Attack! A new year! A new blog!

A happy New Year’s Eve to everyone! I hope you all didn’t forget about me, because I didn’t forget about you. My days became scattered and frenzied these last few months, which turned into a habitual lifestyle that–despite mild craziness–felt oddly mundane. September through December included my last quarter of school–at least for one year (and hopefully no longer). Hating On Environmental Science & Environmental Science Used Textbook Prices became a new hobby of mine, and classes took their typical toll not only on my tolerance for irrelevancy (I’m looking at you, Weekly Interpersonal Communication Papers), but it destroyed my will. Even the smallest speck of motivation to do ALL THE THINGS ceased to exist, because ALL THE THINGS pressed down like one giant, heavy weight. At this point, blogging sat nowhere near the forefront of my mind, and a bucket of boiling dislike followed on the occasions that it did surface. …Not that there was anything to blog about.

What is a book blog if the blogger is not reading any books? What do I review? What do I update? As my interest in any and all things bookish died down, even my Tumblr book blog suffered–and still is. Just when I felt as though this reading slump was beginning to dissipate, it crashed back down in one blow. Although I did not start midnight coffee monster as a book blog, it happened to grow and lean toward the bookish direction. This… is unfortunate. I love books–I love picking them up off shelves, ogling at them, and reading them–and I love literature. I always have and I always will, but there’s an issue: reading books is only one interest, and interests–as interests tend to do–fluctuate. Just as my interest in particular genres, authors, audiences, and writing styles waver. Just as my interest in creative writing or learning an instrument changes. With all that said, I’m experiencing a big problem, and it’s called a reading slump.

If there is one thing that past slumps have taught me, it’s not to force-read books. So I asked myself again: what do I post? The more I thought about it, the more disgruntled I became with this blog and the direction it’s taken off in. I feel irritated by many things regarding midnight coffee monster, but I gained perspective from the time spent here. If given the opportunity to start fresh, I would do things differently–from posted content to how it’s run and overall intent. This is why I’m officially naming midnight coffee monster a dead blog. From now on, any blogging activity outside of Tumblr will be set on a different stage. This new virtual nook of mine is not ready for public viewing, as I feel much more meticulous than before. It’s still in the construction phase, and I am in the process of transferring over selected book reviews. Rather than showcasing this blog to everyone now, I’d like it be ready and settled first.

What I will say is the obvious: I do not intend for this blog to chiefly focus on books. While I am still thinking it through, expect me to branch off toward more show & movie talk, possibly music, and maybe personal tidbit posts. In general, I intend for it to become a summation of thoughts, interests, and hobbies. My hope is that it will more accurately reflect who I am and what I like, in turn offering content variety.

In the mean time, I want to update on what I have been up to book-wise–which, as you know, has not been much. It goes without saying that I altogether neglected midnight coffee monster, and as I said before, nie zu viele continues to receive little love from me these days. Still, over at nie zu viele, I did manage to integrate and compile

I won’t be back until it’s time to introduce my new hotspot, so until then: here’s me wishing you all a happy 2014!

x

Summer 2013 Book Haul

Hey everyone! Remember me?

Books accumulated over the summer, and I meant to share them earlier. Earlier as in last month. “There’s still time,” I said, my brain melting into goo as I marathoned Legend of Korra. As I neglected everything else to binge-read and spend an unhealthy amount of hours Tumblring. By now many students have returned to school, unless you’re like me–waiting for classes to start on the 25th–and autumn weather is settling in. About time, too, but summer isn’t over–not yet. Not technically. Not until tomorrow.

Okay, so I procrastinated on this post, but it’s all right. I’m here now–and with a new shipment of books. Oh, gosh, look!

The Dark Victorian: Risen, Vol. 1 by Elizabeth Watasin The Night of the Comet by George Bishop (ARC) The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (ARC) The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

1. The Dark Victorian: Risen, Vol. 1 by Elizabeth Watasin
2. The Night of the Comet by George Bishop (ARC)
3. The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (ARC)
4. The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

In one short stack: here are all of my giveaway wins. Or, actually, almost all of them.

I was one of the lucky few to win The Dark Victorian over at BookLikes from Elizabeth Watasin herself. I look forward to this for a variety of reasons, one being that I am a sucker for anything that sounds remotely steampunk. All the better if a dash of mystery and intrigue gets tossed in, right? Bishop’s The Night of the Comet and Neftzger’s The Orphanage of Miracles were delivered courtesy of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Giveaway. The chance to read The Orphanage of Miracles did present itself a couple of months ago, and although I haven’t made time to review it (tsk, tsk), I genuinely adore it. (A sequel is expected, which I would love to get my hands on.)

Another win–one that I anticipate reading above the rest–is The Boy Who Could See Demons. Ten year old Alex’s best friend is a demon who goes by “Ruen,” but is Ruen real or imagined? After his mother’s suicide attempt, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya, who–having gone through her daughter’s battle with schizophrenia–must decide if Alex is schizophrenic or can truly see demons. The spiritual realm versus imagination versus psychology–just my kind of book.

ebooks

1. A Dawn Most Wicked by Susan Dennard
2. Awakening Kelly Foster by Cara Rosalie Olsen

A Dawn Most Wicked is not just 150 pages all about Daniel Sheridan (any SS&D fan will understand), but it’s also my prize for participating in Susan Dennard’s SS&D Book Club last month. In case you missed it, Epic Reads chose Something Strange & Deadly as their new monthly read, but Susan added additional fun by sprinkling in prizes and hosting weekly discussion questions. For selected winners, there were weekly prizes packed with enough awesome to turn any YA reader into jealous grabby hands, but everyone got a participatory prize: either a deleted scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely or e-novella A Dawn Most Wicked–I opted for the latter, and I am tickled by the thought of reading this.

Thank you to Susan Dennard, who is an amazingly kind author. If you haven’t read Something Strange & Deadly (see review), please do.

My second e-book is Cara Rosalie Olsen’s Awakening Foster Kelly, my first Tumblr giveaway win. This is courtesy of Bloody Brilliant Books‘ giveaway as well as Cara, and I send many thanks to both!

haul 1

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
2. Airman by Eoin Colfer
3. Angelfall by Susan Ee
4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Coelho’s book didn’t hit my radar until after I’d encountered Paolo Bacigalupi’s book of the same name (see review). Coelho’s The Alchemist lies in the center of high praise, and it’s given me the belief I’ll feel so wowed by this book that I’ll knock a star off Bacigalupi’s book. I have avoided reading reviews, luckily, so at this point, all I expect from The Alchemist is that it’s… good. But pfft! to all that admiration for now, because I have two books in this stack that I cannot wait to tackle: Angelfall by Susan Ee and Airman by Eoin Colfer.

Young adult paranormal literature–romance included or not–is not my usual taste, because usually, YA PRN tastes stale and bitter and… Ew, I think that’s mold. You catch my drift? I’m not a huge fan, but there are few books I make exceptions for. Anna Dressed in Blood is one of the few, and it’s one of the few that didn’t disappoint me. I shouldn’t fail to mention that I’m also a devoted fan of the Something Strange & Deadly trilogy. I have it on good authority that Angelfall is like an extra-heavenly angel cake with hidden ingredients to pop out and dazzle you into a drool-monster craving more, more, more! Okay, so those weren’t the exact words Tanya used, but I hear it’s pretty damn good and I’m excited.

…But I’m also excited for Airman. Really excited. Very excited. Heavy-breathing-touching-the-book excited. Fidgety-with-anticipation excited. My-heart-leaps-to-the-clouds-and-soars-with-stars excited. You feel me?

(Don’t forget: It’s The Secret Garden! That was my favorite story as a kid. Uh, in movie-form. I never got around to reading the book, but that will change, okay?)

1. The Morning Star by Robin Bridges 2. A Darkness Strange & Lovely by Susan Dennard 3. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

1. The Morning Star by Robin Bridges
2. A Darkness Strange & Lovely by Susan Dennard
3. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride and A Darkness Strange & Lovely were two of my most anticipated summer releases, yet I only got through one of them. The day the mailman plopped A Darkness Strange & Lovely in my mailbox is the day I devoured it. Any issues with the first book that might make a reader question Susan Dennard’s ability to pull off a good mystery shatter in the second book. I was undeniably impressed by the growth and changes, how the two books string together so well–and how the third will, I am sure, complete the story without one loose end. More than anything, Susan’s writing slapped me into a happy shock, for there’s command over language and a plot which has thought behind every detail. Nineteenth century Paris comes to life in A Darkness Strange & Lovely with vivid imagery that sucks me in–a strength that Susan Dennard and Yangsze Choo share.

As much as I wanted to finish The Ghost Bride, I couldn’t. The book is beautiful, so rich and vivid that I swear I could look away from its pages and find myself in the middle of a 1893 Malayan road. This is a book to savor, I realized, so I set it down, promising to return when the time is right. As for Robin Bridges The Morning Star, well, I’m not sure when I’ll feel like reading it. The Morning Star is the final book to Robin’s Katerina trilogy, and at one point, I had looked forward to it. It was high hopes that fooled me into ordering the third book before I’d read the second, and my interest sunk after I sped through The Unfailing Light. The Gathering Storm soaks in potential, yet the The Unfailing Light serves as plot-filler. And all that potential? I felt it wither up and crumble.

Yeah, I’m still grumbling over the $17 I put toward The Unfailing Light–not that it matters, because I have a new heap of books to drool all over.

Signed copy of The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

Signed copy of The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

How NetGalley Ruined My Life

I know I’ve been a poor blogger and a bad blogging-friend this summer, for I’ve been all but absent (basically). I’m sorry, I really am! But it’s NetGalley’s fault.

Okay, that’s mean–and untrue. It’s not NetGalley’s fault but my own, and my life wasn’t ruined but my summer certainly was. You see, what makes NetGalley so addicting is the idea of all these books just waiting for requests from bloggers, and I can’t resist that. Literary temptation is always my downfall, and my binge on galley requests from months before almost tanked me.

Words of advice: If you don’t have to do it and you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

What I used to look upon as an exciting privilege turned into a nightmare. It destroyed a hobby that, in the past, provided relaxation and escape without fail. I entered summer with the prospect that, because school couldn’t interfere, I could and would enjoy all the books at my disposal. How wrong I was. You see, all these books I’d requested jumped up and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hello.” There was some eyebrow-wiggling, a groan, a gasp, a sigh. Lots of groaning. Groans of regret. Sighs of disappointment.

I was approved! But I wanted rejection! Oh no.

If you take a fun activity and turn it into a job, if you feel like it’s work, then something is wrong. And something was wrong. Speed-reading through this and that NetGalley-approved book became my summer chore, and when I wasn’t trying and failing to churn out a review on non-NetGalley books, I wasn’t reading. I couldn’t read because every book I picked up reminded me of the x number of galleys left–but then it got worse. Enter: Early Reviewers.

Over at LibraryThing–a website that I still cannot navigate without perplexing question marks sprouting around my head–runs a neat giveaway. Each month an ARC stash goes up for Early Review members. Similar to GoodReads’ First Reads, if you win an Early Review book, you should review that book lest you mar your chances for future wins. I won two books, read one, reviewed zero.

Is it all right if I scream? Reading should not feel stressful, but for this summer, it did. If anything, at least I can say that I have made it through the bulk of my NetGalley stack. Only two galleys remain, which gives me some peace of mind. Then, of course, there is a physical to-review stack of giveaway-wins that I feel obligated to review…  at some point…

to-review stack

The good news is that my hate for reading is dissolving. I’m no longer picking up a book only to sit it down after trudging through ten pages. I am actively reading The Ask & The Answer as well as Peter Pan–both of which I find easy to engage in, what with a surprise at every page-turn that Ness throws and the magic J.M. Barrie gives. So long as my to-review stack is reviewed, the pressure to schedule (gross) books and reviews–the pressure I felt from NetGalley books–is non-existent. With only two galleys left, my new direction as a reader and blogger is to steer clear of that ‘organized constraint.’ I want to put the fun back in reading. I want the freedom to read what I want when I want, which–as a mood-reader–is important.

And after three months of fret and fuss, I’m finally getting there.

Something Strange & Deadly Book Club: Weeks Three & Four

SS&D book club

If you’ve followed my SS&D book club posts, you will know that Epic Reads chooses a new book to read every month. Lo and behold: excitement! Because Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly was chosen for August, and Susan sprinkled in extra SS&D fun by hosting her own book club. Not only was A Darkness Strange & Lovely added, but an assortment of weekly prizes. As if that weren’t enough, there is an additional participatory prize of A Dawn Most Wicked or a cut scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely–just for participating in one discussion. Pretty awesome, am I right? This week’s prizes are:

  • a signed copy of A Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • a signed copy of Something Strange & Deadly or A Darkness Strange & Lovely
  • signed SS&D swag

Well, today marks the end of the SS&D book club, and I’m sad to see it go. (But keep an eye out for its return next year!) Last week I turned lazy and missed the third discussion, so–just for the sake of it–I’ve lumped it in with this week’s question. I’d hate to ignore week three completely! Seeing as how today, Sunday, is the September 1st, I might’ve missed the deadline to enter for this week’s prizes. No matter, because the discussion questions alone pique my interest and, as a sucker for book discussions, I enjoyed answering them. To see my answers for weeks three and four, continue reading below the cut: Continue reading

ARC Review: Trash Can Days by Teddy Steinkellner

tcd coverTrash Can Days: A Middle School Saga by Teddy Steinkellner
Published August, 20th, 2013
| GoodreadsB&NThe Book Depository |
My rating: ★★★☆☆

How many times have I heard someone say high school is the best years of everyone’s lives? Too many times. For me, high school did not make up the *best years of my life, but they weren’t the worst. The worst is reserved for middle school. I never think back and feel a warm, bubbly wave of heated affection for middle school, because those years mark the cruelest three years of my… my what, exactly? Childhood? Adolescence? No. Middle schoolers are at that awkward in-between age, stuck leaving their childhoods behind as they move on to becoming full-fledged teenagers. It’s the pre-teen years, and for many students, this not only means fluctuating hormones, but changes in social hierarchy. I will shoot the most incredulous look I can muster if anyone claims these years bring back fond memories. Because they don’t. And no child can escape the terrors of †tweenhood. And Teddy Steinkellner? I think he understands this.

Pre-adolescence is a confusing period to navigate, and Steinkellner’s debut novel, Trash Can Days, captures just how uncomfortable it can be. The book surprised me by how realistically the author portrays junior high (or in my case: middle school) life—this is no Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Alvin Ho, or even Lizzy McGuire or Breakfast Club. Characters are betrayed by their friends and family, several are bullied, others desperately wish to fit in while one wants to dominate the top of the social ladder, and a more serious matter of gangs and gang violence threaten to permeate one character’s life. Despite all this, Steinkellner writes with laugh-out-loud humor that balances the novel’s drama.

In first-person narrative, Trash Can Days follows the lives of four characters voyaging through junior high. Jake and Hannah Schwartz—siblings, separated in age by one year—couldn’t be any more different from each other. Jake—with his bushy hair, questionable fashion taste, and endless love for “childish things”—becomes not so much of a nerd but a scapegoat. He’s an easy target for bullies, even for his sister and (former?) best friend. Hannah, however, is the Queen Bee we all know and hate—but Steinkellner humanizes her character, however self-absorbed and irritating she remains. Next is Danny Uribe, a boy whose body is growing faster than his brain, which reels in all sorts of drama that rivals Hannah—and that’s a lot of drama. That leaves Dorothy Wu, the loveable weird girl who feels perfectly undisturbed about her friendless state or low social rank.

It’s on rare occasions that I’m not completely turned off by alternating perspectives in a book, and Teddy Steinkellner’s Trash Can Days is part of the exception. Often, I find that I become attached to one character and will skim-through other passages to read more from that person’s perspective. I can’t say this didn’t happen with Trash Can Days, as I instantly fell for Dorothy. What’s not to love about “weird” characters? They’re exceptionally different from the herd, and that is what makes them interesting. The diversity Steinkellner provides—and not just ethnically, but in depictions and personalities—makes a curious hook for all characters, so as much as I adore Dorothy, I find Danny’s, Hannah’s, and Jake’s storylines equally engaging.

I felt so engaged, in fact, that it maddened me. Why couldn’t these characters have been a part of my childhood or pre-adolescence? I wish they had been, because no matter how devoted I am to Lizzy McGuire, Trash Can Days is an accurate snapshot of school-life. I wasn’t one of the popular elite, but I wasn’t sitting with the “geeks and freaks” at lunch, either. I related to Lizzy because we were alike in this way, but I didn’t always have a loyal twosome who had my back at all costs. Middle school is a vicious place sometimes, and the lives of many middle schoolers aren’t PG-rated—sorry, Lizzy. This is what attracts me to Trash Can Days, and the well-blended humor makes for an added bonus.

Realistic portrayal aside, I found I relate to Steinkellner’s book because I see parts of myself in many of these characters, and I think others will, too. Where Jake and I are alike rests in his habit to brood and wallow. Ugh! (In self-defense, I look back on this period of my life in shame. “It was hormonal,” I say. “What almost-teen/actual-teen isn’t moody?” I don’t puke rainbows and sunshine for anyone.) As frustrating as he is at times, I extend my sympathy toward Jake because I understand him. And Dorothy? I saw my old thirst to write reflected in her, but her character brings so much more than passion to the story.

Dorothy feels no fear in doing what she wants to do. Unlike many teenagers, what people think doesn’t worry her. She’s bold enough to attend dances solo and scare people in the hallways with feral animal noises. She loves to write and writes about anything, reflecting reality in her fantasies. Her favorite activities include manga-reading, Internetting, video-gaming, and following her morning ritual of brushing her hair 151 times (one stroke for each original Pokémon). She’s strange but quirky. Dorothy is simply Dorothy, and it’s this unique quality that makes her a courageous, beautiful character.

Hannah and Danny are the two I had the most difficulty connecting to. It’s not that I didn’t see aspects of myself in Hannah, because I do, but in a much less diva-like way. In Hannah’s mind, her school is “Hollywood” and she is “US Weekly.” She can write a book with the amount of gossip she files away, which—yes!—she does, but in blog-form. A couple cruel and undeserving incidents happen to Hannah, and although these experiences allow her to change, it’s a turtle-slow process.

But Danny? I have never felt so frustrated by a fictional thirteen year old before. Danny enters junior high a changed boy, and not just physically. Athletic and attractive, he’s much more well-liked than Jake. He’s the guy girls begin to notice, Hannah included, but he also attracts attention from the local gang. From the start, I rooted for him. I wanted him to do well, and then… Danny makes one wrong choice after another. He questions where he belongs: with Jake’s ritzy folk, or with his Hispanic family from the gang-run east end?

I am white, middle-class America living in a less-than-diverse town. Of course I don’t relate to Danny on personal levels, but I feel Steinkellner articulates Danny’s struggle in comprehensive detail. Why Danny upsets me, however, is not about him questioning his place in the community. It’s about him behaving like a terrible friend and not acknowledging it. It’s about his lack of apologies, and how he dares to intentionally lead a friend into a life-threatening situation. Danny makes me angry because he steps up a little too late.

So yeah. Danny pisses me off!

But the book? The book is fresh air. It’s what realistic fiction needs to be: realistic without the cheese-lathered side-dish of hunky-dory.

(*If high school is as good as life gets, then I am a rolling wrecking ball crumpled in eternal regret.

I know, “tweenhood” is an abomination of a word. I did wrong. I am sorry.)

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for providing a free copy of Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga in exchange for my honest review.

Something Strange & Deadly Book Club: Week Two

SS&D book club

Over at Epic Reads, a new book club read is chosen each month. For August, Epic Read’s pick is one of my favorite comfort books: Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly. Well, Susan decided to spice up this month’s SS&D fun by hosting her own book club, and by adding A Darkness Strange & Lovely and prizes into the mix as well. Each week is an opportunity to win other great books–including signed hardcovers!–as well as a participatory prize of A Dawn Most Wicked or a deleted scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely. Read more about it here and sign up if you like!

This week’s question is a difficult one to answer, and I can’t say I responded with eloquence—but I hope it’s lucid enough, however weak. (Sorry!) Continue reading, if you dare, below the cut: Continue reading

Something Strange & Deadly Book Club: Week One

SS&D book club

Over at Epic Reads, a new book club read is chosen each month. For August, Epic Read’s pick is one of my favorite comfort books: Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly. Well, Susan decided to spice up this month’s SS&D fun by hosting her own book club, and by adding A Darkness Strange & Lovely and prizes into the mix as well. Each week is an opportunity to win other great books–including signed hardcovers!–as well as a participatory prize of A Dawn Most Wicked or a deleted scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely. Read more about it here and sign up if you like!

I had lots of fun answering both discussion questions this week (they were both too interesting, and I had things to say!), which you can read below the cut: Continue reading