Monday, October 31, 2016

DISCUSSION: Reigning in your TBR

My TBR is so long that it is literally yelling at me.
I know I can't be the only one with this problem.

I have been trying to cull my TBR list, bit by bit, so it's a bit more manageable. And when I talk about culling my TBR, I don't mean books that I have already purchased. If I bought it, you can bet that I will be reading it. It may take me a while, but I'll get to it.
I generally keep books that I want to read on an Amazon wishlist. My wishlist is set to private because it's for my eyes only, but it has all the books I would love to read, but don't own yet. I like the Amazon wishlist better than other methods because I can search for price drops and I can know when a book is on sale.

Anyway . . . getting rid of books from my TBR is harder than it sounds. I want to read ALL THE BOOKS.

So how do I decide which books to remove?
1. If I look at the title and can't remember anything about it, it's gone.

I know I have a bad memory, but if the cover and the title don't jog my memory, I won't miss what I never read, right?
Please don't burst my bubble on that one.

2. If it has been on my TBR for longer than a year and I still haven't bought it.

I feel guilty if books are languishing needlessly for a long time on my TBR. I have books that I buy right when they come out because I'm so excited. But after a year or more, chances are small that I will ever buy it.

3. If it goes on sale with Amazon and I still have no interest in purchasing it.
Seriously, if the price drops from $10.99 to $1.99 and I still don't have any interest in buying it, then that is a sign that I will probably never want to buy it.

4. If I read a sample online with Amazon and I have no interest in reading beyond the first page. 
Yep, sometimes, when I'm really desperate to knock books off my TBR, I give a book a page to capture my interest and that's it.

5. If the premise is not new or interesting.
I do love the dystopian genre and I have quite a few books from that genre on my TBR. But let's face it: that genre has gotten a bit stale. Occasionally, I still find dystopian books that are unique but there are way too many on my TBR that are like a dozen books I have read before. I am not interested in books that are a copycat of the same old, same old.

How do you decide whether to remove a book from your TBR?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

REVIEW: Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Twins Crystal and Amber have the same goal: to be the first in their family to graduate high school and make something of their lives. When one gets pregnant during their junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between their after-school jobs, they’re scraping by. Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration, perfect for the car buff she is. When she secretly applies—and gets in—new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister. 

For the first part of this book, I wasn't totally sure I liked it. Crystal and Amber are raising a baby. One of them got pregnant (the author doesn't let us know who the mother is at first) and they make a promise to each other that they will raise the baby together. They have a plan. They both work their butts off to pay for Natalie ("their" baby) and they are STILL in high school. Amber and Crystal are determined to be the first ones in their family to graduate high school. After graduation, they plan on getting their own apartment and going to work full time. It's crazy how determined they both are and how much they have to overcome. It's also really refreshing to see a book that doesn't glorify teen pregnancy and shows what life is like living in poverty. Crystal and Amber save every single cent they can in a joint savings account. Amber, Crystal and Natalie all share a bedroom and they barely have enough money to eat. They shop at Goodwill, they eat macaroni a lot, they panic about something as simple as a broken headlight because they can't afford anything extra. The author did a great job of showing the difficulties of raising a baby while going to school and trying to pay your way. Their mom and stepdad are around and they do help with Natalie with babysitting sometimes, but 99% of the financial and physical responsibility went to Amber and Crystal. The parents can't even afford to really pay their rent, so Amber and Crystal are pretty much on their own. 

So why did I have an issue with this book for the first half of it? It's hard to say. For a large part of the book, I just didn't like Amber very much. It seemed as if she was super flighty and was not super responsible and it seemed like she was asking Crystal to give too much up. Crystal would stay up all night doing Amber's homework and Crystal would have to go and pick Amber up at a party when she drank too much. It was annoying. Then Crystal gets into college in Kansas and all of their carefully thought out plans just went away. I thought both of them were acting a little selfish. It was selfish of Amber expect Crystal to give up college, but it was also selfish of Crystal to expect Amber to just put her life on hold for four years and move to Kansas with her. The sisters were just so enmeshed and I was waiting for them to realize that they could BOTH follow their dreams and neither had to give up anything. Honestly, it took me half the book to realize that the author had never even identified the mother. They even had Natalie call them by their names instead of "mom" or "aunt." I will admit that I made assumptions and I judged the situation incorrectly. I thought I knew who the mom was, but I was wrong. I think I started enjoying the book more once I had all the information. Suddenly, everything clicked and I could understand both sisters a little more. 

There was a lot of character development in this book from both of the girls. I absolutely loved their relationship and how much they depended on each other. Yes, I thought it was unhealthy at times, but I'm not a twin so I can't relate to that. Another thing I loved about this book was NO ROMANCE! Seriously, it was AWESOME. There was this one guy, David, who worked with Crystal at the car shop and I thought he was going to be a romantic interest. He was wealthy and clean cut and preppy and Crystal kind of hated him at first so I thought that's where I thought it was headed. I am so glad it didn't go that way. They became genuine friends and bonded over cars and he helped her with her college stuff and he encouraged her. It was great to see a straight man and a straight woman be friends with no romance and it was just nice to read a book that focused on family instead. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one. This ended up being a great read with very realistic characters and great messages. I would highly recommend this one.

Monday, October 24, 2016

DISCUSSION: ARCs are hindering my reading

Coming off a horrible reading/blogging slump, I discovered something: I have too many ARCs and they are part of the problem.

I love ARCs. I really do. Who wouldn't love free books, right? And I have discovered some amazing authors because of NetGalley and Edelweiss. I don't blog because of them, but man, they sure are a nice bonus.
So what's the problem? The problem is that I have no willpower and I have found myself requesting almost every ARC that looks even remotely interesting on NetGalley. 
I don't think it's a coincidence that I have DNF'd several ARCs this year. As a matter of fact, the only books I have DNFd have been ARCs and there have been several books that I keep reading, despite my desire to just delete it off my Kindle and be done with it.

Over the past month, I think I realized why I was in such a slump. I had so many ARCs for the month of October (I still do actually because I am majorly behind). The ARCs that I have read aren't necessarily bad, but they have been so boring. Meanwhile, I have all these new releases on my Kindle that I actually purchased and I REALLY want to read. But I can't very well not read these ARCs, now can I?
Over the past month, I have only visited NetGalley once. I didn't even realize I was taking a break from NetGalley, along with everything else, until I looked at my ARC spreadsheet and realized I hadn't requested a new one in a while. And it feels kind of awesome to not be adding five new ARCs for every two books that I read.
So I decided to keep my ARC-free streak going. I'm not saying that I will never go on NetGalley again or that I will never request ARCs.
No, no, no, no. But I am tired of getting ARCs that I am not excited about. If I get approval for an ARC and my response is "meh," then I probably never should have requested it to begin with. I know there is a chance I may lose some of my willpower, but for right now, I am going to try my very best to only request ARCs that I am genuinely excited about. And if I don't get any new ARCs for a while? Eh, I still have plenty of reading material, believe me. 

Now if only I could get a handle on that pesky habit of mine to buy way too many books . . .

Have you ever taken a break from requesting ARCs? Have you ever requested ones that you weren't even sure you wanted to read?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mini ARC Reviews: Disruption, Kiss Cam, The Row

Title And Author: Disruption (Disruption #1) by Jessica Shirvington
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads Synopsis: The Mercer Corporation might rule the world through the control of pheromones. But nothing, and no one, is going to stand in Maggie's way. Especially Quentin Mercer. Ever since the development of M-chips which tap into human pheromones, M-Corp has become the new superpower. Ratings range from the rare 'perfect match' to the dreaded 'negative' and everything in between. Three years ago Maggie's father mysteriously rated as a 'neg' and was taken away from them. For the last two years, eighteen-year-old Maggie has had only one goal: to uncover the truth and bring him home. Her last hope is Quentin Mercer, her classmate at the elite Kingly Academy - and the heir to the Mercer Corporation. But Quentin isn't the person she thought he was... And while she can easily betray her morals in the quest to save her father, can she betray her heart?
Review: I love the dystopian genre, but let's face it: it has gotten a bit stale. It's unusual to find a dystopian book that is as unique as this one. I absolutely loved this premise. Remember that whole ridiculous rumor that Obama was going to implant all humans with microchips years ago? I think this book is basically what would happen if that were actually true. Humans resist the whole microchipping process, but then people get so hooked on all the information it provides and they start to love it. I can see that happening. But there are downsides: there are people called "negs" who basically rate as a negative match with anyone. People assume that negs are people who either have done something bad or will do something bad and therefore, they need to be removed from society. Maggie is the perfect main character here. She is snarky and independent and has a soft side that she desperately tries to hide. But she will do ANYTHING to find her father. Part of her plan involves Quentin Mercer, the son of the inventor of the M-chip. I loved the relationship between Maggie and Quentin. Their banter was funny and they had amazing chemistry. And man the slow burn of their romance was INTENSE. I just wanted them to kiss and to be together, but I was terrified because she was basically manipulating him and I had a feeling he wasn't going to take it well when he found out. Maggie has a one track mind. It's hard to like Maggie sometimes because of all the manipulation and the coldness and also, she makes awful decisions. Some of the things she does are kind of twisted. But I end up loving her because of all that imperfection. And the twists . . . HOLY CRAP!! That ending was crazy wild and twisted and insane and I NEED the next book!! I would highly recommend this one.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one. 

Title and Author: Kiss Cam by Kiara London
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads Synopsis: Juniper, Jasper, and Lenny have been friends forever and co-own a vlog channel called WereVloggingHere. Their fans are huge "shippers" who believe that Juniper and Jasper are perfect for each other, and, despite warnings from friends and family, a simple Truth-or-Dare inspired kiss soon spirals out of control into a whole new world of making out and surprise kisses. Juniper and Jasper's relationship begins to shift. But as fan requests for different "Kiss Cam" segments keep pouring in, Juniper puts her worries aside and convinces herself that it doesn't mean anything. After all, it's just kissing… right?
Review: This book is responsible for getting me out of an awful reading slump so for that reason alone, it has a special place in my heart. Very few books have the ability to make me laugh out loud, but this one did. I loved the friendship and the banter and the silliness and the weird situation all the friends put themselves in and the romance and the chemistry . . . and okay, I just loved all of it. I know it's a weird premise: Juniper, Jasper and Lenny are running a Youtube channel and Juniper and Jasper decide to give the fans of their fake friendship what they want and they basically kiss on camera. It's a weird scenario and probably a bit unrealistic, but I still loved how fun and silly it was. You know how sometimes there is a slow burn where two people obviously like each other, but it takes them forever to admit their feelings and just kiss already? This is basically the story of two people kissing all the time, but refusing to admit their feelings for each other. At first, the kisses are silly. They try to one up each other by surprising them or pulling pranks that end with a kiss. There is also this one challenge where they have to deliberately give each other hickeys in the shape of a Christmas tree. Yeah, I just had to laugh. Their chemistry was so off the charts, but they were both too damn scared of ruining their friendship to give it a chance. I loved all the characters in this book. Juniper overhangs everything, Jasper is so silly and never takes himself (or anything) too seriously and Lenny is the calm one who has a not so secret obsession with Eva Longeria and Desperate Housewives. I love the whole best friends turned romance thing and I was rooting for them the entire time. I also loved Juniper's family. Her parents worked a lot, but they weren't neglectful. They tried to spend as much time together as possible with her when they were home, which was great. This was such a cute book. 
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one.

Title and Author: The Row by J.R. Johansson
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent. Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she cannot forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves. 
Review: This book started out pretty well. Riley's dad has been in prison for ten years for a series of murders that he says he never committed. He is on death row and has used his final appeal and his execution date has been set. Her world is turned upside down when her dad says he actually murdered those women, but then says he didn't the very next week. Riley was a very likable character. She desperately wants to believe her dad is innocent and she isn't sure what to think when he confesses. I thought the writing style was great, especially with showing Riley's conflict and her loneliness. I really wish the author could have given her at least one friend, but whatever. She also meets Jordan, the son of the detective who arrested her father years ago and immediately feels a kinship with him. He is very sweet and wants answers just as much as Riley and he is willing to help her get them. He doesn't want to believe that his dad would put an innocent man behind bars, but he definitely wants the truth, regardless of what that may be. I really wish theirs had been a friendship instead of a romance. The romance was minimal and moved slow, which was great, but I didn't really feel any chemistry between them. And I kind of hated how she confided in him so quickly. I thought that the story kind of went downhill when Riley starts investigating to see if her dad is innocent or not. First of all, her "investigation" begins with looking at old newspaper clippings and asking her parents what happened. Really? She expects to find a killer like that? She says she doesn't know if she can trust her father and then she finds out her mom lied to her, but somehow she thinks they will still tell her the truth because she asked nicely. Here is one thing that bugged me: Riley is sixteen years old (maybe seventeen, don't remember) and she still calls her father "Daddy." That just weirds me out when older people call their fathers out, but that's probably just me. But what really irked me was that EVERYONE else referred to him as "Daddy" as well. I mean, WTH? I THINK the author may have mentioned the guy's name once, but if she did, I don't remember it. Her mom would always say "your daddy" and even Jordan referred to him as "Daddy" once. Maybe that was a typo by the author or something, but I find it hard to believe that there wasn't a single person who could call the guy by his name. Also, I found it kind of hard to believe that Riley's dad ever would have been found guilty in the first place. There were three victims and he only knew one of them. And there was ZERO physical evidence to put him at any of the crime scenes. The ending was just as bad. I just thought this one was a bit unrealistic for my tastes. 
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Villains

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic was supposed to be top characters I would name my child after, but I actually did that one not too long ago. I decided to do one of the topics I missed during my blogging hiatus: favorite villains. I do love me some bad guys (and girls). 
1. Voldemort from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling 

2. Aidan from Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof

3. Joe from You by Caroline Kepnes

4. President Snow from Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5. Amy from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

6. Queen Levana from Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

7. Victor and Eli from Vicious by V.E. Schwab

8. Miss Trunchbull from Matilda by Roald Dahl

9. Adeline from The Young Elites by Marie Lu

10. The Commandant from An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

What are a few of your favorite villains?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Back From My Much Needed Break

Do you know what's weird?

I felt like it had been MONTHS since my last post. Seriously.

Nope, it's only been a little over two weeks.

I took an unplanned break from blogging and I am okay with that. That never happens, so I'm rolling with it.
So where have I been?

Every single website you can think of EXCEPT my blogging site, Bloglovin and Twitter.
It's like I was on a blogging timeout or something. Basically, for the last several month or so, my interest in reading waned a bit. Not just waned. No, no. I had zero interest in it.
I have only read three books this month and that is so weird for me. I wasn't sure if it was me or the books. But even when I was reading great books (The Winner's Kiss, for instance), I still couldn't force myself to read. For the past month, the only reading I have done is the fifteen minutes or so before bed. And the lack of interest in reading translated to a lack of interest in blogging. It was kind of hard to drum up ideas for discussion posts about books or top ten posts about books when I had almost no interest in books. And since I was barely reading, what was I going to review?
Somehow, I didn't think you guys would be interested in a blow by blow review of some of the TV shows I have been watching lately. Or maybe you would be more interested in the recipe for the AMAZING flourless pumpkin chocolate chip muffins I made this week. Doubtful.
(If you do want the recipe, you can find it here. Credit for this picture also goes to that site.)

One thing I have been doing was constantly surfing Pinterest and drooling over all the many, many pumpkin recipes. And I have probably pinned about a million different muffin recipes. My cravings have been intense.

But the other day, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Suddenly, I was actually in the mood to read and the book I picked was a funny one that held my attention so that helped. Then I decided that I wanted to blog again. Just like that. So here I am.

I appreciate all of my followers and I just wanted to let you guys know that I am here and well and I am enjoying reading once again! I will be posting some stuff next week. I just have to catch up on my reviews. I have eight books I have read since the beginning of September that I have not reviewed yet. Oops! Hope I remember the important stuff. And if you suddenly see me commenting on about a dozen very old posts or responding to blog comments you made weeks ago, it's just me catching up. I do love reading your blogs so I am looking forward to adding to my TBR even more now that I have my love of reading back.

So what have you been up to over the last two weeks? Do you like everything pumpkin or is it just me? Have you ever had spurts where you had zero interest in reading?