Book Buying Habits Tag!

I’ve been away for such a long, long time, dear readers! I’ve been slogging it out in the trenches of tech week and the running of the play I’m currently managing… I’ve been pulling extremely long days and any time I haven’t been at work or the theatre I’ve been lying on my couch staring at the ceiling trying to summon enough energy to go to bed. I’ve only read 1.5 books this month so far and basically I’ve been a zombie version of myself.

 

This week, however, I managed to muster some energy and money and went a little wild. I went on a BOOK BUYING BINGE! I have bought, I think, 15 books over the course of the last four days.

 

So seeing as I have spent the last few days just indulging in the most ridiculous lack of self-control I figured now would be a good time for me to try out the Book Buying Tag! So without further ado…

 

Where do you buy your books?

I buy from all over… I can find a book to buy pretty much anywhere I go. But my primary go to sources are my local Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. I also frequent Half Price Books to discover older titles that I may missed, and I try to hit up Between the Lynes in Woodstock, IL when I feel guilty about buying a bunch of books online and I need to get out and support a local independent bookstore.

Do you ever pre-order books, and if so do you do it in-store or online?

I do pre-order books. I usually do an online pre-order for those mega hyped YA titles or books by my favorite authors. The only books I’ve pre-ordered in-store are the Harry Potter books because of the midnight release parties and the fact that if I didn’t have the book in my hand at midnight when it came out I knew I would have them spoiled by someone.

 

On average how many books do you buy a month?

It depends on the month… If it’s March, June, September, or November it could be as high as 20. If it’s January, May, July, or August it could be as low as 0. And the rest of the year are pretty moderate. It all depends on what I have going on in my life and how my finances are holding up.

Do you use your local library?

I didn’t use my local library for a really long time. I had HUGE fine because I lost a book back in high school and it kept me away for roughly ten years. But last summer I was TOTALLY broke with no book money at all, so I cowgirled up and went back to the library hoping that my past misdeeds had somehow disappeared. They had and I’ve been a library regular ever since.

If so, how many books do you borrow at a time?

I try to limit myself to six books max at a time. Otherwise I doubt that I would have a prayer of reading them all, and I certainly don’t want to horde books that other people may want to read.

 

What is your opinion of Library books?

I’m not the biggest fan of hardcover books and library books are usually (justifiably) hardcover. I’m a gal who needs her books to be portable and library books are usually stay at home books. Also I have tiny hands and hardcover books can be uncomfortable… all that said, I’d rather have a hardcover library book than no book at all.

How do you feel about secondhand books?

I LOVE secondhand books! I love giving books new homes. I love reading marginalia. I collect secondhand editions of ‘Moby-Dick’ and ‘The Scarlet Letter’. I also love the secondhand price point. I actually just bought gently used copies of ‘Amberlough’ and ‘Americanah’ today before I sat down to write this blog. Cheap secondhand books are a great way to give books you aren’t sure about a chance without being out too much money. I also LOVE donating/reselling my old books to make room for new ones.

Do you keep your ‘Read’ and ‘TBR’ piles together on the same bookshelf or separate shelves?

This might be blasphemy, but I keep them together on the same bookcases. They’re all mixed in together. I only separate out my Currently Reading pile, which resides on my nightstand, next to my bed. Only my Book of the Month Club books and YA books have their own shelves.

 

Do you plan to read all the books that you own?

Let’s put it this way, I HOPE to read all the books I own. I don’t know if I ever will though unless I stop buying books right now and somehow get like three months off to do nothing but read 20 hours a day.

What do you do with books that you own, but feel you will never read/didn’t enjoy?

I will donate them to the library or if I’m looking to get new books to replace them, I’ll sell them at Half Price Books (most of the YA I read ends up at HPB, because I only keep the YA books I give 4-5 stars). My feelings are maybe I didn’t love something, but my donating or selling it can get it into the hands of someone who might fall in love with it… and that makes me happy.

Have you ever donated books?

Yep. I donate to the library, school libraries, hospitals and jails.

Have you ever been on a book buying ban?

Yeeeeeeeeees… Every summer I put myself on a ban. I tell myself that if I can go from June-September without buying more than nine books that I can splurge on my birthday (Sept. 11). It’s hell but having a library card makes it a lot easier.

 

Do you feel that you buy too many books?

I know that book lovers are never supposed to say that they have/buy too many books… but I’m going to say yeah… I probably buy too many books. I say this because sometimes I’ll end up going a week without grocery shopping because I went overboard at the bookstore. I have very little self-control when it comes to books… so yeah.

There you have it, my Book Buying Tag! As always I challenge my fellow Bookish Bloggers to take a crack at it. Come on ladies, get down with your bad selves!

An Honest Review of Everything, Everything (Guest Post)

By: Mia Oliver

I felt the push to get moving on Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon’s debut novel, after seeing a trailer for the movie adaptation pop up on my Facebook feed. I prefer to form my own mental pictures before seeing someone else’s vision of a story, and I would encourage you to do the same. I’ve heard several book aficionados singing the praises of Everything, Everything, but too often I find my particular (and somewhat peculiar) taste in literature doesn’t necessarily mesh well with others. I was a bit hesitant at first, but Yoon opens with a line that grabbed my attention: “I’ve read many more books than you. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve read. I’ve read more. Believe me. I’ve had the time.” I do relish a challenge, darling Madeline...but she was correct; Madeline certainly had ample time for reading.

Madeline Whittier is on the edge of eighteen. She has an affinity for architecture, reading, and game nights with her mom. Her nurse, Carla, is predominantly her only company, aside from her mother, a fact that made me uncomfortable from the start. Madeline reveals to us in the second chapter that she suffers from a form of SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) which renders her incapable of surviving outside her completely sterile and solitary existence. She has zero physical contact with anyone other than her mother and nurse, participates in online school, and fills her time with reading.

I’m crazy about Yoon’s choices with Madeline. She’s a woman of color (mom is Japanese American and dad was African American) with biting intellect and a sweet sarcasm that fits her. Essentially, Madeline is a compelling young woman who was dealt a crap hand. She’s making the best of a situation that is well out of her control and I am here for it 100%. I also want to shine a light on Madeline’s friendship with her nurse, Carla. I am a sucker for strong female friendships and I love how Yoon honors their bond. Both mom and Carla are in the medical field, which I think is a purposeful distinction made by Yoon to celebrate dynamic women.

Yoon spills the details with an air of lightness and teenage sarcasm (from the point of view of Madeline) that makes the story clip along quickly. I tend to prefer a heavy handed literary style with copious details and subplots, but something about Yoon’s style drew me in immediately. I found myself caring about Madeline. The author explores the relationship between Madeline and her new neighbor, Olly, with a brand new take on teenage romance. It’s essentially impossible to have a “normal” relationship when nobody is allowed to touch you. She gives you, the reader, an inside look at how two people can connect without physical touch.

I appreciate Olly. He’s different than your typical YA heart throb. Olly enjoys parkour and spending time on his roof (the importance of which we don’t understand at first). Olly and his family are vital to the story because they afford us the chance to view domestic abuse from the outside. Too often it’s a theme that gets overlooked, but Yoon forces us to take an unflinching look at Olly’s homelife. I praise her for this choice. Abuse is a common thread in this book, though it’s not always in-your-face evident.

About midway through I began to pick up on a dark undercurrent and I found myself going back in the book to reread a few chapters. There is a character I grew to distrust (I will not say which one, however, form your own opinions....) Once I discovered the mistrust, I looked at this character from a different angle for the remainder of the book, a feeling that eventually came to fruition. With fresh eyes, we careened to the finish, the plot unfolding rapidly. As I eluded to before, I prefer a nice coast to the finish with the loose ends being tied up, but Yoon made it work. I personally would have liked a meatier ending, but it made sense with her writing style and pace of the book. Prepare your lion hearts for a twist, friends! Yoon pulls the rug right out from under us at the end of this one.

The print is peppered with emails, drawings, excerpts from journals, and other mementos that made Everything, Everything visually interesting. Be sure to pay attention to these little additions because Madeline includes snippets of interesting information in her sketches and emails. The chapter lengths vary and seem to mirror Madeline’s emotions at that time; some are quite short and concise, which is not my cup of tea. Despite the discrepancy between my desired pace and length and this novel’s style, I found Everything, Everything to be a quick and enjoyable read with lots of heart and a thought-provoking message. I found myself pondering the implications beyond the final page turn, which to me is a sign of a great book. I would certainly recommend to a friend.

Celebrity Memoirs I Want to Read

I have a confession. Sometimes I read really interesting, thought provoking, and poignant novels...and sometimes I read celebrity memoirs. I love celebrity memoirs you guys. If I liked you in a TV show or a movie, you can almost guarantee I'm going to buy your book. Sometimes they're great (Bossypants by Tina Fey), sometimes they're not so great (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling), but I almost never regret reading them. 

I've read everyone from Nick Offerman to Chrissy Teigen (I'm counting her cookbook as a memoir, sue me) to Aziz Ansari, and I have plenty of others on my TBR. It's my guilty pleasure, and I only feel a little guilty about it. So when I found out that Tom Hanks, my birthday buddy and world famous superstar is writing a book (Uncommon Type: Some Stories, coming out October of this year, which you can preorder here: goo.gl/d6Vudw), I started thinking about which other celebrities' books I'd want to read. Let me know in the comments if I missed anyone!

  1. Jennifer Lawrence because I'm sure it would not only make me laugh, but also be very hungry.
  2. J.K. Rowling because I need writing advice, and also to motivate me, and also because she's a damn goddess.
  3. Ryan Reynolds, but as Deadpool because...duh.
  4. Emma Watson because I want to hear more about behind-the-scenes Harry Potter and also feminism. 
  5. Britney Spears because it would be 90's perfection, and also please tell us about 2007, girl. 
  6. Kevin Hart because I'd be dying of laughter, but in a good way.
  7. Michelle Obama because she is a queen. (Side note, she and Barack just sold the rights to their memoirs for $60 MILLION!!!)
  8. Morgan Freeman, but only in audiobook format.
  9. Taylor Swift because honestly I just think it would be funny to read the reviews.
  10. Melissa McCarthy because I feel like she would reveal a lot of Hollywood secrets and also be hilarious and well-spoken. 

So there's my list; add yours below!

Read Along: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (Liz)

Premise: The island of Fennbirn is separated by three major classes: elementals, naturalists, and poisoners. Every generation, a set of triplets is born, one of which will become the next queen. All she has to do is kill her sisters to take the throne. Katharine is a poisoner, but is small and weak after years of putting poisons into a body that doesn’t seem to be as resilient as it should be. Though the queen has been a poisoner for the past three generations, things aren’t looking good for a fourth. Arsinoe is a naturalist who cannot seem to even make a small flower bloom, though with the help of her lifelong friend, Jules, hopes to someday rule the island. Mirabella is the strongest of the three, with her elemental prowess way surpassing that of the talents of the other two. But though she is poised to take the throne, can she do what she has to do to win it?

 

Review: Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by “Three Dark Crowns” by Kendare Blake. I’ve been kind of down on YA lately, and this one was unique and different enough from the stereotypical chosen one, love triangle, didn’t-know-I-had-supernatural-powers cliché that seems to be taking over the young adult genre these days. For the most part.

Like Emily said in her review, there was a somewhat forced love triangle situation that I could have done without, and without spoiling anything, there is a twist at the end that makes one of the triplets realize she may be different than she thought, but on the whole, the few clichés that were in this book didn’t bother me. Another thing that I think Emily hit the nail on the head with was that the layout of the island is quite confusing, and the map didn’t really help. When Jules, Arsinoe, Joesph, and Mirabella all essentially crash into each other in the middle of the forest, it’s difficult to tell how they even all got there, and in what seems like no time at all. I agree with her too that the setup of the ruling class didn’t make any sense. A queen gives birth to three daughters, then gets shipped off to who knows where while the girls are all sent to foster homes to be raised by the people who may or may not help her rule some day? And in the interim the people are ruled by the Black Council until the triplet queens’ sixteenth birthday when they will have a year to fight for the throne. So between queens, there are seventeen-year gaps where the land is ruled by the Black Council. Assuming the queens are regular humans, besides their supernatural abilities, that means they only have so many fertile years in which to bear the triplets, after which they are no longer queen. So the island of Fennbirn is ruled by a council rather than a queen half the time. What’s the point of having a queen at all? While it is an interesting concept, it doesn’t add up. Why doesn’t the previous queen stay to rule on the main land until one of her daughters becomes queen?

I’m also bothered by Joseph’s character. He is, for lack of a better term, an asshole. The feminist in me didn’t like his antics with the two girls he strings along because he can’t make up his mind about which one he wants. His loyalty is very easily swayed, making him seem weak. I hope in the sequel that Blake finds a way to either make him more likeable or give him what he deserves, preferably the latter.

I loved Arsinoe’s character though. She’s strong and smart and doesn’t care about her looks, something that’s very uncommon in YA heroines these days. I think Katy will appreciate that there is at least one female character in this novel that isn’t constantly described as beautiful by the people who surround her. I liked that Mirabella was misunderstood, as is often the case with people in the public eye, where people only hear what the media, or in this case, the government, allows the people to hear. To the people on the island, Mirabella is portrayed as a power-hungry and overconfident leader, when in reality, she is a compassionate and scared young girl. The fact that she remembers her sisters and doesn’t want to kill them to become queen, even though she’s the most powerful of all three and therefore most likely to win the throne, made me like her more than I expected to.

Katharine sort of faded into the background for me. Whether it was because Blake didn’t go into as much detail with her as she did with the other two, or because I just didn’t relate to her, I don’t know. The poisoners were the least exciting to me, because their power is just that they can’t be killed by poisoning, I guess? I’m not sure. I’ll be interested to see what happens with Katharine in the sequel, but in 3DC, I didn’t care much about her story. Also, I don’t know how I feel about Pietyr. Is he good? Is he bad? Does he have a personality beyond teaching Katharine how to be likable to suitors? Time will tell. 

Blake isn’t afraid to be gruesome, which was something I really liked. She didn’t hesitate to give Arsinoe a ghastly scar down the middle of her face or to describe Katharine’s hands as bloody and missing fingernails, both of which were quite shocking. Blake’s writing style is unique, and I always enjoy a book that’s told from multiple points of view. I would definitely recommend this book, and I’m looking forward to the sequel, which comes out in September of this year.

Read Along: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

I enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood and was excited when Kendare Blake’s new book, Three Dark Crowns, came out. Blake doesn’t use the YA genre as an excuse to shy away from grotesque images and uncomfortable scenes. I expected more of the same with 3DC but I’m having a hard time coming to a resolute “I liked it/I didn’t like it” decision. Maybe if I lay out everything in writing I’ll be able to make up my mind.

First off, Blake is a good writer. I didn’t have any trouble reading this story because of her writing. I also didn’t mind the number of characters or multiple points of view. Several Goodreads reviews I read mentioned not being able to follow along with the shift of POVs and all the characters that kept popping up. I never had any trouble with it. Maybe because my preferred genre is fantasy and fantasy authors love multiple POVs with too many characters that flit through a scene, never to return. But there was plenty I didn’t like. The island, Fennbirn, is weird. It’s there but it’s not. Blake didn’t create a completely new world. The mainland is the “real world” and Fennbirn is an island surrounded in mist that not everyone can get to. Blake’s descriptions didn’t help me picture it very well and while the map at the front of the book was beautiful, it just confused me more. The island must be huge with all the cities in it. I didn’t understand the traveling between the cities and the harbors. Someone would pull into this harbor and end up in that city but they aren’t close on the map; how did they get there? I’m not sure if this was poor explanation on Blake’s part or if the map was too stretched out to include all the details.

What’s with the patriarchy? So there is a council and a queen. Okay, fair enough. The queen inevitably has triplets and then leaves Fennbirn. So it’s only the council ruling until one of the triplets wins the crown. I don’t get it. If the council rules for 16 years in between queens, why crown a queen at all? Why does the queen have to leave after giving birth? She can still rule with the triplets at their respective foster homes. I get that the council is made up of the queen’s supporters, but there could be a rule that each power gets so many seats on the council so it doesn’t lean heavily to one side. The political system bothered me. It seemed like it could have been more balanced with a few tweaks.

Mirabella and Joseph? Didn’t like it, didn’t believe it. I think Blake was trying too hard to create a love triangle. I get Mirabella needed a love interest since Katharine and Arsinoe had one. I liked that Katharine and Arsinoe’s love interests had political strings attached. It’s a political game the three sisters are playing. Joseph and Jules were a solid couple for the story. Blake should have left them alone and found a different love interest for Mirabella.

Did anyone else think all the characters sounded the same? I blame a lot of it on the speech patterns. Anytime you write a period piece, their speech is so formal it can be hard to show characters' individuality. I felt like I got to know the characters more from what others said about them then from the actual character themselves. I wouldn’t go so far to say everyone was flat, but dialogue wise they all sounded the same.

Arsinoe is strong with low magic? I remember her doing one spell herself. Madrigal does all the other spells. And some of that felt like build up for future spells that never happened. I guess they did use that blood they saved for the Quickening ceremony. I liked that Arsinoe resorted to low magic even if I don’t believe she was as powerful with it as everyone said she was.

The action picks up in the last half but I was annoyed by the repetition. Mirabella runs away, then she’s found. Arsinoe tries to sail away, but she washes back to shore. Perfectly in time for the Quickening Ceremony no less. Pietyr pushes Katharine into the pit, and she comes back. I started to hope one of them would die to make it interesting. I really didn’t want Arsinoe to come back to see where the story would go. Then I secretly hoped Blake would kill all three girls and shatter YA as we know it. No such luck.

The more I think about the ending, the more I like it. Great cliffhanger that I believed. How do they know which gift each girl has? Mirabella made sense because it showed so early. But how did they determine Katharine would be a poisoner and Arsinoe would be a naturalist? Has there been mix-ups before? Even though there were things I didn’t like about this story in general, the ending makes me look forward to the next one. How does the council fix it? There is such hatred bred into the three groups; how do you switch the girls to be retrained without prejudice? There’s a lot of interesting questions to be answered in the next book.

The premise of 3DC is great. Blake said she got the idea from swarming bees, which is wonderful in its own regard. I just wasn’t crazy about some of the execution. Blake is known to push at the boundaries of YA and I saw it a little with 3DC. Katharine standing in the hallway with her fingernails ripped out was intense. I hope she raises hell in One Dark Throne. And Arsinoe’s scar? You won’t find many other YA authors willing to rib one of their main character's face off. Blake’s not afraid to put her characters through the ringer. I have big hopes for more boundary pushing with 1DT. Break it open, Kendare Blake!

Guess who's back? (Back again)

Yes, hello, hi. Remember me? I basically fell off the earth the past three weeks, I know. The truth is, I recently made a decision to move back home to Michigan for a little while following some slight living situation drama, and just needing a break and a change of scenery for a little while. But anyway, I'm back now, all settled in, and once again reading and writing about reading. 

Obviously I stopped at Waffle House on the drive to Michigan.

Obviously I stopped at Waffle House on the drive to Michigan.

I'm off to a decent start this year, book-wise. I've read eight books so far this year, five of which were nonfiction, which has got to be some kind of record for me. I'm still trying to branch out more in my reading material, but I think my main focus, for the next few months at least, will be to make a significant dent in the books that I already have. I have a pretty absurd to-read list, at least half of which is YA, something I've been avoiding as of late. 

My goal is to get through as much of my YA as I can so I can clear some space on my shelves for new books (of course). What's happened is that I went through a pretty severe young adult phase, during which I purchased dozens of beautifully-covered YA books, and then lost all desire to read them. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of great young adult literature out there, but I'm getting past the age where I enjoy almost all of it. And as beautiful as it looks on my shelves, it's just taking up space at this point. I may have to take a page out of Katy's book and do a #YApril month. 

In other stepping-out-of-my-comfort-zone bookish news, I recently purchased a couple audio books to listen to ("Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and "The Fireman" by Joe Hill) and a comic book ("Essex County" by Jeff Lemire) and I'm excited to dive into those. 

Is anyone else trying new bookish things? Any New Year's resolutions you're still keeping up on? Let me know in the comments!