Friday, November 9, 2012

Island Summer

Island Summer
Jeanine Le Ny
June 2007
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
Just in time for summer comes the perfect beach read! Humor and romance abound in this fresh, fun take on summer love.

Nikki may spend the school year on the New England mainland at the ritzy Richfield Academy (on scholarship), but during the summer, she returns home to the decidedly less-posh Pelican Island. Despite an invite from her rich friend Blair, Nikki has to spend the summer working at her parents' sandwich shop. During one of her deliveries to the mainland, she meets Daniel Babcock, and they begin a whirlwind summer romance. But when Blair invites Nikki to spend the weekend, Nikki sees her walking hand in hand...with Daniel!
Can summer love survive?

Review:
It's impossible to write a truly insightful and meaningful critique of a book like this, so I'm not even going to try.

This book is exactly what you expect it to be. It's summer-y, fun, cliche, cheesy, easy to read, and cute all in one tiny little paperback. This isn't the book that you take to school and impress your friends with, it's the one you throw in your beach bag at the last minute because you want to take something to the beach that will be quick and easy and you won't care if it gets water damaged, sandy, or greasy from your suntan lotion.

I honestly don't think there's anything to say about it other than that. It's fun and easy and sometimes fun and easy is just what you're looking for!

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Hook a Hottie

How to Hook a Hottie
Tina Ferraro
January 2008
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
At 17, Kate Delvecchio has one goal in life: to become a millionaire before the age of 20. And as far as she’s concerned, college will only slow her down. Unfortunately for Kate, the one thing her parents do agree on is that they totally disagree with her strategy. And so the deal is born. If Kate can raise five thousand big ones by graduation day, her parents will hand over the balance of her college account to invest as she pleases. No college, no degree, and no way she’ll ever be able to pull it off. But when Kate accidentally agrees to go to the sports banquet with the hottest guy at school, she stumbles upon a possible cash cow. The rest of the junior class is amazed that no-nonsense Kate could hook such a hottie, and one by one they approach her for help hooking their own. She doesn’t know anything about getting guys, but for $100 a pop, she’s more than willing to invent a six-step plan for How to Hook a Hottie. And how could that possibly backfire?

Review:
One thing that I love about this book is the main character. Kate is such a goal oriented and motivated person, and I admire her for that completely. She reminds me so much of myself, except for the fact that I am in college and she's dead set against college. However, she knows what she wants out of life, and she's willing to do anything to get it.

Including getting wrapped up in a plot to hook hotties for others in exchange for $100. Sounds smart, huh? Well, any reader can see how this would backfire. And any reader could predict the ending. But the ride is all the fun, and I immensely enjoyed watching Kate get herself into trouble time and time again. The book was short and cute, which makes it a great beach read, but at the same time you still feel connected to the characters in a way that you won't forget instantly. A very cute story, one I would definitely recommend. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Something Borrowed && Something Blue

Something Borrowed
June 2004

Something Blue
May 2005

Emily Giffin
Reading Level: Adult

Summaries:
Something Borrowed tells the story of Rachel, a young attorney living and working in Manhattan. Rachel has always been the consummate good girl---until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend, Darcy, throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy's fiancé. Although she wakes up determined to put the one-night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for the one guy she should run from. As the September wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk all to win true happiness. Something Borrowed is a phenomenal debut novel that will have you laughing, crying, and calling your best friend.

------
From the New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed comes a novel that shows how someone with a ‘perfect life’ can lose it all—and then find everything.

Darcy Rhone thought she had it all figured out: the more beautiful the girl, the more charmed her life. Never mind substance. Never mind playing by the rules. Never mind karma.

But Darcy’s neat, perfect world turns upside down when her best friend, Rachel, the plain-Jane “good girl,” steals her fiancĂ©, while Darcy finds herself completely alone for the first time in her life…with a baby on the way.

Darcy tries to recover, fleeing to her childhood friend living in London and resorting to her tried-and-true methods for getting what she wants. But as she attempts to recreate her glamorous life on a new continent, Darcy finds that her rules no longer apply. It is only then that Darcy can begin her journey toward self-awareness, forgiveness, and motherhood.

Something Blue is a novel about one woman’s surprising discoveries about the true meaning of friendship, love, and happily-ever-after. It’s a novel for anyone who has ever, even secretly, wondered if the last thing you want is really the one thing you need.

Review:
Let's start with Something Borrowed.

Rachel is somebody that probably 99% of all women can relate to. Most women have probably felt at some point in their life that they are being overshadowed by their best friend. I know I've felt this way, and it sucks.

The other 1% of the female population is composed of the Darcys. These are the women who live to win and must always be the best at everything.

Obviously this is not scientifically proven, but you get the idea.

I would say that most people are somewhere inbetween the two characters. There are times when you are the shining star, and there are times when you're the scruffy friend.

But what you have in Something Borrowed is a situation where opposites attract- literally. They are the extremes, and it's amazing that it works so well, but it does.

Rachel is so easy to like, because she is relatable. Darcy just the opposite, she is easy to hate.

I loved this book because it was so easy to cheer for Rachel to triumph in the end. You knew she was in an impossible situation-- a best friend or boyfriend situation-- and yet you hoped she could keep both.

Something Borrowed was fluffy and fun, and it explored the intricacies of the adult female relationship. I was happy with it overall. I liked Dex, I liked Rachel, and I loved to hate Darcy.

Then jump forward to Something Blue, where you're forced to listen to Darcy's side of things. Ugh. I almost didn't bother reading it because I hated Darcy so much, and I'm sure a lot of lovers of the first book felt the same way as I did.

To those readers, I have a message: read Something Blue!

The beginning is almost unbearable, because it's impossible to take Darcy seriously, but obviously the point of a book is to show the growth and transformation of the main character, and Something Blue is no exception! I loved seeing her struggle, and seeing her become a better and stronger person.

While these two books are companions, not necessarily a series, they obviously both focus on the same two characters, and over the course of the two novels you get to love them. I enjoyed seeing them change and grow, and at the same time got swept up into the magic of big city living and an adult world that I have yet to experience. This is chick lit at its finest!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Waiting for You

Waiting for You
Susane Colasanti
May 2009
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
At the beginning of her sophomore year, Marisa is ready for a fresh start and, more importantly, a boyfriend. So when the handsome and popular Derek asks her out, Marisa thinks her long wait for happiness is over. But several bumps in the road—including her parents’ unexpected separation, a fight with her best friend, and a shocking disappointment in her relationship with Derek—test Marisa’s ability to maintain her new outlook. Only the anonymous DJ, whose underground podcasts have the school’s ear, seems to understand what Marisa is going through. But she has no idea who he is—or does she? In Waiting For You, this third romantic novel from Susane Colasanti, Marisa learns how to “be in the Now” and realizes that the love she’s been waiting for has been right in front of her all along.
Review:
One of the things that gets old with young adult romance is the use of stock characters. It seems like every female narrator sounds the same all the time, with little variance from book to book.

That's why I love this book: Marisa is totally different from all the young adult heroines I read about. First of all, she suffers from depression and she struggles throughout the book to put it behind her and move on. Second, the way she talks and interacts with others is entirely different. She's simply not that stock character; she has layers and that makes me like her that much more.

That being said, this book is perfect for a lazy summer day because it takes you through her transformation. In the beginning, she just wants a boyfriend, any boyfriend. Throughout the novel, she realizes that she has to be careful what she wishes for. She also goes through some family trouble, and this forces her to see things in a new light. Marisa's transformation is incredible, and best of all, it's totally relate-able. I also suffered from depression, and I have mood swings like Marisa, and I also can see her perspective on most of the decisions she makes.

I definitely enjoyed this book's depth. Even though it's not the most insightful YA romance, it's definitely got a lot going for it that takes it a step above the rest.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Book of Luke

The Book of Luke
Jenny O'Connell
April 2007
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
Emily Abbott has always been considered the Girl Most Likely to Be Nice -- but lately being nice hasn't done her any good. Her parents have decided to move the family from Chicago back to their hometown of Boston in the middle of Emily's senior year. Only Emily's first real boyfriend, Sean, is in Chicago, and so is her shot at class valedictorian and early admission to the Ivy League. What's a nice girl to do?

Then Sean dumps Emily on moving day and her father announces he's staying behind in Chicago "to tie up loose ends," and Emily decides that what a nice girl needs to do is to stop being nice.

She reconnects with her best friends in Boston, Josie and Lucy, only to discover that they too have been on the receiving end of some glaring Guy Don'ts. So when the girls have to come up with something to put in the senior class time capsule, they know exactly what to do. They'll create a not-so-nice reference guide for future generations of guys -- an instruction book that teaches them the right way to treat girls.

But when her friends draft Emily to test out their tips on Luke Preston -- the hottest, most popular guy in school, who just broke up with Josie by email -- Emily soon finds that Luke is the trickiest of test subjects . . . and that even a nice girl like Emily has a few things to learn about love.

Review: 
This book can be described using two words: fun and flirty!

You can tell by looking at the cover that this is a quick and fun read. Emily's plan is completely idiotic. Making a reference guide for guys? Obviously this is gonna blow up in her face. This book is completely predictable from beginning to end, from the creation of the book to the huge blow up, finally leading up to the fairytale ending.

So why bother reading? Well, it's the fun and flirty aspect I mentioned earlier. This is the perfect beach read, and the characters really make the book. Emily is a snob who thinks she knows everything, so you hope and hope that the wonderful and sexy Luke will teach her a lesson and that she'll stop being so self-centered.

Really, if it weren't for the characters, this book wouldn't be half as fun. But in the end you start to like Emily, and Luke is sexy throughout so it's a win-win situation for everybody.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Replacement

The Replacement
Brenna Yovanoff
September 2010
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Review:
I've gotta admit: I didn't like this book very much.

The problem is that it's hard to articulate what I feel about it. The whole thing just doesn't sit right with me. I didn't particularly like Mackie, and I didn't particularly like Tate, so the characters didn't quite do it for me. I also wasn't particularly intrigued by the story. Which odd, considering I've been dying to read this since it came out.

Overall, this book just left no impression on me. The characters fell flat, the story was dull, and it was just overall an unmemorable book. I tried so hard to like it; I really did. And it was kind of interesting, and definitely unique, but it will rest next to books like The Forest of Hands and Teeth (which I also found to be dull and uninteresting) in my heart. Was it inherently bad? Not at all. Just not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Host

The Host
Stephenie Meyer
May 2008
Reading Level: Adult

Summary:
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

Review:
I have to say this first and foremost:

THE HOST IS NOT TWILIGHT.

Just in case anyone out there says, "Oh, Twilight sucks so I'm not even going to bother reading The Host, because I'm sure that sucks just as bad."

The Host totally blows Twilight out of the water. Where Twilight is all fluff and bad writing, The Host is intellectual and captivating and thoughtful.

I read it when it first came out in 2008, and I loved it then. I read it again recently, and once again I was struck by how wonderful this novel is.

The uniqueness of it really strikes me. You would expect someone who started the whole vampire craze to lack imagination and stick to preapproved subjects, but Meyer does something completely different. While it is dystopian, it is not like other dystopian novels.

The relationships in the novel are so powerful, and that's the main reason I love this book so much.. Nothing is black and white.. With two "people" inhabiting one body and one mind, it's impossible to draw clear and distinct lines, especially when it comes to strong emotions such as love and hate.

This book also takes a good look at what it takes to be human. One of my favorite parts is when a character states that The Wanderer (who is not human) is more human than other actual humans. It shows that being human is more than skin deep. This is something that's hard to articulate, and yet Meyer shows it clearly through The Wanderer's interactions with the humans she lives with.

While I'll admit the book has a slow start, I would highly encourage anyone to push a little harder if they are struggling. The book picks up so suddenly, and it's impossible to put down once you get into it. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Lost Summer

The Lost Summer
Kathryn Williams
July 2009
Reading Level: YA







Summary:
"I died one summer, or I almost did. Part of me did. I don't say that to be dramatic, only because it's true."
For the past nine years, Helena Waite has been returning to summer camp at Southpoint. Every year the camp and its familiar routines, landmarks, and people have welcomed her back like a long-lost family member. But this year she is returning not as a camper, but as a counselor, while her best friend, Katie Bell remains behind. All too quickly, Helena discovers that the innocent world of campfires, singalongs, and field days have been pushed aside for late night pranks on the boys' camp, skinny dipping in the lake, and stolen kisses in the hayloft. As she struggles to define herself in this new world, Helena begins to lose sight of what made camp special and the friendships that have sustained her for so many years. And when Ransome, her longtime crush, becomes a romantic reality, life gets even more confusing.

Told with honesty and heart, Kathryn Williams' second novel tackles the timeless theme of growing up, set at a camp where innocence is created and lost.
Review:
In order to review this book, I have to give you an idea about what I was expecting. First of all, the title: The Lost Summer. Okay, a summer book. Secondly, the publisher: Disney. Yes, this book is published by Disney. And Disney is the King of the Happy Ending. So I knew it was going to have a cheesy ending. Third, the cover and the genre. A girl standing on a dock? Okay, that goes with the summer theme. YA? Obviously this is going to be some cheesy book about a girl getting her fairytale ending.

The one redeeming quality that I found at first was the summary. I love tales of camp, and the story seemed interesting, at least.

As you've probably already guessed, I was completely wrong and learned my lesson about judging books based on little evidence.

I was actually surprised to find a book published by Disney that doesn't fit nicely into the mold of What to Expect from Disney.

Obviously, it is a summer book. I was right about that aspect. However, I wasn't really accurate in thinking that everything was going to be happy-go-lucky and turn out happily ever after. The ending was bittersweet and totally unexpected, which is a definite plus.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the relationship between Helena and Katie took precedence over the relationship between Helena and her camp sweetheart. While both were important, I'm glad that each got their fair share of attention and both were shown in a realistic way.
Overall, this is still a tale of summer. But it's also something much more than that. It's a coming of age tale, first and foremost. Helena goes through milestones this summer, and you can see the change in her as she grows as a person. It's also a tale of how relationships between people change as you age. Her relationship with her camp sweetheart and her relationship with Katie both define her for awhile, and in the end she realizes what's important in life.

This is still a short and sweet summer book, but it's got an extra layer of depth that isn't found in a lot of the books classified as "beach reads." I'd definitely recommend this as a book to read for any season.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Read-a-thon End of Event Meme: The Final Update

 
End of Event Meme
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    Probably hour... 16? Or so? The time I went to bed.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    All of the books I read were really good and kept my interest. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (and the other two collaborations by them would also be awesome for the readathon), and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which I'm sure everyone else has read by now.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
     More cheerleaders? I was excited to have people commenting on my posts and cheering me on, but didn't see a lot of that happening. More than usual, definitely, but I'd want to see each blog getting a good amount of attention, no matter how big or small.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    Twitter! Twitter support was so great!
  5. How many books did you read?
    2.5
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    Wintergirls, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, and half of The Lovely Bones
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    Dash and Lily. Super cute :)
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    I loved them all but if I were to pick I'd say... Wintergirls. But that's holding it up to some high standards, so please don't take that to mean that I disliked the book in any significant way.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    Just what I said before... get around more. But I understand that there were too many readers and not enough cheerleaders.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    100% likely. I'll be half cheerleader half reader next time.

    And I'm going to add a few of my own questions...
  11. How many pages did you read? 
    752
  12. How much time did you spend reading?
    Approximately 10 hours. Woo!
Readathon was super great, and I want to thank everyone who stopped by my blog, commented on my posts, and supported me via Twitter! I'm definitely looking forward to April and I hope to be even more involved!

Jane

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Picturrific Mini Challenge: The Lovely Bones

This was an easy picture to choose:

This is Jessica Ridgeway. She was a ten year old girl from Colorado, and she disappeared on October 5th and her body was later discovered in pieces.

Hearing this story brought tears to my eyes. It disturbs me greatly that there are people that exist in this world that would harm an innocent girl.

The resemblance to The Lovely Bones is uncanny: both cases involve a girl disappearing close to her home, objects being found before the bodies, and pieces of the bodies being found. In both cases, the murderer has yet to be identified.

Jessica's story really moved me to the point that I wanted to put The Lovely Bones down and read something that didn't remind me of the horrors that continue to exist on this planet. But I continue to read in the hopes that both Susie and Jessica's killers are found and brought to justice.

Jane

Read-a-Thon Mid-Event Survey!

I really apologize for all of my Read-a-Thon posts... I'm just so swept up by the awesomeness of this idea, that I'm trying to participate in as much of it as I can!

Which brings me to...

The Mid-Event Survey

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
Unfortunately, yes. But my goal is 12 hours, and I've done 8... I only have 4 more to do in the next 11 hours, which means that even if I have to sleep for a few hours I can still accomplish my goal (plus some if I'm feeling really ambitious!)

2) What have you finished reading?
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, and am about a quarter way through The Lovely Bones.

3) What is your favorite read so far?
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. I love Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's collaboration books; they are funny, sweet, and insightful.

4) What about your favorite snacks?
Haven't really snacked a whole lot. The best "snack" is one I haven't even mentioned yet: double mocha cappuccino. Unfortunately the powdered kind, but it's perfect for when my hands get cold!

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
I've been focusing mainly on my reading and participating in my own challenges, so sadly I have not looked at any blogs. However, I do plan on going back and looking at blogs tomorrow, after the challenge is over!

Jane

Read-a-Thon Update #3


Read-a-thon Update: 12 PM to 6 PM

(click here for info!)

Title of book(s) read:
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (only read the last 16 pages, so it doesn't count)
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (finished)
  •  Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (finished!)

Thoughts on current read:
Just finished Dash and Lily and loved it! Although it was kind of funny how Lily was talking about Fiji and how she didn't want to live there, and I lived in Fiji for 4 and a half months and would happily go back!

Number of books read since you started: 2

Pages read since last update: 235

Running total of pages read since you started: 554
  
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 2.5 hours
 
Running total of time spent reading since you started:
  6.5 hours

Mini-challenges completed:
Oldies but Goodies
Snacks
Turn to Page
Marking Books
Day Break
Read-a-Thon Acrostic 
and am about to complete this one:
Celebrating the Reading Child

The Reading Child
I first discovered my love of reading as a first grader. I honestly don't know exactly how it came about, but all of my memories lead me to believe it was because of a teacher: Mrs. Lonegra.

Somehow, I connected with her. I remember being put into a special group that specialized in writing and (I think) reading. I remember admiring her in all the ways a young child can admire her. I also remember, upon hearing that I was moving to Wisconsin and would never see her in the hallways again, I was upset. But the best part of our relationship was yet to come: she gave all of her students her address, so we could write her over the summer if we wanted.

I wrote to her, and this led to more than ten years of correspondence. It was usually only one or two letters a year, but it was something that I treasured. We talked of life, books, and family. And she came to my high school graduation, four hours away, even though she hadn't seen me in twelve years.

This woman was not only a teacher; she was a friend. And it is because of her that my love of reading blossomed. So every time someone asks me, "Why do you like to read so much?" I always pinpoint it back to my first grade year, where I met one of my good friends who inspired me to open myself to new worlds, and to make the most of the world I live in.

Read-a-Thon Update #2

Read-a-thon Update: 9 AM to 12 PM

(click here for info!)

Title of book(s) read:
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (only read the last 16 pages, so it doesn't count)
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (finished)
  •  Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (in progress)

Thoughts on current read:
I am only on page 25 but I am really enjoying it! I'm sure it'll go by very quickly!

Number of books read since you started: 1

Pages read since last update: 179

Running total of pages read since you started: 319
  
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 2 hours

Running total of time spent reading since you started:
  4 hours

Mini-challenges completed:
Oldies but Goodies
Snacks
Turn to Page

Read-a-Thon Update #1

Read-a-thon Update: 7 to 9 AM

(click here for info!)

Title of book(s) read since last update:
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (only read the last 16 pages, so it doesn't count)

  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (in progress)

Thoughts on current read:
This book is wonderful. I know there's a lot of thought I could put into it, but since I'm focusing on the Read-a-thon I'm just making mental notes of what to think about, and then I'll think a little deeper once the Read-a-thon is done!

Number of books read since you started: 0 complete books, but finished 1

Pages read since last update: 140


Running total of pages read since you started: 140
  140

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 2 hours

Running total of time spent reading since you started:
  2 hours

Mini-challenges completed:
About to complete one right now...


Snacks!
1. Water for hydration.
2. Coke for flavor (it's always my drink of choice!)
3. Granola bars for a quick fix.
4. Sour cream and onion potato chips for the fun of it.
5. Cheese crackers for yumminess.
6. Apples for energy. Which I'm about to eat one now to get me through the rest of Wintergirls.

Things are going good so far, but I'm just waiting for a crash!

Jane

Read-a-Thon Opening Meme!


So happy to be off to a good start with my first Read-a-Thon! An official update will come in an hour or so! (I apologize to those followers who don't really care- but I'll try to keep the updates short and interesting!)

And without further adieu, I will now be answering the questions from the opening meme!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Chicago, IL.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I've had this book for years and haven't read it... it's definitely time to remedy that.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Sour cream and onion potato chips.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I am a college student, 20 years old, and reading is my only real hobby. However I also enjoy writing on occasion, traveling, and meeting new people :)
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to seeing how much I can push myself. It'll be interesting to see how long I'll last!

Now I'm off to read some more! Good luck to everyone else participating!

Jane

Dewey's Read-a-Thon

Since I have nothing going on today, I decided (very last-minute) to participate in the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. (Click here for info!)

It begins RIGHT NOW! So in an ideal world, I will currently be sitting in my comfy chair and reading one of the following books:

1. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
2. Looking for Alaska by John Green
3. The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis
4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I do have a few other books with me (unfortunately my glorious bookshelf is back home, so I have to settle with a small selection). I also have a library right down the street, so if there are problems with motivation or boredom, I can walk down there, grab a latte, and pick up a different book that gets me more excited.

I will try my best to update every hour to two hours. And I will also try my best to actually participate for the majority of the 24 hours.

Wish me luck!

Jane

Friday, October 12, 2012

Across the Universe + A Million Suns

Across the Universe && A Million Suns
Beth Revis
January 2011; January 2012
Reading Level: YA

Summary:

Summary is for Across the Universe:

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.

Review: 
The first two books in the Across the Universe trilogy are perfect examples of what I love to see in a young adult book. I will demonstrate this by making a list of the aspects of the novels that make them so wonderful and unique:
1. There is love and romance. I include this first because it is one of the things that I find the least important in a novel. However, the relationship between Amy and Elder is one that is incredibly difficult and complex, and that's what I love about it. As in real life, love and attraction is not clear cut or simple. In these novels it's clear that there is a mixture of love, obsession, fascination, and also confusion in their relationship. Despite what these characters may hope for, this is not a fairytale story, and whether there will be a fairytale ending remains to be seen.

2. The situation is hopeless. I LOVE when characters find themselves in situations that are completely out of their comfort zones. I hate when authors provide quick and easy solutions to truly difficult and impossible situations just for the sake of a happy ending. The problems of Amy and Elder are both impossible, and there are no easy solutions. Therefore, the ending is entirely unpredictable. So even though this is a dystopian story, the situations are as realistic as they can possibly be.

3. The story itself is unique. I'm sure there are plenty of books out there that are Star Wars or Star Trek related that regale the stories of Han Solo or Captain Kirk or whoever, but this is the first time I've seen a story set on a spaceship that is intended for a general young adult audience, as opposed to the audience for a Star Wars or Star Trek type story. I wasn't sure what to expect from this, which left me pleasantly surprised when I found something completely enjoyable and unique.


4. Both books were addicting. When I can't put down a book, I know it's good. This is a combination of all the above factors as well as the intrigue and suspense provided by the author.

Based on the above factors, these were both excellent books. I would definitely recommend them to young adult readers, and if you're still feeling skeptical, then let me just say that I was too when I started, but your concerns will quickly be eased once you get started and become wrapped up in the story.

Note: Look for the third and final installment to this incredible trilogy, Shades of Earth, available January 15, 2013!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten Books That Make You Think

TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. It's a lot of fun so stop by if you get the chance :)

Top Ten (erm, Twelve) Books that Make You Think
Another rewind week, and I came up with tons of books that made me think about a variety of topics. 
I couldn't narrow it down to just 10, so here's 12:
 
 
1. Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger. I read this awhile ago, but I remember I was blown away when thinking about the main character's relationship to his lesbian friend (I don't even remember either of their names, that's how long it's been). This is one of those few young adult books that says, "Hey, first love is not always easy, and there's not always a happy ending." 
 
2. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.
Now, this applies to all (well, most... The Tenth Circle is the exception, as I hated that book) of Jodi Picoult's books that I've read. While I know a lot of people get sick of the repetition of her books, I love how each one takes an important issue and looks at it from a number of different perspectives. It always makes me think outside the box.

 
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
This book was awesome because it got me thinking about how my interactions with others really have an impact on others. Something I take as being completely innocent and unimportant could have huge repercussions on the way other people feel about themselves.
4. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.
Every young person should read this book, because it looks at someone who is seemingly weird and different and shows you her perspective. I relate to her because I was always weird or different growing up, and I always felt like I was judged unfairly. I also know that even though I was judged unfairly, I also have judged others in the same way, and this book helped me see that and made me take a closer look at myself and how I could improve.

 


5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Feminism, capitalism, materialism, etc. etc. I can't say that I'm consciously thinking about these things when I'm reading, but I see that they're there and I am able to recognize it when I'm reflecting.

 



 
6. The Host by Stephenie Meyer.
I recently re-read this, and for the second time I was blown away by the beauty of it. The Host takes a look at what it really means to be human, which is something I will always be thinking about since reading it.

 


 


7. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.
Such an amazing book! It definitely makes you think about how war affects the innocent bystanders, especially children, and how it can change lives forever.

 


8. Sold by Patricia McCormick.
This book about a young girl sold into prostitution was sooo painful to read. I couldn't imagine if I wasn't able to live the cozy life I live now. Most Americans are so blessed to not have this sort of oppression in our lives, and I can't believe that more people aren't aware of how common sex trafficking is in developing countries. Read this! 


9. Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger.
While I remember I wasn't blown away by this book itself, I know that I was shocked about how limited my reading is. I rarely read young adult books about teens who are of a different race/religion/heritage/etc. It was surprising to read this and it made me want to read other novels that feature characters who grew up different than myself.
10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
This was another book that made me think about war and children. Most people think about World War II and think about Hitler and concentration camps, but this book shows the behind the scenes, everyday life of people living in Hitler's Germany.

11. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
Awesome book that shows a different culture and how colonization affects the lives of indigenous people. While this book is set in Africa, it could easily be describing the colonization of any other country out there. 

12. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.
I've thought about this book a lot since reading it earlier this year, and what really gets me is how society pushes people to behave one way, while natural instinct pushes people to behave the way they want. It's unfortunate that girls like Maggie Tulliver were so oppressed up until fairly recently, and this book made me also think about oppression today and how it affects my life as a woman. 

I hope you enjoyed my list! What are some of your favorite thought-provoking books?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Going Bovine

Going Bovine
Libba Bray
September 2009
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
Can Cameron find what he’s looking for?
All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

Review:
Libba Bray is an amazing author, as she proved with The Gemma Doyle Trilogy. However, I think that the events in Going Bovine were just a little too different for me.

This book is filled with crazy circumstances. The whole book focuses on Cameron, who has mad cow disease, and his adventures trying to find a cure for his disease. The adventures he has are totally wacky, for lack of a better word, but something kept me turning the pages. The question that kept me going is whether or not Cameron was hallucinating or not, and it became clearer and clearer as the book went on. 

I will say this, the writing itself is impeccable. I wouldn't have read a book this wacky if the writing was bad, but Libba Bray knows how to draw a reader in.


Lastly, the message of the book was definitely a good one, even if the story itself was weird. It was a tale of love, friendship, and most of all finding yourself. While the content of the book wasn't my cup of tea, the message was great, and the writing was great, and so I'd say there's definitely a reason that this book won the Printz Award, even if I didn't love it the way I wanted it to.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons
Dan Brown
2000
Reading Level: Adult

Summary:
World-renowned Harvard symboligist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a cryptic symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. What he discovers is unimaginable: a deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church by a centuries-old underground organization - the Illuminati. Desperate to save the Vatican from a powerful time bomb, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra. Together they embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth . . . the long-forgotten Illuminati lair.

Review:
Having read Deception Point last year and loving it, I had to give Dan Brown another try. However, I am sad to say that I don't think I'll be reading any more of his books.

 The one thing that I think really ruined my opinion of the book is something I did to myself: I went online and I looked at reviews. And all of the negative reviews said that there are inaccuracies in the book, and so I looked at a list of inaccuracies and it just made the book seem so ridiculous, because apparently Dan Brown doesn't do his research. However, as a work of fiction I can kind of overlook that. Kind of. It's hard to respect a book when the author doesn't do his research.

If I hadn't read any reviews, and if I had just gone and read the book, I probably would have still thought it was just alright. My main problem is that the main character, Robert Langdon, gets out of EVERY sticky situation with hardly a scratch, it seems. This whole book takes place over the course of a day, and I know that if I had a day like he did I would be scarred for life. But everything is peachy. The book goes like this: impossible situation, repeat x 1,000,000, throw in some sexual tension, then end with a twist, and then some love making. Voila, that's Angels and Demons. But of course there's the religious aspect, but I'm ignoring that because it doesn't matter to me. All that matters is that the story was a little exciting, but predictable because by now I've learned how Dan Brown operates, and I'm sure all of his other books are remarkably similar.

Overall: it was okay. But I wouldn't recommend going on a Dan Brown reading spree, because they'll start to blur together and get boring after 2 or 3.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emma && The Mill on the Floss

If you're anything like I was 6 months ago, you're probably reading the title and thinking, "Oh, I know Jane Austen... but who the heck is this George Eliot person? And why are they being grouped together?"

Well, I'll tell you this: George Eliot (AKA Mary Ann Evans) wrote novels in the 1800s. And whatya know, so did Jane Austen. And also, remarkably enough, there are some incredible similarities between the two novels mentioned in the title. Since I had to read both novels for my English class this past semester, and since I wrote a compare and contrast essay on them for part of my final exam, I feel like I should write my reviews in a similar way.

So, without further adieu, please let me introduce:

EMMA VS. THE MILL ON THE FLOSS

It's only fair that I start with the similarities between the two novels. Both feature strong female leads living in 19th century England, and both females come from prominent families. Both characters are stuck living a life that does not suit them. Emma tries to overcome this by playing with her friends and making matches to add a little entertainment to her life. Maggie Tulliver (the protagonist in The Mill on the Floss) wants desperately to be loved by her brother, but at the same time she wants to be something more than the obedient and, well, boring woman that she is expected by her family to be. 

The two novels are also remarkably similar in writing style. The narrator in both novels is constantly critiquing the events of the novel. In Emma, the situations are always laughable, and the narrator makes sure that the reader sees the humor clearly. In The Mill on the Floss, the narrator is a bit more scolding, almost like it wants to make sure the reader doesn't jump to silly conclusions. The narrator's commentary really makes both of the books memorable.

However, there are a number of differences between the two novels that are important to keep in mind. First: Emma is a comedy. You are meant to laugh at the events, and you are meant to read the book knowing that it will end happily, with a marriage of some sort where two happy people ride off into the sunset, or whatever it is that newlyweds did back in the 19th century.

The Mill on the Floss is not a comedy, or at least not predominantly. It is a tragedy, from beginning to end. You see Maggie's impossible situation from the first page, where you learn what is expected from the spirited little girl. You know the only possible outcomes would be for her to either succumb to societies expectations of her, which will crush her spirits and leave her unhappy, or to live her life as an outcast from her own family, which would make her unhappy because of her extreme desire to please her brother Tom. You know that there is no fairytale ending.

Okay, so that's the end of my analysis. Even though there are similarities and differences between the two novels, they are both really good in their own ways. Emma is hilarious if you let yourself get lost in the ridiculousness of the characters, and it's really just a fun novel that you can't help but love in the end. The Mill on the Floss is also amazing. There is a bit of humor, but it's mostly heart-wrenching and tear-jerking and you find yourself rooting for Maggie the whole way. It's a long book, I'll give it that, and at times it can be difficult to read it, but once you get through it you can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment.


I would recommend BOTH of these novels to anyone looking to expand their literary pursuits. I loved them both, although I have to say The Mill on the Floss has a truly special place in my heart. You should definitely give it a try.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger
September 2003
Reading Level: Adult

Summary:

Audrey Niffenegger's innovative debut, The Time Traveler's Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler's Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's marriage and their passionate love for each other, as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals -- steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Review:
The Time Traveler's Wife is a book that is hard to describe. It's different than any other love story I've ever read, and for that reason I completely love it.
Clare has known Henry since she was a little girl, and she knew almost from the beginning that she would end up married to him. It is this detail that makes the novel so interesting and the love so different: as a reader, I was constantly wondering how Clare could handle such a life, because she could never be sure that her love is true, or if it was simply an obligation to be fulfilled. While it's clear that Henry and Clare's love was strong, there was always something more behind it.

The story itself is a different take on time travel as well; instead of seeing it as something supernatural, it's simply a fact of life that must be worked around and suffered through. And personally, I've always loved time travel stories, so this love story was right up my alley.

While I feel the book got off to a slow start- too much dialogue, I would say- it definitely picked up and rocked my world. I was so into the story that it was impossible to give up, even after I'd turned the last page. I'd definitely recommend it to someone who's looking for a good, solid romance. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Every Other Day

Every Other Day
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
December 2011
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.

And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.

Review:
I've heard nothing but good things about Jennifer Lynn Barnes' books, and so when I picked up Every Other Day I was beyond excited to read it.

I was a little put off by the idea behind it, to tell you the truth. The book is targeted toward Buffy fans, and since I'm kind of indifferent to Buffy I wasn't sure what to expect. I also wasn't totally drawn in by the description on the back cover.

Nevertheless, I took the leap and gave it a try. Fortunately, I found the book to be very enjoyable. My only minor problem is that it seemed really, really far-fetched. I understand that that's the point with supernatural books like this, but with this book it just seemed a little bit contrived. This alternate world that Barnes was creating just didn't feel effortless to me.

Other than that, I was completely drawn into the story. I loved Kali's character. She's strong, independent, and yet she feels completely alone. Up until this point in her life, she's been happy with being alone, but now that she's been given a good dose of friendship she realizes just how lonely she really is. Her emotional and physical journeys throughout the book are both believable and give the reader a true sense of understanding and compassion for her.

I also loved the eccentricity of Skylar, one of Kali's new friends. Bethany showed some, but not a lot, of the same sort of depth of character that Kali showed, and I think without their depth the story would have lost a lot of its power and meaning. As it is, the characters and their struggles really brought the story together.

The conclusion of the story was satisfying and unsatisfying all at once. I can see where the story could end here, because Kali's life has sort of fallen into place, but I can also see where the story could easily be built upon into a series. That being said, Every Other Day is meant to be a standalone, and so readers may have to use their imagination for some aspects that may not have been tied up as neatly as they could have been.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Water for Elephants [movie review]

Water for Elephants
Starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon
Fox 2011

Based on Sara Gruen's novel, Water for Elephants is a movie that tries to recapture the magic from the novel and transform it into something that can be witnessed through film.

I am happy to say that the movie was a success. I am not somebody who is extremely picky about things staying true to the book, because I know that the things that make a good book are not always the things that make a good movie, but this movie was able to retain all the important aspects of the book and still make a decent movie. It was hard not to be nit-picky when I had just finished reading the book, but in reality there is very little to nit-pick at. The movie was very well done, and I must say that Robert Pattinson makes a much better vet than he does a vampire.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Girlfriend Material

Girlfriend Material
Melissa Kantor
May 2009
Reading Level: YA

Summary:
If Kate were Lady Brett Ashley, the devastating heroine of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, she'd spend her summers careering around the Riviera in her coupe, breaking hearts by the dozen—because why not? In reality, Kate's never even had a boyfriend, and she'll be spending the summer abetting her mom's lame ploy to make her dad jealous: running off to Cape Cod and crashing at the seaside home of her wealthy friends, the Cooper-Melnicks. To add to the shame, the Cooper-Melnicks' gorgeous daughter Sarah is a bit like Lady Brett, and she seems less than thrilled to hang out with her new houseguest. Any dreams Kate once had of a perfect summer are ruined.

That is, until Sarah's cute, witty friend Adam starts drawing Kate into the fold—and seems intrigued. With Adam around, Kate feels like she just might have a bit of heartbreaker potential after all. But when a breezy summer romance quickly grows more complicated can Kate keep pretending her relationship with Adam is just a carefree fling? Or will she take the risk and tell him her real feelings? Suddenly Kate is asking herself a question she never thought she'd stoop to: Is she girlfriend material?

Review:
There are a few simple words to describe this book: cute, fun, quick, enjoyable, and summer-y. All of these apply, and so if you're looking for something that qualifies for any or all of these adjectives, then I would definitely recommend Girlfriend Material.

The book is incredibly short and easy to get through, and there's not a whole lot going on as far as intense reading. That's why it's so hard to write this review, because there's nothing to really analyze. It was just a lot of fun to read. I liked Kate, I liked Adam, I liked the story and the way that Kate's relationships with those around her got solved and worked through, and I thought it was really cute and romantic. If you've read any of Melissa Kantor's books and liked them, I'd definitely recommend this book. And even if you haven't, it's the perfect beach read.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Water for Elephants [book review]

Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen
May 2006
Reading Level: Adult

Summary:
An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.
Review: 
I had heard from a number of good friends how amazing this book was, and I know it's extremely popular with the movie, so I borrowed it from a friend and read it.

I didn't find the book to be quite as magnificent as I was hoping. This is probably due to the extreme hype around it, though. There were a number of things that I really enjoyed about it. I loved the switching points of view between old Jacob and young Jacob. That definitely added something magical to the story. I also loved the idea of the circus; it's not something you come across too often, and so it sparked my interest and kept me entertained throughout the novel.

Others might find it to be magical, but I was not completely awestruck. However, the unique plot and likeable characters kept me involved and interested from beginning to end. This was not really what I was expecting, but it was still good enough not to be too big of a disappointment.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Do popular reviews influence a person's opinion of a book?

I've decided to put a poll up on my blog (see the top left sidebar) to answer a question I've been wondering about for some time.

Does reading popular reviews influence your overall opinion of a book?

This question has been in my mind for years, in fact. This is because I read raving reviews about a book that I won't mention, and then when I picked it up and started reading I felt like it wasn't very good. Ever since then, I've wondered if maybe my expectations were too high, and that's why I was disappointed. I wonder if I were to pick it up again and read it again with a fresh mind, if maybe I would think differently and enjoy it more.

So the purpose of that poll is to see if anybody else experiences the same thing when they've heard awesome reviews, or even negative reviews for that matter. So please answer the poll and if you have any thoughts feel free to comment on this post, because I would love to hear what everyone thinks!

Jane

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Covers

Go check out Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish!


Top Ten Favorite Covers
The dresses! Ahhh!
Love the colors
Love it so much I got a tattoo!
Creepy!
Old version- true to book.
love the tears!

Simple is good.


Nothing like an eye cover.
Also true to the book.
very pretty.


-Jane