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.