Tuesday, February 28, 2012

review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

pub date: September 27, 2011
publisher: Little, Brown and Company
pages: 418
source: Christmas gift
appeals: angels, magic, contemporary, romance
content: sex (not descriptive), some swearing?

Odd. Strange. Original. Bizarre. Exciting. Surprising. Odd...very Odd. Romantic. Enjoyable. And lets not forget, Odd.

There were a lot of aspects of this book that I normally don't like in books I read. And yet in this story, all together, they worked.

For one example, angels. I find the idea of fallen angels ridiculous and I have a hard time taking angels seriously in my fiction. But in Karou's world, angels aren't fallen from heaven, they're a race of people (creatures? folk?) from a different world. And that works. I liked that.

There were other aspects that I would normally avoid, but really liked here, but I don't want to spoil anything so I'm not going to mention them. Just know, this is a really cool, original, exciting, and odd book.

I'm excited for the next in the series. I'm worried about how things were left at the end of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and how I'll find things with Days of Blood and Starlight. I will say that I thought it was a non-ending. Just a break in the continuing story without a conclusion. Another thing that usually bugs...but not so much here.

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Monday, February 27, 2012

review: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas

pub date: October 11, 2011
publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
pages: 351
appeals: contemporary, cancer, family, romance, hockey
source: for review at Kiss the Book
content: some swearing, Rose has slept with her boyfriend in the past, but there isn't much described, just some references and talk about sex

When I began this book I expected a suffering protagonist, a father struggling with the loss of his wife, a boyfriend who just didn't understand, and a new boy who would help the protag cope.

What I got was a suffering protagonist, a father struggling with the loss of his wife, a boyfriend who tried to understand but the protag was just too damaged to keep the relationship alive, and a new boy who helped the protag cope.

So, yeah, pretty much what I expected. Doesn't there seem to be a lot of this kind of story out right now?

And yet...I got sucked in anyway. It was a well told story, with a few surprises, and I was really interested in Rose's journey to finding hope after the death of her mother. So sure, it was predictable, but still good.

I was really annoyed with the dad. I didn't enjoy him so much. I guess it was because it just seemed so...obvious. Couldn't he grieve in a more original way? But I was supposed to be annoyed with him, so I guess he did his job in the story.

When Rose’s mom dies, she leaves behind a brown paper bag labeled Rose’s Survival Kit. Inside the bag, Rose finds an iPod, with a to-be-determined playlist; a picture of peonies, for growing; a crystal heart, for loving; a paper star, for making a wish; and a paper kite, for letting go.

As Rose ponders the meaning of each item, she finds herself returning again and again to an unexpected source of comfort. Will is her family’s gardener, the school hockey star, and the only person who really understands what she’s going through. Can loss lead to love?

Friday, February 24, 2012

reveiw: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

pub date: November 15, 2011
publisher: Harper/Collins
pages: 338
source: library
appeals: romance, super powers, dystopian, future,
content: swears, some steamy kissing scenes, violence

I really, really enjoyed this book. I read it twice, the second time more of a skim, but I read it front to back and didn't skip around like I tend to do on rereading. It was just so fun. Which I think is an interesting way to describe it since it's rather a darker book.

I loved how in the beginning Juliette's thoughts are so scattered and disjointed. There was such a progression of character development shown through language and ideas, from the girl forgotten in an asylum, to the strong, confident character that the reader is left with at the end of the novel. Her thoughts get clearer, stronger, and more cohesive. It was just awesome writing. And such beautiful language. Mafi's description of feeling was unique and interesting. Though I will admit, at times, it did get a little much for me. But it was still really amazing.

Another well-done progression...the romance. That was some nice romance. I like nice romance in my books, and this one was really nicely done. I loved the history of Adam and Juliette, how they go from antagonists to friends to more. It was rather exciting to read, as much as the overall plot.

I loved the ending. Loved it. I cannot wait for the next book in the series because I am so excited about where Mafi took her characters and where they're going to be going. It was just so fun.

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Shiefvator

pub date: October 18, 2011
publisher: Scholastic
pages: 409
source: library
format: audio
appeals: horses, romance, adventure, Printz Honor, male protagonist, multiple protagonist
content: a very few swear words (maybe 4?), some violence from the water horses

This is my new favorite book. Seriously. I LOVED it. I loved the characters, so, so, so much. I loved Thisby, this isolated island with it's own traditions and people set in a modern world. I loved the story. The romance was sudtle and sweet and perfect. And Maggie's words were rich and vivid and created this world I wanted to visit. I wanted it to be real.  

I listened to the audio in my car and by the time I reached the sixth disc (there are ten all together), I couldn't wait any longer. I had to know what was going to happen, how the races would end. So I took it inside and sat on my couch and spent all Saturday afternoon listening. I could've just picked the book up, but I loved the voices, I wanted to just listen.

Have you ever read a book that so involved your emotions, senses, imagination, that when it was over you felt bereft? Lonely? Sad?

That was this book, for me. When I reached the last chapter, I started to get teary-eyed. Not only because the ending was so wonderful and amazing and perfect, but because it was ending. I wanted more. More Thisby. More Puck. More Sean. More Corr and Dove. More, more, more. And there wasn't any more.

Have you ever read a book that so involved your mind that when you reached the last page, you weren't able to let it go? You just wanted to live in it a little longer? Immerse yourself in the story for the forseeable future?

That was this book, for me. I was gushing about the book to my sister and she wanted to listen, so I gave it to her, a bit begrudingly. I wasn't ready to let the story go. So I bought the book, even though I've been on a book buying freeze since the end of December. I reread my favorite parts until I got the audio back from my sister, and listened to the last few discs again. I never relisten to audios, not ever. But this one I wishe I'd listened to again from the beginning.

I want to tell you that the audio was phenominal. The story was wonderful, and the audio added to it so very much. Absolutely so. The two readers, one for Puck and the other for Sean, were amazing. To listen to Maggie's words, in their voices, added a texture to the story that I don't think I would've gotten otherwise. While browsing Maggie's blog, I came across an interview she'd had with the two who voiced Sean and Puck. I enjoyed it, so I thought I would share the link if you're interested.

Really, this book has a place of honor on my shelves. I loved it just that much.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

review: Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

pub date: January 3, 2012
publisher: Philomel
pages: 406
appeal: werewolfish Guardians, romance, love-triangle (maybe that's a turn-off?), adventure, action, cool magical world
source: library
content: a lot of loving


the tweet:
I almost bought this book the moment it came out. I'm really glad I didn't.

the non-spoiled (slightly rambling) review:
I really loved the first two books of this trilogy, Nightshade and Wolfsbane. I didn't necessarily love the characters, not a big fan of Shay or Ren (though I was rooting for Ren through the first two books just because he was less dislikable than Shay), and was disappointed in how Calla handled herself at times. But the side characters where wonderful. I loved the Guardian packs and Searchers. They were fun to read.

But the big draw for me was the cool world building. It was so fun and original and interesting. The shift of perspective from the first and second book was awesome. And then there was the adventure and action of the plot. Just a cool series overall.

Seriously, so excited for this third book. But since I decided I was broke and didn't buy it, I had to wait for it at the library. It arrived almost three weeks ago, and I began reading it right away. I finished it last night.

Yes, It took me almost three weeks to finish it. Which is bad. On average, I finish books I like in two days. Which means I didn't like this one so much...

On the plus side, this book's world building was steller. The action (once it got started) was great. Fun, witty dialog between characters. I thought it ended the story arch of all three books pretty well.

My problem came with Calla. The first eight chapters or so are all about her and her boys in their epic, stupid love triangle. Have I ever mentioned how much I HATE love triangles? Well, I also discovered that I HATE Calla. She's a liar, she's manipulative, and she's an idiot. Those first two weeks I was stuck in those first eight chapters and didn't seem to make much progress because every three pages I threw the book across the room had to put the book down. 

Once the triangle was no longer the focus of the book and the Searchers actually went out to search for something, it got much better, I enjoyed the story, and I finished the rest of the book rather quickly.

I probably would have been upset about the ending if I had cared more. But the anger and resentment I felt towards Calla in the beginning distanced me from the rest of the book and I didn't care all that much. So o'well.

the spoiled (also rambling) review
I mean it guys! I'm not even going to try to make this spoiler free. I will not only be spoiling Bloodrose, I will be spoiling the whole trilogy.

Also, this isn't so much a review as a RANT. More detailed thoughts about the whole triangle that I mentioned above. You'll probably want to skip this part. Just sayin...

You've been warned.

I got through chapter one and was pretty pissed off (excuse the language). Calla is such an idiot. She just slept with Shay one day ago at the end of Wolfsbane, and now she meets up with Ren and things get steamy really quick. She's trying to help Ren, because she knows best and all (ha!), so she manipulates him into believing what he wants to believe about their relationship so that he will go with her. I HATE MANIPULATION!!!  Manipulation is used by bad guys, not the main character who I am supposed to like! And at that moment, I started to hate Calla.

The hate deepened as I read on.

A friend who I recommended the series to got the book from the library at the same time, so over the next week she started texting me about her impressions of the book. I forced myself to keep going because of this, yet for over a week I just kept responding, "still on chapter five," because I was so annoyed with Calla. Finally, when my friend had finished the book and liked it, I made myself push past chapter five, where Calla has a second night with Shay, because she just can't refrain from ripping off his clothes.

It was rather tedious reading in the beginning because EVERY PAGE of Calla's internal dialog was this back-and-forth, "I love Shay so much! He helped me find myself! Yet I'm so drawn to Ren! We have a past together and we work well and make sense. But I love Shay! Everytime Ren isn't around I can't stop myself from kissing Shay and sharing secret looks with him. But Ren can't know about it!"

And the book would go flying across the room.

This is what I hate about love-triangles: The indecision, the manipulation of two boys, the need for attention and power. Calla had it down to an art form.

My favorite was when Calla and Ren met up in the showers, both wrapped in towels, and Ren confronts Calla about Shay. Ren says, "I know you slept with Shay because our packmate told me." Calla responds, "She had no right!" I just groaned. Ren had a right to know what was going on, to know that Calla was playing a game, it's just Calla is an idiot. Her reasoning being if Ren knew the truth, he'd throw a tantrum and storm off and Calla couldn't let that happen because they needed him in this battle. And guess what...when Ren knew the truth he didn't throw a tantrum and he didn't storm off. He acted like a mature, reasoning human. And then he proceeds to seduce Calla, which worked since Calla seems only to think of her body and was soon trying to drop his towel--with no resistance from Ren, of course.

And Calla's insistence that she wasn't going to make up her mind on which boy to have as her alpha was just ridiculous. As far as I was concerned, she'd decided that the moment she went to bed with Shay. The first time.

After all that, Calla keeps drawing Ren behind her, unwilling to tell him that he was out for good and Shay was in forever. Not until after the battle was won. Not sure exactly why...because she loved having power over him? I think her reasoning, if I remember right, was so that they weren't distracted from their goal. Because she still sees Ren as a baby who can't handle the truth.

And then Calla realizes that Shay's responsibilities in the war might take him away from her. But at least Ren is there in the background. Just in case she loses Shay, she'll still have another boy-toy. (I must put in here that I got the pack dynamic that made Calla's behavior "understandable." She needed an Alpha. She was half animal so it was part of her identity to have the urge to mate. I just didn't care.)

It got even better when about about 3/4 the way through Calla's talking with someone and says how much she respects honesty. And expects it. I laughed out loud. I returned the book to the library already, or I would quote the passage. It was so ridiculous and hypocritical.

So it was such a relief when things outside of the messed up romance happened and I could read something else. I was still anti-Calla and everytime any of the romance flared up again I groaned. I love romance in my books. Really, I do. But in this book, it just made me hate the main character more and distanced me from the story.

I decided Ren was too good for Calla, and was rather relieved when he died. Especially in the context of the story, where as a wolf he would've been an Alpha with no pack.

And the ending...like I said before, I would've been so sad if I cared. They were always more human to me than wolf, so when they became wolf for good and forever, it was as if they were dead. Gone for good. There was no Calla or Shay or Ansel or Brynn...there was just a pack of wolves on the mountain. So I'm actually kind of glad I don't care. And really, I think I like Calla better as a wolf (how manipulative and conniving can a wolf be?), so that kind of made me happy.

*as a side note, please treat library books with respect. Don't follow my example and throw them across the room. unless they deserve it

Calla has always welcomed war.

But now that the final battle is upon her, there's more at stake than fighting. There's saving Ren, even if it incurs Shay's wrath. There's keeping Ansel safe, even if he's been branded a traitor. There's proving herself as the pack's alpha, facing unnamable horrors, and ridding the world of the Keepers' magic once and for all. And then there's deciding what to do when the war ends. If Calla makes it out alive, that is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

review: Shooting Stars by Allison

pub date: Feb 28, 2012
publisher: Walker and Co
pages: 272
source: GoodReads giveaway (I didn't know people actually won those books!)
appeals: pop culture, music, romance, comedy
content: none that I remember

This was a fun book. Jo has a fun, upbeat, self-deprecating voice that set a good tone for the book. She's also a very likable character, for all of her paparazzi-ways.

I started off thinking I knew where the book was going, mostly because the summary told me where it was going. Or so I thought. I was pleasantly surprised at the turns the plot took. It kept me smiling.

As did the romance. It was a nicely developed romance, meaning it wasn't love at first sight. They became friends...and then started kissing. It was sweet.

The ending was very pat and idealistic, but I like happy ending so I wont whine about that. A fun book!

Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

review: Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

pub date: March 1, 2012
publisher: Scholastic
pages: 304
source: for review on Kiss The Book blog
appeals: contemporary, male protagonist, sports, baseball, photography
content: nothing that would offend, at least in my opinion. Peter does drink at a party and has a horrible hangover afterward

I am a Sonnenblick fan. His books, After Ever After, and Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie are AMAZING. LOVE them. If you haven't read them, I recommend that you do.

So, as you might well imagine, I was super excited to get my hands on an ARC of Sonnenblick's next book, Curveball.

Peter has always played baseball, so when he screws up his arm and isn't able to play anymore, he isn't sure what to do with his life. There is a lot of heart in this book. As Peter has to deal with changing relationships with his family, friends, the girl in his photography class, he finds his way in an unexpected future. I enjoyed reading about Peter's growth.

Sonnenblick really is quite amazing. But I didn't feel as strongly connected to Peter as I did to his other characters, in other books. Also, Peter's parent's bothered me, as did some of the decisions Peter made, only because I didn't understand why. I didn't buy into the motivations given, especially in respect to the grandpa.

It was good. It was enjoyable. It just wasn't as good as Sonnenblick's other books. And that made me a little sad.

Sometimes, the greatest comebacks take place far away from the ball field.

Meet Peter Friedman, high school freshman. Talented photographer. Former baseball star. When a freakish injury ends his pitching career, Peter has some major things to figure out. Is there life after sports? Why has his grandfather suddenly given him thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment? And is it his imagination, or is the super-hot star of the girls' swim team flirting with him, right in front of the amazing new girl in his photography class? In his new novel, teen author Jordan Sonnenblick performs his usual miraculous feat: exploring deep themes of friendship, romance, family, and tragedy, while still managing to be hilariously funny.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

review: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

pub date: October 25, 2011
publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
pages: 192
source: for review on Kiss the Book
appeals: adventure, death, male protagonist, comedy, hit woman, New York, prom :)
content: some swearing (20 words or so), some talk on sex/virginity, violence

What a FUN ride. I liked a lot about this book.

First, it's short! There are so many books that have come out/are coming out that are freakin LONG. It is so nice to find a fun, entertaining, quick, short read. I find that Very Appealing.

Second, Joe knows how to write! Wow. Do you ever read a book with such great words that the author's creation of setting and characters and plot seem almost effortless? But you know it wasn't because it is so well done? That was how I felt about this book. I loved it.

Third, lots of adventure.

Fourth, the novel's organization. Each chapter started with a question from college applications, and in the telling of Perry's night, he answers that question. It was so creative and fun.

Fifth, I loved the characters. I liked Perry a lot. And Gobi, too. Even when she was killing people for no apparent reason, I liked her.

Sixth, the Perry-Gobi relationship dynamics worked. The development of their relationship, from beginning to end, was spot on.

Overall, this book was FUN. Sure, there was a lot of blood and violence and death, but it was still FUN.

I'm very excited there's a sequel coming out this fall, Perry's European Playlist. It sounds like it's just as fun and full of adventure (and death), and it's just as short!

I think it has a lot of boy appeal, but there's plenty there for the girls, too.

Perry Stormaire is a normal high school senior– he is busy applying to college and rehearsing with his band –until he agrees to go to the prom with the Lithuanian exchange student who is staying with his family. It turns out that Gobi Zaksauskas is not the mousy teenager that she seems but rather an attractive, confident trained assassin. Instead of going to the prom, Perry finds himself on a wild ride through the streets of New York City as Gobi commandeers the Jaguar his father lent him for the prom in order to take out her targets. Perry learns a lot about himself – and ends up with some amazing material for his college application essays.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

review: A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

pub date: August 9, 2011
publisher: Candlewick
pages: 342
format: audio
reader: Angela Dawe
appeals: future, fairy tale retelling, romance, sorta scientific
content: a few swear words--maybe ten?

I needed an audio book, but I wasn't sure what to listen to. So I went browsing at the library and picked this one up because the title sounded familiar. I'm sure I read something about it somewhere. Besides, I like fairy tale retellings, so I thought I'd give it a try.

The the story follows Rose, who is awoken by a boy (hehe) after 62 years hibernating in a stasis tube. Her parents are dead, and the world around her has changed quite a bit while she's been "sleeping." So she has the present she woke up in, but a long ago past that still haunts her.  

The audio was really good, too. I liked the Angela Dawe as the reader, a lot. I thought she did a good job with the male voices.

Here were my thoughts as I listened:

discs 1: This is a really interesting world that the author has created. I love well built worlds, and I think this one is well built. Very intriguing. However, where is this story going? If I had the book, I'd probably skip to the back and read the last few pages just to find out, because even after reading the summary on the jacket three times, I'm still confused on what the point of this story is.

disc 2: The plot is a little slow. Rose's present is broken up a bit by her memories from her past. It's still interesting, but a tad slow. And I still don't know where the story is going.

disc 3: Rose is a wimp. She is so spineless she's practically an amoeba. As her past unfolds, I understand why she never stands up for herself and accepts everything everyone tells/told her (especially her dead parents), but the book is a third through, when is she going to grow up? I want her to take a stand. Grow a spine.

disc 4: I am really enjoying the future technology Sheehan created for this book. It is so creative. And interesting. And very cool.

disc 5: I am so angry at the people that surround Rose and how they manipulate her, past and present. I am so angry at them! I want Rose to feel the same anger! Yet, she's still in the amoeba stage of her development. When? When will Rose break free?!!!!!

discs 6: YES!! FINALLY! Rose gets ANGRY!!!! It was long in coming, but very satisfying. I sit in my car for 30 minutes because I want to know what is going to happen. It isn't slow anymore! The pace has definitely picked up. I make myself get out of my car when the disc ends.

disc 7: Oh no! Is this the first book in the series? I had no idea it was a series! But I can see how Sheehan is setting it up for another book if she does continue it. And it's all so exciting! I like Rose when she has some bone structure. Yay Rose!

disc 8: The dreaded two words: Love. Triangle. Ack! Not in this book, but I think Sheehan is setting it up for one in the next book. And now I'm going to have to read it. I'm hooked!

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

review: Irises by Francisco X. Stork

pub date: January 1, 2012 
publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
pages: 288
sources: for review at Kiss the Book
appeals: sister, death, orphans, religion,
content: two swear words, some talk about sex but rather mild comparatively

This is the second book I've read from Francisco X. Stork. My first was The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. I didn't love that book (I gave it three apples), but it was interesting enough that I decided to try another Stork novel. The summary for Irises appealed to me, so I picked it up. I probably didn't need to bother.

What I have decided after reading Death Warriors and Irises is that Stork's style of writing doesn't appeal to me. I find it kind of boring. There's no beauty to his language. It's just...words on a page.

Also, I had a really difficult time keeping Mary and Kate straight. One was brilliant and studied a lot, one painted. That was it. The first thirty pages I was very confused on who was doing what because I couldn't figure out which was which. All the characters seemed very one dimensional. And sometimes behaved in odd ways...like Kate's best friend becoming her best enemy in just a day without much provocation. It was weird.

Religion is a large aspect of this novel and ties into the growth of the characters, and I did find that interesting. But...that's about all.

Without beautiful words or strong characters, the plot itself wasn't enough to keep me interested. I did finish it, but near the end I was reading just so that it was finished, not because I cared so much.

Two sisters discover what's truly worth living for in the new novel by the author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD.

TWO SISTERS: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D. -- if her family will let her go. Mary wants only to stay home and paint. When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.

THREE YOUNG MEN: Then three men sway their lives: Kate's boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much-needed stability. Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.

ONE AGONIZING CHOICE: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom. But it's Mama's life that might divide them for good -- the question of *if* she lives, and what's worth living for.IRISES is Francisco X. Stork's most provocative and courageous novel yet.

Friday, February 3, 2012

review: Prized by Caragh O'Brien

pub date: November 8, 2011
publisher: Roaring Brook Press
pages: 368
source: for review at Kiss the Book Blog
appeals: dystopic, political, series,
content: there is some talk about sex, but not graphic--just that this is a book that talks about babies

I was worried about this book. I loved the first in the series, Birthmarked. And from Prized summary, I wasn't too excited about this one. I was afraid it would just be another dystopic society, another set of problems, a new set of characters. And didn't appeal to me. But I decided to take the risk of being disappointed.

And yay! I wasn't disappointed. I was enthralled. I still love Birthmarked more, but this one built on the previous story and I was so glad! I more especially glad because Leon was back! I was worried he wouldn't show up in this book, or if he did he wouldn't be in it very much. But he was in it, and it was a lot. YAY!

A lot of the plot is based on science, once again, which I really enjoyed. It surprises me how much I liked the science in Birthmarked and Prized. I think it adds a dimension to the story that is appealing. It's still about survival, but not with wars or food shortages or environmental issues like tsunamis and earthquakes. It's more about babies. Keeping the humans alive through future generations. Which is an interesting premise, especially for YA.

It is a new society, but just like with Enclave, it is so interesting and original. And aggravating, too.  Some of those characters were just so hardheaded and I wanted to reach into the book and slap them unconscious. Which, you know, strong emotional responses to a book, even when it's aggravation, means it's doing it's job.  

Overall, it was good.

However, it was also frustrating. Gaia wasn't my favorite in this book, nor did these few months of her story show her in the most flattering light. I didn't even much like her for half the book because of her decisions. She was one of the characters I wanted to slap. At one point she says to herself (paraphrased), "I've heard of love triangles, but never love squares!" Yes, that is correct. Not just two boys, but THREE. And if you know how I feel about triangles (I hate them) just imagine my disgust with a square! One of the things that I hate about love triangles is the girl leading on two boys. Make a decision! Stick with it! So when she leads on three boys, however unintentionally, it was annoying. UGH!

I loved how the book ended. It sets up the third in the trilogy so well and I am excited to see how it will end. I'm am hoping Gaia does not disappoint.

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

review: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

pub date: September 13, 2011
publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
pages: 341
appeals: historical fiction, based on fact, mystery, murder, small town, Newbery Winner
source: library
content: some fart humor, hunting, lots of blood(-y noses)

As you most likely know by now, this book won the Newbery Award this year. I was lucky enough to already have it checked out when the award was announced, so I missed out on the long hold list at the library. Lucky!

I went on a road trip to California last week with my sisters and ten-year-old nephew and we stuck the audio of this book in. My nephew LOVED it. We listened to about half of it on the way there, the rest on the way home. It might have been the potty humor (he is ten and thinks that sort of thing HILARIOUS), but for what ever reason while we were in California, any time we were in the car, even for three minutes, he'd say, "Can you turn the book on now?" It was really cute.

As for me, I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. I'm surprised it won the Newbery (especially when there was Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt which I loved and enjoyed so much more and wanted to win--a lot). It had it's moments of humor, it was peppered with entertaining characters, the plot was exciting at points (meandered at other points) but as I think back on the story, nothing really sticks out.

And as for the audio aspect of this book--kind of blah. The author read it, which is cool. But he has kind of a boring voice. A lot of the funny situations would have been funnier if a more expressive reader had read them instead. Just my opinion.
It was enjoyable. But for me, not phenomenal. For a ten-year-old boy, it will probably pass muster.

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air. Dead End in Norvelt is a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Fiction title for 2011. One of Horn Book’s Best Fiction Books of 2011.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

review: Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

pub date: January 31, 2012
publisher: Bloomsbury 
pages: 288
source: NetGalley
appeals: Jane Austen, adult book, humorous, romance, mystery, English men, England!
content: it's an adult book--some adultish situations, 2 swear words--but nothing I'd think would offend high school students or older

First, I love Shannon Hale books. This is no exception.

Second, I think she has a thing for British men...

This was an exceedingly fun book. Charlotte is in her thirties, recently divorced, with two children. And lost. And lonely. So after discovering Austen's books and wanting to experience them for real, she takes a vacation to Austenland. Where she gets a lot more than she bargained for.

I tend to read books a lot without knowing much about them. Usually I've heard about them on a blog, or am familiar with the author, or like the cover. But I rarely read summaries before I read the book. It makes for some surprising stories. For example, I didn't know this was a mystery. So when it turned into a mystery, I was surprised. I thought the mystery well done, though I'd figured out who'd done it (and the romantic lead) before Charlotte did, I enjoyed the ride.

Midnight in Austenland was a little spooky (not scary), but mostly it was funny. Hale is a master at laugh-out-loud fun, with silly situations, great dialog, and entertaining characters. 

I loved the voice. The narrator of this book was her own character, with her own personality, different from Charlotte. And I loved her. She had a very dry sense of humor and she was absolutely hilarious.

Charlotte is also a great character. Like Jane in Hale's previous book, Austenland, Charlotte has her moments of flashback, moments in the past with her husband, before and after the divorce, and even before and after marriage. Her growth was real, and it was extremely satisfying when she grew a backbone. I liked her a lot and I was happy she got her happily ever after.

There were some of the same characters in Midnight as there were in Austenland, and it was fun to get an update. But there were also a new characters, and that was fun, too.  

I recommend.

When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it not turn out right in the end?