Sunday, March 1, 2015

After All This Time? Always.

Along with quite a few bloggers, I was invited to be a part of a blog tour for Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime. The question we were tasked to answer was deceptively simple at first glance, but quite challenging upon further consideration:

The ‘Winner’s Curse’ is an economics term that means you’ve gotten what you wanted – but at too high a price. What would you pay too much for?

Initially, I was going to say that I would pay entirely too much for a device that could transport me back and forth between New York and the Philippines in the blink of an eye. But then, I realized, I would never consider any price too high when it comes to spending time with my loved ones so... that was out! I started thinking about what I did spend money on, what I would spend it on, and I came to one glaringly obvious conclusion that I could not believe I hadn't seen before...

If there is one category of things I'd pay entirely too much for, 
it would be anything related to Harry Potter. 

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Various editions of the books. Copies of the movies. Merchandise. Parks. Set visits and exhibitions. You name it, describe it with the words "Harry Potter", and I'm all in! My husband had the most difficult time restraining me when we visited the parks last year because I just wanted everything. Every. Darn. Thing.

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In honor of my Harry Potter obsession, I've decided to share a wishlist featuring some Harry Potter things (among the many out there) that I would like to own (and most likely will one day, and pay too much entirely in the process):


And the only reason I need all this things is...
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Other tour links you should check out:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015

February is the shortest month of the year, and I certainly felt that! It was a whirlwind month, with a visit from my cousin Carmela and her friend Abby keeping me pre-occupied for a huge chunk of it. I also hosted this year's Love-a-Thon, which was such a success because of the eager participation + endless positivity of the participants involved! Other than that, it's been snow and cold and rain... Anyone else want to petition Winter to pack up its bags and leave?

Like I mentioned already, my cousin Carmela was in town! It was such a treat to have her here, since I grew up with her being like my third little sister. We went to see the sights, had some yummy meals and basically just got to hang out together for some much-needed quality time. Other than that, I hibernated a ton, and did a dance of giddy joy when my husband got me a Kindle for Valentine's Day. l And the month ended on two high notes - the incredible Love-a-Thon experience this year, and Apollycon with the one and only Rachel (recap will be up on Monday)!

Of the 11 books I read, here are my favorites:


I picked up the pace a little bit in February for Flights of Fantasy, and read three fantasy novels for February. As I mentioned last month, I wanted to read the Sevenwaters series, so it will surprise no one to learn that the novels I read are all part of that series: Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy. If you've done an update post for February, please link up below so that Rachel and I can check them out!

Friday, February 27, 2015

On the Acquisition of Books

As you probably know by now, Hannah & I teamed up this year for The Picky Pledge. It's our fun pet project to help us hold each other accountable for the books we acquire this year (review or purchase), since we have towering TBR piles that we do want to read! It's really been working so far, and I'm looking forward to see how much my reading stats are impacted by this change in attitude.

The pledge has encouraged me to reflect on my book acquiring habits. As inspired by Hannah's post, I'm going to be sharing thoughts on this part of my bookish life today. To simplify, I decided to divide the habits into three sections- before blogging, because of blogging, and post-Picky Pledge.

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BEFORE BLOGGING...

1. I bought a book whenever I finished a book. I loved reading, and I loved books, but it never occurred to me to actually stockpile a to-read group of novels. I was always content to simply be focused on my current read; I'd look for the next one when I finished it.

2. I bought books in series one at a time. I never really thought about series binging before since, as mentioned, I didn't mind immersing myself deeply in my current read before picking up the next one. Plus, it honestly never bothered me to have to wait between books.

3. I would peruse all the shelves and table displays and look for books that interested me. Apart from grabbing books by authors I loved, I would also spend ample amounts of time ogling books on the shelf at the bookstore. I'd usually allow myself to choose one or two with an interesting title, cover or summary.

4. I never looked at reviews. When my parents bought me books, they'd check out reviews. But me? I'd simply base it on my gut feeling based on a cover, title or summary.

5. I would keep every single book I ever bought. I legitimately kept all the books I purchased, whether or not I wound up enjoying them as much as I'd hoped I would. My library in my childhood home grew really fast because I had so many books.


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BECAUSE OF BLOGGING...

1. I bought books even before I finished my current ones. I did a complete 180 when it came to acquiring books - I just needed more, more, more options. Honestly, I'll tell y'all that this is when my book buying habits went out of control and I just kept growing my to-read pile.

2. I started reading reviews. The main reason I started buying more books is because I started reading reviews (and writing them)! I'd often buy things based on a friend's review or recommendation, which did not help whittle down the TBR pile at all.

3. I started receiving books for review. It began innocently enough with access to a couple of great titles on NetGalley. But as time went by, and I formed stronger ties with some publishing industry professionals, I started getting a solid amount of books for review. And then, there's BEA...

4. I would cull my bookshelves every so often. It was really a matter of lack of space that inspired my regular culling of my shelves. In all three places I've lived, I didn't have all that much space for books, so I culled every few months... though I mostly got rid of ARCs I'd read already, or books I'd read and didn't love, and not a thing off of my TBR pile.

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POST-PICKY PLEDGE...

1. I started "shopping my shelves". While I haven't gone cold turkey on the book buying at all, I've started becoming fond of perusing the books I already own to pick out what I'm going to read next. It's really helped me get through a bunch of titles that have been on my TBR for a while and prevented me from buying more books to add to that pile.

2. My use of the library has gotten out of control. The last time I checked, I had 23 books on hold. Twenty-three, y'all. That is a lot of books. I used the library on and off over the past few years, but now, the library has become sort of like a bookstore to me. It's basically where I go "shopping" for new books to read (as if I didn't have plenty of my own).

3. I'm pickier about what I buy and what I request or accept or review. Honestly, this is definitely a most welcome change! I really take the time to consider different factors (how much I want to read a book, general public opinion, subject matter, author's other books, etc) before I pick up a new book (request or purchase). It helps that I can rely on my tried & trusted crew too!

4. I cull like crazy. I'm basically ruthless about culling these days. When I finish an ARC, I already immediately search for a new home for it. If I finish a book and don't really love it, then I find it a new home or sell it. I have seriously decided it's important to curate my shelves well, and this has affected the amount of books that I really do wind up keeping.

There you have it, y'all, a little insight into how my acquisition of books has changed in the past five years alone. It's really interesting to see that I've gained some great new habits, but also a few I would like to work harder on changing. Now, it's your turn to tell me - Have your book acquiring habits changed? Any tips or tricks to help you keep yourself in check?

This was posted as part of The Picky Pledge.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Plus One - Jojo Moyes

One Plus One book cover
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Source/Format: Gifted by Ellice (Thanks!) || Hardcover

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

Why do I keep allowing myself to wait so long before reading my next Jojo Moyes novel? Perhaps it's because I never want to run out of stories to read from her? Perhaps it's because I find myself intimidated by adult novels sometimes? Whatever the case, One Plus One, her latest release, is utterly fantastic. Moyes demonstrates, yet again, her ability to spin a compelling yarn and bring fantastic characters to life. 

Ed, Jess, Tanzie, Nick. They are four unique individuals that form an unlikely family unit that shouldn't work, but somehow does. Collectively, they've earned a special place in my heart and I'm unlikely to ever forget their stories. Ed, who is dealing with the consequences of a rash decision to get rid of an ex. Jess, a single mom who works multiple jobs in order to provide financial support for herself and her kids. Nick, the stepson who is different from his peers and gets bullied for it. Tanzie, the little math genius who dreams of attending a school that will help her hone those skills. Each one is living a life filled with both sides of the coin - a happy optimism that things can and will work out, and a deep despair and resignation that life is sometimes unfair and throws (seemingly) impossible hurdles in the path. 

I'm seriously impressed by Moyes' ability to engage in multiple character development, and do it well. She really made it easy for me to get to know everyone, and to fall in love with them before I was even a third through her story. If that's not a special ability, I certainly don't know what is! 

Loving these characters is certainly one of the main reasons I enjoyed reading One Plus One; however, Moyes' plot is also wonderful. She manages to combine charm & whimsy with heartbreak & emotion, all in a way that serves to simply reel the readers in. On the surface, each story from Moyes has different circumstances. But at their cores, Moyes is always looking to tell stories about ordinary individuals who face great hurdles and how they overcome them - and such is the case with One Plus One. The story broke my heart multiple times, but it also put it back together and made me happy.

The biggest takeaway One Plus One offers me is the encouragement to believe in good things - in kindness, in joy, in hope. While there may be impossibly trying moments in our lives, there is no reason to not believe we won't get past them and to a better place. I loved meeting Ed, Jess, Tanzie and Nick, and loved hearing their stories - and I think many of you will too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Hybrid Chronicles - Kat Zhang

What's Left of Me Once We Were Echoes of Us book covers
by Kat Zhang
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Dates: September 18, 2012 / September 17, 2013 / September 16, 2014
Source/Format: Owned || Hardcover; Borrowed from the library || Hardcover

If we were to use a machine with three parts as an analogy for a trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles would be a well-oiled machine. Each of these novels – What’s Left of Me, Once We Were and Echoes of Us – is an essential piece in ensuring that the final product (the series) is cohesive, independent and satisfying. If we take them apart and examine each one however, they cease to function properly and invite interesting commentary from the reader. 

In case you couldn’t already tell, I have mixed feelings about this trilogy. However, in spite of my personal reservations, here are three things that make The Hybrid Chronicles worth a read:

1. Hybrids, and what their existence means (for them and for others) – In this series, being a hybrid means that there are two souls residing in one body. The concept encourages readers to reflect on having more than one soul. From question of coexistence with one-souled people, to how it affects thought, intelligence and action, to more emotional takes (like romance, for instance), it definitely covers many branches of thought. Books that inspire reflection, particularly for “what if” scenarios, are always interesting and worth checking out, in my opinion. And this is definitely something The Hybrid Chronicles does.

2. Characters, particularly Eva & Addie – There’s a great array of diverse characters in these novels, friends and foes alike. While most of them will stay familiar only a surface level, Eva and Addie are certainly enough of a reason to read this series. As a hybrid, they’ve grown up intimately entwined with one another, as sisters, best friends and devil’s advocate. This series is primarily about their internal struggles: how they deal with one another’s presence, how they deal with sharing control of one body, the choices they make, the way they feel. It’s really something special to bear witness to watching them both grow up through the course of three books, and I would pinpoint this as one of the series’ strengths.

3. Action, suspense and unapologetic brutality – The world Eva and Addie live in is not kind to hybrids. They are being hunted, either to be killed, captured or admitted into a facility that will “fix” them. These circumstances are cruel and unfair, but it is what it is. There are, however, hybrids who have escaped, who fly under the radar even as they continue to do what they can to fight on behalf of their fellow hybrids. This makes room for a lot of tension, particularly as they try to navigate in a society that doesn’t accept hybrids and doesn’t know what to do with them. As Eva, Addie and their friends fight on behalf of the hybrids, they find themselves faced with difficult choices and harsh consequences. It’s not pretty, but it does feel authentic to how the world was set up.

If you find yourself feeling curious about any of these three things, then you certainly should give The Hybrid Chronicles a shot. However, do be warned that it works best if you binge read the series, since all three books simply read as one really long story. So, make sure you grab all three before you even start!

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In case you were curious, you can see my thoughts on each of the books below:

What’s Left of Me was still a very strong start for the series, with hybridity being detailed fairly well and Addie and Eva put in a position where they are forced to acknowledge a new way of thinking. In spite of knowing what was going to happen, it was still a pretty exciting read. (You can see more in my original review.)

Once We Were serves as filler and pivot point for the series. Readers learn more about hybrids, how those underground are fighting for equal, just treatment and how those vehemently opposed to hybridity keep trying to cure it and capture those who would sabotage their efforts. Eva and Addie are at their most complex, as they are learning to come to terms with their existence, the new knowledge they have of hybrids and what they are capable of and forming new relationships. There’s a lot of tension – between them two and between them versus others – so it always feels like something is hanging in the balance. I’ll admit that this one took me a little longer to read than I would have liked, though it was still fairly engaging.

Echoes of Us was definitely the kind of series finale readers will enjoy. The stakes get higher, the action more intense and the internal conflict more complex. Eva and Addie have come to terms with a lot of things, and they’ve become more comfortable in their own skin. But everything they know, everything they hold dear is tested here. Readers will be satisfied with how Eva and Addie choose to respond to all the difficulties they face. While everything wraps up a touch too easily, it still feels like a good ending for their story.

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