Wednesday, December 29, 2010

POC Reading Challenge

I absolutely adore GAL Novelty and Maggie's Bookshelf's posts about POC book issues. It's one of the top reasons why they're two of my favourite bloggers. I haven't really challenged myself this year to read books from different cultural views. It's something I definitely need to do. So this is the perfect time!

I plan on doing at least Level 2: 4-6 POC books, if not Level 3: 7-9 POC books.

How are you challenging yourself this year?

Book 71 of '10 Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress

School Library Journal Description:

"Adult/High School–Gilman has a gift for showing the humor in the ordinary. Her memoir takes readers from her childhood in the late 1960s and early '70s through adulthood and marriage. As the book opens, she is reminiscing about the summer of 1969 when she was four and her parents took her to a commune where one of their friends was filming a documentary. She got to personify innocence by dancing naked on the beach with other children. Other experiences include the challenges of being the only Jewish girl attending a private Presbyterian school, her mother's enthusiasm for transcendental meditation, and her own infatuation (and ultimate meeting) with Mick Jagger. Set against the backdrop of New York's Upper West Side, her descriptions of the insecurities that plagued her as an adolescent ring with truth. Gilman's narrative illustrates how the highs and lows that mark the teen years are remarkably similar among generations, and suggests that perhaps the gap isn't so wide after all. As she shares some of her adult experiences–career choices, the effects of her parents' divorce after she and her brother were grown, a work-related trip to the Polish concentration camps–her refreshing blend of humor and frankness does not trivialize the significance of her observations."

Characters: Gilman's child self kind of reminds me at a similar age. Kind of an idiot with an appeal for the dramatic. Her first few chapters about being a hippy toddler instantly made me like her from then on.

Unlike Everything Is Going to Be Great, I don't find myself kind of perturbed by Gilman's morals. She's just incredibly hilarious and it makes for an exceptional memoir. Her musings about her family had me in stitches.
Some of the stories within the book are kind of disturbing in their comedy, though. I'll let that slide, but if you plan on reading this book, prepare for some political jokes.

Gilman makes you think the story is going in one direction near the end of each of the three main parts, and then ends up in the sort of lack of moral epiphany akin to real life. Saying it's refreshing is an understatement. 4 and a half flowers.

Writing:
Gilman's writing style is absolutely hilarious. Like kneeling over in public to the point where people probably think I am either schizophrenic or wearing a bluetooth. See, just reading her style makes me write like her. There's not the same gorgeous tone that I felt when I read Shukert's book, but Gilman still writes with a sharp edge. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot:
It's kind of scatterbrained and hard to follow Gilman's overall point. Usually this would irk me but it made me all the more delighted. 4 flowers.

End:
Kind of a curveball. Somehow, it was just what this book needed. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
Well, seeing as my copy is at my mother's house and Goodreads description is too short, I am stuck with this SLJ I found from Amazon. It's accurate, although lacking in sass. Good thing Gilman's actual story gives it that extra punch easily. 4 and a half flowers.

Cover:
There is no way in hell I would've picked this book up if it wasn't for my mother giving it to be last Christmas. It looks cheap. 3 flowers.

Overall:
You like funny, scathing humor? Pick this up oh please please please. 4 and a half flowers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book 69 of '10 Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

Dust Jacket Description:

"In James Patterson's blockbuster series, fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it's like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the "flock"--Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel--are just like ordinary kids--only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time...like when Angel, the youngest member of the flock, is kidnapped and taken back to the "School" where she and the others were experimented on by a crew of whack jobs. Her friends brave a journey to blazing hot Death Valley, CA, to save Angel, but soon enough, they find themselves in yet another nightmare--this one involving fighting off the half-human, half-wolf "Erasers" in New York City. Whether in the treetops of Central Park or in the bowels of the Manhattan subway system, Max and her adopted family take the ride of their lives. Along the way Max discovers from her old friend and father-figure Jeb--now her betrayed and greatest enemy--that her purpose is save the world--but can she?"

Characters: Nothing is genuine in this entire novel. Patterson tries desperately to fit the teen voice and misses. There are glimmers of times where he gets it right and then plunges back into a plot heavy, mission light formula. Max has the potential to be a fully formed strong heroine. I didn't have enough time with her to possibly see that. There are too many supposedly quirky characters in this book and not enough individually. The Erasers are certainly creep and have some significant potential that might be explored in the next book, however. Beyond that, every single move completely misses the mark. Patterson seems to be trying to craft a successful YA novel. That, he accomplished. As for three dimensional character, he's nowhere close. 2 and a half flowers.

Writing:
Patterson does have a strong voice that resonated in earlier chapters. It just doesn't seem like a teenager to me. The pacing is way too quick for my tastes. A huge change would occur in one paragraph without too much introduction to the situation. I had to reread certain passages too many times to count. The dialogue made me cringe. Nothing left me satisfied. 2 and a half flowers.

Plot:
There's a flash of one in parts, but mostly I'm just left completely lost. Patterson's attempts at gripping leave me confused. There are so many plot holes as well. Nothing makes any sense and nothing makes me want a sequel. 2 and a half flowers.

End:
What. I do not even care anymore. 2 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
I think this is a Goodreads librarian description, but it is highly accurate. Good on ya, goodreads! 5 flowers.

Cover:
Creepy and gripping. Nice marketing. 4 and a half flowers.

Overall:
It's gotten a lot of press, but do not waste your time. 2 flowers.

Book 65 of '10 Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton

Dust Jacket Description:

"Felicity's no ordinary teen matchmaker...she's a cupid!

Felicity Walker believes in true love. That's why she applies for a gig at the matchmaking company Cupid's Hollow. But when Felicity gets the job, she learns that she isn't just a matchmaker...she's a cupid! (There's more than one of them, you know.)

Armed with a hot pink, tricked-out PDA infused with the latest in cupid magic (love arrows shot through email), Felicity works to meet her quota of successful matches. But when she bends the rules of cupidity by matching her best friend Maya with three different boys at once, disaster strikes. Felicity needs to come up with a plan to set it all right, pronto, before she gets fired...and before Maya ends up with her heart split in three."

Characters: There is something missing to Felicity. I kept on expecting a killer narrative voice or really feisty personality. Felicity was more of a collection of decent traits than one particular thing sticking out. I need a protagonist with one killer dimension, so this didn't work for me. She just faded in the background. None of the secondary characters stood out for me. I forgot the majority of the characters two thirds in. There's nothing memorable. 3 flowers.

Writing: It's not bad, but it isn't mesmerizing either. No great descriptions or rolling on the floor funny dialogue. Nothing's bad in technical terms. It's just that nothing makes me enjoy the book anymore. 3 and a half flowers.

Plot: The premise is cute. There wasn't enough of it to sustain me. I wanted more focus on this matchmaking agency and I didn't get it. The plot is tight and well outlined. The emotional impact is just not there. 3 and a half flowers.

End: Predictable and nice. I might read the next in the series just so I can see if Stapleton does improve. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Clever and accurate. WIN. 5 flowers.

Cover: Usually I hate covers with girls on them. Somehow, these covers appeal to my inner fluffy fangirl. 4 and a half flowers.

Overall: I think a lot of people will like this book. The emotional aspect just was not there for me. I kept on waiting for some spice and never got it. 3 and a half flowers.

Book 64 of '10 Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

Dust Jacket Description:

"Heather Wells Rocks!

Or, at least, she did. That was before she left the pop-idol life behind after she gained a dress size or two — and lost a boyfriend, a recording contract, and her life savings (when Mom took the money and ran off to Argentina). Now that the glamour and glory days of endless mall appearances are in the past, Heather's perfectly happy with her new size 12 shape (the average for the American woman!) and her new job as an assistant dorm director at one of New York's top colleges. That is, until the dead body of a female student from Heather's residence hall is discovered at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

The cops and the college president are ready to chalk the death off as an accident, the result of reckless youthful mischief. But Heather knows teenage girls . . . and girls do not elevator surf. Yet no one wants to listen — not the police, her colleagues, or the P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives — even when more students start turning up dead in equally ordinary and subtly sinister ways. So Heather makes the decision to take on yet another new career: as spunky girl detective!

But her new job comes with few benefits, no cheering crowds, and lots of liabilities, some of them potentially fatal. And nothing ticks off a killer more than a portly ex-pop star who's sticking her nose where it doesn't belong . . ."

Characters: Heather is more than a little adorable. Cabot is such a popular chick lit writer because of her remarkable ability to grasp her protagonist's voice immediately, even if all her main characters' voices are similar. Heather is no exception. As always, the side characters steal the show and I can't help but love being pulled along for the ride. There's nothing exceptional here. Regardless, it's probably my favourite Cabot book. 4 flowers.

Writing:
Cabot always serves me a good, fluffy time. The dialogue is stronger than usual and the internal monologues are slightly less irritating in the cute factor. Strongest writing from Cabot I've seen. 4 flowers.

Plot:
It took me a chapter to figure out who the murderer was. Cabot doesn't get any points for plot twists, but it's still fun the natural progression of Heather's arch and seeing her solve the crime. 3 flowers.

End:
Predictable and fun. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
In depth and perfect. 5 flowers.

Cover:
I want something cooler. This is fairly generic. 2 and a half flowers.

Overall:
This is most I've enjoyed a Cabot book, to be sure. If you're in desperate need of something fluffy with a strong voice, go for this one. 4 flowers.



Monday, December 27, 2010

YA Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I love YA historical fiction so much. I'm excited about this challenge! I'm going for Level 1, which is five novels. I can't wait to pick those out. What are your favourite historical novels?

Off the Shelf Reading Challenge

Off The Shelf!

This challenge is what I have needed in my life. Basically, you read as many TBR owned books as you possibly can in the year of 2011. I have books oozing out of my bookshelf. At some point, I'd like to be able to say I've read all the books on my bookshelf with fierce pride. I have about 65 fiction books on my shelves that I have not read. That means if any of you buy me books between now and 2011, I will love you immensely temporarily and hate you long term.

I am going to go for the On A Roll level, which is fifty books. Let's see if I can manage it!

What about you guys? How many books do you have on your shelves that you haven't read?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Book 63 of '10 Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

Dust Jacket Description:

"Things in Delilah Hannaford's life have a tendency to fall apart.

She used to be a good student, but she can't seem to keep it together anymore. Her "boyfriend" isn't much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family's painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?"



Characters: Delilah annoyed me, more so than Anna in Twenty Boy Summer. There's something about her thought process that made me want to scream at her in parts. In others though, she was spot on about issues going on within her life.

Delilah's mother is the sort of complex creature I expect from Ockler. The relationship between Delilah and her mom is a great one to see evolve. Her aunt was the cliched kooky extended relation, but Ockler toned down the usual quirky traits.

Patrick was irritating to me. He's way too perfect for my tastes. Several passages about him made me roll my eyes. However, Delilah and he make for a good couple.

It's cute to read about. Ockler crafts some ingenious character arches, but nothing really stood out to me. 4 flowers.

Writing: Ever since I read Twenty Boy Summer, I knew Ockler would be an author to look out for. I came to this conclusion largely because of her writing. It's rhythmic, languid and absolutely delicious. Her books will always be the most well written YA summer books you read. The dialogue is a little too Dawson Creek for me sometimes, but the descriptions are always beautiful. I cannot fault Ockler at all in this department. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: I got bored, to be honest. I'm slightly afraid that Ockler will keep on producing books akin to Twenty Boy Summer. There were some excellent twists I did not see coming. I still felt like this book was pushing family morals. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for it, but the message never really hit home in the same way it did in Ockler's debut novel. 4 flowers.

End: I expected it. No matter the predictability, still satisfying. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Patrick should have gotten a clause, to be sure. 3 and a half flowers.

Cover: I have the ARC one, but this new cover is exceptionally gorgeous. I adore it. 5 flowers.

Overall: A great read, but Ockler didn't knock me out of the park. I'm still waiting for her next big thing. 4 flowers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book 62 of '10 Heist Society by Ally Carter

Dust Jacket Description:

"When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre...to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria...to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way."

Characters: Carter's appealing to a slightly older audience in Heist Society. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it more than the Gallagher Girls series. Kat is clever as she tries to weave her heist, just as much as she is confused. Her upbringing is fascinating to read about. Hale is a hopelessly complicated boy I want to see more of in the sequel. Kat's family is full of tricks. I've always been an absolute sucker for art thieves. All of these characters make me want to shriek "more, more, more!" I can't wait for Heist Society 2. 4 and a half flowers.

Writing: A little more complex and darker than the Gallagher Girls. It made me love Carter a little bit more. The dialogue and intricacies are great. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: Fast paced and excellent. The middle zoomed past for me. 4 and a half flowers.

End: I am such a sucker for heists! This ending is BRILLIANT. I adore it. 4 and a half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Not half bad. It's full of action and it intrigues me. Not to mention its accuracy. 4 flowers.

Cover: It's what would appeal to buyers, but I can't help but wish for something more intriguing. 4 flowers.

Overall: A fun, more adult like book by Carter. With heists, a steamy love interest and a twisty ending, this is right up my alley. 4 and a half flowers.

Book 57-59, 61 Gallagher Girl Series by Ally Carter

Dust Jacket Description:

"The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women lives up to its name. Not only does this exclusive boarding school teach advanced language skills and correct deportment; its students also master the arts of tapping phones, hacking into computers, and spying in public places. At school, second-generation Gallagher Girl Cammie Morgan has impeccable credentials: She is fluent in 14 languages and able to kill an assailant in seven different ways. But recently life has dealt Cammie a card that she never anticipated: She has fallen in love with an ordinary boy who knows nothing about her exotic double life. A truly covert romance."

I've read all of the current four books from the Gallagher Girl series and thought I'd do one big review.

Characters: Cammie is delightful. She's daring, intelligent and brave and the best chick lit heroine I've seen in ages. The series leans more towards the tweens or younger teen fan base. Carter does a fantastic job of appealing to them. Cammie and her friends are the kind of girls I'd want my girl cousins to read about. Josh is very boring in the first book. I'm sort of sad he exists. However, Zack, the interesting male spy who becomes Cammie's other love interest in book two, is infinitely more fascinating. All the characters are middle grade delights, even with a few cliches mixed in. 4 flowers.

Writing:
Carter's writing can get tediously childlike at times. All of these "a Gallagher Girl always *inserts here*" become annoying after a time. No matter, Carter does know how to craft a story. Even the dialogue is excellent. Despite some annoyances, Carter's writing style is sharp and brilliant. 4 flowers.

Plot: The first book of the Gallagher Girl series is more like fun intro filler. The other three books are full of brilliantly plotted action. It's great to see the author evolve with the characters. Carter has definitely learned more about how to write. I love the way this series is plotted. I love the premise. I'll be buying this series for my cousins next year. 4 and a half flowers.

End:
Well there's no ending right yet! I'm excited for the sequel.

Dust Jacket Descriptions: Accurate and fun. APPROVE. 4 and a half flowers.

Covers:
Very fun. Just what I would expect from this series. 4 and a half flowers.

Overall:
If you know an 11-14 year old girl in your life who loves girly things and spies, go for this one. They'll love it. 4 and a half flowers.



Book 56 of '10 Fly on the Wall by E Lockhart

Dust Jacket Description:

"At the Manhattan School for Art and Music, where everyone is “different” and everyone is “special,” Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. She’s the kind of girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of Spider-Man, so she won’t have to talk to anyone; who has a crush on Titus but won’t do anything about it; who has no one to hang out with when her best (and only real) friend Katya is busy.
One day, Gretchen wishes that she could be a fly on the wall in the boys’ locker room–just to learn more about guys. What are they really like? What do they really talk about? Are they really cretins most of the time?
Fly on the Wall is the story of how that wish comes true."



Characters: Gretchen Yee is funny and blunt in everything that she sees in the boy's locker room. She's similar to every other E. Lockhart heroine I've read. A feminist, geeky, sassy teenage girl who is different enough from the norm that she's refreshing to read. Titus, Gretchen's crush, however, is the only non asshole love interest I've read of Lockhart's. He's multi-layered and it's lovely to see in a YA novel. Katya is also a nice differing character. There's nothing complex here, but it's a relief from the cliched YA archetypes nonetheless. 4 flowers.

Writing:
Funny and surprising. E Lockhart always knew how to create a world that's real with sharp, shockingly obvious twists. Somehow the feminism is enlightening as opposed to suffocating, which I've seen in plenty of YA books. Lockhart's made me proud once again. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot:
Realism fantasy that falls slightly flat, to be honest. I was sketchy about the premise from the beginning. It's bizarre handled a little too normally for my taste. I like my bizarre to be treated like it's crazy. 3 and a half flowers.

End:
Predictable and cute. Just what I wanted. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
Actually kind of clever and accurate. I'm impressed. 4 and a half flowers.

Cover:
Generic. And it could've been such a shocking cover, too. 3 flowers.

Overall:
It's easy to tell this is Lockhart's debut novel. It's fluffier than her other stuff but good regardless. 4 flowers.


Book 53 of '10 Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Dust Jacket Description:

"Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself."
Characters: Marcus is a genius. I love his narrative voice and seeing how he figures out how to take down the DHS with his computer skills. His character arc is fabulous and enthralling. The side characters are equally as awesome. Doctorow doesn't spend too much time on characters, though. He's too busy weaving a fantastic plot. 4 and a half flowers.
Writing: I love how Doctorow explains all of the computer vocabulary and inner workings of hacking. It could easily come across as an info dump. Instead it reminds me of all my favourite Doctor Who episodes. It takes a long while to explain, but Doctorow does it naturally. It suits Marcus' character and that makes all the difference. His writing style is impeccable in its tight pacing. I might just have a new favourite author. 4 and a half flowers.
Plot: The pacing is so fast I barely knew what the end goal was. That didn't matter because I was so wrapped up in the story. There were dozens of time when I thought that Doctorow was going to make his characters do something obvious and stupid to add tension so they could be found out by the DHS. Every single time, Doctorow surprised me by letting the natural obstacles make their way into Marcus' life and let his characters be the geniuses they truly are. 5 flowers.
End: Brilliant. How I love this book. 4 and a half flowers.
Dust Jacket Description: Nothing about the new internet? Nothing? Really? This is accurate enough but talks nothing of Marcus' awesome invention. 3 and a half flowers.
Cover: Fairly misleading. I want something else. 3 flowers.
Overall: If you like politics and computers in your literature, you'll love this. Doctorow can write like no one's business. 4 and a half flowers.

Book 52 of '10 Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Dust Jacket Description:

"Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides...and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living--or if there's no turning back."





Characters: I felt like these characters were struggling to be something they couldn't. Borris was trying to write an edgy Ellen Hopkins/John Green sort of novel, but it just doesn't work. The characters seem flat. I kept on expecting for them to burst out of their two dimensional shells, but they never did. Audrey seemed like a vain attempt at an Alaska Young. There's too much effort to be a particular author's voice and not enough at creating Borris' own. 3 flowers.

Writing:
I know Borris is a counselor, not an author. It's plain to see here. The sentences are awkward in the stretch to sound like an authentic teen. It just isn't working for me. 3 flowers.

Plot:
Clever, right? Yet nothing is really achieved like I wanted it to. There is potential bursting through the binding in this book. The premise is lovely but the execution is lacking. 3 flowers.

End:
Abrupt and more than a little bizarre. I left feeling unsatisfied, with no real explanation as to the 180. 2 and a half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
Nice and clear. 4 flowers.

Cover:
Really dark and pretty. 4 flowers.

Overall:
I think if Borris had edited this novel better, it could have been brilliant. Just not the book for me, I'm afraid. 2 and a half flowers.



Book 51 of '10 Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Dust Jacket Description:

"A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.

Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy."

Characters: Jacinda fell short for me. She's about as predictable as every other female protagonist in paranormal fiction I've read. Her bond with Will has some potential to be an actual progressive relationship, but instead it came across as just teenage lust. In fact, the only interesting character is Caspian. His dynamic with Jacinda is original and fantastic. I wish I had seen more of him. 3 and a half flowers.

Writing: This is exactly what has been frustrating me with 2010 debut authors. They know how to write but they don't know how to craft a story. Jordan's writing is pretty and descriptive. The first two chapters of this book were a delight because of it. 4 flowers.

Plot: Disappointing. The entire novel would've been much more interesting if Jacinda had stayed within the draki colony/pack instead of fleeing to a dull school setting. The novel is fairly predictable until the end, where I didn't even care enough to throw my hands up in defeat. I loved the draki politics though. 3 flowers.

End: Aha, this is where it gets interesting. But not enough to get me to read the sequel. 3 and a half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Gripping and fairly accurate too. 4 and a half flowers.

Cover: I think it's absolutely stunning. 5 flowers.

Overall: A disappointment with some potential for a good sequel. I'll have to scan other bloggers' reviews to see if it's worth another try. If you like steamy paranormal romance with a very obvious formula, this is for you. 3 flowers.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Embarassing Holiday Stories

Hello Followers,

CSN Stores has provided me with another opportunity to review one of their products! Perusing through their site made me start thinking about all the embarrassing moments that have occurred around the holiday season. Like that one time at a New Years Eve party at my dad's former girlfriend's where I tripped over several kitchen bar stools and only recovered after the majority of the party goers had consumed more alcohol than is possibly healthy.

What sort of embarrassing holiday moments have happened to you?

Emma

Book 50 of '10 Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Dust Jacket Description:

"Two theater-mad, self-invented, fabulositon Ohio teenagers.

One boy, one girl.
One gay, one straight.
One black, one white.

And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP.

It's a season of
hormones,
gold lamé,
hissy fits,
jazz hands,
song and dance,
true love,
and unitards

that will determine their future
and test their friendship.
"

Characters: Sadye was just the sort of interesting protagonist I expected from Lockhart. Demi was the flamboyant personality I needed in this sort of book. Everyone sort of faded in the background. That didn't matter, though. Lockhart just knows how to create the kind of surprising, realistic main characters that make a book worth reading. 4 flowers.

Writing:
Every since Frankie Landau-Banks I have been in love with Lockhart and her writing. I love her dialogue and inner monologue. Everything about her style is epic and real in the very best way. 5 flowers.

Plot:
Interesting. I love how Lockhart figured out Sadye's character arch and the relationship between Demi and Sadye. The descriptions of the drama camp do leave a bit to be deserved in detail, however. 4 flowers.

End:
I liked how she tied it all up and Lockhart's message on teenage friendships. 4 and a half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
I like the style and it actually works in this description. 4 and a half flowers.

Cover:
Classic style. I wish it depicted the friendship better, though. 4 flowers.

Overall:
A fun, satisfying summer read. Not quite as good as Frankie Landau-Banks. Nonetheless, it's still excellent. 4 flowers.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book 49 of '10 Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

Dust Jacket Description:

"The Drakes are rather different to your usual neighbours. They are vampires and some of the members of the family date back to the twelfth century. One of the children, Solange, is the only born female vampire known and, as such, she poses a direct threat to the vampire queen. Her best friend Lucy is human, and when Solange is kidnapped Lucy and Solange's brother, Nicholas, set out to save her. Lucy soon discovers that she would like to be more than just friends with Nicholas. But how does one go about dating a vampire? Meanwhile, Solange finds an unlikely ally in Kieran, a vampire slayer on the hunt for his father's killer."




Characters: Solange and Lucy were both strong females, which was refreshing to read in a vampire book that was largely romance. The amount of Solange's brothers seemed rather excessive. Maybe in future books they'd each get more page time. This book is so fast paced, I wasn't thinking too much of the characters. 3 and a half flowers.

Writing: Solange and Lucy have alternate narrator chapters. This is absolutely useless. Sometimes I would have to check back to the title page to make sure which character's point of view I was reading. Solange and Lucy were different in personalities but not in voices, and that is Harvey's biggest downfall in this book. I wish the novel was longer. It was hard keeping track of everything with such a quick arch. 3 flowers.

Plot: Tight and interesting! Although perhaps too tight. I didn't have very much invested in the characters. 4 flowers.

End: Clever yet way too sudden. I was confused. 3 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: I'm not entirely sure the description above is from the dust jacket. However, this one is accurate without any zest. 3 flowers.

Cover: Dark and fun. Although it doesn't have any indicator that Lucy exists at all. 4 flowers.

Overall: Entertaining but too fast for my taste. 3 and a half flowers.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Books from a Book Freak

Hello Followers,

I do not deserve you. I had a really tumultuous November and neglected you. I am making up for it, as you can see by my reviews. All I can do is apologize and shut up about it now.

But I'm here to share with you one of my friend's new blogs called Books from a Book Freak. Carling is quite an awesome person, and after reading all of her reviews, they're really quite good. She's breaks her reviews down into the good and the bad. So far it's working really well for her. In fact, her style really reminds me of Opinionated? Me? Please encourage her and go follow! She totally deserves it.

Enjoy and thank you!
Emma

Book 48 of '10 Spells and Sleeping Bags by Sarah Mlynowski

Dust Jacket Description:

"At long last, Rachel's powers have arrived and she's a bona fide get-your-broom-ready witch! And it's happened just in time. No Manhattan for her this summer—she's spending her vacation at Camp Wood Lake.

But she's having some serious issues:

Mosquitoes in the Adirondacks are incredibly thirsty.

Her stepmom keeps sending embarrassing feminine hygiene care packages.

She accidentally zapped away all her clothes.

And there's a backstabber in her cabin intent on making life miserable.

Good thing Rachel's a witch."

Characters: After spending two books reading about Rachel, I'm quite fond of her personality. However, I listened to the audio book of this one, and the narrator drove me up the wall. It took forever for me to get into Rachel's voice and forget the narrator. Miri was as cute as ever and the narrator did a good, if temporarily jarring, voice for her. Rachel's starting to grow a lot more in this novel, and it's been nice to see her character arch. Cute and fun overall. 4 flowers.

Writing:
Mlynowski's writing is strong and flirty. It's the perfect style when some fluffy escapism is on the menu. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot:
There were a few twists and turns that I hadn't expected. I spent a lot of the novel wondering how it was going to end, which was a nice difference from most chick lit I read. 4 flowers.

End:
I wish the conclusion had been immediate so I could've been left more satisfied instead of restless for the last fifty pages. I think Mlynowski was trying to switch it up, but it just left me unsettled. 3 and a half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
Cute and to the point. 4 and a half flowers.

Cover:
I don't like illustrated YA covers, bottom line. I don't have anything else to say on the matter. 3 flowers.

Overall:
A fun book to listen to while I blogged and did homework. Excellent for what it is. 4 flowers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book 75 of '10 The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Dust Jacket Description

"Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone."

Characters: Bianca's daring attitude is just about the only thing I actively like about her. Jessica and Casey, Bianca's two best friends, kept on insisting that Bianca was cynical, but I didn't see it. There are a few cases in which she has a wit that I did enjoy. Her supposed feminism annoyed me immensely, as I am sick of female characters who complain about taking part in girly activities that are not, in fact, anti-feminist. Usually I would hate Bianca's character, but instead I found myself feeling indifferent towards her.

Wesley Rush is supposed to be a player. Somehow instead of acting like the ass Bianca keeps on insisting he is, he shows more compassion than idiocy through this novel. Of course he does make the DUFF comment, but otherwise he isn't disgusting in any other way. He's infinitely more sensitive from the get go than even my sweetheart guy friends.

Casey was feisty and fun to read while Jessica just made me want to smack her the majority of the time. Toby was void of any personality, just like all the perfect boy characters in YA, but Wesley was enough of a flawed character to keep me content.

The progression of Wesley and Bianca's relationship was lovely to read about. It's refreshing to read a YA book where every teen girl in sight isn't a virgin. There is lots of sex within this book, but Keplinger does in fact reveal a healthy message about intimacy without, usually, being preachy. The smut read like all my very favourite non-graphic fanfiction. Keplinger couldn't have done a better job in that area.

As for the DUFF, the whole idea of this novel, I wish there was a scene where Wesley had helped Bianca pick out all the DUFFs around school so I could see how the title affects the plot at all. Bianca's internal monologue kept on bringing it up and it lost its relevance half way through. At the end Keplinger seemed to try and make a feminist statement about the DUFFs, which was actually quite clever. I was just too used to tuning out Bianca's DUFF rants that I missed it.

I found myself rooting for Wesley and Bianca with ferocity early on despite all the technical issues with this book. Seeing as I have an inner critic the size of Nicholas Sparks' ego, that alone is an accomplishment for the author. 3 and a half flowers.

Writing: Keplinger has some serious potential. It's just hard to pick out with all of the horrible dialogue. Dialogue is very tricky to write and Keplinger's involves huge info dumps, some not relevant to the book. The dialogue reminded me of bad episodes of Gossip Girl with its unnatural wording and immediate intimacy.

Unlike most bloggers who gave the DUFF negative reviews, I found the majority of the swearing to be natural, with a few exceptions. It was the constant use of urgh that got to me. 2 and a half flowers.

Plot: Keplinger did a fairly good job in this region. I saw the outline of the book in my head while I was reading it. The struggles Bianca deals with seems realistic. A few are salvaged too easily in my opinion. I expected a huge bomb to be dropped at the climax of the book, but it never came. Beyond that, the plot didn't disappoint. 4 flowers.

End: Cliche. I knew it was coming. 3 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Fairly accurate. 4 flowers.

Cover: I don't understand. Where's the auburn hair? What's up with the bubble gum? It doesn't make any sense. 2 flowers.

Overall: There are heaps of issues with this books, some that made me want to snatch up my red pen. Somehow, I still loved it. I needed a fluffy book like this to combat the Monday and fix my growing bad mood. I wanted Bianca and Wesley to happen badly, was surprised when Bianca's mom came back into town and felt genuinely disappointed with Toby and Bianca's chemistry. Forget my technical critique, because I lost my troubles in the DUFF. Is it good literature? No. Is it even good chick lit? I'll let you decide. But it was fun, flirty and refreshing. It's what I needed. Plus I was itching to review it! 3 flowers.


Let me know what you thought of the DUFF in the comments! Link me to your reviews. I'd love to hear. I have a feeling I'm not going to forget the DUFF for a while.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? December 13, '10


This meme is hosted by One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Read This Week:

Forever Rose by Hilary McKay
Gemma by Meg Tilly
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Currently Reading:

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

To Read This Week:

Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

What are you reading?

Emma

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Mailbox, December 12, '10

This meme is hosted by The Story Siren.

Because my librarians are absolutely freaking awesome, Linda, our librarian in Children/Teen Collections, came over to where we were having book club and said "I come bearing gifts!" So I came out of the library with three new books. Here they are!

Goodreads Description:
Jason Walker has often wished his life could be less predictable—until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank into a strange, imperiled world. Lyrian holds dangers and challenges unlike anyplace Jason has ever known. The people all live in fear of their malicious wizard emperor, Maldor. The brave resistors who once opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.


Goodreads Description:
Thirteen-year-old Eli Papadopoulos is worried. Even though he’s a member of the most powerful family in the world. Even though his grandfather founded InfiniCorp, the massive corporation that runs everything in the bustling dome-cities. Even though InfiniCorp ads and billboards are plastered everywhere, proclaiming:

DON'T WORRY! INFINICORP IS TAKING CARE OF EVERYTHING!

Recently, Eli noticed that there’s something wrong with the artificial sky. It keeps shorting out, displaying strange colors and random images. And though the Department of Cool and Comfortable Air is working overtime, the dome-city is hotter than it’s ever been.
Eli has been raised to believe that the dome-cities are safe, that the important thing is to keep working and consuming, and that everyone is secure and comfortable in InfiniCorp’s capable hands.
But now he begins asking questions.
All of a sudden, operatives from a dangerous band of terrorists keep contacting him. The Friends of Gustavo—or Foggers—want to tear down everything InfiniCorp has created. They promise Eli that they have the truth he seeks—if he’s brave enough to handle it.
Eli isn’t convinced. And he’s about to find out that in the dome-cities, being a Papadopoulos isn’t enough to save a rule-breaker like him from being sent far away to learn right-thinking. In his new home, the Tower, Eli meets Tabitha, once at the top of her Internship class, now a forgotten slave. Together, and with help from Eli’s beloved pet mongoose, Marilyn, they just might be able to escape . . . and try to make a life for themselves in the scorched wilderness outside the domes.

Goodreads Description:
*SPOILERS FOR HEX HALL*

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will destroy her powers.

But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new friends? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?


What did you get this week?

Emma

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? December 6, '10

This meme is hosted by One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Read This Week:

Visibility by Sarah Neufeld
Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Gilman
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Currently Reading:

Forever Rose by Hilary McKay

To Read This Week:

Fire by Kristin Cashore

What are you reading?

Emma Out!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book 47' of 10' Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Dust Jacket Description:

"
Lenah Beaudonte is, in many ways, your average teen: the new girl at Wickham Boarding School, she struggles to fit in enough to survive and stand out enough to catch the eye of the golden-boy lacrosse captain. But Lenah also just happens to be a recovering five-hundred-year-old vampire queen. After centuries of terrorizing Europe, Lenah is able to realize the dream all vampires have -- to be human again. After performing a dangerous ritual to restore her humanity, Lenah entered a century-long hibernation, leaving behind the wicked coven she ruled over and the eternal love who has helped grant her deep-seated wish.

Until, that is, Lenah draws her first natural breath in centuries at Wickham and rediscovers a human life that bears little resemblance to the one she had known. As if suddenly becoming a teenager weren’t stressful enough, each passing hour brings Lenah closer to the moment when her abandoned coven will open the crypt where she should be sleeping and find her gone. As her borrowed days slip by, Lenah resolves to live her newfound life as fully as she can. But, to do so, she must answer ominous questions: Can an ex-vampire survive in an alien time and place? What can Lenah do to protect her new friends from the bloodthirsty menace about to descend upon them? And how is she ever going to pass her biology midterm?"

Characters: I liked Lenah at the beginning of the book. Yet soon she declined into a Mary Sue. Maizel ignored Lenah's relationships with her fascinating past lovers to focus solely on the hopelessly gorgeous but as dull Justin. He reminded me of all of the paranormal love interests in YA fiction that have been driving me crazy: pretty but empty. I was screaming at the book "but what about the vampire who sacrificed himself for Lenah? What about the vampire who let Lenah be his queen? They would be so much more interesting!" My pleas were said in vain. I kept on expecting the focus on Justin to switch gears, and while I did get pieces of marvelous back story, the plot stayed the same. Huge disappointment. 3 flowers.

Writing:
Maizel can write, to be sure. She has decent dialogue and gorgeous descriptions, but substance? Not so much. 4 flowers.

Plot:
This book suffers from the Circular Syndrome that I've been seeing in so many debut paranormal novels these days. Main character has mission. Then there are intros to characters, a period of boredom for the reader until there is rising tension. THEN...the end consists of the main character being in the exact same position they were in before. That isn't constructive plot. That's being a character tease. Story, my lovely authors! I would like to have it in my books. This novel has such a great premise with a few intriguing characters. Why did it have to be wasted as a filler book? 2 flowers.

End:
See above. I didn't care about the ambiguous ending. I was too busy smacking my face with the book to notice. 2 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
Fairly accurate and plays with the solid premise. 4 flowers.

Cover:
Gorgeous. Especially when you see it in real life. 4 and a half flowers.

Overall:
So many bloggers have loved this one, but I didn't. Not my personal favourite, but you might love it. 2 and a half flowers.

Book 69 of '10 Visibility by Sarah Neufeld



Dust Jacket Description:

"Visibility tells the story of Natalie, the disappointingly normal daughter of Jadyn Irving, a universally reviled woman with the power to turn invisible at will. When Natalie discovers she has inherited more than just her mother’s mysterious eyes, she decides it’s about time she traveled beyond the boundaries of her suffocating life. Desperate to escape Jadyn’s indifference and disdain, Natalie soon finds herself pulled into a web of blackmail, false identities, and lies which threaten to turn mother against daughter...."

Disclosure: I was given this book by the publisher.




I am more than used to being rather disappointed by indie titles. The quality of writing, the story and the make of the physical book can make my stomach queasy over lost potential. But guess what? This isn't one of those books. I could even say this is the best indie book I've read and one of my favourite titles of the year.

Characters: I loved Natalie's brave but introverted personality. There were several points where Neufeld could have made Natalie one of those cliched, shy teen girl MCs that have been littering YA fiction. Yet somehow Neufeld managed to keep her off that path. Natalie's relationship with her mother, Jadyn, reminded me of all my favourite antagonists, although Jadyn's role is unclear, and that made me love her more. After reading the book I'm not sure how I feel about Natalie's friendship with her security guard, Peter, but an adult whom Natalie could trust was necessary to make this book work. I'm new to the world of graphic novels, but I loved how the illustrations gave off an aura from the characters that would have been hard to name in words. 4 and a half flowers.

Writing: I adored the dark descriptions through out this book and the internal monologues. The dialogue occasionally border lined on awkward. I loved every word anyways. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: There were thousands of ways to approach the idea of invisibility, but I would've been extremely disappointed with anything different than this direction. The entire world of Visibility is based off of the one aspect of superhero life that always leaves a gaping hole in the action: what if the hero is found out? How will they be used by the government if they are? Neufeld answers these questions with confidence that left me lost in this story. As a lover of politics, I couldn't help but squeal "this idea is perfect!" to anyone in earshot when the book was in my hands. 5 flowers.

End:
Jadyn's character development near the end and the carefully woven plot with no holes made me excuse that the climax was slightly too fast for my taste. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
This feels vague in a way that wouldn't make me pick up the book. I would prefer more detail about the political aspect of this book. 3 and a half flowers.

Cover: I love this cover. I love the style of the illustrations. I love the feel of the book and even the smell of it. The entire construction of this novel, the physical copy and the story itself, is fantastic. 5 flowers.

Overall:
If you like gorgeous twists to tired old super powers, go for this book. 4 and a half flowers.