Monthly wrap-up: April 2014

I read quite a bit, but I need to do better with the blog again. I started out like gangbusters and then fell off the wagon.

Looking back...
List of April reads

Anne Blankman - Prisoner of Night & Fog (Prisonger of Night & Fog #1)
Jen Calonita - Belles (Belles #1) audiobook
Kiera Cass - The Selection Stories (The Selection #2.5)
                  - The One (The Selection #3)
Abbi Glines - Bad for You (Sea Breeze #7)
Jenny Han - To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys... #1)
Rachel Harris - My Not So Super Sweet Life (My Super Sweet... #3)
Leila Howland - Nantucket Red (Nantucket Blue #2)
Tahereh Mafi - Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)
Johnston McCulley - The Mark of Zorro audiobook
Katie McGarry - Red at Night
J.K. Rock - Camp Boyfriend (Camp Boyfriend #1)
                 - Camp Payback (Camp Boyfriend #2)
Gabrielle Zevin - In the Age of Love and Chocolate (Birthright #3) audiobook

Looking ahead...
May releases I'm excited about:

The Chapel Wars - Lindsey Leavitt
The One - Kiera Cass
Wish You Were Italian - Kristin Rae
The Warrior - Victoria Scott
Since You've Been Gone - Morgan Matson
After the End - Amy Plum
Biggest Flirts - Jennifer Echols
The Art of Lainey - Paula Stokes
City of Heavenly Fire (It is about FRIGGING time!)

May TBR:
I need to make up for some of the ones I missed in April!
Dreams of Gods & Monsters - Laini Taylor (started reading this one, but because it's so big, I'm going to savor rather than binge)
The Forever Song - Julie Kagawa
The Treatment - Suzanne Young
In the Shadows - Jim di Bartolo & Kiersten White
What I Thought Was True - Huntley Fitzpatrick

Resolution Progress:
You can check out my full resolution post HERE, but I'm just going to gloss over these really quickly.
1. Post more reviews: *unfunny laughter*
2. Create a backlist for schedule-able reviews: *headdesk*
3. Read 150 books: 57. I'm still ahead of pace, but I need to do better.
4. Reread 20 books: 15.
5. Listen to 20 audiobooks: 14.
6. Read 5 classics: Nope nope nope
7. Blog redesign: As I mentioned last month, I'm making this a second-half-of-2014 goal.
8. Make more blogger friends: Because I met a lot of bloggers face-to-face at TLA, I consider this a success. Also, I have become a lot closer to blogger friends I already have, which is awesome. You know who you are, and you guys rock!
9. Read at the gym: I know of a really good cheap gym nearby so I'm hoping I'll have something to report in May's wrap-up!
10. Be more organized: HA.
Challenge Progress:
I signed up for a LOT of challenges this year. I wondered if I was crazy or suddenly decided I liked masochism, but so far, it's going really well. The good thing is that some of my books count for multiple challenges, which is really helpful. You can check out the full details of my challenges HERE or track my progress in the challenges tab at the top, but here's a quick rundown on where I am today:

2014 New Challenges:
Standalone Challenge: 6/15
Series Challenge: 19/12 COMPLETED!
Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge: 18/25 I'm working on actually getting the reviews done for these now
Real Book Challenge: 26 of 21-30. Definitely need to increase this goal
Jumble Your Genres Challenge: 2/12 I missed March and April :(
TBR Pile Challenge: 20 of 11-20 BAM! Time to up that goal!
A-Z Challenge: 8/26

Challenges already in progress:
50 State Challenge: 33/52
50 Countries Challenge: 19/50
YA Challenge: 8/25


Waiting on Wednesday: Earthquake by Aprilynne Pike


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.


Earthquake
Earthbound #2
by Aprilynne Pike
Coming July 15, 2014
Razorbill


Summary:
Tavia Michaels has discovered that she’s an Earthbound—a fallen goddess with the power to remake the Earth—and that a rival faction of Earthbounds, the Reduciata, has created a virus that is literally wiping swaths of the planet out of existence.

Tavia is captured and imprisoned before she can act on this information, along with her eternal lover, Logan. Huddled in a claustrophobic cell, they lose track of the days, their attempts to escape proving as ephemeral as Tavia’s newly gestating powers. But then Tavia and Logan are mysteriously rescued. . . .

They’re brought to the underground headquarters of the Curatoria, another group of Earthbounds that Tavia doesn’t fully trust. There, she’s told that she can save the Earth before it disappears. She agrees.

Tavia quickly realizes that she isn’t like other Earthbound, and as her abilities continue to awaken, they begin to threaten her centuries-long relationship with Logan. When Benson—Tavia’s former best friend and romantic interest—appears at Curatoria headquarters, Tavia will again have to make a choice about who to be with even as she tries to stop the virus that is destroying the world and uncover the truth about the two Earthbound organizations that have her tangled up in their webs.

Why I want it:
I really enjoyed Earthbound! I think it's a cool twist on immortals, and I really would like to see what's going to happen now that Tavia more-or-less knows what's going on and Logan has been introduced.

Why I think you should want it:
Mmm, so much swoon! Benson is truly delicious, you guys. I mean, really, he's just spectacular. But there are also swoony flashbacks with an immortal hottie, and now Logan is in the mix, which means it's just going to be Swoon City! At least I hope so. In all seriousness, as I said above, the Earthbound series has a really interesting twist on immortals, and it's got a cool mystery going with the how's and the why's. Add some running for your lifes coupled with the swoony we might die any second so why shouldn't we make outs, and this series is pretty dang addicting!
 

Review: My Not So Super Sweet Life by Rachel Harris



Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: April 21, 2014
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: DRC/Netgalley, ebook/gift from author
Status: book 3 in the My Super Sweet... series


Summary:
Cat Crawford just wants to be normal—or at least as normal as a daughter of Hollywood royalty can be. And it looks like fate is granting her wish: she’s got an amazing boyfriend, Lucas; her fabulous cousin, Alessandra, living with her; and her dad planning his second marriage to a great future stepmom. That is, until her prodigal mother reveals on national television that she has something important to tell her daughter…causing a media frenzy.

Lucas Capelli knows his fate is to be with Cat, and he’s worked hard to win her over once and for all. Unfortunately, Lucas has his own issues to deal with, including a scandal that could take him away from the first place he’s truly belonged.

As secrets are revealed, rumors explode, and the world watches, Cat and Lucas discover it’s not fate they have to fight if they want to stay together…this time, it’s their own insecurities.

Well, and the stalkerazzi.

Event Recap: Dreams of Gods & Monsters Tour

One of the authors I was most excited to see on the list for TLA was Laini Taylor because, guys, LAINI FREAKING TAYLOR. My childhood bestie Alyssa had introduced me to Daughter of Smoke & Bone a couple years ago, and I'm so, so very grateful she did. It's a beautiful series, and it's one that I love in regular book form AND in audio as well. Then I heard the spectacular news that not only would Laini be at TLA, but she was also having her own solo event at a B&N in San Antonio as well! The rest, as they say, is history. I went on a Laini Taylor book buying binge and planned my whole Thursday schedule around seeing her in both places AND I DID. Laini's line in TLA was one of the most populated, but Little, Brown ran it very well, but I'm still glad I got to go to the event to hear Laini talk at length about the series. Also, as I said, her line was HUGE at TLA. We could only get one book signed apiece each time we got back in line and NO PICTURES. The cool thing about the evening event is that it was pretty small. Just me and a few high schoolers (who had also been at TLA for teen day), for the most part. It was quiet and very personal. We all got to talk to Laini one on one without the crowd, which was incredible. Plus, she was more than happy to sign all my copies of her books, a copy of DoSaB for Alyssa, and a few extra books for kicks and giggles.


Note: Laini is REALLY GOOD about not sharing spoilers so this Q&A is safe to read even if you've never read any book in the series!

Q&A:
Q1. How much do the places you go to influence your writing?
LT:
I am lucky to have been a Navy brat, have lived overseas, and travel. When I was in elementary school, I took field trips in Rome, Pompeii, and Capri. Backstory can be hard to weave in. As a traveler, going to Prague was huge. I realized it was the perfect backdrop for Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Going to Morocco was the perfect setting for Days of Blood & Starlight.

Q2. What is your writing process?
LT:
I wanted to be a writer my whole life because I struggle a lot with perfectionism. I have trouble finishing things. I have a need to fix everything to death. A lot of people feel that if they have that, and writing is hard, it's not for them. With painting, it's easier to see if it's close to being done, but not with writing. It can be easy to pretend to be busy, but if you're not finishing anything... you can do whatever you need to do. I like to lock myself away in a hotel for days.

Sneaky Laini is sneaky!
Q3. Are there any characters who surprised you and stayed around longer than you expected?
LT:
One character in Dreams of Gods & Monsters who is in Days for a very short scene. It was a fun chapter to write. I try not to figure everything out in advance. If I can get into the space of the scene, it's a magical place. It feels like it's not coming from you, it's being given to you. Not everything has to make it into the book, and that's my favorite part of the process. That character came to life, and for a while, I thought that would be my next book, a spinoff about them. One of the later chapters was my introduction to the book. Eliza didn't turn out to be the person I thought she was. That was a surprise.

Q4. Do you have any advice for coping with perfectionism?
LT:
Coping with my perfectionism... One of the things I discovered pretty early is to have my screen set up. I use Scrivener. I can collate all my documents on a project together. It helps with organization. I have to have two windows open side by side, one with the chapter and one with the working document. I make myself do free writing even when I don't feel like it. I have to have an entrance to the scene, a hook. If I have a working document, it's easier to write. There is a fear that people can't see your bad writing. Freewriting... I think when you're stuck, it's helpful to write about writing. I find inspiration and start writing before I realize it. And I can't delete everything. And the thing about perfectionism is that I love the revision process. I love to play with it and make it better. In fiction and life, it's never too late to revise. I think it's fun, and I love it! I really like the blog Not for Robots.

Q5. What was your inspiration for the characters?
LT:
There wasn't an inspiration; they just came. I was writing another book, a sci-fi I loved, and it wasn't coming to life. I couldn't find a way to have fun with it. Usually there's a way to have fun with it, but this started out as no fun. I gave myself a day to play around and have fun. Immediately, this girl jumped to my mind. She was arguing with her dad, who wasn't human and had a wishbone. I just let myself have fun and play around. Don't be super precious with the outcome, but you do have to guide it at some point. Akiva came around later. Karou and Brimstone were primary. It wasn't a romance, but I wanted a romance, a kind of star crossed romance. So if they were demon characters, I wanted to introduce an angel.

Story time with Laini!
Q6. How much of the books was planned vs what developed? 
LT: None of it was planned! I didn't know what it meant, the teeth and the wishbone. Once I figured those out, it came to me. I didn't even know how many books it would be. The ending of Days is a little bit dark. I didn't know I started writing a war book, even though I had. I didn't want it to be so dark that someone wouldn't finish it. Some people call these two methods plotting vs pantsing. Jane Yolen described it as flying into the mist. Writing a novel is like driving in the dark. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you make it the whole way. Is this true? I always ask myself that. Is this true to Karou and Akiva? That's why I can't outline. I can't look 200 pages into the future. It's like telling a two year-old they're going to Stanford!

Q7. You like to review and revise. How many revisions? And is there any stuff you wish you could change?
LT:
There are always little things, but I have no regrets. Has anyone ever said the way to write is that you have to write a quick draft and just get it done? That's not true. The best way is...to write. [Writing a quick draft] is the way to kill my enthusiasm. You have to move forward, but for me, I have to move forward from something I love. That's the balance I have to find.

Q8. How do you write each character's chapters? Do you write all one character and then switch or do you write from start to finish?
LT:
I have to go linearly. Sometimes, if I have to, I'll jump to certain scenes, but I was at a section that something important was supposed to happen, but I didn't know what it was supposed to be so I had skip it. It was so hard. I write in third person so I like to write from the most important and exciting perspective so I can write for Akiva or Karou or both! Or if I want to hide something from the reader, I can NOT go into their [the most exciting character's] head. I went to art school, thinking it was a good fallback. That's where I met my husband, actually, so that was good. My teacher told us: purity sucks. You have to be as fluid as possible, and use whatever works. Don't be wussy about it. Keep trying until you find something that works. Yeah, you just have to do it.

Laini may be one of the happiest authors I've ever met!
Q9. Did you get rejected with Daughter of Smoke & Bone?
LT:
I was lucky in this case. It was my fourth book. By the time it was in the works, I had a the National Book Award, and that let me get attention from publishers. I got to pick who I wanted, and that was Little, Brown, and they didn't have me change it. I'm a believer in SCBWI. You have to belong to this group. It makes writing a career. It's super exciting because it's full of people who are looking for books to buy, and you also learn how to make your book better.

Q10. Have you considered an MMO (massive multiplayer online game)?
LT:
I wouldn't know how to do that, but the film rights have been sold. There is a script and a director, and now we're just waiting for the cast. It's not official until the cameras are rolling, but yeah, there's going to be a movie. 
Q. Who is the production company?
LT: Universal Pictures. And the same producer as Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent.

Q11. Do you have any actors you want for the movie?
LT:
There is a girl but I won't say. I have avoided it thus far. [Note: Laini DID tell us some of her ideas, but she asked that they not be shared online.]

Q12. Did you have an idea for Akiva and Karou's future, did you know what would happen? 
LT: No. I don't want to give a spoiler, but no. I didn't know what would happen. I think a part of Brimstone always hoped he could give her a normal life.

Q13. What was your inspiration for the chimera races?
LT:
The kirren are total wish fulfillment because that's what I would be. I think Madrigal is so beautiful,  graceful, and buoyant. I never world build so I only let myself decide things when I need them. It left the world shadowy so I won't have shot myself in the foot when I get there.

Q14. Did you focus on contrasting Karou and Madrigal?
LT:
I don't think so. We don't see Madrigal much. There are things that can't be said [because spoilers].

 This was a really, really fun event. Laini's publicist brought along props like wings, a blue wig, and Brimstone's horns. There were delicious blue cookies and some AMAZING fanart propped up on the windowsills. We even had a trivia contest for a wishbone necklace (I came in second. Dangit!), and Laini read us the first chapter of Dreams. Then, Laini gamely signed all the books, including the....fourteen...ish...that I brought. And for the record, she thought it was awesome that I brought them all. ;)

 <---This picture belongs to Nicole, aka @luckyziri,  who runs a hardcore DoSab Tumblr and is ferociously Team Ziri (totally don't blame you a bit!). Check out the original picture HERE. This is my favorite piece out of all the fanart present at the event. Laini even posted this pic on her blog before!







Chimera Shaman is the gorgeous piece on the ---> left of this picture. Many thanks to artist Aaron Miller for letting me share this with all of you! You can find more of Aaron's work on his website and catch up with him on Twitter and Facebook!








Note 2: I want to share all the art with you guys, but as I was typing this up, I realized that I needed to ask the artists for permission. Since I usually just use my own pictures from events, this isn't something I normally do or even have to consider. Derp. Thanks to Nicole for being so quick with her reply! Hopefully I will be updating this post with more pictures soon!

Note 3: As I hopefully do add more of the art pictures to this post, I want to say that the pictures may be mine, but the art in the pictures belongs to the artists. Please do not post their work elsewhere without their explicit permission. That includes these pictures. I have left several links to the artists' pages. Please use their guidelines for sharing or for contacting them to inquire about attaining permission to share. Thank you!

Giveaway:
So this is your chance to own a signed Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy! I have signed copies of all three books for one lucky winner. This giveaway is open to US residents only because these books are HUGE. I am so sorry, INT friends, but I just can't afford the shipping on these to other countries! All giveaway policies are stated in the Site Policies tab. Any entries not in accordance with my policies will be disqualified. Giveaway ends 12 AM CST May 15. Good luck!

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Weekly wrap-up: April 20-26

Lately I've had a difficult time finishing books. At the beginning of the week, I had all three of this week's completed reads in my currently reading as well as at least three other books on Goodreads. I've just been skipping around like a leaf on the wind. But then on Thursday, my day off, I decided to truly take the day off. I'd planned to drive down to Austin for an event (which would have been 7-8 hours in the car), but I stayed home and read and relaxed instead. Definitely the right choice, even though I'm sad that I didn't get to meet Ann Brashares. Maybe some other time. I finished three books in a row and started in on DoGaM. Glorious! How was your week?

PS I also hosted the first meeting of the book club my roommate and I are trying to start with the women in our church congregation. I picked Cinder. Everybody really liked it, but it's hard to discuss a book when only three of us have read the book in its entirety. The other seven girls present (including my sis) haven't finished (or even started *cough*sis*cough*). Most hadn't even gotten to the part with the Lunars so the fact that it's a series called the Lunar Chronicles was totally lost on them. Book club mainly consisted of me giving them lots of background info on the series and a discussion about identity. Overall, I would call it a success, but now the hard part is picking another book people will like just as much!

Completed:
My Not So Super Sweet Life (My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century #3) - Rachel Harris: 4 stars. Not my favorite of the series, but I really enjoyed Cat and Lucas's story. I really, really hope Rachel continues the series with Lorenzo or Reyna or Ransom or Cipriano or somebody!
Camp Payback (Camp Boyfriend #2) - J.K. rock: 3.5 stars. I enjoyed much of this book, but I had a hard time relating to either Alex or Javier. Also, I'm just not a fan of the Munchie Manor girls. I know they're Lauren and Alex's friends, but they're so disingenuous and not loyal at all. As I said in my Camp Boyfriend review, loyalty is a trait I admire greatly so it makes my heart hurt to read about unsupportive friends. I am greatly looking forward to Camp Forget-Me-Not because we'll get to spend a little more time with the girls in the Diva's Den.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys... #1) - Jenny Han: 5 stars! Loved this book. Love, love, love. This is a book that is not realistic so much as it's just real. I can't wait for #2!

Reread:
Belles (Belles #1) audiobook - Jen Calonita & Julia Whelan: 2 stars. I am not a fan of Julia's weird, affected southern accents. As a born-and-bred southerner, I accept the varied accents of my fried-food-loving neighbors, but that doesn't mean I appreciate a narrator faking it in an audiobook. Boo.

Currently Reading:
Camp Boyfriend - J.K. Rock. I'm doing the Camp Boyfriend Readalong hosted by Fluffy Reads. I didn't relate very well to Alex so it's nice to be back with Lauren, Matt, and Seth!
The Mark of Zorro audiobook - Johnston McCulley & Val Kilmer. This audiobook is more like an audioplay. It's not a direct adaptation. Each character is read by a different actor, which I'm okay with, but they took out much of the description and all the dialog tags to make it more like a play or a movie. It's very different from audiobooks I've listened to before. At least Zorro is voiced by Val Kilmer, who I love!
Dreams of Gods & Monsters - Laini Taylor. I'm not very far into it yet. I think this will be one to savor over a couple weeks at least. Partially because I don't want the series to end, and partially because this book is over 600 pages!

New to my bookshelf this week:
Library:
Mila 2.0 - Debra Driza
Twilight audiobook - Stephenie Meyer
The Mark of Zorro audiobook - Johnston McCulley
Lips Touch Three Times audiobook - Laini Taylor & Jim di Bartolo. I'm a little nervous to see how this one turns out. I'm sad because obviously in audio, Jim's beautiful artwork is rendered moot!
Pants on Fire audiobook - Meg Cabot

Bought:
My Not So Super Sweet Life - Rachel Harris

#Speak4RAINN15



By far, one of the highlights of my trip to TLA (which I promise I'll recap at some point), was attending a special party co-hosted by Macmillan and RAINN for the 15th anniversary of Laurie Halse Anderson's groundbreaking novel Speak, which, if you somehow have not heard of it, is about a girl who stops speaking after she is raped.  In honor of the anniversary, Laurie, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, and RAINN are partnering up to raise funds and awareness during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Did you know:
  • 80% of sexual assault victims are under 30.
  • Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.
  • 60% of sexual assaults are NOT reported to police
  • Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
  • 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States. RAINN's primary goals are to PREVENT sexual violence, HELP victims and survivors, and ENSURE that rapists are brought to justice. They carry out these goals daily by educating the public and working with lawmakers to create anti-sexual violence policies and laws. They also work in partnership with over 1,100 rape crisis centers across the country to operate the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) and the National Sexual Assault ONLINE Hotline (online.rainn.org). Since the hotline's creation in 1994 and expansion to online services in 2007, RAINN has helped more than 1.5 million sexual assault victims. Through their efforts at education and prevention, more than 120 Americans receive critical information annually. RAINN's services are FREE and CONFIDENTIAL. For that reason, RAINN depends on donations and volunteer support to run these amazing life-saving programs.

What is #Speak4RAINN15?

In honor of the 15th anniversary of Speak, Macmillan has pledged to match donations to RAINN in April with a goal of $30,000. At the time I wrote this post, the campaign had raised $19,224 $19,374 (it increased over $100 in just the amount of time it took me to write this post!). That leaves just over $10,000 needing to be pledged with only 6 days left. You can find all the information about #Speak4RAINN15 HERE. The suggested donation amount is $15, but there are incentives for high donations including signed posters, signed books, your likeness being included in the upcoming Speak graphic novel, and a Skype session with Laurie. Again, full details are available at the website linked above. You can donate by going to donate.rainn.org/speak or mailing your donation to #Speak4RAINN15 c/o RAINN at 1220 L Street, NW Suite 505 Washington, DC 20005. The campaign ends Wednesday, April 30 at 11:59pm so please donate soon! If you have any questions, you can contact RAINN at 202.544.3561.

Giveaway:

I saw Laurie a couple times throughout TLA so I had her sign a couple extra copies of Speak for me. This giveaway is open to the US only and will run until 12 AM CST May 2. Please read my full giveaway policies as stated in the Site Policies tab. I am making a donation to #Speak4RAINN15 not mandatory, but obviously, I'm weighting the entries. I am also not imposing a donation limit so if you have the ability, please donate what you can. There is no way for me to check whether or not you actually donate, but I am asking you to be honorable. Please, please, please, have integrity on this giveaway. This is an important cause, and my giveaway is meant to be my own way to pass word of the campaign to you, my readers, and hopefully motivate you to help this great cause. No matter if you can donate, feel free to enter the giveaway and PLEASE SHARE. We can raise $10K in 6 days, but only if we work together, as a team. Thank you!

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Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver



Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: March 2, 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: young adult contemporary romance, realistic fiction
Format/Source: hardcover, library
Status: standalone


Summary:

With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

Waiting on Wednesday: Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.


Ruin and Rising
The Grisha #3
by Leigh Bardugo
Coming June , 2014
Henry Holt & Co


Summary:
The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Why I want it:
REASONS. Mostly, those reasons are alternately Sturmhond and the Darkling because I love me a roguish pirate and a bad (like, very bad) boy. But really, I need this because of the magical and utterly addictive world Leigh has created. I'm hooked!

Why I think you should want it:
If you've ever read Shadow & Bone and Siege and Storm, I shouldn't have to convince you to read this book. You're already there. If, however, you haven't read this series...WHAT THE HECK IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?! The world of Ravka is one of the best fantasy worlds I've ever read, ya or not. Leigh's writing is technically proficient, yes, but somehow also contains the very essence of magic and fantasy and love and lust and hope and despair. Her words are living creatures, and they breathe that life the characters and the world. Everything is bold and full of adventure, but that doesn't mean there's not learning and growth. Alina is a relatively weak protagonist at the beginning. It is only by embracing her power that she begins to shine (literally, she shines). The boys are some of the funniest and sexiest, whether they're your childhood best friend/army tracker prodigy, a dashing and daring pirate, a naughty prince, or an evil magician with a death count and morals that honestly might rival Voldemort. Oh, yeah. Because even the bad guy in the Grisha trilogy is sexy like a fox. Even if you're not a fantasy fan, this is a good one to read. And if you are interested in reading it at some point, now is a really good time to get it because you can still probably find copies available at your library of the first two, and you should be able to put your name on the hold list for R&R! Also, there's a readalong going on over at Goodreads with Q&As with Leigh!

That's my pick for WoW this week. What do you think? Share your picks and your links in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday #44: Characters Who Are Musically Inclined

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week the girls at B&B think up a fun theme, and participating bloggers post their favorite 10 books in that category. This week's theme is

Top Ten Musically Inclined Characters
Originally I thought I might go with characters I'd want as my best friend or my favorite book boyfriends, but I had to show SOME self control here. If I did book boyfriends, there's zero way I could limit myself to fifty, let alone try to cut it to ten. So instead, I was inspired to do a list full of characters who display some amount of musical talent, whether they sing or play an instrument. I did limit to those who can play and perform, not just music lovers or I'd want to include way more than the, erm, 23 characters who did make this list. Oops.

1.Drew & Virginia, Major Crush by Jennifer Echols. These two are, by far, my favorites on this list. Virginia is a saucy beauty queen majorette turned little drummer girl turned drum major. Then there's beautiful Drew, who is a goofy trombone boy who grows up and also becomes drum major. These two are enormously talented, and their chemistry is palpable. Sure, they don't pick up instruments for the majority of the book because they're busy directing the band (sometimes successfuly and sometimes not so much), but it's their passion for band and music that keeps them working hard at what they do and also keeps them together.

2. Davy, Uninvited by Sophie Jordan. Davy also doesn't spend much time at the keys of a keyboard in Uninvited so I hope she does get a chance to do so in Unleashed a little bit, but Davy's extraordinary talent helps to round out her character and gives one more piece of evidence that the HTC gene doesn't always prove a reliable judge of a person.

3. Jem, The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. Um, duh. Jem's music is an intrinsic part of himself. The scenes when he plays are so absurdly gorgeous; the writing is so descriptive that the words float off the page like sound. Also, Jem's playing led to so many lovely moments between Tessa and himself such as their introduction and, um, some other pretty great scenes. ;)

4. Bailey & Sam, Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols. I'm enormously jealous of Bailey's pitch perfect talent. I have decent pitch, but hers is literally perfect. I like that Bailey doesn't give up on music even though her parents forbid it. Once again, like with Will and Virginia in Major Crush, Jennifer uses her characters' passion for music as the catalyst for their relationship. Bailey and Sam spend much of DLS fighting about this and that, but it's their talent and their spark, their mutual respect and dedication to music that keeps them together.

5. Edward, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Say what you want about Twilight, but when you have lived over 100 years, you probably will find a hobby or two to be brilliant at. Edward is a phenomenal pianist, and I love the scenes when he plays. It shows a more human side to him. He's calmer when he plays. He also uses his talent to prove to his family how much he loves them, which I can respect.






6. Dee and Matt, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. Man, I loved this book! I'll be posting a review soon, but I think Emery NAILED the songs in book. I often think that authors who write out lyrics use cheesy rhymes and cheap clichés, but Emery's lyrics for Dee and Matt both are meaningful. Dee shines as a rising star who uses her long-term relationship and devastating breakup as inspiration for a raw and relatable album while Matt is a former child star struggling to make sense of a very personal loss. Both of these characters use their music to guide them through their losses and realize the beauty of the lives they have. If you're wondering why I wrote out 'and' instead of using an ampersand, it's because these two are not romantically involved.

7. Tia & Will, Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols. Yep. As a former band girl, Jennifer earns three spots on this list. She just gets it. Tia and Will are a hot mess together, and the only time they're being true to themselves is when they're on the field. Tia is a major slacker who shines on the field while Will is an upstanding All-American Boy who also shines on the field, but after he moves to Florida, he allows himself to loosen up a bit. They're a good match. They make each other more complete.

8. Mik, Daughter of Smoke & Bone series by Laini Taylor. Sure, Mik isn't one of the primary players in the DoSaB series, but he and Zuzana provide much-needed comic relief and as well as a "normal" healthy human relationship, arguments and silliness and sweetness and love included. Mik's talent not only brought him to Zuz, but it also helps him interact with the chimaera. In Days of Blood & Starlight, Mik's violin playing helps him to entwine with the monster society in the sand castle (for the life of me, I can't remember the official term!) because his music transcends language. Once the chimaera escape back to Eretz, it's Mik's playing and his and Zuzana's presence overall that helps ease the tension between the monsters and the angels.

9. Lizzie, Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg. Lizzie's piano playing again is the catalyst for much of the book. Without her talent, Lizzie never would have attended
Longbourn; ergo, no piano, no book. And, like many books listed above, the music also helps intensify the connection between love interests. Will helps Lizzie get tickets to see his mother play and arranges a meeting between the two because he knows it will make her happy, even though he hides the fact that he's the one helping her. When Lizzie finds out, she realizes that what he did was for her, and it helps them grow closer. Awwww, squishy feelings!!
10. Destiny, Michael, & Isaac, Destiny by Cindy Ray Hale. I think it's really cool that Cindy includes male characters who aren't ashamed of their vocal talents. Too many people in our society consider arts education "unmanly" and a lot of fictional characters reflect that unfortunate sentiment. I like that the characters in the Destiny trilogy not only share their musical talent frequently, but they work hard to improve as well! Once again, the music is used as a plot device as the characters imitate what they're singing (Les Mis, but there isn't an actual revolution with guns and death and stuff in Destiny).

11.  Emme, Ethan, Sophie, Ben and Jack, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg. I enjoyed Take a Bow, but I admit it's the Eulberg novel I remember the least. Still, this is the book that most exhibits Elizabeth's love for music, and I wanted to include it. This group attends a private school for the arts in New York, and music drives both the plot and the characters. Music is who they are. Elizabeth recently released an epilogue from ten years after the book, and it's so interesting to see how music continued to shape these characters after The End.

12. Mia & Adam, If I Stay by Gayle Forman. *sobs incontrollably* It's hard to talk about this book without getting really emotional so I'll just say that music is really important to this book and to Mia and Adam. There is one scene in particular between these two that is so beautifully written that I just can't even handle it.







 I personally love how I rarely can narrow my picks down to just ten, and even with cheating a lot and grouping musically minded characters from the same book, I couldn't even limit myself. You know you love it too. Do you have any favorite musical characters that I left off the list? Share your thoughts and your TTT lists in the comments!


My Not So Super Sweet Life Release Day Blitz




Author: Rachel Harris
Release Date: April 21, 2014
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Status: book 3 in the My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century series

Summary:
Cat Crawford just wants to be normal—or at least as normal as a daughter of Hollywood royalty can be. And it looks like fate is granting her wish: she’s got an amazing boyfriend, Lucas; her fabulous cousin, Alessandra, living with her; and her dad planning his second marriage to a great future stepmom. That is, until her prodigal mother reveals on national television that she has something important to tell her daughter…causing a media frenzy.

Lucas Capelli knows his fate is to be with Cat, and he’s worked hard to win her over once and for all. Unfortunately, Lucas has his own issues to deal with, including a scandal that could take him away from the first place he’s truly belonged.

As secrets are revealed, rumors explode, and the world watches, Cat and Lucas discover it’s not fate they have to fight if they want to stay together…this time, it’s their own insecurities.

Well, and the stalkerazzi.


Book Buy Links:
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Teasers:
 
   


Read the first chapter of My Not So Super Sweet Life HERE!

Check out the first two books in the series!

 
About the Author:
Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Emotion, vibrant settings, and strong families are a staple in each of her Rachel Harrisbooks…and kissing. Lots of kissing.

A Cajun cowgirl now living in Houston, she firmly believes life’s problems can be solved with a hot, sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations. She homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches way too much Food Network with her amazing husband.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and losing herself in story. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

Author Links:
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Giveaway:
There are two prizes available for this blitz: 
US only: a RARE signed paperback copy of My Not So Super Sweet Life and swag pack. 
INT: ebook copy of My Not So Super Sweet Life
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to the ladies of Good Choice Reading for giving me the opportunity to be part of this release day blitz!

Weekly wrap-up: April 13-19

So, looking at my Goodreads, apparently I DID finish a couple books before TLA. I just kind of forgot to add them. Whoops! But while last week was a desert of reading, this week was chock full of books! Okay, so what's coming up this week? Book club meeting 1, which I'm in charge of. I'm a little scared leading book club, but so far, people have responded to the book well (it's Cinder, btw). Also, a return to posting reviews and a couple event recap posts are in order. Anywhoozle, how was your week? Anything exciting going on? Let me know!

Completed:
Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) - Tahereh Mafi: 3 stars. Really enjoyed Shatter Me, LOVED Unravel Me, but Ignite Me left me wanting. I know there was incredible pressure for her on each side of that love triangle, and I honestly feel like that pressure got to her. I enjoyed the final installment of Juliette's story, but I am disappointed. Why spend so much time developing a love triangle if you completely ignore one side? Also, I feel like the conclusion wasn't much of a conclusion at all. I'm just....disappointed, really, is all I can say.
Red at Night - Katie McGarry: 5 stars. I love how rich and emotional Katie's stories are. They're so full, and her characters are wonderfully complex. I want to read every book she ever writes!
Prisoner of Night & Fog (Prisoner of Night & Fog #1) - Anne Blankman: 3.5 stars. Good debut. I remain conflicted about fictionalizing such important historical characters and events, but I did enjoy this novel. Gretchen and Daniel are marvelous! Although I am not exactly sure why this is going to be a trilogy, I will read the sequels with interest.
The One (The Selection #3) - Kiera Cass: 4 stars. Before you ask: A friend received a copy and very generously allowed me to borrow it. And the only two things I will tell you about this book before it is published in a couple weeks are: 1. I enjoyed it, and 2. it is a very intense finale. I won't say good intense or bad intense. Just...intense. That is all. Out of respect for Kiera, her publisher, and fans of the series who have no desire to be spoiled, I will not be sharing ANY information about this book at all. I will be posting both non-spoilery and super in-depth spoilerific reviews after it is released, but until then, my lips are sealed. Please don't comment on potential theories or try to message me privately to confirm any rumors. I will not respond.
Nantucket Red (Nantucket Blue #2) - Leila Howland: 5 stars. My heart broke when I heard of this book's existence because I loved Nantucket Blue, and I knew that if Red were to exist, it would be contrary to much of what happened to Blue. The summary kind of confirms that. However, I feel it's a great sequel that looks at what comes after Happily Ever After. Very, very well done. Full review to come.

Reread:
In the Age of Love and Chocolate (Birthright #3) audiobook - Gabrielle Zevin & Illyana Kadushin: 5 stars. Illyana is a very talented narrator. I adored this series, and the audiobooks are as high quality as the writing. Masterful audio really brought the words to life!

Currently Reading:
Belles (Belles #1) audiobook - Jen Calonita. I really like this book, but the narrator is driving me crazy with her stupid affected southern accents. Just read the book. Theatrics not required.
Camp Payback (Camp Boyfriend #2) - J.K. Rock

New to my bookshelf this week:
Library:
None. I'm kind of in trouble with my library. I forgot to renew everything I had checked out. Whoops! *headdesk* I feel terrible about the whole thing.

Bought:
NONE. I haven't let myself so much as look at a bookstore since I got back from TLA. Okay, that's a lie. You know that. I'm lying. I waxed poetic about the joys and beauty of Half Price Books to my friends, and I even went into my favorite Barnes & Noble to pick up some books I dropped off last week for a signing during my TLA absence. I didn't buy anything, I swear! Srsly, not lying this time. For real. I just, you know, bought the book LAST week. :D

Big Fat Disaster Book Blitz

http://www.booknerdtours.com/2014/nerd-blast-big-fat-disaster.html


Author: Beth Fehlbaum
Release Date: April 18, 2014
Publisher: Merit Press
Genre: young adult contemporary realistic fiction
Status: standalone

Summary:
Insecure, shy, and way overweight, Colby hates the limelight as much as her pageant-pretty mom and sisters love it. It's her life: Dad's a superstar, running for office on a family values platform. Then suddenly, he ditches his marriage for a younger woman and gets caught stealing money from the campaign. Everyone hates Colby for finding out and blowing the whistle on him. From a mansion, they end up in a poor relative's trailer, where her mom's contempt swells right along with Colby's supersized jeans. Then, a cruel video of Colby half-dressed, made by her cousin Ryan, finds its way onto the internet. Colby plans her own death. A tragic family accident intervenes, and Colby's role in it seems to paint her as a hero, but she's only a fraud. Finally, threatened with exposure, Colby must face facts about her selfish mother and her own shame. Harrowing and hopeful, proof that the truth that saves us can come with a fierce and terrible price, Big Fat Disaster is that rare thing, a story that is authentically new.


Available from:
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About the Author:
In addition to writing Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Beth Fehlbaum is an experienced English teacher who frequently draws on her experience as an educator to write her books. She has a B.A. in English, Minor in Secondary Education, and an M.Ed. in Reading. She is currently a Library Science student at Sam Houston State University.

Beth is the author of Big Fat Disaster (Merit Press/F+W Media, March 2014); Courage in Patience (Kunati Books, 2008); and Hope in Patience (WestSide Books, 2010). Hope in Patience was named a 2011 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Truth in Patience, which rounds out The Patience Trilogy, is as yet unpublished. The Patience Trilogy has been revised and is available for acquisition!

Beth has a following in the young adult literature world and also among survivors of sexual abuse because of her work with victims’ advocacy groups. She has been the keynote speaker at the National Crime Victims’ Week Commemoration Ceremony at the Hall of State in Dallas, Texas and a presenter for Greater Texas Community Partners, where she addressed a group of social workers and foster children on the subject of “Hope”.

Beth is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, like Ashley in The Patience Trilogy, and the day-to-day manager of an eating disorder much like Colby’s in Big Fat Disaster. These life experiences give her a unique perspective, and she writes her characters’ stories in a way meant to inspire hope.

Beth lives with her family in the woods of East Texas.

Author Links:
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Giveaway:
Giveaway is open to US Residents Only. | Must be 13+ to Enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Many thanks to the girls of Book Nerd Tours for giving me the opportunity to be part of this Nerd Blast!