Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: The Ruby in the Smoke

The Ruby in the Smoke, by Philip Pullman. The GoodReads summary:
Sally is sixteen and uncommonly pretty. Her knowledge of English literature, French, history, art and music is non-existent, but she has a thorough grounding in military tactics, can run a business, ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol.

When her dear father is drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Sally is left to fend for herself, an orphan and alone in the smoky fog of Victorian London. Though she doesn't know it, Sally is already in terrible danger. Soon the mystery and the danger will deepen - and at the rotten heart of it all lies the deadly secret of the ruby in the smoke...
Apparently everybody else read this book growing up, so I came a little late to the game on this one. It’s one of those books that I’d always vaguely heard of but never read. It’s a mystery set in Victorian England, so I knew just by reading the back that I was, like, 99 percent likely to enjoy it--and I did.

The book wasn’t terribly deep or anything--just Sally and her friends trying to solve the mystery of the ruby. But the characters were all just so likeable. Sally herself was a little lackluster and wasn’t really involved in much of the action of the story until the very end. But it honestly wasn’t that noticeable since there were a ton of other characters and perspectives going on. Fred, the cute photographer, was totally adorable and nice and happy. He was just so good-hearted, you know? And Jim, oh Jim--if I was allowed to crush on a 12-year-old without being a pedophile, I would pick Jim. He’s so scrappy and tough, but he’s loyal and pretty okay for a 12-year-old boy.

The writing was really witty and clever--it had me smiling all the time. The one thing about the book, which didn’t bug me as much as it had me scratching my head, was all the drug use. For a book that was shelved in the children’s section at the library, there was a ton of opium use happening. Even Sally uses it, for pete’s sake. I think this book had more drug use than pretty much any other I’ve read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. But I might’ve enjoyed it more if I had read it when I was younger, because I think the minor things that bugged me now would’ve gone way over my head. Still, I had a lot of fun with this one, and if I see the other books in the series for cheap, I’ll definitely pick them up.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta. The GoodReads summary:
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere.

But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.
Basically, WHY didn’t I read this book a long time ago?!? I should’ve gone with my gut and the fact that it’s by Melina freakin’ Marchetta instead of listening to my friend who said it wasn’t that good. Because . . . um . . . it’s ridiculously fantastic.

It’s high fantasy, which is a genre that tends to be hit or miss for me. I mean, there are books that I absolutely adore that are high fantasy, but I don’t usually read the genre in general. But this one was fairly perfect in my opinion--it had just the right blend of fantasy, adventure, and romance. And what I loved most was that it was a Melina Marchetta approach to those elements, which means everything feels so real and gut-wrenching. So many fantasy books have the characters traveling, but Marchetta makes you feel the grime and exhaustion of the characters. And oh my gosh, don’t even get me started on how she deals with the brutality and atrocities that have happened to the characters--it’s understated, but you feel like it’s stabbing you in the heart or something.

The characters are completely wonderful. All of them. I don’t think there were any that I didn’t absolutely love. Even Froi--the theif--who I despised at the beginning, had won me over by the end. Finninkin himself is pretty awesome. I wouldn’t say he made me swoon or anything, but I admired him and the way he learns from his mistakes and is able to swallow his pride so many times. But Evanjalin is the star of the show. That girl is so freakin’ strong. She’s been through more crap than anyone should ever have to, but she’s resilient and never loses sight of her goal--even when she has to sacrifice so much to achieve it.

Overall, I adored this book. Really. I LOVED it. It’s so different from Marchetta’s other books, but it’s still of the same caliber as her contemporary books. I can’t even tell you how excited I am for “Froi of the Exiles” to come out--and I only have to wait two months!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Follow Friday (26)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q: Which book genre do you avoid at all costs and why?

Nonfiction. It's just so long and (don't hate me) boring. But maybe I'm just reading the wrong ones? Any suggestions for some good nonfiction?

Review: Bloodlines

Bloodlines, by Richelle Mead. The GoodReads summary:
When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.
It’s no secret that I love the Vampire Academy series, so I was pretty sure I was going to like Bloodlines too. And I totally did (yay!). I thought it was a great combination of people we knew and loved from VA (Sydney, Adrian, Jill, Eddie) with a new place (Palm Springs), a new culture (the Alchemists), and a new cast of secondary characters (Sydney’s family, other Alchemists and Moroi, schoolmates and teachers). It made the book seem familiar enough for me to feel at home without having it be so familiar that I was bored.

I already knew that I liked Sydney from the VA books, so it was nice to spend more time with her and get in her head. I immediately could relate better to her than I could to Rose, mostly because Sydney’s a thinker and planner, versus Rose who’s all about action. There’s this one part where Sydney spikes a girl’s shampoo bottle to get back at her for something, and all I could think was that if she were Rose, she would’ve just punched the girl in the face instead. The only thing that annoyed me about Sydney was her obsession with her weight. I mean, she’s a size 4, for pete’s sake, and she’s freaking out because she’s not a size 2? Give me a break.

The jury’s still out on whether I like Adrian or not. I want to like him, and sometimes I think he’s pretty witty, but I just get so tired of him being a spoiled brat. I just want him to grow up already. But I can see his potential, and I think Mead is a talented enough author to make his transition into a worthwhile person believable over the next few books. I’m kinda excited for it actually—Dimitri was perfect from page one, so it’ll be nice to see some major character development going on.

My only quibble with the book was that the climax and resolution felt a little rushed. It was all just kinda crammed into the very end of the book. It was also a little too neat and easy for my taste.

Overall, this was a totally enjoyable book. If you liked Vampire Academy, I think you’ll like this book too. It’s a little less action-oriented than VA, but I still had a great time with it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Disenchantments

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

The Disenchantments
by Nina LaCour
16 February 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?

Morris Award—finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.

Nina LaCour's other book, "Hold Still," surprised me with how much I liked it, so I'm way excited for her new book. It seems like road trips are the new "thing" in contemporary YA, but since I'm not tired of them yet, I'm still looking forward to all the road trip books--with this one definitely included.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Hush, Hush

Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick. The GoodReads summary:
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along.

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.
Okay. Let me start off with the things I did like. And there were a fair amount. I really liked the author’s writing style--it was easy to read and flowed well and was totally engaging. And writing style is pretty much the number one most important thing to me in a book. If I don’t connect to the writing style, there’s pretty much no hope.

I also thought the plot was really well done: the pacing was really good and the story was intriguing. This is my first angel book, so the whole mythos was new to me and it felt fresh (it probably wouldn’t feel fresh to any of you who’ve already read the gazillion other angel books, but for me it was). I also liked the whole mystery/thriller/suspense aspect it had going on. It had my adrenaline pumping and me unable to put the book down.

Now let me introduce you to the thing that ruined the book for me: Patch. What the heck is up with that dude? He’s overbearing and aggressive and a total bully, and I’m supposed to find that attractive? Heck no. He was such a major jerk. He doesn’t respect Nora at all--she tells him “no” constantly and yet he keeps pushing her. Plus, he’s a total stalker. Ug. I do NOT get the appeal of Patch.

And Nora’s no better. She’s all, “He scares me and I don’t feel comfortable around him, but I’m still attracted to him . . .” Man, I just wanted to slap some sense into her. If a guy scares you, you don’t pursue a relationship with him. It’s called commonsense. Yeesh.

Overall, I would’ve been really into this book if it hadn’t been for the jerk otherwise known as Patch. I’m curious about the other books in the series, but I won’t be reading them because I know I’ll just get too frustrated with the characters.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Fins Are Forever

Fins Are Forever, by Terra Lynn Childs (sequel to Forgive My Fins). The GoodReads summary:
On Lily Sanderson’s eighteenth birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mergirl, true, but signing the renunciation will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being-human thing once and for all.

Now that Lily and Quince are together, mer bond or not, she’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession of Thalassinia. But just when she thinks she has everything figured out, the waves start to get rough. Lily’s father sends a certain whirlpool-stirring cousin to stay with her on land. What did Doe do to get herself exiled from Thalassinia and stuck in terraped form when everyone knows how much she hates humans? And why why why is she batting her eyelashes at Lily’s former crush, Brody?

The seafoam on the raging surf comes when a merboy from Lily’s past shows up—Tellin asks Lily for something that clouds her view of the horizon. There’s a future with Quince on land, her loyalty to the kingdom in the sea, and Lily tossing on the waves in the middle. Will she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her own dreams?
I'm not typically big on sequels, but this one actually wasn't too bad. I usually feel like sequels (or third books, or fourth books . . .) just aren't as good as the first. But in the case of this book, it was just as cute and adorable as the first. I don't know anything about writing books, but it seems to me that it might be easier to write a good sequel if you don't have to live up to the drama and intense emotion of the first. And since both the books in this series are light and fluffy, the second one didn't have impossible standards to live up to.

Usually one of the things I hate in sequels is that the relationship between the guy and girl gets boring, because they already got together at the end of the first one--so there's zero romantic tension in the sequel. While it's true that Fins Are Forever starts off with Quince and Lily as a couple, I didn't miss the romantic tension, because there never really was any in the first book either--their relationship has always been light and fun. And I don't have a problem with that.

Sorry, I realize this is less of a review and more of a "pros and cons of sequels," but I never really know how to write reviews of sequels. (Probably because since I rarely read them, I don't get much practice. But still.) So anyway, I had fun reading this book. The characters were still as lovable as in the first, and it was good to get to see Lily's hated-cousin Docinia gain some depth. It's a quick read, so pick it (or the first if you haven't read it yet) up sometime when you have 2 or 3 hours to spare.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Follow Friday (25)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q: What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get your hands on any particular book?

Let me start this off by saying I am an incredibly boring person--I always follow the rules and I never do anything that would make me the center of attention. So, as you may have already guessed, I've never done anything crazy in my entire life. Although if I was going to do something crazy, it probably would be for a book.

So the "craziest" thing I've done to get a book is, I don't know, buy one on the day it came out? Oh, I guess one time I was at Costco and there was an author signing books, except no one was stopping at her table. So I stopped by and chatted with her and bought her book because I felt so bad. That's probably not crazy by anyone else's standards, but I hate talking to strangers so it was a big deal for me at the time.

What about you? What crazy things have you done for the love of a book?

Possibly my favorite quote about books

(I really, really want these bookshelves. And the windows. And maybe the dog.)

I'm obsessed with Sarah Addison Allen's books. She's quite possibly one of my favorite authors. You wanna know why? Because she has the most amazing insights, like the following one about books from "The Sugar Queen":
"Books can be possessive, can't they? You're walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what's inside will change your life, but sometimes you don't even have to read it. Sometimes it's a comfort just to have a book around. Many of these books haven't even had their spines cracked. 'Why do you buy books you don't even read?' our daughter asks us. That's like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course."
I absolutely love this quote. Especially the part about books providing company, even when they're sitting there unread and you don't really know when you'll get around to reading them. It certainly justifies all the books I have sitting around in piles.

I love quotes like this. I mean, don't you just love it when you read something that says exactly what you feel, but in a better way than you could ever have managed? It's almost . . . comforting to know that there's another person out there who feels exactly like you do--it's like you've made a friend without even speaking.

So what do you think? Do you have any favorite book/reading quotes?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: A Secret in Her Kiss

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

A Secret in Her Kiss
by Anna Randol
31 January 2012

The GoodReads summary:
A rare beauty, raised in the exotic heart of the Ottoman Empire, Mari Sinclair knows it's time to end her career as a British spy when she narrowly avoids a brush with death. Unfortunately her employers think otherwise—and they are not above using blackmail to keep Mari in the Game.

Saddled with a handsome, duty-obsessed "minder" to ensure that she completes—and survives—one last mission, Mari is incensed...for her guardian, Major Bennett Prestwood, is simply too dedicated, too unbending, and too disarmingly attractive. But in the face of dark secrets and deadly treacheries, as the true peril to Mari is slowly revealed, loyal soldier Bennett realizes that, to save and win this extraordinary woman, he will have to do the unthinkable and break the rules—rules that passion and desire have suddenly, irrevocably changed.

I know, I know--definitely not my usual kind of book. But I'm actually really excited for it. It just sounds so . . . exotic and exciting. I mean, it's got British spies and the Ottoman Empire--how often do you come across those in fiction? Plus, let's face it, Major Bennett sounds pretty dang attractive.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Don’t Expect Magic

Don’t Expect Magic, by Kathy McCullough. The GoodReads summary:
Delaney Collins doesn't believe in fairy tales. And why should she? Her mom is dead, her best friend is across the country, and she's stuck in California with "Dr. Hank," her famous life-coach father--a man she barely knows. Happily ever after? Yeah, right.

Then Dr. Hank tells her an outrageous secret: he's a fairy godmother--an f.g.--and he can prove it. And by the way? The f.g. gene is hereditary. Meaning there's a good chance that New Jersey tough girl Delaney is someone's fairy godmother.

But what happens when a fairy godmother needs a wish of her own?
This is one of those books that was 100 percent saved by the last fourth of the story. Because, honestly, Delaney drove me so crazy for most of the book. I mean, not every character needs to be happy and bubbly and people-loving, but Delaney took the whole sullen-pessimistic-sarcastic-mopey teenager thing to a whole new level. I just wanted to smack her into a better mood. At first I was refreshed to see a main character who was a little more bad-A than most, but Delaney was just so grumpy.

But somewhere around the last fourth of the book or so, for reasons I’m not exactly sure of, Delaney gets a bit of personality makeover, and I started liking her much better. She was still snarky, but she was way less self-centered.

Her relationship with her dad was fun to read about because they’re both so new to the father-daughter relationship thing. And they’re both really bad at it. But I liked watching them change and grow closer to each other. It was pretty cute actually.

What I probably adored most about the book was Cadie--can I get an Amen for a popular head cheerleader who is kind and friendly instead of a petty mean-girl? I hate how in practically every YA, the popular girl is also such a bully--I just get so tired of the stereotype. But Cadie was awesome and was probably my favorite character.

Overall, this book started out a little rocky for me, but I ended up liking it fairly well. It wasn’t deep or anything, and some of the plot and character development could use a little work, but it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable light, fun read.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: There You’ll Find Me

There You’ll Find Me, by Jenny B. Jones. The GoodReads summary:
When Finley travels to Ireland as a foreign exchange student, she hopes to create a new identity and get some answers from the God who took her brother away and seems to have left her high and dry.

But from the moment she boards the plane and sits by Beckett Rush, teen star of the hottest vampire flicks, nothing goes according to Finley's plan.

When she gets too close to Beckett, a classmate goes on a mission to make sure Finley packs her bags, departs Ireland-and leaves Beckett alone.

Finley feels the pressure all around. As things start to fall apart, she begins to rely on a not-so-healthy method of taking control of her life.

Finley tries to balance it all--disasters on the set of Beckett's new movie, the demands of school, and her growing romance with one actor who is not what he seems. Yet Finley is also not who she portrays to Beckett and her friends.

For the first time in her life, Finley must get honest with herself to get right with God.
First of all, this book takes place in IRELAND, so guess what that means?!? In my head, the characters have ACCENTS! Which makes me love them even more.

Anyway, moving on, this book wasn’t the light, fluffy, go gallivanting in Ireland book I thought it was going to be. I mean, I knew from the summary that Finley had some issues, but I was somehow expecting that her issues would end up taking a backseat to the other things in the book. Instead, Finley trying to deal with her brother’s death is at the forefront of the story. And guess what! Her problems don’t magically go away the minute she meets a cute boy. Hallelujah. Even the romance takes a backseat to Finley trying to deal with the things going on in her life. It was quite refreshing, actually.

I liked Finley off and on. She grated on my nerves at some points, but I got the impression that you’re not necessarily supposed to like Finley all the time. She’s a work in progress, after all. I think you’re more supposed to sympathize with her and cheer her on rather than want to be her best friend.

Beckett was a hot actor with an accent, so he had that going in his favor. He was also remarkably kind and patient with Finley for who knows what reason. He did have his flaws, which in the end I appreciated, because as much as I love the perfect guys in some YAs, it was nice to have a love interest who makes mistakes too.

Religion and finding faith are big themes in the book, and for once I didn’t find them overbearing. They were definitely present, but I didn’t find them heavy handed at all.

The one gripe I have with the book is that Finley actually gets closure from the one thing she keeps claiming will give it to her. I was kinda disappointed, because I wanted her closure to come from within herself rather than from an outside source. But other than that, I thought the author did a good job keeping the ending realistic instead of picture perfect.

Overall, this book went much deeper than I thought it would, and I really appreciated that. For most of the book, I felt like I could go either way with liking it or not, but by the end, it won me over. It’s not going on my list of favorite books or anything, but I’d still recommend it to pretty much anyone.

Whew. Long review—sorry.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Follow Friday (24)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Question of the Week: Many readers/bloggers are also big music fans. Tell us about a few of your favorite bands/singers that we should listen to in 2012.

Well, since you asked:

Florence + the Machine
Laura Marling
The Decemberists
Frightened Rabbit
Death Cab for Cutie
Los Campesinos
The Wombats
Lily Allen
Kate Nash
Eliza Doolittle
Michelle Branch
Tegan and Sara
Taylor Swift
The Band Perry
Justin Bieber
Selena Gomez
The Bird and the Bee
Lady Gaga
Katy Perry
Avril Lavigne
KT Tunstall
She & Him
Marie Digby
Sarah Bareilles
The Weepies

Sorry. That was probably a bit of an over-share, but I couldn't help myself--they're all so GOOD.

Two subjects on which I need advice

Two questions for you:

1) Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series--is it worth it? I started reading "City of Bones" (or whichever one's the first one) a month or so ago and still haven't finished it. Yeah. I was halfway through when I switched to another book, and I still haven't found the motivation to pick it back up. So, all you who've read it, should I finish it? Is it worth my time, or should I just give up and move on to greener pastures?

2) I want to read a graphic novel. I've never read one before, so this will be uncharted territory. Since I don't know anything about them, I don't even know which is a good one to start with. This might be revealing my complete and total ignorance on the subject, but aren't some graphic novels kinda like anime? Well, I don't actually like anime, so if you could steer me to some that aren't like that, I would appreciate it. So, does anyone have any graphic novels to suggest?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe
by Shelley Coriell
1 May 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

I'll just admit straight off that the main reason I want to read this book is the cover--it's just so ridiculously fun. And man, do I envy that girl's hair. The story sounds pretty cute too, so it seems like this book's going to be a win-win situation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Falling in Love with English Boys

Falling in Love with English Boys, by Melissa Jensen. The GoodReads summary:
Sixteen-year-old Catherine Vernon has been stranded in London for the summer-no friends, no ex-boyfriend Adam the Scum (good riddance!), and absolutely nothing to do but blog about her misery to her friends back home. Desperate for something-anything-to do in London while her (s)mother's off researching boring historical things, Cat starts reading the 1815 diary of Katherine Percival her mom gives her-and finds the similarities between their lives to be oddly close. But where Katherine has the whirls of the society, the parties and the gossip over who is engaged to who, Cat's only got some really excellent English chocolate. Then she meets William Percival-the uber-hot descendant of Katherine-and things start looking up . . .
I wanted to read this book based solely on the title. I didn’t know anything else about it going in--especially since the back of the book was completely unhelpful. So I was a bit surprised to find that the book is from two perspectives: Cat, who’s spending the summer in modern-day London, and Katherine, who lives in Regency-era London.

I personally found Cat to be excessively whiney. I mean, she gets to spend an entire summer in LONDON, for pete’s sake, and all she does for the first half of the book is whine about it and refuse to leave the apartment except to go buy chocolate. I wanted to kick her or something. She does eventually leave her cave and explore London, but it’s only because she wants to spend time with a boy. I pretty much lost all respect for her after that. Cat does have some freakin’ awesome friends: Elizabeth, Consuelo, and Imogene. They are trés trés chic and glamorous, and I’m not actually sure why they befriend Cat. But I’m glad that they do since it means they get to be in the book. I would be all in favor those girls getting their own novels.

I liked Katherine’s story a little better than Cat's. Katherine acts pretty shallow as well, but you can tell she’s just trying to conform to her father’s and society’s expectations for women--and at least you can see that deep down there are hints of depth to her. Her romance was fairly uninspiring though. For most of the book, she thinks she’s in love with this poet guy who you can tell is a complete douche, and it isn’t until the veeeeeery end that she gets her act together and realizes there’s a better guy out there. I did really like Nicholas, though. I wish we got to see him more in the book, because he had way more potential than most of the other characters.

Overall, this is a quick, fun read as long as you can suppress your desire to do bodily harm to the heroines. I know they’re young, but they’re just so . . . silly and immature. But at least I don’t feel like it was a waste of my time to read it, which puts it ahead of some other books I’ve read recently.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Flashback review: The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman

Flashback reviews are where I review an older book that I’ve reread recently.

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman, by Louise Plummer. The summary:
I’m Kate Bjorkman. I don’t like romance novels. They’re full of three-paragraph kisses describing people’s tongues and spittle. But what do you do if you’ve lived a real romance with a great-looking guy (Richard) and he loves you as much as you love him? I know what I did. I wrote this romance novel about myself, using the Romance Writer’s Phrase Book. I also used stuff my English teach taught me about writing. He said a story must have conflict. No problem there. My life was one big conflict last Christmas. I didn’t make anything up. This is the honest truth and I want truth even in romance. I’m betting you’ll want the same.
I adore this book. Truly. Madly. Deeply. Okay, maybe not that deeply since it’s a fairly shallow book, but still, I love this book a lot. I first read it in high school, before I was really into YA, and from the first page, I connected to Kate’s narrative voice--she’s just so down-to-earth and funny. Plus, she’s tall and wears glasses and isn’t drop-dead-gorgeous, which made her all the more relateable for me, as I fit into all those categories. And she’s normal, is a good student, and has a close family--so basically when I first read it, I felt like Kate was my alter-ego or something.

As I mentioned, the story isn’t all that deep: it’s a YA romance, and since it’s only 183 pages, it’s a short one at that. But the story is just so much fun as it is that it really doesn’t need to be longer. It takes place around Christmas, so in addition to great characters, it also has a nice little festive atmosphere going on.

Richard, the love interest, isn’t particularly inspiring, but he’s nice enough. And since Kate has crushed on him her whole life, I can’t help but cheer for her as she finally goes after what (who?) she’s always wanted. I can never quite decide whether I like the ending or not--namely, I never know whether or not I think Kate should forgive Richard for what he does. But either way, I love the rest of the book so much that I just try not to think about the ending too hard.

So yes, go read this book--I’m pretty sure it's still in print. I haven’t read any of this author’s other books, but I keep meaning to. I know one of her books was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, so I think I’ll be tracking that one down soon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Follow Friday (23)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Go count the number of unread books sitting on your shelf. How many?

On my shelf--13. But that's after my month-long stint of forcing myself not to read any new books until I made a dent in the ones I already have. Most of my unread books are ones that I picked up just on principle because they were really cheap. I think the book that's sat unread the longest is "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens--I've had that one for 5 years or so.

I also have this big bag of, like, 50 books that I got at a book sale that I haven't really tackled yet. Not to mention all the free books on my Kindle that I haven't gotten to. I have a lot of reading to do . . .

How many unread books do you have? Which one's sat on your shelf the longest?

Review: Tiger's Curse

Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck. The GoodRead's summary:
The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
My favorite thing about this book was the storyline--I thought it was really original. I mean, it has a circus, India, and tigers, which makes it a lot more exotic than most YAs. And I LOVED that it takes place in India. I’ve had a fascination with the country for a while, and this book gave me my fix. Although, it did seem more like a glossed-over, fantasy version of India. I mean Kelsey keeps trekking through the jungles and never gets hurt. Plus, she eats all this native food and fruit and drinks, but she never gets sick at all . . . which seems a bit unrealistic to me.

Kelsey herself didn’t annoy me, but the way the author wrote her dialog and thoughts did. She doesn’t sound like a 17-year-old at all--she sounds way more adult. And Ren . . . I liked him better as a tiger than a man, honestly. As a human he’s overbearing and childish at times, and I just can’t handle that very well. Also, even though he’s 21, he’s been that age for, like, 350 years, so he seems way older than Kelsey, and I never quite got over the skeeviness factor of that. I did really appreciate that Kelsey doesn’t let Ren just sweep her off her feet. She knows that she’s attracted to him, but she keeps a level head and doesn’t let him make her decisions. So kudos to her for that.

Honestly, I think this book would’ve worked better as adult fiction. I mean, there’s nothing in it that makes it HAVE to be YA, and it being adult fiction would allow Kelsey to be older (so she could actually BE 30 instead of just sounding 30) and it would make the whole Ren being so much older than her way less weird to me.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book--more because of the story than because of the characters, but still, I think it’s a worthwhile book to read. I’m undecided about whether or not I’ll be reading the sequel, just because I hate the way Kelsey’s written, but I’ll probably give it a shot eventually.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Shatter Me

Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. The GoodReads summary:
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
So Shatter Me . . . I liked it. I really did. This review might feel kinda negative, so I just want to make it clear from the beginning that I enjoyed the book a lot.

The first half of the book was fantastic. Hands down. I loved the writing and the atmosphere and Juliet and all the uncertainty and tension. But, I don’t know . . . I feel like the second half of the book lost a little bit of what made the first part so good. It shifted from more psychological action to physical action, and I thought it wasn’t quite as compelling. But that might just be personal preference.

Along those same lines, I liked Adam and Juliette better in the first part. For me, once they realized they liked each other, the story lost a bit of the draw, since I’m always a fan of “will they or won’t they” romances. And that’s another thing: their romance got a little...intense?...for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love romantic tension and I have no problem with the resolution of it, but Adam and Juliet’s romance started feeling way more like lust than love after a while.

The ending surprised me, honestly. I totally thought the book was going to end at a really intense spot, but it didn’t. I was reading along, turned the page, and was like “Oh wait, that was the end?” I just felt like it ended in a weird place.

Overall, I did really like the book. There were just some things that kept me from being totally in love with it. If the whole book had been like the first half, I would’ve been raving about it, but it wasn’t. So instead I’m just saying, Hey, this was a pretty good book.
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