Monday, October 22, 2012

Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Publication Date: September 17, 2002
Publisher: September 17, 2002
Pages: 208
Keywords: letters, books, dystopia
Format read: paperback via PaperBackSwap
Get It: Book Depository
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island's Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue, they also disappear from the novel.
One of my friends that I work with in the Publications office here at school told me about this novel, and I knew I had to read it. I received it a few weeks ago via PaperBackSwap and finished it over my fall break. I was very excited to read it for several reasons:
1. The sentence and author that the story revolves around? I'm learning about him and using his principles in my typography class this semester.
2. I love language. I love that this entire fictitious island revolved around letter-writing and the reverence of words and the ways they are used.
3. I was also extremely curious to see which letters would go first, and which ones the author was bold enough to eliminate fairly early on in the novel.

I was so pleased with the result. The first few letters did a wonderful job with setting the scene, introducing the characters that would play a big role, and letting the readers know a little bit about the world in which they live without being very obviously that. There were quite a few letters before a letter actually fell off the statue, so it wasn't too much to jump into. And there was a good amount of spacing between when each letter fell off. I also liked how the characters worked to try to solve the problem on their own.

Another interesting point about the book — the author didn't pretend that the US didn't exist, and I liked that. He acknowledged the fact that it was weird this society didn't really use modern technology, and the contiguous states didn't really understand that. There were brief insertions about how the States were trying to understand what was happening on Nollop, but at the same time, they couldn't figure out why it was so devastating to the society. There was also an outsider that attempted to help at some point, and he seemed extremely fascinating. I wish I could have seen him more, but as it's an epistolary novel, it's kind of hard to truly develop the characters.

That's really the only thing I wanted to change about this. I loved the letters, but this could have been such an interesting story had it been expanded as an actual novel with letters interspersed in the text. That would have given Dunn more room for developed characters and plot lines, and a much more in depth text of the events that occurred when the letters began falling off the statue.

Nonetheless, this was such a quaint little book that I dearly loved.

Read When: You're ready for a really uniquely written novel, and not just plots and characters, but how the novel is written. It's a delight.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Silent Land

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
Publication Date: November 18, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 262
Keywords: afterlife, winter, mystery
Format Read: ARC from publisher in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)

In the French Alps around Chamonix, Jake and Zoe are on an early morning ski run when a flash avalanche charges down the mountain and buries them alive. Miraculously, they dig their way out — only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. The sudden evacuation has left Jake and Zoe to face a terrifying situation alone, with another catastrophic avalanche looming high above the hotel, threatening to bury them again. And as they explore their new reality, the couple begins to witness unsettling events neither one can ignore — and they are forced to confront a frightening truth about the silent land they now inhabit. 

I loved this. Every moment of it. It was very odd, but still extremely captivating. When Jake and Zoe unbury themselves from the snow, everything is silent. Their hotel and its town is abandoned, and they attempt to make contact with anyone that may still be near. But strange things happen early on that give them hints that the world may be changed. Candles don't burn down, they don't seem to taste or remember from their past. They don't feel cold or warm, and everything is unnaturally still. All the time.  And they couldn't figure out what kind of world they were in. But the best part? Neither could I.

Every moment I wanted to find out what was going to happen. But it wasn't an exciting sort of suspenseful. It was the eerie spooky kind, like the kind before something jumps out at you in a haunted house. It was so quiet and so still that I was holding my breath because I was scared of the answer. And some bits broke my heart.

Now, the story did have a few flaws. It wasn't extremely well-written, and there were parts that I thought could have been explained a little better. For instance, the first half drove me mad with all its descriptors. I mean, there are only so many ways you can say "silent" and "snow." Then, you're done. As far as the unexplained things go, I know that the point of it was to keep both the characters and the readers confused and not sure why things happened and things appeared (it's really REALLY hard to describe this cohesively without messing it up for people), but at the same time, once I finished it, I was still confused about a few things that took place about midway through. I was really upset with the situation with Sadie, Jake's dog. The dog appeared about midway through the novel, and then disappeared again, only to reappear later. I'm not sure what happened there, but I didn't get the connection, even after I finished.

This was just a fascinating story, and I loved the outcomes it posed of the new world they ended up in. Jake and Zoe had such a dynamic relationship. It wasn't perfect nor too rocky, but the right amount of love with some fear mixed in. I just loved the way they interacted with one another.
It's also a great read for the season, since winter is approaching soon. I love reading books that match the actual season. It makes them seem more festive and appropriate. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In My Mailbox: UPDATE



So here's the deal: It's hard to do posts like this when I'm at school because most books I get go to my house. And then I don't see them until Thanksgiving or Christmas when I haul an ungodly amount of books back to school to start the semester. HOWEVER:
I have been exploring this week, and on Sunday, I drove to Newburgh, IN. (I'm in Evansville going to school, for those of you that don't know) Newburgh is this cute little historic town on the Ohio river (nothing too new, I'm from Louisville, so no biggie) but there's this adorable little used book store called The Book Nook. So I decided I was going to go explore a bit on my own. So I got stuff there. On the way back, I stopped at Barnes & Noble with a gift card I got from my baby brother (who is in COLLEGE this year! eeeshk!), where I acquired J.K. Rowling's new book. I am VERY excited to read it. Then, yesterday, a used book sale happened at school. Resulting in this. NINETEEN BOOKS. I am a very happy, albeit very poor, girl. Let me recap:

In the mail for review/from PaperBackSwap:
1. Girl Reading by Kate Ward
2. Grace Grows by Shelle Summers
3. Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin

From Barnes & Noble:
4. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
5. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
6. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

From the Book Nook:
7. Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge
8. Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
9. Princess Vic by James Brough
10. Persuasion by Jane Austen

From the book sale:
11. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart
12. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
13. Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
14. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
15. Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott
16. Coiled in the Heart by Scott Elliott
17. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
18. Obedience by Will Lavender
19. The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru

That's SO MANY books! Did I mention a few months ago I also got The Age of Miracles in the mail? I am so lucky! Anyway, trying to keep up on reading all of these on top of my literature classes. Slowly plowing my way through Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Notes from the Blender

Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 240
Keywords: divorce, growing up, family
Format Read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)

Summary: Declan loves death metal--particularly from Finland. And video games--violent ones. And internet porn--any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway. Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to which Declan is never invited). She's the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested-- or it was until today, when she's dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she's getting a new brother--of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan's dad is marrying Neilly's mom. Soon. Which means they'll be moving in together.


I'll start off by saying that I think the summary is a little misleading. The story does not revolve around Declan's struggle with liking Neilly. It actually is a really interesting story, and it makes me sad that the summary seems to focus on only that. 

The book follows their journey to becoming good friends and discovering a little bit more about themselves along the way. I liked Declan, but I thought it was weird how much he talked about sex. I mean, obviously guys do. But we could just assume that, and I was a little tired of reading it every chapter. By the same stroke, Neilly was a stereotypical girl, and I got annoyed at her constant "What should I do?" and "OMG I HATE HER."

But aside from that, it was a pretty cute story. I really enjoyed the development between Neilly and her personal faith. She ended up attending this cute little unitarian church that Declan's aunt (I think?) was either a member of or preached at. It was the best part of the book, as that was where the characters were truest to themselves and they actually learned things. I liked that. 

Not a whole lot to say about the rest of it. Not a bad read if you've got nothing else to do. The title also earned an extra point by itself. I like the title.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Water Wars

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 240
Keywords: dystopia, rebellion, war
Format Read: Hardcover from publisher (thank you!)

Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him — pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations.

I was excited to read this. I heard it was reminiscent of the Hunger Games. Exciting, right? 

This was such a promising idea, I was so sad at its execution. It just wasn't... anything. There wasn't enough explanation at all of what was going on, or who was at war with whom, or why there was no water, or why people were being kept in clumps and why schools were so particular on what they taught. I wanted to know everything. And there was so much room to do that! This book was not very long at all. It could have been so good. 

I was also mad at why Vera was so attracted to Kai. At first, he is the boy who knows where to get fresh water. Then, all of the sudden, they kiss. THERE WAS NO MIDDLE GROUND. Now, I know lots of YA books have girls who fall in love at first sight. BUT THIS WAS NOT THERE. There was no explanation whatsoever that Vera was even remotely attracted to Kai. 
Frustration. 

Overall, I was just confused. All the time. There were government corporations that did some stuff, and the kids fought, and some people died, and then some water was some places. But really, I am still confused on the plot and whether or not things actually happened. I don't think they did. I was just sad because this seemed like such a wonderful and interesting premise, but it just did not grab me. 

On a star rating, because I know some people like that: 2.5/5. Meh.

Blog Tour! Blind Spot by Laura Ellen


This post is brought to you by Laura Ellen's blog tour for her book "Blind Spot." 
You guys check out the trailer below!




She's also holding a contest over at her website, and the info is below! I'm super excited to read this, so you should be too!
What’s Your ‘Blind Spot’? Contest:
In Blind Spot, Roz has a visual impairment
that makes her feel insecure. As a result, she becomes so obsessed with proving she is 'normal' that she loses sight of everything else-- including
clues to a murder.
What's your blind spot? Was it getting on the cheer squad? Is it losing weight? Have you ever wanted something so bad that, like Roz, you lost or almost lost something or someone important to you?

Share it and you could win a signed hardcover of Blind Spot and the chance to have your 'blind spot' story posted on October 26th during Laura Ellen’s blog tour. Some of your favorite authors will be sharing their stories too!
To enter go to Laura Ellen’s website www.lauraellenbooks.com and fill out the contest form any time between October 2nd and midnight EST October 16, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wanderlove

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 338
Keywords: travel, art, summer
Format Read: ARC from publisher

Summary: It all begins with one question: Are you a Global Vagabond? Eighteen-year-old Bria Sandoval isn't, but she wants to be. In a quest to assert her independence, recommit herself to her neglected art, and enjoy some no-strings-attached hookups, Bria signs on for a guided tour of Central America — the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-discovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and diving instructor, and Starling, his outspoken humanitarian sister, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. 
Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad guy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they have in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan has found, is to keep moving forward. 
But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she wants to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

I haven't truly enjoyed a book like this in a long time. No, there wasn't anything profound or monumentally remarkable about this book. But I loved it. The story flowed so well and the characters' interactions were superb. Hubbard's writing was quick but filled with detail and description to keep the reader enthralled without being overkill.

The book started out rather mediocre, with Bria getting on the plane to head to Guatemala. It referenced her friends who ditched her at the last minute, and she kept referencing them throughout the book, but it was really unnecessary to have those characters. I was frustrated with the constant mentioning of friends back home that we never met nor care about.

Then, in the airport in central america, Bria meets Rowan and realizes her tour group is all old people who are vacationing, not traveling. In the first city her purse gets stolen and then she decides to stick with Rowan and Starling instead of the tour group. Finally, it began to pick up.

I loved reading about the different cities to which they traveled, and the different hostels in which they stayed. Hubbard also gave us two perspectives of this, one from Bria as the newcomer to the whole "barely showering and sleeping with bugs" lifestyle, and Rowan's view of a more experienced traveler. It was fun that we also kind of understood his thoughts through Bria's eyes.

I was glad Bria's story was about her changing, because let me tell you, if the book was about her past personality, I would HATE it. She was dependent upon her snobbish and selfish boyfriend and pretty much didn't believe in herself at all. So I was glad I didn't have to deal with that Bria. The traveling one was a wonderful character. I loved her perspective on other people and places and what she thought of all the cities.

I don't want to go into too much detail about the trip because a lot happens in each place, but about halfway through I was totally enthralled and loved reading about everything that they were experiencing. I'm still not entirely sure why I liked this so much, but it truly was just a superb and easy read. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pastworld

Pastworld by Ian Beck
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 355
Keywords: dystopia, travel, murder
Format Read: Hardcover from publisher (thank you!)


Summary: Pastworld is the greatest theme park ever devised. It's London - the real London - transformed into a living, breathing recreation of the Victorian era.
To Eve, a lifelong resident of Pastworld, horse-drawn carriages and gas lamps are modern technology. Eve doesn't even know she's living in a simulation - until she is forced to flee the only home she's ever known, and to confront the truth about her city and herself.
To Caleb, a tourist visiting Pastworld, the theme park is the perfect antidote to the stifling conformity and regulation of 2048. The gritty wildness of the past is thrilling - until he finds himself at the scene of a murder, holding the knife, and suddenly becomes a fugitive from an antiquated justice system.
And in the midst of it all, in the thick London fog, a dark and deadly figure prowls, claiming victim after victim. He's the Fantom, a creature both of the past and of the future, in whose dark purpose Caleb and Eve will find their destinies combined.


I was so excited. Let me repeat, SO EXCITED to read this book. Historical fiction is one of my very favorite genres, and I just spent last semester in England, learning about all sorts of historical time periods and events that happened throughout the course of the English history. So I was SO EXCITED to read this book. And it was a struggle to continue reading it once I started. 

From the beginning it didn't seem so bad. There was an interesting plot line developing. Eve, the child who was being taken care of by blind Jack, ran away because she didn't want to be a burden. Turns out, Jack was supposed to be protecting her, and we figure out early on it has something to do with a project called Prometheus. Sounds great, right? So then Eve runs to a circus, where she is strangely good as tightrope walking. Good, right? And then there's Caleb, and he and his father are visiting Pastworld and get caught up in a mysterious fight with 'ragged men' and Caleb ends up with a pocket watch that has an inscription on the back. Still awesome, right?

But this is how the book continued the entire way through. By page 300, I still didn't have any of my questions answered, nothing was explained, and the character points-of-view kept switching. Super frustrating. By the end of the book I was still just as disappointed. I was upset with the explanation for Eve and her super awesome tightrope skills. I was upset with the little background given for Caleb. The story seemed to involve his father and Jack more, so I was confused why Caleb got his own voice and narration in this. It also seemed like there were too many minor characters that were really unnecessary to the story. Quite frankly, I can think of about 4 that could be deleted and no one would ever know they were there to begin with. 

Overall, I was just left disappointed with everything. This book had so much potential, and it just fell short. I feel like it's a draft that somehow missed a content editing session and things weren't cleared up. I still might look for Beck's future stories just because of how interesting the premise is, but I'm not going to get my hopes up.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Amaranth Enchantment

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry
Publication Date: March 3, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 320
Keywords: witches, fairytale, magic
Format Read: Hardcover from publisher (thank you!)
Lucinda Chapdelaine was orphaned as a young child when her parents left for a royal ball and never returned. Ever since, she has toiled away in her uncle's lonely jewelry shop under the cruel hand of her step-aunt. But now, all at once, Lucinda's lot is about to change. A mysterious woman, a handsome young gentleman, and an unusual gem all enter the shop on the very same day. the woman is none other than the dreaded Amaranth Witch, and she has a daring task to offer. If Lucinda succeeds, she will not only reclaim all that is rightfully hers, but she will discover a true friend—and perhaps true love. Family secrets, magical surprises, and another royal ball will test her, but Lucinda is determined to find her own happily ever after. 
The cover began this lovely little fairy tale. It was just like a fairy tale I expected it to be. It was such a lovable little story, and I was enchanted with it. To begin with, I loved the mix of traditional fairy tales and the twist Julie Berry spun on the originals. It was a Cinderella meets Aladdin meets Rapunzel, except for they all believe this woman is a witch in the beginning instead of find it out at the end.

To make it a truly incredible book, I wanted a little bit more out of it. It wouldn't have been as lighthearted of a tale, but I wish there would have been more motives portrayed behind the characters that were evil. I wasn't happy with simply being told that they were bad and that they killed people. I wanted to know what drove them. I also wanted Lucinda to not fall so quickly into the old woman's plan. She jumped on board way too quickly without any hesitation, and it sort of made Lucinda's actual human quality go away. I no longer believed her, and thought "oh, okay, so here we go, in a Disney movie, prancing along after exciting-sounding things!"

I loved Peter. He was Lucinda's street friend who taught her all about the art of stealing and hiding (the Aladdin-esque bit of the book). He was such a sarcastic and lovable fellow, and I was so disappointed by the ending. I absolutely loved Peter, and thought he deserved more show time rather than being put on the back burner and not really thought about a whole lot.

Overall though, it was such a cute fictional tale that was so much fun and light to read for the summer time. This is a perfect tanning-on-the-back-deck-with-a-lemonade book.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Replacement

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date: September 21, 2010
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Group
Pages: 343
Format Read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)

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.

On the front cover, a quote from Maggie Stiefvater reads, "I loved this eerie and beautiful story of ugly things." I could not agree more. This was such a unique story about an ugly boy who didn't belong with humans and came from another race entirely. There were so many intriguing things about this whole world. 

The problem — I wanted to know more. I was saddened to learn that I wouldn't find out why the superstition that scissors above a baby bassinet would keep that child safe was true. I wanted to know more about the underbelly of Gentry, and how exactly the town worked. I wanted to know much more backstory than was given. But I suppose that was part of the whole mystery of the story. The unknown was what Gentry thrived on anyway, but I was so mad to learn that more of its history was never explained. 

Mackie himself was an interesting character. He wasn't particularly likeable, but he wasn't unlikeable. He angered me that he assumed everyone hated him. I wanted to slap him and get him out of that mindset. It seemed like he was in the middle of a coming-of-age scenario, but the town was so weird and manipulated that it was a lot more intense than the path of normal teens. There was just so much about him that was left in an unknown abyss that I wanted to reach out and find somewhere.

The story moved along, too, but not in the compelling way that makes you sit on the edge of your seat, yearning to know more, and then appalled when you discover something ridiculous and awesome. This one never answered anything. I felt like more mysteries and histories kept developing, but I never got answers or backgrounds on anything that I was truly wanting more information on.

I wanted relationships to develop, I wanted to know why Mackie and his people were allergic to iron and blood. There were just so many tiny details that I feel would have made the story so much greater than it was. Though it was a lovely little tale of ugly things, I felt that the ugly was emphasized too much, and the why behind the ugly was not emphasized enough. I had such high hopes for this book. In a way, they were met. But I wanted the book to soar beyond my expectations. But I was just longing for more from the story, so it fell short. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Queen of Kentucky


The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker
Publication Date: January 2, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 375
Keywords: friendship, Kentucky, horses
Format Read: paperback from author (thank you so much!)

Summary:Fourteen-year-old Kentucky girl Ricki Jo Winstead, who would prefer to be called Ericka, thank you very much, is eager to shed her farmer's daughter roots and become part of the popular crowd at her small town high school. She trades her Bible for Seventeen magazine, buys new "sophisticated" clothes and somehow manages to secure a tenuous spot at the cool kids table. She's on top of the world, even though her best friend and the boy next door Luke says he misses "plain old Ricki Jo."


Caught between being a country girl and wannabe country club girl, Ricki Jo begins to forget who she truly is: someone who doesn't care what people think and who wouldn't let a good-looking guy walk all over her. It takes a serious incident out on Luke's farm for Ricki Jo to realize that being a true friend is more important than being popular.

First of all, I would like to send a GIANT thank you to Alecia Whitaker for personally going to the trouble of getting me a review copy back in January. She was also at a signing in Louisville then, too, which is one of the first exciting signings happening there since the beginning of time, and I couldn't go because I was leaving for England (okay, I guess really not THAT sad since I was going to England and all). But, I'm back now and this was the first book I cracked open.

Because so much of it pertained to my own life, I fell right into this book with ease. The writing was light, but not so light that it sounded cliche or overdone. It was just the right amount to make it a great start-of-summer book, but the heavier issues that this book dealt with were done so expertly.

Before posting my own review, I browsed through a few that I found on Goodreads. I would like to counter several of the bad ones. Yes, the main character, Ericka, was annoying at times. She was 14, she was a girl, and she wanted to be popular. But to all those people out there that hated her all the time, this is life in Kentucky. My town is about 40 minutes away from where this book took place. I switched from a private Catholic middle school to the public high school, and people can be brutal. While I never tried to be popular like Ericka, I certainly know why she was annoying for most of the book and wanted to fit in. I thought it was a very well-done, realistic interpretation of life in Kentucky. On one end, people live on farms and work every day of their lives. Then, right down the road, are billionaire mansions with literally picture-perfect southern belles whose only aspirations are to marry and have the perfect man.

Then there's Luke, Ericka's best friend. He was by far my favorite character, and his real-world problems were also a realistic interpretation of life. Though scary, they put Ericka's problems to shame, and I understand why everyone was so upset with her character. But, people, that's kind of the point. It slaps you in the face to get the reader, not Ericka, to realize that whatever your own problems are, there are other people that probably have it worse than you. It was a subtle way to get that message across, and I fully believe it was done remarkably, using a young 14-year-old boy to stand up to his own problems.

As far as the general plot went, it was a very cute little story line. We follow Ericka through her first year of high school, managing boys, church, family, friends, trying to fit in, cheerleading, and eventually joining the newspaper committee. She backstabs people, makes new friends, discovers a little bit about herself, and all that good stuff you have in coming-of-age novels.

I really did enjoy this book, and spent about half the night reading it in one go. I haven't done that in so long, and I had so much fun with this. I was just shocked at how realistic the whole social situation was. The only reason I didn't try to fit in in high school was because I had already tried it in the 7th and 8th grade, when certain girls realized they were rich and beautiful. I tried for about a week, and then got to reading again and realized that I would rule the world one day! This was just insane how much of this kids in my area go through as they grow up.

I would definitely recommend, especially with Derby day being tomorrow and all! Great read about Kentucky!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Going Underground

Going Underground by Susan Vaught
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 336
Format Read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)
Summary: Del is a good kid who's facing horrible circumstances. At 17, he's trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast — and a felon. As a result, he can't get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there's a whole sea of complications that threaten to bring the world crashing down around him again. But what has Del done? In flashbacks to Del's fourteenth year, we slowly learn the truth. Del is guilty in the eyes of the law — but readers will have to decide for themselves if he's truly lost his innocence.
To begin with, I absolutely loved the fresh idea that Vaught came up with as a story plot. It had me from the description, already making me wonder what happened to Del and what caused him to be a felon. Vaught also wove a wonderful tale together using flashback chapters sporadically throughout the book. They were placed in exactly the right places, sometimes making me angry that it would switch so suddenly back to the present because I desperately wanted to find out what happened when Del was fourteen.

I also loved Del's personality. He was such a great character to watch grow as the story developed, and there were about 6 or 7 different elements in which he did that, making the story line much more complex than a simple felon story. In addition to Del, I also fell in love with Harper, the owner of the graveyard; Marvin, Del's best friend; and Fred, Del's female African parrot. I literally could not get enough of these characters. Marvin was outlandish and weird, and seemed a little bit like my friends at times. Harper was so lovable and an alcoholic, and from the moment Vaught brings him into the story, I wanted to help him and be his best friend. And don't even get me started on the parrot. At first, I was very confused. I mean, a parrot? But it was SO COOL! I ended up loving Fred way too much and the fact that she insulted people in Spanish. 

The only character I didn't really like was Livia. She was the only thing I didn't like about this story, bringing my review down from a solid 5 to a 4 stars book. She just wasn't... anything. There wasn't much to her character, and since, from the beginning, she's the girl Del really likes, I just wanted something more from her. But there was no development, no anything to her character really, other than a quick explanation of why she comes to the cemetery. I was just so disappointed with her.

I also really liked how Del's personal story wove in with the legal story. It was so interesting to see his case develop and how he would handle and react to certain things. There were so many different elements to this story, and I really liked them all. Vaught did a wonderful job of weaving them all together without making it utterly chaotic and impossible to follow — everything was just right.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Date

First Date by Krista McGee
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Pages: 336
Format Read: ebook via NetGalley

Summary: The orphaned daughter of missionaries, Addy is quite content to stay in the shadows and never draw attention to herself. But when she's selected for a reality TV show to try to become the President son's prom date-a show she didn't audition for-she's suddenly in America's spotlight.
The lights, the make-up, the competitions, and the blogs discussing every move she makes all make Addy incredibly uncomfortable. But through her time at The Mansion, Addy comes to realize that first impressions aren't always right, that hiding out may not be what God had planned for her life, and that her faith should affect everything she does. It may just be that her selection wasn't random at all and that she's on this show "for such a time as this."

This book has an adorable premise, but frankly, didn't live up to my expectations. It seemed like such a cute idea, though not necessarily original (reminding me of American Idol, beauty pageants, and Meg Cabot's All-American Girl). But I was willing to give it a shot. I read the whole thing in about four hours. The language was so simplistic, almost like it was written for a second-grader to read. I literally flew through the book. But some of the content was about the contestants back-stabbing each other, and the religious content seemed too complex for the younger reading level. I'm really not sure for which level this book is actually intended. Because nothing romantic happened at all, other thank a few casual glances and a smile every now and then.

I was also annoyed with the religious references. I'm Catholic, and I go to church, and I believe in God, but every other page referenced Addy thinking about God's plan, and how she wasn't sure if He was right. This would have been fine, except I was thrown into her life. This could work, but I had no idea she was Christian up until the second page when she started questioning her faith and everything happened at once. I would have liked a little lead-in explaining this. I also thought her parents' backstory was highly unnecessary. While I understand it was supposed to be a big factor in Addy's religious beliefs and a tear-jearker for the story, it was so abrupt and very fake-y. I did not like how unreal the whole thing seemed. I also didn't understand why Addy was afraid to tell her friend on the show that she was a Christian. Sure, some religions might not get along, but in America, today, in this modern world, it's a rare chance that someone will isolate you for being a Christian. Very VERY unlikely. I was just really annoyed that she thought telling her friend was such a big deal, when it really didn't need to be.

This could have been a really cute preteen book, but in my opinion, didn't quite make it. It seemed like I was reading a first draft instead of a ready-to-be-published novel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fracture

Fracture by Megan Miranda
Publication Date: January 17, 2012
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Pages: 262
Keywords: medical emergency, winter, supernatural
Format read: ARC from publisher


Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine —  despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it? 
Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening? 

I was very excited to hear that I would be reviewing this for the blog tour today in anticipation for the release of this book, and I started reading it as soon as I got it. Despite many mixed reviews, I give Fracture a huge thumbs-up. It's hard to get me hooked on a book from the beginning, but this book managed to do just that. It was so fast-paced from the first page that it literally grabs the reader and pulls him into the story, instead of gradually easing. I loved the simplicity of their lives before Delaney got stuck in the lake: they were average high school teens. Nothing super crazy, which was a nice change from some of my recent YA reads. 

I had a hard time with Delaney's male interests though. I think the plot would have been more interesting had all three males been riveting and wonderful men. However, I only really liked one. In fact, I hated the other two, which didn't make it difficult or fun for me as a reader in that aspect. However, I did like the introduction of Troy and the slight supernatural "gift" he and Delaney shared. This turned the story in a completely different direction than I was expecting. However, I still didn't think he was a likeable character at all. I was particularly bothered by his introduction to Delaney at the beginning of the book — he stalked her and stared at her until she asked him his name. I just thought this was a bit unnecessary. And the other male interest should have just not been there. But I see the reason after the end of the book.

Decker is Delaney's best friend, who, coincidentally, I loved. It was interesting seeing both his and Delaney's thoughts and feelings of guilt. Decker pulled her out of the lake, but not until 11 minutes had passed. In his defense, he was held back by friends, but he still felt guilty for not saving her sooner. I really loved the parallels between their stories and their different sides. There were a few characters I didn't really understand why they were even there (Tara, e.g.), but that was a minor thing I got past pretty quickly. 

The writing was very good, for the most part. It was simple, yet got the story moving and flowing well. The writing seemed to improve as the story went on, becoming more descriptive and metaphorical, which really worked with the story line in a good way. This was a very worthwhile read for me, and though I didn't like a few things about it, it was good overall and I can't wait to see what Megan Miranda has in store next!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Switched (Blog Tour)

So the new thing is self-publishing books for e-readers, and that's just what Amanda Hocking did. She got noticed — a lot — and now her Trylle series is coming out in print. The first appears on shelves on January 24, and I've got a review of it below!


Switched by Amanda Hocking
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 318
Keywords: magic, trylle, paranormal
Format read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)

Summary: When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth. With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.


So basically (I promise this isn't a spoiler, it appears in about the second chapter of the book, but if you don't want any information, then skip this part) at the beginning, Wendy meets Finn. Wendy has been moved to a bunch of different schools because she's a "trouble child," and gets in fights and is expelled — a lot. She lives with her aunt Maggie and her brother Matt, who both love her dearly and move around with her. At the most recent school, Wendy notices this creepy kid named Finn oddly staring at her, so she confronts him. And basically two days later (this is the not-so-spoiler part of the book, but if you really don't want to know, stop reading now!), she finds out she's a troll. Yeah, weird, I know. She doesn't believe it at first, naturally, but soon finds herself in Finn's world, full of trolls, mansklig, and plenty of other strange-sounding words and people. This is when the story really begins. From here, we follow Wendy's tale of trying to fit in with the world, as she learns a big surprise about her real family (you know, the troll one) and her heritage. 

I am so excited to read the second book of this series. I was engrossed in this world, even though it was a little weird for me at the beginning. Yes, I, probably like everyone else, thought, trolls? They're short, and ugly, and gross, and hairy, and this is WEIRD. But Hocking makes up for that, and through Finn, explains the other side of the story, though I still think the fact that they're trolls is extremely weird. 

Surprisingly, not too much action actually takes place in this book. It's mostly description of Wendy's new world and the setup for what's to come in the next two books. But I wasn't even bored. Hocking did an excellent job of providing description and background throughout the book, instead of just cramming it all in the first couple of pages and moving on. The story feels very well-thought out, and I could tell a lot of work went into writing and understanding this created world. I very much enjoyed that, because I wasn't confused at all when reading it. The characters were also extremely well-developed — another aspect I was very pleased with. At first, when Finn just popped into Wendy's life, I was a little leaning towards the annoyed side (you know, in a YA book, boy meets girl and 6 minutes later, they're madly in love connected by a strong feeling they have). But after the whole Trylle explanation, it makes more sense why he was stalking her, and after that, I thought the characters were described rather nicely. 

Towards the end, there was a bit of action that happened, though I can't really say much because that's a huge spoiler. But even this more exciting bit at the end was very well-written, though the very ending was a little predictable. Still, this isn't even a bad thing, because it will make for an excellent start to the second book. Again, I cannot wait to read it. 

And now, I've seen two covers: want to comment below and tell me which one you like better? (personally, I like the red one, despite my tendencies to hate people on the covers of books!)

Here's the second cover (the first is back up top)

And actually I just found a third, so for good measure here's that one:
I kind of like this last one!