Coffee Talk: The State of Things

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Things have been a little quiet around here lately.

When I first started this blog, I felt like I had to post CONSTANTLY or no one would ever read my blog or know what I thought about a book or some other kind of crazy thing. Plus I was just reading SO MUCH and I had enough content.

After a while (a long while, to be sure) I slowed down. I didn’t feel like the world would end if I read some books and didn’t review them or if I didn’t stick to a reading schedule or if I only posted once a week. I didn’t seem to lose anything from that.

Now I’m a little more than two years in. I’m coming off a reading slump that turned into only reading incredibly long books that I didn’t even plan on reviewing that turned into either getting out of the habit of reviewing/blogging or maybe just a blogging slump? I’m reading a TON (review books, even!), but I have zero motivation to talk about the books or get pumped over them – even when I really like everything I’ve been reading lately. I’m not even linking up my TTTs when I do them! I don’t even know who I am.

Is it the terrible twos? Is that a thing in blogging or is it only children and puppies? I paid for another year of my domain in February and even more recently registered and booked travel accommodations for ALA Annual and it seems like I immediately lost all interest in blogging. Well…blogging about books. At this point I feel obligated to do it because I paid for my blog and the conference, and I really hate that feeling.

I hope to get my groove back and get excited to talk about books again. In the meantime, I’m considering going back to a “not my blog name” twitter because the only book/blog related things I ever tweet about are blog posts pretty much and my blogging slump makes me feel like distancing myself from Paperback Heart.

Anyway. This post is an apology to anyone who’s noticed my half-assery and for the extremely probable future half-assery. And for this gif because I haven’t been able to use it yet:

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books From My Childhood I Would Love to Revisit

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This week, The Broke and the Bookish is asking for the Top Ten books from our teen or childhood years we would love to revisit.

 

1. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – BECAUSE ALWAYS THE WESTING GAME

2. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – this is the first book I can remember breaking my heart.

3. Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey – this is a books I own that is 1) amazing and 2) packed away in a box in a closet somewhere. I keep meaning to dig it out so I can share it with the kids in my life.

4. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – this one is kind of a cheat because I’ve re-read the series several times and I’m about to start an audio re-read of the series. What I really wish is that I could revisit the first time I tried to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because I DIDN’T LIKE IT. I wonder how different my experience would have been if I started the series at 11 instead of 15 or 16.

5. The Babysitter’s Club books (and possibly the spin-offs) by Ann M. Martin – THESE BOOKS. These books were how I made friends and how I spent all of my time and any spending money that came my way. We played BSC at recess and lunch and were basically huge weirdos but OMG THESE BOOKS

6. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – the only required reading in high school I actually liked (and possibly even the only required reading I actually did).

7. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty – I probably read this book three times in a row before ultimately stealing it from the person I borrowed it from.

8. Girl by Blake Nelson – The only other book I can remember reading as a youngling.

9. Oh wait, David Sedaris – But I don’t know that I really want to revisit those. Nothing wrong with them, I just read Me Talk Pretty One Day and Naked several time and short stories stay in my head.

10. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins – Made the rounds my senior year of high school (we even watched the movie).

ARC Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Title/Author: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Publication Date/Publisher: April 7, 2015/Balzer + Bray
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 4 stars

From Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

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For how close SVTHSA (?) comes to being holy freaking annoying, it luckily blazes straight past and into the realm of good.
Actually, it teeters right on the edge most of the time. Simon’s family is almost too zany. His friends are almost too diverse. Simon is almost too adorable and everything works out almost too well. Luckily, the story is cute and fun enough that things never topple over the edge.
I like this one a lot. I think it’s a very modern take on dating – people are now (and have been for years I guess, but it’s probably more now?) in relationships with people they’ve never met and that take place solely online. In this case, Simon and Blue go to the same school but they are keeping their identities a secret. In the age of okcupid, tinder, and “the tumblr”, I thought it was all very realistic.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

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This week, The Broke and the Bookish is asking for the Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR. How is it seasonal TBR time again already?!

 

1. Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley – billed as Stardust meets The Fault in Our Stars (really, they can’t just let that one die out?) and catching my eye with that gorgeous cover!

2. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – I didn’t love Cruel Beauty, but I liked it enough to be interested in this Red Riding Hood retelling.

3. Scarlet Trilogy by A.C. Gaughen – receiving Lion Heart from the publisher is the final push I need to finally read this series!

4. Fairest by Marissa Meyer – yes, I pre-ordered. No, I haven’t read it yet (infinite sad faces).

5. The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher – Everything about this sounds perfect!

6. Kissing in America by Margo Rabb – You know I love a road trip story!

7. The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill – I have plans to read this one super early because there is not enough marching band in YA.

8. Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider – I’m a bit iffy on this one, honestly. I’m worried about the terminal illness + love = too close to The Fault in Our Stars.

9. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Another early read this year but COME ON!

10. Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu – One of my next reads, so at least I’ll be able to cross one of the list for sure.

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

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Title/Author: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Publication Date/Publisher: February 24, 2015/Tor Books
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic  #1
Source and Format: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
From Goodreads:
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

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If any of these are buzzwords that will make you pick up a book: magic, fantasy, adventure, London, multidimensional, and coat-that-is-probably-related-to-the-TARDIS, then you’ve probably already read this book. If you haven’t already read it, then it’s probably coming up real soon.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw the love and flailing and I’m happy to say that I’m throwing my vaguely pirate-y hat in with the rest to sing the praises of A Darker Shade of Magic. My only negative is that it’s not an infinitely long book (though there are at least two more, even though it’s also perfect as a standalone).

I LOVED the magic. I loved that there were rules and they were easy to grasp and stayed true. I SUPER LOVED the coat and wish it had more to do. I love Kell and Lila, though I’m not quite on their ship. All my swooniest feels came from Lila knowing herself and being brave and confident and wanting adventure.
I can’t even tell if I hope the series continues with Lila and Kell or if I want to meet new characters and have adventures with them because these worlds are so great and ripe for limitless adventures and just….amazing. I guess it’s high time to move The Archived up on the ol’ TBR…
If you don’t trust my gushing, maybe Shaq can convince you:
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ARC Review: Liars, Inc.

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Title/Author: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes
Publication Date/Publisher: March 24, 2015/Harper Teen
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Rating: 3 stars

From Goodreads:

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called “Captivating to the very end,” Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

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You could probably hear the exact minute I finished this book. It was the “eeeehhhhhhhhhhh” heard ’round the world.

Liars, Inc. is not without mystery and suspense – it opens with Max making his escape from the FBI – but it just never completely clicked with me. Maybe I thought more of the focus would actually be on Liars, Inc. (the underground high school forgery group Max forms with his best friend and girlfriend) and not the disappearance/murder of Max’s best friend? I’m not sure. I was also able to guess the biggest part of the ending, which I can almost never do, so I was proud but also lost a little of the enjoyment.

I’m not entirely sure why this didn’t quiiiiite work for me. Paula Stokes did a great job with the male POV and kept me guessing for most of the book. I couldn’t connect with Max like I could with Lainey, or it’s possible a suspenseful thriller mystery wasn’t what I was looking for right now.
Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, How to Get Away with Murder: I’m only familiar with the first two and, okay sure. I mean, there aren’t many popular books most Young Adults will be familiar with I guess so these two are acceptable. At least they didn’t somehow work John Green and Eleanor & Park into it.

ARC Review: The Start of Me and You

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Title/Author: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Publication Date/Publisher: March 31, 2015/Bloomsbury
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher for taking part in an Open Road Summer promotion. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Rating: 4 stars
From Goodreads:
Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

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(Written in September 2014, in case I didn’t make it clear enough.)
I feel weird writing this review. I read this book in September 2014, when I still had 25 September 2014 review books to read. The heart wants what the heart wants, and my heart needed some Emery Lord. Since I gave up my review schedule, it’s technically “allowed”, but I will admit to feeling a little guilty and overwhelmed. This is the first time I’ve strayed so far.
I was initially disappointed with The Start of Me and You because I was craving Open Road Summer 2: The Opener, Roadier Summer. Once I got a feel for What the Book Really Was vs. What My Expectations Were, I enjoyed it a lot more. The only thing keeping this from being 5 stars for me is not really a huge thing, but it’s the thing driving Paige through the whole book: the boyfriend’s death. Certified Old Person reporting for duty.
Paige and Aaron had only been together for like two months when he drowned after accidentally falling into a lake. The Start of Me and You takes place during the school year leading up to the second anniversary of his death, and Paige is still letting it be the thing that defines her. She thinks it’s how other people define her, but it doesn’t really seem like it. So my whole (tiny-ish) issue is that Paige straight up says she didn’t even know Aaron that well, and that she’s come to terms with his death and is ready to date, but everything she does is about moving on from his death and becoming someone who is not The-Girlfriend-of-the-Dead-Boy.
Enough about all that. I didn’t find The Start of Me and You to be super swoony, but a good, realistic look at friendship becoming something more. Actually, just friendship in general. Paige makes new and unexpected friends, but her tight foursome remains in tact – even with fighting! I loved the girls together, and I looooved they way they were all brought into the new, larger group.
I flew through this one. After a few chunksters in a row, The Start of Me and You was a breath of fresh, contemporary air. The references to so many of my favorite things (FIREFLYYYY) plus one little sneaky bit are so fun. But it was weird to me that Paige is super into TV and wants to be a writer FOR TV but doesn’t worship at the altar of Joss Whedon. Like…girl. Look at your life, look at your choices.

Paperback Recap: February 2015

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I took a lot of time off from blogging and reading in February, but I did a lot of other cool stuff so I guess it’s okay. I booked my hotel for ALA, so it’s feeling extra official now! I went to the outdoor Sharks game and Stockton Thunder game and crossed a lot of things off my 30 Before 30 finally!

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Favorite Books in February:
I read 16 books in February. My favorite non-rereads were The Quintana of Charyn, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the first two books of Saga.

Favorite Movie/TV in February: I’ve been renting DVDs from the library and watching all the movies I missed over the last couple of years. I finally watched Frozen! And The Veronica Mars movie – which I LOVED and I want so much more.

Favorite Musical Discovery in February: Ummm none I think.

Favorite PR of February:  This was another big month of PRs. The Crossfit Open started at the end of the month and I completed the first workout in a five week series.

  • Back Squat: 3RM #235//5RM #210. My “current” 1RM is #230, so I think I have #250 in me.
  • Front Squat: 1RM #205 – I finally got out of my #195 funk and broke 200!
  • Push Press 3RM: #125
  • Clean: #133
  • Power Clean and Jerk: #138
  • ANNIE: 8:07 RX

Top Blog Thing in February:  OTSP Secret Sister is so much fun and I loved what my secret sister sent me and it seems like

Top Blog Search Terms in February: several variations of “hot guys with scars” which is really weird to me.

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From 15.1A – 6 minutes to establish a 1RM clean and jerk (after a 9 minute AMRAP). I thought I PRed with #137, but I just realized that #138 is my newish max and I didn’t beat it.

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From the Stockton Thunder game on Valentine’s Day. I’m watching someone get proposed to in a pretty cute but cheesy way in this photo.

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At the Sharks game at Levi’s Stadium. Obviously not a great outcome for the Sharks, but it was such a great experience and definitely something I’ll remember forever.

Mini Reviews

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Title/Author: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Publication Date/Publisher: February 10, 2015/Balzer + Bray
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 3 stars

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

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Didn’t relate to the characters or really feel the struggle or depression. Overall, I DID like it but based on the other reviews I saw, I thought it would for sure be a 5 star bawl my eyes out read.

 

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Title/Author: Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers
Publication Date/Publisher: February 10, /Bloomsbury Childrens
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 2 stars

 

From Goodreads:

The Competition:

Outlandishly wealthy Grandmother VanDemere has decided to leave her vast fortune to the family member who proves him or herself worthiest-by solving puzzles and riddles on a whirlwind race around the globe, from the mines of Venezuela to the castles of Scotland. There will be eight competitors, three continents . . . and a prize worth millions.

The Players:

Seventeen-year-old Avery is the black sheep of the VanDemere clan, the ostracized illegitimate daughter. Finally, she has a chance to prove herself . . . and to discover the truth about her long-lost mother.

Marshall might be Avery’s uncle, but there’s no love lost between the two of them. He’s her main competition, and he’ll do anything to win-including betray his own children.

Riley is the handsome son of Grandmother VanDemere’s lawyer. As the game progresses, Avery falls hard for Riley. Suddenly, losing the game might mean losing him, too.

As the competition takes treacherous turns, it becomes clear there can only be one victor. Who can Avery truly trust? And is winning worth her life?

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National Treasure meets Rat Race or The Amazing Race or probably some other kind of race. The writing was incredibly meh to the point where I thought the love interest was the most obviously shady character ever written. I wanted more a The Westing Game feel, but I always want everything to have more of a The Westing Game feel.

This is probably an issue like one other person will have – but I did not really enjoy the grandmother having my name. I have a fairly unique name so it’s SO WEIRD for me to see it like that. I talk about this more in my You Look Different in Real Life review, but I don’t know if like Megan’s and Sarah’s (for example) have this problem because their names are/were very common. JUSTINE has always meant ME so it was…weird.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Books in the Last 2 Years

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This week, The Broke and the Bookish is asking for the Top Ten Books We Would Consider Our Favorites in the Last 3 Years. To make it easier for myself, I’m only doing the last 2 years, because I have a super handy excel spreadsheet to look at instead of slogging through goodreads.

1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – JONAH GRIGGS

2. Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness – I’m cheating and doing several series on this list. Choas Walking is a surprising addition in my mind, because of how hard it was for me to read. I DNF’ed The Knife of Never Letting Go on like page 3 the first time around.

3. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid/Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer – Sorry to squeeze you in together, adult books, but you both became super important to me over the last two years and I had to make you both fit.

4. The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant – I read this series twice in once year because it’s that super amazing.

5. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley – I still got a lot of feels in my re-read, especially about Til The Heart Caves In by Michael Zavros and the horse tumlbing bits.

6. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay – I read this in July 2014 and my heart still hurts from it.

7. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

9. MAGGIE STIEFVATER – I couldn’t pick between The Scorpio Races and The Raven Cycle (and maybe even Sinner because I’m pretty sure Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpeper are my OTP, or at least tied with Gansey and Glendower).

10. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer/Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor – I’m bad at top ten lists but hate going over. I feel like these are some of the best representations of sci-fi/fantasy in YA, with Meyer’s fairy tale retellings and Taylor’s beyond gorgeous writing.