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Friday, November 10, 2017

El Deafo | Cece Bell

And being different? That turned out to the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers.”

Genre: Middle Grade Graphic Novel/Memoir.
Number of Pages: 233.
Perspective: First.
Location: Virginia.

This graphic novel follows the author throughout her time as a young girl in the 1970s and her experiences losing her hearing from meningitis at the age of four. She learns how to make friends and accept herself. For a complete summary, you can go here.

This was a beautiful story about someone who copes with becoming deaf. I took an American Sign Language course in college and we talked a lot about the deaf culture; it was interesting to learn about some of the daily challenges that someone who is deaf faces. This book explains those challenges in a way that children can understand and relate to. We have come a long way with accessibility since the 70s, but we all could use a reminder about acceptance and how to be accommodating to people with disabilities. [Note: not all deaf people consider being deaf a disability]. 

The comics were colorful and lovely. I think this book would be perfect for someone in middle school, even though the main character is in elementary school. There are some cultural things from the 70s, such as teachers smoking cigarettes at school, that may be shocking for some parents to see in a children’s comic book. But I think all children will find something in the story that they can relate to. 

I think both children and adults will love this story. I think it would be a great book for a parent and child to read together and discuss. I even gave this book my Best Book Award! If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Oh, why do I even care what other people think?”

Friday, November 3, 2017

Looking for Alaska | John Green

At some point, you just pull off the Band-Aid, and it hurts, but then it's over and you're relieved.”

Genre: Young Adult.
Number of Pages: 221.
Perspective: First.
Location: Alabama.

This book follows Miles as he starts high school at a boarding school. He makes a group of friends, including the mysterious Alaska. The book is separated into before Alaska and after. For a complete summary, you can go here.

This was a quick read and I did really enjoy it. I think I would have liked this a lot more if it was the first John Green book I read. However, I loved The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. To me, this one was not as original and exciting. It was a coming-of-age story and the boarding school format allowed for a lot of freedom for the teenagers to basically do whatever they wanted with little adult supervision (which of course leads to exciting storylines). 

It’s a fun friendship adventure with a little bit of mystery. I have to admit, the ending did not feel like 100% closure to me, and that always leaves me unsettled when finishing a book. However, I definitely recommend it to anyone. I think it is great when popular young adult fiction is written from a male perspective; it seems much harder to find. This review is getting me excited to read Green’s newest book: Turtles all the Way Down! I’ll have that review posted soon. If you are interested in buying Looking for Alaska, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”

4/5 Stars

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Attic Box Book Subscription Box Review

I was generously given a free sample of the monthly book subscription  Attic Box by Blue Spider’s Attic! (In exchange for an honest review)

It was so exciting to receive a box in the mail full of surprise goodies—who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail?! It came wrapped up in pretty blue tissue paper and book themed newsprint. The awesome thing about this box is that it comes from a second-hand bookshop, so all of the books are customized to each subscriber based on preselected genre preferences (I requested Young Adult or Contemporary). Even though the books are used, they are all in like-new condition.

The Books

I received three secondhand books in this package (reviews to come):

  1. The Good Woman by Jane Porter
  2. Allure of the Game by Danielle Santiago
  3. Kindred Spirits by Sarah Strohmeyer

The Goodies

This box also comes with a variety of goodies based on a monthly theme. This box’s theme was Poseidon’s Posse, so it was based on the god of the sea and other ocean-related fun! 

Here are the goodies I received:

  1. A lip balm called Mermaid Kiss, made by From the Page, an Etsy shop. It was made with coconut oil, candelilla wax, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, and coconut flavor oil. It went on super smooth without feeling too oily! It was a very subtle taste. I enjoyed it!
  2. Butterscotch toffee coffee from Volunteer Coffee. It smelled delicious and had a very mild and tasty flavor!
  3. An ocean-themed coloring book The Enchanted Ocean and a set of six mini colored pencils! The artwork is very intricate and can provide many hours of coloring fun. 
  4. A bookmark made from thin wood. It has an image of Poseidon and a Jacques Cousteau quote: “The sea, once it casts its spells, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” It was designed by Blue Spider Press and printed by Cards of Wood
  5. A Keep Calm and Keep Reading bookmark and Pink Panther cutout. 


If you are interested in subscribing to this box, you can go here. You can order a single box or subscribe to receive one each month. They ship between the 6th and 10th of each month. Subscriptions renew the 15th of each month. 
They have two boxes. The one I reviewed was the Attic Box, which is $21.99 for a single month, $62.99 for three months, and $124.99 for six months. If you choose this box, you answer a series of questions about your preferences in genres, drinks (coffee, tea, or both), and what you are currently reading. They use this information to customize your box each month. 
The second box is the Basics. It is cheaper, but includes two books, coffee and tea. It is shipped in an envelope, rather than a box. It is $13.99 for one month, $39.99 for three months, and $79.50 for six months. If you choose this box, it just asks you about your genre preferences so they can customize your book choices for you.
I highly recommend this box! Have fun receiving your bookish surprises each month!! 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It's A Writer Thing -- On Plotters and Pantsers

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

Hello, Wonderful Writers!

It’s NaNoWriMo time! If you’re a writer and you’re reading this, you probably know what NaNoWriMo is. If not, here goes: November is National Novel Writers’ Month, and each year, all November long, writers all over the world commit to completing the first draft of a manuscript, usually 50-thousand words long, though some of us commit to longer works. The web community around NaNo is super fun, and if you’re a writer who isn’t familiar with it yet, definitely check it out.

I’ve been doing NaNo for a few years now, and I spent the last couple weeks of October getting my next WIP all plotted and set up in Scrivener so I was able to jump in and start writing on November 1st. This process, which is something I do for all new MSs, got me thinking about plotting versus pantsing.

I know this is one of the hottest debates writers can have, and I’m not here to try to lure anyone over to the side of the Jedis (*cough plotter cough*). Seriously, though, as a die-hard plotter, I wanted to share a perspective that has been on my mind for some time. Plotters are pantsers who do their pantsing before they sit down to start a draft.

Yes, you read me right: plotters are pantsers.

How can this be? Pantsers understand the beauty of choosing a starting point and maybe a mile marker and then letting the glorious muse lead them there by paths unknown and, sometimes, never before charted; while plotters are rigid, soul-crushed individuals who need order and structure and want to know the end before the beginning is even on the page yet. But seriously, plotters are pantsers.

What do you think us plotters are doing when we’re coming up with our plots?

When I’m thinking through my next WIP, I spend a ton of time playing out the story in my head, or in conversation with my hubby who is the BEST plotting partner EVER, letting different ideas emerge and shift and grow and evolve. Before there is a final version all ready to go into my Scrivener file as an outline or a synopsis, there is an unformed story-swirl cavorting in my head. It starts as a tangled knot which I somehow manage to tame into something linear and ordered and lovely—the Virgo in me is cheering right now—but even my order-craving Virgo heart loves the process of untangling that knot. 

I love the thrill of not knowing what will happen. I love how pieces come together, sometimes one decision being the all-important key to some other plot-point a little further down the road. I love the moment when the final piece clicks into place. As I write this, I’m still waiting for that to happen for my current WIP. Yes, I’m a plotter, and I don’t yet know exactly how my book will end, but that’s okay. I’ll figure it out as I go, as any good pantser does. 

So, for my plotting friends out there, next time someone asks you the dreaded question, just tell them you’re both. Because plotters are just pantsers who do the pantsing before they sit down in front of that blank page.

Good luck to all of you doing NaNoWriMo 2017. I hope you all “win!” See you on the other side.

And, as always, I will end with the motto spoken to me by my dear friend, who has been gone for over four years now (which I actually can’t believe): You can do it! You can write!

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand. 

Check out Jessica's other posts:


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Without Merit | Colleen Hoover

Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.”

Genre: Young Adult.
Number of Pages: 384.
Perspective: First.
Location: Texas.

This book follows the dysfunctional Voss family told from 17-year-old Merit’s perspective. She is holding on to a lot of secrets for members of her family, but she may not be seeing the full picture. For a complete summary, you can go here.

First of all, any book that I can read in one day (and practically one sitting) has to be pretty good. The way Hoover writes just flows so well. All of her books suck you in and are quick reads because you just want to devour the book. They usually have some twists, but you never feel like you have to think too hard or slow down to piece everything together. I even gave it my Best Book Award (I am on a roll with good books this week!).

My favorite part about this book is that it discusses perception and that we make a lot of assumptions about people. I also like how it makes us aware that no one is perfect. Some reviewers complained that most of the main characters are unlikeable, but I actually appreciated that they were flawed. It made them feel more real. I also like how it addressed a lot of hot topic issues, such as mental health. My only complaint is that it kind of made light of and easily brushed over some controversial topics. 

This book was very different from any other Colleen Hoover book that I have read. It still had a romance storyline, but it was much more about the family than the romance. It is also more for the older teen rather than adults (but I definitely still have a lot of love for young adult books!). I highly recommend this book (as with most Colleen Hoover books, it is probably more geared towards women). If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“You don’t get to decide what your life means to anyone else.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

All The Missing Girls | Megan Miranda

There is nothing more dangerous, nothing more powerful, nothing more necessary and essential for survival than the lies we tell ourselves.”

Genre: Mystery Thriller.
Number of Pages: 384.
Perspective: First.
Location: Cooley Ridge, North Carolina.

This book follows Nic, a woman who returns to her hometown to help her aging dad with dementia. Going back opens old wounds and mysteries, especially once a second girl goes missing, ten years after the first mysterious disappearance. Everyone has their secrets, but which ones are hiding murder(s)? For a complete summary, you can go here.

Wow! Probably my favorite thriller of the year! I even gave it my Best Book Award! The format was unique (it took place primarily over fifteen days and was told in reverse chronological order). Now I want to read it all over again to catch all the clues I missed! It was a little frustrating at first, and it does take some brainpower to piece everything together -- but doesn't that add to the excitement of solving the mystery?! I think so!

At first, I was afraid that this book would be another unreliable narrator cliche, but it wasn’t quite like that. I do have to say I loved this book a lot more than Miranda’s other book The Perfect Stranger. I enjoyed that one, but this one definitely lived up to the hype more. I have seen people poking at some of the holes, but really, most thrillers have some red herrings to make you think you have guessed the ending. I’m choosing to not to overthink it at this point, and I’ll just enjoy it for the unique story it was! If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think!

“People were like Russian nesting dolls - versions stacked inside the latest edition. But they all still lived inside, unchanged, just out of sight”

5/5 Stars

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Check out the other winners of my Best Book Award!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Hate U Give | Angie Thomas

Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Genre: Young Adult.
Number of Pages: 464.
Perspective: First.

This book is about Starr, a sixteen-year-old that lives in a poor neighborhood, but attends a fancy suburban private school. One night, her childhood best friend gets shot by a cop while she’s in the car. She is forced to decide if she wants to stand up and be the voice of a movement. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this book. I even gave it my Best Book Award! It is very relevant to a lot of racial issues going on in America right now. It is not an anti-white or anti-police book. Instead, it focuses on the challenges of growing up in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood. It does discuss shootings and police brutality, but, again, it is not a book bashing the police. 

I think it is rare to find a book that can clearly explain to a young adult what racism looks and feels like without being wrapped up in metaphors. I think this would be a great book to read in high schools or for parents to buddy-read with their teen. Also, for being such a complex and heavy topic, there were lighter moments that helped to make the book not feel too dense. It was also a touching story about family, friendship, and love.

I had never heard of this book until it was picked for my book club. The title made me think it would be a cheesy millennial textspeak book, but I was so wrong. The title actually comes from Tupac and the term THUG LIFE. I won’t give it away, but it ties into the story nicely. It was also great to read a book with a black main character that was also written by a black author.

I think this book can be very eye-opening to a lot of people. I recommend it to everyone thirteen and above. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.”

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Lily and the Octopus | Steven Rowley

A heart is judged not by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

Genre: Animal Fiction.
Number of Pages: 307.
Perspective: First.
Location: Los Angeles, California.

This book is about a man's beloved dachshund with a cancerous tumor on his head. The owner, Ted, personifies this tumor as an octopus who is killing his best friend. He will do whatever it takes to fight off the octopus. For a complete summary, you can go here.

At first, my thoughts were: wow, this is a strange book…this guy must be on drugs since he is hallucinating. Then I thought: this book is really sweet and I can understand the deep connection between a person and a dog. Near the end of the book I thought: ok, this guy lost me again…this book got super weird and way over the top. My final thoughts: this book was based on the author’s relationship with his own dog, so I can see how this is cathartic and part of his healing process.

It honestly took me awhile to piece together my feelings about this book. I would say that I really enjoyed about 70% of it. The climax of the novel, which should have been the most interesting, completely lost me. It went way too far with the central metaphor and personification going on the book. I honestly started skimming the rest of the book after that. 

This book made me feel a lot of emotions and hug my fur babies tight. It is a sad topic, but I wouldn’t say that the whole book is sad. As with any book about loss, it can’t really have a “happy” ending, however, it is a story about moving forward. I didn’t know what to expect when starting this novel, so it took me awhile to get over the initial magical realism component. I do recommend it for pet lovers (anyone without a pet will probably just think that this guy is crazy). If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“It's natural, as our loved ones age, to start grieving their loss even before we lose them.”

3/5 Stars 

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*