Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop

Yay! School has begun again! I can only be so excited about it because I'm not actually a student anymore. And that is truly thrilling to me which meant I had to participate in this:

I'm so glad to be participating in the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer and Buried in Books. This giveaway closes September 7th and I will announce the winners on September 8th. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

I have two giveaways, on for US and the other INT. You may only enter one of them. Duplicates will be deleted.

First, for USA readers, I have a hardcover copy of Where She Went by Gayle Foreman. One of my favorite books this year, and really of all time. I loved it. To enter:
1) fill out the form below (yep, that's all)

Second, for INTERNATIONAL readers, I have a $10 gift card to Amazon OR a $10 book of your choice from The Book Depository, winner gets to choose. To enter:
1) fill out the form below (seriously, it can't get any easier)

now hop along...

Monday, August 29, 2011

review: Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

pub date: September 12, 2011
publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
pages: 314
source: NetGalley 
appeals: fantasy, fairy tale-ish, romance, adventure
content: clean

I am a huge fan of Murdock's Dairy Queen series. I love DJ Schwenk and her adventures in Red Bend Wisconsin. However, I'm not such a fan of Murdock's fantasy books.

I read Princess Ben when it came out a few years ago, and it was okay, but I didn't love it. I read Wisdom's Kiss because I wanted to give Murdock's fantasy another go because I love her realistic fiction so much. However, I have to say the I felt the same about Wisdom's Kiss as I did for Princess Ben. It was okay. Not my type of fantasy.

I say not my type of fantasy because the fantasy I enjoy delves into characters and relationships and has solid world building and a well-set forth magical system. I didn't get that with this book. I felt like the story just skimmed the surface, and I wanted depth.
I didn't really feel attached to any of the characters. They were fun or evil or woeful or hopeful, but none of them I felt like I knew. They never came alive for me. Trudy was my favorite but there wasn't enough of her, or any of them really, to love.

The plot had moments of surprise and fun, but it wasn't suspenseful. I didn't feel the urgent need to know what was going to happen next. I felt more of a need to finish the book so that I was finished.

I thought Murdock's story telling style was very creative. Told from (I think) 8 different points of view in (I think) 8 different styles, it was fun to read. Though I did skip the encyclopedia entries near the end. The story might have made more sense if I hadn't done so.

I really hope Murdock writes more contemporary, realistic fiction. I will definitely read it when she does. But I think not any more of her fantasy books. Just not my kind of fantasy.

Readalikes would be Jessica Day George's books or Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore. And if you liked Princess Ben, you'll enjoy this one.

Princess Wisdom, known as Dizzy, longs for a life of adventure far beyond the staid old kingdom of Montagne.

Tips, a soldier, longs to keep his true life secret from his family.

Fortitude, an orphaned maid, longs only for Tips.

These three passionate souls might just attain their dreams while preserving Montagne from certain destruction, if only they can tolerate each other long enough to come up with a plan. Tough to save the world when you can't even be in the same room together.

Magic, cunning, and one very special cat join forces in this hilarious, extraordinary tale by the author of Dairy Queen and Princess Ben. An incredibly creative tale told with diaries, memoirs, encyclopedia entries, letters, biographies, even a stage play, all woven together into a grand adventure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

review: Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

pub date: September 13, 2011
publisher: Simon and Schuster
source: Simon and Schuster Gally Grab
format: digital
appeals: vampires, high school, prom, romance,
content: 4 or 5 swears and some violence

this is my third Sarah Beth Durst novel. I LOVED Ice, thought Enchanted Ivy was okay, and Drink, Slay, Love is right in the middle of those two. All of Durst's books are different and original and I really like that about her as a writer.

Drink, Slay, Love started out slow. I didn't really care about the characters, or even Pearl's story till 40 or 50 pages in, but once I reached that point my pace of reading picked up with the plot. It was really exciting.

I thought Pearl's development as a character was realistic and that made the story real (as real as a vampire stabbed by a unicorn can be), even with odd and sometimes silly plot developments. I don't read a lot of vampire books, so I might be off about this, but I thought these vampires were intriguing and different and new. They were really heartless and Durst does a good job of showing how evil these vampires are compared to human standards. It made for great conflict.

So overall, this was a fun book. I recommend. And though I gave it three apples, it's more like a 3.5.

Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire... fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops.

Her family thinks she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the King's feast -- as the entrees.

The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends—especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache—to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

mini netgalley reviews

I've been reading a lot of NetGalley books the past couple of weeks, but they're all books that aren't coming out for months and months. So my reviews wont post for months and months. Which means I have nothing to post right now. Sadness. I decided just to do mini mentions of all the books, all the good and The Bad.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard release March 2012 (goodreads)
LOVED this book. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. Right now it's a Read Now selection on NetGalley. GET IT! Yes, I am yelling at you (but in a very nice way). Once I finished the book, I had to reread my favorite scenes--which is not easy to do with a digital book. I really enjoyed Bria's travels and her growth as a character. Doesn't release until March of next year, but this is one on my To-Buy List.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe release Jan 2012 (goodreads)
Reminded me a lot of Carbon Diaries, 2015 by Saci Lloyd, but with a more normal family, and Life as We Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer . It's diary format, it begins before the catastrophy, and chronicles the happenings through a deathly virus outbreak. Highly recommend. However, the end doesn't have a conclusion...which is annoying to have to wait until the next book.
Tris and Izzie by Mettie Ivie Harrison release October 2011 (goodreads)
Wow. What a boring, frustrating, annoying main character. It was painful experience to have the story told through Izzie because she was such a stupid girl. I only got half way through before I allowed myself to stop the pain. I wont be posting a full review because I didn't finish the book, but I wanted to share my opinion. So now you have it. I don't recommend the book. But the cover is BEAUTIFUL.

Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom release January 2012 (goodreads)
I thought this was a fun love story. Ian was a cute guy and a nice love interest. Justina did get on my nerves at time because she assumes a lot, but for the most part she was fun to read about. I also liked the organization of the story--Justina telling about prom night the morning after to her 'friends' in the 7-11. So a fun book, but the swearing, underage drinking, drugs, and talk of sex took away from the funness for me. Without all of that content, I would've loved this book. As is, it was just okay.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Rae Carson by September 2011 (goodreads)
This is one that doesn't come out too far from now, but I enjoyed it so very much I decided to give it a mention now. This was an awesome, smart, exciting, adventurous fantasy novel. I LOVED the MC, Elisa. Her growth throughout the novel was really what propelled the story for me. I loved her, I loved her bravery, I loved this novel! The cover...meh. But better than the previous one with the girl in the blue dress that looked NOTHING like the dark skinned, overweight Elisa. Another book I highly recommend.

Friday, August 12, 2011

review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

pub date: September 6, 2011
publisher: HarperTeen
pages: 432
source: NetGalley
appeals: death, family, contemporary, realistic fiction,
content: a heavy make out scene

I had the hardest time not comparing this book to If I Stay by Gayle Forman, at least in the beginning. Which really wasn't fair because they aren't similar except for the family dynamic (mother, father, brother) and what happens to them (they die in a car accident). This book doesn't answer the question, "should I stay?" like Forman's, it instead answers the question, "I'm here, how do I deal?" 

This was a great book. I had a hard time putting it down. I wanted to know what would happen next. I thought Castle handled the situation and difficulties of Laurel's world changing really well. The writing flowed, and though this is a long book, it didn't feel like it. It read really quickly.

I appreciated the romance in the novel. There were two boys, but I didn't feel that it was a love triangle. Laurel's relationship with both of them were realistic and real and Laurel's feelings for them changed and evolved as she grew as a character. I liked how real it felt.

Laurel was a sympathetic and likable character and I felt for her plight. But even as I write that, I felt the telling of her story was very much on the surface, and didn't delve deep. I never felt deeply her pain. I wasn't attached to her family. There were memories Laurel shared, but they weren't deep enough to evoke an emotional response from me.

I liked this book a lot, but I wanted more. I wanted to feel more than I did.  

Sixteen-year-old Laurel's world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all, there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel's life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss, a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

Fans of emotionally true and heartfelt stories, such as Sarah Dessen's THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER and IF I STAY by Gayle Forman, will fall in love with Jennifer Castle’s incandescent debut novel...a heart wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

review: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

pub date: August 30, 2011
publisher: Simon and Schuster
pages: 411
source: Simon and Schuster Galley Grab
format: digital
appeals: high fantasy, adventure, male protagonists
content: some mild violence

This is a fantasy novel with lots of dark magic and two male protagonists. Definitely a book that would appeal to boys. Now look at the cover. Are you as horrified as I am? ARG! Really, what fantasy loving teen boy is going to pick up a pretty blue cover with a girl on the front? It's pretty! It's a girl! It reflects nothing of the plot and tone of the story! I think the Simon and Schuster marketing department really screwed this cover up. And I'm not happy about it.

What I liked about this book:

--The writing was beautiful. I loved the way Coakley described places and people and situations. It was really beautiful.

--The world building was really original and enjoyable to read. The relations between the Baen and the Witchlanders was well established. To the point that they were true to their beliefs, even when I really didn't want them to be. I wanted things to resolve in a different way, but that wouldn't have been true to the characters.

--Which brings me to the characters. Two male protagonists. So awesome. I thought they were very believable. And I liked how their relationship developed through the book.

Overall, I think this is a good book. But having written all of that, it wasn't my kind of book. At least not the kind I adore. I wanted more physical action, but especially more magic action. And some romance. (I am a girl who likes some romance in her books). And I wanted a more conclusive ending. But that's just me. Like I said, overall, this is a great book with a very misleading cover. ARG!

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

Monday, August 8, 2011

review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

pub date: September 1, 2011
publisher: Carolrhoda Books
pages: 306
source: NetGalley
appeals: contemporary, paranormal, romance
content: clean

Wow. Wow, wow, wow.

I thought this book was original and exciting and suspenseful. It was filled with great characters and a really remarkable mystery. Anderson's language and descriptions were beautiful. I loved how the aspects of the plot were revealed. I had to know what was going to happen next.

I read a few reviews for the book before reading Ultraviolet myself and it tainted my reading experience by ruining some of the mystery of the book. So I have lots I'd love to write, but I kind of don't want to because I don't want to wreck it for you. 

Which makes this a really lame review. Sorry.

It was a 5 apple book until the last fifth of the book. I liked the ending and I thought it was rather mind blowing, but it was...odd. And not what I wanted to happen. So now it's 4 apples. 

In parting: Read this book! It is super cool.

"Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her."

Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she’s confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori's body has not been found, and Alison can't explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated—into nothing.

But that's impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind—like her mother always feared she would.

For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood—until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison's case. Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her—and that she’s capable of far more than anyone else would believe.

Friday, August 5, 2011

review: Monster High by Lisi Harrison

pub date: September 2010
publisher: Poppy
pages: 272
appeals: high school, friendship, romance, monster
content: clean

This book took me a long time to finish because in the beginning (and middle) I was really bored. I would not have finished it if I hadn't committed to writing a review for a different book review blog. Since I had committed, I stuck with it and was surprised when the end was somewhat entertaining.

Mostly what I can say about this book is that it didn't appeal to me. It wasn't horrible and I can see a lot of people enjoying this book. I think it would be a good pick for tweens especially. There were a couple aspects of the plot that I found rather creative and fun (even in the mist of being bored).

First, I liked how the plot was told from two points of view, from two girls on different spectrum of the school hierarchy, who don't like each other but by the end understand a little about each other. Second, the love triangle was fun. I know, I thought a love triangle was fun. Wonders will never cease. Anyway, I think it will play out in an interesting way in the continuing series though I wont be reading them to find out.

They prefer to call themselves RAD (Regular Attribute Dodgers), but some call them monsters. So far, the "monster" community has kept a low profile in Salem, but this year two new girls enroll at Master High School, and the town will never be the same.

Created just fifteen days ago, Frankie Stein is psyched to trade her father's formaldehyde-smelling basement lab for parties and cheerleading. But with a student body totally freaked out by rumors of monsters who might be stalking the halls, Frankie finds that life in the "normi" world can be rough for a chic freak like her.

She thinks she finds a friend in fellow new student Melody Carver--but can a normi be trusted with her big secret?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My journey with Harry

So many bloggers have written of their love for Harry around the time the last movie came out, and I've been wanting to do the same. I realize I've missed jumping on Hogwart's Express with the rest of book blogdom, so I decided to take the Knight Bus and arrive late to the party. (hahaha). I figure late is better than not arriving at all. Even if my contribution is rather long and boring. But it's a post for me, not so much you, so I'm not feeling bad about being long. And boring.

How We Met:
I first came across Harry Potter in the summer of 1999. I was home for the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. My mom had a teacher friend who was raving about the Harry Potter books so she bought a copy of the first 2,  Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, from Barnes and Noble. I, of course, could not resist picking them up, though I knew absolutely nothing about them. I began by reading the Chamber of Secrets because I didn't know what order they went in. I didn't get far before I figured out my mistake--it was super confusing. But once I read them, in order, I was IN LOVE. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came out that September. It was my favorite of the three.

You know when you read something that is so wonderful you want to share it with everyone? (of course you do--isn't that why we blog?) That was me. My younger sister isn't much of a reader, but I kept insisting that she read HP. She wouldn't. So Christmas break 1999 I began reading the first HP book to her before bed (we shared a room). It only took a few chapters before she didn't need me anymore and she read all three herself. Really, you'd think she'd know to listen to her big sister. Sadly, she still hasn't learned.

I also shared the love with my roommates. I got the first three HP books for Christmas that year and brought them up to school where all three of my roommates took turns reading them. Julie and Amy loved right along with me, but Katie wasn't much of a fan. Which was okay. She still joined in crushing on our neighbor, a boy with the last name Potter. I don't remember his first name, or even what he looked like, but at the time all four of us obsessed about him purely because of his last name. I don't think he knew we existed, but didn't stop us from loving him from afar.

Interestingly enough, it was this year (1999-2000) that the big hullabaloo over Harry Potter teaching children evil sorcery really began (at least to my recollection). A fellow student was writing a paper for a class (I remember what class or why this topic) asking the question, "Is Harry Potter Evil and Bad for Children?" I am not joking. She interviewed me as one of her sources. I, of course, was of the opinion that he wasn't.

Falling More Deeply in Love:
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published July 2000. Media Play was having a party and a midnight release of the book. I believe it was the first time they'd ever done this. My sister and I were so totally there. We arrived around 9pm and were disappointed to see that all the activities were for the little kids, none were for kids-at-heart. So we got in line and the employees STARTED HANDING OUT BOOKS. Yes, they did. We were fifth and sixth in line to check out, and from 10 to midnight while waiting, we were standing in line READING the book before it was officially released. It was awesome.

In all honesty, when I began reading HP and the Goblet of Fire, I was disappointed. The feeling and set up of the novel was so different from the first three. The first chapter is about He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named killing the poor Riddle care taker. It was darker and grittier and different than I wanted it to be. There was a loss of innocence for Harry, and I missed that. But by the end, I loved it just as much as the others, possibly more so. I accepted that Harry and his world was changing.

My sister and I went to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix June 2003, but this time Media Play did not let us read the book in line. We had to wait until midnight. Bummer. The same with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in July 2005. My sister and I had races to see who would finish the books first. She'd get so mad because it was usually me. We'd get very little sleep for the days it took us to read the books. I remember us having rooms down the hall from each other and yelling frustrations or exclamations of excitement as we were reading the same book. My parents would read the books after us and then we'd have epic dinner discussions.

When the last book was released July 2007, the Main City Library in Salt Lake City had a huge release party. By this time, libraries and book sellers had realized that HP wasn't just for kids, but for adults, too. They had party activities for all ages. Smart move on their part, and a lot of fun and fanaticism on mine.  

A bunch of us attended the library party, then went to the big Barnes and Noble store in Salt Lake to pick up our pre-ordered books. They were also having a party. There were HUNDREDS of people, many of them dressed up, waiting in line to pick up their book, but I'd gotten a ticket earlier in the day and had a number in the early 100s, so the wait wasn't so long for me. The line wrapped all around the mall, outside the store entrance. It was crazy. And then we stayed up all night reading the books.

I've read all of the books at least twice, the early ones I reread each time a new book was coming out. I love them so very much. Though that doesn't mean some aspects dont irritate me. Dumbledore not avoiding Harry in book five? LAME. Harry having an attitude in book five? LAMER. Harry's obsession with Malfoy in book six? ANNOYING. The whole, long episode of Grawp? BORING. But over all, I love Harry and his adventures.

What I Love about Harry Potter's books:
I love story arcs that build through multiple books. I loved that about HP. With each book, the story got more invovled and the stakes are raised so much more.  Each of the stories had a twisted ending (except for maybe the fifth) that was so surprising and cool. The whole world of magic was new and fresh and so fun to read about. And of course the characters--Umbridge wasn't evil like Voldemort, but she was evil in her own way. Characters were never black and white, there was a lot of gray in there as well. I loved Neville and Sirius and Snape. I loved them all, which kept me up reading late into the early morning.

Talking Pictures with Harry Potter:
I love how the people in pictures in HP's magical world move, so what could be better than Harry Potter walking around on a screen real to life? For me, a lot.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone came out Friday November 16, 2001. I remember the date well because I was leaving the country for eighteen months as a missionary for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or Mormons)) on November 14, 2001 and for that whole eighteen months I would not be watching any movies. But I loved Harry so very much! I was really lucky because I won tickets to see an advanced screening for the movie on November 12th! It was very exciting.

However, the movie was anything but. I sat in the theatre for over two hours utterly and completely bored. BORED. It was actually lucky for me because then I didn't spend eighteen months pining for a movie that sucked. 

In general, I have a hard time letting go of the book when a movie is made from it. I try, really I do, but the books tend to be so much better and the movies aren't what I think they should be. Having said that, I don't love the HP movies. The first two are so boring, and in a lot of the others they change little things that either make no sense or are only to make it more exciting and in doing so, they make it less exciting and just ridiculous. The dragon escaping and chasing Harry all over Hogwarts in The Goblet of Fire is just one example.

A month before the last movie came out, I hosted a Harry Potter Mega Movie Marathon and watched all seven. We started Friday night by watching the first two, then began at 8:30am Saturday morning with movie 3 and finished movie 7 at 11pm Saturday night. It was Epic. I don't think they make much sense unless you've read the books. Jaye, who has not read the books, concures. There are things I like about all the movies (except the first two), but also things that bother me about all the movies.

As for the last was good. Some little things were a tad silly (since when do tears contain memories?) but mostly I felt like the ending battle with Voldemorte and his snake was beyond annoying. Another example of trying to sensationalize something beyond what was needed. And the whole sequence with Nagini at the end was just so not epic, when it was just so cool in the book. Though I will admit I got teary-eyed mulitiple times while watching the movie.

What I've heard more than anything as I've eavesdropped on conversations about the book is that people were disapointed in the last five minutes. The characters didn't look older, they just looked ridiculous. That didn't bother me at all.

Yes, I freely admit I am picky. And because of that, I will stick to the books. But I did really like this picture.

In Conclusion:
I did warn you this was long and boring. If you actually read this whole epistle, you deserve a prize.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

review: Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

pub date: January 1, 2011
publisher: Point
pages: 288
appeals: Jane Austen, boarding school, romance, retelling
content: clean

What a darling story. I loved it!

I enjoyed how the story followed the original story of Pride and Prejudice, but was also very original with it's own personality. Set in a modern day boarding for rich snobs, it was really fun to see rich Will Darcy take to poor (by rich standards) Lizzie Bennet.

All the characters were spot on: Jane, Charlotte, Colin, Darcy, Bingley, and Lydia. They were all so great.

I really liked how Darcy's family played into the plot. My favorite part of this book is also my favorite in the original: when Lizzie gets to meet Darcy on his turf, away from Miss Bingley, and when he, in turn, meets Lizzie on her own turf. *Sigh* So sweet.

This book is for fans of the original as well those who aren't. Such a fun romance.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date.

After winter break, the girls at very prestigious, girls-only Longbourn Academy are obsessed with the prom, which they share with the equally elitist, all-boys Pemberly school. Lizzie Bennett, who attends Longbourn on scholarship, isn't interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be - especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.