Saturday, April 16, 2016

10 Favorite Reviews From the Past Year

Blogoversary Giveaway!

It's time to look back at some of the reviews I've written since my last blogoversary!
I'd say "in no particular order" but that's not true; they're in order from when I read them, so April 2015 to now.

1)From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, #1)From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started reading this book earlier this month, May 1st to be exact, I mentioned that it was an appropriate date to start reading since it was not only Princess Mia's birthday, but also 12 years to the day that I first discovered The Princess Diaries.

And then as I started reading it hit me. Olivia is 12.

That messed with my mind a little.
I was just a year older than Olivia when I first "met" Mia, myself. I was probably going on about being a "middle school princess" at the time!

Olivia is so different from anybody I could mention. (Mia.) Starting the book I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought, "Here we go again with the Me? A Princess? stuff." I can't wait!

And then we get to that point, and she just goes with it. Which made me think, "Wait, Mia not only freaked out, but she ran off to hide with the penguins!"
This girl is not Mia.


That's not to say that she doesn't have the charm and sass that we get with all Meg Cabot characters. It's all there; plus the instant likability and connection that has always attracted readers to all these characters for years.


And speaking of Meg Cabot characters; I loved seeing the royal family from a different point of view. Having to refer to Grandmère as "Grandma" was one of the hardest, strangest things for me. Especially after considering how long it took me to figure out how to even pronounce Grandmère.

And Mia! Mia outside of Mia's head! If possible she's even greater than I originally thought. I can't wait to see more interactions between them in future books.


ORIGINAL REVIEW POST


2) Royal Wedding (The Princess Diaries, #11)Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are no words.

It was so hard for me to start reading; I could not bring myself back into a world I thought I had said goodbye to five years ago.
It was about as hard as it is now trying to explain how I felt about going back into a world I thought I said goodbye to five years ago.

When I finished reading Forever Princess I said it was the first time I didn't finish a book in the series within three days. It took me a whole week.
Well this time around, I spent a month with this book. Now to be fair I probably finished it in a week (spring break) but started it a month before and kept putting it down.
It kind of scared me that I was able to put it down so easily. That I was able to get to a point and think that I had read enough for the day. As opposed to the first ten where even when I got to the end it still wasn't enough.

I didn't want to get to the end of this book. Which is probably why it was so easy for me to stop. I wanted to prolong it, savor it. I knew what was coming, the same thing that comes at the end of all Meg Cabot books.

Perfection.
That feeling that leaves you both fulfilled and a little bit hollow. That feeling that makes you want to cry because it's over but still be happy that it happened.

I love and am so happy with this book, that Mia might as well be a close friend. We grew up together, sometimes one of us faster than the other. When I first "met" Mia she was 15 and I was 13, a ninth grader and the seventh grader. The last time I "saw" Mia she was 18 and graduating high school and I was just turning 20 and maybe still not over high school. Now she's just turning 26 and getting married, moving on to the next stage of her life and me, I'm 25 and still trying to figure out what stage I'm in.

It was nice getting back into a world that is practically a second home to me, and seeing what's become of characters I was obsessed with. I especially loved that I was able to spend my last spring break with characters and the author that I spent so many breaks before.


So to find a word to describe this book and to explain how it feels to be back in it's world: Like I said above Absolute Perfection. If I could jump into this book and live in it I already would be there.



3) Three Nights with a Rock Star (Half-Life, #1)Three Nights with a Rock Star by Amber Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An escape.

That's both what this book is about, and that's exactly what it is.


Alright maybe it's not exactly what it is about but the main character does find an escape in her "three nights."

And I as a reader managed to escape reality.

I read it in about three days and that was a really great weekend. Especially since it was one of the last books I was able to truly enjoy before everything started piling up.


Who wouldn't want that opportunity to just leave behind everything for a few days, forget responsibilities and just go.


And I'm sorry but I don't think anyone is saying no to a "rock star." As if we'll ever be given the opportunity.


But that's what I love about books like this they take things that could never happen to us mere readers and gives us a chance to say yes.


It takes you away with characters you're instantly drawn to that make you feel and care for them until the end when you might not want to let go either.


4) Center of GravityCenter of Gravity by Laura McNeill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First off when not only getting ready to write this review but while reading Center of Gravity I had many "first off" thoughts. So many that I think the entire review could have been comprised of them.

"First off" #1: A couple of weeks ago when I listed my favorite books so far of 2015, I mentioned that 6 months and 50 something books into the year I had yet to be "wowed."
Center of Gravity took care of that. Wow.

This book gave me a whole new definition of "suspense novel."


2) When just starting the book I had to remind myself, multiple times, that my wanting to stop reading it, was just a sign that Laura McNeill really is an amazing author.

I do hope her purpose was to make us dislike a character because, if so, well done from the intro.
I loved switching character perspectives; being able to see the situation from everyone's point of view added so much more to the drama and emotion. You never really knew which way things were going to go.


3) I lost count how many times I thought the word "genius."
That is not a word I throw out often. Or ever.

Again; switching from characters, seeing what was driving them and wanting to know what their next move would be.


4) I had a dream about it, which I mentioned here long ago that that could be a guaranteed 5 stars. Of course in this case I had already given it the 5, so that just confirmed it.
If an author can make sure their work stays with me long after I've put the book down and have an effect on my sleep, then that author just wrote my new favorite book.


5) There's an author playlist! I love it when authors do that!


All in all though, I did hesitate when starting this book. It won me over.
When? I'm not completely sure; maybe it secretly had me from the very start and I just didn't realize it until I was so far gone I was practically speed reading to see what would happen next.

ORIGINAL POST



5) Black Widow: Forever Red (Black Widow, #1)Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are three characters in the story. I only really cared for two.
Two out of three isn't too bad.

Well, actually, it kind of is when that third person is constantly pulling you out of the story; to a point where I stopped and wondered: "What happened to the beautiful flow it started off with?" Then I realized: "Oh, it's because of him."

Him, being the character Alex "the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava's dreams." Great premise for the guy right? It was.

...Until he started following Ava around like a puppy. I never over think the idea of instant love in books, I'm often a fan of love at first sight, but this was overdone. 20 pages in and suddenly he's calling her his girlfriend. What is that in book time? 8 hours?

I can't say if it was my clear dislike for him or just him that slowed down the plot but it did feel like it flat lined for a while.
Enough about him though.

Character bringing it back to life? Black Widow herself, Natasha Romanoff. Margaret Stohl did an amazing job writing for an already existing character so many know and love. It was like she created the character herself, there was so much familiarity in her writing that she might as well be close and personal with Black Widow.
I'm sure after writing this and getting ready for a sequel she probably is now.

It was a perfect adventure to start off a new story for Black Widow. We get to learn so much more about her and see what she does best. It's a flawless blend of action and story. We get the action that we would expect from a Marvel character but we also get so much more so in the end she isn't just another character.


ORIGINAL REVIEW POST


6) A Healing Spirit (Riverview Series #2)A Healing Spirit by Melissa A. Hanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was instantly smitten from the very start. I basically had to take it in doses because I was so overwhelmed.
And that was just the first 20 pages.

Like with the first I couldn't let go and couldn't wait to jump back in.

I fell in love with these two characters falling in love. I got so caught up in the writing and the way everyone's emotions were expressed.
That alone should get it's own rating. That writing style, towards the end I just had a total moment of "Huh."

I know I said this with the first, but it made me think, I don't know how, but it made my mind go so many different places.

It made me think, it made me feel, it made me think about what I was feeling.

I don't read contemporary romances too often so finding one I absolutely love like this makes those rare moments worth it.


Original Review Post


7) Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About AgingKeep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging by Dick Van Dyke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been working on this review for almost three months. I originally started it with the intention of having it out on the week the book was published, but that obviously didn't happen.

It wasn't like other book reviews when I tell myself "I'll get to them when I get to them," this was genuine distraction.

One time I managed to distract myself by deciding to watch The Dick Van Dyke Show.

It was more likely avoidance of writing what I feel.

I have a deep admiration for Dick Van Dyke. (I credit him for being the reason I sit through Mary Poppins.) I feel like I've gained so much from his performances. He keeps me company when I'm alone. And makes me laugh and smile as if I hadn't in days.

When I saw that he was writing another book I knew I would have to read it.

I read his other book My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business and absolutely loved it, especially since it was the audio narrated by him.

I think as I listened to that book I felt like he was merely telling the story of his life (which he was), much like when I was growing up and my grandma would tell me all kinds of stories about her life.

But this one hit me differently. I think it might be because the first book was from an era before I was even an idea; and this one was in the last few decades. It made him more real.

It made me think.

Mainly about life I guess. Probably expected when reading a book with: "Tips and Truths About Aging" in the title.

At 25 I can't think of a better place to get such advice about that topic than someone just turning 90, who proved he's live quite a beautiful life, that would inspire anyone.


ORIGINAL REVIEW POST



8) This Is Where It EndsThis Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to say I've got mixed feelings about this book. I most likely went in thinking I was going to really like it, like 5 stars "'like it." It's being told in real-time, talk about a non-stop, caught up in the moment type of book.

Then it started. It was like I was just dropped into this world. I didn't know who anyone was, why they were doing what they were doing, or thinking what they were thinking. Complete strangers.

Which is probably why I spent most of the first half trying to care about them. Much like meeting new people, it takes awhile to get to know them. Not very ideal when you only have 54 minutes.

At some point I decided I was only going to care about two of them (the twins), and it ended up catching me. As did everyone else.

There are a lot of flashbacks, they're the only way we get any background information on anybody and as much as I liked getting to know about them in that form; it still didn't feel like enough. Is it just their lives flashing before their eyes or them remembering why they have ever right to hate the shooter?

It's both actually.
And for something being told in real-time it could have done with just the latter.

I don't feel like we ever got an actual reason why any of it happens. From what we learn the shooter is really only mad at so many people. So my question throughout was: Why take it out on everyone else? It's proven through all the flashbacks that he can get them alone. Why exactly did he need to "be remembered."?

We're given inklings, but they didn't give much of a straight answer, because we never get a clear view of who he was. He wasn't treated a certain way because everyone decided to treat him like that, there had to be a cause behind it.

This could probably turn into a whole other conversation, so I'll just say I understand his emotions behind it, just not his motivation.
But then I guess with situations like this they're not meant to be understood.

As I said above it did get me in the end. I felt everything the author wanted me to feel, I went where she wanted me to go. I cried (well almost) with all the characters who lost someone. I became a part of them.


ORIGINAL REVIEW POST


9) High School Horror: Teen FrankensteinHigh School Horror: Teen Frankenstein by Chandler Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My main thought throughout: This is crazy unrealistic. Even for a fantasy/horror.
But, then, that's exactly why I loved it!

A lot of suspension of disbelief was necessary. So much so that I had to point out that fact instead of jumping into it without a second thought.


That being said; I actually had no problem jumping into the story itself with out a second thought. I instantly loved Victoria "Tor," and the further and crazier her plots went just made me love her so much more. It was so much fun. I would not be opposed to spending more time with her.

From her attitude to everything high school (it really is like a teen's own horror story) to the things she comes up with and thinks she can get away with (and actually succeeds at doing), she is definitely one of a kind.


I have to admit I figured out the mystery more or less pretty quickly. Or at least part of it. It was still a great twist to both this story and the original it's based on.


For me this is an instant favorite. I look forward to see where the rest of the series goes.


ORIGINAL REVIEW POST




10) The Mother RoadThe Mother Road by Meghan Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a review I wish I had written immediately after finishing, but I couldn't bring myself to do so.

Instead I wrote some thoughts about where my own life is and where I'd like it to be. Yeah, it got me thinking.

About my own life no less.

That's kind of funny considering that there were more than a few moments that also had me thinking "What am I reading?"

(Much like when I went to see Pride & Prejudice & Zombies last month; main thought throughout: "What am I watching?)

In a fun way, of course.

Let's just say it goes there. And then goes 10 miles further.


This might be the first time I've found a guy named Paul that I could not stand.
Normally it's "This is Paul." Me: "I love you!" (Semi-awkward when it's a real person.)
I know he wasn't the one I was suppose to fall for but still, up until now I had a pretty great track record when it came to Pauls.


I did fall though. Hard. I'm going to give partial credit to the fact that it takes place on a road trip on Route 66. I absolutely love road trips and it's totally on my bucket list to drive Route 66.

The rest of the credit clearly goes to the romance itself. I was so caught up in it; it's like I didn't want the trip to end.

I couldn't not root for a happy ending.
{Spoiler} We get it.
And it's perfect.


ORIGINAL POST

Honorable Mention:
Remembrance (The Mediator, #7)Remembrance by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first heard this book was coming out I was so excited (possibly more that I was for Royal Wedding) it was a book I hadn't even realized I wanted to happen until it did.

That being said; I have to admit starting it felt pretty uncomfortable. It really was like catching up with a friend you haven't heard from in years. A friend you have nothing to talk about with.
"So this is your life now, huh?" "Oh hey Jesse, you're not a ghost and people can see and talk about you." "Paul, one of many from that time in my life, but only fictitious one. You have not changed"
Biggest adjustment was most likely Jesse.

I did get over it pretty quickly and afterwards things just got better with every chapter. I love how far Suze has come from when we last saw her and how far she goes in this book. She has not changed much in all these years, she totally owns it. She knows who she is and is proud of it. She knows what she wants and doesn't stop until she gets it.

Like I said she's always been one to admire.


There's so much to say that I'm sorry to say I can't. The new ghosts, the old ghosts (Paul). Kids, a house, a wedding.
It stands alone.
I don't think I could have asked for more.


ORIGINIAL REVIEW


I started thinking it would be fun to do my favorite reviews from all five years but that's about 200 of them (I know pretty low number but I only do so many a month.) Chances are once I got to the early years I'd read a review and want to rewrite it (I know that's true for at least one book) so best not. Instead I'm sharing this post from past years:
2nd Blogoversary
3rd Blogoversary Especially 2,4,6,8
4th Blogoversary Possibly my best year in reviews.

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