Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I'd rather be reading...

...than taking care of my entire family that has been racked with illness after illness the past couple of weeks.  I suppose thats what happens when you live in Wisconsin and there are 2 feet of snow on the ground and we're all couped up inside.  Oh, and I work in a children's library where the kids use books as tissue paper.  That certainly doesn't help!  While I have finished a handful of books over the last couple of weeks, I will probably post the reviews closer to the end of this week.  I will say, however, that I am now VERY excited to see I am Number Four!!  I think my husband is even on board for this one!  I'll keep you posted, so check back on Thursday or Friday.  Peace out!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Follow Friday

Happy Follow Friday everyone!  Every friday or really Thursday evening we all get together and say HI! But, we need to know how to find you, so please your link in the Mr. Linky at Parajunkee's View.  

This week's question is:

Who do you cheer for?

Go Pack!!  Actually, I am way more of a baseball fan than a football fan (I HEART the Milwaukee Brewers!).  Instead of singing lullabies to my children, I sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.  However, in honor of the Packers impending victory over the Bears, here is a little ode to the Packers:

Who do YOU cheer for?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dystopian Fiction (Apparently this week's theme)

I have set a goal of reading 4 books a week (if I ever intend on getting through my TO BE READ pile!), unfortunately, this week was side tracked by the flu/food poisoning.  I can't remember the last time I was too sick to even read!  I spent an unusually large amount of time watching the Disney channel with my 2 daughters rather than doing anything productive.  I know, I know, shame on me.  However, once I was up and about I was able to get through some of my most highly anticipated books.  This week I will be reviewing Matched by Ally Condie, Witch and Wizard: The Gift by James Patterson/Ned Rust, and Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

Witch and Wizard: The Gift - James Patterson/Ned Rust
Little, Brown and Company, 2010

Product Description from Amazon

When Whit & Wisty were imprisoned by the wicked forces of the totalitarian regime known as the New Order, they were barely able to escape with their lives. Now part of a hidden community of teens like themselves, Whit and Wisty have established themselves as leaders of the Resistance, willing to sacrifice anything to save kids kidnapped and brutally imprisoned by the New Order.

But the One has other plans in store for them: He needs Wisty, for she is "The One Who Has the Gift." While trying to figure out what that means, Whit and Wisty's suspenseful adventures through Overworld and Shadowland lead to a jaw-dropping climax and conclusion: the highly-anticipated fulfillment of the heart-pounding opening prologue of book one... The Execution of the Allgoods.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I don't know, maybe it was because I haven't read Witch and Wizard since it first came out, but I just didn't love this one.  While I do acknowledge that I think this is a good book for both boys and girls (especially reluctant readers), it did not flow for me.  I felt like there was to much back and forth without any real advancements being made in the story.  Quite honestly, this second book in the series did not provide me with any answers.  I have a hard time with the names too.  I know that Whit and Wisty are cute names for twins, but in a book where the narrative alters from chapter to chapter, they are just too close.  I wasn't crazy about the first one in the series, but thought I would give this one a chance.  I don't think I will pick up the 3rd when it comes out.  I also don't think it helps that the coauthor is different this second time around.  Wish I had better things to say.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Razorbill, 2011

Product Description

A Story of Love, Murder, and Madness Aboard an Enormous Spaceship Bound for the Future
Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to wake up on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy's cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed.
Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.
Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.
Across the Universe is Titanic meets Brave New World.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I definitely think all the hype around this book was well deserved.  I finished this book 2 days ago and still can't get it out of my head.  The characters were so well developed (and I love that the main character's name was Amy not Brynnly or Addison or some other super trendy name).  In the past, I have not always been a sci-fi fan, but I think I am slowly starting to convert.  I loved that there was a mystery surrounding the story, the relationship between Amy and Elder, and that there was an all out awful villian.  Every page held a new twist and a new moral dilemma.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  I LOVE books that make me think and keep me thinking.  At the end of the book, I sat there and thought about how I would have felt waking up in a foreign environment with no one to turn to or trust.  How would I have felt as I discovered secret after secret, each one altering my life in ways that I could never imagine.  It reminded me that absolute power absolutely corrupts.  I would recommend this book to both boys and girls in 7th grade and up.  If YOU haven't read this one yet, go out and pick it up RIGHT NOW!!!

Matched - Ally Condie
Dutton Books, 2010

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

My Rating: 4.5/5

I started reading this book last night at about 9:30 p.m. and literally stayed up reading until I was I finished with this one.  The only thing that kept me from giving Matched a 5/5 is that I read it on the heels of Across the Universe (which if you read my previous review, you'll now that I love, love, loved it!) and it didn't seem quite as good (although it was pretty amazing.)  In Matched, I truly felt bad for Cassia.  The situation of being caught between 2 boys you are in love with is not uncommon even in real life.  Now imagine being committed to one because the government told you you had to be.  Now what if they made a mistake?  In Cassia's case, they did. 

This is another book that made me think.  Imagine if the government controlled EVERYTHING.  Who you married (if you were allowed to), what you ate, how many kids you had, even when you died.  Scary, right?  What if you no longer had free will to make choices for yourself.  This is the society Cassia lives in, and everyone seems to be okay with it.  While this novel is definitely of the Dystopian type, Cassia's community still similarities that parallelled todays society.  I would recommend this book more likely to girls in 6th grade and up.

Let me know what you think.  Have you read any of these books?  Do you think you will?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Library Book Discussion Blog

Good Morning!
Well, in an attempt to spread the word about the book discussion blog that I run for my library, I am going to shamelessly attempt to promote it on my personal blog!
It is simply called Library Book Discussion Blog JUST FOR TEENS!  Really anyone interested in reading YA fiction is more than welcome to stop by. 

Some months I will feature 2 books if content is not appropriate for all teens.  For example, this month we are discussing The Roar by Emma Clayton for middle school readers and Hate List by Jennifer Brown for high school readers.  There are no set in stone rules as to who can comment on what book, but then readers have the choice not to read (or TO read) something they may or may not be ready for. 

Stop by and check out the site today!!  If you have suggestions on books for upcoming discussions feel free to comment here or on that website!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Joining the Book Blogger Hop!

This is my first time joining in on the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy for Books.  The question this week (1/14 - 1/17) is:
"Why do you read the genre that you do? 
What draws you to it?

My favorite genre to read is contemporary YA fiction.  I especially love writers who use prose (i.e. Ellen Hopkins, love her!!!).  I think the reason I am most drawn to this type of book is because I grew up in a small town, with limited knowledge of what kind of "bad stuff" is out there.  It always amazes me when I read about how bad some teens have it, and their ability to overcome the hardships their are exposed to. 

I have also started to love some science/dystopian fiction like Michael Grant's Gone Series and Emma Clayton's book The Roar (super excited about its sequel, The Whisper).  I like comparing that world to the world we live in.  I especially like using books like this for book discussion groups. 

Whats your favorite?

Book Blogger Hop

Friday, January 7, 2011

This Week's Book Reviews (so far...)

I had hoped to be through a couple more books by the end of this week, but inevitably something almost always comes up.  However, I did get through 3 books so far.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Harper Teen, 2010

From Booklist

Sixteen-year-old Evie learns that she is not quite the person she thought she was in this creature-feature mash-up. Possessing the unique ability to recognize paranormals beneath their glamour, Evie has lived most of her life under the protection of the International Paranormal Containment Agreement (IPCA), an organization dedicated to the cataloging and neutralizing of paranormal creatures. After a mysterious entity begins killing paranormals around the world, Evie discovers some startling truths about her own identity. This is a fast-paced, entertaining debut, reminiscent of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series in its story of a seemingly normal girl coerced to work for a supernatural agenda that she doesn’t always understand. White creates compelling tension as Evie longs for a normal teenhood while trying to preserve the humanity she has always believed to be her birthright; a love triangle adds further conflict, as Evie must choose between not only two different interests but two starkly different destinies. Alternately funny and tragic but never maudlin, White’s debut will have broad appeal among fantasy fans. Grades 9-12. --Kara Dean
My Rating - 4/5 Stars

Overall, I thought this debut novel by Kiersten White was a unique take on the YA Paranormal genre.  I love it when writers can make you really care about the characters and want to get to know them.  I got a clear picture in my head of what the characters looked like, what their expectations were, and what their personalities were like as a whole.  These characters could be people you knew in your everyday life.  Teenagers that have the same insecurities and issues that we can all relate to, what if I'm not good enough, what if he doesn't really like me like that, etc... I would definitely say that this novel is more geared toward girls, but wouldn't be unenjoyable for a boy to pick up either.  The only reason that I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is that I felt it was a little slow moving for my personal taste.  Otherwise, this book was well written and I would definitely recommend it to teens in my library.

A book trailer from HarperTeen.

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser
EgmontUSA, 2009

I’ll begin with Lucy. She is definitely first on the list. You can’t believe how it feels to be in the cafeteria and turn around and there she is staring at me like I’m some disgusting bug or vermin. Does she really think I WANT to be this way? I hate you, Lucy. I really hate you. You are my #1 pick. I wish you were dead.
The day after anonymous blogger Str-S-d wishes the popular girl would die, Lucy vanishes. The students of Soundview High are scared and worried. Especially frightened and wracked with guilt is Madison Archer, Lucy’s friend and the last person to see her the night she disappeared.

As days pass with no sign of the missing girl, even the attention of Tyler, an attractive new student, is not enough to distract Madison from her growing sense of foreboding. When two more popular students disappear after their names are mentioned on Str-S-d’s blog, the residents of Soundview panic.

Meanwhile, Madison receives anonymous notes warning that she could be next. Desperate to solve the mystery before anyone else disappears, Madison turns to Tyler, but can she trust him when it becomes clear that he knows more than he’s sharing?  The clock is ticking. Madison must uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearances . . . before her name appears in Str-S-d’s blog.

In the spirit of stories like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Todd Strasser updates the teen thriller for the techno age with Wish You Were Dead, the first installment in a new “thrill”-ogy.

My Rating 4/5 Stars

I almost always like anything by Todd Strasser.  I find that his writing evokes such emotions in me that help me to engage even further into his stories.  I'm sure that if you have read my other reviews, you by now have realized that my favorite kinds of books have characters that real people can identify with.  Wish You Were Dead is no different.  I think at some point we can all relate to being bullied or have felt like karma will get'cha.  Sort of like driving on the freeway and some crazy driver speedracers past you and you just hope that there is a cop sitting around the bend.  This happens to the "secret blogger".  She feels like wishing someone is dead causes Lucy, Adam, and Courtney (the popular kids/the bullies) all to be kidnapped.  The only thing that threw me with this book was the actual villian.  I thought it was a little bit of a stretch.  Overall, I did enjoy this book and would probably recommend it to 7th grade students and up.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Harper, 2010

Amazon.com Review

In this Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls teen hybrid, Sam Kingston is pretty, popular, and has a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a late-night party everything goes terribly wrong, and the life that she lived is gone forever. Or is it?

At the start of Before I Fall, Sam is self-consumed and oblivious about the impact of her actions on others. But as she repeatedly experiences slightly altered versions of the hours leading up to her death—and her relationships with friends, family, and formerly overlooked classmates bloom, end, or shift—it’s impossible not to feel for the girl whose life ends too soon. Oliver’s adept teen dialogue and lively prose make for a fast, page-turning story in which the reader is every bit as emotionally invested as Sam. --Jessica Schein

My Rating - 5/5 Stars

If I could give this book a million stars I would.  I literally just finished this book 20 minutes ago, loved it so much that I had to stop what I was doing and blog about it immediately.  Sam Kingston is part of the popular clique.  She can do what she wants, when she wants, to whomever she wants.  Because if you're popular there are no rules.  But, unfortunately, being popular doesn't stop you from facing death.  For Sam, her life ends without her really ever appreciating real happiness.  But lucky for her, Sam gets to relive her last day seven times.  Each day she learns a little more about herself, gains a little more confidence, and starts to appreciate what is really important in life.  This book broke my heart and made me smile from ear to ear all at the same time.  There have been very few books in my lifetime (all 29 years of it!) that a book has moved me so much.  Every teenage girl should pick this up and read it.  I dare you not to shed a tear.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This has been one busy week!

So for the last week or so, I have been especially busy reading.  I certainly spent more time doing that than cleaning my house!  Here are some of the YA books that I read:

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up–In this grim debut novel, the Doyles hide the terrible secret that 16-year-old Mackie is a changeling who was swapped for their real son when he was a baby. In their town of Gentry, there is an unspoken acknowledgment that a child is stolen every seven years in an uneasy bargain for the town's prosperity. Mackie's struggles to go unnoticed are made more difficult by his severe allergies to iron and other metal, his inability to set foot on consecrated ground such as his minister father's church, and his tendency to become severely ill around blood. Now he is dying. When a classmate's baby sister is abducted and a Replacement left in her place, Mackie is reluctantly drawn into the age-old rift between the Morrigan and the Lady, sisters who lead the two changeling clans who live underneath Gentry. Mackie agrees to help the Morrigan maintain the unwitting townspeople's goodwill in exchange for a drug he needs to survive. Meanwhile, he and his friends plot to rescue Tate's stolen sister from the Lady. Yovanoff's innovative plot draws on the changeling legends from Western European folklore. She does an excellent job of creating and sustaining a mood of fear, hopelessness, and misery throughout the novel, something that is lightened only occasionally by Mackie's dry humor and the easy charm of his friend Roswell. The novel ends with a glimmer of hope, though the grisly and disturbing images throughout may overshadow the more positive ending. Still, teens who enjoy horror and dark fantasy novels will no doubt flock to the shelves for Mackie's story.

Personally, I felt like this book was a little slow to start.  Maybe its because I wasn't familiar with "changelings", but some of the terms were beyond me.  However, I really loved the character development.  Before reading this novel, I was looking at reviews on Amazon and was concerned that I wouldn't like the characters.  But you know what?  I did.  I really did.  I felt like Mackie and Roswell were in a typical teenage relationship.  Teens do turn there relationship feelings on and off at a drop of the dime.  I loved the unconditional love that Mackie's sister provided too.  Thats what families are like.  I would definitely recommend this book to both boys and girls.  And compared to a lot of the YA out there, I felt like there was minimal obscene language and limited sex scenes.  Probably better geared to teens in 8th grade and up. 

I'll also include a book trailer from YouTube:

Next I really enjoyed:
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

I was a sophmore in college when the Twin Towers fell.  I can remember where I was and what I was going to do that day...and I live in Wisconsin.  I cannot even be able to begin to fathom what it would have been like for New Yorkers, especially teenage ones.  This book deals more with the relationships that 3 teens forge after the horrible aftermath of 9/11, and less of the logistics, the whys or why nots.  The characters are real and sincere.  These teens could be teens that you know or that you are friends with.  Each one deals with the events that follow 9/11 differently, but need each other in ways that they never knew they could.  With very few YA books dealing with the September 11th terrorist attacks this one is a good reminder that this is our recent history and that teens and adults alike need to remember what it is like to be able to count on our communities.  Loved this book!

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu

Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been hiding for years—that her mom’s out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She’s managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they’d be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable—and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.
My take?  I liked that this book covers a subject that is new to contemporary lit. for teens.  I really wanted to like this book as a whole, and it is a relatively quick read, but I had a really hard time liking the main character.  I felt like she was too indifferent about her mom dying.  That her mom passing away wasn't as important as not letting people see her house.  I can see how this book would appeal to teens (and adults).  If you don't know anyone who is a hoarder, this is a voyuaristic way of taking a peak into someone else's life.  Worth reading, but not my favorite.
Here's the book trailer via YouTube:
And lastly...
Deception: A Haunting Emma Novel by Lee Nichols
Seventeen-year-old Emma has never really felt a part of her family. Then her parents leave her alone in their San Francisco antique store/home while they go on “vacation.” They don't come back, and Emma can't reach her brother, Max. Max's friend Bennett appears, claiming to be her guardian, and whisks Emma to Boston, where he enrolls her in school and slowly reveals that she's a ghostkeeper, someone who can see and call forth ghosts. So that's why Emma's been seeing all those weird people in period costumes! After a strong start, this fantasy drags until the revelation of Emma's powers. Then it's full speed ahead as an evil force gathers strength and leads Emma's friend into the dangers of the ghostly world.
I love, love, loved this book!  I am so excited for the next one to come out.  I found the characters to be so likeable, as well as, intriguing.  When Emma Vaile's parents and brother mysteriously disappear and Bennett, Emma's longtime crush, suddenly appears as her guardian, Emma gets more than she bargains for when she moves into Bennett's east coast home.  She finds more out about herself than she ever bargained for.  I loved the way this book ended with a cryptic message. Everything about this book was an A+ for me!
That concludes this week's books.  Watch for next week's reviews on, Paranomalcy by Kiersten White, Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink, and Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (and maybe a few extras!)  Happy reading!