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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #38 + Challenge Updates!

I'm going to kick this off with some quick 2015 Challenge Updates!
Be sure to check out the challenge page to see what books were read :)

COYER (Clean Out Your eReads Challenge)
5 out of 22 read!

Prequels and Sequels Challenge
Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols (Superlatives #2) - 2 pts.
Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher (Never Never #1) - 0 pts.
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) - 0 pts.

Audio Book Challenge
4/20 listened!

Discussion Challenge (Bookish Blabber)
4/36 posts

click cover photos for Goodreads

In the Mail

I received an ARC copy of The Vanishing Season via ARCycling/ Rachel @ The NerdHerd Reads, thanks Rachel! Received a finished copy of Mark of The Beast from Tor/Forge Books, thanks!

ARC copy from Montana from The Book Belles via ARCycling, Thanks!

From the Store

I've been trading in (culling) a bunch of books into the store for credit so... I picked up City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. I own book one and three so continuing this series is at a standstill no more! I also stopped by Barnes and Noble because I had a coupon so I picked up Red Rising by the gorgeous Pierce Brown.

For Review


What have you added to the shelves lately?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

[Top Ten Tuesday] YA Book Club Picks!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten YA Book Club Picks

This is so hard because I've only done a couple of book club reads and have loved them. So for me a good book club pick starts with a standalone novel. It should be complex and the ending should rile up some feels. These are the kinds of books I put down and then want to debrief with the world and I'm the only one who has read it! Grrr...

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Set in Nazi Germany, Death brings us a heart wrenching story. This was a hard read and I definitely needed to debrief and make sure I wasn't alone in my sorrow.

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende
Maya is a 19-year-old runaway. As the story unfolds you discover a complex MC with loads of dirty laundry while trying to discover an internal peace. Lots of good conversation to be had with her journey.

Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet
It was a bit slow in the pacing but the topics of global warming and assisted suicide are great for a group to unravel. When tough decisions need to be made a sounding board is nice to have.

This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
A story about a young boy whose brother has died in the war with grief stricken parents who have started to prepare for the rapture lead by an enigmatic leader. Showcasing various ways to grieve, live and love.

Knockout Games by G. Neri
Whoa! So much to contemplate here. Inspired by actual events this story follows a girl who gets wrapped up in a rebel romance and the power of group think. 

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Friendship gone wrong. Sometimes it's hard to figure out who's real friend and who may not be the best friend. Lots to discuss with friends!

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Interesting format with an interesting point of view. Lots of decision making and a good intro to teenage suicide in fiction.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Teen romance combined with class, ethnicity and family issues. A good read ripe for discussion. 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
She's an American girl in Paris who is the other girl. It's sticky and sweet. Lot of opinions about how this shaked out.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Great book combining elements of friendship, love and family. This really hit home for me and I would've loved debriefing with someone.

What reads have you enjoyed with a book club? What book would you love a reading buddy for?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

[Review] The Prey by Tom Isbell

Title: The Prey
Series: The Hatchery #1
Author: Tom Isbell [Twitter]
Publisher: HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins
Genre: Young Adult Fiction - Science Fiction, Dystopian, Thriller
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Source: eARC provided by the publisher, opinions are honest and my own. – review policy here.

Immediately we kick off with folks hiding in caves and almost dying in deserts, oddly called the No Water. There's the potential for high action and we know there are some bad and suspicious people in this world. They're called Brown Shirts. They wear Brown Shirts. Be aware of the Brown Shirts.

Twists and Turns
Interestingly we have two POVs, one is first person past/present through Books who is an LT at a boy's camp, and the second is a third person present showcasing Hope. This makes things a bit hard to follow, despite the change in tenses, but more so the change in narratives. I'm really curious why Hope's POV isn't also first person. If there's going to be a third person narrative I'm looking for a lot more regarding world building and character development.

For the first half of the book the world building is laid out depicting a post-apocalyptic US in which the boys and girls have been separated, some people have defects due to, what I can guess is, radiation exposure.

The plot really is the driving force here. The concept of hunting people for sport and using the population for scientific testing is all very intriguing. Tell me more. How did this start? Once the boys and the girls come together in part three things really get moving and the action packed journey begins.

I made little attachments to the characters so when people died it was just a shrug. The character I enjoyed the most is Cat and the story does reveal some info about him that is interesting but he's mostly an unexplored character like the rest. Also Hope's father's past shows some potential to add character value so I'm waiting for more in book two.

Descriptive Disasters
The writing is really interesting here. Putting aside the tenses and POV issues. There are several times I snickered at descriptives such as "purpling," the act of turning purple. There's also the possibility of "masculine smells." At some point I started glazing over them because I found them to be more distracting than off-putting.

Um, no. That's a strong no.
But I stuck with it. Mostly because the plot and concept were still interesting to me and I was curious to see it all play out. Once the ending started creeping up I was excited and anxious to see how the set up for book two played out. Whomp, womp! I was extremely let down. I'm not going to spoil here but I will say it comes off as underwhelming.

I'm not sure I'm reading book two but if I do this is what I'd like to see...
By far to me one of the most interesting character's is Cat, who Books and his friends find in the desert, ahem, No Water. At this point Cat's POV is more interesting than Books' or Hope's. Overall more character development to make me invested in who lives and dies.

The ending was redundant. I really hope book two skips some pieces since this one was already a journey book. So I'm looking for lots of action! 
2.5 Stars – Good premise, but ultimately not for me.

Friday, January 23, 2015

National Readathon Day, Jan. 24!

National Readathon Day is only a day away! Now I know as a book blogger I do more than make time to read. Sometimes it feels like my whole live is planned around my reading time. I was very fortunate enough that my parents valued education, literacy and I had the privilege to regularly access books. As an adult I understand that not everyone has the same experience. 

NRD is sponsored by Penguin Random House and the National Book Foundation. The NBF's mission is to expand the audience for literature in America. They are probably most popular for hosting the National Book Awards.

What is National Readathon Day?
It's when we set aside 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. on January 24 to read. Much like doing walkathons, the goal is to raise money for the National Book Foundation to continue supporting literacy programs.

How can I help?
Donate. It's that simple, my goal is to raise $200 so every dollar helps! All donations are tax deductible and you're helping spread literacy in America. So win, win. 

My Pledge
I will be pledging EIGHT hours, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on January 24 to make #timetoread. During this time I will start with reading Brown Girl Dreaming by National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson. After that I will continue onto my normal reading queue. Follow me on Twitter @becomingbooks for regular updates. 

Can't make a donation?
No problem! Take this opportunity to spread the word about the event, volunteer to read to youth, or cheer on other participants.  

Last but not least... Thanks you for being a reader. Thank you for stopping by Becoming Books, for supporting the book community, and your love for reading. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bookish Blabber #4: Becoming A Good Book

Becoming A Good Book

"Oh, that was such a good book!" - said every reader ever.

Okay... so what's good about it. I mean give me something more. Back in December I participated in the Best of 2014 Blog Hop and asked entrants to tell me what made a good book. I got tons (okay, like a hundred or so) responses. Most of them fell in these categories...

Is it characters?
All characters, the people we speak aloud to with words of reader wisdom as we flip through the pages. The people we cheer for, fan over, ship in our dreams, and dream about. These characters can make or break a good book. When the connection is not there I'm not invested and therefore... down with the ship.

I won't even begin to mention things like author murder and our characters leave us. Does this make or break a book for you?

*sniffles* moving on...

Is it good writing?
Does the syntax grind your gears or make you feel light and fluffy. Is the prose so on point that you could marry the book? We could go into diatribes about what is "good writing." For me good writing at a minimum does not distract from the story. I've been distracted by sentence structure, use of slang, and other items to where I'm missing what's going on. On the other hand, I've been completely immersed and taken away by good writing. I can feel the world, dream about it in detail, get goosebumps reading an intense paragraph and other goodness. For me the ultimate good writing comes from quotable passages. If I can pull a sentence or two, take it completely out of context and then still fall in love with it, relate to it. That's winning.

Honestly, when I think about good writing I am reminded of this scene from Dead Poets Society. The rules. They're all bull. Rip it out!

Interesting plot twists?
I'm a plotter. Some people really need to connect with characters and I need a good plot. I want to be surprised, I want the couple NOT to get together in the end. I want someone to die, I want big conflict, I want a classic whodunnit. Lucky for me mysteries and thrillers are getting some YA spotlight time this year. Something that can get in my head is sure to please.

What about you? Do you throw the book if the ending is crap or there's a major cliffhanger?  

Witty, clever, romantic dialogue?
I'm such a sucker for good dialogue. One of my favorite books from last year was Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg. What did this for me was between the chapters she filled the space with very memorable dialogue from the narrators in the present tense. I had feels every time and it prepared me for the next chapters to come. In other novels the dialogue can totally make a character's personality, right princess?

“What were we talking about?”
“How I’m the love of your life.”
- Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

The feels?
Ahhh... the proverbial feels. I'm a glutton for punishment and gravitate towards books with heavy feels. The kinds of feels that leave me in my big reading chair in the fetal position. Combine this with good writing and solid characters, I'm a goner. Just put a blankie over me while I grieve. Last book to make me cry was about a week or so ago, Maybe One Day. It hurt, it still kinda hurts.

There's also good feels. Frisky, romance feels. Humor feels (often sought after the sad feels). But feels are required in all good reads, IMHO. If I'm not feeling it then... pass.

The ultimate good book combines several of these traits. I'm connected/invested in the characters, I'm intrigued in the plot line. I'm shedding a tear or hoping for kisses. I'm doodling quotes in my journal and seeking gifs to explain my reading journey. It's not an exact science or there would be a chart for it. At the end of the day I think about these things... 

Did this book extract any strong emotions from me?
Do I care about anyone in this book? Are they my new book boyfriend/girlfriend? Are they a OTP? 
Where there stakes, risks, a hint of originality? 
How motivated was I to finish reading it? 
Do I need to debrief and discuss with others? < This is a big one! If I feel the need to spread the word and discuss the finer points, I'm in deep.

So tell me... what makes a good book?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

[Review] Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

Title: Elusion
Series: Elusion #1
Author: Claudia Gabel [TwitterWebsite] and Cheryl Klam [Twitter | Website]
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins
Genre: Young Adult Fiction - Science Fiction, Dystopian
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Source: Audiobook borrowed via library, opinions are honest and my own. – review policy here.

Really cool tech and world building
Set in a futuristic Detroit with acid rain, Regan is grieving her father's death as his invention is preparing to launch nationwide. Now his business partner, teen genius Patrick, is the face of the product and it's future. Elusion is a virtual reality head set but soon after the launch things start to go wrong and Regan is determined to figure it all out.

Elusion is a cool piece of tech even if the explanations are a bit rough around the edges. There are some hints to other science fiction-esque theories that can get a bit deep and feel unstable without the proper foundation. I'm really hoping the second book gets into this more. In the end I would totally go to Elusion and hang out.

The "real world" is futuristic and totally believable. We've destroyed the world, on bad days you need a Star Lord style O2 mask and the rain is something to be feared. 

Mystery and Corporate Espionage 
There is a mystery element here as Regan and her new friend Josh go hunting for his sister Norah in both real life and Elusion. There's also the big bad corporation, Orexis, who owns Elusion. Trying to figure out everyone's agenda is exciting and the reveal of whodunnit was not as predictable as one might guess. So it made listening while driving quiet exhilarating since I felt like I should be involved in a high speed chase... haha. (There are no high speed chases though, bummer.)

If you're a fan of the movie Inception or any movies that involve bad corporations handling big tech you'll enjoy this.

Ah, answers but I'm not sure I'm invested...
It's like a second date at this point. I've asked you all the important questions on the first date and the answers are average. Now we're at my door and you've given me a pretty awesome kiss, but is it enough to accept a second date? I'm not sure... however, book two, Etherworld is out in March.

publishes March 31, 2015
3 Stars – Soooo... okay. I'll call you some time but not to Elusion.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

[Top Ten Tuesday] Wild Card... Series I Want To Tackle in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish

Top 10 Series I Want to Tackle in 2015

After this year's author events, book exchanges, Secret Santas, the county library sale, and several Book Outlet orders I have WAYYYYYY too many books in a series that I have not even read book one of!!! It's out of control and I see all of these beautiful lovelies on my shelf waiting to be read. 

Below are the series I'd like to tackle this year...

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I picked up this entire set for $14 at the county library book sale.
Yes, it's true, I've never read Harry Potter. I'm not really sure how this happened but it did and I intend on remedying it immediately!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I was gifted book #1 and bought book #3, with Heir of Fire being signed.  I've heard so much awesomeness about this series that I'm ready to fight my feels and love Celaena!! Now I just need book two, well and to start reading...

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
I originally bought Isla and the Happily Ever After for YALLFest but I ended up missing Stephanie's signing. BUT that following Monday she was in a bookstore near me. I deemed it fate and bought the first two books. Now I just need to read them!

Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater
Okay so technically Sinner is not part of this series, it's a companion novel. So following that logic I read it earlier this year and pre-ordered it signed with a special dust jacket. I LOVED it so when I saw the whole series in hardback for $6 at the county book sale I nabbed them up. Now I just need to get on board and READ them... 

Dante Walker Trilogy by Victoria Scott
Early in 2014 I read Victoria's new series starter Fire and Flood and really liked it. So when I saw books two and three of this series on Book Outlet I had to have them. Being short of book one make this series' reading a slow start... need to remedy that ASAP!

Mara Dyer Series by Michelle Hodkin
I own this whole series piece by piece. I got book one during a sale on Amazon for my Kindle, got book two at the library sale and book three I purchased in hopes of getting it signed. I missed Michelle but I do have the whole set which I've heard nothing but raves.

Burn for Burn Series by Jenny Han and Siobhon Vivian
I saw Jenny Han at a signing for All The Boys I've Loved Before and just thought was was pretty awesome. So when I saw these two I picked them up. Now I just need to get book three... and read one and two. Oh my...

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
I actually saw Megan at an author event this year and didn't own any at that time... womp, womp! However, I did get book two on Black Friday and then book two at the library sale. A Cold Legacy is out this month on the 27th. 

The Syrena Legacy by Anna Banks
Oooo... sea creatures! I'm intrigued and yet own books two and three but not one. How does this keep happening?!?! *hangs head* Off to find book one and get to reading!

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
Word of mouth bought this series to my door. I currently have books one and two so I'm more than ready to start this series. :) 

What series do you own but have not read?