Saturday, April 29, 2017

So You Just Received Your First Review Copy... | Book Blogging Tips (#55)


... and you probably think that you've made it. People are sending you free stuff! That's amazing! You've made it this far already but there are quite a couple of things I'd like to tell you. 

While you can be very proud of this accomplishment, you have to realize that by deciding to start accepting review copies, you're also accepting responsibility. 

Here are some things I wish someone had told me when I accepted my first copy.


1. Don't go overboard
I know it's super exciting to realize that you've been blogging long enough to be considered to receive review copies, but please please don't see this as a sign to start requesting everything. 

2. Don't request backlist titles
That's a thing many newbie bloggers don't know about - backlist titles are books that have been out for a while. Typically publishers have a set amount of review copies that are sent out at a certain time before or shortly after a book's release. Backlist titles are usually not available for review, so only request review copies of books that aren't out yet to avoid wasting someone's time.

3. Don't accept any and every review copy sent to you
It won't take long until lots of people will reach out to you. Usually it will be indie authors and small publishers first who will ask you to review their books. Don't say yes to every single book just because it's free. Keep in mind what kind of blog you run. Is this book something that you'd even pick up in a bookstore? If it's not, don't accept the copy. Just because it's free, you shouldn't say yes to everything because -

4. People expect you to actually read the book
Sure, this is the old drama, some people think review copies don't have to be read, it's only an agreement to consider - yada yada, let's not have this argument right now, this isn't the point of this post. You're getting the copy because something is expected in return, whatever that may be. Don't request a billion books with no intention of reading them, that's just not a nice thing to do. 

5. Don't be afraid to publish a negative review
Just because you got something for free it doesn't mean that you can't dislike it. Don't be afraid to publish a negative review for a review copy! Nobody will be mad at you for that. You're asked for your honest opinion in 99.5% of the cases, and that also covers the possibility that you might dislike it. 

6. - but don't be a jerk about disliking the book
Especially with ARC for indie and small-published books you have to realize that your review might be the first review that people see when they go look for the book. 

Sure, disliking and publishing really negative reviews is absolutely 100% fine, but pay attention to the tone. Reviewing is a skill, it's an art in itself to be able to express your negative opinion without being a complete douchebag about it. Meaning no insults.

7. Consider that you might receive backlash
If you read an early copy and are one of the first people to review a book, of course more people will see the review. Be prepared to have people disagree. Consider this while writing the review. Again, don't be a jerk. If you're going to be a jerk regardless, know that you might receive backlash.

8. Don't send negative reviews to the author or publisher!
You may have seen on twitter for example that many reviewer tag authors in reviews. This is a great way to get your review out there, but please, please, please only do this if you rated the book 4 stars and abover and/or hardly said anything negative about it. 

Many authors are very vocal about not wanting to be tagged in negative reviews unsoliticedly. Publishers won't reshare your negative reviews either and it's basically just wasting everyone's time / ruining somebody's day. So please don't do that. 

What are some things you wish someone had told you after you received your first review copy?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

[Review] We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson: Alien Abductions and the Apocalypse





In WE ARE THE ANTS, Henry is frequently abducted by aliens and presented with the choice to either prevent the apocalypse or let the world end.


What intrigued me:
 Alien abductions and the world is ending? Count me in!

... is that it?

WE ARE THE ANTS has a fantastic premise and an equally great narrative voice. Hutchinson absolutely had me from the first page, the cynic and observant way he writes Henry is incredibly entertaining and fun. However, all this can't mask the fact that there really isn't much to WE ARE THE ANTS aside from the premise. 

All characters in this are painfully obvious plot devices. The main problem I had with everyone in this book that Henry doesn't show any attachments whatsoever to the people surrounding him. How is the reader going to be enamored with the characters if they are all introduced like worthless scum bags? Henry's cynicism may be entertaining for the first 100 pages, but it quickly gets insanely tiring. 

Getting abducted? What else is new...

Another problem I had is that Hutchinson romanticizes depression. Protagonist Henry get depressed very early on when he realizes that the world's fate is in his hands and I just don't like the way this gets handled. The whole atmosphere just screams "your typical depressed kid from a broken home finds love and gets cured", and that's exactly what you're getting in WE ARE THE ANTS. The story has so much potential, but I think Hutchinson absolutely ruined everything that lured me to this story with the execution. 

Especially the abduction part is written so frustratingly boring that I can't wrap my head around it. Henry doesn't theorize about it much, or appears scared or worried about it! The only emotion he displays is annoyance, which seems to be pretty much his default.

WE ARE THE ANTS is nothing short from being a regular novel about a kid's high school troubles. The alien part is so redundant that this doesn't even feel like Sci-Fi. Absolutely a disappointment.


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WE ARE THE ANTS is just an average contemporary with a side of aliens. If you like that, and aren't expecting too much world building or fantastic characters, go ahead!



Additional Info

Published: 19th January 2016
Pages: 455
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9781481449632

Synopsis:
"There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. 

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books about alien abductions?

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top 10 Current YA Tropes that Will Make Me NOT Want to Read a Book

I've done a couple variations of this post over the years, but it's definitely time for more up-to-date refresher for Top Ten Tuesday.

Examining Racism - Without POC.
I don't know where this trend started, but I absolutely deeply, deeply dislike any book that uses fictional races (elves, dragons, werewolves etc.) instead of people of color and tries to make them oppressed to illustrate how bad racism is.
(Spoiler alert: Anyone who isn't white knows this already. You don't have to teach us, oh my god.) Even worse when it's written by a white author who lacks the nuance and skill to execute this well.

The Alpha Male Douchebag.
I hate them. I've always hated them. The love interests who are bulky, muscly, super attractive and absolute shitheads to their girlfriends. I DNF anything with that instantly, I have no time for this. Knock knock! It's 1950, it wants their mentality back.

Voiceless, shy, and "bland" heroine.
I think all readers of YA are collectively tired of this. If I read about another girl that's bland with brown hair, brown eyes, and no personality, but yet thinks she's not like other girls? Well, I'm literally going to throw that book into my fireplace. No time for this.

In a world where the rich green-blooded people oppress the lower class because of their purple blood and inferior silver eyes and golden hair...
There are approximately 327836273 books about this. I am SO over this overdone and unimaginative premise of rich superior genetics people versus poor inferior (but still conventionally attractive) genetics people. Even worse when one of the poor ones manages to infiltrate the higher ups and it actually turns out they're also green-blooded/have ominous super powers/have an inexplicable asset they need. I just described probably 40% of the latest high fantasy releases. Please stop.

A girl with inexplicable powers and two boys who love her - one good and innocent, and one evil and mysterious. Who will she choose?
At this point nobody will take any book seriously that makes use of this. It's so overdone, it's not even funny anymore. And it's also really annoying that you always know that she's going to choose the bad boy every single time. I'm not bitter or anything.

Contemporary m/f romances that have no other premise than "he was a boy, she was a girl".
Compulsory heteronormativity is real and I'm not letting it on my shelves. I don't pick up any contemporary romance at all unless it goes more into the contemporary direction than the romance direction and has a super unique premise. If it's f/f or otherwise LGBTQ*, all bets are off though, I'm buying anything you have.

Whitewashing.
Don't think we don't notice and we don't see you. We see you whitewashing common and well-known mythology and cultures. We see you. Stop it.

One girl, destined for greatness by the ancient prophecy, rises up to lead a rebellion...
How has nobody deleted this trope completely yet? I can't see it anymore. I want to see no more teenage rebellions. Please god no. Who'd follow a teenager into war anyway? Maybe I'm just outgrowing this trope, I don't know if actual teenagers still enjoy this. I'm feeling old.

Fictional Oppression or Slavery.
You guys know how I feel about this, so yeah, no need to repeat it. Thanks, but no thanks.

Problematic Comparison Titles.
If it says for fans of [insert any known super ableist/racist/homophobic book], I am out. This is actually a really great method that has proved to be always pretty successful. Weed out the weak by watching what books get compared to. Will save you a lot of time.



What are some tropes that make you not want to read a book?


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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Recommendation: 27 Hours (The Nightside Saga #1) - Tristina Wright: Queer Teens in Space

In 27 HOURS, five queer teens are trying to save the colonized moon Sahara from getting run over by gargoyles.

What intrigued me: You had me at queer.

Fast-Paced, Creative, Breathtaking.

27 HOURS is the queer space extravaganza that you've been waiting for. Wright starts the story with a bang and you won't have time to take a breath until the 27 hours time for the kids to stop the war between humans and gargoyles are over. If you like fast-paced action-filled stories with a side of very queer romance, you will adore this.

And if that isn't already enough to hook you: I was immediately impressed with the skillful prose; 27 HOURS is one of those books that makes you want to pick up a pen right now and start writing. Dripping with creativity, originality, and a truly fantastically-built intricate fictional world, I am in absolute awe of Wright's talent. An absolute recommendation for fans of Laini Taylor and Susan Ee.

This one's for the LGBT kids.

It's impossible to talk about 27 HOURS without mentioning the excellent representation it provides. It did move me to tears to see so many marginalized identities (some that I do share) finally represented in a SFF book. There are no words to describe how much it means to me to find nuanced representation for people whose identities in YA fiction are usually just exploited for the shock value. 
27 HOURS truly aims to represent with on-the-page statements and a cast that couldn't be queerer (no straight protagonists! When's the last time you saw THAT?). 27 HOURS is one of the very few books that I would unconditionally recommend to queer kids of color and disabled queer kids of color. Heck, if you're disabled, queer, or a POC, or all of these things, you will weep gentle tears of joy when reading about characters who look like you going on a space adventure.

This list will speak more than a thousand words:

On-the-page diverse protagonist representation:
  • Nyx: latinx (Cuban), Deaf, pansexual
  • Braeden: asexual
  • Dahlia: trans girl, darkskin/black latinx, bisexual
  • Rumor: multiracial (Nigerian and Portugese dad, Indian mom), bisexual
  • Jude: gay
There are a ton of queer side characters - Jude's mom is married to a woman, Jude's brother Trick is gay, Jude's brothers partner uses they/them pronouns. 27 HOURS is probably the queerest fantasy read of the year and I am eternally grateful for that.



Rating:

★★★★★



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Even if you are not interested in this personally, I BEG YOU to gift this to your lgbt friends of color. This book is for the Deaf LGBT teens of color out there. I think it may be the only one of its kind. Queer teens in space, y'all. I cried. Your disabled QPOC friends will cry. Representation matters.

Trigger warnings: violence, war, blood



Additional Info

Published: October 3rd 2017
Pages: 400
Publisher: Entangled TEEN
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Space & Other Planets
ISBN: 9781633758216

Synopsis:
"Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother's shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon's darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left."
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite book featuring queer teens of color?

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Friday, April 21, 2017

[Review] Caraval (#1) - Stephanie Garber: Magical Games and Insensitivity

In CARAVAL, sisters Scarlett and Tella finally receive an invitation to a mysterious game.

What intrigued me: Pretty much the hype.

Lacks in World Building

CARAVAL is one of those books that charm you with flowery writing and hide the fact that there isn't really much else interesting going on. The biggest weakness is the world building. Hardly anything gets explained and the reader has very little time to get acquainted with settings, concepts, and unique elements before the sisters embark on their journey to attend Caraval. 

I assumed this would be a magical-realist read like THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which it has been so famously compared to, but CARAVAL is nothing like that. The story would've been so much better off had it been told in a Contemporary setting in my opinion. The High Fantasy world is hastily built, which lots of made-up names for existing things and for some reason half of it is in Spanish. No clue what that's all about. The setting itself is a very meager attempt to distract the reader from the fact that hardly anything in this book makes sense, the plot twists come out of nowhere and are incomprehensible, and there are also a handful of Deux Ex Machina situations.


Suicide as a Plot Device 

I was surprised to see that it's pretty much a reproduction of L.J. Smith's THE FORBIDDEN GAME series, which is one of my favorite series of all time. CARAVAL tries to hide that with a High Fantasy setting, but the comparisons are simply uncanny: Both feature a love interest named Julian and a mysterious and dangerous game that the protagonist must win to save their loved ones. Where THE FORBIDDEN GAME amazes with atmospheric truly dark and dangerous setting and characters, CARAVAL strikes me a little as PG-13. It's such a strange reading experience, because the writing is very juvenile at parts and then you have scenes involving heavy physical abuse, emotional manipulation, rape, and suicide. 

There is one scene that still renders me speechless and makes me feel sick thinking about it - at some point a character commits suicide as part of the game, only to be later resurrected with magic. I find it extremely inappropriate to use this as a plot device and for the shock value, and worse when it turns out that the character planned for this to happen all along. It's disgusting, really, and just the proverbial cherry on top of this very problematic cake. You'll find that most of the scenes involving abuse and rape are plot devices. The sisters have a very abusive father who's just there for conflict, which I can still forgive, but then there are also scenes where the love interest forces himself physically on Scarlett. He violates her consent by asking her to reconsider and/or straight up ignoring it when she says no. This is never addressed and just horrifying. I would've given this book a solid three star rating without all the problematic content, because I can still recognize that this is a book that may not be for me, but might delight other readers. But like this, I'm simply horrified and shocked and would advise you to be very careful should you plan on reading this.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CARAVAL is the disappointment of the year. Lush prose can't really hide that the concept and world building are mediocre at best. This book is a prime example why we need trigger warnings in mainstream YA, a lot of the very mature themes are used as plot devices. The suicide one hit me the worst, I can't believe they'd put this in a book for teens.

Trigger warning: rape, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, slut-shaming, violence, kidnapping


Additional Info

Published: January 31st 2017
Pages: 407
Publisher: Flatiron
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781250095251

Synopsis:
"Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read CARAVAL?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Book Blogging Really Is Like | #BloggerConfessions





Today I'll be letting you guys in on a couple of secrets about blogging. 

I think we all know blogging isn't as easy as it looks, but what is it really like? 

~ Well, come in and find out ~





  • #1: Obsessing over self-imposed deadlines
90% of the time you won't have a deadline for reviewing a book. Sure, with ARCs sometimes people will say "review before or close to the release date", but in real life any and every review whenever helps. 
The only deadlines I've ever had were those that I invented myself; the more review copies you accept, the more stressed out you get - the more you obsess. Ugh

  • #2: Side-eyeing other bloggers' follower counts and trying to keep up
It's not necessarily a matter of getting jealous, it's more about feeling left behind. Feeling like people surpass you. I definitely do try to keep up with my friends, to look at people's follower counts who have been blogging as long as I have, and it's really not a good habit. Adds unnecessary stress.

  • #3: Cringing at old posts
All day, every day! Sometimes I click through my old posts and cirnge at every single one. I don't think this will ever stop.

  • #4: Having slight breakdowns when all ARCs come at once
Again, this goes hand in hand with #1

  • #5: Refreshing the page 100 times after a new post went online
Do people like it? Did I make an annoying mistake that will make me cringe for 10 hours? Will this post do well? Will people hate it? You bet I'm refreshing my site 3829829 times every time a new post goes online.

  • #6: Really not reading that much
Yes, we're book bloggers, but reading is really not even half of what this gig is about. Maintaining a blog site is so much work from formatting, to designing, to brainstorming, to writing posts, to commenting, to replying to comments and so many more things! 

IT'S REALLY SO MUCH WORK, and in addition to that, many bloggers have day jobs and/or go to school, and there really isn't that much time left for actual reading. Sometimes I go months without reading a single book, but you guys would never know from looking at my blog because all the reviews are queued up as if nothing happened. Muhaa #trickery

  • #7: Wrestling emails
Review requests from authors, requesting books yourself, dealing with regular inquiries - I spend a good hour daily just replying to emails. Book blogging is really a surprising amount of office work.

  • #8: Crossposting until you want to throw out your computer
Crossposting is a must if you want your blog to grow and the bane of my existence. You must crosspost every single post to every social media platform you have, sometimes even a couple of times to give it the maximum exposure. 

Some sites can do this automatically for you and you can cheat a bit with Wordpress widgets, Google+, and Bloglovin, but you'll always always still have some outlets left to crosspost manually to. Sigh.

  • #9: Theme customization until somebody cries (it's probably me)
Just when you think you've reached that point in your blogging career where you're confident with your old posts, your theme, everything about your blog - oh boy, you'll have another crisis incoming.

I don't believe that blog themes are ever complete, I actually just changed something about it yesterday. Who knows, maybe I'll completely redo the entire site next month and then spend another year completely customizing it to my likings! Wow, just the thought of that makes me want to quit blogging!


What are some of your #BloggerConfessions? 

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Top 10 Things That Will Make Me Want to Read a Book Instantly

Today you'll learn a bit about my favorite tropes, little things, genres - anything that I enjoy and will make me pick up a book instantly.

#1: f/f!
I'm so predictable. There is unfortunately so little representation for sapphic girls in YA, that I gotta take what I can get. I pretty much buy anything if it has girl-loving girls.

#2: Paranormal Horror!
You'd think there'd be more horror YA books out there. But unfortauntely it's very hard to find something that isn't gore-y, actually scary, and doesn't use mental illness as a poorly-researched premise. I also definitely can't stand crime-related horror with murderers or kidnappers or whatever. If it's paranormal and spooky, I'm in. But please, no ghost romances.

#3: Magical Realism!
Again, you'd think there'd be more. Magical Realism is a genre that most books on  the market claim to be, but if you actually pick it up it usually turns out to be Urban Fantasy. I've learned that it's best to stick with Latinx authors.

#4: Parallel Universes!
You guys know I love anything involving parallel universes. Generally you can hook me with anything that has multiple dimensions in them.

#5: Travelling to Space!
I love love love when authors write about space and introduce wacky world building that you'd never see anywhere but in space. Unfortauntely very few authors put the emphasis on the world when writing Science Fiction, so I'm stuck with trial and error.

#6: Aliens, Aliens, Aliens!
I have no idea how I developed this tendency, but I'm such a sucker for good old paranormal romance with aliens. I gobble these books up. Actual romance in space is hardly ever my thing, but if it's a weird alien coming to Earth, disguising themselves, and falling in love with a human? Sign me the heck up!

#7: Time Travel!
Another instant buy. I love a well-executed time travel book. It's very hard to get that right, I think time travel is one of the hardest things to execute well and to still have it make sense. My utmost respect to all authors who try. I love a good angsty high-concept time travel romance.

#8: Mixed format!
This is one of my newest obsessions. Any book that has a semi-intriguing premise AND features multiple formats (texts, chat logs, newspaper articles etc.), is definitely something I'll have to buy and have to own a physical copy of. No clue why, but I really enjoy the variation.

#9: My marginalizations!
I think this is a thing that gets everyone hooked. I've got a couple different marginalizations and having just a little bit of my identity represented automatically gets a buy. Oddly enough, while I do like identitiy representation I want any book set in a country I've lived in to be as physically far away from me as possible. Really deeply hate those for some reason.

#10: #Ownvoices!
Honestly? I dread reading non-#ownvoices and I try to avoid it. You guys know I read a lot (like, seriously A LOT) and from experience I know that most non-#ownvoices books are absolutely terrible. Either they're riddled with offensive, problematic content or just completely poorly written. Is this a thing or do I just pick up the worst books unintentionally? Every time I read an ownvoices book, it turns out to be a five star read. Odd. Let's investigate this.


What are some things that will make you pick up a book instantly?


Connect with me!
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

[Review] Be My Girl - Nina Sadowsky: Marriage and Murder


In BE MY GIRL, Ellie and Rob get married and slowly realize that they are both keeping monumental secrets from each other.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for an adult thriller.

Great Beginning and Dual POV

BE MY GIRL really surprised me and snuck up on me with it's brilliant premise and beginning. Told in two alternating storylines, one set with protagonist Ellie in a hotel room with a corpse, and the other one right after her wedding to Rob, it's surely a unique read. 

You'd think the flip-flopping back and forth through the timeline would get confusing, but it really doesn't. Mainly because it's executed flawlessly and there are lots of secrets to explore in both past and present. BE MY GIRL is an absolute page-turner. For the first fifty pages that is.

Offbeat Pace and Over-the-top Story

As much as BE MY GIRL delighted me in the beginning, it absolutely lost me somewhere around the middle. The writing is quite strange and very slow, focused on telling rather than showing. While I didn't have a problem with the characters and found them quite intriguing and longed to find out more about them - the pacing is terrible. It takes so much time for things to get interesting and once they do, everything happens at once. BE MY GIRL has the most over-the-top storyline involving, murder, kidnapping, terminal illness, serial killers - it's like every action movie and thriller thrown together at once. While that can work for some people, it really didn't for me. I was hoping for a very satisfying and linear mystery instead of a mixture of ... everything. It's really messy to read and definitely lowered my enthusiasm despite the excellent start.


And honestly? This story is just ridiculous. Again, this is highly subjective but that amount of secrets and twists and turns rather made me roll my eyes than actually care about the story. Maybe this will work better for you, but BE MY GIRL was a little too much for me personally.



Rating:

★★★☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

BE MY GIRL is a very over-the-top thriller/action read that combines all tropes you've ever seen in a book. For me this wasn't really fun, but you might feel differently.

Trigger warning: blood, gore, murder, death, terminal illness, abuse, violence


Additional Info

Published: February 17th 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Adult / Thriller
ISBN: 9783328100041

Synopsis:
"Balanced on the razor edge of moral ambiguity, this sexy and seductive debut novel asks: How can you find out that the person you love is a killer...and continue to love him anyway?

On the night of her wedding to Rob, Ellie's perfect world suddenly collapses. Her suave, charming, sophisticated husband is not the man she believed him to be. Could he really be a killer?

Ellie is rapidly swept into a lethal vortex of betrayal, lies, and uncertainty: Who is the man she married, really?
And how far will she go to protect him?

From Manhattan to the Caribbean, Rob and Ellie struggle to escape the grip of Rob's former life - a life his employers are determined to ensnare him in for good.

When faced with a terrible choice -- to become a murderess herself to save the man she loves, or to let him die -- Ellie's decision propels her into a whiplash-paced adventure, filled with cinematic twists and a startling sense of unease."
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite thriller?

Continue Reading...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Recommendation: Geekerella - Ashley Poston: Star Trek and Conventions

In GEEKERELLA, Elle enters a cosplay contest to win tickets to meet the star of the reboot of her favorite TV series.

What intrigued me: I was craving some more classic takes on fan fiction tropes and stories!

Super cute!

GEEKERELLA is an intensely fun story about a fangirl falling for the new actor who was cast in the reboot of her favorite series, and whom she despises. If you love a good enemies-to-lovers story with You've Got Mail elements and lots of nerdy references, you will absolutely adore this. 

GEEKERELLA is sprinkled with references from Star Wars to Princess Bride, and is definitely one of those happy-go-lucky reads that will make you feel all fuzzy inside. GEEKERELLA follows the tradition of a couple similar books that pay hommage to fandom culture, but remains wholly original through the fairy tale spin. As you may have guessed from the title, this is a Cinderella retelling, complete with mean stepsisters and all. If you love Jenny Han and Rainbow Rowell, and want a cute contemporary, you will absolutely adore this. 

Fabulous Writing and Characters

Poston is a very talented writer that immediately managed to catch my interest through the fabulous dual narration. As we all know dual narration is pretty much always hit or miss and requires an immense talent to pull off. Poston definitely possesses that. Love interest Darien is absolutely my favorite character in this and I loved him so much that I wished the whole story was told from his perspective. You'll definitely play favorites when reading GEEKERELLA. Elle, who lives with her vlogging bratty stepsisters and stepmother, is completely different than Darien, teen heartthrob and secretly just as much of a Starfield geek. It makes for such a great almost-starcrossed lovers story to read about these two secretly falling for each other. 

It should also be noted that Darien is a man of color, he's Indian if I'm not mistaken. Poston generally managed to gain a bazillion sympathy points with the way she handled adding characters of color into this story. GEEKERELLA is for the fans out there who love obsessing about TV shows. It's spiked with little references to the age of technology with a blogger protagonist and an online romance. You'll love this.



Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

GEEKERELLA is a super cute love letter to fangirls and fanboys out there. Especially if you love Star Trek, you'll adore this.



Additional Info

Published: April 4th 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781594749476

Synopsis:
"Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?"
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite geeky read?

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How Subjectivity Ruins Your Reviews | Book Blogging Tips (#54)

Reviewing is hard. Any blogger will be able to tell you that. 

Today we'll talk about a mistake that you'll find among veteran and rookie reviewers alike: being too subjective in your reviews and the effect this has on your readers.





Extreme subjectivity ruins most of my older reviews. 

Yes, reviewing is subjective by nature, but what I'm talking about is finding the balance between "this is a bad book" and "I didn't like this". I couldn't do that for a long time and I didn't see a need to do that for even longer. You absolutely non-negotiably need to do that though if you care for your audience and don't only do this for you. 

At the end of the day none of us are just reviewing for us, are we? 

I started out blogging to archive my thoughts for myself but since my blog has grown a bit, I grew more and more aware of the fact that there are a lot of people out there who come to me to find their next read or who absolutely trust my judgment. Chances are, it's the same for you.

You probably have a couple people out there who solely rely on you and your reviews to pick their next read. Writing books off immediately that are well-written with well-rounded characters and fantastic world building, simply because you didn't enjoy them for a very subjective irrelevant reason? That's selfish. Yes, it's your blog and all and you can do whatever you want; I'd never try to tell you any differently. Stop reading right here if don't tell me what to do is your takeaway from what I just said. Or read those paragraphs again.

If you cherish being a resource for people, it's important to also take into consideration that 

Your taste =/= an infallible indicator of quality, talent, or entertainment value.

To explain that I usually use books that provide excellent representation of marginalized identities. HOW TO MAKE A WISH by Ashley Herring Blake for example wasn't my thing personally, because I don't like sad, quiet contemporaries. Super subjective and tells you nothing about the quality of this book. It's just my two cents that couldn't be more irrelevant. HOW TO MAKE A WISH also had the first biracial character that I saw myself in. Like, ever. The first time I felt represented. I still gave the book five stars and I'd do it all over again, even though I didn't really enjoy it aside from the representation aspect. 

By being extremely subjective and giving books 1-3 star ratings left and right because you didn't enjoy them for an arbitrary irrelevant taste reason, you are possibly preventing readers from finding a read that will change their lives. People hardly ever read full reviews, and sometimes they pick books up solely because of the rating of their favorite blogger. Contributing to a negative rating (3 stars and below), will also make sure that less people who might be able to see themselves in this book will pick it up. That's on you. You contributed to that. This obviously transcends the issue of representation of marginalized identities. This is a lesson that definitely was the hardest for me personally. 

I do struggle to give books that I didn't care for five stars, and I do struggle sometimes to not just downrate something because I thought it was a terrible book, personally. But the people that I owe the most to are my readers, people like you who are here every week or even every day. And I hope that this helped you to understand that blogging and reviewing is about so much more than just you and your taste.

You're completely free to disagree with what I said, but truly, at some point, reviewing isn't about you anymore. Think of your audience. Especially the marginalized people. Cause if you don't care about them and are just doing this for you, why do you give them the option to follow? Why is your blog public?

What do you think of really subjective reviews?


More Book Blogging Tips on Reviewing

When is it okay to share your review of a DNF?

If you'd like advice on allyship and writing diversely, check out my Patreon.
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

[Review] Red Queen (#1) - Victoria Aveyard: Special Snowflakes and Silverblooded People





In RED QUEEN, Mare gets mistaken for a silver-blooded princess and is able to escape her fate as a red-blooded peasant to be forced to fight in a deadly war.

What intrigued me: Recommendation by a friend.

Wait, I've seen this before

RED QUEEN is the epitome of late to the party. It's a weird mix between futuristic dystopia and your average high fantasy class revolution. 
During the height of the 2011 dystopia hype, this maybe would've been original, this maybe would've been able to keep my interest, but having read dozens of dystopian books that follow the exact same scheme, this isn't anything special. If you haven't read lots of books in the genre, this might strike you as quite interesting, I just found it dull and repetitive. 

Especially the beginning is so reminiscent of THE WINNER'S CURSE that I thought I had picked up the wrong book for a moment. 
The social divide between two people, one overpowering the other because of their almost supernatural skill, is so annoyingly overdone that I couldn't take this seriously. The red-blooded and silver-blooded people, peasants and nobles respectively, didn't even seem interesting to me. I find the premise pretty silly to be honest, the only thing that's missing to make this novel read like a bad fan fiction is that the silvers all have unusual eye and hair colors. The weirdest thing is that the set up suggests we have a straight up class war situation, but then the book does a 360 and turns into THE SELECTION, revolution style.

Let's play cliche bingo

Although there is lots of world building, it only made me shrug. Aveyard is unable to mix the futuristic influences into her medieval-ish fantasy world without making it seem lazy and strange. RED QUEEN consists of all cliches you've seen in dystopian and high fantasy books, smashed together and pretending it's something new. And adding a dreaded love triangle between the childhood friend and the forbidden lover, AND another guy (!) just made me sigh endlessly. 

Paired with a special snowflake protagonist that inexplicably has ~magical powers~, RED QUEEN comes more across as a parody on the genre than a novel that's to be taken seriously.

Without an ounce of originality, RED QUEEN reads like a half-baked cross between your average fantasy novel and the x men, in the worst way.


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

No. I found it boring and full of cliches. RED QUEEN stuns with consisting of so many tropes that I'm surprised nobody has created a bingo sheet based on this.



Additional Info

Published: February 10th 2015
Pages: 383
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780062310637

Synopsis:
"This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read RED QUEEN?

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Recommendation: Girl Out of Water - Laura Silverman: Surfing and One-Armed Skaters

In GIRL OUT OF WATER, surfer girl Anise has to move from Santa Cruz to Nebraska when her aunt has an accident.
What intrigued me: Always there for cute contemporaries!

Bittersweet and Unique

GIRL OUT OF WATER hit me out of nowhere. With lyrical prose and a voice that packs a punch, it reads like it's written from the heart. Silverman's narration is captivating, sassy, essentially teen, and just an absolute delight. 

I'm especially happy to see a protagonist in YA contemporary that I'm very sure I've never seen before. When was the last time you read about a surfer girl-turned skater? So interesting to read about and the nuanced way Silverman writers about the bittersweet experience of leaving home hit very close to home for me personally.

GIRL OUT OF WATER is a story about family, friendships, and growing up. It's quiet, it's funny, it's bittersweet - it's just the perfect read for spring and summer and I'm very happy that I chose to give this one a shot. However, don't expect fast-paced action when picking this one up, GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet first and foremost and capitalizes on its fantastic characters. If you fall in love with them, this will be even more fun for you and I can wholeheartedly recommend this if you like character-driven contemporaries.


Diversity Done Right

I was especially happy about the casual diversity. Anise's best friend Tess is Samoan, there are sapphic background characters, and the love interest is a black one-armed skater. It's very rare that you'll find a book that doesn't capitalize and advertise with its diversity, but uses it as a given. Our world is diverse. People are diverse. 

I absolutely enjoyed about these characters who just happen to be marginalized and whose marginalizations don't involve huge plot complications or are used as plot devices - I have to remark that because unfortunately a lot of books do this. Not this one though. GIRL OUT OF WATER reflects our diverse world beautifully in a quiet manner that just made me squeal with joy. I wish this was the norm. More like this please.


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet and fun contemporary with a sassy narrator that I'm sure teens will love. If you like Ashley Herring Blake and Jenny Han, you'll adore this. With a black amputee love interest, a Samoan BFF and sapphic side characters, the background diversity made me really happy. That's so nice to read.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781492646860

Synopsis:
"Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves "
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite contemporary?

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

12 Most Anticipated YA Releases for the 2nd Half of 2017 feat. Anna-Marie McLemore, Lauren James & more



The second half of 2017 is full of new books by tons of authors that I'm very excited for. So many diverse books to watch out for, you guys. I totally wouldn't mind if these books magically appeared on my shelves.




WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE - Lana Popovic
A book about witches who can manipulate beauty through magic! *grabby hands* (Aug 15th 2017, Katherine Tegen Books) Goodreads

THE HOLLOW GIRL - Hillary Monahan
I've been eyeing this since I found out that this would involve magic and a Romani protagonist. So ready to get spooked. (Oct 10th 2017, Delacorte Press) Goodreads

THE LIBRARY OF FATES - Aditi Khorana 
A gorgeous cover and Indian folklore! I'm craving this one. (Jul 18th 2017, Razorbill) Goodreads




WILD BEAUTY - Anna-Marie McLemore
Latinx #ownvoices and a family curse that makes all boys who fall in love with the women of this family vanish. (Sep 26th 2017, Feiwel & Friends) Goodreads

STARFISH - Akemi Dawn Bowman
Biracial #ownvoices protagonist. Say no more. This cover is also extremely beautiful. (Sep 26th 2017, Simon Pulse) Goodreads

TIGER'S WATCH - Julia Ember
A genderfluid protagonist in an Asian-inspired fantasy. Also tigers. (Aug 2017, Harmony Ink Press) Goodreads




THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE - Lauren James
More from Lauren James and this time Sci-Fi! I cannot wait! (Sep 7th 2017, Walker Books) Goodreads

SPELLBOOK OF THE LOST AND FOUND - Moira Fowley-Doyle
I've recently read THE ACCIDENT SEASON and I just want more of her magically beautiful writing. Gimmeee (Aug 8th 2017, Kathy Dawson Books) Goodreads

THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS - Lauren Karcz
Don't even look at me, I've been thirsting over this f/f delight for months. Paintings! Gayness! Glorious cover! Thank you! (Jul 25th 2017, HarperTeen) Goodreads


THE RAVENOUS - Amy Lukavics
She's my favorite creepy writer and this is about cannibals! Please hurry up with the release. (Sep 26th 2017, Harlequin Teen) Goodreads

LIKE WATER - Rebecca Podos
This book about a bisexual performing mermaid is probably one of my top highly anticipated releases. October can't come soon enough (Oct 17th 2017, Balzer + Bray) Goodreads

CINDERELLA, NECROMANCER - F.M. Boughan
Say no more, that title is enough to make me want to read this immediately.  (Sep 5th 2017, Month9Books) Goodreads

What's your most anticipated read for the second half of 2017?

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Monday, April 3, 2017

[Review] Riders (#1) - Veronica Rossi: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Teen Edition





In RIDERS, Gideon is resurrected as the incarnation of War, a horseman of the apocalypse, and immediately captured to be interrogated.

What intrigued me: The concept! I'm always ready for apocalyptic ya!

Not really an apocalyptic slaughterfest -... sadly

Rossi made the decision to have protagonist Gideon tell the story of how he became War in retrospective, under the influence of a truth serum. There's a sense of mystery to the story because we only get bits of it at a time, and this is just what had me on my tiptoes the entire time and really got me invested. However, because Gideon is narrating, the story sort of loses its focus on the paranormal aspect early on and turns into a typical contemporary story with a nauseating amount of filler that's super exhausting to read.

Because the majority of the book is spent dealing with the origin story, we have to wait for things to get really going. I was hoping for action from the first page and chaos and destruction. Instead of a dystopian, chaotic read with a side of fast-paced fighting scenes, this reads more like a paranormal YA with a twist. This is where I think this book completely fails, because you can't just turn a killer premise like that into a boring origin story book when it has the potential to be epic. I assume we'll find the epicness in the sequels (which I'm not going to read)

Great characters saving the day

Even though the synopsis suggests it, there isn't much romance in this book, and I'm very thankful for that. Because it has a male narrator I was very skeptical and weary of this maybe turning into a cheesy instant love romance. What ultimately breaks this book's back isn't the romance but the sheer lack of world building and plot. Nothing really happens in this, and it's just an awkward, almost road trip feeling kind of contemporary. It's really, really, really a way calmer read than I expected.

Well, at least I liked the protagonist. Gideon is a class A macho army kid, and yeah, I dig it. His voice is interesting, his character well thought-out, and his perspective seems very realistic. I especially enjoyed his relationship with his sister, it's always nice to see siblings who love each other and stand up for each other. Gideon really is what ultimately gained the two stars because the plot is absolutely boring. I like Gideon, I like the idea of this book, but with a massive lack of world building and poor pace, RIDERS isn't anything special and definitely not a must-read.


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

RIDERS wasn't really what I expected and bored me more than it fascinated me. The interesting premise is pretty much wasted through the snail pace, which is a pity - I was ready to love this.



Additional Info

Published: February 6th 2016
Pages: 384
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780765382542

Synopsis:
"Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books about the apocalypse?

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