Saturday, May 27, 2017

Refusing to Review Indie + Self Published Books? | YA Talk



If you have a blog I'm sure you've gotten pitches by self-published authors to review their books before.

The first people who reached out to me were mostly small presses and indie authors back when I started blogging. Since then the amount of pitches I get has raised exponentially - so the demand is definitely there.

There are a lot people who look for reviewers.

But what I've noticed is that many bloggers already state in their review policies that they don't review indie and self-published books at all. 



Why do reviewers prefer traditionally published books over self-published/indie books?

I always wondered why - I do get that there is a certain desire to always be on top of new popular releases in this community, but flat out refusing to read books that weren't published by the big five is a little harsh, is it?

I've asked around on my tumblr and received a couple quite interesting answers.


Generally the reasons people have given me were a mixture of:
  • Indie books are low quality
  • Indie authors are disrespectful
  • Indie books aren't interesting enough
  • Readers aren't interested in indie reviews

Even if that were true for the majority of books, is that a reason to doom all indie books?

I do love to review indie and self-published books because I feel like I owe it to the community of writers out there. There are definitely gems out there that I would have never discovered had I refused to read self-published books. 
Many now very popular authors like Kiera Cass and Jennifer L. Armentrout and Amanda Hocking started out as self-published authors. It would be an imposition to try to say that all indie authors are worse writers than traditionally published authors.

Of course you'll have to wade through the mud and read a couple of bad books before you discover something you truly enjoy, but isn't that the case for traditionally published books as well? I've read traditionally published books that were low quality, full of typos, boring, and got me very little views on my reviews before. 

I think it's definitely wrong and a little shameful to just refuse reading books that aren't traditionally published. I haven't heard a single reason that I actually consider valid, to be honest. Give indie authors a chance, guys. 

Do you review indie books? Why/why not?


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Thursday, May 25, 2017

[Review] Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) - Sylvain Neuvel: Aliens and Giant Robots

In WAKING GODS, another space robot has randomly landed on Earth and Rose has mysteriously returned from the dead.

What intrigued me: Really loved the first book, SLEEPING GIANTS.

No Protagonists?

I was so excited for WAKING GODS after really being obsessed with SLEEPING GIANTS. Unfortunately, the sequel couldn't even come to get me even remotely as excited. It uses the exact same premise and format, interview snippets, random POVs from throwaway characters and all of that. Ultimately, I think that's the reason why I disliked this so much. For a fast-paced standalone, it definitely can work to have everything focus on the plot more than the characters, but for a series? How am I supposed to care for anything that's happening when there's not even remotely a connection to the characters? 

There are virtually no protagonists in this series, if there were any, they'd be Rose, Kara, and Vincent, whose story lines don't play much of a role until a good 60% into the novel (by which I was already asleep and didn't care for anything anymore). This is definitely the biggest weakness of the series - as fantastically plotted and inventive as it is, I just won't give a damn if there's no way to connect to the characters. This is a me thing though and highly subjective, so you might feel completely differently.

So, I Guess this is the Apocalypse...?

Another huge problem I had is that I never felt the urgency or the seriousness of the situation. In SLEEPING GIANTS, a lot of the plot is spent in a secluded area and in WAKING GODS, suddenly it's 10 years later and everybody knows about the giant robot Themis and I was just completely lost. Maybe it's because it's been about 6+ months since I read the first book, but I just couldn't get into this. I couldn't bring myself to care - WAKING GODS is supposed to be exactly like SLEEPING GIANTS but with more action, danger, and urgency, cause the aliens are arriving! I just didn't feel it. The format also contributes to making me feel completely disconnected from the story, the whole world, actually, and I just longed to simply stick with the characters that we've already gotten to know in the first book. I really did my best to give this a couple shots, but ultimately ended up skimming a chunk of this. I just didn't care. Sigh. 

I feel like WAKING GODS had to do a lot differently than SLEEPING GIANTS in order to be a success, but because it didn't, I'm through with this series and I have zero interest in continuing it. Unfortunately.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WAKING GODS is a huge disappointment that failed for me because I was hoping for it to be set up differently and to focus more on the characters than doing this whole über conspiracy thing again and working way too much with diary entries and interview snippets. I also physically couldn't care less that this is supposed to tell the story of an epic battle between humanity and aliens - I was busy zoning out.



Additional Info

Published: June 13th 2017
Pages: 416
Publisher: Heyne
Genre: Adult / Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9783453534803

Synopsis:
"As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars."
(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite book about aliens?



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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Blogger Transparency: Should You Share Your Statistics on Your Blog? | Book Blogging Tips (#58)

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Many bigger bloggers share their statistics and it's seemingly ONLY people with follower counts in the 4 or 5 digits. 

Personally, I feel conflicted about openly sharing my statistics, but I appreciate and love it when other people share theirs. So should we all?


Why would you even do that?

It definitely helps people who are looking to work with you and your blog professionally.

Whether it's:
  • authors seeking reviewers
  • publishers looking to add someone to their mailing lists
  • companies who are interested in having you review a product
  • anyone interested in advertising with you
  • anyone interested in professional collaboration

If you have your statistics openly displayed on your blog, people immediately know whether it makes sense to work with you. Let's not kid ourselves, people always say stats don't matter when talking about blogging, but we all know deep in our hearts that they do. Especially when we're talking about professional business with companies/authors/publishers who are actually earning money for what they're doing. 

As for individuals - I always like to see statistics because it makes it easier to categorize myself. To know how big my blog is in comparison to others. It's always great to be aware of the reach you have. 

But putting yourself out there like that isn't everyone's cup of tea. It's not necessarily a necessity to be completely transparent with your statistics. I absolutely understand it when people say they don't want to. Especially when you're still a small blogger you might hesitate to openly display how many clicks you get - it's easy to say "hey, no big deal" when you get 200k hits per month. 

So when is it TRULY necessary?

I think there is not really a necessity at all. You're not being dishonest by declining to openly show your stats to everyone. It's a personal matter after all and a personal decision. I had mine displayed for a hot minute, but felt very iffy about it all. 

You can always send out that information in private to people who are interested in working with you. Don't let anyone ever tell you, you have to do anything when it comes to blogging. Your blog, your rules.


Do you share your statistics on your blog?

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

[Review] Follow Me Back (#1) - A.V. Geiger: Twitter and Pop Stars

In FOLLOW ME BACK, pop star Eric Thorn sets up a fake twitter account and falls in love with one of his fans.

What intrigued me: Mixed format books are always a treat.

Romance-heavy page turner

FOLLOW ME BACK is an absolute page-turner. There is just something about this story that's captivating, especially through the mixed format with police interviews and tweets, it keeps you on your toes at all times. Even when the story gets a little too repetitive for my taste, I couldn't quit simply because I needed to find out how it all gets resolved. 

The thing is, FOLLOW ME BACK needs you to like these characters. A huge chunk of this book is spent watching protagonists Eric and Tessa fall in love through flirty DMs. I think in some way this really takes away from the premise. I would've loved a more thriller-centric story instead of a flat out romance with a side of a looming secret (that's not even that hard to guess early really)

At the end of the day, FOLLOW ME BACK has it going for it that this is every teenage girl's fantasy: the book. Your favorite celebrity is talking to you through a fake account and you'll fall in love. But FOLLOW ME BACK got a dark twist going on that really makes this story one of a kind. 


Fan fiction tropes galore

FOLLOW ME BACK's biggest problem is that the story isn't very strong. It reads like the mixed format has been slapped on (especially the police reports) after the whole thing was written to increase the lack of tension within this narrative. There is one mystery at the center of it that I don't find is explored as cleverly as you'd expect from a social media thriller. It reads like a cheap plot twist to set up the next sequel to this romance. It's a typical fan fiction trope. In general, this reads absolutely like fan fiction, which I assumed it used to be, since the author is well-known on Wattpad for her Maroon 5 fan fiction. 

This isn't a bad thing whatsoever. I like fan fiction every now and then and am familiar and quite a bit fond of these tropes and types of stories. But I think the average reader of traditionally published YA will probably be a little put off by this story. It's really a niche thing but I'd sincerely hope that it takes off. FOLLOW ME BACK is an addicting story of love and obsession that probably everyone can identify a little with. 


Rating:

★★★½☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you're a fan fiction reader or have a celebrity crush that's a musician, you'll probably love FOLLOW ME BACK. It's fresh, it's fun, it's different. The mixed media format really makes this one stand out and quite interesting.

[If you have agoraphobia and have reviewed this, please link your review. I'd love to feature it.]


Additional Info

Published: June 6th 2017
Pages: 368
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781492645238

Synopsis:
"Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…"(Source: Goodreads)


Do you read fan fiction?

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz: Writing Deaf Characters, Catfishing, #Ownvoices, and Wild

After absolutely loving Hannah Moskowitz' newest April 2017 release WILD, a bisexual romance between a Filipino boy and a Jewish and Guatemalan Deaf girl, I jumped at the chance to ask Hannah a couple of questions. Hope you enjoy!


Is there anything in particular that inspired you to write WILD?

Hannah: Actually yeah, you know the TV show Catfish? There was one episode where they were talking about how a person someone met online refused to get on the phone, and why that's usually a bad sign...and they were saying "Someday it's just going to be that the person's actually mute," and I thought...what if the person was Deaf and didn't want to tell them?

That actually ended up being a very small part of the story--for obvious reasons, I didn't want it to be some big twist that Jordan was Deaf, because ew--but it is where the idea originally came from.

What was the research process like?

Hannah: I spend most of my time right now in ASL classes because I'm working towards getting my interpreter license, so most of my life functions as research at this point. Really just watching interviews with Deaf people, reading what they have to say...but also using my own perspective as a hearing person who feels outside of it, since that was my POV character. Zack was a pretty easy guy for me to get to know, though it was weird at the beginning of the story trying to get into the perspective of someone who doesn't know much about Deaf culture and who has some ableist baggage about it.

I actually asked some of my friends who don't know any ASL, "Can you just describe ASL and Deaf culture to me?" to try to remember what people think about it who aren't willfully ignorant or anything like that, but just who haven't been immersed in it for ages.

What advice would you give writers who want to write about Deaf characters?

Hannah: Just get to know Deaf people, learn their language and their mannerisms, and don't think of yourself as some savior here to give them a voice or something. And really, really strongly consider staying in the perspective of a hearing person if you're not Deaf. Many Deaf people who are raised in a strong Deaf culture think visually in a way that we don't, and that's not a point of view that we can really will ourselves into.
Someone with ASL as a first language is probably not going to think in English words the same way we do. And if you try to directly translate that into English, you're falling into a lot of traps right there. 

Try to know the tropes of Deaf characters and decide how you want to proceed knowing those tropes are out there. Most Deaf people in fiction are really flawless lip readers, because it makes the story go more smoothly...and that's just not realistic.

The Disability in YA blog has a lot of great reviews and articles by Deaf and hard of hearing writers that are super helpful. Because like...why are you listening to me, a hearing person, blather about Deaf people for this long, ha.

What made you want to write a Deaf romance? 

Hannah: I'm a hearing person who signs, so I've wanted to work ASL into a book in a more comprehensive way than I did in my 2011 book, INVINCIBLE SUMMER, since...about 2011. I wanted to stay in the POV of a hearing person and kind of play with some of the same stuff i did in NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED--how it feels to be so connected to a community while still not feeling like you fit in. And writing about learning sign language from a hearing perspective was something I knew I could do well.

Cross-cultural relationships are one of my favorite tropes, and I feel like while we've gotten more Deaf/hearing relationships on TV--they did it on Switched at Birth, they did it on the L word, etc. etc.--it hasn't crossed over into YA as much yet.

What was your favorite part about writing WILD?

Hannah: My goal for WILD was really just to write a healthy relationship, because I feel like we just don't see enough of those in YA. So any time I got to a place where my natural inclination for drama was to have Jordan and Zack not be honest with each other about something, or not be willing to work through something...I subverted it and had them just TALK to each other. And that was such a thrill to write.

Which character was the most fun to write and why?

Hannah: Definitely Jordan. She's got a lot of attitude and she speaks her mind, but she's also very vulnerable and not well guarded...so her dialogue flowed the most easily.

Was the process of writing WILD any different than the process of writing your other books?

Hannah: I put this one down longer in-between drafts than I usually do, just by virtue of how my scheduling worked out. So there was about six months in-between drafts 3 and 4, I think, where I didn't touch it at all, and that's weird for me.

Are any of the elements in WILD #ownvoices? (If so, why did you choose to include them?)

Hannah: Both Zack and Jordan are bisexual, like I am, which was important to me even though I was writing a m/f love story, largely because of some of the bisexual backlash that's happening right now in the community. There's no REASON for Zack and Jordan to be bisexual. But they still are, despite being with each other, and neither of them has any crisis of identity from being in what looks to outsiders like a heterosexual relationship. 

Jordan's Jewish just because, I dunno, if I don't have at least one Jewish character I break out in hives or something.

I'm disabled, so a lot of the thoughts about ableism in WILD were very true for me, even if they don't relate to Deafness specifically in my life.


* * *
Hannah Moskowitz is a tank top-collecting, tv-obsessing, Rocky Horror-performing woman of mystery. She's a '90s kid, a mezzo-soprano, and a professional Sims-breeder. If she's not writing she's probably eating. Her cats are better than your cats. She'd choose a good haircut over a good wardrobe any day. And no matter where she's living, she's a clear-eyed, full-hearted Maryland girl with Old Bay for blood.
Website | Twitter | Blog
* * *


WILD, out on April 26th 2017 Goodreads | Amazon


"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf.

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild.

From the author of critically-acclaimed books like TEETH, BREAK, and A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD comes a story about what happens when love takes you off the beaten track...way, way off."


Have you read any books with a Deaf character?



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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Recommendation: Wild - Hannah Moskowitz: Deafness and Bisexuality

In WILD, Zack wants to meet up with his online girlfriend, but has no idea that she's Deaf.
What intrigued me: Bisexual Jewish #ownvoices! Hardly any white people in the main cast! Deaf romance!

Hilarious and Authentic Romance

WILD has one of the most authentic teen voices I've ever encountered in YA. I'm super picky with contemporary romance, most of the time it's like pulling teeth for me, but not with WILD.

The combination of a great voice, teens who truly feel like teens, great humor, and diverse, non-white protagonists (Guatemalan/Jewish Deaf bisexual love interest and Filipino bisexual protagonist), make this one an absolute success for me. I couldn't get enough of WILD and read it super quickly. Despite being short, I feel like Moskowitz made the most out of this story and wrote a fast-paced, compelling, and adorable romance that will make you laugh out loud.
I can't emphasize enough how funny this is, I seriously had to pause sometimes, because I couldn't breathe. I can confidently say that I have never ever seen any author write believable chat convos between teens until I read WILD. Honestly, you guys, it's so good. Moskowitz writes teens a little dorky, a little dirty-minded, and 100% authentically. I'm so in awe. It hasn't been that long since I was a teen, but this is the first time I'm not painfully aware that this is an adult writing teens while reading chat convos and texts. Bless.

Deaf Culture and Organic Romance

While WILD is a romance at heart, it really shines more with the protagonist and side characters instead of being a straight-up romance. I didn't really feel like it's about Zack and Jordan getting to know each other or falling in love, because this is an established relationship and they've sort-of been dating since long before the events of the novel start. Zack and Jordan truly feel like people who genuinely enjoy each other as friends first and foremost, which is very rare to find in YA, and I'm all about this. This is as far from instant love and tropey romance as it gets. 

My favorite element and the one that you have to definitely prepare for when you're picking this up, is Deafness. It plays a really big role in WILD. I am not D/deaf, so I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation, but it does feel like to me that Moskowitz put a lot of research into this: There are bit of bobs you'll learn about Deaf culture while reading and all signed conversations are written in <<>>. Zack and Jordan communicate either through sign language or texts. 

Signing plays a big role, too, because Zack starts learning ASL for her (and is terrible at it, which is just hilarious to read). A lot of the characters are either Deaf and/or signing, which is super refreshing and interesting. Again, can't speak for the accuracy of the rep, but I did learn a lot about Deaf culture that I didn't know before. WILD is unlike anything I've ever read, and an absolutely refreshing and fun delightful Deaf romance.




Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WILD is probably my favorite romance of 2017. Even if you don't like contemporary romances, give this one a shot, I beg you! Who can say no to a hilarious and adorable romance between a Deaf Guatemalan/Jewish bisexual girl and Filipino bisexual boy?

[If you're D/deaf and have reviewed this, I'd be happy to link your review! Let me know.]


Additional Info

Published: April 26th 2017
Pages: 228
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: YA / Romance
ISBN: B06ZZMBMVS

Synopsis:
"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf. 

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild."(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read any books by Hannah Moskowitz?



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Monday, May 15, 2017

10 Overhyped Books I Disliked in the First Half of 2017 feat. Caraval, Firstlife & more




Sometimes you're really looking forward to reading certain books because all your friends love them. Sometimes I genuinely question my friendship with these people after reading these books. Hm.



THE GRACES - Laure Eve
I've never read a book so racist and homophobic and biphobic in my life. It's beyond me how anyone can recommend this with a good conscience. And beyond that, it's TWILIGHT just with witches instead of vampires.

THE KISS OF DECEPTION - Mary E. Pearson
The hype absolutely killed this one for me. I was expecting excellence, looking at how much bloggers hyped this! I really don't know what to do with books that have no plot. Not my cup of tea.

ARMADA - Ernest Cline
Welp. This was hyped way too much and my expectations were way too high. I love READY PLAYER ONE, but not so much that I'd enjoy the same thing all over again minus world building plus homophobia and ableism.



STATION ELEVEN - Emily St. John Mandel
Not sure what happenened here - I had no idea this was going to be so literary and so much more talk than actual gritty dystopia. Not my cup of tea.

SHUTTER - Courtney Alameda
This has been hyped for years and I actually was really excited for a super scary read. Unfortunately I didn't like this for very arbitrary reasons and it went more into the gore than scare direction, which I just really, deeply dislike.

FIRSTLIFE - Gena Showalter
At some point, this book was everywhere! I really love afterlife setting, but this one was really awkward, poorly written, and just reads like every other dystopian book from the last 5 years or so. Super uncreative. No thanks.



THE MERCILESS - Danielle Vega
I just couldn't. Gore and racist micro aggressions and a non-existent plot were way too many things to complain about for me - I really really didn't enjoy this.

CARAVAL - Stephanie Garber
This is the disappointment of 2017. Nothing has been hyped more than this book, and I'm genuinely shocked with all the things that I found in this that are downright dangerous for readers.

THE DEAD HOUSE - Dawn Kurtagich
Sigh... another horror book whose scariest feature is the insensitivity. If you are picking this up looking for DID representation, don't.




THE AMATEURS - Sara Shepard
I've never read any of her PRETTY LITTLE LIARS books and was very curious to find out what the fuss is all about. But this one hit me hard with racism and sexism. Hard pass.


What books disappointed you in 2017?

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

[Review] Never Never - Brianna R. Shrum: Captain Hook goes to Neverland



In NEVER NEVER, James Hook decides to follow Peter Pan into Neverland and leave his family behind.

What intrigued me: I always found Hook more interesting than Pan!

Chapter book writing?

NEVER NEVER tells the story of James Hook. And when I say that, I mean legitimately all of it.

Shrum decided to show us everything from his childhood to going to Neverland to becoming a captain. The novel spans many years and is separated into different parts that each span a different time of his life. This leads to the novel really not reading like a regular YA book. Shrum's writing is very juvenile, reads like an actual fairytale, but in a way that makes you feel like you're reading a children's chapter book. While I do think that Shrum is a fantastic writer whose work is very easy to get lost in, I just wasn't looking for a Middle Grade novel.

This is exactly what NEVER NEVER appears to be for the first 80 pages. There are many other parts of the book that all deal with more mature themes, but if you start your novel like that, it's very likely that most readers who don't like Middle Grade won't even get to the more mature stuff.

I find the mix a little awkward, to span from Middle Grade to Mature/Upper YA and expect the reader to just roll with it. The story isn't engaging enough to even make me interested in all of James' life. I didn't like anything about James' childhood, since everything Shrum tells us about could've just been left out. It's all implied knowledge, a boy choosing to leave for Neverland because he feels neglected, Pan slowly starting to act shady - I felt like I genuinely wasted my time with the first 80 pages. 

Lacks creativity - where's the retelling part?

Huge time gaps are always a gamble, and it absolutely disconnected me from the narrative to have James go from 13 to 18 all of a sudden. I believe the novel would've been better off without all the childhood shenanigans if it's marketed as YA. Shrum's writing definitely fits the MG range and I think she's be marvelous at writing MG.

I just think that NEVER NEVER fundamentally lacks in creativity to the story. Yes, it's told from the a different perspective, the anti-hero/villain if you will, but it might as well could've been any other lost boy. The story Shrum is trying to sell isn't very innovative, captivating, or even well-crafted enough to make this a noteworthy read that I'd recommend. It could've been a gloomy and sad story about a boy who wanted to escape into a dreamland, but instead it's just a very awkward story that's rehashed for the thousandth time with about zero creativity and originality.

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I expected something different. I didn't want to read half of a Middle Grade novel, I wanted to see a new spin on the so often retold story - I didn't get any of that.



Additional Info

Published: September 22nd 2015
Pages: 356
Publisher: Spencer Hill
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781633920392

Synopsis:
"James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child - at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children's dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn't about Peter Pan; it's about the boy whose life he stole. It's about a man in a world that hates men. It's about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one."
(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like Peter Pan retellings?

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

When Blogging Gets Hard: Motivation When You Feel Like Giving Up | Book Blogging Tips (#57)


I tried to check up on a few people that started around the same time I did and shockingly realized that most of them stopped blogging.

So I thought to myself, why did these people stop?


What makes people give up their blogs?

It's not like I haven't thought about quitting multiple times. Mostly, it's the pressure. As a blogger you feel like you:
  • have to keep up with what other people are reading
  • provide constant, regular content
  • queue content!
  • constantly comment/promote yourself if you don't want your views to dwindle
  • also balance review copies on top of that
It's hard. It's basically like a second job. Some bloggers make me feel like I'm doing to little, from those genius hard-working people who always comment back, to those that seem to be either tweeting 24/7 or always taking beautiful pictures. I salute to you guys, I don't know how you do it, but you can be proud of yourselves. Give me the number of your fairy godmother please

What you miss out on if you quit

That all does sound very discouraging, I know. However, I would never dare to say that I regret starting this blog. You know why? Because there are so, so many rewarding things I love about blogging. Here's what I love. Here's what you'll be missing out on when you quit:
  • Being able to show your blog off in a couple of years time and being able to say, hey, I've been doing this for years. You can be proud for sticking around, for being an absolute badass.
  • Socializing. Online friendships. Meeting people you wouldn't have met otherwise.
  • Free books (duh)
  • A loving, truly kind community that will forgive you even if you need to take a break for a couple of months. We'll welcome you with open arms no matter what and do you want to leave that behind?
Of course we've probably all at some point asked ourselves whether it's all worth it. The truth is, blogging isn't for everyone and that is absolutely okay. If you don't want to do this anymore for what reason ever, don't feel bad. But do know that there is nothing stopping you from taking a hiatus whenever you feel like you need it, for what reason ever that may be.


Have you ever felt like quitting?

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

[Review] Someone Else's Summer - Rachel Bateman: Bucket Lists and Losing a Family Member

In SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER, Anna finds her late sister Storm's bucket list and decides to go on a road trip to check off all the things Storm didn't get to.

What intrigued me: I totally didn't read the blurb and went off the gorgeous cover.

Fantastic Characters

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER is an unexpected gut punch. I immediately grew very attached to the characters, from protagonist Anna to her ex-boyfriend Jovani to her neighbor Cameron - I loved them all! 

This is very much a character-driven story that takes its time to get to the actual premise and get the plot started, so it's always fantastic to connect with the characters. Bateman excels at conveying the emotions of her characters and portraying their grief and sorrow over Storm's passing realistically and beautifully. 

It truly feels like Bateman took her time creating realistic and fleshed-out characters with intricate and sometimes complicated relationships to each other.

Quite unoriginal and following tropes

However, there just isn't that much to this story after all. This is your typical bucket list / road trip story with absolutely no spin to the topic, no originality, and nothing memorable about it aside from the nice characters. Every twist and turn the plot takes is extremely predictable if you've read a handful of novels with similar themes. 

As soon as everything is settled introduction-wise the story just starts to become really dull and boring. Anna and her sidekick Cameron embark on a journey to tick off all the bullet points on the list and that's it. You have to be a fan of those types of novels to enjoy this and specifically enjoy bucket list narratives. Because this personally isn't really my thing, I found the narration and plot to end up feeling very stoic and boring. 

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER really has its peak within the first 80 pages, which are just brilliant, but then simply recedes to boring bucket-list-novel tropes. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I really enjoyed the first third of SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER but quickly grew uninterested when I realized that this is quite unoriginal with little to no variation to other novels that feature bucket list storylines. If you enjoy these types of contemporaries, SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER surely is among the better of these books, if you don't and like me enjoy variation, original plot, and surprises, you might want to skip this one.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780762462193

Synopsis:
"Anna's always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm's summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm's list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm's dream summer would eventually lead to Anna's own self-discovery?"
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite road trip read?

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

11 Exciting 2017 YA Releases that Almost Flew Under My Radar feat. Lydia Kang, Malinda Lo & more



Sometimes books that you REALLY want to read almost slip past you. Fortunately I caught all of these before the release date.





LUCKY IN LOVE - Kasie West
This cover makes me so happy. It's unfortunately still so rare to see non-white love interests in YA, even less so on the cover! Ah! (July 25th 2017, Scholastic) Goodreads

YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR - Mitali Perkins
I only read #ownvoices Indian, sign me up for this pretty looking contemporary! (September 12th 2017, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Goodreads

GRACE AND THE FEVER - Zan Romanoff 
Everybody loves a good fandom book. In this one, Grace meets the singer of her favorite boy band and they fall in love. (May 16th 2017, Knopf) Goodreads



WE COME APART - Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
From my new favorite contemporary writer, a book about a Romanian emigrant. Yes. (February 9th, 2017, Bloomsbury Children's) Goodreads

THE NOVEMBER GIRL - Lydia Kang
Magical realism! Violence! Isolated island! Yes! (November 7th 2017, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS - Melissa Bashadourst
A feminist retelling of Snow White! Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!! (September 5th 2017, Flatiron) Goodreads



A LINE IN THE DARK - Malinda Lo
An f/f Chinese-American #ownvoices mystery by the savior of sapphic readers, Malinda Lo. Anything she writes, please. (October 17th 2017, Dutton) Goodreads

THE OTHER F WORD - Natasha Friend
Two teens conceived via in-vitro fertilization try to find their biological parents. (March 7th 2017, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) Goodreads

DARE MIGHTY THINGS - Heather Kaczynski
Teens going to space! Sign me up! (October 10th 2017, HarperTeen) Goodreads

THE UNCROSSING - Melissa Eastlake
An m/m fantasy pitched as SHADOWSHARPER meets THE RAVEN BOYS? Oh my god? (October 2nd 2017, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

SECRETS OF SKIN AND STONE - Wendy Laine
Okay but I'm already obsessed with this one. True Blood meets BEAUTIFUL CREATURES in a southern gothic with a protagonist with OCD? Come to me! (June 5th 2017, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

Which 2017 releases did you almost miss?

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

If You Loved That, You'll Love This - F/F Edition with Julia Ember + GIVEAWAY Win The Seafarer's Kiss + $25

I’ve seen a few Twitter threads over the last few days asking for f/f YA in certain genres. I also hear from straight readers who are new to LGBTQ lit, that they’re not sure which books would be the best gateway for them. I love recommending books and hooking readers up with a book that will speak to them, whether the book is mine or not. 

In this post, I’m going to cover f/f YA that has been released in the last couple of years, paired with heterosexual or m/m YA books that I also enjoyed. Most of these books are #ownvoices representation. 



IF YOU LOVED: ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer
YOU'LL LOVE: NOT YOUR SIDEKICK by C.B. Lee

Why? I read Artemis Fowl when I was 12, and it still holds a place in my heart. It’s witty, fast-paced, laugh out loud funny, with a teen villain as the main character. NOT YOUR SIDEKICK is on the MG end of the YA spectrum, so I think it’s a perfect step up for readers who loved ARTEMIS. Like ARTEMIS FOWL, NOT YOUR SIDEKICK has an endearingly funny protagonist, who is trying to carve out a place for herself. Although Jess isn’t a villain, she does come into contact with a whole host of them. When I first read NOT YOUR SIDEKICK last year, I described it as queer Despicable Me meets ARTEMIS FOWL. I still believe that to be true. If you want an adorable, clean YA story about heroes and villains, that will make you laugh, this book is for you. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: THE ASSASSIN'S HEART by Sarah Ahiers
YOU'LL LOVE: ASSASSINS: DISCORD by Erica Cameron

Why? Okay, I am embarrassingly obsessed with assassin novels. If it’s a YA book published in the last five years, and it features a female assassin, there’s a good chance that I’ve read it and loved it. I had a lot of options for comparison titles for this book. As far as I know, ASSASSINS: DISCORD is the only f/f assassins book out there. 

I chose ASSASSIN'S HEART as the comparison for several reasons. The first, is that both books feature crime families locked in epic rivalries. There’s a little bit of a murderous Romeo and Juliet feel to both novels. The other reason, is as much as I love some of the other assassins books out there, many of them are ‘problematic favs’ of mine that I know feature some terrible representation. I can’t use those books in post with a clear conscience. ASSASSIN'S HEART was a great book that I did not find to be problematic. I can recommend both of these books without reservations. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi
YOU'LL LOVE: OF FIRE AND STARS by Audrey Coulthurst

Why? Both of these books are lyrically written, diverse, sweeping fantasies that centre the romance as a prominent part of the plot. I loved Roshani Chokshi’s world-building. It was rich and textured. The romance she developed between Maya and Amar was also swoon-worthy. I felt the same way about OF FIRE AND STARS. The writing in this book was truly beautiful. The world felt sumptuous, decadent and full. The romance progressed slowly and tenderly. If you want a true fantasy romance, this one is for you. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
YOU'LL LOVE: GRRRLS ON THE SIDE by Carrie Pack

Why? GRRRLS ON THE SIDE has a very distinctly late 80s/early 90s feel to it. It focuses on the Riot Grrrl feminist movement in the early 90s that spurred on a lot of feminist developments. The reason I liken it to ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE is first for the era, but also the focus of the story for both main characters is on coming to understand themselves. Both novels have a strong narrative voice, slow burn queer romances, and focus on self-discovery. Grrrls on the Side will be released in June 2017. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE by Tamora Pierce or CROWN DUEL by Sherwood Smith
YOU'LL LOVE: MARIAN by Ella Lyons

Why? MARIAN has a very classic, adventure fantasy feel. Like both ALANNA and CROWN DUEL, it centres a badass female character who learns to defy the gender norms in her society. It’s written in a similar, fast-paced 3rd person style, and the story is very plot-driven. There also isn’t a heavy focus on magic or mythical creatures. The romance in the story is on-page, and there is enough content to fuel the shippers, but romance is not the focus of this story. We’re here for Marian's story and her development. It is also the start of a series. Goodreads | Amazon



* * *

Julia Ember is a polyamorous, bisexual writer and native of Chicago who now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Seafarer’s Kiss is her second novel and was influenced by her postgraduate work in medieval literature at The University of St. Andrews. Her first novel, Unicorn Tracks was published by Harmony Ink Press.
Website | Twitter | Facebook

* * *


THE SEAFARER’S KISS, out on May 4th 2017 with Interlude Press

"Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, ninet
een-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies."
Interlude | Amazon | B&N

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What's a f/f version of a popular m/f book you enjoyed and would recommend?




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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to Rate Books: 6 Things You Should Be Doing | Book Blogging Tips (#56)

Every reviewer needs to find a way to rate their books. A rating scale is absolutely essential, whether you just review on goodreads or library thing or your blog. 

Here are some tips on how to get started rating books.






1. Establish a scale
Most bloggers go for 1-5 or 1-10. Some bloggers also make use of the 0 rating. It's a matter of personal preference, I think, if you have a bigger scale you have more room for individual ratings. 

A huge part of your rating scale is also what you're rating in. It might seem trivial, but especially if you have a themed blog, you might want to consider a very unique rating scale. Instead of rating in plain stars, you could make little graphics and rate in strawberries, books, top hats, whatever you fancy. It's by no means a must and the good old star rating scale works as well.

2. Think of criteria
To some people it may just come naturally how they're rating a book, but I guarantee you, if you're just starting out reviewing things you will not be able to rate something ~naturally~. It's a skill that's built over time, so as a newbie you have to think of certain things that a book needs to have if you want to give it a certain rating. This may sound more difficult than it actually is; let me illustrate:
  • 5 star books: Nothing to complain, you loved everything, the characters are great, the plot is fantastic
  • 4 star books: A little to complain, you still loved everything, the characters are mediocre, the plot is mediocre
  • 1 star books: You hated everything, the characters are terrible and so is the plot.

3. If you're unsure, compare
In my early blogging days I used to always go back to my older reviews and compare the book I had just read and wanted to review to them. Example:
  • You gave BOOK 1 4 stars
  • You gave BOOK 2 2 stars
  • You like book you've just read not as much as BOOK 1, but more than BOOK 2. Therefore BOOK 3 gets three stars

4. Stop being so harsh/generous
Yes, before I've even seen a single review you've written, I can already tell you that you're either giving everything 5 stars or nothing 5 stars. This is a very common thing with new bloggers, and there is really nothing that can fix that aside from experience. I'm one of those people that tend to always be too harsh and very very cautious with their 5 star ratings, which is actually the worse option. 

If you're like me, you're doing more harm with your reviewing than you're helping. Authors and publishers don't want to see negative review and neither do your readers. This doesn't mean you should rate everything great or not review at all, this just means that you have to be REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY sure about your ratings. Are you very confident in the ratings you give out?


5. Look at other bloggers
This is essential. Every book blogger MUST read other book blogs or in the very least other reviews. You have to look at other people to get a feel of what you're doing. If you're always giving everything better or worse ratings than eveeryone you'ree following, you very likely have a rating problem. 


6. Always go back to your older reviews
Even after almost three years of blogging I still go back to older reviews and check with the older review you've written. Either to rework or to compare the way you're rating now to the way you used to rate. You can always learn from your old mistakes, make use of that opportunity!

But always remember: These are only suggestions, at the end of the day it is your blog and you should and have to review the way you want to.


How do you rate your books?




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