Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: The President’s Daughter

The President’s Daughter (The President’s Daughter #1), by Ellen Emerson White. The GoodReads summary:
Sixteen-year-old Meghan Powers likes her life just the way it is. She likes living in Massachusetts. She likes her school. And she has plenty of friends. But all that is about to change. Because Meg’s mother, one of the most prestigious senators in the country, is running for President. And she’s going to win.
The thing that I simultaneously loved and hated most about this book was that it was an updated version of a book originally written in 1984. So basically I think the author went through and tried to make it sound like it was taking place in 2008 rather than the ‘80s. And usually it was fine—I could tell what had been updated, but it wasn’t too glaringly obvious. But every once in a while, some parts just screamed 1980s. Like one part was describing one of Meg’s outfit, and seriously, no teenager in 2008 would be caught dead in a pleated wool skirt, white oxford shirt, knee socks, and Top Siders unless it was a school uniform.

This book sounded like '80s teen fiction as well. Even before I realized it was an updated copy of a much older book, I kept thinking, “Hmmm . . . this book sounds like it should be from the '80s.” It’s just got that Judy Bloom feel, you know? Like you can tell it’s written by an adult for teens, rather than it just being a story about a teen. It vaguely feels like you’re being talked down to. Does that make sense?

Anyway, despite my criticisms above, I did end up liking the story. It doesn’t have much in the way of plot, honestly. It’s more just the story of how Meg reacts to her mother’s candidacy for president. It’s a fairly quiet book, and there’s no big drama or anything. Which may sound like a negative, but it worked for me in this book. It was really interesting actually, all the political stuff and how it affects Meg and her family.

Meg herself is hilarious. She’s a bit surly and sarcastic and can have an attitude, but I liked her a lot. I think she deals with all the crazy stuff going on around her fairly maturely and with a sense of humor. She’s just sneakily funny, you know? Like, I would forget how funny Meg could be until she made some dry, sarcastic comment that had me grinning.

Overall, definitely a book of the '80s, despite the attempt to update it. But still, I enjoyed it. I hear that the next books in the series get more dramatic than this one, so I’ll probably read them at some point. I just think they’ll be library books rather than ones that I rush out to buy.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Friday, December 28, 2012

Books for 2013

With the end of the year coming up quick, I’ve been thinking a bit about which books I want to read most in 2013. I’ve divided my list into books that will be published in 2013 and books that are already out that I just haven’t gotten to yet. Here they are:

Most-Anticipated Books Released in 2013
-Falling for You, by Lisa Schroeder
-Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers
-Perfect Scoundrels, by Ally Carter
-Catherine, by April Linder
-The Sum of All Kisses, by Julia Quinn
-The Sea of Tranquility, by Katja Millay

Books I Want to Finally Get Around To
-The Golden Lily, by Richelle Mead
-Flame of Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier
-This Is Not a Test, by Courtney Summers
-Such a Rush, by Jennifer Echols
-The Evolution of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin
-Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor
-The Duchess War, by Courtney Milan
-The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey
-Love and Other Perishable Items, by Laura Buzo
-My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Which books are you looking forward to in 2013?

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Books

You guys, my life has been busy, to say the least, this past little while, so I’ve had pretty much no time to read. Seriously. It’s taken me a week to get 20 pages into the book I’m reading now, which I’m slightly bitter about since I really want to read it.

So in the absence of any book reviews to share with you, I decided to post about my favorite Christmas books. It sounded easy when I thought of it, but then I realized I could only come up with three books about Christmas. Which can’t be right. Out of all the books I’ve read in my life, there are only three about Christmas that I like? No way. I think my memory is just really bad. But while I rack my brain for other holiday books, I’ll share with you the three that I do remember.

-The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman, by Louise Plummer. A quick, fluffy YA holiday romance about a girl whose older brother brings home a hottie of a friend for Christmas. Romantic ice skating and hot chocolate drinking ensue, as does an apology ice cave. (Read my review here)

-Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. Told from alternating viewpoints, a boy finds a notebook that sets him and a girl off on adventures across New York City at Christmas. This book involves bookstores and quotable quotes, so it’s hard to go wrong. (Read my review here)

-A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. A Christmas classic, obviously, about a man who gets the chance to change his life for the better. Heartwarming and surprisingly hilarious.

Come on, guys, help me out. What are some other Christmas/holiday/winter-themed books that you like?

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2012

'Tis the season when I start thinking back about the books that I fell in love with this year. Some years it’s hard for me to choose, but this year it was actually relatively easy. I didn’t distinguish between books I read in 2012 and books that were published in 2012—they’re all just lumped in there together. But anyway, drumroll please…

Favorite of the Year
-A Little Wanting Song, by Cath Crowley (2005)
-Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley (2010)

Favorite Contemporary
-Easy, by Tammara Webber (2012)
-The Day Before, by Lisa Schroeder (2011)

Favorite Fantasy
-Froi of the Exiles, by Melina Marchetta (2011)
-For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (2012)

Favorite Historical
-A Company of Swans, by Eva Ibbotson (1985)
-Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers (2012)

Favorite Author I Discovered
-Eva Ibottson
-Courtney Milan

Favorite Start of a Series
-Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater (2012)
-Cinder, by Melissa Meyer (2012)

Favorite End of a Series
-Quintana of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta  (2012)
-Black Heart, by Holly Black (2012)

Most-Unexpected Favorite
-Blood Red Road, by Moira Young (2011)
-Virtuosity, by Jessica Martinez (2011)

Funniest Favorite
-Withering Tights, by Louise Rennison (2011)

Favorite That Made Me Cry the Most
-My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher (2011)

Which books did you like most in 2012?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Favorites: Edna St. Vincent Millay

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not-necessarily-YA books I love.

Which book?
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems


When did I first read it?
Two years ago.

Why did I first read it?
Growing up, we had a poetry anthology that I loved called “A Child’s Anthology of Poetry.” It had Millay’s short poem “First Fig” in it, and even when I was fairly young, that poem drew me with its devil-may-care attitude. So when I saw a Millay anthology on sale at the bookstore, I picked it up.

What did I think about it then?
As is the case with me and most poetry anthologies of a single poet’s work, Millay’s poetry was a bit hit or miss for me. But those poems that I liked—which was a fair number of them—I adored. She writes quite a bit about all the different ways love is lost, and those are the poems of hers that tended to click most with me. Her poems about nature and what not . . . not so much. But I just loved how spot on she is about so many emotions and how well she conveys a variety of tones, from regretful to reflective to defiant and beyond.

What do I think about it now?
I pick up my Millay anthology fairly frequently to reread a poem or two that have been on my mind. Does that happen to anyone else?—getting poetry stuck in your head? “First Fig,” the poem that initially got me started on Millay, gets in my head fairly often, as does one of her unnamed poems (a sonnet, I think?) from her collection, “The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems.” I’ll copy them here so you can get a taste of what Millay’s poems are like:

First Fig
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.
And her untitled one:
I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn wtih pity,—let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.
Have you read anything by Millay? What did you think?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Light Confessional: Historical Romances & Courtney Milan

You guys, sometimes I just enjoy a good historical romance. (And admittedly I occasionally enjoy the totally worthless and trashy ones too). Historical romances are like junk food for the brain to me: not something I eat too often but just what I need sometimes.

Not that long ago, the marvelous Angie of Angieville introduced me to Courtney Milan’s historical romances via the novella “The Governess Affair.” And after I devoured that little gem, I went to the library and picked up a few of the other Milan books they had, which turned out to be the first two books in the Turner Brothers series. I proceeded to wolf those down as well. So here I am on the other side of a three-book/novella Courtney Milan stint, and these are my general thoughts:

I love that she surprises me. There seems to always be a point in her books where I’ve been enjoying the story so far, but then something a little (or a lot) cliché happens and I start to think, maybe this book won’t be that good after all. But Milan always manages to resolve the cliché situation in a brilliantly not-so-cliché way. Which I thoroughly appreciate. And that bit of doubt that gets proven wrong always seems to make me love the story all the more.

I also love that her characters are emotionally honest. When they realize they care about each other, they consistently show it through their actions, and they don't act or speak in ways that contradict that. Similarly, I like that her characters are respectful to each other even before they necessarily like each other. Not that they don’t argue and make each other mad, but there’s a core of respect, especially on the part of the men, that I really, really like. And speaking of the men, I adore ’em. The women are strong (and hallelujah for that), but it’s the fact that the men don’t seem to be surprised by it that wins me over every time. And not only are they not surprised, they also support the heroines and let them know it’s okay to become even stronger. I love that the men are secure enough in themselves that the strength of the heroines doesn’t cause them to resort to pettiness and pride (that happens all the time in historicals and it makes me grrr).

So yep, new Courtney Milan fan over here. I’m excited to eventually get to her other books and see if what I liked about the three stories I’ve read so far continues to hold true. I certainly hope so.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Favorites: Paranormalcy

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not-necessarily-YA books I love.

Which book?
Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White

YA paranormal

Summary? (from GoodReads)
Evie's always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours.

But Evie's about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

When did I first read it?
2010, I believe.

Why did I first read it?
I don’t specifically remember, but probably because everyone was blogging about how much they loved it.

What did I think about it then?
You can read my original review here, but basically I loved Evie. I loved how hilarious she was and how down-to-earth. I really liked that she didn’t run off and do stupid stuff all the time like girls in YA paranormals tend to do. I also adored Lend. He wasn’t all dark and brooding—he was just so nice.

What do I think about it now?
YA paranormal is not my favorite genre. As a result, when I first read Paranormalcy, I went into it with really, really low expectations. So I was beyond happy that the book was actually a lot of fun. It became my favorite YA paranormal, and it still remains my favorite. I didn’t like the sequel, Supernaturally, as much so I haven’t picked up the third one (Endlessly) yet. But I fully intend to sometime. I feel like I owe it to Evie to finish her story since she was the one to show me I could enjoy the occasional YA paranormal.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: The Story of Us

The Story of Us, by Deb Caletti. The GoodReads summary:
Cricket’s on a self-imposed break from her longtime boyfriend—but she’s picked a bad week to sort out her love life. For one thing, her mother’s romance is taking center stage: After jilting two previous fiancés, her mom is finally marrying Dan Jax, whom Cricket loves. But as wedding attendees arrive for a week of festivities at a guesthouse whose hippie owners have a sweet, sexy son—Ash—complications arise:

Cricket’s future stepsisters make it clear they’re not happy about the marriage. An old friend decides this is the week to declare his love for Cricket. Grandpa chooses to reveal a big secret at a family gathering. Dan’s ex-wife shows up. And even the dogs—Cricket’s old, ill Jupiter and Dan’s young, lively Cruiser—seem to be declaring war.

While Cricket fears that Dan is in danger of becoming ditched husband-to-be number three, she’s also alarmed by her own desires. Because even though her boyfriend looms large in her mind, Ash is right in front of her....
Deb Caletti. I don’t know how she does it, but it’s like she can read my mind. I swear, she knows exactly how I feel, and then takes all those jumbled, mixed-up emotions, sorts them out, and turns them into something insightful and beautiful. And that’s what I always come away with from Caletti’s books—insight. Insight into my own life and into life in general. Her books are wonderful that way.

I actually didn’t know the plot of The Story of Us before I started reading it. I’m at that point where I pick up Caletti’s books without needing to know what they’re about. And she came through this time too. I think The Story of Us is her best book so far. It has this perfect blend of humor and serious issues, love and conflict, permanence and change. It’s just an all-around solid book.

And you know what surprised me about this book? That it wasn’t a swoony falling-in-love story but I liked it even more because of it. Romance is pretty much a requirement in a book if I’m going to like it, and there is romance in this story—it’s just not that butterflies-in-the-stomach, first love kind of romance. After all, Cricket and Janssen have been together for years, and Janssen isn’t even in the book except for one page at the end. It’s a deeper and more subtle romance as Cricket tries to sort out what she wants out of their relationship and out of the future. And can I just say, JANSSEN. That boy. He doesn’t even have to be in the story for more than the one page he is for it to be obvious that he’s everything that’s kind and good. Seriously, I’ll take him if Cricket doesn’t. And that hottie Ash isn’t too shabby either.

And I loved Cricket’s family. They’re funny and quirky without taking it too far and becoming caricatures. They feel real, and as I read along I felt more and more like I was part of their family—that I really knew them. How does that even happen? Talented authors, that’s how, I guess.

Overall, a solid contemporary YA. It’s a little on the slower and more reflective side, but I never felt like the story dragged at all. If you’ve read any of Caletti’s books before, you won’t be disappointed, and if you haven’t read them, I think this is a good place to start.

Rating: 4 / 5

Other Deb Caletti books I've reviewed:
-The Secret Life of Prince Charming
-Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow

The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman. The GoodReads summary:
When the night began, Nora had two best friends and a boyfriend she adored. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands. Chris was dead. Adriane couldn’t speak. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora’s determined to follow the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. But Chris’s murder is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
Take “The Da Vinci Code” and replace the art with a mysterious book and the 40-year-olds with 17-year-olds and you essentially have “The Book of Blood and Shadow,” secret religious societies and all. Not that that’s at all a bad thing. I liked “The Da Vinci Code” and I liked this book well enough too. There’s something to be said for books that take you traipsing across foreign countries while the characters search for clues to solve a centuries-old mystery in between dodging the secret societies out to stop them. These kinds of books are engrossing and exciting and informative all at the same time.

And all those adjectives describe “The Book of Blood and Shadow” too. I thought it did a good job at setting up both the mystery and the history, and I loved that a big chunk of the story takes place in Prague. I also liked that the book managed to surprise me towards the end with which characters were involved in the conspiracy and how. I mean, there were definitely some people I could tell from the beginning weren’t who they said they were, but others—and one in particular—caught me off guard.

And yet . . . there were times when the book stretched my willing suspension of disbelief a little too far. I found myself thinking, “There’s no way someone could be that naïve/ oblivious/ lucky/ skilled/ etc.” too often to really get sucked into the book. There were just a few too many things I found implausible even within the realm of the story, and they distracted me.

Overall, though, if you’re in the mood for an adventure/mystery, this isn’t a bad place to start.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
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