September 28, 2014

Introducing... Leafmarks

Today, I would like to share with you a little site that pretty much took over my life. For the last week or so, I've been obsessively working on Leafmarks. It's like I took on a second job, only this one I'm doing for free and I don't mind one bit - because I love it.

Who is this mystery employer?
Well, meet...
Leafmarks in a new site following the steps of Goodreads - it's a catalog of books in which you can mark To-Read, Read and Currently Reading, shelf books, earn leaves by completing challenges, making friends, writing reviews, etc...
It's a place where you can meet book lovers and talk books - and it's for book lovers, by book lovers.

And I love it so much I became a Librarian, helping clean and fix the database to give you the best info and details.

And why do I love it so much?

Well, Leafmarks is beginning its way by addressing some of the most asked for, insistent (and ignored) features on Goodreads - half stars and re-reads. That's right, you can rate a book with a half star on Leafmarks, and add re-read dates which count toward your challenges. No more do you have to search for another edition and pretend you're reading that one so your count won't be messed up.

Aside for that, Leafmarks review form makes it so easy to copy your reviews from your personal blogs. All you have to do is copy and paste! Links, basic formatting (like bold, italics, etc) and gifs are all automatically included. And it cleans the additional formatting (like font, color, etc) so it looks clean and not messed up at the end. With Goodreads, I usually forget (or can't be bothered) to copy my reviews because it is so tedious. Here, I find it just so... fun!

And finally, I am digging the Statistic feature so badly! On Leafmarks, you can see detailed statistic between you and your friends (or future friends). You can see how many books you have in common, and then exactly the difference in opinion by the rating - it's detailed, it's fun to explore and it's easy.

And, really, I love knowing this is just the start. There are already so many future features planned, and I'm going to be there every step of the way and watch if evolve. With GR, I don't have that.

So, yes. I love Leafmarks, and I can't wait to watch it expend, and grow, and become the extraordinary thing I know it will be!

So, if this sounds at all like something you might enjoy, check us out! And if you chose to join our members, I'd love to become friends with you! You can find me here.


September 26, 2014

DNF: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - A Tale of Failure

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Series: Gentleman Bastard #1
Source: bought paperback
Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: 2007
Age Group: Adult due to character's ages and language
The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls.
Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke's gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves. The Gentleman Bastards.
The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they have ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive...
The Lies of Locke Lamora sounded like the perfect book for me. I love thieves, I love imperfect characters, I love schemes and acts and the whole scene, and so I went crazy and bought books one and two together (they were on sale, though).

Probably a big mistake, because from page one, Locke and I were a story of hardships and struggle, and eventually - a bad breakup. The first time I opened the book, I stopped after the prologue. It was probably a combination of my mood and the time of the day I read it, but I just couldn't keep my head straight with the names, times, and locations. I was oh so confused, and I couldn't get a fixed image of all the scenery and world as I was reading--and there was a lot of those.

So I put it down, very dejected, to say the least. I picked it up again eight months later after seeing a favorable review from a much loved reviewer, but I had no real illusions. I put my goal at reading one chapter per day. And yes, it was easier. I wasn't confused, and I guess that's why I think my confusion originally came from a combination of things unrelated to the book, but I had also given up on the world as a whole and decided to just focus on what we were seeing (or reading) at any given time because I just couldn't follow.

There were so many parts of just describing stuff, and telling us stuff (a lot of it about the world, and not the plot), and those I just couldn't take. I wish there were more conversations and things actually happening, because those I did enjoy. They were just so overshadowed by the descriptions and world building it's not even funny! 

However, at page 153, when I was still struggling through every page, I lowered my goal to two/three chapters a week. Quite frankly, my only propose while reading this book was to finish it. Because I had already gotten book two. Because I wanted to love it so desperately. Because I wanted to prove to myself that this book would not beat me.

But it did. Because the moment I lowered my page count, it became more and more difficult to pick it up at all. And so, ten days later, I had only read 10 new pages of the book. And the worst part was I kept giving up after mere sentences. I just couldn't do it! Add to that that I knew what was going to happen in the broadest sense of the word, as I read a few spoilers to see if it was even worth continuing and I came to the realization - why am I reading a huge book I'm not enjoying? Why am I wasting time fighting with a story that doesn't appeal to me? With characters that I've failed to become attached to?

Because I can honestly say I didn't connect or relate to Locke, the twins, Jean, or anyoneSure, they were kind of cool. Very cunning. Joked a lot. But that didn't exactly made me feel anything toward them. I didn't particularly root for them, and I didn't feel much when they encountered difficulties.

I have so many books I want to read. So many stories that are for me, and here I am, with one that's not. No thank you. It was depressing me, honestly.

I might giveaway my copies of books one and two. Would you guys like that?

September 25, 2014

Thursday Oldie: The Avery Shaw Experiment by Kelly Oram

So as you guys know, I just moved here. And that means my old blog now lies abandoned... alongside all my old reviews. But because I feel like some of them don't deserve such an awful treatment, I'm going to slowly move my favorite reviews here, especially if my opinion differs than Megs. (though some editing may occur, as I'm a little OCD about my reviews, and the older they originally are, the more likely I am to have things I want to rephrase). 
The Avery Shaw Experiment by Kelly Oram
Source: own paperback & Kindle version
Publisher: Bluefields
Publication Date: May 4th 2013
Age Genre: Young Adult
Originally published: June 8, 2013
When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. Eleven years later, Wendy discovers her mother might have been right. She’s not the person she’s always believed herself to be, and her whole life begins to unravel—all because of Finn Holmes.
Finn is a mysterious guy who always seems to be watching her. Every encounter leaves her deeply shaken…though it has more to do with her fierce attraction to him than she’d ever admit. But it isn’t long before he reveals the truth: Wendy is a changeling who was switched at birth—and he’s come to take her home.
Now Wendy’s about to journey to a magical world she never knew existed, one that’s both beautiful and frightening. And where she must leave her old life behind to discover who she’s meant to become…

Okay, so to celebrate Kelly's upcoming release of Cinder & Ella, I'm dedicating the next couple of Oldies to this lovely lady and her lovely creations, starting with possibly the cutest and sweetest story I've ever read. If you're looking for a contemporary that will turn you to mush, make you adore every single character in it and laugh out loud - look no farther than The Avery Shaw Experiment

Honestly, just thinking about this book makes me unable to even. I read it again a few weeks back and it had the same impact as the first time - I enjoyed every second of it. It was all so funny, or adorable, or emotional, or swoon worthy. I laughed out loud, my heart broke for the characters at times (especially near the end), and I kind of wanted to hug everyone in it.

The best thing about this book are the characters. This is the first dual POV book Oram has ever done and she did it wonderfully. Each character had her own unique voice, but they moved and weaved with each other seamlessly. Just as Grayson and Avery do! 
Prologue #2
(Yeah, you read that right. If Avery gets one of these nifty prologue thingies to explain herself, then so do I. She's not the only one with a story to tell here!)
Now tell me honestly you didn't just fall a little bit in love with Grayson Kennedy right there and then! I mean, this guy is serious swoon, girls! He is so sweet and caring. Avery kind of hit the poor guy like a brick wall, you can't even tell he used to be a womanizer, because from the moment his brother breaks her heart (and she jumped in his shower) he was all about her, doing his best for her. And let's not forget, he was so good for her. He just brought all the best in her for the world to see! I mean, seriously, I'm in love with Grayson Kennedy. I want my own Grayson Kennedy! 
“Avery chewed her bottom lip. I was going to have to talk to her about that habit because every time she did it, it got harder and harder for me not to kiss her. One of these days I was not going to be held responsible for whatever actions I was driven to.”
His lady love was just about the cutest girl ever. Avery is sweet, shy, smart and funny. and she is actively trying to make the best out of a bad situation. To get over her heartbreak and move on. She's not some mopey Bella person who stops living her life just cause of some dude! Watching her grow and bloom throughout the book was nothing short of delightful! 

Surrounding these amazing duo, we've got a set of awesome characters - Libby and her quirkiness, Owen, Pan and Chloe and the Nerd Herd. It was pretty fantastic watching two very different groups mingle sort of successfully. I even liked the moms, and even Aiden to a degree--though the guy is a total idiot and who knows what Avery saw in him. 
"Definitely a cat in a past life," Owen muttered next to me. "But, like, a big scary one that ate people."
--Owen on Libby
As for the romance? Well, I can sum it up in one word - AWWWWWWWWWWWW. It was just so cute and sweet. They both made each other better and I swear - I was falling in love right with them, just as I should!
“I’ve got news for you, Aves. When a guy says he wants to take you out in the name of science, he’s totally full of it. He really just wants to take you out.”
“But you’ve taken me out like a million times for the experiment. You kissed me once in the name of science.”
I finished this book in one sitting - both times - and I started late at night on both occasions. I just... couldn't put it down. And then I couldn't take it out of my head after I finished, with resulted in a rather embarrassing amount of Facebook posts on the subject (thankfully buried long ago due to the, oh, year it's been since. Phew).

Also - thank you Kelly Oram for listening to my plea from last year and printing you books! *fireworks*
Continue the Avery Shaw Experiment 
With these adorable shorts from Avery & Grayson's journals! 

September 23, 2014

Discussion: Character Images

Nitzan brought something up to me the other day as a discussion topic idea - and I loved it, so we're doing it. The topic is...

Character Images!

Do you ever read a book, and just have this perfect picture of the character in your mind, only to find out later that your idea was completely wrong? Like, for instance, you had them pictured as a blond, when really they were a brunette? Or maybe they're described as plain, when you're picturing them as beautiful because of their personality? Because that happens to me all the time. Like, all the time. And on top of that, once I've been corrected, I refuse to change my opinion of their character image.

I'll continue to think of them the exact same way that I didn't before I was corrected. I just can't help it!

Same with me. I realized lately that I rarely picture them "correctly" or as they are "supposed" to be. Often, I don't remember what's their hair color, or eye color, or even skin color. Then, someone in the book comments on their, say, blonde curls, and I'd be like "err, ahh...." because she does not have blonde curls in my head. Or curls at all. 
The thing is, I have my own idea of the character, based on how they sound, act, and move. And descriptions tend to kind of... go over my head. Like, for example, one of my favorite book boyfriends ever - Ryan Miller from Being Jamie Baker - is described with Honey-Blonde hair and blue eyes. Do you think I caught that the first time I read the book?
(Fantastic example! I did that too - looks like we might kind of have a similar type, LOL
Finally, we agree on something! LOL.)

More like, I pictured him dark haired and dark eyed, and it was only when I read the book the second time that I realized I've been picturing him wrong. But by that time, it was too late. My Ryan Miller may look nothing like the character Kelly Oram imagined, but he's Ryan Miller in all the important parts. 

Or say, beauty wise. I tend to imagine the characters beautiful no matter what the book says. Even if they're supposed to be plain, or ugly, or fat (I'll picture a beautiful round girl then. They exist folks). If they're pretty inside, they're pretty in my head. Or for guys - if I think they're the cutest thing since puppies, (or the hottest thing since the Teen Wolf cast, which, let's be honest, HAVE YOU SEEN THEIR ABS?!) they will be cute (or hot) in my head, even if they're described like awkward geeks or what not. 

And sometimes, the description of awkward geekiness is just totally ridiculous - I'll make them very cute geeks in my mind. I think that character images are just very subjective - I think that everyone has beauty, even if I can't see it. So I'll picture each character with their own beautiful image, even if it's totally off. Another thing I've noticed - if the character sucks, is annoying, whiny or bitchy... even if they're described as beautiful, I probably won't think of them like that. I will picture the bitchy ones with permanent sneers on their faces, and the whiny ones look all pathetic, you know?

Oh, I do know. Mean characters have mean faces. So, yeah, they may be beautiful, but the expressions on their face kind of ruins the whole effect. It's only when (or rather, if) they change their ways, that that expression may slid off and only then they'll be truly pretty to me. Doesn't happen all the time, though. 

So it does go both ways. I also have a hard time with the ethnicity - no matter what, I tend to picture someone of my own race, because I just have a hard time picturing some other races. It's just easier to conjure up a face in my own race, like American Indian or European/American. Because in my mind, those are the people that I was mostly around, and I picture all book characters as such. If I find out I'm wrong on ethnicity, I do try to correct my picture, but I don't usually remember it.

OMG, same here! I have a huge problem with that. I try to tell my brain - "that's not how they look, change it!" but... that doesn't work all the time. It's a hard thing, character's images, isn't it?

It's like I have an unshakable faith that this is what the character would look like if I was meeting them tomorrow. (Which, in some cases, would be a nasty shock.)

Couldn't put it better myself! I think it will be funny if we ever meet all these characters we're messing up with xD  

What about you guys? Do you have a similar problem, or are you a stickler for details and keep a very strict and story-correct image in your head?

September 22, 2014

Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick

Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick
Series: N/A
Source: Bought
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: September 12, 2013
The year is 1867, the South has been defeated, and the American Civil War is over. But the conflict goes on. Yankees now patrol the streets of Richmond, Virginia, and its citizens, both black and white, are struggling to redefine their roles and relationships. By day, fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother to the meetings of a group whose stated mission is to protect Confederate widows like their mother. But as the true murderous intentions of the brotherhood—-now known as the Ku Klux Klan—-are revealed, Shad finds himself trapped between old loyalties and what he knows is right.

A powerful and unflinching story of a family caught in the enormous social and political upheaval of the period of Reconstruction.

All I feel about Brotherhood is conflict. On one hand, I liked learning more about the Civil war era South, and the rebuilding of it after the war, but on the other hand, I didn't really care for the actual story. Or the main character, Shad. And I sort of have a clear reason to why I dislike him - he's a jerk.

"Oh, it's fine to associate with them in private, but I gotta snub my nose at 'em in public." I didn't like that about him. He spent so much of his time worrying about what other people thought - which meant he didn't even think about what he thought. He was so conflicted inside about it that it just tore him up! While this is very historically accurate, I didn't really like the thought of it.

I did notice another thing about Shad, though. No matter how badly his big brother treated him, he wanted to grow up and be just like him. He's doing what he thinks his dead daddy would want, and he's also doing what he feels is right by joining the KKK. Which I do understand on one level, I'd just like to know how he got to be so easily lead around.

He definitely needed to sort out his priorities. His brother was all meanness and spite, so I'm not sure why anyone would wanna be like him. Seemed like he was all trouble. All in all, this was a mostly character driven book, so I don't have much else to say. It was okay, but not fantastic or anything. The history was interesting. I guess it just wasn't really for me.

September 19, 2014

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War #1
Source: gifted hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: Sep 18, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
If I were talking about this book on twitter (were I such a person), here are some of the hashtags I'd be bound to use: #Japan #Feudal #Steampunk #Dysopia #Fantasy #Griffins #War.
Do any of those sound like something you might like? Then this is probably the book for you!

Although, I'd like to warm major Japan buffs: Either don't read the book, or prepare to look of it as a new, separate reality than actual Japan, because the author has confessed to using Wikipedia for his research, and sometimes - you could really sense that. Especially when using honorifics (wrongly. A lot). I love Japan, and yes - some of the blatant mistakes kind of grated, but I loved the world. I love the Japanish feel of it, but because of the dystoia and steampunk elements, I really didn't feel I need to force "reality" on it. It's a completely new world - so I was able to enjoy it. But many people hate on this book for the same reasons - people with better understanding of Japan than the author. So enter prepared; or don't enter at all.

One of my favorite things about this book was the writing. I kept comparing it to that of Ink, a book I tried reading last month also set in Japan - there, everything felt forced, like it was trying too hard. Not here. I felt like the author had a great grasp of the world he created; describing it almost effortlessly, in a way that was easy for the reader to follow - but also immensely beautiful and sometimes poetic. He also has a talent for either starting or ending a chapter on high notes. Like, really.

But my absolute favorite thing in this book? Like, hands down favorite, makes all-the-shit-that-happens-later-worth-it-just-to-read-about-it favorite? Yukiko and Buruu.

Yukiko is our Main Character, a girl who knows both the excess of the rulers and the poverty of the mass, a girl who's both highly trained and afraid. A girl forced to move beyond her fears. Buruu is also our main character - only he's an Arashitora (a Griffin). These two were so amazing together. Their growing friendship was just the most delightful thing to read about, and Buruu was so awesome I can't even! I swear to god, if Kristoff hurts Buruu (more than he already has) I will find where he lives and force him to change what he wrote and publicly apologize for the pain he had caused me (and everyone else).

Speaking of shit happening... The casualty count is pretty high, y'all. Don't expect everyone you love to survive BECAUSE THEY DON'T AND I AM NOT OKAY, OKAY?! It's kind of nerve wrecking, to be honest. I didn't know this is what I was getting into, and I got lolled into a sense of security by the first half when things are still oka-WHAM darkness darkness darkness! My, this book got heavy! Not in a bad way, but... in a hard way? Gah, don't know how to explain myself.

Let's move to something easier - the romance! Which was... How to sum it in one word? Hmm... I guess, to keep off spoilers, I'll use the word... weak. I loved that Kristoff laughed about Insta Love through it, though. But, as I decidedly didn't ship the two involved, and my actual ship actually contains bestiality so it's kind of impossible (I can't help it. Yukiko and Buruu are so perfect together, and I'm not even sorry! If Kristoff managed to give him to ability to turn into a human at will so it could happen, I'd be overjoyed, but I sense that won't happen) I made do with another ship.

And as I've read some reviews of book two, I heard that ship sinks, so now I'm uber afraid to read it. Way to go, me! I'll get over it, I'm sure, but not before book three comes out.



September 18, 2014

Who Wore it Better: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Who Wore it Better is an original meme I brought with me from Drugs Called Books. In it, instead of discussing fashion or cloths, we discuss book covers from different countries, and who has the best cover. The meme is co-hosted with the lovely Amanda from The Book Badger and will be featured on her blog every other week, so check her out as well!  

So after last week Amanda reviewed the different covers in Magic Study, we'll be starting a new series this week.
Drum rolls please...
It's... Shiver by Maggie Steifvater!
 I haven't read Shiver. I started my Steifvater career with The Raven Boys, which I adore to pieces, and have been pretty much afraid to try Shiver because I've heard some bad stuff about the finale book, and Maggie herself stated she didn't know the full story when she started writing - she just made it up as she went. But I do want to read everything Maggie has ever written. So, I do plan to read this - and maybe this is just the nudge that I need! 
Okay, guys, this is a first for me. I like all the covers here, so instead of separating into covers, I'm going to talk about them together like.
(Side note: I haven't read the books, so I don't know how which of these covers is actually more fitting to the story. My analysis is from the pov of someone who's thinking of reading the books)

I love the simplicity of the first English cover, and the soothing colors. I love the branches and the fact you can actually find a wolf in the background. It seems very fitting, both for the title of the book (Shiver, snow, you know) and the series itself. And indeed, this cover is so well fitting that most foreign covers follow it's example, which is why I didn't put them up. Too similar to the original to count.
Then we have the second English one, and the newest. It's a lot less subtle than the original - more bod and mysterious, more menacing. While I like the original better, I think this is a really good cover on it's own. One sure to intrigue and attract.
Then comes the German. It's my least favorite from the bunch - but I still really like it. I love the dreamlike quality the out-of-focused background combined with the color gives the story. I love the paper-figures in the middle - the girl and the wolf (which goes well with the trailer I saw for the book). I honestly think it's really pretty.
Then comes the Italian. Again, not as good as the original, but I still adore the simplicity. The black-gray background gives off the vibe of something dark and dangerous, the simple heart says "this is a love story..." and the claw marks tell us "...with an edge", also hinting at the supernatural beings we'll be dealing with.
Now we're reaching the French. I really kind of adore this one. It's just so pretty and simple and dark. It doesn't sugarcoat anything, if that makes sense. It makes me feel like I'm going to read a n intense, dangerous story. This cover is sure to attract me, personally, and will definitely be enough for me to pick the book from the shelf in a bookstore.
And finally, we have the Russian. If you think it's surprising I like this cover so much as I just ranted endlessly about models in the Poison Study WWIB, you'd be wrong. There is a vast different in my head between photographed models, and art. I love drawn covers. I want to frame and hang them on my walls. This cover is painted, and the art is just stunning. No idea how the girl actually compares to grace, and I couldn't care less, because it's just so damned beautiful.

There were, I'll admit, more "unique" covers than this - but I chose not to taint these beautiful covers by putting them in the company of the ugly ones. Call me shallow (because I totally am). 


September 16, 2014

Fantasy 101 - Level One (of Three)

"Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting".
A while back, I saw this video by BookYuber Christine that made me want to make my own list of book recommendations for the Fantasy Newbies.

I've been reading Fantasy, or a form of it, for most of my life. In fact, from the moment I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone at the age of seven, to my 18th birthday, I refused to read anything but Fantasy. And still, Fantasy can be... hard. Especially the advanced forms of it.

You see, Christine is right. Reading Fantasy is a commitment. It's a form of art. You can't go to it like you do a contemporary novel because when you decide to read Fantasy, you decide to send yourself into a new world - and follow a completely new set of rules. It's a process. You might get confused. You might feel lost. It's that commitment that allows you to carry on and break through these barriers.

But for those of you who've never (or barely) dived into fantasy, I'd recommend not to start there. In fact, I believe you should start your fantasy career by reading books set in our reality, only with a twist. That way, you're already familiar with the ground rules. You know most of the layers of the world, and just have to acquaint yourself with the new ones, with the things that makes it unlike your reality.

It's much easier, and makes for a much smoother entrance into the world of Fantasy.

"The identifying traits of fantasy are the inclusion of fantastic elements in a self-coherent (internally consistent) setting, where inspiration from mythology and folklore remains a consistent theme. Within such a structure, any location of the fantastical element is possible: it may be hidden in, or leak into the apparently real world setting, it may draw the characters into a world with such elements, or it may occur entirely in a fantasy world setting, where such elements are part of the world. Essentially, fantasy follows rules of its own making, allowing magic and other fantastic devices to be used and still be internally cohesive."

So, here is a list of books I think you should consider as your first Fantasies. These are fantasies with few fantastical elements, usually focused on one specific "theme" or phenomena, and don't require too much from you as a reader to follow 

Small Side Note: Making this list I realized my level one books are not the best for the male audience, or girls who are not fans of romances. This probably stems from the fact level one books are very similar to contemporaries, only with a twist, and most contemporaries I read are romances. So for guys (and girls who don't like romance that much), it's not the perfect list.

But the advice stands - find a book set in our world, with a fantastical element that interests you. That would be the best introduction to the Fantasy genre.

7 Fantasy series set in our world - with a twist
*in no particular order*

1. Being Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram
#Romance #Super Powers
This one is one of my favorites. For those of you who love contemporary romance - start with this one. This is a love story, where the main female protagonist just happens to have... well, super powers.
It's funny, it's fun, it's super easy to get into, and it's easy to follow. The new elements revealed in this one are centered around Jamie's powers, and you really can enter this one just looking for fun. There's no epic wars, sword-fights and heavenly beings in this one. Just a girl, a guy, and learning to deal with being unique.

2. The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
#Ghosts #High-School #Mean-Girls #Lite-Romance
From the name alone you probably already know what the fantastical element in this one, but if you haven't figured out - it's Ghosts. This is a world just like ours, where most of the people are just like you and me - but a few special ones can actually see the souls who linger behind, and are kind of forced to help them. Such is our hero, Will - outcast, loner, "ghost whisperer", who has to help Alona Dare - mean girl, school queen, dead. The two have the most hilarious and fun conversations, and their relationship changes one another throughout the course of the series. And, yes, there is romance, for those like me who kind of need it.

3. Finding Sky by Joss Stirling 
#Soul-Finders #Savants #Romance #Family #Creepy-Villain
Finding Sky introduces Savants to our reality - which are basically humans with special abilities. Each Savant has a soulfinder - his or her perfect match, born on the same day and time as they are. That's the gist of it, but even the rest of it is not very difficult to follow, which is why I think this is a perfect place to start.
Finding Sky is the first in the series, which brings to the center Sky Bright - a girl who was found on the side of the road when she was little, and as she moves into a new city with her adoptive parents, might find more than she bargained for. Like, that she's a savant.

4. Destiny Binds by Tammy Blackwell
#Werewolves #Romance 
This is yet another underrated book. I loved this series and consider it one of my favorite werewolves novels--that's right, the fantastical element introduced in this one is Werewolves. Or more precisely - shape shifters. And yes, there is a slight different.
But fear not! This is not Twilight (and I say this with the utmost love and respect, as I do love Twilight. But I also acknowledge its faults).
Destiny Binds has some of the best characters, the best humor, the most unique romance (series wise. It seems standard enough most of the first book), and a heroine you can stand behind 100%.

5. Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
#Romance #Aliens 
Obsidian is the first book in a five book series. I have not read beyond this book (though I plan to) so I can't guarantee it stays this easy to follow throughout the series, but the first book is model Level One book, and I love it. It's funny, it's well written, and HOLLY HOT CHEMISTRY, BATMAN!
The fantastical element does not take up all the plot, and did I mention the MC is a bookaholic with a blog? Yeah, she's pretty awesome.
Also, I find the fantastical element here unusual for Young Adult (and honestly, I wouldn't have ruined what it is if the summary itself hasn't reveled that...) and it I think it can also be appealing to sci-fi fans - even though, as mentioned before, the whole Alien thing is not all (if most) of the plot. I hear that changes throughout the series, though.

6. Ruby Red by Keristin Gier
#Time Travel #Romance #Mystery
Ruby Red is a trilogy of books dealing with Time Travel. I think, among all the books on this list, this one is the most complex. It's the hardest to understand. But it's not written in big scientific words that will make your head hurt. It's just a hard concept, time travel, but I thought it portrayed it really clearly and cleanly.
I've loved Gwen, the MC, who was a normal girl with a silently unusual family until she turns out to be the most unusual thing about it. I enjoyed her romance with Gideon, even if it was a bit insta love. I loved the writing.
These books, like the rest on this list, are fun, and provide a great introduction to the genre.

Buy now: The Book Depository, Amazon

7. Spark by Brigid Kemmerer 
#Elemental Super Powers #Romance #Different MCs #Brothers
Okay, this might be cheating because this is actually the second book in this series dealing with supernatural boys and their lady loves, but this is the one I feel comfortable recommending to you guys, as the first didn't actually impress me all that much.
However, I do acknowledge you should start with the first to properly understand the world and the the general arc of the series, even though each book deals with a different brother as a MC.
The whole series is pretty fun though (only read the first two, planning on binge reading the rest soon),  and I loved the MCs in Spark, and their story. They got me all emotional, I admit!

For the Fantasy lovers - which books would YOU suggest as Level One books for Newbies? 

(at the end of the three levels, there will be a post compiled of all your recommendations, so don't be shy about it! Say all you have to say and spread the love!)

Nebies - how goes it? Do you think you might just start your Fantasy career with one of these?


September 15, 2014

Take Me On by Katie McGarry

Take Me On (Pushing the Limits, #4)

Take Me On by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits, #4
Source: Bought
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Acclaimed author Katie McGarry returns with the knockout new story of two high school seniors who are about to learn what winning really means.

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

Take Me On starts out with a bang - the first meeting of West and Haley was pretty good, and I loved how we were thrown straight into the story, but I feel like this is weakest book from Katie McGarry so far. I can tell you right now that I didn't really ship Haley and West. They were okay together, but I didn't feel like their relationship was going to last through all of the tests and the struggles. I definitely didn't love this one as much as I loved it's predecessor, Crash Into You.

Not only did I think that the love story between Haley and West was weak, but I also thought that it was a bit cliched. Jaded girl falls for the boy who has everything - except a family that loves him. This was made better by the fact that for part of their relationship he was living in his car, but I really thought that Haley would run for the hills when she found out that he was a Young. So bonus points for her staying, even if I didn't really ship it.

I liked the continuation of Rachel's family story, with the dealings from her crooked dad and her 'perfect' mother, as well as the fact that no one really tried to pretend that they were okay. They all know that they're screwed up, and they just own up to it, which was interesting to see.

I also liked the fact that both Haley and West had a bunch of problems. Like, a bunch. But they never really tried to work out their own problems before trying to fix the others', which is why I felt like they wouldn't work together. I think that they should fix their personal problems and family problems before trying to work on each others'.

Haley's family was just crazy. I liked the fact that her brother and her cousin were always willing to fight for her, even if they weren't willing to stand up for her with their words. All in all, Take Me On was pretty good, but it's not as good as some of Katie's other work.