Friday, June 24, 2016

Going for Gold (The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson)

The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson

Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: eARC // 320 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars

I'm not claiming to be a huge Shawn Johnson fan, but I distinctly remember being in high school and cheering for her when she competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Of course, it was from my living room couch. And it was my dad who was mainly watching ... but my eyeballs *did* see her flipping and twisting on my television screen. This only explains why I chose to read The Flip Side, and in no way influences what I think of the content.

"Charlie Ryland has a secret. She may seem like your average high school sophomore — but she's just really good at pretending. Because outside of school Charlie spends all her waking hours training to become one of the best gymnasts in the world. And it’s not easy flying under the radar when you're aiming for Olympic gold ... especially when an irresistible guy comes along and threatens to throw your whole world off balance."

Right from the start, I noticed that the style of writing and form of storytelling caters to a young audience. This was solidified when the word "bae" was used in dialogue. That's the thing kids use nowadays, right?! Not gonna lie, I was baffled when I read it. I still have no words. As simple as The Flip Side was, it *did* explore a great theme: FRIENDSHIP.

Although Charlie and Gwen are training/competing against each other, they are also real friends. There are many ways that backstabbing and catty behavior could've been written into their situation, but it was nice to see that they genuinely encouraged and pushed each other to be better. Side note: The Flip Side reminded me a little of the Disney movie Ice Princess, which I just Googled and found out that MEG CABOT (the author of The Princess Diaries series) wrote the screenplay for?! Thankfully, Gwen's mom does not go out of her way to sabotage Charlie's career ... but I digress.

As much as I loved Gwen and her willingness to take risks for Charlie, I thought she (and the other characters) were TOO PERFECT and one dimensional. We don't know much about Gwen, just that she's dedicated to performing her best, and I would have loved for her character to be developed in some way. We also hardly get to know the guy that just shows up in Charlie's life — why did he like her so much, and vice versa? The lack of backstory for this guy emphasizes the want for this book to be about Charlie experiencing love ... and that was my main disappointment.

For a book centered around a gymnast, I was hoping there'd be more about the actual sport. I feel like it was more about a teenage girl wanting to experience the normal high school events, like prom, and less about an inside look at how a gymnast balances her dream and high school. But it's partly my fault — even the description hints at a budding romance.

The relationship between Charlie + guy didn't work for me, but I appreciate seeing the ways her family is impacted because of the choices Charlie makes. Her parents and brother sacrifice many things for her, privacy and comfort being two. I'm glad that part of being a gymnast was shared.

The Flip Side is ...
  • "basic" (read: opposite of unique) ... can you tell I'm trying to be hip like the kids?)
  • slightly entertaining but lacking in conflict. I wanted more drama!
  • probably written for youths in middle school/entering high school.
  • a quick read. If I didn't have priorities, I would've easily finished in one sitting.
  • not too much about gymnastics and mostly about ... meeting a cute boy in high school?
I love a cute book that ties in sports — what is something you'd recommend? (Mine would be First & Then by Emma Mills!) Have you ever picked up a book because of the "celebrity" author?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Most Anticipated Releases (for the rest of 2016!)

This actually took me a while to compile, mainly because I've been a lot more picky with adding books to my TBR ("to be read") list. As you scroll through this extended list, I'll be crossing my fingers and hoping that these will all be five-stars reads for me :p

There needs to be more talk about Wolf by Wolf because that book was so good. It dips into various genres (alternate history and paranormal, to name a couple) but it isn't forced at all. The world-building is done really well, I am SO READY for all the action!!!

CREEPY + INTENSE are the two words I'd use to describe Illuminae, which I'm hoping will carry through to Gemina. (It works perfectly for the storyline, I think!) I wish we would continue with the same main characters, but I'm sure it will be an amazing read anyway.

Another book by Jay Kristoff, that man must be a writing machine! I heard it was compared to Harry Potter? SOLD.

LOOK AT THE COVER. PRETTY COLORS, PRETTY FONT. But before the cover was even released, I read a description and found the premise to be enthralling. The higher you live in the building, the more status you have in the world. And one day, a woman falls from the thousandth floor ... It's categorized under sci-fi, so I am *really* hoping for it to be FULL of science fiction-y things. I mean, I hope it's properly categorized and not just there because it takes place in the future.

The name Britta (the main character) will forever remind me of Britta from Community! But that is not why I put this book on my list ... To be completely honest, it's here because I've been hearing good things about it on Twitter.

If you've been around since the beginning of this year, you would know that I have SO MUCH LOVE for First & Then, Mills' debut novel. Macmillan/Henry Holt was so kind as to grant my wish on NetGalley, so I will be reading this very soon! I still don't know what it's about, but I will read anything with Mills' name on it :)

Meyer is BACK AT IT AGAIN with another fairy tale retelling, this time in the perspective of the Queen of Hearts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Here's to hoping I finish The Lunar Chronicles series by the time it gets released!

Meant to Be was such a fun contemporary romance, I have no doubt I'll feel the same about My Unscripted Life. After reading the synopsis for this book, I realized that I'll automatically want to read a book if it involves a movie set. There's just something about "behind the scenes" that I love.

I feel like I'm cheating a bit by placing Lee's next book under this category because I haven't read anything of hers yet, but I DID get to meet her at the Bay Area Book Fest last weekend (!!!) and she was so sweet. I will make the exception :p

Anna Kendrick is such a versatile human being. She is hilarious, but she can be serious too — just watch The Last Five Years. And I love that she can make fun of herself. Like Mills', I will read anything Anna Kendrick puts out.
What are some releases you are most looking forward to? Have you read any of the ones I mentioned yet? And because I've been in and out for a while — what are you currently reading?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

April + May 2016 Recap: Lake Tahoe, The Flash + The Last Five Years

To everyone who still reads amarisafloria: I have accepted the fact that this blog is all over the place (as is my life) but I still want to share what I can!

  • Weekend trip to Lake Tahoe with the fam — the first trip my whole family has gone on together since 2005. Ten whole years ago, can you believe it? We weren't able to go snowboarding, but it was still a good time barbecuing, playing pool, hanging out at the lake (it was BEAUTIFUL) and eating as much sushi as possible.
  • I GOT BAPTIZED! — I've been meaning to for ages now, but haven't had the right opportunity until now. I'm really thankful for all the friends who came to support me, and I am very happy to have had the chance to share my testimony with everyone.
  • My baby brother graduated from high school! — he's really not a baby anymore, but it's so strange to think that he'll be going to college in the fall ...

Books and pages read in April and May: 6 // 2,122 pages
Books and pages read in 2016: 22 // 7,137 pages

Faith #1 and #2 by Jody Houser
I really love that Faith isn't your typical pretty girl hero with boobs. It was an OKAY first issue — there's a bit of mystery as to why she left her old team, and it ends with a boom. But we don't get to see her fight (which I was looking forward to) and the reason she had to encounter these perps was kinda lame. Also, the eyes for the characters were CREEPY. Second issue: nothing much happened, which I am really disappointed about :(

The Flash, Vol. 1: Move Forward by Francis Manapul
The art was cool (I LOVED the introduction pages for each issue) but the story was so-so and not memorable at all. It pains me to say that, especially because I *love* the television show ... BUT! I heard Geoff Johns' run is excellent, so I'm going to give it a try — issues #164-176, if you're interested.

The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 2: A Troubled Mind by Dan Slott
Much better than volume one, mainly because it was more about the Avengers trying to figure out what was going on with Spider-Man and less about Doc Ock's personal life. I guess I'm just not a fan of him?

  • CWTV's The Flash — SUCH A GOOD SHOW.
  • After finding a video of Grant Gustin singing If I Didn't Believe in You, I watched the movie version of The Last Five Years (Anna Kendrick + Jeremy Jordan) on Netflix and LOVED it. Which, considering the topic, is very strange. The story is told in the two perspectives of a couple who spends five years together. What makes it interesting is that Jamie's is told from beginning to end and Cathy's from end to beginning. The songs are incredibly powerful and heartbreaking. Favorite songs from the soundtrack: Still Hurting, See I'm Smiling, Nobody Needs to Know, and, of course, If I Didn't Believe in You.
  • Other songs that have been on repeat all month long: Heartbeat by Carrie Underwood, Break Up in a Small Town by Sam Hunt, Work ft. Drake (R3hab Remix) by Rhianna.
Okay, how many of you guys watch The Flash? WE NEED TO DISCUSS. Which books are you looking forward to reading in June? What type of comics are you in the middle of right now?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (book review)

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments #1)

Publication Date: March 27, 2007
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Format: Paperback // 485 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

The nice thing about being one of the last people on Earth to start The Mortal Instruments series is that I can express all my feelings + frustrations and you would most likely know exactly what I'm talking about. And I have a lot of those. A lot of the things that happened got physical reactions from me — the eye-popping-out-of-my-sockets thing (O_O), a head-desk, the jaw drop, a book drop, etc. and I think that's one of the reasons this book is so well-liked.

While I have been exposed to many different opinions about this series, I don't think it affected my reading experience. For as long as this book has been out, I (surprisingly) was not spoiled for anything. And since it has been out for quite some time, there's been less buzz.

If, for some reason, you've heard nothing about City of Bones, it follows a girl named Clary who discovers Shadowhunters and their world after accidentally watching them kill a demon at a nightclub. Turns out, Clary is more involved in this world than you know.

Because City of Bones is driven by plot, I had a hard time moving forward when the characters weren't fighting demons or discovering a new secret. I wanted them to be DOING something instead of sitting around and chatting. There were a lot of new things to learn, and world-building is necessary to fully understand all that's happening, but it was TOO MUCH in such a small amount of time. When Clare wants to share new information with us, Clary just listens to someone tell a story. And to be honest, I felt disconnected because Clary wasn't verbally involved.

I can tell the series will improve though, especially since all the "basics" have been explained. Now the action can continue onward! There were a multitude of good (and strange) surprises in City of Bones, and those are what will remind me to pick up City of Ashes, the sequel.

It gets spoilery from here on out, so this is your cue to avoid the rest of this post if you haven't read City of Bones yet! Don't say I didn't (say I didn't) warn ya ...

Clary: Is this when you start tearing strips off your T-shirt to bind up my wound?
Jace: If you wanted me to rip my clothes off, you should have just asked.

Jace: Oh dear, I hope that wasn't anything important.
Clary: It was a sleeping potion, and now it's gone.
Jace: If only Simon were here. He could probably bore you to sleep.

Jace: Do you remember back at the hotel when you promised that if we lived, you'd get dressed up in a nurse's outfit and give me a sponge bath?
Clary: Actually, I think you misheard. It was Simon who promised you the sponge bath.
Simon: As soon as I'm back on my feet, handsome.

Jace: Somehow, I thought it would be bigger.
Isabelle: It's the Mortal Cup, Jace, not the Mortal Toliet Bowl.

Clary: So when the moon's only partly full, you only feel a little wolfy?
Luke: You could say that.
Clary: Well, you can go ahead and hang your head out the car window if you feel like it.
Luke: I'm a werewolf, not a golden retriever.

  • THE CUP IN THE CARD — To have some sort of leverage, I feel like Clary should've taken the card with her to the Institute and demanded her mom back first. If she's the only one (aside from her mom) who knows how to draw the rune, no one else can retrieve the Mortal Cup ... right? At the very least, there would have been a bigger struggle! But instead, Hodge just snatches it out of her hand and has his pet bird attack her. Great.
  • SPEAKING OF HODGE (NOTE: THE FLASH TV SHOW SPOILERS) — I suspected a bit of evilness in Hodge, but I think it's because I've been influenced by season one of The Flash, haha. I even pictured him in a wheelchair ...
  • I LOVE YOU (I KNOW) — Clare hints at Simon's feelings for Clary early on, but it's revealed around the halfway mark. Did anyone feel uncomfortable during Simon's declaration? I personally felt offended when he told Clary his past girlfriends were just "practice." Maybe instead of messing around with other girls, you could have told Clary how you felt. Sorry I don't feel sorry for you, Simon!!! (Okay, maybe I do ... just a bit.)
  • LONELY LUKE — I know Luke meant the best for Clary, but what did he think would happen to her if he continued to hide from her? Surely he didn't think she'd be safe after her mom was taken away.
  • LIKE BROTHER, LIKE SISTER — Jace and Clary have the same parents. Jace and Clary are SIBLINGS. WHAT??? SO WEIRD. I wonder if this was inspiration from Star Wars, because I caught at least two references while reading.
If you've finished the entire series, which book would you say takes it from good to EXCELLENT? What do you think about all the crazy surprises Clare added to City of Bones?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

March 2016 Recap — A new job, the start of some excellent comic series, and Grant Gustin

I'm really happy to say that this year is starting to look up! I accepted a job as a receptionist at a dental office in the middle of March, and things are going very well so far. Patients are nice for the most part + everything is manageable, despite my lacking ability to multi-task :p

Other highlights in March: sharing multiple meals with friends I haven't seen in ages + watching Batman vs. Superman with a bunch of friends from church who are also DC fans!

Books and pages read in March: 3 // 1,116 pages
Books and pages read in 2016: 16 // 5,015 pages

I FINALLY FINISHED WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER. I started this one in July while I was in New York City, but I flew back home when I was in the middle of it ... and never looked at it again until this month. It was hard to get back into it because I was stopped during a slow scene, but it was good. Looking back, I am surprised that Rae Carson fit so much in a desolate setting.

SHIELD, Vol. 1: Perfect Bullets by Mark Waid
I 100% picked this up because I love the television series (Agents of SHIELD) but it just seemed all over the place — mini episodes, I guess you can say? It was hard to figure out what was going on, so if you want to pick this up ... just read issues two (MS. MARVEL!) and four.

Amulet, Book 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi
I have been waiting a year for this to arrive and, to no surprise, I liked it! The art is beautiful (as always) + things that happen in this volume take the story in a different direction. It didn't reveal as much as I hoped it would, but the series as a whole is excellent!

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
WOW THIS SERIES IS SO GOOD. I really didn't know what to expect! It's a little too explicit for my taste, but I have to say it's one of the best (if not THE best) storylines I've ever read in a comic series. Loved: the little bits of commentary by Alana and Marko's child, the outlandish characters, and the pacing of the story.

  • Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin is the book we're reading and discussing in my women's mentoring group this year. Feminine Threads by Diana Lynn Severance was recommended to us, but it was optional (so of course I picked it up too!) 
  • Anything Rainbow Rowell writes - even if it's a short story - will be in my shopping cart the day it's available. Kindred Spirits is about a girl who waits in line four days before the new Star Wars movie comes out, hoping to celebrate with other fans.
  • The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, the first book I have ever pre-ordered, is finally out and of course I have only read the first chapter. If I haven't finished it by the next recap post, please yell at me.

  • Noosa yoghurt — A cute little snack that comes in a variety of different flavors :)
  • Kelly Purkey stamps — If you're into scrapbooking, you *need* to check out Kelly's collection. I use the reading planner stamps in my calendar book from time to time, and it spices things up!
  • A Novel Chat — New podcast for readers, hello!
  • Grant Gustin — I have officially developed an unhealthy obsession with this beautiful person. After his introduction as Barry Allen on Arrow, I cannot stop watching videos of him. I am seriously considering re-watching Glee just to see him sing. Please send me all the GIFs.
Your turn! What was the best book you read in March? Did you buy any new books? Have you read any good comic/graphic novels series lately? What are you looking forward to in April?
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