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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: The Unbound


Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe. 

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

I honestly don't think I've ever read a book with a more intriguing premise. The Archived introduced me to a world where the dead are collected and shelved like books. Their life memories can be read librarians, but most of the time these "histories" are left alone. When a history escapes, it's up to Keepers like Mackenzie Bishop to return them to the Archive.

The sequel, The Unbound, reminded me of how much I loved the first book. And I dare say this book is even better. Now that the world is established, I feel like I could enjoy the story without having to understand the technicalities of Mackenzie's world.

The Unbound begins soon after The Archived ends. Mackenzie is being haunted by a certain history, and she's filled with doubt about whether or not her life would be better as a normal girl. The only thing that's keeping her going, is that normal means erasing any memory relating to The Archived. Mackenzie's struggle is palpable, real, and you can honestly feel her exhaustion seeping from the pages.

But there is no rest for a Keeper, especially when people around her turn up missing. And people begin to suspect she's behind their disappearances.

Victoria's writing is also addictive as ever. It's not overly detailed, or filled with unnecessary metaphors and similes. It's straightforward, but Schwab's writing still manages to be lyrical and filled with purpose.  The Unbound is also paced exceptionally well--I just couldn't put the book down.

Let's be honest, though: a huge reason why I loved this book is Wesley Ayers. I truly do not remember loving Wesley this much in The Archived, but this sequel has cemented my love. He's perfect. And makes guyliner cool. I also appreciate that Mackenzie and Wesley's relationship is not instalove, and that Schwab stayed away from developing a full-fledged love triangle. It's such a rare treasure in young adult literature. There's not doubt that Mackenzie likes Wesley, and that she's attracted to him. But their situation is complicated by the lives they lead. It takes two books for their relationship to develop, and even then, they still don't even categorize themselves as a boyfriend and girlfriend. This is both impressive AND frustrating (because these two just belong together).

If you haven't read any of Victoria's books, you honestly don't know what you're missing. Schwab is a smart and imaginative writer, and I look forward to reading any book she publishes in the future.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Discussion: Love Triangles

This may be a very cliched topic to write about, but I still think it's worth discussing: love triangles.

So what is a love triangle? I think that a love triangle requires one character, who has the affection of two other characters. Does this love have to be reciprocated by the protagonist? I think it does. I think that, in order to be a love triangle, both love interests have to be a possible outcome. No unrequited loved. This is not a "rule", but merely my opinion.

So many readers, these days, complain about love triangles in YA books. Have they lost their charm? Back when Twilight was published, I don't remember anyone complaining about love triangles. Then again, there weren't a lot of YA books, and those YA books didn't feature love triangles. Twilight's success made the triangle trope famous, and whether intentional or not, more love triangles followed.

Like many YA book bloggers, I am getting tired of love triangles; I am getting tired of being on a "team"; I get tired of defending my choice. Sometimes, it's impossible to choose. One of the biggest arguments against love triangles is that it's unrealistic. This plot device is thought to serve as the female fantasy of being pursued by two men. This doesn't happen in real life . As young adults, we date for days, weeks, or months. And the first person we date is almost never the person we marry.

I, for one, would like to read a book where a guy and girl go on an ordinary date.

When done right, love triangles can be engrossing and it can add tension to an already fantastic book. And we all read to escape reality, so what's the harm in writing about a little love triangle?

With these thoughts in mind, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite (and least favorite) triangles.  I will try to not "spoil" the books mentioned, but you have be warned.


Katniss, Peeta, and Gale from The Hunger Games. This one is obvious. And it's because the love triangle makes sense! While I don't know when Peeta really falls for Katniss, they go through too much together to not have a connection. Their experiences change them, not always for the better. But they understand each other. They have been through it all together. Gale, on the other hand, is the best friend we all root for. So many times, the best friend does turn into love. Each are very plausible choices, and in the end, I think she picks the right guy.

Celeana, Chaol, and Dorian from Throne of Glass. This is another love triangle that just works. Both Chaol and Dorian are great possible love interests, and each compliments Celeana in a unique way. Celeana also doesn't come off as "wishy washy", because she actually makes a choice by the end of book one. The story isn't over, though, and I honestly have no clue who she'll end up with. This is a love triangle done right.


Juliette, Adam, and Warner from Shatter Me: I will try not to "spoil" this series, but I do think Juliette ended up with the right guy. Even so, I felt manipulated. We are meant to feel one way about the two main love interests, only to have them make a 180 turn in the final book. This is not only confusing, but frustrating. And I don't think it's fair to the readers.

Nikki, Jack, and Cole from Everneath: This is not a love triangle, based on my definition. And maybe that's why I chose to use it as an example. My disappointment with this triangle had nothing to do with who Nikki ended up with, but how Brodi Ashton used a particular plot device to get to the end. One particular love interest becomes a completely different person, and I realized there was only one way this love triangle could end. Knowing this sucked the life out of the "love triangle", and I lost interest.

I appreciate how relationships grow and mold a character, but not every love triangle is good. And not every love triangle is bad. I try not to judge a book, based on whether or not it has a love triangle, but we all know that's easier said than done.

Now, I've come to the conclusion that I don't like it when love triangles feel forced. Or when authors seem to mold characters a certain way, and when they manipulate our feelings to root for one character over another. You can't change a character's personality, without sacrificing what made the love triangle a love triangle.

On the other hand, I tend to appreciate love triangles that really challenge me. I appreciate when the author present two love interests that are both good choices. I just don't want the choice to be obvious; I want to be surprised. Yes, this is a personal preference, but I wonder if anyone else out there feels the same way.

So what are your favorite love triangles? What are some of your least favorite love triangles? Are you turned off when you hear that a book has a love triangle? Do you still enjoy reading them? Let me know your thoughts below.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WoW: Dorothy Must Die


I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

While I am not a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz, I ADORE the musical Wicked. I've seen it 3 times, and so I am up for reading any Wizard of Oz "spinoff". This books just sounds like a ton of fun, and I cannot wait to read it! What about you? 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.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: Fire & Flood


Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Fire & Flood is a unique book. I didn't LOVE it, but I did enjoy it. I think this book is as close to resembling The Hunger Games as any other YA book out there. You have a protagonist, Tella Hollaway, willing to go through a brutal race/game to save her brother. You have a game that's largely based on, not just surviving, but surviving in dangerous terrains. It's not a replica of The Hunger Games, but I can see why the editing team behind that famous trilogy wanted to pick this series up. It's almost too similar to The Hunger Games.

There are elements, though, that make this book stand out--mainly the Pandoras. If you don't know what Pandoras are, they are genetically altered animals meant to help contestants during this race. For example, one contestant had a fire breathing animal. As an animal lover, I absolutely loved this aspect of the book.

As for why this book didn't "wow" me, I have to say it was Tella's abrasive character. There are moments when I could sympathize with her, and other moments where I just couldn't connect with her. I don't know why I felt this way toward Tella, but I appreciate that she has a lot of potential for character growth (and I look forward to seeing that happen). I also didn't like the romance. I wasn't captivated by Guy, and I didn't find myself convinced that they could "fall in love". While the romantic developments don't happen until toward the middle, it still managed to feel rushed and it didn't make sense.

Victoria Scott has a very unique writing style and sense of humor, which work in her favor. I also have to say that the pacing of this book was spot on. I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next. The plot was interesting, and there was enough information to keep the questions floating in my head. Maybe too many questions. One question, in particular, was why does this race even exist? We do get some answers, but there's still enough uncertainty for me to want to pick up the second book. Also, Tella's character did show some moments of brilliance, and I can't deny that she's intriguing. She's very different from any other female protagonist I've read.

So yes, I had issues with Fire & Flood, but I thoroughly enjoyed the read and hope to continue this series.