Sequel & Prequel Challenge - January & February Wrap-up!

Hey guys!  Here we are, at the end of February already!  This year is already flying by so fast, but I've read some GREAT series books already!  I finished the Divergent series with Allegiant, then dove back into the Lunar Chronicles with Scarlet and am currently reading Cress.  I was hoping to read Requiem this month too, but Marissa Meyer came to town, so I pushed Cress up instead.  I'll share a post and pics about meeting her soon!

Plus, I re-read Daughter of Smoke & Bone and I'm SO PUMPED about jumping into Days of Blood & Starlight next month ... stay tuned!  I've also hopped back aboard the audio book train and listened to Article 5 (a re-read for me) and Breaking Point.

Once I've finished the books I'm currently reading, I'll be at 18 points already!  How are you doing with your challenge books so far?  I'm pretty proud of my reading so far, and looking forward to more series books to come.

Although I'm doing great at finishing some series that I've started, I'm also yearning to start a new series.  A few favourite bloggers have just finished the Girl of Fire & Thorns series, and have been swooning online over their love of Hector.  I love getting back to a world that I've fallen in love with already, but I think I'm ready to dive into a completely unexpected and new world.  I shared a post last week where I asked for YOUR help to choose my next read.  If you missed it, the link is here.  Please let me know your recommendations!

Finally, I'm clearly inept at the world of Linky and have had to rely heavily on my co-host for her expertise in this area.  Jessi sent me the code to copy and paste, but I still can't get it to work!  Bah!  So, in lieu of a linky here, please go to Jessi's wrap-up post to link up your reviews!  There are two linkys -- one for January reviews and one for February reviews, so be sure to use the right ones!
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Life of a Blogger - Guilty Pleasures

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is guilty pleasures.  I must confess.... I have quite a few.  In no particular order, here goes:

  • Chocolate.  But it has to be GOOD chocolate.  I'm very picky about my chocolate!  I love chocolate with mint (like Purdy's mint melties...mmmmmm...).
  • Tea.  I'm totally addicted to David's Tea.  Again, it's gotta be GOOD tea!  My current favourites are Glitter & Gold, Fantasy Island and Love Tea #7.
  • Pintrest.  I go through phases with Pintrest, where I'm on it for days, and then don't check it again for two months.  But I can get LOST in this site for hours...especially looking at DIY stuff and crafty things.
What about you?  What are some of your guilty pleasures?  If' you've participated in this week's Life of a Blogger, leave me a link below and I'll stop by and visit!
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Faking Normal - Courtney C. Stevens

I first heard about this book on Epic Reads Tea Time when the ladies were discussing next year's upcoming titles.  It sounded like an interesting premise from a debut author, but a book that wasn't necessarily for everyone.

Now that I've read it, I can definitely agree with both statements.  Faking Normal touches on some very sensitive subjects, and will therefore not appeal to every reader.  While Courtney C. Stevens does a good job of navigating the storyline, I couldn't help but compare this book to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, which I felt was much, much better than this book.  I suppose this is a problem with any "issue" book: once you've read a book that touches on a sensitive issue in just the right way, other books will either live up to that impossibly high standard or fail to achieve the same greatness.  While I won't say that this book failed, it won't secure a spot on my favourites shelf.

Some of the characters were incredibly real and interesting (like Bodee, who was my favourite) but other characters really fell flat (like Liz or Heather).  I felt like I didn't really get to know some of the people that were closest to the main character, which meant that they weren't all that likeable.  I also didn't really understand some characters' motivations (like Kayla, who is so ANGRY and malicious all the time, especially at her sister).  Although I had sympathetic moments for the main character, Alexi, I also had moments where I really didn't understand how things unfolded as they did.  Ultimately, by the end of the novel, I came to understand why things happened the way they did, but her actions definitely frustrated me at times.

Although this book deals with a heavy issue, it was a quick read for me.  I'm still torn on whether I'd actually recommend it to anyone (issue books are usually hard ones for me to say, "Hey, check out this book!  It's awesome!" because the topics are so sensitive).  With that being said, I'll be interested to see what Courtney comes out with next.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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Marko Monday [9]

A friend of ours gave us two books in this series, Puppy Boo and Baby Boo.  I sat down with Marko one day last summer and he was absolutely MESMERIZED by both books.  I must have read each one three or four times in a row, and he sat completely still on my lap, eagerly waiting for the puppy or the baby to "peekaboo" out of the side or the top of the page.  It was so incredible to witness him being so passionate about a book!

For Christmas, I searched high and low until I found the kitty book in the series.  Since we have a cat, I just knew that he'd love it just as much as, if not more than, the other two books in the series.  And he does.  Oh, how he does.  It's absolutely the most wonderful feeling in the whole world to have my little boy sit so still on my lap and peer at the pages of the book.  These moments of stillness are a rarity for him, as he's most likely to be found chasing the cat around the house with a television remote control in one hand and a toy in the other!

We celebrated his first birthday earlier this month.  He absolutely loves going swimming at the pool on Sundays, so we decided to invite his friends to join us for his birthday!  First, we had some snacks and cupcakes and then jumped in the pool for a swim.  Unfortunately, many of his friends were under the weather and weren't able to join us, but we had lots of fun with those who could make it!  I still can't believe how much he has changed and how fast the past year has gone by. 

To illustrate just how quickly he grows, here are some older pictures.  The picture on the top was taken when he was about three weeks old.  The photo on the bottom was taken shortly before his six month birthday.
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Help Me Choose a Series to Start!

OK guys, I posted earlier this week about my fear of starting a new series.  BUT I have tons of books sitting on my shelves, waiting to be read, and I'm pretty sure that I'll love these series .... however, I just don't know where to begin.

So I thought I'd ask for help.  These are the series starter books that are on my shelves:
  • Half-Blood by Jennifer Armentrout
  • Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
  • Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  • Arclight by Josein McQuien
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
So, which series should I start reading?  Any recommendations?  I also have a whole Goodreads shelf of series that I want to try ... but that's a whole other can of worms.  These are just the books on my shelf, worlds of series-ously amazing stories that I have yet to discover!
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Life of a Blogger - Introvert or Extrovert

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is: introvert or extrovert?  I would say that I'm definitely an introvert by nature.  I'm incredibly shy in new social situations, especially if I don't know anyone.  I'll often wait for people to come up to me, rather than take the initiative and approach strangers.  I dream of one day attending BEA and meeting some of the bloggers that I've interacted with online, but there's a part of me that knows I'd be painfully shy in such a situation!  This is something that I'm definitely trying to work on, since I know that I CAN be more outgoing.  If I'm in a situation where I feel more comfortable, then I can definitely be my bubbly self, but it does take me a little bit to feel comfortable.

What about you?  Are you a shy person or more outgoing?  Leave me a comment below!
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Lovely, Dark and Deep - Amy McNamara

I read this book back in December, and have been uncertain about whether or not I should share a review on the blog.  It's such a beautiful book that is still resonating with me now and I'm not sure that I can find the words to write a review; however, I think it's such an under-the-radar book that I wanted to share a few thoughts, just in case it prompts someone out there in the blogosphere to give this book a chance.

What immediately drew me to this book was its beautiful cover.  The picture online doesn't do the book justice, since it's so much more beautiful in person.  When I read the author's bio and saw that she has an MFA in poetry, I knew that I would love the book.  And I did.

Here's the blurb from the inside of the dust jacket:

I came here because it's pine-dark and the ocean's wild.  The kind of quiet-noise you need when there's too much going on in your head.  Like the water and the woods are doing the feeling, and I can hang out, quiet as a headstone, in a between place, a place that could swallow me if I need it to.

Gives you goosebumps, hey?  Without giving away too much of the storyline, our narrator has just suffered through the death of her boyfriend and, after a period of extended silence, has decided to live with her dad for a while so that she can grieve.  What unfolds is a story so simple, yet beautiful and absolutely heartfelt.  I have so much love for this book.  I'm gifting my copy to my younger sister for her birthday because I have a feeling that the story will touch her heart too, but in a different and perhaps even more profound way than how it touched mine.
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On Starting a New Series

I keep reading all of these GREAT discussion posts (like Cass' Thursday Thoughts and all of the great discussion posts that Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner shares) and I HAVE all these bookish thoughts, just never the guts to post them.  I'm taking a deep breath, and sharing some of my bookish thoughts with you today...

I've posted before about my difficulty in finishing a series that I've started.  I either A) read the first book and then never read beyond that or B) read the whole series except the last book.  This is why Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat and I are co-hosting the Sequel & Prequel Challenge ... encouraging me to FINISH what I've started.

Today, however, I bring you a new series problem.  I have a few (actually, more like a LOT) of books that I've bought and never read.  Many of these books are the first in a series that I still have yet to try.  Some of these books have been sitting on my shelf for YEARS, yet I haven't read them yet.  I'm certain that I bought all of these books because I know that I will like the series, but I just haven't started reading yet.  And I'm not really sure why.  There's really nothing better than jumping into a new series and falling head over heels for the characters, the world and the story.  Plus, the storyline lasts longer than just one volume as the story unfolds in multiple installments.  I think back fondly to the day that I fell in love with the first Harry Potter book, and then realized that there would be SIX MORE incredible stories to experience with these memorable characters.  And I want so badly to have that experience all over again.  But a part of me is a little scared.  Perhaps it's the fear of the book being overhyped (that's happened to me too often to count) and I'm worried that I bought the book thinking it would be incredible, only to be disappointed.  Perhaps it's the fact that I approach each series hoping for a Harry Potter-esque moment and have yet to be swept away in that same way.  I don't know ... but these books sit unread on my shelves.

I had set a goal this year of finishing off a lot of my pending series and continuing on with series that I've started, but haven't finished.  I'm now planning to amend that goal a little bit and dive into some new series, immerse myself in some new worlds and hope for a series that will win my heart over.

How about you?  How do you feel when you start a new series?  Do you share any of the same fears that I have?  Any tips and suggestions for how to approach a new series so that I won't doom myself from the beginning by expecting too much?  Let me know in the comments below!
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Life of a Blogger - Plans for the Future

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is plans for the future.  In January, I posted about the very roundabout way that I decided to work in a library.  At the moment, I'm currently working on my fourth to last course towards the completion of my diploma in Library & Information Technology.  So, that's my biggest plan for the future: to one day work in a public library and be surrounded by books ALL THE TIME.

On February 3rd, I was scheduled to return to my old job as my maternity leave was ending.  Last year, I wrote about how I was really nervous about going back because of the behaviour of some of the girls that I work with.  After that post, things kind of got worse, as my boss was being less than welcoming about some of my working conditions.  Basically, to make a long story short, I wouldn't be returning to my old position and wouldn't be sitting at the same desk.  Instead, despite my requests otherwise, I'd be doing a job that I wasn't really interested in and sitting at a smaller desk that faced directly into the corner.  Needless to say, I wasn't looking forward to going back.

It's been a long time since I'd been on the job hunt, but I spruced up my resume -- starting with changing my last name ... yup, a really long time!  Over five weeks, I applied for over 30 jobs and heard NOTHING.  I was starting to feel discouraged and then I had a phone interview.  It went well and I met with the interviewer and the owner of the company in person the following week.  Then, I was called for a second interview and they made me an offer!  I've now been back at work for exactly two weeks at this new job and I am absolutely LOVING it.  The office staff is friendly and welcoming, the work is fun and challenging and I really feel like I'm appreciated as part of the staff.

Although I would still like to work in a library one day, perhaps once I'm finished my program, for the time being I'm really happy in my new job!
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WWW - February 12

Happy Wednesday Everyone!  W...W...W...Wednesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions...

What are you currently reading?
I'm re-reading Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone and loving it just as much the second time through!  On my e-reader, I'm reading E. Lockhart's We Were Liars and holy CRAP you guys.  This one lives up to the hype!  I'm back on the audiobook train and listening to Kristen Simmons' Article 5 on my drive to and from work.  I'm so happy that Marko enjoys listening to audiobooks too!  He just chats away in the back seat while we're driving.

What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished my first Epic Recs read, Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  It was a totally different book and one that I wouldn't have picked off the shelves myself, but I really enjoyed it!  I also just finished Panic by Lauren Oliver.  It wasn't my favourite of her books, but still a solidly good read.

What do you think you'll read next?
I'm hoping to read both Marissa Meyer's Scarlet and Lauren Oliver's Requiem this month!  For review books, I'll be jumping into Liz Czukas' Ask Again Later.

What are YOU reading this week?  Please leave me a comment below!
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Allegiant - Veronica Roth

There isn't really too much to say about this book that isn't spoilery or hasn't already been said.  So I'll just say this: I LOVED the ending to this series.  It had twists, turns, friendship, love and everything that I've come to expect from this series thus far.

What I did want to share is what I love most about this series.  As I stated above, it's about friendship and love and all those themes that we find in so much YA literature.  But what the Divergent trilogy is mostly about is belonging and community and family.  I love what the series does for the idea of family being not only your blood relatives, but also the family that you choose to be united with.  For example, you're raised in one faction and taught the values of that faction, like Tris learns from her mother and father in Abnegation.  But you can choose your own family, choose Dauntless, and carry those beliefs with you into your new family or start anew.  It's just such an interesting concept and one that is completely relevant to our own lives.

We're born into a family and that family helps to shape who were are as people, whether they're present or absent, loving or not.  We take what we've learned in childhood and adolescence and use that knowledge as a foundation for becoming adults.  Along the way, just like Tris, we get to choose our family.  We can keep the family that we were given and add to it, or sometimes just start over.  Sometimes we leave behind people from our past and acquire new people to add to our circle.  Each person that comes and goes leaves an impression on who we are.

I feel like the family aspect of the series really touched me.  I'm fairly close with my parents and my younger sister (although we live far away, which makes it hard), but the family that I've chosen along the way is just as important.  From my husband, to his family to the friends that I've made along the way, these people are all my family now and I hold them close to my heart.
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Life of a Blogger - If I Could Live Anywhere...

My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

Today's topic is where I'd live, if I could choose to live anywhere.  I love where I live in British Columbia on the west coast of Canada; we have mountains, forest and the ocean all close by. Although it rains a LOT, it's also green and beautiful and I appreciate the sun a lot more when it chooses to shine!  But if I could choose ANYWHERE in the world, I would choose New York City.

It's a odd choice on the surface, since I'm not a city girl by any means.  I really dislike going into downtown Vancouver because parking is a nightmare and it's such a long drive.  But I think it would be really different to LIVE in the city, when I wouldn't even need to own a car and I could just walk everywhere.  I've visited New York City twice so far, and fallen even more in love with the city each time I go.  The first time was the summer of 2003, just after the blackout, when I was on my way home from my summer co-op job.  I only spent three days there and it just wasn't enough time to see everything that I wanted to see.  So I went back in June of 2006 and spent a full week exploring, yet it STILL didn't feel like enough time.  I'm determined to return again, hopefully sometime SOON and I'd love to coincide my next trip with BEA.  *fingers crossed*
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Another Little Piece - Kate Karyus Quinn

It's been a few weeks since I finished this book, and I'm still having a hard time finding the words to actually write a review.  In short, Another Little Piece is WEIRD.  Really, really bizarre.

I started out feeling a bit confused.  Our heroine, Annaliese, is found covered in blood, unsure of who she is, only to find out that she's been missing for a year, but has no idea what's happened in that year.  Annaliese reunited with her family and has to piece together the events of the past year, and the memories become more and more frightening as she begins to remember.

I thought I was diving into an abduction/kidnapping/survivor type story, but what I got was a paranormal type read.  Annaliese is a character that you don't want to like, but you still kind of do.  It's a weird story from beginning to end, and I suppose I have to give props to Kate Karyus Quinn for writing a story so bizarre that it made my skin crawl.  I wouldn't go so far to say that it actually scared me (that title is reserved only for The Shining and Coraline -- shudder!), but it's definitely a creepy tale.

Out of completely morbid curiosity, I downloaded her next book, Don't You Forget About Me, from Edelweiss.  I'm excited to see what she comes up with next!
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Top Ten Books to Make You Cry

It's Tuesday and time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful people over at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is one of my favourites -- books that make you cry.  I love a good bookish sob, and even have a whole shelf devoted to this topic!

1. Morgan Matson's Second Chance Summer.
2. R.J. Palacio's Wonder.
3. John Greene's The Fault in Our Stars.
4. Lauren DeStefano's Wither.
5. Kate Di Camillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
6. Michael Ende's The Neverending Story.
7. Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle.
8. Anne-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees.
9. Janet Fitch's White Oleander.
10. Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall.

There are so many others -- my full list has over 50 books and it was hard to choose!  But I think these titles are the ones that had me ugly messy sobbing at the end.

What about you?  Have you read any of these books?  Let me know in the comments below!
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Daughter of Smoke & Bone Read-a-long!

Welcome to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone Read-a-long!  This is a completely NO PRESSURE read-a-long, so feel free to join in if you're interested!  The final book in this series, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, will be released in April, so we're planning to read one book per month until the series is done!  It's a slow, leisurely binge read of a series.

If you haven't yet read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, or you'd like to do a re-read, please feel free to join us!  I'm re-reading the first book, but I absolutely LOVED it the first time I read it.  You can check out my original review here -- it was one of the first books I read when I started blogging!  I'm excited to dive back into Karou's world...will you join me?
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Series Spotlight - February Edition

Welcome to the February edition of the Series Spotlight!  This is a monthly feature where we'll highlight some of our anticipated series books that are releasing this month, as well as which series are on our TBR piles for this month!


Julianna Baggot's Burn (release date: February 4)
Pure was one of my surprise favourites of 2012, and then Fuse blew me away last year ... I'm hoping that the series just gets better with the final installment!

Tahereh Mafi's Ignite Me (release date: February 4)
If you've somehow managed to not get caught up in the wonderful world of Tahereh Mafi, now is the time to jump aboard, since you can binge read the entire series in one go!  I liked, but didn't love, Shatter Me, but absolutely LOVED Unravel Me.  It's rare when a series just gets better with the second book, but this series is definitely one of those rare series!  I can't wait to see how it all wraps up.

Marissa Meyer's Cress (release date: February 4)
Another confession time: I haven't read Scarlet yet (I know, I know!) but I've already pre-ordered a copy of Cress, because I just KNOW that I'm going to adore this entire series.


I went a little crazy last month and thought I'd read six series books, but only actually read two!  So from now on, I'm only going to choose ONE book from my TBR pile, just to keep things a bit more realistic.  Since it's the month of LOVE ... it's time to bid a fond farewell to the Delirium series! 

What about you?  What's on your TBR pile this month?  Let me know in the comments below!
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