Monday, December 21, 2015

At the end of every year, I like to participate in this five-day Top 10 of _____ event. This year, of course, the event is titled Top 10 of 2015, and it is hosted by FiktshunMagical Urban Fantasy Reads, Tales of the Ravenous Reader, and Two Chicks On Books. As I am a huge fan of making lists, I find this event to be a lot of fun! I enjoy reflecting on the books I've read all year, and thinking about which book should make what list, and why or why not. The first topic of the event is The Best Books I've Read In 2015, and while I read a lot of great books this year, I was able to narrow it down to the following ten:


I think my favorite book this year was Fangirl, which just blew my mind with how good it was! I can't believe how much I have in common with Cath - it really improved my reading experience a great deal. It's just nice to find someone to relate to while reading. Plus, I loved the whole world that Rainbow created, and I'm excited to get to read the spin-off novel, Carry On!

Furiously Happy was a close second, which I loved because I enjoyed the author's humor, and could actually relate to her. Like Jenny, I struggle with depression and anxiety, though I don't feel I'm at a level where I could accomplish what she has. It's an inspiration, though, to read about all of her experiences. I highly recommend this one!

So, what were some of the best books that you've read this year? 
Please share in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 with No comments

Yet again, I will be participating in Megan's reading challenge, dubbed the Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge. Megan hosts a challenge every season, and while I have yet to fully complete one, I always end up reading some great books that I wouldn't have picked up if it weren't for this challenge (which is sort of like a bookish scavenger hunt, as you have to find and read books that fit under the given categories - one book can only count towards one category). 

This post is basically where I track what books I am able to read during the challenge, but feel free to check out the categories below and see if this challenge is something you'd like to participate in. It runs from Nov. 1st - January 31st, so you can still sign up if you'd like to give it a try - it's fun! Here are the categories for this season's challenge:

5 points: Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages.

10 points: Read a debut book by any author. (The book does not have to be a 2015 debut.)

10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence.

10 points: Read a book (200+ pages) that someone else has already used for the challenge.

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew (Read by Tara)
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (Read by Kathie)

15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym.

Trapped by Jack Kilborn (a pseudonym for J.A. Konrath)

15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these).

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (464 pages; 5 stars)

15 points: Read a book with a one-word title (e.g. AttachmentsAmericanahUgliesWild, etc.).

20 points: Read a book with a person's first and last name in the title .

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne (247 pages; 3 stars)

20 points: Read a food-themed book.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors).

Relic by Renee Collins
Relic by Douglass Preston & Lincoln Child

Trapped by Jack Kilborn
Trapped by Michael Northrop

Sold by Patricia McCormick
Sold by Zana Muhsen, with Andrew Crofts

30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject.

Two books about depression & mental illness:

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (non-fiction)
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (fiction)

Normally, I'm very picky when it comes to Book-To-Movie adaptations - I tend to get let down easily, despite the fact that the film trailers may have seemed promising. Nonetheless, I've decided to participate in this week's Top Ten Tuesday, as there have been some really good trailers released lately, and honestly, you just never know. Some of these may tank, but some may be real gems! Here are ten adaptations that I'm hoping will be worth watching:

*Click on the film title to view the book on Goodreads*

The Martian (2015)

I really enjoyed this book, and I'm not gonna lie - since I heard beforehand that Matt Damon would be playing Mark Watney, I ended up picturing him as the character while reading it. I thought he was a perfect fit, so I hope I still feel the same way when I finally see the film! I've heard good things about this one so far.

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

I know this looks like it will be NOTHING like the book (especially since there's no Igor in the original novel), but I still want to see it. I love James McAvoy, and I'll give anything he's in a try, but perhaps more-so to this since it is (very loosely) based on one of my favorite novels. Besides, it's not as if Frankenstein hasn't been butchered enough already, lol.

Wow. This trailer looks amazing! I haven't read the novel yet, but it's based on a true story, and I've added it to my ever-growing TBR. I can't wait to see this one!

Okay, so I admit that I haven't read the book, and am unsure if I will ever get around to reading it, but this trailer looks totally awesome. As an avid fan of zombie flicks, I will definitely be checking this one out.

I am so excited for this movie! Ryan Reynolds has been great in every sneak peek and promo vid that I've seen so far, and he really gets into character (I even love how they poke fun at him for The Green Lantern movie!). I'm stoked to see this one! And don't worry, this is the only comic book adaptation that I will be listing in this post, otherwise all the upcoming Marvel & DC films would take over this list!

I don't even remember much about the animated Disney film (other than 'The Bare Necessities'), but this trailer looks pretty good - the animation seems top-notch, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (2016)

No trailer for this one yet, but I don't even need to see one to know that I HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE IN THEATERS! I am so excited!!! J.K. Rowling is writing the script, and it's a Potterverse movie, so I know I won't be let down!!!

Looking For Alaska (2016)

I'm a little iffy on this one, as it is one of my favorite books OF ALL TIME, so I know I'll be super critical of any film version released, but I really enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars adaptation, so I know I'll have to give it a chance. I haven't seen Paper Towns yet, but I love the cast, and I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy that one, so I'll try to stay positive! I have trust in the team that is putting it together.

The Circle (2016)

If you haven't read this book already, you really should! It's about a girl who goes to work for "The Circle" (a company that really sounds a lot like Google...) and all of the cult-like craziness that she gets swept up in while with the company. It looks like they've signed on Emma Watson to play the lead, as well as other big names like Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, Patton  Oswalt, & Bill Paxton! The cast has really gotten me excited, so I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this one.

I know this isn't a technically a movie, but how can I not list this?! Almost any series that's brought to life by the BBC is gold (e.g. Sherlock, Merlin, etc.), so I have total faith that this series will surpass all levels that the Hollywood film failed to reach.

So, what book-to-movie adaptations are you looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comments if I'm missing anything so that I can add it to my mental "To Watch" list!

Monday, October 26, 2015

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If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

From the moment that I read the synopsis, I knew that I had to read this book. Thanks to Doctor Who, I have a strong fascination with the idea of time travel, and the consequences that could arise when making changes to the past, no matter how insignificant they may initially seem. In this novel, Kaia Vespasian is on her way to becoming one of the Historians, a group of time travelers in charge of observing and recording historical events in an effort to reflect on mankind's actions and determine what lead to its downfall, so as to prevent history from repeating itself. Of course, along the way Kaia falls in love, encounters her brother's band of renegade space pirates, catches someone tampering with time, and discovers a terrible conspiracy. Definitely non-stop excitement!

Aside from the plot, however, what I loved best was the author's writing. Trisha Leigh is an intelligent writer, and really did a fantastic job at leaving no stone unturned. Just when I feared that there was contradictory information, or plot points that didn't quite make sense, my questions would all be addressed, and the writing would smooth it all out - like when I wondered how on earth so many historians could witness the same events in time without running each other (a question that was of course answered later on in the story). Ms. Leigh seemed to have a reason behind every word she wrote, and took great care to ensure that it all wove together seamlessly for her readers. 

I don't want to give anything away, which is why I am shying from speaking much about the plot in this review, but I feel I must add that a lot of what made this story so enjoyable was the fact that there were so many unexpected twists and turns throughout the novel. By the end of the story, I was so engrossed that I did not want to put it down! It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I am very much looking forward to reading part two, but in the meantime I will most certainly be checking out Ms. Leigh's other series, The Last Year, to tide me over until its release. This one gets 5 out of 5 stars!

My reaction upon reading the final cliffhanger.

Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.

Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.
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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Here They Lie by D’Ann Burrow 
(The Bloodstone Legacy #1) 
Publication date: October 5th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Southern Gothic
Reese Everett’s aunt picked a bad time to die. Just weeks after a car accident left Reese’s mother unable to travel, her aunt’s house needs to be emptied and sold, leaving Reese as the only member of the family who can do the job. She typically wouldn’t balk at the opportunity to sift through her aunt’s collection of antiques, but when she arrives in Devil’s Vale, Georgia, she discovers the family house in a state of disrepair she won’t be able to handle alone.

Colton Waters is back in Devil’s Vale – whether he likes it or not. After he loses his acceptance to medical school with no explanation, he’s left with a single job offer…one that will return him to the hometown he’d hoped to escape.

When an errand to help his sister ends in a meeting with Reese neither will easily forget, Colton takes a job as her temporary handyman.

The longer Reese stays in town, the more she realizes the condition of her aunt’s house isn’t the only thing she hadn’t expected when she made the trip to Devil’s Vale. Reese isn’t the only gifted member of the family – her aunt Kate has been practicing the family business…the business Reese has been sworn never to discuss.

After a ghostly visitor arrives one night, Reese and Colton learn Kate wasn’t the only one practicing the darker arts. They begin to uncover secrets that refuse to stay buried.
Here They Lie won the Young Adult Romance Writer’s 2014 award for New Adult fiction.

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“Took you long enough.” I pointed to the clock on the wall. “I’m pretty sure the words ‘on my way’ don’t typically mean in two hours.”

“Had a little delay.” Max stood halfway in the door to the office. When the principal called to tell him to empty his dad’s office or the janitor was going to do it for him, I’d volunteered to help. But I didn’t know that meant I was going to be doing the packing while wondering where in the hell Max was.

I recognized the expression on his face, and it wasn’t one that said I’m-sorry-for-making-you-do-this-alone. Nope. He had been preoccupied with something far different than books or yellowed photographs. “Blonde or redhead?”

“Brunette, if you have to know. But it wasn’t like that.” He shook his head, using his best innocent expression.

I didn’t buy it for a second. It was hard to be angry with him, though. He’d spent the first two weeks after our college graduation dealing with a police investigation, planning a funeral, attending the funeral, and then messing with financial stuff that required a lawyer
Being an only child must suck.

Still, I couldn’t let him off too easy. “Sure it wasn’t.”

“Really.” He held up his hands like he wanted to surrender. “I was driving in from picking up more boxes like you said we needed. I took a wrong turn.”

“Stop right there.” I held my hand up, shooting him a glare. “You took a wrong turn? In Devil’s Vale?”

“Not exactly in Devil’s Vale. Right outside town.” Max shrugged and shook his head in distaste. “I know. I must not have been paying attention. Lucky I did, though. I ran into a girl having car trouble and had to drive her into town.”

“You had to, huh?”

“What was I supposed to do? Leave her stranded out by the bridge?”

He had a point. No one deserved to be stranded out there. Not at night. “You didn’t tell me that’s where she was. What were you doing out there?”

“No idea. Like I said. I got confused. Ended up out on 20. When I came back, there she was.” He ran his fingers through his shaggy, black hair. In the past, he’d always kept his hair almost military-short, and I couldn’t get used to seeing him like this. His hair was just another sign of all the things that had gone wrong since the last week of May. I didn’t think he’d gotten a haircut since before his dad’s funeral, and he’d needed one back then. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have left you with all this mess.”

Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure if he’d been in the office since the day the police had called him. I couldn’t say that I really blamed him for avoiding it. Even after I’d already boxed almost all his dad’s knick-knacks, awards, and old textbooks, the newly painted wall and the new tiles on the ceiling made the memory of what happened in this room too fresh, even for me.

Green eyes just a little too wide, Max toed the threshold like he’d spontaneously combust if he entered the room. That did it. We weren’t staying here any longer. I folded the panels of the box closed and ran a strip of packing tape over them. “Tell you what. I’ve been here long enough. Why don’t we call it a day?”

“No, I can do this,” he protested. But his expression said he couldn’t.

“Look.” I gestured around the room. Almost everything left was property of Devil’s Vale Independent School District. “We can come back in the morning and finish up in an hour. If I pack any more tonight, I’m going to turn into a box myself.”

I didn’t need to say that the old, empty building crossed my creeped-out tolerance an hour ago. I’d only stayed because he wasn’t answering his cell phone, and I wanted to make sure he didn’t try to tackle this himself. Spend enough time in here alone, and anyone would start seeing ghosts.

“I don’t care what they do with the rest of this shit.” Max’s voice rose with the same annoyed edge that it always got when he’d had a pass picked off in an interception.

He was in over his head, and he didn’t have anyone else to help him. Well, he didn’t have anyone who wasn’t a member of the not-quite-dead-yet Sunday school class at his dad’s church to help. He didn’t need their whispers making this any harder. That’s why I was helping my teammate when he was in trouble.

“I don’t have anything better to do. You know that.”

“Too well. When are you going to talk with your dad about your little issue?” Max hit upon the topic I’d been trying to avoid.

My little issue. He’d graced my situation with the nickname to make it seem less important than it was. As I’d driven down the roads leading from campus to home, I’d barely been able to think of anything else. I’d stayed behind, waiting to hear word from my interview. I should have known it wasn’t going to be good news. When the medical school spread good news, it didn’t wait to call you last.

We’d been dancing around my issue for close to a month. Dealing with the loss of Max’s dad had almost made things easier. Almost. No one expected to get the call from the principal yesterday announcing that he had to clear out the office by Sunday, least of all him. He was also the least prepared to deal with cleaning up the aftermath of the end of his only parent.

“Honestly, no idea. I’ve been waiting for him to be in a good mood.”

“With your dad, you’re going to be waiting a while.”

“I know.” I brushed my hands on my jeans. I tucked the worn, leather chair into its familiar home at the oversized desk before heading toward the door. “I have one thing my sister needs me to do, but give me an hour and meet me at my place.”

“You’re Shelby’s errand-boy now?”

“She had to stay late tonight, making sure she was set up for the festival. And besides, she saw a letter from Augusta.”

“Ah, so she’s blackmailing you. That one’s impressive.”

I didn’t need to see that glint in Max’s eye. I’d seen it plenty of times when we were partying at a sorority house. The last thing any of us needed was Max turning his bad-boy vibe on Shelby.

“Just bring the beer.” The discussion was over.

“Your mom will kill you if she finds us drinking.”

“My mom never wanders down to the cabin. Not unless it’s daylight.”

He didn’t pretend like he wasn’t relieved we were heading out of the office. For a while we just walked, and I let myself relax with every step we took.

But I could sense a question hanging in the air. As we passed the humming water fountains, he finally gave up and asked it. “Do you think your dad’s going to let you stay here?”

“Mom’ll probably make him. At least for now. He’s probably going to want me to come to work on the ranch.”

“You’re going to love that.”

I let out a long breath. “Yeah. Not exactly what I had planned.”

“You. On the ranch. That’s…that’s kind of funny.”

“Sure it is. It’s freakin’ hilarious. Dad’s going to be thrilled to trap me in the business. He didn’t want me to go to med school in the first place.” A lifetime of smelling like horses. Exactly what I’d always wanted. Exactly why I’d tried to escape.

Max laughed for the first time in weeks. I didn’t even have to look at him to know he was shaking his head, but I did. Sure enough, he had his best you-have-to-be-fuckin’-kidding-me expression on his face while he ran his fingers through his hair as if someone had dumped a cup of spiders on top of him.

We’d been friends since before either of us could pronounce the word friend. I didn’t remember a time that he wasn’t seated at our family’s table for Sunday dinner. We could finish each other’s sentences, but there were things that even Max didn’t understand. Things I wasn’t allowed to explain.

“That’s going to go well.”

“Tell me about it. I’m not sure if I really have a choice.” With student loans already begging to be repaid and parents who’d given the We’re Not Paying for Your College lecture not quite four years ago, I never really imagined myself in this scenario.

High school valedictorian. Captain of the football team. Member of the right fraternity. Getting into my choice of med schools should have been a breeze.

Should have.

Seems like I had a whole lot of should-haves lately.

“So you’re just staying here?”

Being a Waters in this town carries a responsibility. Even without my dad in the room, I could hear his voice echoing in my head. “Until I figure something else out, yeah, I’m staying here. I don’t really have much other choice.”

“Sure you do.” He shrugged, and his collar pulled back just enough to reveal the crow tattoo he’d recently gotten. “There’s always a choice.”

“Speaking of choices, you’re still taking that job in Seattle?”

“Money’s great.” Max pursed his lips and nodded like a dashboard bobble head. “It’s a great job. I can’t turn it down.”

He sounded like he wanted me to believe he was excited, but something in his voice was forced. He needed me to believe he wanted to take this job, even though he’d never mentioned applying for it. One day he was the last one standing next to the freshly covered grave in Devil’s Vale’s cemetery, and the next he’d taken a job out of state.

“You ever going to tell me what it is?”

“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

I waited for him to laugh, but it didn’t come. “Never really figured you for one of those kind of jobs.”

He swallowed, and a hard edge came into his voice. “Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”

Was that why couldn’t he look me in the eyes?

“You know, you don’t have to go. Hell, you can stay with me.” I pushed open the heavy doors leading to the locker rooms. Our footsteps echoed through the empty, tiled hallway. I was surprised to realize I was happy not to be alone. The place was filled with spirits of football players past. Even in the dead of summer, the locker rooms never lost their odor of sweat, grass, mud, and teenage hormones gone wild.

“Look, there’s nothing here for me. Except for you, of course. But bro, I just don’t roll that way.” Max half laughed and shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket. It shouldn’t have been cold enough for jackets. Not in June. Not in Georgia.

“You don’t know how lucky you are to be getting out of here.”

“Trust me, Colton, I do.” He hit the crash bar to the door leading outside. He took a deep breath, and I could almost see the relief spreading across his face. I hadn’t realized how badly he wanted to move, to leave Devil’s Vale and its memories behind. Max had always been a guy of few words. Since he’d taken the job in Seattle, he’d become a man of even fewer.

We descended the steps without talking. We’d been down this path more times than I could count: pee wee football players leaving high school camp; middle school teammates when our school’s field was damaged after a wave of vandalism hit the town; finally, championship co-quarterbacks from the first team to win state. Everyone predicted the guys from our team were destined to do great things.

Destiny was a funny thing.

D’Ann Burrow once told her preschool teacher she wanted to be a witch when she grew up. That simple comment signaled the start of a life-long fondness of things that go bump in the night. As she grew older, she could most often be found with her nose buried in a book, and she was especially fond of the Nancy Drew series as well as anything by Christopher Pike or Stephen King. Occasionally she’d take a trip to the world of the classics where The Scarlet Pimpernel and A Little Princess reigned among her favorites. She’s lost count of the times she’s read Little Women.

Today, D’Ann enjoys the world of Supernatural, stories about guys with fangs, and she’s seldom met a disaster film she hasn’t liked. When she grows up, she’d like to work at the Haunted Mansion. Until then, watching Ghost Hunters will have to count as research.

D’Ann writes about secrets people keep. Even the bravest heroine or a guy with a heart of gold has a few skeletons in the closet they’d rather not share with the world. When those secrets get out, things get interesting.

A Texas native, she knows making great guacamole is an art form. As a theater mom, she’ll happily chat about Broadway musicals by the hour. Molly and Lizzie, the family furry ones, are frequent stars of her Instagram account.
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Friday, October 02, 2015

Last night, I was very fortunate to have attended Stories of El Paso, an fundraising event for the El Paso Public Library Foundation. For those of you who aren't familiar with El Paso, we are a large city (the 19th most populous city in the U.S, according to Wiki) located on the Rio Grande, right on the Western edge of Texas, bordering Las Cruces, New Mexico and Juárez, Mexico. 

The exciting thing about living in El Paso is that it is filled with culture, is centrally located, and is constantly changing and expanding. Sadly, however, we do not have that many literary events for a city of our size. We almost never have authors do signings here (unless they are local, or have ties to El Paso, like Rachel Caine), we don't have any indie bookstores, and if you'd like to join a book club, the pickings are very slim and narrow. This event in particular also featured local authors (no surprise!), but the main point of the event was to benefit the El Paso Public Libraries' after school programs, so each author chosen told stories that showed the "spirit of El Paso." Here's a look at the authors that spoke last night:

Rus Bradburd // Former UTEP basketball coach


Joe Hayes // Renowned storyteller


Linda Francis Lee // New York Times bestseller


Sergio Troncoso // Premio Aztlan winner


Dan Wetzel // Renowned sports writer


All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening. Each speaker had an interesting story to tell, and not only were they able to enthrall people with their writing, but with their spoken words, as well. It was a magical event, and I'm glad I was able to attend. I had never before been to Ardovino's Desert Crossing, but it was a really beautiful location, and the ambiance was made complete with the alluring Mexican folk music performed by Maria and Yahvi.

I even got to take home a spoil of war by snagging one of the last available copies of The Devil In The Junior League, which Linda Francis Lee happily signed for me! Funnily enough, I had spoken to her before the program outside in the parking lot, when she asked for directions to the venue entrance & I had to apologize, as I had never been there before and didn't know where I was going, either! 

So yes, it was rather embarrassing to go up to her after the event to ask for a signature, but she was very cheerful about it and we ended up laughing about our earlier encounter. The best part? She said that she's working on a series that is set in El Paso! I am always on the lookout for a good fictional novel set in my home city - so far I've only read Benjamin Alire Sáenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover The Universe (which I loved, by the way!) I'm excited to see what she comes out with, and will be reading her other works in the meantime.
One of the many changes that I will slowly be introducing to this blog will be "regularly" posting about either literary events in El Paso or features on local authors. I use quotations on that since, as I've said, there really aren't that many here, but I will definitely keep my fingers crossed! El Paso could definitely use some more lovin'!