Monday, April 30, 2012

In My Mailbox (17)

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Abandon by Meg Cabot
White Cat by Holly Black

Torn by Erica O'Rourke
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Sunday, April 29, 2012

MIDDLE GRADE SUNDAY: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 492
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Mysterious Benedict Society series
Summary: (from Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

As someone who works in the children’s room in a public library, I am often asked about middle grade books. I’ve been making a greater effort to read more middle grade fiction so I can know what I’m recommending.
The Mysterious Benedict Society is about the titular group, comprised of members placed together after a series of tests. Once the four main characters--Reynie, Kate, “Sticky” and Constance--pass the tests, they are sent off to a boarding school without any rules in order to uncover a dastardly scheme.
I enjoyed the idea behind this story--orphans or kids without idea parents coming together with extraordinary but realistic abilities in order to go on a mission for an older benefactor seems like the perfect plotline for a middle grade book. Reynie was an orphan with a penchant for puzzle-solving, Kate was a flexible gymnast, Sticky had a super-photographic memory, and Constance’s rude, disrespectful attitude and lack of fear were useful for going against adversaries. They made a great team and I wanted to know whether or not they would defeat Mr. Curtain’s evil plot for world domination.
However, this book was completely too long for what it was. If it had been 250 pages long, I would have given it an entirely different rating. Once the students enter the boarding school, I found the plot dragging. There were long, unnecessary in-depth explanations of irrelevant things that could have been said in a quicker fashion. It was just too long. I will not be continuing this series.
The Mysterious Benedict Society had a great middle grade concept with its kid agents attempting to go against a force of evil in the world, but it unfortunately took too long to get to the point for me.

Rating: 2.5 - okay.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 359
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Jasper Dent series
Summary: What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?
Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.
But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could--from the criminal's point of view.
And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.
In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret--could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

When I got an ARC of this book I was completely jazzed (I’m not punning on purpose here. It’s not my fault that ‘jazzed’ happens to contain the main character’s name). I loved Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy and was ecstatic to hear that he wrote a book about the teenage son of a serial killer. It’s like this one was written for me.

How do I love thee, book? Let me count the ways.
1. Your narrator was fantastic. Seriously. Jasper “Jazz” Dent goes on the list of favorite narrators ever. He can go over and hang out with Katniss Everdeen and Cassel Sharpe. They can all bask in each others’ well-developed awesomeness. Jazz is the teenage son of infamous serial killer Billy Dent, a teenage boy who’s just trying to continue on with his life after his father’s arrest. He’s also a completely unreliable narrator, which is totally awesome.
2. I love how complicated Jazz’s identity is--he’s a charming, attractive, smart young man who is absolutely terrified that he is going to end up to be a sociopathic murderer. He’s constantly worrying about whether or not the feelings and caring he has for other people are legitimate or pale imitations of what he thinks he should feel. Of course, I feel like this worrying PROVES that he’s not an unfeeling serial killer.
3. I love that all of the secondary characters were practically as well developed as Jazz. From his sassy, badass girlfriend Connie to his batshit crazy grandmother, the cast of characters in this book could easily stand on their own.
4. I love that it was a serial killer-flavored murder mystery. I’m not going to say that I was completely stumped, but the mystery was so well done. It was suspenseful and creepy. Barry Lyga clearly did a whole lot of research into painful ways to end a person’s life. And, of course, into the psychology behind a serial killer’s behavior. Seriously, it’s like this book was written for me. Now that I’m writing this, I just want to go re-read it and watch all four Scream films while doing so.
5. I love that this story has a complete ending, but that I still have enough questions about Jazz’s past history and what his future holds that I feel like I need to read the sequel right now.

Not that I really need to say this if you’re reading to the end of this review, but I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers is a thrilling, completely engrossing read that explores the mind of a serial killer’s teenage son and all of the complications his father brought into his life and mind. I just moved it to a more prominent part of the new shelf in my library because I didn’t think it was visible enough. I know that it definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you have the vaguest interest in this book, GO READ IT!

Rating: 5 - shelf of favorites ALL THE WAY

Meg Cabot Read-A-Long!

Hosted by Book Club Girl!

Meg Cabot, to me, is like the queen of young adult chick lit. I spent hours and hours reading and re-reading all of her books when I was in middle and high school. SHE GAVE US THE PRINCESS DIARIES! HOW COULD I REFUSE THIS READ-ALONG?! I need to catch up on some of her adult series anyway!

Here's the highly do-able schedule!

  • May 22th—Boy Next Door discussion on Book Club Girl
  • June 12th – Queen of Babble discussion on Book Club Girl
  • July 3rd - Size 12 is Not Fat discussion on Book Club Girl
  • July 10th -Size 12 and Ready to Rock goes on sale
  • July 31st -Size 12 and Ready to Rock discussion on Book Club Girl on Air, post questions for Meg’s Book Club Girl On Air interview at 7PM

Keep up with the read-along on twitter (with the hashtag #megreadalong) and on the Book Club Girl's facebook page! I'll be posting reviews of these books during the read-along.

The Boy Next Door e-book is going to be on sale for $2.99--if that's not a reason to buy it, I don't know what is. I've read it before and will certainly take advantage of that deal!

Friday, April 27, 2012

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 284
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Gallagher Girls series
SummaryCammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? 
Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

Cameron "Cammie" Morgan is just your average girl--except for the fact that she's a spy attending the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. When she encounters a normal boy who wants to be her boyfriend, Cammie pulls out all the stops her spy training has to offer her in order to pursue a relationship with him. Will Cammie be able to keep Josh and her life as a spy separate?
I want to preface what I'm about to say with this: I read the next three books in the series and enjoyed them. I fall on the side of the Gallagher Girls books. However, this was not my favorite book. I felt like maybe my expectations were too high for this one. Many people have raved about these books to me, but I felt like the first installment did not live up to the hype for me. Part of the problem was that I found Josh to be very boring up until the very end. His beige nature made me want Cammie to find a more interesting boyfriend. I felt like the time the girls sent in suburbia wasn't worth it.
Moving on to the positive side! The concept of a spy school for teenage girls makes for great young adult book topics. I like that these books have a "thing"--and that thing happens to be training brilliant, strong young women to be government operatives. The girls presented in these books are adventurous, brave, and intuitive.
I liked the relationship Cammie had with her headmaster mother. The multifaceted nature of it made it so Cammie never knew which piece of her mother to expect--be it headmistress, mother, or spy extraordinaire. It all depended on the situations they faced at the same time. I loved that Carter was able to explore the complications of such a relationship effectively.
I also enjoyed the relationship between Cammie and bad girl Macey. I assumed that Macey was just going to end up being Cammie's mean girl adversary, but was pleasantly surprised instead! The relationships Carter created between Cammie and everyone but Josh made me interested in the rest of the series.
While I'd Tell You I Love You, But Now I'd Have To Kill You didn't live up to my high expectations, I did enjoy the concept behind the books. This one dragged for me a bit, but I continued on with this popular series because I saw the potential it held. I wasn't disappointed by the ensuing novels in the series!

Rating: 2.5-3 okay/fair.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 309
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Fallen World trilogy
Summary: (from It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.
And then you’re dead.
When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.
Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.
Because how will she go on if there isn’t?

I’m pretty sure I picked this one out purely based on color. In case you were wondering--neon colors are almost an automatic in with me. The 80s and I would have gotten along splendidly. I also think that the darker picture within the words was really cool.
When a strange new disease starts spreading like wildfire through Kaelyn’s island home, people try not to panic. The community goes on as normal, attempting to carry on and ignore the fact that they are being quarantined. However, the quickly depleting supplies and mounting death toll cannot be ignored, ushering in panic and desperation. When her family ends up scattered, Kaelyn has to work with some unexpected allies for supplies and safety in order to survive--or risk becoming a casualty of the epidemic.
The concept behind this book is awesome and well executed. I originally thought it was supposed to be about some sort of zombie disease, I’m going to assume through some sort of summary reading error on my part. The disease that causes the epidemic on the island was so unique: a flu-like disease that first causes their victim to lose their inhibitions and become ultra-friendly, causing it to spread like crazy. So great!
I love the fact that the story is written in the form of letters to Kaelyn’s old friend Leo. The story read like she was writing in a diary, but I thought it was different to have the diary be addressed to a specific person. I’m curious about whether or not Leo will ever see it!
My only issue with this book was when Kaelyn went off on rants about nature and nature documentaries. I found them to be a bit dull. These rants made me think that she was a bit boring. But good news! Kaelyn was brave and fierce in her protection of her family members. She did what she had to do in spite of being terrified of the disease and violence plaguing her community.
The Way We Fall was an intense, creepy look at what could happen to an enclosed community during a quarantine for a deadly disease. Megan Crewe did an awesome job showing how hopeless the situation was and how various types of people could react to it. I’m definitely going to continue on with this series! I only wish the rest of the books were out already...

Rating: 4 - good!

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.
Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.
But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.
Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Look at how gorgeous this cover is! I'm going to have to hit up Jane Austen's Persuasion before I read this one.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (16)

Top Ten All-Time Favorite Characters in Books!
(In no particular order, as attempting to rank them makes my head hurt in the bad way)

1. Harry James Potter, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Did you really think we were getting past this list without a mention of this particular protagonist? No way. A lot of people list out a myriad of secondary characters as their favorite in the Harry Potter tales, but my favorite will always be Mr. Potter himself. Harry starts out as an orphan that has a pretty decent attitude, considering his dismal circumstances, and grows to be defender of the weak, the wizarding world, and eventually, a damn good wizard. He breaks rules when necessary and cops a ‘tude when power-tripping authority figures are asking for it (an example being the following exchange between him and Snape: “Yes.” “Yes sir.” “There’s no need to call me sir, professor.” Ha!). Most importantly, Harry is an incredibly human hero that holds a lot of compassion for others. Plus, he has great taste in companions, considering his best friends are the brilliant Hermione Granger and the ever-constant Ron Weasley.
Since I could make a lengthy list of Top Ten Favorite Harry Potter characters on its own, I’m going to choose to move on here so I don’t just ramble on about my love for J.K. Rowling’s characters forever.

2. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Katniss plays a lot of roles throughout The Hunger Games series: survivor, provider, protector, symbol of the rebellion, etc. However, the most important thing to note about Katniss is how undeniably human she is throughout the entire series. She’s not a magical fighting machine; she’s a girl who did what she had to do in order to keep those she loved alive and keep herself moderately unharmed.  I adore Katniss as both the narrator of The Hunger Games series and as a character. She’s not friendly at all, yet she has this fierce loyalty and compassion for those she cares about that draws other people towards her.

3. Her Royal Highness Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Grimaldi Renaldo, Princess of Genovia (or, Princess Mia for short), The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
A very fitting entry for National Princess Week! Mia is overdramatic, imaginative, and a fountain of pop culture references (both highbrow and lowbrow, nice). She’s completely neurotic in the beginning, overthinking most things until they become completely unrealistic in her mind. Thankfully, since her books are written in diary format, the reader is privy to her slightly crazy trains of thought! Mia has strong ideals that she sticks to, even when these create some royal messes for her when it comes to her family life, relationships with her friends and various significant others (though really, let’s be honest, there’s only ONE that matters), and you know, the country she is supposed to rule over one day. I want Mia to be my best friend. Though there’s a possibility that I would end up killing her.

4. Michael Moscovitz, The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
Enter the example of the perfect teenage boy/twenty-something guy that exists in young adult literature. Michael Moscovitz is a certified genius without being condescending, creator of his own ‘zine (are online magazines still referred to as that?), AND he’s in a band. Plus, he likes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and will talk about random, absurd things with Mia and his sister, Lily. HE MAKES IT SNOW FOR MIA’S BIRTHDAY. IN MAY. Honestly, I could make an in-depth “Ten Things I Love About Michael Moscovitz” list easily. As much as I love The Princess Diaries movie adaptation, they really did Michael’s character a disservice by not letting him show more personality. Robert Schwartzman did well with what he had to work with, though. Sigh.

5. William Herondale, The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
This particular character would definitely top my list of literary bad boys. Will Herondale is sarcastic, inconsiderate, and downright rude at times to most everyone around him (which is entirely hilarious at times), exempting his parabatai and best friend, Jem Carstairs. His fierce loyalty to Jem is probably his most endearing characteristics(their intense friendship is more interesting to me than either of the characters’ involvement with Tessa). He lies about having drunken exploits and clandestine encounters with women of questionable morals, yet will sit down and have in depth, very truthful conversations about his favorite books. He’s devilishly handsome, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a Welsh upbringing that remains a secret throughout most of the stories. The thing about Will is he has a vulnerability to him that many of the other characters are unaware of. It makes me want to give him a hug and a cup of cocoa.

6. Claire Randall Fraser, The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Claire, as a smartass English nurse from the 1940’s, doesn’t exactly fit in once she finds herself dropped into the heart of Scotland in the 1700s. Claire is witty and strong, a combination that fits female characters nicely, if I do say so myself. She is an equal in her relationship with Jamie, a situation she brought about by standing up for herself when the expectations of the century made themselves known. Claire is fantastic.

7. Finnick Odair, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Do not read this entry if you have not read all three Hunger Games books. Oh, Finnick. You poor soul. I think Finnick Odair is one of the best, complicated characters Collins created in this series. Finnick is first presented in Catching Fire as a pretty-faced Quarter Quell tribute from District Four. He’s a Capitol sex symbol who trades in secrets, automatically making Katniss bristle with his bold manner. Once in the arena, Finnick becomes one of Katniss’s fiercest allies, saving Peeta’s life in the process. Upon discovering that the Capitol captured his true love, the slightly unstable Annie Cresta, Finnick falls apart, demonstrating how deeply he cares for her. Finnick becomes Katniss’s close friend and the only one that truly understands her mental state regarding Peeta in Mockingjay.

8. Jessica Darling, The Jessica Darling Books by Megan McCafferty
When I first started reading these books in high school, my thoughts were, “FINALLY! Someone who gets it!” Jessica Darling is an average, high school girl. She’s smart, she’s involved in after school activities that she feels trapped in, and she desperately misses her best friend Hope. The thing that really endeared me to Jessica was her rather acerbic wit that she used as a shield against those she disliked around her. Also, her general outlook on life: “Whenever I look forward to anything, it ends up sucking. The buildup inevitably leads to a letdown. It's safer to lowball my way through life.” (from Second Helpings) I just love her and should reread these books soon.

9. Augustus Waters, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Augustus Waters is witty, confident, and refused to let his illness get in the way of his life. He is unflinchingly honest and up front with his feelings for Hazel from the get go. As a person that often deals with people in general talking around something they want to address, you have no idea how appealing this is. He refuses to let Hazel “save him” from losing her, instead choosing to persist in courting her until she relents. You have to admit he’s driven. I think I’ll quote my own review and say, “Augustus Waters, I think I might love you.”

10. Cassel Sharpe, The Curseworkers series by Holly  Black
He’s a completely unreliable narrator that has holes in his memories where facts should be. He’s a prep school boy who can lie as well as he can breathe. And he happens to be my favorite male protagonist in a young adult book. At heart, all Cassel wants is to lead a life outside of the confines of organized Curseworker crime, where he could explore his feelings for his childhood best friend without the complications involved with magic and trust his family’s intentions. Poor, poor Cassel. I have to get to Black Heart soon in order to see what happens to him!

Can you tell by the length of my explanations how important characterization is to me and how attached I become to these people? Oy.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lessons I've Learned from Disney Princesses

Since it’s National Princess Week and the week immediately following my magical Disney vacation (that I wish had never ended), I’m talking about various lessons that can be gleaned from (most of) the Disney Princesses!
1. Snow White of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
DO NOT accept food that is not totally sealed from strangers. In fact, don’t accept ANY food from strangers. Especially from someone who looks like an old crone. Also, people will not like you if you have a voice that hits too high of a register for most humans to hear comfortably.

2. Cinderella of Cinderella (1950)
If you want something done, do it yourself. Seriously, maybe if Cinderella had followed this rule, she wouldn’t have dealt with the whole carriage-turning-back-into-a-pumpkin-come-midnight. I know everything works out in the end because she marries the prince or whatever, but she could have stayed for the whole ball! Also, any cat named after the Devil should be avoided. As should its owners.

3. Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Sometimes actions have unexpected consequences (re: the correlation between pricking a finger and sleeping for a hundred years, which really, no one could have predicted save fairies). Princes with real names (like Prince Phillip) tend to be more useful dudes to have around, as they are up to the task of slaying evil sorceresses-turned-dragons. Sidenote: I’m curious as to whether or not Aurora ever gets over the whole being-lied-to-her-entire-life thing.

4. Ariel of The Little Mermaid (1989)
Always ask questions before signing binding legal documents. For instance, “Why would this sea witch with a reputation for taking horrific advantage of people want my voice? Is it possible that would hinder me from fulfilling my agreement with her?”

5. Belle of Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Even if someone has a terrifying appearance, they might have one bitchin’ library to share with you. What, did you think I was going to talk about how they might have a gentle soul and shouldn’t be judged by their cover? HA! Come on guys, this is a BOOK blog. I have to focus on the important things in the story.

6. Princess Jasmine of Aladdin (1992)
Can we talk about how Jasmine is a great role model for her audience? She is one strong female character. She doesn’t just marry any arrogant suitor that’s thrown at her, despite a heap of pressure being put on her to accept them. She rejects anyone that thinks they’re entitled to her hand and riches. Jasmien doesn’t grant blind trust to Aladdin, instead calling him out any time he lies to her. She’s one princess who isn’t to be messed with. Lesson: you don’t have to be a doormat to be a princess.

7. Mulan of Mulan (1998)
Okay, I absolutely adore Mulan, but I have to point out that she’s not a princess or even close. Her father is a retired soldier and Shang, her love interest, is an army captain. There’s no royalty here. I’ll include her because Disney does, also, I think she’s a great character. Anyway one lesson she brings to the table: sometimes you’re just going to have to dress in drag to get stuff done. Also, if you’re able to bring along a mystical creature to help you succeed, make it Mushu. That dragon is fantastic.

8. Rapunzel of Tangled (2010)
Disney princesses can have their emo moments too. Also, a frying pan makes for a wonderful weapon in a pinch. A lesson I learned about myself as a result of viewing this film is the fact that I can harbor a completely unrealistic desire to have an adorable cartoon chameleon as my close friend and companion and be totally okay with who I am.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk about lessons from Pocahontas or Princess Tiana-I haven’t seen Pocahontas in years and can barely remember the story. The closest I’ve come to it was the two minutes spent on it during Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and let me tell you, you don’t get too much of the story in that.  Also, I’ve yet to see The Princess and the Frog. They took it off Netflix instant watch! Now I have to wait for the DVD to get mailed. I’m really curious about it, especially considering how popular she was amongst the Bippity Boppity Boutique frequenters.

HOW AWESOME IS THIS? It's a few of the princesses dressed as their villains. Whoever did this is fantastic.

In My Mailbox (16)

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma (for a library event with her this week!)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Everneath by Brodi Ashton

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (my road trip/Disney book)

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy National Princess Week!

I'm back from Disney World!
I must say, coming back to the real world is a little tough after being surrounded by the magic of Disney. After spending a week riding Splash Mountain over and over and eating delicious treats like Dole Whips (seriously, has anyone ever tried this? AMAZING) the last thing I want to do is go to work or do boring chores like laundry. Alas! One cannot live in Disney World all the time.
A Dole Whip float: pineapple soft serve in fresh pineapple juice. Why don't these exist everywhere?
I figured the best way to make this transition a bit easier was to talk about National Princess Week! Julie Andrews has teamed up with Target and the Walt Disney Company to launch the first National Princess Week, a celebration of princesses to last from April 22 to April 28. Of course, a lot of this is consumerism-based--there's going to be a 10th anniversary re-release of The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2 as a 2-pack and sales on various Disney princess-related merchandise--but it's an awesome idea and will hopefully spur on the imaginations of children everywhere. Maybe my thoughts on this have been influenced by my experience surrounded by little princesses frequenting the Bippity Boppity Boutique for a week.
Princess Mia, one of the best fictional princesses EVER
Anyway, since The Princess Diaries is one of my FAVORITE book series and I harbor an appreciation for a variety of Disney princesses, I decided to partake in this celebration. Check back for a few cool princess-related posts this week!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Small Hiatus!

Hello everyone!

I'm leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning to drive to Disney World, so I'm going to be missing in action on this blog for a bit! Also, I sucked out on posting my reviews this week, so when I come back my review schedule will go back to normal. Normal posts will resume April 23rd.

Have a great weekend/week!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 480
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. Ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

For Emily Danforth’s debut, the cover was enough to catch my attention, but I was also intrigued by the premise. Cameron Post’s parents died while she was busy kissing her best female friend, creating feelings of guilt mixed in with grief that continue throughout her adolescence. When she moves in with her conservative aunt and old fashioned grandmother, Cameron just avoids discussing her sexuality. She has various encounters with a variety of people, both male and female, but no one affects her quite like the popular Coley Taylor. Just as her feelings for Coley come to a head, Cameron is sent away by her conservative aunt in an attempt to reverse her homosexuality. While away, Cameron has to deal with people trying to “fix” her and make her deal with all of her feelings--not just her attraction to girls.
Woah. Heaviosity, dude. The issues involved in this book ran from grief to betrayal to being a lesbian in a small, religious community. It’s a coming of age story in which the heroine doesn’t seem to fit in with anyone for the majority of the book--she’s in love with her straight best friend, which makes for a situation that is less than fully comfortable.
I found Cameron Post to be an incredibly well developed character, though maybe a bit out of reach for the reader. I especially enjoyed the kleptomania for the dollhouse--it was the way Cameron remained connected to her parents and I thought it was something totally different.
Although Cameron Post spends the duration of this book as a preteen and teenager, I felt that it read more like an adult book than a young adult book. I felt that Cameron showed an interesting sense of maturity that made her feel more detached than other YA protagonists. I attributed this to the deaths of her parents at such a young age and dealing with homosexuality in a small, conservative town. I was quite concerned about Cameron while reading this one.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post was a well written young adult work of literary fiction about a girl trying to grow up with a heavy dose of guilt and isolation. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but if you enjoy more literary works, definitely check it out.

Rating: 4 - good.

Waiting on Wednesday (11)

City of Lost Souls (Mortal Instruments #5) by Cassandra Clare

The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace has been freed from her captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive to rescue him, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.
No magic the Clave can summon can locate either boy, but Jace cannot stay away—not from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith’s dying magic has wrought—Jace is no longer the boy she loved. He and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become what he most feared: a true servant of Valentine’s evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. Will the Shadowhunters hesitate to kill one of their own?
Only a small band of Clary and Jace’s friends and family believe that Jace can still be saved — and that the fate of the Shadowhunters’ future may hinge on that salvation. They must defy the Clave and strike out on their own. Alec, Magnus, Simon and Isabelle must work together to save Jace: bargaining with the sinister Faerie Queen, contemplating deals with demons, and turning at last to the Iron Sisters, the reclusive and merciless weapons makers for the Shadowhunters, who tell them that no weapon on this earth can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. Their only chance of cutting Jace free is to challenge Heaven and Hell — a risk that could claim any, or all, of their lives.
And they must do it without Clary. For Clary has gone into the heart of darkness, to play a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing the game is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she even still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?
Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.
All right, I didn't really step out of the box for my Waiting on Wednesday post--I'm trying to avoid waiting on things when I have the ever-growing pile of books begging to be read (and threatening to pile on me when I'm asleep) in my bedroom. But I am looking forward to this one! And re-reading the rest of the Mortal Instruments books in preparation for it!
Also: I'm just going to say right now that I'm not a huge fan of this cover. Clary and Jace are looking a little romance novel-y here. I much prefer the German covers, which don't have any people on them. Just class. However, due to my lack of proficiency in the German language, buying those would be pretty superfluous.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (15)

Top Ten Books that Were Deceiving:
Hmm...for my list I don’t think the above title is very fair. To be more specific, this list will be comprised of both books I found deceiving and books that had summaries I misinterpreted due to a lack of attention and/or not reading the summary and making wild assumptions. It’s DEFINITELY not always the book’s fault in my case. Let’s get into it!
1. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
I’m in the midst of reading this one right now! Rothenberg’s debut falls under the category of “dead girl” books, in which the main character is deceased and observing how life goes on without her. These books tend to be kind of serious, with protagonists that go through their afterlife with an almost ethereal, floating presence. When I sat down and realized that this was about a girl dying of a broken heart, I wasn’t all that excited--I thought that the story would end up taking itself very seriously and being a bit melodramatic. THIS IS NOT SO! The protagonist of this story is wonderful. She’s full of wit and pop culture references and doesn’t seem to be willing to let a little thing like her death get in the way of her living. I’m so curious about what’s going to happen. Bravo, Jess Rothenberg!

2. Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss
I picked out this book purely based on the cover. Giving the summary a quick scan, I saw that it was about a fifteen year old boy struggling a bit with who he is when he attempts to change himself for a girl. I was surprised with how heavily religion weighed on this book--the protagonist Phillip begins attending church to get closer to Rebekah, then begins exploring religion in order to understand his mother before she died. Definitely more serious than I thought, but I found Klauss crafted the story well and handled the religion in an impressive fashion, condemning neither religion or lack thereof.

3. Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter
This one is a simple case of me picking books based purely on title/cover than summary: I saw the book and assumed that it was a fictionalized account of Cleopatra’s teenage years. Not so! Once again, I was wrong. The book is actually about Cleopatra’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene’s teenage years. I felt like I enjoyed the book more for it--I know various bits of information about the famous Egyptian queen, but I knew pretty much nothing about her daughter. Also, it was a fantastically imagined book.
4. Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
I had heard wonderful things about Leila Sales’s books. All I knew about this one was that the titular girls attended a private school. Based on the very short skirt and heels on the cover and the title, I assumed that it would be about a bunch of popular girls getting up to no good while attending private school. I think I actually assumed that one of the girls either had an affair with a teacher or became pregnant or something (listen, I’m not sure why I thought this either, except that I was watching Pretty Little Liars when I started it). WRONG. The story is more about the best friendship between two girls and how it changes as they are growing up.

5. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
I’ve read this one twice: the first time was years ago. I was incredibly busy while I read it and didn’t pay a speck of attention to it. The second time was a few months ago and I completely adored it. Sometime in between readings, I convinced myself that the book was fairly focused on the mom--so much that I managed to believe that Francesca was actually Frankie’s mother rather than the main character. Oy. Thankfully, I revisited this one when I could actually pay attention and absolutely loved it.

6. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Based on the title, I assumed that this would be more of a saccharine sweet contemporary love story that I knew had travel involved. Maybe it would have some crazy misunderstandings thrown in there. In actuality, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight tells the story of two people that find each other on a plane. Hadley is heading to her father’s second wedding, something that she has dreaded. Oliver is heading back to England for something very serious. The book does develop the relationship between Hadley and Oliver, but ends up being more about how each of them (mainly Hadley) is dealing with their family issues.

7. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Based on the awesome cover, I thought Nina LaCour’s sophomore novel was going to be a light, summery read about a teenage guy going on tour with his best friend’s band. There were going to be wild antics and maybe some ridiculousness with rooming and the concert venues. This book was way deeper than I anticipated, exploring Colby’s love for and anger at his fairly damaged best friend, Bev, and how they deal with their complicated relationship during the tour. I loved reading about Colby sorting through his confusion and figuring out what he is going to do with his life.

8. The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
I was convinced, I repeat CONVINCED that this book was dystopian, probably because I heard of it around the same time I first read The Hunger Games back in 2009. It’s more of a post-apocalyptic with a twist. You’d just have to read it to see. Not dystopian, but seriously messed up in a incredibly readable way.

9. Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
I knew this was a contemporary book about a teenage boy dying of cancer. I thought it was going to be about living his last days to the fullest, or maybe going on some sort of quest like the main character in Going Bovine does. I was wrong. If you’ve read my review, you know that I was not pleasantly surprised by this fact.

10. The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
First of all, I love this cover. Second of all, for some reason I was CONVINCED that this book was about a zombie disease. I have no idea where I got that, unless I’ve been hearing about so many zombie disease books that I decided any book about an island quarantine had to be zombie related. REGARDLESS, this book isn’t about a zombie disease--it’s about the opposite. The disease causes you to be super friendly to everyone, making it spread faster and faster. It was awesome! I’m looking forward to the other books in the series.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish