Goodreads mini reviews!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I've recently started utilizing Goodreads as another platform for my reviews. I'll whip up a short paragraph if I don't feel like writing up a full-blown one on here. So I decided to compile a short list of some recent books that I loved dearly, but didn't feel like writing a formal review for. Without further ado, let's get into them!

After The Fall by Kate Hart (ARC review)
Publication: January 24th, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
This was... wow. This was poignant. Raw. Shocking. Incredible. Profound. The characters were wonderfully flawed, making me angry and confused, but also bursting at the seams with happiness and sorrow. Raychel and Matt have to deal with a heart-shattering loss (which I never in a MILLION years saw coming and basically blacked out from because it was so painful), and what struck me the most about this story was how realistic the aftermath was. It was slow and painful, with our main characters both trying to come to terms with their new life and the path that was forcibly chosen for them. They have to weave through heartbreak and betrayal, forgiveness and acceptance. It was absolutely beautiful, and I'll be recommending this to EVERYONE. 

Rating: 5 stars
Quite simply the easiest five stars I've ever given a book. WOW. 
This was incredible. A huge thanks to Entangled Teen for sending me an eARC of this, which I devoured in less than 5 hours. Accardo created an enthralling approach to parallel dimensions, weaving a plot that was incredibly easy to understand, yet exciting enough that I was never bored. I can get easily lost with talk of parallel dimensions (and also get a little scared because that shit is crazy), but Infinity managed to capture all the awe inter-dimensional travel can inspire without making it too techy and confusing. 
The characters were vivacious and genuine, jumping off the pages and capturing my heart and mind. Kori was a fucking RIOT. There's nothing I love more than a character who's unafraid to stand up for herself and fight back, and I loved how vicious she could be. She didn't beat around the bush; she was honest, sometimes to a fault, but she had good intentions. Cade and Noah, especially the latter, were a bunch of swoon-worthy boys that had me sucking in sharp breaths and trying to control my shrieks. I LOVED THEM. I especially loved their backstories and their complicated relationship with Kori. It was intense and heartbreaking and so, so incredibly tender. I wanted to cry.
Accardo's writing was the strong backbone to this story, intertwining all the pieces together to create an unbelievably strong and passionate tale of love, loss, and the lengths someone will go to avenge a loved one. This was fantastic and I highly recommend this to everyone

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse (ARC review)
Publication: March 7th, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
This was ridiculously adorable. I wasn't a huge fan of the ending, but overall, this was vivid and smart and heartfelt. This takes place in Tokyo, which I've never been to before, but now I wish I could hop on a plane and visit it because it seems incredible. I don't know how authentic everything was, but to me, it was vivacious and beautiful, a living, breathing city that never sleeps. 
The characters were awkward and spunky, so alive and present that it felt like they were right next to you, their banter flowing smoothly. Overall, this was a fast, wonderful read that I recommend to any contemporary lovers!

Rating: 4 stars
This was so incredibly funny and sweet and engaging and RELATABLE. Seriously, Lucy is one of the most relatable MC's I've ever read from. She also happens to be 5'0, which, holla at me, because I'm the same height. SHORTIES UNITE! Also, can we die over the banter between these two please, oh my GAWD. Seriously, any rom-com fans needs to get their hands on this.
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Frostblood by Elly Blake (ARC review)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Frostblood by Elly Blake
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Publication Date: January 10th, 2017
Pages: 384
Song I Played While Reading: True Disaster by Tove Lo
Rating: 4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frost blood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when rebel frost bloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon. Before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to fight for her life in tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one change to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love. 

It took me a little while to get into this story. Blake had her work cut out for her, because she had a lot she had to cram into this first book, so the beginning seemed to get the least amount of work and page time. Not to say it wasn't good or anything, but it felt a little as if Ruby was telling us that these things were happening, not that she was feeling them. But that quickly changed, and by the 70 page mark, when things start rolling into motion, I was easing comfortably into the story.
The first thing that pleasantly surprised me was Ruby. She was a god damn sass-master. And there's literally nothing I love more than witty banter, which is where Arcus slyly came in, and basically,  I was a ball of mush whenever these two were together. But not only was Ruby funny, she was incredibly easy to relate to. Even though her issues were on a much larger scale than I can (obviously) fully understand, her struggles with morality, death, and revenge were written eloquently enough that I felt like I knew her, so I could understand, on a certain level, what she was going through. I love it when I hit that level with a character, because that's when the whole story really clicks for me. I'm an extremely character-driven reader, so understanding the person I'm reading from is vital.
The plot was rich with intrigue and history, pulling in elements that I never saw coming, heightening my entire experience. Arcus, Brother Thistle, the king, Marella, and the other secondary characters were tenacious, holding their own in this fast-paced story. However, they weren't an incredibly diverse bunch. There was one instance where I noted Ruby mentioning that a character had "skin darker than her own," which could mean he was dark-skinned, but it's vague enough where I still don't really know.
Overall, this was an incredible debut! With its articulate writing, vivid story, and refreshing characters, Frostblood is sure to become an instant favorite for any fantasy lover.

"King Rasmus still honors the god of the north wind," Brother Thistle replied. "He wouldn't risk angering Fors by harming his devotees."
I shifted in my seat so I faced Arcus. "And how do you supposed I'll manage to kill the most powerful king in our history?"
"He is not the most powerful king in our history." Arcus retorted. "Ruthlessness is not power. Tyranny is not strength."

"Promise you won't leave again," said Brother Thistle softly. "And then we can discuss what you want to know."
I shrugged. "Tell me everything you're planning and then I'll decide."
Ice cracked over the floor from Arcus's chair.
"Is that his version of a tantrum?" I asked Brother Thistle."

"Once again, all doubt, all sense of right and wrong, faded. There was only the target, his darkly beating heart, and my fire. There was no fear, no anger, no shame, no regret. Just power, surging thorough me, filling me. It felt as if my breath sucked the very air from the heavens, and my rage burned the sun to ash.  I was everything and nothing, and no one could stop me. I was darkness wreathed in flesh.

"You speak as if I'm as heavy as an ox," I said. "Last week I was a bundle of sticks."
"You're still too thin."
"Perhaps if I gain more weight, you won't call me a stick anymore."
"You may hope to one day be a branch."
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Monthly wrap-up: November 2016!

Monday, December 5, 2016

What I read this month

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - 5 stars // Goodreads
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo - 5 stars // Goodreads
Touch by Jus Accardo - 3 stars // Goodreads

Sigh. Three books?? YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS, MARIAH. I'm hoping December is a better reading month, because my TBR grows every week and I'm reading less and less of it every month. I seriously can't even remember the last time I read this little.

On the blog
I kicked off November with the I Heart Bookstagram tag, then was a part of the blog tour for Iniquity by Melody Winter. There was a release day blitz for Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Asia Kepkta and Lynn Dowling, which seriously is adorable and a must read for everyone, and a cover reveal for The Animal Under the Fur by E.J. Mellow. (Link to the Goodreads here! Tell me that doesn't sound AMAZING.) Then I wrote about how I'm in the early stages of writing a book (!!!!) and some tips that have really helped me along the way. And finally, I ended this month with my review of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. I'm not sure if you can even call it a review, since I just blab about how I can't properly express my feelings and really just want to scream for a couple days to let all my emotions out.

Music I've been loving
The Weeknd's new album, Starboy // Don't Hurt Me by DJ Mustard // Some Kind of Drug (Earwulf remix) by G-Eazy // First Breath by Tim Gunter // Ice by Pablo Nouvelle // My Kick by Pretty Pink // On Hold by The xx // Bury Me by The Skins // True Disaster by Tove Lo

TV shows I've been watching
I finished the first season of Containment, which follows an epidemic that breaks out in Atlanta, leaving a section of the city cordoned off. It documents key figures in the epidemic, both inside and out of the cordon, and their search for a cure. I really, really liked it, especially Officer Jake Riley (*heart eyes*). I hope Netflix picks up the show and makes a second season, because it kind of ended on a cliffhanger! Then I watched the first season of Daredevil, which was SOOO freaking good. Marvel and Netflix make a damn beautiful team when it comes to TV shows; Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were equally as dark and riveting. I plan on starting the second season ASAP. And finally, Vikings premiered last night. Bloody and brilliant as ever. (I'm also trying my hardest to steer clear of Gilmore Girls spoilers because I'm still on season 4. WILL I EVER FINISH THIS DAMN TV SHOW????)

Books I've acquired

Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Asia Kapka and Lynn Dowling

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

Life shenanigans
Really, nothing is that different from last month, except that I'm working a lot more! Which is both a blessing and a curse, as we all know.

Did you read or watch anything good this month? I'd love to hear about it :) I hope you guys had a fantastic month!
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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: September 27th, 2016
Pages: 536
Song I Played While Reading: Ghosts N' Stuff by Deadmau5
Rating: 5 stars

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda pare, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets -- a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to write a full review for Crooked Kingdom because it's hard to surmise feelings for a sequel that's as wildly loved as CK is. Like, do I really need to take this book apart and review every aspect of it if I loved it with my entire soul? If my heart was shattered into a million pieces and tears streamed down my face as I read the last page? Using technical terms is nearly impossible when all you want to do is let your fangirl fly free and scream; scream and scream over how unfair it is that this was only a duology, that there won't be any more Kaz and Inez, Wylan and Jesper, Nina and Matthias. (At least for the next couple of years. I'm still holding out hope that Bardugo has a spin-off Nikolai series up her sleeve, and that our crew will pop up in it.)
I was comatose for a solid hour after finishing this. Alex from The Book's Buzz was generous enough to lend me her internet shoulder to cry on, and I wailed and bemoaned the book and certain events that took place on pg. 495. (Not that I memorized that entire chapter and its contents or anything?????) Leigh Bardugo hasn't just proved that she would be a Barrel boss in Ketterdam, oh no, she's proved that she would be the Crow Queen. The Crime Queen. Ketterdam's Queen. The Cunning Queen. Whatever you want to call her, she would be Kaz's equal in every way. I'm unable to fathom how she's created not only the heist in the first book, but all the politics and cunning and double-crossing in CK. My brain is unable to comprehend the scope of it, so I'll gladly bow down to her. Bardugo is truly a wordsmith, a master of thugs and thieves, and she's carved herself a spot in my heart for, let's be honest, the rest of my life. (Ruin & Rising also left me destroyed and scarred.)
I'm going to finish this off with two (ish) sentences that ruined me in this book.

"Mama!" she called out. "Papa!"

"I have been made to protect you. Even in death, I will find a way."

I'm getting that last one tattooed on my body. Don't you dare doubt my love for Helnik.

"But she's one of us."
Jesper's brows rose again. "One of us? Does that mean she knows the secret handshake? Does that mean you're ready to get a tattoo?" He ran a finger up Wylan's forearm, and Wylan flushed a vibrant pink. Matthias couldn't help but sympathize with the boy. He knew what it was to be out of your depth, and he sometimes suspected they could forgo all of Kaz's planning and simply let Jesper and Nina flirt the entirety of Ketterdam into submission."

"I would have come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together - knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting."

"Matthias knew what it was to face the mentors you had idolized, to feel yourself become a nervous pupil again, yearning to please. He turned to Nina and said in Fjerdan, "Do not let them cow you.You are not the girl you were. You are not just a soldier to command."
"So why do I feel like finding a corner to sob in?"
"This is a round room. There are no corners."

"She smiled then, her eyes red, cheeks scattered with some kind of dust. It was a smile he thought he might die to earn again.

"Suffering is like anything else. Live with it long enough, you learn to like the taste."
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Holy crap I'm writing a book

Friday, November 25, 2016

I can't tell you how many times people have told me that, since I read so many books, I'm bound to be an author.

"Wow, you read so much! Are you gonna write a book one day?"
"Well, all that reading is going to make you a kick-ass author one day."
"From what I'm seeing, you've probably already written like, 50,000 books by now."

That last one was from a guy who had been staring at my bookshelves as if they were the Great Wall of China, mouth hanging open in awe. 
I never, ever thought I would try my hand at writing. I always smiled and shook my head, saying "Nah, I'm not that good of a writer. It's a lot of work." I thought of J.K. Rowling, Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, all of these fantastic fantasy writers who created worlds, and didn't think it was possible. It's not that I didn't want to be an author, or had something against the profession; it's just that I never thought it would be mentally possible for me. It was daunting. It required research and time and patience, a lot of thinking and using your imagination, and I lacked those. (Or at least I thought I did.) Reading doesn't equate to being an author.
But, it definitely helps in putting one foot in the author door. By default, you understand the basics of how a novel flows: there's a beginning, middle, climax, and end. You know there's side characters, an antagonist, family dynamics, romance, and a journey. (Those are just things I personally like in a novel, not something that I believe needs to be in one.) You understand what it's like to be immersed in a story, to watch it play out in your head because it's that vivid and imaginative. So, in theory, you have all the tools to create this masterpiece, even if it does sounds impossible. 
There're words in you. It just takes the right story to bring them out. 

Which brings me to the point of this post: I'm writing a story. 
I've had plots and characters come to me at random moments in the last couple of years, popping up in my head, making me perk up a little and think, "Huh, that would be interesting..." I would think about it for a couple days, my mind tied up with the characters and what they would be trying to accomplish. And then I would promptly lose interest. Nothing ever stuck. I would find a fault, think of how exhausting it would be to try and work it out, and then let it flutter away. In high school, scenes would come at me randomly in class, and, depending on the subject, would start writing it out on a loose leaf piece of paper. (I'm looking at you, geometry. Rot in hell.) I have a folder and a journal stuffed with random scenes and plots. It looks like it belongs on the bedside table of a patient at a mental hospital: colorful and messy, written out in spurts with blue, red, black, orange, green, and blue ink. A plot would be half written out, and then directly after it, a conversation between two characters from a few pages before would be continuing, followed quickly by a random scene from a separate story. No one would understand any of it except for me. It's messy and wild, ink smudged all over the pages and random doodles in the margins. Almost loosing the journal had made me realize just how much I loved that thing, and now I keep it tucked safely on my bookshelf. 
It wasn't until I watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that inspiration really struck. The movie features everything I love: two hot dudes who dislike each other forced to work together on a mission, a short, spunky female lead that isn't afraid to throw down with either of them, hilarious quips, and a plot stuffed with action, humor, and drama. (WATCH IT.) I was grinning like an idiot when it ended, and, as per usual when I fall for an action movie, I was putting myself in the film. Don't even try and tell me you haven't done this at least once in your life! Seriously, my imagination runs fucking wild after watching an action film. I'm in an intense storyline coma for at least an hour afterwards, dreaming of what it would be like to scale buildings, shoot bad guys, and throw down verbally with a hot guy. (That last one I at least have some experience in. I once argued with a dude for almost an hour about why Captain America: The Winter Soldier was so much better than the first movie. Thinking back on it, he was 100% doing it just to get me worked up. I vividly remember rambling about the flawless fight choreography. #nerdyandproud) Aaaaanyways, back to my point: I was deep in my storyline coma, but for the first time, a full scene came to me. I hauled ass to my computer and typed it all out. It was nothing huge, maybe 1,000 words, the beginning of the novel. But still, I was proud of it. Weeks passed, and the story stuck with me. I jotted down possible plot points, ideas, characters. I shifted the timeline, working on dates and how they would fit in with the story. 
The full scope of what I wanted to accomplish hit me a few days later like a bag of bricks, and I wanted to smash my head into a wall: pulling from a few other inspirations, along with my all-encompassing and irritating love for history, and I was writing a story about a girl who was destined to kill Adolf Hitler. 
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. deals with Nazi-sympathizers in the 60's; Gaby's father allegedly was a Nazi scientist, and her uncle works for a shipping company who's owners are Nazi-sympathizers. Gaby was my inspiration for Klara, my main character, and I wanted her tied intimately to this 'cause'. That was the only way I could see her getting involved. But I shifted the focus, because I've always been grossly fascinated with Hitler and the Holocaust, and found my story. I remember thinking to myself, years and years ago, that if I were to ever write a book, it wouldn't be a historical fiction because that involved way to much research. I was grumbling to myself about the irony of that statement as I checked out 10 books about Hitler and the Holocaust at the library. Life is cruel. 
So that's book one! Now, being me, I couldn't just be suddenly hit with inspiration for one book. It had to be two. One book wasn't stressful and time-consuming enough. Another character had to show up, hollering about how her story needed to be told. Plus, they had to be vastly different, and both require tons and tons of research. 
Book two revolves around a girl named Katie, and the bare bones of it is this: she finds out she's the heir to a fae kingdom, and is sent off to take her rightful place alongside her parents, struggling with her emerging fire ability, her snarky tongue, and the idea that, one day, she'll be queen. 
There's tons and TONS more than that, but that's the gist of it. There's also an evil queen who takes a liking to Katie and schemes to pair her off with her nephew, who's destined to be This Great Evil Dude, but is actually a very large cinnamon roll.
I'm focusing more on Katie's story at the moment, and have been doing a lot of research, note-taking, and world-building. I only write a scene if it comes to me in vivid detail, and will usually scribble it down in a folder for random scenes and forget about it. I want to get this world figured out first, since a solid chunk of the first book is her learning about the fae history and the kingdom she'll be ruling over one day. I need to know my shit. 

Now that we've finally gotten to the point of this post (I swear I didn't mean to ramble so much!), I wanted to leave some links to some useful tips and posts I've found. The first ones are to two world-building questionnaires: this first one is the one I'm currently using, and this second one is essentially the same thing, but a little more clean cut. I would've used the second one if I had found it first, but I had already printed out the first one and started working on it. These are seriously so helpful, and ask you questions that you probably wouldn't have even thought about: anything from social customs to agriculture, to language and politics. 
This next link is to a blog post Marissa Meyer wrote, "My Writing Process: 9 Steps from Idea to Finished". She takes you along her entire writing process, from when the idea first hits you to the publishing process. It's so incredibly insightful. They're some mild spoilers in it for her Lunar Chronicles series, but she'll warn you before she talks about them, so you don't need to worry about it! 
This next tip isn't really a link, but instead a website: Pinterest. I'm a visual person, and seeing my board for my books is extremely invigorating. It gets me in the mood to brainstorm and write, plus gives me oodles and oodles of inspiration. Next, I've got character questionnaires on Gotham Writers Workshop's website. There's two of them, and are super easy to download and fill out. Characters are obviously vital to your story, and this just helps in getting to them better, especially your mc. 
Finally, I've got an article from Writer's Digest that, if you're a newbie like I am to the whole writing thing, gives you 7 simple steps to beginning the process of brainstorming your story. Use all the steps, only a few of them, or none! This is your story. There's no right or wrong way to outline or brainstorm your book.

Okay, that's it! I think my goal is to have my outline and first draft done by November of next year, so that I can do my edits and second draft for NaNoWriMo. That would definitely kick my ass into gear.
Are you writing a book? If you are, how's it going? Do you have any tips for a newbie like me?
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The Animal Under The Fur by E.J. Mellow cover reveal!

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Animal Under The Fur by E. J. Mellow
Publication Date: 2017
Link to Goodreads

Orphaned on the streets as a baby, Nashville Brown, aka Kill Operative 3, knows better than to rely on anyone. With heightened senses and superhuman strength to survive, she's been raised as the perfect assassin.

The trick to her success? Keeping everyone, even her best friend, at arm's length.

Losing his entire family in the span of a year, Carter Smith left his ability to move bored deep in their graves. His only concerned are not completing his mission and effortlessly charming the next temptress to warm his bed.

The key to his accomplishments? Working alone mixed with a Casanova smile.

But when a deadly weapon needs to be stopped from falling into the wrong hands, the lone wolves find themselves thrown into an explosive partnership. Can Carter and 3 lower their guns aimed at one another long enough to succeed, or will their unwillingness to compromise end up destroying more than their perfect records? Whatever their differences, both agree on one thing -- in the game of lies and deceit, the line between friend and foe is often blurred by blood splatter.

About the author:
E.J. Mellow is the award winning author being the NA Contemporary Fantasy trilogy The Dreamland Series. With a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, E.J. splits her tim between her two loves -- visual design and writing. Residing in NYC, E.J. is a prime member of Romance Writers of America and their Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. She has no animals but loves those who do.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

I'm SO incredibly excited for The Animal Under The Fur! Not only is Mellow an incredible author (I read The Dreamer and thought it was fantastic), but hate-to-love tropes are my absolute FAVE. This sounds amazing. I can already tell this is going to be chock full of sarcastic quips and sexy scenes. I'M SO READY. Are you?!
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Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Asia Kepka and Lynn Dowling

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Asia Kepka and Lynn Dowling
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Publication Date: November 15th
Pages: 168
Link to Goodreads

Horace is a horse, and Agnes is a squirrel, though there are no boundaries when it comes to true love and genuine companionship. Bursting with color, style, and humor, this is the photographic journal of Horace and Agnes's romance, and their life of simple pleasures: walks on the beach, jigsaw puzzles, quick getaways to Las Vegas, visits with relatives, festive parties, and quiet nights at home. In a series of self-portraits creatures by photographer Asia Kepka, we follow Horace and Agnes through their highs and their lows with spectacular detail and charm. 

Buy links: Penguin website / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Meet the authors:

Horace and Agnes: A Love Story is a sweet and charming story for all ages! I seriously was smiling the entire time I was reading it, because the pictures are so sweet and goofy. 
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Iniquity by Melody Winter review + giveaway!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Iniquity by Melody Winter
Publication Date: October 25th, 2016
Pages: 320
Song I Played While Reading: Invitation by Yellow Glow
Rating: 3.5 stars

Athena Harrow is about to turn twenty-one, but there will be no celebration. What is there to celebrate when the world is ruled by demons?
She hates the darkness the demons brought with them and longs for the light to return to the world -- a world she only vaguely remembers. The people in her forest village blindly accept the life the demons forced upon them, even tolerating the yearly ascension ceremony where all the girls who have turned twenty-one are either sent away to serve the Master Demon or left in the village and forced to procreate. 
But Paymon, the assigned village demon, selects a different role for Athena, a role that pits her against the village. While she adapts to her new life, Erebus, a younger, more powerful demon, arrives, and Athena must play a dangerous game with his emotions in return for information about the demon's reign of darkness. 
As Athena's dreams of restoring the light begin to fade, her life with Erebus takes an unexpected turn, and this time it's her life being put to the test. 

I was initially drawn to Iniquity because of the cover. The girl on the cover could be Kendall Jenner's twin, and it's haunting: you want to look closer, at the crow on her shoulder and the lanterns in the background. It's gritty and dark, which is exactly how the story reads. It took me a while to adjust to the writing, which I found at first to be a little quick. Things didn't feel very flushed out, so I was speeding by the scenes without really soaking up what I had read. But once I adjusted, I fell into this world, admiring how strong Athena was in such a dark and tumultuous time.
The world had reverted back because of mistreatment of the earth. Humans had grown gready, taking and taking from the earth and not replenishing it. Hurricanes and tornados and tsunamis ravaged the earth, and the demons though, "Hey, what better time to take over then now? The humans are making this too easy." So, they did just that, ripping up from the bowels of the earth and snatching the light.
I loved how Winter weaved the history of these demons and the earth together. It created an engrossing concept, one that was both frightening and awe-inspiring. It was simple in it's execution, because it could ~almost~ (oh my god, I can't believe I just did the squiggly line thing) be considered realistic. Vaguely realistic, but still. Realistic all the same.
Every time Paymon fed off of Athena's anger or fear, I 1. got creeped out because CREEPY, and 2. realized that, if I was in Athena's position, Paymon would probably explode from the amount of energy he would get from. I'm the type of girl who gets pissed off really easily, and can stay pissed off for a while (snarky men both infuriate and intrigue me). I enjoyed the occasional image of Paymon exploding in a giant ball of flames.
Iniquity, while a rocky start for me, really laid out a solid foundation for this series. It was dark, romantic, and ethereal, hooking you in with its strong characters and engaging narrative.

Amazon / B&N

About the author
Growing up, Melody showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write too long English essays. Difficult ti place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced the methodical times she spends working with numbers fuel her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.
Melody Winters lives in York, North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of "boy" activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the nearby beaches at Scarborough and Whitby. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody reveals in reading and writing about such creatures.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Win a shit ton bundle of books! US/CAN only.
  • Signed paperback of Iniquity + Iniquity swag (handmade bracelet, book marks, and chocolate). eBook copies of:
  • Sachael Dreams and Sachael Desires by Melody Winter
  • Words Once Spoken and Curses Once Spoken by Carly Drake
  • A box set of Love in London by Carrie Elks
  • Faerie Blood by Emma L. Adams
  • Gambit by C.L. Renault
  • Running Home and Running Away by Julie Hutchings
  • When Sorrow Comes by Katie M. John
  • The Darkness of Light and The Embers of Light by Tammy Farrell
  • The Rose Master by Valentina Cano

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I Heart Bookstagram tag!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

I saw this tag when Molly from Molly's Book Nook did it, and I OF COURSE had to do it since I'm a bookstagram fanatic. I tag whoever wants to do it! :)

What's your Instagram handle? @vibinwithbooks

How long have you been in the Instagram community? A little over a year and a half now! Which is crazy because I feel like I've been doing it for my entire life.

How many people do you follow? 801

How many followers do you have? 10.1 K, which is INSANE.

What're your favorite hashtags? #bookstagram #booksandcoffee #epicreads

What is your favorite genre of picture? This question is worded weirdly, because it's a little obvious: BOOKS. Books and coffee specifically.

How often do you post? Usually once a day at night (I find my pictures get more likes at night/ when I'm sleeping), but sometimes I'll go a day or two if I don't have any particular picture I wanna post.

How often do you check Instagram? Allllll the time. Seriously, if I have my phone in my hand and I'm not doing anything, 9/10 I'm on Instagram.

What's your favorite filter? I don't use the filters on Instagram, and instead use VSCOcam. C1 is what I use for all my pictures.

iPhone only, purist, or rebel? iPhone 97% of the time, but if I want to feature my phone in the picture, or need a slightly better quality, I use my camera. (I have a Canon SX50 HS.)

What is the best part about being in this community? Holy guacamole, definitely the people I've met. Everyone is SO welcoming and kind and fun. Fellow bookworms, authors, publishing companies, the people who work in publishing companies. I've met so many incredible people that I 100000% wouldn't have met otherwise, if I hadn't been a bookstagramer.

What is the worst part about being in this community? I've never really had a bad experience with Instagram. No plagiarism, no hateful spammers, etc. So I've been pretty blessed so far. So I'd have to say nothing!

Three favorite IG accounts currently? Three? Psh. YEAH, OKAY.
  • Natasha from @bookbaristas (book and coffee goals, AM I RIGHT?)
  • Viktoria from @seelieknight
  • Grace from @wlsgrace
  • Alyssa from @sweptawaybybooks
  • Laura from @whatshotblog
  • Rachel from @authorrsgrey
  • Polly from @pollyandbooks
  • CiCi from @therusticwindow
There are a bajillian more that I love, and if anyone wants me to name off some more just let me know! (Almost all of the people that I follow are great, so just take a gander through who I'm following and #treatyoself)
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Monthly wrap-up: October 2016!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What I read this month

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler - 5 stars // Goodreads

The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster - 5 stars // Goodreads

How To Be Someone Else by Rachel Del - 3.5 stars // Goodreads

Heartless by Marissa Meyer - 5 stars // Goodreads

Infinity by Jus Accardo - 5 stars // Goodreads

I managed to knockout almost my entire October TBR, except for one: The Continent by Keira Drake. Of course, of the books that I read that were on my TBR, I only finished two. I DNF'd Nevernight, Cam Girl, and Three Dark Crowns. I've come to realize that I literally have no patience for okay books. If I don't like it, I'll drop it immediately. I don't have time to waste on books that aren't holding my attention. (I will say though that I got half way through Three Dark Crowns, and then skimmed the rest just to see what happened at the end. So that's kind of a DNF, kind of a skim read.) I can't complain about the books I read though; except for How To Be Someone Else, they were all 5 stars! I can't pick a fave, it's literally impossible.

On the blog

I kicked off the month with my October TBR, then posted my review for the achingly beautiful and tender The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler. Then I posted about some recent DNF's, and was a part of the blog tours for The Rift Uprising and How To Be Someone Else. And finally, I ended the month with my raving review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer. 

Music I've been loving

The Turnaround by Gemini // Bonbon by Era Istrefi // Lady Wood by Tove Lo // Icarus by R3hab // Now and Later by Sage The Gemini // Starboy by The Weeknd // All In My Feelings by Harloe // Lavender by Two Door Cinema Club // Ain't My Fault (R3hab remix) by Zara Larsson

TV shows I've been watching

I binged watched the entire first season of Freakish on Hulu in one day, which featured a bunch of young actresses and actors, and some youtube stars. It featured Meghan Rienks and Lizza Koshy, two of my favorite youtubers, and I thought "What the hell, why not?".  I also watched Luke Cage, which  was SO fucking good. Then my mom and I started watching Containment on Netflix, which is about this fatal contagious disease that runs rampant through Boston and all the people it affects. I'm almost done with it, and I'm really, really liking it. I'm also still watching Gilmore Girls! Season 4, here I come, baby.

Books I've acquired

I recently started utilizing the books for trade hashtag on Twitter and went a little crazy, so the first pic is all that I traded for: The Crowns Game by Evelyn Skye, The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess, My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand, and Brodi Ashton, Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia, Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch, and The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia. Then I was sent How To Be Someone Else from the author, and The Rift Uprising from the pub house.

And speaking of things I got, a lovely company called Way Basics contacted me and said they would love to send me something for review. Lo and behold, they had freakin bookcases on their website. DREAMS DO COME TRUE. 

This is the one I got! They use everything from recycled material, and one of their mottos is that everything is super easy to put together, which I can attest to. It was crazy easy, and I had it put together in under 10 minutes. I ordered the White Venice Storage blox, which are actually three white cubes (I didn't realize this until I had it in my hands). It's nice being able to use them together and individually! Especially for book pictures. It definitely isn't the most sturdiest thing out there, so if you do carry one of the cubes with stuff in it, make sure you hold it by the bottom and not just by the sides. I made the mistake of doing this and the bottom part came out. It was no biggie though!

Life shenanigans

My mom and I kind of figured out what was making so anxious and depressed last month, which was a huge relief. Turns out, my body has a limit on the amount of sugar it can take. Not on a daily basis, thank god, but over a period of months. So I'm just going to try and keep the sugar to a minimum, and every couple of months, do a cleanse to get rid of it all so my body doesn't freak out and spazz like it did last month. I've always had a pretty rocky relationship with food, so I'm not surprised it started attacking me mentally and physically. I blame my love of sweets. 
I also made the decision to pursue an online degree! Dropping all my classes I was taking at my local community college was such a relief. Not only was it vital for my mental health (my depressive/anxious period was taking a huge toll on my grades), but I need to work more. I have bills and rent to pay, so working more will help with that. Plus, I just love the flexibility of it. I'm a very spontaneous person, and hate being tied down. So this works out perfectly for me!

What did you do this month? Read anything amazing? Let me know down in the comments! :)
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Heartless by Marissa Meyer (ARC review)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: November 8th, 2016
Pages: 449
Song I Played While Reading: The Turnaround by Gemini
Rating: 5 stars

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland- the infamous Queen of Hearts- she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be on of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal us unthinkable for a young woman who could be the next queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.
Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her own terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. 

When I think of the Queen of Hearts, I picture Helena Bonham Carter's abnormally large head and small body from Through the Looking Glass. I know she's technically the Red Queen, so she isn't the Queen of Hearts... but all I see is her screaming "OFF WITH HIS HEAD!" and acting like a fool. And besides watching the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, I've never really been into Wonderland and its politics. I didn't even know what the hell Through the Looking Glass was, until I read a review of Heartless, so I was going into this blind. Which, I think, was the best move for me, because I had no expectations. I didn't know what was going to happen, who was going to be in this story, and how it was going to end (besides in pain, obviously). So, for anyone worrying that you wouldn't understand anything if you haven't seen any of the movies or read the original story, don't worry. I actually think it heightens your experience, since you don't know what the hell is going to happen so you're constantly on your toes.
I loved this. I wasn't expecting to, but I did. Meyer, who I firmly believe is the fairytale retelling queen, has grown extraordinarily as a writer. This is her best work yet, and everything flowed beautifully: the dialogue, the characters, the plot, and the narrative. I didn't even feel like I was reading this; instead, I was seeing this all play out in my head like a movie. It was that vivid and engrossing, making this almost 500 page book fly by.
I adored Cath, who suffered from too much of an independent spirit in such a sexist and suffocating society. Meyer got a lot of her background and etiquette from Victorian-era London, so women were essentially the property of their families and husbands. Catherine was the daughter of a Marquess and Marchioness, so she had even more pressure heaped on her to be the perfect daughter. She found comfort in baking, her one true passion, which Meyer really threw herself into, because I was drooling for half the book. Seriously, the baking scenes?!

"The tarts had taken her all morning. Five hours of weighing the butter and sugar and flour, of mixing and kneading and rolling the dough, of whisking and simmering and straining the egg yolk and lemon juice until they were thick and creamy and the color of buttercups. She had glazed the crust and crimped the edges like a lace doily. She had boiled and candied the delicate strips of lemon peel and ground sugar crystals into a fine powder for garnish."

*Inconspicuously wipes drool from the corner of my mouth* DO YOU SEE?

Let's talk about another delicious aspect to this story: Jest. I was worried that this would be a bad case of insta-love, since this was an older time period and people tended to fall in love first before actually getting to know the person. (But with such rigid courtships and etiquette, plus a short life-span, who can really blame them?) Luckily, this wasn't the case. Maybe a little, buy Meyer wrote it well enough where it didn't feel that way. They had in instant chemistry, but it was subtle enough at first so it didn't feel like she was trying to shove it down our throats. I loved his backstory, which threw this book into such a different direction and feel that I fell even harder for this book. (Another perk of going into this story without having read the original fairytale!) He was charming, witty, thoughtful, and handsome. I fell surprisingly hard for him.
The other characters were just as vibrant as our main character, and I loved seeing them all come into play: Cath's parents, her best friend Mary Ann, Hatta, the King of Hearts, Margaret, and the other slew of royals. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Cath and Hatta. They were an intense pair, brought together a little unwillingly by Jest, and I loved seeing them circle each other, acting friendly one moment and then going off on each other the next. Hatta was a complex character with many, many layers to him, so we never really knew how he was going to act. Plus, his background was equally as fascinating as Jest's was, so I looked forward to scenes that featured him.
There's a good chance that I'll watch Through the Looking Glass now, since Heartless has stolen my heart. Romantic, engrossing, haunting, and vicious, this is one book that everyone needs to get their hands on.

"Bravo, Lady Pinkerton!" said the King. The audience that was watching from the sidelines started to cheer as well, having picked up on the King's preference.
"It's not who wins or loses!" Margaret shrieked. "It's how one stays the same!"
"Well said, Lady Mearle!" cheered the Duke, standing along to the side of the crowd.
"No one asked you!" she yelled back."

"I can't stop thinking about you, Lady Catherine Pinkerton of Rock Turtle Cove. I've been trying, but it's useless. You've had me mesmerized from the first moment I saw you in that red dress, and I don't know what to do about it, other than to use every skill at my disposal to try and mesmerize you back."

"I don't want his generosity, or his kindness, or any other favors!"
Her mother sneered. "Then you are a fool."
"Good. I've become rather fond of fools."

"I wish for you all the joy this darkened world can employ."
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The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster review + giveaway!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Pages: 380
Song I Played While Reading: Starboy by The Weeknd
Rating: 4.5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Ryn whittaker is a Citadel: an elite, enhanced soldier specially chosen to guard The Rift, a mysterious and dangerous portal to alternate Earth's that scientists cannot control or close. Trained from the age of fourteen, Ryn can run faster, jump farther, and fight better than a Navy SEAL-- which is good when you're not sure if a laser-wielding Neanderthal or an ax-wielding Vikings is trying to make it through The Rift and into your world.
But Ryn's military conditioning and education have not prepared her for a boy who crosses through- a confused young man, seemingly lost and alone. Though there's an immediate physical reaction, it's his intelligence and curiosity that throw Ryn off-balance. The stranger asks disturbing questions about The Rift that Ryn herself as never considered -- questions that lead her to wonder if everything about her life and what she's been told for so many years have been lies. 
Are Rifts as dangerous as her leader say? Should her people really try to close them... or learn how to travel through them?

I was blown away by The Rift Uprising. It threw me for a loop, because I hadn't been expecting anything super great from this. And even though it had its flaw's, Foster fucking nailed this.
Her writing was a little stiff at times, alternating between breathtaking accounts of human nature and what Ryn has to go through everyday to survive, to almost a robotic tone. I struggle a little in the beginning because I couldn't find Ryn's voice. It was there, but smothered by sentences that would be clipped and precise. I couldn't tell if this was just the way Foster wrote, or if it was to make Ryn appear more solider-like. Either way,  I got used to it, and eventually found Ryn, who turned out to have a startlingly amount of depth to her character. Even in the beginning, she struggled: with lying to her parents and brother, to wondering what lengths she would go to to defend her people, to trying to see herself from the perspective of the people and creatures tumbling through The Rift. She was extremely open-minded, but never found that inner spark until Ezra came and started asking questions. And even then, she never blindly followed ARC (the people she was working for), so she actually stopped to consider what he was asking. It was nice seeing someone who was loyal to a cause, but not completely imperceptive.
This was one of the rare occurrences when I didn't really care for the love interest and the romance. This could've had zero romance, and I would've been totally okay with it. (This may not seem weird to you, but I'm a romance FREAK.) But it didn't bother me. His existence to the storyline, while vital  for obvious and not so obvious reasons, was honestly a moot point for me. Now, who's existence was not a moot point was Levi. For anyone that hasn't read this, Levi is an extremely talented Citadel and kind of a dick. He wouldn't be on my radar if there wasn't something to him that interested both me and, apparently, Ryn. He got on her nerves like no other, and she constantly found herself trying to explain herself to him, or impress him in some way. And he obviously feels some kind of way towards her, because there's this huge scene at the end that's so obviously a foreshadowing of something. The whole scene could've actually not existed and the story would've been fine, because it only pushed the agenda of his character arc. I'm extremely curious and excited to see what kind of role he plays in the next two books.
And speaking of plots, Foster really worked her own way into this one. Even though this kind of story has been written before, it stands out. This whole Rift thing is why I was so hooked: there were so many interesting aspects to it, along with the government that accidentally created it. I really don't want to go into detail, because I don't want anything spoiled for you when you read this, but just know Foster did her homework. Everything is well-thought out and fits in place, with enough open-endings to ensure we're hooked by the end. Granted, while the ending definitely left on a cliff-hanger, I think the cliff-hanger was too big. It's leading up to this big event, with small tasks that Ryn has to accomplish, and we get almost all of them done before it's cut off. Something goes awry, and it just ends. But not in a dramatic, end-of-the-world way; more like you tried doing something, it didn't wrap up like you planned it would, so now you're on your way to finishing the last task and then it just ends. Kaput. So I wish we had finished that last thing, because I think that would've been the perfect ending. Enough of a cliff-hanger to have us bemoaning the long wait till the next book, but with enough closure that we're confident in the cause.
Overall though, this was fantastic. It's perfect for any sci-fi/action fans out there!

Buy Links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Three (3) finished copies of The Rift Uprising.

About the author
Amy S. Foster is a celebrated songwriter, best known as Michael Buble's writing partner. You might recognize her wrk in his four hit singles, including "Home" and "Haven't Met You Yet." She has also collaborated with Destiny's Child, Diana Krail, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groan, and a host of other artists. She is also the author of the novel When Autumn Leaves. When he's not in a studio in Nashville, Amy lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. The Rift Uprising, her YA debut, will be released on October 4th!

Links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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How To Be Someone Else by Rachel Del

Thursday, October 20, 2016

 How To Be Someone Else by Rachel Del
Publication Date: October 20th, 2016
Song I Played While Reading: Cool Girl by Tove Lo
Rating: 3.5 stars
Link to Goodreads

Sometimes it is the one who knows you best who can love you best.

Penny has lived her life letting others take the rein, leaving her to simply follow in line. After completing her senior year of College, she'll join her father's marketing firm, get married and start a family.
When her parents drop a bomb on her - that they are getting divorced - Penny decides it's time to start living by her own rules. And when she meets mysterious P.J. Hawthorne, a publishing author who seems to know much more about Penny than she lets on, she knows this is her chance to finally get her life moving in the right direction.
But as questions about her new life overwhelm her, so do thoughts of sweet and gorgeous Alex - who just so happens to be her best friend.
What follows is a series of poor decisions, each one more worrisome than the last, forcing Penny further and further away from not only Alex, but from becoming the woman she's sure she's meant to be.

I think we've all gone through that lost phase in our life - the one where we question everything we thought we knew, try on different personas like clothes, and struggle to figure out what's right. What fits. We do stupid shit because we're not in the right mindset, and we hurt people when we really don't mean to. Penny goes through this in How To Be Someone Else, and Del manages to capture it almost perfectly.
There were a few instances where I felt a disconnect with Penny, mostly because of my inability to sympathize with her. I found it extremely difficult to put myself in her shoes, since my parents have been separated since I was 9, and I couldn't help but feel that her feelings were blown out of proportion. But I can't say her feelings are invalid simply because I can't understand them. I've always struggled with this, so it's nothing new, but it always sucks when it affects my relationship with a character like Penny. She was spunky, sweet, and loved to read.

I loved her relationship with Alex. It was so incredibly sweet; long-time friends falling for each other always warms my heart, because you know it's going to last. (I don't even want to talk about those damn epilogues, because CUTENESS OVERLOAD.) Even though I thought Alex definitely needed to chill at times (especially over Ryan), I couldn't help but appreciate how attentive and caring he was. He was always watching out for Penny, which you really don't see that much these days, so he got major points in my book.
The family dynamics touched a spot in my heart, since I know personally how hard it is for a family to come back together once it fractures. There are so many feelings that come into play, so many hearts that can or can't be mended, that it can take years for feelings to heal. Even though I said I struggled at points with Penny's feelings, there were moments when she thought or did something that punched me straight in the heart. It was so achingly familiar and heartbreaking that I wanted to hug her. 
Overall, this was a tender, fun, and honest approach to what it's like to lose yourself, and the surprises that come out of finally finding yourself.


About the author
Rachel Del is a head-in-the-clouds introvert, homebody and thirty-something writer currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband and three-year-old son. Originally from Ontario, Canada she works in book publish, and spends her free reading and writing contemporary romance novels. She drinks far too much black coffee and could eat sushi every day.

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Recent DNF's

Friday, October 14, 2016

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
I'm SO sad about this. Three Dark Crowns has an incredible premise: three triplets queens are born, each with a different gift: one's a naturalist, one's an elemental, and one's a poisoner. When they turn 16, they have to fight to the death for their crown. Like???? DOESN'T THAT SOUND AMAZING? The potential was ridiculously glorious, but Blake didn't live up to it. The characters were two-dimensional, we got zero world-building or history on this plot (why are they supposed to kill each other? Who started this? Why can't they all reign in their respective territories?) and the writing was awkward and formal. Also, the plot was lacking. The ending had promise, but still. The build-up was poorly done.
But! This is one of those books where people either really liked it or really didn't, so you be the judge.

Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
I recently did some trading on twitter, and got an ARC of this. I had been eyeing Raeder's work for a while now, but never really got the chance to buy it. It wasn't high on my priority, ya know? But the opportunity presented itself (in an ARC format, which is always more precious to me), and I snagged it. And was extremely disappointed. The writing was beautiful and flowery, but the characters. Vada is one of those kinds of people that I don't understand. Even being in her head doesn't help me. She's dramatic and rude, and would treat most people like shit (like Ellis) and then would be shocked when they wouldn't want to be around her. She was too prideful. Those kinds of characters never sit well with me, and Cam Girl was no exception.
 How to Hang a Witch by Ariana Mather
I got 20 pages into this before I had to put it down. Sam was so odd. She was a spitfire, ready to verbally (or physically) throw down with someone if they pissed her off. I love those kinds of characters. But her inner dialogue was so cringey. Literally, her through processes were so unoriginal and bland, she would think things like, "Oh no! I hope that incident didn't happen because of me." and shit like that. There was zero personality, which couldn't save the book for me, intriguing plot or not. 
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The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 2nd, 2015
Pages: 399
Song I Played While Reading: Thinking Bout You by Ariana Grande
Rating: 5 stars

Sometimes there are no words...
The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d'Abreau was destined for stardom- until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can't sing. She can't even speak.
Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend's invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse's home in the Caribbean isn't: an ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry- except for one.
Christian Kane is a notorious playboy- insolent, arrogang, and completely charming. He's also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn't treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother, Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid com to life. 
When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove's high-stakes Pirates Regata, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn't the only thing making waves though- swept up in Christian's seductive tide and entranced by the Cove's charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn't what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who's best known for breaking them... 

7 years ago, 13-year-old Mariah fell in love with a book called Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. She passed it around to all of her friends, who devoured it and also loved it. It was tender and heartbreaking, speaking of a loss and love that was hard to understand at that age, yet easy to get swept up in. Fast forward to today, and I've finally finished my second Sarah Ockler book and I'm again overcome with how beautiful it was. Ockler is truly a wordsmith; her writing flows eloquently, reaching out and yanking at your heart strings, demanding attention. It was impossible to stop reading because The Summer of Chasing Mermaids put me under a spell, just like Twenty Boy Summer did. (On a side note: Holy shit that was 7 years ago?????)
Elyse could've been my soul-mate. Adrift and wounded, floundering in the loss of her voice and the sea that took it, she was struggling to come to terms with the accident and her new life. She'd had everything set prior: her and her twin sister, Natalie, were quickly on their way to becoming superstars, landing a coveted spot on tour with their favorite singer. She'd had everything going for her, but in one second, the sea had taken it all. I loved how Ockler made the sea it's own person in this story. It was both graceful and rough, beautiful and deadly. Elyse had been drawn to it her whole life, so to be brutally injured by it was shocking and frightening.
Christian had also been drawn to the ocean his entire life, and I think that's really what drew these two together: with the Pirate Regatta, but also through the shared ability to admire something so large and majestic. Their relationship was slow burning and straightforward, with no fussing or games, and I loved it so much.
One of my favorite parts of this story was reading about Elyse back home in Trinidad. The memories were lush and gorgeous, making me almost feel as if I was on the island with her, smelling the cocoa on her fathers cocoa farm, dancing around at all the festivals and singing my heart out. It was otherworldly and beautiful, lending me insight into customs that sent a sharp ache of wanderlust into me. The representation in here was awesome, not only with Elyse, but with how Sebastian wanted to be in the mermaid parade (but couldn't because he wasn't a girl, pshaw), and the sexism Elyse faced with being Christian's first-mate. As expected, Elyse, Christian, and all her friends shoved back at the authoritative figures that tried to push them down, and it was absolutely wonderful. I cried. A LOT.
This is pretty long book, almost exactly 400 pages, so we get a realistic amount of time for Elyse to heal and come to terms with loosing her voice. I've seen some complains that it was almost too long, but I think that's one of the strong suits: fully delving into Elyse's character, getting to know her, and seeing her transition from a scared, quiet girl to a strong and empowered woman.
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is alluring and tender, sexy and poignant. It's a must-read!

"I'm sorry, I mouthed. And I was. Not just for Christian and the way his father treated him. But for me, too. For all of us. Sorry for all the littles ways the people who were supposed to love us most could hurt us so deeply, despite their shared heritage and blood, as though their knowledge of our past gave them unlimited access to all the most tender places, the old wounds that could be so easily reopened with no more than a glance, a comment, a passing reminder of all the ways in which we'd failed to live up to their expectations.
Sometimes love was a tonic. Sometimes it was a weapon. And so often it was nearly impossible to tell the difference."

"As far as I'm concerned," Vanessa said, "any day we get to wear glitter eye shadow and seashell bras is good day. Am I right?"
"It's a good day for me," Christian said. He'd come from behind the dune, carrying a plate of bun-wrapped hot dogs that smelled fresh off the fire. "Wiener delivery. I've come to tempt you gorgeous ladies back to the fire with my extra-long--"
"Check yourself before you wreck yourself, hot stuff."

When one dream burns to ash, you don't crumble beneath it You get on your hands and knees, and you sift through those ashes until you find the very last ember, the very last spark.
Then you breathe.
You breathe.
You fucking breathe.
And you make a new fire.
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