Friday, December 31, 2010

The Top 15 Books of 2010

I read a lot of great books this year and I thought, as the last day of 2010, it was the perfect opportunity to make some suggestions. All the books on the list are books that are published in 2010, and are not necessarily debut authors. Also, all links lead to my reviews. So, in no particular order...

1. Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
This dystopian about a girl trying to save her parents, secret codes and a mysterious soldier blew my mind when I read it and reaffirmed everything I loved about dystopian literature. You will not be able to put this down!

2. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
As an avid reader of Nancy Drew, I always make time for some mysteries, and this did not disappoint. Violet has a secret power that enables her to locate dead bodies (yes, it is very morbid) and she uses her skills to track a serial killer. The Body Finder was a very suspenseful read perfect for a stormy night.

3. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
This mix of historical and contemporary fiction was flawlessly executed in a novel that deals with grief, love, families, death, and the healing powers of music. If you want some thought-provoking and insightful literature, look no further than Revolution.

4. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
This thrilling sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth follows Mary's daughter Gabry into the forest again as she has to deal with flesh-eating zombies while looking for her mother. This novel is one of the creepier post-apocalyptic series (but it a really good way!).

5. Heist Society by Ally Carter
I was completely blown away by this book because I wasn't expecting it to be totally awesome. The protagonist, Kat, has decided to give up the family business of art heisting, but is pulled back in when her father is accused of a heist he didn't commit. Heist Society has funny characters, a clever and strong heroine, and a jet-setting plot. I can't wait for the sequel!

6. Girl, Stolen by April Henry
One of my favorites of the year, Girl, Stolen, features a blind protagonist who is kidnapped...and she's also suffering from pneumonia. Despite unbeatable odds, she manages to be a strong and capable heroine in this exciting novel.

7. Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
Mostly Good Girls is probably the funniest book I've ever read. Told in vignette style, the narrator Violet will make anyone laugh at her crazy antics at an all-girls' prep school. I read this so fast and even found myself laughing out loud in public. Be careful where you read this!

8. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The epic conclusion to arguably one of the best YA dystopian trilogies, this book didn't quite live up to my (extremely) high expectations. Regardless, this novel and the trilogy still remains on my list of top books. I don't think it really needs an explanation.

9. Grace by Elizabeth Scott
I was amazed that one of my favorite contempory authors who pretty much just writes romantic comedy-esque novels (excluding Living Dead Girl) could also write this astonishing dystopia with eerie similarities to current day theocracies. Keep your eyes on Elizabeth Scott - she is a great author!

10. The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C.K. Kelly Martin
Another contemporary romance, this time from a boy's point 0f view, which I don't read quite enough of. There's romance, but there's also familial tension, like the struggles of a new step-family, which are very well-written and realistic. The Lighter Side was my first Martin novel and I can't wait to read more!

11. This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
This subtlely creepy novel about a priest who begins to stalk his protegee will have you looking over your shoulder every few minutes. You feel the fear and suspense right along with Olivia, and you feel powerless to help her, but you'll still want to keep reading.

12. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
This debut by Lauren Oliver seemed like it might be boring - a girl reliving one day over and over again? But the hype was well-deserved in this beautifully crafted and meaningful novel of second (and third and fourth) chances and the ability we all have to change our lives.

13. All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Another mystery, All Unquiet Things was more realistic in that it moved slowly and focused heavily on the character development between the two leads, Neilly and Audrey, and their dead friend Carly. Not without excitement, All Unquiet Things proved that you don't need to stumble across blood stains or have crazy police connections to have an interesting mystery.

14. The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Six Rules features an extremely relatable protagonist, Scarlett, who feels the need to solve everyone's problems, including those of her newly married and pregnant sister. Unrequited love puts Scarlett in the middle of her own drama, but she eventually learns life lessons about herself, her family and her friends. Insightful but accessible, all of Deb Caletti's novels will leave you looking around for her next book.

15. The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
Another Scott novel, this time one of her famous contemporary romances. In this novel, Sarah falls for her best friend's boyfriend, with interesting consequences. All of Scott's novels are light and cute, but still manage to be more than just mere rom-coms.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 18

Waiting on Wednesday is a blog meme started by Jill at Breaking the Spine so bloggers and readers could get excited about upcoming books.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. (from goodreads)

Oooh, I am so excited for all the upcoming dystopians that are going to be published in 2011! Infertility in futuristic societies seems to be a popular theme (anyone see the movie Children of Men?) but Bumped just sounds plain awesome. Look for it in stores on April 26, 2011.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.

Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman, but her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way... taking them aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever. (from inside flap)

I have literally been reading Leviathan since the beginning of October. I read most of it, but then suddenly I had all these books for school and review that needed to be read. I put Leviathan aside until now, and just finished the last one hundred pages yesterday. I would not recommend doing this with any book, but luckily I was able to remember most of what was going on.

Leviathan is a really cool novel because it's steampunk and the first steampunk book I've ever read. For those who don't know, steampunk is historical fiction with futuristic elements, with an emphasis on machinery and industrial kinds of things. I also loved that this whole novel was an alternate World War I, with a lot of the historical facts the same, just the technology was totally different. Knowing a bit about WWI helps, but it's not necessary in order to understand Leviathan.

Scott Westerfeld is one of my favorite authors, and his ingenius creations continue to amaze me. In Leviathan, the British took the work of Charles Darwin and "fabricated" animals to help them in war. There are lizards that relay messages like telephones, and a giant airbeast that flies like a zeppelin. I was astounded by the creativity of this and loved the illustrations that helped me to picture these new animals. On the other hand, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians are kind of boring and just have really huge tanks that walk on two legs like a person would do. Still pretty cool, though.

I really enjoyed reading Leviathan because it was just so different from anything I've ever read before. The story, however, wasn't as exciting as I hoped. The novel also read a little like middle grade and think that this may be because the characters are a little younger, like fourteen or fifteen. The third person narration made it hard for me to actually get into the character's heads, too.

I'm not dying to read the sequel, Behemoth, but I am curious as to what happens with Deryn and Alek. I also really want to see what happens when Deryn reveals that she's actually a girl - that should make for some interesting moments. Regardless, fans of steampunk and alternate realities will definitely enjoy Leviathan.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: bought.

2009/Simon Pulse/440 pages.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

First 70 Pages of Desires of the Dead Online!

Kimberly Derting has announced that the first seventy pages of Desires of the Dead, sequel to the amazing novel The Body Finder, are online. I'll admit that I gave in and read all of it in one sitting and I almost wish I hadn't because now I can't wait to read the rest! Really, though, how am I supposed to wait until February 15 to find out what happens to Violet and her super creepy power? Still, if you are unsure if you want to buy Desires of the Dead, read some of the PDF to get a taste.

The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

Grace Divine sacrificed her soul to cure Daniel Kalbi and lost her beloved brother in the process.

Desperate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot - a newcomer to town who promises he can help her be a hero. But as soon as the two become closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel is put in danger - in more ways than one.

Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace begins to give into the wolf - not realizing that an enemy has returned and a deadly trap is about to be sprung.

The heart-pounding sequel to The Dark Divine delivers the same sizzling romance and thrilling action as Bree Despain's first novel. (from back cover)

I think that The Lost Saint is a very well-written and exciting sequel to The Dark Divine. If you read my review of the first novel, you will know that I was not particularly enamored with the book, even though I still enjoyed reading it. I am still not in love with this series/trilogy (not sure which it is at this point), but I definitely liked The Lost Saint better than its predessor and definitely recommend it for fans of paranormal reads.

The Lost Saint picks right up where The Dark Divine left off - Jude has run away, Grace is grappling with what happened to her that fated night, and Daniel is still in the picture as Grace's boyfriend. Grace's family is slowly falling apart, as her mother is extremely upset due to Jude's disappearance and Grace's pastor father is absent for extended periods searching for Jude.

What I've come to love about Grace is that she is very strong and independent. And what cracks me up about her is that she refuses to do what anyone tells her. Repeatedly in The Lost Saint, Grace is given commands by her parents, her boyfriend, even her brother occasionally. She pretty much just ignores them and does what she wants anyway, which is awesome in the girl power aspect but is sometimes not so smart because these people are giving her good advice.

A series wouldn't be complete with a love triangle, which develops midway through The Lost Saint. For most of the novel, Daniel is absent and their relationship is strained because Grace won't tell her anything that's going on (even though Grace keeps some secrets herself). Actually Daniel became kind of annoying because he was always lying to Grace where he had been and wouldn't explain himself. So naturally Grace turns to Talbot, who helps her and has some answers to her questions. He even agrees to help her find Jude, something that everyone else in her life doesn't seem to care about. I don't particulary like or dislike Daniel - he's just kind of there, not really doing anything - but I did like Talbot. He's mysterious and has that bad boy thing going on (moreso than Daniel) and I'll be excited to see how the love triangle develops further in the next book.

Speaking of the next book, when is it coming out? Because The Lost Saint left off with such a huge cliffhanger that I really need to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, The Lost Saint hasn't even been released yet so I will probably have to wait awhile.

While this series isn't my all-time favorite, I do enjoy a paranormal book every once and awhile (especially one that doesn't feature vampires). If you've read The Dark Divine, you should definitely read its sequel, which is a superior novel in my opinion.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: ARC provided by publisher.
Release Date: December 28, 2010

2010/Egmont/404 pages

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas & Contest Winnner!

First off, I would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! I hope Santa brings you everything you want and you get to enjoy the day with your family and friends. And hopefully there's a couple books under the tree :) I got some that I can't wait to read!

Also I'd like to announce the winner of The Lost Saint giveaway.

Nicole B!

I have just sent you an email so please contact me within a week with your address or I'll pick another winner.
Merry Christmas again!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reminder: The Lost Saint Giveaway Ends Tonight!

This is just a little reminder that the contest for an ARC of The Lost Saint by Bree Despain ends tonight. The contest post says it ends at 6 pm, but in the spirit of Christmas I'll extend it to 8 pm so you have a little more time to enter. Extra entries are available if you want more chances to win. Visit the contest post for details.

I also hope everyone's Christmas Eve goes well! Get out to the stores soon to get your last minute shopping done.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Grace Divine - daughter of the local pastor - always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood.

Now that Daniel's returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that most mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul. (taken from inside jacket)

I started out not liking The Dark Divine at all. I was all ready to write a review saying how this book just didn't click with me. But once I got past the halfway mark, I started liking The Dark Divine more and more. While I still didn't love it, I can definitely say that I enjoyed reading The Dark Divine.

The book took awhile for me to get into. I just wasn't all that interesting in reading about Grace and some of the other characters. Grace annoyed me in small, subtle ways - like how she always described her friend April like a dog. And then Grace's brother, Jude, was so perfect in the beginning it seemed unrealistic (that changes very quickly, however, and makes Jude a much more interesting character). I'm still not completely sold on Daniel, as the only reason that Grace seems to be in love with him was shared history and people telling her not to talk to him.

But as the plot unfolded, those little things I disliked in the beginning were pushed to the side. I loved the religious symbolism and that it wasn't preachy at all. I loved how the mystery tied into the religion stuff and was just pretty awesome. There's a lot of action at the end and a pretty big twist in which things are cleared up while other things are left open.

While I'm not jumping for joy for The Dark Divine, I did like it and enjoyed reading it a lot. I definitely liked it enough to read the sequel, The Lost Saint, which I hope answers some of my questions. If you want to read The Lost Saint, be sure to enter my contest, which ends tomorrow night!

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2010/Egmont/372 pages.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 17

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

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever. Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

When I heard that Cassandra Clare was writing a fourth book in The Mortal Instruments series, I was estactic.This trilogy was one of my favorites and I can't wait to follow Clary and Jace around some more. Look for it in stores on April 5, 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells

Sometimes I still wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the very beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life. (from back cover)

As I was typing the summary, I realized that it is very vague and doesn't really tell you anything at all about the novel. So I'll give you the scoop: basically, Mia and her family go to the Hamptons in New York to stay at her aunt and uncle's beach house for the whole summer. This is usually a tradition, but it's the first time it's happened in a few years. Mia is really excited to see her cousin Corrine, who's the same age, and they are really close whenever they get together. However, since the last time Mia saw her, Corrine has transformed into a beautiful, and snobby, socialite, who likes to party and spend her parents' money. So we have this conflict about Mia feeling out of place... and the she meets Simon, the love interest.

I was really excited to read The Summer of Skinny Dipping because I love summer (and need some of the beach and warm sun to get me through this cold cold winter) and because I heard some good things about it from other bloggers. However, I was slightly disappointed with the book as a whole, and really disappointed with the ending.

Starting with the book as a whole, I definitely found The Summer of Skinny Dipping to be enjoyable. There was never a time where I wanted to stop reading nor do I regret this read. It was fun, the romance was light and cute, and it takes place at the beach, which in my book can make any novel infinitely better. I thought Simon was sweet and interesting because he likes The Great Gatsby and wants to be an artist.

What I didn't like was the class conflict and social distinctions that became very tiresome. Everything about the book centered around money, and sometimes even that wasn't enough. You have Mia and her immediate family, who isn't poor but is struggling, and Mia's mother was a debutante in her day. There's Mia's aunt and uncle and their family who are wealthy and have a lot of rich friends. There's Corrine's rich friends that come over for parties. And there is also Simon, who is also rich, but they are noveau riche, which is apparently a bad thing, meaning that their money is new and they still aren't part of the elite social stratum that constitutes the Hamptons. I don't have a problem with rich or poor people or anyone in between, but when all the conflict in the novel centers around these class distintions the novel becomes tiresome. It was all about how Mia didn't fit in and then how Simon also didn't fit in (though for two different reasons). I started to get sick of reading about stereotypical airhead rich kids (though obviously there are some). For some reason, all this just rubbed me the wrong way. At least Corrine started taking on some character development but all the rest of the characters were really shallow. This might not annoy anyone else but it just didn't work for me in the novel.

The part of The Summer of Skinny Dipping that disappointed me the most was the ending. It was obvious the author was going for some TRAGIC ENDING, but it just made me scratch my head and think, really? Not that I'm against sad endings or anything, I just thought this was was not well-written and not what I would have chosen. It was just so...bizarre.

Sorry if this review doesn't make much sense, I'm a little tired. But all in all, I definitely enjoyed The Summer of Skinny Dipping and think that it was fun read (until you get to the end, of course). I probably won't read it again, but you can still give it a try and see if you like it.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.
2010/Sourcebooks Fire/295 pages.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti

Scarlet spends most of her time worrying about other people. Some are her friends, others are practically strangers, and then there are the ones no one else even notices. Trying to fix their lives comes naturally to her. And pushing her own needs to the side is part of the deal.

So when her older sister comes home unexpectedly married and pregnant, Scarlet has a new person to worry about. But all of her good intentions are shattered when the unthinkable happens: she falls for her sister's husband. For the first time in a long time, Scarlet's not fixing a problem, she's at the center of one. And ignoring her feelings doesn't seem to be an option...

This beautifully crafted novel by National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti is about crossing that blurry line between helping other people and hurting ourselves - and how to step back over it. (from inside flap)

Deb Caletti is an awesome writer, and her newest book, The Six Rules of Maybe, doesn't disappoint in the least. I love reading her books because I always get totally and completely sucked into the story and the characters, and feel as though they are real people whose lives I am intruding upon.

I loved reading about Scarlet because she was a lot like me. She's kind-hearted and feels compelled to help everyone, even if that means that she ignores her own feelings and needs. She's the girl who would be the secret advice columnist in the school newspaper - everyone, including the popular crowd, come to her with their problems. Besides dispensing some words of wisdom, Scarlet always goes a step futher and actively tries to solve their problems. It's really nice of her, but sometimes Scarlet gets too involved in her subjects' lives that when not everything goes as planned she gets upset.

This same thing happens when her older sister Juliet returns home pregnant and married. But this time it's not so much helping her sister as making sure Juliet's making the "right" choices. When Scarlet suspects that Juliet is cheating on her husband, Hayden, Scarlet feels like its her place to step in and berate Juliet and try to stop her. Though, I would probably do the same thing with my sister, so I can't really blame Scarlet. But this causes problem because, as I said before, Scarlet feels as though she has the weight of the world on her shoulders.

On top of all this, Scarlet also falls in love with Hayden, which is kind of sad only because he's married and it's obvious that he's head over heels in love with Juliet, even though most of the time she acts pretty aloof towards him. I really felt Scarlet's pain because he's a really good guy: kind, terribly romantic, hopeful, and sweet. He would be a great guy for Scarlet besides the married part. And Scarlet and Hayden really did have a connection; it wasn't just her longing from afar. They become good friends, however, Hayden doesn't feel the same way about Scarlet that she does about him.

Despite this, throughout The Six Rules of Maybe, Scarlet learns some important lessons. Namely, that she can't control and fix everything, no matter how good her intentions are. She also learns to stand up for herself and doesn't allow her kind-heartedness to cause her to be a doormat to the world. There's even a happy ending in the love department, though I'll leave the details to the novel.

I love Deb Caletti and absolutely adored The Six Rules of Maybe. The book just felt so real, and I swear that there really is a Scarlet somewhere out there in the world. The book had so much detail, and just felt so realistic. I definitely recommend this and all of Caletti's other books - you won't be disappointed.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2010/Simon Pulse/336 pages.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 16

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking The Spine for book bloggers and readers to get excited about upcoming books.

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets -- dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah -- can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

This is the last book in The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy and I cannot wait to read it! The cover and title are both amazing. Look for it in stores March 22, 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spray by Harry Edge

A group of teens sign up for an assassination game on the streets of a big city. Their weapons: pressurized water guns. It's meant to be a game, a sport. But for some it's more than harmless fun. To win, they'll use any means necessary.

Two hundred players. Three weeks of tense cat-and-mouse action. Every stalker is being stalked and only one player will be left standing. No one will be the same.

Through multiple points of view, Harry Edge puts readers right into the middle of the action - watch your back! (from back cover)

It's been a long time since I've read any action novels. Actually, I don't think I've read that many action novels at all, since I'm not a big fan of action movies. But I really liked Spray and it's thrilling and fast-paced plot.

It's sort of my life goal to play the game Assassin, and hopefully while I'm at college someone will get the game going. For those who don't know, Assassin is kind of like tag, but you have a target and you are also someone else's target. There's different variations, and in Spray you have to spray your opponent with a water gun.

If the game Spray came to my city, I would definitely want to play. However, since it's city-wide, it's pretty likely you won't know your target, and a lot of time is spent staking them out, trying to hit them in valid locations (for example, you can't spray someone in transportation or while they are at work). I don't know how well this game would work in real life, because you get the home and work address of your target and to me that's a little creepy. But I suspended my disbelief and really got into the action.

Spray is a little confusing, because they are a ton of different points-of-view, and I started to forget who was who and who was after who. You also don't get any in-depth characterizations of any of the characters, which could be a minus to those who like character-driven novels. By the end it's a little better, but I understood why the author wrote it this way, so the reader could see a lot of things going on at once. And you really do get sucked into the book. I was reading this in the library waiting for my next class, and when I got up to leave I started looking around and felt like I was in the game myself.

There's also this interesting backdrop that the country is in a major drought and it's becoming a world-wide problem. Ironically, the players are still playing Spray with water guns. I thought this theme would have been really cool if it was explored more, however the author left it in the background.

I would recommend Spray for fans of action and thriller books/movies, because it has a fast-paced plot. This book isn't a masterpiece by any means, but it's definitely a fun read if you're in the mood for a lot of action.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: reviewed through the Henry Holt InGroup program.

2010/Feiwel and Friends/228 pages.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Giveaway: The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

I have the pleasure of hosting another contest, this time for an ARC of highly-anticipated novel, The Lost Saint by Bree Despain. For those who don't know, The Lost Saint is the sequel to The Dark Divine and will be released on December 28.

Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She was infected with the werewolf curse while trying to save him, and lost her beloved brother in the process.
Desperate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot, a newcomer to town. But as the two grow closer, Grace’s relationship with Daniel is put in danger — in more ways than one.

Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace begins to give into the wolf inside of her — not realizing that an enemy has returned and a deadly trap is about to be sprung.

Bree Despain delivers sizzling romance and thrilling action in the heart-pounding sequel to The Dark Divine. (From GoodReads)

Contest Rules:
- Contest ends on December 24, 2010, 6 pm EST.
- Open to US residents only.
- Extra entries are available.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Her parents' divorce left 17-year-old Veronica Miller embittered and confused. Three years later, "Ronnie" still seethes with anger toward her father, a musician and teacher who has abandoned hectic New York City for the quiet beach town of Wilmington, North Carolina. Nevertheless, she reluctantly agrees to her mother's altruistic plan that for the good of all concerned, she should visit her estranged father in his new home. As the story of The Last Song unfolds, novelist Nicholas Sparks weaves his magic, threading together the intricate story of three very different people tied inextricably together. (from GoodReads)

I was a little wary about reading this book. I haven't seen the movie (which is a good thing) but I knew that Nicholas Sparks wrote this book with Miley Cyrus in mind for the lead character (why in the world, I have no idea). Once I read the author's notes in the back, I realized that a producer called Nicholas Sparks saying that Miley was interesting in doing one of his movies, and did he have anything laying around? Sparks didn't, but of course he set out to write the screenplay first and then the book. Which is the oddest thing I've ever heard of. Anyway, I didn't know all this in the beginning, but I set out reading The Last Song not sure what to expect.

The good thing is that I enjoyed The Last Song more than Dear John. Since this book is newer maybe Sparks has improved his writing style, but I'm not really sure. I liked the story better, the ending better, and the characters better than I did in Dear John. In the beginning of reading The Last Song I was trying really hard to not imagine Miley Cyrus as Ronnie. And it actually wasn't too difficult; although, if I had seen the movie it probably would have been impossible.

As for the plot, Ronnie is supposed to be the bad kid, the rebellious teenager who sneaks out, talks back, and has an all-around rude attitude. But, Ronnie was the parent's dream rebellious child (or maybe Spark's imagining of what he thinks a rebellious child is). Besides stealing a bracelet once and hanging around some sketchy people, she doesn't sleep around, do drugs or drink. I thought it was a tad unrealistic that she didn't do anything bad, but I didn't mind so much because I don't condone those things at all.

So Ronnie and her brother Jonah visit their father for the summer and she falls in love with a rich kid named Will. I liked Will and I liked their relationship, although Sparks doesn't go that in-depth in their feelings and emotions. I didn't really feel anything when they said they loved each other, so I think Sparks needs to work on not distancing his characters.

This wouldn't be a Nicholas Sparks novel if there wasn't some TRAGIC EVENT that is supposed to illicit some emotion. I was spoiled beforehand so I knew what happened, and while I was sad for all the characters, I wasn't actually sad. I didn't cry and I didn't really feel anything deeper than some sympathy for everyone in the book.

That being said, The Last Song wasn't a bad novel at all and I would recommend it to fans of Nicholas Sparks. It had a cute romance and a sad ending if you like to cry over books/movies, but it wasn't an amazing novel.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from a friend.

2009/Grand Central Publishing/390 pages.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

This drama is one of the great comedy plays by William Shakespeare. The play revolves around the adventures of four young lovers, a group of amateur actors and their interactions with the fairies who inhabit a moonlit forest. The story takes place in Midsummer and is a complex farce featuring Hermia & Lysander and Helena & Demetrius. Their romantic intrigues are confused and complicated still further by entering the forest where Oberon, the King of the Fairies and his Queen, Titania, preside. Puck (or Robin Goodfellow) is a major character who is full of mischief and tricks. Other visitors to the enchanted forest include Bottom the weaver and his friends Snug, Snout, Quince and Flute the amateur dramatists who want to rehearse their terrible but hilarious version of the play Pyramus and Thisbe. (from

I've read a few of Shakespeare's plays at this point, and I must say that A Midsummer Night's Dream is up there as one of my favorites (and is probably my favorite comedy). It was actually pretty funny as a play. You might think that something written in the 17th century wouldn't appeal to people of today, but it still does, even after all this time. It really demonstrates the timelessness of Shakespeare and his work.

I had to read this play for my theater class and now we are in the midst of a group project on it, which includes acting out a scene. It's really cool to read the play, research it, discuss it, and then watch others act it out. I feel like I learned more about the play this way.

As for the story, I think it has a brilliant plot. There's a lot going on, as well as a lot of characters, but it all ties together wonderfully. You have the lovers, Hermia and Lysander, and then Demetrius, who is in love with Hermia and Hermia's friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius. Hilarity and disaster ensues when Puck (a fairy) matchmakes the couples and messes everything up. There's also Oberon and Titania, the fairy king and queen, and group of workers who are putting on a play. These workers are hilarious because they aren't the smartest characters and are always using the wrong words to describe things and just all around not very bright.

I feel like I'm not doing the best to explain this play, but just know that it's really funny and well worth a read if you need a good book for English class or something. I also read the Spark Notes No Fear Shakespeare version, with modern English on one side and Shakespeare on the other, which was really helpful. Though I do insist you still read the Shakespeare side because his writing is beautiful.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from a friend.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 15

Once again, it's Waiting on Wednesday time! WoW was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine so bloggers could get excited about upcoming books.

XVI by Julia Karr

Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world, even the most predatory of men, that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past - one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer

Yay, another dystopian novel! Turning 16 isn't the celebration it is today - it sounds so creepy. XVI will be released January 6, 2011, so not long now!