What Are You Willing to Fight For?

Jun 30, 2014

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Release Date:
 July 1, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Washington Square Press
Pages: 352 pages
Source & Format: 
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after. 

Thoughts on After I Do
Earlier this year, I grabbed Forever, Interrupted from the library based on Estelle's recommendation. The summary sounded really good, so I was excited when I saw it on the "New Releases" shelf. Well, I read the book in a span of a few hours and was in love. I knew after a few chapters that the book was going to be a new favorite, and I was thrilled that I was right!

But I'm seriously the worst at writing about books that I've loved that much right after I finish. I just can't do it. I need to let them sit with me for a bit before I'm able to tell others about them. In this case, too much time passed. I let months go by without writing about it, and now I want to re-read before I share my thoughts. Either way, it was definitely included in my top ten books so far in 2014. Then, a few days after posting my list, I read After I Do.

HOLY CRAP, Y'ALL. I thought I loved Forever, Interrupted, but After I Do just took it to a whole new level. I'll back up and give an idea of what it's about - I just thought you should know right off the bat that this will definitely be in my top ten books at the end of 2014.

Lauren and Ryan met in college and married not long after graduating. For years, things were great... until one day they looked at each other and realized they couldn't even stand to be in the same room together. Where had it all gone wrong? Rather than call it quits altogether, they come up with an unconventional plan: they'll take one year off from their marriage in hopes in hopes of remembering why they fell in love in the first place. The only rule: they cannot contact each other.

The lines from the summary that absolutely sold me on this book? "This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got." Everything about those two sentences made me want to read this book. In adult fiction, I feel like most books focus on either 1) a marriage as it falls apart or 2) someone picking up the pieces after the marriage is over. I honestly can't think of a book that I've read that's quite like this one: set during that time in between those two periods. The marriage is on the breaking point, but the couple isn't ready yet to call it quits.

I started this book, and I did not move from my bed until I'd finished reading it. It was pretty much everything I wanted but even better. The book opens with a present-day scene, and then it jumps back to Ryan and Lauren meeting. The next few chapters chart the progress of their relationship right up until the scene that opened the book. Forever, Interrupted did something somewhat similar (opening with present, flashing back to first meeting) and it convinced me of one thing: Reid could write a better, more compelling and more believable love story in one chapter than most people could do in an entire book. I'm totally serious. In both books, Reid had me totally and completely invested in her main characters within one chapter. I don't know what it is about the way she writes, but I absolutely love everything about it.

These characters. I love them, even with (and maybe because of) their flaws. They felt like real people, like friends I talk to every day, even like someone I see when I look in the mirror. There was this line in the book that perfectly encapsulated one of my favorite things about the characters and their relationship:
"We can hate and love, miss and loathe each other all within the same breath. We can never want to see each other again while never wanting to let go."
The rawness and realness of that statement, and how it applies to marriage, just hit me while I was reading. I've been married three years, and I dated my husband for three years before we got married. While we aren't where Lauren and Ryan are in their relationship, I could still recognize so much truth in Reid's words. The depiction of how resentment can fester and grow, the illustration of how keeping things to yourself can backfire, the ultimate question of the book - What are you willing to fight for? - was all something that I just felt so connected to as I was reading.

I highlighted line after line in the digital ARC, and I pre-ordered a copy almost immediately after I finished reading it. This is going to be one of those books that becomes a staple recommendation for me. It's not often that I read a book and feel so invested in and emotionally attached to the characters and their story. I've written so many words, but have I really said enough about how much I loved this one or even why I did? I know there's a certain part of me that loved it because of what it said about marriage, but I also loved these characters and Reid's writing style.

This book solidified Reid as an auto-buy author for me. I don't care what she writes in the future - I know I want to read it. And I have no doubt that I'll be re-reading After I Do and Forever, Interrupted again before the end of the year. If you like contemporary fiction or just a damn good book, you need to read this one. I REPEAT: BUY THIS BOOK. And while you're at it, buy Forever, Interrupted, too. You won't regret it!

So Quotable
"I've come to realize that resentment is malignant. That it starts small and festers. That it grows wild and unfettered inside of you until it's so expansive that it has worked its way into the furthest, deepest parts of you and holds on for dear life."
*I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for review consideration. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

The Favorite Factor: The Likeness

Jun 27, 2014

The Likeness by Tana French

Release Date: July 2008
Publisher: Penguin | Viking
Pages: 466 pages
Source & Format: Gifted; Kindle e-book
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #2
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She's transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O'Neill, but she's too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl's ID says her name is Lexie Madison (the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective, and she looks exactly like Cassie.

With no leads, no suspects, and no clue to Lexie's real identity, Cassie's old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, spots the opportunity of a lifetime. They can say that the stab wound wasn't fatal and send Cassie undercover in her place to find out information that the police never would and to tempt the killer out of hiding. At first Cassie thinks the idea is crazy, but she is seduced by the prospect of working on a murder investigation again and by the idea of assuming the victim's identity as a graduate student with a cozy group of friends.

As she is drawn into Lexie's world, Cassie realizes that the girl's secrets run deeper than anyone imagined. Her friends are becoming suspicious, Sam has discovered a generations-old feud involving the old house the students live in, and Frank is starting to suspect that Cassie's growing emotional involvement could put the whole investigation at risk. Another gripping psychological thriller featuring the headstrong protagonist we've come to love, from an author who has proven that she can deliver.
Cassie and I were chatting about our love for adult fiction, and we wanted to figure out a way to really highlight that love with a new feature. So, we're bringing you adult fiction reviews where we highlight five factors: The Frame (Setting), The Flow (Plot), The Faces (Characters), The Function (Writing Overall) and The Feelings (Relationships).

Each of our posts will highlight our own thoughts on each of the five factors, so you can see side-by-side how our opinions stack up. Then, it all culminates in The Finale where we jointly share our overall feelings on the book with a rating that helps you find out how this book factors into our favorites pile.

The Likeness is the second book in the "Dublin Murder Squad" series by Tana French. It's set in Ireland, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book! There were certain things that felt very unique to that country, which I loved. I don't know a lot about Ireland, but I liked how French portrayed the impact of the economic boom, the lingering resentment of those whose ancestors had been landowners or lived in large estates and the juxtaposition of the city and the countryside. The setting wasn't a focus of the book, but it provided a really nice backdrop for this story. 

The majority of the book is set in a stately old home that's fallen into disrepair out in the country. The house added such a gothic feeling to the book - reminding me of the home in Rebecca. It added a nice touch! I could totally picture the home and its residents in my mind, and it almost became another character.

First of all, you have to immediately suspend your disbelief to truly enjoy this story. The plot is based on the idea that Detective Cassie Maddox is called to a crime scene only to discover that the victim looks exactly like her. Further investigation reveals that the victim was living under an assumed identity - one that Cassie had previously used when she went undercover. The detectives need to find out who the girl really was and why she was killed, so Cassie agrees to pass herself off as the victim and live her life.

The plot is really far-fetched, but the story is so good if you can just let yourself believe that two people could resemble each other so closely that even those closest to the person wouldn't be able to tell the difference. The idea of shifting identity and secret pasts becomes a huge theme in the novel, which I found fascinating. There's actually not a lot that happens in the book - it's more of a psychological thriller than anything. Personally, I was intrigued by the story and couldn't put it down! I liked that there was the "who did it?" tension without ever being really scary. That's my favorite kind of mystery/thriller!

I'll also add that this is the second book in the series, and I haven't read the first. This book does the perfect job of teasing and hinting at the events in the first without fully revealing them. While there's some history I missed out on by not reading the first book before picking up The Likeness, I was still able to connect to and enjoy the story. However, I'll definitely be picking up Into the Woods soon so that I can find out more about what happened to Detective Cassie Maddox!

My favorite characters in The Likeness were the members of the Dublin Murder Squad. The book spends the most time with Cassie, but I found everyone else very intriguing. I was really excited when I realized that the other books in this series focus on some of the secondary characters in this book. 

Personally, I thought the characters were probably the strongest element of the book. While I loved the writing the most, I think characters are where French's talent truly shines. I know that one of the reasons this book worked so well for me is because the characters - their personalities, their history, etc. - are the focus of the book. French leaves you feeling intimately acquainted with her characters, and I loved that aspect.

The roommates are also fully defined and really unique characters. They're slightly creepy and so different from the world around them, which definitely adds to the mystery and tension. I was suspicious of everyone at some point during the book! The only downside to focusing so much on the characters is that the mystery occasionally lagged. It's definitely a slower paced novel than I'd expected, but I loved it all the same.

Oh, the writing was my favorite part of this book! Within a few pages, I'd already highlighted several quotes and could tell I was going to have to read everything French has written. I'm obsessed with her writing style! So, instead of telling you all about how much I loved it, I'll just give you two of my favorite quotes.

This passage where Cassie reflects on the undercover identity she'd previously created:
“You can't make a person, a human being with a first kiss and a sense of humor and a favorite sandwich, and then expect her to dissolve back into scribbled notes and whiskeyed coffee when she no longer suits your purposes. I think I always knew she would come back to find me, someday.”
And my favorite overall quote:
“I wanted to tell her that being loved is a talent too, that it takes as much guts and as much work as loving; that some people, for whatever reason, never learn the knack.”
Do you see what I mean?! French's writing is just so gorgeous!

There are a few main relationships in the book. The primary relationships in Cassie's life are her tense working relationship with her old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, her secret romantic relationship with Detective Sam O'Neill, and the friendship with her former partner, Detective Rob Ryan, that went sour after their last case. 

I found all three relationships so intriguing! I didn't know everything that happened between Rob and Cassie since I hadn't read the previous book, but I could relate to the sense of loss Cassie feels about no longer being friends with someone you'd previously been so close to. I wanted to know more about Sam - he definitely intrigued me! I loved the few moments in the book that focused on their relationship. And Cassie's complicated feelings for her old boss provided some nice tension, too.

The other main relationships are between the three best friends of the deceased. The four of them had formed a sort of family, and the way they all interacted was so interesting. This was where you really saw the psychological aspect of The Likeness! Their friendship was unique - I haven't read anything that portrayed this sort of friendship-turned-family where the individuals relied so fully upon each other.

Cass: Alright Han. This was our first suspense novel we read for Favorite Factor. We all know it's a favorite genre of mine, and you enjoy it but are a bit picky about your suspense choices. How did this one fare?

Me: This one was the perfect pick for me! I know I texted you when I was only 50 pages in to tell you I thought I was going to love the book, and I was totally right in the end. I loved how it was more of a psychological thriller with such a focus on characters. That was right up my alley!

Cass: Which was super exciting. I loved seeing how much you were enjoying it! Yes, it had a very large emphasis on character behavior and analysis for sure! 

Me:  As a huge suspense fan, did this one live up to your expectations? 

Cass: Well, I loved the writing style. I think Tana French is amazing. However, there was a little something missing for me and so my rating was a little lower than yours. But that being said, I read another Tana French novel right after and LOVED IT. Hardcore. 

Me: Yay! I will definitely be reading all of the other books in this series. I have a feeling French will be my favorite suspense/mystery author. I was in love with her writing style!

Cass: Yes! I want to know more about Rob and Cassie! I surely hope so. I love that this is a series where they tie together loosely but can be read as standalones as well.

Me: Same! I didn't feel like I was lost without having read the first book, but I can also see how the books build upon one another. I really liked that French structured the series that way.

Cass: Exactly! So what was your favorite part of the book. Without spoilers, of course.

Me: My favorite scene involved Cassie and Sam (the one character I would LOVE to know more about), but I think my favorite part of the book was the writing + characters. The mystery and plot was okay, but it was the other two elements that really made it stand out for me. You?

Cass: My favorite part was actually seeing what was going on with the girl Cassie is standing in for. Throughout the story I was like okay but what was the girl doing that got her killed??? And I was actually in shock.

Me: Oh that makes me happy because I know you can often guess where a story is headed since you've read so many books in this genre.

Cass: Truth. I knew a few things were up but never entirely guessed where it was going which bodes well for the story. Now maybe I'm cray but can you see this working for fans of REVENGE?

Me: Maybe? I feel like Revenge is more action-y than this book was, but I can definitely see some parallels / similarities. I can totally see the whole playing a part, secret past, etc. part of it!

Cass: Yes.  Not entirely the same but I kept thinking of similar things and I was like OH YES. Yes! 

Me: So, what's the rating for you?

Cass: I think almost a favorite. Because the more I think about it the more I like it. I'm just a harsh critic with suspense. But due to her writing and my love for her other novel,  I think it has to be almost a favorite for sure. And you?

Me: I'm going with absolute favorite! Although it wasn't quite a five star read for me, it definitely came close enough to earn this rating for our Favorite Factor scale. I loved it the whole time I was reading, and I'm dying to continue the series. So that says a lot about how I felt about it!

Cass: That's amazing. This makes me so happy!!!

Me: Yay for a successful suspense pick!

Cass: Woohooooooo!!!!!  Go Tana French.  You rock!!! Oh PS - how I didn't remember to mention it til now. I loved the setting. loved loved loved.

Me: So did I! It was so perfect - not the focus but still so important to the story. Totally brought the creepy, gothic vibe, too.

Cass: Yes, it worked perfectly. I would definitely say it's perfect for anyone even skeptical about suspense!

Me: Totally agree! So, I vote READ THIS BOOK, y'all.

Cass: And I second it!!!!!

Refreshing My Monthly Recaps

Jun 26, 2014

I started blogging in November 2011, and my first monthly recap was in February 2012. I used the same format for four months, and then came summer 2012... I stopped blogging in July, and I didn't return until December.

February 2013 is when I first started writing monthly recaps using the format you've seen for the last two years: Books Read, On My Shelves and On My Blog. Whether or not anyone looked the posts, I found that it was a nice way for me to look back and reflect on each month. But lately, I've been itching for a change. I noticed that my favorites recaps were the ones that went beyond just books.

I planned on keeping (in some form) the three categories that I typically include in my recap, but I wanted to expand the post overall. I wanted to have a little more about my life - or what's happened during the month beyond the bookish things I've always shared. But I wasn't sure what exactly was missing!

So, I started doing some research to find inspiration. I looked at some of my favorite monthly recaps to see what I liked about them and why I spent more time reading them. With all that inspiration, I knew what information I wanted to include in my new recaps. The next step was to think of my category names - I'm a sucker for a theme or consistent format. I settled on "What I _______," and I'm excited about the revamp.

I know that adding new sections will make these recaps longer, but I'm hoping that the clearly defined sections will make it easy for you to just scan and read what catches your eye!
A little bit about what's going on in my life. Bloggers that included this type of update are the reason I wanted to revamp my recaps in the first place! I almost called this "What I Did," but I wanted to frame it differently. I like the idea of focusing on the positive - sharing some of the best things that happened in the last month.

Inspiration: I love how both Maggie from Just A Couple More Pages and Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner always share some life updates in their month in review posts, and I also really enjoy how Leah from The Pretty Good Gatsby and Jen from Pop! Goes the Reader include pictures in their recap posts.
Instead of listing everything I read in the month, I'm just going to highlight my favorite books that I read that month. But I'll still share the number of books I read - and possibly a page count, too.

Inspiration: I like how Alexa from Alexa Loves Books just shares her top reads in her monthly retrospectives!
My favorite quote from a book that I read that month. As a major quote lover, I can't believe I didn't thinking of doing this sooner. I have lots of quote books that are filled with all the words I've collected!

Inspiration: Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner and Amanda from Late Nights with Good Books both include a favorite quote in their recaps. I share one in my reviews, so why not highlight my favorite?
What I posted on my blog that month, which I've always included in my recaps. However, I think I'll just focus on what was most popular, what I had the most fun writing or what I most want to spotlight.

Inspiration: Brittany from The Book Addict's Guide and Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner both specifically highlight their most popular posts that month, which I love. I'm way more likely to go check out a few favorites rather than every single post if I've been slacking on my blog reading.
A few favorite bookish blog posts that I've read and bookmarked. I could never do an entire round-up of what's been posted around the web, but I do love when bloggers highlight a few that inspired them!

Inspiration: Asti, Kelley and Leah from Oh, the Books! do an incredible job in their giant weekly round-ups, but I also love how Jen from Pop! Goes the Reader selects a handful of bookish posts she found interesting.
One or two songs that I kept on repeat throughout the month. I'm not a huge music person, but there's often an album or specific song that I just keep returning to throughout the month. I'll share that here!

Inspiration: This is definitely something that Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner has perfected. I find so many new songs through her monthly recaps! My picks will never be as cool as hers nor could I ever create an entire playlist, but I still think it will be fun to include a little music in my recap.
A movie, a TV show, a single episode, a YouTube video... I'm addicted to TV, can accidentally get sucked into a YouTube black hole, and am always looking for a great new movie. It'll be fun to showcase something that struck my fancy each month.

Inspiration: I remember when Jen from Pop! Goes the Reader included television in her year-end recap. I loved the idea! And it's not in her recaps, but I also love whenever Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner highlights Netflix in her New to the Queue feature.
The books I bought, was gifted or was given for review that month. This really won't change from how I've always done it in my monthly recaps. I decided to put it at the end of the post, however, since it tends to be pretty picture heavy. It may occasionally be in vlog form instead.

Inspiration: After doing a few weeks of Stacking the Shelves in 2013, I decided to just include this information in my monthly recap post. So, this section was obviously inspired by that meme.

What do you look for or include in monthly recaps?
Are there any recaps you look forward to reading each month?

Behind Closed Doors

Jun 25, 2014

Someone Else's Skin by Sarah Hilary

Release Date:
 June 24, 2014
Publisher: Penguin | Penguin Books
Pages: 416 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; Paperback
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Five years ago, a shocking and bloody crime left Detective Inspector Marnie Rome’s parents dead. Not even her partner, Detective Sergeant Noah Jake, knows much about Marnie’s past. Though as one of the few gay officers on the force, Noah’s not one to over-share about his private life either.

By chance, Marnie and Noah are at the domestic violence shelter when Hope Proctor stabs her husband, Leo. It should be an open and shut case of self-defense, but none of the eight witnesses tells quite the same story. And the question remains: How did Leo get into the secure building? As the violence spirals, Marnie finds herself drawn into a place where the past casts long shadows and she must tread carefully to survive. 

Thoughts on Someone Else's Skin
When I accepted the review copy for Someone Else's Skin, I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into. I didn't really read the summary that closely, but I'd enjoyed several of the thrillers I'd read recently from Penguin so I decided to give it a shot.

Honestly, I don't think I've ever felt so torn about a book before! I always mark a book as read on Goodreads as soon as a finish, as well as give it my initial star rating. With Someone Else's Skin, I actually had to leave the rating blank because I was so undecided on how I wanted to rate it. Before I go into why, let me give you a little background on this book.

Someone Else's Skin is the first book in a brand-new crime series, and it introduces Detective Marnie Rome and her partner, Detective Sergeant Noah Jake. There are three main storylines in this book:
  1. Marnie's parents died five years earlier in a shocking and bloody crime. The book opens with a flashback to that scene when Marnie realizes that something bad has happened to her family. The shocking part of the story is who killed them, which is slowly revealed in Someone Else's Skin. But the big question is why?
  2. The next storyline is what initially brings Marnie and Noah to a domestic violence shelter. A man has had his hand cut off, and everyone is pretty positive about who did it. The only problem? There's no proof to convict him. Marnie and Noah are hoping that the man's sister, who is hiding out at the shelter, will agree to testify against him since she has witnessed his violence firsthand.
  3. Finally, Marnie and Noah arrive at the shelter right as Hope Proctor, a woman staying there, has stabbed her husband, Leo. The case should be open and shut since it appeared to be self-defense, but details aren't adding up. How was Leo able to get in, and why are the witnesses all telling slightly different stories?
Of these three stories, I had no real issues with the first two. The truth about who killer her parents is slowly revealed, and you begin to understand just how complicated and shocking their murder was for Marnie. This is the one storyline that isn't really resolved by the end of the book, and I suspect it's because it will be a thread throughout the series. Marnie's past certainly contributes to who she is today, and I think Hilary will be slow to reveal all the layers of this story. 

The second storyline, which initially seemed like it was going to be the driving one in the book, is mostly resolved by the end. Based on the way I read the ending, I don't think Hilary has to return to those characters unless she wants to flesh it out a bit more. This story remained mostly on the back burner throughout the book, and it wasn't the most pressing mystery. Since they were pretty confident about who needed to be charged, the only thing that was really up in the air was whether they'd be able to convict him.

And then there's the last storyline. Honestly, I didn't suspect that this storyline was going to be nearly as dark and as twisted as it ended up being. Since all of the women are at a domestic violence shelter, it's important to note that physical and sexual assault does play a role in each of their stories. However, there is one character in particular who just made my stomach hurt. Personally, there were so many things in this book that just made me really uncomfortable. I think thrillers and mysteries to an extent, but I try to avoid ones that are really graphic because I just don't want those images in my mind. Unfortunately, I didn't really see it coming with this book until it was kind of too late. At that point, I was curious enough about the main characters that I wanted to continue and see how it ended.

So, here's why I'm so torn on Someone Else's Skin: it's a well-written and gripping story, but it was way too twisted and graphic (at times) for my personal preference. For example, I've read and really enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but I won't read Sharp Objects or Dark Places because I know they'll be too much for me. If you're the kind of reader who finds those type of stories fascinating, then I would recommend this book to you. But if you're more like me, I'd have a hard time telling you to read this one without cautioning you a bit first. 

I liked Marnie and Noah, and I was certainly interested in Marnie's backstory. I enjoyed the way certain pieces of this puzzle fell into place, and I thought it was a compelling read. The pacing kept me moving through the book quickly, and I was curious about how it was all going to end. But my stomach hurt while I was reading it, and I did have to kind of skip over certain scenes. 

So, I'm actually not going to include a rating with my review. It was a well-written book, but I found it too disturbing to really recommend it. I personally didn't guess what the twist was going to be, but I also don't read this genre extensively so I don't know if other readers would see it coming. Either way, the writing, pacing and main characters are deserving of four stars, but I didn't really "enjoy" this book enough to rate it that way. But someone who gravitates to darker and more twisted mysteries should consider giving this book a shot!

So Quotable
"She fights him. She's not this person. She won't be this person - the one who collapses and weeps at the roadside, who can't take the knock on the door, who falls and never gets back up again. The victim. She won't be the victim."

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

Are These Covers #Trending?

Jun 24, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

I chose to go with "cover trends" instead of just cover elements that I like, but I have no idea if these are actual trends. To try and pretend that they are, I think every book I've chosen has been published within the last year. Some of the trends may be a stretch, but just go with it. Haha!

Top Ten Book Cover Trends I Like

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Snow in May by Kseniya Melnik
Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
The Falconer by Elizabeth May
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Sourcebooks)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Aladdin)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Puffin in Bloom)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Vintage Children's)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith
Blue Lily, Blue Lily by Maggie Stiefvater
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Where Can I Find You?

Jun 23, 2014

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Release Date:
 April 15, 2014
Publisher: Hachette | Poppy
Pages: 337 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too. 

Thoughts on The Geography of You and Me
I really loved Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, and I liked This Is What Happy Looks Like. Since I didn't fall crazy in love with the second book, I wasn't rushing out to read The Geography of You and Me. When I got an email from NetGalley about the opportunity to read the book, I jumped at the chance. It seemed like the perfect way for me to give this book a shot!

Lucy and Owen meet in an elevator when they get stuck on it together during the New York City blackout. Things are a little awkward at first, especially because the situation is nerve-wracking and tense. Once they're rescued, they end up spending the rest of the evening together. They wander the streets and admire the stars from the rooftop of their building. All in all, it's a romantic evening. But the power comes back on, and life resumes as normal. Lucy finds out she's moving overseas with her family, and Owen takes a cross-country trip with his father. They're separated, but they're never far from one another's mind.

So, this had all the makings of a fantastic story: a meet cute, two interesting characters, family dilemmas, travel... But something just felt off to me. I couldn't help comparing this book to Just One Day and Just One Year - another story where the couple spends on day together before being separated. While the circumstances are very different in that story, my mind kept drawing a connection between the two and this book just paled in comparison. I was so invested in those characters and that love story, even though I sometimes struggle with books where there's supposed to be an "instant connection" that binds two people after just hours together.

The initial meeting with Lucy and Owen is adorable, yes, but I didn't completely feel the chemistry. I mean, they spend the majority of the book apart, so I wanted it to be more believable that they'd spend so much of that time wishing they could be with one another. The love story seemed so undeveloped to me! They somewhat keep in contact, but they also live their own lives and begin writing new stories with other people. They continue thinking about each other, but I never felt like there was this big pull between them. I could see how they remained curious about one another, and I did appreciate that it wasn't supposed to be an instant love story - it was just that connection that had the potential to lead to more. But personally, I didn't feel invested in their reunion.

Another layer to this story is Lucy's relationship with her parents and Owen's relationship with his father. I always appreciate when family plays an important role in a YA book, and I've come to expect that with Smith's stories. She seems to always include a storyline that involves family, and I really like that element. In some ways, I felt like the family stories somewhat overshadowed the romance in The Geography of You and Me. I think the only reason that kind of bothered me is because the title and summary seem to promise this adorable love story, and that wasn't really my takeaway from the book.

The Geography of You and Me was cute, and I did like it. But it didn't have that "wow!" factor for me. I read it in one evening, so I did move through it quickly. I liked the variety of places that Lucy and Owen visit because I can't resist anything involving travel. Smith's writing was lovely, and I highlighted a number of quotes. But, in the end, I wished I connected a little more to the love story or that the characters hadn't spent quite so much time apart. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight remains my favorite, but I did enjoy the overall themes of this book!

So Quotable
“But there's no such thing as a completely fresh start. Everything new arrives on the heels of something old, and every beginning comes at the cost of an ending.”
*I received a copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for review consideration. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

Learn to Face Your Pain

Jun 20, 2014

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Macmillan | Bloomsbury Children's Bookss
Pages: 464 pages
Source & Format:
Series: Throne of Glass #0.1-0.5
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin's Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas - together in one edition for the first time - Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn's orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

Thoughts on The Assassin's Blade
I never expected to fall in love with Throne of Glass the way that I did. I'd read some lukewarm reviews of it before I picked it up, but I was intrigued enough by the summary and spurred on by Alexa's love for them. I ended up finding a new favorite series in the process, so I'm so glad that I gave them a shot! While I can see how this series wouldn't work for everyone, it was a total home run for me. I went straight from Throne of Glass into Crown of Midnight, and DANG. Maas totally stepped up her game in the second book! I thought the first was really good, but the second book took me to fangirl status.

When I heard about the e-novellas, I went straight ahead and bought them for my Kindle. For some reason, I didn't read them right away... and then came the news that they were being printed into this stunning hardcover! I bought that book the instant it came out, and it definitely didn't take me long to read it. The stories in The Assassin's Blade take place before the events in Throne of Glass, but you don't have to read these to understand what's going on in that book. While some people dislike these "extras," I love having the option to read more from my favorite world if I want. I don't like when the novellas are necessary to understand something in the full-length book, but I love when they flesh something out or expand upon a storyline that was deserving of more attention.

For me, The Assassin's Blade was the perfect example of how these novellas, when done right, can just make me fall more in love with a world or character. There are five stories contained in The Assassin's Blade:
  • The Assassin and the Pirate Lord
  • The Assassin and the Healer
  • The Assassin and the Desert
  • The Assassin and the Underworld
  • The Assassin and the Empired
The five stories build upon one another and are in chronological order. They're complete stories in their own right, but they do tie really nicely together. I so appreciated getting some background on Celaena! You see her as an assassin and witness her skills more in this book than you do in Throne of Glass, which I know is one common complaint about that first book. There's no denying that she's a force to be reckoned with in this world! That being said, you also see her vulnerability and her pride. It's the pride that sometimes causes Celaena to stumble - she overlooks obvious threats, makes careless errors, etc. And yet, I liked that quality. It adds a complexity and realness to her because she is, after still a teenager.

You also meet Sam in these stories, and that thread throughout the five stories was probably my favorite. I loved him so much! Maas certainly knows how to write swoonworthy boys, and they're all so different from one another. I loved the bickering between him and Celaena, and I'm so glad their interaction was such an important part of this book.

Honestly, I loved everything about The Assassin's Blade! It actually makes my list of favorite books so far in 2014, which totally surprised me. I knew I'd love anything Maas wrote, but I didn't expect the novellas to feel like such a complete book in their own right. I'm glad I got to see how Celaena became the skilled woman that I've come to know and love in the later books. And, as I said in my comments on the book in my Top Ten Tuesday post, "each story shows you an aspect of Celaena's past that had led to her present and will likely influence her future." That's a total win for me!

So Quotable
"Let me give you a bit of advice," [Celaena] said bitterly, "from one working girl to another: Life isn't easy, no matter where you are. You'll make choices you think are right, and then suffer for them."

Kick FeedBurner to the Curb!

Jun 19, 2014

The FeedBurner Glory Days
When I started blogging, one of the first things I did was set up FeedBurner. I didn't even understand what I was doing, but I'd seen a post about how important it was for your blog. It was a pretty simple process if I remember correctly, and things went smoothly for a while. Then, in December 2012, Google announced that they would no longer be supporting FeedBurner. They weren't getting rid of it completely, but they were basically abandoning it. 

When FeedBurner Fails
In the last few months, I've noticed that my FeedbBurner stats were all over the place. I wasn't getting an accurate subscriber count. It would be really high one day, and then it would plummet the next. It would typically sort itself out within a few days, but it always worried me. It was actually Shae's "PSA: Abandon FeedBurner" post that gave me the push I needed to make the change. FeedBurner dropped hundreds of her email subscribers! I know, I had a heart attack just reading her story. She talks a little bit about her chosen solution, so I thought I'd highlight mine. 

Finding FeedPress 
In my research, I kept coming across FeedPress. The reviews for it sounded really great, and I liked that there was both a free and a premium version. I decided to start with the free version, but I'm definitely intrigued by the upgrade. If you go that route, it's $3 per month or save by paying just $30 for a year. UPDATE 7.2.14: FeedPress now only offers a premium version for new customers.

You can check out the features of FeedPress pro versus free, as well as see how it compares to FeedBurner, in a chart on this page of their website. Honestly, I was sold because it seemed so easy to transfer everything. I'm not terrible with computers, but I get nervous about things like this! Thankfully, the process was simple.

From FeedBurner to FeedPress
Before you get started: Log in to FeedBurner and export your FeedBurner email subscriber list. Here's a great tutorial if you don't know how. It'll be a CSV file, which you'll need when you get started with FeedPress.

Signing up for FeedPress: First, sign up for FeedPress. It takes two seconds to create an account! It just asks for:

Now, you're ready to get started!
These steps come from the official FeedPress migration tutorial.

1. Create the feed on FeedPress. 
Once you've signed up with FeedPress, you'll either be prompted to create your feed or you'll need to go to the feed creation page. Here's what the form looks like that you'll fill in:
** For current feed URL, you must use your original feed address - not the Feedburner one! **

You'll choose an alias - I just did the name of my blog. FeedPress will let you know if it's a valid feed and if your alias is available by highlighting the boxes in green.

Although it's not pictured in the first screenshot, there was an option here to import email subscribers. This is where your list from FeedBurner is important! Follow the instructions by uploading the CSV file you downloaded earlier. Then, click "Add the Feed."

2. Site configuration for the feed.
So, you want to make sure that your feed is also configured for your site.

If you're using Wordpress: Install the WordPress FeedPress plugin. It does all the hard work for you!

If you're using Blogger: From your Blogger dashboard, go to "Settings" in the left-hand menu and then navigate to the "Other" section. In the "Site feed" section, you'll want to fill in the "Post Feed Redirect URL" field with the new FeedPress URL that you just created.

If you're using Tumblr, SquareSpace, etc.: Check the official FeedPress migration tutorial.

3. Disable the FeedBurner feed.
Okay, this is the scary part. It's easy - but it's totally nerve-wracking. Well, it was for me at least.

WARNING: Make sure that you have exported your email subscribers in a CSV file before you continue this process. They have to be uploaded to FeedPress separately (not automatically redirected). You should have done this when you were creating the feed, but just in case it's worth repeating.

Also, click "Edit Feed Details" to check that the original feed URL is the one that you want. It must match the one you used when you were creating your FeedPress feed.

See the original feed field? That's what needs to match whatever you put in the "Your current feed URL" field in step one. Check to see if they match. I also copied my FeedBurner feed URL so that I could test to make sure it was redirecting once I was done.

Once you've done that, you're going to click "Delete Feed." 

You feel like you're going to throw up a little bit, right? Go to your FeedBurner homepage after clicking delete, and validate that the feed is permanently redirecting to source feed. It'll look something like this:

Now, test it by going to the URL of your old FeedBurner feed. It should redirect to your domain, which then redirects to FeedPress. It'll probably be so fast you don't even notice!

That's it!

A note about your subscriber count after the switch:
Immediately after making the update, I logged in to FeedPress to check my subscriber count. I saw my email subscribers (from the CSV file that I'd uploaded) - but there were no RSS subscribers. Telling myself that it would probably take a few hours, I logged off and decided to check back later. 

I made the switch on Saturday afternoon, but I didn't see my RSS subscriber count update until Monday morning. I'm not sure if it's because I didn't publish anything new over the weekend or if just takes closer to 36 hours for everything to get pulled in. Either way, don't panic if you don't see your RSS subscribers right away. If you know you followed all of the instructions, everything should sort itself out pretty quickly. 

The numbers may not exactly match FeedBurner, but they should be really close. I've noticed my FeedPress numbers are actually better - more proof FeedBurner really was all over the place.

In the meantime, what should you do next?

Update link to "RSS Feed" in sidebar.
Although FeedBurner was configured to redirect everything to the right place, I went ahead and updated anywhere on my blog that linked to my FeedBurner feed URL. For example, I've got "RSS Feed" in my blog's sidebar.

If you have something similar on yours, find the FeedBurner URL and replace it with your new FeedPress URL! This was really easy, and I liked knowing that visitors to my blog would be able to go right to my new feed without any issues.

Remove Blogger "Follow By Email" widget.
If you're on Blogger, you might have the "Follow by Email" widget installed. Because it's a Blogger widget, it's only set up to pull from a FeedBurner URL. You've imported email subscribers into FeedPress, but you don't want new subscribers to sign up for the wrong thing!

Just go into the "Layout" section, click to edit the widget and just select remove. Don't worry! FeedPress makes it possible to add a "Subscribe by Email" option to your blog.

Get FeedPress email "signup form" HTML.

When you're logged into FeedPress, go to the "Newsletter" tab and select "Signup form." In the black box, you'll see the HTML code you need to add an email subscription option to your sidebar. Copy this so you can then...

If you're doing this in Blogger, you'll just click to add the HTML/JavaScript wide and paste the code you copied above into this box. Type something in the title field if you want one, and then click save.
You're done! Blog readers will now be able to enter their email address to subscribe to your posts.

Review FeedPress email newsletter settings.
When you're logged into FeedPress, go to the "Newsletter" tab and select "Send settings" from the drop-down menu. If you scroll down to the bottom of that page, you'll see the options pictured above. You can change your timezone, newsletter sending time and how often you want the email to send (daily, weekly, or monthly).
I originally checked "Daily," but I noticed that my email was only sent out on Monday. I logged back in, selected "Weekly" and realized you could select days of the week. I checked every day and then selected "Daily" from the drop-down. I haven't had a problem with it since then!

Once a new post publishes, check your feed, Bloglovin' and Feedly.
You shouldn't have any problems, but I checked the feed URL after a post had published. I also looked at Feedly (which pulled pulled the new post as soon as it published) and Bloglovin' (which usually has some lag time before the new post hits) just to be sure.

Voilá! You've transferred from FeedBurner to FeedPress.
© So Obsessed With • Theme by Maira G.