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

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!