Blog Tour: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne – Featuring Review and Giveaway!

I am so INSANELY excited to be a part of this blog tour. I have known Alexa for a few years now and was head over heels excited for her when she announced her debut novel. I knew it was bound to be fantastic and I was even more blown away once I read it. Let’s jump in and get down to it and experience some Jane Eyre in space!

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Flashback Friday Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The final novel in the Red Queen series, War Storm, comes out next month in May. I read the first novel and LOVED it, but got stuck in reading the rest when I hit a huge reading slump so I figured I should reread this one before moving on to Glass Sword!

Please keep in mind that Flashback Friday reviews are based on reread books. They most likely will contain spoilers as the books have already been released for some time. This is your only warning if you want to avoid spoilers for these books. 

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Book Review: Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

18309803Genre: 

Young Adult, thumb  Fantasy, and Paranormal

Pages: 

400

Part of a Series?:

The finale novel in the Lynburn Legacy

Release Date: 

September 23rd, 2014

You Can Find the Book At:

GoodReads

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Book Depository

Author Website

GoodReads Summary: 

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

My Review:

While this review will have no spoilers for Unmade, there will be spoilers for Unspoken and Untold. Click on the titles to read spoiler free reviews of those novels. 

I have been anxiously awaiting this release for over a year now, since the release of Untold last year. I absolutely adore this series and love Sarah and the characters in these books and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book.

I was so glad when I finally did.

Sarah Rees Brennan managed to do what I think a lot of people struggle to do with finale books: she created a fantastic ending that was both happy and sad at the same time, bittersweet. She wrapped up the story, had such a great ending but managed to create loss, to break my heart. The people that we lost in the book, I felt so much, especially since I was reading this late at night and I was already fairly emotional. She makes the sacrifices necessary. She kills off a particular character (minor spoiler but really did you expect people NOT to die?) and I just lost it. I couldn’t believe that she did it. I can see why, and it was a great point in the story but it killed me. She was able to make these sacrifices that seemed so genuine to the story and yet still just broke your heart in pieces.

What I’ve always loved about Sarah is her characters. All of her characters are unique and real, and beautiful. Kami, Jared, Ash, Ten, Tomo, Jon, Lillian, Holly, Angela, Rusty, they’re all fantastic and you fall madly in love with each and every one of them because they feel so real. What I love about this book is that each one of their stories continues. Obviously we are focused mainly on Kami, Jared and the Lynburns but everyone has an important story line. You don’t forget who anyone is and I think that’s beautiful, to care about each and every single character and where they end up.

What makes me happy about this book is that it takes everything from books one and two and comes together in a beautiful and unique ending. Sarah stands out in this crowd of paranormal YA, because her stories are unique, her characters fresh, and her dialogue engaging and hilarious. I want to turn the next page without realizing that I’ve gone through 100 pages in less than an hour…She’s an addicting author to read and I am so sad that this series is over and I honestly can’t wait until I see a new book by her on the shelves.

Rating: 

5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday Top Ten-Favorite YA Contemporary Novels

Now this is something that I’ve done before. I did this exact post for the Tuesday Top Ten on April 30th, dosage 2013, so a good year and a half ago. In that nearly two year period, Ive spent a LOT of time reading new books. A TON of time. So, of course, my favorite YA contemporary novel list has changed.

This blog has been around for two and a half years now and so that means that I will be doing repeats of old Tuesday Top Tens because things change, because the beauty of this blog that I’m constantly reading new books and being introduced to new authors so I’m finding new favorites. When you get down to it, this list is probably going to chance in a week or two anyway.

But I digress. Here are my top ten favorite YA contemporary books.

Side Note: Can I just say how proud I am of myself for posting this? Seriously. I rock. Moving on…

10. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

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The first time I read this book was back in 2001, when I was 12 years old. I had seen the movie, thought it was cute and immediately went out and bought the book. Now, the book is SO incredibly different from the movie, SO different and I immediately fell in love with it. Mia felt so close to the person that I am: awkward, shy, failing math, in love with my best friend’s brother (it worked out SO much better for her than me), loving writing, etc. She felt awkward for being tall, with no boobs; I felt awkward for being really short with huge boobs. Because this entire series is written in diary format, you are in the mind of Mia the entire time. So it feels real and authentic and like reading a note from your best friend. It feels genuine and it always made me laugh and cry and feel relatively sane. Mia is constantly being paranoid and worrying and doing all these fun teenage things and it makes me feel relatively normal, especially when I was a teen!

9. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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For the longest time, Lola and the Boy Next Door was my favorite from Stephanie Perkins because I loved the quirkiness of both Lola and Cricket. But as soon as I read Isla, I knew this one had easily passed it up. What I love about this book is …well, a lot of things. First off, Isla felt closer to me than Lola and Anna. She was happy, she got the boy, but she doubted it, she felt insecure, she always felt like she might screw it up. That sort of insecurity has been with me for ages and even after a relationship, I still sometimes feel like that, like anything that I say or do can tip the scale, both with potential boyfriends/girlfriends and with just friends alone. Plus Josh was the dreamiest of the boys in all the books, his graphic novel drawing and writing skills were swoon worthy. But I think what I love about this book is that its not the beautiful happily ever after we always expect. It tells us that relationships and love is wonderful but it doesn’t come without work and struggle, which is SO true. I love everything about this book. Plus Stephanie Perkins is just plain awesome.

8. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

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First off, I love the main character’s name, Auden. I love that this has the love story and the beauty of summer, as does most of her books, but I think I love that it focuses a lot on the relationship between Auden and her parents. I know what its like to be forced to grow up quickly and to have that reality that parents aren’t perfect thrust on you. I’ve dealt with parents who have run from their mistakes instead of facing them head on. I’ve dealt with that fear that things were my fault. I think Sarah really captures a lot here. A lot of her characters are growing up as a teenager, becoming adults, that sort of thing, but in this book, Auden is just growing up, period. She’s experiencing things that you learn from just being a child, like riding a bike and bowling and that sort of thing. And I think that’s beautiful. I think I like Auden transforming from this closed off person to someone who accepts that she’s imperfect, that she makes mistakes and that she can open herself up to new things and new people.

7. Between the Lines by Tammara Webber

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The first time I read this book was quite a few years ago. I had just bought my first e-reader, and I was looking through top sellers, but cheap, and this one caught my eye. It sounded kind of juicy and I liked the premise of it, so I decided to buy it. And I’m so so glad that I did. Tammara writes a four part series following the story of Reid Alexander, an actor who is hot, charming, and totally full of trouble. These books are sexy, and fun, and kind of make me wish that Reid Alexander was real so, 1. He could play Jace Wayland in a City of Bones adaptation and 2. So I could just date him, period. But what surprised me is the emotional depth of these books. The characters were all real to me, and the character development of Reid over the course of the four books just absolutely blows my mind. I love these books SO much, I reread them all the time.

6. The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti

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The Secret Life of Prince Charming was actually the first Deb Caletti book I ever read, and I’m so glad I did because it turned me on to an author that just literally blows my mind every time she releases a new book. She writes so beautifully, against the north west coast of the United States. She captures the setting, the story, the emotions, the people, everything so well that it always sticks out in your mind. I don’t often have a hard time recalling her books because she’s just such a beautiful writer. I thought that this book was so unique in compared with other contemporary romance YA novels. I think that Quinn learns a lot about love, in that, its a great and wonderful and awesome thing but its also complicated and difficult and it has its ups and downs. That’s the beauty of this book. It doesn’t gloss over the hard parts, and it doesn’t glorify the hard parts. Relationships, love, breaking up, moving on, all of that is SO hard and its all in this book and I love every bit of it.

5. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I love everything Gayle Forman touches. She’s an absolutely incredible writer and she writes stories that are so unique but real. I love If I Stay and I loved the movie as well. But the minute that I finished Just One Day, I knew I had read something that was amazing and I wouldn’t forget it. Just One Day is about adventure, about that incredibly rare idea of adventure and love and throwing caution to the wind, that sort of thing. And I just loved it. Who wouldn’t want to spend a crazy day around Paris, with a super charming and sexy guy? I know I would. But the book goes beyond that, beyond just the adventure. It follows Allyson for a year after this experience, seeing how it changes her, and her life and the way she views life and I think that’s just…incredible (even though I’ve repeated that word in this post about, oh, about a thousand million times). Its just…beautiful. Its full of SO MANY FEELS. And its nice to think that one day, just one day, could change everything.

4. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

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I grabbed this book because it was on the shelf next to Sarah Dessen’s current release. I liked the cover, and it was next to Sarah and the back cover sounded pretty interesting. Now Morgan is one of my favorite authors and I love getting to see her as often as possible, because she is just an incredible author. The story follows Amy and Roger, as they go on this road trip across the US to new homes, to places where they don’t really want to go. Its supposed to be a straight shot to the destination until they decide…screw this, let’s have an adventure. Did I mention that I like adventures? I like the possibilities of adventure, the idea that you’re making up every step of the way on a whim, and I think that’s what Amy and Roger love about it, the idea that anything is possible, when things have gone so wrong in both of their lives. Plus, its a road trip books, and road trip books are fun and make me want to get in my car and have a road trip, and Morgan talks about all these cool food places to eat (god I love food) and she has playlists throughout the book and she has a great taste in music. Okay, now I want to go read this book again…

3. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

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This is my favorite Sarah Dessen book ever and I think it all boils down to that there was so much about Remy that I wanted to be, especially in high school. She’s beautiful, smart, in control, confident. She knows what she wants, who she wants and when she wants it and she knows how to get it. She’s brilliant. Of course, she has no idea how to love someone, and she has no idea how emotions help not hinder you and hold back. She has to learn that she can trust others and that trusting others is not the end of the world. But I wanted to be her. I wanted to be that confident and to hold my beauty (possibly) as a weapon, and to be as in control as she seems to be. I was always so messy and emotional in high school and I wanted so hard to be in control of all of that and I never felt like that. Plus I just love Dexter, the male lead of the book. He’s a musician and goofy and genuine and just hilarious. I want a boy like Dexter. Can someone find me something like that? haha.

2. Winger by Andrew Smith

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There are so many wonderful things about this book that I am not even sure where to begin. This book made me laugh so hard I cried, and made me cry because I was so sad. It is one of those books that made me stop and think, this is a teen voice. This is completely the voice of the character. There are so many authors that write in the voice of a teenager but none of them ever seem to get it as much as Andrew Smith does when writing in the mind of Ryan Dean West. Andrew is an incredible writer, and I hadn’t heard of him before this book, to be completely honest, so when I did, I was just blown away by this book. I had never really read anything like it before so it has been stuck in my mind since then, and it easily became my favorite book. I’ve read it two or three times since then and it just blows my mind every single time. It makes me laugh so much and I wish I could write a book this good, one that I want to buy a million copies of and shove it into every single person’s hands.

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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This has become one of my favorite books in the entire world. When I first heard of it, I thought that the title was super cute because being a fangirl is a huge part of my life, and Cath’s obsession with Simon Snow in the description of the novel sounded so familiar. What I didn’t know is that I would read this book that literally felt like it walked into my very soul and knew it. That sounded really cheesy, wow. Wow. But its true. Cath is exactly the way I have been and the way I still am. She loses herself into these books, escapes into them, because they make her happy, they make the bad things go away. She’s afraid of the world outside of books, she’s anxious about new things, she likes to be alone and fan fiction and the internet are her friends. There’s something about Cath being thrown into these new situations, solo, so outside of her comfort zone that just makes me feel so familiar. It makes me feel happy to know that, even though this is a fictional character, there’s someone who understands how I feel. Cath is so me, its scary. She says things that make me laugh and cry and literally reaches into me and makes me want to say “OHMYGOD YES”. It has become, easily, one of my favorite books ever.

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What are some of your favorite contemporary YA novels? Share them in the comments!

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner

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Rated:

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, malady including some disturbing images

Directed By:

Wes Ball

Based on the Book By: 

James Dashner

Cast:

Dylan O’Brien, try Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario.

Find the rest on IMDB here.

IMDB Movie Synopsis:

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

My Review:

I am SO late with this but hey, I’m eventually doing it. This movie is heading into its second weekend at the theaters so its perfect timing to get you guys out there this weekend to see it!

Here’s the thing about The Maze Runner: I liked the book. I enjoyed it. But I didn’t love it. And I think its because while James Dashner is SUCH a kickass person and a great writer, it was hard to picture a lot of things in the novel. I was confused, bewildered and even my own active imagination had problems keeping up with the world. But I honestly thought that this story would just be so much better on screen. The action, the anticipation, the fear, the maze, the Glade, the Grievers…I felt like it would all just look so good on screen.

I was right.

The things that were so hard to picture in written form exploded on screen. This movie had me on the edge of my seat and this is coming from a person who has already read the book. I already knew what would happen, who would live and die, what would happen next, but I was still clutching the armrests of my seat because it was just so full of action and mystery and anticipation. I love a movie that can build it up and keep you on the edge of your seat and that’s exactly what this movie does.

Plus, its funny. You stick a bunch of teenage boys together to survive and you can either get a rag-tag group of friends that somehow keep themselves alive or you get Lord of the Flies. Thankfully, we don’t get Lord of the Flies. Instead we get a rag-tag society that is somehow working and a bunch of guys that can seriously make me laugh. There were several times that I was laughing, and I think it was mostly the character of Chuck, the youngest member of the group, the caused the giggles.

Which brings me to the casting. They had such a great mix of actors, a mix of known ones and a mix of people I’ve never heard before. You had Dylan O’Brien (from Teen Wolf), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (from Game of Thrones), Kaya Scodelario (from Skins) but there are fantastic performances from Blake Cooper, Aml Ameen and Ki Hong Lee as well, and I’m just impressed by all of them. And watch out for an appearance by James Dashner himself.

I think what really brings this movie together, and guaranteed the release of the sequel (coming to theaters in September 2015) is that it appeals more to both genders than a lot of the YA adaptations have in the past. While I think The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc can definitely appeal to boys, its not going to appeal to the wider audience that The Maze Runner does. Its unique when compared to other YA adaptations and its a majority male cast as well. Its definitely garnered attention from movie goers outside of the normal YA crowd, and that’s the real key to a YA movie succeeded, bringing in a broader audience than just those who have read the book, and it definitely accomplished that. Its full of action, its funny, the eye candy isn’t too bad, there is mystery and a sort of thriller feeling to it, and its just great.

If you haven’t been to theater to see this one yet, whether you’ve read the book or not, I definitely recommend going to see it!

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Its Banned Books Week!

Guys, more about its Banned Books Week!

Its like…Halloween and Thanksgiving (oh, viagra buy mashed potatoes) and Christmas and my birthday all got together and thought, visit meh, we’re nothing compared to Banned Books Week!

I am trying to picture your reaction to the sentence I just wrote above and I’ve come to the conclusion that you either think I’m a crazy person, that I’m silly (I kind of like that one), or you just totally understand.

See, here’s the thing. I love books. I absolutely completely love books. I love books with a passion. I mean, you should see how crazy I get about books. Wait, you guys kind of do…

Anyway, its incredibly baffling to me that someone would want to actually ban books. Look, I understand that there are books you don’t like. Or that have content that you don’t agree with, but I believe that censorship in writing is just wrong. Its just wrong. I mean, sure, I don’t want someone to write a book that teaches me how to kill a child or whatever, but I’m pretty sure someone would never actually publish that because ohmygod what is wrong with you?

BUT. Censorship. Its wrong. Its just wrong. Just because you don’t agree with something (and there are things I absolutely positively do NOT agree with in books) doesn’t mean you should censor it.

I also think that a lot of censorship in books comes from, well, the inability to look past your biases and see the real story. Often times, a book is challenged, honestly, for the most ridiculous reasons. Animals talking because its too fantastical and against nature.  A blow job because its inappropriate for teenager readers. (Really? Really? Do you really think teenagers aren’t sexually active? REALLY?). Things like that.

I was doing some research while writing this post and I came across this quote from a August 15th article on Christianity Today, that actually pleasantly surprised me and I thought I would share it:

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Now there are hundreds of books that have been challenged, adult books and young adult books, nonfiction books (SERIOUSLY? FACTUAL BOOKS ARE CHALLENGED!), children’s books…so many books. But of course, because this is my blog and I’m the all powerful master of everything that happens on this blog, I am going to talk about some YA books I love that have been challenged. 

Because you know what? I want to shout out to these awesome books. Keep your head up authors, if someone hates your book so much to try and get it banned completely…that’s pretty awesome.

Moving on…

Harry Potter Series 

Of course. It promotes Wiccan practices (which, I mean, is centered around nature so what’s so bad about that?) and Satanism (to each their own) and witchcraft to children. People have complained that the books avoid the discussion of religion period, and there was even an uproar when JK Rowling revealed that she had always thought of Dumbledore as gay. Harry Potter is about so much more than shoving witchcraft down your throat and everyone needs to hush, Dumbledore is fabulous.

The Giver 

The Giver has been challenged many times. In fact, its one of the most challenged books and it ends up on the top lists quite often. Its cited simply for “violence” and “not suited for the age group”. Apparently the book is too dark for children to read. Its also been pointed out that there is drug use, and brainwashing and things like that. Did no one else get that the whole drug use, brainwashing and that sort of thing was a BAD thing in the book? Or was that just me?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Challenged by parents in different school districts because of sexually explicit content and foul language. (Have they literally never met a teenager before?) Oh yes and it deals with homosexuality and abuse. Because why on earth would we want a book that deals with realistic issues that teenagers every day are dealing with? And why on earth would we want characters with different sexual preferences? Realism is so overrated anyway…

Looking for Alaska

Again with the sex. A bunch of teenagers are living in dorms at a boarding school and we really don’t expect sex to happen? Really? I’m blown away by this. There is a scene in this novel (sorry guys if you haven’t read it) that is a blow job. A really bad blow job. Like, there is an attempt at a blow job and its kind of funny. Eventually things get squared away a little and the BJ goes a little bit better, but apparently its the worst scene to ever exist in the history of YA literature. Looking for Alaska has topped the challenged book lists in the past couple years and I just want to roll my eyes. Must we go through this again? Teens have sex.

The Hunger Games 

There is SO much wrong with this book according to those who want to ban it that I kind of don’t know where to start. Its anti-ethnic, anti-family, violent, has themes of occult and satanic nature, its insensitive and has foul language. Now, I can understand not wanting your child to read this book. It is pretty violent. I don’t agree with some of the other stuff, but I can still see why someone wouldn’t want their child to read that. But that’s a whole ‘nother story at the end of this post.

Twilight

Hell yes I went there. Putting aside the fact that is NOT a well written book and the story is so incredibly lacking in plot structure, character development and that sort of thing, I do like it. Sometimes you just need a cheesy romance that its an incredibly easy read. You just do. Its mostly been banned because of sexual content but also some schools have pulled it off shelves because Bella was a bad influence for girls. Now, while I totally don’t disagree with that, I don’t think that this is enough reason to completely pull this book off shelves. But more on that later…

Eleanor and Park 

I read an article with immense distaste (god, I can’t handle it) that Eleanor and Park was such a disgrace as a book because of the foul language and the age inappropriate content. Its also apparently “sexually charged”. I’m getting the disgusted shivers just thinking about it. Blergh. This leads me almost perfectly into what I want to end this post with…

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Basically, the issue that comes with a lot of YA books is this: inappropriate material. Drug use, abuse, sexuality, sex period, all kinds of stuff. But there’s the thing, you may not LIKE this subject matter but banning books doesn’t get rid of this completely. You can’t deny that there are people using drugs and drinking alcohol, yes as teenagers. And yes, teenagers are having sex. Lots of it. And okay, not all teenagers, but its happening and yes its more than just your traditional sex, they’re having oral sex too! Surprise, surprise. And violence and foul language, all of these things exist and keeping books away from your kids isn’t going to keep them from being a reality. Even the sort of things that appear in a fantasy book or dystopian or science fiction still has some basis in reality.

So here’s my thing: banning books, pulling them from shelves, forbidding your kids from reading them? Doesn’t make any sense and honestly is pretty pointless. But talking to your children and being open and honest with them about the material in the books, and deciding when they are mature enough to read books with that material….that makes a lot more sense to me. If you don’t want your kid to read The Hunger Games, sure, that’s fine. Don’t ban the book! Talk to them about the issues you have with the blog, discuss it and then decide when they’re old enough to read it.

Plus, I’m just saying, when I was younger, if my parents told me not to do something, forbade it, made sure that I totally and completely did not do it, I would probably make sure somehow that I did it. Luckily, I have parents that have always been awesome and open with me about all sorts of things. I’ve never felt like I read about books with material too mature for me, and if I ever did, I felt confident that I could approach my parents and talk it out.

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Basically, I love banned books week. I love talking about books and book controversies and looking up articles from all the book banning people and laughing a little at the overdramatic arguments they make against books. I love this week and I hope you can join me in celebrating the love of literature and the ability that authors have to write something new and awesome and controversial enough (apparently) to anger some people. Because you know what, I want people to hate my book as much as people love it because hate is a strong reaction and that’s still pretty badass.

Thanks, as always, for listening to me ramble :)

And don’t forget to share your own favorite banned books in the comments!