Sunday, January 30, 2011

XVI - Julia Karr - 2011

2011 Debut Author Challenge: Book # 2 (of 12)

Title: XVI
Author: Julia Karr
Year: 2011
Publisher: Speak
Date Read: 1-30-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads 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.

Plot: * * * * *
Characters: * * * * *
Style: * * * *

My Review: This book only furthered my love for dystopian novels. Nina is such a fiercely independent character, refusing to give in to the "sex-teen" ways that are constantly pushed upon teenage girls in the society she lives in. She is forced into becoming like a parent to her little sister, Dee, and though she loves Dee, she is also frustrated that this has happened to her family.
There was such a great contrast of characters in this book. Nina's best friend, Sandy, is nothing like Nina and cannot wait to turn 16 and caves to all of the advertisements that tell 16 year old girls how they "should" act. Nina doesn't want her life to belong to anyone else, and though the two disagree on a lot of things, their friendship still feels genuine.

I really enjoyed reading about Nina's base group of friends. Mike and Derek were great supporting roles, and their love and friendship for Nina and Sandy, and, later on, Wei was so evident. Wei was a great role model for Nina, a like-mind for her to find comfort in. Nina's budding relationship with Sal felt strange at first, because it seemed like I could feel Nina's confusion and discomfort with it.

I really liked reading about the way our future could turn out. It's one of my favorite things about dystopias, because sometimes it feels so real and so possible. Hopefully people read these books and are then determined not to let our world end up like this. I really liked that there is still a "Creative" designation, because at least it meant people could use their talents. In Matched it made me sad that people weren't allowed creative thought in any way. The ideas about what sex could mean in the future were strange, and rather disheartening, since 16 year old girls are sort of forced into thinking sex is great and can only improve your life, when in reality the girls could end up in what turns out to be a sex-trafficking scheme run by the government. Fun.

Another thing I liked about this book was the "chase" feeling. I loved that Ed could be anywhere and that there was this constant unsettled feeling and anxiety. This book really kept up the pace and it felt like it went by really fast. I didn't want the last pages to come. I am wondering if it will be a series or a stand alone story. There is some definite series potential.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
Currently Listening To: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (read by Carolyn McCormick)

Books Read in 2011: 12

Friday, January 28, 2011

Audio Book Challenge Review: Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher - 2007

2011 Audio Book Challenge: Book # 1 (of 6)

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Year: 2007
Audio Book Narrators: Joel Johnstone & Debra Wiseman
Publisher: Razorbill
Date Read: 1-28-201
Overall: * * * * * (this rating is based not only on the book, but the audio version of it)

GoodReads Blurb: Jay Asher's brilliant first novel is a moving, highly original story that focuses on a set of audiotapes made by a girl before she committed suicide, and which explain to 13 people the reasons why she decided to end her life. Told in a highly effective duel narrative -- alternating between the girl s voice and the thoughts of a boy who is listening -- this honest, poignant story reveals how other people's actions shape, and by extension can ruin, an individual's faith in people. Intensely powerful and painfully real, Thirteen Reasons Why reveals how brutal high school can be, the consequences of spreading rumors, and the lasting effects of suicide on those left behind.

My Review: This was my first experience with an audio book. I have to say, it made driving by myself so much more enjoyable than usual! It felt like the time spent driving flew by, and then when I parked my car, I didn't want to get out. Even though this was a story I had already read (when it first was published), I loved hearing the words spoken, and with Hannah's tapes in the story, the audio book version came across so well.
The story is very chilling, and confusing, and generally mixed up to begin with, and it is so well written, and the voice actors who gave life to Clay and Hannah did an amazing job. They had fantastic emotions, and they sounded the age of the characters, which really enhanced the story.
I did not think I would enjoy listening to a book this much. When I was a child I did not like being read to, because I wanted to be independent and do it myself. But I really liked this.

To Buy: Print version or Audio Book version

Currently Reading: XVI by Julia Karr
Currently Listening To: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I listened to this book as part of the Audio Book Challenge 2011 hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner
As a reminder to myself, link blogs here

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zombies vs. Unicorns - Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier - 2010

Title: Zombies vs. Unicorns
Author: Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (editors)
Year: 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Date Read: 1-27-2011
Overall: Since this is an anthology, I cannot rate it as whole, because there were some stories I loved and some I was not a fan of.

GoodReads Blurb: It's a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths—for good and evil—of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

My Review (aka, Stories I Really Liked): Since this was a compilation of stories, there were some that I really enjoyed, and some that I found hard to get into. Since this is a really fun compilation, I am just going to list a few highlights.

Zombie Stories I Really Enjoyed:
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson - What if a zombie fell in love?
Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan - I liked the seriousness of this one, it was really convincing
The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson - The creepy zombie babies were just awesome, and everyone should follow Maureen on twitter

Unicorn Stories I Really Enjoyed:
Purity Test by Naomi Novik - I'm not really sure why, but this story cracked me up
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund - I loved this story, it amused me to no end
Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot - I loved the kick-butt rainbow-farting unicorn!

My Team: Unicorn!

I definitely recommend this anthology. It's just so fun, and there are so many different views on zombies and unicorns. There were quite a few authors I had never heard of, and it was great to get read new writing styles. I know a lot of people are team zombie, but I just love that unicorns can be so bad@$$ and so kind and awesome all at the same time.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: XVI by Julia Karr

Books Read in 2011: 10

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bleed - Laurie Faria Stolarz - 2006

Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Year: 2006
Date Read: 1-26-2011
Overall: * * (2/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Over the course of a single summer day, ten teenagers in Salem, Massachusetts, will discover important truths about themselves and each other.
There is Nicole, whose decision to betray her best friend will shock everyone, most of all herself; Kelly, who meets the convicted felon she has been writing to for years; Maria, whose definition of a true friend is someone who will cut her. Then there is Sadie, a chubby eleven-year-old whose mother forces her to wear a “please don’t feed me” sign stapled to her shirt; while Joy, a fifteen-year-old waitress hoping for true intimacy narrowly escapes a very dark fate. Derik discovers that his usual good looks and charm won’t help him hold onto the girl he wants, while nineteen-year-old drifter, Mearl, is desperately looking for a place to call home. Sean is torn between his loyalty to his girlfriend and the possibility of finding something more with her friend, while Ginger’s single-minded pursuit to bring down her nemesis only proves that they may be more alike than she thought.
Seamlessly woven together, this incredibly powerful and compelling collection of stories chronicles the very real trials of today’s teen experience.

Plot: * * (...Was there one?)
Characters: * * (Undeveloped)
Style: * *

My Review: I really was not a fan of this book. I felt like there might be more than one chapter from each person's perspective. Instead, it was a bunch of short stories, that sort of intertwined, but didn't really. They weren't long enough to have any message or conclusion. Really, each of the character's was just a tidbit crazy, and they all kind of needed a reality check. I think if this book had a little more depth and a little more of a plot line and an end point, it could have been really interesting. I was curious about how each character would end up. Instead, their stories are just left off in the middle. I'm assuming Stolarz wanted to leave her readers with questions, but I really didn't gain a connection to any character with the exception of 11 year old Sadie. I would not recommend this book to others. I will stick with the Touch series though, because those books have good strong characters and plot lines.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading:
For School: Forever by Judy Blume, Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
Other: XVI by Julia Karr

Book Read in 2011: 9

YA Lit Week One: Responses

I am writing this having just attended my first YA Lit class of the semester. One of our assignments throughout the course will be weekly responses to one or both of the books we choose to read in that particular week. I will be adding these responses to my posts for those books, possibly replacing the "My Review" section with a "My Response" section. Though I would still like to give a brief review on what I did or didn't find appealing about each book. Maybe the Responses should be a separate post, since they may often talk about multiple books and their similarities/differences? I will try to figure this out. For now, here is a summary of what we discussed in class in relation to The Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders:

Most of the people in my discussion group didn't like The Catcher in the Rye. I was sort of the minority voice sticking up for Holden, trying to explain that he just wanted to talk to someone, and that he was depressed, and that it probably isn't good to assume that that he is just a whiny rich kid, because there are plenty of people in the world feeling as hopeless and sad as Holden did. Also, he makes a lot of good points about how the world could or should be, and that it is pretty darn depressing the world isn't as "good" as he wants it to be.

Most everyone seemed to really like The Outsiders. I was glad to have similar opinions on this book. One person in our group brought up the point that the language doesn't seem very well written, and that it sounds very young, possibly because Hinton was young when she wrote it. However, I think that the whole point of the book is that it sounds young, because it's a high school kid's point of view, and because of where and how Ponyboy grew up, he has that view point and that language.

Other people in the group read The Pigman by Paul Zindell, and seemed to enjoy it. They talked about the similarities between The Pigman and The Outsiders. Since I guess both books show these groups of people that become family, but weren't born that way. That is a major theme in The Outsiders, that needing to belong and to not only care about others, but to have other people care about you.

All in all, I really enjoyed the first class of this course and I am looking forward to next week's class.

To Buy: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Pigman by Paul Zindell

Reading for Next Week's Class: Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, Forever by Judy Blume

Other Reading: XVI by Julia Karr

Monday, January 24, 2011

YA Lit Week One: The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton - 1965

This is the second book due for the first week of the YA Lit course.

Course Theme for the Week: "Introduction to the Course (1-26-2011)
Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E. Hinton
Year: 1965
Date Read: 1-23-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

Amazon Blurb: According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser. This classic, written by S. E. Hinton when she was 16 years old, is as profound today as it was when it was first published in 1967.

My Review: I didn't actually know very much about this story before reading it. I knew a lot of middle schools had this as assigned reading, but mine did not, and I just never got around to reading it prior to this. I wish that I had not waited so long to read it though, because it sucked me right in and I just had to know the rest of Ponyboy's story. At times I was fearful to keep reading, because I didn't want anything bad to happen to him or his brothers, or his friends.
I liked the honesty in Ponyboy's voice, and that he didn't seem angry about his place in the world, but that he seemed to accept things even if those things weren't fair. The differences in each character's personalities were very distinct, especially the differences between kids like Johnny or Ponyboy and kids like Dallas. Ponyboy's world is so completely different from mine that I couldn't put the book down because of how little I could relate to his world and his lifestyle.
I think that people of any age could get a lot out of this book. The ultimate lesson for me was to never let all of the bad things in the world black out all of the good things, like sunsets. When Johnny died, it did something to Ponyboy for a while, until he could see that Johnny wouldn't want him to be like that, to become like Dallas, and so in the end he tried to hold onto those bits of innocence he had left.
At some points, I could really feel some similarities between The Outsiders and The Catcher in the Rye, particularly because Ponyboy's thought process was often, in my opinion, very similar to Holden Caulfield's. There were some observations that Ponyboy made that sounded very much like Holden's (like how people are different in their yearbook pictures, and how repetitive both narrators were). This wasn't a bad thing for me, and I don't think I would have noticed if I hadn't read them within the same week.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading:
For Class -- Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, Forever by Judy Blume
Other -- Bleed by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Books Read in 2011: 8

Friday, January 21, 2011

YA Lit Week One: The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger - 1951

This is the first book for week one of my YA Lit course. I will also have a review up for The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton by Tuesday night.

Course Theme for the Week: "Introduction to the Course (1-26-2011)"
Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Year: 1951
Date Read: 1-21-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

My Review (aka What can this book offer to young adults?): One of the most amazing things about this book is how much I get out of it each time I read it. Holden is just barely hanging on as he wanders through New York. There is such a feeling of hopelessness as he goes from person to person and situation to situation trying desperately to find someone who will not just talk to him, but listen to him. He is so obviously alone and lonely. At the same time, it feels very hopeful to me, because he keeps trying and keeps going for the next person.
Everything in the book sort of contradicts itself, even Holden, constantly. Even the title is sort of wrong, since he learns from his sister Phoebe that the poem goes "If a body see a body..." not "catch a body." When he tells Phoebe he would like to be the person catching kids from going over the edge, it became clear to me that he is also hoping that there's somebody else catching him from going over the edge.
I think for first time readers of this book, it will be hard to pick up on a lot of the symbolism and the layers of the story. The red hunting hat, the questions about the ducks in central park, the difference in the Holden in the story and the Holden telling the story, etc. A second read of this book feels necessary to me. A lot of teenagers might be able to relate to the loneliness and hopelessness that Holden experiences, and that there are only a few things that really make Holden feel anything close to happiness. Life is hard, and it can really suck sometimes, but throughout the whole book, even when it feels like Holden might end up dead in some way, the reader can tell that he is alive, because he is telling the story, which gives this nice underlining of hope, even to those as lonely as Holden.

To Buy: Amazon

Books Read This Year: 7

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Low Red Moon - Ivy Devlin - 2010

Title: Low Red Moon
Author: Ivy Devlin
Year: 2010
Date Read: 1-20-2011
Overall: * * 1/2 (2.5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: The only thing Avery Hood can remember about the night her parents died is that she saw silver—deadly silver, moving inhumanly fast. As much as she wants to remember who killed them, she can't, and there's nothing left to do but try to piece her life back together. Then Avery meets the new boy in school—Ben, mysterious and beautiful, with whom she feels a connection like nothing she's ever experienced. When Ben reveals he's a werewolf, Avery still trusts him—at first. Then she sees that sometimes his eyes flash inhuman silver. And she learns that she's not the only one who can't remember the night her parents died.Part murder mystery, part grief narrative, and part heart-stopping, headlong romance, Low Red Moon is a must-read for teen paranormal fans. As breathless as Twilight and as spooky as Shiver, this is a book to be devoured in one sitting—by an acclaimed YA author making her paranormal debut under the pseudonym Ivy Devlin.

Plot: * * /*
Characters: * * * *
Style: * * *

My Review: Avery witnessed her parents' murder, though she doesn't, or can't, remember a thing about it. This story follows the week or so following the murder as she tries to piece together the missing bits, and as she meets the new, sort of strange, boy who might know more about that night.
Avery and Ben have a very quick relationship. The whole book is very quick, actually. It is hard to get to know the characters when the time span is so short and we don't get to experience them in a lot of different situations. Avery was a bit bland, she wasn't terrible by any means, but she wasn't particularly special, and though Ben is supposed to be a hottie, I couldn't really picture it.
Her "blood red" piece of hair was a bit weird, and creepy. Especially when it smelled or tasted like blood. Also, the whole "trees can feel and are mourning" thing was a bit forced, and it didn't really fit in with the rest of the story. It could have been explained better.
I wish there had been more about Louis, Ben's uncle, in the story. He seemed like an interesting character with a good story to tell. A lot more background could have been added to make sense of all the characters, actually. What happened with Louis and Renee, what happened with Renee and Avery's parents, and maybe more of an explanation as to what led Ron to do what he did.
I thought it was amusing how Devlin (aka Elizabeth Scott) avoided using the term werewolf at all costs. Characters who were about to say it or even think that word had their words or thoughts immediately cut off by someone else speaking. It's bad when it feels like even the author is ashamed of the creatures in their own book. And, I am not quite sure where the title came from. The moon was mentioned a few times, but no more than any other book. So I am not really sure of its significance. The ending was left a little open, so I am wondering if she will attempt a sequel or not.
I did like a lot of the story, though. It wasn't as predictable as I was expecting it to be, even though some parts were very Twilight-ish. I liked that Avery had some special sort of sight when it came to wolves, and I liked how she needed the forest and needed to see her old house to find out what happened to her parents. Her grief and confusion was really well written.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and Bleed by Lauri Faria Stolarz

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unscheduled Interruption

Each time that I read The Catcher in the Rye, I discover new aspects and layers of the story and of Holden Caulfield. The first time I read this book I was around 16 years old. I know I reread it about 2 years ago, and I think I reread it sometime before that as well. When I read it that first time, I don't think I noticed all of the intricacies in Holden's character, particularly in his unraveling and in his humor. It's not real everyday humor, and I'm not sure if it's even meant to be funny, but there are some lines in this story that now have me giggling and grabbing my iPhone to take a picture of the text so I can remember it for later... or so I can post those quotes on my blog.
The edition I am reading is from the Modern Library collection and was published in 1951. On page 39, when Holden is in the bathroom with his roommate, while his roommate (Stradlater) is shaving and Holden decides that he just needs to put Stradlater in a half nelson (the wrestling move), I cannot help but laugh at the line, "So I did it. I landed on him like a goddam panther." Then a few pages later, on page 42, Holden explains that Stradlater is a "very sexy bastard." And that "Only very sexy stuff interested him." I think the difference from our time and the time this was written as well as the tone of voice I am giving Holden, just gets me every time. It probably shouldn't, but I just love the way Salinger wrote Holden as a character and the voice he gave him and the many levels to his personality.
Current progress: Somewhere in chapter 6 of The Catcher in the Rye

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Assigned Reading Book Reviews

As a heads up, I will be adding a different style of book review for the books I read for grad school. I may still give them a rating and my usual style of review, but instead of focusing on my likes or dislikes of the books, I will be focusing more on what they offer to the YA population and then might do updates to those posts after we discuss the books in class, adding in other classmates' opinions and theories. I am far more interested in other people's opinions than in my own.
I am not really a big fan of picking apart the books I read, as I would rather enjoy them (or dislike them) for my initial feelings or thoughts towards them. Digging into books feels like putting words into the author's mouth, because unless they have clearly stated it somewhere, there is no way to know their true intentions or if any insight or knowledge we gain from a book was the author's desired intent or if it is just a reflection of ourselves, the readers.
These posts will be scattered throughout my usual book review posts, and I will make note in the post title if it is a book for class.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading List for YA Lit Course

Starting next week, I will be taking the YA Lit course that my Library Science graduate program offers. I sort of forgot about this course when I went on a massive book buying spree on Saturday. This means that I have a lot of reading goals for the rest of the winter and into spring. For my mini book club that my friend and I do, I have a few books to read through this and next month. Also, she and I both have "catch up" books -- books the other has read that we want to have both read so we can discuss them. So there are our new-to-both-of-us books, and new-to-one-of-us books, and a bunch of books that I have to read for class (about 2 a week). For class, we were given a long list of books, with about 6-8 choices per week, so the list I am including is only of the books I have chosen for those weeks, not the complete options list.

Here are some lists of these books:

Catch-Up Books:
Stolen - Lucy Christopher
The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor
The Replacement - Brenna Yovanoff
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse # 1) - Charlaine Harris

New Books:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson (supposed to finish by the end of this month!)
The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (our first sci-fi genre book!)
Brave Story - Miyuki Miyabe
Low Red Moon - Ivy Devlin (aka Elizabeth Scott) (we both want to know if this is bad or not...)
Grave Sight - Charlaine Harris (our first mystery genre book!)

Books for YA Lit Course (with due dates!):
Jan 26:
The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
*The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Pigman - Paul Zindel
Feb 2:
*Weetzie Bat - Francesca Lia Block
*Forever - Judy Blume
Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack - M.E. Kerr
Feb 9:
Hope Was Here - Joan Bauer
True Confessions of a Heartless Girl - Martha Brooks
Feb 16:
*Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
*What Would Emma Do? - Eileen Cook
*Breathless - Jessica Warman
Feb 23:
Stoner & Spaz - Ron Koertge
Fat Kid Rules the World - K.L. Going
March 2:
*Suite Scarlett - Maureen Johnson
Fighting Ruben Wolf - Marcus Zusak
Derby Girl - Shauna Cross
March 16:
*Love Sick - Jake Coburn
*Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging - Louise Rennison
Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan
March 23:
Hole in My Life - Jack Gantos
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
Stiff - Mary Roach
9/11 Report: Graphic Adaptation - Sid Jacobson & Ernie Colon
March 30:
Feed - M.T. Anderson
*The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
*Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia
Fables - Bill Willingham
Keturah and Lord Death - Martine Leavitt
April 6:
*Paper Towns - John Green
Killer's Cousin - Nancy Werline
Silver Kiss - Annette Curtis Klause
April 13:
Sunrise Over Fallujah - Walter Dean Myers
Elephant Run - Roland Smith
April 20:
*Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes - Chris Crutcher
Vegan Virgin Valentine - Carolyn Mackler
April 27:
Your Own, Sylvia - Stephanie Hemphill
Night is Gone, Day is Still Coming - Annette Pina Ochoa
The Starry Rift - Jonathan Strahan
Thicker Than Water - Gordon Snell

The books with * next to them are books I have already read at some time, though I will be rereading them as a refresher. Some of these dates we are required only 2 readings, while a few of these dates we are required to do 4 readings. I included an extra option for a lot of the dates in case I can't get a hold of some of my choices. I'm really hoping this course goes well, since it is on a topic that I (obviously) love, and it is with a professor whom I really enjoy taking classes with.
So... This will be a very ambitious reading time for me.

Currently Reading: Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

The Education of Hailey Kendrick - Eileen Cook - 2011

Title: The Education of Hailey Kendrick
Author: Eileen Cook
Year: 2011
Date Read: 1-16-2011
Overall Rating: * * * 1/2 (3.5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what's expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way...and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.

Suddenly, Hailey's perfect life--and her reputation--are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don't trust her. Her boyfriend won't even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she's been dumped.

They say honesty is the best policy--but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

Plot: * * * *
Characters: * * * *
Style: * * *

My Review: I liked this book, but not as much as I liked Cook's previous two novels. (Edit: somehow missed that she wrote another book, Unpredictable, which is now at the top of my "Must Find This Book Now" lis). What Would Emma Do? and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood really grabbed me and I loved the stories and characters. Hailey Kendrick is caught vandalizing a piece of her school campus, and refuses to give up the person she is with because he has more to lose than she does. The story follows the repercussions of her decision not to tell and how this affects her relationships with just about everyone in her life.
I like Hailey, though she was a little too easy a character to peg, and I really liked Drew, the "townie" she meets on cleanup detail. Their conversations were really well done and I loved their back and forth banter. However, the supporting characters, like her friends/boyfriend Tristan, Joel, and Kelsie seemed so boring to me. There was no spark, no reason that I could see to be drawn to any of them, even when Cook explained why/how Hailey and Kelsie became friends.
I felt like the emotional scenes, particularly the weird chemistry that could have happened between Joel and Hailey, the fight between Hailey and her father, and the scenes between Hailey and Tristan could have been more powerful. They felt lacking. I wanted Hailey to scream at her dad, not just forgive him and talk it out and be "closer than ever" in a day. On its own, I would have liked this book more, because even though it was well-written, it didn't feel as strong as her other two books.
Though I would recommend it just because Drew was such a nice character and even though it was a little predictable and had a very "wrapped up in a bow" ending, it was still nice and had a great message to convey about standing up for yourself and learning who you are.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: Zombies Vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 Audio Book Challenge

I was very excited to stumble upon this today. I have been wanting to try out audio books for a while, but I am always hesitant because I have trouble paying attention when listening.
So this is the 2011 Audio Book Challenge set up over at Teresa's Reading Corner. The challenge runs throughout this year (Jan-Dec 2011). You can read more about it and sign up here and here.

There are four levels of the challenge to choose from:
Curious: 3 books
Fascinated: 6 books
Addicted: 12 books
Obsessed: 20 books

I am going to try for the "Fascinated" level, since I don't know how much I will like them, and because I think 6 books is a better challenge number than 3. We'll see!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fall for Anything - Courtney Summers - 2010

Title: Fall for Anything
Author: Courtney Summers
Year: 2010
Date Read: 1-12-2011
Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2 (4.5/5)

GoodReads blurb: When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?

Plot: * * * *

Characters: * * * * *

Style: * * * * *

My Review: Courtney Summers is on a roll. Her characters, especially the lead female characters, are so real, and never perfect, and never fit into that "oh, but I'm so boring and mousy and normal" cliche that seems to happen so frequently in YA lit. Eddie was so mixed up, and flawed, and just sort of broken (temporarily), that she brought me down with her in her grief. Milo, Eddie's best friend, was really what a best friend should be for everyone. When he broke down and finally told Eddie about "that night," it brought another level of understanding to his relationship with Eddie and how he acts towards her. Culler was strange, and also broken, but he should have known better than to manipulate someone's emotions like that, especially a teenage girl grieving her dead father.

The only issues I had with this book, were mostly that I just kept wanting to punch Beth (Eddie's mother's friend) in the face whenever she spoke, because it felt like everyone was forgetting that Eddie was broken too, that her mother should be taking care of her, instead of her mother's friend telling her to get out of the house all the time. This is actually just a sign of a well written character though, since Beth was so convincingly annoying that she made me angry.

Summers' writing always feels true and real, and not glossed over or romanticized like many authors tend to do. I think this is part of what draws me to her books over and over. Nothing seems fake or perfect or set up. Her first three novels have really hit home with me and I look forward to her having a long career. So much care seems to be put into her stories and the lives she creates, it's so refreshing and so raw.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook

New layout and colors

I decided to add some new colors to the blog the other day, and then tonight decided to change the layout as well. I will try to keep it looking this way for a while. I might add more gadgets or take some away, but nothing too major for a while.

Currently reading: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Opinion so far: I am still a Courtney Summers fangirl!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Deadly Little Games - Laurie Faria Stolarz - 2010

Title: Deadly Little Games

Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Year: 2010
Date Read: 1/10/2011
Overall: * * * (3/5)

GoodReads blurb: Camelia and Ben have discovered a powerful bond: They both possess the power of psychometry, the ability to sense things through touch. For Ben, the gift is a frightening liability. When he senses a strong threat or betrayal, he risks losing control and hurting people. Camelia's gift is more mysterious. When she works with clay, her hands sculpt messages her mind doesn't yet comprehend.

Before either teen has a chance to fully grasp these abilities, an unresolved family tragedy resurfaces in Camelia's life, irrevocably changing everything she cares about...

Plot: * * * *
Characters: * * * *
Stlye (writing style): * * *

My Review: This is the third book in the Touch series by Stolarz. I have to say, there are many points throughout this series where I just get really mad about the whole idea of psychometry, but I love the drama and intensity of all the creepy weird situations that I stick with it. This might be mostly due to Camelia's friends Kimmie and Wes, who I wish were real people who's conversations I could actually listen to. They are really funny! Camelia and Ben are just sort "alright." Boring people made interesting by this strange thing they can do. Adam is actually more interesting to me than Ben is, but I guess we aren't supposed to feel that way.
I love trying to figure out who the crazy person is in all of these books. Though the therapy sessions and crossword puzzles throughout the book were a bit strange. It would be nice if there would stop being this back & forth bit with Ben and Camelia, their relationship drama isn't a necessary part of the story in my opinion, because there is enough drama with everything else that happens.
I like Stolarz's writing style for the most part, though at times Camelia sounds a bit too grown up and uses not-so-teenage language. Not that I'm a teenager anymore, but sometimes it sounds forced or fake, because let's face it, teenagers don't always use perfect grammar and all their SAT words.
Part of my 3 star rating for this book is due to how much I loved the first one and haven't felt the same about the 2nd and 3rd books in this series.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Also, big thanks to Peaceful Reader for linking to my blog in her Along for the Ride post, here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins - 2010

Title: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins
Year: 2010
Date Read: 1/8/2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads blurb: Anna is 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. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

Plot: * * * * *
Characters: * * * * *
Stlye (writing style): * * * * *

My Review: I really don't have any complaints about this book. The writing was smart and funny, the perfect mix of humor, romance, and intense emotions. I loved Anna and her friends and the "will they? won't they?" back and forth with St Clair. The humor reminded me so much of Maureen Johnson's, which was wonderful because I love truly clever books. If I had the time, I would read this book again immediately. It really was that good. Anna was a great protagonist, the right amount of "insecure girl in a foreign place" mixed with a strong personality. St Clair (aka Etienne) was so sweet and protective, while at the same time being an equally insecure boy. The mixture of Anna's new friends and the troubles with her friends back home showed how Anna actually learned about all types of relationships while at boarding school. She learns about romantic relationships from Etienne and her coupled friends, and learns the different levels of "bad parenting," and really learns what it takes to be a good friend and to hang onto good friends when you find them.
I am in love with this book.

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: Deadly Little Games (a Touch novel) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Choker - Elizabeth Woods - 2011

2011 Debut Author Challenge - Book # 1

Title: Choker

Author: Elizabeth Woods
Year: 2011
Date Read: 1/6/2011
Overall: * * (2/5)

GoodReads blurb: Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they're not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her "Choker" after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe's on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara's life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she's getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.

But just as quickly as Cara's life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she's at school. You're supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?

Plot: * *
Characters: * * *
Stlye (writing style): * * 1/2

My Review: This is the first book for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge over at . From the very beginning of the book there was just this creepy vibe surrounding Cara's friendship with Zoe. And it just kept getting creepier. I caught onto the plot twist early, and just kept hoping that I was going to wrong about it. I was disappointed that I guessed correctly when it came to the end of the book. It would have been way more creepy to actually have a real friend that was as much of a creep as "Zoe." Also, I felt like the writing was a little bit forced. Some of the dialog just didn't ring true to how teenagers talk or thing, and it felt like some of the descriptions were just added in there without actually contributing to the quality of the story. I did, however, really like how some of the characters were portrayed, particularly "Zoe" and some of the snotty high school girls. Cara's clumsiness and awkwardness felt really forced at times, like "oh there she goes catching her feet on things again!" So overall there were some good and some bad aspects to this book, but I just didn't dig it like I had hoped to. I love creepy books!

To Buy: Amazon

Currently Reading: Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins