Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon TBR | April 2015

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I'll be honest, originally I had no intention of participating in this read-a-thon because it kind of sounded like a lot of pressure to me. I've only done one read-a-thon before, and that one was a week-long deal. However, after looking at the wonderful Chicago weather forecast, I realized I'm stuck indoors tomorrow anyways and I might as well give this a shot. And now I'm actually really excited to do this! I have no idea how to set realistic goals for this, but here are the books I'm going to attempt to read:

  • A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin—this should be an easy one, since I only have about 200 pages left, and I will most likely read some more today. Finishing this book should not be a problem, and I will be all set to start A Storm of Swords (the third book in A Song of Ice and Fire series) next month.
  • All That is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon—I had plans to start this book this weekend anyways, since it's one of our book club picks this month, and I've been looking forward to reading it ever since I bought it.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins—my third pick is there for a change of pace, since it's a mystery thriller. It's a very talked-about book at the moment, and I'm really curious to find out what I think of it. It also sounds like a quick read!

That's it! I may be a bit ambitious, but isn't that the point of a read-a-thon? I will be updating my Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads with my progress throughout the day tomorrow! If you don't have any plans for tomorrow, you should give this a try as well. Here is all the info: check out the official Dewey's 24 hour read-a-thon website, find out what time the read-a-thon starts in your time zone here, and sign up to participate here. Let me know if you're participating as well!


Inspired by… The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

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Before I fell in love with Leslye Walton's writing, I was swept off my feet by this cover of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I love the combination of blue and copper, and the single beautiful feather makes this cover simple, yet magical. The book is a magical realism story about a girl who was born with wings, and it tells you a fascinating history of Ava's family as well. There is love, heartbreak, obsession, and all of this is told in the most beautiful way. I think the cover illustrates the mood of this book perfectly!

Love, as most know, follows its own timeline. Disregarding our intentions or well rehearsed plans.

After resisting the urge to grab everything blue and gold that I owned, I decided to settle on a very easy to do manicure that involves blue nail polish and gold glitter. I used Essie's Avenue Maintain, which is a perfect Parisian blue, covering my nails with two coats of it. After that I went in with Julep's Diamond Theory, which is a beautiful glitter top coat that looks more gold in direct sunlight and more copper in the shade. I created a bit of an ombré effect by applying more glitter towards the tips of the nails, and dabbing what's left on the brush lightly towards the middle of the nails. I think blue nail polish and gold glitter look very pretty together, and you don't need any fancy nail art tools to do this!

Have you read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender?
Is there a book cover that inspires you?

If you want to see my full review of this book, check out the video below:


These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner | Book Review

Series: Starbound (Book #1)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Page Count: 374
Release Date: December 10, 2013

★★★☆☆

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Have you ever wondered what LOST would be like if it was a young adult romance novel set in space? These Broken Stars has your back. While Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the galaxy (and also a spoiled brat), Tarver is a war young war hero who comes from nothing. They are on board of the largest spaceliner called Icarus (why would you name a spaceliner that?!) that promptly malfunctions, and the two crash-land on an unknown terraformed planet. Lilac and Tarver have to overcome personal problems, and survive in the unfamiliar mysterious environment.

I really wanted to love this book, but it was just... not that good. The biggest problem that I had with it were the characters: I didn't connect with them or like them. While Tarver was OK, and could potentially be semi-relatable, Lilac was just plain annoying. She spends so much time trying to create an impression of a tough girl who isn't just a spoiled rich brat, but it's actually not true. She is unbelievably stubborn, and though she ultimately has a good heart, she can't help her upbringing. Lilac insists on treading through the forest in high heels, she gets in trouble the moment Tarver isn't paying attention, and she is obsessed with shoes. I'm sorry, but if you're trying to survive in a possibly hostile environment I think ruining your designer shoes should be the last thing you're worried about. She also is concerned about things like this:

I can’t help but wonder how long it will take the blisters and calluses on my feet to fade when we’re rescued. How soon will I be able to wear proper shoes again without displaying my battle scars?

Another thing that didn't work for me in this book is the lack of an actual villain. This is a survival romance story, and the villain is the environment (and the characters' bad decisions). Now, the planet and its "quirks" were actually the better part of the book—I thought the setting itself was interesting. However, I'm someone who loves a good antagonist, and if you're like me you will find yourself wishing for a villain in this story where there are essentially only two characters.

On the plus side, These Broken Stars is very fast paced and it's an easy read, if you're looking for that kind of thing. The writing is a bit too plain, but it sets the tone for the story. However, nothing could save the cliché romance for me—every time Lilac and Tarver had a "moment", I couldn't help my own eye-rolling. I think someone who likes romance books would appreciate this more than I did. The science fiction element of the story is underdeveloped, and the explanation behind the events left a lot to be desired.

In the end, though this wasn't a book for me, it wasn't terrible. I think if YA was the genre I read the most, I would enjoy this book more: the setting is creative, and I appreciate the authors trying to do something different. However, I have read and seen better science fiction, better romance, and better survival stories, so I can't give These Broken Stars more than 3 stars out of 5. There is no way I'm continuing with the series.

Have you read this book? What did you think?


Five Things Friday: Game of Thrones Theories

DAA DAA TATATA DAA TATADAAAAAAAAA

Season 5 finally premiered last Sunday, and I've also been reading A Clash of Kings, so I am totally in the Game of Thrones zone right now! It's a good place to be, I'm not going to lie. The recent related topic a lot of people have been talking about is how the show is going to diverge from the books—there have been changes here and there before, but now it's been made official: HBO has caught up to the books on some story lines and they're going to start doing their own thing. Now, I've also read that George R.R. Martin has told the show creators where he's taking things in the future books, but since it's all very secretive, all we can do at this point is speculate. Today, I thought I would share 5 theories I have about the show and where it's going.

Show SPOILERS ahead. Obviously.

 

Jon

Let's start with one of the most popular theories out there: R + L = J. At this point, I think most people believe that Jon is NOT Ned Stark's bastard, but is in fact a child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Though I think this would be an interesting turn of events, I actually don't believe this will be true, especially in the show. For starters, back in season 1 Ned actually mentions a woman called Wylla in conversation with Robert. Then there is this whole thing in the books where Jon burns his hand severely during the whole dead-ranger-turned-walker commotion in season/book 1. He actually has to keep flexing his hand after it's healed to return better mobility to it. Now, if there was one thing we learned from season 1, it's that a true dragon isn't hurt by fire. Of course, Viserys (Daenerys's brother) was a Targaryen and was very much hurt by fire, but if Jon's big reveal is that he is a Targaryen, why would he be a lame non-dragon?

Furthermore, guessing the identity of Jon's mother was the test George R.R. Martin gave Benioff and Weiss (the creators of the show), who were allowed to adapt the books after guessing correctly. If you ask me, the R + L = J theory is WAY too obvious to be a true test.

 

Tyrion

Now, here's a Targaryen parentage theory I can get behind: Tyrion's father is actually Aerys Targaryen. Say WHAT? Well, while looking into the history of house Targaryen, I found a few peculiar mentions of Aerys Targaryen having a "thing" for Joanna Lannister (Tywin's wife and Tyrion's mother). Could she refuse the King? Here is his description in the book: "One green eye and one black one peered out from under a lank fall of hair so blond it seemed white." That white blond hair sure sounds familiar, while the rest of the Lannisters are gold-haired. The different colored eyes could also be meaningful: the green is appropriate for a Lannister, but the black could signify another bloodline. And then there is his obsession with dragons... Obviously, the show didn't really go for the physical appearance, but there is something about Tyrion being on his way to meet Daenerys that sets off my radar. Who knows what secrets Varys is keeping from us...

 

Jaqen

Oh, how I miss this guy, and I sincerely hope we will see him again once we catch up with Arya in Braavos. So here's something to consider: Jaquen is part of The Faceless Men—a group of assassins with this insane ability to change faces. Remember that WTF scene from season 2? No? Take a look here. Now, I'm thinking back to Syrio Forel, the First Sword of Braavos, the guy who taught Arya how to use a sword. Though we assume he's dead, we never actually saw him die. Is it a coincidence Syrio is from the same place as The Faceless Men? Or is it possible that Jaqen and Syrio are actually the same person? Listen to what Jaqen says about killing guards: it's "no harder than taking a new name". Also, right before he changes his face he also says "Jaquen is dead." Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Valar Morghulis.

 

Bran

Bad news: supposedly, Bran and Hodor aren't in season 5. Good news: according to the Three-Eyed Raven at the end of season 4, Bran will fly. Between that and his visions, I'm 99% sure Bran will do what nobody has done before—warg into a dragon. Here's the thing: when in season 1 Bran got pushed out of the window, I thought his only function was to propel actions of other characters. Then, when I saw him sticking around, I thought he was a placeholder character. But as he keeps getting more powerful and more mysterious (not to mention, he's actually one of the POV characters in the books), I am more and more convinced this guy is endgame. There is also the business with the prophecy of "The Dragon shall have three heads", which is revealed to Daenerys at the House of the Undying. It's pretty safe to assume she is one of the heads, but I'm betting on Bran being one of the heads as well. As for the third—time will tell. I'm going back to my Tyrion theory—otherwise we will have two Stark-related dragons. 

 

Sansa

Sansa is another character I believe to be increasingly more important. I've already talked about her being one of my favorite characters in this video, and with Petyr's guidance I'm sure she will play the game well. I've been convinced she will become Queen of the North for a while now, and the shots of her at Winterfell in the season 5 trailer make me very excited. I feel like she's about to go troll the Boltons like there is no tomorrow. Lord Baelish clearly gives her the blessings (or mission) to avenge her family.

But the prophecy young Cersei received from the witch in the first episode of season 5 got me thinking. Obviously, Cersei thinks the one who is more beautiful to take her place and take everything away from her is Margaery, while we are all thinking Daenerys. But what if it's actually Sansa? This may be a bit far-fetched, but I'm starting to think Daenerys is too obvious of a choice—the show has never failed to surprise us, and I honestly expect the true meaning of the prophecy to come at us out of nowhere.

So what do you guys think? Do you have any theories for the show?

P.S. I'm doing episode recaps on my channel this season, so if you would like to check them out take a look at my Game of Thrones + ASoIaF playlist.


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin | Book Review

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Page Count: 258
Release Date: April 1, 2014

★★★★☆

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Whenever I hear people say a certain book is a "must-read for book lovers" I am immediately skeptical. What exactly does that mean? There aren't really books for book haters, are there? The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is one of those novels that everyone recommends to book lovers. Well, I'm one of those mysterious reviewers now: the rumors are true, you must read this if you love books! The reasoning behind this is kind of difficult to explain. Yes, the lead character is a bookstore owner, and yes, there are a lot of references to books and stories within this, but it's the overall feeling and mood of this book that just makes you want to curl up on the couch with a huge cup of hot tea, and read until you absolutely have to rejoin the rest of the world.

A.J. Fikry is a pretty grumpy guy, who owns a small bookshop. He's very particular about things he likes, and he generally isn't the most social person. A.J. is also one of those characters you can't help loving, despite his flaws. One day, someone leave a mysterious package for him, and that changes his life forever. That's about all you need to know going into The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

At first, he thinks this is happiness, but then he determines it’s love. Fucking love, he thinks. What a bother. It’s completely gotten in the way of his plan to drink himself to death, to drive his business to ruin.

This book is lovable, sweet, uplifting, and undeniably charming. At the same time, it's thought-provoking, and it will pull on your heart stings more than once. As I was reading it, I kept telling my friend Lindsay (who also is the one who gifted this book to me, because she's awesome) how cute this book was, and I meant it as a compliment! This never happens, by the way—I don't like cute books. And yet there I was. 

Something that I didn't expect was that the story actually takes place over a long period of time, which allows the reader to really see the character change and progress. And speaking of characters, every single one of them is so human and real—I loved them. Gabrielle Zevin's writing style is perfect for this type of story: she writes in a way that's easy to read, but her use of language is far from plain. She even sneaks a physical stores and books vs. e-readers argument in there, and definitely makes you want to go find a small local book store to shop at. 

My only issue with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has to do with the ending, which I obviously can't talk about. I'm not referring to the very ending of the book, but there is an event which effects one of the character in a certain way that made me really unhappy. Taking into account the type of the character this is and what the effects are (can I be any more cryptic here?), I thought it was cruel, and didn't fit the rest of the story.

Still, I really liked this book and I recommend this to anyone looking for a heartfelt novel with great realistic characters. We need more books like this one!

Have you read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry? What did you think?


Reading Habits Tag!

I haven't done a tag in a really long time (mostly because tags are EVERYWHERE lately, and I'm tired of seeing them), but this particular one really caught my eye. I'm sure you already know that reading is a big part of my life, and when I saw a tag specifically dedicated to reading habits it definitely spoke to me. I've seen it around before, but Lindsey from Lindsey Rey actually tagged everyone whose name starts with the letter M, and that would be me! 

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Nope. I've always wanted to have a reading nook of some sort though.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Until recently, I actually didn't use anything at all as a bookmark—I would just remember where I finished reading, since I rarely go longer than a day without a book. I would probably still be doing this, but I found the most adorable magnetic bookmarks on Etsy at a shop called Craft'ed. I bought a bunch of them, and now I not only use bookmarks—I actually theme them based on my mood, seasons, or book genre.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?

Obviously, if I need to run I will stop in the middle of a page, but I definitely prefer finishing a chapter. The problems arise when a chapter ends on a cliffhanger—then I have to read the next one, and that how I usually end up staying up way too late.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

I can't say I ever have a full meal while reading, but I actually really like to accompany the book with some coffee or tea. I will occasionally even have a light snack, but I will be extra careful not to get anything on the pages or the cover. 

5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading?

No. Never. I like to feel completely immersed in the story, and since I don't even like background noise I prefer to read in complete silence.  

6. One book at a time or several at once?

I usually like to have one physical book that I can sit down with when I have time, and an audiobook that I can listen to while driving or doing other things. I can't say I ever actively read more than two books at once.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

Hmm... Well, if we're talking physical books, I don't like taking those outside the home. However, audiobooks are something that I definitely listen to anytime and anywhere.

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Odd question. I don't know anyone who reads out loud on a regular basis, without a reason. Obviously, in my head—it's faster, not to mention a lot less awkward :)

9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

Only if I'm really bored with the book. I rarely not finish a book, so if I'm not enjoying what I'm reading I may skim through pages or even skip ahead to see if things have picked up. It's never a good sign though.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I try to keep my books as new as possible, so no, I don't break the spine. That being said, I prefer hardcovers to paperbacks, so this is rarely something that comes up.

11. Do you write in your books?

I went through a period of time in college when I would make notes in books, and I'm not just talking about textbooks. I don't do it anymore—as I just said, I like to keep my books as new as possible.

12. Who do you tag?

I tag anybody who is a reader! If you have a blog or a YouTube channel, please do this and leave a link below so I can check out your answers!


A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin | Book Review

Genre: Memoir
Page Count: 307
Release Date: November 4, 2014

★★★★ ½

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We are repeatedly told not to judge the book by its cover, and in most cases it's a very good piece of advice. However, there are occasional exceptions to this, and this book was such an exception for me. A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin was a classic case of "cover buy": Lindsay and I were browsing the shelves at Barnes & Noble, and this book caught my eye. I was born in the Soviet Union, and most of my life was spent in what became Ukraine in 1991, so even just the title and cover of this book spoke to me. Imagine my reaction when the inside flap told me this was a memoir that had to do with emigration and finding yourself in a new environment. I had to read it.

I think the beautiful thing about A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is that it will speak to almost anyone. Obviously, anybody who had to deal with emigrating from the Soviet Union in the '80s, or later from the former republics, will instantly connect with Lev's story. On the other hand, those who have not experienced moving from one country to another will find this book an eye-opening experience. And of course, anyone can relate to soul searching and worrying about what the future holds. Within its first pages, there is a phrase that defines this whole book:

... the one thing that finally sank into my head is that you can’t have a future if you don’t have a past.

The author comes back to this idea later, and it becomes more and more relevant the further you get into the story. Something else that I wanted to bring up is the concept of the language barrier and what it really means—something I don't think a lot of people consider when they talk to immigrants. The author talks about how people get impatient, or angry when someone from a different country is having trouble understanding them, and how frustrating and embarrassing this can get. Furthermore, the language barrier is something that not only keeps a person from getting professional employment, but also makes them feel like a lesser person, because none of what you knew or could express before is relevant:

You no longer have opinions. You don’t have jokes, or consolations, or conversations, or amusements, or experiences, or perspectives built over a lifetime. They’re useless, like you. How are you going to share them? With whom? You are an animal, mooing and mumbling and excuse me-ing your way through the smallest chore, the most inconsequential grocery store errand.
And that’s how the language barrier works.

There are so many quotes from this memoir that I wanted to write down and share, and so many things I related to. This book immediately hooked me, and it wasn't just because I knew EXACTLY what the author was talking about—it was the honest, unapologetic way the author spoke through his writing. There may have been things that I didn't agree with, but that didn't take away from how much I connected with and enjoyed this memoir. It made me sad, it made me angry, and it even made me inexplicably nostalgic a few times—it was a very emotional read for me. 

So, after all of this you may be wondering why I gave this memoir 4.5 instead of 5 stars. Well, the thing is there were a few details that bugged me. I'm not going to nitpick, since they aren't things that make a huge difference in the story, and unless you're familiar with the specifics you won't even notice them. Generally, I wrote them off to author's personal experience, and I still recommend this book to everyone. I loved it!

Have you heard of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka?
What is the  best memoir you've read?