Tuesday, December 29, 2009
written by Jo Edwards
Love Undercover is what you'd expect from a fluffy teen romance book. The dialogue is very cliched, as in, every single sentence has multiple sentiments that have already been expressed in that particular way by someone else. There's really not much originality in this book. It's all very unrealistic and at times, boring. It got on my to-read list due to a very strange interest I have in the Witness Protection Program, but even that didn't really deliver. The characters are all pretty underdeveloped and flat, and the reader only got to see one side of them. The male protagonist is, if possible, more "perfect" than Edward Cullen, in other words, dull as heck. Each character's storyline was very predictable with their respective resolutions. It's a good fluff read for when you want to just chill and kill some brain cells, but if you're looking for heavy fiction or anything with substance, skip this book.
I got this book from...:BookMooch
Monday, December 28, 2009
Time for my five favorite books I read in the year 2009! They are, in no particular order,
Impossible, by Nancy Werlin
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson White
Hold Still, by Nina LaCour
With runners up:
Friday, December 25, 2009
written by Courtney Summers
Courtney Summers is back with another amazing release, Some Girls Are. It's so very Mean Girls in its captivating narration. The point of view is a fascinating one, the journey into the life of an ex-queen of her high school social circle. Summers' writing creates a whole world around Regina Afton, with dimensional characters each with their own stories to tell. By now, Summers has established a very distinctive narrative tone and style, and even though it carries that repetition, it's just as powerful as it was in her debut novel, Cracked Up to Be. The thing about the novel is that were I not reading it in Regina's point-of-view, I know for a fact that Regina Afton would be the epitome of the girls I hated in high school. It's such a great thing that Summers does, giving teens a glimpse of what both sides of the high school social structure have to deal with, and that the popular girls have their own set of problems, too. There's no big message on how to save the world or better oneself, but Some Girls Are contains the comfort teens need, the knowledge that what's happened to them has happened and will happen again to others on all levels of the social ladder. And while it's not quite happily ever after for Regina, it's an ending that certainly gives closure and drives the message deep.
Also by Courtney Summers: Cracked Up to Be
I got this book from...:LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Friday, December 18, 2009
I'm taking a break today from blogging because of this awesome thing going on on Youtube, called the Project for Awesome. It was started by the amazing Green brothers and today, my typing fingers are solely dedicating to commenting for charity. Learn more here, then join the fun here! The amazing Maureen Johnson will be out and live chatting from 5-7PM tonight!
I go home for winter break tomorrow, so no blog then either! You'll hear from me eventually, though :) I have some super awesome books I'm really excited to post about, including Courtney Summers' Some Girls Are!
See you all soon!
Monday, December 14, 2009
written by Nina LaCour
With its fantastic imagery and emotional writing, Hold Still pulls the reader immediately into the fascinating story of Caitlin, whose best friend Ingrid has just committed suicide. I was scared that the book was going to be too similar to Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, with a character committing suicide and leaving behind some form of communication, but the two were very different. Hannah had a story to tell in Thirteen Reasons Why, whereas it seems as if Ingrid's story has been told, no big secrets to reveal, just a gaping hole left behind, and having to cope with that. The journal is there, but it's its existence rather than the contents that are relied upon as plot material. The story is fully engrossing with its realism, truly being everything one could want out of realistic fiction. In some respects, I suppose the book is a bit predictable in its overarching plot, but is still an engaging read. I'm still not sure if I liked some of the supporting characters. I realize that they were supposed to be signs of Caitlin moving on, but I wished the book focused more on the relationship between Ingrid and Caitlin before bringing new people into it. However, all the characters were molded and characterized really well, so you come to love all of them, even Ingrid who doesn't even exist within the time frame of the book. The ending is perfect, and leaves the reader with much to think about, probably with more than a few tears along the way.
I got this book from...:Barnes and Noble
Sunday, December 13, 2009
written by Sarah Dessen
As much as I adore Sarah Dessen, her first book is not that memorable a read. There's nothing about it that really sticks out. I don't care about the characters, the plot, anything, and that's a bad characteristic for a story to possess. A book is meant to grab and enthrall its readers, and this one fails at this vital task. I understand that Haven, the main character, is in a state of tumult in her life, but the urgency is never really communicated in the writing. There's so much pointless description and deadened conversation, none of it seems quite real. I suppose a younger teen who is just getting used to growing up might enjoy this book, but for teens 15+, I'd pick another Dessen novel.
I got this book from...:the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh book sale
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Amazon wish list here. I add too many things to this, it serves as a guide to books I need to get from the library or find on book swap sites mostly :)
Are you very specific when someone asks what you want for a gift? Or do you throw caution to the wind and say, "Oh any book you choose...." Or do you prefer a bookstore gift card?
I pretty much just say they're safe with any YA book. I do love those bookstore gift cards though.
Do you buy books for people on your gift list? Do you choose books for them that you like and try to influence their reading (or hope they'll loan it to you when they're done)? Or do you get specific titles from your giftee?
I definitely buy books for people, they must be so sick of it by now :P I try to get fiction titles that are suited to their interests. Ever so often if I find a book that I love so much that I just want to pass the love on, I'll buy that for others. (Thirteen Reasons Why has been gifted many, many times)
Where do you buy your book gifts? Do you shop at local independent bookstores, or the "big box" stores? or do you shop online?
I have yet to see a single independent bookstore here in Pittsburgh. It's really shocking...
written by Janet Tashjian
I remember reading this book when I was much younger--it was, in fact, one of the first YA books I ever read. I was, however, too young to really understand much of what had happened, and although I had a vague recollection of how the book went, over the years, I found that my recollection was significantly off. The concept behind this book is a fascinatingly unique one, but the characterization is pulled off so wonderfully that Josh's situation ends up feeling entirely realistic. It's written in a way that the reader can relate to this utterly unrelatable, unintentionally personable character. While reading this, I realized what a great choice Tashjian had made when she'd chosen the point of view, whether she'd given any thought to it or not. It would have been a different story entirely if told by one of Larry's fans or something. I'm wondering what on earth the sequels could contain, since there are two of those if I'm not mistaken. Everything was tied up so neatly, so I'm hoping the sequels aren't too destructive to the original. I would have liked to have seen more than some vague hints about Beth and others close to Larry at the conclusion, and I hope the sequels elaborate on them. One final thing I noticed that definitely flew past my younger self's attention is the elaborate biblical parallel evident throughout the story--see if you can catch it, it's amazing how well it's interwoven in the story. Great read, I can't wait to hear more from snarky young Larry.
I got this book from...:www.Bookmooch.com
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Bass Ackwards and Belly Up
written by Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain
Bass Ackwards and Belly Up seemed like a rip-off of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. As glad as I was to read another book featuring characters in their older teens, it wasn't as great as I had hoped. It dives right into the middle of a hugely dramatic time in these four teens' lives, and while a bit confusing, eventually everything makes sense. The storylines are interesting enough, but they were pretty simple and very predictable stories for the most part. The characters were made lovable through the writing early on, but since they were all separated, the story wasn't as interesting as it could have been if they were together, much like Sisterhood again. At least with the Sisterhood series, when the girls were apart, they were in regular correspondence and we as readers were witness to that, but here, they were all on their separate adventures, and it was harder to imagine how crazyawesome the story would have been with them all together. Midway, the stories just lose all their push. Something happens, and it all becomes dull. The girls' characterization seems to fall by the wayside, and while they had their moments, the second half of the book was not nearly as enjoyable a read as the first. The one pairing I was interested in had no resolution, and I was very disappointed about that. Many of the stories are left ambiguous, which makes some of them seem utterly pointless and a waste of time to have read. I would just stick with reading the Sisterhood series instead of picking this one up.
I got this book from...:Waldenbooks
Sunday, December 6, 2009
written by Jeanne DuPrau
I think this book must have come to be as a result of the criticisms of books 2 & 3 (no return to Ember, lack of Lina and Doon, etc.). While the return to Ember was much anticipated and a welcome plot element, parts of this book were, as a result, overwhelmingly repetitive of the first book. This worked in some instances, but in others, it felt like a desperate return to the successful elements seen in the first book, in order to gain back disappointed fans. I did enjoy seeing Lina and Doon again, and the teamwork seen in this book was reminiscent of the first one in a good way. Plotwise, there was a clear single goal, but it wasn't as interesting, nor as desperate, as the goal in the first book, making for a story that was, in turn, less interesting. Other than Lina and Doon, I felt that many of the secondary characters lacked strong characterization, which made their roles seem slightly flat. I enjoyed the fact that everything came full circle, although I do wish DuPrau had rearranged things a little bit. I felt like the ending of this book should have been extended and essentially served as the second book, eliminating the need for books 2 & 3. I just think a lot was done wrong in the creation of this series, and maybe The City of Ember would have been best served as a stand-alone.
I got this book from...:Waldenbooks
Sunday, November 29, 2009
written by Jeanne DuPrau
First of all, I still don't understand why this is called "the third book of Ember" when it is clearly not the third. I was so confused about what was happening, where Lina and Doon were, until I read the back cover and found out it was a prequel. That is not the sort of information I should be getting off the back cover, that is something that should be made evident upon starting the book. For a children's book, there is an overload of social commentary, and I'm pretty sure the entire ideas would just fly over their heads, and I thought People of Sparks was bad in that regard! Hah! Regardless of whether or not I agree with her views, this is entirely too preachy. It proved very difficult to get into the plot, the characters were not well-developed, it was very slow paced, with not much action at all. I think I may possibly have only liked one page of this entire novel--the last one. How ridiculous. Don't waste your time getting this if you're a fan of Ember, you will more than likely be disappointed. At least we should have been getting Nickie's dad's part of the story.
I got this book from...:
Saturday, November 28, 2009
written by Robin Benway
Audrey, Wait! was a book full of honest conversational narration and clever, snarky humor with a narrator who screws up a lot, but is still likable enough. The musical references contained within the pages are what really makes this book spectacular. I don't know about you, but I now have practically a book full of music recommendations that I'm dying to listen to. The chapter titles were great, using song lyrics to highlight Audrey's current predicament, whatever it was at the time. The situation Audrey is put in is unlikely to happen in real life, but at the same time, songs are sometimes obviously about a specific person. It could somehow happen, and that's the fun of books, imagining all the possible scenarios and applications to real life. The characterization in this book was so good that some characters evoked really strong feelings, both positive and negative. For instance, I liked Victoria as a character, but my God there were times when she got on my nerves with some of the stunts she pulled! I liked the way the book ended, with a fitting tribute of closure. I think a companion novel from Evan's point of view during this chain of events would have been fascinating, as Audrey gets to tell her part of the story, but Evan never really does. Just something to think about.
I got this book from...:Waldenbooks
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
reading next: Audrey, Wait!
The People of Sparks
written by Jeanne DuPrau
I found this book to have many of the similar problems that other sequels encounter--there's not much interesting. The odd thing is, this is typically due to a sequel serving as a bridge between books, but honestly, I'm not seeing very much that'll come in use for future books. We'll see though. Although Lina and Doon are still characters, I felt like they didn't get nearly enough page-time. Too many new secondary characters were introduced, and while some of them had personalities that were interesting enough, others did not. We still don't have any new information about the mythology, which is disappointing. The book's boredom was aggravated by the fact that it moved slower than the first fast-paced book. A lot of time was dedicated to necessary but overly preachy social and political commentary. I don't know if a child would have the patience to sit through this, particularly when I can see many of the social/political references completely going over their heads. I would love to see a return to Ember, or something that somehow connects to the first book, other than the characters. It's easy to understand: this book was too simple and too predictable to truly have been enjoyable.
I got this book from...:Waldenbooks
written by Jeanne DuPrau
The City of Ember was an easy but enthralling read, so ridiculously easy to love. The characters were so real in this unreal world, presented with plenty of exposition. Plotwise, the book excels, with plenty of fast-paced suspense carrying the reader steadily through the book. The characters act so realistically—like the children they are, but with unambiguous bravery. It’s full of the characterization symbolism, and other literary elements that teachers crave, but also filled with wonder, suspense, and just an amazing plot that kids of all ages will enjoy. It ends on a cliffhanger, so I strongly suggest having the second book on hand to immediately jump into—trust me, you’ll want to have it.
I got this book from...:Waldenbooks
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Lauren Myracle visited the Squirrel Hill library in Pittsburgh tonight, and I got to go to my very first author visit! She was a fantastic storyteller :)
She started off talking about how she first started writing. She'd been writing since the 2nd grade, and loved it all through elementary school. In middle and high school, she got fed up with research papers and the like and the writing stopped, because the fun of it all went away. She started up again in college when she found out that Creative Writing was a major offered at UNC-Chapel Hill (where she went to school the same time as Sarah Dessen, and didn't even know it!). She joined a creative writing class, with a total of 14 students and Daphne the teacher. It wasn't until near the end of the class that Daphne let her students know that creative writing was a limited major and only a few people could take it. 12 students from the class could go on. 2 would not. Lauren and a girl affectionately termed Aphid Girl, who wrote stories from the point of view of an aphid, were the two. Aphid Girl did not want to go on in creative writing. Lauren did.
When she found this out, she went to her public library, to the children's section, her "safe place" and sat and read Ramona books, until realizing that she didn't have to major in creative writing in order to write.
After graduating, Lauren was fed up with her prep school life, and wanted a simplistic job. So while her friends went on to be lawyers and things of that nature, she ended up at Colorado Screw Factory, sorting screws into "good screws and bad screws."
She met a coworker at the Colorado Screw Factory who, when Lauren didn't know how to tell the good screws from the bad screws, helped her out. This co-worker never really read, and Lauren therefore took it upon herself to narrate stories to her. When her temp agency called and let her know there was a clerical job offered for her at a lumber factory, she let her coworker know she was leaving. The coworker was devastated; she wanted to know how the book ended! Lauren gave the coworker her copy of the book and told her to read and find out, and she never saw her again.
She worked at a nursing home for a while, where scenes from Bliss directly came from, dealing with things like walker fights and lost dentures. She loved the people there.
But all the while, she was frustrated. She wanted to be successful in writing. Her husband knocked some sense into her, saying that if she wanted to write, she should write. So she did.
Her first book, unpublished, was called Consider Yourself Lucky.
Before her first book was published, Lauren received 148 rejection letters. She's kept all of them in a folder and still has them all.
Then, Kissing Kate got published. It was based on her college roommate Amy, who called her after college and nervously came out. She was told to revise the book, but after 5 rewrites, it was taken and published. It was accepted for publication at age 29. As a child, she had told herself that if she hadn't been published by age 30, she would give up.
She wrote the Internet Girls series because she'd noticed that people in her generation had grown up talking on the phone, and the big thing was three-way calling. It was a challenge, but one obviously well accomplished.
Luv Ya Bunches was written as an answer to the complaints she was receiving from tween's parents, kids who wanted to read the Internet Girls books but were way too young for the content.
Kissing Kate did not get hate mail, surprisingly.
She went on to talk about Bliss a little bit, for which I was happy, as that is my favorite book of hers. Cool bit of trivia, the dot on the i on the cover of Bliss has a reflection at a window. It is the reflection of Chad, the cover's art director.
The title was written in chocolate syrup, and then photoshopped red to look like blood.
She ended the Q&A session talking about Luv Ya Bunches. She pointed out Tally the turtle on the cover, and teased saying, "Oh, you think [Katie-Rose] is mean to Max, wait until book two!"
She read an excerpt from Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks,
and then we all got free copies of her books!
I chose Let it Snow, as I had read it from the library but didn't have my own copy, and got to talk to her and got it signed. I babbled like an incoherent [but giggly] crazy person, and we talked about Maureen Johnson's trapezing and nerdfighting.
Friday, November 13, 2009
written by Mary Amato
Invisible Lines has a narrator quite unlike any other, though comparable to Julius Zimmerman, titular character of Claudia Mills' You're a Brave Man, Julius Zimmerman. The book reads in a warmly funny and stingingly honest style reminiscent of Andrew Clements, with a highly likable and humorous narrator in Trevor Musgrove. While parts were slightly predictable in a way often found in children's books, there are plenty of completely unforeseen plot elements. Everything about this book is enthralling, the humor and realness keeping the readers' attention the whole way through. There is a perfect balance struck between seriousness and humor. Issues such as a missing father figure and domestic violence are dealt with, but in a child-friendly way that is both honest and appropriate. Interestingly enough, many scientific facts are easily picked up through reading this book, and the reader learns about the fascinating world of mushrooms right along with Trevor. There are some inappropriate words used for a book whose target age group is about 8-12 year olds, but if you can look past that, this is a book that should definitely be on classroom library shelves.
I got this book from...:LibraryThing EarlyReviewers
My guest blogger today is LM Preston, author of YA sci-fi book Explorer X-Alpha, the first in a series. Her book will be out in February of 2010.
WHY I WROTE EXPLORER X – ALPHA
It all started on a long car trip to Florida. My husband, kids and I were on our way to my ‘Happy Place ’, better known as Walt Disney World.
Anyway, while on this long drive, my husband turns to me and says, “You should write a book. You loved to write when we were younger and you haven’t written since.”
I thought about what he said and replied,” Well, I did try to write that one book, but it was boring and didn’t keep my interest.”
Then he told me,” You should write science fiction. You like it, and you work in the IT field. That way you have no boundaries, you create your own.”
That was a pivotal point in my writing career. He told me to think up something and share it with him. Well, let me tell you a little secret about my husband. He is a big science fiction fanatic, and has comic books, graphic novels galore. He watches it and breaths it. It was the ultimate challenge, because I knew that he is a very opinionated person that would not hold back his comments to save my feelings.
I pondered over it so much that I ended up dreaming up Aadi one night. I saw his face, his mischievous smile and thought, “What is your story?”
The next day I thought about Aadi while at a traffic light, and thought up his adventure, by asking myself, what adventure would I want to do? Well after Aadi whispered his idea to me, I was ready to write about him. Later that week, wouldn’t you know it, my husband asked me about my story idea.
I told him, that I had an idea about a boy who’s parents force him to go to space camp only for him to discovered that he was being experimented on so that he could go to any planet, adapt to it, then dominate it. The best moment I can think of was when my husband’s face broke out into a grin and he said, “Write that!! I haven’t read anything like that before.” Little did I realize that Aadi’s discovery would become a series of adventures.
As an avid reader, I get bored fast with books that are long and drawn out. Therefore I wrote this book for my kids to enjoy. I depend on them greatly to critique my work, and believe me, they don’t hold back.
Writing about teenagers is a passion I have because that was the most tumultuous part of my life. I felt deeply, experienced a lot, and overcame enormous trails in my teenaged years. I survived and so can my readers. I wanted to show that strength in my characters, their adventures, and their victories.
I am working on the follow-on series to EXPLORER X – Alpha, and just completed the final edited copy of THE PACK, an edgy YA series about a girl who saves her world that comes out Fall of 2010.
comment on this post to be entered into a contest to win a copy of Explorer X-Alpha and a poster! Winners will be announced on the 30th of November!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
written by Cassandra Clare
City of Bones was a great read...if you don't mind reading a book that is extremely predictable. I have in my notes details from the first chapter that end up being the Big Plot Twists, so that's slightly sad. A lot of the book falls into what one typically expects from a fantasy novel, down to the "turn a person into a rat" trope. The Big Reveals were kind of pathetic, and frustrating to read, I know I wanted to reach into the book to shake Clary in her utter obliviousness. The exposition to the fantasy world was done well, introducing it simultaneously to the reader and Clary herself. While I was irritated by yet another love triangle, sick to death of those, I was thrilled with its conclusion. The characters, despite their predictability and all, are very well developed, and you find yourself getting attached to some, repulsed by others, all essential parts of great characterization. The ending does leave the reader satisfied while at the same time, wanting more, essentially being all that a great ending should be.
I got this book from...:Borders
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
written by Suzanne Collins
While part of me is still reeling from the cliffhanger presented at the conclusion of this book, another, quite larger, part of me really strongly questions if this book was necessary. What couldn't have been accomplished through a few quick whispers strategically placed in the woods, in conversation with Bonnie, Twill, and a quick jump to the final chapter? I'm dwelling on so much of the pointlessness of everything but the last chapter. More irritating than everything else was the Quarter Quell, a seemingly desperate plot device only created to echo exactly what had happened in The Hunger Games. REPETITIVE MUCH? I got extraordinarily irritated when I even thought of the idea that it might happen again, and was disappointed beyond words when it actually became reality. I expected this book to be all about political rebellion, and I don't see why that wouldn't have been the natural continuation--but no, the wait continues for what will actually be interesting and necessary backstory, plot that will be fresh and fun to read. I am dying to know about District 13. That is really all I am desperately waiting for. Other than all that, I'm irritated by the love triangle that keeps being played out--I feel like Collins is riding the wave from Stephenie Meyer's infamous Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle hype, and that is an unappealing idea. Just choose. Everything about this book was just infinitely dragged out, and I found it to be a pretty pathetic excuse for plot. Answers, please.
I got this book from...:Barnes & Noble
Saturday, October 31, 2009
written by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games is living proof that a book cannot be judged by its description. At its simplest, yes, this book can be called a survival story. There are, however, so many more layers to it all. It is all about the human to human interactions as opposed to the human to environment interactions one would expect in a survival stories. It's such a lousy summary to give, "A reality show survivalist story" when there's so much more to it all. So I was skeptical when I first began reading, and it did seem to fall into that category. I had a bit of difficulty, due to that fact, getting into the book. However, once I found a good, quiet block of time, I sat down and read straight through and loved it. It's all so suspenseful, as you really have no idea who will live and who will die going from page to page. I made predictions, some came true, some did not. Overall, I think the appeal to this book is the appealing personality of the main character and its ease of reading--I know 11 year olds who have read and loved this book. It's easy reading, but once you go up the age scale, there's more and more depth to the overall story, making lots of real world connections to pitting countries against each other in brutal wars. I was hoping to see more of this, the internal workings of the Capitol, some more background history (parts of the history they are fed seem veeery dodgy, and I'd like to know more), and I'm really hoping this is a vital point of Catching Fire. I am also definitely hoping Catching Fire is about an overthrowing of the existing system, as well as more of the interaction between Katniss and Gale. I'm getting more than a little sick of Peeta. There were plenty of hints and clues along the way, and I'm hoping some of them (the pin, the ruins, Katniss's father's death, etc) come into play in the sequel.
I got this book from...:Borders
Friday, October 30, 2009
written by Justine Larbalestier
This book...oh, this book! This book is so frustratingly frustrating! It is the best concept I have seen in a really long time, taking the phrase 'unreliable narrator' to places unheard of previously. Prepare to have your mind messed with to the extreme, though, as you can never ever tell which of Micah's lies are truths and more importantly, which of her truths are lies. This book is revolutionary in its genre, but I'm still unconvinced by its delivery. I was excited about the fact that such a fascinating new book would be coming out, but upon reading it, I think it was a little overhyped. Once it got to the werewolf thing--no. Just no. That was the last straw. I still do not know what to think about all the other truths/lies, but...no. There is no way this girl, if she is a girl, is a werewolf. Right? I felt like the ending could have been much more powerful, ending with a massive plot twist, and while a few new bits of suspenseful information were given, it's still not what it could have been. There are plot twists, huge ones, but in context, they're not as strong as they all could have been, in terms of a story told by a compulsive liar. I just really don't know what to think about this whole story. If I pick and choose between truths and lies, there's a version or two that I really like (the idea of her being in jail really appeals to me), but the most likely versions that I'm lead to believe, I don't know, I just think they could have been stronger, more out there, than what they were.
(I almost feel like there should be dozens of different ratings for dozens of different stories...)
I got this book from...:Bookdivas Contest :)
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Sandman: Endless Nights
written by Neil Gaiman,
illustrated by various
Some of the writing was overly flowery, some of the chapters were utterly incomprehensible...and yet, there's just something there that draws the reader in. I found it irritating that the art was different for each chapter, and would have really liked to have seen unity both in illustration and plot. I still don't know what the overarching storyline of this was supposed to be because there simply wasn't one. Particularly disappointing was the 2nd chapter, falling into the graphic novel trap of excessive nudity with absolutely no purpose. I didn't need to see that, it served no purpose. I really did want to learn more about the Endless, though, and I found some of the dropped plot threads to be really intriguing, and I just want to know more. I hope some of the issues are cleared up in the next few volumes, because I feel like there's a really good story somewhere beneath all the clutter.
I got this book from...:
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Written by Bill Willingham
Fables is a graphic novel bringing together a very wide variety of fairy tale characters in a common world, all interacting with each other in fascinating ways. The concept itself was definitely enough to hook me, as I'm a sucker for fractured fairy tales. Everything about it was amazing and for a person who typically has difficulty understanding graphic novels, everything was extremely clear and easy to understand. Parts are a little melodramatic, but it is still an enjoyable read all the same. The various fairy-tale cameos are such a blast to spot, adding another dimension to the story. While I found the ending to be extremely predictable, it was, again, a great read, and I can't wait to learn more about this universe!
I got this book from...: a fellow Laughliner :) Many thanks for letting me borrow this!
Monday, October 26, 2009
written by Megan McCafferty
While I did get a slight sense of growing up coming out of J. Darling (*gasp*, I know! I never thought it possible! She still had her moments of disgusting immaturity, and those moments were more disgusting than all the previous ones combined, but still...way fewer cringe moments), I still cannot believe that four books later, it's still one big massive "will they, won't they" between her and Marcus Flutie. Why can this girl not just decide already? I'm hoping the decision made at the end of this one sticks, but then again, that's what I said last time... I felt like the beginning of the book had the same immature tone as the others, but something happened somewhere around the middle. Jessica Darling somehow grew up. I'm not sure when it happened, or how, but something, somewhere, happened. Maybe it was her temporary falling out with best friend Hope? Maybe it was being asked to care for Marin if Marin's parents died? Maybe it was dealing with her own parents? I'm really not sure, but something changed, and I'm really glad it did, because for the first time, even though it was only momentarily, Jessica Darling became a tolerable character. There really are some characters in this whole ordeal that I have fallen in love with (Hope & Len, to point out two), and some that I have despised (okay, that honor has mainly been reserved for Jessica herself), but all of this, the intense emotions I have towards the characters, only demonstrates how amazing a writer McCafferty is, despite the annoyingness of her protagonist. I was really glad to finally have a book featuring Hope as an actual character, and I felt like she added a lot and fit in wonderfully with the existing cast, again proving how amazing a writer McCafferty is, blending a "new" character in seamlessly. One thing I had severe problems with in this book was the portrayal of Dexy. I was really glad to see a character with bipolar disorder treated as a real person in a McCafferty book, but this book, this book just tore that reflection to pieces and spit on it. What on earth? Why would McCafferty DO that to Dexy? That is not at all an accurate portrayal of a person with Bipolar. Bipolar Disorder does not cause someone to become a compulsive liar overnight. I have serious issues with her only showing the manic side of Dexy's life in this book, because that's just not the way that particular mental illness works. I'm really disappointed. Anyways, I'm really worried about what the 5th book may contain. Following the logical pattern of things, hm, more of Marcus Freaking Flutie. I really hope that's not the case. I've heard good things though, so I'll be looking into that soon.
Also in the Jessica Darling series: Charmed Thirds
I got this book from...:Carnegie Public Library of Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill Branch
Friday, October 23, 2009
reading next: Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty
Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
written by Barack Obama
While the writing style was very honest and quite powerful at points, at times it just got unnecessarily wordy and unbelievably dense. I was looking for more of a lifetime memoir, more personal thoughts, rather than what is essentially one long essay on his family roots. I wanted to hear about him, not his slightly distant family. Auma was the only one I could really tolerate. I wonder if any, if not all, of the fake names have been revealed since his presidency became a reality. I also wonder what happened to the people who at any point doubted his abilities. What are they thinking of him now? This really is the part of his story that you will definitely not get in the news. I didn't know any of this about him, other than the whole "abandoned father" bit, so this was, in that way, really enlightening. I was glad to hear his idea about having "sacred stories", life events that make us tick and provide better understanding of a person--but I don't think those were the focus of the book, as they should have been. I did enjoy reading the "six years later" bit at the end, but overall, I think maybe I should go read The Audacity of Hope and find a better story there.
I got this book from...:Chatham University's library
Monday, October 12, 2009
written by Alicia Thompson
Continuing a trend that seems to have been started by Megan McCafferty is another YA book set at college instead of the typical junior high/high school ones. This is really exciting for me as a new college student, watching my books grow up along side me and keeping the material relevant and interesting. It also really helped that the main character in the story goes to a tiny school that sounds very much like my own. Anyways, the plot was cute, if not annoyingly simple. Everything was pretty predictable, and it is no wonder that Meg Cabot blurbed it--it's such utterly Cabotian fluff, just as well-written in a casual conversational tone. I love it when authors do cute gimmicky things, so I was a fan of the little psych related definitions that came before chapters and symbolically related really nicely to whatever was happening. All these characters are really well developed, and you grow to love them as the book progresses. I was really satisfied with the way everything turned out at the end, after that emotional rollercoaster of suspense resolved itself. I was a little disappointed by the lack of very much to do with psychology, but it's still a cute book--just don't expect anything intellectual out of it.
Also, cutest U2 references ever!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
written by Suzanne Selfors
Everything about this book screams 'cute!' From the adorable homely cover, to the coffehouse setting, all signs point to this being a comfort book. Everything about this book is like that, to the point where it's one big walking cliche, and not the interesting kind, either. The kind that every cliche-bashing indie girl falls right into. It gets no better. I found it to be a cute story, but I thought it would have been an even better one had it been a short story. There is very little complexity, and everything is highly predictable. I did like how everything was wrapped up plotwise. The love triangle, if it was ever that, works out wonderfully, and Malcolm's resolution is handled with the perfect amount of emphasis--it's a huge deal, but not played off as such. I just really do think this would have been better suited for a cute little short story rather than as a full-blown novel, and I'm still not really sure what to think. Plot was fantastic overall, characters were lovable, but nothing much happened.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
written by Kevin Roose
I'm quite certain that if anyone was to ever ask me what the scariest book I've ever read was, this will be my answer. The ideas contained inside this book are not for the faint-hearted (or maybe, the liberal-minded). The book is one surprise after another, terrifying ones for the most part. First shock--at the time of his experience at Liberty, Kevin Roose was only 19 years old. That takes guts. The idea of an evangelical university is scary enough to think about, but actually reading about what goes on behind the scenes is mind-numbing. It is difficult to believe that this stuff is real. Liberty University is a training ground for ignorance and misjudgment. While some of the material is presented by Roose in a comical way, it's a grave mistake to take this book lightly. Shallow friendships with his classmates make sense. Deeper connections do not. It was reassuring to learn that there are some Democrats and closeted gays attending Liberty, but they are still in a great minority position. I have so much that I morally cannot condone that goes on in this book, and you probably don't want to hear that ranting, but suffice to say, this was a highly frightening but very eye-opening book for me. It was interesting to see Roose's thoughts and beliefs evolve throughout the book, although I was very glad he didn't end up converting or anything. It's an amazing concept behind the experiment, and definitely worth the read if you're ever interested in the horrifying world of evangelical Christianity.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
written by Gabrielle Zevin
The idea behind Elsewhere is a fascinatingly unique one. It is set in a world where one dies and then ages backward in a land called Elsewhere, until they are babies set to be reborn in the real world. So the natural assumption I had was that this would be a tragically depressing book--but surprisingly enough, it was absolutely NOT! The progression of time is done in such a great way that there are no periods of time when you think to yourself that it's going too quickly or too slowly, it all just moves naturally along. I was surprised by how much was in this book--it wasn't just a girl getting over her death, there were elements of mystery, suspense, romance, plot twists where you'd least expect them. All of this is tied up with what could have been a horribly sad ending, but is short and sweet and leaves no room for tears other than happy ones. What surprised me most was the elegance found in the symbolism. I can tell you with all honesty that before this, I had never found a book in which I enjoyed the symbolism or thought it contributed to the well-roundedness of a book, and I probably never will again. The symbolism (Charlotte's Web, Tuck Everlasting, the Nile river, etc.) is actually relevant and easy to find and understand. It actually makes sense, adds to the story, and I have never encountered that before. Well done, Ms. Zevin!
Monday, October 5, 2009
written by Justine Larbalestier
Magic Lessons starts off strong, asking lots and lots of exciting new questions, building suspense, as any good book does. This, however, gets overdone. By the time the reader is in the denser middle section, there are too many questions and not enough answers and a lot of frustration. I'm still extremely ticked off that Sarafina doesn't show up at all in the book, as she is my favorite character and the one I would love to learn more about, so it's frustrating, and I'm really hoping the third book sheds more light on this intensely interesting woman. Magic Lessons does a great job of combining realism with a greater dosage of fantasy than seen in Magic or Madness, and it does so with perfect balance. Reason's dilemma at the end of the book was painfully obvious, though, and I was disappointed--it was the one part of the book that definitely lacked the suspense the rest of the book upheld. There are still questions left unanswered, but since it's a trilogy, I expect they will be answered shortly! The one thing that left me most gleeful was the SPAGBOL reference--hooray for married authors!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
written by Conor Kostick
I began and ended this book with a single question: "Is this book really necessary?" While vaguely reminiscent of Scott Westerfeld's universe, it's nowhere near as good a read. The reader is kept waiting for some kind of point, a reason this book exists, and I still haven't been able to figure that out. I loved Epic, but ever since I heard there was going to be a sequel, I was skeptical. There was no story after Epic, and there was no reason to force one. But a story was forced, and it's not a very interesting story at all. While I was glad to see the old gang from Epic, that was the only part I enjoyed. They were well-developed characters we were familiar with, whereas the ones given here were just overkill. I think the part that really irritates me is that it is marketed as a sequel, when it's really more of a spin-off, as the word 'sequel' implies continuation with the same characters. Although there were many dull parts that made for extremely tedious reading, I did enjoy the last few chapters, where there was actually something other than gratuitous action scenes. The end outcome was very predictable, but worked given the circumstances. I was disappointed by the lack of suspenseful plot twists and by this book in general. I still do not understand why it was necessary.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
written by Cecil Castellucci
First things first: I went into this without a clue that it was a graphic novel. So that was a bit of a shock when I opened it up before class and saw pictures and not as many words as I expected. The dialogue and situations (minus the Jane/Jane/Jayne/Polly Jane name coincidence) were extremely realistic and very refreshing to read. I found myself at times absolutely cheering the various Janes on and just loving the crazy situations they managed to get themselves into. The whole idea behind P.L.A.I.N. is pure genius, and I love that Castellucci was creative enough to come up with such an intriguing plot. After the initial shock, I realized that this would simply not have worked as a regular novel, and was thankful that it was presented in a graphic format. This book provides a great discussion on censorship and how pointless it can be oftentimes. The characters were very complex and well-developed for such a short book. I have two minor complaints, and that is that the plot itself was not very complex, and the love subplot was the most pathetic loveplot ever. Other than those slight issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing book, and would be glad to read more YA graphic novels that don't necessary appeal to the adventure/fantasy crowd, and are just regular YA novels.
Friday, September 25, 2009
written by John Marsden
There are lot of complaints I can give about this book. The plot is too narrow. There are not enough sub-plots to make it interesting, and it just seemed like it was the one story; reading about even the other patients would have been interesting. Everything in this book was sickeningly predictable. You knew exactly what was coming at the end, which didn't make it any less horrible, but did make it quite a dull read. I was glad to see a tone that was real and honest, with very powerful writing, but overall, it's just a dull book. Nothing happens. It's a flat read, and in the end, an unnecessary one. It would have served its purpose in a short story just as well.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
written by Sarah Mlynowski
Just like Milkrun, the problem with this book was that it seemed extremely pointless. It feels like it could have been written well as a short story, but it doesn't work. Mlynowski tries to be Sophie Kinsella, but she's not. The main character acts like an immature child at times, which makes for a very flat story. Everything is ridiculously predictable and the ultimate solution is even mentioned, not just hinted at, flat out mentioned, in an earlier chapter. I think there was so much potential for a twist, such as Cam continuing a relationship with Gabby's friend, or maybe Cam having parallel lives as well as Gabby. Some of the characters and plot threads were unnecessary to begin with, given too much emphasis for no apparent reason. There is just too much pointlessness, and it's not a very interesting read.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
written by Melissa Marr
While the beginning of this book was frustratingly confusing, probably intentionally so to a degree, as I kept reading, an amazing new world unfolded. The evolving relationship between Seth and Ash is a real joy to read about and is one of the more powerful friendships/relationships out there in the YA book world. Once the mythology is explained, everything clicks and forms such a great new setting that you just want to learn more about! The faeries are interesting little creatures, and it seems like they vary from being relatively good to absolutely evil--quite the interesting dichotomy! I enjoyed reading about the old mixed in with the new, particularly when technology played a part (like the search history being an important part of the plot). Seth and Ash, I just can't stop gushing about the chemistry between the two. It's really a wonderful relationship, but the suspense throughout the book whether they can or cannot survive is heartbreaking at times, in a good way. I do want to know more about Ash's family history; sounds like her father may play a role in future books as his identity is kept secret. As far as that goes, I'm really not sure why a sequel is needed. That is the only loose end I saw, so I'm a little confused & concerned about the quality of Fragile Eternity, which obviously won't stop me from reading it, I'll just go into it a little more cautiously.
Monday, September 21, 2009
written by Kristen Tracy
This book is a little too scatterbrained for my tastes. The narration is all over the place and takes a while to get into, and I found it to be all-too predictable the entire way through. Reminiscent of Louise Rennison, there are these absurd topics that come up and make no sense, but for some reason, the author thinks it's a good idea to keep them in and thinks they're funny. No. No, they're actually not. Parts of it had pretty accurate stream of consciousnesses when it came to how teenagers think, but as far as talk and actions went, I found it to be highly unlikely. I really did enjoy the character of Zena, so it was quite a bummer when she ended up spending the majority of the book not actually in the book. I feel like this would have been a much better read if Zena was the narrator, she's just a more interesting, well-developed character. While I did pick this up for some mindless fluff, I suppose I got more than I bargained for. Tess's relationship with Ben is the most predictably boring relationship ever, and you can tell from miles away exactly what will happen between the two of them, which is extraordinarily frustrating. Way way early on in my notes, I wrote "no way this ends well." and with that many unnecessary clingy moments, I am not surprised. Maybe a different narrator would have made it a more fun read. Tess was just insufferable in what a big deal she made out of small issues. I did enjoy reading about the relationship between her and her grandmother, but other than that, she's an extremely boring typical teen. I just feel like this is an immature book for immature readers.
Friday, September 18, 2009
written by Ellen Hopkins
I made the mistake of reading two incredibly scary books one right after the other, so this was additionally chilling as I had just finished Endgame. But really, I have no idea how Ellen Hopkins does it. As usual, the writing is phenomenal and unique, as is the revolutionary plot, featuring a rebellious Mormon. Hopkins' writing style is just something else, and her tone is realistic, speaking to teens everywhere even though the words are spoken by a Mormon teenage girl. Ellen Hopkins gets into all these dark places, and it really makes one wonder how much effort and pain it takes for her to find them. I found some of the issues extremely predictable (pregnancy, guns), and definitely knew there was a huge climax at some point, but without a clue how it would all fit together. There were some statements of awkward foreshadowing, particularly foreboding statements regarding the future at the ends of chapters. I end my notes with this statement, and feel it is an accurate way to end this review as well: "OH SWEET AMBIGUITY!!!"
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
written by Nancy Garden
I had expressed an interest in what exactly was going through the minds of the shooters at Virginia Tech and Columbine, and a dear friend of mine recommended this book upon hearing me talk. I was intrigued by the incredibly original concept and subject matter, and immediately delved into the book. I had a little trouble focusing at times, but once it all started genuintely getting serious, this was an amazingly powerful book. It has so many extremes. On one hand, you know what happens at the end, but through the entire thing, you keep hoping and praying that Gray has a change of heart. You know that killing is wrong, but at the same time, you know that Gray is a good kid, and everything is so emotionally heavy on both him and you, the reader. There's so much wrong in his life and as a bystander in his fictional story, you can do nothing but sit back and watch the inevitable unfold, as nobody does a thing to help a child that can be helped. And just think, if this is the fictional example, what about the real one? The ending is an unjust one. You know Gray had reason to do what he did, and while what he did was extreme, he needed help, not a jail cell, and that's the saddest part of it all. This is such a powerful book, and I strongly urge everyone who has had difficulty processing the VT shootings or even Columbine to pick this amazing, mind-chilling book up.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
written by Sarah Dessen
I know this was one of her earlier books, and as her earlier books go, it is one of the ones I like more, but the writing style is in need of improvement. Along the way, one can easily trace Dessen's writing style from this to her more recent works and see how much it's changed for the better, but for the sake of this review, the writing style of Keeping the Moon is pretty juvenile (ex: the first sentence of the work is "My name is Nicole Sparks.") I feel like a lot of really great characters were created in this work, but they don't go anywhere, don't do anything. Nothing much happens, and it's really a story stuck in transition. We get to see the very beginnings of Sarah Dessen's words of wisdom that we are so familiar with by now. The other really great thing about the characters is their names. I mean, main love interest's name is NORMAN, and that is not a name you see very often--so much personality! Overall, Keeping the Moon is a good start, but needs more. It's emptier than Dessen's other books. Nicole is overdramatic, but so boring! I think it may have been a more interesting book had it been set in Morgan or Isabel's point of view even, rather than Nicole's. Good start, but could have been better.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
written by Neal Shusterman
Though not as political as Unwind, Everlost makes for another great story set in another amazing world created by Neal Shusterman. I was a little wary going into this, I am not a fan of death stories, but Shusterman dealt with the idea tactly but also in a very straightforward way. He's not out to offend anyone. The story involves a lot of moving around, very much like Deathly Hallows' infamous camping scenes, where nothing much seems to happen, and the story is not being developed. I was waiting a good long while for one of those amazing plot twists that Neal Shusterman is so good at doing. Thankfully, although it came a little late, I wasn't disappointed. The ending is filled with amazing plot twists and, as the rest of the book, creative storytelling that is worth the read.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
written by Dominique Paul
I had read a favorable review by a blogger and decided I should really read this book as soon as I could. Now, upon reading it, I'm regretting that decision. This book has the most whiny, annoying, immature narrator who exists. She is your typical bratty kid who thinks the world is hers and she can get anything she wants. Her family life is a mess, and the book would have been a much better read if the focus had been on them since the very beginning, rather than cramming all the good stuff in the end. It was difficult to get into, difficult to read through, and a huge part of me didn't even want to try after some point. It's just a ridiculously shallow book with a shallow girl. There are some deeper parts, but they all occur in the last two chapters. Ellie gives girls everywhere a bad name. You know it's bad when a 14 year old decides that she is old enough to lose her virginity, and almost succeeds.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
written by Thalia Chaltas
Because I am Furniture is a lot of things, but original is not one of them. The style has been done before, by the likes of Sharon Creech and Ellen Hopkins. So has the story, also notably by Ellen Hopkins and others. The point of view may be slightly new (outsider rather than the one being abused), but it's still nothing amazingly good. While it is realistic and honest and narrated in a tone that is only reminiscent of death itself, this book has been written before. It is annoyingly predictable, and the ending was way to abrupt and cheesy. This is one instance where happily ever after just doesn't work. I do not recommend you take the time to read this, pick up Identical, which you may recall, I wasn't even that big a fan of, and you'd get a better story.
Monday, September 7, 2009
written by Ellen Emerson White
While I still do enjoy reading about Meg and her family's life at the White House, I felt like this book was way too narrow-focused. I realize that the shooting of the President would be an extremely serious event, but I definitely feel it was far too drawn out and could have easily been condensed, leaving room for other stories. I did like seeing some of the characters develop a little more, particularly Steven, through their interactions with Meg. I felt like Meg's temperament after the shooting was accurate, but again, narrow. I would have liked to see more of how others were reacting. We got a glimpse of what was going through Steven's mind, but not really Neal's or especially her cryptic father's. I mean, at the beginning of the book, I was convinced that her parents were going to divorce, which, horrible as it is, would make a really interesting story. It's a little drastic then, to see the relationship between Meg's parents be slightly awkward, wobbly, and unsure, to the most steadfast, loving relationship out there. In general though, the Powers family just has the most personality of any book family I've read about (except maybepossibly the Weasleys). I think the one most powerful line of this book was Meg's mother talking about her shooter, saying only "I hope he gets help." Such a simple line ends up conveying so much about everything: decorum at the white house, her mother's compassion, her mother's position. Amazing. Again, it's a good book, but I'm hoping it's one of those that's a bridge to better sequels.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
written by Pete Hautman
The title is eye-catching enough, but add in the premise? WOW. Never before have I heard of anything quite so...well, insanely absurd, but well-developed! There are moments when the book gets a little preachy (no pun intended) about the whole idea of religion, but some of the ideas are pretty amazingly well thought out. It's not the kind of book I would ordinarily read, but with such a catchy premise, title, and cover, you just want to know where it goes! On its own, the cover image doesn't do much, but with the title, it is extremely catchy. I felt like the characters were all interesting, but could have been elaborated on, particularly Shin. I would have liked to have seen more of Shin's extreme devotion as it developed, at least a few hints here and there. I found the ending to be anticlimactic, and part of me still really feels like this book was just written to be banned, but it's still a compelling read that people interested in the ideas behind belief and religion should definitely consider reading.