Saturday, October 30, 2010

Heist Society by Ally Carter

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre... to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria... to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own - scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's priceless art collection has been stolen and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and, hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's (very crooked) history - and with any luck, steal her life back along the way. (Taken from inside flap)

When Heist Society was first released in the beginning of 2010, I thought it seemed like an interesting read, but didn't really think about it again. But when I saw it in my library, I decided to give it a chance. And I'm so glad I did because I thought that Heist Society was amazing!

First, I loved the whole art thief/heist aspect of the story. I've never read a story about any type of high profile thieves, let alone a whole family of them. After reading Heist Society, I now want to become an art thief. The novel made it sound so glamorous and intesting. Kat is also one of the smartest heroines I've ever read about. She knows how to disable CIA level security systems, speak about five different languages, and con herself out of any sticky situation. She and her crew are also smart enough to break into the Henley, an art museum with the highest security in the world. Their plan was so clever, and so crazy, but it was awesome to watch everything fall into place and watch Kat perform the biggest heist ever.

Besides the art, a big part of the story is Kat's relationship with her friend Hale. He's part of their "family" and has been working with Kat for two years, though they don't really explain how they met (and I am dying to know!). Their relationship isn't quite romantic (yet) but there's definitely tension and potential for more. Plus, their banter is hilarious and super witty; I just loved reading scenes with them together. When I finished Heist Society, I needed to read more, so I looked it up online. I was delighted to discover that Ally Carter is writing a sequel! I am so excited now. It's slated to be released Summer 2011 and I don't know how I will be able to survive.

I would recommend Heist Society to those who like their heroines intelligent and stealthy, or for those who like movies like Ocean's Eleven. There's humor, action, clever plans, spying, expensive art, jet-setting, and visits to London, Paris, Las Vegas, New York City, to name a few. I loved Heist Society and think that it should get way more recognition than it already has.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: I borrowed this from my library.

2010/Disney-Hyperion/304 pages.

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Email Address

So I've been having a problem with my email. Depending on who I'm sending it to, it will go to people's junk folder (this has happened with yahoo and gmail accounts so far). This is super annoying to me, so I am just going to use another email address. The new address is megan1430[at]yahoo[dot]com. If you have my old email in your address book, feel free to keep emailing me there. I will still check my aim account regularly, but otherwise, this is the email I'll be using. Thanks!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

If high school were a fairy-tale kingdom, Connelly Sternin would be Rapunzel, locked not in a tower by a wicked witch but in a high-rise apartment building by the SATs and college applications—and by the secrets she keeps. Connelly's few friends think that her parents are divorced—but they're not. Connelly's father died when she was two, and she doesn't know how.

If Connelly is the Rapunzel of her school, Jeremy Cole is the crown prince, son of a great and rich New York City family. So when he sits down next to her at lunch one day, Connelly couldn't be more surprised. But Jeremy has a tragic secret of his own, and Connelly is the only one he can turn to for help. Together they form a council of two, helping each other with their homework and sharing secrets. As the pair's friendship grows, Connelly learns that it's the truth, not the secrets, that one must guard and protect. And that between friends, the truth, however harsh, is also beautiful.

This lovely and memorable debut by Alyssa B. Sheinmel contains many of the hallmark themes found in young adult literature—friendship, coming of age, finding a place to belong, and overcoming the death of a loved one. Emotionally moving from start to finish, The Beautiful Between introduces a strong new voice to the genre, a voice with a long future ahead of it. (from Goodreads)

I was really interested to read The Beautiful Between. When it was first introduced a few months ago, there was a lot of positive buzz. But after it was released, I read some negative reviews. I was wondering which would win - the positive buzz or the negative reviews? I believe that buzz won out. I really enjoyed The Beautiful Between and thought it was wonderfully written novel. Sure, it has some negatives: some of the sections were a little choppy, and it could have gone even deeper into Connelly's and Jeremy's past, relationship, and personalities. Regardless, I still liked The Beautiful Between.

First, I loved the analogy Connelly made between high school and a kingdom. It fits so well, in general, but then it also applied to the story. Connelly is prone to fantasy and daydreaming, so it makes sense that she would use the fairy tale of Rapunzel to understand her world. A big section of the plot is devoted to Connelly wondering about her father. She knows her father died, but she doesn't know how or pretty much anything else about him. She's afraid to ask her mother because there are a lot of tough feelings and memories, so she decides to investigate on her own.

Then there's her relationship with popular boy Jeremy. This actually ties into her father's death, but I won't go into details. I loved their friendship so much. One, because I thought it was realistic and two, because the author did such a wonderful job writing it. It was slow, but steady, and didn't unnaturally turn into a romance. I actually believed that these two people were best friends. It was so sweet. I would love a sequel, though it's probably unnecessary plotwise, just to see what happens between them. There are some sad parts in The Beautiful Between, but I thought they were, once again, well done.

Overall, I enjoyed The Beautiful Between. It was nice to read a book about a beautiful friendship and two people opening up to each other. It was sweet, it was sad, it was interesting. Even if you've read some bad reviews, I would still give The Beautiful Between a chance and see if you like it.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
FTC: I borrowed this book from my library.

2010/Knopf/192 pages

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Best Middle School Novels

I was originally going to title this post: "The Best Middle Grade Novels." But I wasn't really sure if the books I was listing would be considered middle grade. Even though the three books I have below feature protagonists who are twelve years old, the stories and plots are pretty deep and I wasn't sure if they should be catagorized YA or MG. To compensate, I'm calling them Middle School novels, because that's when I read them. I feel like these are YA books with younger characters. Not quite MG, not quite YA. Regardless, these books are worthy of audiences of all ages.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I think this is my favorite book of all time. And it's probably pointless to have up on here because I'm sure everyone has already read it. But I have to give some love to The Giver. I first read it in fifth grade on my own and loved it. It was the first dystopian novel I've ever read and look at me now! I had to read it again in seventh grade for school and I enjoyed analyzing and dissecting the novel. If you don't know, The Giver takes place in a future society that's "perfect" - no pain, no hunger, no disease. When you turn twelve years old, a committee decides what job you will have, and you start training. Jonas, the main character, gets the job of the Receiver, which is an honored position where Jonas will receive the memories of the community.

The Giver is one of those books that is banned, so obviously that means it's an amazing and thought-provoking novel. I consider this to be a must read for everyone.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor

I also read this in seventh grade for school. It's about a middle school boy, Paul, who moves to Tangerine County in Florida with his family. Paul is legally blind, so he's not a star athlete like his brother Erik. But as time goes on, Paul discovers some secrets that Erik has been hiding.

Tangerine is also another one of my favorite books (I'm sensing a theme here). This definitely is not as popular as The Giver, and I haven't really seen it in bookstores or anything. But it's such a good book in that it's like a mystery, as Paul is trying to figure out some things about his brother. And there's a pretty big twist ending which was awesome. If you haven't read this, I would definitely give it a try, it's a really good book.

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

I picked up this book because the cover was so pretty and because it was written by Ann M. Martin, the same author who "wrote" The Baby-sitter's Club series (I say "wrote" because I think she used a lot of ghostwriters). A Corner of the Universe is about a twelve year old girl Hattie, whose uncle she's never met comes to stay with her family in the summer of 1960. Her uncle is mentally challenged (though it was undiagnosed since it was 1960) and Hattie befriends him and struggles to cope with teasing from other children and the ups and downs of his personality. It's a really good novel: thoughtful and pretty deep compared to the Babysitter's Club. This may be more for younger girls but I really liked it and still do.

So that's it for now, I need to get some studying done. I'll probably do another post of this because there are a lot of middle grade novels that I really enjoyed when I was younger and I think other people would like them too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Giveaway: You Already Know How to Be Great by Alan Fine

I have the pleasure of annoucing a new giveaway. I have five (5) copies of You Already Know How to Be Great by Alan Fine to give away to some lucky winners. I know self-help books aren't your usual fare, but this one sounds really interesting, and can apply to anyone in any stage of life.

A bold new approach to performance by one of the top coaches in the country.

In trying to improve-on the playing field, in the office, or even at home-most people seek out new information to get to the next level. They read a book, attend a class, or hire an expert to give them an edge.

But Alan Fine, an accomplished tennis, golf, and executive coach and a renowned authority on peak performance, believes that this "outside-in" method is precisely what's holding you back from doing your best work. He's found the biggest obstacle to improved performance isn't not knowing what to do; it's not doing what you already know. Ironically, the quest for information and instructions designed to help you get ahead can often interfere with your ability to focus on doing something.

Fine reveals his simple and proven approach to achieving breakthrough performance. It starts with reducing the interference that blocks your potential through an amazing process called G.R.O.W. (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward).

No matter who you are or what you do, You Already Know How to Be Great will help you eliminate what is standing in the way of your goals.

Contest Rules:
- must live in the United States.
- one entry per person
- extra entries are available
- contest ends November 12, 2010 11:59 pm EST

Good Luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

Fans of The Twilight Saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the newborn vampire world she inhabits.

In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion.

Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blood... life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself and, above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as "her". As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth? (from Goodreads)

Don't hurt me, but I've decided to read and review The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. The funny thing is, had this book come right out after Breaking Dawn was published, I would have been all over it. I will not deny that I used to be a pretty big Twilight fan. Granted, I started reading this series before there was any mention of a movie (to be specific, it was before Eclipse was even published). Not that there's wrong with bandwagon fans, but you know, they can get a little crazy sometimes. Anyway, had this been two years ago, I would have definitely bought it but this time I got it from my library. Times have changed.

Onto the review. As I've began to read more and more YA, I had the revelation (that many other people have also had), that Stephenie Meyer is not that great of an author, nor are her books anything special (well, actually The Host was pretty good). TSSLoBT read the same way as all the other novels in The Twilight Saga. Also, Bree sounded like a more intelligent version of Bella. Bree was a likable character, but was basically personality-less. Stephenie Meyer says she likes to make her characters open so anyone can relate to them, but this just leaves them sounding pretty boring on page.

TSSLofBT is very very short, and probably would have been a lot better if it was longer. Most the time, it's Bree thinking and trying to figure stuff out. I would have liked to seen more the newborn vampire life, but it was presented minimally in the story. And we still don't get to see the big fight scene at the end of Eclipse, because Bree is off looking for Diego. As for Diego, he was also a likable character, but if you're looking for any type of romance, you won't find it here. There was also a pretty big twist at the end, dealing with the Volturi, which I actually found interesting. So well done there, Mrs. Meyer.

All in all, I didn't hate The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. I read it fast and it wasn't a bad book, but nothing spectacular. Die-hard fans of The Twilight Saga will enjoy this, but don't expect any type of Bella/Edward romance because you won't find it here.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
FTC: I borrowed this from my library.

2010/ Little, Brown/178 pages

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 12

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature for bloggers and readers to get excited about upcoming books. This feature was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

The first book in an exciting new series by first-time author Lauren DeStefano.

At age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years to live. Thanks to a botched effort to create a perfect race, all females live to be twenty, and males live to age twenty-five. While geneticists seek a miracle antidote, orphans roam the streets and polygamy abounds. After Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she is desperate to escape from her husband’s strange world, which includes a sinister father-in-law in search of the antidote and a slew of sister wives who are not to be trusted. On the cusp of her seventeenth birthday, Rhine attempts to flee—but what she finds is a society spiraling into anarchy.

You know me - I love dystopias, so this sounds amazing. Look for it in stores March 22, 2011.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

In this emotionally charged novel, Jodi Picoult delves beneath the surface of a small town to explore what it means to be different in our society.

In Sterling, New Hampshire, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of classmates. His best friend, Josie Cormier, succumbed to peer pressure and now hangs out with the popular crowd that often instigates the harassment. One final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge and leads him to commit an act of violence that forever changes the lives of Sterling’s residents.

Even those who were not inside the school that morning find their lives in an upheaval, including Alex Cormier. The superior court judge assigned to the Houghton case, Alex—whose daughter, Josie, witnessed the events that unfolded—must decide whether or not to step down. She’s torn between presiding over the biggest case of her career and knowing that doing so will cause an even wider chasm in her relationship with her emotionally fragile daughter. Josie, meanwhile, claims she can’t remember what happened in the last fatal minutes of Peter’s rampage. Or can she? And Peter’s parents, Lacy and Lewis Houghton, ceaselessly examine the past to see what they might have said or done to compel their son to such extremes. Nineteen Minutes also features the return of two of Jodi Picoult’s characters—defense attorney Jordan McAfee from The Pact and Salem Falls, and Patrick DuCharme, the intrepid detective introduced in Perfect Match.

Rich with psychological and social insight, Nineteen Minutes is a riveting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel that has at its center a haunting question. Do we ever really know someone?

When I first picked up Nineteen Minutes, I actually did not know it was about a school shooting. The synopsis on the back of the paperback I had was very vague and I thought Nineteen Minutes was going to be about a suicide. I was almost pleasantly surprised when I found out the real topic of discussion because school shootings are a fascinating subject to read about. I was too young to really remember Columbine, but I was a freshman in high school during Virginia Tech so this awareness has been in the back of my mind and its something that can be really scary to consider. I know that if I was ever in this situation, I would be terrified out of my mind, so the fiction is a way to deal with the reality. If you are familiar at all with Columbine, you will recognize some eerie similaries (which I'm sure are written about on purpose). It actually seemed like a fictionalized Columbine, except we get to see what happens when the shooter has to go to trial, which is usually a departure from the norm (it appears that many of the shooters commit suicide).

In addition to the linear telling of the story, like with all of Jodi Picoult's novels, the audience gets to see flashbacks and the events leading up to this tragedy. Since the books are written with a bunch of different POVs (but somehow manages not to be confusing at all), we get to go into the head of Peter, the shooter. On the outside he seems almost normal; not one you'd except to go on a killing rampage. But what the book deals with what might drive someone to this extreme and it examines the role of the parents and schools (if any) in the incident. Those are some tough questions. Do you solely blame the shooter? Do you blame the parents for raising the shooter? The bullies who are part of the reason the shooter came to school with guns? The school for not having a stricter bullying policy? Nineteen Minutes touches on all of these but doesn't answer them, which makes sense, because nothing in life is black and white. I like that Picoult's books discuss the gray area, but don't make any conclusions, because, really, there are none.

There was a bit of a twist ending that I was not expecting at all and made the story really interesting. Nineteen Minutes is extremely sad and tragic but one that I think is important to read. It was a summer reading book for a school district in my area, and I think it's a perfect choice to discuss in class. The novel calls to the bullies, the victims, the bystanders, the school administrators, the parents and hopefully helps bring awareness to such an important topic.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this from my library.

2007/Atria/464 pages.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Hunger Games from a Non-YA Reader's Perspective (3)

This will be the last post for this little feature because my dad has finished The Hunger Games! He actually read it really fast for him and he kept exclaiming how fast of a read it was. Oh, Dad. However, he has decided to continue onto Catching Fire, for which I am really excited. It's a on trial basis right now; he first wants to see how he likes it. Some of his comments on The Hunger Games were (spoiler alerts):

- he wished Rue had survived and wasn't quite sold on Peeta yet.
- he liked the hovercrafts (not really sure why lol).
- he was interested in Cinna as a character.
- he agreed that my brother and sister should read The Hunger Games.

It's hard to get information out of him, but I could tell he liked it, even though it was something he'd never pick up on his own. He keeps asking me if he should read Catching Fire (duhhh) so I gave him the book. He wanted to read because he felt like he knew the characters and wanted to see what happens next, which was cute and is how I feel about some of the characters in this series. So I will probably do more posts on this topic, but now it will be my dad's thoughts on Catching Fire. Now you guys can recommend The Hunger Games to your parents/adult friends because they will probably like it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, the car is being stolen. Griffin hadn't meant to kidnap Cheyenne, but once his dad finds out that Cheyenne's father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes - now there's a reason to keep her. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare because she's not only sick with pneumonia - she's blind. (Taken from inside flap)

I thought Girl, Stolen was an amazing novel. I first heard about it from someone's Waiting on Wednesday and thought that it sounded really interesting. It's only the second novel I've read that featured a blind protagonist (the first being a Dear American book, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Diary of Bess Brennan). I loved so much that Cheyenne was blind - it just added so much to her character. It added a whole other dimension to the story, in that it would be that much harder for Cheyenne to escape her captors. I would be terrified if I were kidnapped, but if I couldn't see? I can't even fathom it. Besides this, Cheyenne was also sick with pneumonia. So Cheyenne is at a significant disadvantage in this situation. However, Cheyenne was so strong and brave and she was able to work through her handicaps.

Besides Cheyenne's amazing characterization, we also have an interesting character in Griffin. He's not that much older than Cheyenne and what makes the story different is that in the beginning he has no intention of kidnapping anyone. But after he brings her to his father, Griffin becomes Cheyenne's protector and wants to make sure she's (relatively) safe in this scary situation, which was very endearing to me. The plot was pretty exciting the entire time, especially at the end. The book was short, and I read it really quick - I just could not put it down! I would definitely recommend Girl, Stolen to anyone who likes an awesome heroine who's a little different from your usual protagonist.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: I received this book through the Henry Holt InGroup review program.

2010/Henry Holt/224 pages.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Across the Universe and its Awesome Packaging

Being a book blogger, I love love love getting books in the mail. What's even better is when it's a book you really want to read AND you're not expecting it. I got an ARC of Across the Universe by Beth Revis in the mail today and I was practically overjoyed. I was not expecting it at all and I've been wanting to read it for a few months now when I first heard about it. I wanted to share with you some pictures of the book and the awesome packaging it came in.

Here's the packaging! It's just like the normal stuff you get except it's all silver and shiny, like a spaceship (hm, I'm sensing a theme here). I don't know if you can read the sticker but it says "THE JOURNEY BEGINS" and then 1.11.11 is the date the book is released. I love that someone when out of their way to get cool packaging and stickers just for these books. :)

Here's the actual book. The cover is gorgeous. This is a paperback but on the back it shows you what the hardcover will look like. It will have a reversible book jacket (which is the coolest thing ever): one side is the normal cover, and the other is a blueprint of the ship.

This is the inside cover of Across the Universe and is the blueprint of the ship. I'm sure this will come in handy while reading the book.

As you can tell, I am so excited to read this book! But what makes it even better are the fun stuff that comes along with it: the packaging, the illustrations, etc. I feel like such a nerd being excited over this but I don't care :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Violence 101 by Denis Wright

Fourteen year-old Hamish doesn't simply do terrible things, he is committed to the belief that violence is the solution to the obstacles in life. But Hamish is also extremely smart, and extremely self-aware. And he considers everyone around him, the other institutionalized boys, his teachers and wardens, the whole world, as sheep, blindly following society's rules, unaware of what really dictates our existence. Hamish's heroes, like Alexander the Great, understood that violence drives us all.

Through mesmerizing journal entries, Violence 101 paints a disturbing yet utterly compelling picture of an extremely bright, extremely misguided adolescent who must navigate a world that encourages aggressive behavior at every turn, but then struggles to help a young man who doesn't know where to draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. (from Amazon)

I found Violence 101 to be very interesting. I was expecting (or rather being strong-armed into believing via all the quotes and one-liners on the back) the book to be extremely deep and reveal the mindset of violent teenagers. However, I didn't really see that. Hamish was an interesting character in that he was unapologetic of his actions (for the most part). He recognizes and reveres his violent nature. He even realizes that his violent tendencies mean he doesn't care for other people. I looked up the signs of Antisocial Personality Disorder, and if I was a psychologist I would definitely diagnose Hamish as a sociopath. Some of the signs include cruelty to animals, problems with the law, lack of empathy, disregard for safety, poor behavorial controls, so on and so forth. This description fits Hamish perfectly. Hamish was also brilliant and came from a good family so the reader wonders how Hamish turned out this way. There's a lot of characterization for Hamish, but none of it particularly deep. Part of the reason is that almost the whole book is filled with journal entries, so we have Hamish characterizing himself. He doesn't let the reader in as much as is necessary to start sympathizing with him, and because of this Hamish remains pretty shallow, in my opinion.
I loved that Violence 101 took place in New Zealand and was written by a New Zealander. I think this is the first book I've read that fits both of these characteristics. I loved learning a little about New Zealand culture and words (there's a handy glossary in the back for the words Americans might not understand). There were also some footnotes about the school system so that was nice, too. In addition, some of the characters are Maori, which is the native New Zealand people (comparable to our Native Americans). There was some information on them too and another glossary full of Maori words. I loved all the cultural learning that came along with Violence 101.

As for the plot, it was somewhat lacking. A lot of the story is Hamish's journal entries, so there's a lot of backstory. Nothing really happens until the end, in which Hamish fulfills the sociopathic characteristic of "disregard for safety." It's not really a big reveal or anything but I won't say anything more.

All in all, Violence 101 could be a better book if there weren't so many journal entries, but Hamish proved to be an interesting character and maybe the first violent (and sort of creepy) character I've read in YA.

Rating: 5 out of 10.
Release Date: Today!
FTC: I received this book from the publisher.

2010/ Putnam Juvenile/240 pages.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Hunger Games from a Non-YA Reader's Perspective (2)

For those of you who don't know, I'm chronicling my dad's thoughts as he reads The Hunger Games. He's a teacher and the entire school where he works is reading it. I thought it might be interesting for other people to see what a non-YA and non-fiction reader in general would think of The Hunger Games.

I talked to my dad for the first time about it earlier tonight. He says he really likes it! I was super excited when he said that because it's one of my favorite books (obviously). Some of his thoughts were that it's really long - I was kind of surprised when I heard this because I've never considered THG a long book. But I guess 350+ pages is kind of long. He's only at the part where Katniss first arrives at the Capitol, though, so to him it probably seems like forever until the end. He doesn't like how people have weird names, which I laughed at. He also says that he has a certain ending in mind (but I don't know what it is) that he wants to see happen and that will partly determine whether he reads the next two books.

That's all I have to report now but to me this is very interesting and hopefully someone else is interested too.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale


What if you were to meet the number one person on your laminated list - you know, that list you joke about with your significant other about which five celebrities you'd be allowed to run off with if ever given the chance? And of course since it'll never happen it doesn't matter...

Mormon housewife Becky Jack is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets celebrity heartthrob Felix Callahan. Twelve hours, one elevator ride and one alcohol-free dinner later, something has happened... though nothing has happened. It isn't sexual. It isn't even quite love. But a month later Felix shows up in Salt Lake City to visit and they know what's hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends. Really. Becky's husband is pretty cool about it. Her children roll their eyes. Her neighbors gossip endlessly. But Felix and Becky have something special... something unusual, something completely impossible to sustain. Or is it? A magical story, The Actor and the Housewife explores what could happen when your not-so-secret crush walks right into real life and changes everything. (from Goodreads)

Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors, but for some reason this is the first book I'm reviewing by her. It's probably because I haven't read one of her books in a really long time, but I would recommend all of them, even the ones I haven't read. Shannon won the Newberry Medal for Princess Academy, so she has to be a good writer.

Like all of her other novels, I really enjoyed The Actor and the Housewife. I think I like her adult novels better than her young adult (I adored Austenland) so don't skip this just because it's labeled as an adult. I really liked the premise of TAATH because everyone has one (or ten) celebrity that they would love to be best friends with. I would love to be BFF with Ian Somerhalder, but I don't think it could stay that way (he's just too cute!). But I liked that TAATH went after the age-old question: can married women still be friends with men and vice versa? I think it did a pretty good job of showing all aspects: the jealousy it can cause, but also the strength and trust that it can create when you're okay with your significant other being friends with the opposite sex. I liked that Becky was able to be faithful to her husband and still be friends with Felix and I hope other couples can appreciate that too.

As for the story, it was very good. I liked Becky a lot, even though she was nothing like me (I don't plan on becoming a Mormon housewife, but I loved reading about it). The book was very long, but it spans almost fifteen years I believe, so a lot happens. There's some great dialogue between Felix and Becky - they are hilarious together. As for the ending, I thought it was very good. Except for the SAD EVENT which was literally the most depressing thing I've ever read. I usually don't cry while reading books, but I was bawling during this part. Kudos to Shannon Hale for making me cry and I liked that because it mean that I actually felt something for the characters. Which should be every author's goal in my opinion. But overall, I enjoyed The Actor and the Housewife immensely and if you haven't read any of Shannon Hale's work, I suggest you go do that right now.

8 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this book from my library.

2009/Bloomsbury USA/352 pages

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult


The discovery of a dead infant in an Amish barn shakes Lancaster County to its core. But the police investigation leads to a more shocking disclosure: circumstantial evidence suggests that eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher, an unmarried Amish woman believed to be the newborn's mother, took the child's life. When Ellie Hathaway, a disillusioned big-city attorney, comes to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to defend Katie, two cultures collide -- and, for the first time in her high-profile career, Ellie faces a system of justice very different from her own. Delving deep inside the world of those who live "plain," Ellie must find a way to reach Katie on her terms. And as she unravels a tangled murder case, Ellie also looks deep within -- to confront her own fears and desires when a man from her past reenters her life.

Moving seamlessly from psychological drama to courtroom suspense, Plain Truth is a fascinating portrait of Amish life -- and a moving exploration of the bonds of love, friendship, and the heart's most complex choices. (from Amazon)


I don't read many adult novels, but Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors in that genre, and in general. And what I like about her novels is that they cross boundaries: they read like YA and since they switch point-of-view so much, there's often a teenager who has a voice in the story. In Plain Truth we get the perspective of Ellie, the powerful Philadelphia lawyer and Katie, the 18-year-old who is accused of murder. Since Katie is still pretty young, it's practically half YA.

Regardless of its genre, I loved Plain Truth. For me, it was really interesting because I live near Lancaster, which is where all the Amish live. My aunt lives in Lancaster and she's even had some Amish (well, they might have been Mennonite) over during a family party. Even though I live so close, I still didn't know that much about their culture and lifestyle, and I learned so much from Plain Truth. The fact that the accused was Amish made the book a different type of legal drama, because Katie has no idea how our system works and it just makes the story that much more interesting. A lot of the novel takes place in the courtroom or is about the trial, which is why I picked it up because I love these types of books.

One thing I love about all Jodi Picoult's book are that they have these amazingly complex stories. There's different POVs, flashbacks, and then the main plot and somehow everything is intricately weaved together so you're not confused at all, just engaged in this completely rich story. Honestly, read one of her books, and you will see how complicated the story is but at the same time not difficult to read at all. I could not put Plain Truth down because it was so honest and true and was filled with all these great characters, relationships, details, and themes. The ending was very satisfying and I would recommend this book to all ages, to fans of all genres.

9 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this book from my library.

2001/Washington Square Press/432 pages

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 11

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine as a way for bloggers to lust over upcoming books.

Shadowspell by Jenna Black

On top of spending most of her time in a bunker-like safe house and having her dates hijacked by a formidable Fae bodyguard, Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway is in for some more bad news: the devastatingly handsome Erlking and his followers known as the Wild Hunt have descended upon Avalon. With his homicidal appetite, immortal powers, and striking good looks the Erlking has been long been the nightmare of Faerie, the Fae realm. A fragile treaty, sealed with a mysterious spell, is the only thing that keeps him from hunting unchecked in Avalon, the only place on Earth where humans and Fae live together. He can only hunt there with a Faerie Queen's permission. Which means Dana's in trouble, since it's common knowledge that the Faerie Queens want her, and her rare Faeriewalker powers, dead. The smouldering and sexy Erlking's got his sights set on Dana, but does he seek to kill her, or is there something else he has in mind?

When I read Glimmerglass by Jenna Black, I was sucked into the faerie world she had created and immediately knew that I had to read the rest of the series. Shadowspell will be released January 4, 2011.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Have Trouble Reading the Classics? Try This!

Everyone has used SparkNotes for books that they don't understand. It is a really useful tool for researching characters, reviewing summaries, and defining symbols. They even have No Fear Shakespeare, where you get regular English side-by-side the old English so you know what's going on. Unfortunately, what if it isn't just Shakespeare you have trouble reading? Author Wayne Josephson has started a series called Readable Classics, in which he "gently edits great works of literature to make them less frustrating for students and modern readers." According to Mr. Josephson, "each Readable Classic follows the original, chapter by chapter. A student can read my chapter first, and then better understand and enjoy the same chapter in the original version." Wayne Josephson has published Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, and Pride and Prejudice.

Even though I would recommend reading any classic novel in its original form, I do believe that the Readable Classics could definitely help students who struggle in English. So if you or anyone you know needs help, the Readable Classics would be a great resource.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder


Restless souls and empty hearts.

Brooklyn can’t sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca died a year ago, and now their friend Gabe has died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there, waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca chasing her through her dreams.

Nico can’t stop. He’s always running, trying so hard not to feel the pain of missing Lucca. But when he begins receiving messages from his dead brother, telling him to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.

As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest. (from Goodreads)


Whenever I hear this title, I simultaneously think of the movie Chasing Liberty and Brooklyn, the town. For most the book, I was imagining Brooklyn walking around Brooklyn, until I realized that the title refers to her name, and only her name. So there was some confusion with that, but overall I liked Chasing Brooklyn. I didn't think it was amazing, but it was a pretty decent novel. Like the rest of Lisa Schroeder's work, Chasing Brooklyn is written in verse, which I think works well. One, because Lisa Schroeder is actually good at writing verse, and two, because the format works with the overall theme, that is - lost love and the supernatural. I liked that this was a ghost story without falling into the horror genre. I like scary things, but this actually seemed real, like it could happen to someone. The ghostly encounters were subtle, but still very spooky. I thought the ending was a tad corny, but it was cute and wrapped up nicely. I liked watching Brooklyn evolve and develop throughout the story and the fact that Nico helped her with it. He's a really good guy, that Nico. Whenever I read good verse, I'm always amazed that so much could happen using so few words. It takes a great writer to do that. Even though Chasing Brooklyn wasn't my favorite novel ever, it was still a good read and it was nice to see some well-written verse.

7 out of 10.

FTC: I borrowed this from my library.

2010/Simon Pulse/432 pages

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales


Sixteen-year-old Violet is under a lot of stress. Between trying to pass her classes at a prestigious prep school, preparing for the SAT's and editing the school's literary magazine, Vi has a lot on her plate. She also wants to snag cute and funny Scott Walsh who attends the boys' school across the street. But when Violet's friendship with Katie starts disintergrating, she must find a way to make everything work out.


I loved Mostly Good Girls and really enjoyed reading it. It seems like a pretty standard novel: schoolwork, boys, friends, the usual fare in YA. But what made Mostly Good Girls stand out from other novels was that it was absolutely hilarious. And I don't mean just a small chuckle here and there; I was literally laughing out loud in public reading this. Violet was such a great character. She had a really relatable voice and was extremely sarcastic, which I love. Here are a few of my favorite quotes, to give you an idea of what is in the novel.

Pg. 63-4 "Turns out Raymond is not a great driver. I wouldn't even describe him as a good driver. Every time there was a red light, he slammed on the brakes just before reaching it, so we came skidding to a halt, slamming me against my seatbelt. I couldn't think of a tactful way to explain to him, 'Look, the light turns yellow before it turns red, so if you see a yellow light, you might want to consider slowing the hell down.'"

Pg. 100-1 "A lot of Harper Woodbane guys come to Westfield dances, so it's also a great opportunity for Scott Walsh-watching expeditions. I don't see nearly enough of him, because I can never think of a credible reason why I should be in his vicinity. ('Heyyy, Scott! Fancy running into you here...on the tennis Harper Woodbane...a school that I do not attend.')"

Pg. 169 "However, it is true that Noah is a champion television watcher. He has an uncanny sense for how long commercial breaks are, so he can effortlessly switch between a favorite program and a second-favorite program without ever missing a frame. Of course he has a DVR too, but he hardly needs it - he devotes maybe six hours a day to television watching, so it's not like he ever 'misses' a show because 'he's doing something else.'"

I know those examples are a little long but I think they demonstrate how witty Violet is (or at least I hope). The whole book is filled with these little statements, making the book an extremely fun and enjoyable read. Mostly Good Girls may not be the deepest book out there, but it gets points for being relatable and entertaining at the same time. By the time you're done, you practially wish Violet was your best friend, because she gets into all these crazy situations and still manages to make a witty remark or two. I really hope Leila Sales continues writing about Violet because I would definitely read those books.

9 out of 10.

Release Date: October 5, 2010

FTC: I reviewed this book for Flamingnet.

2010/ Simon Pulse/ 368 pages

The One Short Story You Need to Read!

I will be the first to admit it - I am not a big fan of short stories. There are a few that I like, but whenever I have to read them for school, my thinking goes along the line of "So what was the point?" For some reason, I just don't get short stories; to me they sometimes seem like they have no point. I much prefer novels - there's just more time for character development, plot, etc and more room for the author to make a point. But when I read "The Dream Thief" by Scott Tracy (whose first novel Witch Eyes will be released in Fall 2011), I fell in love. This is one short story that I would recommend. But at the same time, there's such a good premise going, that it demands more. Chelsea of The Page Flipper has started a petition for Scott to transform "The Dream Thief" into a full length novel. I highly recommend that you read the story and then sign the petition. I desperately need to read this in a full length novel and I really really hope Scott Tracy writes more. Enjoy!

EDIT: Scott Tracy has updated his story saying that he will be expanding "The Dream Thief"! Hooray!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Hunger Games from a Non-YA Reader's Perspective (1)

Last night when the power was out (darn you, rain!), I learned something very interesting. My dad was going to read The Hunger Games. Why is this interesting, you may ask? Well, this is not the type of book that my dad would normally read. Like, this is literally on the opposite end of the spectrum for the books my dad reads, which is almost exclusively historical non-fiction. So no way in any world is he going to pick up a young adult, fiction book about a 16-year-old girl. The conversation is actually pretty funny, so here it is in script form:

EVAN (my brother): Well, now that the lights are out, it's a good time to get some reading down.
ME: *looking pointedly at him* Oh yes, you could read The Hunger Games, like I've been suggesting.
DAD: Oh I have to read that.
ME: *incredulous* You do?! (Aside: for some reason I thought he was going to read it on his own. Alas, I was wrong)
DAD: The whole school has to read it. (Aside: my dad is a teacher. Might I say that I think it's awesome that the whole school has to read The Hunger Games. So jealous!)
ME: Wait, do you even know what it's about?
DAD:'s about...tribes.
ME: *confused* Tribes?
DAD: Sects.
ME: You mean districts?
DAD: Yeah.
ME: Okay so what else?
DAD: Well, I don't want to know anything, so don't say anything!
ME: Ok, I won't say anything. Just tell me what you think it's about.
DAD: These tribes are ... competing for food...and things.
ME: *confused* Oh.

I think it's hilarious that my dad doesn't really know what it's about...and a little annoying because he won't let me tell him. Like, I guess by having tributes in the Hunger Games, the districts are essentially competing for food and resources, but that's not how I would describe it. But since this book is totally opposite of what my dad would normally read, I thought people might be interested in what he thought, kind of, you know, another perspective. I'll update you periodically on his thoughts, which I will be pressing him for because I am extremely curious as to what he thinks about one of my favorite books. It shall be interesting.