Saturday, December 31, 2011

Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole? (from GoodReads)

I loved Birthmarked and I've been waiting a long time to read this. I'm very glad to say that I enjoyed it a lot, even though it was very different from its predecessor.

In Birthmarked, the reader is introduced to a new, dystopian society and the same thing occurs in Prized. Obviously, it's the same world, but the society is extremely different. In Sylum, the women are the rulers and the only ones allowed to vote, which is especially important because men outnumber women nine to one. Propriety is taken very seriously and men and women are not allowed to touch. Even though I don't like the harsh rules in Sylum, I do understand why they have them. With so few women to go around, I can see how things might get crazy.

Like the readers, Gaia is very confused in Sylum, since it's so drastically difference than the Enclave. She has to make certain decisions regarding her behavior and do things she might not agree with to achieve her ultimate goal, which is to fit in and have a life in Sylum. It was interesting to see Gaia's struggle because I think I would have the same issues as she does.

Most novels these days have a love triangle, but Prized goes the next step and employs a love square. Yes, three men are vying for Gaia's attentions, which is a little ridiculous if you ask me. Because there is so much going on, one of the men is only a minor romantic interest, so Prized had more of a love triangle. I did like the romance in this book, especially because the characters were so different. I pretty much knew who Gaia was going to choose but it was still nice to see the other characters anyway.

The only thing that I didn't like (and this also occurred often in Birthmarked) was that Gaia figured things out so easily. Letters written in code? Decoded within a day. Male infertility in Sylum? Gaia finds the cause. The acclimation sickness? Gaia also finds the cause and the cure. Besides attracting the entire male population, she also is a genius. Obviously, the book moves faster when characters aren't dwelling on solving all these little mysteries, but it would be nice to allow some issues to develop more before Gaia pulls the answer out of thin air.

Besides my issue with problems being solved so quickly, I still enjoyed Prized a lot. It was very different than Birthmarked, but in a good way. I'm definitely excited to complete to the trilogy and can't wait to read the next book.

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

2011/Roaring Brook Press/368 pages.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose

As a sophomore at Brown University, Kevin Roose didn't have much contact with the Religious Right. Raised in a secular home by staunchly liberal parents, he fit right in with Brown's sweatshop-protesting, fair-trade coffee-drinking, God-ambivalent student body. So when he had a chance encounter with a group of students from Liberty University, a conservative Baptist university in Lynchburg, Virginia, he found himself staring across a massive culture gap. But rather than brush the Liberty students off, Roose decided to do something much bolder: he became one of them.

Liberty University is the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's proudest accomplishment - a 10,000-student conservative Christian training ground. At Liberty, students (who call themselves "Champions for Christ") take classes like Introduction to Youth Ministry and Evangelism 101. They hear from guest speakers like Mike Huckabee and Karl Rove, they pray before every class, and they follow a 46-page code of conduct called "The Liberty Way" that prohibits drinking, smoking, R-rated movies, contact with the opposite sex, and witchcraft. Armed with an open mind and a reporter's notebook, Roose dives into life at Bible Boot Camp with the goal of connecting with his evangelical peers by experiencing their world first-hand.

Roose's semester at Liberty takes him to church, class, and choir practice at Rev. Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church. He visits a support group for recovering masturbation addicts, goes to an evangelical hip-hop concert, and participates in a spring break mission trip to Daytona Beach, where he learns how to convert bar-hopping co-eds to Christianity. Roose struggles with his own faith throughout, and in a twist that could only have been engineered by a higher power, he conducts what would turn out to be the last in-depth interview of Rev. Falwell's life. Hilarious and heartwarming, respectful and thought-provoking, Kevin Roose's embedded report from the front lines of the culture war will inspire and entertain believers and non-believers alike. (from GoodReads)

When I first stumbled upon this book on Amazon, I was extremely intrigued. Just by reading the synopsis, I felt a connection with the author right away. We're both sophomores in college and we were raised very similarly and have similar beliefs. Since I'm not very religious, religion fascinates me so I knew I would like The Unlikely Disciple.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but The Unlikely Disciple read just like a fictional story or novel. I could not put this book down. It was extremely engaging and I wanted to know what happened next. I also thought it was very thought-provoking and I loved that Kevin was able to remain open-minded and respectful of religion during his entire semester at Liberty. I hope that I could be as open-minded as he was if I was ever put in a different culture, so to speak.

I liked that Kevin tried to bridge the gap between the two cultures of Evangelical Christians and non-Evangelical Christians. He was able to show that you can still get along with and still like people that have different beliefs and opinion. A lot of the people met at Liberty were extremely nice and friendly, a lot friendlier than the people at my school it seems.

Kevin was able to go to Liberty without sacrificing his own beliefs as well. He didn't like the overt homophobia that could be found there and never justified other people's prejudiced opinions. Liberty seems like a nice university, but I could never go to a school where everyone is expected to believe the same things and classes are taught with one set of beliefts in mind.

Overall, The Unlikely Disciple was interesting, funny, thought-provoking, introspective, and engaging. I would suggest that everyone read it because it really is a great book.

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

2009/Grand Central Publishing/324 pages.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 66

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

The Selection by Kiera Cass

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined. (From GoodReads)
This sounds really interesting! I'm not sure if it's historical fiction or fantasy, or maybe a mix of both. I'm looking forward to finding out though! The Selection will be released April 24, 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - 13

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for those who like books and lists!

Top Ten Books of 2011

*I'm only including books published in 2011*

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
This might be my favorite book of the year. It's so hard to pick! But I loved the factions and the romance between Tris and Four. Great read!

2. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Another amazing dystopia. This one had such a wonderful premise; it was very bleak and hopeless, but that made the book so much better.

3. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
This was very original and very engaging. Although the style of the writing and the purposeful misspellings could make it annoying, I thought it added to the overall story.

4. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Love as a disease? I loved it! Can't wait to see what happens next.

5. Stay by Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti is one of my all-time favorite authors and everything she writes is gold.

6. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
I adore Cassandra Clare as well and enjoy her two series. I'm looking forward to reading Clockwork Prince.

7. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
I was pleasantly surprised by this! Especially since I'm not the biggest fan of fantasy. It's an awesome book though!

8. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
This combined science fiction and mystery so I knew I was going to love it.

9. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
I thought this was going to be very similar to Across the Universe but it ended up being different and held its own!

10. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
This was a controversial book on incest but I still enjoyed it. I think it's an important book everyone should read.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Frost by Marianna Baer

Leena Thomas’s senior year at boarding school begins with a shock: Frost House, her cozy dorm of close friends, has been assigned an unexpected roommate: confrontational, eccentric Celeste Lazar. But while Leena’s anxiety about a threat to her sanctuary proves valid, it becomes less and less clear whether the threat lies with her new roommate, within Leena’s own mind, or within the very nature of Frost House itself. Mysterious happenings in the dorm, an intense triangle between Leena, Celeste, and Celeste’s brother, and the reawakening of childhood fears, all push Leena to take increasingly desperate measures to feel safe. Frost is the story of a haunting. As to whether the demons are supernatural or psychological . . . well, which answer would let you sleep at night? (From GoodReads)

I love thrillers and spooky stories, so I was really excited to read Frost. I haven't read a thriller in awhile because sometimes they aren't that good, but I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed Frost!

Frost does a good job of starting out slowly and drawing the reader in. Everything seems fine at first and then little things start happening, but they are things that could be explained by natural causes. All the weird stuff that happens usually targets Leena's new roommate Celeste. Frost was different than other supernatural stories because in the beginning Leena is strangely immune to the odd occurrences. She actually feels safe in the house, which is the opposite of Celeste. But the secure feeling that Leena gets in the house starts turning creepy, like how she is drawn to the closet and likes to sit in there.

There is kind of a triangle between Leena, Celeste and Celeste's brother David. They are super close so when Leena starts falling for David, it makes things a little weird between her and Celeste. I liked David and I liked how much he cared for his sister; I thought it was sweet. But Leena thought it was annoying how he wanted her to be his personal updater on his sister's life.

What I really liked about Frost is that the ending could go several different ways. Was there a scientific explanation for the happenins in Frost House? Was the house haunted? Was it an effect of mental illness? It's very open-ended so the reader can decide what ending they think fits best.

That being said, I enjoyed Frost a lot. The boarding school setting is always fun and the spooky happenings make Frost a great novel to read when you're home alone at night. Or maybe you'll want to wait until it's light out....

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

2011/Balzer & Bray/400 pages.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Contest Reminder & Extension

Hey guys!
I just wanted to remind everyone that I'm hosting a giveaway for a copy of the audiobook of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan!! Here is the link to the giveaway.
The contest was supposed to originally end tonight, but I'm adding an extension to get some more entries. You will have until Thu Dec 29 at 8 pm EST to enter!! All the details are on the link above.
Good luck! :)

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance. (from GoodReads)

I've been wanting to read Divergent since before it was released and I can't believe I waited until to finally get it. It's no surprise that I absolutely LOVED Divergent and think that it was one of the best books of the year.

Everything about Divergent appealed to me: the factions, the dystopia, the fact that Tris is different than her peers, the romance, the impending war between the factions. I thought the factions were really clever and I could definitely see why a society might want to encourage certain traits in its members. Even though you are born into a faction, at 16 you still get to choose which one you want, which was pretty nice. It would be so hard to choose, because if you pick a different one than the one you were born into, you never get to see your family. Looking at the factions, Dauntless would be my last choice and Erudite would be my first, which is funny when you see what happens in the book.

It was interesting to watch Tris change and develop from a meek little girl in Abnegation to who she becomes in her new faction. Some of the changes were good, some not so much, but I understand why she changed the way she did. I also thought it was interesting that even though the factions stand for good characteristics, the end up bringing out the bad side in its members. For example, the Dauntless are pretty violent, the Erudite are arrogant and the Candor are insulting. It's funny how good traits can turn bad.

Besides its action and romance, Divergent also provides commentary on human nature and things such as facing your fears, being brave in spite of your fear, and what it means to have multiple traits working together. I thought the author wrote Divergent magnificently and I never wanted to put the book down. Now I can't wait to read Insurgent!

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

2011/Katherine Tegen Books/487 pages.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 65

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

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature. (From GoodReads)

I just finished Divergent yesterday (review tomorrow!) and I absolutely loved it. I can't believe I have to wait until May 1, 2012 to see what happens next.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - 12

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers who like books and lists!

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings
1. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
I know it's not out yet but I just finished Divergent and I NEED the next book! Review to come soon :)

2. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
This is one of my favorite trilogies and I still can't believe I haven't finished it yet! I asked for this for Christmas so hopefully it's under the tree.

3. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Another book on my Christmas list. Love these books so much!

4. Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
I was very impressed by Nightshade when I read it over the summer. I asked for this book, as well.

5. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
I really enjoyed Kody's debut novel so I'm definitely looking forward to this one!

6. Legend by Marie Lu
I've heard a lot of good things about this book and it's on my To Read List.

7. Bumped by Megan McCafferty
I've been wanting to read Bumped since before it was released. I need to get on this!

8. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
I fell in love with Anna and the French Kiss when I read it. I want this book!

9. Prized by Caragh O'Brien
Another sophomore book that I need to read because I loved the first one!

10. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
I really want to read this but I'm upset that none of the libraries in my county has a copy of it. Maybe Santa will bring it?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation—and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much.

It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life…or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what’s wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah’s older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in "like" with a boy named Monster—yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles…and we mean that as a compliment.

Frances O’Roark Dowell’s fierce humor and keen eye make her YA debut literary and wise. In the spirit of John Green and E. Lockhart, Dowell’s relatable, quirky characters and clever, fluid writing prove that growing up gets complicated…and normal is WAY overrated. (From GoodReads)

I had a tough time getting into Ten Miles Past Normal at first, but once I did, I really enjoyed the book!

The beginning of Ten Miles Past Normal was a little boring; it was mostly Janie complaining about she hates living on a farm and that she has no friends. I felt bad for her, but I didn't think her life was that bad. However, once Janie decides to learn to play bass and starts researching some former civil rights activists in her community, Ten Miles Past Normal became a lot more interesting.

I liked seeing Janie come out her shell and grow a little. She starts by agreeing to learn bass so she can participate in her school's jam band. She makes a new friend/romantic interest Monster, who shows her the ropes. I thought it was awesome that Janie would step out of her comfort zone and try something new.

Janie's father is a historical researcher or something of the sort, and he takes Janie with him to visit Mr. Pritchard, a former civil rights activist. In the story, his wife and another woman started a school for African-Americans to learn to read and write so they could pass the literacy test required to vote. Janie and her best friend Sarah decide to do a project on the women on for their women studies class. The people were fictional but their story was still fascinating, since I'm sure there were people who did this in real life. I loved how the author tied in this with Janie's overall story, especially because she wants to "live large" as she puts it.

I thought that Ten Miles Past Normal was very cute and quirky and a fun coming-of-age story. I liked seeing Janie come out of her shell and not hate her life on the farm as she originally did. It was short too, so anyone looking for quick read, definitely check out this book!

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: from Steph Su. Thank you!

2011/Atheneum/211 pages.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hourglass by Claudia Gray

After escaping from Evernight, the vampire boarding school where they met, Bianca and Lucas seek refuge with Black Cross, an elite group of vampire hunters. Bianca must hide her supernatural heritage or risk certain death at its hands. But when Black Cross captures her friend—the vampire Balthazar—all her secrets threaten to come out.

Soon, Bianca and Lucas are on the run, pursued not only by Black Cross, but by the powerful vampires of Evernight. Yet no matter how far they run, Bianca can't escape her destiny. Bianca and Lucas have always believed their love could survive anything—but can it survive what's to come? (from GoodReads)

I've had this book on my shelf for a very long time and I finally got around to reading it! Part of the problem is that I let my friend borrow it and she never read it. I finally stole it back because I wanted to read it. I looked back on my reviews for Evernight and Stargazer and I couldn't believe that I read them over two years ago! I was a little hazy on the details when I started reading Hourglass but I started to remember what was going on pretty quickly.

While reading Hourglass, I forgot how much I liked this series. I love the writing and I really enjoyed Bianca's voice. When she narrated, it sounded like how I would talk. I liked that I was able to relate very well to her. I also found the vampire mythology to be fascinating. Bianca is half-vampire and half-human because she was born to vampire parents. I thought that was really clever and her transformation becomes a major part of the novel later.

I really liked reading about Bianca and Lucas. They are finally together but they don't really get to actually be together because they are hiding out in the Black Cross, which is an ancient coalition of vampire hunters. The fact that Bianca is a half-vampire made their stay more exciting. I was wondering what would happen if the hunters discovered Bianca's secret.

The twists and turns in Hourglass were really well-done and I found myself continously surprised at different intervals. The ending is a cliff-hanger but luckily I'm going to the library today and they have Afterlife in stock. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: sent by publisher

2010/Harper Teen/339 pages.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 64

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to get excited about upcoming books.
Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy
Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys' band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free...until it isn't any more.

When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl...and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char...being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated. (From GoodReads)
This sounds super cute and hopefully the romance will be well-done! Look for it on shelves May 1, 2012. Now back to studying for finals!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch. Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste ...

Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head. She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is. Damen is equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies. (From GoodReads)

I've had Evermore on my shelf for years and I've just finally gotten around to reading it. I was really hoping that it would be some good paranormal romance but unfortunately it was very formulaic and not that great of a novel.

We shall start with what I liked since there's not a lot. I liked Ever and her character. I felt the loss of her family as strongly as she did and I liked that she at least tried to stay away from Damen when he was acting creepy and weird. I thought her abilities were really awesome, but that being said, she had way too many! She was clairvoyant, could hear people's thoughts, know their history if she touched them and saw their aura which told her what kind of mood they were in. Oh wait, she could also see/talk to ghosts!! It was overwhelming and I think the author should have just picked one or two abilities and fully developed them. No wonder Ever was constantly suffering from sensory overload.

I didn't like that Evermore was very formulaic and predictable: girl with strange abilities, new boy comes in, he's super hot and mysterious and shows instant attraction to protagonist. Then they fall in love with few interactions and without knowing what makes the main guy tick. The only thing we ever learn about Damen is that he is hot. And surfs. And cooks. And does everything perfectly. Damen wasn't fleshed out that much and it caused his and Ever's relationship to suffer.

The plot was okay but looking back, nothing really happened. There is the typical antagonist, who wasn't that evil and a subplot with Ever's younger sister who appears as a ghost.

I wouldn't say that Evermore was terrible but it wasn't that great either. It's a typical light paranormal romance so if you like that type of thing, I would say go for it. Evermore was similar to a lot of other books that I've read which is probably why I didn't enjoy it as much.

5 out of 10.
FTC: won in a contest.

2009/St. Martin's Griffin/306 pages.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti

High school junior Jordan MacKenzie’s life was pretty typical: fractured family, new boyfriend, dead-end job. She’d been living with her father (the predictable optometrist) since her mother (the hippie holdover) had become too embarrassing to be around. Jordan felt that she finally had as normal a life as she could. But then came Gayle D’Angelo. Jordan knew her father was dating Gayle and that Gayle was married. Jordan knew it was wrong, and that her father was becoming someone she didn’t recognize anymore, but what could she do about it? And how could she — how could anyone — have possibly guessed that this illicit love affair would implode in such a violent and disturbing way? (from GoodReads)

It's no secret that I love Deb Caletti; her writing is a lot like Sarah Dessen's but honestly I think I like Deb Caletti's better. It was obvious that The Queen of Everything was one of Caletti's earlier novels because it wasn't quite as good as some of her more recent work. I still enjoyed it very much, but it wouldn't be my first recommendation.

The summary made The Queen of Everything sound very scandalous, especially the ending words of "violent" and "disturbing." The novel did end that way, but it didn't feel very disturbing. As the reader, I felt very removed from the whole situation - and so did Jordan. Something very awful happens (I'm trying to not give away any spoilers, but it's hard!) but Jordan doesn't react the way most people would. Her response is almost muted, which I didn't like. I get that the book is about Jordan and not her father, but I think most people would be way more emotional than she was.

That being said, I wish Caletti delved further into Jordan's father's affair. Jordan finds out what is going on very quickly and few scenes show how distraught her father becomes. There are a few small things added in to show that the dad is losing it but they felt more like plot devices than a character unraveling. It just wasn't believable.

Even not enjoying the plot as much as I could have, I still liked The Queen of Everything. I liked reading about Jordan's relationships, such as with her grandparents, Big Mama, Jackson, her friend Melissa, her mother. There were a lot of great secondary characters that were awesome. As always I loved the setting: Washington State on an island, which is pretty sweet. I liked Jordan's thoughts on things and just the overall narration.

I really am a huge fan of Deb Caletti but The Queen of Everything wasn't my favorite of hers. I would definitely recommend her more recent work ahead of this (Stay and The Secret Life of Prince Charming are two personal favorites).

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: birthday gift.

2002/Simon Pulse/384 pages.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Giveaway: Audiobook of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

I am very excited that I get to host another giveaway! This time the prize is an audiobook of Glow, which I reviewed last week. Here's a synopsis in case you are unfamiliar with the book.

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside. (from GoodReads)

Contest Rules:
- Only open to US residents.
- Ends December 22, 2011 at 8 pm EST EDIT: Dec 29!!!!
- There are opportunities for extra entries.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 63

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

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide.

Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she’d like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he’s a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen’s really from. He wants Miranda use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lost its greatest playwright.

Miranda isn’t convinced she’s the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it’s her only chance of getting back to the present and her “real” life. What Miranda doesn’t bargain for is finding true love…with no acting required. (From GoodReads)

I love Shakespeare and historical fiction and romance so this seems like a great fit! Look for it on shelves August 14, 2012.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - 11

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for those who like books and lists!

Top Ten Childhood Favorites

1. Harry Potter series
'Nuff said.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry
If you asked me what my favorite book is I might say The Giver. I read it in fifth grade and it was the first dystopian I ever read, so naturally I loved it. Such a great book!

3. Tangerine by Edward Bloor
I read this in 7th grade Reading class and it was a really good book. There was a big twist at the end which made it even more awesome.

4. The Baby-sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin
I could not get enough of these books! I loved how there were multiple books for each character in the club. Now I know why I like to baby-sit so much!

5. Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
Even as a little kid I liked horror/thriller type books. I remember getting very scared reading this in elementary school but I loved it.

6. American Girl Doll series
I love history so it's no wonder I enjoyed these books. They're definitely educational. Unfortunately, I never had an actual doll but I really wanted one.

7. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
My fourth grade teacher read this aloud to us and it was so funny! He always changed his voice for Fudge's dialogue so it was awesome.

8. Dear America series
These were like the American Girl Doll books but longer and much, much better. I loved these book so much and I would scour my library for ones I hadn't read yet.

9. A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
This book was historical fiction but took place in the 60s so it wasn't too far in the past. A little something different than the Baby-Sitters Club but just as good.

10. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
I forget how old I was when I read this but I know I really enjoyed it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside. (from GoodReads)

I was at first interested in Glow because I thought it sounded a lot like Across the Universe, which i really enjoyed. I don't usually like straight-up science fiction, but I thought I'd give Glow a chance. I'm glad I did because I really liked it.

At first, I was off-put by how similar Glow and Across the Universe are. Both take place on a spaceship that is bound for a new planet where humans will now inhabit. Both ships have farmland and orchards onboard. It was weird. But that's where the similarities end.

In Glow, there are two ships flying to the new planet, but things take a turn for the worse when the other ship attacks the Empyrean and kidnaps all the girls, including our protagonist, Waverly. After this, the book is split into two parts: Waverly's experience on the New Horizon and Kieran's experience on the Empyrean with all the boys. I liked reading about Waverly much better because she is essentially a captive, so I liked learning all the secrets of the New Horizon and seeing Waverly try to escape.

It's also funny to see that when only boys are in charge, as is the case on the Empryean, all hell breaks lose. There is a power struggle between Kieran and Seth, who is portrayed as an evil dictator as he tries to take control over the ship. I really did not understand his craziness and his motives for wanting to be captain. Is it really that awesome? It was very much like Lord of the Flies.

The summary implies there is a love triangle, but I think it was ridiculous to mention that since it iis nonexistent. Waverly is separated from her two "lovers" the entire book and she was already dating Kieran so I felt like it was really dumb to make it seem as though there was this great love triangle.

As the book went on, I really enjoyed Glow. I thought all the intrigue and politics and secrets were pretty awesome and I liked uncovering them. I'm excited for the next book to see what happens next!

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: sent from Flamingnet Book Reviews

2011/St. Martin's Griffin/307 pages.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Far From the War by Jeffrey David Payne

Economic ruin and partisan rancor have pushed America to the brink of a new civil war. Esther is caught in the middle, serving as a page in the United States House of Representatives when rogue politicians and military leaders stage a modern day coup d'etat. When the coup turns violent, she abandons Washington, D.C. for home. She must learn to survive on her own as transportation and financial networks fail, as the war disrupts food and water supplies. The result is a cautionary tale about political extremism and the true cost of war. (from GoodReads)

I thought Far From the War was an interesting novel, though the execution could have used some work. It is more speculative fiction than dystopia, but fans of the latter will still find something to like in Far From the War.

I liked that Esther, the main character, was a page in for the House of Representatives. I love politics (and I know I'm in the minority here) so I would have loved to have Esther's job. I also like that the author wasn't afraid to give people positions and parties. Most authors try to stay away from politics but I like that Payne embraced it. I also couldn't tell if this book was supposed to be in the present or the future. Everything was the same except gas was $30 a gallon (whoa!) and Esther's parents make the comment that they were born 30 years too late to be hippies. Which would make them born in the 90s?? So I wish that was spelled out better.

Nowadays everyone says that the political rhetoric is too much and the two parties really need to get along so we can solve some of the nation's problems. In Far From the War, the two parties literally hate each other. No one gets along at all. It's supposed to be commentary on what can happen when vitrolic language is used daily but it was pretty weird.

Obviously you know from the summary that civil war breaks out, which is what makes this speculative. Even though the nation was falling apart, I still didn't get the feeling that things were all that bad. I wish the book had been a little bleaker for that extra punch. It was also hard to tell who the good and bad guys were in the war. Obviously, it's hard to pick from your fellow citizens but I never got a clear picture of what each group stood for. Looking back, Esther spends some time in a military hospital and I honestly cannot tell you which side she was staying with. I don't know if the ambiguity was on purpose or just a mistake.

The romance between Esther and Matthew, a soldier she meets, was cute on the surface but never went deeper than that. I can tell the author doesn't have much experience writing romance. Esther also needed some work. She was very plain and I didn't really care about her all that much.

Overall, Far From the War was an okay novel with an interesting premise. The execution needs some work but fans of apocalyptic lit might enjoy this.

6 out of 10.
FTC: sent by the author.

2011/Roche Harbor Books/366 pages

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book vs. Movie: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

I have not done a Book vs. Movie post in awhile! I wasn't originally going to see Breaking Dawn in theaters because I didn't want to spend my money on it. But when my friend invited me, I decided to go since I was really curious about how they were going to adapt the book.

Breaking Dawn was my least favorite Twilight book, which is saying something because I don't really like the other books in the series. That being said, I think for the material they were given, the producers, director, etc did an okay job with it. Obviously it wasn't Oscar caliber but I still had a good time watching it. I've decided to list some thoughts in bullet points, since it's easier. No outright spoilers but maybe allusions to some, so beware.

- The acting is still pretty bad. Namely, Kristen Stewart. Everyone else is okay, but Kristen still needs some work.

- Even with not much going on in the movie, I still feel like they rushed things. There were certain storylines that they threw in there because they were never mentioned before. These include: the Denali coven, imprinting (not sure when this was introduced in the books) and the Volturi.

- Even though the movie rushed things, it was still pretty drawn out. Most of the movie is Bella pregnant and then some wolf-pack drama. Harry Potter made sense to be cut in two parts, but Breaking Dawn, not so much. The movie was only an hour and a half, so they definitely could have done 1 two and a half hour movie.

- Supposedly people have been getting seizures from the red and white flashes in the movie. Ididn't think it was too bad but I don't get motion sickness at all, so what do I know?

- The birth scene was pretty freaky. It wasn't super graphic (Breaking Dawn is only rated PG-13) but the weirdness (giving birth to a vampire baby) of it all made it worse.

So those are my thoughts on Breaking Dawn. The only positive I can think of is that it didn't completely suck but wasn't that great either.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 62

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

Gilt by Katherine Longshore
In the Tudor age, ambition, power and charismatic allure are essential and Catherine Howard has plenty of all three. Not to mention her loyal best friend, Kitty Tylney, to help cover her tracks. Kitty, the abandoned youngest daughter of minor aristocracy, owes everything to Cat – where she is, what she is, even who she is. Friend, flirt, and self-proclaimed Queen of Misrule, Cat reigns supreme in a loyal court of girls under the none-too-watchful eye of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

When Cat worms her way into the heart of Henry VIII and becomes Queen of England, Kitty is thrown into the intoxicating Tudor Court. It’s a world of glittering jewels and elegant costumes, of gossip and deception. As the Queen’s right-hand-woman, Kitty goes from the girl nobody noticed to being caught between two men – the object of her affection and the object of her desire.

But the atmosphere of the court turns from dazzling to deadly, and Kitty is forced to learn the difference between trust and loyalty, love and lust, secrets and treason. And to accept the consequences when some lessons are learned too late. (from GoodReads)
I absolutely LOVE King Henry VIII and the Tudor Court, so I am really excited to read this!!! Look for Gilt on shelves May 15, 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - 10

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for those who like books and lists!
Top Ten Books on My TBR List for Winter
These are books that I really want to read over Winter Break, starting Dec 16. Can't wait so I can get some pleasure reading done instead of just textbooks.

1. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
2. Something Blue by Emily Giffin
I read the first book over the summer so I can't wait to continue! I loved the movie, too. Wonder if tey'll make a sequel of that?
3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
I honestly don't know why I haven't read this yet!!
4. Legend by Marie Lu
5. Bumped by Megan McCafferty
6. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Will be released Dec. 6 but I think I'm getting it for Christmas.
7. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Hodkin
8. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
I love this trilogy and I still haven't read this!
9. Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
10. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 61

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

The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting

In the end, all that’s left is an echo.

Violet kept her morbid ability to sense dead bodies a secret from everyone except her family and her childhood-best-friend-turned-boyfriend, Jay Heaton. That is until forensic psychologist Sara Priest discovered Violet’s talent and invited her to use her gift to track down murderers. Now, as she works with an eclectic group of individuals—including mysterious and dangerously attractive Rafe—it’s Violet’s job to help those who have been murdered by bringing their killers to justice.

When Violet discovers the body of a college girl killed by “the girlfriend collector” she is determined to solve the case. But now the serial killer is on the lookout for a new “relationship” and Violet may have caught his eye.... (from GoodReads)
I love this trilogy! Look for it in stores April 17, 2012

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson

Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries.

Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead.

Everyone except Jenna Fox. (from GoodReads)

I really enjoyed the first novel, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, when I read it for an online book club. It was futuristic and had a lot of cool new technology, but it was also very introspective and thought-provoking. The Fox Inheritance takes place even further in the future and is more action-oriented than The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

I really liked The Fox Inheritance, though as not as much as its prequel. I liked that it was narrated by Locke, who is mentioned in the first book. I thought the futuristic stuff was neat: robots are like humans and are used for jobs and even the United States has been separated into two countries. I thought it was really interesting and would like to learn more about this new world.

Like I said earlier, The Fox Inheritance is more action-packed. Most of the novel has Locke trying to get away from the scientist who gave him his body and at the same time trying to find Jenna. I did enjoy the fast past a lot, which made reading this book a lot of fun.

I think that The Fox Inheritance was a nice addition to the Jenna Fox series. Not as good as its predecessor, but still a decent read in its own right.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: received copy from publisher

2011/Henry Holt/294 pages.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 60

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

Miracle by Elizabeth Scott

I sat there and wondered again why I'd lived…

Megan is a miracle. At least, that’s what everyone says. Having survived a plane crash that killed everyone else on board, Megan knows she should be grateful just to be alive. The truth is, she
doesn’t feel like a miracle. In fact, she doesn’t feel anything at all. Then memories from the crash start coming back. Scared and alone, Megan doesn’t know who to turn to. Her entire community
seems unable—or maybe unwilling—to see her as anything but Miracle Megan. Except for Joe, the beautiful boy next door with a tragic past and secrets of his own... All Megan wants is for her life to get back to normal, but the harder she tries to live up to everyone’s expectations, the worse she feels. This time, she may be falling too fast to be saved… (from GoodReads)
I love Elizabeth Scott and can't wait for this!! And the main character is named Megan; it's not often where the protagonist has the same name as me. Unfortunately, this won't be released until June 5, 2012. So far away!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - 9

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for those who like books and lists!

Top Ten Books That Have Been on My Shelf for the Longest But I've Never Read

1. Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita
I got this book for my birthday in 2008, so I've had it for almost 3 years and never read it. Not really sure why since I've read some of Jen Calonita's other books and they're really good!

2. Evermore by Alyson Noel
I won this book in a contest so long ago, I think 2008 again!

3. The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti
I'm pretty sure I got this along with Secrets of My Hollywood Life.

4. Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
The publisher sent me this book unannounced a few years ago. I actually started it in May, but never finished.

5. Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
A 2008 Christmas gift?

6. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
In 10th grade (so 2008 again), we read Anthem and submitted our essays to some Ayn Rand Foundation essay contest. None of us won, but they sent me a copy of The Fountainhead for participating. It's really long so I don't know if I will ever read it.

7. Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
2009 Christmas gift!

8. Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
I got this for review in early 2010 but never read it.

9. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
I got this at a Cinda Williams Chima signing (March 2010). Still have to read this along with The Dragon Heir!

10. Hourglass by Claudia Gray
I got this early 2010; I think the publisher sent it to me. Part of the reason why I haven't read it is that I let my friend borrow it for over a year and she never read it. I finally stole it back a few months ago.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime. (from GoodReads)

The Pledge was very interesting. It had a great premise that wasn't executed as well as it could have been. I was also disappointed the in the romance aspect of The Pledge.

Like I just stated The Pledge was really original. Classes are separated by language (which I think is a great concept) but Charlie has the ability to understand all languages. I think that is awesome (though I was confused as to why other people haven't learned the other languages; especially since there is a universal one that everyone understands which would make learning super easy). Besides Charlie's gift, there isn't really anything else special about her. She was kind of bland and her only other redeeming quality was her love for her little sister.

The world-building was pretty cool and I liked that it was both dystopian and fantasy, because there was magic involved. That being said, I never felt like it was the goverment was that controlling; besides not being able to look in the eyes of someone of an upper class, Charlie is able to roam pretty freely around her city. I also thought it was interesting how Ludania was ruled by female monarchs and the few sections where we got to see into the aging queen's head were pretty cool. She's a vicious queen, and those were the only parts where I actually felt afraid.

Unfortunately, the romance did not live up to my expectations. This book could actually have been written without it and it probably would have been better. Charlie meets mysterious Max who somehow knows her secret. They are attracted to each other, but I honestly have no idea why. Their relationship was built on nothing and we don't even see them together that much.

The Pledge is a little confusing in the beginning and for the first half I was wondering what was going on since there wasn't much of a plot. But then a lot of things start happening in quick succession and the ending was pretty anti-climatic. It also ends with an epilogue, though I don't know why since there are two other books in this trilogy.

So I thought there was a lot of potential in The Pledge but didn't quite meet my expectations. Some parts were good, like Charlie's ability, but others needed work. Hopefully the next two novels will be better.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab
Release Date: November 15, 2011

2011/Margaret K. McElderry/320 pages.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Candor by Pam Bachorz

In the model community of Candor, Florida, every teen wants to be like Oscar Banks. The son of the town's founder, Oscar earns straight As, is student-body president, and is in demand for every club and cause.

But Oscar has a secret. He knows that parents bring their teens to Candor to make them respectful, compliant–perfect–through subliminal Messages that carefully correct and control their behavior. And Oscar' s built a business sabotaging his father's scheme with Messages of his own, getting his clients out before they're turned. After all, who would ever suspect the perfect Oscar Banks?

Then he meets Nia, the girl he can't stand to see changed. Saving Nia means losing her forever. Keeping her in Candor, Oscar risks exposure . . . and more. (From GoodReads)

Candor was so creepy - especially because it seemed like it could be real. I really liked the story, even though I predicted the ending.

Most people think of tv when they hear the words "subliminal messages" (I did, at least). But there are auditory subliminal messages, and the words at such a low frequency that only the subconscious picks them up. This is what is used in Candor. There is always music playing, so the residents are always controlled.

What really creeped me out about the Messages was that if you stopped listening to them, you go through withdrawal, with some extremely nasty consequences. The fact that once you hear them you can never escape felt so suffocating. Even if you were listening to "good" Messages, like the ones that Oscar uses, you would still be controlled by something.

I liked reading Candor from Oscar's perspective because he had some funny commentary. Since everyone is forced to be nice, Oscar always had funny thoughts regarding this. I also thought he was very smart; he somehow figured out how to make his own messages and later get promising kids out of the town.

As for Nia, the romantic interest, she was okay. She didn't seem particularly special to me, but since everyone in Candor is the same, she stood out to Oscar. Sometimes I wanted Oscar to exercise some self-preservation in regards to Nia, because every other page I was sure he was going to get caught. Candor definitely keeps you on your toes.

This book even made it's way into my dreams: I had a dream I was being brainwashed. It's not pleasant, let me tell you. But it shows that Candor really did make me think. I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was so creepy. The ending is a bit predictable but that doesn't take away from the overall novel.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: Christmas gift.

2009/EgmontUSA/249 pages.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 59

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

Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan

Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the king’s theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her father’s wealth.
Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart.

Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting.

And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen. (from GoodReads)

I love historical fiction, especially that which centers around a royal court. I don't know much about Charles II, so I'm really looking forward to this! Ladies in Waiting will be released on May 8, 2012.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - 8

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for those who like books and lists!

Top Ten Books I've Read That Were Outside My Comfort Zone

1. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
I read this in 9th grade global studies class and we had to get parent permission to read it. It's a memoir about a young boy growing up during Apartheid in South Africa. It's really hard to read because he lives in extreme poverty but it's ultimately a success story. I actually enjoyed it a lot.

2. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
I knew this was going to be a tough read since it's about incest but I ended up loving it! I felt uncomfortable during most of it, but that's what good literature is supposed to do. The book was so well-written that it was worth it.

3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
My grandmother recommended this to me, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's more out of my comfort zone in terms of length and the writing style (from the late 1800s). I liked it but think some major editing could have occurred to make the book a lot shorter.

4. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
This was required summer reading for honors students entering 10th grade. Everyone hated it, myself included. It probably wasn't that bad of a book, but my age and the fact that it was forced upon me didn't help. It's a memoir about a woman living during the Iranian Revolution, interspersed with commentary on Western books she taught her students (one of which was Lolita, so that made me uncomfortable as well).

5. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
This book was so creepy and definitely not in my comfort zone! For those who are unaware, it's about a young girl who was kidnapped and is sexually abused by her captor. It was still pretty good, although I must say that I prefer Scott's lighter novels.

6. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reading about a girl who has anorexia and getting direct insight in her mind is not a super fun topic but the novel was still good (I'm sensing a trend here).

7. The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
I'm not really a big fan of fantasy, unless it's really well-written. That's why I was wary of reading The Warrior Heir but it was still great (it helps that it wasn't high fantasy)! Still need to read the last book in the trilogy, but I'll get to it.

8. A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
I read this in 7th grade English class and did not like it all! It was one of the first books I had read that was written in that annoying old-time language. And by old time I mean 1950s. But I was 12 and it honestly was as dry and boring as something from the 19th century. I am curious as to what I'd think of it now. (Side Note: Can I just say that my middle school had both English and Reading classes? That makes no sense to me now)

9. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
This is out of my comfort zone because I had never read anything about vampires before. And before the vampire craze, people would look at you funny if you said "It's about a girl who falls in love with a vampire." Now, people look at you funny if a book doesn't have vampires in it.

10. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The only reason this on my list is that I got creeped out everytime I had to read it. In the book, the main character turns into a giant cockroach and it gives me the chills. Even writing this is making me feel weird. It's so gross!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just Your Average Princess by Kristina Springer

Jamie Edwards has loved everything about growing up on a pumpkin patch, but ever since her cousin Milan Woods arrived, things have really stunk. Jamie can’t imagine it was easy for Milan to leave her life back in Los Angeles and move to Average, Illinois, population one thousand. But it’s kind of hard to feel sorry for her since (a) Milan’s drop-dead gorgeous; (b) she’s the daughter of two of Hollywood’s hottest film stars; (c) she’s captured the attention of everyone in town, including Danny, Jamie’s crush since forever; and (d) she’s about to steal the title of Pumpkin Princess right out from underneath Jamie! (from GoodReads)

Just Your Average Princess was a really cute and enjoyable book. It wasn't deep, or thoughtful or emotional, but it was fun to read. And it's okay to occasionally read a light and fluffy book, which is why I liked Just Your Average Princess.

The concept is a popular one. Pretty, city girl comes to a small town and annoys the main character until some big secret is revealed and helps the main character understand the other (and sometimes it's reversed with the new girl as the protagonist). Milan and Jamie are cousins but haven't seen each other since they were little kids. Jamie tries really hard to be nice and friendly to Milan but she doesn't care. I did feel bad for Jamie because she wasn't really being treated very fairly by her own parents or Milan. But once Jamie finds out why Milan can be so bratty, it sheds light on the entire situation.

Even though the ending was cheesy and predicable, I did like it because it was a happy one. I like when things work out. I also loved the setting! Jamie's family owns a pumpkin patch/farm and since I love Halloween/October/Fall, I would love to work there! We have one of those near my house and even though it's usually for little kids it's still a lot of fun to go.

If you're looking for a light and cute book, look no further than Just Your Average Princess. It's a quick read, too, I read it in about 2 hours.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: sent by publisher.

2011/Farrar, Straus, Giroux/208 pages.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one. (from GoodReads)


Even though it took me awhile to read Insatiable (it's over 400 pages, so it's pretty long), I still enjoyed it. I love Meg Cabot and this is the first time I've read a fantasy book by her. It was also an "adult" book, but it read just like YA, which I liked.

There are so many vampire books out there, but I still enjoyed Insatiable. I like how Meena hates them and she thinks they're fake until she finds out the truth. I also liked how Meena could tell how people were going to die; I thought that was a very interesting ability. I enjoyed some of the minor characters, as well, such as Meena's brother Jon, vampire hunter Alaric Wulf, and Meena's neighbors Emil and Mary Lou.

(Side note: two characters in Insatiable also share the names of characters in The Vampire Diaries (Alaric and Stefan). Coincidence?)

What I didn't like about Insatiable was the relationship/romance between Lucien and Meena. I understood why Meena was feeling the way she was, especially since early on we learn that when a vampire bites a human, that human falls in love with the vamp. But I honestly didn't know why Lucien was in love with Meena. She's a great character and mysterious to Lucien, but he starts spouting off Romeo and Juliet nonsense like how he can't live without her and she's the reason for his whole existence. That's not really my thing.

I am curious to read the sequel, Overbite, only because I want to see more of Meena, her brother, and Alaric (whom I really liked!). But I'm not dying to get my hands on the next book. So we'll see what happens.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: received book from publisher

2010/William Morrow/451 pages.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 58

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to get excited about upcoming books.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumors tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind. (From GoodReads)
I don't think anyone will be surprised when I say that I LOVE JOHN GREEN! I just found out about his newest book (it's about time!) and everyone I know had already knew about. I must be terribly out of the loop. Anyway, I'm still super excited and this sounds so good! Look for in on the shelves January 10, 2012.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Changemakers for Children in Partnership with UNICEF

A few days ago I got an email about a live broadcast with Tatiana Grossman, the founder of Spread the Words, which campaigns for literacy in Africa. If you're interested in this great event, check out the link at the bottom of the this guest post:

"Children are the future of tomorrow. They are the next generation of leaders bringing joy and innovative design to the world. However, not all children are fortunate enough to achieve their dreams or live their lives. In Africa, there are nearly 75% of children who could not read or have access to books. These are impoverished children who lack the means of a proper education. But, we’re here to change that.

The World of Children Award is the only global funding nonprofit that recognizes individuals who are committed to improving the lives of children worldwide. Who are these individuals? They are humanitarians – people with compassion, motivation, and perseverance to take charge of making a difference in society. We are dedicated to finding heroes who are doing extraordinary work for children, and we share their amazing stories and programs with the media and others who are part of the global community working for the rights of children everywhere.

On November 1st at 5:30pm - 6:30pm, EST on - LIVE from UNICEF, the World of Children Award will broadcast “Changemakers for Children in partnership with the US Fund for UNICEF,” a live stream featuring social changemakers who are working to benefit children, including Tatiana Grossman, who founded Spread the Words, an organization dedicated to increasing early literacy in Africa.

Tatiana Grossman will be attending live and will be answering questions about her work. She recently also conducted an interview with CNN. Tatiana transforms the lives of children by collecting thousands of books through a solo book drive that now serve 62 schools and villages in Botswana and Lesotho. To this date, she has created libraries in 115 African Villages and primary schools for the first time. This year, Tatiana is prototyping digital projects and gathering free digital textbooks and content to equip classrooms in Africa.

Please take your time and watch the broadcast here: Learn more about how these individuals are committed to creating social change and how you can make a difference. If you have any questions, our changemakers will be available to answer them via live chat."

Thank you!

Top Ten Tuesday - 7

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers who like books and lists!

Top Ten Books I Had Very Strong Emotions About

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This is a pretty obvious choice but I had to include it because my mind was completely blown after reading it. And of course after the other two as well, but the first book started it all. Only like five months until the movie!!

2. Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
This book cracked me up; it was so funny! I was reading it and public and actually had to hold my laughter in so I didn't look like a complete crazy person. Occasionally I will just open it up and reread my favorite parts to get a laugh.

3. Tithe by Holly Black
I feel bad if there's any fans of this book, but I hated it! I don't really remember why but I do know that I felt like I couldn't relate to the main character and I didn't enjoy the fantasy part of it. Though I totally respect you if you like this book! (Somewhat.) Kidding!

4. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
After reading these books I had the emotion of extreme awesomeness. Not sure if that is real or not but you get my point.

5. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
I know I mentioned this last week but I was freaked out while reading this! It was pretty scary for a ten year old.

6. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
I will admit that I enjoyed (somewhat) the first three books when I first read them (not anymore). But this book was awful and I seriously wanted to throw it across the room. Bella pregnant??!? And Renesmee????

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
For this I had the extreme emotion of being in love with St. Clair (and the novel as a whole, of course).

8. Past Perfect by Leila Sales
So funny!

9. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
This book had a part at the end where I just bawled my eyes out. And I hardly ever cry while reading books so this was significant. And it wasn't just a few tears; I was sobbing. Hmm...maybe I was having a bad day as well? I don't want to sound too crazy.

10. Heist Society by Ally Carter
I'm sorry that a lot of the same books keep appearing on these lists but what can ya do? Anyway my emotion was love and enjoyment because this was an awesome book!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Crossed by Ally Condie

In this sequel to Matched, Cassia leaves her home to work in the Outer Provinces. No one knows that she's actually on the search for Ky, who was sent to another work camp. But when she hears that Ky has escaped into the desolate canyons, Cassia leaves the Society and follows him. During her search, Cassia hears more talk of the Rising, a rebellion that is planning to overthrow the Society. She desperately wants to join and is willing to sacrifice anything to be a part of something important.

Crossed was an okay novel and I liked it well enough. The writing was good but the plot was nonexistent. It's obvious that Crossed is the second book of the trilogy because not that much happens and it is used as a build up for the final book. Unfortunately, this makes Crossed pretty boring. I enjoyed the writing, but that didn't make up for the lack of action.

It also doesn't help that I don't actually believe that Ky and Cassia are in love. Their relationship/romance in Matched was written so poorly and the readers were just told that they loved each other even though they interacted like three times throughout the novel. So it was hard to read about how much they loved each other because I just didn't believe it.

The book is also split into two parts, which Ky and Cassia each taking turns to narrate. I liked this a lot, especially when the two were separated, because the reader could see what each was doing. However, as soon as their stories intersect, the double narration is annoying because I could never tell you was actually talking.

Despite the slow pace, there were still enough twists and turns in Crossed to make me want to read the last novel in the trilogy. I don't know if I'll actually read it or just look up some spoilers online to see what happens.

6.5 out of 10.
FTC: received from Flamingnet
Release Date: November 1, 2011

2011/Dutton/384 pages.