Monday, March 31, 2014

Best of the Bunch & Challenge Updates - March 2014

Best of the Bunch is a book blog hop hosted over at Always Lost in Stories on the last day of each month, where we can look back over the books we have read over this past month and give a Best of the Bunch award to our favorite book of that month.

March 2014

I read so many amazing books this month!  I can't believe how many 4.5 and 5 star reviews I posted!

This month I reviewed the following:

  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales | Review | Rating: 4.5/5
  • The Star Thief by Jamie Grey | Review | Rating 4.5/5
  • Saving Quinton by Jessica Sorenson | Review | Rating 5/5
  • The Violet Hour by Whitney A Miller | Review | Rating 4/5
  • Almost by Anne Eliot | Review | Rating 4.5/5
  • Hopeless by Colleen Hoover | Review | Rating 5/5
  • All of You by Christina Lee | Review | Rating 3.5/5
  • Golden Stair by Jennifer Blackstream | Review | Rating 5/5
  • Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski | Review | Rating 3.5/5
  • True North: Finding Home by Allie Juliette Mousseau | Review 5/5
  • Angelfall by Susan Ee  | Review | Rating 4.5/5
  • Severed Colours by Dawna Raver | Review | Rating: 3.5/5
    • The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna | Review | Rating 3/5
    • Before You Break by Christina Lee | Review | Rating 4/5
    • The Romeo Club by Rebekah L. Purdy | Review | Rating 3/5
    • The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay | Review | Rating: 5/5
    • Obsession by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Review | Rating 4.5/5
    • Alive by Megan D. Martin | Review | Rating 2.5/5
      And my March 2014 Best of the Bunch winner is . . .

      The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

      This month was really tough to pick a winner.  I read SO many great books in March for some reason!!  But The Sea of Tranquility was just so amazing - it barely edged out some others.

      Summary: I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

      Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

      Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

      Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

      The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.
          buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

      Runners Up:

      Now that you know what I read in March, here's how those books fit into the various challenges I've entered for 2014:

      Hosted by: The Mad Reviewer
      Goal: Mad Reviewer (104 books)
      Read So Far: 37

      Goal: 50 Books
      Read So Far: 31

      Hosted by: Ariel Avalon
      Read So Far: 7

      Goal: Gold (7-11 Series)
      Read So Far: 0 (I don't think I've finished any series yet!)

      Hosted by: Fiktshun and Phantasmic Reads
      Goal: Adept (40+ books)
      Read So Far: 29

      Hosted by: Blog of Erised
      Goal: Leader (19+ books)
      Read So Far: 5

      Hosted by: Bookish
      Goal: Married With Children (50+ books)
      Read So Far: 17

      Hosted by: Falling for YA
      Goal: Bronze (10 books) - though I might try for Silver (25 books)
      Read So Far: 7

      Review - Alive by Megan D. Martin

      Title: Alive
      Author: Megan D. Martin
      Release Date: November 14, 2013
      Pages: 244
      Goodreads Rating: 4.00 Stars
      My Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
      My Content Rating: 18+ (Explicit sex, sexual abuse, language, violence)

      Summary from Goodreads: Flesh-eating zombies, dirty sex, and a shattered past…
      What’s more dangerous—the man who broke her heart or those trying to eat it?

      Fighting to survive, Eve finds herself alone in the world after the Crave—the only parallel of her former life. On the hunt for her sister, she runs into Gage—the first and only boy to have her heart and break it. It’s been four years and he isn’t a boy anymore, nor is he the same person he used to be. Against her better judgment, Eve agrees to stay with him when he divulges information on a safe haven near the small town they grew up in—but that doesn’t mean she has to like it…

      Returning home elicits a myriad of emotions that both Eve and Gage thought they had buried. The past and present collide and they are forced to the face bitter deceits that ruined them in the before and threaten to destroy them now…

      I really wanted to like this book. I did. I tried hard to love it, but in the end I was mostly just disappointed.  Here's why (sorry if this is a little ranty):

      The negatives:
      • The sex.  The sex in this book was much more gratuitous than I'm used to - even in NA books.  And it just all felt so out of place. For a book that takes place during a zombie apocalypse, an inordinate amount of time was spent by these characters just full-on lusting after each other (I know Gage is a guy, but I guess I just didn't need to know every time he got hard thinking about her - which was like every time he thought about her!). I'm not against sex - really.  But I just felt like this book revolved around it way too much.  Oh, we're chained up in a cage with zombies all around us and desperately hoping that the girl who promised to come rescue us will be here any minute?  Well, now seems like a fantastic time for a sexual encounter.  Really?  Um, I'm thinking not!
      • The romance.  I use the word romance here very loosely.  Really, this is just an extension of point #1, but I needed to expound on it further.  By the end of the book, Eve and Gage are in love - or so they say - but I just didn't see it.  They definitely lusted after one another, there is no doubt about that - but love?  Why?  Eve was hung up on Gage when she was a teenager because he was the only boy (the only person really) who treated her at all nicely.  Meaning he smiled at her and didn't call her names.  And drove her home.  But they barely even actually talked to each other at all - I kept waiting to see this amazing connection develop between them (in the scenes that showed us their past relationship), but it never did.  Their whole relationship was based on a kind of weird obsession that Gage developed with Eve on the first day of AP Physics and Eve's naive joy at being noticed by the coolest guy in school.  In fact, when I finally got to the pinnacle scene in the past where Gage takes Eve's virginity (this isn't a spoiler - you're told from the very beginning that this was their history), it just made me feel kind of disgusted.  Give me something to make me want these two to actually be together, please!  The scenes that take place in the present are full of sexual tension and arguing with a few very short sweet scenes thrown in.  I wanted to love Gage, but I couldn't do it.  At one point Gage was jealous because Eve was actually happy around this other guy and I couldn't help but think, "Yeah, maybe she should hook up with the other guy.  She seems to like him a whole heck of a lot more than Gage."  Except she was insanely attracted to Gage - and he sometimes drove her home when she was a teenager - so, obviously, they were meant to be together.
      What I enjoyed:
      • The zombie apocalypse.  When the focus was on the zombies, this was actually a pretty good book. The zombies were appropriately creepy and the there were some heart-pounding scenes where I really felt the danger of the apocalypse. Plus, there was an interesting side-story about people who become addicted to zombie flesh.  That was definitely a unique twist on the usual zombie story!
      • Olive's story.  Olive is Eve's sister.  And, actually, her part of the story is pretty much horrible and miserable and incredibly tragic.  But it was good.  I was definitely sucked in whenever we were in an Olive scene and I thought it was really intriguing - the idea that this girl has been so messed up by her incredibly messed up parents that her entire world view is now completely skewed.  You almost, kind of, sort of want to hate Olive, but you can't.
      • Parts of the high school storyline.  There were parts of the high school storyline that I enjoyed - I thought that there was a realism to the fact that Gage was definitely interested in Eve, but too embarrassed to admit it to his cool friends.  I could even see why he would cave into peer pressure and snub Eve.  I only wished that we had seen a little bit more of a connection develop between these two when they were alone!
      • The last few chapters.  In the last few chapters of the book, I did start to see something real between Eve and Gage that made me want them to end up together (after all, I'm a romantic at heart - I want to root for the main couple of a book!).  There was a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel - I just wish it had shined a little brighter and been visible a little sooner!
      Having said all of this, there are plenty of other people who have loved this book.  So maybe it's just me.  Maybe I'm just burned out on NA and the addition of zombies wasn't enough to pull me out of my slump.  I don't know, but I could only bring myself to give this book 2.5/5 stars.

      ***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

      Want some other opinions?  Check out what these other people thought of this book:
      Bex 'n' Books - 4.5 Stars
      Simplistic Reviews - 4 Stars

      Sunday, March 30, 2014

      Sunday Post & Giveaways Galore - 3/30/14

      The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on my blog and share news about what's coming up in the week ahead. 

      Last week on FYFA:
      Wow!  I have been a busy little bee lately.  I've been reading A LOT and I'm not completely keeping up with reviewing even though I've been posting every day (you'll notice my Reviews Coming Soon list in the left sidebar keeps getting longer!).  I promise you'll see reviews for all of these books coming soon.  Maybe I'd better take a day to just write reviews and not allow myself to read!!

      Here's what you may have missed this past week on my blog:
      • Before You Break by Christina Lee (review)
      • Twelve Steps by Veronica Bartles (excerpt & giveaway) - Still time to enter to win!
      • Ellie Stanton by Aurora Zahni (excerpt & giveaway) - Still time to enter to win tons of prizes!
      • The Romeo Club by Rebekah L. Purdy (review & giveaway) - Still time to enter!
      • The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (review)
      • Obsession by Jennifer L. Armentrout (review)
      • Need BEA Advice - Been to BEA?  Planning on going?  Please pop on over to this post and give me some much needed advice!
      • Middle School Spotlight - The Grimmtastic Girls series (review & giveaway) - Still time to enter to win a $50 gift card!
      Coming this week on FYFA:
      • Uncovering Cobbogoth by Hannah L. Clark (blitz & giveaway)
      • Before You Break by Christina Lee (blitz & giveaway)
      • How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You by T.M. Franklin (trailer reveal)
      • Ringer by C.J. Duggan (review & giveaway)
      • RIP, Volume 1: Choices After Death by Daniel Sherrier (review) 
      • The Unwanted by Jeffery Ricker (review & giveaway
      • Alive by Megan D. Martin (review)

      Here's what I got this week!

      Paperbacks for Review:

      eBooks for Review:

      Read my review of Obsession HERE.

      Free (with Prime membership):

      Other Current Giveaways on FYFA:
      (Besides the ones that are listed above.)
      • The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill - Last chance to enter to win a $100 gift card!
      • Alive by Megan D. Martin - Still time to enter!
      • True North: Finding Home by Allie Juliette Mousseau - Still time to enter to win a $25 gift card or LOTS of other prizes! 
      Even More Awesome Giveaways on Other Sites:
      • Diego's Dragon by Kevin Gerard - Enter to win a $100 gift card!
      • Harp's Song by Cassie Shine - Check out the cover (I'm a fan, what do you think?) and enter to win a $25 gift card.

      Lots of good stuff!  Have any giveaways running on your site right now?  
      Feel free to share them in the comments!