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 (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?