Wake Up To The Joy of You by Agapi Stassinopoulos

This is your year of self-discovery, a journey to create a life filled with grace, meaning, zest, peace, and joy. With warmth and wisdom from a lifetime of spiritual seeking, inspirational force Agapi Stassinopoulos guides you through fifty-two weeks of letting go of what doesn t work for you and finding what does. You ll cultivate the building blocks of self-care (meditation, health, making time for yourself) and confront the common roadblocks we all face, like pouring your energy into other people or living in denial. You ll explore your conflict areas, such as relationships, money, self-esteem, anxiety, and your childhood. And you ll learn to trust your creativity, keep your heart open, and connect to the bigger spirit that lives inside you.
Keep this book by your bedside. It is your loving companion. Be creative and have fun with it. Use it as a tool to unlock your goodness, and wake up to the joy of you! – Goodreads

This little book…I love it.

I requested it through Blogging for Books (in exchange for an honest review!) because nothing else even remotely piqued my interest. I figured, hey, I just took my first step into adult coloring which is said to be a form of meditation…maybe I should try legit meditation. So I requested it.

It took forever to appear on my doorstep, and I actually thought I’d provided the wrong address. But, in the nature of things, it came at the perfect time.

Disclaimer: this is a very spiritual book, and I’m about to throw down some spiritual stuff in this review. Usually my reviews are just about this book, but this is going to get personal.

I believe that the universe/God/whatever you want to call it sends the right message at the right time. Life is full of trials and triumphs, but sometimes those trials — those moments where your faith is tested — can be incredibly difficult.

This book showed up on my doorstep in a moment of self-doubt. Now, the book features 52 chapters — each one has a different theme or message and a guided meditation to ruminate on that message. Rather than go through in order, I decided to flip to a random one. “29. Find Your Confidence and Be Bold” was my chapter that I randomly landed on, and holy shit did I need to read it. It was literally a chapter on embarking on a new journey — whether it be a new project, relationship or -ahem- job, it talked about self-doubt, self-criticism, and using opportunities to grow, test your limits, and move forward. After skimming through the other chapters, it couldn’t have been more perfect in that moment.

Fast forward a few days, the morning of my snowy PT test. My anxiety was through the god damn roof. In the words of Eminem, “Success is my only option, failure’s not” because if you fail the test, you’re booted out. ANXIETY ANXIETY ANXIETY. While waiting for my ride (my two-wheel drive car has zero chill in the snow), I flipped to another random chapter. This one (“19. The Art of Letting Go”) was about breathing. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let go of anxiety. I breathed and I let go, and when they told us we would be doing the test indoors…well, it was awesome. I know I could have also gotten through it had we done it outside, too.

The chapters are two to four pages long and are quick, easy reads. The idea is to do one a week and ruminate on it that week. My only gripe is how long the actual guided meditations are — I found it extremely difficult to remember a page of guided meditation without reading it (because the idea is to meditate). I think they could have definitely been shorter. It’s a great addition to the nightstand, that’s for sure!

I rated this one a 4/5.

 

25817407Love is a risk worth taking.

Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again.

Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny…and Kahlen doesn’t want to.

Falling in love with a human breaks all the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart. – Goodreads

Yeah, I wasn’t feeling this one. I picked it up for a light romantic fantasy read, but it just didn’t dazzle me or do it for me. At all. I read The Selection series and enjoyed it for its light-hearted Bachelor-esque feel, and I was hoping for something similar out of this. The Siren just didn’t deliver.

I’m going to start with what I liked about it first — for one, I enjoyed the writing style. The word choice, flow, etc was done well. I really enjoyed the CONCEPT of the story — that the Ocean must consume souls to survive, and to do so She saves certain unlucky victims (female, unmarried, not mothers) from drowning to become her Sirens, who sing the deadly song and lure those unlucky souls to their deaths. The Ocean must survive in order to provide the masses with food, etc. Those chosen victims must dedicate 100 years of servitude to the Ocean in exchange for their life. I don’t know much about siren folklore, but this was definitely new to me and I enjoyed that piece of it.

I did not enjoy the instalove and whiny MC. I was also annoyed at everyone’s names, specifically the MC and her love interest. Kahlen and Akinli? This book is set in present-day, Kahlen “died” in the 40s…these aren’t typical names, and for some reason that really annoyed me. And the instalove. I. Can’t. Even. They meet. They decide to hang out. They make cake (with about 9000 mentions of effing almond extract). They fall in love. Wait, what? That escalated quickly. Don’t even get me started on when Kahlen washes up on a tiny town in Maine where Akinli is from (they met in MIAMI, ok) and he doesn’t even ask questions. He just takes her in and they go on a date. WTF? WTF.

During the times that those two aren’t together, Kahlen is obnoxiously depressed and withdrawn — super boring to read about.

Anyway, rather and drivel on about how much I didn’t like this, I’ll just leave my 2/5 rating here and move on with my life.

Where has 2016 gone?

I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by.

I can’t believe how many books I haven’t read this year.

I wanted to read 52 (at minimum!) but only managed to read 30.

It’s a been a source of anxiety and stress for me — I run a book review blog, for heaven’s sake. Shouldn’t I be voraciously reading??

I suppose that’s the point of this blog, though. Sometimes the life that happens between reads, well, sometimes it’s a lot. Sometimes it doesn’t leave much room for reading at all. And you know what? That’s okay.

This year has been an amazing year of huge life changes. In the last twelve months, I got a divorce, did a lot of soul searching, sold my house, turned 25, moved in with my fantastic boyfriend, and found out I’m going to police academy in a week (I currently do PR; this is a HUGE career change, y’all). It was up and it was down. But mostly up, and forward, forward, forward. I am so thankful for this year, despite the low points and major life lessons I’ve learned. In fact, I’m grateful for them, too — they’ve gotten me to where I am. I am so excited for what this new year will bring.

Instead of looking at my book count as a failure this year, I’d like to accept it as a challenge for next year. I’ll continue reading, but enjoy the life in between, too.

 

 

 

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

22840421The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England. – Goodreads

I just finished this and had to log-on ASAP to write a review — this is by far one of my top five favorite books of the year (so naturally I had to write it before 2016 timed out).

I’m not sure what initially drew me to this book — I think it came through as a Kindle deal or something. When I saw that Cynthia Hand lives in my town, I figured, eh, I like historical fiction, I suppose I’ll drop a couple of bucks for a fellow Idahoan.

Could not put down, to a point of the boyfriend complaining about how I look at my Kindle more than him (ironic, because he got it for me for Christmas). It IS a 500+ page book, though, so it took a small chunk of time to read (not complaining — I loved the book, and thus loved the length).

First things first (and our dear narrators let us know from the get-go) – this is not an entirely accurate depiction of history. In fact, it’s a bit more of a historical/fantasy mashup, with the Tudors, shapeshifters, and the like thrown in.

The story is told from three points-of-view — Jane, Edward and Gifford. Jane is a firey redheaded bookworm. Edward is the king, who is quite immature and has no idea how to run a kingdom (he’s also dying). Gifford is a lord’s son, who happens to turn into a horse.

Edward, who is dying, names Jane the next in line for the throne and mandates her marriage to Gifford (at the suggestion of his royal advisor, who is Gifford’s dad). Now, Jane and Gifford know of each other, but know nothing about each other — needless to say, they’re not pleased with their marriage.

The humor in this book — that’s what hooked me and what made it so enjoyable. I loved how occasionally the narrators would butt in with a quip or comment — it always fit, and was used sparingly.

I really enjoyed the character development — the three POVs worked well and I enjoyed all three characters. They had dimension and their chemistry was fantastic.

I also enjoyed the worldbuilding. Though set in old England, the fantasy elements with the Verities and Edians worked well.

The writing was also fabulous — in fact, I completely forgot the book was written by three different people.

5/5 for sure!

L

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1) by Rae Carson

17564519Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift. – Goodreads

This. THIS.

It’s no secret, I’ve been a terrible reader lately — and by that I mean I haven’t been reading a whole lot. Partly due to life, partly due to having a hard time finding a book that really drew me in. This one did it. I downloaded the free Kindle sample and was hooked before the sample was over.

I wasn’t entirely sure about it when I started reading it — the old time-y dialogue and phrases kept making me shudder — it felt forced at first. After I settled in and became comfortable with the time period and main character, I began reading it in her accent and it became comfortable.

Before I delve into this review, let me warn you: I am obsessed with three historical time periods and/or events. Ancient Egypt, the sinking of the Titanic, and the Oregon Trail. Now, I grew up on the Oregon Trail — Bonneville Point (an Oregon Trail Historical Preserve) is literally down the street from my house. I used to be terrified of digging in the dirt because I thought I’d happen upon a skeleton or something. I never found anything, but I studied the Oregon Trail extensively during my homeschooled years. I also loved the hell out of the PC game.

Once Lee was on her way (after her parents are brutally murdered and she’s forced to flee — after all, if you have the ability to sense gold and people find out, they want to use you) and posing as a boy, I was sucked in and couldn’t put the book down. I loved that the whole posing-as-a-boy was done differently than other stories I’ve read. She was still proud to be a woman, but extremely upset at the fact that in that time period women were bartered back and forth and essentially owned by men. After her secret is out, she freely wears a skirt, shoots a rifle, and rides a horse.

On that note, Lee is a strong female MC — though she has her trials, she works through them realistically and believably. I really enjoyed her character, as well as the supporting characters. Even the ones who began as folks I disliked grew on me after a while.

The worldbuilding was decent, but I did find myself getting lost at where they were at in the journey. I would have liked some more orientation as to where they were in points — some familiar names would pop up — Fort Laramie, Fort Hall, etc. and I would know where they were, but that’s only because I know them.

Anyway, I’m obsessed. It’s fine. I’m definitely starting the second book ASAP. Added to my favorites and rated a 5/5.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

18584855Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. – Goodreads

I devoured this one. Kind of like the characters in the book who were obsessed with Catherine’s baking.

Can I just say that Marissa Meyer is a badass as retelling fairytales? Seriously! I’m not a Queen of Hearts kind of girl (hated the ones in the movies, didn’t like the one in the book). This book is the only telling of the Queen of Hearts that I’m down with. It’s basically a prequel to Alice in Wonderland — after all, we never really learn why the Queen of Hearts is so horrible.

Catherine is not your typical strong heroine. She doesn’t fight people, she’s not out on quests. She wants to open her own bakery, not marry the freakin’ king. But she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents. Then Jest comes and everything changes.

It’s instalove. It’s totally instalove. And I didn’t really care at all. Once it happens, their romance develops slowly and though it’s the overarching storyline, it wasn’t obnoxious. It worked really well.

I need to reign this in because I’m just gushing at this point.

The story is dark and twisted. The worldbuilding is fantastic — there are so many characters, beasts, and elements from Alice in Wonderland. The Cheshire Cat, the Looking Glass, the Mad Hatter…the list goes on. They all fit in flawlessly.

I can’t really go into too much more detail without ruining the plot — the ending was painful, though. I set the book down feeling the most intense form of book sadness ever.

I loved this book. I rated it 5/5!

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

28114396Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force. – Goodreads

When I first started reading this, I was like, awww yeah. I love me some YA fantasy.

And then I found myself getting progressively more and more annoyed. At first I thought Brita was a badass (don’t get me wrong, she is — she can definitely handle her own) but one moony-eyed look from the dude she loved and she’s twitterpated and dumb. I also felt that as a reader, I wasn’t really shown that Britta was as strong of a heroine as I was told.

So yeah, I was annoyed.

The book started fairly slow — I was into it, but it took a while for the storyline to really get moving. Britta is trying to find her father’s murderer, which involves some adventuring, getting captured multiple times, running from her jailers, etc.

I don’t know. I just thought it was predictable and the romance was dull. The worldbuilding was okay, but I never really felt pulled in. I rated this a 2/5 on Goodreads.

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.