Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 230
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: (from goodreads.com) In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Review:
When this book came out, I had absolutely no interest in it. I was still in college, so I was way pickier when it came to books. That meant that whenever I could sneak a book in somewhere, it would be a continuation of a series or a stand alone I really wanted to read. Now that I have more time for recreational reading, I’ve broadened my scope. And that brought me to Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel. It’s on all sorts of lists and won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. When I found out the book club at the library was doing it, I finally picked it up for fear of spoilers.
Junior is your average fourteen-year-old boy. That is, if you’re average fourteen-year-old boy had a giant head, an overabundance of extra teeth, and a disproportionate body. His unfortunate physical appearance makes him the punching bag of the Reservation where he and his family live. Unhappy with what his future is starting to look like, he does something that no one he knows has done before: he decides to go to school off the Reservation. Junior’s entire life changes--for the better and worse.
This book had its amusing moments, but for the most part, I would call it depressing. I knew that it was going to be sad because a co-worker told me of her experience crying to the audiobook in her car, but I think the cover is a bit misleading. With the cartoon-ish writing, it looks like a lighter book.
In my opinion, Junior was a likable character. The teenagers in the book group I worked with considered him a loser and dismissed him entirely. Normally I might have been with them, but Junior transcended his status. He was greatly unhappy with his status as a punching bag, so he did something to change it. In the immortal words of Peyton Sawyer from the WB-turned-CW show One Tree Hill (please note my sarcasm on the “immortal words” part, the quote itself is straight to the point and useful in more cases than I’d expect), “If you don’t like the person you’ve become, then DO something about it.” Characters who help themselves are a lot more likable than ones that merely complain to others. There were a lot of negative things in Junior’s life that were out of his control (i.e., his parents’ lack of opportunity and subsequent alcoholism) but things he could control he attempted to make better.
While it includes a bunch of heavy material (for example, a lot of death, alcoholism, blatant racism), it was a pretty quick read. I thought the cartoons were a nice touch. Some were darkly funny, some were explanatory, and many were depressing. My favorite was the diagram Junior created of who his parents could have been if given the opportunities everyone should have.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was a great quick read and a very different story than anything else in young adult fiction. The protagonist is on the younger YA side, but the content is arguably for older readers. I’m definitely glad to have checked it out.

Rating: 4.5 - very good.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 313
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Review:
I’ve been avoiding this review for awhile. Let’s just establish this: I loved this book, so the problem wasn’t any hesitance to throw a negative opinion out there amongst the abundance of love for this one. It was merely me trying to find a way to express my feelings for this book without rambling on about unicorns and rainbows.
I am a fan of John Green’s works, but I don’t think that every one of his books is faultless. I found that I loved Looking For Alaska, but Paper Towns fell short of my expectations. I adored his story in Let It Snow. Before reading this one, I wondered which side of the line this one would fall on--would I agree with the glowing reviews or would I be disappointed after the hype? I’m happy to say that I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars so much, it’s going on my Best of 2012 List.
Hazel isn’t making long term plans. She may have gone into remission, but she knows that she is not long for this world. The last thing she’s looking for is a boyfriend, someone that would be left behind when she inevitably makes her exit. That is, until she meets Augustus Waters, an example of teenage boy perfection that understands what it is like to have cancer and won’t give up on his pursuit of Hazel. Together, the two learn how to live their lives to the fullest--regardless of the length of time they have left.
To start, this is not a “cancer book”--the story is more about living life, regardless of how little you have left. But there was no cheese! Having read a book about a teenager with cancer and not having a great experience with it, I was thrilled that this book was so good. It managed to explore how two teenagers might try to figure out living with a disease without being overly sentimental or condescending.
Next up: the characters. Augustus Waters was a perfect male specimen. Obviously not perfect in the sense that he was angelic and untouchably good, but perfect in a very real way. He was witty, confident, and refused to let his illness get in the way or his life. However, his best quality was his unflinching honesty.
Example: (Normally I’d be less spoiler-y, but this quote is absolutely everywhere)
“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all out labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.” (p. 153)
See? Unflinching, perfectly phrased honesty. Augustus Waters, I think I might love you.
Hazel, the narrator of the story, was a great character as well. She had an incredibly dry sense of humor and dealt with her illness with great reason. She doesn’t believe that teenagers living with cancer should be held up as angelic martyrs and complains that a lot of “cancer books” contain protagonists that demonstrate such behaviors. I loved that she was passionate about books, specifically An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten, and that part of the journey Hazel and Augustus take revolves around this story.
Hazel and Augustus had unbelievable and slightly innocent chemistry. Their interactions were incredible. Both are quick with words and very witty, so whether the conversation was about creating a random fake scenario or trading thoughts on their favorite books or movies, it was easily readable.
This book is devastating. At one point, I had to stop reading and get rid of some of the tears. They were obscuring my vision and I legitimately could not read the words on the page. I was so attached to Hazel, Augustus, and their friends and family members from the first chapter, so then end of this book was tough. This was truly an exhibit of John Green’s strength as a writer: creating characters that people care about from the first page, then not being afraid to put them through very real pain.
The Fault in Our Stars was a brilliant book. Beautiful writing, engaging characters, and a story that won’t quit combined to make one of the best young adult books I’ve ever read. I’d recommend this one to both teenagers and adults alike, along with suggesting that they make sure they have tissues in the house when they read it.

Rating: hands down, a 5 - shelf of freaking favorites

Bloggiesta Ole!

Or, How I Can Finally Force Myself to Do Some Much Needed Maintenance on This Blog:
I first saw this event over on Chick Loves Lit and decided that my participation was necessary. This is a time where bloggers will be catching up on tasks and blog maintenance that has a tendency to fall by the wayside. This is perfect for me! I let all the tasks fall by the wayside! I used to be really organized with this blog. That quickly fell apart and now I've just been blogging on the run. Time to rectify that!


TASKS TO ACCOMPLISH:
  • Add challenge buttons to their appropriate reviews
  • Add "Books Read" page to the top bar
  • Update Review Archive
  • Write 8 reviews (this is highly ambitious, and therefore the least likely to happen)
Can I do it? Check back to this page on Monday to find out!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Defense of YA, Or, Why People Shouldn't Be Condescending About Things They Don't Understand: A Letter to Joel Stein

Adults Should Read Adult Books
I linked the article above, but if you care to read my rant, I quote the entire thing piece by piece.

Listen, I get it. Not everyone wants to read books in the young adult genre, despite the fact that it has grown exponentially in both number and quality from the days of ghostwritten Sweet Valley books and Flowers in the Attic. There is a fairly large community of young adult authors that are writing very high quality stories that are to be respected, not looked down upon because their audience includes adolescents or the main character happens to be between the age of 13 and 19. I’m not saying you have to read it. I am saying that you should respect it.
I was utterly offended by this article. I’m no stranger to pretension regarding books. I was a “Literature” major (that’s right, my college didn’t refer to it as English) and a History major at a small liberal arts school. You don’t find a higher concentration of people being pretentious for sport than that. I’m not saying that everyone was; there were people that insisted on “real literature” being the only thing worthwhile, but there were also a bunch that appreciated the classics AND regularly read whatever they wanted for the sheer pleasure of reading. I regularly heard that Kindles and other e-Readers were going to be the death of civilization as we knew it and that young adult books were trash. One of my friends and I made it a regular habit to talk about Chelsea Handler memoirs and the merits of Ke$ha songs in front of these people.
I took a seminar on Arthurian Legends during which we had to pick an interpretation of an Arthurian story that wasn’t on our regular syllabus. I chose Avalon High by Meg Cabot. It’s not my favorite Meg Cabot book, but it’s still a fun, interesting interpretation. So what, it’s clearly aimed at teenage girls (with a hot pink cover)? Most of Meg Cabot’s books are! I was not familiar with Arthurian legend growing up, and this book actually taught me a thing or two about it when I read it in high school. When I did my presentation, most of the students in my class ripped the book apart--without having read it. One particularly charming person said that it was, “the worst thing to happen to Arthurian literature.” Hey, buddy? Before you make an assessment like that, I think you might have to flip through a couple pages first.
And then I come across this article, courtesy of Siobhan Vivian’s twitter. I try not to read articles bashing teen books, because they make me so angry. For some reason, I clicked on this one and now I have all this pent up annoyance and rage.
Why? Let’s take a look.

“The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads.
I’m sure all those books are well written. So is “Horton Hatches the Egg.” But Horton doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing. “

Hmm, so catching someone reading a well-written, attention-absorbing story (all right, maybe I’m talking more about The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, but Twilight is still someone’s published work that clearly caught attention) is worse than catching them watching pornography? Mr. Stein, when did you develop this inferiority complex that made you such an insufferable snob? Having something like that to prove is less than appealing. Granted, I assume you wrote your article:
1. To insult and therefore, provoke reactions from YA readers and authors that happened across your unfortunate words, and
2. To prove something to yourself: that your opinion matters and that big men only read big people books.
Well, congratulations. Here’s your reaction: I don’t respect your opinion at all. You didn’t even bother to give these books a try. And you seem to think that is something to brag about.

Oh, but look! He does approve of some less that adulterated behavior. I was worried for a minute that he didn’t approve of me watching Finding Nemo.

“I appreciate that adults occasional watch Pixar movies or play video games. That’s fine. Those mediums don’t require much of your brains. Books are one of our few chances to learn. There’s a reason my teachers didn’t assign me to go home and play three hours of Donkey Kong.”

Here’s what I’ve learned from some children’s and young adult books, including Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games: adults aren’t always right. Especially the writer of this article.

Can I tell you, I was absolutely impressed with Mr. Stein when he admitted that he has absolutely no idea what he is taking such pains to insult.

“I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults. “

You do that, sir. And what was that? You just admitted that you have no idea what you are talking about and therefore shouldn’t be spewing your ill-informed opinions all over the NYT?

“Let’s have the decency to let tween girls have their own little world of vampires and child wizards and games you play when hungry.”

Do a bit more research next time. “Games you play when hungry”? What you’re actually referring to is a fight to the death in an arena designed by a totalitarian state as a continual lesson to the rest of the country for an uprising that happened before the time of anyone living there. Is that too juvenile for a person of such high taste?
Oh wait, I’m not done with this paragraph yet. The DECENCY? How about let’s have the decency not to be so
unbelievably condescending about things you do not understand and will not even bother doing research in before spouting off a bunch of nonsense in order to provoke people?

“Let’s not pump Justin Bieber in our Saabs and get engaged at Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. Because it’s embarrassing. You can’t take an adult seriously when he’s debating you over why Twilight vampires are O.K. with sunlight. If my parents had read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” at the same time as I did, I would have looked into boarding school.”

Actually, if an adult could debate with me about the mythology behind Twilight in an intelligent way, I’d listen to them. I’m more impressed by people who can craft their opinions and debates in an intelligent fashion, rather than those that are ill-prepared to adequately express their thoughts on certain subjects but are, in their own narrow, condescending opinions, “well-read.” But don’t worry, those people read ADULT books. Clearly readers won’t notice that they fail to know what they are talking about. Now that? That attitude right there? THAT’s embarrassing.
Also, don’t tell me what I can and cannot do.
Side note: If you’ll allow for a very teenager-y reaction to an condescending article about teenager-y books, I bet your parents would have been glad to be rid of you.

Signed,
An Adult Reader of Young Adult Books

P.S. I’m sure J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Stephanie Meyer are all smarting from the sting of your opinions. Or they will be, right after they stop counting their enormous stacks of money and looking at their gorgeous sales figures.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Publisher: Antheneum Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: (from goodreads) Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .
In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.
Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

Review:
Where Things Come Back was this year’s Printz Medal winner, so I decided it was important to check it out. One day I aspire to have every Printz Medal winner read (right now I’m at 7 of 13), so this helped with that goal as well.
This was an example of a mystery very well done. I had know idea what happened with Gabriel or what the thing was with the woodpecker until I was told--there was no way to guess the turn of events that goes down. The story is divided in two and these two pieces appear to have nothing to do with one another (time seems to move at a different pace in both, the two are not occurring parallel to one another) until they are woven together perfectly at the end. This was definitely the strongest part of the novel; as soon as the two pieces were woven together, I could not put the book down.

Does it deserve the Printz Medal?
Most definitely. I didn’t feel the need to race through it in order to discover what happened, but the story was incredibly well crafted and the mystery was compelling enough to carry the story through both sides.

Rating: 4.5 - very good.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Everneath (Everneath, #1) by Brodi Ashton

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 370
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 in the Everneath trilogy
Summary: Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.
As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

Review:
Warning: this one is going to be a longer review. I adored this book, and sometimes loving a book causes me to blather on about its awesomeness. Seriously. My friend asked me on the train today what The Hunger Games was about and I didn’t shut up for like five minutes straight. I found Everneath on the debut author list. I was instantly intrigued by its basis in the Persephone myth. I also really like the cover, despite the fact that it’s a girl in a fancy dress. Hate all you want, but the red dress is incredibly eye-catching. And it’s disappearing into smoke! This isn’t the run of the mill fancy dress, this one’s got character.
It’s been six months since Nikki Beckett disappeared without a word. What her loved ones don’t know is that she is in the Everneath, the Underworld in which Immortals like Cole take human subjugates for one hundred years in order to take human emotions to sustain themselves. Nikki’s all but lost--except that she has the memory of a human face that she can’t name, but knows she loves. That is enough for Nikki to retain a bit of emotion and choose to take six months more as a human on Earth rather than become an immortal. Once she’s back in her old life, she has sixth months to say goodbye to her father, her brother, her best friend--and the boy whose face saved her soul, Jack, before she will be dragged back to the Everneath for good.
I loved the story. i read it really fast because I needed to know what happened. I’m wildly curious about what the second one will bring, but I’m going to have to wait quite some time before I get that. The characters were all very different, but not in a so-quirky-you-want-to-die way.
Example: Cole. Cole was not the overly dreamy bad boy who is super evil or the brooding bad boy that only wants to be GOOD but can’t find his way. Cole is concerned with himself and his own ambitions in the Everneath. He very obviously does care for Nikki, but not enough to stop his plans. In a way, Cole’s immortal self is incredibly human. Also, I LOVED that Ashton made the Immortals that lured human subjugates to the Everneath rock stars.
Then there’s Jack. Oh, Jack. His devotion to Nikki was so endearing, considering she tried not to give him the time of day upon her return. I was concerned that he was in danger of being defined by his feelings for Nikki, but Ashton crafted a well-rounded character that was believably selfless and compassionate, especially when considering the treatment high school quarterbacks usually get in young adult books.
The mythology behind the book was very well-imagined, especially since Ashton combined the Hades/Persephone myth with that of Orpheus and Eurydice. Rather than there being a singular “Hades” figure that lures a Persephone subject, there are a host of Immortals that maintain their lives by luring humans into the Everneath and feeding off their emotions for one hundred years (or six Earth months). The situation that occurs after that provides the setup for this book and created a great story for Nikki that goes between hopelessness and hope.
All and all, I adored Brodi Ashton’s debut and am wholeheartedly looking forward to the next installment. If you’re looking for a cool reimagining of a Greek myth, look no further!

Rating: 5 - fantastic!

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

(from goodreads.com)
Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. 
A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Release date: September 18, 2012

I read Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns a few months ago (that review got lost in the shuffle, I should really find that and post it...) and loved it! I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in Elisa's adventure, I have to know what's going to happen to her!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (13)

TOP TEN BOOKS I’D LIKE TO PLAY HOOKY WITH:
Here’s the thing: when I started making this list, I couldn’t decide which direction I should go in. So I kind of made two. Behold!

TOP TEN BOOKS I PLAYED HOOKY WITH IN HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE, OR THE BOOKS I READ DURING CLASS WHEN I JUST COULDN’T PAY ATTENTION:
1. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty: there’s nothing like reading about Jessica Darling’s high school experience to get you through yours.
2. Shadowland by Meg Cabot (along with the rest of the Mediator series): I discovered these after finals during my sophomore year of high school. It’s not like we were doing anything in class anyway! Plus, GHOSTS!
3. Rocketboys by Homer Hickham, Jr.: this is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. I couldn’t stop reading it, even if that meant not paying a stitch of attention in Honors Chem.
4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: read this one throughout classes in both high school AND college.
5. Replay by Ken Grimwood: this one was a book for my high school book club that seemed more important than watching the Godzilla remake in my tenth grade English class (I know, I don’t know why we were watching it either).
6. TTYL by Lauren Myracle: this series was great to read during my Spanish 4 Honors class junior year. Since the stories are told in online chats, they go super fast and are easy to follow. Plus, they were fun to explain to my Spanish teacher when she would come over and talk to me about what I was reading.
7. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen: I didn’t read this one during class, but I did read it when I should have been doing the mountain of school work that piled up spring semester of my junior year in college. This summer-y book was the perfect way to ignore the harsh reality of homework. Plus, I got to read it while relaxing in my friend’s at-home library. SHE HAS A LIBRARY ROOM, GUYS!
8. Dry by Augusten Burroughs: I’m telling you. The easiest way to get through Elementary Probability and Statistics is to read the memoirs of an alcoholic advertising agent.
9. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta: I remember reading this book during class, even though I didn’t remember the story at all before I re-read it. I feel like reading about Frankie’s high school predicament and the close-knit group of friends she got out of it will give you hope for your own.
10. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket: I remember reading the introduction to the Series of Unfortunate Events during Spanish 3 my sophomore year of high school. These books were perfect for reading during class because they were so squat and could easily hide behind a purse. Even the ghastly Disney purse I decided to carry around that year as some sort of pop culture thing. Gah.

TOP TEN BOOKS I’D LIKE TO PLAY HOOKY WITH NOW OR IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE:

1. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
I’m in the middle of this book, and I would have liked nothing more than to stay home so I could read it ALL DAY LONG. It’s about the son of a serial killer. I can’t be expected to stop reading that for silly things like “real life” once I start!

2. Grave Mercy by R.L. LeFevers
I’ve been in the mood for an epic fantasy-type book set in Medieval times or before. I picked this one up at the used book annex (it’s practically brand new!) and now I’d like to ditch everything to read it.

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
This one would be a reread, but an important one. I originally read the first two a few years ago, before Catching Fire had been released (woo ARCs! Also, for those of you who have read them, you know that the cliffhanger at the end made me regret my decision to read both over a year before Mockingjay was released). I happened to make the (glorious!) mistake of picking up The Hunger Games again last week before a trivia event. Now it’s all I can do to not throw away every responsibility I have in order to read Catching Fire. That may be happening this weekend.

4. Black Heart by Holly Black
Um, maybe reading Black Heart means re-reading White Cat and Red Glove too. I may have heard that somewhere. These books are so good, they’re worth taking some time off to properly enjoy. AND THE LAST ONE COMES OUT NEXT WEEK! And I happen to have the day off from work the next day! Holly Black, my next Wednesday might belong to you.

5. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
I’ve wanted to read Sarah Rees Brenna’s Demon’s Lexicon trilogy for quite some time, but didn’t want to do so before the third book came out. That happened and I still haven’t read them, but I follow her on twitter and find her to be hysterical. What better way to finally become acquainted with her books than ditching out on real life to do so?

6. Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker
I read Small Town Sinners last summer and have been looking forward to Walker’s next book since. I have a feeling that this contemporary novel would inspire me to take off on a boat trip for the rest of the summer. Look at how breezy the cover is! Makes me wish I was a summer person. I want to stay home on a nice day and read this book while lounging on my aunt’s hammock. Also, in this fantasy, I’m drinking lemonade.
7. The Rivals by Daisy Whitney
I loved The Mockingbirds, and I think it’s time to ignore everything and read the sequel. Especially since I have the ARC with the original cover! YES.

8. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
I’m a little behind on the popular dystopian books (read: I haven’t read Ally Condie’s Matched series, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series, or Megan McCafferty’s Bumped series because i’m waiting for the third books in each to come out) so I figured that I should take some time out to catch up on one of them. This is my sister’s favorite out of the three and I want to know what she’s always talking about.

9. Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
A little while ago a lot of people were raving about this book and I want to know what that’s all about. With that kind of praise, I think it would be enjoyable to stay home and read this book, perhaps with a lovely cup of tea. That is all.

10. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
I adored Marchetta’s Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son. The rest of her books are all on my To Be Read List (the most daunting thing of all the things) and I REALLY want to read this one. Unfortunately it’s a trilogy and the second book is only coming out now, so I’m going to try to wait it out until the third. I’m not making any promises. Having only read contemporary novels by Marchetta, I’m curious about how she’ll take on fantasy. I feel that these books deserve my full attention, so obviously when reading them I should stay home in order to give them their due.

What I’ve learned: I need to become independently wealthy as soon as possible so I can stay home and read all the time.


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, March 26, 2012

In My Mailbox (13)

BOUGHT:
Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
Whip It by Shauna Cross
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser (signed!)
Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

KINDLE:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
(look, I already own a hardcover set of the trilogy, but I was at work and needed to re-read the book for a trivia competition, so I had to buy the Kindle version!)
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ditched by Robin Mellom

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 288
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her. Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom. And then ditched her.

Review:
I read this one for the concept, because I definitely not a fan of this cover. It was kind of like a throwback to the 80s/90s all-night adventure movies like Adventures in Babysitting and Can’t Hardly Wait. Unfortunately, it did not deliver as well as one would hope.
The story opens on Justina in a ditch, after being ditched (do you see what just happened with that just then?). All she remembers is that she was at the prom with her best friend/crush Ian and that he ditched her. She wanders into the local mini mart in the hopes of finding sustenance or a phone. Instead, she gets a sympathetic ear or two to listen to her tale as the details slowly come back to her.
Justina as a character annoyed me.  She jumped to wild conclusions about Ian and everyone else around her. For someone who was judged as a “kissing slut” she sure dismissed people as being sluts and morons for the way they dressed and who they hung out with. I found it difficult to sympathize with her.
My other issue with this one was the pacing. For the type of story it was, I found the pacing to be very slow. All-night adventures usually move pretty quickly, but this one had a tendency to drag.
The concept behind Ditched was great, but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped. I’d still be curious to read upcoming Mellom works; she has good ideas and I’d be interested to see how she develops as a writer in the future.

Rating: 2 - meh. I wasn’t thrilled.




Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway

Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 282
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: I hugged my sisters and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn’t imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself.
Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood--powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?
April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds--everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other.
Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

Review:
This book caught my eye when it first came out. My sister had many good things to say about Benway’s first novel, Audrey, Wait! so I decided to give both of them a try. I enjoyed Audrey, Wait! a lot and had high hopes for this one as well.
April, May, and June are dealing with several issues: their parents have just divorced, their father moved away, and oh yeah, they just discovered they had magical powers. April has visions of the future. May can turn invisible. And June can read the minds of those around her--a talent that her sisters are less than appreciative of. Their newfound magic is just a quirky addition to their antics--until April sees a disturbing vision of the future. The girls must put aside their differences and work together in order to try to avoid their impending doom.
The three sisters were all very different but not in a hugely cliched way; June, the youngest, wanted to be popular but wasn’t a vapid drone, May was kind of a loner type but didn’t march around with a cigarette and a trench coat discussing how jaded she was, and April had an interest in academics and books, but she didn’t obsessively study to the point of being a social pariah. Robin Benway continued expressing her ability to create realistic, believable characters, despite the fact that these three girls had magical powers.
I found the plot a little lackluster compared to Audrey, Wait! Despite the interesting characters and realistic setting for the sisters’ magic, the plot fell flat. I think that I maybe wanted more humor. Instead of worrying about the danger, I think I would have appreciated the big thing in this book to be made of funny antics or a wacky misunderstanding. I liked the characters, but they were not interesting enough on their own to overcome the lackluster nature of the plot. May came the closest, but I feel like she also got the least amount of story, maybe because of the nature of her power?
So, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June disappointed me a bit due to my high expectations going in. The book was still pretty decent, so if you’re looking for a contemporary read with just a hint of magic, check it out. I’m looking forward to Benway’s next novel (due out Winter 2013?), which is supposed to be about a teenage spy or detective (combination?).

Rating: 3 - decent.

HAPPY HUNGER GAMES!

In order to celebrate the release of the movie tonight at midnight, I’ve decided to post some of my favorite quotes from the book (which I may have accidentally reread this week...)!

“Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me. Entrails. no hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.”

“District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety.”

“Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch--this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we stand of surviving another rebellion. Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. ‘Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen.’”

“To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim, who no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.
Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.”

“I can’t help comparing what I have with Gale to what I’m pretending I have with Peeta. How I never question Gale’s motives but do nothing but doubt the latter’s. It’s not a fair comparison really. Gale and I were thrown together by a mutual need to survive. Peeta and I know the other’s survival means our own death. How do you sidestep that?”

“A lifetime of watching the Hunger Games lets me know that certain areas of the arena are rigged for certain attacks. And that if I can just get away from this section, I might be able to move out of reach of the launchers. I might also then fall straight into a pit of vipers, but I can’t worry about that now.”

“Rue, who when you ask her what she loves most in the world, replies, of all things, ‘Music.’
‘Music?’ I say. In our world, I rank music somewhere between hair ribbons and rainbows in terms of usefulness. At least a rainbow gives you a tip about the weather.”

Katniss: “Peeta, you were supposed to wake me after a couple of hours.”
Peeta: “For what? Nothing’s going on here. Besides I like watching you sleep. You don’t scowl. Improves your looks a lot.”

Katniss: “So, since we were five, you never even noticed any other girls?”
Peeta: “No, I noticed about every other girl, but none of them made a lasting impression but you.”

CAN YOU TELL I'M EXCITED? I can't wait for midnight tonight. How about you guys? Is anyone going to see it at midnight or are you doing the sensible thing and going at a normal time? JK, of course seeing this movie at midnight is sensible (I may have described it as a necessity to someone today?).

WOO!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

Publisher: Graphia
Pages: 204
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: I had the dream again. The one where I’m running. I don’t know what from or where to, but I’m scared, terrified really.
Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live—even though he never will.
It’s probably hopeless.
But he has to try.

Review:
I found this one on the debut author list and decided to read it based on the title. Let that be a lesson to me.
The concept sounds pretty interesting. Austin is a teenager dying from cancer. He decides that in the little time he has left on this Earth, he’s going to visit the important people in his life: a dead friend’s mother, a rape victim he fell out of touch with, his own parents, etc. He doles out bits of wisdom to them and invites them to share their feelings. At the same, he’s going to try to get Kaylee, his best friend and personal chauffer for this venture, to fall in love with him before it’s too late.
How do I put this delicately (actively pulling back the snark that is so desperately trying to get out)? This book and I did not see eye to eye. At all. I know that Austin is dying of cancer, but I found him insufferable. He was insanely judgmental and decided that since he was dying, he was the expert on life and could “fix” everyone’s problems for them.
The main problem I had (aside from my virulent dislike of Austin) was that this little two hundred page book tried to take on too much. For instance: adolescent-onset cancer, rape, drug problems, teen death, adultery, (almost) divorce, coming out to a friend, general life spinning out of control stuff were the issues touched on. There was certainly not enough room in this book to go into three of the issues listed here, let alone seven or eight. The fact that this book tried to take all of this on made it read like a pack of (judgmental) pamphlets.
What did I like? The fact that Austin took a little road trip during his final days. I liked when he and Kaylee went to a carnival (probably because they didn’t talk to anyone there and just enjoyed it). That part showed Austin trying to live his life to the fullest before he died. This book would definitely have benefited from more carpe diem-ing and less Dr. Phil-ing.
Mine is only one opinion, check it out for yourself if you’re interested.

Rating: 1 - bad.