Saturday, August 29, 2009

BR: Maximum Ride- The Angel Experiment


by James Patterson

Ooh, I've heard a lot of good stuff about these books, not necessarily on YA blogs, but just around. It's the first of the "Maximum Ride" series, which has 5 books (I believe) out right now. I read the whole thing in one sitting, and its a 400+ page book! Pretty addicting!

Six kids have been mutated by the school to become 98% human and 2% avian. They can fly, which is pretty wicked, and have superhuman strength as well. Max Ride, 14, is the oldest and the 'mother' of the group, and she does her best to take care of the younger kids. Fang, 14, cool, calm, collected, quiet, handsome, logical. Iggy, 14, blind, likes explosives, great hearing, lock-picker among other talents. Nudge, 11, big chatterbox, she's still brave though. Gasman is 8, and he has a younger sister, Angel (6) who can read minds. Yep, these kids are pretty extraordinary. Except they were engineered this way, not naturally born like this. When hiding out in the woods, they are discovered by 'Erasers', who are half-mutant-wolf things that are strong but evil. When Angel is captured by them to be used for more scientific experiments by the 'School', Max must gather her wits about and organize a rescue. But what chance do these six kids have against an entire organization hell-bent on mutating humans for their own sadistic experiments? Add in a crazy New York City adventure, and some more amazing powers, Max and her 'family' need to survive and outrun whoevers hunting them, and finding out secrets about their past in the process.

So.. I don't know why I took such a long time getting around to this series! Geez, maybe because the description sounds cheesy/lame (bird-people, seriously?) but I was pleasantly surprised. This action/adventure story is fast-paced with great characters, coupled with an interesting mystery and clever plot. Patterson really thought this out, because these scientific things seem mildly possible and believable.

What did I like the most? The characters, hands down. Max isn't necessarily "amazingly deep, complex, and 3-D" but she's an admirable heroine who is determined to protect her family. She cares for the younger ones, acting as a natural leader, comforter, and even a mother at times. The younger kids trust her inexplicably, probably because she has pulled through for them so many times. Her narration throughout the majority of the book was well-written IMO, because she did 'speak' about her worries, fears, and honest thoughts, not just 'narrating a story'. I liked Fang's character, and how delicious he sounds (licks lips in a non-creepy manner) but he was a bit flat. Maybe it was because he never said much, but I just didn't get much personality vibe from him, apart from the fact that he cared deeply for Max and the other kids.

I liked how even though Patterson had 6+ main characters, he didn't let any of them get pushed aside. Fang, Iggy, Gasman, Nudge, and Angel all get developed decently enough, and are big parts of the novel, not just some minor person. I liked the way the 6 of them always stuck together like a family, but still bickered and whatnot. The antagonists were interesting as well, and they made good bad-guys, if you get what I say. Unique but deadly.

Another thing I liked was the 'scientific' aspect of the novel, with the DNA modifications, mutations, and the different 'creatures' created. The Erasers are an interesting concept, with them managing to evolve from a handsome model-person to a snarling wolf. The flying may sound cheesy, but Patterson seems to pull it off and make it seem 'cool'. The different powers the kids develop are also unique, but I won't spoil it for you. Just know that I'm pretty jealous :P

9/10 - because I severely underestimated it. I didn't think I would like it, and I'm really happy to be proven wrong. I was so caught up in the story, and loved the plot and characters (a lot!). I liked the 'mutants' (which seems like a cruel way to put it) that Patterson created, and really enjoyed the non-stop action. Don't judge the book by it's cover (lame cover, IMO) or its description (also lame IMO), I just advise you to try it. Recommend to people who want to read a fast-paced action/adventure novel with a cool plot and interesting characters with cool abilities. Pretty guy-friendly as well, I think.

--AyC

PS- I'm gonna tag this as 'supernatural' but I think it's barely that. These kids just have cool powers, not necessarily magical. Anywho, in my "tags explained" post, you can see what I mean by supernatural. Meh, this PS sucks. Oh, and it's tagged as sci-fi because it includes scientific stuff, which isn't really the definition of sci-fi, but oh well. Sue me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

BR: Wicked Lovely


by Melissa Marr

Okay, so this book has been floating around for a while, it's the first part of a series (3 out so far, I believe).

So Aislinn (known as Ash) [EDIT 9/5- I just found out the Aislinn is pronounced ASH-lin.] can see faeries, and that's not normal. She has to pretend she doesn't see these invisible creatures who are rude, distasteful, and downright mean sometimes, except for now it seems as if they're following her. But she doesn't want them to, she just wants to pretend none of this 'stalking' ever happened, and go off to college with her best friend, not wanting to be courted by an alluring faery 'Summer King', Keenan. Keenan has to go up against the Winter Queen and find himself a girl to be the Summer Queen and rule by his side in order to stop the spreading of the coldness. Keenan thinks this girl is Aislinn, and thus begins a courtship that may determine the future of faeries everywhere.

Okay, before continuing on, WARNING: There will be spoilers in this review, because I have stuff to say that involves spoilers. Mostly "big" spoilers, not mild ones, so if you haven't read the book, please check out the rest of the blog!!!



Alright, so I spent the majority of the book upset, frustrated, and ticked off by Keenan and his actions. I do see where he's coming from, with so many failings in finding a Summer Queen, and the constant threat of his mother, but honestly, I feel more for Aislinn...thus, I'm totally on her side despite Keenan's logical reasoning/actions.

Gah, so why did I hate Keenan so much? Well, he was such a constant annoyance to Aislinn, especially at school, following her around constantly with his ridiculous 'romantic' comments. She isn't interested! And she wants to let you down gently without looking like a total bitch and shooting you down in a mean way, but you just don't seem to get it. Does anyone watch One Tree Hill (the TV show)?? Well, there's the scene with Brooke at the bar, and she tells a guy hitting on her about 'signals' a woman sends (hilarious scene, btw). Read the goddamn signals, boy! And leave her the heck alone! Following her like a puppy dog when she obviously doesn't take in strays does not make her like you more! This may seem quite a minor reason to dislike the book, but the way it's written in the actual novel, it's quite ughh. Don't just use my review as a reason, try reading the book and see how you feel when Keenan enrolls at her school

I guess I feel this way because unlike Bella, Aislinn does not like her Edward, despite how determined he is to take away her mortal life and turn her into his faery queen. Plus, I totally like the Aislinn/Seth pairing rather than an almost-abusive/forceful relationship with Keenan. She only goes out with him to find out a way to make him go away, but he still does the annoying 'romantic' stuff like those 'romantic' lines of "I can't live without you, I need you...etc" which was *facepalm* moments for me. Like when he makes a vow, and then practically breaks it when Aislinn asks him to leave her alone. Or maybe the fact that he threatens her friends if she doesn't become his queen. Or he seduces her unfairly with his faery abilities, which isn't very cool. He's so hell-bent on making Aislinn his Summer Queen, he doesn't realize how he might affect Aislinn by taking away her mortal life and even her best friend who she loves dearly. Selfish, in my opinion (even though, again, I can see where he's coming from).

I liked the ending a lot, because it was the way I liked it, but personally, I didn't think it fit with the story. With Aislinn and Seth together, I just don't think it would've worked.


**End of most spoilers!!**

So here's a non-rant-ical review. I liked Aislinn's bond with Seth, she loves her best friend and would do anything to protect him, and vice versa. Despite being able to see faeries, she still wants to live an as normal life as possible, rather than 'exploiting' her talents.

I liked a lot of the minor characters too, like Donia. She's unique, bitter, but still tries to do what's right, despite major odds against her. She had more depth to her character, especially when you find out why she ended up the way she did. The Winter Queen was a very well-written antagonist, using her powers, trying to keep the Keenan away from finding his Summer Queen and ending her reign. Seth, who isn't really a minor character, was a person I really liked. He always did what's best for Aislinn, protected her, loved her, and didn't push or pry. I think he's a great match for her. Oh, did I mention my dislike for Keenan?

The plot itself was interesting enough (despite my hate for some parts), with Aislinn having to deal with the two boys, clinging on to her mortality, seeing faeries, and making a choice to become the Queen or not. It's a clever twist on the dreaded love triangle, so good job, Marr. I'm just glad she didn't end up with Keenan! The writing itself wasn't amazing, but good enough to keep things flowing. Some scenes did seem a bit awkwardly placed, like a sudden chapter involving Donia/Winter Queen when most of the novel is about Aislinn.

6.5/10 - because of how annoyed I was. Remember, my rating is purely on how much I liked or disliked the book, not on how 'good' the book is. Bcause of my intensely frustrated emotions when reading this book, I can't find much of it redeemable. I would recommend this to people since not everybody will feel the same about it, so if you like books involving faeries, magic, maybe a bit of supernatural, try picking this book up. Oh, and are you team Seth or team Keenan?

--AyC

PS- I'm not tagging this as 'supernatural' because quite frankly, there isn't that much magic the people have, they're just faeries and just exist, if you know what I mean.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BR: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist


by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I picked this book up because I liked the movie, and Khy over at freneticreader blog really likes David Levithan. Thought I'd give it a whirl.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist starts with Nick asking Norah to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes after seeing his ex at a club. She agrees, and an unexpected kiss sparks a crazy night through Manhattan. This 'first date' includes a yellow Yugo, strip club, ET three-way, trashed best-friends, gay best-friends, icky ex-boyfriends, mean ex-girlfriends, and of course, music. The night comes alive, as Nick and Norah seem to fall in and out (and again and again) of love.

I liked this book a lot, because despite some more vulgar language than seen recently, it's unexpectedly sweet. It may seem as if the adventure is the main part, but really, it's the characters. They're written exceptionally well, complex, sarcastic, and insecure. The novel is told from their different POVs, alternating with each chapter.

Nick is still hung up about his ex, Tris, and is constantly reminded of her, which leads to Norah getting frustrated. He's adorable, so sweet, and way too nice, writing love songs and making countless playlists that went practically ignored by Tris. Norah appreciates it though, and is upset with how Tris treated him. However, whenever Nick is mentioned, I can't help but think of Michael Cera from the movie, I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but a mental image of Michael Cera definitely does not go unwelcomed. :P

Norah, a rich record exec's daughter doesn't have that much experience with boys except for her lousy on/off boyfriend Tal. She thinks she's "frigid" and too cold towards boys, something she wants to change with Nick. She's insecure and afraid of liking him, and doesn't know what she wants. Here's a passage by Norah to describe the beginning of the 'date'.

[Where's Fluffy, a band] could make me forget I want to crawl into my bed and hide under the covers, and that I only wasted my youth on Tal, and that I'm on a date with a good guy and I've given him more mixed signals than a dyslexic Morse code operator.

haha, right? It's this type of writing that makes the book so much better, along with the characters which I really didn't describe well enough or give them enough credit.

Another thing I liked was the way the authors weaved in the music. Music is constantly mentioned, whether it's references, or as a band. Music fanatics would know a hell of a lot more about this than me, since I only recognize a few of the bands mentioned. It's almost like an inside joke that I'm on the outside of sometimes.

8.5/10 - because I liked the book a lot. The characters were really well written, the writing was fantastic, and the setting was great. I could see the 'date' they were on, and some scenes are pretty darn funny. The alternating perspectives were a great idea and added to the story rather than taking away from it. The two voices were clear and different, so I always had a sense of who's narrating, not getting confused. There is some pretty commonly-dropped F-bombs, and maybe some mature scenes as well. Not for little kids :) . Would definitely recommend this to someone who likes music (more punk-rockish than country though) or to someone who wants to read a funny, quirky romance novel with some unique ideas.

--AyC

BR: Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire


by Derek Landy

Well, if you don't know yet, I really enjoyed the first installment of the series because it was funny, the review can be found (here). There's at least 3 books in this series.

So Detective Skulduggery is back, along with his assistant and protege, Valkyrie Cain (Stephanie, to those who are confused). The bad guys still want to raise the Faceless Ones from the dead, so they have to try and stop it with the help of Tanith, Bliss, China, and others. The new grand mage may be a bit 'crooked', and the bad guy, Baron Vengeous, seems to have some armor that makes him...invincible. Then Vengeous' bodyguard/killer-for-hire seems to have his own agenda, and the monstrous Grotesquery is being pieced back together. Complicated? Yeah, it seems so, but it doesn't hurt that Valkyrie has been honing her skills and can throw fireballs with Skulduggery, does it?

Okay, to be perfectly honest, I was pretty disappointed with this book. As I mentioned before, the part I enjoyed the most about the first book was the humor aspect, and quite frankly, this book didn't measure up. There were not as many funny moments, no dog-eared pages, and the dialogue wasn't as great. That doesn't mean the action wasn't there (it was!) but I was just sad since the thing I was looking forward to most (a laugh) was rarely there.

As I said in the summary, this book was really fast paced and there were lots of characters to keep tabs on. Characters that appeared in the beginning suddenly appear near the end, and I have no idea who the heck he is (Spring-heeled Jack for example). The story itself was good, and the action was totally there. Poor Valkyrie and Skuduggery never seem to be able to rest, unless they're in a hospital, that is.

I felt there could have been more character development with Valkyrie, she rarely mentions her sadness regarding not seeing her parents enough, but she does think about overusing her reflection. She does seem to be developing her magic pretty quickly, and already seems too good at hand-to-hand fighting, which may be a bit unrealistic unless she's like a superwoman thingy. Skulduggery was pretty flat, not much is revealed about him, and he's basically the same witty/cool/funny skeleton-detective as before. Shucks. But again, this is a 'Juvenile' book, so there isn't much to expect.

Landy did a good job keeping the action going, and the plot was driving the book a lot more than the characters. I liked the supporting characters, with Tanith and China who turns out to be pretty wicked. The bad-guys were also a great inclusion to the novel, they were all well described, had personalities, and nice'n'evil.

7.5/10 - because the humor wasn't there for me as much as the action was. The book was average because of the good action, but it lacked character depth and development. Minor characters were hard to remember, especially since I split the book up, reading it over a few days (gasp!) but that's just me. If you liked the first book more for its humor, I probably wouldn't recommend this to you. If you liked the non-stop action more, you should try this one. Looking for a 'deeper' novel, this one might not be for you either.

--AyC

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BR: Homicide Related- A Ryan Dooley Mystery


by Norah McClintock

Wow, this sure is a great time to be writing a review...2 in the morning... Anyways, I read this book a couple days ago and have just been waiting for the mood to write a wicked review, so here it goes! Oh, this is the sequel to Dooley Takes the Fall (2nd in a trilogy). I read the first book before making a blog, so unfortunately, I don't have a review. However, (here)'s a link to Casey at bookworm4life, her review inspired me to pick up this series.

Ryan Dooley is back, ladies and gentleman, and he is more desirable than ever! (except for the fact that he already has a girlfriend, Beth, and he is really into her and not me...) Okay, here's the actual normalish summary. Dooley can't seem to catch enough breaks, he hates school, hates his job, hates his uncle's short leash, but likes his girlfriend (who might be seeing another guy). He's been working hard to set his life straight, no longer involved with booze and drugs. That is, until an old friend from the old days shows up and asks for a loan. Then his mother appears after years of no contact, only to be murdered. If that's not enough though, Dooley's uncle seems to have secrets of his own. On a path to find the truth, Dooley has to face his own past with his mother, his old life, and his family.

Straight to the point: I loved this book. It was a great, thrilling, fast-paced, crime/mystery novel, which I feel the YA section seriously lacks these days. Dooley is an excellent character, and you can't help but root for him. He's been through a lot of crap, and he's finally getting his life straight with good intentions, but bad stuff just seems to happen around him.

The mystery element of the novel was written very well by McClintock (she's written a lot of other mystery novels, which are usually pretty decent), and I loved the foreshadowing. Small conversations reappear as significant clues, and even a casual comment has some underlying meaning for Dooley to figure out later in the novel. I liked reading about Dooley trying to piece together all these clues, even if the result isn't favorable.

I also really liked characters, starting from his uncle. An ex-cop turned dry-cleaner, he gave Dooley a chance and really helped him turn his life around. It was nice how McClintock would include Jeffie, proving that Dooley hasn't escaped his old life completely yet. I also enjoyed reading about Beth, and her own little mystery. Nevin... won't comment but just think of his name...

Most of all though, I loved Dooley. He's a strong character that struggles to do the right thing, forced to 'suck it up' and let people around him treat him like a criminal. The way he was a flawed character, it made him a lot more realistic. I get so caught up that I want to go into the book and smack the cops, who are total ninnys (that's a word!) and pick on Dooley. More than once, too. I also enjoyed the relationship (or lack thereof) with his mother, and with Beth. Seriously, Dooley and Beth are pretty adorable. The romance in the novel isn't huge-huge, but there's enough that I'm not 'yearning' for more. I fell really creepy writing stuff like that...

I felt the ending was a bit short, or maybe I just wanted the book to go on longer. The strings were mostly tied up, so there's no cliffie (which is a relief or I will be way too antsy anticipating the next book). Oh, and I wanted to mention I can't WAIT to read the last book in this trilogy. Oh Dooley, look what you've done to me :)

9.3/10 - because I loved this. Most enjoyable parts were the mystery (I read too few these days) and the characters. It was fast-paced, and I liked the little clues and foreshadowing McClintock included. I'm seriously considering making a Dooley fan club...he is honestly probably one of my favorite guys in YA lit. The bad-boy-turned-good is a verrr nice angle. Homicide Related is a guy-friendly novel, and I would recommend this to people who want to read a YA mystery/crime novel.

--AyC

Saturday, August 22, 2009

BR: The House of the Scorpion


by Nancy Farmer

First, happy 50th post to me! My friend had been telling me again and again to read this, apparently it was very good. And then, when I was browsing through the library and saw it, I remembered what he said, and then...I looked at the stickers. It's won (well, 'honored' in a few) 3 awards! They are: National Book Award (win), Printz, and Newberry (honor)! I had to read it! :) And just noticing, this review has a LOT of tags...

The House of the Scorpion is the story of Matt Alacran, a clone of an old, powerful drug lord named El Patron. It tells his entire story, from birth to age 14, and is about his journey from a naive kid to self-acceptance. Set in the futuristic country called Opium (where narcotics are grown, harvested, transported, etc) Matt struggles to understand his existance. Everyone hates clones, they're treated worse than animals; the only people who befriend Matt are his caretaker, Celia, a girl, Maria, a bodyguard, Tam Lin, and the man who cloned him, El Patron. He loves El Patron and blinds himself from seeing his (El Patron's) faults, a downfall for Matt. Under the command, and fear of El Patron, people are forced to 'accept' him, but that doesn't stop them from hating him. Matt has the odds stacked against him, but he still struggles to survive, despite some extreme circumstances.

It's hard to write a summary for this novel because it's so 'vast', and covers so much time and events. I can't summarize an event from when he's 14, because it might spoil an event from when he's 6. I don't want to give away too much (that's what you guys reading it is for!)

I really liked this book for many reasons. First, I loved the futuristic setting Farmer used, centered around a drug-trading nation, but still 'not really' completely about that. The medical advancements with transplants and clones reminded me (vaguely) for Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

The characters were another big hit for me. "Eejits" are people (slaves) with computer chips inside them that make them obey every command, they don't even drink unless instructed too. Complete obedience, they have no life, no opinion, and just work in the poppy fields all day. These zombies are a great creation, and really sets the tone for the type of country El Patron runs. I also enjoyed the character Maria, I could 'feel' her chemistry with Matt, and their romance (not a lot, but enough) was adorable (my guy friend even admitted that). The people who stuck with Matt, who didn't hate him or treat him like scum also earned my respect. I admit, I underestimated Celia, believing she had no backbone. I also respected Tam Lin, a bodyguard who has his own demons but still befriends Matt against others' opinions.

Of course, I can't leave out Matt, who is such a strong protagonist. He's dealt with shit (figuratively and literally) for a lot of his life, from as soon as he learned what he was. He was always able to move past it, not letting it affect him drastically. He refuses to 'curl up and die' when he is mistreated or looked down upon, but just works that much harder for acceptance and approval. His relationship with El Patron was completely realistic in my eyes, he had a "hero-worship" thing going on, but if you look at it from Matt's shoes, El Patron gives him so much that he would not have gotten otherwise. Matt loves El Patron for 'saving' him, and he can't understand why others hate him. It takes him too long to see through the lies and find out El Patron's ultimate ulterior motives. When he finally gets the truth, he fights back, a strong trait I greatly admire. Matt is a complex, well written character who is believable and incredibly intricate.

And let's not count out the antagonists, who are cleverly written and have their own layers. Angel-faced devil, Tom, was a joy to read (and also a joy to hate) since he put up such a angelic front, but was evil! Reading about El Patron through Matt's perspective (it's a third-person limited) was conflicting, especially when dealing with Matt's personal opinion versus everyone else's.

Lastly, I liked the plot a lot (yay for rhymes, LOL). I liked how Farmer took us through his whole life, instead of just jumping into it when he's 14. It gives us a lot to think about, and helps us understand the obstacles in Matt's life. It also gives us perspective on his journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance, and his childhood experiences are invaluable. The plot was interesting, and kept me engaged, it was hard to put the book down. Matt's story was amazingly (I hate to use this word...) cool. I had to know what happened next in his life. I didn't find the writing impeccable, but it was good enough to captivate me and suck me into Matt's world.

One thing that I didn't like was the ending. (No spoilers!). It was a bit too 'easy' for me, I would have wanted a bit more action. It does leave a bit up to the reader, and doesn't tie up everything with a bow though (think anti-Breaking Dawn).

9/10 - because I'm usually not a fan of sci-fi, but I really liked this one. I loved Matt, his story, the characters, and the futuristic world. Farmer had some pretty unique ideas that I enjoyed. The ending was only okay, but the whole thing as a 'package' was a really enjoyable read. The House of the Scorpion is an inspiring tale of hope, friendship, and survival. It touches on today's issues today, including political, ethical, and scientific ideas, might be interesting for a school project. I would recommend this for a person who enjoys futuristic sci-fi novels, or wants to read an dark 'adventure' story with a great protagonist.

--AyC

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

BR: Going Too Far


by Jennifer Echols

Well, I went to the bookstore and bought two books today, this one, and Homicide Related: A Ryan Dooley Mystery by Norah McClintock. I've read a lot of good reviews for this (Going Too Far) book, and in the store, I kinda just wanted to get a nice, teen romance novel. Other books I saw and desperately wanted, I resisted buying because I knew my library already had those books, and I was just waiting in line for reserves.

Going Too Far revolves centrally around the relationship of Meg and John. Meg, a 17 year old blue-haired girl, isn't exactly a 'good' girl; she desperately wants to get out of the small town she has lived in her whole life. She fears getting stuck there managing a small diner like her parents, and cannot wait to leave after grad. John After, on the other hand, joins the Police Force right after high school, at nineteen, and works the graveyard shift patrolling, haunted by a bridge. He's the model policeman, takes his job extremely seriously, driven and determined despite his lowly position. He doesn't leave the small town, either because he doesn't want to, or can't. When Meg and her friends get caught on the aforementioned bridge, Meg's punishment is to spend her spring break riding alongside in a squad car with John, denying her of partying in Miami. The five nights the two spend together change them both, as their relationship constantly evolves. Meg goes from hating John's guts (for causing her to miss going to the beach) to a tentative, teasing friendship, to something more. They question each other, and push each other 'to the edge', out of their comfort zones.

Lots of reviews leave it at that, but I think I'll elaborate further, since 'going too far' is just too vague. Meg questions John's choices of staying in the small town, not going to college, or working for a promotion. She can't understand his need to 'guard' the bridge (it's a secret later revealed.) In return, John asks Meg about why she is 'ditching' her parents at the first moment, when they have been there for her her whole life. Ultimately, Going Too Far is a semi-fluffy love story with underlying, mature themes.

I was pretty stoked when I finally bought this book (I never buy books, remember??) and read it right away when I got home; all in one sitting, I might add. I really got caught up in the story, wanting too see where it would go since both characters are so intriguing. They're both extremely observant and act uniquely, from the way John uses specific words to keep a distance or stay in control, to the way Meg is claustrophobic, prone to panic attacks, and struggling to find out who she is. I really liked the first-person narration from Meg's POV.

I really liked the characters in Echols' novel, they were realistic, complex, and three-dimensional. Meg doesn't care what people think of her, that is, until she meets John. She finds herself falling for him and vice versa, and I loved the constant references to his eyes. John (hot!) is always trying to stay in control, whether by intimidating others or distancing himself. I also liked the connection and how drawn he was to the bridge. The way the two interact, and watching their relationship evolve was very well written. The parts when they were teasing each other I found it very cute. Because there were so many 'personal' moments, the character growth for both of them was thorough and enjoyable.

That being said, I finished the novel wanting just a little bit more. Despite how much I enjoyed reading it, I wished a few more aspects, loose ends, or events could have been described either in more detail, or just mentioned/explained better.

**Spoilers below**


For example, I wanted to see what became of Meg's notebook, or learn more about Meg's experiences with sickness. I wanted to learn more about what makes John 'tick' (although I admit, it was explored pretty well already), and maybe explain the on-going joke he has about the police academy (unless I missed it...)

**End spoilers**


I didn't like how Meg kept going back to stupid pot-head Eric when the hunk policeman was there for her... okay a bit biased here. I did like the romance in the novel though, and adored the couple. Especially the moments where John would be either jealous or overprotective =D

The ending was fluffy in my opinion, but after a lot of serious moments throughout the book, I thought it was a good way to end it.

8.9/10 - because even though the novel captivated me and kept me flipping the pages, I wished there was just a bit more, which meant the difference between really good and excellent. This is teetering right on the edge. I would recommend this to anyone interested in a romance novel, it's not too long, not too short, so it's not like a marathon to finish it (*cough*Twilight*) There are some mature scenes, and mentions of drugs and alcohol. You can't help but root for John and Meg's relationship, and I felt it was a very good novel.

--AyC

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

(50) books Over summer?!?!?

I was making a list of books I've read since school ended, and I'm at 31. So, being the competitive person I am, I'm setting a crazy challenge for myself (despite the fact that I am already two-thirds into summer holidays)...
It is:

Read 50 Books Over Summer Holidays!!

For me, 'summer holidays' starts when school let out, to the first day of school. So... it is between June 13, 2009, and Sept. 7, 2009. (Yes, we Canadians haven't started school yet)

I am at 31 books right now (Aug. 18) so I am a bit over one-a-day in order to finish this challenge. At the very end, I'll post the list of all the books I've read in this span, no matter if I complete the challenge or not.

Here's a 'good luck' to myself :), I've never ever done this type of thing before. Any advice?

--AyC

whee, i'm Promoting!

There's a huge giveaway over at bloodybookaholic!
Here's a link:

Right Here Right Here!!

Go check it out!!

--AyC

my Tags (Explained)

Well, I was looking over my labels, or tags today and I found that it may get a bit confusing, especially when you have so much 'gray area' in some cases. This post is just an explaination of some of the more hazy tags.

Book Review Related:

Romance
As you see, there is NO tags for romance. This is because, the majority of books I read have some aspect of it, therefore, every book would would have this tag. However, the romance amount varies greatly with YA books. For example, Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen revolves a LOT around the romance between Auden and Eli. But then, a novel like The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong revolves more along the adventure, not the romance (even if it's present). It's difficult to judge whether or not the book has enough "romance" to be categorized as "romance"...
I don't want people going in expecting lots of sa-woons, but just being disappointed. I decided to skip this tag completely, but I usually do talk about the romance in my reviews.
If you think this is a bad idea, and want me to tag these books, feel free to leave a comment.

Adventure
This tag will refer more to the protagonist on some sort of quest. Like trying to save someone, fighting someone, or trying to run away, and then getting into all sorts of cool predicaments. A great example of "adventure" is Graceling by Kristen Cashore. Katsa is deffs on an adventure!

Realistic
This one is the post I find quite iffy. To me, and to my tags, "realistic" means the protagonist is a 'regular' teenager, no special powers, no magic, and is trying to get by and 'live life'. Romance can be included in the story, but it's basically non-fantasy/magic. Good example is Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine and Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen.

Summer
This tag is for books that take place in the summer. Either a summer adventure, or just a fun summer romance. It has nothing to do with the 'real life season'. Example is The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, which features Macy and a summer that changes her.

Fantasy
For me, fantasy means a completely different world with weird creatures, magic, swordfighting, and adventures. NOT something that takes place in 'our world' but with extra powers. My best friend next door hiding her superpower is not fantasy. Think Eragon or Graceling, NOT The Summoning.

Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
This tag is for books where the character is living in OUR WORLD, but has special powers. They can be magical, but live among humans. Also known as "paranormal romance" or "urban fantasy". May or may not include vampires/werewolves. They aren't living in some alien world, or some fantasy world, but rather present time. Think The Summoning, not Vampire Academy.

Futuristic
Another iffy tag. Futuristic is any novel that obviously takes place in the future, whether or not it is some sort of high-tech, robotic world, or if everything is destroyed through war. Both the movie, I, Robot, and the novel, Life as We Knew It, are futuristic, despite vast differences in the state of the 'futuristic world'. Unwind has a world like today, but with a different laws and different medical techniques, thus it is futuristic. The Hunger Games is a LOT different from today, but still in the future. Doesn't matter if it is Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Utopian...just in the future.

Vampires
Yes, they have their own category. To many vamp books these days. The vamps' characteristics don't matter, whether they're sparkly or suck blood, they are still called vampires.

Classic
These are the novels written a long time ago, usually you're forced to read in schoo..hehe. Doesn't include modern novels that are 'destined' to be classics, just books that are OLD. BTW, To Kill A Mockingbird is a classic to me. Think Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.


Non-Book Review Related:
Music
These tags refer to posts that talk about music. It is generally a post that talks about my favorite songs or artists at the moment. Sometimes, I will include music recommendations at the end of a book review as a PS.
My Life
Just what it says. Nothing to do with books, just about my good-ol boring life, perhaps some happy event, or one that makes me mad and I just wanna rant.
***
If I use other confusing tags, I will probably add it to the list. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I'll try to clear it up. Suggestions or feedbacks? Comment or email me.
--AyC

Monday, August 17, 2009

BR: Skulduggery Pleasant


by Derek Landy

No intro sentence, straight to the summary. Onwards you fools! (no offence, I just finished watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Hysterical, I tell you.)

Detective Skulduggery Pleasant is not the type of person you usually meet. For one, he's a walking, talking skeleton that can do magic and summon fireballs on command, and for two... well he's just awesome. After her uncle is murdered, 12 year old Stephanie joins forces with Skulduggery to find out who killed him, and is dragged into a world she never thought existed, with magic, mages, and all sorts of wicked stuff. Her boring, mundane life has been turned upside down. Now they have to stop the evil Serpine before he seizes the Scepter and 'rules the world' so to speak.

Ohmigosh, this book is FUNNY. Well, I don't want to get your hopes up too high because people's taste in humor varies, but basically, this book is one of the funniest ones I've read this year. Its a "Juvenile Paperback" in library terms, but that just means its a bit kiddish, and you can kinda tell. The adventure is non-stop, the mystery is fun, and the characters are aimed at younger audiences IMO. It's not a 'deep, angsty, with clever humor' teenage book, it's just one of those fun books for kids that you grow up reading and loving. It really is nice to take a break from serious themes and just enjoy the ride. Don't judge it by its intended audiences though, give it a try if you want a laugh.

Well, what was so funny about the book? The banter. God, the conversations between Stephanie and Skulduggery was so funny! Skulduggery is such a fun character to read. At the end of the book, there's an 'extra's section, where an "interviewer" asks Skulduggery:

Describe yourself in 5 words.
Charming. Witty. Lethal. Brilliant. Modest.


Gosh, when I read the last word, I burst out laughing. Here's an example of one of their conversations:

"You can't leave me alone," [Stephanie] said, following him into the living room.
"No," he corrected, "I can. You'll be perfectly safe."
"The front door's off!"
"Well, yes. You'll be perfectly safe as long as they don't come through the front door." (54)


And I can't resist, here's an example of Skulduggery's funny-ness, after he 'heroically' rescues Stephanie from a bad-guy, and they meet.

He had no eyeballs, so it was hard to tell if he was looking at her or not. "You know, I met your uncle under similar circumstances. Well, kind of similar. But he was drunk. And we were in a bar. And he vomited on my shoes. So I suppose the actually circumstances aren't overly similar, but both events include a meeting so..." (46)


I usually dog-ear parts in novels I find funny or just passages I want to reread, and there were so many in this book. The characters are drawn excellently, and they are witty as ever. Even Skulduggery has a dark past that haunts him, which added depth. The characters are exactly deep though, but it didn't really matter. The mystery and adventure aspect were also written well, and the novel was fast-paced with clever dialogue. I'm actually happy to read a book that doens't include romance. Too many books these days contain that (or may I just tend to like them more...) but this was a nice break.

Landy has created a world that's different, but 'right in front of us', with the sorcerers, magic, cool artifacts, and Elders who keep peace. He may have taken a few ideas from other magic novels, or maybe they are just coincidentally similar (I found a few magical elements of the novel similar to Eragon). I have little complaints about the novel, apart from the fact that I wished the characters could be a bit more 'deep', but this is a juvenile fiction novel, and it really wasn't needed.

9/10 - because it had those moments that were absolutely brilliant. Lots of the dialogue was hilarious, and put perfectly that I had to burst out laughing. Skulduggery's character of an anti-modest, unhumble skeleton who couldn't resist commenting on how funny/clever/smart he is was great. Again, one of the funniest novels I've read recently, so if you want a laugh, try this one out! Not for people who want an in-depth read, or an emotional novel. This is just an adventure of a kid + skeleton + other cool people in a magical world. This book is an exmaple of my favorite type of humor (witty, clever dialogue, with perfect timing).

(Here) is a link to a book review that directed me to this. Thanks Casey, from Bookworm4life!!! Oh, and there's a sequel called Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire, and it's already out.

--AyC

Sunday, August 16, 2009

BR: Getting the Girl


by Markus Zusak

This is the sequel to Fighting Ruben Wolfe (review here), and takes place a year after the first novel, still focusing on Cam and Rube.

Well, the brothers are back, plus the rest of their family including sister Sarah and older brother Steve. Like the title states, this novel involves a girl, Octavia, whom Rube dated. Rube is a player, dating a girl for a couple weeks then dropping them without a second though, never committing himself, giving back in a relationship. But Octavia is different to Cam, not one of the trashy girls. After she and Rube break up, Cam falls in love with her, but this doesn't sit well with Rube, putting tension on both relationships. All the while, Cam has to deal with being a 'loner', fighting for Octavia, and dealing with his family. He learns to fight for himself, not for his brother, not for someone else, to take something he wants.

While this novel deals with 'getting the girl' and stuff, again, it's deeper than that. Zusak's book explores Cam's world and his life, the way he feels about himself, about his family. Sure, Cam's head-over-heels for a girl, but he finds himself in a situation he has to fight for what he wants. He expresses himself with 'writings' that are inter-spaced throughout the novel, and personally, I find his 'writings' impressive, mature, and extremely well written. It's so lyrical, almost like a poem, and very beautiful. I thought it was a good idea by Zusak to include this, giving readers more inside into Cam's personal thoughts.

Rube and Steve got on my nerves, but again, it's family. Some of their actions were completely uncalled for, and sometimes I felt Cam forgave them too easily. If I were in his place, I would be holding a hella-grudge, but he finds 'it doesn't matter', and he has to move on. His confrontations, though not physical, made him a brave character, facing his problems and issues without hiding away. The way he treats Octavia is incessantly sweet, standing outside her house for hours. I really like Cam's character.

Unlike Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl doesn't revolve mainly around brothers and family, but rather around Cam and him finding his place.

8.1/10 - because I loved Cam's 'writings' throughout the novel, it made it richer. The prose is again, suitable, but a bit more mature which fits Cam. The characters were well-drawn, especially the Wolfe family, and I really liked Cam. He's such a brave, strong character, yet he doesn't really know it. A bit insecure, but he still does the right thing in the end despite how things are against him. If you liked Fighting Ruben Wolfe, you will probably like this one. If you didn't this book might not be for you, but you can still give it a try. Again, a more 'boyish' novel, but realistic and well written.

--AyC

Saturday, August 15, 2009

BR: Fighting Ruben Wolfe


by Markus Zusak

I picked this book up because of the author, Markus Zusak, who wrote The Book Thief, which is written incredibly well.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe is above all, a story of brothers. Cameron Wolfe is the younger, shy boy with all the heart and cares about everything. He loves his brother, he's tough like a survivor, he'll get back up after getting beat down. Ruben Wolfe is the tough one, the one doing the beating up, the one with a perfect record, who can drop anyone. The bond of brotherhood between them is incredibly strong, as their family is struggling financially, and all they've got left is their pride, and their family. They first get involved with boxing because of the money, but then... it's about the fight. Fighting and surviving, proving you're a winner. They are invovled in an illegal boxing scam, that will push them to their limits in the ultimate face-off.

I really liked this novel, which surprised me, since it's such a 'boy' novel (not to be sexist or anything). The plot isn't mindblowing, but it's decent. These boys have nowhere to go, so they turn to boxing every Sunday in an organized boxing scam. Cameron, aptly named the Underdog, fights to 'survive', told to get back up after getting hit, recognized for his heart. Ruben, on the other hand, is nicknamed Fighting Ruben Wolfe, which fits him perfectly. He's a fighter, he's tough, he can take anyone without fear.

I love Zusak's writing in this novel, told from Cam's POV. It's raw, straight-forward, and direct. It feals extremely real, from when he talkes about his fear in the ring, to when he talks about his fear of who Ruben seems to be becoming. The prose is effective, suiting him very well with all the slangs and way of speech. The ways Zusak writes makes the story richer, like when he writes something like:

He's Fighting Ruben Wolfe.
Or is he actually fighting Ruben Wolfe?
Inside him.
Proving himself.
To himself.
I don't know.
It's in each eye.
The question.
Each breath.
Who's fighting who?
Each hope. (120)

That's how it's actually written, and it makes the novel work. Come on, tell me that's not some pretty unique and amazing writing.

The thing I liked the most, however, would be the bond between the two. Not the individual characteristics, but the brotherly 'love'. Rube can read Cam perfectly, says aloud what Cam says in his head. Cam worries about Ruben becoming something 'different' because of the fights, something he doesn't recognize anymore. I think the scene where Rube tells a girl she's not worthy of Cam, although he was on the losing end of a match, was powerful, and really exemplified their bond and loyalty. It's obvious on so many counts that they would do anything for each other, so what happens when they are scheduled to fight one another?

8.4/10 - because I really liked many aspects of the novel. It was a pretty quick read for me, and the writing was engaging so I read it all in one go. The plot was okay, and don't worry, the boxing matches aren't gory-fied, but still well written. I didn't love-love-love it, but I really liked it. Especially loved Cam and Rube and their brotherly-ness. Very realistic for someone in their situation (in my head, that's what I imagine). I liked the writing more than the plot. I would recommend this to boys, maybe people who like fighting novels. But this isn't all about fighting, it's beyond that, it's about family and survival. I'm iffy about recommending it to girls though.

--AyC

Friday, August 14, 2009

BR: Elsewhere


by Gabrielle Zevin

I've borrowed this book before, but never read it, so it caught my eye when I went to the library the other day. I picked it up and remembered the cover, so now I have it.

Elsewhere is about a 15 year old girl, Liz, who dies in a car accident but turns up in a world called "Elsewhere". At Elsewhere, the people don't get older, they get younger until they become babies and get 'reborn' back on Earth. Liz is upset, since she wants to 'live' her life out, getting older, driving, going to prom, falling in love and all that, but she can't. With the help of her grandma Betty, some other almost-random people, she learns to deal with her death, and live a happy life (death??) on Elsewhere.

This book seems like a love/hate thing for me. Loved: the idea, the 'world' of Elsewhere, and the thought of the 'afterlife'. I thought Zevin was really clever to create this world, with people living backwards almost, in almost a parallel world. They can observe people on Earth, and see how they are carrying on, which can become an obsession and very unhealthy. There are also illegal ways to contact the living. I can see how that may be a problem.

Didn't like (not hated, just disliked): the story. Uggh, I don't want to sound extremely critical or anything, but I just didn't like most of it. The writing was only okay, it wasn't great. Some sentences seemed almost forced, as if it's there just to tell you how Liz is feeling. Such as:

Liz sits in the lone chair.
Liz finds the animation primitive and Polly annoying.
Liz learns the proper way to state her age
Liz waits for Sarah to finish speaking.
As Liz is leaving, she reflects on her last words.


It's like all this stuff is stated, not really 'woven' into the story, if you get what I mean. I felt this would have had so much more potential had it been written in first-person (Liz's) POV. The third-person thing just doesn't seem to work with this, since Liz's emotion are just stated, and not really 'felt'. Maybe it's just me, but I felt the 3rd-person thing made the writing less engaging.

Apart from the writing, I didn't like the romance. Actually, I felt it was extremely poorly written.


*spoilers below*


I mean seriously, Liz and Owen's meeting is fine, but after only a few weeks, she states she's in love with him. Everything between them feels forced, as if Zevin desperately just wanted to have some romantic aspect. It feels like one of those 'first loves' where you're convinced you are in love, since it's like your first time feeling like that. It wasn't very deep or romantic, just almost a deep crush (without much preexisting events apart from 3 movie dates). It was just really unrealistic to me.


*end spoiler*

Didn't like the prologue, I felt that the author could have probably introduced Liz's death better than from a dog's POV. I liked the beginning, when Liz is still half in denial, clinging on to her old life. I felt it was a bit more realistic, with her obsession with the Observation Deck. From a certain point onwards, I had a difficult time enjoying the book, I felt I just wanted to finish it and be done with it (I don't like loose ends, that's why I finish novels).

6.8/10 - because I didn't like a lot of it. However, I though Zevin actually had an extremely unique idea of what happens after death, especially with the living backwards thing. Liz's story was only partially believable and partially good, but I was mostly disappointed with it. I had okay-high hopes for Elsewhere, but it was just a disappointment with the writing and romance. Oh, and I felt the cover is stupid. There is a tiny, insignificant scene regarding the snowglobe. Meh, not a symbol, turning point, or anything. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it, but if you like the "after you die" thing, or the alternate universe stuff, you might like this one.

--AyC

BR: Trickster's Choice


by Tamora Pierce

Okay, I've been wanting to read this for a while, especially since one of my friends recommended it (she has the same reading taste), and because I loved Pierce's quartet, Song of the Lioness (with Alanna). The summary is weird, and very long, thus taking up 3 paragraphs.

Trickster's Choice follows Aly, who is Alanna and George Cooper's daughter. She wants to be a spy for her father, and has learned a lot from him (pickpocketing, lockbreaking, sneaking around, decoding, fighting with daggers, all those thieving/spy things) but her father doesn't want to risk his daughter getting hurt. She feels she can never live up to Alanna (who can?) and hasn't been very 'productive' with her life, seems to be just going along. After an argument about her future, Aly decides to leave her home and travel to a family friend's place, to get away from her mother. Travelling by herself, she is intercepted by pirates and sold as a slave at the Copper Isles (an island close to Tortall).

As a slave, she is sold to a nice, noble, fair family called the Balitangs. Here comes an onslaught of weird names: Kyprioth is the Trickster God, and makes a deal with Aly. If Aly protects the Balitang family, she will be granted a safe passage home in autumn (it's June right now, btw), and she agrees. Kyprioth is using Aly as a part of a greater political scheme, to restore power to the 'raka', natives of the Copper Isles. Currently, white-skinned 'laurins' rule the island, and raka are treated as slaves. Kyprioth is the raka patron, and wants a raka to rule the throne.

Also, Kyprioth sends help and guidance at times to Aly, along with the help of crows. Nawat is a crow-man, a bit naive, but devoted to Aly. He's a crow who shape-shifted into a man. Aly does her best to advise the Balitang family she has sworn to protect, using her skills learned from her father, while disguising herself as a slave. Hopefully, she be able to protect the children through summer in order to return home.

Phew, what a summary, which is seriously just the tip of the iceberg. I liked the book at parts, disliked it at parts, liked the writing, disliked the writing, liked the plot, disliked the plot. I was all over the map for this one. I'll try and give some reasons.

First, it was hard for me to get engaged in the novel. The beginning (well kinda beginning, after becoming a slave that is) was hard to follow. I think this was especially because of all the new names introduced so quickly, and Aly's comments that were sometimes unneeded (like she would sometimes talk about 'investigating' this or that suspicious person, but never really does it if he seems harmless). The names were hard to remember, and their positions in the castle as well. I recommend you guys to read the bit carefully; there were all these names like: Chenaol, Sarai, Menquen, Lokeij, Veron, Ulasim, Kyprioth, Fesgao, Bronau, Junai. Like seriously?? And these aren't traditional names so I would completely forget them when they turned up again. Then I would have no idea what if the person was a chef, maid, or a footsoldier.

Also, I felt the plot really dragged in places, especially the middle. I couldn't read the whole book at once, it was getting boring and just dragged. Sure, things were happening, but I felt that the action, or maybe the writing could have been better. It took me a few days to read it, which is unusual for me. The ending was better-paced, but not necessarily amazing or mindblowing, just a bit more attention-grabbing than the rest. The story idea itself wasn't bad, and it was nice to 'revisit' the Tortall world (even though it wasn't even set in Tortall).

I really wished the writing was a bit more captivating, especially since it's a long book, but I thought it was only okay.

I liked some characters, but didn't like others. Dove was a bit nosy at times, but she turns out good. I felt that Winnamine was a bit flat, she was just a 'kind' character. Mequen was a bit ideal, but fair. Aly was a bit 'perfect' but not over-the-top. I liked Nawat, he was cute, and would say the most weirdest things that totally worked (since he used to be a crow). Lines like:
"I will not bother [kudarang] if Aly says not to", added Nawat. To her he whispered, "Not until we have enough nestlings of our own to mob them back."
It made me crack up, to see him use 'crowish' phrases like that. Added a bit of humor to the story, to see him talk about 'mating' with Aly.

I liked the idea with the raka/luarin political 'game' that Kyprioth was playing, it was very interesting to see the kings, dukes, and princes, either power-hungry or not interested at all.

7.6/10 - because I actually really wanted to like it, but it was only okay. It was hard to read, a bit boring, it dragged at parts, and the characterizations weren't stellar. The people and place names were confusing and forgettable, which kind of further confused the plot for me. Maybe if I had read it slower, it might have been better, but I feel if I did that, it would be wasting my time (gasp, reading doesn't waste time!). I will read the sequel, Trickster's Queen, though, just to see what happens (I haven't read a single spoiler for it!). If you liked other Tamora Pierce books, give this a try, it's similar. A strong female character, a cool setting, swordfighting, cultures, a bit of magic; it's all there. The reviews on Amazon are all really positive, so that means that this probably appeals to many readers. I guess it just wasn't perfect for me.

--AyC

Monday, August 10, 2009

for every 99 times...


For every 99 times, you look me in the eyes,

you look me in the eyes, swore you weren't lying,

well I was so blind, I never saw the signs,

I'm getting out tonight, you're not invited.

-99 Times by: Kate Voegele

I haven't done a fave-song in over a month (I think), but I just found a song I can't get out of my head. Sure, it's not necessarily amazing, the lyrics are only okay, and beat isn't wicked, but it's so darn catchy! I can't help bobbing along, and singing it in my head.

Kate Voegele's also an actress/singer on the show "One Tree Hill", which I watch, but not religiously. She plays Mia, and a few of her songs are played on the show.

Here's a link to the song on youtube (it's okay, but don't love it), so give it a chance and check it out!!


--AyC

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Review Policy

Like the professional-sounding title? I've read that in a lot of blogs.

Okay, for the blog, I will be reviewing most books (give or take 1 or 2...or 10) I read, even if it's for school, for kids, or for adults. I mostly review YA books though. This is partly because I want to remember how I felt about a particular book, and also to keep tracks of the novels I read. Oh, and for you guys too ;)

Genres: I'm pretty open about the type of books I read, but when looking or browsing for books, I usually drift more towards YA books that are more realistic, some romance (not Twilight romance), fantasy, adventure, mystery, and paranormal (probably in that order). I'll try some sci-fi books, but they generally disinterest me. I'm not a fan of historical fiction, but again, I don't mind trying some that look promising. I don't read graphic novels.
I don't like those books like: Gossip Girl, A-List, Sloppy-whatevers, and Private (books with the 17/18 year old gorgeous girl who thinks of nothing but sex, money, and boys) because they are mostly incredibly shallow (not all, but most that I've read).

Reviews usually start with a pointless paragraph, a summary of the book, my opinion, and a rating. The rating out of ten is my opinion only, and is usually based on how much I liked the plot, characters, or writing.

My Ratings: If you look under "My Tags", you can see the different ratings (such as Rating: 8+). The plus sign is because not all my reviews got an 8/10, in fact, the majority of them have some sort of decimal, like 8.8/10. I do seem to give books high ratings semi-loosely (there are a lot of 9+ books...) but that's not necessarily because they are amazing, I just really really liked them. The reviews go more in depth, and explain my reasonings. A book that is 9.4+ are usually the absolutely amazing ones which I would advise everyone to read, so there aren't many. Most are in the low 9's.

To clear stuff about rating up... like why a book I hated gets a 5, it's becuase where I live, 50% is a fail (in school) and I'm a dedicated student so the 90's are the good grades. To make it easier subract 5 from each rating, and make the entire thing out of 5. For example, a 9/10 book will be 9-5=4... =4/5.
An 8.5/10 would be 8.5-5=3.5... =3.5/5. Get it?
A 5/10 would be 0/5 which means it was horrible IMO.

REMEMBER: subract 5, and make the whole thing out of 5.

Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email ("Contact Me" in the sidebar) if you have any questions or books you want me to review.

--AyC

BR: Wintergirls


by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirl. That's what Lia is, seemingly stuck between two worlds, constantly freezing, too skinny, counting calories, not eating. Lia is anorexic, sent to the hospital twice already, she lives with her father and stepmother, but isn't recovering. She's haunted by ghosts of her best friend who had died, and is constantly battling inner demons of her own. People around her who love her are trying to help, but she refuses to get better. Wintergirls is a haunting, heartbreaking novel about a girls difficult road to recovery.

The novel and the writing were absolutely amazing. It takes me insided Lia's head, her thoughts, truths, and the fact that she can't get over her best friend Cassie's (who was bulimic) death. She refuses to let herself eat, calling herself strong when she eats 800 calories and exhausts herself exercising. Anderson has a way of writing in such a unique manner, not unlike her other novel, Speak.

Some quotes gave me shiviers, such as:
"There is grease on the stove, blood in the air, and angry words piled in the corners. We are trained not to see it, not any of it... Someone just ripped off my eyelids." (4)

"For one moment we are not failed tests and broken condoms and cheating on essays; we are crayons and lunch boxes and swinging so high our sneakers punch holes in the clouds. For one breath everything feels better." (15)
Things like these were so haunting and powerful to me, and it kept me enchanted. The story isn't pretty, it isn't a fairytale, but I think that's what makes it feel so real. Lia's struggles are so 'in your face' that you can't help but become emotionally connected. Her life is far from perfect, and despite how her family and loved ones keep reaching out she doesn't want to get better. That's the problem. Cheating on weigh-ins. Pretending to eat food she hasn't. Detesting her own body, although she is nothing but skin and bones. Lia is so complex, and I felt Anderson really wrote about her condition in a convincing, realistic way.

She meets a boy, but again, that boy is real. He isn't the knight in shining armor, the boy who makes her all better. Lia's step-sister, I feel, is a bit like her anchor. She tries for Emma, genuinely cares about her, which surprised me a bit (usually, these main characters hate their 'perfect, nice' stepsisters). The bond Lia feels with Emma is well written.

Lia also conflicts with her mother, who she feels is trying to strangle her. When a boy tells her her mother is 'reaching out', she responds "That's not reaching out, that's choking," a line which describes Lia's thoughts perfectly. She doesn't want her mom running her life, and refuses allow her mother to help her with her problem.

I need to comment on the prose, because I think this is what makes the novel amazing. Many authors have tackled the issue of anorexia, but somehow, I think Anderson makes it one step more intimate, more real. The inner battles Lia has, like the voice telling her "remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weight less," and the crossouts in the text about thoughts Lia pushes away. There is the constant reminder of Cassie's death, and the fact that she feels somewhat responsible, and sees Cassie beckoning to her to join her in death, to further starve herself.

The dark writing makes everything work. It makes parts heartbreaking, and I'll admit, some parts I teared up. I felt Lia's fight, her emotions, her battles. Everything was just written perfectly, it's Printz worthy, well done Mrs. Anderson.

9.5/10 - because it is brilliant. Anderson's writing was impeccable, the plot was good, and most of all, I felt Lia was unbelievably real. I couldn't put down the novel, despite some really dark and disturbing parts, and the prose kept me hooked. It gives a glimpse of the Lia's problems, but isn't overdone or sugar-coated. I loved Speak, and people who liked that will probably enjoy Wintergirls. If you hated Speak, I would still recommend it, but I'm not sure if you'll like it as much, the writing is similar, which I liked (and which you might not like). Be warned though, the novel isn't happy, bright, hopeful; it's dark, humorless, but worth every moment.

--AyC

Saturday, August 8, 2009

BR: Broken Soup


by Jenny Valentine

I feel as if my review can't do this book justice, since I've read so many other reviews that are much better than mine. I agree with a lot of them, so I'll include a lot of links.

After the death of her brother Jack two years ago, 15 year old Rowan has been taking care of her 6 year old sister Stroma. Her father doesn't know about this situation, and the fact the their mother has been in a "state" where she doesn't do anything and just wallows all day. Rowan sacrifices a lot for her sister, who is one precocious, adorable child. A small event of not-dropping a negative picture leads to Rowan discovering and forming relationships and friendships with people she never expected to talk to. She grows as a character, with her 2 new friends, who all seem to be brought together by Jack.

Broken Soup was great. It was wonderful. Funny. Heartbreaking. I loved it. First, I need to comment on Rowan. She's brave, strong, caring, mature, and forced to grow up too fast when her mother basically 'abandons' her and her sister. She adds little bits into the narrative the makes the story so much richer and enjoyable, like small tidbits that aren't really needed but sweet all the same. She cares so much for her sister, and the bond between them was great. I loved Stroma too, she could be funny, mature, naive, but somehow this all works.

The theme of grief and moving on was well written. Simple things like walking into Jack's room were detailed and thoughtful. I also liked Bee and Harper, the to people who become important to Rowan in their own way. Bee, who is enigmatic, likable, and caring, but grieving, and Harper, who takes care of Rowan because she has already spent too much time caring for others. The dad, who wasn't there, but was when they most needed him.

It was sad in many parts, and I admit I got a bit choked up in more than one part. I felt the writing (first person from Rowan's POV) fit with her character perfectly.

Broken Soup is an enchanting novel of grief, family, relationships, and moving on.

Here are a few links to other reviews, which I mostly agree on.
The YaYaYa's (here)
Chicklish (here)
Wondrous Reads (here)

9.3/10 - because I loved it. It felt real to me, the characters, the situation, the plot. I felt Rowan's concerns, worries, and hopes, but also her grief and sacrifices. Struggling to do things by herself, Rowan is amazing in so many ways. I've heard a lot of comparisons of Broken Soup to Jellicoe Road, but I personally haven't read Jellicoe yet, so I'm not sure. I would recommend it to anyone, but maybe with a warning that it isn't exactly a light-hearted read. Oh, and I love the cover :)

--AyC

BR: Gone



by Michael Grant

I ate this book all up. Then after devouring it, I started wondering why I ate it so quickly.

Gone is the first novel of the "Gone" Series, which has 6 books planned. The second book, Hunger, is already out. The story starts when suddenly, everyone over the age of 14 disappears. Poof. Gone. One second there, next second gone, leaving only kids to fend for themselves. Of course, some sort of 'system' is created, with bullies trying to take control, but this isn't the only problem. Mutations seem to be happening to some kids, as they develop "Powers" (such as super speed, creating light, telekinesis). Also, animals seem to be mutating quickly too, with coyotes talking, and snakes flying. Sam Temple, a 14 year old kid, and his friends Astrid, Quinn, and a few others are one of the many people stuck in the perfect sphere where the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone, area where the adults have all poofed) is. The group has to try and stop the ruthless Coates (private school, kinda mean kids) from taking over the FAYZ. Along the way, secrets are discovered, and the "art" of poofing is also studied.

This summary is pretty bad, but the main thing is that all the adults are gone, and kids are left alone. After reading it, I felt I could kinda (very faintly) relate this to a lot of different novels. The situation reminds me of Lord of the Flies, the characters are like those from Unwind, and the Powers remind me of Graceling and Eragon. I don't think Grant consciously copied any of these books, but if you enjoyed these, you might like Gone.


Like the first sentence stated, I just kinda ate up the whole book, but I didn't really like it. It was quite long (558 pages), and I felt it could have been developed better. There were flipping of character focuses that I felt weren't exactly needed (like Albert), and I felt some characters weren't that dynamic, but this is excusable since the book only covers 12 days.

The plot was okay, but only because I feel as if it's so familiar, especially with the LotF "kids left alone to govern themselves" thing. The tyrant, the geek, the hero, the ruthless boy, all seem a bit familiar, if not stereotypical (only a tiny tiny bit!!).

*spoilers below*:


Like I said, the situation Sam was in reminded me a lot of Connor from Unwind, with the "good hero" who everyone loves against the "bad guy who want power", but the good hero doesn't really want to do anything about it.
Also, I didn't like the romance aspect. It was very poorly developed in my honest opinion, and I felt that Astrid was only attracted to Sam because of his actions, not because of who he is. I liked how Grant included some romance, but I just didn't think it was as good as it could have been.


*end spoilers*


7.5/10 - because I barely put it down, and it was "captivating". However, when I think back on it, I didn't like it that much. The writing was okay, the plot was decent, and the characters were only okay. There are a lot of people who would probably love it though. I'm probably gonna read the (equally long) sequel though, just to see what happens. I'm interested to see where this series goes, and I feel it may become quite popular. Give it a chance, if you like those futuristic books and whatnot.

Here's a link to another book review over at The YAYAYAs. (click here)

--AyC

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

contests?! who Said Contests?

Here's a link to a Catching Fire ARC Giveaway!

Go Check It Out!!

http://whitneyamiller.com/2009/08/05/catching-fire-arc-giveaway/

--AyC

Monday, August 3, 2009

BR: A Separate Peace


by John Knowles

This review isn't gonna be as comprehensive or detailed as it could be, but this is intentional. I feel like a review really wouldn't do this book justice, especially since it has been called a 'classic', and there is already loads and loads of reviews/summaries on the internet.

A Separate Peace is about the narrator, 16-year-old Gene, and his relationship with his best friend Finny. Gene excels at academics, and Finny at athletics. They are almost the complete opposite of each other in every way, with Gene being quiet, while Finny charms everyone around him with endless charisma. Gene is obviously envious of Finny's attitude and athleticism. The two boys attend an English all-boys private school, Devon, where they have adventures, clubs, and sports all in the midst of WWII (year 1942). Gene convinces himself that Finny hates him for being smart, and inadvertently causes Finny to fall from a tree, crippling his leg. Gene had blinded himself with jealousy to justify the act, but Finny refuses to believe the worst in Gene. After the fall, Gene and Finny develop a 'codependent relationship', with Finny trying to live life through Gene, and Gene letting him. All the while, there's the war looming in, threatening the boys' peace.

That wasn't a good summary, I know, but I don't really know how to sum this book up without just outlining the whole plot.

I think A Separate Peace is one of those novels that you're forced to read in school, and then analyze it, especially since it is rich in symbols (summer/winter session especially) and themes. I don't want to turn this into a novel study or whatever, so I just wanted to say that to my surprise, I enjoyed it. These kind of novels are 'hard' to read for me, since I struggle to continue when writing gets a bit boring. However, even I could recognize how well written it is, so I really appreciated it by reading carefully.

I had a like/dislike relationship with Gene. He was awfully stupid (like not academically stupid, the other kind), envious, and generally hateful of his best friend who never did anything bad to him. He made himself believe that Finny was the 'bad guy' in all this, which of course, eventually destroys Finny's life. Finny symbolizes innocence, something Gene wrecked when causing Finny's fall. So more dislike than like for Gene, I think. Their friendship was very well written too, I think, even from Gene's POV.

I think it's one of those love/hate novels, like To Kill A Mockingbird (liked it) or The Chrysalids (hated it). I probably wouldn't recommend this to people who just want to 'read for fun', since it's not exactly a light, fluffy read. I liked it, didn't love it, but that is MY opinion, which will no doubt vary from yours.

8/10- which is my personal opinion, once again. I think it might be good if you're doing a high-school novel study or something, but not exactly the type of 'summer read', if that's what your looking for. I can think of a lot of people who might hate this too. Oh, and despite what the back reads (with two boys, friendship, summer, etc..) it's not sexual in any way.

--AyC

Saturday, August 1, 2009

BR: Carpe Diem


by Autumn Cornwell

First, Happy August!

Carpe Diem is a novel about an overachiever, Vassar, who is sent to visit her eccentric grandmother over the summer. That is, instead of taking Latin lessons, AP and AAP (Advanced Advanced Placment) courses. Oh, and don't forget, 5.3 is the new 4.0 GPA, plus the plan for Valedictorian. Apparentley, the grandmother has some sort of Big Secret that is used to blackmail Vassar's parents into making her go to Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia).

The motto of the journey is LIM (live in the moment), something that Vassar has never done in her life... her mom is a life coach, her dad is an efficeincy expert. They have a nightly "Hour of Reflection" to discuss life plans. Vassar has her whole life planned out, and this "vacation" is the one thing that is not gonna go according to the non-existent plan. LIMMING! Of course, there's a boy (there's always a boy), but this time, he's an Asian cowboy who's unconventionally sweet.

During the summer, Vassar learns that there doesn't need to be a plan for life, along with discovering the Big Secret.I liked Carpe Diem for different reasons, and one is because it has some really funny moments. Imagine getting yourself into one of the most ridiculous positions, then having to have a boy you "find somewhat attractive" to bail you out; but not before a polaroid, of course. Or learning to piss into a bottle, then proceed to hold that bottle during your first kiss. Yes, there are some LOL moments.

I also liked the "message" given in the story, about planning, the unexpected, and living in the moment. Carpe Diem, or "Seize the Day". A fitting title. Vassar learns that sometimes you can "let go" and live your life, not a life someone else has planned for you (Vassar is the name of an Elite Women's College...where Vassar plans on attending with her 5.3 GPA)

Oh, and I thought Hanks, the Asian cowboy, was adorable. Acting as her "guardian", he has some simply hilarious moments. He's really sweet, and is sometimes nicer than Vassar deserves. The grandmother was also really cool, with her "Art" searching, and her view on the world and life. It was unique, different, and probably exactly what Vassar needed in order to not turn into a snobby, stuck-up Pulitzer Prize winning person with a 6'5 blond surgeon husband (it's in the Plan!)

A few things I didn't really like was that some parts were pretty unrealistic. I felt that the Miracle was unlikely and kind of cheesy. Vassar was also just an okay character, I didn't really "feel" her change, apart from her announcing how different she was. The novel didn't really evolve her, but I guess that's okay, since it was pretty good anyways.

8.4/10 - because some parts were unrealistic, I didn't really love-love-love the characters, and the writing was okay. The plot and message were pretty good, and I guessed the Big Secret pretty early on. I'm not really sure what group to recommend this to, I guess just people who want to read about adventures and different-ish characters.

--AyC