Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

At 10 years old Imogen Rockford lost her parents in a fire at their family home in England.  She's spent the 7 years since then trying to put that terrible night out of her mind and get on with her life with her adoptive family in New York City.  Then, information is brought forth that makes Imogen return to her family home, and to the memories she left behind there.

I guess this book is supposed to be somewhat of a mystery, and I can't describe it much more than I have without giving too much away.  I liked the tone of the novel, and the idea behind it, but I think in the end I was left a little underwhelmed.  Maybe I am getting old, maybe I am just sick of girls who can't hold themselves together around the boy who is obviously "the one".  Who knows, but honestly, Imogen's obsession with her childhood friend Sebastian did start to get on my nerves.  We spent more time with her mooning over him than on the mystery and history surrounding her family and the Rockford Manner (which would have been way more interesting).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

Jennifer Holm is a prolific author of the Babymouse series and multiple other books for middle graders.  This is the first novel of hers that I've read, and I will say it was a bit different than I thought it would be.

This is eleven year old Ellie's coming of age story.  Ellie's best friend and she are drifting apart, and to make matters even weirder her grandfather has found a fountain of youth and turned himself into a teenager.  Now, Ellie's grandpa Melvin is living with her and her mom, she's having to make new friends, and (with prompting from her newly young grandfather) she's learning that she loves science.

That is not the best description of the book, but it was the best  I could do.  While this book does have a science theme, it is really a story about growing up and about loving your family.  It's also a story about taking chances and changing your life in the ways that you want it changed.  I read through the book quickly enough, and I enjoyed the characters, but it was a little bland for me.  I finished the book a few days ago and I had to look Ellie's name up for this review because I'd forgotten it already.  I think that fans of middle grade books, and those that already read Jennifer L. Holm's books will enjoy this thoughtful yet light novel.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla (pronounced Eye-La like Island) attends the School of America in Paris and has had a hopeless crush on Josh since their freshmen year.  The two meet up one summer while home in NYC, and it is the start of a whirlwind romance that consumes them both during their senior year of school.

This is the final companion book in the set that includes Anna & the French Kiss and Lola & the Boy Next Door.  Characters from both books make cameos in this book as well.  Josh is a secondary character in Anna & the French Kiss, but here he gets a (sort of) starring role.  I loved Anna and Lola; unfortunately I did not love Isla.  In some ways she might be the character I relate to the most, but her complete and total obsession with Josh made the story seem kind of flat.  At times this book almost felt like it was Fatal Attraction instead of the You've Got Mail vibe I've gotten from Perkin's other books.  I missed the humor, I missed the secondary characters and the setting all playing a more important part of the story.  Instead I was trapped in Isla's head where the only thing I could see or feel was her desperate obsession with Josh.

Eventually Isla did grow on me, once she and Josh physically had to be separated and she had to function on her own, and I did think her best friend (Kurt) was a sweet character, but all in all this wasn't my favorite of Perkin's novels.  I hope she continues to write, and I look forward to seeing what else she will come up with, but I will miss the characters I've grown to love so much.  Maybe one day down the road she will revisit them.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Now, if you are a follower of this blog you probably know already that I love all things spooky and horror-like.  So, this book had me sold based on the cover alone.  I mean who doesn't love a creepy carousel picture with horror writing over it?  That cover...I just love it.

The book opens up with the story of Ivy, a girl whose name and life has been changed to protect her from the serial killer who killed her parents and will most likely one day come back for her.  Ivy is one of the main characters of the story, but she is not the only focus.  Instead, this is an ensemble book about teens who enter a Justin Blake's (a famous horror movie maker) contest to share their worst nightmare, and win a chance to meet Blake and see his newest movie.  Each teen enters for a different reason...and once the winners are brought together things start to go horribly wrong.

This book is the current YA lit form of an 80's teen slasher flick.  The characters are relatively inter-changeable (it took me about 2/3 of the book before I could really figure out who was narrating each chapter), and there isn't much gore, but there is lots of teen hormones and fun scares.  The nightmares that each teen encounters are interesting, and the Nightmare Elf (the star of Justin Blake's horror movies) reminds me of a mix of characters from Puppet Master, Leprechaun, and Dolls.  The chills are there, and I really had fun with the book...until the end.  I was a bit disappointed with how the book closed, and I am confused because it seems like there is going to be a sequel since there was no real resolution.  That said I think that the fun of the rest of the book more than makes up for the mediocre ending.

I reviewed a digital ARC copy of this book from Netgalley.  I received no compensation for my review.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Accomplishments & Titles

Growing up I thought I would be a teacher, an artist, or maybe an engineer like my father.  I had friends who were writers, but I never figured that as a career for me.  I love books, and have loved reading since I was a child, but I was never big on writing stories of my own.

At 34, I still don't think I will have a career as an author, but I do believe I have become a writer.  I have been published in VOYA magazine and in an academic journal.  I am a featured writer on Public Libraries Online.  And almost anytime I get a chance to write for something I jump at it.  I love to write papers for class, and I guess I just really do enjoy writing.  Hopefully I will continue to have opportunities to be published, and I can continue to write online as well.  My husband knows for sure that I have a lot to say, so writing gives me a way to keep on saying it without talking his ear off lol.

Another title that I can claim, that I'd have never thought of when I was younger, is runner.  I am not the fastest runner, nor the most consistent, but I am a runner.  My New Year's resolution was to run a 5k this year (without stopping), and I already accomplished that back in April, now I am focusing on running faster.  My next goal is to do a 5k at a pace of a 14 minute mile (which is really slow), but once I hit that goal I can move to another one.  Every time I get down on myself for being slow, I remember that there was a time a few years ago when I couldn't have even run a mile outside, let alone 3+ miles.  I just need to keep my head down and keep going.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My first giveaway & a quiz!

 “Which Starlight Saga Character Would YOU Most Likely Be?”

Today bestselling author, Sherry Soule has some exciting news to share with us! She will be publishing a brand new upper YA / Sci-Fi romance series: the “Starlight Saga” with scorching-hot character chemistry, exciting suspense, and epic romance on June 26, 2014.
To help promote this interstellar love story, “LOST IN STARLIGHT” Sherry is doing this promo to share the news with fellow booklovers.
This giveaway is open internationally! So let’s tell the blogging world!
Take this quiz to see which character in the Starlight Saga you’d most likely be similar to, and score a $10 Amazon gift card!
Answer this quiz, and then post your results in the comments. Be sure to check the bottom of the post for the details regarding this random giveaway.

1.   We detest using labels, but what would others call you?

a)   Amateur Fashionista
b)   Jock/ Cheerleader
c)    Goth or Emo inspired
d)   Preppy/ Student Counsel

2.   Which of the following best describes your personality?

a)   Lighthearted, Diverse, Honest
b)   Stuck-up, Conceited, Cocky
c)    Independent, Witty, Strange
d)   Quiet, Temperamental, Clever

3.   Which genre do you read most often?

a)   Paranormal Romance
b)   Urban Fantasy
c)    Horror / Darker YA
d)   Science Fiction

4.   You are at school and witness a student bullying someone. What do you do?

a)   Run in the opposite direction before they pick on you
b)   Laugh and join in on the fun
c)    Go tell a teacher what’s going on
d)   Stop and tell the bully to knock it off or else!

5.   What type of pet would you like to have or do you own?
a)   Snake
b)   Dog
c)    Cat
d)   Hamster

6.   How often do you shop or hit the mall?
a)   Once or twice a month
b)   Only on sale days
c)    Every week—duh
d)   Hardly ever

7.   Where would you hang out on a free afternoon?
a)   The library or bookstore
b)   Hit the clothing stores with friends
c)    Go to the movies
d)   Play video games

If you answered...

Mostly a's: You and Viola are a lot alike! You both love to read, prefer to avoid confrontations, and you’re energetic and sassy.
Mostly b's: Popular girls, Emma and Kaitlyn could be your new besties! You each enjoy sports, hanging at the mall, and dogs.
Mostly c's: You are a lot like the heroine, Sloane. You both love to shop, hang at the movies, adore cats, and like the darker side of books and films.
Mostly d's: Sounds like you and Hayden have a lot in common. You each love to play video games, can’t stand bullies, and are into science fiction books, comics, or movies.

Random winner will be picked on June 27th 2014. Please check back on that day to find out if you’re the lucky winner. Your gift card will be delivered via email. All prizes will be electronically delivered. Please review all terms & conditions before entering.  

Mandatory giveaway details:

That's it! Good luck!

Please mark your calendars to buy your copy of LOST IN STARLIGHT on June 26th 2014!
Read the first five chapters for free on wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/story/14214838-lost-in-starlight-syfy-romance
VOLUME ONE: Starlight Saga
High school reporter Sloane Masterson knows she has one helluva story when she witnesses hottie Hayden Lancaster bending forks with his mind.
Like any good journalist, Sloane sets out to uncover the truth, even if it includes a little stalking. When the superhuman feats start to pile up and the undeniable heat rises between them, Hayden has no choice but to reveal his secret: he’s an alien hybrid.
They’re as different as night and day—she’s a curvy, purple-haired, horror junkie and he’s a smoking hot, antisocial, brainiac—yet the intense fascination between them refuses to go away. Even at Hayden’s insistence that dating each other is “off limits” and crazy dangerous, their fiery attraction threatens to go supernova.
Now Sloane’s dealing with creepy government agents, ├╝ber snobby extraterrestrials, and a psycho alien ex-girlfriend out for revenge. After a crash course on the rules of interstellar dating, Sloane must decide if their star-crossed romance is worth risking her own life....
Places you can cyberstalk Sherry Soule:
Twitter @SherrySoule: http://twitter.com/SherrySoule
Please add LOST IN STARLIGHT to your TBR on goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20707942-lost-to-starlight
The awesome book cover was designed by the talented, Kristen Thompson-Oh of KCT Designs at www.kctdesigns.com

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Band of Brothers

I am a bit behind the times when it comes to watching the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.  I will admit, I was a little turned off by Saving Private Ryan, so when this mini-series came out I wasn't really interested.  Recently, Amazon Prime acquired the rights to show many HBO shows and my husband and I decided to start watching this series on Memorial Day.

My husband had seen the series before, but not for over a decade.  I went in knowing it was about WWII, but that was the extent of my knowledge on the series.  Initially, I did think the first episode was a little slow, but by the end of episode two I was hooked.  My husband and I watched all ten episodes of the series this past week.  I am very proud to say that I didn't cry until the very last episode, although my husband thought I was going to crack much sooner.  I caught him looking at me to see if I was tearing up or not.

I was seriously impressed by the series.  I really invested in the characters and wanted to know what happened to them after the war.  I wish I had watched the series earlier, because I want to be able to talk to my grandfather about it and about how it compares to what he went through in WWII, but he died back in 2011.  I kind of wish I could go back and watch the series over again for the first time, but I know I won't ever be able to do that.  This series really touched me and I think that, while it is a dramatization, it is important and that more people (who didn't see it the first time around) should watch it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Prodigy by Marie Lu

I LOVED the book Legend, so I couldn't wait to read the second book in this trilogy starring Day and June.  Ever have one of those times where you want to read a book/see a movie/watch a TV show but are scared because you think it might not be as good as you are hoping for?  Unfortunately, that is what happened with me...

WARNING- Ahead there be spoilers concerning Legend.

Prodigy picks up right where Legend left off.  Day and June are on the run from the Republic.  They eventually need to ask the Patriots for help because Day is hurt and can't continue on without assistance.  The Patriots require some services from Day and June in payment for helping them and healing Day.  A plot is hatched to assassinate the newly appointed Elector, and Day and June both have to help out.  But, as time goes by, June starts to realize that she and Day might have been set up for more than they bargained for.

The first half of this book was slow, so seriously slow.  I felt like I'd lost part of the characters that I'd really enjoyed, and it read like the story was just going through the motions.  I almost gave up.  The end did start to get me more involved again, and the ending did pull at my heart strings.  I will probably read the last book, if only to find out what happens to these characters.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fabelhaven by Brandon Mull

Kendra and Seth's parents are going on a cruise, and the kids are going to visit with their grandfather whom they barely know.  When Kendra and Seth arrive their grandfather gives them a specific set of rules to live by, and tells them that certain parts of the property are completely off limits.

What Kendra and Seth do not know is that these rules are in place to protect them, and everyone else at Fablehaven, one of the last refuges for mythical creatures.  The kids find this out quickly when they break the rules and put everyone in serious danger.

I've heard good things about this series and, after a slow start, I did enjoy the book.  I will say that the younger brother was very annoying though and I kind of wanted to smack him one.  I loved the different creatures throughout the book and would like to read more in the series.  This book is great for older elementary and middle school readers who enjoy a fun fantasy story.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Three childhood friends: Poppy, Zach, and Alice love spending time together building their magical worlds and leading their favorite characters on adventures.  Then Zach's father ruins everything by throwing Zach's toys (including the action figure Zach uses to portray his main character) and declares that he is "too old for toys".  Zach is hurt, made, and confused, and decides that he has to stop playing the game with Poppy and Alice.

Then, the girls come to Zach one night and tell him that the old china doll belonging to Poppy's mother is haunted by the ghost of a young girl whose bones were used to create the doll.  This leads the friends on an adventure to bury the doll where the girl lived in hopes of letting her soul rest.

This book won a Newbery Honor and it was a good story about growing up, but it didn't really stick with me.  I didn't find the doll to be scary, and I guess I was just hoping for something else or something more.  I wanted to revisit the spooky stories I loved as a kid like Wait Till Helen Comes and some chapter book I can't remember about a girl going back in time to pilgrim days while on a vacation with her family.  This book didn't give me that scary feeling though, so I was a little disappointed.  This book is most likely plenty spooky for younger readers though, and I am sure that late elementary students will enjoy it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Pat Peoples (where in the world the author came up with that name I will never know) has been away at "the bad place" for awhile.  He is currently in "apart time" from  his wife Nikki, but then his mom springs him from the joint and he is back on his way home and on his way to winning Nikki back and ending "apart time", or at least that is what he thinks.

As Pat spends time at home and reacquainting himself with his family, he starts to realize that he was in the "bad place" a lot longer than he thought, and that the life he returned to is much different than the one he left.  Pat believes in Silver Linings and he believes that Nikki will come back to him, and he doesn't understand why all his wedding photos are gone and why no one will talk to him about Nikki.  Pat meets Tiffany, who offers to help me communicate with Nikki in exchange for a few things (not watching Eagles football, helping Tiffany win the Dance Away Depression competition, and telling no one of their agreement), and he thinks this is his chance to achieve his Silver Lining.

I know of the book because of the movie (for which Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar).  The book was a Kindle Daily deal, or some other deal, so I purchased it and decided to give it a shot after my Children's Literature class ended.  It was a fast read, and I enjoyed the author's voice, but I wasn't completely sold on the story.  Pat was sympathetic, but I wanted more development in his relationship with Tiffany.  I am interested to see the movie and see how these actors interpret the characters.  I liked the book well enough while I was reading it, but since I finished it I kind of feel meh about it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Jacob grew up believing the fascinating tales that his grandfather spun about his childhood and the unusual children he spent it with.  Jacob finds a letter after witnessing his grandfather's death that sends him on a journey of exploration back to his grandfather's childhood home.  When he gets to the island where his grandfather grew up he finds out that things are not as they seem, that the children his grandfather knew actually were (and still are) real and as depicted, and that Jacob might be a bit peculiar himself.

The cover of this book had me from the start, and the awesome photos scattered throughout are just great.  Everyone I know that has read this book has really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, I only thought it was OK.  I love the concept, but I really didn't care for any of the characters.  I ended up speed reading through the last bit of the book and am not sure I will read the next book in the series.  I wish I liked it more, because this sounds just like my kind of book.  I might have enjoyed the graphic novel version a bit more because I might have been more interested in the images.  That might have helped me connect more with the characters and the story.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I have to admit something kind of embarrassing here....until this year I'd never read The Giver.  This book came out when I was 13, and by then I'd skipped what little YA there was and was onto adult novels like Jurassic Park.  Since the movie is coming out, and because I needed to fill this gaping hole in my reading repertoire I decided that I would check The Giver out from the library and give it a go.

For those of you that don't know, The Giver takes place in what appears to be a utopic society.  There is no war, no famine, no pain, and everyone is the same.  At 12 everyone receives their position/job for the society.  The main character of the novel, Jonas, is chosen as the next 'Reciever of Memory'.  This is a special position which allows the person in it to live outside the rules of the regular society.  This person is allowed to ask questions, and even allowed to lie (something that is forbidden to anyone else).  The current 'Receiver of Memory' chooses instead to call himself 'The Giver' as he is slowly going to give Jonas all of his memories from before the time when everyone was the same.

Some of these memories are beautiful, some are terrible, but they awaken something in Jonas and he starts to question the society they are in, to rebel against 'sameness' and to want to be alive and to feel.  Jonas must then make a decision for his whole community.  Does he want to stay, and hold all the memories of before, or does he want to try to break free, and possibly break the entire community out of their same-ness stupor.

I am actually kind of surprised that this book won the Newbery Award.  It is so vastly different than Lowry's previous winner, Number the Stars.  I did really enjoy the book and I can see why it is used in classrooms and book groups because I can imagine that it would stir quite an interesting discussion.  The ending is somewhat open ended, and while I'd love to believe that the happier interpretation of events is the truth, I am including to believe the more pessimistic take on what happens with Jonas.

P.S. don't forget to check out the trailer for the up-coming movie: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/heres-the-first-official-trailer-for-the-giver

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Set during WWII, Lina is a regular 15 year old Lithuanian girl, until the night Soviet soldiers come to her house and take her mother, brother, and her away.  Lina is put onto a train with other Lithuanians then shipped off to live in harsh conditions at a Soviet work camp.  She has been separated from her father, with only a hint of where he is.  A talented artist, Lina attempts to send drawings to her father in hopes that he will know that she and her family are still alive, and that when this nightmare is all over he will be able to find them.

This novel is amazingly moving, and based on real events that very few people know about.  The action starts very quickly, as the novel opens with Lina and her family being taken.  You only get glimpses of her life before through Lina's flashbacks.  The author took trips to Lithuania and met with survivors of the Soviet genocide.  I tried looking up information on the setting so I could get a better handle on the book, but even at that I could not find much definitive information about the Soviet genocide.  According to the author's afterward, those who survived the work camps had to make it through at least 10 years there.  Once they were free they were under constant surveillance, and unable to talk about or relate their experiences to anyone for fear that they would be shipped back.

I am very glad that I read this book, I want to learn more about what happened to these people.  The author said that Stalin may have killed 20 million people during this time period, but we rarely hear about it.  The only thing I didn't like about this book is that I wanted more of an epilogue from the characters.  We get a short note from Lina that someone finds later on, but I want to read at least a little bit about her life after the end of the novel because it feels a little rushed and unfinished.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

I am currently taking a Children's Literature course and in this course we have to read/review 100 items from different categories.  Luckily, we can read "up and down" as we see fit, so I can continue to read from my YA department.  But, I also have been reading a large amount of middle grade and younger books.

Our text book mentioned The Penderwicks as an old-fashioned feeling contemporary fiction book, and it is a book that my boss said has gotten great reviews, so I figured I would give it a shot and see what the fuss was about.  Am I glad that I decided to read this book, ignoring its amazingly dated cover.

The story takes place over a summer vacation where four girls and their widowed father rent a cottage on the estate of Arundale from a miserly old woman.  Mrs. Tifton (who owns Arundale) doesn't care for the sisters, and only wants her garden to win the summer garden competition, and for her son (Jeffrey) to grow up just like his grandfather.  The sisters:  Rosalind (12), Skye (11), Jane (10), and Batty (4) get into all sorts of mischievousness, and end up becoming best friends with Jeffrey.  This story is a vignette of how the Penderwick sisters' change the Tiftons' and their own lives over their summer vacation.

This book had a warm and wonderful old fashioned feel.  It made me think of being outdoors as a kid, and spending time at summer camp.  The writing reminds me of my old favorites Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden.  There is just something so delicious and romantic about this story and the writing.  I liked all of the characters, and had a hard time deciding which sister I related to the most (either Rosalind or Skye I'd say).  This book warmed my heart and I can't wait to read more of the Penderwicks' adventures.