Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beyond Our Stars Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway!

BeyondOurStarsTourBanner1

I’m so excited to be on the blog tour for Beyond Our Stars today, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours! It’s been quite a while since I’ve been on a blog tour, but I have to admit, I’ve missed it. I was first intrigued about this book actually because of the publisher, Bloomsbury Spark. I wanted to read a book published by them, since they are just starting out, and since I’m a die-hard fan of dystopia, I couldn’t resist this book. I enjoyed the book, so I have a review and a lovely giveaway for you at the end!

 

Beyond Our Stars by Marie Langager

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Genres: Dystopia, Sci-fi

Release Date: December 13th, 2013

Source: Received from publisher for tour!

 

Synopsis:

Fleeing a destroyed Earth, seventeen-year-old orphan Hope grew up living in the confines of a spaceship heading to CR-3, a new home planet. She's been kicking the steel walls for too long and ever since she broke her boyfriend's heart, touchdown could mean open air and a fresh start. But no one expected the Locals.

Hope’s dreams of freedom turn into nightmares when the Locals trap the humans and mark groups for observation. At any moment she can be called into a holographic observation room for testing. Some days she’s drowning in a strange dark ocean, some days she’s locked up without food, and all with the one boy she can't seem to forget.

As the Locals study Hope, she studies them. She wants to believe the tall grey creatures could be peaceful, but as the simulations become more dangerous, Hope is about to become the human race’s last chance for survival.

My Review:

Going into this one solely remembering that it was a sci-fi with dystopian elements with a pretty cover was advantageous for me, I think. I was thrown into a different world without really knowing what was going on- and I liked it. Despite that, however, I felt as if this book started off with a bang, had a few bangs in the middle, but fell a little flat otherwise. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read for me, although I can’t say it’ll be hugely memorable.

I have to applaud the author for the creativity put into the science fiction concept behind this book. I was always craving for a tad bit more world-building, especially regarding the past, but I liked the concept that was woven. The simulations present were really intriguing to me, and I really liked how creative they were. Sometimes the creativity threw me off a bit- just because it was so different- but I liked having to imagine completely different from the norm. It’s all part of the sci-fi experience that I enjoy so much.

Another thing I really enjoyed was how much of an easy read this was. It was pretty short, but I flew threw it in an afternoon regardless, because I just didn’t want to stop It was one of those cases in which I told myself I would get up after I was half done… and then look up to realize I had finished the entire thing. It was nice to be able to breeze through this book because I just wanted to know how things would happen.

However, while the first chapter utterly gripped me, being thrown into a completely unknown situation and all, I can’t say that the rest of the book was as good as that first chapter. The explanation unraveled after that first chapter, providing some background, which was fine. But as the book wore on, I found a plot that lacked tension in many places and was riddled with clichés. There were also a lot of plot holes that I just didn’t get. This book isn’t unique in its plot as it is in its concept. We find what many dystopians have these days, and I was sad to see that nothing really blew my socks off.

Also, Hope, our main character, confused me so much. I never got a grip on her character and it severely affected my overall enjoyment of the story. She started off the story, to me, with what seemed like a shy, more reserved personality. But after just a few chapters, the reader was told that she was basically a celebrity and that everyone knew who she was. Um, what? She had such an intriguing past that seemed like it would seriously affect who she was, but I only saw glimpses of that. (I also totally wish we would have gotten to see some of her past). I was confused the entire time by her personality, and it remained pretty stagnant throughout the entire book. Hope, unfortunately, befuddled me throughout and that took away so much from the story for me.

Overall, Beyond the Stars has aspects of what I love in any sci-fi novel- an awesome concept, and an addicting-ness that I can’t shake. However, the plot was pretty meh, and I could never get a firm grip on Hope. I can easily say that I enjoyed this book while I read it, because I could ignore the flaws, but it’s most definitely not going to be one that lingers. I’d recommend this one to dystopian or sci-fi fans looking for a quick read.


Buy this Book:

Amazon / Barnes & Noble 

About the Author:

Author-Photo_06971

Marie Langager lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. She has a B.A. in English. She’s certain that many new adventures await us beyond our stars.

 Website / Goodreads / Facebook/ Twitter


On top of my review, I also have a lovely giveaway for everyone! Make sure you follow all normal giveaway rules. It’s international, and you could win a $50 Amazon gift card! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Teen Talks (13): Failure, and Coming to Terms With It

The Teen Talks is a semi-regular discussion type feature here on the blog, that allows me to talk about a variety of things from my teen perspective.

I think I can finally say that I failed last week. In a lot of different ways.

The thing about failure is that I find it’s easy to admit. To tell someone that I screwed up and that I simply failed isn’t the hard part for me. Accepting failure is what’s so hard for me. I’m an optimist in some ways- I just don’t see failure as something that has happened to me. Admitting that I’ve failed to myself is nearly impossible. Once I do, it’s easy to admit to others, though.

In the lieu of what happened for me personally last week, I think I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I did indeed fail.

The week before spring break was an intensely stressful one for me. We got one day off as a snow day on Monday, so I was super laid back going into the week. I was leaving in the afternoon on Wednesday of that same week for a big tournament, and spring break was oh-so-close, so it was easy just to not try for once, despite it being a very hard week.

So I didn’t. I missed assignments. I barely avoided failing quizzes. I didn’t pick up a book or try to find some time to blog. I told myself I was going to work out, instead of actually doing it. I didn’t do well at the tournament- despite most of that being due to judging. I can’t chalk up the fact that I didn’t do well entirely to the fact that my judges were bad. A lot of that was me.

I had so much at stake, too, despite not really realizing it at the time. The thing about my high school is that it’s insanely competitive, and I’m fortunate enough to have a good rank at the moment (which is absolutely everything at my school). It’s a precarious one, though, and very hard to upkeep. The tournament I went to was also one of the biggest of the year.

So sitting here, late at night, with my “bittersweet” playlist going, I’ve had to finally come to terms with it. Failure. It’s hard, and I let myself drown in it in the past few days. I had the option of either letting these things make me stronger, or letting them drag me down, and it seemed to me until now that the latter would win out, because things looked so bleak.

But the thing about failure- the thing they always tell you- is that you have to pick yourself up. It’s hard to fail so hard when there are so many expectations, and it’s ten times harder to try and find a way to move on, to make things better.

It has to be done, though. And after standing at the edge for the last few days, I think I’ve finally realize that I’m going to have to make it through. Spring break couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me- because this week is for me to strategize, figure out what went wrong, and how to make myself better. In all aspects.

It’s never easy to accept failure. Everyone has to process it differently. Each person has to pick themselves up in different ways. I’m slowly starting to find my motivation, and it’s going to be hard going for a while, but I think I’m going to make it.

And I could ask for nothing more.

What about you? Have you ever failed? How do/did you cope with it? Let me know!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Epic Recs: February Edition!

Epic Recs is a feature started by Judith @ Paper Riot and Amber @ Books of Amber, in which a group of people (2, 3, 4, doesn’t matter!) force the other to read a book that they love/think the other person will love. This post sums it up pretty awesomely. I’m doing this with Willa @ Willa’s Rambling, Jen @ Books and Happy Ever Afters, and Vy @ Vy’s Blog!

I’m a little late in posting this, but school has gotten the better of me lately. It’s always better late than never though! Winking smile This month, for February, I got to recommend Willa a book, and Jen recommended me a book.

I recommended Willa:

  • The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: Honestly, my love for this book is no secret. As I was going through Willa’s read shelf, I saw that she loved a lot of contemps, but also has really enjoyed books like Unearthly and The Girl of Fire and Thorns. So, I chose this book in hopes that she would love it just as much as she liked the above two, since they have a few commonalities.

Jen recommend me:

  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: I’ve actually had a copy of this for such a long time, and even have it signed! I just haven’t had the time to get around to it. But, now that Jen has recommended this one to me, I’m finally going to get to read it! I can’t wait to see why so many people have loved this one.


So that’s it for me! I’m currently reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the book Vy recommened to me, and actually enjoying it. It’s strange, for sure. I still have a lot to go, though, so I suppose my opinion might change (for the better or worse).

Have you read any of the books mentioned in this post? Are you doing something similar with your friends? Let me know! =)

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Teen Talks (12): Making Resolutions (or Goals!) Stick

The Teen Talks is a semi-regular discussion type feature here on the blog, that allows me to talk about a variety of things from my teen perspective.

The glitz of the new year is slowly wearing away as people move back to their normal lives.If you're like me though, you've made resolutions and- shockingly- actually want to stick to them. I'm trying out some new things this year, because even though I am going to be crazy busy, I'm ridiculously determined to stick to my resolutions. Even if you didn't make resolutions, I think it's safe to say we have all made goals, whether they're something like "finish my homework before midnight!" or "completely re-do my blog design by next month!". Regardless of what they are, or how many you’ve made, I think it’s worth saying that you want to stick to them, yes? I’m trying out some new things this year to see if I can make my resolutions stick, and so I’d thought I’d share some advice on how to actually accomplish those resolutions or goals. =)

So here they are!

  • Break them down. Thus far, I think this one has been the most helpful to me. I’ve made pretty general resolutions, but then I went ahead and broke them up into little chunks. From there, I’m planning to have a set monthly goal, and then do a loose weekly goal to see how I’m doing. If I’m accomplishing my weekly goals, then I’ll be getting my monthly ones done as well, overall contributing to my resolutions’ success.
  • Track your progress somewhere you look often. Tracking your progress is key to accomplishing any goal, especially long-term ones. But what I’ve done this year is create THIS lovely thing. I hung it right by my bed, so I see it every day. I get to see my goals every week, and then I’ll be crossing things off as I get them done, to have a visual of what I’m actually getting done. It’s super motivating, and it’s something I suggest trying of course.
  •  Find your motivation. Honestly, with any goal, it can be tiring to continue on. Slaving away at a blog design is hard stuff, let me tell you, from experience. So, it’s nice to have some motivation- whether it be music, pictures, or quotes- to really inspire you to get moving again. If you’re in a blogging slump and one of your goals is to blog consistently, you might have some screenshots of your favorite comments or something that you look at to motivate yourself, or a list of your favorite blogging moments. I’m big on inspiration, so I myself have a doc of inspirational quotes, to really get me going when I’m running low. Having inspiration and your set motivation of why you’re even doing this thing in the first place will be super helpful in actually getting your goal accomplished.
  • Play “Carrot or Stick”. This is actually something the NaNo boards are famous for, so shout-out to them. Basically, you set yourself a goal, and a stick- something you don’t like doing- if you don’t accomplish it in a specific amount of time, along with a carrot- a reward- if you do accomplish your goal. This is great for short term goals like “I need to write 7 reviews today!”. If you tell yourself you’ll have to stay up doing homework if you don’t get through it, or reward yourself with a cupcake if you do, that’ll raise the stakes and really help you achieve your goal.
  • Be held accountable. This is the most obvious, for pretty clear reasons. It works. If you tell someone your goals and tell them to yell at you if you don’t accomplish them/aren’t actively working on them, you’ll be so much more motivated to actually get them done. I always like to show my sister my goals, because she’s the kind of person that will actually ask about them and yell at me. Winking smile

Those are just a few methods I’m using this year to get stuff done! I want 2014 to be an amazing year, and so, I’m hoping to get much accomplished using the above.

Did you make any resolutions? How are you planning to stick to them? Do you have any advice on how to make resolutions stick? Let me know!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

 

Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Genres: Dystopian, Sci-fi

Release Date: January 21st, 2014

Source: Edelweiss

 

Synopsis:

A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

My Review:

Honestly, Mindee Arnett’s previous book, The Nightmare Affair, was one that I was dying for, but ended up being disappointed by. But when I got wind of her new book, I knew I had to give her another try. While I can happily say that this was a better read than her debut, I can’t say that it totally knocked my socks off, like I hoped it would. Avalon presents in intriguing, enthralling sci-fi, although, some parts of it were flat-out not executed well.

I think my favorite aspect of this had to be some of the really action-y moments. I’ve always been an action fan, so call me biased if you like, but I thought it was well done here. I could feel the suspense right along with the characters, waiting for that small stick to break, and for everything to go KABOOM. And when it did, the action scenes were filled with even more tension, as I waited it out to see who would emerge victorious. That kind of atmosphere- one where you’re left holding your breath, waiting- is hard to create, but Arnett was able to create that tension multiple times throughout this book. I was fully submerged in those action scenes, breathing hard right along with the characters.

Another intriguing part of this book was the betrayals. In a sci-fi book like this, where a lot of things are based on trust, it’s not surprising to find a few of these. But, I was happy to see that I definitely did not see some of them coming. Relationships are quite tenuous throughout this book, so it was interesting to see how they built up, but then snapped in a second, too. They were complex, never simple, and I really enjoyed how those were crafted. You never quite knew who to trust, and I loved being kept on my toes in regards to each character.

However, that first half of the book. Just UGH. It was bad. Boring. Made me want to fall asleep. The book starts off with a bang. I was intrigued, and super excited by the prospect of this book. Then… nothing happened. I thought I was alone on my feelings, but after checking around, it seems as if I’m not. The latter portion of the book significantly improved as action scenes, tension, and just a general plot were more abound. It takes quite the while for this book to really get started, and even then, I found myself quite unimpressed with the plot twists. Arnett tries to whip out these twists that are ‘unique’, but a lot of them were pretty cliché, especially in a genre like this. Both the beginning and the plot twists were disappointing, to say the least.

Also, the writing felt so blah to me. It grated on me several times, especially when times when there was a lot of telling vs. showing (which, unfortunately, happened pretty often in the book). Writing isn’t something I’ll normally pick out in a book, because it doesn’t stick out. But when the telling was just really strong, I was pulled out of the flow of the story. It jarred me, and made me slightly irritated. Besides that, I can’t help but wish for something a little bit more with Arnett’s writing. Anything. Something more magical, more engaging perhaps. There’s something lacking that I just can’t pinpoint, but the writing bothered me while I was reading.

Overall, Avalon had its highlights with an awesome concept, heart-racing action scenes, and intriguing betrayals. However, the lackluster beginning and plot twists, combined with that blah writing style makes me hesitant about recommending this one. I’d recommend it only to fans of light sci-fi who are looking just for a good, engaging story for a couple of hours. Those looking for something deep, enriching, and gorgeous, aren’t going to be satisfied with Avalon, unfortunately. I can say, though, that Arnett has my interest piqued, and I’ll probably be reading the sequel.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Early Bird Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

 

Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Genres: Dystopian

Release Date: February 14th, 2014

Source: Awesome blogging buddies. 

 

Synopsis:

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.
In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

My Review:

Spoiler review for the entire series!

I can officially say this: I have the best book blogging buddies. Ever. Seriously. I saw them fangirling about Cress on Twitter, and naturally, told them how lucky they were to have an early ARC of Cress. A few days later, it popped up in my mailbox, and I basically freaked out. I had to step away from it for a while so I wasn’t so affected by the hype, but honestly, I should never have hesitated with this book. I can say that I liked Cinder and Scarlet, but this book cemented my love for this series.

I can also officially say this: Marissa Meyer is a plotting genius. Genius. My mouth was left hanging open so many times throughout the book, because she manages to weave these plot threads together in a way that ups the tension, yet manages to keep everything clear and cohesive. That’s quite the feat, considering just how many plot threads there are. So many different characters are going through separate journeys, in separate places, yet, everything manages to flow perfectly. I don’t even understand how Meyer managed to do it, but it’s amazing when things come together so perfectly, as it did again and again in this novel.

It’s also amazing how addicting this book is. Even though it’s not constant action, there’s always a sense of suspense and tension. It’s visceral, and that keeps you completely glued to the page, waiting to see what’s going to happen next, to see how things are going to come together. I really enjoyed this addicting quality that was present even in the slower parts of the book, and especially during the awesome action scenes.

Also, I loved seeing the character development of some of the particular characters. You know? Let me just flat-out say it: Throne and Cress. We get to see a lot more to Thorne that we didn’t in the previous book, and I loved it. There was an unprecedented amount of depth with him that was only hinted at in the previous novel. Also, Cress doesn’t seem like a very complex character at first. She’s a different kind of character, not widely depicted in YA dystopians, kind of for a reason. Yet, as the novel progresses, there’s a totally different side to her as well, and I really enjoyed seeing that side of her develop and grow.

However, I can’t say the same about some of the other characters, especially a few of the secondary ones. I’m not going into specifics, for spoilers’ sakes, but some of the characters that played pretty important roles just weren’t developed enough. It’s hard to do, with such a huge cast of characters, but there were some key scenes in which I felt that some of the secondary characters really could have been shone a little more. A lot of them fell a little too flat for me, which ultimately took away from the story.

Overall, this book. It’s good. More than that. With plotting that completely blew my mind, and some awesome character development, this is most definitely a worthy sequel. Even though some of the secondary characters fell a little flat, I can not wait for the conclusion of this series. Even if the first and second books of this series weren’t exactly your thing, still pick this book up. I personally think it’s the best of the series thus far, and I’m now anxiously awaiting the conclusion. I can already tell it’s going to be my favorite of the series. But for now, Cress holds that spot.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Unravel Me and Altered

 

Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2) by Tahereh Mafi

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Genres: Dystopian

Release Date: February 5th, 2013

Source: Library

 

Synopsis:

tick
tick
tick
tick
tick
it's almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.

My Review:

Coming with some considerate commotion, Shatter Me was a book I found interesting, but not ah-mazing. I saw a lot of potential in the sequel, which is why I even picked up Unravel Me despite my rather low rating for the first. A lot of things I found were improved upon, like the less-flowery writing (thank goodness!) and there was some much needed world-building in this one as well. My favorite aspect, by far, were the powers. I’m in love with anything to do with powers, so all of the unique ones in this book were just plain awesome sauce for me. Also, I’m just going throw this out there: Kenji. He’s by far my favorite character.

However, even with that, I could not stand Juliette in this book. She makes so many promises to actually do something, but she remained passive almost the entire time. I’m fine with a passive character developing into someone better- I think the dystopian genre as a whole is lacking with these kinds of characters. But despite saying that she was going to change, Juliette didn’t. It was annoying, and made me want to slap her. Repeatedly. On top of that, Adam just seemed… off in this book. Almost intentionally so.

Overall, Unravel Me was a decent book, although it created plenty of its own frustrations. I’ll be picking up the third book, only because I have issues with my curiosity.


 

Altered (Crewel #2) by Gennifer Albin

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Genres: Dystopian

Release Date: October 29th, 2013

Source: Library

 

Synopsis:

Life. Possibility. Choice.
All taken from Adelice by the Guild—until she took them back.

But amid the splendid ruins of Earth, Adelice discovers how dangerous freedom can be. Hunted by soulless Remnants sent by Cormac Patton and the Guild, Adelice finds a world that’s far from deserted. Although allies are easy to find on Earth, knowing who to trust isn’t. Because everyone has secrets, especially those Adelice loves most. Secrets they would kill to protect. Secrets that will redefine each of them. Torn between two brothers and two worlds, Adelice must choose what to fight for.

In this thrilling sequel to Crewel, Adelice is about to learn how tangled up her past and future really are. Her parents ran to protect her, but nothing can save her from her destiny, and once she uncovers the truth, it will change everything.

My Review:

Let us take a moment to mourn the loss of the beautiful cover of this book.

(Seriously, I don’t know why they changed the covers from the beautiful ones that Crewel and Altered originally had).

With that done, we can finally talk about this book itself. Crewel blew me away, but unfortunately, this sequel didn’t. It may have been more of a “It’s me, not you” thing, but regardless, there were things I couldn’t stand. However, I can most definitely say that I adored the plot twists in this book. I saw such few things coming, and was always pleasantly surprised, especially one towards the end that left me incoherent. I also really enjoyed learning about the world, and seeing the original concept, which I was enamored by in the first book, develop.

However, the romance. I couldn’t stand it. It soured the entire book for me. I just couldn’t stand the decisions that Adelice made, how quickly things developed. It irritated me beyond belief and took away so much from the book for me. It was a pretty central part of the book, and I hated how Adelice’s character suffered because of that. It made her less likable for me.

Overall, I can’t say that I’ll be picking up the next book, because I just couldn’t stand this one.