Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015

While February is the shortest month of the year, I feel like March went by a whole lot faster than it did for some reason! I was probably heavily distracted by the fluctuating weather, which I'm both excited about (Spring is fighting for its right to be here!) and disappointed by (I just want Spring to be here already). I've had some fun experiences this month, and definitely wouldn't trade it for the world!

In March, I was able to attend a couple of book events - The Winner's Crime launch event, The Orphan Queen launch event, The Wrong Side of Right launch event + the "Perils of Perfection" panel for the New York Teen Author Festival. (I'll share more on each below!) On a more personal note, Macky and I started two new traditions - Sunday Movie Nights + Monday Date Nights! I also celebrated my best friend Patricia's birthday at her apartment, went on a mini road trip to IKEA and got a chance to be at an early screening and interview round table for The Longest Ride (which you'll hear more about this coming weekend!).

Here's a few brief thoughts on the various bookish events I was able to attend:
  • The Winner's Crime Launch Party - Marie Rutkoski celebrated the release of the second novel in her Winner's Trilogy, The Winner's Crime at McNally Jackson. She was joined in conversation by Sarah Rees Brennan (!!!), and both ladies read from their own work. There was a very informative Q&A that included questions about writing fantasy, their writing processes and more. It was a pleasure to meet them both, as I really liked both their books!
  • The Orphan Queen Launch Party - I feel like I've been waiting forever for this event! As a huge Jodi Meadows fan, it was obviously top priority for me to be able to attend her launch for The Orphan Queen at Books of Wonder. The panel was comprised of Joy N. Hensley, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, CJ Redwine and Jodi, and it was equal parts smart, irreverent and fun! They discussed their latest novels and upcoming work, as well as writing process and favorite reads. I laughed a lot during their panel, and that's always a good thing! I loved seeing Jodi again (and getting to wear her fabulous cloak) in person; she's always such a sweetheart. And I got to meet Joy for the first time, which was awesome!
  • The Wrong Side of Right Launch Party - I really enjoyed The Wrong Side of Right, and am glad that I was able to attend Jenn Marie Thorne's book launch party at Astoria Bookshop. You can find a full recap of the event here.
  • "The Perils of Perfection" - It was such a treat to be able to listen to such smart, complex conversation about writing for teens, about teens and from a teen perspective! These ladies all had such great insight into writing, teens and life, and I loved listening to them chat at WORD Bookstore. The panel was composed of Corey Ann Haydu, Kate Axelrod, Alecia Whitaker, Terra Elan McVoy, Melissa Kantor and Susane Colasanti, and was moderated by Amanda Maciel. I was super excited to officially meet Corey, because I love her books!

Of the 26 books I read, these were my favorites:

Book Events // The Wrong Side of Right Launch Party
Personal // ApollyCon WeekendAn Empire State of Mind
Reviews // The ImaginaryThe Orphan QueenAbbreviations #4The Start of Me and YouThe Forgotten SistersNowhere But HomeThere Be DragonsAbbreviations #5, Finding Mr. Brightside, Trust the Focus, The Faithful, The Fiery & The Fearful
Features + Blog Tours // After All This Time? AlwaysTo All the Books I've Loved (These Three Years Past)If I Were a PrincessThe Sunday Mix #3, An Author a Monday: Jodi MeadowsBehind the Mask, Books in Real Life: Nowhere But HomeSpring 2015 TBRA Caper, A Folly, A RevolutionBard on the BlogsThe Sunday Mix (4), An Author A Monday: Anne Blankman, When I Was a Kid, It Runs in the Family: Get Electrical, Tunes & Tales: My Everything, Flights of Fantasy: March 2015, The Picky Pledge: Quarterly Check-in #1

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Picky Pledge || Quarterly Check-in #1

Some of you might be wondering - what in the world is The Picky Pledge? Well, it's this fun partnership between Hannah of So Obsessed With & I, where we hold each other accountable for the books we acquire this year. For more details, you should check out the introduction post!

The first quarter of 2015 is just about over, which is pretty dang mind-blowing. When we were chatting one day, Hannah and I agreed that it might be fun & helpful to share an update on The Picky Pledge, so y'all can see how it's going, the lessons we've learned and what we plan to improve in the next quarter. (But I also track my progress via a page I created, so you can take a look at that too if you want a more in-depth look at things.)

For this section, we drew on some inspiration from our original stats post earlier this year. Specifically, we updated our source breakdown and our book buying breakdown charts with the information from this year!

I'm definitely pleased with my improvement in this area! While review books still make up the majority of my reads, it's only by a very small difference from the books I've borrowed or the ones I own. It speaks well of the pledge that I've been able to be more balanced when it comes to where I'm getting my reads from!

I'm quite pleased to see that there is also a little progress here! While I haven't quite been able to stop myself from book buying (so far, I've bought 44 total), the ratio of the ones I've read versus the ones I added to my TBR is pretty telling, as I've read more than half! Looking forward to hopefully making that difference between them grow as the year continues.

1. It is not as hard as you think to avoid going onto online book retail sites. Seriously, I just stop myself from even typing the first few letters of any online book retail site whenever I start thinking about. Plus, there are so many other web distractions - like blogs and Goodreads and Twitter.

2. It is, however, hard to resist the lure when faced with physical temptation, AKA going to an actual bookstore. Oh man. Whenever I see books in person, I always find it extremely hard to resist. Whether it's the lure of a plot or pretty cover, it takes a lot of willpower not to pick up a book (or a bunch) and run over to the cash register so it can come home with me. It is triply hard when you're at a bargain bookstore, by the way.

3. The library will be your best friend and your worst enemy. The library is the best source for free books! If you're lucky, they'll have a large catalog or a great inter-library system and you'll be able to borrow just about any title you'd like to read. Plus, there is no greater thing than being able to place holds on books. The only reason you might start resenting the library a little? You'll be tempted to acquire too many books, or forget how many holds you placed and have a bazillion (or twenty) come in at the same time. Not that I've experienced that or anything...

1. Budget for a book. My husband recently set up a spreadsheet with our planned budget. I've never really been well-versed when it comes to properly handling my finances, but with my husband's guidance, I'm truly eager to give it a shot. This means that I've got to be stricter than ever about how much money I spend on books, and having an actual guideline as to how much money I can afford to spend will really help.

2. "Read a book, then buy or borrow a book." This works hand in hand with the first suggestion. In the past, I've used this rule on myself, and it's certainly worked in keeping down the numbers of books I own/borrow. It's both an encouragement and incentive to pay attention to the TBR pile that sits waiting for me. I haven't put this in place for a while, but I certainly think it would be timely.

3. Be picky about the library books you request. This goes hand in hand with my goals! I let myself get carried away by the advantage of being able to get free books from my library, and requested the heck out of books. It resulted in an overwhelming stack of books gathering dust in my apartment, and a nearly unnoticeable but still suffocating pressure to read them all bothering me. While I did wind up reading at least half the books I'd borrowed, I wound up returning a big bunch unread. I seriously think it would help me stay calm and excited to read if I were even more picky about what I borrowed and factored a modified version of the chart into my decisions.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Flights of Fantasy || March 2015

We're back for our March link-up for Flights of Fantasy! Rachel & I thought it would be fun to answer a question this month, so we settled on this one:

Why do you love fantasy?

I tackled the answer to this question a little bit before, but basically, the reason I love fantasy so much is because it challenges my imagination. Each time I read a fantasy novel, I'm encouraged to believe in things - worlds, characters, situations. And I love that. I love that I get an opportunity to explore the heights and depths and breadth of some great imagined stories! And I love even more that, in spite of being set in worlds that are not our own and with characters who might not even be human, the situations they encounter have a very human semblance to them. It's a very intriguing combination, if I do say so myself.

How are you doing this month?

I read three fantasy novels this month - Seraphina, Shadow Scale and Of Beast and Beauty. All three were pretty enjoyable, and I'd highly recommend you check them out! Don't forget to link to your posts below so that we can see how you've been doing for the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.

Finding Mr. Brightside - Jay Clark

Finding Mr. Brightside Jay Clark book cover
Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || ARC
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the opinions expressed in my review.]

Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.

I’ll be completely honest: I’m still not quite sure what to make of Finding Mr. Brightside. The entire novel is a bit of a whirlwind, particularly because of its short length. Finding Mr. Brightside does have a pretty decent story, though it did not leave a particularly strong impression.

Juliette and Abram. As individuals? Well, Abram is kind, and pretty positive all things considered. He’s a pretty ordinary guy, mostly identifiable by his fascination with Juliette. Juliette, on the other hand, has a mind wired with hyperactive emotions. Readers will simply want to help her through this difficult time. As a couple? Unlikely, particularly considering what connects them. And yet, also, possible, because they understand each other on a level no one else would.

Honestly, what I appreciated most about Finding Mr. Brightside is this: Clark definitely showcases some character growth for Abram and Juliette. Who they are at the beginning is different from who they are at the end. While there’s no complete turnaround, there are definitely things that have changed in terms of their attitudes.

Other likable things? Abram’s mom, who happens to be a cool lady and is nice indeed about Juliette. Juliette’s dad, a writer, a grieving widower, who turns out to be pretty darn strong. The idea of escaping, even for just a little while, to a beach house.

Really though, Finding Mr. Brightside feels like it was written with the intent to get a message across to readers. However, whether it was because of its brevity or characters, it winds up feeling like a simplified account of this girl, this guy and their experience dealing with some tough stuff.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Trust the Focus - Megan Erickson

Trust the Focus book cover
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Series: In Focus #1
Publisher: Intermix
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Source/Format: Netgalley || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my opinions or review content.]

With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.

As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.

But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.

Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.

I have only read one other M/M romance before, but I knew I needed to check out Trust the Focus since it was written by Megan Erickson, author of the Bowler University series (which I really like!). I read this in the span of a couple of hours, and if that’s not a testament to how engaging + readable this novel is, then I don’t know what else could be. But really, Trust the Focus is such a cute story! 

Justin and Landry have been best friends for a long time, and Justin has secretly been harboring feelings for Landry. What complicates things is that he isn’t out of the closet, and it’s hard for him to think about being “different” when his mother is a conservative politician who expects him to work for her after graduation. The story follows Justin and Landry as they embark on a very special road trip – where Justin will be scattering the ashes of his photographer father at twelve different sites. 

I love that there are multiple plot threads going – Justin and his feelings for Landry, his inner conflict over his sexuality and what that means for his future + his relationship with his mom, and Justin dealing with the death of his father. Erickson definitely manages to juggle each one pretty deftly, though I do think the thread with his mother could have used the teensiest bit more development. My favorite thread is not the romance (though I do think it’s sweet to watch a friends-turned-romantic situation playing out); it’s actually watching Justin work out his internal conflict. That alone would have kept me reading, but the romance was definitely a great bonus. 

All in all, I really liked Trust the Focus. There was a touch too much angst + drama, but that’s more a personal reservation. It’s a great story, especially as it focuses on Justin’s personal journey and his dynamic with Landry as he changes throughout the course of the novel. I really enjoyed Trust the Focus, and I’m confident many others will too.


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