Friday, December 16, 2011

A Christmas break?

Guess what?!? I'm going home to San Diego for 2 1/2 weeks! YAY!!!

Okay, exclamation marks aside, the point of this post is to let you know I probably won't be stalking your blogs or posting as much on mine for the next few weeks. I might get a review in here or there, but I'm going to try spending my time with my family rather than blogging. But I do plan on catching up on my reading while I'm gone, so hopefully I'll have some good books reviewed for you when I get back.

Happy holidays, you guys!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: The Winter Sea

The Winter Sea, by Susana Kearsley. The summary:
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth--the ultimate betrayal--that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...
"The Winter Sea" is mainly historical fiction, so going into it I wasn't entirely sure how I'd like it, because I'm not always a historical fiction fan, especially adult historical fiction (***see my rant about historical fiction below). But luckily this book had some things going for it that helped me get over my prejudice:
1) Almost half of the story takes place modernly. (There's two story lines: the story of a fictional author that takes place in the modern day, and the story of the book she's writing that takes place in 1708.)

2) Two REALLY hot Scottish guys--actually, hot Scottish guys abound, but the two heroes are especially attractive. (I'm pretty much convinced I need to go to Scotland now.)

3) Two swoony love stories. (The modern-day romance is slightly less compelling than the historical one, but just look at #2 above and you'll see why I don't care.)

4) A well-suited writing style. (The tone of the writing fits the tone of the book perfectly. And the author throws in some awesome Scottish dialect.)

5) An intriguing fantasy element. (The fictional author starts writing a story about one of her ancestors but then finds out that what she thought was fiction is actually truth.)

6) A fantastically wonderful ending. (The ending to the historical storyline made my opinion of the book shoot up about a gazillion points. It was just so unexpected and . . . perfect. I may have squealed when I read it--I'm just sayin'.)
So, conclusion? Read it! And I can pretty much guarantee you'll squeal at the end too.

***My rant about historical fiction***

Historical fiction has never been my favorite genre (and by "historical fiction" I mean books that use real people from history, not just books that take place in a specific time period--those I can handle). Why, you ask? (Or maybe you didn't, but imma tell you anyway.) Three reasons:
1) The characters and storyline are limited by what actually happened. The story's never quite as exciting, because you already know how it's all going to end. The author may use interesting events and conflicts to get the character to the end, but the end always has to be the same as what happened in real life. It's like the characters aren't really free to do what they want.

2) The author makes characters do things they never did in real life. This may seem slightly contradictory to my first reason, but it isn't, I swear. For some reason, it just irks me that the author makes people who really existed have conversations and relationships that they never actually did. It's like the author's putting words in peoples' mouths and making assumptions about their motivations (which, I know, is the author's job, but still . . . these were real people we're talking about, not just characters).

3) The books always so LONG. Seriously though. I dare you to find me historical fiction that's under 500 pages.
Okay, end of rant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Ditched, A Love Story

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

Ditched: A Love Story
by Robin Mellom
10 January 2012

The GoodReads summary:
High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.

Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat handle first.

Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.

Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom.

And then ditched her.

Now, as the sun rises over her small town, and with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven, Justina must piece together — stain by stain on her thrift-store dress — exactly how she ended up dateless. A three-legged Chihuahua was involved. Along with a demolition derby-ready Cadillac. And there was that incident at the tattoo parlor. Plus the flying leap from Brian Sontag's moving car...

But to get the whole story, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. And discover if losing out at prom can ultimately lead to true love.

Filled with humor, charm, and romance, Ditched: A Love Story by debut novelist Robin Mellom will have readers dreaming of love on their own prom nights.

Contemporary YA will forever and always be my favorite, and as much as I love the hard-hitting, make-you-think kind, I really adore the light-hearted, fun reads too. And this one promises to be so much fun--I'm in love with it just based on the summary. Also, I love the cover. Probably (okay, mostly) because of that hideous prom dress--it's just so freakin' fantastically terrible.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Never Cry Werewolf

Never Cry Werewolf, by Heather Davis. The GoodReads summary:
Okay, so maybe Shelby has made a few mistakes with boys lately. But her stepmother totally overreacts when she packs Shelby off to brat camp. Suddenly, it’s good-bye, prom dress; hello, hiking boots.

Things start looking up, though, when Shelby meets fellow camper (and son of a rock star!) Austin Bridges III. But soon she realizes there’s more to Austin than crush material--his family has a dark secret, and he wants Shelby’s help guarding it. . . .
I really wasn’t expecting much from this book--I don’t know why since I hadn’t heard anything about it. I’m really not big on werewolf books in general. I’ve been slowly branching out into the different types of paranormal YAs, but werewolves just don’t do it for me. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a quick, fun book. Since it was a pretty light book, it didn’t create a whole werewolf mythos or anything, which I really liked, since, hey, I don’t really care about werewolves and I don’t want to waste my time learning their complete history or anything. The lack of werewolf background might bug other readers who like these things to be more explained, but I was happy with the superficial explanation.

Shelby, the main character, is fairly likeable. She was slightly annoying to me, but mostly because she kept doing things I would never do rather than for any real reason. I liked that even though the book (and the time span it takes place in) was short, Shelby’s character growth was pretty believable--she didn’t make any huge changes, but she did mature enough to satisfy me. Plus, she was pretty funny, and if a character can make me laugh, I’m willing to ignore a lot of other less great things about them.

Austin, the werewolf love interest, was likable as well. I mean, he’s British, so how can he not be? He’s maybe a little bland, but I was so happy that he wasn’t a brooding bad boy that I didn’t really care.

I was kinda confused about the fact that Shelby’s supposed to be at a brat camp, and yet only a few of the secondary characters were actually brats. It felt more like she was at a normal summer camp than a brat camp. It didn’t really bug me, except it made me wonder why the author chose to create a brat camp if she wasn’t going to follow through.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick, light werewolf book, give this one a shot. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and there’s only one werewolf to deal with--which made it a winner in my eyes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Follow Friday (22)

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

Question: Keeping with the Spirit of Giving this season, what book do you think EVERYONE should read and if you could, you would buy it for all of your family and friends?

Ooo, I love this question! It's going to be so awesome to read everyone's answers. I have the feeling I'll be adding ton of books to my TBR list today.

For YA fiction, I'd pick "Jellicoe Road," by Melina Marchetta. I love that book so freakin' much, and I've already had practically everyone I know read it. If you haven't read it yet . . . um, why the heck not!?!

For general fiction, I'd pick "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. It's just one of those books that EVERYONE should read. I put off reading it until college because I thought it was only going to be about racism, but it's about so much more--like growing up and thinking for yourself. Plus, I adore Scout's narrative voice.

If I got one more, I'd also pick "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It's a book that I know I can recommend to anyone, no matter their reading preferences. It's got something to please everyone: history, romance, a touch of mystery, great characters, humor . . . I could just go on and on.

What book(s) would you give?

Review: Once Dead, Twice Shy

Once Dead, Twice Shy, by Kim Harrison. The GoodReads summary:
Madison's prom was killer—literally. For some reason she's been targeted by a dark reaper—yeah, that kind of reaper—intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.

Now she's stuck on Earth—dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn't know why the dark reaper is after her, but she's not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.

With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe . . . ), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison's ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before ittakes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.
This book was kinda meh, but more of a good meh than a bad one. It wasn’t a terrible book by any means, but it didn’t exactly wow me either. And honestly, I only had 5 pages left, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not being able to finish it until 2 days later.

The main thing I noticed about the book is its simplicity. It’s only 232 pages, so there wasn’t time for a whole lot of development. That was partly a good thing because I feel like if the book had been much longer I would’ve started to get bored, but it was also a bit of a negative because there’s a lot about the world of timekeepers/reapers/seraphs that doesn’t get explained. So I came away with only vague sense of how all those different parts connect. I’m assuming more will get explained in the second book, but I would’ve liked to have it explained in this one.

The length also meant that the relationship between Madison and Josh is fairly shallow. It’s not insta-love, but it is . . . insta-friends-with-potential? I just think that they go from not knowing each other to being BFFs pretty quick. I did really like that although there’s another male character, Barnabas, there isn’t a love triangle.

Madison is pretty likeable. I don’t think we would be friends in real life, but I certainly didn’t mind reading about her. I did like her sense of style though—purple tights and shoes with skulls and crossbones? I vote yes!

Overall, I think the book was pretty okay. I mean, if you see it on sale or at the library, pick it up. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s any need to rush out and buy it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: For Darkness Shows the Stars

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

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
12 June 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in this caste system. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. But now the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress and threatening Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliott wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she abandoned him.

But Elliot soon discovers her childhood friend carries a secret—-one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she has lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Um . . . a sci-fi/dystopian retelling of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" by DIANA freakin' PETERFREUND?!?! It's practically too perfect to be true! I absolutely CANNOT wait.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: When the Stars Go Blue

When the Stars Go Blue, by Caridad Ferrer. The GoodReads summary:
A dancer driven to succeed.

A musical prodigy attempting to escape his past.

The summer they share.

And the moment it all goes wrong.

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.

But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.
I can’t even begin to express how happy it makes me when a book is better than I’m expecting it to be. It’s one of the few circumstances where I LIKE being wrong. And this book was just so much better than I thought it would be. I mean, it’s not like it’s my new favorite book or anything, but I really, really enjoyed it.

Two things that this book had going for it before I even got very far into it were dance and Spanish. I adore dance movies, and this book pretty much read like a movie, so I was hooked on that aspect pretty much from the start. And Spanish…I don’t even know why, but I love that language. It just makes me happy. And since Soledad and her grandmother are Cuban, there was plenty of Spanish thrown in--not so much that people who don’t speak it would be confused, but enough to spice up the dialog.

I really liked Soledad. There’s something to be said for strong main characters who know what they want. And Soledad wants to dance--it’s her life and her passion. Soledad is just so strong and awesome. She doesn’t let anyone walk all over her, and even in the midst of her semi-obsession with Jonathan, she keeps a firm sense of self.

Jonathan--he’s a mixed bag. I knew going in that this book was a modernization of “Carmen,” so I knew things with Jonathan probably weren’t going to end well. But I thought the author did a great job making Jonathan a real person--he’s got weaknesses and insecurities, but he’s also got good qualities.

And Taz…he just made me want a hot Spanish lover. That boy is FINE.

Overall, I really liked this book. It sucked me in pretty much from the first chapter because the writing was good and Soledad was just so likeable. And of course because of the dancing. But the story itself is what kept me reading--I thought it was a fantastic adaptation of “Carmen.” So yep, I for sure recommend this one. Especially if you like your heroines and your dancing passionate and strong.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Follow Friday (21)

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

Question: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? Maybe you don't like love triangles or thin plots? Tell us about it!

I actually posted about this subject not too long ago. But I think my biggest pet peeve is actually annoying heroines. Which I realize is a broad category. So if I had to pick the most annoying kind of heroine to me, it would be girls who are that terrible combination of headstrong, impulsive, and naive. Which inevitably leads them to constantly do crazy/stupid/incomprehensible things for no good/clear reason. You know, when they keep doing things that have you going, "WHY?!?! For the love. Just please stop and think for 30 seconds! I beg you." Like Pamela in "Dearly, Departed." Ug.

Anywho, enough of that, what's your pet peeve?

Review: Cold Kiss

Cold Kiss, by Amy Garvey. The GoodReads summary:
It was a beautiful, warm summer day, the day Danny died.

Suddenly Wren was alone and shattered. In a heartbroken fury, armed with dark incantations and a secret power, Wren decides that what she wants--what she must do--is to bring Danny back.

But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy Wren fell in love with. His touch is icy; his skin, smooth and stiff as marble; his chest, cruelly silent when Wren rests her head against it.

Wren must keep Danny a secret, hiding him away, visiting him at night, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school, and Wren realizes that somehow, inexplicably, he can sense the powers that lie within her--and that he knows what she has done. And now Gabriel wants to help make things right.

But Wren alone has to undo what she has wrought--even if it means breaking her heart all over again.
This book was almost really good. With an emphasis on almost. It had so much going for it, but it just didn’t take advantage of it.

I really liked the premise of the book: girl brings dead boyfriend back to life--only “life” is a relative terms since the boy is a pale, cold reflection of who he used to be. I loved this version of zombies--Danny isn’t the brain-eating kind at all. And I appreciated that this book starts with Wren already having brought Danny back to life and realizing she’s made a mistake. That cut out what would potentially have been a lot of unnecessary plot.

I also really liked the second story line about Wren’s family and her/their magical powers. Her family is pretty messed up, but I loved them anyway. Considering they weren’t in the story that much, I thought the author did a fantastic job making them seem real and building the tension between various members.

Ditto to liking Gabriel, the love interest. I never really thought I’d see a love triangle where one of the boys is dead, but this one worked for me. Gabriel wasn’t my favorite lover boy of all time or anything, but he was pretty likeable. And he doesn’t push Wren--he gives her the space she wants and lets her do things by herself. Both things I can appreciate.

But . . . like I said, there were some things holding this book back, in my opinion:

One, Wren’s whole “I need to solve this problem completely on my own with absolutely no help from anyone” got REALLY tiring after a while. I mean, she has a mom and an aunt who could totally have helped her out with the whole magic thing, but Wren refuses to ask for their help. I’m all for people cleaning up their own messes and taking responsibility, but I though Wren took it way too far.

Two, I thought the resolution was WAAAAY too easy. It was, like, three pages long. Plus, how does Wren, who doesn't really know how to control her magic, turn into such a magic savant at the end?

Three, there’s so much about her family that isn’t explained. Namely, what’s the deal with Wren’s dad? And her aunt? There better be a sequel to this book--otherwise those are some giant, gaping loose ends the author left behind. And even if there is going to be another book, I still feel like there should’ve been a little more explanation going on in this book.

Overall, I did like the book, but I’m kinda disappointed in it because I think it could’ve been so much better. I’d still recommend it, I think, but it’s maybe not one to push to the top of your TBR pile.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Best of the Bunch: November 2011

Best of the Bunch is a meme hosted by Lyrical of Lyrical Reviews, where we highlight our favorite read from the past month--our "hot pick, top read, must-put-it-on-your-reading-list-immediately book."

For once I didn't even have to think about my answer. Scorpio Races (read my review here) was by FAR my favorite book this month. It was perfect in every single wonderful way. There wasn't anything that I didn't like. And believe me, I don't say that about very many books. Puck is so spunky and stubborn and brave and absolutely fantastic. And Sean--I don't think boys get any sexier than him. I loved the writing, and the plot and pacing were exactly right. GO READ THIS BOOK!

Waiting on Wednesday: Catching Jordan

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

Catching Jordan, by Miranda Kenneally
1 December 2011

The GoodReads summary:
What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

I don't even like football, but I still really want to read this book. It's been a while since I've read a really GOOD contemporary YA, and I'm hoping that this one will be it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. The GoodReads summary:
Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead--or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria--a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible--until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead--and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.
I thought the world created by the author was really fascinating. It’s set in the future, but the people have decided to live like in the Victorian age--except with modern-ish technology. Plus there’s a whole capital city versus rural clash going on. Not to mention the human versus bad zombie versus good zombie conflict. So, needless to say, this book had a lot of interesting stuff going on, and I thought the world-building was pretty tight and unobtrusive.

My only real problem with the book was the characters. Well, not the secondary characters. I loved Chas, Tom, Dr. Samedi, Dr. Chase, etc, and thought they were fairly hilarious. Especially Chas. I would totally read a whole book just about Chas. And I guess I did like Bram, the lead zombie/love interest. He was pretty great actually. But Nora . . . I just thought she was basically boring. I mean, she doesn’t DO anything the whole book except get kidnapped. All the fighting was done by either the zombies or Pamela. Pamela’s the one who really annoyed me out of all of them. Seriously, everything that girl said or did had me rolling my eyes and asking, “WHY?!?!” It was one of those situations where you know you should probably like someone, but you can’t, no matter how hard you try.

The book was a lot longer than I expected. That’s not a bad thing, just an unnecessary one. I felt like a lot of the length was added by the 5 alternating perspectives. I just don’t think some of the perspectives, like Victor’s and Wolfe’s, were necessary--the stuff that happens in them could easily have been summarized in one of the other perspectives.

Overall, this book wasn’t quite what I wanted. The plot and setting were good, but too many of the main characters bugged me in one way or another. I’d still recommend it because it’s well done, despite my hang-ups--I just don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin. The GoodReads summary:
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

So after taking a full 24 hours to gather my thoughts on this book, I finally feel like I might possibly be ready to write a review. When I initially finished the book, my thoughts and feeling were ALL over the place--so much so that I honestly couldn’t decide whether I liked the book or not. It’s hard to decide if you love something when it messes with your mind so totally. But I think I’ve decided, that yes, I did like this book.

Character-wise, I didn’t ever really feel like I connected with Mara. It wasn’t that she was unlikable--it’s just that such crazy things are going on that I couldn’t relate to her at all. I kept wondering what she was like before the accident, and I have that feeling that I probably would’ve liked THAT Mara. The non-crazy one.

Noah has an English accent, which was kind of all I needed to like him. But through most of the book, I couldn’t figure out why he was so single-minded in his pursuit of Mara, when A) she’s CRAZY, and B) she kept pushing him away.The reason he’s so into her is eventually explained, but not until the very end.

This book did a fantastic job at the whole psychological thriller thing. There were so many times when I couldn’t tell what was real and what was in Mara’s head. I really couldn’t put this book down, and that was mostly because it simultaneously intrigued me and gave me the heebie-jeebies. I couldn’t stop reading until I found out how it all went down.

I feel like almost every review I’ve read for this book mentions a certain scene with the swamp and the alligators and how it really threw them off. I agree that the scene is confusing at first, but it does get explained later, so I’m not really sure what all those people were talking about. Based on those other reviews, I was expecting something much weirder in that scene, so I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Well, maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word--it was so intense and weird and confusing that “enjoyed” just doesn’t seem like the right sentiment. So maybe I’ll just say that this book was completely gripping, and I’m glad I read it. I’ll definitely be reading the next book.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Books: The Thanksgiving Edition

I'm thankful for books. Really. Seriously. Truly. Without books, I wouldn't be even remotely the same person. I wouldn't be me. I mean, the first thing out of my mouth when people ask me to tell something about myself is "I love to read." My love of books defines me--maybe a little too much at times, and other areas of my life have probably suffered because of it. But nevertheless, reading is an integral part of who I am, and I am infinitely grateful for the books I've read.

Thanksgiving has got me thinking about which books have influenced me the most--which books have really and truly shaped who I am. So here's the list, roughly in chronological order:

-“The Ordinary Princess,” by M.M. Kay: This was my first favorite book, and I read it until the cover fell off. Then I read it some more.

-“Talking to Dragons,” by Patricia C. Wrede: My older sister first read this to me, and then as I got older, I read the rest of the series myself. Although it’s neither the first nor the best of the series, “Talking to Dragons” was the first fantasy I read, and I’ve loved the genre ever since.

-“The Little House on the Prairie” series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder: My friend and I read these books at the same time in 5th grade. It was my first experience reading books and discussing them with someone else, and I haven’t been able to stop talking about books since.

-“Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott: This book was my favorite book throughout middle and high school. It was the first “classic” I ever read, and it showed me that genre didn’t have to be scary and unapproachable.

-“Beauty,” by Robin McKinley: My older sister gave me this book as a birthday present and launched me solidly into the world of Robin McKinley. I don’t think there’s any other author that speaks to me quite as well as McKinley.

-“The Princess Diaries,” by Meg Cabot: This is the book that started my love for YA fiction. Before, the only YA books I knew about where of the "Sweet Valley High" variety--not that I didn’t love those, but “The Princess Diaries” showed me there were books out there about teenagers I could relate to.

-“Jane Eyre,” by Charlotte Bronte: “Jane Eyre” . . . how can I possibly explain my love for this book? Jane--reserved, practical, and plain, yet immovable in her desire to do what’s right--was one of the first characters I could both relate to and admire at the same time.

-“All the Pretty Horses,” by Cormac McCarthy: This book was my first introduction to unconventional writing styles. I barely remember the storyline, but it taught me how to read books that step outside the box.

-“The Poisonwood Bible,” by Barbara Kingsolver: This one taught me that women can write as well as men do--and in this case, can do it better.

-“The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway: My first Hemingway. That’s all I need to say, really. The man practically ruined me for all other writing styles.

-“To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee: I didn’t read this book until college, but it immediately became one of my all-time favorites. The narrative voice is just so incredible, the story so wonderful, and the characters so lovable--who could ever forget the Finches?

-“The Book of Bright Ideas,” by Sandra Kring: With a single sentence, this novel completely changed how I deal with people: “Don’t judge people for what they’re doing until you know why they’re doing it.”

What books are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The List

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

The List, by Siobhan Vivian
336 pages
1 April 2012

GoodReads summary:
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

Why I want this book: A) The summary sounds really great, obvs. B) See that girl on the cover on the middle right? Pretty sure I've worn that exact outfit. C) I like trying to figure out how to pronounce the author's first name: Siobhan. See-o-ban? Shob-han? See-ob-an? The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre-Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Oh. my. freaking. heck. you guys. This book was craaaaaaazy. And I haven't decided if it was in a good way or not. Or if I liked this book or what. So since I only finished this book like 10 minutes ago, there's no way my thoughts are gathered enough to write a coherent review (just ask my roommate, who I flipped out over this book to). So I'm going to give myself a day to calm down and then write my review tomorrow.

But in the meantime, all I have to say is AHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Past Perfect

Past Perfect, by Leila Sales. The GoodReads summary:
All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….
So on the one hand this book was cute and adorable, just like everyone said it was. Chelsea is funny and easy to relate to. And I love that she has a fantastic best friend--I mean, their goal for the summer is to become ice cream connoisseurs. How awesome is that? And I totally enjoyed the colonial reenactment village, which is a little weird for me, since in real life, they freak me out a little. But it made such a fun and unique setting for the book.

But on the other hand . . . I just didn’t get WHY Chelsea and everyone else were so invested in the “war” between the two reenactment villages to the point that people get injured and Chelsea starts lying to her friends. The whole time, I was just like, “WHO CARES?!?! It’s just a GAME!!!” And I feel like my inability to understand why the war was so important kept me from really loving this book--I rolled my eyes a few times too many to be able to claim that I thought this book lived up to all the hype.

But like I said at the beginning, I did generally enjoy the book--it just wasn’t quite all that I hoped it would be. And maybe it’s just my own fault for not being competitive enough to understand why winning the war was so important. So I still would recommend this book, but I think I would recommend Sales’s other book “Mostly Good Girls” a little more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Follow Friday (20)

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

Question: Letter to Santa: Tell Santa what books you want for Christmas!

My book wishlist is currently over 200 books long, and I would love to get ANY (or all!) of them for Christmas. But right now my top picks are

-Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi
-The Near Witch, by Victoria Schwab
-Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand
-Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare

What books do you want for Christmas?

Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. The GoodReads summary:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition--the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
I don’t know where to start, you guys. I really don’t. Because this book was . . . perfect. Or, at least, it was a perfect Karen book. It was so, so amazing, and I’m having trouble finding the right words to describe it.

I think the thing that got me right from the start was the writing. It’s GORGEOUS. I read “Shiver” by this same author, and I honestly didn’t notice the writing. I heard everyone talking about how much they loved Stiefvater’s writing style, but I just didn’t get what they were talking about. But with this book, I so get it. It’s pitch-perfect for the story and practically had me tasting the salty air of the island.

Puck was the best protagonist I’ve seen in a while. Prickly on the outside, but a truly good person on the inside; a bit unsure of herself at times but brave when it matters. She was a heroine worthy of Robin McKinley, and I don’t say that lightly.

And Sean. Holy smokes--SEAN. Jonah Griggs will forever be my number one YA love, but Sean comes SO close. He’s quiet and still and strong. He doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone, because he knows who he is and what he wants. I have a thing for the strong, silent type in fiction, and Sean was everything I could’ve asked for.

I also have a thing for horse books, which is yet another way this book was perfect for me. Not only are there normal horses in this book, but there are capaill uisce--carnivorous water horses that are ferocious and dangerous and yet so beautiful. And with the deft way Stiefvater writes about them, I honestly wouldn’t be half surprised if they turned out to be real.

Read this book. Seriously though--read it. Because I didn’t even begin cover all the things I loved about this book. It’s not a fast-paced book by any means, but it had plenty of parts that had me forgetting to breathe and unable to tear my eyes from the page. I honestly didn’t want this book to end, and that’s not something I say very often.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Masque of the Red Death

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

Masque of the Red Death, by Bethany Griffin
320 pages
24 April 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club--in the depths of her own despair--Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for--no matter what it costs her.

I took a gothic lit class in college where we studied A LOT of Edgar Allen Poe. And my favorite story by far was "Masque of the Red Death." So needless to say, I'm super excited for this retelling to be released. Even if I didn't love the story the book's based on, I would still want to read this one because the summary just sounds so flat-out AWESOME.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. The GoodReads summary:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Honestly? This book wasn’t at all what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it--it just wasn’t what I thought it would be. Well, I mean, the first half was. But the second half? I did not see that coming. Ug, I’m trying to find a way to explain this without spoiling anything, but it’s harder than I thought. But basically, there are kind of two stories going on in the book, and the second story caught me off guard because I didn’t realize there would be a second story or that it would involve so much fantasy.

And now that I think about it, not that much really happens plot-wise in the main Karou story. Not that I’m complaining--I liked the book the way it was, but I think it was more about learning information and setting the stage for the next book.

I loved how unexpectedly amusing this book was. It’s not really a humorous story, but Karou is just funny. I’d be going along, getting drawn into the intense stuff happening and then Karou would say or think something that had me smiling so hard.

I actually kinda feel like what made me like the book was a collection of small things rather than any overarching thing about the book. Like, more than just flat-out loving the book, it’s more that there were so many little elements that I liked that it all added up to me enjoying the book. Does that make sense at all? Anyway, here’s a quick list of the things I adored that I can think of off the top of my head:

-Karou’s blue hair
-Making little wishes with scrupies
-Zusana’s marionette ballet
-Akiva’s eyes
-EVERYTHING about Akiva
-How by the end, the title makes sense

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. I’m maybe not as in love with it as everyone else seems to be, but I did like a ton of things about it, and I’ll definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Vampire Academy, books 3–6

“Shadow Kiss,” “Blood Promise,” “Spirit Bound,” and “Last Sacrifice,” by Richelle Mead

So . . . yes, I did in fact read books 3 through 6 of this series back to back. I was originally planning on spacing it out and reading some other books in between, but I got sucked in and didn’t want to stop. So I decided to give my thoughts on books 3 through 6 all at once, since they’re all jumbled together in my head anyway.

One thing that I really love about this series is the flow of it all. Each book has really great pacing, but on top of that, the series as whole moves from one book the next so seamlessly. Honestly, at this point, I can’t remember what happened in which book, because the divisions between them are so smooth.

I also really liked Rose’s evolution throughout the series. I could legitimately tell that she was maturing as the books progressed. For someone who frustrated me so much in the first book, she certainly gained my admiration by the last one. Along the same lines, I loved watching Lissa evolve as well. She’s so weak in the first book, but with each book she gets stronger, and by the final one I just wanted to cheer for her.

Richelle Mead does a fantastic job keeping the romance between Rose and Dimitri fresh and interesting in each book. Every time I started another of the books, I was convinced that it would be the book where Rose and Dimitri’s relationship would fall flat. But just when I was convinced that Mead couldn’t develop their relationship any further, she would pull out a plot twist that kept things going. And the tension between those two was really well done no matter the situation they were in.

And Adrian . . . I have mixed feelings about that kid. On the one hand I loved his refined, devil-may-care attitude, but sometimes I felt like he just needed to grow up and get a grip. So I’m excited to see how his character develops in the Bloodlines series.

Oh, and I ADORE Abe.

So, yes. Read this series! I wasn’t sure for most of the first book how I felt about it, but by the end of it, it was basically a straight shot from there to book 6 for me. And I’m not even a fan of vampire books, so it’s saying something that I’m as in love with this series as I am. Needless to say, I’ll be picking up Bloodlines soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Follow Friday (19)

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

Question: In light of 11.11.11 and Veteran's Day tell us about your favorite solider and how he or she is saving the world. Fictional or real life.

My favorite fictional soldier is Brigan from "Fire," by Kristin Cashore. I guess I just admire how he's super selfless and responsible and how he's willing to put his own desires below the needs of his country. Also, he's hot.

Choosing a real-life favorite is harder, because there are so, so many awesome people who have served their countries. But the one that comes to mind is from this story I was researching for work recently about a solider during the Vietnam War who worked with a scout dog. And the soldier extended his tour of duty twice just so he could stay with the dog. Maybe I was just feeling really emotional that day, but that story seriously almost made me cry.

Review: The Peach Keeper

Guess what, guys! Sometimes I read adult books. I know, right? It's crazy to think a world exists outside of YA fiction. But sometimes (okay, fairly rarely) I branch out. So here goes:

The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen. The summary (it's a bit of a novel in and of itself):
It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
What is there to say about "The Peach Keeper" besides I love it? 'Nuf said.

Who am kidding? This is me talking about a book, so of course it's not 'nuf said. But seriously, you guys, I fell 100 percent in love with this book. And no, I'm not even going to try to be objective when talking about it. I mean, it's SARAH ADDISON ALLEN, for pete's sake. I love all her books whole-heartedly, and this one is no exception.

The best thing about Sarah Addison Allen books is how they make you feel--like you're laying outside in the grass on a perfect summer day; like you're talking to your best friend; like you're falling in love. ARGH! I can't even explain it. Just read one of Allen's books and you'll know what I mean.

"The Peach Keeper" doesn't deviate from the mold of Allen's other books, but I'm completely okay with that, because it's a fairly perfect mold made of warm-fuzzies and sugar-sweet romance and hints of magic. Sarah Addison Allen books top my list of comfort reads, and it's no mystery why.

Like I said, I can't be objective about this book. I can't focus on plot arcs and character development, because of how the book makes me feel. So I guess I'll just say that I didn't have any issues with the plot and the characters were lovely (I pretty much fell in love with Sebastian). I know that doesn't do the book justice AT ALL, but I don't know what else to say. Who cares about holes in the plot or insufficient character motivation when the book manages to take you to a world where the magic is both a little wistful and a little impish, the romance is filled with just the right amount of yearning, and the themes are all about growing up into who you want to become without completely leaving behind the person you were.

And yes, I did in fact read it straight through in one sitting.

Haven't you gotten my point yet? READ IT!

FYI, other books by Sarah Addison Allen:
-Garden Spells
-The Sugar Queen
-The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink

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

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, by Stephanie Kate Strohm
8 May 2012

The summary:
Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

This one sounds super cute! It reminds me a little of "Past Perfect" by Leila Sales, which is definitely a good thing. The cover isn't my favorite, but it's not the worst I've seen by far.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The deal breakers

After reading this post over at Forever Young Adult, I started thinking about what my deal breakers in YA fiction are. So here we go: the things that make me reject a book before I even finish reading the summary.
-terrible cover (I know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but . . . I totally do. All the time.)
-vampires/werewolves/fallen angels/fairies (okay, there are some exceptions to this, but if it's of the Twilight-over-the-top-I'm-in-love-with-this-strange-creature-for-no-reason variety, it's 100 percent a no go for me)
-cliques (because I just don't like reading about mean girls)
-cancer/terminal illness patients (honestly, I just don't care . . . and I hate crying over books)
-ridiculously light/fluffy/whimsical plot (when there's nothing substantial to hold my attention, I start skimming/skipping after the first chapter)
-Christian/inspirational themes (because I believe in a separation between church and literature)
-a focus on plot rather character (news flash: I'm all about character development, folks)
-excessive teen drinking/drug use/partying (although, I guess technically, all teen drinking/drug use is excessive)
-sequels (I can't stand series. I just don't have that long of an attention span for characters and plot lines)
Maybe that's a lot of things, but since I still find plenty of YA fiction that meets my criteria, I don't feel bad at all.

And while I'm thinking about it, here are my deal makers--the books I automatically pick up:
-amazing cover (duh)
-death/suicide (morbid, but true)
-secrets (because they add tension and lies and conflict and fear and other things that equal character development)
-first person, present tense narrative voice (well, first person in general, but combine that with present tense, and I'm a goner)
-cute, un-shallow, non-creepy boys (double duh)
-book lovers (because I like reading about people like me)
-honest romance (none of this "I saw him and fell in love even though he's a jerk and there's absolutely no reason for me to like him" biz; gimme some conflict)
What are your deal breakers or deal makers?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Because of Wynn-Dixie

Because of Wynn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. The summary:
The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends, and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship--and forgiveness--can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.
Yes, I know this is a children's book, and usually I don't read very much of that genre. But seriously, I had to post about this one because I'm in LOVE.

I remember picking up this book when I was younger and, based on the cover and the fact that it was about a dog, not wanting to read it. But recently I was at the book store, saw this book, read the first page, and KNEW I had to read it. It's a children's book, so it only took me, like, 45 minutes to read it, but they were pretty much the best 45 minutes of the day.

This book is so good! I kind of hate the term "heart-warming," but that's exactly what this book was. I can't even tell you how in love with this book I am. It was just so absolutely wonderful. Opal and Winn-Dixie are so lovable, and the other characters are as well. It's a whole town of truly awesome people. AND THE DOG DOESN'T DIE! That almost automatically makes this book a winner for me.

So, really, if you haven't read this one yet, take 45 minutes and do it. I can pretty much guarantee you won't regret it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Follow Friday (18)

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

Today's Question is something new, an activity. We want to see what you look like! Take a pic with you and your current read! Too shy? Boo! Just post a fun pic you want to share.

Oooooookay, here are the disclaimers for these photos:

1) I had just finished making a music video with my roommate when I took these pictures (why yes, we ARE in our 20s and still making music videos like we're 14...). So, just FYI, I don't normally wear sequin dresses or have my hair looking like a hot mess.

2) For a fairly normal looking person, I have a remarkable inability to take a good picture. I always end up looking so weird.

So first, the normal picture--to make my mom happy (because she always says I make too many crazy faces in photos):

And now the one of me trying to make a kissy face (because the book is "Cold KISS." GET IT!?!? I'm soooo clever!) (Also, with a kissy face like that, it is a huuuuuge mystery why I don't currently have a boyfriend...):

Mini-Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The GoodReads summary:
Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
I’m in love with this book--it’s so ridiculously much fun to follow Lily and Dash around New York at Christmas. I really enjoyed Lily and Dash. They’re a little more self-aware and articulate than real teenagers probably are, but they have their fair share of problems and self-doubt too; and though they don't always deal with their issues in the best ways, you don't doubt that they learn a little more about themselves from their mistakes. And I really love the narrative voices--Cohn and Levithan have created these characters that just talk and sound like the quirky, awesome people they are. I totally recommend reading this book during the holidays this year--in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to re-read it for Christmas.

The quote:
Imagine this:

You're in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author's books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines sits a red notebook.

What do you do?

The choice, I think, is obvious:

You take down the red notebook and open it.

And then you do whatever it tells you to do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

200-Follower Giveaway Winners!

The winners of my 200-Follower Giveaway are

Dani @ Refracted Light (Signed Tempest ARC)


Jessica @ Book Loving Mommy (Signed Firelight)

Congratulations, you guys! And thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway and spread the word. You all rock!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King. The summary:
Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.
All I have to say is "Please Ignore Vera Dietz," you let me down. You let me down hard. I usually don't write about books I really didn't like, but apparently the magnitude of my disappointment has made me a little more whiny than usual. So here we go.

I was so excited to read "Please Ignore Vera Dietz," by A.S. King. It was one of the Printz Honor books for 2011, and I've had really good experiences (aka I fell in love) with Printz books in the past ("Jellicoe Road," "The Book Thief," "I am the Messenger," "How I Live Now" . . . all fantastic). The summary even sounded like my kind of story--the kind of book that makes me giddy with its promise of depth, character development, and self-actualization.

But the book fell completely flat for me--and believe me, I was trying my hardest to like it. It's just . . . there was zero character development: Vera is a good girl who *minor spoilers* starts drinking and hallucinating a lot then stops drinking and decides to clear her friend's name. The end. *end spoilers* She really never changes at all. Plus, Vera was not exactly the most exciting person to be stuck with for 336 pages--she never came to life as a character and wasn't easy to connect with. You never really get inside her head.

There were some redeeming qualities to the book, though. Vera's developing relationship with her dad, for instance. And her friend Charlie--who even though he's dead, manages to be a more interesting character than Vera.

This book just made me grrrr. So really, if you want a book much better at dealing with death, read "The Sky is Everywhere"; if you want a book about revealing secrets, read "Thirteen Reasons Why"; and if you want a book with character change, read "Before I Fall."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Best of the Bunch: October 2011

Best of the Bunch is a meme hosted by Lyrical of Lyrical Reviews, where we highlight our favorite read from the past month--our "hot pick, top read, must-put-it-on-your-reading-list-immediately book."

Ug, picking a favorite was so hard this month! But I think I'm going to go with "The Girl in the Steel Corset," by Kady Cross (read my review of it here). It was my first experience with steampunk, and I fell totally in love with the genre all from this one book. Plus the book has some really great characters (Griffin! Jack!) and awesome fight scenes. And it has descriptions of cool clothes, which never hurts a book, in my opinion. Another part of why I adored this book so much is that it doesn't rush the romance--it leaves plenty of room for development in the next books.

Runners up:
Lola and the Boy Next Door (my review)
Vampire Academy (my review)

Review: Frostbite

Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2), by Richelle Mead. The GoodReads summary:
Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose…

It's winter break at St. Vladimir's, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy's crawling with Guardians--including Rose's hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn't bad enough, Rose's tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason's got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa's head while she's making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy's not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad's annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…
Considering not much happened in this book until the very end, I was surprisingly engrossed by it. Usually when I read an action-based book, I like it to be, well, action-y. But for this one, basically all that happens in the first three-fourths of the book is that the academy goes to a ski lodge for Christmas. And yet, I really couldn’t put this book down. I think the main reason for that is that Richelle Mead just knows how to tell a good story--her writing sucks you in, even when there’s not that much to be sucked into.

And Rose is continuing to grow on me. I could definitely tell that she’s maturing, so there was slightly less crazy impulsiveness to drive me crazy. Although her self-confidence in her appearance did still grate on me--I mean, she rates herself as a 10 out of 10 for looks. Who does that? But I do still admire her ability to face challenges head on and kick some major butt.

And of course, this book had me swooning over Dimitri again. Richelle Mead has the tension between Dimitri and Rose DOWN. Even though they were deliberately trying not to be interested in each other romantically, those two could probably start a fire with all the heated glances they had going on.

Although the book didn’t have much happening in the first three-fourths, the action in the last fourth basically makes up for it. I won’t spoil anything, but let me just say, it gets INTENSE.

So yes, read these books. I just finished this one and am so ready to jump into book three. They’re just so well-written and full of interesting characters. Plus they’ve got some awesome fight scenes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Follow Friday (17)

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

Q. If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

Okay, see, this is a legitimately tough question, because there are a ton of characters that I love, but either A) I wouldn't necessarily want to spend a whole dinner talking to them, or B) they'd be too cool and/or busy to accept my dinner invitation.

So I think for a female guest, I've settled on Juliet Ashton, from "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. Juliet is down-to-earth and so witty, and if we ran out of things to talk about, she could regale me with stories about Kit and everyone else on the island. I'd probably serve pot roast or some suitably British food, and of course we'd have potato peel pie.

For a male guest, I would obvs want to invite Jonah Griggs, from "Jellicoe Road," but he would probably fall into the "too cool to accept my invite" category. So I'd invite Cricket, from "Lola and the Boy Next Door," because he's cute and quirky and, most of all, he'd just be so happy and nice. For him, I'd probably order out for pizza, because he's definitely the laid-back type.

Who would you invite?

Don't forget to enter my 200 Follower Giveaway! Open until October 31.

Review: Second Helpings

Second Helpings (Jessica Darling #2), by Megan McCafferty. The GoodReads summary:
Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens. Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess’s life, including the hot creative writing teacher at her summer college prep program and her feisty, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother Gladdie. But most of all, readers will finally have the answers to all of their burgeoning questions, and then some: Will Jessica crack under the pressure of senioritis? Will her unresolved feelings for Marcus wreak havoc on her love life? Will Hope ever come back to Pineville? Fall in love with saucy, irreverent Jessica all over again in this wonderful sequel to a book that critics and readers alike hailed as the best high school novel in years.
So I realized that I never reviewed the first book in this series, but that’s because I read it before I started this blog. Therefore I’m declaring myself exempt from feeling guilty about posting about the second book in a series without having written anything about the first.

I was a little hesitant going into this one because, while I generally liked the first one, Jessica’s constant angst, pessimism, and brutal sarcasm got to be a little too much for me. But in the second book, it didn’t bother me as much. For one, I think there was slightly less of it, but mostly I think I could handle it because of a very good point Jessica makes: her life isn’t really as horrible as she makes it seem, but because it’s her journal, she’s only writing about the things that frustrate and stress her. Which makes sense. If any one read my journal they would probably think I was super angsty too.

So after I understood her angst and pessimism, I really got into the book. Jessica is snarky and funny, and although she’s completely frustrating at times, ultimately she’s hilarious and pretty likeable.

And Marcus Flutie . . . I think I was more in love with him in this book than I was in the first. His motives are annoying unclear at times, but he’s still such an awesome guy. Basically, I <3 Marcus 4evah.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book—I ended up liking it even better than the first in the series, and I’m definitely going to keep on reading the rest of the books. So if you like your heroines angsty but hilariously sarcastic, check out the first book, “Sloppy Firsts,” and this one, “Second Helpings” (although honestly, you could probably start with the second book without being confused for very long).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Flirting with Italian Boys

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

Flirting with Italian Boys, by Lauren Henderson
272 pages
12 June 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!

The summary doesn't give me much to go by, but that's okay because the title pretty much had me at hello. After all, flirting with Italian boys is something I would very much like to accomplish in my life. Preferably as soon as possible. Also I adore the shoe/sock combo the cover model's got going on. Although I would never be brave enough to wear a skirt that short on a moped. But maybe if I was in Italy, I would magically transform into the kind of girl who could wear that length of skirt without showing everyone things they'd rather not see. Anyway, it's a long wait for this one (June), but I'm totally psyched.

Don't forget to enter my 200 Follower Giveaway! Open until October 31.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Literary BFFs

As a result of a combination of circumstances (which I won't bore you with), I started thinking who my literary BFFs are. You know, the characters I not only love to spend time reading about, but the ones I think I would be friends with if they for some bizarre reason turned out to be real. Here's my list, in no particular order:
-Elizabeth Bennet, from "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austin
-Jenny Greenley, from "Teen Idol," by Meg Cabot
-India Opal Buloni, from "Because of Winn-Dixie," by Kate DiCamillo
-Penelope Bridgerton, from "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton," by Julia Quinn
-Cimorene, from "Dealing with Dragons," by Patricia Wrede
-Sophie, from "Howl's Moving Castle," by Diana Wynn Jones
-Emily Benedict, from "The Girl Who Chased the Moon," by Sarah Addison Allen
-Evie, from "Paranormalcy," by Kiersten White
-Juliet Ashton, from "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
-Frankie Landau-Banks, from "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks," by E. Lockhart
-Kat, from "Heist Society," by Ally Carter
I could go on and on about why they're my literary BFFs, but I don't think I'm going to. You should read the books yourself and find out if these girls are your BFFs too. And then we can all be BFFs together.

So who are your literary BFFs?

(Did I use "BFF" enough times to make you gag? No? Lemme say it again: BFF.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Between the Land and the Sea

Between the Land and the Sea, by Derrolyn Anderson. The GoodReads summary:
Something extraordinary is lurking in the deep ocean waters off the coast of Aptos, California. Just a few weeks after moving to the beach town, sixteen year-old Marina has nearly drowned twice, enchanted the hottest guy in high school, and discovered a supernatural creature. If she can manage to survive her increasingly dangerous encounters with unpredictable mermaids, she might just be able to unlock the mystery of her past and learn how to appease the mysterious forces that seem to want something from her... and maybe even find true love along the way.
I think my basic opinion of this book is that it was good overall but that it lacked a little in execution--like, the plot and idea were intriguing, but there were enough things that grated on my nerves to keep me from loving the book wholeheartedly.

One of the major things was that Marina was like a 40-year-old in a 16-year-old’s body or something: she constantly used words like “musn’t” and “nonsense” and just generally didn’t sound anything like an actual teenager. She was also a little too aware of her own virtues and didn’t have any of the insecurities teenagers have, which kinda ended up making her seem full of herself.

The other main hang up I had was that everyone in the book was a genius at something: Marina is brilliant at art, Cruz is a gifted designer, Megan is a talented singer, Evie is a former model, and Marina’s dad wins the Nobel Prize. I just thought it got a little ridiculous. I mean, where are the normal people?

But guess what? This book doesn’t have a love triangle!!! I can’t even begin to express how happy that makes me. The romance is straight forward, and Ethan is completely likable.

Like I said before, I did like the plot--Marina’s involvement with the mermaids is pretty cool. The only other mermaid book I’ve read is “Forgive My Fins”--which is a completely different kind of mermaid story--so I was totally sucked into the world of mermaids that this author created. I also liked Marina’s friends and family. They seemed like fairly awesome people, and I wouldn’t mind hanging out with any of them.

Overall, it’s an interesting book with a good plot, but some of the minor details in the book’s writing got on my nerves after a while--not enough to turn me off the book but enough to stop me from really liking it.

Received for review

Don't forget to enter my 200 Follower Giveaway! Open until October 31.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...