April Montly Recap

~*~On The Blog~*~

I am so happy that this month was much better than last month. Lots of good and just short of perfect books with only one true disappointment. I think I would have gone insane if I had another month of disappointments.

Books Reviewed:
The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes - 4.5 stars
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith - 4.5 stars
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman - 4 stars
Starling by Fiona Paul - 4 stars
Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins - 3 stars
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins - 2.5 stars

Books Reviewed on Tynga's Reviews:
Ninth Key by Meg Cabot - 3.5 stars (The Mediator #2)
Reunion by Meg Cabot - 4 stars (The Mediator #3)

The Broadway Review:
  • I introduced this new feature here if you want to check it out! This feature is dependent upon audience interest, so please comment on any of the reviews if you still want me to keep it!
  • I spent a solid 8 days obsessed with CHICAGO! I watched the movie the first Friday of this month, saw the show the following Friday, and watched my school's dancing showcase where they did their own version of the "Cell-Block Tango" on Saturday. Check out my experience with the show here!
Discussion Posts:
  • I will go down with this ship! I won't put my hands up and surrender! See why the krakens will never taken me down here. This is perhaps one of my favorite discussion posts in a while.
  • I've been hit by the blogger insecurities fairy. I've been struggling with my blog for a while and I decided to come clean about it here. Honestly, I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders and I thank you all for the support. Surprisingly, there are apparently a lot of other bloggers out there who have had similar experiences to me.This is perhaps one of my most important discussion posts ever.
College Blogging 101 Posts: 
  • Gaby from Queen Ella Bee Reads stopped by to share some advice about balancing blogging and friends. Never allow blogging to take away from your social life and friendships!
  • I wrote a post about how you shouldn't let the memes eat you alive! Your blog is your place to share who you are as a person, don't hesitate to create original content and have non-bookish discussions!
  • I did skip a post this month in honor of everyone spending time with their loved ones for Easter, but Alyssa from the Eater of Books stopped by this past Sunday to discuss time management and how blog schedules help her! Check it out here.

~*~What I've Been Watching~*~

TV:
  • So, I stumbled across My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding and I couldn't pass it up because I binged another TLC Gypsy show in my dorm room one day when I was so sick I could not get out of bed. I finished all of season one in about three days. If you like Toddlers & Tiara's style shenanigans, than this is the perfect show for you! It's the same ideal, but with psychotic grown ups that genuinely do love their very unique culture.
  • I've continued watching Survivor to appease my family and I can honestly say that I despise Tony with a burning passion. That's all I've got for this one.
  • Once Upon A Time is completely blowing my mind, though the most recent episode was not that great. The season is almost coming to an end and I don't know if I can handle it! The wickedness and all the homages to classic fairytales plus THE WIZARD OF OZ is agh! <3 and HOOOOOOOOOK <3 I love you, Hook!
  • The Challenge: Free Agents premiered this month and I am so happy because my sister and I love this show! Crazy people doing super crazy things for money and then they get even crazier back at their house?! Sign me up! Please, if any of you watch, comment below or tweet me because I need some fellow fans to freak out with.
Movies:
  • Monsters University is the only full movie that I've sat through this month because it's been nice enough for me to go outside (finally!) I have learned that Gillian has never watched this movie and it is my mission in life to change this. As far as Pixar sequels go, this is a great one!
Do you have a monthly recap or thoughts on anything I'm reading/reviewing/watching? Share your thoughts below! Every comment is greatly appreciated! <3

Top Ten Books If You Like Once Upon A Time


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

So, I don't know about any of you, but I am obsessed with ONCE UPON A TIME, the television show. My friend made me watch it and I have been hooked ever since. I mean, ya'll know how much I love re-tellings. ;) So, I want to share the top ten books for you to read if you like ONCE UPON A TIME, meaning...books relating to the fairytale aliases of some of my favorite characters.

DO NOT HIGHLIGHT ANYTHING IN THE PARENTHESIS IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS.

~*~Beauty and the Beast: (Belle and Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold)
1. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge: Really dark, but absolutely breathtaking in every possible way. And, hey, since ONCE UPON A TIME is really dark, I totally approve of this story.
2. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay: Just as dark in its own way and damn near powerful with its story of true love! 

~*~Little Red Riding Hood: (Ruby)
3. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce: Pearce knows how to bring a unique spin to a fairytale that can be full of both dark and light. I happen to really like the darkness found in the ONCE UPON A TIME tale and Pearce's writing.
4. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: On a completely different note, Meyer's retelling has a heroine that is damn strong and near perfect with her own kind of wolf. ;)

~*~Rapunzel: (Rapunzel)
5. Cress by Marissa Meyer: I can honestly say that this is the only Rapunzel retelling I have ever read, but dang, does Marissa Meyer know how to do retellings right.

~*~Robin Hood: (Robin Hood)
6. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen: Best Robin Hood retelling I have ever read. I am so happy I've forced this one on several of my friends.

~*~The Huntsman (Sheriff Graham)
7. Ash by Malinda Lo: I can't say I loved it, but hey, I love the huntsman, and this is about books having to do with my favorite Storybrooke aliases.

~*~Cinderella  (Ashley Boyd)
8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer: If this cyborg Cindrella tale was not as awesome as it is, the world would be a sad, sad place. Who doesn't love an independent Cinderella?
9. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: A very loose interpretation, but an awesome interpretation nonetheless (especially book 2 *fans self*)
10. Enchanted by Alethea Kontis: Several fairy tales in there, but the Cinderella storyline is definitely noticeable.

Don't forget to share your TTT's below (and watch ONCE UPON A TIME if you haven't started to already!)

Also...while we are on the topic of ONCE UPON A TIME, I just want to throw out the fact that we are in desperate need of a Captain Hook retelling where Captain Hook is not a bad guy, but a good guy trying to find himself after making some terrible mistakes. My mouth is watering at the idea of such a thing!

Review: Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

Series: The Sweet Trilogy #3
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading Level: Young Adult, 14+
Pages: 464 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss
It’s time.

Evil is running rampant and sweet Anna Whitt is its target. Nobody knows when or how the Dukes will strike, but Anna and her Nephilim allies will do anything necessary to rid the earth of the demons and their oppressive ways.

The stakes are higher than ever, and Anna is determined that the love she feels will be her strength, not a liability. But trying to protect the ones she loves while running for her life and battling demonic forces proves to be perilous—especially as faces are changing and trust is fleeting. When the Duke of Lust sends Anna’s great love, Kaidan Rowe, to work against her, Anna must decide how much she’s prepared to risk.

In the most sensual and fast-paced installment yet, Sweet Reckoning brings all the beloved Neph together one last time to fight for their freedom.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

One thing's for sure: Wendy Higgins knows how to bring on the feels.

As the last book in the series, I was expecting this novel to go out with a huge bang. The first two installments, after all, were building up to an amazingly epic war between good vs. evil, those rightfully tossed from Heaven and those who want to return and have earned the right to do so. And well, that battle did take place, I suppose, if you're more for drama and antics and some cat-fighting as opposed to an all out war. I wanted the war. If I wasn't expecting the war then perhaps I would have been satisfied with the ending, but I feel almost misled. Higgins hinted that a war was coming for the previous two books and well...the war did not come. What took the place of the war was something that could occur among a rowdy group of people who had a little too much to drink alongside some crazy attempts to incite war that didn't invoke enough rage in anyone, and my disappointment was palpable. I am not the happiest of campers currently.

Another issue I had with this book was Kaiden. In the past, I loved his obsession with sex. He's the Son of Lust and it's his job. He knows what he is good at and he's there to cater to all. But this book it just got annoying. I felt like I was dealing with a 13 year old at times. There's a difference between a burning passion for sex and outright addiction that gets old after it's mentioned twice. His inclinations got way too old way too fast. There wasn't much variety and his thoughts were constantly muddied. Sure, he had his sweet moments, but they felt overpowered by sex at times. It frustrated me that the world could potentially come to an end with the sins running rampant if they lose the final battle and he's preoccupied with sex, so much so that simply patting his leg makes him moan at a dinner table with ten other people. Just stop, I can't handle this. It was very hard to take him seriously at times.

There's also way too much craziness in this plot to wrap your head around at once. I had trouble figuring out if I enjoyed this book or not because of this. There's a baby, there's sex, there's cheating, there's drinking, there's questioning sex before marriage, couples from the past hooking up while others break-up, actual marriages, death, demons, and so much more. And, typically, while I enjoy juicy plots, I don't like plots full of shenanigans. At times, I had trouble taking things seriously. I didn't really know, at all, what to think about the fact that there would be a baby in the midst--not to mention the fact that the mother of the child went into war and participated in battle while pregnant. I can't wrap my head around it! I can't wrap my head around the sex and all of this so-called amazing planning, yet having no fall-backs. I just couldn't take certain things seriously or I'm still trying to piece together my thoughts.

I think these struggles made themselves known when it came to some of the books ideals. One thing was the whole "sex before marriage thing." Anna can't have sex before marriage despite true love because she'd be considered impure, but if she has sex after a marriage consisting of a friend getting ordained and a husband in surfer pants, that's totally fine. I think that some people will agree with this and some won't, and for those who disagree with this ideal may be slightly frustrated. That's all I'm saying on the matter.

However, the thing that bugged me most was the half-naked selfie Anna sent Kaiden. At one point in the story she was missing him and she pretty much took a picture of the lower half of her body, still in underwear, but in a suggestive pose and, well, not that covered. She then freaked out and was all nervous after she sent it and felt empowered when Kaiden replied about how he just couldn't contain himself. This struck a chord with me because there was a scandal nearby my hometown with minor's spreading naked pictures because the girls felt as if they were validated if they could make their boyfriend's happy. I don't really agree with the fact that a girl has to feel empowered by showing herself off sexually. She can feel empowered by catching a guy's eyes out on the street. It's not necessary and I don't really like the message that I perceived from that scene.

In-between the frustration and the pet peeves mentioned above and the romancing, the waiting, and the running, this story was pretty solid. It was full of love between friends, Kopano still being one of my all-time favorites, and love between family as displayed by Anna, Patti, and her Father. It's really a story full of relationships and tragedy and fighting for what's right, but I can't help but be disappointed with everything mentioned above after I loved the first two books so much.

What truly redeemed this book in my eyes was the epilogue. Though cliche in the best possible way, I wouldn't have wanted this book to end any other way. It tied up all loose ends and made it impossible not to smile. And you can't help but root for all of the couples in this one, they're just so perfect together.

Good job, Wendy Higgins. I'm definitely curious to see what else you'll write for us in the future.

Warning: There is sexual instances, violence, a "nude" photo, murder, death, and underage drinking that may make young children uncomfortable.
 

3 stars

~*~Links~*~

FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any sort in exchange for my honest review.

College Blogging 101: Time Management & Scheduling


College Blogging 101 is a weekly meme hosted by Lili's Reflections where a variety of hosts answer questions and give advice in regards to blogging in college. The purpose of this is to help upcoming college students and to create an open discussion forum. If you would like to write a guest post, please fill out this form. If you have a question you want answered, please fill out this form.

This week my dear friend Alyssa from The Eater of Books stopped by to explain how she manages to post every day while having a crazy schedule for classes. Check out her post below!

~*~*~*~


If there is one thing that every blogger has in common – college student or not – it’s that we’re all very busy people. Or at least somewhat busy, if you’re not as old as some of us. But I feel like college students are a special kind of busy. College is all about discovery and finding yourself and blah blah blah, but at the same time, you have to maintain – no, EXCEL in the world of academics and extracurricular activities and have a social life and get internships and read/blog… WAIT WHAT?!

Let me tell you a little bit about me, to put things into perspective. I’m currently a freshman at Johns Hopkins University. I’m double-majoring in environmental engineering and Spanish (yup, the hardcore math and science – nothing that can be seen as “easy”). I am taking (and will be taking) an average of about 18 credits a semester (sometimes up to 21). I’m a highly active member of four organizations – all four of which are functioning, influential organizations in the university. I play two clubs sports (badminton and rock climbing), I exercise regularly (yay long-distance running). Yes, I do have friends/a social life. My grades are top-notch – and I go to one of the most competitive and “hardest”-grading universities in the world (you know about Harvard and grade deflation? Here, we at Hopkins seem to have grade DEFLATION.)

And yes, I have never missed a day of blogging, since starting to blog. Yup, I post every day, not just twice a week, or something. Also? I post four reviews a week. That means I read four books a week. Four. Books. A. Week. With. Reviews. Wondering how I do it? Heh.


The most important thing, for me, is to budget my time. A blog schedule, as well as a day-to-day schedule in general, is seriously helpful. Making lists and cutting out times early in the week for specific is THE ONLY WAY TO GO, for me. A typical day-to-day schedule for me will usually start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 12:30 a.m. (though I’m almost always awake until 1:30 a.m., studying more because #Hopkins). Example of a few hours of my day: I set thirty minutes for lunch, go to my afternoon classes, then two hours for vector calculus homework, an hour for Spanish Lit reading, two hours for studying for a quantum mechanics exam, and so on. That really helps.

But how do I fit in time to read? Saturday morning, Sunday morning, Monday afternoon, and Thursday morning are when I read my four books a week. I give myself three hours maximum to read a book, and thirty minutes maximum to write a review. Setting time limits like that is great to keep myself on track. If I get behind, then I won’t finish calc homework. If I don’t finish calc homework, then I can’t finish the Lit reading. And then I can’t study for my test. And then I fail at everything and that is not okay!


Keep on top of when and how long you read – that is key.

The last thing I’m going to talk about – a blog schedule. Having a rigid, set routine/pattern/schedule has been such a help for me. I have a schedule for what TYPE of post I have going on the blog every day, as well as what BOOK I will be reviewing for whichever review day. When people say, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO READ!” - I laugh. Seriously. Because when you schedule which book to read next (I do it in order of release date, which seems most logical), you KNOW what you’re reading next. There is no guesswork. Of course, there is no spontaneity, but at least I don’t waste time trying to figure things out. And I get my books reviewed before the release date. That’s kind of important. For that, I use Google Calendar. It keeps me straight with blog tours, too.

            So, blog schedule. Here is what mine looks like:

            Sunday: Pre-publication review
            Monday: Pre-publication review
            Tuesday: Pre-publication review
            Wednesday: Waiting on Wednesday (meme)
            Thursday: Swoon Thursday (meme), *possible* extra review day (very uncommon)
            Friday: Post-publication review
            Saturday: Stacking the Shelves (meme)

This schedule totally works for me. I’m knocking out three pre-pub review books and one post-pub review book every week, without stressing myself out about it. I built time in at the beginning of each semester to work around my class schedule, to read books. If you start a habit from the beginning, chances are, you’ll get set in your ways and won’t change things as the weeks go by. While my blog schedule has not changed for many, many months, my day-to-day schedule has changed from semester to semester.

So, my moral of the story: you CAN have a successful blog and go to college and have friends and get stellar grades and do one really difficult major and add another major and participate in organizations and club sports and exercise and so on. You CAN still read and review books and keep up with blogging. Don’t tell me you can’t. It’s all about how much effort YOU want to put into it, and how well you budget your time. YOU CAN DO IT!



So, YOU tell ME! What do you do to keep on top of things, while you are/were in college? Or in general? What do you think of a blog schedule? Do you know any tricks or tips that could help others, when it comes to blogging/reading/reviewing and time management?

~*~*~*~

Thank you so much for stopping by, Alyssa! I admire your ability to post so much in college--it is truly an incredible feat!

Stacking the Shelves #66


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Won
Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Gifted (Thank you, Gillian!)
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick


For Review
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

Review: Starling by Fiona Paul

Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose #3
Publication Date: March 20, 2014
Publisher: Philomel
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
Source: Bought
The dark, seductive conclusion to the thrilling Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy!

In the final book in the trilogy, Cass and Luca are back in Venice trying to find the Book of the Eternal Rose to clear Luca's name and keep them both out of prison. But the hunters become the hunted when the Order of the Eternal Rose figures out their plan. Filled with twists and turns, danger and torrid romances, this novel brings the Secrets of the Eternal Rose novels to a thrilling, heart-pounding, sexy conclusion.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I've been mulling over this review for over a month. Why? Well, it's because I am both happy and sad. It's very hard to write a review when you can't sort out your thoughts properly, so this will be short and to the point.

From the very beginning of this series, there's been a huge love triangle. Falco, the charming yet secretive street artist, grabbed Cass's heart from the very first time they met. On the other hand, Luca, her fiancee, loved her since they were children. One was very safe and one was very bad. Naturally, she alternated between them. What shocked me most is the fact that my ship didn't sail with this one and while it completely tore my heart out, Paul found a way to make me happy. In the end, Cass was really happy, so I can't be mad, right?

My one true gripe is the characters. While I think many loose ends were tied up, I feel like previous huge figures were not mentioned often enough. They deserved to have more focus. Belladonna and Mada were barely existent in this book and I did not approve. For two huge figures they deserved to be present more. I don't really like this case of character amnesia. Luckily, this is counteracted by Cass's huge character arc coming to a beautiful standstill of maturity. She has changed so much and I absolutely love her determination and focus when it comes to tackling any situation that life throws at her.

Our huge mystery was finally solved in this one and I have to say that the ride was damn awesome. There was even more betrayal and plot twists then I would have initially expected. I found myself reading through the book very quickly because, as always, Paul does not disappoint on the entertaining plot lines that keep you fully immersed. The attention to detail and the world-building was absolutely magnificent and I've come to expect nothing short from Fiona.

Oddly enough, it was my high expectations that caused this one to have a slightly lower rating than initially anticipated. There were times in this book where I felt like there was a lull in the writing. My attention waned just slightly before I gathered my thoughts and was able to focus again. In her previous novels that had never happened before. I simply was not expecting it and it threw me off because of how much I love Fiona Paul.

In the end, a very satisfying ending though it was not what I expected. Paul has yet to disappoint me with any of her works.


4 stars

~*~Links~*~

Top Ten Characters Who Induce the Swoons


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

This is how this is going to work...This list has no particular order, but I'm going to use three to five words that I think describe said boy after I name them because, frankly, I want you to discover them and their swooniness for yourselves. You just may need a little push from me! I'm also limiting myself to books I've read in the past 6 months because there are so many swoons for everyone!


1. Max Vandenburg from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  • considerate
  • caring
  • kind-hearted
  • passionate


2. Daniel Cohen from Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

  • intelligent
  • driven
  • honest
  • determined









3. Hector from The Girl of Fire and Thorn Series by Rae Carson

  • protective
  • perfect
  • HECTORRRRRRRR *keyboard smash*










4. Jesse de Silva from The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot

  • always seeking knowledge
  • gorgeous
  • intelligent
  • caring
  • kind
  • the list goes on and on because HE IS MY FUTURE HUSBAND

5. Daniel from Something Strange and Deadly series by Susan Dennard

  • candid
  • honest
  • braininess
  • rough around the edges
  • saving the world one evil Dead at a time
  • AKA a really smart super-hero inventor


6. Jase Garrett from My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

  • Athletic
  • Care-free
  • Kind
  • Family-Oriented











7. Micah from The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
  • unique
  • caring
  • interesting
  • open











8. Ignifex from Cruel Beauty from Rosamond Hodge

  • dark
  • twisted
  • surprising
  • caring
  • cruel
  • beautiful








9. Captain Carswell Thorne from the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

  • confident
  • hilarious
  • full of surprises










10. Tarver from These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

  • protective
  • focused
  • intelligent
  • military-man that everyone needs in their life








Other Notable Loves: Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss, Malachi from the Guards of the Shadowland Series, Chaol from The Throne of Glass Series, and so many more that it's literally impossible to name them all.

There are so many more swoony people, but I've done many lists like this before and these were some of the most recent 10 for me. Don't forget to share your TTT posts below!

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 416 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss
In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I want to begin this review by saying that I typically hate Holocaust literature. Why? It's really the fact that I can't stomach it. Having several Holocaust survivors in my family, the last of which passed peacefully several years ago at the age of 95, makes this a very touchy subject for me. I have trouble learning about such horrors without drawing direct parallels in my mind, and then the pain and nausea immediately set in. But this book is different. Not only is it slightly before the Holocaust, but that sick roiling in my stomach that I typically feel while reading such books stopped at about 30% in because I so quickly became engrossed in the story and was able to separate the fact that I despise literary Hitler just as much as real Hitler.

Anne Blankman truly did her research. She knows the time period leading up to the Holocaust (and by the look of the series, during the Holocaust and after it) very well. This is definitely a historical fiction novel done right. From my own knowledge, I know that nearly every character in this book is a real person, aside from our main character, her family, her love interest, and several other characters invented to make the plot move along. The fate of some characters were altered as well to fit Blankman's universe, but, hey, she does this time period justice. However, I have to take a moment to say that there was a decent amount of info-dumping in this book. At times it read like a historical encyclopedia instead of a story. I'm unsure if this can be attributed to the fact that I knew a lot of the interesting knowledge in this book prior to reading it because of my family history or because the book really feels this way.

Our main character, Gretchen, is definitely unique. She grew up following her Uncle Dolf and was Munich's golden girl after her father, Klaus, saved Uncle Dolf's life. Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. To see him painted in such a positive light made me physically ill, but to see Gretchen transform from a naive follower to a girl (a girl, not a boy!!!!!!) who can defend herself and search for the truth was amazing. I also have to give props to Blankman for characterizing her terrifying brother, Reinhard. I despised him because he was so vile and I literally cringed several times because of things he has done. Blankman hit the nail on the head with this villain and I have to say bravo, though I still despise his very being.

Perhaps the best part of this book was the romance. Daniel Cohen, why I wish you were a good little Jewish boy that was around today. You're existence in my life would make my Dad very happy. But that's beside the point. The point is that it was so nice to see such an amazing fellow acting as a beacon for hope and uncovering the truth for the Jewish population who knew they were facing near annihilation and could do nothing about it. Just a young man, he was risking his life and carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders in order to expose the truth and save many lives. This is an amazing guy with a pure, genuine heart, and even though the world is against him and Gretchen being together, this is one star-crossed pair that I'm going to root for.

The last bit of this story worth noting is the murder mystery. As Gretchen slowly tries to unravel the night of her father's death, her view of the world is drastically changed. While he was once the martyr that saved Hitler's life, it now appears that he may have been murdered. The question is, by whom? This was a really interesting mystery, but it only really exploded in the last 30% of the book. For the rest of the book it was an on-and-off occurrence that could have been a bigger focus but instead was put aside for historical back-story and setting up the romance. I wish this was a bigger focus at times, but in the end this was a truly solid novel.

For many readers this will be a hard story to stomach, but Blankman is one of those rare authors that found a way to take a terrible time in history and turn it into a decent story that was simultaneously emotionally moving and informational. Hitler's rise and the disgusting way he used words to persuade his followers was extremely evident, as were members of all opposing political parties and supporters. Perfect for historical fiction buffs, murder mystery fanatics, and those who adore tales of star-crossed love, I highly recommend reading this book. It may not be easy, but it is so, so worth it and I am so thankful that this will be a series. As a person who identifies with the Jewish religion, I'm amazed that I've somehow managed to find a historical fiction novel that tells the true story of a horrific time in history so factually correct and in such an informational way. And as a devoted reader, I'm amazed that this book worked out so beautifully. I can't say anything else aside from: read this. I cannot stress those last two words enough.


4 stars

~*~Links~*~

FTC Disclaimer: I received no form of compensation in exchange for this honest review.

Happy Easter!

Initially a college blogging 101 post was set for today, but I actually have my best friend from college exploring my hometown with me this weekend and I want everyone to be out celebrating this holiday! Check in for The Eater of Book's College Blogging 101 post next Sunday! It's gorgeous out, go outside and have an amazing Easter!


Dye lots of eggs and go on lots of hunts and eat yummy food!

Review: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 384 (eARC)
Source: From Publisher for Review
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is used to getting what she wants, and when her boyfriend Jason breaks up with her for no reason, what she wants is to win him back before the start of their senior year. Lainey and her friend Bianca check the interwebz for tips and tricks, but the online dating advice is all pretty lame.

Then the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. Didn't someone once say that love is a battlefield? Jason isn't going to stand a chance once Lainey and Bee go all Zhou Dynasty on him...

Old school strategy and subterfuge meet modern-day dramarama in the story of a girl who sets out to win at all costs and ends up discovering what's really worth fighting for.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

 ...I'm going to employ the "Art of Lili" here and kindly say that if you don't read this book I may have to kick you. Hard. 

Have you ever heard of the term, "people come in and out of your life for a reason"? Whenever something bad happens to me and I find myself trying to piece together what happened, that's the piece of advice that my wise parents always give me. For a while I would just laugh and agree to get them off of my back, but eventually I realized that they were completely right. This book explores this piece of advice to live by to the fullest extent and I loved this underlying message. It made me want to keep reading as Lainey made the slow transition from a shallow, naive soccer player to an open and nonjudgmental kick-butt soccer star. Because of this I can honestly say that this book is worth reading.

I truly believe that this book is a diamond in the rough that can resonate with readers of all ages, though it certainly will mean more to teens because it paints certain expectations so realistically. It tackles the concept of cliques and popularity spot-on without it seeming cliche and controlling. It shows the naivety that comes with first love and what comes after that love is gone. Jealousy, desire...it's all there. The awesome twist of The Art of War thrown in to make sure hilariousness ensues in this super fluffy and cute read that is guaranteed to get any reader out of a reading slump.

The best part of this book is Lainey's best friend, Bee. Bee is a very solid character in the story and she's one of the best BFF's I have come across, perhaps ever. She doesn't judge, she's honest, she's always there for moral support...even if it involves a late night phone call that wakes her up. She's real and any girl today would kill to have her in their life. Lainey is very lucky, though it takes her a while to realize this. It was nice to come across a young adult contemporary novel that isn't full of a revolving door of best friends that come in and out of one's life due to petty drama, though there certainly are some drama queen's in this one. The people she meets when she starts enacting her love-war tactics make up a cast of secondary characters that cannot be rivaled. Really, all characterization (even Lainey's parents! yes!) is A+. 

And now to the grand romance! What started off as a fake-date scenario to guarantee that both parties can get their exes back eventually turned into a teenager whirlwind romance full of questions, confusions, and the possibility that a punked-out, tattooed, mohawked rocker with a secret love of cooking pastries may be perfect for the model varsity soccer star that is just now realizing she never really knew herself. Micah and Lainey, oddly enough, are one of my favorite ships of all time. He not only knows how to treat a girl, but he's one of the most sincere characters I've ever come across despite his demeanor. The fact that their coupling is hugely unconventional and unexpected makes me root for them even more. Full of hilarious banter and natural chemistry, Micah and Lainey take us on a journey that makes us question if societal norms and expectations should really rule us.

The only complaint I have about this book is that, at times, I found myself to be frustrated with Lainey's shallowness in the beginning of the book. I understand it was a necessity to show her insanely strong character growth and transformation, but anyone could see how terrible her ex and his sister were. Furthermore, her worries with getting her boyfriend back seemed slightly obsessive at times, which threw off my rhythm because I loved her as a person and didn't want her to obsess over a guy that did not have her best interests at heart and was shallow enough to be won back through jealousy tactics.

In the end, I have to say that this is one of the best contemporary novels I have read in a long time. As a huge fan of Paula's SECRETS OF THE ETERNAL ROSE trilogy, I continue to be satisfied by her amazing storytelling techniques! I definitely can't wait for LIARS, INC.

Warning: There are mentions of underage drinking and illusions to sexual situations in this book. Would not recommend it for younger readers.



4.5 stars

~*~Links~*~

FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation in exchange in this honest review.

The Broadway Review: Chicago


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Date Seen: Friday, April 11, 2014
Seating: Row 5, Rear Mezzanine
Cost of Tickets: FREE!
Ticket Source: AEMIN Trivia Contest
Rating: Neutral
A true New York City institution, CHICAGO has everything that makes Broadway great: a universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz; one show-stopping song after another; and the most astonishing dancing you've ever seen.

No wonder CHICAGO has been honored with 6 Tony Awards®, 2 Olivier Awards®, a Grammy® and thousands of standing ovations.

It's also no surprise that CHICAGO has wowed audiences all around the world, from Mexico City to Moscow, from Sao Paulo to South Africa.

Whether you're looking for your first Broadway musical, whether you've seen the Academy Award®-winning film and want to experience the show live on stage or whether you've seen it before and want to recapture the magic, CHICAGO always delivers.
~*~Journey to the Tickets~*~

I know...you're probably look up there and thinking to yourself, "AEMIN? What's that?" Well, I'll tell you what it is! AEMIN stands for Arts & Entertainment Management Industry Network. At my college we have a major called Arts & Entertainment Management for those who want to go into such a field without being a performer. This Industry Network is obviously our school's network with the industry. To launch it's new social media pages and to make the word known of it's creation, they ran a three day contest for 18 free tickets to any student (whether they have this major or not).

You had to be able to finish song lyrics, which I happily spammed on twitter and probably annoyed a lot of you with, or answer questions about the cast and creation of when CHICAGO first made its Broadway debut in 1975. Oddly enough, I won my free ticket because I knew that CHICAGO made its debut in 1975. How did I know that? I honestly don't know, but I did!

So, if you want free or heavily discounted show tickets and want to be part of the arts and entertainment industry without being a performer, hit up Pace University!

~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This show had a lot of good things and a few bad things that unfortunately overrode the good things. If you want my honest opinion, go into the show with a blind eye. By sheer circumstance I happened to watch the movie CHICAGO exactly a week before I saw the show and I think that hurt it in my eyes. I think the movie was slightly better, but the show is also very different. If you go in without expectations it may be doubly more enjoyable. 

I suppose the best place to start is with the characters. Roxie was so perfect. The actress that played Roxie was beyond talented and drop-dead gorgeous and she was Roxie. Adorable, stupid, naive, starry-eyed Roxie Hart. I also really loved Amos. He reminded me of a clean cut Tramp (played by Charlie Chaplin) with a sweater-vest and no bowler hat or mustache. I also really enjoyed Billy Flynn. Not only did he have the looks, but he had major talent. He, too, embodied Billy Flynn, the lawyer willing to do anything to make a little bit of money, very well. The ensemble was absolutely superb and Mary Sunshine has a set of pipes that is unparalleled. The drag queen in the show was damn good too, but you'd have to see the show to figure out who that is!

As for Velma and Mama...ouch. Velma, to put it simply, was too old. This woman while very talented was very clearly Velma about ten years ago which makes sense since she's been playing Velma since 2001. Velma, in my eyes, is supposed to be the sexy show-stealer and while this woman was very sexy for her age, the entire ensemble and Roxie were sexier then her. The age different was very visible. And Mama...oh, Mama. I love Mama's character and I was not pleased. While she had a set of pipes and made a lot of jokes (thanks to the script), I really did not like this actress. She was stationary. In her big song she could have strutted around the stage and showed sass, instead she literally stood in one place the entire time and kept pointing around wildly. Queen Latifah was a bigger woman who owned that damn stage in the movie and this actress simply could not. She was very slow when moving and either stood still or sat still the entire time.

It was really nice to see some new songs in this show that aren't in the movie, but few of the performances left me truly breathless. My absolute favorite performance was Both Reached for the Gun. I went in expecting this because it's one of my favorite performances in the movie, but myself and several of the people I was with agreed that this was the best performance of the night. Another enjoyable one was Roxie not only because of the singing but because the actress playing Roxie Hart had so many great antics in this one. She has a beautiful singing voice and speaking voice, but when she's joking around she gets this really deep and entertaining voice full of accents that totally appeal to the audience. She knew how to work us and she sure did! Amos's only song, Mister Cellophane, was applaud worthy and Mary Sunshine's operatic voice in her few bits was mind-boggling. 

Otherwise, the songs were simply satisfying. I think this was partially due to sound issues. See, the set-up on the stage is that the orchestra is actually on the stage for our viewing pleasure. The show takes place in front of it and throughout it since there are staircases and entrances and the exits are off to the sides. The instrumentals often overpowered the singing and if there were two people singing at once, you'd be lucky if you could make out one of them. I don't know if this is attributed to poor sound quality or the fact that acoustics may not be as good in the rear mezzanine, but I think they need to make certain microphones more powerful and certain microphones less powerful.

I was so excited to see this show because of the vaudeville aspect of it. The dancing was perfect, straight out of Classic Broadway, as was the exaggerated hand movements and speaking to the audience. They interacted with us through their characters and it made it enjoyable. But I can't say I loved this show, and I think my experience was slightly diminished because I went in with such high expectations. Don't do that like I did and you'll love it so much more. Several of the people that I was with that have not seen the movie for a while would have given this show one thumb up. At this point, I simply can't. I'll have to sleep on it.

Tentative half a thumb up though! Too bad that rating doesn't exist on this specific scale.

Have a good day, guys! And remember, stay away from jazz and liquor!

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Read my other Broadway Reviews here!

To learn more about CHICAGO, check out the musical's website here.

Please note: this is a new feature dependent on audience feedback about whether you want me to continue it or not.