Monday, July 6, 2015

Emily's Epic ARC Giveaway

I have a confession to make. I have a hard time getting rid of ARCs. It's mostly a matter of thinking I'm going to read something and just not getting around to it. So, in the past six years I have collected a lot of ARCs and other books. And, it's time to let them go. Some of them I'm donating to the library, others I'm donating to school teachers in the area. And others I'm giving to you. I've separated them by theme, and I'm excited to share this crazy pile with you.

Pro tip:
I'll be doing exclusive giveaways on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. So, make sure you're following me there not only for extra entries into this contest, but also to snag something that I don't have here.

All of these are U.S. only. I know that's super disappointing to international readers. However, books are heavy, and I'm going to be spending a ton shipping these as it is.

The books that are included in each package will come in a package together. I'm sending them grouped together for a reason (that reason being that I'm getting rid of a bunch all at once and I don't want to ship out 100 separate packages).

I will contact the winner of each package within 48 hours to collect mailing information. If I don't get a response back within 48 hours, I'll pick a new winner. Books will be shipped out within 7-10 days after I get shipping info. (I'm going to have to make a LOT of trips to the post office.)

UPDATE: Feel free to enter to win as many packages as you'd like. It is possible to win more than one!

So, without further explanation, here are the packages!

YA Contemporary
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Just One Day by Gayle Forman

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lunar chronicles marissa meyer giveaway

The Lunar Chronicles Package
Scarlet and Cress by Marissa Meyer

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post apocalyptic giveaway package
Post-Apocalyptic Package
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
Monument 14: Sky On Fire by Emmy Laybourne
Stung by Bethany Wiggins
Fragments (Partials #2) by Dan Wells

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historical fiction giveaway package
Historical Fiction Package
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
The Madman's Daughter by Sara Shepherd
Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

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sci-fi giveaway package
Sci-Fi Package
The 100 by Kass Morgan
The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist
SYLO by D. J. Machale
Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
When We Wake by Karen Healey

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End of the World giveaway package
End of the World Package
The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Prodigy by Marie Lu
The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
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murder mystery giveaway package
Murder Mystery Package
Hysteria by Megan Miranda
Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting
Game by Barry Lyga
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New Adult/Romance Package
Two lucky winners will get a box with 13 new adult and adult romance titles. There are books from Jay Cronover, Molly McAdams, Sophie Jordan and many more in there.

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Bookish Grab Bag

This will be a surprise package with 10 books in it. I have two of these to give away. There may also be a hardcover or two thrown in there. The selection will be random, but it will be worth it!

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu: Book Review



By: Jennifer Mathieu

Published: June 2015, Roaring Book Press

Acquired: purchased

Buy the book: amazon | BN | king's english

Summary: Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

Review: I bought this one for the sole reason that Jennifer Mathieu was coming into town for the Fierce Reads tour. As soon as I read the blurb, I realized I needed to read it.

Books about religion are tricky, especially when they are critical. Sometimes, by telling a sensational story about a girl (or woman) trapped in a patriarchal religion, it becomes a spectacle. It's relatively easy for those who aren't raised in these kinds of environments to watch a TV show about someone's "weird" religion and feel isolated from it and superior to it. It's a form of entertainment to watch the strange beliefs of these people and treat them like a zoo animal—gawked at or pitied. But doing this further victimizes women.

I've taken a special interest in patriarchal Christian religions lately. I've done extensive research on polygamy and its effects on my own Mormon culture and in so many ways it rocked me. I've read books, listened to podcasts, and really immersed myself in this very dark part of my religion and even family history.

This book isn't about polygamy, but some of the same rules apply. Tread lightly and don't eviscerate the beliefs of others, but don't hide the truth.

Mathieu does this beautifully. This is a kinder, gentler book than I was expecting and it was refreshing. Of course it's devastating, sad, and riveting. But, Rachel doesn't get caught in an endless cycle of victimization. This is more a story of rebuilding rather than wandering through darkness. It's a book that would be appropriate for younger teens as well, given how sensitive Mathieu is with this subject. I was truly moved by Rachel's story. If you'd like a glimpse of what it's like to leave a religion that rules with a tight patriarchal structure, pick up this novel. It's going to give you a clearer picture of survival than Kimmy Schmidt ever would.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Starting Year Six

Six years ago today I fired up this blog. It was meant to be a way for me to track my own reading as well as give reading recommendations to family and friends. And, it definitely still serves that purpose.

Somewhere along the way, other people started reading, commenting and interacting. I got on twitter, then facebook, and now instagram and youtube.

I made the trip (4 times!) to New York for BEA where I met even more amazing book people and authors. I've interviewed Scott Westerfeld, Gail Carson Levine, James Dashner, Sara Zarr, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl and so many more authors. I've hosted panels and twitter chats. I got immersed into the reading community.

I went back to school to finish my bachelor's degree and even switched my major to English (with a minor in Editing, which I'm still angry won't show up on my diploma because I love that minor to pieces). Things around the blog slowed down during those two years, and now I've had a lot of people ask what's next. So, now is as good a time as any to introduce what I'm envisioning for the future.

Reviews and all the blogging goodness that happened before I went to school will continue (yay!) But, my focus will be a little different (everyone likes a plot twist, right?). I want to read a more diverse range of books. My English major broke me just a little, and I don't want to say I got more snobbish about books, because I think it's the opposite of that. I thought that YA would satiate my appetite for stories. But, I've grown fond of the adult and even literary novels I read as required reading. So, expect to see a few more of those reviews come around.

Basically, I'm here again. Thank you to every single one of you who stayed in touch on twitter or instagram and even commented on my occasional reviews here. It's good to be back.

And, since it's my blog's birthday, I want to give away some presents. So, keep watching this week for some of that.

Friday, May 22, 2015

How To Solve Your Biggest Audiobook Problems

Audiobooks are one of the best ways I've discovered to fit in reading time. I can listen on the commute and knock out a book almost once a week just by using driving time.

Sometimes when I talk to people about audiobooks I hear a lot of reasons why audiobooks don't work for them. I'd like to go through some of these hurdles and some solutions for getting into audiobooks.

Problem: Distractions
You've got an audiobook on while you're working, running, or driving and next thing you know you aren't sure where you are, who that character is, and who just died?! Then you have to skip back to where you got distracted and listen again.

Solution: Listen only when you have nothing else to do.
I can't listen to audiobooks when there is anything else for me to do. If I'm on my computer, I'm not paying attention to the story. Here are some of the places I find that it's easy for me to concentrate on a story:

  • My daily commute. It's about 30 minutes each way, so I can get in about an hour a day. It helps me get where I'm going faster. It also helps me decompress a little when I'm headed home after a long day.
  • During menial chores. I hate cleaning. But, if I have my headphones in while I'm sweeping the floor, scrubbing toilets, doing dishes, or folding laundry, I can concentrate on the story. When my husband and I were working on major remodeling projects that involved things like painting or pulling out a billion little carpet staples out of our wood floors, we listened to audiobooks.
  • Long car trips. I get carsick if I so much as glance at my phone or anything written. It's a terrible curse. But, I love listening to audiobooks during a long trip. Sometimes I can listen to an entire novel before the end of the journey home.
  • Exercising or running. I love listening to music when I run, especially because the tempo of music keeps me going. But, every once in awhile I like to put in an audiobook if I'm going on a long run. If the book is good, I'll keep going a little longer.
Problem: Hate the narrator's voice
Lots of people do voices for characters in their heads when they read. And sometimes the character's voice doesn't match up with your vision of it in your head. It's absolutely true that a bad narrator can kill a book.

Solution: Start with great narrators
I have a few narrators that I am crazy about. In some cases, the narrators have made the book absolutely come alive for me. Those are the ones I listen to. I know a lot of people like Librivox recordings because they are free. However, many of the readers are amateur and they can be pretty bad. If you can find a narrator you like, listen to their other books. You can find some of the narrators I've loved in my June is Audiobook Month series on narration. Here are some of the ones I've loved and my favorite titles:
Another great resource for narrators is to look at the books that won the Audie Awards from the American Publishers Association. They have a category for narrators, and they are often a sure bet. Bonus! A good narrator can also help you focus. Great voice actors are like sirens, you can't look away.

Problem: Cost
Audiobooks on CD cost upwards of $25-30 a book, and downloads really aren't all that much cheaper. It's a fast way to break the bank, especially if you aren't sure you'll love it.

Solution: There are a couple different (completely legal) places I get audiobooks.
  • Audible: Start with the lowest package, you get an audiobook free. You can cancel whenever you want and still keep all the books you've purchased. As an added perk, Audible helps keep your place so you can always come back to your book. The monthly cost starts at $15, which is pretty reasonable.
  • The Library: Yes, the library has audiobooks. They have them on CD as well as available for download. I love the download selection at mine, it's more than just classics, there are some great titles from Overdrive. And best of all, it's free!
  • Spotify: This is a hidden gem. I listened to almost all of Shakespeare's collected works on audio last summer. This works best if you have a subscription to the service, rather than just the free version. The free version means you have to listen on shuffle, which doesn't work so well with audiobooks. Spotify has mostly classics, but they have top-notch production.
  • YA Audiobook Sync: Every summer, Sync provides two free downloads a week. One is a YA title, the other is a classic title with a similar theme. You can keep these forever, and they've had fantastic titles in the past. It's going on now, so get downloading! They only last a week.
Bonus Tips and Advice

Use audiobooks as a tool to reread books you've loved. This way if you do get distracted, you can still keep up with the story. Having someone read a book to you might make you pick up things you missed the first time you read. Especially if you have a great narrator.

Recognize that listening to an audiobook is a different experience. It's not the same as picking up a book and reading silently. But, there is a magic to it once you find a book and a narrator that clicks. It becomes a sensory experience and can really elevate the book. Trust me.

Don't feel like you have to constantly be listening to a book. Maybe only listen during car trips, or during a commute. Aim for one every couple months. Be selective about what you listen to and don't get overwhelmed.

Do you listen to audiobooks? What do you love about them? If you don't listen, what are your barriers to trying them out? Any of these tips appeal to you?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale: Book Review

Princess Academy The Forgotten Sisters Shannon Hale

The Forgotten Sisters

By: Shannon Hale

Published: February 2015, Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Acquired: purchased hardcover

Series: Princess Academy, Palace of Stone

Buy the book: amazon | BN | king's english (signed!)

After a year at the king’s palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher!

Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses.

As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen’s interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.

Fans of Shannon Hale won’t want to miss this gorgeously woven return to this best-selling, award-winning series.

Princess Academy is one of my all-time favorite books, and I've been delighted to read the other books in the series as they've come out, especially since I wasn't sure that a sequel was ever going to come.

The Forgotten Sisters has a similar feel to Palace of Stone. Miri's heart is in Mount Eskel, and her task for the king will ensure that she provides stability for her family and village. Miri isn't a warrior, at least not in the physical sense. She's no Katniss with a bow and arrow, but she's got her own brand of fierce. One of the things I loved about Palace of Stone in particular was Miri's sense of diplomacy and intelligence. This character trait is challenged and explored in The Forgotten Sisters as well.

If you follow Hale on any of her social media platforms (and if you don't, you really should, she's on twitter, facebook, tumblr, and has a blog), you'll know that Hale herself is outspoken about opportunities and stories for girls. Hale walks the walk with this novel by giving a diverse group of girls and women who all work together and are unique. Hale tackles issues such as poverty, injustice, prejudice, feminism, and family, but wraps it all up in a story that middle grade readers will devour.

One of the things that really sets this novel apart is the setting. The humidity, dampness, and treachery of the swamp is really incredible. It becomes a character of its own as the environment isolates Miri and then becomes a tool for her. Lesser Alva is a far cry from Mount Eskel or the capital city, but it's fun to see how Hale uses this new setting to show new characters and new cultures.

Overall, this is a magnificent end to the series. I'm sorry to see Miri and the entire crew go. But, in just a few years I'll be able to experience it all over again with Abigail when she's old enough to read it with me.