Monday, February 28, 2011

And The Winner Is...

The winner of the 130 dollar CSN gift card is...

2. JOHANNA E PORTER!


Johanna, I will send you the rules for the gift card and the code and you can use it as you wish!

Thanks so much for entering, everyone.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Last Minute CSN Stores Gift Card Contest!

CSN Stores has been kind enough to give me an 130 dollar gift card for my bloggers!

I've been dealing with a lot of stress right now and completely forgot about the fact that gift cards expire! It expires March the 1st, so I really need you guys to comment below with your email tonight and till tomorrow afternoon and I'll give who ever I randomly select with random.org, the gift card code.

I know I've been absent for the majority of February, so this is my way of giving back. Please comment and enjoy!

Emma

Book 3 of '11 The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Dust Jacket Description:

"Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's knows her rol in life. But everything changes when she learns, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

While struggling with her new peasant life, Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-supressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control. Returning to the city to seek answers, she instead uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever."

DISCLAIMER: This is the dust jacket description on the back of the ARC and it was subject to change.

Characters: Sinda and I never connected. Perhaps it was her timid nature, but I felt indifferent towards her for the duration of the novel. No matter my lack of chemistry with the protagonist, Sinda still took charge of her life and became proactive near the end of the novel, which I respected her for. I think girls who have a problem with standing up for themselves will relate to Sinda.

Her best friend, Kiernan, was a fun character I wish we got to see more of. I felt we were told a lot about Kiernan instead of shown. Still, Sinda and Kiernan's relationship is a fun one to experience.

Philantha, Sinda's mentor,was the traditional zany adult figure I love in fantasy novels. She didn't vary from the cliche too much, but she was still fun to read about.

As for the rest, well, I don't want to give too much away. Overall, O'Neal has the individual essence of each character. The result is fun if not always fully formed. 4 flowers.

Writing: What immediately brushed me the wrong way as overly formal and info dumpy slowly grew on me. The formality is organic to the story. The excess of unnatural information is not. Sinda rants a bit too often for me to care. However, I cannot blame O'Neal for this issue. Revealing info is something all writers - including an amateur like me - has to deal with. I warmed up to her writing style. In fact, it reminded me a lot of a budding Gail Carson Levine. Wait another book or two and I bet O'Neal's going to be a knockout writer. 3 and a half flowers.

Plot: The early pacing of this book horrified me. The first fifty page arch needs to be slashed entirely. It was way too quick. After Sinda leaves her aunt for the city though, the book begins in its rightful place. What occurs after is a fun, dramatic story. Even if sometimes I didn't understand the cost of the stakes and the book reminded me too much of an outline. If you can ignore technical issues, it's a solid story arch. Not to mention how the major mid book twist threw me off. 4 flowers.

End: Scarily predictable but still very satisfying, somehow. 4 and a half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Actually a fairly impressive description. Except for the fact that they spelled Kiernan's name wrong. I presume that's fixed in the published book, though. Nice job! 4 and a half flowers.

Cover: While I didn't like the ARC cover I received, I dislike this one even more. What is up with whitewashing covers? I'm also confused about the locket's relevance. I wish they had kept the ARC version. 3 flowers.

Overall: A great, fun story that lacks the finesse of an experienced writer. I suspect O'Neal will learn that very soon, though. If you know any girls in the 11-14 age range who love stories like Ella Enchanted, I highly recommend this book. 4 flowers.

Book 2 of '11 Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Dust Jacket Description:

"Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, Kristina disappears and Bree takes her place. Bree is the exact opposite of Kristina -- she's fearless.
Through a boy, Bree meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul -- her life."



Characters: This book is all in verse, so I didn't really get a feel for Kristina beyond a good girl turning to drugs for connection and confidence. Seeing Kristina develop into Bree was a compelling process. It was eerie in how it reminded me how we all compartmentalize parts of ourselves in different social settings.
Kristina's relationship with the Monster is by far the most interesting in this book. She distances herself from personal responsibility by referring to crank as if it were a person. This made the book a lot more interesting. The other relationships seemed lackluster to me.
It's fairly common knowledge that Hopkins based Kristina off of her daughter's own experiences with meth. This ruined parts of my experience of the book.  3 and a half flowers.Writing: Hopkins knows how to write teenagers. Kristina's voice seemed more authentic than a lot of other YA narrators I've read. The writing is fluid and beautiful. Hopkins knows verse and it's shown here. Sometimes the poems felt overly stylized, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the writing. 4 and a half flowers.
Plot: It doesn't exist. The events in the story are a bit scatterbrained. It works for Kristina's thought process, though, even if it's not my favourite story arc. 4 flowers.
End: The last poem is very powerful. I couldn't see it ending another way but I didn't connect with it.
Dust Jacket Description: This is the only description I could find but I'm not sure if it's the dust jacket description. If it is, I wish there was more detail. I can't blame the publisher though, because the simplistic style fits the book. 4 flowers.
Cover: It fits the novel down to the ground. 5 flowers.
Overall: Not my favourite book about addiction but it is one of the most powerful reads. I'll definitely read Hopkins in the future. 4 flowers.

Book 1 of '11 Such A Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

Dust Jacket Description:

They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.

Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison.

Today her time has run out."


Characters: Meredith's personal situation often made me sick to my stomach. I was often disgusted by how Meredith's mother let her father - the man who raped Meredith and several other children in the community - back in the home. Meredith herself though, like most "issue" books I've read, is merely a vessel for the story to take place. I didn't gather too much of her personality. But I did really respect her for calling out her father on several occasions where neither one of her parents wished to see the truth of the situation. Not that all victims of molestation should or are expected to. I just appreciated her character more for it.

Meredith's dad absolutely sickened me. His character was disgusting. Wiess definitely got the self absorption down. As for Meredith's mom, I repeatedly wanted to punch her for the entire novel. I think any parent reading Such A Pretty Girl would have wanted to smack her. Wiess created two fully realized antagonists.

Meredith's boyfriend, Andy and his mother became two interesting characters. The relationship between Meredith and Andy was something I could easily envision in real life. It was nice to read a YA book involving positive, religious characters that didn't even have a glimmer of a preachy vibe to it.

In short, Wiess created realistic characters that cut to the core for me, both in positive and negative ways. 4 and a half flowers.

Writing: Gorgeous and heartbreaking. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: I loved the pacing and overarching story. Parts of the story, especially involving Andy and his mother, felt contrived and made me become skeptical. These aspects of the novel took me out of the story several times. 4 flowers.

End: A little too neat, a little too contrived. I loved the message at the end of the climax. The literal actions of Meredith led to a ending that left me questioning the authenticity I had loved before in the book. 3 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Short and to the point. I think it fits the design of the cover and the vibe of the novel very well. 4 and a half flowers.

Cover: Perhaps the most simply gorgeous cover I've ever encountered. 5 flowers.

Overall: This was a very difficult read for me. It was worth the effort though. If you're able to handle visceral stories about rape, this one will enrich your perspective on the court system and justice. 4 flowers.

The Gemma Doyle 2011 Reread The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

Dust Jacket Description:

*WARNING: SPOILERS. DO NOT READ DESCRIPTION IF YOU HAVEN'T READ REBEL ANGELS*

"IT HAS BEEN A YEAR OF CHANGE since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds.

The Order - the mysterious group her mother was once part of - is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence's burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for."

Characters: The Sweet Far Thing is my favourite out of the books because it's on an entirely different playing field than the first two books. Gemma's character completely evolves during the beginning, middle and ending of the book. Seeing the different parts of her personality take shape is like seeing different sides of me evolve. I don't always agree with what she does, but I can always very easily see myself taking the same choices.

The girls start choosing their pathways in life. Ann becomes much more than the timid girl we saw in AGATB and Felicity's softer side is revealed while Gemma hones in on her power. Each girl is feeling more under pressure than ever before. I love seeing the relationships for each one of the girls shift into new territory. Gemma learns how to deal with the darker side of human consciousness, more about herself and ultimately how to be a woman.

I love how Mrs. Nightwing and Miss McCleethy got more time in this book. Circe and Gemma's relationship turns full circle. A lot of time is spent on Gemma dealing with authority figures in her life and Libba writes it all beautifully.

As for Kartik, god I love his relationship with Gemma over the course of these books. God I love the depiction of love in The Sweet Far Thing. God I love everything about these characters. Please don't hold it against me. 5 flowers.

Writing: Libba's writing is a bit grittier, not in style but in message within this book. I loved every minute of it. I will always swear by Libba's writing style as my favourite dessert in the known world. 5 flowers.

Plot: Libba stands to her usual TGDT pacing of half build up, one part serious tension and last part of an absolutely perfect climax. Everything is done flawlessly with the kind of emotional resonance that you could kill with. Bravo to Libba for creating a series that I still find new shades in after four years. This dark, chaotic book that is a journey to the morning is still my favourite book ever after many years. 5 flowers.

End: It's still painful after all this time. I sobbed as hard as ever. I can't imagine it ending other way, though. It hurts, but it's so beautiful. 5 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Libba's copy editor SUCKS at doing their job within the book's content, but if they wrote this description, then kudos. 5 flowers.

Cover: The model's lips are wrong but beyond that this is my favourite cover from the book. 5 flowers.

Overall: This series is not for anyone. It was and is right for me. I would be a completely different person if I hadn't read this series. I'm a better person for it. These books are heart breaking and beautiful. I'll cherish them forever. 5 flowers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bloggiesta Closing Post


Yes yes, I'm incredibly late to the game. Unfortunately, sekrit weekend plans snuck up on me and I only got what I referenced in my second Bloggiesta post done. However, I plan on having a readathon/Bloggiesta on spring break in which I'll get all the things I wanted to finish originally, done.

Sorry for being so LAME, guys. I fail. *hides* How did you guys do at Bloggiesta?