Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead


It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path

There is no doubt comparisons will be made between Love Letters to the Dead and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both tell stories through letters/journal entries. Both tackle tough subjects. Both are "coming of age" novels. In some instances, the similarities are too obvious, but the Love Letters to the Dead does have its shining moments of brilliance. If it has to be compared to Perks, I would say Love Letters is darker and more suspenseful.

Love Letters to the Dead starts out as an English assignment.  Laurel is told to write a letter to someone dead. She choses to write to Kurt Cobain because he died at a young age, but more importantly, because her sister May loved him. And May is dead. The details of how and why May passed away is clouded in mystery as Laurel pours her heart out to Kurt, Amelia Earnhart, Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, and Amy Winehouse. There are many beautiful moments, and I cannot deny that I was moved to tears by the end. Laurel's voice is strong, filled with hope and remorse. She's a character that's both strong and weak; she's both complex and flawed. And it's everything I could ever want in a  protagonist.

These letters depict Laurel as she meets new friends, experiences life, and comes to terms with what happened the night May died. These letters were cathartic for Laurel, and there's no doubting the emotional connection I had with every character. One thing that I was disappointed, in, though was the romance. It seemed to happen too fast, and I think that it could have been handled better. I don't think I ever really got a sense of the guy's character, so maybe that's why the romance didn't click.

I also had a hard time believing that Laurel's teacher was as lenient as she was, about returning this assignment. No teacher would have been that understanding, because grades have to be logged in and it would have been unfair to other students. I understand that these letters became a little to personal for Laurel, making it difficult to let someone else read those pages, but a teacher can only be so lenient.

All in all, this was a beautiful piece of literature that deserves the praise it receives.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Discussion: On Star-Ratings and Negative Reviews

You've probably noticed that I've stopped using star ratings on my blog. A part of it had to do with laziness, but I've also come to the conclusion that I'm not a good "rater". I tend to be far too forgiving of books and their flaws (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Over the years, I've become more critical of the books I read, but that doesn't change the fact that I still rate high. I give authors and their books the benefit of the doubt. And I rarely pick up a book that I hate.

Does this make me a bad book blogger? I don't think so. 

In the months since starting Citrus Reads, I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to spend time talking about why I hated a book. I'm much more happier writing about books I love, and sharing that love with fellow readers and book bloggers. I want to bring to light GOOD books, and not steer people away from books I didn't enjoy. 

Don't get me wrong--negative reviews are incredibly valuable. I read negative reviews of my favorite books, and it gives me new perspective. Those review allows me to see that book in a more critical light. I like reading all types of reviews, I just don't like writing negative reviews. I feel cruel and I afraid of my review steering a reader away from reading a book they could have loved.

What about you? Do you like writing negative reviews? Do you like reading negative reviews? And do you feel like you are a fair rater? Do you even use a star-rating system? Let me know in the comments below. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2 Year Blogoversary

So it's my 2nd year Blogovesary! It's been two years since I was sucked

Here's what has happened in the past two years:

  • I graduated with a Bachelor's in Nursing.
  • I got a job.
  • I started graduate school. 
  • I attended numerous book signings and met so many amazing authors. 
  • I met some great blogger, reader, and writer friends.
  • My love for writing was renewed, and I've been working on a WIP I feel passionate about. 
  • I had PLUNCH with fellow author and writer friends. 
  • I went to my first SCBWI conference. 
  • I discovered SHERLOCK, VERONICA MARS, and BREAKING BAD. All three shows now consume my life/my every thought. 
It may seem like a small list, but it's an important, life-changing list. And by this time next year, I'll have my Masters in Nursing and I'll hopefully have a Nurse Practitioner job lined up. 

There many be people out there who ask: why do you still blog? When do you have time to read if you work and go to school? 

I blog because I have a passion for books, and I want to share my love for books with fellow bloggers and readers. I blog because I want to read more critically. It's difficult, finding time to read and blog, but I make time because I love it. Victoria Schwab wrote a POST that articulates my exact feelings toward this second question. 

So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY CITRUS READS! It's true that last year was filled with unexpected abcences, but my love for reading remained strong. And it's still strong now. And I hope to share my love for reading and for books with you for yet another year. Thank you for following me, and for sticking with me, even when my posting was incredibly sporadic. 

As a way to celebrate my 2nd year of blogging, I decided to do a giveaway. There will be two winners. The first winner (US resident only) will win a box of the following books:

PB copy of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. 
SIGNED PB copy of Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
ARC of Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott
PB copy of Goddess by Josephine Angelini 

The second winner can receive (1) book of their choice from The Book Depository (so long as TBD ships to your country). I have one stipulation for this winner, though: the book they choose cannot exceed $15 (before tax). This winner can be international. 

NOTE: winner must be 13 years or older/have parent's permission to give out address. The winner must also be a blog follower. If the winner fails to respond to my email within 48 hours, I reserve the right to choose another winner. 

Enter using the Rafflecoper below. GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 24, 2014

On Pentatonix and Music

On Saturday, I got to see Pentatonix in concert and it was an amazing experience. I love the performance aspect of concerts. You get to hear (and see) raw emotion on the stage and I connect with the music in a way that's difficult to achieve from a recorded track. It's just an all-around amazing experience, especially when a talented performer is headlining. And the members of Pentatonix are incredibly talented. If you don't know them, just check them out on youtube, and I guarantee that you'll be hooked.

Here are some pictures from the concert:

After the concert, I thought about music and its role in my life. I absolutely love music and love going to concerts. As much as I love music, though, I don't link books to music, I don't make playlists, and I definitely don't listen to music while reading or writing. I get too distracted, and end up singing along. I wanted to know if other music-loving book bloggers feel the same way, so I decided to ask you guys a few questions:

Do you go to concerts? Who are some of your favorite artists? How important is music to your reading/writing experiences? And do you tend to associate songs with some of your favorite books? Let me know about your experiences with music and going to concerts, and if you also tend to keep music, reading and/or writing separate.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Influential Books

I've seen many youtubers talk about their most influential books, and I thought I might discuss mine. To be honest, I don't recall many of the books I read as a child. That makes me sad, because I know I enjoyed reading books. I just can't think of a book that profoundly affected me. Some books I mentioned instilled in me a renewed love for reading. Some books introduced me to a whole new genre. Some books inspired me. Some books taught me important life lessons.

Here are the books (in no particular order).

  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: My best friend and I bonded over these books. We wrote fan fiction together, and we had fun watching the film adaptation together. We are still best friends to this day. 
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: This was one of the first classics that I reading high school, and I remember screaming "NO WAY" in the cafeteria when a certain man proposes to a certain girl. This book opened the door for more classics that I love. 
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: This book, more than any other, introduced me to the Young Adult genre. I remember picking the book up in the store and starting it. The next thing I know, I've read 50 pages and I'm going to the check-out counter. I spent the rest of the day finishing the book. I was hooked. Then I soon discovered the book blogging community, and the rest is history. 
  • The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling: This one deserves no explanation. I only finished this series last year, but even so, this book has had a profound impact on my love for literature. 
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: I read this in high school, but I'll never forget how eye-opening this book was. It taught be important lessons on prejudice, acceptance, and bravely sticking up for what is right. 
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: This book made me cry my eyes out. It's such a beautiful story that taught me that it's okay to let go. 
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: This series is important to me for a few reasons. I read the Queen of Glass manuscript back in high school, when it was still on FictionPress. When she took it down, I was heartbroken, but I knew it meant Sarah would work hard to get it published. Then Sarah announced she was querying, and thens he had an agent, and then she had a book deal! Seeing Sarah's publishing journey from first draft to book deal and published book was inspiring. She's a huge reason why I haven't given up on writing.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Words cannot describe how much I love this book. While my romantic reader's heart loved Jane's blooming relationship with Mr. Rochester, Jane's time at the school with Helen had the most impact on me. Helen's strong faith, in the midst of difficulty, was inspiring to me as it was to Jane Eyre.
  • Love Comes Softly Series by Jeanette Oke: this series fueled my love for Christian Fiction and historical fiction. It's also another series my friend and I bonded over. And yes, we wrote fan fiction for it too. 
So what are some of your most influential books? What makes that book influential? Do you think that you should like a book that's influential? And do you remember books you read as a child? Maybe I wasn't as big of a reader as a child as I thought. It would explain why no particular book stands out. I also find it interesting that most of these books I discovered on my own--not through an English class curriculum. I don't know what that says about me, because I usually enjoyed books that were picked by my English teachers in high school. Those books just didn't impact me in a meaningful way. What about you? 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: Faking Normal


Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Alexi Littrell hasn't told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.

When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in "the Kool-Aid Kid," who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.

A searing, poignant book, Faking Normal is the extraordinary debut novel from an exciting new author-Courtney C. Stevens.

Faking Normal is not an easy book to read. It's also not the type of book that you should read "for fun". It's an important book, though, and one I encourage every young adult to read at some point in their life. And this isn't because I know Courtney personally, and it isn't because I enjoyed reading Faking Normal. This book is important, because it has the potential to empower people all over the world to speak up. The words in this book paint a picture of Alexi's struggle, and how she manages to overcome it. And if Alexi can find her voice, so can you!

For those who don't know, Faking Normal is the story of Alexi Litrell, and her struggle to cope with a traumatic experience. Her life is measured in days since the incident, and she copes in the only way she knows how: inflicting physical damage to herself and keeping silent. It helps that she has someone who shares her love for music, someone who leaves lyrics for Alexi to complete and someone who completes her lyrics. This mysterious "Captain Lyric" is one of the only things that gets Alexi through the day without breaking down.

Then weeks after the incident, her life changes. Bodee's father kills his mother, and just like that, these two misfits are brought together. Bodee has his own struggles, but demonstrates a great deal of composure and strength. He knows Alexi is coping with something terrible, but never forces Alexi to talk about it. He takes time to get to know her, and more importantly, helps Alexi find her voice.

Courtney's writing is blunt and honest, filled with some beautiful moments. I thought the pacing was perfect, with a satisfactory ending. There may be some who feel that there ought to be more consequences for the perpetrator's crimes, but that's not the point of Faking Normal. This book is all about Alexi realizing that she's not at fault. It's about her finally admitting what happened to those closest to her. It's about Alexi finally standing up for herself.  Alexi's character growth is absolutely astounding, and I was so proud of her when I finished the book.

This is a book that was likely difficult to write, and it's a difficult book to read, but reading Faking Normal is worth it in the end. And I hope that girls (and even guys) all over the world realize that they don't ever have to victimize themselves. I hope that this book gives readers courage.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

WoW: Dreams of Gods and Monsters


By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. 

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?
I did not like Daughter of Smoke and Bone for various reasons, but Days of Blood and Starlight was a completely different book. I gave it a chance because the writing was gorgeous, and the story and potential. Turns out that I adored Days with all my heart, and I am eagerly anticipating this final installment. What are you waiting on? 
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly Meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. Book bloggers present upcoming books they can’t wait to read and share their enthusiasm about new releases.