Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Calla Tor is a werewolf, and can shapeshift seamlessly from human to wolf whenever she wants, which is helpful when her and her pack must protect the sacred sites for their masters, the Keepers. As the alpha female, Calla must lead her pack and marry alpha male Ren of a rival pack. But when she illicitly saves a human boy, Shay, she feels an undeniable attraction to him. When Shay causes Calla to question the Keepers' rules, her impending marriage, and her whole lifestyle, Calla must make the choice to remain dutiful to her pack or follow her heart.

I loved Nightshade and thought that it was a great addition to the paranormal genre. Now that there is a plethora of vampire novels, authors are shifting their books towards werewolves, which is the mythical creature that takes center stage in Nightshade. I liked that Calla and her pack were non-traditional werewolves: they could shapeshift at will and not just at the full moon, and there was a whole pack heirachy with rules and regulations that made the novel very interesting.

An important part of Nightshade is the love triangle between Calla, Ren and Shay. Ren is the alpha wolf that Calla must marry in order to unite the two packs and Shay is the boy that Calla saves and can't seem to stay away from. In the vein of Twilight, I'm sure these two male leads will spark a lot of debate and cause readers to pick one they like better. I personally thought that Ren was a better choice because Shay just annoyed me a lot of the book. He was constantly on Calla's case about marrying Ren (because she was being forced to do it). Normally I would be mad at a character that went along with what her elders told her, but in Calla's case I understood because she didn't want to let her pack down (plus Ren is better, obviously). Either way, I thought both options were realistic for Calla but I just hope that the romance debate won't get in the way of Nightshade's actual plot, which was very interesting.

There isn't much in way of plot in Nightshade until the end when the readers discover that nothing that Calla has been told about the Keepers and the Guardians is true and she must find out the truth in subsequent novels. Nightshade definitely left off on a cliffhanger which I hate and love at the same thing. Luckily, novel #2 (Wolfsbane) was recently published and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Rating: 10 out of 10!
FTC: received from Flamingnet

2010/Speak/452 pages.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Forgiven by Janet Fox

Kula is the seventeen-year-old of Wild West outlaw Nat Baker. But when her father is accused of a crime he didn't commit, he sends Kula to San Francisco to find a secret box that will guarantee his freedom. In a city where Kula knows no one, she is not sure who to trust: Philippa Everts, the lady who she is living with; David Wong, the kind and well-mannered boy she meets; or handsome and devilish Will Henderson, whose family might know something about this mysterious box. But what Kula doesn't know is that all these people are inextricably tied to her family, and ultimately her future.

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Forgiven. Aside from the setting in San Francisco and the mystery surrounding a box, I don't know if I would have continued to read Forgiven (and the fact that I had to review it).

My biggest problem with the novel was that it was boring. Though Kula is supposed to be on the search for a box, I felt like nothing really happens. The character that was supposed to be a villain didn't really feel like one. There were two love interests, David and Will. I didn't care for either as neither's character was fleshed out and developed enough. And then when David started to declare his undying love for Kula, after only a few encounters with the girl, I liked him even less.

Kula was actually an okay character, and it was funny to see the difference between her and Maggie (in Faithful). Maggie would do anything to be able to choose her husband and she wants someone she loves, but Kula only wants a man who can provide for her. I didn't hold Kula's views against her; if I had grown up in near-poverty, I would probably want the same thing too. But what really annoyed me about Kula is that she sometimes talked in third person. Lines like "Kula Baker doesn't take no for an answer" were sprinkled throughout Forgiven and I found them to be totally cheesy.

The box, and the mystery that is a part of it, was a bit anti-climatic, but I kept reading in hopes that there would be something interesting about it. I did enjoy reading about the city of San Francisco and naturally, the earthquake of 1906 plays a big part in the end. I love history so that was a redeeming point but overall, I did not like Forgiven.

Rating: 6 out of 10.
FTC: for Flamingnet Review Program

2011/Speak/259 pages.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 46

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

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.

Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM.

Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on--and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.

Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out. (from GoodReads)

I think The Future of Us sounds so good! I've always wondered what people of the (near) past would think of the internet and all our social networking sites. Plus, not too many books are set in the 90s, so I think it would be cool to read about that (even though I was alive during that time haha). The Future of Us will be released on November 21, 2011.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Faithful by Janet Fox

Sixteen-year-old Maggie Bennet's life is in tatters. Her mother has disappeared and is presumed dead. The next thing she knows, her father has dragged Maggie away from their elegant Newport home, off on some mad excursion to Yellowstone in Montana. Torn from the only life she's ever known, Maggie is furious and devastated by her father's betrayal. But when she arrives, she finds herself drawn to the frustratingly stubborn, handsome Tom Rowland, the son of a park geologist, and to the wild romantic beauty of Yellowstone itself. And as Tom and the promise of freedom capture her heart, Maggie is forced to choose between who she is and who she want to be. (from back cover)

I was really excited to read Faithful; I thought it sounded pretty interesting and I loved that it was set in Yellowstone National Park. Aside from the setting, the climax of the story, and the mystery surrounding Maggie's mother, Faithful was just okay.

I was disappointed in Faithful. Everything was set up for a great novel: history, nature, romance, mystery, family secrets. But nothing was executed as well as it could have been and Faithful fell short of my expectations. The first thing I didn't like was the frequency of Maggie's internal monologues. I found myself skimming passages where Maggie is just talking inside her head, saying the same things over and over again. She constantly complains about being in Yellowstone, about not being in Rhode Island for her society debut, and about the lack of answers she has to her mother's disappearance. Second, while the romance with Tom Rowland was a better part of the novel, he annoyed me sometimes. Occasionally, Maggie would say something rude and condescending, but not with malice because she was obviously raised to look down on people beneath her, and Tom would justly call her out on it. But instead of telling her why her prejudices were wrong, Tom would say things like "I thought you were alright, Maggie, until you say something like that." This happened five or six times and just annoyed me so much.

So for the things I liked: Yellowstone. I was so excited to read about this national park because I've been there so I knew exactly what Maggie was talking about when she was describing the amazing sights and sounds. I almost wish there was more of the park in the book, it was a little underutilized. Another thing I enjoyed was the mystery surrounding Maggie's mother. It was kind of dumb that all Maggie had to do was ask her uncle and he knew the whole story but this was pretty much the only reason I kept reading Faithful. And it's actually a pretty heavy secret.

Overall, I was disappointed in Faithful because there were things in the book that irked me, like too much narration about the same things and Tom's rudeness to Maggie at times. But the fact that the novel was set in Yellowstone and that there was mystery helped me get through Faithful.

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

2010/Speak/322 pages.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book vs. Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

So Friday at Midnight (well actually it was closer to 12:30) I got to see the final installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise. I've been waiting since November to see the end and it was amazing. After some less than satisfactory movies (Order of the Phoenix, I'm looking at you) I am so glad that the last film was split in two so the fans could get the attention to detail the book deserved.

The Experience: I am so glad I went to see the midnight premiere. If you had asked me a month ago when we ordered the tickets I probably would have said let's just wait. The tickets were more expensive and going that late is a little annoying when you work mornings. But it was a ton of fun. We got the theater at about 10 pm and there were a TON of people. The cinema we went to has 16 theaters and most of them were being used. Everyone was dressed up as the characters. Once we were allowed in our theater, everyone was running around, shouting spells, etc. Some people even started dueling in the front, which was funny. But as soon as the movie started, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

The Movie: I'll start off by saying I liked Part 1 better, but Part 2 was still awesome and absolutely wonderful. The whole movie is pretty much the Hogwarts battle, and the scene where Harry, Ron and Hermione sneak into Gringotts is in the beginning. Everything was just really well done. A lot of past characters returned so it was nice to see them again. Professor McGonagall was so cool, she had all the best lines. My favorite part was Snape's memories, and I think that's my favorite part in the whole series. Great job, Alan Rickman. The scene with the Resurrection Stone was so beautiful. I couldn't help but cry and so was everyone else in the theater. Luckily, if you've read the books you'll know how it ends but the Epilogue was hilarious in my opinion. They way they digitally aged the actors was pretty funny to me.

Ending Thoughts: I was riveted throughout the entire film and honestly cannot believe that my favorite book/movie series is actually over. I remember watching the first film on VHS in 2002 at my house. It's 10 years later and Harry Potter has been such a big part of the my childhood. I'll always cherish this series and continue to read the books and watch the movies. Okay, sentimentality over. But really, guys, this movie rocked, go see it!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 45

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

Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler

Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving and lacking a single memory of the accident that landed her there. What she can remember, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the accident.

As she takes us through her transformation from invisible girl to on-trend Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby herself does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why is Gabby left alone to take the fall?

Putting the pieces together will take every ounce of Gabby's strength. As she peels back the layers of her life, she begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex...and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be. (from GoodReads)

I really like books about amnesia because there always turns out to be some big twist or revelation. This one sounds interesting and hopefully will be an intense read. Too bad we have to wait until March 6, 2012 for this one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book vs. Movie: Revolutionary Road

This Book vs. Movie will be a little different than previous ones, because this is the first time I've done one after watching the movie first and then reading the book. I think that you always like whatever you see first best, so on this one I'll have to say I like the movie better.

For those who don't know, Revolutionary Road is about a couple, Frank and April Wheeler, who think that greatness is right around the corner. Even though they seem like the typical suburban couple, they are convinced that they are better than everyone else and have life figured out. It turns out, they don't. It's similar to The Great Gatsby in that it's a story about the disillusionment of the American dream during the 1950's.

When I first saw the movie, I loved it. It's one of my favorites, if not my all-time favorite movie (and that's saying something because it's hard for me to pick favorites). It features two amazing actors: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. They did a terrific job and really brought the characters to life. I think I like the movie better because I like the visual aspect of this story and watching Leo and Kate made it way better.

The book, though, does of course go into more detail. You learn about April's childhood and supposedly it affected the way she acts now. According to my film teacher in high school, in the book you sympathize with April and in the movie you sympathize with Frank, based on the way the story is told. But in both cases I sympathazed with Frank more. It also helps that the book is told from his point-of-view, so you see everything through his eyes.

All in all, I would whole-heartedly recommend both the book and movie for your reading and viewing pleasure. Both are extraordinary pieces of art and you won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt

On the last day of her junior year, Hannah's boyfriend Sebastian dumped her. Facing a summer of loneliness, Hannah turns to her best friend Ava for comfort. Ava does what BFFs do: she stays by Hannah's side...until it's time for Ava to head up to Maine for the summer. Also left behind is Ava's boyfriend, Noah, who's such a great guy he gets Hannah a job at the diner he waits tables at. Slowly, Hannah comes out of her funk thanks to Noah's good conversation and their fun times at the diner. But things get complicated when their friendship turns into attraction--and one night, into a passionate kiss.

The novel opens on the first day of senior year; the day Hannah is going to see Ava, Sebastian, and Noah all in one place. Over the course of the day secrets and betrayals are revealed, and alliances are broken and reformed. In the end, everyone is paired up once again, but not the way you might think... (from GoodReads)

Sometimes It Happens was one of the best contemporary books I've read in a long time. I feel like it has been the summer of classics for me, and it was really great to read something lighter and something in the 21st century. Though it's not very literary, Sometimes It Happens was fun and enjoyable for readers who like relationships and the problems that come along with them.

I instantly connected with the protagonist, Hannah. She's kinda the standard YA girl: smart, medium popularity, pretty but not beautiful. But I was okay with all that because I really liked Hannah. I felt like the things she did/said were similar to the things that I would do/say (except she moped around more than I would after she broke up with Sebastian).

I loved Hannah's relationship with all the characters, including Ava, Noah and Lacey. Ava was pretty stuck up for most the book, even though she was far away in Maine, but I still enjoyed her and Hannah's interactions. Noah, Ava's boyfriend, is pretty awesome even though he does cheat on his girlfriend. I don't like cheating in any circumstance, so I liked to see the characters regret their actions and kinda have a guilty conscience. Note: it's also hard to be mad at characters who belong together. Lacey was another awesome character. She was a bit of a hypochondriac but I honestly thought it made her more interesting. Lacey was a way better friend to Lacey than Ava, so the reader gets to see the contrast there.

The book was set up in a very interesting way. The chapters alternated between present day (i.e: the first day of senior year) and the summer where Noah and Hannah fall in love. I liked going back and forth to see how past actions led to future consequences. Another note about the plot: I was kinda annoyed that the readers were left in the dark during the cheating aspect. You get to see the characters kiss and then you find out they slept together. I'm not looking for specific details, but I was confused how they got to that part so fast. Whoa! But that's pretty minor thing.

All in all, I really enjoyed Sometimes It Happens. It was nice to read something lighter and more fun. It was hard to put down because I kept wanting to see what happened next. I love when that happens with a book.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab
Release Date: July 12, 2011

2011/Simon Pulse/320 pages.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 44

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

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Cate Cahill and her sisters are considered eccentric bluestockings—a little odd, a little unfashionable, and far too educated for their own good. The truth is more complicated; they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it could mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave. Before their mother died, she entrusted Cate with keeping them safe and keeping everyone, including their father, in the dark about their powers. When her father employs a governess and Cate begins to receive notes from her missing, presumed-mad godmother, her task becomes much more difficult. As Cate searches for answers in banned books and rebellious new friends, she must juggle unwanted proposals, tea parties, and an illicit attraction to the new gardener. Cate will do anything to protect her sisters, but at what cost to herself? (from GoodReads)

Magic? History? Romance? Sisters? Check, check, check and check! And look at that gorgeous cover! I know you're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I don't care. I can't believe I have to wait until February 7, 2012 to read this.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Falling For Hamlet by Michelle Ray


Meet Ophelia, high school senior, daughter of the Danish king's most trusted advisor, and longtime girlfriend of Prince Hamlet. She lives a glamorous life and has a royal social circle, and her beautiful face is splashed across magazines and TV. But it comes with a price - her life is dominated not only by Hamlet's fame and his overbearing royal family but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go.

After the sudden and suspicious death of his father, the king, Hamlet spirals dangerously toward madness, and Ophelia finds herself torn between loyalty to her boyfriend, her father, her country, and her true self.

In this stunning contemporary retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view, debut author Michelle Ray brilliantly weaves together old and new. Filled with drama, romance, tragedy, and humor, Falling for Hamlet is a compulsively readable novel. And this time, Ophelia doesn't die. (from back cover)

I loved Hamlet when I read it in tenth grade, so I always like reading contemporary versions of this famous play (like Ophelia by Lisa Klein). Though not at all comparable to the original, Falling for Hamlet is a cute and fluffy version of the original.

I really liked how closely Michelle Ray kept Falling for Hamlet to the original even though the book takes place in current day, everything matches up. The book still takes place in Denmark in Elsinore castle and everyone has the same names and roles, but some things are changed. For example, the duel at the end becomes a lacrosse game. If you've read the play (which I suggest you do because it will make your reading experience more enjoyable) you will be excited to see all the little things that are in the original. Hamlet's soliliquys aren't copied word for word but some of his lines are used which was nice to see.

I didn't like that this book was pretty fluffy, even though Hamlet is technically a tragedy. I didn't like how generic the setting was; Ophelia still attends high school and even though they were in Denmark it felt very American. Nothing was very Danish in the book and it felt more like a story of American royals if we had some. There was a big emphasis on the media and tabloids, which I guess you would suspect in a book about a royal family.

What was interesting was that in addition to Ophelia narrating her story to the reader, there was also parts where Ophelia was being interrogated by the authorities (they think she had something to do with everything that went down in Elsinore) and where Ophelia was being interviewed by a talk show host. It was neat to see how Ophelia changed her story slightly to make herself sound better (this mostly happened on the talk show; in the interrogation room Ophelia was a bit of a smart aleck).

So, I think if you enjoyed Hamlet the original, you will get a kick out of this contemporary adaptation. I highly recommend the original so please don't read Falling For Hamlet in place of that, even though Michelle Ray did a good job of translating events to the modern world.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: review copy from publisher.
Release Date: today!

2011/Poppy/348 pages.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

An intricate tale of love, haunting memories, and renewal, Second Glance begins in current-day Vermont, where an old man puts a piece of land up for sale and unintentionally raises protest from the local Abenaki Indian tribe, who insist it's a burial ground. When odd, supernatural events plague the town of Comtosook, a ghost hunter is hired by the developer to help convince the residents that there's nothing spiritual about the property. Enter Ross Wakeman, a suicidal drifter who has put himself in mortal danger time and again. He's driven his car off a bridge into a lake. He's been mugged in New York City and struck by lightning in a calm country field. Yet despite his best efforts, life clings to him and pulls him ever deeper into the empty existence he cannot bear since his fiancee's death in a car crash eight years ago. Ross now lives only for the moment he might once again encounter the woman he loves.

But in Comtosook, the only discovery Ross can lay claim to is that of Lia Beaumont, a skittish, mysterious woman who, like Ross, is on a search for something beyond the boundary separating life and death. Thus begins Jodi Picoult's enthralling and ultimately astonishing story of love, fate, and a crime of passion. Hailed by critics as a "master" storyteller (Washington Post), Picoult once again "pushes herself, and consequently the reader, to think about the unthinkable" (Denver Post).

Second Glance, her eeriest and most engrossing work yet, delves into a virtually unknown chapter of American history -- Vermont's eugenics project of the 1920s and 30s -- to provide a compelling study of the things that come back to haunt us -- literally and figuratively. Do we love across time, or in spite of it? (from GoodReads)

Jodi Picoult once again amazes me with her writing and plotting prowess in Second Glance. Unlike most of her other novels, Second Glance does not feature a court case or trial, instead focuses on a decades old mystery that features ghosts. I love mysteries, ghost stories, and historical fiction (the second part of Second Glance is historical fiction) so Second Glance is pretty much the book for me.

What I didn't like about Second Glance was the beginning was quite confusing. In a short span of pages, a lot of new characters are introduced and since it keeps switching point-of-view, I really had to keep track of what was going on. But as the story progesses, I figured out who everyone was and loved seeing the characters interact and weave together because they are all inter-related in some way.

The ghost story aspect was awesome; it was spooky and creepy but was more than just horror. It felt like it could be real. The ghost story ties into the mystery and Jodi Picoult takes us back in time to the 1930's and we get to see the basis for everything that is happening in present day. I was not expecting this blast to the past but felt it added a lot to the novel and made it so much more interesting. The historical fiction part focuses on Vermont's eugenics and sterilization program that I never knew existed. I liked learning about a little known fact of history and thought that Jodi Picoult deftly brought attention to an important, yet little known, subject.

Though there were many characters, it was easy to understand them all and watch them develop throughout the novel. I sympathized with all of them and was glad to see some of them find happiness in the end.

Second Glance is a bit of a departure from Jodi Picoult's usual formula but it works and makes the novel a lot more interesting. If you like ghosts, love, mystery and history I would definitely suggest Second Glance as the book to read.

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

2003/Atria Books/432 pages.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

From the moment of its publication in 1961, Revolutionary Road was hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs. It's the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April Wheeler mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves. (from back cover).

This is the rare case of having seen the movie before the book, which definitely influenced my read. Loving the movie version of Revolutionary Road (I might even say it's my all-time favorite movie), I had high expectations for the book, which were thankfully met. I enjoyed the story of Frank and April Wheeler (again) and loved experiencing it through a different medium.

I don't want to make this review about comparing the book and movie (I'll probably do a post on that later), but it's really weird trying to review a book that you know what happens. I'm going to try to pretend that I haven't seen the movie already and see how that goes.

Like the summary states above, Frank and April Wheeler are a couple who pretty much think they're better than everyone because they don't want to fall into the standard mold of suburban couple: nice house, 2.5 kids, white picket fence, etc. It's like The Great Gatsby in that it's the disillusionment of the American Dream, in the 1950's. Things start to go wrong, April and Frank are fighting, and then they start to see everything they ever wanted disappear. Revolutionary Road is from Frank's point-of-view, so you understand his side better and sympathize with him a little more (at least I did).

The writing in Revolutionary Road was easy to read, nice and smooth, just the right amount of narration, plot and dialogue. If you liked the movie, then you'll like the book, and vice versa. I also think that Revolutionary Road is a nice companion to The Great Gatsby and it's literary without being too heavy handed in symbolism and figurative language.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: Christmas gift.

1961/Vintage Contemporaries/355 pages.