Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Ashes, Ashes" by Jo Treggiari

June 1st, 2011
"Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her."-goodreads

There is a difference between Post-Apocalyptic fiction and Dystopian fiction. While they run together frequently, dystopias often being the result of an apocalypse, and apocalypses normally creating at least slight dystopias in the way the world is run. Ashes, Ashes has elements of dystopia but is a post-apocalyptic book for the most part (to me, anyway!) and I liked that a lot. I also believe it's a stand-alone, although it could easily be a series, which is always refreshing (I can't stress that enough, can I?).

Ashes, Ashes is horrifyingly realistic seeming. All of the situations, the survival, the way the plague took over the world-- they're all very vivid, very real situations. The main character, Lucy, often reflects on how at first, when the plague originally started, the news would show happy people, nurses and doctors calmly working at the hospital. She then adds that when her parents died, they were nothing like that. Just dying people, failing medicine. The news reverted to pre-recorded footage. I think that's a really important part of the book, or any post-apocalyptic book for me, contrasting the difference between then and before. It really puts the book into perspective. 

I just mentioned Lucy. Lucy is very cool. She was a very strong and developed character, and she was also likeable. One of my favorite parts of the book is that Lucy is a strong female character. There is no Bella syndrome, and I think that's important. Even books like The Hunger Games, in which Katniss is also a strong female character, along the way, she tended to kind of lose herself in her feelings toward Peeta and Gale. Lucy does no such thing. The book has romance, but it's not like, hey I was really awesome before and defending myself and now there's a guy so he'll be my knight and shining armor. Ha! Oh, and no love triangle. Thank goodness.

Aiden and all of the other characters were great as well. The book was fabulously written, all vivid and detailed. It was really easy to picture the post-apocalyptic New York. It was interesting, filled with action, and just a good book. Also, I'd like to add that I liked the cover before I read the book, and after reading the book I think it's absolutely perfect, a great reflection of the book. (Feel free to judge this one by it's cover, I'd say.)

If you'd like a good book that's interesting, realistic seeming, vividly written, and filled with survival, try out Ashes, Ashes in two weeks when it comes out! Also, this is definitely on my list of 'things to recommend to people that liked the Hunger Games'. 
Thank you Scholastic for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Everfound" (Skinjackers, #3) by Neal Shusterman

The description for this book, and the summary I tried to write are very spoiler-ish if you haven't read Everlost or Everwild. For that reason, I decided not to include a description at all. If you miss it and aren't worried about some spoilers, here's the goodreads one.

Heart-breaking, spectacular, bizarre, edge-of-your-seat, unique, bedazzling, twisted, dark, broad, seamless. These are words that are coming to mind now that I've finished Everfound, the last of the Skinjacker trilogy. The ending was heart-breaking, but also spectacular-- it wrapped everything up so that it was good, although notably it wasn't overly happy, unrealistic, or rushed.

The world, Everlost, in the Skinjacker trilogy is bedazzling, broad, and also seamless. I think the world building and development is probably some of the best I've ever read, up there with or surpassing the wizarding world in Harry Potter; which is another 'alternate universe' co-existing with the modern world type of scenario.

While I enjoyed Everlost and Everwild, I think that Everfound was the best out of the series. It was the most complicated, the most twisted, the longest, and at times the most confusing book of the series, everything also seemed to make the most sense. How is that? I have no idea. Possibly because in the first books, a lot of world building was done, a lot of characters developed; but about a reader could pose about a million questions. You could say the same for Everfound-- but a lot of the questions were also answered.

The story admittedly moved a bit slow at times, as it did in the first two, but I think that was necessary. If it had moved at an incredibly fast pace for the whole time I think I would've missed more things and I'm not sure it would've ended up making any sense.

Before I write a review with a length equivalent to the Bible, I should really stop. All I can say is that the Skinjacker trilogy is without a doubt the weirdest thing I've ever read; but it's also one of the best overall series I can think of-- I didn't think any of the books had huge weak points, which I can even say about some of my favorite series like Maximum Ride, at times HP, and The Hunger Games... and one more thing I haven't mentioned before; the covers for this series? Perfect!
Thank you, S&S for giving me the opportunity to review this epic conclusion!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"The Rules of Survival" by Nancy Werlin

But how come there don't seem to be any rules about when you ought to help others survive? Rules telling you when that's worth some risk to yourself? Callie and I were working so hard for you, Emmy, but as far as I could see, nobody else cared at all. For any of us.

Matthew, Callie, and their half sister Emmy, live in a world of fear. They are ruled by it, controlled by it, they live their life by it. It's what keeps them safe, most of the time.
Safe from their mother.
Safe from Nikki.
Nikki, their mother, has issues. She only comes home at two or three in the morning, often drunk. She brings home men, she swears. She's obsessive about her children's love- they must love her, and only her, or they will pay. They will be sorry. She will take her revenge.
It's not the only think that Nikki can be obsessive about, Matthew and his siblings learn.
When Matthew and Callie track down a mysterious Murdoch, that Matthew saw in a store, their mother takes control. Within weeks, Murdoch and Nikki are dating, and life seems amazing for the three children.
Until it happens.
When Nikki goes psycho in front of Murdoch, he dumps her, and the children's lives are thrown in to chaos. It's back to the old mother, but worse.
And when Nikki starts obsessing over Murdoch, Matthew knows they have to get away.

What we knew was that her homecoming was always the cue for a play- an elaborate production of live theater.
I was the director of our theater, arranging the stage set, telling you and Callie to take your places, prompting you to do or say this or that, whisper-feeding you lines of dialogue and bits of business. "Don't forget to hug her!" "Go get her some Advil and a glass of water, fast." "Ask her if she'll help you with your homework later, she likes that." "Stop stomping around, she'll go ballistic."

I really liked this book, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I really liked the characters. Matthew, the narrator, was interesting. He had his own realistic, normal, yet very heroic, mind set. I could identify with him, yet at the same time I sort of looked up to him as a role model. I like main characters like that.

The book was written in the form of a very, very long letter from Matthew to his half sister, Emmy. As such, it has some detours, footnotes from Matthew, and it's written in the sort of way that you would expect a letter to be written. He's talking to Emmy, and it shows. I like that. It doesn't feel unrealistic, like "let's write a letter... now it's going to be told from third person POV and I'm only going to say it's a letter at the beginning and end."

Third of all... Nikki was evil. I found myself completely living in fear of her myself, at least while I was reading the book. She was... unpredictable, and I think the author did a very good job of making her act in the way you expected her to, as Nikki.

All in all, a very excellent book.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Shadowed Summer" by Saundra Mitchell

"Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.
Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?"-goodreads

First things first: This book was refreshing! Why? Because it was good, but it was a standalone. I felt satisfied with how it wrapped up, which I often don't with standalone books, without having to read a sequel to get the whole story! Don't get me wrong. I like series of books, however, I don't appreciate it when EVERY book is a series-- especially those times when you don't even know it is/will be one. 

Saundra Mitchell's writing. Ohmygosh. I read the Vespertine and really liked the story but my favorite part was Mrs. Mitchell's writing style. It's unique, rather poetic, and rather visual. Shadowed Summer is super creepy and gothic, emphasized by her writing. 

The whole thing was creepy, really Iris and Colette's pretending to be witches gone wrong, when something ACTUALLY happens and there's an actual ghost. Not a quiet ghost either, this ghost had a story to tell and a mystery to be solved. The whole thing wraps up in a way you wouldn't expect; as the story goes on, Colette and Iris think they know what happened, and the reader thinks they do too; but then it's not what you expect!

If you want a really creepy gothic type of book that's written well and is a relatively short STAND ALONE read, then check out Shadowed Summer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Runaway" by Wendelin Van Draanen

Well. Stupid me. You should see them now. They're all huddled up arguing like crazy. Maybe they think I'm going to put a curse on them.
I can't believe it. They're coming up here?
Oh, crud. Frankie's got a stick.

Holly has gone from one foster home to another. Each one seems to be worse than the one before it.
The Bender's are no different. After an incident with Mr. Bender, a toilet, and the Sani-Clean in the water, Holly decides that it's time to cut and run.
It isn't the first time she's run away.
Armed with the journal her teacher assigned her, a sheet about poems, a backpack, some food, a watch, and a few other odds and ends, Holly doesn't expect to get far. She hasn't ever made it away before, so why should this time be any different?
But this time, whether it's because of her journal, the stories of the Underground Railroad, or just the knowledge that she can't take anymore, Holly does get away.
Far away.
Traveling from her home in the East/Midwest, she manages to make it to California, all the while calling herself a "gypsy", and trying to pretend that she isn't what she is- homeless.
But how can a 12 year old survive... Even when the 12 year old is Holly?

I can't keep living like this.
I can't even talk about it.
This is no City of Angels.
It's Hell on Earth.

I actually really liked this book. I started reading it thinking that I would- I tend to love runaway stories, stories about survival, and books written in diary form- I got about half way through, thought I wouldn't like it, then at the end I decided that I did like it after all.
Very confusing.

The only problems I had with this book was that I thought that some of the things were just a little too far fetched. That's probably just me, since I bet a lot of these things do happen, but everything seems to just work out too well, or things just go bad at really inexplicable times.

Despite the unbelievability of some of the situations, however, I did find it a good read. Holly was entertaining, and although you start the book thinking "this character is really REALLY two dimensional", you finish the book having a new and better respect for the character of Holly. That's one of the things I like about her... Even though shes all "tough as a nail" and all that, She still acts like a 12 year old.

Overall, this was a pretty good book. I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't not recommend it, either.

I got out of there, found a safe spot on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and ate cold chili. And all I can think about is how ungrateful I've been. I can walk, I'm healthy.... I've got a lot more than I think I do.
Why is what you do have so much harder to see than what you don't?

Armchair BEA: Interview with another blogger!

Right now, BEA (Book Expo America) is going on in New York. There are MANY authors, publishing professionals, and press (including bloggers!) there right now networking, getting new upcoming books, getting to know each other, seeing panels, etc... etc... Armchair BEA was started so that bloggers that couldn't go to BEA could still network if they liked, and participate in giveaways, interviews, and all of that stuff... that's why it's awesome!

Today for Armchair BEA, people that signed up for it, are participating in interviews with other bloggers to post on their blogs so that they can get to know each other and let everyone else get to know them too! I signed up to interview and was matched with Smash from the SmashAttackReads book blog. I browsed around her blog, learned more about her and then sent her interview questions. She was super nice and funny,  so here are her answers, enjoy!:

Where did your blog name come from? Have you ever thought about changing it?  My name is Ashley, and I grew up being called Smashley by my family. My mom shortened it to Smash as I got older. My real-life friend, Brooke at Brooke Reviews (http://www.brookereviews.com/), called me Smash Attack one day, and it just stuck. I love it, and it has truly become my book blogging identity. I will never change it.

There's a quote in your header ("I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget."). Do you think that? If you do, which of those do you consider yourself? I definitely read to forget. I’m a social worker, and if you know anything about what social workers do, you get it. Reading is my escape from the crappy reality that I have to deal with on a daily basis. It's my stress relief.

Do you plan on trying to go to BEA next year?  I would love to go to BEA, but it won’t happen for some years to come. I just graduated with a Masters degree, and my husband is in med school. This equates to lots and lots of loans. I owe the government my soul, and the souls of my 50 closest relatives. LOL. So yea, until hubs starts making some money (because social workers don’t make money), BEA will be nothing more than a pipe dream…

What's your favorite thing about blogging? OTHER BLOGGERS! Seriously. I love receiving books and nurturing relationships with authors and publicists, as well as being able to help authors publicize their work, but other bloggers are my favorite part about blogging. I’ve made some amazing friends, both online and in real life, and I adore them so!

How did you get started blogging?  I’ve been blogging for many, many years. However, I only started my book blog last June because I found myself posting bookish things on my personal blog, and none of my readers were interested. Brooke (Brooke Reviews) has been reviewing and blogging for a few years and I loved interacting on her blog. I really wanted to do it but didn’t think I had the time because of grad school. But last summer I bit the bullet and haven’t looked back.

If you could only take one book with you to a deserted island, what would it be and why?  Oh lawdie. This is tough, but I’m going with The Hunger Games box set. Yes, it’s 3 books but it is one of the most entertaining series ever I’ve read, and the box set can be considered one item. I wrote a series synopsis here: http://www.smashattackreads.com/2010/09/series-spotlight-hungers-games-by.html

What was your favorite childhood book? It’s a tie between Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass and Charlotte's Web. Both are fantastic in their own respect. I adore Wilbur and Charlotte, and found their relationship to be one of loyalty and bravery. And Alice is just full of adventure and imagination. I still love reading re-imaginings of Alice.

Thanks for answering the questions, Smash! Loved your answers! Be sure to stop by her blog! :D

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Everwild" (Skinjackers, #2) by Neal Shusterman

"Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the “Chocolate Ogre” wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost’s children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed.
Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she discovers the shocking truth about skinjackers."-goodreads 

Everwild (along with the first book, Everlost) is a VERY dark book. Along with the darkness comes that the series is one of the more unique ones I've read. That's both due to the story and Shusterman's writing style, which doesn't really bring any other authors to mind for me. Those are the most prominent things about the books that I could think to start this review with.

I enjoyed Everwild more than Everlost. The story just got more interesting. While we learned more about what it really meant to be in Everlost (what it is, how they get there, what a skinjacker truly is) it seemed to be woven into the story more, while in Everlost I felt a lot of it was explaining. I knew that it was necessary, because I wouldn't have understood anything in the first one if not for that, but yes, less explaining. In Everwild, without it seeming irrational or impossible, almost everything we thought we knew about Everlost is either changed, a lot more complicated that you would think, or COMPLETELY different. That's a huge part of the story-- you think you know what's going on, you think you know something and BAM, surprise, you know NOTHING. 

Everwild was shocking. Along with everything you thought you knew being thrown out the window, the way you thought you knew the characters and their personalities was also changing constantly. You delve deeper into the characters. Good and bad, both actions of people and themselves, are ongoing changing themes. At first, a person seems like they're doing the right thing, but then as the story goes on they seem more monstrous. You always have to question. That's another big thing. This is another one of those books that will make you think, and ask yourself questions; like, 'who's right? Mary or Nick? Allie or Milos?' answers to which (for me) were usually neither. A lot of the books are about the morals of Everlost and the real world as well-- is it right to skinjack? Is it right to take things from the living? etc....

Anyway. I really shouldn't say much more, I probably already said some minimal spoilers. If you want a good book, a unique book, or one of those books that's really complicated but very interesting and good, I'd recommend Everlost and Everwild! I look forward to reading the last in the trilogy, Everfound!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"The Devil's Arithmetic" by Jane Yolen

"Hannah is tired of hearing about the Nazis during the Holocaust, but when she opens the door for Elijah at the Passover Seder, she is transported in time to 1940s Poland, where she is captured and put in a death camp. A girl named Rivka befriends her, teaching her how to fight the dehumanization of the camp and hold onto her identity."-goodreads

I said 'painfully realistic', 'important', and 'powerful must-read' when I reviewed Between Shades of Gray a while back. The same can be said for The Devil's Arithmetic. 

This is a very hard book to read; and I don't mean that because it was a bad book. It's very sad and it's terrifying. It's terrifying, because just like Hannah does, you know what is happening, you know what's going to happen. The characters may not have been real people, they were just reflections of survivor's accounts of the holocaust, but their situation (like that of Lina's in Between Shades of Gray) and their journey is dreadfully accurate. 

These things really happened. The whole book was very realistic, with the exception of the obvious Hannah traveling to the past and such. It's an important story, and while we witness the important story unfold, we learn the equally important lesson that Hannah learns over the course of the book: that we must remember our history, our heritage, and the hardships that our relatives (distant or close) had to endure so that we could be here.

The writing was good, the story important and unglamorized. It's brutally honest, and a very important but powerful read. These people tried to keep hope, as Hannah and her relatives did. I recommend this book because it's all around important, and for people that liked Between Shades of Gray for all of the above reasons.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Delirium" by Lauren Oliver

"Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.
But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love."-goodreads

I was in no rush to read Delirium. I thought, when looking at the summary and while hearing other's opinions, that it sounded too much like Matched. Not the concept, just the whole kind of dystopian where the girl rebels because of a relationship kind of thing. I didn't think I could like something like that as much as I loved Matched. I thought that was a one kind of deal. It's normally pretty easy for me to LIKE books just not LOVE them.
As usually happens when I have pre-reading opinions about a book, I was very, horribly, inconceivably WRONG. 

First things first. The writing. Oh my gosh the WRITING. Lauren Oliver is an evil GENIUS. It's lyrical, it's beautiful, it's descriptive. I could see what went on in the story with imperceptible clarity, surrounded by a wall of gorgeousness. It was POETIC. Also, the parts at the beginning of each chapter; excerpts from poems, lessons from the 'Book of Shhh' were great. It added to the world that she created. You can also really feel the story. You feel for the characters, you feel the situations, and it's the kind of book that makes you wonder... what would I do? Would I sacrifice a perfect life for love? Love; which can be painful but perfect? It was all so real... there are many scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, when I hoped for Lena or Alex to get out okay, and where my heart ached for them. ESPECIALLY THE ENDING. 

The story itself was also amazing, of course. The whole idea where it wasn't the kind of dystopia you expect, where only certain things are controlled, where they seem to have more freedom (although that starts to unravel..). Lena was a great character and so were Hana, Alex, and I really liked Gracie. I felt that Lena's battles with her inner self were what I would be thinking... The romance was powerful. All the emotions were vibrant. It was believable. 

The whole concept of the cure was really interesting too. To think about something like that is a great thought to ponder. What if there was ever something like that created? A cure to love (read: a cure to the pain of love). Would you want it?

Anyway. If you liked Matched. If you are enjoying the dystopian trend. If you like a good book that is written both brilliantly and beautifully, I highly suggest you pick up Delirium.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Beautiful Darkness" (Caster Chronicles, #2) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

"Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.
Sometimes life-ending.
Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems."-goodreads
Remember that time I wrote a review in which I was totally crazy about a Paranormal/Contemporary/Historical book called Beautiful Creatures? This is the sequel to that book and I loved it just as much!

The Paranormal/Historical/Contemporary elements are back and all there. The book is still written in a way that captivates you and makes you really see what is going on, at times rather poetic. The story is still fascinating. It continues to surprise with twists that you can't forsee no matter how hard you try. It's still a rather gothic novel. It was great!

There's always those times where I'm disappointed with the sequel as compared to the first book, but this wasn't a let down. Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness both start out rather slow-- even though it's good, it's slow-- but it's good that way. It doesn't take away for me. It just builds on and prepares you for the very complicated but very good things to come. It's a long book just like the first at about 500 pages, however, it's 500 pages of greatness. The way the world of Casters and the mortal world in Gaitlin combine in these books is seamless. The book was more emotional than the last, because of some very traumatic experiences going on and the ones that went on in Beautiful Creatures (which I can't talk about without ruining the whole thing).

I can't wait for the third in the series of the Caster Chronicles to come out, Beautiful Chaos in (fittingly) October! I'm sure there are more great things to coming yet in this series.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"We'll Always Have Summer" by Jenny Han (Summer, #3) +Giveaway!

The conclusion to the Summer series by Jenny Han! Preceded by The Summer I Turned Pretty and It's Not Summer Without You.

I actually can't post a summary for this because it will kind of completely spoil stuff. I can't even say much about the book, but I will say things!

I really love this series. I love how it's more than meets the eye, and how deep and emotional the whole thing is. Jenny Han's very visual, very emotional, very real writing really completes the awesome package that is the series! Admittedly, I preferred the first two books, maybe they were less dramatic, whatever it was. However, this one was a great conclusion to the Summer series. Belly finally gets married... but to who? You'll have to read the Summer series to find out. As in It's Not Summer Without You, the whole story isn't told by Belly. Except, instead of Jeremiah narrating some parts, it's Conrad. I found this really enjoyable, a nice addition. I did like who Belly ended up with and the way Mrs. Han ended the series, and I think you readers will too!
Thank you S&S for the early copy for review of this finale. 

But, that's not all. (woah. I sound like Billy Mays.) To celebrate the end of the series, which I've really liked even though I didn't *really* expect too, I'm giving away a copy of the We'll Always Have Summer. I hope if you read this series you enjoy it as much as I did. Just fill out the below form. lease read the rules and follow them when you enter! Giveaway over, thanks for participating!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"It's Not Summer Without You" by Jenny Han (Summer, #2)

"Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.
But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach."-goodreads

I really enjoyed It's Not Summer Without You, just as much as I loved The Summer I Turned Pretty. It was just as emotional, if not more so. My favorite addition to the book was probably that rather than the whole book being from Belly's point of view, we also got to see a chapter here and there from Jeremiah's point of view.

The biggest highlight of the whole series is Jenny Han's gorgeous writing, for me, anyway. Still stunningly emotional, this one still avoids crossing the line of what one would probably consider over dramatic. It was all very real. I liked Jeremiah in this one, a lot more than I liked Conrad, which wasn't so in the first book and wasn't in the following one.

Which brings me to the problem. I can't say a lot more in this review. Both because of the general rule of sequels, but also because I read the third book before finishing this review; therefore, I'm finding it difficult to not spoil that one as well! Anyway, great sequel in a fabulous series! Check back soon for my review of the conclusion!

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck

George and Lenny are not much alike. While George is quick and intelligent, Lenny is large, with the mind of a small child. Yet they travel together, working as laborers in California vegetable fields, George protecting Lenny, and Lenny following George like a faithful pet.

When they find themselves working for a cruel rancher named Curley, all they hope and dream for seems closer than ever. Within a year, it seems that they'll have their own cabin, and will be living off the fat of the land, as George puts it. But catastrophe strikes in the form of a flirtatious woman, and this time even George cannot save Lenny from himself.

One of the things I really liked about this book is all the detail paid to the characters' manners of speech. When you read the book, you can almost hear the characters speaking, the dialogue is so clearly portrayed.

In this book, I think the author, John Steibeck, is not only trying to demonstrate the hard lives that the laborers had. I think he is also trying to teach several lessons, or at least put his opinions out about a couple of subjects.
One of the things I think he is trying to point to is that, in his opinion, females are the root of most evil. My reason for thinking that is because, in this book, the only women who are mentioned are either whores, or are trouble-makers who bring disaster upon the heads of George and Lenny.
Despite this outlook, I believe that this is an important book to read, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"The After Life" by Daniel Ehrenhaft

"I do," Will said. He tried to ignore the curious stares. So. The family reunion was complete. Mental note: Start taking meds again. Also, ask Dr. Brown why brain always short-circuits anad makes me talk like a retard during "major turning points."
"Hey, sorry about your uncle," Kyle said. He grinned. "So, you wanna get laid?"

Will Shepherd is screwed up. He's only 19, and he's an alcoholic. He's a dropout, a druggie, and he has the liver of a 49 year old man. He doesn't even have his drivers license. When he and his mom move uptown, he begins going to school again... the same school his half sister, Liz, goes to.
One night (incidentally the night after a giant party at Will's dad's mansion), Will's dad, Forrest Shepherd III, dies, leaving not only a ton of money to Liz and Kyle (they're twins), but a smaller sum to Will.

The thing is though, to get the money, Will has to drive to New York from Florida, where the funeral was held, in less than 48 hours.

When Kyle and Liz offer to drive him there in exchange for the promise that they will never see him again, he accepts, and all three are thrown into a bizarre adventure which will reveal truths that are both shocking, and not altogether unwelcome.

In a lot of ways, she was pretty much everything her twin brother was too. Maybe the superstition was false: maybe there wasn't a "good" twin or an "evil" twin. Maybe all twins were evil. They did have weird psychic powers, after all.

I liked this book. It was funny, cute, and I loved all of the characters. (Actually, if I had to choose one I didn't like so much, it'd be Liz.) The plot was original, though I guessed the plot twist at the end about half way through the book. Oh well. You can't have everything.

The things I'd warn people about this book though, would be the drugs, sex, and alcohol. Will is pretty much always either high or drunk, there are definitely mentions of sex in the book, there is a TON of drug usage (I mean, hey, the dad is a hippie), oh, and everyone swears a lot.

Other than that, though, this was an awesome book. It was a fast read (I got through it in a couple hours), and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a good/amusing read, but who isn't going to be offended by underage drinking, or illegal drug usage in literature.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Scorpia Rising" (Alex Rider, #9) by Anthony Horowitz

"Scorpia has dogged Alex Rider for most of his life. They killed his parents, they did their best to con Alex into turning traitor, and they just keep coming back with more power. Now the world's most dangerous terrorist organization is playing with fire in the world's most combustible land: the Middle East. No one knows Scorpia like Alex. And no one knows how best to get to Alex like Scorpia. Until now. 
The chases have never been more intense, the fights more treacherous, or the risks so perilous to mankind. And this time, Alex won't get away."-goodreads

I have practically grown up reading the Alex Rider series. I read the first book, Stormbreaker, the first time when I was 8. I love this series. I'm going to admit that I was NOT a fan of Crocodile Tears, the last book in the series. Actually, I was very disappointed with it, for a multitude of reasons. I was hoping that for the last book in the series, Mr. Horowitz would redeem himself. He totally did! Alex Rider is back, for the thrilling end to this amazing series.

This whole series has been fast paced, exciting, surprising, and jam-packed with action in vivid writing that reads almost like a movie (not in the bad way, where it seems like a script or something). The conclusion was no exception. I liked that the writing I liked without the obvious moves and product placement (did anyone else see that every 5 seconds in CT?) had returned. Scorpia was my favorite of the series, so that organization being back was cool.

There is a major character death. It is very sad, but it was kind of necessary, I think. A little bit. I also want to say that the ending wrapped everything up nicely, there's pretty much no way that there will be another one-- I really don't like it when the series ends and it's left open enough that something can happen and there would be another book. I just like the end being the end. 

I really can't say much more, I don't want to spoil stuff from the rest of the books or this one. If you haven't read the Alex Rider series, I do recommend it. If you just haven't read this one-- you definitely should!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Boy Meets Boy" by David Levithan

"GUESS WHAT!" I said. She jumped, then tried to pretend she hadn't been surprised. Since she didn't closer her book-she only marked the page with her finger-I knew I didn't have mch time.
"What?" she asked.
"I'm gay!"

Paul, a sophmore at a school where the cheerleaders ride motorcycles and the homecoming queen is also the football star, has it easy. He knows who he is. He knows how to deal with it. His family is accepting, he has good friends, and his life is generally pretty good.
It gets better.
When Paul meets Noah, they know they're meant to be. Immediately they get together, and they think they're destined for each other. Sure, Paul is going through a tough time...
But even with an ex boyfriend of Paul's, who won't seem to go away; Paul's best friend, Joni, who's dating a jerk and who might not be Paul's best friend anymore; His other best friend, Tony, who's having trouble at home; and all the rest of his friends' problems, they think they can muddle through.
Until Paul blows it, big time.
But maybe, just maybe, everything has to fall apart, before it can get back together.
Paul can hope, anyway.

"Oh, honey," she says when I'm done with my wallowing. "It's like my grandma used to say: Just when you think life's got you in a gutter, a tornado will come along and destroy your house."
"And then you rebuild?" I ask.
"Well, she never mentioned that part, but I suppose it could happen."
I am not cheered up.

This is definitely not the type of book I regularly read. First of all, it's a romance. Second of all, it's a YA romance. Thirdly, it's a YA gay romance.
But hey.
You gotta try new things, right?
Keeping that in mind...

I really liked this book. A lot. It was very funny, and very well written. I was having "cute spasms" (basically where I get so overwhelmed with the cute content that I freak out and can't do anything) the entire length of this book. The characters were well developed, interesting, original, and fascinating. Even though a lot of the conflict didn't happen until about half way through the book, I still found myself wanting to read on, just because I cared about what happened to them.

The plot was interesting... Though you could definitely tell it was a YA book... In hindsight, a lot of the things that happened seem very formulated, but reading it, it was intriguing.

I really liked this book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who just wants something slightly different to read. :)

"So what's up with you?" I ask.
"Not much."
"And how are things?"
RRRRRRRRR. I make a loud game-show-buzzer noise. "I'm sorry," I say, "we don't recognize 'fine' as an acceptable answer. We see it as a conversational cop-out. So please, try again."

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Moonglass" by Jessi Kirby

May 3rd, 2011
"I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.
Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever."-goodreads

Moonglass is a deeply impressive debut novel. It was just fabulous! It reminded me of Sarah Dessen (The Truth About Forever), who happened to blurb the book. Slightly reminiscent of Jenny Han (The Summer I Turned Pretty) which I just read. Definitely on the most emotional and powerful books I've ever read. The writing was vivid and addictive. I found the protagonist, Anna, very easy to relate to in general and rather likable in comparison to some that I've read lately.

The setting of the book was beautiful, and I could see it in my mind so clearly thanks to Kirby's amazing writing. Anna's story coming full circle, starting with relocating to the beach where her parents met was moving. The ongoing theme that was the moonglass was great, one of my favorite elements. The way more and more pieces of the story of her mother's death came together (and that we learned more and more as we read the story) was so great as well. 

I enjoyed all of the characters. Ashley was really funny and sweet. Tyler was great. Anna's dad and his dedication and that he was trying so hard was good too. I really, really liked Anna, as I said before. The REPENT man was a great element, and his story. I never expected that or the role he would eventually play. I didn't expect what was almost the end of Anna's story to happen.... 

Anyway, I keep *almost* spoiling things here, so I'll just finish with saying that Moonglass is an amazing book. If you want a very emotional, very vivid, beautiful read, you should really pick it up! Fabulous. I can't wait to read what Jessi Kirby writes next!

Thank you, Simon&Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read this book. Readers Note: As usual, this in no way effects my opinion, as always, my review is unbiased!

"My Father's Son" by Terri Fields

She tells us that we will need to understand and abide by the rules.
"I hate rules," Tattoo Tom says.

Kevin Windor, 17 years old, is pretty average. He's taking AP classes, lives with his mom but spends weekends with his dad. He has a best friend, a crush, and he loves basketball. He's average, his life is average, and he doesn't think it's going to change.
"This is just in. In a spectacular development, the alleged DB25 Monster has been arrested. Police apprehended him trying to escape through the bathroom window of 32-year-old Joyce Garlen's apartment...."
Then the camera switches from the anchor to a mug shot of the monster they caught. And it is my face-or at least my face as it will look in 20 years.
And just like that, his life is changed.
His dad is behind bars, accused of being a serial killer. He's got problems at school now, but his main concern is his father.
How does a 17-year-old convince the world that his father is innocent... When all the evidence points otherwise?

I don't tell Nancy that I won't hear from Lani, that we were two lost people trying to get through one lonely Saturday night. I don't have a phone number for her; I don't even know if she has a phone. I tell myself that at least Lani's pretty tough. That should help her wherever she is; I just hope it will be enough.

This was a pretty epic book. The character, Kevin, was incredibly likable. He was interesting, and average enough in the way he acted and thought, that you associated with him. But he was also just a good person.. which I thought helped a lot.

The plot of the book also helped, seeing how one moment you thought his dad did it... the next moment you didn't think so.. the next moment you weren't sure. There was also a spectacular plot twist at the end (I swear, it's in the last few chapters), which was really interesting.

This was a quick read (it only took me a few hours) and I'd recommend it if you're looking for a good book but you don't have that much time to read. :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard

"Oooh, check out the badass knitter." Tay laughed. "Keep her away from any spray-pant cans, you guys. She's gonna start leaving tags in alleys."
Scottie straightened up suddenly.
"You just gave me another idea," she said.
"Oh no," Tay said, flinging her stripy scarf around her neck. "No more! I've had all the bonding I can handle for one night."
What do you do when your best friend seems to have totally turned on you?
What do you do when your favorite aunt has just died?
What do you do when your mom and dad are distant, and look through you not at you?
What do you do when your life is falling apart?

These are the questions Scottie has to ask herself. She doesn't really have any answers, until her great aunt teaches her to knit. Suddenly, even though she's labeled as a geek, a nerd, and undesirable, everything seems to be okay. It's like the yarn and the needles are magic. Or maybe it's just KnitWit, the knitting shop she starts taking lessons at.
But whatever is magic, there certainly seems to be some.
When Amanda starts knitting with Scottie too, and they are joined by two new friends, Tay and Bella, everything seems to be going right for Scottie.
But how long can the knitting keep it's magic?
Bella lowered her hand and allowed herself a little smile.
"Thanks, you guys," she squeaked. "This stuff would be twice as scary without you. I mean, I feel like I don't even know who I am all of a sudden. But I also have this incredible urge to figure it out, like, immediately."
I, personally, found this book incredibly entertaining.
It was witty, funny, interesting... The knitting terms were completely correct, and I loved the way that the author made everything seem so serious, at the same time that the book itself didn't exactly seem to take itself seriously.

The only few problems I had with this book were that (a) I'm not exactly sure I liked how the author portrayed homeschoolers (Bella is a homeschooler. Bella is also a nutjob.), and (b) I found a lot of the "no one is seeing me as myself!" things annoying, when none of the characters were actually acting like themselves.

But besides that, I liked this book. I'd give it 3 stars, and recommend it in particular to female teen knitters. ;)