Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 186

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

Rebel Nation by Shaunta Grimes

18693707Sixteen years ago, a plague wiped out nearly all of humanity. The Company’s vaccine stopped the virus’s spread, but society was irrevocably changed. Those remaining live behind impenetrable city walls, taking daily doses of virus suppressant and relying on The Company for continued protection. They don’t realize that everything they’ve been told is a lie…

Clover Donovan didn’t set out to start a revolution—quiet, autistic, and brilliant, she’s always followed the rules. But that was before they forced her into service for the Time Mariners. Before they condemned her brother to death, compelling him to flee the city to survive. Before she discovered terrifying secrets about The Company.

Clover and the Freaks, her ragtag resistance group, are doing their best to spread the rebellion and stay under The Company’s radar. But when their hideout is discovered, they are forced, once again, to run. Only this time, The Company has special plans for Clover, plans that could risk her life and stop the uprising in its tracks…(From GoodReads)

I really liked the first book in this series, Viral Nation, so I'm excited to read its sequel! Rebel Nation will be released July 1, 2014.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Double Down: Game Change 2012 by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

In their runaway bestseller Game Change, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann captured the full drama of Barack Obama’s improbable, dazzling victory over the Clintons, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. With the same masterly reporting, unparalleled access, and narrative skill, Double Down picks up the story in the Oval Office, where the president is beset by crises both inherited and unforeseen—facing defiance from his political foes, disenchantment from the voters, disdain from the nation’s powerful money machers, and dysfunction within the West Wing. As 2012 looms, leaders of the Republican Party, salivating over Obama’s political fragility, see a chance to wrest back control of the White House—and the country. So how did the Republicans screw it up? How did Obama survive the onslaught of super PACs and defy the predictions of a one-term presidency? Double Down follows the gaudy carnival of GOP contenders—ambitious and flawed, famous and infamous, charismatic and cartoonish—as Mitt Romney, the straitlaced, can-do, gaffe-prone multimillionaire from Massachusetts, scraped and scratched his way to the nomination.

Double Down exposes blunders, scuffles, and machinations far beyond the klieg lights of the campaign trail: Obama storming out of a White House meeting with his high command after accusing them of betrayal. Romney’s mind-set as he made his controversial “47 percent” comments. The real reasons New Jersey governor Chris Christie was never going to be Mitt’s running mate. The intervention held by the president’s staff to rescue their boss from political self-destruction. The way the tense d├ętente between Obama and Bill Clinton morphed into political gold. And the answer to one of the campaign’s great mysteries—how did Clint Eastwood end up performing Dada dinner theater at the Republican convention?

In Double Down, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann take the reader into back rooms and closed-door meetings, laying bare the secret history of the 2012 campaign for a panoramic account of an election that was as hard fought as it was lastingly consequential. (from GoodReads)

It's no secret that I love politics so a book that details a presidential election is right up my alley. Once I devoured the first Game Change (about the 2008 election) I knew I would have to get the one about the next election. Luckily for me I was not disappointed by this account.

What I love about these books is all the inside information the authors reveal about the campaigns. There are a lot of details shared that many people are not aware of. Since all the sources are anonymous, there's a chance some of this just might be rumors. But it's fascinating and entertaining all the same. What I also like is that I remember most of these events so it's interesting to see the author's take on them. That's why I wouldn't want to read a book about a presidential election that I didn't live through - part of the fun is remembering when Romney made the 47% comments or seeing Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention and then reading about it.

The book is pretty long, and the authors use a lot of fancy words (The New York Times book review makes fun of this) but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book. If you're interested in politics then I definitely recommend this along with the first Game Change. Or you could check out the HBO movie which is just as good.

FTC: borrowed from my dad
Rating: 9 out of 10.

2013/Penguin Press/476 pages

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 130

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish for bloggers who like to make lists about books.

Top Ten Books I've Read This Year

1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
This is definitely at the top of the list due to the fact that it is so creepy and the plot is very engaging! If you like mysteries or thrillers, definitely check this out.

2. Double Down by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
I love politics, so a book about the 2012 presidential election is definitely going to be on my list. I love getting all the inside scoop about the campaigns and candidates.

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Night Film was recommended to me because I loved Gone Girl so the two are similar in that they're both mysteries. Plus Gone Girl will be made into a movie soon so you better read it!

4. In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin
I thought this was a wonderful conclusion to the Birthright trilogy.

5. Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
It took me forever to read this book but I'm so glad I did. I love this series and hope that Ally Carter keeps writing Heist Society books.

6. Shadows in the Silence by Courtney Allison Moulton
This is another book that eluded me for almost a year. Such a great ending to the Angelfire trilogy.

7. Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook
A girl searches for her birth mother after her old friend commits suicide. It's sad but a great read regardless.

8. Champion by Marie Lu
Anyone interested in dystopian literature needs to read the Legend trilogy.

9. Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes
I really enjoyed this sequel to Falling Kingdoms and can't wait for the next novel!

10. Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
I'm actually in the middle of reading this right now but I like it so much I know it will end up on this list!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

Sometimes finding your own voice is a matter of listening to the heart.... 

Jodi Picoult's powerful novel portrays an emotionally charged marriage that changes course in one explosive moment....For years, Jane Jones has lived in the shadow of her husband, renowned San Diego oceanographer Oliver Jones. But during an escalating argument, Jane turns on him with an alarming volatility. In anger and fear, Jane leaves with their teenage daughter, Rebecca, for a cross-country odyssey charted by letters from her brother Joley, guiding them to his Massachusetts apple farm, where surprising self-discoveries await. Now Oliver, an expert at tracking humpback whales across vast oceans, will search for his wife across a continent -- and find a new way to see the world, his family, and himself: through her eyes. (from GoodReads)

I've read so many books by Jodi Picoult and it was super interesting to read the first one she's ever written! While the story was enjoyable for the most part, I can definitely tell it's the author's first foray into writing.

Songs of the Humpback Whale was written in the early 90s and it's pretty obvious - the descriptions of the clothes and the lack of computers/cell phones/GPS. It was weird reading about a road trip in which the characters couldn't use their cell phones to map the route. I'm pretty sure Rebecca and Jane didn't even have a paper map with them and just relied solely on Joley's directions through the mail.

What makes this novel different was the way in which it was written. The reader gets five different POVs and one even goes backwards on the timeline (which I didn't realize until I read the author notes at the very end). This isn't unusual for Jodi Picoult novels except for the fact that sometimes the same scene was written from a few different perspectives. Interesting: yes. Necessary: probably not.

I also didn't really care for the romance in the novel, including the romance between Oliver and Jane, Jane and Sam or Rebecca and Hadley. I had a big problem with the latter because there was a ten year age difference between the two. Rebecca was 15 and Hadley was 25. Sometimes I felt like the only one who saw the ridiculousness and illegality of this relationship. It doesn't help that Rebecca turns 15 about a week before she meets Hadley so she is pretty young. That alone made me dislike the book.

But it's a Picoult novel so it's fairly well-written with good characterization. Overall I didn't mind reading it but her newer stuff is a lot better. So if this is the first novel you read by Picoult definitely check out her other stuff too.

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

1992/Washington Square Press/346 pages

Friday, June 6, 2014

Guest Post: Elizabeth Eckhart on Maleficent

I'm very happy to have Elizabeth Eckhart back with another guest post! This time she discusses the new Disney movie Maleficent!

Many people have grown up hearing the stories of the Grimm brothers, whether they’re aware of it or not. The German duo is infamous for their dark fairy tales preaching morality and punishing the wicked, however, many of those stories were slowly changed and reinterpreted over time into the much more child-friendly versions most of us are familiar with today. In fact, one of their most famous stories, Sleeping Beauty, is undergoing another reinterpretation in the new film Maleficent, which is hitting theaters this weekend. In honor of the film, let’s take a look at some of the other interpretations of famous Grimm stories.

Little Red Riding Hood

This European folk tale was originally published by French author Charles Perrault as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (meaning little red cloak/cape) in 1697. His version was very moralized, so much so that he even finished the story with a warning to little girls to not listen to strangers. The Grimm version was undoubtedly influenced by Perrault's version, but the little girl and her grandmother are instead saved by a huntsman looking for the wolf's skin. They also wrote a sequel, where the townspeople trap and kill wolves based on their knowledge of the wolves’ moves from the first encounter. However, both versions were modified and watered down by the brothers in later publishings far before it became the well-known story it is today.

                Of course the story has been adapted even further by different authors and artists, the most recent of which is the 2011 film Red Riding Hood starring Amanda Seyfried. It’s also a featured plotline on the NBC television series Grimm which is based off of the brothers’ stories (both the series and film are streamable online or available on demand through your cable provider). In addition to adaptations on screen, there’s the extremely popular musical Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, which incorporates not only Little Red Riding Hood but also themes from other fairy tales as well. And, of course, there is Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran, which is said to have been inspired by the wolf in the story.

                The tale has even been transformed into YA lit, with titles such as Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright and the more gory, popular interpretation, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce which follows a one-eyed werewolf slayer named Scarlet.

Snow White

                While Snow White’s modern popularity is obviously credited to Walt Disney thanks to his internationally known animated version of the fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Grimm Brothers were telling this story long before Disney was. Their original publishing of this German folk tale was in 1812, and their version was largely copied by Disney for his film adaptation. In fact, it is the Disney fairy tale adaptation that remains most true to its original story.

                The numerous similarities between the two include an evil stepmother consumed by vanity, a magic mirror, seven dwarves, a huntsman, a poisoned apple, and a glass coffin. Like most Grimm fairy tales, the brothers’ tale included some elements that were excluded from later adaptations, including the fact that the Queen requested Snow White’s liver and lungs to eat, not her heart, the fact that the Queen tried twice to kill Snow White before giving her a poisoned apple (one of the times she disguised herself as a seamstress and pulled Snow White’s corset so tight she fainted), and finally that the evil Queen’s final punishment was to wear red hot iron shoes and dance until she died.

                The latest film adaptations of this classic story both came in 2012 when two films that built off Grimm’s story were released; Mirror, Mirror with Lily Collins and Julia Roberts follows the original for the most part, while taking a much more saccharine approach to it, while Snow White and the Huntsman starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron takes many liberties from the original story – such as the Raven Queen being able to transform into a flock of birds.

                The book version of Snow White and the Huntsman received poor reviews, but so far Maleficent’s novelization seems to be faring better. Other written renditions based on Snow White are Six Gun Snow White, where the heroine’s tale is transported to the Old West, and Snow White And Rose Red, which is a renaissance version by Patricia C. Wrede.


                This is yet another example of a folk tale making its way around Europe and taking on new forms. The story of Rapunzel was first recorded in 1698 by French author Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force under the title Persinette. The Grimm brothers published their version, called Rapunzel, in 1812, which helped solidify it as a classic fairy tale.

                It took Disney a while to tackle this classic fairy tale; their version, Tangled, came out in 2010, and goes far more off plot compared to the original story than past Disney adaptations ever did. The stories both include the trademarks, like Mother Gothel, Rapunzel being trapped in a tower, and, of course, her long hair, but that’s more or less where the similarities between the two end.

                In the original, Rapunzel is sold by her parents in exchange for her father not being punished by Gothel (who is a witch) for stealing from her garden to feed his pregnant wife’s cravings. Eventually Rapunzel is courted by a stranger, but it’s a prince, not a thief like in Disney’s film. Also, in Grimm’s tale Rapunzel becomes pregnant, which is why Gothel then cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and banishes her to the woods. Gothel then tricks the prince to climb the tower again – he then jumps from the tower and is blinded by the thorns below. However, he eventually finds Rapunzel (with their twin children) and her tears cure his blindness.

                The most famous modern literary adaptation is Cindy C. Bennett’s Rapunzel Untangled and Alex Flinn’s more traditional The Towering.

Thanks Elizabeth for your commentary!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - 185

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

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

18404113Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange. (from GoodReads)

This sounds so creepy! I love thrillers so I can't wait to pick up Complicit when it hits shelves June 24, 2014.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 129

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and Bookish for bloggers who like to make lists about books.

Top Ten Books That Will Be in My Beach Bag This Summer

1. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
Just bought this book and I'm so excited to finally finish the Shadowhunter series. It's been a long time coming and I'm ready! (I think).

2. Past Perfect by Leila Sales
Ok I went on a bit of a shopping spree and bought this too even though I already read it. But I absolutely love it and it's the perfect beach read.

3. Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita
This book is the epitome of summer for me. It's super light and cute but I read it every year because it really sets the atmosphere for my favorite summer

4. Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita
That being said, I am beyond excited to read the companion novel to Sleepaway Girls. I have literally been waiting years for this. Hopefully my huge expectations are met.

5. Dualed by Elsie Chapman
I bought this as well so I will definitely be reading it this summer!

6. On the Fence by Kasie West
I love Kasie West and her novels are perfect summer reads.

7. The Last Forever by Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti usually sets her books in the summer (like Sarah Dessen) so I always turn to them on these long nights.

8. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Love Morgan Matson and literally just found out that this has been released!

9. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
This just sounds like a cute and light book.

10. The Things You Kiss Good-bye by Leslie Connor
Same as above! Looks like a great romance.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together. (from GoodReads)

I absolutely adore Leila Sales's first two novels, Mostly Good Girls and Past Perfect, so of course I was beyond excited for her latest book. I was slightly disappointed that I didn't enjoy This Song Will Save Your Life as much as I hoped, but it was still a fun read.

I don't expect every book by a favorite author to be stellar because that's just unrealistic. I am a little disappointed that I didn't love this novel as much as the others but I'm ultimately I'm okay with that. This book wasn't quite as funny as Sales's previous books. There are still some humorous moments but that laugh out loud humor is definitely missing. I think that's due to the fact that TSWSYL is definitely more serious. In the beginning of the book, Elise is suicidal and the majority of the story is her overcoming those feelings. I think Sales did a great job of describing Elise's mentality without making it too light or too depressing. The book struck a good balance in my opinion.

While not the focus, TSWSYL deals with bullying and I think it struggles with that aspect. Sometimes it seems like Elise is just supposed to be ignored by her classmates and others I think Sales tries too hard to make it seem like they all hate her (of which there is no reason too). And since it's not the focus, it just pops up randomly in the plot. Elise talks about how she wants to be popular and tries to dress and act so that she can attain this goal. I do like that the story is about finding yourself and doing what you love, regardless of what other people think. That's a very positive message.

I definitely enjoyed reading about the dance club Start and Elise's foray into DJing. I love music so I liked hearing those references and having a playlist at the end of the novel. I'll definitely be checking those out. Elise is a natural talent at DJing but also a bit of a wunderkind. She takes it up and within two weeks she is the hottest thing around which is definitely unrealistic. Elise describes herself as precocious but at times she's more pretentious: she judges her equally unpopular friends and also goes on a rant about the stupidity of pop music. I think it would have been awesome character development for her to recognize that she participates in some of the same actions that she blasts her classmates for doing and tries to change that. 

Overall, I found This Song Will Save Your Life to be a fun and light-hearted read. I recommend readers to check this out but not to overlook Sales's previous work which is even better.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: library

2013/Farrar, Straus & Giroux/279 pages