Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ahh! I'm so bad at blogging!

I can not believe I haven't blogged since April.  To be honest, I haven't even thought about blogging in months.  I have been reading a ton, but it's just been recently that I've wanted to write about what I've been reading again.  It might have to do with packing up my life, moving to Arizona, and starting a new job!

In the interest of keeping track of the books I have read so far, here's a quick and dirty list.

Shift (Shade, #2)Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
This is the second in the Shade series.  Really interesting premise- trying to figure out the mystery of why everyone born after Aura is able to see ghosts.  I also really like Zachary as a love interest.  4 Stars

Providence by Jamie McGuire
ProvidenceThis book was entertaining enough, but not especially well written or memorable.  There were some interesting paranormal elements, but the whole 'world' didn't really make sense to me and some parts of the story were undeveloped to me.  3 Stars.

Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren
Cascade (River of Time, #2)This was the second in the Rivers of Time series.  I love the female characters and how fierce they are.  I am fascinated by the concept of time travel and so that really makes the story for me.  4 Stars.

Entwined by Heather Dixon
EntwinedThis was a retelling of the fairy tale of the 12 Dancing Princesses.  I didn't realize that when I started reading it, so it took me a minute to figure everything out (I really need to do a better job of reading book summaries instead of just picking pretty covers from my Amazon Wishlist).  I thought it was a pretty fleshed out story- there were so many details and so much background that made the book much deeper than just a fairy tale.  4 Stars

The Angel Experiment (Maximum...The Angel Experiment, School's Out Forever, Saving the World by James Patterson 
This series was recommended to me by a student, and there were parts of it I really liked.  I love Max's snarky, fresh voice.  I love the quick pace.  But the whole story line was so ridiculous and far-fetched and random, I could never fully get on board.  It was action-packed, which is great for young readers, but to me it just felt less nuanced than I would have liked.  I think I am done with the series after the first 3 books.  It still gets 3 Stars from me for humorous dialogue, which I love.

Fire Study by Maria Snyder 
Fire Study (Study, #3)It took me months to get through this book because I kept putting it down without wanting to pick it up again.  I loved the first in the series SO much (Poison Study), but the series went downhill for me.  This one sadly is 2.5 stars.  I just wanted everything to feel finished, so I read it, but almost wish I would have stopped after Poison Study.

Rival by Sara Bennet Wealer 
This was a pretty average book,  and not at all what I expected.  I wouldn't really recommend it to a friend- it didn't really feel like anything happened, and I didn't fall in love with any of the characters. 2 Stars

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Starcrossed (Starcrossed, #1)This book I really enjoyed!  I love Greek mythology, and I couldn't put it down.  Helen ends up being remarkably beautiful and talented, and I actually didn't hate her.  She was raised with a sense of humility, which felt sincere to me.  I wasn't as in to the love story as I thought it would be, and it was a major focus of the book.  I was most interested in the way the story was unfolding.  My only complaint was that the writing wasn't always clear- like something would happen literally, but the writing was so vague I couldn't figure out if it was actually happening or if the author was being figurative.  It led to some minor confusions, but overall I enjoyed this one.  4 Stars.

Forgotten by Cat Patrick
ForgottenThis book was so intriguing.  The main character can't remember the past, only the future (and only in glimpses).  She writes notes to herself to get through each day, and uses her future interactions with people to interact with them in the present.  The premise was fascinating, and I really liked the main characters, the love story, and the plot twist at the end.  It really made me think a lot about the brain and memory, and I loved trying to figure out the complexities of having a character with no history- only a future that she doesn't know if she can trust or she can change. 4 Stars.

Matched by Ally Condie 
MatchedMatched is another dystopian Young Adult novel.  Cassia is living in a perfect world where all of her decisions are made for her- and she can't wait to find her perfect match as determined by the data.  When she is paired with her childhood best friend, Xander, she thinks it's perfect.  However, her feelings become complicated with another childhood friend, Ky. I liked the way that this story was told, particularly how words and poetry were the catalyst for Cassia's growth and independence.   The English teacher in me loves that.  4 Stars.

One Night that Changes Everything by Lauren Barnholdt
One Night That Changes Everyth...This is a cute love story where Eliza's ex-boyfriend and friends got their hands on her journal with a list of things she was too afraid to do, and put her through a night of dares straight from the list in order to get it back.   I thought it was entertaining how Eliza's best friends bickered and egged her on.  I liked Eliza and Cooper together, they were both kind of weak or insecure in realistic ways, but I still rooted for them throughout the book.  The ending was a bit anticlimatic (I feel like this always happens with books that are told over a short period of time, like a day in this one).  3 Stars

Hourglass (Hourglass, #1)HourGlass by Myra McEntire
I really liked Hourglass.  The cover is beautiful, I loved the main character's name, Emerson Cole, and it has the time travel element that I enjoy so much.  The whole supporting cast of characters was so strong- I loved Emerson's brother and his wife.  They were so loving.  This was probably my favorite book that I've read in awhile, and it's definitely 5 Stars for me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Across the Universe

Book Blurb

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My Review

I have mixed feelings about this one. I liked the premise of the book, but I wasn't prepared for how disturbing it was. It wasn't violent, it just creeped me out. A lot. The book was very provocative- I liked the part about rewriting history. I thought the characters were decent, but not especially endearing. It wasn't a bad book, I just didn't really enjoy it. I'm not even sure why. 2 stars.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wake Unto Me

Book Blurb
Caitlyn Monahan knows she belongs somewhere else. It's what her dead mother's note suggested, and it's what her recurring nightmares allude to.

Desperate to flee these terrifying dreams--and her small town--she accepts a spot at a boarding school in France. Only, when she arrives, her nightmares get worse.

But then there are her amazing dreams, so vivid and so real, with visits from an alluring, mysterious, and gorgeous Italian boy from the 1500s. Caitlyn knows they are soul mates, but how can she be in love with someone who exists only in her dreams?

Then, as her reality and dream world collide, Caitlyn searches for the real reason why she was brought to this school. And what she discovers will change her life forever.
My Review
I started and finished this book today (again- YAY SPRING BREAK!).  I was so torn about what I wanted to say, because I don't want to spoil anything.  It had some elements that drove me crazy, but I still think it is worth a read for people who enjoy paranormal/time travel/historical fiction/young adult.
So I'll start with what I liked.  I love the cover- I think it will appeal to young adult readers and get picked up quite a bit in my classroom library.  I loved the history that was woven into the story.  I liked the plot a lot- it kept me hooked and engaged in figuring the mystery out along with the protagonist.  
Now, for some things that drove me crazy (I am going to keep this as general as possible so as not to ruin any of the plot twists).  The characters were all a bit flat to me.  After the first pages I actually thought to myself "Uh-oh, this is going to be painful."  It wasn't really THAT painful- it just isn't as deep as I prefer.  Caitlyn falling in love with the Raphael?  It happened after 10 seconds.  That makes me crazy.  Caitlyn willing to 'give everything up' for him?  It happened after maybe several combined hours with him.  Again, it kills me.  He is not a love interest that inspires any response from me- I feel like I barely have any idea who he is.  I really just had to suspend disbelief and turn off that voice in my head that was going to keep me from enjoying what was a pretty well thought out story despite these issues.

I'm teetering between 3 and 4 stars... but I think I will go with 4 because despite some of the flaws, I actually did enjoy reading it a lot.  

The City of Fallen Angels

Book Blurb
The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.
But nothing comes without a price.
Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary's best friend, Simon, can't help her. His mother just found out that he's a vampire and now he's homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse that's wrecking his life. And they're willing to do anything to get what they want. Not to mention that he's dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other one.
When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.
Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

My Review
I have had good luck with books this week, because here is my third 5 star rating in a row!  I really enjoy Cassandra Clare's books, and this one was no exception.  It is the fourth in the City of Bones series (which was originally a trilogy) and it picked up after all of the Valentine conflict had been resolved.  It is told in alternating narratives, so that we see what is happening with Clary, Jace, Simon, etc. 

 I enjoyed this one a great deal, and I am happy that there will be another book in the series after this (well, I'm assuming from the conclusion and all of the cliffhangers).  I really feel bad for some of the characters (ahem, Jace) and would like to see Clare cut them a break once in awhile!  As soon as you feel comfortable with a resolution, it gets yanked away!  But, stories devoid of conflict aren't really worth telling (as I tell my students all the time!) This one is full of drama and conflict, and is another really good book.  There isn't too much I can say about where the story picks up and where it heads that won't totally give away the first three books, so I will just leave it at that. 

I also enjoyed this because many of my students have started reading the series (I had like 10 copies of City of Bones and they have been gobbled up by some of the girls in class).  It's just more enjoyable to have someone else sharing a reading experience with you, and I can't wait for them to catch up and read this latest installment! 5 Stars

The Exiled Queen

Book Blurb
Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford.   But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean danger isn’t far behind.  Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them.  And Mystwerk House has dangers of  own.  There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets.  Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford.  If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen. 

The Exiled Queen is an epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.   

My Review
I bought this one immediately after finishing the Demon King.  I think this one is even better than the first, since it takes no time to get 'into' the book.  I spent the first half of the book in agony, waiting for Han and Raisa to cross paths again, and when they finally did, it was worth the wait.  Han is my favorite character- he's bold, self-assured, funny, thoughtful, independent, and loyal.  The next book in the series is out in August- another reason to look forward to the summer.  I'm eager to see what happens to the characters, and how the politics are resolved.  5 stars

The Demon King

Book Blurb
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari.  Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell.  For as long as Han can remember, he’s worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes.  They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.  

While out hunting one day, Han and his Clan friend, Dancer catch three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea.   After a confrontation, Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won't use it against them.  Han soon learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago.  With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.  

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight.  She’s just returned to court after three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai camp – riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets.  Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name-day, she isn't looking forward to trading in her common sense and new skills for etiquette tutors and stuffy parties.  

Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems like her mother has other plans for her--plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for. 

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning new page-turner from bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima.

My Review
I am sorry to report this book almost became one I never finished!  It took me THREE tries to get into it- I kept reading the blurb and thinking "I should like this!" and then I would start back over at Chapter 1 and see if I could get further....

Finally, Spring Break is here and I had the time and focus to read past the first several chapters  (which are a bit slow).  I LOVED this book once I got into it.  The characters were dynamic, authentic, and all connected to each other in surprising ways.  The politics and history of the world are a bit complicated, and it takes a close read to pick up on everything.  It made a nice challenge for me, since I read Young Adult literature and oftentimes don't have to push myself too hard to make sense of what I'm reading (at times I skim entire passages...yikes).  It was dark and violent at times, and reminded me of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.  

5 Stars :) I'm so glad I tried this one again. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Book Blurb
Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, 
they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.
My Review
I love time travel, and I thought the cover was pretty cute- so I decided to buy this one.  I could not put the book down! 
I enjoyed the writing style (it reminded me of The Benedict Society).  The characters felt real, and were so charming and funny.  The dialogue was revealing and humorous.   It has a timeless quality to it- there were no pop culture references or gimmicks- it was just a great story. 
I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this book, besides the fact that I have to be patient and wait for the sequel.  I can really picture the series taking off, Harry Potter style.  The charming characters, humor, adventure, and 'good wins over evil' theme made me feel like I was reading a classic, even though it's only been out for a week.  
5 Stars