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

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

I love the covers for this series.  In fact, I love a lot about this series - Sophie, the politics of her magic world, her friends and love interests, and how the author keeps the pace going throughout the book so that it never drags!  One thing I am not loving- the huge cliffhanger at the end of the book that is making me desperate for the next one in the series!  This is another one that is good for middle-school aged kids- I can picture a lot of the girls in my class being sucked in by the cover and then enjoying a fast paced, funny series (like Percy Jackson).  4 Stars

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

This review is tough- I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this one.   It has a very dark, morbid, Poe-esque feel to it, which I liked. Another thing I liked were the supporting characters- they were pretty amazing.  I really liked Theia's development throughout the story.  (Her name is Greek for goddess- I'm wondering if the author will be playing that angle in the future books).  As I'm sure you can all tell by my other reviews- I'm tired of the girl falling for the dark, evil boy who is stalking her either because he loves her or wants to murder her.  And there is a lot of that going on here.  Besides that, it was an OK start to a new series with some potential.  And a debut author too!  3 Stars.

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

I really, really liked this one.  I couldn't wait to pick it up again each night.  I'm not sure what it is, since it could easily fall into the played-out category of supernatural romance- but for some reason the vampire-to-human thing felt really fresh.   I have no idea why I liked it so much-  Lenah acted in ways that were bizarre and confusing, the ending was not entirely lined up with the tenets of the mythology, and I didn't even like the love interest.  Despite all of those flaws, it was addictive.  Lenah was likeable, and the pacing made it so that I was always racing to see what would happen next.  I immediately looked up sequels because the ending was so shocking, and I will be reading the next one.  4 Stars!

Angelfire by Courtney Allison

This book would have been alright if I was new to the genre- but I think this type of supernatural romance is played out.  I would have forgiven it if the main character had been funnier or the mythology intriguing.   But no- girl finds out she has supernatural powers, falls for dark, mysterious bad boy who knows the secrets to her new life but won't tell, and an ending that resolves nothing.  On top of that, there were fight scenes after fight scenes that didn't really do anything for me.  So, this one wasn't my thing.  2 Stars

Sean Griswold's Head

Here's another one that I solidly enjoyed. The main character was quirky and original, yet still as self-absorbed as our teenage years demand.  The premise of the novel was cute- in order to work through a family issue, the M.C. Payton Gritas is forced to see the school psychologist.  She is given an assignment- find an inanimate 'focus object' to journal about for several weeks.  She chooses Sean's head, as he sits in front of her in classes since grade school.  As she starts to get to know him for 'research', Payton realizes there is a lot more to Sean than his oversized melon, and comes to terms with her issues.  It was cute and touching, and a fun read even for middle-school aged kids as the content is P.G.

4 Stars

The Demon Trapper's Daughter

First of all, I love this cover!  As for the book itself, I liked it.  It wasn't what I imagined at all.  I was a bit unbelieving of the world that Oliver builds- it was so much like ours but with demons running around- I found it unsettling.  Regardless, I will continue on in the series because I really liked Beck and I want to see what happens between Riley and him.  Some cool mythology and a major cliffhanger pretty much hooks me every time...

3 Stars

This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

I love this series and Cat and Bones, and this book was as addictive as the rest.  I don't actually remember too much of it, besides complete enjoyment as I read.  More fluff and less sophistication, which I find myself needing from time to time!

4 Stars

Iron Crowned by Richelle Mead

I know that the cover is less than enticing- but I truly love Richelle Mead and her books. The Dark Swan series is probably my least favorite, but it's still enjoyable.  Lots of action, some character development, and definitely a set-up for a future book.  I hope Eugenie makes up her mind on some major issues in the next one...

4 Stars

Long Overdue Update

I haven't even had a minute to catch up with reviewing books.  But my resolution is to get my life back to center over Spring Break and maintain till Summer Break!  (Woo Hoo!)

So I apologize that these following reviews will be the quick and dirty version- some of these I read a month ago!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker

Book Blurb
When the principal announces that every senior must participate in a mandatory year-long Marriage Education program, Fiona Sheehan believes that her life can’t get any worse. Then she marries her “husband”: jerky jock Todd, whose cheerleader girlfriend, Amanda, has had it in for Fiona since day one of second grade. Even worse? Amanda is paired with Fiona’s long-term crush, Gabe. At least Fiona is doing better than her best friend, Marcie, who is paired up with the very quiet, very mysterious Johnny Mercer.Pranks, fights, misunderstandings, and reconciliations ensue in an almost Shakespearean comedy of errors about mistaken first impressions, convoluted coupling, and hidden crushes.

My Review
As soon as I read this book blurb on Amazon, I wanted to read it immediately.  About 10 months later, I finally did! I read this one immediately after North of Beautiful, and finished within 48 hours (North of Beautiful took me over 3 weeks because I kept putting it down).  I thought A Match Made in High School was cute and funny, and a pleasurable read.  4 Stars!

Fiona is fun- she is sassy, confident, and completely imperfect.  She has all the narcissism of her teenage years.  I love Fiona because she wasn't a wallflower type in need of a makeover- she had spunk and self-confidence and humor.  She evolved as her senior year progressed in the novel.

O.K.- so the marriage class is clearly contrived.  Once I swallowed this unrealistic bit down (I had to do so quickly, since it is absolutely essential to the story), the plot is really quite enjoyable.  I loved the pranks and sense of humor in the characters. I loved that none of the characters perfectly fit the archetype they seemed to be set in at the beginning of the story.

I can't say anything on this front, as it would spoil the whole novel. You'll have to read to find out! Things aren't as they seem....

North of Beautiful

Book Blurb

As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked-and I repeat-Why not fix your face? 

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.
My Review
This book is highly-praised and has an almost 5-star rating on Amazon.  I ended up loving it, but I almost gave up on it at some points because it was so painful to experience Terra's life.  I didn't 'enjoy' reading it- it definitely isn't a book to read if you are looking for a fun, pleasurable reading experience.  But, it is thought-provoking, beautifully written, and full of rich symbolism, particularly the metaphor of life as a journey on a map.  The ending had me weeping.  4 Stars.

Terra lives in fear of her controlling, abusive father, and is shackled by the port-wine stain on her face that she tries desperately to change or hide.  She is insecure and accepts whatever scraps of affection or friendship are offered her way.  It broke my heart, and made me again realize how blessed I was in my own childhood and adolescence. It also gives me more compassion and empathy for my students- just because someone is a child doesn't mean that they don't have real problems or struggles in their lives. 

It is only after Terra meets Jacob and his family that Terra's true self starts to emerge in the story. She slowly starts to express herself, grows in her independence and confidence, and accepts herself as is.  I don't want to spoil the ending- and so much of the resolution of the story is Terra's growth, so I'll just stop here!

It's a beautiful story that progresses over the course of a year.  The little moments are what makes the story, not any major, dramatic plot events.  I learned to be patient as I read this.  I wanted Terra to transform almost immediately, but the author made me work for it!

I loved this relationship because it was healthy!  Jacob isn't a dark, forbidden force that Terra obsesses over a la Twilight or other popular series.  He isn't a crutch for her either- he is the catalyst in Terra's own transformation.  He isn't perfect- Jacob is struggling in his own identity and sense of self.  I thought the author did an exceptional job in writing a teenage romance that didn't make me cringe- this is the type of romance I want my students to read!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eon by Alison Goodman

 Book Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he's been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye-an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.
My Review
I picked this book up pretty much blind.  I saw the quote from Tamora Pierce, one of my favorite authors, and I decided to give it a shot.  It took me forever to read!  Not only is it long, I was also trying to read several other books at the same time. (Why do I do that when I know it doesn't work?)  Once I put everything else down and focused on this one, I was able to finish it. I am ordering the sequel, Eona, as soon as I finish this post. Eon was 4 Stars for me...
Eon is a complex and fascinating character.  Goodman really delves into gender identity in this novel, which I enjoyed.  Throughout the book, Eon is in a major battle against herself.  She flip-flops quite a bit.  She loves her master, she hates her master.  She feels hopeful, she falls into despair.  She trusts her friends, she doesn't trust her friends.  While there was a lot of action, I'd say this book was really a character study.  As Eon struggled to figure herself out, I did occasionally struggle with liking her.  For the most part, I thought she was brave, loyal, and fierce.  When she wavered in those qualities, I got a bit frustrated, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW GOOD CHARACTERS MUST BE FLAWED!  Maybe it is the fantasy genre, where I just want my heroes to be perfect.  I don't expect it from other types of books. 
The world that Eon is set in is very richly described, and unique. Goodman creates a society that I found intriguing and horrifying- I have never read anything like it.  It takes a great deal of intuition and perception to put the pieces together to figure out the world that Eon lives in, so while I think this book would appeal to middle-grade and young-adult children, they would have to be a sophisticated reader to grasp the story.  Also, it is quite violent at times! 
I got a bit impatient with some of the lengthy descriptions, and even found myself skipping pages (Again, why do I do this, when I know that 50% of the time it means I have to go back and re-read to figure out what I missed?). The action happens in small bursts, with loads of description and character development in between.  I would have been totally O.K. if some of the chapters had been edited out of the story, because it did feel to lag at times.  There is a lot of political intrigue in the book that I enjoyed, and I was surprised by some of the plot turns. 
The primary relationships that are explored in this book are between Eon and her friends and political allies.  All of the supporting characters feel real and authentic, which I loved.  There may be the hints of a romantic relationship between Eon and someone else, but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

Book Blurb

Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one.
Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved…
and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know…and love itself.
Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds… until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.

And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father’s castle—a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?

My Review

Gabi was a strong heroine in the story.  She adjusted quickly to her new life in the fourteenth-century, which helped to move the story forward without a hundred pages of her freaking out (I hate that!).  At times she was a bad-ass 21st century girl, and at other times she was very timid.  I didn't always understand why she reacted the way she did, but I did like her and nothing about her disrupted the story for me.    
I had a hard time putting this down!  I really enjoy time travel stories- I remember reading some variation of a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court as a kid.  Something about time travel just sparks my imagination!  Anyways, I thought it was a nicely written story, and it never made me roll my eyes or groan!  I can't speak to its historical accuracy at all, but the world in which Gabi found herself was fascinating.

I liked the love interest, Marcello, but I definitely would have liked to see them together more in the story.  I found myself wondering throughout the book about their future, and what Gabi would decide to do.   I'm really torn about how I want this one to end, so it will be interesting to see what the author does with Gabi and Marcello's relationship. 

This was 5 stars for me.  I enjoyed it from start to finish, and I can't wait to see what happens in the sequel, it is already on my Amazon Wishlist (along with 200 other books- yikes).  


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Book Blurb
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.
My Review

Wow- Ender is so complex as a character, I barely know where to begin.  I was reading another review where Ender is critiqued as being an "innocent killer"- who acts in morally reprehensible ways but in situations that make them no fault of his own.  I do agree that Card really pushes the button with Ender as a protagonist.  He is so perfect, so isolated, and I did find myself wondering about him- was I supposed to like Ender?  Is he a hero?  Is he to be blamed for some of the situations he finds himself in?  Ender is a very provocative character, and I still haven't come to terms with what I think of him.

After reading this book, I discovered it was published in 1985- which provided some context for the story that had me wondering.  The themes of this story are varied- and it is very dense reading at times.  I think that this book would be great for young boys, but they would have to be adept enough to navigate some of the subtleties in the story.  This was definitely a book that stuck with me- I finished it weeks ago and find myself wanting to talk about it with people (but hey, 1985, so apparently it's old news).

There aren't any romantic relationships in the book, and actually, Ender is isolated from even friends through most of the book.  The primary relationship was with his sister Valentine, whom he truly loves throughout the years.

I read this one because some of my students told me it was sooo good.  I went into it pretty blind, and I enjoyed it a lot.  I think it's a great, high interest novel, but definitely for a more sophisticated reader.  I'd give it 5 stars, but I imagine it's a 'niche' book- it just happens to be right up my science-fiction-loving-ally.  

Boycotts and Barflies by Victoria Michaels

Book Blurb
After an endless string of bad dates and a generally pathetic love life, Grace Park and her friends decide to boycott men for six weeks. With a fantastic pair of shoes on the line for the woman who makes it to the end without breaking any rules, the competition gets fierce. Sparks fly a few days into the bet when Grace and her friends cross paths with a sexy bartender named Michael Andris who happens to have a little bet of his own going with his friends.... In this hilarious debut novel, Victoria Michaels brings us a colorful and relatable cast of characters. She sends them on a sweet and sexy escapade as they sidestep one booby trap after another, manage the best of misguided intentions, and exert a whole lot of willpower and self control as they race down the path to true love. Winning isn't everything...or is it?
My Review
This was a very typical romance novel.  The characters fit their designated stereotypes, and the men were absolutely prefect, romantic, and flawless.  That said, the characters were still really fun and fluffy.  :)
Again, it was very typical, but still fun.  My only complaint was that their "by chance meetings" were so unrealistic- I have never run into a love interest so many times- fate only takes people so far in reality.  If you are able to suspend disbelief, it's still pretty enjoyable.
What's better than the perfect man who is absolutely in love with you from first sight?  Nothing!  The relationships were very cute.

I know this isn't the best review- it's been a couple weeks since I read it.  I thought it was a good, light read, and certainly fantastic for a debut author.  It's definitely worth a read. 3 stars 

The False Princess by Ellis O'Neal

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

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks.  But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.

My Review

Sinda was a pretty decent main character.  The story and the world reminded me a lot of Poison Study (which I absolutely loved).  I don't think that Sinda could compete with Yelena, who was so vibrant and authentic.  But, I liked that she handled her situation with grace.  I liked that she was on a journey to figure out who she is and where she fits in the world.  I was a bit confused by the ease with which she leaves behind her life- she doesn't really mourn her family and friends in the way I might expect.  But, her reaction to her situation ended up being a part of her development, so it did make sense for the story.  She was strong and solid as far as a character goes.

My one complaint with characters is that they seemed to play their part in the story and then disappear.  For example, Sinda's parents and aunt.  There wasn't any continuity to the minor characters- it was very Sinda-centric.

I liked the story- full of political intrigue, magic, and the start of a romance.  A lot happened in the book, the plot evolved at a fast pace.

There is no hint of romance in the book blurb, so I don't want to give too much away.  I'll just say- there was some sparkage as the story progressed, but the relationship went from 0 to 60 in no time.  I was a bit disconcerted by that.  But, I liked Sinda's romantic partner as a character.

It was pretty good- I loved the premise of the story and there were no major flaws in the book. 3 stars!

Kindle Giveaway

I was checking out All Things YA on Facebook, and I saw a link for a Kindle Giveaway.  Four bloggers teamed up and chipped in to purchase a Kindle to giveaway in a contest- pretty amazing.  

I signed up at, but you can sign up on any of their blogs:

I hope I win!! :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss

Book Blurb

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

My Review
I loved, loved, loved this book!  This is one of the best books I have read in awhile.  

I was worried at first about how much I would like Anna.  She was so insecure and whiny in the beginning.  Now, I'm glad that she started that way.  She grew so much throughout the novel.  Character development was at the heart of this.  

The story was good- the events that took place felt realistic to what a high school senior might experience.  Nothing felt overdone for dramatic effect.  The pace was slow, but I liked that because it allowed for so much of the characterization to take place.  I had moments where I could not put the book down- I was dying to see what happened between St. Clair and Anna.  There was just one thing that made me crazy in the story- an abrupt name change to reflect changing feelings.  That part made me cringe a bit, but besides that I thought the story was very good.  

Oh my gosh!  I loved St. Clair and Anna.  This relationship was perfectly done.  They had a beautiful friendship- as much as I was dying for things to go to the next level with them, I was also enjoying their friendship as well.  I loved how good they were to each other.

Such a good book- 5 Stars :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce

Book Blurb
Tamora Pierce begins a new Tortall trilogy introducing Beka Cooper, an amazing young woman who lived 200 years before Pierce's popular Alanna character. For the first time, Pierce employs first-person narration in a novel, bringing readers even closer to a character that they will love for her unusual talents and tough personality.

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, and she's been assigned to the Lower City. It's a tough beat that's about to get tougher, as Beka's limited ability to communicate with the dead clues her in to an underworld conspiracy. Someone close to Beka is using dark magic to profit from the Lower City's criminal enterprises--and the result is a crime wave the likes of which the Provost's Guard has never seen before.

My Review
O.K. So I love Tamora Pierce's book- they are very near and dear to my heart because they remind me of my childhood.  When I saw this on a book shelf, I was so psyched (I also wondered what rock I'd been living under, since apparently this book has been out for a few years).  I also enjoyed this a lot because I had a physical copy of the book- not a Kindle edition.  This is the first non-Kindle book I've read in a year!  I did notice that I read it much slower than I would read a Kindle book, but nothing really beats a brand new book!

The characters are at the heart of what Tamora Pierce does.  I loved Beka.  She is so authentic.  Her voice is what really made the book special for me.  With many contemporary or paranormal novels, I often find the heroine to be whiny, or narcissistic, or just incredibly contrived.  The combination of fantasy + Beka just really made this perfect for me.

The story is told a bit differently than the other Tortall series.  It's told through journal entries (95% of them are Beka's).  Many of the developments are subtle, and it moves forward slowly- definitely a book for more sophisticated young readers.  There are many layers to the story that are woven together.  I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable.

This is what makes these books so good.  There doesn't have to be an angsty relationship, or a love triangle to hook you!  That being said, the groundwork is laid for a future relationship that I am really excited about.  I can't wait to see how Beka grows up and into romance.

I really loved it.  Again- I'm very biased by my love of the whole world of Tortall.  The best thing about living under a rock is not having to wait to read Book #2!  Woo hoo. 5 Stars.

Enchanted Ivy

Product Description
What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather. When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her: She has been selected to take the top-secret Legacy Test. Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeton. Sweet!

Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key. But what is she looking for? Where does she start? As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard. That's weird. But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her. He tells her that there are two Princetons—the ordinary one and a magical one—and the Key opens the gate between them. But there are more secrets that surround Lily. Worse secrets.
When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life. Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between two worlds, with her family at its center. In a place where Knights slay monsters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage—and a little magic—to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.

My Review
This book actually surprised me.  About 50 pages I was wondering where it was going- the story I was expecting was playing out way too quickly.  And- I was pleasantly surprised.  I thought I had the book pegged in the beginning, but it wasn't what I expected.

There is not a lot of upfront characterization in this book.  I had no idea what Lily looked like (unless I read it and instantly forgot the physical description).  She is on Princeton's campus for a an alumni weekend with her grandfather, and almost no attention is paid to what her life is like before.  At times, it almost felt like she didn't exist before the story started.  There were a few hints about Lily's life before the story starting, but nothing that I could put together in a comprehensive picture of her.  As for characterization that happens as the story is unfolding- I don't know!  She seemed very perfect at parts.  I didn't always understand her feelings or reactions.  I'm still a little confused on Lily as a character.

I really enjoyed the story.  I was actually surprised at different points- this does not happen often!  Various elements of the story were woven together- it seemed very well-planned.  There was a lot of action.  There were many more conflicts than the Book Blurb lets on.  The themes were conveyed brilliantly.  Moral ambiguity abounded.  I was expecting a one-dimensional story- and it wasn't at all!

Again, my feelings towards Lily might cloud this one.  I never really could figure out how she felt about Tye, or some of the other potential love interests.  The whole relationship was a bit anticlimatic.  I don't think this is a series, so it did feel unfinished to me, despite an epilogue-ish chapter at the end of the book that gives the reader an idea how things turned out for everyone.

I'm torn between 3 stars and 4 stars on this one.  I definitely enjoyed it, but did have a couple of qualms with Lily.  

The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

Book Blurb

To: You (you)
From: Human Resources (
Subject: This Book

Dear Reader,
This is an automated message from the Human Resources Division of the New York Journal, New York City’s leading photo-newspaper. Please be aware that according to our records you have not yet read this book. What exactly are you waiting for? This book has it all:
-Cooking tips
-Great Danes
-Heroine in peril
-Dolphin-shaped driftwood sculptures

If you wish to read about any of the above, please do not hesitate to head to the checkout counter, where you will be paired with a sales associate who will work to help you buy this book.
We here at the New York Journal are a team. We win as a team, and lose as one as well. Don’t you want to be on the winning team?
Human Resources Division
New York Journal

Please note that failure to read this book may result in suspension or dismissal from this store.
*********This e-mail is confidential and should not be used by anyone who is not the original intended recipient. If you have received this e-mail in error please inform the sender and delete it from your mailbox or any other storage mechanism.*********

My Review
This book was recommended to me by my sister Clare.  It was so cute!  It was fun and light-hearted.   I was entertained from start to finish, and really enjoyed how Cabot told the story through e-mails from character to character.

The characters are all cute- that's the best word I can think of to describe them.  It doesn't deviate too far from what you'd expect from a romantic girl-meets-boy story in terms of characterization.  Mel is sweet, kind-hearted, and funny.  John is family-oriented, loyal, and charming. I rooted for both of them as I read. All of the minor characters are equally likeable.

Again, I thought the way the story was told through e-mails was clever and enjoyable.  It gave the book a different feel, even though the story falls into a typical romantic novel schema.  I enjoyed the fact that there was no over-written sex scenes- it was light and fun all the way through.  

I loved Mel and John, and it was so fun to hear about their developing feelings through emails to family and friends.  They had the normal miscues of a new relationship, and one extremely not-normal identity issue that served as the conflict for the story.

It was a fun read, easily read in one sitting.  It wouldn't be a book I would ever pick up to re-read, but it was good the first time around.  As I look over the review, the words "light", "cute", and "fun" keep showing up.  So- overall it was light, cute, and fun, and I give it 4 stars! 


Sunday, January 16, 2011

XVI by Julie Karr

Book Blurb
Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world - even the most predatory of men - that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past - one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.
My Review
So this is Book #2 for me in the Debut Author Challenge- Yay!  I really enjoyed this one.  I was worried when I started that dystopia would forever be ruined for me by my love of The Hunger Games- what could possibly compare to that?!?!  While this book isn't as haunting as The Hunger Games, it was solidly written and very enjoyable.
The main character is Nina Oberon, a 15-year old girl coming to age in a society ruled with an iron fist by the government and the media.  Nina is brave, independent-minded, and artistic.  She is thrust into not only caring for her younger sister Dee, but also protecting her.  The story is narrated first-person in her voice.  Nina was likeable- a tad bit bland, but solid.  She made me crazy at a couple points, taking forever to connect the dots.  But, she definitely had the voice of a teenager- loyal to her friends, insecure, expressive, loving.  Our supporting characters were also very solid.  I loved some of Nina's friends, and I really liked her family as well.  
I really liked the premise of the story and how everything played out.  Sometimes it seemed a bit slow- with lots of attention paid to Nina's coming to terms with the events that occurred, and then at the same time, something major would happen and Nina's reaction would seem underwhelmed to me.  It's hard to put my finger on it, but in all it was a very minor issue.  My only other minor complaint was the ending- it felt a bit anticlimatic to me.  I am assuming this is a part of a series- there is a lot that still needs to be tied up. I can imagine this book being enjoyed by older, reluctant readers.  
I also loved the message and themes of the book.  There were quite a few- gender politics, media influence, government intrusion on freedom of expression, exploitation of youth, abuse, etc.  There was a lot going on, which made Nina's world seem multidimensional and real.  
I liked this part a lot.  It doesn't really mention Nina's love interest on the cover, and since this is such a new release I suppose I shouldn't mention names.  But let's just say that He seems to be like a great guy with a lot going on under the surface.  I think the author did a great job exploring Nina's conflict over her sexuality with Him, and with the society in which she lives.  For a book that speaks out against the exploitation of young women, the author handled the romantic relationship perfectly.
I thought it was a great book, and I hope that there is more to come from Julie Karr in the future.  I'm so glad I decided to purchase this. 4 stars!