The Happiness Tag

mini-reviews

Thank you to the lovely Beth at Reading Every Night for tagging me!  If you haven’t visited her blog before, do it now! She’s one of the nicest people I have met while blogging ❤ So, this tag (as the title suggests) is all about things that make me happy. Believe it or not but I find these types of tags to be really difficult. What does make me happy? Why doe sit make me happy. I’m not good at talking about myself. It makes me feel all awkward but here are some of the things that bring some sunshine into my life…


List Five Things That Make You Happy

  • My morning cup (or I should say cups) of coffee. During the week I’ll have it in my classroom before all of my students come. I’m usually at work early to avoid the rush hour traffic and the school is super quiet. On the weekends I’ll sit outside with my cup and watch my dog run around the yard. It’s nice to have those moments of rest before the rest of day sweeps you up in its non-stop march of meetings, classes, emails, etc.
  • The feeling that I get when I run makes me beyond happy. I’ve now been running (and enjoying it) for eight months. I can’t even properly explain the relief I feel when I run. It’s as if all of my stress and tension completely disappears. I feel so free!
  • Singing along to music in the car always makes me happy. I seriously have the worst singing voice, but with the windows up nobody has to hear me and I can just sing along without a care. It’s especially great after a bad day at work. 🙂
  • Friday night date night or dinners with my husband never fail to make me happy. We are both so busy during the week. Friday night is our designated “us” time. We go out for dinner, dancing or to the movies. It’s something I really look forward to each week.
  • Putting together music playlists brings me a whole lot of happiness. I like sharing music with others and having been creating them for friends and family since I was in high school. My music tastes are all of the place. I listen to a variety of music, but R&B just isn’t my thing. So, if you have any music suggestions I’d love to hear them!

List Five Songs That Make You Happy

All of these songs, no matter what, always bring a smile to my face! Click on the link to hear the song on YouTube.

  • Shape of You by Ed Sheeran (x)
  • Laura Palmer by Bastille (x)
  • Nowhere With You by Joel Plaskett Emergency (x)
  • Love at First Sight by Kylie Minogue (x)
  • Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran (x)

My Tags:

Review | Santa Muerte by Lucina Stone

I received this book for free from Rich in Variety Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

28523618Santa Muerte by Lucina Stone

Release date: January 11th, 2016
Publisher: Story Merchant
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Format: eBook

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Goodreads | Amazon

THE YEAR IS 2030. IN A DRAMATIC, final attempt to free her inner demons, twenty-year-old Daniela Delgado tempts fate and winds up on a strange farm in 1923. With an olive complexion due to her Mexican/Italian heritage and a fresh pixie cut, she is mistaken for a “boy of color.” Her only shot at survival now is to play it cool, pose as “Danny,” and figure out how to get back home to her two, loving moms.

And then she meets Daphne—an abused, motherless farm girl in desperate need of freedom and a friend. Having escaped Daphne’s father, the two of them are now roaming the streets of New York City disguised as a young aristocrat and her male servant. They’re running out of money, and ideas. And Daniela thought living in 2030 was tough.

But her solar powered smart phone works. And there’s someone within range. She pings them. A selfie of an attractive male comes in with the text: I’m Lain. Who the f— are you? Even in that moment, Daniela knows this can’t be safe, but what are her choices? They meet Lain at a speakeasy on the Lower East Side. When Daniela reveals her last name, Lain says the only Delgado he knows is Anaya—the head of the Santa Muerte Coven of witches in Merida, Mexico. And then he hints that Daniela is a liar, even though she rocks a man’s three-piece suit like no woman he’s ever met. And as for her tattoos? Don’t get Lain started….

Despite the intrigue, Daniela adds Lain to the list of folks Daphne and she must outrun to stay alive. But as they plan their trip to Mexico, they soon discover that list is much longer than they thought. And they uncover a few other things, too, about Daniela’s true identity….

Santa Muerte wasn’t what I expected it to be and that’s a good and bad thing. I loved some of the story but not all of it. Basically, it was a mixed bag of good and bad, positives and negatives. The story contained a lot of potential with its time travel aspects and intriguing and deeply flawed characters, but it just never really lived up to what it could have been. So, did I like reading it? Yeah, totally but it could have been better, it could have been more.

The story is about Daniela Delgado, a half-Mexican, half-Italian young woman who attempts suicide but wakes up to find herself transported back in time to 1920s New Jersey. There she meets Daphne and helps her escape her abusive father but ends up having other problems when they attract the attention of a mysterious young man. Along the way, Daniela must overcome many obstacles and discover family secrets. Basically, there’s tons of drama and action and never a dull moment!

Things I Enjoyed:

  • It featured a diverse cast of characters! Also, it’s written by a Mexican-American author. I loved reading about Mexican characters and Mexico itself. I’m married to a Mexican and spend a significant amount of time in the country. Mexico has so much to offer, especially with its folklore. It’s rich, dynamic and mysterious. I loved how Ms. Stone was able to blend her heritage and fantasy and the past all together.
  • Daniela has two moms and I loved how their family dynamic was portrayed as normal and in a positive light. Books need more of this. My gosh, the world needs more of this! Daniela’s moms,  Emma and Monica, are loving, caring and supportive of their daughter. They would stop at nothing to move mountains for her.
  • It’s a quick read! Coming in at around 200 and something pages I was able to finish reading it in an hour or two. Also, it was non-stop action. It held my attention and kept me turning the pages, wanting to know more and more.
  • It really highlighted the the horrible treatment people of colour faced (and still face) due to racism. Daniela was treated appallingly and I think it’s important that people see this. I love the aesthetic of the 1920s, but totally need to be reminded that it wasn’t all flappers, jazz clubs and champagne. Racism was very much alive and real in the US. People of colour were not only discriminated against but feared for their lives. It’s important that we are reminded of this and that it’s written about in books.

Things That Could Be Improved:

  • The book was simply too short for the world and story that Ms. Stone was trying to tell. The story featured too many important details to develop properly. A few extra paragraph here and there would have helped alleviate the feeling of the story being rushed along. The story and its characters deserved better.
  • After finishing the story I was left with tons and tons of questions. Sure, they will probably be answered in the sequel, since this appears to be a series, but I needed a lot more closure or answers to simple things. I did have to go back and refer to past events to make some connections. Again, more pages would have allowed the author to avoid this problem and tie up some loose ends.
  • The point of view changed way too many times for my liking. It’s a short book, just keep it simple please. The series is referred to as “The Daniela Story” and I would have been completely happy if it was just told from Daniela’s POV.  By the end, I didn’t feel like I really knew Daniela. I liked her just fine, but my connection with the character was thin at best. I hope that this is different in future instalments.

I think Santa Muerte is a book that you really need to read for yourself. It features so many elements that can appeal to a wide audience. I just wish that it was longer so the characters and story could have developed further. That said, I am really looking forward to the sequel!

Blog Tour: The Broken One by Christine H. Bailey (Guest Post)

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29601936The Broken One by Christine H. Bailey
Release date: April 5th, 2016
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Genre: Young adult, contemporary
Format: eBook, paperback

Check out my review here.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Sixteen-year-old Farris is picking up the pieces after the untimely death of her best friend. But even one year later, she can’t seem to find “normal” again—not until Lane Evans pops back into her life and pushes her to face reality.

When he offers her the chance to find the truth, Farris fears what will surface. Is it too much too soon or just what she needs to move forward?


One Good Reason to Read a Depressing Book

What did I do on my summer vacation? I traveled, did some reading, wrote a chapter or two—and I watched a lot of Netflix. In fact, I just finished watching another seven-season series. At 12 episodes per season, that’s roughly 2,500 minutes or 42 hours of my life I will never get back. But I so looked forward to clicking that little play button and seeing what was next for this character or that one. And I loved being able to say, “Just one more show” even at 1 am. I was hooked. But after the series finale, I was left with this giant hole in my gut. The characters I had come to love and despise were no more. With the closing credits of the final episode, I panicked. I needed a quick fix—a new show to fill the void. Come on, you guys know what I mean.

So I went on the hunt for something new—a comedy or something with a little grit—and stumbled across ABC’s Chasing Life. I have to admit that it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. But I decided to give it a shot for one reason—I loved John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. If you haven’t read it or watched the movie, it’s about two teens who fall in love. But here’s the catch: both of them have cancer. Sigh. Chasing Life is about a twenty-something who gets her dream job, an amazing new boyfriend, and the-not-so-great news that she has leukemia. Double sigh. So why do we read these books or watch movies about terminally ill cancer patients? Why do we get pulled in to these narratives? Can anyone give me one good reason to watch a show about young people living with and dying of cancer?

Kaitlin Thomas from TV.com gives five reasons to watch Chasing Life including, “It’s realistic, not melodramatic fiction.” Okay, I’ll bite. Maybe audiences watch/read because “it” (aka cancer) happens in real life. Maybe people are relating. So many of us have been touched by the “C” word in one way or another. I know I have. The National Cancer Institute estimates that “approximately 8 million Americans alive today have a history of cancer” and about 1,228,600 people will be diagnosed this year alone. These statistics show a startling reality—a reality that is fueling many of the fictional narratives we’re watching and reading today, e.g. Red Band Society, Chasing Life, Fault, etc. So, what do you think about this trend? A trend, as Thomas writes, that involves “exactly zero vampires, werewolves, witches, or superheroes.” However, with no vampires and lots of talk about cancer, Thomas also states, “It’s hard to sell people on shows [books] that sound super depressing.”


Giveaway

Click here to enter the international giveaway to win:

  • 2x $5 Amazon gift cards
  • 2x signed copies of The Broken One

Blog Tour: Finding Paradise by V.P. Ortiz (Guest Post)

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I’m very excited to be hosting a stop on the Finding Paradise blog tour! Since the book is all about Hawaii and romance, author V.P. Ortiz has put together a list of some of the most romantic things to do in Oahu, Hawaii. *sigh* I totally need a vacation!


32192952Finding Paradise by V.P. Ortiz
Release date: September 24th, 2016
Publisher: V.P. Ortiz Publishing
Genre: New adult, romance
Formats: eBook, paperback

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Mila Quinn is ready to finally move out of the college dorms into an apartment with her longtime boyfriend, Ethan Lowe. But when Ethan reveals a big secret, her world is suddenly turned upside down, stirring up old memories of love and loss. Completely torn apart, she boards a plane to Hawaii to escape for the summer.

Even though Mila wants to spend her time in paradise in isolation, fate has other plans when it drops sexy local Gage Madden in her lap. Hesitant at first, she agrees to let him take the reins on her island exploration. As Mila discovers the wonders of Oahu with Gage, it becomes harder for her to fight the budding attraction between them.

But behind the curtain of island adventures and undeniable chemistry, trouble is brewing where Mila least expects it. Secrets begin to bubble to the surface that could destroy her all over again. Will Mila find her paradise? Or will she leave Hawaii with another broken heart?


TEN MOST ROMANTIC THINGS TO DO IN OAHU, HAWAII

Hawaii is a beautiful place. From the ocean waves to the warm weather, it’s hard not to fall in love with the islands. I know the feeling myself. I’ve only visited Oahu twice, but I’m already planning out my retirement in Hawaii.

Finding Paradise is a romantic story that takes place on the gorgeous island of Oahu, which is the most visited island in Hawaii. Today, I am bringing you the Ten Most Romantic Things to Do in Oahu! If you’ve read Finding Paradise, some of these might even seem a bit familiar to you.

  1. Watch the sunrise on the windward (east) side of Oahu: What could be more perfect than watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean? Snuggling next to someone you love while you do it! Don’t worry about cold weather – even at the crack of dawn, the weather is fantastic. Just be weary of rain during the winter months.
  2. Go paddleboarding: Stand-up paddleboarding is a cool way to get in some exercise and get out further on the ocean, especially if you don’t know how to surf. In the winter, Waikiki Beach is your best bet because the waves are much too large on the North Shore to paddle. But in the summer, the opposite is true. The North Shore has calmer waves and you might even spot some sea turtles like Mila and Gage did in Finding Paradise!
  3. Have a picnic at the Liliuokalani Botanical Garden in Honolulu: This botanical garden is the garden of all gardens. Some of the tropical plants in the Liliuokalani Garden can only be found on the Hawaiian islands. There are plenty of places to have a sweet and romantic picnic. Just be sure to clean up after you leave! Hawaiians take great pride and care of their home.
  4. Hike up to Manoa Falls: Just as Mila and Gage did during one of their first few outings together, hiking up to Manoa Falls is a great way to get some quiet, romantic time together. Tucked in the neighborhoods of Honolulu, Manoa Falls offers a gorgeous waterfall at the end of the hike. Just try not to sneak in a smooch in this place!
  5. Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay: Grab your honey’s hand, put on your flippers, and snorkel your way through Oahu’s most famous snorkeling beach. Together, you’ll find multitudes of coral and fish. Maybe you’ll even spot the Hawaiian state fish – the humuhumunukunukuapua’a (“who-moo-whoo-moo-new-coo-new-coo-ah-poo-ah-ah)!
  6. Go on a helicopter tour: There’s no shortage of helicopter tours on any of the Hawaiian islands and some tours if you’re willing to fork out the money and the time, will take you to multiple islands. Nothing beats seeing the beauty of the islands from the sky while holding your lover’s hand. Just remember to keep your seatbelts fastened, no matter how much closer you want to get.
  7. Go whale watching: In the winter, the humpback whale ventures down to the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and can be seen all around the island. Book a boat tour and while there’s no guarantee that you will see a whale, it’s a romantic ride that will only be made even more perfect by seeing one of those majestic creatures leaping from the ocean.
  8. Hike up the Koko Crater Trail: Since the Haiku stairs closed to the public, the next best hiking trail to get a panoramic view of part of Oahu is through the Koko Crater Trail. Though it is strenuous and a bit crowded later in the day, the view is astounding and breathtaking, much like you’ll feel when you have your sweetheart by your side for the ride.
  9. Go on a dinner cruise: Taking off just before sunset, most dinner cruises will take you past Waikiki Beach, around Diamond Head crater, and to the windward side of the island. Enjoy a glass of champagne with your loved one while taking in the views of the island from the ocean before sitting down to a five-star meal. Some dinner cruises offer live entertainment and dancing. What could be better than learning the hula together?
  10. Watch the sunset on Waikiki Beach: As your day winds to a close, the hotel patios welcome live music from local artists and their melodies travel through the salty air. The ocean roars in the background just as the sun begins to set over the ocean. The orange sky reflects off the ocean and into your lover’s eyes. As the ukulele plays a Hawaiian song of love and forever, you realize that paradise isn’t just on Oahu or Hawaii. It’s with the person in your arms.

Many of the locations visited by Mila and Gage in Finding Paradise, some of which are on this list, are actual places that I have visited multiple times. Because I’ve been asked several times since Finding Paradise was published for photos of those tourist spots, I posted a photo tour guide on my website at www.vportiz.com/findingparadise-phototour. I hope this brings your experience of Mila and Gage to life even more! If you haven’t picked up Finding Paradise yet, I hope this intrigues your curiosity for both Hawaii and for Finding Paradise!

Waiting on Wednesday

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

29960675This week I’m looking forward to Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. The description of this book was what totally caught my attention. I tried to request a review copy on NetGalley but sadly wasn’t approved to read it. That however hasn’t dampened how much I really want to read this book. Also…a gender fluid character!! Assassins!! YES! YES! YES! It’s set to be released on September 5th by Sourcebooks Fire.

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Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class―and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

Top Ten Tuesday

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The topic this week is: Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would. I’m going to switch the prompt up a tiny bit and go with books that five books that disappointed me and five books that blew me away.

Top 5 Books That Disappointed Me in the Past Year:

Top 5 Books That Exceeded My Expectations in the Past Year:

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts?

Mini Reviews | Shadow Run & Island of Exiles

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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

25669098Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller
Release date: March 21st, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young adult, science fiction
Format: eBook

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Goodreads | Amazon

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

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I can’t stop raving about how good this book was! It’s described as being “Dune meets Firefly” which both worried and intrigued me. How can you successfully combine these two? It seemed impossible. If you’ve ever watched either of these TV shows/movies (and you really should) they are pretty darn amazing. Opening a book description with that comparison is setting the bar pretty high. I went in all excited and was completely blown away by just how good Shadow Run was!

Here are some of the reasons why I loved this book:

  • Lots of twists and turns
  • A kickass female captain (don’t mess with her, no seriously)
  • Magical shadow powers
  • A space prince
  • High stakes, fast plot, no dull moments
  • Loveable characters
  • Witty banter and lots of sass
  • Top notch action scenes
  • Schemes, plans and entertaining nonsense
  • Spaceships
  • Awesome character names
  • Basra is the best of the best (you need to read the book to understand)

I honestly could go on and on. You just need to take my word for it. YOU NEED THIS BOOK IN YOUR LIFE! Go pre-order it. Buy it when it’s released. Request it at your local library. Just be sure to read it. While I’m so happy that I received an advance copy of Shadow Run I now have to wait patiently for the sequel. The wait is going to be excruciatingly painful. I need to know what happens next!

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Throwing in some Jayne gifs because why the hell not? 😛


I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

29560003Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron
Release date: February 14th, 2017
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Format: eBook

Goodreads | Amazon

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

My first DNF of the year and it broke my tiny heart. *sobs* I really, really wanted to like Island of Exiles. It has so much going for it: diverse characters, a mysterious setting, gorgeous cover, it featured a third gender that I would love to know more about…but I just couldn’t connect with it. I read up to 30% and then set it down. I was bored and very confused.

Here were some of my issues:

  • The chapters were incredibly long! The first chapter was honestly 5% of the entire book. They just went on forever and ever with too much information jammed into each one.
  • The long chapters just made it feel like the story was moving so slowly. The 30% of the story that I did read took a lot longer than it should have. I normally can read that in one sitting but found myself reading only that amount over a 3 day period.
  • The beginning of the book is a combination between a huge info dump and tons of new terms being thrown at you without any context. There’s a complex magic system, warrior ranks, honorific titles…just so much to remember! I did a lot of flipping back and forth, which is super annoying on a Kindle, to remind myself what a particular word meant or was referring to.
  • The whole society is divided into essential roles and each person is assigned that role at a certain age wasn’t new at all. It’s a storyline I’ve read countless times and I’m so bored with it. It’s always the same: girl does well but must challenge system to save a loved one blah blah blah. It didn’t catch my attention and in turn I couldn’t become invested in the characters or their struggle.

Of course, this is just my opinion. If you look on Goodreads there are tons of reviewers that loved this book. It just sadly ended up not being for me.