Saturday, July 30, 2016

Challenges Accepted: ARC August and Pokemon Indigo League

I have signed up for two reading challenges starting in August, and I AM SO EXCITED. Not only do I have a ridiculous amount of ARCs to read, but I looove participating in reading challenges. And these two are gonna be so fun! :D

*****

1. Pokemon Indigo League Reading Challenge 
(August 14th - September 4th)
And it's hosted by the amazing Aentee @ Read at Midnight. Check out the link to get all the deets about it since it's too hard for me to explain here. :p Also this image was made by Aentee.

1. Boulder Badge (first in series)

2. Cascade Badge (book that might make you cry)
*basically basing this on how much I sobbed during ATBP. haha*

3. Thunder Badge (hyped book)

4. Rainbow Badge (diversity)

5. Soul Badge (epic romance)
*not sure if this one has an epic romance but I'm also not sure what else to put here yet!*

6. Marsh Badge (fantasy or supernatural elements, magical realism)

7. Flame Badge (red cover)

8. Earth Badge (post-apocalyptic Earth)

For some of these, I wanted a few more options just in case my mood doesn't want to read what I've picked. Some can also fit more than one badge, and I might read others not listed that can count toward the challenge, so by the end of this readathon, this might change. But for the most part, I want to read THESE books. And I REALLY hope to get this challenge finished in 3 weeks.

I'm also going to participate in the Pokemon portion of this challenge! And I guess I am going to use my Abra for this? It's the only Pokemon I have at 10CP, and one that has an evolution as well (actually two of them). I'm probably not going to pay *too* much attention to this part, although IT IS SO FREAKING FUN. Just because I am already going to have trouble reading all of these books, and I won't have time to really go for the "battling" happening. :p

*****

2. ARC August  
My goal: 10 books!
So the books for the readathon are definitely a priority in the latter half of August! As well as these in the first half since they count for Bookish Bingo:


I also hope to read a few of these:

I'm going to try to read these ones BEFORE the Pokemon readathon starts, since that one will make up the second half of the month + a few days in September. I DEFINITELY want to get all the badges, so reading 8 books in 3 weeks *should* be easy. I am working then, though, so I'll have to make time for them. I'm also going to be finishing The Remnant Chronicles, so omg, this is going to be the most difficult month to do reading challenges in. BUT I AM READYYYYY. I AM DETERMINED TO #READTHEMALL.

*****

Are you participating in either of these challenges to? If so, link me to your posts!! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Quiet Person in a Loud World

After reading Quiet by Susan Cain, I was inspired to write about my life as an introvert and the experiences I've had over the years.

*****

Being a quiet person in a loud world is super difficult. But no one has ever understood that better than Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t stop Talking. It’s like this book was written with me in mind. I’ve never felt more understood as a person, more valued as an introvert and a quiet person, more vindicated about my personality. After living my whole life being told to speak up, to go out and socialize, to put the book down and live life, this was like a breath of a fresh air. A reminder to myself that I am who I am and that I shouldn’t have to change that. That I have power as an introvert in a world meant for extroverts. As someone who has found it hard to accept that, this book hit me so personally that I want to throw this at everyone in my life and tell them, “Want to understand me? Read this!” I actually think everyone should read it anyway, to better understand everyone, especially introverts. After all, the introvert-extrovert debate has basis in biology and the brain. It even has genetic basis. It’s not a social construct (though how you are viewed as either one of them is a byproduct of society). Therefore, it is not made-up. I’ve spent my whole life with people treating it as if it was made-up, as if it was simply my shyness, as if I just needed to set the fear of socializing aside and TALK. It is not that simple, and it is NOT as bad as people make it out to be.

Susan spent a large part of the book talking about how this world prizes extroverts over introverts. How people who have commanding presences and charismatic performances are seen as better leaders. How schools and workplaces push for group projects and teamwork because they think it makes for better productivity and makes kids who find it hard to be assertive ready for the “real world.” Because the world is not made for the quiet people, the ones who prefer the solitude of their own self to parties and events. The people who would rather work by themselves than with a group. The people who are considered less because they don’t speak up. It’s something that has become apparent to me when I was job searching. A few of the places I applied made me take a personality quiz (which lol I’m a psychology major so I know how to manipulate my answers). The problem is that they are specifically set up to make people who have mental illnesses fail. They are also set up to fail introverts (I’ve proven this by answering honestly before, and being told I’m not what they want in an employee). If you are either of these things, and you answer honestly, good luck making it past the quiz. What they are looking for: upbeat, charismatic, social people who love working in teams and who enjoy talking to customers. They want extroverts! They want people who find it easy to lead but also to follow, who love cooperation and collaboration, and who don’t ever have bad days, basically. (Coincidentally, I have a job now, but this still applied before that).

Not all introverts don’t like socializing, though. Another big thing that Susan brought up in this book is that being introverted /=/ being shy. This is something I’ve actually forgotten, but something I do know to be true. One of my friends from college calls herself an introvert with extroverted tendencies. She doesn’t have problems in social situations; she isn’t shy. But after awhile, she wants to leave, to shut the door to her room and be alone. People who are extroverted aren’t necessarily socially confident, either. It’s a spectrum, in my mind. With most people at one end or another, but who move down the line throughout life and for certain situations. My job as a bookseller is going to be involving customers. And I’m nervous and scared about that, because not only am I an introvert, but I AM shy. I find it hard to do small talk. I find it hard to speak up in group settings. A few people mentioned this during BEA week this past year, not realizing how shy I am because I seem like an extrovert on social media and through my blog. But trust me, I am. It’s something that has always felt like a weakness to me, because it does affect my relationships with people, as well as in general just trying to socialize! It doesn’t help that I am also by nature an introvert. I feel like if I could get a better grasp on the shyness, the social anxiety, then I’d feel a lot more able to appreciate social settings. Even if I need to back away for a bit to figuratively recharge the batteries, I’d know it was because I’ve had too much stimulation and not because I’m so nervous and terrified of conversation that I want to run away and hide. But I’ve come to accept being an introvert as a strength and a good quality, after years of feeling like a failure because of it. It’s just that many people see it as a weakness instead. Because they don’t understand it. 

The world does not understand what it means to be an introvert. What it means to be an introvert is being forced to work in groups in school and college when you would rather work on your own. It means stifling your creativity because the loudest voice is the one people are gonna listen to. It means quiet is seen as less confident, less assertive. It means going to parties or events with hundreds of people and wishing you were back home in your pajamas with a good book or Netflix. It means needing to step away, to have quiet solitude, because you are overstimulated and have to recharge. It means growing up being called shy and timid, and having people tell you to speak up and get more involved. It means sitting with a group of people in the lunchroom rather than sitting alone like you want because it’s more socially acceptable. It means people forcing you to grow more comfortable in group settings because they think you NEED to work with other people in order to excel in life. It means doing job applications and having to lie about your personality because they don't want you as an employee otherwise. It means people will assume you aren’t happy alone, that you are actually lonely and want company. It means people who feel bad for you if you are stuck eating dinner alone in your college cafeteria, when in reality, you don’t care how it looks. It means constantly having to defend your choices, because people think you need to go out and live your life and socialize to have fun. It means people who don’t understand why you crave solitude. 
 
Of course, like I’ve said above, this is not universal to all introverts (just like not all extroverts are the same). But these have been my experiences over the years that have really made me feel like I’m wired wrong. That I SHOULD want to spend more time with people than I do. That I should want to go out and Do Things rather than read a book or watch Netflix. I’ve had so many people who haven’t understood this. But my roommate sophomore year did. My one friend that I talked about, the introvert with extroverted tendencies, did understand. It was a good thing too, that the two of us roomed together in our 4-person suite. We had, gosh I don’t even remember what we called it now, nights where we would just do our own thing in our room. I’d read a book and she’d watch a TV show on Hulu, and we wouldn’t talk. It wasn’t awkward or weird, because the two of us understood each other in a way that only introverts get. Sometimes I’d want to know what she’s laughing about or she’d ask how my book was going, but most of it was spent in quiet solitude, but together. The roommate situation couldn’t have been more perfect in that regard. My one friend didn’t understand WHY we did this, and sometimes she’d get bored when her roommate was gone and interrupt. But I can’t be a hypocrite and say I don’t understand why she needs to be surrounded by people. Because I do, now. She’s an extrovert who NEEDS that stimulation, who can’t stand the quiet of her own company like we could. I swear that if more people understood what it means to be introverts or extroverts, then it would help relationships and it would help people understand each other better.

I’m a listener. I think before I speak (most of the time). If I’m quiet in a group setting, it’s not ALWAYS because I’m shy. I’m generally just listening and watching and absorbing all of the conversation. (I do still find it hard to be assertive because damn it, it’s hard to talk over loud people!). I like my own company. I prefer to be alone, except in social situations, because then I just feel awkward by myself. I would rather spend a Friday night at home, wearing what I’ll go to bed in and reading or Netflixing. I haven’t had many people in my life who’ve understood this. There was a quote in the book that REALLY felt like me and I want to share:

The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.

DID YOU WRITE THIS BOOK WITH ME IN MIND, SUSAN? Haha. I would guess many bloggers I know as well would be able to relate to this. I feel like so many of us (authors included) ARE introverts. I feel like I’ve heard many of you say it over the years. It helps, knowing that I am not alone, that there are many people out there who DO understand what it’s like being an introvert in a world made for extroverts. In a world where the loudest person is the one seen as the most confident, the most assertive, the most able to lead. Where quiet is viewed as a weakness, a hindrance, rather than a strength. But it’s MY strength. It’s not a weakness; it’s not something that needs to be fixed. And it’s not something that should be looked down upon. That is what I think Susan Cain was trying to get at with this book. More understanding and giving introverts back the power that people think they don’t have because they’re quiet.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Thoughts on the Vampire Academy Series

YES, I AM FINALLY "REVIEWING" THESE BOOKS. I finished Last Sacrifice in May and only now just got around to posting this. It also took me a long time to read this series. I had started Frostbite way back in March, I think, and then didn't read the next few books until April. I tried so hard to finish the series before BEA, since my friend Mary had bribed me with fanfiction for that. But that, um, didn't happen. (THOUGH I AM STILL WAITING ON THAT FAN FIC, MARY. :D). I ended up finishing this series at the very end of May. And on the whole, I really enjoyed the books! And I definitely wanted to talk about the series on the blog, so here we are! :)



*****
 *Minor spoilers!

The Main Character
Rose is AWESOME. She can be reckless, and she can be so incredibly stubborn, and she has a problem with authority figures. BUT I did love her character. I think it’s great that she’s a sexually confident female who is not only physically strong, but who also lets herself feel things and have romance. And even against the odds, she wouldn’t give up or back down, and I loved that hardships made her more determined to LIVE. She does make some choices I didn’t agree with, and sometimes I wanted her to just stop and THINK. But you know what? She goes through MAJOR growth throughout this series! And you can totally tell, which I think is super important, especially in a series. Also, her sarcasm gives me life.

The Romances
Rose and Dimitri: I’m sorry, but I don’t get them. I find Dimitri boring af, and I have suuuch an issue with student/teacher relationships that I couldn’t ship them. Throughout the series, their relationship does grow and change as they grow and change, and I DO see that. But it had developed too quickly for me in the first book, and I couldn’t really believe they loved each other until the last, like, two. And sometimes, they still seem not that compatible to me. Plus Dimitri just never appealed to me.

Rose and Adrian: I LOVE Adrian, like a lot. And I think I latched onto their romance possibility BECAUSE I didn’t ship her and Dimitri. But throughout their short relationship, I wanted them to just become friends again. It was adorable, and I think Rose really needed it at the time. But by the end, the chemistry they’d had while they bantered in the earlier books just like vanished, and I was over it. SO I wish she wouldn’t have actually cheated on him to get there, but UGH. I don’t want to like hate her for it, but she hurt Adrian badly. And I didn’t think it was completely necessary, and that she could have chosen to be honest to him about her feelings.

The Secondary Characters
Lissa and Christian: I LOVE THESE TWO! I loved that the last couple of books brought them into focus more than the earlier ones. I kind of only shipped them as a couple. Also the female friendship between Lissa and Rose? MY FAVORITE. ADORED. They were there for each other through everything, and I loved that. Not sure how I feel about a certain aspect of Last Sacrifice. It’s kind of weird! But I also think it will be good for the girls, and that they both REALLY understand each other in a way they haven’t before, after all they’ve been through.

Abe, Eddie, and Sydney: these three were my faves of the secondary characters! Abe is hilarious, dangerous, but also definitely has a set of morals and a heart somewhere deep down inside. Eddie was such a great guardian and friend to the group, and I’m really nervous about him after that ending! And ah, Sydney. She could be brutally honest, and she REALLY hated the vampires and everything about them, but I found her character refreshing. And I cannot WAIT to read Bloodlines since I know she’s the MC. :D

The Plot/Writing
I think one of my biggest problems with this series was the amount of telling and the lack of enough dialogue. There was NOT a lot of dialogue, which makes the secondary characters kind of two-dimensional, because you don’t really get to know them that well (except for the main secondary characters, if there is such a thing). And like there were so many times Rose was talking to people, and then she’d be like, “oh and then we talked about this for a bit and then parted ways.” I KIND OF WANTED THOSE CONVERSATIONS.

This was an interesting take on vampires! I’ve read many paranormal books with these creatures, and I’m glad this felt different from those. It’s definitely developed really well! I did appreciate the insights, and how the last couple of books had a major focus on the politics and duties surrounding Moroi and dhamphirs. I still find it incredibly unfair to the guardians how they have to live their lives. Honestly, I would NOT want that! No. But if I didn’t, then I’d basically be a blood-whore. I did have a problem with the constant use of the word whore, but I understand the context in which it was used, and how it is such a big part of the Moroi culture, but still. It was also incredibly convenient that Rose and Lissa had a shadow-kissed bond, because then Rose could spy on her and the readers would get caught up in that storyline as it unfolded. And of course, Rose always tuned in at the MOST important times. And now I’m being nit-picky. But really, it depended on the book, when it came to how well everything worked together. Most times, I thought the beginnings were hard to get into, and the middles could drag. But generally, the last half of the books were the best parts. And I think Last Sacrifice may have been the best book in the series.

Basically, I really enjoyed this series as a whole. I just didn’t love it like I’d expected to, and I think my expectations and internal hype were the biggest reason that happened.

*****

Have you read this series yet? If so, what did you think of it?! What was your favorite book of this series? I think mine is still VA, but LS was so good! :D

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

(59) Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want to Do or Learn

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic: Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want to Do or Learn About After Reading Them.

This was a fun, BUT HARD, topic! I guess I don't pay too much attention to this while I'm reading, and I need to do that more often. Because I WANT TO DO ALL THE THINGS.

*****

1. Learn archery -- because of literally every fantasy of ever. I THINK IT'D BE SO FUN. I've kind of always wanted to learn but just never did. I also think it'd be fun to learn swordplay. Even though LOL I'd probably cut my arm off trying and it's not as if I'll need either of these skills in real life. ;)

2. Go on a road trip with friends -- Again, I've always wanted to do something like this. But reading books with road trips, especially those involving friends, always want to make me go on one right that second. I keep unofficially planning them with friends, and omg must make it a real thing soon.

3. Listen to the murder squash song -- unfortunately it's not real, but omg I want it to be a real thing so badly. The characters in TRC reference it so often, and it's just not freaking fair that I'll never hear the end of it. I SWEAR I WOULD APPRECIATE IT, RONAN, UNLIKE YOUR LOSER FRIENDS.

4.  Cosplay at Comic Con -- this is something I've thought about but never really in the sense that I was going to do it. But when reading the Addicted series, the characters cosplay at a comic con, and that scene was one of my FAVES. also I've seen so many tweets and pictures and it just looks like so much fun. I'd love to someday do it!

5. Visit a "haunted" place -- An asylum would especially be interesting. But really anything. I've read a few books with haunted places like cemeteries and old houses. AND I KNOW IT'S WEIRD BUT I WANT TO EXPLORE ONE.

6. Play Quidditch -- an impossibility BUT OH WELL. I'm a fan of playing sports, and I can get pretty competitive (esp against my brothers). So I would have a hell of a time playing Quidditch. IF ONLY IT WERE REAL. also Harry Potter made me want to try Butterbeer, and I will actually be able to do that someday. Whenever I get down to Florida for a much-needed HP vacation. ;) 

7. Ride a dragon -- you know I'm struggling when I can't find REAL things I want to do. But seriously, who hasn't wanted to ride a dragon???? I've read many books involving these creatures, and gah, I just love them. And so long as the dragon is not like Smaug, I'll be okay. :p GIVE ME TOOTHLESS.

8. Go to a ball -- A FANCY SCHMANCY BALL where you dress up in gorgeous gowns and dance the night away. Honestly, it would be such a fun and lovely thing to do. After all, I need an excuse to buy and wear those fancy ball gowns I absolutely covet when watching movies. Haha.

9. Learn how to do a tarot card reading -- this is another Raven Cycle one. (Damn these books just make me want to do everything, like go on a Glendower hunt). Also since I HAVE Maggie's tarot deck and book, I should be able to conquer this skill. If only I would start trying it. :D

10. Be a runner -- in so many books I've read, the MCs run, AND THEY ACTUALLY LIKE IT. *gasp* No but seriously, I always think if I could get into the mindset that it's not work but actually fun, I might one day become a runner. And I would LIKE IT. But let's be real, it probably won't ever happen. Haha.

*****

Would you ever want to do or learn any of these things too? What sorts of things made YOUR list? Let's talk! :D Also please drop a link to your TTT; I really want to read people's posts! I'll try hard to comment on them too, but I definitely want to read them at least.

Monday, July 25, 2016

July Mini Review Session

Today, I'm talking about three July books that I've read in the last couple months. I really disliked one of them, loved the second, and liked the third. So not a great opinion overall, but they're worth sharing!

*****

How to Hang a Witch
 *I picked up a physical ARC from BEA.

I wish I would've just DNFed this one in the beginning, because it was not worth finishing. The whole deal with this book was so unbelievable. The reasons for what was happening and who was doing it were ridiculous, and I was expecting so much better with a story that involved the Salem Witch Trials. Also, I didn't like the main character, but I think most of that just had to do with the weak writing. A lot of this story was cliche (new girl in school, mean girls, befriending a boy who OF COURSE finds her attractive even though she doesn't think she's beautiful, etc.). The only difference being that everyone hates Sam because she's Cotton Mathers' descendant, and they think she's cursed them all after Things happen. ALL of the characters in this book are flat. They have no personalities. The love that "developed" between Sam and ghost boy was laughable because I don't get how it went from he's dead and mean and rude to I will die without him??? The dialogue was always so awkward (between everyone, actually), and ghost boy was pretty controlling and demanding toward her, so like, it was NOT a swoony romance. Just. Ugh. The only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to see how it would end. But now I'm left knowing that DNFing would've been the better choice.

Rating: 2 Paw Prints! 


The Shadow Hour
This sequel was SO GOOD. I didn’t love it as much as the first, and it was slower in pace, but it could still stand up to its predecessor. The similarities between The Girl at Midnight and Daughter of Smoke and Bone are gone. The lightheartedness of the first book is replaced with a seriousness that almost seems comical on some of these characters. The banter is still there, though, the hilarious and fun dialogue between Echo, Caius, Jasper, Dorian, and Ivy. However, here, it has an undertone of intensity and desperation and despair. After the events of the first book, our group of wildly different people are lying low, trying to figure out the truth behind Echo’s abilities and the world they thought they’d known. Long-buried secrets and an awful disaster at the nest lead the characters to different places and new plans. But through it all, they’ve got each other’s backs. Something that seemed impossible not too long ago, given that Drakharin and Avicen hate each other. However, they’ve all developed a bond after what they’ve been through, that connects them in ways that might just save their world and bring two bitter and angry peoples together. But they’ve got a long way to go, and after what happens in this book, I’m nervous about the finale. I’ve also forgotten a lot about this book already, and I don’t know what more to say??? Haha. The book was good but my memory sucks and I’m definitely going to need a reread before the 3rd one.  
Rating: 4 Paw Prints!
 

His Royal Secret
*eARC kindly provided by Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley*
 
I liked this, but there honestly wasn’t much to it. It was kind of bland. The characters were okay. I didn’t really grow to love any of them, except for Lady Cassandra. She was my favorite, and she was hardly in the story. Also the writing and dialogue was like REALLY formal, and I know this is a royal family, but I would think they’d be with the modern times and wouldn’t speak so… stiffly. I did appreciate the open, communicative, and trusting relationship between Ben and James. It made their romance very sweet and believable, even after that tense beginning (given that Ben is a reporter and he never told James before they had sex). However, I did not appreciate that Ben was very pushy about James not being out. Whether someone wants to be open about being gay or not, that’s their choice and no one else’s. He did come to understand James’ reasons, and I did love that James realized how much he was hurting himself by keeping this a locked-tight secret, and decided he wanted to be open about his sexuality. But not much happened in this book, and I didn’t fall in love with their romance. So I don’t really see myself reading the sequel to see how the two of them fare now that their relationship is going to be in the spotlight.
Rating: 3 Paw Prints!

*****

Have you read any of these books yet? If so, what did you think of them?!