Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Previous Books: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known, and all she needs for happiness. But life after the Return is never safe, and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back.

Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling.

One night behind the Barrier...One boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery...One reckless moment, and half Gabry's generation id dead, the other half imprisoned.

Gabry only knows one thing: if she is to have any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past. (Taken from inside flap)

Ahhhhh!!!! That's my fangirl scream because The Dead-Tossed Waves was too amazing for words. Yes, I loved this book that much. Who would have thought that I would be expressing so much joy for a book about zombies? I'll admit that I was a little wary when I first picked up The Forest of Hands and Teeth (the first book in this "series") but that book was also amazing so I didn't expect anything less. When I first heard that The Dead-Tossed Waves was a companion and not a sequel I was a little upset because I wanted to read more about Mary and what happened to her. But don't worry, because Mary is the protagonist's mother! So we get some info about what happened to her without a whole other book, which I realize is a good thing because I think it's time to hear someone else's story.

Right off the bat in The Dead-Tossed Waves, we get a description of Gabrielle that makes the reader think that the author is trying to make it easy to distinguish between Mary and Gabrielle. Where Mary is headstrong and determined, Gabry is a little more timid. Where Mary has a thirst for knowledge, Gabry is content to spend her life in the little sea town of Vista. At first I thought that Carrie Ryan was trying too hard to make these characters different, but as you keep reading you see that these are nuanced people that change and evolve throughout the story. Gabry starts out as dependent and shy but she quickly changes when the occasion warrants it. That's what I liked about her; she was able to adapt much easier and more quickly than Mary in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

As for the story itself, there was a lot more action in The Dead-Tossed Waves, which I liked. There was also the romance (!!!) that I love so much. Another love triangle, this time with two very interesting characters. The writing, as always, was superb. I still can't get over how beautifully Carrie Ryan can write these characters' emotions. What I also loved was that this book was thoughtful. There is discussion on love, life, death, zombies, the basics. No, but the characters are so insightful and there was just so much truth in the book, I can't even explain it. Which pretty much brings to me my last point: that The Dead-Tossed Waves is too good for words, and that if you don't read this, you are totally missing out.

10 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this book from my library, but I'm about to go buy it because it was amazing!

*I decided to put both covers because they are both so beautiful.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heart of Darkness / The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad

In this pair of literary voyages into the inner self, Joseph Conrad has written two of the most chilling, disturbing, and noteworthy pieces of fiction of this century. Heart of Darkness, which first appeared in Blackwood's Magazine in 1902, makes a devastating comment on the corruptibility of humankind. Based on Conrad's own 1890 trip up the Congo river, the story is told by Marlow, the novelist's alter ego. It is a journey into darkness and horror - both literally, as the narrator descends into a sinister jungle landscape, and metaphorically, as he witnesses the depth of moral depravity symbolized by the agent Kurtz. Another voyage into the self occurs in The Secret Sharer, the tale of a young sea captain's first command as he sails into the Gulf of Siam - and into an encounter with his "double," the Jungian shadow self of the unconcious mind.

Joseph Conrad boldly experimented with the novella and novel forms, filled his writing with exotic places he himself had traveled, and concerned himself with honor, guilt, moral alienation, and expiation of sin. Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer encapsulate his literary achievements - and his haunting portrayal of the dark side of man. (Taken from back cover)

Wow that was one of the longest summaries ever, but I thought it accurately depicted these stories without giving too much away. This was a book I had to read for school and it contained two novellas by Joseph Conrad. For those who don't know, a novella is longer than a short story but shorter than an actual novel. For example, The Secret Sharer is about 45 pages and Heart of Darkness is about 100 pages.

Let's start with The Secret Sharer, since this was the first story in the book. Me and short stories don't always get along and I think Sharer fell into this category for me. Unless a short story really appeals to me (and most don't), I end up not liking them. Most of the time it's because I can't figure out the point or author's intent. In longer books, there's much more space for the author to explain something or make a point, but in short stories it's more subtle. I honestly did not see the reason why Conrad wrote Sharer. It's about a commander of a ship who lets a man named Leggatt onboard who killed another man, but Leggatt is eerily similar to the captain. Anyway the novella was extremely boring in which nothing happened. I do not recommend it.

Onward to Heart of Darkness! HoD is a little different because I already knew what is was about before I started reading and I already knew the message and point of the story. The whole novella is basically another character telling a very long story. This an annoying style of writing because it becomes extremely difficult to tell what's going on and who's speaking, especially because Conrad decided to only give a few key characters names. So most of the time I had no idea what was happening. This story was also boring; so boring in fact that I fell asleep while reading it. In the daytime. When I wasn't tired at all. And I'll have you know that I can't take naps in the afternoon or anything, but I still fell asleep. As stated above the difference with this book is that it actually had a good message. It takes place during Europe's colonialism and imperialism of Africa and the point it makes is that even "civilized" people can be uncivilized and savage. So I thought the novella was really boring but I still think it's good to read. Kind of a double-edged sword here so beware.

Ok so this is a really long review. In short, don't read The Secret Sharer, it's boring and even though Heart of Darkness is boring too, it has a really good message.

5 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this book from school.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the wall and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. Gaia has always believed it is her duty, with her mother, to hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia's mother and father are arrested by the very people they so dutifully serve, Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught to believe. Gaia's choice is now simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying. (Taken from the inside flap)

Birthmarked is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It's a dystopian novel, and we all know that futuristic dystopias have a small place in my heart. I really don't know why, but I love these types of books, and Birthmarked is no exception. Since this is an ARC, there an editor's note in the front of the book, and she states that Birthmarked is like "The Handmaid's Tale meets The Hunger Games," with which I heartily agree. As in The Handmaid's Tale, there elements of the caste system found in Birthmarked (the people who live inside the wall vs. those who live outside) but also the disbelief of having to turn children over to a totalitarian government (Gaia has to give three babies a month that she delivers to the Enclave).

There are parts of popular dystopian novels found in the book, but it is still original and fresh. Speaking of characters, Gaia was a great protagonist: she's brave, smart, resourceful and will do anything to save her parents, nothing short of breaking into the Enclave to find them. There is also a love interest, Leon, and he was also an interesting character. At first, it's almost a forbidden love, because he's a soldier employed by the Enclave, but there's some mystery because Leon has a past that he refuses to speak of. There's also mystery as to what the Enclave wants with Gaia's parents, but I felt that aspect of the story fell short of my expectations. What the Enclave wants isn't that unrealistic or evil and almost makes sense in context. So I thought that part could have been written differently. However, I thought that Birthmarked was a brilliant novel that could not be put down and will be greatly enjoyed by all readers.

9 out of 10.

Release Date: March 30, 2010

FTC: I received this ARC from Henry Holt's InGroup Review Program.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Princess Rose is the eldest of twelve sisters condemned to dance each night for the wicked King Under Stone in his palace deep within the earth. It is a curse that has haunted the girls since their birth - and only death will set them free.

Then Rose meets Galen, a young soldier-turned-gardener with an eye for adventure and a resolve that matches her own, and freedom suddenly begins to seem a little less impossible. To defeat the king and his dark court, they will need one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all - true love.

Jessica Day George's inspired reimagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh from a story you only thought you knew. (Taken from inside flap)

I have never heard of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, so I started reading this book with no knowledge of the story. So, I won't be able to compare this retelling with the original. Even so, I really liked Princess of the Midnight Ball. Normally this kind of book would be boring for me, because the plot moves a little slowly, but the writing is so good that I wanted to keep reading. There is a bit of a mystery, because at the beginning you don't know what's going on and it's not even until halfway through that you get to follow Rose and her sisters to King Under Stone's palace. As for characters, they were all very well-written. Rose has twelve sisters, so it seems like it would get confusing, but all of them are given some page time (I think). Galen was also a good character; he's in love with Rose and will do anything to break the curse, which I thought was so sweet. I enjoyed Princess of the Midnight Ball but would probably only recommend it for fans of fairy tales, only because the story is a little slow at times.

7 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this book from my library.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Grace has spent years watching the wolves that live in the woods behind her house. It may be that she's fascinated by their beauty, but ever since she was almost mauled to death by a pack of wolves, Grace has always watched out for them. One in particular, with yellow eyes, has especially stood out to her. But Grace is not the only one who's watching. Sam, who changes from wolf to human when the seasons change, has also been looking out for Grace. He's never had the guts to talk to her when he's human, but that's about to change.

So Shiver took me forever to read! Part of it was the length (390 pages) and part of it was that I was reading books in between. My reading of Shiver has been a little choppy, so I recommend trying to read it as close together as possible. I really liked Shiver, though. The characters and theme were very interesting. There's not too many books about wolves/werewolves (though I suppose that will probably change soon) so I'm glad I read something original. The writing was superb and flowed very nicely. The romance between Sam and Grace was done very nicely, and part of me thinks it may have been over-developed. Not in a bad way, it's just that the book is extremely long, and in terms of plot not that much happens. So a lot of the novel is interaction between Grace and Sam. It's nice, because they are so cute together, but at times I wanted to say "Okay, something needs to happen now." By the last third or fourth of the book, the plot appears again, and the story finally gets good. You want to know what happens next, so I read the last pages of the book very quickly. And the ending: it was amazing. And a bit of a cliffhanger! Half-way through Shiver I wasn't sure if I was going to read the sequel, Linger (release date: July 20, 2010), but now I want to. So if you feel like Shiver is going slow, keep reading, because it gets much better.

7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The story of Victor Frankenstein and of the monstrous creation he created has held readers spellbound ever since it was published almost two centuries ago. On the surface, it is a novel of tense and steadily mounting horror; but on a more profound level, it offers searching illumination of the human condition in its portrayal of a scientist who oversteps the bounds of conscience, and of a monster brought to life in an alien world, ever more desperately attempting to escape the torture of his solitude. A novel of hallucinatory intensity, Frankenstein represents one of the most striking flowerings of the Romantic imagination. (Taken from back cover)

Another book for English class, but I didn't like Frankenstein as much as some of the other books I've read for this course. I've seen the 1931 movie version, and I thought the book would be somewhat similar to that, but I was completely wrong. I was also a little disappointed because in the book there's no creepy laboratory, no Igor, no great scene where Dr. Frankenstein shouts, "He's alive!" Instead, the process of the creating the monster is described very vaguely, and the monster is still horrifyingly ugly, but now has the capability of eloquent speech. I was expecting him to be grunting and growling, but instead we have this being who is almost human, besides physical apperance of course. So the book was not what I expected at all. Besides losing my faith in pop culture to accurately depict great works of literature in movies (just kidding), the book was okay. Not amazing, but not too too bad. There was a lot of description of nature, which served as pathetic fallacy (look at my great knowledge of literary techniques!), but still got annoying. Dr. Frankenstein was also an annoying character; he felt so guilty for creating the monster, that he was depressed the whole time. Who wants to read a book about the main character moaning and complaining the whole time? Besides some things I didn't like, I was glad to get a chance to read Frankenstein, because it is a classic, and shed some misconceptions I had about the book/movie.

5 out of 10.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Ryan is the perfect boy for Sarah; he's cute, smart and they get along great. There's just one problem: Ryan is Sarah's best friend Brianna's boyfriend. Everyone knows the unwitten rule that you can't like your friends' boyfriends, but that doesn't stop Sarah from feeling the way she does. And when it seems as though Ryan is paying extra attention to Sarah, she will have to choose between her best friend and the possible love of her life.

I really enjoyed The Unwritten Rule. I say this every time, but Elizabeth Scott is one of my favorite authors, and this book did not disappoint. It's an interesting topic - liking your best friend's boyfriend. I've always wondered what I would do in this situation, but I'm lucky that this has never happened to me. I got to see it play out in this book, though, and I must say it's entertaining to watch. The thing with Brianna, Sarah's BFF, is that she isn't always the nicest person. She pretty much stole Ryan from Sarah, without even realizing it, because she's so much prettier and awesome-er (according to Sarah, which actually starts to get a little annoying. I mean, who wants to hear the narrator constantly put themselves down?). I think someone mentioned on another blog (I want to say Frenetic Reader?) that this is a cliche in YA literature: the protagonist having a friend that is so much prettier/nicer/smarter/all-around better person. And it is annoying.

Anyway, this background knowledge helps the reader sympathize with Sarah. She's not purposefully trying to hurt her friend, which makes it better, in my opinion. She's actually a nice person that you want to see succeed, in terms of boyfriend. I'm not going to say what happens in the end, but I liked the ending, and it isn't a cliched one, which is always good. The Unwritten Rule is an interesting take on the dynamics of friendships and boys, and makes you want to keep reading until the end.

9 out of 10.

The Unwritten Rule will be released March 16, 2010.

FTC: The author provided me with a copy of The Unwritten Rule, and I returned it to her.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Header

So for like two months my header has been MIA - the link was broken/missing or something. I was really upset, too, because I loved that header. It looked so professional. Here's the new one I finally got around to making. I am not computer-savvy/artsy in the least, and I had to make this on Facebook using Picnik. I don't even know how to center the picture! If anyone has any tips, they'd be greatly appreciated. But hopefully this isn't too hideous.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

"Just listen," Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel. I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen. "Stay," he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones. Stay true to her first love - music - even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then, one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartbreakingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make. (Taken from inside flap)

Wow, I haven't reviewed a book or anything in a long time! But now I'm back (now that swimming's over) and should have a lot more time for reading. Anyway, I loved If I Stay. I was so amazed that so much is going on in such a short period of time in this book. Mia is in car accident, and the story follows her as she is in this sort of limbo where she can see everything that's going on, but no one can see her. The author did a wonderful job of intertwining the present plot with past events and it's done so gracefully that you don't even realize the change. It just flows so naturally, it's like you know Mia's life story by the end of the book. Mia was an interesting character, and mostly because she's a cello player! For some reason I think t hat's so cool. I used to play clarinet, so I like all the music stuff. And the cello is something that not that many people play, so good choice Mia. But the cello is an important part of the story and serves as a source of conflict between Mia and her parents and Mia and her boyfriend. I also enjoyed reading about Mia's struggle to decide whether to stay or leave. Some good insights by Mia in her decision and I think that it's something we all think about - what would we do in this situation? Food for thought.

9 out of 10.