Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - 18

Top Ten Tuesday was started by Broke and Bookish for those who like books and lists.

Top Ten Books that Would Make Great Book Club Picks

1. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose
No matter where you fall on the religion scale, I think that everyone would enjoy The Unlikely Disciple. It follows a liberal, agnostic sophomore as he spends a semester at Liberty University. It brings up a lot of great questions and think it would be interesting to discuss!

2. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathaban3
I read this in my 9th grade Global Studies class and I thought it was great. It's a memoir, and the things that Mark had to go through living in South Africa during Apartheid was just horrible. Luckily for me, the novel had a happy ending.

3. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
I love politics so I immensely enjoyed this novel on the 2008 presidential election. It reads almost like a soap opera because it has a lot of information from campaign aides that not everyone has heard.

4. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
I had to read this for summer reading going into sophomore year and hated it. But, I think I was too young to really get it. It's a memoir, and switches timeframe often. She writes about her book club (where they discuss novels such as Lolita and The Great Gatsby), studying in the US, teaching at a university in Tehran and commentary on the Iranian Revolution.

5. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This will especially resonate with female book clubs because it portrays a society where women have no rights.

6. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
I'm including this because I read it for an online book club I used to participate in. It definitely raises a lot of questions about medical ethics.

7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Really any Jodi Picoult book can be put on this list, but this was the first one I read and would be great for a book club. It also discusses medical ethics.

8. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
I can't believe I almost forgot this book! I read it for summer reading which was perfect because it has a lot of symbolism and metaphors and other literary devices. Discusses themes of faith vs. doubt, free will vs. fate, all that good stuff!

9. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
The taboo topic of incest seems like a good one for a book club.

10. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Such a wonderful book! The story itself is one you just have to talk about.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

My name is Danielle. I'm eighteen. I've been stealing things for as long as I can remember.

Dani has been trained as a thief by the best there is—her mother. They never stay in one place long enough for Dani to have real connections, real friends—a real life.

But in the town of Heaven, everything changes. Suddenly, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known—or the one she's always wanted. (from GoodReads)

I have had Stealing Heaven on my shelf for a long time now (maybe 3 years?) and I just never got around to reading it. But I'm glad I did now, because I really enjoyed it.

What I like about Elizabeth Scott's books is that they're really simple, but still meaningful. The story isn't bogged down by unnecessary detail or description, so it becomes a really easy read. The premise is what attracted me to Stealing Heaven; I wanted to see what life was like for serial burglars. I'm actually surprised that Danielle and her mom have never been caught. They don't use fancy equipment or anything - just simple techniques and getting information out of people.

But this is not the kind of life that Danielle wants to live: she has no friends, no home, and no future. I felt bad for her because she deserved a real life. That's why I was so glad when Greg came in. He's a cop (uh-oh) but actually cares for Danielle and helps her see that she can change her circumstances.

Even though the story was simple, and fairly short, I still really enjoyed Stealing Heaven and its theme of making your own destiny and taking control of your life.

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

2008/HarperTeen/320 pages.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she's certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer, one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack and the man Boldshe left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive. (from GoodReads)

After reading and loving Nightshade, I was super excited to read the sequel. I even asked for a copy for Christmas because I knew that I would want to own the book. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in Wolfsbane.

All the things that I loved in Nightshade (the love triangle, the mystery, the dynamic of the packs, the history of the Guardians and Keepers) was totally gone. And Wolfsbane was so boring. One hundred pages in and I realized that nothing had happened. That continued until the very end of the book, when finally we got to see some action. The first 90% of Wolfsbane was an "infodump." The Searchers spend most of the book explaining stuff to Calla and Shay. I like being enlightened as much as the next person, but so much telling and not showing is not good writing. And nothing was explained very well; i.e. weavers. It's pretty cool what the weavers can do but it wasn't believable for the story.

Fans of Shay will be happy because he is the star of Wolfsbane, since Ren is in the book for about two pages. I don't really like Shay all that much so the fact that there was no Ren made Wolfsbane worse in my opinion. He was still in Calla's thoughts, making Shay jealous, but I need the real deal here.

The action sequence was the best part of the book, but I still thought it was contrived and could have been better. Once Calla is reunited with some of her pack, there isn't much urgency and a lot of chitchat. That could have been executed better.

Did I like anything in Wolfsbane? Honestly, the only thing that kept me interested was the relationship between Adne and Connor, two Searchers. And yet, I still want to keep reading (mostly so I can see Ren). Hopefully Wolfsbane was suffering from Middle Book Syndrome and Bloodrose will be a lot better.

Rating: 5 out of 10.
FTC: Christmas gift.

2011/Penguin Young Readers Group/390 pages.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - 70

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

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then Taylor's dad gets devastating news that changes everything. Her parents decide that the family will spend the summer together at their old vacation home in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they’ve ever been before. But all of them are very aware that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love. (from GoodReads)

I absolutely adored Amy and Roger's Epic Detour so I'm looking forward to reading something else by Morgan Matson! Also, the book takes place in the Pocono's, which I've been to, so that's pretty cool. Second Chance Summer will be released May 8, 2012.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - 17

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

Freebie: Top Ten Books I Loved But Never Wrote a Review For

I picked this one because there are a lot of books that I loved, but never wrote a review for, mainly because I read them before I started my blog.

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
This is pretty obvious, especially because I've never heard of someone not liking Harry Potter after reading the books. And if for some reason you haven't, get on that ASAP.

2. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
When I first read A Great and Terrible Beauty, it was the perfect blend of romance, historical fiction, fantasy and a strong heroine. This is such a great trilogy!

3. Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
I read Uglies when I was in seventh grade (so long ago!) and it was one of the first dystopians I read. The series has such a great premise and tremendous world-building.

4. The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
I was wary of reading this because it was fantasy, but my friend wanted me to test it out first to see if she would like it (I'm such a great friend!). I actually really liked it, but I still haven't read the last book in the trilogy.

5. Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys by Kate Brian
I picked this up in the bookstore because the protagonist has the same name as me! Luckily the book was good and very cute.

6. Model: A Memoir by Cheryl Diamond
This is the first memoir I've read and I loved it! It's about the experiences of a model, but I liked how Cheryl was able to stay out of all the bad aspects of modeling (drugs, etc) and become a strong role model.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I read this in ninth grade, which is standard for most schools, so before I had my blog.

8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This is one of my favorite books ever and the two times I read it (5th and 7th grade) were before Simply Books. Definitely check this out!

9. The Bayern Books by Shannon Hale
I still haven't read the last book in this series, but The Goose Girl, Enna Burning and River Secrets were all awesome! These are some of the only high fantasy books I like.

10. Tangerine by Edward Bloor
I read this in my 7th grade reading class and loved it. Beware of the big twist at the end!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora Grey can't remember the past five months of her life. After the initial shock of waking up in a cemetery and being told she has been missing for weeks - with no one knowing where she was or who she was with - she tries to get her life back on track. Go to school, hang out with her best friend, Vee, and dodge her mom's creepy new boyfriend.

But there is this voice in the back of her head, an idea that she can almost reach out and touch. Visions of angel wings and unearthly creatures that have nothing to do with the life she knows.

And this unshakable feeling that a part of her is missing.

Then Nora crosses paths with a sexy stranger, whom she feels a mesmorizing connection to. He seems to hold all the answers... and her heart. Every minute she spends with him grows more and more intense until she realizes she could be falling in love. Again. (from book jacket)

I'm not the biggest fan of these books, but when I saw Silence at my library, I decided to take it with me. Crescendo, while not that great, did leave off on a cliffhanger and I was curious to what happens next. Silence has the weirdest plot, but is still intensely readable.

Sometimes I think amnesia plotlines are so pointless, unless that is the main theme of the entire story. Amnesia, in Silence, is used merely as a plot device and honestly served no other purpose than to add another book to the Hush, Hush series. In Crescendo, Nora starts to figure out some of the stuff that is going on, but when her memory is erased, the plot takes a few steps back. This definitely could have been a trilogy, and taken the last third (where all the action occurs) of Silence and added to the last book. Luckily for the reader, Nora figures out things pretty quickly because she has pretty good intuition. Nora spends a lot of time knowing she knows something, but can't actually remember it. Hopefully that makes sense.

Patch is back, but of course Nora can't remember him. He's an okay character. Not my favorite YA guy, but I don't hate him like I know others do. Even though Nora doesn't remember Patch, she still feels drawn to him, which makes it a little less creepy that she gets into a car with a total stranger.

The last third of Silence is pretty interesting, but doesn't leave off on a huge cliffhanger. I'm a little curious to see what happens, but I'm also not dying to know. If you enjoyed the Hush, Hush series, I would recommend Silence, but otherwise don't bother.

Rating: 6 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2011/Simon & Schuster/438 pages.

Friday, January 20, 2012

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

One Happily-Ever-After Rocking Chair…

and no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol' Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company's new Miss Perfect. If that isn't bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a three-oh birthday bash in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a crazy relationship with the town's not so warm and fuzzy veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark's attention. So Ian is more comfortable with animals…. So he's formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it's time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But dang, if he doesn't shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont's unlikeliest eligible bachelor…. (from GoodReads)

I ususally don't read mass-market romances, but I must say that I'm glad I picked up All I Ever Wanted. This book is just so darn cute. It's like a lighter, girlier, funnier, better Nicholas Sparks book, which makes it pretty awesome.

Some people might be turned off by this, but I adored the quirkiness of the characters, especially Callie. She is so relatable and is always getting herself into funny situations. Especially when she tries online dating. But I digress. Callie's family owns a funeral parlor and she lives with her grouchy, but loving, grandfather whom she calls by his first name. This is definitely non-traditional, but I liked it.

The romance aspect of All I Ever Wanted is VERY predictable. The summary basically tells you who Callie ends up. I didn't mind so much, though. The writing and dialogue is enough to keep you wanting to read more even if you have the plot all figured out. Plus, with all the wacky characters, there was plenty of laughs along the way.

I really enjoyed All I Ever Wanted and even though it is a "romance" novel, it has a lot more going for it than just some hot guys.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2010/Harlequin/318 pages.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal. (from GoodReads)

Hmm, we have another middle book in a trilogy. Unfortunately, Supernaturally also suffers from the middle book syndrome that can be found with many other trilogies and series. I find myself giving passes to books that aren't that good when they are the middle book. I'm going to address all authors: work on fixing this! I don't know if is the inherent nature of a middle book or something else, but I think we can beat this disease!

That being said, I still liked Supernaturally; I just don't think it was as good as Paranormalcy. I liked seeing Evie is a normal setting (if that's possible). In this book, she goes to school, she lives in the real world, goes to work and has a boyfriend. Speaking of Lend, he was a little blah this book. I like his character but I'm going to attribute his boringness to the fact that he wasn't in the book that much.

A new character named Jack is introduced in Supernaturally, and he is very interesting. Jack is Evie's somewhat sidekick/partner-in-crime. I started out not liking him, learned to like him, and then didn't like him by the end. If you've read this, you know why. I'm still curious about him, though, so I hope he shows up in the next book.

There are a lot of discoveries about Evie's past and her unknown backstory. I was a little unimpressed but I'm looking forward to learning more in Endlessly and I hope it gets more interesting. In Supernaturally, I found myself more drawn to Evie's voice and wonderful narration rather than the storyline. I think this a symptom of middle book syndrome. But since I really do like this trilogy so far, I'll try not to let that affect my opinion too much.

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

2011/HarperTeen/336 pages.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal. (from GoodReads)

When I picked up Paranormalcy, I was expecting more of a dark fantasy. The cover, while gorgeous, has darker colors, so I just assumed the book would be similar to Nightshade in tone. Paranormalcy was actually much lighter, closer to You Are So Undead to Me. Either way, I still really enjoyed this fantasy novel!

Like I said, Paranormalcy was pretty light and actually very funny. Evie has a great voice and she sounds just any teenager. Her dialogue was always sharp and her internal commentary always had me laughing. I liked how she would go off to capture rogue vampires and werewolves, and then come back and try to find a cute dress to wear. I actually sympathized with Evie a lot, because all she wanted was to be normal and go to school and have friends. Since she's an orphan, she lives at the International Paranormal Containment Agency's headquarters, so she doesn't exactly lead a normal life.

That changes when she meets Lend, a paranormal who also goes to high school and acts like any teenager. Evie and Lend start spending time together and I really enjoyed their relationship. They started out as friends and then their friendship evolved into something more romantic.

The only thing that I would change is that I think the character of Reth should be explained better. Supposedly he and Evie had a fling, but I was just really creeped out by him most of the time, especially because he is a conniving faerie.

As stated before, I really enjoyed the lightness and hilarity of Paranormalcy. It had an interesting concept and fun characters, which made for a great read.

8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2010/HarperTeen/352 pages.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew—just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road—diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards—this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself. (from GoodReads)

I love traveling, so a story about a road trip is perfect for me! And Amy and Roger's Epic Detour really hit the spot for me, so to speak.

Like I said, I loved the premise, because I can think of nothing more fun than driving across the country with a cute boy. Instead of following Amy's mom's sensible itinerary, Amy and Roger decide to take a couple detours and actually have fun on their trip. They go to Yosemite National Park, Roger's college in Colorado, visit some of his friends in Kansas and Kentucky and go to Graceland in Tennessee. Not the most practical of routes, but it was fun to see Amy and Roger be a little impulsive and decide where they wanted to along the way.

I loved that Amy and Roger both came with baggage (metaphorical and literal). Amy's father just died in a car accident and Roger was just dumped by his girlfriend, so this trip was very much a cleansing process. Seeing the two grow and learn to move on made the book very meaningful and more deep than your average road-tripping novel.

I absolutely adored the way the book included photos and receipts and music playlists from along the way. It felt like I was actually looking at someone's scrapbook, which was awesome.

The only thing I wondered about was how much research the author did for the book. Everything seemed pretty accurate until Amy and Roger start driving towards Philadelphia, which is where I live. For example, the license plates do not say "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania" anymore (and trust me, I wish they did because that is so cute). Also, Amy and Roger drive from Richmond, VA to Philly and they are driving for a couple of hours in PA until they reach the city. If they took the most direct route, they would only be in PA for about 20 mins before reaching the city. I know I'm nitpicking but I gotta defend my state!

Honestly, though, I really did love Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. It had so many elements that I enjoy in my stories: romance, character development, humor, and travel!

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

2010/Simon & Schuster/344 pages.

Waiting on Wednesday - 69

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to see what books are going to be released.

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Waverly and Kieran are finally reunited on the Empyrean. Kieran has led the boys safely up to this point, and now that the girls are back, their mission seems slightly less impossible: to chase down the New Horizon, and save their parents from the enemy ship. But nothing is truly as it seems…Kieran’s leadership methods have raised Seth’s hackles— and Waverly’s suspicions. Is this really her fiancĂ©? The handsome, loving boy she was torn from just a short time before? More and more, she finds her thoughts aligned with Seth’s. But if Seth is Kieran’s Enemy No. 1, what does that make her?

In one night, a strange explosion rocks the Empyrean—shooting them off course and delaying their pursuit of the New Horizon—and Seth is mysteriously released from the brig. Seth is the most obvious suspect for the explosion, and Waverly the most obvious suspect for releasing him. As the tension reaches a boiling point, will Seth be able to find the true culprit before Kieran locks them both away—or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? With the balance of power precarious and the clock ticking, every decision counts… every step brings them closer to a new beginning, or a sudden end...(from GoodReads)

I really enjoyed Glow, the first novel in this series, so I'm definitely looking forward to Spark. This bok will be released July 17, 2012.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fracture by Megan Miranda

Delaney Maxwell's survival is a miracle. She fell into an icy lake and was underwater for eleven minutes. Most people die from lack of oxygen after five, but Delaney was rescued and remained in a coma for six days. When she awoke, she had little to no brain damage, which is extremely rare. However, even though the doctors can't see it, Delaney knows there's something wrong with her. She starts to feel an inexplicable pull towards certain people. People who are dying...

I really enjoyed Fracture. The concept is extremely original, which is what drew me to the book. It reminded me a little of The Body Finder, except that Delaney is attracted to dying people rather than dead bodies. I don't know what I would do if I had such a morbid power, but luckily the two girls in these books are capable and able to deal with their problems, for the most part.

There are also a lot of themes in Fracture that resounded with me: survivor's guilt, parenting extremes, death, love, and even hope. As I was reading, I connected with Delaney and could feel all of her emotions, which shows how effectively the author was able to convey them to the readers. But, like I mentioned before, there were a lot of themes and plot points which made the book seem a little rushed. I wish it was longer so there was more time to develop some of the aforementioned themes. There was so much shoved into the book, it was a little overwhelming.

I loved the relationship between Delaney and Decker. I'm always a sucker for relationships that start out as friendship and then grow into romance,which is what happened in Fracture. It was all good until Megan Miranda had to throw in another love interest, Troy. He was an...interesting character; you'll see what I mean when you read the book.

Even with this minor fault of being too short, I still really enjoyed Fracture and can't wait to see what else this author writes.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: Flamingnet Books Reviews.
Release Date: today!

2012/Walker & Company/264 pages.

Guest Post: Megan Bostic

I'm really excited to share with you a guest post by debut author Megan Bostic. Her first novel, Never Eighteen, was just released today, which is very exciting. Here she explains where she finds inspiration:

My muse has a split personality, sometimes making her hard with which to keep up. (Except for those moments she takes an extended smoke break and I have to go outside and around the corner of the house with arms crossed over my chest, huffing and glaring at her to get back in the house so I can get some writing done.)

I draw inspiration from many places, nature, my own life experience, and many times, my muse comes to me in the form of music. When I wrote Never Eighteen, I was listening to a lot of indie (not when I wrote, I have to have complete silence when I write, as my multi-tasking abilities suck). In fact, originally I had song lyrics at the beginning of each section of my novel. Death Cab, Badly Drawn Boy, Tiger Army, The Airborne Toxic Event started the four sections of my book. I also had more Death Cab lyrics in the novel, as well as the song Weighty Ghost by Wintersleep. Unfortunately, unless you're a big famous author like Stephenie Meyer or have music connections, it's near impossible to get permissions to use lyrics in your novel. Unfortunately, I had to cut them.

I love evocative music for writing. So much of what I listen to when I need inspiration is indie. Songs that make you think, songs that make you cry, songs that break your heart. This is because I truly believe I’m a better writer when my emotions are raging to the point that I'm almost in tears. I know this sounds completely and utterly insane, but it's true. In fact, I actually write certain scenes with a soundtrack. For instance, there was this scene in my Superhero novel, when the protagonist and the love interest kiss for the first time, and all I could think of was Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.

I bring up this topic because I decided my protagonist in my current work in progress needed to be a songwriter and musician, and thus, I had to write a song for my novel. This isn't new to me. Back in my teens and early twenties, I used to write angsty rock songs in a spiral notebook. I have a feeling that poetry and music are going to be an ongoing theme in every novel I write, if not in the novel, than an inspiration to write.

I guess what I'm saying, is music is a big part of my life and always has been. It's a constant source of inspiration for me when I hit a brick wall while writing.

What inspires you? What gets you past those difficult moments, whether it be while writing, or just life in general? In what form does your muse manifest itself to you?

Thanks for visiting, Megan. And I must say that I love Death Cab for Cutie and The Airborne Toxic Event as well!

Top Ten Tuesday - 16

Top Ten Tuesday was started by Breaking the Spine for bloggers who like books and lists.

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't Read Dystopias
Dystopian literature is probably my favorite genre, so I thought that I'd share some good books that fit into this category!

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Sorry for the super obvious choice, but I had to include this since it's one of my favorites. Now that the movie is close to being released, a lot more people are reading The Hunger Games, which is great!

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth
I loved this so much! Very action-packed and interesting premise with the factions (think Harry Potter being sorted into a House, but you get to pick).

3. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Very bleak and almost apocalyptic, but kept me turning the pages! I liked the polygamy aspect as well as the fact that people only live to their twenties.

4. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
The writing threw me at first, but I came to love the sparseness and the misspellings - it added color to an already amazing novel.

5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
A society that believes that love is a disease? It's as good as it sounds!

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
The first dsytopian I ever read (5th grade!) so it has a special place in my heart, aside from being one of my favorite books.

7. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The second dystopian I ever read, so this is dear to me, too. Uglies features a society that turns its citizens beautiful at the age of 16. Sounds awesome? Think again.

8. 1984 by George Orwell
This is pretty much the epitome of a dystopia novel and was supposed to be a prediction for our world.

9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I read this for a research paper and enjoyed it very much. Reading classic dystopian literature is always an interesting experience.

10. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This book features a religious theocracy where women have no rights. Pretty freaky if you ask me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills. (from GoodReads)

I was very excited to read Legend, because I heard many good things about it. Even though it wasn't perfect, I still really enjoyed this novel and can't wait to see what happens next.

What I liked a lot about Legend was how action-packed it. Since the Republic is very military driven and June is part of that culture, there were different missions and such that she took part in which were exciting. I also loved that June was a strategical prodigy; it's so nice to have an intelligent protagonist. I could tell that June was smart because she was very observant and could had the Sherlock Holmes power of deduction.

Since the book changes point-of-view, we also get the perspective of Day, who is very street-smart and is a bit of a legend around town. Some of things he supposedly did seem a little far-fetched, so I'm not sure if we're just supposed to believe that he has superpowers or if that the "legend" became exaggered. Either way, I liked reading about him, though I did like reading about June better. Her narration gave us more information about the government and world she lives so I liked that better.

With every dystopia, there are always complaints about the world-building, since it never seems good enough. While I would love to know more about how/why the Republic was formed, I think it makes sense that we don't get much history. The characters don't even know that there used to be a United States, so I understand why the reader might not know all the details.

I am a big fan of romance in books, but only if it's done well. I usually would never say this, but I think the author should have held off on the romance until the second book. It gives us some good scenes, but I would have liked to see Day and June get to know each other a little better before all the feelings of romance are displayed.

Overall, I really liked Legend and thought it was very exciting and action-packed. Some of the twists I did not see coming at all, which made the book even better.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2011/Putnam Juvenile/305 pages.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.

Filled with tender romance and terrific suspense, The Lucky One is Nicholas Sparks at his best—an unforgettable story about the surprising paths our lives often take and the power of fate to guide us to true and everlasting love. (from GoodReads)

I've only read three books by Nicholas Sparks, but I think The Lucky One is my favorite so far. It was definitely the most engaging and best written compared to The Last Song and Dear John. Even though these romance novels aren't my favorite books ever, I still enjoyed reading The Lucky One.

I'm not a huge fan of plain romance, usually I like some action or dystopia along with it. Nicholas Sparks seems to have won over the hearts of many women but I've never been all that impressed with his work. Lucky for me, The Lucky One is one of his better books. I liked the plot and I was interested in the characters, which made me want to keep reading.

The Lucky One is very readable; I read it in about a day. The pages just kept flying by and it wasn't a chore to read. The only thing I don't like about Nicholas Sparks's books is that they seem shallow: we never get to really know the characters. I would like more of a connection and more insight into their feelings and motivations.

Overall, I liked The Lucky One and thought it was one of Nicholas Sparks' better novels. These aren't my favorite books ever, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the movie.

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

2008/Grand Central Publishing/326 pages.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book vs. Movie: Jane Eyre

Last weekend I watched the 2011 version of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was the first movie adaptation I have seen of Jane Eyre, and I knew I would like the plot because I love the book. I thought that this movie did a really great job of translating the book to movie. The casting was great and I thought the girl who played Jane did a wonderful job. Some little things were cut out, mostly in the beginning, but I think the movie captured the spirit of the book very well. Whether or not you've read Jane Eyre, I would definitely recommend this movie!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (from GoodReads)

I've come to love Maureen Johnson and all her books, so my expectations were high when I started The Name of the Star. And luckily for me, they were mostly fulfilled. I thought that this book was a great addition to the fantasy genre.

There were certain elements of the plot that I knew I would love: the boarding school setting in London (double points there) and the Jack the Ripper references. Oddly enough, even though I love both history and horror, I really didn't know much about Jack the Ripper. So I was very happy that the book went into detail about that because I felt like I learned something new. Obvsiously, the Ripper was a serial killer and he murdered his victims in gruesome ways, which made the story a whole lot creepier. I was actually a little freaked out while reading The Name of the Star, so you if you like that kind of thing, I would definitely check this out.

The book also delves into the paranormal because there are ghosts involved and Rory has a special ability when it comes to ghosts. I liked that side of the story, because it actually made the story scarier. What do you do if you can't see something dangerous? That can be quite the problem.

As always, I loved Maureen Johnson's writing style and Rory had a great voice. I really enjoyed The Name of the Star and am curious to read the sequel.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2011/Putnam Juvenile/372 pages.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Afterlife by Claudia Gray

Destiny awaits Bianca and Lucas . . .

Bianca and Lucas have always believed they could endure anything to be together. When a twist of fate not only transforms Bianca into a wraith but also turns Lucas into a vampire—the very creature he spent his life hunting—they are left reeling.

Haunted by his powerful need to kill, Lucas can turn to only one place for help . . . Evernight Academy. Bianca is determined to remain with him. But with the vampire leader of Evernight waging a war against wraiths, her former home has become the most dangerous place she could be, despite the new powers her ghostly transformation has given her.

A battle between wraiths and vampires looms, and Bianca and Lucas face a terrifying new reality. They've overcome every obstacle life has thrown at them, but is their love strong enough to survive the challenges after life? (from GoodReads)

This will probably be a pretty short review because I don't have much to say about Afterlife. I enjoyed reading it and I thought it was a good conclusion to the Evernight series.

Hourglass leaves off on a cliffhanger, so I was excited to see what happens next in Afterlife. I was wary at first because I wasn't sure how the author would navigate the changes that occurred to the protagonists, Bianca and Lucas (trying not to give much away here, folks). But luckily I was pleasantly surprised with the execution and the conclusion of this series.

I was also excited to see that Claudia Gray has another book set on the Titanic called Fateful (which sounds awesome) and that she's planning on writing a book from Balthazar's point-of-view. He was one of my favorite characters so I'm looking forward to that.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2011/HarperTeen/360 pages.

Waiting on Wednesday - 68

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine for bloggers and readers to see what books will soon be published.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

In Book 5: City of Lost Souls, the Shadowhunters struggle to piece together their shattered world after a betrayal by one of their own leaves them reeling. (from GoodReads)
I know the summary is probably the shortest in the world, but most people have read this series so they know what's going on. And if you haven't, get on that pronto! I also have to say that I absolutely love the cover - so beautiful! City of Lost Souls will be released May 8, 2012.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guest Post: Caroline Starr Rose

I am very happy to welcome Caroline Starr Rose to Simply Books today! She is the debut author of May B., which is released today! Please check out her book and guest post below.

Marketing Plan: A Post For Aspiring Authors

I picked up a copy of Jacqueline Deval’s PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK! while my novel was on submission. Deval’s book ended up being exactly what I needed at the time: an intentional way to think through my book. I spent a few days applying Deval’s suggestions to my novel, and once the book sold, I had a framework for the all-important Author Questionnaire, a key document used to market books.

With Jacqueline Deval’s permission, I’ve created an overview of a marketing plan.

"A marketing plan tells the publishing staff what's interesting, unusual, and special about you and your book and how you think the book can be promoted."

There is no one way to write a marketing plan. Here are some things Deval suggests you include:

- Target Audience: Remember to think beyond your initial audience (the reader typical to your genre). Brainstorm a list to broaden your thinking about those who might find your book appealing.

- Positioning Statement (or Pitch): “The positioning statement is one or two appealing sentences that make the listener highly curious about the book…[It]will become the basis of how everyone in your publishing house can talk about the book…Why should we care about the book? The positioning statement answers this question.”

- The Background Story: “A short background piece – a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages long – about how and why you wrote the book.” This can include your publication journey, “any unusual events in the research and writing of the book or specific influences on your work.”

This is the story of your story. It’s a chance for publicists (and hopefully readers!) to talk about your book.

The Marketing Strategy and Campaign: “The marketing plan addresses how you or your publisher will reach your readership, and will probably require the most time and thought and continual refinement on your part. This section is really the heart of your campaign – the blueprint for how you will reach your target audience.”

Here’s a list of some of the things Deval suggests “to stimulate the marketing side of your brain”:

• “Can your book tie in with a local or national event?”

• Does your book have “a strong spiritual or social message” that might interest religious or community groups?

• If you have a niche readership, “what media vehicles reach that readership?”

• “Can you team up with other writers in your genre?”

• Does your book tie in to a holiday or anniversary? (For example, last year was the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. I remember several wonderful picture book and mid-grade titles released to correspond with President’s Day.)

• “Does your book tie into current social trends and concerns?”

“Can you host a fund-raiser or other charity event” that connects to your topic?

Sales Handles and Media Angles: “Sales handles are the specific facts that prove the book’s appeal to its market and why the book will do well.”

“Sales convey what’s new and different about your book – your authority as the writer, the marketplace for your book’s topic, its advantages over the competition, and its marketability.”

Books That Compete or Compare With Yours (Comp Titles): “What books are similar to yours, in terms of shared audience or similar literary quality or subject matter?...Comparative titles…help your publicist frame a pitch for the book.”

Your in-house publicist might want to take your book on a different route than what you've planned. Maybe the only thing to come out of your marketing plan will be a way to answer the questions: "You're an author? So what do you write?"

Whatever happens, the process is a wonderful way to re-learn your story, your audience, and your book's appeal.

Thank you Caroline for visiting!

Top Ten Tuesday - 15

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

Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

1. Margaret Mitchell
She is the author of Gone With the Wind, and she was killed in an accident before she could write another book. Gone With the Wind was epic and I bet anything else she wrote would be, too.

2. J.K. Rowling
I think this is pretty obvious!

3. Suzanne Collins
So excited to see what she comes up with next!

4. Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites and I can't believe she never wrote any other books!

5. Carrie Ryan
I haven't read The Dark and Hollow Places yet, but once I do I will want another book to read.

6. Libba Bray
Her books are always amazing and she needs to write something else.

7. Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics so I'm sad that she didn't write anything else.

8. Cassandra Clare
I know this doesn't really count because Cassie has many books in the works but I really can't wait for Clockwork Princess!

9. John Green
His newest book was just released today but once I read that I know I will want another!

10. Megan Miranda
I really enjoyed Fracture and I can't wait to see what she writes next.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

It's been three months since Amy was awoken from her cryogenically frozen chamber and found herself on the spaceship Godspeed traveling to a new planet. It was tough transitioning to a world where there are always four walls surrounding her, but she had Elder to help her. However, now that Eldest is dead, Elder has become the leader of Godspeed. While he is dealing with imminent rebellion of the crew, Amy is sent on a hunt to unlock the secrets of Godspeed....before it's too late.

I really enjoyed Across the Universe, the predecessor to A Million Suns, when I first read it. I was very excited to get my hands on the sequel, and I'm happy to say that A Million Suns did not disappoint. The story picks up right where Across the Universe left off, and even though many things were revealed at the end of that novel, there are still more secrets to be uncovered in this book.

I love mysteries, so I liked watching Amy hunt for clues and thought it was a very interesting way for Amy to discover new information about Godspeed. I guessed some of the secrets, but there were still plenty of twists and turns to keep me on my toes. On Elder's side, he is dealing with mutiny from the crew, who want a more equal form of government. While I understood the complaints of the crew, when reading from Elder's point-of-view, it's easy to sympathize with him. Even though he was not voted to be the leader, he still has the citizens' best interests at heart.

Even though A Million Suns was a great continuation of this trilogy, it still suffered a little bit of middle book syndrome. It wasn't quite as awesome as Across the Universe. That being said, I still can't wait to read the conclusion because this book left off with a huge cliffhanger.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: Flamingnet Book Reviews.
Release Date: January 10, 2012

2012/Razorbill/390 pages.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart. (from GoodReads)

After reading Clockwork Prince, I've come to the conclusion that I might like The Infernal Devices better than The Mortal Instruments. I'm not sure if it's because it's newer and therefore novel or if it's because I just read it recently, but the fact that it's historical fiction gives it a few extra points in my book. I also think I like Tessa better than Clary and some of the secondary characters are more likable than those in The Mortal Instruments. I still love The Mortal Instruments with all my heart, but the fact that Cassandra Clare can make me like something else even more shows how good of a writer she is.

Clockwork Prince picks up pretty much right where it left off. The Clave is still on the search for Mortmain and it's obvious that this is the middle book of the trilogy because there is a lot of build-up for the big clash that will eventually happen. Tessa, Will and Jem do some investigating and there are some secrets that are uncovered and new information is brought to life, which keeps the suspense going. There are still things the readers don't know, like how Tessa was created, and I can't wait to find out in the next installment.

I've noticed that I really like Cassandra Clare's writing style and specifically her use of third person narration that switches points-of-view. The novel is mainly told through Tessa's eyes, but occasionally the reader will follow around another character and get a look into their heads. Since the book is third-person, we're not actually switching POVs so the story is more seamless and not choppy.

A big, huge part of Clockwork Prince is the romance, which I know everyone loves. The romance in this story will break your heart, especially in regards to Will. I don't want to give anything away, but my heart was melting for Will. The ending was so upsetting and even fans of Jem will get a little teary-eyed. Even though I am Team Will, I still liked getting to know Jem better because he is a great character. He has a lot more page time than in Clockwork Angel, which is nice.

Overall, I absolutely loved Clockwork Prince. It was very well-written and a wonderful addition to the Shadowhunter world. I don't know how I'm going to wait for Clockwork Princess, especially since I've seen two release dates for it: Dec 2012 and Sept 2013. I better not have to wait longer than a year!!!!

Rating: 10 out 0f 10.
FTC: Christmas gift.

2011/Margaret K. McElderry Books/502 pages.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - 67

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

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

This new trilogy will capture the hearts of readers who adore Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series. Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she's never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone, when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in "the golden hills of the west" (California). Along the way she meets Jack a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there's also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate. (From GoodReads)

I got excited when I saw that this book was compared to the Gemma Doyle series because I love those! I think this sounds really interesting, and original, too! Look for it on shelves June 26, 2012.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - 14

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

Top Ten Books I'm Excited to Read in 2012

1. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
I'm actually glad that I waited to read Divergent so I don't have to wait as long to read this! Only 5 months away!

2. The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
I absolutely love Deb Caletti and her books just seem to get better and better.

3. Fever by Lauren DeStefano
There are so many sequels that I need to read and this is another one. Wither was one my favorites of 2011.

4. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Same goes for this trilogy, as well. Dystopia is rocking right now!

5. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
Even though this series is getting a little ridiculous, I still love The Mortal Instruments.

6. Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Debut author and dystopian !!!

7. Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
New twist on werewolves and looks very good.

8. Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton
I surprisingly loved Angelfire so I'm really excited for this sequel.

9. Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
I love Shannon Hale and the first novel in this little series so I am curious to see how this one goes.

10. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I've seen two release dates for this book: Dec 2012 and Sept 2013. I am hoping with all my might that it's the first one because I can't wait any longer to see what happens. Review of Clockwork Prince to come soon :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Debut Author Challenge

Once again, I will be particpating in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge! This will be my fourth year participating and I am hoping to read 15 books by debut authors. The challenge is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, so go there for some more information. Here are some books I would like to read this year.
1. Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
2. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
3. The Selection by Keira Cass
4. Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler
5. Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
6. Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
7. Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
8. Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Are there any other books I should add to my list?