Armchair BEA: Beyond the borders.

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It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. 

Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book?

What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going!

Some of my comfort zones are fantasy, fairytales & retellings and dystopian books. When I branch out to other genres, one of those is contemporary. I’ve found out that the fluffy ones aren’t really my thing, unless I’m in the rare mood for something easy and cute, but the darker/heavier contemporary books work for me. If you are like me and starting to appreciate this genre, I would recommend giving these a shot:

Armchair BEA: Expanding horizon.

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What do you think about when you think about going beyond blogging or expanding your horizons? Is it a redesign of your blog? Have you branched out into freelance writing or even published a novel of your very own? Or, have you moved into a different venue like podcasts or vlogging? This is the day to tell us about how you have expanded on blogging in your own unique way. 

Expanding to me means that I do something I've never done before. A new experience, like going to another social media. I've made one vlog before (but it got lost after problems with my youtube account) and I'm actually planning on picking this up again. My plan is to have a vlog with my book haul for Sunday, when I post my monthly recap. I've also tried expanding by making my own features (my newest one is Let it go, where I showcase short - and DNF reviews.) I think I make my blog unique by being myself and sharing my love for Disney and fairytales. Which is why I also have a feature called 'Fairytale news' where I sometimes highlight upcoming retellings.

I also requested books and got myself on a mailing list + auto-approval on Edelweiss. I interviewed an author and was part of a blog tour. I never thought I would be able to achieve so much and I love every minute of it! 

Armchair BEA: introductions.

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Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 
My name is Mel, short for Melanie, a fairytale- and Disney lover. I’ve been blogging for 2 years and 3 months. I got into blogging after my account on Goodreads. I saw websites on profiles from reviewers I followed, so when I saw this blogging community I knew I had to be part of it. I created my blog in a whim and 2 years later, I’m still here loving every minute of it! I’m blogging from this little, rainy country called The Netherlands. And no, we don’t walk around in clogs, there aren’t windmills every where and not everyone loves tulips, haha. We do love our stroopwafels and poffertjes (similar to very small pancakes, but more delicious!):

Let it go | Middle Grade and the Boleyn bride.

This time I will be highlighting three books I read for review, but I don’t have enough to say about them to review them separately. The first book is a MG book about an orphan and a fairy tale book he receives from his grandfather. The second is also a MG about a store filled with powerful items and a boy and girl who need to save the Emporium. The last book is an adult book about one of my favorite time periods: The Tudors.

Review 262. Sarah Strohmeyer – The secrets of Lily Graves.

18635076Title: The secrets of Lily Graves.
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer.
Pages: 304.
Published: May 13th 2014 by Balzer + Bray.
Sort: Stand-alone.
Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like. But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper. So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects. As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.

I was looking for a little more tension in this book. Based on the blurb, I was expecting a killer on the loose, but it was a murder ‘with reason’ and there is hardly any action. I did like the solution for the mystery, but was also underwhelmed by it. I guess I was just this disappointed, because I loved Smart girls get what they want.

Fairytale News | Rating and enjoyment level.

'Mel on reading' is a little feature I created as part of my Fairytale news. It's my way to show my thoughts on topics that go from pet peeves in reading to my favorite things in books.

Ratings can be difficult. I talked last time about changing my ratings from older books, but for me there is also a thing as ‘enjoyment level.’ Which means that a favorite book doesn’t have to be a book with a 5/5+ rating. It can be that I connect with it on a personal level and that it touched me or I just really enjoyed the story – but that doesn’t have to mean it was good enough for a high rating. I’ve encountered several books where the plot wasn’t that strong or the characters weren’t fantastic, but there was something about the book that gave me a good feeling. So the rating might be 3 flowers, but it could still deserve a ‘favorite’ label.

It can also mean that I liked every aspect of a story when I break it down in my review, but I have an okay feeling about it. Good characters, interesting plot, fun romance; and I will give it a 3 flower rating anyway. Most of the times it has to do with the writing-style and the atmosphere in the book. Having all the things I look for in a story doesn’t automatically mean I love the book. I have to feel a connection with all those aspects in order to feel wrapped into the story.

Sometimes there are also those type of books that are incredibly flawed, but you still enjoy them. One of the examples I can give you is my rating from Leah Cypress book Death Sworn, which was based on how much I liked it and how much the overall story was actually worth. And that is the ‘enjoyment level’ for me. The feeling a book gives me when I close it.

How about you? Are all your favorite books automatically a 5-rating? Do you have such a thing as an enjoyment level like me?

Review 261. Alyssa B. Sheinmel – Second star.

18465577Title: Second star.
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel.
Pages: 256.
Published: May 13th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Sort: Stand-alone, contemporary.
Source: Netgalley & Publisher.
A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

My first thoughts after finishing this book: NOPE. Why did I even finish this book? I have no idea, because the ending makes the book feel like we returned to the beginning. It’s almost like there was no point to this story and that made it suck even more.

Review 260. Amy Tintera – Rebel.

Rebel JKT HC des3.inddTitle: Rebel.
Author: Amy Tintera.
Pages: 352.
Expected publication: May 13th 2014 by HarperTeen
Sort: Reboot #2.
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher.
After coming back from death as Reboots and being trained by HARC as soldiers, Wren and Callum have finally escaped north, where they hope to find a life of freedom. But when they arrive at the Reboot Reservation, it isn't what they expected. Under the rule of a bloodthirsty leader, Micah, the Reboots are about to wage an all-out war on the humans. Although Wren's instincts are telling her to set off into the wilderness on their own and leave the battle far behind, Callum is unwilling to let his human family be murdered. When Micah commits the ultimate betrayal, the choice is made for them. But Micah has also made a fatal mistake… he's underestimated Wren and Callum.

Fantastic ending to a good duology. The story has been told and it has a satisfying conclusion. This is the reason some trilogies should be duologies. The romance between Wren and Callum was adorable, but not overwhelming. There is a lot of action. The only thing I wanted was a little more world-building, but it wasn’t necessarily to enjoy the story.

Review 259. Amy Plum – After the end.

13601681Title: After the end.
Author: Amy Plum.
Pages: 352.
Published: May 6th 2014 by HarperTeen.
Sort: After the end #1.
Source: ARC from the publisher for an honest review.
She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future. World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there. At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life. When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie. Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

I am left frustrated and confused by this book. I liked the idea of a community in Alaska after World War III; the only thing is, Juneau finds out this never happened. I thought it would give some interesting situations, with Juneau trying to blend into the modern world and her mission to save her clan. Instead, I was bored and it seemed to take me a lot of time to finish it. The slow pacing doesn’t work here. I am familiar with her other series so I know she likes her cliff-hangers, but this ending felt too abrupt.

Bout of Books '14.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Review 258. Sarah Raugley – Feather bound.

17829175Title: Feather bound.
Author: Sarah Raughley.
Pages: 304.
Published: May 6th 2014 by Strange Chemistry.
Sort: Stand-alone.
Source: Netgalley & Publisher.
When Deanna's missing friend Hyde turns up at his father's funeral to claim his corporate empire and inheritance, she is swept into his glittering world of paparazzi and wealth. But re-kindling her friendship and the dizzying new emotions along for the ride are the least of her concerns. Because Deanna has a secret – and somebody knows. Someone who is out to get Hyde. And if she doesn't play along, and help the enemy destroy him…she will be sold to the highest bidder in the black market for human swans. Now Deanna is struggling to break free from the gilded cage that would trap her forever…

This book is bizarre, unique and so different from what I expected. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or a bad sign, but it was not how I imagined this book would be. It was supposed to be a Cinderella retelling. I could see some elements, but ‘retelling’ is a big word in this book. I would prefer to call it subtly inspired and it reminded me more of mythology (Selkie) and the swan princess.

Fairytale news | Upcoming fairytales.

In fairytale news I will be talking about everything that has to do with reading. From pretty new covers to discussions about books. I will post them randomly and most of the times they will be about fairy tales or my extra ‘Mel on reading’ discussion post.

Looking for some new fairytale retellings? I got your back! I thought it was time again to showcase some of the upcoming fairy tales that caught my eyes. Like we all know by now, this is still one of my favorite genres and it makes me excited to see how much books I’ll be able to read in the future! There are so many more titles I want to highlight, so I think I need to make a part two. Clicking on the covers will take you to Goodreads. The other books don’t have covers yet, so I included their blurb.

Review 257. Cassandra Clarke – The wizard’s promise.

18310322Title: The wizard’s promise.
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke.
Pages: 336.
Publication date: May 6th 2014 by Strange Chemistry.
Sort: The Hanna duology #1.
Source: Netgalley & Publisher.
All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before. As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

This duology is a spin-off for The assassin’s curse and The pirate’s wish,  two books I enjoyed a lot. This story has the same feeling to it and it has the same problem: the middle part is sometimes a bit boring.

Review 256. Jennifer Donnelly – Deep blue.

18601430Title: Deep blue.
Author: Jennifer Donnelly.
Pages: 320.
Published: May 6th 2014 by Disney Press.
Sort: Waterfire saga #1.
Source: Netgalley & Publisher.
Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe. When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.

Hello pretty cover, hello interesting blurb: you got me fooled again. This book left me bored and disconnected with any of the characters. It was very disappointing.