Books of 2013... So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week we're covering the best books we've read in 2013 so far.  I thought this would be so hard, but it actually turned out to be pretty easy.

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year

*Honorable mentions -  The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson and Legend by Marie Lu.

So what about you?  What are your favorite reads so far this year?  And do you like or dislike any of the books in my top ten?  Let me know!  :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Title:  Edenbrooke
Author:  Julianne Donaldson
Genre:  Historical fiction/romance
Publisher:  Shadow Mountain
Pages:  264
Attained:  Via publisher at BEA


Synopsis from  Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was told, "If you love Austen, you should read this."  And I agree.  Edenbrooke is the perfect book for an Austen fan.  It's got the Pemberly-like estate, the witty dialogue, the swoon-worthy hero.  And it not only reminded me of Austen, but also Georgette Heyer, another one of my favorite authors.

The story focuses on Marianne Daventry, a girl who prefers quiet country living, who feels that she lives in her twin's shadow, and who doesn't fit into her society's definition of a "proper" lady.  She's a great character from the beginning; she's smart, witty, spirited, but also wounded by her mother's death and father's abandonment.  I loved her character development throughout the book.  She travels to the country to spend the summer with her sister at a country estate, and while there, becomes friends with Phillip, the second son of Lord Wyndham.  Phillip is perfectly swoon-worthy.  Handsome, funny, flirtatious but with this deepness to his character.  Throughout the story, Marianne uncovers all these different layers to Phillip's personality that make him truly wonderful.  I also love him because he's such a tease.

I do feel that the Goodreads summary is a bit misleading.  The way the blurb describes this book, you'd think it would be this action-paced adventure.  Yes, there is a highwayman and a mysterious stranger, but they're relatively minor parts in the story.  The true focal point of this book is the relationship that develops between Marianne and Phillip.  They have this incredible friendship that's also simmering with romantic tension.  But their conversations are what I enjoyed the most.  Their verbal sparring and Phillip's roguish flirting are so entertaining; I just wanted to skip over everything else that was happening just to see what they'd say to each other next.

I would definitely recommend Edenbrooke to anyone who likes Austen or historical romance.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Updates on the Rating System

So it's time for a change.  The rating system I had originally put together for the blog is just not working for me.  For example, when trying to figure out how to rate The Reluctant Assassin, I was completely lost.  I couldn't decide if it should have a B or C rating, because B seemed too good, but C was too harsh (based on my definition of those grades).  And then you add in the pluses and minuses, and it gets to be too much.

You know you need to make a change when your own rating system confuses you.

Going forward, I'm going to be using a system closer to what Goodreads uses (ok, I'm totally stealing it from them).  Pretty much, everything will be given a rating out of five cupcakes.  Why cupcakes?  Because besides books, baking is a huge passion of mine, especially cupcakes.  So it only seemed fitting that I should use cupcakes (all the credit for this idea goes to my sister).  And all the credit for the cupcake images goes to my brother, who designed these for me.

The New Rating System

  • 1 Cupcake (Didn't like it)  -  A rating of 1 cupcake means I did not like the book at all.  It takes a lot for me to really dislike a book, so there had to have been no redeeming qualities at all to save it.  Books that are badly written, gross, filled with excessive profanity or graphic sex/violence, perverted... all of those would probably fit here.  
  • 2 Cupcakes (Just okay)  -  A book that's just okay is a book that I didn't really enjoy, but I also didn't hate it either.  It just didn't engage me in anyway.  Also, if a book has a lot of problems like non-existent plots, stereotypical or flat characters, and awful dialogue, it's only going to get two stars.
  • 3 Cupcakes (I liked it)  -  So this is for a book that I did enjoy; it had good entertainment value.  But it still has a few problems.  Sometimes a book can be enjoyable, while still having a problem here or there with bad character development or flat writing.
  • 4 Cupcakes (I really liked it)  -  A book with 4 cupcakes has great writing, no technical flaws, and great entertainment value.  It's something that I really enjoyed reading and would recommend to anyone.
  • 5 Cupcakes  (I loved it)  -  A book that meets all the requirements of 4-cupcake rating but also has that extra something that made me fall in love with it.  It's a book that I couldn't put down, that I was willing to lose sleep over, that I will read again and again and again.
  • DNF/No cupcake  -  This is for a book that I did not finish (DNF) for whatever reason, whether it was too boring, too perverse, too badly written... you get the idea.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (28) - Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week it's all about the top books on your summer TBR list.  I have SOOOO many books to read, both from before BEA and thanks to BEA.  And I always find more to add to my list just from browsing other people's TTTs.  But this topic was actually easy for me, because I know exactly which books I want to read first this summer.

The Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List
  • Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson  -  Technically I already started this book, but summer's only a couple days a way, so I'm counting it anyway.  It reminds me a lot of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, so that's a win for me.
  • Awaken by Meg Cabot  -  I cannot wait to finish this trilogy.  I'm hoping that this final book will be a satisfying ending.  *crosses fingers*
  • Ink by Amanda Sun  -  Japanese mythology + beautiful cover = book I can't wait to read!  My sister is actually reading it right now, so I have to wait for her to finish it first.
  • Taken by Erin Bowman  -  I've been waiting to read this for so long.  Ever since I first heard about it on someone's TTT last year.  Now I finally have it and am looking forward to it.
  • Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi  -  LOVED Under the Never Sky so I'm psyched for this book.  More Perry please! 
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater  -  I got the sequel, The Dream Thieves, at BEA so I figure I should probably read this book first.  Borrowed it from the library so it's definitely a top priority.
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta  -  Another book I got the sequel for at BEA.  Technically I got the third book, and my library only had this one, so getting the second book should be interesting.
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey  -  I seriously hope this book lives up to all the hype around it.  I have yet to hear one negative thing about it.  Plus there's so much dystopian out there right now that an alien invasion book is a refreshing change.
  • Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier  -  I read the first book, Shadowfell, last year without knowing anything about it really.  And I loved it!  I love the story and the characters, and Marillier's writing is amazing.
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi  -  I got Unravel Me at BEA, and now need to find a copy of this book. Especially so I can get involved in this Warner vs. Adam showdown.  I wonder which team I will be.
So what do you think?  Agree or disagree?  Any books here that you've already read and loved?  Read and hated?  And what are your top books to be read this summer?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blogger Confessions - Binging

Before I actually start this post for real, I just wanted to point out that this is the first post I've ever done with GIFs.  So I'm hoping they all work, and that I don't step on anyone's toes copyright-wise.

Blogger Confessions

I love to binge-watch my favorite TV shows.  It's pretty much how I spent the past three days.  No reading or blogging or writing was accomplished.  Just vegging out in front of my... actually, not my TV because it's currently blocked by my pile of BEA books (a post on that to come).  I actually did my binge-watching on my iPod this weekend.  And what did I watch?  Warehouse 13!

I really do love, love, LOVE to read, but sometimes, I confess, I need a couple of days to just breathe and be a couch potato.  Especially right now, when I'm feeling very, VERY overwhelmed by the number of books I got at BEA.  Usually when I go to the library or order books from Amazon, I get a few at a time (think 3 or 4).  But I came home with 50 (I think) books, and I have no idea where to start.

So how do I cope?  Binge-watching a TV show that I know I love.  The Big Bang Theory, Warehouse 13, Psych, Murder She Wrote, Pushing Daisies, Castle... wow, I watch a lot of crime shows... when I don't feel like reading, I grab my iPod or DVDs and spend hours glued to the screen (usually without too many interruptions).

But it's not just TV shows that I like to binge on; it's books too.  When I'm not sure what to read next, I pull out all of my Georgette Heyer regency romances and binge-read the whole collection.  I'm such a sucker for those books.  They've got witty dialogue, awesome heroines, funny situations.  And of course, most important of all... swoon-worthy heroes.

And it's not just Heyer's books that I'll binge-read.  It's also my old children's books, the Percy Jackson series, anything involving dragons in some way.  If I've read it and adored it, it's fair game when I'm looking to binge.  And so all of my new books or ARCs that are in need of reading and reviewing, my blog, my writing - all of it goes out the window when I'm in this kind of mood (like this past weekend), and I fall way behind.

So that's my confession - I binge.  On books, TV shows, movies.  Even when I have an ever-expanding TBR pile, or reviews to write, I will push it all aside to re-read and/or re-watch all my old favorites.

What about you?  Do go on book or TV binges like me?  Do you have specific shows that you'll watch over and over?  Or are you the opposite?  Do you dislike re-watching or re-reading when you have lots of new things to distract you?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

Title:  The Reluctant Assassin
Author:  Eoin Colfer
Series:  W.A.R.P. Book 1
Genre:  YA Sci-fi
Pages:  341

Rating:  B

Synopsis from goodreads:  Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims' dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick. 

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie's possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I love Colfer's Artemis Fowl series.  It's fantasy with a little sci-fi thrown in.  His new W.A.R.P. series is pretty much the exact opposite.  The first book, The Reluctant Assassin, introduces us to a new branch of the FBI that specializes in protecting important witnesses... by hiding them in the past.

The concept is brilliant.  I love the idea of using a time machine as a form of witness protection.  There are so many crazy things that can, and do, happen when you put someone from the 21st century into 1800s.  And even crazier things happen when someone from the 1800s manages to get sucked into the future.  The whole time I was reading this, I just kept thinking - "This is such a great idea.  It would make an awesome TV series."

The plot is also pretty good.  It occasionally has its moments where it gets a little slow, especially when all the high-tech, sci-fi stuff needs to be explained.  It got bogged down in too many details.  But overall the story moves at a good pace.

My biggest issue is the characters.  I couldn't connect with them at all.  Part of it was the fact that Riley's voice changed constantly.  Sometimes he had this thick cockney accent and slang, and the next minute the slang was gone and he could've been any kid from now.  It threw me off.  And Chevie sounds way more like a male character than a female one.  She's very much a tomboy.

I just felt like this book was primarily written for a male audience.  The plot's completely devoid of a romance, the characters are masculine, the story's very action-driven, and there's plenty of violence and killing.  I enjoyed the story, but I think my brother would have enjoyed it more.  So while I think that The Reluctant Assassin is a great book, it just wasn't for me.  B

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (27) - Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.  This week's topic is your best beach reads.

So I'm really not a beach person.  I'm more of a pool person.  I like to go swimming somewhere where I can see the bottom, and I don't have to worry about getting eaten by a shark, stung by a jellyfish, or caught in an undertow.  But when I do go to the pool or the beach or, as we say in NJ, down the shore, I always like to bring a book with me.  Something on the lighter side, usually a romance or containing romance, that's not going to leave me an emotional wreck, blubbering on my towel.  For this week's Top Ten, I'm going to share which books I'd like to read down the shore/next to a pool this summer.

My Top Ten Picks for This Summer's Beach/Shore/Poolside Reads

  • Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal by Alexandra Johnson  -  I love to collect journals, with the intention of using them... someday.  And I also love to write, so this book was a great gift.  It's full of beautiful passages from other people's journals, writing exercises, and tips for creating a memorable story.
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson  -  I got this book after seeing the movie, and it's awesome.  I love following Miss Pettigrew, this straight-laced vicar's daughter, experience life and adventure and romance for the first time.
  • Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden  -  This romance is a great Beauty & the Beast retelling.  The writing isn't spectacular, but it's perfect for a sweet story about a marriage of convenience that becomes something more.
  • Ink by Amanda Sun  -  I cannot wait to read this book!  The cover caught my eye originally, but when I saw that the story was about Japanese mythology, I was hooked.
  • Awaken by Meg Cabot  -  The final book of Cabot's Hades/Persephone trilogy is one I'm both excited for and dreading.  I wasn't thrilled with the first book, but really liked the second.  I'm hoping this book will be a satisfying ending, and I think it would make a great romantic, quick read for the beach. 
  • Always the Baker, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker  -  So I know in the picture, the next book is Ever After by Vicki Courtney, but that's because it was sitting next to Always the Baker, and I accidentally grabbed it when I was trying to put this pile together before work.  Always the Baker is such a cute, fluffy romance, and it includes some yummy-sounding recipes, which I cannot wait to try.
  • Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson  -  Someone told me this was a book geared towards Austen fans, so I snatched it up.  I think all historical romances, Austen novels, or Austenesque novels are perfect for the beach, because they're often on the lighter side with witty dialogue.
  • Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel by Melody Carlson  -  This book sounded great for me.  It's about a woman who lands her dream job at The New York Times, but then discovers that her life isn't going in the direction she wants.  Then her "eccentric" aunt leaves her an estate, and she starts discovering just how secretive and quirky her aunt really was.  It looks like it will be a fun read.
  • Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas  -  I love to read travel/food memoirs when down the shore.  This one sounds delicious!  It's all about Paris (a place I want to visit) and the yumminess the author experiences there (cupcakes, cheesecake, chocolate).  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Now I just want to find a pool chair, and read this book with a plate of cheesecake at my side.
  • September Girls by Bennett Madison  -  And what better way to finish off a list of beach/pool reads than a book that takes place in a beach town?  I know this book has been getting a lot of negative reviews, but I got a copy at BEA, and I'm going to give it a try.

Now how about you?  Do you agree with anything here?  Disagree?  Did you try September Girls and hate it?  What are your picks for best beach reads?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Random Thoughts - Life Happens

So I came back from BEA exhausted, but also pumped and happy and ready to blog like a maniac... and that didn't happen at all.

During the BEA Bloggers Conference, one of the things I heard a bunch was that you need to blog consistently, whether it's every day or every other day.  Your readers need consistency.  Well, I have a problem with that... it's called life.

Life happens.  Stuff happens.  Things come up that are a higher priority than your blog.  You can't help it.  It's just the way things are.

I've been beating myself up this past week for not posting every day or every other day, for not feeling motivated to write something or even read something.  And I've decided that's kind of stupid.  I can't control the fact that it was a coworker's birthday, or that one of my besties had a baby, or that I got sick.  That's life.

Does that mean that I'm just going to use that as an excuse to be lazy?  Nope.  I still want to keep my blog updated regularly, but I'm not going to put myself through a guilt trip if I let a day or two go by without posting.

That's just something I've been thinking about this past week, as each day went by without blogging.

Still to come: a real BEA recap, a BEA book haul post/picture, my review of The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer... and that's it... I think...

Side note:  I've been contemplating a career change, and I'm not sure if it's something I'm ready for.  In this economy, the idea of leaving a secure job to try something new is incredibly scary, and not something to be rushed into lightly.  But it's an idea I've been mulling over (love that phrase) for a while, and now I just need to decide if this is the best time to do it or not.  I'm so conflicted!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (26) - Best Travel Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.  This week's topic - the best books containing travel.  I love travel books; I've always wanted to travel the world, or even just the US.  Unfortunately, the closest I'm going to get for a while are these books.

Top Ten Books Featuring Travel
  • The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien -  By far, one of the most epic journeys ever.  The places the characters went to, the way Tolkien described them, made me want to jump into Middle-Earth, or do the next best thing and visit New Zealand.
  • The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan -  These kids go on the craziest adventures all over the world; I'm so jealous.  I would risk getting eaten by monsters to see some of the places they get to visit.
  • Almost anything by John Green -  John Green loves to include travel in his books.  It's either coming-of-age road trips with friends, or romantic trips to Amsterdam.
    • Paper Towns
    • An Abundance of Katherines
    • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Marlena de Blasi's books -  Marlena de Blasi pretty much only writes travel memoirs, but her Thousand Days books are my favorites.  She totally immerses you in the culture and events happening in Italy, so you can very easily feel like you're right there with her, finding love with a handsome Venetian or buying a home in the Tuscan hills.
    • A Thousand Days in Venice
    • A Thousand Days in Tuscany
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert -  Ok, so I cheated a little here.  I still haven't finished the book yet; I reached the part about India and got distracted, so this is really more about the movie than the book.  Her story made me want to quit my job, throw everything aside, and jump on a plane.  Italian lessons and pizza, spiritual retreats in India, the lush beauty of the jungle - please take me there now!
  • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen -  While the story itself wasn't amazing, I loved the whole concept.  Three men travel into the world of books on dragon ships.  Places and people from literature are all real, and you can visit all of them and meet everyone.  That would be so fantastic!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Title:  Under the Never Sky
Author:  Veronica Rossi
Series:  Under the Never Sky #1
Genre:  YA dystopian romance
Pages:  376

Rating:  A+

Synopsis from  Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent energy storms will. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must come together to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Goosebumps.  That's what this book gave me - goosebumps.  I was swept into this beautiful romance that I never wanted to end.  And when it was over...

Yeah, that picture pretty much sums up how I felt when I finished Under the Never Sky.

The book is primarily a romance in a sci-fi/dystopian setting.  I mean, the post-apocalyptic storyline was interesting and well-written/developed, but the real center of this book is the relationship that develops between Aria and Perry.  At least that's how it felt to me, and I loved it.

Aria and Perry are great primary characters.  Their strengths and weaknesses work together to make them real, relatable, flawed characters.  The story is told from both their perspectives, so we get to see each of their personalities develop throughout the book, fleshing them out into characters with depth.  Their growth from enemies to allies to friends to lovers is slow and believable.  No ridiculous insta-love here.  Their romance is beautiful.  And for all those people arguing between Perry and his best friend Roar... please.  Perry is by far the more interesting and smexy of the two.  Don't misunderstand me - I do think Roar is awesome too.  But I'm Team Perry all the way.  Roar has a lighter, fun personality, and he's handsome in a conventional way.  But Perry is just so intense, so passionate, and he's rugged and strong.  Yeah, I'm definitely all about Perry.  :)

I love how Rossi handled the world-building throughout the novel.  Instead of spending chapters explaining the ins and outs of her post-apocalyptic Earth, she builds it during the story.  She uses the action and the characters to introduce each aspect of her world, developing it a little at a time until you got the big picture.  This was perfect, because it kept the book from getting bogged down with long-winded descriptions.  The book stayed fast-paced, but I never felt like I was missing something, like I needed something better explained.

I kept putting off reading Under the Never Sky because I kept hearing how good it was, and I was "saving the best for last".  I'm so glad I didn't keep waiting to read it.  It was exactly the kind of book I needed - satisfying, beautiful, and no cliffhangers.  I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next book, Through the Ever Night (which I got autographed at BEA).  It's sitting on my desk, waiting for me to finish my library books so I can see what happens to Aria and Perry next.  A+

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Title:  Insurgent
Author:  Veronica Roth
Series:  Divergent #2
Genre:  YA dystopian
Pages:  525

Rating:  A+

Synopsis from  One choice can transform you, or destroy you. Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OMG!  I just finished this ten minutes ago and loved it!  I just had to write my review immediately (even though I have other reviews and posts I should be doing).

Insurgent is the second book of the Divergent trilogy, and it is a really awesome middle book.  Tris and Four are still one of my favorite book couples, despite the tension in their relationship.  I feel like both of them have even more character development in this book.  They have so much more depth in their emotions and personalities.  Of course their relationship goes through some stress and strain, but what relationship doesn't?  The secondary characters didn't get as much attention as they did in the first book, but I think that was because this book had so much more action and a faster pace.

I definitely enjoyed the fast pace of this book.  There wasn't ever a time to take a breath.  I was just on the edge the whole time, needing to see what happened on the next page.  Which is really good for a trilogy's middle book.  So often that second book is just kind of... blah.  But I did not feel that way at all this time.  The story was so exciting and action-driven.

Besides having great characters and a lot of action, Insurgent is full of unexpected twists that I never saw coming.  Sometimes books will have one or two big twists to throw off the readers, but this book had quite a few more, and every time one would come up, it would just suck me into the story more.  And the ending was the biggest twist of all.  As soon as I finished the book, I literally ran out of the room to find someone to tell how much that ending threw me.

Insurgent is a great book, and I'm so mad that the copy I read is a library book because that means I have to return it.  I'm now anxiously waiting for October, when the final book, Allegiant, is released.  A+

Saturday, June 1, 2013

BEA Highlights

I'm back!  After an awesome four days at BEA, I am both exhilarated and exhausted.  I was planning on writing an expansive, detailed account of each day after I got home.  And each day, I would get home, take pics of my new books to share,... and then pass out.  SO I may still do a couple of recaps, but for now here are just some of the highlights of the past four days.

My Top Five Favorite Author Meetings
  • Veronica Rossi (signing Through the Ever Night)
    • Veronica Rossi was the first big author I met over the past four days, as well as the first author signing I've ever been to in my life.  We chatted about Perry, and I told her how engrossing Under the Never Sky was, how it just sucked me in.  She was funny, talkative, completely down-to-earth.  Of all the authors I met during BEA, she's definitely my favorite.
  • Ridley Pearson (signing Choke Point and Kingdom Keepers V)
    • Ridley was cool because he came out to greet everyone on the line 15 minutes before he was supposed to start signing.  He introduced himself, shook everybody's hands.  He just went the extra mile for his readers.  And when I saw him at another signing the next day, he remembered me, and that's always cool - to be remembered even though he's talked to hundreds of other people since then.
  • Brandon Sanderson (signing The Rithmatist)
    • So I told myself I wouldn't have any fangirl moments or get all tongue-tied.  And then I met Brandon Sanderson.  I told him how I loved Elantris, and I was excited that he'd written a YA book, and then he asked me if I had any questions for him.  My whole mind went blank.  Luckily he was really cool and ignored my awkwardness (for which I'm eternally grateful).
  • Michelle Madow (Remembrance)
    • I actually met Michelle Madow thanks to her mom.  I was in line to meet Rick Yancey, author of The 5th Wave, and I started talking with the women in line with me, and it so happened that Michelle's mom was standing behind me.  She told me about Michelle's new series, and then Michelle herself came to stand in line too.  And we chatted in line for about 30 minutes, which was a really cool way to meet and get to know an author.
  • Bennett Madison (signing September Girls)
    • I just wanted to give him a hug!  He was so nervous because this was his first BEA event, and he didn't know what to write in people's books.  He asked me if I had any good ideas for inscriptions (I didn't), and then apologized for writing "the lamest inscription ever."  He was just so cute!

The Top Five Most Interesting Things I Learned at the Bloggers Conference
  • Twitter, Twitter, Twitter!  It was everywhere I turned.  Turns out that Twitter is one of the best ways to build a following for your blog, rather than a Facebook page (which I wanted to do).  Of course you can still have the Facebook page as well, but it's Twitter that will be doing all the real work.  And I've resisted it for so long.  But apparently, in this one case, just because everyone else is doing it... I should too.  So I did.  My "handle" is @The3RsAlmost.
  • Wordpress is everybody's favorite (but I'm sticking here for now).  So I've been thinking about moving the blog to Wordpress for awhile, but I've been really nervous because blogger has been so easy to use.  And they made the transition sound kind of scary, although other bloggers said it wasn't that big of a deal.  Whatever the case may be, when I'm ready, I'll take that next step to Wordpress, but until then, I'm going to enjoy Blogger's simplicity.
  • Editors make awesome cheerleaders.  There were a few ARCs during the YA panel that I wasn't really interested in... until the editors talked about them.  They were brilliant at selling these stories.  So brilliant that as soon as the panel was over, I went back and picked up the ARCs I had passed by.  Maybe publishers would make more money if they just used their editors as their salesmen.
  • I need a reviewing policy.  I never thought about posting a reviewing policy before (I never even knew people did that), especially since everything I've reviewed in the past was something I bought or borrowed from the library, never an ARC or free book from a publisher.  But now I have a ton of ARCs, and I met with Sourcebooks about receiving more (you rock, Valerie!), so now it's time to come up with a policy.  I also apparently need to "disclose" whenever a book I'm reviewing is an ARC or freebie (that's all they talked about at the ethics *yawn* forum).
  • It's okay to feel discouraged or to lose the passion.  For a big period of time, this blog suffered from me feeling pretty blah about it.  I felt like it had become a chore.  It wasn't something I was just having fun with anymore.  Then last year, I decided to get back in the swing of things, actually get involved in the blogging community (which I never knew existed), and start having fun again.  But sometimes that blah feeling can set in again, and guess what?  It happens to all of us, not just me.  I felt encouraged by the fact that other people were able to say that it's a constant struggle to keep finding the joy in blogging.

Just A Few of My Favorite Moments of BEA 2013
  • Meeting lots of other bloggers who were all so welcoming and talkative.  As well as the librarians and teachers I waited in line with.  You all helped me navigate my first time at BEA, for which I am so grateful, and you were all such great people that I felt just like I was at a giant party with friends, rather than a trade show.
  • My name getting so much attention.  I know my name is unusual (Ashling), and people tend to comment on it.  But this week, almost every author I met wanted to talk about my name, instead of their books.  I actually didn't even get a chance to talk to Cristin Terrill for more than a second because I ended up chatting with her editor, Emily Meehan, about Irish names.  Which was really cool and unexpected.
  • Friday's author breakfast was SO cool, because I love Rick Riordan so much.  His three series are some of my favorites, and I could read and re-read them over and over again.  Plus, I got a Camp Half-Blood t-shirt!  And Veronica Roth was also there, and even though I'm so jealous of her for writing a bestseller before she was 24 (I wish it was me), I really enjoyed her speech.  I thought it was insightful, personal, and meaningful.  Veronica said she was nervous to have follow-up Octavia Spencer, Mary Pope Osborne, and Rick Riordan, but she did a great job.  Kudos to you, Veronica!
  • Being able to get something for each of my siblings.  The nice thing about having a brother and a little sister who love to read is that a book expo is a great place to find a special surprise gift.  For my 11-year-old sister, I got a Magic Treehouse mug from the author breakfast.  She grew up reading and loving those stories.  For my brother, I got a signed excerpt of the new graphic novel March.  It's the autobiography of Congressman John Lewis' part in the Civil Rights Movement.  My brother actually met John Lewis on a civil rights bus tour, and the Congressman himself was there to sign it, so I got that personalized to my brother.  And for my younger sister, the one who isn't a big reader, I still found something perfect for her.  Cinda Williams Chima's Heir trilogy is the only series my sister has ever finished.  She loved it so much, she read the whole thing in only a few days; she's even the one who found out that Chima was writing two more books in the series.  So when I found out that Cinda was going to be signing the fourth book, The Enchanter Heir, I got a copy signed to my sister.
And that's it for now.  I'm actually surprised I've stayed awake for as long as I have.  I feel about ready to sleep through the rest of the weekend.  I may or may not write more about BEA, or post pictures of the books & swag I got while I was there.  So at least I was able to give you some of the highlights of my first BEA experience.  Good night!