Thursday, January 6, 2011
Despite my lack of reviews over the past few months, I have been reading almost non-stop and now owe you all ten reviews. But, before we get to that, there are some things that need to be addressed.
The challenges I took up in 2010 have now ended and I feel no shame in telling you that I lost all of them. This year, however, will be very different. In fact, this post is going to be mostly filled with the badges of the 2011 challenges. So, let the fun begin-
For the Reading Challenge Addict ... challenge, I'll be aiming for 6-10 completed challenges.
For the POC Reading Challenge, I'm attempting Level 3: 7-9 books again.
For the South Asian Challenge I'll try for five books again.
For the GLBT Challenge, I'm going for Lambda Level, which is 4 books.
The 2011 Debut Author Challenge requires me to read 12 novels, so that's what I'll do.
For the YA Historic Fiction Challenge, I'm trying for five books.
For the 1st in a Series Challenge, I'll be going for 12 books.
1: Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
2: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
For the Off the Shelf Challenge, I'm going for Tempted: 5 books.
1: Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
2: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Finally, for the 2011 Outdo Yourself Challenge, I'm doing the 'I'm on Fire!' level, which means I have to read 16+ books more than I did last year. Since I only read 14 books last year, and 14 + 16 = 30, this will be easy. =)
1: Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
2: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
See you all in a few days with a new review!
-Lizzy<3>(This post will be edited as I join more challenges and finish reading books. Keep checking back to see my progress, unless you want to wait for my end-of-year wrap-up.)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Boy Meets Boy
by David Levithan
Knopf Books (2003)
Romance, Humor, LGBT
"Love is never easy. Especially if you're Paul. He's a sophomore at a high school like no other - and these are his friends:
Infinite Darlene, the homecoming queen and star quarterback.
Joni, Paul's best friend who may not be his best friend anymore.
Tony, his other best friend, who can't leave the house unless his parents think he's going on a date ... with a girl.
Kyle, the ex-boyfriend who won't go away.
Rip, the school bookie, who sets the odds...
And Noah. The Boy. The one who changes everything."
At first I was a little weary of reading this book. I've read books that had LGBT characters in it before, but never the main character, and it was never the main focus. I really wanted the first book in the genre to be a good one - to pull me in so I'd have high expectations for the books to follow and not be dreading completing this challenge. Ironically, I picked the book that I knew the least about, and had never read a review of. I am very pleased I did. Honestly, I would much rather run to my library and check out every other book of David Levithan's instead of writing this review. However, I will restrain myself.
Perhaps it was because I had already spent a month reading the Gemma Doyle trilogy, that I had no problems slipping into Levithan's first-person, present-tense writing style that the books have in common. Maybe it was because I was so used to the style that I enjoyed the book from the first page, when Paul is explaining how he and Joni are taking Tony out for the night.
The characters were funny and seemed so real. Their reactions were believable, even if the situations would probably never happen. Paul is an especially brilliant character. I've said before that I don't like a lot of main characters, but Paul is definitely someone who I enjoyed following all the way through. You understand the pain he's going through while trying to help his best friend, hold on to another, comfort his ex, and still be able to have a serious relationship with the guy he really likes.
Levithan's descriptions of everything are amazing. His dialogue is even better. It takes a lot of talent to weave humor into a scene that is very serious, and not have it fall apart. As for my favorite scene, there were many but I particularly liked Paul and Noah's walk through the town, where we get to see how Paul views his town, and how he shares that with Noah. I can't say it's my favorite over-all, but I do love it.
If I had to say one bad thing about the book, it would have to be Tony's parents. Levithan did so well in getting rid of stereotypes in this book, yet he made Tony's parents religious and unaccepting of his orientation. While I give him kudos for not bashing a specific religion, and the fact that Tony's hard times work well in the book, I can't ignore the fact that he didn't even try to change up the over-used plotline of religious, unaccepting parents. It would have been nice to see someone show the other side of things. The people, like me, who are religious and accept everybody for who they are.
Aside from that, the book really does go against every cliche. Everything down to the annual high school dance was very unexpected and creative (I loved the chosen theme). I was surprised by the ending as well. Not that I didn't expect things to turn out like they did, but because things didn't turn out even better in the case of one or two of the sub-plots. Perhaps I'm just used to romances being all happy and tied-up at the end. The fact that it wasn't completely really stood out and made me love the book even more. It's different.
All in all, I recommend everyone go and read this RIGHT NOW. Seriously. It's not like it's going to take much time. It only took me three days. So go!
Quote of the Day:
"Part of love is letting a person be who they want to be." - Paul, page 152
Sorry this wasn't posted yesterday, as I promised it would be. I ... kinda ... sorta passed out while I was writing it. But at least it's up now! =D
Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Let me know if you've read this book, or will be reading it, and your thoughts on it.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray
Delacorte Books (2003)
Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Drama, Friendship
"It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?"
At first I found it a little hard to get into the book because of Bray's writing style. First-person, present-tense. Wow. I'd never seen that used in a novel before. By the third chapter you get used to it, but it's still strange.
There are many times when I enjoy side-characters to main characters in a novel. However, this is the first time when I wished someone would kill the main character so that I could start following the amazing side-character and find out more about her.
Gemma Doyle, in my opinion, is a spoiled little brat throwing a tantrum because she's not getting what she wants at the beginning of the novel. For growing up away from England and the rich girls of Spence that she meets later, she does a fine job of acting like them, complaning to her mother and their housekeeper, Sarita.
I found the first half of the story very boring. Even the mysterious death of Gemma's mother didn't help to liven the story. It only got remotely interesting when Gemma was sent to Spence Academy two months later and met Felicity and Pippa, the two most powerful and cruel girls there. I originally took pity on her roommate, Ann, thinking she was just shy, like me. But at least I make some sort of effort to get to know people, whereas she prefers to keep to herself rather than be hurt by the rich girls who play pranks on her.
I temporarily gave Gemma a break, as she was still grieving her mother, whose death she thought she caused. But there comes a point when you have to scream at her "What the hell are you thinking?!" sneaking off in the middle of the night with Felicity's group, and nearly getting herself expelled. I suppose it was worth it, though, in the end.
After finding out a secret of Felicity's, Gemma becomes her new best friend and is allowed to join her group. Instead, she uses her newfound social power to take Ann to a meeting in the caves on the Spence grounds, where Gemma shows the girls the diary of Mary Dowd, which she found in that very cave by following one of her visions, and the four of them become The Order. And eventually she is able to bring her friends into the Realms - where all dreams take place and anything is possible. This is where the story gets interesting, when we start to learn about the magic and the evil Circe who is after Gemma as she's the only one who can bring the Power back to the Realms.
Of course, I love Felicity, and the way she takes charge to get them in and out of trouble. Pippa, though a little vain, was also a really good character in an unfortunate situation. Ann just got on my nerves most of the time. You know my early feelings on Gemma, but I have to admit that near the end I did start to like her a bit. My favorite is still Felicity though. I also liked Mademoiselle LeFarge and Miss Moore, two of their teachers.
The plot of the story I think is very good. The characters are well thought out and have their flaws, and it's understandable why the girls would become friends - even if Gemma never seemed like she was truly enjoying their company until later on, when she said she loved all of them. Being fascinated by the nineteenth century, I loved learning about everything from speech, to the way girls dressed and were supposed to act in that time. Bray's descriptions were one thing that made this book so good. She puts so much detail into even the smallest of things, like the pomegranate that Sarita picks up at the beginning.
And finishing the book, and crying at a certain part in the thirty-eighth chapter (pages 395-396)that I will not spoil for all of you, I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel, Rebel Angels that I happen to have with me right now. So, my final virdict is that, if you can, definitely read this book. Gemma may be whiny, and things may not always turn out good, but it's certainly worth reading.
Quote of the Day:
"Once upon a time there were four girls. One was pretty. One was clever. One was charming. And one ... One was mysterious. But they were all damaged, you see. Bad blood. Big dreams. Oh, I left that part out. Sorry, that should have come before. They were all dreamers, these girls." - Felicity, pages 313-314
So, there you have it, the first review of March. Now, I have no idea what to go to next. I have three library books waiting to be read. So I've put a little poll in the sidebar. See it there, beneath my contact list? Good. Go vote. The poll ends at midnight tonight, because I needed to get reading right away.
I'm off to prepare for the Oscars. If you're watching tonight, comment and let me know who you want to win. =)
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
by Maureen Johnson
Scholastic, Point (2008)
Humor, Family, Chick-Lit
"According to tradition, when the Martin children turn 15, they inherit a suite in the family's small Manhattan hotel and a job: to take care of the rooms and their occupant. On Scarlett's 15th birthday, Amy Amberson sweeps into the suite that Scarlett has just inherited. The woman is demanding and brash, but she does have her charms (and large amounts of cash). In the beginning, Scarlett is overwhelmed, but then her role becomes that of Mrs. Amberson's assistant for her projects, which change on a whim. When Amy decides to help the theater troupe that Scarlett's brother is involved in put on Hamlet, the teen begins a romance with one of the actors. Then everything starts to go awry, and when things get tough, Amy abandons ship, and plucky Scarlett is left to step in and save what needs saving, something that she does with flair. Scarlett's brand of humor is particularly dry and well articulated.
There's so much to say about this novel, I don't know where to begin! -deep breath- Okay, here we go.
From the first page, when Scarlett was being woken up on her fifteenth birthday by her older brother, I was hooked. Maureen has an amazing writing style that combines the touching story of the Martin family with hilarious (and a little crazy) dialogue and side-characters. There's never a dull moment in this book as Scarlett races to save her brother's career as an actor, her family's hotel, her sanity and still stay out of jail while working for Mrs. Amy Amberson.
As someone who's never been in the theater world, and never had any desire to be, I was a little skeptical about reading a book that would no doubt have so much of the theater in it, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed all the scenes of Hamlet rehearsals and Scarlett's reaction to the actors and everything they had to do. And, as if I didn't already want to visit New York, Maureen's descriptions of the city made me want to hop on a plane as soon as I put the book down. Although I think when I do go, I'll avoid the tourist-y spots now.
The characters are, without a doubt, the best part about this book. Scarlett is a sweet girl with realistic problems - like unruly hair - and her interactions with the other Martins were great. I'm still deciding whether I like Scarlett or Spencer more. They're both hilarious. Spencer, her nineteen year old brother, is into very physical comedy, falling down or walking into walls constantly just to make his sisters laugh. In the play, he gets to work with Eric, a charming Southern boy going to NYU who shares Spencer's skills. And, much to Spencer's dismay, he also shares a special connection with Scarlett.
Lola is Scarlett's level-headed eighteen year old sister. By day she works at the makeup counter at a department store, but frequently switches shifts to go out with or do favors for her rich boyfriend Chip. Lola's also the only one who can handle Marlene, their eleven year old bratty sister. I didn't really care for either, just because of Marlene's attitude and Lola's stupidity.
I can't really say anything bad about the novel. I occasionally wanted to slap Scarlett or Spencer on the back of the head and scream "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" But they were very brief moments. I mostly reserved this action for scenes with Mrs. Amberson, who deserved them. I'm now very much looking forward to reading the sequel, Scarlett Fever, which just came out on February first.
Because I can't determine if I like Scarlett or Spencer better, there will be two Quotes of the Day - they both deserve attention!
"This is where I take a long, long nap. And in my happy, happy dreams, this problem goes away. And those Dutch twins who love tall and weedy New York actors come and offer to help me prepare for my role. And we all put on the fuzzy squirrel outfits and get big bags of nuts ... I'm revealing too much about my internal life, aren't I? It's weird between us now, isn't it?" - Spencer, page 341
"I already saw Naked Lady on the roof. I'm damaged. Stop tormenting me." - Scarlett, page 5
Now that I managed to write the review instead of saying "It was awesome -go buy it!" I'm going to rant on for a little bit about Twitter and the live chat with Maureen yesterday. Feel free to leave now. The review is over. =)
Okay, I was on Twitter a few days ago, and suddenly I get a reply tweet from SPENCER MARTIN. Oh. My. God.
So, in reality, I know it was Maureen who created Twitter accounts for several of her characters, but it doesn't make it any more exciting. I mean, an actual, published, famous author talked to me. -squee- I'm sorry, but I've been doing a really good job of containing my excitement for the past few days (except for when my mom asked why I was smiling so much) and it's kinda seeping out now.
To make matters ten times better, I was in a live chat Maureen was doing with a blog called Mundie Moms (link in sidebar) and she answered all four of my questions. And there were like 450 of us in there. Below are the questions I asked, her answers, and the links to all of the character Twitters. Enjoy.
Q: Do you listen to music a lot? If so, what type/bands?
A: I listen to a LOT. I collect music probably more than anything else.
Q: What was the hardest book to write?
A: Devilish was pretty hard to write, but not because of the book.
Q: How do you choose character names?
A: I just kind of . . . pick them. They're usually kind of random.
one character is named after a street I was crossing when I figured out a big part of his life story.
I grab things I see and hear
I recall asking a fourth question, but for the life of me, I can't remember it. And I couldn't find it in the chat records when it was over.
Happy reading, everyone!
P.S. I'm currently reading A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, so expect my review sometime on the weekend, or maybe next week. I'm also re-reading Suite Scarlett with my mom. =D
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Yeah, so I've been kinda busy this month. I'll be making a post on my personal blog in a little while if anyone wants to know why, but it's time to get down to business.
by Eoin Colfer
Miramax Books (2004)
"In the future, in a place called Satellite City, Cosmo Hill enters the world, unwanted by his parents. He's sent to the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys. Freight Class.
Here, the boys are put to work by the state, testing highly dangerous products. Cosmo realizes he must get away, and escapes with the help of the Supernaturalists, a group of kids who have the same special abilities as Cosmo - they can see supernatural Parasites, creatures that fee on the life force of humans. The Supernaturalists patrol the city at night, hunting the Parasites in hopes of saving what is left of humanity in Satellite City. But soon they find themselves caught in a web far more complicated than they'd imagined, and they discover a horrifying secret that will force them to question everything they believe in."
For someone who's not a big fan of Science Fiction - like me - this is the perfect book. It also happens to be my favorite of Colfer's books (I've read eight and a half).
You're immediately thrown into the action of the novel when we see what a day in the life of Cosmo Hill is like, and hear his escape plotting - and see the actual job - all in the first chapter. And the action never stops for long, though it's well balanced with the non-action scenes.
Cosmo is a great protagonist. Someone you really want to see succeed - and just feel sorry for during most of the book. I enjoyed learning about the orphans - or "no-sponsors" - and the results of their upbringing. Like how Cosmo received never went to school, but learned everything from testing educational software, and has perfect teeth thanks to teeth-whitening products. And The Chemist: a boy who watched medical dramas on tv and was the only doctor the no-sponsors had.
The three other main characters, Stefan, Mona and Ditto, were also funny and mysterious. So much so that I can't really decide who my favorite character in this novel is. Stefan, at eighteen, is the guilt-ridden leader of the group with a deep hatred for the Parasites. Mona, the Latina fifteen year old, used to be a mechanic for the Sweetheart gang before a near-death experience brought her to the others. And Ditto, a twenty-eight year old, had been a test subject of Doctor Bartoli as a child and, as a result, has the height and looks of a six year old, along with some very special talents outside of his natural skills as a doctor.
While finding out the pasts of the characters was something that made me love the book, the plot twists were definitely my favorite thing about it. Someone's life is in danger in nearly every scene of the book. You never know who you can trust. Or what's real. Even while re-reading it, it kept me on the edge of my seat!
Attention to detail is one of Colfer's talents. Minor characters and villains like Ziplock Murphy and Marshall Redwood had their moments of glory where we would find out a little bit about them and their histories. Satellite City, weaponry, futuristic car mechanics, and even outer space were described in great detail.
It's hard not to feel a little sad after finishing this book (though Eoin has said he's planning a sequel!). It's even harder not to love it.
Quote of the Day:
"Yes, this grumpy little man is Granddad. And Mona is our kid sister. It's a dysfunctional group, but we're all we have. We're all anybody has. Sometimes it seems like we can never win, but we save who can. You, for example. If it hadn't been for us, that Parasite would've sucked you dry, and no one would have ever known." - Stefan, page 48
I finished Suite Scarlett today, so expect the review for that in a couple of hours - or maybe tomorrow. It's getting kinda late here.
Comments? Pretty please?
Friday, February 5, 2010
Waiting on the library is going to become a regular habit here. I have no money to spend on buying books, and I've read almost every book in my house. I'm not yet sure of how much my library has as I just moved here last Friday, but I'm hoping it's better than the one from my last town.
For this reason, I'm continuing to ask for suggestions. I've gotten five more this week (thank you Ari) and have found five myself. They'll all be put up on the book list post probably sometime over the weekend.
My library list will consist of seven books each time. One for each challenge I'm doing. Some may overlap. This week:
1) Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
2) Liar by Justine Larbalestier
3) Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
4) Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle
5) The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
6) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
7) Goddess for Hire by Sonia Singh
Also, thanks to the Story Siren, I found a site (I think it's called BookSneeze) and, if they accept me, they'll be sending me free books in return for my reviewing! They should get back to me within a week.
I shall post again in a few days with the review. Happy reading! ;)
P.S. Bookmarked now has a twitter account, so if you're not on Blogger you can get updates on Twitter.
And I'm compiling a list of book bloggers in the sidebar. Just some people I enjoy reading. ^_^
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Etched in Stone (Book One of the Skyla Chronicles)
by Tiffany Marie Saxe
Strategic Book Publishing (2009)
Official website: http://www.tiffanysaxe.com/
"In this fresh twist on a modern-day Phantom of the Opera, sixteen-year-old Luienna "Enna" Evans runs away from boarding school to Paris, France where she joins a theater company and lives under the roof of the Le Chateaux En Espagne Opera House.
Enna's new life is full of romance, drama and love. But, although surrounded by friends and family, Enna often feels alone. When she learns of a mysterious person named Skyla connected to the opera house, she delves into the mystery, only to become entangled in its curse as tragedy strikes the company. Can Enna unravel the truth in time to save her best friend? And can she find out whose name is etched in stone on a grave marker outside of Paris..."
There are not many bad things to say about this book. In fact, I could quite honestly say it was the best book I read last year - beating out the Twilight saga and Sign of the Zodiac series (all of which I love). However, the summary is something I want to complain about.
"Fresh twist on a modern-day Phantom of the Opera" ... really? That sentence alone was enough to make me want to put the book down before I even started reading. I don't like the Phantom of the Opera, perhaps I should give it another shot but that's besides the point. Etched in Stone was, in my opinion, completely different. Did they both take place at an opera house? Yes. Was there a big mystery at the opera house? Yes. But that's where the similarities end.
Also, the last line of the summary: "And can she find out whose name is etched in stone on a grave marker outside of Paris..." makes no sense. We find out whose name it is in the third chapter. Nothing mysterious about that. I'm putting the blame for these mistakes on the publisher for now.
For the real review: I think the story was very well-written. We follow Enna from her boarding school in London to Le Chateaux in Paris in the very beginning, and start meeting the new characters quickly. At first things seemed a little rushed, but everything worked itself out by the second chapter. The author's descriptions - of everything from the weather to the opera house itself - were wonderful. I especially liked the decorations in the dorm hallway.
The characters were believable. Perhaps a little eccentric at times, but that's to be expected. I did have trouble keeping track of them at times. I repeatedly mixed up the sisters Karma and Keela. I found Enna and Jason very intriguing and I loved learning about their secrets as well as Skyla's. Some other characters I liked were Enna's best friend Rain, Nathalie, and Enna's little sister Via (at times).
The book is filled with too-long paragraphs and grammatical errors. All of which I, again, blame the publishing company for not correcting. Despite these mistakes, I can't give this book a lower rating because there's really nothing wrong with it. The rating is for the story and characters, not the formatting. I would probably think twice about looking at any other books from Strategic Book Publishing, but I'd definitely read more from the author. I mean, she made me cry. I don't cry over just any books, you know.
All in all I loved this book and am in the process of reading it for a second time. It's a short read (I finished it in two days) but a very good one for fans of fantasy or operas. I look forward to the next book in the series. =)
And now, my favorite quote:
"I'm no rose, just another leaf with a few layers and a need for a stem." - Enna
So, everyone comment and let me know how I did for my first review? I admit, I kinda stole the layout of the review from Ari @ Reading in Color. Sorry.
I'm already reading the first book for this year, so I'll post again hopefully sometime next week when I'm finished.