Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Forget You

Author: Jennifer Echols
Publish date: 2010
Source: Library
"There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four- year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.

But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people— suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them?

Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.
" (Goodreads)

Forget You was my second Jennifer Echols book, the first being Going Too Far. After reading them both, I have to admit that I liked Going Too Far much more than Forget You.

I really like the premise of this book, as books that involve amnesia are kind of fascinating to me. I was curious, along with Zoey, about what happened to her that night and somewhat enjoyed the process of finding out, but man, it took FOREVER. I mean, I get that finding out what she can't remember is the point of the book, but so many times I just wanted to yell at Zoey, "JUST ASK HIM ALREADY!!!!" I was pretty fed up with her, gotta be honest.

As a whole, I just did not click with this book like I did with Going Too Far. I found the characters in Forget You to be odd: I wanted to smack Zoey for multiple reasons, including Brandon, and I thought Doug's personality was strange. I know a lot of people loved this one, but it just didn't mesh with me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Princess Academy

Author: Shannon Hale
Publish date: 2007
Source: Purchased
"Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.
" (Goodreads)

After reading The Goose Girl and Austenland (and its sequel), I've decided that I prefer Shannon Hale's fantasy/fairy tales to her more contemporary stuff. I loved The Goose Girl and after Christina recommended Princess Academy, I knew I had to read it. I bought it used for pretty cheap and loved it, as expected.

This was such a fun book! I seriously really enjoyed reading it and was sad when it ended, although I know the sequel is out now, Palace of Stone. I liked Miri a lot as a character and loved (and sympathized) with how overprotective her dad was. I also LOVED, of course, that much of the book's focus was on the value of education. Yay school and learning and bettering yourself! (said the teacher...)

A huge reason I liked Princess Academy was because the setting was a character in itself. I loved the mountain setting in general and the role that it plays in the story. I don't want to say too much and give it away, but this is one of the best examples of setting as a character I've seen. I'll definitely be recommending this to my students this year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness
Publish date: 2011
Source: Library
"The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.
" (Goodreads)

I have previously read The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (listened to it, actually) and absolutely loved it. I knew A Monster Calls would be different, obviously, but I wasn't prepared for how much it would slay me and how much it was not what I was expecting.

The first couple things I noticed about A Monster Calls is that it's pretty short for a novel, plus there are really great illustrations throughout. The layout is different than any novel I have read and I have to say, I loved it. Sometimes drawings in books can detract from the story, but I thought these were spot on and really added to the mysterious feeling of the book.

The plot of A Monster Calls was not at all what I was expecting, but I loved it. This is not a story about monsters, per se, but about life and love and loss. I felt so sad for Conor the whole time and I just knew what was going to happen at the end, despite not wanting it to happen at all. I am really considering reading this book aloud to my English classes this year, as I think they would all really connect with its themes and enjoy the story. If I don't, I will definitely be recommending it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites Since I Started Blogging

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Today's topic is:

Top ten favorite books I've read since I started blogging

In no particular order...

1. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

2. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

3. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

4. The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth

7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

8. Paper Towns by John Green

9. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

10. The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

Monday, August 20, 2012

Audiobook Review: Burned

Author: Ellen Hopkins; Narrator: Laura Flanagan
Publish date: 2006
Source: Library
"Raised in a religious -- yet abusive -- family, Pattyn Von Stratten starts asking questions -- about God, a woman's role, sex, love. She experiences the first stirrings of passion, but when her father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control. Pattyn is sent to live with an aunt in the wilds of Nevada to find salvation and redemption. What she finds instead is love and acceptance -- until she realizes that her old demons will not let her go." (Goodreads)

I've been on an Ellen Hopkins kick lately, ever since I discovered that her books are great as audiobooks. I listened to Glass recently and picked up Burned at the library, which is not part of the Crank trilogy. I enjoyed it in terms of the audiobook but didn't like the story as much as Crank or Glass.

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book rather than reading it. I know I missed certain aspects of poetry like shapes and punctuation by not reading a hard copy, but listening to verse novels is such a great experience. Laura Flanagan again did a wonderful job reading and conveying the many emotions of Pattyn throughout the novel.

Compared to Glass and Crank, the other Ellen Hopkins novels I have read, I did not like this one as much and I felt like there was just too much going on in the plot. I liked the beginning and Pattyn going to live with her aunt, but once Ethan came into the picture, it just seemed like too much for the story. I also felt like EH was making Mormons out to be terrible people, so that was kind of rough, although this is the only book I've read that centers around Mormonism. Interesting read, but ultimately too much going on...and the ending?!?! Not what I was expecting, that's for sure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Secret Letters

Author: Leah Scheier
Publish date: June 2012
Source: Library
"Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin’s ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits—and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective—to save her cousin’s reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.

Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature.
" (Goodreads)

Secret Letters is a book that came to my attention a couple months ago when I read Tara's review of it. I thought it sounded pretty interesting and I love historical fiction, so when I saw it on the shelf at the library last week, I knew I had to borrow it. I ended up being pretty satisfied AND have the urge to rewatch season 1 of Sherlock!

I really love the time period in which Secret Letters is set and I thought the characters were great, although I really wish Dora could have had some interaction with Sherlock Holmes before he died (not a spoiler; it's in the blurb). It's not central to the mystery that he is alive, but still. Sherlock! My sadness pretty much went away when Peter Cartwright was introduced, though. Let's just say he's a good character and almost makes up for no Sherlock.

So great characters, good setting, entertaining mystery...what didn't I like since I am terrible and always find something? I felt like there were aspects of the plot that could have been delved into more, particularly regarding Adelaide. I am still really curious about her and feel like Leah Sheier could write a companion book about her. Hmm...

All in all, this was an entertaining read that had me flipping the pages to find out what happened. It wasn't perfect, but I'd definitely recommend it for a fun read if you are in the mood for historical fiction.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Something Like Hope

Author: Shawn Goodman
Publish date: 2010
Source: Library
"Shavonne is a fierce and desperate seventeen year-old who finds herself in a large juvenile lockup hundreds of miles from home. She wants to turn her life around before she turns eighteen, but her problems seem too big, and time is running out. Amidst corrupt guards, out-of-control girls, and shadows from her past, Shanvonne must find the courage to fight for a redemption she’s not sure she deserves." (Goodreads)

I would have never heard of this book if not for seeing fellow teacher and blogger Sarah pin it on Pinterest. I picked it up at the library that day (I take recommendations seriously!) and read it in a single sitting. What an absorbing book!

Something Like Hope was basically an intimate look at a teenager in lock up and how she works through the pain in her life. It was a quick read and definitely a page turner at fewer than 200 pages, plus the chapters were really short, which I like. I found myself really rooting for Shavonne despite being annoyed with her sometimes, but pleased with her growth. Even though the book is short, I felt like I really got to know the characters, especially Shavonne, Mr. D, Cinda, and Cyrus.

According to the book cover, the author used his background working as a counselor like Mr. D in juvenile detention centers to help write the book. It's obvious he knows what he's writing about and I thought this was a great glimpse into something like that. This will be a great addition to my classroom library and I think some of my students might really connect with Shavonne and the story. I will definitely be looking for a copy soon!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Audiobook Review: Glass (Crank #2)

Author: Ellen Hopkins; Narrator: Laura Flanagan
Publish date: 2007
Source: Library
"Crank. Glass. Ice. Crystal. Whatever you call it, it's all the same: a monster. And once it's got hold of you, this monster will never let you go.

Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she's determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life. She needs it to feel alive.

Once again the monster takes over Kristina's life and she will do anything for it, including giving up the one person who gives her the unconditional love she craves -- her baby.

The sequel to Crank, this is the continuing story of Kristina and her descent back to hell. Told in verse, it's a harrowing and disturbing look at addiction and the damage that it inflicts.
" (Goodreads)

BEWARE: Spoilers for Crank, the first book in this series, are below. You've been warned.

I read Crank a little while ago and really enjoyed my first experience with a verse novel. I tried the audiobook for the sequel, Glass, and loved both the novel and the audiobook.

In terms of the novel, I found Glass to be just as hard hitting as Crank, although much grittier in terms of drug use, sex, etc. Kristina falls more and more into drugs, this time meth, and oh man, I just wanted to smack her most of the time. She kept making terrible decision after terrible decision and it was so easy/sad to see how drugs just rip her life apart. The fact that Kristina has a baby in this book really shows you how immature she is...still.

In terms of the audiobook experience, I really liked listening to this verse novel. As I have heard from professional speakers and I now say to my students, poetry is meant to be read aloud and this book is no exception. Laura Flanagan, the narrator, did a great job at conveying Kristina's immaturity and her lack of caring as her life continues its downward spiral. I thought her rhythm was great and I felt really really satisfied when I was done listening, like I made the right choice to listen to the audio rather than read the print version. I would highly recommend listening to this series and have already borrowed another EH verse novel from the library, Burned.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: ME

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is pretty fun:

Top Ten posts on my blog that give readers that best picture of ME

1. I am a Laura Ingalls Wilder fangirl. See my review of The Wilder Life to read about me being a LIW spaz as a kid (who am I kidding, I still am). Now I want to do what the author, Wendy McClure, did and visit LIW's homes. But in all seriousness, I think this post shows my voice well.

2. I wrote a short series of posts called Former Favorites, in which I waxed poetic on series I loved as a kid. See The Baby-sitters Club, Animorphs, Little House on the Prairie, Sweet Valley Twins, and The Face on the Milk Carton.

3. I went to the RT Convention in Chicago in April and met some fabulous bloggers and authors. Read my recap here.

4. I love readathons and did my first Dewey Readathon also in April. LOVED IT.

5. I wrote book blogging tips that I try to follow. I am oddly proud of this list.

6. I met Meg Cabot a few weeks ago. She rocks.

7. My review of Delirium, my favorite book of 2011.

8. My review of The Help audiobook, which was the first real audiobook that I loved.

9. My review of Between Shades of Gray, a new favorite (and a new fav author).

10. And, um, my About Me page, which is one of the first things I look at on people's blogs. Is that weird?

Basically these posts show you that I am nerdy, awkward, and fangirly AND COMPLETELY OKAY WITH THAT.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publish date: May 2012
Source: Library
"Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.
" (Goodreads)

I will start out this review by saying that I went into Code Name Verity with a completely open mind. I had heard a lot of great things about it, but because I often hype books up too much in my head, I tried to just read and enjoy Code Name Verity. That said, I read it and I feel like I'm the only person who did not love it.

First, what I liked. I loved the writing, I really did. Elizabeth Wein has a way with words and I thought the writing was just spot on. All the dialogue seemed real and I could imagine the characters in my head. Going along with that, I enjoyed that the book was mostly about female friendship. I feel like most books these days center around romance and it was great to read about friendship. Friends are awesome!

That all said, I just never really got into the book. Maybe it was the actual style in which the book was written (not the writing, but the confession type thing), but I never wanted to sit there and read and do nothing else. I'd read a chapter, find something else to do, and then not want to pick it back up. It's not that the plot wasn't interesting, it just never grabbed me. Really, though, I feel like I'm the only person who did not love this one. I almost feel bad about it, like I'm being mean by not liking it that much, but hey, we all like different books.

Even though I didn't love Code Name Verity, I think a lot of people will, so try this one out! You might love it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July in Review

July was an okay month for me. I only reviewed 8 books, which seems very low considering it's the summer, but I went through a bit of a reading slump. I did, however, finally get back into audiobooks, and am almost finished with another one right now. August will definitely be a busy month for me as I have 2 weekend trips coming up and school preparation starts in full force. The day after Labor Day will be here before I know it!

July reviews
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The List by Siobhan Vivian
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Eve by Anna Carey
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (audiobook)

Other posts
Top Ten Tuesday: Books I read based on blogger recommendations
Waiting on Wednesday: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
That one time I met Meg Cabot

I think my favorite this month was Going Too Far. I'm really looking forward to reading more Jennifer Echols books! What was your favorite book from July?