Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Read in December 2014



This month I read the following books:

1. How to Avoid Making Art - Julia Cameron
2. Jackaby - William Ritter
3. The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch
4. The One - Kiera Cass



picture credit: Woman Reading from a French postcard c. 1920's

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas haul 2014

Apparently, the secret is out... I'm a Whovian. Here's a picture of my Christmas haul this year - all gifts from different people!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe review

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
January 2012

First line: "One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke."

Fifteen year old Ari is a loner without many friends until he meets Dante at a local swimming pool. The two of them quickly hit it off, and begin hanging out over the course of a long hot El Paso, Texas summer.

This is a lyrical book with a slow and easy pace. I thought it really captured the way that a summer vacation can feel so long and boring, yet studded with emotional highlights for teens who don't have much to do over the break. The feeling is very masculine but also very sensitive. So often, sensitive, emotional boys in fiction are derided as "not realistic" but here, Ari and Dante's voices feel quite genuine. Ultimately, this is a sweet and tender story about two teens who become best friends and eventually more.

The boys each come from very close-knit Mexican-American families. The closeness they share with their parents is really heartwarming, and the way their families completely accept them is refreshing. Ari struggles with the fact that his older brother is serving time in prison for a homophobic hate crime. Dante is impatient to take things to the next level and ends up kissing other boys while he's waiting for Ari to come around. Eventually, after having worked everything out, it does seem like they'll end up together forever. I think that there are definitely more upbeat, faster-paced gay-positive books for teens out there, but Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe offers a nice happy ending for the two leads.

Compare to:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M. Danforth
Freak Show - James St. James
Dishes - Rich Wallace

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Beast Keeper review

Beasts of Olympus: Beast Keeper
by Lucy Coats, illustrated by Brett Bean
Grosset & Dunlap
January 2015


The adventure begins when Pandemonius (called Demon for short,) the ten-year-old son of Greek God Pan, is unwillingly roped into a messy job as a stableboy caring for the mythical beasts of Olympus. While the story remains mostly true to the original mythology, plenty of humor and some modern slang is inserted, for example, when the hapless hero debates how to address his father Pan, “Your Godness? Your Holiness? Your Dadness?”


Scatalogical humor abounds as Demon copes with mountains of beast poo and flatulent Cattle of the Sun. Purposeful anachronisms such as robots and a computer-like machine made by Hephaestus, god of the forge, are presented as evidence of the Greek gods omniscient powers. Hercules is the villain in this tale as Demon works on doctoring up poor animals injured during Hercules Twelve Labors. Demon's magic ability to speak with animals comes in handy as he soothes cranky animals such as a bald Nemean lion, Stymphalian birds in need of new feathers and a Cretan bull that has lost his fire. Demon's biggest challenge is curing Hera's beheaded pet Hydra who requires some of Atalanta's magic apple. Energetic cartoon illustrations enhance the fast paced excitement. The book is appended with a glossary and pronunciation guide featuring all the major players in the Greek pantheon.



I received a free copy of this book.
This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Favorite 2014 Reads

I actually didn't read that many books published in 2014 - I'm usually all over new releases, but this year, I read plenty of books that I'd been meaning to catch up on from the back of my list.

So, rather than a "top 10" I'll just present a few of my favorite published in 2014 titles that really stood out to me this year.


Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris
          This was a lot of fun. It really is in a choose-your-own adventure format. There are a few sudden "dead ends" but for the most part, it was a way to read about NPH's life in the order that seemed most interesting.

Everything Leads to You - Nina LaCour
          A fun story about a young Hollywood set designer who incidentally is lesbian.

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
          I love books with a surprise ending. I did not see that one coming. An intense read.

The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski
          Great fantasy with a forbidden love interest between princess in a conquered land and her captive.

My Real Children - Jo Walton
          So timey-wimey! I wasn't sure which alternate timeline I wanted to root for.

Noggin - John Corey Whaley
          Slightly creepy story of how a young man copes with his brain translpant.
          

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lucky Breaks review


Lucky Breaks
by Susan Patron
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
March 2009

First line: "Eleven, Lucky thought from her seat at the back of the school bus, eleven, eleven, eleven, and the idea of it, the sound of it, threw off sparks in her head."


In this wonderful sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky, we return to the dusty micro-town of Hard Pan, California. Lucky's meandering thoughts and careful appreciation of little details is explored in a quirky and whimsical fashion.  She sees eleven as being intrepid and cherishes the "secret 11" in the straps of her new training bra. At eleven years of age, she is clearly looking forward to growing up, wearing make-up and other such things that are just ahead of her... yet she is still happy to not-quite be there yet. Lucky reminded me of Fern from Charlotte's Web in many ways.

Lucky has settled into a much more comfortable relationship with her adoptive mother Brigitte, who has started a new business, a small cafe. Geologists are up to study the rocks in Hard Pan, which affords Lucky the rare opportunity to make friends with a visiting girl her own age, Paloma.  Again, Lucky stirs up trouble with her misunderstandings, and awkward, earnest overeagerness to reach out to new friends.



Birgitte's speech to Paloma's overprotective mother about how the world is full of danger, but full of adventure and wonderful things too, to let children experience things and try being brave seems like a rallying call against helicopter parenting.

Lucky's reverence for science, including her hero worship of Charles Darwin and, in general, her unique way of looking at the world will continue to charm those who enjoyed the finely-wrought world introduced in The Higher Power of Lucky.


Compare to:
Penny Dreadful - Laurel Snyder
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu - Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Because of Winn-Dixie - Kate DiCamillo


I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

14 authors new to me in 2014

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Authors New to You in 2014.

I couldn't narrow it down to just 10! Once I whittled my list down to 14, I thought, "Ah! How appropriate!" So, here is my list of the top 14 new to me authors for the year.


Emily Croy Barker - I must read more by this author! I loved The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic.

Cara Chow - I loved Bitter Melon. It was hard to read at times, but you could tell it really came from the heart. Write more books, Cara Chow, and I will read them!

A.C. Gaughen - I already have the rest of her books sitting on my nightstand.

Nina LaCour - I love a story set in L.A. (one of my favorite places)

Robin LaFevers - Ah, Grave Mercy was loooong, but it was worth it.

E. Lockhart - I love surprise endings and was blown away by We Were Liars. I definitely have my eye on this author.

Scott Lynch - Amazing! Gentleman Bastards is the most amazing medieval mafia thief vs. magician's guild type story I have ever, ever read. If you haven't heard his guest appearance on the Writing Excuses podcast yet, you should definitely give it a listen to get a sense of what a rascal he is.

Marissa Meyer - Cinder was much lighter and more fun than I expected. What a fun world she's created.

Nnedi Okarafor - A totally unique voice, her books belong in every library.

Rainbow Rowell - Like everyone else, I am ready to hop on board with this relatively new YA sensation.

Marie Rutkowski - I like her world building.

Benjamin Alire Saenz - Wow, who says guys can't be sensitive?

Sherry Thomas - There will never be another Harry Potter, but I can always comfort myself by reading awesome magic boarding school stories.

Jo Walton - I love timey-wimey stuff, and her book My Real Children left things just open-ended enough that readers won't know which alternate timeline to root for.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Read in November 2014



This past month I read the following books:

1. Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers
2. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
3. Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
4. Lament - Maggie Stiefvater
5. Cinder - Marisssa Meyer
6. Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi
7. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris
8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul - Jeff Kinney
9. Article 5 - Kristen Simmons



picture credit: Thoughts by John Henry Marshall

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Top 10 books I'm looking forward to in 2015

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books You're Looking Forward to in 2015.

Normally, I'd have trouble narrowing it down to just 10, but I've been feeling very choosy lately! Here are the ones that looked really appealing to me.


I Remember You - Kathleen Davitt Bell 
Sounds a bit timey-wimey, with a teen romance imperiled by memories of the future.

Remember - Eileen Cook
A girl uncovers a conspiracy with her father's memory erasing company.

Immaculate - Katelyn Detweiler
A virgin finds herself pregnant... and no one believes her.

The Leveller - Julia Durango
A bounty hunter is hired to deprogram teens addicted to virtual reality.

The Memory Key - Liana Liu
In a dystopian world where everyone is losing their memories and must rely on a memory chips, a girl starts to doubt that her memory chip is working correctly.

The Orphan Queen - Jodi Meadows
Sounds like high fantasy with an imprisoned magical princess spy.

Soulprint - Megan Miranda
A girl is imprisoned because it's determined that she is the reincarnation of a famous criminal.

A Book of Spirits and Thieves - Morgan Rhodes
High fantasy, with travel between modern-day Toronto and and ancient fantasy kingdom.

A Darker Shade of Magic - V. E. Schwab
Fantasy which alternates between two very different Londons in the multiverse.

Shadow Study - Maria V. Snyder
A new spin-off of the Poison Study series.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Readgeek

Here's a fun website to predict what books you might like to read in future. I don't know if it was super accurate for me - but it is supposed to get more accurate the more books you rate.

Check it out: www.readgeek.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top 10 Books to Read this Winter

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books on Your To Be Read List this Winter.

With any luck, I'll read these by the end of the year.



Starcrossed - Josephine Angelini
Level 2 - Lenore Appelhans
Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo
One - Kiera Cass
Red - Alison Cherry
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
Legend - Marie Lu
Hemlock - Kathleen Peacock
Falling Kingdoms - Morgan Rhodes
Dream of Gods and Monsters - Laini Taylor

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Survived September 11 review

I Survived: The Attacks of September 11, 2001
by Lauren Tarshis
Scholastic
July 2012

I felt some trepidation reading this book, for exactly the same reasons the author stated that she was hesitant to write it. The memories of that day are still so raw - it was a very scary time. And yet, I see kids clamor for the other books in this series; The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 and The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 are especially popular titles. For children who weren't even born when September 11th happened, it's just another historic event they are curious about.

Lucas is disappointed in being pulled from his middle school football team due to an injury. He decides to take the train into New York City to see if his beloved uncle Benny can talk his parents into changing their minds. Lucas soon finds himself in the midst of disaster, as the first plane hits the World Trade Center tower, and his uncle and dad, both firefighters, are called to help out. Most of the truly grim details of the terrorist attack are glossed over, but the sense of panic and alarm in those initial moments is handled in a very sensitive and age-appropriate way.

The afterward from the author goes into more detail, explaining the number of casualties, and the national and world-wide reaction after the attacks. I was glad that she decided not to kill off Uncle Benny - even though it might have made the story more dramatic, the series is called "I Survived," after all. Informative and fast-paced, this is a good choice for third-grade readers who want to know more about this day in history.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top 10 Sequels I'm Looking Forward To

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Sequels You're Looking Forward To. Here are mine:


Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo
Just One Year - Gayle Forman
Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman
The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch
Waking Storms - Sarah Porter
Firefight - Brandon Sanderson
Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater
Dreams of Gods and Monsters - Laini Taylor
The Perilous Sea - Sherry Thomas.

And of course, I have to give a shout-out to the long-awaited third book in The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. Doors of Stone is listed on Goodreads... but there isn't even any cover art as a placeholder yet. Rothfuss, get going on that! I'm sure it will be beautiful when it is done. In the meantime, luckily, most of these sequels are already out, so I have plenty to occupy me until it's released.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Vacation

Hey all,

I'm on vacation... catching up on reading is sooo nice. Look for plenty of reviews when I return!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shadowland review

Shadowland
by Alyson Noel
St. Martin's Griffin
2009

Immortal Damen has finally been reunited with his long-lost love Ever, but is now suffering a curse that leaves him allergic to her bare skin. One touch from her will banish him to the Shadowlands, a murky underworld for lost souls.

As Ever starts to search for a cure for Damen, she meets Jude, a hot surfer guy who works in a New Age bookshop. Just as Ever is on the brink of a breakthrough with a potion that might fix their problem, Damen admits to her that he knows Jude... that Jude has also been reincarnated many times over the years, always as a love interest for Ever. He decides that the only honorable thing to do is to stand aside, and give Ever a chance to get to know Jude better so that she can truly make a choice between them. For a guy who's been pining for Ever for centuries, Damen sure doesn't act like he's eager to be with her after all!

One minor quibble I had with the book was the description of the Getty museum. I wasn't clear if Ever and Damen were at the Getty, or the Getty Villa in Malibu, and my brain kept switching back and forth between the two trying to visualize where they were. The way they drive up, it seems like the Getty Villa. The Getty is famous for the trolley car you must take up the high hillside. Yet, the exhibits and the view that are described really seem like the new Getty. I was distracted by this, but most readers who aren't familiar with Los Angeles probably wouldn't be.

A number of the side-plots seemed compelling. While visiting the Summerlands, a mystical realm where visitors can manifest nearly anything simply by the power of thought, Ever becomes acquainted with twins Romy and Rayne, friends of her sister Riley's ghost. When they accidentally get ejected from the Summerlands, they are taken in by Damen, who is attempting to swear off his materialistic ways. Miles, Ever's gay friend, is excited by his upcoming opportunity to perform in Florence, Italy. Ever is horrified by one of her teacher's crush on her aunt Sabine, but she finally comes around and decides that Sabine deserves a chance at romance, too. At the end of the book, Ever is deeply dismayed that her only chance to revive her friend Haven ends up leaving her Immortal as well. Haven, on the other hand, is delighted, saying something to the effect of, "This is exactly like being a vampire, but without any of the bad side effects!" I have to admit, Haven has a really good point. I wasn't really sure why Ever sees her immortality as such a curse.

While there isn't a tremendous amount of forward plot movement in this middle volume to the series, it's an enjoyable read nonetheless.


I borrowed this book from my public library.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Read in October 2014



This past month I read the following books:

1. I Survived: The Attacks of September 11, 2001 - Lauren Tarshis



picture credit: Girl Reading by Alexel Alexeiewitsch Harlamoff

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nanowrimo 2014

It's that time of year... time for National Novel Writing Month - or Nanowrimo for short. Last year, I was a Nanowrimo "winner" for the first time ever! I kind of feel like I cheated a little - I wrote a time-traveling story where the characters attempt to change the time line by repeatedly jumping back and repeating the past (with minor variations) allowing me to "recycle" plenty of my earlier work.

This year I'm going to try something a little different - I'm using Nanowrimo time to get caught up on blogging. It's been a busy year, and it will will be nice to carve out some time to get book reviews and blog posts complete!

How is your Nanowrimo going so far?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

I'm really liking this recycled book craft. Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book With No Pictures reading

I've seen plenty of wordless picture books in my day, but this is a first... The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak sure looks like fun.



Friday, October 10, 2014

Star Wars Reads Day

Tomorrow is Star Wars Reads Day. I've never quite understood why it isn't on May 4th. (May the Fourth be with you! Get it??) Okay, I'll stop with my dad jokes. This month I put together a display of all our Star Wars books and graphic novels for kids - they've been going like hotcakes!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blue Moon review

Blue Moon
by Alyson Noel
St. Martin's Griffin
2009

In this sequel to Evermore, Noel explores what might happen if psychic teen Ever had the choice to return to her past and prevent the car accident that took her family's lives at the cost of losing Damen, her one-true-love over the centuries. Is it worth it?

There is trouble in paradise, as Damen's secretive nature creates conflicts in their relationship. Ever doesn't feel ready to take their relationship to the next level, chastely insisting that since he's waited 600 years for her, what's a little longer? And, she's still a little intimidated by how perfect he is.

New guy, Roman, appears to bring everyone under his spell, including Damen, who, predictably, turns on Ever once again, and begins to court queen bee Stasia. Damen begins growing sick with a mysterious illness, and Ever is certain that Roman is behind whatever is poisoning him. This puts Ever into tailspin of depression, as she desperately tries to figure out what's going on. Eventually, she sorts out a few secrets, including the fact that Roman is a rogue Immortal, bent on harassing Ever as punishment for the loss of Drina. When she figures out how to time-travel, she's faced with a choice. Should she go back to the point in time when Roman turned Damen against her? Or, go even further back in time, and save her family (which would mean she never would have moved to Laguna Beach and met Damen in the first place?) Ever decides to try and have it both ways, by writing herself a note, not to forget her sweatshirt (she blames herself for the car accident that killed her family when they turned around for her forgotten camp shirt, and hit a deer), and to not forget Damen.

To me, the most interesting part of the book was when Ever finds herself back in her old life in Oregon. On the whole, she is pretty happy, but she's plagued by niggling doubts that something is off, something is missing. She finds herself suddenly very unattracted to her boyfriend, and wishing for something different. As her memories start to come back, she feels certain that she can prevent the car accident. At the crucial moment, her sister Riley reminds her that she doesn't belong there, and even though Ever's done everything she can think of to prevent it, the car accident happens anyway. 


I thought the whole family vs. true love presented a false dichotomy. If Damen's been hunting her down and finding her over and over again for the last couple of centuries, surely he'd find her in Oregon, eventually, right? And it sets up the possibly disturbing idea that you can't have a relationship and stay close to your family at the same time. In this world, you've got to choose one or another.

When Ever returns to her own timeline, she is tricked by Roman into giving Damen a potion that she thinks will cure him as he's on the brink of death. The book ends with quite a cliffhanger, as Damen's life is saved, but he may not be able to be with Ever anymore. Readers with an uncritical eye looking for some fast-paced pleasure reading could do worse than to tackle this sequel in the popular Immortals series.


I borrowed this book from my public library.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Read in September 2014



The past month I read the following books:

1. The Lonely Polygamist - Brady Udall
2. Beast Keeper - Lucy Coats
3. Everything Leads to You - Nina LaCour

picture credit: Girl Reading by Otto Scholderer

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top 10 books that were hard to read

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books that were Hard to Read. 

 Here are mine, in no particular order, books I only gave a 1-star rating to:




1) Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris
The penultimate book in the Sookie Stackhouse series had so little plot development, I kind of gave up finishing the series.

2) Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
This series of interconnected short stories about a bitter old woman was absolutely not my cup of tea.

3) One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I do not care for magical realism! My friends like to joke that I like my magic systems to be realistic, but don't want my realism to be magical.

4) The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
I know! Shocker! This should be the kind of book I love. It came so highly recommended to me, I don't think it ever could have lived up to the hype. It just didn't feel magical enough for me.

5) Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree - Lauren Tarshis
The main character was so painfully awkward. This was a tough one to slog through.

6) The Mephisto Covenant - Trinity Faegen
I read this on the heels of reading several teen paranormal dysfunctional relationships parading as "romantic" and it was just too much for me to take.

7) The Unfinished Angel - Sharon Creech
I love Sharon Creech! This book was so not her normal style though. The angel had such a disjointed way of speaking. I didn't care for it.

8) The Reformed Vampire Support Group - Catherine Jinks
Ugh. Depressed vampires didn't do it for me.

9) Burned - P.C. Cast
This is where I ran out of steam for the House of Night series. The scenes where Zoey Redbird confronts her child self are just so very, very cringeworthy.

10) Forever Lily - Beth Nonte Russell
Worst. Adoption. Book. Ever. Russell's racist dream sequences and highly unbelievable set of "coincidences" with her adopted Chinese daughter make for an excruciatingly embarrassing read.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Banned Books Week display

I love this display for Banned Books Week, at one of my favorite independent book stores, Little Shop of Stories. The "caution" tape is de rigueur but the BAN ALL THE THINGS! cartoon really makes this display stand out to me. Love it!



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blackbird review

Blackbird
by Anna Carey
HarperTeen
September 2014

Fast-paced second person narration places the reader squarely in the head of amnesiac teen girl who only knows that she has a blackbird tattoo on her wrist, and someone is trying to kill her. Quickly adopting the nickname Sunny, the main character soon finds herself framed for theft. Not trusting the police, she manages to find sanctuary amongst a group of wealthy Los Angeles teens. There is some romantic tension between her and Ben, her rescuer. Sunny soon finds she has abilities she didn't know she had, dodging assassin’s bullets and escaping into a crowd, but also excelling in close hand-to-hand combat when cornered by her pursuers. Tantalizing flashes of memories along with clues from her pursuers reveal that Sunny is a teen runaway without a family, who depended on a handsome friend to survive the rigors of being hunted by jaded elite. 

Plenty of sudden plot twists will leave readers guessing as to who to trust. Inspired by Richard Connell's classic short story, The Most Dangerous Game, the book draws to a satisfying close, but leaves plenty of room for more issues to be resolved. Readers of contemporary young adult thrillers will be clamoring for the sequel.

This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ode to Libraries video

Aww! Here's a heartwarming video on libraries put together by vloggers 2 Broke Geeks.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top 10 Only One Book

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More.

Here are mine:


Mostly, these are books I loved, and definitely want to read the sequels, but just haven't had the time yet. Lots of fantasy and time-travel here!

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker
The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson
Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier
The Magicians - Lev Grossman
Seraphina - RachelHartman
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom - Christopher Healy
Freakling - Lara Krumwiede
Parallel - Lauren Miller
The Emerald Atlas - John Steptoe

What authors have you had a sample of, but just can't wait to read more?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bitter Melon review

Bitter Melon
by Cara Chow
December 2010
Egmont USA

First line: "'Fei Ting, you are my reason for living,' Mom says to me. 'You give me a purpose for my suffering."

High school senior Frances is a timid and obedient girl, who only longs to excel in school so she can satisfy her mother's wishes of seeing her go to Stanford and become a doctor one day. This story was essentially Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother... from the unhappy daughter's point of view.

Chinese-American Frances has grown up in a cramped apartment with her single mom in San Francisco. The story takes place in the 1980's and obviously, Frances doesn't have access to internet, cell phones or social media, making her isolation from the mainstream all the more possible. Frances is truly withdrawn and mentally beats herself up for always falling short of her mother's impossible expectations. 

The mother in Bitter Melon is incredibly unlikeable. I would have liked seeing some more shades of grey for a more nuanced and compelling story. The book opens with a disgusting scene where Frances is being forced to massage her mother's stomach as her mother loudly belches due to her ongoing stomach problems. Even allowing for the fact that the mom is very hurt at being abandoned by her wealthy husband and forced to raise her daughter alone and close to poverty, it's impossible to work up any sympathy for her. She is tone-deaf to any of her daughter's feelings and seems to enjoy constantly putting Frances down, fearing that any kindness will make her daughter too soft. The mother's plan for Frances to go to med school so that she can treat her mother for free and finally work out her stomach problem seemed idiotic to me. It's hinted that it's a pretty serious problem, possibly even stomach cancer... wouldn't she be dead by the time her daughter finally finishes medical school?

Due to a mix-up at school, Frances finds that instead of being registered for Calculus as planned, she's been assigned a speech class. In a small act of rebellion, she decides to stay enrolled in the class, and begins competing in speech tournaments and winning. She also hides a crush on a boy from her mother, and starts to imagine what life would be like if she didn't pursue pre-med.

Frances finds a friend for the first time in her goody-goody cousin Theresa. She's spent years pitted against Theresa, due to their mothers' continual bragging and put-downs, but when Frances lets her guard down and trusts Theresa she is surprised to discover a valuable ally.

Ultimately, Frances house of cards comes crashing down when her mother finally discovers her complex web of lies. Surprisingly, Frances mom is on board with her new speech class, once she learns that Frances has been winning awards. She shifts gears, and begins to insist that Frances work towards becoming a newscaster or television personality, putting her daughter on a punishing diet so she'll look good for the cameras. Interestingly, Frances and her mother never really resolve their issues. For Frances, the only way to handle things is to start being more outspoken, contradicting her mother in public by challenging her mother's put-downs and finally, to secretly squirrel money away so that she can make her escape and lead her own life.

Compare to:
Everything I Was - Corinne Demas
Dirty Little Secrets - C.J. Omololu
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Amy Chua
What Can't Wait - Ashley Hope Perez


I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Evermore review

Evermore
Alyson Noel
St. Martin's Griffin
February 2009

16 year old Ever is the sole survivor of a horrific car crash that killed her entire family. The shock of the incident has awakened psychic powers in her which allow her to speak to her bratty younger sister's ghost, and read the thoughts of everyone around her. Overwhelmed by the barrage of thoughts from her classmates, and trying to adjust to her new life with her career-driven aunt Sabine in Southern California, she withdraws into herself, wearing oversized hoodies, and listening to headphones as a way of trying to block everything out. Ever is fascinated with a new guy at her school, Damen Auguste, as she finds that he is one of the only people that she cannot read, and spending time with him brings merciful relief from the normal psychic chatter that she is subject to. This reminded me a lot of Twilight, as her power seemed similar to Edward's. Ever remains timid and helpless throughout most of the story.

Wealthy, jet-setting, sophisticated and bored, Damen Auguste doesn't eat much except for a mysterious "red juice" and it seems as if he's much, much older than he's letting on. School is a breeze for him. Surprisingly, the big reveal is that he's not a vampire, but an Immortal, an alchemist from the Middle Ages who has discovered a potion which gives eternal youth. Damen treats Ever badly, pouring on the charm, and then ignoring her, getting her into dangerous situations and then disappearing, leaving her to deal with the consequences. He showers Ever with tulips, and then turns around and starts flirting with other girls right in front of her.

Ever's reaction to this treatment is rather spineless. She's hopelessly devoted to Damen, and with every cruel little barb he throws her way, she finds ways to justify his behavior. Ever eagerly dumps her only friends, poor-little-rich-girl Haven and gay musical theatre kid Miles as soon as Damen is on the scene. She discovers that she has been reincarnated many times over the centuries, each time meeting and falling in love with Damen, but always meets an early end via Damen's jealous ex-wife, Drina, who is determined to keep her man to herself. Ever's final showdown with Drina seems anti-climatic when Damen steps in at the last possible moment and rescues her.

What this book does have going for it, is readability. It's a light, undemanding read. Noel's alternate take on immortality will appeal to teen readers who enjoyed the Twilight series.


I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Read in August 2014



The past month I read the following books:
1. Escape from Camp 14 - Blaine Harden
2. Quick Changes: Fresh Looks for Every Room - House Beautiful
3. Landline - Rainbow Rowell
4. Insurgent - Veronica Roth
5. Blackfin Sky - Kat Ellis

picture credit: Study of a Girl Reading by Valentine Cameron Prinsep


Friday, August 29, 2014

What Do You Feel Like Reading Infographic

Here's a great infographic from Random House... what do you feel like reading?



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Dozen Books I Don't Have

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books I Really Want to Read But Don't Own Yet. I couldn't limit it to just 10 though! Here's my list of a dozen books that I'd like to read, but haven't been able to lay my hands on. I don't feel like I need to own every book I read (that would be pure madness if I did, as I'd soon be drowning in books!) As a librarian, I'm a big library user, and you should be too, of course! So, that increases the number of books that I have ready to hand by quite a fair margin. 

Nonetheless, here are some titles that I haven't been able to get yet... maybe my library doesn't carry them, or perhaps the waiting list is still too long... and it's a little hard to justify going out and buying them when I already have so many other things to read. But I do want to get to these books, so they're staying at the top of my list!


Outpost - Ann Aguirre
Witchlanders - Lena Coakley
Fever - Lauren DeStefano
Wildthorn - Jane Eagland
Vanish - Sophie Jordan
Uninvited - Sophie Jordan
Stolen Nights - Rebecca Maizel
Boneshaker - Cherie Priest
Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
The Candidates - Inara Scott
All These Things I've Done - Gabrielle Zevin

Friday, August 22, 2014

Blackfin Sky review

Blackfin Sky
by Kat Ellis
Running Press
September 2014

First line: "Silas's spirit had inhibited the rusted weathervane for many years."

Sixteen year old Skylar Rousseau heads to school one morning to find, much to her shock, that everyone in her small town has believed her to be dead for the past three months. Skylar's memories are different - she remembers an uneventful few months, where life went on as normal. It's a huge adjustment for her friends, family and schoolmates, as no one can explain why this has happened.

Wow! What an amazing start to a story! I was eager to dig in and figure out the dramatic mystery of Skylar's reappearance. The only thing that surprised me, was that the small Southern town of Blackfin is known as a place where "weird things" happen. The weathervane is haunted, a local well magically steals pennies from passersby, the rooms in the school are known to shift and change place without warning, and Skylar has grown up in The Blood House - a house where the walls can either muffle or amplify sound, literally allowing certain people to eavesdrop.

Given that it's a clearly magical world, I was surprised that throughout the book, all of the townsfolk have such difficulty with Skylar's mysterious return. Wouldn't they be used to bizarre magical events like this? The book piles one mystery on top of another, as the suspense grows to nearly unbearable heights. What happened the night that Skylar's memories and the rest of the town diverged? Who is Skylar's biological father? What secrets have her parents been keeping from her? Where is Blackfin exactly? Near New Orleans? Why is Skylar blinking in and out of places? Is she teleporting? Time traveling? Where, and when, is the creepy circus that Skylar keeps teleporting to?

Finally, about midway through the book, a few tantalizing clues are dropped and things gradually begin to fall into place. There's a hint of a love triangle between Skylar, Seth and Jared, with Seth soon taking the lead. Blackfin Sky felt like an enormous clockwork piece, where at the last possible moment, all of the elements, including things one might initially think were throwaways, finally come together.

It's an interesting world, and though everything wraps up neatly by the end, there is plenty of more room to explore.

Compare to:
This Wicked Game - Michelle Zink
Parallel - Lauren Miller
Dissonance - Erica O'Rourke

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Vacation!

Summer Reading is over... and I'm taking a well-earned August vacation. Look for more posts when I return!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Books I'm not sure of

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read. Okay - here's my top 10.

Torment (Fallen, #2)



Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles, #2)
Wolves, Boys and Other Things That Might Kill Me
Chains (Seeds of America, #1)
The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars, #1)
Everlost (Skinjacker, #1)
The King's Rose
The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #1)
Wrapped (Wrapped, #1)
Liar

Torment - I read the first book, and grew a bit weary of the love story. But the cover on the sequel is so good. Should I keep going?

Beautiful Darkness - Again, the beautiful cover keeps me interested. I enjoyed the first book. But do I need to read more?

I added Wolves, Boys and Other Things that Might Kill Me, because I heard it was the perfect thing for Team Jacob Twilight fans. And I had just finished reading Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver which I loved. But then, somehow never got around to reading this one.

Chains - I hear it's good. But also depressing. Hmmm.

The Looking Glass Wars - I hear it's good. But I don't know if I'm in the mood for Alice in Wonderland.

Everlost - I like Neal Shusterman a lot. I started reading this one, but couldn't get into it. Should I try again?

The King's Rose - I added this to my TBR right after I finished watching the Tudors. Do I still want to read it?

The Alchemyst - I thought this would be perfect to fill the Harry Potter sized hole in my heart after the series was finished. But will it be worth it?

Wrapped -  I love Egyptology. I'm not sure if I'll tackle this one though.

Liar - I've heard amazing things about the unreliable narrator. But I don't know if I'll ever pick this one up.

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