Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

Princess Talia is heir to the great kingdom of Euphrasia and has been blessed with many important qualities, such as beauty, grace, and intelligence. But there is also a curse on her head, a curse that deems that when Talia turns sixteen, she will prick her finger on a spindle and the whole country will fall into a deep sleep. The only way everyone can be awakened is by Talia's true love's kiss. In comes Jack. Forced on a trip of Europe by his overbearing parents, Jack sneaks away and stumbles upon Euphrasia, now in ruins. He is compelled to kiss a slumbering Talia, and when he does, everyone awakens and is shocked to find that they are in the twenty-first century. Talia is determined to make Jack fall in love with her, but he can't stand her whining and complaining. Meanwhile, the evil fairy that placed the curse on Talia is still lurking, waiting to make her next move. What will happen to Jack and Talia, and how will the Euphrasians survive?

I actually really enjoyed A Kiss in Time. Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite fairy tales, so this modern retelling was right up my alley. The book switches between Jack and Talia's point-of-views, which makes it interesting to get into the heads of both characters. Talia was actually really annoying at first. I mean, she is a princess, which basically means she's completely spoiled and she really acts like a brat at times. But when Jack takes her back to America, she starts learning the error of her ways and becomes way more tolerable. When I first read the synopsis of A Kiss in Time, I couldn't wait to read the part where Talia wakes up in the twenty-first century. It just sounds like the perfect opportunity for comedy, and I was right. At times, this book is hilarious. Talia is living 300 years in the future, so she has no idea what certain things, like airplanes are and it is so funny. The book was even a little suspenseful, because I wanted to know if Jack and Talia would eventually fall in love, and what would happen with the evil fairy, Malvolia. The ending is extremely satisfying, and A Kiss in Time is the perfect book for fans of fairy tales.

8 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Lear is an old and aging king who is ready to give up his throne, and decides to split the kingdom between his three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. All the girls have to do to receive their inheritance is to profess their love of their father. Goneril and Regan have no problems lying about their love, but Cordelia, the only daughter who actually loves Lear, refuses. She is subsequently banished and Lear foolishly splits the country between Goneril and Regan. Along with some other manipulative characters, the two daughters start planning and scheming, and the country may very well end in ruin.

This is the fourth Shakespeare play I've read (along with Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night) and compared to those I thought it was pretty good. It wasn't my favorite, but it was definitely enjoyable and not too bad of a read for being written in the early 1600s. There was a lot of intrigue and manipulation, which made the story interesting. There were a lot of different characters, some good and some pretty shady, and you never knew what was going to happen next. The ending was sad, but you have to remember that this was a tragedy. So if you have to read a Shakespeare play, this one wasn't too bad.

7 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor

The nightly news is full of tragedies every day: murders, assaults, kidnappings. But it's not real until it happens to you. That's how thirteen-year-old Abby feels when her younger sister, Becky, is snatched from her room one summer night. Even though they were two years apart, Abby and Becky's birthdays were right next to each other, which is why their mother dubbed them the September Sisters. However, Abby and Becky rarely got along and were always arguing. But now that Becky is gone, Abby starts to miss her. As days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, the searching becomes futile and Abby wonders if her family will ever be normal again.


I really liked The September Sisters. I have never read a book about someone being kidnapped, so this was definitely an original story. Even though it was a sad topic, I wanted to keep reading it. It was almost like a mystery, because you want to find out what happens to Becky. I won't tell you the ending (I hate spoilers), but I thought it fit well with the story. There isn't really much to comment on it, though I did think the story started to drag in the middle because how much is going to happen in a thirteen-year-old's life? The plot picked up more after Abby met Tommy, the love interest, so it was all good. The September Sisters was a quick read, and even with the depressing subject, it ended on a hopeful note.

7 out of 10.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


Have a safe and happy holiday! Hopefully, you got some good books under the tree.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Win a Copy of Thanksgiving at the Inn!

I have an extra copy of Thanksgiving at the Inn by Tim Whitney, and I thought that now would be a good time to hold a contest for it. Even though it's not Thanksgiving, it's still the holiday season and Thanksgiving at the Inn is a perfect read for any time of the year. If you want more information on the book, please see my book review.

Contest Information:

The contest will end on January 3rd, 2010.

Extra entries can be obtained by:

+1 Being or becoming a follower.

+1 Linking the contest to your blog.

Please let me know how many entries you will be receiving. The contest is only open to residents of the United States. Good luck!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thanksgiving at the Inn by Tim Whitney

Heath and his father don't get along at all. Which isn't surprising, as Heath's father Junior doesn't get along with his father, either. So when Senior, Heath's grandfather, dies, Heath isn't sure what's going to happen as Junior and Senior haven't spoken in years. But when Heath and Junior learn the terms of Senior's will, which include running his small boardinghouse for three months before they can get any money, Junior is furious. Heath is intrigued, however, and likes the boardinghouse and its inhabitants. He isn't sure how his father is going to react to their new situation, but Heath wants to stay. Can Junior change his ways, and can Heath and him ever get along and stop the legacy of distant father-son relationships?

Surprisingly, I really enjoyed Thanksgiving at the Inn. It isn't normally a book I would pick up, but I'm glad that I did. The story was really interesting, and there was also an aspect of mystery because you really want to know what happened between Junior and Senior to cause them to speak to each other for years. Another great part of the book is the characters. There are a lot of them, but they all have their own stories and personalities. My favorites were Winsted, a Jamaican man who has a somewhat shady past, but is also wise and kind; and Sally, a muscular, tattoo-ed illustrator/author of children's picture books. Even though the book is short, somehow the author was able to tell us a lot about the characters without being too descriptive and boring. Besides Winsted and Sally, I really liked Heath. I felt like I could relate to him and he sometimes said some pretty funny things. I enjoyed watching him forge relationships with the residents of the inn and also patch things up with his father. All in all, Thanksgiving at the Inn was a heartwarming novel that is perfect for any time of the year, not just at Thanksgiving.

7 out of 10.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Witch & Wizard by James Patterson

Imagine you wake up and the world around you - life as you know it - has changed in an instant. That's what has happened to Whit Allgood and his sister, Wisty. They went to sleep as normal teenagers, and woke up as wanted criminals. Accused of holding incredible powers they'd never dreamed possible. And now, just how different they are - special, even - is just beginning to be revealed in a strange new world. It begins...now. (Taken from back cover)

I'm going to be extremely blunt: I hated this book. It was so bad that I could only read half of it before I had to stop. I don't understand how a best-selling author like James Patterson could write something like this. My mom thinks he had a ghostwriter help him, so I don't know if that was the problem or not.

To start off, the plot of Witch and Wizard was poorly conceived. It was a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. Whit and Wisty are living in the United States, until a new totalitarian regime takes over. So it sounds dystopian right? But then, Whit and Wisty have magical powers and the regime doesn't like that so they lock them up in jail. That combination just doesn't make any sense to me. I feel like, in this case, you can't have it both ways. Also, the writing was really bad. It seemed like someone knew they were writing for teenagers and young adults and had to dumb everything down for us. Plus, every other chapter changed narration between Whit and Wisty and their "voices" sounded exactly the same! I had to keep checking who was talking because there was no way to differentiate between the two. Besides the reasons stated above, the book was stupid. So eloquent, I know. What I mean is that everything was just corny. The plot points, the dialogue, and the characters were all those you would find in a cheesy cartoon. It definitely wasn't intelligent, sophisticated or even mildly entertaining. I don't know how Witch and Wizard was even published.

3 out of 10.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

Jane’s job as a barista at Wired Joe’s Coffeehouse is a pretty boring gig. To make the workday go faster, she tests out her theory that you can tell a lot about a person based on their favorite coffee. After extensive research, Jane has a notebook full of personalities that go with each drink. So when she sees that some drinks seem to go along well with other drinks, based on their descriptions, Jane tries her hand at matchmaking two friends. When all goes well, Jane continues trying to find dates for other friends and the regulars at Wired Joe’s. But when the manager Derek discovers what Jane has been up to, he decides to make it an in-store promotion for the month of December. Jane will be the Espressologist every Friday night and match customers based on their drink preferences. Jane’s having fun and becoming semi-famous, so why is she feeling weird about her best friend Em dating her friend Cam, when she was the one who matched them?

I thought that The Espressologist was such a cute book. It was light, fun, humorous and romantic. I loved that Jane was a modern day matchmaker, and matching people based on their coffee preferences is a really smart idea. Who doesn't want a little love with their coffee? The book was short and interesting, so it read fast. The one thing I didn't like that much was that the author was very brief. Everytime something happened, the author could tell it in five sentences. She really took efficiency to a new extreme. It wasn't that big of a deal, but in my opinion it prevented The Espressologist from flowing as well as it could have. Despite that, I still think that The Espressologist was hilarious and a fun read for the holidays.

8 out of 10.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sister, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning much - if you don't count her secret visits to the Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle - who already has six wives - Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever. (Taken from book jacket)

I loved The Chosen One! I've never read a book that took place in a polygamist compound, but I've always been fascinated by the stories you sometimes hear in the news. I could never imagine living that way, so it was neat to get into the mind of a girl who has lived that way her entire life. And for some reason, I was surprised to see that her family was actually kind of normal. Well, as normal as can be when your father has three wives. Her family, including her father, were loving and kind to her and it seemed like it could be a regular family. I also thought it was funny how Kyra reacts to people who are wear regular clothes, which I guess would be considered revealing. I loved that Kyra snuck away to visit a Mobile Library. Since I love to read, I could definitely relate because I would be the one sneaking off too. The story was very interesting and kept me turning the pages because I could not wait to find out what happened next. When The Chosen One was finished, I wanted to keep reading, it was just that good. Recommended for all readers!

9 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning and tour de force. (Taken from back of book)

I love reading books about dystopias (see 1984, Uglies, The Hunger Games), which is what first attracted me to The Handmaid's Tale. I decided to read it for my independent novel project and I'm really glad I picked it. It was set in a world not like any other. This new society is basically the same thing as the Muslim theocracies in the Middle East: women have absolutely no rights or freedoms. They are forced to wear concealing clothing and are not even allowed to know how to read or write. It sounds like a nightmare for most women. Even with such depressing topic, the story was so interesting. It's from the point of view of a Handmaid, and you can feel the desperation and hopelessness in the story, because, as the summary stated, women are only valued if they can produce children. And as Offred is in her early thirties and the Commander is even older, that could be a problem. There was also this neat epilogue that was from even farther in the future and it kind of explains how this new society came about. I really enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale and would recommend it to fans of science fiction.

8 out of 10.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Ethan Wate lives in small town Gatlin, South Carolina, home to Confederate flags, home-cooking and Southern hospitality. Ethan wants to get out of the small-mindedness and narrow thinking that often comes along with a small town, but resigns himself to trying to fit in at his high school until he graduates. That is, until Lena Duchannes moves to town. Lena, niece of the resident shut-in, is beautiful, mysterious, and completely different than the other girls in Gatlin. There's something special about Lena, something almost magical. As Ethan is drawn to Lena, he must not only contend with the wrath of Gatlin, but the curse that is on Lena's family.

When I received Beautiful Creatures in the mail, I was so excited to read it. It's been one of those books that are really hyped up and it sounded really good. Unfortunately, Beautiful Creatures is not my new favorite book. I did like it somewhat, but there are some things I didn't like at all.

First, I thought Beautiful Creatures was way too long. It was over 600 pages and that would have been fine if that length was actually needed. In my opinion, the book could have been shortened significantly because there was a lot of unnecessary narration. The book is written in first person, so Ethan gets a lot of exposition and he just doesn't stop talking. I must have heard Ethan say that his housekeeper Amma is a tough, no-nonsense woman a million times before the authors were satisfied that the reader understood. In keeping with Ethan's run-away narration, there was a lot of telling, but not showing. I also think that the magical, Caster aspect of the story could have been fleshed out a little better.

Fortunately, Beautiful Creatures wasn't all bad. Around the 300 page mark, I started to get into the story a little bit more and was curious about what would happen at the end. It took awhile, but I got there eventually. Even though his "talking" annoyed me, I did like Ethan and thought that he was really funny. All the characters were unique and had distinguishable personality traits, which made the book somewhat enjoyable to read. I would also like to remind everyone that I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, which is why I may be reviewing this book unfavorably. So if you do like fantasy, you will most likely enjoy Beautiful Creatures. Just make sure you set aside some reading time because it will take you awhile.

7 out of 10.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Book Signing!

Two weekends ago I went to a small bookstore about a half-hour away to go to a book signing. There were ten authors: Sarah Dessen, Scott Westerfeld, Laurie Halse Anderson, Lauren Myracle, Jay Asher, T. A. Barron, Steven Kluger, Justine Larbalestier, David Levithan, and Jacqueline Woodson. I wish I could have gotten books signed by all of them, but I'm broke and couldn't afford to buy ten hardcover books. But I did meet some authors and here are the pictures I took with them. I cropped out my friend to preserve her identity, if you were wondering why the pictures look a little weird.

Lauren Myracle.


Scott Westerfeld with his new book, Leviathan.


Sarah Dessen

It was really cool to meet these authors because they are some of my favorites. I love going to book signings but there never seems to be that many around here. So it was really fun. Have any of you guys met any authors recently?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Posh and Prejudice by Grace Dent

The divine Shiraz Bailey Wood is back in this hilarious sequel to Diva Without a Cause to enlighten us with her signature brand of madcap humor on her demented, glorious life in the gritty suburbs of London.When sixteen-year-old Shiraz Bailey Wood's year-end test results come in, she's astonished to discover not only that she passed them all, but that she's actually clever! Emboldened by an invite to higher-level classes, Shiraz enrolls in Superchav Academy's "Center of Excellence" to get even brainier. Hanging with goody-two-shoes types in higher-level classes seems like just the ticket to avoid getting stuck forever in her crap hometown. But Shiraz has to figure out for herself: are these posh types really any better than she, or do they just want to stick their noses up at everyone? (Taken from Amazon)

I read this book a really long time ago, so I don't remember it too well. Sorry about that. But I can still write a review about it! The one thing that I like and dislike about these books is that they are set in England and written by an English author. I think it's a good thing because I like learning about different cultures and broadening my horizons. But I hate that I sometimes don't understand the slang and usage of certain words. So that could be a deciding factor when you see this book in the library or bookstore. But the characters, especially Shiraz, are interesting and really funny. Shiraz sometimes comes off as stupid, but she is actually really smart, which I like. Her family is working class, and I like that she is able to leave that behind and continue with her education in the "smart" classes. I think that it's a story many people can relate to and will hopefully inspire people to continue school even if your family doesn't encourage it.

6 out of 10.

Release Date: December 1, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

The tragedy of a typical American--a salesman who at the age of sixty-three is faced with what he cannot face; defeat and disillusionment. (Taken from Amazon)

That summary is short and sweet, huh? Well, I think it pretty much captures the theme of the book. Death of a Salesman is about an elderly man, Willy Loman, who realizes that his life did not turn out how he planned. He's not the rich, successful and popular salesman he aspired to be and his two sons are lazy and not the adored children he thought they were. The play shows how Willy has this revelation that his life isn't perfect and brings him back to reality. I thought that Death of a Salesman was an okay book/play. It was pretty easy to read: very short and the writing was simple. The problem was I just wasn't that interested in it. We were discussing in class Willy's character, like whether we pitied him or didn't like him and I realized I had no opinion. I didn't care one way or another about the play or any of the characters in it. I was completely opinionless on the subject, which is really weird for me. Sorry about the non-review, but I thought I should say something on it because I did read it.

5 out of 10.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving & Contest News

Happy Thanksgiving! I know I'm ready to dig into some turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. My grandparents are coming over later this afternoon and my cousin flew up from North Carolina to stay with us. So I think it will be a fun holiday. What are your Thanksgiving plans?

And there is a giveaway at Suko's Notebook. She recently read and reviewed Jenny's Dream by Linda Weaver Clark and is now holding a contest for the book. Click here to get more information, and the contest ends on December 7.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2010 Debut Author Challenge

So this year I participated in the 2009 Debut Author Challenge. I challenged myself to read 15 books, and I've read 12 so far, which is pretty good. And some of the books I'm reading now can be used for the challenge, so I should be good to go. I really like this challenge and I'm glad that Kristi (The Story Siren) is hosting it again. So here is the partial list of books I hope to read for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.

1. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
2. The Line by Teri Hall
3. All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
4. The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Catherine Locke has always been overweight. It's hard for her to stay away from those candy bars, Diet Cokes, and chips. But when she has to do a science project on hominins, early ancestors of humans, Cat sees herself as the perfect subject. She decides to change her lifestyle and eating habits to those of the hominins, and see if she can be healthy for once in her life. Only eating organic and nutritious foods and walking instead of driving, Cat sees the pounds practically melt away. But with her new body comes a new problem: boys.

I loved this book! I could stop reading Fat Cat. I loved the characters, especially Cat. She was really smart and I thought her science project was so unique. I liked seeing her become healthy and was happy that she finally became comfortable in her own body. I also really enjoyed reading about her foray into the world of boys. Robin Brande really knows how to get into the mind of a teenager and wrote Cat's thoughts and ideas wonderfully. I would recommend Fat Cat to any fans of young adult literature.

9 out of 10.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Cameron Smith is the king of low expectations. To him, not caring equals minimum disappointment, so he doesn't put an effort into school, his job, or his family. It seems that his life is going nowhere - that is, until he contracts Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, also known as Mad Cow disease. Cameron's illness is fatal, but there seems to be hope when he is visited by a sugar-loving angel named Dulcie. According to Dulcie, Cam must embark on a journey that will simultaneously cure his disease and save the world. Accompanied by a dwarf and a talking yard gnome, Cam must outwit evil wizards, fire monsters, snow globe fanatics and a happiness cult in order to save himself and humanity.

When Libba Bray announced the synopsis for Going Bovine, I thought it was a joke. It sounded so weird that I was certain she was just joking around. But I was wrong. I probably would never have read this book because it sounded so odd; but I love Libba and thought I would give it a try.

Going Bovine was a very interesting novel. The author, Libba Bray, is also known for her Gemma Doyle Trilogy, which is completely different than this book. It was weird going from the historical fiction/fantasy that is Gemma Doyle to the present day/craziness that is Going Bovine. I'm not lying when I say that this book was really weird. It was weird in a good way, but still just totally out there. Cameron's journey is set in our world, but there were some fantastical elements, like talking yard gnomes and punk-rock angels, that kept things lively. I must say that I liked the juxtaposition of real life and fantasy, even if I sometimes didn't get it completely. The crazy parts, along with the witty dialogue, made this book extremely funny. There were several times that I laughed out loud. I also liked that the reader never knows if what is happening is real or just a dream, which leaves the book open for interpretation. But even with the weird parts, Going Bovine was also surprisingly deep and heartfelt and somewhat a commentary on our addiction to reality TV shows. The only negative is that this book is LONG. Like 480 pages long. The reason I haven't posted anything in such a long time is that this book took me forever to read. So I think it could have been shortened a tad, but it was still a fun read.

7 out of 10.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach...Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby - young, handsome, fabulously rich - always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel. (taken from amazon)

Once again, another book for English class. I apologize for the lack of YA books. I've been really busy but have some reviews coming up (hopefully). Anyway, I loved The Great Gatsby. A lot of people have told me that they liked it and I completely agree with them. It's such an easy read, you have no idea that the book is about 80 years old. Even with the time difference, it's easy to relate to the characters, setting, and conflict. I don't want to give too much away, but the book is a tragic love story juxtaposed with social commentary on the 1920s. F. Scott Fitzgerald was part of the Lost Generation and it is easy to see his feelings of discontent with society at the time. I must say, the ending is a tad anti-climatic, but it fit well with the story. The Great Gatsby is a timeless novel that will appeal to readers of all generations.


8 out of 10.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God, an American classic, is the luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern Black woman in the 1930s, whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to 70 years.

This poetic, graceful love story, rooted in Black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, celebrates boldly and brilliantly African-American culture and heritage. And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a Black woman who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.

Originally published in 1937 and long out of print, the book was reissued in 1975 and nearly three decades later Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered a seminal novel in American fiction. (taken from amazon)

This is another book I had to read for my AP English Lit class and I thought it was okay. At first, I had so much trouble reading it becauase all the dialogue is written in a Southern Black dialect. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and I know that the book is praised for its authenticity, but boy, was it difficult to read. But as I continued with the book, I got used to the language and started to enjoy it a little. The plot was interesting and Janie goes through three husbands, so there is never a lack of drama. I liked that the book gave me a glipse into the life of a Black Southerner in the 1930s. Surprisingly, Their Eyes Were Watching God ended up being an interesting read.

7 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora Grey's life has been pretty normal - except for her father's untimely murder a year ago. But things are about to get really weird, and it all starts when she is paired with Patch as a biology partner. Patch is cocky, sarcastic and completely mysterious, but there's undeniable chemistry between the two. As Nora learns more about Patch's dark past, she can't help falling for him, and he for her. But Nora feels as if she is being followed and odd incidents keep occurring. Could Patch be behind it or is there something darker at foot?

I've seen a ton of good reviews for Hush, Hush (and surprisingly some bad ones), so I knew it was going to be good. And I was so glad that my expectations were met. Actually, the book met my expectations and then still jumped ten thousand feet. Yes, Hush, Hush was that good. I enjoyed everything about it: the characters, the plot, the dialogue, the fantasy. I thought this book would take me a long time to read (its 391 pages) but I read half of it in no time. The pages literally fly by. Let's start with the characters. Nora was an awesome protagonist. She's smart, funny and realistic. Her reactions to Patch and all the things occuring around made sense. You were never asking yourself "Now why did she do that?" She wasn't predictable, just uncannily similar to a regular teenager, which made her seem like a real character. And then there's the love interest Patch. He is the ultimate anti-hero. Like I stated before, he's completely cocky and at times inappropriate, but it suits him well. There's something magnetic about his personality and it draws both Nora and the reader in.

The plot was extremely well-written. I was never bored, for there was always some new twist or turn to keep me thinking. I liked that it wasn't completely obvious what Patch really is (I know it's obvious from the cover/tagline, but without those, you really wouldn't know). The book was refreshing and quirky, funny and dark, romantic and action-filled. Hush, Hush is perfect for fans of fantasy or for people who just like good books.

9 out of 10.

Release Date: Today!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. (Taken from Amazon)

I absolutely loved this book! It was just as good as The Hunger Games, and maybe even better! I had been anxiously the release of Catching Fire ever since I read the first book a year ago. It definitely reached and then surpassed my expectations. The romance with Peeta (one of my favorite parts) was still present, but the reader also gets romantic tension with Gale, which was absent in the first novel. I also liked learning about the districts and capitol and a little bit of the history about them. The president (who is more like a dictator) is even a character in Catching Fire, which is cool. I loved the twists and turns the story took and every other page I was saying "Oh my god" to something that happened. I could not put Catching Fire down and now cannot wait for the third installment. How will I survive?


10 out of 10.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Guest Post at Sunshine Edition

I was lucky enough to participate in Sunshine Edition's Trick or Treat Blog Tour. Every day of October there are guest posts from bloggers like me, interviews, book reviews, and contests. So if you want to win some free books, head over there! My guest post was about the best and worst scary movies. If you want to know what to watch, check it out here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Guest Blog: L. Diane Wolfe

Today is a special day! L. Diane Wolfe agreed to write a guest post on the character development in the lastest installment of her Circle of Friends series: The Circle of Friends: Book IV - Mike.

Character Growth – One Author’s Account

Characters are the most important part of a story and as critical as the plot. Authors face the challenge of creating an interesting, diversified assortment of characters and chronicle their growth as the story progresses. How well we succeed at this task determines the reader’s overall connection with the people occupying our tale.

My latest book, The Circle of Friends, Book IV…Mike, features two main characters, Mike and Danielle.

Mike enters the story as a likeable but troubled young man harboring a tremendous amount of guilt. A past incident resulted in a slip of moral judgment and Mike now regrets his decision. He also feels guilt regarding his feeling towar d his best friend’s wife, and fights those feelings on a daily basis. On the surface his life appears quite ideal – Mike is a member of the football team and will graduate soon from college. However, his internal conflicts have prevented Mike from growing as a person.

Danielle is a lot less troubled, but she has issues as well. She is a strong-willed, outgoing young woman who sometimes intimidates others with her assertive nature. She has no difficulty cultivating relationships but struggles to maintain friendships. She’s occasionally demanding of others, and Danielle is a bit of a perfectionist.

Both characters have flaws and imperfections, but it’s these very traits that make them interesting. How they deal with these issues becomes the meat of the story.

Danielle’s friendship challenge is a fault of which she is aware, especially when she is hard pressed to find a Maid of Honor. Sensing Mike’s concerns regarding his friendship with Matt and Sarah, she works very hard to maintain close contact with Sarah. Once she and Mike are married, her independent and perfectionist nature must compromise to accommodate her husband. A crisis toward the end of the story also forces Danielle’s assertive dominance to subside, although it nearly destroys her spirit in the process.

Mike’s changes are more dramatic. His relocation to New Mexico removes the temptation of Sarah, but it’s not until Danielle enters his life that Mike finally overcomes his struggle. However, his guilt remains, and when forced to recognize his mistakes, Mike almost folds. With Danielle’s help he is able to forgive himself, and at that point feels he is free. However, as often happens, issues have a way of resurfacing when new challenges appear. Mike experiences a moment of total relapse and grows angry and resentful. He flounders mentally and emotionally, trying to place blame rather than accept his present situation. Only through the help of a friend is he able to acknowledge his immature behavior and accept his responsibilities.
Just like real life, challenges are required to inspire character growth. When life proceeds smoothly and no risks are taken, growth doesn’t occur. It’s in the trials and tribulations that strength is discovered. The person who refuses to move forward stagnates. If no character rises to the call, then the reader is disappointed and feels just as stunted. Without any challenges, the story stalls and grows boring.

Mike and Danielle face numerous situations that force then to change. They are by no means perfect by the end of the story, but they are much further along. It’s my hope that not only will readers enjoy following their growth, they will experience a little personal growth as well!

L. Diane Wolfe, professional speaker & author
http://www.thecircleoffriends.net/

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Circle of Friends: Book IV - Mike by L. Diane Wolfe

Mike Taylor is the epitome of stability. His family is proud of his academic and athletic achievements at Georgia Tech, and despite the temptations of college life, he has maintained his moral standards. Yet beneath the peaceful surface, Mike is consumed with guilt, fearing condemnation and rejection. A former girlfriend's abortion and the intense love he feels for his roommate's wife constantly remind Mike of his failures. Unable to forget and full of shame, he refuses to forgive himself. When Danielle enters his life, he realizes he can no longer hide the past. Will she be able to reach him or is Mike past the point of redemption? (Taken from back cover)

The Circle of Friends was different than books I have previously read. It's categorized as young adult fiction, but the main character Mike is graduating from college at the beginning of the book, so he is technically an adult. It's one of those books that kind of overlaps genres and can appeal to different ages.

Mike was an okay protagonist. I liked that he wasn't perfect and still had flaws like any normal person. What I didn't like was the hopelessness that surrounded him as a character. As stated in the book synopsis, Mike is unable to forgive himself for a past girlfriend's abortion. Abortions are big deals, but I felt that Mike dwelt too much on it and it started to get annoying. However when another girl enters his life, he grows as a person and begins to feel better about himself. Speaking of Danielle, she was a character I really liked. She was a vibrant person and was just really outgoing. She brought Mike out of his shell, and helped him to forgive himself. I liked that the book had a hopeful ending and I think fans of the previous Circle of Friends books will enjoy this new addition to the series.

Release Date: October 6, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Growing up as the pastor's kid, Samara Taylor has been used to living the perfect life: a happy family, a community within their congregation, and a loving God. But when Sam's mother is arrested for a DUI and has to go into rehab, Sam starts doubting everything she once believed. With an absent father who has more time for church than his daughter, Sam's faith is hanging on by a thread. But when a local girl is kidnapped in their small town, all the emotions that Sam has been holding in start to emerge. During this tragedy, Sam must decide for herself if she believes in miracles, her family, and most importantly, herself.

I really enjoyed reading Once Was Lost. I felt like I could relate really well to Sam, even though we're totally different people. In any normal circumstance, I would be bothered by Sam's antics. She is a actually an annoying character. Sam is the epitome of the "acting out" teenager and acts childish on many occasions. But I felt like she was a real person, and (this sounds cheesy) I felt like I connected with her.

Obviously, this is a book about religion, and since I'm not religious at all, I usually don't like these kind of books. But the religion in Once Was Lost was subtle, if that's even possible when it plays such a big part. A lot of books sound preach-y, like they're telling you how to act and what to believe in. But Sara Zarr did a good job with minimizing the narrative sermons and made it a book about Sam's faith, rather than trying to convert the reader.

One of the most interesting aspects of Once Was Lost was the kidnapping of a thirteen-year old girl who belongs to Sam's church. It added an element of mystery to the story and definitely made me want to keep reading. I had no idea how it would end and I liked the suspensefulness of the story. In addition to the kidnapping, I really liked the relationship between Sam and Nick, who is also the brother of the kidnapped girl. I liked how they could talk to each other and become closer during this tragedy. All in all, I thought Once Was Lost was a good book with an original plot, and I can't wait to read more of Sara Zarr's work. Plus I love the title and cover!

9 out of 10.

Release Date: Today!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Summerland Blog

Now that school has started, everyone is super busy with homework, tests, sports, clubs, and countless other things we're involved in. Everyone is wistfully looking back at the summer months and wishing that we had a few more weeks of uninterrupted bliss. If you, like me, are missing summer dearly, you should check out a new blog called Summerland. It's focusing on summer reads that you can enjoy even in the depths of winter. They are also having a mega contest that ends October 1. So go over there and check it out!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield is surely one of the most recognized names and favorite protagonists in contemporary American literature. Several generations of young readers especially have been startled to recognize so many of their own ideas and feelings in Holden's distaste for all the "phonies" that surround him. (Taken from back cover)

I was pleasantly surprised by The Catcher in the Rye. I thought that I wouldn't like it, but I actually did. I had to read it for my AP English literature class, so look out for reviews on a bunch of "classics" because I have to do a lot of reading for that class. Anyway, Holden definitely has that teenage angst/moodiness thing going on. He is what some adults think every teenager is like. He's sarcastic, uses profanity, fails classes in school, the whole deal. He also thinks that everyone around him is "phony" and is putting on some kind of act. I actually thought that aspect of his personality was quite annoying. Obviously, there's psychological reasons why he thinks that way, but to believe that everyone is putting up some kind of front is ridiculous. It's also ridiculous because Holden lies all the time. Besides that, I enjoyed the book immensely. It was easy to read and was actually pretty funny at times, since it's told in first person with Holden narrating the story. It was not what I expected at all, but in a good way. I would definitely recommend this book to all readers, and especially to those who need a "classic" for their book report.


7 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family own the Hopewell, a small Art Deco hotel in the heart of New York City. When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take care of a suite. For Scarlett's fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite and a permanent guest named Mrs. Amberson. Scarlett doesn't quite know what to make of this C-list starlet and world traveler. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn. Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery and romantic missteps. But in the city where anything can happen, she might be able to pull it off. (Taken from back cover)

I loved Suite Scarlett! I think it was one of the best books I've read in awhile. The characters were extremely likable, especially Scarlett and her older brother Spencer. And speaking of Spencer, he is hilarious! Every other word that came out of his mouth was some funny, sarcastic remark. The only character I didn't really like was Marlene, Scarlett's incredibly spoiled younger sister. But Marlene comes around, which is good. I like character development. What I also like was the originality of the story. First, Scarlett lives in a hotel, which is probably the coolest thing ever. And then I loved the theater and acting subplot, especially since Spencer and his acting troupe were putting on the play Hamlet. I'm so glad that I had to read that in tenth grade because it seems to be very popular for contemporary literature (see also: Eyes Like Stars). I also liked that the romance wasn't predictable, and turned out differently than I imagined. So if you're looking for a cute, witty, and unique book, Suite Scarlett is a perfect choice!

9 out of 10.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Used Book Sales Directory

I recently received an email from a representative of http://www.booksalemanager.com/. She wanted to let me (and other bloggers) know that there is a website with lists of book sales that support local libraries. All you have to do is type in your zip code and state and find tons of used book sales. Read on for more info.

All across the nation, many Friends of the Library organizations hold book sales that feature cheap books that were either donated or removed from circulation. Typically these sales sell books, CDs, magazines, and DVDs for rock bottom prices. A typical sale will sell most of their items for under 3 dollars.

Being charity organizations, these Friends of the Library organizations often have limited resources to advertise and promote their sales. As such, many people are never made aware of the excellent deals they are missing within their own communities. That's where booksalemanager.com comes in. We are attempting to bridge the gap between Organizations looking to more effectively advertise their sale, and people looking to find more places to get good deals on books and media.

Friends of the Library organizations and other non-profit groups can freely advertise their sale on our site. Our site currently has 2500 active listings, and we have been adding over 100 everyday.

People looking to find sales can use our powerful search tools to find these sales. They can search by state, zip code, sale size, and date ranged. Furthermore, people can create an account and save sales to their calendar to help them better track the sales they want to go to. You can also sign up for notifications to be emailed when a new sale in your area is listed, or a reminder email a few days before the sales on your calendar so you don’t ever miss a sale you want to attend.

I believe book sales are a great way to find bargain books and media while at the same time supporting the local libraries and non profits we all know and love. It's a total win-win.

I thought this was such a good idea and will definitely be using it to find cheap books.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian

Emily's summer is going to be a little different this year. Instead of tanning and hanging out by the pool with her best friend Meg, Emily will be attending a prestigious art program in Philadelphia a few days a week. Coming from a wealthy suburb in New Jersey, Emily isn't like the kids at the school, who are extremely serious about their art and individuality. Emily doesn't feel unique, special, or talented; that is, until she meets Fiona. Fiona is passionate about art and some of her enthusiasm begins to rub off on Emily. But when the old and new Emily's clash, Emily must decide what kind of person she really wants to be, and discover who her true friends really are.

So I really wanted to read Same Difference because it takes place in Philadelphia, and I live about twenty minutes outside of the city. It was awesome seeing all the famous landmarks, like the William Penn statue and South Street. Not too many books are set in this area, so it fun to recognize the different places Emily visits. I'm not a big art person, but I liked reading about the art program and seeing all the different projects Emily worked on. Unfortunately, Emily started getting a little annoying because she was trying too hard to be unique. She comes from a town where everyone conforms and wears the same type of preppy clothes. But when she comes to Philly, everyone is the opposite and is obsessed with being different. So Em has to figure out who she wants to be. I also didn't like how she drops her best friend because Meg isn't artsy like her new friends. But everything works out in the end, so I guess it's okay. Emily learns that she doesn't have to wear crazy clothes and hairstyles to be an individual. I think anyone who likes art or coming of age stories will enjoy Same Difference.

7 out of 10.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Win a copy of Melinda and the Wild West!

On Tuesday I interviewed Linda Weaver Clarke about her Family Legacy Workshop and recently released books. Here's some information she sent me about a contest that she's holding at her website:

Hello everyone! My last book in this series, "Elena, Woman of Courage," has just been released. As a celebration, I'm having a free book give-away for the first book in this series: Melinda and the Wild West. This book was a Semi-finalist for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.” Go to my blog at http://lindaweaverclarke.blogspot.com and leave a comment on the "Elena, Woman of Courage Press Release" along with your e-mail address. I will announce the winner on my birthday: Oct 2nd.

If you're interested in winning this book, please visit Linda's blog. Thanks Linda for a great contest!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview with Linda Weaver Clarke

Since it's Book Bloggers' Appreciation Week, I have a special treat for you: an author interview! I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Weaver Clarke, a historical fiction novelist whose newest books, David and the Bear Lake Monster and Elena, Woman of Courage, were released this past summer. Linda also runs a Family Legacy Workshop, where she travels around the country teaching people how to write about their ancestry.

Short Bio

Linda Weaver Clarke was raised on a farm surrounded by the rolling hills of southern Idaho and has made her home in southern Utah among the beautiful red mountains. She travels throughout the United States, teaching a “Family Legacy Workshop” at libraries, encouraging others to turn their family history and autobiography into stories. Clarke is the author of the historical fiction series, “A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho,” which includes the following novels: Melinda and the Wild West - a semi-finalist for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007,” Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, Jenny’s Dream, David and the Bear Lake Monster, and Elena, Woman of Courage.
Interview

Family Legacy Workshop

Can you tell us about the Family Legacy Workshop?
I teach people how to take their family history or their own autobiography and turn it into interesting stories. It’s important to teach our children their heritage. Each of us has a story from our ancestors to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then they’ll be lost forever. Our children need to be proud of their ancestors. To read samples of what you can do with your stories, visit my website at http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com/ and read the “short stories” of my ancestors.

How is writing about ancestry different than writing fiction?
When writing your own ancestors stories, everything is taken from biographies, letters, or autobiographies. Sometimes, they’re stories that have been handed down for generations. Leon Garfield said: “The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting.” What I’m teaching people to do is how to paint their stories, to be the storyteller.

What kind of information do people need to have before they start writing their family history?
First, write down any experiences that you remember. Talk to family members and discuss memories. Use letters they wrote to one another. If possible, go to the area your ancestors settled, walk around, find specific places of importance, where your ancestors lived, went to school, and played. If you can’t go there, then do research and find pictures of that area. Time Period is another important part of research. Find out what the country was going through, and insert it in the history of your ancestor. The turmoil of a country helps you to understand what your family went through and why they suffered. Did they live during the depression, and if so, how did it affect them? If they lived during war times, it helps your children understand why their grandparents had such tough times. When writing my father’s biography, I found out that in 1942 they rationed gas to three gallons a week. To me, that was amazing. How about prices? Did it cost ten cents to go to the movies and five cents for an ice cream cone? And what flavors existed? Did they travel by horse and buggy or a Model T Ford?

What have you learned from traveling all over the United States?
I have learned that many, many people are interested in writing their family history. I have met wonderful people who are family oriented or want to bridge the gape between them and their children by writing their stories down.

I see that you work with abused teenagers. What techniques do you use to teach writing as a therapeutic tool?
Writing can be a healing process. When writing your own autobiography or even fiction, it helps to express your innermost feelings and desires. What I teach the youth are the writing techniques that will help them put a story together. We discuss setup, characters, plot, and the importance of conflict and emotion. The secret of holding a reader is using emotion. It’s the difference between a slow or a lively recounting of a story. The greatest reward I received was the hug of a young teenager.

Your Books

What is your historical fiction novel David and the Bear Lake Monster about?
It’s about deep-rooted legends, long family traditions, and a few mysterious events! While visiting the Roberts family, David finds himself entranced with one very special lady and ends up defending her honor several times. Sarah isn’t like the average woman. This beautiful and dainty lady has a disability that no one seems to notice. He finds out that Sarah has gone through more trials than the average person. She teaches him the importance of not dwelling on the past and how to love life. After a few teases, tricks, and mischievous deeds, David begins to overcome his troubles, but will it be too late? Will he lose the one woman he adores? And how about the Bear Lake Monster? Does it really exist?

What kind of research did you have to do to write that novel?
It was so much fun to research. My great grandmother, Sarah Eckersley Robinson, was my inspiration. I wanted to use her experiences for my heroine to bring some reality into my story. As a child, she lost her hearing but she never let her deafness stop her from living life to its fullness. I took a lot of her experiences from her biography and gave them to my heroine to bring some reality into my story.

Sarah was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. My mother told me that she glided across the floor with ease, with just a touch of her partner’s hand. Sarah had such agility and gracefulness while swimming, that people actually threw coins in the water so they could watch her dive after them. Once an intruder hid in her bedroom under her bed, thinking he could take advantage of her since she was deaf. He must have thought she was an easy victim but was sadly mistaken. She swatted him out from under her bed with a broom, and all the way out of the house, and down the street for a couple blocks, whacking him as she ran. What a courageous woman! Because of my admiration for my great grandmother, I named my character “Sarah.”

In my research about the “hearing impaired,” and talking to a friend who became deaf in her youth, I became educated about the struggles they have to bear. I didn’t realize that concentrating on reading lips for long periods of time could be such a strain, resulting in a splitting headache. After all my research, I found that I had even more respect for my great grandmother and her disability.

Now you may wonder about the Bear Lake Monster and how it fits into my story. Is it fiction or non-fiction? Well, my book is considered historical fiction so I decided to add some parts of history that may sound incredible to you but actually happened.

The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early pioneers arrived. Some people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. The monster’s eyes were flaming red and its ears stuck out from the sides of its skinny head. Its body was long, resembling a gigantic alligator, and it could swim faster than a galloping horse. Of course, it only came out in the evening or at dusk.

Throughout the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. A bunch of scientists tried to discredit the monster and said it was a huge codfish that was shipped in from the East but could not prove this theory. Does the Bear Lake Monster exist? Whatever conclusion is drawn, the legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery and excitement to the community.
Why did you choose to write historical fiction?
I love to learn about the past. It has always intrigued me but one of the greatest reasons was because I had just finished writing my ancestors’ stories and their experiences were still vivid in my mind. They settled in Paris, Idaho so I decided to set my Òfamily sagaÓ in Bear Lake Valley and then gave some of my fictional characters their experiences. To me, it brings a story to life. For example: In “Melinda and the Wild West,” I inserted an experience that happened to my dad. When he was young, his father asked him to bury the skunks he had shot. Before my dad buried them, he drained their scent glands into a bottle. He called it “skunk oil.” Then he took it to school to show his friends. While explaining how he had done it, he must have gotten a little too excited because he accidentally dropped the bottle and it splattered on the floor. The scent of concentrated skunk oil permeated the room with a stench that was indescribable. Everyone ran out of the school as fast as their little legs would go. And the teacher followed close behind. My father said that he was a hero for one day because he got school out for his classmates. This novel eventually won an award as one of the semi-finalists for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.”

In “Edith and the Mysterious Stranger,” I based this story around the courtship of my parents. They wrote letters to one another before they ever met. She said that she fell in love with the soul of my father, what was deep down inside and they didn’t even know what one another looked like. The day they met, my mother told me that her heart leapt within her and a warm glow filled her soul and she knew she would marry this man. I knew this would be the basis of my next novel, but there’s one difference. In my story, you don’t know who the mysterious stranger is until the end of the book. Some readers guessed right while others were pleasantly surprised.

You

What do you like most about being an author?
I love uplifting others with my stories. To bring a smile or a laugh to a weary person makes it all worthwhile. I also enjoy teaching others to write and see the enthusiasm in their faces.

How did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I have always loved writing, but it wasn’t until I wrote my own ancestor’s stories that I realized how much I loved it. Afterward, I couldn’t stop writing so I turned to historical fiction.

Is there any other information you think the readers would like to know about?
Oh yes! “Elena, Woman of Courage” is the last in this series and was just released. It’s set in 1925. It was a blast to research. I found words that I didn’t even know such as: Cat’s pajamas! Ah, horsefeathers! Attaboy! Baloney! You slay me! When referring to a woman, they used doll, tomato, and bearcat. When a person was in love, he was goofy. If a person was a fool, he was a sap. And when a woman wasn’t in the mood for kissing or romance, she would say, “The bank’s closed.” I was able to use all these words and much more in my book. The language was great!

It’s about a “Happy-go-lucky Bachelor” that is completely fascinated with a woman doctor: Elena Yeates. Of course, women weren’t encouraged to go to college back then, let alone become a doctor, and this fascinates him to no end. With the 1920’s rise of women’s rights, this novel gives you an insight at the struggles women had to go through, while watching a young love blossom! To read an excerpt, visit http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com/samplechapters.html.

Thank you so much Linda for doing this interview with me! I, and the other readers, have certainly learned a lot about you, your books, and the Family Legacy Workshop. If you would like to learn more about Linda Weaver Clarke, please visit her website.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Anna's best friend Frankie has the perfect idea: when they go to California for a three-week vacation they should meet a new boy every day. That way, they'll each be sure to find someone they like and have time for a summer romance. But Anna is hiding a secret, one that she isn't sure if she should tell Frankie about. The summer before, Anna had a summer romance, but it was with Frankie's older brother Matt, right before he died in a car accident. The three of them had been best friends their whole lives, so Matt wanted to wait to tell Frankie, but never got the chance to because he died. Anna doesn't want to forget about Matt but she also wants to move on, too. Fortunately, a vacation in Zanzibar Bay will help to heal both Anna and Frankie and their friendship.

I really enjoyed Twenty Boy Summer. It had a really interesting idea: a girl having to move on from the death of her secret boyfriend. I had never read a book like that before, so it was nice to read something different. I also liked the characters. Frankie was the pretty boy-crazy girl who liked to get into mischief, while Anna was the shyer one. I liked their idea of meeting twenty boys over a span of three weeks. I was actually disappointed when we didn't get to see that many different boys; both girls find a boy they like and stick to them. As for Sam, Anna's new love interest, I liked him but I felt like we didn't get too much information about him. He seemed like a nice guy, but was kept in the background. Maybe the author wanted the focus to be on Matt, but I would have liked to learn more about Sam. I also enjoyed reading the flashbacks about Matt. It made the story more real and showed us Anna's grief in a different way, since she loved revisiting old memories. The story was sad, but it was also one of healing, as both girls start to move on and accept the fact that Matt might be gone from the world, but he won't be gone from their hearts. (That was pretty corny, but true).

8 out of 10.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Swimming by Nicola Keegan

Philomena Ash has always known she would be a swimmmer, even at a young age. Ever since her parents brought her to an infant swim class, Pip has spent as much time in the pool as she can. And the hard work and long hours in the water finally pay off when Pip begins attending state meets and training with the best coaches in the country. But winning Olympic gold medals can't fix Pip's life. With a completely dysfunctional family, Pip has been trying to stay afloat in more ways than one. What seems to be a story of success turns out to be a coming of age story as Pip loses and finds herself in this debut novel by Nicola Keegan.

I have been swimming competitively for almost ten years, so reading a book about an Olympic swimmer is right up my alley. Though I am nowhere as good as Pip, I could definitely relate to her love of the water. I originally picked up this book because I wanted to see how the author would approach the topic of swimming. Everything I saw seemed correct, but I actually wish there were more references to swimming. The author probably wanted to make this book accessible to people who have no knowledge of swimming, but I would have liked to see this book be a little more authentic.

As for the book itself, what was interesting was the way the author chose to write the dialogue. When most people write dialogue, they use quotation marks. Instead, Nicola Keegan made all dialogue in italics. For the most part, it was easy to read, but a few times I wondered if I was reading dialogue or the thoughts in Pip's mind. And speaking of dialogue, Pip is the most inarticulate character I have ever read about. It was so annoying watching Pip struggle for the right words. On page 259, there is a perfect example of her eloquence: "We have to think of something else. People are starting...My speeches aren't what...I had a big problem today, Hank...I didn't...I don't know." Imagine reading speech like that! It started driving me crazy.

Anyway, I liked the book until about two thirds through. Near the end Pip runs away to Paris to rediscover herself and the book gets really weird after that. Pip hallucinates and sees people that are dead, and it just became very odd and not exactly relevant to swimming. I really didn't like the end portion because it didn't make any sense. So if you like swimming, I would recommend this book, but otherwise, it's kind of an annoying book.

7 out of 10.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Auden West has always been driven and focused, which has allowed her to be accepted into a great college, but has also denied her a normal childhood. So when she decides to spend the summer in Colby, a small beach town, with her father, stepmother and baby half-sister, she wants to do something different. It's there that she meets Eli, an insomniac like her, and there that they travel around during the midnight hours, doing the things that Auden missed out on. But when Auden's father and step-mother start fighting and she gets confused about Eli, Auden must decide if she wants to continue her quest or stay the concientious studen her mother adores.

Since this book is written by Sarah Dessen, you automatically know it will be good. And Along for the Ride definitely was. It wasn't my favorite (it's still Just Listen) but it was one of the better books Sarah has written. What I really like about Sarah's books is that she continually uses people and locales from her other books. So we got to go to Colby again (it appears in both Keeping the Moon and The Truth About Forever), and the characters that live there (Isabel, for instance). I like that all the books are connected. What was also fun was that I was in North Carolina while reading this book, which was neat because all the books take place in that state.

What I realized about Sarah's books after reading Along for the Ride was the complexity of the plot. There are always a lot of different things going on, but they are intertwined nicely into a wonderful story. Seriously, we had Auden's relationship with a bunch of different people (her parents, brother, Heidi, Eli, the girls at the shop), then all the stuff with college, learning to ride a bike, the insomniac/childhood quest with Eli, overcoming stereotypes, stuff like that. It's just crazy how many different things go on, and it's all completely relevant and interesting at the same time. And that is why I love Sarah's books. Okay, it's not the only reason, but it definitely makes her books stand out from the other ones on the shelf. So go out and read this, and while you're at it, pick up the rest of Sarah Dessen's work.

8 out of 10.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Native Son by Richard Wright

Bigger Thomas is an African-American growing up in Chicago during the Great Depression. When he accidentally kills Mary Dalton, the daughter of the family he's working for, he burns her body and sends the family a ransom note to cover up his crime. When her bones are discovered in the basement furnace, Bigger must run for his life. But the police and hundreds of volunteers comb the city streets for Bigger and soon he is captured and taken into police custody. Now Bigger is charged with both rape and murder, though he is only guilty of one, and has little hope of escaping the electric chair.

This was the last book I had to read for summer reading and when I finished it, I sighed a breath a relief. It actually wasn't too bad, but I was so glad to be finally done the reading portion. I didn't mind reading Native Son too much. It was written in the forties, but the language wasn't any different than today's. The book was interesting, but the parts about Bigger killing Mary Dalton and stuffing her in the furnace were actually pretty gruesome. What I didn't like about Native Son was that I felt that Bigger didn't learn from his mistake (killing Mary). It seemed like he resolved himself to the fact that he would eventually kill someone, instead of feeling remorseful about her death. All in all, it was probably better than most other classics my teacher could have chosen from, but it definitely wasn't anything spectacular.

5 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September?

What happened to August? It went by so fast! And now summer's almost over and I'll be starting school in exactly a week :( I'm a little disappointed that I didn't read as many books and blog as I much as I wanted to. But oh well, life moves on. Sorry I haven't been posting any book reviews. I procrastinated on my summer reading so I don't really have time this week. I'll post something soon though. Enjoy the rest of your summer, everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Owen Meany, the only child of a New Hampshire granite quarrier, believes he is God's instrument. He is. This is John Irving's most comic novel; yet Owen Meany is Mr. Irving's most heartbreaking character. (Taken from back of book)

I absolutely loved A Prayer for Owen Meany. I think it was the best required summer reading book I have ever had to read. And I know that the summary is vague, but I couldn't really think of anything better. For those of you who have never heard of Owen Meany, you might recognize the movie Simon Birch, which is based off of this book. I have never seen the movie, so I can't compare the two. But onto the review!
This book was perfect. It has some hilarious moments where I was literally laughing out loud, but at the same time it is so sad. It's a good mix of the two emotions. John, the protagonist, is a good narrator, who provides a ton of information to the reader. I like how the story wasn't exactly linear, but would go back in time and forward in time. If I was writing this book, I would be totally confused, but Irving has somehow skillfully crafted this book to make sense. There was a lot of interesting (and smart) discussion on religion that fascinated me. There were some important religious issues present, such as fate vs. free will and faith vs. doubt. I also liked how the book focused on the intellectual side of religion and never preached about Christianity. When I finished Owen Meany, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was so heartbreaking, but at the same time it was a fun novel to read. If you want to read something that changes your outlook on things, I would definitely recommend A Prayer for Owen Meany.

9 out of 10.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm back.

Actually, I've been back since Monday. But I've been very busy unpacking, going to tennis practices and games, and finishing up my summer reading. I have a few books to review, but I honestly don't know when I will get around to posting reviews because I procrastinated (as usual) and have a ton of summer work left. So I'm going to try really, really hard to post something soon. I also wanted to blog about my trip, but I might not have time for that either. But anyway, I'm officially back and still keeping up with my email, so if you email me I'll get back to you soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vacation!

I just wanted to let everyone know that for the next ten days I will not be around, due to the fact that I'm going on vacation! Tomorrow me, my brother, and sister are flying down to North Carolina and staying with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Then, on Saturday, they're hosting an anniversary party for my grandparents (it's their 50th!). I'm really excited because I going to get to see a lot of family that I haven't seen in awhile. And then later next week, my aunt, uncle and cousins are taking me and my siblings to their beach house in South Carolina. So I might be able to check my email occasionally, but I won't be posting any book reviews. Still feel free to email and/or comment, and I'll definitely get back to you after August 24. Hopefully, I'll get a lot of reading done, and I'll post some pictures when I get back!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John tells the story of a girl's painful growth into young womanhood. Annie Victoria John, the narrator, progresses from a blissful childhood in Antigua, when she is the center of her mother's attention, to a trying adolescence filled with fierce maternal conflict, to her departure from Antigua for England at the age of seventeen. (Taken from SparkNotes)

I know that this summary isn't a very good one, but there really is nothing to this book. It's told in the first person point of view and is pretty much all about the life of a young girl named Annie. She grows up, makes new friends, rebels against her parents, feels animosity towards her mother, the usual adolescent stuff. It is the ultimate coming of age story, rife with symbolism and themes that I was unable to discern. Yes, this was another summer reading book and a much easier read than The Shipping News. For one, it was a lot shorter: only 148 pages to the 300+ of The Shipping News. It was also more interesting to read and in my opinion better written than the former. As I stated before, there was a lot of literary signifcance to this book that I did not figure out, and I cannot understand how anyone else can figure it out. So I'm resorting to SparkNotes once again to try to do my summer work. But if you ever have to read this book for school, just know that it's a short and fairly easy read.

5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

At thirty-six, Quoyle, a third-rate newspaperman, is wrenched violenty from his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. He retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters all play a part in Quoyle's struggle to reclaim his life. As three generations of his family cobble up new lives, Quoyle confronts his private demons - and the unpredictable forces of nature and society - and begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.

A vigorous and darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary American family, The Shipping News shows why Annie Proulx is recognized as one of the most gifted and original writers in America today. (Taken from back of book)

So this is the first summer reading book I read. It took me about a month to finish it, and only because I decided to read other things in between because I hated it so much. Yes, by the fortieth page, I loathed this book. I didn't like the main character Quoyle at all. He had no backbone and allowed everyone to walk all over him. I would later find out, thanks to SparkNotes, that Quoyle's exaggerated misery is written to be almost comedic. I also could not stand the writing, which is extremely sparse and prone to incomplete sentences. A sample phrase would read as: The aunt walked upstairs. Forgot her scarf. Got into the car. I just didn't understand why the author would decide not to use pronouns.

But, as I forced myself to read The Shipping News (it was summer reading, after all), I started liking it more. I got used to the writing and the style and the characters. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I enjoyed it, but it was bearable. Which is disappointing because it did win the Pulitzer Prize, so you would think that I would like it. I did like that Quoyle's character changed and he learned a lot about himself by the end of the book. That transformation redeems the book slightly in my eyes.

5 out of 10.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Makeover!

As you can see, Simply Books has a new background and header! It was made by Kelsey of Just Blinded Blog Makeovers. Didn't she do a great job? Now my blog isn't boring. But unfortunately, I lost all my sidebar elements, so it will take some time to get them back up. I also lost my blogroll, so if you would like to be added, please leave a comment with your URL. Thanks!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Lia, her twin sister Alice, and younger brother Henry are now orphans. Like their mother a decade before, their father has recently and mysteriously died, so now they are in the care of their Aunt Virginia. The same day that she became parentless, however, Lia notices strange mark on her wrist. She soon discovers that the mark ties her to an ancient prophecy, one that has pitted generations of sisters against each other. Hiding her discovery from everyone she loves, including her sister and beau, James, Lia attempts to unravel the prophecy before it's too late.

I know a lot of people really liked Prophecy of the Sisters, but I wasn't that impressed by it. I wanted to love it, because I had heard great things about it. Instead, I felt like the author was so close to writing a good book, but didn't go that extra step. Not to say that Prophecy of the Sisters wasn't enjoyable or entertaining, because it was, it just wasn't all that good. In short, the book is pretty much about two sisters who are on different sides: one's good and one's evil. Lia and Alice are twins, and supposedly they used to be close, but now are not. I wish the author provided more backstory so we could witness the change and learn more about these two girls. The author just jumped into the story without explaining anything else, and it took awhile for the reader to become acquainted with the two main characters. I also thought the book was really predictable. There were some "twists" that I guessed would happen before they actually did.

Prophecy of the Sisters has also been likened to the Gemma Doyle trilogy, but I don't think it's anywhere near as good as that series. It's definitely similar, so if you enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty, you'll be familiar with some of the themes present in this book. Fortunately, Prophecy of the Sisters is supposed to be a trilogy, so I think we'll get more backstory on both Lia and Alice, and then the prophecy itself. Hopefully, those extra books will add more depth to this series.

7 out of 10.

Release Date: August 1, 2009

Side Note: This is the cover of the ARC, but I thought it was cool, even though I like the hardcover better. I discovered from Reading Keeps You Sane's On the Outside post that this cover was meant for the hardcover, but enough reviewers didn't like it, that they decided to change it. Which do you like better?