O.W.L. Reports {Mini-Reviews} #4: He Forget to Say Goodbye & If You Find Me

O.W.L. Reports {Mini-Reviews} #4: He Forget to Say Goodbye & If You Find Me

Basically, O.W.L. results for books is a feature I do sometimes on the blog as a way of lazily writing reviews keeping things fun and different for books I didn’t feel like or just COULDN’T write a full review for. I grade each book as if they sat down to take an Ordinary Wizarding Level exam from Harry Potter. Each class corresponds with a different feature of writing(for example, potions=plot).

Here are the O.W.L. Grades:

Pass Grades:
Outstanding (O)
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Acceptable (A)

Fail Grades:
Poor (P)
Dreadful (D)
Troll (T)

Today I’m grading a few books. The first up is. . .

If You Find Me

If You Find Me

Summary:

There are some things you can’t leave behind…

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

If You Find Me

If You Find Me was a very emotional book. I found some parts a little lacking–mostly the world-building. Some of the events seemed awfully unrealistic, in particular with the social service system. Other than that, though, I thought it was a beautiful and stark book. I gave it 4 stars in the end. The emotional factor was outstanding–it pulled on my heartstrings but never in a way that seemed blatantly manipulative.

The writing was also breath-taking. Murdoch knows how to turn a phrase, that’s for sure. I thought Carey’s voice also felt authentic–mature for her age after taking care of her sister, often straight to the truth, but realizing how little she knows about how the world actually works. While different in the end, the premise and beginning of If You Find Me is very close to Where the Stars Still Shine, so if you like one I think you’ll like the other, though with a favorite. In the end, I didn’t like this one quite as much, but still thought it was a quiet and lovely(though often incredibly harsh) book.

 

He Forget to Say Goodbye by Benjamin Alire Saenz

He Forget to Say Goodbye

Summary:

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don’t appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called “Dizzy Land.” His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother’s shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.

He Forget To Say Goodbye

If you know me at all, you know that Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of my favorite books, if not my favorite book. With that in mind, I’ve slowly been reading the rest of his works, and He Forget to Say Goodbye was up first. While it definitely was not as strong as Aristotle and Dante, the writing was just as beautiful. Saenz is just great with word choice–it’s always simple, but there’s always something beautiful in the simplicity. I got sucked into the writing just as much with this one.

I liked the way the two main characters, Ramiro and Jake, tied together, and how, as the summary says,  a friendship of “healing in a world of hurt”. There’s a lot of pure pain in this book, which took me by surprise, but it was always done well. The downside, however, was the pacing. The first 75 pages were so slow–basically just inner monologues. I really considered putting it down but preserved because I loved the writing. I was glad I kept up with it, but the poor pacing definitely threw me off a bit. I ended up giving it 3 stars on Goodreads, but I’d say it’s about a 3.5.

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The Sunday Wrap-Up{67}

The Sunday Wrap-Up{67}

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My Week

 Well, I had an important week. Why was it important, you may ask? I finished my last day at my job on Friday. For those of you who don’t know, my job was part of a year-long program, so the end date was specified from the start. I’ve been job searching for awhile without much luck, so that’s my plan for now. I am both terrified and excited. I had a lot of ups and downs over the last year, a lot of challenges, but also a lot of successes. Plus, I loved the people I worked with, so my job finishing up was bittersweet. I was definitely getting burnt out on some things, so a change of pace is good, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished over the year.

I’ve been celebrating this weekend by giving myself a few lazy days before buckling down today and getting back to the writing/blogging/job searching productivity.

On Book Blog Bake

Monday I reviewed The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely.
Tuesday I shared my top FIVE TV shows.
Wednesday I reviewed The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings.
Friday I shared the mini-challenge I created for mini-Bloggiesta: 3 time management techniques.

booksread

 The Jewel by Amy Ewing
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

 

 Question of the Week:

I’ve decided to add this to my weekly wrap-ups because it’s fun(from what I’ve seen in other places around the blogosphere) and it makes me feel slightly less self-indulgent. So this week’s question is. . .

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? 

My answers(that come to mind): Zip-lining(I’m afraid of heights), going to a college no one else from my hometown was going to, and deciding to start writing again. They all feel like the bravest at different points!

 

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Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Time Management (3 Techniques)

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Time Management (3 Techniques)

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I hope everyone’s Bloggiesta is going well! For this mini-challenge today I’m going to be focusing on time management. Between blogging, school or work, and general life, us bloggers tend to be busy people–which means sometimes things pass us by! I tend to take on several different projects, and I’ve been over the past few years trying out some various time management techniques. I’m going to share a few of my favorites with you guys today–and hopefully you’ll be able to implement them to get some productive blogging tasks done!

Method #1: The Prioritizing Technique

I first learned about this technique in a class I took in college. I really like using this method for longer projects(things that will take weeks or months) because it’s good about showing you where you want to focus your time. The way this technique works is like this:

1. Write out a list of task.

2. Besides each task, assign the task a numeric value for how much time it will take, on a scale from 1 to 3, with 1 being won’t take much time at all and 3 being time-intensive.

3. Once you’ve assigned each task a numeric value for the time component, assign each task a numeric value for difficulty on the same scale. A 1 would be an easy task, whereas a 3 would be incredibly difficult.

4. Add these values together and use the numeric time value X difficulty value to give yourself a visual representation of how long and difficult each task will be.

For example, a bloggiesta to-do list using this method might look something like this:

  • Update review archive(time–2, difficulty–1, total: 3)
  • Write 3 book reviews(time–3, difficulty–2, total: 5)
  • Redesign entire blog(time–3, difficulty–3, total: 6)
  • Comment on 15 blogs(time–2, difficulty–1, total: 3)

Once you have this information, I’ve found it is often easier for me to decide where and when I want to concentrate on each task. I’ve done a more in-depth post on how I use this technique if you’re interested in more information.

Method #2: The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is fairly well-known, so you may have heard of it before. I’ve only recently in the past few months heard of it and have begun trying it. Here’s a video that explains it:

In case you can’t access the video, here’s how this technique works:

1. Set a timer for a 25 minute interval and work on a specific task, and only that task. Part of this technique is learning how to block out distractions–phone calls, other tasks, etc.

2. After every 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break.

3. Each 25 minute segment is called a “Pomodoro”. After using this technique for awhile, you’ll begin to be able to estimate how many Pomodoros specific task take.

4. The video doesn’t mention it, but I’ve also heard this technique told in a similar way with an addition–if you’re working on many tasks straight through and complete 4 Pomodoros in a row, take a longer 30 minute break in between each set of 4 Pomodoros.

There are several mobile Apps dedicated to this technique. I’ve downloaded a few recently and plan on trying them out soon– Pomotodo(looks like it’s also a available for Android)Pomodoro, and Orange Timer(which is slightly different from the Pomodoro technique, but still based upon it. I haven’t used them much yet but I will say from a few quick glances that the free version of the Pomodoro app seems not really worth it(but it looks like the $1.99 version might be great), and Pomotodo seems the most functional–but I like the look of Orange Timer the best.

Method #3: Productivity Heat Mapping

I first learned about this technique from one of Susan Dennard’s Pub(lishing) Crawl posts about productivity, and I was intrigued. There’s a really great blog post about how Heat Mapping Your Productivity Can Make You More Productive. I suggest giving the entire thing a read if you have the time.

To use this method, first download and print off this worksheet. Watch how productive you are during each hour. There’s a color code on the explanatory post, but I created my own. After every hour of work, I would use a marker to color in my productivity. My personal color code is thus:

  • GREEN is the highest level of productivity. I’m doing complex tasks, doing them well, and not feeling tired at all.
  • BLUE is the second highest level. I’m doing complex tasks & doing them well, but it’s taking me more effort.
  • YELLOW is the third level of productivity. I can do complex tasks, but I’m probably not doing them well or efficiently. I can do menial tasks very well at this level, however.
  • RED is the lowest level of productivity. It’s taking me a lot of effort to keep working and I can really only manage meaningful task.

You can do a productivity heat map over the course of the day, but it will only be so accurate. When I first used this method, I made a new heat map every day for 3 weeks, then made a composite by seeing how productive I typically was at each time.

Here’s a picture of my heat map:

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This is a 3 week composite. As you can see, I’ve found my most productive time of day is between 9 and 12 AM, and I can also be pretty productive in the evenings(from 5 to 8). I’m least productive in the afternoons, especially from 2 to 3. This fits in pretty well with what I know about myself–at work, I always try to do complicated task in the morning and save routine tasks, like updating spreadsheets and making copies, for the afternoon.

 

Once you’ve done the heat maps for awhile, you’ll have a clear picture of what times you’re most naturally productive, and when you should focus on more complex task.

CHALLENGE

So here’s your Bloggiesta challenge: to try at least ONE of these techniques this weekend and see if it works for you. Here’s some ways you can do this(just suggestions–there are really a ton of ways you can implement these techniques and tweak them):

  • Download a Pomodoro app & use the timer to sync with your to-do list
  • Prioritize your Bloggiesta task list using the numeric priotizing technique OR if you keep a more lengthy blogging to-do list, try it with that as well
  • Download the productivity heat mapping print-out and track your productivity throughout one day of mini-Bloggiesta this weekend.

Giveaway

This giveaway is open internationally! International readers can win up a book up to $10 as long as you live in a place The Book Depository ships to. If the winner lives in the USA, they can also pick a book up to $10 from The Book Depository OR a $10 e-gift card to Amazon if they prefer. My giveaway policy.

  • Must be 13 years old or older to enter. If under 18, must have parental permission.
  • No purchase necessary & void where prohibited by law.
  • Winning entries are verified.

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Book Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Book Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

 

The Murder Complex

 by Linday Cummings

 Murder Complex

Expected Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow/HarperCollins

Source: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my final opinion of the work.
Format Read In: E-ARC
View from the Traffic Light:

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the story morning glory

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

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I was really hoping The Murder Complex would be awesome, but I found it a bit derivative of popular science fiction books these past few years. I know almost every science fiction/Dystopia book gets compared to Divergent or the Hunger Games, so it’s a similarity I’ve been careful to use sparsely when writing reviews. For The Murder Complex, though, I’m bringing the formula in the picture above out.

The Murder Complex had a strong start. In fact, if you had asked me to rate this book at 25% through, I would have given it at the very least four stars. Unfortunately, this spiraled downward fairly quickly. The concept of the murder rate being higher than the birth rate is one that is fascinating and dark, and I loved the danger that laid hidden in every page of this book. Had the story stayed in that arena, my overall opinion of it would be a lot better.

First, let me talk about the things I *DID* like about The Murder Complex. The pacing in this book is excellent, and I think Cummings is a talented writer. While I probably won’t continue this series, I will definitely read future books. What really drove this home for me is that the book is split into a dual POV, and unlike other books. . . I didn’t hate it. In fact, I could even tell the characters apart and came to quickly like the dual POV. These things together made me really like Cumming’s writing, but not the story that was being told.

The Murder Complex felt formulaic for a YA science fiction thriller. Basically, the story went thus: crappy world, horrible incident, protagonist meet, insta-love time, oh-no something bad happens, things get worse, something is revealed, science is evil, shocking revelation, unnecessary cliffhanger ending. This could have been done well, of course–many of my favorite stories have that formulaic element. Just look at Harry Potter! But the insta-love part bothered me a lot. And even though the instalove that Zephyr feels towards Meadow is contrasted with the fact that, you know, he tries to kill her because he’s been programmed to, the end game still felt insta-lovey to me.

Another problem I had was with the world-building. Now, the actual description of the world was excellent(and it’s those glimmers of promise that kept me reading this book and kept it from ever falling into the one star category). It’s once certain things get revealed that I had trouble really buying into the premise. As alluded to in the summary, The Murder Complex deals with murder as a method of population control(I know this sounds a bit spoilery, but also it’s in the summary and I firmly promise NOT to talk about it more than the summary does, deal? It’s a bit surprising how much information they included in this particular synopsis). And, as also alluded to in the summary, The Murder Complex uses trained assassins to commit the murders.

Okay, fair enough, right? But here’s the thing: As more as revealed about how The Murder Complex trains and programs these assassins, the more absurd it seems. Yes, the population is out of control and this is a government and initiative that is tasked with feeding hundreds of people, and I suppose that without ethics, killing some seems like it would work almost as well as anything else. But seriously, the amount of money they spend for the technology to train their murderers could have been used for. . . hmmm, let’s see, food for the starving populations? If their solution to overpopulation is to kill people, there would be easier, cheaper, and more logical ways to do it than to use this technology to train their assassin.

The anti-science sentiment in The Murder Complex really got to me. This has long been a trend in YA science fiction and I’m sort of ready for it to die. There’s nothing wrong with showcasing the HOW science can be used for evil and awful things, but it’s the lack of subtlety that gets me as well. Of course science can be used for evil. But science and research has also done a lot of non-evil things, and I’m tired of books not really wrestling with that. How did the world in The Murder Complex get so overpopulated to begin with? SCIENCE. How did the world go from bad to worse? MORE SCIENCE!

My last problem I had with The Murder Complex is the needless violence. Now, look, that’s not a sentence I say very often. I mean, as someone who is an aspiring writer, I have written my fair share of violent scenes. And often, the point of violent in scenes IS that it’s needless–that’s sort of the point. Of course, the book is called the Murder complex, so I expect a LOT of murder and blood and gore. That’s part of the package, and I’m not objecting to that in particular. But the violence in The Murder Complex just overwhelms every page until it doesn’t even matter anymore. When every chapter ends with a knife at someone’s throat(it doesn’t really, but they all sort of feel like that), you lose the suspense. And that’s what The Murder Complex did. It just didn’t lack a punch after the halfway mark, so I definitely lost interest.

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Here’s the thing with The Murder Complex: I spent a lot of digital ink in those paragraphs detailing the problems I had with the book, and all of those stand. However, I definitely did not hate this book, and really liked it at the beginning. That’s why the elements that fell flat disappointed me so. I really liked the beginning and the writing, but as evident, had some problems with the story itself. The quick pacing and excellent use of the dual POV held some promise, but ultimately I just can’t get behind the book as a whole. 2/5 cupcakes.

2/5 cupcakes.

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Top Ten TV Shows{Top Ten Tuesday}

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which features (you guessed it!) top ten lists on a given topic each week. This week’s topic is. . . .Top Ten TV Shows(taking a break from books for a bit). I’m actually doing a top 5 today.

Despite the fact I really love TV, I don’t know that I have 10 favorite shows. Mostly because I like to watch one show at a time and I can watch it two or three times before I’m ready to move on to the next show. And I try to not give TV too much time in my life(even though I sometimes want to!).

1. Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls is my all-time favorite TV show, and I cannot see that ever really changing. It’s just amazing to me. The characters feel so real sometimes I forget they’re not. The writing isn’t always wonderful, but when it’s on, it’s ON. I’m pretty sure I learned the art of wit from watching this show. I just adore Rory and Lorelei’s stories. The show delves into issues of social class and relationship and ambitions and families and that quirky small town.

2. Supernatural

Supernatural basically takes all the things I love in BOOKS and translated it into a TV show. It has its ups and downs and problematic elements, but still I love it so.

3. Doctor Who

I do like the early series of the reboot better, but hello, time travel! We all know how much I like that.

4. Sherlock

I’m holding off on watching season 3 until the end of the month, but the first two seasons alone made me put it on the list. I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes, and I really enjoy this modern adaptation, especially the way technology is portrayed.

5. Firefly

I watched the thirteen episodes of Firefly for the first time just this past April. Then, as soon as I was done, I watched them again. It instantly climbed to a spot on my favorite list.

These are the only five shows I really love enough to put on a list, but the bonus rounds include: Buffy the Vampire Slayer(I’ve only watched up to season 5, so I don’t feel it can go on this list yet), Sabrina the Teenage Witch(yup, still love it), and House. What are your favorite TV shows?

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