Saturday, February 28, 2015

Let's Talk About That Time I Wasn't So Brave | A Progression in Playwriting (3)

I mentioned that I would do a blog post about the 2nd week at writing class in A 72 Year-Old Crawfish Salesman? | A Progression in Playwriting (2) which was a few weeks ago (yeah, I'm behind on blog posts) because I didn't have enough to say for a video. (Even though we all know Sofia can ramble on for ages listening to the sound of her own voice) If you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, A Progression In Playwriting is a 10 episode series on Loving the Language of Literacy where I talk about writing class.  

Now you're going to hear why. I mentioned my fear in the longest blog post title in the history of time - I Am @sslluvbooks & I Will Not Be Embarrassed ~ Pressure, Peers, Respect & Distractions.... The Plight of a 21st Century Teenage Blogger - the gist of it was the fact that I felt extremely self-conscious and embarrassed when people I know in real life see what I do with my blog/YouTube channel. My "internet personality" is a bit different from my one IRL, primarily because I wouldn't say half of the things I do to real people. Anyways, a week and a half ago, I experienced the same thing.... with writing class instead.

Backstory Time - The original title of this episode of A Progression in Playwriting was A Foray Into Fiction. It's obvious I like alliteration here :) My lovely instructor wasn't there for the week so everyone in playwriting had to choose whether to go to Fiction or join the dark side (as the teacher refers it) known as poetry. For the day, I chose to go with Fiction because that's what I was going to pick originally when starting the class. I wanted to see if there was anything I was missing out on.

Heres What I THINK Was The Problem....

In playwriting, everyone is so new to the type of writing that it's really relaxed and intimate, and everyone is a bit of an awkward/sarcastic drama queen/king that no one cares if you mess up.

In poetry, people are generally pretty deep (or so I've heard from one of my friends in the class) and pouring their souls out onto paper.

Yet, general fiction is something people generally know well and are a lot quicker to criticize. I'm a book reviewer for goodness sakes! I know what I like to read and I have a basic understanding on what makes a story "good." I was just surrounded by a ton of good writers (around half of them younger than me) and the little they wrote felt superior to mine.

We were all give random title prompts to choose from and told to write for 15 minutes. It was basically a NaNoWriMo word sprint on crack because we were supposed to SHARE what we had written in that time. I will most definitely share work with people or even the internet without going over it 20 billion times, but I would like the chance to read it over before sharing it and receiving feedback on something I don't even consider my top-notch work.

By the end of class, the vast majority of our class had shared what they had written, and it sounded amazing. It was quite enjoyable from a viewer's perspective to listen to the various writing styles and ways the title prompts were put into play. From the position of someone expected to share their own work and make it sound even half as good as everyone else's.... not so much.

I could blame it on the fact that what I had written for the day just wasn't good and I am completely fine with that, but at the same time, I felt so frustrated and frankly, humiliated, that I wasn't brave enough. I talk the talk a lot, but I don't walk the walk enough in my writing life. The only way to get better is to receive constructive criticism from others. FOUR-FIFTHS of the class presented, why couldn't I?

The very next week, I vowed that I would share my work (which I did), but I'm going to remember this experience for a long time.

Was there a time in your life when you should have done something -because there wouldn't have been any serious consequences- but did't because you were afraid?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

{ARC Review} Mark of the Thief #1: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Rating: 90% 
Series: Mark of the Thief #1 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Middle Grade, Fiction,
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Page Count: 339
Format: Physical ARC
Source: Scholastic 

My Synopsis: *I believe that the publisher's synopsis gives away too much of the story's plot, containing information from page 300 of the book, therefore I revised it to what I felt would be fitting as a reader*

This is a Middle Grade, historical fiction novel with a touch of magic about a 15 year old slave boy named Nic in the Roman mines who is forced to search for treasure in a sealed cavern. He discovers an ancient bulla or amulet (featured on the cover) that belonged to Julius Caesar thats magic gets transferred to Nic. Against his will, Nic is brought to Rome and finds himself caught up in a war attempting to destroy the Roman empire.   

Disclaimer: received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
If I were to describe this book in an X meets X formula, I would say Percy Jackson's world meets the protagonists of The Horse and His Boy meets the political intrigue from The Ring and the Crown.

Would I Buy It?
The ARC cover for The Mark of the Thief is beautiful enough and I am dying to get my hands on a finished copy. I'm dying to know if the bulla is embossed in the final copy and if the colors really are as vibrant as they appear to be.

Background & Backstory?
The most disappointing part about all of this is that I had filmed a lengthy BookTalk video for Mark of the Thief. Unfortunately, my computer decided to eat the footage and due to time constraints, I was unable to refill/edit/upload it.

On a more positive note, Mark of the Thief and All Fall Down (Ally Carter) are the first ever physical publisher ARCs I have ever received and I felt so overjoyed to reach that milestone in blogging with what had started of as a hobby.

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
Per usual with every Jennifer Nielsen book I have ever read -
Sequel. PLEASE!

Right off the bat you should know that I had A LOT to say about this novel and I mean a lot. While I always try to deter you from looking at my Goodreads Reading Updates (because they're full of spoilers) you will notice that there are over FORTY of them. I had my phone by my side throughout my reading of Mark of the Thief and updated it every time I had some inference/feels-filled response to report. 

Characters | 90% Let's talk about Nic.... Nielsen's strength has ALWAYS been her outstanding male leads and he is no different, but he was far enough from Sage in the Ascendance Trilogy that I didn't feel she had merely copied-and-pasted her protagonist. His snark and sarcasm was a bit more subtle and was fueled purely by emotions and selfish reasons versus Sage who had a greater sense of duty, although with the way Mark of the Thief ended. I wouldn't be surprised if Nic's moral compass improved, as well as his priorities, and his levels of compassion towards others as the series progresses. Sage was under someone's command, but he was still in enough a position of power where he could be reckless. However, Nic had his little sister Lucia to look out for as well as his hide which could have easily been skinned if he acted out too harshly. Nic was a very rough-and-tumble character who only cared about himself and was inexperienced with the ways of society.

And good news.... there was a strong female lead. Aurelia plays an interesting role in the story because of position in society and the way she begrudgingly becomes friends with Nic despite the fact that their relationship started as business-only. She wouldn't take any of his crap, stood up for herself, and put him into his place when he needed it. 

Romance | 70% Nielsen writes Middle Grade and that means that romance is most definitely NOT her speciality. Nonetheless, the relationship between Nic and Aurelia was cute and I can't wait to witness the dynamic between the two of them evolve throughout the series because they feed off of each other's characters very well. 

But, I'm not here to talk about AURELIA and Nic.... I'm here to talk about Corvus. While he's not a main character, he plays a prominent role in the story by helping Nic and Aurelia when they need it. I might sound like I'm jumping the gun with this 100% crackpot theory, but I think he might be romantically attracted to Nic. Wait until Jennifer Nielsen reads this review and facepalms herself repeatedly because she's written Aurelia and Corvus together and bringing in an LGBT aspect is the farthest thing from her mind. Anyways, he seemed uncharacteristically nice -for someone of his status- to them without a clear motive, except, perhaps.... love??? The last big splash of LGBT we've seen as readers was Riordan choosing to make Nico gay which aroused quite a conversation amongst fans. I'm dying to see this become a norm in all/any genre and would applaud Nielsen immensely. 

Or we can just all agree I'm crazy.

How did the book's genre affect the story? 
Despite the fact that I'm having a hard time determining the actual genre of this book, the premise/genre does affect it by giving the author the chance to make use of symbolism, mythology, and prophecies, three of my favorite things. Anyways, this is portrayed in particular with Caela, the griffin, featured on the bulla on the cover of Mark of the Thief. She plays a surprisingly important role in the story and I like the layer of complexity it adds.  

Ending | 100% Per usual, Jennifer Nielsen's ending will either make her readers “want to kill you, kiss you, or be you...” (as Finnick Odair kindly supplied for me). It was completely mind-blowing, plot-twisting, and everything you have come to expect and respect from her.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?


While nothing about sequel to Mark of the Thief hasn't been announced yet, Nielsen fans can keep their eyes out for A Night Divided which (according to the vibe I'm getting from the Goodreads synopsis) is a historical fiction thriller with a female narrator this time *waggles eyebrows* I loved the addition Aurelia provided to both the story and the fact that Nielsen's stories can feature kickass females. The different perspective will be an entirely new thing, especially because we won't hear from a snarky MALE protagonist this time. I am SO looking forward to this one.

Conclusion: Another well-paced series starter featuring two strong protagonists, a well-crafted world, and a mind-playing story you don't want to miss.

Monday, February 23, 2015

{Book Review+Playlist+Excerpt} More Than Comics (Chasing the Dream #2): Elizabeth Briggs

Rating: 90%
Series: Chasing the Dream #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult, Fiction,
Publisher: Elizabeth Briggs
Publication Date: February 23, 2014
Page Count: 163
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads Synopsis: They're friends online - but can they be more in real life?

Writer Tara McFadden has been friends with artist and drummer Hector Fernandez for years, long before his band became famous on reality TV – yet they’ve never met in person. They finally have a chance to connect offline when they’re both sent to Comic-Con to promote the graphic novel they collaborated on.

Hector's secretly been in love with Tara for as long as he can remember, and once they meet, she sees him in a new light. All the years of longing lead to an incredible night of passion after one of his concerts, but neither is sure if their online relationship can translate into a real life romance – or if this will ruin their friendship forever.

Over four crazy days at Comic-Con, Hector and Tara must decide if they want a future together. But when their story seems to be over, it’s up to Hector’s entire band to make sure he and Tara get their happy ending.

I loved More Than Music and am dying to hear what you think of it, especially because you can get it for less than a dollar now.


“I’ve heard so much about your sisters. I’d love to meet them sometime.”

Hector’s shoulders relaxed and he returned the squeeze. “They wanted to come to Comic-Con so bad. Especially Yasmine. She’s obsessed with that Arrow show and told me to get the guy’s autograph.”

“That guy is pretty hot. He’s always running around half-naked on the show, like they have some shirtless quota to fill every episode. Not that I’m complaining. I mean, those abs, my god.”

“You trying to make me jealous? Maybe I should take my shirt off so you won’t think about that other guy.”

I laughed, relieved he was joking around again. “I wouldn’t complain if you did. You have incredible abs, too.”

“Oh yeah?” He quickly tugged his black shirt over his head. “Done.”

He shouldn't be allowed to remove his shirt like that without some kind of warning first. I shoved him lightly in the side, mainly so I could touch him. “Show off.”

He grinned and flexed his arms in an exaggerated way, and it was hard not to stare at his rippling muscles. “Sorry, should I put my shirt back on?”

“No, definitely not. In fact, you should never wear a shirt again. You’d be doing the world a favor.”

He let out a deep, hearty laugh that rumbled down my spine, and it made my day knowing I’d caused it. I made a resolution to try to make him laugh more often.

Ahead of us, a girl yelled, “Oh my god!” She dragged her friend down the sidewalk, and they were both dressed in identical Slave Leia costumes from Return Of The Jedi. “You’re Hector, from Villain Complex!”

Hector didn’t move to put his shirt back on, but he shifted on his feet, like he wanted to bolt. “Hey...”

“Your band is so freaking hot,” Slave Leia No. 2 said, leaning forward and drawing attention to her barely there gold top and impressive cleavage. “I watched every episode of The Sound.”

“Me, too,” the first one said. She played with her long braid, her eyes glued to Hector’s naked chest.

“I love you guys.”

“Um, thanks,” he said.

“Aren’t you two cold in those costumes?” I asked, eyeing their exposed legs. I wasn’t wearing much more than them, but I wanted to make it clear that I was with Hector.

They cast me a confused glance, like they wondered what I was doing there. The first Slave Leia took a step closer to Hector, invading his personal space. “Hey, you want to come party with us?”

The second girl moved in too, licking her lips. “It’ll be fun, we promise.”

I didn’t have a violent bone in my body, yet I had the sudden, primal urge to growl and shove them back, to make sure they knew he was mine. My god, what had gotten into me?

“Sorry, I’m busy tonight.” Hector placed a hand on the small of my back, an intimate gesture not lost on them...or on me.

“She can come along, if you want,” Slave Leia No. 2 said, with another brief glance my way.

I laughed. “Yeah, that’s going to happen, about never.”

Hector tried to suppress a grin. “Thanks for the offer, but we’re good.”

We walked away, his hand a steady, almost possessive presence on my lower back. I leaned against his side and the heat rising off his skin enveloped me.

Sorry ladies, Hector was all mine. At least for the next few days.

I nudged him with my hip. “You better put your shirt back on. I don’t want any other girls getting ideas.”

“That was unusual. They always go for Jared, or sometimes Kyle. Never me.” He removed his Villain Complex hat and shoved it into his jeans, shaking his hair out. “Not sure I like the attention.”

“No? I thought every guy dreamed of scantily clad women inviting him for a threesome.” He pinned me with his smoldering dark eyes. “Not this guy.”

The intensity of his gaze took my breath away. The chemistry between us was thick, the desire so strong I could practically smell it in the air. He was still shirtless, a large, handsome, solid mountain of a man.

A mountain I wanted to climb and conquer.

About the Author: Website | Facebook | Newsletter | Twitter

Elizabeth Briggs is a full-time geek who writes books for teens and adults. She plays the guitar, mentors at-risk teens, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of small, fluffy dogs.

Disclaimer: received this book from the author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
The entire Chasing the Dream series should be best-selling in the New Adult genre. I would recommend it to fans of J. Lynn, Cora Carmack, Colleen Hoover, and Taryn Fisher because More Than Comics is on par with any of them.

Background & Backstory?
I read, reviewed, and loved More Than Music last summer and then More Than Exes last November. I'm on Elizabeth Brigg's mailing list for any promotional events, so I jumped on the chance to read/review More Than Comics because I am all for supporting Indie Authors I love.

Can we just talk about how cool it is that this book is set during Comic Con? I haven't personally been, but it sounds like a helluva a lot of fun and a nerd's paradise. I thought it was undeniably unique and awesome that Hector and Tara were a writer/illustrator duo that actually had a panel and singing at Comic Con. Especially because every "nerd" out there considers or has considered themselves an outcast or pariah because of their interests. Comic Con and other conventions/events like it are so great for all of us introverts who finally come to a place where they feel like they belong. 

The backbone of New Adult romance are relationship dynamics and Elizabeth Briggs is most definitely a master at that. She manages to weave together brilliant threads between the main and even side characters who are just as lovable. 

There is a new... problem, shall we say that comes with relationships that wasn't present until the 21st century, and that is the incorporation of the Internet into daily life. The internet adds an extra layer of complexity to people's relationships which helps and harms couples in modern relationships. Tara and Hector's is a tough one that wouldn't have been possible even 10 years ago because they met on the internet. They have been corresponding for the past THREE years over social media, graphic novel/comic forums, texting, and Skype. The couple form such an intense bond and connection despite never actually getting each other in person. This raises some alarms with the older generation of parents and teenagers too. The characters themselves wondered if their wonderful connection would be the same in person, but it makes you think as a reader, if you are in a loving relationship as well that may be long-distance or one where you have never actually met the person.

I also appreciated the fact that Briggs introduced people of color to the series and made it a prominent part of the story. Hector is a hispanic person and his family as well as his heritage plays an important part in the story. There is some relationship anxiety between Tara and Hector because of their different races which was extremely interesting to see, especially in a New Adult novel, which isn't commonly presented in this type of novel. Tara and Hector also bring this need for diversity into their graphic novel, Misfit Squad where their characters are of all different races, genders, sexual orientations, body types because this is so important to be represented in pop culture. 

This is a quick rambling from myself as a reader, but I love Elizabeth Brigg's writing despite the cliche phrases and I connect with the characters so well. Briggs is a master of writing New Adult angst that my hungry eyes love gobbling up. The characters were so relatable with their situations and their romantic conflicts were perfectly realistic as well. Plus, Hector is so swoon-worthy to read about  and Elizabeth is quite good at writing some sexy times.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
I love a good New Adult I can just fly through to take my mind off of things and that is exactly what Elizabeth Briggs delivers with everything I read of hers. Behind the Seams, book three in the Chasing the Dream series comes out sometime in the May area of 2015 and I will most definitely be begging Elizabeth for an eARC as soon as their available.

Conclusion: If you're in the mood for some well-written New Adult angst, definitely check out the Chasing the Dream series for realistic, relatable, and diverse characters.

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Positive Position On Company Affiliation

Today I am here to talk to you about a much-talked about subject, especially in the YouTube world, that I know next to nothing about. 


You hear it all the time in blog posts and YouTube videos - 
"I received this [item] from [insert association/company] in exchange for an honest review."  
"If you would like to use my affiliate link, I will get a little percentage of the purchase, and I would greatly appreciate it."

There have been countless YouTubers attacked and judged because they made a video that was sponsored, either monetarily or with the use of desirable objects. I may be ignorant, but I never saw the reason for the commotion. There is always the question of - Is this well-known person with lots of influence over their viewers lying because a huge corporation payed them? Or is this this person's honest-to-goodness opinion?

I have no problem with sponsorships, either for myself or well-known bloggers/BookTubers if they honestly believe in/enjoy a product. On occasion, I accept free books from authors/blog tours in exchange for giving them an honest review. And I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. I have always spoken honestly of the books I receive. 

My number one example is Edna in the Desert (Maddy Ledderman) which is a heartwarmingly tale about a 13 year old girl's self-discovery. In my review, I express my feelings for the characters, the plot, and the writing style. Yet, I hate the cover that needs a redesign even more than the Bloodlines Series. The author is well aware of my feelings and thanked me for my opinions. 

With the case of blog tour books, you have seen me tear apart and analyze them just like ANY other book I read. Take The Last Changeling (Chelsea Pitcher) for an example. 

Up until now, I have never been monetarily compensated for a post/review/affiliation. I have always done my own thing, expressed my own opinion, and if someone feels the need to respond.... I let them and enjoy agreement or a new perspective. And I intend 110% to continue on with this.

Yet.... in December of 2014, something has changed.

I have not had a change in heart about my honesty policy in posts.
I have not had a great change in my life that has given me new perspective.
I have not had personal experience with a viewer or a content-producer with strong opinions on either side.

I have become a Book Depository Affiliate.

That's right, if you click on the badge and buy a book through the link, I will receive 5% of the book's cost. I applied for affiliation almost two months ago with hardly any thought to the matter because I had assumed the Book Depository would never accept me in their right minds. Yet, they did.

Because of my affiliation, I am now linked to this company. If I choose to use the links, I am promoting the Book Depository and gaining them one more sale than they would have gotten otherwise (which is the point). It's quite a curious concept for someone who has only been doing blogging as a hobby for a year now, that so much could have happened.

It leaves me reeling that I could be a target. Yet, it also seems amazing that I could possibly earn money from something that started off as a time-passer. It also puts things into perspective

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

{BookTalk The Archived #1: Victoria Schwab

Rating: 78%
Series: The Archived
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult, Fiction,
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Page Count: 328
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis: The dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead, called 'Histories', rest in the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper is dangerous and a constant reminder of those she lost, Da and her little brother. Mac wonders about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. Yet someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall. 

Disclaimer: At Loving the Language of Literacy, a BookTalk means that there will be clearly marked spoilers interspersed throughout the review.

Would I Buy It?
While I simply adore the cover, I didn't enjoy the book enough to go running out to buy a physical copy (because I read it as an eBook), but if there were a boxed set for purchase when the trilogy is completed, I would jump on a chance to own it. 

Background & Backstory?
There really isn't that much backstory behind my reading this book besides the fact that I was in a slump before I started reading it and am still in a slump afterwards. Don't get me wrong, this was a good novel and any other day, it would have been spectacular. I just keep hitting dud after dud and have yet to find a book that reminds me why I love to read.

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?

Premise/Writing Style | 98% Can we just talk for a few minutes about how amazing the premise of The Archived is? Even though you would have to classify it as urban fantasy genre-wise, it has some of the best, most complicated world building I have read in a long time. Something about Schwab's writing made me feel like I was floating on a cloud of mystery and death... which are two completely opposite things. The Archived just broke down all preconceived notions of mine for what a "paranormal" novel should be and I absolutely respect Victoria for whatever is going on in her brilliant mind.

Romance | 40% This was a complete personal preference issue, but I did not enjoy the romance because of the types of characters the two love interests were (if you have read the book, you'll know what I mean) as well as the fact that there were two love interests. With the kind of writing/story The Archived was, I didn't expect there to be a need for a love triangle.

***Start Spoiler***
Wesley seemed a little like the too-good-to-be-true, snarky, friendly boy-next-door who just happened to be a Keeper too. Of course, I know this is to help with the arc for the rest of the series, but I still dislike him. I also didn't understand the need for involving Owen romantically except for the fact that Mackenzie needed a distraction from the stress of her world, which vaguely reminded my of a paranormal DUFF. I thought it was kind of expected, but simultaneously a good decision that he ended up being a bad guy. The circumstances of them even KNOWING each other, let alone being romantically involved meant that they wouldn't end well.
***End Spoiler***

Pacing | 50% The reason I am in this darn reading slump is because I love my books fast-paced and unfortunately, with books as beautifully crafted and complicated as this one, the pace couldn't be lightning fast. It was extremely stimulating and thought provoking conceptually as events unfolded, but I wasn't able to fly through it.

Dealing With Tough Topics | 80% This is a completely new category in my reviews, but it is high time I had one considering I like reading books that feature them heavily. The premise alone tells you as the reader that you are going to be reading a lot about death. I thought the way Schwab presented death was interesting because of how she incorporated it into the something the reader should care/be aware about as well as part of what her story is relying on. The main character Mackenzie is forced to deal with the loss of her younger brother Ben as well as her grandfather Da. She's in the middle of grieving and Ben's death is the reason her family moved in the first place. Armed with her beautiful prose, Schwab presented grief in a conceivable, yet realistic way.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
I just put the sequel, The Unbound, on hold for me at the library and have Vicious, which is Victoria's adult fantasy novel in my hands as we speak. I loved the beautiful writing style and want to read everything of hers.... just maybe not at this very moment because of this stupid reading slump.


Monday, February 16, 2015

My Conclusion About Slumps | Sofia Speculates (5)

Let's see, it's almost one in the morning on Valentines Day, the person I would want to spend this day with is leaving for his winter vacation, I haven't felt like blogging/YouTubing/reading for weeks, and I should really be asleep right now. It's the perfect time of day to compose another Sofia Speculates!

Did you know that February is classically the most unproductive month of the year besides December? I totally just made that fact up, but you believed it, didn't you? I think after all of us work our butts off in January saving the world (or just completing new years resolutions), we get kind of burnt out. I know I am. This happened last February as well (but I actually had a good excuse back then), and I think it might happen every February for the rest of my life. I was on fire in January, if I do say so myself (which I am). I was productive, created new features/series, and overall was loving life, my blog, and books. 

Then February came....

Nearly over night, the desire to be productive came tumbling down, kind of like the stock market crash that started the great depression. It's the 14th of the month and I have only read four books, which if you know Sofia, that means that I haven't read very much this month. Even though my last two reads All The Bright Places and The Walled City have been enjoyable, they took for FOREVER to get through. 

I have tried forcing myself to sit down and write. I have tried hyping myself up with too much sugar, then standing in front of the camera, not knowing what to say. I am currently reading five different novels because no particular one is holding my interest.  

Yet I have come to a conclusion that is life-changing, sensical, and lazy.... all at the same time. 

I'm not going to force myself to do anything.

I know for a fact that I will always love and be passionate about books. Since last February, I have never once seriously considered stopping blogging. It's what I do. It's what makes me different from others, and I have come to realize that I like being different. It has taught me so many life lessons about accountability, responsibility, and productivity. 

But I know sometimes you have to take a break, even if it's from the thing you love.

For now, I'm in a slump but I promise I am going to come back stronger and harder and better than ever before when it happens. It's tough that all three slumps hit at the exact time. Heck, it's tough that I even sat down to write this post.... that's how deep into this slump I am. Please don't even talk to me about what I'm currently reading.

However, the one difference I have noticed between this slump and previous ones, it that I'm okay with being in a slump. I would have been giving myself a heart attack this time last year if I had experienced the same feelings I do now. But I know the blogosphere will always be there for me when I'm ready to come back full force, raring to go. 

You probably saw the less than a thousand word-count for this post and wanted to faint because Sofia's posts are never this short, but there is a first time for everything. Feel free to tell me how you deal with productivity slumps and your solutions. Do you beat yourself up about it or do you just let it go? I'd love to discuss :)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

{BookTalk} The Walled City: Ryan Graudin

Rating: 83%
Series: None
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult, Fiction, 
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Page Count: 424
Format: Hardcover
Source: Strand Books 

Goodreads Synopsis:

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

Disclaimer: Sometimes you read a book and you NEED to discuss all of your spoilery feels surrounding it. The spoilers in this review are clearly marked with asterisks, so you may skip over those sections if you do not want to be spoiled.

Background & Backstory?
I had heard a lot of prepublication buzz about this book and loved the simplicity of the cover, but hadn't considered reading it until one of my best book BFFs of all time Nath from Codes and Writes raved about it. I respect her opinion surrounding books quite a lot and she talked so highly of this book that I made my parents get it for me for Christmas during our trip to Strand Books in NYC. 

What Was My Reaction Upon Finishing?
I'm not sure how I feel about this book.

Plot - Premise - Originality | 98% You have to admit that this book has an awesome premise. At a glance, it seems like The Walled City is a brilliantly crafted dystopian science-fiction novel, but in actuality, the publisher considers it realistic fiction because of the different elements of the world that are perfectly legitimate to consider in our present day 21st century state. The way a brilliant premise is executed is usually what I criticize most in a novel, but Graudin did it flawlessly. Not once did I feel as if I had read this kind of story before, and I enjoyed the asian elements the book possessed as well. 

Characters | 90% The Walled City had some of the most complex, unique characters I have ever read about that could rub heads with character of Legend by Marie Lu. We had Dai who I described to Nath as "A Day-like character with a June-like upbringing," which means that was sarcastic, intelligent, athletic, and had a mysterious past. He was my favorite as well as the strongest character during the story as well as the instigator during most of the story. Then there was Mei Yee who was such a broken character forced to survive extreme circumstances no human should, and she came out of the experiences without her soul being crushed. And finally there was Jin who was stubborn and determined and hadn't let her truly crappy life get in the way of her light.

Relationships | 70% Something Nath brings up a lot in our frequent Legend conversations is the value of family and how strong a sibling-siblings or parent-child relationship can be. Jin's desire to be reunited with Mei Yee was truly tangible and I enjoyed this element of the story so much. 

***Spoiler Alert***
Nevertheless, I thought it was an odd decision to make it Mei Yee and Dai who were romantically attracted to each other. They didn't seem like good candidates for togetherness and their personalities clashed a lot in my mind when you thought about their relationship from a more statistical point of view. However, Dai and Jin would have made a much more believable couple because their passion for life would have been at the same level. Yet, Dai needed the motivation to rescue Mei Yee and what better motivation is there besides love?
***End Spoiler***

Writing Stye | 80% Everyone knows that I am an absolute sucker for multi-POV books and this book would not have wowed me half as much if it the three characters hadn't given me such a panoramic view of the story from three very different stances in society. In a dark world of drugs and crime, there was the vagrant, the prostitute, and the upperclass criminal which ensured the fact that I was in for a wild ride.

Ending | 70% It is rare that I will find a dystopian/fantasy-esque novel that is a standalone and most of the time, I am left wanting more from the author. I honestly don't know how Graudin did it, but she wrapped up all the loose threads into this neat little package. While I disliked the events themselves that happens, I loved the buildup to them. 

How Likely Is It That I Will Read Another Book By This Author?
There was something so unique and individual in terms of the feelings The Walled City gave me that I want to feel again, so I most definitely will be picking up Graudin's other works such as All That Glows.

Conclusion: An exhilarating, vivid, and fascinating standalone told from three unlikely perspectives that is the epitome of a story.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Qualifies as a "Book"? | Sofia Speculates (4)

"a handwritten or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers"

If only it were that simple

Today I am here to discuss with you a topic only some bloggers/readers care about.

If I could be one of those super secure readers that are fine with reading however many books as they can, I would be. 

But I'm not

The Goodreads Challenge is something a lot of bloggers/readers with goodreads accounts don't even bother participating in. It causes unnecessary stress to quantify reading, which is something so sacred. Reading allows you the chance to escape to worlds that don't actually exist, and the last thing you want to do is stress out over whether you are "behind" or "ahead" in reading. 

There is already an issue and debate about the validity of the Goodreads Challenge because a 20 page novella is ranked the same way as a George R.R. Martin book. Before diversifying my reading, I never had this issue. I read novels. That was it. No "Ifs" "Ands" or "Buts." 

This was already an issue before, but in January, I read two graphic novels and a novella.

Which adds a whole NEW level of stress to the Goodreads Challenge!

The time and effort it took me to read all three works of literature was drastically less than it would to read a regular YA novel. I am in no way trying to devalue novellas and graphic novels. I think they are wonderful types of "books" to read.

The Goodreads Challenge just makes it hard to decide whether or not to count them. If you don't know the difference between marking a book as READ versus it appearing on the GOODREADS CHALLENGE, this is it -

It's that simple, yet it's not. I personally love the fact that you can mark down what day you start and finish a book. Goodreads is the way to go if your memory fails you when trying to remember what/how many books you have read. I could just mark a book as READ and be done with it all. Yet, Goodreads has just set it up so easily and I really want to know what I have read easily (especially when you look at books read and how Goodreads organizes them).

So this is the conclusion I have come to. 

I am going to count all pieces of literature on my Goodreads Challenge as long as they are over 50 pages. But I will specify (in wrap-ups and such) between Novels/Novellas/Graphic Novels.

I know this is an uncharacteristically short speculation on my part, but I really want to know what you do when you are in my dilemma. 

Do you even participate in the Goodreads Challenge? If not, how do you keep track of read books?
What counts as a "book"?
Do you count graphic novels/novellas in your Goodreads Challenge?

Disclaimer: Besides the signature and discussion banner, I do not own, nor do I claim to own any of the images in this post.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

{BookTalk} All The Bright Places: Jennifer Niven

Rating: 94%
Series: None
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Social Issues, Fiction, Young Adult,
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Page Count: 378
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Plot | 90%
Premise | 90%
Characters | 95%
Romance | 80%
Originality | 90%
Cover | 100%
Title | 100%
Feels | 89%
Writing Style | 95%
Pacing | 75%
Ending | 70%
Quotes | 97%

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dragons and Dungeons | Frames of Existence (2)

Frames of Existence is a sporadic feature on Loving the Language of Literacy where I combine my two passions of photography and writing. The goal is to write 250 words relating back to the photo, whether it's an opening scene or character description. You might want to read Ordinary | Frames of Existence first before this post, but in no way do you have to read them in order. FYI: I was watching the Invasions of the Body Snatchers while composing this post, so forgive me for the eeriness.

It’s late.
Voicemails. People.
Texts. Connections.
Are abandoned.
In exchange for work.
I’m the only one left.
This is what my life has become.
Attempting to patch
The holes of my careless co-workers.
They say this is a man’s world.
I’m beginning to think they’re right.
All of that is forgotten
The moment I see her.
Thin wire, wrapped in glass.
A shadow.
Nothing is tangible.
Nothing... is there.

I laugh.
They don’t know how simple it is
To “escape”
Because this is only a room
Yet their spirits have already been
Grind. Pound. Pressure.
This was meant to challenge, to test
But our most promising subject
Has only experienced reluctance.
If only they knew
Being trapped is the least of their problems.
Because we have arrived.
It reminds me of a gavel.
Definite. Finite. Complete.
A wax seal on the sentence of my fate.
There’s nothing to do
But sit, surrounded by strangers.
We appeared, memoryless.
We can’t even wallow in our misery.
We can’t curl up in a dark corner
To fall apart from our bonds.
The room with no entrance is too bright.
All we can do is sit
To become emaciated walking skeletons
Or maybe we are already dead.

They remind me of a church.
Small comfort nowadays.
The world has been reduced 
To shadows and lies and flickers.
The old world is melting away.
As if the earth were a person
Who is drawing back his face.
All these years 

Life has been a facade?
A projection upon a wall.
Until it was blasted open
To reveal what is truly beyond.
The dust bites the air
Creating more and more of a haze
What little light remains
Even hope is attempting escape.

The cycle is broken.
The monotony vanquished.
Each day
He crept
Closer and Closer
To the divide.
His life dangled
Above his head.
Every drag flared
Thrusting color
Upon a grey-scale world.
Contact was made
Out of the experience 
Pain became one
He relished in it.
The only time he ever knew
Felt truth encompass his life
Combined with realism.
He reeled.
Deposited where he started.
Only to begin again.

I jumped. Surface to Surface. Web trailing between the folds.They appeared as carbon copies. Clones if you will. They are anything but. The Dead and the Dying.
The world does not end but few people gleam the knowledge. That treading water
Does not mean you drown.

Disclaimer: All images used in this post are 100% owned by me and were edited using Fotor and/or PicMonkey.
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